The Story of the Illiterate Brahmana
(Vintage painting of Krishna and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra)

Prabhupāda: I have narrated several times the story of a brāhmaṇa in South India. He was illiterate, and he was reading Bhagavad-gītā. So his friends, village friends, they knew that "This man is illiterate. How he can read Bhagavad-gītā?" So they were criticizing, "Hello, brāhmaṇa. How you are reading Bhagavad-gītā?" So he did not say anything, because he knew that "These friends are criticizing me because I am illiterate." He knows. So when Caitanya Mahāprabhu came there, Caitanya Mahāprabhu was attracted. He was illiterate, and he was reading Bhagavad-gītā, and Caitanya Mahāprabhu was attracted. Just see.

So Caitanya Mahāprabhu inquired, "My dear brāhmaṇa, what you are reading?" So he also could understand that "Here is a person who has not come to criticize me. He is serious." "Yes, sir, I am reading Bhagavad-gītā, but I am illiterate. I am illiterate." "Then what you are reading?" "No, I am simply turning the pages. I cannot read anything." "Then why you are reading if you cannot?" "No, my Guru Mahārāja ordered me. My Guru Mahārāja asked me that 'You shall read Bhagavad-gītā daily, eighteen chapters.' " Guru Mahārāja knew him that he is illiterate, but still ordered. This is called guru-mukha-padma-vākya, cittete koriyā aikya, ār nā koriho mane āśā. This is called firm faith in guru. Guru ordered him that "You read." Guru must know him, that he is illiterate. So what he will read? Why guru is ordering him? But because he had firm faith in guru, and he was trying to read, Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to see him. Just see how this line is important: guru-mukha-padma-vākya, cittete koriyā aikya, ār nā koriho mane āśā. Ār means anything more, you don't try to understand. Whatever your guru says, you just try to carry it out. So what is the next line? Guru-mukha-padma-vākya, cittete...

Devotee: Śrī-guru-caraṇe rati...

Prabhupāda: Śrī-guru-caraṇe rati, ei se uttama-gati. Don't try to make very good advance by manufacturing your own way. Simply, śrī-guru-caraṇe rati, ei se uttama-gati. That is first-class. That is Vedic instruction. Vede gāy jāṅhāra carito. The Vedas says,

    yasya deve parā bhaktir
    yathā deve tathā gurau
    tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
    prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
    (ŚU 6.23)

To understand Vedic literature means one must have firm faith in Kṛṣṇa and firm faith in guru. Not that "My guru is not so learned, so let me capture Kṛṣṇa directly." That is useless. That is useless. Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja (CC Madhya 19.151). One can get the seed of the plant or creeper of bhakti, how? Guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpā. By the mercy of guru and by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, not that kṛṣṇa-kṛpā. First guru-kṛpā, then kṛṣṇa-kṛpā.

So this brāhmaṇa attracted the attention of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He was illiterate, and he could not read even one word. What is the truth in it? The same thing: guru-mukha-padma-vākya, cittete koriyā aikya. He took guru's order very seriously, that "My Guru Mahārāja has ordered me, and I must carry out. Never mind I cannot read. Let me open the pages and see. That's all." So he was doing that.

So others criticized him that "This man is illiterate. What he is reading?" But Caitanya Mahāprabhu did not criticize. Caitanya Mahāprabhu inquired, "Oh, what you are reading, My dear brāhmaṇa?" So he explained, that "This gentleman has not come to criticize me." So Caitanya Mahāprabhu knew that "He is a perfect knower of Bhagavad-gītā." Still, He inquired, "Well, if you are not reading, then how you are crying? I see there are tears in your eyes. What is the meaning?" Then he admitted, "Yes, sir. Yes. That is." "Why you are crying?" "No, as soon as I take this Bhagavad-gītā in my hand a picture comes before me, that Arjuna is sitting on the chariot ordering Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is carrying out his order and driving the chariot. So that makes me amazed. Therefore I am crying, that 'How Kṛṣṇa is merciful, that He accepted a menial service for His devotee. He is so kind.' " Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately embraced him: "Yes, brāhmaṇa, your reading of Bhagavad-gītā is perfect."

(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, New York, March 6, 1975)
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