In arguing against the practice of remembering the pastimes of the Lord while still in the bonds of matter, someone may argue:
The persons engaged in impure or imperfect chanting of mantra and smaranam can be classified into two sections. Those who desire to jnana and those who want to enjoy the results of their work (karma). These two broad categorisations are epitomised by jnanis and yogis in the text.
However, smaranam is one of the nine aspects of bhakti. According to this idea, everyone who is not a pure Vaishnava and who engages in either sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam, pada-sevanam, arcanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam or atmanivedanam, should be classified as a jnani or a karmi. Is that right? How is smaranam any different from the eight other kinds of bhakti listed by Sri Prahlad in the Bhagavata?
If there is no problem in engaging your intellect in worshiping the Lord (as in Gita 18.70), then why should there be a problem in engaging the mind in worshiping the Lord? And if someone has an inclination to engage his mind in thinking about the beautiful pastimes of the Lord, the quintessence of spiritual life, then what could be more wonderful than this?
It is a fact, yes, that initially the perception of the sadhaka is not completely transcendental. But neither is it so while engaging in arcana for that matter, nor while chanting the holy names. Is it then improper to worship the deity or chant the holy names while still being tinged by material desires? I think it is quite offensive indeed, and therefore nobody should engage in sadhana-bhakti before they become pure devotees.
Do you agree?
So what does smaranam mean for someone like myself,a kanistha at best?I mean I can't even remember that I'm not the central enjoyer,or even that I'm not the body.
For you smaranam means that you should try to remember the Lord in whatever way you wish and gradually become purified by chanting the holy names until your perception becomes more lucid. At that time you may begin to reflect on a particular transcendental preference that may be growing inside your heart and find appropriate guidance from a saint who will guide you forward on the path of remembering the Lord.
As far as actual astakaliya lila-smarana goes, it is beyond most of us. You need a qualified guru who is himself realized in the concepts of nitya-lila, who can appropriately guide you in your practice of meditation and to whom you may submit your inquiries as they arise in your heart. In the beginning there is static mantramayi-upasana which helps to gradually fix the mind in the divine realm and on the personalities in the nitya-lila. Eventually, as one becomes acquainted with the nature of nitya-lila and the services he aspires for, he may begin the dynamic svarasiki-upasana, or service in the the eternal daily pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna.
In the transitional stage when the devotee begins to feel attracted to the divine pastimes of Radha and Krishna he should focus his mind in the writings of the previous acaryas which focus on describing the goal he longs for. This will help him attain unity in mood with Rupa Gosvami and others in sadhaka-deha and Rupa Manjari and others in siddha-deha, which at this point is experienced only as inner longings in the heart of the sadhaka.
For now, yes, we should definitely start the practice of remembering the Lord in whatever small way we can, and gradually evolve in our remembrance of Him until our vision becomes more and more lucid, and finally we will find that there is nothing but deep remembrance and longing within our heart. Soon after that the object of our remembrance becomes practical reality, the sole reality we are living in.
There are really no hard and fast rules on who can remember what. Each individual should reflect within himself and estimate what is appropriate for him, of course consulting sadhus in whom he has faith when in doubt. There is only one definite restriction I know of, from Sri Jiva Gosvami's Bhakti Sandarbha. He states that if the aspirant is attracted to the mood of a father, son or a servant of the Lord, or if he experiences male transformations in his senses during the contemplation of confidential pastimes, then such contemplation should be restrained from. The full passage runs as follows (Anuccheda 338):
atha gokule’pi zrImad-vraja-vadhU-sahita-rAsAdi-lIlAtmakasya parama-vaiziSTyam Aha –
vikrIDitaM vraja-vadhUbhir idaM ca viSNoH
zraddhAnvito yaH zRNuyAd atha varNayed vA |
bhaktiM parAM bhagavati parilabhya kAmaM
hRd-rogam Azv apahinoty acireNa dhIraH || [BhP 10.33.39]ca-kArAd anyac ca | atheti vAtha | zRNuyAd vA varNayed vA | upalakSaNaM caitad dhyAnAdeH | parAM yataH parA nAnyA kutracid vidyate tAdRzIm | hRd-rogaM kAmAdikam api zIghram eva tyajati | atra sAmAnyato’pi paramatva-siddhes tatrApi parama-zreSTha-zrI-rAdhA-saMvalita-lIlA-maya-tad-bhajanaM tu paramatamam eveti svataH sidhyati | kintu rahasya-lIlA tu pauruSa-vikAravad indriyaiH pitR-putra-dAsa-bhAvaiz ca nopAsyA svIya-bhAva-virodhAt | rahasyatvaM ca tasyAH kvacid alpAMzena kvacit tu sarvAMzeneti jJeyam |
The supremely excellent nature of the pastimes in Gokula in the association of the beautiful maidens of Vraja, such as the rasa-lila, is confirmed:
“One who faithfully hears or describes the loving sports of Sri Krishna and the young maidens of Vraja will quickly drive away the heart-disease of lust, become sober, and attain supramundane devotion of the Lord.” [BhP 10.33.39]
The word “ca” means “others” and “atha” means “or”. Thus “hearing” or “describing”. One meditates etc. on the Lord’s features. “Param” means “there is no such thing anywhere superior to these pastimes”. One very quickly gives up the heart-disease of lust and so on. Here the superiority is established in general. The most perfect of all is the worship of the sports ornamented with His dearmost Sri Radha. This is self-evident. However, these secret sports are not to be worshiped by those who experience male transformations in their senses, or by those who are in the moods of father, son and servant, for it would be contrary to their moods. Confidentiality is understood according to the partial touching or complete touching of limbs.
In concluding, lila-smarana, though anyone who is eager for remembering the Lord's pastimes can certainly do so, should not be recommended for people who do not show a natural inclination for it.