Though the word is commonly used in the sense of an idea or a thought, it is frequently employed in a technical sense by several sciences.
In the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school, it is defined as a special quality of the mind, a saṁskāra or past impression, born out of experience and giving rise to memory.
In the Pūrvamīmāṁsā school it denotes the mental activity of the person who intends to get some work done or do it himself. For instance, when Yajñadatta asks Devadatta, ‘Bring the cow,’ the mental activity of Yajñadatta that induces Devadatta to bring the cow is called ‘bhāvanā’ and is expressed through the words uttered by him. Hence it is called ‘śābdī-bhāvanā’ or bhāvanā related to ‘śabda’ or word. The mental activity that arises in devadatta on hearing those words is also a ‘bhāvanā;’ but it is called ‘ārthībhāvanā’ since this bhāvanā or mental activity is related to ‘artha’ or utility.
Since the Vedas (the karmakāṇḍa part that prescribes rituals) are ‘apauruṣeya’ or impersonal, the śābdībhāvanā is inherent in their words of command.
The purāṇas use the word in the sense of a deep-rooted mental impression based on which one sees the world or works in it. For instance sages like Sanaka or Sanandana who were endowed with brahmajñāna or knowledge of Brahman saw the world with ‘brahma-bhāvanā,’ or that it is Brahman itself. Ordinary gods and human beings endowed with ‘karma-bhāvanā’ saw it as fit for action. Extraordi-nary deities like the Hiraṇyagarbha who had ‘brahma-karma-bhāvanā,’ saw it as Brahman but also fit for discharging the duties (karma = action, duties) allotted to them.
In Āyurveda the word ‘bhāvanā’ stands for the process of dissolving some powders of medical qualities in appropriate solvents to prepare the medicine.