In the book Padyavali by Rupa Gosvami there is the following statement about Vrndavana: "In this place the son of Maharaj Nanda used to live with His father, who was king of all cowherd men. In this place Lord Krsna broke the cart in which the Sakatasura demon was concealed. At this place Damodara, who can cut the knot of our material existence, was tied up by His mother Yasoda."
A pure devotee of Lord Krsna resides in the district of Mathura or Vrndavana and visits all the places where Krsna's pastimes were performed. At these sacred places Krsna displayed His childhood activities with the cowherd boys and mother Yasoda. The system of circumambulating all these places is still current among devotees of Lord Krsna, and those coming to Mathura and Vrndavana always feel transcendental pleasure. Actually, if someone goes to Vrndavana, he will immediately feel separation from Krsna, who performed such nice activities when He was present there.
Such attraction for remembering Krsna's activities is known as attachment for Krsna. There are impersonalist philosophers and mystics, however, who by a show of devotional service want ultimately to merge into the existence of the Supreme Lord. They sometimes try to imitate a pure devotee's sentiment for visiting the holy places where Krsna had His pastimes, but they simply have a view for salvation, and so their activities cannot be considered attachment.
It is said by Rupa Gosvami that the attachment exhibited by pure devotees for Krsna cannot possibly be perfected in the heart of fruitive workers (karmis) or mental speculators because such attachment in pure Krsna consciousness is very rare and not possible to achieve even for many liberated persons. As is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, liberation from material contamination is the stage at which devotional service can be achieved. For a person who simply wants to have liberation and to merge into the impersonal brahma-jyoti, it is not possible to acquire attachment to Krsna. This attachment is very confidentially kept by Krsna and is only bestowed upon pure devotees. Even ordinary devotees cannot have such pure attachment for Krsna. Therefore, how is it possible for success to be achieved by persons whose hearts are contaminated by the actions and reactions of fruitive activities and who are entangled by various types of mental speculation?
There are many so-called devotees who artificially think of Krsna's pastimes, which are known as asta-kaliya-lila. Sometimes one may artificially imitate these, pretending that Krsna is talking with him in the form of a boy, or else one may pretend that Radharani and Krsna both have come to him and are talking with him. Such characteristics are sometimes exhibited by the impersonalist class of men, and they may captivate some innocent persons who have no knowledge in the science of devotional service. However, as soon as an experienced devotee sees all of these caricatures, he can immediately evaluate such rascaldom. If such a pretender is sometimes seen possessing imitative attachment to Krsna, that will not be accepted as real attachment. It may be said, however, that such attachment is like giving a future hope to the pretender, so that he may eventually rise onto the actual platform of pure devotional service.
This imitative attachment can be divided into two headings-namely, shadow attachment and para (transcendental) attachment. If someone, without undergoing the regulative principles of devotional service or without being guided by a bona fide spiritual master, shows such imitative attachment, it is called shadow attachment. Sometimes it is found that a person actually attached to material enjoyment or salvation has the good fortune to associate with pure devotees while they are engaged in chanting the holy name of the Lord. By the good grace of the Lord one may also cooperate and join in the chanting. At that time, simply by the association of such pure devotees, the moonlike rays from their hearts reflect on him, and by the influence of the pure devotees he may show some likeness of attachment caused by inquisitiveness, but this is very flickering. And, if by the manifestation of such shadow attachment one feels the disappearance of all material pangs, then it is called para attachment.
Such shadow attachment or para attachment can develop by associating with a pure devotee or by visiting holy places like Vrndavana or Mathura; or if an ordinary man develops such attachment for Krsna and fortunately performs devotional activities in the association of pure devotees, he can also rise up to the platform of pure devotional service. The conclusion is that transcendental attachment is so powerful that if such attachment is seen manifested even in some common man, by the association of a pure devotee it can bring one to the perfectional stage. But such attachment for Krsna cannot be invoked in a person without his being sufficiently blessed by the association of pure devotees.
As attachment can be invoked by the association of pure devotees, so attachment can also be extinguished by committing offenses at the lotus feet of pure devotees. To be more clear, by the association of pure devotees attachment for Krsna can be aroused, but if one commits offenses at the lotus feet of a devotee, his shadow attachment or para attachment can be extinguished. This extinguishing is like the waning moon, which gradually decreases and at last becomes darkness. One should therefore be very careful while associating with pure devotees to guard against committing an offense at their lotus feet.
Transcendental attachment, either shadow or para, can be nullified by different degrees of offenses at the lotus feet of pure devotees. If the offense is very serious, then one's attachment becomes almost nil, and if the offense is not very serious, one's attachment can become second-class or third- class.
If someone becomes attached to the principles of salvation or to merging into the existence of the brahma-jyoti, his ecstasies gradually diminish into shadow and para attachment or else transform into the principles of ahangrahopasana. This ahangrahopasana describes a living entity when he begins spiritual realization by identifying himself with the Supreme Lord. This state of self-realization is technically known as monism. The monist thinks himself one with the Supreme Lord. Thus, without differentiating between himself and the Supreme Lord, it is his view that by worshiping himself he is worshiping the supreme whole.
Sometimes it is found that a neophyte is taking part in chanting and dancing very enthusiastically, but within himself he is under the impression that he has become one with the supreme whole. This conception of monism is completely different from pure transcendental devotional service. If, however, it is seen that a person has developed a high standard of devotion without having undergone even the regulative principles, it is to be understood that his status of devotional service was achieved in a former life. For some reason or another it had been temporarily stopped, most probably by committing an offense at the lotus feet of a devotee. Now, with a good second chance, it has again begun to develop. The conclusion is that steady progress in devotional service can be attained only in the association of pure devotees.
If one can gradually advance his status in devotional service, it is to be understood that it is due to the causeless mercy of Krsna Himself. If a person is completely detached from material enjoyment and has developed pure ecstatic devotion, even if he is sometimes accidentally found not to be living up to the standard of devotional service, one should not be envious of him. It is confirmed also in the Bhagavad-gita that a devotee who has unflinching faith in and devotion to the Lord, even if he is sometimes found to be accidentally deviated from pure devotional characteristics, should still be counted amongst the pure. Unflinching faith in devotional service, in Lord Krsna and in the spiritual master makes one highly elevated in the activities of devotional service.
In the Nrsimha Purana it is stated: "If a person has completely engaged his mind, body and activities in the service of the Supreme Godhead, and externally he is found to be engaged in some abominable activities, these abominable activities will surely be very quickly vanquished by the influence of his staunch devotional force." The example is given that on the full moon there are some spots which may appear to be pockmarks. Still, the illumination spread by the full moon cannot be checked. Similarly, a little fault in the midst of volumes of devotional service is not at all to be counted as fault. Attachment for Krsna is transcendental bliss. Amidst unlimited volumes of transcendental bliss, a spot of some material defect cannot act in any way.