Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Raganuga-sadhana-bhakti

realization of, one’s specific relationship with Krishna has been truly awakened or born (jata). It is thus the platform where the practice of ashta-kaliya-lila-smarana, which requires such realization, can honestly be practiced. It is this level of raganuga-sadhana, one requiring a genuine realization of one’s specific relationship with Krishna (jata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti), which Bhaktisiddhanta condemned when adopted prematurely, and not the attempt to cultivate a more spontaneous mood of devotion within one’s regulated spiritual activities (ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti).39 How could it be otherwise? If he was simply recommending worship purely by scriptural injunctions he would be ignoring the base warning at the core of Sri Caitanya’s philosophy, quoted before, that by vaidhi bhakti practice one cannot attain Vrindavana, the goal of Gaudiya Vaishnavism:

Everywhere in the world people worship Me according to scriptural injunctions. But simply by following such regulative principles one cannot attain the loving sentiments of the devotees in Vrajabhumi. (C.c. Adi 3.16)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s standpoint on the contemporary practice of raganuga-bhakti can be summarized as follows:

1) He gave credence to the ideal of the advanced meditations of the tradition, but gave very strong wind to the sastric cautions against the premature adoption of the discussion and practice of advanced mellows.

2) Although his cautions were supported by sastra, for the reasons documented above, he was still considerably more conservative in his instructions about raga-marga than the teachings and books of his predecessors, even the most immediate one, his father Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

3) Although conservative in his approach to raganuga-sadhana, he was not recommending just vaidhi bhakti, but ajata-ruci-raganuga-sadhana, a conscious regard for scriptural injunctions combined with the appropriate internal cultivation of spiritual life, especially nama-kirtana, the hearing of hari-katha from pure Vaishnavas and the other main practices of pure devotional service in relationship to attaining Vrajabhumi.

4) He was especially confident, on the basis of sastra, that nama-kirtana is by far the best method to achieve full spiritual accomplishment, including revelation of one’s eternal relationship with Krishna.

5) He let it be known that although the matters of raganuga-bhakti should be approached with the utmost caution, the full wealth of the tradition in terms of raga-marga was available to those who had a proclivity for such meditation and who qualified themselves by the profuse performance of nama-sankirtana.

6) He viewed the preaching and proliferation of kirtana, which require an ardent dedication to service, as helpful, if not essential, in purifying the mind, evoking mercy and attaining devotion to the lotus feet of Lord Gaura, which award eternal Vraja.40

In conclusion, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta taught the path of raganuga-bhakti, but he was cautious in its application, not only because of warnings found in sastra but because of his particular audience's frame of reference. To properly understand his approach, then, one must understand his role as an acarya and the context of his teachings. A failure to do so, by either his detractors or followers, results in the same conclusion: disconnecting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta from the tradition he was dedicated to preserving. His detractors would surely misunderstand the necessity and innovation of his presentation, thus viewing him as deviant, while his followers would also misunderstand him—they would misconstrue the context of his teachings and, as a result, see him as independent of the tradition.41

Endnotes 1 All translations without citation information are my own in conjunction with Mahamuni dasa and Nityananda dasa.

2 Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (B.r.s.) 1.2.292 states “srute”, that greed awakens by hearing from the scriptures.

3 B.r.s. 1.2.294 commentary by Srila Jiva Gosvami.

4 Note: whenever we describe the practice of raganuga-sadhana and mention the worship of Radha- Krishna, in Gaudiya theology it also implies the worship of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Similarly when Vrindavana is mentioned as the goal of spiritual attainment, Mayapura is also implied.

5 Bhaktivinoda also talks of another method of worship in raga-marga called the “internal path”, which was given to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, also through Svarupa Damodara. The external path refers more to the external rituals of worship and the internal path to the cultivation of the mood of that worship. I have not found any reference to establish