SAUNDARYA LAHARI

 

 

VERSE 51

SEVEN OF THE NINE RASAS (SHADES OF AESTHETIC INTEREST)
SEVEN MOODS
EROTIC OR AESTHETIC INTERESTS, SOMETIMES VERTICALLY NEUTRALIZED
 
शिवे शङ्गारार्द्रा तदितरजने कुत्सनपरा
सरोषा गङ्गायां गिरिशचरिते विस्मयवती ।
हराहिभ्यो भीता सरसिरुह सौभाग्य-जननी
सखीषु स्मेरा ते मयि जननि दृष्टिः सकरुणा
 
sive sringarardra tad itara jane kutsana para
sarosa gangayam girisa carite vismayavati
harahibhya bhita sarasiruha saubhagya janani
sakhisu smera te mayi janani drstis sakaruna
 
Moved by sentimental love for Shiva, resentful to any other person,
With anger of jealously toward Ganga, with transportations of wonder at Shiva´s story,
With fearful surprise at the snakes of Hara and for friends a jestful smile
As a source of lotus-red grace, your regard, oh Mother, for me will remain one of kindliness.
 
 
Sanskrit poetic convention defines rhetorical literature as being based upon certain classes of interest called rasas, which are said to be between eight and ten in number. Two of them can be considered as extras, but when one or the other of these is included with the eight (or excluded from the ten), we get nine rasas (navarasa). Rhetoric in the Western world usually refers to classifications such as lyric, heroic, tragic, romantic and so on. As we explained in Verse 38, in Sanskrit, the ten basic interests are srngara (love), vira (heroism), bibhatsa (disgust), raudra (anger or fury), hasya (mirth), bhayanaka (terror), karuna (pity), adbhuta (wonder), santa (tranquility or peacefulness) and vatsalya (paternal fondness). The last two are sometimes omitted, and sometimes only one of them is included. Fear and pity are attitudes or states of mind which are supposed to be induced by Greek tragedy.
 
It is not a question, in this work, of depicting only a perfect picture of beauty or goodness. All possible attitudes, passions or states of mind are to be included together, irrespective of whether they enhance the goodness of the character in question. In this sense, in Western literary criticism it is understood that poetry is a criticism of life, and that it holds up a mirror reflecting life, whether in society or in oneself. The goddess of Beauty of these verses becomes perfect to the extent that she comprises within her personality all the attitudes or states of mind which basically constitute what we know as human life in general. It is in this sense, then, that in this verse all psychic states, whether good or bad, are passed in review in a certain order. It is not hard to recognize in the series of emotions or passions described here, that the nine rasas or interests are being treated of in the abstract. It is the mood induced within the psyche of the enjoyer and also what is in the subject-matter of the poetry itself, treated together, that give to these interests, passions or attitudes an absolutist status, all to be comprised within the beauty of the same Goddess. Each passion enhances her beauty, instead of detracting from it, in the same way as the facets of a cut diamond can set off its attractiveness in a more pronounced form.
 
Jealousy normally cannot be considered as a good quality, but in this verse we find that the Goddess has a rival co-wife in Ganga (the goddess of the river Ganges), and that she is capable of jealousy with that other personified aspect of beauty. The paradoxical element within the Beauty of the Absolute is hereby confronted without any attempt to explain it away. Absolute Beauty is beyond good and evil and is not just good. This is the reason why we find questionable attitudes being included here as adding to, instead of distracting from, the totality of beauty intended to be revealed.
 
In other words, the Goddess is absolutely beautiful in spite of blameworthy aspects in her nature. It is by transcending good and evil, not just by denying them that perfection is to be attained. The three modalities of nature (gunas), as we shall see in the immediately succeeding verses, have also to be similarly transcended. The ontologically-based version of beauty which the Goddess here represents as the consort of Shiva, who is her positive counterpart, would permit the inclusion of all modalities that are real to human nature. Even imperfections are thus included here so that they could be unitively absorbed and transcended by participation with the higher absolute principle that Shiva represents. In this sense, Shiva could be called the “Absolute of absolutes”, while Parvati´s status could be described as the “relative Absolute”. Even this duality could be abolished by mutual cancellation.
 
