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Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Exploring the ideal sadhana - On all the things we're supposed to do

Madhava - Sat, 20 Nov 2004 06:14:21 +0530
Mahaprabhu's call for chanting a lakh of holy names has been discussed in some recent threads, and there has been debate over whether that should be the standard for everyone. Certainly it is the ideal for everyone. I believe it would be healthy for us all to reflect on all the ideals of sadhana that have been presented in our scriptures. I'd like to first of all gather references from original sources that present clear recommendations on what everyone should ideally be doing.

For the faint-hearted folks: please read first - On being a part-time sadhaka. smile.gif

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'd like to open with a short general overview of considerations of necessary and optional bhakti-angas. Sripad Visvanatha discusses the matter towards the end of the first chapter of his Raga-vartma-candrika. As follows (text 12):

bhakti-mArge’smin kiJcit kiJcit aGga-vaikalye’pi doSAbhAva-zravaNAt | yad uktam—

yAn AsthAya naro rAjan na pramadyeta karhicit |
dhAvan nimIlya vA netre na skhalen na pated iha || [bhA.pu. 11.2.31] iti |

na hy aGgopakrame dhvaMso mad-bhakter uddhavANv api | [bhA.pu. 11.29.20] iti ca |

aGgi-vaikalye tv asty eva doSaH | yAn zravaNotkIrtanAdIn bhagavad-dharmAn Azritya ity ukteH |

If there are lacks in engaging in some angas [aspects of practice], we hear that there is no fault in that.

"O King! A person who takes shelter of the path of devotion will never be in danger. Even if he runs over this path with his eyes closed, he will not trip or fall!"

"O Uddhava! In this endeavour of devotion to Me there can not be even the slightest loss or destruction!"

However, there is a fault in failing to engage in the the angis [primary aspects]. The word yAn in the former verse means that one must take shelter of the angis of bhAgavata-dharma, such as hearing and chanting.

Hence, though there are multitudes of ways of engaging in the practice of bhakti, we must think of the angis alone as the ones we all should engage in. The angis, Visvanatha says, are zravaNa, kIrtana and so forth. However, the context of the zravaNa-kIrtanAdi isn't elaborated on, so we may only guess as to whether this might refer to all nine bhakti-angas or fewer. Given the presentation of Sri Jiva about the optional bhakti-angas explored in the other topic linked to in this post, I would tend to think they are fewer, such as the list of five core practices Mahaprabhu presented. In the words of Sri Rupa:

zraddhA vizeSataH prItiH zrI-mUrter aGghri-sevane ||
zrImad-bhAgavatArthAnAm AsvAdo rasikaiH saha |
sajAtIyAzaye snigdhe sAdhau saGgaH svato vare ||
nAma-saGkIrtanaM zrIman-mathurA-maNDale sthitiH ||
aGgAnAM paJcakasyAsya pUrva-vilikhitasya ca |
nikhila-zraiSThya-bodhAya punar apy atra kIrtanam || BRS 1.2.90-92 ||

"(1) Serving the lotus feet of the Deity with faith and particular loving disposition;
(2) Relishing the taste of the meanings of the Bhagavata with those who are expert in tasting the moods of loving rapture;
(3) Associating with saints who have similar inclinations, who are soft-hearted and affectionately disposed towards oneself, and who are more advanced than is;
(4) Engaging in congregational chanting of the holy names, and
(5) Residing in the area of Mathura-mandala (the land of Vraja).
These aforementioned five limbs are understood as the essence of everything, and therefore they are glorified again."

In the following posts, I would like us to explore the recommendations of various bhakti-shastras on recommendations on how each of the five, and additionally any other important bhakti-angas -- or rather, angis -- you might think of, are to be ideally engaged in.
Madhava - Sat, 20 Nov 2004 07:01:42 +0530
I'd like to open the discussion with BRS 1.2.294, which is one of the core three verses of Sri Rupa on the matter of rAgAnugA-sAdhana.

kRSNaM smaran janaM cAsya preSThaM nija-samIhitam |
tat-tat-kathA-rataz cAsau kuryAd vAsaM vraje sadA ||

“One should remember Sri Krishna and his dear associate of one’s own preference, being attached to narrations about them and always residing in Vraja.”

