ya idam sumahat punyam
sravayec chrnuyad vapi
sa prthoh padavim iyat
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Any person who describes the great characteristics of King Prthu with faith and determination — whether he reads or hears of them himself or helps others to hear of them — is certain to attain the very planet which Maharaja Prthu attained. In other words, such a person also returns home to the Vaikuntha planets, back to Godhead.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
In the execution of devotional service, sravanam kirtanam visnoh is especially stressed. This means that bhakti, or devotional service, begins by hearing and chanting about Visnu. When we speak of Visnu, we also refer to that which relates to Visnu. In the Siva Purana, Lord Siva recommends Visnu worship to be the topmost worship, and that better than Visnu worship is worship of the Vaisnava or anything that is related to Visnu. The fact is explained herein that hearing and chanting about a Vaisnava is as good as hearing and chanting about Visnu, for Maitreya has explained that anyone who hears about Prthu Maharaja with attention also attains the planet which Maharaja Prthu attained. There is no duality between Visnu and the Vaisnava, and this is called advaya-jñana. A Vaisnava is as important as Visnu, and therefore Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wrote in his Gurv-astaka:
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam
“The spiritual master is honored as much as the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and is followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari.”
The supreme Vaisnava is the spiritual master, and he is nondifferent from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said that sometimes Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to chant the names of the gopis. Some of the Lord’s students tried to advise Him to chant the name of Krsna instead, but upon hearing this Caitanya Mahaprabhu became very angry with His students. The controversy on this subject reached a point that after this incident Caitanya Mahaprabhu decided to take sannyasa because He was not taken very seriously in His grhastha-asrama. The point is that since Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted the names of the gopis, worship of the gopis or the devotees of the Lord is as good as devotional service rendered directly to the Lord. It is also stated by the Lord Himself that devotional service to His devotees is better than service offered directly to Him. Sometimes the sahajiya class of devotees are interested only in Krsna’s personal pastimes to the exclusion of the activities of the devotees. This type of devotee is not on a very high level; one who sees the devotee and the Lord on the same level has further progressed.