Saturday March 24, 2018

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: The devotee who spread the nectar of Bhakti


By Nithin Sridhar 


Guru Poornima Special: Part 4

He whom the Bhaagavatam describes as the son of Nanda Mahārāja has descended to earth as Lord Chaitanya”- Chaitanya Charitaamrita (1. 2.9)

In Bhagavata Purana (11.5.32), while speaking about how Lord Keshava (i.e. Krishna) appears in various forms in various yugas, it is said that in Kali Yuga, the manifestation of Lord Krishna will be such that he would always be chanting the name of Krishna, and he would be of “non-blackish complexion”. In other words, Krishna will incarnate as a devotee who is always immersed in the Bhakti of Krishna.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition identifies this incarnation of Lord Krishna with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (also called “Gauranga” or Golden i.e. non-black in complexion) who incarnated to sow the seeds of Bhakti in all directions.

Therefore, the fourth segment of the Guru Poornima series will be dedicated to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Life and times of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

According to Chaitanya Charitaamrita, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born on 1407 of sakha era (i.e. 1486 AD) and lived for 48 years. His father was Jagannath Misra and mother Sachi Devi.

He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal and his childhood name was Viswambar.

In his youth, he was an erudite scholar of Nyaya (Logic) and indulged in various debates and discussions. Once, during his visit to Gaya, he met his Guru Ishwara Puri, who initiated him on the path of bhakti.

This made Viswambar turn inwards and completely immerse himself in Bhakti. Later, at the age of 24, he took Sannyasa (renunciation) from Keshava Bharati and got rechristened as “Krishna Chaitanya”.

After Sannyasa, he toured various parts of the country from South India to Vrindaavan and finally settled down in Puri, Odisha.

He stayed at Puri for the large part of the next 24 years and sang and danced with Krishna’s name on his lips. He finally left the world in 1534 AD.




Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings and legacy

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was one of the most important proponents of Bhakti (devotion) and was one of the most important teachers in Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition.

He had his initiation into mantra from Ishwara Puri who was from Madhva lineage (i.e. Dvaita/dualist philosophy) and had his initiation into Sannyasa from Keshava Bharati who was a monk in Shankara lineage (i.e. Advaita/non-dual philosophy).

But his personal philosophy which he taught others was one that harmonized both. It is called as “Achintya-bheda-abedha”. The gist of the philosophy is that Brahman is both dual and non-dual simultaneously and is beyond the grasp of human intellect and this Brahman itself is Lord Krishna.

Hence, he taught pure and unattached love as the ultimate means to liberation.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally wrote only one work called, “Sikshaastakam”. It is a simple eight verse prayer to Lord Krishna, which also serves as an instruction to the devotees and disciples.

In verse 1, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains the importance of chanting of the God’s name or namajapa. He says that chanting of God’s name cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and grants liberation.

In verse 2, he says that the holy names of God are many, each of them is infused with Lord’s power. Further, there are no restrictions to chanting of the God’s name like proper time etc. But, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cautions (Verse 3) that one should be very humble, forbearing and without pride while chanting God’s name.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the driving force behind the Bhakti revival in Bengal and Odisha. He taught by example how a devotee should live and practice bhakti. He sang and danced in praise of Lord and inspired many others to follow him.

He taught his six disciples who later came to be known as Goswamis of Vrindavana, the various aspects of his Bhakti philosophy and asked them to systematically present them in their writings.

Hence, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sowed the seeds of Bhakti in Indian society, which bore fruits in the later centuries and had a far reaching influence on Indian life and practice including on spiritual stalwarts like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.


More in this segment:

Guru Poornima Special- Part 1

Guru Poornima Special- Part 2

Guru Poornima Special- Part 3


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Mahabharata or Game of Thrones? Quite similar!

The world's largest poem, Mahabharata, written almost five-millenniums ago is too beyond words.

Mahabharata and Game of Thrones have quite a lot similarities! Wikimedia commons
Mahabharata and Game of Thrones have quite a lot similarities! Wikimedia commons

A twisted world, beyond words; turns and twists, come to think of it, nothing new to us. Westeros is indeed a world that keeps us hooked to the screens. But for a person, who has primary knowledge about Indian mythology, these twists and turns won’t be a matter of surprise.

The world’s largest poem, Mahabharata, written almost five-millenniums ago is too beyond words. From honour, to bravery and battle, to plots and back-stabs, there are many scenarios in the Mahabharata that make Game of Thrones quite similar to it. Here’s how!

Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons resemble Karna and Draupadi respectively. Wikimedia commons
Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons resemble Karna and Draupadi respectively. Wikimedia Commons
1. Jon Snow and Karna, two men who are illegitimate sons from powerful families. Both turn out to have royal blood. Also, they both suffer misfortune throughout their lives. 
2. The arrogant, Joffrey Baratheon, doesn’t he remind you of Duryodhana? Two spoiled princes who were pampered throughout their lives. They have an ill temper and a so well-noted lack of manners.
3. Littlefinger, one of the most clever characters of the series holds a deep resemblance to the Mahabharata antagonist Shakuni. Both of them wish to wipe out clans and provoke war.
4. One of the initial reasons for GOT to get so famous was Cerci Baratheon and the idea of incest. However, other than that she is a clever woman. And more than that, she is a mother who wishes to protect her children whatever be the cost. Remember Gandhari?
5. The two most fierce women of these two stories, are undoubtedly Daenerys Targaryen and Draupadi. Strong willed, central protagonists, one was born out of a fire and the other one survived it.
Just like Mahabharata, GOT has worked on war extensively. Wikimedia commons
Just like Mahabharata, GOT has worked on war extensively. Wikimedia Commons
6. Aswathamma, a great and fierce warrior, extremely loyal but cursed. Not a dark character, but the circumstances force him to make all the wrong choices. Jamie Lannister is quite a bit of him.
7. Lord Vayrs and Shikandi, two eunuch characters, both proud of their identity and both received deceit in life.
8. Two younger siblings who have grown up in the shadow of their formidable elder ones. They both can glimpse into the future.
9. Two most dreadful people in both the epics, Kans and Tywin Lannister. Both of them are ruthless and do anything to manipulate the situation to their favour.
10. The final, and the most interesting similarity between the two epics. Two characters that are loved universally, look at things deeply and (as Sherlock would say) are masters of deduction. Tyrion and Lord Krishna resemble each other faintly. Just like the ‘cheer Haran’, Tyrion saved Sansa Stark’s honour from Joffrey.