Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 4:7 “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” In past ages Lord Krishna has appeared in various forms. Over 5000 years ago He appeared as Himself in His original form as Bhagavan, Sri Krishna. In this present age of Kali Yuga, He appears in His most merciful form as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While other forms of the Lord descended with various paraphernalia to deal with the demoniac and irreligious influences of the time, Lord Sri Caitanya was equipped with the most powerful weapon against irreligion, the Maha Mantra. The chanting of the holy name of Lord Sri Krishna is the sublime and recommended process in this age for the deliverance of all souls from the clutches of maya (illusion) and irreligion
Lord Caitanya is Lord Krishna’s devotional form and is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.29 “In this age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna”, (chanting the Maha Mantra). Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Lord Krishna’s most merciful form who comes under the guise of a devotee. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was setting the perfect example of the “pure devotee of God”, yet, He is God Himself! He is the devotional form of Lord Sri Krishna. The purpose of Lord Caitanya’s appearance was to spread the sankirtan movement of chanting the holy names of the Lord to every town and village worldwide as the main means of God realization for this present age of Kali Yuga. He encouraged His followers to write books on Vaishnava sastra and to defeat the present infection of mayavadi impersonalism that is present everywhere and establish within the hearts of all, the practice of bhakti (love and devotion) to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.
Whenever the Lord descends to earth to fulfill a particular mission, He is accompanied by an entourage of His most exalted devotees who descend with Him from the spiritual realm. They appear as parents, friends, relatives, etc. and they are His liberated sincere devotees who have come to facilitate in the advancement of His mission. God does not need help in any way, but just as His pure devotees relish His association, so too does Lord Krishna relish in the association of His pure devotees. Lord Caitanya’s teachings are the same as Lord Krishna’s teachings in Bhagavad Gita. They are one and the same, but Lord Caitanya’s life is a practical example for all to follow. I stress the word “follow” since it may be the incentive of some to try to imitate Lord Sri Caitanya. That is not endorsed, or even possible. God cannot be imitated, but His teachings can be followed and applied to cleanse the heart and advance in a spiritual and Godly life. Lord Caitanya is God Himself showing the way of how we can apply the message of Lord Sri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita to make our lives perfect and complete.
CAITANYA MAHAPRABHU’S APPEARANCE
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in Mayapur, India during an eclipsed moon on the evening of February 18th, 1486. Caitanya’s father was Jagannath Misra, a poor Brahman and his mother was Sachi Devi. The people of the area were engaged in bathing in the holy Bhagirathi, as was customary during such occassions. With loud bursts of Haribol! Lord Sri Caitanya makes His appearance into this age known as Kali Yuga.
Lord Caitanya’s appearance was foretold in sastra (scripture) and the manifestation of His greatness was unfolding. Caitanya was a beautiful child with a golden complexion. The ladies of Mayapur would come to see Him with presents and they would call Him “Gaurahari” because of the golden color of His complexion. Like golden sunshine He was radiant. His mother referred to Him as “Nimai” because He was born near a Nim tree. People from all around the area would come to visit Him every day.
He entered school in His fifth year and easily learned to speak Bengali in a very brief time. Whenever the baby Caitanya would cry continuously the neighbor women and His mother would yell Haribol! At this sound He would immediatly stop. There were always echos of “Haribol” within His home. Once a Brahmin came to His house and was a guest for a short time. The Brahmin cooked some rice and during the Brahmins offering prayers with meditation on Lord Sri Krishna, the small Caitanya ate his rice. The Brahmin in turn, cooked more rice and while offering prayers and meditating on Lord Krishna, the boy ate the Brahmin’s rice again. While everyone in the house was asleep the Brahmin cooked rice for the third time and this time Caitanya showed His form as Lord Sri Krishna and blessed the Brahmin guest. The Brahmin realizing that this boy was Lord Sri Krishna in another form, became lost in extreme joy and ecstasy. His joy was extreme due to the appearance of the Supreme Object of his worship, Lord Sri Krishna Himself.
