The word rasa, used in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, is understood by different persons differently because the exact English equivalent is very difficult to find. But as we have seen our spiritual master translate this word rasa into "mellow," we shall follow in his footsteps and also translate the word in that way.
The particular loving mood or attitude relished in the exchange of love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called rasa, or mellow. The different types of rasa, when combined together, help one to taste the mellow of devotional service in the highest degree of transcendental ecstasy. Such a position, although entirely transcendental to our experience, will be explained in this section as far as possible, following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Without relishing some sort of mellow or loving mood in one's activities, no one can continue to perform such activities. Similarly, in the transcendental life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service there must be some mellow or specific taste from the service. Generally this mellow is experienced by chanting, hearing, worshiping in the temple and being engaged in the service of the Lord. So when a person feels transcendental bliss, that is called "relishing the mellow." To be more clear, we may understand that the various feelings of happiness derived from discharging devotional service may be termed the "mellows" of devotional service.
This relishing of transcendental mellow in discharging devotional service cannot be experienced by all classes of men because this sweet loving mood is developed only from one's previous life's activities, or by the association of unalloyed devotees. As explained above, association with pure devotees is the beginning of faith in devotional service. Only by developing such faith in the association of a pure devotee, or by having in one's previous life executed devotional activities, can one actually relish the mellow of devotional service. In other words, this transcendental bliss is not to be enjoyed by any common man unless he is so extraordinarily fortunate as to be in association with devotees or to be continuing his previous birth's devotional activities.
The gradual process of development to the stage of devotional service is explained in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto: "The beginning is to hear about Lord Kṛṣṇa in the association of devotees who have themselves cleansed their hearts by association. Hearing about the transcendental activities of the Lord will result in one's feeling transcendental bliss always." It is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā that for one who has actually come to the spiritual platform, the first symptom visible will be that he is always joyful. This joyous life is attained by one's reaction to reading the Bhagavad-gītā or Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, or else from associating with persons who are very interested in the spiritual life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness—specifically those who have made the determination to achieve the favor of Govinda by being engaged in transcendental loving service at His lotus feet. Being encouraged by such a feeling, one who is constantly engaged in discharging the regulative principles of devotional service in such a way as to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead develops two principles of compelling force, which come under the heading of vibhāva. Thus one enjoys transcendental bliss.
There are several origins or causes for this compulsive love of Kṛṣṇa, such as Kṛṣṇa Himself, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa's playing on the flute, etc. The effect is sometimes loving and sometimes stunted.
There are eight transcendental symptoms found in the body during ecstasy, and all of them are possible only by a mixture of the above-mentioned five ecstatic divisions. Without some mixture of these five ecstatic principles, one cannot relish transcendental bliss. The cause or basis for relishing transcendental mellow is exactly what we mean by vibhāva. This vibhāva is divided into two—namely, basic and impetuous. In the Agni Purāṇa the description of vibhāva is given as follows: "The basis from which ecstatic love is born is called vibhāva, which is divided into two—basic and impetuous." In other words, there are two kinds of ecstatic love. The object of basic ecstatic love is Kṛṣṇa and His devotee. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the object of basic ecstatic love, and His pure devotee, a reservoir of such love, is the object of impetuous ecstatic love. Impetuous ecstatic love, then, is that love which develops when one sees an object which reminds him of Kṛṣṇa.