The difference between ordinary religious activities and devotional service is very great. By executing religious rituals one can achieve economic development, sense gratification or liberation (merging into the existence of the Supreme), but the results of transcendental devotional service are completely different from such temporary benefits. Devotional service of the Lord is ever green, and it is increasingly transcendentally pleasing. Thus there is a gulf of difference between the results derived from devotional service and those derived from religious rituals. The great divine energy known as Jaḍādhiṣṭhātrī, or Mahāmāyā, the superintendent of the material world, and the material departmental directors, the demigods, as well as the products of the external energy of the Supreme Lord, are but perverted reflections of the opulence of the Supreme Lord. The demigods are actually order carriers of the Supreme Lord, and they help manage the material creation. In the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.44, 52, 49) it is stated that the workings of the supremely powerful superintendent, Durgā, are but shadows of the workings of the Supreme Lord, that the sun works just like the eye of the Supreme Lord, and that Brahmā works just like a jewel reflecting the light of the Supreme Lord. Thus in the material world all the demigods, as well as the external energy herself, Durgādevī, and all the different departmental directors are but servants of the Supreme Lord.
In the spiritual world there is another energy: the superior, spiritual energy, or internal energy, known as Yogamāyā. She also works under the Lord’s direction, but in the spiritual world. When the living entity puts himself under the direction of Yogamāyā, instead of Mahāmāyā, he gradually becomes a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. On the other hand, those who are after material opulence and material happiness place themselves under the care of the material energy, Mahāmāyā, or under the care of material demigods like Lord Śiva. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is found that when the gopīs of Vṛndāvana desired Kṛṣṇa as their husband, they prayed to the spiritual energy, Yogamāyā, for the fulfillment of their desire. In the Sapta-śatī it is found that King Suratha and a merchant named Samādhi, being under the modes of material nature, worshiped Mahāmāyā for material opulence. Thus one should not mistakenly equate Yogamāyā with Mahāmāyā.
Because the Lord is on the absolute platform, there is no difference between the holy name of the Lord and the Supreme Lord Himself. There are many different names for the Supreme Lord, such as Paramātmā (the Supersoul), Brahman (the Supreme Absolute), Sṛṣṭikartā (the creator), Nārāyaṇa (the transcendental Lord), Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa (the husband of Rukmiṇī), Gopīnātha (the enjoyer of the gopīs) and Kṛṣṇa. In this way the Lord has different names, and these names indicate different functions. The aspect of the Supreme Lord as the creator is different from His aspect as Nārāyaṇa. Some of the names of the Lord as the creator are conceived by materialistic men. One cannot fully realize the essence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by understanding His name as the creator because this material creation is a function of the external energy of the Supreme Lord. Thus the conception of God as the creator includes only the external feature. Similarly, when we call the Supreme Lord Brahman, we cannot have any understanding of His six opulences. In Brahman realization, the six opulences are not realized in full, nor is there recognition of eternity, bliss and knowledge. Therefore Brahman realization is also not a complete understanding of the Supreme Lord. Nor is Paramātmā realization, realization of the Supersoul, full realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for the all-pervading nature of the Supreme Lord is but a partial representation of His opulence.
Even the transcendental relationship experienced by a devotee of Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭha is incomplete because devotees in that relationship cannot realize the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and His devotees in Goloka Vṛndāvana. The devotees of Kṛṣṇa do not relish devotional service to Nārāyaṇa because devotional service to Kṛṣṇa is so attractive that Kṛṣṇa’s devotees do not desire to worship any other form. Thus the gopīs of Vṛndāvana do not like to see Kṛṣṇa as Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa, the husband of Rukmiṇī, nor do they address Him by that name. In Vṛndāvana Kṛṣṇa is addressed as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa—Kṛṣṇa, the property of Rādhārāṇī. Although the names Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are on the same level in the ordinary sense, still, in the spiritual world these names indicate different understandings of various aspects of Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental personality. If one equates the names Rādhā-ramaṇa or Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa with Rukmiṇī-ramaṇa, Nārāyaṇa or any other name of the Supreme Lord, he commits the fault of overlapping tastes, which is technically called rasābhāsa. Those who are expert, discriminating devotees do not accept such amalgamations, which are against the conclusions of pure devotional service. Less intelligent men think such discrimination is bigotry.
