5 Kinds of Devotional Practices for Raganuga Practitioners:

 

Srila Vishwanath Chakrabarty Thakura in Ragavrtama Chandrika states that the scriptures show five kinds of devotional practices to make clear which other limbs of devotion(In addition to SMARANAM which is the internal practice) are to be practised in raganuga bhakti, what they are like, what are their characteristics, what is to be done and what is not to be done. They are:
1. Those filled with the desired feeling,
2. Those related to the desired feeling,
3. Those favorable to the desired feeling,
4. Those not opposed to the desired feeling 
5. Those opposed to the desired feeling.
Of them some are:
a. Both the practice and the goal (the only difference between them being that the former is an ‘unripe’ stage and the  latter is the ‘ripe stage’)
b. Some are the direct cause of attaining the goal (prema)
c. Some the indirect cause
d. Some are helpful
e. Some are harmful
f. Some are neutral
All these divisions have been explained elaborately by Srila Vishwanath Chakrabarty Thakura in Ragavrtama Chandrika and Srila Ananta Das babaji Maharaj in his Kripa-kanika Vyakhya of Ragavrtama Chandrika.

Vaisnava-Seva:
Vaisnava-seva belongs to all the different categories. That is why we have put it on top.  In other words, the service of the Vaisnavas is filled with the desired feelings, related to the desired feelings, favorable to the desired feelings and not opposed to the desired feelings – all in one. Can there be any doubt that the sadhaka who aspires for pure devotional service should see it as his sole duty to serve the topmost Vaisnavas, without whose association and grace there is no way to attain devotion to Sri Hari? For the sadhakas who are on the path of devotion the Vaisnavas are as worshipable as Visnu Himself – vaisnava visnuvat pujya If the sadhaka does not develop the quality of respect for the Vaisnavas the Lord will never be pleased with him. In the Adi Purana Sri Krisna Himself has said:
O Partha! Those who are devoted to Me are not My devotees, while I consider those who are the devotees of My devotees to be My topmost devotees!”
Therefore it is seen in the Itihasa Samuccaya:
“Therefore, in order to please Visnu, please the Vaisnavas in all respects! When the Vaisnavas are pleased Visnu will be pleased – of this there is no doubt at all!”


 

1. Those filled with the desired feeling :(a. practice and goal)

After describing what are the five kinds of devotional practices in raganuga bhajana Srila Vishwanath Chakrabarty Thakura proceeds in elaborating on them. Servanthood, friendship(note:relationship in one’s desired rasa) and living in Vraja are some of the items of bhajana that are full of the desired feelings. They are immutable both in the stage of accomplishment and practice, and thus when the raganugiya sadhaka attains perfection he will achieve the devotional service in Vraja in servitude or friendship he thought of during his practice of sadhana in his siddha svarupa, according to the time or the desired place. Hence these items of bhajana are considered both the means and the goal, and thus they are filled with the desired feelings.


2. Those related to the desired feeling:(b. Direct cause)

The different items of bhajana, starting with taking shelter of a guru, and continuing with bhajana items like rendering service to the guru, doing japa and meditation, are all direct causes for the attainment of the goal of prema, and thus they are related to the desired feelings.

  Importance of Sravanam:(b.direct cause)
The devotional practices, such as hearing and so of the names, forms, qualities and pastimes of Sri Krisna, that are suitable to one’s own feelings, are called direct causes for the attainment of the goal, and thus they are called ‘related to the desired feelings.’ The practitioners of manjari bhava, who take shelter of the madhura rasa, should know that the holy names of Sri Krisna, the beloved of Sri Radharani, His form of the king of the erotic flavours, His qualities like His being subdued by His sweethearts, and His different erotic pastimes with Sri Radharani and Her girlfriends, headed by Lalita, are all suitable to his own feelings. Srila Vishwanath Chakrabarty Thakura has quoted some verses from Srimad Bhagavata. Sripada Kavi Yogindra told Maharaja Nimi in (Bhag. 11.2.39)
“The sadhaka should wander around without any company, giving up all shame while singing the holy names and glories of the auspicious birth and activities of Cakra-pani Sri Krisna, that are celebrated in the scriptures and in traditional succession, as well as their purports.”
In her praise of Sri Krisna, Sri Kunti-devi said in (Bhag. 1.8.36)
“O Lord! The devotees become ecstatic when they hear, speak, sing or think about Your pastimes, and thus they swiftly get to see Your lotus feet, that remove all fear of material existence.” These quotations prove that these practices, that are related to the desired feelings, should be continued unceasingly.

  Importance of Japa /Kirtana:(b.direct cause)

“One should always, daily, practise japa with a fixed mind.” From this scriptural reference we can understand that this is an eternal duty. japya svabhista-sasargi krisna nama mahamanu “Always do japa of the maha-mantra of the beloved Krisna and His associate’s holy name.” In this statement from Sri Radha-Krisna Ganoddesa Dipika it is written about Sri Radha as upasya (worshipable deity). Therefore, when we see that the sadhakas are practising japa of the holy names of those in whose footsteps they are following in their siddha svarupa, then certainly this mantra japa is related to the desired feelings as a direct cause, of this there is no doubt

To ascertain who is eligible for raganuga bhakti it has been said: ragatmikaika nistha ye vrajavasi-janadaya; tesa bhavaptaye lubdho bhaved atradhikaravan (B.R.S. 1.2.291) “A devotee who becomes greedy after the exclusive love for Sri Krisna of the ragatmika Vrajavasis is eligible for raganuga bhajana.” When greed awakens taste will come for lila smarana, from this ruci comes relish of the sweet pastimes and from the experience of these sweet pastimes the sacred greed becomes again more deep. Hence lila smarana is the main item of this raganuga marga. But for entering into lila smarana purification of heart is absolutely necessary. When the heart is impure the mind cannot be steady and when the mind is restless or unsteady one cannot become absorbed in lila smarana. Hence one must take shelter of the main items of bhajana, such as hearing and chanting, and the more the heart gets purified by continuing in bhajana, the more the heart becomes attracted to lila smarana, and thus smarana also gradually becomes deeper and deeper. Therefore, although lila smarana is the main item of raganuga marga, one should not neglect or drop the external practises like hearing and chanting. Just as one’s internal sadhana becomes nourished by the external practice of hearing and chanting, similarly one awakens one’s relish for the external practices through the internal practices. If one says that the two nourish each other and then one neglects or drops the external practice, trying just to immerse the mind in lila smarana, the mind will gradually dry up and become contaminated by contemplating the sense objects. On the other hand, raganuga bhajana is also not performed simply by diligently practicing the external items and dropping or neglecting lila smarana. Therefore the raga sadhaka should practice both the external and internal items.

It has been said that the limb of smarana is the most important limb of this raganuga bhajana. Srila Vishvanath Chakravarty in Ragavrtama chandrika  has said that even this bhajana-limb of smarana is to be known as subservient to the limb of kirtana. The reason why the bhajana-limb of smarana is subservient to the limb of kirtana is that the naturally fickle mind of the sadhaka is initially not able to practise smarana, therefore the bhajana-limb of smarana is dependent on purification of the heart. Even when the heart is not yet pure the limb of kirtana can be practiced . As the kirtana emanates from the vocal sense-organ it automatically becomes a mental practice, and the sense of hearing is also blessed by the audial reception of the kirtana. The consciousness naturally becomes steady when it is regulated by the voice and the ears, that steer both the external and the internal senses, and when the consciousness becomes steady the bhajana-limb of smarana becomes easily accessible. Actually the sankirtana increases the bliss of smarana and through smarana again the sweet bliss of sankirtana is increased. Thus they both nourish and increase each other, and smarana is prescribed along with nama kirtana – suddhanta karanas cen nama kirtanaparityagena smarana kuryat (Bhakti Sandarbha – 265 anu)
In this Kali-yuga the bhajana-limb of kirtana is prescribed. Therefore all the scriptures have declared that the bhajana- limb of kirtana is the most elevated of all limbs of devotion. Srimad Bhagavata, the essence of all the Vedanta, says:
krite yad dhyayate visnu tretaya yajato makhai
dvapare paricaryaya kalau tad dhari-kirtanat (Bhag. 12.3.52)

“The results attained in the Satya-yuga by meditating on Visnu, in the Treta-yuga by offering huge sacrifices and in the Dvapara-yuga by deity worship, are all attained in the age of Kali simply by Sri Hari-kirtana.”
kali sabhajayantyarya gunajna sara bhagina
yatra sankirtanenaiva sarva svartho’bhilabhyate (Bhag. 11.5.36)
“The great sages, who know the essence and qualities of things, praise the age of Kali, for in it the human race can attain all perfection simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord.”

 

  Importence of  Ekadashi vrata:(c.indirect cause)

Srila Vishvanath Chakravarty in Ragavrtama chandrika states:
In the book Ujjvala Nilamani it is stated that the srutis (Upanisads) had attained a love-filled birth in Vraja as a gopi as a result of ‘performing penance full of faith’, and this proves that penance can be a cause of the attainment of prema. But in the present Kali-age the performance of ulterior penance is denounced and the Lord Himself says: “Vows taken for My sake are actually penance”. Hence penances such as fasting on Ekadasi and Janmastami are indirect causes (for prema). We can understand that these occasional duties are perpetual because one can learn that giving up such vows will create obstacles on the path of the practising devotee. In the smritis it is said that ‘Fasting on Ekadasi will lead to remembrance of Govinda’, so since smarana is considered a direct cause of attaining the desired feelings, Sri Ekadasi-vrata is known as partially related to the desired feelings. Then again, the Skanda Purana and other scriptures say that one who does not fast (from grains and pulses) on Ekadasi is as sinful as the killer of one’s own mother, father, brother or spiritual master, and thus he commits an offense to the holy name. In the Visnu Dharmottara it is said that ‘the sin of eating grains on Ekadasi is indestructible, (even more so than) the sin of drinking liquor, stealing, or having sex with a superior. All these denouncing statements prove that vows like Ekadasi should always be kept. What more can be said:

“Anyone who does not give up the vow of Ekadasi, come great distress or great ecstasy, has made his Vaisnava-initiation a success”, and: “anyone who offers all his activities unto Lord Visnu, is a successful Vaisnava.” These two statements from the Skanda Purana give a definition of the Vaisnava as one observing the vow of Ekadasi. It is forbidden for a Vaisnava to eat food which is not offered to the Lord, with the words: ‘If the Vaisnava becomes so bewildered to eat on Ekadasi-day…” Eating of maha prasada-grains is forbidden for a Vaisnava on Ekadasi-day.
   Observance of the Kartika vow :(indirect cause for the limb of ‘penance’ and a direct cause for the limb of hearing and chanting)

Since observance of the Kartika vow or Niyama Seva is simultaneously a direct and an indirect cause of the attainment of the desired feelings it is related to the desired feeling. The indirect cause is the austerity-part of maintaining strict restrictions on eating, and the direct cause is the part of observing a certain quota of hearing and chanting. In the month of Kartika there is more attention given to the regulative principles of hearing and chanting and the worship of Sri Radha-Damodara than in other months of the year, because if one performs even only a little bhajana in this time Sri Radha Damodara will accept it as a great thing. On the other hand it is said that if one does not follow the vow of Kartika, there will be a terrible reaction. In the Skanda Purana it is written:
“Lord Brahma told Narada: “O greatest of sages, Sri Narada! A person who lives through the month of Kartika, which is dear to Lord Damodara, without observing some vow, is cast out of all religions and attains an animal birth in the next life. Anyone who does not observe the Kartika vow is a killer of a brahmana, the killer of a cow, a gold-thief and a constant liar.” Therefore this vow is eternal, just as the Ekadasi-vow. It is known that when one takes shelter of Sri Krisna’s playground Sri Vraja-dhama and observes the vow of Niyama Seva he will obtain the rarely attained treasure of Hari-bhakti.