We notice that first the Goddess is capable of sentimental love toward her husband, as in the case of any other girl. This makes her fully human, and thereby adds to her perfection. We might add here that, because her husband represents the most uncompromising absolutism, her sentimental affection receives, by virtue of it, a certain dignity of its own; but basically the sentiment remains just human and nothing more. This revised form of sentimental love has already been referred to in Verse 16 as gabhira srngara, a revised form of profound erotic love. (See below).
 
Jealously in love has been condemned by poets like Tennyson as being incompatible with pure love. Here we find again that the Goddess is disgusted with all persons; Shiva being the absolute value dear to Parvati. If one should love one´s God with all one´s heart, then a certain bipolarity of relationship is insured between the worshipper and the worshipped. The strictness of this bipolarity necessarily implies its corollary - a touch of exclusion of everything extraneous to such a vertical affiliation. It is in this sense that we have to understand the jealousy and disgust of Parvati for all personages except Shiva. This is above good and evil; it is “Goodness”. But rising to be good from being bad, in the Christian sense, is not profound enough.
 
The jealousy toward her rival, Ganga, which is only to be expected, reveals the relative status of Shiva´s two co-wives. While Ganga represents horizontal value, as a geographical river useful to cultivators around Benares and other cities; Parvati represents the very source of water and sky. River water is a valuable as rain water but the dignity of the rain should not be mixed up with the earthy touch implied in the river. It is in the recognition of this contrast that the Beauty of the Goddess is intended to surge up and overwhelm the contemplative student of these verses. Perfection by transcending is not the same as trying to merely improve on the already vitiated relativistic setup.
 
The next emotion is described as a “transportation of wonder” at the exploits of Shiva. Shaivite epics, especially of South India, tell of many Dionysiac mysteries in which Shiva works wonders among the common people. All miracles are possible in the context of the Absolute. Nothing is impossible for Dionysus either. The wonder here thus belongs to a heightened transcendental order.
 
We find in the next line that fear and surprise are bracketed together as one sentiment. Devi, who is afraid of the snakes coiled around Shiva´s body, says “How wonderful!” Instead of excluding each other, these sentiments blend and complement each other.
 
The condescending smile towards her young rivals, who might be just incidental acquaintances, shows that she is not equally resentful of them. One has to make friends as well as enemies, but only with those who are worthy of such an equal status with oneself. This rule of reciprocity in friendship is mentioned in the “Panchatantra”, where it suggests that friendship should be cultivated only with equals so as to avoid strained relations later.
 
The last line refers to the lotus-red grace of the eyes of the Goddess, where all these possible varieties of attitudes, sentiments or passions can have their source at one and the same locus.
 
The pointer of the emotional needle, which is verticalized, at the beginning here, with tender emotion, deviates to the right or left successively thereafter through the whole gamut of other relational attitudes, to descend finally onto the supplicant. This could be the author himself, who deserves his own favourite form of recognition, which happens to be only a side-glance, but is no less dignified for that reason (as will be explained in Verse 57). Sympathy, compassion, pity, consideration for a servant, a dependant, or a supplicant, standing far off out of respect, are all to be imagined to be present in this special kind of regard of the Goddess. This absolutist dignity of the regard does not suffer, although it is expressed only in the form of a side-glance which seems to say, “I have not forgotten you”. It is here that an overwhelming touch of Absolute Beauty is to be recognized by the critical student. Each of these emotions has an ordinary “human” aspect and a touch of verticality subtly transcending it.
 
Whether all the nine conventional rasas are respected by Sankara or not is unimportant for us here. Chemistry could be studied in an overall manner by scrutinizing the periodic table of elements, as well as through details in a textbook. It is a global overall view of Beauty in which the component parts are still recognizable that Sankara intends to reveal here. This particularly refers to the lower or negative perspective of the Absolute, which is neither transcendental nor immanent, but normalized or re-normalized between the two limits. It is important to recognize that over-focusing and under-focusing are implied here.
 
 
"This revised form of sentimental love has already been referred to in Verse 16 as gabhira srngara, a revised form of profound erotic love."
 
