If one wants to go to the higher material planets, he can keep his finer dress of mind, intelligence and ego, but has to leave his gross dress (body) made of earth, water, fire, etc. When one goes to a transcendental planet, however, it is necessary to change both the finer and gross bodies, for one has to reach the spiritual sky completely in a spiritual form. This change of dress will take place automatically at the time of death if one so desires. But this desire is possible at death only if the desire is cultivated during life. Where one's treasures are, there also is one's heart. When one practices devotional service, one cultivates a desire for the kingdom of God. The following details outline a general practice by which one can prepare himself for an easy journey to the Vaikuṇṭha (anti-material) planets, where life is free from birth, old age, disease and death.
General practice (positive functions):
1. The serious candidate must accept a bona fide spiritual master in order to be trained scientifically. Because the senses are material, it is not at all possible to realize the Transcendence by them. Therefore the senses have to be spiritualized by the prescribed method under the direction of the spiritual master.
2. When the student has chosen a bona fide spiritual master, he must take the proper initiation from him. This marks the beginning of spiritual training.
3. The candidate must be prepared to satisfy the spiritual master in every way. A bona fide spiritual master who is fully cognizant of the methods of spiritual science, learned in the spiritual scriptures such as the Bhagavad-gītā, Vedānta, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Upaniṣads, and who is also a realized soul who has made a tangible connection with the Supreme Lord, is the transparent medium by which the willing candidate is led to the path of the Vaikuṇṭhas. The spiritual master must be satisfied in all respects, because simply by his good wishes a candidate can make wonderful progress along the path.
4. The intelligent candidate places intelligent questions to the spiritual master in order to clear his path of all uncertainties. The spiritual master shows the way, not whimsically, but in accordance with the principles of the authorities who have actually traversed the path. The names of these authorities are disclosed in the scriptures, and one has simply to follow them under the direction of the spiritual master. The spiritual master never deviates from the path of the authorities.
5. The candidate should always try to follow in the footsteps of the great sages who have practiced the method and obtained success. This should be taken as a motto in life. One should not superficially imitate them, but should follow them sincerely in terms of the particular time and circumstances.
6. The candidate must be prepared to change his habits in terms of the instructions contained in the books of authority, and for the satisfaction of the Lord he must be prepared to sacrifice both sense gratification and sense abnegation, following the example of Arjuna.
7. The candidate should live in a spiritual atmosphere.
8. He must be satisfied with as much wealth as is sufficient for maintenance only. He should not try to amass more wealth than is necessary to sustain himself in a simple way.
9. He must observe the fasting dates, such as the eleventh day of the growing and waning moon.
10. He must show respect to the banyan tree, the cow, the learned brāhmaṇa and the devotee.
These are the first stepping-stones toward the path of devotional service. Gradually one has to adopt other items, which are negative in character:
11. One should avoid offenses in the discharge of devotional service and in chanting the holy names.
12. He should avoid extensive association with nondevotees.
13. He must not take on unlimited disciples. This means that a candidate who has successfully followed the first twelve items can also become a spiritual master himself, just as a student becomes a monitor in class with a limited number of disciples.
14. He must not pose himself as a vastly learned man simply by quoting statements in books. He must have solid knowledge of the necessary books without superfluous knowledge in others.
15. A regular and successful practice of the above fourteen items will enable the candidate to maintain mental equilibrium even amidst great trials of material loss and gain.
16. In the next stage, the candidate does not become afflicted by lamentation and illusion.
17. He does not deride another's mode of religion or worship, nor does he deride the Personality of Godhead or His devotees.
18. He never tolerates blasphemy against the Lord or His devotees.
19. He should not indulge in the discussion of topics dealing with the relationship between man and woman; nor should he engage in useless topics concerning others' family affairs.
20. He should not inflict pain—either in body or in mind—upon other living beings, whomsoever they may be.
Out of the above twenty items, the first three positive items are imperative and most essential for the serious candidate.
There are forty-four other items to be followed by the serious candidate, but Lord Caitanya has selected five as the most important. These were selected owing to the present conditions of civic life. They are as follows:
1. One should associate with the devotees. Association with devotees is made possible by hearing them attentively, by asking them relevant questions, by supplying them food and by accepting food from them, and by giving them charity and by accepting from them whatever they offer.
2. One should chant the holy name of the Lord in all circumstances. The chanting of the Lord's name is an easy and inexpensive process of realization. One can chant any of the innumerable names of the Lord at any time. One should try to avoid offenses. There are ten offenses which one can commit while chanting the transcendental names, and these should be avoided as far as possible, but in any event, one should try to chant the holy names of the Lord at all times.
3. One should hear the transcendental topics enunciated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. This hearing is made possible through platform lectures by bona fide devotees and by authorized translations of the Bhāgavatam.
4. One should make his home at Mathurā, the birthplace of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Or one may make his home as good as Mathurā by installing the Deity of the Lord to be worshiped by all members of the family after proper initiation from the spiritual master.
5. One should worship the installed Deity with attention and devotion so that the whole atmosphere of one's home becomes the replica of the Lord's abode. This is made possible by the direction of the spiritual master who knows the transcendental art and can show the candidate the proper method.
The above five items can be adopted by any man in any part of the world. Thus anyone can prepare himself for returning home, back to Godhead, by the simple method recognized by authorities such as Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who specifically advented Himself to deliver the fallen souls of this age.
For further details on this subject, one should read literatures like the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, of which we have presented an English summary study entitled The Nectar of Devotion.