The joy of sad tales!
- Padmaja Suresh
September 13, 2017
The philosophical rationalization of the esoteric science of energy, Tantra Shastra interprets into its assimilation to aesthetics.
In the Yoga of classical dances, with Nada - music and Laya - perfect tempo in movement, along with the inherent principles of a Shastra or science embodied in it, there is a mystical journey in aesthetic experience. What is it that travels, in a performance? If one is keeping the foreground as dancer-actor being extremely skilled and involved and background as a spectator with a heart to receive without bias or conditioned thoughts, one can witness this flow of empathy. This is a kind of positive energy which travels from poet to the spectator. Rasa, the bliss supreme, is in the seed and pertains until the flower or fruit. Word becomes song, written and then composed and dramatized or danced. Supramundane and transcendental, Rasa is called the totality of the rays of consciousness that are reflected back in the individual consciousness of all present, without much effort, i.e. spontaneously. There is none trying to impress but an intense expression seems to be becoming universal. For this reason, when a group of people gather together during the performance of a dance, song or drama, there will be true joy only when they are unconditioned, concentrated and immersed in the spectacle, all together. This is also the reason why during the Tantric rites, it is said that one must remain attentive and not allow anyone to enter whose consciousness is not concentrated and absorbed. When we neither accept nor reject, when there is simple awareness freed of all ideation, then there is a sudden, spontaneous flash of experience of our essential Self. Aesthetic experience becomes tasting one's own essential beatitude and in this sense, Rasa is truly single. 'I', the Self, gets coloured by emotional enactment but remains ITSELF. A rapture of the mind withdrawn from everything else and experiencing the SELF.
Consciousness which is overflowing with bliss is like a pot that is overflowing with nectar. Just as an artist who cannot contain his delight within himself, pours it out into a work of art and would resemble a cow that is lactating merely by looking at its calf. The absence of differences such as pride, jealousy, hatred, etc. allows consciousness to expand without obstacles into Spanda or creative pulsation Spanda is the movement, the inner rhythm of the aesthetic experience. This force manifests in the instinctive emotions like joy, anger, fear, love etc. It gradually ascends, surpasses individual identification with character or mood, reaches the summit and makes one feel eternal joy. Even in the drama of sad tales or as one sheds tears, there is a sweetness underlying this. Eg: When Sita is separated from Rama, there is deep sorrow in her heart magnified by her simple chastity and deep admiration for her beloved. Neither the actor/dancer nor the spectator has ever seen these characters but the consciousness of these personalities, energized with poetry, speech, song and visualized since ages through painting, sculpture and dance, literally descends on the stage. This descent vibrates the space and enlivens the hearts of everyone who begin experiencing the stories themselves. There is a universal generalization of pathos which is raised to the level of the unifying 'joy in pathos - resting in lysis!'
The sentiments are latent in everyone since the time of birth, say the scholarly commentators of Natya Shastra. The predominant moods, Sattva, are already within and are rediscovered when portrayed before us. Even the moral and ethical values are embedded which need not be told but perhaps only reminded to us if we have chosen to forget or not follow them. The classical dances and their dramatic anecdotes open our eyes to these values. How is it that even a child can identify that the lust of Ravana is much different from the love of Rama and that the 'bad' have to be punished? How is it that even a blind person can be moved to tears hearing the dialogue of sorrow? How is it that even one who does not know Ramayana story can understand the integral emotional play? It is hence consciousness that consents to move from heart to heart in a flow of empathy, called Sahrudaya.
Rasa thus leads to recognize the one Universal Subject - The Self as the sound vibration, rather unheard sounds of silence. The experience of 'I am this' and 'This am I' become one and the same, where 'I' and 'This' sides of experience are equally balanced. Subject and Object cease to be different.
Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Padmaja Suresh is the director of Aatmalaya academy of art and culture trust.
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