At U. of M.’s recent commencement ceremony,
Hare Krsna chaplain Alankara dasa Brahmacari
spoke these words to a crowd of 15,000.
Members of the Board of Regents, President Toll, Chancellor Gluckstern, learned faculty, honored graduates, parents, and friends:
I would like to offer my humble respects to my teacher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who has extensively introduced the spiritual heritage of India to the Western academic community over the past decade.
India’s philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which explains the inconceivable oneness and diversity of God’s creation, is the unique gift of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great saint and scholar of medieval India.
We are all in the womb of the Age of Kali, a historical age in which the faults of society and the individual are like a great ocean. Who has not experienced this current phenomenon? To some extent we are all implicated.
Now we have all acquired the necessary knowledge to commence our work in this life, and we hear the wise men of ancient Greece begging, like echoes coming down through the ages, “Know thyself:”
We are perplexed as to what is of paramount importance—whether to get on with the work of expanding our fruitive activities, or to endeavor for only as much comfort as we require and address ourselves mainly to that ancient command.
“But we have not had the time until now” is our reply. “Then when will you make the time in this short life?” comes the curt response from within.
In this society of rapidly changing values, mass marketing, media propaganda, ecological disasters, and imminent atomic conflicts, what is that activity which is most pleasing to the soul? How can we receive the prime benediction that will make all of our activities successful? Just like the philosopher’s touchstone, which can turn any substance to gold, what is that activity which can make all of our endeavors auspicious?
In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says,
paras tasmat to bhavo ‘nya
‘vyakto ‘vyaktat sanatanah
yah sa sarvesu bhutesu
nasyatsu na vinasyati
“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.”
Democritus once called all existence just “atoms and the void:” Yet Plato rebutted, “This world came to be, in very truth, through the providence of God—a living being with soul and intelligence:’ Through the eye of knowledge, Plato could perceive the antimaterial nature, where the soul thrives in its constitutional relationship with the Supreme Soul. And when one attains this knowledge of the soul, one reaches the apex of evolution. Socrates said that in the world in which we now live there is no equality, but that the idea of equality springs from the state of the soul. Presently, of course, we are embarrassed by the inequalities and contradictions of our modern civilization, notably man’s inhumanity to man.
In this Age of Kali, we are like the man in the hospital bed who is encumbered by so many tubes, bottles. needles, and bandages. When his friends come and ask him, “How are you doing?” he replies, “Fine, thank you.” Unlike such a person, we must recognize the real problems of life—old age, disease, death, and rebirth—and we must actually try to solve them. How well we do this will influence the future of this country and of humanity. In the Garga Upanisad it is said, yo va etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah: “He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization.”
Therefore, this human form of life is itself the greatest asset and benediction; and to know the self is the real goal of education.