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Qualification For Raganuga Bhakti
DOES ONE NEED TO BE A ‘PURE DEVOTEE”
TO START RAGANUGA PRACTISE?
raganuga bhakti means allegiance to the eternally perfect ragatmika-devotees of Vraja. Such is the teaching of Srila Rupa Gosvami in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.271):
virajantim abhivyaktam vrajavasi janadishu
ragatmikam anusrita ya sa raganugocyate
Before we speak of ragatmika bhakti and raganuga bhakti we must first know what is raga. Raga is that deep natural loving thirst which causes us to become completely absorbed in our beloved deity:
ishte svarasiki ragah paramavishtata bhavet
tanmayi ya bhaved bhaktih satra ragatmikodita
(Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.272)
Srila Jiva Gosvami has defined raga and raganuga as follows:
tatra vishayiah svabhaviko vishaya samsargecchatisayamayah prema raga yatha cakshuradinam saundaryadau tadrisa evatra bhaktasya sri bhagavatyapi raga ityucyate………….yasya purvokte raga-viseshe rucir eva jatasti na tu raga-visesha eva svayam tasya tadrisa raga-sudhakara karabhasa samullasita hridaya sphatika-maneh sastradi srutasu tadrisya ragatmikaya bhakteh paripatishvapi rucir jayate. tatas tadiyam ragam rucyanugacchanti sa raganuga tasyaiva pravartate (Bhakti Sandarbha 310).
“Raga means the strong and natural desire of a sense-enjoyer for his beloved sense-objects. The senses, like the eyes, are naturally attracted to their objects, such as beautiful forms, and they need no encouragement in this. In the same way, when a devotee’s heart is naturally attracted to the Lord and he has a deep thirst for the Lord then this is called raga. When a mere ray of the nectar-moon of such raga falls on the crystal-like hearts of those devotees who only have some taste for a particular raga but do not possess that raga itself yet, then the heart rejoices and as a result of hearing from the scriptures and saints taste will awaken within the heart of such a devotee for the devotional expertise of a ragatmika bhakta. This means that ruci (taste) will awaken within the heart when we hear about the loving devotional expertise of a ragatmika vraja-bhakta from the scriptures or from the mouth of a saint whose heart is pure, that is, free from lust, anger and envy. The devotion which follows the raga of a ragatmika Vraja-devotee along with ruci is called raganuga bhakti”.
Both the vidhi-devotee and the raga-devotee may therefore begin, simultaneously, with the path of devotion, from the stage of anartha nivritti, cessation of unwanted habits, progressing through the stages that have been described by Srila Qualification for raganuga bhakti
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Rupa Gosvami in his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.4.15-16 (adau sraddha tatha sadhu sango’tha bhajana kriya). The difference between them lies not in personal purity, but in their mood. In other words, raganuga bhakti runs parallel with vaidhi bhakti, and not only sequentially. Srila Rupa Gosvami writes in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.291):
ragatmikaika nishtha ye vrajavasi janadayah
tesham bhavaptaye lubdho bhaved atradhikaravan
“Those who are anxious (‘greedy’) to attain the mood of the eternal, exclusively fixed-up Ragatmika Vrajavasis, are eligible to enter into Raganuga Bhakti.” The raga devotee is under the divine illusion that Krishna is equal or inferior to him, following in the footsteps of the inhabitants of Vraja (vrajalokanusaratah, Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu), whose attitude of intimate, spontaneous love, free from awe and reverence, is described in the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavata.
raganuga bhakti is not only for perfected souls beyond the stage of anartha nivritti
It is not a fact that raganuga bhakti comes after the stage of sadhana bhakti (devotion in practise). First of all, what is sadhana bhakti? Srila Rupa Gosvami says in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.2: kriti-sadhya bhavet sadhya bhava sa sadhanabdhidha – “That goal of bhava bhakti is to be attained through practise with the senses (kriti). This is called sadhana.“ Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.5 then declares: vaidhi raganuga ceti sa dvidha sadhanabhidha – “There are two kinds of sadhana — vaidhi and raganuga” Nowhere it is said that raganuga bhakti is a post graduate state of vaidhi bhakti. C.C. Madhya 22,108 confirms this—
ei sadhana bhakti dui to prakara; eka vaidhi bhakti—raganuga bhakti ara:
“There are two kinds of devotion in practise. One is called vaidhi bhakti and the other raganuga bhakti.” Different acaryas that follow Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati claim that raganuga bhakti commences at the stage of nishtha, ruci or even bhava, but there is not a word of evidence for that in the authorised scriptures on the topic, like Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu or its commentaries, Bhakti Sandarbha, Madhurya Kadambini or Raga Vartma Candrika. Caitanya Caritamrita (Adi 4, 231-232, 235-237) declares:
e sob siddhanta gudh – kohite na juway; na kohile keho anta nahi pay
ataeva kohi kichu koriya nigudh; bujhibe rasik bhakta na bujhibe mudh
abhakta ushtrera ithe na hoy pravesh; tabe cite hoy mora ananda visesh
ye lagi kohite bhoy, se yadi na jane; iha boi kiba such ache tribhuvane
ataeva bhaktagane kore namaskara; nihsanke kohiye tar hauk camatkara
“All these topics are confidential and shouldn’t be discussed, but if they were not discussed then no one would be able to find out about them. Hence I will disclose some confidential matters now, which will be understood by rasika devotees, but not Qualification for raganuga bhakti
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by the fools…..If the camel-like non-devotees cannot grasp such topics then I will be in ecstasy. What greater joy could there be in the three worlds if they, for whom I fear to speak out, will not know of this? Therefore I offer my respects to the devotees and speak out fearlessly. Let the devotees be astonished about what I am about to disclose!” Srimad Bhagavata (10.33.36) declares:
anugrahaya bhutanam manusham deham asthitah;
bhajate tadrisih krida yah srutva tat-paro bhavet
“Sri Krishna performed the Rasa-lila out of compassion for all conditioned souls and anyone who hears of this becomes His devotee.”
