This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
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When "Becoming the Character"in Asian Performance Is Nonduality in "Quintessence of Void"
Enquiring into what it means for Asian performers to "become the character," Phillip Zarrilli examines kalarippayautu South Indian martial art), ka(a thakali, and noh, and concludes with the following note: "Asian performance is founded on the assumption that the world constituted in the performance is not separate from the world outside the performance"(I99o:146). He then cites James Brandon who says, "The [Asian] performing arts are not viewed as being different from some real world; they are one manifestation of the one world which encompasses all" (in Zarilli 1982:2-3). Unfortunately, Zarrilli does not clarify or dwell at greater length on the nature of "the world"-constituted in the performance or outside of it. However, Brandon's references to "some real world," and "one world which encompasses all" do seem to indicate that both Brandon's and Zarrilli's assumptions are based on the atma-doctrine of the Upanisadic-Brahmanical tradition of South Asian philosophy, which "conceive[s] reality on the pattern of an inner core or soul (atman),immutable, and identical amidst an outer region ofimpermanence, and change, to which it is unrelated or but loosely related" (Murti  I998:IO). Indeed, Zarrilli does touch upon the "Indian understanding of the self" in the penultimate stage of his paper by quoting a concept from the Chandogya Upani?ad (chapter 6, sections 8- 16), which is tat tvamasi, translated as "that art thou" (Radhakrishnan 1953:456-67): Tattvamasi is a giant philosophical/cosmological backdrop on which Indian life both ordinary and esoteric is projected. "You are that" asserts a fundamental identity between microcosm and macrocosm, the individual self and the universe: a person can become one-with and joinwith; there is no object set over against a subject. (Zarrilli 1990:145) Then Zarrilli refers to Diana Eck's exposition of the concept ofdarsan in order to show-or attempt to show-that "[t]his joining-with suffuses daily life. A
The Drama Review 47, 3 (T179), Fall 2003. Copyright ? 2003 New York University and the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology
SyedJamil Ahmed Hindu from childhood takes the deity into herself/himself in the act of darsan-seeing the deity" (I45). A kathakali performer, in his view, does the same "seeing." For him, the "correspondence" and "resonance" between the microcosm and the macrocosm, the self and the universe-which an Indian (traditional?)performer joins with ease-provides a vital "cultural context for the performer's psychophysical process." Such a context, Zarrilli seems to imply, is profoundly important for the "fundamental psychophysical unity in the act of doing," and a "sense of ineffable presence which the accomplished Asian actor embodies when he 'becomes the character.'" In such moments, he claims, "through the interior psychophysical process, he is that character"
When South Asian Is Not Indian = Hindu To be fair to Zarrilli, he offers new insights into the three performance genres. However, certain assumptions about the "Asian performer" and the process of "becoming the character" need to be closely examined. To begin, Zarrilli assumes that Indian = Hindu. What about the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Christians? Consider what happens if you replace Hinduism with Buddhism in Zarrilli's vision of India. Buddhism denies atman, and shows that "there is no inner and immutable core of things; everything is in flux" (Murti I998:IO). Contrasting the positions of the Brahmanical and Buddhist traditions, Murti points out: The Brahmanical systems took the real as Being, Buddhism as Becoming; the former espoused the universal, existential and static view of Reality, the latter the particular, sequential and dynamic; for one space, for the other time, is the archetype. (Murti I998:I2) Immediately,Zarrilli and Brandon's "worlds" begin to crumble, "correspondences" and "resonance" melt away. For, if there is no atman, i.e., no inner and immutable core or soul, then who is "you" and who is "that" in the Upanisadic statement of tat tvam asi? Zarrilli's problem is that he reduces a complex interplay of innumerable systems of South Asian philosophy into one statement from the Upani,ad, which, if I may add, I am personally quite fond of. But when the most vocal elements of the Euro-American academecia are going full-steam at deconstructing and challenging monolithic constructs when dealing with their own cultures, why this fondness for constructing monoliths when dealing with Asian performances? Also, of course, India is not the whole of South Asia, historically or culturally. Never in the entire history of South Asia, including the empires of the Mauryas, the Guptas, and the Mughals, has South Asia been united-until the British conquest. The "India" Zarrilli is referring to unconsciously encompasses all of South Asia. That India is a colonial construct. The 20th century has seen the deconstruction of Orientalism and the reconstruction of "Indianness," which equates the culture of all the peoples of South Asia with the nation that has New Delhi as its capital and Hinduism as its undeclared state religion (clearly reflected in the way the ultra-right BharatiyaJanataParty government ruling the country has dealt with the Babri Mosque issue).' One could spend a lifetime writing newer versions of Orientalism show how Gorto don Craig's melodious flute of Kysna and Artaud's Balinese dance still haunt centers of Euro-American academecia devoted to the ineffable mysteries of Indian/Asian performances. Those who are ardent devotees of the mysteries should heedJoan Erdman's
Carya Nrtya 16i conclusions regarding the rise and fall of the myth of "Indian dance." This dance was invented in early 20th century in the works of Mata Hari, Ruth St. Denis, and Pavlova as a category of European Orientalism which viewed India as Hindu. By the I930s, "the idea of oriental dance had become a segue to ancient treasures of the East, which were rediscovered and, in India, reinkavented" (Erdman I996). The reinvented corpus included bharatanatyam, thakali,kathak,manipuri,odissi, and more. The movement culminated in "the post-World War II positioning of dance by independent India as a representative of ancient heritage, and high cultural rank in the world of new nations." However, the myth began to crumble from the I98os onward when Indian artists began to recognize "that their dances, and others which had qualified for 'classical' status, were contemporary interpretations and interpolations" (29397). Any analysis of"traditional Indian theatre," including the kathakali that
Zarrilli so fondly discusses, must take into account the historical construct of "Indianness" that Erdman presents. After all, much of tradition all over the world is invented. Keeping these deconstructions in view, I would like to engage in this paper in (re)evaluating the matter of"becoming a character"by examining a Nepalese ritualistic dance, the CaryaNrtya (lit., Dance As a Spiritual Discipline). I will show that Zarrilli's "world" is a problematic construct when viewed from a Buddhist perspective.
