Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Biographical Works > Lord Chaitanya Eternal Associates > Introduction

Introduction

 

As it is due to the mercy of the Lord (grace of God), disseminated through the medium of His faithful followers, that one can make progress on the path of devotion, and not actually to the devotional practices themselves, which are more like vessels for storing up and pouring out our devotional sentiments, I must first acknowledge my indebtedness to the devotees who enabled me to travel to the places and meet the people you will read about in this book. Of course in this case I am referring to a journey of the soul, through the medium of transcendental sound vibration, without which it would have been very difficult to coax this tired body onto the roofs of buses and into crowded trains, when it came time to actually receive the benediction of being blessed, by placing the dust of these holy places on my head and having a vision of the Lord, enthroned in various temples by His eternal associates.

 

Then of course the real benediction was being able to meet more devotees, some of them descendants of the eternal associates of Mahaprabhu, who again inspired me to travel further and more important, who fanned the fire of faith so that I am more inspired in applying myself to devotional service. Thus they enabled me to fulfill the purpose of human life unlike those who are compared to cows and asses and who go to holy places simply to take a bath. By their living examples real faith is kindled and the execution of devotional duties becomes a tangible, tasteable reality, not simply a faint hope reaching out to some fairytale in the future. The most cherished desire of a devotee is to be instrumental in rendering some service to the Lord and to see or hear that the Lord is accepting that service.

There can be no greater indication of the Lord's mercy than to have direct darshan of Their Transcendental Lordships. Of course we are not trying to see God directly, rather to serve Him in such a way that He, or rather She, Shrimati Radharani, will notice us by our service and then She will mention us to Shri Krishna; thus He will see us. Unfortunately, our senses, as well as our service are so covered by material taints that for us to "see" Their Lordships is a far distant hope. However, He is so kind, that in order to help us, to facilitate the fulfilment of our most cherished desire; to make it easier for us to see Him and to serve Him, He descends in His arca bigraha.

 

Of course we have seen so many Deities. Some are described as installed, some as un installed. However there is another term used to describe certain Deities, that is jagrato vigraha. Just like in the song:  jiv jago (wake up sleeping souls), the word jagrato indicates that these Deities are fully awake or full conscious. They are fully present in Their Deity form, even to the extent that They become fully dependent on Their dear devotees to take care of Their needs, namely, that devotee's love. So it happens that when a pure devotee, a nitya siddha parshad (eternal associate) of the Lord requests Shri Shri Radha Krishna or Shri Shri Panca tattva to please be present in Their Deity form in order to accept that devotee's service and mitigate his feelings of separation from the Lord, then based on that intense affection, Krishna becomes totally subjugated and agrees to be personally present there. Of course if He likes He can decide later on not to be present there, but without even considering this sad point; when we can have darshan of and serve a Deity Who was once worshipped by one of the eternal associates of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who are all residents of Goloka Brindaban, having descended to assist the Lord in His pastimes, then this is a very other worldly experience. By the mercy of such eternal associates of the Lord and service to Them, the coverings of our senses dissolve away and we are graced with a vision of the Supreme Lord, standing before us, ready to accept our service and love.

 

.c.Note on Pronunciation of Bengali Words and use of Diacritics

It is only after discussing with many different devotees, scholars and laymen alike, and after careful consideration of all the pros and cons that we decided not to use the standard system of diacritics which is used for the Sanskrit language, in this book, which is about the holy tract of land Gaura Mandala Bh–mi (Bengal) and the great devotees who lived there. This is because this system is found to be inadequate for the Bengali language, at least in terms of intimating to one what is the proper pronunciation of Bengali words.

Now the question arises as to what the diacritical system is meant to do? Is it supposed to approximate the original Sanskrit or Bengali letters so that scholars will know what was the original spelling of the Sanskrit or Bengali word, or is this system supposed to help us to pronounce the word? It is assumed that genuine scholars would know how to read the Debnagari and Bengali alphabets anyway, so we must opt in favour of the second proposition, that the system of diacritics should help the reader to pronounce the words properly. Otherwise why has it been titled, "Bengali Pronunciation Guide", as it is at the back of each volume of Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita (BBT edition). Here we see that the system of diacritics which is used for Sanskrit and which works very well for Sanskrit, is found to be inadequate in enabling the reader to understand how to pronounce the Bengali words properly.

Our own Shrila Prabhupada used to even pronounce Sanskrit words with a Bengali accent, the Gosvamis of Brindaban and at least some of the associates of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wrote Sanskrit with Bengali characters and finally, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Shri Krishna Chaitanya spoke the Bengali language when He was present on this planet. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta SaraswatŚ Thakur predicted that one day persons would learn Bengali just so that they could read 'Shri Chaitanya Caritamrita' in the original. So what could possibly be the harm if devotees learn how to pronounce Bengali words with at least some approximation of correctness.

