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Q & A about Raganuga Bhakti
Adapted from an article
by Suhotra Dasa Vanachari
By means of the following question and answer session, we shall now proceed to a fuller understanding of vaidhi- and raganuga-bhakti in terms of Shrila Prabhupada's instructions:
Q. Various kinds of bhakti-yoga have been mentioned, such as sadhana-bhakti, vaidhi-bhakti, raganuga-bhakti, ragatmika-bhakti, bhava-bhakti and prema-bhakti. Can you give us a simple system by which
we can understand what these are and how they are related to one another?
A. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura composed a work entitled Shri Tattva-sutra as a concise and systematic presentation of the complete science of bhakti-yoga. You have asked for a simple system by which the different kinds of bhakti-yoga can be understood, but first we should understand from Shri Tattva-sutra that bhakti is one: bhaktih purnanuraktih pare--"The spiritual function of bhakti is characterized as the fullest attachment to the Supreme Lord." (STs 31). Thus bhakti in its perfectional form is raga (attraction to
Krishna), and it is spontaneously manifest in the residents of Goloka Vrndavana, who are therefore called ragatmika-bhaktas or svarupasiddhi-bhaktas.
Why are different kinds of bhakti described in the scriptures? Shri Tattva-sutra 32 explains: tasyah varupam phalamupayasceti--"Since the living entities are either liberated or conditioned, bhakti is described as being phala (the goal) or upaya (the means)." Liberated souls are of two kinds, 1) jivan-muktas (those who still
possess material bodies) and 2) videha-muktas (those who have cast off their bodies and gone Back Home, Back to Godhead). Thus the phala or goal that liberated souls attain is also of two kinds, 1) bhava-bhakti (devotional service in ecstacy, performed by the jivan-muktas) and 2) prema-bhakti (devotional service in love of Godhead, performed by the videha-muktas). The baddha-jivas or conditioned souls must accept bhakti as their upaya (means to the goal). Sadhana-bhakti-yoga is that means to the goal, and it is divided into vaidhi and raganuga. Bhaktivinoda Thakura states that whether it is called upaya or phala, bhakti is always one. But bhakti is explained differently in the scriptures according to the condition of the performer. This is for the sake of the souls still caught in illusion, who otherwise could not understand what bhakti is nor how to attain it.
Shri Tattva-sutra 34 states:
upayabhakteh paranusilanam pratyaharascangam--"Upaya-bhakti has two limbs, which are 1) paranusilana or the positive cultivation of pure devotion to the Lord, and 2) pratyahara or the withdrawal of the senses from material activities." Paranusilana consists of just those devotional activities that help the sadhaka taste
transcendental ecstatic emotions. What are those paranusilana devotional activities? Shri Tattva-sutra 35 explains: sravana kirtanadini paranusilano payogitvat tat pratyangani--"Hearing and chanting are the paranusilana activities that help cultivate feelings of love of God." Paranusilana is therefore the bhagavata- vidhi, which is the raganuga aspect of sadhana-bhakti. Pratyahara refers to the rules and regulations, or the vaidhi (pancaratrika) aspect. Pratyahara liberates the devotee from the material desires that pervert his original love for Krishna, and paranusilana helps the devotee to taste that love again. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura thus describes sadhana-bhakti as having an inner and outer aspect. Raganuga is the soft sweet inner fruit of sadhana-bhakti, and vaidhi is the protective outer skin of sadhana-bhakti.
Q. You said that "raganuga-bhakti is the standard method of devotional service given by Shrila Prabhupada. It is performed by devotees who are Shrila Prabhupadanugas (followers of Shrila Prabhupada)." How is this statement to be understood?
A. We have seen verses from Cc Adi-lila Chapter 4 that reveal Lord Chaitanya's confidential desire to propagate raga-bhakti throughout the world. His confidential desire was not to merely liberate the fallen souls by giving them a process of pratyahara, but to revive their dormant love for Godhead. Raga-marga or bhagavata-vidhi is thus the mission as defined by Lord Gauranga's confidential representative, Shrila Prabhupada.
