This month, HarperSanFrancisco will publish Prothero's new book
"Religious Literacy," a work whose message is far more sober than its
author's affect. In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of
Americans say they believe in God, only a tiny portion of them knows a
thing about religion. When he began teaching college 17 years ago,
Prothero writes, he discovered that few of his students could name the
authors of the Christian Gospels. Fewer could name a single Hindu
Scripture. Almost no one could name the first five books of the Hebrew
Bible. Prothero, who went to Yale in the early 1980s and speaks of his
all-night bull sessions on politics and religion with reverence,
realized that to re-create that climate in his classroom, his students
first had to know something. And so he made it his job to (1) figure
out what they didn't know and (2) teach it to them. He began giving
religious literacy quizzes to his students, and, subsequently, to
everyone he knew. Almost everybody failed.
...The book proposes a solution that is at once controversial and
familiar: teach religion in public schools. Prothero believes that
before graduation from high school, every American should take a Bible
course and a world-religions course—dispassionate humanities courses
whose purpose is not to catechize or evangelize but to educate. In
colleges, he argues, we have science requirements, so why not religion?
When Harvard decided recently not to make religion part of its core
curriculum, "it missed an opportunity," he says.go to story
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 schooling?
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. more
Prabhupada: So one intelligent boy should
come forward. Who is intelligent, most intelligent boy? You come
forward? Come on. Eh? Somebody come forward, some of the boys. Come on.
You come on. No? All right. Very good. Stand up here. Can you say what
is this? What is this?
Prabhupada: Whose hand?
Boy: Your hand.
Prabhupada: Your hand. And
what is this?
Boy: Your head.
Prabhupada: My head. Yes. And
what is this?
Boy: Your knee.
Prabhupada: Yes. My leg. And
what is this?
Boy: Your clothes.
Prabhupada: My cloth.
Similarly, you have got your head, you have got your hand, you have got
your leg, you have got your coat, you have got your pant, but do you
know where you are?
Boy: I am here. [laughter]
Prabhupada: You are here, but
that is your coat, that is your pant, that is your hand, that is your
leg, that is your head. But where you are? It is your coat, it is your
pant, it is your hand, it is your leg. Where you are? Do you know that?
Can you say, any of the boys or girls here, where you are?
Prabhupada: No? Oh. So you
are not taught in this school where you are? Then what is that
education? You do not know where you are.
Boy: I do know where I am.
I'm in this school.
Prabhupada: You do not know,
because as you say you are here, here your coat is there, your pant is
there, your hand is there, your body is there, but you cannot explain
where you are. All right. Sit down. I shall explain. [laughter] This is
the defect of modern education. We are educated in a way in which we
have misunderstood, "This is my body. This is my hand. This is my leg.
This is my country. This is my mother. This is my father. This is my
school." "This is my," I know. I have the concept of "my." But who is
conceiving "my"? We have no information where it is. In Srimad-Bhagavatam
it is said that yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke [SB
10.84.13]. Under misconception we understand my body as myself. I say,
"It is my body," but I misidentify my body with myself. Is it not?
So the basic principle of mistake... Yasyatma-buddhih kunape
tri-dhatuke. According to Vedic literature, this body is
prepared in three elements: fire, water, and clay. So I am not the
combination of fire, water, and clay. Then I am this house, I am this
room. So yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke [SB
10.84.13]. So basic principle of my knowledge is false, that I am
considering this material body as "I am." And if the basic principle is
wrong, then, in relationship with this body, because I am born in this
land of America... "I am born" means my body is born. Or because my
body is born from another body, my father and mother, so I think that
"This body is my kinsman, and this country is mine," and so on. But the
basic principle is false, that "I am considering, falsely identifying
myself with this body. But I am within this body." That is a fact.
And how can I understand how I am within this body? I can understand I
am within this body by my feeling. If there is some pain or pleasure on
my body, I can feel. I am conscious that I am there. In consciousness,
I am there. And what is this consciousness? This consciousness is the
reflection of real myself. Myself means soul. So as soon as the soul is
within this body, there is perception of pains and pleasure, heat and
cold, and so many things. That is consciousness. And as soon as the
soul is out of this body, there is no more pain, pleasure, or heat and
cold. A dead body, if you cut it into pieces, it will not protest.
