Rasa: The Seership of the Artist

It has been shown that Rasa connotes the Supreme Reality. In what manner or measure does it reside in the artist, the seeing eye? There are significant statements made on this subject in Sanskrit which, to the casual reader, sound partial, dogmatic and contradic­tory. But a golden thread of meaning runs through them and it yields itself to intimate scrutiny and inquiry.

Bhavabhuti in his Uttara-rāma-carita, Act III. 47 speaks of karuṇa (pity or sympathy) as the only rasa:

एको रसः करुण एव निमित्तभेदाद्
भिन्नः पृथक्पृथगिवाश्रयते विवर्तान्।
नम्भो यथा सलिलमेव हि तत्समस्तम्॥

eko rasa karua eva nimittabhedād
pthakpthagivāśrayate vivartān
nambho yathā salilameva hi tatsamastam

What Bhavabhuti wished to indicate was that pity or sympathy is the basic sentiment. He caught a glimpse of the soul through this particular attribute or manifestation. In other words, sympathy seemed to him to be the inherent and perennial condition of the soul and other emotional states only fleeting or transitory. That the soul in its fullest blossoming manifests universal sympathy is clear. But it has other and equally glorious attributes. These Bhavabhuti did not stop to consider. Again, cittavidruti or the melting of con­sciousness is not the only kind of aesthetic experience possible to man.

Another poet, on the other hand, maintains that śānta is the only rasa, and the source of all other rasas, as quoted in A. Sankaran’s work, titled, Some Aspects of Literary Criticism in Sanskrit (1973, p. 116.)

स्वं स्वं निमित्तमासाद्य शान्ताद्भावं प्रवर्तते।
पुनर्निमित्तापाये तु शान्त एव प्रलीयते॥

sva sva nimittamāsādya śāntādbhāva pravartate
punarnimittāpāye tu śānta eva pralīyate

“All the emotional states obtain their respective determinants and proceed from śānta. They merge again in śāntaas soon as the determinants are withdrawn.”

Abhinavagupta also believes that contemplative delight, the essence of which consists in disinterested and supersensuous perception, is itself of the nature of śānti or Calm – “calm of mind, all passion spent” as Milton would have it. This view obviously starts from a glimpse of another attribute of the soul, – the depth and not the tumult of the soul; or its ineffable peace. All other modes of experience are, for Abhinavagupta, relative avenues of approach. The Absolute is realised only in peace. That is why he regards śānta as the basic Rasa or the primary attitude of the soul.

Bhoja, on the other hand, remarks that śṛṅgāra is the only rasa: एते रत्यादयो भावाः शृंगारव्यक्तिहेतवः ete ratyādayo bhāvā śṛṃgāravyaktihetava (Chap. xiv. Sringara Prakasha). This śṛṅgāra is not to be confused with erotic sentiment. It is, as Dr. Raghavan explains, the inner tattva of ego or man’s love for his own Self. ahaṅkāra is Ego or awareness. This awareness is called abhimāna when it is projected on an object and gets attached to it, deriving pleasure even out of a painful spectacle. These various projections culminate again, each in its own right, in prema or love. This exalted awareness – consciousness projecting itself into an object and then transforming itself into love – is śṛṅgāra . All bhāvas or moods are, according to Bhoja, of the form of love. The valiant man fights because he loves to fight; the clown jokes because he loves to laugh. It is this universality of love that, according to Bhoja, is the distinctive attribute through which the soul manifests itself. All other emotional states are derivatives. Aesthetic experience, after passing through manifold forms, attains again the status of preman, of love or delight.

Dharmadatta throws open another casement of the soul.

रसे सारश्चमत्कारः सर्वत्राप्यनुभूयते।
तच्चमत्कारसारत्वे सर्वत्राप्यद्भुतो रसः॥
तस्मादद्भुतमेवाह कृती नारायणी रसम्।

rase sāraścamatkāra sarvatrāpyanubhūyate
taccamatkārasāratve sarvatrāpyadbhuto rasa

tasmādadbhutamevāha k
tī nārāyaī rasam
(Sahitya Darpana, Parichheda III)

All other rasas are said to be but varying manifestations of the one adbhuta (the marvellous). Viswanatha, who presents this view, prizes chittavistāra or the heightening of consciousness, not vidruti, the melting of consciousness. An object which is a guest of the marvellous hour of inspiration reveals its innermost reality to the seeing eye and this reality dazzles the eye with its marvellous efful­gence. Aesthetic experience culminates in chamatkāra, in the light that never was on sea or land. The soul makes the natural super­natural by flooding the natural with its own light. This is done through आवरणभंग āvaraabhanga or the dis-environing of the Inner Effulgence. This effulgence or prakāsha is one of the attributes of the soul. But Viswa­natha claims that it is the distinctive attribute and that all the others derive from it.

Universal sympathy, ineffable peace, universal love, marvellous effulgence, – these, then, are the attributes of the soul, each one of which has been claimed as its primary manifestation. But the soul (Psyche) itself is a complex or many-faceted manifestation of the Jivatman, – the Individual Divine. It has many names and aspects and each seer prizes the name and aspect through which the soul has manifested itself to him. It will be seen, when the evolving psy­chic entity in the individual reaches its full flowering that the name and aspect which were primary to him are but part of a shining multitude, – an effulgent host of names and aspects; or, rather, that other primaries lurk behind the one primary that the individual has experienced. What is primary is the soul, not its attribute or attributes.

It is clear that, in the foregoing discussion, the adbhuta and other rasas are interpreted as manifestations of the soul, not traditionally as delineations of wonder, pity, etc., with their sensuous and mundane associations. It is obvious that this is the only tenable sense if they are to be spoken of as ‘primaries’.



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