So Srila Prabhupada in the 1960, then he envisioned this program of having a study, a systematic study of his books, going through the Bhagavad-gita, Nectar of Devotion, Isopanisad, Upadesamrta, as the fundamental course, the basis, because all the instructions are given in these books. Then Bhagavatam expands that out, gives more elaboration, and then Caitanya Caritamrta, then that gives how the Gaudiyas themselves apply these teachings that are there in the Gita, Nectar of Devotion and the Bhagavatam. And this is based on the course structure given by Srila Bhaktisidhhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
So this concept of this formalized education, or formalized degrees then was for the… The idea that devotees then would appreciate that endeavor by the Vaishnavas, how they apply themselves into understanding the philosophy of Krishna consciousness and then the idea is, having learned these things then there will be practice in one’s life. So, the Vaishnava concept, these are not something that are connected with the social status. Like in the modern it’s more of a social status, it’s connected more with the vocational side, or occupational side. So in varna and ashrama today the degrees are connected with varna. But in the Vedic sense they are connected with ashrama because they mean that they are a development or an application of one’s intelligence, one’s energy, one’s time into uplifting oneself by the proper study of the scriptures. Because even in the Vedic sense the study of scriptures, even if it might be used connected with the occupation, it still had to be based on the qualities that they had gained through the ashrama. They weren’t like the modern degrees, it’s just some skill. No, it meant a body of knowledge that one understood and was able to practice in one’s life. So it was just the application of one’s own personal endeavor in a specific area. So the endeavor is the same, that commitment is the same, just the area might be different.
So of all the bodies of knowledge then knowledge in the philosophy and the theology, that’s always considered the highest. So in the Vedic the para-vidya is the highest, after that it’s the apara-vidya and the various aspects of Vedic knowledge that connect with the techniques of dealing with the material energy in connection with the Lord.
And we see, even in the Western, its foundation, then someone after doing his trivium and quadrivium, they would get their bachelor’s which was just considered that you were a gentleman, then the actual study was, then after that you became a doctor, a lawyer, or a theologian. So of the three the theology was considered the highest, though the time spent to study them, I think, was, the standard was 12 years, the standard was considered the same. So in that way they were all professors. But just to… That theology has that higher element that it’s dealing beyond the material, then those who had that were called ‘doctors,’ and those who had law or medicine were called ‘masters.’ But they meant the same thing, but it was just to give that respect for that higher principle.
Later that’s become formalized by the Bologna University, which is in the West considered the first university, and so then they made it’s bachelors, masters and doctor as a progression, rather than just a doctor and the masters were on the same level as like other most of the universities, they would have the bachelor, and then they would have a licentiate, which means he would have a licence now to practice this, teach this, take students.
So then Prabhupada for here in Mayapur… Means, he gave the general bhakti-shastri, bhakti-vaibhava – like this – for the whole movement, but in Mayapur he was specifically talking about these degrees connected with the school in Mayapur – a letter to Tamal Krishna Maharaja, a letter to Bhavananda Prabhu, both of these then they were mentioned. And so, based on that line then we are studying. So it’s then the study of Prabhupada’s books in both how he mentions in the way of going through, the study in seriatim, means, just going from the beginning to the end of the book, and then after that studying thematically in elucidatory, where you then study the different topics that are there altogether. Because when you are introducing something in the discussion, you will introduce how much someone can understand now, command now. Afterwards, as you learn more then you add something more, something more, so everything goes up together. So you have to study it in that order to gain an understanding, to be able to approach it and to understand it. Then, having now studied that whole topic, then one can study it in the elucidatory fashion, where now you go back and everything about one topic is all seen together, rather than in stages. Because when you apply something you don’t apply it in stages, you apply it together. But you have to learn it in stages, that’s why you have to have both systems of learning. So that’s the Vedic system, so that’s our method, so using both those together then that gives one the academy degrees.
So then in there then these… Because we are doing the academic study of it, we are going through and that, trying to get the understanding, proper attitude, then we do that, then we understand the theology very nicely, so therefore then it’s a theology degree. You may notice that those who grow up in the ashrama itself, they do the same degrees, but because they also have the ashrama training, they go through also that other aspect, the Bhaktivedanta Vidyashrama, so they are trained in all the ashrama sides, or the practical sides of applying these things in their life. So because they do both of those, they do the academic and this their application, they get the divinity degrees. So as far as the study and everything, it’s exactly the same. So we would like to thank everyone for taking part, endeavoring, applying themselves, having patience with the process.
(2nd February 2017, Graduation Talk, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur)
Photo courtesy of Jugala Prithi dd