What is Raganuga?

It is not a perfected stage of devotional realization – it is a type of practice (sadhana).

There are two types of practice of devotion, one is motivated by knowing that loving God is the right thing to do – this is “vaidhi sadhana.” The second is motivated by an emotional desire for a specific flavor of divine love – this is “raganuga sadhana.”

BRS (Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) 1.2.270

virAjantIm abhivyaktAM vraja-vAsI janAdiSu |
rAgAtmikAm anusritA yA sA rAgAnugocyate || 270 ||

“RAgAnugA” is that which runs after the intense attachment powerfully manifest in the residents of Vrindaban, etc.

Raganuga sadhana is the practice that is running after a specific flavor of emotional attachment to Krsna in divine love.

What’s the Qualification to do it?

The qualification for vaidhi-sadhana is to have strong understanding of the scriptures, and thus firm conviction that loving God really is the right thing to do. The qualification for raganuga-sadhana, is that you strongly desire a specific type of love of God – not because it is right or wrong, not for any reason at all, you just want it. Not just once or twice wanting it, but really, always wanting it, and wanting more than you want other things… If you have this emotional greed for a specific type of divine love, you have what it takes to successfully practice Raganuga-Sadhana.

BRS 1.2.291

rAgAtmikAika-niSThA ye vraja-vAsI-janAdayaH |
teSAM bhAvAptaye lubdho bhaved atrAdhikAravAn || 291 ||

A person eligible for this RAgAnugA has singular and steady greed to obtain the sentiments of a RAgAtmikA like the residents of Vraja.

How do you get this emotional attachment for a specific flavor of divine love of Krsna – a flavor exemplified in a perfect “ragatmika” devotee of Krsna??? You hear and hear and hear and hear about Krsna. As you hear and hear about Krsna’s pastimes of divine love, naturally you will start to experience that some of these pastimes attract your heart and mind more than others. Continuing to constantly hear and hear and hear this becomes more and more obvious – and greed for divine love similar to what is expressed in those favorite pastimes is sparked to life – and one can take to raganuga-sadhana.

The sign of qualification for raganuga beginning to develop is that one starts to have emotional attachment to hearing about specific types of Krsna’s loving pastimes.

BRS 1.2.292

tat-tad-bhAvAdi-mAdhurye shrute dhIryAd apekSate |
nAtra shAstraM na yuktiM ca tal-lobhotpatti-lakSaNaM || 292 ||

Hearing about the sweet sentiments of a RAgAtmikA that is impelled by one’s own disposition and desire, not by scriptural injunction or logic, is the sign that such greed is beginning to develop

Getting a specific greed for Krsna’s love as a result of diving into hearing about his pastimes of love does not happen to everyone. It is a great fortune. Only a special soul attracts and absorbes the special mercy of Krsna and Krsna’s devotees and thus attains greed for a specific flavor of divine love.

BRS 1.2.309

kriSNa-tad-bhakta-kAruNya-mAtra-lAbhaika-hetukA |

The mercy of Krishna and his bhakta is the one thing that causes greed.

While hearing and hearing and to cultivate a sense of taste for Krsna’s divine love, we must cry out for the special blessing of Krsna, the devotees in Krsna’s loving pastimes, and the devotees we interact with in our lives. While doing all this we must rely on Vaidhi sadhana – and therefore endeavor to scrupulously understand the scriptures and the reasons why God exists, why the world exists, why we exist, what our relationship to God and the world is, and the unparalleled value of existing within the world of love of God.

BRS 1.2.293

vaidha-bhakty adhikArI tu bhAvAvirbhavanAvadhi |
atra shAstraM tathA tarkam anukUlam apekSate || 293 ||

One is eligible for Vaidhi Bhakti, and thus relies on scriptural injunctions and favorable arguments, until the point that the inclination for a particular sentiment appears in one’s heart.

