Sixteenth-century Hindu theologian Rupa Gosvamin established a technique by which, in imitating one of the significant figures in Krsna's dramatic world, a devotee might actually come to inhabit the world of the character whose part he or she was playing.
Acting As a Way of Salvation shows that the Hindu view of reality accepts such role playing, called Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana, as a natural part of human experience- the pre-eminent way to salvation. Haberman challenges the assumption that Hindu devotionalism or bhakti is a religion of grace which requires no discipline or effort. He shows that deliberate dramatic technique is a significant part of the tradition, as ultimate reality is believed to be a cosmic drama- the external play of Krsna. According to Gaudiya Vaisnavism, whose religions activities center around raganuga bhakti sadhana, there is a whole world of which we are normally unaware, and that each of us has a "double." Haberman investigates this extraordinary double called the "perfected body" and the disciplined transformation techniques used in taking on the role, and demonstrates that the "perfected body" is the key to entering and participating in the dramatic world of Krsna's play.
Throughout the book, Haberman explores Indian dramatic theory, Rupa's unique application of that theory to devotionalism developments in the practice of this technique, its contemporary manifestations, and finally, the technique's significance to religious experience in general. Presenting documents and materials never before examined in Western texts, this fascinating study will appeal to scholars of both religion and drama, students of North Indian bhakti and those with a general interest in south Asian religious culture.
About the Author
David L. Haberman is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. He has been making frequent visits to the region of Braj for over twenty years, studying and writing about the religious culture of this important pilgrimage center. In addition to contributing numerous articles to academic journals and encyclopedias, he is the author of Journey Through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna (Oxford 1994) and the co-author of Ten Theories of Human Nature (Oxford 1998). He has also produced a fully annotated translation of Rupa Gosvamin's Bhaktirasamrtasindhu (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 2000).
Excerpts from reviews
David Haberman's introduction to this fascinating ritual process guides the reader by deliberate steps worthy of a Vaisnava adept. For those unfamiliar with the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, Acting as a Way of Salvation provides an excellent entrée to a little understood mode of religious realization; for specialists, the basic structure of the system is laid bare, with plenty of textual leads to explore further the details and ramifications of this complex practice.
TONY K. STEWART
North Carolina State University
Haberman's concentration of the notion of a 'paradigmatic individual' is indeed original (even through the 'and there we have it' style of presentation is occasionally overdone); his treatment of the timetabled astayama routine of devotions, and of the ways in which roles for acolytes are determined by their mentors (somewhat belying Edward Dimock's statement in the Foreword that 'Everyone has a role, and it is self-selected') adds greatly to our knowledge of contemporary practice.
This book concerns certain Hindu worshipers of the god Krishna in North India from around the sixteenth century to the present Haberman relates this spiritual discipline to earlier Indian aesthetic theories and practices in which dramatic participation and / or aesthetic appreciation resulted in temporary "depersonalization" or transformation of personality, as well as to the contemporary theories of Constantin Stanislavski concerning an actor's identification with the part he or she is portraying. Haberman also concludes by discussing certain similarities in the imitative practices of Christian Cistercian monks and Buddhist.
McMaster University, Hamiton, Ontario L8S 4K1
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