In Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (107) it is said that when attachment (rati) for the holy name arises, the youthful form of Kṛṣṇa easily manifests:
bhaktis tvayi sthiratarā bhagavan yadi syād
daivena naḥ phalati divya-kiśora-mūrtiḥ
muktiḥ svayaṁ mukulitāñjaliḥ sevate ’smān
O Bhagavān, if someone has steady devotion unto Your lotus feet, he easily perceives Your most charming divine youthful form. Thereafter, liberation stands before him with folded hands, and dharma, artha and kāma also wait for an opportunity to serve him.
bhakti sthiratarā yāṅra brajendra-nandana
tomāra kaiśora-mūrti tāṅra prāpya dhana
kara-yuḍi’ mukti seve tāṅhāra caraṇa
dharma-artha-kāma kare ājñāra pālana
The pure name manifests in a person’s heart when he chants with pure devotees. At that stage bhakti that is symptomised by prema manifests in his heart as visions of pastimes (līlā-sphūrtis). When this prema-bhakti becomes steadfast, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental youthful form automatically appears in the heart. Although Mukti-devī is neglected by the devotee, she personally prays with folded hands for the devotee to accept her service. Dharma, artha and kāma also wait for the opportunity to pray to the devotee for service.
The jāta-rati-bhakta inclined towards mādhurya-rasa is greatly allured by the divine adolescent form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose topmost pastimes of amorous love (sṛṅgāra-rasa-vilāsa) are displayed at this age. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 8.189) states:
rātri-dina kuñje krīḍā kare rādhā-saṅge
kaiśora-vayasa saphala kaila krīḍā-raṅge
Day and night Śrī Kṛṣṇa enjoys the company of Śrī Rādhā in the kuñjas of Vṛndāvana. Thus, His adolescence is made successful through His pastimes with Her.
The art of amorous sport (rati-kalā), endowed with cleverness and other qualities, is expressed in the sweetest way during adolescence (kaiśora). Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu states, “Śrī Kṛṣṇa embarrasses Śrī Rādhā by revealing to the sakhīs His skill and arrogance during the previous night’s amorous sports by showing them how He expertly painted wonderful keli-makarī1 on Her breasts. In this way Śrī Kṛṣṇa sports in the kuñjas, making His youth successful.”
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.30–1) describes the practice of chanting the holy name at the stage of rati in the association of pure devotees:
mitho ratir mithas tuṣṭir
nivṛttir mitha ātmanaḥ
smarantaḥ smārayantaś ca
mitho ’ghaugha-haraṁ harim
bhaktyā sañjātayā bhaktyā
bibhraty utpulakāṁ tanum
Bhagavān’s glories are supremely purifying. Devotees discuss these glories amongst themselves and thus develop loving friendships, feel satisfaction, and gain release from material existence. They practise sādhana-bhakti, constantly remembering and reminding each other of the killer of Aghāsura, Śrī Hari. In this way para-bhakti, or prema-bhakti, arises in their hearts, and their bodies manifest ecstatic symptoms such as bodily hairs standing on end.
bhakta-gaṇa paraspara kṛṣṇa-kathā gāya
tāhe rati tuṣṭi sukha paraspara pāya
hari-smṛti nije kare, anyere karāya
sādhane udita bhāve pulakāśru pāya
Śrī Kṛṣṇa burns up heaps of sins in a moment; therefore everyone should remember Him and also remind others about Him. In this way, by continuously following sādhana-bhakti, prema-bhakti arises in the devotee. Due to the predominance of prema, the devotee’s body then displays ecstatic symptoms.
A sādhaka’s duty is to increase his affection for the svajātīya-bhaktas (like-minded devotees who are more advanced than oneself and affectionate towards oneself) with whom he is associating, and to arrange for their happiness. It is also his duty to give up sense objects that are unfavourable to bhakti. The pure-hearted svajātīya-bhakta purifies one’s heart by glorifying Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s qualities. Thus, by cultivating devotion through processes such as the hearing and speaking of kṛṣṇa-kathā, bhāva arises in the heart. By hearing, speaking and remembering hari-kathā, which destroys all inauspiciousness, the sādhaka enters the perfected stage (siddha-avasthā).
The special meaning of this verse is that by the influence of associating with vraja-rasika-bhaktas who have the same mood as oneself, Bhakti-devī enters the heart. Hearing such devotees’ hari-kathā with a pure heart matures a new sādhaka’s impressions of bhakti.
In Prema-bhakti-candrikā it is said:
sādhane bhāviba yāhā siddha-dehe pāba tāhā
Whatever one contemplates in sādhana, one will attain at perfection.
pakvāpakva mātra se vicāra
The only difference is that in sādhana it is unripe, and at perfection, ripe.
By the mercy of a bona fide guru, the sādhaka realises his perfected form (siddha-svarūpa) and receives further instruction in the method of bhajana.
