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Abhinavagupta’s Conception of Humor

[page 427] The first aim of the researches embodied in this thesis was to gather together all the more significant scattered observations that Abhinavagupta has made on the subject of laughter and of hâsya and to determine whether there was a coherent theory of humor implicitly underlying these otherwise disparate remarks that he has not felt the need to systematize. For this purpose we utilized not only his explicit elaboration of the formula equating the ‘semblance of rasa’ (rasâbhâsa) with hâsya (chapter IX) and his insistence on the distinction between hâsa and hâsya (chapter  VII), along with stray remarks on the element of distress in laughter (chapter IV) , on superiority theory, etc., but also his analysis of verses pregnant with hâsya (chapter VIII) and his interpretation and illustration of formulas governing the exploitation of hâsya in drama (chapter  X). To a certain extent—especially with regard to the hâsa/hâsya distinction, the psychology of hâsya in the love-verses and the rasâbhâsa model of hâsya—it was sufficient to correlate his critical remarks and theoretical insights and replace them within his general aesthetic theory. But on several points the interconnectedness of the different aspects of hâsya touched upon by him could best be clarified through a preliminary critical treatment of comparison with some of the major, though mutually conflicting, approaches to humor and laughter in the West. In turn, we hoped to see what this reconstruction of Abhinava’s conception of humor could contribute to modern theorizing on the subject.

[428] Perhaps the most original and promising insight is the structural definition implied in his declaration that all the other (aesthetic) emotions are comprehended within hâsya, which is generated by incongruities in some of the members of the operative field that would normally have evoked the emotion concerned alone. The fact that any of the other emotions can be an effective constituent of hâsya, clearly reveals that Abhinava conceived the latter as a structure that includes within itself any emotion whatever and also at the same time some other element that opposes and impedes the development of this emotion. The analysis of hâsya in love-poems revealed that this opposing element was itself most often a contrary emotion, and the “theory” behind the exploitation of this emotional bisociation for hâsya-effects was deduced from Abhinava’s interpretation of the maxims governing the delineation of love-in-union (sambhoga). Though privileging in this context, and in keeping with the rasa-aesthetic, the emotional components and possibilities of bisociation, Abhinava is alive to its cognitive aspect as well as evidenced by his introduction of the incongruity principle in the genesis of rasâbhâsa, and by his appealing to the same in order to reject the imitation theory of drama for the bisociated cognition of the imitated and the imitating elements can result only in hâsya. It is on the basis of emotional bisociation again that an attempt was made to explain Abhinava’s otherwise cryptic remark on the component of momentary pain or distress in determinate laughter (hâsa), and it was further demonstrated that such an interpretation was in harmony with Freud’s insight into “humor” as a defense-mechanism against incipient unpleasure (chapter IV) and also supported by the experimental results of behavioral and social psychology and [429] by ethnographic data.

The relevance of these findings for contemporary humor research and theorizing was two-fold:

1)                            the present models seek to isolate specific laughter- or humor-stimuli from those of other emotions should be replaced by a structural model that reveals how the stimuli of all those other emotions are reorganized to produce the bisociative effects responsible for laughter/humor.

2)                            The reinterpretation of incongruity as the objective correlate of bisociated perception and response will obviate the more serious of the current objections to incongruity theory.

