Caitanya Caritamrta! Srila Prabhupada translates these words as "the character of the living force in immortality." Caitanya-caritamrta is therefore a window into the spiritual world, giving us a glimpse of our activities as immortal souls, in their original, pristine and blissful state of loving service.
The Transcendental lord
The soul is by nature eternal, full of knowledge, and blissful. However, in the material world, this original nature is covered by a distorted into a state of impermanence, ignorance and misery. The secret of reviving the real function of the soul is revealed by the Supreme Lord through the great scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad- Bhagavatam. Yet due to the influence of time and the interpretation of biased commentators, the essential message of these scriptures became lost and hidden from the sight of the conditioned souls, who are being misguided on the path of ignorance and misery.
Lord Sri Caitanya, the self-same identity as Lord Krsna, the speaker of the Gita and the hero of the Bhagavatam, returned to this earth a little over 500 years ago, to preach the real message of the Bhagavatam through His life and teachings. He accepted the mood and complexion of His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, and He taught devotional service to the world by His own example in the role of a devotee. He revived the sweet mellows of love of Godhead, relished only by the most qualified self-realized souls who are intimately associated with Him in loving service. Lord Caitanya and His associates made this highest treasure available to even the most dull and disqualified mortals of this earth. His legacy, the congregational chanting of God's names (nama- sankirtana) spread throughout India like wildfire, awakening people of all walks of life to the loving sentiments of Radha and Krsna.
The Celebrated Books
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's character and activities are recorded in several biographical works, including Sri Caitanya-carita by Murari Gupta, Caitanya- mangala by Locana dasa Thakura, and the highly revered Caitanya-bhagavata by Vrndavana dasa Thakura. Although Vrndavana dasa was considered the principal authority on Lord Caitanya's life at the time, he did not elaborate much on the later pastimes of Lord Caitanya, for he feared that his book would become too voluminous. However, wanting to hear these later pastimes, Sri Haridasa Pandita and various other devotees of Vrndavana, eagerly petitioned Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami to expound these pastimes for the pleasure of all generations to come. Considering their wishes his only ambition, Kaviraja Gosvami agreed to write.
The Illustrious Author
As the saintly scholar begged for the blessings and permission of Lord Madana-mohana (one of the principal Deities in Vrndavana), a garland fell from the Deity's neck and was placed upon Kaviraja Gosvami by the temple priest. Having thus been empowered by the Lord and His devotees to describe the Lord's pastimes, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami commenced his great work Caitanya-caritamrta at the advanced age of ninety years. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is today accepted as the foremost literature on the life and teachings of Lord Caitanya, due to its systematic and thorough presentation of both philosophy and pastimes.
Kaviraja Gosvami was endowed with a full comprehension of the transcendental life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by his spiritual master, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Despite being an erudite scholar, Kaviraja Gosvami is an emblem of humility. His humble disposition as an author, which touches the hearts of the readers, is maintained throughout this complete transcendental literature. He attributes the entire credit of writing Sri Caitanya-caritamrta to the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and the blessings of the Vaisnavas. He proclaims it to be a great wonder that he writes at such an advanced age, when he cannot remember, see or hear anything. And he even humbly begs the readers of his book for their blessings and requests them to be pleased with him. He repeatedly and profusely glorifies the work of Vrndavana dasa Thakura and extols him as the Vyasadeva of Caitanya-lila - the most authorized biographer and the original relisher of the Lord's pastimes. Further Kaviraja Gosvami says that he is simply trying to chew the remnants left by Vrndavana dasa (Adi 13.50) :
prabhura lilamrta tenho kaila asvadana
tanra bhukta-sesa kichu kariye carvana
Thus he avoids describing those pastimes that were already described in the Caitanya- bhagavata. He repeatedly mentions the vastness of Caitanya-lila and how he is unable to describe it properly. For instance, he says:
caitanya-candrera lila-agadha, gambhira
pravesa karite nari,-sparsi rahi' tira
"The pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are just like an unfathomable ocean. It is not possible for me to enter into it. Simply standing on the shore, I am but touching the water:" (Madhya 9:363)
Kaviraja Gosvami, divides Caitanya-caritamrta into three parts: Adi-lila, Madhya-lila and Antya-lila, He prefaces the book by systematically describing the conclusive truths of Lord Caitanya along with the primary and secondary reasons for His descent, and then the tattvas (truths) of Lord Nityananda, Advaita Acarya and the Lord in five features (Panca-tattva). In this way he establishes a strong philosophical and ontological basis for Gaudiya Vaisnavism, with extensive Vedic scriptural evidence to provide faith and understanding in Lord Caitanya, before entering into His nectarean pastimes and oceanic teachings that actually begin from the point of surrender to Lord Krsna, Vowing to its philosophical depth and confidential subject matter, Caitanya-caritamrta is considered a postgraduate study on spiritual knowledge. It is not meant for the novice.
The first twenty-four years of Lord Caitanya's life - from His appearance till His accepting sannyasa - are summarized briefly in the Adi-lila. His travels and preaching activities are elaborately described in the Madhya-lila, and His mood of separation from Krsna in seclusion is presented in the Antya-lila. In the first verse of almost every chapter, a summary of the chapter is presented. The author spell-bounds the readers with deep imports presented in elegant poetry, while still maintaining a simple, easy to understand language. The book is very precisely and coherently articulated, giving a clear and captivating illustration of the activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.