Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Raganuga-sadhana-bhakti

especially in terms of the present discussion, to acknowledge that the theme of the Brihadbhagavatamrita is the attainment of Goloka Vrindavana (the fruit of raga-marga) by the process of namasankirtana. The whole book is filled with verses and sections of verses that highlight the superiority of nama-sankirtana over other devotional practices. For example:

Krsna! Slipping out of the threads of hearing (sravana), you are again caught by the ropes of meditation (dhyana). Escaping from those, too, you are captured by the chains of sankirtana of your Name. 20

The Brihad-bhagavatamrita not only recommends nama-kirtana as the most important devotional practice in general, but the foundation of raganuga-sadhana as well. It is thus noteworthy that in the final instructions of Maharaja Parikshit to his mother, Uttara, he recommends that she follow in the footsteps of the gopis by dedicating herself to nama-sankirtana:

Dear mother, you as well should always worship this young cowherd boy. He is the ocean that yields the nectar of the rasa dance, in which divine gopis fully surround Him, entranced by pure love. You should cherish the desire to be a servant of these gopis, you should constantly worship Him in pure love as they did, and you should dedicate yourself to the sankirtana of His names. (B.b. 1.7.154-155)21

Of course, who would deny nama-kirtana as the foundation of practicing Krishna consciousness and the basis of raganuga-bhakti, the essence of which is meditation on Krishna? That’s exactly the point: by stressing nama-kirtana as the best means to attain the platform of concentrated meditation, and the best way to meditate on Krishna in general, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was simply following the basic instructions on worship outlined by the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana.

Although nama-kirtana is the basis of developing prema-bhakti, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta certainly built his mission based on the practice of nama-kirtana, one more challenge to his fidelity to the tradition’s practice of raganuga-bhakti can be raised. Consummate love manifests by exchanging love in the mood of a specific relationship. For example, to attain perfect friendship requires first sharing love in a mood of friendship. It is thus not nama-kirtana alone that brings one to pure love of Krishna, but nama-kirtana chanted with intense devotion, a level of devotion requiring awareness of one’s specific relationship with Krishna. Sri Jiva writes:

Yet, even a person who is so resolved needs to chant specific names of the Lord that nourish his or her particular devotional mood. This is expressed in the second of these two verses. 22 By singing the names of the Lord that are dear to him, he or she develops deep love for the Lord. Only in this way does the heart melt, giving rise to a variety of different corresponding emotions, which are exhibited externally in the form of laughter, tears and so on. (Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, Anuccheda 263)

Therefore, for one’s chanting to arouse prema-bhakti, one needs to practice in cognizance of one’s eternal relationship with Krishna, as Srila Rupa Gosvami taught.

The question thus still remains: how do the followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta get their siddha-rupa if apparently it was not directly given by him or any of his successors? And without such mercy do they have the full tools to enter eternal Vraja, despite being gifted with the holy name? After all, Sri Krishna Himself unequivocally speaks of the limited destination of the practitioner of vaidhi bhakti, spiritual practice inspired only by obligation and duty:

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. (Cc. Adi 3.16)

It is true that for nama-kirtana to blossom into prema-bhakti, one has to chant with mature sambandhajnana, knowledge of one’s specific relationship with Krishna. Nonetheless, that hardly poses a challenge to what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta taught, even if for argument’s sake it could be proved that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta never revealed to any of his disciples their siddha-rupa. Offenseless chanting of the holy name brings one to an understanding of one’s eternal relationship with God at which point one’s chanting flowers into prema-bhakti and bestows residence in Goloka. How else can one understand Sri Caitanya’s unequivocal statement?

Of the nine processes of devotional service, the most important is to always chant the holy name of the Lord. If one does so, avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable love of Godhead. (C.c. Antya 4.71)