Dialectical Spiritualism: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Part 2


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

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Syamasundara dasa: Hegel says that objects themselves are the spirit expressing itself in objective nature, whereas Kant maintains that the spirit expresses itself through objects. There is a distinction made between the spirit within the object expressing itself, and the spirit as the object.

Srila Prabhupada: The object as it is is spirit. In one sense, the sunshine is not the sun, but at the same time, it is not different from the sun because it is the sun's heat and light. Therefore our philosophy is acintya-bhedabheda-tattva: simultaneously one and different. All these objects are actually spirit, but if we have no sense of Krsna, we consider them to be material.

Sometimes people criticize us for using material devices like dictaphones, typewriters, and airplanes, but we reply that these things are spiritual. If they are used for our sense gratification, they are material, but if used in relation to Krsna, they are spiritual. It is the consciousness that is important. Rupa GosvamI says:

anasaktasya visayan 
yatharham upayuhjatah 
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe 
yuktarh vairagyam ucyate 

prapancikataya buddhya 
mumuksubhih parityago 
vairagyam phalgu kathyate

"One is said to be situated in the fully renounced order of life if he lives in accordance with Krsna consciousness. He should be without attachment for sense gratification and should accept only what is necessary for the upkeep of the body. On the other hand, one who renounces things which could be used in the service of Krsna, under the pretext that such things are material, does not practice complete renunciation." (Bhakti rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255-256) Everything has its relationship with Krsna. Rejecting everything as false is artificial renunciation. Our method is to renounce things for our sense gratification, but accept everything for Krsna's satisfaction. Krsna says:

mam ca yd vyabhicarena 
bhakti-yogena sevate 
sa gunan samatltyaitan 
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." (Bg. 14.26) As soon as we engage fully in devotional service, we are immediately spiritualized. When we are in devotional service, the spiritual quality of everything is revived. In truth, everything is spirit, but it is covered by our material consciousness, just as gold may be covered by mud. If we cleanse the heart, we immediately understand that things are spiritual. In material consciousness, we conceive of ourselves as Americans, Indians, men, women, and so on, but when we come to our spiritual consciousness, we realize,. "I am Krsna's servant." Thus we understand that we are spiritual. These material conceptions are like dreams. When we are dreaming, we may think that we are this or that, or that we are performing so many acts, but when we awake, we understand our real identity. Because we are part and parcel of Krsna, we have no duty other than to serve Krsna. When this consciousness comes, everything is spiritual.

Hayagriva dasa: In Philosophy of Religion, Hegel writes: "God is a living God, who is acting and working. Religion is a product of the divine spirit; it is not a discovery of man, but a work of divine operation and creation in Him [God]."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is very important to understand that a man cannot manufacture religion. We define religion as "the orders given by God." As stated in Bhagavad-gita:

yada yada hi dharmasya 
glanir bhavati bharata 
abhyutthanam adharmasya 
tadatmanam srjamyaham 

paritranaya sadhunam 
vinasaya ca duskrtam 
sambhavami yuge yuge

"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, 0 descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion — at that time,

I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I appear Myself millennium after millennium." (Bg. 4.7-8) This is religion. Religion rests on the orders of Krsna, or God, and if you strictly follow Krsna's instructions, you are religious, pious, and transcendental. If you defy Krsna and manufacture your own religion, you are asuric, demoniac.

Syamasundara dasa: According to Plato's and Kant's philosophy, these temporary objects are representations of an ideal. This table, for instance, represents or expresses the ideal table, but it is not the ideal itself.

Srila Prabhupada: We also say that this material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. It is like a mirage. Srldhara Svami said that it is due to the actuality of the spiritual world that this illusory world appears to be true. Because there is in reality a real table, we can perceive this table. Although the entire material creation is but a perverted reflection of the reality, people are enamored by it. People take this to be a real table, a real body, a real society, real happiness, and so on.

Syamasundara dasa: Hegel would say that these are genuine externalizations of the reality, that this is a real table and that these are real objects. It is not that they are images of the real, but that they themselves are real.

Srila Prabhupada: What does he mean by real? For us, reality means that which does and will exist. If this is not the case, it is not real.

nasato vidyate bhavo 
nabhavo vidyate satah 
ubhayor api drsto'ntas 
tv anayos tattva-darsibhih

"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both." (Bg. 2.16) Reality refers to that which exists eternally. This table exists temporarily; therefore it cannot be classified as reality. It is like a dream or hallucination because it is temporary. We cannot say that a dream is real, although in a dream everything appears to be real.

Syamasundara dasa: But isn't there a table on the spiritual platform? An absolute table?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, in Krsna's abode there are tables, chairs, all kinds of furniture eternally existing. But these things are manifest here only temporarily.

Syamasundara dasa: Which is correct? Does the spirit express itself in this object, or is it that the spirit is this object?

Srila Prabhupada: The object is an expression of the spiritual energy. Whatever is manifest is the energy of Krsna, but one energy is eternal, and another energy is temporary. That which is manifest temporarily is material, and that which is manifest eternally is spiritual.

Syamasundara dasa: So, in that sense, can you say that this table is made of spirit, but at the same time is not?

Srila Prabhupada: Originally, it is made of spirit in the sense that Krsna is the whole spirit, and because it is Krsna's energy, it is factually Krsna. You may make various images out of clay. You may mold pots and bricks, and they may be manifest temporarily as pots and bricks, but originally they are clay, and when they are destroyed, they will again merge into their original condition. There are three conditions: the formless condition, the form, and again a merging into the formless. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Krsna tells Lord Brahma:

aharn evasam evagre 
nanyad yat sad-asat param 
pascad ahaih yad etac ca 
yovasisyeta so'smy aham

"It is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead." (Bhag. 2.9.33) So, Krsna existed in the beginning of the creation; He maintains the creation; and when the creation is annihilated, He continues to exist.

Syamasundara dasa: Therefore the Mayavadis would say that this table is maya?

Srila Prabhupada: They say that it is maya, but we say that it is temporary.

Syamasundara dasa: But there's also a spiritual world full of form?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but the Mayavadis do not know of this. What is the source of these forms? The Vedanta-sutra states: janmady asya. Form comes from the original source. These forms that we see here are not eternal forms. They are imitations, perverted reflections of eternal forms. A reflection is not eternal.