The Ritual Context of Carya Nrtya Carya NVtya pertains to Vajrayana(Tantric) Buddhism. The practitioners claim (not without some legitimacy) that the Vajrayanapriests of Kathmandu Valley in Nepal have practiced this highly esoteric form of dance as a part of their ritual known as sadhandfor over a thousand years. The tradition possibly goes back to the seventh or the eighth century, when some of the mahdsiddhas (the Great Realized Ones) introduced it in the valley (Pradhan I996:76). Toward the end of the first millennium C.E., the dance was well-known among the Vajrayana Buddhists of Bengal-possibly even in other parts of South Asia. it can be seen only in Kathmandu Valley.Since 1957 some of the dances Today,
1. Fromleft:Manik Bajracharya,UppaShakya,Ritu Bunu SherBajracharya, stha, and KiranBajracharya the Dance of Mandalin the danceof the PancaBuddhas,at AchheworeMahavihara Patan, in
1995. (Courtesy of Prajwal
have been performed in public. However a large number are stilljealously protected from the noninitiated by the Vajrayanapriests. Sadhana can be practiced only by the initiated. A person who wishes to engage in sadhana (i.e., the sadhak)has to be guided by a Vajrayanapriest who is to act as his or her spiritual preceptor. To the priest the person has to prove her sincerity and purity of purpose, as well as unconditional devotion. Before initiation, the person also has to carry out a number of devotional and purificatory practices. At the initiation ceremony, the preceptor selects a mantra (sacred words of power), a chosen deity appropriate to the character type of the person seeking initiation, and introduces him or her to the maydala(a sacred circle of symbolic forms enclosed within a square with four entrances) of the chosen deity. It is only then that the initiated is permitted entry into a wide body of written teachings supplemented by explanatory oral instructions. Once initiated, it is expected that the spiritual obstructions in the initiated person have been removed and the person has been empowered by the preceptor to engage in sadhana (Harvey 1990:260).
The chosen deity is a holy being who acts as the tutelary deity of the initiated. Each deity belongs to a group of five "families" of the Pafica Buddhas (the Five Buddhas or five abstract aspects ofBuddhahood), and each "family" is associated with a particular fault in the personality of human beings. The Five Buddhas, recognized as the five Conquerors, are Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi. Vairocanais the conqueror of ignorance and bewilderment, which he transmutes into his wisdom-quality of primordial awareness. Aksobhya conquers anger and aggression by transmuting them into his wisdom-quality of mirrorlike clarity. Ratnasambhava conquers greed and envy, transmuting them into equanimity. Amitabha transmutes desire, lust, and passion into discriminating awareness. Amoghasiddhi transmutesjealousy and envy into all-accomplishing wisdom. The deities of the five families are further classified into four different types-male or female, peaceful or wrathful-to correspond to variations in human character. The Five Buddhas mentioned above are also the male peaceful type of deities. Each of them has a corresponding female deity, conceived as his consort. Arya Tara (the Green Tara), the consort of Amoghasiddhi, is one of the most popular female peaceful deities. Male wrathful deities are known as Herukas while the female wrathful deities are known as Dakiiis. Representing hate-free anger, these deities are coupled so that each Heruka has a Dakiri. Vajrapaqi,a fierce emanation of Aksobhya, is an oft-propitiated deity. By choosing one of these wrathful deities "for strong, unconventional people who are disgusted with the impermanent world and its dreary rounds of rebirths," it is expected that the heart of the initiate will open up "by devastating his hesitations, doubts, confusion, and ignorance" (Harvey 1990:261-62). A sadhana is always based on a particular deity and usually includes acts of purification, meditation, recitation of mantras corresponding to the chosen deity, visualization of the deity, and concluding rites (which includes the "dedication of merit"2). Particularly important is the involvement of the three faculties: body, voice, and mind. The body is held erect and ritual hand gestures (mudras) executed; the voice chants mantras;and the mind is focused are on visualizing the deity. In some sadhanas, the Vajrayanapriests and their initiated disciples, instead of or in addition to chanting mantras, sing esoteric songs, known as Carya Gita, which describe the deities. In addition, the body, instead of being held still, executes movement that interprets the song. More often, the movement is rendered by the dancer(s) and the song by the singer(s). With the mind focused on the visualization of the deity, the dancer seeks to become one with the deity. The singer's visualization is enhanced by the dancer's movements. This part of the sadhanais known as Carya N:tya.
Components of Carya Nrtya Having set the ritual context, it is necessary to give a brief account of separately identifiable components of Carya N'tya before attempting to discern a performance. The following description covers the visual setting, the aural elements, the olfactory-savory stimuli, the movements, and the dancers. The Visual Setting Carya NVtyais performed in almost all the bahas(monasteries; Sanskrit: vihara)of Kathmandu Valley. It may be performed in the daytime or at night inside the agam,a two-roomed "shrine of tantric deities where the secret tantric rites of VajrayanaBuddhism are performed" (Locke I980:I5). The dance is performed in the inner sanctum, on a maridaladrawn in front of the deity. The basic function of the mandala is: to portray the luminous world [...] of a specific holy being, with other holy beings particularly associated with it arrayed about it. [...] It can, in fact, be seen as a two-dimensional Stupa-temple which contains the actual manifestations of the deities represented within it. (Harvey 1990:264) Carya NVtyamay also be held in any other sanctified place where the mardala of the deity is drawn on a platform. During a ritual performance, the Vajrayanapriests are dressed in the jama (a long white garment that covers the entire body), the traditional garment of Newar Buddhist priests. Specific ornaments and garments of the deity are worn over the jama. The ornaments worn are the mukuta(crown), the kundalam (earring), the kanthika(necklace), the rucakam (bracelets for arms and legs), and the mekhalam(belt). The crown can be of various forms, such as the socalled jafd mukuta (lit., "the crown of hair"), the cakramukuta (the crown showing the Wheel of Law), and the mani mukuta (the crown showing the three Jewels, signifying Enlightenment). Often, the Vajrayanapriests wear a type of crown with five separate parts, which are colored according to the colors of the Five Buddhas: red, green, blue, yellow, and white. A sixth ornament, the sutra(sacred thread), may also be added. Traditional masks are mostly made of metal. However, those made of papier-mache and baked clay are also used
at present (Kala-mandapa 1986:6-7; Pradhan 1996:91, 95).
The Aural Element During a performance, a group of musicians sing Caryasongs to music rendered on small cymbals (ta), large cymbals (vabhu),hourglass drums (damaru), small double-ended drums (kota), and a kind of trumpet (pn'aita).(The five types of musical instruments, as a group, are known as pancatala.)In addition to these traditional instruments, the Nepalese sitar (surabTia) and the harmonium are added nowadays. The Carya songs are composed in hybrid Sanskrit (Sanskritmixed with Newari). Essentially, they are all in praise of various deities (as will be seen in the following section). So far, Ratna Kaji Vajracharya,a renowned Carya dance These master, has collected and published 240 Carya songs by 75 Vajracaryas. are rendered in 32 forms of rdga(melodies), and ten forms of tala (metres) (Bajracharya 2002). However, not all of them are danced to; some are simply recited or sung.
Syedjamil Ahmed The Olfactory-SavoryStimuli Olfactory and savory stimuli contribute to the desired objective of the ritual. Hence it is important to burn incense in the shrine. PancaSali, or five kinds of rice wine, are also essential. However, in many rituals, their presence is symbolic, functioning as an offering to the deities. In some rituals, though, drinking the wine is considered essential. Movement
The range of movement in Carya NVtya can be broadly categorized as (I) vigorous for the "wrathful" deities, and (2) gentle for the "compassionate" deities.3 In the dances of the compassionate deities, the performers often pause momentarily to make graceful use of held positions. When in motion, the body often is gently curved but held upright. The dynamic quality of these dances is a sustained calmfeatureis the smallbut metness. Another characteristic ricallyrhythmicstep patterns.However, some dances of the "wrathful"deities also use running steps and leaps. In these, the dancers move rapidly and energetically. They employ varied levels of movement, ranging from near crouching to upright. In all the dances, the focus is mostly on the hands and the face, and design in space rather than rhythm is emphasized. Using a small dancing space, the dancers create in2. Uppa Shakyaof the tricate gesture designs, close to as well as away from the body. Most of the DanceMandalin the dance dances are characterized by elegant hand movements using mudras,and codiof Arya Tdraat the Hotel fied standing postures, or sthanakas.However, the articulation of hands and (Photoby Ashoke Vajra. feet is not as detailed as in bharatanatyam.Underlying the movements may be: Panta) the observation that states of mind generally express themselves in a perare son's stance, and gesture. [...] Ritual mudras seen as working on the reverse of this principle: by making various gestures, certain states of mind may be stimulated or enhanced. (Harvey 1990:266) A specific set of mudras and sthanakasare considered to be of prime importance. Most of the Tantric texts on Carya NVtyahave specified a variety of muAccording dras, which, except for a few, are not codified as in the Ndatyadastra. to some practitioners of the dance, no codified system of gestures, body stances, or choreography existed in earlier times. The practitioners used their bodies freely to communicate the meaning of the song in a manner which would be understandable to the other (non-dancing) participantsof the ritual. Carya Nrtya does not seek to generate rasa or aesthetic experience (the pleasure and satisfaction derived by the spectators while witnessing a performance).4 However, some dances focus more on the aspect of compassion, and others on wrath. What is emphasized depends on the nature of the deity in whose honor the dance is performed. The Dancers and the Participants Each dance may be performed solo, by a pair, or by a group. Usually the dances are given only by male Vajracaryas.When a male deity and his s'akti
Carya Nrtya 165 (female component) are shown, a male Vajracarya impersonates the female deIn some special rituals, both male Vajracaryasand their female consorts ity. participate. Initiated participants sit on three sides of the maidala.5
Discerning a Performance of Caryd Nrtya To "discern" is to behold and to apprehend. To discern is also to penetrate, to know, and to make out. Carya NVtyaas a cultural expression embedded in the network of meanings produced by the act of discerning can itself be a site for a postmodern discourse on performance. Even though that is not the direction I wish to head at present, I would nevertheless like to make it clear that I have not beheld the dance in a ritual context. To do so would mean the work of a lifetime because it is a part of an extremely complicated ritual in which one can only participate after initiation. At the same time I should add that I am familiar with Sahajayana6 tradition which is still common among the Bauls of Bengal.
Carya Nrtya As "Authentic"Ritual Carya NVtyais meant for daily practice and is essentially a meditation discipline, a vehicle for bodily and spiritual transformation. It is performed as a part ofVajrayana rituals, specially during Tantric initiations, celebrations (such as gaza cakra),and important ceremonies of worship (such as the tdhdsinhah pujd, ahoratra pijd, cakra pija). If the dance is not included, it is believed that the rituals will be ineffective. Carya NVtyabegins with salutation of the four cardinal directions, and ends with reverence offered to the deity. A performance is composed of a number of dances in honor of the deity and his consort in whose shrine the Carya NVtyatakes place. A brief description of the taha sinhah puja, as provided by Michael Allen, may help to comprehend Carya NVtyaperformance in its ritual context. The ceremony Allen observed took place sometime in the early I970s,7 at the home of a Vajracarya family who began its preparation two weeks in advance. The room where the puja was to be held was divided into two parts: an inner part for those with higher initiation, and an outer part for the remaining parand ticipants. Both the parts were decorated with maidalas of Cakrasambhara Yogambara.8A painted clay vessel (kalasa)filled with water and infused with the spirit of Ganesa was placed in the inner room. Beside it was placed a Vajradevi9 maidala (with a pair of intersecting triangles), another kalasa infused with the spirit of Vajradevi, and then a tray with pafica sali. Beside the tray stood a lamp (sukunda)and a container with curd. A large Vajradevimaidala was painted on a platform in the outer room. Musicians and helpers sat on its two sides. Another tray of paiica sali was placed in front of the maQdala.The sponsors of the ritual sat on the two sides ofpafica sali, facing the maidala. Five Vajracarya priests sat in front of the pafica sali, also facing the maidala. After a number of rituals, the Vajracarya Kumari ofMu Baha was brought in and was seated cross-legged at the center of the maidala in the outer room, while a metal crown was placed on the maidala of the inner room. For the remaining period of the puja (about five hours), she and the wife of the principal priest were Vajradevi, and were worshipped as such. Allen has not provided detail of Carya NVtya,however, he cites a ritual handbook used by the priests, according to which the wife of the principal priest should become possessed at two points of the pfija, and her husband is to dance at these and other points
166 SyedJamil Ahmed Carya Nrtya As Cultural Tourism For less fortunate "cultural tourists" like me, who are not prepared to undertake a lifetime's arduous journey in sadhana, Carya NVtyais available regularly in Kathmandu, at least in one hotel, less regularly at the National Theatre where the state-sponsored dance troupe of the Rastriya Nach Ghar may give a performance or, for those seeking longer lessons, at the University of Kathmandu. And if you have a bit of money, you may even hold a private show of your own. In all probability, almost all of the troupes will promise you the authentic dance, and prove to you that all others perform merely spurious versions. A performance of Carya Nrtya given by Prajwal Vajracharyaand his company the Dance Mandal, witnessed at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center in Kathmandu on 2 May 1999, was comprised of eight dances, of which I will briefly discuss three. Prajwal Vajracharyastressed that Carya NTtyaas performed in Vajrayanatemples is different from that witnessed at the Center. However, the manner in which the songs, music, and body movement were rendered and the overall impression are similar. I should also add that offered a workshop on the day following the performance. PrajwalVajracharya
The dance of the Pafica Buddhas (see plate I) is the dance of the five transcendental Buddhas discussed earlier. It was given by five dancers who represented the five Buddhas: Vairocana (in white dress), Aksobhya (in blue), Ratnasambhava (in yellow), Amitabha (in red), and Amoghasiddhi (in green). Each Buddha was distinguished by a particularposture and mudra. The mudra for Aksobhya was Earth Touching (bhumisparsa), that of Ratnasambhava was Giving (varada),of Amitabha was Meditating (dhydna),of Amoghasiddhi was The moveProtecting (abhaya), and Vairocana was Teaching (dharmacakra). ment for these compassionate deities was characteristically gentle, graceful, and calm. The choreography was actually conceived in terms of a "living mapdala," with one of the Buddhas in the center and four others in four cardinal directions, all inside the inner circle of a maipdala.Group movement alternated with individual movement; the Buddha in the center danced during the verse sung in his honor while the four other Buddhas stood holding specific gestures. When the refrain was sung, the four Buddhas danced while the central dancer held still. The following Carya song was performed with the dance (given here in translation from the original in hybrid Sanskrit): I hail the divine Ak?obhya whose body is the color of the flax flower. He faces east, his vehicle is the elephant and he brings victory over the obstacles, which come from afar. I remember the Buddha who grants boons to the people of this world round the clock; the lord, the jewel who bestows deliverance on mankind. (Repeatedaftereachverse.) I hail the divine Ratnasambhava, whose body is the color of the midday sun. He faces south, his vehicle is the horse and he grants wealth and prosperity. I hail the divine Amitabha, whose body is the color of the newly risen sun. He shows the posture of meditation and rides a peacock. I hail Amoghasiddhi who is of green color and who is protected by the seven-hooded snake. His vehicle is the garudi. I hail Vairocanawhose body is like the white water lily. He rides a lion and guards the living beings of the 13 worlds.
