Tantric Dimensions of the Rāsa Maṇḍala: The Bhagavata Rāsa Līlā and the Artistic Imagination

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Professor Graham M. Schweig
Date: January 31, 2013
Time: 14:00 to 15:00

The focus of this presentation will be two-fold. First Schweig will bring out tantric dimensions of the Bhāgavata’s Rāsa Līlā: the yantra-like narrative, the feminine power of the Vraja Gopikās over divinity, the līlā of divine love as arranged by the Goddess, etc. Second, Schweig will focus on the symbolism of the Rāsa Maṇḍala by examining key elements of the passage and ways in which its tāntric character influences its artistic renderings. Schweig will argue that the imagery of the Rāsa Mandala functions as a bhakti-yantra. Through līlā-smaraṇam practitioners enter the world of the dance, becoming eternal participants in it. Contemplation and participation become one by virtue of the power of this bhaktiyantra. The centripetal, centrifugal, circumferential and centrifocal dynamics of the Rāsa Mandala circle as they function as powerful inner mechanisms within bhakti, and as expressions in artistic renderings of Rāsa Maṇḍala, will be presented.

Graham M. Schweig is currently Professor of Religion and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Christopher Newport University; he is a regularly invited lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Schweig is the author of Dance of Divine Love: India’s Classic Sacred Love Story(Princeton 2005). His most recent edited publication is A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti: Essential Teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda (Oxford 2012).