Temples or Schools?

Here’s an observation worth meditating on:

“We have long observed that ISKCON in general has far more enthusiasm to build temples and perform rituals, than it does to create schools even for our own children, not to speak of higher education to fill the world with learned preachers.  It is not easy in this vaisya-sudra age to create a truly brahminical society.” – Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami, August 31, 2011



Filed under HDG Uvaca

7 responses to “Temples or Schools?

  1. Yajnamurti

    And certainly building temples with the right intent and performing
    devotional rituals for Krsna’s pleasure is above the Brahminical
    platform.These activities are an undeniable part of Prabupada’s mission.
    Only the intent and priority needs to be refined. But who can reasonably
    argue against more attention and resources being directed to educating our members and especially our children?

    Much of mundane education is certainly saturated with powerful demoniac propaganda. While it can be a useful tool for powerfully serving Krsna is there any doubt that it can be a razor’s edge which can shred a devotional creeper?

    This is not theory. The long list of devotees who have returned for higher
    degrees to gain a tool for Krsna’s service and been seriously deviated from life’s goal both in action and understanding is not a matter for argument.
    It’s rather a cause of heartbreak.

    Yes, academic studies can be used to wonderfully serve Krsna, but every
    devotee contemplating going “back to school” should enter with a healthy
    measure of caution to insure that their exposure to the inevitable and
    powerful stupidity taught during the course of earning certain degrees is
    neutralized by sufficient devotional association.

    And if someone only studies Prabhupada’s books and intelligently presents them is he no longer considered a “learned preacher”?? I pray that we haven’t and will never come to that point in our understanding.

    Caution should be taken not to swing betweem extreme views on what
    constitutes genuine devotional life.

    ISKCON is a society which can and should accommodate many different
    approaches for serving Krsna. Like any society there will be strong opinions on both sides of many issues. When respect and appreciation for devotees with opposing views is lost the spirit of our society is shaken at its core.
    Above all, Krsna wants us to respect and love other living entities, not to
    speak of those rare souls who accept him as their goal in life.

    While it’s reasonable to say that Prabhupada and Krsna have a broad
    appreciation for the many different ways in which devotees render service, there are certainly boundaries of what constitutes bonafide service as well.
    Otherwise, there is no meaning to service to the order of higher authority
    which is at the very heart of our process.

    Caution must be taken not to stamp any “devotional” offering or activity as acceptable.

    What those boundaries are will probably always be issues for contention.
    But the discussion must always be referred to and confirmed by the luckily well documented words of our Founder Acarya. Consensus on some issues will probably be achieved in 10,001 years when it doesn’t matter anyway.

    To serve Krsna according to our inspiration under the guidance of great
    devotees while maintaing an unswerving and generous attitude of respect for other devotees and living entities. That approach keeps our society and ourselves on the healthy and safe track.

    I’m feeling very grateful to have been blessed to be associated with the
    devotees of the Lord.

    Your rambling and grateful servant,
    Tara Das

  2. Thank you, Tara prabhu, for these salient points. Higher education, like anything else, can be a burden for the soul or free it. When one wants a degree to impress people, one is feeding a burden for the soul, an anartha (pratistha). When one wants a degree to impress people so that they may take to KC, one is feeding an anartha in the guise of a KC motive, for “purity is the force” necessary to change people’s hearts. How can we free others if we are not free ourselves? On the other hand, we have been advised that “all sciences should be used in the service of Krishna…that is hari bhajana” If one pursues higher education with the motive, not at all for pratishta, but for utilizing these sciences in Krsna’s service, then we are getting the same effect as sitting down and performing hari bhajana. All knowledge should be used in Krsna’s service, and to do that, one must acquire it, just as all money should be used in Krsna’s service, but to do that, one must acquire it. What apparently seems mundane, actually is transcendental- and the touchstone which transforms it from mundane to divine is only one’s motivation. I found in my studies about psychology, an interesting facet of the mind, which is called rationalization. We rationalize our motives as lofty, though they may be base, and generally we are unaware that this rationalization process is going on. That is exactly why anarthas are described as almost impossible to distinguish from the bhakti creeper. We have hidden motivations. We may be quite sure that we are pursuing a degree for Krsna’s service only, and secretly have as our motivation, desire for pratishta. Should one then, avoid all higher education? To that I would answer “should we avoid making money- since profit is also an anartha?” Should we avoid all mundane association, which is also an anartha? These become anarthas only when we don’t pray sincerely and intensely, to use them in Krsna’s service, free from their mundane quality. It is for this reason, that gurus and acaryas may accept huge amounts of praise, and not be affected. Intensity of desire, burns anarthas to the ground, not directly, but the Lord responds, and aids the soul in becoming free from illusion. But such sheer urgency and intensity, like a child desperately crying for its mother, is only possible if we know that we need to be rescued- which does not happen when we are not aware of the presence of anarthas, their danger, their destructive force. If one thinks oneself above them, one will not pray to Krsna, one will not qualify for His grace, and even if one uses the higher degree in His service, one will not be free from its contaminating influence. We then will have a situation where we are watering the creeper, through the “hari bhajana” of using science in His service, and at the same time, watering the weeds which strangle it. Littleprogress we will make, then, on the path of transcendence.

