One of the common misconceptions about spiritual life in general and Hare Krishna yoga in particular is people think the Hare Krishna practise requires one to give up his or her material education and profession. Some have even expressed that chanting Hare Krishna and reading spiritual books makes them disinterested in material academic knowledge. Does the Hare Krishna process disregard the material skills of this world or the pursuit of academics?
The spiritual science of Hare Krishna meditation emphasises on the need to focus on serving and remembering God always; whatever is conducive to help us serve and remember God is acceptable. The scriptures teach us the morals and values we’ve to strive for. The academic knowledge and professional skills when combined with these spiritual principles and values help us achieve wonderful things in society.
Radhanath Swami often compares academic education with a tool that can be either used for a constructive or destructive purpose depending on whose hand it is in. For example a knife is neither good nor bad. If it’s in the hand of a surgeon, it can help in the surgery and give life. If however the knife is in the hands of a criminal, it can be used for murder. The knife isn’t bad per se; it all depends on who uses it and for what purpose. Similarly professional skills and academic knowledge is wonderful in the hands of spiritually trained men and women. Chanting Hare Krishna makes one spiritually strong and a chanter then makes his professional expertise a blessing by using the skills for serving the society. The world desperately needs people who can use the modern tools for serving the society rather than for selfish means. Chanting Hare Krishna helps one rise above selfish concerns and serve sincerely. In the hands of such a person, the material tools are an asset. Radhanath Swami’s dear friend Bhaktiswaroop Damodar Goswami was a PhD student in the University of California. But he was not interested in physics and science; he was interested in the science of Hare Krishna yoga. But his guru, Srila Prabhupada encouraged him to become a scientist and enlighten people about spiritual principles through the knowledge of science. And he has done that in a wonderful way.
Radhanath Swami also warns against premature rejection of material life for the sake of chanting Hare Krishna. He is emphatic that if our material education can be used for serving God, we should never reject it. “You may not like academic books”, says Radhanath Swami, “but if you can use it in God’s service, you should not be concerned with what you like and what you don’t like. You should be concerned with how best you can serve. Someday you may not like reading spiritual books too, but that doesn’t mean you stop reading them. We should do what is right, whateveris best to serve the Lord.”
A Hare Krishna chanter is not an escapist because he knows that’s not pleasing to Krishna. He is sincere in serving the best way he can; and anything that helps in the service is most welcome.