Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #30 – Krishna and Man at Yale

July 25th, 2022

I just love to stroll among majestic old buildings, so an old acquaintance and my host for the afternoon, Dr. Eben Graves, the assistant director of the Yale School of Sacred Music,[1] took me to see the campus when I came last Sunday afternoon to visit him.


Of special interest was the Beinecke Library,[2] which houses one the largest collection of rare books and manuscripts in the world. The building is spectacular. When you walk inside your attention is immediately caught by a glass enclosed 10,000 square-foot six story sanctum in the center that houses the collection of one million books. For security reasons, the edifice is cleverly surrounded by a moatlike cavern extended to the floors below, but as you circumambulate this veritable book cathedral you still get a perfect audience of the neatly shelved ancient texts rising several stories above. As you continue around this stately edifice, there are several lounge areas with a smattering of display cases of some of the library’s special treasures, including one with a rare Gutenberg Bible[3] and another with an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.


Monday Morning Greetings is grounded in my own realizations—how I see the world based on the perspective of the sacred texts I study. I find that such realizations usually come spontaneously, but on rare occasions when they don’t, I have developed the habit of searching for one. As it was already time to begin my next post and I didn’t have a topic yet, my pleasant Sunday stroll therefore took on a mission. Would I find among the ancient scrolls and the majestic buildings my treasure of weekly truth? Although a few interesting thoughts arose during my tour, I just couldn’t find a topic that I was inspired enough to write about. Therefore, when I left the campus, I scrapped the idea of finding my treasure there. Later in the day, however, some inspiration unexpectedly came.


For some reason, the book God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, one of their famous alumni, a prominent media figure and intellectual of my youth,[4] came to mind. In his 1951 best seller he criticized the university for trying to break down the students’ religious beliefs by their hostility to religion and their promotion of collectivist and secular ideals. Although I don’t know enough to attest to the validity of his accusations and I don’t support many of his personal views, thinking about the book’s general theme caused me to recall a realization I was trying to formalize during my walk, which only became clear then. While appreciating the immense beauty and grandeur of these facilities, I couldn’t help but feel sad that these institutions seem to be moving from the original purpose of a university, to create the one place in society that is meant to preserve all aspects of a society’s culture and to train and promote people of learning and character who could best serve those ideals.


As I began to dwell further on this realization, I started to remember other related thoughts and feelings that I was trying to conceptualize during my campus walk. I also recalled, for no better word, a type of envy. I also represent a mission trying to impact society, but the resources of that mission seem paltry in comparison to Yale, which for the most part is dedicated to ideals directly in opposition to mine. It gave me a sinking feeling. How would our mission ever succeed? I felt hopeless, but then I remembered Śrīla Prabhupāda’s arrival in America.


When Śrīla Prabhupāda stepped off the Jaladuta to the shore of Boston, the full brunt of material civilization stood directly before him to the west to a degree he probably could have never imagined. He initially reflected on the utter impossibility of succeeding in his mission to spiritualize the West by his own power[5] but got renewed vigor, despite the odds against him, by dwelling on the books he carried with him in a metal trunk that he would distribute there. He then quoted a series of verses from those books that described the transforming power of bhakti.[6] He had Krishna and His message and continued forward with faith and valor. As described in the Bhagavad-gītā, the advantage was his!


“Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.” (Bg. 18.78)


So, I walked about one of most powerful educational institutions in the world, one focused increasingly on materialistic goals. I was initially humbled by its grandeur, but then became more inspired by the power of the message of the Bhagavat. And that is the story of Krishna and Man at Yale.[7]





[1] https://ism.yale.edu

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beinecke_Rare_Book_%26_Manuscript_Library

[3] To give one an idea how valuable this collection must be, one of the few Guttenberg Bibles still existing is estimated to cost over thirty million dollars.

[4] William F. Buckley hosted a popular public affairs show in the late sixties called Firing Line where he would interview and challenge with his acerbic wit and intellect the leading intellectuals of the day. Here is an excerpt from when he hosted Allen Ginsberg, who chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra for him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS8A5IME7aU

[5] https://vedabase.io/en/library/spl/1/markine-bhagavata-dharma/

[6] Bhag. 1.17-24

[7] Obviously, the title is a parody on God and Man at Yale.

Comments are closed.