Back to Mind and Consciousness: Various Approaches
By following the current discussions on consciousness in the West, firstly, one gets to think that the understanding of consciousness is dependent on the understanding of if not brain, physical processes guided by a mechanism and having the capabilities for replicating the phenomenon in vitro with the help of controlled experiments; secondly there is not a consensual definition of the problem, method and the major goals of enquiry itself; and thirdly there is insufficient recognition of the very complexity and subjective nature of the phenomenon. All the three features have jointly contributed towards generating vast literature, dialogues and discussions about a variety of issues relating to consciousness, the primary being empirical research and medical possibilities, especially in the area of 'abnormalities'.
Binding experiences has been the single most issue in the center of focus in the last decade of discussions on 'consciousness' crossing disciplines: neurobiological, quantum mechanical, computational, theoretical, psychological etc. Though the details of what constitutes 'experience' differ from method and perspective, a consensus has emerged that (i) to explain 'consciousness' is to explain 'experience'; (ii) to explain experience is to explain its unity and binding nature. Following this preliminary consensus, however implicit it was, many discussions took place/are taking place from the first, second and third-person perspectives, though the main stream discussion is still dominated to a greater extent by third-person approaches.
Given the complexity of 'experience' as a phenomenon for investigation, or as involved in our understanding, it is helpful to look at alternative views about what constitutes an 'experience'. I hope to do this with the help of instances from Indian epistemology and Indian dramaturgy. I will be looking at two different traditions of thinking and experiencing: Indian epistemology in the classical systems of Indian thought and Indian dramaturgy as dealt with in the classical text Natya Sastra. By doing this I hope to resurface the importance of 'experience' as lying in its nuances and juxtapose it with as it is conceptualized now in the 'consciousness' discussions (which is reduced to third-person physical data, deprived of first-person intimacy, and also the depth and breadth of meaning). The attempt is to present the thesis that if consciousness cannot be understood without looking at 'experience', certainly experience cannot be reduced for convenient reductive (physical, psychoanalytic and cultural) methods of understanding but will have to be open for a variety of meanings validated from first-person perspectives. This will definitely take away the reductive scientific monopoly of explaining consciousness in a singular way, but will encourage scientific methods to reexamine the normative criteria for 'truth' and 'reality'.
I think there is an interesting and serious turn taking place in the current discussions on consciousness. This turn is based on and compelled by the intractable relationship of 'consciousness' with 'experience'. The nearest empirical idea for the unity and subjective nature of consciousness is 'experience'. Hence the scientific focus on 'experience'. The interesting part of the discussions is that though there is a recognition of experience as vital in the study of consciousness, the attempt itself is to strip 'experience' off the qualities which would make it of experiential nature (unitary and subjective) and study it on the basis of empirical standards such as causal connections, neural influences, neural locations etc. I am not suggesting that brain research is not needed or even less important. Certainly, it is very significant in its own right. But if our guidelines and methods are not based on our basic premise to study consciousness (experience, which is unitary and subjective) then certainly we cannot make a claim that brain studies apart from giving new knowledge about brain functions would also lead to a complete theory of consciousness. The puzzle in the current discussions on consciousness is that of the persistent conflict between epistemology and phenomenology.
If we look at the major semantic trends in the current discussions, the views which are discussed and debated no more fall into the classical division of reductionistic and non-reductionistic, or empirical and non-empirical approaches. However third-person the approach is, when it comes to the descriptive definition of consciousness, the ideas are based on qualitative features of consciousness. The discussions on empathy1, meaning2 meme3, and mirror neurons4 are some instances. On the other side, the growing amount of discussions on meditation5 and altered states of consciousness6 give third-person references, however subjective the discussed experience is. A possible reason for this trend to interrelate and bridge first-person experience and third-person definition is the recognition of a distinct characteristic of 'consciousness', namely, that it is not completely defined by empirical standards and completely understood by first-person experience7.
The extent of the meanings imputed to 'consciousness' most often crosses the empirical limits and sometimes even becomes diffused to qualitative experiential descriptions. The one major problem in consciousness studies is the semantics of 'consciousness'. Unfortunately this prominent meta-analysis of the discussions is dismissed in recent discussions8. It is very important that there is not only a well laid out definition for the problem but also a methodological consistency. This does not mean that even before the enquiry a complete theory of consciousness is anticipated. To have the semantics of consciousness given importance in the start itself means that the theory will not be drawn based on the limitations of the methods, but on the original contention about 'consciousness'.
What exactly are we trying to understand by the study of consciousness? The answers could range from neural functions to subjective experience. It is again interesting to see that the meanings we give for 'consciousness' is much larger conceptually than the strict semantic (in current discussions) definition of consciousness. This is even clear at the starting point of discussion when the immediate reference is to 'experience'.
It is in this context, I wish to juxtapose the idea of 'self' as an alternative to the discussions of consciousness. The word 'self' is more comprehensive than the word 'consciousness' since it includes connotations at different levels of experience and also of the subjective identity which is important to understand unity of experience.
The discussion about consciousness is discussion about experience. The discussion about experience is discussion about the 'self'. 'Experience' and 'self' certainly relates to something which is more than what is happening in the brain, more than abnormal conditions, more than ordinary conditions, more than transcendental states9.
There are two key ideas in classical Indian philosophical thinking which would strike the attention of any student. These are 'atma' and 'darsana'. These words perform a major double function, which is also the distinctive feature of the whole of Indian thinking, of combining epistemology and phenomenology. For this reason, 'atma' could mean either the 'self' who is engaged in a particular act, or the self which is untouched by any act; darsana could mean discursive thought or intuitive thinking. The basic reason for such a foundational trend in the whole of Indian philosophical thinking goes beyond the felicity of a strict structural language (Sanskrit). It is an attempt not to break apart, and define, 'self' into identities based on the context; experience into ordinary and extraordinary; at the same time give thinking and understanding a depth which would be inclusive and open-ended but not divisive and hierarchical.
