In Regards to Children's Education

Manidhara Das
13 Mar 2023

The education of children is of great interest even for those of a demoniac nature, as demons believe that we live only one life and that we are definitely formed by our education.
This is not true. We are formed in a material sense by our past activities and their implications for the three modes of material nature. We bring to this life a stock of reactions that are the result of our past actions. The size of the body of a small child is temporary, and even in a small body, a great demon can reside. We are not this body, regardless of its size. The bodily sentimental idea of "small innocent children" could be compared to a walk through a shop selling seeds of plants we haven't seen in grown-up form yet. If one plants a cactus, there will be a cactus growing up from such a seed, and if one plants a rose, there will be a rose.

Therefore, samskaras, or purificatory processes, for receiving and welcoming a child are necessary, as the consciousness of the parents prepares a field into which the reborn soul can enter. This is at the very base of education, as the person appearing as our child cannot be changed, but it can be influenced. Srila Prabhupada gave the example of butter, which can be formed but whose nature cannot be changed.

Here, one may argue, why educate a child at all when things are predestined?
Srila Prabhupada said that a person without any education is actually an animal. Animals learn best from their parents the art of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending themselves. No schools are required for that. Education is therefore given to humans only. Of course, an animal can be trained eventually as well, but only to obey. Despite all the sophisticated ways of education "humans" of today receive, they are educated for the same purpose only: to obey and serve the needs of the enterprise profit seeking class of men. They are educated in sophisticated art through the same activities animals do.

Aware of this, a person striving for Krsna consciousness, motivated by higher spiritual values, will naturally try to protect his children from such "slaughterhouses of intelligence" as Srila Prabhupada called the educational institutions of today. By teaching what is not needed to know or by teaching plain lies in the form of all kinds of speculations, the precious time when a child is receptive is wasted.
Such is the nature of "education" today. The knowledge that water's chemical formula is H2O is of very little value for most people, especially when there is only polluted water availlable.:-( The knowledge of how to operate a machine can often be learned even by a monkey, and the knowledge of how to operate a gizmo, which relies on another gizmo, which in turn needs another gizmo to function (all purchased for hard-earned money), is a dead end road the society is madly driving into.

Demons believe that they can control a person's life through education. I am the living example that it is not so. Being born in a communist country and learning that Russians are sort of superhumans flying around the globe in the first space shuttle, I chanted the glories of Mr.Gagarin and saw every day the banners hanging in the streets telling us that we will live with the Soviet Union forever. My parents didn't care, and so I also didn't really care either. Due to my parents immigration to the West, by the age of thirteen, I entered a capitalistic school in the heart of Germany, where I had to learn that life consists of hard work, producing cars and other machinery, and making lots of money. One has to work so one can eat, and one has to eat so one can work. That was the German policy until today. And so by the age of sixteen, I was a full-grown cynic who didn't believe anybody anything, sharing my life with those few who didn't believe anything either.

Saved by the hour by Srila Prabhupada and his servants, who taught me the art of education by living example and not by mere words, my life changed entirely from total pessimism to absolute spiritual motivation as an optimist. Only by becoming a convinced material pessimist can one become a convinced spiritual optimist.

Receiving real education, after wasting years in schools with tough teachers of mostly very peculiar psychic character, I came alive as Krsna Consciousness's process of education is symptomized by joy and vigor, learning the art of self-sufficiency in absolute dependancy on God. Knowledge of God is the aim of education, not the blind dogma of believing in a promised dreamland where everybody will unite and enjoy this material world.

To learn what has to be learned and to learn what is truly useful is the motivation of a Krsna-conscious person who is obstructed by parott-like ways of learning in the material sense. Entering a material educational system, one learns to simply accept. Entering a Krsna Consciousness educational system, one learns to ask questions, as only from perfect questions come perfect answers.

Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified this way of learning by first rejecting material education and not even accepting the diploma degree after ending his studies. Acting more upon his MOTIVATION than his INDOCTRINATION, he turned towards spiritual values, being entirely inspired to do so by his spiritual master.

