WHEN Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna consciousness to the West in 1965, he was carrying forward the movement begun by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu five hundred years ago in Mayapur, West Bengal. Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna consciousness packaged in a spiritual tradition known as Gaudiya (or Bengali) Vaisnavism. Gaudiya Vaisnavas are devotees of Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself in the form of His own devotee. In this issue of Back to Godhead we look at some of the history and important devotees in the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition.
In January, Gaudiya Vaisnavas celebrate the appearance of Nityananda Prabhu, Lord Caitanya's closest associate. Srila Prabhupada speaks about Nityananda Prabhu in the opening article of this issue. Nityananda is Balarama, Krsna's first expansion. Since Balarama has the same potency as Krsna, Balarama (or Nityananda) is also God.
Many people in the West had heard of Krsna before Srila Prabhupada's arrival in New York. Krsna's Bhagavad-gita had been available in English for a long time. But hardly anyone outside India knew of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda. So Srila Prabhupada came to deliver everyone from this great misfortune. Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are especially merciful forms of Krsna and Balarama who descended to save the fallen souls of this age. They brought with Them the process of God realization for the age: the congregational chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Although Lord Caitanya and Nityananda appeared in Bengal, They came to deliver the whole world.
In his lecture Srila Prabhupada tells of Nityananda Prabhu's mercy, and he quotes the full text of a song by Narottama Dasa Thakura. Narottama wrote many Bengali devotional songs shortly after Lord Caitanya passed away. He was one of the three great devotees who transported the writings of the six Gosvamis from Vrndavana to Bengal. Lord Caitanya had empowered the Gosvamis to write many books explaining the science of Krsna consciousness and the philosophy of the sankirtana movement. The Gosvamis entrusted to Narottama Dasa Thakura, Syamananda Prabhu, and Srinivasa Acarya the vital task of delivering the manuscripts to devotees in Bengal. In this issue, we begin a three-part biography of Srinivasa Acarya that will describe their journey.
One of the six Gosvamis was Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, founder of Vrndavana's Radha Ramana Temple. In this issue, Padma Nabha Goswami, one of the present leaders of the temple and a descendant of its first priest, relates the temple's history.
Read on to learn more about the roots of the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition.