Gaudiya Vaishnavas, a sect that includes the popular organization ISKCON, believe that their founder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an incarnation of Vishnu. In this article from ISKCON's publication Back to Godhead Magazine, a number of quotes are provided which purport to show that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birth is prophesied in Hindu scripture. Here is one of them:

In the middle of that lotus-city is a place called Mayapur, and in the middle of Mayapur is a place called Antardvipa. That place is the home of Lord Caitanya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Chandogya Upanisad

The quote is from the first verse of the Eighth Prapathaka of the Chandogya Upanishad. Here it is:

atha yadidamasminbrahmapure daharaṃ puṇḍarīkaṃ veśma daharo'sminnantarākāśastasminyadantastadanveṣṭavyaṃ tadvāva vijijñāsitavyamiti ||

There is this city of Brahman (the body), and in it the palace, the small lotus (of the heart), and in it that small ether. Now what exists within that small ether, that is to be sought for, that is to be understood.

And here is the entire Khanda the verse is taken from, to give more context:

  1. Harih, Om. There is this city of Brahman (the body), and in it the palace, the small lotus (of the heart), and in it that small ether. Now what exists within that small ether, that is to be sought for, that is to be understood.

  2. And if they should say to him: 'Now with regard to that city of Brahman, and the palace in it, i. e. the small lotus of the heart, and the small ether within the heart, what is there within it that deserves to be sought for, or that is to be understood?'

  3. Then he should say: 'As large as this ether (all space) is, so large is that ether within the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained within it, both fire and air, both sun and moon, both lightning and stars; and whatever there is of him (the Self) here in the world, and whatever is not (i. e. whatever has been or will be), all that is contained within it.'

  4. And if they should say to him: 'If everything that exists is contained in that city of Brahman, all beings and all desires (whatever can be imagined or desired), then what is left of it, when old age reaches it and scatters it, or when it falls to pieces?'

  5. Then he should say: 'By the old age of the body, that (the ether, or Brahman within it) does not age; by the death of the body, that (the ether, or Brahman within it) is not killed. That (the Brahman) is the true Brahma-city (not the body 1). In it all desires are contained. It is the Self, free from sin, free from old age, from death and grief, from hunger and thirst, which desires nothing but what it ought to desire, and imagines nothing but what it ought to imagine. Now as here on earth people follow as they are commanded, and depend on the object which they are attached to, be it a country or a piece of land,

  6. 'And as here on earth, whatever has been acquired by exertion, perishes, so perishes whatever is acquired for the next world by sacrifices and other good actions performed on earth. Those who depart from hence without having discovered the Self and those true desires, for them there is no freedom in all the worlds. But those who depart from hence, after having discovered the Self and those true desires, for them there is freedom in all the worlds.

I could understand how if you just looked at the first verse in isolation, it might be possible to interpret it as referring to an actual physical location, like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace of Mayapur. But it seems like given the context of the other verses, the Chandogya Upanishad is clearly referring to the body and the soul, not to a literal city, and it's referring to Brahman, not to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

So my question is, how do Gaudiya Vaishnavas interpret the rest of the verses in this Khanda? Do they think they all refer to some literal physical location? Are there any Gaudiya Vaishnava commentaries on the Chandogya Upanishad that could shed light on this?

  • 5
    Man...this is everywhere. For them, 'Mohammad', 'Jesus', 'Buddha', 'Barak obama' 'Julia Roberts' etc. all of whom they wanna give a prehistoric connection, is "made" to have been mentioned in Hindu scriptures. I am with you man. Lets see what the "Dasa"-people have to say about this little "sherlocking" of yours. :)
    – Hindu
    Dec 8, 2014 at 14:38
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Dec 9, 2014 at 3:09
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    @Creator Nothing important. The user Hindu for some reason doesn't like people calling themselves Dasas or servants of Vishnu, because he believes in Advaita and thus thinks we are the same as Vishnu. Mar 10, 2015 at 19:16
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    An interesting interpretation. I am a believer that Chaitanya was an incarnation of the Godhead, but alas, the Upanishads are about the Eternal One and and the relation of the soul to the Eternal One, they make no references to any incarnations, nor to future events. Jul 16, 2015 at 6:45
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    I rely on my lineage of teachers which goes to Ramakrishna/Vivekananda. They both emphatically said He was. Jul 16, 2015 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


I've come to the conclusion that the Chandogya Upanishad is definitely not referring to the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, even from a Gaudiya Vaishnava perspective. Let me explain.

