SRI CAITANYA BHAGAVATA & SRI CAITANYA-CARITAMRTA
From the Gaudiya Bhasya of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
Previous to the composition of Shri Caitanya-caritamrta, Shrila Vrndavana dasa Thakura wrote a book called Shri Caitanya-bhagavata. Only those subjects which were not discussed by Shrila Vrndavana dasa Thakura in his Caitanya-bhagavata have been taken up by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami to be depicted in Shri Caitanya-caritamrta. In his very old age, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami went to Vrndavana, and by the order of Shri Madana-mohanaji he wrote Shri Caitanya-caritamrta. Thus we are now able to relish its transcendental bliss.
(SP in Cc Adi 8 Intro)
Sri Caitanya-bhagavata is the first half of Sri Caitanya's pastimes; Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is the second half. We request all readers to attentively and impartially study Sri Caitanya-bhagavata and after completing it they will certainly be eager to hear and chant the topics of Sri Caitanya glorified by Srila Kaviraja Gosvami. By this process a living entity will certainly achieve spiritual perfection- this is the request of this fallen soul.
Shri Caitanya-caritamrta deals more with Shri Caitanya's pastimes as a sannyasi in Nilacala and therefore may be accepted as a supplement to Shrila Vrndavana dasa Thakura's book. This great book is divided into three parts-Adi, Madhya, and Antya. Adi-khanda extends up to the Lord's acceptance of initiation, Madhya-khanda extends up to the Lord's acceptance of sannyasa, and Antya-khanda describes some of the Lord's pastimes over a period of a few years in Nilacala.
(SBSST Introduction to Cb Adi 1)
Sarasvati Thakura read both Caitanya-bhagavata & Caitanya-caritamrta 108 times and told others to do likewise, expecting everyone to do that. Of course, it's doubtful if anyone did, but the idea was meant to read again and again and absorb the mind in Gauranga just as Mahaprabhu liked to hear the stories of Dhruva and Prahlada Maharaja. Sarasvati Thakura said to read Caitanya-bhagavata first then Caitanya-caritamrta, and then Srimad-Bhagavatam. The reason being that Caitanya-bhagavata is very easy reading for all kinds of people because it has no difficult philosophy and is mostly lila. Caitanya-caritamrta is also very attractive with some very difficult sections also. In the Srimad Bhagavatam the language is difficult Sanskrit.
Gaudiya Vaisnava scholars generally consider Caitanya-caritamrta to be the most important biography of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, even more so than Caitanya Bhagavata, in as much as it deals with: (a) the philosophy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in great detail and (b) the highest ecstasies of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, which are referred to only somewhat in Caitanya Bhagavata.
Sarasvati Thakura himself would generally explain philosophy very deeply, but he said that Caitanya Bhagavata is more important than Caitanya-caritamrta for the common man because it is a lila-grantha. Without describing so much about philosophy, it describes the lila of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and is therefore easy for the common man to follow and understand the philosophy. Even though Sarasvati Thakura himself mostly explained philosophy, he said that philosophy is only for the greatly learned people, and for the common men Caitanya Bhagavata is more important. So he said, "Read Caitanya Bhagavata from time to time." If anyone came to him he would ask them if they had read Caitanya Bhagavata. He often asked people this, including non-devotees. He recommended that for ordinary people, the first Vaisnava literature they read be Caitanya Bhagavata. He recommended to everyone to first read Caitanya Bhagavata, then Prema Bhakti Chandrika, then Srimad Bhagavatam.
(From Bhakti Vikasa Swami's notes on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura)
More quotes from Bhakti Vikasa Swami