Mahanidhi Swami

There are two distinct paths of sadhana bhakti: vidhi-marga and raga-marga, the paths of rules and passionate drive. Externally both observe the same practices i.e. hearing, chanting, remembering and worshiping Sri Krishna. Since both paths follow the same external practices, it is hard to differentiate between a vaidhi bhakta and a raganugiya bhakta. The difference is in the inner drive to act and practice sadhana. Thus it is the impetus that determines the path: vaidhi or raganuga.

On the path of raga, passionate drive, one’s spiritual greed creates a great inner hankering that propels one toward to the goal of attaining the same loving feelings and services as Krishna beloveds in Vraja. In vidhi-marga, one acts because of the fear of punishment or the sense of duty and acceptance of scriptural edict.

Perfection in vidhi-marga means attaining Vaikuntha and serving Sri Krishna in a mood of formality and majesty. Perfection in raga-marga takes one to Vraja-dhama and the intimate sweet personal service of Radha Govinda Yugala with the mood (manjari bhava), form and seva of a handmaiden of Srimati Radharani.

Beside the shared practices with vidhi-marga, raga-marga features a unique internal world of practice—mental service and meditation. Internally, one cultivates a specific divine loving emotion that ultimately gives realization and vision of one’s eternal spiritual body (siddha-svarupa) suited for Radha-Govinda’s direct service in Vraja.

The path of raganuga bhakti has two stages: unborn taste and awakened taste, ajata-ruci and jata-ruci. Unborn taste is the beginning stage when one is keenly interested in reading and hearing about Radha-Krishna and the gopis in Vraja. However, a mature, burning desire to serve Radha-Krishna as a gopi has not yet appeared. At this stage, one’s practice of raganuga-sadhana is a mixture of raganuga and vaidhi as far as one’s impetus is concerned.

In the second stage, jata-ruci, one feels a deep, overwhelming taste for both the practice and the goal of raganuga sadhana bhakti. This is raganuga proper in the sense that one is following (anuga) his powerful desires (raga) to attain gopi-bhava and Sri Radha’s eternal service. Besides a keen interest to read and hear Radha-Krishna topics, the jata-ruci sadhaka is spontaneously and constantly pushed forward simply by the power of his intense desire: “I must attain gopi-bhava and the eternal service of Srimati Radharani in this very lifetime!”

Manjari Bhava Upasakas ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

We humbly request our readers to read these teachings slowly, think deeply about each one, and pray to Sri Krishna for the energy and vision to implement them in your life.

  1. If we neglect the present, waiting for an auspicious future to arrive, we shall deprive ourselves of a golden opportunity to serve Krishna and progress in devotion.
  1. If we want something special in the future, then we have to turn every present moment into action for the pleasure of Sri Hari, Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas.
  1. The best way to purify ourselves is to seek our own faults—and mind our own business i.e. pure bhakti.prema.
  1. When we depend on Krishna we are free of stress, peaceful, patient and strong. But as long as we think we are the doers then we will worry, worry, worry.
  1. Always remember that Sri Krishna alone is the original doer, the cause, and the completely independent Lord of everything moving and nonmoving, adi karta svayam prabhuh.

(Shri Vinod Bihari Dasji Maharaja shiksha, adapted)

Shuddha bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

In his book of life nourishing teachings, Srila Rupa Goswamipada describes six actions which diminish and ultimately destroy loving sentiments for God (bhaktir vinashyati). And in the absence of love and devotion how can there be enthusiasm to serve another?

Let’s examine these six and the results they cause. If we are experiencing some of these results, we should immediately correct our behavior and carry on with enthusiastic devotional practices.

  1. Ati Aharah: Over—eating or collecting money.

This means eating too much prasada or taking food from inappropriate sources.

Result: Provokes material desires; and one’s consciousness becomes tainted with the negative non-spiritual energy of the source.

  1. Prayasa: Strenuous endeavors.

This means endeavoring for mundane things.

Result: Waste valuable human time and energy, and weaken your devotion by distraction to material pursuits.

  1. Prajalpa: Idle talks.

Engaging in idle talks, such as blasphemy, gossip, topics of sensuality, reading newspapers and materialistic books.

