Brainwashing or Education? How Can We Determine the Truth?

From the March 1977 Issue of the Brijabasi Spirit by Taru dasa

What’s brainwashing? How does it differ from ordinary educa­tion? It might be rather difficult to come up with a precise defini­tion since this word is thrown around with great abandon. General­ly it implies forcing a man to change his beliefs against his will by means of mental and physical torture. Today we find ancient sys­tems of religious training, such as the bhakti-yoga path followed by members of the Hare Krsna movement, being attacked as dehumanizing pro­cesses, or brainwashing. Is there any validity to such attacks, or are they merely criminal attempts to discredit a time-honored, bona-fide science of improving one’s consciousness and realizing the actual meaning of existence?

Without placing much stock in emotion-laden scare words, let’s take a look at the nature of educa­tion from a rational point of view. Four key questions can help us an­alyze any given system of education and judge whether it’s actually be­neficial, simply harmless, or down­right detrimental: 1) Is the proc­ess voluntary? 2) Is the subject matter truth or slanted propaganda? 3) What is the teacher’s qualifica­tion and motivation? 4) What is the ultimate effect on the student?

Let us investigate these points one at a time.

1) Is it voluntary? In any sys­tem of education the teacher is re­quired to set up a learning labora­tory, an environment which facili­tates the learning process. Outside distractions have to be cut down so the pupil can concentrate on what his teacher is communicating. It is pointless to call such a situation ‘artificial,’ it is simply neces­sary. Just like a certain atmos­phere is created for surgery, simi­larly a certain atmosphere has to be generated for learning.

Is the student giving up his free will by entering such an ‘art­ificial1 atmosphere? If he under­stands the nature of the process, if he’s free to leave if he choos­es, then the answer is no. We are constantly placing ourselves into controlled situations because we desire a certain result. Just as we mentioned surgery before, a patient .becomes voluntarily unconscious, is even cut by the surgeon’s knife, because he has confidence in his doctor, because he understands the need for and the nature of the op­eration. In like manner a pupil can enter a university, a seminary or a yoga asrama, understanding that he has to undergo some discipline in order to attain a given goal. And as long as he remains free to leave there is no question of forcible coercion.

Even a casual observer will eas­ily see that the students of the Hare Krsna Movement are free to leave at will. Of all the young men and women who stay for a while at one of our centers, approximately 80% leave, though they often return from time to time. As for the ones who stay, they have a healthy, clear-headed view of the discipline they are pursuing, and they submit to it willingly. They are by no means brainless zombies, but to the contrary they are well-spoken and philosophically-oriented individu­als who are eager to discuss their views with outsiders.

Contrast this with the situation faced by one who is forcibly kid­napped by a group of mercenary so-called ‘deprogrammers’. He has not accepted this situation, he is af­raid because he doesn’t understand what is going on. He is taken to some unfamiliar place and incarcer­ated for one to four weeks. Teams of hostile, alien people deprive him of sleep, food, privacy and, most of all, the right to leave. Would you enter into such an arran­gement yourself? Obviously no sane man would. Each and every victim of such a ‘deprogramming’ course has to be violently abducted. Yet it is this very group of abductor-terror­ists who charge Hare Krsna disciples with brainwashing. A sober man f becomes a little disgusted as he sees through this shallow attempt to camouflage gestapo-like activi­ties with a deluge of euphemisms.

2) Is it the truth? Real educa­tion means to teach the truth. If one implants untrue conceptions in the minds of his students, no mat­ter how nice his system appears, it has to be condemned.

The basic truth of Krsna Cons­ciousness is both simple and sub­lime. Krsna, or God, is the Supreme Being and all living entities are His parts and parcels. The part must render service to the whole, as the hand serves the rest of the body. Therefore it is the natural duty of a person to serve God. Without such service his life is simply sinful and he is punished in so many ways. The goal of life then is to become situated in the Lord’s service and thus become eternally free from the sufferings and inebrieties of this material world.

Without considering one’s rela­tionship with God, life is viewed simply as an attempt to satisfy this temporary material body. As the body is doomed to die, such hopeless attempts are doomed to failure. One is forced to undergo birth, then disease, then old age, and ultimately death. Our only hope for happiness is to enter the Sup­reme Lord’s eternal abode. That is the purpose of yoga.

Modern day so-called education tragically misses the whale point of education. Students are conditioned to accept this short span of life as the all-in-all. This condi­tioning continues outside the school, on the billboards, TV pro­grams, in movies, newspapers and novels which take up every moment of a man’s consciousness. Knowledge of God is being pushed out of the picture by floods of materialistic propaganda. Where is the hope of happiness in such a civilization? The true mission of human life is not being taught. Instead our youth is being trained up for animal existence–simply to eat, sleep, mate and defend. Such modern schools are simply slaughterhouses which teach children to accept death meekly.

