Aesthetic Vedanta cover

Aesthetic Vedanta

Hardcover, 237 pages, 5" X 7 3/4"

Foreword by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.

Finalist, Grawemeyer Award

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Widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of prose, philosophy, and translation, Aesthetic Vedanta beautifully illuminates the timeless Sanskrit poem rasa-lila, the sacred love affair of Radha and Krsna. Interspersed with original poetry and renderings of medieval verse of several Hindu mystics, this book reveals the means to access the spiritual reality of rasa-lila.

Aesthetic Vedanta speaks to us of a tradition that is practical and profoundly beautiful, replete with visualization, ritual, song, and dance, both affirming and spiritualizing the erotic principle that lies within our souls.

“I'm so glad to have Aesthetic Vedanta to spell out the theology of rasa-lila. We've waited a long time for someone this accomplished in Sanskrit—this schooled in yoga—to set forth its tender philosophy.”

Andrew Schelling. Naropa Institute, Author of For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai

Aesthetic Vedanta recounts India's most important treatise on romantic love. More practical and interesting than the Kama Sutra, it involves the classic adventure of the fabulous Krishna. Swami Tripurari's treatment is a masterpiece.”

Louis Meldman, Ph.D., Author of Mystical Sex: Love, Ecstasy, and the Mystical Experience

“Aesthetic Vedanta's beautiful and sensitive language will make the classic rasa-lila accessible to students of spirituality who have no specific background in Indian religions and philosophies. Its reverential approach makes it a religious classic in its own right.”

Klaus K. Klostermaier, University Distinguished Professor, Chairman, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Manitoba.

“This book truly deserves, and undoubtedly will receive, a place among serious and scholarly works of global spirituality.”

George Fowler, Author of Learning to Dance Inside: Getting to the Heart of Meditation


Table of Contents

Foreword by Georg Feuerstein

Preface

Introduction

Chapter One:

Truth and Beauty

Chapter Two:

Rasa-lila

The Search

Song of the Gopis

Reunion

Rasa Dance

Chapter Three:

The Sacred Path

Abbreviations

Notes

Glossary

Bibliography


Excerpt

In his acceptance address for the Nobel prize in literature, Alexander Solzhenitsyn cited a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” He also quoted Dostoyevsky: “Beauty will save the world.” If one word of truth outweighs the whole world, the world must be very false. But this truth is unpalatable, given the extent of beauty in this world. So much is this so that we cling to the beauty of the world, even when we are told the simple yet profound truth that it will not endure. How then will beauty save us, when attachment to it seems to be the cause of samsara, suffering in rounds of repeated birth and death?

For Dostoyevsky, beauty will save us because its manifestation in art, literature, poetry, and the like is a semblance of the divine beauty that truth must ultimately personify. The aesthetic experiences of reading great literature, viewing a drama, and reciting poetry are experiences of the threshold of transcendence. Having tasted a drop of truth, we will be driven to drink deeply from its cup.

Yet is truth itself beautiful? The quest for the beauty of the world no doubt must be balanced with the harsh truth of its ephemeral nature. But there must be more to truth than this if it is to save us. The harsh truth of the ephemeral is its inability to deliver enduring beauty. This, however, is but “one word of truth.” It no doubt outweighs the entire experience of the ephemeral world, but it is not the whole truth. And half truth, we are told, is worse than no truth at all. If we are to live in the light of truth, that truth must be inherently beautiful. It must possess the full face of beauty, which truth’s mere triumph over falsity lacks. The beauty of the world is what makes life worth living, and this tells us that without beauty even truth is lifeless. If truth is merely the negation of the material world—neti neti cry the Upanisads—can we live in the void that is thus created, forever silent and still? Realizing the emptiness in the world’s apparent fullness is itself a profound fullness, but as the Buddha says, it is merely the fullness of emptiness. If we move from negative numbers to zero, then zero appears to have positive value. But are there positive numbers as well?

It is our quest for beauty—real, enduring beauty—that will save us from settling for only the few words of truth that render the world false. This quest will move us from zero to an infinity of positive values. It should drive us onward to the whole truth of infinite conscious beauty, about which one cannot say enough. Sankara’s advaita-vedanta of “consciousness is truth, the world is false” is not enough. We must progress from this half-truth to the whole truth of the beauty of consciousness in its fullest expression, a beauty whose mere reflection is the charm of the world. It is this beauty, the reality behind the reflection, that India’s sacred Upanisads and devotional Vedanta refer to when they speak of Krsna. Sri Krsna is, in Hegel’s terminology, “reality the beautiful”; in Upanisadic language, raso vai sah, “Krsna is aesthetic experience—rasa.”