Symbol of the Heart

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Emotion is energy in motion. Emotion is a separate level of experience to logic and intellect. When one expresses an emotion there is no logical support and foundation in it. Emotion is just an explosion of a feeling, a bhava.

The three terms, head, heart and hands, reflect the three qualities of life. Head represents rationality, the logical, intellectual, linear, sequential. 1, 2, 3, 4 and a, b, c, d, that is buddhi, the head. Heart is bhavana, emotion. They are separate. There is distance between them. They are not together. The third quality is action, hands.

Two types of emotion

The heart is a symbolic interpretation of the level of existence where energy is not confined or contained by an external idea or identification, but where energy is raw.

You know that you should not get angry. But when you are angry, where has your logic gone? Where has your understanding gone? You know you should not be jealous, but when you are jealous, where has your logic gone? Where has your understanding gone?

Emotion is another ballgame. There is no logic, no rationality, no understanding, only an expression. This expression of emotion comes in two forms: self-oriented and selfless. These are the only two ways of expressing emotions.

Self-oriented becomes conditional, selfless becomes unconditional. I use self-oriented emotions to satisfy myself. I use the strength of my emotions to bring happiness to myself. Being selfless means I use the strength of my emotions to bring happiness to the life of other people.

Emotions are classified either as self-oriented or selfless. Self-oriented emotions are generally negative, and selfless emotions are generally good. Self-oriented emotions are negative because you are trying to find your own satisfaction at the expense of understanding and wisdom. When you are looking for self-gratification, there is no component of compassion, love, kindness or sympathy in it. There is only desire: I want, I need, this is my right, this is my choice.

When you express an emotion geared to help yourself, it will always be perceived as detrimental, destructive and negative, as inconsiderate, unkind, uncompassionate by other people. If you do a little helping act, for example, a lady’s shawl has blown away, you bring it back and give it to her, then that shows a simple act of kindness and a positive emotion.

Shuddha and ashuddha

There are two ways: One is what you do to bring happiness all around, and the other is what you do to bring happiness only to yourself. This is the difference. When you bring happiness to your environment, that is shuddha bhava, pure emotion; and when you bring strife to your environment, it is ashuddha bhava, impure sentiments.

With the heart, you are using the selfless and the selfish, self-oriented the shuddha and ashuddha emotions. The selfless emotion is shuddha, pure, and provides smooth sailing. The selfish, self-oriented, the impure emotion is the hard one, for you have to work hard to please yourself. You can go to any extent to please yourself, even to the extent of abusing somebody else.

The heart represents the repository of those expressions of life which can go both ways, towards the selfish and the selfless. Whereas the mind is only unidirectional, towards the world of senses and sense objects. The mind is not a multidirectional entity. Even in deepest levels of meditation, the mind will be pulled out to the sensorial world until and unless you attain samadhi.

The main relationship of the mind is with the sensorial world, and the main function of the heart is being the repository of the virtuous and the detrimental emotions, which can either uplift or bring you down to the ground. The heart is referring to the container of the virtue and vice of emotions.

—17 April 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger