The Authorized Sri Caitanya Saraswata Parampara
Part Two – The Practice of Pure Devotional Service Chapter 9 – Raganuga Bhakti
“Somehow the idea has come about that rāgānuga-bhakti means to exclusively perform solitary bhajana and not to preach or at least not to preach very enthusiastically. That is not correct thinking. Everything we can understand correctly from the viewpoint of caitanya-līlā—audarya-līlā, i.e. the distribution of the highest mellows of spontaneous love of God.”
Devotee: It is sometimes said that your Guru Mahārāja, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Mahārāja, taught his disciples vaidhī-bhakti and not rāgānuga-bhakti. Is this true?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: No. That is a misunderstanding. Actually our spiritual master engaged his disciples in rāgānuga-sādhana following the line of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī and Ragunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī. Vaidhi-bhakti is of a lower order. Devotion that is performed according to the rules and regulations found in the Vedic scriptures such as those used by the Rāmānuja sampradāya, characterized by awe and reverence, that is vaidhi-bhakti. This vaidhi–bhakti we find in Vaikuṇṭha but not in Vṛndāvana. Rāgānuga, exclusive spontaneous dedication, is unique to the Vṛndāvana devotees.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī was chosen by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as the most fit person to distribute rāgānuga-bhakti. The rules and regulations our spiritual master gave us are found in the Bhakti–rasāmṛta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion) compiled by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Bhakti–rasāmṛta–sindhu is the handbook of bhakti-yoga or sādhana-bhakti. Sādhana-bhakti has two divisions or categories, vaidhī and rāgānuga. They are in one sense separate, while at the same time inseparable—in that they are complimentary components of the same substance i.e., sādhana–bhakti.
Śaraṇāgati—full surrender and twenty-four hours engagement in the service of Rādhā Govinda was the sum and substance of all that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda spoke of and of every action he performed. Unfortunately, due to offenses to the holy name and to the Vaiṣṇavas some of our godbrothers have fallen from the path of pure devotion and others have been captured by the grandeur, the glamour and have divorced themselves from the inner spirit or truth.
Somehow the idea has come about that rāgānuga-bhakti means to exclusively perform solitary bhajana and not to preach or at least not to preach very enthusiastically. That is not correct thinking. Everything we can understand correctly from the viewpoint of caitanya-līlā. Caitanya–līlā is audarya-līlā, i.e. the distribution of the highest mellows of spontaneous love of God, following in the footsteps of the cowherd maidens of Vṛndāvana. This audarya is the result of the most advanced stage of prema i.e., mahā-bhāva. Tasting the mellows of ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa in the ecstatic mood of the daughter of King Vṛṣabhānu, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu becomes like a madman and wishes to distribute the mellow taste of that love in all directions. In other words, rāgānuga-bhakti is not exclusive of preaching, rather rāgānuga is where real preaching begins.
It was in the divine flow of tasting the drops of nectar that fell from the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, that Śrīla Prabhupāda carried on his campaign of distributing love of Kṛṣṇa all over the world. In fact, his program of engaging everyone in spontaneous devotion was so dynamic that his rule of thumb was, “Kṛṣṇa consciousness now—rules and regulations later,” as taught by Rūpa Gosvāmī:
yena tena prakāreṇa manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet
sarve vidhi-niṣedhā syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ
“An ācārya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. First, they should become Kṛṣṇa conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later be introduced gradually.”
Due to our Śrīla Prabhupāda’s following this prescribed method of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness, some less advanced Vaiṣṇavas used to criticize him. For example, in the beginning of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s movement his sannyāsa disciples carried the tridaṇḍa (staff) that was at least one foot taller than the particular sannyāsī. Once at Māyāpura some persons complained, “Their daṇḍas are too big!” The regulation for the daṇḍa is that it should be the same height as the sannyāsī. But this detail was being overlooked. When Śrīla Prabhupāda heard of this criticism he laughed and said. “That is because we are big preachers.”
