A new book set for release this October may be a godsend for both devotees and scholars: “The Life and Teachings of Sri Chaitanya: The Golden Avatara of Divine Love,” by Satyaraja Das (Steven J. Rosen). Most importantly, it will be published by Lexington Books, a prestigious worldwide academic publisher, which will position it to reach tens of thousands that might otherwise not read a book about Lord Chaitanya.
Over the years, Satyaraja has given us several notable works on Mahaprabhu and related subjects. Among his direct studies of Sri Chaitanya (amidst his 29 other books), is his early work from 1989: “India’s Spiritual Renaissance: The Life and Times of Lord Chaitanya,” which might be seen as a basic, introductory version of the Lord’s life and teachings — a kind of a summary or mere suggestion of where the new volume goes.
This was followed by his “Six Goswamis of Vrindavan” in 1991, which also summarized the Lord’s life but gave the added perspective of the life and work of his immediate followers, the Six Goswamis. Finally, he gave us “Sri Panca Tattva: The Five Features of God” in 1994. Here, he again explained the Lord’s life and teachings in context with the added nectar of the lilas of Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita, Gadadhara Pandita, and Srivasa Thakura.
Besides these, he has also written many scholarly articles on Mahaprabhu and His associates, published in Back to Godhead magazine and in other, outside magazines and yoga journals.
But “The Life and Teachings of Sri Chaitanya…” an exhaustive and in-depth presentation, is set to be the culmination of all his work on the Golden Avatara.
The book will be published by Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield, one of the largest academic publishers in the world. Lexington recently began a series called “Explorations in Indic Traditions.” Their idea was to publish a set of quality, detailed accounts of historical personalities and religious traditions associated with India, authored by well-respected authorities in the field.
These books, in turn, would be promoted as the standard texts in the field. Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, would serve as the series editor, assigning various specially chosen scholars with specific subjects and important personalities about whom to write books.
For the book on Sri Chaitanya, Professor Long selected Satyaraja Das, seen by scholars as an authority on Chaitanya Vaishnavism due to his standing as a longtime practitioner and his academic output as an author on the subject. Long wanted a devotee scholar to write the work, and felt that Satyaraja would do a sensitive and thorough job:
“Steven has done outstanding work through the years, with books designed primarily with a popular audience in mind; as editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (which has served as a venue for excellent work from some of the top scholars in the study of Vaishnava traditions); and with academically oriented books such as his Essential Hinduism and Krishna’s Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita (both published by Praeger/Greenwood), which have been recognized and accepted by the academy and have long been used as textbooks for college courses in English-speaking countries. As an author of popular works, his writing has the virtue of being clear and accessible. Yet his knowledge of the traditions about which he writes is so great that he does not oversimplify the material he presents. His work has depth without obscurantism, clarity without superficiality. . . . As one might imagine, I was delighted to learn that Steven was interested in contributing a work to this series. And not just any work: it could well be argued that this volume is his magnum opus. While it is written with the clarity of his earlier work, there is scholarly depth here that makes this particular volume a substantial contribution to academic knowledge of the important, but under-studied figure of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”
In fact, Long sees this work as eventually becoming the “go-to” reference for scholars and practitioners alike, since it is so exhaustive and makes use not only of all traditional or insider accounts of Mahaprabhu’s life and teachings, gleaned from early Sanskrit and Bengali sources, but also that of scholars and academics from over the last 50 years — making it the most complete and thorough account available. As Edwin F. Bryant, Professor of Hindu Religion and Philosophy at Rutgers University, writes in his back cover notes:
“Steven J. Rosen is well known and respected for his prolific output of writing on Krishna bhakti and related topics, but I would venture to state that this is by far his most important work yet. It represents a lifetime of serious study and scholarship, sieving through all the literature on Chaitanya — hagiographic, theological, pedagogical, academic and more — from the earliest literary sources to the transplantation of the tradition to the West. Indeed, this accumulation of sources from different genres is among the unique contributions of this book, allowing us to engage the significance of this remarkable saint/avatara through a wide variety of lenses. This user-friendly volume seems set to be the go-to source for scholars, students, and practitioners of bhakti on one of the most divinely intoxicated personalities in recorded history.”
Sarah Craig, the editor at Lexington Books, is so excited about the work that she plans to release it in paperback approximately one year after the publication of the initial hardcover version, a practice only done for books expected to sell well. Although the work is written for scholars and serious students (both devotees and those in the academy), the takeaway will be a clear view of Mahaprabhu’s life and teachings from both scholarly and practitioner perspectives. The basic content is summarized in the back cover text:
“Tucked away in ancient Sanskrit and Bengali texts is a secret teaching, a blissful devotional (bhakti) tradition that involves sacred congregational chanting (kirtana), mindfulness practices (japa, smaranam), and the deepening of one’s relationship with God (rasa). Brought to the world’s stage by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533), and fully documented by his immediate followers, the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, these unprecedented teachings were passed down from master to student in Gauḍīya Vaishnava lineages. Sri Chaitanya’s Life and Teachings, The Golden Avatara of Love, by contemporary scholar Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), makes the profound truths of this confidential knowledge easily accessible for an English language audience. In his well-researched text, modern readers — spiritual practitioners, scholars, and seekers of knowledge alike — will encounter a treasure of hitherto unrevealed spiritual teachings, and be able to fathom sublime dimensions of Sri Chaitanya’s method. Using the ancient texts themselves and the findings of contemporary academics, Rosen succeeds in summarizing and establishing Sri Chaitanya’s life and doctrine for the modern world.”
The ten chapters in “The Life and Teachings of Sri Chaitanya: The Golden Avatara of Divine Love” include: 1) The Gaudiya Tradition: From Veda to Radha; 2) Sri Krishna: Enter the Dark Lord; 3) Sri Gaura Tattva: From Black to Gold; 4) The World of Bhakti; 5) The Nectar of the Holy Name; 6) Siksastakam: Eight Beautiful Prayers; 7) Gaudiya Vedanta: Inconceivable Unity in Diversity; 8) Sri Chaitanya and Other Traditions; 9) Ramananda Raya: The Viceroy of Devotion; and 10) Raganuga-bhakti: Sri Chaitanya’s Special Gift.
The book is currently at the printer and will be released in early October. “It will come out just before this year’s American Academy of Religion conference,” says Sara Craig, adding, “All scholars in the field will want a copy!”
A beautiful portrait of Mahaprabhu showing that He is Radha-Krishna combined will be on the cover, rendered by Eduard Zentsik, a prolific Estonian-based painter who usually favors abstract expressionism. After meeting devotees of Krishna in India, Zentsik painted several portraits of Mahaprabhu. “The one we chose for the cover is my favorite,” says Satyaraja.
To make an advance order call Lexington Books at 800-462-6420 or visit their website: https://rowman.com/Lexington. Use the code LEX30AUTH17 to get a 30% discount.
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