Five Acts Of Kindness In The Meeting With Keshava Kashmiri

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]“The word ‘bhavani’ means ‘the wife of Lord Shiva.’ But when we mention her husband, one might conclude that she has another husband.” (Lord Chaitanya speaking to Keshava Kashmiri, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 16.63)

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भवानी-शब्दे कहे महादेवेर गृहिणी
ताङ्र भर्ता कहिले द्वितीय भर्ता जानि

bhavānī-śabde kahe mahādevera gṛhiṇī
tāṅra bhartā kahile dvitīya bhartā jāni

1. Agreeing to meet

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden avatara, was known as Nimai Pandita in the early part of His transcendental pastimes. His lila on this earth is immortalized through great literary works such as Chaitanya Bhagavata and Chaitanya Charitamrita.

As He is known to be the most munificent avatara due to freely giving away devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is no surprise that Mahaprabhu’s life sketch is filled with wonderful incidents, beautiful interactions, and exemplary acts for setting the standard of proper etiquette and decorum in saintly persons.

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

Nimai Pandita was a teacher of Sanskrit. A visiting scholar by the name of Keshava Kashmiri wanted to impress the locals with his wisdom. He was known to travel around and defeat the local learned men through civil discussion and exchange of poetical composition.

Mahaprabhu was kind enough to meet with Keshava Kashmiri. This is an act of mercy, since there was nothing to be gained on that side. It is not that Nimai Pandita was seeking further knowledge. He was not travelling around in search of debate and argument.

2. Listening attentively

Not only was there a meeting, but Mahaprabhu listened attentively. Showing grace, kindness, and humility, He allowed the visiting scholar to flex his literary muscles, so to speak.

“Show me what you have. You are so elevated. Please enlighten us as to the ways of higher thinking. Exhibit the beauty of the Sanskrit language, highlighting the grammatical tools necessary for proper enhancement of the presentation.”

3. Memorizing the one hundred verses

Keshava Kashmiri was legitimate. His resume was not falsified or fraudulent. He had indeed been travelling to different places and defeating other scholars. He was certainly an expert in the Sanskrit language.

To prove his worth, the scholar composed one hundred verses in praise of Ganga Devi. Just like that. Without having to rummage through several draft versions, in a single attempt the scholar spoke what he thought to be perfect Sanskrit.

Mahaprabhu retained the verses in memory. After hearing only a single time, He could recite back to the source. Like a tape recorder, but in human form. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains this to be shruti-dhara. It is someone who has taken control over subject matter through hearing.

4. Inviting discussion

We can just imagine how flattered the scholar must have been. Here was this kind local, who was ready and willing to listen. The exchange was not limited to formality. Nimai Pandita would listen attentively. He would memorize the composition of the poet.

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]To extend further kindness, Nimai Pandita invited discussion. Let the verses serve as a vehicle for discussion. This was scholarly interaction, after all. What scholar doesn’t welcome discussion, especially if it pertains to their own compositions?

5. Glorifying Parvati Devi

Nimai Pandita wanted an honest discussion. It has been the system since before anyone can remember that an accused party has their day in court. Someone is not guilty by accusation alone. Otherwise, anyone could say anything and get their way.

A corrupt government could eliminate their opposition by making false accusations. There would be no way to prove anything, since the other side would be banned from speaking. They would be cancelled everywhere. Their content would be censored.

Mahaprabhu wanted to discuss both the merits and faults to the presentation. This was essentially the turning point to the meeting. Up until then, the visiting scholar felt praised and honored. His ego was only swelling, especially after a total stranger was now memorizing his poetry.

Keshava Kashmiri could not accept that there were any faults to the verses. If Nimai Pandita wanted to highlight the glories of the Sanskrit words, that is fine. But what faults could there be? How insulting. Who is this person to think they are on an equal level, wherein they can properly assess what is good and what is bad with respect to Sanskrit?

After a little persuading, Nimai Pandita finally agreed to share his honest assessment. He highlighted the flaw in using the words “bhavani bharta” together. The literal translation would be, “The husband of the wife of Lord Shiva.”

[Parvati and family]Mahaprabhu was actually praising the daughter of the mountain king. He was highlighting the well-known truth that Parvati has only one husband. Though it was in her destiny, she essentially earned the right to marry Mahadeva, who is also known as Girisha.

The two Sanskrit words used together imply that Parvati might have another husband. This is a great insult to that goddess. Therefore, the composition is faulty. If presented in the mood of devotion, there is no issue, but Keshava Kashmiri was particularly set on highlighting his brilliance in communicating in the Sanskrit language.

The one who had been defeating so many others had now been defeated. Brought down to earth by a local, who wasn’t looking for a fight. Nimai Pandita was not desperate to make a name for himself by taking down someone so prominent. Rather, the meeting was a merciful display of affection to bring someone out of the clutches of false ego and into the devotional way, where the blessings of Sarasvati Devi would be put to the proper use.

In Closing:

Blessings from Sarasvati to flow,
But now in proper direction to go.

Since by Nimai Pandita shown,
Scholar as humbled known.

Defeated by his own sound,
Memorized just once profound.

Parvati with only one husband to live,
Her hand to lord of mountain to give.

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