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Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Due to unclear verse translations and purports in Srila Prabhupada’s books like “Nectar of Devotion” and “Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita”, many ISKCON members misunderstand and misrepresent the authorized practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana.

This post will cite these confusing translations and purports, and give clear explanations of the subject of raganuga-bhakti.

FREEDOM FROM IMPURITY?

Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion: “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.”

Clarification: In Raga-vartma-candrika (1.8) however, Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains that lobha, sacred greed, 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.

Visvanatha Cakravartipada: “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.’ (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.14.26)

“From these words of Sri Krishna, it is known that through sadhana-bhakti the consciousness of the sadhaka becomes more purified every day, and one gradually becomes more and more greedy.”

Srila Prabhupada: “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.”

Clarification:  This is not stated by Sri Rupa Goswamipada.

Srila Prabhupada: “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 Vrindavan.”

Clarification: In Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.5), Sri Rupa Goswamipada says there are two kinds of sadhana, practice 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, or that it cannot be practiced until after liberation.

Visvanatha Cakravartipada states in his Raga Vartma Candrika (2.7): “Then it will be described how one, who has progressed on the path of raganuga-bhakti through the cessation of the evils (anartha-nivrtti), firmness (nistha), taste (ruci), and attachment (asakti) all the way to the attainment of ecstatic love (prema), will directly come to attain his desired object.”

RAGANUGA-BHAKTI BEGINS AT NISHTHA: TRUE OR FALSE?

Different acharyas following Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati claim that raganuga-bhakti sadhana commences at the stage of nistha, ruci or even bhava, but there is not a word of evidence for that in the authorized scriptures on the topic, like Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu or its commentaries, Bhakti Sandarbha, Madhurya Kadambini or Raga Vartma Candrika.

In his book “Sri Guru Parampara- Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda”, Tripurari Swami says that “In Bhakti-sara-pradarshini (his commentary on Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu), Visvanatha Cakravartipada tells us that in order to practice raganuga bhakti one must have attained the stage of nistha.”

CLARIFICATION: This is the verse referred to above quoted from Visvanatha Cakravartipada:

ragatmikaika -nistha -ye -vrajavasi  -janadayah
tesham -bhavaptaye -lubdho bhaved -atradhikaravan (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.291):

“This is the definition of the ragatmika bhakti of the nitya siddha Vrajavasis.”

The words eka nistha (exclusively fixed, loyal) has been mistranslated by Tripurari Swami to refer to the adhikaravan, the jiva-candidate, and have been confused for the high stage of bhakti called nistha.

But this verse refers instead to the nitya siddha role models, the Vrajvasis, and means ‘exclusive fixation’ and not the stage of nistha that sadhakas must go through.

THE SIDDHA DEHA

In his translations of Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita (2.8.229; 2.22.155-158) Srila Prabhupada says to meditate on the siddha deha one needs to be ‘self-realized’, while such a word cannot be found in the original verses.

Narottama Dasa Thakur explains that meditation on the siddha deha is a regular sadhana: “Whatever you think of during your sadhana, you will attain in your siddhi-body. These are the ways of raga marga.” (Prema Bhakti Candrika 57)

“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.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das: Quality means way of bhajan for new rag bhakta and siddha is same both do Asta Kaliya Lila  smaran and seva in their manjari swarups. But amount of prem and absorption which means quantity is vastly different for siddha and beginner in raga bhakti.

Bhagavad Gita (8.6): “Whatever one contemplates throughout life is what one attains when one leaves the body.”

Srimad Bhagavatam (7.1.27): “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.”

Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.295): “A person who desires loving attraction to His beloved Sri Krishna in Vraja must serve in allegiance to the Vrajvasis, both in the current practitioner’s body as well as in the spiritual, mentally conceived body, which is fit for serving Sri Krishna, seva -sadhaka -rupena -siddha -rupena -catra -hi.

Visvanatha Cakravartipada tika: “Mental service must be rendered in the spiritual body, siddha-deha, in allegiance to Sri Radha, Lalita,  Visakha-sakhi, Sri Rupa Manjari and service in the current physical body must be rendered in allegiance to Vraja-people like Sri Rupa and Sanatana.

