Celebrations on the day of the Lord's appearance anniversary present an encouraging promise of things to come.
"May that Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Sacidevi be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant spiritual knowledge of the mellow taste of His service. " Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila Chapter 1, Verse 4
How wonderful it is that the Supreme Lord, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, would personally come to this planet! Although His form is transcendental and divine, He appeared as the son of Jagannatha Misra and his wife, Saci. He was the perfect devotee of Krsna, and thus He taught the world how God is to be worshiped. Foreseeing that the people of this age would tend toward materialistic pursuits, with little inclination for austerities and renunciation, Lord Caitanya introduced sankirtana, an easy and joyous process of God realization.
Sankirtana is the congregational chanting of the Lord's names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Although this maha-mantra can be chanted by oneself at any time with profound spiritual results, there is a special ecstasy in the gathering of many devotees chanting and dancing in glorification of the Lord. Lord Caitanya wanted everyone to experience the happiness of God consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna.
This year marks the five-hundredth anniversary (Quincentennial) of Lord Caitanya's appearance. Last March, devotees from every continent gathered together at the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) center in Mayapur, India, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to share in the celebration. And how did they celebrate? See that for yourself. Chanting, dancing, hearing about the Lord's pastimes, and preaching were among the prominent activities.
On September 2, 1984, a group of devotees left the holy city of Dvaraka, on the northwest coast of India, to embark on a walking tour, pada-yatra. More than a unique way of sightseeing, pada yatra is a spiritual pilgrimage. The devotees who participated in this, the longest pada-yatra in history, visited many of the temples, towns, and villages that Lord Caitanya Himself visited. Led by His Holiness Lokanatha Swami, the devotees traveled down the west coast of India, across the southern tip to the Bay of Bengal, and up the east coast to Puri (where Lord Caitanya spent eighteen years), and finally inland ninety miles up the Ganges to Mayapur, where Lord Caitanya appeared and enacted His early pastimes. The pada-yatra party, having touched the hearts of millions of people, entered Mayapur just in time for the five-hundredth anniversary celebration. Now, after the Mayapur festival, the pada-yatra's off again, this time for that most sacred place, Vrndavana.
When Lord Caitanya would lead His sankirtana parties, chanting Hare Krsna and dancing with great pleasure, the crowds that met them would be attracted by the ecstasy and would also begin to chant. Thousands of people would become devotees simply by the sankirtana party. Yet there was criticism among certain intellectuals of the time that Lord Caitanya's movement was for less intelligent, sentimental people who could not appreciate philosophy. Thus Lord Caitanya would sometimes meet with these scholars and challenge them in philosophical debate. Since the Lord is the possessor of all knowledge, He easily defeated the greatest impersonalistic philosophers. That absolute knowledge from Lord Caitanya, passed down over the centuries in unbroken disciplic succession, continues to astound and convince intelligent persons all over the world.
The World Congress for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, which met in Bombay in January of this year, was a unique way of emphasizing the spiritual science taught by Lord Caitanya. Organized by His Divine Grace Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, head of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, the conference lasted four days and featured presentations by leading scientists, theologians, and historians. Thoughtful persons have long sought to unite the objective logic of modern science and the revealed understandings of the scripture, and to that end, this conference was a satisfying exchange of realizations on the relationship between religion and science.
In New Delhi, on the eve of Gaura-purnima, the day of Lord Caitanya's appearance, His Divine Grace Gopala Krsna Goswami attended a program with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Before millions of television viewers, Srila Gopala Krsna Goswami explained the divinity of Lord Caitanya, emphasizing the monumental work of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in spreading Lord Caitanya's teachings worldwide. Prime Minister Gandhi spoke on the uncertainty and unrest throughout the world, pointing out that we stand to benefit greatly by Lord Caitanya's teachings of spiritual harmony.
