Dialectical Spiritualism: John Dewey, Part 4

BY: SUN STAFF - 4.9 2017

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

John Dewey (1859 - 1952)

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey writes: "The good man is the man who no matter how morally worthy he has been, is moving to become better. Growth itself is the only moral end."

Srila Prabhupada: In the beginning, a devotee may still do something wrong, but because he has taken to Krsna consciousness, he is accepted as a sadhu.

api cet suduracaro 
bhajate mam ananya-bhak 
sadhur eva sa mantavyah 
samyag vyavasito hi sah

"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is considered saintly because he is properly situated." (Bg. 9.30) There may be many discrepancies in one's life, but if one's heart is in the right place, if he is working for Krsna consciousness, he is considered a sadhu, even though he has not corrected his bad habits. Ksipram bhavati dharmatma sasvac-chantim nigacchati. "He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace." (Bg. 9.31) Because he has taken to Krsna consciousness, all his bad habits will be rectified very soon.

Syamasundara dasa: In other words, he is striving to improve his moral condition?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If one takes to Krsna consciousness, his morality will gradually develop.

yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akihcana 
sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah

"All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge, and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva." (Bhag. 5. 18.12) All good qualities will automatically come. We should stick to the four regulative principles: avoiding illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating, and gambling. And we should chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. By abiding by the orders of the spiritual master, everything will automatically develop. All good moral qualities will follow. It is not that we have to develop these qualities separately or independently. All good qualities are already there in the spirit soul, but presently they are covered by material contamination. When we are purified by Krsna consciousness, all these original qualities emerge. Hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate (Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu 1.1.12). We should purify our senses by engaging them in the service of the master of the senses, Krsna. That is the process of bhakti.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey did not believe in absolute good or evil; each situation must be treated individually.

Srila Prabhupada: Whatever is done in Krsna consciousness is good, and whatever is done for something other than Krsna's satisfaction is useless, although it may be ethically correct.

Syamasundara dasa: He felt that the greatest good is the elimination of the greatest evil. It is the fulfillment of man's greatest needs.

Srila Prabhupada: The highest objective is Krsna, Visnu. By becoming a Vaisnava, we attain the highest perfection of human life. The greatest need is Krsna consciousness, pure, supreme consciousness. Every living entity is Krsna's part and parcel. Mamaivaihsno jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. "The living entities in this conditioned world are my eternal, fragmental parts." (Bg. 15.7) Therefore we must always remember that, being part and parcel of Krsna, it is our duty to serve Krsna. In perverted consciousness, we think, "I am Krsna. I am God." That is not Krsna consciousness.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey believed that we should not choose good or evil simply on the basis of some theory. We should choose in order to alleviate specific evils.

Srila Prabhupada: The virat-rupa, the universal form of the Lord, was manifest before Arjuna. Arjuna then saw that everything within the universe is part and parcel of that virat-rupa, within which everything has a function, a duty. When we work according to that function, problems are automatically solved.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, we can never attain absolute certainty or perfection. We can only attain higher levels of moral progress.

Srila Prabhupada: This means that he has no knowledge of absolute perfection.

Syamasundara dasa: The world can be made better by man's efforts, but perfection in the world is not possible.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a different thing. This world is so made that if you perfect it today, tomorrow it will deteriorate. Therefore in one sense you cannot make it perfect. But you can improve it.

paritranaya sadhunam 
vinasaya ca duskrtam 
sambhavami yuge yuge

"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. 4.8) Any bad condition can be improved by Krsna consciousness. Krsna and Krsna consciousness are the same. If you are in Krsna consciousness, you are living with Krsna, and if you are living with Krsna, then what is your fear? On the battlefield of Kuruksetra, Arjuna was fearless because Krsna was beside him.

samasrita ye padapallava-plavam mahat- padam punya-yaso murareh 
bhavambudhir vatsa- padam par am padam 
padam padam yad vipadam na tesam

"For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda, the giver of liberation, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calfs hoofprint. Vaikuntha is his goal, not the place where there is danger at every step." (Bhag. 10.14.58) In this material world, there is danger at every step, but as soon as we understand Krsna, we become eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world.

janma karma ca me divyam evarh yo vetti tattvatah 
tyaktva deham punar janma 
naiti mam eti so'rjuna

"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, 0 Arjuna." (Bg. 4.9)

Syamasundara dasa: So people are removed from all danger, or evil, by becoming Krsna conscious?

Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. Therefore this is the best welfare activity for the entire world. By other means, people may be able to give some temporary benefit or temporary relief, but the situation will again deteriorate. You may give charity to a needy man, and this charity will serve him for a temporary period, but if you give him Krsna prema, he is immediately transferred to the spiritual world. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu is called the most munificent incarnation because He has delivered Krsna prema to the world. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsnaprema-pradaya te krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah.

Syamasundara dasa: But the goal of the utilitarians is to achieve what the people desire and require.

Srila Prabhupada: The people desire and require happiness, but they are searching for it in temporary things.

rsabha uvaca 
nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke 
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye 
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvarh 
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

"Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness, and which continues forever." (Bhag. 5.5.1) Purify your existence, and you will attain eternal happiness and bliss. Everyone is working hard for happiness, but how can happiness be attained in a diseased condition? First the disease must be cured because it is an impediment to happiness. The real disease is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi (Bg. 13.9): birth, old age, disease, and death. Cure these, and you will attain real happiness. Whatever you may desire, the ultimate end is happiness. Unfortunately, a diseased person is thinking, "I am happy." This is false happiness. Although you are dying, you are thinking that you are happy. This is called a fool's paradise.