Four Books are Enough
In our Krsna consciousness movement we have therefore limited our study of Vedic literatures to Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta and Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu. These four works are sufficient for preaching purposes. They are adequate for the understanding of the philosophy and the spreading of missionary activities all over the world.
- Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
This book is the A, B, C book of spiritual education. This is the essence of the knowledge imparted in the Upanisads. Since Brahma-sutras give conclusive meaning to the Upanisads, Bhagavad-gita is also the essence of the subject matter of the Brahma-sutras. Vedic knowledge is complete because it is above all doubts and mistakes, and Bhagavad-gita is the essence of all such Vedic knowledge. Out of many standard and authoritative revealed scriptures, the Bhagavad-gita is the best.
In the present age people are so absorbed in mundane activities that it is not possible for them to read all the Vedic literatures. This one book, Bhagavad-gita As It Is will suffice because it is the essence of all Vedic literatures and especially because it is spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
- Nectar of Devotion:
Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu by Srila Rupa Goswami is a treatise on the codes of conduct of devotees compiled in Hari Bhakti Vilas by Srila Sanatana Goswami. Srila Prabhupada gave a summary study of Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu in his book Nectar of Devotion, thus providing the Pancaratra for the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement.
The Nectar of Devotion teaches us how to turn that switch that will immediately brighten everything, everywhere, by engaging in the simple and natural method of loving Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even those who are completely confused and frustrated in life, can extinguish immediately the fire of material existence burning within their hearts, by learning this art of devotional service as directed in the Nectar of Devotion.
The Nectar of Devotion is specifically presented for persons who are engaged in the Krsna Consciousness movement.
As human society becomes degraded by the influence of the age of Kali, people become unfit for the vedic system. So the Pancaratra system of making one qualified by initiating him into the process of devotional service by which he is engaged fully in the service of the Deity form of the Lord is the only practical method for deliverance in this age of Kali.
Pancaratra books contain elaborate descriptions on the subject matter of the expansions and incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, especially the Deity incarnations, detailed information on day to day worship of the Deity forms, methods of purification of the worshipper and process of practical meditation, process of installing temple and Deities, and instructions on how to conduct different festivals in glorification of the pastimes of the Lord.
In the four authorised sampradayas, the acaryas have compiled Deity worship manuals based on these Pancaratra books. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami in the subject matter of Pancaratra and advised them to write books on this subject.
Srila Sanatana Goswami compiled Hari Bhakti Vilas, giving elaborate descriptions of Vaisnava regulative principles and practice. Srila Rupa Goswami made his treatise on the subject, viz., Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu with profound knowledge of revealed scriptures and authoritative references from various Vedic literatures, especially Narada Pancaratra.
Srila Prabhupada gave a summary study in prose on Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, in his book Nectar of Devotion. Thus the codes of conduct book for the Krsna conscious devotees, the Nectar of Devotion, is the Pancaratra book for the Krsna consciousness movement.
Within the Vedic literature, there are two systems of education. One deals with transcendental knowledge (para vidya) and the other with material knowledge (apara vidya). The Vedas and their corollaries the six Vedangas deal with the inferior system of material knowledge, viz, to improve religion (dharma), economic development (artha), sense gratification (kama), and liberation (moksa).
As far as Vedic literature is concerned, Vedanta-sutra is accepted as the para vidya. Srimad Bhagavatam is an explanation of that para vidya. It is the fully matured fruit of the desire tree known as Vedic literature.
Srila Prabhupada has given his Bhaktivedanta (devotional Vedanta) translations and purports on Srimad Bhagavatam as the graduate study for the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement.
- Sri Caitanya Caritamrta:
Sri Krsna appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to give practical demonstrations of the teachings He gave as Krsna. He relished the descriptions of Krsna lila given in the Srimad Bhagavatam by Vyasadeva.
Srila Vrndavan Das Thakur, the Vyasa of Caitanya Bhagavata described Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. Following in his footsteps Sri Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami, composed Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, in which the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are described in great detail.
One begins with Bhagavad-gita and advances through Srimad Bhagavatam (for which conducting life according to the codes of Nectar of Devotion is a must), to the Caitanya Caritamrta. Although all these great scriptures are on the same absolute level, for the sake of comparative study Caitanya Caritamrta is considered to be on the highest platform.
Srila Prabhupada says in his preface to the Caitanya Caritamrta, “I sincerely hope that by understanding the teachings of Lord Caitanya human society will experience a new light of spiritual life which will open the field of activity of the pure soul.”
Srila Prabhupada says in his purport to text 118 of chapter twenty-two, in the Madhya-lila of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta:
“In our Krsna consciousness movement we have therefore limited our study of Vedic literatures to Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta and Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu. These four works are sufficient for preaching purposes. They are adequate for the understanding of the philosophy and the spreading of missionary activities all over the world.”
The whole ocean of Vedic literature is contained in these four books of Srila Prabhupada. If a student sincerely studies these four books analytically and systematically, “Four books are enough!”