Although Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, embodies all superexcellence and beauty, when He is among the damsels of Vraja, where He is known as Gopījanavallabha, devotees feel that His superexcellence and beauty have reached the highest perfectional stage. The devotees cannot relish the beauty of the Supreme Lord more than this. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.33.6) it is confirmed that although Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī, is the last word in superexcellence and beauty, when He is among the gopīs He appears even more beautiful—like a sublime jewel set among divine golden craftsmanship. Although Lord Caitanya accepted this as the highest realization of the Supreme Lord as conjugal lover, He nonetheless requested Rāmānanda Rāya to proceed further.
Upon hearing this request, Rāmānanda Rāya remarked that this was the first time he had been asked to go further than the gopīs’ relationship with Kṛṣṇa in the matter of understanding Kṛṣṇa. Rāmānanda went on to say that although there is certainly transcendental intimacy between the damsels of Vraja and Kṛṣṇa, out of all the relationships, the relationship between Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa in conjugal love is the most perfect. No common man can understand the transcendental flavor of the transcendental love between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs, what to speak of the ecstasy of transcendental love between Krsna and Rādhārāṇī. But if one tries to follow in the footsteps of the gopīs, he may become situated in the highest stage of transcendental love. Thus one who wants to be elevated to this transcendental stage of perfection should follow in the footsteps of the damsels of Vraja as an assistant maidservant of the gopīs.
Lord Caitanya exhibited the mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī when She contacted Kṛṣṇa at Kurukṣetra after He had come from Dvārakā. Such transcendental love is not possible for any common man; therefore one should not imitate this highest perfectional stage exhibited by Caitanya Mahāprabhu. But if one desires to be in that association, he may follow in the footsteps of the gopīs. In the Padma Purāṇa it is stated that just as Rādhārāṇī is dear to Kṛṣṇa, similarly the pond known as Rādhā-kuṇḍa is also very dear to Him, and that Rādhārāṇī is dearer to Kṛṣṇa than all the other gopīs. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.30.28) it is also stated that Rādhārāṇī and the gopīs render the highest perfectional loving service to the Lord and that the Lord is so pleased with them that He does not wish to leave the company of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
When Lord Caitanya heard Rāmānanda Rāya speak of the loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī, He said, “Please go further. Go on and on.” The Lord also said that He was enjoying with great relish the descriptions of the loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. “It is as if a river of nectar is flowing from your lips,” He said. Rāmānanda Rāya continued by saying that when Kṛṣṇa danced among the gopīs He thought, “I am not giving any special attention to Rādhārāṇī.” Because among the other gopīs Rādhārāṇī was not so much an object of special love, Kṛṣṇa stole Her away from the arena of the rāsa dance and showed Her special favor.