Here several angis are covered: smaraNa, zravaNa and vraja-vAsa. Of the first, we hear Thakur Mahashaya emphatically declaring in his Prema-bhakti-candrika:

sAdhana smaraNa lIlA, ihAte nA koro helA
kAya mane koriyA susAra |
manera smaraNa prANa, madhura madhura dhAma
yugala vilAsa smRti sAra |
sAdhya sAdhana ei, ihA boi Ara nAi
ei tattva sarva vidhi sAra ||

"Do not neglect the practice of lila-smarana, keep this as the essence with body and mind. The very life-force of the mind is smarana, which is the abode of all sweetness, and the essence of smarana is the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. This is the means, this is the goal, and there is nothing apart from this. This truth is the essence of all regulative principles."

Sripad Visvanatha seconds the assessment in commenting on the verse of Sri Rupa: prathamataH kRSNaM smaran iti smaraNasyAtra rAgAnugAyAM mukhyatvaM rAgasya manodharmatvAt -- "First, through the words 'remembering Krishna, it is noted that raga is a function of the mind, and therefore one should engage in smarana; therefore the aspect of smarana is foremost on the path of raganuga."

smartavyah satatam vishnur vismartavyo na jatucit | sarve vidhi-nishedhah syur etayor eva kinkarah || -- Thus the aspect of smaraNa is certainly at the core of all devotion, and a crucial aspect in any and all devotional engagements. Citta, or consciousness, is at the heart of bhakti. Ceto darpaNa-mArjanam -- that's where it all starts, and the kairava-candrika of good fortune will come to spread its rays -- exquisite manifestations of zuddha-sattva, as if rays directly from the sun of prema -- reflecting to each nook and corner of the heart, a hall of mirrors reflecting the prema of the nitya-pArSadas we follow.

So there is smaraNA, and smaraNa which culminates into a remembrance of a particular relationship and the consequent development of a spiritual identity. This is the angi of all angis on the path of bhakti. The other factors support this quest, the true nucleus of all bhakti-sAdhana.

Sri Jiva (BhS 276, 278) presents six distinct varieties of smaraNa, namely nAma (name), rUpa (form), guNa (characteristics), parikAra (associates), sevA and lIlA. Initially, we may begin with the remembrance of the name, and indeed we should try and deeply focus on the nectar of the name. The name alone has descended to reveal all the rest to us. Sometimes an errant philosophy of premature practice of lIlA-smaraNa is presented, advocating that one artificially bring the lIlA into the mind during nAma-japa. However such practice often just leads to neither the nAma nor the lIlA being remembered properly. Therefore, let us first plunge deep into the nectar of the name and beg him (or rather, them!) to take us by the hand and lead us deeper into the realm of smaraNa. SmaraNa, as it deepens, leads the sAdhaka through occasional glimpses of the rest into the pastures and groves of Vraja, where the aSTakAliya-lIlA of Radha-Govinda unfolds.

I see that this is going to get far longer than I originally intended. Can anyone present practical recommendations from various bhakti-shastras on how we are to proceed with the matter of smaraNa, each at our respective stages? Are there practical recommendations, particularly for the earlier stages of smaraNa, or do we just remember as it comes to us?
Madhava - Sat, 20 Nov 2004 07:16:25 +0530
kUryAt vAsaM vraje sadA -- to always dwell in Vraja, the abode of our eternal identity and services. As in the Nectarine Instructions of Sri Rupa (8):

smRtyoH krameNa rasanA-manasI niyojya |
tiSThan vraje tad-anurAgi janAnugAmI
kAlaM nayed akhilam ity upadeza-sAram ||

"Sweetly glorifying his name, form, deeds and so forth,
remembering in sequence and engaging one's tongue and mind,
one should reside in Vraja, remembering the anurAgi-jana,
thus spending all of one's time -- this is the essence of all instructions.

