In the teachings of Karabhajan Rsi we find mention of the different incarnations for different ages (Yuga-avatars). In Dvapar-yuga, the Yuga-avatar is mentioned as follows:
dvapare bhagavan syamah pita-vasa nijayudhah
srivatsadibhir ankais cha laksanair upalaksitah
«In Dvapar-yuga, Lord Krishna appears with the colour of a dark rain cloud, wearing lightning-coloured garments. He is decorated with beautiful ornaments, His chest bears the mark of Srivatsa, and He carries His own weapons.»
After the description of the Yuga-avatar of Dvapar-yuga, Karabhajan Rsi mentions the Kali-yuga-avatar:
iti dvapara urv-isa stuvanti jagad-isvaram
nana-tantra-vidhanena kalav api tatha srnu
He says, «O King, up to Dvapar-yuga, I have finished describing the incarnations for different ages who come to remind the people of the most appropriate duty for Their age. They come and tell us, ‘If you do this, you will get the greatest benefit.’ O King, after the Dvapar Age is finished, the Age of Kali comes. The incarnation for the Age of Kali has been mentioned in many places in the scriptures, and now I am just going to explain that information to you.»
Then he says:
krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah
In a suppressed way, this verse explains the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The ordinary meaning of Krsna-varnam is «of a black colour». But tvisakrsnam means «His lustre is not black.» «Accompanied by His associates, He is worshipped by the process of sankirtan, the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna, and those of sharp intellect will perform this kind of worship.»
Jiva Goswami explains the meaning of this verse in his own parallel verse:
antah krsnam bahir gauram darsitangadi-vaibhavam
kalau sankirtanadyaih sma krsna-chaitanyam asritah
«I take shelter of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is outwardly of a golden complexion, but is inwardly Krishna Himself. In this Age of Kali, He displays His expansions while performing congregational chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna. That He is blackish within means that internally He is Krishna; that He is golden without means that He has accepted the mood of Srimati Radharani. In the Age of Kali, that golden Lord is seen accompanied by His expansions, associates, and intimate devotees performing sankirtan.»
Someone may argue that the meaning of Krsna-varnam is that His colour is black and His lustre is also black. But how is this possible? That would be redundant. The conjunction between the words tvisa and akrsnam mean that His colour is Krishna, black, but His lustre is aKrishna: not black. Then, someone might say, «Not black does not necessarily mean golden. Why should it mean golden?» The answer is found in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Once Vasudev sent the astrologer-priest Garga Rsi to Vrndavan to perform the name-giving ceremony for Krishna. At that time, Garga Rsi came to the house of Nanda Maharaj and explained that Vasudev had sent him. He said, «Your child is now a little grown up and the name-giving ceremony must be performed.» At that time, he spoke the following verse:
asan varnas trayo hy asya grhnato ’nuyugam tanuh
suklo raktas tatha pita idanim krsnatam gatah
«In past incarnations, this boy has appeared with different complexions: white, red, and gold, according to the particular age in which He appeared. Now He has assumed this blackish colour.»
He said, «Krishna comes in a white colour in Satya-yuga, red in Treta-yuga, and He also comes with a golden complexion. Now in this Dvapar-yuga He has come in a black colour.» So the reference to the golden colour (pita) is found here, because only that colour has been left for this present age of Kali. There is another reference to this golden colour in the Upanisads: «Yada pasyah pasyate rukma-varnam: Krishna, the Supreme Brahma, appears in a golden form.» Rukma-varnam means golden. And here also, non-black means golden.
Krishna wanted to come as the incarnation for this Age of Kali, as well as to fulfil His promise in Vrndavan: « I shall chant the glory of the gopis, especially of Radharani. I shall chant Her Name, Her glory, and roll in the dust of the earth!» But Radharani said, «I won’t allow Your body to roll in the dust of this earth. I shall cover You with My lustre.» Both the mood as well as the lustre of Radharani capture Krishna when He comes here in Kali-yuga. And this does not occur in all Kali-yugas, but only in a special Kali-yuga.