4.1.1.What constitutes darsana and what does not
Before I get to the details of the epistemology of darsana, I would briefly look at what constitutes darsana, and what does not. The word 'darsana' connotes the philosophical enterprise to think and to delve with ideas so as to:
i) ascertain what is true knowledge,
ii) to understand new ideas, and,
iii) to understand the nature of the enquirer himself.
Jnana is a complex concept in classical Indian thinking. It not only refers to logical and epistemological methods and answers but also states of mind which are important in the discussion about the primal nature of self. Hence, the discussions on jnana and pramana are always interrelated to understanding ethical, axiological, aesthetic and spiritual issues. There is a constant attempt to reconcile and integrate different experiences, and the existence of contradictions so as to generate world views based on an understanding of life with answers for fundamental questions about self-identity, nature of world, creation, purpose of life, value systems etc. There is a wide-spread criticism that darsana does not have teleological value and does not extend its scope for change and modification. This perception might have been influenced by the complex method used by the schools using a variety of epistemological tools such as metaphors, imageries and stories, as equally valid, along with logical analysis, anticipating counterpositions and affiliation to definite theories of what constitutes right knowledge. Not strictly adhering to a definite pattern of enquiry could lead to the thinking that what is offered is a closed philosophical position to save the proponent and the follower of that particular tradition. What the darsanakara-s are interested in is to give a new place for emerging ideas in the worldview and allow a new understanding crossing structural rigidity in thinking. Clearly, what is not the feature of darsana is an empirical haste to explain away things.
Indian epistemology is constituted by complexes more than singular concepts. I will list a few such complexes, without going into the technical details, to demonstrate that Indian epistemology is an open-ended and integral enterprise.
4.2.2.Guidelines for discourse
Concepts and categories are vital to any kind of discourse. The school which perfected the art of discourse in Indian thinking was Nyaya. Tarkasamgraha which is the foundational text of logic and discourse is also the text followed, for that reason, by later schools in developing their own theories. What makes Tarkasamgraha so very interesting and foundational is the way in which it defines and elucidates the necessary components for a discourse from both an epistemological and subjective point of view. Both definition (laksana) of an entity or idea, and the guidelines for discourse (anubandha catustaya) are discussed with equal importance in the text. The meaning of the word tarka also is specific, in that it does not imply a pure logical analysis but a complex activity of discourse guided by strict definitions and goals so as to have " a compendious elucidation of the nature of substance, qualities and such other ontological categories " .10
There are sixteen padartha which one studies inorder to master Nyaya dialectics. A padartha is defined as a " knowable thing (jneya) or as a validly cognizable thing (prameya) or as a nameable or denotable thing which corresponds to a word (abhidheya)". 11 These categories are means of knowledge (pramana), objects of valid knowledge (prameya), doubt (samsaya), purpose (prayojana), instances (drstanta), established conclusions (siddhanta), members of syllogism (avayava), analysis (tarka), decisive knowledge (nirnaya), arguing for truth (vada), arguing constructively as well as destructively for victory (jalpa), destructive argument (vitanda), fallacious reasons (hetvabhasa), quibbling (cala), specious and unavailing objections (jati), and vulnerable standpoints (nighrahasthana). 12 The discussion on padartha is an elaborate one in classical thinking.
The concept of 'definition' (laksana) is another complex, which according to Nyaya tells what an entity 'is' by saying what it 'is not'. Definition is " not merely an explication of the connotation of a term; but it is a proposition specifying the differentia or the differentiating feature of the species or the thing defined".13 Laksana is defined as a specific feature (asadharana dharma) which is free from the three faults of a definition such as over-applicability (ativyapti), partial inapplicability (avyapti) and total inapplicability (asambhava). A definition will be faulty by ativyapti when it refers to certain qualities which is characteristic of the entity defined as well as of something not intended to be defined. A definition will be faulty by avyapti when the definition does not refer to some of the characteristic features of the entity defined. A definition will be faulty by asambhava when the definition refers to qualities which are totally non-characteristic of the entity defined.
4.2.3.Guidelines for teleology
Another important complex which is considered in almost all schools of Indian thinking is the notion of anubandha catustaya (four-fold preliminaries) though this is well specified as a part of dialectics in Tarkasamgraha. The four-fold preliminaries for any discourse is visaya (theme of discourse), prayojana (major goal), sambandha (relation between the theme of discussion and the treatise), and adhikari (for whom a discourse is designed). 14 The trend of specifying the objective and subjective guidelines of a discourse is also found in the foundational texts of Vedanta and Mimamsa. The starting verse of the text specifies the nature of enquiry such as for brahman, dharma etc.15 The defining characteristic of a discourse clarifies any doubt which would ensue later in the discourse about what the discourse is guided by. The thematic specification of the discourse would also help the student to have a clear picture about what the discourse would not talk about or to what theme it would restrict to. Even if the theme of the discourse is given prior to entering into the discourse the discussion could at some point raise the question of teleology in the mind of the student. Hence the theme as well as the purpose of a discussion on such a theme is specified initially. Though it could be a meta-question outside the scope of the discourse it is essential also to anticipate atleast to some extent the relation between the discourse and the theme of the discourse itself which would enable to understand how far the treatise or discourse is representative of the theme. The final and the most important preliminary factor for any discourse is to specify who is qualified to enter into such a discourse. This is a major rule for meta-discourse, which I think, is almost forgotten in the current discussions on a complex theme like 'consciousness'. The recognition of the aptitude of the person as playing a vital role in the success of discourse and understanding implies the subjective factor involved in epistemological enterprises. It also implies that understanding is always finally related to the basic aptitude of the student, which once again anticipates the essential relation between epistemology and phenomenology, knowledge of something and experience. One instance of expounding the nature of adhikari could be seen in the primal text of Advaita 'Tattvabodha' where Sankaracarya talks about 'sadhana catustaya'. 16
4.2.4.Guidelines for validation
The issue of validation (pramanya) is a very important complex extensively dealt with by the schools of Indian thinking. The discussion on validating knowledge ranges from theories of knowledge to theories of reality. The word 'pramana' etymologically means 'means of measurement' or 'that which produces knowledge'.17 The concept of pramana though initially could be interpreted as a theory of knowledge, of ascertaining knowledge, its function will not be completely understood without taking into consideration two of the characteristic features of pramana as perceived by most of the classical schools of Indian thinking. These two characteristics 'abhadhitatva', of non-contradiction, and 'anadhigatatva', of novelty, lays down the condition for validating knowledge.18 A knowledge statement is out of validation to be true or false if there could be another knowledge statement which contradicts the claim of the previous statement. Being non-contradicted by another statement alone does not perform the role of validation. The characteristic of non-contradiction is to be also followed by the feature of novelty. Discovery of new knowledge is as important as ascertaining of it. Validation also has to look into the possibility of newness whether it is epistemological or ontological. The feature of 'novelty' implies once again the epistemological openness evident in Indian thought.
