Gangsta Rap and Raganuga Bhakti


Recently a very good friend asked: what does it mean to “practice affectionate emotions for Krsna.”

My reply:

In the 12th chapter of Gita, 8th and 9th texts there is a reply to your question, more or less. 8 says, “mayy eva mana ādhatsva mayi buddhiḿ niveśaya.” This describes the objective view of affectionate emotions for Krsna. The objective view is that when there are affectionate emotions for Krsna, the mind and intelligence will be entangled in Krsna. In other words it will be difficult to stop thinking about Krsna.

Text 9 says, “atha cittaḿ samādhātuḿ na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram. abhyāsa-yogena tato mām icchāptuḿ dhanañjaya.”

This means – if you cannot have affectionate emotions for me yet – do “abhyaasa” of those emotions – and this will give you the “iccha” to get them.

Abhyaasa means: drills, repetitions, habits, exersizes. Thus in other words text 8 says, “please do raganuga for me.” text 9 says, “if you cant, please do vaidhi for me.” What is vaidhi-sadhana – it is the exercise and practice and drills of the spontaneous emotions for Krsna.

To sum up – how do we practice affectionate emotions for Krsna? We take an activity which is *symptomatic* of emotion, and do it by force of will. In other words we intentionally emulate (since “imitate” has a bad connotation) the symptoms of emotion for Krsna. For example – the primary, primary primary symptom of being in love with someone is that you can not stop for a moment from thinking about and talking about that person. Therefore we practice this by willfully chanting japa and by doing Nama-rupa-guna-lila sankirtana AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, hopefully 18 hours a day, if not 24.

The result of imitating/emulating divine emotion is “iccha” – you get the strong “itch” the strong desire and ambition and conviction that, “I want the REAL THING.” This icha is synonymous with lobha – which is the key that opens the door to real emotional service to Krsna – raganuga sadhana.

To give a example, in closing, to bring it down to earth. Suppose an 8th grade boy starts talking like a “gangsta” – “yo, whaddup.” “yo ho, you look FIIIINE today.” “where my peeps at up in dis joint?” and all that ridiculous banter. At first it is just a pure imitation. He thinks the rappers on MTV are totally cool so he decides to imitate them as far as he is able. However as this imitation continues for a month or so, he starts to think, “yo dawg, i’m not legit… i need to take dis shizzle to da next level.” You see, by continued emulation/imitation it is entirely natural that one develops “iccha” to be more genuine and real and legit and get the real thing. Thus we find imitation and adulation of criminal-culture to be a warning sign that in a significant portion of the imitators, actual attitudes and behavior will change and soon it will no longer be an act for those who were more serious and passionate in their desire to emulate. This is the natural sequence of how something practiced becomes something internalized and is the similar psychological principle by which vaidhi SHOULD lead to raganuga if we do it well.

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  1. Yo, whaddup dawg? I hope you ain’t insinuatin’ that local slang from the ‘hood which happened to be also used by gangstas’ would constitute…criminal behavior? Please say it ain’t so dawg.

    You said: Thus we find imitation and adulation of criminal-culture to be a warning sign that in a significant portion of the imitators, actual attitudes and behavior will change and soon it will no longer be an act for those who were more serious and passionate in their desire to emulate.


      1. Vraja Kishorji, your post was of great interest to me because currently I am trying to understand how vaidhi (v) and raganuga (rg) work. However, in my studies so far I have not found anywhere the mention that v can lead to rg. What follows is a summary of my current understanding, which is by no means exhaustive, and I would be very thankful if you could add your views on the points mentioned.

        1. Both v and rg seem to me to be independent processes, comparable to two different seeds that will grow into two different plants, since Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu lists them as such without mentioning v developing into rg. A person doing v sadhana will achieve a particular type of prema (endowed with knowing the majestic feature of Bhagavan) while a rg sadhaka will achieve another type of prema (generally devoid of such knowledge).

        2. The only place I have seen mentioned the two together is Bhakti Sandarbha 312, where it is said that if rg sadhaka finds that his liking is not yet well developed he can aid it by following v sadhana, getting disciplined by the injunctions from sastra. But even in this case he already has the seed of rg in him and he uses v just to get established more firmly on the path, so here too no mention is made of v leading to rg.

        3. Apart from that, I think that Bhagavadgita is a book for materialistic people who already have some inclination for following some spiritual practice… so Krsna shows them that among many such practices (like karma, jnana, astanga yoga) bhakti is the best. Teaching them rg would be quite a big morsel to swallow, and I believe that where they are shown rg is in Bhagavatam which takes it one step further than Bhagavadgita and which is studied by those who have already understood the message of Bhagavadgita.

