Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

The Concept of "Rasa" in Indian Psychology: A Preliminary Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

The Concept of "Rasa" in Indian Psychology: A Preliminary Qualitative Study

Article excerpt


"Rasa" is basic to the study of emotions and consequentially the study of "emotional transformation" within Indian Psychology. Technically, it is defined as a sap, juice or essence. Of the various meanings associated with Rasa, three major perspectives were studied in this research study. As a concept closely aligned to emotions, artistsperformers and teachers, authences and art scholars use words related to Rasa in relation to the aesthetic experience. Rasa as a concept is also used in Ayurveda, in this perspective too, it is referred to as something which is essential to well being rather than being simply alive. The concept "Rasa" also has deeply spiritual connotations and finds specific mention in the Taittriyopanishad of the Yajurveda.

Study of Emotions within Mainstream Psychology- A Competitive Review

Emotion is defined as a feeling or affect, that occurs when a person is in interaction or a state, that is important to him or her, especially to his or her well-being. (Campos, 2004; Saarni and others, 2006). Psychologists believe that emotions have strong biological roots and can be located in the functioning of the human brain, even as the display rules for the expression of emotions may be culture specific. The functionalist perspective looks at emotions as relational and adds a connative element, by stating that, when a person achieves what one wants, positive emotions are generated. Note here that well-being as well as positive emotion is largely understood as self interest.

In a recent paper, Paranjpe (2009) categorized the various theories of emotions into six categories starting from Psycho-physiological to phenomenological. It was also noted that, because of the skew towards the psycho-physiological theories of emotions, other emotions like shyness, pride etc. were completely ignored in the theories of emotion. Positive emotions did not receive much attention until the late 1990's with the emergence of positive psychology movement (Seligman and Csikszentsmihalyi, 2000).

In trying to understand the dynamics between emotional experience and emotional expression, the universality-specificity dynamic has been discussed in terms of the emotion culture interface. Does culture affect the core experience of emotion or does it moderate the expression of emotion is an area of enquiry ( Ekman, 1992; Izard, 1994; Lynch, 1990; Mesquita & Frijda, 1992; Russell, 1991; Frijda, 1986; Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 1997). A detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this paper.

Three basic points emerge in the study of emotions: Emotion is generally explained on the basis of self interest. Secondly, in consequence to this self interest, emotions are categorised as positive and negative emotions.Thirdly, emotions are always relational or referential.

Understanding and application of the psychology of emotions is extremely relevant for it gives glimpses of the psychological landscapes of the person. Even as the importance of emotions in psychology was underlined by the humanistic movement, the work of Carl Rogers and the research work done by Csiksentmihalyi (1996) on emotions and creative states, it was only in the 1990's the concept of "emotional intelligence" was coined and gained ground. Current perspectives in mainstream psychology are not able to connect all the parts of the jigsaw puzzle that emotions present into an underlying, cohereing theory or concept. For example, bodily expressions, a spectrum of human emotion- experience and expression, creativity, wellbeing, empathy (both interpersonal and aesthetic) and spirituality and finally transformation of emotions are left to float on their own. It is here that the concept of Rasa and Rasa Theory in Indian Psychology may provide some intriguing insights. As a prelimnary study, this paper limits itself only to the understanding of Rasa as a basic foundation of enquiry.

Research Questions:

This study was framed with the following research questions:

1. …

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