Sri Jiva Gosvami comments in his Vaishnava Toshani-comment on this verse:
ataeva tadrisa bhakta prasangena tadrisih sarva cittakarshiih krida bhajate, yah sadharanair api srutva bhaktebhyo’nyo’pi janas tatparo bhavet. kim uta rasa lila rupam imam srutvetyarthah vakshyate ca—vikriditam vrajavadhubhir idam ca vishnoh (S.B. 10.33.39) ityadi. yad va manusham deham asritah sarvo’pi jivas tatparo bhavet martyaloke sri bhagavad avatarat tatha bhajane mukhyatvacca manushyanam eva sukhena tac chravanadi siddheh.
“Krishna performs this all-attractive pastime for His devotees, but even ordinary people are attracted to this game by hearing about it. Even they thus become exclusively devoted to the Lord. This will be further explained in verse 10.33.39. The words manusham deham asritah also indicate that the jivas that attained a human form are able to hear of this pastime and thus become devotees. The Lord descends on the human planets and it is here that the worship of the Lord assumes its most important form. Hence human beings can blissfully attain perfection by hearing of this pastime.” Srimad Bhagavata 10.33.39 declares that the senses do not become sexually agitated by hearing or reading of the Rasa-lila, but rather that they become freed from lust.
vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca vishnoh
sraddhanvitam nu’srinuyed atha varnayed yah
bhaktim param bhagavatim pratilabhya kamam
hrid rogam asv apahinoty acirena dhiram
“Anyone who faithfully hears and describes the pastimes of Lord Vishnu (Krishna) with the ladies of Vraja (the gopis) will attain supreme devotion to God and will soon become free from the heart’s disease of lust.”
Sri Jiva Gosvami comments as follows on this verse:
sraddhaya visvasenanvita iti. tad viparitavajna rupaparadha……bhaktim prema lakshanam param sri gopika premanusaritvat sarvottama jatiyam. pratikshaam nutanatvena labdha hrid roga rupam kamam iti bhagavad vishayah kama visesho vyavacchinnah tasya parama prema rupatvena tad vaiparityat……anyatra sruyate (sri gita 18.54) brahma bhuta prasannatma na socati na kankshati samah sarveshu bhuteshu mad bhaktim labhate param. ityatra tu hrid rogapahanat purvam eva parama bhakti praptih tasmat parama balavad evedam sadhanam iti bhavah Qualification for raganuga bhakti
4 October 27, 2013
“sraddhanvita means hearing with faith. This word is used to avoid the offence of disbelieving or disregarding the scriptures — that is contrary to the principles of hearing and chanting……The highest devotion is that of the gopis and hearing and chanting of their devotion is so powerful that this supreme devotion appears in the heart even before the heart’s disease of lust is chased out of it……This despite verse 18.54 of the Gita, that shows an opposite sequence. This shows that hearing and chanting of the Rasa-lila is the most powerful sadhana in existence.”
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti, in his commentary on the same verse, condemns those who do not believe this statement of the Bhagavata, that prema comes before the cessation of lust, as nastikas, or atheists, and murkhas, or fools— dhirah pandita iti hrid roge satyapi katham prema bhaved ityanastikya lakshanena murkhatvena rahita…The word yah is very significant. It means anyone who hears and describes this with faith. First the lamp (of pure love) is kindled, and then the darkness (of lust and ignorance) is destroyed. raganuga bhakti, devotion following one’s sacred passion, is therefore not necessarily only meant for the most advanced, purified souls. The distinction between practitioners of vidhi bhakti (compulsory devotion) and raga bhakti (passionate devotion) is made because of their mood and attitude, not because of their possible different levels of purity. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu pointed out to Vyenkata Bhatta (in Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 9) that the goddess of fortune performed many purifying austerities to attain the position of the gopis, but that she could still not attain it because she lacked their sweet intimate attitude towards Him.
ei lagi sukha bhoga chadi ciro-kala;
vrata niyam kori tapa korilo apara
“Just to associate with Krishna, Lakshmi gave up all sense enjoyment for long and performed severe austerities, following many regulative principles” (C.C. Madhya 9, 113) rasa na pailo lakshmi, sastre iha suni — “Lakshmi did not attain the Rasa dance, I have heard from the revealed scriptures” (C.C. Madhya 9, 120)
vrajendra nandana boli’ tare jane vrajajana;
aisvarya jnane nahi kon sambandha manana
vraja-lokera bhave yei koroye bhajan;
sei jana paya vraje vrajendra nandana
“The people of Vraja know Him as the son of Vrajendra, and they consider that there can be no relationship with Him in awe and reverence. Those who worship Krishna in the mood of the people of Vraja, will attain that Vrajendra-nandana in Vraja.” (C.C Madhya 9,130-131)
Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada writes in chapter 1 of Madhurya Kadambini:
bhaktes tu ‘vikriditam vrajavadhubhih’ ityadau— bhaktim param bhagavati pratilabhya kamam hrid rogam asvapahinotyacirena dhirah (bhag. 10.33.39) ityatra ‘ktva’ pratyayena hrid rogavatyevadhikarini paramaya api tasyah prathamam eva pravesas tatas tayaiva parama svatantraya kamadinam apagamas ca. tesham kadacit Qualification for raganuga bhakti
5 October 27, 2013
sattve’pi ‘api cet suduracaro bhajate mam’ iti ‘badhyamano’pi mad bhakta’ ityadibhis ca tadvatam na kvapi sastreshu ninda leso’pi.
