Bhakta: "You once spoke about mantra smaraṇa. What is that?"
Advaitadas: "It is meditation on the mantras one receives from Guru during second initiation."
Bhakta: "Can one whisper these mantras?"
Advaitadas: "No, one should do them fully mentally, not even whispered. They are secret gifts from Guru. Therefore the English verb 'chanting' does not apply to this practise, as chanting indicates loud utterance."
Bhakta: "When chanting (nāma-) japa, apart from listening to the sound you have to think something, like I am a servant or so?"
Advaitadas: "Śrī Ānanda Gopāl Gosvāmī teaches that when you meditate on Kṛṣṇa's pastimes, in the beginning you will have the ahamtā of 'I am sitting down here and meditating', but if you go deeper you will lose that self esteem and just merge into the līlā. The holy name must descend upon your spiritual identity. When you are doing kīrtan or japa there must be some attitude on the background, just like my PC is constantly processing all kinds of things on the background while I am working on it, without me noticing it. In such a subtle way the service attitude must be present while doing one's sādhana. A greedy businessman doesn’t always think 'O I'm so greedy I'm so greedy' - no, he just acts according to his desires, without pondering his motives. Similarly the bhakta just works for Kṛṣṇa's pleasure, thinking only of that. In the beginning one thinks: "I am doing this sadhana for the grace of Guru and Gaurāṅga", while later one starts identifying with one's manjari svarupa. See, for instance, Viśvanātha Cakravartī's commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavat 10.29.10-11:
guṇamayo’pi bhavatīti bhakta-dehasyāṁśena nirguṇatvaṁ guṇa-mayatvaṁ ca syāt | tataś ca—bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktiḥ [bhā.pu. 11.2.42] iti tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭiḥ kṣud-apāyo’nu-ghāsam iti nyāyena bhakti-vṛddhi-tāratamyena nirguṇa-dehāṁśānām ādhikya-tāratamyaṁ syāt | tena ca guṇamaya-dehāṁśānāṁ kṣīṇatva-tāratamyaṁ syāt, sampūrṇa-premaṇy utpanne tu guṇamaya-dehāṁśeṣu naṣṭeṣu samyak nirguṇa eva dehaḥ syāt tad api sthūla-deha-pātas tu bahirmukhatotkhātā bhāvārthaṁ bhakti-yogasya rahasyatva-rakṣārthaṁ ca bhagavataiva māyayā pradarśyate, yathā mauṣala-līlāyāṁ yādavānāṁ kvacit tu, bhakti-yogotkarṣa-jñāpanārthaṁ na darśyate ca, yathā dhruvādīnām
“Though it is made of three modes of nature, a part of the devotee’s body is spiritualized and a part is material. It is said in Śrīmad Bhāgavat (11.2.42) that the more one eats the more one is nourished, loses hunger and is satisfied. Similarly, the more one advances in bhakti the more one’s body is spiritualized and loses its material aspects. When prema is complete the material portion of the body is destroyed and it becomes fully spiritual. To protect the feelings of the bahirmukhas (non-devotees) and the confidentiality of bhakti yoga the Lord shows through His maya (the demise of the devotee’s) material body, as He did during the Mauṣal-pastime (wherein the Yadu dynasty destroyed itself in genocidal civil war). On the other hand, the excellence of bhakti yoga can be shown also in the case of Dhruva (who left this world in his very body, which had become totally spiritualized)."
Some ridicule Vaiṣṇavas for practising mañjarī bhāva while having material engagements or desires, but the ācāryas are consistently teaching this is a gradual process, whereby material and spiritual awareness more or less overlap each other. The above quotation is really not the only one of its kind. Viśvanātha repeats it in his commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavat 11.9.23 and in Mādhurya Kādambini."
Bhakta: "Sometimes it seems that it's impossible to become Kṛṣṇa-conscious in the west, where the culture and environment are so unfavorable."
Advaitadas: 'Where there's a will there's a way. Rūpa and Sanātana did bhajan while working for the Muslims, Prahlād did bhajan in the house of Hiraṇyakaśipu. It's illogical to think that Mahāprabhu has given us foreigners the opportunity to do bhajan without the prospect of accomplishment. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (9.31) kaunteya pratijānīhi na me bhakta praṇaśyati "Arjun! I promise (pratijānīhi) that My devotee does not perish!"
