Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Appearance—The Exoteric and Esoteric Reasons

Karnamrita Das

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There are many ways to know a person. One can know a person by guessing what they might, or should, be like, study the person from a distance—say from the Gossip column, Internet, or Facebook— hear about them from others who may, or may not, know them, or we may directly experience the person through a loving personal relationship. The last way is the best because if we love a person we will discover, and they will reveal to us, all their secrets. It is similar with Krishna. Even though he is both infinite and inconceivable he has the prerogative to reveal himself to those who love him purely and selflessly. In regard to Krishna, and specifically Shri Chaitanya, there is both an exoteric (apparent) as well as an esoteric (hidden) reason for his appearance.

The closer we come to Krishna the more we will know about him, by his grace. And there are many ways to explain the necessity of the Lord’s various forms and energies. For example, great devotees have looked very carefully at Krishna, and discovered another person, Radha, or devotion personified, who is most dear to Krishna. There is Krishna, and his energies, all of which come from Radha. And looking even more closely at the Divine Couple, pure devotees have found that Radha and Krishna have combined together to become one, in the person of Shri Chaitanya. Such pure souls, such as the Six Goswami’s of Vrindavan, Shri Krishnadas Kaviraja, and others, have shared their experience with us in their writings, and given us the logic of their love, referenced by the Vedic scriptures.

If we study the lila, divine activities, of Radha and Krishna as revealed in the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita commented on our Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas including Shrila Prabhupada, we will understand that there must be a Lord Chaitanya to fulfill Krishna’s unmet need. Krishna is perfect, complete, and full in himself, so when he wants to experience something, he manifests a situation and spiritual body accordingly. A person who can immediately fulfill his desires is called, satya-saṅkalpa, or he whose desire, intention, or purpose always comes to pass. We could call Krishna’s various incarnations, the Lord’s “emotional moments,” which when experienced by him create a tangible reality. Of course such “moments” don’t really have a beginning, but because they manifest in the material world for a particular purpose, we speak about them in relationship to time.
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Thus, by Krishna’s arrangement and desire during his lila, or divine pastimes on Earth, upon observing the standard of unconditional love of the gopis, or cowherd women, he began to wonder if he was really the king of love, or Rasaraja. We could call this Krishna’s “existential crisis,” when he began to doubt himself, and felt something lacking. He had never seen such a quality of love, and a desire arose within him to taste this loving sentiment himself. We find in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that Shri Krishna appeared as Lord Chaitanya, for three esoteric, personal reasons unrelated to any purpose in the world, as is the case in his other incarnations. These three reasons grew out of the desire that arose in Krishna when he observed the unparalleled selfless love of the gopis for him, and specifically, as expressed by Shri Radha.

“The first purpose [of Krishna’s descent as Shri Chaitanya] was to relish the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the prime reciprocator of transcendental love of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Lord Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of transcendental loving transactions with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. The subject of those loving transactions is the Lord Himself, and Rādhārāṇī is the object. Thus the subject, the Lord, wanted to relish the loving mellow in the position of the object, Rādhārāṇī.

“The second reason for His appearance was to understand the transcendental mellow [experience or taste]of Himself. Lord Kṛṣṇa is all sweetness. Rādhārāṇī’s attraction for Kṛṣṇa is sublime, and to experience that attraction and understand the transcendental sweetness of Himself, He accepted the mentality of Rādhārāṇī.

“The third reason that Lord Chaitanya appeared was to enjoy the bliss tasted by Rādhārāṇī. The Lord thought that undoubtedly Rādhārāṇī enjoyed His company and He enjoyed the company of Rādhārāṇī, but the exchange of transcendental mellow between the spiritual couple was more pleasing to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī than to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārāṇī felt more transcendental pleasure in the company of Kṛṣṇa than He could understand without taking Her position, but for Śrī Kṛṣṇa to enjoy in the position of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī was impossible because that position was completely foreign to Him. Kṛṣṇa is the transcendental male, and Rādhārāṇī is the transcendental female. Therefore, to know the transcendental pleasure of loving Kṛṣṇa, Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself appeared as Lord Chaitanya, accepting the emotions and bodily luster of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.” [SP’s introduction to the CC chapter three]
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Next we explore the more widely known reason for Shri Chaitanya’s appearance. Actually this “exoteric” reason seems quite esoteric to most of us, but it is in relationship to the suffering jiva souls like ourselves and it is considered external to the Lord’s personal inner purpose. Generally Krishna entrusts the deliverance of the fallen souls to his Vishnu part, since Krishna is mainly absorbed in his loving relationships with his pure devotees. Never the less, the Lord can accomplish many purposes simultaneously.

