Sacred Rapture: A Study of the Religious Aesthetic of Rupa Gosvamin

Delmonico, Neal Gorden

     This study focuses on "Rupa Gosvamin's (approx. 1480-1564 A.D.) Ujjvala-nilamani, the second of his two texts on what I call his religious aesthetic (bhakti-rasa-sastra). . . . Rupa's Ujjvala-nilamani (Blazing Sapphire) is a detailed treatment, with numerous examples, of the specific variety of sacred rapture that is most characteristic of Rupa's religious tradition, the Vaisnava community that found its inspiration in the life and teachings of Sri Caitanya (1486-1533)."
     In Chapter 1, I formulate the problem. I draw attention to the fact that scholarly attention has been focused mostly on Abhinavagupta in the field of Sanskrit aesthetics and suggest that this has led to the opinion that outside of his thought there is nothing else worth considering in the field. . . . I . . . [suggest] that there were a number of other interesting things happening in the field besides Abhinava's work and have called attention to the single rasa theories in general and to Bhoja's single rasa aesthetic, based on erotic rapture, in particular. Chapters 2 through 4 . . . [are] devoted to the discussion of aesthetic rapture. Chapter 2 starts with a brief overview of the history of rasa aesthetics in order to set the stage for a discussion of the earliest and most fundamental of its texts, the Natya-sastra (4th or 5th cent. A.D.). As an apparatus for clarifying the distinct positions represented by the different lines of thought on rasa, I raise four questions: what is rasa, how is it aroused, what is the relationship between rasa and bhava and who experiences rasa. The answers to these questions that each writer gives serve as points on which each can be compared with the others. . . . In Chapter 3 I focus on the aesthetic of Abhinavagupta and discuss the tradition that has arisen around it. . . . In Chapter 4, Bhoja's aesthetic is discussed. His aesthetic is laid out and the answers to the four questions are elicited. . . . Chapters 5 and 6 . . . [deal] with sacred rapture. Chapter 5 contains a textual history of the notion of sacred rapture before the time of Rupa. . . . In Chapter 6 Rupa's religious aesthetic is discussed in detail and Rupa's answers to the four questions are arrived at. . . . In Chapter 7, the aesthetics of both Abhinavagupta and Bhoja are reiterated and Rupa's religious aesthetic is compared with each of them. In the Conclusion several issues are raised. The first is an assessment of what is gained by looked at Rupa's aesthetic on the backdrop of Bhoja's aesthetic. . . . Finally, the interesting dichotomy in Sanskrit aesthetics between the orientation of Bhoja and that of Abhinavagupta is discussed and a suggestion is made as to why Abhinavagupta has been the focus of so much more attention than Bhoja.