  3. Anandamukhadd

    Wow all this talk about schools… why should devotees go back?
    how can we even argue it? literacy is important to us not only to preach but to live a productive life. An academic degree attained is not for pleasure, for showing off, it is basic to start life in knowledge. A bachelors degree is only the ABCs to what the extent an unlimited knowledge is offered in the world. ISKCON should not only encourage devotees to earn a degree but it should also promote and even endorse the schools that offer such degrees. Once a devotee has a degree then he or she can choose to either preach or do another service for now it has the basic skills and tools to serve the community. Yes, there was a time when elementary school was enough. But now we live in different times, knowledge has extended, doors have been opened and research has facilitated a broad range of fields of study that were not available before.
    I can already hear voices saying everything we need to know is in S. Prabhupad’s books. Yet, It was S. Bhaktisidhanta Saraswati who empowered SP with a mission of preaching to the English world.. because he was educated. It was the same SP.. who presented lectures at universities and encouraged devotees to preach in them.
    I am not earning a degree for preaching as I am not a preacher. I am earning a degree to be productive in my family and serve the public, my Guru and Krishna.
    After living in an ashrama for 22 years since my childhood, I realized I had memorized spiritual knowledge (even earned a Bhakti Shastri degree) but I lacked basic skills and tools to be useful in my life. You may think otherwise, but a college degree, today, is equivalent to what basic literacy (reading and writing) was 200 years ago.. it is just a basic need.

    • Govinda Madhava Brown

      I very much enjoyed your realizations. Even though you are studying for performance of duty and not to assist in preaching. By being an nice intelligent Devotee in an academic community the memes of your Krsna Consciousness are supremely powerful.
      Of the 4 types of people that turn to Krsna, those that are inquisitive and those seeking the truth are the best, and naturally meeting a nice intelligent person who isnt proselytising make people naturally inquisitive.

  4. Giridhari Das

    Hridayananda Maharaja wrote this comment concerning the question: “And if someone only studies Prabhupada’s books and intelligently presents them is he no longer considered a “learned preacher”?? I pray that we haven’t and will never come to that point in our understanding.”

    “Certainly one who studies Srila Prabhupada’s books can be a learned preacher. Consider your own preaching. Although you didn’t pursue formal academic studies after joining the movement, you have amassed a great wealth of practical information about the world. You acquired this through meeting thousands of people during your distinguished book distribution career, through all the lessons one learns in family life, through doing business in the world, preaching and organizing in foreign countries, keeping abreast, to some degree or other, with current events etc.

    Prabhupada himself constantly recycled his mundane education in his preaching and we find this throughout his books and lectures. Among the so-called intellectual class, there are specific issues, assumptions, fears, biases, language etc. Knowing all that does enhance one’s preaching to that specific community. If you search on Vedabase, you will find that Prabhupada was truly thrilled when Swarupa Damodar, a doctoral student in science, joined the movement. Prabhupada insisted that devotee scientists had a special ability to present Krishna consciousness to the scientific community.

