“The Lord delivered the fallen souls in some places by meeting them directly, in other places by empowering a pure devotee, and in still other places by appearing before someone Himself.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 2.4)
If there’s a fire in the kitchen, you need the extinguisher to save the day. If you’re feeling hungry, you need food in front of you to change the situation. If you can’t figure out how to spell a certain word, you need a dictionary on hand, either an online version or the book form, to settle your doubts. It is not surprising, therefore, that when there are questions as to the purpose to our existence, inquiries into why people die and why we must separate from our loved ones, there is a natural turn towards the heavens. We ask God to solve our problems, and since we don’t see Him, we think that we are left in the dark. But through the life of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu know that the Lord works in many ways to deliver the fallen souls and that we are never alone in our struggle for existence.
Lord Chaitanya was a holy savior whose presence was isolated to the area today known as India. This identified range was with respect to His physical presence, though we know that today His names and glories are chanted around the world. This is all due to the tireless efforts of His followers, who accepted His teachings either directly or through the mouths of His devotees. A single man can have such a lasting influence, as we know that famous businesses of today were once started in meager settings by a few passionate individuals. If the owner does things right, his company survives after his passing, and so with Lord Chaitanya, since the preaching method was flawless, His followers ensured that the message of divine love would continue to be propagated going forward.
It seems like it would be easy to break the tradition. Indeed, with Lord Chaitanya, who rose to prominence in the 15th century in Bengal, the immediate followers sometimes diverged, shaping His teachings to mean something else. Nevertheless, as long as there is one moon, the entire night sky can be lit up. Famous acharyas in His line revived the sankirtana movement and kept it going. As the revival came about long after Lord Chaitanya’s passing, we see one way in which God delivers people: His message.
The words are more powerful than the physical presence. This isn’t so with the fire extinguisher or the food to feed our stomach. These are aspects of material life, so without physical contact there is no benefit. God is the Supreme Spirit, so His influence is absolute. The name of God and God Himself are not different. There is no specific name, but there are thousands of names assigned by those who love Him. The purpose is to find ways to address, mechanisms for remembering and honoring Him throughout the day. Thinking of God is known as Krishna consciousness, and the practice is the equivalent of being with God.
His instructions are found in many sacred texts. In the Vedic tradition, the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam are considered the literary jewels because they contain Krishna’s instructions and pastimes. If you like philosophy, consult Krishna’s teachings offered to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. If you’re a little more inquisitive, find out how the same Krishna creates this and innumerable other universes with a single exhalation and then absorbs them back into His transcendental body with a single inhalation. If you don’t like philosophy at all, listen to how Krishna as a young child stole butter from the neighbors in Vrindavana. Hear about how He delivered His parents Devaki and Vasudeva from the evil king Kamsa, how He thwarted the attacks of wicked creatures in Vrindavana, and how He delighted all of His devotees with His childish play.
Through Lord Chaitanya’s life and pastimes, we receive yet another wonderful scripture to consult: the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita. This work is the nectar of the activities of Lord Chaitanya, who is the same Krishna but in the guise of a humble preacher. He has no possessions, no earnings, and no steady home. He is like a homeless person who relies solely on the grace of God for His sustenance. He travels extensively to beg others to simply chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. He lives in the renounced order to make sure that His message carries the most weight. No sane person can find a flaw in Lord Chaitanya because no one is equal to Him based on societal stature alone. The constant practice of bhakti-yoga puts Him in the superior position with respect to activities.
Naturally, since He is God Himself, the pious souls enjoyed Lord Chaitanya’s company, but this isn’t the only way that God can deliver people. It is said that sometimes Lord Chaitanya met with people and other times He sent His representative. And in some cases Lord Chaitanya would even meet someone personally and reveal that He was God. This was not to support His position or make others worship Him. Rather, this was to convince others that the message of divine love was true, and by perceiving God through a direct vision the affected people would believe strongly in the message.
Can we see God today? Are His representatives available to save us? Devotees who follow Lord Chaitanya’s example of humility and fearless preaching are around today, and thanks to their influence we have the sacred maha-mantra available to us. There is also a lifetime’s worth of literature available from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Read his books, chant the holy names, worship the deity in the temple, offer service to those who serve Krishna, and in this way never feel alone. As Lord Chaitanya proved, Krishna will come to deliver the fallen souls in one way or another, but one must be ready to accept that favor.
For doubts over existence to mend,
His representative Chaitanya would send.
As sannyasi He was offered many a humble seat,
So sometimes personally with others He’d meet.
On other occasions His identity as God to show,
So that bhakti’s authenticity they would know.
Though aimlessly through the world you may roam,
Know that never do you have to be alone.
Chant the holy names and Vedic literature read,
Supreme Lord to deliver all of your needs.