It is not possible to explore the history of the World Vaishnava Association without a brief examination of the life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It was due to the desire of some of the principal disciples of Sri Chaitanya that the WVA came into existence.

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“Who am I?” Maybe you’ve never even asked yourself this question. You might think you already know who you are. Unfortunately, however, it’s likely that you don’t know who you are at all. And if you don’t know your real identity, you’re in trouble. You’ll spend your life in a kind of dream state – you’ll falsely identify yourself as something or someone you aren’t. Then, on the basis of this false identification, you’ll determine the goals of your life and the purpose of your existence. You use these goals to gauge whether you are making “progress” in life, whether you are a “success.” And you are aided and abetted in this delusion by a complex network of relationships with other dreamers. Of course, at death (and sometimes before), the whole thing turns into a nightmare.
So knowing who you are is a very practical necessity. The question “Who am I?” is not a philosophical football meant to be kicked around coffeehouses by pseudo-intellectuals. It’s a real-life question. Nothing is more important and more relevant than to know who you are.

Science of Identity Foundation - Siddhaswarupananda

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Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an incarnation of God who appeared 500 years ago to teach the world the appropriate process of self-realization for the present age. This age is called the Kali-yuga and is considered to be the “Iron Age” of spiritual development and will continue, according to Vedic calculation, until 429,000 AD. The appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was foretold in many Vedic scriptures, thousands of years prior to His appearance.

“Lord Gaura, who is the all pervading Supersoul,
the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appears
as a great saint and powerful mystic who is above
the three modes of nature and is the emblem
of transcendental activity. He disseminates the cult
of devotion throughout the world.”

Chaitanya Upanishad

“I shall appear in the holy land of Navadvipa
as the son of Sacidevi.”

Krishna Yamala

“In the age of Kali when the sankirtana movement
is inaugurated, I shall descend as the son
of Sacidevi.”

Vayu Purana

“Sometimes I personally appear on the surface
of the world in the garb of a devotee.
Specifically, I appear as the son of Saci in Kali-yuga
to start the sankirtana movement.”

Brahma Yama1a

“The Supreme Person, Sri Krishna Himself,
who is the life of Srimati Radharani,
and is the Lord of the universe in creation,
maintenance and annihilation,
appears as Gaura, O Mahesvari.”

Ananta Samhita

“In this age of Kali, those who are intelligent
perform the congregational chanting
of the Hare Krishna maha ma∫tra,
worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
who appears in this age always describing
the glories of Krishna. That incarnation is yellowish
in hue and is always associated
with His plenary expansions, personal expansions,
as well as devotees and associates.”

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32

“The Lord (in the incarnation of Gaurasundara)
has a golden complexion.
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 spiritual 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 spread the sankirtana movement.”


So in 1486 AD Lord Chaitanya the great Apostle of love of God and the Father of the congregational chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord, appeared as the son of Srimati Sachidevi and her husband, the learned brahmana Jagannath Misra. The place of His appearance was Sri Mayapur Dham, a quarter in the city of Navadvipa in Bengal.

His early life was full of wonderful events and He proved Himself to be a brilliant student. By the time He was just sixteen years old He started His own village school conducted by a learned brahmana. During this period a great scholar who hailed from Kashmir, named Keshava Kashmiri, came to Navadvipa to challenge the local scholars. The Kashmir pandita was a champion of debate. He held the title digvijay or “one who is victorious in all directions”, and had traveled to all places of learning throughout India. Lord Chaitanya, known as Nimai Pandita at this time, met Keshava Kashmiri while strolling on the banks of the Ganges. The Lord requested him to compose a poem in praise of the Ganges, and within a short time the pandita composed 100 Sanskrit verses. Lord Chaitanya immediately memorized all the Shlokas and quoted the 64th Shloka pointing out rhetorical and literary irregularities. He also pointed out several other discrepancies, and the Kashmir pandita was struck with wonder.

Astonished that a mere student of grammar could point out the literary mistakes of an erudite scholar, the troubled Keshava Kashmiri returned to his quarters. Later that night in a dream, he was ordered by Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, to submit to the Lord. Thus the Kashmir pandita became a follower of the Lord.

Soon after this time Sri Chaitanya began His sankirtana movement and preached the efficacy of the chanting of the Holy Names of God as the most powerful means to attain God realization in this age. Out of envy of His popularity some brahmanas complained to the local Muslim magistrate in an attempt to put an end to this growing movement. The followers of Sri Chaitanya were threatened with punishment if they did not discontinue their practice of congregational chanting. In response Sri Chaitanya organized a party for civil disobedience and proceeded to the magistrate’s house with one hundred thousand people performing kirtana. Out of fear of the angry crowd, the Kazi (magistrate) hid, but Sri Chaitanya asked the crowd to be peaceful and the Kazi came forward to pacify the Lord by addressing Him as his nephew. Sri Chaitanya and the Kazi sat as two scholars and discussed religious principals. Lord Chaitanya, convinced the Kazi that sankirtana was the only appropriate and authorized sacrifice or yajna for this age and by His divine influence the Kazi became a follower of Sri Chaitanya. The Kazi declared that no one should hinder the sankirtana movement which was started by the Lord, and the Kazi left this order in his will (and that order is still followed to this day).

At the end of His 24th year, the Lord accepted the sannyasa order of life (a renounced ascetic). At the request of His mother he made His headquarters at Puri but His departure for Puri left the residents of Navadvipa in an ocean of sadness and lamentation due to separation. Upon reaching Puri, the Lord entered the temple of Jagannath, and overwhelmed by a mode of deep love, He collapsed in a transcendental ecstasy, His body without any symptom of life. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, the highly respected chief pandita of the local king’s royal court, had Sri Chaitanya carried to his house where he examined the Lord. The vastly learned Sarvabhauma was attracted by the Lord’s lustrous effulgence and understood that the trance the Lord manifested was a wonderful and rare transcendental condition. Eventually the Lord regained external consciousness and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya expressed his desire to offer the Lord his wealth of learning on the Vedanta Sutra. The Lord accepted his proposition but after seven days of listening to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Chaitanya, defeated all his conclusions and showed the supremacy, intent and real understanding of the Vedas. Astonished by Lord Chaitanya’s profound explanations, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya surrendered to Sri Chaitanya as His disciple and devotee. He composed almost 100 Shlokas in praise of the Lord. Overwhelmed by deep transcendental emotions due to being embraced by the Lord, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya collapsed in an ocean of transcendental ecstasy.

Due to the conversion of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, the fame of the Lord spread far and wide. After a short time Sri Chaitanya began a tour of South India. He traveled extensively throughout the South touching the lives and converting thousands of people including Buddhist monks. It was during this tour that He met and initiated the great saint of Maharastra, Saint Tukarama, who went on to overflood the whole of Maharastra with the sankirtana movement.

Sri Chaitanya then returned to Puri. Because of His strict adherence to the code of conduct of the sannyasa order, Sri Chaitanya refused to meet with any materialistic or worldly man. Thus He all along refused to grant audience to the great King of Puri known as Maharaja Prataparudra. But being impressed with the king’s submissive and highly devotional attitude which was manifest in his performing the humble task of sweeping the street in front of the Jagannath temple where the Deity would pass prior to an important festival, Sri Chaitanya agreed to give audience to the king.

After some time in Puri the Lord again started touring Northern India, visiting Vrindavan and its neighboring places. On the way He passed through the jungles of Jharikhanda (Madhya Bharata). His servant recorded how Sri Chaitanya, while walking on a jungle trail, lost in a mood of divine ecstasy and chanting the Holy Names, encountered tigers on the path. In great horror the servant watched as the Lord approached one of the tigers lying across the path and kicked the animal, commanding it to chant. Soon tigers, deer, and other animals joined in, dancing on their hind legs and chanting the Holy Names of God. In another incident a herd of crazed elephants was made to do the same by the Lord.

During His stay in Vrindavan, the Lord rediscovered many historical sites connected with the pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna who had appeared there some 5000 years prior to Sri Chaitanya’s visit. The Lord later instructed a group of His disciples to reestablish the worship of Sri Krishna in temples there.

Returning to Puri, the Lord traveled via the historical city, Varanasi, where He met and converted the great sannyasi of the mayavada school named Srila Prakashananda Saraswati. Prakasananda had 60,000 sannyasi disciples and was a great stalwart follower of Shankaracharya. Impressed with the Lord’s humility and astounded by the depth and beauty of His philosophical discourse and debate, Prakasananda and his disciples became followers of Sri Chaitanya.

Whenever the Lord traveled, He was often followed by tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people, and Varanasi was no different. Wherever He went, especially the Vishvanatha temple, thousands of pilgrims would follow Him. Some were attracted by His bodily features. Others were attracted by His melodious songs glorifying Lord Sri Krishna.
After this conversion of the sannyasis, the popularity of the Lord increased at Varanasi, and thousands of people assembled to see the Lord in person. The Lord thus established the primary importance of bhagavata dharma and He defeated all other systems of spiritual realization. After that, everyone at Varanasi was overwhelmed with the transcendental sankirtana movement.
The Lord then returned to Puri where He was to remain for the next eighteen years until His disappearance from this world. During this time He became immersed in a constantly deepening mode of spiritual ecstasy. He kept the company of a few intimate associates and His activities and words were recorded by His personal secretary.

During His life, Sri Chaitanya did not display many of the miracles which are generally expected from such personalities. There were incidents though where He cured lepers by His touch and performed other miraculous feats. One such example occurred in the house of Srivasa Thakura at Mayapur. While sankirtana was in full swing one day, He asked the devotees what they wanted to eat. When He was informed that they wanted to eat mangos, He asked for a seed of a mango although this fruit was out of season. When the seed was brought to Him, He sowed it in the yard of Srivasa, and at once a sapling began to grow out of the seed. The sapling almost immediately became a full-grown mango tree, heavy with more ripened fruits than the devotees could eat. The tree remained in Srivasa’s yard, and from then on the devotees used to take as many mangos from the tree as they wanted.

Also during His life, the Lord gathered about Him a number of extraordinary and highly scholarly disciples. Amongst them was the governor of Madras, Sri Ramananda Raya, and the Prime Minister and treasurer of the Bengal government under the regime of Nawab Hussain Shah. These highly learned men adopted a life of extreme renunciation in the service of their Lord. Ramananda Raya remained as a constant companion of the Lord in Puri while Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Sanatana Goswami resided in Vrindavan at the request of the Lord, heading a group which came to be known as the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. Under the direction of Sri Chaitanya, His followers have given the world the priceless gift of an enormous library of the topmost spiritual literature unmatched in the history of the world.

During the 48 years He spent in this world, Sri Chaitanya displayed an unparalleled intellect and was accepted as the greatest scholar of His time, yet He committed only eight verses to writing by His own hand. To the highly enlightened, these eight verses contain the most elevated and complete spiritual philosophy. They express the essence of all spiritual realization and the highest and most perfect condition of love of God.