One can say that he was, in terms of learning and erudition, a very sophisticated person, but that didn't come from his academic education; it was taught to him by his devotee parents and, finally, by his guru. Reading and counting are things one can learn at home, as demonstrated by those devoted children who already do that. History education consists of a constant flow of lies, as any totalitarian regime teaches history according to its needs. Chemistry is for most of us of no use, besides eating "food" that is made from chemicals, as is the case today :-(  Physics are of not much use as physical laws can be observed in a simple empiric way, and constructing bridges and sophisticated gizmos for the purpose of improving ways of eating,sleeping, mating, and defending only complicates our life instead of simplifying it. Most scientific research is done for military purposes, and the common man on the street gets only the remnants of what was developed in the laboratories of the demon scientists.
Medical assistance mostly only complicates the matter; it is not able to stop the karma and the consequent death of a person anyway. But in cases of physical injuries, medical help is useful; otherwise, the medical staff of today is only a group of salesmen, advertising the latest products of the pharmaceutical industry to the desperate patients who hope to avoid disease and death.
At the high point of science, with the development of weapons of mass destruction in the form of the atomic bomb or chemical warfare, the revolutionary achievements of medical science are typified by the development of contraceptives and the art of aborting and killing a newborn child. Insemination and abortion seem to the scientist to be interesting in the same way as they try desperately to recreate life, which was already created and facilitated by God Himself. To become God is the rule of the game for the demons, and the educational system is supposed to teach us how to do it. Such are the ideals of a demonic society.

Krsna Consciousness means the ultimate opposition to such demoniac dogmas; the search for the true meaning of human life is never initiated early. As children are far more receptive than grownups, and especially before the sexual impulse becomes prominent, childhood plays an important role in our lives. Even though I became neither communist nor capitalist, the wasted years of my "education" left a mark on me for sure.

It is for this reason that Srila Prabhupada pressed the urgent need to disconnect our children from the demoniac system imposed upon us. He introduced the Vedic educational system, where teaching is applied according to the NATURE of the individual child and not according to social or economic need.

What follows is a collection of letters from Srila Prabhupada instructing parents and teachers on how to educate a child. His letters may be the platform for discussing how to implement the ideals set by him in the most practical fashion and may raise further questions to clarify the matter.

„…We are not going to abide by the government schedule. They (the children) should be taught our books as soon as they can read and write. The idea is that those who will later accept service (material work) cannot be accepted by us for schooling; we cannot help them. They (our children) must be the sons of rich and important men (in the spiritual sense) who will not be taking education simply to use it for eating and sleeping. They should be taught just to do like the elders, that is, rise early, cleanse, attend mangala aratrik, read our literature, chant, go for sankirtan, like that, and besides that, a little ABC, mathematics, geography, history, that's all. And teach the small children to play Krishna games: one child is a cow, another is a cowherd boy, they go to the forest, there are demons there, Krishna kills the demons, like that, and then learn some ABC, then play some more, have kirtan, little ABC, and by keeping them always diversified, they shall not lose interest and will keep their attention always focused around Krishna.“

Letter to Giriraj, Amsterdam 30th of July, 1972


Complete separation from the boys is not necessary for girls at such young age, so I don't require that they must be educated separately, only that they should live separately. What do they know of boy or girl at such young age? There was one question by a little girl like Sarasvati to her father: "Father, when you were young were you a boy or a girl?" So when they are grown up, at about 10 to 12 years old, then you can make separate departments for teaching also. But while they are so young, although they must live in separate boys and girls quarters, they may be educated sometimes together, there is no such restriction that little girls should not have association with little boys, not until they are grown up.
All the children should learn to read and write very nicely, and a little mathematics, so that they will be able to read our books. Cooking, sewing, things like that do not require schooling, they are learned simply by association. There is no question of academic education for either boys or girls—simply a little mathematics and being able to read and write well, that's all, no universities. Their higher education they will get from our books, and other things they will get from experience, like preaching, SKP (sankirtan, book distribution), etc. Alongside the regular classes in reading and writing, the other routine programs they should also participate in, like arati, kirtana, preaching, Sankirtana, like that.

