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.