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Mahanidhi Swami

In 40 verses of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.270-309), Srila Rupa Goswamipada defines and describes the sadhana practice of raganuga-bhakti. In this article, we will quote these verses along with supporting verses from other Gaudiya Vaisnava mahajanas to explain the subject.

  1. What is Raganuga-bhakti?

First of all, what does the word raga mean? Literally, raga means passionate attraction and attachment. An ordinary person has a natural attraction and affection for sense objects, and it manifests as an intense desire to contact those objects. The eyes, for example, are spontaneously attracted to beautiful objects and people. When a devotee experiences similar feelings of attraction and affection for Sri Krishna, it is also called raga.

Sri Krishna’s nitya-siddha associates in Vrindavana like Sri Radha, Lalita and Sri Rupa-manjari have a unique type of devotion called ragatmika-bhakti, which is defined as “an intense, love-filled thirst for Sri Krishna which makes them fully absorbed in giving pleasure and satisfaction to Sri Krishna. Raganuga-bhakti is bhakti that follows (anuga) the devotional mood and feelings of these ragatmika devotees.” (Brs. 1.2.270-72)

  1. Two Types of Ragatmika Bhakti

There are two types of ragatmika-bhakti among Sri Krishna’s eternal associates in Vrindavana:

1) Sambandha-rupa, which is inspired by fully identifying oneself as the parent, friend, or servant of Govinda in vatsatya, sakhya or dasya ratis;

2) Kamarupa, which is impelled by conjugal feelings. (Brs. 1.2.273, 288)

III. Kamarupa Ragatmika Bhakti

Kamarupa ragatmika bhakti is, “a particular type of intense madhurya prema bhakti with full and natural absorption in the beloved, which produces an intrinsic thirst for a conjugal relationship with Krishna only for the purpose of giving happiness to Krishna, krishna sukha artha kevalam.” (Brs. 1.2.283, 284)

Sri Jiva Goswamipada tika: “Although Srila Rupa Goswamipada says the Vraja-gopis bhakti is kamarupa bhakti, it is actually kamatmika bhakti.

What is the difference? Kamarupa-bhakti means bhakti, or pure love, prema for Krishna, with conjugal actions only. Whereas, kamatmika-bhakti is conjugal actions along with pure conjugal feelings and emotions; a complete and divine absorption of one’s transcendental body, mind and heart (atmika).”

The Vraja-gopis are the best examples of kamarupa ragatmika devotees. Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains, “Krishna’s priya sakhis in Vrindavana like Sri Radha, Lalita and Vishakha, who are the embodiments of madhurya-prema, serve Sri Krishna due to intense passionate attachment, and thus they forever drink the sweet prema nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet, räga-bandhena kenäpi, taà bhajanto vrajantyamé, aìghri-padma-sudhäù prema, rüpäs tasya priyä janäù.” (Brs. 1.2.281)

In this world of mundane men and women, the word kama commonly means personal desire or lust, which includes actions performed to gratify one’s selfish desires at the expense of another. In relation to Sri Krishna’s divine Vraja-gopis of the transcendental world, however, the word kama actually means intense selfless and self-forgetful love. The gopis’ kama is actually Krishna prema, divine pure love. The cowherd damsels of Vrajabhumi are totally selfless transcendental ladies, possessing immaculately pure minds and hearts. Thus even though the Vraja-gopis express intensely passionate conjugal feelings and actions toward Sri Krishna, they are completely devoid of even a scent of lust or selfish desire. The Vraja-gopis live only to please Shyamasundara.

The Agama sastras rightly say that, “the ‘kama’ of the Vraja-gopis has become famous simply as pristine Krishna prema, premaiva gopa-rämäëäà käma pratham.” (Brs. 1.2.285) And the proof that the gopis’ prema is absolutely pure, perfect and exalted is that the most respected and dearest devotees of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, bhagavata priya, beginning with Uddhava Mahasaya desire to attain it. (Brs. 1.2.286)

  1. Two Types of Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana

Since there are two types of ragatmika-bhakti found in Sri Krishna’s eternal Vrajavasi devotees, there are two paths of bhajana in allegiance to them.

1) Sambandhanuga-bhakti—a type of devotion where a sadhaka constantly identifies with and meditates on his relationship (sambandha) with Sri Krishna as either a parent, friend or servant. (Brs. 1.2.290, 305)

2) Kamanuga-bhakti—a type of devotion where a sadhaka is filled with longing, thirst and eagerness to serve and follow (not imitate) the kamatmika Vraja-gopis like Srimati Radharani, Lalita, Vishakha, Sri Rupa and Rati manjari. (Brs. 1.2.297-298)

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada comments, “Kamanuga sadhana bhakti is that bhakti filled with activities that follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopis’ actions, which are inspired by their inherent conjugal prema (kama), and that is inspired by the same divine love thirst. Actions are of two kinds, namely mental services (manasi-seva) and physical services performed with the external senses.”

  1. Two Types of Kamanuga Sadhana Bhakti

There are two paths of kamanuga sadhana bhakti for sadhakas following the Vraja-gopis.

1) Sambhoga iccha mayi bhakti

In this devotion, there are two kinds of activities (mental, physical) inspired by the desire for a direct experience of giving conjugal enjoyment to Sri Krishna like the gopi group leaders in Vrindavana, Sri Radha, Lalita or Vishakha.

2) Tat tad bhava iccha atmika bhakti

For raganuga sadhakas this is the main type of bhakti. Here the sadhaka’s very life (atma) is filled with the desire (iccha) to taste the sweet mood of love (bhava) of a particular gopi’s prema like Sri Radha or Sri Rupa or Rati manjari. (Brs. 1.2.299)

VII. Qualification to Start Kamanuga Bhakti

The sadhaka who is deeply desirous and greedy for the bhava or divine loving feelings of Sri Krishna’s kamatmika Vraja-gopis (vraja vasa jana bhava lubdho) is qualified to practice raganuga-bhakti sadhana. (Brs. 1.2.291)

In other words, it means that you are very attracted to the Vraja-gopis and manjaris, and really want to experience their moods and mellow sweet feelings of divine love for Sri Sri Radha and Krishna while serving them with the greatest feelings of submission and dedication. Bhava lubdho means greed to attain gopi-bhava, manjari-bhava. This is the main qualification to practice raganuga-bhakti.

Although Rupa Goswami says raganuga-bhakti starts with divine greed, lobha, Sri Jiva Goswami says it begins with taste, ruchi. “By reading scriptures or hearing from one’s teacher about the ragatmika-bhakti of Sri Krishna eternal associates in Vrindavana one develops a taste [taste is born] for the feelings and sevas of those eternal associates, sastradi srutasu ragatmikaya bhakteh ruchir jayate.”

“Then when one gets taste for the raga of the ragatmika janas of Vraja, even though raga itself has not yet manifested in the sadhaka, one’s heart becomes like a crystal reflecting the moonshine of their raga. Then according to one’s taste, ruchi, for that raga one practices raganuga-bhakti, tadiyam ragam rucyanugacchanti raganuga pravartate.”

“Raganuga-bhakti is impelled only by taste and not by any scriptural injunction, ruchi matra pravrtya vidhi prayukta na.” (Bhakti Sandarbha 310)

What is the proof that I have taste for raganuga-bhakti? Sri Jiva Goswamipada says, “When this taste, ruchi, appears, one then loses his taste and attraction for anything else but raganuga-bhakti, bhakti vyatirekhena ruchitvam.” (Bhakti Sandarbha anu. 310)

The main driving force of raganuga-bhakti is taste, which means you have a liking, fondness for and eager interest in it. Sri Jiva Goswamipada comments, “The path of raganuga-bhakti is inspired by taste, which plays the main, predominant role. And mental worship [manasi-seva of Radha-Krishna] is the main practice, ruchi pradhanasya margasya manah pradhanatvat.” (Bhakti Sandarbh anu. 311)

In summary, to begin raganuga-bhakti one needs both divine greed and taste. One who is intensely greedy to taste the sweet feelings of Sri Krishna’s madhurya-mayi Vraja-gopis is qualified to begin raganuga-bhakti.

VIII. Sacred Greed: How to Get It?

If you appreciate, taste or realize even to some degree the sweetness of the gopis’ prema after hearing/reading (bhava madhurya shrute) scriptures such as Tenth Canto Srimad Bhagavatam, Stavavali, Ujjvala Nilamani, Radha-rasa Sudhanidhi etc., that means that divine greed has appeared.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “When a devotee realizes to some degree and yearns for the sweetness of the mutual feelings of Krishna and His nitya-siddha Vrajavasis by hearing the scriptures, without depending on scriptural injunctions or logical arguments, then one has attained sacred greed.”

tat-tad-bhävädi-mädhurye, çrute dhér yad apekñate,

nätra çästraà na yuktià ca, tal-lobhotpatti-lakñaëaà (Brs. 1.2.292)

VCT: “If after hearing about the Vraja-gopis’ transcendental erotic feelings towards Kåñëa, one thinks: ‘Let me also attain such sweet and selfless loving feelings that means that he has become greedy for this feeling. He does not bother about scriptural injunctions or logical arguments. Such a sadhaka never thinks whether he is qualified or not for this path of raganuga-bhakti.” (Raga Varma Candrika I.5)

In other words, after hearing/reading about the manjaris’ many sevas performed for the pleasure of Radha Govinda and their sweet loving exchanges with Srimati Radhika, one may deeply hanker to taste and experience this wonderful Vraja madhurya-prema. If you do, that means you are greedy for love divine and also a very fortunate devotee.

Mahaprabhu confirms this in his teachings on raganuga-bhakti to Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “A person is very fortunate if he becomes greedy to attain raga-mayi bhakti after hearing about Sri Krishna’s ragatmika Vraja-gopis, rägamayé-bhaktira haya rägätmikä näma, tähä çuni’ lubdha haya kona bhägyavän.” (Cc. 2.22.152)

We want to comment on Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s phrase quoted above (Brs. 1.2.292), “the raganuga-sadhaka does not depend on scriptural injunctions.” Some devotees mistakenly think this means that raganuga-bhakti is “spontaneous”, so I now I don’t need to read scriptures anymore. This is dead wrong! From the beginning of bhakti to the perfection of prema bhakti, all sadhakas always need to hear, read, study and follow the scriptures in order to establish, nourish, strengthen, enthuse, deepen and perfect their individual bhajana practices.

How does one get “divine greed” to follow the gopis of Vrindavana?

Srila Rupa Goswamipada describes four ways to obtain divine greed for gopi-bhava and the cherished seva of Sri Radha and Her sakhi manjaris.

1) Scriptures:

Reading scriptures or hearing from great devotees describing the sweet feelings and service expertise of Srimati Radharani’s manjaris, bhava madhurya shrute. (Brs. 1.2.292)

What happens is that after hearing/reading about the sweet and playful conjugal feelings displayed by the Vraja-gopis, one begins to think, “I also want to taste and experience this irresistible gopi-bhava of Sri Radha and Her sakhi manjaris.” Thus divine greed has appeared!

2) Lila-katha:

Hear/read about the sweetness of Radha-Krishna’s conjugal pastimes along with Their dear sakhis and manjaris, madhurya lila nishamya. (Brs. 1.2.300)

3) Deity Darshana:

A longing to attain gopi-bhava may also arise from seeing sweet murtis of Radha-Krishna and the gopis, sri murti madhuri prekshya bhava akankshi. (Brs. 1.2.300)

Sri Jiva Goswamipada explains the effect of Thakuraji’s darshana thus, “Even though Sri Rupa Goswami says (Brs. 1.2.239), ‘Don’t look at the Govindaji murti in Vrindavana if you still desire to enjoy society, friendship and love,’ he really means to say, ‘Yes, you must see Govindaji! Then you will experience the delightful sweetness of Krishna’s form and forget everything else.’” Just see the power of the famous bewitching Thakurajis of Vrindavana! Nevertheless, attaining greed for gopi-bhava just by murti darshana is very rare.

Mukunda Goswami (sishya of Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja) explains, “Srila Rupa Goswamipada says that bhava [gopi-bhava] may awaken in an offense less person (sad dhiyam bhava janmane) just by seeing Sri Krishna’s murti or painting. (Brs. 1.2.238) Even then the deep hankering (lobha/greed) to practice raganuga-bhakti is very rare. It can only be attained by the grace of Krishna or Krishna’s devotee.”

  1. Mercy:

After mentioning the different ways of attaining sacred greed, Srila Rupa Goswamipada concludes his entire discussion on raganuga-bhakti, saying, “It’s only mercy!”

“The only (matra) cause of getting the greed to follow raganuga-bhakti sadhana is the mercy of Krishna and His devotee, kåñëa-tad-bhakta-käruëya-mätra-läbhaika-hetukä.” (Brs. 1.2.309)

Although Srila Rupa Goswamipada says only bhakta karunya, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada distinguishes that “tad bhakta”, saying ‘anuragi bhakta krpa’, which means the mercy received from a Vaisnava who is passionately attached to the sweet feelings of Sri Krishna’s nitya-siddha Vrajavasis and following the path of raganuga-bhakti. Since it’s rare to receive mercy directly from Krishna, sacred greed can only be attained by Vaisnava krpa.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada describes two kinds of Vaisnava krpa.

1) Praktana—means mercy received in a past life from a raganuga bhakta manifesting in this life as a natural attraction or “divine greed” to surrender to a raganuga guru and continue one’s practice of raganuga-bhakti.

2) Adhunika—means “new mercy” acquired in the present life after surrendering to a raganuga guru and hearing about Radha-Krishna’s sweet loving pastimes with the Vraja-gopis. Then by the guru’s mercy, greed will awaken within one. (Raga-vartma candrika I.6) Read more in part three.

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

There is no doubt that spreading Harinama sankirtana was/is an important part of Mahaprabhu’s mission. “To preach Nama [Sri Krishna’s Holy Names], which is the yuga dharma for Kali-yuga, Sri Krishna has taken a golden complexion and descended as Sri Chaitanya, kali-yuge yuga-dharma namera pracära, tathi lägi péta-varëa caitanyävatära.” (Cc. 1.3.40)

However, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja and other Gaudiya acharyas say that the main or primary purpose of Mahaprabhu’s descent was to relish the madhurya-prema of the Vraja-gopis and to propagate raganuga-bhakti. “The primary cause (mula karana) for the descent of Sri Chaitanya was to taste prema rasa and preach raganuga-bhakti to the world, avatara mula karana, prema-rasa-asvadana, raga-marga bhakti loke pracäraëa. (Cc. 1.4.14-15)

Although Mahaprabhu especially came to preach raganuga-bhakti, He personally spoke very little on the subject. Through His empowered followers, however, such as the six Goswamis, and especially Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada, Sri Chaitanya did elaborate upon and write about the principles and practices of raganuga sadhana bhakti. Mahaprabhu’s method of teaching raganuga-bhakti resembles that of a charitable and compassionate king desiring to give abundant charity to his subjects. He won’t do it personally, however, but he will engage his trusted ministers to distribute his wealth.

Thus from reading the works of the six Goswamis, especially Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada, it is clear that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in this particular Kali-yuga to teach the kamanuga type of raganuga-bhakti following in the footsteps of the sakhis and manjaris serving Srimati Radharani.

In Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswamipada describes two kinds of raganuga-bhakti: 1) Sambandhanuga, which follows the moods and sevas of Sri Krishna’s eternal Vrindavana associates in either servitude, friendship or parental love—dasya, sakhya or vatsalya ratis; and 2) Kamanuga, which follows the moods and sevas of Sri Krishna’s sakhis in madhura-rati like Sri Radha, Lalita, Sri Rupa-Rati manjaris.

Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja explains, “Mahaprabhu Himself exclusively accepted gopi-bhava in the mood of the lovers of Vrajendrananda Sri Krishna, gopi-bhava prabhu dhariyache ekanta, vrajendra-nandane mane kanta.” (Cc. 1.17.277) If one examines, he will also see that the six Goswamis, Lokanatha and Krishna dasa Kaviraja, Narottama dasa Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravartipada, and all the Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas, along with their lineages, have also accepted gopi-bhava to serve as manjaris of Sri Radha in Vraja Gokula.

Not only did Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally accept Vraja gopi-bhava, but His closest associates taught that qualified Gaudiya Vaisnavas should also accept gopi-bhava, meditate upon their siddha dehas and mentally serve Radha-Krishna all day and night. And by doing this type of kamanuga raganuga-bhakti, Mahaprabhu promises that the Gaudiya sadhakas will get the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna. This point is confirmed below:

Through the mouth of Raya Ramananda, Sri Chaitanya taught, “Gaudiya sadhakas should accept gopi-bhava, and day and night think about Radha-Krishna’s pastimes, ataeva gopi-bhava kari angkara, ratri-dina cinte radha-krsnera vihara.” (Cc. 2.8. 228)

Gauranga continued, “Then while meditating upon your siddha deha, you should do seva in those pastimes. By practicing this sadhana [kamanuga raganuga-bhakti], you will get Radha-Krishna’s lotus feet, siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tahanni sevana, sakhi-bhave paya radha krsnera carana!” (Cc. 2.8.229)

One should carefully note here that these verses describe the final stage of raganuga-sadhana, wherein one is fully immersed all day and night in lila-smarana and manasi seva. Nevertheless, even in the beginning stage, a raganuga-sadhaka will also think of Radha-Krishna pastimes, meditate upon his siddha deha and serve the Playful Pair. The purity of the sadhaka’s mind and the sincerity of one’s heart will determine the depth of one’s absorption.