In his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu-grantha Srimat Rupa Gosvami has quoted verses from the Sri Padma Purana about the Urja-limb of bhakti, and thus showed the special glories of observing the vow of Kartika while taking shelter of Vraja-dhama
“When Sri Krisna is served outside of Vraja-dhama by complacent persons He may bestow sense enjoyment or liberation, but not bhakti, for it is not proper for Him to accept subjugation to complacent devotees, who have no loving attachment to Him. But even a person who performs no sadhana will attain the precious gift of Sri Hari-bhakti when observing the Sri Damodara-puja in Mathura even once.”
In his commentary on this verse Srimat Jiva Gosvami has written:
No one should think after reading the ‘yato vasyakari hare’-part of the sloka that since the Lord is subdued by devotion He does not give bhakti. Sri Hari’s subjugation to devotion makes Him most happy and never unhappy. Therefore the words ‘through which Sri Hari is subdued’ is not used to disrespect or slight devotion. Rather, it establishes bhakti as the greatest thing. It is never proper to give such a supreme thing as devotion to an unworthy recipient, therefore Sri Hari does not bestow bhakti unless and until the qualification is there in the recipient. Qualification for attaining prema comes when one desires only that, without bothering about any other personal benefits. To such a deserving recipient Sri Hari gives prema. But if one worships Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara in Vraja-dhama just once in the month of Kartika, then, simply on the strength of that, even an unqualified person will attain prema.”

In his books like Stavamala Srimat Rupa Gosvamipada has repeatedly mentioned Sri-Sri Radharani’s holy names of Kartika Devi, Urja-devi and Urjesvari, therefore it is understood that those who observe the vow of Kartika will be blessed by attaining the lotus feet of Sri Vrindavanesvari.

The wearing of nirmalya, Tulasi, perfumes, sandalwood pulp, garlands and garments first offered to the Lord:

The wearing of nirmalya, Tulasi, perfumes, sandalwood pulp, garlands and garments first offered to the Lord is also related to the desired feelings. The word nirmalya stands for Tulasi-leaves, garlands and sandalwood pulp that are offered to Sri Krisna. The vices of anyone whose body touches these nirmalyas or whose nostrils smell these articles, are destroyed in all respects, and such a person will attain devotion to the lotus feet of Sri Krisna. Sri Uddhava Mahasaya told Sri Krisna:
tvayopabhukta srag gandha vaso’lankara carcita
ucchista bhojino dasas tava maya jayema hi (Bhag. 11.6.46)
“O Lord! When we, Your servants, are decorated with the garlands, sandalwood pulp, garments and ornaments that have been worn by You before, and when we eat the food which was first eaten by You, we will conquer over Your maya!” This statement shows that devotion to Sri Krisna’s lotus feet is attained and ulterior desires are destroyed as a result of serving nirmalya. For this reason nirmalya sevana is also known as being related to the desired feelings.


3. Those favorable to the desired feeling:

 Wearing Tulsi mala and Tilaka on the body:

Wearing signs of Vaisnava-hood such as beads of Tulasi-wood, tilaka, name-marks and footprints of the Lord are factors favorable to the desired feeling. Visnu-priya Sri Tulasi is the dwelling place of the Vaisnavi-sakti, therefore the power of Visnu always appears in her. The Vaisnavi-sakti personally appears in the world in the form of the Sri Tulasi-tree (plant), which is its abode. Therefore all the Vaisnavas worship Sri Visnu by wearing the Vaisnavi-sakti, which is dear to Visnu, around the neck in the form of wooden beads. Wearing a Vaisnava-mala does not just mean going out, buying a mala and wearing it whimsically around the neck. At the time of initiation Sri Gurudeva personally sanctifies the mala, meditating on the eternal descension of the power of Lord Visnu into the mala, offering the mala to Sri Krisna and praying to Him that the person who will wear the mala will attain bhakti. After that he will personally put the mala around the neck of the person who desires initiation, as the embodiment of the Lord’s satisfaction. Then the proper meaning of the word mala will be fully revealed.
The same thing goes for the Vaisnavas’ wearing of tilaka; they worship Sri Visnu by wearing His Visnu-power on the body. While putting the twelve marks of tilaka, that constitute twelve forms of Narayana, the Vaisnavas pronounce Sri Hari’s holy names like Kesava, Narayana, Madhava and Govinda, and think of placing the twelve-fold energy of Lord Narayana, such as fame, luster, satisfaction and nourishment on the twelve parts of the body. By thus wearing the Vaisnava-tilaka that is described in the scriptures, and by meditating with it on the power of Visnu the body, mind and life-airs of the Vaisnavas will gradually and habitually become Visnumaya, filled with Visnu.

Not understanding these secrets of the wearing of beads and tilaka, some people say: “Bhakti is an internal matter, what is the use of these external signs like mala and tilaka? You cannot just purify the heart by wearing the signs of a Vaisnava. When one engages in sadhana bhajana for purifying one’s heart, then what use is this wearing of external signs?”

To this can be answered that by wearing signs like the mala and the tilaka, the Vaisnava awakens his svarupa jnana, his awareness of his constitutional position, and since this is a positive act of surrender to the Lord it is most helpful in bhajana. Apart from that one can find even more glorifications mentioned. Therefore it is definitely a duty to wear the mala and tilaka from the beginning of one’s engaging in bhajana. If not, the dignity of devotion and the devotee will be diminished and Sri Hari will not be pleased.
In connection with this a verse from the Padma Purana has been quoted in Sri Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu grantha –
ye kantha lagna tulasi nalinaksa mala, ye bahu mula paricihnita sankha cakra
ye va lalata phalake lasad urdhva pundras te vaisnava bhuvanam asu pavitrayanti
“These Vaisnavas, that wear Tulasi, Amalaki, or lotusseed-beads around the neck, that wear the signs of conch and disc on the shoulders and whose foreheads are beautified by vertical tilaka, swiftly purify the world.”

 Serving Sri Tulsi Devi:

Serving Sri Tulasi, circumambulations and paying of obeisances are all practices that favor the desired feelings. There are nine kinds of service rendered to Tulasi – drista sprista tatha dhyata kirtita namita sruta. ropita sevita nitya pujita tulasi subha “Seeing Tulasi, touching her, meditating on her, singing her holy name in congregation, offering obeisances to her, hearing about her glories, planting a Tulasi-tree, sprinkling her with water, cleaning her place, and offering her scents and flowers – these are the nine most auspicious services that can be rendered.”  The Vaisnavas serve Visnu-priya Tulasi by offering deity-worship to her, circumambulating her, offering obeisances to her, eating Tulasi-manjaris and so, wearing Tulasi-beads and sandalpaste and wearing tilaka made of the earth around her root, so that they can please the Lord, who is very dear to Tulasi. As a result of serving Tulasi, who is the presiding deity of the Vaisnavi sakti, human beings can easily and swiftly become blessed by attaining Sri Visnu bhakti.
In the scriptures we can find Tulasi’s glorification sung as follows:
“I offer my obeisances unto Tulasi-devi, whose mere sight destroys all sins, whose mere touch purifies the body, who destroys all disease of anyone who praises her, who destroys the fear of death of anyone who simply sprinkles her, who brings anyone who plants her closer to Sri Krisna, and who bestows prema bhakti on anyone who places her at Sri Krisna’s lotus feet.” This statement proves that the service of Tulasi is extremely favorable for attaining the desired feelings.


 

4. Those not opposed to the desired feeling

 Worship of cow, Asvattha-trees, Dhatri-trees, The brahmanas :(d.Helpful)
Sri Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu quotes a verse from the Skanda Purana, namely:
asvattha tulasi dhatri go-bhumisura vaisnava
pujita pranata dhyatya ksapayanti nrinam agham
“All sins are destroyed of the human beings that worship, bow down to and meditate upon the cows, Asvattha-trees, Dhatri- trees, Tulasi, the brahmanas and the Vaisnavas.”
In his commentary on this verse Srimat Jiva Gosvami has written:
“The Asvattha-trees are worshipable as the opulence (vibhuti) of the Lord, the brahmanas and the cows are also worshipable for the great Vaisnavas because the Lord is said to have descended for their benefit. Although Tulasi and the Vaisnava- devotees are especially worshipable, the Asvattha-tree and other worshipable objects have been mentioned along with them to remove any doubts about their worshipable status.

The worship of cows fulfills all desires of Sri Gopala’s worshippers. In the Gautamiya Tantra it is seen that: “Always caress the cows, feed them grass and circumambulate them, for when the cows are pleased Sri Gopala is also pleased.”
                 Hearing stories from other Puranas:(f.Neutral activities)

Hearing stories from other Puranas are neutral factors. They are nor helpful, nor harmful. Although there is no transformation or change in transcendental devotion, it has nevertheless been divided in parts like ‘direct cause’, etc. to make it more easily understandable, which it would not have been otherwise.


