Though Lord Caitanya is known as Krsna's hidden incarnation,
His biographers have preserved accounts of His displays of divinity.
Lord Caitanya, unlike ordinary human beings, was not conceived in His mother's womb by seminal discharge. Rather, by His own free will, twelve months before His advent He miraculously entered His father's heart; from there He transferred Himself to His mother's womb, just as He had done about 4,500 years earlier when He appeared as Lord Krsna. And on February 18, 1486, in Mayapur, West Bengal, India, during a full-moon eclipse, Lord Caitanya appeared in this world.
He was named Visvambhara, which means, "one who protects and maintains the universe." But He was also nicknamed Nimai and Gauranga Nimai, because He was born under a neem tree, and Gauranga (which means "golden limbs") because He had a golden complexion. The name Krsna Caitanya ("all-attractive living force") was awarded to Him when He became a renunciant monk at age twenty-four.
Lord Caitanya's horoscope clearly showed that He would be an intellectual genius, an amazing teacher of religion, and a world savior. And, according to Vedic astrology, the unique markings on His feet flag, conch, disc, fish, thunderbolt doubtlessly signified that He was an incarnation of God. These markings had also been visible on Lord Krsna's feet. Besides, Lord Caitanya's entire form His nose, arms, chin, eyes, knees, skin, and so on like Lord Krsna's, showed all thirty-two symptoms of a great or divine personality.
Tricking Adults into Chanting
Even as a baby, the Lord intimated that His mission would be to help people become God conscious. For example, He would often cry loudly, but when His mother's friends would begin chanting God's names and clapping, He would stop crying and begin smiling. But when they would think He was fully pacified and stop chanting, He would again begin crying. So they would again chant God's names, and He would again stop crying and begin smiling. That was His cute way of tricking them into chanting God's holy names throughout the day and blessing them with divine bliss. After a while, this sacred activity became a regular fun-filled game that brought laughter, delight, and wonder to those affectionate ladies.
Why the Lord Hides His Identity
Even to His parents, who were great devotees of God, Lord Caitanya rarely revealed who He was. He wanted to bless them with a relationship with Him full of informality and familiarity rather than awe and reverence. This closer relationship gives God more pleasure and satisfaction because it is more intimate and affectionate. But He reserves such closeness for His extremely surrendered and devoted servants.
Thus Lord Caitanya's parents did not regard Him as God but rather as their little, dependent, lovable child. They considered themselves His protectors and caretakers, even though He protects and cares for the entire world. As we will soon see, though the Lord enjoys playing the part of a helpless, innocent toddler, He can, when He so wishes, instantly reveal His divine nature and power.
Baffling The Thieves
One day Lord Caitanya, wearing golden ornaments, was wandering alone near His home. Two thieves ambled into the area and spotted the child. Attracted by His glistening ornaments, they decided to steal them. Since there were people on the street, the thieves resolved to abduct the boy in a way that would appear as if they were playing with Him.
One of the thieves asked, "Son, where have you been all this time?"
And the other thief said, "Come on, son, let's go home."
The Lord smiled and said, "Yes, let's go home."
One of the thieves placed the Lord on his shoulders, and the other gave Him some candy. Then they walked toward their own house, where they hoped to steal the ornaments and kill the child.
After the thieves had gone some distance from the Lord's neighborhood, the Lord's family members realized He was not near the house. Extremely anxious, they began searching for Him and calling, "Nimai! Nimai!" When they couldn't find Him, they became frantic. They felt as if their very life had been stolen away.
As the thieves carried the Lord, something mystical happened. The Lord playfully clouded their minds. First, He made them walk on the wrong path, which led back to the Lord's house. Then, when they reached His house, they thought they were at their own house.
"Okay, son," one of the thieves said, "we're home."
"Yes, we are," replied the Lord. "So you can put me down."
As the thief lowered the Lord to the ground, the Lord saw His family members in the distance desperately searching and calling out for Him. He ran away to His father, who picked Him up and hugged Him. Seeing Him, all the family members felt immensely relieved and blissful.
Then, by the Lord's will, the thieves suddenly realized they weren't at their home at all. Indeed, they were right where they had started. How, they wondered, had they become so thoroughly deluded? Seeing the boy's family members coming and fearing arrest, they fled from the area as fast as they could.
