Dialectical Spiritualism: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

BY: SUN STAFF - 3.7 2017

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

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Hayagriva dasa: Whereas Schopenhauer spoke of the blind will of the individual as being the basic propelling force that keeps us tied to material existence, to transmigration, Nietzsche spoke of der wille zur macht, "the will to power," which is a different type of will. This will is not so much a subjugating of others as a mastering of one's lower self. It is characterized by self-control and an interest in art and philosophy.

Most people are envious of others, but it is the duty of the philosopher to transcend this envy by sheer willpower. In Nietzsche's words, the philosopher "shakes off with one shrug much vermin that would have buried itself deep in others." When the philosopher has rid himself of resentment and envy, he can even embrace his enemies with a kind of Christian love. An example of such a powerful man in action would be that of Socrates meeting his death with good cheer and courage.

Srila Prabhupada: This is called spiritual power. Envy is a symptom of conditioned life. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, it is stated that the neophyte who is beginning to understand the Vedic literatures should not be envious. In this material world, everyone is envious. People are even envious of God and His instructions. Consequently, people do not like to accept Krsna's instructions. Although Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is accepted as such by all acaryas, there are men called mudhas who either reject Krsna's instructions or try to eschew some contrary meaning from them. This envy is symptomatic of conditioned souls. Unless we are liberated from conditioned life, we will remain confused under the influence of the external material energy. Until we come to the spiritual platform, there is no possibility of escaping from envy and pride by so-called power. The transcendental stage is described in Bhagavad-gita as brahma-bhutah, prasannatma samah sarvesu bhutesu (18.54). When we attain that stage, we can look at everyone with the same spiritual understanding.

Hayagriva dasa: Nietzsche calls the man who possesses such spiritual power the Ubermensch, a word literally meaning "above man," and often translated as "the superman." The Ubermensch is totally self-possessed, fearless of death, simple, self-knowing, and self-reliant. He does not need any props, and he is so powerful that he can change the lives of others simply on contact. Neitzsche never referred to any historical person as the Ubermensch, and he did not consider himself such.

Srila Prabhupada: We accept the guru as the superman because he is worshipped like God. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah (Sri Gurvastaka 8). By the mercy of the superman, one can get in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Caitanya Mahaprabhu also accepts this:

brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva 
guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija

"According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krsna. By the mercy of both Krsna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service." (Caitanya-caritamrta , Madh. 19. 151) By the mercy of Krsna and the guru, or the superman, we receive information about spiritual life so that we can return home, back to Godhead. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested everyone to become gurus, or supermen. The superman distributes transcendental knowledge strictly according to the authorized version he has received from his superior. This is called parampara, the disciplic succession. One superman delivers this supreme knowledge to another superman, and this knowledge was originally delivered by God Himself.

Hayagriva dasa: In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche concludes that all men want power. At the top of the hierarchy in the quest for power is the ascetic and the martyr. The Ubermensch would be one who has conquered his passions and attained all good qualifications. His actions are creative, and he does not envy others. He is constantly aware that death is always present, and he is so superior to others that he is almost like God in the world.

Srila Prabhupada: In Sanskrit, the Ubermensch or superman is called a svami, or gosvami. He is described by Rupa Gosvami:

vaco vegam manasah krodha-vegam 
jihva-vegam udaropastha-vegam 
etan vegan yo visaheta dhirah 
sarvam apimafn prthivifn sa sisyat

"A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals, is qualified to make disciples all over the world." (Upades amrta 1) These forces that drive men are six in number: speech, the tongue, mind, anger, belly, and genitals. A gosvami can control these forces, especially the genitals, belly, and tongue, which are very hard to control. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says: tara madhye jihwa ati, lobha moy sudurmati, take jeta kathina samsare. "Among the senses, the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable; it is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world." (Gitavali, Prasada-sevaya 1) The force of the tongue is very great, and for its gratification we create many artificial edibles. Nonsensical habits like smoking, drinking, and meat eating have entered society due to the urges of the tongue. There is no real need for these undesirable things. A person does not die because he cannot smoke, eat meat, or drink intoxicants. Rather, without these indulgences, he can elevate himself to the highest platform. Due to the urges of the tongue, people have become addicted to drinking, smoking, meat eating, and frivolous conversation. It is therefore said that one who can control the tongue can control the urges of the other senses also. One who can control all the senses, beginning with the tongue, is called a gosvami or svami, or, as Nietzsche would say, the Ubermensch. But this is not possible for an ordinary man.

Hayagriva dasa: Nietzsche believed that everyone seeks power, but that the weak seek it vainly; instead of trying to conquer themselves, they attempt to conquer others, and this is the will to power misdirected or misinterpreted. For instance, in his will to power, Hitler sought to subjugate the world, but was ultimately unsuccessful, and he brought disaster upon himself and Germany. The Ubermensch, on the other hand, strives to overcome himself, and demands more of himself than others. In this striving for perfection, he transcends the ordinary man.

Srila Prabhupada: Politicians like Hitler are not able to control the force of anger. A king or politician has to use anger properly. Narottama dasa Thakura says that we should control our powers and apply them in the proper cases. We may become angry, but our anger must be controlled. We should utilize anger at the proper place and in the proper circumstances. Although a king may not be angry by nature, he has to display his anger toward a criminal. It is not good for a king to try to control his anger when a criminal act is performed; therefore Narottama dasa Thakura says that anger is controlled when it is properly used. Kama-krodha-lobha-moha. Kama refers to lust; krodha means anger; lobha means greed; and moha means illusion. These can all be properly utilized. For instance, kama, which is great eagerness, or lusty desire, can be utilized in attaining the lotus feet of Krsna. If we desire Krsna, our strong desire is very laudable. Similarly, anger can be properly utilized. Although Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that we should be very submissive, humbler than the grass and more tolerant than a tree, He became angry upon seeing Nityananda Prabhu hurt by Jagai and Madhai. Everything can be properly utilized in the service of Krsna, but not for personal aggrandizement. In the material world, everyone is certainly after power, but the real superman is not after power for himself. He himself is a mendicant, a sannyasi, but he acquires power for the service of the Lord. For instance, I came to the U.S.A. not to acquire material power but to distribute Krsna consciousness. By the grace of Krsna, all facilities have been afforded, and now, from the material point of view, I have become somewhat powerful. But this is not for my personal sense gratification; it is all for the spreading of Krsna consciousness. The conclusion is that power for Krsna's service is very valuable, and power for our own sense gratification is to be condemned.