Dialectical Spiritualism: William James, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 24.8 2017

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

William James (1842 - 1910)

Hayagriva dasa: James believes that there is a certain composite picture of universal saintliness, which is the same in all religions, and of which the features can be easily traced. He has noted that holymen possess: "One, a feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world's selfish little interest; and a conviction... of the existence of an Ideal Power."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that feeling is there because the greatness of God is experienced. God is great in six opulences: wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation.

Hayagriva dasa: Secondly, holymen possess "a sense of the friendly continuity of the Ideal Power with our own life, in a willing self -surrender to its control."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is a friendly continuity. There are five basic relationships. In the first, the relationship is between master and servant, then friend to friend, son to father, father to son, and beloved to beloved. All of these are friendly relationships, and every living entity has a natural instinct to accept any one of them. Thus our friendly relationships with God can be chosen. Someone may like to relate to Him as a servant, a friend, a father, a son, or a conjugal lover. When we are free from material contamination, our particular relationship is revived, and we understand ourselves as eternal parts and parcels of God.

Hayagriva dasa: Thirdly, the holyman experiences "an immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, material selfishness is maya. Those who are enchanted by the spell of maya do not know that their real self-interest is in knowing their relationship with God. Our first duty is to have a complete idea of God and our relationship with Him. According to the Vedic process, whether we take up the hatha-yoga, jnana-yoga, or bhakti-yoga system, the purpose is realization of God. A perfect human being knows that God is supplying his necessities and that he need not try to improve his economic condition. A sadhu, or holyman, is not interested in improving his material condition, but his spiritual condition.

Hayagriva dasa: Lastly, James speaks of the holyman experiencing "a shifting of the emotional center toward loving and harmonious affections, toward 'yes' and away from 'no' where the claims of the non-ego are concerned."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, God is always asking us to obey His orders, and as soon as we do so, as soon as we agree with Him, we become liberated. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes liberation as giving up everything except devotional life.

narayana-parah sarve 
na kutascana bibhyati 
api tulyartha-darsinah

"Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them, the heavenly planets, liberation, and the hellish planets are all the same, because such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.17.28) Life is meant for rendering devotional service to the Lord, and as soon as we understand this and commit ourselves to the rendering of such service, we are liberated. That is called mukti.

Hayagriva dasa: James believes that the existence of many religions in the world is not regrettable because different types of men necessitate different types of religion. "Some may really be the better for a religion of consolation and reassurance," he writes, "whilst others are better for one of terror and reproof "

Srila Prabhupada: I have said that religion means accepting God as the Supreme Father, material nature as the mother, and all living entities as sons of God. The father is the maintainer, and all his sons have the right to live at his expense. Every living being should be satisfied with his condition, which is given by God. No one should encroach upon the rights of others, including the rights of animals to live peacefully. According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a happy life means living in the family of Krsna without violating the rules and regulations. In a family, the sons can live very happily by obeying their father. So there may be many types of religion, but awareness of this basic relationship with God and His creation should be there.

Hayagriva dasa: Since James was acquainted only with the impersonalist Vedanta school of Hinduism, he wrote of samadhi instead of devotional service. "When a man comes out of samadhi," he writes, "... he remains 'enlightened, a sage, a prophet, a saint, his whole character changed, his life changed, illumined.'"

Srila Prabhupada: Samadhi means ecstasy, and if we are in God consciousness, we are in samadhi. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna speaks of the yogi in samadhi:

yoginam api sarvesam 
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam 
sa me yuktatamo matah

"And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshipping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." (Bg. 6.47) In samadhi, the mind is always absorbed in God. If we continue in Krsna consciousness, we are in samadhi.