Swami Vivekananda’s concept of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

By Sri Chaitanmay Nanda, Bhakti Shastri, from Niladri Bihar, Dol Yatra 2017 issue

One pleasant evening, by the side of Hedua pond in North Kolkata, Swami Vivekananda was delivering a religious discourse. The topic was “Prem Dharma” of Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya. Swami Saradananda and others were present at this pleasant gathering. At the conclusion Swami Vivekananda sang a song on Mahaprabhu’s “prem-leela” in a melodious voice. Everyone became charmed. Till today the song resounds in the contemplative mind.

“Gorarai gives away in charity “Prema”
Nitai-chand summons all “Come come along!
Welcome whoever amongst you desires,
come along, come along,
Prema is given away, pitcher after pitcher,
yet not exhausting. Shantipur is overflooded.
Nadia is floating (in the waves of Gaura prema)
Nadia is floating”

Following the course of this song if we tap our memory of 500 years past, we can hear the glory of that Great Soul, who descended on this green field of Bengal assuming the form of Sri Chaitanya to awaken and arouse our sleeping consciousness. Irrespective of class, religion, caste and community, before the entire humanity, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a “prema saturated idol” of love, friendship, compassion and forbearance.

Human society was illuminated by the glory and mellow of “prema” of Sri Chaitanya dev. When the nation was depressed on account of mental and moral degradation, given to rituals in the name of customs and tradition, at such a time, powerful Mahaprabhu liberated the entire oppressed people by rejuvenating humanism by the ideal of devotion and love igniting the notion of nationalsm and thus giving them a new taste of life.

By way of spreading love among the oppressed people, He went from door to door for their liberation and thus wiped out meanness, wretchedness and cowardliness. By hoisting the flag of mass socialism before and among human beings and thus assembling all of them beneath that, He divulged the clue to peace by way of giving a shape of vast nation. At that very critical moment of history, had His holy advent not happened, in that event the history of this country would have taken a turn in a very different direction. The country would have been ruined on account of distinction of caste, fanaticism, hatred, jealousy and destruction.

Mahaprabhu had not only the foresight about religion, but also He was the initiator of organizing power and the designer of national consciousness. Recollecting His great influence, magnificent personality and contribution with high regard and gratitude, Swami Vivekananda declared “Only for once the great talent shattered the continuous and contiguous net and raised His head and that was Bhagavan Sri Krishna Chaitanya. Only for once the spiritual drowsiness of Bengal had broken, for a few days only that were the co-sharer in religious life of other provinces of India.”

The influence of Sri Chaitanya is observed all over India. Wherever people in general are conversant with the path of devotion, there itself they speak about Him with reverence and also worship Him. We have very many reasons to believe that the entire Vallabhacharya community is but a branch of the Sri Chaitanya tree. His so-called Bengali disciples do not know how His influence is still prevalent throughout India. How is it possible for them to know? Mahaprabhu went barefeet from door to door all over the land and begged everyone, including the low-castes to maintain loving devotion to God.”

From these talks of Swami Vivekananda, it is very clear how profoundly he venerated Sriman Mahaprabhu and the Vaishnavism propagated by Him. Swami ji held highest esteem towards Sri Gauranga – the incarnation of Prema. That is why, Vivekananda is charmed and amazed at His transparent religion of love and incomparable depth of human prosperity. In many compositions and lectures Swami ji discussed the different aspects of Sri Chaitanya’s philosophy.

When in 1897 the world-conquerer Swami Vivekananda victoriously landed at Madras (Chennai), he was given a grand ovation on 9th February at Victoria Hall. In response to that welcome address Swami ji delivered a historic talk, famously known as “Amar Samarneeti” (my polity of battle). In that lecture, declaring Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya as the greatest Reformer, he raised a question: “In India was there ever any dearth of reformers? Have you gone through the history of India? What was Ramanuja? What was Shankaracharya? Nanak? Chaitanya? Kabir? All these great reformers who appeared in India one after another like bright stars – what were they?”

In the same hall on 11th February 1897, before a huge gathering Swami ji delivered a lecture on the “Great Men of India”. In course of the lengthy talk, while speaking about sri Ramachandra, Sri Krishna, Gautam Buddha, Shankaracharya, he came to the topic of Sri Chaitanya. In a voice resembling the sound of a conch, he declared, “Out of al the acharyas of Bhakti appearing in India, Bhagavan Sri Chaitanya, Who is ever intoxicated in prema stands foremost. His prema knew no bounds. Saint or sinner, Hindu or Muslim, holy or unholy prostitutes and fallen ones – each and everyone was a shareholder of His prema.
He was kind to one and all. He was the resort of the poor, powerless, outcaste, fallen, and those who have no place in society – none of them were deprived from His protection.”  Thereafter Swami ji speaking about Sri Ramakrishna, uttered in a thundering voice, “Shankar had a marvelous brain; Ramanuja and Sri Chaitanya were large hearted. It is now the proper time for the appearance (descent) of one such who will be possessed of Shankara’s talent and unlimited large heart of Sri Chaitanya simultaneously.”

