(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada)
"Suppose I am very much advanced in spiritual knowledge, but I should not be very much proud of it. Generally, in this age people want false, I mean to say, designation, that 'I am very religious,' 'I know everything,' 'I am God.' So many things. These are false pride. So actual knowledge is that 'I am smaller than the straw in the street.' That is the instruction of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that tṛṇād api sahiṣṇunā (Śikṣāṣṭaka 3): one should be tolerant. One should be humbler than the straw in the street. Sunīcena. One should think himself as smaller than the grass on the street. And tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā: and one should be tolerant like the tree. Amāninā, without claiming any respect from others. Amāninā mānadena, but one should give all respect to others. Mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ. In that stage one can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa very nicely. Of course, it is very difficult, but Kṛṣṇa will help us.
Now, this tṛṇād api sunīcena, one may think, 'Oh, it is artificial to think that I am smaller than the grass in the street.' But actually, it is not artificial. It is actually the fact. Why? From the Padma Purāṇa, Vedic literature, we understand that the form of the soul is one ten-thousandth part of the upper portion of the hair. Now how much small we are, just we can imagine only. There is no instrument to divide the upper portion of the hair into ten thousand parts. And just to take one part as the magnitude of the soul, that is not...
Actually, we are very small. That small particle of soul is within the ant and is within the elephant. It is a bodily expansion only that we are..., we appear..., the elephant appears to be the biggest animal, and the ant or the germ appears to be the smallest. But actually, these are bodily expansion. The soul as it is is really smaller than the grass or straw on the street.
So Vedic aphorism says that ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Ahaṁ brahmāsmi. So ahaṁ brahmāsmi sometimes mistakenly is understood that 'I am the Supreme God.' Ahaṁ brahmāsmi means 'I am Brahman.' Brahman means spirit. 'I am spirit soul.' This conception, this identification, is right. This is the right identification. As soon as I think that 'I am elephant' or 'I am ant,' that is not my identification. That is my misidentification.
My real identification is that 'I am neither ant nor elephant, but I am spirit soul.' But sometimes by identifying myself with the spirit soul, sometimes I falsely claim that 'I am the supreme soul.' Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that tṛṇād api sunīcena: 'You are soul, you are spirit soul, but you are smaller than the smallest straw in the street.' So actually, there is no miscalculation. The conclusion is there.
So adambhitvam dharmikatva-khyāti-phalaka-dharmācaraṇa. Khyāti. We should not be very much anxious about being famous. Not, 'Oh, there is a great man who knows everything about spirit and who is perfect.' No. We should be very sincere to understand things as they are. We should not falsely claim which I am not."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Montreal, October 25, 1968)