Chakra Discussions

Raganuga Bhakti is Sadhana Bhakti

by Tungbidya dasi

Posted February 21, 2008

First of all I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to both Niscala devi and Srila das for bringing up a topic that is dear to my heart - raganuga bhakti and it's practical applications. My heart danced with joy for the past 48 hours as I contemplated and compiled various references in order to honor the following request of Niscala ji;

"I welcome any comments by our acaryas which shed light on the question as to how to know when one is ready for raganuga"

Well, here goes -

It is essential that we know our subject. What is raga, what is ragatmika, and what is raganuga? The three are different yet related. The misunderstanding and conflation of one with another stems from an editorial mistake in the very first paragraph of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja's (affectionately known as "Srila Prabhupada" by his disciples) Nectar of Devotion Ch. 15, entitled "Spontaneous Devotional Service".

There it is written, "The examples of spontaneous devotional service can be easily seen in Krishna's direct associates in Vrindavan. The spontaneous dealings of the residents of Vrindavan in relationship with Krishna are called raganuga."

The word there should be "ragatmika", not raganuga.

Again, another editorial mistake is found in the next paragraph wherein it is written, "Srila Rupa Goswami has defined raganuga bhakti as spontaneous attraction for something while completely absorbed in thoughts of it."

The word there should be "raga", not raganuga bhakti.

In order to understand the subtle differences between raga, ragatmika and raganuga, I am presenting the readers here with slokas from the original text of Sri Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu by Srila Rupa Goswami.

Raga -

iste svarasiki ragah paramavistata bhavet tanmayi ya bhaved bhaktih satra ragatmikodita

BRS 1.2.272

Translation: Raga is complete absorption in the Deity of One's heart's choice

And ragatmika? The rest of the sloka defines as such; That absorbing devotion is here described as ragatmika bhakti.

In simple English, raga is the intense obsession for Krishna found in His associate in Braj. They are thus known as "ragatmika" (raga in atma) due to the passion for Krishna they hold in their atma.

There are 2 kinds of ragatmika;

sa kamarupa sambandharupa ceti bhaved dvidha

BRS 1.2.273

1. kamarupa; raga consisting of romantic feelings for Krishna), and

2. sambandharupa; raga consisting of having a feeling of relationship (sambandha) with Krishna in dasya, sakhya or vatsalya.

Being that ragatmika bhakti is of two types, naturally, raganuga bhakti, which follows in it's wake, will be of two types as well - kamanuga and sambandhanuga. However, for now we will focus on the question, "what exactly IS raganuga bhakti?"

First, let us define SADHANA, since it is a common misconception in the West that raganuga bhakt is not a sadhana, when it actually is.

Our revered Srila Rupa Goswamipada defines sadhan-bhakti as;

krtisadhya bhavet sadhya bhavasa sadhanabhidha
nityasiddhasya bhavasya prakatyam hrdi sadhyata

BRS 1.2.2


"That, which is accomplished through engagement of the senses, and through which bhav (spiritual emotion) is attained, is called sadhan-bhakti, or bhakti in practice."

In simple english, those devotional practices which are accomplished through the body and mind, with the aim of attaining bhav and of which give rise to bhav in the heart, those are "sadhan".

If we are chanting Harinama without the aim and object of attaining bhav, it can hardly be called "sadhan".

Now, there are 2 kinds of sadhan-bhakti. What are they?

vaidhi raganuga ceti sa dvidha sadhanabhidha

BRS 1.2.5

Translation; Sadhan-bhakti is of 2 types; vaidhi and raganuga.

What are the differences between these 2 types of sadhan-bhakti?

yatra raganavaptatvat pravrttir upajayate
sasanenaiva sastrasya sa vaidhi bhaktir ucyate

BRS 1.2.6

Translation: When there is an absense of greed or liking in the heart and devotion is aroused rather by shastric injunctions, that devotion is known as "vaidhi bhakti".

OK! So now what is raganuga-bhakti?

virajantIm abhivyaktam vrajavasi-janadisu
ragatmikam anusrta ya sa raganugocyate

BRS 1.2.270

Translation: Bhakti that is uniquely and naturally manifest in the Brajbasis is called ragatmika-bhakti, and bhakti that arises in the wake of that ragatmika-bhakti (out of greed for hearing Braj lila katha) is called raganuga-bhakti.

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in his Sri Sanmodana Bhasyam commentary on Mahaprabhu's Sri Siksastakam simplifies it thus;

"Paramarthika shraddha (transcendental faith) is of 2 kinds;

1. shastrartha-avadharana-mayi shraddha - faith which brings about engagement in bhakti inspired by the governing principles of scripture, and

2. bhagavat-lila-madhurya-lobh-mayi-shraddha - faith which brings about engagement in bhakti due to intense longing (lobh, or greed) arisen from hearing the sweet lilas of Sri Krishna.

