The life of Sri Chaitanya
Birth and Parentage
Pundit Jagannath Misra, alias Purandar Misra, a pious Brahmin of the Vaidik sub-caste, had migrated from Sylhet and settled at Nadia or Nabadwip, a city of learned men in the Nabadwip district of West Bengal, situated on the river Ganges, seventy-five miles north of Calcutta. Jagannath Misra's wife was Sachi Devi, daughter of the scholar Nilamber Chakravarti. A son was born to Jagannath Misra and Sachi on lunar eclipse day of the full moon, on 27th February, 1486 A.D. in Nabadwip. (the full moon eclipse happened @ 22.13pm)
The newborn child was named Viswambar. He was the tenth child of Jagannath Misra and Sachi Devi. The first eight--all daughters--died soon after their birth. The ninth was Viswarup, a son. He abandoned the world at sixteen when he was being forced to marry and entered a monastery in South India. The women of town, thinking that Sachi, the mother had lost many children, gave the tenth child, Viswambar, the bitter name of Nimai (derived from the name of the Neem tree) as a protection against all evil influences.
The neighbors called him Gaur or Gaur-Hari or Gauranga (fair-complexioned) on account of his marvelous beauty. Gaur means fair and Anga means body; and they called him Gaur-Hari, because he was so fond of the name 'Hari' that nothing could soothe him, when he cried during childhood, Hari's name was fondly being repeated.
Boyhood and Studies
Gauranga studied logic at the school of Vasudev Sarvabhauma, a reputed professor of Nyaya. The extraordinary intellect of Gauranga attracted the attention of Raghunath, author of the famous book on logic called Didheeti. Raghunath thought within himself that he was the most intelligent youth in the world.
He was the tenth child of Jagannath Pandit and Sachidevi who had nine children before, Vishwambhara, which was his first name. This name was given by his mother's father, Pandit Nilambara Cakravarti, a renowned astrologer. Out of the nine siblings elder to him, eight were female children, all of whom died. A brother elder to him, Vishveshara became a wandering monk at the age of sixteen and never returned home.
Nimai as he was popularly known in his childhood began to attend a tol from the age of seven, after his elder his elder brother left the house. Nimai was said to known as Shrutidhara or one who had only to listen a lesson once to remember it whole of his life. His studies progresses so fast that he had become an established classical scholar by the age of 16, when he opened a tol of his own. Nimai Pandit, as he was known then was an aggressive debater, engaging scholars of repute in Shashartha (intellectual discussions).
Death of Gauranga's Father
While Gauranga was still a student, his father died. Gauranga then married Lakshmi, the daughter of Vallabhacharya. He excelled all the Pundits and defeated even a reputed scholar of another province. He made a tour of the eastern region of Bengal and received many valuable gifts from pious and generous-hearted householders.
On his return he heard that his wife had died of snake-bite during his absence. He then married Vishnupriya. He entertained pupils and taught them. He became proud of his vast erudition.
A Turning Point in Gauranga's Life
In 1509, Gauranga went on a pilgrimage to Gaya with his companions. Here he met Isvar Puri, a Sannyasin of the order of Madhvacharya, and took him as his Guru. A marvelous change of life now came over Gauranga. He became a devotee of Lord Krishna. His pride of learning entirely vanished. He shouted, "Krishna, Krishna! Hari Bol, Hari Bol!". He laughed, wept, jumped, danced in ecstasy, fell on the ground and rolled in the dust. When he was in an ecstatic mood, he never ate or drank.
Gauranga proceeded to witness the footprints of Lord Krishna in the Gadadhar temple. He stood before the footprints motionless as a statue. He became absorbed in meditation. Tears gushed out of his eyes in continuous stream. His cloth was drenched with tears. He was about to fall down. Isvar Puri rushed forward and supported him. Gradually Gauranga came back to consciousness. He spoke to Isvar Puri: "Oh venerable Guru, have mercy on me. Extricate me from the quagmire of Samsara. Initiate me into the mysteries of Radha's love for Krishna. Let me develop pure Prem for Lord Krishna. Let me drink the nectar of Krishna-prema-rasa".
Isvar Puri then gave Gauranga the ten-lettered Mantra of Lord Krishna. Purva Raga (love springing from a previous cause) dawned in the heart of Gauranga. He always remained in a meditative mood. He forgot to take his food. Tears trickled down his eyes. Sometimes he was unconscious of his surroundings. Gauranga wanted to go to Vrindavan, but his companions forcibly took him back to Nabadwip.
Nitai alias Nityananda was a Brahmin by birth. He took to the ascetic life at the age of twelve. He wandered about in quest of Krishna. He resided at Vrindavan for sometime, but could not find his Krishna. Gauranga took Nityananda to his own house and introduced him to his mother: "Mother, here is another son of yours. He is my elder brother. The lost Viswarup has come back to you now. Take him as your Viswarup". Sachi said to Nitai: "Child, come. Take care of your younger brother. Protect him. He is careless and thoughtless. Now I need not be anxious about him. Sit down, my child. Take your food and be happy".
Nityananda conducted Sankirtan in various places. Nabadwip resounded with Hari Nama. Nitai spent whole nights in singing the praises of Radha and Krishna. Religious processions were frequently arranged in which the devotees, headed by Gauranga and Nityananda, went dancing and singing through the streets or gathered in the courtyards of houses.
Gauranga Becomes a Sannyasin
Age of twenty-four, Gauranga got himself initiated by Swami Keshava Bharati under the name of 'Krishna Chaitanya', usually shortened into 'Chaitanya'. His mother, the tender-hearted Sachi, was heartbroken. But Chaitanya consoled her in every possible way and carried out her wishes. He bore deep love and reverence for his mother till the end of his life.
Chaitanya was extremely dispassionate. He abandoned all sorts of sensual pleasures as poison. He was very strict in observing the rules of Sannyasa. He declined to grant an interview to Raja Pratap Rudra of Orissa, because it is a great sin for a Sannyasin to see a king.
It is as sinful as looking at a woman. If a Sannyasin sees a Raja or a king, gradually he will be attached to the Raja. As the mind has the habit of imitating, the Sannyasin also will begin to lead a life of luxury and have a downfall eventually. That is the reason why a Sannyasin is prohibited from seeing a Raja. Gauranga never saw a woman in the face. He did not allow any woman to approach him. He slept on the ground with bare body.
Gauranga was a great Vaishnavite preacher. He disseminated the doctrines and principles of Vaishnavism far and wide. Nityananda, Sanatan, Rupa, Swarup Damodar, Advaitacharya, Sribas, Haridas, Murari, Gadadhar and others helped Chaitanya in his mission.