18. Psychology of Emotions: Some Cultural Perspectives – Foundations of Indian Psychology, Volume 1


Psychology of Emotions: Some Cultural Perspectives

Girishwar Misra

After a long association with cognition, psychology is now deeply and intensely engaged with affect and emotion. Emotionality may not be liked, but being emotionally competent is often considered a virtue. A moment's reflection makes it clear that our thoughts, actions and interactions are almost always coloured by the emotions which accompany them. Indeed, emotions are ubiquitous in our lives. Interestingly enough while ‘being emotional’ is intrinsic to human nature, at the same time humans have the capacity to reflect on and regulate their emotions. This implies that emotions vary not only across individuals and groups but also within the same person. As Ekman (2003, p. 213) has remarked, ‘we each experience the same emotions, but we all experience them differently.’ This chapter tries to examine how emotion experiences are shaped by culture. The overarching goal of this chapter is to explicate and appraise the current state of understanding in this area, and to bring out the indigenous contributions of Indian thought to the centre-stage.

The Lived Reality of Emotions

Emotions such as love, hatred, surprise, excitement, joy, envy and fear are frequently experienced in day-to-day affairs. In fact they supply a lot of information about us and help in regulating our actions and interactions with fellow beings. In common parlance, they are held as triggers of actions as well as goals or end points towards which actions are directed. Emotions are certainly involved in determining the ill-being and well-being of individuals and society. They are inescapably involved in almost all kinds and shades of human activities (for example, violence, helping, altruism, cooperation and competition). In lay theories, therefore, emotions are treated as the real and immediate springs of action. They are used as well as misused in everyday affairs. They are sites of manipulation and subject to arousal, suppression, projection, substitution and elaboration by people. Emotions matter for everybody as they energize us and in a significant sense configure our identities. Our sense of being is unimaginable in the absence of emotional scripts.

Notwithstanding the recognition of emotion in human life by the lay person, the discipline of psychology, particularly the so-called mainstream, has not given emotion the importance it deserved. Perhaps its unpredictability, subjectivity and fluidity have rendered it into a less-scientific theme. Of course, psychologists of other persuasions engaged in the study of personality and motivation-related issues, and understanding the problems of depression, anxiety and stress and pursuing clinical and particularly psychodynamic work did look into the emotional lives of people. In all these endeavours, emotion's image has largely been portrayed as negative, pathological and irrational. In general, it dealt with the darker side of human life. It was considered opposed to reason, logic and rationality. As a result, the meaning of ‘emotion’ became fuzzy and problematic. It is only during the last one decade or so that the study of positive emotions such as happiness, hope, optimism, and processes such as flourishing, have started gaining attention by the positive psychology movement. One reason for this increased attention is that studies of negative emotions such as anger, depression and anxiety were capturing only a limited part of the affective lives of people and ignored the potentials of growth and positive dispositions. Considering the salience of emotions in our lives, it is not surprising to note a revival of interest in the study of emotions in many sister disciplines such as sociology (Stets, 2003; Williams, 2001), anthropology (Hinton, 1999), social psychology (Forgas & Smith, 2003), philosophy (Roberts, 2003; Wollheim, 1999), political studies (Marcus, 2003), marketing (O'Shaughnessy & O'Shaughnessy, 2003) and neuroscience (Panksepp, 1998; Rolls, 1999).

The Changing Contours of the Emotional World

Literary evidence, ethnographic records and other kinds of evidence suggests that the ideas about emotion and emotional lives of people vary across time and space, and between and within cultures (see Averill & Saundarrajan, 2006; Ray, 2001). Looking at the large-scale changes in social mobility, transportation, social institutions and ideologies, one is bound to think that the future of our emotional lives would be different from the past and the present. Today emotions are often driven by the market forces and are attached to physical objects (Mestrovic, 1997). Contemporary humans, being self-absorbed, seem to have more feelings and pay more attention to them, but seem to have fewer feelings for others and the surroundings, and pay less attention to them. Contrarily, in the traditions of oral cultures emotions happen to be immediate, sensual, inclusive and interactive. People have the capacity to resonate their bodies with other bodies and with the imbedding physical and social contexts. With technological inventions people started disengaging themselves from interactions. Thus the virtual experience of the electronic era has brought back the sensory qualities of direct experience but without the interactive part. It makes emotions detached from action. The unemotional life may not be worth living. The present scenario of emotional life is problematic.

Thus the reality that one has to face is that whether one wants it or not, our emotional lives are bound to change. These changes, however, also imply that emotions are not purely biological or genetically predetermined. Instead they can be shaped in certain directions. We may opt for an emotionally creative life by paying attention to our feelings, cultivating certain habits of thought; practicing to experience certain mental states and encouraging desired emotional positioning of self toward own self and others. The Indian view has addressed this transformative potential of emotions in significant ways. Against this backdrop, this chapter makes an effort to bring out some of the perspectives on emotions in mainstream psychology and explores the Indian perspectives on emotion.

In the Indian context human action is expressive, symbolic, or semiotic. The apparent is not all. Instead, it is a manifestation of something greater which is unmanifest. It is an indicator of our existence and not the existence itself. Understanding indigenous epistemology, aesthetic criteria and sensibility, therefore, offer an alternative perspective on human action. Our emotions not only operate at different levels of being but may help (or hinder) our movement across different levels of consciousness. Contrary to this, modern psychology has treated emotions as predominantly physiological. It has been argued that emotions have an evolutionary history and the expressed commonality across species is used to lend support to the biological primacy of emotional processes and their predetermined form.

Studies across cultures do indicate differences in the experience of emotions, in their recognition and differences in intensity. Building on these it is argued that emotions are culturally shaped. After presenting an overview of the developments in the study of emotions in psychology, the Indian contribution of the rasa theory is outlined. The concept of rasa as meta-emotion and bhāva as emotion, present a new dimension of aesthetic creativity that goes beyond the received view of emotion and widens its scope. Viewing emotional experience in terms of a matrix of meanings, identities and relationships, emotion is treated in a non-physicalist and non-reductionist manner. It is more like a situated performance and narratives with potential for creative transformation and social engagement. The Indian idea of rasa draws our attention to a refined subjective mental state. The person as dancer/poet and spectator/audience get transported to an experienced state, which may not be in congruence with the mundane experience. Emotion is transcendental cognition, and rasa involves experiencing the universal self. It is especially instructive in the contemporary period. However, before we explore these aspects it would be pertinent to see how emotions have been treated in psychology.

Psychological Thoughts on Emotions: The Euro-American Tradition

The disciplinary journey of psychology to understand emotions is more than a century old. Today it has reached a point where a unitary notion of emotion as a physiological thing has collapsed and it is difficult to offer a precise definition. In an impressive discussion Damasio (1994) has noted that emotions are innate, pre-organized, and relatively inflexible responses to certain combinations of stimuli. Although they provide a quick and efficient set of responses, the next step is the feeling of emotion in connection to the object that excited it. The awareness of connections between the object and certain emotions serves several adaptive functions. Also, significant variations across individuals are found in temperament, emotion regulation, intensity of emotional experience, ability to regulate emotions, or to control, modify and manage aspects of emotional reactivity and expressivity. In fact there is growing convergence on the view that emotions encompass the processes that vary in duration from briefly experienced feelings resulting from conscious or unconscious appraisal, to more enduring affective styles.