The defining text of the Vedanta school of philosophy, which Gaudiya Vaishnavas and the vast majority of Hindus in general belong to, is the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa which summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, as I discuss in this question. Now the Brahma Sutras refer to lines from a lot of different Upanishads, and one of them is the Chandogya Upanishad. Here is what the Brahma Sutras say about the Chandogya Upanishad quote we're interested in:

  1. The small space (dahara akasa) is Brahman, on account of the subsequent reasons.

  2. From the facts of going and the use of the word (Brahma-loka), (it follows that the small Space is Brahman); likewise it is seen in other Upanishads and an indicatory mark is also present.

  3. And owing to the fact of holding (the worlds) in place, (the small Space must be God); for this glory is noticed (in other texts) as pertaining to Him.

  4. And because of familiar use.

  5. If it be argued that the other one (viz., the individual soul) should be the small Space, since it is alluded to (at the end), then not so, for that is impossible.

  6. If it be argued that the small Space is the individual soul, because of the subsequent reference to it (in the same chapter), then we say: rather it is spoken of there in its own revealed nature.

  7. Moreover, the reference (to the individual soul in the complementary passage) is meant for a different purpose.

  8. If it be argued that from the Upanishadic mention of smallness, (the small space must be the individual being), then this has been repudiated earlier.

Vyasa seems to be clearly saying that the Chandogya Upanishad passage is about Brahman, not about some physical location. But we don't need to rely on my interpretation of Vyasa's words.

The Govinda Bhashya by Baladeva Vidyabhushana is the standard Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on the Brahma Sutras, and here is what is says about Sutra 14 above:

The small sky here is Lord Vishnu. Why? The sutra says uttarebhyah, which means "because of the description given in the remainder of the text." The descriptions used here to describe the small sky, such as "as great as the sky," "maintaining everything," and "free from all sin," cannot be used to describe either the element sky or the jiva soul. The "great city" described in this Upanishad is the body of the devotee. The "lotus" is the heart in the body. The "palace" is the abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word "small sky" is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who should be meditated upon and sought after, and who possesses a host of transcendental qualities, including being always free of all sin. The passage should be interpreted in this way. Therefore the small sky here is Lord Vishnu.

So even Gaudiya Vaishnavas, the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, say that the city refers to the body of the devotee, the lotus is the heart, etc. I'm not sure why the ISKCON publication said otherwise.

  • So it is all just empty space?? The immortal, transcendental being in just empty space (which is as material as any other material in this universe). my mind doesn’t buy this.
    – Yogi
    Mar 10, 2015 at 13:23
  • @Creator No, space here doesn't mean actual space like the element of nature. The word space is just being used as a metaphor for Brahman, just as lotus is being used as a metaphor for the heart and city is being used as a metaphor for the body. Mar 10, 2015 at 13:42
  • So it can be considered as diwya(supreme) sukshma(subtle) tattva(ether) which has a Sat-chit-anand nature?
    – Yogi
    Mar 10, 2015 at 13:50
  • @Creator See Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on the Brahma Sutras and Ramanujacharya's commentary, here and here respectively, for detailed arguments as to why the word space cannot denote the element of nature. Mar 10, 2015 at 13:50
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    @Creator Well, Akasha is genuinely the Sanskrit word for space, so it's not a translation issue. The issue is that space is being a metaphor for Brahman, because just as space is infinite, so too is Brahman. And just as space contains the earth and stars within it, so too does Brahman contain the earth and stars within it. In fact this is all stated in verse 3 of that Chandogya Upanishad chapter. Mar 10, 2015 at 18:56

You are discussing a wrong verse. We refer to Chandogya 8.1.2 tan-madhye daharam saksat mayapuramitiryate tatra vesma bhagavatas caitanyasya paratmanah tasmin yas tv 'antarakaso hy antar-dvipah sa ucyate

  • It has neither been not mentioned in Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata or Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, nor by any of the famous six Goswamis who were greatest scholars. So they were unaware of the Chhandogya Upanishad?
    – user17294
    Jan 20, 2019 at 4:43
  • @Partha Have you read Srila Jiva Goswami's sat sandarbhas? I am sure he would have mentioned it. Feb 28, 2019 at 22:16
  • veda.krishna.com/encyclopedia/caitanya.htm This verse is the commentary of Srila BVT on the Chandogya Upanishad verse. Feb 28, 2019 at 22:23
  • @sidharthchhabra thanks. but i have no interest in bvt commentary
    – user17294
    Mar 1, 2019 at 3:51

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