bhāva: dormant or absent?

There are two opposing views on where bhāva, the sādhya of sādhanā bhakti1, exists before it manifests in the heart (heart refers to the unconscious mind). One view is that bhāva is dormant in the heart, that is, it has been eternally present. This is the view in some modern sects of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. The other is that bhāva is absent from the heart, and manifests when sādhanā achieves its perfection – a view accepted in traditional Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. Both these views are consistent with Rupa Goswami’s teaching that bhāva manifests- it is not created. But they disagree on the fundamental question of where bhāva is present. Here we examine the first viewpoint of dormant bhāva.

The idea behind dormant bhāva or dormant love can be understood by analogy. Its like digging the earth- eventually we will hit water. The water was already present, and we just discovered it.

sādhanā in this view can then be likened to the process of digging which ultimately manifests water- sādhanā ‘discovers’ the pre-existing bhāva.

Bhāva (or love) has always been inside us, and it is just a matter of bringing it out. This viewpoint then raises the following natural questions (and we have provided typical answers that justify the idea of dormant bhāva).

Question: If we always had bhāva or love for Kṛṣṇa, how did it become dormant ?

Answer: It became dormant when we decided to reject Kṛṣṇa.

This answer contradicts Jiva Goswami’s explanation of our origins in the Sandarbhas, and also the opinion of the four sampradāyas of Indian Vaiṣṇavism whose theology is grounded in Vedānta.

The view in the Vedāntic schools of Indian theology (including advaita vedānta) but also schools of सांख्य (sāṁkhya), पूर्वमिमांसा (purva-mīmāṁsā) and Buddhism is that the ātmā is in the material world eternally.

There was no point in time when the ātmā could have rejected Kṛṣṇa.

The word अनादि (anādi; an = without, ādi = beginning) is used to describe such existence. Kṛṣṇa uses the word to describe the ātmā’s existence in the material world in the Bhagavad Gita (प्रकृतिं पुरुषं चैव विद्धि अनादि उभावपि).

To see this in the Stanford encyclopedia of Indian philosophy, click on purva-mīmāṁsā and Buddhism.  Here is an example from theosopedia on advaita vedanta. Click on this link for the view in the Rāmānuja tradition. Here are Jiva Goswami, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur and Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s writings on the subject.

The anādi concept is so ingrained in Indian theology that it is common knowledge, and shows up all the time in the work of the great Indian poets. For example, Muthuswami Diksitar mentions it in one of his krthis (see page top of page 70 here). And the abhanga Dnyaneshwari mentions it in Marathi: जन्म-मृत्यू हा तो । निसर्ग-स्वभाव । अनादि हे सर्व । स्वयंसिद्ध – birth and death- all this is anādi, i.e. beginningless – this is how nature works.

Anyone who has bhāva can never be overcome by Kṛṣṇa’s माया (māyā, material energy). It is because of Kṛṣṇa’s internal energy that He Himself can never by overcome by māyā. The view that someone with bhāva can be overcome by māyā implies basically that the sādhya or goal of uttamā bhakti is not potent enough to protect the ātmā from Kṛṣṇa’s माया. This also leads to the notion that any of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal devotees can ‘fall’ into the material world – a notion that is प्रतिकुल (pratikula) to bhakti.

More questions come up if bhāva is dormant.  For example,

Question: Where does this bhāva reside inside of us?

Answer: It resides inside the ātmā or ‘soul’.

This answer contradicts Jiva Goswami’s delineation in the Paramātmā Sandarbha of the properties of the ātmā, which is in turn based on Ramanujacharya’s exposition. We will examine these properties in detail in another article. The basic concept is that the ātmā cannot hold any information; it needs the mind to do that. Therefore, bhāva cannot exist inside the ātmā because bhāva or love essentially is emotion – which is a thought with content. This is why Rupa Goswami has defined the location of bhāva (if and when it manifests) as the heart (sub-conscious mind, चित्त).

Bhāva is Kṛṣṇa’s internal energy (अंतरङ्गा शक्ति, antaraṅgā śakti).

The ātmā is the तटस्थ शक्ति (taṭastha śakti) of Kṛṣṇa, which is distinct from His antaraṅgā śakti.

That is the basic idea in making the divisions between antaraṅgā and taṭastha śakti. These two energies have unique functions and have a common master: Kṛṣṇa. The ātmā cannot possess the antaraṅgā śakti inside of itself- only Kṛṣṇa can, because it is Kṛṣṇa’s svarupa śakti, not the ātmā’s.

Bhāva is not an ordinary material energy that can ever lose its power. Bhāva is always active, never dormant. It is ever moving toward Kṛṣṇa, serving Him. Once one has bhāva, one cannot but serve Kṛṣṇa.

If bhāva is already dormant in the heart, then there is no need for the guru to give the disciple the bhakti latā bija. Yet, कृष्णदास कविराज गोस्वामी writes this in the चैतन्य चरितामृत. He is referring there to the bhāva of the nitya siddha devotees- eternally perfect devotees – which is bestowed upon a fortunate disciple.

Bhāva cannot be ‘discovered’. It is a matter of grace and has to be received.

  1. भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु lectures, Bhakti Tirtha II, Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji, Jiva Institute, Vrindavan. 2017-10-16. 

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8 replies »

  1. Thanks for the nice article !!

    I have 2 questions.

    1) what is the problem in saying Bhava is ‘created’ insted of manifested when it is not present in chitta initially.

    2) Chitta is a product of material energy (bhahiranga shakti), how come it is holding Bhava which is antharanga shakti when Athma as tatasta shakti can not hold it.

    Please forgive me it is not clear and make sense.

    • 1) Because it is not created. You could say it is transported to the citta. its like conservation of energy- energy cannot be created and cannot be destroyed.

      2) The atma cannot hold thoughts or store samskaras inside of it. The citta’s purpose is to store samskaras. Bhakti samskaras form in the citta. Bhakti uses the citta, mind and senses to manifest itself to the jiva.

  2. The article tells us:

    Anyone who has bhāva can never be overcome by Kṛṣṇa’s माया (māyā, material energy). It is because of Kṛṣṇa’s internal energy that He Himself can never by [sic] overcome by māyā.

    Perhaps a word or two about yogamāyā would be useful here? Many have been taught that yogamāyā is at the foundation of the variegatedness in the spiritual world, while mahāmāyā is a transformation of that energy and underlies the variegatedness in the material world. However, if these are the same energy, or are the same energy transformed, how is it that one with bhāva can be overcome by yogamāyā but not by mahāmāyā?

  3. In one of the articles about bhava (I can’t find it anymore), you write that prema is attained at the end of life because the material body cannot contain the emotions of prema. Does this mean that the jiva fully achieves/ develops its spiritual body only at the end of life?

    • The spiritual body is only obtained when the body drops, as in the case of Narada muni in the Bhagavata purana (prayujyamāne mayi tāṁ śuddhāṁ bhāgavatīṁ tanum ārabdha-karma-nirvāṇo nyapatat pāñca-bhautikaḥ). What can be attained in the current body is bhāva – an energy of Bhagavan which pervades our minds and senses. The bhāva we get, which is the bhāva of the guru and parampara, will result in a spiritual body when we die.

  4. Thank you for clearing out the misconceptions caused due to modern neo gaudiyas. Jai Sri Radha !!

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