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Published on April 22nd, 2023 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


Why Our Schools Don’t Have a Prayer [Prabhupada Speaks Out]

Now things have gotten to the point that we can’t even have prayer in the public schools. We used to have a prayer at the beginning of each school day. But then one atheist lady (and no doubt other people behind the scenes) pushed and pushed until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Now prayer in the schools is banned.

This exchange between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a divinity student took place in Los Angeles, during January of 1974.

Student: Many people are frightened about the way the schools are failing apart … students not even learning how to read and write, many turning to drugs and robbing and raping their teachers.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. What is the value of this kind of schooling?

Student: Not an awful lot.

Srila Prabhupada: It is all cheating. You have left God out. That is the height of cheating. So naturally the rest of your so-called schooling must also be cheating.

Suppose you are doing a mathematical calculation and you start by figuring, “2 + 2 = 3.” After that you may use the most sophisticated techniques and formulas, but your whole calculation will be wrong.

Student: Now things have gotten to the point that we can’t even have prayer in the public schools. We used to have a prayer at the beginning of each school day. But then one atheist lady (and no doubt other people behind the scenes) pushed and pushed until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Now prayer in the schools is banned.

Srila Prabhupada: But even if prayer were allowed, that would not help. Prayer is still going on in the churches, and what is the benefit? People are losing interest, because it has all become simply a ritualistic show–“Churchianity.” The thing is, you have to become educated in the science of God. You must have direct, scientific experience of God. People aren’t interested in dry words. They have become scientific-minded; they want results.

Student: Well, most people still have a sentimental attachment to God, so most likely they would like to see at least a semblance of prayer in the schools …

Srila Prabhupada: No. Do something practical! “Prayer” means chanting the holy name of the Lord. If you don’t know the holy name of the Lord, we are giving it. You’ll have no expenditure, and no loss. So why don’t you try this? Chant Hare Krsna. And if you actually chant Hare Krsna, you will get scientific, realized knowledge of God–direct, personal experience of God. Then everything beneficial will follow for society.

Student: Yes. But, you see, right now you can’t chant Hare Krsna in the schools. That law is still there on the books. You can’t chant until somebody changes the law.

Srila Prabhupada: So my disciples can do that.

Student: They should try to fight the law?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just recently I heard that the senators and congressmen have set aside one special day each year for public prayer. Just one day–but they still want prayer. So if they actually want prayer, why are they prohibiting it all the rest of the year? Just see the contradiction! They have banned prayer because of their inexperience. And now they are experiencing, “This does not help us.” Otherwise, what is the use of introducing prayer again? They have experienced that without prayer things have failed. That is a fact.

Student: You were saying earlier that fifty to sixty percent of the senators and congressmen are lawyers…

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and nowadays “lawyer” means cheater. One who can tactfully break the law–he is a good lawyer. They will find some flaw in the letter of the law so that they can avoid the spirit of the law.

Student: Actually, to ban prayer in the schools they had to avoid the whole point of the First Amendment–that “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” They said a prayer might trample an atheist’s right not to pray.

Srila Prabhupada: So now the children cannot have a prayer in their schools. These government men are mostly lawyers, cheaters. Like Nixon. What is the situation now?

Student: Well, he couldn’t get any less popular; so now he’s getting more popular. People forget.

Srila Prabhupada: People have become cheaters, and that is why they elect such cheaters as their representatives. You Americans can make all the propaganda you want, but you will not be happy without offering prayer to God.

Student: That’s right.

Srila Prabhupada: But be scientific. To begin with, follow God’s laws and lead a pure life: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no intoxication, no gambling. If you reinstate prayer in the schools, that is not bad; but unless you first become pure, your prayer will have no practical effect. You yourselves must be free from all these impure activities. Then from among yourselves you can elect a good leader. If you really want a good leader, then you yourselves must become good. And you can become good by offering prayer to God.

Student: Forgive me, but this sounds like we’re getting into some sort of vicious circle. A moment ago you said we have to become pure or good first … otherwise our prayer will have no effect. So now how can you say we can become good by offering prayer?

Srila Prabhupada: Not just any kind of prayer. “Prayer” means that you chant the name of God. If you simply chant Hare Krsna, you will be in touch with God–the all-good. And then naturally you will become good. Why don’t you try it?

