(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)
Devotee: (reading) "Devotional service can in fact be attained only through the mercy of a pure devotee. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is said, 'By the mercy of the spiritual master who is a pure devotee and by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, one can achieve the platform of devotional service. There is no other way.' "
"The rarity of devotional service is also confirmed in the Tantra-śāstra, where Lord Śiva says to Satī, 'My dear Satī, if one is a very fine philosopher, analyzing the different processes of knowledge, he can achieve liberation from the material entanglement. By performance of the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas, one can be elevated to the platform of pious activities and thereby enjoy the material comforts of life to the fullest extent. But all such endeavors can hardly offer anyone devotional service to the Lord, not even if one tries for it by such processes for many, many thousands of births.' "
Prabhupāda: You cannot achieve the platform of devotional service by karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa processes. Therefore Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura sings:
karma-kāṇḍa jñāna-kāṇḍa sakali viṣera bhāṇḍa
amṛta baliyā yeba khāya
nānā yoni brahman kare, kadarya bhakṣaṇa kare
tāra janma adho pāte yāya
So jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam (CC Madhya 19.167): "Devotional service should not be contaminated by jñāna-kāṇḍa, karma-kāṇḍa, by fruitive activities or mental speculation." Devotional service should be taken exactly in the line of the great authorities. Just like our sampradāya, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya, they are following... Rūpānuga.
śrī-rūpa sanātana bhaṭṭa-raghunātha
śrī-jīva gopāla-bhaṭṭa dāsa-raghunātha
Ei chaya gosāi yāra tāra mui dāsa (Nāma-saṅkīrtana 6). We have to follow the principles of these six Gosvāmīs. That will make us happy... Otherwise, if we adopt the ritualistic ceremonies, śubha-karma... sama-śubha-kriyā matir pramādaḥ. If we take devotional service as one of the pious activities, śubha-kriyā, that is offense. We should not take devotional service, or chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, equal to some Vedic pious activities, ritualistic ceremony. That is offense. We should simply follow the path... that is also Vedic. But because we cannot select... vedeṣu adurlabha. If we study Vedas independently, without going through the lines chalked out by the six Gosvāmīs, then we'll be misled. Vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau (Bs. 5.33). These Gosvāmīs, they were personal devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa. They are eternal associates of the Lord. Therefore if we follow their principle, our success is guaranteed. But if we take to the Vedic ritualistic ceremony without any reference to the path chalked out by the Gosvāmīs, it will not be possible to be successful.
Devotional service is not dependent on śubhāśubha-karma. It is simply dependent on the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Kṛṣṇa de... sādhu... guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151). Guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya. Naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ, mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-'bhiṣekam niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yā... (SB 7.5.32). Unless we surrender to the lotus feet of a pure devotee, it is not possible to come to the platform of devotional service. That is the way. We cannot taste the honey within the bottle. The bottle must be opened by the expert. If you simply lick up the bottle, if we think, "Now we are tasting honey," that is not the proper way. We should get the bottle opened by the expert, and when we taste within the bottle, then actually... Similarly, devotional service without being opened by the... open, without the door being opened by the devotee, we cannot enter into the region. Guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151).
Therefore the process is, as recommended by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, ādau gurvāśrayam. You must select, you must accept the guru who's coming in paramparā system. Evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ (BG 4.2). Sampradāya. That is recommended. We have got Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, four sampradāya: Rāmānuja-sampradāya, Madhva-sampradāya, Nimbārka-sampradāya. So intelligent persons should select guru from these sampradāyas and follow his instruction. Then the path of devotional service will be very easily opened. This is the way.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Vrindavan, November 10, 1972)