Throughout the ages, many avataras divinely inspired teachers and incarnations of God have appeared in the world, but none has ever distributed spiritual love as freely as the Golden Avatara, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Mahaprabhu means "the Great Master") appeared in Bengal, India, in 1486, and he lived for 48 years, yet He began a revolution is spiritual consciousness that has profoundly affected the lives of millions. Renowned as a great saint even in His youth, Lord Caitanya left His family at the age of 24 to teach the forgotten essence of the ancient Vedic wisdom throughout India, Although He Himself was a fully renounced mystic, He taught how one can act in spiritual consciousness even within one's home, occupation, and social affairs. Thus, His teachings, although timeless, bear special relevance for today's world. He taught a practical process that anyone can perform to directly feel the ecstasy of pure love to God. This book tells about the extraordinary life of this great saint and explains the essence of His teachings.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiva Mathas (Vedic institutes) in India, liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, in 1933, his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge in English. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work, and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Single-handedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine is now being continued by his disciples.
In 1950 Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara.
There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Darnodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume commentated translation of the eighteen- thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than fifty volumes of authoritative commentated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
When he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before he passed away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the Society and seen it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.
There is no difference between the teachings of Lord Caitanya presented here and the teachings of Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-gita. The teachings of Lord Caitanya are practical demonstrations of Lord Krishna' s teachings. Lord Krishna' s ultimate instruction in Bhagavad-grta is that everyone should surrender unto Him, Lord Krishna. Krishna promises to take immediate charge of such a surredered soul. The Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already in charge of the maintenance of this creation by virtue of His plenary expansion, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, but this maintenance is not direct.
However, when the Lord says that He takes charge of His pure devotee, He actually takes direct charge. A pure devotee is a soul who is forever surrendered to the Lord, just as a child is surrendered to his parents or an animal to its master. In the surrendering process, one should: (1) accept things favorable for discharging devotional service, (2) reject things unfavorable, (3) believe firmly in the Lord's protection, (4) feel exclusively dependent on the mercy of the Lord, (5) have no interest separate from the interest of the Lord, and (6) always feel oneself meek and humble.
The Lord demands that one surrender unto Him by following these six guidelines, but the unintelligent so- called scholars of the world misunderstand these demands and urge the general mass of people to reject them. At the conclusion of the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna directly says: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." (Bg. 9.34) However, the scholarly demons misguide the masses of people by directing them to the impersonal, unmanifest, eternal, unborn truth rather than the Personality of Godhead. The impersonalist Mayavadi philosophers do not accept that the ultimate aspect of the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one desires to understand the sun as it is, one must first face the sunshine, then the sun globe and, after entering into that globe, come face to face with the predominating deity of the sun. Due to a poor fund of knowledge, the Mayavadi philosophers cannot go beyond the Brahman effulgence, which may be compared to the sunshine. The Upanisads confirm that one has to penetrate the dazzling effulgence of Brahman before one can see the real face of the Personality of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya therefore teaches direct worship of Lord Krishna, who appeared as the foster child of the King of Vraja. He also suggests that the place known as Vrndavana is as good as Lord Krishna because there is no difference between the name, quality, form, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia of Lord Krishna and Lord Krishna Himself. That is the absolute nature of the Absolute Truth.
Lord Caitanya also recommended that the highest mode of worship in the highest perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja. These damsels (gopis, or cowherd girls) simply loved Krishna without a motive for material or spiritual gain. Caitanya also recommended Srimad-Bhagavatam as the spotless narration of transcendental knowledge, and He pointed out that the highest goal in human life is to develop unalloyed love for Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya's teachings are identical to those given by Lord Kapila, the original propounder of sarikhya-yoga, the sarikhya system of philosophy. This authorized system of yoga recommends meditation on the transcendental form of the Lord. There is no question of meditating on something void or impersonal. One can meditate on the transcendental form of Lord Visnu even without practicing involved sitting postures. Such meditation is called perfect semedh). This perfect samadhi is verified at the end of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita where Lord Krishna says: And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." (Bg. 6.47)
Lord Caitanya instructed the mass of people in the saflkhya philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. Lord Caitanya taught this philosophy through the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. He taught that the holy name of the Lord is the sound incarnation of the Lord and that since the Lord is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental form.
Thus by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can directly associate with the Supreme Lord by sound vibration. As one practices this sound vibration, he passes through three stages of development: the offensive stage, the clearing stage and the transcendental stage. In the offensive stage one may desire all kinds of material happiness, but in the second stage one becomes clear of all material contamination. When one is situated on the transcendental stage, he attains the most coveted position-the stage of loving God. Lord Caitanya taught that this is the highest stage of perfection for human beings.
Yoga practice is essentially meant for controlling the senses. The central controlling factor of all the senses is the mind; therefore one first has to practice controlling the mind by engaging it in Krishna consciousness. The gross activities of the mind are expressed through the external senses, either for the acquiring of knowledge or the functioning of the senses in accordance to the will.
The subtle activities of the mind are thinking, feeling and willing. In accordance to one's consciousness, the individual is either polluted or clear. If one's mind is fixed on Krishna (His name, quality, form, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia), all one's activities-both subtle and gross-become favorable. The Bhagavad-gita's process of purifying consciousness is the process of fixing one's mind on Krishna by talking of His transcendental activities, cleansing His temple, going to His temple, seeing the beautiful transcendental form of the Lord nicely decorated, hearing His transcendental glories, tasting food offered to Him, associating with His devotees, smelling the flowers and tulasi leaves offered Him, engaging in activities for the Lord's interest, etc. No one can bring the activities of the mind and senses to a stop, but one can purify these activities through a change in consciousness. This change is indicated in Bhagavad-gita when Krishna tells Arjuna of the knowledge of yoga whereby one can work without fruitive results. "O son of Prtha, when you act by such intelligence, you can free yourself from the bondage of works." (Bg. 2.39) A human being is sometimes restricted in sense gratification due to certain circumstances such as disease, etc., but this is not the prescription. Without knowing the actual process by which the mind and senses can be controlled, less intelligent men either try to stop the mind and senses by force, or they give in to them and are carried away by the waves of sense gratification.
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