Chaitanya, Sri Krishna
(1486–1533)
   Vaishnavite saint
   Sri Chaitanya was born in Mayapur in what is now West Bengal to a learned teacher of the tradition. The written accounts of this great saint portray him as a miraculous child who had adventures and misadventures while still an infant that resemble those found in the stories of KRISHNA, of whom Sri Chaitanya was considered an incarnation.
   As were many of the other great teachers of Indian tradition, Sri Chaitanya was a master of SANSKRIT. When he was only 16 he already knew as much as professors at Sanskrit schools. That same year his wife died of snake bite; he was then married to a daughter of a wealthy and respected teacher, a sign that his social standing was already on the rise. On a trip to Gaya to perform rituals for his ancestors he visited a Vishnu shrine and there fell into a trance. He was caught before he fell by a noted ascetic, Ishvara Puri, a practitioner of devotional VAISHNAVISM. When Chaitanya came to his senses he asked Puri to help him under-stand RADHA’s love for Krishna.The stories of Radha’s love affair with Lord Krishna were the backdrop for the intense Vaish-navite devotion that Chaitanya was to experience. Radha’s passionate, uncontrollable love for her lover Lord Krishna was the model for this devo-tional path. Receiving the Krishna MANTRA from Puri, Chaitanya went into a prolonged and ago-nizing state of mystical longing; at times he was ecstatic at realizing the presence of Lord Krishna everywhere; at times he felt deep sorrow from los-ing this sense of passionate contact.At this point Sri Chaitanya ceased being a pandit or teacher, overwhelmed as he was with intense moods of frenzy and mystic passion—the passion of God-love. It was not long before he was recognized as an incarnation of Krishna. He began to attract followers with whom he would spend his days singing praises of the Lord, dancing and falling into trances. It is said that his passion-ate religiosity was so strong that he converted a Muslim ruler of Bengal who had previously been known to persecute Hindus as infidels.
   At times Sri Chaitanya felt himself to be the embodiment of Krishna; at other times he embod-ied the essence of Radha. He was an exemplar of the most emotional type of devotion, wherein the devotee loses sense of himself or herself in the thrall of the mystic vision. This devotional atti-tude is precisely the one that SRI BHAKTIVEDANTA PRABHUPADA, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement in America, took to the shores of the West to develop and spread. Sri Prabhupada is in the direct lineage of Sri Chaitanya.
   Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. 4 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975); Edward C. Dimock Jr., Caitanya Caritamrta of Krsnadasa Kaviraja: A Translation and Commentary (Cambridge, Chaitanya, Sri Krishna 101 J Mass.: Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, 1999); K. P. Sinha, Sri Caitanya’s Vaisnavism and Its Sources (Kolkata: Punthi Pustak, 2001); Swami Tapasyananda, Bhakti Schools of Vedanta (Madras: Ramakrishna Math, n.d.).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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