Dialectical Spiritualism: John Dewey, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 4.9 2017

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

John Dewey (1859 - 1952)

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey felt that the desirable course of action should meet certain conditions subject to prediction, and should be based on judgments or appraisals that might serve as guidelines to future activity.

Srila Prabhupada: This is predictable: You say, "I don't want to die." I say, "Come to this position, and you will not die."

Syamasundara dasa: Is there some experience that would show this to be a predictable result?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You might not have the experience, but your superiors do.

abrahma-bhuvanal lokah 
punar avartino'rjuna 
mam upetya tu kaunteya 
punar janma na vidyate

"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, 0 son of Kunti, never takes birth again." (Bg. 8.16) If we go to Krsna, we will never come back to this material world again. Who can excel Krsna's experience? Since He knows past, present, and future, it is to our good to accept His instructions.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey would recommend basing our judgments on personal experience.

Srila Prabhupada: We may not have personal experience, but we can take the advice of a person who does. Such experience is as good as our own. You may not have gone to New York, but because others have purchased tickets there and gone and returned, you can take advantage of their experience and learn something about that place.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey claims that value exists only where there is satisfaction.

Srila Prabhupada: Unless you have faith in a person, how can you be satisfied? You should find a person in whom you can place your faith. Who can be a better person than Krsna?

Syamasundara dasa: If certain conditions are met, satisfaction is transformed into value. If my hunger is satisfied by eating certain food, that food is given value.

Srila Prabhupada: It is Krsna who gives that value. In the beginning of Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna was refusing to fight, but because he valued Krsna and was satisfied by his faith in Krsna, he was victorious.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, moral laws may serve as guidelines for action. They are comparable to physical laws, in that if I act in a certain way, I can expect a certain result.

Srila Prabhupada: We prescribe:

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sahgo ' tha bhajana-kriya 
tato' nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah 
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati 
sadhakanam ayarh premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah

"In the beginning, the neophyte devotee must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring him to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage, he becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and, under his instruction, begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, he becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. This taste leads him further forward to attachment for Krsna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu) If you follow one step after the other, you get the results. If you have faith, and associate with the devotees, you will be eager to execute devotional service. Then all misgivings are eradicated, and your faith becomes firm. Unless you experience the next result, how can you make progress? Moral guidelines are also given by Rupa GosvamI:

utsahan niscayad dhairyat 
tat- tat- ka rma-pravartanat 
sahga-tyagat sato vrtteh 
sadbhir bhaktih prasidhyati

"There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: being enthusiastic, endeavoring with confidence, being patient, acting according to regulative principles [such as sravanarh kirtanam visrwh smaranam — hearing, chanting, and remembering Krsna], abandoning the association of nondevotees, and following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service." (Upadesamrta 3) We should be patient, enthusiastic, and firmly convinced. We should be fair in our dealings, and should associate with saintly persons. In this way, we can advance.

Syamasundara dasa: Then the results follow these guidelines predictably and automatically?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, one after another. A teacher instructs his students, and when they realize one instruction, he gives another, then another. In this way, the students can make progress. Consider the guidelines. First of all, we must be enthusiastic. Unless we are enthusiastic, how can we enter into any activity? We should also be patient. We should not think, "Oh, I am working so hard, but am getting no results." The results will come in time. We should also have firm conviction that because we have taken the path of the mahajanas, the path prescribed by Krsna, success is imminent. Although success may be delayed, it doesn't really matter. We must know that success will definitely come. We must also perform our prescribed duties fairly and in good faith. And we should also associate with saintly people. This will give us impetus. If we follow these guidelines, the result is certain and predictable.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey believes that moral laws are not inflexible absolute rules that never permit exceptions.

Srila Prabhupada: The real moral law is the law of the Supreme. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna described many different types of yoga: dhyanayoga, jnana-yoga, hatha-yoga, and so on. However, at the end, He said, sarva-dharman parityajya. "Abandon all these dharmas and surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66) Krsna's word is the ultimate morality. Vaisnavas do not consider this or that moral or immoral. Whatever Krsna or His representative orders is moral. That is our position.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey claims that we place value upon that which we must act on.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is certainly value in Krsna, and because Arjuna followed the decision of Krsna, he became victorious, enjoyed his kingdom, and became a famous devotee. These were practical results of his activities. Pariksit Maharaja compared the battle of Kuruksetra to a great ocean in which Bhlsma, Drona, Karna, and others were like great sharks. It was important for his grandfather, Arjuna, to cross that ocean, which was dangerously infested with many ferocious fish. Although this was very difficult, by the grace of Krsna it was possible.

yatra yogesvarah krsno 
yatra partho dhanur-dharah 
tatra srir vijayo bhutir 
dhruva nitir matir mama

"Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion." {Bg. 18. 78)