In the face of such dire circum­stances who but the hardened athe­ist will stand against the Hare Krsna Movement’s sincere attempt to instill the hope of God Conscious­ness into our otherwise hopeless lives? Scores of Vedic literatures translated by the society’s found­er, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, bring new hope for a troubled world. This pure and simple message of love of God is being spread in book form by Srila Prabhupada’s unselfish disci­ples all over the world. Nowhere else is there such an organized sy­stem for the distribution of real knowledge.

3) Why be a teacher? Recently several articles have appeared wherein Christian teachers complain that they are forced to teach God­less materialism in the public schools. If the teacher is not free to instruct according to his own convictions, what is the use of his occupying the post? Sad to say, evidence seems to indicate that most so-called teachers are simply out to earn their livelihood. They are purchased outright by an insti­tution and simply carry on as they are ordered. Students are shuffled through with little or no personal attention. Cases are now coming to national attention wherein high school graduates have not attained even a fifth grader’s reading lev­el. Above all, teacher strikes over pay raises give sound basis to the conclusion that it is the salary, not the service, that they are at­tracted to.

The ancient Vedic conception is that no one should accept the post of teacher or guru unless he can actually impart knowledge. Such a guru is called tattva-darsinah, one who has seen the truth. This truth we have already discussed, that man is meant to serve God.

Besides being learned, the guru must be a living example of his own instructions. It is not that one can preach religious life and be engaged in material frivolities. It is stated that only one who has control over his mind, speech, an­ger, tongue, stomach and sex drive may accept the post of guru.

The goal of such a teacher is to deliver his students from the mis­ery of material existence. Such a teacher would also instruct the student in the material sciences, such as linguistics, geology, math­ematics, etc., so that he can also function nicely in the material spectrum. The guru accepts a will­ing disciple without remuneration. He is responsible only to his dis­ciple, not to the school board or government or anyone else, for he is meant to speak only the truth. The student in turn agrees to hear attentively and serve his guru very faithfully in exchange for such transcendental knowledge. This is the perfect bond between instructor and student. It is the only cure for erasing the credibility gap which must naturally arise when the very teachers themselves admit they are teaching others that which they do not believe in.

4) Effect on the student, as we stated in the beginning, education is meant for producing a desired type of behavior. A learned person is one who’s able to act in his own best interest. Brainwashing victims are people who have been tricked into serving another’s interest.

If one seriously analyzes pres­ent day processes of education–the public schools, mass media, ad­vertising agencies–soon he faces the stark conclusion that such sys­tems do not seek to enlighten the public but to deceive them. Some examples will help demonstrate this point.

Children in this country are brought up from year one to believe this is the greatest nation in the history of the world. This is to insure complacency, to keep them from questioning, to just sit still and swallow the Great American Dream. But what sane person can ac­cept this headlong rush towards to­tally atheistic materialism, with its ever-increasing crime, divorce, and suicide rates, as the perfect­ion of existence?

Consumers are constantly being agitated to use more and more use­less things. Advertising is used to increase desires, not satisfy them. These commercial firms are pumping out so much information meant to capture the consumers1 dollar, nev­er mind whether he suffers or not. Allurements for alcohol, cigarettes and sex are constantly bombarding the innocent public: Eat this, drink this, smoke this, enjoy! But what is the enjoyment? Such sinful habits are creating a hell­ish situation on this earth, what to speak of the life of the soul after death.

Fortunately, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has brought us an alternative life­style. In the midst of so much mat­erialism all of his disciples take strict vows to avoid gambling, in­toxication, animal slaughter and illicit sex. They do not attend ci­nemas or night clubs or rock concerts. They are not listening to blaring radios, spending hours staring vacuously at the television or reading stale, useless literat­ures. Instead they are always ac­tive, trying to spread love of God. They are attempting to counteract the overwhelming forces of materi­alism which are threatening to en­gulf the world. This is not a group of dazed zombies, but of dedicated, talented people who are engaged in the highest welfare work for human­ity at large. That such efforts can be labeled as brainwashing, that such individuals are being openly persecuted, that such a saintly person as Srila Prabhupada is not being received as he deserves–this indicates the organized work of ma­terialistic atheists to have us forget God completely and lose our­selves forever in the complexities, anxieties and emptiness of the mat­erial way of life.

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