Colloquies With Foreigners

BY: SUN STAFF - 18.9 2019

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, originally published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani), December 26, 1935.


Interview of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta by
Mr. Willion Henri Jan Vandor Stok of Batavia

Q: -- Your Holiness, kindly enlighten me about the different aspects of human pursuits.

A: -- In India as in Europe we find people holding different views, but here we have attempted to classify them into three divisions. One class of people are seekers of fruits of their action. Another class wish to annihilate their individuality. And the third class want, in their true selves as absolute infintesimals, to be in touch with the Absolute Infinity, rejecting all non-absolute features. We belong to the third party.

The seekers of fruits by means of their actions are called Karmakandins in the Sanskrit language. The Christian way of thinking about life is included in Karmakanda. In India we have also that sort of idea, that a person is to be judged by his action. He gets something in return as a reward for his pious deeds. Virtue and piety are the main principles that are wanted by such doers. Most people understand this common view, which holds that what I do will be either rewarded or reprimanded. We think that we should live a pious life in order that we may be rewarded in our next life with all sorts of enjoyments. We have got subtle bodies in which we are rewarded or punished. That body is not exactly similar to the ordinary gross body, the mortal coil which we see here. Egyptians thought that they have but one life and that they should have no occasions to bear future lives. But persons who subscribe to the theory of metempsychosis think that they will have future lives when they can make up for the nefarious acts done both in their present lives and in their past lives, and receive grace from the great dispenser of justice. They are fruit-seekers. They want to gratify their senses.

There are persons who hanker after knowledge. They went [sic] to secure knowledge by the empiric method. To them annihilation is the final goal. They think they should merge in the Integer, the Absolute, and that all the undesirable situations of this world will end with this merging. In that case observer, observation and observed, these three situations are eliminated. When all the activities of the senses such as hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing and touching will cease, the observer, observation and the observed will mix up together and there will be no occasion for knowing, willing or feeling. All volitional, cogitational and emotional activities should cease, because they have given us a bitter experience; and so, according to the empiricists, in order to make an end of them, it would be better for us not to think of anything which will respond to our senses. This idea is formulated by theorists like pantheists, agnostics, and sceptics. These people think that they will be able to secure happiness by destroying their identify.

The third view is the theistic view. We believe that there is a Personality of God-head and that we are persons. We want our troublous situations to be eliminated and wish to reach a peaceful position where we can freely move and have everything, whatever we are in need of; and this has resulted in directing us to the Absolute Who is represented as a Personality. In the Absolute Personality we find three features: He is Ever-existent, He is ever full of knowledge and He is the Fountain-head of unceasing bliss. In Him there is no factor of time, no factor of ignorance. In Him there is no discrepancy, no defect, no inadequacy, nothing of the kind. In our conception of God, we hold He is the Emporium of all bliss, all knowledge, and no acts of nescience or ignorance are to be associated with Him, and we should not seek after any fruit for our worldly purpose, leaving Him aside. He need not give us anything. We are to serve Him as servitors, He being the only Lord. In this world we find that hundreds of absolute infinitesimals trouble themselves with the undesirable elements of these phenomena. If the undesirable elements are simply driven out, eliminated, then a desirable position can be had. But in the ordinary conception of heaven, we find that it is meant for our purpose, to get our wishes for enjoyment fulfilled, for our enjoyment apart from the enjoyment of the Absolute. The enjoyment of the Absolute is full, whereas our enjoyment is liable to be involved in some troubles. All these miserable situations should be avoided for the purpose of safety, for our peace. The eternal peace can only come if we are at all eager to engage ourselves in the service of the Lord, I mean, the Personality of God-head. God has got spiritual eyes, spiritual ears, spiritual nose, spiritual tongue, spiritual skin and spiritual mind; not material things like us. Our senses are made up of material things and there is no such element in God. God is the Emporium of all desirable elements. He is found to be eternally Existing, He is full of knowledge, He is Omniscient and He is All-blissful. He delegates His power to certain absolute infinitesimals, or, in other words, the absolute infinitesimals are endowed with such potencies which enable them to transact affairs with the Eternal Authority. Ordinarily we are placed in a region where all sorts of imperfections and undesirable situations are prominent, and we require that our bitter experience should devise some means to get rid of these unpleasant situations; the painful propensities must be kicked out from our activities. We should be prepared for the stage where we can realise our own real selves. We should not trouble ourselves here engaging ourselves in amusements and other things. It is necessary that some prudent, preparatory measures should be adopted during this life, that we should acquire the discretion to judge what is really desirable and making a thorough study of the revealed scriptures which have come to us, find out how we could ameliorate our conditions and give up the passionate desires that are engrossing such people as are busy with annihilating themselves or with fruit-seeking endeavours.