Emotions perform motivational, communicative and regulatory functions within and between individuals. In a normative sense they inform about intended or likely behaviours and underlying mental states of others during interpersonal interactions. It is often held that while there is a biologically based substrate of adaptive emotional functioning, learning, experience, and the active socialization of emotions significantly influence the same and may lead to healthy or pathological consequences. Let us examine in some detail the developments in mainstream psychology pertaining to the study of emotions.

The interest of psychologists in emotional phenomena is often traced to Darwin (1872/1965). He argued for phylogenetic and ontogenetic continuity of major expressive patterns of emotions. It was followed by the work of William James (1890), who observed that ‘the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same is the emotion’ (Vol. 2, p. 449). Following this view, emotion came to represent the feelings related to physiological changes. People ‘have emotions’ like other dispositions. Emotions are localized in the body. The psycho-physiological symbolism present in this view has dominated most of the theories of emotions. This view was rooted in Descartes’ thinking, and demanded a mechanical view. For instance, Freud considered emotions as safety valves that let off their energy. The physicalist view helped to assume that the basic emotions are universal. Thus emotions came to be known as passive things that happen to people. The next step was the development of a cognitive view in which appraisal and labelling became central to the conceptualization of emotion (Schachter & Singer, 1962).

The physiological or bodily base of emotion and presumed evolutionary continuities led to a view that there are some primary or basic emotions, which are pre-packaged and pre-wired. As Lazarus (1991) has noted, while emotions are genetically determined, they are altered by social and biological variables. They express personal meanings and experience. The nature and experience of emotions, however, do not take place in a vacuum. Instead, they are organized through and embedded in cultural contexts. As we shall see in the following section, the role of culture vis-a-vis emotions has been diversely explored contributing to varied hypotheses and findings.

Understanding the Culture-Emotion Interface

The relationship between culture and emotion has been approached from many perspectives leading to not only different answers to the same questions but to different questions too. Mesquita (2001) has identified three paradigms which are followed by the researchers in such endeavours. The first paradigm tries to understand universal emotions. It asks the question—is emotion X present or absent in culture A? The underlying assumption is that emotions come as packages consisting of invariant patterns of emotion specific responses. The second paradigm involves a componential approach which has questioned the idea of emotion as a unitary whole. The focus is on understanding invariant configurations of responses. Accordingly, the aspect of emotion that was most and least susceptible to variation was examined. The degree of similarities and differences across cultures was delineated. The third paradigm is the cultural one. It proposes cultural differences in emotions and tries to understand how the tendency of people in a culture to respond in certain emotional ways relates to cultural ideas and practices. Let us examine these paradigms in some detail.

The Quest for Basic Emotions

The search for basic emotions (Ekman, 1992; Izard, 1994) is premised on the assumption that there are certain universal emotions that involve unique patterns of responses for each of the universal basic emotions. The evidence in support of this position comes largely from facial recognition studies. They indicated an above chance level recognition of facial expressions from different cultures. The studies suggest certain universal modes of communication of emotion or certain emotion components. However, differences in the rates of recognition of facial expressions, the fact that emotion words associated with facial expressions mean different things in different languages (Wierzbicka, 1986), ambiguity about the question, whether emotions are spontaneously inferred by people across the world (Russell & Fernandez-Dols, 1997), have rendered this approach as problematic.

The study of vocal expressions of emotions has revealed that in all cultures the recognition of vocal expression was the best for the same emotion. Cultural differences have also been indicated (Mesquita & Frijda, 1992). The basic emotion approach has difficulty on account of too much emphasis on intra-individual states, rather than processes in context. The focus has been on potential rather than prevalence. The dichotomous approach has many problems. Emotions share many things and differ in many respects. Universality and cultural specificity are treated as mutually exclusive.

Cultural Variations in the Components of Emotions

This perspective views emotions as multi-componential phenomena (Frijda, 1986; Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 1997). It maintains that an emotion comprises of an antecedent event, appraisal, physiological change, change in action-readiness, change in cognitive readiness, change in cognitive functioning, and change in regulator process. In most of the cases emotions are thought to involve all these components. Thus an emotionally charged event starts the emotion process, yet each component has its particular determinant. The components are thought to change somewhat independently of each other. Of course, mutual influences are also recognized. This approach has led to the study of emotion experiences with a focus on appraisal of emotion antecedents and action-readiness. The appraisals can be conscious or unconscious. This approach has shifted the focus on cross-cultural variability of the different components independently. The work of Scherer and his associates (Scherer, Wallbolt, & Summerfield, 1986) does not show very strong cultural effects. On the whole the evidence supports similarities between appraisal and emotion experience. Similar emotions are characterized by a similar core action-readiness; modes explain a significant part of the variance in emotions. However, emotions in different languages tend to have a culture-specific action-readiness profile. The approach is limited by self-report data and offers a compartmentalized study of emotions. It does not provide any direction to study the cultural differences in emotions.

Culture-Specific Patterns of Emotions

Emotions appear to be a core aspect of the behaviour of conscious beings. They are prominently present in social settings and regulate the same by connecting individuals to their social world within a cultural context. As Kitayama and Markus (1994) propose, the cultural frame or meaning system makes different things to occasion the diverse experiences as providing feelings of sadness or joy. The cultural frames inform what an emotion is and when and why an emotion is experienced. The studies of display rules were proposed to uncover the culture specific proscriptions (who can show which emotion to whom and when). Studies have indicated that there are differences in display rules. The studies of emotion lexicon do not provide evidence for cultural diversity in emotions (see Lutz, 1988; Lynch, 1990; Mesquita & Frijda, 1992; Russell, 1991). Japanese amae (Doi, 1973), Illongot's liget (Rosaldo, 1980) and Indian lajja (Menon, & Shweder, 1994) suggest cultural specificity of emotion experience.

It seems that the awareness of having emotional experiences takes place in the socio-cultural context in which a person is situated. Thus while appraisal as such is a general process common to all cultures, the particular form of appraisal and the processes utilized in it are brought into action by certain implicit theories or notions. In a recent analysis of emotion Averill, Chon and Hahn (2001) have proposed an interesting model of emotion. They suggest that the origins of behaviour lie in a person's biological and social heritage. The sum of a person's biological endowment is his or her genotype. Similarly one may speak of social systems of behaviour or institutionalized patterns of response that help assure the survival of a society. The biological systems are coded in the gene pool of the species. The social systems are encoded in the symbols, artefacts, and customs of society or ‘cultgenes’ (Lumsden & Wilson, 1983). The sum of a person's cultgenes, acquired during socialization, is his or her sociotype. The genotypes and sociotype, together with experiences unique to the individual, combine to form his or her emotional traits. These are long-enduring predispositions to respond in an emotional way; for example, with fear, anger, or sadness. They are different from emotional states. There are some emotional syndromes which are theoretical constructs involving cultural beliefs and implicit theories about the nature of emotions. These include existential beliefs and social rules. These theories are evaluative. They not only describe what is, but also provide what should be. The manifestation of emotional syndromes in thought, behaviour and feelings, and the relevant rules and beliefs need to be internalized. These internalized beliefs and rules constitute emotional schemes and scripts.

