Living Landscapes

Meditations on the Five Elements in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Yogas

By Christopher Key Chapple

Subjects: Spirituality, India And South Asian Studies, Asian Religion And Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438477947, 260 pages, April 2020
Hardcover : 9781438477930, 260 pages, April 2020

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Table of contents


John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker

Introduction: Yoga and Landscapes

1. The Inner World as Precondition for Experience

2. Earth: Loving the Land

3. Water: Life-giver and Purifier

4. Fire: Locus of Desire

5. Air: Wind and Breath

6. Animal Stories from the Upaniṣads, the Jātaka Tales, the Pañcatantra, Jaina Narratives, and the Yogavāsiṣṭha

7. The Yoga of Space

Appendix: Constructing the Maṇḍala through Yoga Sādhana


Explores the role of meditation on the five elements in the practice of Yoga.


In Living Landscapes, Christopher Key Chapple looks at the world of ritual as enacted in three faiths of India. He begins with an exploration of the relationship between the body and the world as found in the cosmological cartography of Sāṃkhya philosophy, which highlights the interplay between consciousness (puruṣa) and activity (prakṛti), a process that gives rise to earth, water, fire, air, and space. He then turns to the progressive explication of these five great elements in Buddhism, Jainism, Advaita, Tantra, and Haṭha Yoga, and includes translations from the Vedas and the Purāṇas of Hinduism, the Buddhist and Jain Sūtras, and select animal fables from early Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Chapple also describes his own pilgrimages to the Great Stupa at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, the five elemental temples (pañcamahābhūta mandir) in south India, and the Jaina cosmology complex in Hastinapur. An appendix with practical instructions that integrate Yoga postures with meditative reflections on the five elements is included.

Christopher Key Chapple is Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author or editor of many books, including Yoga and the Luminous: Patañjali's Spiritual Path to Freedom and Engaged Emancipation: Mind, Morals, and Make-Believe in the Mokṣopāya (Yogavāsiṣṭha) (coedited with Arindam Chakrabarti), both also published by SUNY Press.


"This richly detailed study of the five elements in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain thought is an exemplary work of constructive theology … Thanks to Chapple's lucid writing style, his argument will be accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike. This well-written book will be a valuable resource for those interested in South Asian religions, practitioners of Yoga, and readers interested in ecology in general. " — CHOICE

"Chapple has brought together material that informs and educates others into the depth and profundity of what Yoga is and its relevance today. It is a timely work in our recognition of the need for greater reflection, contemplation, awakening, and action for the benefit of all life. " — Ian Whicher, coeditor of Yoga: The Indian Tradition