According to the biography, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Nimäi appeared on the full moon night of February 18, 1486, at the time of a lunar eclipse. His parents named him 'Vishvambhar'. Sri Chaitanya was the second son of Jagannath Mishra and his wife Sachi Devi who lived in the town of Nabadwip in Nadia, West Bengal. Chaitanya's ancestry is a contentious issue between the people of Orissa and West Bengal with Shree Chaitanya having family roots in Jajpur, Orissa, from where his grandfather, Madhukar Mishra had emigrated to nearby Bengal.
In his youth, Chaitanya Mahäprabhu was primarily known as an erudite scholar, whose learning and skills in argumentation in his locality were second to none. A number of stories also exist telling of Chaitanya's apparent attraction to the chanting and singing of Krishna's names from a very young age, but largely this was perceived as being secondary to his interest in acquiring knowledge and studying Sanskrit. When traveling to Gaya to perform the shraddha ceremony for his departed father Chaitanya met his guru, the ascetic Ishvara Puri, from whom he received initiation with the Gopala Krishna mantra. This meeting was to mark a significant change in Mahäprabhu's outlook and upon his return to Bengal the local Vaishnavas, headed by Advaita Ächärya, were stunned at his external sudden 'change of heart' (from 'scholar' to 'devotee') and soon Chaitanya became the eminent leader of their Vaishnava group within Nadia.
After leaving Bengal and receiving entrance into the sannyasa order by Keshava Bharati, Chaitanya journeyed throughout the length and breadth of India for several years, chanting the divine Names of Krishna constantly. He spent the last 24 years of his life in Puri, Orissa, the great temple city of Jagannäth. The Suryavanshi Hindu emperor of Orissa, Gajapati Maharaja Prataparudra Dev, regarded the Lord as Krishna's incarnation and was an enthusiastic patron and devotee of Chaitanya's sankeertan party. It was during these years that Lord Chaitanya is believed by His followers to have sank deep into various Divine-Love (samādhi) and performed pastimes of divine ecstasy (bhakti).
According to beliefs of orthodox followers Caitanya Mahaprabhu united in himself two aspects: ecstatic devotee of Krishna and Krishna himself in inseparable union with Radha. According to the hagiographies of 16th c. authors he has exhibited his Universal Form identical to that of Krishna on a number of occasions, notably to Advaita Ācārya and Nityānanda Prabhu.
Chaitanya has left one written record in Sanskrit called Siksastakam.
Chaitanya's epistemological, theological and ontological teachings are summarized as ten roots or maxims dasa mula:
The statements of amnaya (scripture) are the chief proof. By these statements the following nine topics are taught.
Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth.
Krishna is endowed with all energies.
Krishna is the ocean of rasa (theology).
The jivas (individual souls) are all separated parts of the Lord.
In bound state the jivas are under the influence of matter, due to their tatastha nature.
In the liberated state the jivas are free from the influence of matter, due to their tatastha nature.
The jivas and the material world are both different from and identical to the Lord.
Pure devotion is the practice of the jivas.
Pure love of Krishna is the ultimate goal.
Krishna is the only lovable blessing to be received.
Despite having been initiated in the Madhvacharya tradition and taking sannyasa from Shankara's tradition, Chaitanya's philosophy is sometimes regarded as a tradition of his own within the Vaishnava framework - having some marked differences with the practices and the theology of other followers of Madhvacharya. He took Mantra Upadesa from (Isvara Puri) and Sanyasa Diksha from Kesava Bharathi. Both these gurus are of Sankarite order of Advaita.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is not known to have written anything himself except for a series of verses known as the Siksastaka, or "eight verses of instruction", which he had spoken, and were recorded by one of his close colleagues. The eight verses created by Mahaprabhu are considered to contain the complete philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in condensed form. Chaitanya requested a select few among his followers (who later came to be known as the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan) to systematically present the theology of bhakti he had taught to them in their own writings. The six saints and theologians were Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha dasa Goswami and Jiva Goswami, a nephew of brothers Rupa and Sanatana. These individuals were responsible for systematizing Gaudiya Vaishnava theology.