May 09, 2017 CANADA (SUN) Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.
VII. GERMAN IDEALISM
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)
Hayagriva dasa: Schopenhauer also looked on Indian philosophy as a philosophy of the denial of the will, and he cited many examples of suicide as a religious act.
Srila Prabhupada: But he did not study Vedic philosophy and religion perfectly. He has some idea of some portions of the Mayavadi and Buddhist philosophies, but evidently he did not know about Vaisnavism. Although he has touched Bhagavad-gita, he did not study it thoroughly, because in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna tells Arjuna that if he only tried to attain knowledge of God, his life and will would be purified, and he would return back to Godhead upon giving up the body.
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so'rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this
material world, but attains My eternal abode, 0 Arjuna." (Bg. 4.9) Either
Schopenhauer did not study Bhagavad-gita thoroughly, or he could not
understand for want of a real spiritual master. According to Bhagavad-gita itself, we should go to a bona fide guru who has seen the truth.
Schopenhauer is speculating on the basis of his own experience; therefore, although everything is there in Bhagavad-gita, he could not see it.
Hayagriva dasa: As examples of the denial of the will to live,
Schopenhauer cites the religious suicides under the wheels of the
Jagannatha carts, and the ritual of sati.
Srila Prabhupada: These are not suicides. These are acts based on the
understanding that because we are getting different types of bodies, we
are suffering a variety of miseries. When one voluntarily accepts death
in these ways, he thinks of his spiritual life while dying, and he attains it.
yarn yarn vapi smaran bhavarn
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tarn tarn evaiti kaunteya
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits the body, that
state he will attain without fail." (Bg. 8.6) Therefore King Kulasekhara
prayed that Krsna take him while he was in good health and remembering
Krsna, because he feared forgetting Krsna when dying in a diseased
condition. Often, when death comes, a person is in a coma, his bodily
functions are impeded, he dreams in various ways, and so on. Therefore
an intelligent man sometimes thinks that it would be more desirable to
meet death in sound health so that he can think of his next life and go
back to Godhead. If a person thinks of Lord Jagannatha while dying, he
goes back to Lord Jagannatha. That is not suicide but the voluntary acceptance of death so that one can immediately transfer to the spiritual
Hayagriva dasa: And that is effective?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Hayagriva dasa: What of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's throwing Himself in
Srila Prabhupada: No, that was different. That was an act of ecstasy.
Syamasundara dasa: Schopenhauer noted that the will forces a person
to live even when he has nothing to live for. It impels him to suffer day
after day. He compares it to the alms which a beggar receives one day
just so he can live in hunger the next day. All this misery and frustration
are not partaken by a few men, but by all.
Srila Prabhupada: That is certainly a good point, but why does the
individual hanker after something when he is being frustrated? The point
is that there is a goal, and the individual is hankering after that goal. In
order to understand what that goal actually is, we should approach a
Hayagriva dasa: According to Schopenhauer, the man of knowledge is
not perturbed in any condition. "Such a man would regard death as a
false illusion," he writes, "an impudent specter which frightens the weak
but has no power over him who knows that he is himself the will of which
the whole world is the objectification or copy, and that therefore he is
always certain of life and also of the present "
Srila Prabhupada: This is contradictory. On the one side there is a
desire for the certainty of life, and on the other he says that nirvana is
the only answer. Which does he want? He is simply trying to adjust
things. He cannot understand the philosophy behind purification of the
Hayagriva dasa: One of the first major Western philosophers to have
read Bhagavad-gita, Schopenhauer feels that it was Krsna's assurance
of immortality that brought Arjuna to fight.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but what is Schopenhauer's philosophy of the
immortal living being? He does not understand that just as the living
entity is immortal, his will is also immortal. If the soul is immortal, how
can his will be stopped? How is nirvana possible?
Hayagriva dasa: He offers no solution other than suppression of the will.
Srila Prabhupada: But that is not possible. He must change the quality
of his willing in order to be happy. That is the process of bhakti.
hrsikena hrsikesasevanam bhaktir ucyate
"Bhakti , or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the
service of the Lord, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul
renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. He is freed
from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the
service of the Lord, his senses are purified." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.12) Bhakti is the purification process: sravanam kirtanam visnoh.
Chanting and hearing the pastimes of the Lord will purify us.
Schopenhauer misses the point of Bhagavad-gita. Although he accepts
the fact that life is eternal, he thinks that its purpose is nirvana. Unfortunately, he does not know what real nirvana is. Nirvana means putting
an end to the whimsical will and coming to the platform of willing in
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