It is true to some extent that, in the days of Śrīla Prabhupāda, his students could not always catch the deepest meaning of everything. All the devotees were for the most part working very hard doing whatever Śrīla Prabhupāda asked. Many devotees made great personal sacrifices to try and fulfil the orders of His Divine Grace. Those that did certainly received his mercy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda was very cautious about discussing certain confidential areas of Kṛṣṇa līlā, specifically mādhurya-rasa. His caution was to save us from the sahajiyā section—a fate a thousand times worse than hell. The unintelligent have falsely concluded that he had no standing in the mādhurya conception. That is a diseased way of thinking.
There is hidden reason for Śrīla Prabhupāda not speaking at length or in great detail about certain subjects such as rādhā-dāsyam, the divine service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and her mañjarī class, i.e., the confidential assistants of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. That reason is similar to why Śukadeva Gosvāmī has not directly mentioned the name of Rādhā in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
It has been stated by renowned ācāryas in the Gauḍīya sampradāya that had Śukadeva spoken the name of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī directly he would have entered aviṣṭa-citta, a state of trance, and become inert for six months. Thus Parīkṣit Mahārāja would not have been able to hear the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in seven days. Similarly, had Śrīla Prabhupāda entered into deep discussions with his disciples about the intimate love affairs of Rādhā-Govindasundara and Their confidential associates, he would not have been able to carry on his worldwide preaching activities. Therefore, for the benefit of the world he checked his deeper interests and emotions, in order to stay in connection with us.
In this line of thinking there is a narrative of how once while having to speak about Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in a public place Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura lost his external consciousness and fell from the chair in which he was sitting. Such was his deep devotion for Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Many devotees now want to know about all the confidential subjects of mādhurya-rasa and to collect some knowledge and to show their learnedness on the subject they run here and there talking to everyone and anyone and reading everything and anything. After that they want to produce some rasa literatures. This is also a faulty process. The mādhurya-līlā is most confidential and just by acquiring categorical knowledge of the subject one does not actually enter into that realm of consciousness. One can only know the super subjective plane of intimate līlās of Rādhā-Govinda by submissive inquiry and service at the lotus feet of one who is himself situated in that realm.
The confidential līlās of Kṛṣṇa are never knowable by the primary students of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The proof that one has no standing there, even after examining so much knowledge on the subject, is that we utter the holy name of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī but we remain absorbed in kanaka, kāminī, and pratiṣṭhā: money, women, and name and fame. The fact that we talk about such confidential matters and still remain conscious is proof that we have no devotion of that type. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to say that the proof of his not having any love for Kṛṣṇa was the fact that He did not die immediately.
When the sun sets, darkness follows. Similarly, after the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda, māyā or darkness once again overcame many devotees. In the presence of the spiritual master we may find our way in Kṛṣṇa consciousness more easily due to his illuminating presence. But after his departure from this world we will be put to test. Māyā will try to cover our faith and impede our progress.
The sudden departure of Śrīla Prabhupāda from this world created a great need or necessity in the hearts of his sincere disciples. Just to increase their attachment to him, Kṛṣṇa had called the very life of their life back to His eternal abode. The spiritual master had returned to the supreme realm of Rādhā-Govinda to engage in eternal līlā but the direction in which he had gone and in which his disciples should follow somehow became unclear. Many were again lost and others prayed earnestly for help from above. Kṛṣṇa fulfilled the prayers of the earnest devotees and met their necessity in the hour of their greatest need by manifesting once again before them in the form of His Divine Grace Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
It is a long story, but Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja helped many devotees in many different ways. Most importantly he inspired us to carry on in the line of pure devotion, following in the footsteps of our Śrīla Prabhupāda.
So, by the grace of these two renowned agents of Kṛṣṇa; Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja we have imbibed a proper conception of rāgānuga-bhakti and the ultimate goal of the Gauḍīya sampradāya. That is our good fortune.