The chief objection, shared by Bergson, Freud and others, to theories of the bisociation/incongruity type, that they leave the physiology of the laughter mechanism unaccounted for, was anticipated and dealt with in advance by starting with Gurdjieff’s presentation of the bisociation theory in order to arrive, through successive clarifications, at Abhinava’s understanding of the same. The convulsion (O) consisting in the mutual neutralization of the two opposing irreconcilable impressions (cognitive, emotional, motor) of a single stimulus not only provides the bisociative structures responsible for humor a firm rootedness in the physiological mechanism responsible for the laughter-discharge but also accounts for the tacit skill of recognizing and evoking humor (i.e., for the phenomenology of humor). This phenomenological aspect is especially important for the relishing of hâsya which, as a rasa (whose essential nature as a form lived consciousness is emphasized by Abhinava through terms like pratîti, bodha, etc.: rasa is not an object known, it is the act of relishably knowing), is primarily the skilful exploitation of cognitive structures for [430] bringing about bisociative emotional effects. Whereas in compulsive (siddha) worldly hâsa, the bisociated perception imposed by the stimulus automatically provokes laughter through the passive mediation of the convulsion O, in the aesthetic relish of hâsya the subject (sahrdaya) actively exploits O as a sensor for reorganizing the given stimuli so as to heighten and diversify the bisociative possibilities offered, and no more than suggested, by the objective form and content of the poem, joke, etc.

And this is Abhinava’s second major contribution: he provides the framework within which the presently felt need for distinguishing between humor and laughter can be justified both theoretically and in (artistic) practice, through the distinction he makes between hâsa as self-subsisting (siddha) in the world (laukika) and hâsya as actively sustained (sâdhya) through an aesthetic apperception (anuvyavasâya-vizeSa) that differs radically (alaukika) from the worldly perception of the same stimuli. But this require not the abandonment of the stimulus-organism-response (S-O-R) model of behaviorism (which is also basic to the rasa-aesthetic) but its refinement to include processes, like identification, based on and derived from this model but becoming primary and modifying its whole functioning in certain contexts, especially that of aesthetics. This is wholly clear in Abhinava’s third criterion that the stimulus of hâsa is common (sâdhâraNa) whereas that (vibhâva) of hâsya is not common, i.e., unique (asâdhâraNa) to a particular subject (âzraya) whose perceived responses (anubhâva) and the transitory emotions they evoke (vyabhicârin) are integral and indispensable to the relishing of hâsya. It is here that the principle of aesthetic identification [431] (tanmayîbhavana) intervenes to make the crucial separation between the rasa-aesthetics with its sthâyin/rasa distinction and the behavioral approach of those like I. A. Richards (cf. his “synaesthesis”) which is unable to distinguish between the two though the need to do so is acutely felt. Nevertheless, Abhinava himself admits that the distinction hâsa/hâsya, though perfectly valid in theory and easily recognizable in privileged cases like the love-verses depicting love-in-union, is often blurred and difficult even in the theater. It would, therefore, be preferable to speak in terms of degrees of aestheticization of hâsa into hâsya.

It is clear moreover that the hâsa/hâsya distinction cannot be applied as such and without modification to Western or other literatures which are not organically and self-consciously dependent on aesthetic tradition of the rasa-type. Nor to a whole category of jokes and witticisms which, though possessed of a certain aesthetic appeal, hover in a kind of limbo between art and worldly life. Though unable devote special attention to such frequent instances of “humor” which do not exploit bisociative strategies for primarily emotional effects, we have nevertheless tried to show (chapter VII) that similar mechanisms of identification with the emotional attitudes of others are often involved even if subordinated to other purposes like satirical intent. Often again the humor lies rather in the ingenuity and artistry with which the bisociative clash is brought about or the brilliant non-comic ideas that are vehicled by the formal technique of the bisociated pattern: to achieve a striking contrast of ideas, to question the field operators involved, to bridge different planes of thought so as to present them in an entirely novel light, or to reveal their hidden connections or similarities, and [432] so on. An essential component of such wit or humor is no doubt the separation of thought from the inertia of the emotions as rooted in the biological instincts (separation of the cortical layers from the sympathetic system on the physiological level), so much insisted upon by Koestler. Being a commentator on existing artistic practice based on the rasa-aesthetic and not a systematic theoretician aiming at a universal theory of humor and laughter, Abhinava has naturally completely neglected these aspects of humor theory. What is significant however is that hâsya, insofar as it is the aestheticization or relishing of the emotional bisociation that constitutes hâsa, is based not on the divorce of thought from the inertia of the constituent emotions but rather on their reconciliation. More than that, the cognitive strategies and identificatory mechanisms involved are subordinated to the evocation of emotion and it is their indispensable mediation that ensures that the emotions evoked are purified of their biological inertia into the relishable state of rasa. One would be justified in claiming that the rasa-aesthetic, including hâsya, is based not so much on the principle of Consciousness seeking to escape its biological determinations but rather on the quasi-tantric principle of its turning back to infuse the biological functions, in their emotional expression, with its own lightness, mobility and detachment. Unless this principle is kept in mind, one is bound to lose sight of what is specific to the exploitation of the universally valid bisociative structure in the aesthetics of hâsya.

