Dialectical Spiritualism: Sigmund Freud, Part 2


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

Sigmund Freud (1856-1934)

Syamasundara dasa: Freud contends that anxieties and tensions are caused by the id's primitive instincts that are always forcing us to act contrary to the rational, moral ego and superego.

Srila Prabhupada: Anxieties will continue as long as you are in the material condition. In conditioned life, you cannot be freed from anxiety.

Syamasundara dasa: Is this because we are always desiring something and being frustrated?

Srila Prabhupada: Frustration must be there because you do not desire the right thing. You are desiring something that is not permanent, and this is a cause for anxiety. We wish to live forever, but we have accepted this temporary material body. Therefore there is no question of living forever, and we are always anxious because we fear that death is coming. We fear death and the destruction of the body, and this is the main cause of our anxiety. Anxiety is due to our acceptance of something which will not exist, which is temporary.

Syamasundara dasa: The ego develops strategies of defense against this anxiety engendered by the id. Whenever there is a strong animalistic desire, the ego represses it for self-preservation.

Srila Prabhupada: Repression is always there. If we are diseased, and the doctor advises us not to take solid food, we have to repress our appetite. In the system of brahmacarya, the brahmacari represses his desire for sex. This is called tapasya, voluntary repression. Of course, this is very difficult without some better engagement. Therefore, as I said, we have to replace an inferior engagement with a superior one. When you are captivated by seeing the beautiful form of Krsna, you naturally no longer desire to see the beautiful form of a young woman.

Syamasundara dasa: The Buddhists speak not only of the repression of desires, but of their extinction.

Srila Prabhupada: We don't advocate that. There will always be desires, and sometimes we have to repress them. My Guru Maharaja used to say that as soon as you rise from bed, you should beat your mind a hundred times with your shoes, and when you go to bed at night, you should beat your mind a hundred times with a broomstick. In this way, you will be able to control your mind. Wild tigers have to be controlled by repression, but when the tigers are under control, there is no question of repression. Then you can play with the tigers, and they will be your friends. So repression is not always bad.

Hayagriva dasa: Freud considered sexual repression to be harmful, but sublimation to be often beneficial. He didn't advocate total sexual freedom; rather, he suggested that instead of trying to deny the sex drive, we should try to redirect it, perhaps to some artistic activity, or positive study.

Srila Prabhupada: This means diverting our attention, and that is recommended in the Vedic culture for the brahmacari. If we are taught Krsna from the very beginning of life, we will forget sex. Even if an adult takes to Krsna consciousness seriously, he can also forget sex. That is the experience of Yamunacarya: Yadavadhi mama cetah krsna padara vinde. "Since I have been engaged in Krsna consciousness, every time I think of sex, I spit." If we engage in sex without restriction, we will eventually become impotent. That is nature's way of punishment. Sex cannot be artificially repressed, but there is a proper training process.

Hayagriva dasa: Freud believed that sex could not be stamped out, and that if one tried, it would manifest itself in undesirable neurosis.

Srila Prabhupada: He did not know the training process of Krsna consciousness. According to our philosophy, as long as we have sexual inclinations, we have to accept a material body and become entangled in the miseries of material existence. However, there is such a thing as spiritual life, and if we are trained spiritually, we will no longer be bothered by material desires.

Hayagriva dasa: In exploring the realm of infantile sexuality, Freud discovered a definite sexual nature in the early stages of childhood. He concluded that sexual activities in childhood were normal, and this led him to write that "in a normal sex life, no neurosis is possible."

Srila Prabhupada: It all depends on the child's training. If a child is trained as a brahmacari, he will have no inclination for sex. Sometimes a father enjoys sex before his children, and the children imitate. It is the nature of a child to imitate, especially his parents. According to Vedic civilization, as soon as a child is four or five years old, he is sent to a gurukula, where he is disciplined. There, he practically forgets sex life. But when he becomes a young man, he may naturally have a little tendency for sex, and if this is the case, the guru suggests marriage. If, on the other hand, one can perfectly control his sexual tendencies, he can become a sannyasi. My Guru Maharaja, for instance, never married. This is all a matter of education.

Syamasundara dasa: Freud believed that many of our present unconscious wishes and conflicts have their origins in these infantile experiences.

Srila Prabhupada: That may be, but you are not going to be an infant again. So why not forget all this? After this life, you will be placed in the womb of another mother, and all those experiences will happen again. It is therefore the duty of the guru and the parents to save the living entity from rebirth.

gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat 
pita, na sa syaj jananl na sa syat 
daivam na tat syan na pads ca sa syan 
na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum

"One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother, or a worshipable demigod." (Bhag. 5.5. 18) J anma-mrtyu-jaravyadhi. At the time of death, we will again experience this horrible situation. We will again have to enter a womb, be confined, and undergo birth. Whether we forget these experiences or not, we will have to undergo them again and again if we do not become Krsna conscious.