Mahaprabhu Sree Chaitanya
On the day of Dol Purnima, the full-moon day of the Bengali month of Falgoon, in the year 1407 of the Saka Era corresponding to the 18th February of 1486, Mahaprabhu Sree Chaitanya appeared in this world. His life-history, described in contemporary biographical accounts of His deeds, however miraculous, is a matter of common knowledge which scarcely needs repetition here and we offer no apology for this little critical study of the same on the basis of those accounts.
Significance of the Day
The notable feature of the day of Advent was that the full-moon as it rose above the horizon became eclipsed, which is considered to augur impending calamities. So all pious people took ablutions in the sacred waters of the Ganges and prayed to the Supreme Lord by Chanting the Name of Hari for warding off the threatened calamities. Just at that moment Sree Chaitanya appeared in the world at the invocation of His great and favourite devotee Sree Sree Adwaita Prabhu.
Thus the soul of man becomes eclipsed with the dark desire of self enjoyment and self-aggrandisement, and when his misery knows no bound, some compassionate saint invokes the mercy of the Lord and the All-merciful Lord doth appear with his blessings and benedictions as the serene moonshine of the vernal night of a Falgooni Purnima. It is a suitable opportunity for the devotees to be engaged in singing the Holy Name of Hari and it is the occasion for the Lord Himself to enjoy the pastime of swinging, Dol Yatra, or Holi.
Significance of the Place
The place of Advent of Sree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is no less significant. For a very long time, both before and after the 15th century, the old town of Nabadwip, standing just on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi at its confluence with the Jalangi, was far famed as the principal seat of culture in the east being the "Oxford of India", attracting thousands of pupils from all parts of India to receive the highest education in various branches of study at the feet of the renowned scholars of Nabadwip or Nadia. During the time of Mahaprabhu, Nadia rose to its highest pitch of intellectual achievement and it was for the first time in the history of the world that an Avatar flourished in the midst of such highly learned scholars. So it was quite in the fitness of things that Sree Chaitanya in the very prime of His life humbled, by dint of His own miraculous power of intellect and learning, the proudest scholars and vanquished the mightiest intellects of the time all over India, exposing in all their nakedness the pettiness and uselessness of those wranglings with which the whole intellectual world was then busily occupied.
Is the Religion lacking in intelligence?
The facts of the life of Mahaprabhu give the lie to the charge of uninformed circles that the religion of Sree Chaitanya is lacking in intellectual culture and is given to sentimentalism. Sree Chaitanya's crushing defeat of the vainglorious 'world-champion' Pandit Keshab Bhatta and His humbling down the intellectual giant and the greatest logician of India of his day, Vasudeb Sarbabhauma, the Court Pandit of the King of Odhra and Kalinga, are, among others, sufficiently glaring instances of the superhuman intellectual reach of the Propounder of this religion. The positive refutation is offered by the unique series of brilliant theological works that were penned by the six Goswamins, the contemporary followers and apostles of the religion promulgated by Chaitanya which stand as proud monuments of unequalled intellectual culture and scientific rationalism in the world. Time is yet to come for a close study and proper appreciation of these invaluable treasures of our spiritual heritage.
Is the Religion wanting in a high moral standard?
Sree Chaitanya renounced the world and turned a mendicant in the prime of youth, while He was only 24. According to contemporary biographers, he did not suffer the name "woman" to be uttered lightly in His presence and the least moral aberrations, even in mental thought or disguised proneness, if ever found among his followers, were chastised and punished with relentless severity. Krishnadas, the too simple attendant of Mahaprabhu, felt the fascination of some beautiful blonds during the Southern Indian tour. Sree Chaitanya at once caught hold of the man and sent him home in Bengal never to his face again.
In spite of this strictness of the life and conduct of Mahaprabhu and of His followers, critics including a few misinformed European Orientalists and some interested missionaries of other creeds, have got scrupled to prefer charges of immorality against the religion of Mahaprabhu on the strength of corruptions that are noticeable among the uncultured people who pass themselves off as followers of this religion but are actually perverted dissenters who did not deserve to be recognised by any right thinking man. It is needless to state that morality is but a rudimentary step to the huge mansion of religion. In all other religions, altruism forms the highest principle of even religious conduct, but in the altruistic view amelioration of the body alone is intended almost always at the cost of mental improvement and invariably at the total denial of the health and interest of the soul, the real essence of the human personality, whereas in the religion of Mahaprabhu the fullest interest of the soul is first of all guarded without making too much of the transient external tabernacle. Again, in most religions comfort and weal of the human body are sought at the cost of the lives of the lower creation, and thus the meaning of altruism is greatly narrowed to suit human requirements; whereas in the religion of Mahaprabhu due respect is shown to every grade of sentient entity and personal weal and comfort of man is always studiously sacrificed for practising the great religion of Love. Thus the highest moral standard is revealed in the religion of Mahaprabhu in its unambiguous form than in any another faith.
Is the Religion Sectarian
Some self-sufficient pedants turn up their noses at the religion of Mahaprabhu by imputing in it the bad odour of narrow sectarianism. But the charge is equally baseless. If the good and the pious are to be called a sect in distinction from the lewd and the atheists, then such critics are surely justified in refusing to bring the latter under the banner of Mahaprabhu. The religion of Mahaprabhu is the most catholic form of faith that has ever been conceived in as much as it makes no distinction of caste, colour, sex, position, rank or any other accident of their temporary sojourn. Thus the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the learned and the uneducated, patricians and plebeians, nobles and commoners, the imperialists and the socialists, the gentry and the slum, man and woman, the depressed and the privileged, labour and capital, the white and the black, ruler and ruled, the east and the west, man and beast-are not viewed as such but are looked upon from the highest stand point of their soul within, which creates no dividing difference not only between man and man but even between man and the lower creation.
