Discuss Srila Prabhupada’s books SYSTEMATICALLY.
I have heard different opinions regarding how best to approach Srila Prabhupada’s books. Many devotees favour the ‘thematic’ approach. They like to research on topics like ‘varnashrama’, ‘women’s role’, ‘creation’, ‘sambandha’, etc and they will search through all of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings to extract quotes on their chosen theme. Others like to start with short apparently ‘easy’ books like Nectar of Instruction. New devotees often favour this approach. I have also heard some recommend that the smart way to study is to just focus on the Chaitanya Charitamrita because in this book we will find the instructions of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam also presented. Others like to use the Gita almost like a book of prophecies, opening it up randomly to hear what Krishna has to say to them that day. However, over the years as I listen to Srila Prabhupada the necessity of progressing systematically through his books comes up again and again.
“The systematic hearing of the transcendental activities, qualities and names of Lord Śrī Krishna pushes one towards eternal life. Systematic hearing means knowing Him gradually in truth and fact, and this knowing Him in truth and fact means attaining eternal life, as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā.” SB 1.18.10 purport
“The surest remedy for avoiding death is to accustom oneself to hearing the nectarean pastimes of the Lord as they are systematically narrated in the text of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.” SB 1.16.8 purport
“Śukadeva Gosvāmī, experienced teacher that he was, answered all the questions in a systematic way as they were received from the chain of disciplic succession.” SB 2.8.29 purport
“In systematic way you discuss.” Morning Walk; 30/12/’73 Los Angeles
Question / My light:
Question: What is the systematic order we should discuss in?
My light: Srila Prabhupada repeatedly explains that Bhagavad-gita is the preliminary study, Bhagavatam is the graduate study, and the Chaitanya Charitamrta is the post graduate study, and we should proceed in this order.
“Everything is explained in Bhagavad-gītā. Therefore, to learn how to become free from the miserable condition of material existence, Bhagavad-gītā As It Is is the preliminary study. Then, if one understands Bhagavad-gītā, one can proceed to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and if one advances further, one may study Chaitanya-charitāmṛta. We are therefore presenting these invaluable books to the whole world so that people may study them and be happy, being delivered from miserable conditional life.” SB 10.8.49 purport
“Therefore Bhagavad-gītā is the preliminary study of spiritual life. If you can understand Bhagavad-gītā, then you can begin Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. If you have not understood Bhagavad-gītā, it is useless. You cannot understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.” lecture on SB 3.25.22 — Bombay, November 22, 1974 .
“This Bhagavad-gita is the ABCD of knowledge. This is entrance examination, matriculation examination, school-leaving examination. And Srimad-Bhagavatam is graduate. When you become graduate in spiritual knowledge, then you can understand Srimad-Bhagavatam. And when you have passed your Bachelor degree, when you are post-graduate, that study is Sri-Chaitanya-charitamrta. So we have got three different status of reading capacity. We have got already twenty books. So don’t waste your time. Try to understand what is Krishna and what is spiritual life by reading these books. Everything is explained there.”
lecture on Bhagavad-gita 13.22-24 — Melbourne, June 25, 1974