“Although lust is also considered a fault on the path of bhakti, one can still enter the devotional path, despite being still afflicted by lust and other material desires. Srimad-Bhagavata (10.33.39) says:
“A person who faithfully hears or describes the Lord’s pastimes of rasa-lila with the gopis of Vraja attains supreme devotion of the Lord. He quickly becomes steady and conquers over the senses, giving up lust, the disease of the heart.”
In this text “after attaining supreme devotion” is an unfinished act, showing that bhakti can be attained even though one has lusty desires. This shows the most independent nature and power of bhakti to destroy lusty desires. Sometimes lusty desires exist even while practicing devotion. From verses like, “If the most sinful person worships Me exclusively…” (Gita 9.30) and “Though my devotee is afflicted by lusty desires…” (S.B. 11.14.18) it is clear that though lusty desires may exist in a devotee, still he is not condemned even slightly.”
There is no guarantee that someone who practises vaidhi bhakti is automatically promoted to raganuga bhakti, rather Srila Rupa Gosvami says in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.309): krishna tad bhakta karunya matra labhaika hetuka “Only by the grace of Krishna and His devotees this path of raganuga bhakti is attained.” Srila Rupa Gosvami says in Padyavali:
krishna bhakti rasa bhavita matih kriyatam yadi kuto’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam janma koti sukritair na labhyate
“No ten million lifetimes of following regulative principles will give you taste for Krishna-bhakti. The only price is greed! Purchase it as soon as it is available anywhere!” It is on sale where the rasika bhaktas speak about Radha-Krishna. In connection with the above sloka, to use the saying “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread” is an offence to Sri Rupa Gosvami’s followers, calling them fools. This ‘fools rush in’ is a mundane saying which applies to mundane impulsive people and their actions. Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada teaches in Raga Vartma Candrika (1.5): napi lobhaniya vastu praptau svasya yogyayogyatva vicarah ko’py udbhavati: “No candidate ever considers whether he is qualified for this path of raganuga bhakti or not”. 1
1 HAVING SAID ALL THIS, My Guru Sadhu Baba, Krishnadas Madrasi Baba, Rohinindranath Mitra and Madanmohan Das Babaji, all great souls, told me, independently from each other, it is better not to read rasa sastra when one is too lusty. I understood that is because when one is an emotionally and physically active lover one will identify with the lila of Radha-Krishna and that is an offence called ahangropasana, meditating on oneself as the deity. Srila Jiva Gosvami says in Bhakti Sandarbha (276) that smarana (even just of the holy name, let alone Radha-Krishna’s intimate lila) requires a pure heart – nama smaranam tu suddhantah-karanatam apekshate. Sri Jiva Gosvami has also written (Bhakti Sandarbha 275): atha saranapattyadibhih suddhantah karanas cet….nama sankirtanaparityagena smaranam kuryat “When the mind is purified by the process of surrender, one should practise the devotional item of recollection without giving up nama sankirtana.” kintu rahasya-lila tu paurusha-vikaravad indriyaih……nopasya “But the intimate pastimes should not be meditated upon by (those Qualification for raganuga bhakti
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whose) senses are affected by masculine transformations.” (Bhakti Sandarbha 338) When one is less heated one can read these books, and the topic will work as a medicine, as has been promised by the Bhagavata in the final verse of the Rasa lila-narration (10.33.39). There are subtle desires, called vasana, cherished by people who actually control their outer senses. That can be there, OK, and one can still read rasa sastra, but to be grossly active in sex and read rasa sastra, is not something approved by the mahatmas I knew. Srila Jiva Gosvami said in Gopala Campu (purva 23.1): tad etad govinda vraja vijana kantanuvacanam dadhadbhir yogyasya sravasi paramapyam na sadasi ‘This confidential Rasa-lila topic is to be heard by qualified people who carry Govinda in their hearts, not in a public assembly.”
So who IS then unqualified to hear it?
This is also explained by Srila Jiva Gosvami in his commentary on Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhuh (3.5.2), which deals with madhura rasa: (nivrittanupayogitvad duruhatvad ayam rasah) – nivritteshu prakrita sringara rasa samya drishtya sri bhagavatad apyasmad virakteshvanupayogitvad ayogyatvat “Because of lack of qualification of those who are without taste for this rasa related to the Lord, caused by their equating it with material love.”
In other words, mistaking this rasa to be an ordinary mundane affair disqualifies one from entering into raganuga bhajana.
One cannot learn vidhi bhakti from the guru and then just learn raganuga bhakti from books, because your guru did not teach you raganuga bhakti. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami says: asambhashya tad bhava gambhira cittan kuto syama sindho rasasyavagahah “How can one enter into the Syama-ocean without having conversed with a devotee whose heart is steeped in love for Radha?” Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti writes in his Raga Vartma Candrika (1.6).
sa ca bhagavat kripa hetuko’nuragi bhakta kripa hetukasceti dvividhah. tatra bhakta kripa hetuko dvividhah praktana adhunikasca. praktanah paurvabhavika tadrisa bhakta kripotthah adhunikah etajjanmavadhi tadrisa bhakta kripotthah. adye sati lobhanantaram tadrisa guru caranasrayanam. dvitiye guru caranasrayanantaram lobha pravrittir bhavati.
“There are two causes for the appearance of sacred greed: The mercy of God or the mercy of an anuragi devotee. There are again two kinds of mercy bestowed by a devotee: praktana and adhunika. praktana means mercy bestowed by a raganuga bhakta in a previous life, and adhunika is mercy bestowed in the present birth. The praktana-devotee takes shelter of the lotus feet of a raganuga guru after the sacred greed has arisen in him, the adhunika will get that sacred greed after surrendering to the feet of such a guru.”
Srila Rupa Gosvami gives the following definition of pure devotion in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.1.17)
klesaghni subhada moksha laghutakrit sudurllabha
sandrananda viseshatma sri krishnakarshini ca sa Qualification for raganuga bhakti
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“1. It destroys all grief and suffering, meaning sins, including the cause of sin, 2. it bestows auspiciousness, 3. it lightens the importance of liberation, 4. it is rare 5. it is deeply blissful and 6. it attracts Sri Krishna.”
In his commentary, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti spells out: tatra sadhana bhaktih klesaghiti subhada rupa ca – “The symptoms of sadhana bhakti are the first two items – destroying grief, or sin, and bestowing auspiciousness.”
The same Visvanatha Cakravarti writes in his Madhurya Kadambini (2.2):
….sva-sparsena sparsamanir iva karana vrittir api prakritatva-lohatam sanais-tyajayitva cinmayatva suddha jambunadatam prapayantyah kandalibhavante samudgacchantyah sadhanabhikhye dve patrike vivriyete. tayoh prathama klesaghni dvitiya subdhadeti. dvayor api tayor antas tu lobha pravartakatva lakshana-caikkanyena ‘yesham aham priya atma sutas ca.’ ityadi suddha sambandha snigdhataya ca praptotkarshe dese raga namno rajna evadhikarah. bahis tu ‘tasmad bharata sarvatma’ ityadi sastra pravartakatva lakshana-parushyabhasena priyadi suddha sambandhabhavat svata evati snigdhatanudayena purvatah kincid apakrishte dese vaidha namno’ parasya rajnah. klesaghnatva-subhadatvabhyantu prayasuyorna ko’pi viseshah.
“Like a touchstone, this creeper of bhakti eventually transforms the iron-like material nature of the senses into the most pure transcendental gold. Gradually the sadhana-bhakti creeper sprouts and unfolds two leaves. The first is called klesaghni, destroyer of material sufferings, and the second is called subhada, giver of all auspiciousness. The inner surface of the two leaves is the domain of the king called raga (divine passionate devotion), and is very smooth, the sign of its being born out of spontaneous greed. It is superior due to its appearance from the pure affectionate relation with the Lord as described in the Bhagavata (3.25.38), “I am their dear one, very life, son,…” The outer surface of the leaves is ruled by another king known as vaidha (regulative devotion) and slightly rough in nature, the sign of its being born from the injunctions of the scriptures. It is somewhat inferior and slightly rough due to the lack of pure affectionate relation with the Lord. Srimad-Bhagavata (2.1.5) says, “Therefore, persons desiring fearlessness should worship the Lord, the Supersoul.” However, both raga and vaidhi, almost equally manifest the symptoms of klesaghni and subhada. “
Here it is again proven that raganuga bhakti is, like vaidhi bhakti, a sadhana that starts from the beginning of bhakti-practise. raga is the inner leaf and vaidhi the outer.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti’s commentary on Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.292-
tat-tad-bhavadi-madhurye sri-bhagavatadi-prasiddhavatara-lila-varnanamaya-sastra-samanye srute sravana-dvara yat kincid anubhute sati yacchastram vidhi-vakyam napekshate | yuktim ca na kintu pravartata evety arthah | tad eva lobhotpatter lakshanam anumapakam tadrisa-hetu-jnanad eva lobhotpattir anumiyate ity arthah | na tv atra lakshanam lobhotpatteh svarupam iti vyahyatum sakyam sastra-yuktapekshabhavasya svarupatvabhavat
Srila Jiva Gosvami’s tika of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.292 – Qualification for raganuga bhakti
8 October 27, 2013
tat-tad-bhavadi-madhurye sri-bhagavatadishu siddha-nirdesa-sastreshu srute sravana-dvara yat kincid anubhute sati yacchastram vidhi-vakyam napekshate | yuktim ca kintu pravartata evety arthah | tad eva lobhotpatter lakshanam iti
The meaning of both the above texts is identical – “When one has got even a slight (yat kincit) feeling for the sweet moods of Krishna and His devotees through hearing their descriptions in texts describing the ultimate spiritual goal, such as the Bhagavata, [the raganuga sadhaka] no longer waits for the injunctions of scripture or for logical reasons to do so, but simply takes up [the raganuga devotional path]. This is the characteristic of lobha.”
The words yat kincit prove that initial lobha is not an all-consuming fire.
In his book “Sri Guru Parampara – Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda”, Tripurari Swami says that “in Bhakti-sara-pradarsini (his commentary on Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, ed.), Visvanatha tells us that in order to practice raganuga bhakti one must have attained the stage of nishtha.”
ragatmikaika nishtha ye vrajavasi janadayah
tesham bhavaptaye lubdho bhaved atradhikaravan (B.R.S. 1.2.291)
is the verse referred to here. The words eka nishtha (exclusively fixed, loyal) have been mistranslated to refer to the adhikaravan, the jiva-candidate, and have confused it for the high stage of bhakti called nishtha, but it refers instead to the nitya siddha rolemodel, the Vrajavasis, and means ‘exclusive fixation’ and not the stage of nishtha that sadhakas must go through. This is what Visvanatha Cakravartipada writes in his Bhakti Sara Pradarsini-commentary on this verse – ragatmika bhaktau eka nishtham yesham tesham vrajavasinam sri krishne yo bhavas tat sajatiya bhavaptaye lubdha ityarthah. The word-for-word translation of this commentary runs as follows: ragatmika bhaktau = in ragatmika bhakti (of the nitya siddha vrajavasis, described in verse 270) eka nishtham = exclusively fixed. yesham = of them, tesham = of exactly these same ones. vrajavasinam= of the Vrajavasis. sri krishne = towards Sri Krishna. yah = whatever. bhavah = feelings. tat = that. sajatiya = like-minded. bhava = feeling. aptaye = for the sake of attaining. lubdha = greedy. iti = thus. arthah = the meaning.
