Stuart Ray Sarbacker specializes in the Comparative Study of Religion with a focus on Indic religion and philosophy. His work is centered on the relationships between the religious and philosophical traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. He also works extensively on issues related to method and theory in the study of religion. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and has performed fieldwork and institutional study in India and Nepal. Before coming to Oregon State University, he served as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religion at Northwestern University, where he received the Weinberg College of Liberal Arts Alumni Teaching Award for his distinguished teaching of undergraduate students.
In 2011, he won the Bill and Caroline Wilkins Faculty Development Award in support of his innovative teaching and research at OSU. During the academic year 2011-12, he served as a Fellow of both the Oregon State University Humanities Center and the Spring Creek Project, in support of research and course development related to a project on the intersections between contemporary spirituality and environmental philosophy. His work has been supported by the Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture and the Horning Endowment for the Humanities.
His teaching focuses on topical issues in Comparative Religion and Indian Philosophy, along with broad introductory courses on World Religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. He offers a range of courses on the religions, philosophies, and cultures of South Asia, including topics such as “Gandhi and Nonviolence,” “Yoga and Tantric Traditions,” “Theory and Practice of Modern Yoga,” and “Spirituality and the Environment: Green Yoga.” In his courses, Sarbacker utilizes innovative contemplative pedagogies that aim at bridging the gaps between academic study, self-reflection, and engagment in civic life.
He is a founding member of the American Academy of Religion’s Yoga in Theory and Practice Group, and is currently servings as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Mysticism Group.
Sarbacker has also trained extensively in contemporary yoga and meditation traditions and is formally registered as a yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance
He has written extensively on topics related to the theory and practice of Yoga (both contemplative practices and bodily disciplines) in South Asian religion and on method and theory in the study of religion. His book, Samādhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga (Albany: State University of Press, 2005), deals with the psychological and sociological dynamics of contemplative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Other recent publications include:
"Herbs (auṣadhi) as a Means to Spiritual Accomplishments (siddhi) in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra," Int'l Journal of Hindu Studies 17, 1: 37–56.
“Indo-Tibetan Tantrism as Spirit Marriage,” in
Mystical Sensuality: Perceiving the Divine through the Human Body,
eds. Thomas Cattoi and June McDaniel (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011);
“Reflections on Theory and Practice: The Case of Modern Yoga,” in
Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies,
eds. Judith Simmer-Brown and Fran Grace (Albany: SUNY Press, 2011);
“Power and Meaning in the Yogasūtra of Patañjali,” in
Yoga Powers: Extraordinary Capacities Attained Through Meditation and Concentration,
ed. Knut Jacobsen (Leiden: Brill, 2011)
“The Numinous and Cessative in Modern Yoga,” in Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives,
eds. Mark Singleton and Jean Byrne (London: Routledge, 2008).
Recent paper presentations and invited lectures include:
- “Vedic Elements of Pātañjala Yoga”
(15th Annual World Sanskrit Conference, Winter 2012);
- “Meditation as Desired: Smṛti in the Yogasūtra and Cognate Buddhist Sources”
(Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Spring 2011);
- “Where is the Mind in Modern Yoga?”
(American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Fall 2010);
- “Aṣṭāṅgayoga in the Purāṇa Literature” (14th Annual World Sanskrit Conference, Fall 2009);
- “Yantra Yoga: Modernism and Cosmopolitanism in the Teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu,”
(American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Fall 2008);
- “Possession and Contextuality: Yoga and Tantra in The Self Possessed”
(UW-Madison 36th Annual South Asia Conference, Fall 2007);
- “The Ecological Dynamics of Power and Liberation in Yoga”
(Green Yoga Association Conference, Spring 2007).
Sarbacker has two book-length projects currently in progress. The first is a work of “engaged” yoga philosophy, co-authored with a highly esteemed Oregon yoga teacher, Kevin Kimple, entitled The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook (Forthcoming, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), which is aimed at bridging scholarly and practitioner perspectives on yoga philosophy. The second is a monograph on the pervasive influence of the eight-limbed yoga system on Indic religion and philosophy, entitled Tracing the Path of Yoga (Forthcoming, State University of New York Press). He also has recently completed work on a chapter examining one of the most important contemporary living yoga gurus in India, entitled “Swami Ramdev: Modern Yoga Revolutionary,” which will be included in a forthcoming volume entitled Gurus of Modern Yoga, edited by Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton (Forthcoming, Oxford University Press).
Recent media and press:
- Sarbacker was featured in a recent OSU video about his innovative yoga course: