Explaining Bhava Samadhi
There is the belief that bhava is something that can be, and therefore should be controlled. The argument goes that there may be a few cases of genuine trance, but for most people, it is an emotional excess or an attempt to seek attention. People supposedly in trance behave inappropriately and create disturbances. Spiritual practice should control the emotions, not exaggerate them.
Heightened moods of ecstasy are a part of the bhakti tradition, the path of devotion. A rational, intellectual explanation is that the experience is self-induced. People work themselves into such states through music or dancing or group pressure or simply their longing and desire for the experience. But at best, such moods are only a beginner’s stage in spiritual development, one that needs to be overcome and discarded quickly.
Then there is the explanation that bhava, or at least true bhava, is something only the great saints experience. It is the culmination of long spiritual practice and discipline.
These conventional explanations of bhava — a beginner’s own excessive emotion or the extraordinary attainment of great souls — marginalize trance for ordinary people, whether they directly experience trance or indirectly feel the blessings.
“Higher souls induce it. Trance helps in physical, mental and spiritual progress.”
“During the bhajans, when you get astral bodies and bhava, Swamiji has astral bodies in them.”
“If you read the Tapas Shakti book, you will understand what is bhava samadhi. Instead, you can come here [Bangalore] on a Sunday. Then you can see people in bhava samadhi and you will understand what it is.”
The conventional explanations that trance is an act, a beginner’s emotional state, or an extraordinary spiritual state reserved for the advanced, are difficult to reconcile with how many of Swamiji’s devotees experience trance, and how often and how deeply.
From what witnesses have told me, it is not true that in the early years it was mostly good but in the later years it was mostly misused so Swamiji discouraged it. That generalization is too simplistic. I collected many examples of devotees misusing bhava for selfish purposes in the early years, even during the early years in Adivarapupeta, 1961 to 1963. In the late years, 1988 to 1991, Swamiji encouraged devotees in the U.S. and U.K. to play bhajans well because he wanted to evoke trance in the West.
From what some devotees told me, after Swamiji shifted his Bangalore ashram from Bannerghatta Road to the present site, the intensity of the bhava diminished. Swamiji told one man that it was because the devotees’ devotion had diminished. Even so, to this day one can witness the phenomena on many people in Bangalore. In Adivarapupeta, they told me that the intensity of the bhava became stronger after Swamiji entered mahasamadhi.
Most significantly, people who never knew Swamiji in his own body are getting bhava today.