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Some notes on the use of the word bhAva - BRS 1.3.1

Jagat - Thu, 16 Sep 2004 19:52:11 +0530

Some notes on the use of the word bhAva,
with reference to Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.3.1, Sri Jiva's commentary.

The use of the word bhAva in various different contexts is frequently confusing to devotees. In BRS 1.3.1, Rupa Goswami defines bhAva when given as the second type of bhakti in the trio of sAdhana-bhakti, bhAva-bhakti, and prema-bhakti. Jiva takes the opportunity in his commentary to tidy up these different usages somewhat.

rucibhiz citta-mAsRNya-
kRd asau bhAva ucyate

“When the pleasure (ruchi) one takes in the course of sAdhana-bhakti causes the devotee’s heart to melt, then it is called bhAva-bhakti. This bhAva-bhakti is a special manifestation of the transcendental nature or zuddha-sattva, and is the first ray of the rising sun of prema.” (BRS 1.3.1)

(1) Jiva Goswami starts his commentary by pointing out that bhakti in general is of two sorts—ceSTA-rUpA (taking the form of external activities) and bhAva-rUpA (on the level of emotion). This latter use of the word bhAva is general and not the specific usage found in the verse.

Nevertheless, Jiva makes it clear that the goal of bhakti is to cultivate the emotional aspect of bhakti, and not simply the external activities. In the opinion of the Vaishnavas, the soul consists of being, consciousness and bliss. Without the full realization of the transcendental spectrum of emotions, one does not realize the fullness of one’s spiritual existence, or Ananda.

(2) Jiva then says: ceSTA-rUpA bhakti is of two kinds: bhAva-bhakteH sAdhana-rUpA (such external activities that are a sadhana helping us to achieve the inner emotional aspect of bhakti), and kArya-rUpA (those external activities that are the result of having already attained the inner emotional aspect). The former are the 64 angas of bhakti, the latter are called anubhAvas (anu = after, bhAva = emotions), which are described later in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. These are, Jiva says, the activities engaged in when one is in the state of tasting rasa (rasAvasthA).

N.B. it said elsewhere that the actions of the successful are the practice the unsuccessful should follow. In other words, imitation is of some value. After all, what is sadhana but a vast system of pretence? We pretend to be something we are not in order to get something we want, or rather in order to become what we are pretending to be. Since those who love Krishna always hear and chant about him, we also hear and chant about Krishna in order to be like them and to feel what they feel.

This is why visualization is an important aspect of bhakti. In order to cultivate the soul—the seat of emotion—we must cultivate not just the external senses, but the mind and intelligence also. But ultimately, we seek a state in which our activities are a consequence of our transformed consciousness, motivated not by force, but by a spontaneous state of love for Krishna.

The point I have been making repeatedly is that the stages of spiritual advancement described by Rupa, beginning with Adau zraddhA are not absolutely discrete stages. One experiences some bhAva even before one reaches zraddhA. The “conversion experience” is essentially an influx of bhAva or, if you prefer, prema. When it is said that Chaitanya “gives” prema, it is like a free sample of the ecstatic experience of love.

This is a somewhat complex idea, but is it not a paradox to say that Chaitanya “gave prema” and yet we have to practice something, or work at sadhana in order to “get prema”? I take it this way: Many shastras state that once the event of “giving prema” has taken place, its full attainment is as inevitable as a piece of wood that falls into the Ganges being swept into the ocean sooner or later. It may run ashore and remain there for a while, but when the rains and floods come, it is once again washed into the current and taken toward the sea.

But the gift of ecstatic experience is not in itself the end of the bhakti process. Bhakti includes both ceSTA and bhAva. The ceSTA is either a sadhana—an attempt to transform the consciousness, or it is the consequence of experiencing God’s love. It is in the very nature of prema that you have to give something back, otherwise it is only a facsimile. Prema is ecstatic, but ecstasy on its own is not prema.

(3) Jiva next discusses bhAva-rUpA bhakti and again divides this into two—sthAyi-bhAva and saJcAri-bhAva. The former is related to the fundamental mood of the individual. One’s personality is tied to and shaped by the way one relates to the world emotionally. The sthAyi-bhAva is the specifics of that personal relationship, while saJcAri-bhAvas are the emotions that come and go within that general attitude.

In the original or “mundane” system of rasa, the eight emotions are love, hate, fear, anger, humor, compassion, heroism and wonder. These are certainly formative of the personality, but Jiva says in his commentary to BRS 2.5.117 that they are secondary because they can be reduced to nothing more than vyabhicAris (= saJcAris). This is certainly one of the most significant changes or adjustments Rupa made to the rasa theory, and therefore must be clearly understood.

When we call love, hate, etc., sthAyi-bhAvas, it means that these are permanent emotions that exist within everyone all the time and can be tapped at any time when in the presence of the vibhAvas. Naturally, different individuals are more dominated by one or the other of these emotional attitudes to the world, but all of us can experience them all.

