|Sir William James Mallinson PhD, self-portrait|
|Dr. Jim Mallinson and Balyogi Shri Ram Balak Das|
Backpackers, soothsayers, wandering mendicants, paragliding pilots, and of course, yogis.
William James Mallinson, Bt., DPhil., is an Indologist specialising in the Indian yoga and yogi traditions. His main method is textual studies – he has studied Sanskrit since his undergraduate work at Oxford. His ethnographic research comprises almost a decade living in India, most of which was in the company of itinerant yogis and ascetics. From 2002-2008 he worked for the Clay Sanskrit Library as its most prolific translator, completing six volumes of translations of Sanskrit poetry. His prizewinning MA thesis at The School of Oriental and African Studies in 1992-93 was on the place of the ascetic yogi in Indian society. His DPhil at Oxford, which was supervised by the world’s leading scholar of Tantra, Dr. Alexis Sanderson, was a critical edition of a fourteenth-century text on a key technique of haṭhayoga, namely khecarīmudrā. The thesis was revised for publication in 2007 in the Routledge Tantric Studies Series. In 2010 it was reprinted in paperback and an Indian edition was published.
In addition, Mallinson has a non-scholarly book on his time living with yogis in India currently placed with the London literary agents Gillon Aitken. A documentary film which Mallinson devised, associate produced and co-presented, The Beginner's Guide to Yoga, was broadcast on the UK’s Channel 4 in 2007. In February 2013 he will film a documentary on The Original Yogis at the Kumbh Mela, to be co-presented with actor Dominic West. He has most recently been asked to advise on the Yoga: Art of Transformation exhibition to be held in Washington DC late next year, for which he is also to write a catalogue essay on the depiction of yogis in medieval miniatures. He is currently collaborating with the photographer Cambridge Jones on an illustrated history of yoga.
In honour of Mark and Jim’s Roots of Yoga project I interviewed Dr. Jim Mallinson at some length about the Kickstarter initiative and his ongoing scholarly research. But instead, as you will see, our conversation weaves through some unsuspected terrain. A self-described “contrarian” who began studying Sanskrit as a teen, Mallinson is also an avid paraglider pilot who won the British Open in 2006 and recently captained the south of Britain against the north in the 2011 inaugural North-South Cup. Add to this an expertise in filmmaking, a non-scholarly book project in the works and a more than casual interest in juggling and you have what I suspect one might call a polymath yoga expeditionary.
|Dr. Jim Mallinson, photos: Claudia|