Result: By these acts of cultivating a taste for the mundane we cut the very root of devotion.

  1. Niyama Agrahah: Neglect of principles, regulated and devotional.

This means neglecting one’s spiritual practices, sadhana, i.e. upholding vows, and one’s daily chanting, reading shastra, worship, prayers and meditation.

Result: The lack of these nourishing waters cause one’s creeper of devotion, bhakti lata, to wither and dry up.

  1. Jana Sanga: Company of materialistic persons.

This means keeping mundane association either through cultivating relationships with worldly people or by vicariously enjoying their ways through movies, novels, newspapers, TV and Internet surfing.

Result: One nourishes his taste for the worldly and vanquishes his interest in devotion. And by this duhsanga, bad association, one becomes tainted with their lust and greed and eventually falls from the devotional path, bhakti vinashyati.

  1. Laulyam (lobha): Fickleness and mental restlessness (chancala mana).

If the mind is fickle, it will run here and there to any tasty distraction. And if one is the curious type with lots of intellectual interests, he will indulge in unlimited unrelated topics of sense enjoyment.

Result: Scattered brain and loss of mental peace. And most importantly, one loses the focus of his consciousness in God and the goal of human life, namely Radha and Krishna’s eternal prema seva in the bowers of Vraja.

Conclusion: Be fixed and one pointed in bhakti bhajana. Avoid these six actions at all cost. Then you will attain everything—peace, harmony, love, fulfillment and eternal bliss in the kingdom of Krishna prema.

The actual verse reference from Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s (Upadeshamrita 2):

atyaharah prayasash cha, prajalpo niyamagrahah

jana sangash cha laulyam cha, shadbhir bhaktir vinashyati

Shuddha Bhakti Bhajana ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Sometimes one feels disappointed with his progress and experience in bhakti sadhana. And as a result, he loses his enthusiasm for serving Sri Hari, Guru and the Vaisnavas. What began as a devotional expression may turn into an emotional depression.

However, we can maintain our equilibrium by controlling the senses, and by sincere daily sadhana practices. Don’t allow the mind to indulge in moods of disappointment and depression.

This is ignorance, tamo-guna, inertia, non-movement and illusion. We are not helpless—our minds are within our control. Just as our minds make us feel disappointed and depressed, the same mind, RETUNED, can make us feel fulfilled and happy in Krishna consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada compared bhakti sadhana to a baby’s attempts to walk. It does not matter how many times you fall, what counts is how many times you pick yourself up!

Srila Prabhupada said, “In the beginning [of sadhana bhakti] there may be some failures. That is quite natural. Just as a child is trying to stand, he may fall down. But that does not mean he should give up. Go on! Stick to it! And a time will come when you will be perfect in Krishna consciousness.”(690101BG.LA)

One day, all of a sudden, the baby will get the power, stand up and start walking. Similarly, one day, all of a sudden, the baby in bhakti will get Krishna’s mercy, and start running joyfully in the bliss of realizing Krishna’s love.

In this regard, Srila Prabhupada said, “The devotee should patiently follow the rules and regulations of devotional service so that the day will come when he will achieve, ALL OF A SUDDEN, all the perfection of devotional service.” (NBS 5 pur.)

A devotee can maintain his enthusiasm by remembering Sri Guru and Sri Krishna’s great kindness upon him, and by cultivating feelings of gratitude toward your merciful master and the loving Lord Sri Krishna. Enthusiasm to pull on and keep serving Sri Krishna will definitely arise in our minds if we heart fully chant Krishna’s Holy Names with faith and determination.

But don’t start chanting a fixed number of daily rounds, and then soon quit because of a lack of taste. Be patient and persevere! Krishna is watching and waiting, testing each new candidate of devotion.

While we are performing sadhana bhakti, Bhagavan Sri Krishna is thinking, “Is this person really a bhakta? Are they serious about spiritual advancement? Does he/she really want to serve Me and love Me? Or are they just selfish, only concerned with their own peace, happiness and benefit?”

