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.
He has been awarded the Bill and Caroline Wilkins Faculty Development Award in support of his innovative teaching and research at OSU. He has also 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 research and teaching 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 serving as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Mysticism Group. He also currently serves as co-convener of the Yoga Section of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies for the World Sanskrit Conference.
Sarbacker has trained extensively in contemporary yoga and meditation traditions and is 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 second book, The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy
(New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/North Point Press, 2015),
co-authored with esteemed Oregon yoga teacher Kevin Kimple, presents a constructive approach to
understanding yoga philosophy in light of its relevance to contemporary life and yoga practice.
||His first book, Samādhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga
(Albany: State University of Press, 2005),
examines the psychological and sociological dynamics of
contemplative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Other recent publications include:
“Reclaiming the Spirit through the Body: The Nascent Spirituality of Modern Postural Yoga.” Entangled Religions 1 (2014): 95-114.
“Swami Ramdev: Modern Yoga Revolutionary.” In Gurus of Modern Yoga, eds. Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg. London: Routledge, 2014, 351-371.
"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:
- “Aṣṭāṅgayoga and Ṣaḍaṅgayoga: Structural and Genealogical Connections.” 16th World Sanskrit Conference. Bangkok, Thailand. Summer 2015.
- “Why Yoga Philosophy Matters.” Thinking with the Yoga Sutra: Translation, Interpretation. Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA. Spring 2015.
- “Embodiment and Accomplishment: Yoga and/as Sport.” Hundere Religion and the Body Lecture Series. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Fall 2014.
- “Dynamism in Contemplative Pedagogy: Two Case Studies.” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. San Diego, CA. Fall 2014.
- “Otto and the Numinous: Religious Emotion and the Roots of the Real.” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Baltimore, MD. Fall 2013.
- “Reclaiming the Category of the Numinous in the Study of Indic Religions.” Rudolf Otto Congress. Marburg, Germany. Fall 2012.
- “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’s current major research project is a monograph on the pervasive influence of the eight-limbed yoga system in Indic religion and philosophy, entitled Tracing the Path of Yoga (under contract with State University of New York Press). He also has recently completed work on a chapter examining the representation the yoga philosopher Patañjali in contemporary yoga traditions entitled “The Icon of Yoga: Patañjali as Serpent-King in Modern Yoga, ” which will be published in Sacred Matters: Material Religion in South Asian Traditions, edited by Tracy Pintchman and Corinne G. Dempsey (Forthcoming, State University of New York Press, 2015).
Recent media and press:
- Sarbacker was featured in a recent OSU video about his innovative yoga course: