Bhagavatam first canto study 3 – 1.1.3 – Relish the rasa in association

by Chaitanya CharanAugust 2, 2014

The third verse of the first chapter of the 1st canto.

Pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam- this is like a call for action. Relish the bhagavatam rasa. The concept of rasa is the most important over here. That will form the substance of our discussion.

So basically the rasa literature have had their own tradition in Indian history. Natya Sastra by Bharata muni describes how devatas approach Brahmaji and they asked him please share with us a form of recreation that will be appealing and entrancing to all the senses. Brahmaji revealed to them ‘ Natya’ – the way dramas are to be performed. What is so big about performing dramas- go on the stage start acting. But there is  a lot that is involved once we get on stage- actually learning how we can move forward in a way that creates appropriate emotions in the audience. What is written by many writers- especially Bhoja- the concept of rasa was introduced in Natya Sastra by Bharata muni- and elaborated further by others- how one can relish particular emotions through certain stimulations- how the stimulations can be produeced on the stage by the participants- by their expressions, actions, setting and combination of all these –this is how dramaturgy is talked about in the Indian tradition. So Rasa is primarily an emotion here that is experienced within drama. In that hierarchy the concept of complete absorption in the drama- to the insubordination of all other emotions is considered the highest. That led to the idea of complete absorption- which was considered similar to the absorption in the absolute truth- that is impersonal liberation- Shanti – which is the goal of impersonal mukti- when this idea of dramaturgy is correlated with religion.

But Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu written in the 16th century by Rupa Goswami brought about a brilliant and  unprecedented correlation between the rasa tradition and the bhakti tradition. Bhakti tradition which was based on Vedanta. Rasa as an authentic inner human experience has been there for all time since creation. People have been experiencing emotions because of what happens in life or what they saw on stage- we all need rasa and we all experience rasa. But what we are talking the case of Rupa Goswami he explained how Krsna’s pastimes can be seen through the prism of rasa and how bhakti can be seen as a process of relishing deeper and sweeter rasas. The Bhagavatam plays a very critical role in this synthesis between the Vedantic tradition and rasa tradition-how does it play a unifying synthesizing role? Because we see that the first verse talks about meditate on the absolute truth. Dhimahi is more of a passive meditation in a mood of awe and reverence. But here pibata- drink, relish. So the Bhagavatam is going to start with dhimahi- but ultimately urging us to do pibata- relish the rasa. It is like a spiritual autobiography of Sukadeva Goswami who was doing dhimahi – meditating on the impersonal brahman but when he heard Krsna Katha – he was attracted to supreme lord Krsna- he moved from dhimahi to pibata. This is the sweetness of the Bhagavatam- and this is what is the unique contribution it is going to offer.

Now rasa as explained by Rupa Goswami is not just something that is experienced while observing a drama- we are not talking about a generic human experience, but specifically of rasa as a technical category for theological exposition. That means within the religious discourse, how is rasa to be understood- it is not just a secular idea- anytime a drama is performed people will experience some emotions in relation with it- the drama may be theistic or atheistic. Specifically when we are in a relationship with the supreme lord, what do we experience in our relationship with him- that is the focus of what Rupa Goswami is saying.

Now here Rupa Goswami moves forward and explains that this rasa can be experienced in relation with the absolute truth and different devotees may experience it in different rasas. So he talks about the hierarchies of the rasas- santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, madhurya – the five rasas. The bhagavatam will reveal how we all can relish rasa. When we study it, the purpose is to relish rasa- not to just do dhimahi- but we are meant to relish. As we discussed earlier, we go from the negative to zero to the positive axis. Love comes from reality and it can take us to reality- this is the foundational principles of the Bhagavatam. Love is innate to our daily experience- we allw ant love- whether a mother’s love for a child, a spouse’s love, or brother’s love- whatever it is. That the Bhagavatam explains is also the crowning reality of existence. The driving force at our level of existence is the crowning reality at the summit of existence. How? All attractive, all loving person is revealed int eh Bhagavatam- rasaraj- who is Krsna.

Pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam. This Bhagavtam will flood our heart with rasa- avarudhyate. What kind of manifestation will that be? Will it be an ordinary manifestation- passive admiration-meditation? No, this is am editation that will lead to an active transformation and engagement. Pibata rasam alayam. Alaya refers to the home or abode. Himalaya- means abode of snow. Bhagavatam is the reservoir of rasa- if we approach it properly our heart will be flooded with rasa. The Bhagavatam brings about the synthesis- it has a lot of Vedanta in it- absolute truth. After doing that, it comes to the conception of Krsna in the tenth canto- and it describes how Krsna is the all attractive supreme lord and how loving him is the perfection of life. And there are paragons, ideal devotees who set the standard- the gopis especially. We can relish how there is pure love between Krsna and the Vrajavasis- and the drops of that love will permeate our heart, purify our heart and then flooding our heart when it becomes stronger and stronger.

Nigama refers to the Vedic literature- they are like a kalpataru can give us whatever we want. This is Krsna- who is Kalpataru and fulfills our desires. Similarly how we approach the Vedic literature- they will fulfill our desires accordingly. If for gaining material pleasures, that’s what one will get. Kamatmanah svargapara janma karma fala pradam. Their essence is made of kama- svarga is the ultimate goal of life. And O I will get janma in svarga and what will I do there? I will enjoy with the apsaras- I will simply enjoy life. That’s what you want- that’s what you get. But there are various results of the kalpataru. Krsna says in 2.42 – yamimam puspitam vacam- dharma artha kama is like the puspa of this tree. But the galitam falam is the bhagavatam. If the vedas are the trees- the flowers are the puspitam vacam- the fruits of dharma artha kama. But beyond this fruit is the ripened fruit- the fruit of pure love galitam phalam.

Now if a fruit is very juicy very succulent- but then when the fruit falls, it might break and all the juice will be spilled away. That is why there is a process of parampara. As we perform bhakti, our consciousness rises upward till it reaches Krsna and we achieve the perfection of life. But we share also with others. Those who have reached Krsna form a human ladder and they pass it down to us. When the fruit comes down in parampara, we can relish the sweet fruit- far from getting broken and sullied, it becomes sweeter. Sukamukhat. Suka is Sukadeva Goswami, mukhat is through his mouth. Amrta drava samyutam- it is an amruta, a nectar of immortality- it will grant supreme immortality- nityatva of vaikuntha. Not amaratva of svarga- living for al ong time. Soma rasa can give amaratva. But the nityatva we get by going to the spiritual world is the eternal existence. Martya, amara, ciranjeeva, nitya

Martya are us. Amara- live long. Ciranjeeva- lifetime of brahma. Nitya live for ever. Drinking svargyia somarasa gives us amaratva. But drinking the bhagavtam gives us nityatva. The fruit is touched by the tip of a beak of a parrot- by that small contact with the parrot and subsequent exposure to atmosphere, the fruit becomes sweeter. Similarly because it is described by Sukadeva Goswami, its taste becomes sweeter. That’s why relish this Bhagavatam. Muhuraho rasika- constantly relish. Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur says that one should keep relishing the Bhagavtam till one faints with ecstasy. Then one will no longer be able to relish it, then what next. In that ecstasy induced by the intoxication of devotion, one simply gets absorbed in that ecstasy and being absorbed in it, one reslishes it so much that one doesn’t desire anything else. Even one is unconscious one is still relishing it. Caitanya Mahaprabhu would fall into a trance when he heard verses from the Bhagavtam. Especially when he heard how Krsna delivered even Putana who had come to kill him. He fell unconscious- but we know that one gets transported to the spiritual world- even at that time also, Mahaprabhu was actually reslishing. And when he came out of it, he again wanted to hear.