Once Caitanya was stolen by thieves who were out to plunder jewels and the boy Caitanya was lured with sweet treats. Caitanya exercised His powers as illusory energy and the thieves were made to go back towards His own house. The thieves thought they were going the other way, but Caitanya had tricked them. Leaving the boy at His own doorstep, with fear of being caught, they ran. At the age of eight years old, He was instructed by Gangadas Pandit and within two years He had become well prepared with a knowledge of Sanskrit grammar. His father Jagannath Misra was a pandit himself and young Caitanya would study His father’s books. After Caitanya had reached His tenth year, His brother had accepted the order of sannyasa and had left home. Not long after that incident His father left this world and just as young Caitanya had consoled His mother when His brother had left to take sannyasa, so too did He console her after His father’s departure.
During His teens, He was considered an expert scholar and His expertise in Sanskrit and Nyaya philosophy was intimidating to the other pandits who would avoid confronting Him in discussions. Caitanya would preach the principles of Vaishnava Tradition and He was expert in debunking the speculative and impersonal philosophies of some pandits. At the age of 16 Caitanya travelled to Gaya with a following of His students and it was there that He took spiritual initiation from Iswara Puri. Iswara was a Vaishnava sannyasi and his guru was Madhavendra Puri. After His initiation He became an even more dedicated preacher of the Vaishnava tradition and He was absorbed in the name and service to Lord Sri Krishna.
His mission was to spread the glories of the holy names of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna and thus spiritualize mankind with the chanting of these holy names. The Vaishnava devotional creed of bhakti represents love and devotion to God, Lord Krishna, on a personal level. Sri Caitanya was expert in defeating so called scholars promoting an impersonal concept of the absolute without regard to sastric revelation. The assertation of the Lord as the Supreme Personality of Godhead was formost and the presentation of Krishna as chanted in kirtan (congregational chanting of Hare Krishna) was a prime benediction that Caitanya was bestowing upon all humanity at large.
At the house of Srivasa Pandit He would sing, dance, and chant the names of Lord Krishna and express religious inspiration to all. Many sincere followers were in attendance at these gatherings. Nityananda Prabhu had at this time completed a tour of India and joined Caitanya and a host of other Vaishnava acharyas in the goal of spiritualizing mankind with the highest transmission of the Vaishnava devotional creed. Caitanya instructed His close associates Nityananda and Haridas Thakur by saying “Go friends, go through the streets of the towns, meet every man at his door and ask him to sing the name of Hari (Krishna) with a holy life and you then come and report to Me every evening the result of your preaching.” On that order the two would go out and with the blessings of Sri Caitanya many were converted to bhakti (love and devotion) to God. Even the two sinful characters of Jagai and Madhai were inspired to give up their wrong ways and change their hearts. Soon sankirtan parties (large groups chanting God’s name) flooded the streets to chant the names of Krishna.
All were surprised with the great power of Sri Caitanya. Envious smarta Brahmins became jealous of Nimai Pandit’s (Caitanya) success and complained to the Kazi. The Kazi was a non-Hindu political enforcer at that time. The Kazi went to Srivasa Pandit’s house and broke a mridanga drum (drum used for loud congregational chanting). The Kazi also ordered that unless Caitanya cease the public display of amassing crowds to chant the name of God (Krishna), he would be forced to apply Mohammedan law against Him and His followers. When word of this threat reached Caitanya, He ordered the towns people to appear in the evening, each carrying a torch. They did this and He organized them into 14 groups. They all marched, led by Nimai (Caitanya) to the house of the Kazi. At the Kazi’s house Caitanya engaged in a long conversation with the Kazi. He spoke of the Vaishnava tradition and communicated into the heart of the Kazi His Vaishnava influence by touching his body. The Kazi broke into tears and admitted that he had felt a great spiritual presence and was deeply influenced by Caitanya’s message. The Kazi experienced a higher ecstasy that cleared all doubts and gave him a religious conviction like never before. The Kazi joined Caitanya’s sankirtan party and he too took part in the mass congregational chanting spreading in India. The great spiritual power of the Supreme Lord astonished all as hundreds upon hundreds were converted and joined under the banner of Vaishnava love of God. The names of Lord Krishna echoed in the streets.
