Dialectical Spiritualism: David Hume, Part Three

BY: SUN STAFF - 17.3 2017

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

David Hume (1711 - 1776)

Syamasundara dasa: Hume states that even the idea of God is merely probable but not certain.

Srila Prabhupada: We do not agree to that. As soon as we speak of authority, we posit the existence of a supreme authority. We call that supreme authority God.

Syamasundara dasa: Hume would say that we would have to accept the authority of our senses.

Srila Prabhupada: The senses are imperfect, and God is beyond the senses. We cannot see God, touch Him, or hear Him because our senses are imperfect. A man with imperfect senses says that there is no God, but those who have cleansed their senses can see God, touch Him, and talk with Him.

Syamasundara dasa: Hume denies the existence of miracles.

Srila Prabhupada: One thing may be a miracle for one person and not for another. An electric fan may seem like a miracle for a child, but not for his father. So our conception of miracles is also relative.

Hayagriva dasa: On this subject, Hume writes: "All the new discoveries in astronomy, which prove the immense grandeur and magnificence of the works of nature, are so many additional arguments for a Deity, according to the true system of theism." In this way, Hume rejects the necessity or desirability of miracles as well as the conception of a God transcendental to His creation. He states that it is not the being of God that is in question, but God's nature, which cannot be ascertained through study of the universe itself. However, if the universe can only be studied by imperfect senses, what is the value of our conclusion? How can we ever come to know the nature of God?

Srila Prabhupada: According to our Vedic philosophy, the nature of God can be explained by God Himself. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna tells Arjuna:

mattah parataram nanyat 
kificid asti dhananjaya 
mayi sarvam idarh protarn 
sutre mani-gana iva

"0 conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bg. 7.7) We accept this as a fact, because it is not possible for anyone to be greater than God. It is God's nature to be the greatest in everything: wealth, fame, power, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation. If we can find one who is garnished with such greatness, we have found God. These qualities are found in Krsna, and therefore we accept Krsna as the Supreme Lord.

Hayagriva dasa: In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume writes: "All religious systems, it is confessed, are subject to great and insuperable difficulties. Each disputant triumphs in his turn, while he carries on an offensive war and exposes the absurdities, barbarities and pernicious tenets of his antagonists. But all of them, on the whole, prepare a complete triumph for the skeptic, who tells them that no system ought ever be embraced A total suspense of judgement is here our only reasonable recourse."

Srila Prabhupada: We do not accept this. We believe that we can know God from God Himself. Religion refers to the principles given by God. If there are no directions given by God, there is no religion. Religion is not a kind of blind faith; it is factual because it is given by God Himself. If you know God and follow His instructions, you are religious.

Hayagriva dasa: Hume did believe that religion is necessary. He says that religion, however corrupted, is still better than no religion at all.

Srila Prabhupada: We agree to that, but religion without philosophy and logic is simply sentiment. That will not help us. Real religion is given by Sri Krsna.

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto 
mad-yaji mam namaskuru 
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam 
atmanaih mat-parayanah

"Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me." (Bg. 9.34) If we always think of God, we will become purified. Religion means meditating upon God and thinking of Him. Therefore temple worship is necessary to facilitate our constantly thinking of God. But if we do not know of God's form, how can we offer Him worship? How can we think of Him? We then have to construct a pseudo religion, and this kind of religion will not help us.

Hayagriva dasa: Hume's conception of religion is utilitarian and social. He writes: "The proper office of religion is to regulate the heart of man, humanize their conduct, infuse the spirit of temperance, order, and obedience "

Srila Prabhupada: We also say that religion is the greatest welfare work for all humanity. For instance, religion forbids illicit sex, and if people indulge in illicit sex, society will become chaotic. If we continue eating meat, we revolt against God's will because God is the father of all living entities. When other foods are available, why should we kill animals to eat meat? When there is a wife, why should we have illicit sex? A religious man is necessarily a man of good character. If we are God conscious, all good qualities are automatically manifest. A devotee can sacrifice his own interests because he is a devotee. Others cannot do this.

Hayagriva dasa: Hume felt that one must first be a philosophical skeptic before accepting the revealed truths of religion. Ultimately, he insists that these truths can be accepted only on faith, not experience or reason.

Srila Prabhupada: Why not on reason? We can use our reason to consider that everything has some proprietor and that it is quite reasonable that this vast universe also has a proprietor. Is there a fault in this logic? Of course, now astronomers are saying that in the beginning there was a chunk, but where did that chunk come from? Where did gas come from? Where did fire come from? There is a proprietor, and He is described in Bhagavad-gita. Mayadhyaksena prakrtih (Bg. 9. 10). It is completely illogical to think that there is no universal proprietor.