Here is that definition of the ragatmika bhakti of the nitya siddha Vrajavasis –
virajantim abhivyaktam vrajavasi-janadishu |
ragatmikam anusrita ya sa raganugocyate || (B.R.S. 1.2.270)
“The devotion which is clearly present in the associates of the Lord in Vraja is called devotion filled with loving attachment (ragatmika-bhakti), and devotion following in the wake of this ragatmika-bhakti is called raganuga-bhakti.” Qualification for raganuga bhakti
9 October 27, 2013
As one desires to approach the Lord, so the Lord will approach the aspirant – ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamyaham (B. Gita 4.11) Reflecting on these famous words of the Bhagavad Gita, one can easily understand that varieties of goals are attained in accordance with one’s desires. It is not that all paths lead to the same goal.
dvividhah khalu bhavo’tra sadhanabhinivesajah (BRS 1.3.7)
“The paths of vaidhi and raganuga are known to be separate from each other. Engagement in these two forms of practice certainly awakens two distinct varieties of bhava.” This automatically shows that raganuga bhakti is not per se a post graduate phase of vaidhi bhakti. The goals of these two paths of devotion in practice are understood as follows:
vidhi-bhaktye parshada-dehe vaikunthete yay (C.C. 2.24.87)
“Through vidhi-bhakti, one will attain the form of an associate in Vaikuntha.”
aisvarya-jnane vidhi-bhajana koriya
vaikunthake yaya catur-vidha mukti paya (C.C. 1.3.17)
“Those who worship according to scriptural commandments, being aware of the Lord’s superhuman prowess, attain the four kinds of liberation in Vaikuntha.”
raga-bhaktye vraje svayam-bhagavane pay (C.C. 2.24.85)
“Through raga-bhakti, one will attain the Lord Himself in Vraja.”
raganuga-marge tare bhaje yei jana
sei-jana paya vraje vrajendra-nandana (CC 2.8.221)
“He who worships on the path of raganuga will attain Vrajendra-nandana (Sri Krishna) in Vraja.”
In the realm of Vraja, the sweet and intimate human-like pastimes of Krishna prevail. Only in such an atmosphere love can attain its pinnacle. Love which is filled with awareness of the Lord’s almight is of an inferior quality. As stated by the Lord Himself:
sakala jagate more kore vidhi-bhakti
vidhi-bhaktye vraja-bhava paite nahi sakti
aisvarya-jnanete saba jagat misrita
aisvarya-sithila-preme nahi mora prita (C.C. 1.3.15-16)
“Everyone in this world worships Me through vidhi-bhakti. Vidhi-bhakti has Qualification for raganuga bhakti
10 October 27, 2013
no power for attaining the feelings of Vraja. The devotion of the world is mixed with knowledge of My divine prowess.I do not delight in love diluted with prowess.”
It is thus evident that there is a need to deeply reflect on the nature and practice of raganuga-bhakti for anyone who desires to perfect his loving faculty in relationship with God. There is no other means for tasting the ambrosial sweetness of the Vraja-pastimes of the Lord!
SMARANAM AND THE SIDDHA DEHA –
The siddha deha does not just come falling out of the sky, but must be formed gradually, from the point where one is pure enough to start meditating, by mental practise. In his translations of Caitanya Caritamrita (Madhya 8,229; Madhya 22, 155-158) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami repeatedly suggests that to meditate on the siddha deha one needs to be ‘self-realised’, while such a word cannot be found in the original verses. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura explains that meditation on the siddha deha is a sadhana:
sadhane bhavibe yaha, siddha dehe pabe taha
raga marge ei sei upaya
“Whatever you think of during your sadhana, you will attain in your siddhi-body. Those are the ways of raga marga.(Prema Bhakti Candrika 57)”
sadhane ye dhana cai, siddha dehe taha pai,
pakkapakka matra se vicara
“The treasure I covet during my sadhana I will receive in my siddha body. The only difference between the two is being ripe and unripe. (Prema Bhakti Candrika 56)”
This means that the difference between the struggling practitioner and the siddha is only in quantity and not in quality. That the siddha deha does not come from out of the blue, but must be formed through constant meditation is also confirmed in Bhagavad Gita 8,6—
yam yam vapi smaran bhavan tyajantyante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad bhava bhavita
“Whatever one contemplates throughout life is what one attains when one leaves the body.”
kitah pesaskritaruddhah kudyayam tam anusmaran
samrambha bhaya yogena vindate tat svarupatam Qualification for raganuga bhakti
11 October 27, 2013
“The caterpillar imprisoned by a wasp in (its nest on) a wall, and constantly thinking of the latter through intense hate and fear, attains the form of the wasp.” [Srimad Bhagavata 7.1.27] Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.295—
seva sadhaka rupena siddha rupena catra hi;
tad bhava lipsuna karya vraja lokanusaratah
“A person who desires loving attraction to His beloved deity Sri Krishna in Vraja must serve in allegiance to the people of Vraja, both in the current practitioner’s body as well as in the spiritual, mentally conceived body, which is fit for serving the beloved deity.” Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti: tathaca siddha-rupena manasi seva sri radha-lalita-visakha sri rupa manjaryadinam anusarena kartavya. sadhaka rupena tu kayikyadi seva tu sri rupa sanatanadi vrajavasi jananam anusarena kartavyetyarthah – “Mental service must be rendered in the spiritual body in allegiance to Sri Radha, Lalita and Rupa Manjari and service in the current physical body must be rendered in allegiance to Vraja-people like Sri Rupa and Sanatana.”
