This lecture was given on Gaura Purnima, 3-21-08. H.D. Goswami analyzes the Western world as it existed in the 15th century and describes the revolutionary changes during the time of Lord Caitanya’s appearance which transformed the world and paved the way for the sankirtan movement.
Lord Caitanya appeared 1486. India generally has a history of religious tolerance and cosmopolitan view, but even in India there were serious problems in regards to religious tolerance (eg. Haridas Thakur challenged by the Muslims). In Europe there was some tolerance.
When Lord Caitanya was six years old Columbus tried to sail to East-India where He was. Krsna is the autor of history. He brought history on the earth to the point where Westerners take up Lord Caitanya’s movement. Columbus didn’t make it to India, but the effect of having discovered the “New Word” with new resources has a tremendous effect on the Western world, it stimulated globalization. It began when Lord Caitanya was a child. The idea was to organize the world so that there would be a world sankirtan, and the world began to change.
Another point is that those cities which have lots of international contacts have more sophisticated people. New York City is so sophisticated because people came from multicultural background. In our life when you have contact with different people your own life is put into perspective. You understand this is one way to live and there are also other ways which make people happy. Europeans were coming in contact with other people. Also the printing press was invented. Before, to copy a book was very expensive. It meant hiring someone for weeks. Only very rich people and institutions could have libraries, so there was not much literacy. Hardly anyone read the Bible even though the Middle Ages were extremely Christian.
So the printing press completely changed the world. The first things that were printed were the Bible and then the travel journals.
Everyone was a racist back then. People were proud of their countries. Every race thought they were the best race, and this view was completely respected. Another powerful thing that happened was the disintegration of the church. Martin Luther, a contemporary of Lord Caitanya revolted against the church. The Protestants were as fanatic as the Catholics, and when the church disintegrated it lost its power (just like the Gaudiya Math). It was not possible to preach anymore because there were so many different protestant groups. All this was going to culminate in the revolutionary war in America and created the possibility for an international Sankirtan movement. People like Thomas Jefferson were highly educated. Culture began to become relativized. Scientific revolution, which began with Newton, also happened at that time.
India is full of superstition as Europe was before the scientific revolution, full of irrationality. This revolution completely changed Western civilization. Europe was completely governed by a hereditary cast system. The clergy was the equivalent to the brahmanas. The upper clases depended on culture, not on money. The industrial revolution destroyed this system. The varnas are based on an agrarian culture. The whole purpose of the revolution was to have a scientific government (is it scientific to have a king?). At the same time the authority of the priests was shattered because there were so many different priests. The intellectuals in Europe gave up Christianity because it was not scientific. So all these things happened – social, political, economical changes – to prepare for the sankirtan movement.