EDITING THE STAVAMĀLĀ
The Stavamala is a great source, along with the other works of Rūpa Gosvāmī, of all the wonderful granthas the later ācāryas have composed, like Govinda Līlāmṛta and Kṛṣṇa Bhāvanāmṛta. One devotee checked it with me:
Bhakta: "In Rūpa Gosvāmī's Keśavāṣṭakam, verse 1, it is said in an English translation: 'Kṛṣṇa is wearing a brāhmin thread of flowers' - I didn't know He wears a brāhmin thread in Vraja and then why would He wear one of flowers?'
Advaitadas: 'The word vaikākṣaka in the verse refers to a thread which is worn on the left shoulder, under the right arm, which is exactly the position of the brāhmin thread. But yes, you're right, Kṛṣṇa doesn’t wear a brahmin thread in Vraja. Gopāl Campū says Kṛṣṇa could not marry in Vraja because He had not undergone the sacred thread ceremony yet. Either this type of a garland is one of the romantic eccentricities of Kṛṣṇa, or it is a poetic metaphor. Such an apparel of Kṛṣṇa has not been mentioned anywhere else, to my knowledge."
Bhakta: "In Rūpa Gosvāmī's third Caitanyāṣṭakam, verse 7, it is said, in one English translation, that He has 'sleepless lotus-eyes'. Is that right?"
Advaitadas: "No that is not right. The words used here are 'anidrā padmekṣaṇa' in which anidrā, not sleeping, means 'blooming'. When the lotus flowers go to sleep at night they close their petals and when they wake in the morning they open them. That blooming of the lotus flowers is called 'not sleeping'. anidrā is an adjective here of the lotus, not of the eyes."
Bhakta: "In Rūpa Gosvāmī's Līlāmṛtākhya stotram verse 3, one English translation says rādhā mānābhāsa vaśīkṛta "Kṛṣṇa is controlled by the shadow of the jealous anger of Rādhā'
Advaitadas: "It is perhaps more clear to use the word 'semblance' than 'shadow', though strictly speaking 'shadow' is not wrong for the word ābhāsa."
Bhakta: "In Rūpa Gosvāmī's Premendu Sāgara', verse 43, the wager is a kiss. But what is the difference between getting kissed or giving the kiss?"
Advaitadas: "Hahaha - yes, somewhere in the Gosvāmīs' books, I can’t remember where, Śrī Rādhikā is complaining about such a wager, because in the case of a full kiss on the mouth, indeed it makes no difference - there is neither a winner nor loser. If the kiss is given on the cheek of course it is different."
Bhakta: "In the sense of pleasure, who is the loser when a kiss is given on the cheeks?"
Advaitadas: "Ah, it is more a question of losing prestige in front of one's friends more than anything else."
Bhakta: "In Keśavāṣṭakam, verse 4, one English translation says: 'Kṛṣṇa's cheeks are licked by a stream of perspiration"
Advaitadas: 'It could have been put a bit more delicately - (Gauḍīya Maṭh's) Arpaṇā Devī's Bengali translation says 'His cheeks are beautified by drops of perspiration'. Strictly speaking the Sanskrit word 'līḍha' does mean licked or devoured, but I think Arpaṇā Devī made a more gentle interpretation. Also English translators must beware of rasābhāsa and of jugupsa rati, the mellow of disgust, which never applies to Śrī Kṛṣṇa."
Bhakta: "In the English translation of text 6 of Keśavāṣṭakam it is said: "He wears a garland of dust"
Advaitadas: "It is as if the translation was made by some software or so. Rūpa Gosvāmī speaks of dhūli-dhūmra-srajam, which is translated by Arpaṇā Devī as 'a flower-garland which is greyed by the dust thrown up by the hooves of the cows." That much is obvious."
Bhakta: "Elsewhere in Stavamālā it is said that Kṛṣṇa wears golden dhātu tilak. What is that?"
Advaitadas: "dhātu tilak means tilak made of pigments collected from the base of Girirāja Govardhan."
Bhakta: "In Mukundāṣṭakam, verse 1, the first lines are translated here as 'May Mukunda, Who, with His saffron splendour, crushes the luster of sapphire....." I thought Kṛṣṇa was blue?"
Advaitadas: "The 2nd line says that Kṛṣṇa wears powder like kunkum saffron splendour on His charming form, which is itself of a sapphire splendour (balabhid upala kānti)."
Bhakta: "Verse 3 of Mukundāṣṭakam says Kṛṣṇa wears a red garment. I thought He wore yellow. Is this like a kurtā or so?"
Advaitadas: "No it is a scarf around the neck."