But yet vaidhi-bhakti is practiced and preached by followers of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta and Shrila Prabhupada. What does that have to do with Lord Chaitanya's confidential mission? Shrila Prabhupada's followers practice and preach vaidhi-bhakti or pancaratrika-vidhi for ordinary goals. What are the "ordinary goals" of pancaratrika-vidhi? Ordinarily, pancaratrika-vidhi (temple worship) is used as a means to attain material benedictions and five kinds of liberation. Thus, ordinarily, pancaratrika-vidhi is karma-jnana- misra-bhakti. But we Prabhupada's followers, follow the path of pure devotion taught from Shrimad-Bhagavatam by the Six Gosvamis. Shrila Jiva Gosvami, in Bhakti-sandarbha, states that madhyama-adhikari devotees accept vaidhi-bhakti as bhakti-matra-kama, or vaidhi-bhakti motivated by a desire to attain pure bhakti. The "karma" of bhakti-matra-karma consists of the prescribed duties of Deity worship, and the "jnana" is the study of the scriptures. Both are aimed at attaining a pure taste for hearing and chanting about Krishna, which is raga-bhakti. This is also the method of vaidhi-bhakti recommended in Shrimad-Bhagavatam 3.29.15-19 by Lord Kapiladeva--
"A devotee must execute his prescribed duties, which are glorious, without material profit. Without excessive violence, one should regularly perform one's devotional activities. The devotee should regularly see My statues in the temple, touch My lotus feet and offer worshipable paraphernalia and prayer. He should see in the spirit of renunciation, from the mode of goodness, and see every living entity as spiritual. The pure devotee should execute devotional service by giving the greatest respect to the spiritual master and the acaryas. He should be compassionate to the poor and make friendship with persons who are his equals, but all his activities should be executed under regulation and with control of the senses. A devotee should always try to hear about spiritual matters and should always utilize his time in chanting the holy name
of the Lord. His behavior should always be straightforward and simple, and although he is not envious but friendly to everyone, he should avoid the company of persons who are not spiritually advanced. When one is fully qualified with all these transcendentalattributes and his consciousness is thus completely purified, HE IS IMMEDIATELY ATTRACTED SIMPLY BY HEARING MY NAME OR HEARING MY TRANSCENDENTAL QUALITY."
Because the vaidhi-bhakti prescribed by Shrimad-Bhagavatam is bhakti-matra-kama, it is considered by Shrila Jiva Gosvami to be simply an aspect of raganuga-bhakti. Thus it is not incorrect to say that preachers and followers of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta and Shrila Bhaktivinoda practice the method of devotional service is raganuga-bhakti ALONE. In Bhakti-sandarbha Anucchedya 311, Jiva Gosvami explains: ajatadrsa rucina tu sadrsesadara matradrta raganugapi vaidhi sambalitai-vanustheya; tatha loka-samgrahartham pratisthena jatatadrsa rucina ca atra misratve ca yatha yogyam raganugayaiki krtyaiva vaidhi kartavya--"Devotees who have an interest to practice raganuga- bhakti, but who are still ajata-ruci (without much taste for hearing
and chanting), should combine vaidhi-bhakti principles with their practice of raganuga-bhakti." In summary, according to Shrila Jiva Gosvami there are two kinds of raganuga-bhaktas: jata-ruci (those whose taste has come about) and ajata-ruci (those whose taste has not yet come about). It is not that ajata-ruci devotees
only deserve to be called "vaidhi-bhaktas." On the strength of Shrila Jiva Gosvami's explanation of raganuga-bhakti, all preacher devotees may be called raganuga-bhaktas. Cc Madhya-lila 22.156-157 also confirms that vaidhi-sadhana is to be accepted by Lord Chaitanya's followers as the external aspect of raganuga-sadhana, not as something separate from the practice of raganuga.
All this can be understood very practically simply by considering Shrila Prabhupada's formula: "Preaching is the essence." Preaching is bhagavata-vidhi activity, which means that it is raga-marga activity. In his instructions on preaching, Shrila Prabhupada said many times that the fallen souls of this age will not be attracted through rules and regulations to Krishna's service. They have to get a taste first. That taste is made available to them via the bhagavata-vidhi, which means three things according to Shri Tattva-sutra: 1) direct association with Bhagavan as the holy name, 2) association with the bhagavata (the pure devotee), and 3) hearing Shrimad-Bhagavata philosophy. In 1965-66, Shrila Prabhupada gathered his first followers in New York through raga (spontaneous attraction) inculcated by the bhagavata-vidhi of hearing and chanting. This remains the essence of our preaching. Therefore those who follow Shrila Prabhupada's preaching example are both Prabhupadanuga & raganuga-bhaktas.
Q. But raganuga-bhakti cannot be practiced by those who have not surpassed anartha-nivrtti, which the scriptures say is a very high level of purity. Do you really believe that devotees among Prabhupada's followers have passed beyond anartha-nivrtti and ruci and come to the asakti stage, where raganuga practice begins?
