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Renouncing, bhakti movement and lay people

Finally an entire new movement evolved influencing the cultural field of professional holy men in the early mediaeval period. There emerged discourses often in vernacular languages contesting the validity of the ascetic discourse. Asceticism – the heart and habitus of much yoga discourse – came under strong criticism as being for the few and chosen. Austerity was accused of being life neglecting and not for ordinary people. The adepts of liberation became seen as excluding instead of including lay people. Renunciation was accused of leading to nothing but an inflated ego. Disengaged, meditating and remote monks were replaced with singing and dancing poets. Ordinary people from the lower castes demanded to become involved directly and emotionally in worshipping gods. The bhakti (devotion) movement had arrived. It stood in direct opposition to most existing liberating discourses.

At the end of the Gupta period the popular movement of bhakti emerged in Southeast India. From around 1000 AD bhakti poetic literature flowered. We have already heard about bhakti in the Bhagavad-Gita, but this kind of bhakti was entirely different. It had nothing to do with the stoicism and calm devotion of the elites in the Gita. This new bhakti was popular and ecstatic, full of frenzied emotions. It often began with temple congregations. Large concourses of people following a saint went from temple to temple chanting on their way. They were reciting their deities and performed ecstatic dances and choral music (Kumar Das 2005).

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