In the teachings of Karabhajana Rsi we find mention of the different incarnations for different ages (yugavataras). In Dvapara-yuga, the yugavatara is mentioned as follows:
dvapare bhagavan syamah
srivatsadibhir ankais ca
In Dvapara-yuga, Lord Krsna appears with the color of a dark rain cloud, wearing lightning-colored 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 yugavatara of Dvapara-yuga, Karabhajana Rsi mentions the kali-yugavatara:
iti dvapara urv-isa
kalav api tatha srnu
He says, "0 King, up to Dvapara-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 Dvapara 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." (S.B. 11.5.31)
Then he says:
yajnaih sankirtana prayair
yajanti hi su-medhasah
In a suppressed way, this verse explains the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The ordinary meaning of krsna-varnam is "of a black color." But tvisakrsnam means "His luster is not black." Accompanied by His associates, He is worshiped by the process of sankirtana, the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, and those of sharp intellect will perform this kind of worship.
Golden Gift of the Golden Lord
Jiva Goswami explains the meaning of this verse in his own parallel verse:
antah krsnam bahir gauram
kalau ankirtanadyai sma
"I take shelter of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is outwardly of a golden complexion, but is inwardly Krsna Himself. In this age of Kali, He displays His expansions while performing congregational chanting of the holy name of Krsna. That He is blackish within means that internally He is Krsna; 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 sankirtana."
Someone may argue that the meaning of krsna-varnam is that His color is black and His luster is also black. But how is this possible? That would be redundant. The conjunction between the words tvisa and akrsnam mean that His color is krsna, black, but His luster is akrsna: 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, Vasudeva sent the astrologer-priest Garga Rsi to Vrndavana to perform the name-giving ceremony for Krsna. At that time, Garga Rsi came to the house of Nanda Maharaja and explained that Vasudeva 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 vamas 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 color."
He said, "Krsna comes in a white color in Satya-yuga, red in Treta-yuga, and He also comes with a golden complexion. Now in this Dvapara-yuga He has come in a black color." So the reference to the golden color (pita) is found here, because only that color has been left for this present age of Kali. There is another reference to this golden color in the Upanisads: yada pasya pasyate rukma varnam: "Krsna, the Supreme Brahman, appears in a golden form." Rukma varnam means golden. And here also, non-black means golden.
Krsna wanted to come as the incarnation for this age of Kali, as well as to fulfill His promise in Vrndavana: "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, "\ won't allow Your body to roll in the dust of this earth. I shall cover You with My luster." Both the mood as well as the luster of Radharani capture Krsna 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 yugavatara comes, but Krsna 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, Vrndavana and Navadwipa. And Krsna and Mahaprabhu do not come here alone, but They come with Their paraphernalia and suitable companions.
Sweetness Tasting Itself
And in this age of Kali, He performs a double function: He preaches nama-sankirtana, and more important. He assumes the mood of Radharani to taste His own sweetness, rasa. He is rasa Himself. Krsna 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 Krsna, 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 nama-sankirtana, and the secondary, internal, private duty was to perform bhajana-vibhajan, to taste His own intrinsic ecstasy in the mood of Radharani. In Puri, with Ramananda Raya, Svarupa Damodara, 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 worshiped by sankirtana. Without sankirtana, Gauranga and His paraphernalia cannot be worshiped. He is the propounder of sankirtana, He loves sankirtana, and He gets satisfaction only by sankirtana. Only those who have sufficient merit (sukrti-van), 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 nama-sankirtana.
Love is Supreme
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 (su-medhasah). And one who possesses this highest ideal should be considered to be a man of higher order. He alone can understand and practice sankirtana. He alone can take to this path, this process of satisfying the Supreme Being by chanting the holy name of the Lord.
The Hidden Incarnation
This is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, as well as in the Mahdbharata and other Vedic scriptures. Karabha-jana Rsi, the last of the nine great yogis, has given us a clue to understand Sri Caitanya 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 avatdras are clearly described, but when Srimad-Bhagavatam describes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the incarnation for the age of Kali, it is discussed in a mystic way. The answer is found in the teachings of Prahlada Maharaja, who says, "0 Lord, one of Your names is Triyuga, meaning one who incarnates in three ages—Satya, Treta, and Dvapara—but not in Kali. And why? Because the incarnation for the age of Kali is in disguise (channah kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo 'tha sa tvam)."
Here we find the key to this mystic way of representing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to the fortunate and intelligent circle (su-med-hasah), that ordinary people may not have any clue.
dhyeyam sada paribhava-ghnam abhista-doham
tirthaspadam siva-virinci-nutam saranyam
bhrtyarti-ham pranata-pala bhavabdhi-potam
vande maha-purusa te caranaravindam
"0 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 fulfillment 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. 0 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. 0 Mahaprabhu, I bow down before Your lotus feet."
After mentioning the incarnation of Godhead for the age of Kali, Srimad-Bhdgavatam suddenly begins this song in praise of that great yugavatara, Sri Krsna Caitanya 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 avatara of Kali-yuga. Krsna-varnam means one who is always describing Krsna, who always has on his lips the words "Krsna, Krsna, Krsna." Another meaning of this expression is "One who is Krsna Himself, but whose luster is not black." If we look deeply, we shall find that hidden beneath His golden luster is the blackish body of Krsna. With His own paraphernalia He has come to this plane, and service to Him is performed only by sankirtana, divine sound in mass prayer. By that symptom we can recognize His divine position.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a hidden incarnation; He comes in disguise. Such an avatara is worshiped by the divinely intellectual. In this way, the Srimad-Bhagavatam first describes that uncommon, extraordinary personality, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in a mystic way and then proclaims His nobility and His greatness.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains, "That same personality who came as Ramacandra and Krsna has again appeared. He has come to direct you to the real fulfillment 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 great saintly persons by His touch, by His sankirtana, 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 dea th, 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-vacasa yad agad aranyam
maya-mrgam dayitayepsitam anvadhavad
vande maha-purusa te caranaravindam
"0 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 honor the brahmana's curse. To deliver the sinful souls who chase illusory pleasures. You search after them and award them Your devotional service. At the same rime. You are engaged in search of Yourself, in search for Sri Krsna: reality the beautiful."
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has given his explanation that although it seems that this verse applies to Lord Ramacandra, who left His kingdom and went with Sitadevi to the forest to discharge the duties designed by His father, this also applies to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has drawn out the internal meaning of this verse and applied it in the case of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Tyakva su-dustyaja-surepsita-raj ya-laksmim means He left imperial prosperity which is hard to abandon. Generally we find this in the case ot Lord Ramacandra, but Visvanatha Cakravarh Thakura says that surepsita-rajya-laksmim means the valuable devotional company of Visnupriya-devi. That may not appear to be a materially big thing, but the dedication that Visnupriya 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 Visnupriya.
Swami B.R. Shridhara Maharaja
Read more about Sri Caitanya and His teachings of spiritual love.