In his commentary on the Gita, Madhusudana discusses the Four Feelings or bhavanas as cultivated in the yoga of Patanjali, and explains that the practice will first weaken and then destroy the latent drives of Passion in the seed-bed which is at the root of the mind.
Shankara in his commentary explains the word ‘bhavana’ as ‘causing something to be’. As already pointed out, it has also the sense of soaking, permeating. The concept is different from conventional morality, where frustrated instincts still boil under a veneer of control.
Bhavana can and must change the very roots of the mind, and this is possible because in the yogic psychology drives like power and sex are not the essential nature of the human being, but are based on ‘illusory notions’, as the Chapter of the Self commentary says.
Some Western psychology, like the early Chinese philosopher Kao-tsu, tends towards a pessimistic conclusion, because it is thought that truth and virtue are things acquired. Thinkers of this persuasion have argued that drives like hunger, power and sex are fundamental; they may be distorted, even sublimated apparently completely, but at a deep level they are always crying for satisfaction. In the yogic psychology, these things are not fundamental, but superimposed notions of difference on a fundamental divinity which is a unity in everything.
‘He who is constant in all beings, wise, immortal, firm. . . . The seer meditating, seeing everything in the Self, will not be deluded; and whoever sees the Self alone in everything, he is Brahman, glorious in the highest heaven.’
The Gita makes this vision the whole basis of true morality:
He sees who sees the supreme Lord abiding in all beings,
The undying in the dying;
Seeing the same Lord established in all,
He harms not the Self by the Self, and attains the highest.
© Trevor Leggett