Neil Dalal, PhD

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Philosophy Dept


Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts - Philosophy Dept



I am an Associate Professor of South Asian Philosophy and Religious Thought at the University of Alberta, with a joint appointment in the Philosophy Department and the Religious Studies Program. I am also the Director of Religious Studies. I received my PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin, where I specialized in Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit textual studies, and my MA in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I have also spent approximately four years studying with monastic renouncers (saṃnyāsins) and traditional scholars (paṇḍits) in India.


My general areas of research and teaching are the classical Yoga philosophies of South Asia found in Vedānta, Buddhism, and Pātañjala Yoga. Most of my research focuses on the Advaita Vedānta tradition of nonduality, specifically its contemplative practices, which are intended to culminate in a unique knowledge that liberates one from suffering and provides psychological and metaphysical wholeness. This research bridges the disciplines of Philosophy and Religious Studies. It explores the praxis and phenomenology of meditation, oral listening, and contemplative self-inquiry in relationship to Advaita Vedānta’s theories of mind, consciousness, and self-knowledge. I ground this research in close readings of Advaitin philosophers such as Śaṅkarācārya, Maṇḍana Miśra, Vācaspati Miśra, and Vidyāraṇya, and their interpretations of the Upaniṣads and the Bhagavadgītā. Current projects include a study of sudden and gradual enlightenment in Advaita, the meditational roles of memory in Advaita and Pātañjala Yoga, a philosophy of dreaming in Advaita Vedānta, and Yogic approaches towards happiness and well-being.

In recent years my interests have grown to include lived traditions and constructive approaches to applied Indian philosophy such as Indian conceptions of non-human animal ethics and ways of constructing an Advaita Vedāntic ecopsychology. My research on contemporary Advaitins combines anthropological fieldwork and textual-philosophical studies to analyze embodied modes of praxis and methods of lineage transmission. One product of this work is a feature length documentary film, titled Gurukulam, which explores a living Advaita lineage through sensory ethnography. 

I am fascinated by the ways Indian traditions are transmitted into North America and then transformed—particularly questions around the politics of cultural appropriation in modern Yoga, the mindfulness industry, and neo-Advaita movements. I am currently researching the politics of mantra transmission in modern Yoga, and creating workshops for Yoga practitioners which engage contemplative pedagogies to decolonize Yoga.


• PHIL 301: Happiness in Indian Philosophy

• PHIL 438/594: Meditation and Mind in Indian Philosophy

• PHIL 438/594: Yoga Philosophy of Patañjali

• PHIL 438/594: Advaita Vedānta: India’s Philosophy of Nonduality

• PHIL 302: Indian Philosophy

• PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy: Values and Society

• RELIG 333: Modern Yoga

• RELIG 397: The Bhagavadgītā: The Yoga of Immortality

• RELIG 497/510: Yogis, Ascetics, and Monks

• RELIG 230: Introduction to Hinduism

• RELIG 240: Introduction to Buddhism

• RELIG 200: Classical Theories of Religion

• RELIG 103: Eastern Religions


PHIL 202 - Indian Philosophy

This course provides an overview of the ancient and classical period of Indian philosophy (500 BCE-1500 CE); major metaphysical and ethical concepts within traditions such as Yoga, Advaita Vedanta, and Buddhism. Note: Not open to students with credit in PHIL 302. Not open to students with credit in PHIL 301 completed prior to 2012.

PHIL 438 - Topics in Indian Philosophy

Prerequisite: At least *6 in PHIL, *3 of which must be at the 200 level, or consent of Department.

PHIL 594 - Selected Problems in Philosophy

RELIG 230 - Introduction to Hinduism

A study of the major traditions of classical Hinduism, and of the religious thinking and experience formed through these traditions.

RELIG 333 - Modern Yoga

The history, practices, and politics of contemporary Yoga movements.

RELIG 499A - Honors Essay in Religious Studies

Preparation of the Honors essay. Formerly RELIG 501.

RELIG 499B - Honors Essay in Religious Studies

Preparation of the Honors essay. Formerly RELIG 501.

RELIG 675 - Graduate Seminar

This is a pass/fail course.

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