Srila Prabhupada translates Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita (2.22.154-155) as follows: “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 shāstric injunctions, especially those concerning hearing and chanting. But within his mind, in his original, purified, self-realized position, he serves Krishna in Vrindavan day and night.”

Clarification: The actual Bengali verse of Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita (2..22.154-155) says: “There are two kinds of devotion in practice — 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.”

The term ‘self-realized’ mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s translation is not in the original Bengali sloka. Besides, it is a bit too extreme for a description of raganuga-bhakti sadhana because this verse appears in the sadhana bhakti chapter of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. Nevertheless, one indeed needs to be fairly advanced to meditate on one’s siddha deha.

In Bhakti Sandarbha (276), Sri Jiva Goswamipada says, “Smaranam requires a pure heart, smaranam -tu shuddha -antah -karanatam -apeksate.”

All the elaborations of Visvanatha Cakravartipada in Madhurya Kadambini on how far up anarthas persist (up to the stage of prema) are nicely summarized by Sri Rupa Goswamipada in a single verse of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (2.1.276):

“Sadhakas who have developed rati [bhava] for Krishna but have not completely extinguished the anarthas are qualified to see Krishna directly.”

Clarification: This verse obviously refers to subtle anarthas. It also dismisses claims that one is unqualified to meditate, what to speak of realize the spiritual body, while anarthas are still there. [content courtesy Sri Advaita Dasji]

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Due to unclear verse translations and purports in Srila Prabhupada’s books like “Nectar of Devotion” and “Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita”, many ISKCON members misunderstand and misrepresent the authorized practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana.

This post will cite these confusing translations and purports, and give clear explanations of the subject of raganuga-bhakti.

WHAT IS RAGATMIKA AND WHAT IS RAGANUGA?

In order to have a clear understanding about raganuga it is important to understand raga and ragatmika. For various reasons these terms have been somewhat conflated and confused in ISKCON.

Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.272) says:

Raga is complete absorption in one’s beloved ishta-devata. Bhakti that is impelled exclusively by such a thirst is called ragatmika-bhakti.”

“The absorption described above as ragatmika bhakti is only found in Krishna’s eternal associates in Vraja. Raganuga-bhakti is defined as that bhakti which follows after the ragatmika-bhakti which manifests distinctively in the inhabitants of Vraja. (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.270)

Here are of some of the unclear translations in Nectar of Devotion Ch. 15, entitled “Spontaneous Devotional Service” that have led to much confusion:

“The examples of spontaneous devotional service can be easily seen in Krishna’s direct associates in Vrindavan. The spontaneous dealings of the residents of Vrindavan in relationship with Krishna are called raganuga.”

CLARIFICATION: The proper term here should be ragatmika, rather than raganuga.

In the next paragraph Srila Prabhupada says, “Srila Rupa Goswami has defined raganuga bhakti as spontaneous attraction for something while completely absorbed in thoughts of it.” 

CLARIFICATION: The word here should be raga, not raganuga bhakti.

The terms ragatmika and raganuga have been translated identically and even used interchangeably in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Thus, it is not surprising that most ISKCON devotees mistakenly think that raganuga-bhakti sadhana is a highly elevated stage of bhakti which is only achieved in a completely purified stage.

DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN Srila Prabhupada’s ‘NECTAR OF DEVOTION’ AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE PREVIOUS ACARYAS:

Srila Prabhupada gives his own definition of rasa in the preface of the Nectar of Devotion: “That force which drives the philanthropist, the householder and the nationalist is called rasa.”

Clarification: This definition of rasa has nothing to do with what Sri Rupa Goswamipada says in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. He says rasa is produced by combining a sthayi bhava, then vibhava, anubhava, sancari bhava and sattvik-bhava.

QUALIFICATION FOR RAGANUGA-BHAKTI

Raganuga bhakti means allegiance to the eternally perfect ragatmika-devotees of Vraja. This is the teaching of Sri Rupa Goswamipada in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.271-272):

“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 one to become completely absorbed in one’s beloved Thakurji.”

Sri Jiva Goswamipada has defined raga and raganuga as follows (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 Sri Krishna and one has a deep thirst for Sri Krishna 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 be born within the heart of such a devotee for the devotional expertise of a ragatmika bhakta.

