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, especially with respect to the practices of yoga and tantra (both bodily disciplines and contemplative practices). He also works on issues related to method and theory in the study of religion, with a particular focus on religious experience and its interpretation. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has performed institutional study and fieldwork in India, Nepal, and Japan. 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.
At Oregon State, Professor Sarbacker was awarded the Bill and Caroline Wilkins Faculty Development Award in support of his innovative teaching and research, and he has served as a Fellow of both the Center for the Humanities and the Spring Creek Project. His research and teaching has been also been supported by the Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture and by the Horning Endowment for the Humanities and Sciences. He is currently participating in a 3-year Luce Foundation funded program on religion and technology that is being administered by the Institute for Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. His project focuses on the ways in which the philosophical and ethical issues associated with self-transformation in Indian contemplative traditions mirror those arising from emergent technologies of human augmentation.
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, and on topics relating to spirituality and ecology and religion and technology. In many of his courses, Sarbacker utilizes innovative contemplative pedagogies that aim at bridging the gaps between academic study, self-reflection, and engagement in civic life.
Professor Sarbacker has worked with a variety of students on graduate-level research, including in Applied Ethics, Environmental Humanities, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He has also served as a member of the Alternative Masculinities Seminar sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at Oregon State.
He is a co-founder and former co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Yoga in Theory and Practice section, and has also served as the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Mysticism section.
In addition to his academic credentials, Professor Sarbacker is an active yoga practitioner and teacher, having trained extensively in contemporary yoga and meditation traditions in India and the United States.
His profile on Academia.edu can be found here.
Sarbacker has published extensively on the history and philosophy of yoga and on issues related to 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.
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
“The Icon of Yoga: Patañjali as Serpent-King in Modern Yoga.” In Sacred Matters: Material Religion in South Asian Traditions, eds. Tracy Pintchman and Corinne G. Dempsey. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015, 15-37.
“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).
Paper Presentations and Invited Lectures Include:
“The Yoga Studio as Locus Numinous.” Yogascapes in Japan: Yoga, Movement, and Space. Kyoto, Japan. Fall 2018.
“The Yoga of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path.” Center for the Humanities, Oregon State University. Fall 2018.
“Śramaṇa Ethics and Human Augmentation.” Public Theologies of Technology and Presence Seminar. Berkeley, CA. Fall 2018
“The Yoga of the Śiva Purāṇa.” 17th World Sanskrit Conference. Vancouver, BC. Summer 2018.
“Svādhyāya and Bhakti: Saguṇa Devatā and Nirguṇa Īśvara in Aṣṭāṅgayoga.” Dharma Association of North America-American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Boston, MA. Fall, 2017.
“The Eight Limbs of Yoga.” Corvallis Public Library Contemplative Studies Book Lecture Series. Corvallis, OR. Winter 2017.
“Who Owns Yoga? Adaptation and Authenticity in Modern Yoga.” DePaul University Religious Studies Public Lecture Series, Chicago, IL. Spring 2016.
“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.
“Dynamism in Contemplative Pedagogy: Two Case Studies.” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. San Diego, CA. Fall 2014.
“Embodiment and Accomplishment: Yoga and/as Sport.” Hundere Religion and the Body Lecture Series. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. 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 World Sanskrit Conference. New Delhi, India. Winter 2012.
“Meditation as Desired: Smṛti in the Yogasūtra and Cognate Buddhist Sources.” Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference. Honolulu, HI. Spring 2011.
“Where is the Mind in Modern Yoga?” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Atlanta, GA. Fall 2010.
“Aṣṭāṅgayoga in the Purāṇa Literature.” 14th World Sanskrit Conference. Kyoto, Japan. Fall 2009.
“Yantra Yoga: Modernism and Cosmopolitanism in the Teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Chicago, IL. Fall 2008.
Sarbacker’s current major research project is a scholarly monograph that provides a theory-informed narrative arc of the history and philosophy of yoga, entitled Tracing the Path of Yoga (State University of New York Press, forthcoming 2020). Other current projects include one on the practice of yoga in Buddhism (to be published as a book entitled The Yoga of the Noble Eightfold Path) and another on the application of Indian philosophy and ethics to issues related to emergent technologies of human augmentation.