Is there any other conception current among humanity that can at all cope with this wide and catholic view? The muddy vesture of our physical frame and the incidental associations and equipments thereof are not allowed to override the interest of the soul in the religion of Mahaprabhu. Even our mind, which is subject to changes and transformations along with the whole range of our senses over which it holds its sway, is but a covering or sheath inside which the proprietor, who is no other than the self or the soul, dwells, and is only the manager of the properties by appointment of the proprietor. Regarded from this point of view it is the soul who has the right to come in relationship with and to serve the Supreme Lord, irrespective of the mind and body.
Failing to appreciate such a sublime view, many hasty people confound the religion of Mahaprabhu with a mere attempt for social reform from doing away with the exclusiveness of caste distinctions which may stand in the way of Mahaprabhu's religion of Eternal Love of the soul for Lord Sree Krishna.
Is the Religion sentimental?
Another class of critics attempts to minimise the value and importance of this lofty universal religion by misrepresenting it as sentimental. It is quite apparent that when abstruse theological intricacies cannot be penetrated or high transcendental ideas cannot be followed, the religion is usually misconstrued and is cried down on a misrepresentation to justify one's aloofness from it.
Sree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the most perfect and illustrative Exponent of Srimad Bhagabatam compiled by Vayas Deva himself as the explanatory commentary of his philosophy of theology, the Vedanta Aphorisms, which is the epitomised quintessence of the Vedas and other Srutis, the basis and backbone of the Sanatan Dharma. As such, every action and movement of the life of Sree Chaitanya is deeply founded on and is the demonstrative manifestation of the highest truths of the Vedantic Theology, and thus the life and teachings of Mahaprabhu go far beyond all other schools of theology or religious thought and serve as the harmonising force to finally settle all differences among them. This is amply illustrated not only in the teachings of Mahaprabhu, but also in the authentic accounts of His Life, in the incidents of His discourses with conversion of Prakashananda Saraswati, the leader of the Adwaita School of Benares, with sixty thousand of his disciples, the Ramayets and Tatwabadins of the South, the Buddhist Bhikshus, the Pathhans of U.P., and Moulana Sirazuddin or Chand Kazi, the Moslem Governor of Nabadwip.
Is it theoretical?
Mahaprabhu, although One with Sree Krishna, took the guise of the Devotee and was in a position of advantage to prove that Sree Krishna is the highest and most perfect Representation of Theos in as much as Sree Krishna is the Absolute Truth or the Supreme Lord over all gods, Nature and beings. Sree Krishna is the All-powerful autocrat regulating everything including the phenomena the transcendence and the immanence; and Sree krishna is the greatest Attractor and All-comprehensive Sole Enjoyer yielding ultimate resort to all kinds of subjects as neutrals, servants or sons, as friends, parents and even as consorts. Mahaprabhu set a practical example as to how our relationship can be established with Sree Krishna and how unalloyed devotion can be cultivated culminating in perfect realisation of our highest desideratum, "Prema" or the 'Love of Krishna', which totally revolutionises and completely transforms man by making his unalloyed soul to be in tune with the great magic Flute of the All-Attractor.
In the way of practical illustration of the perfect life of a devotee, Mahaprabhu steered clear on the one hand of epicurean hedonists and on the other of cynical stoics, exposed the childish foolishness of self-annihilation of dissatisfied and reactionary salvationists and the utter failure and uselessness of the infinitely ambitious and inexhaustible greed of the Elevationists. Mahaprabhu laid bare the great dangers of whiling round the vicious circle of intellectual speculation and the malicious mockery of blind fanaticism. He showed how every person occupying any position can approach Sree Krishna and be blessed with the highest fulfilment of life by the practice of devotion and how every entity of the Universe can be best utilized by its application to the service of Sree Krishna, the Sole Lord. This is taught to be the means and method of rendering oneself free of those dangers and pitfalls that attend upon the wrong use of one's opportunities; and thus, keeping off from the vice of self enjoyment, to turn to be a devotee of the Lord by all-round tactfulness in the use of the things of this world and thereby betake oneself to the royal highway of eternal bliss.
Is it proselytising and the Religion of the age?
This religion of the Vedanta has been proved to be practically demonstrable in the life of Mahaprabhu. It follows, as a necessary conclusion, that is preachable and consequently proselytising. How else could the Sanatan Dharma spread from the original abode of the Aryans and be made available to the people of the country? This religion on the other hand cannot also suffer stagnation, which is the way to death. Every living religion should progress and, if found worthy on a comparative estimate must stand and spread. Mahaprabhu's desire and mandate was that His Religion must be carried to all corners of the world which is now being fulfilled by the preachers of the Gaudiya Math under the direction of the great Acharya Paramahansa Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj. They have gone to the west and have evoked appreciation from the highest savants of Great Britain and Germany. The simple factor their rapid expansion in an age of stubborn materialism is not inconsistent with the claim that the religion of Mahaprabhu has an eternal appeal to all sorts of people and that can meet the latest requirements of the age. So it has life and it is, therefore, not content with being anything less than Universal religion of the age. Any challenge from the intelligentsia to its claim to their undivided allegiance are always taken up for detailed discussion in the pages of the Journal. Politics should not be the only nor even the principal pursuit of human life. The fearless quest and craving for the Truth is the only congenial function of human intelligence and human life, and it is the only solace or soothing balm for all human ailments.