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(XIII) WHY & HOW TO READ AND HEAR SHRI CHAITANYA-BHAGAVATA
From the Gaudiya Bhasya by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
shune sarva-kshana karne, sahasra-mukhete varne,
Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata is a collection of the jewel-like pastimes of Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda. One should always hear and chant with thousands of mouths the unsurpassable glorification of the Lord contained in this great book.
Simply by hearing the pastimes of Shriman Mahaprabhu, one's constitutional position is revived. The activity of one in that constitutional position is the devotional service of Lord Krishna. Knowledge of Shri Chaitanya, His manifestations, and His glories is nourishment for the living entity's ears. When the living entity awakens to his constitutional activities, he fully engages in the service of Shri Gaura-Krishna. In other words, he performs pure devotional service with knowledge of his relationship with the Lord. (SBSST purport to Cb Adi 2.3)
shuddha-bhakta murtiman, shunaye yanhara kana,
shri-gaura-kishora vara, e dasera guruvara,
sada kripa kara more dana
The pure devotees of the Lord hear and chant this Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata. Shri Gaurakishora dasa Babaji is the spiritual master of this servant, so I always beg for his mercy.
Shrila Prabhupada’s purport to the song ‘gaurangera duti pada’ by Narottama Dasa Thakura:
Therefore, His pastimes are very pleasing: chant, dance, and take prasada. If one is captivated by the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya, simply by chanting and dancing and eating prasada the dirty things in his heart will all become cleansed. […] Then he says, gauranga-gunete jhure, nitya-lila tare sphure: if one appreciates the merciful pastimes of Lord Chaitanya and feels ecstasy and sometimes cries, this process will immediately help him to understand the pastimes of Radha-Krishna, which are called nitya-lila.
If you want to preach the gospel of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, then the personalities who established, by writing these books, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Vidagdha-madhava, so many books they have written. So we must go through them, must try to understand. Then we can understand what is the Chaitanya-caritamrita, Chaitanya-bhagavata, Chaitanya-mangala, there are so many. Chaitanya-candramrta by Prabodhananda Sarasvati. So many devotees, they have given us so many high literatures, we should consult. Therefore the prayer is, shri-chaitanya-mano-’bhishtam sthapitam yena bhu-tale. Persons who established the desire of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Padantikam, when they will give shelter on their lotus feet. That means Gosvamis.
(SPL, The Nectar of Devotion
Bombay, January 8, 1973)
From Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s notes on Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
Even though Sarasvati Thakura himself mostly explained philosophy, he said that philosophy is only for the greatly learned people, and for the common men Chaitanya Bhagavata is more important. So he said, "Read Chaitanya Bhagavata from time to time." If anyone came to him he would ask them if they had read Chaitanya Bhagavata. He often asked people this, including non-devotees. He recommended that for ordinary people, the first Vaishnava literature they read be Chaitanya Bhagavata.
Sarasvati Thakura read both Chaitanya-bhagavata & Chaitanya-charitamrita 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.
Once, when Jotisekhara was new in the Math, Sarasvati Thakura asked him if he was reading Chaitanya-bhagavata when he said "No", he told him he should read it early in the morning, before mangalarati, at 5.00am. Jotisekhara said it would be difficult for him to read so early, because he had a bad cough. Sarasvati Thakura said, "Starting from tomorrow, you read from 4.00am - 5.00am. Read it clearly and loudly and it will clear any cough in your throat." Sarasvati Thakura said the Chaitanya-bhagavata and Chaitanya-charitamrita, even though in Bengali verse, are full of all sastric conclusions, and he recommended them, along with Shrimad-Bhagavatam. (especially the sections on Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada-charita, the story of Prahlada, and Kapiladeva's instructions). He recommended all of these to be read 100 times.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s letter to one of his disciples from Shridhama Mayapur, March 15, 1915:
I have received your affectionate letter dated March 9, 1915, and gotten all the news. You please stay where you are and keep chanting Shri Harinama regularly. Also read Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata and Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s letter to one of his disciples from Shri Chaitanya Math, Mayapur, December 22, 1927 (from the book Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura by Mandala Publishing Group):
Even though in this world we don’t get to meet many devotees from the spiritual world, the conversations and pastimes of the devotees of Mahaprabhu’s time eternally exsist in the form of books and sound, and that is why we do not feel so much pain from material troubles. If we live here in the association of the words of the spiritual world, then the memory of this association will keep us at a distance from material misery.
This world is the place where the Lord tests us. To pass the test we have to hear the kirtana from the devotees of the Lord. You are hearing that kirtana through the books. Therefore you should not think that you are lacking in anything.