CarydNrtya 167 I hail this hymn, strung like a garland of flowers, in the year 600 of the Nepal era [1480 A.D.]. I take refuge in Sri Dharmadhatu. (Refrain) Oh, the great victors, the glorious and famous Vairocana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi, Aksobhya. Oh the Five Buddhas remembered as victors who are of the nature of the elements of consciousness [skandha];esteemed as the very bone of the Buddha, they spread their fragrance over the world, illuminate men and are feared by men. (Kala-mandapa I986:I5-17) The dance visually translated the song with the help of mudras and sthanakas.
Arya Tara (or the Green Tara; see plate 2), the consort of Amoghasiddhi, is the protector of suffering beings who are in the process of crossing the ocean of Sansara.A female dancer in green costume gave the dance, which emphasized the aspect of compassion. The following Carya song was performed with the dance: She sits in the posture of ease, is of green color, one face and two eyes with a glittering crown ofjewels. All hail to the goddess Arya Tara who pervades the three worlds and protects all against an untimely death. With her right hand she grants the boon of fearlessnessand with her left she holds the blue lotus. She wears a vesture of five colors and bestows on her devotees the knowledge of the Buddha and liberation. Ratna Vajracarya sings this verse as an offering to Arya Tara his refuge in birth after birth. (Refrain) I hail (Arya Tara) who destroys fear and leads people across the ocean of sorrow; all hail to her who is of the nature of the syllable Svaha. (Kala-mandapa 1986:27) The dancer entered the performance space with gentle and graceful movement. Upon reaching center stage, she visually translatedthe song cited above. For this, she manipulated her hands delicately and used a small range of leg movements over a relatively small dancing area. At certain points, she held still positions, displaying mudras in curvilinear sthanakas. All through the dance, she evoked a compassionate deity in sustained calmness and gentle grace. Another dance performed at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center, which exhibited similar characteristics, was that of Arya Tara and Amoghasiddhi (see plates 3-6).
Vajrapani(see plates 7-9), a fierce emanation of Aksobhya, is also the protector of the nagas (serpents). Since the latter control the rain, Vajrapari'said is sought for rain to come or stop. At the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center, the dance of VajrapaVi emphasized the wrathful aspect of the deity. A male dancer performed the dance with his face painted (the lips, the chin, and the eyes in red, and the rest in blue). He wore a tiger skin, a garland of skulls, and a snake around his neck (all theatre props). The following Carya song was performed with the dance:
SyedJamil Ahmed His flesh is black, he has two arms; he makes a dreadful face and shows his teeth as he comes to the aid of the afflicted. His hair flies in the air around his trembling head as he terrifies his enemies. We hail the secret Vajrapaii, the defender of the reign of the Buddha in this age. In his right hand he holds the vajraand in his left the noose; on his head is a flaming crown. The protector of the snake deities, he is adorned with jewels and round his loins he wears the tiger skin. He is a great god, endowed with extraordinary strength-the one who holds the trident in his right hand and destroys the enemies. (Refrain) He stands firm and permeates the firmament, yet he has no discernable qualities; as such he is a personification of the very essence of the invincible diamond wisdom. He speaks with force of ignorance and enunciates the principle of the indestructible diamond void. (Kala-mandapa 986:3 1) The dancer entered the performance space with vigorous movement. In contrast to the dance of Arya Tara, the dance of Vajrapagiused a larger dancing area. The movements exhibited a great degree of forcefulness. There was also an element of rapidity and suddenness in the movements and gestures, which sought to enhance the wrathfulness and ferocity of the deity. In this regard, particularly striking were facial expressions, including eye movements. Although the dancer held a few curvilinear standing postures, the face was always given greater emphasis and the legs, very little. In fact, overall gestural design in all still postures seemed to have been composed around the face (with gaping mouth and projecting tongue). Another effective device in evoking the wrathful deity was the use of abrupt motion, which suddenly broke free from stillness. Another dance performed at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center, which exhibited similar characteristics, was that of Vajravira Mahakala (see plates Io and I ).
Amo3. & 4. Aryatara ghashidhi Ritu and by ManikBajracharya the of DanceMandalin the dance of Arya TadrandAmoby ghasiddhi,directed Prajat wal Vajracharya, the MediBuddhist Himalayan tationCenterin Kathmandu, 1999. (Photos by
Carya N[tya Interpreting Carya Nrtya It is possible to dwell at length on sadhanaas a transformativeritual to show that it aims at "multidimensional alteration of the ordinary state of mind, overcoming barriers between thought, action, knowledge, and emotion," to show how "[t]he invisible world referred to in the ritual is made manifest, and the
subject placed within it" (Myerhoff I990:246). One can also analyze sadhana
as a three-phase ritual: preliminal, liminal, and postliminal. The preliminal phase involves the purificatory rites while the postliminal phase involves the concluding rites of dedication of merit. The dance itself can be seen as the liminal phase. It is here that the sadhaks as dancers seek to be "inscribed with their new identities, and initiated into their new powers" (Schechner 2002:58). Another level of analysis could show how the dance is supposed to generate a complex dialectic of flow (the merging of action and awarenessproducing a state in which people "stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing" [Csikszentmihalyi I99I:53]) and its opposite, reflexivity. The dialectic almost appearsto engage the sadhakin a "perceptual play with mirrors and masks, with borders and transitions" (Myerhoff
But perhaps all these layers, and meanings, of being "inscribed with
new identities and new powers," "dialectic of flow and reflexivity," and the "perceptual play" can be apprehended with something more. This something more concerns "becoming the character." In order to comprehend the complexity of all these layers of meanings, it is necessary to go back to some of the basic philosophic concepts of Mahayana (Madhyamika and Yogacara), and Buddhism. Tantric (Vajrayana) Quintessenceof Void and Pure Consciousness Reformulating earlier teachings on ways and means of attaining nirvana,exponents of Mahayana Buddhism proposed the self-sacrificing ideal of the Bodhisattva: one who has wisdom (prajna)as his essence; his goal is nirvaia not for himself alone but for all; and he is motivated to this goal by compassion (karuna).Karuna in Buddhism is indifferent and self-less; it is not motivated by desire to gain merit. Rather, it is "unmotivated graciousness of attitude
the DanceMandalin the directed Amoghasiddhi, by at PrajwalVajracharya, the MediHimalayanBuddhist
tation Center in Kathmandu, 1999. (Photos by
