Rasadarshan: Reading rasika literatures

The philosophy of relishing Rasa

what is Rasa ?
Rasa means something that can be relished.But this does not mean that everything that can be relished is Rasa. Rasa indicates relish coupled with a sense of wonder. kavi karnapura has written –
“If there is no sense of wonder in relish, it is not Rasa ”
A sense of wonder is the soul of rasa. what do we mean by wonder ? Amongst all the things we see or hear,if something is so beautiful that we have never seen or heard before, then by seeing or hearing it, our mind is thrilled and unknown to us,our eyes bulge out. This thrill is called wonder. The thrill in the heart is expressed through eyes. This indescribable wonderful relish is called Rasa.

Srila Karnapura has defined Rasa in Alamkara kastubha in this way-
“If the proper elements come together to cause a joyous wonderment in the heart due to which all internal and external senses come to a standstill, then that joy filled wonder is called Rasa ”

Rupa Goswami has said in BRS 2.5.132 –
“rasa is the indescribable wonderful relish that is beyond the power of human thinking and arises in the pure heart brightened by goodness ”

The mundane heroes and heroines of this world cannot relish Rasa fully:

This is beacuse their relish is material , limited  and full of obstacles. Actual rasa is devoid of these three qualities. majority of the mundane teachers feels that although  rasa is like experiencing Brahman and beyond mind and speech , a fortunate audience can relish rasa. The material rasa scientists are divided in their opinion. there are 4 theories-
1. The original hero of any incident is the main relisher of rasa while the actor imitating him is secondary.
2. The original hero cannot relish rasa because of human incapability, limitations and obstacles. Hence it is the actor who relishes rasa.
3. Neither the original hero nor the actor relishes rasa . The real relisher of rasa is the audience.
4. If the actor has pure heart then he as well as the audience will relish rasa.

However the transcendental rasa scientists say that everybody-the hero, actor as well as the audience-relish rasa since all of them are devoid of obstacles and divine love is extraordinary and unlimited. It is not ridden with fallacies of mundane literature. It cannot be limited by fear, birth and death and not even by the bliss of experiencing Brahman.

Rasa is conscious blissful unworldly unlimited and without any obstacle. These qualities of rasa make one feel that it is possible to experience true Rasa only in relation to the Supreme personality of godhead(Bhagavan) as He is the embodiment of Rasa.

Sruti says “raso vai sah” He is the fountainhead of Rasa.

Rasa through literature:

Sahitya darpan states-“A Rasa filled sentence is poetry.Poetry is that whose life and essence is Rasa. Without rasa a sentence cannot be classified as poetry”
According to the transcendental Rasa scientists, the aim of material poetry is only to entertain the human mind-hence it is full of illusion. Naturally it is temporary and limited. Hence it cannot give you full pleasure.
Jiva Goswami very clearly states in Priti sandarbha-
“The pleasure of worldly passion is very less.worldly passion results ultimately in sorrow. Hence it should not be respected as the source of Rasa”

Necessity of mode of goodness:

According to the science of rasa a mind that is free from the modes of passion and ignorance is also called sattva. We must remember that if the mind is not free from passion and ignorance we will not be able to relish poetic Rasa. So to relish poetic Rasa we must acquire mode of goodness.

How to acquire mode of goodness ?
The question may arise “how can we acquire sattva guna ?” and one may reply that if one eats sattvika food, wears sattvika clothes, lives in sattvika place, associates with sattvika people his sattvaguna will be nourished. In this way the scriptures do mention various ways to acquire sattvaguna. However the Sahitya darpan says-
“The literary works of great poet are free from the modes of ignorance and passion. Hence by studying them again and again one may acquire sattva guna and be qualified to relish Rasa.”

Rasa Desire or Rasa Culture:
Although it is true that it is absolutely necessary to have sattvaguna to relish Rasa, it does not mean that anybody and everybody who has sattva guna will be able to relish rasa. For this one more quality is necessary and that is Rasa desire or Rasa culture.

Rasa desire- inherent and modern:

Srila Rupa Goswami in BRS 2.1.6 states-
“To relish Rasa both inherent and modern Rasa desire are needed.If this desire is there from birth,it is called inherent. If it appears in this life itself then it is called modern. Both types are required to relish Rasa”

You may ask-“is it not enough to have inherent Rasa desire alone? What is the need of modern Rasa desire ?” To this question we reply that inherent Rasa desire is not sufficient to relish Rasa. In this lifetime also it is necessary to associate with connoisseurs of Rasa in order to nourish the inherent Rasa desire. In this context the author of Sahita Darpan says-
“If inherent Rasa desire were not necessary, even old ritualists and those with dry knowledge of Vedas would have relished the poetry. On the other hand if modern Rasa desire were not necessary, even a mere child would have relished Rasa just by learning the meaning of a poem”

Develop the quality for Rasa desire:
If we associate with those who have Rasa desire in their hearts, we too will become comparatively more pure and our hearts too will melt. At that time an impression of his feelings will be made on our mind. In this way it is possible to create Rasa desire in a person devoid of any Rasa culture.
The relisher of poetry:

Alamkara Kaustubha 1.9 states-

“Acquired impression is the seed that gives rise to a poet. It acts as a fertile soil. This soil is again of two types-one which gives rise to the power of creativity and another that gives rise to the ability to relish Rasa. Without this seed one can neither create nor relish poetry.”

Just as poetic talent is very rare, the number of appreciators is also handful. Both poetic talent and ability to relish poetry are divine gifts. After reading Milton’s poem, some tasteless scientist had commented-“But then what does this prove?” this is a famous statement. From this we realize that the power to relish poetry is also not very common.