The third important contribution of Abhinava to humor-theory is his advocacy of the exploitation of hâsya (or hâsa) as a social censure mechanism by assimilating incongruity (a cognitive / aesthetic [433] principle) to ‘ethical’ impropriety, despite the fact that the two, though often coinciding, are not synonymous. This reflects his concern to harmonize and mutually superpose the aesthetic and socio-religious functions of hâsya and it is precisely the bisociative structure of the latter that naturally lends itself to such exploitation. Though this ideological annexation of laughter in the service of safeguarding social norms is hardly different from Bergson’s essential contribution to humor theory (especially as further elaborated into behavioral models that synthesize incongruity, social censorship and enhanced self-esteem), the vital difference, it seems to us, is that Abhinava clearly recognizes the role of identification with the butt as an essential component of this censure mechanism, something that Bergson glimpsed but was unable to reconcile with the chastising effect of ridiculing laughter. It is on the basis of such identification that Abhinava recognizes a logical distinction (even temporal sequence) between any ‘semblance of emotion’ (rasâbhâsa) and the ensuing hâsya that checks this momentary and partial identification. It is his implicit bisociation theory alone that can justify this simultaneous (partial) identification with and rejection of (dissociation from) the butt, and it was suggested that, far from detracting from the chastising effect, this partial identification rendered the laughter particularly humiliating for the butt.

But even more significant and with far-reaching repercussions outside the realm of aesthetics and the social hierarchy of the puruSârthas, especially when replaced within his total conception of hâsya, is his attribution of the mere semblance of hâsya to the vidûSaka, whose hâsya function he nowhere denies. Interpreted in [434] the light of all the ritual notations that have long been recognized till now (culminating in Prof. Kuiper’s recent contribution) and especially those that converge to underline his central function as the transgressor of brahmanical socio-religious norms, this necessarily implies that, for Abhinava, the aesthetic (including cathartic) and socio-religious (censure mechanism) dimensions do not exhaust the exploitation of hâsya in the vidûSaka.

