The Life of Shri Chaitanya

Swami Pranavananda Saraswati

Shri Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu Nityananda,
Hare Ram Hare Krishna Shri Radhe Govinda

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great kirtanist and bhakta, is remembered throughout India for his kirtans and devotional songs which are still sung today in every village and town. He was born in Navadwip, Bengal in 1485 and was called Gouranga because of his fair, golden complexion. As a baby he would weep for no apparent reason and his mother found the only way to stop his crying was to sing the name of God to him.

Even from childhood, Chaitanya displayed a magnificent spirit of love and self sacrifice. On one occasion he destroyed his own manuscript so that a fellow student would be assured of having kit work reproduced. Chaitanya always excelled in his studies and, under the guidance of his great teacher Vasudeva, he himself blossomed into a great teacher. At sixteen years of age, he opened his own school where he taught the Vedas. Upanishads, grammar and logic to hundreds of students.

The turning point in Chaitanya's life came during a pilgrimage he made to Gaya. While worshipping in a temple of Lord Vishnu, he was suddenly illuminated. Losing all consciousness of the world around him, tears rolled down his cheeks as he was immersed it ecstasy. A monk who had witnessed this sudden awakening, initiated Chaitanya into the divine name. Immediately afterwards, he returned to his home and students, and informed them that he could no longer live a worldly life as his whole being was given to God. From this time on, he was lost in the bliss of pure love, continually singing God's name and dancing himself and hit followers into ecstatic states of consciousness.

After his initiation into monastic life. Chaitanya often dwelled in the highest samadhi, enjoying a blissful union with the lord. When hit mind returned to normal consciousness, again be would be the devotee, singing God's name and preaching the path of love to those who flocked around him.

Chaitanya ushered In a new age in spirituality. Having become established in yoga, he possessed both knowledge and devotion and thus was able to take spiritual life from the intellect to the heart. He was intoxicated with the wine of bhakti and forever submerged In the ocean of spiritual delight. His heart was like an infinite sea of love and he invited all to drink deep and quench their thirst with the nectar of God's name. A band of loyal disciples sat at his feet, transformed by his touch. Wherever he travelled he elevated thousands, stealing their hearts with his divine song and dance. In him the people felt sublime love that embraced all, regardless of caste or creed.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spent the ecstatic years of his life in Puri. The atmosphere around him became charged with divine energy and his mere presence was enough to awaken faith and devotion in the hearts of those who sat at his feet, and to turn multitudes to the spiritual path. Chaitanya only lived to the age of forty eight when it is said that he walked into a temple and while dancing in front of an image of Lord Krishna, he merged with the lord and simply disappeared, de-materialized. His spirit, however, lives on in the hearts of the people and in the essence of his teachings which is well exemplified in this song composed by him.

"Sing the name of the lord and his glory unceasingly.
That the mirror of the heart may be wiped clean.
And quench that mighty forest fire
Worldly desire, raging furiously within.
Oh, name, stream down in moonlight on the lotus heart
Opening it to knowledge of thyself
Oh self, drown deep in the waves of thy bliss
Chanting thy name continually
Tasting thy nectar at every step
Bathing in thy name, that bath for weary souls.
Ah. how I long for the day when, chanting thy name
Tears will spill down, my throat will choke with ecstasy
And all the hairs on my head will stand erect with Joy.
Oh thou, who stealest the hearts of thy devotees
Do with me whet thou will
For thou art my heart's beloved, thou and thou alone."