Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Siva, New York, 1985.
AK Coomaraswamy (1877-1947)
…..”The question follows: What is the essential element in poetry? According to some authors this consists in style and figures, or in suggestion (vyanjana, to which we shall recur in discussing the varieties of poetry). But the greater writers refute these views and are agreed that the one essential element in poetry is what they term Rasa, or Flavour. With this term, which is the equivalent of Beauty or Aesthetic Emotion in the strict sense of the philosopher, must be considered the derivative adjective rasavant, ‘having rasa’, applied to a work of art, and the derivative substantive rasika, one who enjoys rasa, a connoisseur or lover, and finally rasasvadana, the tasting of rasa, i.e., aesthetic contemplation.
What, then is Beauty, what is rasa, what is it that entitles us to speak of divers works as beautiful or rasavant? What is this sole quality which the most dissimilar works of art possess in common? Let us recall the history of a work of art. There is (1) an asethetic institution on the part of the original artist, –the poet or creator; then (2) the internal expression of this intuition, –the true creation or vision of beauty (3) the indication of this by external signs (language) for the purpose of communication, –the technical activity; and finally (4) the resulting stimulation of the critic or rasika to reproduction of the original intuition, or of some approximation of it.
…The true critic (rasika) perceives the beauty of which the artist has exhibited the signs. It is not necessary that the critic should appreciate the artist’s meaning–every work or art is a kamadhenu, yielding many meanings–for he knows without reasoning whether or not the work is beautiful, before the mind begins to question what it is ‘about’. Hindu writers say that the capacity to feel beauty (to taste rasa) cannot be acquired by study, but is the reward of merit gained in a past life; for many good men and would-be historians of art have never perceived it. The poet is born, not made; but so also is the rasika, whose genius differs in degree, not in kind, from that of the original artist. In western phraseology we should express this by saying that experience can only be bought by experience; opinions must be earned. We gain and feel nothing merely when we take it on authority that any works are beautiful. It is far better to be honest, and to admit that perhaps we cannot see their beauty. A day may come when we shall be better prepared.”
OBSERVATION: Rasa, or flavor represents the essential fluid, energy, dynamic, and mystery that defines art. Necessary aspects of art are found in the artist as generator of the art, and the rasika, the connoisseur or lover of rasa; aesthetic contemplation. It is this mutually symbiotic relationship between artist and participant that maintains the liveliness of the idea; rasa; flavor. Participation is necessary for a successful marriage between intuition, artist, participant, and ultimately the active component: rasasvadana .