Student: We have little more to lose.

Srila Prabhupada: But if you chant Hare Krsna, you will be the gainer. Just chant and see the result.

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About the Author

Founded the Hare Krishna Movement in 1966 in New York. In only 11 years he spread the movement all over the world. He wrote more than 80 books including Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Sri Isopanisad. Prabhupada's books constitute a complete library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.

7 Responses to Why Our Schools Don’t Have a Prayer [Prabhupada Speaks Out]

  1. divyat says:

    HARE KRISHNA i want to make the point that eve if prayers are alllowed in school then also it doesnt have much of an effect as students just formally chant holy names of lord and still dont care about it and are engaged in wrong practices. i am in +1 standard and till my 10 classes experience , i saw that prayers are there in every school of india but neither do students nor do teachers make that value of prayer and both staff and children just do it formally. i think real change can come if schools teach bhagwad gita, ramayana and mahabharata. well in my school we studied ramayan and mahabharat deeply but still standard was not meant as they just studied to get marks and didnt care for matter in . so a change in education system is must which just doent focuses on getting marks and jobs but on developing intelligence of students. i think it is impossible in a country like india but the greatest quality of education in india or to be more specific in himachal pradesh and delhi which no other country can match is that we all study sanskrit for atlest 5 years which teaches us a lot of things. what i read in sanskrit for 5 years was just about moral education and great verses from great literatures .
    take my example that we had a chapter in our sanskrit text book which contained 8 shaloks from bhagwad gita and after reading them i became to much impressed by it and out my curosity i started reading bhagwad gita and i was so lucky that when i searched for best translation of gita in english i found the one by prabhupada which was so great that i read the whole piece in just 14 days . another advantage of sanskrit is that its literature is only confined to moral and spiritual education even if you do phd in it and so our sanskrit teachers get some spiritual knowledge even if they dont want to get it because of the power of association and so they are only one in school who encourage us to become spiritual rather than just studying for marks.


  2. Ram says:

    I remember in 3rd grade,while getting dressed for gym,one of my ignorant classmates was stepping on ants dileberatly and making fun of them.I told him he was going to be reincarnated as an ant and some fool would do the same to him.Well as all Catholics are inferior to logic(I went to a Catholic School for almost a decade) he went and told a similar fool(i.e the teacher) and she scolded me and told me to keep my “opinions” to myself! Wish Hindu Scriptures like Bhagavatam,especially fifth canto were taught in public schools in America and India

    • Hare Krishna Ram

      Yes. Unfortunately people are completely ignorant of what is sinful and what is good and they accept practically all sinful things as good and are performing all these sinful activities on a daily basis. So it makes the devotees feel very sorry for them because they know the terrible hellish future that awaits them in the future.

      So the devotee wants to help the fallen conditioned souls by giving them Krishna consciousness. The best way to do this is to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. So if you want to do something to help your friends actually you can get them to take and read Prabhupada’s books. That would be a real gift from you to them.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

    • Krsna says:

      That is very bad of a teacher whether in any school system private, public or religious schools like the catholic school you went to to scold you for that. She should have appreciated what you said instead of her scolding you. If not then say nothing.

  3. Kainlyn says:

    This is stupid. If you want to pray in school than go to a religious school. people blame the atheists, but what about children of different religions? are you going to teach them that their religion is wrong and that they have to be christian? this country has the wonderful option of freedom of religion. you can’t single out one religion in a public school, or else we’d have to do Jewish prayers and Buddhist rituals etc.. if you want to pray then go to church. school is for learning. not religion.

    • Reghan says:

      Well, at least the government is trying to make people on both sides of the argument happy. Rather than a time of prayer in public schools, they have established a “moment of silence” in which the students can decide whether they want to pray silently to themselves or do absolutely nothing. At least, this is what they do in my school. I quite like this idea. It satisfies both the religious people (irrespective of religion) as well as those who are not so religious.

    • mamta waldia says:

      Hare Krishna .

      I must tell you one thing God isnot actually bound by religion . it is not that there is different God for Chiristans,Different for Muslims,different for Hindu .No,
      God is one who has expanded his approach with different people differently even with the athethists so people with rigid vision should correct their vision for religion,before speaking to provoke such misconceptions among people….

      Chant Hare Krishna & be Blissful

      Hare Krishna…..

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