We may debate over whether the word krameNa refers to remembrance, indicating sequential remembrance of the eight-fold pastimes, or whether it refers to sequentially engaging the tongue and the mind. Since the previous post was on smaraNa, I felt it more befitting to give that as the context. (Grammarians, feel free to correct me.)

Now, one bound in the chains of samsara, yet inclined towards bhakti-sAdhana, may wonder as to how he might possibly fulfill this instruction. To comfort those of us who are unable to physically live in Vraja, Sri Jivapada comments: sAmarthye sati vraje zrIman-nanda-vrajAvAsa-sthAne zrI-vRndAvanAdau zarIreNa vAsaM kuryAt | tad-abhAve manasApIty arthaH || -- Ideally one ought to physically live in the abode of Sriman Nanda Maharaja and others, but if for one reason or another we are unable to do that, we may at least mentally dwell there, hearing and reading narrations of Vraja-lila and descriptions of the various pastime-places, gathering pictures to remind us of them, and so forth. Additionally, we may seek to perceive the elements of Vraja in the world around us, to have each tree remind us of the bowers of Vraja, and that crooked tree of Srimati's mAna, and the tree by the riverside of the turmoil of the gopis at the time of Kaliya-damana, and the ponds and rivers and all that we meet. Even when physically living in Vraja, we ought to also mentally live there!

Evidently we are now back in square one, and the aspect of remembrance. I'll sign off for today with this. I have absolutely no idea where I'm heading with this topic. Jump in and make it flow wherever you please.

Oh yes, I almost forgot -- if we cannot reside in Vraja and wander aroudn the various lIlA-sthAnas, we should at least strive to visit Vraja now and then! Hear it from Thakur Mahasaya:

hari hari! kabe hobo vRndAvana-vAsI |
nirakhibo nayane yugala-rUpa-rAzi ||

Hari, Hari! When will I become a resident of Vrindavan? When will my eyes behold the beautiful forms of Sri Yugala?

tyAjiyA zayana-sukha vicitra pAlaGka
kabe vrajera dhUlAya dhUsara habe aGga ||

Rejecting the joy of a comfortable bedding, when will I roll in the dust of Vraja, covering my limbs with it?

SaD-rasa bhojana dUre parihari |
kabe vraje mAgiyA khAibo mAdhukarI ||

Giving up the longing to procure the six flavours of foods, when will I roam about in Vraja, collecting mAdhukarI?

parikramA koriyA beDAbo vane-vane |
vizrAma koribo jAi yamunA-pUline ||

I will roam from forest to forest on parikramA, resting on the banks of Yamuna.

tApa dUra koribo zItala vaMzI-vaTe |
kuJje vaiThaba hAma vaiSNava-nikaTe ||

Then I will find relief from the burning separation at the cooling Vamsi-vat, sitting in a forest bower among the Vaishnavas.

narottama dAsa kohe kori’ parihAra |
kabe vA emona dazA hoibe AmAra ||

Narottama Das says -- when will rid myself of all this, when will such a situation be mine?
nitai - Sat, 20 Nov 2004 22:57:45 +0530
Hi Madhava,

Thanks for starting this discussion. It is important and timely. I must say, though, that I think you are going slightly off course if you are raising the question of smarana so early in the discussion. Smarana is in many ways not the ideal sadhana. It is hard to do and requires much training if by smarana you mean asta-kaliya-lila smarana. People study for years to learn how to do it properly. One has to memorize the diagrams of Krsna's and Radha's villages, of their houses, and of the locations of the various kunjas around Radhakunda and so forth and so on. One is even required to memorize the entire Govinda-lilamrta by some smarana teachers (ie those at Bhagavata-nivas in Vrindaban, for instance).