A major distinction in the Indian theories of knowledge is regarding the position on the origin (utpatti) and ascertainment of validity (jnapti). The validity of a cognition is decided, to some schools, by the presence of certain characteristics intrinsic to knowledge, and to some other schools, by the presence of certain characteristics extrinsic to knowledge. Following the same line of thinking, the two positions about invalidity of knowledge are that it is decided by extrinsic characteristics or intrinsic characteristics. Validity itself is ascertained to some schools by its very intrinsic nature (svatapramanah), and to some schools by its extrinsic nature (paratapramanah).
There are two paradigms in the classical schools, inspite of the differences in their metaphysical and epistemological positions. These are i) what we see and experience, which is constituted by the given and the immanent, ii) what we can see and experience which is constituted by the possibilities and the transcendent. It is within these two paradigms that the elaborate and detailed discussion on fundamental experiences such as pain and pleasure, sorrow and happiness, selfishness and selflessness, freedom and bondage, the given and the possible etc. takes place. Darsana is an attempt to bridge the seemingly two contradicting paradigms through an exploration of the self based on systematic discussions on i) theoretical, ii) experiential, and iii) transcendental issues.
4.2.6.What falls under theoretical issues
Theoretical problems are envisaged by the building of tools for thinking such as abstraction, generalization and conceptualization guided by the question of meaning, certainty and new knowledge. The factorization of 'new knowledge' in epistemology gives importance to intuitive thinking all through the discussion. A general division can be made of the theories the darsanakara-s debate on, such as:
i) theory of what is given: which relates to ontological questions about the nature of the world, the nature of the self, the nature of life and death,
ii) theory of the what and how of knowledge which relates to epistemological questions about meaning and validity,
iii) theory of what is beyond the given (if any) which relates to metaphysical and teleological questions about the nature of God, the nature of ultimate causes, the nature of self and the nature of reality,
iv) theory of spiritual, mental and physical discipline which relates to questions about ethical issues, value systems, duty, responsibility, selfishness, transcendences and new perceptions about self-identity.
If we examine the classical schools of Indian thought, we find that though each school allows elaborate discussion on the epistemology of its philosophy, the foundational thought is metaphysical. But the metaphysical foundation is not be mistaken for dogmatic and closed ideas. The metaphysical openness of ideas is evident from the fact that they are based on certain teleological assumptions. Discussions on the nature of (self) is juxtaposed with the physical (as in Carvaka system), ethical or spiritual guidelines as in almost all schools. To understand the given nature of self and its transcendent possibilities the understanding of self is important. The key feature of such an understanding is that it is not an epistemological exegesis but a first-person phenomenological examination. The concept of jnana is a complex concept and is not be merely translated as 'knowledge' as we understand it in popular fashion. The discussion on the given and the transcendent self (jiva and atma) is guided by the continous and rigourous distinguishing of the one from each other at every instance of experiencing. The conflict between the near and given nature of self, and the distant and transcendent nature of self forms the focus of attention for the darsana. The attempt of darsana is to solve the conflict in such a manner that the duals involved in it are integrated than segregated. The idea of liberation hence is not a singular event in time but a constant understanding and experiencing of the complexity of the contradiction of the given and the transcendent. The distinguishing of the atma and anatma (the real nature and the given nature of self), atma anatma vyaparah, is the singlemost exposition for which the rest of the epistemological, ethical and phenomenological theories are expounded. It is the metaphysical openness which is the hallmark of Indian thinking.
4.3.2.Spiritual and ontological openness
In recent discussions the word 'spiritual' has gained new meanings many of which emphasize the role of personal growth, ecological awareness, empathy, intersubjective transactions, emotional well being, efficiency in expressions, creative living. The distinct feature of the philosophical traditions of Indian thinking is its spiritual openness, by which I mean, not just a liberal philosophy, but the facility to integrate new experience and new understanding into an evolving scheme of ideas all leading and pointing to self-exploration. The ideal of spiritual living is given foremost importance than to moral and epistemological theories. It is not to say that the ethical guidelines and practices are less important in these traditions but to suggest that all such theories and discussions are addressed from a spiritual platform which discusses the nature of self and the world of experience and the relationship between them. Liberation is the key concept however radically different the guidelines for it suggested by different schools are. Identity and self are the key problems addressed to with the help of metaphysical positions, epistemological theories and ethical guidelines. The breadth and length of discussions in darsana is interestingly just not different discussions on what exactly the nature of self is, but mutually reinforcing dialogues on the consensus view that all discussions are to be guided by the co-coordinating concept of 'self'. Invariably the discussions in darsana are discussions leading from the recognition of 'self' and 'identity' as larger categories for thinking. It could be of this reason that epistemology (tarka) does not have the supremacy in deciding the course of events and validation, but only with equal participation of reflective thinking (vicara) in discourse. Analytical thinking could be delivering its goods only if it is accompanied by reflective (vicara) and intuitive (nidhidhyasana) thinking.
4.3.3.What falls under experiential and transcendental issues
An interesting characteristic in the classical systems of Indian thinking is the overriding issue above all issues to connect and catapult from what would be considered as the given to what is possible. The conception about experience is not strictly what is caused by an extraneous factor/s but what could be possible by the distinctive and unique nature of the individual. Therefore, experience is not merely a theme for understanding based on its immediate context such as cause, or results, but a tool for further exploration of the self. The ordinariness and extra-ordinariness of an experience is understood from the standpoint of the self than from the standpoint of what causes it. This trend also impels the understanding of the self along with the understanding of the object of experience. The object of experience, result of experience and the experiencer constitutes the triad of the complex phenomenon of experience, each one of which is significant in the understanding of each other.
The major experiential issues which are discussed in the classical schools are also interconnected with the major transcendental issues. Thus the experience and understanding of pain and pleasure are connected with guidelines for transcending pleasure and pain; experience and understanding of freedom and bondage are connected with the guidelines for transcending self-identities and rigid perceptions about the context; experience and understanding of different states of mind are connected with the guidelines for transcending words, verbal structures and attributed meanings.
4.3.4.Junctions and meeting points
The junctions and meeting points between the discussions on theoretical, experiential and transcendental issues are quite unique to darsana. For instance: ethical and spiritual discipline is necessary for new experiences and knowing self differently; knowledge of self could change the way the nature of the given is understood; knowledge of self could reorient experience; knowledge of self could allow for new responses to the situation/context. What distinguishes the Indian way of thinking from what we today call as the Western way of thinking is the curious connection present in darsana between theoretical, experiential and transcendental issues. It is also this distinguishing feature of Indian thinking which is often misappropriated as 'mystic' and 'other-worldly'. The important point missed here is that we fail to recognize that what interested Indian thinking was not the linearity and immediate conveniences through rigid structures of knowledge but an open-endedness where experience and reflection could together bring about a re-orientation of how we construe our self-identities and how we respond to the given.
The foundational issues, crossing the rigidity of being theoretical, experiential or transcendental, which are embedded in the darsana are i) about human mind, consciousness and experience, and ii) about self-identity. The guidelines for the exploration of these embedded issues are i) abstraction: to identify the unitary in the discrete, ii) placeablity: to have an ontological meaning for any experience, its object and its experiencer, iii) practise: to have values and discipline as essential guidelines for self-exploration.
The foundational text of Indian dramaturgy is 'Natya Sastra' authored by Bharatamuni. The available form of the text is comprised of 5600 verses coupled with prose though the original version is said to have had more than 30,000 verses. It is a complete treatise on Indian dance, drama and music. The text has an exhaustive thematic structure since it deals with a complex conception of drama (natya) constituted by what could be described as objective and subjective features. There is elaborate discussion, on one hand, on the characteristics of playhouse, different kinds of plays, different and complex gestures and movements, rules of prosody, metres and music, use of languages, style of characters, costumes and ornaments. On the other hand, there is discussion on emotions and mental states which are their causes, mutuality of emotions and mental states, rapport between actor and spectator, mental and physical nature of the actor and spectator, preliminary mystic rituals for effective representation and final goals of drama. At the same time there is a structural rigidity as to the epistemological structure, and openness about the subjective expression, relationship between the actor and the spectator, goals of drama etc.
The complexity of the text could be seen at three levels:
i) in addressing the representation of different kinds of characters (mostly
mythical) with different states of minds through a joint participation of physical
gesture and movements, mental states and emotions, ritualistic preliminaries,
costumes, music and space configuration,
ii) in addressing the unique relationship between the actor and the spectator, of the
actor invoking a specific state of emotion in the spectator's mind,
iii) in making possible a spontaneous and self-evolving nature of enjoyment for
the audience inspite of the structured and specified composition.
The rigorous and specified rules of natya together with an integral approach to emotions, first-person experience of the actor and the spectator make Natya Sastra an insightful treatise as well as what could be conceived of as belonging to a higher order of cognition and experience, namely a wholesome re-representation of human emotions through the complex act of external body (physical body gestures, costumes, music and plot) and the spiritual body ( emotions, states of mind and unique relationship between the one who is presenting the re-representation and one who is enjoying it).
The word 'natya' does not have a one-word English equivalent. Before we get to the meaning of 'natya' it is important to keep in mind the distinction between 'natya', nrtta and nrtya (natya nrtya nrtta vivekah) 19 which is the introductory theme discussed in Natya Sastra. Natya is a combination of nrtya (acting) and nrtta (dance). Nrtya is the visual and pantomimic representation of emotions and ideas. Nrtta refers to movements of the body with gestures which are regulated by tala (musical time interval). Though the text continues to give a complex definition of what constitutes natya the categorical statement made about it is that natya has primarily to do with rasa. 20 Later natya is explained using two key ideas which are abhinaya and bhava. Natya means visual representation (abhinaya) in its fourfold forms such as using parts of the physical body (angika), verbal utterances (vacika), costumes and ornaments (aharya) and physical signs of mental states (satvika). 21
5.2.1.Poise of expression
Abhinaya is defined as the expression through the actor of the meaning of the words of a literary (poetical) work with the help of vibhava (emotions and states of mind physically represented) so as to invoke an uninterrupted flow of rasa (enjoyment) for the audience. The scope of abhinaya is extended beyond the rigidity of planned gestures and emotions by differentiating it to be of two distinct types: lokadharmi and natyadharmi. Lokadharmi represents the objects and characters as they are portrayed in the mythical literature, and, natyadharmi represents the objects and characters through suggestive movements from the setting of stage. An example of natyadharmi is a suggestive movement of the eye or suggestive gesture by the hands to indicate something else through the imagination of the spectator. 22
The fulfillment of natya is achieved through the effective and joint performance of different kinds of abhinaya and mudra (representation of objects, emotions and ideas through single hand and combined hand gestures), the theme of the play, music and the involvement of the spectators. The role of spectators is considered to be an active event and mutually influencing the performance of the actor in terms of the representation of feelings.
It is not directly relevant to this paper to describe the technical details of the themes of various chapters of the text. But it is necessary to keep in the background of the reading of the forthcoming discussion that the elaborate description in the text mainly follows two patterns:
i) discussion and detailed description of the different kinds of gestures of different parts of the body and their nuances; different kinds and features of plays and poetry; kinds of metres; characteristics of the actors, judges and spectators; use of languages; costumes and ornaments; and different kinds of musical instruments,
ii) discussion and description of rasa (emotions) and bhava (mental states which produces emotions); the mental rapport between the actor and the spectator; the types of characters and mental and physical temperament suitable for their portrayal; the goals of drama and how they are fulfilled; and preliminary rituals and settings to invoke the conducive environment before the start of natya.
The concept of natya evolves in the text through the development of both the above patterns which I would like to describe as third-person and first-person approaches. The prescribed set of rules for abhinaya exists along with the spontaneity of the actor in representing the structured, and in evoking the rasa in the spectator. The visual and the character-oriented together with the subjective and self-oriented produces the aesthetic experience which could be further described as a spiritual experience. The act of representation, the preliminary settings and rituals etc. is connected with the cosmogony that the physical world is the angika abhinaya of Siva, his vacika abhinaya is the world of language, his aharya abhinaya consists of the universe and his satvika abhinaya is ultimate happiness itself. 23 The complexity of representing human emotions and at the same time invoking empathy in the spectator is brought out through natya in a comprehensive manner using a rigorous epistemology and first-person experience for both the actor and the spectator.
Natya is though presented following a structured design about it through
the portrayal of characters, the primary nature of natya is experiential
and first-person-oriented. This is evidenced by the detailed discussion on rasa,
bhava and preksakatva. The word natya has its origin from
the root 'nat' which means 'to act'. Nata is one who performs
the act through different styles of abhinaya. Natya is the art
of 'nata'. 24 The importance given to natya as a dramatic
art has its origins in the 'act' itself of the actor. It is the nata
who is responsible for natya and not vice versa. This is a significant
feature since it emphasises the first-person oriented approach to a complex
event such as natya.
5.3.1.Tasting the flavour
Rasa is a complex concept which is the central idea on which the experience of natya is founded. The word rasa is variously translated as 'relish', 'enjoyment' 25 and related to mean the object of relish or relish itself. According to Bharatamuni rasa emerges out of the combination of three basic components such as vibhava, anubhava and vyabhicari. They are also the (karana, karya and sahakari) determinant, consequent and auxiliary conditions of rasa. All three taken together is called the sthayibhava which is directly responsible for the production of rasa. Bhava is that which makes something happen. 26 In Natya Sastra 'bhava' is used as a technical word to relate to the mental states as responsible for producing rasa for the spectator through a combination of kinds of (abhinaya) gestures. Whether rasa is produced through bhava or vice versa or whether they are mutually influenced is a debate which is prominent in the literature on Natya Sastra by various commentators. For the discussion in this paper, I will deal only with the detailed presentation of kinds of rasa and bhava, one instance of abhinaya which is that of eyes (dhrsti), and nature of effectiveness of natya (natya siddhi nirupana), to show the importance given to the nuances and details of mental states, basic nature of experience and their physical representations, with an attempt to give a third-person account of first-person experience.
Bharata enlists eight rasa-s as the primary rasa-s27 and a total of fortynine bhava-s which are classified as sthayibhava (eight in number), vyabhicaribhava (thirtythree in number) and satvikabhava (eight in number). This classification refers to an evolution of mental states from its intense and pure states (sthayi), to manifestation of the pure states in feelings and leading them to rasa (vyabhicari), and to their physical signs (satvika). Another classification is of the cause and effect of bhava such as vibhava and anubhava respectively. The sthayibhava of soka is produced by the vibhava such as separation from the beloved, loss of dear ones and assets etc. Soka is represented by the anubhava such as tears, deep sighs etc. It is the sthayibhava which plays the key role in creating the rapport between the actor and spectator through the production of rasa.
Bharata enlists eight fundamental sthayibhava, thirty three vyabhicaribhava,
eight satvikabhava and eight rasa28 according to the
sthayibhava. These are29:
Soka (mental pain)
The thirtythree vyabhicaribhava (all these are given their corresponding vibhava and anubhava in the Natya Sastra) are:
Mada (intoxication) 30
Harsa (sudden delight)
Amarsa (restrained anger)
Mati ( analytic understanding)
Unmada (temporary loss of sanity)
The eight satvikabhava are:
Stambha ( paralysis)
Svarabheta (change in the tone of voice)
Vaivarnya (change in the color of face)
5.3.2.Through the corners of the eyes
Expression through the physical body, angika abhinaya, is further classified into that falling in three types such as i) sariraja (bodily), ii) mukhaja (facial), and iii) cestakrta (through movements). There is another division of anga and upanga. Anga constitutes the abhinaya through head, hand, chest, sides, hips and feet. Upanga constitute abhinaya through eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, cheeks and chin. The one instance of abhinaya through upanga I will list here in detail is that of dhrsti (glances) since these are considered to be more visually representative of the rasa.
What I wish to imply through this listing is, the analysis and observation given to the detailed study of empirical features of inner mental states and feelings belonging to another person as represented by the actor. The two levels of third-person reporting and first-person experience are interesting to note at this point. Through the bhavabhinaya the actor represents the feelings of a person with a particular state of mind through the larger setting of stage, space, costumes and gesture (first instance of third-person reporting), and all the while undergoes the same state of mind so that the corresponding rasa is conveyed to the spectator (second level of third-person reporting). The enactment of the feelings are based on an understanding of the bhava (pure states of mind) and identifying with them (second level of first-person experience) which was earlier experienced by another person (first level of first-person experience).
