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Rupa Gosvamis theory

Rupa Gosvamis theory of bhaktirasa uses and reworks the theory of the Natyasastra on rasas towards a devotional and religious context in which aesthetic delight is used to achieve union with Krsna. In the present missive, I will compare Rupa Gosvamis theory with the rasa theory of the Natyasastra and the model of and examine Radhas role as a model for devotion, contrasting this model with the models set forth by Jayadevas Gitagovinda and, later, by Jiva Gosvami and others .

I will also explore the duality set forth by Rupa Gosvamis theory of krsna-rati as the supreme emotion in the quest to achieve the rasas he presents and the actual treatment of Radha and her role as an object of devotion within his plays. Our examination must first begin with a brief summary of Rupas theory.

In his theory of bhaktirasa, Rupa delineates five primary modes (bhavas) through which the devotee may relate to Krishna: santa, contemplative adoration of the transcendent Lord; dasya, humble servitude to the divine master; sakhya, intimate companionship with the beloved friend; vatsalya, parental affection for the adorable child; and madhurya, passionate love for the supreme lover. (D. M. Wulff, A Sanskrit Portrait, Divine Consort, p. 28) This theory departs sharply from the Sanskrit theory of aesthetic enjoyment and moods evoked by drama, as presented in the Natyasastra.

Several important notes must be made on this theory and its differences with previous rasa theories. The emphasis for Rupa is not on the ability of generic drama to lift one out of everyday experience; rather, he is deeply concerned with the means by which one may participate in the one Real Drama. (D. Haberman, Acting as a way of salvation, pp. 35-36)

For Rupa and for the Gaudiya Vaisnava, salvation comes to be defined as an eternal participation in this absolute drama, (D.Haberman, Acting as a way of salvation, p. 36) true salvation is no longer achieved by moksa, or release from the subjugation of samsara, but rather, it is achieved by absorbing ones consciousness and emotion into the Lords divine play, Krsnas Lila. This can extended to say that the bhakta becomes an integral part of this play. What means is the devotee to use to enter into this divine play? Rupa considers santa, the rasa resulting from the sthayibhava santirati, to be the least important of the bhaktirasas.

This is due to the lack of active participation in Krsnas lilas, as it only involves realization of the Lords manifest form. Sakhya, dasya and vatsalya rank above santa, but all defer to the highest of the sthayibhavas : madhurya (D. M. Wulff, Drama as religious realization, pp. 26-28) It is devotion through this bhava and its resultant rasa, madhura, that is the main concern of this paper, as Radha is Krsnas most intimate lover and devotee in the plays of Rupa Gosvami. The ambiguity of her role as both vehicle for and object of devotion is what we are mainly concerned with.

If one were to take Rupas theory at face value, it would seem impossible to attribute the same rank to devotion to Radha as is granted to krsna-rati. This differs greatly from Jayadevas Gitagovinda, where memory binds Krsna and Radha together. Jayadeva portrays Radha and Krsna as a dual divinity. (JS Hawley, Preface, Divine Consort) Krsna is as equally bound in devotion to Radha, his exclusive mate in a secret passion, as she is to him. This is contrasted by the communal relations with the gopis in the rasa-lila dance, where Krsna is with all at once, without particular attention to any.

To follow Jayadevas path is to achieve salvation in the very union of Radha and Krsna; this contrasts with Rupas theory, where Radha would seem to be merely the perfect example of a devotee, with the focus and intensity of her love for Krsna. We will see that this very love sets Radha that sets Radha apart will contribute to our understanding of the duality of Radhas role as both vessel and receiver of devotion. D. M. Wulff proposes that it is the transcendental quality of Radhas love that permits her this double role.

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