Dharmamegha in Yoga and Yogācāra: The Revision of a Superlative Metaphor

Karen O'Brien-Kop

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The Pātañjalayogaśāstra concludes with a description of the pinnacle of
yoga practice: a state of samādhi called dharmamegha, cloud of dharma. Yet
despite the structural importance of dharmamegha in the soteriology of
Pātañjala yoga, the śāstra itself does not say much about this term. Where
we do find dharmamegha discussed, however, is in Buddhist yogācāra, and
more broadly in early Mahāyāna soteriology, where it represents the apex of
attainment and the superlative statehood of a bodhisattva. Given the relative
paucity of Brahmanical mentions of dharmamegha in the early common era,
Patañjali appears to adopt this key metaphor from a Mahāyāna context—
and to revise its primary meaning from fullness to emptiness. This article
traces the early elaborations of dharmamegha in Buddhist texts, and,
drawing on conceptual metaphor theory, lays out four arguments that each,
in part, accounts for the stark contrast in how classical yoga and yogācāra
employ the superlative metaphor of dharmamegha.

© 2020 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-635
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Indian Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date9 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2020


  • yoga
  • Indian philosophy
  • conceptual metaphor
  • Patañjali
  • Yogasutra
  • yogacara
  • Yogacarabhumi

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