Dialectical Spiritualism: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Part 4
BY: SUN STAFF - 17.4 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: Fichte considered faith to be the real basis of action. He felt that knowledge in itself was insufficient.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, faith must be there. We see faith exhibited even amongst the lower species. We see cygnets following their mother swan into the water to swim and play. Faith is quite natural.
Hayagriva dasa: In Krsna consciousness, does faith or knowledge serve as the basis for action?
Srila Prabhupada: In the last chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna tells us to abandon everything and just surrender unto Him (Bg. 18.66). Now this requires full faith. If we speculate about this, we do not have faith. In Caitanya-caritamrta, faith is described:
sraddha-sabde — visvasa kahe sudrdha niscaya
krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krta haya
"By rendering transcendental loving service to Krsna, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called sraddha." [Caitanyacaritdmrta, Madh. 22.62) Faith means believing firmly. If we have firm faith, we will become perfect by surrendering unto Krsna. If we still have reservations, we cannot have firm faith. We may then ask how this faith comes to be, and to this, Bhagavad-gita answers:
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." (Bg. 7.19) This faith, therefore, is not very easily come by. Piety is also required of a candidate. Krsna appeared on the battlefield of Kuruksetra five thousand years ago, and Bhagavad-gita has recently been studied by many people like Gandhi, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Vivekananda, and Aurovinda. But where is their faith? They have taken advantage of Bhagavad-gita by interpreting it according to their own pleasure. They have never taught complete surrender unto Krsna. That requires firm faith in Krsna. In any case, in this Krsna consciousness movement, we are teaching our students how to capture Krsna through firm faith. There are many faithless people, including yogis and svamis, who are commenting on Bhagavad-gita, but this is useless. In the beginning, there must be firm faith. Faith is the foundation. If the foundation is lost, how can a big building stand?
Hayagriva dasa: Fichte believes that faith is innate in all men. He writes: "So has it been with all men who have ever seen the light of the world. Without being conscious of it, they apprehend all the reality which has an existence for them through faith alone. This faith forces itself on them simultaneously with their existence. It is born with them. How could it be otherwise?"
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and this faith is also strengthened by experience. For instance, in the world we understand that everything has some proprietor. Since this is the case, why shouldn't the entire cosmic manifestation have a proprietor? We may not see the proprietor, but we accept His existence on faith.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the infallibility of conscience, Fichte writes: "This voice of my conscience announces to me precisely what I ought to do, and what leave undone, in every particular situation of life To listen to it, to obey honestly and unreservedly... is my true vocation, the whole end and purpose of my existence."
Srila Prabhupada: As soon as he says that he listens, he indicates that someone is speaking. That someone is God situated in everyone's heart and dictating. This is explained in Bhagavad-gita:
"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, 0 Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy." (Bg. 18.61) Thus God is dictating to everyone. He is telling the thief, "You may go out and steal, but this is not good. If you are arrested, you'll be punished." That dictation is there, and if one disobeys and goes ahead and steals, he commits sin. God is there giving dictations within the heart, and we may either obey or disobey. If we obey, we become devotees. As I said before, the dictations come from the heart, and also from the scriptures and the spiritual master. If we regularly disobey, how can we be happy?
Hayagriva dasa: Fichte is typical of the impersonalist in his desire to merge into what he calls "the universal Ego." He feels that this should be our ultimate goal.
Srila Prabhupada: In this material world, we all have some ego. We think, "I am the husband of this woman, I am the head of this family, I am the president of this state, and so on." These are different manifestations of ego. However, we cannot say, "I am the master of this entire universe. I am the universal ego." That is also called false ego.
Hayagriva dasa: Fichte thinks that we can go through the universe embracing and assimilating everything until we finally unify with the impersonal Absolute.
Srila Prabhupada: As soon as we speak of "Absolute," there is no distinction between the impersonal and the personal. If there is a distinction, you are not referring to the Absolute. It is contradictory to speak of the "impersonal Absolute."
Hayagriva dasa: More precisely, Fichte would consider the original thesis to be one's own consciousness, or ego; the antithesis to be the object of consciousness, sense phenomena, or the non-ego; and the synthesis to be the unification of these opposites.
Srila Prabhupada: He is distinguishing between the ego and non-ego, and between the personal and the impersonal, but in the Absolute, there are no such distinctions.
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti sabdyate
"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan." (Bhag. 1.2.11) In the Absolute, there is no duality. When we search for the Absolute Truth, we may realize it in three different aspects: as Brahman, as Paramatma, and as Bhagavan. Depending on our relationship to the Absolute, the Absolute appears in different ways, but this is not due to some inconsistency in the Absolute. The Absolute is always one, but due to our relative position, we see the Absolute as the impersonal all-pervading Brahman, as the localized Supersoul, or as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. Ultimately, the Absolute is Bhagavan, and the impersonal feature is resting on Him. Brahmano hi pratisthaham. "I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman." (Bg. 14.27) We may attempt to merge with the impersonal aspect, Brahman, but our position will not be permanent. As for merging or unifying with the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan, this is not possible. It is not possible