Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj delineates the difference beween vidhi and rāga.
After the disappearance of Śrīla Guru Maharaj, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj, difficulty must come, and we are facing that now. When Guru Mahārāj was present it was not necessary for us to maintain vidhi-mārg. But now it is necessary sometimes.
Question: I always understood that by practising sādhana-bhakti, one comes to the spontaneous, or rāga, platform. But I’ve heard here at Śrī Chaitanya Sāraswat Maṭh that our line is rāga-mārg from the beginning.
Śrīla Govinda Maharaj: Yes, from the beginning.
There are two mārgas [paths]: one is rāga, and the other is vidhi. But where there is rāga-mārg, there is also some vidhi-mārg. I cannot say to my father, “You are my brother-in-law.” My father is my father, and I shall give honour to my father as my father, not as my brother-in-law. That is one type of vidhi. Vidhi-mārg and rāga-mārg are different, no doubt, but it is necessary to first understand what rāga-mārg is. Rāga-mārg is hankering—very strong hankering to do service. A devotee in rāga-mārg cannot wait to do service. When it is necessary, they must maintain vidhi, but with hankering, so much hankering, to serve Kṛṣṇa.
In this way the rāga-mārg bhakta sometimes overtakes vidhi. Understand? This is called rāga-mārg. Rāga-mārg does not mean that the devotee always wants to break the rules of vidhi-mārg. The rāga-mārg devotee also tries to maintain vidhi-mārg. There is only one route going to Vaikuṇṭha, and that is the mood of service. Through service, we can go to Vaikuṇṭhaloka, and beyond that, Goloka, where there is only service to Kṛṣṇa, and nothing else.
When very great hankering comes to the devotee of rāga-mārg, he cannot wait to purchase a ticket to Kolkata. When he has seen that the train is waiting at the platform, and he knows that if he goes to purchase the ticket the train will go, then he will not purchase the ticket; he will immediately go to the train. There may be a checker who may check for his ticket and give him a fine, but that is no problem for him; he must go to Kolkata at nine o’clock. This type of hankering is called rāga-mārg. Sometimes he breaks the rules, and he sometimes suffers for that, but he does not care. Sometimes a reaction comes, but he does not care about that. Sometimes also reactions may not come. Willingly, Kṛṣṇa can release him from all difficulties. A ticket collector may not come to his compartment, but if one does come, then he is not fearful. He needs to go. This is his position. It is an example.
When we break vidhi, then we must suffer something, but hankering does not care for that suffering, “Yes, I must suffer no doubt.” The gopīs give their foot-dust to Kṛṣṇa. They know who they are giving this to, and they know the result of doing it. What is the result? It may be ananta nārak, eternal hell. Kṛṣṇa is God, the Lord; if we give Him our foot-dust, that is not vidhi, and it must be harmful for us. But they do not care about that; they think, “Getting this dust, Kṛṣṇa will be okay. That is enough for us.” They do not care about themselves. This is the example for vidhi-mārg and rāga-mārg. Vidhi is always running in its own way, and rāga is always overstepping it as hankering for service.
It is necessary that the devotee will be fully satisfied with his service. Otherwise he will suffer; if that hankering has not fully conquered his heart, then he must suffer by overstepping vidhi.
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ‘pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate
This is the rāga-mārg of Vraja. That type of hankering does not come easily. If you see that type of mentality in anyone, you must co-operate with him and take from him for your future benefit.
This is relationship between rāga-mārg and vidhi-mārg. Everybody must try to follow vidhi-mārg in this line.
An excerpt from an informal talk given by Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj on 8 August 1989.