Overview of Vaidhi and Raganuga Bhakti

Before discussing the main topic of kamanuga raganuga bhakti from Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, we will give an overview of vaidhi and raganuga-bhakti.

First of all, what is sadhana? Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “Sadhana means practicing to serve Sri Krishna with the senses to attain the goal of bhava bhakti, kriti sadhya bhavet sadhya, bhava sa sadhanabhidha. (Brs. 1.2.2) There are two types of sadhana, devotion in practice, namely vaidhi and raganuga (Brs. 1.2.5. & (Cc. 2.22.108).

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about these two types of sadhana bhakti. Some acharyas say that raganuga-bhakti begins at the stage of nishtha, ruchi or even bhava. However, there is no evidence for this in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Bhakti Sandarbha, Madhurya Kadambini or Raga Varma Candrika. Although it is also not true, some acharyas say that raganuga-bhakti comes after the stage of vaidhi sadhana bhakti. This is absolutely wrong! There is no guarantee that a vaidhi sadhaka will automatically be promoted to raganuga-bhakti.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada does not agree with this either. Rather he says, “The only cause of obtaining the greed to begin raganuga-bhakti sadhana is mercy—the compassion of Krishna or His devotee, krishna tad bhakta karunya matra labhaika.” (Brs. 1.2.309) And when and from where will this greed come from?

Srila Rupa Goswamipada answers, “Even ten million lifetimes of following regulative principles [vaidhi-bhakti] will not give you a taste for Krishna bhakti. The only price to attain it is greed! Wherever you can find it, you should buy it immediately, krishna bhakti rasa bhavita matih, kriyatam yadi kuto pi labhyate, tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam, janma koti sukrtair na labhyate.” (Padyavali 13,14/Cc. 2.8.70)

Where can you find it? You can find it wherever advanced devotees are speaking Radha-Krishna katha. Go there and listen—hear with an eager and submissive mind and heart. Then you will obtain the divine greed to taste pure Krishna bhakti.

At what stage of sadhana bhakti (sadhu sanga, bhajana kriya, anartha nivrtti, etc.) can one begin raganuga-bhakti?

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada answers, “Greed to follow the path of raga bhakti begins (arabhya) [ed. or at least can begin] when one surrenders to the Guru, lobho raga vartma vartinam bhaktanam guru-padashraya lakshanam arabhya.” (Raga-vartma-candrika I.8) This means the stage of sadhu-sanga and taking initiation. Later on, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada says raganuga-bhakti starts at the stage of anartha-nivrtti which forms the beginning platform of sadhana bhakti along with sadhu sanga and bhajana kriya.

VCT: “Now I will describe how the raganuga-bhakta gradually advances through the stages of anartha-nivrtti to nistha, ruci, and prema, raganuga bhakti majjanasya anartha nivrtti nishtha-ruci.”(Raga-varma candrika II.7)

Thus “old devotees” (praktana krpa patras) will start and continue their practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana from day one of surrendering to Sri Guru, and new devotees (adhunika krpa patras) will start shortly after surrendering to a raganuga Guru and becoming properly qualified. The terms praktana and adhunika krpa will be discussed shortly.

In other words, one can begin the practice of either vaidhi-sadhana or raganuga-bhakti sadhana at the stage of anartha-nivrtti. The difference between a vaidhi sadhaka and raganuga-sadhaka lies not in personal purity, but in their mood, motivation to serve Krishna, and their greed to taste Krishna bhakti. Read more in part two.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ki jai! Raganuga-bhakti ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Sadhana Comparison

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Kirtanam

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).

  1. 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.”

  1. Archanam

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!

Mahanidhi Swami

  1. 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.

RESIDENCE IN VRAJA (continued from part three)

Regarding the uniqueness of living in Vraja Mandala, the Padma Purana (patala-khanda) says, “Anyone who spends even one day in Mathura/Vrindavana will attain Hari-bhakti, aho madhupuri dhanya, vaikunthac ca gariyasi, dinam ekam nivasena, harau bhaktih prajayate.” (Brs. 1.2.237) The Brahmanda Purana says, “One achieves the bliss experienced at the stage of prema just by touching Mathura, parananda-mayi siddhir mathura-sparsha-matratah.” (Brs. 1.2.212)

Of course, this will never ever happen just by living a day in Mumbai, Moscow, Manhattan or anywhere in this maya jagat! The word mathura in Mathura-mandala means “to churn, spin or agitate”. And that’s exactly why residence here is so very special, because Vraja-dhama has the power to agitate one’s mind with thoughts and feelings for Krishna, and make one forget everything else!

From my 29 years of continuous residence in Vrindavana, I can personally say, that unlike anywhere else in the world, Vrindavana has a distinctive other worldly atmosphere or ambience. There is some special enchantment in Vraja that practically every visitor feels upon coming here. Devotion to God is imperceptibly floating in the air. It’s all-pervasive, touching every heart with a drop of joy. It’s the kind of happiness every heart hankers for. This is the taste of Krishna bhakti, and this Vrindavana is the land of Krishna’s love, waiting to embrace all who venture forth.

In Bhakti Ratnakara (chapter 5), Sri Raghava Goswami, a resident of Govardhana, became completely impatient and overwhelmed with bliss when he started narrating the glories and benefits of being in Vraja. He said, “One who bathes anywhere in Vraja Mandala, or sees the Holy Places there is freed from his sins.” (Padma Pur.) “Simply by touching the dust of Vraja, one can attain ecstatic love for Krishna.” (Brahmanda Pur.) “Living in Vraja Mandala is possible only by the grace of Sri Krishna, for without it one can’t stay a second.” (Adi Pur.)

Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja wonderfully describes the transcendental position the Vrindavana situated right here right now:

“Beyond all spiritual abodes is the abode of Vraja-loka, or Sri Gokula, which is also called Sri Goloka, Shvetadvipa and Vrindavana. Like Sri Krishna’s transcendental body, Gokula is unlimited, supreme and all-pervading. Vraja-loka spreads above and below without any restriction. Although by Krishna’s wish it manifests in the mundane universes, it only has one basic form, and not two separate ones. The soil of Vrindavana consists of thought gems and the forests are full of wish-yielding trees. But one with material eyes, sees it as a mundane place. The true form of Vraja Dhama manifests to one with the eyes of love, as a divine land wherein Krishna IS playing with His beloved gopas and gopis.” (Cc. 5.17-21)

One of best things about living in Vraja, and nowhere else in this universe, is that it enables one to see the pastimes of Radha Govinda Yugala. How is that? Shukadeva Goswami answers saying, “Sri Hari is very intimately connected with and ALWAYS PRESENT in Vrindavana, madhu-vanam yatra sannidhyam nityada hareh.” (SB 4.8.42; and 10.1.28)

Since Sri Krishna, Sri Radha and all the beautiful damsels of Vrajabhumi are still living here right now and eternally in Vrindavana, a raganuga sadhaka who lives here doing bhajana will one fine day see this:

“O, Krishna is here, living eternally in Vrindavana! And I see that Kamadeva Shyama, with His blissful smiling face, is forever increasing the lusty desires of the Vraja gopis, susmita sri mukhena vraja pura vanitanam vardhayan kama devam.” (SB 10.90.48)

In the above verse of the Bhagavata, the first line says jayati jana-nivaso devaki-janma, which means that “Krishna, the son of Devaki (second name for Yashoda), eternally lives gloriously among the cowherds of Vrindavana.” Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada explains, “The word jayati is in the present case, meaning, “Krishna is victorious and eternally in this world—in Vrindavana, in His Holy Name, and in His Hari-katha.” (Sarartha Darshini tika)

In short, living always in Vrindavana, vraje vasa sada, means to always meditate upon Radha-Krishna’s asta-kaliya-lilas while, ideally if one can, residing in a nitya-lila sthali like Radha Kunda, Govardhana, Varsana, Nandagoan, Yavata, Seva Kunja, Nidhi Vana or others.

In this regard, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada says, “One must meditate upon Radha-Krishna along with Their Vraja lilas, and never meditate on Radha-Krishna without Their pastimes, sri krishna lila sahitayor evopasyatvam, na lila rahitayoh lilayam.” (Raga Vartma Chandrika II.6)

If physical residence in Sridhama Vrindavana is impossible, however, then Sri Jiva Goswamipada advises that one can live elsewhere, but always remember Radha-Govinda’s eternal pastimes in Vrindavana. Physical/mental Vrindavana is best, but only mind in Vrindavana will also bring success in bhajana.

Srila Prabhupada explains, “When one’s mind simply becomes fixed on the lotus feet of Krishna, then one’s mind becomes as good as Vrindavana. Wherever Krishna is, there also are Srimati Radharani, the gopis, gopas and all the Vrajavasis. Thus as soon as one fixes Krishna in his mind, his mind becomes identical with Vrindavana.” (Cc. 2.13.138 p.)

Although one may live outside Vrindavana, one should not be satisfied and complacent with that residence, and never become attached to it. Rather, one should intensely hanker for that auspicious day or the life when one can physically and mentally live in Vraja Dhama absorbed in Radha-Krishna Yugala bhajana

Srila Narottama dasa Thakura beautifully expresses these sentiments in his bhajana, “hari hari! kabe habo vrndavana vasi”:

“O Hari, Hari! When will I be able to live in Vrindavana, and see the beautiful radiant forms of Radha Govinda Yugala? When will I give up the happiness of sleeping in a wonderful, luxurious bed, and smear my body with the dust of Vraja, Vraja dhuli? When will I give up the desire for tasty food, and live on begged food (madhukari) in Vraja? When will I wander around the forests of Vrindavana, and sometimes take rest on the cool, sandy banks of the Yamuna? When will I find relief from the scorching sunshine under the cooling shade of Vamshi Vata? When will I sit in a kunja amidst the elevated Vaisnavas? O when will that day come, when I give up everything [and run to Vrindavana]?”

  1. Two Sadhanas: Sadhaka and Siddha Rupa Seva

seva sadhaka rupena, siddha-rupena catra hi

tad-bhava-lipsuna karya, vraja-lokanusaratah (Brs. 1.2.295)

Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains, “Both in his material body, and in his (mentally conceived) spiritual body should one follow in the footsteps of the people of Vraja, always desiring their feelings and activities. On the path of raganuga-bhakti one serves Radha-Krishna in one’s sadhaka-rupa, which means the present physical body, as well as in one’s siddha rupa [aka siddha deha], which means one’s internally conceived and desired body, while hankering for the feelings and specific attraction of Sri Krishna’s beloved Vrajavasi devotees and following in their footsteps.”

Second Trans: “Desiring to attain gopi/manjari bhava, one should, with his physical sadhaka body, eagerly serve and follow the example of Radha-Govinda’s eternal Våndävana associates like Sri Rupa Gosvami, Sri Sanatana Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. In one’s siddha-rupa, internally conceived spiritual body of a manjari, one should serve Radha-Govinda, following in the footsteps of the eternal Vrajaväsés like Sri Rupa-manjari and Rati-manjari.”

In summary, one should perform internal service (manasi-seva) through the medium of the siddha deha by following Sri Rupa-manjari and Rati-manjari. And externally as a sadhaka (sadhaka rupena), one should perform physical services like those done by Srila Rupa, Sri Sanatana Goswamis and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami while they lived in Vrindavana.

Sri Jiva Goswami:

“Siddha-rupa [aka siddha deha] refers to a body suitable for one’s desired service [as Radha’s manjari], and which has been developed by internal meditation. In that siddha deha, one mentally serves Radha-Krishna with a desire for the gopi-bhava of Sri Rupa or Rati manjari (tad bhava lipsuna).”

Notably, in a footnote to this verse, Shri Bhanu Swami (ISKCON), the English translator of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, tells how to attain a siddha deha:

“The siddha-rupa is given by the guru, who himself is following the path of raga-bhakti, when he sees the qualification for raganuga-bhakti in a particular disciple. Along with the form [siddha deha], the guru gives the specific dress and service to Radha throughout the day.”

Comments: The raganuga-sadhaka serves with a strong desire to attain and relish the feelings i.e. dasi/gopi-bhava, the sevas and the pastimes of Sri Radha and Her intimate seva dasis like Sri Rupa-manjari and Rati-manjari. As in the physical body a sadhaka, doing murti-puja, offers different articles to Radha and Krishna according to the time of day i.e. fragrant warm water to bathe Thakuraji at sunrise. Similarly, in one’s internally conceived spiritual form (siddha rupena), a sadhaka mentally offers Radha-Madhava different items according to the needs of the time within the eight-fold daily flow of Yugala’s pastimes (asta-kaliya-lila seva).

Fixing Your Identity in Sadhaka Rupa & Siddha Rupa

All puja-manuals used in vaidhi-sadhana prescribe the practice of bhuta-shuddhi, which is a way of purifying one’s physical body by identifying oneself in a general way as a spiritual being (dasa dasanudasa).

In raga-marga, however, bhuta shuddhi consists in meditating upon a specific spiritual identity, an individual siddha deha resembling one of Sri Krishna’s eternal associates i.e. a sakhi or manjari (dasi dasi anudasi bhava). Sri Jiva Goswamipada confirms this in Bhakti-sandarbha (286): bhuta shuddhi, parshada deha bhavana.

In sadhaka rupa (my present physical form as a devotee), a raganugiya Vaisnava will perform bhuta-shuddhi by daily thinking thus: “With the humble mood and bhava of a dasi or maidservant of Radhika, I am performing all the limbs of sadhana like hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping Radha Govinda Yugala. In siddha-deha, he will fix his eternal identity (siddha rupena) as one of Srimati Radhika’s loving handmaidens absorbed in relishing the sweet mellows of Her daily service in allegiance to the other sakhi manjaris.

The Sanat-kumara Samhita (184-187 v.) suggests this bhuta-shuddhi: “The raganuga-sadhaka should think: ‘In my eternal spiritual form (siddha deha), I reside among the delightful cowherd damsels of Sri Krishna. I am a very blissful, beautiful and charming young kishori gopi. As Srimati Radhika’s eternal maidservant, I forever arrange Her intimate meetings with Her Prana Priyatama Shyama, and I make Them happy with my artful talents, and a variety of expertly performed services. For time eternal, I will serve Yugala Kishora, all the while feeling more love for my Swamini Radha than Shyama.”

Power of Manjari Svarupa Dhyana

The practice of daily meditation (e.g., on one’s siddha deha) is both powerful and authentic. In Gita (8.6), Sri Krishna says, “At death, one will remember what he thought about most during his lifetime. And one’s dying thoughts will be attained in one’s next life.”

The Chandogya Upanisad (3.14.1) confirms this: “The way in which a jiva worships the Parama Purusha Sri Krishna in this world, he will attain that in the next life, yatha kratur asmin loke, puruso bhavati tathetah, pretya bhavati sa kratum kurvita.

Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, “Whatever one contemplates in sadhana will be achieved upon attaining one’s siddha deha, sadhane bhaviba yaha siddha-dehe paba taha.” (P.B.Candrika 5.8)

Meditation is not only powerful, but it brings the blessings of Bhagavan. Sri Krishna personally promises fulfillment to His meditating devotees. In Uddhava-gita (SB 11.15.26), Bhagavan Sri Krishna said, “O Uddhava! A devoted person who meditates on Me, Who am also called satya sankalpa (one who always keeps His promise), he will definitely obtain the fulfillment of his desires.”

Some people say, “Meditating on one’s siddha deha is just kalpana, imagination—leading to nowhere!” But Sri Krishna’s sacred words and solemn promise above prove that such meditation is real and it will bring success!

The raganuga-sadhaka is meditating on God, the absolute Truth and supreme ultimate reality. The raganugiya devotee meditates on Radha and Krishna, and serves Them in different pleasurable ways throughout the day and night in his mentally conceived siddha deha. Meditation on Bhagavan Sri Krishna is always real, eternally perfect, and it powerfully draws the attention and blessings of bhakta-vatsalya Sri Nandanandana. All of one’s meditative practices will culminate in perfection at the stage of bhava-bhakti, wherein one will realize and see his siddha deha, and continue serving Radha-Madhava as he was doing during the stage of practice.

The Nitya Sevas of Sri Radha’s Dasis

Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains that the dasis or maidservants (aka manjaris) of Srimati Radharani expertly and lovingly serve their Swamini in 16 different ways mentioned in Ujjvala-nilamani (Sakhé-prakaraëa 88–91):

  1. To recite the glories of both the hero, nayaka Sri Krishna, and the heroine, nayika Sri Radha.
  2. To carefully create a situation in which Shyama is attracted to Radhika and vice versa.
  3. To induce both Radha and Krishna to approach each other.
  4. To surrender unto Krishna.
  5. To create a jovial atmosphere.
  6. To give Radha-Govinda assurance to enjoy Their pastimes.
  7. To dress and decorate both Radha and Krishna.
  8. To show expertise in expressing Radha-Madhava’s desires.
  9. To conceal the faults of Radharani.
  10. To cheat their respective husbands and relatives.
  11. To educate.
  12. To enable both Radha and Krishna to meet at the proper time.
  13. To fan Radha and Krishna.
  14. To sometimes reproach Radha and Krishna.
  15. To set conversations in motion.
  16. To protect Radharani by various means.

Example of Mental Seva in Siddha Rupa

In his mentally conceived siddha deha, the raganuga-sadhaka thinks that he/she is assisting Radharani. Together in a keli-nikunja in the forest of Vrindavana, Radha and the manjari are beautifully decorating the pastime bower to receive Shyamasundara. Time to time, Kishori stares down the footpath anxiously looking for Kunjabihari. When the appointed meeting time expires, however, Srimati breaks down crying.

The kinkari maidservant consoles Priyaji for some time, and then goes searching for Shyama, while intensely hankering to find Him. But alas! Kanu is nowhere to be seen, so the kinkari cries out in desperation, “O Radha Prananatha! O Parama Nagara! Where are You? Please, I beg You to reveal Yourself! Your Prana-priya Radha is crying in anguish due to Your absence. Please show Yourself to me!”

Responding to the manjari’s distressful pleas, Shyama reveals Himself. Happily, the kinkari brings Nagaraja to the love bower, and thus arranges for the blissful meeting of the Playful Pair. This is an example of service rendered internally (manasi-seva) in one’s siddha deha, siddha rupena seva.

How to Follow the Vrajavasis?

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti: “The last line of the verse, “vraja loka anusaratah”, means one should serve Radha-Krishna in one’s physical body by following the example of Vrajavasis like Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada. And in one’s siddha-rupa [siddha deha], one should perform mental services (manasi-seva) to the Playful Couple by following the services of Sri Rupa-manjari, Lavanga and Rati-manjaris.”

Srila Rupa Goswamipada ki jai! Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada ki jai!

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Manjari Bhava Sadhana ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

  1. 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.

  1. Three Sadhanas: Smarana, Hari Katha & Vraja Vasa

krishnam smaran janam casya, preshtham nija-samihitam,

tat-tat-katha-ratas casau, kuryad vasam vraje sada (Brs. 1.2.294)

Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “Remember Vrindavana Sri Krishna, Gopinatha, and His beloved gopis like Sri Radha, Lalita, Sri Rupa and Rati manjari whom you are personally attracted to; absorb yourself in hearing/reading topics about Radha-Krishna, the sakhis and manjaris; and always live in Vraja.”

Second Trans: “The raganuga-sadhaka should remember his own beloved Nandanandana Sri Krishna, and His dear most associates of one’s own choice and taste. He should be attached to speaking about them, and always physically live in Vraja, if possible, or at least mentally.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada comments:

  1. krishna-preshtham sva priyatam: The dearmost form of Krishna.
  2. kishoraṁ nanda-nandanaṁ smaran: One should remember the adolescent son of Nanda Maharaja, Nandanandana Sri Krishna.
  3. casya bhakta-janam: And the devotees of that particular form of Krishna, who have the same type of desires (for serving Kṛṣṇa) as oneself (nija-samihitam).” The Sanskrit word samihita means desired, wished or longed for.

Does the verse phrase janam casya mean that the sadhaka is free to choose a particular dear bhakta of Krishna whom he desires to follow and serve? Can a raganuga-sadhaka choose any sakhi or manjari that he desires or wishes to follow? For example, one may think, “I like Gopala Bhatta Goswami, so I will follow him in my sadhaka rupa and follow Guna-manjari (his sakhi form) in my manjari siddha deha. And for my sakhi group leader (yuteshvari) I will choose Tungavidya-sakhi.”

The answer is no because the phrase does not indicate a free desire or choice because it’s bestowed or given from outside. In fact, everything in sadhana bhakti from receiving the seed of devotion, bhakti-bija, to receiving the fruit of prema is given or bestowed upon one by the causeless mercy of Sri Krishna or His devotee.

In the very beginning of Chaitanya-caritamrta, Srila Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami proves this point when describing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s advent. “By His causeless mercy, Mahaprabhu descended in Kali-yuga to BESTOW the most radiant, highest mellow of amorous love (parakiya-bhava) and the treasure of His own [Radha’s] service, karunya avatirnah kalau samarpayitum unnata ujjvala-rasam sva-bhakti sriyam.” (Cc. 1.1.4)

The key words to consider here are karunaya, “causeless mercy”, and samarpayitum which means “to give or to bestow”. It’s not ours to freely choose, “O yes, I want this manjari-bhava, radha-dasyam, seva of Srimati Radharani.” As the verse shows, it is given or bestowed by Krishna Chaitanya to whomever He wants to bless. In essence, the entire life of a bhakti is all causeless mercy from start to finish.

Now let’s apply this principle to the krishna smarana janam casya verse by Srila Rupa Goswamipada. By the causeless mercy of Krishna, a sadhaka may be given or bestowed a place in Nityananda parivara for example, and by that placement he will automatically be under Lalita-sakhi (his yutheshvari) and Sri Rupa-manjari. In Advaita-parivara, it means one will be under Vishakha sakhi and Rati-manjari. Then these sakhis and manjaris will be the role models for the sadhaka to follow. It’s not a matter of free choice.

Sadhakas not given a place in one of the traditional Gaudiya Vaisnava parivaras will have two role models “to choose” from, either Sri Rupa-manjari or Rati-manjari, as Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja says throughout the Chaitanya-caritamrta, rupa-raghunatha pade yara asha, “My aspiration is for the lotus feet of Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada.” Followers of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, for example, generally all follow Lalita-sakhi, Sri Rupa-manjari and Ananga-manjari

In summary, although the verse says “dear most associates of one’s own choice and taste”, the sadhaka actually has NO CHOICE, since it’s all given by higher personalities like Sri Krishna, Lord Gauranga and Sri Guru. As far as which Vrajavasi to follow, it is decided by one’s guru when he receives siddha deha and pranali. For example, the Guru tells his disciple, “your yuteshvari is Vishakha and your main manjari is Rati-manjari. Ok, now it’s settled, given or bestowed, and they become “my favorite or chosen ones whom I desire or wish to follow, serve and emulate.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada continues: “Smarana (krishnam smaran janam) means remembering the Lord of Vrindavana, Sri Krishna, along with His people. This means one should remember Krishna’s beloved transcendental associates whom the practicing devotee favors like Sri Radhika, Lalita, Vishakha, Sri Rupa or Tulasi-manjari. Although they are Krishna’s favorites, they are also more favorite to those raganuga-sadhakas who desire to enter into ujjvala-madhurya prema of Vraja.” (Raga Vartma Candrika II.11)

REMEMBERING & HEARING ABOUT GOPINATHA AND THE SAKHI MANJARIS

Remembering Krishna is mentioned first (krishna smarana janam casya), because remembering Radha and Krishna is the specialty and the main item in raganuga-bhajana. In essense, raganuga-bhakti is a mental religion, mano dharma. Although Sri Jiva Goswamipada mentions four kinds of smarana (nama, rupa, guna and lila), remembering the lovely pastimes of the Divine Couple is the best because it automatically includes nama, rupa and guna smarana. Thus Radha-Krishna lila-smarana is the main practice of raganuga sadhakas. Besides being the activity for raganuga-sadhakas, smarana is supremely powerful and awards astonishing results.

“Sri Krishna gives Himself to one who remembers (smaratah) his lotus feet, ishvarah smaratah pada pada-kamalam atmanam api yacchati.” (SB 10.80.11) Sri Jiva Goswamipada comments, “Sri Krishna will directly appear before the person who remembers Him and come under his control, sakshat pradurbhuya atmanam smarter vashikarotityartha.” (Bhakti Sandarbhah 277)

Thus, the raganuga-sadhaka should continually remember the divine forms of nitya-kishora Shyamasundara in Vrindavana along with His sweet darlings Sri Radha and the sakhis. One should read about and remember Their pastimes, and the many services rendered to Radharani by Her dearest dasis, the manjaris Sri Rupa, Lavanga and Rati.

By repeatedly hearing, reading and speaking about the bhava and sevas of Sri Radha’s manjaris, deep impressions (bhakti samskaras) of their moods and qualities will form in the mind. As these impressions accumulate, the sadhaka will identify more and more with Radhika’s seva dasis, and then naturally hanker to attain a spiritual form, siddha deha, to lovingly serve Sri Radha for evermore.

RESIDING IN VRINDAVANA

The third sadhana for the raganuga-sadhaka is that he should always live in Vrindavana, kuryad vasam vraje sada (Brs.1.2.295). Since one can practice bhakti anywhere, why does Srila Rupa Goswamipada stress physically living in Vrindavana?

Why, because Vraja Dhama has the inconceivable power to quickly manifest bhava bhakti within the heart of a non-offensive sadhaka residing there, duruha adbhuta virya smin shraddha dure panchake …bhava janmane (Brs. 1.2.238)

The word panchake above refers to the five most potent, result producing limbs of sadhana bhakti, namely nama sankirtana, murti seva, sadhu sanga, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam and living in Vrindavana. Not only will one attain bhava-bhakti by Vraja vasa but also prema. Mahaprabhu explains, “Of all sadhanas, these five limbs of bhakti are the best. Krishna prema will appear in the sadhaka by even a slight association, alpa sanga, with them, sakala sadhana shreshtha ei pancha anga, krishna prema janmaya ei panchera alpa sanga.” (Cc. 2.22.128)

After reading this, the sadhakas who are living in Vrindavana may ask, “How is it then that I have not yet attained bhava, what to speak of prema, even though I have lived in Vrindavana for 5, 10, 15 or 25 years?”

