Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Raganuga-sadhana-bhakti

primacy of the holy name in raganugasadhana is the life of Sri Caitanya Himself. One especially telling example in this regard is found in the direct instructions He received in a dialogue with His spiritual master. The significance of that discussion cannot be underestimated as it is directly revealing the truths descending in Sri Caitanya’s lineage. A brief summary of the philosophical thread of this conversation establishes the unquestioned potency of the holy name to independently grant the highest perfection.

First His spiritual master promises Him perfection by nama-kirtana: “Indeed, simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra one will be able to see the lotus feet of the Lord” (C.c. Adi 1.7.73). 17 After that he orders Him to keep a verse on his tongue that reveals nama-kirtana as the exclusive method to grant that perfection:

In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way. (C.c. Adi 1.7.76)

He then validates the legitimacy of Sri Caitanya’s overwhelming ecstasy in chanting the holy name as indicative of the highest perfection: “It is the very nature of the Hare Krishna mantra to immediately invoke devotional ecstasy for Krishna” (C.c. Adi 1.7.83). Finally he discloses a verse (S.B. 11.2.40) that he deems “the essence of the Bhagavatam”:

When a person is actually advanced and takes pleasure in chanting the holy name of the Lord, who is very dear to him, he is agitated and loudly chants the holy name. He also laughs, cries, becomes agitated and chants just like a madman, not caring for outsiders. (C.c. Adi 1.7.94)

This last statement by Sri Caitanya’s preceptor is particularly significant, especially considering the stature of the Bhagavatam in Gaudiya Vaishnava theology. The various symptoms of devotional ecstasy described above indicate an awakening of one’s eternal relationship with Krishna, the fruit of raganugabhakti.

By regarding nama-kirtana as the cause, Sri Caitanya’s spiritual master not only establishes nama-kirtana as the prime method to achieve perfection, but places other methodologies for perfection, such as remembrance, in a secondary or supportive role. It is therefore not surprising that in Sri Bhaktisandarbha Sri Jiva refers to the same verse (S.B. 11.2.40) at the beginning of his analysis of kirtana to show that the chief result of nama-kirtana is prema.18

Indeed, all Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas concur that offenseless chanting of nama-kirtana is the best method of perfection and the essential teaching of the Bhagavatam. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, for example, is considered one of the most prominent acaryas after Narottama dasa Thakura in solidifying the tradition’s development and focus on raganuga-bhakti. He also, however, unequivocally promotes nama-kirtana as the preeminent method of perfection. In this regard, his commentary on the following prominent instructions by Sri Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Parikshit are quite revealing:

O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge. (S.B. 2.1.11) His commentary states:

[…] Among all forms of bhakti, sravana (hearing), smarana (remembering) and kirtana (chanting), kirtana is the main one. Again, among the various forms of kirtana (focusing on the names, the forms, the qualities, and the acts), kirtana of the names is the best. Moreover, in the kirtana of the names, kirtana of the names that fit one’s bhakti is considered the best of all.19

Visvanatha’s comments appropriately reflect the significance of Sukadeva Gosvami’s instruction about kirtana, especially if one considers that this is his first response to the seminal inquiry of the Bhagavatam: “What is the duty of a man about to die and what should he not do?”. In other words, the fact that nama-kirtana is the answer to this determining question reaffirms that the Bhagavatam, and thus raganuga-bhakti, is primarily about nama-kirtana, the main point of Visvanatha’s commentary.

The six Gosvamis are the chief followers of Sri Caitanya. Of them, Sri Sanatana Gosvami is their leader. His Brihad-bhagavatamrita holds a special place of importance in Gaudiya Vaishnavism as the first text of the tradition that presents a comprehensive overview of Sri Caitanya’s teachings. It is thus important,