There is no difference between the teachings of Lord Caitanya presented here and the teachings of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā. The teachings of Lord Caitanya are practical demonstrations of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s teachings. Lord Kṛṣṇa’s ultimate instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā is that everyone should surrender unto Him, Lord Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa promises to take immediate charge of such a surrendered soul. The Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is already in charge of the maintenance of this creation by virtue of His plenary expansion, Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, 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) always 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 the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa directly orders, “Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me alone, and offer obeisances unto Me alone.” By so doing, the Lord says, one is sure to go to Him in His transcendental abode. But the scholarly demons misguide the masses of people by directing them to surrender not to the Personality of Godhead but rather to the impersonal, unmanifested, eternal, unborn truth. The impersonalist Māyāvādī 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 and then the sun globe, and then, if one is able to enter into that globe, one may come face to face with the predominating deity of the sun. Due to a poor fund of knowledge, the Māyāvādī philosophers cannot go beyond the Brahman effulgence, which may be compared to the sunshine. The Upaniṣads 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 Kṛṣṇa, who appeared as the foster child of the King of Vraja. He also teaches that the place known as Vṛndāvana is as good as Lord Kṛṣṇa because, Lord Kṛṣṇa being the Absolute Truth, there is no difference between Him and His name, qualities, form, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia. That is the absolute nature of the Personality of Godhead. Lord Caitanya also teaches that the highest mode of worship in the highest perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja. These damsels (gopīs, or cowherd girls) simply loved Kṛṣṇa without any motive for material or spiritual gain. Lord Caitanya also teaches that Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless narration of transcendental knowledge and that the highest goal in human life is to develop unalloyed love for Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Lord Caitanya’s teachings are identical to those given by Lord Kapila, the original propounder of sāṅkhya-yoga, the sāṅkhya system of philosophy. This authorized system of yoga teaches meditation on the transcendental form of the Lord. There is no question of meditating on something void or impersonal. When one can meditate on the transcendental form of Lord Viṣṇu even without practicing involved sitting postures, such meditation is called perfect samādhi. That this kind of meditation is perfect samādhi is confirmed at the end of the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, where Lord Kṛṣṇa says that of all yogīs, the greatest is the one who constantly thinks of the Lord within the core of his heart with love and devotion.
On the basis of the sāṅkhya philosophy of acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation, Lord Caitanya taught that the most practical way for the mass of people to practice sāṅkhya-yoga meditation is simply to chant 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 chanting this sound vibration, one passes through three stages of development: the offensive stage, the clearing stage and the transcendental stage. In the offensive stage of chanting 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, one 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 Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The gross activities of the mind are expressed through the external senses, either for the acquisition of knowledge or for the functioning of the senses in accordance with the will. The subtle activities of the mind are thinking, feeling and willing, which are carried out according to one’s consciousness, either polluted or clear. If one’s mind is fixed on Kṛṣṇa (His name, qualities, form, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia), all one’s activities — both subtle and gross — become favorable. The Bhagavad-gītā’s process of purifying consciousness is the process of fixing one’s mind on Kṛṣṇa 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 tulasī leaves offered to Him, engaging in activities for the Lord’s interest, becoming angry at those who are malicious toward devotees, 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 the Bhagavad-gītā (2.39), where Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna of the knowledge of yoga whereby one can work without fruitive results: “O son of Pṛthā, when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of works.” A human being is sometimes restricted in sense gratification due to certain circumstances, such as disease, but such proscriptions are for the less intelligent. Without knowing the actual process by which the mind and senses can be controlled, less intelligent men may try to stop the mind and senses by force, but ultimately they give in to them and are carried away by the waves of sense gratification.
The eight principles of sāṅkhya-yoga — observing the regulative principles, following the rules, practicing the various sitting postures, performing the breathing exercises, withdrawing one’s senses from the sense objects, etc. — are meant for those who are too much engrossed in the bodily conception of life. The intelligent man situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not try to forcibly stop his senses from acting. Rather, he engages his senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa. No one can stop a child from playing by leaving him inactive; rather, the child can be stopped from engaging in nonsense by being engaged in superior activities. Similarly, the forceful restraint of sense activities by the eight principles of yoga is recommended for inferior men; superior men, being engaged in the superior activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, naturally retire from the inferior activities of material existence.
In this way Lord Caitanya teaches the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That science is absolute. Dry mental speculators try to restrain themselves from material attachment, but it is generally found that the mind is too strong to be controlled and that it drags them down to sensual activities. A person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not run this risk. One therefore has to engage one’s mind and senses in Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, and Lord Caitanya teaches one how to do this in practice.
Before accepting sannyāsa (the renounced order), Lord Caitanya was known as Viśvambhara. The word viśvambhara refers to one who maintains the entire universe and who leads all living entities. This maintainer and leader appeared as Lord Sri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya to give humanity these sublime teachings. Lord Caitanya is the ideal teacher of life’s prime necessities. He is the most munificent bestower of love of Kṛṣṇa. He is the complete reservoir of all mercies and good fortune. As confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the Bhagavad-gītā, the Mahābhārata and the Upaniṣads, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa Himself, and He is worshipable by everyone in this age of disagreement. Everyone can join in His saṅkīrtana movement. No previous qualification is necessary. Just by following His teachings, anyone can become a perfect human being. If a person is fortunate enough to be attracted by Lord Caitanya, he is sure to be successful in his life’s mission. In other words, those who are interested in attaining spiritual existence can easily be released from the clutches of māyā by the grace of Lord Caitanya. The teachings presented in this book are nondifferent from the Lord.
The conditioned soul, engrossed in the material body, increases the pages of history by all kinds of material activities. The teachings of Lord Caitanya can help the members of human society stop such unnecessary and temporary activities and be elevated to the topmost platform of spiritual activities, which begin after liberation from material bondage. Such liberated activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness constitute the goal of human perfection. The false prestige one acquires by attempting to dominate material nature is illusory. Illuminating knowledge can be acquired by studying the teachings of Lord Caitanya, and by such knowledge one can advance in spiritual existence.
Everyone has to suffer or enjoy the fruits of his activity; no one can check the laws of material nature that govern such things. As long as one is engaged in fruitive activity, one is sure to be baffled in the attempt to attain the ultimate goal of life. I sincerely hope that by understanding the teachings of Lord Caitanya presented in this book, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, human society will experience a new light of spiritual life, which will open the field of activity for the pure soul.
oṁ tat sat
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
March 4, 1968
The Birthday of Lord Caitanya
Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Temple
New York, N.Y.