VERSE 16
kavindranam cetah kamalavana balataparucim
bhajante ye santah katicid arunam eva bhavatim
virincipreyasyas tarunatara srngara lahari
gabhirabhir vagbhir vidadhati satam ranjanam ami
 
That beauty residing in the minds of superior poets
Resembling that of a forest of lotuses when touched by the tender light of dawn,
He who can thus adore You, who are so dear to Brahma as magenta itself
He, by profound words of most tender, yet overpowering erotic content, shall please the same select ones.
 

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTS WITH STRUCTURAL DIAGRAMS RELATED TO THIS VERSE FROM SAUNDARYA LAHARI/NOTES.

 

The Devi's interest is horizontal.
Shiva's interest is vertical.
The interaction between them is magenta.
 
 
There are 8 different attitudes reflected in the eyes of the Devi:
Love for Shiva - Her eyes are filled with moisture.
Disgust towards those who praise …. (illegible: ashes?)
Resentment at the Ganges for coming near to Shiva - she is surprised
Wonder at Shiva's exploits - he is here called Girisa - "The king of mountains".
 
(The different names or epithets applied to Shiva, as well as to the Devi in these verses, are always significant. ED)

Dread at the snakes of Hara - fear.
Her kind look eclipses the beautiful colour of the Lotus.
She has smiles for her comrades who consort with Shiva
She is full of grace (sakaruna) towards me (Sankara)
 
(She is jealous of Ganges as it has its source in Shiva's hair and is thus intimately close to him before becoming a horizontal factor on earth. ED)

So the Devi's eyes have all of these qualities.
 
Sankara violates none of the rules of the Absolute.
 
Sankara is part of the structure, on the vertical axis. There are other poets, on the Horizontal Axis; the Devi is not interested in them.
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THIS STRUCTURE MAY NEED REVISION
 
Abstract in your mind the whole of poetic discourse. Literature gives pleasure - this belongs to the absolute side of the Goddess.
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(There is some ambiguity or vagueness about the list of attitudes of the Devi's eyes in both the above structures. This may be due to error on the part of the note-takers, but it should be also kept in mind that structuralism is a methodology, not a dogma, and that several different structure describing a verse may simply reflect different ways of looking at it. As the Guru would say: "If you pin the four corners of the structure down, you get a chair or a table - it does not dance". ED)
 
(The comments below on the previous verse apply equally to the present verse. ED)
 
Thinking of the Absolute is METAPHYSICS
and seeing the Absolute is PHYSICS
The two are brought together here.
 
 

When nature is placed at the Alpha Point, the negative vertical pole - you get a goddess.
Otherwise you can hypostatize and go to the positive vertical pole and get Jupiter or Zeus at the Omega Point.
 

This mathematical, structural language is used in science.
 Some examples are shown below:
 
 
 
 

Time - there is pure time and mechanistic time.
(Compare the cockcrow and an alarm clock.)
These two times should agree.
Bergson says: "do not mix these two times!".
Unless you know this, do not study Brahmavidya (the Science of the Absolute).
 

From the 41st verse on, there is a change in style.

In this verse, 8 attitudes are reflected in the eyes of the Devi:
1- Love for Shiva - her eyes fill with moisture.
2- Disgust for those who praise (unclear. ED) - ashamed.
3- She is surprised, full of resentment at Ganges coming near to Shiva
4- She is full of wonder at Shiva's career (He is here called Girisa, the "Mountain King", which emphasizes his positive status at the Omega Point).
5- She is full of dread for the snakes of Hara - fear.
6- Eclipses the beautiful colour of the lotus.
7- Smiles on "thy comrades" - those who consort with Shiva.
8- …and "full of grace towards me" (Sankara).
 
Show a dancing girl in the background of the Devi's face, with the rays of the nine Rasas, enacting sentimental love, jealousy, etc.
Saraswati's face has structural lines emanating from it.
The face belongs to the soul, the soul is capable of 9 aesthetic attitudes (Rasas).
 
Below are examples of the Rasas, mainly drawn from the classical Bharat Natyam dance:
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