Chapter Seventeen
Ecstatic Love
By the process of executing regulated devotional service, one is actually elevated onto the transcendental stage, beyond the material modes of nature. At that time one's heart becomes illuminated like the sun. The sun is far above the planetary systems, and there is no possibility of its being covered by any kind of cloud; similarly, when a devotee is purified like the sun, from his pure heart there is a diffusion of ecstatic love which is more glorious than the sunshine. Only at that time is the attachment to Krsna perfect. Spontaneously, the devotee becomes eager to serve the Lord in his ecstatic love. At this stage the devotee is on the platform of uttama adhikari, perfect devotion. Such a devotee has no agitation from material affections and is interested only in the service of Radha and Krsna.
To clarify, in the previous chapters, the symptoms of devotional service were explained along with instructions as to how they can be executed with our present senses, gradually rising to the platform of ecstasy of spontaneous love. And the two kinds of devotional service-namely devotional service through regulative principles and through spontaneous love-were discussed. Within the stage of the regulative principles of devotional service there are two divisions-namely executive and effective. This effective portion of devotional service is called bhava, or ecstasy. In this connection, there is a statement in the Tantras that ecstasy is the first symptom of pure love for the Personality of Godhead, and in that stage one is sometimes found shedding tears or shivering. Not always are these symptoms manifest, but occasionally. When King Ambarisa was put into difficulty by Durvasa, he began to think of the lotus feet of the Lord, and thus there were some changes in his body, and tears were falling from his eyes. These symptoms are activities of ecstasy. They are visible in the shivering of the body and the shedding of tears. After the outward appearance of these ecstatic symptoms, they stay within the mind, and continuation of the ecstasy is called samadhi. This stage of appreciation becomes the cause of future exchanges of loving affairs with Krsna.
Elevation to this stage of ecstasy can be possible in two ways. One way is constant association with pure devotees. The other way is by the special mercy of Krsna, or by the mercy of a pure devotee of Krsna. Elevation to the ecstatic stage of life is generally attained through association with pure devotees, while elevation to that stage by the special mercy of Krsna or His devotee is very rare. The purport is that one should execute devotional service rigidly in the association of devotees so that there will be certainty in raising oneself to that ecstatic position. In special cases, of course, there is special favor from Krsna, and although we should always expect that, we should not sit idly and simply wait for Krsna's special mercy; the regular duties must be performed. It is just as when, sometimes, it is found that a person who never attended school or college may be recognized as a great scholar, or an honorary degree from great universities may be offered to him. But this does not mean that one should avoid school and expect to automatically receive an honorary degree from some university. Similarly, one should devoutly execute the regulative principles of devotional service and at the same time hope for Krsna's favor or for His devotee's favor.
An example of rising to the stage of ecstatic love by executing the regulative principles of devotional service is given in the life story of Narada, which is described to Vyasadeva in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Narada tells there of his previous life and how he developed to the stage of ecstatic love. He was engaged in the service of great devotees and used to hear their talks and songs. Because he had the opportunity to hear these pastimes and songs of Krsna from the mouths of pure devotees, he became very attracted within his heart. Because he had become so eager to hear these topics, he gradually developed within himself an ecstatic love for Krsna. This ecstatic love is prior to the pure love of Krsna, because in the next verse Narada confirms that by the gradual process of hearing from the great sages he developed love of Godhead. In that connection, Narada continues to say in the First Canto, 5th Chapter, 28th verse, of the Bhagavatam: "First I passed my days in the association of the great sages during the rainy autumn season. Every morning and evening I heard them while they were singing and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, and thus gradually my heart became purified. As soon as I heard them with great attention, the influence of the modes of material ignorance and passion disappeared, and I became firmly fixed in devotional service to the Lord."
These are practical examples of how one can develop to the stage of ecstatic love simply by the association of pure devotees. It is essential, therefore, that one constantly associate with pure devotees who are engaged morning and evening in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. In this way one will get the chance to purify his heart and develop this ecstatic pure love for Krsna.
This statement is also confirmed in the Third Canto, 25th Chapter, 22nd verse, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, where Lord Kapila says, "My dear Mother, when a person is actually in association with pure devotees, the sublime potency of My devotional service can be experienced." In other words, when a pure devotee speaks, his words act upon the hearts of the audience. What is the secret of hearing and chanting? A professional speaker cannot impress transcendental ecstasy within the hearts of the listeners. However, when a realized soul who is engaged in the service of the Lord is speaking, he has the potency to inject spiritual life within the audience. One should, therefore, seek the association of such pure unalloyed devotees, and by such association and service a neophyte devotee will certainly develop attachment, love and devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the Padma Purana there is the story of a neophyte devotee who, in order to raise himself to the ecstatic platform, danced all night to invoke the Lord's grace upon him.
Sometimes, however, it is found that without undergoing any devotional process, one all of a sudden develops devotion for Lord Krsna. This sudden development of the devotional attitude in a person must be understood as a special mercy of Krsna or of His devotee. This apparently accidental development of ecstatic feelings through the causeless mercy of Krsna can be divided into three groups: simply by speaking, simply by glancing and simply by good wishes.
In the Naradiya Purana there is a statement about development of ecstatic love simply by speaking. Lord Krsna said to Narada, "O best of the brahmanas, I wish that you may develop unalloyed devotional service to Me, which is full of transcendental bliss and all auspiciousness."
In the Skanda Purana there is a statement about developing ecstatic love towards Krsna simply by glancing. It is stated there: "When the inhabitants of Jangala Province saw the Personality of Godhead, Krsna, they were so stricken with feeling that they could not withdraw their glance from Him."
As far as heartfelt wishes are concerned, there is a statement in the Suka-samhita where Narada tells Srila Vyasadeva, "You have a son who is the greatest devotee of the Personality of Godhead, and I can observe that without any following of the regulative principles of devotional service, he is already enriched with many of the symptoms achieved by the execution of devotional service after many, many births."
As for ecstatic love of Krsna, there is a statement in the Seventh Canto, 4th Chapter, 26th verse, of Srimad-Bhagavatam in which Narada addresses King Yudhisthira: "My dear King, it is very difficult to describe the character of Prahlada. He developed a natural attraction for Krsna, and whatever I can explain about his character will simply be an arrangement of words; his actual character is impossible to describe." This means Narada himself admitted that the natural development of Prahlada's ecstatic love was by the grace of Lord Krsna.
This natural attraction for Krsna on the part of Prahlada was developed simply by the mercy of Narada. When Prahlada Maharaj was within the womb of his mother, she was being sympathetically instructed by Narada about the science of devotional service, and at the same time Narada was wishing that the child within the womb could also take advantage of the instructions. Because Narada, an authorized devotee and great associate of the Personality of Godhead, was desiring auspiciousness for Prahlada Maharaj, he developed all the characteristics of a high-grade devotee. This is called natural attraction. It is caused by the special grace of the Personality of Godhead or by the special grace of a great devotee like Narada.
There is a statement in the Skanda Purana wherein Parvata Muni tells Narada, "My dear Narada, of all saintly persons you are so great and glorious that simply by your good wishes a lowborn hunter also has become a great, elevated devotee of Lord Krsna."
This ecstatic love for Krsna can be divided into five divisions, which will be described by Sri Rupa Gosvami later on.

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