“Shri Svarupa Damodara used to read the poems of Vidyapati and Candidasa and Jayadeva Gosvami’s Shri Gita-govinda. He used to make Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu very happy by singing these songs.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 10.115)
Lord Chaitanya is the preacher incarnation of Godhead who first made His mark on this earth some five hundred years ago in India, and His influence continues to spread across the world today. As the kindest saint, He had love and compassion for all creatures of the earth, and He sacrificed everything to spread the gospel of love and devotion to God to everyone, regardless of whether they gave a kind reception in return or not. If I know what others really need, what will bring them true happiness, wouldn’t it be selfish of me to keep that knowledge confidential? Even if others scoff at my suggestions and curse me for my openness in speaking, shouldn’t the nature of that knowledge trump whatever reactions I personally receive? In this way Shri Gaurahari is known as the most munificent incarnation of the Lord, for He gave love of God freely to everyone; something never before done.
“O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Shrimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.53)
Shrila Rupa Gosvami, soon to become one of the most famous saints of the bhakti tradition, once offered a very nice prayer to Lord Chaitanya, which addressed the fact that the son of mother Shachi and Jagannatha Mishra freely distributed prema for Lord Krishna, making Him more magnanimous than any previous incarnation. There are many avataras of the Supreme Personality of Godhead listed in the Vedic texts, and there are many unauthorized pseudo incarnations claiming divinity as well. Lord Chaitanya’s divine nature is hinted at in the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam, but His mission had nothing to do with making followers recognize His supremacy.
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)
In the Bhagavad-gita, the original form of Godhead, Lord Krishna, explains that whenever there is a widespread discrepancy in the practice of religion, or dharma, and the rise of irreligion, He personally descends to earth. In the past this has meant Krishna appearing in some sort of fighting role, where a strong personality is defeated by divine weapons. Hiranyaksha was defeated by Lord Varaha, Hiranyakashipu by Narasimhadeva, Ravana by Lord Rama, and Kamsa by Krishna Himself. These enemies were originally devotees in the spiritual sky, but due to the will of Providence and the uncontrollable hand of fate, they made transgressions that caused their descent to the material world.
Only in a land full of duality can a previously devoted soul take on the opposite role of miscreant. These villains played their parts perfectly, and they were so vile that they caused the saintly class to petition for Krishna’s direct intervention. So many tasks are carried out through Bhagavan’s personal presence. With His various avataras, Krishna showed His splendid beauty, His immense strength, and His dedication to protecting the innocent. Since the events relating to these avataras are documented in the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and several other sacred texts, they can still be enjoyed to this day by people looking for the same protection that those persecuted in the past by the worst miscreants desired.
As Shri Gaurahari, Krishna appeared as a combined incarnation; both He and His pleasure potency together. The result was the Supreme Lord and His number one devotee taking on different moods at different times. The enemy this time was the seed of impurity implanted by the time period: Kali Yuga. Instead of using His tusks, fists, arrows, or nails, as Lord Chaitanya Krishna used the power of the holy name and its ability to melt the hardest hearts to defeat the enemy of impiety.
During Lord Chaitanya’s time, medieval India, the mediums for mass distribution of information were not available. He could not broadcast the holy names in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, through a radio signal. He could not record this sacred mantra, the greatest weapon against ignorance and deceit, onto a CD and then sell it through stores throughout the world. There was no internet and no television. With these conditions, obviously one would think the task of bringing large numbers of people to the cult of devotional service, the eternal and constitutional engagement of the spirit soul, would be impossible.
Yet just as the formidable Hiranyaksha was defeated by the strange form of a large boar, the veil of ignorance created by Kali Yuga was no match for Shri Gaurahari, a mendicant without any material wealth. Hiranyakashipu tried to safeguard his life by receiving so many boons from Lord Brahma. He was not allowed to be killed in so many ways, but Krishna as Narasimhadeva foiled the demon’s plans by killing him in just the perfect method. Ravana was similarly immune from all kinds of attack, so Bhagavan took the form of a human being to do away with him. Kamsa thought he was safe after killing so many innocent children of his sister Devaki, but Krishna can never be killed, and when He decides that someone else’s time is up, nothing can be done to save them.
In the same way, the impediments of the time period were no match for Shri Gaurahari, who as a renounced mendicant went across India and infused the spirit of devotion into so many people. He did not go around the country giving people material gifts. He was not interested in distributing temporary wealth, though as the Supreme Lord He was capable of granting any benediction. He distributed something much more valuable: the holy name.
