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Bhaktisiddhanta's Opinion On What Books To Read

Post Author: Jagannatha Gauranga dasa    Date: 2007-12-27 00:54:06
Bhaktisiddhanta's Opinion On What Books To Read

By Bhakti Vishrambha Madhava Swami

"All the devotees connected with the Krishna consciousness movement must read all the books that have been translated (the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-Gita and others); otherwise, after some time, they will simply eat, sleep and fall down from their position. Thus they will miss the opportunity to attain an eternal, blissful life of transcendental pleasure." Srila Prabhupada's purport, Madhya 25.279

Haribol Prabhus. Jaya Prabhupada.

I've been reading since the dissappearance day festival of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, a book in rough form consisting of mainly interviews Bhakti Vikash Swami made with Jyotishekhara Prabhu (disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta-now left the planet some few years ago, recently).

In this long interview, there are some interesting passages about Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's views on which books to read and how much of each one should read. It makes for nice reading. I hope you like it.

here goes..

The last time Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada left Puri, shortly before his disappearance, after following the kartika vows there, he was leaving in his car from the Math, when one disciple of his came and said, "What shall I do now that you are leaving." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said, "Hear the Bhagavat daily in the Math." That was his advice.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada read both Caitanya Caritamrta and Caitanya Bhagavata 108 times and told others to do likewise, expecting everyone to do that. Of course, it's doubtful if anyone did, but the idea was meant to read again and again and absorb the mind in Gauranga. Just as Mahaprabhu liked to hear the stories of Dhruva and Prahlada Maharaja. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said to read Caitanya Bhagavata first then Caitanya Caritamrta, and then S.B. The reason being that C.B is very easy reading for Bengali people because it has no difficult philosophy and is mostly lila. Caitanya Caritamrta is also very attractive with some very difficult sections also. In the Srimad Bhagavatam the language is difficult Sanskrit.

(In a similar vein-Just like Srila Prabhupada recommended our ISKCON devotees to read Krsna book).

Once, when Jyotisekhara was new in the Math, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada asked him if he was reading Caitanya Bhagavata, when he said "No" he told him he should read it early in the morning, before mangal arati, at 5.00am * (Footnote: Jyotisekhara said it would be difficult for him to read so early, because he had a bad cough). "Starting from tomorrow, you read from 4.00am -5.00am. Read it clearly and loudly and it will clear any cough in your throat." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said the Caitanya Bhagavata and Caitanya Caritamrta, even though in Bengali verse, are full of all sastric conclusions, and he recommended them, along with Srimad Bhagavatam especially the sections on Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada-charitra, the story of Prahlada, and Kapiladeva's instructions). He recommended all of these to be read 100 times.

(For the simple Bengali public) He did not recommend reading the gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, but Caitanya Bhagavata, except learned scholars, whom he would recommend to read the gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. For the ordinary Bengali he recommended Caitanya Bhagavata and Krsna Prema Tarangani, a Bengali verse edition of Srimad Bhagavatam by Bhagavatacarya, a disciple of Lord Caitanya.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said that there were four books that every Gaudiya Vaishnava should read: Chaitanya Bhagavat, by Vrndavan Das Thakur, Dasa mula siksa, by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta, by Narahari Sarkara and Prema Bhakti Chandrika, by Narottama Das Thakur.

He said that Chaitanya Bhagavat should be read 100 times. Gaudiya Vaishnava scholars generally consider Chaitanya-Charitamrta to be the most important biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, even more so than Chaitanya Bhagavat, in as much as it deals with: (a) the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in great detail and (b) the highest ecstacies of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which areb refered to only somewhat in Chaitanya Bhagavat.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada himself would generally explain philosophy very deeply, but he said that Chaitanya Bhagavat is more important than Chaitanya-charitamrta for the common man because it is a lila-grantha. Without describing so much about philosophy, it describes the lila of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and is therefore easy for the common man to follow and understand the philosophy, even though Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada himself mostly explained philosophy, he said that philosophy is only for the greatly learned people, and for the common men Chaitanya Bhagavat is more important, so he said, "Read Chaitanya Bhagavat from time to time."

If anyone came to him he would ask them if they had read Chaitanya Bhagavat. He often asked people this, including non-devotees. He recommended that for ordinary people, the first Vaishnava literature they read be Chaitanya Bhagavat. This was of course, because he was preaching mostly in Bengal and Orissa, so this was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada's special advice for them.

