Purpose of education: Reviving our spiritual identity

By Jaganmohini Devi Dasi - 17.10 2022

HH Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami regularly emphasized, purpose of education is to educate the students about the meaning and purpose of life – the very first tenets of spirituality. To facilitate this synthetic approach of spirituality within education Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami conceived annual conference to be organized every year in different holy cities of India called “All India students conference on science and spiritual quest”(AISSQ).

What follows below is the evening class Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami gave for the gurukul students on Dec. 5th 2005 at Gurukul Vrndavan on the eve of inaugural(first) AISSQ conference(Dec. 6th) at Sri Vrndavan Dham.

Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami: I am very glad to be here, this evening, to speak few words about education. When Prabhupada was on this planet, I was so much involved in the field of education so, in 1972, I traveled to meet Prabhupada at New Vrindavan, United States. At that time I was in the middle of my Ph.D, Srila Prabhupada asked me whether I could write a book and ordered me to accompany him to the Eastern Part of United States. So, I took leave of absence for about 20 days. So I followed Srila Prabhupada. It was around the month of September, August-September, and the Janmashtami festival was happening in New Vrindavan. There was a very nice program and when we came back from New Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada stopped at Dallas to see the students, Gurukul Students. There, Srila Prabhupada was teaching how to write Sanskrit alphabet. You can see this in Back to Godhead. So that was the time that Srila Prabhupada was so much in a (…indistinct) how to educate our children who were born in a Krishna Conscious family as well as children who were interested in learning the devotional art, science and culture. Srila Prabhupada developed a plan for the students to undergo a system of education. In 1976, Srila Prabhupada founded this primary education or lower education. At that time BI was also already formed in 1974. When I came to Vrindavan Srila Prabhupada had founded the primary or lower education school called the Gurukul. Srila Prabhupada made Jagdish Prabhu as the Minister of Lower Education and I was made the Minister of higher Education in 1976 in the GBC.

Srila Prabhupada felt that in our movement the ISKCON, people should not think that we are only chanting on the streets. At that time our main preaching work was chanting at the roadside, in the crowded places, in the Hollywood boulevard in the night. In the early 70’s our main work was to go to Hollywood Boulevard, after the Sandhya Arati and we chanted. In America in the Hollywood boulevard there are more people in the night than in the daytime. They are the night people. So we used to go there chanting at about 8-9 O’clock and come back sometimes at 3-4 O’clock in the morning. We used to find lot of people in the street. They don’t sleep in the night (…laughs). Thus this chanting was very important part of out mission. But Srila Prabhupada felt that as our movement was growing and growing, that people should not see that we were chanting only on the street. He wanted to see that in our Krishna Consciousness movement, there were also many scholars, many educated pandits, and scholars. Therefore Srila Prabhupada founded the Bhaktivendanta Institute for higher education and Gurukul for lower education and studies. This was very well planned by Srila Prabhupada. This Gurukul in Vrindavan it became the main focus in Srila Prabhupada’s time and he wanted to make this Gurukul very very prestigious. He also said that the BI should be also part of the system that is; it should be together in Vrindavan. Then it will be very prestigious. So he made certain plans. This side(pointing towards his right side inside the room) was supposed to be the Bhaktivedanta Institute auditorium and I held a conference here in 1977. The first Gurukul president was Dr. Sharma, from Agra. He was a retired person and he was heading this Gurukul in Srila Prabhupada’s time. We had lots of discussion with Dr. Sharma, and Srila Prabhupada and myself in Srila Prabhupada’s room, many times. Srila Prabhupada’s plan was to have a school here and the children should be coming from the very intelligent class of people–very dedicated and very exemplary students, and also, devotionally very dedicated-something that we can be proud of, where the students were most obedient and very very gentle, all good qualities. This Gurukul in Vrindavan was planned like that. The children of the cream of the society should gather here and live together. Those students coming from children of other parents-the best children should come here –to Vrindavan Gurukul – that was Srila Prabhupada’s plan. He hoped that this Vrindavan school will be such an exemplary and in different parts of the world this could be transplanted and be a wonderful example of how the children could be taught, how they should be dealt and guided to become world leaders in many fields of knowledge and also exemplary when they were growing up, they will have to become wonderful vaishnavas and vaishnavis. Srila Prabhupada had a wonderful plan. Therefore Vrindavan gurukul is a very important part of SP’s mission that is the Krishna Consciousness mission. So you(to gurukul boys) are all very fortunate to have come here and associate and get lots of SP’ blessings. In this way SP will be very pleased and the whole mission will be very proud of your accomplishments and be good examples to the whole world. So I consider that you are all very familiar with this philosophy.
You see today, that the entire planet is injected by materialism, hard materialism. Materialism means people who don’t believe in God. People who are against God – majority of them are in this planet. Therefore it is increasingly very important. Now you can see all these troubles here – terrorism, bomb blasts, it is the man made problems. They are man-made because they are made out of anger. Recently we have seen natural disasters like the recent earthquake in northern India and Pakistan and the deep tragedy of the Tsunami. This is beyond science or beyond our ability to comprehend. Therefore about natural as well as man-made disasters-if we consider, if we are a little thoughtful, we can see what the reason is. Reason is very clear that the people are not cultivating the most important knowledge – the most important knowledge is the science of the self and science of God.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that the science of the God or the science of the self –to understand the distinction between the matter and the spirit, life and the matter…Krishna says that this is the highest knowledge and then the science of devotional practice. Krishna says that such knowledge is called raja-vidya raja-guhyam … the kind of education. – Not simple education. It is confidential-guhyam. Why is it confidential? – Confidential here means that it is the most important, most precious. It is very precious. Raja vidya raja guhyam pavitram idam uttamam- such knowledge is pavitram. It is most pure and uttamam that is the highest. But this knowledge is not practiced. So since we are all forgetting with all these political and social factors, in simple language it is called reductionism. That is the science and philosophy of reductionism. Reductionism means in scientific language- people try to explain everything in terms of atoms and molecules. The matter – atoms and molecules are the fundamental particles- is called reduction. In other words complete materialism. Because of that we are not cultivating the highest and the most wonderful culture of the specialty of the human form. Because of this we see natural disaster, man made disasters. All these things are encountered. But there is a solution. What is the solution/ the solution is to revive this science of Krishna consciousness. To revive and spread it for the welfare of humanity. It is called paro upakar…….
I will have to tell you that today science education- people are taking it as very important. Scientific civilization, or scientific knowledge or scientific education, people are becoming engineers, doctors, telecommunication engineers, IT’s. It is important–the material education. But unless those fields of knowledge are applied in the understanding of higher or deeper dimension of knowledge it becomes a total material waste. In other words if one is not able to understand what the most important duty of the life is, it becomes useless.

Therefore Bhagavatam says Dharma Samthutaha. ……Srama hi eva kevalam. If the activities that the human beings perform do not lead to revive our spiritual interests, to understand what the ultimate meaning of life is, what is the ultimate goal of life? What is the purpose of knowledge?, the higher spiritual dimension, then it will be regarded as simply a waste of time. Srama hi eva kevalam. Therefore this not understood by common people.

In the gurukul you are very young and it is very important part of your life’s journey. Bhagavad Gita says that we are all eternal living beings, mamaivamse jiva loke jiva buta sanatanah. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, that we are all eternal living beings therefore the difference between living beings and dead matter is that life is always active. Even when the body is lying on the bed, talks are going on, you go out of the body, dreaming sometimes, you play, climb mountains, fly in the sky, so you are all active. Although the devotee is lying just like a dead body on the bed, he is active, which is natural. This is the difference between life and death and life is always active but the matter is dead. This is one of the distinctions between dead matter and spirit.
The most important knowledge that is the distinction between life and soul is not known in modern science. And the crux of this misunderstanding of this knowledge is called (does any body know?….pause..) the missing point between what is life and what is matter? What is the theory called? That theory is called Darwin’s evolution. That is because Darwin lived in America and right now they are fighting-every day there is court case. Somebody called me from Calcutta just now that it was in the newspaper today-a big article about 3-4 pages called Intelligent Design Theory and Darwin. Fighting between Intelligent Design people and Darwin people in America. They are fighting because they do not know What is life and What is matter. Darwin’s evolution says that everything is coming out of matter.

Prabhupada said that this was rascaldom. Darwin didn’t know what is distinction between matter and spirit. Poor Darwin. When Darwin was a child, his father was a priest, so young Darwin enjoyed going to church and he was a choirboy. And he used to like reading Shakespeare and the poems by Keats, Byron, some of the well-known British poets. But when he finished writing the evolution theory, he became completely intoxicated, by the material talks and lost all the taste. No longer he had any taste in reading poems, and became a total materialist. So this is why he was lamenting in his later days. And in his autobiography he says that it was a great loss to his intellect, he recognized that at the end of his life, but nonetheless his theory is creating such powerful insights in the minds of modern man, especially in the western world. In India although it is not so strong, sometimes our people are also becoming influenced by the west. Because the west is so strong in this conception, and therefore the influence is strong. Majority of the old scientists accept Darwin’s theory but the people who don’t accept are Hare Krishna devotees.

Therefore Prabhupada says Life comes from Life. Have you seen the book Life Comes from Life? It is the conversation with Srila Prabhupada. Life Comes from Life is a very powerful title, which means that the life is a part of the supreme life. We are called Jivatmas. Do you have Sanskrit class? All of you have studied Sanskrit right? Jivatma means we are individual spiritual particle. Just like electron is the fundamental particle of matter, we are spiritual particles, we try to explain this that spiritual particles has consciousness like you can smile, you can become angry, sometimes you want to go here and there, and you have free will. You want to become a very powerful scientist or you want to become a very humble devotee. (…Laughs) so these are the properties of the spiritual particles of the Jivatma. Therefore the distinction is there. But the modern scientists do not know this. This is the main reason why there is confusion. Therefore if you study along these lines, the scientific knowledge, but that scientific knowledge should be guided by spiritual wisdom, spiritual knowledge. Therefore by this combination, which is called the synthetic approach, we will see that knowledge is very useful but it should be used properly. But how to use it properly, it should be guided by the spiritual wisdom from the scriptures like the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, and teachings of the Srimad Bhagavatam and teachings of the sages and saintly people.

If you follow these teaching then, you will be able to see things properly. Just like in the Bhagavatam, in the first Canto of Srimad Bhagvatam, the dialogue between Narad Muni and Vyasa Dev.

Narada Muni says to Vyasa Dev. Idam me pumsa tapah. That sloka Prabhupada explains in the purport that the purpose of learning any scientific knowledge is to glorify the supreme lord Sri Krishna from that scientific knowledge. Uttama Sloke Gunanuvarnanam.. Meaning that any knowledge for example you are interested in mathematics. How many are interested in mathematics? (Students raise their hand.) You are all good scientists. Mathematics is a wonderful term and Roger Penrose says that maths is a mystery No.1- mystical; nobody knows what mathematics is but without this, science cannot go. Penrose is the most famous mathematician in our times. He is a professor of maths at Oxford University retired but still is emeritus. His books are famous “A Road to Reality”. Our request is that if you are a mathematician, if you are good in mathematics, then you can compose beautiful poems in mathematics praising about the wonderful qualities of God. And you can add beautiful formulas to mathematical equation and like that you can sing the wonderful glories of Krishna. So this is what Vyasa dev said uttama sloke gunanuvarnanam… the highest selected equations. Mathematics is a language-computer language is a mathematical language and in that language you can describe and sing the wonderful glories of the Lord by wonderful insights. It could be in any language – this glorification. If you become a biologist, a biological scientist you can also sing the glories of the Lord by biological knowledge. So in all fields, or in any field of knowledge. There is no field of knowledge, which is useless. Everything is useful if it is applied in the right perspective, so that should be our concept, certain subjects – you might be at home –you feel very comfortable in studying certain subjects. So, because of your karma you are talented, you have been given that talent by the mercy of the lord. Therefore your prime duty is to apply that knowledge in the glorification about Lord by wonderful insights. That way your knowledge is utilized properly. This is called Guna Karma or application of Guna Karma. Some of you might be expert in cooking you might like to cook wonderful jalebi, gurukul jalebi or rasagulla made by gurukul say about one foot diameter (.Laughs) it is possible. Because if you are expert in that field, definitely by that knowledge and the talent that you have you can glorify the Supreme Lord.
The purpose of education is actually this. The purpose of education is that what ever knowledge you have, by this knowledge you can glorify about the wonderful activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krishna. That will be the purpose of our education. The purpose of Gurukul is also this and in order to …(indistinct) one must become a sincere devotee of the Lord.
This principle that is if the foundational principle of education is known then we can apply it. Krishna consciousness is the principle, what you call preaching is the application, scientific application or practical application of the teaching of what we learn from Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and the instructions given by the spiritual master. To apply this knowledge in our day today life is called the practical application of Krishna Consciousness. That is the difference between you and students studying outside. Difference is that you are taught that the knowledge that you are learning should be utilized in glorifying about the wonderful qualities of God, the presence of God. Others are studying, because they want to become number one, because they want to earn more money and want to earn more artificial name and fame they want to become great…
I am also running some schools, some schools in northeastern India. 5-6 schools about 6-7 thousand students. Schools are affiliated to the CBSE and we give them some basic devotional background. And our schools are very general not like gurukul in Vrindavan. You are all very fortunate. So please study well and remain as an exemplary devotee and as student. Thereby Prabhupada will be very pleased and will be extremely proud of you.