Letter to Chaya dasi, Calcutta m16th of February, 1972


The children should be trained in early rising, attending mangal arati, some elementary education: arithmetic, alphabet, some of our books, like that. They should go to bed by 8 p.m. and rise by 4 a.m. for mangala artik, getting 8 hours sleep. If they take 8 hours sleep, they will not fall asleep during arati. When they get up they should wash with a little warm water, at least three times wash face. They may sleep one hour in the afternoon and there is no harm. Encourage them to chant as much japa as possible, but there is no question of force or punishment. If there is need you may shake your finger at them but never physical punishment is allowed. Try as far as possible to discipline them with love and affection, so that they develop a taste for austerity of life and think it great fun to serve Krishna in many ways. Rising early and mangala arati, this is enough austerity. Besides that, let them learn something, chant, dance, eat as much prasadam as they like, and do not mind if they have playful nature—let them also play and run, that is natural. It is nice if they eat often—if children overeat it doesn't matter, that is no mistake. Boys and girls should be educated separately.

Letter to Aniruddha, Bombay, 10th o January, 1972


"…I am very glad that you are training the 2 boys in Krishna Consciousness. I do not think you require an academic degree for training such boys. We are training in Krishna Consciousness, which has nothing to do with academic education; I therefore wish that instead of wasting your time for 2 or 3 years for taking a degree, you may increase your scope of activities for recruiting such boys and training them in Krishna Consciousness. But if your state laws do not allow you to hold any class without such a degree, then you must get such degree. On the whole, you have got a very nice engagement for training children in Krishna Consciousness. And I think you are very fit for it. I am sure if you endeavor in this line of service, Krishna will be very much pleased and will shower His blessings more and more."

Letter to Yamuna 


So I am very glad and proud that you have so much appreciated the character, discipline and devotional service to the Lord of my six young disciples who are working there with faith and confidence. You will be pleased to know that all of my disciples are trained from the beginning to build up character, and such character is built up by following the restrictions of no illicit sexual connections, no meat-eating, no intoxication, and no gambling. So this Krishna Consciousness movement is meant for a complete overhauling of the whole social, political, religious, moral, educational, and hygienic principles. Human society without following these principles cannot rise to the spiritual platform.

Letter to Sri Balmukundji, Los Angeles, 18th of anuary, 1969


I am very much sad to learn that you have left the company of the devotees over this incident at Gurukula school. Now you are living by yourself because you have been hurt by seeing that the children are sometimes mistreated, and because no one has taken your good advice in this connection. But you may be assured that I am always anxious about the welfare of my disciples, so that I am taking steps to rectify this unfortunate situation. Now my advice to you is to give up these feelings and return to your life of Krishna Consciousness devotional service, and if you go back to Dallas school and demonstrate to the other teachers there just the proper way to instruct and discipline the students nicely, that will be a great service. I am forwarding the copy of this letter, with your letter, to Satsvarupa for his immediately attention.
Now the thing is, children should not be beaten at all, that I have told. They should simply be shown the stick strongly. So if one cannot manage in that way then he is not fit as teacher. If a child is trained properly in Krishna Consciousness, he will never go away. That means he must have two things, love and education. So if there is beating of child, that will be difficult for him to accept in loving spirit, and when he is old enough he may want to go away—that is the danger. So why these things are going on _ marching and chanting japa, insufficient milk, too strict enforcement of time schedules, hitting the small children? Why these things are being imposed? Why they are inventing these such new things like marching and japa like military? They should run and play when they are small children, not forced to chant japa, that is not the way. So I have given you the guiding principles, it is not that I must be consulted with every small detail, that is the business of the in-charge, but if no one is there who can manage in the right way, what can I do? Now if you have got the right idea how to do it, you may go there again and take some responsible post for correcting the situation, that will be your real duty, not that there is some disagreement and I go away disgusted, no. That is not Vaisnava standard. Standard should be that, never mind there is some difficulty, my spiritual master has ordered me to do like this, now let me do it, that's all.

Letter to Bhanytanya dasi, Hyderabad, 18th of November, 1972