shown [...] towards mortal beings" (Ling 198I:I 8- I9). It is a habit of regarding others as oneself, of identifying I with not-I. A Bodhisattva may adopt any updya (strategy, device, or means) to bring a sentient being closer to truth. That truth may be relative or provisional; nevertheless, the relative truth is necessary for moving a step closer to the "absolute truth." The means adopted may be deception, disguise, or even falsehood. Regardless of the nature of the means, what matters is its suitability to realize karupa. Upaya is deemed as a "pedagogic duty, the necessary complement of prajina"(George I999:99), which is direct apprehension of the Four Noble Truths regarding nature, life, and the three characteristic marks of existence (transience, no-self, and suffering) verified experientially. Two important schools of thought which developed from Mahayana Buddhism were the Madhyamika and the Yogacara (Vijfianavada).Reducing everything in life to a continuing process of becoming, Madhyamikaphilosophy postulates the doctrine of sunya, which shows that "there is no thing-untoitself, nothing with a self-essence, nothing that cannot be broken up until we reach the great transcendent reality which is so absolute that it is wrong to say
that it is or that it is not" (McGovern I968:I4).10 The term "sunya" is often
translatedas "void," but it is not empty space; the term may be better understood as "relative," i.e., "devoid of independent reality" or "devoid of specific character." "Thus sunyata [voidness] is nonentity, and at the same time 'relativity,' i.e., the entity only as in causal relation. [...] It is simply the negation of an independent reality or the negation of specific character" (Takakusu 1956:109-Io). Sunya is not to be interpreted ontologically. It is an unattached intellectual position, rather like a raft for crossing a river. Once the river is crossed, the raft is to be discarded. One who clings to isunyalike a religious or philosophical doctrine is like "a customer to whom a merchant has said that he has nothing to sell, and the customer now asks to buy this 'nothing,' and carry it home" (Muller 2002). Sinya is complete nonadherence and nonacquisition: "dwelling in no special view, holding on to no abstractedVoid, adhering to no special attainment, assuming no special characteristics, and
expecting no special interest of any special merit" (Takakusu 1956:
cause there is no desire, sunya is nirvaia. To apprehend isunyais to attain perfect wisdom (prajina).Sunya is Bodhisattva's prajna, and karuna is his upaya.
Carya Nrtya Bodhisattvahood means the attainment of the Bodhimind (bodhi-citta), which is the unified state of vacuity (sunya), and universalcompassion (karuia). for Againstthe contention of the Madhyamika, whom both the knowing consciousness,and the object known are sunya (because the object depends on the subject, and the subject on the object), the Yogacara school maintains that "to use consciousness to prove the unreality of consciousness is self-contradictory" (Stewart 2002).
Realizing the self-evident precondition that "some mode of Consciousness (vijnana) the conditio qua is sine nonfor all experience," the Yogacaraaccepted it as the foundation of their doctrine of Consciousness-Only (Stewart 2002). Indeed, the doctrine has striking parallels with phenomenology. Establishinga methodical _ presentation of the mind as consciousness, the school developed a system that has the complete clarification of consciousness into wisdom as its final goal. The school considers nirvada as Pure Consciousness (vijwhich is devoid of the notion of the napti-mdtrata) knower ("grasper")and the knowable ("graspable"), subject and object, I and Thou. It is a state of total awareness, and complete understanding-the only truly existent state. All other phenomena are transient-mere fabrication of consciousness. Hence, "I" is illusory. The Yogacaraschool shows that consciousness is the awareness of a "self." It is: the distinction making activity of the mind, both in making and having distinctions, including the states we consider the conscious as well as unconscious. Consciousness, in making distinctions between self and other, becomes the subject which treats everything else as object. (Zim I995) The Yogacaraschool divides consciousness into eight sections. The Eighth Consciousness is the Alaya Vijndna(Repository Consciousness). It is the "karmaic" storehouse "which contains seeds generated by our unenlightened actions," and from which "arise all our ideas of self, ego, and their respective functions in the external world." It is "beyond dualism of subject and object, or existence or non-existence" (Zim I995). Alaya Vijiana is often compared to a vast ocean, in which the seven other consciousnesses are compared to waves on its surface. At its profound depth, it "goes beyond the individual unconscious, and can be seen as a universal reality which lies 'within' all beings"
(Harvey 1990: o8). Like waves in an ocean, life is continuously changing. Like
ocean waves, no two humans are alike. Each living being is "a vortex in the sea of life. The action and interaction of these units one with another, and with the common stream brings about the phenomenal appearance of the Universe" (McGovern I968:I5). The Seventh Consciousness (manas)is the home of illusory ego individuality which defiles the Eighth Consciousness "by attributing to it characteristics of a real 'self' that exists in space and time," and the first six "by obscuring them with its concept of the self." The Sixth Consciousness (the Mano Vijnana) "collects and coordinates the reports of the senses" (Stewart 2002). It is where cognition and perception take place. In a
defiled state, it mistakes the Eighth Consciousness to be the immortal soul. The remaining five are the sense-consciousnesses (Vijnana) of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Corresponding to the eight consciousnesses, the enlightened state of Pure Consciousness may be seen to function in the following manner. The five sense consciousnesses function as the wisdom without attachment or distortion; the Sixth as the wisdom with clear awareness of the emptiness of self, and all phenomena; the Seventh as the wisdom which "understands the nature of equality of self and other and of all beings"; and the Eighth as Amala Vijnina, the wisdom of Magnificent Mirror "which reflects the entire universe without distortion" (Zim I995). Although the Yogacara may appear to be tending toward "substantialism" for accepting the existence of consciousness, especially in the working of Alaya Vijn~na,it is important to remember that: The "substantialism"of the Yogacarais in fact more apparent than real, as their theories on mind are essentially tentative devices, "skilful means" to be used in conjunction with a series of mediations in leading the practitioner beyond all mental constructions, including all theories, to a direct experience of ultimate reality. (Harvey 1990:106) Vajrayana(as well as Sahajayana)," branches of Tantric Buddhism, seek to actualize the goals of Mahayana Buddhism with the help of Tantric practice. Tantra is simply an upaya-more than that, as the practitioners would claim, it is the most effective upaya-of attaining liberation in the present life span of a being. This is possible, claims Tantric Buddhism, very much like Mahayana Buddhism, because every being is a potential Buddha, and Buddhahood is the human body's innate quality. It is also important