The keynote of true spiritual life is—love, bhakti, prema.
Earthly passion is not love: earthly passion, Sri Chaitanya taught, again and again, is kama, not prema.
Kama darkens the vision of the atman: prema illuminates life.
Sri Chaitanya said: “The romance of sensual love is often confounded with prema but is not true love. It is when sensual feeling is totally extinct that true love will grow in the soul.”
It is true that prema or spiritual love may grow from earthly passion (kama), as the lily grows from the underground soil which is filthy. But it is profoundly true that prema is not kama.
In the unfolding of prema, an “image” is a help. Krishna’s image or Christ’s or Nanak’s attracts the soul and leads her to spiritual realisation.
The image is not a sthula thing but is a vehicle of an immaterial influence—a medium of beauty and joy.
Meditating on an image, you feel, more and more, that the image looks at you from all directions.
He who becomes a Krishna-bhakta and has even a glimpse of the beauty of Krishna grows in purity; humility and reverence.