Shanta: Surrender as an empowered state of being

Shanta is a Rasa that is simple in its physicality but profound in the feeling constellation it evokes. The source of the Rasa is ‘Nirveda’ which is translated as disillusionment with life, disenchantment, and a diminishing of the self because of experiences of loss. This leads to sorrow, deep sadness and anxiety. However if one is aware of the trajectory of the evolution of the self or jeeva, Nirveda also moves into wonder, to being moved, a sense of total surrender where one admits and accepts the futility of any action motivated by the desire to escape from the feeling.

All of these feelings (bhavas) together constitute Shanta. Shanta includes many bhavas which we consider as ‘negative’ in our maya reality today. The Rasa practice is about embracing all feelings as spaces of transformation and expansion and so it is with the difficult bhavas that infuse Shanta.

Buddha centralized the role of suffering (dukha) in transformation. For Him Shanta was the Rasa space of Enlightenment and He is one of the most beautiful archetypes of this Rasa. Vishnu’s archetypal physicality of reclining on the ocean nuances surrender a bit differently as a restful but aware observation of the universe. For Him ‘sufffering’ does not exist because He has no expectations—so Nirveda is a necessary playfulness about transitory reality.

Acting in surrender is central to Shanta and all of the other bhavas go towards creating this feeling space. Surrender is an active, committed and empowered feeling space where choice is reclaimed in the midst of the inescapable realisation about the central experience of life as transitory and therefore of impermanence. The physicality of this kind of surrender is embodied in some of the seminal archetypes associated with this Rasa such as Buddha, Vishnu, Siva and Green Tara. The archetypes suggest that while resistance limits us, it is through surrender that we find power and expansion.

Padma Menon