Philosophy of Yoga in Octavio Paz’s Poem

Author: Callan, Richard J.
This study is the first complete verse analysis of the Mexican Nobel laureate's poem, a work designed in highly figurative language to present the philosophy of India's equally metaphoric Yoga. The analysis explains essentials illustrated in the poem for achieving nirvana and avoiding repeated reincarnation. For example, sakti is the feminine energy which creates mind, the body, and the world, three illusions of the feminine force who is in essence silent nirvana but sound and turmoil when, as maya, she creates the world (samsara). Sakti, personified in woman, appears to be the link in Paz's well-known triad of sexual love, the alien but fascinating "other," and language, subjects in numerous poems, essays, and in "Blanco." This yogic poem stresses that sakti's creation of mind as manifested in language (sound) must be withdrawn from phenomena, spiritualized, and directed to its nirvanic origin of silence. This book should appeal to those interested in Latin American literature, Asian thought, and the Eastern content in much of Paz's writings.


“The value of this book depends first on a careful explanation of Yoga with documentation of it, followed by its detailed application to the figurative language of the poem … At the outset of the Introduction, Professor Callan proposes to demonstrate for the first time that Octavio Paz translated into his own metaphoric language in a highly detailed manner the ancient practice of Yoga. The poet's intention is shown in two epigraphs, one from the Hevajra Tantra the other from "soneto en ix" of Stéphane Mallarmé. The latter, centering on Nada, suggests the void, i.e., nirvana. After a minute review of contributions by scholars Ruth Needleman, Jaime Alazraki, José Quiroga and others, Callan correctly notes that none until now has approached analyzing the poem verse by verse in order to elucidate the intimate symbiosis existing between not only the typographic conformation- -the axis mundi or yogic vertebral column and its distinct cakras-but also between the conceptual content and yogic philosophy… as a student of Paz's work and a long time reader of the works of Zimmer and other specialists in oriental religions, Professor Callan's text has offered me the "pleasure of the text" of which Barthes spoke. ..or rather of various texts. He must undoubtedly be congratulated for his profound knowledge of yogic and related oriental philosophies as well as for his knowledge of Octavio Paz's work. Professor Callan is without any doubt the only critic to have produced a yogic interpretation of “Blanco." The clarity with which he carried out this difficult and arduous task is truly praiseworthy. Henceforth his text should be obligatory for any scholar of Octavio Paz.” – (from the Foreword) Monique J. Lemaitre Leon, Professor Emerita, Spanish American Literatures and Cultures, Northern Illinois University

“This is a fine study in which Callan well carries out his effort to analyze Paz's difficult poem "Blanco" as an expression of Yogic practice. Callan's style is mature, expressive, and varied, his paragraphs solid. From the beginning he plunges into his task. In Western culture most thinkers have avoided Buddhist thought for rational and practical thought. In Eastern thought all seems to be nothing and the opposite, and symbolism leaps from sublime to ridiculous. After a careful Introduction, Callan gives his major space to an extended discussion of Paz's poem, relating it at great length to the practice of Yoga. In this extended discussion, there is a great deal of repetition of values, but this is perhaps unavoidable, given the difficult subject. At every turn Callan utilizes authorities on Eastern religion, but he never abuses them. Callan's handling of his basic theme is quite solid … this is a work well worthy of being published.” – Dr. Carl Cobb, Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee

Table of Contents

Reference Guide and Spelling
Chapter 1: "Blanco's" Physical Layout and Yogic Fundamentals; Our Two Bodies in Yoga: Gross, Subtle; Channels and Centers in the Two Bodies and Poem
Chapter 2 : Preliminary Details on the Subtle Body in "Blanco"; Paz on the Word and Language;Yogic Practice ; The Skandhas: Creation of World and Spirit
Chapter 3: Analysis of “Blanco”