An appreciation of a profound biography of Lord Caitanya.
Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in West Bengal way back in 1486, His name and fame stayed confined to parts of India for five centuries. But by 1986 the quincentennial of His advent suddenly He had been discovered as a new hero, the jewel of this age, in dozens of countries with no Vedic culture like India's. This marvel took place thanks to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who translated and published an impressive biography of Lord Caitanya Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and inspired its distribution around the world. Over the past thirty years, Srila Prabhupada's book trust published this biography in English and seventeen other languages for the first time, giving millions access to a book everyone in the world should read.
Caitanya-caritamrta literally means "the character of the living force in immortality," and readers of the book learn about the immortal Lord Caitanya. When I first read about Lord Caitanya, I learned He was mirific a miracle worker. The only miracle workers I knew of were Biblical personalities. As an innocent American boy, I had prayed beside stained-glass windows with radiant images of supernatural acts and had awakened my inner life. Ten years later the news of Lord Caitanya's equally potent acts impressed upon me His divinity. God, I learned, embarks on miraculous adventures whenever He descends.
Besides providing books about Lord Caitanya to millions like me, Srila Prabhupada founded the Hare Krsna movement and traveled worldwide from 1965 through 1977, teaching thousands of new followers of Lord Caitanya. People naturally wonder what would make a non-Hindu join an apparently Bengali religion like the Hare Krsna movement. Even Indians, to whom Lord Caitanya is less well known than Lord Krsna, wonder what would make someone follow Him or study His life and teachings. One explanation is that devotees of Lord Caitanya learn the highest transcendental truths from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which gives an integrated understanding of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta reveals, with reference to Vedic texts, that Lord Caitanya is the incarnation of God for this age. Internally He is Krsna (antah-krsna), the effulgent bluish Supreme Personality of Godhead. Externally He has the glowing golden complexion (bahir gaura) of Srimati Radharani, Lord Krsna's eternal consort. Concealing Himself as Sri Caitanya, Krsna tastes Radharani's mood as the most rapt devotee of Krsna. Lord Caitanya comes to teach everyone to chant Sri Krsna's holy names and to dance in moods of devotion.
Devotees of Lord Caitanya naturally study His favorite scripture, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, often quoted in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. In de-scribing the loving pastimes of Krsna, the Bhagavatam helps us realize the eternal pleasures enjoyed by Krsna and His devotees. The unique truths of the Bhagavatam shine with authentic value, like fine jewelry, and Lord Caitanya freely distributed these gems, hoping everyone would accept them. Therefore Srila Prabhupada translated and published the jewellike Bhagavatam and quoted it in all his books some of which are published in eighty languages. Why shouldn't everyone in the world read them?
Soon after Lord Caitanya left this world in 1534, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, in Bengali couplets. Srila Prabhupada sensitively translated the couplets into prose. To encourage close study of the original, he provided trans-literations and synonyms for every word. He wrote extensive commentaries, making the highest and most difficult spiritual concepts accessible to everyone. So people find it spiritually enlivening to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Prabhupada's latest English edition comes to nine big volumes, averaging 730 pages each, fully describing Lord Caitanya's mercy, emotions, and opulences.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta contains the nectar for which everyone is always anxious. There is no solace for the soul in the mirage of material happiness; everyone must find the supreme spiritual shelter. That oasis is in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
Recently, Tattvavit Dasa edited the Interactive "Bhagavad-gita As It Is" CD and the first memoir about Prabhupada written by one of his female disciples: Srila Prabhupada Is Coming! by Mahamaya Devi Dasi.