Found in Sanga, Sanga 2005.

Q. You wrote that devotees in the line of Bhaktivinoda Thakura teach that our svarupa, or spiritual identity, is already within us but lies dormant. (Sanga: Meditation on Siddha-Deha)

In his book Sri Guru and His Grace, Srila Sridhara Maharaja said, “We may have an attraction for Vrindavana and an inner awakening for service to Krishna in Goloka, but if we associate with so many Vaikuntha sadhus, then we will be hurled down to Vaikuntha.” Does this mean that one can have an inner awakening of desire for service to Krishna in Vrindavana when one’s svarupa is that of a Vaikuntha bhakta? I would also like to ask what Bhaktivinoda Thakura meant when he said one should practice vaidhi-bhakti to become eligible for raganuga-bhakti.

A. In Sri Guru and His Grace “hurled down” is being used as a figure of speech and should not be taken literally. Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja is saying that although one may be destined for Vrindavana, if one associates with Vaikuntha bhaktas one may be detoured to Vaikuntha, as was Gopa Kumara in Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. Whatever one’s spiritual destiny is, it will not awaken without the right kind of association. Association does not produce our svarupa, but it is the catalyst needed for it to manifest, thus we should be careful as to the association we keep. Along with association comes our sadhana, or spiritual practice. Practice makes perfect. The spiritual goal that one idealizes and aspires for will manifest only if one engages in sadhana that corresponds with one’s ideal.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati were among the first to use the term vaidhi-bhakti in place of the term ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti. However, when Bhaktivinoda Thakura used the term vaidhi-bhakti in place of ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti, he was speaking of vaidhi in a general sense.

He did not mean to advocate that one should engage in vaidhi-bhakti and thereby attain Vaikuntha, and then from there gain eligibility for the raganuga sadhana that begets Vraja bhakti. He meant that one should engage in the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti such as hearing and chanting to give support to one’s immature, budding eagerness for raganuga-bhakti, which in the beginning is often more intellectually based than heartfelt. Mature raganuga-bhakti is an affair of the heart, not the head, whereas vaidhi-bhakti has much to do with one’s head and the sense that bhakti to Bhagavan should be done because it is the right thing to do. Its motivation is duty, and its expression of love is appropriately reverential. Raga-bhakti, on the other hand, is motivated by love, and its expression of love is inappropriate in appearance, being comparatively irreverent. The Vraja gopis are, of course, the prime example.

Note that Srila Rupa Goswami has also written that the limbs of vaidhi-bhakti such as hearing and chanting should not be neglected by raganuga sadhakas in Brs. 1.2.296.

Q. In discussing the svarupa aren’t we talking more of a mood of service than a particular place like Vaikuntha or Goloka?

A. The mood has a corresponding place. Indeed, the place is the mood and the mood is the place. To love God as an equal, as in the case of devotees who are in sakhya rasa in Vraja, would be out of place in Vaikuntha where Visnu is worshiped in awe and reverence. Indeed, the idea of loving Visnu in equality would be intolerable there.

Q. What exactly does “ajata” and “jata” mean when one speaks of ajata-ruci and jata-ruci bhakti?

A. Jata means “born.” Jata-ruci is the condition in which ruci (spiritual taste) is born or has appeared within the devotee. Ajata-ruci is the condition in which ruci has not yet fully appeared within the devotee. Thus the ajata-ruci devotee is one who practices the principles of bhakti with a desire to attain spiritual taste. In some places you will also find the terms ajata-rati and jata-rati used. Rati means love or bhava. In either case ajata refers to the condition where deep spontaneous feelings for Krishna have not yet manifested in the heart of the devotee. To attain these feelings, a devotee must first purify his or her heart under the guidance of an elevated devotee of Krishna.

Jiva Goswami calls this stage ajata-ruci-raganuga. It is a mixed form of raganuga and vaidhi-bhakti, in which one’s motivation to engage in raganuga-bhakti is somewhat dependent on the logic and scriptural references in support of its value. In this regard, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says, satra-yukti nahi mane—raganugara prakrti: “The nature of raganuga sadhakas is that they do not care for sastra-yukti, or introspection on the nature of the scriptural conclusions.” (Cc 2.22.153) Sriman Mahaprabhu also told Sanatana Goswami, sastra-yukti nahi ihan siddhanta-vicara ei svabhava-gune: “One whose attraction for Krishna is spontaneous has no use for sastra-yukti.” (Cc 2.24.40) Of course, a raganuga sadhaka is dependent on the scripture for instructions as to how to execute his or her sadhana.

