Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Raganuga-sadhana-bhakti

contrast, the adapters of change risk obscuring those principles in their attempt to reformat them. The hazards of not tempering the presentation of raganuga-sadhana for modernity, as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta outlined, have already been discussed in depth. It is thus appropriate to end the analysis by discussing the potential risks to the faithful in their attempt to adopt his approach to this subject.

When an acarya communicates his innovations, he must strongly emphasize his point to ensure it is not misunderstood. While the teacher is cognizant that he is emphasizing a point from a broader context, his faithful students often are not. Their natural inclination, therefore, is to overemphasize the point being stressed. Therefore a great impediment to imbibing and sharing the teachings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, especially his focus on vaidhi bhakti, is the tendency to separate those teachings from the tradition to which they were born.33 To do so would certainly cause serious misconceptions, at least for the Gaudiyas, for their practice of vaidhi bhakti is never meant to be disconnected from their rich tradition of raga-marga. This caution is especially relevant for his granddisciples who had no previous connection with Indian thought and culture before encountering the mission of Sri Caitanya as adults.

The connection between vaidhi bhakti and raganuga-bhakti in Gaudiya Vaishnavism is analyzed clearly in the last section of Sri Bhakti-sandarbha. 34 If one lacks ruci, a natural taste for devotion, Sri Jiva explains, one must be vigilant to consciously regard scriptural injunctions. If such a person tries to spontaneously execute devotional service out of attachment, he will fall prey to the whims of the mind and lose fixity in his practice. Still, however, he insists, such a person should execute raganuga-bhakti. To resolve the apparent contradiction, he then offers an example of how such a devotee, one on the level of vaidhi bhakti, can chant the gopala-mantra while mixing both obligatory (vaidhi) and spontaneous (raga) moods. Remaining consciously fixed in one’s spiritual practices out of duty (vaidhi bhakti), one should consciously cultivate a taste for Vraja (raganuga-bhakti) by thinking of the meaning of the mantra while visualizing “Sri Krishna along with His associates, who all are attracted by the sound of his flute at the time of the milking of the cows.” One can also, he recommends, contemplate as follows:

I am directly a particular resident of Vraja and that in order to have my specific desire fulfilled for the Lord’s service, my revered spiritual master, who directly serves Sri Vrajendra-nandana, has instructed me in this worship.35

In other words, those not on the level of taste, although acting out of duty, should still cultivate an attraction to the mood of the eternal residents of Vrindavana (and Mayapura) by applying to their spiritual practices their aspirations and thoughts concerning vraja-bhakti according to their realization.36

This obviously also implies a serious cultivation of the five most potent practices of devotional service, which means:

1) The serious study of scriptures, like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, where pure devotion, especially of the residents of Vrindavana, is described.

2) The worship of specific Deities in connection with Vrindavana such as Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

3) Residence at and pilgrimage to the places of Krishna’s pastimes like Mayapura and Vrindavana.

4) The association of advanced devotees who can appropriately inspire a mood of spontaneous devotion.

5) Kirtana of Vrindavana, including the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra (the yugala mantra).

Such regulated devotional activities consciously imbued with raga, as described above, are what Sri Jiva explains as ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti (following in the wake of spontaneous devotion before taste has awoken).37 This is what Srila Bhaktsiddhanta is actually recommending when emphasizing vaidhi bhakti.38

In other words it was not a divorce from the tradition’s emphasis on raganuga-bhakti that he was recommending by his strong cautions, but a warning to remain strictly under scriptural injunctions until ruci (legitimate taste) awakens.

His emphasis on this type of vaidhi bhakti was also a warning to not jump artificially to the level of practice where actual taste (ruci) is required, a platform of practice that Sri Jiva explains as jata-ruciraganuga- bhakti. Such raganuga-sadhana is called jata-ruci (taste that has been born), as opposed to ajata-ruci (taste that has not yet been born), because it is the stage of devotion where authentic taste (ruci) for, or