Every sadhaka stands for examination before God. Be patient, be steady and keep up your daily sadhanas and japa chanting. Don’t give up! Because the very day you give up, might be the day that Bhagavan Sri Krishna was going to “all of a sudden” shower His mercy upon you!

Krpa patra sadhakas ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami


Srila Prabhupada:

“The first principle of practicing bhakti-yoga is hearing. And as you become experienced in hearing, then you become a preacher—Kirtanam.” (700312BG.LA)

“Only one who has properly grasped the transcendental knowledge from the right source by submissive hearing can properly explain the subject.” (SB 1.1.6)

Disciple: “Srila Prabhupada, “I preached good arguments and philosophy to him, but he did not accept. So I told him just chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.”

Srila Prabhupada: “No, hearing is the first [practice]. Give him a chance for hearing.” (730811rc.par)

“Hearing is the first step in God realization. Thus, if we can simply convince these big men to hear, then gradually they will come to the point of accepting [Krishna consciousness].” (73-02-21 letter to mukunda)


Srimad Bhagavatam (11.3.48) says, “You should worship Sri Krishna in the particular personal form of Krishna that you find most attractive.” Commenting on this Sri Jiva Goswamipada says, “In the same way, one should AGAIN AND AGAIN HEAR DESCRIPTONS of the form of Krishna that one finds most attractive. (Bk.San. 262)

In other words, follow your taste and attraction. If you have a natural liking and curiosity for philosophy, then spiritualize it by reading Gita. If you like amazing stories with a message then read the immaculate and transcendental Srimad Bhagavatam.

And if you are crazy about Radha-Krishna, then read Srila Prabhupada’s KRSNA BOOK and other books like Govinda Lilamrita, Krishna Bhavanamrita, Krishnanika Kaumudi, Ananda Vrindavana Champu, Bhavana Sara Sangraha and many others per your adhikara.


Sri Jiva Goswamipada:

“As far as hearing about Krishna, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam is the best since its words are most powerful and it is the tastiest. (Bk. San. 260)

Srila Prabhupada:

“Hearing of the Bhagavad-gita and, later on, Srimad Bhagavatam is essential for the serious candidate who wants to attain the stage of perfection at the end.” (SB 1.9.43)

“Hearing is the first experience [of Sri Krishna]. If you want to get experience of the planet where Krishna lives, then you have to hear. There is no other way.” (661012BG.NY.)


Srila Prabhupada:

“Patient and submissive hearing is definitely essential. With great respect and attention, one should receive the message and lessons imparted by the Srimad Bhagavatam.” (SB 1.1.3)


Bhagavan Sri Krishna:

“Brahmaji, one should regularly hear the Srimad Bhagavatam with faith. Hearing the Bhagavatam is the only means of satisfying Me.” (SB Mahatyam 5)

Srila Prabhupada:

“Without hearing, nobody can understand the science of God.” (lec montreal 16/8/68)

“By the hearing process, one can realize the presence of the Lord in the temple Deity. Thus hearing is the essential point!” (SB 2.3.21)

This is our last quotation about hearing as the primary limb of devotion. For those readers who are still a little attached to their material comfort zones, we suggest you don’t read any further.

What follows are the confessions and realizations of the greatest lover of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, namely Srimati Radharani. Sri Radhika lovingly spoke this in the state of divine delirium (divyonmada mahabhava) while feeling the bitter pain of separation from Her beloved Shyama, who had gone to Mathura—never to return. This verse appears in the famous “Bhramara Gita” of the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.47).

Srimati Radharani:

“To hear about the pastimes that Krishna regularly performs is nectar for the ears. For those who relish just a single drop of that nectar, even once, their dedication to material duality is ruined.

“Many such persons have suddenly given up their wretched homes and families and, themselves becoming wretched, traveled here to Vrindavana to wander about like birds, begging for their living.” (SB 10.47.18)

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada Sarartha Darshini tika:

In these verses, Srimati Radharani is saying, “Just hearing about the pastimes Krishna performed at every moment (anucaritam) is nectar for the ears, what to speak of the joy one gets by understanding their meaning. Even one drop of this nectar completely destroys (vidhutah:visheshena khanditah) the propensities of duality, and the propensities of mutual friendship between women and men.”

