RASA or knowledge of the self

Essays on Indian Aesthetics and Selected Sanskrit Studies 

• 2023 • ISBN: 978-1-887276-41-2 • Cool Grove Press •

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René Daumal translated by Louise Landes Levi

René Daumal, best known for his novel Mount Analogue, unfinished at his death in 1944 (other works in English include A Night of Serious Drinking, The Power of the Word andYou’ve Always Been Wrong) was an autodidact, a non-academic Sanskritist. Following youthful hallucinatory experiments with poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte (Black Mirror) and initial instruction in Sanskrit with Réne Guénon, he embarked on a solitary study surpassing his teacher and formulated his own Sanskrit dictionary La Langue Sanskrite: grammaire, poesie, theatre, facsimile edition Ganesha Press, 1985. He was secretary to Uday Shankar, whose troupe presented the aesthetic canons of India, in performance for the first time in the West, in Paris and New York, 1931-1933. Daumal translated essential texts on Sanskrit composition and the first chapter of Bharata Natya Sastra, the world’s first treatise on the Dramatic Arts, ca 4th century. He wrote numerous essays on Sanskrit poetics and their relation to spiritual practice, the first to recognize the value of these texts for the artists and social and cultural dynamics of the 20th century.

What people are saying about RASA

“The Sanskrit studies are Daumal’s most important work.”

—Claudio Rugafiori, in conversation.

Rasa appeared in 1982 and has not left my side for nearly forty years. It remains the only indispensable book in English on the poets of old India, their transformative poetry & their pioneer insights into language. René Daumal was the West’s first heroic student of yoga and the arts, his essays a pinnacle of the 20th century’s avant-garde. We’re lucky to have Louise Landes Levi’s translations back in print.”

—Andrew Schelling, Poet & translator. Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India, Old Tale Road, Some Unquenchable Desire: Sanskrit poems of the Buddhist Hermit Bhartrihari.

Click here for Andrew Schelling’s review of Rasa: Wrathful Guardian: The India Essays of René Daumal

Click here for Kathleen Ferrick Rosenblatt’s review of Rasa in Parabola, winter 1982

“For all practitioners of the sacred arts of India, René Daumal’s Rasa is required reading. Illuminated with insight and inspiration by translator Louise Landes Levi, Rasa is a portal, a pathway to understanding the aesthetic theory underlying all Indian arts. As a musician, singer, poet, and writer, Levi has the unique affinity and experience to bring this work to light.”

—Barbara Framm, dance-master & exponent Bharata Natya & Odissi. 

“It’s good to see this pioneering paradigmatic classic on Sanskrit and Indian culture in print again. Louise Landes Levi deserves a medal!”

—Peter Lamborn Wilson, Temporary Autonomous Zone,
Pirate Utopias, Critique of the Image (editor).

translations are uniquely valuable
transcending ordinary literature.
breathing new life, reaching out,
disseminating …
making the obscure comprehensible! 

first tibetan/ english dictionary
alex. csoma koros 1834

then sanskrit/ english dictionary
monier- williams 1899
then tibetan/ sanskrit/ english dictionary
sarat chandra das 1889

like birds whispering in our ears,
afford the luxury of clarity
to translators.

make the unknown knowable
the subtle … clear …

that’s why dear Louise Landes Levi and Rene Daumal are so important.

—Paul Leake.
Tabla master, scholar and author:
SYMPTOMS OF BLISS:  a book of poems—forthcoming from Cool Grove Press