At the same time, they are all essentially egocentric. Love (zRGgAra) here is not the true altruism of divine love, but erotic desire. Depending on our individual samskaras, we relate to the world in accordance with these emotions, but that relationship is fundamentally seen with ourselves at the center, and the world acting on us.

Rupa takes the element of rasa theory that separates love from the other emotions and subjugates them all to it. In fact, he argues, like Bhoja, that love is the only real rasa, with the difference that Bhoja meant erotic love, whereas Rupa means love as a spiritual attitude of selflessness. He therefore sees it as more nuanced and subdivides it into five fundamental kinds of personal loving relationships—one of detached reverence, one of subordinate reverence combined with service, friendship, protectiveness or nurturing, and erotic love, but one in which the spiritual culture of selflessness is the essential element. In other words, Rupa places selflessness at the center of the emotional experience of love, even though the qualities of the Supreme Person remain its fundamental cause.

So, the primary rasas are the fixed personality as defined in relationship to Krishna, the secondary rasas are the personality as defined more conventionally as the result of various samskaras or formative experiences (either in this or previous lives, i.e. both nature and nurture).

(4) Jiva next subdivides sthAyi-bhAva into two, (1) kroDIkRta-praNayAdi-prema-nAmnI, (2) raty-apara-paryAya-premAGkura-rUpA bhAva-nAmnI ca.

The first of these is that which is further developed through the various stages of prema, starting with praNaya and on through mAna, rAga, anurAga, bhAva and mahA-bhAva. Note that though we usually hear of these various stages in relation to Radha and the gopis, Rupa has identified this hierarchy of sthAyi-bhAvas in all the rasas in each of the chapters of the third division of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu.

This is not the particular place to discuss these details, but basically they are a kind of measuring stick of strength of love and the particular features that accompany these increments in strength. This is perhaps illustrated by the verses from the Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.19.219-234, where the progressive and sequentially inclusive nature of the five rasas is described. A substantive analysis on the basis of the definitions of the five rasas in the third division of BRS needs to be made.

The second kind of sthAyi-bhAva is the one that is being talked about here. It is ”raty-apara-paryAya-premAGkura-rUpA bhAva-nAmnI,” i.e., it is defined as that which otherwise known as rati and is the first sprouting of the other stages of prema listed just above.

So, as a stage in the progression of the devotee toward love, bhAva is the perfected stage in the devotee’s emotional development, the establishment of one’s spiritual personality. In other words, it is self-realization in terms of the bhakti path, which is still somewhat distinct from the attainment of prema in all its mutuality.
Jagat - Sat, 25 Sep 2004 22:37:15 +0530

The word bhAva as the goal of devotional practice is also found in the definition given by Rupa for sAdhana-bhakti (BRS 1.2.2). This fits rather well with the explanation given above, so I am including it here, especially since I have always found the verse something of a riddle, using the same word differently in different contexts. This verse becomes fully clear with the help of the taxonomy given above.

kRti-sAdhyA bhavet sAdhya-
bhAvA sA sAdhanAbhidhA
nitya-siddhasya bhAvasya
prAkaTyaM hRdi sAdhyatA

]UttamA bhakti was defined in BRS 1.1.10 as being the culture of Krishna (kRSNAnuzIlanam) in a favorable way (AnukUlyena), free from the practices of jnana and karma, and without any desire for their goals. This uttamA bhakti is called sAdhana-bhakti when it is carried out by the senses (kRti-sAdhyA) with the object of achieving bhAva (sAdhya-bhAva).

The second part of the verse is a response to a question raised by this word sAdhya-bhAvA. Bhava in relation to Krishna, which includes prema and all its subsequent higher manifestation, is considered nitya-siddha.

Krishna Das’s translation of this verse is a succinct commentary, fully illustrating his own practice of the quality of mita-vAk.

zravaNAdi-kriyA tAra svarUpa-lakSaNa
taTastha-lakSaNa upajAya prema-dhana

The indispensible characteristic of sadhana-bhakti is [external activities like] hearing and chanting. The marginal characteristic is that it brings about prema. (CC 2.22.107)

In other words, one's sadhana may or may not result in prema, but hearing and chanting will necessarily be present in any manifestation of sadhana bhakti.

The second part of the verse is treated in the next CC payar.

nitya-siddha kRSNa-prema, sAdhya kabhu noy
zravaNAdi-zuddha-citte karaye udaya

Krishna prema is nitya siddha (supremely independent, sva-prakAza.) There is nothing that anyone can do to attain it. It appears in the heart that has been made pure by the practices of sadhana-bhakti, like hearing and chanting. (CC 2.22.108) [/indent;">
Srila Prabhupada interprets nitya-siddha here in the following way: “pure love for Krishna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities.” He then says sAdhya kabhu noy means “it is never obtainable from any other source.”

