How is spiritual emotion distinct from faith?


1. Definition and meaning of ‘bhav (spiritual emotion)’

In our day-to-day life, while carrying out every action, we are always aware of one’s own existence as it is deeply ingrained in us. All events occur or are experienced in relation to this awareness itself. Spiritual emotion is replacement of the ‘I’ in one’s life by the awareness of the existence of God or the Guru with equal intensity. An intense awareness about the existence of God or the Guru in any form, carrying out day-to-day life activities based on this feeling and experiencing life based on this background is referred to as spiritual emotion (bhav) towards God or the Guru. Absolute development of this awareness is the presence of this awareness in all the three states, i.e. waking, dream and deep sleep.

‘A saint lives with His mind (antahkaran) full of The Lord’s love. He feels immense closeness for The Lord. This itself is spiritual emotion. Spiritually evolved people preach that the best method by which an embodied soul (jiva) can realise God is through the development of spiritual emotion for Him. Spiritual emotion for The Lord is beyond verbal expression and all concepts related to spiritual emotion. When spiritual emotion is generated, the embodied soul remains constantly engrossed in The Lord. In the life of a saint, pure humanity (meaning prudent selflessness) and pure divinity (meaning faith in the true self in the absence of desire) coexist beautifully. In fact, the inspiration behind Their humanity arises from Their surrender unto The Lord. Saints never turn away from society due to Their selfless nature. They mix with society so that all may experience Their Bliss and contentment.’(1)

2. Belief, faith, spiritual emotion and devotion

To comprehend the importance of Spirituality and to undertake spiritual practice, first and foremost one requires belief. Belief is generated from verbal information. When spiritual practice is undertaken on the basis of this belief, one obtains spiritual experiences. Only after getting spiritual experiences does one develop faith. As a result, spiritual practice gets augmented. With the augmentation of spiritual practice, one gets spiritual experiences of a higher level. In this way, as faith, spiritual practice and spiritual experiences grow, spiritual emotion develops and finally one gets the spiritual experience of Self-realisation, that is a state of Bliss. ‘Neither are merits protective nor demerits destructive, but only spiritual emotion is the saviour because merits and demerits are merely illusory concepts. (Brahman alone is the Truth, the rest is all the Great Illusion (Maya).’ Illusion has no real existence. Spiritual emotion however is not imaginary but the reality, that is Brahman (God). Spiritual emotion is always of the nature of Brahman. Some equate spiritual emotion with faith but this is incorrect because faith is of three types depending upon the three components (namely sattva predominant, raja predominant and tama predominant) while spiritual emotion is beyond the three components (trigunatit). A disciple exists in the form of spiritual emotion which gradually expands and eventually goes beyond it. The Guru is beyond spiritual emotion. Hence it is said – ‘भावातीतं त्रिगुणरहितं सद्‍गुरुं तं नमामि’ (Meaning : I offer obeisance to the Sadguru who is beyond spiritual emotion and the three components.) – Saint

One can define devotion (bhakti) thus. The one who is not separate (vibhakta) from God is a devotee (bhakta). This is a state of non-duality (advait). Devotion is that energy which eliminates duality. Spiritual emotion (bhav) lies in between faith (shraddha) and devotion (bhakti).

3. Difference between spiritual emotion and emotion

‘Spiritual emotion is a state of the subconscious mind (chitta). Thus spiritual emotion may be said to be a state of concentration of the subconscious mind generated by merger of the quality and the one possessing it. Emotions (bhavana) on the other hand are the attitudes of the mind. Desires and emotions are small and big waves arising in the mind.’ – Saint

Tears are an indicator of both emotion and spiritual emotion. Shedding tears out of grief is emotion while flow of tears upon remembering the Guru or God is spiritual emotion.

4. Components of spiritual emotion (bhav)

Components of
spiritual emotion
Components of
spiritual emotion
1. Prayer 20 5. Bliss 30
2. Gratitude 10 6. Serenity 10
3. Service 10 7. Others 10
4. Spiritual love
10 Total 100

(Divine Knowledge received in the meditative state by Saint)

Of the components of spiritual emotion given above, prayer, gratitude, service and spiritual love (priti) [love without expectation for others] are the components of spiritual practice while the other two components, Bliss and Serenity (Shanti) are its results. Intellect is not a component of spiritual emotion hence spiritual emotion is always innocent. The Bliss that one experiences after awakening of the eight sattvik emotions or the Serenity that one experiences after meditating upon God is because of these components of spiritual emotion. For the sustenance and growth of the last two components, it is necessary that the previous components should be present in the seeker’s attitude. To encompass these components in one’s attitude, as per the norm that ‘attitude changes with a change in behaviour’, one should strive at the level of the mind and intellect. How one should strive in this direction is given below.

5. Importance of spiritual emotion

5.1 Spiritual emotion means presence of God

  • 1. न काष्‍ठे विद्यते देवो न पाषाणे न मृण्‍मये ।
        भावे तु  विद्यते देवो, तस्‍माद्‌भावो हि कारणम्‌ ।।

    Meaning: God does not exist in a wooden, stone or mud idol. He exists in spiritual emotion, that is why spiritual emotion is important.

  • 2. भावीं देव कीं देवीं भाव । दोहींचा उगव करुनी दावा ।।१।।
        भाव थोर कीं देव थोर । दोहींचा निर्धार करुनी दावा ।।२।।
        जंव जंव भाव तंव तंव देव । भाव नाहीं तेथे देवचि वाव ।।३।।
        एकाजनार्दनीं भावेंचि देव । लटिकें म्‍हणाल तरी हृदयी साक्ष पहा हो ।।४।।
                                                                      – एकनाथ महाराज
  •      Implied meaning: Explain to me whether God exists where there is spiritual emotion or if spiritual emotion originates where there is God. Tell me with certainty what is superior, spiritual emotion or God. As long as there is spiritual emotion in a particular form, God exists in that form. The greater the spiritual emotion, greater is the spiritual experience of God. If there is no spiritual emotion, God will cease to manifest. That is precisely why Saint Eknath says with the grace of His Guru Janardanswami that God exists where there is spiritual emotion, rather that spiritual emotion itself is God. If anyone disbelieves this, then he should see what spiritual experience he derives in his mind (antahkaran) in this regard.

    5.2 Spiritual emotion is evidence of God’s unconditional love (priti)

    निष्‍ठावंत भाव भक्‍तांचा स्‍वधर्म । निर्धार हे वर्म चुकों नये ।।१।।
    निष्‍काम निश्‍चळ विठ्ठलीं विश्‍वास । पाहों नये वास आणिकांची ।।२।।
    तुका म्‍हणे ऐसा कोंणें उपेक्षिला । नाहीं ऐकिला ऐसा कोणीं ।।३।।

    Meaning: A devotee’s duty is to harbour wholehearted spiritual emotion towards Lord Viththal. The true secret of devotion is to harbour this spiritual emotion with a firm resolve constantly. Devotees should have firm faith in Lord Viththal without expecting anything in return. They should not wish for the support of anyone else (Lord Viththal should be their sole support). Saint Tukaram says that He has not heard that a devotee who harbours such spiritual emotion has been ignored by The Lord.

    5.3 Results according to the spiritual emotion

    मंत्रे तीर्थे व्‍दिजे देवे दैवज्ञे भेषजे गुरौ ।
    यादृशी भावना यस्‍य सिद्धिर्भवति तादृशी ।।
                       – श्रीगुरुचरित्र, अध्‍याय ९, श्‍लोक ४८

    Meaning: Each one benefits from a mantra, a pilgrimage, a priest (Brahman), deity, astrologer, vaidya (an ayurvedic practitioner) and Guru as per his emotion (spiritual emotion) with respect to them. – Shrigurucharitra, chapter 9, verse 48

    6. Importance of spiritual emotion from the viewpoint of spiritual practice for the sake of society

    Spiritual emotion is just as important for spiritual practice for the sake of society (samashti) as it is for individual (vyashti) spiritual practice. The reasons for this are as follows.