We may have multiple responsibilities that we don’t get time to relish the Bhagavatam. And even if we have time we may get distracted by our troubles. How do we constantly relish? As much as we can- as we drink according to our capacity our capacity increases because we become purified. Rather than feeling burdened by that – that we cant relish constantly- we should practice- we may not feel like taking the medicine, but gradually as it becomes sweeter we will relish it more. Sugarcane juice for a jaundiced patient is not relishable but gradually it becomes.

Rasika bhui bhavukah. One who should relish the rasas- what kind? Bhavuka. Bhuvi means on the earth. Bhavukah- Prabhupada translates as expert, thoughtful. Rasika- those who are full of knowledge of rasa, of mellows. Mellow was Prabhupada’s translation of rasa- a special sweetness that one experiences when one has a special relationship with Krsna. In general sense, means emotions. Here the idea is that one doesn’t have to go into a long process of na iti na iti. Not this, not that. A laborious process. Instead follow the process of meditation on the supreme lord. If one simply meditates on the supreme lord, one becomes purified. One will relish more and more the Bhagavatam.

Is it that the Bhagavatam is restricted only for rasikas and bhavukas. When the SB talks that this is for pure devotees- nirmatsaranam- these are not exclusivist but contextual. What is talked about is an aspiration, not a restriction. The aspiration is that we should all become rasika, bhavuka. And we have the depth of head and heart to understand and relish rasa. If a person knows nothing about art- he sees Mona Lisa- O she looks attractive- enigmatic smile. One may give one or two glances. But one who is a connoisseur of art can understand much better what is going on. O this expression. The eyes could have been done differently. Understand the combination of details produces a certain effect which could not have been produced if the artist had not taken care.

So SB talks about the process by which we develop rasa. Our capacity, our spiritual sensibility- our capacity for devotional aesthetic experience increases as we become rasika, bhavuka.

Simple example- more relevant example of cricket. Someone has come from Somalia- no one knows about cricket. And then the person sees these people are so absorbed in cricket. One person running, another swinging with a stick. Circular stone is hurled- another running after it. What is going on? Replayed and replayed – same action. Ok this person put the stick over there- same stick again and again. But one who knows the game of cricket- O so many ways in which ball can be thrown. Off spinner, medium pace. Off cutter, leg cutter. Batsman can hold bats in so many way. Different ways of swinging. Shots etc. Run has to be scored. Batsman has to come in time to the crease. Fielder throwing the ball and hitting the stumps. Has the batsman come in time or not- object of microscopic observation for the third umpire.

So just as one understands the subject more and more , one can relish it more and more. Of course difference is that relish for Krsna stays for ever. The simple point is that the extent of infatuation and consequent absorption that a cricket fan can have in cricket, a cricket novice cant have that. Same way- how does a cricket fan made- reads, talks about cricket, mixes with others who are infatuated with cricket.

Similarly if we associate with those who are intoxicated with Krsna, those who are in love with Krsna, we hear what they are speaking, we talk what they are speaking we contemplate what they are saying, we will understand more and more. A devotee may recite the same verse dozens of times. Initially if the devotee has a sweet recitation- we may like the sweetness. Then we may say ok that’s enough. But a devotee may keep reciting the verse again and again. This word is like this, and if we take the word like this, this is the import. It is so intoxicating. Like that when one develops a close relationship with SB, we relish it more. C. Mahaprabhu wanted to hear about Prahlada Maharaj hundreds of times again and again. He was so absorbed in the world of the Bhagavatam, every contact with the verse revealed a newer facet of the SB, and the hero of SB, Krsna, the devotees of Vrndavan topped by Srimati Radharani.

Understanding how it is to be relished- pibata rasam alayam- we develop a relationship with the SB. Those who are relishing the SB, if we hear from them, we will also get a taste. This offers the topmost fulfillment to the heart- nothing offers the fulfillment to the heart like the SB. Gaining that fulfillment is our life’s greatest aspiration. By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada- purports, introduced us to a whole tradition which has relished SB for so long. Community of devotees- by that association we can all become rasikas and bhavukas.

Thank you. We will continue next time- Hare Krsna.

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Chaitanya Charan

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