by Krsnacandra dasa
timirandasya jnananjana salakaya
caksur-unmilitam yena tasmai sri-guruve namah
Visnupadaya Radhikaya Priyatmane
Sri-Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Iti namine
tarubhyas ca krpa sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo Vaisnavebhyo namo namah
I offer my unlimited dandavat pranams to my beloved diksha guru, Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya Ashtottara-shatta Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaj. "Oh Gurudeva, you are so merciful. I offer my humble pranam to you and am praying from the core of my heart that, with the torchlight of divine knowledge, you open my eyes which have been blinded by the darkness of ignorance." I also offer pranams to all the assembled Vaishnavas.
Some months ago, I wrote an essay devoted to the nature of Sri Advait Acharya, when a devotee inquired about a quotation uttered by my diksha guru, which, to summarize, said that Sri Advait Acharya alone could not distribute the Vraja-Bhakti that only Krsna; Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could distribute. I submitted an answer entitled, "The Source of Prema", which was basically a collection of verses from various texts put together to provide a greater understanding of this concept. Now, I am humbly asking the assembled Vaishnavas if I may provide seva of this nature again.
Very recently, I had read a message on the "Bhaktisiddhanta" Question and Answer mailing list, where somebody had questioned the validity of a quotation uttered by Srila BV Narayan Maharaj during a lecture in Mathura on August 23rd, 2001; "Without fear, or without vaidhi-bhakti, prema will never come." The question is easily answered; that Srila Gurudeva refers to the mood held by Ambarisha Maharaj. What I had come to realize in the hours that followed, however, was that there was a wealth of information written concerning the importance of Vaidhi Bhakti throughout the Guru Parampara of the Gaudiya Vaishnav sampradaya.
In this young lifetime, I have taken note that those who aspire for Gaudiya Vaishnavism are torn by many rifts. Some are more prominent and controversial, such as whether or not vapuh sadhu sanga -- having the living, close-proximity association of a bonefide Gaudiya Vaishnav maha Bhagavat -- is a requirement for serious Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Such topics have been discussed and debated at length by many highly-qualified jivas. However, one rift that I have seen among various groups is caused by the varying opinions regarding what emphasis to place on Vaidhi Bhakti.
Some who aspire for Gaudiya Vaishnavism believe that Vaidhi Bhakti is the most important ingredient, and the rest might not even be required. They will chant sixteen rounds of japa -- no more, no less -- for many years, anticipating a short, clear path to Vraja.
Others on the opposite side of the spectrum will contend that any type of involvement in Vaidhi Bhakti is strictly for those who aspire for Vaikuntha or Dvarka. They feel that any so-called entanglement with scriptural principles, or hearing, reading, and repeating any lila besides Radha-Krishna lila, is a waste of time. Srila BV Narayan Maharaj explains;
"Nowadays even brand new devotees are reading Krishna-karnamrita and saying, 'Oh, very good'. They are reading Govinda-lilamrta and thinking, 'The Gaudiya Math does not know all these things. They cannot taste rasa. Oh, we are always in rasa.' We should not follow them. Instead of following this very dangerous path, we should try to pursue the bona fide process laid down by our acaryas like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. At our present stage we should not buy or read Govinda-lilamrta and Krishna-bhavanamrita. We must first engage in very good sadhana-bhajana and become mature in bhakti. Until then, we don't require to read these books any more than the three-year-old boy requires a young and beautiful wife." (Excerpt from "Gaudiya Vaishnavism vs. Sahajiyaism, Part 1")
Such aspirants mentioned above are said to abandon the line established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, and seek "Sahajiyaism", or "the easy path", as it is often called.
In Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu Purva-vibhaga 2.14, Srila Rupa Goswami writes of the eligibility of attaining Vaidhi Bhakti:
Yah Kenapyatibhagyena Jatasraddho'sya Sevane
Natisakto Na Vairagyabhagasyamadhikaryasau
Translation: Eligibility for Vaidhi Bhakti -- One who has a supreme fortune of faith in Bhakti in the Lord and who is neither too much attached to worldliness nor too much detached from it, is eligible for this Vaidhi Bhakti.
Srila Bhakti Hridaya Bon Maharaj comments in his English translation of Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, "Sri Jiva explains 'supreme fortune' as a trait of character that is developed in the company of genuine saints. Sri Cakravarti says that such an eligible person is adverse to pretensions of detachment but should be striving for genuine detachment from sense-desires. Sri Mukundadasa says that 'the unspeakable fortune' cannot be ascertained in any other way excepting from the fact that such an individual has a firm faith in Bhakti, and this firm faith indicates the fortune of the individual."
So where does Vaidhi Bhakti ultimately come into play in the life of an aspiring Gaudiya Vaishnava? The problem in current society is that many who aspire for Gaudiya Vaishnavism feel that one should either pursue Vaidhi Bhakti to the fullest, not being mindful of the spiritual progression mentioned by the Guru Parampara; or they feel that they should skip over such things and immediately aspire for the symptoms of Prema Bhakti, as Srila Gurudeva explained in the previously quoted paragraph. In particular, Vaidhi Bhakti is seen by some as a path that one can never progress from, rather than as an essential component by which a jiva can springboard.
But rather than merely use my own words, I'd prefer to cite the works of our Gaudiya Vaishnav Guru Parampara. By doing so, we can all better understand Vaidhi Bhakti, Vaidhi Bhakti's relation with the other stages of bhakti, and finally, what role Vaidhi Bhakti plays in attaining the Preme Bhakti of the highest caliber.
Below is Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's translation and purport of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 22.109:
raga-hina jana bhaje sastrera ajnaya
'vaidhi bhakti' bali' tare sarva-sastre gaya
raga-hina--who are without spontaneous attachment to Krsna; jana--persons; bhaje--execute devotional service; sastrera ajnaya--according to the principles and regulations described in the revealed scriptures; vaidhi bhakti--regulative devotional service; bali'--calling; tare--that; sarva-sastre--all revealed scriptures; gaya--sing.
"Those who have not attained the platform of spontaneous attachment in devotional service render devotional service under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master according to the regulative principles mentioned in the revealed scriptures. According to the revealed scriptures, this kind of devotional service is called vaidhi bhakti.
In the beginning, one has to hear from a bona fide spiritual master. This is favorable for advancing in devotional service. According to this process, one hears, chants, remembers and engages in Deity worship, acting under the directions of the spiritual master. These are the essential primary activities of devotional service. Devotional service must not be executed for some material purpose. One should not even have a desire to merge into the Absolute Truth. One has to render such service out of love only. Ahaituki, apratihata. Devotional service must be without ulterior motives; then material conditions cannot check it. Gradually one can rise to the platform of spontaneous loving service. A child is sent to school by force to receive an education, but when he gets a little taste of education at an advanced age, he automatically participates and becomes a learned scholar. One cannot force a person to become a scholar, but sometimes force is used in the beginning. A child is forced to go to school and read and write according to the instructions of his teachers. Such is the difference between vaidhi bhakti and spontaneous bhakti. Dormant love for Krsna exists in everyone's heart, and it simply has to be awakened by the regulative process of devotional service. One has to learn to use a typewriter by following the regulative principles of the typing book. One has to place his fingers on the keys in such a way and practice, but when one becomes adept, he can type swiftly and correctly without even looking at the keys. Similarly, one has to follow the rules and regulations of devotional service as they are set down by the spiritual master; then one can come to the point of spontaneous loving service. This love is already there within the heart of everyone (nitya-siddha krsna-prema).
Spontaneous service is not artificial. One simply has to come to that platform by rendering devotional service according to the regulative principles. Thus one has to practice hearing and chanting and follow the other regulative principles by washing the temple, cleansing oneself, rising early in the morning, attending mangala-arati and so on. If one does not come to the platform of spontaneous service in the beginning, he must adopt regulative service according to the instructions of the spiritual master. This regulative service is called vaidhi bhakti.
Srila BV Narayan Maharaj eloquently explains such topics as the process which all Gaudiya Vaishnav aspirants undergo in his text "Acarya Kesari Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami: His Life and Teachings":
"The sadhakas who are under the shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu take shelter of Raganuga-bhakti by the medium of suddha-lobha. After taking shelter of the lotus feet of a sad-guru in vaidhi-bhakti such sadhakas serve sri-vigraha (The Deity). Then, associating with Vaishnavas, showing respect to the bhakti sastras, residing in the places of the lila of Bhagavan and continually chanting Sri Bhagavan nama, they render service to Krsna by the path of bhava, completely following the moods of the residents of Vraja from the core of their heart in siddha-deha. From among them, sadhakas who are extremely fortunate, and who have taken shelter of hari-nama which is the best of the angas of bhakti, are appointed to the service of Bhagavan." (p. 395)
And Srila Gurudeva expands on this point further as one can see by reading further in the biography:
Srila Rupa Gosvami has defined the following sequence which we have to follow in order to enter into the realm of bhakti.
adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sanga tha bhajana-kriya
tato nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah
Bhakti flees very far away when the sadhaka transgresses this sequence. Therefore it is extremely necessary to execute the first anga of sadhana-bhakti, namely vaidhi-bhakti or regulative devotional service, in order to enter the realm of prema. Vaidhi-bhakti is not directly the cause of the attainment of Krsna prema. Still, it is necessary to observe the appropriate limbs of vaidhi-bhakti in order to enter into raga-marga. Vaidhi-bhakti is established on the steadfast foundation of scriptural evidence and it is endowed with powerful codes of correct behaviour. Moreover, there is no particular difference between the observance of the limbs of raganuga sadhana-bhakti and vaidhi-bhakti. The difference is only in devotion to the observance. Thus the angas of vaidhi-bhakti sadhana cannot be neglected entirely. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Sri Sanatana Gosvami on the subject of the prayojana-tattva, which is Krsna prema, he said,
kona bhagye kona jivera sraddha yadi haya
tabe sei jiva saadhu-sanga ye karaya
sadhu-sanga haite haya sravana-kirtana
sadhana-bhaktye haya sarvanartha-nivartana
anartha-nivrtti haile bhaktye nistha haya
nistha haite sravanadye ruci upajaya
ruci haite bhaktye haya asakti pracura
asakti haite citte janme krsne prity-ankura
sei bhava gadha haile dhare prema-nama
sei prema prayojana sarvananda-dhama
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 23.9-13)
If by good fortune a jiva develops sraddha, he begins to associate with sadhus, and in that company he engages in hearing and chanting. By following sadhana-bhakti he becomes free from all anarthas and advances with firm faith (nistha) whereby ruci (taste) awakens for sravana, kirtana and so on. After ruci, then asakti (deep attachment) arises, and from abundant asakti the seed of priti (affection) is born in the heart. When that emotion intensifies, it is called prema. This prema is lifes ultimate goal and the abode of all joy.
It is quite impossible for one who transgresses this sequence to enter the realm of bhakti. Thus, those who want to enter this domain while neglecting the limbs of vaidhi sadhana-bhakti are in all respects unrestrained and outside the conclusions of sastra. They have no relation at all with suddha-bhakti.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has also expressed the same opinion.
vidhi-marga rata jane svadhinata ratna-dane
raga-marga karana pravesa
By considering the gradations of sadhya-vastu (objectives) we find that the prema of Srimati Radhaji for Krsna is the crest-jewel. Furthermore, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has explained that the sadhya for the living entities is Radha dasya, service to Srimati Radhika imbued with parakiya-bhava. In order to obtain that sadhya-vastu, sadhana is necessary. (ibid, p. 471-472)
Srila Gurudeva further explains Vaidhi Bhakti and Sadhana Bhakti:
Srila Rupa Gosvami has described the definition of sadhana bhakti in this way.
krti-sadhya bhavet sadhya-bhava sa sadhanabhidha
nitya-siddhasya bhavasya prakatyam hrdi sadhyata
(Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu, Purva-vibhaga 2.2)
"Sadhana-bhakti is the performance by the present senses of that suddha-bhakti by which bhava is achieved. The final goal of sadhya-bhava is nitya-siddha. That is to say, it is an eternally established phenomenon, but sadhana is the means by which it is manifested within the heart."
This sadhana-bhakti is of two types, vaidhi and raganuga. In vaidhi-bhakti, sravana, kitana, and the limbs of bhakti are not undertaken out of a natural affection and inclination; rather, they are performed only because of the discipline of the sastra, out of fear of the scriptural laws. In the shastras the duties which have been prescribed for the jiva are called vidhi. When the jiva's engagement in bhakti is out of fear of this scriptural discipline it is called vaidhi bhakti. (ibid, p. 391-392)
Srila BH Bon Maharaj wrote an eloquent purport (or "Translator's Note", as they are sometimes called) to Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu 1.2.295, in which the result of higher bhakti is thoroughly and sweetly explained, and the role of Vaidhi Bhakti in that process.
