Asamprajnata samadhi and rasa.

I recently wrote an article in which I began to inquire into samādhi and bhakti-yoga. So, ever since I have been involved with hatha yoga, seeing what it offers to a bhakti-yogi, I have been fascinated by the insistence that many people make that the ultimate goal of all paths is one.

Now in one sense, one has to agree, since nothing exists outside of God, and whatever the varieties of enjoyments on offer to us by the three gunas, it is all indirectly and directly interaction with God and nothing else, so how can anyone say that they are not all one? And it is certain that with a little awareness one will see the God present, though hidden, in the material manifestations, the mirages that we go running after in the desert.

But the connoisseurs, those who are rasikas of the eka-rasa, want to know the mechanics of rasa and samādhi, because that is the promised land in the direction of which we have been pointed, somewhere beyond the desert.

So, generally speaking, the yoga-śāstra is describing a particular psychological procedure by which the mind is stilled to the point that consciousness experiences itself in itself, in the bliss of pure being. Now Vaishnavas are trained up to throw their hands up in horror at the idea of anything that sounds remotely like Brahma-vāda or any of its impersonalist, voidist, nirguṇa, nirākāra variants. So any time they hear something like that, they will go, "No, that is a lower level of realization."

Now the connoisseurs of rasa as a literary or theatrical experience also speak of rasa as an experience that is something akin to that of the Brahmavādis. After all, if raso vai saḥ, then it makes sense to think of the two as related. So Vishwanath Kaviraj says in Sāhitya-darpaṇa:

sattvodrekād akhaṇḍa-sva-prakāśānanda-cin-mayaḥ |
vedyāntara-sparśa-śūnyo brahmāsvāda-sahodaraḥ ||2||
lokottara-camatkāra-prāṇaḥ kaiścit pramātṛbhiḥ |
svākāravad abhinnatvenāyam āsvādyate rasaḥ ||3||
This rasa, which was earlier described as being the transformation of sthāyi-bhāvas when they are activated by the other ingredients of rasa, the stimulants and so on, is relished by some rare cultured auditors who, when brought to a high level of sattva (pure awareness) [through the culture of refined sentiment], being experienced as not different from their own form, as something that is of the character of pure consciousness and bliss, self-effulgent and uninterrupted, where there is no touch of any external percept, which is the twin experience to the knowledge of Brahman, and the life air of which is an astonishment that is out of the ordinary customary life experiences.

The words svākāravad abhinnatvena, along with most of the other adjectives used to describe rasa are indeed evocative of samādhi and of the pleasures of spiritual realization according to the yogis of the various schools. Here Vishwanath does not exactly claim that it is the same as the experience of Brahman, since he uses the term brahmāsvāda-sahodara, "the twin brother of the taste of Brahman," and the other adjectives support the points of similarity. Differences can of course be illustrated by yogis of all persuasions.

The progressive path of yoga to samādhi is described as leading from samprajñāta to samprajñāta, the basic distinction between which is the ālambana, or "prop." The form still has something upon which the mind depends in order to keep its single-directedness. In the latter, the mind leaves aside all props and exists in itself. Props can be of almost any kind, according to the Yoga-sūtra, which ends its recommendations with a cursory, "whatever you like" (yathābhimata-dhyānād vā, I.39), but most often differ according to different schools, and in this way of thinking, God is also considered an ālambanas that is to be abandoned to enter the state of samādhi, which is why the Vaishnavas hold these doctrines in abhorrence.

The rasa-shastra also has ālambanas. These are the āśraya and viṣaya of whatever mood is being created in a product of entertainment, which is usually love. These are ālambanas because they are that on which the auditor "hangs" his sense of identity, i.e., the characters with which one identifies, both as lover and as the object of love. So, for instance, both a man and a woman can watch a love story and identify with their own gender role as the āśraya, "the lover," and the opposite sex as the viṣaya, the "beloved" or "object of love." This identification is where the sthāyi-bhāva, or formless instinctual tendency, goes to take form. Then when the various conditions are applied to that sthāyi-bhāva, it is reduced to a formless state again in the explosion, like various ingredients added to saltpetre and ground together. That is rasa.

This identification is called sādhāraṇī-karaṇa in Sanskrit. Here is how Vishwanath describes it:

vyāpāro'sti vibhāvāder nāmnā sādhāraṇī-kṛtiḥ |
tat-prabhāveṇa yasyāsan pāthodhi-plavanādayaḥ | 
pramātā tad-abhedena svātmānaṁ pratipadyate ||
utsāhādi-samudbodhaḥ sādhāraṇyābhimānataḥ | 
nṛṇām api samudrādi-laṅghanādau na duṣyati ||
sādhāraṇyena raty-ādir api tadvat pratīyate ||
parasya na parasyeti mameti na mameti ca |
tad-āsvāde vibhāvādeḥ paricchedo na vidyate ||
There is a function of the vibhāvas and so on that is called identification (sādhāraṇīkaraṇa), as a result of which members of an audience have been known to jump over the ocean [like Hanuman in the Rāmāyaṇa]. Due to the sense of identification with the character in the story, when the heroic mood is aroused, then it is no flaw that someone should do such "jumping over the ocean" [in oneness of mood]. So in the same way, love and so on are also produced in the audience. When the member of the audience becomes so absorbed in enjoying the play, he can no longer tell whether the feeling belongs to himself or not, or to someone else or not, and then feels no sense of separateness from those characters [vibhāva].
So the vibhāva here means the ālambana, when one's identity becomes temporarily absorbed in that of the character in the play and so identifies with the feelings of that character that he loses himself. When this loss of identity takes place, then that is the moment that one experiences rasa. In other words, in the example, the audience is hearing the story of Hanuman's heroism in jumping the ocean to Lanka to search for the missing Sita. The sthāyi-bhāva of heroism is awakened and that commonality (sādhāraṇya) results in an identification with the hero, and so as the rhetoric flows and that sense of identity becomes solidified, when it is time for the heroic jump across the ocean, then the audience is as ready to jump with Hanuman as the storybook character himself.

Now bhakti-rasa has gone through a number of incarnations, or at least one before it reaches Rupa Goswami. That is, of course, the Bhagavatam. pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam, in which the gamut of rasas related to Vishnu are catalogued. When we speak of the gamut of rasas, we refer to the rasas of the poeticians like Bharata, whose classical formulation gives eight rasas. Bhakti-rasa has always been a problem, since it was never seen as anything more than a interceding mood that would be like a wave in the principal mood of a story. In other words, it was simply that some people who lack faith in the reality of God and of devotion, cannot think of it as anything more than an accessory to "real life" situations with "real people and things." It is a kind of psychological reductionism of bhakti before the great rise of European psychoanalysis. For those who have the faith, in other words have the sthāyi of bhakti, whether on the sādhaka or siddha level (See this article on Identification), bhakti-rasa is a reality.

And usually, the sthāyi of bhakti is produced through association with an advanced devotee. The Gaudiyas' insistence that bhakti comes from the svarūpa-śakti and cannot be uncovered or discovered by the via negativa alone is thus also supported by the poeticians who deny it a place as one of the naturally occurring sthāyis.

But I think we can leave aside any doubts as to whether bhakti is a rasa, since clearly there is a literature about the lives of the saints, and though this may be thought to have been accommodated as śānta-rasa, devotees will insist that there is a qualitative distinction between the rasa of the yogi, ascetic or saint embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage and the devotee. For devotees, love of God is not to be understood as synonymous with "peace." So the heroic bhakti-sādhaka is not the ālambana for śānta-rasa, but of love for God.

So, although the sādhaka-āśraya-ālambana is acceptable for the kind of bhakti-rasa that is limited to the life of the sādhaka and culminating in sākṣātkāra, the bhakti-yogis recognize the inherent difficulty that results in reducing bhakti to a bhāva. Rasa comes from real experience, God seems to be so purely subjective.

Thus the discourse of the Muktā-phala, which is an effort to see the standard sthāyis of the poeticians applied to the stories of the Bhāgavatam, including the madhura-rasa of the Rāsa, it does not do justice to the Vrindavan mood. Thus Rupa Goswami needs to remake the philosophy of rasa to give bhakti-rasa a truly transcendental dimension, as the Ultimate Reality (raso vai saḥ), while at the same time anchoring it in the reality of experience. In other words, the transcendence of God that makes the poeticians call bhakti a bhāva and not a rasa cannot be sacrificed in order for bhakti to be a genuine spiritual path and experience, and yet love of God as a human is the only way that

I am reading through Priti-sandarbha 110-111, where Jiva Goswami deals directly with the verses from Sahitya-darpana quoted in my previous. So I am going to take a little time to make sure I have that fully digested before I go on with my discussion of rasa and samadhi.

To be continued.

Sādhanā Sādhya 1 Sādhya 2
Sāhitya Rati (refined) Rasa
Sādhana-bhakti Bhāva / Rati Prema / Bhakti-rasa
Yoga Samprajñāta Asamprajñāta


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