Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (8.51) explains that one should be careful about whom he associates with:
yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁso
maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ
sva-kularddhyai tato dhīmān
sva-yuthāny eva saṁśrayet
A person develops the qualities of the company he keeps, just as a crystal reflects the colour of those objects which are brought into its proximity. Therefore, by associating with pure devotees, one can himself become pure.
svayūthera maṅgala o anye rākhi’ dūra
yathā saṅga yathā phala pāibe pracura
Association with devotees (sādhu-saṅga) is the source of all auspiciousness. Where the scriptures give the instruction to be solitary (niḥsaṅga), it refers to keeping only sādhu-saṅga.
With great effort one should follow the path delineated by the mahājanas. This is described in the Skanda Purāṇa:
sa mṛgyaḥ śreyasāṁ hetuḥ
yena santaḥ pratasthire
Only by following the path upon which previous great personalities (mahājanas) have easily traversed can we find ultimate auspiciousness and freedom from all suffering.
Acquiring knowledge by hearing from scriptural authorities is the real path of bhakti. The Brahma-yāmala states:
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
One can only attain the one-pointedness, or aikāntika-bhāva, of pure bhakti by adopting the path of the previous mahājanas. It cannot be attained by leaving the path of the mahājanas and creating another path. Because Dattātreya, Buddha and later preachers were unable to understand pure bhakti, they accepted only a semblance of this transcendental sentiment. Dattātreya mixed it with māyāvāda and Buddha with atheism, and thus they set forth useless paths, describing them as one-pointed devotion (aikāntikī-hari-bhakti). In reality, however, the paths promoted by these people are not hari-bhakti; they are simply a disturbance.
pūrva-mahājana pathe cale anāyāse
nava-pathe utpāta āsiyā jīve nāśe
anartha-nāśera yatna kabhu nāhi yāra
nāma-kṛpā nāhi pāya durdaiva tāhāra
nāma-kṛpā vinā koṭi koṭi yatna kare
tāhāte anartha kabhu nāhi chāḍe tāre
niṣkapaṭe yatne kāṅde nāmera caraṇe
dūra haya anartha tāhāra alpa dine
anartha chāḍiyā kara śravaṇa-kīrtana
ekānta-bhāvete lao nāmera śaraṇa
In rāga-mārga-bhajana there is no consideration of the rules of the Śruti, Smṛti, Purāṇas, Nārada-pañcarātra and so forth. The only consideration is to follow the inhabitants of Vraja. But for sādhakas eligible only for vidhi-mārga, it is necessary to adopt the path of devotion as given by the mahājanas such as Dhruva, Prahlāda, Nārada, Vyāsa and Śuka. Hence there is no other means for the vaidha-bhaktas except to follow the path of saintly persons.
Without the mercy of Nāma Prabhu, those who perform bhajana will be unable to give up their anarthas, even after millions of attempts. But if one sincerely weeps at the lotus feet of Nāma Prabhu, all one’s anarthas will vanish within a few days. Giving up one’s anarthas in this way, one should take exclusive shelter of the holy name and thereby hear and chant.
Endeavours made in performing resolute bhajana are described in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa:
evam ekāntināṁ prāyaḥ
kīrtanaṁ smaraṇaṁ prabhoḥ
kṛtyamanyan na rocyate
bhāvena kenacit preṣṭha-
syād icchaiṣāṁ sva-mantreṇa
vihiteṣv eva nityeṣu
pravartante svayaṁ hite
sarva-tyāge ’py aheyāyāḥ
sarvānartha-bhuvaś ca te
yatnam asparśane varam
prabhāte cārdharāte ca
kīrtayanti hariṁ ye vai
na teṣām anya-sādhanam
If a one-pointed devotee (aikāntika-bhakta) chants and contemplates the glories of his Prabhu, Śrī Viṣṇu, with great affection and according to his transcendental sentiments, he will have no taste for any other activity. With whatever mood he desires to serve the lotus feet of his beloved deity, he performs arcana through his particular mantra and his particular mellow of devotion. That same service later transforms into his eternal service. Even if one has given up everything else, something still remains to be given up before this can happen – this is the desire for name and fame, pratiṣṭhā, the root cause of all anarthas. The prime duty is to give up this pratiṣṭhā, which is compared to stool. What to speak of touching this pratiṣṭhā, do not see it, even from a distance! For one who chants the name of Śrī Hari in the morning, noon, evening and midnight, no other sādhana is needed.