Even with the existing system of diacritics which exists for Sanskrit it is seen that many persons still have no idea how to pronounce the Sanskrit words properly. The system works if one can learn it but many people may find it a bit too complicated to learn. Therefore if the system can be also simplified for usage with Bengali then all well and good.

One problem which we encounter is the same problem which is found with the English language. Simply by seeing a word spelled one still may not know how to pronounce it. This is due to a lack of consistency and absence of strict rules for pronunciation. Whereas the Sanskrit language is seen to excell in this regard, Bengali and other Indian languages, which are originally a mixture of Sanskrit and Prakrit, have less strict rules for pronunciation. It can therefore become somewhat arbitrary how one pronounces the word. In these circumstances the only way to learn the proper pronunciations is the same way in which one has to learn how to pronounce English properly. (Though such pronunciation differs from one region to the next.) Namely, by listening to an Englishman speak the language (or an American or Australian). An example of this problem comes in Bengali, for instance, with the final 'a'. Sometimes it is pronounced but most often not. The only way to know for sure is by listening to others.

One Sanskrit and Bengali scholar who is a good friend suggested that the final 'a' should always be written if it is pronounced or not, just like the final 'e' in English words, which is also not pronounced itself but indicates how the previous vowel should be sounded. This we were ready to accept until, while running the spelling check on this book we found that words like 'pandit' and 'avatar' have already been incorporated into the English language, without the final 'a'. Since this 'a' also doesn't affect the pronunciation of the previous vowels then  why have it hanging around unnecessarily?

The system that has been introduced in this book, "Lord Chaitanya's Eternal Associates" is only being introduced for the first time and therefore may have some imperfections. The readers of this book are encouraged to correspond with the editors, giving their suggestions and comments as to how the system might be perfected.

Another problem is that by now we are already used to seeing a number of Sanskrit and possibly a few Bengali words spelt in a particular way. To drastically change the spelling, of especially a Sanskrit word, appears rather presumptuous. We may, after having said all of this, have a license to spell words of pure Bengali origin in the way that they should be spelled, but do we have the right to spell Sanskrit words, which also exist in the Bengali language, with a spelling which approximates the Bengali pronunciation? Mabye sometimes yes, mabye sometimes not. This could depend on how much we are already used to seeing the word appear with a particular spelling. For instance, the word j¤ana could as well be spelled as gyan. Fortuntely for us, this book deals mainly with the topic of pure devotion (bhakti), so this word doesn't come up too much. Still it does creep in sometimes.

We could just as well spell most of the words with English letters and throw in a few accent marks, or lines over the long vowels, to show where the stress should be given (which by the way, is how these words were originally annotated). For instance why not just spell Krishna as Krishna? Or Radha as Radha? But we are so used to seeing Krishna as Krishna, and a sort of mystical presence is invoked by seeing these heiroglyphic symbols, (which according to some make the book appear more scholarly), that it just appears too ordinary to spell Krishna as Krishna. Still, I cannot see any reason to spell desh as de‘a, when it seems so much more obvious how to pronounce it by the first spelling. So now we enter the realm of arbitrary thinking. No doubt the scholars will be enraged by what they must necessarily condemn as useless speculation, but how much a percentage of the population are they anyway?

So this brings us to the point of introducing some of the new symbols in our Bengali diacritics system which I think only amounts at this point, to one. Namely an 'r' with a dot over it. There is not a shadow of a doubt that this symbol is very much needed since the old 'd' (‡) with a dot underneath it comes no where close to approximating the proper pronunciation.

One close friend told how he spent days trying to find the 'Shripa†' of Nityananda Prabhu, located in the district of 24 Parganas in West Bengal, by asking the whereabouts of 'Kha‡adaha'. People told him, "Well we know where 'Khardaha' is, but we never heard of this place 'Kha‡adaha'. Acyutananda Swami, who was very fluent in Bengali (Bangla), also used this 'r' with a dot over it in his transliterations of the songs of Bhaktivinode Thakur. We can't use an 'r' with a dot underneath it because that symbol already exists for 'ri' (ri).

'C's are always pronounced as 'ch' and never as 'k' so there is no point in saying anything further on this point. In Bangla there is no sound for 'v'. The letter comes in the alphabet but it looks exactly the same as the character for 'b' and is consequently pronounced the same. Similarly, although 'y' exists in only a few rare instances (usually at the end of a word), it is usually pronounced as 'j'.