The Bengali translation of the above sloka in ‘Caitanya Caritamrita’ (Madhya 22,154-155) is:
bahya antara ihara dui to sadhana;
bahya — sadhaka dehe kore sravana kirtana
mane — nija siddha deha koriya bhavana;
ratri dine kore vraje krishnera sevana
“There are two kinds of devotion in practise — external and internal. In the external practitioner’s body devotional practices of hearing and chanting Krishna’s glories are performed, and internally, in the mentally conceived spiritual body, one renders mental service to Krishna in Vraja day and night.”
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s translation is as follows:
bahya—externally; antara—internally; ihara—of this spontaneous love of Godhead; dui—two; ta’—indeed; sadhana—such processes of execution; bahye—externally; sadhaka-dehe—with the body of an advanced devotee; kare—does; sravana-kirtana—hearing and chanting; mane—the mind; nija—own; siddha-deha—eternal body or self-realized position; kariya bhavana—thinking of; ratri-dine—night and day; kare—executes; vraje—in Vrindavana; krishnera—of Lord Krishna; sevana—service.
“There are two processes by which one may execute this raganuga bhakti—external and internal. When self-realized, the advanced devotee externally remains like a neophyte and executes all the sastric injunctions, especially those concerning hearing and chanting. But within his mind, in his original, purified, self-realized position, he serves Krishna in Vrindavana in his particular way. He serves Krishna twenty-four hours a day, all day and night.” Qualification for raganuga bhakti
12 October 27, 2013
Though one indeed needs to be fairly advanced to meditate on one’s siddha deha, as Jiva Gosvami has said in Bhakti Sandarbha smaranam tu suddhantahkaranatam apekshate – “Smaranam requires a pure heart”, the term ‘self realised’ is a bit too extreme for a description of sadhana (this verse appears in the sadhana bhakti chapter of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu).
Discrepancies between A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s Nectar of Devotion and the teachings of the foundational acaryas:
“Persons desiring to follow in the footsteps of such eternal devotees of the Lord as the Vṛṣṇis and Vṛndavana denizens are called raganuga devotees, which means that they are trying to attain to the perfection of those devotees. These raganuga devotees do not follow the regulative principles of devotional service very strictly,…”
However, Srila Rupa Goswami teaches in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.296) –
sravanotkirtanadini vaidhi bhaktyuditani tu
yanyangani ca tanyatra vijneyani manishibhih
“The discriminating practitioners should accept the items which were mentioned in vaidhi-bhakti such as hearing and chanting as the items of raganuga-bhakti.”
Commentary by Visvanatha Cakravartipada:
sravanotkirtanadini | guru-padasrayanadini tvakshepa-labdhani | tani vina vraja-lokanugatyadikam kim api na siddhyed ity arthah | manishibhir iti manishaya vimrisyaiva sviya-bhava-samucitany eva tani karyani | na tu tad-viruddhani | tani carcana-bhaktav ahangrahopasana-mudra-nyasa-dvaraka-dhyana-rukminy-adi-pujanani agama-sastra-vihitany api naiva karyani
“Along with hearing and chanting, items such as surrendering to the lotus feet of guru should be understood as favorable. Without those favorable items how can one accomplish following after the eternal inhabitants of Vraja? After considering with intelligence, one should select activities conducive to one’s own sentiments for Krishna, and not those activities which are contrary to one’s sentiments. Though prescribed in the scriptures, activities of deity worship such as worshipping Rukmini, meditation of Dvaraka, performing mudras and nyasas, or identifying oneself with the Lord and worshipping oneself, should be rejected.”
No acarya mentions any other rules of vaidhi-bhakti which can be scrapped by a raganuga devotee.
QUOTE Nectar of Devotion ch.16 – Eligibility for Spontaneous Devotional Service: Qualification for raganuga bhakti
13 October 27, 2013
“We must always remember, however, that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja is not possible unless one is freed from material contamination. In following the regulative principles of devotional service, there is a stage called anartha-nivrtti, which means the disappearance of all material contamination. Sometimes someone is found imitating such devotional love, but factually he is not freed from anarthas or unwanted habits……… When one is actually spontaneously attracted to the loving principles of the gopis, there will be found no trace of any mundane contamination in him.”
Response: In his Raga-vartma-candrika (1.8) however, Visvanatha Cakravarti explains that lobha is not a black-and-white matter, that it is either absolute and complete, or there is none. Lobha is not necessarily a burning, all-consuming passion:
sa ca lobho raga vartma vartinam bhaktanam guru-padasraya lakshanam arabhya svabhishta vastu sakshat prapti samayam abhivyapya “yatha yathatma parimrijyate’sau mat punya gatha sravanabhidhanaih tatha tatha pasyati vastu sukshmam cakshur yathaivanjana samprayuktam ” iti bhagavad ukter bhakti hetukantah karana suddhi taratamyat prati dinam adhikadhiko bhavati.
“It is described that the devotees on the raga-path gradually progress from the initial surrender to the feet of Sri Guru up to the stage of directly attaining the object of their desires. ‘When the eye is smeared with medicinal ointment, its ability of perception becomes more and more refined, and accordingly it is able to perceive more and more subtle objects; similarly, according to the degree of the mind’s having become purified by hearing and chanting of My purifying pastimes, all the subtle truths of reality become manifest in the heart of the sadhaka.’ From these words of the Lord (S.B. 11.14.26) it is known that through sadhana-bhakti the consciousness of the sadhaka becomes more purified every day, and he gradually becomes more and more greedy.”
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “In the stage of devotional service where regulative principles are followed, there is no necessity of discussing this love, for it must develop of itself at a more advanced stage.”
