Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: The devotee who spread the nectar of Bhakti
By Nithin Sridhar
(This article was published in NewsGram on July 18, 2015)
Guru Poornima Special: Part 4
“He whom the Bhaagavatam describes as the son of Nanda Mahārāja has descended to earth as Lord Chaitanya”- Chaitanya Charitaamrita (1. 2.9)
In Bhagavata Purana (11.5.32), while speaking about how Lord Keshava (i.e. Krishna) appears in various forms in various yugas, it is said that in Kali Yuga, the manifestation of Lord Krishna will be such that, he would be always chanting the name of Krishna, and he would be of “non-blackish complexion”. In other words, Krishna will incarnate as a devotee who is always immersed in the Bhakti of Krishna.
The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition identifies this incarnation of Lord Krishna with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (also called “Gauranga” or Golden i.e. non-black in complexion) who incarnated to sow the seeds of Bhakti in all directions.
Therefore, the fourth segment of the Guru Poornima series will be dedicated to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Life and times of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
According to Chaitanya Charitaamrita, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on 1407 of sakha era (i.e. 1486 AD) and lived for 48 years. His father was Jagannath Misra and mother Sachi Devi.
He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal and his childhood name was Viswambar.
In his youth, he was an erudite scholar of Nyaya (Logic) and indulged in various debates and discussions. Once, during his visit to Gaya, he met his Guru Ishwara Puri, who initiated him on the path of bhakti.
This made Viswambar turn inwards and completely immerse himself in Bhakti. Later, at the age of 24, he took Sannyasa (renunciation) from Keshava Bharati and got rechristened as “Krishna Chaitanya”.
After Sannyasa he toured various parts of the country from South India to Vrindaavan and finally settled down in Puri, Odisha.
He stayed at Puri for the large part of the next 24 year and sang and danced with Krishna’s name on his lips. He finally left the world in 1534 AD.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and legacy
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was one of the most important proponents of Bhakti (devotion) and was one of the most important teachers in Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition.
He had his initiation into mantra from Ishwara Puri who was from Madhva lineage (i.e. Dvaita/dualist philosophy) and had his initiation into Sannyasa from Keshava Bharati who was a monk in Shankara lineage (i.e. Advaita/non-dual philosophy).
But, his personal philosophy which he taught others was one that harmonized both. It is called as “Achintya-bheda-abedha”. The gist of the philosophy is that, Brahman is both dual and non-dual simultaneously and is beyond the grasp of human intellect and this Brahman itself is Lord Krishna.
Hence, he taught pure and unattached love as the ultimate means to liberation.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally wrote only one work called “Sikshaastakam”. It is a simple eight verse prayer to Lord Krishna, which also serves as instruction to the devotees and disciples.
In verse 1, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains the importance of chanting of the God’s name or namajapa. He says that chanting of God’s name cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and grants liberation.
In verse 2, he says that the holy name of God is many, each of them is infused with Lord’s power. Further, there is no restrictions to chanting of the God’s name like proper time etc. But, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cautions (Verse 3) that one should be very humble, forbearing and without pride while chanting God’s name.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the driving force behind the Bhakti revival in Bengal and Odisha. He taught by example how a devotee should live and practice bhakti. He sang and danced in praise of Lord and inspired many others to follow him.
He taught his six disciples who later came to be known as Goswamis of Vrindavana, the various aspects of his Bhakti philosophy and asked them to systematically present them in their writings.
Hence, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sowed the seeds of Bhakti in Indian society, which bore fruits in the later centuries and had a far reaching influence on Indian life and practice including on spiritual stalwarts like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.