THE YUGAVATARA OF KALI-YUGA
by Gaur Sharan Das
The Gaudiya Vaisnavas worship Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as non-different from Sri Krsna who has appeared in this age of Kali to propagate the sankirtana movement. Some opine, based on the scriptures, that there is no incarnation of the Supreme Lord in the Age of Kali and that’s why He is referred to as ‘triyuga’. However, our scriptures including Srimad Bhagavatam establish that there is a yugavatara in Kali yuga and that He is Lord Caitanya.
IS THERE A YUGAVATARA IN KALI-YUGA?
Visnu-dharmottara Purana states, “The Supreme Lord Hari does not appear in a visibly manifest form in the Age of Kali. He appears only in the three ages Satya, Treta and Dvapara and so He is called Tri-yuga. But at the end of the Kali Age, Lord Vasudeva reestablishes order in the world by causing the appearance of Kalki, the proponent of Absolute truth.” The same argument is echoed by Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya in Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 6.95 (kali-yuge avatara nahi,—sastra-jnana). Even Prahlada Maharaja calls the Lord as ‘triyugi’ in one of his prayers in Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.38 (tri yugo atha sa tvam). Based on such scriptural statements, some contend that Lord Visnu does not appear as a yugavatara in Kali-yuga, the most corrupt age, when even lesser demigods avoid visiting the earth.
However, any truth about an incarnation of the Lord should be verified by bona fide scriptures as explained by the saintly persons coming in bona fide Vaisnava sampradayas. In the Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.19, King Nimi asked Yogendra Karabhajana Muni about the Supreme Lord's yugavataras or His special incarnations who appear once in each age to teach the human society the particular method of spiritual development appropriate for that age. Karabhajana Muni then explains the characteristics of the yugavataras of Satya, Treta and Dvapara ages. He then states with conformity that even in Kali-yuga, the irreligious age, people worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead by following various regulations of the revealed scriptures (11.5.31). Srila Jiva Gosvami, in his Sarva-samvadini commentary states: Visnu-dharmottara’s denial of a yugavatara in Kali-yuga may apply to other Kali-yugas but not to the present one. This Kali-yuga is special because Krsna, the Supreme Lord personally appears in Dvapara- yuga which occurs only once in a day of Lord Brahma.
WHO IS THE YUGAVATARA OF KALI-YUGA?
Karabhajana Muni describes the identity of the yugavatara of the Age of Kali as follows:
yajanti hi su-medhasah
In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions. (SB 11.5.32)
Several acaryas explain how this verse refers to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sridhara Swami, the original commentator of Srimad Bhagavatam reads ‘tvisakrsnam’ in this verses as ‘tvisa + krsnam’ (having a blackish complexion) instead of ‘tvisa + akrsnam’ (having a nonblackish complexion), which too is grammatically valid. Based on this reading, he identifies the avatara being described as Lord Sri Krsna, making Him the yugavatara for both Dvapara and Kali yugas. Srila Jiva Gosvami reconciles this in his Krama-sandarbha commentary that Lord Krsna also appears with a golden complexion.
Srila Jiva Gosvami, in his Sarva-samvadini, explains the phrase ‘krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam’ as follows: Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, yet His complexion (tvisa) is akrsnam, not dark but golden. Krsna-varnam means “containing the syllables krs-na.” Alternatively, Lord Caitanya always describes (varnayati) the glories of Sri Krsna. Each avatara of Visnu should be identifiable by His special bodily features and ornaments (angas and upangas), His personal weapons (astras), and His associates (parsadas).
Jiva Gosvami further explains that we are living in the 28th Kali-yuga of the 7th manvantara of the day of Brahma called sveta-varaha- kalpa. Only once in each day of Brahma meaning once every 8,640,000,000 years does the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna descend to the earth in His original form. This rare descent of Lord Krsna did in fact occur during our present cycle of ages, just before Kali-yuga began 5,000 years ago. Krsna is not just another avatara but is the ultimate source of all avataras of God. When He appears, His unlimited potency overrules the general pattern and He comes again in Kali-yuga. Thus Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who displayed His pastimes in Bengal and elsewhere some 500 years ago, is Krsna Himself, not an avatara of Krsna exhibiting only some of the Supreme Lord’s potencies. Lord Caitanya coincidentally accepts the role of yugavatara, but to regard Him as that and nothing more would be an underestimation of His greatness.
The Gaudiya Vaisnavas’ realization that Lord Sri Krsna and Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu are one and that Lord Caitanya is the deliverer of Kali-yuga easily reconciles with Sridhara Svami’s explanation that Sri Krsna Himself is the yugavatara for both the Dvapara and Kali ages.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhasana remarks that Lord Krsna became akrsna, or golden, when His own dark complexion was covered by the effulgence (tvisa) of His beloved consort, Srimati Radharani. This comment hints at the more confidential purpose Lord Krsna had in appearing as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, namely, that He assumed the mood and complexion of own pleasure potency to experience for Himself the love that only She knows and has. Lord Caitanya appears with His main limbs (angas) as Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acarya, His ornaments (upangas) are the principal followers like Srivasa Thakura. In this appearance, He does not does not directly kill demons, but with His weapons (astras) of the holy names of God, He kills the demonic spirit lurking in every heart in Kali-yuga; and He has His regular associates (parsadas) such as Gadadhara Pandita and His servant Govinda. Thus the Eleventh canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) verifies that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the yugavatara for the current age as explained by various acaryas.
WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE EXISTS?
Evidence from Srimad Bhagavatam: Garga Muni says during the name-giving ceremony of Krsna:
asan varnas trayo hy asya
grnato ‘nu yugam tanuh
suklo raktas tatha pita
idanim krsnatam gatah
“Your son Krsna appeared previously in three different colors, assuming His forms according to each age. He has been white, red and yellow, and now He is dark blue” (SB 10.8.13).
The white incarnation was Lord Hamsa, the yugavatara for Satya-yuga; the red incarnation was Lord Yajna, the yugavatara for Treta-yuga; and dark-blue Krsna appeared in Dvapara- yuga. By a simple process of elimination, the yellow yugavatara must appear in Kali-yuga. He is Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Golden Avatara.
Prahlada Maharaja also refers to Lord Caitanya in SB 7.9.38, channah kalau yad abhavas tri yugo’tha sa tvam: “O Lord, Your incarnation in Kali-yuga is hidden, or confidential, and therefore you are called Tri-yuga.” Here the word channa (covered) also signifies that Lord Caitanya is Lord Krsna covered by the mood and complexion of Srimati Radharani. Sridhara Swami explains that the Lord usually engage in protecting the devotees and killing the demons, but not in Kali-yuga, for at that time He is covered.
The Naradiya Purana (5.47) mentions that the Supreme Lord foretold about His appearance as a devotee: aham eva kalau vipra nityam pracchanna vigrah-ah bhagavad bhakta -rupen- a lokan raksami sarvada – “Concealing My real identity, I appear in Kali-yuga in the garb of a devotee and always protect My devotees.”
Vishnu-Sahasra-nama from Mahabharata
The incarnation of Caitanya Mahaprabhu is also described in the Sri Visnu-sahasra- nama of Mahabharata.
sannyasa-krc chamah santo
“In His early pastimes He appears as a householder with a golden complexion. His limbs are beautiful, and His body, smeared with the pulp of sandalwood, seems like molten gold. In His later pastimes He accepts the sannyāsa order, and He is equipoised and peaceful. He is the highest abode of peace and devotion, for He silences the impersonalist nondevotees.” [11.5.32 P]
Caitanya Upanisad in Atharva Veda
Lord Brahma says: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead Govinda will appear again in the Kali age as the greatest devotee, in a two-armed form of golden complexion in His abode of Goloka Vrndavana manifested on the bank of the Ganges at Navadvipa. He will
disseminate pure devotional service in the world.” [Text 5]
Thus we understand the identity of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from Srimad Bhagavatam and various other scriptures and the explanations of the Vaisnava acaryas. The Supreme Lord Krsna appears as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in this Age of Kali to propagate the yuga-dharma of spreading the holy names of God.