Raganuga Bhakti: Clearing Misconceptions
For the last thirty years, we have often heard the following false statements and misconceptions regarding the topic of raganuga-bhakti from the leaders and followers of various spiritual missions.
By quoting Gaudiya Vaisnava shastra, this post will remove these misconceptions and establish the truth and real facts about the practice of raganuga-bhakti. The misconceptions will be followed by the truth and correct conception.
LIST OF POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS ON RAGANUGA BHAKTI
- MISCONCEPTION: “You have to be a pure devotee or be a very advanced devotee to practice raganuga-bhakti.”
TRUTH: Wrong! Vaidhi bhakti and raganuga-bhakti are two parallel paths of sadhana bhakti. Practice of either path can begin at the stage of anartha nivrtti. Both paths progress through the stages of anartha nivrtti, nishtha, ruchi, asakti and culminate in prema. However, the prema perfection of vaidhi sadhana takes one to Vaikuntha or to the majestic, formal realm of Goloka, a vaibhava expansion Goloka Vrindavana. Whereas, the prema perfection of raganuga sadhana immerses one in the intimately sweet madhurya-lila seva of Radha-Govinda Yugala in Gokula Vrindavana, the topmost plane of spiritual attainment.
Shastra Proof: Vaidhi bhakti and raganuga-bhakti are two parallel paths of sadhana bhakti. (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.5) Vaidhi sadhakas attain Goloka not Gokula Vrindavana. (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.303, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti tika; and Raga Vartma Chandrika 1.12)
yeṣāṁ tu vṛndāvane rādhā-kṛṣṇayor mādhuryāsvādane ‘bhilāṣaḥ athaca nyāsa mudrādi vaidhī mārgānusāreṇa bhajanaṁ teṣāṁ dvārakāyāṁ na rukmiṇī-kāntasya prāptis tatrābhilāṣābhāvāt. na vā vṛndāvane śrī rādhā-kṛṣṇayoḥ prāptiḥ rāga mārgeṇa bhajanābhāvāt. tasmāt teṣāṁ vidhi mārgeṇa bhajana kāryasya aiśvarya-jnānasya prādhānyaṁ yatra yathābhūtasya śrī vṛndā-vanasyāṁśe goloke śrī rādhā-kṛṣṇayoḥ prāptiḥ na tu śuddha mādhuryamaye vṛndāvane iti jneyam.
- MISCONCEPTION: “O, Prabhu, You are not qualified for practicing raganuga-bhakti sadhana.”
In this regard, we once heard a Guru address an audience of 100 disciples: “None of you are qualified to practice raganuga-bhakti. So don’t even think about it or reading anything about this. Just do your service!”
TRUTH: First of all, such statements are made because of personal interest or mission maintenance considerations. Secondly, how can anyone generically judge the content of another devotee’s attraction to Krishna, or the sweetness one feels in his/her heart regarding Radha-Govinda Yugala? The practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana has nothing to do with age, gender, ashram, spiritual experience, titles or posts.
According to Sri Rupa Gosvami, if one’s mind and senses become even slightly attracted to and interested in seeing the beautiful murtis of the stunningly gorgeous Radhe-Shyama or Sri Sri Radha Raman or, or if one feels a sweet feeling of loving attraction in his/her heart after hearing the astonishing Vraja madhurya lila katha of Radha-Krishna and Their sakhi manjaris—then one is qualified to begin and to practice raganuga-bhakti sadhana.
In other words, qualification is based on one’s individual taste, attraction and the sweetness one experiences by living in Sri Vraja Dhama, worshiping and seeing Radhe-Shyama, and hearing/reading the Vraja lilas (especially asta-kaliya-lila) of Radha-Madhava and the gopis.
Shastra Proof: “Those who develop longing for the bhāva of the gopīs after seeing the sweetness in the deity of Krishna and the gopīs, or after hearing about His pastimes with the gopīs, are qualified for sādhana of either of these types of kāmānuga-bhakti [i.e. raganuga-bhakti sadhana following the gopis and manjari of Vraja]. The Padma Purāṇa says gender does not matter, so even men can attain the bhakti of the Vraja gopis.” (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.300)
śrī-mūrter mādhurīṁ prekṣya, tat-tal-līlāṁ niśamya vā
tad-bhāv ākāṇkṣiṇo ye syus, teṣu sādhana tānayoḥ
purāṇe śruyate pādme, puṁsam api bhaved iyam
Sri Jiva Goswamipada said, “When one REALIZES TO SOME DEGREE the sweetness of the love and activities of Sri Krishna’s eternal Vrajavasi associates through hearing from the scriptures such as Bhāgavatam, which describe these siddha devotees, his/her intelligence may develop disregard for the injunctions of scripture (śāstram) and logic (yuktim), though logic is certainly employed.” (tika Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.292)
- MISCONCEPTION: “In raganuga-bhakti sadhana there are no rules, so you just follow your ‘bhava’ and serve Radha and Krishna according to your liking.”
TRUTH: Again, totally wrong! A raganuga-bhakti sadhaka FOLLOWS ALL THE RULES AND REGULATIONS of vaidhi sadhana plus more. Yes, a raganuga sadhaka rises by 4 a.m; attends mangala aratika; chants 16 rounds minimum; studies Srimad Bhagavatam and Goswami granthas; travels and preaches; distributes audios, videos, posts and books; follows the 4 regulative principles; daily bathes twice/thrice; only eats Krishna prasadam; wears devotional clothes…and so on.
In Raga Vartma Chandrika, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti has clarified this point by saying, “A raganuga-bhakti sadhaka follows all the rules of vaidhi bhakti except the following [which today practically no one does anyway]:
1) Read & Meditate upon Sri Krishna’s Dvaraka lila (dvaraka-dhyana);
2) Worship the Dvaraka Queens (mahishi-puja);
3) Use mudras in puja;
4) Do nyasa to purify body;
5) Think, “I am Krishna” “Radha” or such and such istadevata (ahamgrahopasana)
Shastra Proof: (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.296 tika of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti; and Raga Vartma Chandrika)
- MISCONCEPTION: “If the members of the mission start practicing raganuga-bhakti, no one will preach anymore and the mission will collapse.”
TRUTH: Again, wrong! As previously said, many famous raganuga sadhakas are also preaching worldwide, printing and distributing books and lecturing on Krishna consciousness.
Raganuga bhakti is a private, internal practice based one’s raga or personal attraction toward Sri Krishna and His eternal Vrindavana associates in a particular way. Just like a husband externally works hard to maintain his family while simultaneously internally deepening his love and commitment to his wife and children. The outreach practices of preaching, traveling and training disciples can easily go on side by side with raganuga-bhakti sadhana.
Shastra Proof: Raganuga-bhakti like vaidhi bhakti is a sadhana, a daily practice leading to spiritual perfection. (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu 1.2.5)
Raganuga-bhakti sadhana ki jai! Manjari bhava ki jai! Jaya Jaya Sri Radhe!
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