Why is this more valuable than tangible wealth? The holy name doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t pay the bills every month. It doesn’t even give me any knowledge on how to earn a living. Ah, but these aspects of life essentially take care of themselves. If you had to, you could eat the fruits that fall off the trees. You could use simple rags for clothes and live in isolated caves. The animals can find the necessities of life without any problem, without any outside intervention. There are no welfare programs for the animals and no redistribution of wealth schemes to look after their welfare.
Krishna, through His impersonal energy of material nature, takes care of the needs of every living entity. Thus the real wealth one can find has nothing to do with matter. The holy name is the direct incarnation of Bhagavan, who is every single person’s best friend. The ability to recite this name, to hold on to it for dear life, to take comfort in it, and to happily repeat it over and over again, is the real boon of the human form of life. Well aware of this, Lord Chaitanya tried to distribute that holy name to as many people as possible.
What would happen after someone met Lord Chaitanya? The devotional spirit would take over that kind-hearted soul. That spirit would then guide the rest of their activities. If I have a powerful torchlight, no matter how dark the environment may be, I can bring that light with me wherever I go and thus see whatever I need to see. With one light I can do so many other things. In a similar manner, with just one mantra, which contains the most potent names of Krishna and Rama, one can find a peaceful, enlivening, and enlightening activity under any circumstance.
Ideally, we would seek out a spiritual master, or guru, to get the confidential information of the Vedas. That knowledge is valuable because of its ability to positively effect change. At the same time, the guru doesn’t want to openly distribute it to others, because not everyone will understand the information properly. Take one or two shlokas out of context and suddenly you have a worldwide movement trying to ban your system of religion. The mood of the worshiper must be proper; they must be humble and submissive in their learning. Only then will the power of the devotional path be revealed to them.
Lord Chaitanya was so merciful that He did not wait for others to approach Him. Through basic singing and dancing, the congregational style of chanting known as sankirtana, He brought the ancient art of divine love to anyone who was within audible range. He had a wife and family at home too, but for the good of humanity, He sacrificed personal pleasure. In favor of delivering the fallen souls looking for a real and legitimate religion to follow, Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa at a very young age and thus blazed the trail for future generations of preachers to follow.
Gaura Purnima celebrates Lord Chaitanya and His sublime mission. He was not on this earth for very long, but His influence is still felt to this day because of the sincere followers He inspired. His line of disciplic succession boasts some of the most intelligent, kind, and dedicated saints in history. Lord Chaitanya was not a sentimentalist. Though He preached primarily through chanting and dancing, that was just the best way to reawaken the devotional attitude in others. The foundation of that dedication in preaching was a keen understanding of Vedanta, the difference between matter and spirit, and the real meaning to religion.
With all that Lord Chaitanya sacrificed, what actually pleases Him? Aside from seeing others chant the names of Krishna and Rama in divine ecstasy, Lord Chaitanya’s primary source of pleasure was hearing about Krishna. When He was in the bhava of Shrimati Radharani, Krishna’s eternal consort, Shri Gaurahari felt the pains of separation from the darling of Vrajabhumi. Only when His closest associates would read poems from the likes of Jayadeva and Vidyapati would Lord Chaitanya feel some relief. His favorite Vedic text was the Shrimad Bhagavatam, for its sacred tenth canto has wonderful descriptions of Krishna’s pastimes along with the prayers and heartwarming thoughts of the gopis of Vrindavana. Lord Chaitanya also preferred the Brahma-samhita and Krishna Karnamrita, two other works glorifying Krishna and devotion to Him.
Just as Gaurahari derived pleasure from hearing Krishna praised, so the sincere souls affected by Lord Chaitanya’s preaching efforts take tremendous delight in hearing about His hearing about Krishna. Anyone who has ever chanted “Hare Krishna” or “Hare Rama” has enjoyed the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, who proclaimed those phrases to be the most powerful weapons against illusion in the Kali Yuga. His influence continues to this day through the hard work of His dedicated followers, those who appear in the line of disciplic succession that He made prominent. On Gaura Purnima, we remember that most merciful incarnation of Godhead and hope to always put a smile on His face with our chanting.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, of mother Shachi’s delight,
Appeared on earth on day of full moon bright.
Would spread to the world wisdom’s light,
At a time when irreligion at its height.
Message of divine love through sound was spread,
No difficult methods, chant holy names instead.
So many were pleased upon seeing Mahaprabhu,
His pleasure came from hearing about Krishna and gopis too.
For His honor names of Krishna and Rama we say,
Follow His path of bhakti day after day.