In all the days of Brahma, in every yuga, the Yuga-avatar comes, but Krishna appears only once in a day of Brahma, or once every 4.3 billion years. At that time, the original personality of Godhead (Svayam Bhagavan) appears along with His abodes, Vrndavan and Nabadwip. And Krishna and Mahaprabhu do not come here alone, but They come with Their paraphernalia and suitable companions.
And in this Age of Kali, He performs a double function: He preaches Nam-sankirtan, and more importantly, He assumes the mood of Radharani to taste His own sweetness, rasa. He is rasa Himself. Krishna thinks, «What is the intensity of the finest rasa in Me? I would like to taste that.» But only devotees can taste that, so He took the position of Radharani to taste Himself as Krishna, the central, final, and perfect abode of rasa. Only Radharani can taste the maximum rasa, so He has to take Her nature, Her mood, and temperament to taste His own intrinsic ecstasy. For that reason He descended. His first duty was to spread Nam-sankirtan, and the secondary, internal, private duty was to perform svabhajan-vibhajan, to taste His own intrinsic ecstasy in the mood of Radharani. In Puri, with Ramananda Ray, Svarup Damodar, and other intimate associates, He tasted that great ocean of union in separation continuously for twelve years. In His last twelve years, He passed His time only in the process of tasting that mellow.
That incarnation is generally worshipped by sankirtan. Without sankirtan, Gauranga and His paraphernalia cannot be worshipped. He is the propounder of sankirtan, He loves sankirtan, and He gets satisfaction only by sankirtan. Only those who have sufficient merit (sukrtivan) will worship Him by this process. The common mob cannot join this campaign. Those who have good guidance internally, good fortune, can catch the very gist of truth and engage in this process of Nam-sankirtan.
A rubbish brain cannot detect what is right or wrong, or how precious this is. He cannot understand or follow this higher line of thought. A man should be judged by his ideal, his aspiration for higher things. If the ideal is great, the man is great. What should be the highest ideal? Love. Love is the supreme thing. It is the most rare and precious thing. Divine love and beauty is the highest thing ever known to the world, and those who can catch this are really possessed of good intellect (sumedhasah). And one who possesses this highest ideal should be considered a man of higher order. He alone can understand and practise sankirtan. He alone can take to this path, this process of satisfying the Supreme Being by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord.
This is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as in the Mahabharata and other Vedic scriptures. Karabhajan Rsi, the last of the nine great yogis, has given us a clue to understand Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the special incarnation for the age. He has mentioned the incarnation for this Age of Kali in a mystic way. We may think, why has this not been described very plainly? So many Avatars are clearly described, but when Srimad Bhagavatam describes Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the incarnation for the Age of Kali, it is discussed in a mystic way. The answer is found in the teachings of Prahlad Maharaj, who says, «O Lord, one of Your names is Triyuga, meaning one who incarnates in three ages — Satya, Treta, and Dvapar — but not in Kali. And why? Because the incarnation for the Age of Kali is in disguise (chhannah kalau yad abhavas Triyugo ’tha Sa Tvam).» Here we find the key to this mystic way of representing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the fortunate and intelligent circle (sumedhasah), that ordinary people may not have any clue.
dhyeyam sada paribhava-ghnam abhista-doham
tirthaspadam siva-virinchi-nutam saranyam
bhrtyarti-ham pranata-pala bhavabdhi-potam
vande maha-purusa te charanaravindam
«O Mahaprabhu, Your lotus feet are the highest object of meditation, for they not only destroy the pain of material existence, but they bestow the greatest fulfilment to all souls who take shelter beneath them. Your lotus feet even purify all saintly persons and holy places. Lord Siva and Lord Brahma aspire to take shelter beneath Your lotus feet. O Mahaprabhu, You give shelter to all who simply bow down before You. You relieve all the miseries of Your surrendered servants. In the grand ship of Your lotus feet, we can cross over this ocean of material miseries. O Mahaprabhu, I bow down before Your lotus feet.»
After mentioning the incarnation of Godhead for the Age of Kali, Srimad Bhagavatam suddenly begins this song in praise of that great Yuga-avatar, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. With a grand voice the Bhagavatam has come to sing the praise of that guide for Kali-yuga. This follows the verse which hints at the Avatar of Kali-yuga. Krsna-varnam means one who is always describing Krishna, who always has on his lips the words «Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.» Another meaning of this expression is «One who is Krishna Himself, but whose lustre is not black.» If we look deeply, we shall find that hidden beneath His golden lustre is the blackish body of Krishna. With His own paraphernalia He has come to this plane, and service to Him is performed only by sankirtan, divine sound in mass prayer. By that symptom we can recognise His divine position.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a hidden incarnation; He comes in disguise. Such an Avatar is worshipped by the divinely intellectual. In this way, the Srimad Bhagavatam first describes that uncommon, extraordinary personality, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in a mystic way and then proclaims His nobility and greatness.
The Srimad Bhagavatam explains, «That same personality who came as Ramachandra and Krishna has again appeared. He has come to direct you to the real fulfilment of life. He is drawing the sweetest nectar from above for the sake of everyone. Only meditate on Him and all your troubles will be finished. He is the agent purifying all the holy places of pilgrimage and saintly persons by His touch, by His sankirtan, by His drawing the highest things down from the highest plane. And even Brahma and Siva, puzzled by His noble gift, will begin to praise Him. They will eagerly aspire to take shelter under His lotus feet in surrender. The pains of all who come to serve Him will be removed, and their inner necessities will be fulfilled. And He will take care of those who take shelter of Him; they will be given protection as well as everything they may need. In this world where mortality rules, where we are continually experiencing the undesirable changes of repeated birth and death, in this area where no one wants to live, a great ship will come for us and take us within and carry us away from this unpleasant position. Let us fall at the feet of that great personality who comes to give the highest nectar.»
The Srimad Bhagavatam continues:
dharmistha arya-vachasa yad agad aranyam
maya-mrgam dayitayepsitam anvadhavad
vande maha-purusa te charanaravindam
«O Supreme Lord, You gave up the Goddess of fortune and Her great opulence, which is most difficult to abandon, and is sought after even by the gods. In order to perfectly establish the principles of religion, You left for the forest to honour the brahman’s curse. To deliver the sinful souls who chase illusory pleasures, You search after them and award them Your devotional service. At the same time, You are engaged in search of Yourself, in search for Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful.»
Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has given his explanation that although it seems that this verse applies to Lord Ramachandra, who left His kingdom and went with Sita Devi to the forest to discharge the duties designed by His father, this also applies to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has drawn out the internal meaning of this verse and applied it in the case of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Tyaktva sudustyaja-surepsita-rajya-laksmim means He left imperial prosperity which is hard to abandon. Generally we find this in the case of Lord Ramachandra, but Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur says that surepsita-rajya-laksmim means the valuable devotional company of Visnu Priya Devi. That may not appear to be a materially big thing, but the dedication that Visnu Priya has shown in Her heart for Sriman Mahaprabhu is greater than any imperial standard. And He had to leave that behind. Such a standard of sacrifice and service is never found even among the great society of the gods. For the sake of the public welfare, He had to ignore the serving, loving attitude of Visnu Priya.
This verse mentions the curse of a brahman. That brahman told Sriman Mahaprabhu, «I want to participate in Your nocturnal kirtans in which You taste Krishna-lila, but the doors are closed.» When Sriman Mahaprabhu used to perform kirtan and taste the Vraja-lila of Krishna, He did so behind closed doors in deep night. But this brahman thought himself a very qualified, religious person because he lived by only drinking milk and nothing else, so he said, «I must have entrance into that kirtan. I do not eat anything but milk; why should I not be allowed?» Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, «Milk drinking is no qualification for entering into Krishna consciousness.» The brahman said, «Then I curse You to lose Your family life!» «All right», Mahaprabhu said and accepted the curse. And later He took sannyas and chased after those who were misguided by Maya Devi in order to save them. At the same time, although He is Krishna, He accepted the mood of Srimati Radharani. For these two reasons, He left His apparently worldly life: He acted for the welfare of the public and, after finishing that work, spent the next twelve years tasting the very inner aspiration of Srimati Radharani and searching after His own inner sweetness. This was what He came to show to the world. In this mystic way, Srimad Bhagavatam has proclaimed the magnanimous appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.