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The Scientist and the Saint

~by Jagattarini Devi Dasi

They met one day in 1973. The scientist was interested in nature and the joy of discovery while the saint wanted to inform him that there was something far more important to discover.

There was a young girl in the group who attended my talk last night on this topic. She was, self composed, calm and serious. She’d come with her mother clearly a thoughtful person like herself. After the talk, Holly, herself a scientist, wanted to speak with me

The saint, who spoke to the scientist so many years before had criticized him for his study of grass telling him that grass grew unaided without his help, and so he was wasting time with his study.

Now sitting before me Holly, wanted to politely object to this perspective.

“Studying grass can be useful in so many ways.”

As we spoke I reminded her of the final wise words of the saint. He said.

It is far more important to study yourself. This is real study, and it is deeply urgent.

On this point we fully agreed. 

Yet real self-study goes beyond yoga, therapy, psychology, biology….

The saint’s vision was far more penetrating than that. He spoke of the eternal being who occupies a body, who is self forgotten in our busy daily active life.The self who is beyond both the outer physical covering or even thoughts.

Without self knowledge it is true that all our external studies and degrees and Nobel prizes pertain to different aspects of matter while the spiritual self is not considered.

Just to make the point very very clear, at the end the saint provided an example for the scientist of a man who jumps into the river to save a drowning man and swims back to shore grasping only his shirt and coat thinking he has saved him when factually he left the man to drown.

How profound.

Holly and I sat looking at each other and agreed. The saint was correct. Without understanding ourselves perhaps all our studies are actually a waste of time?

Simple point, yet deeply profound.


Jagattarini Devi Dasi joined ISKCON in 1970 when she traveled to Los Angeles and met Srila Prabhupada. She had been a well known actress and had been in a movie with Mick Jagger. After meeting Srila Prabhupada there, she gave up her lucrative acting career and decided to dedicate her life in service of the mission of her guru. In 1970, she and her husband, Bhurijan Prabhu opened a temple in Hong Kong. Later, at the Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania, US, she used her talents to create puppet shows, which were produced on ISKCON Television. She and her husband later served at the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula in Vrndavan, India where she studied the culture of the district of Vraj, or Vrndavan. Since 1996, they have lived in her native home of Perth, Australia. In 1998, she began creating miniature dioramas in an exhibition called, Gopinatha Dham depicting Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavan.