Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of Lord Krishna who appeared in Navadvipa, India some five hundred years ago. Usually when Lord Krishna descends to earth, He appears as a member of the kshatriya, or warrior class because His primary duty is to provide protection to His devotees. Lord Chaitanya’s advent is unique in that the Lord descended as a member of the brahmana, or priestly class. Brahmanas are the intelligent class of men whose duty is to perform worship of Lord Krishna and to teach the other three classes of society, namely the kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras.
During the time of the Shri Krishna Chaitanya’s appearance, most of the brahmanas in India were impersonalists of the Mayavada school. Mayavadis believe that there is no Supreme Personality of Godhead and that the living entities are part of the impersonal Brahman energy. They believe in silent meditation as the means of self-realization with the aim of negating all activities and merging into the Brahman effulgence and thus become “one with Brahman”.
Lord Chaitanya came to teach the real meaning of the Vedas, that Lord Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that mankind’s highest duty is to be constantly engaged in Krishna’s service. One doesn’t have to stop all activities, but instead should dovetail all activities with Krishna. The simplest way to do this is the method taught by Lord Chaintaya, called sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy name of God. His sankirtana movement was initially met with great opposition, especially from the mayavadis, but the Lord didn’t care and kept distributing Krishna prema, or love for Krishna, to anyone who would take it.
Lord Chaitanya didn’t remain on this earth for very long and he took to sannyasa, the renounced order of life, at a very young age. He was God Himself, but this was known only to His closes associates. Teaching by example, the Lord was engaged twenty-four hours a day in singing and preaching about Krishna.
Lord Chaitanya popularized the Hare Krishna mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”. The Vedas are full of different mantras, each having their own meaning and purpose. The Hare Krishna mantra, also known as the Maha-Mantra, is the highest of all Vedic mantras because it directly addresses Lord Krishna and His energy in a loving way. Lord Chaitanya and His associates would be constantly engaged in singing the Maha-Mantra throughout India.
Lord Chaitanya instructed His closes disciples, the six Goswamis of Vrindavana, to carry on the tradition of the sankirtana movement and to write books about Krishna. Lord Chaitanya’s wish was that someday Lord Krishna’s name would be sung in all parts of the world and this was fulfilled some forty years ago by His great devotee, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON. Further details of the the Lord’s pastimes and teachings can be found in the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita written by Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami and the Chaitanya Bhagavata, written by Vrindavana Dasa Thakura.