    Prabhupada placed great stress on preaching and convincing the learned class. Prabhupada himself made this a priority and I have tried to fulfill his desire. This does not mean at all that one needs academic training to present Krishna consciousness impressively or effectively. There are many outstanding preachers who are doing much to change the world, without academic studies. And as you mentioned, there are a number of highly learned fools spoiled by academics. “

  5. Govinda Madhava Brown

    BG-Ch.5 Text 4:

    “Only the ignorant speak of karma-yoga and devotional service as being different from the analytical study of the material world [sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.”

    BG-Ch 14 Text 1: Purport

    “…If one understands this chapter through the process of philosophical speculation, he will come to an understanding of devotional service. In the Thirteenth Chapter, it was clearly explained that by humbly developing knowledge one may possibly be freed from material entanglement. It has also been explained that it is due to association with the modes of nature that the living entity is entangled in this material world. Now, in this chapter, the Supreme Personality explains what those modes of nature are, how they act, how they bind and how they give liberation. The knowledge explained in this chapter is proclaimed by the Supreme Lord to be superior to the knowledge given so far in other chapters….”

    1: If one understands this chapter through the process of philosophical speculation, he will come to an understanding of devotional service.
    2: the modes give liberation.

    A temple is place for congregation & puja. It’s not a school or a money making enterprise.
    It is functioning as a dysfunctional school, recruitment center and a money making enterprise.

    A society is not a building, a temple can any ware the worship of the lord takes place), a society is teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, artisans and workers.

    Devotee’s that “re-enter” from “Temple life” the secular world (which has Varna Ashrama just poluted) why are so many unable to cope. The whole of the gita is about doing your duty as a service to Krsna, not hiding from the world.

    Every one has a different nature and cant be forced into acting against it, Krsna Clearly states this to Arjuna when he wants to go to the forest and again and very clearly in:
    BG chapter 3 vs 33
    “Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature. What can repression accomplish?”

    Arjuna asks what is a person in transendance, how does he dress, speak, sit etc.

    Not one of Krsna’s answers is about the externals.Krsna states that by being fixed in experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.

    Then Krsna goes on to explain (BG-C3-T6) “One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but who’s mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself…”

    So here we have 2 sides of a coin, one who pretends to be advanced and lacks proper training and one who has proper training in higher tastes. A process of understanding our material veicles not an instant cure all. (We are not liberationists, mukti is a side effect)

    Where are the ISKCON schools that teaches a higher taste, that dovetails our nature’s towards Krsna?

    Finally Lord Chaitanya says that association with Viashnava’s is the most important thing in devotional growth. So if MC Donalds has kiddy playgrounds, why cant we. If there are countless educational discourses on all topics why do we not. If you can study music, art, writing, etc etc. Where are these activities? I left the temple in discust after watching them turn graphic designers into dish washers, classicly trained musicians into money collectors. Then watch those skilled sweet leave the temple as dysfunctional people.

    We dont have facilities of study available but to anyone inclined to understand Krsna’s energy there is no reason not to use outside resourses. I agree with Hridayananda Das Goswami that Epistamology, Ontology and formal logic should be fundamental in all education. Including Temple classes.

    On a final happy note.

    Krsna says two things that always seem to be over looked, on this path there is no loss or demunition, and it is JOYFULLY performed.

    At worst you will have to enjoy in the heavenly planets then come back to an aspiring spiritual family or a wealthy one. NO LOSS OR DEMUNITION.

    At worst you will end up a kuli like me and have to spend your time thinking up ways to steal milk sweets. But next time I think I am going to take the wealthy aristocrats. =P

    ISKCON is not temples, it is a society with a wealth of knowledge.

  6. Gopal dasa

    With all humbly, any neutral or independent reader can look, Acaryadeva never is polarized the professional academical studies and the Rituals and temple buldings. Not. He said, that there is a more mark tendency to raja guna mode on devotional service, that the interest in ISKCON general members of stated schools like gurukulas and High profesional academical vaisnava preparation schools, like other religius societies. That they have universities, colleges, primary schools, etc for his membership and we almost don’t have.
    Gopal dasa

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