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Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta and Rāgānuga-sādhana-bhakti

There is a criticism of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī in certain Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava circles, concerning his approach to sādhana. In short, the claim is that by overemphasizing vaidhī bhakti he did not faithfully pass down the traditional teachings on the practice of rāgānuga-bhakti. This is not a minor criticism. After all, rāgānuga-bhakti is precisely what Śrī Caitanya came to give. To fairly judge Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s approach to rāgānuga-bhakti I suggest that we must start by examining what Śrī Caitanya’s immediate successors taught, especially Śrī Rūpa, as they were the ones entrusted to codify and establish His teachings. The intention of this paper is to explore such teachings, in order to demonstrate that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s approach to rāgānuga-bhakti—his emphasis on kīrtana and his strong cautions regarding smaraṇa—is firmly within the bounds of Gauḍīya tradition. Moreover, I will suggest that it is especially warranted given the historical circumstances in which he developed his mission…. (continue reading on Waves of devotion)