Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu
Murti of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, ISKCON Mayapur
Vishvambhar Mishra, Nimāi
18 February 1486
|Died||14 June 1534(aged 48)|
|Known for||Expounded Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Bhakti yoga|
|Founder of||Gaudiya Vaishnavism|
Achintya Bheda Abheda
|Philosophy||Bhakti yoga, Achintya Bheda Abheda|
|Guru||Swami Isvara Puri (mantra guru); Swami Kesava Bharati (sannyas guru)|
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Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (IAST: Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu), honorific: "Mahāprabhu" ("Great Lord"), (18 February 1486 – 14 June 1534), was a Bengali Hindu mystic, saint, and the chief proponent of the Achintya Bheda Abheda (Inconceivable Difference/One-ness) Vedanta school and the Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism. He also expounded the Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga (meaning loving devotion to God), based on Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita. Of various forms and direct or indirect expansions of Krishna such as Lord Narasimha (Man-Lion; Krishna in mood of anger), Mahavishnu and Garbhodaksayi Vishnu respectively, he is Krishna in the mood of a devotee.  He popularised the chanting of the 'Hare Krishna mantra' and composed the Siksastakam (eight devotional prayers) in Sanskrit. His followers, Gaudiya Vaishnavas, revere him as a Krishna with the mood and complexion of his source of inspiration Radha. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-purnima.
Chaitanya (Bengali: চৈতন্য) means '"consciousness"; Maha means "Great" and Prabhu means "Lord" or "Master".
Chaitanya was born as the second son of Jagannath Mishra and his wife Sachi Devi. Jagannath's family lived in the village of Dhakadakshin, Golapganj, Srihatta, Bengal (now Sylhet, Bangladesh). According to Chaitanya Charitamruta, Chaitanya was born on the full moon night of 18 February 1486, at the time of a lunar eclipse.
Alternatively, Chaitanya is also believed to born in Mayapur.
A number of stories also exist telling of Chaitanya's apparent attraction to the chanting and singing of Krishna's names from a very young age, but largely this was perceived as being secondary to his interest in acquiring knowledge and studying Sanskrit. When travelling to Gaya to perform the shraddha ceremony for his departed father, Chaitanya met his guru, the ascetic Ishvara Puri, from whom he received initiation with the Gopala Krishna mantra. This meeting was to mark a significant change in Chaitanya's outlook and upon his return to Bengal the local Vaishnavas, headed by Advaita Acharya, were stunned at his external sudden 'change of heart' (from 'scholar' to 'devotee') and soon Chaitanya became the eminent leader of their Vaishnava group within Nadia.
After leaving Bengal and receiving entrance into the sannyasa order by Swami Kesava Bharati, Chaitanya journeyed throughout the length and breadth of India for several years, chanting the divine Names of Krishna constantly. At that time He traveled on foot covering a lot of places like Baranagar, Mahinagar, Atisara and, at last, Chhatrabhog. Chhatrabhog is the place where Goddess Ganga and Lord Shiva met, then one hundred mouths of Ganga were visible from here. From the source of Vrindavana Dasa's Chaitanya Bhagavata, he bathed at Ambulinga Ghat of Chhatrabhog with intimate companions with great chorus-chanting (kirtan). After staying one night he set for Puri by boat with the help of Local Administrator Ram Chandra Khan. He spent the last 24 years of his life in Puri, Odisha, the great temple city of Jagannath in the Radhakanta Math. The Gajapati king, Prataprudra Dev, regarded Chaitanya as Krishna's avatar and was an enthusiastic patron and devotee of Chaitanya's recitation (sankeertan) gatherings. It was during these years that Chaitanya is believed by his followers to have sunk deep into various Divine-Love (samādhi) and performed pastimes of divine ecstasy (bhakti).
