Gurukula's founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, talks with the school's administrators during a recent visit.
Prabhupada: Why should a child be taught Krsna consciousness? Why is Krsna consciousness better than material consciousness?
Jagadisa: Because I'm not this temporary material body; I'm an eternal spirit soul.
Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna consciousness is required to understand the distinction between the eternal spirit soul and the temporary body. Any kind of education that doesn't teach this simply continues the repetition of birth and death. Nobody wants to die, but nobody knows how to become free from the punishment of death. Krsna consciousness, however, stops this vicious cycle of birth and death.
Of course, devotees will also die, but after death they won't have to accept another material body. Therefore their next death will be their last. We are teaching that after annihilation of the present material body, if we are not forced to accept another material body, then there is no more death. When both the students and the teachers at Gurukula know this perfectly, then the school will be successful. Why should one be subjected to birth, death, old age and disease? How to conquer all these things that is real knowledge. We are explaining this knowledge in our books, and our students should be elevated to a full understanding of it.
Once Lord Pennardbroker, who sits in the English House of Lords, came to see me. I asked him, "What is your philosophy of life?" He replied, "Well, I'm trying to live fully. That's all." But after death? He knew nothing of that. And that is the defect in modern education: nobody knows what is going to happen to him after death.
Jagadisa: Does Srimad-Bhagavatam have information about Gurukula?
Prabhupada: Yes. In the Seventh Canto, Narada says that a student living at a Gurukula should first learn to control his senses. Then he should learn to act for the benefit of his guru not for his own benefit. He should be just like a servant: the master orders, and the servant carries out the order. A brahmacari (student) must be humble. Although he is not getting any money, he should accept many hardships out of love for the spiritual master. He should work just like you are working. I am not paying you, but you are working. Why? Out of love for me. This is the basic principle. A brahmacari should think, "My spiritual master is my best friend. Therefore I must render service to him."
So these are the basic principles of student life. Then, when one is fixed in devotion to Krsna and His representative, the spiritual master, everything is automatically revealed. A brahmacari especially is under the supervision and protection of the guru. In the beginning there should be no concern about how he has learned his ABC's. He should first learn sense control and the basic principle that all his activities are for the guru's benefit not his own. Then, whatever the guru desires he do, he will execute.
Jagadisa: Srila Prabhupada, does this mean that the atmosphere here must be very strict?
Prabhupada: Not strict. Everything should be done on the basis of love. Strictness is not very good. The students should act automatically, out of love. That is wanted. Superficially, strictness may be necessary some material laws or basic principles and if they don't follow they'll be reprimanded. But they should develop the idea of love.
Teacher: Should we ever force the children to act in a Krsna conscious way?
Prabhupada: Sometimes you have to do that, but even so, the basic principle should be love. Sometimes, out of love, a father must force his son to do something; that does not mean the father is the enemy of the son.
Jagadisa: Yes. If we're permissive with the children, they'll take advantage of us.
Prabhupada: They shouldn't be allowed to do that. Children are innocent: as you teach them, they learn. Discipline must be there sometimes force must be applied but everything should be done on the basis of love.
Dayananda: It seems like it would take some time to develop the ability to always teach with love.
Prabhupada: Yes. In the meantime our regulated living will teach the children automatically. If they rise early, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, offer obeisances and engage in Deity worship, automatically they will develop spiritually.
Jagadisa: Sometimes, unless we encourage them very strongly. they will not chant.
Prabhupada: You should tell them, "Now sit down! Chant Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!" If you chant, they will chant. If you yourself observe very strict discipline, they will follow.
Dvarakanatha: It seems that we must become humble. We must be servants to the children in the sense that we do everything we can to facilitate their service to Krsna. When they see that we are surrendering to Krsna, they will surrender to us.
Prabhupada: Very good idea. Example is better than precept. You should all be personal examples. If you do not practice what you preach, but simply force the children, that will not be very good. If every one of you rises early in the morning, so will the children. You shouldn't think, "All this austerity is meant for the students, not for us. We are liberated now so we can sleep until 7:30." Both teachers and students must perform devotional service. Canakya Pandita once said. "If you are lenient with your children, they will acquire many faults, but if you are strict with them, they will develop good qualities." Either with your son, your disciple, or your student, you should always strictly enforce the rules. Don't be lenient. After all. they're children. If you are lenient with them, they will think the usual practice is to be undisciplined. No. They must rise early. That is discipline.
Jagadisa: We've seen that when children are given good discipline, they respond favorably.
Prabhupada: Yes. Why be lenient? Out of love, shall we let our disciples and sons go to hell? That is foolishness.
But when they are sixteen years old they should be treated as friends. From five years to fifteen years, all the students should be under strict disciplinary order. Then, as soon as they attain their sixteenth year, treat them as friends. If you try to force them after sixteen, they may rebel and leave altogether, as is happening in the Western countries.
Jagadisa: What about the girls?
Prabhupada: In Vedic civilization a girl is kept under the vigilance of her father up to her sixteenth year. Then she must be entrusted to a young man who takes charge as her husband.
Jagadisa: Srila Prabhupada, in our movement, the fathers send their daughters to Gurukula.
Prabhupada: So teach them especially how to be chaste and how to be expert in cooking. Then they will never be neglected by their husbands. They will be very happy.
Jagadisa: Some of our girls are intelligent Sanskrit students.
Prabhupada: That's all right. They can teach, and they can preach. All the Gurukula students should be treated in such a way that they become good citizens and good devotees. And they should know the value of life. At other schools the students are like cats and dogs because they do not know the value of life. Therefore the whole world is in a chaotic condition. In other educational institutions, the students are educated to become polished dogs. That's all. But at our Gurukula, students are educated to become human beings. That is the difference: our business is self-realization.