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Steps in experience of bhakti rasa

We continue our discussion of rasa, inspired by a series of lectures on Alankara Kaustubha by Sri Babaji (2017, Vrindavan India).

Kavi Karṇapura gives an extensive explanation of rasa in the fifth ray of Alankara Kaustubha. Aspects of his presentation depart from Śrī Jīva, Śrī  Rūpa and Śrī Viśvanātha on some points. For example, unlike Kavi Karṇapura, Śrī Jīva does not accept material rasa. Kavi Karṇapura accepts śuddha sattva as a state of heart, but Viśvanātha Cakravarti disagrees, and clarifies that sthāyi bhāva is cid-rūpam or transcendental. The stages of bhāva, prema and so on that Rūpa Goswami presents, are differently presented by Kavi Karṇapura for whom prema is the sixth stage, and rati is the first, followed by bhāva, pūrva rāga etc.

Still, Alankara Kaustubha is valuable in understanding the concept of rasa. An example is kārikā 70, fifth ray in Alankara Kaustubha. We will examine this kārikā in detail, but first we turn to Viśvanātha Cakravarti’s insightful commentary on it. In his commentary, he explains the process through which rasa is experienced (atha rasa-sākṣātkāre paripāṭī, yathā).

We write this below in steps:

  1. Manifestation of rati (rater āvirbhāvaḥ): In the beginning, the repeated performance of bhajan involving śravaṇa, kīrtana etc. [purifies the heart], and rati in the form of ānanda manifests. (ādau śravaṇa-kīrtanādi-bhajanānāṁ paunaḥpunyād ānanda-rūpāyā rater āvirbhāvaḥ). Note here that the rati here is another name for bhāva as defined by Śrī Rūpa, which we have extensively examined on this website.
  2. Experience or awareness of rati (rateḥ sākṣātkāraḥ): Even though rati manifests, the person possessing it is not aware of it. This is similar to how we are completely unaware of the many emotions that are stored in our citta. When a vibhāva presents itself (vibhāva = cause), then the person experiences rati i.e. there is experience of happiness. Examples of vibhāva can be a description of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, or a play that depicts them. Such stimuli cause the person possessing the rati to become aware of it – that they have such love for Krsna (tad-anantaraṁ vibhāvādi-samavadhāna-daśāyāṁ rateḥ sākṣātkāraḥ|) 
  3. Manifestation of rasa (rasa-rūpā bhavati): After the person becomes aware that they possess rati, the rati itself becomes rasa (tad-anantaraṁ ratir eva rasa-rūpā bhavati). The rati itself combines with the cause, vibhāva, the effect, anubhāva, and the assisting cause vyabhicārī bhāva, and becomes rasa.
  4. Experience of or awareness of rasa (rasa-sākṣātkāraḥ): When rati turns into rasa, then one gets experience of it through its combination with vibhāva etc. (tad-anantaraṁ punas tair eva vibhāvādibhiḥ karaṇai rasa-sākṣātkāraḥ).

The sequence then is:

manifestation of rati or bhāva –> awareness or experience of rati –> manifestation of rasa –> awareness of rasa

The happiness experienced in these states is also graded, which we will examine in another article in the context of kārikā 70.

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