When like-minded pure devotees (svajātīya-śuddha-bhaktas) meet, they speak only kṛṣṇa-kathā, thus becoming overwhelmed by the description of Kṛṣṇa’s form, qualities, etc. At Ṭera-kadamba and other places, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī used to become submerged in aṣṭa-sāttvika-bhāvas when sharing realisations from their bhajana.
The sādhaka should be careful, though, that on the pretext of speaking bhagavat-kathā, he does not gratify his senses with female association, economic gain, fame, adoration and so forth. The sādhaka should be extremely cautious in the cultivation of his Kṛṣṇa consciousness (kṛṣṇānuśīlana), otherwise he will deviate from the correct path and be cheated of the wealth of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s prema.
Sometimes the prideless pure devotee preaches nāma-prema throughout the world by the medium of kīrtana. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.6.26):
nāmāny anantasya hata-trapaḥ paṭhan
guhyāni bhadrāṇi kṛtāni ca smaran
gāṁ paryaṭaṁs tuṣṭa-manā gata-spṛhaḥ
kālaṁ pratīkṣan vimado vimatsaraḥ
[While telling his life story, Śrī Nārada said:] Not feeling shy or embarrassed, I began to chant and remember the mysterious and auspicious sweet names and pastimes of Bhagavān. My heart was already free from longing, pride and envy. Now I roamed the Earth joyfully, waiting for the right time.
lajjā chāḍi’ kṛṣṇa-nāma sadā pāṭha kare
kṛṣṇera madhura-līlā sadā citte smare
jīvana yāpana kare kṛṣṇecchā tatpara
Śrī Nārada engaged himself in the activities of chanting the holy names and remembering Bhagavān’s confidential pastimes while he waited for his vastu-siddhi. Pure devotees wholly absorb themselves in chanting the holy names without a trace of hypocrisy, and they never allow criticism to enter their ears. They reveal confidential pastimes of Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, which are filled with extremely deep prema-vilāsa, to affectionate devotees who are of a similar disposition (svajātīya-snigdha-bhaktas). In his poem Vaiṣṇava ke?, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda states:
kīrtana prabhāve smaraṇa haibe
sei kāle nirjana bhajana sambhava
Smaraṇa, remembrance, will come as a result of performing kīrtana, and at that time bhajana in seclusion becomes possible.
Nāma and nāmī are non-different. Upon attaining the stage of bhāva, a devotee’s material sentiments are destroyed and he becomes humble, respecting everyone. He does not expect honour for himself, and giving up any sense of shyness and inhibition, he performs harināma-saṅkīrtana. Śrī Nārada is describing this condition in this Text. Giving up all pride and shyness, he propagated the chanting of the holy names everywhere. The topmost devotees preach everywhere for the welfare of human society. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda says: “prāṇa āche yāra se hetu pracāra – he who has life can preach.”
Smaraṇa is a limb of bhakti that is subservient to śravaṇa and kīrtana. According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, narrations of the deep and confidential activities of Bhagavān – that is, His pastimes of vilāsa with His beloveds – should not be revealed in the presence of ordinary persons. One should perform smaraṇa and kīrtana according to one’s qualification.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.157, 159) states:
‘mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariyā bhāvana
rātri-dine kare vraje kṛṣṇera sevana
nijābhīṣṭa kṛṣṇa-preṣṭha pāche ta’ lāgiyā
nirantara sevā kare antarmanā hañā
The perfected devotee serves Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana day and night within his mind, in his original, pure, self-realised position (nija-siddha-deha). Actually, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana are very dear to Kṛṣṇa. If a person wants to engage in spontaneous loving service, he must follow the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana and constantly engage in devotional service within his mind.
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.32) states:
kvacid rudanty acyuta-cintayā kvacid
dhasanti nandanti vadanty alaukikāḥ
nṛtyanti gāyanty anuśīlayanty ajaṁ
bhavanti tūṣṇīṁ param etya nirvṛtāḥ
The transcendental mahā-bhāgavata’s condition is astonishing. Sometimes he starts to worry, thinking, “So far I have not had direct audience of Bhagavān. What shall I do? Where shall I go? Whom shall I ask? Who will be able to find Him for me?” Thinking like this he begins to weep. Sometimes he receives an internal revelation (sphūrti) of Bhagavān’s sweet pastimes, and he laughs loudly as he beholds Bhagavān, who is endowed with all opulences, hiding in fear of the gopīs. Sometimes he is submerged in bliss upon receiving Bhagavān’s darśana and directly experiencing His prema. Sometimes, when situated in his siddha-deha, he speaks with Bhagavān, saying, “O Prabhu, after so long, I have attained You,” and he proceeds to sing the glories of his Lord. Sometimes, when he receives Bhagavān’s affection, he starts to dance, and sometimes he experiences great peace and remains silent.
bhāvodaye kabhu kāṅde kṛṣṇa-cintā phale
hāse ānandita haya, alaukika bale
nāce gāya, kṛṣṇa ālocane sukha pāya
līlā-anubhave haya, tūṣṇīm bhūta prāya
Upon the appearance of bhāva, the sādhaka’s internal and external activities become extraordinary. Due to remembering narrations of Bhagavān, sometimes he cries, sometimes he laughs, sometimes he dances, sometimes he displays delight and sometimes, becoming silent, he is grave. And at other times, in the association of like-minded devotees, he describes his transcendental realisations, which are filled with prema.