Sri Radha continues, “If a wife hears discussions about Krishna, she immediately gives up affection for her husband. And if a husband hears them he gives up affection for his wife. The same is also true for a child in connection with his mother and father. If a mother hears about Krishna, she loses all affection for her children. Thus, by this mutual rejection they all become totally ruined (vinastah).” (tika: SB 10.47.18)

Srimati Radharani Uvaca ki jai! Vraja Prema Bhikhari ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Many newcomers to Krishna consciousness are confused. “Should I start my spiritual life by reading books like Gita and Bhagavata and hearing from learned devotees? Or should I chant japa of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra?”

The confusion arises from the Chaitanya-caritamrta verse (3.4.71) which says, “Of the nine limbs of bhakti, the most important is nama-sankirtana [which means chanting japa or kirtana]. If one chants without offenses, he gets the wealth of Krishna prema, sarva-shreshtha nama-sankirtana, nir aparadhe nama laile, paya prema-dhana.”

Of course, this is a fact, but in bhakti-sadhana there are nine steps to prema. The first one is hearing, then comes chanting, remembering and on to absolute, total surrender and dedication in Krishna prema, shravanam, kirtanam, atma-nivedanam.

This is a logical sequence based on common sense. In this world, you cannot do anything without knowhow, and that comes from hearing and reading. Hearing is the source of inspiration, which at one point arises in your mind. That is why hearing is the basic principle of Krishna consciousness. Hear first, then act; act and then realize!

By hearing, you become enthused to surrender to Sri Guru, serve Sri Krishna and chant Hare Krishna in japa and kirtana. Your heart thrills with a new, fresh and tasty cherished ideal: “Someday, little old me will attain Sri Krishna’s sweet love in the land of eternal play, Sridhama Vrindavana!”

Many things happen to us when we passively read about Krishna or hear Hari katha. Our hearts become purified of lust, anger and greed; clarity, conviction and determination arise in our minds to destroy our doubts and confusions; and most importantly, our solid, iceberg hearts start melting with drops of affection and loving attraction to that beautiful, sweet and charming Prince of Love named Krishna.

Without a strong foundation in hearing and reading, no one will be able to sustain his effort to chant Hare Krishna japa. Hearing about Krishna results in detachment from worldliness. If you are hearing new facts and truths of reality, and other exciting, amazing, interesting and sweet topics, then your mind will naturally and effortlessly become absorbed in them. This is the logical, solid and most beneficial way to begin the practice of Krishna consciousness—hear and read about Sri Krishna.

After one is firmly established in the teachings of Krishna bhakti, then he can intelligently and enthusiastically begin bhakti sadhana. At that time, it is certainly a fact that among all the practices, chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra is the best of all, sarva shrestha sadhana!

However, Srila Prabhupada and all our Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas agree that in the beginning of bhakti-sadhana, HEARING IS MOST IMPORTANT!

So now let’s hear/read their insightful and realized statements on this topic:


Sri Jiva Goswamipada:

“Hearing comes first, before glorifying or the other limbs of bhakti [like kirtanam, chanting japa and so]. Without first hearing one cannot attain knowledge of Krishna or the different activities of bhakti.” (Bhakti San. 262)

Srila Prabhupada:

“Hearing is the basic principle for understanding.” (Bg. 4.26) “The first item, hearing [also means reading scriptures], is the most important item of all.” (Bg. 4.26) “The Vedic literature is called shruti-shastra. Shruti means to hear or listen. If you simply hear [the shastras], then you will become perfect.” (661201BG.NY.)
“But out of all the nine different methods [nava-vidha bhakti], the first one, namely hearing [shravanam], is the most important function in the process of bhakti-yoga. Without hearing sufficiently and properly, no one can make any progress by any of the methods of practice [i.e. chanting japa].” (SB 2.2.36)

“Serious devotional service can develop by hearing for long periods of time. One should associate with devotees and hear from them about Krishna’ transcendental appearance, activities and instructions.” (SB 3.27.21)