The third party is known as Bhaktas or devotees who possess Bhakti which is the vehicular agent to carry us to the Absolute. It will act as the tie uniting the Personality of the Lord and our personalities. Our persons should be united with the Personality of God, and that Personality of God-head is purely spiritual and has no mundane reference. If we wish to know Him by any mundane reference that would be like trying to send rays from the retina to the sun. Just as we receive rays emanating from the self-luminous disc of the sun, so by the mercy of the Supreme Lord we will be able to know what He is, and after learning this, we will engage ourselves for His purpose. We will have nothing else to do in this world. We have got the only purpose of associating ourselves with the Spirit, with the Over-soul. When we leave this mortal coil, we will be engaged in some occupation or other, but we should not think that in the subtle bodies we will continue these conditions and have our enjoyment. This enjoyment is temporary and in the long run becomes the cause of binding us to grosser coils. But if we have any mind to engage ourselves with the Eternity, with All-knowledge, and One Who is devoid of ignorance and full of incessant Bliss, we must respond to His call, we should be participating with the Absolute and not with the non-absolute environment here. Our phenomenal existence is not at all sympathetic to our highest aspiration. Our so-called relatives show that they are very kind to us, but in the end we find that they too wish to draw something from us and at best have only some wordly motive. They are not kind to us in the best sense. We should not be dissuaded by their influence. We should have a stern will to give up all our passionate enjoying habits, as well as the inclination for self-annihilation which the empricists {sic] seek. The desire for annihilation as well as the tendency for enjoyment are to be sacrificed at the altar of devotion. They do wrong things. They enjoy instead of serving, and we want that we should be set free from all these wrong ideas of the speculative people of the world. We are aware of the history of civilisation for the last ten thousand years and we expect that when the world shall have run for some ten thousand years more some new troubles will arise and the human race will be destroyed by some influence which we cannot foretell now. So, the Absolute is to be enquired into, what He is, whether He is a human being, or whether He belongs to the lower creation, or whether He is of a stony character; whether the Absolute is neuter, masculine or feminine. Let us strive to acquaint ourselves with all these ideas and thoughts about the next world and the Absolute: whether the region of the Absolute has all sorts of manifestive phases, whether these phases are agreeable and free from invasion of wrong thoughts. So, if we want to wash off all our wrong conceptions we will have to surrender to the Absolute Infinity and then we shall be in touch with Him. We will have the opportunity of dove-tailing ourselves with Him and no other ideas and thoughts should dissuade us from having touch with the Absolute. If we can secure the tendency of love for the Absolute, we will be attracted by Him. He Himself is Love. We have no loving tendency, whereas He is full of love. We should try to meet the merciful strain by which He wants to attract us to Him, to His region where there is no defect, no disagreeable feature, no ignorance and no undesirable situation. We should go back there. We do not carry our bones and flesh there. The proprietor of these bones and flesh is to go there, leaving here all these dirty appurtenances for the enjoyment of jackals and dogs and those creatures of the lower creation who have no devotional motive at all, who do not want to come in touch with the Absolute Infinity.

Most of the people of the globe are very busy with getting fruits, gratifying their senses by attending cinemas, driving motorcars and they are quite indifferent about serving those who can guide them to the Absolute region. All the undesirable situations which impeded our course are to be eliminated. The enjoying and empirical activities are obstructing our ways and we should try to drive them off. We should want that we should be in touch only with the Absolute. As devotees, we are always in touch with Him and never dissociated from Him. We want to serve Him. We want to regain our position. We need not pass our time just as ordinary people do. We should submit to the heaven-sent messenger and follow his dictations. Our philosophies and empirical knowledge will be of no use to us. Our devotion should not be directed towards dogs, horses, men and women and other object of worldly phenomena. We need not serve such things. We should be determined to come in touch with the Absolute Who is very different from the non-absolute phenomena. Any person or thing that serves the Personality of God, should be treated in a friendly manner. And if any persons or thing proves hostile in the cause of His service, we should leave that off. We should not try to understand the spiritual plane from the material standpoint.

Q: -- What do you understand by spiritual land?

A: -- By Spiritual world we mean where we can have association with the spirit. The Absolute reserves the right of not being exposed to human senses. The human senses are all prisoners. They are all blind fellows. They cannot see Him. Rather they indulge in wrong ideas and give trouble to the people. The word "God" has been created by man. The direction is quite right, but what men produce in their factory is wrong. The people are engaged in non-absolute propaganda. This should cease.

Q: -- Those who work for the welfare of the people, are they not good?

A: -- Some people try to be good in order to enjoy a peaceful life. They are friendly to others to get their help in return, and in most cases the aim is worldly contentment.

Q: -- How should we know the will of God?

A: -- We are absolute infinitesimals and He is Absolute Infinity. If we are sincere and submit to Him, we will come in touch with Him, and know His Will. There are self-sufficient people who think they can, by their empirical knowledge, know everything. But the Absolute cannot be known by our empirical knowledge. This attempt would be like sending rays from the retina to the sun to know what the sun is. We should have nothing to do with the agnostics and Karmakandins of this world. They will try to dissuade us from having an aptitude for devotion. The devotees are the most intelligent people. We should await the day when the Merciful Lord will send His messenger to give us that cessation of all connections with the world which we call death. We shall then be able to live the life of devotees. Our selection of friends should be among the devotees. The agnostics and karmakandins will only lead us to trouble. The devotees are the only prudent and judicious people. The path of devotion is the shortest and easiest way. It is better that whatever we have gathered in this world, we should leave aside. We want to disown everything that is deemed to be quite suitable to persons who are busy with mundane affairs. We should consider ourselves lower than the blade of grass. We have now secured some non-absolute things which are quite inefficacious for our purpose. We should simply submit to the instructions of the devotees whose only occupation is to come in touch with the Absolute.

Q: -- What do you think of the yogis?

A: -- We do not subscribe to the principle of yoga. The Yogis think that they should have some-thing for their own. They have no eternal purpose. The Indian yogis think that when they come in touch with the Absolute, they will be restored to their original position and they will have nothing to do later on. They simply want emancipation from all troubles. The yogi thinks that when his duties are finished he will be able to pass his time in indulgence. So indulgence is the ultimate object of a yogi. And for this they strive for emancipation from the bonds of karma. The devotees are first class yogis, but they care very little for emancipation. They do not require these things. A devotee would be more happy to abide by the decision of Providence instead of throwing off the troublous situation he has been put into. The Yogis are inclined to have some personal motive, because, they require peace for themselves. They do not want to engage themselves in the service of the Lord, but they try to get something for their own. If a yogi is at all successful in his endeavours to come in contact with the Absolute, He shows his stony aspect at that time. The yogis think that God should be represented as a neuter thing, that no idea of sex should disturb their mind. The yogis want to reach kaivalya of "Iswara-sayujya" and "Brahma-Sayujya". They want to be made into God, like the slave Altamsh who usurped the throne of his masters. These are wrong ideas. The yogis are never successful in their attempts and we should not adopt the principles of a yogi. In paradise all sorts of enjoyments are supplied. But who is the enjoyer? He is a poor man who has got all sorts of bitter experience in this world.

It is better for us not to be agnostics, yogis, karmakandins and empiricists.

The Supreme Lord disclosed before the people the true system of devotion. There was no party who could claim a better system. The karmakandins and jnanins gave up their established ideas and thoughts, they all submitted to the true and loving wishes of the supreme Authority Whom we want to seek. The Supreme Authority is to be served and not the things which are hostile to the Supreme Authority.

What should be the Supreme Authority? What is He? Should the word "it" serve for indicating the Absolute? Or should the predominating aspect be addressed as 'he' and the predominated aspect as 'she'? The followers of the Old Testament like to apply "it" to God and want that God should be neuter, and that no personal forms should be attributed to Him, in order to differentiate Him from the phenomenal existence. Some people say that if only the subjective aspect is ascribed to God-head then the subjective [sic] aspect of God-head is neglected. We require that God-head should comprise both subjective and objective aspects. There must be some objects for the subject otherwise the subjectivity cannot stand. When we talk of some relationship, the reciprocating portion should never to neglected. In theism we find that the predominating part should reciprocate the predominated parts; these two parts should comprise the Whole thing, otherwise the Plenary is divided into two, or is divided into three.

Here in this world we find various relationships like that between husband and wife, between master and servant, between friend and friend and between children and parents. In the transcendental region the Supreme Lord is the only object of these relationships. He is the only Husband, the only Master, the only friend and the only Child. There is also the neutral relationship with God-head. So in all we find there are five kinds of relationships we can have with the Supreme Lord. In the New Testament God is described as God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Ghost; but they neglect the five relationships mentioned above. Service of God in these five relationships has been given to mankind by Shri Krishna Chaitanya. Service is the only function of the soul. We ignore the body when we are busy with the service of the Lord.

Q: -- Why do you require service?

A: -- Of all the occupations the best one is to attend to the service of the Absolute. Man wants to lord it over the phenomena, but in the long run he becomes a slave of the phenomena. For instance, there are people who wish to enjoy smoking and intoxicating liqueurs, but ultimately they become slaves of those habits. We devotees do not want our entities to be absorbed in the Integer, we want to adopt the process of devotion and have some permanent engagement. We should examine what we really are. Are we the external frame, the emporium of sense or the mind? If we analyse, we find that these are foreign elements incorporated into us. In order to get rid of al this dirt, the only course left to us is devotion which is service, service fully filtered and unalloyed.

Q: -- Do you know the Absolute gradually or at once?

A: -- The knowledge of the Absolute can be had all at once, there is no factor of time and space. If we are at all intent on knowing Him, we must have some sort of objective reference for His subjective activity. Now we are busy with worldly affairs; we think we are men and women. Instead of doing so, we should be serving Him, and when He participates with our pure selves, we will be set free from all the tempting influence of the different things of Nature. We want that we should go back. Like a shooting star, we have strayed out of the range of His attraction. Like a comet, we are journeying without cessation. Our eternal condition is that we are absolute infinitesimals, and as such, we should dove-tail with the Absolute Infinity. The function between Him and us is love. He is the Lover. If He loves us, we will be taken back. If He has an apathetic tendency towards us it is because we are averse to Him; and we will be undergoing 84 millions of births and deaths, again and again. It would be judicious for us that we should go back to the Absolute Infinity, and that all our engagement should be with Him, and not with anybody else.