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Bhava Appears Strange and Disturbing

Bhava samadhi, Bangalore, August 1993A major objection to bhava is that it looks strange, too strange to be real, and definitely too strange to be spiritual.

When several Western devotees were in Bangalore for the 1993 tapas anniversary function, I remember Azul commenting that the meditation hall during bhajans looked like a scene from Night of the Living Dead.  (For those who haven’t seen the film, it was a very popular, low-budget horror film about zombies.)  I had to laugh because it was true.  It did look strange.

People in trance clearly were in worlds of their own.  (As if ordinary people aren’t?)  True, the scene did not comport with proper English behavior or good church-going solemnity.  But who says that God has English manners?  The trance devotees were in bliss.  The reality was that they made the rest of us smile inside and we shared in that bliss.  At least, those of us who allowed ourselves to get beyond strange appearances shared in the bliss.

Bhava samadhi, Bangalore, August 1993There are many ways to experience a heightened awareness of the spirit and the path of devotion is only one of them.  Some prefer meditation, others worship, and some love music and dance.

Many are not drawn to lively spiritual music or movement, although I am constantly surprised how much serious meditators experience deeper meditation during bhajans and bhava.

Some people prefer the stillness and silence of meditation.  Others want to avoid bhava samadhi because such behavior would repel Westerners.  Spiritual song should be soothing.  Many people prefer that.

Bhava SamadhiSwamiji instructed devotees that if some person in trance was disturbing the others, particularly during the meditation, they should politely be asked to stop.  If they continued, they should be asked to go outside, and if they didn’t, they were to be gently, but firmly, made to go outside.  But if they were simply dancing or even obviously acting, Swamiji wasn’t troubled in the least.

For me and others I know, bhava is part of the Shiva that we loved in Shivabalayogi.  Shiva is a disturbance.  He destroys our egos, conventions and preconceptions so that we are open to self-inquiry and devotion.

But some people prefer not to be touched.

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