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Bhava Culture

by Swami Sivananda

Bhava is a Sanskrit term; there is no proper equivalent in English. It means mental attitude or mental disposition. Bhava is internal feeling. There are three kinds of Bhavas, viz., Sattvic Bhava, Rajasic Bhava and Tamasic Bhava according to the nature of the quality that predominates in man. Sattvic Bhava is divine Bhava. It is Suddha Bhava. Just as thought or memory or will can be cultivated or developed by practice, so also, Bhava can be developed. An evil Bhava can be transmuted into a good Bhava. The Bhava of friendliness or enmity is a mental creation. The enemy or friend is not outside. It is the feeling or imagination from within. An intimate friend of long standing becomes a deadly enemy within a second. One hot or harsh word changes the situation completely within the twinkling of an eye. When there is friendly Bhava, Mr. Smith expects and imagines that his friend Mr. Nicholas will serve him when he is sick, that he will have a good loving company in Mr. Nicholas, that his friend Mr. Nicholas will speak loving words, that he can get a loan of money from Mr. Nicholas when he is in distress, and that Mr. Nicholas will show a loving face and receive him with hospitality when he visits his house. These are the feelings of men when friendly Bhava reigns in their minds. When they lose their friendship, Mr. Smith entertains different kinds of feelings towards Mr. Nicholas. He has no confidence in his old friend and colleague. He is afraid of him. He turns his face when he meets his friend. He speaks ill of him. He thinks that Mr. Nicholas will injure him. The whole position is so radically changed. The Bhava has so completely changed now.

Vedanta says: "Man is identical with Brahman (Existence-Absolute) when he gets rid of his ignorance." A human being erroneously identifies himself with his body and wrongly imagines that he is a little Jiva with little power and little knowledge. This is his present Bhava. This is human Bhava. This should be changed into Brahma Bhava by changing the angle of vision and mode of thinking. Think you are Brahman. Think you are pure and all-pervading intelligence, light and consciousness. Think you are immortal. Think you are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Think you are Sakshi. Entertain Sakshi Bhava and Akarta Bhava: "I am the witness. I am not the doer. I am not the enjoyer." By this practice you can destroy the idea of agency and of enjoyer, and free yourself from the bondage of Karmas, and attain the state of Brahman or the highest bliss, knowledge and immortality. Vedanta also adds: "See and feel Brahman everywhere and ignore the names and forms." It teaches you to develop Atma Bhava or Brahma Bhava by Vichara and right thinking and meditation.

When an idea exclusively occupies the mind, a mental state or Bhava corresponding to the nature of the idea comes in. Think of your enemy for sometime, an inimical Bhava will manifest. Think of mercy or universal love; Prema Bhava or Karuna Bhava will manifest. Think of universal service; Seva Bhava will come in. Think of Lord Krishna and His Lilas at Brindavan; Krishna-Prema Bhava will manifest. Feeling always accompanies thinking. You cannot separate thinking from feeling. They are like fire and heat.

You should be ever watching the mental states through careful and vigilant introspection, and should not allow any negative and undesirable Bhava to manifest. You must immediately change the evil Bhava by thinking of the opposite Bhava. Positive overpowers the negative. A Sattvic Bhava is a valuable spiritual asset for you. You must always try to get established in Brahma Bhava through Sattvic Bhava. The struggle will be keen in the beginning. There will be internal warfare between the Asurika and the divine Bhavas. The former will try its level best to re-enter the mental factory. In the long run, through constant practice, Sattvic Bhava will carry the day. Food has a direct bearing upon Bhava. Sattvic food easily brings in Sattvic Bhava. Put yourself on an exclusive diet of milk and fruits only for a fortnight and study the nature of your mind and Bhava. You will have a wonderful calm mind with Sattvic Bhava. When there is this Sattvic Bhava, the mind naturally moves towards God, and meditation comes by itself without the least possible effort on your part.

When the devotee thinks that he is a servant of the Lord, he entertains Dasya Bhava. When he thinks that the Lord is his friend like the immortal Arjuna, he entertains Sakhya Bhava. When he thinks that the Lord is his son, he develops Vatsalya Bhava. When he thinks that the Lord is his husband like Sufis or Rup-kalaji of Ayodhya, he develops Madhurya Bhava or Kanta Bhava. He feels that the Lord is present everywhere-Sarvam Vasudevamiti-and develops Tanmaya Bhava.

A devotee always thinks that God does everything and that he is an instrument in the hands of God. He thinks that he is only Nimitta; this is his Bhava. By entertaining this Bhava, he gives up the idea of agency and enjoyment and thus frees himself from the bonds of Karma. He rests in perfect, unalloyed peace by developing this Bhava. He says when anything happens, whether desirable or undesirable, "God is everything. God does everything for my own good. God is just. Thy Will be done. All is Thine. I am Thine, my Lord." By the practice of this Bhava, he is always happy, under all circumstances and conditions of life.

The Bhavas of a Bhakta and a Vedantin differ. The Vedantin entertains Sakshi and Akarta Bhavas. The Bhakta entertains Nimitta Bhava. The Vedantin develops Brahma Bhava. The Bhakta develops Dasya Bhava. The Vedantin identifies himself with Brahman. The Bhakta entertains the Bhava of duality. He worships and adores. Eventually, through Para Bhakti, the Bhakta also gets Jnana and attains the same state which a Jnani attains. The modes of Sadhana and the Bhavas differ in them in the beginning. They meet on the same platform ultimately.

A rich man and a Pandit have the Bhava of arrogance and superiority. A real Sannyasin has the Bhava of equality and oneness, and the Bhava of love. Bhava differs in different persons, according to nature and quality. In worldly parlance, the relationship of father and son, husband and wife, master and servant, friend and friend, brother and sister, etc., is meant to develop the various degrees of Prema and to extend this Prema to God by purifying the lower emotion into higher sublime divine emotion. That is the aim and object. The lower human Bhava is transmuted into higher divine Bhava. Worldly relationship and Bhava is preliminary training for the development of divine Bhava. Do not forget this point.

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