Seva Sadhakarupena Siddharupena Catra Hi
Tad-Bhava-Lipsuna Karya Braja-Lokanusaratah (295)
Translation: In this Braja one engaged in spiritual practices under abject subservience to the Denizens of Braja with an eager longing for following in the wake of the bhavas, i.e. feelings and sentiments of one's desired dearest One of Sri Krsna, should serve Them Both (Sri Krsna and His dearest Sri Radha or Sri Nanda-Yasoda, as the case may be) both in the stage of a sadhaka, i.e. in the stage of spiritual practices yet in bondage, and also in the stage as a siddha, i.e. even when one has attained the Object of such spiritual practices.
Translator's Note: In this particular sloka Sri Rupa Gosvami establishes a very important and significant method in the esoteric spiritual practices in Raganuga Bhakti. Unless this method and its true nature and concept as well as interpretation are correctly understood or rightly followed, one may very easily be misled to a wrong path and sheer mental imagination in an unripe stage of spiritual advancement in life.
Sadhana Bhakti in the stage of spiritual practices in their rudimentay form in utter bondage till the advanced stage of the awakening of an eager longing for the sentiments and feelings; i.e. sthayi bhava Rati for the eternal services of the Supreme Lord Krsna in the wake of the Ragatmika Bhakti of the Eternal Associates of Sri Krsna in Braja in any of the Four Forms of Their permanent relationships, is divided into Vaidhi Bhakti and Raganuga Bhakti. So long as one is in the fetters of Maya and misidentifies oneself with one's physical body and changeable mind, one must necessarily undergo the rudimentary way of Vaidhi Bhakti, controlled and guided by Scriptural prescriptions supported by favourable arguments and reasons. Such a spiritual novice when he makes tangible progress in the long and scripturally controlled path of Vaidhi Bhakti may develop, listening to the Bhagavatam and allied Scriptures that deal with the transcendental Pastimes of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, a spontaneous and intensely eager craving in his or her heart for being enabled to follow in the foot-steps of any of the Four Categories of the Dearest Associates of Lord Krsna in Braja in regard to Their feelings and applied sentiments to the Dearest Sri Krsna, viz. Dasya (as a servant), Sakhya (as a friend), Vatsalya (as parents), or Madhura (as consorts). When such a longing for Braja-Bhava is strongly and genuinely achieved, such an individual is no more bound by the restrictions of scriptural injunctions or human reasoning and arguments. The soul soars in the higher realm of burning feelings for the service of Lord Krsna in subordination to any of the bhavas of the Four Categories of the Eternal Associates of the Lord of Braja, which may awaken normally and naturally in the heart without any forced imagination. Such a sadhaka, i.e. one practising spiritual life, is no more, and cannot be kept anymore, restricted by Scriptural regulations and mere human reasoning -- the soul transcends them all in her spiritual flight in the realm of Bhavas -- Waves of Feelings. In this stage, the individual serves by words and deeds the Supreme Lord and His Dearest Associates live in Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana in the same manner in which they had lived in this world, consonant with the basic directions of the Scriptures, by chanting and listening to the Name of God and His Associates, and by reading and listening to such Scriptures like the Bhagavatam that deal with the transcendental Pastimes of Lord Krsna in the Company of His Dearest Associates. While maintaining a normal and restricted life of spiritual practices in body and words, the individual, in whom the intense longing for the Bhavas of the Ragatmika Eternal Associates of the Lord is awakened, conceives mentally, in accordance with the genuinely awakened Braja Bhava either as that of a Gopi or Nanda-Yasoda o Sridam-Sudama or Citraka-Pataka, a siddha-deha -- a permanent spiritual body, which shall correspond to and be favourable and fit for serving the Lord under guidance of the dearest one of the Dearest Associate of Lord Krsna, for whose bhava a craving has been aroused in the hearts of such an individual so that he or she may engage himself or herself in the services of Lord Krsna and His Dearest Associate in the particular sthayi-bhava as a servant or a friend or a parent or as a maid, and such services are rendered mentally in the siddha-deha or spiritual body so conceived. Thus an individual, whether a man or a woman, in the stage of spiritual practices both in Vaidhi Bhakti and Raganuga Bhakti in the Sadhana stage, must necessarily serve God and His Devotees by words and deeds in the physical body by chanting and listening to the Name of God, listening to the Scriptures and by worshipping in the temple as prescribed by the Scriptures. At the same time, outwardly behaving as such, one, in whom an eager longer for Raganuga Bhakti in the Sadhana stage is awakened, thinks of a permanent and spiritual