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(XIX) QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Can Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata be distributed to the common people before they have read the Gita and Bhagavatam?
A. Yes, Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata can be distributed along with the Gita even before Bhagavatam according to Shrila Prabhupada’s purport on Cc Adi 8.36. In the first part of the purport he explains that Shrimad-Bhagavatam is difficult to understand for the common man due to four reasons:
(1) It is very elaborate due to it being the commentary on the the highly condensed Vedanta-sutra and it is in Sanskrit which is a very difficult language to understand for the common man thus few men can understand its purport.
(2) Professional reciters have created the impression that Shrimad-Bhagavatam deals only with Krishna’s rasa-lila and thus presented Krishna as a great woman-hunter.
(3) Professional reciters have introduced bhagavata-saptaha, or seven-day readings of the Bhagavatam.
Then Prabhupada explains that under these circumstances, it is a great aid for the common man to read Shrila Vrindavana dasa Thakura’s Chaitanya-bhagavata, for thus he can actually understand devotional service, Krishna, Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda. Due to misunderstanding Shrimad-Bhagavatam, people are misled regarding the science of Krishna. However, by reading Shrila Vrindavana dasa Thakura’s book one can very easily understand this science.
So it is pretty clear that Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata is a great book to introduce to the common people who normally may not have the required intelligence & patience to understand the most elaborate Shrimad-Bhagavatam
Also Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has said said that Chaitanya Bhagavata is more important than Chaitanya-charitamrita 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 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.
Q.Then why did not Shrila Prabhupada explicitly tell us to read this book and distribute it in mass quantities?
A. One immediate answer is because Shrila Prabhupada had not translated the book. Shrila Prabhupada did give great importance to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes that is proved by the fact that he left the translation of the Bhagavatam in middle to complete Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita. So actually he did’nt have time to translate Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata. Although Prabhupada has said that his books are enough, he did say that reading Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata will be a great aid for the common man, that one should read this book if he has to preach the gospel of Lord Chaitanya, that readers will profit much by going through Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata (SB Intro). So I would say that it is not against the teachings of Prabhupada to introduce this book with the original Bengali verses & translation to the common people.
Q. But the translation is not done by Prabhupada. So how will we know whether it is bona-fide?
A. Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata is full of very simple but very sweet Bengali verses which are very easy to translate into any language if the devotee translator is little intelligent and has a little knowledge of Bengali (which is very easy to get). There are very few Sanskrit verses in the whole book and some of them are from the Bhagavatam. For example, translation into Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu etc. is very easy because most of the words used in the original Bengali verse are same for the other languages also. So there is no need for searching for other words while translating and also there is not such a need for the word to word meanings also. The common Indian people can understand around 60 to 70% of the original Bengali verse itself because it so much resembles their language. So by regular & repeated reading, the people may end up learning Bengali which was vision of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as quoted by Shrila Prabhupada. Ofcourse for other non-Indian or different languages word to word meanings may be very helpful for the people to catch up on the recitation of the transliterated Bengali verses which leads to increasing ecstasy in devotional according to Shrila Prabhupada and which is bound to happen in the future according to Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
Q. Can Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata be distributed without the purports of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura?
A. We can have two editions. One with only the transliterations & the translations for mass distribution and the other one with all the purports. The first edition will have a few pages of advertisement about the full edition. It will generate great interest for buying the full edition with the purports. Just like companies bring out demo versions which have some features less than the full versions. But by using the demo version, people like it so much that they go in for buying the full version.
Also Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that a time will come when all the people of the world will learn Bengali to read Chaitanya-charitamrita. And also that one should read Chaitanya-bhagavata & Chaitanya-charitamrita 100 times. So it is clear that people will not read every time with the purports. They may read the book with the purports one or two times but after that they may just chant the Bengali verses and read the books more & more times. Also Prabhupada says that we are not sure how successful the English translation will be, but if one reads the original Chaitanya-charitamrita in Bengali he will relish increasing ecstasy in devotional service.
Also translation of the full edition with the purports in any one language is a huge task and can be done gradually after the first edition with the translations & the verses is out.
Considering all these points, I think it is a fairly reasonable decision to market this book in two editions, one for mass distribution and one with the purports.
Q. Shrila Prabhupada said that Chaitanya-charitamrita is the PhD studies of Krishna consciousness. Is Chaitanya-bhagavata not in a similar category?
