Pessimistic Optimists

Manidhara Das
18 May 2021

Those devotees walking with Srila Prabhupada during one of His morning walks laughed heartily, when Srila Prabhupada commented on their presentation of those, who love to look into this world with great optimism.

Srila Prabhupada quoted a saying „happily be hanged“ and continued to tell a story He personally witnessed, the story  of a man who in his rage mercilessly killed his servant and was consequently sentenced to be hanged. Just prior to the execution his lawyer promised him, „don't worry, be happy, I will appeal and will get you out of this“. He didn't, and the man was „happily hanged“.

A truly graphic example for all those who always propagate the policy of „positive thinking“, „positive energy“, and „loving attitude" accompanied by „empathetic listening“...without specifying what the result of such lofty ideas should actually be.


Srila Prabhupada had more of these „love and peace“ discouraging stories to tell.
He told the tale of a young man who was a son of the most loving mother. As a matter of fact his mother loved him so much that pleasing him became the ultimate goal of her life.There was nothing what she didn't try to do to make her son happy. Her love for him seemed to be endless. The result was, that the son became a spoiled arrogant youngster who got into bad company, associating with a gang of criminals. Being more and more involved with criminal activities, he was finally caught and sentenced to be hanged.

His last wish was to see his mother. As he stood with the rope already around his neck, he asked his mother to come closer and whisper his last wish into her ear. Devastated and crying, his mother came close to embrace the son she loved so much. To everybody's shock, with his hand tied behind his back, he sunk his teeth into her ear and bit it off. Bleeding, the mother cried in horror and  asked him why he did it. „Because of you and your 'love', neglecting  to give me the right education and restrict me from what was to come, I am now standing here facing my death,“ was his answer.
 A really ghastly, but most instructive story indeed.


Sastra, the scriptures, issue a clear verdict when it comes to the nature of the world we are born into, starting with the fact that whoever is born has to die.
And so, happy or not, we are all waiting for the day the death verdict will be executed, issued at the point of our birth . Meanwhile, we can get the taste of disease, and those who are lucky can still see their bodies growing old and invalid.

A sinister scenario, often described in great detail by staunch existentialists?
No, it is simple reality.


Surely, there are many in this world who are professionally depressed, such as the mentioned existentialists, and make a career out of it. They are always ready to spread their depressions amongst their even more depressing followers.

Many devotees prior joining Krsna Consciousness belonged to the flock of those operating on the verge of suicide, or at least those who were fond of the most sinister scenarios in regard to the world they lived in.

After all, Srila Prabhupada said that one first has to be absolutely pessimistic about the possibility to enjoy this world before one can wholeheartedly embrace the Krsna conscious alternative.


For a while, like those experiencing the euphoria of  the sixties, a group hypnosis took place spreading the blind belief into „flower power“ and „all you need is love“ doctrines, which failed in a miserable way while being destroyed by drug consumption and illicit sex. (It is remarkable how many of the prominent love and brotherhood  preachers - Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lennon, just to mention a few, got shot, with their dreams being shattered to pieces. Even Arjuna wanted „love and peace“, but Krsna explained to him in a scientific way the impossibility of such scenario in this world.)

And  so hippies turned either into lunatics or yuppies, money making and career seeking businessmen of various kinds.
The love and peace revolution became brutally commercialized as their proponents turned into full-fledged materialists. Finally flower power was replaced by money power.


In the midst of confusion Srila Prabhupada appeared on the scene and brought the ultimate alternative. “We expect the worst and hope for the best,“ was His policy.

There is no happy end to Mahabharata, there is no happy end to Bhagavad Gita, and there is no happy end to Ramayana in terms of „living forever happy thereafter“ in this world.

The books Srila Prabhupada brought contain both most graphic description of the hopelessness of enjoyment in this world and the most detailed description of the transcendental happiness to be achieved by dint of devotional service to the Supreme Lord wherever we are.

With Srila Prabhupada, this world turns into the spiritual world. After all, the root of depression is to see things disconnected from Krsna.

With the eyes of the scriptures, with the eyes of Srila Prabhupada, the walking Bhagavata, suddenly we can see how amazing Krsna's creation is, even when looking around with our present eyes.
We can see the Lord in both features, in His universal form as well as in His original feature in the spiritual world.
We can see the genius of His creation even while being temporarily manifested in this world while we can experience it eternally in the spiritual world.
The more we see Krsna everywhere, the more we become true optimists. The more we forget the Supreme Lord, depression sets in and sadness arrives.


The synthesis of absolute optimism in a spiritual sense and absolute negativism in material sense is unknown to those who don't carry the mercy of a pure devotee.
Without seeing the world through Srila Prabhupada's eyes, we get stuck with the dualities of bhoga, expectation of sensual pleasure, and tyaga, the negation of such frustrated hope. With Srila Prabhupada's vision we can be lifted above these dualities and become „ecstatically negative“ about the concept of becoming happy residents of this world while understanding both, its nature and the nature of its spiritual substance.

The simple, for everybody reachable process, is to hear from a pure devotee, to hear from Srila Prabhupada. As much He may sound challenging and disappointing to those, who expect happiness in this world forever, in the same way He is invigorating and most inspiring to those who see the reality of both natures, the spiritual one and the material one.

Following Him, not imitating Him, we GRADUALLY learn how to see everything connected to Krsna.

Simply by hearing from Srila Prabhupada we become ecstatic pessimists and the ultimate, spiritually minded optimists simultaneously.