The answer is that there is a certain type of “how to” mood of residence in Vrindavana. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura describes it: “One should live in Vraja with anuraga which means a continuous mood of respect, love and loving attachment; while always desiring to be counted among Srimati Radhika’s sakhis and manjaris, vrajapure anurage vasa, sakhi gana gananate.” (Pr.Bk.Candrika 56).

If one does not have this mood, however, then he will invariably commit offences to the holy dhama or the dhamavasis, and thus have to wait a long time to receive the promised bhava and prema. After one suffers for his aparadhas and deeply repents, then Sri Dhama will eventually forgive, and soon award bhava-bhakti to that sincere sadhaka.

Srila Sanatana Goswamipada reveals the matchless quality of Vraja vasa. While traveling on his spiritual odyssey, Gopa Kumara arrived in Dvaraka in the spiritual sky [not in Gujarat, India]. There he directly saw Krishna and interacted with Him in a very personal way. Nevertheless, Gopa Kumara still felt dissatisfied because there he could not find his coveted “Vraja bhava”.

Feeling compassion for him, Uddhava Mahashaya advised him to go to Gokula Vrindavana in the material world, saying, “When the saintly devotees see the empty forests, rivers, mountains and so on in earthly Vrindavana, they automatically get feelings of humility and love simultaneously. Overwhelmed, and their hearts intensely burning in separation, they loudly cry out “Alas! Alas!” as they search for their dearest Sri Krishna.” (Brhad-Bh. 2.5.242-243)

Upon arriving in this earthly Vraja, Gopa Kumara entered a similar emotional state which he describes here: “I came to Vraja and went to see the many places of Sri Krishna’s pastimes while singing my favorite names of Krishna. While loudly and sweetly singing about Krishna’s pastimes, I fixed my mind upon them. I attained such as state of ecstasy (bhava dasha), and became so emotional that it embarrasses me even to think of it. So how then can I describe this to anyone else?

“In this way, I passed many days and nights. However, I did not know whether my bhajana was bringing me immense joy or immense misery. Was I living in a forest fire or was I submerged in the cooling, sweet waters of Yamunaji? That I cannot say. Then one fine day while I was sitting in a Vraja nikunja doing my bhajana, I became immersed in an ocean of crying and fell unconscious.

“Suddenly dayalu cuda mani Shyama appeared before me. With His cooling nectar hand, Shyama personally wiped the dust from my body. Then Madan Gopaladeva filled my nose with the most uncommon and enchanting fragrance of His divine body. I awoke from my swoon and stood up.

“Vraja Nagara Shyama artfully played a sweet tune on His murali, and before I even knew it, Shyama just disappeared in a kunja. Alas! Alas! I ran behind looking for Him. But Shyama had vanished and I collapsed on the ground!” (Brhad-Bh. 2.6.3-10)

Displaying a similar mood, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada prays in Stavavali: “When will I wander around Govardhana Hill, constantly crying out like a madman, ‘O Radhe! O Krishna!’ for my most beloved Priya Priyatama? Sometimes I will stumble and fall, and then get up again dancing, singing and crying. O when will the streams of my tears shower these transcendental playgrounds?”

In his Goswami Astakam, Srinivasa Acharya perfectly depicts the mood of the six Vrindavana Goswamis, whom we are trying to follow in our present sadhaka forms (sadhaka rupena): “Greatly agitated and distressed, they wandered everywhere in Vrindavana crying out, “O Radhe! O Vraja Devi! O Lalite! O Nandanandana! Where are You all now? Are You at Sri Govardhanaji, or are You under the desire-trees on the bank of Yamunaji? Where are You?” (he radhe vraja devike ca lalite, he nanda suno kutah)

By the mercy of Sri Guru and Sri Krishna, raganugiya sadhakas who live in Vraja practicing manjari-bhava-sadhana will someday also have a similar experience of seeing Krishna, then losing sight, and then seeing their playful Lord once again while participating in Shyama’s sport of hide and seek with His beloved premika bhaktas.

O when, O when will that day be mine, sei din kabe habe mor? Srila Narottama dasa Thakura prays, “When while absorbed in transcendental bliss in Vrajabhumi will I give up my body, and go to the joy-filled divine realm of Vrindavana, e bhava samsara tyaji, parama anande maji, ara kabe brajabhume jaba, sukhamaya vrindavana?” (Prarthana 26)

To reside in Vrindavana means to experience this type of separation while performing one’s bhajana, which in essence is nothing more than crying…for mercy, for prema, for seva and for the sweet darshana of Radha Govinda Yugala. And this is exactly what Srila Narottama dasa Thakura means by saying one should live in Vraja with anuraga.

Without a doubt the best example of living in Vraja with intense anuraga is seen in the lives and writings of Sri Rupa, Sanatana, and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamis. By always hearing/reading their anguished, heart-rending words of separation from Radha-Madhava, a fortunate sadhaka will continuously cry and cry until the waves in the river of his tears carry him along to the lotus feet of Priya Radha.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada ki jai! Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada ki jai!

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Manjari Bhava Sadhana ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

In 40 verses of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.270-309), Srila Rupa Goswamipada defines and describes the sadhana practice of raganuga-bhakti. In this article, we will quote these verses along with supporting verses from other Gaudiya Vaisnava mahajanas to explain the subject.

  1. What is Raganuga-bhakti?

First of all, what does the word raga mean? Literally, raga means passionate attraction and attachment. An ordinary person has a natural attraction and affection for sense objects, and it manifests as an intense desire to contact those objects. The eyes, for example, are spontaneously attracted to beautiful objects and people. When a devotee experiences similar feelings of attraction and affection for Sri Krishna, it is also called raga.

Sri Krishna’s nitya-siddha associates in Vrindavana like Sri Radha, Lalita and Sri Rupa-manjari have a unique type of devotion called ragatmika-bhakti, which is defined as “an intense, love-filled thirst for Sri Krishna which makes them fully absorbed in giving pleasure and satisfaction to Sri Krishna. Raganuga-bhakti is bhakti that follows (anuga) the devotional mood and feelings of these ragatmika devotees.” (Brs. 1.2.270-72)

  1. Two Types of Ragatmika Bhakti

There are two types of ragatmika-bhakti among Sri Krishna’s eternal associates in Vrindavana:

1) Sambandha-rupa, which is inspired by fully identifying oneself as the parent, friend, or servant of Govinda in vatsatya, sakhya or dasya ratis;

2) Kamarupa, which is impelled by conjugal feelings. (Brs. 1.2.273, 288)

III. Kamarupa Ragatmika Bhakti

Kamarupa ragatmika bhakti is, “a particular type of intense madhurya prema bhakti with full and natural absorption in the beloved, which produces an intrinsic thirst for a conjugal relationship with Krishna only for the purpose of giving happiness to Krishna, krishna sukha artha kevalam.” (Brs. 1.2.283, 284)

Sri Jiva Goswamipada tika: “Although Srila Rupa Goswamipada says the Vraja-gopis bhakti is kamarupa bhakti, it is actually kamatmika bhakti.

What is the difference? Kamarupa-bhakti means bhakti, or pure love, prema for Krishna, with conjugal actions only. Whereas, kamatmika-bhakti is conjugal actions along with pure conjugal feelings and emotions; a complete and divine absorption of one’s transcendental body, mind and heart (atmika).”

The Vraja-gopis are the best examples of kamarupa ragatmika devotees. Srila Rupa Goswamipada explains, “Krishna’s priya sakhis in Vrindavana like Sri Radha, Lalita and Vishakha, who are the embodiments of madhurya-prema, serve Sri Krishna due to intense passionate attachment, and thus they forever drink the sweet prema nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet, räga-bandhena kenäpi, taà bhajanto vrajantyamé, aìghri-padma-sudhäù prema, rüpäs tasya priyä janäù.” (Brs. 1.2.281)

In this world of mundane men and women, the word kama commonly means personal desire or lust, which includes actions performed to gratify one’s selfish desires at the expense of another. In relation to Sri Krishna’s divine Vraja-gopis of the transcendental world, however, the word kama actually means intense selfless and self-forgetful love. The gopis’ kama is actually Krishna prema, divine pure love. The cowherd damsels of Vrajabhumi are totally selfless transcendental ladies, possessing immaculately pure minds and hearts. Thus even though the Vraja-gopis express intensely passionate conjugal feelings and actions toward Sri Krishna, they are completely devoid of even a scent of lust or selfish desire. The Vraja-gopis live only to please Shyamasundara.