body within, which must correspond to the particular category of Sthayi-bhava for Sri Krsna for which an earnest longing has developed in the heart -- as a servant or a friend, or a father or a maid. In the case of Madhura Rati as an eternal MAID, the body so conceived is that of a lady. This mentally conceived Bhava-deha, i.e. a body of feelings towards the Lord, be it a male body of a servant or a friend, or a parent or the female body of a Maid in Raganuga Bhakti, has absolutely noything to do with the physical body of a sadhaka in the stage of Vaidhi Bhakti in its rudimentary stages, be it male or female. As already stated, the siddha Bhava-deha, i.e. the inner conceived spiritual body of the individual corresponding to one's awakened feelings towards the Lord in the wake of the feelings of any one of the Four Categories of the Eternal Associates of Sri Krsna, may be either that of a male or that of a female -- the male and female concepts of the soul must be completely differentiated from any conception of male or female in this phenomenal world. The language sounds similar, but the subject is on entirely different planes. In the Caitanya system, Madhura Rati is the highest form of Prema, and an individual soul even in the stage of Raganuga Bhakti in the wake of the Ragatmika Bhakti considers herself as a Maid, called Manjari, under guidance of the way of services rendered by the dearest Rupa-Manjari and Rati Manjari and others, who in their turn, are subservient to Sri Lalita-Visakha-Citra-Indurekha-Campakalata-Rangadevi-Tungavidya-Sudevi--the Eight Sakhis, Who are the Counterparts of Sri Radha, Who is the Counter-Whole Divinity, Sri Krsna being the Beloved of all. They are all engaged in the aprakrta services of their Beloved for His absolute pleasures and of none else. There is complete self-effacement on their part as regards their own pleasures in the supreme services of the Lord. Their cent per cent satisfaction lies in the absolute pleasures of their Beloved alone. So, a devotee, an individual soul, in Raganuga Bhakti may have the spiritual body of a male or a female independent of one's physical body in this world. Hence a sadhaka in Raganuga Bhakti may be a man or a woman in the physical world, but does develop the supra-mundane aprakrta or non-earthly body of a Gopi, called a Manjari, if his or her Raga or attachment is awakened in the wake of the Braja Gopi. In the same way, an individual may be a woman in the sadhaka-deha, but should she develop a longing for the service of Sri Krsna in the wake of Nanda in Vatsalya or Sridama in Sakhya, her siddha-deha or spiritual body will be that of a male in the transcendental realm. The physical body in this world can never reach the Feet of the Lord, much less join in the Lord's Pastimes. It is only in a spiritual siddha-deha (eternal body of pure cit, conceived either as a Gopi or a Gopa) in any one of the Four Sthayi-bhavas that the soul progresses in Raganuga Bhakti. When this happens, the Individual then contemplates mentally in the stage of Raganuga Bhakti a spiritual body as a Gopi, more technically a Manjari, with a particular name, conception of her form and beauty, her particular age, her costumes, her specialised service or seva, her grove or Kunja where she receives and serves the Divine Couple, special bhava such as madhya or dhira-madhya etc, the special characteristics of her Beloved as Nayaka. Thus considering one's siddha-deha, as stated by Srila Rupa Gosvami in this particular sloka the text, the individual in Raganuga Bhakti meditates inwardly, looking upon himself or herself as a hand-maid of Sri Rupa Manjari, Who is the personification of the rupa, i.e. beauty of Sri Radha, which Beauty is, in its turn, the projected Absolute Beauty of the Absolute Lord Sri Krsna. Sri Rupa-Manjari guides the individual Hand-maid in the fold of Sri Lalita Sakhi, Who in her turn engages the Hand-maid in the specialised services of Sri Radha-Krsna, the Divine Couple. It should, therefore, be understood without any confusion that an individual in the stage of spiritual practices in Sadhana-Bhakti under strict guidance of scriptural prescriptions and favourable reasoning and arguments and not do anything arbitrarily till an earnest craving is aroused in the heart of a particular bhava for Sri Krsna in the wake of any of the Four Categories of His Eternal and Dearest Associates developing into Raganuga Sadhana Bhakti in subordination to Ragatmika Bhakti. When an individual is thus blessed with the spontaneous awakening of such an intense longing, he lives in two worlds at the same time -- physically in this world he or she lives a normal life of spiritual practices under the guidance and injunctions of the Godhead from the Scriptures and saints, and in the mentally mental world he or she lives in an entirely different realm, possessing an aprakrta similar to any of the Four Classes of Sthayi-bhavas of the Eternal Associates of Sri Krsna, which will be fit to serve the Lord in the particular bhava of either a servant or a friend or a parent or a HAND-MAID.
