From my experience, the “bhav” – technically “bhava” - is deeply subjective and varies from person to person in its depth and quality. In a Kirtan (call and response chanting experience) there is a very loving and tangible feeling that can be generated, felt as a group and/ or felt individually. You may feel moved to dance, fall into a deep meditation, cry, smile or laugh, or simply feel a range of emotions from peacefulness to ecstatic bliss.
There are some great definitions and discussions about the bhav from Wikipedia to the Bhagavad Gita. But ultimately it comes down to one’s own experience.
The bhav is certainly a feel good and healing experience. It is a deep knowing and tangibly felt sensation in the body. It can also have much deeper, long term experiences AND consequences.
When I was first asked to write about “What is the bhav?”, the authority figure that came to mind is Kirtan wallah, teacher and Sanskrit scholar Shyamdas.
On his second visit here to Atlanta GA, I recall that Shyamdas spoke of the Bhav as a sweetness …an actual experience of sweetness that simply happens. It is alive, it moves, it flows, and it can move YOU.
Move me it did. Here is part of my story and how it moved ME in a life changing way.
My earliest experiences with the bhav and Kirtan concerts began in 2010 with Atlanta’s most visible Kirtan band at the time, Bhakti Messenger. During, and after, a few hours of chanting I would have really happy feelings of love and grace, but also not have the words or reasons WHY I felt the way I did. I just knew this felt good, even though there was no English to the songs. I didn’t understand. It was mysteriously & suddenly ok to feel in love with an entire room of mostly strangers.
By 2011, circumstances moved me in a way that I needed to experience more. I had to take a deeper immersion into the world of Kirtan. A friend suggested that I spend a long weekend enjoying a Kirtan festival and four days of devotional bhakti bliss out west.
So off I went to Joshua Tree California, to Bhakti Fest. It was not all bliss, nor was it meant to be. I really had to find myself. I felt angry and confused shortly after I got there. There were a couple thousand people all around me, yet I felt isolated and disconnected. I had to figure out “WHY did I do THIS???”
Out in this desert environment, I actually left the music area to be in spacious solitude. I knew where I had to go and what I had to do. I walked about a quarter mile across the near barren floor to yell at God about my anger, frustrations, sadness in life, lots of grief, anything else that came up until I was empty of tears & rage… then there was silence.
There. I could FEEL the silence. IT was looking at me, listening to me, hearing me, embracing me, then flowing into me. THAT was when I could actually hear the Kirtan music that was playing in the distance. THAT was when I began to connect with others because I became more present and connected to myself.
It was THIS experience with the bhav that showed me about falling in real love with myself, other people, and life itself. It was the bhav and this Love that prompted me – on my last morning in the desert – to bolt out of my tent just before sunrise. I went running across the desert floor again to find my special spot. The overwhelming feeling was of “Oh my God, if I miss this moment, it will feel like I have missed the departure of my best lifelong friend, and I will never see Her again. I CANNOT MISS THIS!!”
It – the love/ the bhav - was that intense with me.
Upon returning to the southeast, I was on fire with the burning question of “How can I bring that experience to more people here in Atlanta”?
Swaha Productions had its first event in 2012. I began to host some of the bands and musicians that I fell in love with out in Joshua Tree. These artists began to know that Atlanta was in love with them, and the local audiences began to grow.
All of this happened because of the bhav and my own desire to jump in with it. It fulfilled multiple needs within me that were personal, social, spiritual, artistically inspiring, as well as often challenging.
Yet it is the “Bhav”. It is Life. It is Spirit. It is Love seeking and creating more Love. Shyamdas was so right about “the sweetness of this nectar”.