 

5. Those opposed to the desired feeling:
Ahagropasana, Nyasa, Mudra, Meditating on Krisna’s pastimes in Dvaraka and Worshipping Lord Krisna’s Queens:(e.Harmful)

Ahagropasana, nyasa, mudra (making ritualistic gesticulations), meditating on Krisna’s pastimes in Dvaraka and worshipping Lord Krisna’s Queens are harmful for developing the desired feeling and are practices that should not be performed.
Ahagropasana. That is, while engaged in formal worship, worshipping the Lord with a sense of nondifference: “I am Sri Krisna!”. mudra. To show signs to the demigods with both hands during formal worship. avahani, sthapani, sannidhapani, sannirodhani, sakalikarana, avagunthani, amritikarani and paramikarani – these eight mudras are being used. After that sankha, cakra, gada, padma, musala, sarnga, khadga, pasa, ankusa, garuda, srivatsa, kaustubha, venu, abhaya, vara and vanamala are shown. At the time of offering asana also special mudras are shown – padma, svasti, artha, padya, acama and others, totalling sixteen. nyasa – There are many, like matrika-nyasa (sad-anga nyasa), anta matrika nyasa, bahya matrika nyasa, sahara matrika nyasa, pitha-nyasa, risyadi nyasa, anga nyasa, kara nyasa, vyapaka nyasa and so on. Although meditation on Dvaraka, worship of Rukmini and other Queens and other practices have been mentioned by the Vedic scriptures these items of worship should not be practised by a raganugiya sadhaka during their formal worship, since they oppose the feelings of the raganugiya sadhakas.

This was proven by Sri Radharani Herself through the activities of one of Her beloved devotees, who began to practice things that were harmful. When siddha Srila Krihsna Dasa Baba of Ranabadi (not the namesake of Govardhan famous for Gutika) became desirous to have darsana of the four holy dhamas Sri Radharani told him in a dream not to leave Vraja-dhama. Baba ignored this, thinking it to be an ordinary dream and set out to visit the four dhamas, attaining a tapta mudra (brandmark) in Dvaraka. Then, after he returned to Vraja, Sri Radharani appeared to him again in a dream and told him that, with this tapta mudra, he was now counted amongst the followers of Dvaraka’s Queen Satyabhama, and he should therefore return to Dvaraka. This time Baba understood that his first dream had been real and he became greatly agitated with feelings of separation from Sri Radharani. Although he consulted the great pure devotees like Sri Govardhana’s Siddha Baba, they could not think of any solution or atonement, so finally he burned his body up into ashes like a dry piece of wood in the fire of separation.


Conclusion:
Srila Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj in Prema Bhakti Chandrika writes
True, on the path of raganuga-bhakti, meditating on the divine pastimes is the main sadhana, however in the primary stage we are not qualified for leela-smaran. Therefore we should concentrate more on hearing, chanting and following the other rules of bhakti. Then as our chitta gets more and more purified, we are drawn towards lila-smaran. Slowly our smaran becomes more intense. Ultimately when we reach the zenith of bhajan, lila-smaran naturally becomes the major part of bhajan. We should note that all the parts of bhakti mentioned in vaidhi-bhakti are useful in Raganuga bhajan also. Srila Rupa Goswamipad mentions this in the verse –

“shravanot-kirtanadini vaidha-bhaktyuditani tu,
yanyangani cha tanyatra vigneyani manishibhih.” – (B.R.S.)

Here hearing and chanting also includes accepting the shelter of Sri Gurudeva’s lotus feet and other fundamentals of bhakti as well. We should realize that all the rules of bhakti that we have already mentioned, and they are the parts of vaidhi-bhakti – we should stick to them in Raganuga bhajan also.

If we do not obey the instructions of the Brijwasi Goswamis such as Sri Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami etc., how can we say we are surrendered unto them? Then how can we follow in their footsteps? The serious devotees should practice only those rules that are in accordance with their bhava and never do what is contrary to it .


 

Compiled from commentary of Srila Ananta Das babaji Maharaj on Ragavrtama Chandrika of Srila Vishvanath Chakravarty Thakura.

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