to remember that adoption of Brahmanical deities by Tantric Buddhism was an upaya to bring a particular section of people (those who have faith in deities) closer to truth, even though it was provisional truth. The "deities" may serve as upaya to be visualized in meditation but, beyond that, they are recognized as uiinya. Deriving its doctrine from the Yogacara School, Vajrayana regards the worldly phenomenon as transient, being only a product of consciousness (vijfiana). False perception of the worldly phenomena leads one to be oblivious of transient nature, which in turn causes suffering. Cessation of suffering is nirvapa, the extremely blissful state of consciousness (mahasukha).For the Vajrayana practitioners, sunya is vajra or the thunderbolt (hence the name a text Vajrayanaor the "vehicle" of vajra). As Advaya-vajra-sangraha,Vajrayana explains, sunya "which is firm, substantial, indivisible, impenetrable, incapable of being burnt and imperishable, is called Vajra" (Dasgupta I969:26). The consciousness (vijiinna) of the absolute, and intransient void (sunya as vajra),as intransient as the thunderbolt, is mahasukha. But there are other aspects of vajraas well: Spiritually, it [vajra]represents the eternal, innate state of Buddhahood possessed by all beings, as well as the cutting edge of wisdom. The personification of this condition and power is Vajrasattva sattvaof sunya [the or the quintessence of void], a deity and an abstractprinciple. (G6mez
Vajrasattva(or the quintessence sunya as vajra) is the nondual state ofprajiia and upaya. The nondual or unified state is often compared with salt melting in
Carya N[tya water, where duality between the two objects ceases to exist. According to the (XVIII:37), "[t]he bodhi-cittais the unity of voidness and Gujyasamdja-tantra compassion; it is beginningless and endless, quiescent and bereft of the notion of being and non-being" (in Nakamura I987:333). To attain bodhi-citta is to attain nirviaa because mahasukha is nirvara. As Harvey explains: The aim of the Vajrayanaadept [is] to become conscious of the identity between Vajra-sattvaand his "own" empty "nature," so as to "become" such a "being." To do this [is] to gain enlightenment, or siddhi, "success." (I990:I35)
Carya Nrtya As Sddhandfor Transcending Duality The ritual of sadhanaaims at nonduality of the sadhakwith the quintessence of suinyaas vajra, i.e., Vajrasattva.The process of achieving the state of nonduality is gradual. As in ordinary meditation, it seeks to calm the waves of the seven consciousnesses on the ocean of Alaya Vijfiana and develop one-pointed concentration on the mental image of the chosen deity (perceived to be in harmony with the nature of the sadhak) to the point that the deity appears as a vision that is as "real" as the world perceived by the first six consciousnesses. All the deities invoked during sadhana-male or female, wrathful or compassionate-represent various aspects of the enlightened state of mind, i.e., aspects of the Vajrasattva.At the same time, it is also recognized by the practitioners that the deity is nothing but a construct of the mind. It merely serves as an upaya, and beyond that, it is void. Thus, sadhana seeks to develop a realization that "everything is 'thought-only,' no more (or less) real than the vision" (Harvey 1990:266).
In order to achieve the above, the sadhak first learns to generate the mental image of the deity by becoming extremely familiar with images of the deity in paintings, iconic form, and textual descriptions (such as those given in Carya songs), and the mardala world. When one is adept in generating the mental image, s/he learns to "draw [...] on the energies, and spiritual qualities of the archetypal visualized form" by fully identifying with the deity in terms of the external appearance and the mairdala.Like salt melts in water, duality between the dancer and the deity is sought to be nullified. By seeking to identify with the deity, the sadhak seeks to be turned into the deity as much as the deity becomes the sadhak. This act of identification is affected in the dance of Carya Nrtya. By identifying with the evoked deity, the sadhak achieves the aspect of vajra (as sunya), which the deity represents. The Carya songs, which are considered to be "the manifestation of the realisation of unity of emptiness and skillful means" (Bajracharya2002), serve as aural stimuli as well as disciplined concentration for the goal of the sadhak. The graphic descriptions that some of the songs provide, such as that of Vajrapali ("his flesh is black," "his hair flies in the air," "on his head is a flaming crown") cannot but strike a deep chord in the sadhak, stimulating further his/her visualization. The music, costume, mask, and other accessories; the olfactory and savory stimuli; and the agam (inner sanctum) as the performance space all contribute to the generation of the nondual state. If the identification is achieved, not only should the sadhak appear as the deity externally (facilitated, of course, by the costume and accessories), but the sadhak also should visualize the Pure Land as represented in the magdala. This act of identification is seen as achieving a lucid state of nonduality between the sadhak and the deity. By achieving nonduality, the sadhak begins to identify with his/her "basic nature purged of faults." The deity "reveals aspects of [the
e. & 8s.PtrajwalVaj -
in charya the danceof hVaj-e rapdni,diirecited Prajwalie by at Vajracharya, the Hotel
Vajra, 1995. (Photos by
Sharod Shakya) sddhak's] character which [s/he] persists in overlooking." The dance should enable the sadhak to "transmute the energy of [his/her] characteristic fault into a parallel kind of wisdom" which the deity embodies. With Ak?obhya Buddha as the "chosen deity," "the brilliance and power of hate and anger may be transmuted into openness and precision of'mirror-like wisdom'" (Harvey
Finally, the sSdhaklearns to dissolve the deity into emptiness as nothing but a construct of the mind. By recognizing the deity as nothing but his/her own construct, an aspect of his/her latent personality, the sadhak seeks to experience the insubstantial nature of his/her own being. By repeating visualization, achieving nonduality and dissolution, the sadhak begins to comprehend that everything in the world is "thought only," neither more nor less real than the vision of the deity: a creation of consciousness. At the same time, by retaining the wisdom gained through the act of achieving nonduality, s/he begins (or should begin), to transcend to the state of Vajrasattva. The mandala too serves as a means toward integration of the practitioner with the absolute truth-realization of the nondual. The relationship between the circle/s, and the center of the mardala is important: The circle drawn around stands for the dynamic consciousness of the initiated. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions [...]; and the midmost or the central area is the residence of the deity. Thus the center is visualized as the essence and the circumference as the grasping, thus in its complete picture a mandala means
grasping the essence. (Kumar 2000)
The symbol of Buddha "resides" in the center surrounded by circles of enlightenment, which the sadhak must achieve in order to gain access to the center. However, the mandala is nothing but a mental construct. It is seen as a symbolic space visually articulating the journey the sadhak must make. Thus, Carya NVtya seeks to equate the actual dance in the maQdalacreated in the shrine with a metaphorical journey of the sadhak to the Buddha. Reinforcing the "seeking of nonduality" of the sadhak, and the deity at a physical level of