The glances which total to thirtysix in number are of two kinds: i) rasadhrsti, representative of the kind of rasa (relish), and ii) bhavadhrsti, representative of the kind of bhava (pure state of mind). Apart from the dhrsti there is a detailed description of the kinds of movements of the pupils, eyelids, and that of eyebrows.31
The eight rasadhrsti32 are:
NATURE OF GLANCE Kanta (loving glance) Srngara eyebrows moved, glance through the sides of the eyes, and eyes with the intense look of as if drinking the object33 Hasya (humorous glance) Hasya eyelids are contracted one after the other, wandering pupils 34 Karuna (compassionate glance) Karuna upper eyelid droops down with tears, wandering pupils, nose ends intense35 Raudri (ferocious glance) Raudra both eyelids tremble, still pupils, red and dry eys, strained eyebrows36 Vira (heroic glance) Vira steady pupils, fully opened and glowing eyes, ends of the eyes contracted37 Bhayanaka (terrifying glance) Bhayanaka raised and motionless eyelids, restless pupils38 Bibhatsa (disgusting glance) Bibhatsa eyelids come together with restlessness, unsteady pupils, eyeballs at the corners of the eye39 Adbhuta (surprising glance) Adhbuta moist eyes, pupils go in and out alternately, eyelashes slightly contracted, bright corners of the eyes40
The twentyeight bhavadrsti are:
SHTAYIBHAVA DHRSTI41 NATURE OF GLANCE Snigdha (tender glance) fully opened eyes, eyebrows held up, pupils in the corners of the eye42 Hrsta (joyous glance) slightly contracted pupils which are restless, eyelids close alternately43 Dina (piteous glance) drooping upper eyelids, restrained movement of pupils, with tears44 Kruddha (glance with anger) motionless eyelids, dry eyes, agitated pupils, bent eyebrows45 Drpta (glance with pride) fully opened eyes and still pupils46 Bhayanvita (glance with fear) fully opened eyes, eyeballs standing out and agitated47 Jugupsita (glance with disgust) contracted eyelids, look away from the object, indefinite look48 Vismita fully open eyelids, steady look to a distance, pupils held up49
VYABHICARIBHAVADHRSTI50 NATURE OF GLANCE Sunya (vacant look) steady eyes, but not clear, look vacantly without an object51 Malina (depressed look) pupils directed away from the object, eyelids slightly closed, clear corners of the eyes, throbbing eyelashes52 Sranta (tired look) pupils directed to a short distance, moist eyes, tired eyeballs, slightly contracted corners of the eyes53 Lajjita (glance with shyness) eyelashes come together, tired pupils, drooping upper eyelids54 Sankita (glance with suspicion) eyes are alternately steady and restless, turn towards the sides
outward and upward, alternate intense looks and looking away55
Mukula (fully closed look) united and throbbing eyelashes, resting pupils56 Ardhamukula (half opened look) half opened eyes and slightly throbbing, half closed eyelids57 Glana (languid look) deeply sunk pupils, move very slowly, eyelashes, eyebrows and
eyelids appear like that of a blind person58
Jimha (looking distrustfully) slightly contracted eyelids, tired and concealed pupils, look slowly59 Kuncita (contracted look) eyelids and eyelashes are slightly contracted, pupils are well contracted60 Vitarikta (look of indecision) raised eyelids, flushed and downward pupils61 Abhitapta (extreme painful look) gentle movement of eyeballs, upward and downward moving
eyelids, all the parts of eye indicate extreme pain 62
Visanna (grievous look) corners of the eye are sunk, eyelids wide apart and open and close frequently, motionless pupils63 Lalita (charming look) corners of the eyes contracted, eyebrows go up and down, and sweet look64 Akekara (half closed) eyelids at the corner of the eye are slightly contracted, half closed look, pupils are repeatedly turned65 Vikosa (wide open look) fully open eyelids and never close, unsteady pupils66 Vibhranta (distracted look) occasional disturbed and undisturbed look, moist and wide open eyes, moving pupils67 Vipluta (floating look) steady and drooping eyelids in succession68 Trasta (fearful look) extremely unsteady pupils, eyelids quickly moving up and down69 Madira (intoxicated look)
Is classified into three kinds such as the early (taruna), middle (madhyama) and extreme (adhama) stages
---Taruna corners of the eye are wide and the rest of the eye is contracted, pupil move about in a circle70 ---Madhyama slightly contracted eyelids, unsteady pupils71 ---Adhama pupils move downward and eyelids are almost closed72
5.3.3.Twilight space of the real and the virtual
Bhava and rasa are the two key concepts according to Bharata. Though he considers natya to be effective as a result of performance, he makes a detailed analysis of how the performance which is not realistic and identical with the world of reality for both the actor and spectator are made real in a virtual manner. The sthayibhava enlisted are pure states which can exist and together with vyabhicaribhava and satvikabhava produce the necessary anubhava, only if the actor could form an identity with the sthayibhava. The performance of the character is dependent on this preliminary identification of the actor with the state of mind of the role which is portrayed. The sthayibhava are made to exist (bhavayanti iti bhavah) by the actor so that it would be produced in the mind of the spectator (bhavanti iti bhavah) to produce the related rasa. The sthayibhava together with rasa could be considered as causing self-transcendence for the actor as well as the spectator, and complex cognitive structures for both the actor and the spectator to be in communion in a space where both transcends their self-identity. It is an enactment (by the actor through natya) which is spontaneous than the simple mimicry of an event or object. It is at one time physical and transcendental.
One of the unique features of natya is that the epistemological and
the experiential, the theory and technique are co-ordinated to form a mutually
benefiting factor of the whole. Though the source of the following text is not
authentically traced, it is said in both Natya Sastra and later
in Natyadarpana, and is also popular to be the synoptic definition of
natya, that 'the body should follow the tune, the hands must explain
the meaning, eyes must speak the emotion and the feet must beat the time-measure;
where the hands go there should go the eye, because where the eye goes there
the mind goes with it, where the mind goes there follows the mental state, where
the mental state is there is the feeling'. 73 These two verses represent
the coordinated physical, mental and transcendental nature of natya. Equal importance
is given to detailed and specific physical and mental factors involved, and
each of their transcendence is specified, at the same time, to broaden the scope
of experience both for the actor and the spectator.
