The elements of bhakti rasa

Here we revisit the definition of bhakti rasa and explanations of the terms vibhāva, anubhāva, vyabhicārī and sāttvika bhāvas, but this time as given by Sri Rupa Goswami in the Bhakti rasamṛta Sindhu.

Definition of bhakti rasa

Sri Rupa Goswami defines bhakti rasa (2.1.5) as follows:

vibhāvair anubhāvaiḥ ca sāttvikair vyabhicāribhiḥ |svādyatvaṁ hṛdi bhaktānām ānītā śravaṇādibhiḥ |eṣā kṛṣṇa-ratiḥ sthāyi-bhāvo bhakti-raso bhavet| 

Through the processes of hearing and so on, when the sthayi-bhava or rati for Kṛṣṇa mixes with vibhāva, anubhāva, sāttvika bhāva and vyabhicāri bhāva and produces an extraordinary taste in the heart of devotees, it is called bhakti rasa.

sthāyi-bhāva or permanent mood

Sri Rupa defines sthāyi-bhāva as follows:

aviruddhān viruddhāṁś ca bhāvān yo vaśatāṁ nayan |su-rājeva virājeta sa sthāyi bhāva ucyate|

Controlling the opposite and conducive bhāvas, that which rules over them like a king is called sthāyi bhāva.

There are five types of primary sthāyi-bhāvas: śuddha, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya.

There are also seven secondary bhāvas or ratis that can transiently function in place of the sthāyi. These are hāsya (laughter), śoka (grief), krodha (anger), utsāha (enthusiasm), bhaya (fear), jugupsā (disgust) and vismaya (astonishment). Although they are actually a type of vyabhicāri bhāva, Sri Rupa includes them as secondary ratis out of deference to Bharat muni.

vibhāva or excitant

vibhāvas excite or agitate the sthāyi-bhāva. Sri Rupa explains that vibhāva is of two types, ālambana or foundation and uddipana or stimulant.

Kṛṣṇa is the ālambana vibhāva in the context of bhakti. Sri Rupa extensively describes Kṛṣṇa’s specific qualities in the context of his acting as the foundation or support that excites a devotee’s sthāyi-bhāva. For example, Kṛṣṇa’s blackish beautiful form playing the flute, wearing a peacock feather, and a forest flower garland, can excite the sthāyi-bhāva of mādhurya in a devotee and elevate it to a state of rasa.

Uddipana refers to a stimulus. A devotee’s sthāyi-bhāva may become agitated upon seeing something that reminds them of Kṛṣṇa such as a peacock feather or a flute recital. Sri Rupa discusses these different uddipanas also in some detail in Bhakti rasamṛta Sindhu.

anubhāva or external effect

The result of agitation of the sthāyi-bhāva by the vibhāva is both internal and external. The external effect is called anubhāva. Sri Rupa explains anubhāvas (2.2.1) as follows:

anubhāvās tu citta-stha-bhāvānām avabodhakāḥ|
te bahir vikriyā prāyāḥ proktā udbhāsvarākhyayā||

anubhāvas, also called udbhāsvaras or brilliant manifestations, are generally external transformations that reveal the bhāvas in the citta.

Examples of anubhāvās are dancing, singing, shouting, laughing, rolling on the ground and so on. A famous example of an anubhāvā is the rolling on the ground of Akrura as he entered Vrindavan.

sāttvika bhāva or internal effect

Sri Rupa explains sāttvika bhāvas as follows:

kṛṣṇa-sambandhibhiḥ sākṣāt kiñcid vā vyavadhānataḥ|bhāvaiś cittam ihākrāntaṁ sattvam ity ucyate budhaiḥ|sattvād asmāt samutpannā ye ye bhāvās te tu sāttvikāḥ.

The citta, which is possessed by the bhāvas in relation with Kṛṣṇa ( by the five primary sthāyi-bhāvas of dāsya, sakhya, and so on) directly and indirectly ( by the secondary seven bhāvas like karuṇa etc.) is called sattva. The bhāvas that arise from this sattva alone are called sāttvika bhāvas.

sāttvika bhāvas are internal effects which cause visible symptoms in the body that include perspiring, becoming stunned, changes in complexion, uncontrolled shaking of the body etc.

vyabhicāri bhāvas

We have already examined the definition of vyabhicāri bhāvas before. These bhāvas are thirty-three in number, and include, for example, envy, disgust, anxiety, joy, indignation, bashfulness and so on. These bhāvas are transitory.

There are 41 emotional states

A devotee has one predominant sthāyi-bhāva, and can experience one of the seven secondary ratis. Add to this, the thirty three vyabhicāri bhāvas, and we get a total of 41 emotional states. In the spiritual world, all actions and emotions arise from the sthāyi-bhāva, and this continuously submerges the devotees in an ocean of bliss.

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3 replies »

  1. This presentation is a bit confusing. Please notice the subhead “There are 41 emotional states.” A devotee can experience the seven secondary ratis and 33 vyabhicāri bhāvas, plus a sthāyi-bhāva… so for any given devotee there are indeed 41 emotional states as presented. However, there are at least 44 emotional states when we consider that the devotee experiencing the 40 secondary and tertiary emotional states may have one of four sthāyi-bhāvas (assuming that neutrality doesn’t experience those 40). Additionally, in that regard, are the vyabhicāri bhāvas really identical across the different sthāyi-bhāvas? Surely the impatience felt in maternal affection is qualitatively different from the impatience felt in servanthood, though maternal impatience is unavailable to the servant mood, just as servant impatience is not within the maternal mood.


    • Sri Rupa Goswami writes that there are actually 49 states : 41 + 8 sattvika bhavas (ch. f. 2.5.74). A devotee cannot have 4 sthayi bhavas. Any given devotee only has one sthayi bhava. Anyway counting is just for our understanding.


      • Thanks! The ambiguity is with the words “There are” in the subhead, but one can of course organize the material in various ways, as Rupa and Jiva (and in his own way Bharat Muni) have each done. I appreciate your presentation!


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