Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Foreword
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, is the principal work on the life and teachings of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the pioneer of a great social and religious movement that began in India about five hundred years ago and that has directly and indirectly influenced the subsequent course of religious and philosophical thinking not only in India but throughout the world. That Sri Krsna Caitanya's influence has spread so far is due in large part to the efforts of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the present work's translator and commentator and the founder and acarya (spiritual guide) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is thus a figure of great historical significance. However, our conventional method of historical analysis-that of seeing a man as a product of his times-fails here, for Sri Krsna Caitanya is a personality who transcends the limited scope of historical settings.
At a time when, in the West, man was directing his explorative spirit toward studying the structure of the physical universe and circumnavigating the world in search of new oceans and continents, Sri Krsna Caitanya, in the East, was inaugurating and masterminding a revolution directed toward a scientific understanding of the highest knowledge of man's spiritual nature.
The chief historical sources for the life of Sri Krsna Caitanya are the kadacas (diaries) kept by Murari Gupta and Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. Murari Gupta, a physician and close associate of Sri Krsna Caitanya's, recorded extensive notes on the first twenty-four years of His life, culminating in His initiation into the renounced order, sannyasa. The events of the rest of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's forty-eight years wererecorded in the diary of Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, another of His inimate associates.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is divided into three sections, called lilas, a word that literally means "pastimes"-Adi-lila (the early period), Madhya-lila (the middle period) and Antya-lila (the final period). The notes of Murari Gupta form the basis of the Adi-lila, and Svarupa Damodara's diary provides the details for the Madhya- and Antya-lilas.
The first twelve chapters of the Adi-lila constitute the preface for the entire work. By referring to Vedic scriptural evidence, Krsnadasa Kaviraja establishes that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the avatara (incarnation) of God for the Age of Kali-the current epoch, which began five thousand years ago and is characterized by materialism, hypocrisy and dissension The author also proves that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is identical to Lord Krsna and explains that He descends to liberally grant the fallen souls of this degraded age pure love of God by propagating sankirtana-literally, "congregational glorification of God"-especially by organizing massive public chanting of the maha-mantra (Great Chant for Deliverance). In addition, in the twelve-chapter preface Krsnadasa Kaviraja reveals the esoteric purpose of Lord Caitanya's appearance in the world, describes His co-avataras and principal devotees, and summarizes His teachings. In the remaining portion of the Adi-lila, chapters thirteen through seventeen, the author briefly recounts Lord Caitanya's divine birth and His life until He accepted the renounced order. This account includes His childhood miracles, schooling, marriage and early philosophical confrontations, as well as His organization of a widespread sankirtana movement and His civil disobedience against the repression of the Muslim government.
The Madhya-lila, the longest of the three divisions, narrates in detail Lord Caitanya's extensive and eventful travels throughout India as a renounced mendicant, teacher, philosopher, spiritual preceptor and mystic. During this period of six years, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu transmits His teachings to His principles disciples. He debates and converts many of the renowned philosophers and theologians of His time, including Sankarites, Buddhists and Muslims, and incorporates their many thousands of followers and disciples into His own burgeoning numbers. The author also includes in this section a dramatic account of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's miraculous activities at the giant Ratha-yatra (Car Festival) in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa.
The Antya-lila concerns the last eighteen years of Sri Caitanya's presence, spent in semiseclusion near the famous Jagannatha temple in Puri, During these final years, During these final years, Sri Krsna Caitanya drifted deeper and deeper into trances of spiritual ecstasy unparalleled in all of religious and literary history, Eastern or Western. His perpetual and ever-increasing religious beatitude, graphically described in the eye-witness accounts of Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, His constant companion during this period, clearly defy the investigative and descriptive abilities of modern psychologists and phenomenologists of religious experience.
The author of this great classic, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, born around the beginning of the sixteenth century, was a disciple of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, a confidential follower of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's. Raghunatha dasa, a renowned ascetic saint, heard and memorized all the activities of Caitanya Mahaprabhu told to him by Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. After the passing away of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Svarupa Damodara, Raghunatha dasa, unable to bear the pain of separation from these objects of his complete devotion, traveled to Vrndavana, intending to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhana Hill. In Vrndavana, however, he encountered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, two of the most confidential disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They convinced him to to give up his planned suicide and impelled him to reveal to them the spiritually inspiring events of Lord Caitanya's later life. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was also residing in Vrndavana at this time, and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami endowed him with a full comprehension of the transcendental life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
By this time, contemporary and near-contemporary scholars and devotees had already written several biographical works on the life of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. These included Sri Caitanya-carita, by Murari Gupta, Caitanya-mangala, by Locana dasa Thakura, and Caitanya-bhagavata. This latter work, by Vrndavana dasa Thakura, who was then considered the principal authority on Sri Caitanya's life, was highly revered. While composing his important work, Vrndavana dasa, fearing that it would become too voluminous, avoided elaborately describing many of the events of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's life, particularly the later ones. Anxious to hear of these later pastimes, the devotees in Vrndavana requested Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, whom they respected as a great saint and scholar, to compose a book narrating these episodes in detail. Upon this request, and with the permission and blessings of the Madana-mohana Deity of Vrndavana, he began compiling Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which, due to its literary excellence and philosophical thoroughness, is today universally regarded as the foremost work on the life and profound teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami commenced work on the text at a very advanced age and in failing health, as he vividly describes in the text itself: "I have now become too old and disturbed by invalidity. While writing, my hands tremble. I cannot remember anything, nor can I see or hear properly. Still I write, and this is a great wonder." That he completed the greatest literary gem of medieval India under such debilitating conditions is surely one of the wonders of literary history.
As mentioned above, this English translation and commentary is the work of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the world's most distinguished teacher of Indian religions and philosophical thought. Srila Prabhupada's commentary is based upon two Bengali commentaries, one by his guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, the eminent Vedic scholar, teacher and saint who predicted, "The time will come when the people of the world will learn Bengali to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta," and the other by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who pioneered the propagation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings in the modern era.
Srila Prabhupada is himself a disciplic descendant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and is the first scholar to execute systematic English translations of the major works of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's followers. His consummate Bengali and Sanskrit scholarship and intimate familiarity with the precepts of Sri Krsna Caitanya are a fitting combination that eminently qualifies him to present this important classic to the English-speaking world. The ease and clarity with which he expounds upon difficult philosophical concepts enable even a reader totally unfamiliar with Indian religious tradition to understand and appreciate this profound and monumental work.
The entire text, with commentary, presented in nine lavishly illustrated volumes by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, represents a contribution of major importance to the intellectual, cultural and spiritual life of contemporary man.
Editors note: Revisions in this edition are based on the transcripts of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's original dictation of the translations, word meanings and purports of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
Copyright (c) The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness