Sastra and Raganuga Bhakti

Q: Does raganuga bhakti necessarily mean that there should be no regard for sastra as long one is under the influence of the modes of nature (gunas)?

A: Raganuga-bhakti has all regard for scripture. It has faith in sastra but it is not driven by faith in scriptural statements that inform us, for example, that through bhakti one can attain freedom from birth and death. It is not driven by scriptural mandates such as “One should always remember Visnu and never forget him.” It is not driven by what one should or should not do. It is driven by a thirst to attain prema like that of the Vrajabasis. And in ardent pursuit of that love one carefully follows all the angas of vaidhi-bhakti that are favorable to its culture, excluding the few angas that are not, such as meditation on the queens of Dvaraka.

But even without developed thirst that has the power to cleanse one’s heart and qualify one for lila samaranam in the full sense of the term, prevailing interest in this ideal of Vraja prema resulting from sadhu sanga puts one on the map of raganuga sadhana-bhakti, wherein one seeks the blessing of further eligibility. Our orientation in sadhana derives from the association we are blessed with, be it raga or vaidhi bhakti. And it is one’s orientation, one’s ideal, that determines one’s path.

If by good fortune you have embraced the ideal of Vraja prema, how can you follow vaidhi-bhakti aimed at attaining majestic love of God? If this is one’s position, one’s task is to increase one’s interest in the ideal of Vraja prema through sadhu sanga, while adhering to vaidhi-bhakti with this ideal in mind. And to do so, one studies the sastra with this in mind.

Vaidhi-bhakti is like caring for someone else’s child—baby sitting—and raganuga-bhakti is like caring for one’s own child. In either case one must learn how to do it, but the motivation for doing it is different. So the raganuga sadhaka also studies sastra and has full regard for it.


Raganuga bhakti

Prabhupada’s disciples need not be concerned with anything other than serving him in the ways in which he encouraged us. These are ways in which we are to serve in our sadhaka deha, our practitioner’s body. Indeed, we should try to fully absorb this sadhaka deha, both its physical and psychic dimensions in his service throughout the day and into our dreams at night.

When one’s sadhaka deha is fully engaged, in due course and on Bhagavan Sri Krsna’s time, the budding attraction for a particular spiritual sentiment will naturally arise, as we attain higher stages of sadhana bhakti. As it does, it will illuminate the path of raganuga bhakti for us. We will be drawn to a particular sentiment for Sri Krsna and attracted to particular lilas and qualities of his that correspond with this sentiment. In most cases this will be the same internal sentiment that Prabhupada himself cherishes. Thus we will move from following him externally in a sadhaka deha to also following him internally in a meditative siddha deha. The internal cultivation of this siddha deha will continue into bhava bhakti until we attain prema. This cultivation involves lila smaranam from the vantage point of one’s budding deha fortified by kirtana.

Our relationship with Krsna resulting from the ingress of bhakti into our lives arises naturally through sadhana in the form of knowledge concerning the nature of that relationship, the form in which we will serve, etc. Such knowledge required for raganuga sadhana proper can also be revealed in the form of information by our diksa or siksa gurus. Thus there are three way in which this knowledge can arise, as Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura points out in his Ragavartma-candrika:

  1. It can be given by one’s diksa guru (information to be realized)
  2. It can be given by one’s siksa guru (information to be realized)
  3. It can be realized through sadhana (realization)

There is no compelling evidence that Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta revealed this knowledge in the form of information to any of his disciples. Nor is there any compelling evidence that our Prabhupada revealed it in this way to any of his disciples. My siksa guru Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja did not reveal it in this manner to his disciples. Instead we have been taught to realize it through sadhana and engage in raganuga sadhana in the full sense of the terms as this knowledge descends in the higher stages of sadhana bhakti. One’s siddha deha arises naturally out of a fully engaged sadhaka deha.

Thus there is no need to be concerned with adopting any new practices with the idea that without doing so we will miss out on entering Krsna’s Vraja-lila. We don’t need to hurry up and “figure out” what our relationship with Krsna is. That will come only by revelation in one of the three ways mentioned above. At the same time, fully engaging our sadhaka deha in vaidhi bhakti with a view to attain eligibility for raganuga sadhana proper and to thereby attain Vraja-bhakti (which is easy to talk about about but difficult to do) obviously involves becoming acquainted with proper theoretical knowledge concerning the course of raganuga sadhana bhakti.

That theoretical knowledge is found in Prabhupada’s books and the books he refers to, which are the very extension of his books, the roots from which the tree of his books have grown.