Averill et al. (2001) assert that culture can influence the emotional life of individuals in two main ways: first, through social system of behaviour contributing to a person's sociotype and their influence on emotional traits; and second, through the implicit theories (beliefs and rules) that help constitute emotional syndromes and regulate behaviour. The sociological (Parkinson, 1996; Roberts, 2003; Thoits, 1989; Williams, 2001) and anthropological (Lutz, 1988) works, recent studies of emotional vocabulary and emotional recognition (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2003; Mesquita, & Frijda, 1992; Shaver, Murdaya, & Fraley, 2001) and social constructionist accounts of emotion (Harre, 1986; Averil et al., 200l) suggest that emotional life in terms of categories and processes may take diverse forms in different cultures. The challenge is to develop a genuinely multidisciplinary perspective capable of analysing and theorizing in fresh ways the mutually constituted nature of culture and individual experience (Moore & Mathews, 2001).

Thus we need to learn about subjective, behavioural and embodied aspects of individual experience in their cultural context. Thus an individual's experiences form the basis for shared cultural beliefs and various cultural forms. They in turn shape the perceptions and understandings of individual cultural members. The challenge is to evolve a theoretical and methodological perspective capable of analysing and theorizing in fresh ways the mutually constituted nature of culture and individual experience. Williams (2001, p. 132) has perhaps rightly captured the contemporary scene of emotional understanding by saying ‘emotion is a complex, multidimensional, multifaceted human compound, including irreducible biological and cultural components, which arise or emerge in various socio-relational contexts. As a thinking, moving, feelingcomplex’—rather than a static, unidimensionalthing—emotion is embodied through and through; the animating principle of sociality and selfhood, conceived in intersubjective, intercorporeal, communicative terms.’ With this in view we may examine the indigenous Indian perspective on emotion experience.

Emotions in the Indian Thought

Historically, sage Bharata first conceived the rasa theory in the context of theatre which was subsequently extended to all poetry. His treatise entitled Nāṭyaśāstra was composed approximately in the third century AD. Of course, reference to rasa does exist in Vedic hymns in which rasa is considered as a stream of consciousness, as illumination and as offering oneself to the universal self. In the subsequent developments in Indian thought, rasa has become a core and all-pervasive concept cutting across various domains including literary criticism, dance and visual arts. Rasa is abstract and perhaps it is on account of this that it helps in universalizing the experience. Rasa is translated into English variously as emotion/meta-emotion/sentiment/mood. The details of the theory have been discussed by many authors in different contexts (for example, Gnoli, 1956; Jain, 1994; Kapur, 1998; Lynch, 1990; Masson & Patwardhan, 1970; Misra, 2004; Pandey, 1959; Paranjpe, 1998; Shweder & Haidt, 2000; Sinha, 1961).

The theory illuminates human emotions by contextualizing them in the reception of creative work (for example, poetry, drama and other acts). Literally rasa is the relishable quality inherent in the emotive content of some work of art. In the course of time the concept of rasa, which was originally an aesthetic concept referring to the act of relishing or gustation (rasana), has evolved and has been interpreted in many ways. Aesthetic experience is the apprehension of the created work as delight. The objects and situational contexts define the feelings present in drama or poetry. Emotion becomes manifested by the object to which the emotion is directed, other exciting conditions, the overt expressions, and other ancillary feelings. A different sense of rasa is the relishable experience occasioned by the work in the reader or spectator. Bharata's chief concern was the analysis of the emotion-experience which the spectator (prekṣaka) undergoes, while witnessing a dramatic performance on the stage or reading poetry. For Bharata, nāṭya or drama is so comprehensive that nothing is excluded from it:

Na tat jñānam na tat śilpam na sa vidyā na sa kalā,
Nāsau yogo na tat karma nāṭye'smin na dṛśyate.

There is no such knowledge, no such craft, no such education, no such art, no such learning, and no such activity, which cannot be seen in drama.


—Nāṭyaśāstra (I. 116)

It may be noted that Bharata assigned specific emotional values to musical notes (svaras) and melodic patterns (jātis/rāgas), when they are used in stage presentation. Thus musical sounds too can be suggestive of rasa. In Indian dance the elaborate language of hand gestures, glances, and body movements is designed to enact the mood of the song. The gestures and pure dance movements (foot work, poses) are also involved. The gestures express feelings and various mental states. The rasas are expressed in paintings and sculptures too. Rasa has also been conceptualized as a blissful state of mind, comparable to the enjoyment of Brahman.

Typology of Emotions

The rasa theory implies that there are a number of specific emotions, each with its distinct tone or flavour, and not an anonymous aesthetic emotion. The theory of rasa was posed as the fundamental on which Indian poetics rests. But Indian poetics draws on and in turn influences all other thought-disciplines, so it has a trans-disciplinary character. In particular, it has direct relevance to contemporary psychology of emotions. Bharata lists forty-nine bhāvas out of which eight are primary or durable states (sthāyi bhāvas), with corresponding rasas or aesthetic moods. In addition there are thirty-three transitory states. The basic emotions can be developed into distinct aesthetic moods. Other transient emotions come and go according to their affinity with the durable emotions. The classification proposed by Bharata lists eight rasasśṛṅgāra (love or delight), hāsa (amusement, laughter), karuṇa (sorrow), raudra (anger), vīra (perseverance or heroism), bhayānaka (fear), bībhatsa (disgust), adbhuta (wonder, astonishment). There are corresponding bhāvas, namely, rati, hāsya, śoka, krodha, utsāha, bhaya, jugupsā and vismaya. The commentary on Nāṭyaśāstra by Abhinavagupta adds a ninth rasa—the śānta or the mood of total freedom in which neither happiness nor unhappiness occur. Its bhāva is śāma. Since then, these nine rasas have been accepted as the fundamental units. Certain additions like vātsalya (love for child) and bhakti (love for God) was made by later writers and these also have some acceptance. For practical purposes then, only the nine rasas are considered as the established consensus.

It may be worthwhile to note that ‘love for child’ and ‘love for God’ are subsumed under ‘erotic mood’ or the ‘mood of love’ namely śṛṅgāra by those who do not accept their separate existence. Despite this nine fold division, there is an argument that fundamentally there is only one rasa. This is important for the contemporary discussions since it posits that there is in fact only one emotion which then manifests itself into many colours assuming distinct identities. Which one of this is the most basic rasa, is a matter of debate. Abhinavagupta takes śānta, the ninth one which is implicit, as the basic one. But there have been given at least three other choices—karuṇa, adbhuta and śṛṅgāra. The last, śṛṅgāra is the erotic mood, and has been given a strong theoretical support by Bhoj. In his vision, śṛṅgāra is the basic force responsible for the creation of the universe. In contrast, the famous Sanskrit poet Bhāvabhuti has stated that karuṇa (sorrow) is the only rasa and appears in various forms.