The Agama sastras rightly say that, “the ‘kama’ of the Vraja-gopis has become famous simply as pristine Krishna prema, premaiva gopa-rämäëäà käma pratham.” (Brs. 1.2.285) And the proof that the gopis’ prema is absolutely pure, perfect and exalted is that the most respected and dearest devotees of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, bhagavata priya, beginning with Uddhava Mahasaya desire to attain it. (Brs. 1.2.286)

  1. Two Types of Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana

Since there are two types of ragatmika-bhakti found in Sri Krishna’s eternal Vrajavasi devotees, there are two paths of bhajana in allegiance to them.

1) Sambandhanuga-bhakti—a type of devotion where a sadhaka constantly identifies with and meditates on his relationship (sambandha) with Sri Krishna as either a parent, friend or servant. (Brs. 1.2.290, 305)

2) Kamanuga-bhakti—a type of devotion where a sadhaka is filled with longing, thirst and eagerness to serve and follow (not imitate) the kamatmika Vraja-gopis like Srimati Radharani, Lalita, Vishakha, Sri Rupa and Rati manjari. (Brs. 1.2.297-298)

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada comments, “Kamanuga sadhana bhakti is that bhakti filled with activities that follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-gopis’ actions, which are inspired by their inherent conjugal prema (kama), and that is inspired by the same divine love thirst. Actions are of two kinds, namely mental services (manasi-seva) and physical services performed with the external senses.”

  1. Two Types of Kamanuga Sadhana Bhakti

There are two paths of kamanuga sadhana bhakti for sadhakas following the Vraja-gopis.

1) Sambhoga iccha mayi bhakti

In this devotion, there are two kinds of activities (mental, physical) inspired by the desire for a direct experience of giving conjugal enjoyment to Sri Krishna like the gopi group leaders in Vrindavana, Sri Radha, Lalita or Vishakha.

2) Tat tad bhava iccha atmika bhakti

For raganuga sadhakas this is the main type of bhakti. Here the sadhaka’s very life (atma) is filled with the desire (iccha) to taste the sweet mood of love (bhava) of a particular gopi’s prema like Sri Radha or Sri Rupa or Rati manjari. (Brs. 1.2.299)

VII. Qualification to Start Kamanuga Bhakti

The sadhaka who is deeply desirous and greedy for the bhava or divine loving feelings of Sri Krishna’s kamatmika Vraja-gopis (vraja vasa jana bhava lubdho) is qualified to practice raganuga-bhakti sadhana. (Brs. 1.2.291)

In other words, it means that you are very attracted to the Vraja-gopis and manjaris, and really want to experience their moods and mellow sweet feelings of divine love for Sri Sri Radha and Krishna while serving them with the greatest feelings of submission and dedication. Bhava lubdho means greed to attain gopi-bhava, manjari-bhava. This is the main qualification to practice raganuga-bhakti.

Although Rupa Goswami says raganuga-bhakti starts with divine greed, lobha, Sri Jiva Goswami says it begins with taste, ruchi. “By reading scriptures or hearing from one’s teacher about the ragatmika-bhakti of Sri Krishna eternal associates in Vrindavana one develops a taste [taste is born] for the feelings and sevas of those eternal associates, sastradi srutasu ragatmikaya bhakteh ruchir jayate.”

“Then when one gets taste for the raga of the ragatmika janas of Vraja, even though raga itself has not yet manifested in the sadhaka, one’s heart becomes like a crystal reflecting the moonshine of their raga. Then according to one’s taste, ruchi, for that raga one practices raganuga-bhakti, tadiyam ragam rucyanugacchanti raganuga pravartate.”

“Raganuga-bhakti is impelled only by taste and not by any scriptural injunction, ruchi matra pravrtya vidhi prayukta na.” (Bhakti Sandarbha 310)

What is the proof that I have taste for raganuga-bhakti? Sri Jiva Goswamipada says, “When this taste, ruchi, appears, one then loses his taste and attraction for anything else but raganuga-bhakti, bhakti vyatirekhena ruchitvam.” (Bhakti Sandarbha anu. 310)

The main driving force of raganuga-bhakti is taste, which means you have a liking, fondness for and eager interest in it. Sri Jiva Goswamipada comments, “The path of raganuga-bhakti is inspired by taste, which plays the main, predominant role. And mental worship [manasi-seva of Radha-Krishna] is the main practice, ruchi pradhanasya margasya manah pradhanatvat.” (Bhakti Sandarbh anu. 311)

In summary, to begin raganuga-bhakti one needs both divine greed and taste. One who is intensely greedy to taste the sweet feelings of Sri Krishna’s madhurya-mayi Vraja-gopis is qualified to begin raganuga-bhakti.

VIII. Sacred Greed: How to Get It?

If you appreciate, taste or realize even to some degree the sweetness of the gopis’ prema after hearing/reading (bhava madhurya shrute) scriptures such as Tenth Canto Srimad Bhagavatam, Stavavali, Ujjvala Nilamani, Radha-rasa Sudhanidhi etc., that means that divine greed has appeared.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “When a devotee realizes to some degree and yearns for the sweetness of the mutual feelings of Krishna and His nitya-siddha Vrajavasis by hearing the scriptures, without depending on scriptural injunctions or logical arguments, then one has attained sacred greed.”

tat-tad-bhävädi-mädhurye, çrute dhér yad apekñate,

nätra çästraà na yuktià ca, tal-lobhotpatti-lakñaëaà (Brs. 1.2.292)

VCT: “If after hearing about the Vraja-gopis’ transcendental erotic feelings towards Kåñëa, one thinks: ‘Let me also attain such sweet and selfless loving feelings that means that he has become greedy for this feeling. He does not bother about scriptural injunctions or logical arguments. Such a sadhaka never thinks whether he is qualified or not for this path of raganuga-bhakti.” (Raga Varma Candrika I.5)

In other words, after hearing/reading about the manjaris’ many sevas performed for the pleasure of Radha Govinda and their sweet loving exchanges with Srimati Radhika, one may deeply hanker to taste and experience this wonderful Vraja madhurya-prema. If you do, that means you are greedy for love divine and also a very fortunate devotee.

Mahaprabhu confirms this in his teachings on raganuga-bhakti to Srila Sanatana Goswamipada: “A person is very fortunate if he becomes greedy to attain raga-mayi bhakti after hearing about Sri Krishna’s ragatmika Vraja-gopis, rägamayé-bhaktira haya rägätmikä näma, tähä çuni’ lubdha haya kona bhägyavän.” (Cc. 2.22.152)

We want to comment on Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s phrase quoted above (Brs. 1.2.292), “the raganuga-sadhaka does not depend on scriptural injunctions.” Some devotees mistakenly think this means that raganuga-bhakti is “spontaneous”, so I now I don’t need to read scriptures anymore. This is dead wrong! From the beginning of bhakti to the perfection of prema bhakti, all sadhakas always need to hear, read, study and follow the scriptures in order to establish, nourish, strengthen, enthuse, deepen and perfect their individual bhajana practices.

How does one get “divine greed” to follow the gopis of Vrindavana?

Srila Rupa Goswamipada describes four ways to obtain divine greed for gopi-bhava and the cherished seva of Sri Radha and Her sakhi manjaris.

1) Scriptures:

Reading scriptures or hearing from great devotees describing the sweet feelings and service expertise of Srimati Radharani’s manjaris, bhava madhurya shrute. (Brs. 1.2.292)

What happens is that after hearing/reading about the sweet and playful conjugal feelings displayed by the Vraja-gopis, one begins to think, “I also want to taste and experience this irresistible gopi-bhava of Sri Radha and Her sakhi manjaris.” Thus divine greed has appeared!

2) Lila-katha:

Hear/read about the sweetness of Radha-Krishna’s conjugal pastimes along with Their dear sakhis and manjaris, madhurya lila nishamya. (Brs. 1.2.300)

3) Deity Darshana:

A longing to attain gopi-bhava may also arise from seeing sweet murtis of Radha-Krishna and the gopis, sri murti madhuri prekshya bhava akankshi. (Brs. 1.2.300)

Sri Jiva Goswamipada explains the effect of Thakuraji’s darshana thus, “Even though Sri Rupa Goswami says (Brs. 1.2.239), ‘Don’t look at the Govindaji murti in Vrindavana if you still desire to enjoy society, friendship and love,’ he really means to say, ‘Yes, you must see Govindaji! Then you will experience the delightful sweetness of Krishna’s form and forget everything else.’” Just see the power of the famous bewitching Thakurajis of Vrindavana! Nevertheless, attaining greed for gopi-bhava just by murti darshana is very rare.

Mukunda Goswami (sishya of Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja) explains, “Srila Rupa Goswamipada says that bhava [gopi-bhava] may awaken in an offense less person (sad dhiyam bhava janmane) just by seeing Sri Krishna’s murti or painting. (Brs. 1.2.238) Even then the deep hankering (lobha/greed) to practice raganuga-bhakti is very rare. It can only be attained by the grace of Krishna or Krishna’s devotee.”

  1. Mercy:

After mentioning the different ways of attaining sacred greed, Srila Rupa Goswamipada concludes his entire discussion on raganuga-bhakti, saying, “It’s only mercy!”

