The definition of rasa, part I

Sri Rupa Goswami analyzes bhakti-rasa or the relish of bhakti in great detail. Indeed, his book is titled Bhakti-rasa-amṛta sindhu – the ocean of the nectar of bhakti-rasa. In this article, we examine the concept of ‘rasa’.

How rasa becomes manifest is explained in a sutra by Bharata muni as follows:

vibhāva anubhāva vyabhicārī saṁyogāt rasa niṣpattiḥ

The word niṣpattiḥ here carries the sense of abhivyakti, or completion, attainment or experience. The word saṁyoga means combination.

The sutra thus states the following:

rasa is the experience which results from the combination of vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicārī bhāva.

We now need to examine the meaning of vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicārī bhāva.

The word vibhāva is defined by Sri Rupa Goswami in Bhakti rasamrta Sindhu and similarly by Sri Kavi Karnapura in Alankara Kaustubha as follows:

vibhāvayati utpādayati iti vibhāva kāraṇam: vibhāva means cause; it is that which causes the manifestation of [the effect].

Where there is a cause, there must be an effect. The effect is called anubhāva. The definition of anubhāva is as follows:

anupaścāt bhāvo bhavanam yasya sa anubhāva kārya: anubhāva means effect; it is that which comes into existence following after [vibhāva].

anubhāva, which is the effect of vibhāva, acts as a sahakāri kāraṇam, or as an assisting cause. It assists vibhāva, the nimitta kāraṇam, or the instrumental cause.

The third and final component is vyabhicārī bhāva. We will examine this component in the next article, along with a more in-depth look at rasa.

Categories: Definitions

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