Devotee: Maharaj, in the Harinam-chintamani Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur says that generally sadhakas [practitioners] have archan-pravrtti [inclination for archan] or sankirtan-pravrtti [inclination for sankirtan].
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The archan temperament in the highest stage is to be found in the Ramanuja sampradaya, in Vaikuntha. One may attain archan in the final stage there; but in Goloka archan is secondary, and the raga service is primary. Archan, not archan proper, but the shape of archan we find in the Nimbarka sampradaya. There we find something like archan, and we find the opposite, raga-seva, in the Visnu Swami, Vallabha, sampradaya. Seva: they do not even like to pronounce the name ‘archan’.
Kirtan is in the Gaudiya sampradaya, and what seems to be archan is not real archan; it is what the goswamins, Rupa-Sanatan, did themselves. That is a kind of seva, and not much of archan. Archan is there when scripture plays the important part. But the heart within, the satisfaction of the inner heart, plays the important part in bhajan, seva. In Vraja Mandal, in connection with Krishna, Gopal, and all these things, the raga-marga, the inner inclination, is considered to be more valuable than what is recommended in the scriptures in archan-marga.
One such question was once put to our Guru Maharaj, that Rupa-Sanatan installed Deities and established the Govinda Mandir and other Temples, so they also did archan. Guru Maharaj said, “No, what they did is bhajan. Archan is indirect, through the scriptures. Bhajan is from heart to heart, the direct approach. So, apparently people may think that they are making archan, but it is not so. Bhajan means direct service, and archan is through the scriptural rules. So, Rupa-Sanatan, the goswamins, were not followers of archan, though they installed Deities, Temples, and so on. More concern with the inner sentiment is bhajan, and more care taken to the rules and regulations of the sastra is archan. That will help gradually to arouse our internal feeling, sentiment. So, archan is not to be condemned, but if a distinction is to be thought out, it is like that. Bhajan is more hearty, and archan more scriptural.
Spoken on 12 January 1982.