What is a “genuine spiritual emotion”? It means different things to different people…
“Spiritual” vs. “Mental” Emotion
Emotions occur in the mind, and are observed and experienced by consciousness. Since emotions occur in the mind, not the soul, perhaps they cannot be “spiritual”?
The mind, however, is not entirely distinct from the soul. The mind and body are actually extensions of consciousness. Without consciousness, they cease to function, they disintegrate. They cannot exist without consciousness, and consciousness also cannot manifest its existence without them. Even in Vaikuṇṭha, consciousness manifests itself via a mind and body. The only difference is that Vaikuṇṭha consciousness experiences full satisfaction from its mind and body and therefore has no impetus to change them. Thus the mind and body in Vaikuṇṭha are permanently related to the consciousness which manifests them.
In our realm and even in Vaikuṇṭha, emotions occur in the mind. But this doesn’t mean that emotions “not spiritual,” because the mind is but a tool and extension of the spirit. In this sense, any sincere emotion can be “genuinely spiritual.”
“Spiritual” vs. “Egotistical” Emotion
Another definition of spiritual is, “pertaining to spirit.” These emotions arise as a result of our relationship to our own consciousness and to the super-consciousness Śrī Krishna. Those who experience these emotions are called yogis or (particularly in relation to Krishna) bhaktas.
There are two basic classes of bhaktas: sādhakas – who practice, and siddhas – who are perfect. Both of them can have genuine emotions for Krishna, but the sādhakas have these emotions by way of emulation (“kṛti-sādhya” in Rūpa Goswāmī’s terms). Thus even a sādhaka experiences some semblance of bhakti-rasa, which includes some semblance of its five emotional components: sthāyi (relationship), vi (excitant), anu (expression), sattvik (reflex), and vyabhicāri (feelings). They often share these cultivated expereiences through their art, music (kīrtan), dance, drama, poetry and prose.
The emulated emotions and expressions of a sādhaka, however, cannot compare to the natural emotions and expressions of a siddha-bhakta: True bhakti-rasa can only be experienced and expressed by those with true sthāyi-bhāva, the nitya-siddha prema-bhaktas, but even the reflections and emulations of bhakti-rasa are very powerful: they can fulfill all desires, grant all liberations, and propel one into siddha-bhakti.
What, then, is a “genuine spiritual emotion”? It means different things to different people. To a common person, it means sincerely heartfelt emotions. For a bhakti-sādhaka it is sincere cultivation of Krishna-centric emotions. For a siddha-bhakta it is bhakti-rāsa, the ultimate treasure.
Vraja Kishor das