    ‘Spiritual practice according to the influence of time’ is one of the basic tenets of spiritual practice. Repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name is the best spiritual practice in Kaliyug and the spiritual practice of protecting seekers and destroying evildoers (kshatradharma sadhana) is the best for the kaliyug part of the Kaliyug (era). Repeating (chanting) the Name of The Lord is individual spiritual practice while the spiritual practice of protecting seekers and destroying evildoers is that done for the sake of society. Today, because of hooligans, corrupt politicians, traitors of the country and Righteousness (Dharma) and other evildoers, society, the country and Righteousness are deteriorating. The spiritual practice of protecting seekers and destroying evildoers is to eliminate evildoers and then reinstate a Divine kingdom. As per the need of the hour, it is imperative that each one should undertake this spiritual practice. [Importance of the spiritual practice of protecting seekers and destroying evildoers and details on it are given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 1 E – Spiritual Practice of Protecting Seekers and Destroying Evildoers (Kshatradharma Sadhana)’.]

    This spiritual practice consists of a combat on two planes. Fighting evildoers will be at the physical level. However it has merely 1% importance in the entire crusade against evil. The real fight is at the subtle level. Evildoers and seekers are like puppets. The former is controlled by distressing energies while the latter by God. So in the true sense, this is a fight between God and the distressing energies. Since this is a battle between Righteousness and unrighteousness, righteous individuals, that is seekers are naturally troubled by distressing energies. These energies obstruct the spiritual practice of seekers and the mission of propagation of Righteousness. Since seekers repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name and undertake spiritual practice, The Lord comes to their rescue in fighting distressing energies. Seekers receive energy transmitted by The Lord but only partially. When spiritual emotion of seekers and injustice in society reach a peak, all of God’s energy becomes operational. This reiterates how important it is to augment collective spiritual emotion. The Lord will certainly keep up His promise as per His assurance ‘न मे भक्‍त: प्रणश्‍यति’ meaning ‘My devotee shall not be destroyed’. But for that one has to be His devotee. Only the one who has spiritual emotion (bhav) can become His devotee. As per the saying that ‘God exists where there is spiritual emotion’, The Lord rushes to the rescue of only those seekers who have spiritual emotion. The example cited below will illustrate that the assistance that a seeker receives from God is in proportion to his spiritual emotion. Sanstha participates in different activities with the objective of creating awareness about Righteousness in the society. This includes organisation of processions of repetition (chanting) of The Lord’s Name (namdindi) in different places. It has been noticed that in places where seekers had great spiritual emotion, there were fewer obstacles from distressing energies. On the contrary, where seekers lacked spiritual emotion, the distress was more.

    Once when a distressing energy manifested in a seeker, it had a dialogue with a seeker from the ‘Subtle section’. At that time, the distressing energy narrated how important it is that spiritual emotion should be generated among seekers, as given below.

    The distressing energy advising, ‘Increase your spiritual emotion as advised by H.H. Doctor so no one will be able to trouble you’.

    Dhiraj (seeker from the ‘Subtle section’): What else should we do?
    Distressing energy (angrily): Increase (spiritual emotion) what your Baba (H.H. Doctor) has told. He does so much for you all but what do you all do?
    Dhiraj: We make efforts to do likewise. When will you leave her (the afflicted seeker)?
    Distressing energy: I can leave her only if she increases that (spiritual emotion). I will leave her if Baba (H.H. Doctor) comes but will possess her again later. When that (spiritual emotion) in you increases, no one (distressing energy ) will be able to come. You are all alive because of your Baba’s (H.H. Doctor’s) grace. He Himself will augment that (spiritual emotion) in you. Has He not told you to increase that (spiritual emotion)? Then has it increased? No, is it not? Then why should He shoulder your responsibility when you die? I will tell you our plan of action. It is like this – either increase that (spiritual emotion) or die! I am telling you very clearly. It will be like this! Only those who increase that (spiritual emotion) will survive while others will die. The deceased will come to our world.

