What Kind of Experience does Narrative Literature Produce?

Andrew Ollett g Vancouver, October 18, 2017

licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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  1. Stories on the Margins: Rasa as a “governing concept” of literature, and the genres it doesn’t govern.
  2. Stories in the Center: Rasa in Jain reflections on narrative literature.

Story Literature (kathā)

Especially in Prakrit:

  • Taraṅgavatī (verse, kind of lost)
  • Malayavatī (unknown, lost)
  • Samarādityakathā (prose)
  • Kuvalayamālā (mixed prose and verse)
  • Līlāvatī (verse)

Most of these works are by Jain authors, and specifically by Jain monks.

Ānandavardhana’s two principles

for finding an appropriate “fit” (saṁghaṭanā) between form and content

Principle 1: “Rasa über alles”

If it is rasa in the first place that you want to produce, then you have to avoid at all costs anything that might block or hamper its apprehension.
rasō yadā prādhānyēna pratipādyas tadā tatpratītau vyavadhāyakā virōdhinaś ca sarvātmanaiva parihāryāḥ

(Kāśī Sanskrit Series ed. p. 320)

Principle 2: “Adapt to the genre”

The fit (saṁghaṭanā) has different varieties depending on which genre of literature one is writing in.
kāvyaprabhēdāśrayataḥ sthitā bhēdavatī hi sā

(Kāśī Sanskrit Series ed. p. 323, kārikā 3.7)

Ānandavardhana’s “two roads”

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Rasa in the Story Cycle

In the story cycle, one may do as one wishes: since one is simply relating a series of events, the formation of rasa is not particularly crucial.
parikathāyāṁ kāmacāraḥ, tatrētivr̥ttamātrōpanyāsēna nātyantaṁ rasabandhābhinivēśāt.

Rasa among the Jains

Anuyōgadvārasūtram 262 (5th c. CE):

navanāmē ṇava kavvarasā paṇṇattā. taṁ jahā—
siṁgārō abbhuō ya roddō ya hōi bōdhavvō
vēlaṇaō bībhaccō hāsō kaluṇō pasaṁtō ya

Narrative among the Jains

  • Rasa doesn’t organize the discussion of narrative literature in the Daśavaikālikasūtram.
    • or in literature that stands in that tradition (e.g., Samarādityakathā).
  • What does?

“Stories” (kathā) vs. “Yarns” (vikathā) and “Unstories” (akathā)

When people who are concerned with conduct, who practice austerities, restraints, and virtues, tell the truth, which is beneficial for all souls in the world, that is designated as a story in our tradition.
tavasaṁjamaguṇadhārī jaṁ caraṇatthā kaheṁti sabbhāvaṁ
savvajagajjīvahiyaṁ sā u kahā dēsiyā samaē

“Stories” (kathā) vs. “Yarns” (vikathā) and “Unstories” (akathā)

When a person without knowledge tells a story and communicates falsity, whether he is a student or a householder, that is designated as not a story at all (akathā-) in our tradition.
micchattaṁ vēyantō jaṁ annāṇī kahaṁ parikahēi
liṁgatthō va gihī vā sā akahā dēsiyā samaē

The four types of story (kathā)

  1. Dharmakathā
  2. Arthakathā
  3. Kāmakathā
  4. Miśrakathā

The four goals of a religious story (dharmakathā)

  1. Ākṣēpaḥ — Interest in the Jain teachings.
  2. Vikṣēpaḥ — Confutation of non-Jain teachings.
  3. Saṁvēgaḥ — Excitement for the results of Jain religious practice.
  4. Nirvēdaḥ — Fear and aversion from the effects of sin.

Jain Narratives, Rasa, and Propriety

An anti-rasa orientation?

The story told to a listener by those who are inflamed by the erotic rasa, in whom the conflagration of delusion rages, should not be told by a monk.
siṁgārarasutteïyā mōhakuviyaphuṁphugā sahāseṁti
jaṁ suṇamāṇassa kahaṁ samaṇēṇa na sā kahēyavvā

N.B. this is a conception of rasa far from Bhaṭṭa Nāyaka’s “aesthetic differentiation.”

Propriety: “Don’t go overboard”

A story should be told without a lot of trouble, even if is great in terms of its meaning. Watch out that the story doesn’t kill its meaning with all of its bombast.
atthamahaṁtī vi kahā aparikilēsabahulā kahēyavvā
haṁdi māhayā caḍagarattaṇēṇa atthaṁ kahā haṇaï


Taraṅgavatī pt. 1

“Madam,” she said, “it will surely be painful to recount. It is not right for us to punish ourselves for no good purpose. The pleasant things that I experienced as a householder, things I used to do and enjoy, are blameworthy. Why, it is not proper for me to speak of them, even in my heart. But listen. As it can only make you disillusioned with this world, I will relate to you the inevitable fruition of my own karmas, remaining neutral and without sinful delight.”

Taraṅgavatī pt. 2

When she said this the lady of the house was satisfied and all of the women, eager to hear the story, did reverence to the nun. Then, in response to their questions, that mendicant began to relate to all of those women in full the fruition of her karmas, generated in earlier lives. There the nun spoke without exaggeration or self-importance, remaining neutral, her gaze fixed upon dharma alone, like Sarasvatī incarnate.

Taraṅgavatī pt. 3

“What I experienced, what I heard, and what I remember, madam, I will describe this in brief by collecting a few things together. Listen. So long as one says of something bad, that it is bad, and of something good, that it is good, and holds fast to the truth, there is neither blame nor praise.”

Three Concluding Questions

Some Concluding Questions – 1

  • Is (Prakrit) narrative literature “rasa-oriented”?
    • Ānandavardhana would say no.
    • A lot of Jain monks would also say no, since rasa is potentially morally problematic.

Līlāvatī passage

So let’s have an evening
of pleasant entertainment: tell me a story
never heard before, full of rasa
and pleasing to women, in your charming voice.
tā kiṁ pi paōsa-viṇōa-metta-suhayaṁ mha maṇaharullāvaṁ
sāhēha aüvva-kahaṁ surasaṁ mahilāaṇa-maṇojjaṁ

Līlāvatī v. 35

Some Concluding Questions – 2

  • If not rasa, what is this literature oriented towards?
    • Entertainment (vinōdaḥ)
    • Edification (vyutpattiḥ)
      • the four goals of a dharmakathā

Some Concluding Questions – 3

  • Is there a qualitative difference between what story-literature offers (whether entertainment or edification or some mix of the two) and what rasa-oriented literature offers?
    • If so, why? (Maybe Ānandavardhana is right, and diegesis and the development of rasa are really competing priorities?)
    • If not, what accounts for the persistence of the “two paths” conceit?