Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the great teacher of devotional service who appeared in Mayapura, India, in the year 1486 and propagated sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy name. He accepted the sannyasa order in order to preach God consciousness throughout the world on the basis of Srimad-Bhagavatam or the science of God. This year is the 500th anniversary of His sannyasa.
Lord Caitanya taught by His own example that the easiest process in this age, to understand transcendental religion, is to chant the holy names of God. The true test of a bonafide religion is to see whether it helps people develop their dormant love of God. This love is not artificially invoked, but it is aroused by association with the devotees of the Lord and by hearing from the authorized scriptures.
The human form of life is especially meant for this purpose of reviving our God consciousness because the better development of consciousness is found only in the human body. Animal propensities are found both in animal life and human life, and unfortunately, people are nowadays more concerned with the principles of sense gratification, or the animalistic part of life. Thus, the world is gradually declining in God consciousness.
Of course, not everybody accepted Lord Caitanya as God. In fact a great scholar like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya (the greatest logician of his times) along with his disciples asked his brother-in-law Gopinatha Acharya, as to why did he accept a mortal being as God.
The disciples of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, being very learned scholars, were certainly right in asking Gopinatha Acharya for evidence. If a person proposes that he himself is God or that someone else is an incarnation of God or God Himself, he must cite evidence from the Vedas to prove his claim. Thus the request of the Bhattacharya’s disciples was quite bonafide.
Unfortunately, at the present moment it has become fashionable to present someone as an incarnation of God without referring to the Vedas. Before an intelligent person accepts someone as an incarnation of God, however, he must ask about the evidence. When the disciples of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya challenged Gopinatha Acharya, he immediately replied correctly: “We must hear the statements of great personalities in order to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Lord Krishna is established as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by statements from many authorized persons, such as Brahma, Narada, Vyasadeva, Asita and Arjuna. Similarly, Lord Caitanya’s enlightened biographers have cited numerous authoritative references from Vedic literatures such as the Mahabharata, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Puranas, and Upanisads directly indicating that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, far from being a mundane personality, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, playing the role of His own devotee. The Mundaka Upanisad (3.3) also relates the prophecy of Sri Caitanya. It states, yada pasyah pasyate rukma-varnam kartaram isam purusam brahma-yonim: “When one realizes the golden form of Lord Gauranga, who is the ultimate actor and the source of the Supreme Brahman, he attains the highest knowledge. He transcends both pious and impious activities, becomes free from worldly bondage, and enters the divine abode of the Lord.” Rukma-varnam kartaram isam refer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead as having a complexion the color of molten gold, which is the color of Lord Caitanya.
The great classic Mahabharata (Dana-dharma, Visnu-sahasra-nama-stotra, 127.92.75) confirms that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not different from Lord Krishna: “The Supreme Lord has a golden complexion [when He appears as Lord Caitanya]. Indeed, His entire body, which is very nicely constituted, is like molten gold. Sandalwood pulp is smeared all over His body. He will take the fourth order of life [sannyasa] and will be very self-controlled. He will be distinguished from Mayavadi sannyasis in that He will be fixed in devotional service and will propagate the sankirtana movement.”
– Syamananda Dasa