Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

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Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Chaitanya-Mahabrabhu-at-Jagannath.jpg
Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Born Vishvambar (Nimai)
1486
Sri Dham Mayapur (present-day Nadia, West Bengal, India)
Died 1534 (aged 47–48)
Puri (present-day Odisha, India)
Titles/honours Followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism believe him to be the full incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Philosophy Bhakti yoga, Achintya Bheda Abheda Vedanta

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (also transliterated Caitanya, IAST Caitanya Mahāprabhu) (1486–1534) was a personality from eastern India in the 16th century, who promoted the worship of God, in his tradition known by the name Krishna[1] and is venerated by followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.[2] Chaitanya was a notable proponent for the Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga (meaning loving devotion to God), based on the philosophy of the Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita,[3] who founded the Achintya Bheda Abheda of Vedanta. Specifically, he worshipped the forms of Krishna, popularised the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra[4] and composed the Siksastakam (eight devotional prayers) in Sanskrit. His followers, Gaudiya Vaishnavas, revere him as an avatar of Krishna in the mood of his consort Radha.

Chaitanya is also sometimes referred to by the names Gaura (Sanskrit for 'golden'), due to his fair complexion,[5] and Nimai due to his being born underneath a Neem tree.[6] 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[7] (both originally written in Bengali but now widely available in English and other languages), and the Chaitanya Mangala, written by "Lochana Dasa".[8] 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, Sri Chaitanya Charitamritam Mahakavyam by Kavi Karnapura and Sri Krishna Chaitanya Charitamritam by Murari Gupta.

Life[edit]

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is revered by his followers as the Supreme Being. He was born in a Bengali Hindu family as the second son of Jagannath Misra and his wife Sachi Devi, who lived in the town of Dhaka Dakhhin, Srihatta, now Bangladesh. According to Chaitanya Charitamruta, Chaitanya was born on the full moon night of 18 February 1486, at the time of a lunar eclipse.[9] His parents named him 'Vishvambhar'. His family roots are originally from Dhaka Dakhhin, Sylhet[10][11] Shrihatta (now Sylhet, Bangladesh),

Birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Pracheen Mayapur area, Nabadwip, West Bengal, India.

Chaitanya's paternal grandmother saw a dream that Krishna is coming to her household and that for this to happen her daughter-in-law must go to Nabadwip. The daughter-in-law, Sachi Devi, and her husband took a river journey on Kushyira River from their home in Sylhet; what is now the Thakurbari in Misrapara of Dhakadaksin. Sachi Devi did not forget her mother-in-law's request to send the child to visit her. Chaitanya made this journey after he became a sanyasi. He reached his paternal grandparents' house in Dhakadaksin, Sylhet, on a Sunday in Bengali Falgun month or February/March in Gregorian calendar. His grandmother was getting blind by the time Chaitanya visited her but she regained her full visuals once Chaitanya touched her face.[citation needed]

The grandmother narrated her dream that led to his parents move to Nabadwip. At one stage, the young Chaitanya stood up and went to the prayer room. As he was taking time to return, the family members went in search of him. To their surprise, Chaitanya was not to be seen in the prayer room but it was Krishna himself.[citation needed] Before leaving his ancestral home, he advised his grandmother to build prayer house on the south (daksin) and assured her that this would provide protection from the south. This is how the area came to be known, and is still called, Dhakadaksin or south covered. Chaitanaya also visited his maternal grandparents' home in Joypur village of Habiganj in greater Sylhet. Both ancestral homes have mandirs with guest quarters that are well maintained and upgraded by public and private funds, and have become popular with regional visitors.

In his youth, Chaitanya was primarily known as an erudite scholar, whose learning and skills in argumentation in his locality were second to none.[citation needed] Kashinath Mukhopadhyay was his private tutor during those days. 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,[12] 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[13] 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 Keshava Bharati,[14] Chaitanya journeyed throughout the length and breadth of India for several years, chanting the divine Names of Krishna constantly. He spent the last 24 years of his life in Puri, Odisha,[15] the great temple city of Jagannath. The Gajapati king, Prataparudra Dev, regarded Chaitanya as Krishna's avatar and was an enthusiastic patron and devotee of Chaitanya's sankeertan gatherings.[16] It was during these years that Chaitanya is believed by his followers to have sank deep into various Divine-Love (samādhi) and performed pastimes of divine ecstasy (bhakti).[17]

Identity[edit]

Chaitanya and Nityananda, is shown performing a 'kirtan' in the streets of Nabadwip, Bengal.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu united in himself two aspects:[clarification needed] ecstatic devotee of Krishna and Krishna himself in inseparable union with Radha. According to the hagiographies of 16th-century authors, he exhibited his Universal Form identical to that of Krishna on a number of occasions, notably to Advaita Ācārya and Nityānanda Prabhu.[18][19][20] Caitanya Mahaprabhu is said to be predicted in about 24 different scriptures, including one of the most revered purana called Srimad bhagavatam (bhagavata purana). In Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32 the following is stated:[citation needed]

     krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
     sangopangastra-parsadam
     yajnaih sankirtana-prayair
     yajanti hi su-medhasah

In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.[21]

Caitanya Mahaprabhu's identity is said to be of Lord Krishna himself, but appearing in covered form(channa avatar) by gaudiya vaishnavas .The gaudiya vaishnava acharya bhaktivinoda thakura have also found out the rare manuscript of caitanya upanishad of atharvaveda section, which reveals the identity of caitanya mahaprabhu.

