The five principal angas of Bhakti

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In Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, the treasured treatise on the most exalted subject matter of Bhakti, he has extensively described about the 64 angas of Bhakti out of which five are considered to be the most prominent. These five principal practices to reach the stage of pure devotional service are naam kirtan, Bhagwat sravan, sadhu sanga, Mathura vaas and priti purvak murti seva. These practices are the most powerful means to achieve the ultimate goal of life in this age of Kali. Out of these, the chanting of the Holy names of the Lord is the Yuga dharma for this age of Kali. The holy names of the Lord are non-different from the Lord himself and are invested with his unlimited potencies. In the Sri Shikshashtakam Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has glorified the names of the Lord with the following verse:

namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis

tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalaha

etadrishi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi

durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragahah

O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krishna and Govinda. In these transcendental names, you have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach you by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.

Although the chanting of the Holy names of the Lord is indeed the most important activity to be performed, yet the other four prominent angas are instrumental in enabling one to be able to actually chant the names of the Lord with true love and devotion. Srimad Bhagwatam, the literary incarnation of the Supreme personality of Godhead, is a storehouse of the transcendental names, forms, qualities and pastimes of Sri Krishna, and thus engages the mind in the thoughts of the Lord. The glories of the Bhagwatam have been mentioned in the Bhagwatam itself in the following famous verse:

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalaṁ

śuka-mukhād amṛta-drava-saṁyutam

pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayaṁ

muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ

O expert and thoughtful men, relish Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Therefore, this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarian juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.

However, in order to be able to understand the essence of Srimad Bhagwatam and its teachings, one must study this great epic literature under the guidance of other self-realized devotees of the Lord, who are the relishers of the topmost level of Love of Godhead. These divine transcendental subject matters cannot be assimilated by the minute intelligence of the living entities which is covered by the illusory energy of the Lord, and therefore one must receive these pure teachings from the Sadhus, making Sadhu sanga most essential for any practitioner of Bhakti. In the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Srila Krishna das Kaviraj Goswami has written:

‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’—sarva-śāstre kaya

lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya

The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.

 

The above-mentioned limbs of Bhakti are best practiced and performed in the Holy land of Mathura Vrindavan or in Navadwip Mayapur, where one is constantly reminded about the Lord, where every place is a pastime place of the Lord, and where every resident is engaged in the service of the Lord. The glories of the holy dhams have been revealed in the great literatures like Vrindavan Mahimamrita, Navadwip dham mahatmaya and others, after reading which one can be acquainted with the limitless glories of the holy places where the Lord personally resided and performed all his sweet loving pastimes with his eternal associates. If one is not able to physically reside in the beautiful forest of Vrindavan, where the divine couple Radha Shyamsundar perform their enchanting sweet pastimes, then one should reside there mentally, by alwasys being absorbed in the thoughts of this best amongst all holy places.

Coming in the line of Srila Rupa Goswami, and being the followers of the six goswamis and the other associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we should also worship with great love and devotion the Sri Vigraha of the Lord, which is none different from Sri Krishna himself. All the great acharyas in our sampradaya have with great dedication and spontaneous loving devotion worshiped the deity from of the Lord like Sri Radha Madan Mohan, Sri Govinda dev and Sri Gopinath. The Sri Gaura-govinda-archana-smaran-paddhati written by Srila Dhyan Chandra goswami is the authentic guide book written to direct the practitioners of bhakti in how to worship the murti form of the deity with great love and devotion so as to be able to attain love of Godhead.

In this way, all these five angas are extremely conducive for the development of bhakti in the hearts of the devotees and should therefore be taken up by all who are serious about making advancement in their spiritual lives.