The Essence of Caitanya Caritamrita
Wherever Caitanya Mahaprabhu goes, He meets various oppositions: persons with different ideas, philosophies, and theologies. One way or another, He prevails over them—sometimes just with His charm and at other times, with His words. But in the case of Prakasananda, it is a combination of both. It is His effulgence that initially attracts Prakasananda Sarasvati, and then, His sublime, simple and straightforward interpretation of the Brahma-sutra or, as Srila Prabhupada usually refers to it, the Vedanta-sutra. It has been described by Krishna Das Kaviraja in an extremely simple condensed sort of way, not what would be called rigorous philosophical analysis (by scholarly standards), but quite simple and to the point. It is just enough for his audience, namely Bengalis in Bengal, to understand what is the difference between the Mayavadi and the Vaisnava.
Mayavadis, or the followers of Sankaracarya, argue a kind of absolute monism, that ultimate reality is one and only one, and that all that we experience including our own individuality in this world is ultimately an illusion.
This illusion, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is arguing vigorously and philosophically against in order to affirm a basic principle of bhakti: we are real, Krishna is real, and the process of serving Krishna with whatever we have is real. And because we are real individuals, and because Krishna is real, and because the process of serving Krishna with whatever we have is real, we can establish a real relationship with the Lord, which is eternal.
That is really what the whole Caitanya Caritamrita is about, theologically and philosophically.
—From the overview of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, part 3/5 by Krishna Kshetra Swami in Cologne, Germany, on May 18, 2023
True and False Pride
In the Bhagavatam are so many narratives about how the Lord teaches us humility, and how He addresses the tendency that we all have toward pride. Pride is a problem. Pride covers us more than anything else in terms of our emotions. What is pride? It is the sense that I have accomplished something and that I am pretty good at it, but I am not so sure that I can do again what I think I have done myself. It is one way of understanding pride. Krishna is concerned when He sees his devotees being unnecessarily proud.
We can further understand the term ‘pride’ in two ways. Pride in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Often Srila Prabhupada would speak about ‘false pride’. And speaking of false pride means that there is also real pride. What would real pride be? I would give one example of what I would call real pride, which I personally witnessed in seeing Srila Prabhupada.
In September 1977 Srila Prabhupada made a surprise visit to Bhaktivedanta Manor in London. It was only two months prior to his departure from this world. It was a surprise visit because we, devotees around the world, knew that Prabhupada was in Vrindavana and that his health was very much compromised; that is why we were very much surprised that he came. Those of us who were in Europe immediately went to London to see Srila Prabhupada.
This was during the time of Janmashtami, and of course the next day we celebrated Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja. We felt extremely fortunate to be present there, and Prabhupada personally attended this celebration despite his very diminished physical condition. And here is the point: as Srila Prabhupada sat there and we all faced him, Tamal Krishna Maharaja stood next to Srila Prabhupada and faced all of us and proceeded to tell the story of Srila Prabhupada’s life. He told the whole story of his life from his childhood up to the present time.
Tamal Krishna Maharaja occasionally looked over to Srila Prabhupada and checked whether what he was saying was accurate, and Prabhupada looked back and nodded. And that nodding of Prabhupada was simultaneously the nod of approval, “Yes you are describing accurately my life”, and (what I could see) at the same time it was the nod of approval of his own, Srila Prabhupada’s life. He was nodding, and by that saying in a way, “Yes, I did it! I accomplished my purpose in this life. I have followed the order of my spiritual master. I have been successful in preaching Krishna consciousness!” I saw that Prabhupada was proud of himself, not falsely, but truly. He had a good reason to be proud. It was an authentic pride.
It is said that authentic pride is pride in the instruction of the spiritual master and in one's ability to follow that instruction. That is a good, healthy pride. We have an expression in English of a ‘healthy fear’. It is good to have a healthy fear of God. But we might rather say, “No, we don't want to fear God, we prefer to fear maya, His external energy, which can turn us into monsters, which we don't want; therefore, we maintain a healthy fear of her.” We can also develop a healthy pride in following the instructions of Vaisnavas in Krishna’s direction, in our spiritual master’s guidance. We may feel some pride in that. The danger is to fall into false pride, which happens when we look for recognition from anyone other than Krishna. Srila Raghunath Das Gosvami helps us to avoid this danger in the 7th verse of his Manah Siksa. The Sanskrit is very sweet:
pratisthasa dhrsta svapaca-ramani me hrdi natet katham sadhu-prema sprsati sucir etan nanu manah sada tvam sevasva prabhu-dayita-samantam atulam yatha tam niskasya tvaritam iha tam vesayati sah
As long as the impudent untouchable woman of the desire for fame dances in my heart, why should the pure Lady of Love for Radha-Krsna touch me? Therefore, o mind, continuously serve the incomparable beloved devotee commander of Krishna’s army, who will quickly kick out that outcaste and establish that chaste Lady of Love in the heart (MS 7).
So, what is the solution? The solution is to always serve the incomparable beloved devotee commander of Krishna’s army. Who might that be? There is no name mentioned here in Manah Siksa. I would argue that it is the spiritual master, the person entrusted by Krishna to guide us.
When Srila Prabhupada was with us, many of us felt that he was like the general of an army, and we were happy to be his foot soldiers. What then do we do? We remove the prostitute of pride from our hearts and establish there the lady of Love. Who is that lady? It can be the love for sadhus. It can be the love that sadhus give us because it is what sadhus are supposed to be doing. The word sadhu can simply mean ‘good’. When somebody is doing well, then in Italian they say, “Bravo! Bravo!”, and in Sanskrit and in Hindi they say, “Sadhu! Sadhu! He is good! He is very good!” Why? Because sadhus are giving us love. And so, there is the third meaning of sadhu prema: the love for Krishna, that sadhu helps us manifest in our heart. That is the opportunity that Raghunath Das Goswami is offering us. He teaches us to address our mind, “My dear mind, please be my friend instead of being my enemy; be my friend by turning to His devotees, these commanders of Krishna’s army.”
—From the lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami on SB 1.17.23, March 12, 2023 in ISKCON Chowpatty, Mumbai, India