A. In a letter dated 17-02-68, Shrila Prabhupada wrote: "I may say that this practical devotion is the secret to understanding the Sastras. Shrila Prabhupada used to say that for one who is not engaged in devotional service, reading all the books is simply like licking the outside of the honey jar." Therefore the scriptural terms "anartha- nivrtti", "ruci" and "asakti" have to be understood in this way, in their practical sense. In an initiation lecture given in 1968, Shrila Prabhupada explained, "So by following the regulative principles one becomes freed from all these sinful activities. He does not any more indulge in illicit sex life, he does not indulge in nonvegetarian diet, he does not indulge in intoxication and he does not indulge in gambling. That is called anartha-nivrtti. Unless one is above these four kinds of anartha, or sinful activities, one cannot be fixed up. When one is free from these four kinds of sinful activities, then he becomes fixed up. Nistha, fixed up, and then ruci. Ruci means he increases the taste. Then asakti. Asakti means attachment."
The symptoms of ruci and asakti are further explained in practical terms in this quote from a Shrimad-Bhagavatam class given in 1973: "Ruci means taste. Why you are hearing about Krishna daily, the same thing? We are speaking nothing new. `Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and you have to surrender.' This is our daily business. But why you are coming to hear the same hackneyed words? Because it is very pleasing. This is called ruci, taste, `Yes, I want to hear this repeatedly. Yes. Krishna is the Supreme
Lord, I am the eternal servant.' You have got a taste. Unless one gets the taste, then you'll say, `What is this hackneyed word?' Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, twenty-four hours you can chant because you have got the taste. Others cannot do. This is called ruci. And ruci means asakti, attraction: `I must go. I must chant. I must do.' Tato nistha, tato ruci, tato saktis."
Q. Your explanation of raganuga preaching misses the essential process of following in the footsteps of the residents of Vrndavana. The bhagavata-vidhi you speak of is really only aisvarya-jnana (preaching about Krishna's opulence as the Lord of three energies, visnu-sakti, tatastha-sakti and maya-sakti). The real raga-marga bhagavata-vidhi is performed after the intimate mood of kevala- bhakti (the pure devotion of the residents of Vrajabhumi). How will Prabhupada's followers ever enter Radha-Krishna nitya-lila unless they
get a taste for hearing and chanting about the Lord's conjugal pastimes? How will this taste ever come by only preaching aisvarya-jnana? This is not raga-marga. It is vaidhi-marga.
A. Certainly our aim is to increase the taste for hearing about Radha- Krishna nitya-lila. That is the substantive" purpose of the mission of Shrila Prabhupada. What you seem to have trouble understanding is
that this aim is
fulfilled without separate endeavor when the devotee attains devotional service
to Lord Gauranga's lotus feet through the chanting of Lord
Nityananda-Gauranga's and Krishna's Names and Pastimes and by execution of
auspicious activities in Their sankirtana mission. This is confirmed in Shri
Chaitanya-candramrtam 88 by Prabodhananda Sarasvati.
yatha yatha gaur padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta-punya-rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrday akasmad
"As one develops devotion to the lotus feet of Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu by constantly hearing His Names and Pastimes due to heaps of one's past auspicious activities, then according to the degree of that attachment, his heart becomes suddenly inundated with the nectar emanating from the lotus feet of Shrimati Radharani."
This is further confirmed in Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura's song, Gaurangera Dyuti Pada.
gauranga-gunete jhure nitya-lila tare sphure
se jana bhakati-adhikara
gaurangera sangi-gane nitya-siddha kori' mane
se jaya brajendra suta-pas
gaura-prema-rasarnave se tarange jeba dube
"That person who feelingly appreciates and chants the Names, Pastimes and Qualities of Lord Gauranga gets the adhikara (privilege) to enter Radha-Krishna nitya-lila. By accepting Lord Gauranga's associates as nitya-siddha devotees, one can be immediately promoted to the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna. One who dives deep into the ocean of Lord Gauranga's Names and Pastimes becomes a confidential devotee of
In the 18th chapter of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Navadvipa-dhama- mahatmya, the exact method by which a devotee attains raga (loving attraction) in the madhurya mood for Shri-Shri Radha-Krishna is
described as follows.
"But, on the other hand, whoever possesses the qualities beginning with humility and takes the association of Gauranga's Devotees, Names, Pastimes and Abode, he will begin his worship of Gauranga in dasya-rasa
(servitude relationship). Through the dasya worship of Gauranga gradually becomes perfect. It is in this dasya mood of love that the devotees call Gauranga as "Mahaprabhu". If the devotee then proceeds to develop his love up to the standard of the Vrndavana mood, the form of Gauranga in his worship becomes that of Shri-Shri Radha-Krishna.Radha and Krishna, becoming one, have descended in the form of Gauranga, and therefore the full pastimes of the Divine Couple are present in that form. Thus after the dasya relation reaches maturity in the heart of the living entity, the Vrndavan-lila naturally develops in his heart.This is how a devotee enters into the eternal pastimes of Radha-Krishna in Vrndavana."
Raganuga cultivation primarily means the cultivation of the mood of a servant of the servants of Lords Nityananda-Gauranga through the chanting of the names of Lord Nityananda, Lord Gauranga & the Hare Krishna Mantra, hearing or reading Their pastimes & execution of Their sankirtana mission. On the Lord's order,even the great Nityananda Prabhu (who is Balarama) and Haridasa Thakura (who is Lord Brahma) humbly went from door to door to give fallen souls the holy name of Lord Gauranga and Lord Krishna.
By following Lord Gauranga's order in the dasya mood, the preacher is awarded with Krishna-prema.This is why Shrila Rupa Gosvami glorifies Lord Gauranga as the most munificent incarnation of Krishna. The same order to preach door to door has been given by Shrila Prabhupada. In executing this order, devotees will have almost no opportunity to speak about the Lord's intimate affairs with the gopis. But by pleasing Lord Gauranga through humble, sincere service in the above given ways, their progess in raganuga-bhakti is ensured.
Q. Nontheless, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that Lord Chaitanya's sankirtana mission is only external. This is seen in Cc. Adi-lila 4.7 and 8, as quoted below.
"I have given the essential meaning of the fourth verse: this incarnation descends to propagate the chanting of the holy name and spread love of God. Although this is true, this is but the external reason for the Lord's incarnation. Please hear one other reason--the confidential reason--for the Lord's appearance."
The confidential reason was quoted previously as the "substantive explanation" of Lord Gauranga's appearance: He desired to taste prema-rasa and to promulgate raganuga-bhakti. Preaching focuses only
on the external aspect of Lord Gauranga's mission. That may give some benefit to the fallen souls of this material world, but if the internal aspect of the Lord's mission is neglected, how will the devotees themselves attain pure Krishna consciousness?
A. There seems to be something amiss with the logic behind this question. The chanting of the holy name of Gauranga and Krishna is central to both the internal and external aspects of Lord Gauranga's appearance
and mission. When the Lord tasted prema-rasa with Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Ramananda Raya in Jagannatha Puri, He chanted the holy name of Krishna. When He performed sankirtana in Navadwipa-dhama and in South India, He chanted the holy name of Krishna. The holy name is Krishna, and as Shrila Prabhupada said, "There is no difference between Krishna's inside and outside." Shrila Prabhupada gave the example of the iron and the fire to show that there is no difference in effect between the "external" and "internal" practice of chanting Hare Krishna. When iron (the living entity) is placed in the fire (the process of devotional service beginning with hearing and chanting), the warming of the iron starts from the outside. But the end effect is that internally and externally the iron becomes just like fire. The red-hot state of the iron is compared to the full Krishna consciousness of the living entity. Because chanting and hearing results in remembrance of Krishna (i.e. Krishna consciousness), the effect on the chanter is the same whether the chanting is "internal" or "external." Shrila Prabhupada said, "If you constantly remember the Supreme Lord, so you become automatically purified, internally and externally. Because the Lord is absolute, so if we chant the Lord's holy name, the name is also Lord. He has no difference between His name and Himself."
Shrila Isvara Puri told Lord Chaitanya at Gaya (Cc Adi 7.83):
krishna-nama-maha-mantrera ei ta svabhava, yei jape tara krsne upajaye bhava
"It is the nature of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra that anyone who chants it immediately develops his loving ecstasy for Krishna."
Q. But what about sravana, varana, smarana, apana and prapanna? The internal cultivation of these stages of raganuga, bhava and prema-bhakti is explicitly given in the sastras. Isn't it misleading to tell devotees to "just forget about that and go chant Hare Krishna and preach?"
A. In an article entitled Nam Bhajan by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, two kinds of devotees are said to be prema-ruruksu (endowed with intense greed to achieve love of Godhead by the grace of the holy name of Krishna). These are the viviktanandis (also known as bhajananandis) and the gosthyanandis. Bhajananandis engage in a method of worship of the holy name that is called nirjana-bhajana. Like Shrila Haridasa Thakura, they chant 3 lakhs of holy names daily (i.e. 196 rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra within 24 hours time), and they avoid contact with outsiders as much as possible. Gosthyanandis are preachers who mix with the public in order to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world.
Preaching is a gosthyanandi activity. Shrila Prabhupada explained in a Shrimad-Bhagavatam lecture of 1976: "There are gosthyanandi and bhajananandi. Bhajananandi is interested for his own welfare, or they think it that he is not competent enough to preach; therefore he does not go for preaching work. Sva-vimukti-kama: 'Let me look after my own affairs.' 'Oil your own machine.' So this is another stage, and other stage is a devotee taking all risk, preaching for the benefit of the whole human society. He is called gosthyanandi,
increasing the number of devotees. That is preferred by Krishna. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita, ya imam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidasyati: 'Anyone who is engaged in preaching this confidential science of Bhagavad-gita, 'na ca tasmad manusyesu kascid me priya-krttamah, 'nobody is dearer to Me than he is.' So if you want very quickly recognition by Krishna, go on preaching Krishna consciousness. Even if it imperfectly done, but because you are sincere in whatever capacity you have got, if you preach, then Krishna will be very much pleased."