He recommended to everyone to first read Chaitanya Bhagavat, then Prema Bhakti Chandrika, then Srimad Bhagavatam. He recommended that Prema Bhakti Chandrika be translated and published and distributed in different languages of the world. He said that in Prema Bhakti Chandrika all of the siddhantas of the Goswamis were expressed.

He told the sannyasis and brahmacaris, "Don't keep many books with you. Don't have big big libraries: Just three books. Three or four books are sufficient."

(N.B. If you can read books in the original script, then even large books become less volumous, non-the-less it's better a few books studied with more concentration, then a big library studied less).

Once, in Dhaka, he told Sundarananda Vidyavinoda to give a series of lectures on the Gita in colleges. Although generally he would have people go to the Bhagavatam or Vaishnava literatures immediately.

Of course the Gita is also a Vaishnava literature that is considered to be for beginners. Those books which deal exclusively with Bhakti which are not used by other schools as the Gita is; that means the Chaitanya Bhagavat, as we discussed, Prema Bhakti Chandrika, Srimad Bhagavatam. These books Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada recommended people to go to directly.

However, we should always remember that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada was preaching in Orissa and Bengal, where most of the people who came to him already had some background, or at least some understanding of Vaishnava philosophy. His understanding was that the Gita was for the people in varnasrama; karmis, jnanis, yogis; then they may come to Bhakti. But in the case of the people amongst whom he was preaching, he wanted them to take directly to Bhakti (don't get hung-up).

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada was so strict that Jyotisekhara recalled that in the time of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada in the Gaudiya Math they had never seen the Rasa-grantha. That means that the books dealing with the intimate rasa pastimes of Radha and Krsna, such as Gita-Govinda, Govinda-lila-amrta, etc. His rule was not to read rasa-grantha. Even in the Chaitanya-charitamrta there are some sections which describe the feelings of rasa that Radharani is expressing for Krsna. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said to his disciples, "Don't read this section. It's not for you. You are not at this stage!" Only one or two disciples who had been given Manjari svarup were allowed to read it, but not publicly, only privately to themselves.

Conversation, 24 January, 1977: "My guru maharaja Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada used to say that,

When our members become sahajiyas, they will be more dangerous.'"

Those who are outside and are sahajiyas, we know their position, they are not following any correct siddhanta or any proper acharya. So we know they are sahajiyas, and we avoid their association. But if someone, in the name of being a follower the proper acharya, if he's also a sahajiya, if our own men become sahajiyas, in the guise of being bona fide followers of a proper acharya, then they are more dangerous, because, in the name of doing the right thing, they will be misleading people into doing the wrong thing.

Post Author: Bhakta Igor    Date: 2007-12-27 07:32:07
Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krsna
Chaitanya bhagavata ki jay!
Very useful points and advices about reading vaisnava literature.

I got serious doubt after reading this text. Could you please make me understand properly? In above text it is said "Only one or two disciples who had been given Manjari svarup were allowed to read it, but not publicly, only privately to themselves."
What does it mean? " had been given Manjari svarup"? Is it possible that Srilla Bhaktisidhantha Sarasvati Thakura gave some kind of "sidha-pranali" according to this text? This is most disturbing information please give us correct understanding.

Post Author: JagannathaGaurangadasa    Date: 2007-12-27 10:55:41
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!

I surely don't have the answer to that question. I got this story off of VNN.

Post Author: Swami Gaurangapada    Date: 2007-12-27 20:28:22
Nityaananda! Gauraanga! Hare Krishna! It is not exactly siddha pranali. It is stated in the final 15th chapter of Hari Naama Chintaamani that the Guru may sometimes discuss these confidential truths with disciples who are very advanced in Naam bhajana who may require that kind of guidance about their siddha svarupa as they are about to enter into that platform by constant chanting. It is not to be imitated by other devotees. Shrila Sarasvati Prabhupada did directly give this kind of guidance to 13 disciples. But that does not mean that the other devotees may not have attained that platform because Naam Prabhu is fully powerful and capable of revealing the highest secrets to us about our siddha svarupa by the mercy of Guru and Nityananda even if our Gurudeva does not explicitly explain it to us. And that is normal and more common process of realizing our siddha svarupa as Naam Prabhu being all cognizant, will reveal it when the time is right for us to receive it.

