Sri Chaitanyadeva

“I offer my prayers to the abode of divine love Sri Gaurasundar, the embodiment of complete, self-manifest, dynamic ecstasy. Ecstatic by experience of Himself, He dances, chants, and distributes Himself. Replete with this unparalleled characteristic, He is the Supreme Absolute Truth.”
(Sri Sri Prema-dhama-deva-stotram)

With roots in the ancient Veda going back over 5,000 years, the modern day Krishna consciousness movement was inaugurated by Sri Chaitanya (also known as Gaurasundar, Gauranga, and Mahaprabhu), who appeared around 500 years ago in West Bengal, India. Known to some as a saint, and others as a social revolutionary, members of the Krishna consciousness movement recognise him as a descent of the original divinity, Krishna himself, under the influence of his divine feminine potency, Sri Radha. With a great spirit of magnanimity, Sri Chaitanya travelled widely throughout India, spreading the practice of kirtan, sacred chanting, and disregarding the social caste system of India, embracing all under the banner of divine love.

While the Vedas widely discuss the subjects of dharma (duty, or piety), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation) as the four ends of human existence, Chaitanyadeva pointed out a fifth end of life also discussed in the Veda, which represents the ultimate need of every soul, even in and beyond the liberated state: prema, divine love. Prema is inherent to every soul, and through devotional practice our impurities will fade away and that inner wealth will gradually manifest.

Of special note is a short composition known as Siksastakam, which Sri Chaitanya personally penned, expounding upon the nature and glories of kirtan:

cheto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-chandrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam
(Sri Chaitanyadeva, Siksastakam, Verse 1)

“The Holy Name of Krishna cleanses the mirror of the heart and extinguishes the fire of misery in the forest of birth and death. As the evening lotus blooms in the moon’s cooling rays the heart begins to blossom in the nectar of the Name. And at last the soul awakens to its real inner treasure — a life of love with Krishna. Again and again tasting nectar the soul dives and surfaces in the ever-increasing ocean of ecstatic joy. All phases of the self of which we may conceive are fully satisfied and purified and at last conquered by the all-auspicious influence of the Holy Name of Krishna.”