Obviously, attainment of transcendental loving service to the Personality of Godhead is the ultimate goal of all mysticism. That is the purport of the above-mentioned verse. It is also worth mentioning the statement that Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda makes in this connection: "The mystic who is engaged in the performance of the principle of loving service of Godhead is the highest of all mystics." One who renders loving service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, with devotion and austerity, is the greatest of all mystics. Men who undertake austerities motivated by a desire for material results cannot be called yogīs or mystics. Those who are not motivated by material results include the empiric philosopher, the mystic pursuing the eightfold mystic perfections, and finally the mystic engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Personality of Godhead.
Factually, the mystic path is uniform and one. It is something like a series of stepping-stones to the highest goal. By accepting this path of mysticism, one becomes a pilgrim toward spiritual perfection. Work with transcendental results is the first stepping-stone on this transcendental path. When empiric philosophical deductions and a desire for renunciation are added, progress is made to the second stepping-stone. When one adds a definite conception of the supreme ruling principle, the Supreme Lord, one progresses to the third stepping-stone. And finally, when a process of transcendental loving service to the Supreme Personality is added, progress is made perfectly to the ultimate goal. The mystic path is therefore a transcendental evolution in which all the above stages are part of the gradual process of spiritual development. It is necessary to mention all the above stages to understand the final stage. Therefore, one who desires to attain to the supreme goal may adopt the systematic mystic path.
But one should not stop simply upon stepping on the first, second, or third stone, but must make his progress complete by going all the way to the final step, the perfect stage of transcendental loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who reaches an intermediate stage but does not make any substantial progress beyond it, merely remaining satisfied with that particular stage of his development, may be called by that particular name, as, for instance, "karma-yogī," "jñāna-yogī," "haṭha-yogī," and so on. For this reason alone are the mystics of different stages named differently. So the conclusion is that although the path of mystic yoga is one, the transcendental devotee is the greatest of all mystics, because he alone follows the path to its ultimate goal.
At this point, it should be noted that progressive development along the transcendental mystic path is not totally identical with ordinary material progress. In the material world one has to pass through a certain stage of development before one can be admitted to the next stage, and there is no alternative to this process of progress. It may be cited, for example, that if somebody wants to pass the M.A. examination, he has to pass through the preliminary examinations, and there is no alternative to this. No one can expect to be admitted into the M.A. level without having passed the other, preliminary examinations. Yet in the transcendental world—although there are approved regulations to bring one from the lower stages to the highest goal by a gradual process of development—one can, by the mercy of Godhead, pass the transcendental M.A. examination without even having passed the preliminary examinations. But this extraordinary mercy of Godhead is possible only by a confidential relationship with the Personality of Godhead. And this confidential relationship with the Personality of Godhead is possible only by the transcendental association of the devotees of the Personality of Godhead.