What is the form of pure love and devotion? The Śāṇḍilya-sūtra states:
Pure devotion is supreme attachment to, or love for, the Lord. Moreover, it has the propensity to control the Supreme Controller and its nature is immortal.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes the intrinsic nature of pure devotion, or bhakti, as follows:
Pure devotional service is the cultivation of activities that are meant exclusively for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In other words, it is the uninterrupted flow of service to God, performed through all endeavours of body, mind and speech and through the expression of various spiritual sentiments. It is not covered by knowledge of the impersonal aspect of God to attain liberation, reward seeking activity, meditation, or austerities; and it is completely free from all desires other than the aspiration to bring happiness and welfare to the Supreme Lord.
Devotion has two stages: (1) the stage of practice (sādhana-bhakti) and (2) the stage of perfection (prema-bhakti). Eternally perfect love of God is called prema-bhakti, and it is the living entity’s only eternal religion, or constitutional occupation.
This pure love of God, although eternally perfect, remains in the covered state in those living entities who have fallen into materialism. When someone in this covered state attempts to uncover this love for God by practising devotion with his senses, it is called sādhana-bhakti. This practice of devotion is also eternal religion but in its immature state, whereas in the stage of perfection, loving devotion (prema), is the fully matured and ripened state of this eternal religion. Thus, although eternal religion is one, it has two stages.
The practice of devotion is also of two types:
- (1) regulated devotion (vaidhī) and
- (2) spontaneous devotion (rāgānuga).
Until a spontaneous attachment and taste for God [Śrī Kṛṣṇa] appears in the heart of a practitioner, he follows the regu-lations and rules prescribed in the revealed scriptures as obligatory activities.
In this way, by observing the discipline and regulations of the Vedic scriptures, the living entity engages in devotion to God. Such practice of devotion is known as regulated devotion. By contrast, one is engaged in spontaneous devotional practice when a spontaneous attachment and taste arise in the heart for Śrī Kṛṣṇa; when, without regard for the rules and regulations of the scriptures, one becomes intensely eager to possess the moods of the eternal associates of the Lord in Vraja (the topmost spiritual planet), who are full of love and attachment for Him, and when one performs devotional practices to follow in the footsteps of those eternal associates.