Dialectical Spiritualism: Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

BY: SUN STAFF - 7.9 2017

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

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)

Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, a Christian, is often called the father of existentialism. He believed that if the truths of religions are not innate within man, they must be transmitted by a teacher. Since man would be overawed by God, if God Himself came to teach as He is, God comes instead as a servant of God in human form, or, for a Christian, as Jesus Christ.

Srila Prabhupada: Generally, because men are on the animal platform, some system of education is required. When man's consciousness is advanced, he can be educated in the understanding of God through the teachings of the authorities. That is the Vedic system. In the human form, the living entity is sometimes very inquisitive, and wants to understand God. That is technically called brahma-jijnasa: interest in the Absolute. That is possible only in the human form. If we are anxious to know about God, we have to approach a guru, otherwise we cannot understand the nature of God or of our relationship with Him. Accepting a guru is not a fashion but a necessity. A guru is one who is fully trained in the ocean of spiritual knowledge, or Vedic knowledge. Vedic words or sound vibrations are not ordinary, material vibrations. They are completely spiritual. The Hare Krsna maha-mantra, for instance, is a purely spiritual sound. Once a person is fully trained in the ocean of spiritual sound, he is no longer interested in materialistic life. Nor does such a person manufacture gold, or juggle words to attract foolish people and make money. A guru by definition is one who is no longer interested in material things. He has taken shelter of the Supreme Lord, and his material desires have completely ceased. We should approach such a bona fide guru, surrender unto him, serve him, and then question him about God and our relationship with God.

Hayagriva dasa: Is Kierkegaard correct in maintaining that man would be overawed if God came to teach as He is? Didn't Krsna, as He is, come to teach Bhagavad-gita.

Srila Prabhupada: Krsna came as He is, but people misunderstood Him because He appeared to them as an ordinary human being. Because they could not surrender unto Him, He came later as a devotee, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to teach men how to approach God. That is the concept of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya understood His activities and wrote about a hundred verses in appreciation. Two of these verses read:

vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yogasiksartham ekah purusah puranah 
hpambudhir y as tam aharh prapadye

kalan nastarh bhakti-yogam nijarh yah 
praduskarturh krsna-caitanya-nama 
avirbhutas tasya padaravinde 
gadharh gadharh liyatarh citta-bhrhgah

"Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service, and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsria consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet. Let my consciousness, which is like a honeybee, take shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has just now appeared as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the ancient system of devotional service to Himself. This system had almost been lost due to the influence of time." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madh. 6.254-255) Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya thus understood that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the very same Krsna come to teach bhakti-yoga and the process of renunciation. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught the very same philosophy: Bhagavad-gita. However, instead of coming as Krsna, He came as a devotee of Krsna. Rupa Gosvami also appreciated Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the most munificent incarnation because He not only gives Krsna, but pure love of Krsna. Namo maha vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te. In order to give Himself to the devotee, Krsna demands full surrender, but Caitanya Mahaprabhu, without making any demands, gives pure love of Krsna. Because we are all His sons, Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is affectionate towards us. Because we are rotting in this material world, Krsna comes Himself, or as a devotee, and leaves His instructions. He is always anxious to enlighten a human being and show him how to return home, back to Godhead.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning God's personality, Kierkegaard writes: "God is certainly personal, but whether He wishes to be so in relation to the individual depends upon whether it pleases God. It is the grace of God that He wishes to be personal in relation to you; if you throw away His grace, He punishes you by behaving objectively [impersonally] towards you."

Srila Prabhupada: That is a very good point. As stated in Bhagavad-gita:

kleso'dhikataras tesam 
avyakta hi gatir duhkharh 
dehavadbhir avapyate

"For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied." (Bg. 12.5)

Hayagriva dasa: Because the ordinary man does not wish to have a personal relationship with God, "in that sense one may say that the world does not have a personal God, despite all the proofs There are no longer the men living who could bear the pressure and weight of having a personal God."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a personal God makes demands, just as Krsna demands in Bhagavad-gita:

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto 
mad-yajl mam namaskuru 
mam evaisyasi yuktvaivam 
atmanam 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) This is God's demand, and if we carry it out, we attain perfection. Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti (Bg. 4.9) It is clearly stated that when a devotee gives up his material body, he does not accept another, but returns back to Godhead in his original spiritual body.