This implies that prior to getting a specific emotional greed for divine love one should rely on Vaidhi. The above supports that Vaidhi can lead to Raganuga, but does not automatically lead to it. One must purposely endeavor to develop an emotional attraction to Krsna’s divine love, while  doing Vaidhi bhakti. Without this purposful endeavor, vaidhi-bhakti does not lead to raganuga sadhana and onward.

How do you do Raganuga?

BRS 1.2.294

kriSNaM smaran janaM cAsya preSThaM nija-samihitam |
tat-tat-kathA-ratash cAsau kuryAd vAsaM vraje sadA || 294 ||

In RAgAnugA SAdhana, one should contemplate the specific form of Krishna one holds most dear, and the specific devotee whose sentiments one most desires, and one should discuss the affection they have for each other; by doing these two things, one will always reside in Vraja.

The main thing about the internal life of a vaidhi sadhaka is that he or she is motivated by a sense of “this is the right thing to do, I will do it.” The raganuga sadhaka’s internal world is different, it is along the lines of “I must attain that love of Krsna, so I will do these things!”

The sadhaka in raganuga desires a specific type of love of Krsna… so the internal day is spend thinking about the love of Krsna one desires. For example, one desiring to get parental love of Krsna would spend the internal day thinking of Yashoda Mayi or Nanda Baba, and little baby Gopal Krsna.

This internal thought overflows into ones words – one passes all the idle moments of the day discussing Mother Yashoda and Gopal, for example – sings songs focusing on names like yashomati-nandana or damodara-lila, etc. etc. etc.

BRS 1.2.295

sevA Sadhaka-rUpeNa siddha-rUpeNa cAtra hi |
tad-bhAva-lipsunA kAryA vraja-lokAnusArataH || 295 ||

In RAgAnugA SAdhana one emulates the residents of Vraja whose sentiments one desires to attain. One should emulate the services they carry out in their form as a practitioner and in their form as a perfected soul.

Essentially, in raganuga sadhana, one has a hero(ine) from among Krsna’s perfect lovers in Vrindavana – a person who inspires one to love Krsna in the same specific mood they do. One has to live their external and internal lives in emulation of that hero(ine).

Internally one meditates on actually serving that personality directly, and externally one meditates on behaving as they would as a sadhaka. Often they also have sadhaka rupa in Gaura Lila who have set clear expamples we can follow in this regard.

One practical example of this is doing Kirtana. That is the external activity following gaura lila. Internally while doing kirtana, a Raganuga sadhaka aspiring to love Krsna in the mood of Radharani’s friends may be doing Kirtana in the meditation of helping her friends call out to Radha and Krsna who have just dissappeared from the wonderful circle of the Rasa-dance, searching for the divine couple through the divine forests. This is one humble example among many possibilities of how this verse is practically implemented in the daily life of a sadhaka in raganuga.

BRS 1.2.296

shravaNot-kIrtanAdIni vaidha-bhakty uditAni tu |
yAny angAni ca tany atra vijñeyAni manISibhiH || 296 ||

I previously mentioned many practices, in the section on Vaidhi Bhakti, like “hearing about,” “glorifying,” etc. These practices are parts of that Vaidhi Bhakti, but the wise should know that they are also parts of this RAgAnugA SAdhana.

In addition to the practices of specialized SmaraNa and KIrtana described in text 294, and the practice of emulating the services of the RAgAtmikA described in text 295, the practitioner of RAgAnugA SAdhana should also execute the activities outlined in the list of 64 practices of Vaidhi SAdhana. The practitioner of RAgAnugA SAdhana, however, will execute these practices with a slightly different internal approach than the practitioner of Vaidhi SAdhana, for he or she should infuse the practices with the particular sentiment of passionate attachment to pleasing Krishna that he or she aspires for.

