Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj outlines the stages the soul passes through en route to madhura-rasa.
Devotion is its own cause. It is a positive thing. The negative, its cover or coating element, adulteration, will disappear. As much as devotion develops, the adulterating coating will be slackened and gradually disappear. The internal is captured, and the outward demands are eliminated. The dirt is cleared salilasya yathā śarat (SB: 2.8.5): [like lakes in autumn (which are clean after the monsoon rains)]. The aim, the object, becomes more and more acute, and freedom comes accordingly. A faithful officer of a king enjoys more freedom than an expert officer. Expert officers enjoy freedom, but faithful staff enjoy more freedom. So, according to the intensity of one’s faith, other demands are slackened.
That is sādhana-bhakti.
tato ’nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt
In this stage,
By service to both the scripture and the devotee, inspiration comes to a new soul and purifies them, prepares the ground for service to Kṛṣṇa.
Question: What is the significance of prāya here?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: Prāya means nearly, almost: almost all of the undesirable things disappear. Then we may say one has niṣṭhā, naiṣṭhikī-bhakti [firm devotion]. When one profusely shows one has some inclination towards devotion, that may not be reliable. One’s devotion is reliable when the major portion of one’s time and energy is devoted to service to Kṛṣṇa, and only some small remnants remain which may be ignored.
Question: Why are all the detrimental things in the heart not completely eliminated by constant service to the devotee and the scripture (nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā)?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: In that stage, the present is being utilised almost fully, but one’s past deeds are there in store in a very subtle form. They must be cleaned also. Then wholesale conversion will occur.
krameṇaiva pralīyeta viṣṇu-bhakti-ratātmanām
Karma is divided mainly into two divisions: prārabdha and aprārabdha. Prārabdha: karma that is attached to, and to be finished, in this body. Aprārabdha: karma that is reserved for a future life. Phalonmukh karma [prārabdha-karma] means karma that is sprouting, ripe. It will demand its satisfaction at the next chance. Bīj-karma means seed-karma, karma that can be detected and is ready to act. Kūṭa means karma that is in an undistinguishable, undetectable state. Kūṭasthokṣara uchyate, it is part of the akṣara [unmanifest] in the saṁskār [formation] of prakṛti [material nature]. Karmeṇaiva praliyante: gradually all of these forms of karma will have to brushed aside. They will have to be finished gradually, however undetectable or subtle they may be. When devotion to Kṛṣṇa captures one’s heart, it is sure that they will have to go out. Devotion will surely gain ground within the heart, later or early. “Kaunteya pratijānīhi na Me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati (Bg: 9.31): whenever anyone once connects with Me, they are sure to be saved, guaranteed.”
svalpam apy asya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt
sarva-vedānta-vit-koṭyā viṣṇu-bhakto viśiṣyate
vaiṣṇavānāṁ sahasrebhya ekānty eko viśiṣyate
Only the conception that ultimate reality is pure consciousness will not do. The enjoying right must be seen in Him. Then He is not Brahma. He is Parabrahma, Vāsudev, Puruṣottam. The person conception of the enjoyer: He is for Himself. The gist of life is to enjoy, and He is the finest body of enjoyment.
Then jñān [calculation] is left out, and the Lord’s wholesale influence over the soul is approved, accepted, understood, and followed. Ekānty eko viśiṣyate: that is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Devotees of Viṣṇu in Vaikuṇṭha have calculative devotion. Devotees of Kṛṣṇa have automatic anurāga [love, attachment].
sei mata prīti ha-uk charaṇe tomāra
What has captured me in the world of enjoyment must have a touch of the original cause. I should be dealt with in that way in the association of the highest entity.
mano ’bhiramate tadvan mano ’bhiramatāṁ tvayi
We find the highest captivating force here is found in the conjugal life. So, to attain that all-comprehensive capturing of all possible services from us should be the highest ideal.
“Every atom of my formation is crying for the corresponding atom of my Lord to serve.”
That is highest conception of our ideal. In madhura-rasa, it is possible. Twenty-four hour wholesale engagement is only possible in madhura-rasa. It is given by Mahāprabhu and the Guru-paramparā. The mantram also, all of our mantrams, aim at that end: wholesale dedication.