On the subject of rationality of Mahaprabhu’s idealistic religion (achintya bhedabhed dwaitavaad), in a letter dated 3rd July 1897 from Almora written to his disciple Sarat Chandra Chakraborty, he wrote in Sanskrit, “Tad Yuktam-eva yadabaadit Bhagavan Chaitanyaha prem ishware daya jive iti. Dwitavadi tvat tatra bhagavatah siddhanto jeeva shwerayorveda bigna pakah sameecheena.” (“For this reason, it is reasonable that Bhagavan Sri Chaitanya instructed Love of God and compassion for all jivas. Meaning as He was dwaitvadi, His concept on the distinction between jiva and Ishwar stands justified.”)

Those who embraced other religions abandoning Hinduism about their reverting back to Hinduism, Swami Vivekananda’s well-considered opinion was published in the magazine “Prabuddha Bharat” of April 1899 issue. He said, “Do remember in the vaishnav community such a situation has already taken place and the different castes from non-Hindu and Hindu sects, who were converted to other religions, all of them took shelter under the Vaishnav flag and thereby formed a caste of their own and that caste is not at all a vile one. Rather a polished one. Right from Ramanuja (of South India) to Sri Chaitanya of Bengal, all great Vaishnav acharyas have done so.”

The solution to the present-day crises lies in the life, teachings, sacrifice and devotion of Mahaprabhu. For this reason, to broadcast the relevance of the messages of Sri Chaitanya to every life and mind, Swami ji has declared very clearly, “Pray to God with devotion and wisdom. Devotion should be with proper knowledge and consideration. From Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya you should learn His magnanimity and love towards all jivas, attraction for God and His sacrifice should be the ideal of your life.”

Highlighting the aspect of Truth and Vedic foundation of Mahaprabhu’s religion of universal love in the context of nationalism and to highlight the pertinence of His message for every soul Swami ji in right earnest welcomed Sri Krishna Chaitanya to the Seat of God.  We should bear in mind that it is Vivekananda himself who made the current day evaluation of Mahaprabhu’s leela and mystic religion of love.

A few utterances of Swami ji about Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya, “Chaitanya dev descended to propagate devotion to God. Shankar, Ramanuja made caste distinction whereas Mahaprabhu did not. He said, “How does caste manner to a devotee?”

“Entire India realized the influence of Sri Chaitanya dev, also the followers of that sole aspirant of north India accepted the leadership of the great Madhavacharya. Till date, south India is carrying on the traditional order of the glory of Varanasi.”

“In our country since ancient times due to prevalence of Sanskrit usage in scriptures, an oceanic gulf stood between the educated and common people. From Buddha to Chaitanya, even upto Ramakrishna, all of whom appeared for the uplift of general masses, propagated their teachings to the common people.”

“Bhagavan Isha’s disciples are sanyasis, renounced monks. The associates who are directly graced by Shankara, Ramanuja, Sri Chaitanya and Buddha-dev are all renounced ascetics. These monks in preceptory succession are imparting knowledge about God (i.e., Brahmavidya).”

“During the entire Mohammedan rule, if Chaitanya dev is not taken into account then all the best preceptors have appeared in the south of India. Even now, the South Indian genii are leading India. Chaitanya dev too was a follower of Sri Madhvacharya.”
“Look at Buddha, observe Christ and turn your attention to Chaitanya. You will understand. Try to follow, to what extent the development of humanity has flourished.”

“Bengal is the land of devotion and devotees. The stone-slab on which Sriman Mahaprabhu stood and gazed at the deities of Jagannath temple got eroded due to His prema and devotion. At the time of adopting sanyas, in order to prove His competency, He placed grains of sugar on His tongue which did not melt. The insight which He developed through devotion, by that power He discovered Vrindavan anew.”

“Wherever you find an iota of real devotion, there it should be taken for granted that it is due to the glory of a particle of that Lion of Nadia, Sri Gauranga’s prema!"  


Nitai Gaur Hari Bol !!

Jai Gurudev !!