Is University Education A Sin?
By Hanumatpresaka Swami
A gentleman who is involved in education in ISKCON, and for whom ISKCON functions as his religious institution was bemused when he made the decision to send his daughter for university studies. Some well meaning friends commented that going to the university was morally and religiously evil or contaminating. He asked us if we could write a little about this. As we began to discuss the topic a little we found that it is a common theme amongst many people who have a life in both the religious and academic worlds. We expect that some practical discussion can roll-over. Of course, there has been a broad history wherein the Catholic Church was also the center of learning about the physical world, God’s creation, and the epistemology of knowledge descending from God through scripture and saints was fundamental. Then there was the so-called Cartesian Split in which the Church and intuition and authoritative knowledge went one way and the University and rational empiricism went the other way. Suffice it to say herein that we see this dialog between science and religion still very active and it can be a very useful tool.
The scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to and conditioned by each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to knowledge of what should be. (QUANTUM QUESTIONS, pp 106, Ken Wilbur, Shambala, 1984, Italics ours).
Coming down to very specific instances, we can recall our association with Dr. T. D. Singh, B. S. Damodara Swami, who was a doctorate in physical inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Irvine, a native of the extremely remote and traditional Indian State of Manipur and Director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute.
He came from the foothills of the Himalaya mountains to U. C. Irvine but then encountered the Bengali Vaishnavism of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s ISKCON which was traditional to his native Manipur for centuries. He wanted to chuck his laboratory science and become a full-time religious monk, but Srila Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, forced him to finish his Doctorate.
• Just for making a living, a university education in science, medical technology, history, law or education are valuable. • If you want to communicate esoteric religious ideas to scientifically educated people in the modern world then the Doctorate or such diplomas show that you have a grasp of their knowledge, epistemology, and traditional community. • Many useful things can develop from a Synthesis of Science and Religion. Look on the web for Vedabase.com, Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto One, Chapter Five, Text 22 (http://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/I /5/22)
PRINCE LOUIS DE BROGLIE The great epoch-making discoveries of the history of science (think, for example, of that of universal gravitation) have been sudden lightning flashes, making us perceive in one single glance a harmony up until then unsuspected, and it is to have, from time to time, the divine joy of discovering such harmonies that pure science works without sparing its toil or seeking for profit. (Ibid pp 117)