Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
By Stephen Knapp
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu [pronounced Caitanya] (February 27,1486 to 1534 A.D.) was born in Navadvipa, Bengal, on a full moon night during a lunar eclipse. It is typical for people to bathe in the Ganges during an eclipse and chant the Lord’s holy names for spiritualpurification. So, everyone in the area was chanting the holy names when He was born. His parents, Jagannatha Misra and Sachidevi, gave Him the name of Vishvambhara, meaning the support of the universe, because astrologers had predicted His super humanqualities and that He would deliver the people of the world. He was also nicknamed Nimai because He had been born under a nima tree.
During His childhood He exhibited extraordinary qualities, even having philosophical discussions with His mother. While growing, His brilliant intelligence began to become apparent. While still a child, He mastered Sanskrit and logic to the point of defeating localpundits, and established the truth of His spiritual and Vedic philosophy. He became so well known that many logicians of various religious and philosophical persuasions began to fear His presence and refused to debate with Him. Thus, Sri Caitanya established the authority of the Vaishnava tradition through the process of debate and logic.
At first, His chanting with people was for the few participants who were a part of His group, but then Sri Caitanya ordered that the ecstasy of love of God be distributed to all people of the area. He gave no recognition for the privileges of caste, or for position, or type of philosophy a person had, or yogic asceticism. He only emphasized the devotional chanting of the Lord’s holy names, which can bring out the natural loving sentiments for God.
It was at the age of 24 when He shaved His head and took the order of sannyasa, the renounced stage of life, when He accepted the name of Krishna Caitanya from Keshava Bharati during the initiation. He then spent four years traveling through South India, and also visited Vrindavana and Varanasi. During this time he also gave special instructions to Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, who then also spread the glories of the Divine Love for Radha and Krishna. They settled in Vrindavana where they spent their years in writing many books elaborating the instructions of Lord Caitanya and the glories of bhakti for Radha and Krishna. They also revealed the places where Radha and Krishna performed many varied pastimes in that land of Vrindavana, which has remained special spots where devotees can become absorbed in the bliss of love of Radha and Krishna. Lord Caitanya is considered and was established by Vedic scripture as the most recent incarnation of God. The Lord always descends to establish the codes of religion. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (4.6-8) where Lord Krishna explains that although He is unborn and the Lord of all living beings, He still descends in Hisspiritual form in order to re-establish the proper religious principles and annihilate the miscreants whenever there is a decline of religion and a rise in irreligious activity.
The Mundaka Upanishad (3.3) also relates the prophecy of Sri Caitanya in a different way. It states, “When one realizes the golden form of Lord Gauranga, who is the ultimate actor and the source of the Supreme Brahman, he attains the highest knowledge. He transcends both pious and impious activities, becomes free from worldly bondage, and enters the divine abode of the Lord.”
Another prophecy of the appearance of Sri Caitanya is found in two verses in the Bhavishya Purana. It states: ajayadhvamaja yadhvam na sansayah kalau sankirtana rambhe bhavisyami saci sutah
“The Supreme Lord said: ‘In Kali-yuga, I will appear as the son of Saci, and inaugurate the sankirtana movement. There is no doubt about this.’”
anandasru-kala-roma-harsa-purnam tapo-dhana sarve mam eva draksyanti kalau sannyasa-rupinam
“O sage whose wealth is austerity, in the Kali-yuga everyone will see My form as a sannyasi, a form filled with tears of bliss and bodily hairs standing erect in ecstasy.”
The great classic Mahabharata (Vishnu-sahasra-nama-stotra, 127.92.75) confirms that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not different from Lord Sri Krishna: “The Supreme Lord has a golden complexion [when He appears as Lord Caitanya]. Indeed, His entire body, which is very nicely constituted, is like molten gold. Sandalwood pulp is smeared all over His body. He will take the fourth order of life [sannyasa] and will be very self-controlled. He will be distinguished from Mayavadi sannyasis in that He will be fixed in devotional service and will propagate the sankirtana movement.”
The Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, 3.19-20) also explains how the Supreme Lord Himself describes how He will appear as His own devotee to perform and teach devotional service by inaugurating the sankirtana movement, which is the religion for this age.
How He is the “great master” or will “bestow spiritual intelligence” is described in another Upanishad. This is one of the lesser Upanishads known as the Chaitanyopanishad, or Sri Caitanya Upanishad. This comes from the ancient Atharva Veda. In this description there is not only the prediction of His appearance but a description of His life and purpose, and the reasons why His process of spiritual enlightenment is so powerful and effective in this age of Kali. The Chaitanyopanishad is a short text with only nineteen verses. All of them are very significant.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not become much involved in writing. In fact, He only wrote eight verses, but His followers compiled extensive Sanskrit literature that documented His life and fully explained His teachings.
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