Difference between spiritual emotion and emotion

In the article ‘What is spiritual emotion?’ we have explained spiritual emotion. In this article we will explain the difference between our normal emotions and spiritual emotion.

1. What are emotions?

All of us have experienced emotions (bhāvanā) in ourselves and in others. Emotions are feelings related to our worldly life. They are basically the attitudes of the conscious mind. Our emotions give us happiness or unhappiness, and they are related to our little ‘i’. Hence in a state of emotion, we identify even more with our 5 senses, mind and intellect. It follows that being highly emotional makes us further entrenched in our worldly existence and increases our awareness about our own existence. That is why being emotional in nature takes us that much away from God.

The soul

2. What is spiritual emotion?

On the other hand, spiritual emotion (bhāv) is a state of communion with God. It is related to the sub-conscious mind (chitta). When one’s spiritual emotion is awakened, for that time one transcends one’s usual state of identification with a worldly existence. The awareness of one’s own existence also reduces. Thus in a state of spiritual emotion one transcends the little ‘i’ and identifies with the big ‘I’. Spiritual emotion gives us a spiritual experience of Bliss (Ānand). Bliss is a state of superlative happiness, however it is beyond happiness and unhappiness.

3. How to differentiate spiritual emotion from worldly emotion?

In the case of a highly emotional person, many a times emotion is mistaken for spiritual emotion, especially when it appears in a spiritual setting. For example this can happen when a person is in the throes of emotion in a place of worship, or when in the presence of a spiritual master (Guru) whom he may have psychological attachment to. Whether what one is experiencing is emotion or spiritual emotion can be confirmed only through the medium of active sixth sense or extrasensory perception (ESP). However, at an intellectual level we can verify to some extent whether what we are experiencing is just emotion or a spiritual experience by checking the following criteria:

  • Reduction in Ego or ‘i’ness: In a state of spiritual emotion there is a marked reduction in our ego. Hence we can check for our ego manifestations as an aid to decide whether we are experiencing normal emotion or spiritual emotion. For example we can check whether we feel ego about the state of spiritual emotion itself while we are going through the experience. However if the spiritual emotion is not sustained, ego can rise at a later date.
  • Reduction in body consciousness: During a state of spiritual emotion, as one identifies to varying degrees with the big ‘I’, one loses body consciousness to that extent. Hence when one’s spiritual emotion is awakened and becomes manifest in the form of any of the eightfold manifestations like tears of Bliss, etc., one does not feel self-conscious. This is so even when one is shy or reserved and spiritual emotion is awakened in the presence of many strangers.

    An SSRF seeker, a senior employee in an international bank, remembered his Guru and experienced spiritual emotion when walking on the street. Tears started rolling down his cheeks but he was oblivious to them, so lost was he in his state of spiritual emotion.

  • Experience of love without expectations: Spiritual emotion is basically a state of experiencing God within ourselves and in others. Also, in this state our awareness about ourselves is low. Hence in this state one experiences love without expectations (prīti) for others.
  • Cool tears: If the manifestation of our spiritual emotion is in the form of tears, they are cool. On the other hand, tears resulting from normal emotion are warm to the touch.
  • Type of crying: Crying resulting from emotion, especially of grief can be of the sobbing kind. Crying following spiritual emotion is of the silent variety.
  • Feeling after the state: Again, as spiritual emotion is a state of communion with God, even after coming out of that state, one experiences vestiges of the identification with the big ‘I’. This can be experienced in the form of reduction in small-mindedness, more stability, increase in spiritual maturity, better intellectual conviction about spiritual practice and God-realisation, etc.
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