It is said in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that as Shri Krishna was contemplating his inner reasons for again coming to the world, it coincided with the time of the Yuga Avatar, or that incarnation who appears in every age to give the process of God realization. Most of us will appreciate this aspect more in the beginning since by the Lord’s grace we have a process of self-realization that is both easy and sublime, and yet gives us a benefit rarely available—namely pure love for Krishna in the mood of the inhabitants of Krishna’s confidential abode, or Goloka Vrindavan.

The apparent, or external, reason for the advent of Lord Chaitanya is given as follows: “Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, after displaying His pastimes as Lord Kṛṣṇa, [5,000 years ago] thought it wise to make His advent [again] in the form of a devotee to explain personally the transcendental mellows of reciprocal service and love exchanged between Himself and His servants, friends, parents and fiancées. According to the Vedic literature, the foremost occupational duty for humanity in this Age of Kali is nāma-saṅkīrtana, or congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The incarnation for this age especially preaches this process, but only Kṛṣṇa Himself can explain the confidential loving service performed in the four principal varieties of loving affairs between the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore personally appeared, with His plenary portions, as Lord Chaitanya.” [SP’s introduction to the CC chapter four]

It should be noted that Chaitanya “Mahaprabhu” (greatest master) is not an incarnation of Krishna or Vishnu as are the normal avatars, but since he is Krishna himself, he is also the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna’s world, Goloka Vrindavana, is compared to a lotus flower, and within that abode, is another lotus (the lotus within the lotus), which is the place of Shri Chaitanya and his associates, or Navadhvipa.

Reading the above should make it clear or remind you that there is much to study and pray to understand with the appearance of Shri Chaitanya. My hope and prayer is that this will fuel your study and help you enter into the mood of the day through chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra in kirtan and/or on beads in japa, offering other prayers, and reading or hearing about Shri Chaitanya, his associates, and teachings and activities, in good company.
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Please let me end with the prayer of Shrila Rupa Goswami glorifying Lord Chaitanya’s advent, and Shrila Prabhupada’s explanation:

namo mahā-vadānyāya
 kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te
kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya-
 nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
“O most munificent incarnation! You are Kṛṣṇa Himself appearing as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and You are widely distributing pure love of Kṛṣṇa. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.” [Cc. Madhya 19.53] [I am including the verse following this, which Prabhupada isn’t commenting on below, but which is also revealing: “We offer our respectful obeisances unto that merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead who has converted all three worlds, which were maddened by ignorance, and saved them from their diseased condition by making them mad with the nectar from the treasure-house of love of God. Let us take full shelter of that Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, whose activities are wonderful.”]

“In this verse, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is described as mahā-vadānya, the most munificent of charitable persons, because He gives Kṛṣṇa so easily that one can attain Kṛṣṇa simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. We should therefore take advantage of the benediction given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and when by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra we are cleansed of all dirty things (ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam), we shall be able to understand very easily that Kṛṣṇa is the only object of love (kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet). [part of Shrila Prabhupada’s purport to SB 10.3.37-38]

In the comments section I provide additional information about Shri Chaitanya’s teachings.

Shri Chaitanya: The Transcendental Gardener

Shri Chaitanya: The Transcendental Gardener (as shared in my book "Give to Live," )

[As I envision it, this book can be considered one of these fruits of love of Godhead spoken about below, and your reading it, taking at least one bite. The result of this “meal” has yet to be written in the book of life, where you have one page! These verses are taken from Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila chapter 9]

“I take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who Himself is the tree of transcendental love of Krishna, its gardener and also the bestower and enjoyer of its fruits.

“Lord Chaitanya thought, ‘My name is Vishvambhara (one who maintains the entire universe). Its meaning will be actualized if I can fill the whole universe with love of Godhead.’ Thinking in this way, He accepted the duty of a planter and began to grow a garden in Navadvipa. Thus the Lord brought the desire tree of devotional service to this earth and became its gardener. He sowed the seed and sprinkled upon it the water of His will.

“By His inconceivable powers, the Lord became the gardener, the trunk and the branches simultaneously. [This seed first fructified into his predecessors gurus and then Shri Chaitanya’s pure devotees became the roots and branches of this tree.] Thus the branches of the Chaitanya tree formed a cluster or society, with great branches covering all the universe.

“The disciples and granddisciples and their admirers spread throughout the entire world, and it is not possible to enumerate them all. As a big fig tree bears fruits all over its body, each part of the tree of devotional service bore fruit. Since Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the original trunk, the taste of the fruits that grew on the branches and sub-branches surpassed the taste of nectar.