Both gosthyanandis and bhajananandis perform raganuga nama-bhajana, a deep personal worship of the holy name of Krishna, which is what we do as japa and mantra-dhyana (Gayatri meditation). Thus both gosthyanandis and bhajananandis strive to pass through the stages of sravana (attentive hearing of the holy name), varana (acceptance of the holy name in the heart), smarana (constant remembrance of the holy name), apanna (full absorption of the mind into the holy name) and prapanna (attainment of one's svarupa in Krishna's pastimes). But since the preacher is most dear to Krishna, the Lord is most inclined to help the gosthyanandi attain perfection in nama-bhajana. Even if a busy preacher cannot find the time to
chant 196 rounds a day, the minimum of 10 rounds each of Nityananda and Gauranga and the 16 rounds that he does chant attracts Krishna's special mercy. Thus the gosthyanandi makes rapid advancement in nama-bhajana by the sincerity of his preaching efforts.
Q. Would there be something wrong with an advanced devotee utilizing methods of nirjana-bhajana in his worship of the holy name?
A. Shrila Prabhupada did not take to nirjana-bhajana even at the last stage of his manifest pastimes on earth. He remained engaged in preaching work to the end, and it is quite clear that he expected his disciples to follow his example. Previously, when gosthyanandi devotees grew old and physically feeble, they might go into seclusion in order to devote themselves fully to japa and remembrance of Krishna. But nirjana-bhajana was forbidden by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura because he saw that the mind of modern man is too prone to pollution by thoughts of woman, wealth and fame. He therefore ordered his disciples to remain always engaged in sankirtana, and in this way reach the perfectional stage of raganuga nama-bhajana. He wrote in verse 19 of Vaishnava ke:
shridayitadasa kirtanete asa
kara uccaih svare harinama-rava
kirtana-prabhave smarana svabhave
se kale bhajana-nirjana sambhava
"This Shri-dayita dasa (His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura - the humble servant of the all-merciful Shrimati Radharani) simply desires to be absorbed in the nectar of spreading the glories of Lord Krishna's holy names. My dear mind, now let us loudly chant the holy names of Krishna so we can continuously remain in the ocean of transcendental nectar. The congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna awakens the transcendental quality of natural spontaneous loving remembrance of Lord Krishna (including the Lord's form, qualities and pastimes). Only at that time does the confidential realization and pure practice of nirjana-bhajana in loving devotional service to Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha-Krishna
Q. May devotees read, write about and discuss confidential narrations of the madhurya-lila of Krishna and the gopis from authorized rasika scriptures?
A. Yes. But we have to be cautious. In this regard, Shrila Prabhupada instructed his disciples in 1969 as follows.
Prabhupada: The policy should be that the people may not understand gopis like ordinary girls or like that. You should be careful to present the gopis. It does not mean that "We shall not utter even the name of gopis. We have taken vow to boycott the gopis." No. They are our worshipable devotees. How we can avoid them?
Satsvarupa: What about writing down "kissing the lips of Krishna"?
Prabhupada: No. That we should avoid. That we should avoid. But that is not abominable. According to time and circumstances... That thing I have described. The fact is fact. Just like when I am describing
Krishna's lila--I writing Krishna's life--so I cannot give up that portion of His life, when Krishna is actually kissing the gopis in rasa dance.
Satsvarupa: But that's in the books. Not in the public...
Prabhupada: Yes. So in such circumstances, of course, we can give. But as far as possible, very cautiously and very rarely we shall present. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's life we see that in public He never discussed about Krishna's lila with the gopis. That was very confidential discussion amongst His own circle, Raya Ramananda,
Svarupa Damodara, like that. And He inquired... Even a learned scholar, He discussed about the philosophy, that Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. But when there was a great devotee like Ramananda Raya, He relished gopis', I mean to say, intimate behavior with Krishna. So we should remember this, that public may misunderstand this. Therefore we have to present these things very cautiously, not very openly. They may misunderstand.
Shrila Prabhupada's concern was that "The public may misunderstand this." Therefore the topic of Krishna's lila with the gopis is not to be preached openly. Even within a preaching society, we have our own "public" of neophyte devotees whose discrimination is sometimes found to be wanting. Either they may themselves misunderstand the pastimes, or they may inexpertly present them to outsiders who will surely misunderstand them. This topic is therefore not to be propagated throughout the general devotees & the public in general. It is confidential.
