The definition of vaidhī uttamā sādhanā bhakti

Having defined uttamā sādhanā bhakti, Rupa Goswami lists its two divisions:

वैधी रागानुगा चेति सा द्विधा साधनाभिधा|

vaidhī rāganugā ceti sā dvidhā sādhanābhidhā

That sādhanā bhakti is known to be of two types: vaidhī and rāganugā.

There is a common misconception in some modern sects of Caitanya Vaisnavism that vaidhī bhakti becomes rāganugā bhakti. The result of vaidhī bhakti is distinct from rāganugā bhakti as Rupa Goswami will define later on, so is its definition.

Rupa Goswami defines vaidhī bhakti:

यत्र रागानवापतत्वात् प्रवृत्तिरुपजायते|

शासनेनैव शास्त्रस्य सा वैधी भक्तिरुच्यते||

yatra rāgānavāptatvāt pravrttir upajāyate

śāsanenaiva śāstrasya sā vaidhī bhaktirucyate

When engagement in bhakti arises not because of liking, but because of injunctions of the scriptures, that bhakti is called vaidhī.

There are broadly two inclinations which can underlie an activity1: either we naturally like it, or we do it because it will bring us benefit. For example, we may have a natural liking for chocolate; no one needs to instruct us to eat chocolate. But we may not like bitter medicine, and yet may take it on doctor’s instructions. A vaidhī bhakta performs vaidhī bhakti because of hearing from the scriptures that it is beneficial to do vaidhī bhakti.

Because the word ‘rāga’ also carries a specific meaning in the bhakti literature, Jiva Goswami clarifies that the word rāga in this verse simply means ‘liking’. The word ‘eva’ (śāstrasya śāsanena eva) is used to emphasize that this bhakti is only due to deference to scriptural injunctions. Jiva Goswami further adds that the word ‘eva’ implies that even if one eventually develops liking for some aspects of vaidhī bhakti, it is still called vaidhī bhakti because of those aspects for which one does not have liking (अंशेनैव वैधीत्वम् ज्ञेयम्).

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur adds that liking may arise in a devotee because of seeing the deity in the temple or hearing of Kṛṣṇa’s līlās especially from the tenth canto of the Bhāgavatam. This type of liking is absent in vaidhī bhakti.

Rupa Goswami cites an example of vaidhī bhakti from the second canto of the Bhāgavatam. It is a verse spoken in answer by Śukadeva to Parīkṣit’s question: what is the duty of a mortal being? Śukadeva answers: तस्माद् भारत सर्वात्मा भगवान् इश्वरो हरिः श्रोतव्यः कीर्तितव्यश्च स्मर्तव्यश्च इच्छताभयम् – One who wants freedom from fear should contemplate upon, glorify and hear about Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa, the soul of everyone. Here, fear is specifically from death, as that was the question which Parīkṣit asked.

If someone who is fearful of death, or is fearful of taking birth in the next life, hears this statement and starts performing bhakti, then that bhakti is vaidhī bhakti.

Rupa Goswami further quotes the verse: स्मर्तव्यः सततं विष्णुर् विस्मर्तव्यो न जातुचित्| सर्वे विधिनिषेधाः स्युर् एतयोरेव  किंकराः|| We should regularly remember Viṣṇu and never forget him. All the rules and regulations are servants of these two [that is they assist them].

Jiva Goswami explains that the word ‘sarve’ refers to rules like performing sandhyā vandanam which is a vidhi – injunction, and ‘dont kill a brahmin’ which is niṣiddha- prohibited. Such rules are assistants to remembering Viṣṇu [killing a brahmin will deviate the mind from Viṣṇu].

  1. भक्ति रसामृत सिंधु lectures, Bhakti Tirtha II, Shri Satyanarayana dasa Babaji, Jiva Institute, Vrindavan. 2017-10-20. 

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