Q. I read in your booklet Sri Guru Paramapara that a siddha pranali should consist of siddhas. Actually the term siddha pranali refers to the siddha-dehas of the preceptors in one’s guru parampara. We receive this esoteric information when we get initiated in one of the traditional Gaudiya Vaisnava parivaras. It is not that every guru in the line must be a siddha. Some of them may be ajata ruci or ajata rati raganugiyas.

A. I agree that every guru in one’s parampara does not necessarily have to be a siddha. Something is often better than nothing. However, in the type of Gaudiya lineages you are referring to the guru is said to give the disciple information about the disciple’s siddha-deha as well as that of all of the previous gurus in the line. The way in which he determines who the previous gurus are in Krishna lila is by hearing from his own guru, who received this information from his guru, who received from his guru, and so on. The way in which he determines the siddha-deha of the disciple is said to be through meditation, in which Sri Krishna gives him the information. This is the theory.

However, I object to the idea that one who is not a siddha can determine the details of one’s siddha-deha in meditation. I have spoken with gurus in such parivaras who admitted to me that the so-called siddha-deha they give out is less than something they received in mediation from Krishna himself. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta also took exception to what he considered the passing out of imaginary siddha-dehas. If anyone wants to call these lines traditional and a siddha pranali, they are free to do so, but in my opinion it has little to do with actual spiritual life. Better to take shelter of Harinama in Sri Krishna sankirtana and Krishna mantra dhyana received through guru parampara. As one’s heart becomes purified, the pure name of Krishna manifests along with his svarupa sakti in one’s heart. Thus one comes to know of one’s siddha deha on no uncertain terms.

Q. Isn’t raganuga-bhakti understood to be a sadhana or spiritual practice unto itself?

A. Raganuga is sadhana and thus practice, but this practice is mature when our svarupa (spiritual identity) is revealed. Even though bhava-bhakti is distinct from sadhana-bhakti, bhava bhaktas still engage in sadhana. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s opinion is that raganuga sadhana can be practiced before attaining bhava, but it will be mixed with and supported by vaidhi-bhakti.

Jiva Goswami calls this mixture ajata-ruci-raganuga-bhakti, or raganuga-bhakti practiced in the stage before one develops spiritual taste for a particular bhava of Vraja. He discusses two divisions of raganuga-bhakti in his Bhakti-sandarbha. These he calls jata-ruci and ajata-ruci-raganuga. Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami refers to them as jata-rati and ajata-rati-raganuga-bhakti. These terms imply that raganuga-bhakti is cultivated by those without ruci (ajata-ruci) or with ruci (jata-ruci) or in the language of Krishnadasa Kaviraja, with bhava (jata-rati) or without bhava (ajata-rati).

Kaviraja Goswami says, jata-ajata-rati-bhede sadhaka dui bheda vidhi-raga-marge cari cari-asta bheda. The context of this verse is Mahaprabhu’s explanation of the atmarama verse to Sanatana Goswami in which he explains four types of atmaramas: the eternal associates of God (parisads), those who have attained perfection by sadhana (sadhana-siddhas), and and two types of sadhakas, those cultivating vaidhi-bhakti and those cultivating raganuga-bhakti.

Thus we have the parisads, sadhana-siddhas, and two types of sadhakas, totaling four atmaramas. Then he explains that there are two types of sadhakas within both vaidhi- and raga-bhakti sadhana, those with rati (jata-rati), and those without (ajata-rati). This brings the total of atmaramas to eight. He goes on from here to delineate 32 types of atmaramas by discussing the four types (parisads, sadhana-siddhas, and two types of sadhakas) in terms of four rasas both in vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti.

Out of all of this, we learn that there are devotees who are raganuga-sadhakas who are either mature in their practice or immature. They have attained ruci/rati or have yet to attain them. The terms ruci and rati are not however, interchangeable. Ruci refers to advanced sadhana-bhakti, and rati to bhava-bhakti. In either case we have two types of raganuga bhaktas. In the language of Kaviraja Goswami we find a blurring of sadhana-bhakti and bhava-bhakti.

This is not inappropriate because although bhava-bhakti is distinct from sadhana-bhakti, sadhana continues in bhava-bhakti nonetheless. Ruci is also the basis of rati. Thus the two, Jiva Goswami and Krishnadasa Kaviraja, are saying the same thing—that there are two types of raganuga-bhaktas, the mature and immature. The conclusion is that those who are grounded in ritualistic bhakti with their ideal being raganuga-bhakti can cross over ritualistic bhakti and tread the path of sacred passionate love in due course.

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