This means that ruci (taste) will be born 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 vaidhi-devotee and the raga-devotee may begin the path of devotion from the stage of anartha nivrtti, cessation of unwanted habits, progressing through the stages that have been described by Sri Rupa Goswamipada in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.4.15-16) : adau –shraddha -tatha -sadhu -sango’tha –bhajana -kriya.

The difference between them lies not in personal purity, but in their mood.  Sri Rupa Goswamipada writes in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu  (1.2.291): “Those who are anxious (‘greedy’) to attain the mood of the eternal, exclusively fixed-up  ragatmika Vrajavasis are eligible to enter into raganuga-bhakti.”

YOU CAN’T LEARN RAGA BHAKTI FROM BOOKS

One cannot learn vaidhi bhakti from the guru, and then just learn raganuga-bhakti from books because your guru did not teach you raganuga bhakti.

Sri Raghunatha Das Goswamipada  says (Sva-sankalpaprakash-stotra 1):  “How can one enter into the Shyam ocean without having conversed with a devotee whose heart is steeped in love for Radha  [a raganuga-bhakta]?”

Visvanatha Cakravartipada writes in his Raga Vartma Candrika (1.6). “There are two causes for the appearance of sacred greed necessary to practice raganuga-bhakti: The mercy of Bhagavan Sri Krishna 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.”

[content courtesy Sri Advaita Dasji]

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Once upon a time, the illustrious and powerful King Vrsabhanu met with his ministers to discuss inviting Vrajaraja Nanda and his family for a visit. With all intelligence Vrsabhanu Maharaja submissively upheld the family traditions, and executed them in a wonderful beautiful way. He desired to celebrate the festival in grand style, and He wanted Radhika, the embodiment of the art of cooking, to prepare Her finest dishes.

He sent a nursemaid’s daughter named Sucarita, who possessed good character and auspicious qualities, to convey his plan to Radha. Coming before Radha, Sucarita said, “Your parents want You to prepare a grand feast for the upcoming visit of the king of Vrndavana. I will not leave here until I see You depart for Your father’s palace.” As the sakhis happily worship Radhika, She fills them with joy in return.

Sucarita also addressed the other sakhis attending Radhika, “Listen Syame! Radha’s father wants you to give up your pretension of laziness and help the other sakhis. It will be good for you to uphold the etiquette of family traditions. O Visakhe! You should also bring your friend Lalita who always exhibits a playful nature.”

Smiling, Lalita replied to Sucarita, “O auspicious one! Why are we suddenly invited to a festival?”

Sucarita replied, “It is not a surprise event. When the king of Vrndavana celebrated Krishna’s birthday he invited everyone to participate. After attending this mahotsava, King Vrsabhanu got the idea to hold a similar festival in his palace. So naturally he thought to invite the king of the cowherd men who possesses pure consciousness. After riding in the chariot of the mind for long time, this joyful festival is about to be held. It will definitely be an ecstatic event.”

Syama-sakhi said, “O one who excels all in good qualities! No doubt it will be a wonderful festival. Who will not enjoy great bliss by attending this rewarding festival? We must immediately start preparing, since this is the order of Radha’s father.”

Then all the gopis went to the magnificent palace of King Vrsabhanu. It seemed that the embodiment of all joyous festivals had manifested there. King Vrsabhanu welcomed the sakhis, “Are you all feeling happy?” After Radhika paid obeisances, He smelled Her head and said, “O auspicious one! Please use all Your cooking skills to make very delicious and tempting preparations. Surely Your lotus hands will attain perfection by cooking this feast. Tomorrow the king of the cowherd men, his wife, family, and Krishna and Balarama will take their meal here.”

Lalita said, “O father! Have you collected all the necessary ingredients?”

King Vrsabhanu replied, “Not just today, but for many days we have been arranging for this mahotsava. For a long time I have been eager to observe this. Now all the ingredients have been procured in unlimited amounts. You cannot see the end of them. Enter the storeroom and see for yourself. Please consider if all the proper divine articles and items have been assembled. If the best of anything remains to be collected, then please tell me and I will immediately get it.”

All the effulgent, slender-waisted sakhis like Lalita, Visakha, and others expert in the art of cooking met and joyfully entered the enchanting kitchen. After paying obeisances to Mother Kirtida the sakhis inspected the ingredients.

