What are the Five Bhavas?

by Melissa West on

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Five Bhavas?

Bhakti yoga is a yoga of the Hindu tradition that offers a total surrender and faith to God and develops our capacity to love. It is said when realization is reached on this path of devotion that you will love all and hate none. It is not about generating love for personal gain. Bhakti is said to be the easiest way to reach the Divine. I would agree with that statement and I will explain why that has been true in my own experience in a little bit.

As with any teaching, there is no right or wrong or better, best. There is only the way that resonates with you the most and allows you to awaken to express your own Highest Self for the benefit of all beings in the world. That will be unique for each one of us.

In the previous video I spoke about how my practice of the yoga of devotion has changed over the last five years as I have become a student of Tibetan Buddhism and taken refuge in the lineage of Dharma Ocean.

In this video I am going to talk a little bit about the Five Bhavas. The bhavas are a form of bhakti yoga and are a way of expressing love. They are the kind of mood or feeling, the different kinds of attitudes that the devotee may express to the Divine.

In 2012 I created a series of short 30 minute videos for our members centered around each of the five bhavas. Each video contained hatha yoga and concluded with a mudra with mantra chanting.

The way I used to experience the five bhavas was similar to the way I experienced bhakti yoga. It was in a totally external way. It was something to be delivered outwards rather than offered at the feet of the Divine within. In other words, it was something somebody else was able to demonstrate for another somebody else.

Since the summer of 2016 I have been studying in the lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. A lot has shifted in my experience of the divine and devotion since 2012. Now, I believe I am worthy of those attitudes of devotion. I believe the Divine within me is a worthy recipient. I also believe I have everything in me to be able to offer them into the world. I can and should just as lavishly offer them to myself as their natural expression will flow through me into the world when I have laid them at my own feet.

So what are the five bhavas?

Shanta Bhava

Shanta Bhava is attitude of peace. I used to use the example of Ghandi living an example of peace in his life. I still think it is a good idea to reflect in your own life for heroes and people who inspire you to live in peace.

Now I think of peace as something that I can offer my highest Self. I may sit quietly in meditation. I might make sure to have less screen time, time in nature, time to let my mind float, time in quiet.

What does an attitude of peace mean to you?

In July of 2019 our members are going to spend the entire month focusing on the bhavas and cultivating one of the bhavas or all five as they feel inspired, using the classes for guidance.

Dasya Bhava

This is to take the attitude of a servant. Again, following the past example of Hanuman being a servant to Ram. I do think it is a good idea to find examples outside of us to inspire us.

At this time, dasya bhava for me this is about surrendering my life, my wishful thinking, my ideas, thoughts and beliefs about how things should be. This is about taking refuge in life as it is. It is about letting go of my ambition and agenda and laying myself bare at the feet of the Divine within.

What does it mean for you to be a servant to your Higher Self?

Sakhya Bhava

With Sakhya Bhava one cultivates reverence towards God as an attitude of friendship. Here I used to turn towards Arjuna and Krishna as the archetypes. Krishna may have been the God, but he was Arjuna’’s most intimate friend. I used to see this as cultivating an attitude of friendship with the Divine.

To me this is one of bhavas that has shifted most for me. It is about cultivating friendliness towards myself. It is about sleeping when I am tired, not overworking myself, feeding myself when I am hungry. Treating myself with kindness. It is about talking to myself kindly. It is about being my own best friend and also being as kind and friendly as I can with others. It is about being in right relationship with myself and others.

Vatsalya Bhava

This was another Bhava where I feel I used to have some distance from its expression and understanding. This is an attitude of maternal love. I used to find its expression in Durga as mother. I’m not sure why now. It was external and it was at arms length.

Now I would see the attitude of maternal love much more related to the earth element and the spleen and stomach meridians. As a way to receive nourishment, care, love and support. For me, it has been a way to mother myself and in turn to offer that maternal love outwards as well.

Madhurya Bhava

The final Bhava, Madhurya Bhava is the attitude of a love where God is viewed as a sweetheart or a Lover. This is said to be the most intimate and highest form of devotion. Here Radha and Krishna are the archetypes. The relationship of Radha and Krishna is the embodiment of love, passion and devotion. Radha’s passion for Krishna symbolizes the soul’s intense longing and willingness for the ultimate unification with God. Shri Krishna is the soul of Radha and Radha is definitely the soul of Shri Krishna. She is the undivided form of Shri Krishna. With Madhurya Bhava one cultivates the attitude of a lover.

I would say this is the bhava that I still have the most distance from and room for development and connection with. I still feel distanced from this bhava and I can see how having the archetypes in stories can be helpful to connect with the attitude and feeling. I feel like many fictional stories and movies help us to connect with the attitude of romantic love.

These are the five bhavas that we will return to through the short 30 minute hatha yoga classes, mantras, mudras and teachings in July of 2019.

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