The Concepts of Bhāva and Rasa

The Indian perspective treats emotions in a narrative framework composed of causes, consequences and concomitants of an illusive meta-emotion—a sui generis form of consciousness—called rasa. The experience of rasa is rooted in the concept of bhāva. Bhāva is that which brings about a condition or which gets established through what happens (kaver antargataṃ bhāvaṃ bhāvayan bhāva ucyate). Bhū means to be and bhāva means that which brings about being. Thus bhāva stands for Being or existence, and also the ultimate meaning (bhavatīti bhāvaḥ; bhāvayantīti bhāvāḥ). Thus bhāva refers to existence as well as the mental state. As Bharata has stated, the dance, poetry or drama works as a catalyst and activates the bhāva (emotion) that is already present.

In everyday life we experience a number of bhāvas on different occasions. The traces of these experiences stay with us. The bhāvas are present in us in the form of vasanas. The sthāyibhāvas are dispositions or cittavṛttis. When we recognize these bhāvas by means of enlightened bliss in the self, the very same bhāvas are designated as rasa. In this way the experience of rasa operates in a sequence of transformations in the person. To begin with, a bhāva becomes manifest due to someone or something and is to some extent determined by the circumstances. Once such a condition of being appears, the person begins to overtly behave in a given way (anubhāva). There may be a dominant bhāva in a number of ancillary emotions (sañcāribhāvas). Each mental state is correlated with certain forms of physical demeanour and behaviour (abhinaya). The rasa experience involves the above-mentioned bhāvas but is not equal to the sum of them. Instead it has its own quality. The various components are necessary and in totality sufficient cause of rasa experience.

When the entire sequence of events is enacted in a text or on a stage, the reader or spectator relishes (āsvādati) or experiences a rasa. Abhinavagupta, one of the chief exponents of rasa theory, locates rasa in the viewer's or sāmājika's cittavṛttis. The cittavṛttis or sthāyibhāvas refer to a person's inherent predispositions. They are manifest when they come in contact with a pertinent experience. The same is generalized in a literary representation. In those moments the viewer's separate identity evaporates and consciousness merges in the universal experience of rasa. The rasa exists only in this apprehension, and once manifest produces alaukika ānanda or bliss.

In Vedānta, joy is the affective core of consciousness or existence. The idea of Saccidānanda implies that the ultimate reality is inseparable oneness of existence (sat), consciousness (cit) and joy (ānanda). However, at the mundane level of existence pleasure and pain are both present. In fact pain and suffering often dominate our lives. But its meaning varies. Both pain and pleasure are relative. It is human smallness and egoistic feeling that leads us to dislike suffering. When our consciousness enlarges, our capacity for joy and suffering also increases. Sri Aurobindo has proposed that the goal should not be to escape in an absolute of existence, consciousness and bliss but to call them right down in the manifestation. He talks of a biological evolution, which will move from an embodied mind, manas, to an embodied super mind, vijñāna, through transformation of our nature (see Dalal, 2001). Thus the Indian approach to affect and emotion is signally instructive from the perspective of well-being. It is emphasized that attaining well-being requires that we must understand our true nature or self.

The cognition involved in the rasa experience is possible because it forms the object of higher consciousness assuming the witness attitude or sākṣibhāva. Differing from other ordinary forms of cognition this experience of bliss or ānanda is an enrichment of one's sensibility. At that moment we are endowed with the ability to have the experience of suffering etc. of another person as our own. The citta becomes self-aware. It represents comprehension of the general nature of a bhāva, such as grief, from particular instances independent of specific objects and events. It then becomes part of the self. When empathy takes place the self takes the form of ānanda and the viewer is totally immersed in it. This state is rasa. It is consciousness modified by the awareness. The rasasvāda or relish of an emotional state of being occurs when we are educated in our feeling (sādhāraṇīkaraṇa). The experience requires that one should be in tune with others (sahṛdayatā). Such a person shows communion with the aesthetic experience. A sahṛdaya requires a keen and intense recollection and contemplation when there is an aesthetic confrontation.

Thus we find that emotional experience involves a sequence of interrelated events that form a story or a narrative. The rasa experience (rasānubhāva) starts at the sensory level and moves to the level of imagination, level of bhāva, level of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa, to a super-conscious level that goes beyond the material world. We come in contact with objects of pleasure through sense organs. The objects lead to our imageries. We complete the experience through imagination. At this level the person changes. He is in a different world of his own creation. Thus a sahṛdaya viewer identifies with the hero who is acting in the play. He views things from the perspective of the hero and responds accordingly. This is the level of bhāva. The intense bhāva experience results in the loss of individuality.

The Making of Rasa

According to Bharata, emotions are expressed through the conjunction of their causes and symptoms, and other ancillary feelings that accompany the emotions. It is through the saṁyoga (conjunction or union) of bhāvas that rasa becomes manifest (vibhāvānubhāva-sañcāri-saṁyogād rasa-niṣpattiḥ). The four necessary conditions for the manifestation of an emotion include causes (vibhāva), symptoms (anubhāva), and other ancillary feelings (sañcāribhāva) and their conjunction (saṁyoga). Here the word cause means those factors which generate or excite the emotions. In drama they become the cause of the knowledge of emotion. This includes all the background information including words, physical gestures, and involuntary psychic symptoms (e.g. sweating, trembling etc.), settings, events, and action tendencies that might make manifest some state of the world and one's relationship to it. Some of them are primary causes, resting on which the emotions are born (ālambana vibhāva). Others are exciting causes (uddīpana vibhāva). They reinforce the basic emotion tone. The behavioural expressions of emotions are called anubhāvas. They make the feeling apprehensible. Thus, for instance, grief is born out of bereavement due to the death of a dear one, loss of property, experiencing the sorrow of near and dear ones. These are the causes. It is exhibited by shedding tears, weeping, a sinking of limbs, long and heavy breathing, becoming immobilized etc. These are expressions or symptoms. They express the mental state and are under different degrees of control. The more directly related expressions are called sāttvikabhāvas.

Finally, there are some other feelings which normally accompany and are called ancillary feelings. They are known as vyabhicāri bhāvas. For instance in love, infatuation, eagerness, pride, gladness are also seen. These are ancillary and transient in nature. They stabilize the principal emotions. They prolong and sustain the relevant mood for some time. Thus emotions are caused by objects, manifested by expressions and nurtured by the ancillary emotions. A listing of the various components of bhāvas is given in Appendix 1.

It may be observed that the theory does not indicate that these factors are separately capable of creating rasa. For Bharata, rasa is an organic unity of the four components. They do not stand in any fixed relationship with one another. The poetic genius harmoniously unites them in such a manner that a given rasa is experienced or relished. It should also be remembered that the four constituents are not natural products. They are neither real nor unreal but have an independent existence in their own world.

