Dialectical Spiritualism: John Stuart Mill, Part 4


Jul 16, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Hayagriva dasa: Ultimately, Mill considered the whole domain of the supernatural as removed from the region of belief into that of simple hope.

Srila Prabhupada: It is neither hope nor belief, but a fact. At any rate, to those who are Krsna conscious, it is a fact. Krsna came and gave Arjuna instructions, and those instructions are recorded.

Hayagriva dasa: Mill was such a staunch humanist that he wrote: "I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures, and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go."

Srila Prabhupada: God is always good, and if one does not know the goodness of God, he is imperfect. According to all Vedic literatures, God is always good and always great. What does Mill consider to be a good man?

Hayagriva dasa: One who works for what he calls "the greatest happiness principle," that is, the greatest happiness for everyone on earth.

Srila Prabhupada: Is there any man who can do good for all?

Hayagriva dasa: Christ said that no man is good, that there is only one good, and that is God.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a fact. You may think that this man is good, but he is limited in his power. He may still think in terms of his nation or society. Only a pure devotee of Krsna can be good because he abides by the order of the Supreme Good. Even if one has the desire to be a good man, it is not possible independent of God. In any case, these are all mental concoctions: good and bad. One who is not God conscious is necessarily bad, and one who is God conscious is good. This should be the only criterion.

Syamasundara dasa: But what of Mill's contention that the good gives the greatest pleasure to the greatest number of people?

Srila Prabhupada: And what if the people are fools and rascals? The greatest number of people may say that cigarettes are very nice, but does this mean that they are desirable?

Syamasundara dasa: Mill makes a distinction between the quality and the quantity of pleasure. Certain pleasures are superior to others.

Srila Prabhupada: When you have quality, the quantity naturally decreases. For instance, ordinary people take pleasure in eating, sleeping, mating, drinking, smoking, and so on. The pleasure of Krsna consciousness is a transcendental pleasure, but the people who take to it are very few. Generally, since conditioned souls are fools, the pleasure that is most popular is the one followed by the greatest number of fools. According to our Vedic philosophy, man is born a fool, but he can be made intelligent through education and culture.

Syamasundara dasa: Mill advocated utilizing those principles that can give the pleasure of highest quality to the maximum people. He also wrote: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."

Srila Prabhupada: But how often will you find a Socrates? You cannot find Socrates loitering on every street. There will only be one in millions. There is no question of the maximum number of people. Men of Socrates's caliber are a minimum. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

manusyanam sahasresu
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam
kascin mam, vetti tattvatah

"Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth." (Bg. 7.3) This is not a question of quantity, but of quality.

Syamasundara dasa: Mill felt that the highest quality of pleasure might also be enjoyed by a larger number. All men should be trained to find pleasure according to this higher standard.

Srila Prabhupada: This means that the maximum pleasure should be introduced to the maximum number of people. Unfortunately, it is not accepted by the greatest number but by a few only. This Krsna consciousness movement, for instance, cannot be understood by the masses. Only a few who are fortunate can understand. There may be millions of stars in the sky, but there is only one moon, and that is sufficient to drive away the darkness. It is not possible to have many moons, although there may be many glowworms.

Syamasundara dasa: Mill was trying to ascertain that standard of pleasure which is most desirable.

Srila Prabhupada: That he does not know. That he has to learn from the Vedas. Ordinary men take sex to be the highest pleasure, and the entire material world is existing because of sex, but how long does this sex pleasure last? A few minutes only. A man who is wise does not want pleasure that lasts only a few minutes but pleasure that continues perpetually. Nitya means "eternal," and ananda means "bliss." The Vedas state that those who are intelligent are not interested in transient pleasure but in eternal pleasure. They know their constitutional position; they know they are not the body. The pleasures of the body are transient and are sought by rascals. If one identifies with the body, he naturally seeks bodily pleasure. One who knows that he is not the body but eternal spirit soul seeks eternal spiritual pleasure.

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


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