the dance, the mandala serves to reinforce the same in terms of a "journey." By "seeking nonduality," and making the "journey," the sadhak begins to equate him/herself with the deity. It is then that the circle/s of the deity's is maindala visualized as the consciousness of the sadhak, the outlying square as his/her physical body. The deity is placed in the temple of the "heart," i.e., the Eighth Consciousness (AlayaVijinana).Hence, the sadhak'sjourney in the
SyedJamil Ahmed maidala is a journey to his/her Eighth Consciousness. It is expected that the dance and maidala, aided further by aural (music and songs), savory (wine), and olfactory (burning of incense) stimuli, will serve, or ideally should serve as a powerful experiential vehicle of the senses, which "makes tangible" the abstraction of metaphysics to enable the sadhak to experience directly the ultimate reality. "Making tangible" in physical terms is further built up in a dance of a noncelibate male and his female partner, seeking nonduality in a male deity and his consort respectively. The dance may culminate in sexo-yogic union of Yab-Yum "under very controlled meditative conditions, so that lust is directly confronted, and crushed, by transmuting its energy into a form of wisdom" (Harvey I990:267). As Dasgupta explains, "Vajrayana perceives bodhi-citta as the extremely blissful state of consciousness (mahasukha) produced through the yogic union of the male (karuVaas the means or upaya) and the female (sunya as wisdom or prajina)(I969:27). By incorporating the tactile element, the ritual of sadhana brings on board all the five senses to play an active part. By this, the practitioner attempts to engage the five sense-consciousnesses so that they can ultimately function in a purified state of wisdom without attachment or distortion. For those who do not dance but participate in the ritual nevertheless, the dance functions, or should function, experientially. For them, the aural, savory, and olfactory stimuli are the same as they are for the dancer. Instead of undergoing the act of transcending nonduality through the dance, the ritual participants visualize the deity in the dancer/s. A neurobiologist would possibly explain the nondual state in sadhana in terms of simultaneous stimulation of the left cerebral hemisphere (the seat of the ergotropic system) and the right cerebral hemisphere (the seat of the trophotropic system). "Stimulating the left lobe makes one energized, aroused, and alert. [...] Stimulating the right hemisphere loosens a person's ego, dissolves boundaries between self and other, inner and outer" (Schechner 2002:165). In daily life, one of the systems is dominant. In sadhana, the sadhak induces the simultaneous stimulation by means of music, dance, alcoholic spirit, incense, sexual intercourse, and meditation. When one of the systems is brought fully into activation, it causes a "rebound" which "produces a balance or 'tuning' of the two systems." Consequently: both systems operate simultaneously-resulting in intense and varied experience such as sexual orgasm, yogic or zen meditation, and trance. [...] In this state of maximum bihemispheric arousal, people feel [...] "one with the universe" or "one with the community," totally without
personal self. (Schechner 2002:165, 167)
Vajrayanapractitioners may relate the neurobiological explanation in terms of the system of the cakras(internal makeup of seven psychophysical energy centers). Full activation of the ergotropic left lobe is raising kundalinienergy (avadhutT, prdaa, or chi), which usually lies dormant in the muladhara (lowest cakra located at the base of the spine), up through the su,umna (a theoretical central channel running along or through the spine)12to the sahasrara (the seventh or the "thousand-petaled lotus" cakra located above the crown of the head). Activation of the sahasraraachieves maximum bihemispheric arousal. When the sadhak achieves or attempts to achieve nonduality with his/her deity, it is not only in terms of the external appearance and the mandala, but also the internal makeup of the cakras. For anthropologists, sadhana is a transformative ritual in that it seeks com-
Carya Nftya plete alteration of the ordinary state of mind into a state of nonduality with Vajrasattva.In it, Myerhoff's "invisible world" is "made manifest" by seeking the nondual state where the "subject" is not only placed within the "invisible world" but the latter is also placed within the "subject." Furthermore, by recognizing the deity to be a construct of the mind, reflexivity is set in a challenging binary relationship with flow. The "perceptual play with mirrors and masks, with borders and transitions" is set in a dialectical relationship of flux. In learning to generate the mental image of the deity, the deity is a mask for the subject, the "other" with which the subject seeks union. In terms of the Upanisadic-Brahmanical tradition, the atman of the self (microcosm) seeks union with the Atman of the Self (macrocosm). During the dance, the deity becomes a mirror of the subject (since it is but an aspect of the subject's dormant personality). In the dissolution phase, the mirror is destroyed. It is turned void-a black hole-emptiness. And hence, the atman of the UpanisadicBrahmanical tradition is seen as nonexistent. Sadhana: Authentic or Spurious? The border-crossings and transitions from the self to the void, from the Upanisadic-Brahmanical to the Vajrayanaconceptual "territories" (the latter adopting the framework of the former as an upaya, only to deconstruct it at a later phase) is complex and will vary from individual to individual. However, what is always questionable is how far the ritual is successful. How many sessions does it take to achieve the ultimate Vajrasattvaas the quintessence of void? How much of each session is retained at the end when the subject "reenters" daily life "inscribed" with his/her new identities? What effect do the "spectators" carry away with them? How much are they "moved" or "touched"? How much of it is "authentic"? Is not the supposed "achievement" of an aspect of the Vajrasattva nothing but void in itself? Roy Rappaport argues that the question of "belief" and "disbelief," if not irrelevant, is of subordinate importance. What is of primary importance is that ritual, as a "performance of a more or less invariantsequence of formal acts and
utterances, not entirely encoded by the performers" (I999:24), is a social act:
While ritual participation may not transform the private state of the performer from one of "disbelief" to "belief," our argument is that in it the ambiguity, ambivalence and volatility of the private processes are subordinated to a simple and unambiguous public act, sensible both to the performers themselves and the witnesses as well. Liturgical performance is, thus, a fundamental social act, for the acceptance intrinsic to it forms a basis for public orders which unknowable and volatile belief or
conviction cannot. (I999:I22-23)
It is possible to follow this position and investigate a question that Schechner poses: "At what moment does a tourist show become itself an authentic theatrical art?" (1983:I46).