“The fruits ripened and became sweet and nectarean. The gardener, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, distributed them without asking any price. All the wealth in the three worlds cannot equal the value of one such nectarean fruit of devotional service. Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service. The transcendental gardener, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, distributed handful after handful of fruit in all directions, and when the poor, hungry people ate the fruit, the gardener smiled with great pleasure.

“Lord Chaitanya thus addressed the multifarious varieties of branches and sub-branches of the tree of devotional service: ‘Since the tree of devotional service is transcendental, every one of its parts can perform the action of all the others. Although a tree is supposed to be immovable, this tree nevertheless moves. All the parts of this tree are spiritually cognizant, and thus as they grow they spread all over the world. I am the only gardener. How many places can I go? How many fruits can I pick and distribute? It would certainly be a very laborious task to pick the fruits and distribute them alone, and still I suspect that some would receive them and others would not. Therefore I order everyone within this universe to accept this Krishna consciousness movement and distribute it everywhere.

“’I am the only gardener. If I do not distribute these fruits, what shall I do with them? How many fruits can I alone eat? By the transcendental desire of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, water has been sprinkled all over the tree, and thus there are innumerable fruits of love of Godhead. Distribute this Krishna consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits and ultimately become free from old age and death. If the fruits are distributed all over the world, My reputation as a pious man will be known everywhere, and thus all people will glorify My name with great pleasure. It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence and words.’”

“The descendants of the tree [the devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu] were very glad to receive this order directly from the Lord. The fruit of love of God is so delicious that wherever a devotee distributes it, those who relish the fruit, anywhere in the world, immediately become intoxicated. The fruit of love of Godhead distributed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is such a great intoxicant that anyone who eats it, filling his belly, immediately becomes maddened by it, and automatically he chants, dances, laughs and enjoys.

“When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great gardener, sees that people are chanting, dancing and laughing and that some of them are rolling on the floor and some are making loud humming sounds, He smiles with great pleasure. The great gardener, Lord Chaitanya, personally eats this fruit, and as a result He constantly remains mad, as if helpless and bewildered. With His sankirtana movement the Lord made everyone mad like Himself. We do not find anyone who was not intoxicated by His sankirtana movement.”

Distributing the Storehouse of Love of God

Distributing the Storehouse of Love of God (This was included in my book, Give to Live)
[from Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 7.20-28]

I am including these passages to give you some idea that the chanting of the holy name of Krishna, whether sung kirtan or chanted in japa, isn’t an affair of the material world. It is a completely spiritual vibration. One’s appreciation of this depends on the degree of one’s spiritual standing and realization. The more one shares the holy name and what one has gained spiritually, the more one’s happiness increases. Although “drowning” in a material sense is undesirable and fearful, the kind of “drowning” spoken of here is supremely and deliriously, delectable. When the seeds of our material desires are covered with water, they can no longer fructify, and our spiritual life is nourished without distraction.

“The characteristics of Krishna are understood to be a storehouse of transcendental love. Although that storehouse of love certainly came with Krishna when He was present, it was sealed. But when Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came with His associates of the Pancha-tattva, they broke the seal and plundered the storehouse to taste transcendental love of Krishna. The more they tasted it, the more their thirst for it grew.

“Shri Pancha-tattva themselves danced again and again and thus made it easier to drink nectarean love of Godhead. They danced, cried, laughed and chanted like madmen, and in this way they distributed love of Godhead.

“In distributing love of Godhead, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Pancha-tattva distributed love of Godhead.

“Although the members of the Pancha-tattva plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and ate and distributed its contents, there was no scarcity, for this wonderful storehouse is so complete that as the love is distributed, the supply increases hundreds of times.

“The flood of love of Godhead swelled in all directions, and thus young men, old men, women and children were all immersed in that inundation.

“The Krishna consciousness movement will inundate the entire world and drown everyone, whether one is a gentleman, a rogue or even lame, invalid or blind.

“When the five members of the Pancha-tattva saw the entire world drowned in love of Godhead and the seed of material enjoyment in the living entities completely destroyed, they all became exceedingly happy.

“The more the five members of the Pancha-tattva cause the rains of love of Godhead to fall, the more the inundation increases and spreads all over the world.”

Part of Prabhupada's explanation: “Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is called maha-vadanya-avatara because although He is Shri Krishna Himself, He is even more favorably disposed to the poor fallen souls than Lord Shri Krishna. When Lord Shri Krishna Himself was personally present, He demanded that everyone surrender unto Him and promised that He would then give one all protection, but when Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to this earth with His associates, He simply distributed transcendental love of God without discrimination. Sri Rupa Gosvami, therefore, could understand that Lord Chaitanya was none other than Shri Krishna Himself, for no one but the Supreme Personality of Godhead can distribute confidential love of the Supreme Person.”