After explaining this to Lord Caitanya, Rāmānanda Rāya said, “Now let us relish the transcendental loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā. These have no comparison in this material world.” Thus Rāmānanda Rāya continued by saying that during the rāsa dance Rādhārāṇī suddenly left the arena, as if She were angry that no special favor was being shown Her. Kṛṣṇa was desirous of seeing Rādhārāṇī in order to fulfill the purpose of the rāsa dance, but not seeing Rādhārāṇī there, He became very sorrowful and went to search Her out. In the Gīta-govinda there is a nice verse which states that Kṛṣṇa, the enemy of Kaṁsa, wanted to be entangled in loving affairs with women and thus simply took Rādhārāṇī into His heart and left the company of the other damsels of Vraja. The next verse describes how Kṛṣṇa was very much afflicted by Rādhārāṇī’s absence and, being thus distressed in mind, began to search Her out along the banks of the Yamunā. Failing to find Her, He entered the bushes of Vṛndāvana and began to lament. Rāmānanda Rāya pointed out that one who discusses the purport of these two special verses of the Gīta-govinda (3.1–2) can relish the highest nectar of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s loving affairs. Although there were many gopīs to dance with, Kṛṣṇa especially wanted to dance with Rādhārāṇī. In the rāsa dance Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself and placed Himself between every two gopīs, but He was especially present with Rādhārāṇī. However, Rādhārāṇī was not pleased with Kṛṣṇa’s behavior. As described in the Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi: “The path of loving affairs is just like the movement of a snake. Among young lovers, there are two kinds of mentality—causeless and causal.” Thus when Rādhārāṇī left the arena of the rāsa dance out of anger at not receiving special treatment, Kṛṣṇa became very sad because He could not see Her among the other gopīs. The perfection of the rāsa dance was considered complete due to Rādhārāṇī’s presence, and in Her absence Kṛṣṇa considered the dance to be disrupted. Therefore He left the arena to search Her out. When He could not find Rādhārāṇī after wandering in several places, He became very distressed. Thus it is understood that Kṛṣṇa could not enjoy His pleasure potency even in the midst of all the other gopīs. But in the presence of Rādhārāṇī He was satisfied.
When this transcendental love between Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa was described by Rāmānanda Rāya, Lord Caitanya said, “I came to you to understand the transcendental loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā, and now I am very satisfied that you have described them so nicely. I can understand from your version that the highest loving state is that between Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā.” Yet Lord Caitanya still requested Rāmānanda Rāya to explain something more: “What are the transcendental features of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhārāṇī, and what are the transcendental features of the reciprocation of Their feelings, and what is the love between Them? If you kindly describe all this to Me, I will be very much obliged. But for you, no one can describe such things.”
“I do not know anything,” Rāmānanda Rāya replied in all humility. “I am simply saying what You are causing me to say. I know that You are Kṛṣṇa Himself, yet still You are relishing hearing about Kṛṣṇa from me. Therefore please excuse me for my faulty expression. I am just trying to express whatever You are causing me to express.”
“I am a Māyāvādī sannyāsī,” Lord Caitanya protested. “I have no knowledge of the transcendental features of devotional service. By the greatness of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya My mind has become clear, and I am now trying to understand the nature of devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Bhaṭṭācārya recommended that I see you in order to understand Kṛṣṇa. Indeed, he said that you are the only person who knows something about love of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore I have come to you upon the recommendation of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. Please, then, do not hesitate to relate to Me all the confidential affairs between Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.”
In this way Lord Caitanya actually took the subordinate position before Rāmānanda Rāya. This has very great significance. One who is serious about understanding the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa should approach a person who is actually enriched with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One should not be proud of his material birth, material opulence, material education and material beauty and with these things try to conquer the mind of an advanced student of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One who thus goes to a Kṛṣṇa conscious person, thinking that he would be favorably induced, is under a misconception about this science. One should approach a Kṛṣṇa conscious person with all humility, put relevant questions to him and not challenge him. If one were to challenge him, such a highly elevated Kṛṣṇa conscious person would not be available to receive any tangible service. A challenging, puffed-up person cannot gain anything from a Kṛṣṇa conscious man; he simply remains in material consciousness. Although Lord Caitanya was born in a high brāhmaṇa family and was situated in the highest perfectional stage of sannyāsa, He nonetheless showed by His behavior that even an elevated person would not hesitate to take lessons from Rāmānanda Rāya, although Rāmānanda appeared as a householder situated in a social status beneath that of a brāhmaṇa.
Thus Lord Caitanya clearly showed that a sincere student never cares whether his spiritual master is born in a high brāhmaṇa family or kṣatriya family, or whether he is a high-grade sannyāsī, a brahmacārī or whatever. Whoever can teach one about the science of Kṛṣṇa is to be accepted as a guru.