Vishvanath Chakravarti identifies five ways of infusing these 64 practices with one’s desired sentiments:

  1. “BhAva-maya” – Making a practice saturated with one’s desired sentiments.
  2. “BhAva-sambandhI” – Performing a practice in a way that helps one establish and attain one’s desired sentiments. For example, taking shelter of a guru who can help one develop one’s desired sentiments, chanting of a mantra that can help one develop one’s desired sentiments, etc.
  3. “BhAva-anukUla” – Performing a practice in a way that is favorable to attaining one’s desired sentiments. For example, respecting the Myrobalan tree, worshipping TulasI, performance of vows like EkAdashi and KArttika, all with a desire to attain one’s desired sentiments.
  4. “BhAva-aviruddha” – Performing a practice in a way that nullifies any sentiments potentially counterproductive to one’s own desired sentiment. For example, wearing Tiloka and offering obeisances in a mood that is not in discord with one’s desired sentiments.
  5. “BhAva-pratikUla” – If one cannot perform a practice in one of the above ways, it is antagonistic to one’s desired sentiments and one should avoid it. Example of such practices may include certain aspects of arcana like elaborate purification rituals and stylized hand movements (mudra). Other practices might sometimes also fall into this category, like hearing about lIla that embodies sentiments incompatible with one’s own desired sentiments.

There is no fault on the practitioner’s part for avoiding the practices that are antagonistic to one’s desired sentiments, but the practitioner of RAgAnugA SAdhana should be very diligent not to neglect the practices that are not antagonistic.

Closing

Raganuga and Vaidhi, to a very large extent, appear identicial to the onlooker. Raganuga Sadhana looks just like Vaidhi-Sadhana… the raganuga sadhaka is doing nama-sankirtan throughout the entire day, just as the vaidhi-sadhaka should be. The raganuga sadhaka is watering tulasi, just as the vaidhi-sadhaka does, etc. etc.

The activities are nearly the same in both practices – but the inner, hidden, mentality within those actions is radically different. The eye which has not seen raganuga within itself, cannot distinguish vaidhi from raganuga in what it sees.

To obtain love of Sweet Vrindavana Krsna we must practice Raganuga Sadhana. There is no other way.

Kusuma_Sarovar Ghat Vrindavan
Image via Wikipedia

BRS 1.4.14

mahima-jïäna-yuktaù syäd vidhi-märgänusäriëäm |
rägänugäçrtiänän tu präyaçaù kevalo bhavet || 14 ||

Prema alloyed with knowledge of God’s majesty may be attained by those who follow the path of Vaidhi Sädhana, but if one takes shelter of Rägänugä Sädhana one usually attains unalloyed Prema.

Vaidhi sadhana leads to prema for Narayana, or for “Krsna in the city” – either the city of Mathura, or Dvaraka – where he is more official and not unlimitedly intimate and sweet as he is in Vrndavana. Only Raganuga Sadhana leads to prema for Vrindavana Krsna – “unalloyed prema.”

Anyone who want to attain Vrindavana must practice Raganuga Sadhana, there is no other way. We who are not yet qualified to directly do it must make ourselves qualified ASAP, by hearing and hearing and hearing about Krsna’s pastimes, and praying constantly for the mercy of Krsna that comes through his love-soaked devotees.

5 thoughts on “Everything you wanted to know about Raganuga, but couldn’t ask.

  1. A very nice blog Vic, but allow me a few remarks –

    1.2.291 – the eka nistha is not the quality of the raganuga aspirant but of the ragatmika nitya siddha vrajavasis.
    The verse is often wrongly quoted to prove that one needs to be a pure devotee to do raganuga bhajan.
    All translations of the verse [Bhanu Swami, Bon Maharaj] will show you that the ekanisthata is of the ragatmikas, not the aspirants.

    1.2.293 raga and vaidhi are two separate parallel paths that each have their 3 stages of sadhana-, bhava- and prema bhakti.
    This verse does not prove that one graduates from vaidhi to raganuga. It means that shastra and logic are not required at all for entering raga bhakti, but they are required in vaidhi bhakti upto the stage of vaidhi-bhava-bhakti [stage 2] bhava -Avirbhavana – Avadhi [up to bhava].

    1.2.296 refutes the idea that in raganuga bhakti there are no rules, that is the point of that verse. all rules have to be followed, with the exception of some rituals like nyasa and mudra, or meditation on oneself as a queen of Dwarika.

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