The question itself is fascinating for it forces one to investigate the economic pressures and cultural redundancy that many South Asian performers face in a "globalized" world threatening to erode cultural plurality. It is also possible to investigate the antagonistic relation between a ruling elite (the upper-caste Hindus of Nepal), and a minority religious group (the Newar Buddhists), and examine what role the tourist performances play in what Antonio Gramsci identifies as hegemony (I971). Having said that, it is also true that to consider Carya N;tya sans sadhana is
in 9. PrajwalVajracharya dithe dance Vajrapani, of rected PrajwalVajraby charya,at theHimalayan Buddhist Meditation Center in Kathmandu, 1999. (Photoby ShahnajJahan) to extricate a "product" from a "process." It is not so much, as Bharucha claims, that in India (and by extension, in the sympathetic cultural context of Nepal), "the recycling of culture, the conversion of the spurious into the 'authentic,' is a totally alien concept" (1993:37). "Recycling" and "the conversion of the spurious into the authentic" exists all over India, South Asia, Asia-and the entire world. However, the problem with Carya NVtya sans sadhana is that one does not experience-or one does not permit oneself the freedom to attempt to probe into experiencing-nonduality with the quintessence of void. Hence, Carya NVtyasans sadhana can certainly be exquisite, exotic, and whatever else that you may wish to add, but it is not sadhana. Laying these questions aside for the "believers" and the "seekers of the mysteries of life through rituals," and at the same time also recognizing that sadhana may well be deemed to be an efficacious upaya for some people, I wish to end by going back to the matter of "becoming the character." Becoming the Character The analysis so far has demonstrated that the performance of Carya Nvtya, as part of a ritual known as sadhana, seeks transformation of the self, the process of which can be described as a perceptual journey to the void: from the mask to the mirror, and then to the destruction of the mirror. Schechner reminds us that in strict theatrical terms, "performing rituals is not 'acting'" because "most rituals involve no impersonation" (2002:I62). But does not the first part of the journey (i.e., to the mask, which, more specifically, is the deity) involve impersonation? Carya NVtya, even in a ritual context, bears the strong imprint of"codified acting," which Schechner defines as "[p]erforming based on semiotically constructed gestures, movements, songs, costumes, and makeup set by tradition, and passed down from teacher to student by means of rigorous training" (I 56). On the other hand, if the deity is recognized as an aspect of sadhak, then Schechner is correct in pointing out that "those performing rituals are not impersonating others. The ritualist is himself in his designated ritual role" (I63). The act of impersonation in Carya NVtyainvolves ajourney from the "self" (the sadhak) to the "other" (the deity). The deity is clearly "characterized" in
Carya Nrtya visual form, and hence cannot but be seen as impersonation of an "other." At the point where the sidhak seeks to transcend nonduality of the self and the other, s/he begins to perceive the "mask" as the "mirror." From this point, the "character" is perceived to be "self." The act of nonduality may be taken to be "trance acting," in which "performers are taken over, or 'possessed' by non-human beings [...] more powerful than the performer" (Schechner our case, by deities. However, there is 2002:I63)-in
a fine distinction. The sadhak is not "taken over" by a deity, s/he achieves a state of nonduality: s/he is the deity as much as the deity is him/herself. Finally, in the act of "destruction of the mirror," the performer clearly demonstrates that the deity is not "more powerful than the performer" but in fact is only a construct of the mind-void. Most importantly, the performer cognizes that all phenomena are "thoughtonly." Performing in Carya NVtya is neither like performing a ritual nor trance acting, nor even codified acting; it lies somewhere in a triangle between the B three. "Becoming the character"in Carya Nrtya may perhaps be best expressed as "becoming self-asvoid." Or perhaps, in the Madhymika tradition of reducing everything to void, one could also say that "becoming-self-as-void" itself is void, at which Goffman would perhaps laugh with satisfaction, and add, "the performer can be fully taken in by his own act" (197I:28). Either way, it is not Zarrilli's simplified version of Indian/Hindu tat tvam asi. Notes
lo. Manik Bajracharya in the danceof VajravTra Mahdkala,directed Prajwal by at Vajracharya, the HimaMeditation layanBuddhist Centerin Kathmandu,
1999. (Photo by Shahnaj i. On 6 December 1992, fanatic Hindu devotees destroyeda I6th-century mosque at Ayodhya, which was known as the Babri Mosque. The incident sparkedriots in which Jahan) more than 3,000 people are believed to have been killed, including severalhundred in Mumbai (Dawn 2002). The Hindus believe that a temple commemorating the birth of Rama originally stood on the site. Mughal emperorBabarhad the temple razedand the mosque constructed. 2. "Dedication of Merit" is the practice of dedicating the rewardof one's merits for one's own salvationor for the salvationof others. 3. Some of the terms used in this section have been taken from Adshead et al. (I988:2224, 34-35). 4. The most frequentlyused analogyfor explaining rasais that of"tasting food." "Because it is enjoyably tasted, it is called rasa"(RangacharyaI996:55). Just as sensitive people enjoy different tastes of food mixed with different condiments and sauces, "sensitive spectators,after enjoying the various emotions expressedby the actors through words, gestures and feelings feel pleasure etc. This (final) feeling by the spectatorsis here explained as various rasa-sofnaiya" (55). The Natyasastra the the the recognizes eight rasas: erotic (srngara), comic (hasya), pathetic (karuna), furious (raudra), heroic (vira),the terrible (bhayanak), odious the the the and VI, (Natyasastra, 15; Ghosh 1967:102). It may be (bibhatsa), the marvelous (adbhuta) helpful to note that one of the distinctionsbetween rasaand human emotions is that the former is alwaysvicarious. Human emotions are alwaysaccompaniedby an urge to act while this featureis completely absentin rasa.Rasas, therefore,are"desireless emotions, sensualimpressionswhich do not generate want" (George 1999:32).
5. Unless otherwise noted, all information on Carya Nrtya given in this section has been a gathered from personal communication with PrajwalVajracharya, Carya Nrtya performer, and Min BahadurSakya,Director, Nagarjun Institute of Exact Method, Patan,
on I, 2, and 4 May 1999.
6. A branch of Tantric Buddhism believed to have been founded by the Kashmiriyogin literatureprojecting its Lui-pa in the second half of the 8th century. Extant Sahajayana doctrine, such as Dohdkosaand Carya Gfti, were composed in Apabhrafia and early Bengali languagesrespectively,possibly from the 8th to the Ioth centuries. These texts of belong to the same tradition as that of CaryaGFta the Newari Buddhists. Sahajayana practitionersare also known to perform dance with their songs. 7. Allen does not specificallysay when and where the ceremony was conducted. However, in the foreword, P.R. Sharmamentions that the researchwas carried out in Kathmandu between September 1973 andJanuary1974 (Allen I996:v). 8. Two male Vajrayanadeities. Cakrasambhara a manifestation of a four-faced and is twelve-armed deity known as Sambharawhose consort is Vajravarahi. Literally,the name Cakrasamvara denotes "joined to the wheel," which is interpreted to mean, "joined to the wheel of wisdom and bliss." Yogambarais a three-faced and six-armed deity whose consort is Prajia-jiian. 9. A female Vajrayana deity. IO. As Cai Zongqi points out: [T]here exist many important parallelsin methods, strategies, and rationalebetween [contemporary deconstructive philosophy and MadhyamikaBuddhism]. Recently, a number of scholars have discovered significant parallelsin the Derridean negation and the Madhyamika prasnaga (reductio ad absurdum).
never cared to formulate their doctrine in coherent consistency, I1. Although the Sahajiyas what can be deciphered from Dohakosaand CarydGCti appearsto be an unsystematized and Madhyamikaphilosophy. amalgamationof Yogacara 12. Practitioners believe that the cakrasare bioplasmatic energy fields composed of ions, free protons, and electrons. In the nonpractitioners,the susumnais closed while the two subsidiaryducts (Ici and Piiigala)running on either sides are open. Correct meditation is supposed to open the susumna.When sahasrara activated,the adept attemptsto imis mobilize all the three ducts, thereby retainingmahasukha.
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SyedJamil Ahmed is a theatre practitioner based in Bangladesh, and Associate Professor at the Department of Theatre and Music, University of Dhaka. He trained at the National School of Drama (India), did his MA at the University of Warwick, and his PhD at the University of Dhaka. His publications include Acinpakhi Infinity: Indigenous Theatre in Bangladesh (University Press Limited, 2000) and In Praise of Niranjan: Islam, Theatre, and Bangladesh (Pathak Samabesh, 2001).
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