The analysis of the locus of rasa experience and type of knowledge has been interpreted differently. Lollata Bhatta sees rasa located in anukārya. Also, through aropa or imposition in anukartā, the actor. The nature of knowledge is both laukika and alaukika. Sankuk finds rasa in anukārya—but its relish in the sāmājika is by anumiti or inference. So, in sāmājika as well. It is a kind of vilakṣaṇa jñāna. Bhattanayak locates rasa in the sāmājika. The nature of knowledge is ātmasākṣātkārarūpa. Abhinavagupta, the undisputed champion of rasa theory, locates rasa in sāmājika's cittavṛttis. The knowledge is of ātmabodha kind. According to this view cittavṛttis or the sthāyibhāvas are inherent predispositions. They become manifest when they come in contact with pertinent experience, which becomes generalized, in a literary representation. The viewer's separate personality weakens and his consciousness merges in the universal experience and he experiences rasa. The rasa exists only in this apprehension, and once manifest produces alaukika ānanda. Though it exists only in the āsvādana or relish, it may be regarded as something to be cognized as it forms the object of super physical consciousness assuming the sākṣibhāva and as such differs from perception and other ordinary forms of cognition.

Thus it is clear that the stable and transient, both kinds of bhāvas, are articulated in terms of causes and expressions. Some of the mental states like sleep, intoxication, are physical conditions and others may be caused by physical factors. They, however, refer to the mental states that they give rise to. In order to appreciate how specific emotions are treated in the Indian tradition, the following section describes some of the prominent rasas.

Śṛṅgāra (love or delight): Its sthāyibhāva is rati. According to the Nāṭyaśāstra it involves intense delight, which arises from the attainment of the object desired. Other authors have considered it as desire characterized by a feeling of pleasure for objects agreeable to the mind. It is also called attachment (anurāga) or love (prema). It is reciprocally felt by a young couple for each other when desirous of union. Some others expand it to include friendship (sneha), reverence (bhakti), and affection (vātsalya) as varieties of rati. Rati is colouring of mind with joy and inclines it towards the enjoyment of pleasure. Śṛṅgāra is of two types, that is, union or enjoyment (saṁbhoga) and separation or privation (vipralambha). Its sthāyibhāva is rati (love or delight).

In the context of śṛṅgāra, union does not mean coexistence at the same place and separation does not indicate existence in different places. Union and separation are conceived as two mental modes. They are in the nature of consciousness. It may be noted that union and privation cannot be divorced from each other. Apprehension of separation and expectation of union are always there. The pain of separation may be blended with the joy of union. Therefore it is possible to relish the union and separation both, which heighten the charm of each other (see Sinha, 1961). This rasa is compared with whatever is pure, holy and bright in the world. Rati, however, is not the transitory kind of lust, but the permanent disposition of love, which continues till it culminates in a completely joyful experience. Thus a favourable man and a loving young woman are the basic determinant cause (ālambana vibhāva) of śṛṅgāra. The moon, sandal paste, the spring season, pleasure gardens, the humming of bees etc. are the excitant causes (uddīpana vibhāva). Looking at the face of the beloved person, hearing of his or her qualities, contraction of the eyebrows, sidelong glances etc., are the ensuant cause (anubhāva). All transitory emotions and states are accessory (vyabhicāri bhāva).

Hāsa (amusement/comic): This emotion is characterized by the blooming of the mind because it frees the mind from depression and relaxes it. It may be self-centred or other-centred. Its exciting causes (bibhāvas) include fun, foolishness, mimicry of other's actions, obtrusiveness, ugly appearance and odd dress, strange conduct and disguise. Its sthāyibhāva is hāsa (humour). Its anubhāvas include blooming and contraction of the eyes, redness of the face, perspiration and throbbing of the nose, the cheeks and lips. Bharata talks about six types of laughter: (1) Smita: in which the cheeks brighten up a little, the glances of eyes become graceful, and the teeth are not visible. (2) Hasita: in which the face and the eyes brighten up and the teeth are slightly visible. (3) Vihasita: in this the eyes contract the cheeks dimple, the voice becomes sweet and the face becomes red. (4) Upahasita: in this the nose is expanded, the eyes squint and the head and the shoulders are bent. (5) Apahasita: in this the eyes are filled with tears, and the head and the shoulders swing upwards on inappropriate occasions. (6) Atihasita: in it the eyes are expanded and suffused with tears, a loud cry is set up, and the sides are held with hands.

The accessory states (vyabhicāri bhāvas) include indolence, apprehension, shyness, sleeping, dreaming, envy etc. The organic expressions (sāttvika bhāvas) include contraction and movement of the eyes, perspiration, trembling, change of colour and shedding of tears.

Karuṇa (sorrow): It involves excess of sorrow on account of bereavement or death of near or dear ones. It involves affliction of all mind, motor and sense organs. It has a paralyzing effect. Its sthāyibhāva is śoka (grief). Its vibhāvas include separation from dear ones or their death, loss of wealth, captivity, misfortune, loss of cherished objects, distress, sickness and poverty. In broad terms they encompass deprivation of cherished objects, bereavement of beloved persons or calamity. Its anubhāvas are many. They include repentance, change of voice, inactivity, fainting, dryness of mouth, loss of memory, trembling, sobbing, dejection, misery, anxiety, perplexity etc. The vyabhicāri bhāvas include self-abasement, agitation, terror, deathlike condition, immobility, weeping, and loss of voice. The expressions include shivering due to feeling cold, dryness of mouth and weeping with tears.

Raudra (anger): It is an emotion of fierceness aroused by hostile objects. It is considered as blazing and inflaming of the mind due to contempt, persecution and other such misconduct of the enemy. In it people are possessed by intense heat of the mind which results in hatred and desire to do harm. It is thus roused by hostile objects and opposition. It is different from revenge which is a transitory emotion that is not expressed in immediate action. Its excitatory causes include insult, abuse, false allegations, threat, acts of hostility disobeying orders, ridicule, mischief, disparagement etc. Its sthāyibhāva is krodha (anger). Anger is expressed by frowning, grinding of teeth, biting of lips, clenching of fists, thumping them, beating, throwing on the ground, oppression, seizing and cutting, perspiration, trembling, upturned eyes or fierce look. The expression of anger varies depending upon the person whether he or she is an enemy, friend, superior, beloved or subordinate. Its vyabhicāri bhāvas include right knowledge, determination, energy, excitement, revenge, instability, fierceness, pride, trembling, stammering, arrogance, intoxication and cruelty. Jealousy, recollection and patience have also been mentioned.

Bhayānaka (fear): It is defined as extreme restlessness and bewilderment or instability of the mind evoked by the power of dreadful objects leading to apprehension of great evil or danger. Its sthāyibhāva is bhaya (fear or terror). Its excitatory causes, vibhāvas, include perception of ferocious beasts, darkness of the night, sounds of animals, offending the preceptor or authority, etc. Its accessory states include inactivity, perspiration, choking voice, trembling, apprehension, dejection, excitement, restlessness, perplexity, terror and death-like condition. The organic expression of fear includes trembling of hands and feet, shaking of the whole body, palpitation of the heart, perspiration, terror, inactivity, dryness of mouth, change of colour, loss of voice, running away, loud cry and search for shelter. These expressions further reinforce the emotion of fear.

