Can You Get to Vṛndāvana without Rāgānuga?

A “homework question” from the online Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu course I’m hosting.:

Can Vṛndāvana be attained without Rāgānuga? Why or why not?

Here is the reply of one student, with my responses:

This is a tricky and controversial question. I have heard arguments from both sides and I personally cannot make up my mind on this, so I request you to enlighten me.

I am not sure why you think this is controversial. Śrī Rūpa directly says:

riraMsAM suSThu kurvan yo vidhi-mArgeNa sevate |
kevalenaiva sa tadA mahiSItvam iyAt pure || BRS 1.2.303 ||

“One who desires a romantic relationship but follows Vidhi-mārga attains their ultimate perfection in the city.” (Dvārakā)

This statement of his also unequivocally shows that Vaidhi leads to its own perfection, and which is not the same as the perfection Rāgānugā leads to:

vaidha-bhakty adhikārī tu bhāvāvirbhavanāvadhi |
atra śātra tathā tarkam anukūlam apekate || BRS 1.2.293 ||

“But, if one’s affection [for Krishna] remains dependent on logic and injunctions, vaidhi bhakti has the ability to take one all the way to bhāva.”

Śrī Viśvanātha very clearly says the same thing many times, in his explanations of Śrī Rūpa like Mādhurya Kādambiṇī.

Krishna can do anything he desires. I read somewhere in CC that Shri Chaitanya embraced some son of Mahraja Prataprudra who wasn’t a devotee and he instantly became a Radha Krishna prema bhakta. Amogha the son-in-law of Shri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, who didn’t do any sadhana but rather offended Shri Gaurasundara obtained prema bhakti.

Krishna can take anyone to Vrindavana if he wants to.

“Krishna can do anything he desires” …sure. Krishna can make water flow uphill, I guess, but should we therefore refrain from saying, “water always flows downhill”?

It’s not really true that “God can do anything.” He can’t do anything. For example, we exist and he can’t change that and make us non-existent. We exist as consciousness and therefore have subjective will. He can’t change that either. You may think this makes him non-omnipotent, but it is his omnipotency to create this situation is the first place. His reality is not populated automatons, but by divine beings with inviolable properties that even he cannot transgress, because he likes it that way. Why does he like it that way? Because (as I said in class today), robots and puppets are less fun than real friends.

So, it is actually not true that Krishna can give prema to someone who doesn’t deserve it, or take someone undeserving into his Vrindavana.

Śrī Viśvanātha very clearly argues this point in the opening section of Mādhurya Kādambiṇī. His argument is like this: If it were true that Krishna could give prema to anyone, then why doesn’t he? Is he a sadist who gets kicks from seeing people suffer? If bhakti truly comes from Krishna’s mercy, he says, then Krishna is horrible for withholding that mercy from so many people! So, he concludes that bhakti does not come from Krishna’s mercy alone, it arises when the individual has the will to accept and nurture Krishna’s mercy.

Śrī Rūpa will explore the concept of Bhāva and Prema obtained by Mercy (like the son of Mahārāja Prataparudra). We will get to it in the next two classes (on Bhāva and Prema). He will explain that it is only apparent mercy, in truth the result of the mercy is made possible by previous practice.

I have heard the argument that simply by preaching, doing book distribution, 16 rounds + 4 regs one could please Shrila Prabhupada who can then request Krishna to bestow Vrindavana prema bhakti.

Well, first of all you can’t GIVE love. Love comes from the lover, not the beloved. A man can’t give a beautiful woman love-for-him. The woman has to give the love to him, from her heart. Not even Krishna can give me something that by definition has to come from me.

So Krishna cannot bestow Vṛndāvana-prema-bhakti to a person who is incapable of holding it. The way you become capable of hosting Vrndavana-prema-bhakti is by practicing it. That practice has a name, Rāgānugā-sādhana. So, assuming that Prabhupāda would request Krishna to bestow Vṛndāvana prema bhakti on someone, the best Krishna could do in reply would be to give the recipient of the blessing ample and excellent opportunity to acquire the qualification to practice Rāgānuga-sādhana.

I respect devotees from whichever institution/path they follow, so I don’t want to say that their practice won’t take them to Vṛndāvana.

I have utmost respect for Satyabhāma and Rukmini. I respect Kubja greatly. I highly respect Rāma and Sīta and Hanumān, Narasiṁha and Praḥlāda, Viṣṇu and Lakṣmī, Śiva and Pārvatī, Varuṇa and Āpas, Indra and Śaci, and Kāma and Rati. Heck, I respect my Dad and Mom too, and my neighbors, and so on.

My point is that someone doesn’t need to be a Vraja-bāsī or a future Vraja-bāsī to have my respect.

These devotees have sacrificed a lot of their time and energy to building/maintaining temples and giving others the opportunity to come in contact with Krishna bhakti. They also helped me at some point and therefore I really hope that Krishna somehow does take them to Vrindavana, if they so desire.

“If they so desire” is the key phrase here. If they don’t “so desire” Krishna won’t be able to reward their service with something they don’t desire and aren’t practiced to fathom.

But there is no need for anyone to go to Vṛndāvana. It’s not like Dvārakā is a boring place, or Vaikuṇṭha is a drag! It’s not like Brahmānanda isn’t better than anything anyone could imagine! Let each person get what they desire and what they strive for – that is a more realistic and beneficial blessing than expecting everyone to get the same result.


1 Comment

  1. Thanks Prabhu ji, for clarifying many conceptions/misconceptions on Raganuga Sadhna Bhakti. The Bhakti paradigm itself is dramatically misunderstood by the general populace and within Bhakti, Raganuga Sadhna is still more rare form of practice, so it’s very nice that you have clarified many of the things on the subject.

    You have rightly brought out that Krishna isn’t whimsical or partial in awarding people, otherwise why would HE say in BG 9.29 that “Sama aham sarva bhutesu….”. The point is that HE is completely impartial, so an aspect of impartiality is that whosoever gives his/her heart to HIM, HE too has to reciprocally respond, as HE confirms in BG 4.11 ” Ye yatha mam prapadayante………..”


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