Question and Answer;
Student: You said we could make poems using mathematics. How can we make poems using mathematics?
Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami Maharaj: you have to pray to get the blessings of the Lord. And in the Vedic culture we start everything with a prayer. Because we need the blessings of the seniors, teachers, the spiritual master and the supreme lord, we pray regularly. We must always pray and then the Lord will give you knowledge. He is the intelligence in man. Therefore Krishna consciousness is the fundamental requirement of everything we do in life including education and learning. In other words we have to get the blessings of the supreme Lord to learn how to write a beautiful poem in mathematics. If you write a beautiful poem then you have got the Nobel Prize waiting for you. The whole world will recognize and that is possible. Not impossible. Example, the square root of –1 is i. Have you ever come across these things called complex numbers? You are in 11th and 12th right? Complex numbers. We don’t see it in real life, in reality. No body knows what a complex number is. When the quantum work appeared in the 20th century, in order to solve some of the quantum problems, the complex numbers became introduced. They are also called imaginary numbers. Therefore Penrose says that it is very mystical. But this mystery is such a powerful thing that although it is unknown, without it quantum problems cannot be solved. See how important it is. It is mystical to recognize that this plays a very important role in life. You have to become very mystical, if you discover something, some kind of equation tending to reality. Certain concepts like presence of God are mystical for all of us because we can’t see directly and cannot perceive by our direct senses. If you make a beautiful argument using some mathematical terms and language, then you have got a very nice poem. You are singing in Sanskrit. Similarly you can compose beautiful compositions through mathematics. So in a way the possibility is there. Then you have to pray and some day by the blessings of the Lord, some mathematical poem will come out from one of you.
Srila Prabhupada used to tell me that you are a chemist, because I studied chemistry, and through chemistry prove that God is a person. So give me some blessings so that with Srila Prabhuapada’s blessings and I also pray that it is possible. All of us are given some talent and by the blessings of the Lord, if we work hard enough, if we are expert in planting beautiful plants in the garden, then through the knowledge that you have you can prove that yes God exists and that is called uttama sloka. That is you are glorifying the presence of the Lord.

Q2.Participant: Maharaj said that the symptom of existence of soul is consciousness. But one place Srila Prabhupada says that consciousness alone is not the sign of life. If a man is unconscious still he can have life….
Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami Maharaj: Consciousness has to come in the pure state. To really understand what is the ultimate meaning of life. There are various forms of life. 8400000. Scriptures say. So some of the very lower forms of life…. People have doubt whether they have life or not …their consciousness symptoms are very minimum. It is a fact that living being has to have conscious symptoms. If there are no conscious symptoms then it is purely dead matter. The important point to remember is that we have to come to the pure state just like gold. The gold particle, which is available in the ore or the gold mine, is contaminated with many other metals of the gold family (like silver, platinum) of the periodic table. They have similar qualities and are therefore in the same family. But if we have to isolate the pure gold, we have to eliminate all the impurities. Similarly, although we say that the symptom of life is consciousness, but in consciousness impurities and dirt occur and we have to eliminate. Above that it will not be making much headway in life, because, how do we eliminate such impurities? How to purify those contaminations? Does anybody know? How to purify the contaminated consciousness? . The process is, SP used to say, that it is very scientific. Krishna Consciousness is very scientific, because you can apply by devotional practice. If you practice devotional life then your consciousness will become pure. Contamination will be slowly removed… purification. In other words this ability is only available in the human form of life. Why can’t anybody contemplate on it? Why is it available only in the human form of life? The human form of life has a special place in the cosmos and Srila Narottama Das Thakur sings a very beautiful song. manusya janma paya… Radha Krishna na bajiya…. Janiya…Suniya .. Vishaya Khaya. In the human form of life if you do not develop this pure devotional service of Sri Sri Radha Krishna then we are just committing suicide. Taking poison means committing suicide. This human form of life has special place in the Lord’s creation. This is a special gift. Only in this human form of life, our consciousness can be purified. Because in the other forms of life below the human platform, the law of karma is strictly controlling the life’s journey until one comes to the human form of life. Therefore they do not have the freedom, the complete freewill, they do not have a choice and the consciousness is also not fully developed. In the human form of life, once you get an understanding of this purification of consciousness, then, you are able to come to state of pure consciousness. So that pure consciousness is the symptom from which one naturally will be able to experience the real essence of life.
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says … Brahma buta prasannatma na socati na kanksati. By practice of devotional life you come to pure state of consciousness called Brahma buta. Then the symptom should be no more lamentation, no more hankering after material name and fame. Get attracted and desire the qualities that we see in the pure devotees of the Lord, life of saintly people, saintly personalities. Therefore consciousness has to be purified. This purification for some it may be immediate because of good karma and for some it may take many years. But it is up to the degree of surrender that the individual has to undergo. So, Krishna says. Yad Karosi …Yad Ajnasi.. Yad Juhosi. Whatever you do, do it as an offering to Him. In other words to the degree that you surrender, to the degree that you dedicate your life in pleasing the Lord, in serving the Lord, He will respond. Therefore one should not complain. Because if I do something wrong and complain to Krishna … karma phala. One has to know how to realize one’s mistake and once I begin to learn that then you are making progress in your life’s journey.
Some people complain why the Lord is giving so much trouble to me? I work so hard for Him. Many of the problems can be solved by the Krishna Conscious approach. Therefore from childhood in gurukul, if you orient yourself in learning these fundamentals of life, and when we are growing up then lots of things will be revealed. (Indistinct). You are very fortunate that you are learning all these things from the childhood. In other schools they don’t discuss these things. But now you are already familiar and learning. Plus you have to work really hard. Play nicely. Take nice maha prasadam…and work really hard… if you work properly then you will find life meaningful. If you work hard without knowing the goal, then you won’t find any pleasure. Pray for the mercy of the Lord and try to do our duty. This should be automatic. The drive, the enthusiasm, and the enthusiastic spirit you should have and not that somebody should be telling you. Things should come from inside. Then you will see that you are making progress in life. And whatever comes in life you will be able to see it in the right perspective. Do our duty that is the message of the Bhagavad-Gita. Do your duty properly and leave the results to the mercy of the Lord. We should do our duty means we should not become lazy to do them. Rather we should become very dynamic, very enthusiastic, and very obedient. Obedience is actually very important part of life as a student. We are students irrespective of young or old, we are students in this cosmic creation of the Lord. Therefore we have to do our duty and in that spirit you will be able respect your teachers, your seniors, and you will be very enthusiastic in prayer. All this will come automatically as a corollary as a bye product.

In order to do that we have to keep the body and the soul together in good health… have good rest sometimes don’t work too hard (…laughs) have enough to time to take rest and study well. Adjust time and other factors, and if you put all these principles together, you will find that life is a very useful journey. Make the best use of it. SP used to say best use bad bargain. Do well, the KC is a big family, when you all grow up, you will be leaders of the new society. The older generation will leave this planet, and the younger generation will take over. Similarly, the younger generation will become older and another younger generation will takeover. It has always gone like this. We just have to pray and do our duty properly. So that is the message.
Where is the gurukul teacher/ is there any message for me?

Deena Bandhu prabhu: Thank you maharaj, for the wonderful lecture. Nothing is impossible with the blessings of Krishna, and the blessings of Krishna will come through the blessings of the devotee. So I would like to request you and all the wonderful devotees who have come along with you to bless the students so that one day they will praise the Lord in the unique way that you have just described.
Haribol(thrice).H.H Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami Maharaj ki jay.(teacher and students together chants)

Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami Maharaj: Bhaktivedanta International Gurukul, Vrindavan Ki jay

Thank you.