In Gaudiya Vaisnavism, advancement means, that you are making quantifiable, and verifiable advancement, from the kanistha platform to the Madhyama platform, and from the Madhyama to the Uttama platform. Srila Prabhupada has mentioned, a test, by which a devotee can gauge advancement.
In Srimad-bhagavatam 1.7.7 Purport, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“Simply by hearing the Vedic literature, Srimad-bhagavatam, one can have direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, and thereby one can attain the highest perfection of life, in the form of dissipation of worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness. These are practical tests for the one who has actually given a submissive aural reception to the readings of the Srimad-bhagavatam.”
If you are experiencing the “dissipation of worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness”, then you can say you are advancing in Krishna-consciousness.
Not many devotees will advance from the Kanistha platform to the Madhyama. A large majority of Kanisthas, because of their natures, a poor fund of prior Nitya-sukrti, will only be able to become advanced Kanisthas. Out of the few advanced Kanisthas, only a few will actually proceed and step up to the Madhyama platform.
Try to understand that there is nothing wrong with that. Advancement is a gradual process, for most, and it may take many lifetimes of accumulating Nitya-sukrti, before a devotee advance’s from Kanistha to Madhyama. In addition, once on the Madhyama platform, the same applies in moving up to the Uttama platform. On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada said that you could do all this in one moment. That is Krishna consciousness. There is no one path to perfection, because bhakti has nine core processes; but the manifestation of sadhana bhakti can take on unlimited forms.
It is very possible for the guru to evaluate each disciple, and determine the asset of prior Nitya-sukrti, and thus the guru would be able to give special or particular instruction for this disciple. This is similar to when in the public-school systems, there are tests to recognized gifted students. History has shown, that young person’s graduate from high school at ages of 10 to 13, and then they go on to universities, and some will graduate, with the highest degree of PhD at age of 16 to 18. These are the exceptions, the extreme end of a scale, with the bottom representing those who have very low intellectual abilities. Therefore, between the worst to the best, there is a variety of possibilities.
Therefore, all disciples of a guru, will not all be doing the same sadhana. Yes, there will be activity that is common, like the sadhana you mentioned that you practice on a daily basis. However, those who have the ability to get advanced instruction, should not be held back. These devotees may have a large asset of Nitya-sukrti.
In their past life, they may have already reached the intermediate or advance level of Madhyama. Any advancement one obtains in Krishna consciousness, is a permanent asset, you cannot lose it, nor can anyone take it away. So, if a devotee, with a large fund of Nitya-sukrti, is discovered by the evaluation of the guru, then the instructions by the guru, will be unique, and only for that devotee. However, this kind of evaluation requires a proper intimate and personal guru & disciple relationship.
What is “Nitya-sukrti”, anyways?
In Jaiva-dharma Chapter 6, Eternal Dharma, Race & Cast, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, writes:
“It is a fact that sraddha, (faith), arises from pious deeds. It is stated in the Brhan-Naradiya-Purana (4.33),
‘The inclination for bhakti is awakened by association with Bhagavan’s devotees. The jiva obtains the association of Pure devotees by the accumulated effect of spiritually pious activities performed over many lifetimes.’
There are two types of sukrti, (piety, virtue; pious activity):
- Nitya, (eternal).
- Naimittika, (circumstantial and temporary).
The sukrti by which one obtains association of saintly people, the devotees of the Lord, and therefore learns the science of loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord is Nitya-sukrti, (pious deeds that are eternal).
The sukrti by which one obtains material enjoyment and impersonal liberation is naimittika-sukrti (pious deeds that are circumstantial and temporary).
Sukrti, which bears eternal fruit, is Nitya-sukrti. Sukrti which bears temporary results, which are dependent upon some cause, is naimittika-sukrti.
All types of material enjoyment are non-eternal because they clearly depend on some cause. Many people think that mukti, (liberation), is eternal, but this is only because they do not know the actual nature of liberation. The individual soul is pure, eternal, and primeval. The cause of the soul’s bondage is association with the material nature, and liberation is the complete dissolution of this bondage. The act of deliverance, or release from bondage, is accomplished in a single moment, so the act of release is not in itself an eternal action. All consideration of liberation ends as soon as emancipation is attained, so liberation is nothing more than the destruction of a material cause. Therefore, since liberation is only the negation of a temporary material cause, it is also causal and temporary.
 Nitya-sukrti—Eternal auspicious activity.