Śrīmat Jīva Gosvāmipāda has mentioned five stages regarding the gradual development of the smaraṇa limb of bhakti: smaraṇa, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, dhruvānusmṛti and samādhi. A slight exploration of Śrī Bhagavān’s forms, qualities, pastimes and so on is called smaraṇa. When the mind is pulled away from thinking of sense-objects and focused to a small degree upon Śrī Bhagavān’s pastimes and so on it is called dhāraṇā. Contemplation of his form and so on in a more specific way is called dhyāna. Uninterrupted remembrance of Śrī Bhagavān’s form, qualities and pastimes like a stream of nectar is called dhruvānusmṛti. When only the object of meditation appears within the mind, it is called samādhi. This samādhi is not like the asamprajñāta-samādhi attained through the sādhanas of jñāna and yoga. In this, the meditation is very deep and Śrī Bhagavān’s pastimes appear as though directly manifest.
The essence of this smaraṇāṅga is meditation upon Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes; therefore he says, yugala-bilāsa smṛti-sāra. There are four kinds of smaraṇa: nāma (names)-smaraṇa, rūpa (forms)-smaraṇa, guṇa (qualities)-smaraṇa and saparikara-līlā (pastimes with their companions)-smaraṇa. Among them, līlā-smaraṇa is the best because meditation on nāma, rūpa and guṇa is included within līlā-smaraṇa. Moreover, compared to the līlā-smaraṇa of other forms of Bhagavān, the līlā-smaraṇa of Vrajendranandana, the embodiment of charm, is best of all because it is filled with transcendental sweetness. Moreover, compared to his bālya, paugaṇḍa and other līlās, his kaiśora-līlās in the preeminent śṛṅgāra-rasa, meaning his amorous pastimes with Śrī Rādhārāṇī, are the best of all. Therefore, yugala-vilāsa is the essence of meditation.
The contemplation of pastimes such as Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa meeting with their friends, collecting flowers, stealing Kṛṣṇa’s flute, sporting in the forest, drinking honey-wine, making love, water sports, playing dice, rāsa-līlā and so on is the essence or best of all types of līlā-smaraṇa. In the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya, there is a paddhati or manual that explains how to meditate upon the pastimes of Śrī Gaurāṅga and Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava along with their companions during the eight time periods (aṣṭa-kālīya) or according to one’s taste (svārasikī), as well as the mantramayī or yogapīṭha meeting pastimes. This is the preeminent smaraṇāṅga-bhajana. Still, the sādhaka who is devoted to smaraṇa must always be sure that at the time of smaraṇa he relishes in the depth of his heart the mādhurya of Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava’s madhura madhura dhāma: their sweeter-than-sweet forms, qualities, pastimes with their companions and so on. The principal aim of this sādhana is to enjoy the sweetness of one’s cherished deity. Specifically, in desire-based rāga-bhakti, if smaraṇāṅga-bhajana is performed only in a very regulated, systematic way and the sādhaka does not taste even a little of the sweetness of Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava’s forms, qualities and so on, how can that be called rāga-bhakti? On the other hand, if the sādhaka does get a taste of this mādhurya, his līlā-smaraṇa, though incomplete, becomes truly complete.
In the second chapter of Śrīla Haridāsa Dāsajī’s Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇava-Jīvana, in the biography of Govardhana resident Siddha Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, the following is written: Those who were learning how to perform bhajana from the siddha-bābā would gather together each night. The siddha-bābā would hear from his disciples how their bhajana was going and then help them to correct any errors or omissions. One evening, without saying anything one of the Vaiṣṇava mahātmās began to weep. Bābājī Mahāśaya consoled and encouraged him and then asked why he was crying. The disciple replied, “Today I was not able to perform any bhajana. This morning, after I placed an ornament on Śrī Prāṇeśvarī’s right hand, my mind became so captivated by the beauty of her hand that I couldn’t think of anything else the rest of the day.” The siddha-bābā enthusiastically replied to him, “You have performed true bhajana!”
In some books we find the reading manera smaraṇa prāṇa, madhura madhura nāma. The meaning is that smaraṇa, the life of the mind, must be practiced under the shelter of sweeter-than-sweet Śrī Nāma. Because smaraṇāṅga-bhajana is dependent on purification of the mind, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmipāda has written, smaraṇaṁ tu śuddhāntaḥkaraṇatām apekṣate (Bhakti-Sandarbhaḥ 276). It is impossible for an impure mind, a mind sullied by desires for earthly enjoyments, to deeply concentrate; therefore, smaraṇāṅga-bhajana does not occur. But nāma-kīrtana does not depend on mental purification. In nāma-kīrtana even an impure mind is not an obstacle because when the mind becomes purified through chanting, that smaraṇāṅga-bhajana will be delightfully performed.
The question may be asked that if this is true, then let nāma-kīrtana go on as long as the mind is not pure, but what is the need for more nāma-kīrtana if the purified mind can concentrate on smaraṇa? Regarding this, in Śrī-Bṛhad-Bhāgavatāmṛtam Śrīmat Sanātana Gosvāmipāda has concluded that the enjoyment of smaraṇa is nourished by nāma-saṅkīrtana and the enjoyment of nāma-rasa is nourished by smaraṇa or dhyāna. Since each nourishes the other, there is never any discussion of performing smaraṇāṅga-bhajana without nāma-kīrtana. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmipāda has written, śuddhāntaḥkaraṇaś cet nāma-kīrtanāparityāgena smaraṇaṁ kuryāt (Bhakti-Sandarbhaḥ 275). “The sādhaka whose mind is purified shall perform smaraṇa together with nāma-kīrtana.”