Meanwhile, Krishna returned from the forest with the cows. Seeing her approaching son, Mother Yasoda, who is glorified by all the demigods like Lord Siva and Brahma, anxiously desired to speak to Him. In a lovable, unpretentious way Krishna cast fresh, sidelong glances to reciprocate with each one of His friends. He walked with the gait of a lordly elephant in rut.

Yasoda said in a sweet voice, “O Vatsa! The honorable King Vrsabhanu, who is opulent with the wealth of many bulls, desires to host You tomorrow at his palace. After consulting his ministers and associates he sent an invitation. My darling, You should go there tomorrow to reciprocate with his loving request. Your friends will stay back to tend the cows. So tomorrow You need not go to the forest.”

Krishna, the ocean of compassion, said, “How is it possible for Me to go alone and eat without My friends? What is the use of such an invitation.” Yasoda, who fully knows the laws of social etiquette, replied, “Do not be distressed in Your mind. If You cannot give up Your attachment to Your friends, then just stay home with them.”

After she said this, Krishna, who removes the distress of everyone in the universe, forgot about going to the forest. Contemplating the upcoming festival, Krishna remembered the sweet name, form, and qualities of Radhika. As Krishna fixed His mind on Radhika, His affection for Radha increased more and more. Then Krishna meditated on all the wonderful preparations that Radha would make on the order of Her father. 

Excerpt: Sri Kavi Karnapura’s Ananda Vrindavana Campu ki jai!

Krishna Nectar Lilas ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

All parts of Krishna Nectar Lilas can be found here.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Srivasa Pandita, fifth member of the Panca tattva, Sri Krsna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasadi, Gaura Bhakta Vrnda lived in Navadvipa before the advent of Lord Caitanya. Srivasa lead his brothers Sri Rama, Sri Nidhi, and Sripati in their devotional lives of singing Krsna’s names, worshiping the Lord, and bathing thrice daily in the Ganges.
Meeting with Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu, they studied Bhagavatam and prayed for an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Why did they pray? Because only an avatara of Krsna could reestablish Vaisnavism among the staunch atheists, logicians, and proud Panditas harassing Nadia at that time.
Malini, wife of Srivasa, was a constant friend of Saci Devi. She served Nimai as a nurse. When Lord Visvambhara appeared, the hearts of all the devotees were filled with parental affection (vatsalya bhava). Gauracandra loved Malini and Srivasa as a second mother and father.
Srivasa Angam was located two hundred yards north of Nimai’s bari (house). Srivasa Pandita’s palatial home had large comfortable rooms, a high protective boundary wall, and lush densely foliated gardens and groves. Everynight Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and His dearest friends would enjoy ecstatic kirtanas here and taste the mellows of Vrndavana.
Here, the raging Muslim Kazi broke the sacred mrdanga in his foolish attempt to stop Sri Krsna’s Sankirtana Movement. Henceforward, Srivasa Angam was known as Khol Banga Danga (place where the mrdanga was broken).
The Kazi passed an ordinance prohibiting sankirtana. Violators would be converted to the Muslim faith and lose their property. Although most Nadia vasis (residents of Navadvipa) panicked over this, Srivasa Pandita laughed at the fanatical law.
Within Srivasa Angam Lord Gauranga sundara showed His divine form to all His eternal associates. The house of Srivasa Pandita served as the headquarters of Gauranga’s Sankirtana Movement. The daily Bhagavatam classes, nightly kirtanas, and many confidential Vraja pastimes of Lord Gaura Raya occured here.
Srivasa Pandita and Sri Advaita Acarya, the learned chiefs of the brahmana community, dedicated all their energy to the Lord’s Hari Nama Sankirtana Movement. They surrendered their bodies, minds, homes, friends, family, and all possessions to Lord Gaura’s service. They knew no other gods or goddesses. Srivasa Pandita maintained his family, not because they were his relatives, but because they were Sri Caitanya’s loving servants.
Srivasa Pandita represents the marginal living entity (tatastha jiva). The devotees headed by Srivasa are described as Lord Caitanya’s smaller limbs (His face, eyes, hands, disc, other weapons.) They all took part in Sri Gaurasundara’s pastimes. With them Lord Gauranga spread the sankirtana movement. Srivasa Pandita is Narada Muni, an inter galactic preacher and constant associate of the Lord. His samadhi is in the 64 Samadhis Area.