In 1976, Shrila Prabhupada expressed great displeasure with a group of devotees in Los Angeles who met regularly to discuss the loving pastimes of Krishna and the gopis. These devotees were not strong in
sadhana-bhakti and performance of sankirtana, and were under the influence of so-called babajis of Vrndavana. Thus they became victims of misconceptions about rasa. One thing that angered Prabhupada in particular was their attitude towards krishna-katha that does not directly pertain to gopi-bhava. They considered it of lesser importance. Thus Prabhupada rebuked them for thinking that "Mother Yasoda is less than the gopis."
Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita Adi-lila 4.42 and 43 states--
"Four kinds of devotees are the receptacles of the four kinds of mellows in love of God, namely servitude, friendship, parental affection and conjugal love. Each kind of devotee feels that his sentiment is the most excellent, and thus in that mood he tastes great happiness with Lord Krishna."
In his purport to Text 44 of this chapter, Shrila Prabhupada writes--
"No one is higher or lower than anyone else in transcendental relationships with the Lord, for in the absolute realm everything is equal. But although these relationships are absolute, there are also transcendental differences between them. Thus the transcendental relationship of conjugal love is considered the highest perfection."
The madhurya-rasa is considered to be the best of all relationships because it includes all the other rasas and yet is the sweetest of all. The gopis are so attached to Krishna that they consider all of His pastimes in any relationship to be nectar for their ears. So addicted are they to hearing and chanting Krishna's glories that they are unable to stop even if the pastime under discussion gives them pain--for instance, Krishna's leaving Vrndavana for Mathura (vid. Shrimati Radharani's famous talk with the bumblebee).
So how can a devotee aspiring for madhurya-rasa not care to hear about Krishna's activities with His mother and father, or with His cowherd boyfriends, or with Arjuna? Shrila Prabhupada said, "That is called sahajiya. The sahajiyas will never read Bhagavad-gita. [Sarcastic] Because they have been elevated to the mellows of conjugal love. Therefore they have no interest in Bhagavad-gita. Or when you discuss Shrimad-Bhagavatam on the philosophical point, janmadyasya, they also do not attend."
A Bengali academic named Manindra Mohan Bose has written a well- researched book entitled The Post-Chaitanya Sahajiya Cult of Bengal (Gian Publishing House, Delhi, 1986). He identifies the difference between the Sahajiyas and the Vaishnavas thusly: "Up to this limit the Vaishnavas and Sahajiyas are in perfect agreement, but beyond this the Sahajiya doctrine has separated from the main current, and hence this is the turning point of the Sahajiya doctrine. The Vaishnavas have not discarded the other three emotions [viz. dasya, sakhya and vatsalya], though they lay special stress on Madhura, for it is maintained by them that a devotee may adopt any of the four in his attempt to realize God...But the Sahajiyas have adopted the Madhura Rasa only, asserting that the mystic doctrine of love rests on the foundation of that emotion. With this conception they have separated from the parent stock, and working on this principle, they have turned their thoughts to a new channel." (Pg 174-176)
It has previously been explained that Lord Gauranga's followers primarily aspire for a dasya relationship with the Lord in His pastimes of sankirtana. This primary aspiration does not forestall discussion of Krishna's pastimes with the gopis. But without serving the Name, Pastimes, Abode, Associates and the Mission of Lord Gauranga, entrance into Radha-Krishna madhurya-lila is impossible. However, the prakrta-sahajiyas are so "devoted" to the madhurya-bhava that they even try to approach Lord Gauranga in that mood
(vid. the Gauranga-nagari sect). The so-called devotion of the prakrta-sahajiyas is therefore really only an offensive obsession with sex.
There's an old English saying: "Fools rush in where angels dare to tread." Impelled by lust, the foolish sahajiyas attempt to force their way into madhurya-lila heedless of their own anarthas. One device they've invented to intrude into Krishna's pastimes is the siddha-pranali initiation, in which the guru "reveals" to his
thoroughly neophyte disciples their siddha-svarupas (eternal spiritual identities) in Krishna-lila. The disciples receive a mantra that they use to meditate upon their supposed eternal identities, and then continue in their ordinary worldly affairs proudly thinking, "I am a gopi" or "I am Radha's pet bird." The siddha-pranali initiation is just a trap of maya, and it serves as an example of the danger that awaits unqualified persons who prematurely try to understand Krishna's confidential pastimes.
So, in conclusion, though Shrila Prabhupada writes in Cc Adi 4.30, "If one is a sincere and pure devotee, the material lust in his heart is completely vanquished as he discusses the lusty feelings between the gopis and Krishna, and he makes quick progress in spiritual life," the cautions mentioned above should always be
The ekadasa-bhava process of raganuga cultivation explained in Harinama Cintamani is particularly meant for bhajananandis. There's no doubt of that, because in this explanation Shrila Haridasa Thakura states that devotees who accept this method of cultivation must be chanting 196 rounds daily. That helps us understand why Shrila Prabhupada said in the morning walk referred to above that if devotees attempt the siddha-pranali method, "Preaching will be finished." Who will find time to preach if he chants 196 rounds a day? Moreover, who CAN chant 196 rounds a day? Therefore, if devotees attempt to perform bhajananandi ekadasa-bhava cultivation, they will just manufacture a siddha-pranali, being unable to practice it as it is described in the Harinama Cintamani. As explained in my previous text, we are a gostyanandi movement. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada forbade his disciples to practice the bhajananandi method of nirjana-bhajana, not because nirjana-bhajana is unheard-of in our sampradaya, but because he saw that people are now too fallen to practice it properly. Therefore Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada established in his Shri Gaudiya Math the proper format of gostyanandi raganuga cultivation for the modern
age and Shrila Prabhupada also implemented it.
But though the format is different, the essence of gostyanandi and
bhajananandi raganuga-sadhana is the same.
In Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Ragavarta-candrika (which
contains a description of raganuga-sadhana), the essence of raganuga
bhakti is explained thusly:
prathamatah krishnam smaran iti smaranasyatra
raganugayam mukhyetvam ragasya manodharmatvat
"As raga (attachment to Krishna) is the occupation of the mind, so also simultaneously must be smarana (remembering Krishna); therefore smarana is the main limb of sadhana for the practioner of raganuga-bhakti." The idea here is that there can be no raganuga-bhakti without remembering Krishna. Therefore in essence raganuga-bhakti means the cultivation of remembrance of Krishna.
One who is a Prabhupada-anuga is certainly a raganuga-bhakta. Is not Shrila Prabhupada an eternal resident of Vrndavana? So if we aspire to follow Shrila Prabhupada in his service to Krishna, there is no doubt that
this is raganuga-bhakti. If we remember Shrila Prabhupada's instructions and example in devotional service, that is smaranam, the essential limb of raganuga-bhakti. Shrila Prabhupada's instruction to us is the same as
Gauranga Mahaprabhu's to Lord Nityananda and Shrila Haridasa Thakura: prati ghare ghere jai kara aei bhiksa bolo krishna bhaja krishna kare krishnasiksa--"Go from door to door and beg everyone you see to chant Gauranga's & Krishna's holy name, worship Nitai-Gauranga and Krishna and hear the philosophy of
By executing this instruction, one is accepted into Lord Gauranga's lila in the mood of dasya-rasa. In this mood, one remembers one's own spiritual master as an eternal associate of Mahaprabhu who is handing His order to us: pratah shriman-navadvipe dvi-netram dvi-bhujam gurum varabhaya-pradam santam smaret tan-nama-purvakam--"In the morning (before engaging in Krishna's service) one should remember the spiritual maste as being situated in Navadvipa-dhama, having two eyes and two arms, as being peaceful, and as bestowing all benediction and fearlessness upon chanting his name." And thus by the grace of Shri Shri Guru and Gouranga, the devotee who always remembers their order gets the adhikari (privilege)
to enter in Radha-Krishna nitya-lila in Shri Vrndavana-dhama.
Previous acaryas explicitly mention the practices of raganuga-sadhana. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu imparted teachings about this to Shrila Rupa Gosvami and others. However, seeing the fallen condition of human society in Kali-yuga and understanding how raganuga-bhakti could be misunderstood and misapplied,
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Shrila Prabhupada very strongly warned persons against premature attempts at raganuga-sadhana and hearing confidential topics of Radha and Krishna.
In The Nectar of Devotion, Shrila Prabhupada advises: "Persons desiring to follow in the footsteps of such eternal devotees of the Lord as the Vrsnis and Vrndavana denizens are called raganuga devotees, which means they are trying to attain the perfection of those devotees. These raganuga devotees do not follow the regulative principles of devotional service very strictly, but by spontaneous nature they become attracted to some of the eternal devotees such as Nanda or Yasoda and they try to follow in their footsteps
spontaneously. There is a gradual development of the ambition to become like a particular devotee, and this activity is called raganuga.
"We must always remember, however, that such eagerness to follow in the footsteps of the denizens of Vraja (Vrndavana) 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. 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.
"Therefore, in the beginning, everyone should strictly follow the regulative principles of devotional service, according to the intentions 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 Vrndavana" (NOD, Ch 16 p.125-126).
We see how Shrila Prabhupada responded in Los Angeles in 1976 when some devotees took premature interest in topics of Krishna and the gopis. As recorded in Hari Sauri's Transcendental Diary (Volume 2, p. 268), Shrila Prabhupada told them, "'You want to scrutinizingly study Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions, but why just the parts about the gopis? Why don't you scrutinizingly study where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, guru more murkha dekhi' karila sasana, His guru found Him to be a fool and told Him He was not fit for anything but chanting Hare Krishna? Why don't you scrutinize that part? First become a fool like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu before jumping over like monkey!'
"Puranjana tried to reassure him that they were not attempting to imitate the gopis' love for Krishna; they were simply studying the descriptions so they could develop such desires.
"Prabhupada flushed, his top lip quivering. 'First deserve, then desire! There is no question of desire unless one is actually liberated. Until that point you simply do whatever service you are given. So long as there is any pinch of material desire there is no question of desiring on the spiritual platform!'
"He said the intimate gopi lilas were discussed by Lord Chaitanya only among His three most confidential associates -- Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya, Sikhi Mahiti. Siddha deha is for liberated souls -- no one else.
"Sulocana said that they had thought it was all right because it was in Prabhupada's books and they were only reading his books. Prabhupada told them that just because the drugstore has every type of drug it does not mean that one can get them without prescription. The doctor prescribes according to the disease. He said that from the beginning stages of devotional service up to the highest rasa, everything is there in his books, but they are not all to be immediately studied."
If devotees prematurely take interest in topics of Krishna and the gopis, what harm could come? As Krishna's loving affairs with the gopis resemble material exchanges between boys and girls, by concentrating on such topics one's lust may increase, and one's spiritual advancement may be checked.
"When one is liberated and hears of Lord Krishna's and Radha's loving affairs, he is not inclined to have lusty desires. One mundane rogue once said that when the Vaishnavas chant the name 'Radha, Radha,' he simply remembers a barber's wife named Radha. This is a practical example. Unless one is liberated, he should not try to hear about the loving affairs between Radha and Krishna. If one is not liberated and listens to a relation of the rasa dance, he may remember his mundane activities and illicit connections with some woman whose name may also be Radha. In the conditioned stage one should not even try to remember such things. By practicing the regulative principles, one should rise to the platform of spontaneous attraction for Krishna. Then and only then should one hear about the radha-krishna-lila. Although these affairs may be very pleasing both to conditioned and to liberated souls, the conditioned soul should not try to hear them" (Cc M 8. 255p).
In the same reserved mood, Shrila Prabhupada simply presented himself as the humble servant of his spiritual master and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, although in Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi 1.46p) he instructs, "The spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Shrimati
Radharani or a manifested representation of Shrila Nityananda Prabhu." While on Appearance Days and at other functions, some Gaudiya Vaishnavas may refer to their spiritual master or previous acaryas in terms of their eternal relationship with Krishna, Shrila Prabhupada rarely did. In fact, when one disciple asked Shrila Prabhupada what his eternal relationship with Krishna was, Shrila Prabhupada replied that it is not proper for a disciple to ask such questions. So in general we should be reserved in discussing such matters, as Shrila Prabhupada was.
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura clearly explains that experience of one's internal spiritual form (svarupa) required for the culture of proper raganuga-bhakti is revealed simply by the grace of chanting the Name
received from the Nama-tattva-vit-guru:
isat vikasi punah dekhaya nija rupa guna
citta hari laya krishna pasa
purna vikasita hana vraje more jaya lana
dekhaya nija svarupa vilasa
"When the name is even slightly revealed it shows me my own spiritual form and characteristics. It steals my mind and takes it to Krishna's side. When the name is fully revealed, it takes me directly to Vraja, where it shows me my personal role in the eternal pastimes."
Prabhupada-lilamrita Chp38: Prabhupada and his host related to each other graciously. But one night Mr. Balu and his wife came to ®r la Prabhupda and asked him to please speak about the rsa-l l of Rdh and Ka. Prabhupda replied that the rsa-l l, being the most exalted spiritual topic, was
meant only for liberated souls. Only one completely free of material desires, Prabhupda explained, was fit to hear the rsa-l l. No, Swamiji," Mr. Balu insisted. My wife and I are very keen. You must
recite rsa-l l."
Again Prabhupda described the exalted position of the rsa dance, repeating that only when one is completely free of all material attachments to wife, family, home, and money could he become fit to hear of Ka's rsa dance. Mr. Balu then folded his hands and politely repeated, Swamiji, my wife and
I plead with you. Please recite rasa-lila."
Then Prabhupada replied, Well, you may be fit to hear rasa-lila, but I do not feel that I am qualified to speak it. So kindly ask someone else."
Adapted from some writings of His Holiness Suhotra Swami.