Comparative Analysis between Bhatta Nayaka’s and Shri Sankuka’s Rasa-Sutra and Two of T.S. Eliot’s Essays

Bhatta Nayaka was in the tradition of non-dualism school. Bhatta Nayaka’s theory regarding the interpretation of Braharata Muni’s Natyasastra marks the shift of the locus of rasa from the characters, as believed by critics up to the tenth century, to the spectators.

In term of the relation between the phenomena of literature and its effect on human emotion, the formalist views that rasa is manifested in the characters. This is because the formalist focuses on the text. However, the question of how the spectators perceive rasa arises. Bhatta Nayaka critiqued the formalist’ view by focusing on the spectator’s subjective experience while engaging with literary work. Abhinavagupta says that according to Bhatta Nayaka, rasa “is neither perceived (prati), nor produced (utpad), nor manifested (abhivyaj)”. The key to his concept is bhavana, a particular combination of determinants and consequents. Rasa is inherent in the text. It matures into art, more objectified experience. In drama, the spectator’s experience is internal. Rasa occurs when the spectator becomes one with what he is watching.

Shri Sankuka interpreted that Rasa originates by anumiti i.e. inference. According to him art cannot be an ordinary imitation but a kind of an indirect Inference. Hence the sthayi bhava of the character, which is inferred by the actor, is called Rasa. Sthayi bhava cannot be imitated because an actor does not himself experience the pain of the character. There is a distance between the two. The actor must create, by his ability, a mental state in order to act on the stage. Thus Sri Sankuka interprets the Rasa Sutra to mean that the basic mental state inferred from vibhavas and anubhavas. Meanwhile, vibhavas and anubhavas in T.S. Eliot are emotions and feelings. The text or poem is a transcript of personal feelings. The process of the fusion between feelings and emotions determines the artistic level of the poem.

Shri Sankuka put the stress on the role of the spectator. As he is trained in Nyaya school (logician), he viewed rasa not from the perspective of the production of aesthetic object, but rather the matter out of which the aesthetic experience comes. Everything is made of a form; therefore the self is the substance. But in Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent”, a poet is a medium of channeling and elaborating tradition. Eliot argues that a writer cannot be separated from the literary tradition before him. He has “a consciousness of the past”. A poet must embody, in the context of English literature, “the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer” while expressing his present day spirit. However, this does not mean that the poet surrenders to repetition. As he creates, he appropriates the established literary traditions. His work will change the way of seeing the works of art that preceded it. This is what Eliot calls ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry.

Eliot’s disassociation of sensibility also appears in his essay “The Metaphysical Poets”. The term refers to the way in which intellectual thought was separated from the experience of feeling in late seventeenth century. This is contrasted to the group of poets in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, who “constantly amalgamating disparate experience” and therefore express their thoughts through the experience of feeling. In “Hamlet and His Problems” Eliot presents the concept of “objective correlative” in this essay. The expression of emotion in art can be achieved by a set of objects. Then a particular emotion is evoked through the presentation of its correlated objective sign and the author is depersonalized. The sign, rather than the poet, creates emotion. We can hear the echo of this theory in “Tradition and Individual Talent” as well when Eliot says that “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.” The poet is objective in the sense that he is not expressing his personality in his poetry, but rather escaping from it. Writing poetry must be done consciously and deliberately. It requires tranquility. Meaning is distorted.

Moving on to the spectator, in Shri Sankuka’s theory of rasa, the means of knowledge is perception. Knowledge must be transformed into inference. We also find the notion of reproduction, that what the actor reproduces has to be cognized. This is due to the distance of the spectator. The objective cognition has to become a part of the spectator’s consciousness. It cannot be directly perceived either through language or movement.