A. No. Chaitanya-bhagavata is the most wonderful book of the beautiful sankirtana pastimes of Lord Chaitanya & His devotees. The sankirtana pastimes of Lord Chaitanya are basically for the deliverance of the fallen conditioned souls. It is only in Chaitanya-charitamrita that Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami explains the internal esoteric purpose of the advent of Lord Chaitanya which can only be understood by advanced devotees. Chaitanya--bhagavata has no esoteric or highly philosophical sections like the Chaitanya-charitamrita. It is most easily understood & accessible to the common man because Shrila Vrndavana Dasa Thakura has presented the philosophy so nicely intermingled with his vivid descriptions of the Navadvipa pastimes of Lord Chaitanya. All the aspects of the Krishna conscious philosophy has been so nicely mixed with the pastimes that one does not even notice it and the reader remains absorbed in reading the pastimes while simultaneously realizing the philosophical imports.
It is said that for the less-intelligent people of Kali Yuga, Vyasadeva wrote the Mahabharta & the Puranas which are full of stories. So what to speak of the good fortune of reading the stories directly about Lord Gauranga, the most merciful of all incarnations and learning the highest philosophy simultaneously. This is what which makes Chaitanya-bhagavata the supremely unique literature which can easily save the whole world from its suicidal course.
Also the pastimes of Lord Nityananda are glorified throughout Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata. So by repeated reading of Chaitanya-bhagavata one developes firm faith in Lord Nityananda, the original spiritual master. By His mercy alone can we even think of purifying our hearts and approaching Shri Shri Radha & Krishna in Vrindavana. This is reason why Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has recommended the repeated reading of this book for the common man and it is supported by Shrila Prabhupada who states that it is aid for the common man to quickly understand Krishna.
samsarera para hai' bhaktira sagare, ye dubibe, se bhajuka nitai-candere
Those who wish to cross the ocean of material existence and drown in the ocean of devotional service should worship Lord Nityananda.(CB Adi 1.77)
Q. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta introduced this book to one and all because because he was basically preaching in Bengal & Orissa where people were quite pious and could understand Bengali very easily. Is it proper for us to do so now for all over the world?
A. Yes it is most appropriate to distribute this book all over the world. If you read this whole compilation carefully, the answers are already there. First of all Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta did not advocate this book for Bengali & Oriyas. O.B.L. Kapoor, being a learned scholar from Allahabad, the Hindi speaking part of India, was instructed by Sarasvati Thakura to learn Bengali, so as he could study the original Bengali texts of the Chaitanya Bhagavata and the Chaitanya-charitamrita, etc. Sarasvati Thakura also liked other Gaudiya Math members who were also learned and non-Bengalis, to learn Bengali for this reason. So he wanted everyone to read this books with their original Bengali verses.
Secondly Shrila Prabhupada says that reading Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata will be a great aid for the common man in general to easily understand Krishna not only for the Bengalis & Oriyas.
And thirdly, Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami described in Chaitanya-charitamrita Adi 6.38:
‘chaitanya-mangala’ shune yadi pashandi, yavana
seha maha-vaishnava haya tatakshana
If even a great atheist hears Shri Chaitanya-mangala (previous name for Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata), he immediately becomes a great devotee.
So all the great atheists which comprise of 99.99% of the world’s population can become maha-vaishnavas if they get the supreme good fortune of reading this book. Thus in my personal opinion, when this book is published and distributed in mass quantities all over the world, it will break open the gates of the flood of the love of Godhead brought by Lord Chaitanya and His associates and will hasten the advent of the predicted Golden Age in all its glory.
Q. Is there any chance of misunderstanding Lord Chaitanya by reading Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata like for example the 13 sahajiya sects?
A. Absolutely no. There is no way that one can misinterpret Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata. Anyone who reads Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata will undoubtedly attain the pure, unadulterated, loving devotional service unto Lord Chaitanya. This is confirmed in the Gaudiya Bhasya of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
radha-bhave nija-bhranti, suvalita radha-kanti,
audarye madhurya aprakasha
audarye madhurya-bhrama, na karibe tahe shrama,
Being absorbed in the mood of Radha, Krishna forgets Himself and exhibits Her dazzling complexion. The conjugal pastimes of the Lord are not manifest in His magnanimous pastimes. Vrindavana dasa Thakura teaches us that one should not labor hard to find the conjugal pastimes of the Lord in His magnanimous pastimes.
The sahajiyas didn't like the Chaitanya Bhagavata, and called it a dry book. They like Chaitanya Charitamrita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, etc., because they deal with Radha Krishna lila, but Sarasvati Thakura published Chaitanya Bhagavata - Chaitanya lila. At that time Chaitanya Bhagavata was very rare in India. (From Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s notes on Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura)