Traditionally, in both Eastern and Western cultures, school systems were founded on a religious basis, from which different curricula were developed. The main reasons people pursued education and attended schools were to satisfy the spiritual quest – athato brahma jijnasa (Vedanta-sutra (1.1.1)) to fulfill their longing for spiritual development, self-determination, or liberation (moksha) from ignorance and the passions of mindless sense gratification, without a merely livelihood-based motivation for doing so. But the prime focus of modern education is not so much learning but to increase one’s earning power – to acquire necessary knowledge about basic interpersonal communication, literacy skills, and science for the sake of making a livelihood for themselves.
‘The Origin of Species’ was published by Charles Darwin in 1859. This had lead a radical change in the people’s perception about life and world. To support his objective evolution theory throughout, Darwin had also claimed that first life spontaneously originated from dead chemicals. For more than 150 years the only major focus of biologists has been to uphold the Darwinian vision intact. Hence, evolution is a word not limited to biological evolution. Scientists claim that our universe and solar system have evolved from explosion of matter (Big bang theory) and chemical elements have evolved from simple matter. First life has evolved from dead chemicals (Abiogenesis), and complex organisms from simpler forms (Biological evolution). Theories like the Big Bang, Origin of Life, Darwinian Evolution, etc. are failing under the influence of new evidence and concepts created by the advancement of science itself. It is not an attack on science from without. It is a wholly internal critique of science by scientists according to strict scientific principles – ‘scientific critique of science’. Evidence is forcing many biologists to conclude that, if Darwin had known some of what has been discovered since the publishing of his theory, he probably wouldn’t have believed in his own theory of evolution.
Most unfortunately, conclusions from several anomalous approaches like evolution theory are continuously used by a few atheistic scientists (for example, Richard Dawkins) to attack bonafide religions conceptions. Topics like Soul, God and devotion (science of dedication) are with intent and cogently eliminated from the modern educational curriculum. To teach that Man is simply an enclosed membrane of chemicals affects how people think about themselves as spiritual beings, and thus it influences the way they think about such concerns as abortion, euthanasia, bioethics in research and medicine, cloning, genetic modification of food, animal rights, etc. Our attitude is shaped by the way our education has conditioned us to think about the world. Many young people have confessed that they became atheists due to the teachings of the theory of evolution – even those who were formerly theists. By receiving such incorrect and incomplete knowledge about life, educated people in science do not hesitate to grossly disrespect life and nature to its highest degree. The grave consequences of this self-destructive attitude in modern education has already started threatening the entire human civilization in the form of environment pollution, highly stressful mechanistic lifestyles, increased suicide rates and the list is neither complete nor ever-ending.
Samsara is an endless cycle of birth and death. Conditioned souls entangled in samsara, wander in the endless ocean of material sphere by obtaining several different bodies life after life. Srimad Bhagavatam explains that soul attains the human form after a subjective evolution of many millions of years in the cycle of transmigration. Hence, vedantic teaching explains that human life is very precious and superior to that of animal life due to its intense responsibility. Human life is compared with a boat specifically meant for crossing the material ocean of repeated cycles of birth and death. The living agents of the Supreme Lord are the expert boatmen, and the advantageous facilities available in the human body are the complimentary wind. With the help of both expert boatmen and the favorable wind the boat (human life) can easily attain its goal. However, due to the lack of proper education, in modern time people are simply wasting their precious human life. Sri Isopanishad explains such unfortunate individuals as killer of the soul because they are moving towards a deep ignorance to suffer continually.
Lord Sri Krishna mercifully appeared as Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu along with His eternal associates about 500 years ago in Sri Navadwip Dham, West Bengal, India and established the congregational chanting or Sankirtan, as the universal religion for this age of Kali. Lord Balaram also appeared as Lord Nityananda Prabhu in Rada-desa, Birbhum District, West Bengal, India. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that his mercy would spread to every town and village and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s manifesting potency Lord Nityananda Prabhu, expansively initiated that distributing function. Lord Nityananda Prabhu was running after fallen souls, making them qualified by giving his causeless mercy and finally sending them to his master Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the relishing function). Hence, the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu is the foundation of devotion to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Only by the mercy of Lord Nityananda one can obtain Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s divine grace. These two divine functions of Absolute: relishing and distributing functions are eternally manifesting in our Gaudiya Sampradaya.
After 500 years of Mahaprabhu’s appearance, distributing and relishing functions of Absolute again appeared extensively in the form of Srila A. C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada and Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja. Fulfilling the prediction of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in ten short years, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada inundated the whole world with Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada went to the West in 1965 and distributed Krishna consciousness in an extraordinary manner, which is unique in the history of our Sampradaya. Like merciful Nityananda Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada ran after the most fallen souls in western civilization and made them qualified to accept Krishna consciousness in their practicing life. Prior to his divine disappearance from this mortal world in 1977, Srila Prabhupada guided his disciples and followers to obtain further spiritual guidance from Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja, whom he considered his own siksha Gurudev. Srila Sridhar Maharaja affectionately nourished the sincere souls, who approached him following the order of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Sridhar Maharaja is world renowned as the guardian of pure devotion for his saintly simplicity, affectionate nature and many other wonderful Vaisnava qualities. He blessed the world with many beautiful compositions of spiritual prayers and literature, revealing a devotional stature in common with that of the famed Goswamis of Vrindavan.