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Five hundred years ago in Jagannatha Puri, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu which item is the most important form of devotional service.

bhakti-sādhana-śreṣṭha śunite haila mana
prabhu upadeśa kaila nāma-saṅkīrtana
harer nāma harer nāma, harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva, nāsty eva gatir anyathā

Sarvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya asked Caitanya Mahāprabhu, ‘Which item is most important in the execution of devotional service?’ Mahaprabhu replied that the most important item was the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Then Mahaprabhu quoted a verse from Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa:

‘In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.’ (Caitanya Caritamrita,  Madhya 6.241-2)

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu always emphasized the supremacy of nama-bhajana in His preaching. In Jagannatha Puri, Mahaprabhu also instructed Sanatana Gosvami on this point:

bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
‘kṛṣṇa-prema’, ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana

Of all the different spiritual practices, the nine forms of bhakti (sravanam, kirtanam, etc) are the best because they have great potency to deliver Kṛṣṇa and ecstatic love for Him. Of these nine practices, nama-sankirtana is the best. By chanting the holy name without offense, one very easily obtains the priceless treasure of kṛṣṇa-prema. (Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya 4.70-1)

“The Caitanya-caritāmṛta states that of the nine ways of devotional service to obtain love of God, the foremost is nāma-saṅkīrtana. One who chants nāma without offenses surely achieves love of God. Bhakti-sandarbha says no form of bhakti (i.e. mathurā-vāsa, sādhu-saṅga, srī-murti sevā, and bhāgavata-sravana) is complete without Śrī Kṛṣṇa nāma-saṅkīrtana. The Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya says that saṅkīrtana is the best and foremost of all spiritual practices for attaining Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. If the other practices of bhakti are helpful to it, they should then be accepted.” (Sri Caitanya’s Teachings)

“Sri-nama bhajana is more powerful than all other forms of bhajana (nava-vidha-bhakti). There is no difference between nama (the holy name) and nami (Bhagavan, who possesses the name.) If you chant nama without offense, you will very quickly attain all perfection. All nine forms of bhajana are automatically carried out by performing nama-bhajana. When one utters sri-nama, he is engaged in hearing and chanting (sravanam, kirtanam). As one continues to chant, one also remembers the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, and within the mind one serves Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet (pada-sevanam), worships Him (arcanam), offers prayers (vandanam), serves Kṛṣṇa in the mood of a servant (dasyam) or friend (sakhyam), and offers one’s very self to Kṛṣṇa (atma-nivedanam).” (Jaiva Dharma ch. 4)

Upon completing the description of the sixty-four limbs of devotional service, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī mentions five of them as the most important items. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura clearly shows how each one of these five most potent devotional processes points to the chanting of the holy name.

Sarasvatī Ṭhākura once explained that after careful consideration of the five limbs of bhakti, the best practice is srī-nāma bhajana. The next entry shows how chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy names is the root of all nine forms of devotion and is glorified above all.

(1) Sādhu-saṅga­­­­­­­­­­­­­–associating with devotees is recommended to create a taste or inclination for srī-nāma bhajana. This comes from associating with holy saints who are attached to chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy names with firm faith and who systematically chant the names.

(2) Bhāgavata-śravaṅa–hearing Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which itself declares sri-nāma bhajana to be the highest virtue. In its beginning, middle (sixth canto, Ājamila story), and end, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam repeatedly stresses the efficacy of sri-nāma bhajana.

(3) Mathurā-vāsa–sri-nāma bhajana is situated at the root of residence in Vṛndāvana or Śrīdhāma Māyāpur. The sādhus living in or visiting these holy places are always engaged in nāma-saṅkīrtana.

(4) Śrī-murti-sevā–the service of Kṛṣṇa’s Deity is always conducted with mantras full of God’s names. The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa and Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī say that Deity service must be accompanied with chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra for it to be accepted.

(5) Nāma-saṅkīrtana–is directly chanting the holy names.

“Of all means of bhajana (devotional service), the name of Kṛṣṇa is most purely spiritual. In describing the absolute duties, Hari-bhakti-vilāsa states that singing and meditating on Śrī Nāma (Kṛṣṇa’s holy names) is the best devotional activity.

