In a verse in the Lalita-mādhava (5.2), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī describes renunciation in devotional service:
- ṛddhā siddhi-vraja-vijayitā satya-dharmā samādhir
- brahmānando gurur api camatkārayaty eva tāvat
- yāvat premṇāḿ madhu-ripu-vaśīkāra-siddhauṣadhīnāḿ
- gandho 'py antaḥ-karaṇa-saraṇī-pānthatāḿ na prayāti
"Activities such as mystic trance, becoming one with the Supreme, and the religious principles of brahminism, such as speaking the truth and tolerance, have their own respective attractions, but when one becomes captivated by love of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all attraction for mystic power, monistic pleasure, and mundane religious principles becomes insignificant."
In other words, by discharging pure devotional service one attains the highest stage of love of Godhead and is freed from all other obligations, such as those mentioned in the karma-kāṇḍa, jñāna-kāṇḍa, and yoga-kāṇḍa sections of the Vedas. One who engages in pure devotional service has no desire to improve himself — except in the service of the Lord. In such devotional service there cannot be any worship of the impersonal or localized features of the Supreme Lord. The devotee simply performs activities that satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus attains pure love for the Lord.
Only by the combined mercy of the pure devotee — the bona fide spiritual master — and the Supreme Lord Himself can one attain pure devotional service to the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to find a pure devotee and accept him as his spiritual master, then this spiritual master, out of his causeless mercy, will impart the knowledge of pure devotional service. And it is the Lord, out of His causeless mercy, who sends His most confidential servitor to this world to instruct pure devotional service.
By the divine grace of the spiritual master, the seed of pure devotional service, which is completely different from the seed of fruitive activities and speculative knowledge, is sown in the heart of the devotee. Then, when the devotee satisfies the spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa, this seed of devotional service grows into a plant that gradually reaches up to the spiritual world. An ordinary plant requires shelter for growing. Similarly, the devotional plant grows and grows until it takes shelter in the spiritual world, without taking shelter on any planet in the material world. In other words, those who are captivated by pure devotional service have no desire to elevate themselves to any material planet. The highest planet in the spiritual world is Kṛṣṇa-loka, or Goloka Vṛndāvana, and there the devotional plant takes shelter.
The Nārada Pañcarātra defines pure devotional service as follows:
- sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaḿ tat-paratvena nirmalam
- hṛṣīkena hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaḿ bhaktir ucyate
- (CC Madhya 19.170)
"Devotional service to the Supreme Lord means engagement of all the senses in His service. In such service there are two important features: First, one must be purified of all designations, and second, the senses should be engaged only in the service of the Supreme Lord, the master of the senses. That is pure devotional service."
Everyone is now contaminated by various designations in relation to the body. Everyone is thinking, "I belong to such-and-such country; I belong to a certain society; I belong to a certain family." But when a person comes to the stage of pure devotional service, he knows that he does not belong to anything except the service of the Lord.
The symptom of unflinching faith in pure devotional service is that one has overcome the many disruptive desires that impede pure devotional service, such as (1) the desire to worship the demigods, (2) the desire to serve someone other than Kṛṣṇa, (3) the desire to work for sense gratification, without understanding one's relationship with Kṛṣṇa, (4) the desire to cultivate impersonal knowledge and thereby forget the Supreme Lord, and (5) the desire to establish oneself as the Supreme, in which endeavor there is no trace of the bliss of devotional service. One should give up all these desires and engage exclusively in the loving devotional service of the Lord. Except for the service of the Lord, anything done is in the service of illusion, or māyā.
One should try to get out of illusion and be engaged in the factual service of Kṛṣṇa. Service to Kṛṣṇa utilizes all the senses, and when the senses are engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, they become purified. There are ten senses — five active senses and five knowledge-acquiring senses. The active senses are the power of talking, the hands, the legs, the evacuating outlet, and the generating organ. The knowledge-acquiring senses are the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, and the sense of touch. The mind, the center of all the senses, is sometimes considered the eleventh sense.
One cannot engage in the transcendental loving service of the Lord with these senses in their present materially covered state. Therefore one should take up the process of devotional service to purify them. There are sixty-four items of regulative devotional service for purifying the senses, and one should strenuously undergo such regulative service. Then one can enter into the transcendental loving service of the Lord. (See TEXT 12 for a full discussion of these sixty-four items of devotional service.)