Response: This is not corroborrated by Rupa Gosvami.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “We must always remember, however, that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja (Vrindavana) is not possible unless one is freed from material contamination. In following the regulative principles of devotional service, there is a stage called anartha-nivritti, which means the disappearance of all material contamination. Sometimes someone is found imitating such devotional love, but factually he is not freed from anarthas, or unwanted habits. It has been seen that a so-called devotee proclaims himself a follower of Nanda, Yasoda or the gopis, while at the same time his abominable attraction for mundane sex life is visible. Such a manifestation of divine love is mere imitation and has no value. When one is actually spontaneously attracted to the loving principles of the gopis, there will be found no trace of any mundane contamination in his character. Qualification for raganuga bhakti
14 October 27, 2013
Therefore, in the beginning, everyone should strictly follow the regulative principles of devotional service, according to the injunctions of the scriptures and the spiritual master. Only after the stage of liberation from material contamination can one actually aspire to follow in the footsteps of the devotees in Vrindavana.”
Response: Rupa Gosvami teaches: vaidhi raganuga ceti sa dvidha sadhanabhidha (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.5) – there are two kinds of sadhana (after first explaining that sadhana bhakti means practise with the senses, by souls that are still conditioned)— vaidhi and raganuga, and nowhere it is said that raganuga bhakti is a post graduate state of vaidhi bhakti. Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti states in his Raga Vartma Candrika (2.7) –
atha raganuga-bhakti – majjanasyanartha-nivritti-nishtha-rucy-asakty-antaram prema-bhumikarudhasya sakshat svabhishta-prapti-prakarah pradarsyate
“Then it will be described how the one, who has progressed on the path of raganuga-bhakti through the cessation of the evils (anartha-nivritti), firmness (nishtha), taste (ruci), and attachment (asakti) all the way to the attainment of ecstatic love (prema), will directly come to attain his desired object.”
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “In this connection, we should be careful about the so-called siddha-pranali. The siddha-pranali process is followed by a class of men who are not very authorized and who have manufactured their own way of devotional service.”
Response: That will include Bhaktivinoda Thakur, whom A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami himself has made world-famous as an acarya? Bhaktivinoda preaches siddha-pranali in his books Hari-nama cintamani, Bhajan Rahasya and Jaiva-dharma.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “They imagine that they have become associates of the Lord simply by thinking of themselves like that.”
Response: Yet, this is what the acaryas say:
Srila Jiva Gosvami in Bhakti Sandarbha (286) –
tatra bhuta-suddhir nijabhilashita bhagavat sevaupayogika tat parshada deha bhavana –
“Bhuta suddhi means that one meditates on one’s own desired siddha deha which is fit for serving the Lord”.
Krishnadas Kaviraja in Caitanya Caritamrita – mone nija siddha deha koriya bhavan, ‘Think of your own desired siddha deha as a sadhana (ei sadhana bhakti dui to prakara, Madhya 22.155-6)
Rupa Gosvami in that very same Nectar of Devotion – siddha rupena catra hi – “Serve in the siddha deha also”, Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.295,
plus this verse’s tikas by Jiva Gosvami and Visvanatha Cakravarti – siddha-rupena antas cintitabhishta tat sevopayogi dehena – “With the siddha deha” means serving in a mentally conceived body which is fit for service.” Qualification for raganuga bhakti
15 October 27, 2013
Narottama das Thakur – sadhane bhavibe yaha, siddha deha pabe taha (Premabhakti Candrika) – “Whatever siddha deha one thinks of during one’s sadhana is what one attains in siddha stage.”
Krishnadas Kaviraja’s Saranga Rangada tika of Krishna Karnamrita (3):
raganuga marge anutpanna rati sadhaka bhaktair api svepsita siddha deham manasi parikalpya – ‘On the raganuga-path even a sadhaka bhakta who has no rati yet can think of his own desired siddha deha.”
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “This external behavior is not at all according to the regulative principles. The so-called siddha-pranali process is followed by the prakrita-sahajiya, a pseudo sect of so-called Vaishnavas. In the opinion of Rupa Gosvami, such activities are simply disturbances to the standard way of devotional service.”
1] Where does Rupa Gosvami say this in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu?
2] Bhaktivinoda Thakur, who elaborately preached siddha pranali, is a pseudo Vaishnava called prakrita sahajiya? Why some then call him the 7th Gosvami?
In his writings, Swamiji persistently presents a vaidhi bhakta as a neophyte and a raga bhakta as an advanced devotee. He explains the two-fold division of sadhana into vaidhi and raganuga as follows (Nectar of Devotion, chapter 2):
“Now this sadhana-bhakti, or practice of devotional service, may also be divided into two parts. The first part is called service according to regulative principles: one has to follow these different regulative principles by the order of the spiritual master or on the strength of authoritative scriptures, and there can be no question of refusal. That is called vaidhi, or regulated. One has to do it without argument. Another part of sadhana-bhakti is called raganuga. Raganuga refers to the point at which, by following the regulative principles, one becomes a little more attached to Krsna and executes devotional service out of natural love. For example, a person engaged in devotional service may be ordered to rise early in the morning and offer arati, which is a form of Deity worship. In the beginning, by the order of his spiritual master, one rises early in the morning and offers arati, but then he develops real attachment. When he gets this attachment, he automatically tries to decorate the Deity and prepare different kinds of dresses and thinks of different plans to execute his devotional service nicely. Although it is within the category of practice, this offering of loving service is spontaneous.”