Teachings[edit]

Chaitanya has left one written record in Sanskrit called Siksastakam. Chaitanya's epistemological, theological and ontological teachings are summarised as ten roots or maxims (dasa mula).[22] The statements of amnaya (scripture) are the chief proof. By these statements the following ten topics are taught.

  1. Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth.
  2. Krishna is endowed with all energies.
  3. Krishna is the ocean of rasa (theology).
  4. The jivas (individual souls) are all separated parts of the Lord.
  5. In bound state the jivas are under the influence of matter, due to their tatastha nature.
  6. In the liberated state the jivas are free from the influence of matter, due to their tatastha nature.
  7. The jivas and the material world are both different from and identical to the Lord.
  8. Pure devotion is the practice of the jivas.
  9. Pure love of Krishna is the ultimate goal.
  10. Krishna is the only lovable blessing to be received.

Philosophy and tradition[edit]

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.

Pancha Tattva deities installed on a Vaishnava altar. From left to right: Advaita Acharya, Nityananda, Chaitanya, Gadadhara Pandita, Srivasa.

Chaitanya is not known to have written anything himself except for a series of verses known as the Siksastaka, or "eight verses of instruction",[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

In the early 18th century Kalachand Vidyalankar, a disciple of Chaitanya, made his preachings popular in Bengal. He traveled throughout India popularizing the gospel of 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 neglected and underprivileged cast readily accepted his libertarian outlook and embraced the doctrine of Mahabrabhu. His disciples were known as Kalachandi Sampraday who inspired the people to irradiate illiteracy and castism. Many consider Kalachand as the Father of Rationalism in East Bengal (Purba Banga).

The festival of Kheturi, presided over by Jahnava Thakurani,[26] 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.[27] Around these times, the disciples and descendants of Nityananda and Advaita Acharya, headed by Virabhadra and Krishna Mishra 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 the participants. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the great sage of Dakshineswar, who lived in the 19th century, emphasized the bhakti marga of Chaitanya mahaprabu, 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.[28] In the 20th century the teachings of Chaitanya were brought to the West by Prabhupada, a representative of 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.[29] 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.[30]

Cultural legacy[edit]

In addition to his deep influences on Hinduism, Chaitanya's cultural legacy in Bengal and Odisha remains deep, with many residents performing daily worship to him as an avatar of Krishna. Some attribute to him a Renaissance in Bengal,[31] different from the more well known 19th-century Bengal Renaissance. Salimullah Khan, a noted 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".

See also[edit]


Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Britannica: Caitanya Movement
  2. ^ Ravi Shankar discusses Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
  3. ^ Srimad Bhagavatam (Introduction) "Lord Caitanya not only preached the Srimad-Bhagavatam but propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita as well in the most practical way."
  4. ^ Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu "He spread the Yuga-dharma, or the practice most recommended for the attainment of pure love for Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. That process is Harinam Sankirtan, or the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare"
  5. ^ In the Name of the Lord (Deccan Herald)[dead link] "He was also given the name of ‘Gaura’ because of his extremely fair complexion."
  6. ^ KCM Archive "They named Him Nimai, as he was born under a neem tree."
  7. ^ Gaudiya Literature
  8. ^ Biography of Sri Locana Dasa Thakura (salagram.net)
  9. ^ Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts, by Bhaktivinoda Thakura "Caitanya 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'"
  10. ^ Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts, by Bhaktivinoda Thakura
  11. ^ Nair, p. 87
  12. ^ CC Adi lila 14.22
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ Teachings of Lord Chaitanya "They were surprised to see Lord Chaitanya after He accepted his sannyasa order from Kesava Bharati"
  15. ^ History of Gaudiya Vaishnavism "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"
  16. ^ Gaudiya Vaishnavas "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, Pratapa Rudra and his minister, Rämänanda Räya..."
  17. ^ Srimad Bhagavatam, Introduction "At Puridhawm, when he [Chaitanya] entered the temple of Jagannätha, he became at once saturated with transcendental ecstasy"
  18. ^ CC Adi-lila 17.10
  19. ^ Chaitanya Bhagavata Ādi-khaṇḍa 1.122
  20. ^ Chaitanya Bhagavata, Madhya-khaṇḍa 24
  21. ^ http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/encyclopedia/caitanya.htm
  22. ^ Thakura, B. (1993). Jaiva dharma: The universal religion (K. Das, Trans.). Los Angeles, CA: Krishna Institute.
  23. ^ TLC: Lord Chaitanya's Mission "Although Lord Caitanya was widely renowned as a scholar in His youth, He left only eight verses, called Sikshashtaka"
  24. ^ History of Gaudiya Vaishnavism "He requested ... the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, to systematically present ... the theology of bhakti he had taught"
  25. ^ Narottama Dasa Thakur: Biography
  26. ^ Festival of Kheturi[dead link]
  27. ^ Charismatic Renewal in Gaudiya Vaishnavism (pdf)
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ History of the Hare Krishna Movement
  30. ^ Krishnology (definition)
  31. ^ Bengal Studies Conference "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"

References[edit]

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