The constitutional nature of the nāma-sādhaka and his prayer for the eternal servitorship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are described in Śikṣāṣṭaka (5):
ayi nanda-tanuja kiṅkaraṁ
patitaṁ māṁ viṣame bhavāmbudhau
kṛpayā tava pāda-paṅkaja-
O Nanda-nandana, as a result of my fruitive activities, I have fallen into this fearful ocean of material existence. Please bestow Your mercy upon this eternal servant of Yours. Consider me to be just like a speck of dust at Your lotus feet and always accept me as Your purchased servant.
tava nitya dāsa muñi, tomā pāsariyā
paḍiyāchi bhavārṇave māyā-baddha haiyā
kṛpā kari’ kara more pada-dhūli-sama
tomāra sevaka, karoṅ tomāra sevana
“O Lord, I am Your eternal servant, but due to my misfortune I have abandoned You. Being bound by māyā, I am drowning in this bottomless ocean of material existence. Please mercifully accept me as a particle of dust at Your lotus feet. I will become Your servant and serve You eternally.”
When a devotee attains the state of āsakti, his prayers are filled with extreme humility and lamentation. In the fully matured stage of āsakti there is some appearance of his perfected body (siddha-deha), and attachment arises for both bhajana and bhajanīya, the object of bhajana. When one performs bhajana, śraddhā gradually develops through anartha-nivṛtti and niṣṭhā up to the stage of ruci. Kṛṣṇa, as the Supersoul situated in the heart, accepts the prayers of devotees who are in these stages. However, Kṛṣṇa Himself hears the prayers of a devotee who is endowed with āsakti, and His heart melts with compassion.
When one performs kīrtana that is free from offences, bhāva will arise by Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.17–19) states:
śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ-stho hy abhadrāṇi
vidhunoti suhṛt satām
bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī
kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ
sthitaṁ sattve prasīdati
Both hearing and chanting the glories of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are purifying. Because Kṛṣṇa is the eternal friend of saintly persons, He situates Himself in the hearts of those who hear narrations of Him and He destroys their inauspicious passions, such as lust. By continuous service to both Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the mahā-bhāgavata devotee, inauspicious desires are almost completely destroyed, and irrevocable devotional service (naiṣṭhikī-bhakti) is awakened to Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is praised with transcendental prayers. As soon as this naiṣṭhikī-bhakti is awakened, the qualities of the modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust and anger, become pacified, and one’s heart reaches the stage of purity.
yāṅra kathā śravaṇa-kīrtane puṇya haya
sei kṛṣṇa hṛdaye vasiyā nāśe bhaya
sādhakera abhadra kramaśaḥ kare nāśa
bhaktira naiṣṭhika bhāva karena prakāśa
haiyā bhakta-citta sattve hayata pravīṇa
Taste for the topics of Śrī Vāsudeva will manifest only after one has sincerely accepted the shelter of the lotus feet of śrī guru. By the sādhaka’s performance of the activities of sādhana, such as śravaṇa and kīrtana, his inauspiciousness – anarthas and aparādhas – will be removed and his heart will become pure. Bhagavān Himself enters the devotee’s heart through the medium of hari-kathā and destroys all kinds of inauspiciousness and misfortune. In other words, the bad results of the devotee’s prārabdha-karma are destroyed, his hṛd-roga (disease of the heart in the form of lust) is removed, and Bhagavān resides in his heart forever.
Bhāgavata-sevā means service to both the book bhāgavata (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam) and the devotee bhāgavata (the pure Vaiṣṇava). As a result of this service, steady bhakti arises in the sādhaka’s heart. Naiṣṭhikī means that through niṣṭhā the mind becomes fixed. Then gradually, by the association of devotees, one’s fruitive activities, false renunciation and so on are destroyed, and the unhealthy inclination to seek the company of non-devotees, such as māyāvādīs and those inclined towards enjoyment with the opposite sex, does not awaken. It is impossible to be freed from these tendencies by one’s own endeavour. Naiṣṭhikī-bhakti appears in the heart only through hearing topics of Bhagavān described in exalted verses spoken by uttama-bhāgavatas. By this act of devotion, passion, ignorance, lust, anger and so forth are destroyed. Moreover, even if these qualities remain, they are just like fried seeds, unable to produce any fruit. The mode of passion (rajo-guṇa) and the mode of ignorance (tamo-guṇa) cause sleep, distraction and desires unrelated to serving Kṛṣṇa to arise within the living entities. The words etair anāviddham in this Text mean that upon the awakening of naiṣṭhikī-bhakti, the heart of the sādhaka is not agitated by the enemies headed by lust. This is because his heart is fixed on the path of bhakti and he no longer has taste for the objects of sense enjoyment.
