Five Levels of Smaranam

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.

Kirtana and Smarana

The idea that the concluding words of the Bhagavata’s opening stanza, “satyam param dhimahi,” speak of Krsna sankitanam because the word “dhimahi” is plural, is insightful. Meditation is usually a solitary affair. Further support for this contention can be drawn from SB 11.5.33’s description of Mahaprabhu, which states dhyeyam sadate caranaravrindam, “Your lotus feet are the object of constant meditation.”

What kind of meditation can be constant, or performed anywhere at all times? Sri Krsna sankirtanam is niyamita smarane na kala, “It can be performed anywhere at any time with no hard and fast rules.” When he says this in his Siksastakam, Mahaprabhu is speaking about kirtanam but then includes nama smaranam (smarane). Practically he is merging the two together—kirtanam and smaranam. The illustrious Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada has done the same when he writes kirtana prabhave smarana svabhave, “Engaging in kirtanam enables one to meditate on one’s true nature (svarupa).” This is also the verdict of revealed scripture. Brhad-bhagavatamrta states

vag-indriyam syad yadi samyatam sada
cittam sthiram sad-bhagavat-smrtau tada
samyak pravateta tatah smrtih phalam

“If the sense of speech, which sets all the external and internal senses in motion, is brought under control, then the mind becomes stable and can properly engage in transcendental remembrance of the Lord. Remembrance thus develops as the fruit of chanting.”

Real smaranam is the fruit of kirtanam. Furthermore,

sankirtanad dhyana-sukham vivardhate
dhyanac ca sankirtana-madhuri-sukam
‘smabhis tayos tad dvayam ekam eva tat

Sankirtana expands the joy of meditation, meditation the sweet joy of sankirtana. In our experience the two methods fortify one another and are therefore actually one.”

Spoken by the inhabitants of Vaikuntha.