Dialectical Spiritualism: Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, Part 5


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

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)

Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard says that we should "renounce everything as an act of worship offered to God, and not so because He needs to use us as an instrument; but to renounce everything as the most insignificant superfluity and article of luxury— that means to worship."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, worship begins with the renunciation of ulterior motives. Our only business is to love God, and a first-class religious system teaches its followers to love God without ulterior motive. Such worship cannot be checked by material considerations. We can love God in any condition, and God will help.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard lamented the disintegration of Christianity as an effective form of worship. He considered modem Christendom to be a kind of sickness, a corruption of Christ's original message.

Srila Prabhupada: Christianity is Christianity, and you cannot call it modem or ancient, nor can you say that God is modem or ancient. We say that either a person is a Christian or not. Either he follows the orders of Christ, or he doesn't. If you do not follow the tenets of your religion, how can you claim to belong to that religion? This applies to all religions. For instance, there are many so-called Hindus who do not believe in anything, yet they consider themselves Hindus and brahmanas. This is insulting.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard saw Christian despair as a "sickness unto death." The wish to die is the result of despair.

Srila Prabhupada: People try to avoid the results of their sinful activities by killing themselves, but this is not possible. Suicide is just another sin. Therefore those who commit suicide become ghosts.

Syamasundara dasa: Kierkegaard believed that a man should live as if he were to die at any moment. He should act as if each act were to be his last.

Srila Prabhupada: This requires practice, and therefore we are recommending the chanting of Hare Krsna without cessation. Of course, death may come at any moment, and if we are chanting Hare Krsna, that death is a happy death.

Syamasundara dasa: According to Catholicism, at the time of death, a priest can absolve you of your sins.

Srila Prabhupada: Provided you have the consciousness to understand the words of the priest.

Syamasundara dasa: Even though one has committed many sins throughout his life, he can be absolved of his sins on his deathbed.

Srila Prabhupada: That is quite possible because a priest can remind you of God at the time of death. Your thoughts at the time of death are very important. There are so many examples: Ajamila, and Bharata Maharaja. Therefore King Kulasekhara prays, "Let me die immediately while I am thinking of Krsna." Of course, unless we are practiced, it is not possible to think of Krsna at the time of death, because at that time there are many bodily disturbances. Therefore from the beginning, austerities are required.

Hayagriva dasa: Kierkegaard writes: "The true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears what God wills."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is very nice. Through prayer, one becomes qualified to understand God, talk with God, and receive His directions.

tesarh 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) Our ultimate goal is to give up this material world and return to God. Prayer is just one form of service. There are nine basic processes we can follow in the rendering of devotional service:

sravanam kirtanaih visnoh 
smaranam pada-sevanam 
arcanam vandanam dasyaih 
sakhyam atma-nivedanam

"Hearing and chanting about the holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Visnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one's best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him — these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service." (Bhag. 7.5.23) Prayer is vandanam. If we accept all nine processes, or just one of them, we can progress in spiritual life. Christians and Mohammedans offer prayers, and Hindus render service in' the temple. The Deities are decorated, the temples are cleansed, and food is offered. This is called arcanam, and through this process we can engage in devotional service. God is within, and when He sees that we are sincere in His service, He takes charge and gives directions by which we can swiftly approach Him. God is complete in Himself; He is not hankering after our service, but if we offer Him service, we can become purified. When we are purified, we can talk with God and see Him. We can receive His instructions personally, just as Arjuna did.

Syamasundara dasa: For Kierkegaard, faith is revealed in the self's relation to its own self, through its willingness to be its authentic self and to stand transparently before God in full integrity.

Srila Prabhupada: For the Mayavadis, self-realization means becoming one with the Supreme Self, but such merging is not possible. Standing transparent before God means engaging in God's service. To engage in God's service, you must understand that you are part and parcel of the Supreme. A part of the body engages in the service of the entire body. As soon as you engage in God's service, you are self-realized. That is mukti, liberation. The karmis, jnanis, and yogis are trying to realize the self, but because they are not engaged in rendering service to the Supreme Self, they are not liberated. We are therefore pushing this Krsna consciousness for the ultimate self-realization of everyone.