In Sanskrit Nava means nine and Rasa has many translations in English, and the main ones are: essence, juice, nectar, taste, or sap, but Rasa is commonly used to denote the sense of an “emotional state.” The nine Rasas were (and are) the backbone of Indian aesthetics ever since they were codified in the Natyasastra (written sometime between 200 BC-300 AD) and they formed the foundation from which the traditions of dance, music, theatre, art and literature evolved. Performances and artwork were created solely with the aim of evoking the Rasas in the audience.
Rasa is in everything, or better yet, everything “has” Rasa. Though some things have a higher vibrational essence, others are lower and some even appear as dead, Rasa remains the invisible substance that gives life its meaning.
The 9 Rasas as described in ancient Indian aesthetic philosophy can be seen as being indicative of prime human emotions. Each Rasa is a repository of energy drawn from our Prana (life force). By unlocking this powerful energy and then mastering it, we can effectively achieve emotional balance, and also use this energy to realize our true potential.
In both Yoga and Tantra the 9 Rasas are seen as the essence of all of our emotions.
They are listed here Sanskrit (with English translation), briefly describing each one’s properties…
1. Sringara (Love) – This is the ultimate Rasa; the crown emotion that heals anything. This Rasa frees the ego and connects us to devotional love. When we appreciate beauty it connects us to the source of love. It’s the creative play between Shiva and Shakti, sun and moon, yin and yang. The purpose of the universe is to experience this divine love. This love is inherent in everything. It is within each and every one of us and radiates throughout the cosmos.
2. Hasya (Joy) – This Rasa connects us to our sense of humor through laughter, happiness and contentment. When we laugh, it is the easier to slip into a no-mind state, because the mind has been freed from its usual workload of thoughts, and we can simply be open, free and happy in that moment.
3. Adhuta (Wonder) – The curiosity, mystery and awe which occur when we become fascinated with the very idea of life. This Rasa is our playfulness and innocence. We enter into complete appreciation and become an explorer or adventurer. It seems like magic!
4. Vira (Courage) – Also bravery, confidence, determination, self-assurance and valor. Vira asserts itself when you call upon the warrior that lives inside you. It is strong and vibrant.
5. Shanta (Peace) – This Rasa is reflected in deep calmness and relaxation. When we become still, quiet and at peace, we are so full that we are empty of all else but peace. We can only find peace within.
6. Karuna (Compassion) – When we can experience another’s sadness and reflect it back to the cosmos, we then experience compassion. Compassion is what connects us all. Through compassion we can relate deeply and honestly with each other, it is the bridge between us and others and helps us understand and empathize with them.
7. Raudra (Anger) – When angry we go into the fire. One moment of anger can destroy a lifetime of good merit, so have respect for anger. When anger isn’t honored it can bring up irritation, violence and hatred. Allow yourself to feel the anger, without taking any action; letting it move through you rather than getting stuck.
8. Bhayanaka (Fear) – Also doubt, worry, insecurity etc. When we live our lives in fear, we shut down completely. Overcome Bhayanaka with inner strength, love and truth.
9. Vibhasta (Disgust) – Self pity, loathing, self hatred. This Rasa characterizes the judgmental mind; only by cultivating loving-kindness can we heal and appease Vibhasta.