Daaso'smi, Swami Gauraangapaada.

Post Author: Bhakta Igor    Date: 2007-12-28 10:46:53
Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krsna
Thank you very much, dear Gurudeva for answer. It is important to know this because there are numerous false explanations and practices about so-called siddha-pranali and other "esoteric" topics in todays world. My humbly opinion is that sadhaka should hold such topics far, far above our head, and fully absorb in Naam. What we really know about such rasika topics? We should not rush and speculate about such pastimes if we are not 108% absorb in Naam.Such realisations are not cheap thing. Only if we become completely absorb in Naam,with causeless mercy of Gurudeva and Sri Nityananda Prabhu we will be able someday to relish pure love toward Supreme Lord Krsna.And THE ONLY and SAFEST way is chanting of Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krsna

Post Author: Swami Gaurangapada    Date: 2008-01-04 10:38:40
From a lecture by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada in 1932: "Do not think that astakaliya-lila smarana is the property of the sahajiyas. Actually it is out affair. It has to be retrieved from the hands of the sahajiyas. Our Sri Guru-pada Padma heard these things from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. That is why he used to tell us various confidential things. We have heard the last instructions from our Sri Gurudeva. He said, 'Living in Radha-kunda would be pleasant if you can deliver it from the hands of eleven immoral men.' Now, perhaps, eleven has increased to one hundred and eight."

Daaso'smi, Swami Gaurangapada.

Post Author: Bhakta Matus    Date: 2008-01-04 15:31:35
Dear Swami Gaurangapada Maharaja, dear devotees,
Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Please accept my humble obeisances.

i just read (another time) the article on which books to read according to Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada. i have some questions/comments regarding some points in the article. Here they are:

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said to read Caitanya Bhagavata first then Caitanya Caritamrta, and then S.B.

Interestingly, Shrila Prabhupada changed the order, namely Shrimad Bhagavatam first then Chaitanya Charitamrita. Some ideas why?

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada said that there were four books that every Gaudiya Vaishnava should read: Chaitanya Bhagavat, by Vrndavan Das Thakur, Dasa mula siksa, by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta, by Narahari Sarkara and Prema Bhakti Chandrika, by Narottama Das Thakur.

Could You, Shrila Gaurangapada Maharaja, elaborate a bit more please about the reasons, why Shrila Saraswati Prabhupada recommended these 4 books, please?

Gaudiya Vaishnava scholars generally consider Chaitanya-Charitamrta to be the most important biography of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu...

What are Your insights/opinion, Shrila Gaurangapada Maharaja, regarding this point?

He recommended that for ordinary people, the first Vaishnava literature they read be Chaitanya Bhagavat. This was of course, because he was preaching mostly in Bengal and Orissa, so this was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada's special advice for them.

Surprising. i thought, Shrila Saraswati Prabhupada recommended Chaitanya Bhagavata mainly because of its nature as lila-grantha and its merciful aspect of describing Lord's most essential bhagavata-lila, which is to be understood at the first place...

However, we should always remember that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada was preaching in Orissa and Bengal, where most of the people who came to him already had some background, or at least some understanding of Vaishnava philosophy. His understanding was that the Gita was for the people in varnasrama; karmis, jnanis, yogis; then they may come to Bhakti. But in the case of the people amongst whom he was preaching, he wanted them to take directly to Bhakti (don't get hung-up).

In our reading list compiled by Shrila Gaurangapada Maharaja, Bhagavad-Gita appears also 'only' at 9th place. Does it mean, that the 'tactic' of Shrila Saraswati Prabhupada, i.e. going to Bhakti books directly, mentioned in the above quote is applicable at a larger scale (not only in Bengal, Orissa, event. India)?

Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata is listed at the position 7. Why, if it is supposed to be such a crucial literature for the common people?

i would use this occasion to kindly ask Swami Gaurangapada Maharaja, to give us a brief explanation, why this specific order of reading books was chosen (in regard to other books listed as well).

And my last general question is: Every acharya gives different priority to specific books. How is their instruction in regard to reading books shall be understood by us in our present circumstences?

Thank You very very much.

Yours gratefully, Matus

Post Author: Gouranga dasa    Date: 2008-01-04 23:53:38
Wow this is amazing, Im very much looking forward for some perfect answers to these perfect questions! Thank you matus prabhu!

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