Revealing His Divine Form
One day an itinerant pious brahmana, who was on pilgrimage and always chanting Krsna's name, wandered near Lord Caitanya's house. When the Lord's father, Jagannatha Misra, saw this effulgent devotee, he invited him in and properly honored him.
Jagannatha Misra asked, "Would it be all right if I arranged for you to cook?"
"As you wish," replied the holy man.
Jagannatha Misra brought him a variety of foodstuffs, and the holy man proceeded to happily cook them. When the food was ready, the brahmana began offering it to the household deity of Lord Krsna. Just then, Lord Caitanya, the child, entered the room. Smiling at the brahmana, He took a handful of the rice and ate it.
"Oh, no!" cried the brahmana. "This restless boy has stolen Krsna's food!"
Since food is supposed to be offered first to Lord Krsna, the child, by eating it first, had apparently made it unfit for Krsna.
Jagannatha Misra entered the room and noted his son's offense. Angry and embarrassed, he wanted to strike his son to teach Him a lesson. But the brahmana checked him, because he understood the mischievous nature of children. Then Saci Devi, the Lord's mother, to prevent her son from further stealing, carried Him to a neighbor's house and watched Him carefully.
Jagannatha Misra brought more foodstuffs for the brahmana, who was happy to cook again. When the meal was ready, the holy man again began to offer it to Lord Krsna.
Meanwhile, at the neighbor's house, Lord Caitanya mystically caused everyone there to forget about Him. Then He sidled out of the house and returned home. Seeing the brahmana offering the food to Lord Krsna, the child smiled at him, took a handful of rice, and began eating it.
"Oh, no!" shouted the brahmana.
When Jagannatha Misra saw what his son had again done, he was determined to strike Him. But the brahmana stopped him and philosophically opined, "I guess it's not my destiny to eat food that Lord Krsna has eaten today."
The family members persuaded the brahmana to cook again. But to make certain the Lord would not again interfere with the offering rite, they confined Him to His room. His father not only guarded the door, but also bolted it from the outside.
When the devotee finished cooking, he again offered the meal to Lord Krsna. At that moment, Lord Caitanya caused everyone else in the house to fall asleep. Then He mystically entered the kitchen and appeared beside the food offering.
Seeing Him, the holy man exclaimed, "Oh, no!"
But the Lord replied, "As you were offering the food, you asked Me to come and eat it. So I have come. You always want to see Me, so now I'm revealing Myself to you."
Suddenly the child manifested Himself as the youthful Lord Krsna in a wonderful eight-armed form holding a disk, a club, a conch shell, and a lotus flower in four hands, holding fresh butter in one hand, putting butter in His mouth with another hand, and playing the flute with His remaining two hands. He further manifested the beautiful Vrndavana forest the place of His most intimate pastimes with its lovely birds, trees, milkmaids, and cowherds. Seeing all this, the brahmana swooned in ecstasy. When the Lord touched him, he regained consciousness.
Lord Caitanya said, "O brahmana, you've been My servant for many births. When I appeared as Krsna in Nanda's home, I revealed this same form to you and ate the food you offered Me. But you don't remember this. Birth after birth you've been My servant. Persons who are not My servant cannot see My form. What I have told you is a secret. Please don't tell anyone. If you reveal it during My present incarnation, I'll destroy you. In this incarnation, I will begin the sankirtana movement the congregational chanting of Krsna's holy names. In every country I will preach sankirtana and initiate pure loving devotional service in every home."
Having given comfort and mercy to the brahmana, Lord Caitanya ate the offering, returned to His room, reassumed His child form, and lay down on His bed. Everyone else in the house remained asleep.
The brahmana then ate the Lord's remnants, wept, danced, sang, laughed and cried out, "Victory to Krsna!"
This woke up everyone. When they all came and saw the brahmana eating peacefully, they became happy. The brahmana wanted to reveal that Lord Caitanya was Lord Krsna. But remembering the Lord's dreadful warning, he restrained himself.