Not only is the distinction hâsa/hâsya effaced in the vidûSaka’s comic behavior, but the irregular modes (obscene, incoherent and irrelevant speech, stereotyped traits and interventions, fixed status, etc.) whereby he serves his comic function cannot be attributed to the lack of creative imagination in the poets, for these abnormal and inexplicably restricted modes of provoking laughter have been erected, by prescription and implicit convention into a dramatic norm (into “lawful irregularities”), to which no doubt the dramatists were wholly committed. This glaring discrepancy between his comic function on the aesthetic level of the play and the norms governing that function already strongly suggests that the hâsya is simultaneously serving as the vehicle of a non-comic function that interferes with and modifies it, that exaggerates certain comic possibilities while inhibiting and eliminating others. That the hâsya on the aesthetic level is produced largely by his stupidity, non-conformity to the ideal model of the orthodox brahmin, scapegoat treatment, zûdra-like traits (avaidika) coupled with claims to the status of mahâbrâhmaNa—instead of by intelligent satire, witticisms at the expense of others, psychological subtleties, etc.—could be partly explained by the interference of a socio-religious [435] motivation that would simultaneously exploit the hâsya function for chastising this “non-Vedic” brahmin’s transgression of brahmanical norms. But the rule that makes this negative example of a brahmin the indispensable companion, equal and chief resource of the hero (especially the king) with whom we identify ourselves wholly, as the model of puruSârtha-oriented conduct, to enjoy the dominant rasa (zrngâra) of the play, makes it impossible to explain away the hâsya purely in terms of its chastising role in the conflict between brahmanical socio-religious norms and their violation. This discrepancy between the comic conflict on the social level of the play and the rule that ambiguously resolves the conflict strongly suggests that hâsya is simultaneously serving to disguise an intentional valorization of the vidûSaka (and his transgressive function) which runs counter to and partly neutralizes its role as an instrument of social censure. The symbolic attributes of the vidûSaka (Omkâra, associations with Brahmâ and VaruNa), his frequent “confusion” with the purohita, his names of pure brahmanical pedigree, his ready-wit prescribed by the NâTya-Zâstra, central role in the drama (pradhâna-pâtra, Abhinava) despite the fact that hâsya is a secondary (almost trivial) rasa, the reminiscences of various ritual figures, etc., all combine to corroborate this conclusion.

The bisociative structure of hâsya, as understood by Abhinava, naturally qualifies it to play eminently this contradictory role of simultaneous (exoteric) devalorization and (esoteric) valorization of the vidûSaka: a fundamental contradiction that has been exploited—and thereby justified—to enhance his hâsya function on the aesthetic level. Abhinava recognizes defects or transgressions in general as [436] a mode of incongruous behavior acting as a comic stimulus. Though such transgression can provoke purely negative reactions in others, the cultural institutionalization (whether in ritual, myth or drama) of the transgressor, which amounts to an implicit valorization, neutralizes these negative reactions in order to transform the transgressor into a comic clown; a process that is solidly attested by the extensive ethnology of the sacred ritual clowns in other societies. Moreover, in contexts (like the refined Sanskrit drama) where real transgressions (except for the more trivial and banal ones) are not only impermissible but irrelevant (to the aesthetic level of the play), the comic aspect of transgression is generalized into incongruous behavior as a whole or translated into equally comic symbols (like the vidûSaka’s contrary speech, deformity, gluttony, kuTilaka, “profanations” of sacred objects like his brahmanical thread, impure associations, etc.) that signify transgression. Once this is admitted, there is nothing to prevent these and other comic symbols invested in the vidûSaka from simultaneously signifying an entire system of ideas, doctrines, practices and lived experiences centered around transgression, both directly and/or indirectly through symbolic assimilation with other (comic or non-comic) figures that belong to the same system (which is facilitated by the polyvalence of symbols). This would immediately explain the irregularity of the norms governing his hâsya function at the aesthetic level, for they would have simultaneously served to ensure the signifying function of these ostensibly comic stimuli. Likewise, the valorization of the vidûSaka is only the deliberate valorization of the symbolic universe mediated by him whereas his explicit devalorization and ridiculous aspect would be a function of that central [437] transgressive dimension which is wholly censurable from the purely exoteric point of view of life-in-society governed by the graded hierarch of the puruSârthas. This total approach to the vidûSaka that considers him primarily as a sign, and only secondarily in terms of his social and aesthetic function by determining how these latter are reintegrated into this signifying function, is alone capable of explaining all the otherwise impossible contradictions in his individual “psychology” (wise fool, indispensable but bungling helper, lewd chastity, deformed and monkey-like favorite of the queen’s maids, etc.), his literary “characterization” (stupid brahmin counselor of the exemplary king, obscene but free access to the harem, nonsensical jokes, Prakrit-speaking, meat-eating and wine-drinking brahmin, etc.) and social status (“boy” baTu, abused by lower characters but honored by the hero, etc.); contradictions that the exoteric gaze tolerates only at the cost of laughter.

