(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada murti, Bhaktivedanta Manor)
"So here it is said, mahātmā, gata-pūrvāṁ mahātmabhiḥ. We have to follow great personalities for advancement of knowledge. Actually we do. We accept authority, go to school, college, to learn something from the teacher, professor. But unfortunately, the teachers, professors, they are all rascals. Therefore we do not get proper education. Wrongly directed. They are changing. Changing is not knowledge. That is not knowledge. Just yesterday we were talking some theosophist: he is changing his view. Formerly it was right; now it is wrong. That is not knowledge. Knowledge means what you accept as right, it must be accepted perpetually right. That is knowledge. That is knowledge.
Just like our principle. Kṛṣṇa says that 'I am the Supreme,' five thousand years ago. So Arjuna, who heard from Kṛṣṇa, he also said, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān (BG 10.12). He accepted. I am speaking of five thousand years. Otherwise perpetually. Imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam (BG 4.1). Long, long ago, before speaking to Arjuna, this Bhagavad-gītā was spoken to the sun-god, forty millions of years ago. The same principle, in the Bhagavad-gītā: 'I am speaking to you the same principle.' Not that 'Forty millions of years have passed, so things have changed.' No. Nothing has changed. The sun forty millions of years ago used to rise from the eastern side. Forty or trillions of years. Still it is rising from the east. Can you make any new thing, 'Let it be... Let the sun rise from the west?' No. That is not possible.
So knowledge means without any mistake. Anything without any mistake, that is perpetually right. And anything based on mistaken idea, that will change. You have to correct the mistake. The so-called modern scientist, they are simply correcting their mistake. Therefore they have no real knowledge. Nobody can have real knowledge, because we are imperfect. Our senses are imperfect. That is our defect in the conditioned life. We have got four defects: we commit mistake, we become illusioned, our senses are imperfect and we cheat. Because our knowledge is imperfect, still, we take the position of teacher; therefore we are cheater—not teacher, but cheater. So the teacher society nowadays is the cheater society. And this modern world is a society of the cheater and the cheated. That's all. Somebody is cheating and somebody is being cheated. This is going on.
So how we can be not cheated? That is mahātmabhiḥ. You have to follow the previous great ācāryas, mahātmabhiḥ. Just like Kṛṣṇa is accepted. Kṛṣṇa says He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Arjuna accepted, 'Yes, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma (BG 10.12),' after hearing from Him. Paraṁ brahma. And then, after Arjuna, disciplic succession. Lord Caitanya accepted. All the ācāryas, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, accepted Kṛṣṇa the Supreme Personality. Śāstra says, kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam (SB 1.3.28). So we have to follow these mahājana. Otherwise we cannot get the right knowledge. Mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ (CC Madhya 17.186). We have to follow great authorities."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, December 22, 1973)
Photo courtesy of Ishani devi dasi, Ireland