Gaura-purnima day inspired an astounding display of devotional presentations at ISKCON's world headquarters in Mayapur. Thousands of devotees from seventy countries gathered to celebrate the Lord's appearance. Kirtanas and bhajanas filled the air devotees glorifying God in intense devotional meditation. ISKCON devotees and more than two million visitors watched Manipuri dance recitals, an original drama, a new film, and an elaborate exhibition of ISKCON's worldwide projects. The World Expo featured highlights from ISKCON's activities throughout the world, such as the famous Palace of Gold at the New Vrindaban spiritual community in West Virginia. Especially popular was an exhibition on the campaign to free imprisoned, severely persecuted devotees within the Soviet Union. A steady flood of pilgrims also enjoyed a special exhibit featuring fifty dioramas and sculpted terracotta panels depicting the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
When Lord Caitanya was present on this planet He demonstrated how to properly worship Lord Krsna in His Deity form in the temple. This He did through His spontaneous and ecstatic loving service to the Jagannatha Deity in Orissa. The exchange between Lord Jagannatha and Lord Caitanya although They are actually the same person was exquisitely sweet. It was only fitting, then, that a new play on the appearance of Lord Jagannatha, written by His Divine Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami, had its premier at the Quincentennial celebration. The drama, Jagannatha-priya Natakam, stimulates devotional sentiments. Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami used the same exacting techniques of dramatic presentation prescribed in the ancient Sanskrit texts that were employed by the close associates of Lord Caitanya. Jagannatha-priya Natakam is unique. It is in English, yet the author has preserved the purity and inspirational mood of a centuries-old tradition in Vaisnava theater.
Also making its debut in Mayapur was a new film from ISKCON Cinema, entitled Lord Caitanya, the Golden Avatara. Yadubara dasa and his wife, Visakha-devi dasi, filmed, directed, edited, and produced the thirty-minute portrayal of Lord Caitanya's life. The film is based on the Caitanya-caritamrta, a sixteenth-century biography of Lord Caitanya by Krsna dasa Kaviraja Gosvami. It shows many of the places of Lord Caitanya's pastimes, artwork depicting His life, and reenactments of his pastimes by His modern followers. The film was shown for the first time on Gaurapurnima in ISKCON centers all over the world.
Throughout ISKCON, just as Lord Caitanya and His associates had done five centuries before, devotees united to go out into the streets singing the allpowerful holy names of God, and to host wonderful festivities in Lord Caitanya's honor.
The colorful sankirtana party, with devotees in flowing robes playing traditional drums and cymbals, has become a familiar sight on the streets of cities all over the world. The sound of the holy name echoes against buildings in London, New York, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro. Lord Caitanya's compassionate mood embraces every social class, nationality, and religious denomination, and the sankirtana spirit is not hampered by geographical location. Chanting Hare Krsna is equally liberating, whether in South America, Europe, or India.
How deeply the transcendental philosophy of Lord Caitanya has been accepted on every continent! Half-way around the world from Lord Caitanya's birthplace, the New Vrindaban community held a magnificent Gaura-purnima celebration. Two beautiful forty-two-foothigh sculptures of Lord Caitanya and His eternal associate Lord Nityananda were unveiled. The statues, or murtis, were draped with forty-foot garlands of painted handmade roses, lilies, and wild flowers, each flower at least one foot in diameter. Hundreds of devotees and guests gathered at moonrise by the temple lake to worship the Lord. Carrying lighted torches, they created a scene of breathtaking beauty.
These are only a small part of ISKCON's global campaign to glorify Lord Caitanya on this momentous anniversary. The brilliant festivals attract millions of people, and the devotees are invigorated by the intense devotional atmosphere. But the celebrating doesn't stop there. Every day there is the celebration within the heart of the devotee who lives to preach on behalf of Lord Caitanya. This spirit of offering others the chanting of Hare Krsna as the best method of awakening love for God is central to Lord Caitanya's philosophy. It is also central to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada. By Lord Caitanya's mercy, "the most sublime and radiant spiritual knowledge" is within the reach of everyone, simply by chanting Hare Krsna and dancing with devotees. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a prominent preacher in disciplic line from Lord Caitanya, predicted a century ago, the day has come when devotees from all over the world can gather together and chant, "Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana!"