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Rasa and the Cultural Shaping of Human Consciousness

Rasa and the Cultural Shaping of Human Consciousness

(p.115) Seven Rasa and the Cultural Shaping of Human Consciousness
Universalism without Uniformity
Usha Menon
University of Chicago Press

This essay explores two particular areas of interest in cultural psychology with respect to the Hindu concept of rasa: first, the idea that rasa qualifies as a “mentality” in the Shwederian sense because it leaves its characteristic impression on several domains of Hindu life; and, second, the degree to which there is convergence between the Hindu theory of the emotions as presented in the ancient Hindu dramaturgical text, the Natya Sastra, and current cultural psychological research into emotional functioning. While rasa has a range of meanings associated with it, many Hindus would agree that its conventional meanings are “juice, flavor, taste”. The essay demonstrates that rasa does qualify as the cultural mentality of Hindu India because it shapes many varied fields ranging from gastronomy and aesthetics to soteriology. Rasa also has implications for the ways in which Hindus conceptualize the manifest world and beyond. With respect to the Hindu theory of the emotions, there is little correspondence between this theory and contemporary research in cultural psychology because the Natya Sastra is unarguably a cultural artifact that reflects the premises, values and concerns of a particular cultural world, not a research enterprise that seeks to understand emotional functioning across cultures.

Keywords:   rasa, emotion, Hindu gastronomy, Hindu aesthetics, Hindu soteriology, cultural mentality

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