Also one can't just nominate an angi sadhana and have it be so. The book I am currently translating by Manindranath argues quite cogently on the basis of scriptural assertions and, no doubt, guided by the siksa of his guru, Sri Kanupriya Goswami, that only Nama-kirtana is the angi sadhana, that is, the source sadhana on which all other sadhanas depend. From Nama-kirtana, by which is meant the whole spectrum of repetition of the Holy Name from japa up to sankirtana, all other sadhanas arise. And all depend on it. In order to engage in samrana, for instance, one needs to have achieved a level of purity that is not necessary for Nama-kirtana. As Sri Jiva says in his Krama-sandarbha on Bhag. 7.5.25: zuddhAntaHkaraNazcet nAmakIrtanAparityAgena smaraNaM kuryAt, "if one's internal organ (mind) is pure one may engage in smarana without giving up Nama-kirtana." In other words Nama-kirtana precedes and accompanies smarana. It is able to quickly and easily give Krsna prema even without smarana. That is how it is superior to smarana. I have little time now, but tomorrow perhaps I will post a very interesting verse from Sri Sanatana that makes this point very clearly.

Madhava - Sat, 20 Nov 2004 23:48:30 +0530
Thank you for popping in, Nitai. I did not intend to make the discussion that systematic, I would certainly have began with nAma-kIrtana, had that been the case. In fact, my post for the day was scheduled to start with the very passage you cited from Sri Jiva, building a bridge from smaraNa to kIrtana. The reason why I began with discussing smaraNa is, I suppose, to bring about an understanding of where the practice culminates.

In regards to nominating angi-sadhanas, I wouldn't say we are out to nominate them if we identify practices which are described as obligatory instead of optional. For what I gather from Srila Visvanatha's presentation, that is the deciding criteria in differentiating the angi from the anga.

In regards to which practices are angi-sadhanas, Sripad Visvanatha specifically states discusses them as smaraNa-kIrtanAdi, on which the various bhaktyangas such as guru-padashraya and so forth, depend on.

However I believe we are using the same word, angi, with two slightly different meanings here. What Sri Kanupriya Goswami is presenting is the practice of which all others originate, while Sripad Visvanatha concerns himself with the concept angi in the sense of the practices which are not optional but obligatory, regardless of their internal interdependence or lack thereof.

Incidentally, also Visvanatha brings up the point after discussing the matter of smaraNa (1.14):

atra rAgAnugAyAM yan mukhyasya tasyApi smaraNasya kIrtanAdhInatvam avazyaM vaktavyam eva | kIrtanasyaiva etad yugAdhikAratvAt sarva-bhakti-mArgeSu sarva-zAstrais tasyaiva sarvotkarSa-pratipAdanAc ca |

Previously it was stated that smarana is the main limb of sadhana in raganuga-bhakti, but even that is dependent on kirtana. In the present age of Kali everyone can become eligible for bhajana through the means of kirtana. All the scriptures of all devotional paths proclaim that kirtana is the very best limb of bhakti.

I brought up the question in an earlier thread, but it never got off the ground. I was keen on understanding the relationship between kIrtana and japa, which are described as two separate bhakti-angas, while of course both relying on the name at the core of the practice. Gaudiyas spend considerable amounts of time engaged in japa, much more so than in kIrtana in most cases if I am not mistaken.

Can someone post in the relevant excerpts from the Bengali narration in which Mahaprabhu encourages people to become lakSapatis?

While we're at the topic of kIrtana, I would also like to ask whether someone could come up with more precise recommendations on the varieties of kIrtana to be sung. As in smaraNa, there are varieties of kIrtana, but are there specific recommendations on how we are to engage in kIrtana, or is this again left up to the individual practitioner?

Looking forward reading your presentation from Sanatana's Brihat-bhagavatamrita. I recall reading the section on smaraNa and kIrtana some years back, intending to get back to it with more thought, but somehow never got around to it.
Madhava - Sun, 21 Nov 2004 00:04:40 +0530
QUOTE(nitai @ Nov 20 2004, 06:27 PM)
Smarana is in many ways not the ideal sadhana.  It is hard to do and requires much training if by smarana you mean asta-kaliya-lila smarana.  People study for years to learn how to do it properly.

I wouldn't restrict smaraNa to aSTa-kAlIya-lIlA-smaraNa alone. Beginning with nAma-smaraNa, there are many varieties of smaraNa at the core of all our devotional practices. In the context of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.178-182), we find that Sri Rupa talks of the varieties of dhyAna when Sri Jiva talks of the varieties of smaraNa. He speaks of rUpa-dhyAna, guNa-dhyAna, krIda-dhyAna and sevA-dhyAna as the specific meditational aspects of remembrance. Smriti, he says (175), is yathA kathaM cin-manasA sambandhaH -- any mental connection with Hari.

Sri Jiva also presents five sequential stages for smaraNa (BhS 278).

tad idaM smaraNaM paJca-vidham | yat kiJcid anusandhAnaM smaraNam | sarvataz cittam AkRSya sAmAnyAkAreNa mano-dhAraNaM dhAraNA | vizeSato rUpAdi-vicintanaM dhyAnam | amRta-dhArAvad avicchinnaM tad dhruvAnusmRtiH | dhyeya-mAtra-sphuraNaM samAdhir iti |

This smaraNa is of five kinds. SmaraNa (remembering) is the stage where the mind makes its initial investigations. DharaNa (containing) is the stage when all of one's awareness is withdrawn and the object of contemplation is beheld in the mind in a general manner. Dhyana (meditation) is the stage of specific contemplations on the form and so forth of the object of contemplation. When the remembrance becomes akin to a constant stream of nectar, it is called dhruvAnusmRti (constant and wholistic remembrance). At the stage of samAdhi, the object of contemplation is the sole manifest reality.

Certainly we all ought to in our minds journey to the gates of Vraja-lila and place our initial inquiries so as to keep the goal of our sadhana-bhajana in mind. As for the factor propelling us through the various stages of smaraNa, certainly zrI-nAma is the efficacy at the root of our progress, both clearing the mind to prepare it for dharaNa and dhyAna, as well as flooding in streams of nectarine objects of remembrance.
nitai - Mon, 22 Nov 2004 00:57:27 +0530
Hi Madhava,

You asked I think for the quote about the Laksapatis from the Caitanya-bhagavata. It is #.10.117-125 in Dr. Radhagovinda Nath's edition.

Here they are:

bhikSAnimantraNe prabhu bolen hAsiyaa |
"cala tumi Age lakSezvara hao giyA || 117

tathA bhikSA AmAr, ye hay lakSezvar" |
zuniyA brAhmaN sab cintita-antar || 118

vipragaN stuti kari bolen "gosAJi! |
lakSer ki dAy, sahaseko kAro nAJi || 119

tumi nA karile bhikSA gArhasthya AmAr |
ekhanei puriyA hauk chArkhAr" || 120

prabhu bole "jAno lakSezvar bali kAre? |
pratidin lakSanAma ye grahaN kare || 121

se janer nAm Ami bali 'lakSezvar'|
tathA bhikSA AmAr, nA yAi anya ghar" || 122

zuniyA prabhur kRpAvAkya vipragaNe |
cintA chAri mahAnanda hailA mane mane || 123

"lakSa nAm laibo prabhu! tumi kara bhikSA |
mahAbhAgya! emata karAo tumi zikSA" || 124

pratidin lakSa nAm sarvavipragaNe |
layen caitanyacandrabhikSA kAraNe || 125

I included this passage in an article I wrote for Edwin Bryant on the Theology of the Holy Name. The translation is on page 21. I think I will just upload the whole article. Other parts of it might be of insterest. I plan some day to expand this into a full length book. The article just covers the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even mentioned the aparadhas and only briefly NAmAbhAsa.

Tomorrow the Sanatana verses.
Attachment: nama_theology.pdf
braja - Mon, 22 Nov 2004 01:33:37 +0530
Wow. Excellent stuff, Nitai-ji.
Madhava - Mon, 22 Nov 2004 03:25:54 +0530
QUOTE(braja @ Nov 21 2004, 09:03 PM)
Wow. Excellent stuff, Nitai-ji.

Yes, I second that. Looking forward seeing more of the same in the future. However I wonder if you might consider adding an appendix of end-notes containing the original Sanskrit and Bengali for the translated passages? While perhaps not as relevant for the average reader keen on grasping the theology of the name, I'm sure it would be a warmly welcome resource for those of us meddling around with the originals.