Bībhatsa (disgust): It is related to the shrinking of the mind evoked by the perception of loathsome objects (for example, blood, vomiting, wounds). It involves hatred excited by such perceptions. Its sthāyibhāva is jugupsā (disgust). Thus the sight of loathsome objects or hearing the description of such things causes disgust. It works as vibhāva. The expressions of disgust include shrinking of the body, spiting, narrowing of the mouth and the eyes, covering the nose, bending down the head, hurried movement, palpitation of the heart etc. Its vyabhicāri bhāva include anxiety, insanity, despair, intoxication, fear, agitation, sickness, aversion, fainting, anger, sleep, delusion and deathlike condition.

Adbhuta (wonder): It is expansion of the mind at the sight of objects which transcend the boundaries of experience. It is unfolding of the mind produced by the sight of extraordinary or strange objects. Disguise, acts of magic, superhuman feats, learning and skills acts as its vibhāva. Its sthāyibhāva is vismaya (amusement or astonishment). The occurrence of the unusual, unfamiliar, sublime, supernatural and extraordinary excite the emotion of wonder. The expansion of eyes, knitting of the eyebrows, shaking of the head, applause, tremor, choking of voice, and perspiration constitute its anubhāva. The accessory states include excitement, quickness, joy, instability of mind, inactivity, fainting and perspiration.

Vīra (perseverance or heroism): It refers to quick action of mind or zeal involving firm endeavour. It works as a mental mode of superiority based on recollection of another's prowess and charity. Its sthāyibhāva is utsāha (energy). Its vibhāva includes absence of dejection, power, patience, heroism, renunciation, absence of wonder, right knowledge, influence, glory, modesty, and power of good counsel. Its anubhāva includes patience, charity, skilful diplomacy, valour, gravity, heroism, influence and rebukes. Its accessory states include patience, ascertainment of duty, pride, fierceness, excitement, revenge, recollection, exhilaration, joy and eagerness.

It may also be noted that these emotions also relate to each other in a positive or negative fashion. Thus love, comic, rage and heroic go together. Similarly wonder, rage and heroic go together. The pairs of grief-fear, wonder-quietude, and fear-disgust are compatible. Other combinations seem to be dissonant. In the indigenous literature the emotion of love is central. It is concordant with heroic, wonder, comic and rage. Perhaps this is the reason why it is called the chief rasarasa rājā. There is another relationship consisting of rage. On the one hand, it is related positively to love, heroic and comic, and on the other it relates to three negative emotions—grief, disgust and fear, which are positively related to each other. Heroic is positively related to rage, love and wonder. Comic is positively related to rage and love. Love is positively related to wonder and wonder is positively related to quietude.

It is also noted that some emotions are discordant and don't go together. Thus disgust, grief, fear and quietude do not go with love. Similarly comic does not go with grief and fear. Grief is discordant with rage, erotic, comic and heroic. The heroic is discordant with fear, disgust, grief and quietude. Fear is discordant with rage, wonder, quietude, heroism and comic. Disgust does not go with wonder, erotic and heroic. Wonder does not go with disgust, fear and grief. Quietude does not go with fear, disgust, grief, love and heroism.

Emotion of Bhakti

The emotion of bhakti or devotion presents an important development in rasa theory. The term bhakti is derived from the root bhaj which means service of the Lord. It reflects passion or love for the infinite. It is pursued in many forms including the image of God as child, master, friend or lover. But it is non-selfish, humble, and leads to sublime joy (ānanda). Bhakti rasa presents the case of divinization of emotion. Vallabha Vedānta considers it a separate emotion with god as object. It is not the desire (icchā), attachment (rati), or ordinary affection (sneha) or volition (prayatna). Instead it is a permanent emotion of extraordinary sublime ecstasy for God. The underlying assumption is that man is part of Brahman. The visible and manifest plurality is derived from Him. Bhakti is often taken as a mental mode. By the practice of listening to the merits of bhāgavata, the mind melts and flows towards the supreme Lord. Enjoyment lies in being enjoyed. It is in the nature of intense bliss. The devotion to God occurs in diverse forms, including prayer, meditation, love, being devoid of desire for other objects, and worship of God. Sage Nārada defines it as supreme love for god. It is single-minded devotion. It can be experienced but cannot be described as it is transcendental. It gets manifested in love for God's creatures. It is in the nature of tranquillity and supreme bliss. It is considered as the fruit of all spiritual disciplines. Psychologically it may be characterized as the concrete religious/spiritual consciousness with specific elements of cognition, feeling and conation. Directing emotions toward the divine has significant implications for well-being and personal growth.

The experience of bhakti rasa is excited by the image of God, being in the company of bhaktas or in the presence of other devotees etc., which work as determinant causes (ālambhana vibhāva). The image is its object while devotees are its abode. God, in such forms as that of Krishna, is considered as the repository of all excellences. His qualities constitute his essence but when meditated upon as different from Him, they become the excitant causes. On the other hand, when they as essence are the object of meditation, they work as basic determinant (vibhāva). Its anubhāva include various organic manifestations including dancing, rolling on the ground, singing, shouting, deep breathing, laughing loudly etc. They are both voluntary and involuntary. It is argued that mind affected by the emotion of bhakti agitates and that this results in various expressions such as trembling, perspiration, shedding tears, singing, yawning etc. The innocent love for God works as sthāyibhāva. The transitory emotions and states emerge out of and again merge in the basic emotion and develop into bhakti rasa. On the whole bhakti is a different kind of rasa. As Madhusudan Saraswati says:

Bhagavān paramānanda-svarupaḥ svayam eva hi
Manogatas tadākāra-rasatām eti puṣkalām

God, who is the nature of supreme bliss, himself enters into a devotee's mind, is experienced by him, becomes a permanent emotional disposition, and then is transformed into the rasa.


Bhakti Rasayan, I-10

In a classic description of bhakti the Bhāgavata Purāṇa mentions nine aspects of devotion, that is listening (śravaṇa), chanting his names (kīrtana), recollection (smaraṇa), service (pādasevana), worship (arcanā), eulogy of him by hymns (vandanā), servitude (dāsya), friendship (sākhya) and self-dedication (ātmanivedana). Taken together these steps create an occasion for complete self-transformation. Nārada Bhakti Sūtra describes 11 kinds of devotion involving attachment to the qualities and greatness of god (guṇamāhātmya), his beauty (rūpa), worship (pūja), recollection (smaraṇa), servitude (dāsya), friendship (sākhya), wifehood (kānta), parenthood (vātsalya), self-dedication (ātma nivedanam), absorption in him (tanmayatā), and separation from him (paramaviraha). Rupa Gosvami lists the following features of bhakti. It destroys afflictions, offers well-being and belittles the importance of liberation. It is difficult to attain. It attracts God and subjects him to the devotee. A devotee must direct all emotions and passions toward him. When all actions are done for God then they do not bind. Taking refuge in God (prapatti) is an essential ingredient of devotion. This involves surrendering the ego to reach greater heights in life.