To the esoteric gaze that has already learnt to accord supreme valorization to the most radical modes of transgression when replaced within their delimited context governed by a profound metaphysical and/or ritual motivation, the recognition of the transgressive function invested in the vidûSaka’s symbolism can be no cause for laughter. On the contrary, the recognition of the significations hidden in the various signifiers brought together in his comic interventions and the displacement of the attention towards restoring their coherence on the esoteric plane can only detract from, if not largely efface, his hâsya function. Moreover, even the instances of really incongruous behavior, speech or costume and the comic aura that surrounds them are now rather perceived as the [438] transparent symbols of a transgressive function that has nothing intrinsically comic about it. For these symbols, despite their adaptation and elaboration to suit the comic role of the vidûSaka in the drama, acquire their capacity to signify only by virtue of their participation in a pre-existing signifying system, that encompasses the entire domain of Hindu culture and reaches back to its Vedic origins, where they recur in an unmistakable non-comic (ritual, cosmogonic, epic, etc.) context or at least with a primarily non-comic motivation (GaNeza’s or Agni’s enormous appetite, or the former’s modakas; the contrary speech or donkey-like braying of Brahmâ’s fifth head; the brahmacârin’s abuse of the hetaera in the Mahâvrata, etc.). Replaced within this total system by an esoteric gaze forearmed with the comprehension and mastery of its secret correspondences, the hâsya aspect of the vidûSaka’s interventions (on the aesthetic literary level of the play and in the exoteric socio-religious context that encompasses the performance of the drama) is reduced to a mere semblance.

To just what extent Abhinavagupta had assimilated this traditional symbolic universe underlying the figure of the vidûSaka and to what extent he effectively recognized the latter’s traits (e.g., VaruNa) and interventions can only be a matter of futile speculation for us who have ourselves only just commenced the task of deciphering. What matters is that he himself was the crowning theoretician of the transgressive ideology of the Trika (rather Kaula) tantrism, attributing his highest metaphysical realization of the supreme all-devouring Bhairava-Consciousness to precisely such transgressive praxis. At the same time, he clearly recognized the dichotomy [439] between the esoteric and the exoteric domain, the latter governed by rigorous socio-religious norms from which perspective alone he comments on the Sanskrit drama. He even insists on the continuity between the Vedic and tantric tradition of esotericism exploiting extreme impurity and radical transgression in order to transcend the pure/impure distinction, and attributes the reticence of the Vedic sages (rSis) on this transgressive dimension of their realizations to their concern with preserving the exoteric order founded on norms of purity: avikalpena bhâvena munayo’pi tathâbhavan //243// loka-samrakSaNârtham tu tat tattvam taih pragopitam /...//244. Tantrâloka IV. As such, it seems to us that Abhinava combines in himself all the necessary conditions for recognizing a central transgressive function in the vidûSaka that, although deeply rooted in Vedic esotericism, should have also found manifold expression in the symbolic universe of Hinduism. But like the sages he describes, he would have been even more committed to preserving and reinforcing the exoteric order, now governed by the graded hierarchy of the puruSârthas which it was the duty of the NâTya-Veda to inculcate.  And it is in the midst of this order that the vidûSaka appears at the center of the stage to hold us spellbound by his own laughter. Indeed, seen in this light, what is really striking is not Abhinavagupta’s reticence on the true role of the vidûSaka but, on the contrary, the various hints he has dropped for us—at least for those among us who are prepared to take him wholly seriously—that the vidûSaka’s role is not exhausted by hâsya, i.e., his properly aesthetic and social aspect. He has no hesitation in emphasizing to explain the vidûSaka’s being protected by Omkâra, that he is, along with the hero (nâyaka), the principal male character of the play. Taken together with his casual [440] remarks attributing not hâsya (humor) but the semblance of humor (hâsyâbhâsa) to the vidûSaka, this valorization of his otherwise inexplicable role proves conclusively that only did Abhinavagupta know a great deal more about his role than he ever put into his Abhinavabhâratî but that he deliberately left these clues for the initiated like himself to recognize and follow up systematically.

