In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life was written by our Divine Guide and Master, Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Astottara-sata Sri Srimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada just after his entering the renounced order of life in the autumn of 1959. At that time, Srila Prabhupada was living in Sri Vrndavana-dhama and would sometimes practice madhukari. Madhukari means to collect a little food door to door for ones maintenance just as the bee collects a little pollen flower to flower. Srila Prabhupada, however, often requested the householders whom he called upon to give pen and paper for his writing rather than the rice, dahl, and chapatis traditionally sought by holy men practicing madhukari.
On those papers that he received as alms, Srila Prabhupada wrote page after page, preparing his messages of Godhead for the world. Some of the manuscripts he published in his Back to Godhead magazine, and others, like Easy Journey to Other Planets, he printed as small booklets. Although unable to publish everything he wrote, Srila Prabhupada nevertheless continued to write and stockpile his manuscripts. Unfortunately, some of the early writings of His Divine Grace were lost after Srila Prabhupada left Sri Vrndavana-dhama to conduct his worldwide campaign of spreading Krsna consciousness.
In 1977, just on the eve of our Divine Masters departure for the eternal abode of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, I found a handwritten manuscript at the bottom of an old metal trunk in the Radha-Damodara temple. The handwriting was easily recognizable as Srila Prabhupadas. After the disappearance of His Divine Grace, I carried the manuscript with me wherever I went, showing it to interested devotees. On several occasions, my godbrothers suggested that I publish the manuscript for wide-scale distribution.
The original manuscript of more than two hundred pages was entitled Lord Caitanya: His Sannyasa and Sankirtana Movement. Unfortunately, 40 pages were missing from the middle section. For several years, we searched for those missing pages but were unable to find them. The manuscript was therefore divided into two parts. The first part describes Lord Caitanyas traveling from Navadvipa-dhama to Jagannatha Puri immediately after His accepting the sannyasa order, the Lords visiting the temple of Ksiracora Gopinatha, the pastime of the Gopinatha Deity stealing the offering of condensed milk to satisfy His pure devotee Sripad Madhavendra Puri, and the pastime of the Saksi Gopala Deity appearing as a witness to defeat the atheists. The second part of the manuscript describes the talks between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya when the two met on the banks of the river Godavari in South India.
In the second part of the manuscript, Srila Prabhupada preaches very enthusiasticallydiscussing the varnasrama system, chastising the materialists, condemning the impersonalist conception, exposing the imitationists, praising the virtues and characteristics of pure devotion, and entering into confidential descriptions of the nature of rasa-tattva, the transcendental mellowness of spontaneous love of Godhead.
Because the talks between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya had already been published by His Divine Grace in The Teachings of Lord Caitanya and his Caitanya-caritamrta purports, we hesitated to publish the manuscript, thinking that Srila Prabhupada had already published what he wanted to say on the subject. How- ever, by the grace of Srila Prabhupada, I was inspired to read the manuscript again and again until finally I realized that my beloved gurudeva had expanded on some very confidential points in his original manuscript, which he did not fully reveal in either The Teachings of Lord Caitanya or the Caitanya-caritamrta purports.
The style of Srila Prabhupadas writing in the manuscript is revealing. His Divine Grace makes his reader feel the urgency of Krsna consciousness, a remarkable ability, which so much characterized his eminent position as a world acarya. Taking his readers to the realm of divine love, Srila Prabhupada extensively and freely reveals madhurya-premathe amorous love affairs of Srimati Radharani and Her cowherd girlfriends with Sri Krsna, the absolute King of Love, in the groves of Vrndavanaas the topmost platform of spontaneous love of Godhead. Thus the manuscript not only illuminates Srila Prabhupadas position as a world acarya, but reveals his position as an intimate associate of both Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Therefore, although I am a most fallen soul, I still felt strongly that it would greatly please Srila Prabhupada if I were to publish the second part of the manuscript under a separate title, which he himself uses in the manuscript: In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life.
The talks between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya constitute the acme of all theistic conceptions, and thus are held in the highest regard by all Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas. The conversation between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya reveals the most esoteric truth about Vaisnava philosophy, allowing the reader to enter into the inner identity of the Lord and the purpose of His appearance. These talks are an important topic of Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta for all aspiring devotees. Srila Prabhupadas writing on this topic just after his accepting sannyasa is evidence of the special importance of these discussions for people in the renounced order of life. That he did not venture to publish it immediately is further evidence of the highly confidential and esoteric nature of this essay.
Because the topic is a highly confidential subject matter, one may ask, "What is the need to publish it, thus making it available to even neophyte devotees?" The answer is that although Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested that Ramananda Raya not disclose this topic but keep it a secret, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in his Caitanya-caritamrta openly reveals the details of the Lords talks with Ramananda and encourages all the devotees to enter deeply into their inner meaning.
Srila Prabhupada calls the discussions between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya "In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life" and requests his readers to enter into the essence of transcendental romance and pure love of Godhead by sincerely hearing his humble narration. Therefore, we felt that if we did not publish this manuscript, the worldwide community of devotees would be deprived of a most valuable gift.
As far as possible, we have tried to present the words of His Divine Grace in such a way as to preserve the original, charming mood of the author, but the readers must take into account that at the time of writing his manuscript Srila Prabhupada had very little formal training in English or extensive contact with English-speaking people. Actually, His Divine Grace has simply allowed the editors of this book to render some menial service to his lotus feet out of his unlimited mercy, so we earnestly request that the readers try to grasp the spirit of this book and kindly forgive any defects there may be in our attempt to present it.
The devotees who have surrendered at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and desire only to become the servants of the maidservants of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna will surely become enlivened by this publication. Others, who are not in the line of pure devotion, rupanuga-bhajana, will not be able to understand the contents or the importance of this book. We humbly pray for the mercy of our Divine Master and for the blessings of all the Vaisnavas that we may always be engaged in the heartfelt service of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His confidential associates as our life and soul.
Swami B.G. Narasingha