Generally, a devotee who has achieved the causeless mercy of the Lord on account of following the strict rules and regulations of devotional service becomes attracted by the supreme greatness of the Lord, by the transcendental beauty of the Lord and by the spontaneous execution of devotional service. To be more clear, by executing the regulative principles of devotional service, one can fully appreciate the transcendental beauty of the Lord. In any case, such exalted positions are only possible by the extraordinary mercy of the Lord upon the devotee.
Association with Pure Devotees
Although many different processes for developing love of Godhead have been explained so far, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī now gives us a general description of how one can best achieve such a high position. The beginning of ecstatic love of Godhead is basically faith. There are many societies and associations of pure devotees, and if someone with just a little faith begins to associate with such societies, his advancement to pure devotional service is rapid.
The influence of a pure devotee is such that if someone comes to associate with him with a little faith, he gets the chance of hearing about the Lord from authoritative scriptures like the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Thus, by the mercy of the Lord, who is situated in everyone's heart, one gradually develops his faith in the descriptions of such authoritative scriptures. This is the first stage of association with pure devotees. In the second stage, after one becomes a little advanced and mature, he automatically offers to follow the principles of devotional service under the guidance of the pure devotee and accepts him as the spiritual master. In the next stage, under the guidance of the spiritual master, the devotee executes regulative devotional service, and, as a result of such activities, he becomes freed from all unwanted occupations. When he is freed from unwanted occupations, his faith becomes steadily fixed, and he develops a transcendental taste for devotional service, then attachment, then ecstasies, and in the last stage there is pure love of Godhead. These are the different stages of the development of pure love.
Only the most fortunate persons can achieve such success in life. Those who are simply academic students of the Vedic scriptures cannot appreciate how such a development takes place. In the Nārāyaṇa Pañcarātra Lord Śiva therefore tells Pārvatī: "My dear supreme goddess, you can know from me that any person who has developed the ecstasy of love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and who is always merged in transcendental bliss on account of this love, cannot even perceive the material distress or happiness coming from the body or mind."
Affection and the dealings of love are different branches of the original tree of love preceding the many varieties of affectionate manifestations, which will not be discussed here. These different manifestations have been described by Sanātana Gosvāmī in his Bhāgavatāmṛta. Although the subject of such affections and dealings of love are very confidential, Sanātana Gosvāmī has described them very explicitly.