We can shorten those terms to; 1. shastra-mayi (vaidhi) and 2. lobh-mayi (raganuga).

In other words, if upon hearing of the sweet dealings between Sri Krishna and His parikaras (associates) in Braj, a person wishes to one day serve Krishna like that also, and with that inspiration and aim they begin their sadhana bhakti, they are a raganuga sadhaka. However, if upon hearing from scripture that one will suffer miseries or go to Hell if they do not worship Krishna, and on account of fear of Hell or a desire to end suffering and achieve bliss, that person commences their sadhana-bhakti, then they can be called a "vaidhi-bhakti-sadhaka".

Readers please note - vaidhi-bhakti-sadhan and raganuga-bhakti-sadhan are different from the very beginning - right from shraddha!

The vaidhi-bhakti outlook is described in Srimad Bhagavatam 2.1.5

tasmad bharata sarvatma
bhagavan isvaro harih
srotavyah kirtitavyas ca
smartavyas cecchatabhayam

"O descendant of King Bharat, one who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify and also remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul, the controller and the savior from all miseries."

This is the type of sloka that would inspire a practicioner of vaidhi bhakti to perform sadhana.

What type of sloka would inspire a raganuga sadhaka?

Two sweet examples from Srila Prabhodananda Saraswatipada (forgive me for not providing the Sanskrit, I'm just pulling them out of my archived notes as I write this);

1. I don't care if Krishna is beginningless or was born at some time, whether he is brilliant, or a fool. whether he is compassionate at every moment or whether he is totally devoid of any quality of mercy. I don't even care whether he greater than Narayana, the Lord of Vaikuntha, or whether he is just an ordinary human being. I only pray that this Son of the cowherd king be my chosen Lord here in this land of Vraja, birth after birth

2. What do we care for all these holy scriptures, or the wise illuminating paths described in them and followed by so many evolved pious souls! What do we need them for if there are no sweet amorous sentiments for our Krishna nor the nectar of Sri Radha's glories! I don't even care for the opulence of Vaikuntha if there is no Radhika, the Personification of Divine Love, but I will remain here in the blessed land of Vrindavana for million of births, enlivened by the sweet hope of attaining Her passionate Divine Love.

We know that vaidhi bhakti arises out of a sense of fear as well as a sense of dependence on shastra. As for lobh-mayi (raganuga bhakti), from where does this lobh (greed) arise within an individual?

Our Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur explains in "Raga Vartma Chandrika" (literally - A Moonray Illuminating the Path of Raga), writes;

There are 2 sources of this greed:

1. the mercy of Bhagavan, or

2. the mercy bestowed by Bhagavan's anuragi devotees.

But again there are two types of mercy bestowed by the devotee;

1. praktana (old, or from previous lives), and

2. adhunika (recent, from this life)

"The lobh arising from the mercy received in previous lives from Krishna's anuragi bhaktas who are endowed with bhav-madhurya, or the sweet sentiments of the Braj residents), is called "praktana". The lobh arising from the mercy of such anuragi bhaktas in the present life is called "adhunika". Those whose hunger has already been awakened in a previous life will immediately take shelter at the lotus feet of a raganuga-rasik-guru upon the manifestation of such greed in this life. However, sadhakas whose lobh is adhunika (recent) develop their thirst only upon taking shelter of a the lotus feet of a guru. "

Another BIG misconception that must be addresed is that raganuga vaishnavas do not follow any scriptural rules. That could not be further from the truth! Srila Chakravarty Thakur addresses this very point in his next text;

" When both of the previously mentioned types of devotees, having either praktana or adhunika lobh (previous or recent greed), become fervently curious about the means for achieving the bhav of Sri Krishna's associates, then they depend on SHASTRA and the favorable systems prescribed therein. It is only through the reasoning established by the shastras that this bhav can be achieved. There is no other way. If a person desires to drink milk, how can she get it? At that point shes needs to learn through the guidance of a knowledgeable person how and where she can easily obtain milk. She will accept instructions on how to purchase and cow and maintain it. After the cow gives birth to a calf, only then will she be able to milk the cow and drink milk........

Similarly, a sadhaka filled with greed also has to profit from relevant instructions. One cannot gain knowledge on one's own. In Srimad Bhagavatam 8.6.12, Brahmaji explains, 'Just as a human traditionally derives fire from wood, milk from a cow, grains and water from the earth, and money from business and thereby maintains his life, in the same way, O Vishnu, the experts in bhakti say that we can attain You by applying our intelligence to take proper association. By this, we will overcome the 3 modes of nature and thus progress gradually in bhakti"

Here it is established that individuals with greed to enter Krishna lila will indeed commence sadhana bhakti via help from relevant shastras that will instruct them on the methods of attainment.

Exactly what those shastras are and what methods they outline will be explained next in part 2 of this series.

If anyone would wish to correspond with me, please do so at

Thankyou again Niscala devi and Srila das for allowing me to remember the words of our beloved preceptors!