This maidenhood of the individual has nothing to do with the physical body whatsoever. It is sometimes noticed that men with perverse mentality act wrongly and foolishly in the name of Raganuga Bhakti. For example, if a man has been blessed with the burning craving for the service of the Lord in the wake of the feelings and sediments of the Braja-Gopis, he will maintain a strict behavior in the physical world and would in his mind conceive a Gopi-deha; but if any man takes to the imitation of the ways and behaviour of a lady and dresses himself like a woman, he must be considered to be a man of perverse mentality and should be kept aloof with the contempt he deserves. The genuine and true awakening of Raganuga Bhakti is not an easy affair -- without extraordinary grace of God, none can attain it in this physical world. It is therefore, that this caution is given here against wrong imitations."
Srila BH Bon Maharaj succintly explains in his purport to Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu 1.2.309 about the role of grace;
"Though it has been said in shloka 238 that bhavas may awaken in an offenceless heart on looking at the Sri-Murti of Sri Krsna (Portrait or Image of Sri Krsna), but even then a deep longing for the path of Raganuga Bhakti is indeed very rare -- only the grace of the Lord alone can create this longing."
So grace (or mercy) is the spark that lights the fire, so to speak. And this cannot be hoarded away in the heart the way pious merits can be, but it can only be given by Sri Bhagavan.
It would certainly not be wrong to always aspire for Raganuga Bhakti and Prema Bhakti, and believe Vaidhi Bhakti to be second in comparison. After all, Srila Rupa Gosvami mentions the repurcussions of dallying in Vaidhi Bhakti in Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu 1.2.303:
Riransam Sushtu Kurvan Yo Vidhi-Magena Sevate
Kevalenaiva Sa Tada Mahisitvamiyat Pure
Translation: One who aspires after the closest amour with the Divine Beloved and is guided at the same time always by the strict injunctions of the Scriptures only in the path of Vaidhi-Bhakti attains Queen-consorthood in Dvarka.
Despite this, Vaidhi Bhakti was mentioned as a necessary step on the road of the highest preme by all the aforementioned quotations by the acharyas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava guru parampara which I have cited. Balance and natural progression based on adhikar is key.
Citing a mundane example; on the one hand, education in the primary school (grades 1-6 in the American school system) is necessary if you want to go to college, but on the other hand, remaining in the primary school through one's teenage years would not be desirable to the more ambitious.
Or one can compare the desire for Vraja-Preme to the building of a tall residential skyscraper. If one builds one's foundation for the skyscraper and does nothing else after that, one is left to sleep under the stars. And if one impetuously decides to build a verticle bridge to the stars without taking the time to build a foundation, it will lack any structural integrity.
No bonefide Acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya would ever forbid the reading of Bhavagad Gita; quite the contrary, they encourage such study, and many translate and purport each verse. Yet it contains words describing the many opulences and opulent expansions of Sri Krsna of Dvaraka and sets down many rules and guidelines for devotion. Aside from that, it makes no obvious mention of Vraja or Vraja lila.
And for that matter, why would Srila Gurudeva even deliver a lecture about "The Hidden Glories of Maharaja Ambarisa" if Vaidhi Bhakti was useless in every way, shape, and form, to all sincere aspirants of Vraja Prema?
The only way one can make sense of the bonefide path to Prema Bhakti, or Vraja Bhakti, is to take shelter of a bonefide Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharya, and benefit from their many instructions and chastizements. Following sincerely and completely will, with the mercy of Hari, Guru, and Vaishnavas, will lead to the greatest destination.
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