Therefore the soul, or consciousness, the symptom of soul,
consciousness, is my self. My consciousness is the symptom of my real
self. Similarly, there is another consciousness.
In the Bhagavad-gita there are description of two
consciousness. Just like I am conscious throughout my body. If you
pinch any part of my body, then I feel. That is my consciousness. So I
am spread, my consciousness is spread, all over my body. This is
explained in the Bhagavad-gita, avinashi tad
viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam: "That consciousness which is
spread all over this body, that is eternal." And antavanta ime
deha nityasyoktah sharirinah: [Bg. 2.18] "But this body is antavat,"
means imperishable. "This body is perishable, but that consciousness is
imperishable, eternal." And that consciousness, or the soul, is
transmigrating from one body to another. Just like we are changing
dress. I may have this dress. You may have another dress. I may
exchange your dress with me. So this changing of dress going on every
moment. How? Now, these children, they are now so small. When they'll
become young, this body will grow. We do not know... We say, "It is
growing," but growing or not growing, this body will not remain. This
body will go; another body will come. Medical science also says that
every second we are changing blood corpuscles, and therefore change in
the body is going on. So you say or I say that "Body is growing," but
in the Vedic language it is said that "Body is changing." Just like a
child is born so small from the mother's womb, and it changes body
every second. Then he becomes a young child or a boy, then young man,
then old man like me, and so on. In this way this changing, body
changing, is going on. And the final change is called death. Death
means... Just like the too much old garments cannot be used, similarly,
this body is the garment of the soul. When it is..., no longer can be
used, we have to accept another body. This is called transmigration of
Now, consciousness, the symptom... The presentation of the soul within
this body is proved by consciousness. So from Bhagavad-gita
we can understand there are two different qualities of consciousness.
One consciousness is that I know about the pain and pleasure of my
body, you know about the pains and pleasures of your body, but I do not
know the pains and pleasure of your body; neither you know the pains
and pleasure of my body. Therefore each and every one of us is
individual soul, and our consciousness is limited within the body.
Similarly, there is another consciousness and another body. That body
is universal body, and that consciousness is universal. That universal
consciousness knows your pains and pleasure, my pains and pleasure, and
millions and trillions of living entities and bodies. He knows the
pains and pleasures of everyone. These are the statements in the Bhagavad-gita.
Kshetrajñam cha mam viddhi sarva-kshetreshu bharata:
"As individual soul is conscious, is, only of his body, similarly, I am
also conscious of everyone's body." The Supreme Personality of Godhead
says that "I am conscious of everyone's body," because He is
all-pervading. He is all-pervading. That is all-pervading
consciousness. So this all-pervading consciousness, or Krishna
consciousness, we are preaching, consciousness, all-pervading
consciousness, universal consciousness. So our consciousness, when it
is dovetailed with universal consciousness, them our consciousness also
becomes universal consciousness. What is that? I will give you one
example. Just like a motorcar is running at hundred miles speed, and
you are running on your cycle at ten miles speed. But if you catch that
motorcar, you will also run in hundred miles speed. Although your
capacity of bicycle is only ten miles speed, you also run at hundred
miles speed. So unless we dovetail our activities with the supreme
consciousness, or God consciousness, there cannot be equality,
fraternity, or universality as we are hankering after. It is not
possible. You can go on crying in the wilderness for universal
fraternity, friendship, equality, but if you keep your individuality,
individual consciousness, selfish consciousness, there is no
possibility of peace or tranquillity in the world. Therefore people are
very much anxious at the present moment for peace and tranquillity over
the world, but they do not know how that peace can be attained. Peace
can be attained. The formula is there in the Bhagavad-gita.
Bhoktaram yajña-tapasam sarva-loka-maheshvaram
[Bg. 5.29]. You can attain peace only when you understand that God is
the proprietor of everything.
Actually, God is proprietor of everything. Now, take for example this
house. This house is made of wood, stone, clay, sand, and everything,
materials. But who is the proprietor of this wood, sand, clay? God is
the proprietor. You cannot produce wood. You cannot produce sand. You
cannot produce clay. You can simply work as a laborer to bring the
clay, to bring the wood, to bring the stone and collect them and stand,
make, construct a very big skyscraper house. But actually, the
proprietor is God. This land, this land, America, it was lying before
you came from Europe, before you colonized. And it may be, some days
after, it will be lying here, and you shall have to go. Therefore who
is the proprietor of this land? God is the proprietor. In this way, if
we study that "Everything belongs to God. I also belong to God, my
self, my body, my mind, my activity, my energy, everything..." Just
take for example. I am claiming that "This is my hand," but if God
withdraws the energy of the hand, your claim for "my hand" at once
goes. So we have to develop that God consciousness and Krishna
consciousness. When we speak of Krishna consciousness, it is God
consciousness. People have become degenerated, forgetting God
consciousness. Therefore in the present world there is no peace.
Materially, they are very much advanced. They are advanced in so-called
education, but they do not know what is "I." The everything, they are
claiming, "my and mine," but they do not know what is "I."
So this consciousness, Krishna consciousness, is scientifically
presented. It is not a sentiment. It is not a sentimental movement. It
is very scientific movement. And the easiest process to come to this
Krishna consciousness is by chanting this Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
So we are presenting very easy formula for coming to the Krishna
consciousness platform. Just a moment before, we were dancing and
chanting equally, the boys, the girls, the men, the women. So there is
no distinction. Even if we do not understand the language, what is the
meaning of Hare Krishna, but because it is transcendental, because it
is spiritual, from the spiritual platform, everything is equal. We
forget that we are American, or we are Indian, we are child, we are
youth, or man, or woman, because in the spiritual platform there is no
such bodily distinction. So our request to all the guardians of the
boys and girls present here, or the teachers, that they should teach
from the very beginning this Krishna consciousness, or God
consciousness. Otherwise the future of the world is not very bright. It
is recommended in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. We are having
our class in our temple: the instruction of Prahlada Maharaja. Prahlada
Maharaja was a five-years-old boy, and he was agitating this Krishna
conscious movement in his school. The schoolteacher would not allow him
to speak about God, but as soon as there was some recess and the child,
the boy, five-years-old boy, he would take the opportunity, call his
friends and speak on Krishna consciousness. And he said, kaumara
acharet prajño dharman bhagavatan iha [SB 7.6.1]. The
Krishna consciousness, or God consciousness, should be taught from the
very beginning of education. This is the greatest drawback of modern
education, that not only in your country or any country they have
completely neglected what is meant by God. And in India, they are
especially... Now, as soon as there is any question of God, they see
phobia: "Oh, this is all nonsense." They have become so clever.
So anyway, my appeal to you, American people, that you are considered
to be the leader of all nations of the world. You should take this
Krishna conscious movement very seriously. It is good for you. It is
good for the whole world. It is individually, collectively, without any
consideration of caste, creed, or color. Everyone can chant Hare
Krishna, anyone and everyone, at home, on the street. There is no
expenditure. Suppose while walking if you chant Hare Krishna, there is
no loss, there is no expenditure, but you see how much you are profited
by chanting Hare Krishna. This is practical. We don't say that "You
come to our temple and give us some subscription. Become our member."
That is a secondary question. Our primary movement is that everyone may
take advantage of this movement and simply chant wherever possible, at
home, at work, on the street, anywhere. There is no regulation where
you have to chant and how you have to chant. It is spontaneous. Simply
chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare
Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There are only three words
there: Hare, Krishna, and Rama, but they are adjusted in a different
position. There are sixteen words. So it is not very difficult. You can
make an experiment. The children also may take pleasure. We have got
our records. If you play those records and chant with it, you will find
a transcendental pleasure in you. These are facts. So our request to
you, that you take this movement a little seriously, and you will be
happy by grace of Krishna.