“One begins spiritual activities for advancement in devotional service, or Krishna consciousness, by hearing. Indeed, hearing is the most important method for advancement in Krishna consciousness, and one should be very eager to hear favorably about Krishna.” (TLC 12)

Hearing Krishna-katha ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

Sri Krishna concludes His teaching on dhyana-yoga, which means, “divine communion through self-control and meditation”, by saying that the bhakti-yogi or Krishna bhakta is the yuktatamo yogi, the greatest yogi. (Gita 6.47)

Before reaching this conclusion, however, Krishna gives important instructions on yoga that apply to all classes of transcendentalists. Of course, as Krishna bhaktas our dhyana yoga is mainly chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra along with meditation upon its meaning, and the divine forms and pastimes of Radha and Krishna fully present within the mantra.

To improve our understanding and practices of devotion, we will examine Krishna’s universal teachings on yoga presented in chapter six of Gita.

Verse 37:

Why does a devotee fall down? Sri Krishna answers, “A devotee falls down from the path of bhakti-yoga because of being negligent in his practices, calita manash yogat.”

Srila Prabhupada explains, “Despite constant endeavor [in sadhana bhakti], one may fail for many reasons. First of all, one may not be following the process [rules of vaidhi-

Mahanidhi Madana Gopala Dasa

Want to know what kind of a devotee you are? Curious to know your level of advancement in bhakti bhajana? Simple, just take the amazing test below. In this exam, you grade your SELF and Krishna is the monitor!

Good luck, for we hope all our readers will pass the bhakti test with flying colors. The following amazing question/answer series will definitely help any devotee.

The Bhakti SELF Test

  1. Q: To what degree is my heart purified?

A: To the degree that I have I stopped seeing faults in others.

  1. Q: How much have I progressed in bhajan?

A: To the extent I have become free of false ego, material desires and thoughts other than Sri Bhagavän.

  1. Q: How much have I gained Bhakti devi’s mercy?

A: I have gained Bhakti devi’s mercy to the extent I consider myself lower than others, unworthy and fallen.

  1. Q: How much fearless have I become?

A: To the extent I have become free of false ego and taken the shelter of Sri Govinda’s lotus feet.

  1. Q: How much of a pure devotee have I become?

A: To the extent I have stopped seeing faults in others and started forgiving them.

  1. Q: How much has my intelligence become clear?

A: To the extent I can seek out my own faults and try with body, speech and mind to improve myself for the better.

  1. Q: How much free have I become of false ego?

A: To the extent I can hear the harsh words of an evil person and yet remain non-agitated.

  1. Q: How much is my heart illuminated with bhakti?

A: To the extent it has become free of false ego, and it is agitated for the darshana of the Divine Couple.

  1. Q: How much liberated am I?

A: As much as I am free of material desires.

  1. Q: How much detached am I?

A: As much as I have become disinterested in worldly matters.

  1. Q: Am I deprived?

A: Yes, if I am still waiting for that auspicious moment to arrive when I will start doing bhajana.

  1. Q: Am I qualified to receive Sri Bhagavän’s mercy quickly?

A: Yes, if I think –“I don’t have one second to lose. Death will come any moment and snatch me.” Thinking like this, I should accept all sorrow, innumerable troubles and tribulations, and continue my endeavors of bhajan with firm determination. In unfavorable circumstances, we can gain Sri Bhagavän’s kripä very quickly, more so then when the situation is favorable. How fast have I received mercy can be tested best by unfavorable circumstances.

  1. Q: Am I foolish?

A: Yes, I am, if I consider this destructible material body to be mine.

14 Q: Am I intelligent?

A: Yes, if by using this material body that is destructible and full of suffering I am able to obtain the transcendental, eternal and blissful Sri Govinda, then that means I am truly very intelligent.

End of test.

Grade your SELF. Then collapse in dandavats before Thakuraji, cry, beg for mercy and stand up again. Now enthusiastically try and try and keep trying until that wonderful day arrives when our nama-bhajana is pure, then mature, and then filled with Krishna prema.

(Obstacles in Bhakti, Shri Vinod Bihari Dasji Maharaja, adapted,)

Shuddha Bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!