Furthermore, in order to be successful in devotional service one must give up the association of undesirable people. This includes karmīs, jñānīs, yogīs and other nondevotees. Once Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was asked by one of His householder devotees about the general principles of Vaiṣṇavism, as well as the general routine activities of the Vaiṣṇava, and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately replied, asat-saṅga-tyāga,—ei vaiṣṇava-ācāra: (CC Madhya 22.87) "Characteristically, a Vaiṣṇava is one who gives up the association of worldly people, or nondevotees." Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has therefore recommended, tāṅdera caraṇa sevi bhakta-sane vāsa: one has to live in the company of pure devotees and execute the regulative principles laid down by the previous ācāryas, the six Gosvāmīs (namely, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī and Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī). If one lives in the association of devotees, there is little chance of associating with nondevotees. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is opening many centers just to invite people to live in the company of devotees and practice the regulative principles of spiritual life.
Devotional service means transcendental activities. On the transcendental platform there is no contamination by the three modes of material nature. This is called viśuddha-sat-tva, the platform of pure goodness, or goodness free from contamination by the qualities of passion and ignorance. In this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement we require everyone to rise early in the morning, by four A.M.,and attend maṅgala-ārati, or morning worship, then read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, perform kīrtana, and so forth. Thus we hold continuous activities in devotional service twenty-four hours daily. This is called sato vṛtti, or following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas who expertly filled every moment of time with Kṛṣṇa conscious activities.
If one strictly follows the advice given in this verse by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī—namely, being enthusiastic, being confident, being patient, giving up the association of unwanted persons, following the regulative principles and remaining in the association of devotees—one is sure to advance in devotional service. In this regard Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura remarks that the cultivation of knowledge by philosophical speculation, the collection of mundane opulence by the advancement of fruitive activities, and the desire for yoga-siddhis, material perfections, are all contrary to the principles of devotional service. One has to become thoroughly callous to such nonpermanent activities and turn his intention instead to the regulative principles of devotional service. According to Bhagavad-gītā (BG 2.69):
- yā niśā sarva-bhūtānāṁ
- tasyāṁ jāgarti saṁyamī
- yasyāṁ jāgrati bhūtāni
- sā niśā paśyato muneḥ
"What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage."
Engagement in the devotional service of the Lord is the life and soul of the living entity. It is the desired goal and supreme perfection of human life. One has to become confident about this, and one also has to be confident that all activities other than devotional service—such as mental speculation, fruitive work or mystic endeavor—will never yield any enduring benefit. Complete confidence in the path of devotional service will enable one to attain his desired goal, but attempting to follow other paths will only succeed in making one restless. In the Seventh Canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated: "One must be calmly convinced that those who have given up devotional service to engage in severe austerities for other purposes are not purified in their minds, despite their advanced austerities, because they have no information of the transcendental loving service of the Lord."