        4. Therefore, somehow it does not add up to see 12.8 as an allusion to rg bhakti. Rg bhakti is characterized by naturally liking the attachment that Brajabasis have for Krsna. If you have such liking you will spontaneously think of Krsna, without anyone needing to instruct you that you always need to be fixed on Him. Also, Visvanatha Cakravarti mentions in his commentary on that verse (tac ca mananaṁ dhyāna-pratipādaka-śāstra-vākyānuśīlanam) that one needs to study books that explain how to meditate. So this does not go together with a rg sadhaka for whom such meditation is natural.

        5. Indeed, for me the 12.8 verse seems to be very similar to BRS 1.2.7 (tasmād bhārata sarvātmā bhagavān īśvaro hariḥ śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca smartavyaś ca cecchatābhayam) which Rupa Goswami uses to illustrate v bhakti. But that is just my subjective opinion, of course.

        So if you could please add your views or other examples where it said that v leads to rg it would enrich us both in search of the true meaning of our sastra.

        With respect,


        1. Vaidhi does not “lead to” Raganuga, but Vaidhi plays a supporting role to Raganuga. BRS describes this in the 3rd shloka pertaining to Raganuga.

          However in this article I am not talking about Vaidhi at all, per se. Raga-anuga means to “follow the raaga.” We emulate the divine emotions, and in so doing those emotions begin to appear in us. The appearance of divine emotions is not RagANUGA, it is RagATMIKA (so to speak) – the perfection of RagANUGA. Raganuga is a sadhana – a practice of emulating the perfect emotions.

          I think you are a wonderful scholar, and I fully encourage you. I know you have made no offense, but try to beware of the potential for it in the future regarding Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita is a rasika scripture declaring the glory of Srimati Radharani. Srila Vishnvanath Chakravarti thakur makes that clear. Bhagavad Gita clearly reccomends Raganuga Sadhana as the best practice. This will hopefully become clear to you, as it has become clear to a very very dull headed and unqualified person – me. There are even synonyms for laulyam in the 12.8 and 12.9 section. I am sure that Sri Krsna in your heart will guide you to see all these things – because clearly you are making a super super wonderful effort. I pray that I will not be a stumbling block in the way, and I pray that Krsna will engage me in the service of a sincere seeker like yourself. If I can be of help to you by what I write that would be a great asset for me.

          Again to clarify, vaidhi does not necessarily lead to raganuga, but it can lead to it. =) It is just like this. I can get on a train in florida which, once I get to washington DC, I can transfer to another train that takes me to new york. In this example, the train from florida is vaidhi sadhana, it takes me to a place where I can transfer to raganuga sadhana. There is no need of beginning on the train of vaidhi, I can take raganuga from the start, provided I have actual emotional interest in it – not just looking for a badge.

          Your servant,


          1. little bit more clarification – in 12.9 “abhyasa” is a synonym for vaidhi. And “iccha” is a synonym for laulyam. Both in vaidhi and in raganuga the practice is to emulate divine emotions. The only difference is that in vaidhi, the emotional expressions are guided by and somewhat confined within the sacred knowledge of Gods greatness and the propriety of manners, etc. in expressing ourselfs to Him. In Raganuga Sadhana – it is not so much “devoid” of knowledge. It is fully of all perfection and not void of ANYTHING. However it has something much more powerful and attractive than the knowledge of Gods greatness, and that is the knowledge of God’s intimate sweetness. This knowledge ECLIPSES the awareness of God’s greatness. An eclipsed Moon appears not to exist – but this is only an appearance. Raganuga sadhana, like vaidhi sadhana, practices the emulation of expressions of divine love, but unlike vaidhi sadhana it emulates emotions what are not dictated by or limited by “right” and “wrong” which arises from knowing that God is “God.” These emotions are completely unlimited, unabashed, and sublimly primal in a most pristine, spiritual sense.


  2. Of course I did not want to subestimate the potential of Bhagavadgita or offend her…myself I have the experience that every time I read it new understandings and nuances get revealed, as is the case with all the literature that comes from Krsna. What I mentioned about Bhagavadgita was from the new seekers’ point of view. I hope to come one day to the level of seeing also her rg aspect.

    Let me digest the points you have covered and answer you then by email.

    Hari Hari and thank you for your kind response.


  3. Very interesting article, Vic. Long time (20 years), no see! It seems more likely, however, that a materialistic person will think, “yo dawg, i’m TOTALLY legit,” whereas someone who’s heart is gradually melting will think, “I’m not a real vaisnava.”

    Judging from the mudras displayed in the pictures, I think these 8th graders may be pretending to be gangstas’ either for jest to keep from getting bashed at school, just as a man sometimes pretends to be pregnant. But when they turn 17 or 18, I think you may realize that you have been caring for much different creatures;)


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