Vrindavan, the land of Radha Rani, the “City of Temples” has more than 5000 temples to showcase the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, including temples as old as 5500 years. The essence of Vrindavan was lost over time until the 16th century, when it was rediscovered by Chaitanya. In the year 1515, Chaitanya visited Vrindavana, with the purpose of locating the lost holy places associated with Lord Sri Krishna's transcendent pastimes. He wandered through the different sacred forests of Vrindavana in a spiritual trance of divine love. It was believed that by His divine spiritual power, he was able to locate all the important places of Krishna's pastimes in and around Vrindavan including the seven main temples or sapta devalay, which are worshiped by Vaishnavas in the Chaitanya tradition to this day.
Discovery of Birthplace Yogapith
In 1886 a leading Gaudiya Vaisnava, reformer Bhaktivinoda Thakur, attempted to retire from his government service and move to Vrindavan to pursue his devotional life there. However, he saw a dream in which Chaitanya ordered him to go to Nabadwip instead. After some difficulty, in 1887 Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Krishnanagar, a district center twenty-five kilometers away from Nabadwip, famous as the birthplace of Chaitanya. Despite poor health, Bhaktivinoda finally managed to start regularly visiting Nabadwip to research places connected with Chaitanya. Soon he came to a conclusion that the site purported by the local brahmanas to be Chaitanya's birthplace could not possibly be genuine. Determined to find the actual place of Chaitanya's pastimes but frustrated by the lack of reliable evidence and clues, one night he saw a mystical vision:
By 10 o'clock the night was very dark and cloudy. Across the Ganges in a northern direction I suddenly saw a large building flooded with golden light. I asked Kamala if he could see the building and he said that he could. But my friend Kerani Babu could see nothing. I was amazed. What could it be? In the morning I went back to the roof and looked carefully back across the Ganges. I saw that in the place where I had seen the building was a stand of palm trees. Inquiring about this area I was told that it was the remains of Lakshman Sen's fort at Ballaldighi.
Taking this as a clue, Bhaktivinoda conducted a thorough, painstaking investigation of the site, by consulting old geographical maps matched against scriptural and verbal accounts, and eventually came to a conclusion that the village of Ballaldighi was formerly known as Mayapur, confirmed in Bhakti-ratnakara as the actual birth site of Chaitanya. He soon acquired a property in Surabhi-kunj near Mayapur to oversee the temple construction at Yogapith, Chaitanya's birthplace. For this purpose he organized, via Sajjana-tosani and special festivals, as well as personal acquaintances, a massive and hugely successful fundraising effort among the people of Bengal and beyond. Noted Bengali journalist Sisir Kumar Ghosh (1840-1911) commended Bhaktivinoda for the discovery and hailed him as "the seventh goswami" – a reference to the Six Goswamis, renowned medieval Gaudiya Vaisnava ascetics and close associates of Chaitanya who had authored many of the school's texts and discovered places of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan.
There are numerous biographies available from the time giving details of Chaitanya's life, the most prominent ones being the Chaitanya Charitamrita of Krishnadasa Kaviraja, the earlier Chaitanya Bhagavata of Vrindavana Dasa (both originally written in Bengali but now widely available in English and other languages), and the Chaitanya Mangala, written by "Lochana Dasa". These works are in Bengali with some Sanskrit verses interspersed. In addition to these there are other Sanskrit biographies composed by his contemporaries. Chief among them are the works Caitanya Caritāmṛta Mahākavya by Kavi Karnapura and Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Carita Maha-Kavya by Murari Gupta.
Gaudiya Vaishnavas consider Chaitanya to be Lord Krishna himself but appearing in the covered form (channa avatar). The Gaudiya Vaishnava acharya Bhaktivinoda Thakura had also found out the rare manuscript of Caitanya Upanisad of the Atharvaveda section, which reveals the identity of Chaitanya.
Chaitanya's epistemological, theological and ontological teachings are summarized as ten root principles called dasa mula.
- The statements of amnaya (scripture) are the chief proof. By these statements the following nine topics are taught.
- Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth.
- Krishna is endowed with all energies.
- Krishna is the source of all rasa- flavor, quality, or spiritual rapture/emotions.