“The only (matra) cause of getting the greed to follow raganuga-bhakti sadhana is the mercy of Krishna and His devotee, kåñëa-tad-bhakta-käruëya-mätra-läbhaika-hetukä.” (Brs. 1.2.309)

Although Srila Rupa Goswamipada says only bhakta karunya, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada distinguishes that “tad bhakta”, saying ‘anuragi bhakta krpa’, which means the mercy received from a Vaisnava who is passionately attached to the sweet feelings of Sri Krishna’s nitya-siddha Vrajavasis and following the path of raganuga-bhakti. Since it’s rare to receive mercy directly from Krishna, sacred greed can only be attained by Vaisnava krpa.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada describes two kinds of Vaisnava krpa.

1) Praktana—means mercy received in a past life from a raganuga bhakta manifesting in this life as a natural attraction or “divine greed” to surrender to a raganuga guru and continue one’s practice of raganuga-bhakti.

2) Adhunika—means “new mercy” acquired in the present life after surrendering to a raganuga guru and hearing about Radha-Krishna’s sweet loving pastimes with the Vraja-gopis. Then by the guru’s mercy, greed will awaken within one. (Raga-vartma candrika I.6) Read more in part three.

Raganuga-bhakti ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!

Mahanidhi Swami

There is no doubt that spreading Harinama sankirtana was/is an important part of Mahaprabhu’s mission. “To preach Nama [Sri Krishna’s Holy Names], which is the yuga dharma for Kali-yuga, Sri Krishna has taken a golden complexion and descended as Sri Chaitanya, kali-yuge yuga-dharma namera pracära, tathi lägi péta-varëa caitanyävatära.” (Cc. 1.3.40)

However, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja and other Gaudiya acharyas say that the main or primary purpose of Mahaprabhu’s descent was to relish the madhurya-prema of the Vraja-gopis and to propagate raganuga-bhakti. “The primary cause (mula karana) for the descent of Sri Chaitanya was to taste prema rasa and preach raganuga-bhakti to the world, avatara mula karana, prema-rasa-asvadana, raga-marga bhakti loke pracäraëa. (Cc. 1.4.14-15)

Although Mahaprabhu especially came to preach raganuga-bhakti, He personally spoke very little on the subject. Through His empowered followers, however, such as the six Goswamis, and especially Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada, Sri Chaitanya did elaborate upon and write about the principles and practices of raganuga sadhana bhakti. Mahaprabhu’s method of teaching raganuga-bhakti resembles that of a charitable and compassionate king desiring to give abundant charity to his subjects. He won’t do it personally, however, but he will engage his trusted ministers to distribute his wealth.

Thus from reading the works of the six Goswamis, especially Srila Rupa Goswamipada and Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswamipada, it is clear that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in this particular Kali-yuga to teach the kamanuga type of raganuga-bhakti following in the footsteps of the sakhis and manjaris serving Srimati Radharani.

In Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswamipada describes two kinds of raganuga-bhakti: 1) Sambandhanuga, which follows the moods and sevas of Sri Krishna’s eternal Vrindavana associates in either servitude, friendship or parental love—dasya, sakhya or vatsalya ratis; and 2) Kamanuga, which follows the moods and sevas of Sri Krishna’s sakhis in madhura-rati like Sri Radha, Lalita, Sri Rupa-Rati manjaris.

Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja explains, “Mahaprabhu Himself exclusively accepted gopi-bhava in the mood of the lovers of Vrajendrananda Sri Krishna, gopi-bhava prabhu dhariyache ekanta, vrajendra-nandane mane kanta.” (Cc. 1.17.277) If one examines, he will also see that the six Goswamis, Lokanatha and Krishna dasa Kaviraja, Narottama dasa Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravartipada, and all the Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas, along with their lineages, have also accepted gopi-bhava to serve as manjaris of Sri Radha in Vraja Gokula.

Not only did Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally accept Vraja gopi-bhava, but His closest associates taught that qualified Gaudiya Vaisnavas should also accept gopi-bhava, meditate upon their siddha dehas and mentally serve Radha-Krishna all day and night. And by doing this type of kamanuga raganuga-bhakti, Mahaprabhu promises that the Gaudiya sadhakas will get the lotus feet of Radha-Krishna. This point is confirmed below:

Through the mouth of Raya Ramananda, Sri Chaitanya taught, “Gaudiya sadhakas should accept gopi-bhava, and day and night think about Radha-Krishna’s pastimes, ataeva gopi-bhava kari angkara, ratri-dina cinte radha-krsnera vihara.” (Cc. 2.8. 228)

Gauranga continued, “Then while meditating upon your siddha deha, you should do seva in those pastimes. By practicing this sadhana [kamanuga raganuga-bhakti], you will get Radha-Krishna’s lotus feet, siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tahanni sevana, sakhi-bhave paya radha krsnera carana!” (Cc. 2.8.229)

One should carefully note here that these verses describe the final stage of raganuga-sadhana, wherein one is fully immersed all day and night in lila-smarana and manasi seva. Nevertheless, even in the beginning stage, a raganuga-sadhaka will also think of Radha-Krishna pastimes, meditate upon his siddha deha and serve the Playful Pair. The purity of the sadhaka’s mind and the sincerity of one’s heart will determine the depth of one’s absorption.

Overview of Vaidhi and Raganuga Bhakti

Before discussing the main topic of kamanuga raganuga bhakti from Srila Rupa Goswamipada’s Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, we will give an overview of vaidhi and raganuga-bhakti.

First of all, what is sadhana? Srila Rupa Goswamipada says, “Sadhana means practicing to serve Sri Krishna with the senses to attain the goal of bhava bhakti, kriti sadhya bhavet sadhya, bhava sa sadhanabhidha. (Brs. 1.2.2) There are two types of sadhana, devotion in practice, namely vaidhi and raganuga (Brs. 1.2.5. & (Cc. 2.22.108).

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about these two types of sadhana bhakti. Some acharyas say that raganuga-bhakti begins at the stage of nishtha, ruchi or even bhava. However, there is no evidence for this in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Bhakti Sandarbha, Madhurya Kadambini or Raga Varma Candrika. Although it is also not true, some acharyas say that raganuga-bhakti comes after the stage of vaidhi sadhana bhakti. This is absolutely wrong! There is no guarantee that a vaidhi sadhaka will automatically be promoted to raganuga-bhakti.

Srila Rupa Goswamipada does not agree with this either. Rather he says, “The only cause of obtaining the greed to begin raganuga-bhakti sadhana is mercy—the compassion of Krishna or His devotee, krishna tad bhakta karunya matra labhaika.” (Brs. 1.2.309) And when and from where will this greed come from?

Srila Rupa Goswamipada answers, “Even ten million lifetimes of following regulative principles [vaidhi-bhakti] will not give you a taste for Krishna bhakti. The only price to attain it is greed! Wherever you can find it, you should buy it immediately, krishna bhakti rasa bhavita matih, kriyatam yadi kuto pi labhyate, tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam, janma koti sukrtair na labhyate.” (Padyavali 13,14/Cc. 2.8.70)

Where can you find it? You can find it wherever advanced devotees are speaking Radha-Krishna katha. Go there and listen—hear with an eager and submissive mind and heart. Then you will obtain the divine greed to taste pure Krishna bhakti.

At what stage of sadhana bhakti (sadhu sanga, bhajana kriya, anartha nivrtti, etc.) can one begin raganuga-bhakti?

Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada answers, “Greed to follow the path of raga bhakti begins (arabhya) [ed. or at least can begin] when one surrenders to the Guru, lobho raga vartma vartinam bhaktanam guru-padashraya lakshanam arabhya.” (Raga-vartma-candrika I.8) This means the stage of sadhu-sanga and taking initiation. Later on, Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada says raganuga-bhakti starts at the stage of anartha-nivrtti which forms the beginning platform of sadhana bhakti along with sadhu sanga and bhajana kriya.

VCT: “Now I will describe how the raganuga-bhakta gradually advances through the stages of anartha-nivrtti to nistha, ruci, and prema, raganuga bhakti majjanasya anartha nivrtti nishtha-ruci.”(Raga-varma candrika II.7)

Thus “old devotees” (praktana krpa patras) will start and continue their practice of raganuga-bhakti sadhana from day one of surrendering to Sri Guru, and new devotees (adhunika krpa patras) will start shortly after surrendering to a raganuga Guru and becoming properly qualified. The terms praktana and adhunika krpa will be discussed shortly.

In other words, one can begin the practice of either vaidhi-sadhana or raganuga-bhakti sadhana at the stage of anartha-nivrtti. The difference between a vaidhi sadhaka and raganuga-sadhaka lies not in personal purity, but in their mood, motivation to serve Krishna, and their greed to taste Krishna bhakti. Read more in part two.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ki jai! Raganuga-bhakti ki jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhe!