Lila Purusottama Dasa earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering (robotics and intelligent systems) from IIT Delhi. He is a former faculty member of the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, India (BITS Pilani), now working full time with the Mumbai branch of the Bhaktivedanta Institute (BI), the scientific arm of ISKCON.
Lila Purusottama has published in some thirty refereed journals and conference proceedings. In 1998 he received a career award for Young Teacher from the All India Council for Technical Education. His name is listed in the Marquis Who's Who, which records distinguished professionals in science and engineering. He has carried out two sponsored research projects in intelligence control.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi, a reporter for the annual Janmastami Souvenir of ISKCON Mumbai (Juhu), conducted the following interview.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: What inspired you to accept the philosophy of Krsna consciousness?
Lila Purusottama Dasa: I was always searching for the Truth. I was born in Orissa, where through the causeless mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Hare Krsna maha-mantra had been distributed. In my childhood I would hear the maha-mantrachanted in my village, especially when villagers would hold 24-hour chanting sessions. I was philosophical from childhood. Mundane glamour never attracted me.
After receiving my B.Sc. in engineering, I read the Bhagavad-gita and was inspired to pray to the Lord to use me as an instrument in His service. After joining the faculty at Regional Engineering College, Rourkela (Orissa), I felt dissatisfied professionally. I took to chanting the maha-mantra without anybody asking me to do so. I didn't chant in a regulated fashion, but I derived joy from chanting while walking or sitting leisurely.
When I shifted to IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology) to pursue my doctoral degree, I led an isolated and regulated life. I would get up early in the morning, attend yoga classes, eat only pure food, and stick to my research. In 1992, during the HinduMuslim riots, I enrolled as a social worker in the Sadbhav Mission, but I still felt something was missing. I attended a lecture in the IIT Delhi hostel by Dr. P. V. Krishnan (Krsna Smarana Dasa) from ISKCON. When he explained the real purport ofBhagavad-gita, I was instantly attracted to Krsna.
Soon after, I joined a group of IIT students for a visit to Vrndavana with Krsna Smarana Dasa. While there I realized the futility of material endeavors and lost interest in pursuing my Ph.D. I wanted to join as a full-time devotee in Vrndavana. But Krsna Sma-rana Dasa inspired me to continue with my Ph.D. work. "It can be used in Krsna's service," he argued. So I completed it.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: People think that science means facts whereas religion is sentiment or fanaticism. Can there be a synthesis of the two?
Lila Purusottama Dasa: Before coming to Krsna consciousness, I looked on religionists with suspicion. I'd see Indians going to temples only for material benefits, and I'd see how priests and sadhus often exploit people's blind sentiments. But Krsna consciousness involves the study of spirit and matter and their relationship, so it is not blind sentiment but complete science. Modern science tries to unravel the laws of material nature. If pursued in its true spirit, it is a subset of the complete science, Krsna consciousness. So there need be no contradiction between science and Krsna consciousness.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: What did your colleagues think of your change of philosophy and your Krsna conscious way of life? How are you viewed in scientific circles?
Lila Purusottama Dasa: Since I'm well accomplished professionally, my colleagues give me due respect. But most of my friends didn't keep their relationship with me, because I couldn't stick to their way of life. One intimate friend, however, who is pursuing a Ph.D. from Sheffield University in England, chants sixteen rounds of the maha-mantra on beads. He regularly asks me questions about Krsna consciousness and has adopted all its principles.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: How did you balance your professional life with your devotional life?
Lila Purusottama Dasa: Krsna Smarana Dasa taught me how to balance the two. At BITS Pilani I converted my quarters on campus into a temple. I kept the standards that Srila Prabhupada gave us, namely mangala-arati at 4:30 A.M., Srimad-Bhagavatam class in the morning, and Bhagavad-gita class in the evening. And I strictly followed all the other regulative principles.
In the beginning I invited some of my project students to my house to hear about Krsna consciousness. They became convinced and started inviting their friends. We had a nice group of boys and girls who practiced Krsna consciousness seriously. I tried to inspire them by keeping to a high standard of spiritual practice and by being efficient in my profession as a teacher and researcher and in guiding projects.
Vrndavanesvari Devi Dasi: Why did you give up your BITS Pilani job and join the Bhaktivedanta Institute?
Lila Purusottama Dasa: I met Rasaraja Dasa in 1997 and was inspired by his vision for the BI. He wants to give a new thrust to scientific research that will ultimately attract scientific people to read Bhagavata philosophy. Srila Prabhupada very much emphasized BI research, not only to increase the prestige of ISKCON but also to contribute to science in such a way that scientists may look to the BI for assistance. Although I had many other professional options, I understood in my heart that the BI is more important. I felt that Prabhupada would be more pleased if I committed myself to the Bhaktivedanta Institute.