In the following conversation Srila Prabhupada gives guidance on how to read his books.
Kulasekhara: Srila Prabhupada, it says that the Caitanya-caritamrta is the postgraduate study of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada: Hmm, hear him. What does he say?
Pusta Krsna: Srimad-Bhagavatam is the postgraduate study...
Devotees: Caitanya-caritamrta, postgraduate study.
Kulasekhara: So if we're very attracted to reading Caitanya caritamrta now, but we haven't finished Srimad-Bhagavatam as yet, should we wait until we have studied Srimad-Bhagavatam thoroughly?
Prabhupada: It does not mean that one who is not postgraduate, he cannot read other books. Spiritual life is not a stereotype like that. But one who is not postgraduate, it is little difficult for him to understand the statement of... Just like in the beginning of Caitanya-caritamrta, it is said, na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha, that there is no superior truth than Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So if you have not studied Srimad-Bhagavatam, you'll not understand this statement. If you understand, "Yes, Caitanya is the supreme truth," then it is to be understood that you have graduated. And if you are not, then it will be difficult for you to understand.
Kulasekhara: Then the more we understand Srimad-Bhagavatam, the more we'll understand the Caitanya-caritamrta.
Prabhupada: Yes, and if you understood Bhagavatam thoroughly, then you can understand Caitanya-caritamrta. But if you have not understood Bhagavatam, then you cannot understand Caitanya caritamrta. The simple statement, na caitanyat krsnat para-tattvam param iha. Where is Caitanya-caritamrta? Bring.
Pusta Krsna: Which volume, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: First volume. That means you are not reading, you simply are referring. This is the difficulty. Without thoroughly reading something, we bring so many questions. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has therefore forbidden, bahu sastra na pore. Don't bother yourself reading so many books at a time. You'll be puzzled. Find out this verse, yad advaitam brahmopanisadi...
Pusta Krsna: I don't believe there's an index in this first volume.
Prabhupada: In the first chapter you'll find.
Dhrstadyumna: Seventeenth verse? "What is described in the Upanisads..."
Prabhupada: Yad advaitam brahma-upanisadi.
yad advaitam brahmopanisadi tad apy asya tanu-bha
ya atmantaryami purusa iti so 'syamsa-vibhavah
sad-aisvaryaih purno ya iha bhagavan sa svayam ayam
na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha
[Cc. Adi 1.3]
"What the Upanisads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of His body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul is but His localized plenary portion. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, full with six opulences. He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him."
Prabhupada: This is the beginning of Caitanya-caritamrta. So will anyone be able to understand this verse? Hmm? Everything is stated there, what is Caitanya. Will everyone be able to understand it? That is the proof that he's not graduate. If he is graduate, then he should understand. Therefore it is postgraduate.
Kuladri: One must understand Bhagavad-gita before Srimad-Bhagavatam?
Prabhupada: Yes. It is stated there yad advaitam brahma upanisadi. That means he must understand the Upanisads. He must understand what is Brahman. So without understanding this, how he can understand Caitanya-caritamrta? It will be explained there, but the fact is this. What is that? Is there any explanation?
Pusta Krsna: No, there's no purport to this verse.
Prabhupada: So further on there is explanation. Find out that.
Devotee (2): Srila Prabhupada? How does one know when he has the understanding of the Bhagavad-gita?
Prabhupada: What does he say? Answer him.
Pusta Krsna: What did you say?
Devotee (2): How does one know when he has the understanding of Bhagavad-gita?
Dhrstadyumna: One has understood Bhagavad-gita who surrenders to Krsna, because Krsna says sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66], that "The essence of all knowledge is to surrender unto Me, to give up all other duties." So one who takes that instruction as life and soul, he has understood Bhagavad-gita. Is that all right?
Pusta Krsna: The same verse again in the Second Chapter."The compilers of the Upanisads speak very highly of the impersonal Brahman. The Upanisads, which are considered the most elevated portion of the Vedic literatures, are meant for persons who desire to get free from material association and who therefore approach a bona fide spiritual master for enlightenment. The prefix upa indicates that one must receive knowledge about the Absolute Truth from a spiritual master. One who has faith in his spiritual master actually receives transcendental instruction, and as his attachment for material life slackens, he is able to advance on the spiritual path. Knowledge of the transcendental science of the Upanisads..."
Prabhupada: Where is that boy? You are hearing?
Devotee (2): Yes, Prabhupada.