Response: Following such reasoning, the siddha-associates of Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha, who are vaidhi bhaktas, would have to be woken up for mangalarati? This argument shows that raga bhakti is not to be translated or presented as ‘spontaneous devotion’ because the siddha vaidhi bhaktas in Vaikuntha surely need not be prodded into their service. Qualification for raganuga bhakti
16 October 27, 2013
Swamiji comments on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.5.4:
“…The bhakti process, as performed under the regulative principles of vaidhi-bhakti, or devotional service following the prescribed rules and regulations, is defined by the revealed scriptures and confirmed by great acaryas. This practice can help the neophyte devotee to rise to the stage of raga-bhakti, in which the Lord responds from within as the caitya-guru, or the spiritual master as Superconsciousness.”
Response: Here again Swamiji suggests that raga bhakti is some kind of post-graduate stage of vaidhi bhakti. That would mean that accomplished vaidhi bhaktas like Prahlada, Bhishma and Narada did not have communion with the caitya guru or Supersoul?
Concluding: Both the vaidhi-sadhaka and the raganuga-sadhaka pass through the various stages delineated in the adau sraddhah-verses on their respective paths. Vaidhi-sadhana and raganuga-sadhana are not two subsequent stages of one path, but two different paths leading to separate goals.
Further discussions on raganuga bhakti:
Bhakta: “Some say that it is more humble to become a servant of Mother Yasoda at a respectful distance than to be right up front as a manjari with Radha-Krishna.”
Advaitadas: ‘No one can reach the spiritual sky without being totally humble. If there is any pride left you can simply not enter into that realm, be it as a manjari, servant of Mother Yasoda, associate of Lord Narayana or what have you. This suggestion is a purely artificial, mental construction which is not at all based on rasa vicara, lobha (devotional greed) or on any acarya’s teaching. Manjari bhava is superior in flavour or quality but not in quantity. In quality there are 4 kinds of flavours – dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya, in quantity there is but one – full surrender. Manjari bhava is based on sheer attraction and not on ambition or pride. Manjaris are neither more proud nor more humble than mother Yasoda’s servants. That is not the point of manjari bhava. The siddhanta of ‘the more surrender, the higher the rasa” is a myth.”
Bhakta: “What about Vaikuntha as a stopover to Goloka? Can one get further promotion to Goloka after first attaining Vaikuntha?”
Advaitadas: “Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and Caitanya Caritamrita speak of two parallel paths, that have different symptoms of progress (bhava, prema) and different final destinations – vaidhi bhakti leads to Vaikuntha and raga bhakti leads to Vraja. (See quotes on page 9) Gopa-kumara’s progressive course in Brihad Bhagavatamrita does not apply to regular sadhakas. He is widely regarded as a model rather than a prototype sadhaka. In Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya lila, chapter 14, there was a Qualification for raganuga bhakti
17 October 27, 2013
debate between Srivasa Pandit, who fought the corner of the aisvarya-vision, and Svarupa Damodara, who fought the madhurya-corner. That debate was unsolved – Srivasa was not converted. Murari Gupta and Vallabha were Ram-bhaktas and none other than Mahaprabhu Himself and Rupa-Sanatana preached to them to become Krishna-bhaktas, but they were not converted either. It was simply their sthayi bhava. If Vaikuntha is a stopover, where is there a question of sthayi-bhava then?”
Bhakta: “Why it always has to be manjari bhava, why not gopa bhava (serving Krishna as a cowherd boy) or so?”
1. “The fact that there are elaborate systems of sadhana and entire societies built up around manjari bhava, and none (that I know) around gopa bhava (of which there is very scant scriptural description and virtually no social support on the ground) should not be seen as coincidence, but a clear sign that Mahaprabhu really wants us to practise this (manjari bhava).”
2. The entire Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya is initiated into the kama gayatri, which is a mantra worshiping Krishna as the transcendental youthful Cupid (Madana Gopala) of Vraja – that is wholly incompatible with loving Krishna as a child or a friend, is it not? Is any Gaudiya Vaishnava initiated with a mantra worshipping Krishna as a child or a friend?
3. The entire Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya sings the Gurvashtakam by Sripada Visvanatha Cakravarti, in which he clearly depicts Gurudeva as an assistant of the gopis to perfect the amorous pastimes of Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna – nikunja yunoh rati-keli siddhyaih ya yalibhir yuktir apekshaniya
4. In that same Gurvashtakam, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti describes how the Guru is always eager to relish the endless sweetness of the pastimes, attributes, forms and names of Sri Radhika and Madhava, not of Krishna with the cowherd boys or His parents – sri radhika madhavayor apara madhurya lila guna rupa namnam pratikshanasvadana lolupasya…”
Bhakta 2: We see in Caitanya Caritamrita that Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswamipada has written, cari bhava diya prabhu nacaimu jagate, that Sriman Mahaprabhu has given four bhavas, cara-vidha braja-bhava, and with these He has made the world dance. And you say Mahaprabhu really wants us to practise this manjari bhava, can you comment please?
1. Yes, in principle these four bhavas are given, but practically you see huge systems having been built around manjari bhava (Gutika, siddha pranali, yogapitha, maps, what have you) whereas none of these things are in place for practising gopa bhava anywhere (to my knowledge).
2. The Gaudiya Vaishnava-scriptures are predominantly about madhurya rasa, to the extent that Rupa Gosvami, when coming to that subject in Bhakti Rasamrita Qualification for raganuga bhakti
18 October 27, 2013
Sindhu, cut it short and referred to an entire separate book he was to write about it, Ujjvala Nilamani, which is about as big as the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu itself.
3. The opening verse of Caitanya Caritamrita (also composed by Rupa Gosvami), anarpita carim cirat karunaya avatirna kalau samarpayitum unnatojjvala sva bhakti sriyam reveals the predominance of madhurya rasa (unnata ujjvala rasa).”