Dialectical Spiritualism: William James, Part 6

BY: SUN STAFF - 25.8 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 describes samadhi to be a union in which the individual has lost contact with the external world.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Hayagriva dasa: And he therefore concludes that "Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half an hour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light of common day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; but when they recur, it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuous development in what is felt as inner richness and importance."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that richness is perfected when we think of Krsna constantly. That is recommended in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, which I quoted previously. Consequently, in our Krsna consciousness movement, we are devoted to thinking of Krsna twenty-four hours daily. When we do not fall down from the yoga principle, we experience samadhi.

Hayagriva dasa: James himself claims to have experienced such a state momentarily, under the influence of ether. And today, people claim to induce mystical states through psychedelic drugs.

Srila Prabhupada: These are artificial means, and they cannot be sustained. It is better to engage in the bona fide devotional process — sravanarn kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam (Bhag. 7.5.23) — always hearing about Krsna, talking about Him, remembering Him, serving Him in the temple, distributing His literatures, and so on. There are many services we can render in order to be fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness.

Hayagriva dasa: After analyzing many different religious experiences, James arrives at five basic conclusions. One: "That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance. "

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the material universe is existing on the spiritual effulgence of the Lord, just as all the planets are resting upon the sunshine. Everything rests on the spiritual effulgence of the Lord, but when we forget the Lord, we call this the material world. Actually, the material world is in the spiritual world, but forgetfulness of God is material. When we revive our dormant God consciousness, the material world no longer exists. For a person truly advanced in God consciousness, there is nothing material. Everything is spiritual.

Hayagriva dasa: You are anticipating James's second conclusion, which is: "Union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is so. When we n o longer forget our eternal relationship with God, nothing is material.

Hayagriva dasa: Third, prayer, or communion with God, "is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world." And, fourth, religion produces "a new zest which adds itself like a gift to life."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, realizing God's creation with awe, veneration, and appreciation constitutes one type of relationship called santa-rasa. From there, we can progress to the point of dasya-rasa, which involves serving God, and finally to the madhurya-rasa, which includes accepting God as our most beloved object. The devotee may choose whichever relationship he likes; the result is the same. However, by comparative study, the sadhus have decided that the madhurya-rasa, our relationship with God as lover and beloved, is the highest relationship.

Hayagriva dasa: Finally, religion produces "an assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is very nice. A devotee is always at peace because he is always confident that since he is sincerely serving Krsna, Krsna will save him from all danger. Prahlada Maharaja was always peaceful, although his demoniac father, Hiranyakasipu, attempted to kill him in so many ways. God always protects His devotee, and therefore the pure devotee is not disturbed by any material condition. He has firm faith in God, and this is called surrender. Full surrender means accepting everything favorable to God consciousness and rejecting everything unfavorable. When we enter the family of God, we have firm faith and security under the protection of God.

Hayagriva dasa: James then concludes that "in opening ourselves to God's influence, our deepest destiny is fulfilled."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that fulfillment is what is wanted. God demands that we fully surrender unto Him, and when we do so, our lives are perfected.