This is Part Three of a series.
Part One can be found at http://www.hindustudentscouncil.org/2020/04/13/nature-of-happiness/.
Part Two can be found at http://www.hindustudentscouncil.org/2020/05/03/nature-of-happiness-part-2/.
All glories to Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj
It was the middle of August. A new semester fast approached which meant it was time to go to temple to ask God for good grades. I was a young teenager at the time and thought I was cool, so I told amma going to temple was lame and a waste of time. Amma simply smiled softly and took off her chappal.
My spanking paled in comparison to what I saw when we got to temple. As I was putting on my shoes to head to the cafeteria for lunch, I heard a cracking sound and a scream. Outside the cafeteria entrance, there was a black mom spanking her son with her sandal. I was taken aback. Not by the beating. I’ve seen those before. This was the first time I saw a non-Indian at temple.
As an arrogant kid with no respect for boundaries, I followed them to the cafeteria and sat next to the aunty. I bluntly asked her, “Were you born Hindu?” Aunty replied, “No. I was raised as a Christian before I became a Hindu.” I asked, “What made you become a Hindu?” She smiled and said, “You always see Jesus as white or God as an old white dude. You guys are the only ones who have God being black.” I looked over at a moorti of Venkateshwara Swami and said, “That’s dope aunty.”
I remained in awe as I Ieft the cafeteria. I did learn one thing, however. It does not matter if she is black, brown, white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or violet; you must always be weary of amma’s chappal.
If you told me non-Indian people coming to Hindu events was a norm a decade ago, I would call you mental. Over the years, I talked to some non-Indians why they were practicing Hindus. In my experience, they all had their own reasons, but one came up consistently. Freedom. We have the freedom to interact with God in whatever way we want.
A bhav is like an attitude or relationship with God. Jagadguru explains there are different bhavs when doing bhakti, or devotion. There is santa bhav, dasya bhav, sakhya bhav, vatsalya bhav, and madhurya bhav. Each one has less restrictions than the one before.
Santa bhav is worshipping God as a monarch. You are a subject in His kingdom. This is like worshipping Shiva. You can admire Him from afar, but you are not close with Him. This type of relationship is very formal.
Dasya bhav is worshipping God as a master, and you are the servant. The best example is the way Hanuman worshipped Prabhu Sri Ram. This type of relationship has less restriction than being a normal subject. The servant can enter the King’s chamber and clean the bedroom, or cook for Him, or wash His clothes, etc. However, some restrictions exist. You can’t just kick your feet up and sit back with your master and watch a movie.
Sakya bhav is worshipping God as a friend. No formalities exist here. The relationship between Krishna and the Gwalbals, or his friends, when he was a young boy demonstrates sakya bhav. You can play games with God, tease Him, fight with Him, etc. You are considered equals.
Vatsalya bhav is worshipping God like your child. This is like Yashoda taking care of baby Krishna. You can feed Him, sing to Him, play with Him, put Him to sleep, etc. In this relationship, there are even less formalities and restrictions. It does not matter if you are a king or queen, your mother still has a chappal, and she doesn’t care about your status.
Madhurya bhav is worshipping God as your beloved. The simplest way to understand this example is like a husband and wife relationship, but that example fails to represent the essence of madhurya bhav. Jagadguru explains madhurya bhav is when you consider God’s happiness before your own.
The Gopis personify madhurya bhav. The Gopis chased Krishna into the woods. They eventually chased him to an area where there were thorns on the ground. They knew if they kept chasing, Krishna would keep running deeper into the woods. Instead of pursuing their beloved, they stopped because they did not want little Krishna’s feet to be pricked with the thorns. Even though they wanted nothing more than to be with Krishna, they sacrificed their happiness for Krishna’s. Their happiness took root in Krishna’s happiness.
Each higher bhav encompasses the previous bhavs. When you are a servant, you are also a subject to the King. If you are friend, you are also a subject and serve the kingdom by performing your physical duties. If you are a parent, you can be a friend to your child, you can serve the child by feeding Him, and you are a subject in the kingdom. If you are the wife to the King, you can take care of the King when He falls ill as a parent would take care of a sick child, you can be His friend, you can serve Him by cooking His favorite food, and you are still a subject.
The same amount of happiness is received regardless of the bhav; all forms of God give unlimited bliss. If this is true, what is it meant by a higher and lower bhav? Sweetness. Think of it like this. God is food, and we are starving beggars. Just as there are different forms of God, there are different types of food. Whether you eat bland rice, delicious dosas, or sweet mango lassi, your hunger is satiated. The difference between them is the ras, or the flavor and sweetness. You have full freedom to choose the food you want to eat to satisfy your hunger.
Can you imagine? When you meditate, you and all-powerful God can play basketball together, watch a movie, play pranks on each other, etc. Hindu philosophy understands our relationship with God is incredibly personal. You and your friend can see God in two different ways, and both be right. Santan Dharm’s ability to accept and respect apparent dichotomies shows a high sense of spiritual maturity and tolerance unparalleled by other systems.
After understanding some basic principles of devotion, I see why more and more westerns practice Hindu Dharma without coerced conversion. Everyone wants Happiness. Happiness doesn’t have to be this almighty power which looks down on us. Santan Dharm allows complete freedom for the individual; we can attain Happiness in the way we want and in whatever form we are most comfortable with.
Jai Sri Radhe