Acting as a Way of Salvation: Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana

Haberman, David L.

     The thesis of this study is that "Gaudiya Vaisnavas enter and participate in their supreme religious world (Vraja) by means of a ritualized dramatic imitation and internalization of paradigmatic roles presented in their scripture (primarily in the Bhagavata Purana)." "The dissertation is intended to stand as a conscious contradiction and challenge to those who claim that sadhana has no place in Hindu bhakti. . . . Although the idea of unmerited grace is certainly acknowledged as valid among early Gaudiya Vaisnavas, and appears to gain ground over time, Rupa Gosvamin maintains that salvation by grace alone is extremely rare, and therefore most do not achieve the ultimate goal without sadhana. The sadhana he recommends is, if course, the Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana which I . . . [present] as a ritual process, formulated with dramatic theory, designed to transform the practitioner's identity and thereby lead him into the ultimate religious world of the Vraja-lila."
     The chief concern of this study . . . [is] to determine how individuals come to inhabit particular religious realities. . . . [The] whole process of entering the ultimate reality of Vraja is heavily dependent on the assumption of an identity defined by paradigmatic figures who inhabit that mythological world." Topics covered in this study include "the Gaudiya Vaisnava script and its exemplary models"; "religion and drama in South Asia" (including the aesthetic theories of Bharata and Abhinavagupta); "the aesthetics of bhakti" as found in the theories of Rupa Gosvamin; sadhana and Raganuga Bhakti Sadhana; "debate and development within the Sadhana," with particular focus on the perspectives of Rupa Kaviraja and Visvanatha Cakravartin; Manjari Sadhana; and "Raganuga in action" (initiation, "performance with the Siddha-rupa," "Lila-smarana meditation," "performance with the Sadhaka-rupa," etc.). Translations from the Bhaktirasamrtasindhu and the Asta-Kaliya-Lila-Smarana-Mangala-Stotram are included in appendices.