- Kamanuga Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana
In three verses only (Brs. 1.2.294-296), Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains the practice of raganuga-bhakti. From these key verses, many more teachings and books on raganuga-bhakti have been written by Sri Jiva Goswami, Srila Narottama dasa, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti, and especially Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami. This essay series is based on the teachings of these Gaudiya Vaisnava Mahajana acharyas.
- One Sadhana: Accept Favorable Practices
In the last verse describing raganuga-bhakti sadhana, Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “The raganuga sadhaka should intelligently select those limbs of vaidhi-sadhana bhakti like hearing, chanting and remembering Radha-Krishna which nourish and promote his practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana.”
shravanotkirtanadini, ravanotkirtanadini, vaidha-bhakty-uditani tu
yany angani ca tany atra, vijneyani manishibhih (Brs. 1.2.296)
Second Trans: “The raganuga-bhakti sadhaka should also perform all the limbs of vaidhi bhakti, such as hearing and chanting, as far as they are favorable.”
Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada says, “A raganuga-sadhaka should practice the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti that contribute to and develop his desired mood of Vraja madhurya gopi bhava and not the limbs opposed to it.” (Raga Vartma Chandrika 11)
A kamanuga raganuga-bhakti sadhaka will accept and practice those limbs (bhakti-anga) of vaidhi-sadhana bhakti which cultivate his desired sthayi-bhava, permanent loving mood toward Krishna, namely the madhura-rati of the Vraja-gopis like Sri Radha, Lalita, and especially the Radha sneha-adhika bhavollasa rati of Radharani’s seva dasis, Sri Rupa-manjari and Rati/Tulasi manjari. Using his intelligence and the wise counsel of his gurus, the sadhaka should carefully select those limbs of vaidhi-bhakti which nourish his manjari-bhava and not hamper it. Obviously practicing the favorable limbs also includes rejecting the unfavorable limbs and practices of vaidhi-bhakti.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada lists the practices that must be discarded: “On the path of vaidhi-bhakti, the scriptures direct the sadhaka to meditate on Dvaraka (dvaraka-dhyana); worship Queen Rukmini (mahishi-arcana); perform mudras during puja (hand gestures) and nyasa (body purification by touch and mantras); and do self-worship (ahamgraopasana). For a raganuga-sadhaka desiring gopi-bhava, however, all these practices must be rejected and not done. They are unfavorable and go against Vraja gopi-bhava.” (Brs. 1.2.296 tika)
Special Features of Raganuga Bhakti
There are similarities and differences in vaidhi-sadhana and raganuga-sadhana. On both paths, the sadhakas follow the four principles and a host of scriptural rules and regulations. They are parallel paths of sadhana, both progressing through the nine stages of devotion i.e. shraddha, sandhu sanga and diksha, anartha-nivrtti, nistha, ruchi, asakti, bhava, prema.
In vaidhi-bhakti, one practices dutifully out of fear or submission to the dictates of scriptures while thinking, “I should do this; it will help me and be good for me.” Raganuga-bhakti, however, is much different, in that the motivation to act is generated from the heart and not the mind as in vaidhi-bhakti. The raga sadhaka is propelled by intense natural liking and attraction (ruchi) to Sri Krishna, lobha.
Among the nine limbs of sadhana bhakti, the practice of remembrance, smarana, is paramount for raganuga-sadhakas. For example, both vaidhi and raganuga-sadhakas perform Thakuraji puja (archana) by externally offering 5 or 16 articles (panchopacara, shodashopacara pujana).
For raganuga-sadhakas, however, the main puja (“Deity worship”) is done internally through smarana, or mental remembrance of the beautiful forms of Radha-Shyama, and mentally offering Them a variety of articles and sevas (manasi-seva) throughout the eight periods of the day, asta-kaliya-lila seva. Bhakti Sandarbha (278) says, “Meditation means detailed contemplation of a form i.e. Radha-Madhava, visheshato rupadi vi-vicintanam dhyanam.
