Dialectical Spiritualism: Arthur Schopenhauer, Part 6

BY: SUN STAFF - 15.5 2017

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

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning religious practices, Schopenhauer writes that "the Christian mystic and teacher of Vedanta agree that all outward works and religious exercises are superfluous for him who has attained to perfection." But doesn't Krsna recommend just the opposite?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In Bhagavad-gita, He says:

na tyajyam karyam eva tat 
yajho danam tapas caiva 
pavanani manisinam

"Acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance are not to be given up but should be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity, and penance purify even the great souls." (Bg. 18.5) If we give up the ritualistic ceremonies, there is every chance that we will fall down. Even though we may be liberated, we should continue performing sacrifices, charities, and penance in order to keep our position secure.

Hayagriva dasa: In discussing the functions of the brain, Schopenhauer notes that the need for sleep is directly proportionate to the intensity of our mental activities. Dull creatures like reptiles and fish sleep little and lightly; the more intelligent animals sleep deeply and long. "The more completely awake a man is," he writes, "the clearer and more lively his consciousness, the greater for him is the necessity of sleep, and thus the deeper and longer he sleeps."

Srila Prabhupada: No. Those who are ignorant, materially covered, sleep more, and those who are spiritually enlightened sleep less. Sleep is a necessity of the body, not of the soul; therefore those who are spiritually advanced do not require a lot of sleep. Nidrahara-viharakadi-vijitau. We understand that Rupa GosvamI conquered sleeping, eating, and mating. When we are spiritually engaged, we consider sleep a waste of time. Those who are interested in spiritual life adjust their lives in such a way that their sleep is practically nil. Arjuna was addressed as Gudakesa, "one who has conquered sleep."

Hayagriva dasa: Schopenhauer recommends about eight hours of sleep a night. How many are recommended in the Vedic tradition?

Srila Prabhupada: Sleep should be avoided, but since that is not possible, it should be adjusted to the minimum. The Gosvamis did not sleep more than two hours daily. Even some karmis are so absorbed in their work that they practically don't sleep at all. It is said that Napolean slept while riding his horse, and Gandhi slept while riding in a car. Generally, six hours is sufficient.

Hayagriva dasa: In The Ages of Life, Schopenhauer writes: "A complete and adequate notion of life can never be attained by anyone who does not reach old age, for it is only the old man who sees life whole and knows its natural course He alone has a full sense of its utter vanity, whereas others never cease to labor under the false notion that everything will come out right in the end."

Srila Prabhupada: This may seem to be the case, but in Western countries we observe old men still following the path of sense gratification. So what is the use of their experience? Unless one receives training, it is not sufficient to become an old man in order to understand the purpose of life. Training is required from early childhood. According to the Vedic plan, an old man should take the renounced order of sannyasa and completely devote his time and energy to understanding and serving God. We do not become spiritually mature just by growing old. We should be trained from the very beginning as brahmacari.

Hayagriva dasa: Schopenhauer points out that it is customary to call youth the happy part of life and old age the sad part, but factually this is not the case. "This would be true if it were the passions that made a man happy," he writes, "but a man feels happy just insofar as his intellect is the predominating part of him."

Srila Prabhupada: For modem civilization, happiness means sense gratification. Desire for sense gratification continues even when one is an old man; therefore early training is required. It is said that one can become an old man even without advancing in age. This means that it is knowledge that is important, not age. If one is not educated properly, he becomes an old fool.

Hayagriva dasa: Schopenhauer notes that in the Upanisads, the natural human life span is set at a hundred years. "To come to one's end before the age of ninety means to die of disease," he writes. "In other words, prematurely."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In this millennium, the maximum age is one hundred years, but in former millennia, men used to live fora thousand years. In the Treta-yuga, the life span was ten thousand years, and in the Satya-yuga, it was one hundred thousand years. Presently, in Kali-yuga, life has become so degraded that people expect to live only about seventy years. As one becomes more sensuous, his life span decreases. That is the law of nature.