Mundane education and Bhakti
Premvilas das: Following article is an excerpt from Aindra prabhu’s recently published book ” The Heart of Transcendental book distribution”
He Radhe-Shyama! The pursuit of lofty mundane academic degrees very rarely if ever really lends itself to an expedited pure devotional progress. Rather, it tends to render one more ass-like in that one often trends to unduly bear, even long after initiation into the bhakti cult, a cumbrous, almost unshakeable, inflated sense of self-importance. Furthermore, one may unfortunately entertain an immodest impression of one’s “superiority” over others who are less materially qualified, thus gobbling up heaps and piles of temporary hog-stool-like false prestige on the basis of accumulated collegial upadhis. One must sagaciously avoid the snobbish, over-intelligent, grossly idiotic notion that such slaughterhouse academia is in any way a prerequisite for high-grade devotional eligibility, competency, or potential, or to any degree indicative of such. When has such a conceited, specious idea ever been taught by an acarya or upheld by shastra?
How highly educated was Valmiki? Were Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan, or Jatayu college graduates? How doctorately decorated were Mrigari, the hunter; Dhruva; Prahlada; or even their guru, Narada, in his previous life as the son of a maidservant? How sophisticated or cultured was the prostitute who, by the grace of Haridasa Thakura, converted to Vaisnavism and chanted no less than three lakhs of hari-nama daily? What about Haridasa Thakura himself? How literate was the celebrated South Indian brahmana whom Lord Gauranga embraced, eulogizing him as having truly understood the essence of the Gita? How boastfully bookish was Srila Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji Maharaja? How many pointed examples are required to illustrate the principle? Besides, we should simply ask – Is the world over not teeming with college graduates and professionals who profess avowed atheism or agnosticism?
One may argue that collegians have a better chance of viewing the gamut of worldly affairs, thereby increasing their natural drift toward a spirit of renunciation, but I dare challenge this idea. Realistically, how many graduates conclude from all their studies that they should just abandon the path of material amelioration to join the Hare Krishna movement? Out of many thousands of such supposedly educated people, hardly one has any idea of spiritual perfection, what to speak of endeavoring for it. And of the relatively few who do gain some understanding of or interest in sampradayic devotion, what percentage of those practicing the process on any level opts for a life of practical, devotion-based renunciation stemming from genuine material exhaustion?
Sophistical, materially conceived strategic religio-administrative contrivances may appear to bluster their professed expediency in determining the devotional eligibility of a candidate, albeit, only as long as a dearth of genuinely mature spiritual insight debilitates one’s power to perceive otherwise obvious degrees of sharanagati or spiritual surrender, indicative of an individual’s actual level of pure devotional shraddha. My observation is that elevated paramarthika-shraddha manifests on the strength of the gradual accumulation of stockpiles of bhakty-unmukhi sukriti, or piety connected to and giving rise to shuddha-bhakti. Such accrues on account of service-related association with agents of pure devotion in this and previous existences. This alone is the true measure of anyone’s fitness to pursue the path of bhakti at the spiritual master’s ashrama. Such pure devotional shraddha and subsequent spiritual evolvement may be had by anyone – regardless of materially pious or impious background in terms of species, race, caste, creed, academic qualification, or pecuniary status – via the potent influence of authentically empowered, munificent representatives of Divine Grace. There is no use in eristically contending this point, drawing on any amount of sciolistic rhetoric. All things of this cosmos, though real in the sense that they consist of the energies of the Absolute Reality, in fact appear as valueless as so many zeroes by time’s dynamics, which reduce everything to oblivion. Zeroes alone are valueless. Only when the “One” of Krishna consciousness stands before the “zeroes” of this world do the zeroes gain spiritual value, proportionate to the degree that they actually contribute to the favorable cultivation of Krishna consciousness. Still, in truth, it is the “One” of pure, forceful Krishna consciousness, with or without any subsequent number of “zeroes,” that is ultimately noteworthy, important, precious, and efficacious.
Magnanimous first-class preachers, in the course of spreading the message of Krishna consciousness, may go all out in various ways to extend Lord Gauranga’s sankirtana movement even to persons puffed-up or smug with aristocracy, mundane scholarship, and material affluence. They tenderheartedly consider those so materially obsessed to be the most terribly entrenched victims of Kali’s influences, the least likely to otherwise recognize and feelingly honor the mercy of the Holy Name. The complete conversion of such spiritually debased, vainglorious Kali-yuga reprobates to Vaisnavism would serve primarily to proclaim a most prodigious spiritual triumph, further acclaiming the glorious beatitude of bhakti’s benignity. Such conversion is not at all intended to “up-grade” the material status quo, prestige, or popularity of any missionary institution. To grant or deny facilities for advancing in Krishna consciousness merely on the consideration of material qualification certainly constitutes an outrageous spiritual iniquity. Real knowledge is engendered by and subservient to bhakti and is always evinced by genuine pure devotional humility. If it is observed that a “scholarly” individual has virtuously embraced standard pure devotional ethics, we should clearly conclude such to be attributable not to the individual’s mundane erudition or cerebral dexterity, whatever the level, but, undeniably, to the mercy of pure-hearted sadhus.
Unvitiated, truly elevated, scientifically conversant devotees of the Lord easily see through the fraudulent front of feigned self-effacement so often accompanying the copiously concocted “foolosophical” distortions of Gaudiya-Vaishnava siddhanta, rasa-vicara, and so on rampant in the rather absurd dissertations of surprisingly well-placed, somewhat lavishly lettered institutional evangelists. Guileless pure devotees decline to recognize or support such gratuitous, bombastic, quasi-theosophical craftsmanship masqueraded as abstruse Krishna conscious esotericism. Hence, anything more than a semblance of bhakti most certainly eludes such show-bottle expositors of so-called transcendental knowledge, despite their sacerdotal echelon or externally impressive scholastic pre-eminence. Realization of the science of pure devotion is a matter of revelation from within the heart based on an individual’s degree of surrender to Krishna, not degrees of irrelevant mundane academic so-called qualifications. Bhakti, independent as she is, always causelessly appears to gradually influence the heart of anyone of her own choosing and accord. Flagrantly propagated or slyly insinuated, deviously hatched fallacies or misconceptions concerning the autonomous nature of Bhakti’s benevolence would certainly be seen as symptomatic of this present age of nescience, quarrel, and hypocrisy
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