In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu it is stated that all those who attended the pious meeting held by Lord Brahmā for the study of Vedic literature like the Upaniṣads became overwhelmed with ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa, the chief of the Yadu dynasty. Actually, the result of studying the Upaniṣads is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Negation of material existence is only one of the subjects of the Upaniṣads. The next subject concerns becoming situated in the impersonal realization. And then, after penetrating through the impersonal Brahman, when one comes to the platform of associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one reaches the ultimate goal in studying the Upaniṣads.
Those who are situated on the platform of śānta-rasa get their impetus for advancement in devotional service by smelling the tulasī offered at the lotus feet of the Lord, by hearing the sound of His conchshell, by seeing a sanctified place in some mountain or hill, by observing a forest like the ones in Vṛndāvana, by going to a place of pilgrimage, by visiting the course of the Ganges River, by being victorious over the dictations of bodily demands (i.e., eating, sleeping, mating and defending), by understanding the devastation of eternal time, and by constantly associating with devotees engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. All these different items are favorable in elevating saintly persons situated in śānta-rasa to the advanced stage of devotional service.
In the Third Canto, 15th Chapter, 43rd verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a statement by the four saintly persons known as Catuḥsana, headed by Sanaka-kumāra. They went to visit the Lord of Vaikuṇṭha-loka in the spiritual sky, and when they bowed down before the Lord, the aroma of the tulasī, mixed with saffron, entered their nostrils and immediately attracted their minds. Although these four saintly persons were always absorbed in the thought of impersonal Brahman, from association with the Lord and from smelling the tulasī leaves, the hairs on their bodies immediately stood up. This shows that even a person who is situated in Brahman realization, if he is put into association with devotees in pure devotional service, will immediately become attracted to the personal feature of the Lord.
There are certain symptoms of great sages who are situated in śānta-rasa devotional service, and these symptoms are exhibited as follows: they concentrate their eyesight on the tip of the nose, and they behave just like an avadhūta. Avadhūta means a highly elevated mystic who does not care for any social, religious or Vedic conventions. Another symptom is that such persons are very careful to step forward when giving speeches. When they speak, they join together the forefinger and thumb. (This is called the jñāna-mudrā position.) They are not against the atheists, nor are they particularly inclined to the devotees. Such persons give stress to liberation and detachment from the materialistic way of life. They are always neutral and have no affection for nor misidentification with anything material. They are always grave, but fully absorbed in thoughts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These uncommon features develop in devotees who are situated in śānta-rasa.
Regarding concentration of the eyesight on the tip of the nose, there is a statement in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu by a devotee who observed this being performed by a yogī. He remarked, "This great sage is concentrating his eyesight on the tip of his nose, and from this it appears that he has already realized the eternal form of the Lord within himself."
Sometimes a devotee in śānta-rasa yawns, stretches his limbs, instructs on devotional service, offers respectful obeisances unto the form of the Lord, offers nice prayers to the Lord and has a desire to give direct service with his body. These are some of the common symptoms of the devotee who is situated in neutrality. One devotee, after observing the yawning of another devotee, addressed him thus: "My dear mystic, I think that within your heart there is some ecstatic devotional love which is causing you to yawn." It is sometimes found that a devotee in the śānta-rasa falls down on the ground, his hairs stand up on his body, and he trembles all over. In this way, different symptoms of ecstatic trance are exhibited automatically by such devotees.
In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu it is said that when Lord Kṛṣṇa was blowing His conchshell known as Pāñcajanya many great sages who were living in the caves of the mountains immediately reacted, being awakened from their trance of meditation. They immediately saw that the hairs of their bodies were standing. Sometimes devotees in śānta-rasa become stunned, peaceful, jubilant, deliberate, reflective, anxious, dexterous and argumentative. These symptoms indicate continuous ecstasy, or established emotion.
Once a great realized sage was lamenting that the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa was living in Dvārakā but that he was unable to take advantage of seeing Him. After thinking this, the sage immediately became stunned. He was thinking that he was simply wasting his time. In other words, the sage lamented because the Supreme Personality of Godhead was personally present, and he still could not take advantage of this because of his meditation.
When a mystic is transcendental to all kinds of mental concoctions and is situated in Brahman, his state is called trance beyond the influence of the material conception of life. In that stage, when one hears about the transcendental pastimes of the Lord, there may be shivering in the body.
When a Brahman-realized devotee who has come to the stage of steady trance comes into contact with the eternal form of Kṛṣṇa, his transcendental pleasure increases millions of times. One great sage once inquired from another, "My dear friend, do you think that after I perfect the eightfold yoga performance I shall be able to see the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead?" This enquiry from the sage is an instance of inquisitiveness in a devotee situated in the neutral stage of devotional service.