atha rāgānugā-lakṣaṇaṁ – nijābhimata-vraja-rāja-nandanasya sevā prāpti-lobhena yadi tāni kriyante tadā rāgānugā bhaktiḥ; yad uktam
siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi
tad bhāva-lipsunā kāryā
kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya
tat-tat-kathā rataś cāsau
kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā
Devotion that involves the practice of the limbs of bhakti, such as śravaṇa and kīrtana, carried out by sādhakas with intense longing (lobha) to obtain the service of their innermost desired object, Vrajarāja-nandana Śrī Kṛsṇa, is called rāgānuga-bhakti.
Rāgānuga-bhakti is performed in two ways: (1) with the sādhaka-rūpa – with the external body through execution of the limbs of bhakti; and (2) with the siddha-rūpa – with the internally conceived body that is suitable for carrying out the perfected service (prema-sevā) for which one aspires. Residing in Vraja with an intense desire to obtain one’s cherished object Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the divine sentiments of His beloved associates (that is, rati towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa), one should follow in the footsteps of the eternal residents of Vraja, the dear associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, such as Śrī Rādhikā, Lalitā, Viśākhā and Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. One should also adhere to personalities such as Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī who performed bhajana in Vraja in pursuance of the sentiments of those eternal associates. With one’s internally conceived body (siddha-rūpa) one should execute service within the mind (mānasī-sevā) in accordance with the eternal associates of Vraja such as Śrī Rādhā, Lalitā, Viśākhā and Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī. With the external body (sādhaka-rūpa) one should carry out bodily services following in the wake of perfectly realised devotees such as Śrī Rūpa and Sanātana who are also residents of Vraja.
If someone raises the objection that the word vraja-loka refers only to Śrī Rādhā, Lalitā and others, it would then follow that with the sādhaka-deha (the external body) one should perform bodily services following in their wake. If this indeed were the case, then the followers of those eternal associates would not be required to carry out the limbs of bhakti such as taking shelter of a spiritual master, observance of Ekādaśī, worship of śālagrāma, worship of tulasī and so on, since it is not mentioned anywhere that Śrī Rādhā and Lalitā ever performed such activities. However, this erroneous conclusion (apasiddhānta) held by sceptics who have taken shelter of modern adverse opinions is actually refuted by the word vraja-loka.
In his commentary to this verse of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.295), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmipāda has explained the same thing; namely, that the word vraja-loka refers to the dearmost associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and their followers such as Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and others. Therefore one should perform internal service (mānasī-sevā) through the medium of the siddha-deha by following in accordance with Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī and other Vrajavāsīs. With the sādhaka-deha one should perform bodily service by following Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and others.
According to the conclusion of the Six Gosvāmīs, Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī and other rasika Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, the līlā-rasa of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the object to be tasted by rāgānuga-sādhakas. But it is not possible to taste the līlā-rasa of Śrī Kṛṣṇa without entering into śrī gaura-līlā. In other words only through the medium of gaura-līlā is it possible to taste the līlā-rasa of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 25.271, 274) Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has stated this as follows:
kṛṣṇa-līlā amṛta-sāra, tāra śata śata
dhāra daśa-dike vahe yāhā haite
se caitanya-līlā haya, sarovara akṣaya
mano-haṁsa carāha’ tāhāte
The pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are the essence of all transcendental nectar. These nectarean pastimes flow in hundreds and hundreds of streams, inundating the ten directions. The pastimes of Śrī Caitanya are an imperishable reservoir of nectar, saturated with the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. O swanlike mind, please wander on this transcendental lake.
nānā-bhāvera bhakta-jana, haṁsa-cakravāka-gaṇa
yāte sabe’ karena vihāra
kṛṣṇa-keli sumṛṇāla, yāhā pai sarva-kāla
bhakta-haṁsa karaye āhāra
The devotees situated in various transcendental moods are like swans and cakravāka birds who play upon the transcendental lake of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. The sweet bulbs of the stalks of lotus flowers are the sportive amorous pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa eternally enacts such pastimes and, consequently, they are the foodstuff for the swanlike devotees who have taken shelter of Śrī Gaurasundara, who is the eternal embodiment of vipralambha-rasa and identical in form to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the eternal embodiment of sambhoga-rasa.
In his book Prārthanā (13) Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura has similarly written:
gaura-prema rasārṇave se taraṅge yebā ḍūbe
Gaura-prema is an ocean of rasa. Those who submerge themselves in the waves of that ocean emerge in the waves of the confidential and intimate service of Rādhā-Mādhava.
Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī and Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura have composed the above verses for the benefit of rāgānuga-sādhakas. Therefore rāgānuga-sādhakas should taste kṛṣṇa-līlā through the medium of gaura-līlā. Consequently, it is essential for sādhakas to remember gaura-līlā and to follow the eternal associates of Śrī Caitanya. Since it is necessary to follow the gaura-parikaras, it is certainly imperative that one observe the limbs of bhakti (guru-padāśraya, ekādaśī-vrata, tulasī-sevā, śrī śālagrāma-sevā and so on) that were practised by the foremost associates such as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and others. There is no doubt about this.
Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, who is an eternal associate of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, serves Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa as Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī in kṛṣṇa-līlā. Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī, appearing as Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī with the attitude of a sādhaka, weeps again and again and prays anxiously to obtain the service of Śrī Yugala. Sometimes, while praying in this way, he would become so deeply immersed in the emotional trance of Rūpa Mañjarī that he would taste the happiness of direct service. Therefore rāgānuga-sādhakas must certainly follow Śrī Rūpa-Sanātana and other gosvāmīs. Opposed to this are those who vainly consider themselves as rasika-sādhakas but who do not adopt the limbs of bhakti, such as guru-padāśraya and ekādaśī-vrata. They can never obtain the service of Śrī Yugala.
This subject is extremely deep. Without the mercy of Śrī Gurudeva or pure rasika devotees, the sādhaka cannot conceive of his siddha-deha (perfected spiritual body). Therefore the contemplation of one’s nitya-siddha-deha arises of its own accord only by the merciful indication of Śrī Gurudeva. By continual remembrance of aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā (the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa performed in eight divisions of the day), performed internally (mānasī-sevā) with the nitya-siddha-deha, one obtains svarūpa-siddhi (perception of one’s eternal perfected form, which occurs at the stage of bhāva-bhakti) and ultimately vastu-siddhi. Vastu-siddhi is attained after giving up this body and taking birth in Kṛṣṇa’s bhauma-līlā from the womb of a gopī. After attaining the association of Kṛṣṇa’s eternal associates and being purified of all final traces of material identification, when prema is intensified, one attains vastu-siddhi.
But one should always bear in mind that not everyone has the eligibility to perform yugala-sevā by meditating in this way on Their supramundane (aprākṛta) daily pastimes. This practice must be concealed very diligently. One should not disclose these pastimes to ineligible persons. Until genuine greed to enter into the rāga-mārga arises in the heart of the jīva bound by matter, this subject should be kept hidden from him. One remains ineligible to hear the confidential pastimes of Śrī Yugala, which are saturated with rasa, as long as the conception of the transcendental nature of the Lord’s name, form, qualities and pastimes has not implanted itself in the heart. In other words one should understand that the name, form, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are fully constituted of pure spiritual transcendence (śuddha-cinmaya-svarūpa). When ineligible persons hear or study these pastimes they recall only the illusory and mundane association of men and women and are thus compelled to fall down. Thus they sink down into the muck of debauchery. Therefore judicious students, proceeding cautiously, may enter into this līlā after having obtained the appropriate impressions (saṁskāras) for aprākṛta-śṛṅgāra-rasa.
The fundamental conclusion is that only upon obtaining the aforementioned eligibility can the sādhaka undertake the discipline of rāgānuga-bhakti. By following this method of sādhana while still plagued with anarthas and without the appearance of genuine greed, the opposite effect will be produced. When genuine greed for vraja-bhajana arises, one should first of all take shelter of a dear devotee of Śrī Gaurasundara, that Lord who is identical in every respect to Śrī Vrajendra-nandana. The beloved devotees of Śrī Caitanya will instruct us on the path of rāgānuga-sādhana in accordance with our eligibility. Otherwise, if one falls into bad association and by ill advice imitates the bhajana practices of those on the highest level of eligibility, then under the guise of adopting one’s siddha-deha one will incur only a harmful effect.
Some persons, distorting the meaning of the instruction that one should perform bhajana in the wake of the residents of Vraja, consider themselves as Lalitā, Viśākhā or others. Although males, they adopt a female dress and perform bhajana making themselves out to be sakhīs. By such practices they destroy themselves and others. They think, “I am Lalitā”, “I am Viśākhā”. This attitude leads to ahaṅgrahopāsanā of the māyāvādīs, a type of worship in the course of which one considers himself to be identical with the object of worship. Such persons become offenders at the feet of Lalitā and Viśākhā and fall down to a most dreadful hell.
Without faithful adherence to the vraja-gopīs, no one is entitled to enter into the conjugal service of Yugala-kiśora. Even amongst the various types of sakhīs, the mañjarī-sakhīs are themselves followers of the sakhīs. The aspiration to perform bhajana in allegiance to the mañjarī-sakhīs was also exhibited by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. This is supported by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the śāstras composed by our gosvāmīs. In order to pursue mañjarī-bhāva one must certainly follow the associates of Śrī Caitanya such as Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs. Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura has expressed this in his song dealing with the worship of mañjarī-bhāva. In one verse of this song he has indicated his own heartfelt longing (Prārthanā (39)):
śrī-rūpa-mañjarī-pada seī mora sampada
seī mora bhajana-pūjana
seī mora prāṇadhana seī mora ābharaṇa
seī mora jīvanera-jīvana
The lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī are my supreme wealth. To meditate upon and serve those lotus feet are my topmost methods of bhajana and pūjana. They are a treasure more precious to me than life itself. They are the ornament of my life. Not only that, they are the very life of my life.
He also says (Prārthanā (40)):
śuniyāchi sādhu-mukhe bale sarva-jana
śrī-rūpa-kṛpāya mile yugala-caraṇa
hā! hā! prabhu sanātana gaura-paribāra
sabe mili vāñchā-pūrṇa karaha āmāra
śrī rūpera kṛpā yena āmā prati haya
se-pada āśraya yāra seī mahāśaya
prabhu lokanātha kabe saṅge lañā yābe
śrī-rūpera pāda-padme more samarpibe
I have heard from the mouths of Vaiṣṇava sādhus that only by the mercy of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī can one obtain the lotus feet of Śrī Yugala. Alas! Alas! O Sanātana Prabhu! O supremely merciful Vaiṣṇava associates of Śrī Gaurasundara! All of you please fulfil my heart’s longing. I pray again and again that the mercy of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī may shower down upon me. O what wonder! One who has attained the shelter of the lotus feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is indeed most fortunate. When will my Śrīla Gurudeva, Śrīla Lokanātha Gosvāmī, take me with him to meet Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and offer me at his lotus feet?
Now the methodology of rāgānuga-bhakti is being described. The sādhaka, continuously remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the pastime form that is most cherished by him and the beloved associates of Śrī Kṛṣṇa whom he desires to follow, should always reside in Vraja with great attachment to hearing their līlā-kathā. One should remember Kṛṣṇa as navakiśora (a fresh youth) and naṭavara (the best of dancers) and at the same time one should remember Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī and other priya-sakhīs of Śrī Kṛṣṇa who are deeply affected with the sentiments that one cherishes in his heart. Being intently focused on this kind of remembrance, the sādhaka should always live in Vraja. If one is capable he should physically take up residence in Vṛndāvana (Vṛndāvana, Nandagāoṅ, Varṣāṇā, Govardhana, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa and other places in Vraja). Otherwise he should adopt residence in Vraja within his mind.
In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta the following is said in connection with the cultivation of rāgānuga-bhakti:
bāhya antara – ihāra dui ta’ sādhana
bāhye sādhaka-dehe kare śravaṇa-kīrtana
mane nija-siddha-deha kariyā bhāvana
rātri-dine kare vraje kṛṣṇera sevana
nijābhīṣṭa kṛṣṇa-preṣṭha pācheta’ lāgiyā
nirantara sevā kare antarmanā hañā
dāsa-sakhā-pitrādi preyasīra gaṇa
rāga-mārge nija-nija-bhāvera gaṇana
ei mata kare yebā rāgānugā bhakti
kṛṣṇera caraṇe tāṅra upajaya prīti
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.156–7, 159, 161, 164)
The practice of rāgānuga-bhakti is undertaken in two ways: with the sādhaka-śarīra, the external body, and with the siddha-śarīra, the internal perfected spiritual form. With the external sādhaka-deha, one should adopt the limbs of bhakti such as śravaṇa, kīrtana and so on. With one’s siddha-śarīra, revealed by the mercy of the spiritual master, one should serve Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa day and night in Vraja. Following the beloved associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa whom one cherishes within one’s heart (the associate towards whose service the sādhaka has developed lobha), one should constantly serve Yugala-kiśora with an enraptured heart. By following the mood and sentiment (bhāva) of one of Kṛṣṇa’s associates among the servants, friends, parents or lovers, corresponding to one’s own disposition, the sādhaka attains affection for the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa that is exactly of the same nature as the associate whom he follows. This is the method of rāgānuga-bhakti.