Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Raganuga-sadhana-bhakti

on purity, once genuine lobha (impelling taste) awakens by the mercy of a Vaishnava, the heart immediately becomes cleansed and one becomes qualified for raganuga-sadhana based on smarana. In Sri Bhakti-sandarbha Sri Jiva establishes this point by reference to the Bhagavatam:

When this taste increases in the heart of a faithful person, it brings detachment from all other objects. Such a person becomes absorbed in the bliss of remembering the Lord’s feet, and all his miseries are quickly dispelled. (S.B. 3.5.13) 12

On the basis that real lobha awakens detachment, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was very critical of those who claimed to practice raganuga-bhakti, but whose habits were suspect:

The disciple whose bad habits (anarthas) are not removed is never said to have achieved deep devotional attachment. The science of intimate devotional mellows (rasa-tattva) is never taught to the disciple who is still contaminated by material impediments. (Prakrita-rasa-sata-dushini)

There is no strong evidence that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta ever directly revealed even to his mature disciples their siddha-svarupa.13 At least, he never made it known. He also discouraged even the reading of standard Gosvami books that intimately described the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, at least to the general mass of devotees:

"Our master did not allow us to read the books where the highest lilas are described. Govinda-lilamrita, Stava-kusumanjali,14 Ujjvala-nilamani. He did not allow us to study and to discuss them. Rather, he would be very much disturbed if he heard that someone was interfering with the higher lilas in those books. He did not like it. There are three chapters of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita that we were generally not allowed to discuss fully, including the conversations with Ramananda Raya. Where the lila portion of Radha-Govinda is mentioned, we were not to delve. Of course when parayana (consecutive chanting of the whole book) was taking place, we were to go on reading those sections, but without giving any particular attention to the lila of the highest order of raga. That was barred: ‘Don't try to come into details there. That will come automatically when it is time. Do not make it a public discussion. Do not place it in the public eye.’ “(Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja, Following the Angels, p.91)

There is thus no record or testimony of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta giving extensive personal instructions on ashta-kaliya-lila-smarana, except perhaps on one occasion.15 How then do the followers in his line practice raganuga-bhakti?

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta surely instructed his disciples to be cautious about the premature practice of raganuga-bhakti. In that sense, however, his methodology follows the six Gosvamis, who spoke of a cautious step by step approach to devotional service. Sri Jiva writes:

Yet in order for purification of the heart to take place, it is necessary to begin with hearing the name. When the heart is purified, one can hear about the Lord’s form, and by doing so the heart becomes fit for revelation of the Lord’s form. When the Lord’s name, form and qualities have fully manifested along with His associates, the pastimes of the Lord unfold properly. It is with this intention that hearing the topics in a specific order was originally stated. The same conclusions apply in regard to singing (kirtana) and remembering (smarana) the names, forms, virtues and pastimes of the Lord. (Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, Anuccheda 256)

In other words, although distrustful of imitative methods of advanced meditation, Bhaktisiddhanta wasn’t necessarily denying his followers access by stressing a more cautious approach. He was just insisting on an honest approach that matched the level of one’s meditation with the level of one’s purity. In his mission statement (Upadesavali) he made clear to his followers the practice and goal of Gaudiya Vaishnavism:

Proper sravana, hearing, is accomplished through the medium of kirtana, and this will give one the good opportunity to practice smarana, remembrance. Then internal experience of rendering direct service to the ashta-kaliya-lila, Sri Sri Radha-Krishna’s pastimes in each of the eight parts of the day, becomes possible. (Upadesavali, 20)16

Although raganuga-bhakti primarily means the practice of remembering the residents of Vrindavana, and various detailed methodologies have been developed over the years based on that principle, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s promotion of the predominance of nama-kirtana over other practices in achieving that remembrance is well documented within the tradition.

The most authoritative lesson for the Gaudiyas about the