1. Aesthetics: theories on the nature of beauty and art, and the creation and experience of these
a. Performance is central to the way in which the varied cultures of India understand their world, interact with it, and produce an active dynamic.
b. This dynamic proceeds from a religious sensibility.
2. Rasa is a way of describing the design and goals of performance – as well as literary, philosophical texts. This can only be understood in light of Hindu worldview, religious worldview.
a. There is religion in the performing arts of India – mythology, religious aims, etc. inform the goals of music, dance, drama.
b. We can consider religion as performing
arts in India.
3. Performance traditions apparent as early as, or earlier than, the second millennium BCE
a. Earliest text on aesthetics – concerned with the art of performance and the experiences it evokes – is the Natyashastra of Bharata, 2nd century BCE. Gave rise to proliferation of commentaries, new approaches.
b. But the traditions of performance art have by in large been transmitted orally.
c. In India: performance of a text is often a feature of religious life, but performance as text is embraced as equally potent. Performance contains those qualities perceived in other religious traditions as presently mainly in revealed sacred texts – authority, divine presence, inspiration.
i. Traditions of power of recitation of Vedas; performance derived from content of those texts is equally powerful.
a. Essential to study and production of performing arts – music, drama, dance -- as well as sculpture, architecture, and painting, and literature.
b. Primary referent is cuisine. Taste, essence, flavor.
i. Rasa is a mixture, concoction, essence of various products.
ii. A flavorful essence, the compilation of essential qualities underlying all food.
iii. Food must have the balance of rasa as flavor (heating and cooling, sweet and spicy) in order to promote well being. (Cf. Prasad). Everything must be cooked through, transforming the separate elements. Various forms of rasa blended to into a transformed whole.
c. Poetic meaning: rasa is a “relishable “sentiment” or “mood” awakened in the spectator or reader through a combination of elements in a given poem or drama. Analogy = a blend of yoghurt with a number of spices, resulting in a unique flavor that is not identical with any single element.
d. In food: the process of refinement, the balance of qualities, the blend of characteristics, the hidden or underlying basic elements (as in the stock of a soup).
e. Flavoring is not merely an enhancement or additive, but an essential, defining quality of food. Herbs and spices are, thus, a part of the process of creation.
i. Hindu aesthetics celebrates the body and its senses as the tools for
overcoming illusion and expressing its divine nature. Artistic experience occurs through the
body, moving one toward the highest spiritual goals.
5. Brahman, maya and lila (divine play): the means by which the gods create, sustain, and destroy the world. God’s play is the origin of all that is.
a. To aspire to participate in lila is to seek to participate in that divine process of creation.
b. Brahman generates maya (illusion) by way of lila (divine play), and in so doing provides a variety of paths to true knowledge of what is ultimately real
c. The aesthetic goals in the performing arts may include moments of
understanding (jnana) of the ultimate reality.
6. Performance as a means to divine creativity and thus to divine reality itself.
a. The goal is to evoke a rasa, not to look at or imitate actuality. The search for totality and wholeness is primary. To reach this goal, the particular “I” must be eschewed. The experience is one or rising above pain, and pleasure, desire or suffering. The state of consciousness and awareness that the work stimulates is akin to the experience of Brahman. Not moksha, because it is fleeting. A momentary glimpse of that transformative achievement.
b. In drama, rasas consist of certain essential components, precise performative postures, qualities of movement, facial expressions, mudras (hand gestures).
i. Rasa generated by a number of different component emotions: bhavas.
c. Rasa has the same relation to the bhava as wine has to the grapes, sugar
and herbs that compse it but blend into an entirely
different, intoxicating substance.
7. Rasa refers to a transpersonal, transcendent experience, not a mere emotionality, which is ego-oriented and personal, trapped in maya. Rasa is refined and transcendent.
a. The aesthetic experience is ananda. The purified state of undifferentiated experience. A state of consciousness, akin to the bliss of the liberated soul. One loses oneself in the mood of the drama, is not taken in by his personal desires and emotions.