Without worshiping the arcā-vigraha, the form or Deity of the Lord, one cannot understand such literature as the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. For those great sages situated in the position of transcendental neutrality, the beginning should be to take shelter of Lord Viṣṇu, the four-handed eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mystic yogīs are therefore advised to meditate on the form of Lord Viṣṇu as recommended by Kapila Muni in the sāṅkhya-yoga system. Unfortunately, many mystic yogīs try to meditate on something void, and as is stated in the Gītā, the result is that they simply undergo trouble and do not achieve any tangible result.
When some great saintly persons who had undergone penances and austerities saw the four-handed transcendental form of Viṣṇu, they began to remark as follows: "This four-handed form of the Lord, manifested in a bluish color, is the reservoir of all pleasure and the center of our living force. Actually, when we see this eternal form of Viṣṇu, we, along with many other paramahaṁsas, become immediately captivated by the beauty of the Lord." This appreciation of Lord Viṣṇu by saintly persons is an instance of situation in śānta-rasa, or the neutral stage of devotional service. In the beginning, those who are aspiring for salvation try to get out of the material entanglement by performing painful austerities and penances, and ultimately they come to the impersonal status of spiritual realization. At this brahma-bhūta stage of liberation from the material entanglement, the symptoms, as explained in the Bhagavad-gītā, are that one becomes joyous beyond any hankering or lamentation and gains a universal vision. When the devotee is situated in the śānta-rasa, or neutral stage of devotional service, he appreciates the Viṣṇu form of the Lord.
Actually, all Vedic culture is aiming at understanding Lord Viṣṇu. In the Ṛg Veda one mantra says that any advanced saintly person is always aspiring to be fixed in meditation upon the lotus feet of Viṣṇu.
In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that the foolish do not know that Viṣṇu is the ultimate goal of life. According to the conclusion of all authoritative Vedic scriptures, when a person comes to the stage of appreciating Viṣṇu, he is at the beginning of devotional service. If one cultivates devotional service further and further, under proper guidance, other features of devotional service will gradually become manifest. At this stage of śānta-rasa, one can see Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the deliverer of even the demons. The Lord is appreciated by such would-be devotees as the eternal transcendental form, chief of all self-realized souls, the supersoul, the supreme Brahman, completely pacified, completely controlled and pure, merciful to the devotees and untouched by any material condition. This appreciation of Lord Viṣṇu in awe and veneration by the saintly is to be understood as the sign that they are situated in the śānta-rasa, or neutral stage of devotional service.
This stage of śānta-rasa can be attained by the impersonalists only when they are in association with pure devotees. Otherwise it is not possible. After Brahman realization, when a liberated soul comes in contact with a pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa and submissively accepts the teachings of Lord Kṛṣṇa without misinterpretation, he becomes situated in this neutral stage of devotional service. The best example of saintly persons situated in the śānta-rasa are Sanaka, Sanātana, Sananda, and Sanat-kumāra, the Kumāra brothers. These four saintly persons (known as Catuḥsana) were sons of Lord Brahmā. After their birth, when they were ordered by their father to become householders and increase human society, they refused the order. They said that they had already decided not to become entangled with family life; they would rather live as saintly brahmacārīs for their own perfection. So these great saints have been living for millions of years now, but still they appear to be just like boys of four or five years. Their complexions are very fair, there is an effulgence in their bodies, and they always travel naked. These four saintly persons almost always remain together.