Dialectical Spiritualism: Samuel Alexander, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF - 29.6 2017

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

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938)

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander sees God's body as neither spaceless nor timeless, for it is space-time itself.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, since everything emanates from Him, there is nothing separate from Him. God includes everything. Everything is part and parcel of God. The Mayavadis say that everything is one, but they do not accept the variety. The wheel is one, but there are different parts: the rim, the spokes, and the hub.

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander writes: "Now the body of God is the whole universe, and there is no body outside His. For Him, therefore, all objects are internal, and the distinction of organic and special senses disappears. "

Srila Prabhupada: For the impersonalists who are not familiar with the personal form of God, Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita requested Krsna to show His universal form, the virat-rupa. Arjuna himself was accepting the person Krsna as the Supreme, but he knew that those with a poor fund of knowledge would not accept Him. For this reason, in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the universal form of God is very elaborately explained. However, we should understand that since the universal form was shown by Krsna, Krsna is the originator. It is not that the universal form is the origin. It was manifested by Krsna, and Lord Krsna's natural form is that of Krsna Himself. The universal form is a feature. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita: aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah s*rvam pravartate. "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me." (Bg. 10.8) Since everything emanates from Him, the universal form has also emanated from Him. One who understands this becomes Krsna's devotee.

Hayagriva dasa: For Alexander, theism is equated with personalism, and pantheism with impersonalism. He writes: "For theism, God is an individual being distinct from the finite beings which make up the world For pantheism, God is eminent in the universe of finite things".

Srila Prabhupada: When we cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God is impersonal. The sunshine is impersonal, but the sun god is in the background. Because we are on a lower platform, we cannot talk with the sun god; we can experience only the sunshine. Similarly, the expansion of God's energy is impersonal, but the personality is in the background. Because we are in the material energy, we are not in direct touch with God; therefore we say that God is impersonal. If we become devotees, we can talk with God in person, just as the cowherd boys and girls did in Vrndavana. It is also stated, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam (Katha-upanisad 2.2.13). God is an eternal, living being, and we are also eternal, living beings. Yet He is different from us in that He is the chief. He has arranged everything for us in both the material and spiritual worlds. He has given us air, water, and fire in order to live. He is the maintainer, and we are subordinate jivas.

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander seems to acknowledge both theistic and pantheistic views.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, as I said, because water has come from God, we say that it is God's semina. Because light has come from Him, we say that the sun is his eye. In that everything is an emanation from God, everything is related to God. In any case, the impersonal features are subordinate to the personal.

maya tatam idarh sarvam 
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) Just as the sunshine depends on the sun itself, so the entire cosmic manifestation depends on God. Krsna says that although everything is resting on Him, He is personally not present. Queen Kunti also says, "You are within and without, yet fools cannot see You." These verses spoken by Queen Kunti are given in Srimad-Bhagavatam:

namasye purusam tvadyam 
isvaram prakrteh param 
alaksyam sarva-bhutanam 
antar bahir avasthitam 

may a javanikacchannam 
ajnadhoksajam avyayam 
na laksyase mudha-drsa 
nato natyadharo yatha 

tatha paramahamsanam 
munlnam amalatmanam 
katham pasyema hi striyah

"0 Krsna, I offer my obeisances unto You because You are the original personality and are unaffected by the qualities of the material world. You are existing both within and without everything, yet You are invisible to all. Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognizable. You Yourself descend to propagate the transcendental science of devotional service unto the hearts of the advanced transcendentalists and mental speculators, who are purified by being able to discriminate between matter and spirit. How, then, can we women know You perfectly?" (Bhag. 1.8.18-20)

This is a very good example. Krsna is playing on the stage, and His son is seeing Him, and another friend is saying, "Do you see your father?" But the son does not recognize his father. A devotee can understand, but a speculator with limited sense perception cannot.

Hayagriva dasa: Alexander writes: "It is not so much that God is in everything but rather that everything is in God."

Srila Prabhupada: Since there is nothing but God, how can anything be without God? Since everything is God's expansion, how can we be sometimes with God and sometimes without Him? When we are not in God, we are in maya, but maya is also God's. It is illusion to think that we are without God.

Hayagriva dasa: After analyzing both theism and pantheism, the personal and impersonal, Alexander finds them both defective in themselves, but he concludes, "if a choice must be made, it is theistic."

Srila Prabhupada: This means that when one comes to the personal aspect of God, he sees that everything refers to God and that there is nothing independent. To the unintelligent, it appears that the cosmic manifestation is different from Bhagavan, but actually nothing can exist without the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Hayagriva dasa: At times, Alexander takes the Aristotelian view in maintaining that "there is no reciprocal action from God. For though we speak, as we inevitably must, in human terms of God's response to us, there is no direct experience of that response except through our own feeling that devotion to God or worship carries with it its own satisfaction."

Srila Prabhupada: This means that he does not understand God's omnipotence. God is omnipotent, and He comes before Arjuna to speak Bhagavad-gita. Being all powerful, God can come and speak to His devotee. If He cannot, what is the meaning of His omnipotence? Krsna reciprocates with the advanced devotees.

tesam satata-yuktanam 
bhajatam priti- purvakam 
dadami buddhi-yogam tarn 
yena mam upayanti te

'To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." (Bg. 10. 10) God talks to His devotee who is fully in love with Him, but He does not talk with ordinary men.

santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti 
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam 
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

"I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Syamasundara situated within the heart of the devotee." (Brahma-samhita 5.38) Just as a king talks with his immediate officers and ministers and not with the ordinary man in the street, God personally talks to His devotees but not to the non-devotees or atheists. We understand that Krsna talked to the gopis and gopas in Vrndavana and reciprocated with His parents, Mother Yasoda and Maharaja Nanda. The cowherd boys who played with Krsna amassed many pious activities in their previous lives to arrive at a position where they could play with God. This is not an ordinary position. People generally think that such play is inconceivable, but when we come to that platform of devotion, we can play with God, ride on God's shoulders, and talk with Him just as with an ordinary friend. Of course, one comes to that position of perfection after many millions of pious births.