It may be noted that devotion is a form of love and the key to love is intimate relationship, attachment and affiliation. In this case love is directed to God. The role of love in survival is well documented. It involves empathy and compassion. It also involves self-revelation or disclosure. Affirmation of value and meaning in all humanity for all life, understanding, communication, celebration, empowerment, communion and forgiveness are at the core of love.

In the Indian tradition, self (ātman), when united with an appropriate self-object becomes the locus of bliss (ānanda). Collins (1991) has drawn attention to the fact that in Indian aesthetics appropriate audience for a performance is called sahṛdaya, a person whose heart is one with the aesthetic work or performance, and where the essence of the work is said to be taken in as rasa (flavour) by the audience. Similarly the idea of sharing occurs in bhakti where the worshippers of the same god are encouraged to be one self through the god, and to reject all distinctions which seem to divide them. As Collins (1991, p. 174) remarks ‘satisfaction results from the discovery and maintaining of self objects that mirror the self back to itself, either by extending its sphere of influence or by removing obstacles to its self revelation.’

The system of bhakti is considered as a path of emancipation. It is marked by an intense desire to go beyond self-centeredness. It involves identification of the individual self with the cosmic self. Two modes, that is, saguṇa and nirguṇa are distinguished. The object of intense love is central. An intense longing is crucial for this. In this tradition bhakti is of the nature of pure emotion. In the nirguṇa tradition it is the self-realization through knowledge that matters. As Śaṅkara terms it, it is an investigation of one's own being (svasvarūpānusandhāna). Being nirguṇa the ultimate reality is indescribable. It is monistic with the provision of identification of ātman and paramātman. It is certainly a difficult path to self-realization.

In Śrīmadbhāgavata Śrī Kṛṣṇa says that there are four kinds of worshippers—distressed (ārta), the seeker of knowledge (jijñāsu), devotion of selfish (arthārthī) and wise (jñānī). The saguṇa form of devotion has led to many divine forms. There is the realization that God is both, very much within and outside the being of the devotee. Jñāna and bhakti are complementary. One needs to have a feeling of oneness with the divinity and establish a bond of love with his whole creation.

Love can have positive or negative consequences depending on its direction. But love always involves dispossession, sharing and ultimately annihilation of ego, and losing one's identity (tadīyatā). It does not involve any fear and is a subject of direct experience and perception. It is attained through single-minded supreme devotion (parā bhakti). Restraint of sense organs and concentration of mind allows absorption in God and makes the devotee free. Bhāgavata also identifies two main forms of bhakti, viz.saguṇa and nirguṇa. The former is subdivided into sāttvika, rājasika and tāmasika in which purity, energy and inertia dominate. All of them make a distinction between devotee, God and devotion. Bhakti, which is unconditional and spontaneous, is an integral experience and is characterized by service to God and transcends the three guṇas. Such a devotee sees God in himself and in all creatures, sees them in God and in himself, and sees the divinity of his self. He loses his identity and does not feel any distinction between himself and others and dedicates all his actions to God.

sarvabhūteṣu yaḥ paśyed bhagavadbhāvam ātmanaḥ
bhūtāni bhagavatyātmanyeṣa bhāgavatottamaḥ


Bhāgavata, xi, 2, 45

In a subsequent analysis, the Gosvamies articulate the path along which bhakti grows. According to them the beginning is with faith (śraddhā) in God. Then one goes for the company of saints (sādhusaṅga), acts of devotion (bhajana kīrtana), purging of impurities (anarthanivṛtti), worship without distraction (niṣṭhā), desire for worship (ruci), natural attachment (āsakti), nascent love (bhāva), ardent love (prema), parā bhakti, affection (sneha), sulks (māna), intimacy (praṇaya), passionate attachment (rāga), transcendent attachment (anurāga), transcendent love (bhāva), and supreme holy love (mahābhāva). On attaining primary devotion a devotee becomes fulfilled (siddha), immortal (amṛta) and contented (tṛpta). The supreme love for God is infinite, absolute and complete in itself.


Human emotions are complex but meaning generating experiences. They are embedded in our lived experiences and have the creative potential to shape the same. The study of emotion in psychology in its received form is ill prepared to the situated and discursive stance of emotion that real life offers. The physical metaphors do not match this complexity and under represent it. As Averill (1990) noted, emotions are the products of culture and constitute one of the chief ways of cultural distinctiveness. It is more realistic to the modes of our emotional being to locate emotions in the social space and in the happenings in the lives of the people. The narrative form of emotion experience is emerging as a major departure from the received view of emotions (see Sarbin, 1989). It is in the course of happenings and their narrative articulation that emotions are born. It is said that the first poet of Sanskrit Vālmīki wrote the epic Rāmāyaṇa after witnessing the death of a bird, when grief took the shape of poetry (śokaḥ ślokatvam āgataḥ). The Indian approach to emotion as developed in the rasa theory clearly demonstrates the narrative form of emotion. As such, rasa theory cuts across many domains such as Yoga, Āyurveda, Advaita and Tantra.

Thus, emotion is a whole story. It is a unitary experience of self-transformation in which rasa is nothing but the union of three script-like or narrative components. It is the simultaneous experience of all the components or perhaps more accurately the unitary experience of the whole package deal. The rasa experience or rasānubhāva starts at sensory level and moves to the level of imagination, the level of bhāva, the level of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa, and to a super-conscious level that goes beyond the material world. We come in contact with objects of pleasure through our sense organs. The objects are the medium of the rasa experience. The objects lead to our imageries. We complete the experience through imagination. At this level the person changes. He or she is in a different world of his own creation. Thus a sahṛdaya viewer identifies with the hero who is acting in the play. He views things from the perspective of the hero and responds accordingly. This is the level of bhāva. The intense bhāva experience results in the loss of individuality. He is free from the limitations of time and space. He generalizes. This however is not the end of the journey. Abhinavagupta says that the climax is the experience of bliss, pure bliss. It is the experience of the self. It is mahārasa. During this stage the sthāyibhāva goes to the unconscious level. The experience of bliss characterizes the rasa. It reminds the Upaniṣadic statement raso vai saḥ. It's the experience of the ātman.

The Indian theory of rasa also posits a schema in which rasa is brought into existence through a joint activity of several elements or processes namely vibhāva, anubhāva, and sañcāribhāva. This suggests that there are prototypes of specific emotions, which are part of the cultural meaning system. Recently, Misra (2004) empirically examined the antecedents of emotion experiences. He noted that the emotion experience in the Indian context has a remarkable cultural continuity. The specific emotions do share a mode that has considerable degree of consensus. Also, there are multiple pathways through which these emotions are experienced. We notice that collective as well as individual processes both shape the emotions. The antecedents indicate that emotional episodes involve motivational, communicative, and regulatory processes operating within and/or between individuals. It was noted that while some of these processes apply or are potentially applicable more generally, others vary considerably across individuals. From the protocols one can sense the existence of certain normative aspects which perhaps provide information about intended or likely behaviours and underlying the diverse mental states of others. It seems fair to argue that intra psychologically, the emotions perform organizing and motivating functions to facilitate adaptive goal directed behaviour. People will strive for rich emotional experiences that contribute to self-growth. This is why it is often said that unemotional life will not be worth living.

