PR-E-MA comes before RA-SA
In spiritual or devotional literature, especially within the Bhakti tradition, Prema is often used to describe an intense and selfless love for the divine. Prema itself is a broad term encompassing various dimensions and intensities of love.
This type of love is considered the highest form of devotion in many Bhakti texts. However, in specific philosophical or literary contexts, different shades of love might be described.
For example, in the context of classical Indian aesthetics and literature, the term Rasa is used to describe the different emotions and flavours, and love (Prema) is one of them. Within the realm of love, different emotions such as romantic love (Madhura Rasa), compassionate love, and others may be explored.
While the word Rasa (taste) encompasses the entire array of worldly and other-worldly sentiments, in the context of the yoga science aka Swadhyaya (self-study), we gradually and gracefully learn to dedicate each Rasa experience to the divine.
In ancient Vedic, Yogic, and Tantric traditions, various types of love and forms of devotion are described. These traditions recognise and explore the diverse aspects of human experience, including the different dimensions of love. While the categorisation may vary, here are some general types of love and devotion mentioned in these traditions:
It is important to touch base with the reality and as part of the process of Swadhyaya constantly check in if the emotions are channeled outwardly, through the senses, or inwardly – towards the Inner Sanctorium of our body temple. As a rule of thumb, the love that is experienced in the state prior to the onset of Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), is sensual.
In classical Indian literature and philosophy, the term Kama refers to desire, including sensual or romantic love. Within this broad category, various types or classifications of Kama are explored in different texts:
In the process of yogic self-cultivation, the state of Vairagya (detachment) gradually becomes our first nature and Pratyahara is achieved effortlessly when the misleading body-mind-senses association is discarded in favour of the Consciousness.
In the Bhakti tradition, especially as outlined in the Bhagavata Purana and other texts, there is a classification of different types or stages of Bhakti. These stages represent various ways in which individuals can express their devotion and love toward the divine. The specific classification may vary slightly among different traditions, but a commonly referenced set includes the following eight types of Bhakti:
In the Bhakti tradition, practitioners often relate to divinity in various ways, adopting different emotional attitudes or Bhavas (states of being) in their devotional practices. This relationship can be multifaceted, and various roles are often ascribed to the divine, such as that of a parent, lover, friend, or master. Different scriptures and traditions offer guidance on how one can cultivate these relationships through Bhakti. Here are some common ways of cultivating relationship within in the Bhakti tradition:
On the side note, Sanskrit, being a rich and nuanced language, has multiple words that can be translated to convey various dimensions of love and affection:
Let us come back to Rasa. In classical Indian aesthetics, Rasa refers to the essential emotional flavour or sentiment evoked in a work of art or literature. There are traditionally considered to be nine primary Rasas. Each Rasa represents a distinct emotional state or mood:
These nine Rasas collectively form the basis of Indian aesthetics and are fundamental to various forms of classical Indian art, including literature, dance, music, and drama. Each Rasa has its own unique characteristics and can be experienced and appreciated not only in the context of artistic and literary creations, but in the way we relate with our own self and others.
Surprisingly, we have not put PremRasa into the list. The reader might guess that this type of Rasa is the ultimate reason why everything is and everyone are.
Hope this condensed version of deep and vast subject of devotion and love in yoga brings a wave of inspiration, curiosity and lightness into our next day!