Similarly, in his purport to CC 2.9.177, Srila Prabhupada states that we are all naturally filled with love for Krishna, and that this natural love for Krishna is awakened by cleansing the heart. “Devotional service is always dormant in everyone’s heart, and by the offenseless chanting of the holy names of the Lord, one’s original dormant consicousness of Krishna is awakened.” (Purport to CC 2.19.177)

This, however, does not seem to be what Vishwanath Chakravarti states in MAdhurya-kAdambinI (1.8): “Bhakti is the only cause of bhakti.” As far as I can see, he definitely thinks that bhakti comes from somewhere outside ourselves, namely it descends from the internal potency of the Lord. This is where the controversy about the jiva’s “fall from Goloka” shows its full meaning.

If bhakti is never achievable by any means (sAdhya kabhu nay), this means that there is no mechanical process by which it is inevitably attained. In other words, if bhakti is present in my heart, then by mechanically engaging in bhakti practices, there is some point where the heart will be sufficiently clean for bhakti to appear; the only thing stopping prema’s appearance is impurity.

Here is the way Ananta Dasji explains 2.22.108.

“Bhava is a self manifesting state of svarUpa-zakti. It cannot be attained by devotional practices, but manifests by itself in the heart purified by such devotional practices as sravana and kirtan.”

This is a big element of the whole concept of bhava, which is described as zuddha-sattva-vizeSAtmA in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.3.1) verse under discussion; the point being, as Vishwanath argues, that bhakti is svayaM prakAza. It is completely independent and is not even subject to Krishna’s control. Rather, it is bhakti that controls Krishna.

Here is a rough translation of the commentaries to 1.2.2:

We have seen the general description of uttama bhakti [in the previous chapter, i.e. BRS 1.1]. The activities engaged in by the senses is is considered to be bhakti. The external activities of the senses and mind are considered to be a part of bhakti, just as the preparatory rituals of a sacrifice are taken as an integral part of the sacrifice. [VCT:]Were they something entirely distinct from bhakti, then they would have no power to produce bhakti. [Jiva] The word “sAdhya-bhAvA” is introduced to distinguish these activities of sAdhana bhakti from the anubhAvas, which are the spontaneous expressions of love. The goal is bhAva, which includes both bhAva and prema. In other words, it is not bhAva-siddhA—the emotional aspect of bhakti is not a foregone conclusion. At the same time, it indicates that if one seeks other goals from one’s bhakti practices, it cannot be truly considered sadhana bhakti, i.e., if it is a means to an end other than bhava, it cannot be considered bhakti, at least not “uttamA bhakti.”

Now the question arises, “If bhava can be achieved through some process, then isn't that artificial? If so, how can it be considered the ultimate goal of life?” In response, Rupa says nitya-siddha, which shall be explained (i.e. in 1.3.1) as a special function of a particular aspect of Krishna’s shakti.

In fact, says Vishwanath, the very presence of Krishna-related activities on the senses is also a kind of epiphany, as much as the emotional aspect of devotion. These are comparable to the appearance of Krishna in the house of Vasudeva.

Mukunda points out that this is stated elsewhere in the BRS (1.2.234)—

ataH zrI-kRSNa-nAmAdi
na bhaved grAhyam indriyaiH
sevonmukhe hi jihvAdau
svayam eva sphuraty adaH

[indent=45px]Krishna’s names, form, pastimes, etc., are not accessible to the material senses. It is when our hearts turn to Krishna in a spirit of service (sevonmukhe hi jihvAdau) that Krishna’s name agrees to descend.

In other words, Krishna’s name appears on the tongue that has been spiritualized by intent.

Vishwanath asks the same question as Jiva—“If bhava can be achieved by our own efforts, then it seems artificial. As such, how can it be the supreme goal of human life?” The answer to this is found in the word “nitya-siddha.” The pure devotional mood is present in the hearts of the eternally perfected nitya-siddha devotees as a form of the special function of pure being. It manifests from their hearts out of its own will, so there is no question of artificiality. For if sadhana-bhakti is not artifical, then how can bhava be so?

This is the same answer that he gives in Madhurya-kadambini.


So what is the fundamental difference between bhakti being innate, or bhakti being something external that needs to be imported into the heart? We have been discussing this in the various discussions on shakti. For the advaita-vadins, the soul is innately Brahman. Realization of who one is entails recognizing the identity with Brahman. The Gita, however, tells us that one "who is brahma-bhUtAtmA" can attain "supreme bhakti" (bhaktiM labhate parAm).

Krishna is within us, and yet without. We possess Krishna within us, and yet he is always outside us.

The words sAdhya-bhAvA seem quite significant. Sadhana bhakti is defined not only by the external activities, but by the manner in which they are done. That is called sAsaGga-sAdhana, that is, engaging in devotional activities with the attitude of experiencing bhava.

Bhakti is not karma: I do this and I mechanically get the result. When bhakti is performed with intent, the heart is purified and then bhava manifests like the rays of the sun rising.