Dialectical Spiritualism: Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 11.9 2017

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

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard would say that unrestricted sense gratification ultimately leads to boredom and despair.

Srila Prabhupada: But if we think that it is the aim of life, it is not boring. If we choose according to our whims, we can make any decision. A man on the Bowery may decide to purchase a bottle of whiskey as soon as he gets some money.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard would say that there is no commitment to a higher ethic there. On the ethical level, we would have to take up a good cause and make decisions based on that.

Srila Prabhupada: But such good causes are relative. Who is to decide what's a good cause?

Syamasundara dasa: If we begin to anticipate death, we will make the right decision, considering each act to be our last. In this way, the truth will emerge.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a man should think, "I do not wish to die, but death is overcoming me. What is the cause of this? What should I do?" No one wants to die, but death overcomes everyone. No one wants to be diseased, but diseases are inevitable. These are real human problems that cannot be overcome simply by making some whimsical decisions. We should decide, "I do not wish to suffer, but suffering is coming upon me. Now, I must make a permanent solution to this problem." This is the real decision: putting a permanent end to suffering. W e should understand that the body exists for a few years and then is doomed to perish, that the body is external, and that we should not make our decisions on the basis of the body, but the soul.

Syamasundara dasa: For Kierkegaard, a man whose consciousness is unhappy is alienated from both past and future. He wishes to forget the past, and the future holds no hope. In proper consciousness, when the personality is integrated, the past and future are unified, and we can make the proper decision.

Srila Prabhupada: Your decision should be based on the fact that you are part and parcel of Krsna. Krsna told Arjuna that in the past he was existing, and that he would continue to exist in the future. Our decision should be based on the platform of the soul.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard sees the self as unifying past and future and thus establishing its integrity as an integrated whole. Then the self is capable of making decisions.

Srila Prabhupada: If he comes to the platform of the self, he must accept the fact that the self is eternal in order to integrate past, present, and future.

Syamasundara dasa: Yes, this is the highest stage, the religious. On this platform, one commits himself to God and obeys God.

Srila Prabhupada: That would be the stage of Krsna consciousness.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard believed that in the religious stage, there is intense suffering, comparable to the suffering of Job.

Srila Prabhupada: Why is this? If one is Krsna conscious, why should he suffer?

Syamasundara dasa: Well, Kierkegaard was a Christian. Christ suffered for our sins, and the process of overcoming sin is a kind of suffering.

Srila Prabhupada: But that is a wrong theory. If Christ is God, or the son of God, why should he suffer? What kind of God is subjected to suffering? Why should either God or man suffer? The whole point is that if there is suffering, you must put an end to it. Many so-called Christians think that because they have some contract with Christ, because Christ suffered for their sins, they can go on sinning. Is this a very good philosophy?

Syamasundara dasa: As an existentialist, Kierkegaard believed that existence is prior to essence, and that to attain self-realization, we must pass through these various stages.

Srila Prabhupada: That is correct. W e are transmigrating through different species and eventually arriving at the human form wherein we can understand the purpose of life. At the perfectional stage, we become Krsna conscious; therefore existence precedes essence.

Syamasundara dasa: For Kierkegaard, the culmination of commitment is religious life, which is epitomized in the inwardness of suffering.

Srila Prabhupada: Suffering arises because we identify with the body. When a person has an automobile accident, he may not actually suffer, but because he identifies himself with matter, with the body, he suffers. Because God is always in full knowledge and is always transcendental to the material world, God never suffers. It is a question of knowledge whether there is suffering or not.

Syamasundara dasa: But don't penance and austerity involve suffering?

Srila Prabhupada: No. For those who are advanced in knowledge, there is no suffering. Of course, there may be some bodily pain, but a person in knowledge understands that he is not the body; therefore, why should he suffer? He thinks, "Let me do my duty. Hare Krsna." That is the advanced stage. Suffering is due to ignorance.

Syamasundara dasa: But doesn't one forsake bodily comforts by serving God?

Srila Prabhupada: Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami were high government ministers, but they abandoned their material opulence in order to bestow mercy upon the common people. Thus they accepted a mere loincloth and slept under a different tree every night. Of course, foolish people might say that they were suffering, but they were merged in the ocean of transcendental bliss writing about Krsna's pastimes with the gopis. They engaged their minds in thoughts of Krsna and the gopis, and they wrote books from day to day. There was no question of their suffering, although a fool may think, "Oh, these men were ministers, high government officials, and they were so comfortable with their families and homes. Now they have no home, and are going about in loincloths, and eating very little." A materialist would think that they were suffering, but they were not suffering. They were enjoying.

Syamasundara dasa: Some Christians emphasize the value of suffering, thinking that to abandon worldly life is to abandon pleasure and to suffer.

Srila Prabhupada: This is due to a poor fund of knowledge. They have developed this philosophy after the demise of Jesus Christ. It is more or less concocted.

Hayagriva dasa: Apart from suffering, Kierkegaard emphasized the importance of love in the religious life. In his book Works of Love, he considers God to be the hidden source of all love. "God you must love in unconditional obedience," he writes, "even if that which He demands of you may seem injurious to you For God's wisdom is incomparable with respect to your own "

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is also the instruction of Bhagavad-gita. God demands that we give up all our plans as well as the plans of others, and accept His plan. Sarva-dharman parityajya (Bg. 18.66). "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." If we fully depend on Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He will guide us home.