- The jivas (individual souls) are all separated parts of the Lord.
- In bound state the jivas are under the influence of matter, due to their tatastha (marginal) nature.
- In the liberated state the jivas are free from the influence of matter.
- The jivas and the material world are both different from and identical to the Lord.
- Pure devotion is the only way to attain liberation.
- Pure love of Krishna is the ultimate goal.
Philosophy and Tradition
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Despite having been initiated in the Madhvacharya tradition and taking sannyasa from Shankara's tradition, Chaitanya's philosophy is sometimes regarded as a tradition of his own within the Vaishnava framework – having some marked differences with the practices and the theology of other followers of Madhvacharya. He took Mantra Upadesa from Isvara Puri and Sanyasa Diksha from Keshava Bharati.
Chaitanya is not known to have written anything himself except for a series of verses known as the Siksastaka, or "eight verses of instruction", which he had spoken, and were recorded by one of his close colleagues. The eight verses created by Chaitanya are considered to contain the complete philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in condensed form. Chaitanya requested a select few among his followers (who later came to be known as the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan) to systematically present the theology of bhakti he had taught to them in their own writings. The six saints and theologians were Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha dasa Goswami and Jiva Goswami, a nephew of brothers Rupa and Sanatana. These individuals were responsible for systematising Gaudiya Vaishnava theology.
Narottama Dasa, Srinivasa Acarya and Syamananda Pandit were among the stalwarts of the second generation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Having studied under Jiva Goswami, they were instrumental in propagating the teachings of the Goswamis throughout Bengal, Odisha and other regions of Eastern India. Many among their associates, such as Ramacandra Kaviraja and Ganga Narayan Chakravarti, were also eminent teachers in their own right.
In the early 17th century Kalachand Vidyalankar, a disciple of Chaitanya, made his preachings popular in Bengal. He traveled throughout India popularizing the gospel of anti-untouchability, social justice and mass education. He probably initiated 'Pankti Bhojon' and Krishna sankirtan in eastern part of Bengal. Several schools (sampradaya) have been practicing it for hundreds of years. Geetashree Chabi Bandyopadhyay and Radharani Devi are among many who achieved fame by singing kirtan. The Dalits in Bengal, at that time a neglected and underprivileged caste, readily accepted his libertarian outlook and embraced the doctrine of Mahaprabhu. His disciples were known as Kalachandi Sampraday, who inspired the people to eradicate illiteracy and casteism. Many consider Kalachand as the Father of Rationalism in East Bengal (Purba Banga).
The festival of Kheturi, presided over by Jahnava Thakurani, the wife of Nityananda, was the first time the leaders of the various branches of Chaitanya's followers assembled together. Through such festivals, members of the loosely organised tradition became acquainted with other branches along with their respective theological and practical nuances. Around these times, the disciples and descendants of Nityananda and Advaita Acharya, headed by Virabhadra and Krishna respectively, started their family lineages (vamsa) to maintain the tradition. The vamsa descending from Nityananda through his son Virabhadra forms the most prominent branch of the modern Gaudiya tradition, though descendants of Advaita, along with the descendants of many other associates of Chaitanya, maintain their following especially in the rural areas of Bengal. Gopala Guru Goswami, a young associate of Chaitanya and a follower of Vakresvara Pandit, founded another branch based in Odisha. The writings of Gopala, along with those of his disciple Dhyanacandra Goswami, have had a substantial influence on the methods of internal worship in the tradition.
From the very beginning of Chaitanya's bhakti movement in Bengal, Haridasa Thakur and others, Muslim or Hindu by birth, were participants. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great sage of Dakshineswar, who lived in the 19th century, emphasized the bhakti marga of Chaitanya, whom he referred to as "Gauranga." (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna). This openness received a boost from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's broad-minded vision in the late 19th century and was institutionalised by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in his Gaudiya Matha in the 20th century. In the 20th century the teachings of Chaitanya were brought to the West by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), a representative of the Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati branch of Chaitanya's tradition. Prabhupada founded his movement known as The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) to spread Chaitanya's teachings throughout the world. Saraswata gurus and acharyas, members of the Goswami lineages and several other Hindu sects which revere Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, including devotees from the major Vaishnava holy places in Mathura District, West Bengal and Odisha, also established temples dedicated to Krishna and Chaitanya outside India in the closing decades of the 20th century. In the 21st century Vaishnava bhakti is now also being studied through the academic medium of Krishnology in a number of academic institutions.
Chaitanya's influence on the cultural legacy in Bengal and Odisha has been significant, with many residents performing daily worship to him as an avatar of Krishna. Some attribute to him a Renaissance in Bengal, different from the more well known 19th-century Bengal Renaissance. Salimullah Khan (b. 1958), a noted Bangladeshi linguist, maintains, "Sixteenth century is the time of Chaitanya Dev, and it is the beginning of Modernism in Bengal. The concept of 'humanity' that came into fruition is contemporaneous with that of Europe".
- Srimad Bhagavatam (Introduction) Archived 25 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine "Lord Caitanya not only preached the but propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita as well in the most practical way."
- Evidence of predicted appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Vedas
- Evidence of predicted appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Vedas
- Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu "He spread the Yuga-dharma as the practice for attainment of pure love for Radha-Krishna. That process is Harinam-Sankirtan, or the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare"
- Benjamin E. Zeller (2010), Prophets and Protons, New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814797211, pages 77-79
- "Gaura Purnima". www.krishna.com. Retrieved 16 December 2008.
- Sri Gaura Purnima"givegita.com"
- In the Name of the Lord (Deccan Herald) "He was also given the name of ‘Gora’ because of his extremely fair complexion." Archived 7 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- KCM Archive"They named Him Nimai, as he was born under a neem tree." Archived 24 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts, by Bhaktivinoda Thakura Archived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Nair, p. 87
- Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts by Bhaktivinoda Thakura ohArchived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine "Chaitanya Mahäprabhu appeared in Nabadwip in Bengal just after sunset on the evening of the 23rd Phälguna 1407 Shakabda, answering to 18 February 1486, of the Christian Era. The moon was eclipsed at the time of His 'birth'"
- CC Adi lila 14.22 Archived 6 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- CC Adi lila 17.9 "In Gayla, Sri Chaitanya Mähaprabhu was initiated by Isvara Puri, and immediately afterwards He exhibited signs of love of Godhead. He again displayed such symptoms after returning home."
- Teachings of Lord Chaitanya "They were surprised to see Lord Chaitanya after He accepted his sannyasa order from Kesava Bharati"
- History of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The first 6 years, he traveled extensively from Rameshavara in South India to Vrindavan in North India, sharing the message of bhakti. He is also said to have achieved major intellectual successes in converting intellectual giants of his times such as Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Prakashananda Saraswati to his devotional understanding of Vedanta. "Chaitanya spent the remainder of His life, another 24 years, in Jagannäth Puri in the company of some of His intimate associates, such as Svarüpa Dämodara and Rämänanda Räya"
- Gaudiya Vaishnavas Archived 2 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine "His magnetism attracted men of great learning such as Särvabhauma Bhattächärya, the greatest authority on logic, and Shree Advaita Ächärya, leader of the Vaishnavas in Bengal, and men of power and wealth like the King of Odisha, Pratap Rudra and his minister, Rämänanda Räya..."
- Srimad Bhagavatam, Introduction Archived 25 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine "At Puridhawm, when he [Chaitanya] entered the temple of Jagannätha, he became at once saturated with transcendental ecstasy"
- Srimad Bhagavatam (Introduction) Archived 25 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine "Lord Caitanya not only preached the Srimad-Bhagavatam but propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita as well in the most practical way."
- Dasa 1999, pp. 100-101.
- Dasa 1999, p. 101.
- Dasa 1999, pp. 102-103.
- Dasa 1999, pp. 103-105.
- Dasa 1999, p. 104.