In Sanskrit the 'Anuswar' is written as an '‰', and its pronunciation is given as the 'n' in 'bon' (French). In the 'Bengali Pronunciation Guide' given in BBT books the 'anuswar' is still represented by a '‰' but its (proper) pronunciation is given as the 'ng' in 'song'. Since the candra bindu's    pronunciation more resembles that of the Sanskrit 'anuswar' then it's symbol could be given as an '‰' except that most people would simply continue to pronounce it as an 'm', as they do with Sanskrit words. In the 'Bengali Pronunciation Guide' (BBT) the symbol given for Candra Bindu is '‹' which is also the same symbol given for  . In actuality however, it is the anuswar and   which have a similar sound and not the candra bindu and . Though it looks rather odd at first (after seeing '‰' for so long), the 'anuswar' is probably best represented by 'ng' since that is in fact what it sounds like (as well as   ). As far as candra bindu goes however, neither the '‰' or the '‹' is really very suitable because it usually comes out as an 'n' or an 'm'. Therefore we will just use a candra bindu    for the time being.

'W' comes a little closer than 'v' to getting the proper sound in words like 'Adwaita' and 'Ťswara' though the actual Bangla pronunciation is rather a doubling of the consonant, as in Addaita (Adwaita) and Issor (Iswar). Any consonant which has another consonant (ya, ba, ma) joined to it is simply doubled. So that vidya becomes vid-da and padma becomes pad-da. 'R' however, joined to a consonant is sounded - as in brahma.

T's and th's with a dot underneath are pronounced differently than those without so this dot serves some function, though only someone who is seriously learning the language would probably bother to learn the difference. N's whether they have dots above or below, or a tilda above, all end up sounding the same, thus the dots and tildas become more or less superfluous. An s with a slash above or a dot below sounds the same in either case but does indicate something about the pronunciation of consonants which might be joined with it.

 

In closing we would just like to invoke the presence of Shree Brindaban Dham (Shri Vrindavana Dhama), the BrajabasŚs (VrajavasŚs), Mother Jashoda and Shree Jamunadevi (Mother Ya‘oda and Shri Yamuna devi).

 

re-written

Notes on Pronunciation of Bengali Words and Use of Diacritics

 

Since Sanskrit is a very precise language, the standardized system for its pronunciation, through representation of the Sanskrit alphabet with Roman letters and the use of diacritic marks, is fairly adequate. Though the system is somewhat complicated and not easily grasped by one and all, it at least works for those who have understood it. The same system, however, is found to be very inadequate for the Bengali language, in terms of intimating to one what should be the proper pronunciation of Bengali words.

 

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has published numerous English translations of Sanskrit and Bengali literatures. The students of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness hold daily classes on these literatures, and it is from my experience in listening to many of those classes that I am prompted to make these comments. Included in the Shri Chaitanya Caritamrita is a "Bengali Pronunciation Guide", ostensibly placed there to assist the reader in pronouncing the words of Shri Krishna das Kabiraj Goswami. However, I have yet to hear anyone come even close to the proper pronunciation of these Bengali words, assisted by the said pronunciation guide.

 

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur predicted that one day persons would learn Bengali just so that they could read Shri Chaitanya Caritamrit a in the original.

One problem which we encounter is the same problem which is found with the English language. Simply by seeing a word spelled one still may not know how to pronounce it. This is due to a lack of consistency and absence of strict rules for pronunciation. Whereas the Sanskrit language is seen to excell in this regard, Bengali and other Indian languages, which are originally a mixture of Sanskrit and Prakrit, have less strict rules for pronunciation. It can therefore become somewhat arbitrary how one pronounces the word. In these circumstances the only way to learn the proper pronunciation is the same way in which one has to learn how to pronounce English properly. (Though such pronunciation differs from one region to the next.) Namely, by listening to an Englishman speak the language (or an American or Australian). An example of this problem comes in Bengali, for instance, with the final  a . Sometimes it is pronounced but most often not. The only way to know for sure is by listening to others. Even then, it may be pronounced in one context, say, when singing a song, and not in another. For instance, one can say prem, or also prema.

 

One Sanskrit and Bengali scholar suggested that the final  a  should always be written, if it is pronounced or not, just like the final  e  in English words, which is also not pronounced itself but indicates how the previous vowel should be sounded. This I was ready to accept until, while running a spelling check on a book I had translated, I found that words like pandit (spelled pundit, albeit) and avatar have already been incorporated into the English language, without the final  a .

 

Another problem is that by now we are already used to seeing a number of Sanskrit and possibly a few Bengali words spelt in a particular way. To drastically change the spelling, of, especially a Sanskrit word, appears rather presumptuous. We may, after having said all of this, have a license to spell words of pure Bengali origin with a more precise phonetic rendering, but do we have the right to spell Sanskrit words, which also exist in the Bengali language, with a spelling which approximates the Bengali pronunciation?

This could depend on how much we are already used to seeing the word appear with a particular spelling. For instance, the word j¤ana could as well be spelled as gyan.

We could also just as well spell most of the words with Roman letters that are phonetically arranged and throw in a few accent marks, or lines over the long vowels, to show where the stress should be given. The old system was very similar to that used in modern day dictionaries. A mark    , was place above the syllable that gets the stress. This is one of the biggest problems for westerners. At least in English the stress is most often given to the penultimate syllable, thus Bengali and Sanskrit words like, Narada, Narayan, Draupadi, hladini end up being pronounced as Narada, Narayan, Draupadi and hladini. Yet, since this is the system that was prevalent a hundred years or so ago, this might be seen to be progress in the wrong direction. Words like Shree now appear clumsy compared to Shri. Also the British representation of English words differ than that of other countries. It was mainly through their influence that the previously existing phonetic system came into use. I have seen old maps of India where Nadia was spelled Nuddeah. Even towns in modern day England, spelled as Leicester, are nevertheless pronounced as Lester. So, as is often the case, we seem to be searching for a safe middle ground.

 

One point that was touched on before is the fact that we are now used to seeing certain words spelt in certain ways. Krishna, could perhaps be more practically spelt as Krishna, as it also is, but now that we are used to seeing Krishna as Krishna, a sort of mystical presence is invoked by seeing these heiroglyphic symbols. It just appears too ordinary to spell Krishna as Krishna.

Other words like desa, appear so much more sensibly spelled as desh. So now we enter the realm of ambiguousness and arbitrary thinking.

 

One new symbol that I am firmly convinced needs to be introduced is an  r  with a dot over it (r). This is a slightly rolled or trilled  r  . There is not a shadow of a doubt that this symbol is very much needed since the old  d  (d) with a dot underneath it comes no where close to approximating the proper pronunciation.

One friend told how he spent days trying to find the Shripat of Nityananda Prabhu, located in the district of 24 Parganas in West Bengal, by asking the whereabouts of Khadadaha. People told him, "Well we know where Khardaha is, but we never heard of this place Khadadaha.

An anthology of songs composed by Shri Bhaktivinode Thakur, compiled by Acyutananda Swami, makes use of this  r  with a dot over it. We can't use an  r  with a dot underneath it because that symbol already exists for  ri  (r). I'm also not sure what the advantage of  r  is over  ri .

 

 C 's are always pronounced as  ch  and never as  k  so there is no point in saying anything further on this point. In Bangla there is no sound for  v . The letter comes in the alphabet but it looks exactly the same as the character for  b  and is consequently pronounced the same. Similarly, although  y  exists in only a few rare instances (usually at the end of a word), it is usually pronounced as  j .  Y  after a consonant affects the pronunciation of the vowel that follows. Though the  y  itself is not sounded much, the vowel, for instance, the  a  in jnana, sounds like the  a  in  hat - gyan. Otherwise, this very American rendering of  a  does not have much place in Bengali or Sanskrit. Though most people pronounce the word Sanskrit as Syanskrit, its proper pronunciation is Sungskrit. This raises the question whether an  a  or a  u  better meets the requirements for words like Sanskrit and pandit (Sunskrit/Sungskrit and pundit).

 

In Sanskrit the Anuswar is written as an  m , and its pronunciation is given as the  n  in  bon  (French). In the Bengali Pronunciation Guide given in BBT books, the anuswar is still represented by a  m  but its (proper) pronunciation is given as the  ng  in  song . Since the candra bindu's     pronunciation more resembles that of the Sanskrit anuswar then it's symbol could be given as an  m  except that most people would simply continue to pronounce it as an  m , as they do with Sanskrit words. In the Bengali Pronunciation Guide (BBT) the symbol given for  candra bindu is  n  which is also the same symbol given for     . In actuality however, it is the anuswar and     which have a similar sound and not the candra bindu and     Though it looks rather odd at first (after seeing  m  for so long), the anuswar is probably best represented by  ng  since that is in fact what it sounds like (as well as     ). As far as candra bindu goes, however, neither the  m  or the  n  is really very suitable because it usually comes out sounding like an  m  or an  n . Therefore, it might be best just to use a candra bindu     .

 W  comes a little closer than  v  to getting the proper sound in words like Adwaita and Iswara though the actual Bangla pronunciation is rather a doubling of the consonant, as in Addaita and Issor. Any consonant which has another consonant (ya, ba, ma) joined to it is simply doubled. Thus vidya becomes vid-da and padma becomes pad-da.  R  however, joined to a consonant is sounded - as in brahma.

T's and th's and d's and dh's with a dot underneath are pronounced differently than those without, so this dot serves some function, though only someone who is seriously learning the language would probably bother to learn the difference.  N 's whether they have dots above or below, or a tilda above, all end up sounding the same, thus the dots and tildas become more or less superfluous. An  s  with a slash above or a dot below sounds the same in either case but does indicate something about the pronunciation of consonants which might be joined with it. Sometimes however, an  s  with a slash above it is pronounced as a regular  s , as in Shri.