ekānta bhaktera mātra kīrtana-smaraṇa
anya parve ruci nāhi haya pravartana
bhāvera sahita haya śrī-kṛṣṇa-sevana
svārasikī-bhāva krame haya uddīpana
ekānta bhaktera kriyā-mudrā-rāgodita
tathāpi se saba nahe vidhi-viparīta
sarva-tyāga karileo chāḍā sukaṭhina
pratiṣṭhāśā tyāge yatna pāibe pravīṇa
prabhāte gabhīra rātre madhyāhne sandhyāya
anartha chāḍiyā lao nāmera āśraya
ei-rūpe kīrtana smaraṇa yei kare
kṛṣṇa-kṛpā haya śīghra, anāyāse tare
śraddhā kari sādhu-saṅge kṛṣṇa nāma laya
anartha sakala yāya niṣṭhā upajaya
prātaḥ-kāle nitya-līlā karibe cintana
cintite cintite bhāvera haibe sādhana
Govinda-līlāmṛta (2.1) describes the early morning pastimes (prātaḥ-līlā) as follows:
rādāṁ snāta-vibhūṣitāṁ vrajapayāhūtāṁ sakhībhiḥ prage
tad-gehe vihitānna-pāka-racanāṁ kṛṣṇāvaśeṣāśanām
kṛṣṇaṁ buddham avāpta-dhenu-sadanaṁ nirvyūḍha-go-dohanaṁ
susnātaṁ kṛta-bhojanaṁ saha-carais tāś cātha tāś cāśraye
After the kuñja-bhaṅga-līlā, or niśānta-līlā (pastimes at night’s end), Śrī Rādhā-Śyāmasundara return to Their respective abodes and lay down on Their beds. The condition of Śrī Kiśorī in Jāvaṭa is indescribable as She burns in separation from Her beloved. Śrī Rūpa and Rati Mañjarīs are absorbed in their service to Her, and give Her encouragement as if again infusing Her with life. Sometimes Jaṭilā, sometimes Mukharā and sometimes Paurṇamāsī enter Śrī Kiśorī’s quarters, and at this time Śyāmalā also comes. Kiśorī and Śyāmalā are immersed in a joking conversation. In this way the pastime develops in newer and newer ways. Rūpa, Rati and other mañjarīs ornament Śrīmatī by cleansing Her body, decorating Her and so forth, and at the same time they remind Her of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.
rādhā snāta vibhūṣita, śrī-yaśodā-samāhuta,
sakhī-saṅge tad gṛhe gamana
tathā pāka-viracana, śrī-kṛṣṇāvaśeṣāśana,
madhye-madhye duṅhāra milana
kṛṣṇa nidrā parihari, goṣṭhe go-dohana kari,
snānāśana sahacara saṅge
ei līlā cintā kara, nāma-preme garagara,
prāte bhakta-jana-saṅge raṅge
ei līlā cinta āra kara saṅkīrtana
acire pāibe tumi bhāva-uddīpana
Śrī Kiśorī and Her sakhīs depart for Nanda-bhavana. On the way they meet Śrī Śyāmasundara and many pastimes full of rasa take place. Our Gosvāmīs have revealed these pastimes in their writings. Upon reaching Nanda-bhavana, Kiśorī starts to cook in the midst of countless stoves, and prepares many tasty dishes.
Śyāmasundara is sleeping in His home. Yaśodā-maiyā awakens Him and, seeing the nail-marks on the body of her dear son (lālā), she becomes sad and says, “The limbs of my lālā are as soft as the petals of a blue lotus. Why have the boys hurt Him in their wrestling matches? And so much dhātu-rāga (colour from minerals) is on His limbs. Alas, alas! What to do? I do not know how to put an end to this.”
Kundalatā jokingly says, “Your lālā is performing rāsa at night.” But the word rāsa is unknown to Yaśodā-maiyā. Then, after expressing affection for His mother, Śyāmasundara jumps up from bed and goes to milk the cows. Upon His return He bathes, eats and then leaves for cowherding. Kiśorī shyly accepts some of Her priyatama’s remnants and returns to Jāvaṭa with Her sakhīs.
Many other pastimes take place amidst all these līlās, and it would be very difficult to describe them all. A premi-bhakta performs bhajana while remembering these pastimes, which are alluded to here, and tastes their rasa even in the stage of sādhana.
Thus ends the Dvitīya-yāma-sādhana,
Prātaḥ-kālīya-bhajana, of Śrī-Bhajana-rahasya.