ISKCON DC Thought of the week - Caitanya Mahaprabhu
Submitted by Gopinath das.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Sri Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He appeared in the Kali yuga (the present age), 513 years ago in 1486 AD, in the mood of His own greatest devotee, Srimati Radharani. The fact that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is non different from Krishna is substantiated by the scriptures such as the Srimad Bhagvatam (11.5.32), by the sadhus (saintly persons) such as Srila Advaita acarya, Nityananda prabhu and the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. Finally it is substantiated by all the gurus in bona fide disciplic successions. Since it is independently verified by the scriptures, sadhus and guru, we should also accept that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in this yuga to demonstrate the means for the people to return to Godhead. In the present age of Kali, that began about 5000 years ago, people have short life spans, weak intellect and a propensity to quarrel and cheat. Out of compassion for the fallen souls in this age, Sri Krishna incarnated, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to establish the process of Sankirtan Yajna to help people return back, back to Godhead. To enact His mission, He appeared with His associates. Thus Sri Krishna Caitanya is often worshipped in His form as pancha-tattva, accompanied by His immediate expansions, Nityananda prabhu, Advaita acarya, Gadadhar pandit and Srivasa Thakur.
Sankirtan is chanting the holy name of the Lord. It could be done congregationally, as kirtans, or it could be done softly in solace, as japa. Japa is the process of chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare on the 108 tulasi beads of the japa-mala. Caitanya Mahaprabhu established that the name of Krishna is non different from Krishna Himself. He established this on the basis of authorized scriptures and explained to the mass of people the philosophy of 'acintya-bhedabheda-tattva', which maintains that the Supreme Lord is simultaneously one with and different from His creation.
He demonstrated it by practicing the chanting of the holy name Himself, and explained that the holy name is the sound incarnation of the Lord Himself, and since the Lord is absolute, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental body.
Krishna Caitanya, as He is often also called was born in a brahman family in Navadvipa, West Bengal as Vishvambhara, His birth was accompanied by an almost universal chanting of Haribol, since it coincided with a total lunar eclipse. As a child, the only way His parents, Sacidevi and Jagannatha Misra, could get Him to stop crying was by chanting the holy name. Therefore, from the beginning, He was inducing the people to chant to names of God. He was also called 'Gauranga' on account of His golden body complexion and 'Nimai' partly because He was born under a neem tree. Though He had no need for it, He followed the established practice of studying scriptures under the guidance of a guru in a tol (school). As a young boy, He acquired a formidable reputation as a logician and vedantist.
At a very young age, he defeated Kesava Kashmiri, a digvijaya (unconquerable) brahman from Kashmir. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu then moved on to immerse Himself completely in the devotional worship of Krishna. He then conclusively established over and over again to prominent Vedic scholars of His time, that Krishna can never be approached by the dint of mental speculation, specially in the present age where people have limited intellect, but can be only approached in the mood of love and surrender -
the mood of a devotee.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu also demonstrated that any one can become a devotee. He glorified Haridas Thakur, a Moslem by birth, who daily chanted 300,000 names of the Lord. In fact He showed that any living creature, may it be a learned brahman, a fallen shudra, a criminal or even animals can become spiritually elevated by chanting or hearing the names of Lord. He thus showed that love of Godhead is an intrinsic quality of the spirit soul, and can be awakened from its dormant stage by the process of chanting and kirtan. As one practices the process of chanting, he passes through three stage: the offensive stage, wherein one may desire all kinds of material happiness, the clearing stage, when the material contamination's are cleared and finally the transcendental stage, one of pure love of Godhead. Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught and showed that this is the highest stage of perfection for the human beings.
The immediate followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, chief amongst them being the six Goswamis, wrote several authoritative books based on Vedic scriptures. They wrote this based on the personal instructions given by Caitanya Mahaprabhu to demonstrate that bhakti or love of Krishna is the ultimate goal of the Vedas. Krsnadas Kaviraj Goswami and Vrndavan dasa Thakura wrote authoritative biographies of Sri Krishna Caitanya known as Caitanya Caritamrita and Caitanya Bhagvata.
Though He inspired His followers to prolific writing, Caitanya Mahaprabhu left behind the essence of His teaching in only eight verses called the 'Siksastaka'. Each of this verse is a pearl of spiritual wisdom, which if understood properly, under the guidance of a qualified teacher, can elevate a person from the mundane plane of materialism to the highest form of devotion - prema bhakti. In addition to this, Caitanya Mahaprabhu lived an exemplary life that served as a model for people in the Kali yuga to follow and return to Godhead.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that the holy name of the Lord would be spread to every village and town all over the world. He propagated the chanting of the maha mantra which He directly took from the scriptures. In the Brhan-naradiya Purana says: harer nama harer nama harer namaivia kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
'Chant the Holy name, chant the Holy name, chant the Holy name. In the Kali yuga, there is no other way, no other way, no other way!'
The Kalisantarana Upanishad says that the 16 word, 32 syllable Hare Krishna maha mantra is the most effective way of counteracting the contaminating effects of the Kali yuga. Many of His empowered devotees, like Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakura have since appeared to further this holy mission. The latest, prominent personality in this line is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of acarya of ISKCON. In following the instructions of his spiritual master and the
mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Prabhupada propagated the chanting of the name of Krishna well beyond the borders of India, in countries all over the world, a mission that is still being carried forward by his disciples in ISKCON.
Recommendations for interested readers :
Readers who are not already chanting are strongly encouraged in begin the all auspicious activity of japa meditation, this spiritually uplifting process which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated over years,
enabling one to fully taste the nectar of the holy name.
Caitanya Caritamrita by Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami, translated into English by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Caitanya Bhagavata by Vrndavana dasa Thakura.