Defeating the Pandita
Lord Caitanya was a Sanskrit prodigy and began teaching when He was only eleven years of age. Struck with wonder by His intellectual precocity, hundreds of students studied under Him. He became known as the greatest savant of Sanskrit grammatical literature, of the nyaya system of philosophy, and of the Vedic scriptural knowledge. Whoever challenged Him to a debate in learning was always sorely defeated.
One evening while Lord Caitanya was sitting on the bank of the Ganges River with some of His students, the famous Kesava Kasmiri approached Him. He had traveled around the country to various learning centers, debated numerous Sanskrit experts, and defeated every one of them. The undisputed world champion, he was known as Digvijayi ("the conqueror of everyone in all directions"). Kesava Kasmiri spoke in a proud, patronizing way, minimizing the scholarly accomplishments of the Lord. Unaffected by such arrogance, Lord Caitanya humbly asked the scholar to show his poetic expertise by instantly composing original Sanskrit verses glorifying the Ganges River.
The goddess of learning, Sarasvati, had blessed Kesava Kasmiri, her devotee, to always remain invincible in debates. Thus, quite confident of his intellectual prowess, he quickly composed and recited one hundred verses. Lord Caitanya, having instantly memorized each of them, repeated the sixty-fourth verse and asked the Digvijayi to explain it.
Kesava Kasmiri, astonished by the Lord's feat of memory, elucidated on the verse. The Lord next asked him to cite its virtues and faults. But the Digvijayi was reluctant because he felt that such subject matter was well beyond the range of Lord Caitanya's poetic knowledge.
But the Lord said, "I can find in this verse many faults and many virtues."
He then critiqued it, noting five virtues and five faults. The faults concerned redundancy, improper composition, and contradictory meanings. The virtues related to purpose, analogy, and alliteration. The Lord said that His analysis of the verse was based only on the obvious.
"But if we consider it in detail," He said, "we will find unlimited faults."
The Digvijayi was surprised and impressed by the Lord's comments. But when he tried to respond to them, he found himself unable to speak. His pride humbled and his confidence shaken, he felt helpless and defeated. Filled with insecurity, he wondered whether he had offended Goddess Sarasvati, and whether such an offense had led to this debacle.
That night Kesava Kasmiri worshiped the goddess. Later, she appeared in a dream and informed him that Nimai Pandita was none other than the Lord Himself.
The next morning the poet hastened to Lord Caitanya and surrendered at His feet. In return, the Lord bestowed His mercy on Him, gave him spiritual guidance and instruction, and freed him from the bondage to material attachment.
The poet thereafter renounced his pomp and position and became a simple, humble servant of the Lord.
Starting His Mission
When Lord Caitanya was sixteen, He traveled to Gaya with some students. There He performed a ceremony (called sraddha) for the benefit of the soul of His deceased father. Afterwards, He visited Chakraveda to view Lord Krsna's footprints in the Gadadhara temple. As He gazed at them, brahmana priests sang praises glorifying God's love. The Lord then, for the first time, exhibited devotional ecstatic symptoms publicly: His hair stood up, tears flowed from His eyes continuously, and His entire body trembled.
He next met the great devotee Isvara Puri, accepted him as His spiritual master, and was initiated into the chanting of Lord Krsna's holy name. Actually, since Lord Caitanya was the Lord Himself, He did not require a guru. But in this incarnation, playing the role of the Lord's perfect devotee, He wanted to show by example that a sincere seeker must be initiated into the chanting of God's holy names by a bona fide spiritual master, one in an authorized disciplic succession. Otherwise, the chanter may experience only very limited benefits.
At this point, Lord Caitanya discarded His persona of the "great pandita" and replaced it with the character of the pure devotee of Lord Krsna. He often swooned or became entranced upon hearing or reciting Krsna's holy name or adventures. His every moment was filled with divine ecstasy, and many devotees of the Lord, noting His superlative and contagious quality of love for God, eagerly joined Him. Thus it was not long before He became the undisputed leader and guide of all the devotees in His area, Navadvipa. This marked the beginning of His sankirtana movement, for which He had descended to earth from the spiritual world.
