Dialectical Spiritualism: Samuel Alexander, Part 7

BY: SUN STAFF - 30.6 2017

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

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938)

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander sees the freedom of the will operating as an activity not subject to extraneous forces. It is the expression of a person acting to serve not only his own interests but those of society as well.

Srila Prabhupada: In a state, a citizen also cooperates in two ways. When he does not break the law, he cooperates as a free citizen, and when he breaks the law, he cooperates by going to prison. He either cooperates by free will or by force. Forceful cooperation is inferior. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said:

jivera 'svarupa' haya — krsnera 'nitya-dasa' 
krsnera 'tatastha-sakti , 'bhedabheda-prakasa' 
suryamsa-kirana yaiche agni-jvala-caya 
svabhavika krsnera tina-prakara 'sakti haya

"It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna because he is the marginal energy of Krsna, and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krsna has three varieties of energy." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madh. 20.108-109) By his constitutional position, the living entity is the eternal servant of Krsna. In the Vaikuntha planets, cooperation is voluntary, and here in this material world, cooperation is forced. In the material world, we are serving maya, working under her force. We can avoid that force only by voluntarily cooperating with Krsna.

daivi hy esa gunamayi 
mama maya duratyaya 
mam eva ye prapadyante 
mayam etaih taranti te

"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." (Bg. 7.14) Automatic cooperation is bhakti, and forced cooperation is karma. These may appear to be the same, but they are not. The karmi may be typing, and the bhakta may be typing, but the karmi is typing under the force of maya, to earn money for sense gratification, and the bhakta is typing for the glorification of Krsna. The activity is the same, but the consciousness is different.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believed that when one has attained the higher levels of evolution, he can see that everything on the lower levels is determined.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, we should not try to improve our economic condition because it is already decided. Why is one man bom rich, and another born to work so hard? Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.18) says that we should not strive hard for material happiness, because material happiness and distress come automatically. An intelligent man utilizes his time to develop his Krsna consciousness.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander accepted Plato's three greatest values in life — truth, beauty, and goodness — as values to be accepted by the majority.

Srila Prabhupada: Unfortunately, in the material world, no one likes the truth. At least in this age, the majority of people are not truthful. As soon as one becomes truthful, he becomes a brahmana. Where are the brahmanas in this age? Kalau sudra sambhava. In Kali-yuga, everyone is a sudra. If Alexander thinks that everyone will accept truthfulness as a great value, he is mistaken.

Syamasundara dasa: For Alexander, there is a practical criterion for truth, but he preferred the coherence principle by which the majority opinion determined truth by mutual agreement.

Srila Prabhupada: Because he is European, he is thinking in a democratic way. The hard fact is that truth is not accepted by ordinary men. Truth is truth. Either it is in your mind or not; truth is absolute. Only highly elevated persons can understand the truth. Out of many truthful men, perhaps only one can understand Krsna as He is.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander defines a good person as one who integrates and controls his impulses for the best interests of himself and society.

Srila Prabhupada: This is also described in Vedic literatures:

tapasa brahmacaryena 
samena ca damena ca 
tyagena satya-saucabhyam 
yamena niyamena va

"To concentrate the mind, one must observe a life of celibacy and not fall down. One must undergo the austerity of voluntarily giving up sense enjoyment. One must then control the mind and senses, give charity, be truthful, clean and nonviolent, follow the regulative principles, and regularly chant the holy name of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.1.13) These are the processes by which we may become perfect, but if we become devotees of Krsna, we immediately attain all the good qualities. Yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akihcana sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah. "All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge, and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead." [Bhag. 5.18.12).

Syamasundara dasa: In the second sense of the word "good," Alexander says that whatever enhances man's welfare or happiness is good.

Srila Prabhupada: That is not necessarily so. One may open hospitals to help people, but spreading Krsna consciousness is greater welfare work. What is really good for man is Krsna bhakti. Nothing else.

Syamasundara dasa: Alexander maintains that goodness consists of modifications in the environment that will aid man in his spiritual pursuits.

Srila Prabhupada: That is what we are trying to do in this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not that everyone can follow the regulative principles strictly. We are proposing that people chant Hare Krsna. Whatever the situation, somehow or other, we must engage our mind in Krsna. Rupa Gosvami said: yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet. "Never mind the rules and regulations. Just fix your mind on Krsna! As soon as you become Krsna conscious, the regulative principles will be your servants."

Hayagriva dasa: As for the existence of evil and suffering in the world, Alexander writes: "God is not responsible for the miseries endured in working out His providence, but rather we are responsible for our acts "

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we create our own miserable condition, just as a silkworm creates a cocoon, becomes entrapped and dies.

asraddadhanah purusa 
dharmasyasya parantapa 
aprapya mam nivartante 

"Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, 0 conqueror of foes, but return to birth and death in this material world." (Bg. 9.3) Because the living entity acts independently, not caring for God's instructions, he is entangled, and he suffers. In this way, he creates his own suffering.