I wonder, this passage on the Lord's calling upon the devotees to become laksapatis -- is it the sole mention of this ideal until the elaborations in the works of the more recent authors, such as Vipinavihari and Bhaktivinoda? Do the Goswamis, for example, comment on this particular instruction at all in their writings?
nitai - Tue, 23 Nov 2004 21:08:31 +0530
Thanks Madhava and Braja,

What I posted here was just a chapter in a book, an anthology on Krsna, to be published by Oxford, I think. It will not even have diacritics in it as far as I know. The book that I am planning to expand it into will certainly have diacritics and the originals of all the texts translated, either on opposite pages or in an appendix in the back. I have big plans for it, but need to clear up some other work before I can take it up.
braja - Tue, 23 Nov 2004 21:34:24 +0530
OBL Kapoor has this on Gaurakisora Das Babaji:

Baba laid all the stress on repitition of the Name. He forbade lila-smarana....He said
that each letter contained in the Name was pregnant with lila. When one contemplated the letters, the lila manifested itself.

(Saints of Bengal, p21)

It is also interesting though that he is said to have carried Prema Bhakti Chandrika with him, which contains Narottama's statement "sadhana smarana lila, iha na koriho hela."

How to make sense of that? Smarana sadhana can be fulfilled by nama-kirtana/japa alone? The PBC verse is only relevant for some? (And, dare I say it, if the quote is accurate, isn't it also one of the seeds for some of BSST's views?)

Madhava - Wed, 24 Nov 2004 00:28:56 +0530
What a strange statement from Kapoor. There must be an error there. Forbidding lila-smarana doesn't make any sense. Certainly, one may restrict it in the beginning, but to do away with it altogether doesn't make any sense. Why, then, would it be described in so many works by the Goswamis? We cannot just eliminate various bhakti-angas at our whim.

However many, my Baba included, do not encourage one to artificially engage in lila-smarana. When I inquired from him about the matter of astakala-smarana in my daily practice, he told me to not try to force it, and said that I would know when I would be ready for it, as at that time the lila would come of its own accord.
braja - Wed, 24 Nov 2004 01:21:42 +0530
FWIW, OBL Kapoor has GKB writing a letter to someone on p22 of Saints of Bengal . Besides the issue of literacy, the letter is also relevant to the topic of nama vs smaranam:

You should write both [mantras] in big letters and keep them before you and do japa while looking at them....The letters of the Nama-mantra have such sakti (power) that if you continue to do japa while looking at them, you will one day have darsana of Sri Radha-Krsna with Their parikaras."

Just prior to this letter, the recipient is also told:

"There are infinite forms of Sri Bhagavan and His lila. One cannot know them by imagination. When the Name is constantly repeated, Sri Bhagavan and His lila automatically manifest Themselves out of the Name. The Name also inspires in the heart of the sadhaka the seva (service) he has to perform in lila.

This response, above, was in regard to a question on guru pranali, which OBL Kapoor footnotes:

The guru gives guru-pranali to a sadhaka of astayama-lila-smarana, in which the lila of Radha-Krsna, as it goes on during eight parts of the day, is contemplated. The guru-pranali includes a description of the transcendental body of his sadhaka, his guru and guru's guru, etc. and their seva in lila.

Earlier it is stated that GKB "was trained in Raganuga Bhajana and vairagya by siddha Sri Nityananda Dasa Baba of Madanamohan Thaura [?] of Vrndavana."
Jagat - Wed, 24 Nov 2004 01:39:11 +0530
Thaura is a Brijbasi word for matha (or just "place").

JD33 - Wed, 24 Nov 2004 02:54:14 +0530
alot of interesting stuff here: I am aware of 2 schools of thought - train (2 years) in Lila smaranam and as times goes on your smaranam will change closer to the real thing and boom - you eventually see leela directily. The other is to do the Holy name and Lila will be revealed to you by the Holy Name itself. So taking that into account I can see how one Sadhu might advise his sisyas to do one of them and yet still accept that other lines of practioners will do the other.

I have a tendency for 'Name will reveal everything' school due to some experience.

Our tradition seems to have so much scriptual content that one can find backing for various sadhanas, etc.