That natya is taken a wholesome event is evident from the fact that apart from the detailed account of the content of natya Bharata also devotes separate chapters74 for looking at the effectiveness of natya (natya siddhi nirupana), detailed description of the nature of actors, judges and spectators, and the goals of natya. There is even a mention about the seating arrangement to be followed. 75 It might be keeping the complex nature of natya that Bharata enlists for male and female characters: i) three classes of personality (uttama, adhama and madhyama prakrti), and , ii) the kinds of roles they could play. 76
The spectator of natya is not a passive recipient, but a preksaka, 'one who views in a unique manner'. It is evident that Bharata included the active and important participation of the spectator for natya to be a successful enterprise. There is a list of physical representations of the responses of the spectator to natya by making certain words77, sounds78 and physical and facial expressions.79 There is also a description about who is the genuine spectator (preksaka). He who is " one who has unruffled senses, is pure, clever in discussing and weighing pros and consciousness, devoid of faults and fond of merits. He who attains gladness on seeing another glad, sorrow on seeing another sorry and experiences wretchedness on seeing the wretchedness of another is considered fit to be a spectator ".80 It is also said that all these qualities may not be present in one single individual, but the different individuals as spectators could have them and together make an effective appreciation of the natya.
The goals of natya pertain to both objective and subjective features. Through the composite of external and physical enactment, and subjective states of mind and feelings representative of them, what is achieved for the i) actor and ii) spectator are: For the spectator, in the secondary level an appreciation of the characters and the theme, and in the primary level a temporary detachment with his/her self-identity is experienced. For the actor, in the primary level it is the complex task of representing a character, an idea or a nuance of a particular feeling through abhinaya and producing the corresponding rasa for the preksaka. In the secondary level a temporary detachment from his/her self-identity and identity with the particular character's self as a whole and various mental states which the character would have in the story narrated. The transcendence experienced by the actor is both transphysical and transmental since there is the combined use of body and mind. The transcendence experienced by the spectator is transmental.
5.3.5.And finally it is experience and transcendence
For both the actor and the spectator it is a complex experience since there is the co-existence of his/her own dominant and real self-identity, and the identity with the mental states of the character portrayed. It is the co-existence, of the real self-identities of the actor and the spectator, and the identities with 'another-self', which determines the effectiveness of natya. The interesting and intriguing feature is the existence of a contradiction. For the effective transference of a particular bhava to the spectator the actor has to have an identity formed with it transcending the artificiality of enacting it. At the same time the actor has to be detached from any specific bhava of the character since what he/she is primarily concerned with is the narrating of the story. The actor has to play the twin role of 'being the character portrayed' and also the narrator of the story. It is this twin and contradictory role played by the actor which enables the spectator to have the experience of rasa which also involves an interesting contradiction. Unless the spectator can be one with the mental state of the character portrayed he/she will not be able to appreciate the story and the specific nuance. At the same time unless a continous detachment is maintained he/she will not be able to integrate the experience of that nuance in relation to his/her self-identity.
By presenting two different instances of epistemology and experience from darsana and natya, what I wish to suggest is that:
i)contrary to the much popular and published view that Indian philosophy is 'other worldly', there is detailed and careful presentation of what could be considered as the two primary signs of consciousness namely (a) generation of meaning and its validation (b) intensity of experience and broadening its scope through its own transcendence,
ii)the discussion on 'consciousness' in Indian thought is not a word-oriented (namely 'consciousness') but an experience-oriented task which looks at empirical, experiential, epistemological and teleological facets of consciousness.
Present approaches to understanding of consciousness though to some degree gives importance to epistemology and to some degree gives importance to first-person experience what is missing is an attempt to resist untimely classification of events and meanings of 'consciousness' under empirical/medical/ordinary and transcendental/psychoanalytic/mystical groups and their segregated and non-dynamic explanations. To be in the context of particular experiences, and to integrate them to a transcendence which will least look unfamiliar and 'other-worldly', cannot be the result of classificatory understanding or solipsistic transcendental experiences alone.
First and foremost we need to recognize 'consciousness' as a complex phenomenon and thereby dissuade from secluded and segregated analysis. Complexity of consciousness more and more looks like the delicate togetherness of understanding and being. The understanding of 'consciousness' is more an understanding of its ontology, which needs the focus of epistemology to be shifted from normal and ordinary experiences, abnormal and transcendental experiences, to the holistic definition of the problem, method, and goals of enquiry. This would facilitate breaking 'habitual' ways of event or object oriented analysis by experience or first-person oriented understanding. The categories of thinking formed by the analyst and his/her worldview will be specific as well as potential for widening the scope of understanding.
The two questions which are important, if we are 'really' interested in understanding consciousness are: (i) What are we really looking at?, and (ii)What do we really want to look at? Our notions about 'real', 'truth' and 'self' are to be continuously questioned, but at the same time, integrated with personal growth, values, spiritual understanding and self-exploration.
My Pranam to Swami Bodhananda* for his Blessings without which the completion of this paper would not have been possible. Thanks to Leela Ramanathan (President, Karnataka Nrtakala Parishat) for discussions and comments. Thanks also to Rajiv Malhotra for encouraging me to write this paper. Thanks to The Infinity Foundation** for supporting the presentation of this paper at the international conference held at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India, on "Approaches to mind and consciousness" from 9-11 January 2002.
* See http://www.sambodh.org
** See http://www.infinityfoundation.com
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2. Blackmore, Susan (1999). The Meme Machine. Oxford University Press.
3. Gallese,V. (2001)."The shared manifold hypothesis". Journal of Consciousness Studies. 8(5-7) 46.
4. Andresen, Jensine (2000) . "Meditation meets behavioural medicine:The story of experimental research on meditation". Journal of Consciousness Studies. 7(11-12) 17-73.