A prayer explaining Bhagavān’s mercy is given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.8):
tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
One who accepts as Your mercy the results of his own actions as well as the happiness and distress of his prārabdha-karma, who endures them with an undisturbed mind, and who maintains his life by offering himself unto You by body, mind and words, is eligible to attain Your lotus feet, which are the shelter of liberation.
duḥkha bhoga kari’ nija-kṛta-karma-phale
kāya-mano-vākye tava caraṇa-kamale
bhakti kari’ kāṭe kāla tava kṛpā āśe
mukti-pada, tava pada pāya anāyāse
In this prayer to Bhagavān, Brahmā instructs the sādhaka thus: a sādhaka should understand the attainment of both happiness and distress to be Bhagavān’s mercy, or he should understand them to be an opportunity to completely eradicate sins and offences performed due to previous impressions (saṁskāras). Sometimes Bhagavān creates happiness or distress for the sādhaka in order to increase the eagerness in his heart. In this Text the word mukti-pada means the one at whose lotus feet liberation (mukti) takes shelter. This refers either to Bhagavān or to bhakti, i.e. bhagavat-sevā.
Upon reaching the condition described in the following verse (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.43)), one attains supreme spiritual peace (parā-śānti):
ity acyutāṅghriṁ bhajato ’nuvṛttyā
bhaktir viraktir bhagavat-prabodhaḥ
bhavanti vai bhāgavatasya rājaṁs
tataḥ parāṁ śāntim upaiti sākṣāt
O king, whoever devoutly worships the lotus feet of Bhagavān will develop detachment from material existence and devotion for Him that is saturated with prema. All knowledge related to Bhagavān will manifest in his heart and thus he will begin to experience supreme peace.
hena anuvṛtti saha yei kṛṣṇa bhaje
subhakti, virāga, jñāna, tāṅhāra upaje
se tina sundara-rūpe ekatre bāḍhiyā
parā-śānti-prema-dhana deya ta’ āniyā
In this Text, Kavi Ṛṣi, the best of the nine Yogendras, responds to one of Nimi Mahārāja’s questions by saying that besides devotion to Bhagavān, there is no means to attain eternal auspiciousness. Temporary endeavours to attain imaginary peace or freedom from material suffering are foolish and can bring no actual auspiciousness to the living entity. The only auspiciousness is to take shelter of Śrī Bhagavān’s devotees and by steady practice attain bhakti, which is beyond the three modes of material nature. A person who has pure bhakti, who is established in the devotional way of life (bhāgavata-dharma) and who performs service with appropriate renunciation (yukta-vairāgya) can never be touched by ignorance. Established in the kingdom of bhakti, he acquires higher and higher stages of elevated devotion and thus attains transcendental peace.
Practising and following means to take exclusive shelter of Śrī Bhagavān’s devotees; to remember and follow Kṛṣṇa’s associates is more beneficial than to remember and follow Kṛṣṇa Himself. It is more useful for the bhakti-sādhaka to follow the process of devotion shown by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, who themselves follow the gopīs, than it is to follow Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu directly. The method to awaken lobha, transcendental greed, is to remember, pray and weep for the sentiments of elevated devotees. Sādhana means to practise bhakti through the senses and with the aim of attaining svarūpa-siddhi. When bhāva appears, one’s practice is no longer sādhana-bhakti but bhāva-bhakti, and when one achieves vastu-siddhi, he will attain prema-sevā.
The nine types of bhakti-sādhana are described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.23–4):
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau
bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā
tan manye ’dhītam uttamam
A person is said to have perfectly studied the scriptures if he is completely surrendered to Bhagavān Śrī Viṣṇu, if he is free from karma, jñāna, yoga and other obstructions, and if he is engaged in the nine kinds of bhakti: hearing topics related to Bhagavān (śravaṇam); chanting His name (kīrtanam); remembering His name, form, qualities and pastimes (smaraṇam); serving His lotus feet (pāda-sevanam); performing deity worship (arcanam); offering prayers (vandanam); becoming His servant (dāsyam); becoming His friend (sakhyam); and offering one’s very self (ātma-nivedanam). Only such a person’s study of the scriptures is successful.
cid-ghana-ānanda kṛṣṇe sākṣāt yāṅhāra
sarva-śāstra-tattva bujhi’ kriyā-para tini
sarvārtha-siddhite tiṅha vijña-śiromaṇi
The nine kinds of devotion, navadhā-bhakti, comprise svarūpa-siddha-bhakti, unalloyed devotion. Other types of devotional practices fall into the categories of saṅga-siddha-bhakti, āropa-siddha-bhakti and so forth. It is essential that one completely surrender to Bhagavān, for one cannot enter svarūpa-siddha-bhakti without surrender. This is the import of the phrase iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau in this Text. According to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, the word puṁsā here indicates the māyā-baddha-jīva, conditioned living entity, who is attached to sense enjoyment. The words bhagavaty addhā refer to the instruction to perform service to Bhagavān that is stimulated by devotion that flows like a continuous stream of oil.