Bhavana – Path Towards New Individuals and New Society


The traditional Pali word for meditation is “Bhavana”, which means to make something grow. It has the connotations of cultivation. The Buddha apparently picked up this word by observing the process of farming, by process of cultivation. The process of cultivation or farming is not very polished process, but need a lot of preparation and a lot of hard work. It involves working with the weeds and planting new seeds. But mere planting new seeds is not enough, it needs strenuous efforts to cultivate and nourish what is planted with utmost care. The process is raw, earthy, and too hard.

This is how anything of value is created in the human society. The Buddha had several times used the imagery of farming while teaching meditation “Bhavana” to those who wanted to listen. The Buddha was a great teacher who used people’s own experiences to teach them what is the real freedom and how they can achieve freedom.

The Buddha teaches his disciples to cultivate two important qualities of mind:


  1. The cultivation of mind itself (Citta Bhavana)
  2. The cultivation of Metta (Metta Bhavana)

In reality, these two cultivations are not two different cultivations, but the same sides of the enlightened reality. We can say that they are two ways to arrive at the awareness of the way it is. They merge into one and create a “total” experience.

If we look at these two aspects in the thinking of Babasaheb Ambedkar, they follow the similar strands. For example, for Babasaheb Ambedkar “the cultivation of mind” is the essence of human existence and the democracy as seen as the mettaful society is the goal of the human societies. Babasaheb gives the fresh take on Buddhism through his innumerable writings and speeches.

The mind is the ultimate locus of human experiences. Without mind and its quality of awareness, we cannot experience anything. The perceptual world arises due to mind. We do not know what there is unless mediated by our senses and mind. It is possible to cultivate the awareness and thus change the way we experience the world, more as what it is than what our senses and mind make us experience through its conditioning. The unconditioned mind is difficult to cultivate because the human mind is caught up in views, destructive emotions, and distorted sense of existence. The awareness that we have is restricted and arrested by the “object” that incite us or repel us. This goes on and on, until our mind “fixes” on it and creates fixed “selves” and fixed “world”. This process happens all the time and we as if hold the copies of the experiences in our minds. Therefore the Buddha taught us to cultivate awareness on four levels and the cultivation of this awareness leads to true understanding of “what is around us”.

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Awareness of body

The body is our immediate concrete experience. It is easy to cultivate the awareness of bodily movements.

Awareness of feelings

The feelings arise in us all the time: the pleasant feelings, the unpleasant feelings, and neutral feelings. The feelings have a quality of shaping our world. Our moods can completely distort the reality around us. They act like the great pull of gravitation and gravitate us to experience everything in a distorted way. Therefore, it is important to cultivate awareness of feelings.

Awareness of Mind

The mind is difficult to be cultivated, but once we undergo the training in cultivating the awareness of body and awareness of body, we can begin to become aware of the subtle mind. We can become aware of the various qualities of mind and the mental states. Some mental states are expensive and some are restrictive. Some mental states are constructive and some are destructive. Once we know what is constructive and what is destructive, we have a choice to direct our minds in particular directions.

Awareness of the Dhamma (reality)

The reality is unfolding every time we are experienced in the world, but due to our conditioned mind, it is always distorted. If we tune our mind to the nature of reality of body, feelings, mind and the reality itself, the mind has a quality to abide in itself and that is where we begin to how the “world” is created and how the “world” dissipates, freeing our mind completely and fully.

Of course, it is easier said than done and it is a hard process. But the ultimate realization is that there is no enduring self and nothing to hold on to.

Cultivation of Metta

One begins with cultivating metta towards oneself and extends it to all that is living completely removing any barriers between the self and the others. The line of division between the human beings is completely done away with and the quality of universal metta is cultivated. This mental state has a quality of expanded mind to the extent the human mind becomes saturated with the limitless love without borders and barriers.

If members of the society cultivate these qualities more and more, it will create enlightened individuals and societies. They are difficult practices, but they are only surest ways of reducing suffering in the world. In the scheme of Babasaheb Ambedkar, cultivation of mind and cultivation of metta are the methods to annihilate not only caste, but any barriers!

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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