- Fuller 2005, p. 209.
- Dasa 1999, p. 105.
- Dasa 1999, p. 108.
- Fuller 2005, pp. 243-250.
- Dasa 1999, pp. 106-107.
- Gaudiya Literature
- Biography of Sri Locana Dasa Thakura Archived 13 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine (salagram.net)
- Caitanya Caritāmṛta Mahākavya by Kavi Karnapura,
- Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Carita Maha-Kavya by Murari Gupta
- CC Adi-lila 17.10
- Chaitanya Bhagavata Ādi-khaṇḍa 1.122
- Chaitanya Bhagavata, Madhya-khaṇḍa 24
- Thakura, B. (1993). Jaiva dharma: The universal religion (K. Das, Trans.). Los Angeles, CA: Krishna Institute.
- TLC: Lord Chaitanya's Mission Archived 3 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine "Although Lord Caitanya was widely renowned as a scholar in His youth, He left only eight verses, called Sikshashtaka"
- History of Gaudiya Vaishnavism "He requested ... the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, to systematically present ... the theology of bhakti he had taught"
- Narottama Dasa Thakur: Biography Archived 10 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Festival of Kheturi Archived 22 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- Charismatic Renewal in Gaudiya Vaishnavism (pdf)
- Sherbow, P.H. (2004). "AC Bhaktivedanta Swami's Preaching in the Context of Gaudiya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant: 139.
- History of the Hare Krishna Movement Archived 7 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Krishnology (definition) Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Bengal Studies Conference Archived 17 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine "History says that the Bengali people experienced the renaissance: not only once but also twice in the course of history. Bengalis witnessed the first renaissance in the 16th century when Hossain Shah and Sri Chaitanya’s idealism influenced a sect of upper literal class of people"
- Sur, Ansu; Goswami, Abhijit (1999). Bengali Film Directory. Nandan, West Bengal Film Centre. p. 96.
- Rosen, Steven (1988). Indiaʼs spiritual renaissance: the life and times of Lord Chaitanya. Folk Books. ISBN 0-9619763-0-6.
- Nair, K. K. (2007). Sages Through Ages – Volume II: India's Heritage. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4208-7802-8. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- Sandipan Manna (2013). In Search of a Forgotten Mahatma: Kalachand Vidyalankar (I ed.). Kalyani Foundation. ISBN 978-81-927505-4-5.
- Dasa, Shukavak N. (1999), Hindu Encounter with Modernity: Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinoda, Vaiṣṇava Theologian (revised, illustrated ed.), Los Angeles, CA: Sanskrit Religions Institute, ISBN 1-889756-30-X, retrieved 31 January 2014
- Fuller, Jason Dale (2005). Bhaktivinode Thakur and the transformation of religious authority among the Gauḍīya Vaisṣṇavas In nineteenth-century Bengal (Ph.D.). University of Pennsylvania. UMI Microform 3179733. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- Das, Khudiram (2017). Sri Chaitanya and Gaudiya Vaishnava Dharma (Ebook).
- Jadunath Sarkar, Chaitanya's pilgrimages and teachings, from his contemporary Bengali biography, the Chaitanya-charit-amrita: Madhya-lila by Kr̥ṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmi
- Learn more about the Life and pastimes of Lord Chaitanya. Checkout this widely appreciated enlightening book by Locana das Thakura : Sri Chaitanya Mangala (Sutra Khanda) – The celestial pastimes preceding the advent of Lord Gauranga
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- Works by or about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Chaitanya at Internet Archive
- Chaitanya at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Chaitanya movement at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Gaudiya Vaishnavism – The Tradition of Chaitanya
- Caitanya Upanisad
- Caitanya Bhagavata Biography
- Gaudiya Vaishnavism – The Tradition of Chaitanya
- Life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
- Scriptural Statements/Predictions regarding Caitanya Mahaprabhu's birth
- Lord Gouranga and His Message of Devotion (theosophical.ca)
- YogPeeth, Mayapur, Navadvipa – The birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu