Bhakti-sandarbha describes five levels of smaranam:
Smarana is of five kinds: Any slight searching out of the object of meditation is called smaraNa or “remembering.” When one repeatedly drags the mind from other objects and controls it in a general way, that is dhAraNA or “recollection.” A more concentrated meditation on specific aspects of the Lord’s form, etc., is called dhyAna or “meditation.” When such meditation becomes uninterrupted like a flowing stream of nectar, that is called dhruvAnusmRti or “firm and constant recall.” Finally, samAdhi or trance refers to the stage where the object of meditation appears constantly before the meditator.
From this description it can be concluded that even researching the life, etc. of one’s Deity is a beginning form of smaranam. Otherwise, smaranam as a practice is taught by some lineages and this teaching and training is very elaborate. Our lineage does not advocate this, but rather the idea that kirtana induces meditation, kirtana prabhave smarana svabhave.
Regarding chanting and meditating, it can be said that generally the stage of nistha involves nama samaranam; ruci involves rupa samaran (while chanting); asakti involves guna samaranam, and bhava involves lila samranam. However, there is no harm in trying to fix one’s mind on the form of the one’s Deity, etc. while chanting his name.