It will be clear by now that a convincing exposition of the esoteric significations worked into the hâsya function of the vidûSaka will first of all have to reconstitute the total signifying system (the basic principles underlying it, the symbolic techniques it employs, an inventory of its chief motifs and their complex interrelations and substitutions, the historical transformations and distortions it has undergone, etc.) by virtue of which the clusters of signs that fuse to constitute even a single comic intervention of the vidûSaka are able to evoke an entire complex of ideas, practices and doctrines. Though we have already deciphered a great portion of this symbolism and at least enough to confirm beyond any doubt the transgressive function, we have only presented some of these materials in the body of this thesis, and that too only sporadically, wherever the possibility showed itself of demonstrating how they have been exploited for hâsya effects. The reason was not only limitations of space but that, whereas the focus of this thesis is on hâsya (humor and laughter) and hâsyâbhâsa (its semblance) and their mode of superposition, such an undertaking would have lifted us out completely from the domain of hâsya and the Sanskrit drama as an aesthetic spectacle into the vast symbolic universe of Indian religious life. Even the vidûSaka would have to be ruthlessly dissected to compare systematically the individual elements of his symbolism with the same [441] dispersed elsewhere in the tradition, before we reintegrate them—with all their fullness of signification—to resuscitate his comic essence. Even then, since this symbolism is scarcely explained in an overtly systematic manner anywhere, we would have to linger long over these various models to demonstrate conclusively that these individual symbols, which they share with the vidûSaka, indeed do have the precise meaning we attribute to them and are ultimately fragments or facets of a single semiotic system. Though this is impossible within the scope of this thesis it would suffice if we have convinced our readers that the vidûSaka’s hâsya function also vehicles a non-comic symbolic function and provided ample indications that the latter comprises an essential transgressive dimension.

But as a preparation to this larger undertaking we have attacked the vidûSaka’s incongruous speech as a form of “poetic humor” (kâvya-hâsya)  to show that it is indeed teeming with the kind of comic riddle-devices that would have served to transpose complex symbolic equivalences, like those found in the ritual brahmodyas or the Rigvedic hymnology, into the aesthetic setting of the drama. Our analysis of the vîthî in terms of the at first sight arbitrary definitions of its thirteen constituent elements, and in the light of both their comic exploitation by the vidûSaka in the ritual verbal contest of the Three Men’s Talk (trigata) of the theatrical preliminaries (pûrvaranga) and the non-comic mechanisms, moments and modes of the brahmodya, led to the conclusion that:

1)                           the vîthî was originally the comic exposition of enigmas by a single person or a comic wit-combat between two persons fully exploiting a rich variety of riddle-mechanisms;

2)                           these riddle mechanisms of the vîthyangas betray a scheme to facilitate the deliberate transposition of the riddle-contests, with their profound [442] cosmo-ritual motivations, of the brahmodyas onto the aesthetico-literary medium of the drama;

3)                           despite the progressive exploitation for purely literary effects, their original function would have been best retained in the comic vidûSaka with his license to speak incongruously;

4)                           the predominance of hâsya in the vîthyangas is primarily to permit the superposition of the exoteric incongruity and the esoteric coherence of the hidden equivalences that constitute the enigma (cf. esp. gaNDa and asatpralâpa, both characteristic of the vidûSaka);

5)                           their exploitation by the vidûSaka in both the ritual trigata—prolongation of the Vedic “verbal contest” (vivâc)—and the profane play confirms his “ready-wit” (pratibhâ, prescribed by the NâTya-Zâstra) but of a type akin to that of the Rigvedic poet-seers. His “foolishness” (like his comic function) is the secondary elaboration of the exoteric incongruity of his interventions at the purely literary level (which harmonizes with the explanation of the same in terms of his transgressive function);

6)                           as bearer of the kuTilaka presented by Brahmâ (himself the projection of brahman)  and as the protégé of Omkâra, taken together with the monotonous insistence on his brahmin-hood par excellence, the vidûSaka is indeed a comic “caricature” of the brahmán (or purohita) precisely because he is the revelation of the esoteric dimension of the latter as the bearer of the brahmán-enigma.

Taken together with is primary cooperation with the (Indra-) hero (nâyaka) of the play, this implies the vidûSaka’s symbolic identity with the Brahmâ-sûtradhâra of the pûrvaranga-trigata and the latter’s partial identity with the VaruNa-vidûSaka (whose antithesis he reintegrates into the thesis of the Indra-pâripârzvika so as to arrive at an all-comprehending synthesis). The vidûSaka of the play proper, as Brahmâ with an exaggerated VaruNic aspect, would represent that [443] Mitra-VaruNa incarnated by the brahmán-purohitas par excellence like the VasiSThas. For it is by regressing as the (pre-classical) dîkSita, in what amounts to a metaphysical transgression, to the embryogonic chaos (asat) of VaruNa’s realm (VaruNa’s bhrngâra-pot held by the vidûSaka, like the large basket-ears of the Brahmâ-vidûSaka, is clearly a womb-symbol), that the brahmán attains to the totality of cosmic connections constituting the jâta-vidyâ. In this way, the vidûSaka’s kuTilaka would symbolize not only his mastery over the “crooked” speech of the enigma but also signify (among other things) the “perversity” of the transgression (hrdaya-kuTila) that lies at the heart of the enigma.

Abhinava’s contribution to these conclusions is ambiguous, and necessarily so, for the very principle of esotericism excludes the possibility of his dwelling explicitly upon this hidden function of the vîthyangas or their ritual exploitation in the vidûSaka. Yet it is relevant to note the striking discrepancies between his (already slightly aestheticized) interpretations of these formulas and the (highly aestheticized) illustrations he provides of them. He is clearly aware that it is the enigma and its mechanism that holds these formulas together and often provides details of context, motivation, procedure that clarify the manner in which they could have served as transpositions. Yet as a traditional commentator faced with the double task of being faithful to the definitions handed down by Bharata and at the same time registering and legitimizing the current practice of adapting them for purely aesthetic effects (independent of ritual notations), he also often inflects the terms of each definition so as to justify and facilitate this later usage. [444] Only an independent analysis, in terms of the symbolic function, of the vidûSaka’s comic utterances in the plays can reveal the precise extent and varied modes in which these formulas have been exploited to retain his hidden role as the bearer of the bráhman-enigma (in Prakrit!).

But to do this we would have to leave behind the aesthetics and psychology of hâsya to delve into the total symbolic universe in which the vidûSaka participates. In this thesis, we have restricted ourselves to drawing out the implications of Abhinava’s implicit theory of hâsya and to showing how, in the vidûSaka, the structure of hâsya permits it to simultaneously serve and disguise a non-comic symbolic function. This function is centered on ritual transgression from which we have suggested that most of his attributes and behavior can be derived either directly or indirectly. It is the bisociative structure of hâsya that in this way permits the vidûSaka to mediate between these two opposing yet complementary domains of Indian religious life governed respectively by the sacred of interdiction and the sacrality of transgression. It is through as it were unconscious, identificatory pole of the bisociated perception that exoteric vision comes to participate, in spite of itself, in a symbolic universe whose coherence it does not recognize and whose values it is as yet not prepared to accept. In the laughing vidûSaka, an exoteric vision wholly enmeshed in the hierarchical order of the goals of life (puruSârthas), which he entertainingly reinforces by his laughable negative example, is nevertheless forced to submit itself to the claims of an esoteric vision that encompasses it and is all the more effective for the reason that it is carefully hidden.

[Above is the complete original text of the Conclusion]