By the process of executing regulated devotional service, one is actually elevated to the transcendental stage, beyond the material modes of nature. At that time one’s heart becomes illuminated like the sun. The sun is far above the planetary systems, and there is no possibility of its being covered by any kind of cloud; similarly, when a devotee is purified like the sun, from his pure heart there is a diffusion of ecstatic love which is more glorious than the sunshine. Only at that time is the attachment to Kṛṣṇa perfect. Spontaneously, the devotee becomes eager to serve the Lord in his ecstatic love. At this stage the devotee is on the platform of uttama-adhikārī, perfect devotion. Such a devotee has no agitation from material affections and is interested only in the service of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
To clarify, in the previous chapters the symptoms of devotional service were explained along with instructions as to how we may execute devotional service with our present senses and gradually rise to the platform of ecstasy in spontaneous love. And the two kinds of devotional service – namely, devotional service through regulative principles and through spontaneous love – were discussed. Within the stage of the regulative principles of devotional service there are two divisions – namely, executive and effective. This effective portion of devotional service is called bhāva, or ecstasy. In this connection, there is a statement in the tantras that ecstasy is the first symptom of pure love for the Personality of Godhead, and in that stage one is sometimes found shedding tears or shivering. Not always are these symptoms manifest, but occasionally. When King Ambarīṣa was put into difficulty by Durvāsā, he began to think of the lotus feet of the Lord, and thus there were some changes in his body, and tears were falling from his eyes. These symptoms are activities of ecstasy. They are visible in the shivering of the body and the shedding of tears. After the outward appearance of these ecstatic symptoms, they stay within the mind, and continuation of the ecstasy is called samādhi. This stage of appreciation becomes the cause of future exchanges of loving affairs with Kṛṣṇa.
Elevation to this stage of ecstasy can be possible in two ways. One way is by constant association with pure devotees. The other way is by the special mercy of Kṛṣṇa or by the mercy of a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Elevation to the ecstatic stage of life is generally attained through association with pure devotees, while elevation to that stage by the special mercy of Kṛṣṇa or His devotee is very rare. The purport is that one should execute devotional service rigidly in the association of devotees so that there will be certainty in raising oneself to that ecstatic position. In special cases, of course, there is special favor from Kṛṣṇa, and although we should always expect that, we should not sit idly and simply wait for Kṛṣṇa’s special mercy; the regular duties must be performed. It is just as when sometimes it is found that a person who never attended school or college may be recognized as a great scholar, or an honorary degree from great universities may be offered to him. But this does not mean that one should avoid school and expect to automatically receive an honorary degree from some university. Similarly, one should devoutly execute the regulative principles of devotional service and at the same time hope for Kṛṣṇa’s favor or for His devotee’s favor.
An example of rising to the stage of ecstatic love by executing the regulative principles of devotional service is given in the life story of Nārada, which is described to Vyāsadeva in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Nārada tells there of his previous life and how he developed to the stage of ecstatic love. He was engaged in the service of great devotees and used to hear their talks and songs. Because he had the opportunity to hear these pastimes and songs of Kṛṣṇa from the mouths of pure devotees, he became very attracted within his heart. Because he had become so eager to hear these topics, he gradually developed within himself an ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa. This ecstatic love is prior to the pure love of Kṛṣṇa, because in the next verse Nārada confirms that by the gradual process of hearing from the great sages he developed love of Godhead. In that connection, Nārada continues to say in the First Canto, fifth chapter, verse 28 of the Bhāgavatam, “First I passed my days in the association of the great sages during the rainy autumn season. Every morning and evening I heard them while they were singing and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, and thus my heart gradually became purified. As soon as I heard them with great attention, the influence of the modes of material ignorance and passion disappeared, and I became firmly fixed in devotional service to the Lord.”
These are practical examples of how one can develop to the stage of ecstatic love simply by the association of pure devotees. It is essential, therefore, that one constantly associate with pure devotees who are engaged morning and evening in chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. In this way one will get the chance to purify his heart and develop this ecstatic pure love for Kṛṣṇa.
This statement is also confirmed in the Third Canto, twenty-fifth chapter, verse 25 of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, where Lord Kapila says, “My dear mother, when a person is actually in association with pure devotees, the sublime potency of My devotional service can be experienced.” In other words, when a pure devotee speaks, his words act upon the hearts of the audience. What is the secret of hearing and chanting? A professional speaker cannot impress transcendental ecstasy within the hearts of the listeners. However, when a realized soul who is engaged in the service of the Lord is speaking, he has the potency to inject spiritual life within the audience. One should, therefore, seek the association of such pure, unalloyed devotees, and by such association and service a neophyte devotee will certainly develop attachment, love and devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Padma Purāṇa there is the story of a neophyte devotee who, in order to raise herself to the ecstatic platform, danced all night to invoke the Lord’s grace upon her.
Sometimes, however, it is found that without undergoing any devotional process, one all of a sudden develops devotion for Lord Kṛṣṇa. This sudden development of the devotional attitude in a person must be understood as a special mercy of Kṛṣṇa or of His devotee. This apparently accidental development of ecstatic feelings through the causeless mercy of Kṛṣṇa can be divided into three groups: simply by speaking, simply by glancing and simply by good wishes.
In the Nāradīya Purāṇa there is a statement about development of ecstatic love simply by speaking. Lord Kṛṣṇa said to Nārada, “O best of the brāhmaṇas, I wish that you may develop unalloyed devotional service to Me, which is full of transcendental bliss and all auspiciousness.”
In the Skanda Purāṇa there is a statement about developing ecstatic love toward Kṛṣṇa simply by glancing. It is stated there, “When the inhabitants of Jāṅgala Province saw the Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, they were so stricken with feeling that they could not withdraw their glance from Him.”
As far as heartfelt wishes are concerned, there is a statement in the Śuka-saṁhitā where Nārada tells Śrīla Vyāsadeva, “You have a son who is the greatest devotee of the Personality of Godhead, and I can observe that without any following of the regulative principles of devotional service, he is already enriched with many of the symptoms achieved by the execution of devotional service after many, many births.”
As for ecstatic love of Kṛṣṇa, there is a statement in the Seventh Canto, fourth chapter, verse 36 of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, in which Nārada addresses King Yudhiṣṭhira, “My dear King, it is very difficult to describe the character of Prahlāda. He developed a natural attraction for Kṛṣṇa, and whatever I can explain about his character will simply be an arrangement of words; his actual character is impossible to describe.” This means that Nārada himself admitted that the natural development of Prahlāda’s ecstatic love was by the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
This natural attraction for Kṛṣṇa on the part of Prahlāda was developed simply by the mercy of Nārada. When Prahlāda Mahārāja was within the womb of his mother, she was being sympathetically instructed by Nārada about the science of devotional service, and at the same time Nārada was wishing that the child within the womb could also take advantage of the instructions. Because Nārada, an authorized devotee and great associate of the Personality of Godhead, was desiring auspiciousness for Prahlāda Mahārāja, he developed all the characteristics of a high-grade devotee. This is called natural attraction. It is caused by the special grace of the Personality of Godhead or by the special grace of a great devotee like Nārada.
There is a statement in the Skanda Purāṇa wherein Parvata Muni tells Nārada, “My dear Nārada, of all saintly persons you are so great and glorious that simply by your good wishes a lowborn hunter also has become a great, elevated devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa.”
This ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa can be divided into five divisions, which will be described by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī later on.