International Forum for NeoVedantins

Bhava: Spiritual Moods


Our ordinary actions depend upon the manifestation of our normal human consciousness. Thereby, egotism, pride, selfishness, anger, and lust all these are constituents of our consciousness. We naturally believe that 'the external world, technological progress, sense pleasures -eating, mating, sleeping, etc.' are true, and, thus, these become our natural and desirable tendencies.

The world as perceived by our senses is real for us. We try to find nuances and subtleties therein, and label them as art, science, literature, poetry, and so on. The Nobel Prize and such high honors are bestowed upon the persons with refined sensuality. However, most of us fail to agree that higher level of attitude or mood - spiritual attitude or bhava - can prevail.

A careful and sincere study of the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna makes us think otherwise and takes us in the realm of higher truth. In his states of bhava, perceptions beyond the senses used to become reality for him. Renunciation, discrimination, love, compassion, and similar virtues become natural attributes of such a state. Not only various visions of beatitude and God used to become manifest, there developed the capacity to fathom the minds of others with ease and naturalness.

A few examples of bhava in the life of Sri Ramakrishna will help make this point clear.

(1) "It is explicable that the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) could comprehend and know the mental states of men because he had a man's body. But one's surprise is unbounded when one thinks of how the Master could correctly know all the moods of women. ..."

His women devotees used to say, "The Master did not usually seem to us to be a man at all. It seemed to us that he is one of us. That is why we did not feel slightest shyness or hesitation in his presence, as we usually do in presence of men. Even if it came on rare occasions, we forgot it immediately and would express to him our feelings without any hesitation whatever."

(2) "His illumining Self-knowledge and his vision of the Self in all beings, both male and female, kept the minds of all near him at such a high level of spiritual elation that the ideas such as 'I am a man', 'This is a woman' etc., would not usually cross their minds as long as they were with him. That is why, like men, women also felt no shyness in his presence."

(3) "Whenever we looked at the Master, we felt that he was the very embodiment of spiritual moods. We felt that we saw his form because spiritual moods had, as it were, consolidated themselves into that form of his. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the Master's "I" consciousness disappeared totally, and along with it his pulse, heartbeat, etc. also stopped simultaneously."

(4) At the time of practising "Sakhi-bhava (or madhur bhava)" -- attitude of beloved towards God, Master continually meditated on himself as a woman servant of Sri Krishna and became so much identified with that idea that womanly behavior, woman's mode of standing, walking, sitting, talking, etc., became naturally manifested in his body, so much so that Mathuranath and others, his closest companions, on many occasions mistook him for a woman guest!"

(5) Once Sri Ramakrishna desired to look into the microscope. Accordingly a microscope was brought and the slide kept under the lens. Sri Ramakrishna was invited to look the magnified object. Despite repeated efforts and desire, however, Sri Ramakrishna could not look into the microscope, because his mind at that point of time was at a higher level, engrossed as it were in the different spiritual bhava!

It is seen from the examples cited above that in case of Sri Ramakrishna, his attachment to sense objects or organs was lost, and instead new relations were developed - ideas relating to God, freedom, and truth. His mind was moulded by the effect of spiritual practices to reflect different kind of consciousness. "Stay in Bhava", this command from the Mother can be interpreted as dawning of self-knowledge to stay in a state of higher evolved consciousness.

Bhava is also known as prolonged spiritual mood, a contemplative mood. "It is to establish a relationship with God and to keep it bright before our eyes at all times - at the time of eating, drinking, sitting, sleeping."

Bhava is as if a relationship is established with the God, relationship of mother or child, friend or servant, disciple or beloved. Sri Ramakrishna was instructed by Holy Mother to remain in such a mood all throughout his life after his visions of Her. Such a prolonged state is never described in the realm of spiritual history as yet.

It was a unique state from where Sri Ramakrishna could look into the non-dual aspects of the consciousness, or, when desired, he could come down to normal human plane of consciousness.

To conclude the discussion on bhava, let us quote Swami Vivekananda:

"It is not a very difficult matter to bring under control the material powers and to flaunt a miracle, but I do not find a more marvelous miracle than the way Sri Ramakrishna used to handle human minds like lumps of clay, breaking, moulding and remoulding them at ease and filling them with new ideas by a mere touch."

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