In this context it may be noted that the connection of self and emotion is very deep in Indian thought. Interestingly enough the term bhāva is used to denote both, being or self, and mental state. The root bhū means to be and bhāva means that which brings about Being. The bhāvas emerging or emanating from an interaction with persons and events constitute our experience. Experience is reflected in the self in forms of vṛttis (movements or actions) through the fourfold cognitive mechanism of manas, buddhi, citta, and antaḥkaraṇa. The saṁskāras, the traces of experiences, shape our selfhood, which both determines and is further shaped by the way they engage with bhāvas (or rasas). In this way a continuous tension between emotion experience and self occurs. This analysis is frequently applied to the Indian aesthetic experience. It is held that bhāva becomes manifest in someone and/or due to someone or a thing and are to some extent determined by the circumstances of the event. Once such a state of being occurs, the person begins to behave in the given ways (anubhāva). There may be a dominant bhāva in the midst of a number of ancillary emotions (sañcāribhāva). This complex mental condition is correlated with certain forms of physical demeanour and behaviour in life (abhinaya). The bhāva produces certain physical effects. When all these co-occur, they evoke the sthāyibhāva. In life the hearer or spectator of the sthāyibhāva, given the empathy, experiences the concomitant rasa through the attachment of his or her mind to the sthāyibhāva. When this complex sequence of events occurs, then one experiences rasa.

Until recently, mainstream psychology has been preoccupied with treating the human psyche as a natural structure or entity. In this analysis the person with socio-cultural identity was missing. Also, the relationship between individual and society was treated as mechanical and the individual attained primacy over sociality in most of the accounts of social behaviour. Rooted in a machine metaphor the academic practices were engaged in sustaining the psychological enterprise for a long time. In this framework psychology was chiefly directed towards the scientific study of ‘others’. The Indian perspective is unique in recognizing the social roots of being emotional and subjecting this to personal creative endeavour for welfare and emancipation. For a bhakta, emotion does not bind or impoverishe. Instead it is used creatively to empower self and others. This potential of emotional creativity is yet to be fully examined and nurtured. It is important not only for the alleviation of present day suffering but also for ensuring a sustainable future.

The complex relationship between emotion and culture is often revealed in the lived experiences of active goal directed persons. The constructivist approaches give greater emphasis on cultural diversity and tend to imply that each culture constructs its own unique psychology. The emphasis on local cultural content presents people either as passively absorbing or reflexively resisting such cultural content. How active and creative people meet the challenges of thinking, feeling, remembering etc. is not taken into account. We need methods to understand the mutually constituted nature of culture and individual experience. We need to forge a cooperative multidisciplinary approach. The individual experience and its relationship with culture needs to be studied from a perspective that maintains that instead of being entirely culturally constructed, individual psychology is also partially explicable in terms of universal patterns of human biological development as well as similar behavioural and psychological adaptations that groups make to common problems.

Appendix: List of Bhāvas

Sthāyibhāva (emotion): Sthāyibhāvas are considered as enduring, persisting dominant and intense emotional dispositions. They are sthāyin or permanent in the sense that they cannot be suppressed or obscured by other emotional dispositions. Also, it is pointed out that a sthāyibhāva is produced by many factors. The list of sthāyibhāvas includes rati (love or delight), hāsa (humour), śoka (sorrow), krodha (anger), bhaya (fear or terror), utsāha (energy or heroism), jugupsā (disgust), vismaya (amusement or astonishment), and śama (serenity or calm). It may be worthwhile to point out that a given sthāyibhāva, if it contributes to another emotion, it becomes subsidiary. Thus when anger contributes to heroism and heroism contributes to fear they act as subsidiary or transitory emotions. It has also been indicated that sthāyibhāva are innate and present in everyone as they are in the structure of human mind. Their manifestations are visible and they remain in the background.

Vyabhicāribhāva (transient emotions): These mental states are accessory states of the sthāyibhāva because they promote or facilitate the sthāyibhāva. They appear and disappear in the sthāyibhāvas. As subordinates they surrender to the sthāyibhāvas. They are also termed as sañcāribhāva because they quicken the movement of emotions. There are thirty-three such secondary states including emotions, feelings, and cognitive states. They are: dhṛti (contentment), smṛti (recollection), mati (determining the real nature of an object), vrīḍā (shame), jāḍyam (inactivity), viṣāda (dejection), mada (exhilaration and intoxication), vyādhi (sickness), nidrā (sleep), supta (deep sleep), autsukya (eagerness), avahitthā (concealment of emotional expression), śaṅkā (apprehension of harm), capala (instability), ālasya (apathy), harṣa (joy), garva (pride), augrya (fierceness), prabodha (wakefulness), glāni (langour), dainya (misery), śrama (fatigue), unmāda (derangement of mind), moha (fainting), cintā (anxiety), amarṣa (revenge), trāsa (fright), apasmāra (epilepsy), nirveda (self-abasement), āvega (excitement), vitarka (conjecture), asūyā (envy), and mṛti (death like condition). It may be noted that the same set of transitory emotions works as exciters of some emotions and consequents for some. Also, they can act independently or in a dependent manner. Emotions have a life cycle. They emerge, subside, blend and show friction.

Vibhāvas (determinants/eliciting conditions): This includes all the background information, settings, events, and action tendencies that might make manifest some state of the world and one's relationship to it. Taken together, they define the emotive situation which works as a medium. Vibhāvas act as determinant and exciting causes. The abhinaya is known by them. They produce rasa and make them relishable. It is of two kinds. One is related to the object of rasālambana. The rasa is based on that. The other is instrumental and stimulates (uddīpana) the rasa experience.

Anubhāva (consequences): These are physiological changes which are consequent on the rise of emotions and are often considered as effects of emotions. They include eight kinds of voluntary willful expressions of emotions, such as abusing the body and expressive modes (bodily movements, voice tone, facial expression, wailing and tears). They occur after (anu) the emotion (bhāva). They work as ensuing causes of rasa when it is represented in poetry or drama. Vibhāvas may also lead to anubhāvas.

Sāttvikabhāvas (Organic manifestations of emotions): These are involuntarily or spontaneous organic expressions. Bharata lists the following eight sāttvikabhāvas: stambha (inactivity), sveda (perspiration), romāñca (bristling of the hairs of the body), svarabhaṅga (change of voice), vepathu (trembling), vaivarṇyam (change of colour), shedding of tears (aśru), and pralaya (insensibility). These sāttvikabhāvas often facilitate each other. They are excited by the vibhāvas and intensify emotions. The sāttvikbhāvas vary in their intensity.


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