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Why Our Schools Don't Have a Prayer
Prabhupada Speaks Out
by His Divine Grace A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-Acharya of the
world-wide Hare Krishna Movement, Brahma Sampradaya Acharya
Conversation with Divinity student,
Los Angeles, January 1974
Now things have
gotten to the point that we can't even have
prayer in the public schools. We used to have a prayer at the beginning
of each school day. But then one atheist lady (and no doubt other
people behind the scenes) pushed and pushed until the Supreme Court
declared it unconstitutional. Now prayer in the schools is banned.
Many people are frightened about the way the schools are failing apart
... students not even learning how to read and write, many turning to
drugs and robbing and raping their teachers.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. What is the value of this kind of
Student: Not an awful lot.
Srila Prabhupada: It is all cheating. You have left God
out. That is the height of cheating. So naturally the rest of your
so-called schooling must also be cheating.
Suppose you are doing a mathematical calculation and you start by
figuring, "2 + 2 = 3." After that you may use the most sophisticated
techniques and formulas, but your whole calculation will be wrong.
Student: Now things have gotten to the point that we can't
even have prayer in the public schools. We used to have a prayer at the
beginning of each school day. But then one atheist lady (and no doubt
other people behind the scenes) pushed and pushed until the Supreme
Court declared it unconstitutional. Now prayer in the schools is banned.
Srila Prabhupada: But even if prayer were allowed, that
would not help. Prayer is still going on in the churches, and what is
the benefit? People are losing interest, because it has all become
simply a ritualistic show--"Churchianity." The thing is, you have to
become educated in the science of God. You must have direct, scientific
experience of God. People aren't interested in dry words. They have
become scientific-minded; they want results.
Student: Well, most people still have a sentimental
attachment to God, so most likely they would like to see at least a
semblance of prayer in the schools ...
Srila Prabhupada: No. Do something practical! "Prayer"
means chanting the holy name of the Lord. If you don't know the holy
name of the Lord, we are giving it. You'll have no expenditure, and no
loss. So why don't you try this? Chant Hare Krishna. And if you
actually chant Hare Krishna, you will get scientific, realized
knowledge of God--direct, personal experience of God. Then everything
beneficial will follow for society.
Student: Yes. But, you see, right now you can't chant Hare
Krishna in the schools. That law is still there on the books. You can't
chant until somebody changes the law.
Srila Prabhupada: So my disciples can do that.
Student: They should try to fight the law?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just recently I heard that the
senators and congressmen have set aside one special day each year for
public prayer. Just one day--but they still want prayer. So if they
actually want prayer, why are they prohibiting it all the rest of the
year? Just see the contradiction! They have banned prayer because of
their inexperience. And now they are experiencing, "This does not help
us." Otherwise, what is the use of introducing prayer again? They have
experienced that without prayer things have failed. That is a fact.
Student: You were saying earlier that fifty to sixty
percent of the senators and congressmen are lawyers...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and nowadays "lawyer" means
cheater. One who can tactfully break the law--he is a good lawyer. They
will find some flaw in the letter of the law so that they can avoid the
spirit of the law.
Student: Actually, to ban prayer in the schools they had
to avoid the whole point of the First Amendment--that "Congress shall
make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion." They said a
prayer might trample an atheist's right not to pray.
Srila Prabhupada: So now the children cannot have a prayer
in their schools. These government men are mostly lawyers, cheaters.
Like Nixon. What is the situation now?
Student: Well, he couldn't get any less popular; so now
he's getting more popular. People forget.
Srila Prabhupada: People have become cheaters, and that is
why they elect such cheaters as their representatives. You Americans
can make all the propaganda you want, but you will not be happy without
offering prayer to God.
Student: That's right.
Srila Prabhupada: But be scientific. To begin with, follow
God's laws and lead a pure life: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no
intoxication, no gambling. If you reinstate prayer in the schools, that
is not bad; but unless you first become pure, your prayer will have no
practical effect. You yourselves must be free from all these impure
activities. Then from among yourselves you can elect a good leader. If
you really want a good leader, then you yourselves must become good.
And you can become good by offering prayer to God.
Student: Forgive me, but this sounds like we're getting
into some sort of vicious circle. A moment ago you said we have to
become pure or good first ... otherwise our prayer will have no effect.
So now how can you say we can become good by offering prayer?
Srila Prabhupada: Not just any kind of prayer. "Prayer"
means that you chant the name of God. If you simply chant Hare Krishna,
you will be in touch with God—the all-good. And then naturally you will
become good. Why don't you try it?
Student: We have little more to lose.
Srila Prabhupada: But if you chant Hare Krishna, you will
be the gainer. Just chant and see the result.