Dialectical Spiritualism: Arthur Schopenhauer, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 9.5 2017

Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Hayagriva dasa: As for the nature of the world, Schopenhauer is vague, but he sees material life as basically irrational and whimsical.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a fact, and therefore we are changing bodies. This means that our material mind is not fixed; it is constantly rejecting and accepting. Mayavadi philosophers and Buddhists say that since these material pleasures and pains arise from this material combination, the best course is to dismantle it.

They do not say that the soul is the basis, but that the material body is nothing but a combination of the material elements. They therefore advise us to let the earth return to earth, the water return to water, and so on. In this way, they tell us that we should strive to become zero, to attain nirvana.

Syamasundara dasa: Leibnitz claimed that this is the best of all possible worlds, and you agreed because the world is God's arrangement. But Schopenhauer sees this as the worst of all possible worlds.

Srila Prabhupada: There is no doubt that whatever Krsna creates is perfect. However, since the nature of this world is material, there are three modes working: goodness, passion, and ignorance. As you work, you receive the results, the reactions. We do not agree that this is the worst of worlds. Why should God create the worst of anything?

Syamasundara dasa: Schopenhauer believes this because the world is so full of madness and frustration.

Srila Prabhupada: Had he taken his frustration seriously, it might have made him successful. We receive many letters from frustrated students who understand that frustration is another hell, and eventually they come to understand that they should seek the real shelter. So frustration is really not so bad. If you are put in a dangerous position, and you know how to save yourself from it, that very danger will later give you pleasure.

Syamasundara dasa: Schopenhauer claims that the working of the world is ethically evil.

Srila Prabhupada: To some extent that is right because when you are in prison, you will find that there is evil. But that evil is good for you. It is there so that you can learn a lesson. When you are out of the prison, you will be able to love someone.

Hayagriva dasa: For Schopenhauer, there is frustration behind all material pleasures and endeavors. Happiness eludes us. As soon as we attain the objects of our desires, they no longer appear the same. "They soon grow stale or forgotten," he writes, "and though not openly disowned, are yet always thrown aside as vanished illusions."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, all this is going on, and therefore the living entity acquires one body after another.

Hayagriva dasa: He sees us moving through a constant transition from desire to satisfaction and then to a new desire, "the rapid course of which is called happiness, and the slow course sorrow " It is this flux from desire to satisfaction that characterizes the will's activities in the phenomenal world. Outside of this, there is only nirvana, extinction.

Srila Prabhupada: That is not a fact. We have to understand that behind the will and its satisfaction is a person who is willing. Schopenhauer does not take that person into consideration; he considers only the will and its satisfaction. It is the individual soul who is willing. If he succeeds in stopping this flickering willing, what next? Even the stopping of the will is temporary. One kind of willing may be stopped, but there will be another kind of willing and satisfaction. We must understand that behind the whimsical will is the spirit soul. When that spirit soul understands his real identification as the eternal servant of Krsna, his will is purified. We should not be satisfied by simply trying to annihilate the whimsical will. We should understand the real will of the real person. That is the beginning of spiritual life.

Hayagriva dasa: Schopenhauer believes that voluntary and complete chastity is the first step in asceticism, or in the denial of the will to live. "Chastity denies the assertion of the will which extends beyond the individual life," he writes, "and gives the assurance that with the life of the body, the will, whose manifestation it is, ceases."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but he must understand that behind the will there is a person who is willing. It will not help us simply to negate the temporary material will. We have to will in reality, and that is our eternal willing, that is Krsna consciousness. In the material world, the will is directed toward sense satisfaction because the living entity has forgotten the spiritual field of willing. When the same will is directed towards satisfying the senses of the Supreme, that is the eternal willing of the living entity. Jivera 'svarupa' hay a — krsnera 'nitya-dasa' (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 20.108). When we come to the platform of real knowledge, we understand that we are the eternal servants of God. When our will is concentrated on how to serve God, we attain our real position of eternity, bliss, and knowledge.

Hayagriva dasa: Although Schopenhauer officially takes an atheistic stand, he writes: "If a man fears death as his annihilation, it is just as if he were to think that the sun cries out at evening, 'Woe is me! For I go down to eternal night ' Thus suicide appears to us as a vain and therefore foolish action "

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, because the will is there, death is not the stoppage of life. One simply gets another life.

dehinosmin yatha dehe 
kaumaram yauvanam jara 
tatha dehantara-praptir 
dhiras tatra na muhyati

"As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self -realized soul is not bewildered by such a change." (Bg. 2.13) This is proof that the life of the person who is willing is eternal. His desire and will are eternal, but Schopenhauer does not know what his eternal willing is. His eternal will is to serve Krsna always. It is a fact that suicide is no solution. One just implicates himself more and more. If we kill the body given by God, we have to accept another body, or remain a ghost. If I live in this body eighty years, and then commit suicide, I have to remain a ghost for five years before I get a chance to receive another body. Of course, you may argue that since the soul is everlasting, it makes no difference whether the body is killed. It is all right if the body is annihilated, but you cannot deliberately kill the body because that is hindering its progress. The living entity is destined to live in a particular body, and if you destroy that body, he has to wait for another. This means that you are interfering with his spiritual evolution, his spiritual progress. Therefore you are liable for punishment.