Admittedly, remembrance and meditation are difficult. Regarding this, Srila Narottama dasa Thakura prays to his mind to be friendly, fixed and cooperative. We too can pray like this:
“May the seva of Radha-Krishna’s lotus feet remain in my mind, and may my mind be fixed in meditation upon Them. May my mind love this Youthful Pair, who are the reigning monarchs over all Cupids and Ratis (his wives); and may my mind remain fixed on Radha-Govinda’s pastimes!”
yugala carana seva, yugala carana dhyeva,
yugalei manera piriti,
yugala kishora rupa, kama rati gana bhupa,
mane rahu o-lila ki riti (PBC 43)
The inner purity one acquires by steady sadhana facilitates such mental absorption, but its actual attainment is totally dependent on the mercy of Sri Hari, Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas.
Here we will highlight the difference in practices of the vaidhi and raganuga-sadhakas regarding, hearing, chanting, remembering and worshiping, shravanam, kirtanam, smaranam and archanam. The main element that distinguishes the kamanuga raganuga-bhakta from the vaidhi-bhakta is his bhava or mood, which is produced by an intense spiritual greed to serve Srimati Radharani like Sri Rupa-manjari and Rati-manjaris. Although not neglecting any aspect of bhakti, a raganuga-sadhaka will not perform any limbs of bhakti that are unfavorable to gopi-bhava, such as dvaraka-dhyana, mahishi-puja, mudras, nyasa and ahamgrahopasanä, even though they are among the 64 angas of devotion.
- Shravanam: HEARING
Raganuga-sadhakas will regularly hear/read and practice remembering Radha-Govinda’s Vraja madhurya-lilas. While hearing/reading books like Govinda Lilamrta, Vilapa Kusumanjali, Krishna Bhavanamrta, Sankalpa kalpadruma, and Bhavana Sara Sangraha one will sincerely pray to the respected authors that by their causeless mercy, their sweet manjari bhavas and lila realities will one day be his. He will also hear/read selected parts of other sacred works like Srimad Bhagavatam which nourish his greed and attachment for serving Radha and Krishna in Vraja madhurya-rati.
A vaidhi-sadhaka chants japa while concentrating on hearing the transcendental sound of the sublime maha-mantra. In addition to concentration, a raganuga-sadhaka chants japa while reflecting on the meanings (mantrartha cintata) given by different acaryas like Gopala Guru Goswami, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and especially Gaura-kishora dasa Babaji, who was constantly weeping in separation while chanting japa or kirtana.
Babaji Maharaja sometimes cried out to Srimati Radharani, “O Premamayi Radha! Where are You? Radhe…Radhe…!” kothay go prema mayi Radhe Radhe! Chanting and crying, begging for Radhika’s mercy, Baba would weep: dekha diye prana rakha, Radhe Radhe! he—tomara kangala tomaya dake, Radhe Radhe! “O Radha! I am nothing but a beggar at Your door. Please just once give Your darshana and save my life!”
While chanting japa, the raganuga-sadhakas will also think of the manjari svarupas of Sri Guru, himself and the leading manjaris and sakhis of his lineage along with remembering the asta-kaliya-lila of Radha Govinda Yugala as depicted in Govinda Lilamrta, Krishna Bhavanamrta and others.
Kirtana: Kirtana is done in both vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti. In bhajans and kirtans, vaidhi-sadhakas stress begging for mercy, purity and surrender. Mercy, purity and surrender are the very foundation of raga marga too, which also includes prayers and bhajans of intense lamentation, longing for the nitya-seva of Srimati Radhika at the stage of perfection, siddhi lalasa bhajans.
All Gaudiya Vaisnava sadhakas daily recite the Sri Gurvashtakam, “Samsara Prayers”. Raganuga-sadhakas, however, will also remember and reflect upon their Guru’s manjari form and nitya seva expertise while singing verses 5 & 6, (sri radhika madhavayor apara; nikunja yuno rati keli siddhyai).
- Smaranam REMEMBERING
Remembering Krishna (vishnoh smaranam), the third bhakti-anga, is the main practice for raganuga-sadhakas. Remembrance of Radha-Krishna’s beautiful divine forms, qualities and pastimes is possible with a pure mind which is attained by continuous nama-sankirtana.
Diksha Mantra Smarana
For vaidhi-sadhakas there are different general meanings for the Gopala mantra. But for raganuga-sadhakas cultivating manjari bhava, the Gopala/Krishna mantra is pure madhura-rati. The word Krishnaya means that Sri Krishna is the sweet darling of the damsels of Vrajabhumi who forcefully draws, pulls and attracts them to His side with the five flowers arrows of His beautiful, sweet and charming form, voice, fragrance, touch and the nectar taste of His cherry red lips. Govindaya means that Krishna Govinda gives unlimited bliss and satisfaction (vindate) to the Vraja-gopis (go).
Gopijanavallabha means that Gopinatha Sri Krishna is the beloved of all the Vraja damsels, especially Sri Radha whom Shyama loves the most of all. The word svaha represents Sri Yogamaya, an expansion of Krishna’s svarupa sakti, who connects the devotees to Krishna by bringing them into Radha-Krishna’s eternal pastimes. Svaha also means to offer or dedicate to.
Thus raganuga-sadhakas meditate on the line, “gopijanavallabha svaha” as meaning, “Just like the Vraja-gopis, I am offering myself fully at lotus feet of Gopijanavallabha Sri Krishna. And may Yogamaya mercifully arrange for me to eternally serve the Youthful Pair in the bowers of Vraja.”
In temples there are seven daily aratis through different periods of the day. The vaidhi-sadhaka thinks, “This is mangala arati, shringar arati, bhoga arati and shayana arati, morning, noon or evening. The raganuga-sadhakas may also observe seven daily aratis, but their thinking and meditation are quite different.
During mangala arati time, the manjaris are waking Radha-Madhava in Nidhivana from their repose after a vigorous night of rasa dancing. Lalita-sakhi illuminates Yugala’s lotus faces with a ghee lamp (i.e. mangala arati), so that all the sakhis and manjaris can see the beautiful radiance of Their srngara-prema which creates supreme auspiciousness (mangala) for everyone’s eyes.
The seven aratis occur during different time periods which also correspond to Radha and Krishna’s daily asta-kaliya-lila. So the raganuga-sadhakas thinks of these aratis in relation to the eight-fold daily pastimes of Radha-Madhava. For example, during Raja Bhoga Arati at noon, the raganuga-sadhakas thinks Radha Kunda. There Sri Krishna is worshiping Sri Radha with the ghee lamp of His heart illuminating Her face with the glow of His love emanating from His eyes. Both vaidhi and raga sadhakas may perform seven daily aratis, but you can see that their meditation and focus is quite different.
For vaidhi-sadhakas, archanam also includes murti-puja or “Deity Worship” of various murtis i.e. Radha-Krishna, Gaura-Nitai, Mahaprabhu, Giri Govardhana, Jagannathaji-Baladeva-Subhadra or Shalagramaji. Raganuga-sadhakas may perform murti-puja, but the main deity and worship for them is the mansic murtis, i.e. the forms of Radha-Krishna that one cherishes and mentally serves in his siddha deha. As you can see, the practices of the vaidhi-sadhakas and raganuga-sadhakas are similar, but the focus and meditations are categorically different.
Special Mercy for Raganuga Sadhakas
Devotees practicing raganuga-bhajana receive a special type of eagerness and guidance which is not available on the path of vaidhi-bhakti. Our Gaudiya Vaisnava mahajanas explain it thus.