    (A distressing energy which manifested in a seeker in the ashram (hermitage) gave the above information. – Sadhak)

    Before commencement of the Mahabharat war, Lord Shri Krushna had assured Arjun, “I have already slain the Kauravs; you are but an instrument for the slaying.” In the same way, after The Lord destroys the distressing energies, seekers will have to commence the task of destroying the evildoers on the physical level. The seekers will have to harbour the spiritual emotion that this battle is actually the ritualistic worship (puja) of The Lord. When eliminating evildoers, if a seeker harbours the spiritual emotion that he is offering flowers at the holy feet of The Lord, that is if it is performed with spiritual emotion then the action will become a non-action (akarma karma) and no give and take account will be generated with the evildoer.

    7. Types of spiritual emotion (bhav)

    • Stambha (remaining motionless)
    • Sved (sweating)
    • Romanch (bristling of hair on the body)
    • Vaisvarya (tremulous voice)
    • Kampa (tremor)
    • Vaivarnya (becoming pale)
    • Ashrupat (tears flowing from the eyes)
    • Pralay-cheshta nirodh (fainting)

    Tears flow from the eyes of most seekers when the ritual of moving lit lamps (arti) amidst singing of hymns is performed or when they remember their Guru / God or recollect different incidents pertaining to Them. This can be classified as ashrupat, out of the eight types of spiritual emotion. When all the above eight signs are seen simultaneously, it is said that the eight-fold sattvik spiritual emotion (ashtasattvik bhav) has been aroused.

    8. In whom is spiritual emotion awakened?

    The spiritual level of an average person is 20% while that of a saint who has attained the Final Liberation (Moksha) is 100%. For spiritual practice to occur smoothly only because of spiritual emotion, the spiritual level of the seeker has to be at least 50%. Similarly, to awaken spiritual emotion through spiritual practice, the minimal spiritual level required is 50%. To attain this level, one needs to repeat (chant) The Lord’s Name, remain in holy company (satsang) and render service unto the Absolute Truth (satseva) constantly. (To make a judgement about one’s spiritual level grossly, refer table ‘Spiritual practice according to the spiritual level’ in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 21 – Introduction to Spirituality’.) Even after awakening of spiritual emotion, to maintain it one needs to keep doing one’s spiritual practice.

    9. Obstacles in awakening spiritual emotion

    The three main obstacles in awakening spiritual emotion are ignorance, doership and ego. Ignorance is related to the form and qualities of The Lord and His mode of functioning. Doership pertains to the feeling that different incidents in life occur due to someone else or oneself and not due to God. Ego is the feeling that ‘I am distinct from God’ and it is the greatest obstacle in awakening spiritual emotion. The more the ego, the less are the chances of developing spiritual emotion. Another disadvantage of having high ego is the possibility of being afflicted with distressing energies. It also becomes easier for distressing energies to trouble others and obstruct propagation of Spirituality in society through the medium of a person with high ego. Defects in personality also prove to be an obstacle in awakening spiritual emotion. Sometimes benevolent subtle energies from the nether region (bhuvalok) who help seekers, project thoughts about spiritual emotion or sattvik (sattva predominant) thoughts but they get cannot be imbibed due to excessive defects in personality.

    Once any one of the three obstacles, viz. ignorance, doership and ego gets destroyed in the true sense of the term, the other two can be overcome quite easily. Efforts made to overcome these obstacles stepwise are attempts to awaken spiritual emotion (bhav).

    10. Stages in the efforts made to awaken spiritual emotion

    A. Generation of spiritual emotion : Generation of spiritual emotion in a seeker lacking in it is next to impossible and can occur only with the grace of the Guru.

    B. Awakening spiritual emotion : This is the process of awakening the dormant spiritual emotion within a seeker.

    C. Augmentation of spiritual emotion : These are attempts made to enhance the existing spiritual emotion.


    [1]. Santanche Atmacharitra, Second edition, September 1989; page 7; K.V. Belsare, Tridal Publications, Near Prarthana Samaj, Mumbai 4.


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