“The most advanced devotees who have fully dedicated themselves to Śrī Kṛṣṇa take exclusive refuge in kṛṣṇa-nāma amongst all other practices of devotion. There is no other performance so pure and spiritual as singing the name of Kṛṣṇa.” (Nama-bhajana)

According to Sri Jiva Gosvami, chanting the holy name is not only the greatest form of sadhana, but it must accompany every other form of devotional service: “Chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is the chief means of attaining love of God. This chanting does not depend on any paraphernalia, nor birth in a good family. All the Vedas proclaim that by humility and meekness one attracts the attention of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the greatest sadhana (mahā-sādhanānam), and the fulfillment of all sacrifice, penance and austerities. Simply by chanting one achieves ecstatic love of God and complete perfection in life. Therefore, whatever one does in executing devotional service must be accompanied with the chanting of the holy name.” (Bhakti-sandarbha 270)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

In the material world, both neophyte sadhakas and realized suddha-bhaktas chant the holy name. Dutiful beginners chant Hare Kṛṣṇa as a sadhana for purification, whereas adepts relish the sweetest nectar in the holy name. Chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra is the eternal activity of every soul. Therefore, it is good to cultivate attachment and affection for one’s eternal companion–Kṛṣṇa’s holy names.

Harinama sankirtana goes on in the spiritual world as well among Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates. The scriptures narrate many pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees chanting the holy names.

“Kṛṣṇa said to Uddhava, ‘Mother Yasoda is always singing My names in a deep mood of separation. As she takes long slow breaths, the sound “Ha Kṛṣṇa! Ha Kṛṣṇa!” comes from her throat. Profuse perspiration soaks her weary body, and tears gush from her eyes, soaking her clothes, as she stares intently at the road to Mathura waiting for My return.’ ” (Uddhava-sandesh)

“A sakhi tells Kṛṣṇa, ‘O Kṛṣṇa! When You are out tending the cows in the pasture, Radharani spends Her day, longing to see You again. Fixing Her eyes on the path where You will return with the cows, She engages Her tongue in repeating the two syllables kṛṣ and ṇa. Radhika’s ears yearn to hear the sound of Your flute, and Her heart is fixed in the happiness of thinking of You.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.15)

“Kṛṣṇa said, ‘Hey Kundavalli! When I accidentally said the word “Radha”, Candravali became tortured with pain, as if violently wounded at heart. However, in order to pacify My embarrassment and bewilderment, she doubled the smile on her lotus face and spoke words filled with sweetness.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.14)

“Vrnda-devi said to Paurnamasi, ‘Radharani gave a farewell embrace to the budding jasmine creeper She had planted on the Yamuna’s shore. She placed the farewell gift of Her very beautiful diamond necklace in Lalita’s hand. Radhika then entered a kadamba grove filled with buzzing sounds of bees and fainted. But She was reawakened by Her priya-sakhis chanting the name of Hari.’ ” (Ujjvala-nilamani ch.15)

“The wonderful sacred mantra Kṛṣṇa chants is the name of His dearmost Radharani. Srimati Radharani’s maha-mantra is the name of Lord Kṛṣṇa.” (Radha-Kṛṣṇa Ganoddesa-dipika)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

kṛṣṇa-mantra haite habe saṁsāra-mocana,
kṛṣṇa-nāma haite pābe kṛṣṇera caraṇa

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “The kṛṣṇa mantra (gopala mantra) gives one freedom from material existence. And kṛṣṇa nama (the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra) delivers one to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Ādi 7.73)

In this verse, Lord Caitanya describes the effects of chanting the eighteen-syllable gopala mantra and the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra. Of the two mantras, Sri Jiva Gosvami emphasizes chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra in Bhakti Sandarbha 284: “Mantras are actually composed of the names of the Supreme Lord. Mantras are distinct from the name because they include the word “namah” [or svaha], and have special powers that are given by the rsis or the Lord Himself. The holy names of the Lord, however, in themselves, being independent, can bestow the higest goal of life, Kṛṣṇa-prema. Thus the names of Kṛṣṇa are more suitable than mantras.”

In Kṛṣṇa Samhita, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the various mantras given to liberate one in the different yugas. In Satya, Treta and Dvapara yugas these mantras, called tāraka-brahma-nāma, addressed the Supreme Lord with feelings of awe and reverence invoking His divine power, majesty and protection (aisvarya-bhava). The tāraka-brahma-nāma for Kali-yuga is the Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra, a selfless call for loving service.

In the Gaudiya conception, samsara-mocana, or liberation means to realize one’s svarupa. At this stage, the Brahma Gayatri and the gopala mantra retire, but chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa continues to deliver one to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-carana), in the spiritual world. This is the final stage of spiritual evolution wherein one attains his vastu siddhi, (pure spiritual form), and engages in Kṛṣṇa’s eternal service.

Whether one is in Kṛṣṇaloka or the material world, chanting Kṛṣṇa’s holy name is the eternal function of the soul. In the material world, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the primary activity for purification and spiritual elevation. Everything else is auxiliary or supportive of the main service of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Upon entering the spiritual world, however, chanting the holy name will be in the background, helping and energizing. Serving Radha-Govinda will be in the foreground, distinct and most important. For example, when the gopīs churn fresh yogurt for Kṛṣṇa’s butter, they simultaneously sing His glories while keeping time with their bangles and waistbells.

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

“Kṛṣṇa-nāma has been accepted by all to be an incarnation of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa on this earth. Although He appears like a word, Kṛṣṇa, still by His inconceivable power He is completely spiritual. The name is a special incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As Kṛṣṇa and His name are identical, Kṛṣṇa has descended to earth as nāma. Kṛṣṇa-nāma is our first introduction to Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, we first meet Kṛṣṇa in His name. With determination to reach Kṛṣṇa, we must first accept the name of Kṛṣṇa.” (Nama Bhajana)

“Nāma is also another incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. Nāma-rūpe kali-kāle kṛṣṇa-avatāra. Because name and Kṛṣṇa are not different. Abhinnatvād nāma-nāminoḥ. There is no difference. In the material world there is difference between the name and the substance. But in advaya-jñāna, the Absolute world, there is no such distinction. The name and the person are the same, identical.” (SPT 30/10/72)

How does Hare Kṛṣṇa japa purify the chanter? “Chanting gradually diminishes the propensity to sin, and simultaneously purifies the consciousness. At this juncture, a taste for chanting begins to manifest. The inclination to commit sinful acts vanishes, though a faint residue of previous sinful acts still lingers in the consciousness. The receding sinful reactions leave an odor of sinful habits. But the chanter’s contact with the name produces a purity of mind and strength of willpower that overcomes the clinging smell of sin.” (Hari-nama-cintamani)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

Kṛṣṇa’s holy name–full of mercy, full of compassion, full of affection, full of rasa and full of prema–is the rarest treasure in the world. Without hearing from sastra and saints, however, one can never understand the power, value and benefit of Sri Kṛṣṇa’s divine name, form, attributes, pastimes and holy abode (nama, rupa, guna, lila, dhama). Throughout the Vedas the transcendental glories of the holy name are recounted.

The following verse from the Padma Purana compares the holy name to a cintamani gem, a divine stone that can bestow one’s desired results. Such cintamani gems make up the transcendental land of Kṛṣṇaloka in the spiritual world. This verse clearly describes the transcendental identity of the holy name:

nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś, caitanya-rasa-vigrahaḥ
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto, ‘bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoḥ

The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is a transcendental wish-fulfilling gem (cintamani); it is the embodiment of all consciousness and sentiments; it is complete; it is pure; it is ever free because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are one and the same.

Srila Prabhupada gives a wonderful expanded translation of this verse:

“The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all the transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual. It is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.” (Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 17.133 p.)

The following story from Vaisnava tradition illustrates the incomparable value of Kṛṣṇa’s holy name.

Once a disciple asked his guru for the topmost secret of bhajana. The guru replied, “The most confidential secret of bhajana is to always chant the maha-mantra–Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!”

After leaving his guru’s asrama, the disciple met some poor washermen who were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa while scrubbing clothes beside the Yamuna. He then heard some little girls chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa while collecting cow dung. When the disciple hired a ricksaw, the skinny old driver chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa all the way back to the asrama.

Meeting his guru, the disciple expressed a doubt about the maha-mantra, “Gurudeva! What kind of secret have you given to me that is known to every dhobi, ricksaw-walla and little girl in India? Is this really the most confidential secret of bhajana?”

Instead of a long explanation, the guru handed the disciple a precious jewel and said, “Show this jewel to the dhobi, ricksaw-walla and little girls, and see if they appreciate its value.” The disciple then showed the priceless jewel to the illiterate washermen, but they could not detect the value of the jewel. They said they would gladly accept it, and use it for beating their dirty cloth. The disciple refused to give them the gem, saying, “You have to pay the proper price for it. A stone or piece of wood is sufficient for beating dirty cloth.”

Upon seeing the jewel, the ricksaw-walla said, “Since it is a little rough, I think it is just suitable for scraping off the dry skin from my feet.” “Are you crazy!” said the disciple as he walked on to show the village girls. Failing to recognize the true worth of the jewel, the girls said, “We could use the jewel to pack our cow dung.”

The disciple again met with his guru and said, “Gurudeva! Nobody wanted to pay the proper price for the jewel. Nor could anyone appreciate the great value of the gem.”

“Yes, in the same way,” said the guru, “most people cannot appreciate the value of the holy name. For this reason, they are indifferent to the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. The Hare Kṛṣṇa maha-mantra is an open secret that is revealed only to the qualified.”

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting

Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

This series of posts will present facts (tattva)  regarding the identity, moods (gopi-bhava), intimacy and sevas of Srimati Radharani’s beautiful and talented handmaidens known as manjaris, kinkaris, or dasis.

Also, we will present many astonishing and wonderful lilas to highlight the manjaris most personal and confidential sevas to Srimati Radhika and Her dearest Priyatama Shyamasundara.

The information here is based on the commentaries of Advaitavamsa Acharya 108 Sri Ananda Gopala Goswami and 108 Sri Ananta Dasa Babaji Maharaja taken from “Vilapa Kusumanjali” and “Radha Rasa Sudhanidhi” translated by Sri Advaita Dasji.

Seeing Swamini’s Eager Face

Ayi Madhuri Radha! How beautiful You are when Madhava looks at You while eating His breakfast! Just by a glance Shyam can understand Radharani’s blissful eagerness. Swamini’s face is marked with eagerness. The sadhaka manjari should also relish that blissful eagerness of Madhuri’s beautiful face.

Narottama Dasa Thakur prays,

“My eyes desire to see the golden form of Radhika and I am crying out of that desire!” (Prem Bhakti Candrika)

Reality of Manjari Meditations

In Radha Kunda, Sri Raghunatha Das Goswamipada was anxiously crying out of the pain of separation from Srimati Radharani. At the stage of bhava-bhakti, a sadhaka can see Radha-Krishna through the eyes in sphurtis, vivid visions. Before attaining bhava however, a fortunate sadhaka may “see” Radha-Krishna in meditation or dreams.

When sadhakas follow in the footsteps of acharyas like Sri Rupa Goswamipada, Sri Raghunatha Das Goswamipada, Sri Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami, and Visvanatha Cakravartipada by praying to them, studying their books and trying to imbibe their moods, meditations and sevas, they too can relish the sweetness of Srimati’s face in their meditations.

As one repeatedly practices deep meditation on Radha Madhava’a asta-kaliya-lila one will feel that Radha-Krishna are very near. When one experiences this, one will think, “I am not practicing lila smarana, I am there!”

When one’s meditation ends one will feel great anxiety to directly meet Radha Govinda Yugal. The more one enjoys lila smarana, the more anxious one will become for more. As thirst and eagerness for direct darshan of Radha-Krishna increases, the sooner one will attain it.

Radha-Krishna Asta-kaliya-lila smarana bhajan will make a new life for a sadhaka.

Sri Radha will certainly respond to one’s humility, enthusiasm, and determination to practice bhajan in manjari svarupa.

Karunamayi Radha is a boundless ocean of compassion, endowed with a lovely nature.

Thus, Kishori will come close to you and accept your sevas. Radhika is a wish-fulfilling vine for devotees.

Manjari bhava sadhana ki jai!  Jai Jai Sri Radhe!