In the latter part of the fifteenth century, India’s most ex-traordinary religious, cultural, and political reformer appeared in West Bengal. His name was Sri Chaitanya, the founder of the modern-day Hare Krishna Movement. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is regarded by many schol¬ars and theologians as an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna, intro¬duced a revolutionary spiritual movement based on India’s an-cient Vedic literature.
He swept aside the stifling restrictions of the degenerated caste system and allowed people everywhere to transcend social barriers and achieve the highest platform of spiritual enlightenment through the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra.
India’s Vedic scriptures had long predicted His birth in 1486 in Mayapur, India. As He grew to young manhood, Lord Chaitanya began to carry out His divine mission of distributing love of God to people in every station of life. Sri Chaitanya taught that this awakening could be attained by the chanting of God’s holy names, the Hare Krishna mantra:
Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam Kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of Kali (quarrel and anxiety) there is no alternative for spiritual progress other than chanting of the holy names of God.”
After the sankirtana movement had gained popularity, a small group of envious Hindus from His hometown decided to harass the Lord and His devotees. They decided to lie to the local Muslim magistrate (Kazi), saying that the Lord was violating Hindu doctrine. Subsequently the Kazi, named Nawab Hussain Shah, sent constables who stopped the devotees’ chanting. In response, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu organized a 100,000 – strong civil disobedience party that chanted and danced on the streets of Navadvipa in violation of the magistrate’s order.
After reaching the Kazi’s home, the Lord explained that the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra was a bonafide Vedic method for worshiping God, especially in this age. The Kazi, moved by the Lord’s purity, declared it an offense for anyone to interfere with the sankirtana movement from that time onward. Today, pilgrims still visit the tomb of the Kazi in Navadvipa to pay their respects.
The teachings of Sri Chaitanya form the philosophical basis of the. Hare Krishna Movement.In 1986, HKM members and millions of people throughout India and the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the ad¬vent of Sri Chaitanya.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advocated a universal religion for all humanity, a scientific process of spiritual awakening that was taken across the globe by the relentless efforts of His Divine Grace A. C . Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu instructed His disciples to write books on the Science of Krishna, a task which those who follow Him have continued to carry out down to the present day. The elaborations and expositions on the philosophy taught by Lord Chaitanya are in fact most voluminous, exacting and consistent due to the system of disciplic succession. Although Lord Chaitanya was widely renowned as a scholar in His youth, He justify only eight verses, called Sikshastaka. These eight verses clearly reveal His mission and precepts.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in Mayapur in the town of Nadia just after sunset on the evening of the 23rd Phalguna 1407 Sakabda, answering to the 18th of February, 1486, of the Christian era. The moon was eclipsed at the time of His birth, and the people of Nadia were then engaged, as was usual on such occasions, in bathing in the Ganga with loud cheers of “Haribol!” His father, Jagannatha Mishra, a brahmana of the Vedic order, and His mother, Sachidevi, a model good woman, both descended from brahmana families originally residing in Sylhet.
Mahaprabhu was a beautiful child, and the ladies of the town came to see Him with presents. His mother’s father, Pandit Nilambara Chakravarti, a renowned astrologer, foretold that the child would be a great personage in time; and he, therefore, gave Him the name Vishvambhara. The ladies of the neighborhood called Him Gaurahari on account of His golden complexion, and His mother called Him Nimai on account of the nimba tree near which He was born. Beautiful as He was, everyone loved to see Him every day.
When He was five years old, He was admitted to a pathashala where He picked up Bengali in a very short time. Most of His contemporary biographers have mentioned certain anecdotes regarding Chaitanya which are simple records of His early miracles. It is said that when He was an infant in His mother’s arms He wept continually, and when the neighboring ladies cried ‘Haribol!” He used to stop crying. Thus there was a continuation of the utterance of Haribol in the house, foreseeing the future mission of the hero.
It is said that once, a brahmana on pilgrimage became a guest in His house, cooked food and read grace with meditation upon Krishna . In the meantime Nimai came and ate up the cooked rice. The brahmana, astonished at the boy’s act, cooked again at the request of Jagannatha Mishra. The boy again ate up the cooked rice while the brahmana was offering the rice to Krishna with meditation. The brahmana was persuaded to cook for a third time. This time all the inmates of the house had fallen asleep, and the boy showed Himself as Krishna to the traveler and blessed him. The brahmana was then lost in ecstasy at the appearance of the object of his worship.
It has also been stated that two thieves kidnapped the boy from His house with a view to steal His jewels and gave Him sweetmeats on the way. The boy exercised His illusory energy and deceived the thieves back towards His own house. The thieves, for fear of detection, justify the boy there and fled. These anecdotes relate to His age up to the fifth year.
In His eighth year, He was admitted into school close by the village of Mayapur . In two years He became well read in Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric. His readings after that were of the nature of self-study in His house, where He had found all-important books belonging to His father, who was a pandit himself.
When He was ten years old, Chaitanya became a passable scholar in grammar and rhetoric. It was after this that His elder brother Vishavarupa justify his house and accepted the ashrama (status) of a sannyasi (ascetic). Chaitanya, though a very young boy, consoled His parents, saying that He would serve them with a view to please God. Just after that, His father justify this world.
It was at the age of 14 or 15 that Mahaprabhu was married to Lakshmi Devi, the daughter ofVallabhacharya, also of Nadia. He was at this age considered one of the best scholars of Nadia, the renowned seat of nyaya philosophy and Sanskrit learning. The learned scholars were all afraid of confronting Him in literary discussions. Being a married man, He went to Eastern Bengal on the banks of the Padma for acquiring wealth. There He displayed His learning and obtained a good sum of money. It was at this time that He preached Vaishnavism at intervals.
It was at the age of 16 or 17 that He traveled to Gaya with a host to sing the holy name of Hari in the streets and bazaars. This created a sensation and roused different feelings in different quarters. The bhaktas were highly pleased. The smartha brahmanas became jealous of Nimai Pandita’s success and complained to Chand Kazi against the character of Chaitanya as un-Hindu. The Kazi came and broke a mridanga and declared that unless Nimai Pandita ceased to make noise about His queer religion, he would be obliged to enforce Islam on Him and His followers.
When this was brought to Mahaprabhu’s notice, He ordered the townspeople to appear in the evening, each with a torch in his hand. On His arrival at the Kazi’s house, He held a long conversation with him and in the end communicated into his heart, His Vaishnava influence by touching his body. The Kazi then wept and admitted that he had felt a keen spiritual influence which had cleared up his doubts and produced in him a religious sentiment which gave him the highest ecstasy.
The Kazi then joined the sankirtana party. The world was astonished at the spiritual power of the great Lord, and hundreds and hundreds of heretics converted and joined the banner of Vishvambhara. It was after this that some of the jealous and low-minded brahmanas of Kulia picked a quarrel with Mahaprabhu and collected a party to oppose Him. Nimai Pandita was naturally a soft-hearted person, though strong in His principles. He declared that party feelings and sectarianism were the two great enemies of progress and that as long as He should continue to be an inhabitant of Nadia belonging to a certain family, His mission would not meet with complete success.
Mahaprabhu then resolved to be a citizen of the world by cutting His connection with His family, caste and creed, and with this resolution He embraced the position of a sannyasi at Katwa, under the guidance of Keshava Bharati of that town, on the 24th year of His age. His mother and wife wept bitterly for His separation. He justify His little world for the unlimited spiritual world of Krishna with man in general.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that the holy name of the Lord would spread to every village and town all over the world. He propagated the chanting of the maha mantra: