By Swami Harshananda
Madhurabhava literally means ‘the sweet attitude’.
There is an innate hankering in every soul to enjoy infinite bliss. Though all the four yogas recognize this, it is the Bhakti- yoga that gives us a more practical mode of sādhana or spiritual discipline to attain this.
It is easier for a human being who is strongly encased in the body-mind complex and hence terribly attached to it. It helps to contemplate on God with a form, a name and a personality of his own. The scriptures including the Upaniṣads describe God, not only as Sat (the eternal) but also as Ananda (infinite bliss). He is also ‘Sundara’, beautiful, as per the descriptions in the Visnusahasranāma which is a part of the Mahābhārata. Hence he is the fittest person to be loved.
Bhaktiyoga teaches several modes of loving God out of which madhurabhāva or madhurabhakti is also the one. It is the love that makes the devotee look upon God as one’s beloved and long for union with him. It is this kind of love that the gopīs of Vṛndāvana of mythology or Āṇḍāl (circa 8th century CE), Akka Mahādevī (CE 1166) and Mīrā (CE1450-1547) of the historical period practiced in their lives, loving God as their husband or beloved.
Madhurabhāva concedes that sensual love is a perverted form of divine love. If it is directed towards God, it can transmute kāma (lust) into prema (divine love).
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore