Dialectical Spiritualism: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Part 8


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

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Syamasundara dasa: According to Hegel's aesthetics, beauty is the Absolute penetrating the world of the senses.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna is the most beautiful. Because Krsna is beautiful, even the chirping of a bird is beautiful. Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure and beauty. Beauty is appreciated in the world because beauty is one of Krsna's qualities. Whatever little beauty we find in this material world is but the perverted reflection of Krsna's beauty.

Syamasundara dasa: Hegel feels that art is a combination of spiritual content and sensuous form, and that the artist should try to imbue his material forms with spiritual content.

Srila Prabhupada: We agree with that. When we are painting pictures, playing music, or writing books, we are placing Krsna at the center.

Syamasundara dasa: Of all the arts, Hegel says, music and poetry are the highest.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, therefore we are writing many books. Vyasadeva has written many great epics in praise of Krsna. Lord Brahma has written Brahma-samhita, cintamani prakara-sadmasu. There are many poems in praise of Krsna; therefore another name for Krsna is Uttamasloka, the greatest of poems. He is described in beautiful poetry in the Vedic literatures. It is not very important whether it is poetry or prose. Anything sublime is called poetry. It is not that it has to be written in meter.

Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, religion is pure thought put into form.

Srila Prabhupada: He has no knowledge of what religion is. Religion is neither imagination nor pure thought. Religion is the order coming froip the most pure. This cannot be imagined or created. We need only receive the instructions from the most pure. These are given in Bhagavad-gita. We are not imagining this.

Hayagriva dasa: Hegel maintained that since God is necessarily manifest in the infinite, the incarnation is central to any religion. In order for God to be manifest, He has to incarnate as a finite man.

Srila Prabhupada: If God becomes a mere man and is to be considered such, why should His instructions be followed?

Hayagriva dasa: Hegel did not believe in following any exterior will.

Srila Prabhupada: This means that he is either godless, or that God has no meaning for him.

Hayagriva dasa: He interpreted the goal of Indian philosophy to be nirvana, spiritual as well as physical extinction.

Srila Prabhupada: Everyone acknowledges physical extinction, and as far as the spiritual is concerned, there is no such thing as extinction. The spirit is eternal.

na jayate mriyate va kadacin 
nayaih bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah 
ajo nityah sasvato' yam purano 
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. " (Bg. 2. 20) If the spirit is annihilated, how is it different from matter?

Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believed that in the highest religion, God is seen as Father, Son, and all-pervasive Holy Spirit. Thus he considered Christianity to be the perfect religion.

Srila Prabhupada: Is it perfect to say that God only has one son? If God is unlimited, why is He limited to only one son?

Syamasundara dasa: Well, he claims that Christ represents nature, or the objective world, because Christ is God incarnate.

Srila Prabhupada: When there is an incarnation of God as the son of God, and an incarnation of God as God Himself, which is superior? If God has begotten a son, God is a father, a person. How can a son be born of an impersonal father? What evidence do we have of such a thing ever happening?

Syamasundara dasa: Hegel would like to have philosophy without religion because he saw religion as basically an encumbrance.

Srila Prabhupada: Such a philosophy is simply mental speculation. If he claims that philosophy is superior to religion, then religion supported by philosophy is real religion; otherwise it is sentiment. As I stated before, the orders of God constitute religion. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, "Surrender unto Me." This is religion. When we try to understand why Krsna wants us to surrender unto Him, why we are obliged to surrender unto Him, we are in the realm of philosophy. When philosophy supports religion, it is perfect. It is neither sentiment, nor mental speculation.

Hayagriva dasa: In The Phenomenology of the Spirit, Hegel deprecates the use of plants and animals as objects of religion, considering it a kind of pantheism typical of Hinduism. How would worship of the tulasi plant or the cow differ?

Srila Prabhupada: God has specifically said that among plants, He is the tulasi. It is not that the Hindus are worshipping just any plant. For instance, in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, pranavah saiva-vedesu. "I am the syllable Om in the Vedic mantras." (Bg. 7.8) Therefore the word Om is used in mantras, as in om tad visnoh paramam padam. We know that omkara is God because God says so. God gives instructions on how He should be realized, and we have only to follow. What is the point in speculating? We can never understand the unlimited God by our limited speculation.

Hayagriva dasa: But if God is in all animals and in all plants, why concentrate on any particular ones? Why not worship all?

Srila Prabhupada: That is especially prohibited. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

maya tatam idarh 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) The soul and the Supersoul exist within the body of a dog, but this does not mean that the barking of a dog is the word of God. Vivekananda said that we should worship daridra, the poor man in the street. He even used the word daridra-narayana, indicating that Narayana, God, has become poor, daridra. Although the body of a daridra rests in God, Narayana, we should not consider his body to be the body of Narayana. Everything in a government may rest on the orders of the king, but the king is not personally present everywhere. According to the acintya-bhedabheda philosophy, God is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. God is undoubtedly present in the heart of the daridra, the poor man, but we should not consider the daridra to be God. That is an impersonalist Mayavadi mistake. That is pantheism.

Hayagriva dasa: When Lord Krsna says that He is sex life according to dharma, does that mean that He can be perceived in that way?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if one performs the Garbhadhana ceremony to beget a Krsna conscious child, Krsna is remembered. It is the duty of the father to remember Krsna while having sex, thinking, "Krsna, give me a child who will be Your devotee." This kind of sex is for Krsna, and is Krsna, but if one has sex for his own sense enjoyment, that is demoniac.

Hayagriva dasa: But isn't Krsna present nonetheless?

Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is always present, but when we hold the Garbhadhana ceremony to beget a Krsna conscious child, we remember Krsna. The rules and regulations for the Garbhadhana ceremony are given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. As soon as society abandons this ceremony, people become degraded.

Hayagriva dasa: So the philosophy behind reverence for the tulasi plant and the cow, or the sexual ceremony, is that these can bring remembrance of Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna says:

satatam kirtayanto mam 
yatantas ca drdha-vratah 
namasyantas ca mam. bhaktya
nitya-yukta upasate

"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion." (Bg. 9.14) If somehow or other you always think of Krsna, you become Krsna conscious.

Hayagriva dasa: Is it that you shouldn't think of Krsna in any other way? For instance, as a palm tree?

Srila Prabhupada: When Krsna says that among trees He is the tulasi, or whatever, we should simply accept it. For instance, He says, rasoham apsu kaunteya. "I am the taste of water. " (Bg. 7.8) When we follow these instructions, we think, "I am drinking water and am feeling satisfaction. This satisfaction is Krsna." In this way, we can remember Him.

Hayagriva dasa: Hegel mistook this for pantheism.

Srila Prabhupada: He is mistaken in so many ways.