Dialectical Spiritualism: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Part 3
BY: SUN STAFF - 15.4 2017
Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.
VII. GERMAN IDEALISM
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 - 1814)
Hayagriva dasa: Most people, including Fichte, would find it difficult to concentrate on the transcendental personality of Krsna, especially when they know nothing about Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: It requires a little intelligence and purification. Once the impurities are cleansed from the mirror of the mind, we can understand; otherwise, we think of God as a ordinary person.
tabhir ya eva nija-rupataya kalabhih
goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhuto
govindam adi-purusam tarn aharn bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who resides in His own realm, Goloka, with Radha, who resembles His own spiritual figure and who embodies the ecstatic potency [hladini]. Their companions are Her confidantes, who embody extensions of Her bodily form and who are imbued and permeated with ever-blissful spiritual rasa.” (Brahma samhita 5.37) God is a person living in Goloka Vrndavana, dancing with the gopis, and playing with the cowherd boys. Despite this, God is everywhere. It is not that because He is dancing, He has no time to go anywhere. Although He dances in Goloka Vrndavana, He is still present everywhere. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese. “The Supreme Lord is in everyone’s heart.” (Bg. 18.61) By His inconceivable potencies, God can be in one place and everywhere else simultaneously. This is the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva — simultaneously, inconceivably one with the creation and different from it.
Hayagriva dasa: Although an impersonalist, Fichte is certainly not an inactivist. In The Vocation of Man, he writes: “Not merely to know, but according to thy knowledge to do, is thy vocation Not for idle contemplation of thyself, not for brooding over devout sensations — no, for action art thou here; thine action, and thine action alone, determines thy worth.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and that is also the philosophy of our Krsna consciousness movement, which maintains that we are meant for rendering daily service to Krsna. We do not believe that you should simply sit down, smoke cigarettes, and speculate on God. What will be the use of such speculation? We advocate a practical life of action devoted to Krsna.
Hayagriva dasa: In this, Fichte seems closer to Vaisnavism than most impersonalists, who advocate inaction and meditation on the void. At the same time, how can you act without directing your action toward some person or specific goal?
Srila Prabhupada: Even in India, the impersonalists have some activities. Sankaracarya gives many vairagya instructions, which are more difficult to perform than the Vaisnava instructions. As far as Vaisnavism is concerned, Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught through His personal example that there is no time for inactivity. We should not sit idly and gossip about God or imagine what He is like. Both personalists and impersonalists are fully engaged: the impersonalists in reading Vedanta-sutra, and the personalists in rendering service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Syamasundara dasa: Fichte says that in order to understand reality, reason must follow a process called the dialectical method, which involves thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. First comes the thesis, which fails to provide an adequate solution; this gives rise to an antithesis, the opposite, which is also inadequate; the dilemma is resolved by combining the two into a synthesis.
Srila Prabhupada: The thesis is that I am trying to be master of this material world. The antithesis is that my spiritual master informs me that I am the eternal servant of God. The synthesis is that I become master and servant simultaneously, because by serving Krsna, I master my senses.
Syamasundara dasa: According to Fichte, the thesis is the ego; the antithesis is the non-ego; and the synthesis is the unification of ego and non-ego.
Srila Prabhupada: The ego arises when I think, “I am the monarch of all I survey.” The antithesis is, “I am not the monarch but the servant of my senses.” Through the synthesis, I become a servant of Krsna and simultaneously a master of the senses, a svami, or gosvami.
Syamasundara dasa: For Fichte, this dialectical process is endless, for each synthesis in turn becomes a new thesis, etc. However, the ultimate synthesis is the Absolute, or God.
Srila Prabhupada: It is explained in Bhagavad-gita that those who attempt to attain God in this way, through the process of mental speculation, eventually attain God, but only after many lives. However, one who is intelligent immediately surrenders when he understands God to say, “Just surrender unto Me.” This saves time. You can come to the ultimate synthesis, God, by immediately surrendering. If you can perfect your life immediately, why perpetuate this process?
Syamasundara dasa: Fichte states that the original thesis, or the starting point, is the person and his consciousness, the ego. The antithesis is the object of consciousness, phenomena, the non-ego. The synthesis arises with the unification of the subject-object.
Srila Prabhupada: The Vedas admit that there is direct knowledge, then knowledge received from authority. These combine to form transcendental, spiritual knowledge. At present, our ego is false because we are thinking, “I am matter. I am this body.” When we come to real knowledge, we understand that we are spirit soul. This is our true identity. The function of the individual spirit soul is to eternally serve the supreme spirit soul, Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: For Fichte, ultimate reality is the moral ego. This is the pure will, active reason, or the good.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, God is also the ego. We say, “I am,” and God also says, “I am.” However, God’s “I am” is superior to ours. He is the eternal primal living force. We are also eternal living force, but we are subordinate.