“People generally cannot understand the actual meaning of chanting and dancing. Describing the Gosvamis, Shri Shrinivasa Acharya stated, krsno-tkirtana-gana-nartana-parau: not only did Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates demonstrate this chanting and dancing, but the six Gosvamis also followed in the next generation. The present Krishna consciousness movement follows the same principle, and therefore simply by chanting and dancing we have received good responses all over the world. It is to be understood, however, that this chanting and dancing do not belong to this material world. They are actually transcendental activities, for the more one engages in chanting and dancing, the more he can taste the nectar of transcendental love of Godhead.

“A pseudo incarnation of Krishna once told his disciple that he had emptied himself by giving him all knowledge and was thus spiritually bankrupt. Such bluffers speak in this way to cheat the public, but actual spiritual consciousness is so perfect that the more it is distributed, the more it increases. Bankruptcy is a term that applies in the material world, but the storehouse of love of Godhead in the spiritual world can never be depleted. Krishna is providing for millions and trillions of living entities by supplying all their necessities, and even if all the innumerable living entities wanted to become Krishna conscious, there would be no scarcity of love of Godhead, nor would there be insufficiency in providing for their maintenance.” [Excerpts from Prabhupada’s purports to Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila chapter 7 vrs 20–21, 23-24]

Shri Chaitanya teaches us to be a servant of the holy name:

"Lord Chaitanya never tried to be the master of the holy name; rather He taught us how to be servants of the holy name. If one chants the holy name of the Lord just to make a show, not knowing the secret of success, he may increase his bile secretion, but he will never attain perfection in chanting the holy name. Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu presented himself in this way:

[SP's paraphrase of Lord Chaitanya's talk to Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī and his disciples in Varanasi in this 7th chapter of CC Adi-lila] “I am a great fool and do not have knowledge of right and wrong. In order to understand the real meaning of the Vedānta-sūtra, I never followed the explanation of the Śaṅkara-sampradāya or Māyāvādī sannyāsīs. I’m very much afraid of the illogical arguments of the Māyāvādī philosophers. Therefore I think I have no authority regarding their explanations of the Vedānta-sūtra. I firmly believe that simply chanting the holy name of the Lord can remove all misconceptions of the material world. I believe that simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can attain the shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord. In this age of quarrel and disagreement, the chanting of the holy names is the only way to liberation from the material clutches.

“By chanting the holy name, I became almost mad. However, after inquiring from My spiritual master I have come to the conclusion that instead of striving for achievement in the four principles of religiosity [dharma], economic development [artha], sense gratification [kāma] and liberation [mokṣa], it is better if somehow or other one develops transcendental love of Godhead. That is the greatest success in life. One who has attained love of Godhead chants and dances by his nature, not caring for the public.” This stage of life is known as bhāgavata-jīvana, or the life of a devotee.

“I never chanted and danced to make an artificial show. I dance and chant because I firmly believe in the words of My spiritual master. Although the Māyāvādī philosophers do not like this chanting and dancing, I nevertheless perform it on the strength of his words. Therefore it is to be concluded that I deserve very little credit for these activities of chanting and dancing, for they are being done automatically by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

The Essence of Shri Chaitanya Teachings

The Essence of Shri Chaitanya Teachings (as given in my book Give to Live, available on )
(adapted from Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita)

Every living entity is an eternal spiritual particle of consciousness, whose intrinsic nature is to be an eternal servant of Krishna, or God.

Forgetful souls wander throughout the universe in repeated birth and death fueled by karma. By the grace of both the Lord and a pure devotee, one receives the seed of bhakti and gradually awakens to the soul’s pure life.

Lord Krishna, is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the source of all incarnations and aspects of God, like the all-pervading impersonal Brahman.

The place known as Vrindavan is as good as Lord Krishna because for Lord Krishna, as the Absolute Truth, there is no difference between Him and His name, qualities, form, pastimes, entourage and paraphernalia. That is the absolute nature of the Personality of Godhead.

The highest mode of worship in the supreme perfectional stage is the method practiced by the damsels of Vraja (gopis, or cowherd girls), who simply loved Krishna without any motive for material or spiritual gain, which is pure bhakti.

Shrimad-Bhagavatam is thus the purest and most complete narration of transcendental knowledge and the science of God.

The highest goal in human life is to develop unalloyed love (prema) for Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The most practical way for the mass of people to practice yoga meditation, or union with God in loving service, is simply to chant the holy name of the Lord, and specifically the Hare Krishna, or maha, [great] mantra.

The holy name of the Lord is the sound incarnation of the Lord. Thus by chanting the holy name of the Lord one can directly associate with the Supreme Lord by sound vibration.