The practice of raganuga-bhakti itself produces a special type of tasty relish and eagerness that inspires and drives the sadhaka enthusiastically forward on the path of raganuga bhajana. Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains, “Those devotees who are especially attracted to the ecstasy of the Vrajavasis, and thus perform raganuga-bhajana will attain an abundant flood (augham) of eagerness suitable for practicing raganuga-bhajana, sadhane ratah tad-yogyam anuragaugham prapya.” (Ujjvala Nilamani 3.49)
Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada comments, “The word anuraga [anuragaugham] means “eagerness in bhajana” and not the fifth stage of Krishna prema, which can only be experienced in a spiritual body.” (Raga-vartma-candrika II.7)
The raganuga-sadhaka also receives special input and direction regarding how to increase his raga and improve his practices. Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada says, “When sacred greed for Vraja bhava appears in the heart, the raganuga-bhakti sadhaka becomes enlightened in different ways.” To prove this, Cakravartipada cites the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.29.6):
Uddhava Mahashaya says, “Sri Krishna reveals Himself [to His devotees] through the guru or the Paramatma, acharya caitya vapusha svagatim vyanakti.”
Commenting on this, Cakravartipada says, “The raganuga-sadhaka receives knowledge about the feelings of Sri Krishna and His Vraja-associates from the mouth of his guru (guru mukhat) or from an advanced devotee (anuragi bhakta mukhat). And for some especially pure sadhakas, this knowledge is directly revealed in their hearts, citta vrtti svata eva sphuriteshu. Then, the raganuga-sadhaka will become extremely enlivened to attain his desired feelings, ullasam atishayena pravrttih kamo upaya.” (Raga Vartma Candrika I.9)
One should note that even the raganuga sadhaka must be advanced in bhakti and very pure in consciousness to receive direct inner guidance from the Paramatma. This is not a whimsical principle wherein any neophyte raganugiya can say, “I got inspired by Krishna to meditate like this or render such and such seva.” Mental projection, personal agendas and material aspirations may very well be mixed in any beginners’ “Paramatma inspired revelations.”
A sadhaka will attain success in bhajana by always being under the guidance of anuragi raganugiya bhaktas. Then one fine day in the future, when one is elevated and pure in consciousness, the raganuga-sadhaka may feel, move and act completely under the direction of the benevolent Rasaraja Sri Krishna, patiently waiting within the hearts of all rasikas.
In summary, Gauranga Mahaprabhu has appeared in Kali-yuga to bestow radha-dasyam (the loving service of Srimati Radharani) upon any fortunate sadhaka taking His shelter. By the mercy of Mahaprabhu and His followers like Srila Rupa Goswamipada, Srila Sanatana Goswamipada, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada, Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas one receives the divine greed and qualification to serve Srimati Radharani as Her maidservant (aka manjari, kinkari, dasi etc.).
Following the eternal associates of Sri Radha like Lalita-sakhi, Vishakha, Sri Rupa and Tulasi/Rati manjaris, the blessed sadhaka treads the path of raga or raganuga-bhakti, practicing what is called manjari-bhava-sadhana. With the blessings and individual guidance of Sri Guru, Paramatma Sri Krishna and the rasika-acharyas of our tradition, the raganuga-sadhaka passes through the stages of anartha-nivrtti, nishtha, ruchi and on to prema.
It is practically seen, however, that very few sadhakas actually take up the path of raga bhajana because it is difficult to understand, and also impossible to enter without the special mercy of Sri Krishna or accomplished raganugiya bhaktas, according to Srila Rupa Goswami.
By the mercy of Sri Guru, we have compiled this essay on raganuga-bhakti. It is our hope and prayer that some sadhakas will become blessed and inspired by the sacred words collected here from various transcendental sources, to take up the wonderful path of raganuga-bhakti sadhana.
Srila Rupa Goswamipada ki jai! Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada ki jai!
Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Manjari Bhava Sadhana ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!