Punishing an Offender
Lord Caitanya at first engaged in sankirtana with His intimate devotees at Srivasa Thakura's house. Only the most sincere devotees were admitted inside. The envious the scoffers and the scorners had to stay outside. Nonetheless, they could hear the tumultuous singing and music. Consequently, out of vengeance, Gopala Capala, a brahmana, tried to compromise the distinguished reputation of Srivasa Thakura, who was learned in all the scriptures.
One night Gopala placed the worship paraphernalia of Goddess Durga outside Srivasa Thakura's' door a red flower, a plantain leaf, a pot of wine, and reddish sandalwood paste so that he might appear to passersby to be her devotee instead of Lord Krsna's. Krsna devotees do not eat meat, fish, or eggs or imbibe any kind of intoxicants. But the Durga worshipers are often meat-eaters and wine-drinkers. Thus Gopala Capala tried to make Srivasa Thakura appear like a hypocrite outwardly noble but secretly ignoble.
Lord Caitanya did not appreciate this offense against His devotee and decided to punish the offender. So, three days later, He arranged for Gopala Capala to contract leprosy, in which blood oozed from sores all over his body. Moreover, as germs and insects bit him everywhere, he felt unbearable pain. He then went to Lord Caitanya and asked Him to save him from his illness.
"You sinful person!" the Lord angrily replied. "Not only will I not save you, but you will be bitten by these germs for millions of years! For your offense, you will have to fall down into hellish life for ten million births."
Some years later, when Lord Caitanya visited the town where Gopala Capala was still suffering, Gopala took shelter of the Lord and begged for His grace.
Changing His mood, the Lord advised Gopala Capala, "First, go to Srivasa Thakura and beg for his mercy. If he gives it to you and you don't commit such sins again, you will be freed from your sinful reactions."
Gopala Capala followed this instruction, and Srivasa Thakura forgave and blessed him, freeing him of his inconsolable misery.
Thus we can see how caring and protective the Lord is of His devotees and how angry and retributive He can be towards mischievous non-devotees. Yet when these non-devotees become genuinely repentant, He can become equally forgiving and kind. The Lord sees all beings as His children but treats each according to his or her behavior.
Revealing His Universal Form
One day Advaita Acarya, an intimate devotee of Lord Caitanya, asked the Lord to reveal to him the universal form He had kindly shown to Arjuna, as described in the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Caitanya agreed and showed him that magnificent form. Advaita saw in the body of the Lord everything in existence the sun, moon, planets, oceans, rivers, gods, human beings, demons a wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding form. It is said that if hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Lord in that universal form.
The Instant Mango Tree
Once, after Lord Caitanya and His devotees had performed vigorous sankirtana, they were greatly fatigued and sat down. The Lord then sowed a mango seed in the yard, and the seed fructified at once into a tree and began to grow. As people watched, the tree became fully grown, with ripe fruit. Everyone was astonished. The Lord then picked about two hundred mangoes, and after washing them, offered them to Lord Krsna to eat.
The mangoes were completely red and yellow, without a seed or skin. Noting the quality of the mangoes, Lord Caitanya was greatly satisfied. After eating some first, He distributed the rest to the devotees. The mangoes were full of delectable juice and so sweet that a person would be fully satisfied by eating just one.
Mangoes grew on that tree every day throughout the twelve months of the year, and the devotees would eat them to the Lord's great satisfaction.
Dispelling the Rain
One early evening, while Lord Caitanya was performing kirtana with His devotees, dark rain clouds gathered overhead. As they thundered threateningly, the devotees became afraid. But the Lord banged His hand cymbals, chanted the Hare Krsna mantra, and gazed at the sky, as if to order the rain-making gods. Immediately, all the clouds dispersed, the sky became clear, and as the moon rose, Lord Caitanya danced ecstatically with His jubilant and satisfied devotees. Because of this miracle, that place is still known as Meghera Chara ("The Place Where the Clouds Were Moved").
These accounts represent only some of Lord Caitanya's early miracles. Throughout His presence on earth, He continued to reveal His divinity, especially to devotees with purified vision, and sometimes even to ordinary people.
Amala Bhakta Dasa, well-known for his audio recordings of Krsna conscious books, is the author of The Life of Tulasi Devi, Mystical Stories from the Mahabharata, and Mystical Stories from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.