Pusta Krsna: "Knowledge of the transcendental science of the Upanisads can free one from the entanglement of existence in the material world, and when thus liberated, one can be elevated to the spiritual kingdom of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by advancement in spiritual life. The beginning of spiritual enlightenment is realization of impersonal Brahman. Such realization is effected by gradual negation of material variegatedness. Impersonal Brahman realization is the partial, distant experience of the Absolute Truth that one achieves through the rational approach. It is compared to one's seeing a hill from a distance and taking it to be a smoky cloud. A hill is not a smoky cloud, but it appears to be one from a distance because of our imperfect vision. In imperfect or smoky realization of the Absolute Truth, spiritual variegatedness is conspicuous by its absence. This experience is therefore called advaita-vada, or realization of the oneness of the Absolute. The impersonal glowing effulgence of Brahman consists only of the personal bodily rays of the Supreme Godhead, Sri Krsna. Since Sri Gaurasundara, or Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is identical with Sri Krsna Himself, the Brahman effulgence consists of the rays of His transcendental body. Similarly, the Supersoul, which is called the Paramatma, is a plenary representation of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The antaryami, the Supersoul in everyone's heart, is the controller of all living entities. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, wherein Lord Krsna says sarvasya caham hrdi sannivistah: "I am situated in everyone's heart." (Bg. 15.15) Bhagavad-gita also states; bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram [Bg. 5.29], indicating that the Supreme Lord, acting in His expansion as the Supersoul, is the proprietor of everything. Similarly, the Brahma-samhita states, andantara-stha-paramanu-cayantara-stham: [Bs. 5.35] the Lord is present everywhere within the heart of every living entity and within each and every atom as well. Thus by this Supersoul feature the Lord is all-pervading. Furthermore, Lord Caitanya is also the master of all wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation because He is Sri Krsna Himself. He is described as purna, or complete. In the feature of Lord Caitanya, the Lord is an ideal renouncer, just as Sri Rama was an ideal king. He accepted the order of sannyasa and exemplified exceedingly wonderful principles in His own life. No one can compare to Him in the order of sannyasa. Although in Kali-yuga acceptance of the sannyasa order is generally forbidden, Lord Caitanya accepted it because He is complete in renunciation. Others cannot imitate Him but can only follow in His footsteps as far as possible. Those who are unfit for this order of life are strictly forbidden by the injunctions of the sastras to accept it. Lord Caitanya, however, is complete in renunciation as well as all other opulences. He is therefore the highest principle of the Absolute Truth. By an analytical study of the truth of Lord Caitanya, one will find that He is not different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna; no one is greater than or even equal to Him. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says to Arjuna, mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya: [Bg. 7.7] 'O conquerer of wealth (Arjuna), there is no truth superior to Me.' Thus it is here confirmed that there is no truth higher than Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya. The impersonal Brahman is the goal of those who cultivate the study of books of transcendental knowledge, and the Supersoul is the goal of those who perform the yoga practices. One who knows the Supreme Personality of Godhead surpasses realization of both Brahman and Paramatma, because Bhagavan is the ultimate platform of absolute knowledge. The Personality of Godhead is the complete form of sac-cidananda (full life, knowledge and bliss). By realization of the sat portion of the Complete Whole (unlimited existence), one realizes the impersonal Brahman of the Lord. By realization of the cit portion of the Complete Whole (unlimited knowledge) one can realize the localized aspect of the Lord, Paramatma. But neither of these partial realizations of the Complete Whole can help one realize ananda, or complete bliss. Without such realization of ananda, knowledge of the Absolute Truth is incomplete. This verse of Caitanya-caritamrta by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is confirmed by a parallel statement in the Tattva-sandarbha by Srila Jiva Gosvami. In the Eighth Part of Tattva-sandarbha it is said that the Absolute Truth is sometimes approached as impersonal Brahman, which, although spiritual, is only a partial representation of the Absolute Truth. Narayana, the predominating Deity in Vaikuntha, is to be known as an expansion of Sri Krsna, but Sri Krsna is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the object of the transcendental love of all living entities."
Prabhupada: So is it clear? (laughs) It is not so easy. Therefore it is postgraduate.
Pusta Krsna: Can these things be understood theoretically, Srila Prabhupada, or is realization required?
Prabhupada: Realization required. What is the use of theoretical knowledge?
Devotee (2): Srila Prabhupada, can realization be had through service without theoretical understanding?
Prabhupada: This whole science is understood through service only. Everything becomes revealed. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah [BRS. 1.2.234]. Revelation. Everything is revelation. Unless one is very sincere servant, there is no revelation.
Garden Conversation -- June 27, 1976, New Vrindaban