When Knowledge Is Nescience
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
sa paryagach chukram akayam avranam
asnaviram shuddham apapa-viddham
kavir manishi paribhuh svayambhur
yathatathyato ’rthan vyadadhach chashvatibhyah samabhyah
andham tamah pravishanti
ye ’vidyam upasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo
ya u vidyayam ratah
“Such a person must factually know the greatest of all, the Personality of Godhead, who is unembodied, omniscient, beyond reproach, without veins, pure, and uncontaminated, the self-sufficient philosopher who has been fulfilling everyone’s desire since time immemorial.
“Those who engage in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge.”—Sri Ishopanishad, Mantras 8–9
“Such a person must factually know the greatest of all…who is unembodied, omniscient…” That is the distinction between God and us. We are embodied. This body is different from me. Therefore when I leave this body, it becomes dust. “Dust thou art, dust thou shall be.” That refers to the body. I am not dust. I am spirit soul.
Krishna is not embodied. He has no difference between His body and His soul. He does not change His body, because He doesn’t have a material body. And because He does not change His body, He remembers everything. We change our body; therefore we do not remember what happened in our last birth.
Even in sleep we forget our body and the environment we are in. While sleeping and dreaming, you are in a dreamland. You don’t remember even that you have this body. Every night we experience this. I’m not the body. The body becomes tired. It sleeps or is inactive. But—as I am—I work, I dream, I go somewhere, I fly, or I create another kingdom, another body, another environment. This we experience every night. It is not difficult to understand.
Similarly, in every life, we create a different environment. In this life I may think I am Indian. You may think you are American. Or next life, a different position. Next life I may not be American, or I may not be Indian. And if I become American, I may not be a man. I may be a cow or a bull. Then I will be sent to the slaughterhouse. You see?
This is going on. This is the problem. Always changing bodies. It is a serious situation. We should take this life very seriously. “I’m changing my body life after life. I have no fixed position. I do not know where I will be put within the 8,400,000 species of life. So I must make a solution.”
Krishna gives that solution: yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama. “If anyone, some way or other, by developing Krishna consciousness comes to Me, he doesn’t have to return and accept a material body.” [Bhagavad-gita 15.6] He gets the same kind of body as Krishna, sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: a spiritual body of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.
We should very seriously execute Krishna consciousness, without any deviation. We should not be neglectful, thinking that this is a fashion or something imposed. No. This is the most important function. Human life is meant simply for developing Krishna consciousness. We have no other business. But unfortunately we have created so many engagements that we forget Krishna consciousness. That is called maya. We are forgetting our real business.
The rascal, blind leaders are leading people to hell. The leaders are tied up by the stringent rules and regulations of the material nature, but they have become leaders. And the people are being misled. That is called maya.
Some way or other you have come in contact with Krishna. So catch Him very tightly. If you catch Krishna’s lotus feet very tightly, then maya will not be able to do any harm.
There are two kinds of education: material education and spiritual education, brahma-vidya and jada-vidya. Jada-vidya means material education. Jada means “that which cannot move,” or matter. Spirit can move. Our body is a combination of spirit and matter. As long as the spirit is there, the body moves, just as a man’s coat and pants move as long as the man is wearing them. It appears that the coat and pants are moving, but actually the living entity is moving, and the covering, the dress, appears to be moving. Similarly, this body is moving because the spirit soul is moving.
If a car is moving, that means the driver is moving it. Foolish people may think that the car is moving on its own. But in spite of all the mechanical arrangements, it cannot move.
Because of the wrong kind of education, people think that material nature is working independently, moving and manifesting so many wonderful things. The waves are moving, but the waves are not moving independently. The air is moving them. But the air is also not moving independently. In this way, if you go back, back, back, you’ll find that Krishna is the cause of all causes. That is philosophy: to search out the ultimate cause.
Here it is said, andham tamah pravishanti ye avidyam upasate. Those captivated by the external movements are worshiping avidya, nescience. That will not help them. There are big, big institutions for studying technology—how a motorcar can move, how an airplane can move. They are manufacturing so much machinery. But there is no educational institution to study how the mover, the spirit soul, is moving. That lack of education is called avidya, nescience. The actual mover is not being studied, but the external movement is being studied.
When I lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I inquired, “Where is that technology to study the mover?” But they have no such arrangement. They could not answer satisfactorily. That is avidya.
Here, in the Ishopanishad, it is said, andham tamah pravishanti ye avidyam upasate. For those engaged only in the material advancement of education, the result will be that they will go to the darkest region of existence, andham tamah. It is a very dangerous position that at the present moment there is no arrangement in any state, all over the world, for spiritual education. This situation is pushing human society to the darkest region of existence.
Actually, that is happening. In your country, your rich country, you have a nice educational system, with so many universities, but what class of men are you producing? The students are becoming hippies. Why? The leaders should think about this. “What are we producing in spite of so many educational institutions?”
The leaders are worshiping avidya, nescience. That is not knowledge. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung very nicely: jada-vidya jato, mayara vaibhava. Jada-vidya means material education. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says it is an expansion of maya. Tomara bhajane badha: The more we advance in material education, the more we will be hampered in understanding God. And at last we shall declare, “God is dead. I am God. You are God”—all such nonsense.
That idea is hinted at here: andham tamah. Andham means darkness. There are two kinds of darkness: ignorance, and the absence of sunlight or other light. Materialists are certainly being pushed into the darkness. But there is another class—so-called philosophers, mental speculators, religionists, and yogis—who are going still more into the darkness because they are defying Krishna. They pose as if culturing spiritual knowledge, but because they have no information of Krishna, or God, their advancement of education is more dangerous because they are misleading people. For example, with their so-called yoga system they are misleading people by preaching, “Meditate and you’ll understand that you are God.” By meditation, one becomes God. [Laughs.] You see?
Krishna never meditated. He never had any chance to meditate, because from the very beginning Kamsa was prepared to kill Him. Then He was transferred by His father to the house of Nanda-Yashoda. There, when as a three-month-old baby He was sleeping, the demon Putana attacked Him. So Krishna had no chance to meditate to become God. He is God from the very beginning. That is God. God is God, and dog is dog. That is the law of identity.
“Become still, become silent, and you will become God.” This is nonsense. How I can become silent? Is there any possibility of becoming silent? No. There is no such possibility. “Become desireless.” How I can become desireless?
These are all bluffs. We cannot be desireless. We cannot be silent. But our desires, our activities, have to be purified. That is real knowledge. We should desire only to serve Krishna. That is purification of desire. Not desireless—that is not possible.
How can I be desireless? How can I be silent? That is not possible. I cannot be silent for a second. So then our activities should be engaged, dovetailed, in Krishna’s service. This is real knowledge: “As a living entity, I have all these things—activities, desires, the loving propensity. Everything is there. But it is being misguided.” We do not know where to place all these things. That is avidya, nescience.
This Ishopanishad teaches us that we should be very careful. We don’t say that you shouldn’t advance in material education. You can advance, but at the same time you should become Krishna conscious. That is our propaganda. We don’t say that you shouldn’t manufacture cars or machines. But we say, “All right, you have manufactured this machine. Employ it in Krishna’s service.” That is our proposal. We don’t say stop it. We don’t say that you can’t have any sex life. But we say, “Yes, have a sex life—for Krishna. Produce Krishna conscious children. For that purpose you can have sex a hundred times.” But don’t create cats and dogs. That is our proposal.
Education is required, but if education is wrongly diverted, it is very, very dangerous. That is the purport of this verse. So-called education has no value.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.