Abinava Guptacharya has stated –
“An appreciator is not only one who is born with the acquired impression of relishing poetry, but has also purified his heart(has got rid of passion and ignorance) due to constant study of poetics. In such a heart a novel quality arises. That is he gets lost in the moods of the heroes and heroines described in the poem. He starts feeling the sorrow and happiness of the poetic characters as his own.”

What is Rasa made up of ?

according to the Rasa scientists, when a great poet pens down a poem, the cause of Rasa relish is called vibhava, the activities are called anubhava and one who helps in relishing Rasa are called sahaya.

when a receptive devotee hears the activities, names, forms, qualities, etc. of the Lord and his associates, then they act on his subtle makeup (samskara), awakening his desire for a specific type of direct devotional service. This desire, when developed, becomes one of the dominant moods of devotional love (sthayi bhava). The aforementioned activities, names, forms, qualities, etc., are therefore known as vibhavas because they cause devotion to flourish. [The root meaning of the verb vibhu is “to grow, to flourish or to become glorious.”]

The primary division of the vibhavas is in two, the first called the alambanas or props, the second uddipanas, which can be translated as enkindlers or as inspirators. The alambanas are again divided into two —the visaya or love’s object and the ashraya or its receptacle.

Alambana: The hero and heroine depend on each other. So they are said to have alambana vibhava. The hero is the source of Rasa for the heroine while the herione finds Rasa in the hero. The hero is called Vishaya(Subject of rasa) and the heroine is called ashraya(Object of Rasa)

Uddipana: It means excitant.The youth,beauty and qualities of the hero and heroine are called uddipana vibhava(excitant cause of Rasa). Whatever is conductive to their love such as the spring season, song of the cuckoo,sweet breeze, moonlight etc. constitutes uddipana.

An example: A poem by kalidasa’s English translation-
“The breeze blowing across the Sipra river during early moring is cool and extremely fragrant due to the contact with fully bloomed lotuses.it carries the sweet and joyous calls of the cranes. Endowed with such qualities, the breeze steals the copulation-languor of woman like a lover who is skilled in body movements and sweet speech”

Here early morning, riverbanks, soft breeze, fragrance of lotus flowers and sweet cooing of cranes are the excitant causes of hero and heroine’s desire.

Anubhava: Due to the above incidents, the lovers display certain activities. For example soft smiles, glances, shyness, tears, shivering etc. these are called anubhava. It is of two types-
1.Udbhasvara 2. sattvika.

Udbhasvara– means external expression such as singing and dancing.
sattvika– means minor expressions such as tears and shivering.
Now you may ask since tears and shivering are also external expressions what is the difference between them ?To this the Rasa scientists replies-“Although both are external expressions, Udbhasvara activities are displayed more easily , while tears and shivering are not ordinarily divulged unless and untill the person is overwhelmed with emotions.” Another difference is Udbhasvara is voluntary(acting of one’s own free will) and sattvika is involuntary.

Sanchari Bhavas:
The vyabhicharins are concomitant or secondary emotions which especially aid the dominant moods of love and are expressed by mental, verbal, and physical transformations. Because they give motion or life to the dominant mood, they are also called sanchari-bhavas.

These vyabhicari-bhavas are compared to waves that swell and merge in the ocean of the sthayi-bhava or dominant mood. Upon merging, they lose their individuality and again become one with the ocean and when swelling up they serve to increase the ocean.

Sthayi bhava –  The permanent sentiment in one of the five primary relationships of santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya or madhurya, which is known as mukhya-rati.
In AlamkaraKaustubha,5th ray it is stated-
“The permanent mood is the inseparable cause of Rasa. Uddipana is its instrumental cause while the activities of hero, the silent activities and the passing moods are all incidental(not inherent)causes of Rasa. These give rise to the various expressions of Rasa, but do not cause Rasa itself.Let us take the examples of a delicious dish called Rasala, which is made by adding  a dash of salt pepper, sugar, camphor and clarified butter to yogurt. All the ingredients have a taste of its own.

But each one’s taste is enhanced when they come together to form the Rasala. However the taste of yogurt remains dominant.

In the same way the permanent mood is the main cause of Rasa which is enhanced by other ingredients such as the activities, beautiful surroundings, passing moods etc.”
For the proper understanding of all that we discussed above let us take the following poem for extracting the Rasa.

hrdaya-dayita-lila-snigdha-dugdhaih prapurnat
tanu-kanaka-ghatiya subhruvo’syah sakhinam |
nayana-mudam atanit sasu vairasyam apta
viraha-visa-vivarna netra-santaptaye’bhüt ||
The beautifully-browed Radha’s body is like a golden jug which is filled
with the smooth milk of her amusements with her heart’s beloved. She
brings joy to the eyes of her friends, but now [being separated from him]
she quickly became dry and colourless from the poison of separation,
causing pain to their eyes. (Govinda-lilamrita 18.94)

In this verse, the ingredients for the production of sacred rapture are given as follows:

(1) The permanent emotion (sthayi-bhava) is that of the manjaris, bhavollasa-rati
in which their affection for Radha is greater than that for Krsna.

(2) The causing factors or vibhavas are:
(a) the object of love is Radha who is distressed by separation from Krsna,
(b) the receptacles of that love are the sakhis and manjaris, and
(c) the inspirators are Radha’’s loss of colour due to the poison of separation and her pained looks, etc.

(3) The expressions of love (anubhavas) are the lengthy sighs, etc., of the sakhis
and manjaris.

(4) The ecstatic symptoms (sattvika-bhavas) are the shedding of tears, the discoloration or paleness of the face, etc.

(5) The secondary emotions (sanchari-bhavas) are depression, low-spiritedness, etc.

The practitioner who has been touched by the mood of the sakhis and manjaris will identify and feel the generalization of emotions as was described in the context of the previous verse.

From Rasadarshan by Srila Ananta Das babaji Maharaj


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