In His 24th year, Caitanya took the vow of sannyasa and upon renouncing material ties, He embraced a greater wealth of the world of Lord Krishna and a life exemplified as a perfect devotee of God. He radiated love for Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. After His taking of the vows of sannyasa, He traveled to Santipur to the house of Advaitacharya. Advaita invited many friends and admirers of Caitanya and even brought Saci Devi to see her son. As a sannyasi, Sri Krishna Caitanya wore only an outer covering. His head was shaved and he carried a danda and a kamandalu. Upon seeing His mother Caitanya fell at her feet and exclaimed “Mother! this body is yours and I must obey your orders. Permit me to go to Vrindavan for My spiritual attainments.” After a consultation with Advaita and others present, she asked Him to reside in Jagannatha Puri, so that she could obtain information from Him from time to time. This He agreed to.
After taking sannyasa He became known to many as “Krishna Caitanya”. On His way to Jagannath Puri He passed the Bhubaneswar temple and upon His arrival in Puri He saw Lord Jagannath in the temple there. A very renouned pandit of that time was Sarvabhauma. Saravabhauma was known as the most educated scholar of Vedanta in the school of Sankaracharya at that time. Gopinath Misra introduced Caitanya to Sarvabhauma. Sarvabhauma was informed that this was no ordinary pandit. After a hot discussion with Gopinath, Sarvabhauma requested Caitanya to hear his recitation of the Vedanta Sutras. This Caitanya listened to with great patience and silence for seven days. At the end of the recitation, Sarvabhauma said “Caitanya! I think You do not understand the Vedanta, as You do not say anything after hearing my recitation and explanation.” Caitanya replied that He understood the sutras very well, but could not make out what Sankaracharya had meant. Sarvabhauma was astonished and asked Caitanya to explain. Caitanya in turn explained the sutras perfectly without regard to the pantheistic commentary of Sankaracharya. With keen understanding and a vision for the truth, harmony, and beauty of what Caitanya had explained, Sarvabhauma was humbled. Sarvabhauma admitted that he had never heard such a clear manner of commentary on the Vedanta Sutras. He made known that the commentaries of Sankaracharya were not the natural and profound commentaries that Sri Caitanya had given. Another thing that was clear to Sarvabhauma was that to not submit himself to be a follower and devotee of Sri Krishna Caitanya would be the greatest mistake. He did just that and became one of the greatest Vaishnava devotees of the Lord at that time.
All of Orissa praised Sri Krishna Caitanya and his glories were spreading, just as He was spreading the glories of Lord Sri Krishna through the congregational chanting of His Holy Name “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Caitanya travelled to southern India along with Krishnadas Brahmin. In Kurmaksetra He peformed a miracle by curing a leper named Vasudev. He had conversations with many and many were converted to the great mission of love of God and they became devotees of Lord Krishna and supporters of Sri Krishna Caitanya in the advancment of His mission. Everywhere the names of Sri Krishna were chanted with ecstatic joy. He performed another miracle by touching the seven trees that Ramachandra , the son of Dasarath, had shot arrows through and by His touch the trees disappeared. He stayed four months at the home of Venkata Bhatta and the whole family was delivered from Ramanuja Vaishnavaism into Krishna bhakti. The boy in that family, named Gopal, later became one of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan under the leadership of Sri Krishna Caitanya. He had many discussions and even many Mayavadis surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Wherever He travelled His mercy was an endless ocean for all and He displayed miracles everywhere to the amazement of all. His deep love and devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna and His perfect example of pure Vaishnava bhakti (love and devotion) was contagious. On a trip with Balabhadra around India, Caitanya was passing by the jungle, enroute to Puri. Balabhadra reported that Sri Caitanya had shown a great many miracles during this trip, such as making tigers and elephants dance after hearing the name of Krishna. Just as an iron rod is made hot by association with fire, so too is love for the Supreme Lord made possible by the proper contact and association with Vaishnava devotees. Rupa Goswami was trained in spirituality by Caitanya and was given directions to write theological books on the subject of pure bhakti and prema, devotional service, and love of Godhead. Rupa Goswami’s second mission was to revive the places where the Lord Krishna Himself had at the end of Dvapara Yuga ( the previous age) exhibited His lilas, or Pastimes that were for the benefit of the all.
