Now, after His tenth year, Caitanya became a passable scholar in grammar, rhetoric, the smṛti and nyāya. It was after this that His elder brother Viśvarūpa left His house and accepted the āśrama (status) of a sannyāsī (ascetic). Caitanya, though a very young boy, consoled His parents, saying that He would serve them with a view to please God. Just after that, His father left this world. His mother was exceedingly sorry, and Mahāprabhu, with His usual contented appearance, consoled His widowed mother.
It was at the age of fourteen or fifteen that Mahāprabhu was married to Lakṣmīdevī, the daughter of Vallabhācārya, also of Nadia. He was at this age considered one of the best scholars of Nadia, the renowned seat of nyāya philosophy and Sanskrit learning. Not to speak of the smārta paṇḍitas, the Naiyāyikas were all afraid of confronting Him in literary discussions. Being a married man, He went to Eastern Bengal on the banks of the Padma for acquirement of wealth. There He displayed His learning and obtained a good sum of money.
It was at this time that He preached Vaiṣṇavism at intervals. After teaching Tapana Miśra the principles of Vaiṣṇavism, He ordered him to go to Benares and live there. During His residence in East Bengal, His wife Lakṣmīdevī left this world from the effects of snakebite. On returning home, He found His mother in a mourning state. He consoled her with a lecture on the uncertainty of human affairs. It was at His mother's request that He married Viṣṇupriyā, the daughter of Rāja Paṇḍita Sanātana Miśra. His comrades joined Him on His return from pravāsa, or sojourn.
He was now so renowned that He was considered to be the best paṇḍita in Nadia. Keśava Miśra of Kashmir, who had called himself the Great Digvijayī (world conqueror), came to Nadia with a view to debate the paṇḍitas of that place. Afraid of the so-called conquering paṇḍita, the tola professors of Nadia left their town on the pretense of invitation. Keśava met Mahāprabhu at the Barokona-ghāṭā in Māyāpur, and after a very short discussion with Him he was defeated by the boy, and mortification obliged him to decamp. Nimāi Paṇḍita was now the most important paṇḍita of His times.
It was at the age of sixteen or seventeen that He traveled to Gayā with a host of His students and there took His spiritual initiation from Īśvara Purī, a Vaiṣṇava sannyāsī and a disciple of the renowned Mādhavendra Purī. Upon His return to Nadia, Nimāi Paṇḍita turned religious preacher, and His religious nature became so strongly represented that Advaita Prabhu, Śrīvāsa and others who had before the birth of Caitanya already accepted the Vaiṣṇava faith were astonished at the change in the young man. He was then no more a contending naiyāyika, a wrangling smārta and a criticizing rhetorician. He swooned at the name of Kṛṣṇa and behaved as an inspired man under the influence of His religious sentiment. It has been described by Murāri Gupta, an eyewitness, that He showed His heavenly powers in the house of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita in the presence of hundreds of His followers, who were mostly well-read scholars.
It was at this time that He opened a nocturnal school of kīrtana in the compound of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita with His sincere followers. There He preached, there He sang, there He danced, and there He expressed all sorts of religious feelings. At that time He was joined by Nityānanda Prabhu, who was then a preacher of Vaiṣṇavism and who had completed His travels all over India. In fact, a host of paṇḍita preachers of Vaiṣṇavism, all sincere at heart, came and joined Him from different parts of Bengal. Nadia now became the regular seat of a host of Vaiṣṇava ācāryas whose mission it was to spiritualize mankind with the highest influence of the Vaiṣṇava creed.
The first mandate that He issued to Prabhu Nityānanda and Haridāsa was this: "Go, friends, go through the streets of the town, meet every man at his door and ask him to sing the name of Hari with a holy life, and then come and report to Me every evening the result of your preaching." Thus ordered, the two preachers went out and met Jagāi and Mādhāi, two most abominable characters. These two insulted the preachers on hearing Mahāprabhu's mandate, but were soon converted by the influence of bhakti (devotion) inculcated by their Lord.
The people of Nadia were now surprised. They said, "Nimāi Paṇḍita is not only a gigantic genius, but He is certainly a missionary from God Almighty." From this time to His twenty-third year, Mahāprabhu preached His principles not only in Nadia but in all the important towns and villages around His city. In the houses of His followers He showed miracles, taught the esoteric principles of bhakti and sang His saṅkīrtana with other bhaktas. His followers in the town of Nadia commenced to sing the holy name of Hari in the streets and bazaars. This created a sensation and roused different feelings in different quarters. The bhaktas were highly pleased. The smārta brāhmaṇas became jealous of Nimāi Paṇḍita's success and complained to Chand Kazi against the character of Caitanya, claiming it was un-Hindu. The Kazi came to Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita's house and broke a mṛdaṅga (khola drum) there and declared that unless Nimāi Paṇḍita ceased to make noise about His queer religion he would be obliged to enforce Mohammedanism on Him and His followers.
This was brought to Mahāprabhu's notice. He ordered the townspeople to appear in the evening, each with a torch in his hand. This they did, and Nimāi marched out with His saṅkīrtana divided into fourteen groups. On His arrival in the Kazi's house, He held a long conversation with the Kazi and in the end communicated into his heart His Vaiṣṇava influence by touching his body. The Kazi then wept and admitted that he had felt a keen spiritual influence which had cleared up his doubts and produced in him a religious sentiment which gave him the highest ecstasy. The Kazi then joined the saṅkīrtana party. The world was astonished at the spiritual power of the Great Lord, and hundreds and hundreds of heretics converted and joined the banner of Viśvambhara after this affair.
It was after this that some of the jealous and low-minded brāhmaṇas of Kulia picked a quarrel with Mahāprabhu and collected a party to oppose Him. Nimāi Paṇḍita was naturally a soft-hearted person, though strong in His principles. He declared that party feelings and sectarianism were the two great enemies of progress, and He saw that as long as He should continue to be an inhabitant of Nadia belonging to a certain family, His mission would not meet with complete success. He then resolved to be a citizen of the world by cutting His connection with His particular family, caste and creed, and with this resolution He embraced the position of a sannyāsī at Katwa, under the guidance of Keśava Bhāratī of that town, in the twenty-fourth year of His life. His mother and wife wept bitterly for His separation, but our hero, though soft in heart, was a strong person in principle. He left His little world in His house for the unlimited spiritual world of Kṛṣṇa with man in general.
After His sannyāsa, He was induced to visit the house of Advaita Prabhu in Śāntipura. Advaita managed to invite all His friends and admirers from Nadia and brought Śacīdevī to see her son. Both pleasure and pain invaded her heart when she saw her son in the attire of a sannyāsī. As a sannyāsī, Kṛṣṇa Caitanya put on nothing but a kaupīna and a bahirvāsa (outer covering). His head was without hair, and His hands bore a daṇḍa (stick) and a kamaṇḍalu (hermit's waterpot).
The holy son fell at the feet of His beloved mother and said, "Mother! This body is yours, and I must obey your orders. Permit Me to go to Vṛndāvana for My spiritual attainments." The mother, in consultation with Advaita and others, asked her son to reside in Purī (the town of Jagannātha) so that she might obtain news of Him now and then. Mahāprabhu agreed to that proposition and in a few days left Śāntipura for Orissa.