Reflection on Emotions in Indian Thought-Systems
Seminar on" Reflection on Emotions in Indian Thought-Systems”
4-6 September 2012
Great, deep, wide and unbounded, the ocean is nevertheless drunk by underwater fires; in the same way, Sorrow is drunk by Anger.
(Translation of an unidentified Sanskrit stanza from India in the early Middle Ages; Gnoli, 1956, p. 35.)
At a given moment of time, in this greatly unstable era of existential dislocation, in this scattered reality impelled by the pending force of technology and globalization, in this virtual world of which we are a part, a need is felt to revive the significance of feeling, to pose a question about validity of emotions in our times, to ensure a potential for understanding a metaphysical meaning of emotions in the religious and philosophical world of mankind’s sensibility. It is a general misconception propagated by a popular culture and mass-media that views emotions in opposition to rationality, as the symptoms of inner weakness and vulnerability forged by a psychological unbalance and disorder. The existence of emotions is widely attested in the religious and philosophical landscape of India and it often provides a basis for the affective unfolding of conscious thought revealing its depth and intensity. In accordance with classical Indian philosophy, emotions are cognitions (jñāna, vijñāna), a justified mental phenomena not less rational than complex thought processes. What distinguishes emotions from thoughts is a prominent behavioral component articulating attitudes, conations and judgments that bring us to a closer understanding of the specific subfield of human life. In the classical Sanskritic tradition, the words ‘bhāva’ and ‘vedanā’ are used in reference to the ‘emotive state’ which includes both the internal feeling and expressed emotion. Within the symbolic discourse of Indian culture, emotions are also held legitimate in religious life. To illustrate this point, let us refer to Varāhapuraa 17.33-37 which describes the Mother-goddesses (matkas) as symbols of human emotions: Brāhmī –pride, Maheśvarī – anger, Kaumārī - attachment, Vaiavī - greed, Varahi - envy, Aindrī – jealousy, Camua - depravity, Nārasihī - lust. Studies of Hindu myth tales, those of Campbell, Doniger and Shulman reflected on core components of emotional meaning that seem to be universal. Appraisal of emotional life has reached its apogee in the non-dualistic tantric traditions of Kashmir as it promulgated the Heart as the representative of the Self, the liberated consciousness. At the same time, emotional states, even the most negative ones, have been qualified as a stimulus for the expansion of consciousness. Needless to say, the emotional attitude pervades all intellectual and religious discourses of Indian culture, and, moreover, it appears as the most tangible and fundamental in mankind’s quest for the sacred and self-discovery. This seminar wishes to address a complex character of emotions by providing an interdisciplinary approach combining fields of philosophy, psychology and religious studies. This intellectual endeavour is intended to stimulate the multi-method strategy in conceptualizing emotions. In doing so, we will make an attempt to venture into the multi-faceted reality of emotions, unraveling its apparent equivocality, its seeming inconceivability. The seminar will try to systematize the cultural data on emotions in order to arrive at conceptual schema that would help us in defining the phenomenon of feeling in its multi-dimensional appearances. An effort will be made to give an ingenious replies on the mechanism of spontaneous activation of emotional behavior in religious experience and to elaborate on emendations of the theoretical maze confounding emotional and rational domains. Through the intellectual fusion and fruitful mingling of many perspectives, the seminar wishes to broader our understanding of the linkage between affect, cultural models and theoretical evaluation, reconnecting them. Finally, seminar furnishes a good opportunity to reflect upon the aesthetic emotions caused by a work of art that reinforce empathetic or non-empathetic feelings.
The following themes shall be investigated:
- the problem of rationality and emotions in classical Indian philosophy (Sakhya, Nyāya-Vaiśeika, Miansa) and in Buddhism
- Emotions as enrapture of intensity, medium of psychological transfiguration
- Emotions (bhāvas) in construction of dynamic religious identity: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sahaja Vainavism, Bauls of Bengal, Sufi Emotionalism
- The idea of salvation through intense emotional state: Kashmiri tantric śaiva traditions, Bengali Tantra
- The cultural psychology of emotions (Dimock, Kakar, Harre, Kleiman, Rorty, Shixie, Solomon)
- Natyaśastra as the theatre of emotions
- Expressed emotions: dance, song etc.
- The role of emotions in Bhakti movement
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
Tel: 0177-2830006 (O), Fax: 0177-2831389
Tel: 0177-2830006 (O), Fax: 0177-2831389