…I love you….You ……complete me ….(Clip from Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire – the movie)
When people saw this scene in the movie, women across the world swooned wishing that they were in the arms of Tom Cruise. I am talking about the film Jerry Maguire, when Tom Cruise tells his recently married wife with whom he’s estranged – ‘I love you. You complete me.’ When you watched this, you felt romantic if indeed you had a partner at the time. Or you wished you had a partner who said this to you. Tom Cruise did not tell you that he loved you but you felt special. Although the love that Tom Cruise had was for his wife in the movie, it did not travel from the screen to you. You just felt it in your heart. This is Shringaara one of the primary bhaavas which is different aspects of affection, love including beauty.
As we zip through situations we go through the agony and ecstasy of different emotions or Bhaavas. Bhaava is a Sanskrit word for an emotion, a psychological state which has a physiological component. Bhaava can be your own, or portrayed/experienced by someone else.
‘Bhaava’ has been spoken of in Naatya Shaastra written by Bharata Muni more than 2000 years ago. ‘Naatya’ refers to theatre and related arts and Naatya Shaastra forms the basis for all classical dance, music, theatre arts in India. It has more than 6000 verses and covers in detail the how and what and why of acting (theatre). How the actor must present himself, what the props need to be like, what musical instruments are to be used, what is the puja that needs to be done before the play begins, how can one go deeper into the aesthetic pleasure of the play, and so on. A tiny section talks about 8 primary kinds of Bhaava and the rasa (pleasure) derived from all emotions.
1.Shringaaraha, love is one of the primary bhaavas dealt with in Naatya Shaastra as discussed above.
The others are:
2.Haasya: Cheerful state of mind/Joyousness
When you listen to or watch a funny show (or a stand-up comic), or when you yourself are able to make light of a situation, or when you find something funny and laugh – then you feel a certain lightness or cheerfulness. This is another primary bhaava.
3.Karuna or Shoka: Sadness/compassion
When you see someone suffering or crying, you have the Bhagavan given ability to empathize with them. Even if your life is going very well, and you had nothing to do with whatever is causing the other person sadness, just hearing them tell their story is enough for you to feel their sadness. It may even bring tears to your eyes. Because you are open, and maybe you have lost something at some point in your life (could be property, reputation, time, so on) you can empathize. You feel the shoka (sadness) or karuna (compassion).
Everyone gets angry! All anger comes from helplessness and an inability to control. Perhaps you want someone to change and they don’t. Or you want some situation to change. The expressive kind will express the anger directly. Others may withdraw and the anger may express as tears, or as psychosomatic issues in your body.
We feel veerya when we hear some rhythm that is building to a crescendo. We feel courageous when we see acts of valour.
Bhayaanakaha: Fear, Anxiety
Scary stunts or music that accompanies a frightening scene invokes fear. Movie makers know this far too well to ensure the background music has to add to the intensity of emotion.
You may have seen advertisements that discourage the use of tobacco by showing cancerous growths that it can cause. This feeling of disgust one feels at seeing unpleasant sights may spur one to make better choices!
When you see something that amazes you (Ishvara’s creation for example), you feel a lot of wonder. Any wonder that Awesome has become a popular word?
These are the 8 original bhaavas from the text.
Shanta bhaava is the ninth that was added by commentators. It refers to the tranquility that comes from peace, where the 8 states above are held in balance
All bhaavas exist in our heart and get invoked at different points in time. The states are invoked in each person at different points depending on experience and situation. At other times they stay as unmanifest.
Naatya Shaastra (also called Natya Veda) encouraged everyone to go deep into pleasure! It was written for the common person – not necessarily someone who was into the study of Vedanta and on the path of cultivating Viveka and vairagya. In Vedanta we speak of the path of “pravritti” where one goes towards the pursuits of Dharma, Artha and Kaama, and the path of “nivritti” where one moves away from or withdraws from certain pursuits. The 6th and 7th chapter of the Naatya Shastra which speak more about Bhaava, essentially says that universally, aesthetic pleasure is close to everyone’s heart.
The capacity to experience pleasure is called “rasa”, and it comes about when certain things happen in the environment.
In Taittiriya Upanishad, there is a verse: ‘Raso vai saha’
The Upanishad, which talks about the nature of who you are and is considered the highest knowledge available to humanity – that same Upanishad is saying that the sukha (happiness) you experience (in other words rasa) is indeed Brahman! The ultimate reality! And when one gains that aesthetic pleasure that comes from Brahman, one discovers his own nature as happiness. As fullness. This same rasa was spoken of in Naatya Shaastra. While the Upanishads were only available to the select few who sought a teacher and lived in a gurukulam, Naatya Shastra said that rasa was available to everyone because all emotions are in every human heart.
There is no emotion to be avoided, no emotion to be scared of and certainly no emotion to suppress.
In recent times we tend to pathologise emotions because of the influence of Western psychology. If one has anger there is something wrong with you, we are told. But movies allow us to go on a roller coaster of emotions. In fact, we see different genre of movies – comedy, horror, thriller, romantic etc because we want to feel these emotions. There are some that delight in the experience of watching a good horror film! Others may not understand this “joy of being scared” at all. “Why would you pay to be scared?”, they may ask. But the horror movie fan is able to get ‘rasa’ in getting scared! He is able to enjoy the essence of the experience. Then there are some of us who will go watch a movie or play even though we have heard that the subject matter and the ending is not light or happy. The piece is sorrowful. And yet the person cries, is moved, and appreciates the skill with which the subject was handled. The movie is more than just moving images – it has touched you at a very deep level. It has touched you emotionally.
We thus see the truth of the assertion made in Naatya Shaastra that rasa is indeed available to everyone.
Through movies, dance, music and theatre performances, rasa is available to everyone regardless of whether one is a villager or a city dweller, or what class of society he or she belongs to.