What is Sadhana, Seva and Bhava?

The Two Wheels Of Bhakti - Sadhana And Seva

How Sadhana and Seva affect Bhakti?

Seva is an aspect of Bhakti. Bhakti is synonymous with Seva and vice-versa. However, there is one more component that holds Bhakti and Seva together. It is sadhana. This Sadhana has nothing to do with the typical Ashtanga Yoga sadhana or the spiritual rigor undergone by Vedantins. This Sadhana and Seva are the two wheels that pull the Bhakti vehicle. If any of its wheels get punctured, the Bhakti Vehicle shall dissolve. What shall remain may not be called Bhakti, in the first place. It can only qualify as an imitation of Bhakti that harbors within it the poison of matter and materialistic intentions

What is Bhava Sadhana?

Sadhana that is required in Bhakti is “Bhava Sadhana”(भाव साधना). Bhava Sadhana is the fuel for Bhakti, as well as one of its wheels that keeps Bhakti in balance. Bhava, simply translated into English is emotion.

We all know that Sanskrit terms cannot be represented even to an extent of 20% in the English language. English is a language of dominance and not one that conveys much spiritual value through the words that it offers. However, with limited aid that English language can offers. I shall still try to convey the mood of what I intend to say.

What is Bhava?

“Bhava” means mood or emotions that is of a superior kind. These emotions are not the material ones that we know of. For example we have love for our parents, we may have emotions for them. But that cannot be compared to “Bhava”. When we have Bhava, there is no expectation. A man of Truth has a superior type of emotion. He may be moved by something which ordinary people may not understand as to why he is emotional. It may not be experienced by most men. This is Bhava, the emotion of a superior kind.

Bhava occurs when the heart is pure and represents ideals that are dear to Dharma or the Lord. Bhava may loosely be used by people to represent simple mundane emotions such as feeling for parents etc. But this cannot qualify as Bhava.

Bhava is supra-mundane. It only gets emoted through the “deep squeezing” of the heart, something that shakes the entire persona of an individual. Bhava can occur when somebody is undergoing a total transformation within one’s individuality. It can also happen when someone is “losing” one’s sense of individuality to a higher domain. This is the nature of Bhava. The devotional service that follows such Bhava is called “bhava bhakti”. One may again simply call it “Bhakti”.

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Feelings of Bhava Bhakti

When there is utter transparency in one’s character, when one has no lower aspirations and only desires for the Lord, Bhava emerges through the heart.

There is an overflowing of the heart where emotions have the tendency to super-charge one with other-worldly sense and energy. When devotional service is rendered even to a mortal that too becomes Bhakti. When your heart is fixed on ideals that enhance such Bhakti, everything that perform becomes Bhava Bhakti. Any apparent worldly activity that you may perform, can also represent devotional service of the highest order.

How does Bhava occur?

Bhava cannot occur out of the blue. One has to first get committed to higher ideals and work towards it. One should keep an eye on the superior goals of transcendence, graduating to the higher spiritual domains. There should be none non-expectancy from the world and dedication to Truth. This is sadhana.

The continuous effort to follow Dharma, practices so as to align with Truth is the basis of Sadhana. One should deeply accept the teachings of the Lord in thought word and deed. This is the first wheel of Bhakti. One has to be extremely vigilant as one adheres to the rules as well as commits to Truth, the Lord.

As one practices Bhakti through sadhana, one has to be so one-pointed that one should never compromise with the principles, in such a way that one learns through these principles and develops love for Truth. One should develop deep attraction for the Lord and his teachings. If this is not happening, there can be two reasons.

1) One is either not ready for the jump

2) One is being hypocritical in adopting the principles of Bhakti.

What is Seva?

If the Lord is not seen in every small undertaking, the wheel of sadhana has missed its track. As Bhakti blossoms, the energy to undertake the Lord’s activities also increases. One shall then take up activities which supports one’s Bhakti as well as sadhana. When Bhakti and Sadhana are unshakeable, Seva or activities supportive of Bhakti increase. Character is refreshed with purity and truth, which reflects in every activity that the Bhakta does for the Lord’s sake. When Seva appears in life, Seva and Sadhana go hand in hand.

When Sadhana finally fuses with every aspect of one’s being, Seva remains. The individual lives and works only for the Lord with no concern for one’s security or upkeep. This is Para Seva or Para Bhakti (परासेवा पराभक्ति) or Other-Worldly service or Service of the Supreme.

When Seva stops working?

Many times the two wheels of Seva and Sadhana are not in balance. Some devotees, under the influence of other so-called devotees, take up sadhana. But their sadhana is half-baked and immature. This is because they act out of the whims of the mind and under the influence of emotional haste. Such devotees are more in count, in the world today. They have neither developed love for Truth nor have they become resolute in sadhana.

Their commitment is skin deep. It’s like ripening a pre-mature mango with lots of chemicals instead of letting it ripen naturally. These half-ripened devotees have not developed the power within themselves since their consciousness is still impure. It is convoluted with dogma and unnecessary philosophy of scriptures.

As a result the ego bloats up and rises its hood when the circumstances are apt.  It is to be understood that scriptures are guidelines for testing out one’s realizations developed by commitment towards Truth. Instead, these days, devotees have mugged up pages from scriptures without an iota of “practical realization”.

If these half-baked devotees take up Seva, can it be called Seva? It shall be nothing but corrupt practices masquerading in the form of authentic practices. One has to be clear about the methodology, mood and intention of Bhakti and its two wheels, Sadhana and Seva.

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