Throughout His life Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya preached the principles of pure love of God to the masses. He would many times perform a miracle to attract pandits, sannyasis, and the inquisitive to Him. He would fall at the lotus feet of the Deity of Sri Sri Radha Krishna in ecstacy and weep with love and devotion. By His association, He could touch the hearts of those around Him and make them weep for His mercy to help their spiritual advancement. Lord Sri Caitanya is Lord Krishna and Radharani combined in the form of the “Golden Avatar”. Sri Caitanya preached pure bhakti (love and devotion) for God. He instilled into the heart great spiritual love for Krishna and inspired many to give up sectarian connections. God is not sectarian, nor is His word, or followers. The platform of pure bhakti (love and devotion to the Lord) is above sectarian and other material “isms” and labels. Sri Caitanya defied caste distinction and unified everyone in spiritual brotherhood and love of the Supreme Lord Krishna.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spent the last 18 years of His appearance in this world in Puri at the home of Kasi Misra. His disappearance in the 48th year was at the time of sankirtan (congregational chanting of God’s names) in the temple of Tota Gopinath. He was surrounded by Vaishnavas with the purest character, learning and firm spiritual love for Sri Krishna. All who came in contact with Him knew Him as the all-beautiful God appearing in this world for the benefit of all mankind. Humility was personified in Him. The six Goswamis of Vrindavan are His eternal servitors who preached love on His behalf. He never lacked proper instruction for those who approached Him and would always chastise those who deviated from a holy life. He is still the way and light for those in this age of Kali Yuga who wish to make their lives perfect and bask in the light of love of God. In Lord Sri Caitanya’s “Sikshastaka” verse 1, Caitanya says: “Glory to the Sri Krishna Sankirtan which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediciton for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious”. (This ends my summary of the life and precepts of Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabh)
Krishnadas Kaviraj was a great writer who has given many details on Sri Caitanya’s life and teachings. Much of the information he gathered originated from the six Goswamis of Vrindavan themselves. Jiva Goswami also left a valuable work on the precepts of Sri Caitanya, called, Sad-sandarbha. The multivolume presentation of Sri Caitanya Caritamrita is an emense biography of Sri Caitanya. A. C. Bhaktivedanta’s translation is recommended for all interested in advancing in both knowledge and love of God. While my efforts were made here to convey some understanding of Lord Caitanya, it is but a particle summary of those precepts. It is clear that the vast appearance and teachings of Sri Caitanya go beyond anything that I can transmit. I therefore urge a more complete study of Sri Krishna Caitanya to fully reap the nectarian fruit of spiritual consciousness that He radiates. I pay obeisances and express great gratitude to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It is by his mercy that the mercy of Lord Sri Krishna Caitanya is so available to all, around the world outside of India. Srila Prabhupada’s translations of Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Bhagavad Gita, Sri Isopanisad, Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhaktamrita Sindu (Nectar of Devotion), and other great Vaishnava scriptures has saved so many from the darkness of maya and impersonalism throughout the world. I can not recommend enough that everyone who is interested in the subject of spiritual life, read his books and apply them in their own life daily. He is teaching purely the message of Lord Krishna and the benefit of hearing and acting on Lord Krishna’s instructions is an endless ocean of mercy for all souls.
Those interested in deeper study of Lord Sri Caitanya’s life are urged to refer to “The Teachings of Lord Caitanya” printed by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. This book is recommended as well as “Sri Caitanya Caritamrita”, which is a multivolume account of the precepts and pastimes of Lord Sri Caitanya, as described by the great Gaudiya Vaishnava saint Krishnadas Kaviraja and translated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.