In response to my article, Accusations Against Rāgānugā Sādhana, someone asked:
Who is the source of the “accusations” you are responding to?
An ISKCON Sannyāsī recently said these things while doing an otherwise excellent job of explaining the subject during a seminar.
It seems to me that ISCKON leaders are very cautious about allowing devotees to feel that they have experienced high states of spiritual bliss or elevation.
Rāgānugā-sādhana has nothing to do with experiencing a high state of spiritual bliss or elevation. All that is required is a strong and clear desire to achieve a certain type of friendly, parental, or romantic love for Krishna. Rāgānugā is a practice for conditioned jīvas, by which we can eventually attain those three types of relationships with Krishna. It is not a perfected state. A person in the perfected state is known as a Rāgātmikā. A person who is not in the perfected state, but strives for it, is known as a Rāgānugī.
In the early days of the Hare Krishna movement, the “hippies” of that time may have been more inclined toward “imaginative ecstasy” based on cultural conditioning, drug experiences, etc. Maybe that is why leaders caution against it?
In general the assumption that you have achieved something monumental only goes to demonstrate that you really don’t even comprehend what “monumental” truly means. And thinking myself “advanced” is a fairly sure sign, most all of the time, that I don’t really even know what “advanced” truly is.
If one experiences some ecstatic feelings during kirtan, how can such feelings/visible actions be accommodated and honored without pessimism? Is there any precedent for how to regard such displays in a congregational setting? I feel like the default perception might be a pessimistic one.
Love (bhakti) produces emotions – so its no surprise that practices of love (bhakti-sādhana) would often produce emotional responses in the practitioner. In fact, we should be extremely skeptical of our practices if they don’t.
Real bhakti is called bhāva-bhakti, and it produces real emotions continuously and very powerfully. Bhāva-bhakti is the initial stage of perfection in bhakti-yoga. It is “sudurlabha,” a very extremely rare accomplishment. Safe to say that basically no one that we see practicing bhakti is at that stage. Out of a few million practitioners, I estimate, I would expect to find 1 who has attained bhāva.
However, the two stages preceding bhāva (ruci and āsakti) also consistently produce relatively profound emotional states. And even in the stages preceding these, the same results begin to dawn occasionally. So, even the new practitioner should expect to occasionally experience significant emotional responses from their devotional practices.
In Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu, Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī explains that Bhāva can be “approximated” by people who have not actually attained it. This approximation is called an abhāsa. He says there are two types of bhāva-abhāsa: The first is an intentional imitation with ulterior motives (prati-bimba bhāva-abhāsa). The second is a genuine reflection of bhāva, which comes as a result of the power of bhakti (chaya bhāva-abhāsa). By contact with the powerful practices of bhakti, and with deep practitioners of bhakti, some “shadow” of that power falls on our heart, and even that shadow moves our emotions as powerfully as our more profound conventional emotional experiences.
So, when we encounter or experience an emotional response to our devotional practices, in kīrtan for example, we simply need to assess if it is an intentional imitation or not. Intentional imitations are done to become famous, get respect, get money, get attention, and so on. These should be discouraged, and rooted out from the family of practitioners, because they only disturb the communal garden of bhakti. If it is not a nefarious imitation, we should be happy and welcome it as confirmation that the practices we are engaged in, and the guru and saṅga in which we engage in them, are genuine and empowered.
Vraja Kishor das