In the Gambhīrā, Śrīman Mahāprabhu was immersed in many transcendental sentiments and would reveal them to Svarūpa Dāmodara and Rāya Rāmānanda. Mahāprabhu’s mind used to completely drown in the ocean of Śrī Rādhā’s sentiments and He became as if mad (unmatta), sometimes losing external consciousness, and sometimes, in ardha-bāhya-daśā (half internal and half external consciousness), He would express some of the sentiments in His heart. While absorbed in a dream (svapnāveśa), He would become silent, fully absorbed in bliss. Sometimes, in ardha-bāhya-daśā, He saw Kṛṣṇa, and sometimes He lost Him. In bāhya-daśā (external consciousness), He was unhappy to be separated from the jewel He had attained but had now lost. Sometimes, like a madman, He asked animals, birds and people, “Where is Kṛṣṇa? Have you seen Him?” At night, when the atmosphere was calm and it was time for Rādhikā’s rendezvous with Kṛṣṇa, He could not keep His composure. As He remembered the rāsa-līlā, He would become overwhelmed with bhāva and begin to sing and dance.
In antar-daśā (internal consciousness) there is only meeting and happiness. Sometimes, while thus absorbed, Mahāprabhu would say, “Today Kṛṣṇa, surrounded by the sakhīs, was sporting at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. One sakhī helped Me behold those vilāsa pastimes from a distance.” When Mahāprabhu returned to bāhya-daśā, He would say, “Svarūpa! Did I just say something to you? What? Oh, I am a sannyāsī named Caitanya!” He then lamented in the anguish of separation. Remembering Kṛṣṇa’s qualities, He would clasp the necks of Rāya Rāmānanda and Svarūpa Dāmodara, and cry with great restlessness. This would happen every day.
In the stage of bhāva, a sādhaka sometimes cries, “Alas! Alas! It is impossible for me to obtain kṛṣṇa-prema, so it is useless for me to remain alive.” Sometimes he laughs as he remembers a pastime, and he thinks, “Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who steals the young wives of the cowherd men, passed the whole night under a tree in the courtyard. Although He was calling the gopīs in various intonations, He was defeated by Jaṭilā and Kuṭilā’s careful guard and interrogation, and He could not attain the gopīs’ association.” Sometimes a sādhaka becomes silent and peaceful, concealing the wealth of prema in his heart. Sometimes, imitating a pastime of Hari, he dances, and sometimes he speaks in a strange and incomprehensible way.
Attachment to beholding the beautiful form of the deity is described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.23.22):
śyāmaṁ hiraṇya-paridhiṁ vanamālya-barha-
vinyasta-hastam itareṇa dhunānam abjaṁ
He is dark-complexioned like a fresh raincloud, and His yellow cloth, which defeats the splendour of gold, shimmers against His body. His head is decorated with a peacock feather, and every part of His body is ornamented with designs that are drawn with various coloured minerals. Sprigs of new leaves adorn His body, and around His neck is an enchanting forest-flower garland of five colours. Dressed in this way, He appears as a fresh, youthful, expert dancer. He rests one hand upon His sakhā’s shoulder and with the other He twirls a pastime lotus. His ears are decorated with earrings (kuṇḍalas), curly locks of hair splash against His cheeks, and His lotus face blossoms with a gentle smile.
kṣaṇe-kṣaṇe dekhe śyāma, hiraṇya-valita
naṭaveśa, saṅgī-skandhe nyasta-padma-kara
Upon the appearance of rati, attachment arises in the sādhaka’s heart when he takes darśana of the deity, and he experiences the splendour of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beauty as described in this verse. Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s head is decorated with a peacock feather crown, and His neck is beautified by a garland of flowers and leaves strung by the vraja-gopīs. His body is decorated with pictures made with aromatic minerals from Kāmyavana. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who attracts everyone with His smiling face, puts His left arm around the shoulder of a priya-narma-sakhā, and His right hand twirls a pastime lotus. The ācāryas explain that from His twirling of the pastime lotus it can be understood that Kṛṣṇa’s heart dances like that lotus when He sees the devotees. Or, the devotees’ hearts dance like the lotus when they see Kṛṣṇa. Here, by His twirling of the lotus, Śrī Kṛṣṇa expresses the sentiment, “O fortunate brāhmaṇīs, I am holding your lotus-like hearts in My hand.” He implies, “Upon attaining darśana of Me, your hearts dance like this lotus.” Or, “By accepting your hearts, I will make you My own.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa entices all living entities to drink nectar by attracting them with the sweetness of His beauty. By this mercy, many kinds of pastimes manifest within the sādhaka’s heart, and he experiences the happiness of relishing these pastimes.