Dialectical Spiritualism: John Dewey, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 31.8 2017

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

XI. AMERICAN PRAGMATISM 
John Dewey (1859 - 1952)

Hayagriva dasa: In the realm of philosophy and religion, Dewey believes that certainty is impossible. He writes: "Any philosophy that in its quest for certainty ignores the reality of the uncertain in the ongoing processes of nature, denies the conditions out of which it arises."

Srila Prabhupada: There is uncertainty when you do not accept the reality. The reality is God, and God explains how nature is working. If we do not accept His explanation, our position is very precarious, very uncertain. But if God comes and reveals Himself and His activities, and we consider them mythological, how can we be convinced? How can we ever be certain?

Hayagriva dasa: For Dewey, there is but one sure road of access to truth: what he calls "the road of patient, cooperative inquiry operating by means of observation, experiment, record, and controlled reflection."

Srila Prabhupada: The record is there in the Mahabharata, and those who have seen have confirmed it. Vyasadeva, Narada, and Arjuna all confirm that everything is there in the record, but if people do not believe, how can they be convinced? Conditioned living entities do not have the perfect senses to see, and if they remain unconvinced, they will always live in darkness. They may go on imagining in the dark, but they will never attain perfect knowledge in this way.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey set down five steps for solving problems and attaining truths: we observe a problem and consider its nature; we intellectualize and analyze it; we hypothesize and consider solutions; we analyze our hypothesis according to past experience, and choose possible solutions; and we put the solutions into practice.

Srila Prabhupada: Our process for solving problems is Krsna. Krsna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati. "0 son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes." (Bg. 9.31) When we take shelter of Krsna, our problems are solved. Yatra yogesvarah krsnah (Bg. 18.78). Krsna is the reservoir of all mystic power. He is yogesvarah. It is not the bhakta's business to strive to become a yogi; rather, he takes shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is yogesvarah, the master of all mystic power. We consider this to be the solution to all our problems.

daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya 
mam eva ye prapadyante 
mayam etam taranti te

"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." {Bg. 7.14) There are various methods for solving problems, but the best method is to surrender unto Krsna. Then all problems are solved.

Syamasundara dasa: On the social platform as well?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Everything is solved. For instance, the Pandavas had a political problem, and when they took shelter of Krsna, their political and social problems were solved.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, truth must satisfy human needs and improve social conditions. He sees truth as a practical tool.

Srila Prabhupada: We are the ones who have created social problems. Krsna is perfect, and whatever Krsna has created is perfect. Om purnam adah purnam idam (Isopanisad, Invocation). Things appear to be imperfect because we disobey Krsna's orders. If we remain faithful to Krsna, there are no problems. People speak of truth, but unfortunately, they do not know the truth.

na te viduh svartha-gatirh hi visnurh 
dwasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah 
andha yathandhair upanlyamanas 
te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah

"Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries." (Bhag. 7.5.31) The ultimate truth, the ultimate objective, is Visnu. Unfortunately, people are trying to solve the problems of this world without referring to Visnu. Of course, this is not possible.

Syamasundara dasa: How does worship of Visnu solve social problems?

Srila Prabhupada: Man who executes this varnasrama-dharma satisfies Visnu. The brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and Sudras have various prescribed duties. If they follow them, all problems are solved. Unfortunately, in India this varnasrama-dharma has been killed. Now everyone is a sudra. The word sudra refers to an unintelligent person. Since everyone is unintelligent, how can they solve problems? What can they do? They are trying to run a democratic government according to the votes of sudras, but sudras cannot solve anything. Once, America belonged to the red Indians, but they did not develop it. Why couldn't they improve their condition? The land and everything else was there. But when the Europeans came, they developed the land. Sudras cannot actualize anything. If we once again establish the varnasrama-dharma, all problems will be solved. That was the plan of my Guru Maharaja. Daiva-varnasrama refers to that which is stated by Krsna. The varnas are not established by birth, but by qualification. By qualification, one is a brahmana or a sudra. By following the course prescribed for our varna, we can satisfy Lord Visnu and in this way be happy.