Alessandro Graheli's picture
Affiliated fellow, sponsored by the J. Gonda Foundation
Alessandro Graheli

The Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu by Rūpa Gosvāmin (ca. 1480-1555) is a treatise which blends the mainstream of Sanskrit poetics with the tradition of bhakti embodied, mainly, in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and generally labelled Gauḍīya or Bengali Vaiṣṇavism.

In this work there is an underestimated nexus between the application of poetics to religion and the onto-theology of Bengali Vaiṣṇavism. The language and the categories of Sanskrit poetics were used by Rūpa as a way out of the limits of logical language in rational theology, which struggles to account for processes involving paradoxical cause-effect relations. He elaborated a theological-poetical system which has influenced many South-Asian expressions of religion thereafter. Parallel developments are also present in the history of Christianity (e.g. Augustine, Kierkegaard), so Rupa's system provides a fertile ground for interdisciplinary and comparativistic studies.

More strictly related to the field of bhakti exegesis, the project may provide answers on the issue of the allegedly different beliefs of Rūpa Gosvāmin and his nephew and disciple, Jīva Gosvāmin. The alleged differences concern not only subtle points of bhakti theology but also inter-religious issues such as the eligibility for salvation; the role of grace and human work in spiritual emancipation; predestination and freewill; the required social status to achieve spiritual perfection. While Rūpa appears quite liberal in his approach - a liberality which may possibly have something to do with his frequentation of both Muslim and Hindu circles in the course of his life - Jīva is often portrayed as more conservative and orthodox. This impression, however, may more simply be caused by the more scholastic style of the latter's commentaries, in contrast to the poetic style of the former. Accurate studies of Rūpa's main works along with Jīva's commentaries will allow a better assessment of the intellectual relationship between the two authors and a deeper understanding of their historical and political relevance.

Field

  • Aesthetics
  • Theology

Country of origin

Italy

Period of stay at IIAS

01/11/2007 to 28/02/2008

Home institute

Research topic

Critical edition, English translation, and study of Rūpa Gosvāmin's Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu, beginning with the first chapter, Sāmānyabhakti, with Jīva Gosvāmin's commentary

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