Dialectical Spiritualism: Benedict Spinoza, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 8.2 2017

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

Benedict Spinoza (1632 - 1677)

Syamasundara dasa: Spinoza says that we can appreciate God by intellectually appreciating all of His creation and therefore understanding that God is the perfect principle behind everything. In this way, we can have an intellectual love for Him.

Srila Prabhupada: God is a person, otherwise why are we worshipping the Deity? What is the difference between the Deity and this table? God has a personal form, but this table is not that form. Everything is the manifestation of God's energy.

The Visnu Purana gives the example of fire, which expands as light and heat. Light and heat are nothing but fire, but at the same time, light and heat are not fire. They are simultaneously one and different. God is everything, but everything is not God. This table is God in the sense that it is part of God, but we cannot worship this table. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

maya tatam idaih sarvarh 
jagad avyakta-murtina 
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani 
na caham tesv avasthitah

"By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them." (Bg. 9.4) For instance, in the solar system, everything is resting on the sun's energy, but everything is not the sun. The sunshine is different from the sun, yet the sunshine is nothing but the sun. It is simultaneously one and different. This is perfect philosophy. Everything that is manifest is due to God, and when God withdraws His energy, there is no existence. It is insufficient to understand God simply as a principle. Spinoza says that God is a principle, but actually God is the Supreme Person. God expands His energy, and that energy is His principle.

Syamasundara dasa: God is identical with the substance of the world, the stuff the world is made of.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you cannot separate the energy from the energetic. That is one fact, but at the same time you cannot say that the sunshine is the same as the sun. It is identical and at the same time different.

Syamasundara dasa: In a sense, Spinoza would agree in that he says there is a God who is substance but who also has an infinite number of attributes unknown to man.

Srila Prabhupada: That's all right, but the attributes are simultaneously God and not God. There is substance and category. Gold is the substance, and a gold ring is the category. The gold ring is certainly gold, but the original substance gold is different.

Syamasundara dasa: Spinoza would call God the substance and the things of this world the categories. Because the categories are made of the substance, they are all God.

Srila Prabhupada: This clay pot is made of earth, but would you say that it is the whole earth? You may call it earthly, just as you may call the creation godly. That is pantheism.

Hayagriva dasa: Spinoza writes: 'The more we understand individual objects, the more we understand God." Is this the proper process? Or is it that the more we understand God, the more we understand individual objects?

Srila Prabhupada: Everything is related to God. In the material world, for instance, things are composed of the five gross elements, which are expansions of God's energies. An intelligent person sees everything in relation to God's expansions of energy. A devotee does not look on anything as being separate from God. Since he is a lover of God, he wants to engage everything in God's service because he understands that everything is God's property. The asuras have no conception of God, nor do they obey or love Him. The demoniac living entity thinks that the material world is created for his enjoyment. He does not see the material world as an expansion of God's energy. One who uses material products for his personal benefit is called a thief because he does not acknowledge the proprietorship of the creator, God. If we do not consider everything to be prasada, the mercy of God, we become thieves subject to punishment. The conclusion is that the devotee sees every material object related to God and tries to use everything for God's benefit.

Hayagriva dasa: The emphasis in Spinoza is on intellectual knowledge of God through self-knowledge. He writes: "He who knows himself and knows his affections clearly and distinctly — and that with the accompaniment of the idea of God — is joyous, for he knows and loves God." Through knowledge of the self, we can come to know something of God. In this way, man can be happy and love God. There is no mention of service, however.

Srila Prabhupada: Love means service. When a mother loves her child, she renders him service.

dadati pratigrhnati 
guhyam akhyati prcchati 
bhuhkte bhojayate caiva 
sad-vidham priti-laksanam

"Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one's mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada, and offering prasada are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another." (Sri Upadesamrta 4) Love means giving to one's beloved and also accepting some gift from him. Dadati pratigrhnati. Love means feeding one's beloved and also taking food from him. It means disclosing one's mind to him, and understanding his mind also. There are six reciprocal relationships in love. Love includes service.