5. Tart, Charles. (1992). Ed. Altered States of Consciousness. 3rd ed. Harper Collins.
7. Menon, Sangeetha (2001). "Binding experiences: looking at the contributions
of Adi Sankaracarya, Tuncettu Ezuttacchan and Sri Narayana Guru in the context
of recent discussions on consciousness studies". URL:www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/i_pr/i_pr_ker_menon_frameset.htm
Paper presented at the 12th annual national conference of National Academy of Psychology.Kollam.October 22-24, 2001.
8. Antony, Michael V. (2001). "Is 'consciousness' ambiguous?". Journal of Consciousness Studies. 8(5-7) 19.
9. Menon, Sangeetha (2001). "Towards a Sankarite approach to consciousness studies". Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research. XVIII(1) 95-111.
10. Sastri, S.Kuppuswami (1932). A Primer of Indian Logic: According to Annambhatta's Tarkasamgraha. Mylapore: Madras Law Journal Press.pg.4
11. Ibid. pp.5-6
12. Ibid. pg.6
13. Ibid. pg.12
14. Ibid. pg.3
15. Brahmasutra begins with the sutra 'adhato brahma jijnasa' and Mimamsasutra begins with the sutra 'adhato dharma jijnasa'.
16. The introductory theme in Tattvabodha is 'sadhanacatustaya' which
talks about the fourfold qualifications needed for a student interested in the
enquiry of moksa. The fourfold qualifications are: (i) nitya anitya
vastu viveka (discriminatory understanding of the real and the unreal) (ii)
iha amutra artha phala bhoga viraga (dispassionate towards the objects
of pleasure) (iii) sama adi satka sampatti (observance of the seven values)
(iv) mumuksutvam ca iti (earnest desire for liberation).
17. prama karanam pramanam
Sastri, S.Kuppuswami (1932). A Primer of Indian Logic: According to Annambhatta's Tarkasamgraha. Mylapore: Madras Law Journal Press.pg.189
18. Hiriyanna, M. (1975). Indian conception of values. Mysore: Kavyalaya Publishers.pg.43
19. caturtha abhinaya upetam laksanavrttito buddaih
nartanam natyamityuktam sa tvatrabhinayo bhavet
Sastri, K. Vasudeva and Nagaraja Rao G.(1990). Ed. Tr. Natya Sastra Samgraha.3rd ed.vol.1. Tanjavaur: Saraswati Mahal Library.pg.20
henceforth denoted as Natya Sastra Samgraha
20. natyasabdo rase mukhyo rasa abhivyaktikaranam
Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.20
21. caturthabhinaya tatra angiko angaidarsito matah l
vaca viracitah kavyanatakadistu vacikah ll
aharyo harakeyurakiritadivibhusanam l
satvikah satvikairbhavaih bhavukena vibhavitah ll
Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.20
22. In vacika abhinaya speech is lokadharmi and singing is natyadharmi.
In aharya abhinaya wearing of ornaments is lokadharmi and suggesting
objects by mere gestures is natyadharmi. In satvika abhinaya shedding
tears is lokadharmi and suggesting tears by gesture is natyadharmi.
Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.25
23. angikam bhuvanam yasya vacikam sarva vangmayam l
aharyam candratarati tam namah satvikam sivam ll
Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.1
24. The Natya Sastra of Bharatamuni: Translated into English by a board
of scholars. (2000). Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. 2nd revised ed.pg.528
henceforth denoted as Natya Sastra
25. rasa iti kah padarthah
Tarlekar, G.H. (1991). Studies in the Natya Sastra: With special reference to the Sanskrit drama in performance. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers pvt.ltd. 2nd revised ed.pg.54
henceforth denoted as Studies in Natya Sastra
26. bhavayanti iti bhavah
Natya Sastra: pg.86
27. srngara hasya karuna raudra vira bhayanakah l
bibhatsa adbuta samjnau cetyastau natye rasah smrtah ll
Studies in Natya Sastra: pg.56
Bharata talks only about eight rasa. It is Abhinavagupta who introduced
the ninth santa rasa, and also as the most important rasa, which
was essential to portray the unique spiritual nature of Buddha.
Studies in Natya Sastra: pg.60
28. Translations of the terms are of the author.
29. Natya Sastra: pp.86-113
30. Three kinds of mada are mentioned according to their instensity.
See Natya Sastra: pg.95
31. Natya Sastra: pp.123-126
32. Natya Sastra Samgraha: pp.483-491
Natya Sastra: pp.118-119
33. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.483
34. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.484
35. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg. 485
36. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.486
37. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.487
38. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.488
39. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.489
40. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.490
41. Natya Sastra Samgraha: pp.492-499
Natya Sastra: pp.119-120
42. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.492
43. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.494
44. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.494
45. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.495
46. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.496
47. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.497
48. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.497
49. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.498
50. Natya Sastra Samgraha: pp.500-524
Natya Sastra: pp.120-122
51. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.500
52. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.501
53. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.502
54. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.503
55. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.504
56. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.506
57. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.507
58. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.508
59. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.509
60. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.510
61. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.511
62. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.512
63. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.513
64. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.514
65. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.515
66. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.516
67. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.517
68. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.519
69. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.520
70. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.521
71. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.521
72. See for the Sanskrit verse Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.521
73. angena alambayet gitam hastena artham pradarsayet l
netrabhyam darsayet bhavam padabhyam talamacaret ll
yato hasta tato drstih yato drstih tato manah l
yato manah tato bhavah yato bhavah tato rasah ll
Natya Sastra Samgraha: pg.31
74. Natya Sastra: Chapters.27,34,35
75. Natya Sastra: Chapter.27, pg.381
76. See Natya Sastra: Chapters.34,35, pp.514-530
for a detailed description of the classes and kinds of role.
77. See Natya Sastra: pg.376
Words like 'kastam' for the pathetic feelings portrayed.
78. See Natya Sastra: pg.376
Words like 'aho' for implying 'how wonderful' the portrayal is.
79. See Natya Sastra: pg.375
Appreciation of humour is implied with smile and laughter; appreciation of joy is expressed through horripilation.
80. Natya Sastra: pg.380