Mahaprabhu’s intellectual prowess was equally astounding. As a young twelve year old boy, he defeated in debate, the visiting world champion scholar Keshav Kashmiri. When he arrived at Navadwip, the citizens felt jittery because their reputation was at stake. During those days Navadwip was like modern day Oxford, vastly reputed for higher learning. Students from all over South and East Asia came to Navadwip to learn from the scholars residing there. Yet, Keshav Kashmiri who carried with him a victory certificate, which his defeated opponents had to sign, was threatening to crush this reputation to dust. Leading scholars fled the city in the pretext of some distant family wedding or citing health reasons; they didn’t dare to face Keshav Kashmiri. The Lord who had not even reached his teens then, smashed the scholar’s pride to powder. He did this sensitively, in a private meeting, although the usual practice then was to hold these debates in a stadium.
During the discussion Keshav Kashmiri rattled off hundred verses glorifying river Ganga, which he had spontaneously composed right on the spot. Yet the Lord coolly humbled him by recalling all the verses, and even pointing out technical flaws in the Sanskrit verses. The scholar was left speechless; he went blank as he clumsily tried to reorganize his thoughts. However, since the humiliation was in private, the scholar’s reputation was left unharmed. He was smashed, yet he felt sheltered. He immediately gave up his debating profession, and became a sincere devotee of Krishna. He eventually went on to become a principal teacher of spiritual practices in the Kumara tradition of Bhakti yoga.
A few years later Lord Chaitanya took the city of Varanasi by storm when he convinced the renowned sannyasi, monk, Prakashnanda Saraswati about the importance of chanting Hare Krishna. When Mahaprabhu was challenged why he didn’t study the Vedanta scriptures, his humble demeanor and clear explanations left Prakashananda and his sixty thousand followers stunned in ecstasy. They then abandoned their dry philosophical speculations and joined in an explosive kirtan, chanting and dancing to the holy names of God.
To be continued…