After reading & hearing Antya lila chapter 17 (The Bodily Transformations of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu), I must confess that these supreme transcendental pastimes of Mahaprabhu are beyond comprehension of our dull material senses. It is difficult to understand how much intense separation from Lord Krsna can affect a pure devotee in intense love of Godhead. But I definitely appreciate them, have faith in them, and consider myself immensely fortunate that I am able to hear about these pastimes of the Lord.
But I do have several realizations from this chapter.
My first realization is that Sri Caitanya-Caritamrta is the top-most Vaisnava literature. I will even boldly proclaim that it is even higher than Srimad Bhagavatam. I will explain my reasoning. I am studying Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya Caritamrta simultaneously. Bhagavad Gita study is for my Bhakti Sastri course. I started reading Srimad Bhagavatam since beginning of 2018 and currently I am in Fourth Canto. And of course, we are studying CC under the loving guidance of HG Dhruva Maharaj prabhu since 2017. My personal realization is that Bhagavad Gita is based on sambandha-jnana (the process of understanding our relationship with Lord Krsna). Srimad Bhagavatam is based on both sambandha-jnana and abhideya-jnana (acting according to our constitutional relationship with Krsna). There is another aspect called prayojana-jnana (ultimate goal of life, which is to develop love of Godhead – premā pum-artho mahān). It is wrong to claim that Srimad Bhagavatam has no aspects of prayojana. It has but in limited terms. Srimad Bhagavatam does not elaborate much on prayojana-jnana. However, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta is purely based on prayojana-jnana. Sri Caitanya Caritamrta starts from the point after sambandha and abhideya are conclusively established.
All the pastimes of Lord Caitanya and His devotees are based on pure love of Godhead. All the devotees in Gaur-lila are fully surrendered souls. Unlike Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta does not elaborate much on topics such as karma, jnana, dhyana, three modes of material nature, the four purusarthas (dharma, artha, kama, moksha), etc. Every aspect of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta is just pure love of Godhead. Of course, the author explains some philosophy in Adi lila but it is more to establish that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is none other than Sri Sri Radha and Krsna combined (Sri Krsna Caitanya Radha-Krsna nahin anya).
Since the goal of all devotees is to achieve love of Godhead, it is important for us to study Sri Caitanya Caritamrta in depth (not just once but again and again), meditate upon its teachings, and apply Mahaprabhu’s teachings to our practical life. Lots of things that Krsna said in Srimad Bhagavatam are actually enacted by Lord Caitanya as His pastimes. As an example, Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavat Gita are replete with Lord Krsna’s message that one should always think of Him, become His devotee, worship Him, offer Him obeisances, etc.) Lord Caitanya actually shows how this can be done by chanting the Hare-Krsna maha-mantra.
I do not remember reading or hearing about pure devotees undergoing bodily transformations due to intense separation from Lord Krsna in Srimad Bhagavatam. May be in 10th canto but I haven’t reached there yet. There are examples of bhava bhakti in Srimad Bhagavatam. In general, Srimad Bhagavatam establishes the glories of devotional service. But Sri Caitanya Caritamrta is purely based on prema-bhakti. Not only that, it teaches us how to attain that state of prema-bhakti. And Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally enacts it.
My second realization is about the mood of Lord Caitanya. We studied in Adi 1.6 that Lord Krsna appeared as Lord Caitanya in the mood of Srimati Radharani.
CC Ādi 1.6 — Desiring to understand the glory of Rādhārāṇī’s love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with Her emotions, appeared from the womb of Śrīmatī Śacī-devī, as the moon appeared from the ocean.
When I read this 17th chapter of Antya lila, the verses spoken by Srimati Radharani in separation from Krsna, and Mahaprabhu’s explanation of the verses, I can actually feel as if Srimati Radharani is directly enacting the pastimes of Mahaprabhu. I could no longer feel distinction between Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krsna. I actually could realize that all these three personalities merged into one; I could see the superimposition of one personality upon another. Maybe the author (Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami) pealed the layers of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, one by one, to bring us to this final epitome of the topmost philosophical understanding of the whole creation (both material and spiritual). It is amazing how beautifully the author binds the book with the transcendental cloth of the concluding chapters.
Therefore, I now understand why Srila Prabhupada considered Sri Caitanya Caritamrta as the post-graduate study of spiritual knowledge. He quotes in the introduction of the book, “Actually, the Caitanya-caritāmṛta is not intended for the novice, for it is the postgraduate study of spiritual knowledge. Ideally, one begins with the Bhagavad-gītā and advances through Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Although all these great scriptures are on the same absolute level, for the sake of comparative study the Caitanya-caritāmṛta is considered to be on the highest platform. Every verse in it is perfectly composed.“
It is mentioned somewhere that Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura read Sri Caitanya Caritamrta more than 108 times (I cannot cite the source). He said that if we are in danger and are in a position to just save one thing in this world, we should save Sri Caitanya Caritamrta. I can see why.
All glories to Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami for giving us the nectar of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta!
All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for teaching us pure love of God!
All glories to Srila Prabhudapa!
May They all shower their mercy and blessings upon all of us so that we may achieve pure love of Godhead, and thereby, engage eternally in Their loving devotional service!