Dialectical Spiritualism: George Berkeley, Part 3


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

George Berkeley (1685 - 1753)

Hayagriva dasa: In his last dialogue, Berkeley writes: "The apprehension of a distant Deity naturally disposes men to be negligent of their moral actions, which they would be more cautious of in case they thought Him immediately present and acting on their minds without the interposition of matter, or unthinking second causes."

Srila Prabhupada: The Vedic sastras say that God is everywhere; He is not distant. In Queen Kunti's prayers, it is said that God is both distant and near. God's proximity is manifest in His Paramatma feature. He is living in everyone's heart. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati (Bg. 18.61). If He is within our heart, how can He be distant?

At the same time, He is present in His personal feature in Goloka Vrndavana, which is far, far beyond this material existence. That is God's all-pervasive quality. Although He is far, faraway, He is still very near. The sun may be very far away, but its light is present in my room. Similarly, God is both far away and also within my heart. One who is expert in seeing God sees Him in both ways. Goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma bhutah (Brahma-samhita 5.37). Although He is living in His own abode, eternally enjoying Himself with His associates, He is still present everywhere. That is God.

Hayagriva dasa: In what way is God concerned with the moral or immoral actions of man? Is God indifferent to them, or has He simply set the laws of nature in motion, allowing men to follow their own course and reap the fruits of their own karma?

Srila Prabhupada: Because we have disobeyed God, we are thrown into this material world and placed under the supervision of material nature for correction. As long as we are in the material world, there is a distinction between what is moral and immoral. Actually, moral and immoral have no meaning, but in the material world, we have conceptions of them. When we are in the spiritual world, there is no conception of immorality. For instance, the gopis went to see Krsna in the dead of night, and ordinarily this is considered immoral, but because they were going to see Krsna, it was not immoral. In one sense, in the spiritual world everything is moral. In the material world there is duality in order for the material creation to work properly.

Syamasundara dasa: Berkeley gives two arguments for the existence of God: first, the things we perceive in our waking state are more vivid than those things we imagine or dream about, and this is because God's mind is activating these things.

Srila Prabhupada: We accept that. God is the superior mind, and because God sees, we can see. Because God walks, we can walk. This is also admitted in Brahma- samhita: yasya prabha prabhavato jagadandakoti (Brahma-samhita 5.40). Due to the bodily effulgence of Krsna, many universes have come into being. In these universes, there are many varieties, many planets, and on each of the planets are many different living entities. All these varieties are there because they are emanating from Krsna.

Syamasundara dasa: Secondly, the things we perceive do not obey our wishes as our imaginations do, but resist them because they obey the will of God. God's will is arbitrary, and we cannot predict it.

Srila Prabhupada: Therefore it is better to always obey the orders of God. If we do what God says, we are perfect. In any case, there is no need for all this speculation. The basic proof of God is God. Krsna says, "I am God," and Narada, Vyasadeva, and Arjuna agree, "Yes, You are God." If we accept Krsna as God, we save ourselves much labor. Why speculate? In the causal ocean, the Maha-visnu is inhaling and exhaling, and many universes are being manifest and then destroyed by His breathing. When He breathes out, all the universes are created, and when He breathes in, they all return to His body. This entire creation is the dream of God, Maha-visnu.

Syamasundara dasa: Berkeley would maintain that our dreams are imperfect, and when we open our eyes, we see that everything is perfect; therefore there must be a perfect person, a perfect dreamer.

Srila Prabhupada: But when we open our eyes and see perfection, that is also dreaming. But the dreaming of the perfect is perfect also. That is absolute. Unless we accept the absolute, how can we say that His dream is perfect? The dream of the absolute is also perfect.

Syamasundara dasa: He also asserts a doctrine of divine arbitrariness. Because God's will is arbitrary, we cannot predict what will happen.

Srila Prabhupada: That is correct. Therefore a Vaisnava says, "If Krsna wills, I will do this." He never says, "I will do this." If Krsna so desires, a thing will be done. A Vaisnava always considers himself helpless without God. As far as we are concerned, we are always incapable.

Syamasundara dasa: Berkeley states that our repeated experience will discern the regular activity or will of God, and that by experiencing nature, we can understand that God's will is regular. In other words, we can come to understand the habits of God by observing the laws of nature.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that nature is working under His direction (Bg. 9. 10). Nature is not blind. Because it is working under the direction of God, it is perfect.

Syamasundara dasa: He also states that there is no necessary connection between cause and effect, but that things follow one another in sequence in time.

Srila Prabhupada: If there is no cause, why does he say that effect follows cause in a sequential order? This is contradictory. The supreme cause is Krsna, the cause of all causes. In that sense, we cannot say that there is no cause. The ultimate cause is the supreme, and to Krsna there is no difference between cause and effect. Since He is the supreme cause, He affects everything. In the absolute sense, there is no difference between cause and effect.

Syamasundara dasa: As an example, he would say that a rock falling in the water will not necessarily splash, but that it regularly follows in sequence that it will splash.

Srila Prabhupada: But we say that if God does not will this, it will not happen. It is all dependent on the supreme will. It is not necessary for the rock to splash. It is not compulsory. If God so wills, it will simply float. We admit that everything is affected by the will of God; therefore our best course is to depend totally on His will.