Dialectical Spiritualism: Immanuel Kant, Part 6
BY: SUN STAFF - 4.4 2017
Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.
VII. GERMAN IDEALISM
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Hayagriva dasa: Kant suggests that certain knowledge of God's existence would destroy a man's freedom and reduce human experience to a show of puppets frantically attempting to attain the favor of the Almighty. Thus uncertainty is a necessary ingredient for faith.
Srila Prabhupada: Faith should not be blind. If it is, it is useless. We may believe in the government, but the government is not dependent on faith. There is a government, and we are under the government's laws and therefore have to obey them. There is no question of faith. Similarly, one who knows God becomes dependent on Him, and that is not faith but fact. The devotee is happy depending on God. He knows that it is foolishness to think himself independent. A child voluntarily depends on his parents and is therefore happy.
Syamasundara dasa: Since our knowledge is limited to mere phenomena, faith is necessary to acquire knowledge of God, freedom, and immortality.
Srila Prabhupada: No, faith is not a fact but a compromise. It is good that he admits that we cannot approach God ultimately by our senses or reason, but faith alone also is not sufficient, not perfect. Western philosophers have created so many different faiths. One may believe in one faith, and another person in another, but this is faith, not fact. The fact is this: if we are convinced that there is a God and that He is omnipotent, we have to admit that by His omnipotence He can descend into the world. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that He descends into the world for two reasons: to rectify the discrepancies in religion, and to please His devotees who are always anxious to see Him. Some people may say that God is partial, but He is not. God is kind both to His devotees and to the miscreants and demons. When the miscreants are killed by God, they attain immediate salvation, and when the devotees see God, they can understand His actual position. In Vrndavana, God displays Himself just as He does in the spiritual world. It is His nature to play with the cowherd boys and dance with the gopis. When the devotees understand this, they become encouraged by knowing that after finishing the material body, they will return to Krsna to join in His pastimes. This information is not only understood from the sastras, but is actually demonstrated by Krsna. Thus this knowledge is doubly confirmed. When we hear about God and His activities, we can also realize them because God is absolute. There is no difference between seeing Him and hearing about Him. In this way, true knowledge is attained. However expert a logician one may be, it is not possible by reason, logic, or mundane knowledge to approach the Supreme Absolute. It is possible to understand God only when He descends Himself, gives information about Himself, and displays His pastimes. Srimad-Bhagavatam is a chronicle of the descents of God. If we try to understand God through Srimad-Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita, we become a bhagavata. In Bhagavad-gita, God speaks about Himself and His activities, and Srimad-Bhagavatam is a record of God's activities and pastimes. The first nine cantos are devoted to the understanding of the transcendental nature of God, and the Tenth Canto is a chronicle of God's activities before the eyes of the people of the world. However, those who are miscreants will think that God is just a famous person, or a superhuman being, and that's all.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning religion and faith, Kant writes: "There is only one (true) religion, but there can be faiths of several kinds. It is therefore more fitting to say, 'This man is of this or that faith (Jewish, Mohammedan, Catholic, Lutheran), than he is of this or that religion.'"
Srila Prabhupada: That is correct. Since religion means obedience to God, it does not refer to some sect. People are trying to understand God in different ways, but these ways are not real religion; they are methods of understanding God. Religion begins when we have understood God and are rendering Him service.
Syamasundara dasa: In Critique of Practical Reason, Kant affirmed that moral laws are necessary and universal objects of the human will and must be accepted as valid for everyone. We can know what is morally right a priori, by intuition.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Morality is relative. It varies according to the development of a particular society. For instance, there are many immoral acts taking place in modern society, but no one cares. People go ahead and act as they please.
Syamasundara dasa: Then there is no universal morality?
Srila Prabhupada: Universal morality means obeying God. That's all.
Syamasundara dasa: But are any of God's laws fixed?
Srila Prabhupada: All laws are included if you obey God. That is universal morality.
manmana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yajl mam, namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyafn te
pratijane priyo'si me
"Always think of me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend." (Bg. 18.65) This is the basis of morality. We must become Krsna's servitor. Since so many immoral activities are being accepted as moral, how else can a person know what is moral and what is not?
Hayagriva dasa: Kant writes: "For a rational but finite being, the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to the higher degrees of moral perfection."
Srila Prabhupada: This means that there is an endless struggle to understand real morality. This is not necessary. We need only accept the orders of God and follow them. That is ultimate reality.
Hayagriva dasa: What Kant means by morality is rather vague. He does not give specific outlines for action. Rather, he writes, "The moral individual is to do what is good only because it is good." According to his categorical imperative, man should act in such a way that the maxim of his actions might become the principle for universal law.
Srila Prabhupada: But that is impossible for the individual soul. It is impossible for a conditioned living entity to do something that will be universally accepted.
Hayagriva dasa: Then man cannot establish a universal law by his own action?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Only God can do so. Only God can say, sarvadharman parityajya mam ekam. "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66) If an individual conditioned soul says this, who will accept him?
Syamasundara dasa: But Kant says that there are certain imperatives that we are born with.
Srila Prabhupada: What are these? He should say specifically. The only universal imperative is that you should be obedient to God. That's all.
Hayagriva dasa: Kant rejects the traditional proofs of God's existence in order to clear the ground for his assertion that God is morally necessary in a moral universe. In this universe, every soul is an end in itself, and these individual souls are like citizens in a "kingdom of ends."
Srila Prabhupada: Why does he use the word "kingdom" if he does not accept the king?
Hayagriva dasa: No, he would say that the king is a moral necessity in a moral universe. He simply rejects the traditional proofs.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right, but he sees the individual souls as ends in themselves. There is no question of such independence, because everything is part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is behind nature, and if our morality denies the existence of God, what is its value? One man may think that animal killing is good, while another may think that it is immoral. So who is correct? There must be some authority to establish morality. Morality must have some background, otherwise it will change at any moment.