Where does the search for knowledge lead 
when the scholars we follow are hollow?

Srila Prabhupada

WHEN Sanatana Gosvami left his government post and came to Caitanya Mahaprabhu for the first time, he asked the Lord, 'What is education?' Although Sanatana Gosvami knew a number of languages, including Sanskrit, he still inquired about real education.

"'The general populace calls me highly educated,' Sanatana Gosvami told the Lord, 'and I am such a fool that I actually believe them.'

"The Lord replied, 'Why should you not think you're well educated? You're a great scholar in Sanskrit and Persian.'

"'That may be," Sanatana Gosvami said, 'but I know neither where I've come from nor where I'm going. People are calling me educated, and when they call me a great scholar. I am satisfied, but in truth I am such a great fool that I know not what I am.'

"Sanatana Gosvami was actually speaking for all of us, for this is our present situation. We may be proud of our academic education, but if asked what we are, we are not able to say." (RV, p.8).

In recounting this incident, Srila Prabhupada makes clear the defect he saw in modern education: it values mundane knowledge but offers hardly a clue to one's real identity.

"Everyone is under the conception that this body is the self, but we learn from Vedic sources that this is not so. Only after realizing that we are not these bodies can we enter into real knowledge and understand what we actually are. This, then, is the beginning of knowledge." (RV, p.8)

Srila Prabhupada further explains, "Above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul. Any education that does not lead to such realization must be considered avidya, or nescience." (SI, p.9)

But today nescience prevails.

"Especially in the present age, every man is in darkness, in the bodily conception of life, not knowing anything of the spirit soul and its needs. Misguided by the blind leaders of society, people consider the body to be everything, and they are engaged in trying to keep the body materially comfortable. Such a civilization is condemned because it does not lead humanity toward knowing the real goal of life." (SB 7.6.4)

A Doggish Mentality

"If one does not ask, 'Who am I? What is the goal of my life?' but instead follows the same animal propensities as cats and dogs, what is the use of his education?

"As cats, dogs, and other animals, not knowing their true interest in life, become increasingly involved in ignorance, the so-called educated person who does not know his own self-interest or the true goal of life becomes increasingly involved in materialism." (SB 7.6.16)

"We see materialistic persons busily engaged in economic development all day and all night, trying to increase their material opulence, but even if we suppose that they get some benefit from such endeavors, that does not solve the real problem of their lives. Nor do they know what the real problem of life is." (SB 7.6.4)

The real problem, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is how to get free from the miseries of material existence. These miseries—principally birth, death, disease, and old age—come with the body but are foreign to the soul. The aim of life, then, should be to get free from these miseries and be restored to one's true spiritual nature.

But this is not what concerns our schools, colleges, and universities.

"Modern educators do not know the aim of human life; they are simply concerned with how to develop the eco-nomic condition of their countries or of human society." (CC 9.42)

"Modern university education practically prepares one to acquire a doggish mentality with which to accept the service of a greater master. After finishing a so-called education, the so-called educated persons move like dogs from door to door with applications for some service, and mostly they are driven away, informed of no vacancy. As dogs are negligible animals and serve the master faithfully for bits of bread, a man serves a master faithfully without sufficient rewards." (SB 2.3.19)

Where Is the Science Of the Spirit?

Srila Prabhupada contrasts this sort of training with the training offered by the Vedic culture.

"The Vedic civilization is based on spiritual education, and spiritual education is the special basis on which Bhagavad-gitawas spoken to Arjuna. In the beginning of Bhagavad-gita,Krsna instructed Arjuna to understand that the spirit soul is different from the body.

dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati

'As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change' (Bg. 2.13). Unfortunately, this spiritual education is completely absent from modern human civilization. No one understands his real self-interest, which lies with the spirit soul, not with the material body." (9)

"There are so many departments of knowledge all over the world and many huge universities, but there is, unfortunately, no university or educational institution where the science of the spirit soul is instructed. Yet the soul is the most important part of the body; without the presence of the soul, the body has no value. Still people are placing great stress on the bodily necessities of life, not caring for the vital soul." (10)

Blind Professors

This stress on the needs of the body, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is a sign of absence of true education.

"Education means spiritual education. To work hard in the bodily conception of life, without spiritual education, is to live like an animal … ." (11)

And this sort of life, Srila Prabhupada teaches, is the most dangerous, because one risks transmigrating from one body to another, and even into lower species of life.

"Without spiritual education, people are kept in dark ignorance and do not know what will happen to them after the annihilation of the present body.

"They are working blindly, and blind leaders are directing them. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanas te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah. A foolish person does not know that he is completely under the bondage of ma-terial nature and that after death ma-terial nature will impose upon him a certain type of body, which he will have to accept. He does not know that although in his present body he may be a very important man, he may next get the body of an animal or tree because of his ignorant activities in the modes of material nature." (12)

"Even influential professors and other educators say that as soon as the body is finished, everything is finished. This atheistic philosophy is killing human civilization." (13)

How so? Misled by such ignorance masked as knowledge, "people are irrespon-sibly performing all sorts of sinful activities, and thus the privilege of the human life is being taken away by the educational propaganda of the so-called leaders." (14)

"Actually the so-called teachers or leaders of material society do not really know the goal of life. They are described inBhagavad-gita as mayayapahrta-jnana. That is, they appear to be very learned scholars, but the influence of the illusory energy has taken away their knowledge. Real knowledge means searching out Krsna." (15)

The Best Part of Education

When Srila Prabhupada speaks of Krsna, He refers to the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything, the Personality of Godhead.

Any education that does not lead one to understand Krsna, Srila Prabhupada says, is false education. "If Krsna consciousness is missing, one is simply engaged in false activities and false educational pursuits." (16)

"Everyone has dormant love for Krsna, and by culture and education that has to be awakened. That is the purpose of this Krsna consciousness movement.

"Once Lord Caitanya asked Ramananda Raya what the best part of education was. Ramananda Raya replied that the best part of education is advancement in Krsna consciousness." (17)

"If one simply becomes a teacher or professor," Srila Prabhupada writes, "but does not understand Krsna, his teaching is like the disturbing braying of an ass." (Cc. 13.29)

Srila Prabhupada concludes, "In all the schools, colleges, and universities, and at home, all children and youths should be taught to hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, they should be taught to hear the instructions ofBhagavad-gita, to put them into practice in their lives, and thus to become strong in devotional service, free from fear of being degraded to animal life." (SB 7.6.1)