“Knowledge received by submissive inquiries and service is more effective than knowledge received in exchange for money.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.1 Purport)
What’s wrong with getting paid for teaching? A teacher has to earn a living after all. They have bills to pay. They likely have children of their own. The kids need clothes, shoes, equipment for soccer, supplies for school, dental braces, food, and so many other things. And the house doesn’t just pay for itself. In the modern age especially, taxes are very high, so even if you own your home outright, your monthly expenses to maintain it are a lot. Thus even the teacher must be rewarded with a handsome salary; otherwise they will leave the profession. With the highest knowledge, however, from the teacher’s perspective there is no explicit need for remuneration. And when the exchange of money is replaced with submissive inquiries made in full sincerity, the transfer of information is more fruitful.
To purchase something means to assign it a value. If a person were to knock on our door and offer us free mangoes, we might be a little skeptical. “Why are they here? Why are they just giving away their mangoes? Why aren’t they selling them? If they’re giving them away, the mangoes obviously must not be worth much. There must be something wrong with them. This person probably stole the mangoes from someone else.”
This is the pre-exchange assessment, and if the exchange goes through the interest in the product will not be so great. If someone gives us something for free, we might place it in the closet and never see it again. What are we losing? There was no investment made, so we don’t even have to think about it. If we purchase the same item, however, there is an investment. If the purchased object sits in the closet, it means that our hard-earned money went to waste. Thus in the case of a purchase we are more likely to give value to the item.
The same should hold true in the transfer of knowledge, as the more prestigious universities typically charge much higher tuition, which means that the degrees earned are of a higher value. Yet in the highest occupation for man, there is no requirement that one be of a certain age range, ethnicity, gender, or income class. This means that both the poor man and the rich man can take up devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God in His personal form. Money is not a factor, as the necessary ingredient for success is sincerity kept safely within a blanket of enthusiasm.
The soul is the essence of identity, and its existence is constant. Whether in the body of a human being or a dog, the soul is still the soul. And the soul’s primary characteristic is service. To find the highest object of service is to thus make the best use of the primary characteristic. Service to God is the ideal use of the service propensity, and since God is everything, the origin of all matter and spirit, service to Him can take place in any circumstance.
Those who know the art of practicing this service teach others. They don’t charge a monetary fee for this service, but they do require sincerity from the student. Sincerity is the better price to pay for the student because this will also make the teacher more enthusiastic to reveal the information. When the wisdom is shared without a monetary fee, the teacher does it out of the goodness of their heart. Also, to work in such a way one must be enthusiastic themselves; they must believe in the cause.
The best example of the ideal transfer of divine wisdom comes to us from the Bhagavad-gita. The setting for this classic Vedic text is a battlefield. Arjuna is the leading warrior for the Pandavas, and Krishna is his cousin. Krishna is also the chosen chariot driver on this particular day. Arjuna runs into trouble before the war’s commencement, as he is suddenly hesitant to fight against an opposing side that consists of family members and respectable personalities.
Arjuna was in a tough spot mentally, and so he could have paid someone to set him straight. The problem with that method is that the adviser wouldn’t have had his best interest at heart. The interest would have been rooted in money, and so the message itself would have lost its value to the recipient. If I hold valuable information on how to make the most out of life and I’ll only share it with you if you pay me, obviously my message would have to be related to making money, as that is what I value in life. Yet the highest dharma of the soul should never be dependent on any material condition, and especially not material wealth.
Krishna decided to step in to help Arjuna after He was approached. He turned into the teacher, and Arjuna became the student. What followed was a discourse on all aspects of spiritual and material life, including topics like reincarnation, piety and sin, charity, sacrifice, penance and yoga. Arjuna was submissive with his inquiries, and he was eager to listen to Krishna. The chariot driver turned spiritual guide, for His part, was pleased by Arjuna’s attitude. He knew that the hesitant warrior was not an enemy, and neither was he a customer. He was a genuine spiritual seeker looking for guidance in life.
Krishna provided that guidance, as He is the Supreme Lord Himself. That conversation was documented in the work known as the Bhagavad-gita, and those who follow Arjuna’s example of submissive devotion to Krishna kindly teach other sincere souls about the meaning of life and how to go about achieving it. This information is distributed to whoever is willing to listen, and even when they are not, the same spiritual potency arrives in the sounds of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which have been kindly spread throughout the world through the efforts of Lord Chaitanya and His followers.
For a good college to attend,
A pretty penny have to spend.
For money high topics to learn,
Eventually a degree to earn.
But in spiritual life not the same,
For devotion to God is the highest gain.
If only for cash message I’ll share,
Means that of God I don’t really care.
To Arjuna Krishna highest wisdom taught,
For to discussion humble sincerity he brought.