Srila Prabhupada decided to go to America, because whole world (especially India) was following the American mentality. Srila Prabhupada thought if America took to Krishna consciousness, other countries would simply follow. This was a wonderful vision of Srila Prabhupada and he could practically achieve it by convincing the whole world about Krishna consciousness in ten short years. However, the scientific community of the world did not take up the movement of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu very seriously. As explained before, scientists believe that life can be reduced to molecules and in the future, by massive molecular manipulation, they can successfully synthesize life in their laboratory. Knowing scientists are the powerful preachers of modern materialistic civilization, Srila Prabhupada was very concerned about their mentality. To save the world from this dangerous position, Srila Prabhupada organized a scientific preaching mission ‘Bhaktivedanta Institute’ under the leadership of Srila Sripad Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Goswami Maharaja (Srila Sripad Maharaja, also known as Dr. T.D. Singh). Srila Prabhupada gave much energy and special attention for this most important preaching mission of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to defeat materialistic science and to gradually transform it into spiritual science. Lord Sri Krishna says in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita 3.21 that,
yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah
Translation: Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
In the same lines, Srila Prabhupada envisioned that, if the top class men of society like engineers, medical men and scientists take up the Krishna Consciousness movement as a scientific movement, following them common men will also do the same. Srila Prabhupada said,
“… we have formed one party of scientists under the leadership of Sriman Svarupa Damodara Prabhu. Also we have formed the Bhaktivedanta Institute for organizing scientific presentations of Krishna Consciousness. This party is our most important preaching arm with which we will be able to destroy the bogus speculation and cheating which goes under the banner of scientific advancement.
“Therefore I have got great hope for Svarupa Damodara and his colleagues. I want them to travel vigorously throughout the world to lecture in all universities and other institutions. There is no lack of financial resources and we shall spare nothing to see to this party’s success.”.
The three main members of Srila Prabhupada’s party of scientists are Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Goswami Maharaja, Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja (Sripad Puri Maharaja) and Sripad Sadaputa Prabhu. All the three members are Ph.D. degree holders in different scientific curricula. Srila Prabhupada wanted to make scientists understand these teachings of Srimad Bhagavad-Gita that life is a non-material principle and is distinct from molecules or matter and that the Supreme Lord is the source of both life and matter. To convince the scientists, Srila Prabhupada gave two very powerful mantras: (1) Life Comes From Life, and (2) Matter Comes From Life. Srila Prabhupada empowered and trained Srila Sripad Maharaja to preach expansively the first mantra ‘Life Comes From Life’ and Srila Prabhupada gave the task of developing the scientific philosophical understanding of the second mantra ‘Matter Comes From Life’ to Sripad Puri Maharaja. After the divine departure of Srila Prabhupada, both Srila Sripad Maharaja and Sripad Puri Maharaja approached Srila Sridhar Maharaja for spiritual guidance to carry forward services of Bhaktivedanta Institute. Srila Sridhar Maharaja with great love and affection encouraged the scientific preaching services envisioned by Srila Prabhupada. Srila Sridhar Maharaja mentioned to Srila Sripad Maharaja, Swami Maharaja (Swami is the Sannyas title of Srila Prabhupada) gave you the task of building a temple over the tomb of Darwin. In several discourses Srila Sridhar Maharaja explained that consciousness is the foundation and its objective content or world is floating on it connected by a shadowy medium like mind. These collections of Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s taped discourses have been compiled as a unique book: Subjective Evolution of Consciousness – The Play of the Sweet Absolute.
For over three decades, Srila Sripad Maharaja has been giving lectures on the spiritually based Bhagavata Paradigm. He has spoken on such subjects as Bioethics, Theobiology, Life Comes From Life and the Synthesis of Science and Religion at many of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities. In the name of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, Srila Sripad Maharaja has organized three major conferences and a large number of seminars. He has published two important books on the synthesis of science and religion and numerous other literature, which have all received world wide acceptance from the academic community. As director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute he has interacted with thousands of scholars from around the globe, including many Nobel Laureates and leading scientists. Srila Sripad Maharaja has authored The Fundamental Principles of Reincarnation, Theobiology and What is Matter and What is Life? He co-edited two major volumes; Synthesis of Science and Religion – Critical Essays and Dialogues and Thoughts on Synthesis of Science and Religion containing important thoughts from some of the most prominent contemporary scientists and thinkers of the world including several Nobel Laureates. Bhaktivedanta Institute published a book, Bhagavat Sevarpanam about Srila Sripad Maharaja’s scientific sankirtan worldwide with relevant photos and is available online at www.bhaktiswarupadamodara.com