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                                         12.2.3 :  SRI KRISHNA CHAITANYA

Chaitanya (1486 – 1534 A.D.) - also known as Sri Krishna Chaitanya or Gouranga, grew up as Pandit Nimai in the district of Nadia, Bengal. He was then a cantankerous, carping scholar-teacher who could beat any scholar of repute visiting that part of the country in disputation. At the age of 22, during a visit to Gaya, he was suddenly initiated into the bhakti path by Iswarpuri and from then on Chaitanya spent a life of humility and divine bliss. Reciting and singing the names Hari, Govinda and Krishna became his only occupation.. He preached only the importance of nAma-saMkIrtana and that the ferevent devotion of rAdhA to kRSNa was the best example of bhakti for all devotees to follow. The first poetic expression of the rAdhA-kRSNa tradition was in the gIta-govinda of Jayadeva (12th cen. A.D.). The principal character in that love-poem was rAdhA, the celebrated milk-maid of Brindavan, who was the beloved of kRSNa, who moved no step except towards kRSNa and who spoke no word except prayer to kRSNa. She saw and heard only kRSNa. She spoke only of Him, to Him, for Him, whoever might be near her. KRSNa fitted her heart entirely. Jayadeva’s poem is held in high respect and is sung all over India particularly in congregatory singing of bhajans, the singing often reaching heights of supreme ecstasy. It was Chaitanya’s mysticism and conviction about the rAdhA-kRSNa theme that popularised rAdhA as a Goddess and as an avatAra of Lakshmi. His memory of his extraordinary sense of God’s presence with him, descriptions of his state of ecstasy and vairious extraordinary and supernatural incidents that are said to have taken place during his life led his contemporaries to treat him as an avatAra (of Lord kRSNa himself) even in his own lifetime.

Disciples gathered around Chaitanya both at Nadia and at Puri where he settled, and through them, he worked miracles, the greatest being that of converting to the bhakti path any one, be he a believer or not,who came into his sphere of influence even once. The sincerity of the overpowering religious experience that he radiated could not but move millions, scholars and laymen alike, irrespective of caste or creed, to partake in the ecstasy of nAma-saMkIrtana, which took place unceasingly. As the authority for the importance of nAma-saMkIrtana over other paths like study of vedanta, etc. he used to quote one verse from bRhan-nAradIya-purANa, which was taught to him, he said, by his guru. It says: The name of Hari and the name of Hari alone is the path for Release in the kali age; there is no other path, indeed no other path.

harer-nAmaiva nAmaiva nAmaiva mama jIvanaM /

kalau nAstyeva nAstyeva nAstyeva gatir-anyathA //

He left no writings for posterity. He only showed by his own example and by his saMkIrtana how deep, intense and enjoyable bhakti could be. He proved that religious worship need not verge on the funereal, but it could be the joyous funeral of all sorrows. He preached that the most important quality on the psiritual path is deep sincerity and devotion. It is not the number of years one spends on the path that counts but how deeply one tries to find God. It was Chaitanya who identified for posterity the locations of kRSNa’s exploits in Brindavan. It was he who unearthed during his tours of South India, two important devotional works, namely, brahma-saMhitA ( a summary of bhAgavatam) and kRSNa-karNAmRtaM. His life is the inspiration and motivating force for the modern Krishna-Consciousness movement of the past three decades.

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy

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