with His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Syamasundara: Today we are discussing Immanuel Kant. Basically, his philosophy seeks to trace the relationship between a priori ideas, or those ideas of the mind which are independent of sense experience, and the a posteriori ideas, or sense impressions. He wants to unify these two positions. So he wrote The Critique of Pure Reason, in which he asks the fundamental question, “How are a priori synthetic judgments possible?” In other words, how can we decide anything, judge anything? Where does this facility come from? What is the source of knowledge?
Prabhupada: Intelligence. The source of knowledge is intelligence. Intelligence acts through mind, and then some conclusion comes. Man is mortal, so here is a man, intelligence; he must be mortal. This a priori idea means “I know man is mortal; therefore here is a man, he must be mortal.” A priori means before. And what is the other?
Syamasundara: A posteriori means after; sense impressions. So he developed this process for attaining knowledge in three steps. The first step he calls he transcendental aesthetic, and this is the basic stage which synthesizes sense experience through concepts of time and space. In other words, the mind acts upon sensory perceptions and applies time and space relations to them. So he says that this knowing of time and space is a priori; it’s an internal creation of the mind. Before we sense anything, we have an idea of time and space. So as soon as we sense something, we can apply time and space ideas.
Prabhupada: He said something transcendental?
Syamasundara: He calls it the transcendental aesthetic.
Prabhupada: Transcendental means it is not in my experience, but I get the experience from higher authority, parampara.
Syamasundara: I think his definition of transcendental is slightly different.
Prabhupada: Transcendental means beyond your sense experience. That is the real meaning. You can see the dictionary. Transcendental is that which transcends.
Syamasundara: “Transcendental: of an a priori character, not based on experience; intuitively accepted; innate in the mind; superrational; supernatural; consisting of or dealing in or inspired by abstractions.’ The way he is using “transcendental” is simply he is trying to understand knowledge through abstraction, by abstracting.
Prabhupada: Transcendental knowledge means knowledge received from a source which is beyond the reach of my material senses. That is transcendental. Just like we are reading Bhagavad-gita. So we have no knowledge that there is a spiritual world, but Krsna says that there is another nature, a spiritual nature, beyond this material nature. So we understand through the source of transcendental knowledge. We cannot experience. That is explained, atah sri-krsna-namadi. God, His name, His qualities, His pastimes—nothing can be understood by these material senses. But if you engage yourself in service, they become revealed. That will become confirmed: “Yes, there is Vaikuntha, there is Vrndavana, where Krsna’s pastimes are going on, and I am perceiving myself.” These things become revealed gradually, not abruptly you can understand. Therefore common men cannot understand that they say “ ‘Going back to home, back to Godhead?’ What nonsense they are saying?” They cannot understand, because it is transcendental, beyond the reach of these gross senses. But it is revealed: sevonmukhe. If you become submissive, if you engage yourself in the service of the Lord, guru-Krsna, and the spiritual master, then these things become revealed. Now one who has got the knowledge by revelation, nobody can mislead him. Just like we believe in the transcendental abode, cintamani, Goloka Vrndavana. If somebody pays out millions of dollars and asks you to forget all these things, we cannot do that. If you give him hundreds and thousands of dollars, that “You believe in this,” no, he will not believe. That is transcendental knowledge. So transcendental knowledge is not speculation. It is receiving from higher authority and gradually, by your service attitude, things become clear to you. That is transcendental.
Syamasundara: Before, we were discussing Descartes and Hume. Descartes expressed that all knowledge comes through innate ideas, and Hume said just the opposite: “No. All knowledge comes from sense experience.” So Kant is trying to unify the two ideas.
Prabhupada: Yes. Sense experience. Sense experience means purified sense experience. That is seva. Just like I am seeing here Krsna, but others will see a stone. So he is also seeing with his eyes; I am also seeing with the eyes, but my eyes are different from his eyes. Premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena [Bs. 5.38]. When the eyes are anointed with love of God, ointment of love of God, then he can see. Just like if one’s eyes are diseased, if he applies some eye ointment, or lotion, then he sees. So the same senses, the same eyes, unless they are treated and purified, he cannot understand or he cannot see or he cannot know.
Syamasundara: He says that thoughts without content are empty, meaning that the mind must have senses in order to fill its thoughts with content; and perceptions without exceptions are blind. In other words, sense impressions without thought are blind.
Prabhupada: That thought comes from transcendental knowledge. Thought comes from higher authorities. That is called paroksa. Then with your senses, when you try to understand, that is called aparoksa. Then adhoksaja. As I told you, there are five stages of acquiring knowledge: direct perception, pratyaksa; paroksa, receiving knowledge from higher authorities; then apply your senses, come to some conclusion, that is aparoksa; then transcendental knowledge, adhoksaja; then aprakrta, spiritual knowledge.
Syamasundara: In other words, the thought content comes from higher authorities, then you apply your senses and the two combine.
Prabhupada: To come to some conclusion. That is the source of knowledge which is beyond my senses.
Syamasundara: But I use my senses to come to some conclusion.
Prabhupada: Just like a higher authority says that there is a spiritual world. Now, how do you come to this conclusion, “Yes, there is a spiritual world”? How, unless you apply your senses? Sense application is like this, that “I am combination of spirit and matter, that is a fact. So I cannot see the spirit at the present moment, but there is spirit. So I am a combination of spirit and matter. So if there is material world, why is there no spiritual world?” This is conclusion: by applying your senses and reason that there are two things, material and spiritual, so if there is possibility of material world, why is there not possibility of spiritual world?
Syamasundara: And if I see a dead body, I can understand that there is no life in that body, so there must be some source of life.
Prabhupada: That is preliminary knowledge, that something is missing. Something is missing. Now there are arguments, so many things, but something, that we understand from higher authority, that this something is eternal. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that avinasi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam, that consciousness is spread all over my body, and He says that is avinasi, eternal. Consciousness is spiritual. So then you can judge how it is eternal. Now eternal, the same way that I am existing, I exist, I existed in a childhood body, boyhood body, so my consciousness is continuing. Consciousness is going on with my existence. I am existing. Despite different changes of body, I am existing. Therefore consciousness exists. This kind of, you have to apply your senses. But the basic principle of the knowledge is received from higher authorities. Just like in mathematics, teacher says two plus two is equal to four. So you take four things, make two and two, and you find four. Similarly, by applying your senses, reason—God has given you reason, consciousness—you can come to the conclusion. Yes.
Syamasundara: Is there any such thing as innate knowledge?
Prabhupada: Innate knowledge means that knowledge which you are cultivating, that is already there.
Syamasundara: For instance, if you are unable to receive knowledge from a higher authority, could you still somehow have this knowledge inside?
Prabhupada: Yes. Inside, there is. We say caitya-guru; Krsna is within.
Syamasundara: So one could understand about Krsna perhaps if he was unable to receive from outside?
Prabhupada: Krsna is everything, outside and inside. Inside He is Paramatma, outside He is spiritual master. So Krsna is trying to help the conditioned soul both ways—outside and inside. Therefore spiritual master is representative of Krsna. Krsna comes outside as spiritual master, and inside He is personally there.
Syamasundara: So according to Kant, the first or basic stage is that one perceives objects and gives them concepts of time and space. Then the second step is called transcendental analytic. In other words, human understanding changes these perceptions into conceptions or ideas, which possess analytical unity. In other words, the mind applies categories to whatever it perceives. And there are four categories that he describes: quantity, quality, relationship and modality.
Prabhupada: What is modality?
Syamasundara: Modality means whether it is possible or impossible; whether it is existent or nonexistent; whether it is necessary or dependent. Like that.
Prabhupada: That’s all right.
Syamasundara: So this is the process of material reasoning, that when we see something, we can understand it by applying our reason, that it is such-and-such weight, it is measured with the mind. This is called the categorical imperative. The next, third step, is called the transcendental dialectic. In this stage, beyond reasoning, the mind seeks to understand everything, but the sense information is inadequate, so it tries to go beyond sense experience.
Syamasundara: He says the mind is aware that there is an ultimate reality, or a thing in itself, a noumenon, which produces each phenomenon, but the mind is not equipped to sense this ultimate reality. So the mind must remain forever content to be agnostic.
Prabhupada: No. He should go to higher authorities. Why should he remain agnostic? If there is possibility, mind cannot go beyond this, but if the same thing, we say upon the roof there is some sound, now we speculate, but we cannot ascertain what is the sound. But if somebody is actually there, he says, “This sound is due to this.” So why I shall remain satisfied with agnostic position, that I could not ascertain what is the sound, and therefore I shall remain satisfied? I shall say, “Is there anybody on the roof?” If somebody says, “Yes. I am here,” “Will you kindly say what is the sound?” “Yes: this, that, this, that.” Therefore Vedic injunction is tad vijnanartham: that which is beyond your senses, you must approach a spiritual master. He will give you information. That is our system, accepting guru. Tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh sreya uttamam [SB 11.3.21]. One who is inquisitive to understand the transcendental subject, he must approach a guru. What is guru? Sabde pare ca nisnatam: guru, who is expert or well versed in the Vedic literatures, sruti. And what is the result? How can I understand that he is well versed in Vedic literature? Brahmany upasamasrayah. He has forgotten everything material; he is simply concerned with the spirit soul. That’s all. Everything is there. So Kant here is imperfect in his knowledge.
Syamasundara: Actually, he is just exploring this possibility, that because we can’t know it by our senses therefore we must…
Prabhupada: That is misleading. Nobody can ascertain in that way. That is not possible. In the sastras it is said that panthas tu koti-sata-vatsara-sampragamya. He is thinking he is a man living for fifty or sixty or a hundred years. But if somebody is there, just like modern, these sputnik scientists, they say that if one can go forty thousands of years at the speed of light, he can approach the topmost planet. So sastra says even one goes forty thousands of years, still you won’t find where is Krsna, where is Krsna’s abode. Not only at the speed of light, but he says the speed of mind and air. Panthas tu koti-sata-vatsara-sampragamyo vayor athapi manaso muni-pungavanam: [Bs 5.34] still, the subject matter which is beyond my senses will remain the same, beyond my senses. This material attempt will not help. Never. There is another verse that adhane gopi chindan vidhena atah pudedevo padamjadayan (?): “Dear Lord, a devotee who has got a little grace from your lotus feet, padamjadaya (?), he can understand You. Others, they may speculate for millions of years. Still it is not possible.” Just like Krsna says that manusyanam sahasresu: [Bg. 7.3] “Out of many millions of people, one is interested to make his life successful, and out of millions of successful…” Successful means one who understands that I am not this body. You ask, you take census, in this Nairobi city, you will find that 99.9%, or more than that, people do not know what he is. Everyone knows that “I am this body.” So perfection of life means one who understands that “I am not this body…” They become impersonalists, something like that, or voidists. Out of them—those who have understood perfection, that “I am not this body”—one can understand Krsna. Out of many thousands of people who have attained actual perfect. So this Krsna consciousness is actually not so easy, but these devotees are actually realizing Krsna. Why? By the grace of Krsna. Because the devotees are engaged in His service, He is revealing Himself. That is the process. Not by this, Kant’s speculation. It is not possible.
Syamasundara: He says that although this ultimate reality appears unknowable, still the mind seeks to discover it.
Prabhupada: Yes. He cannot be satisfied. He is seeking Krsna.
Syamasundara: Yes. So he says that the real world or the ultimate reality becomes a reconstruction of the mind by speculationists; that they take the contents of this world and reproduce it into what they believe to be the real world.
Prabhupada: By speculation, the real world for them is negation of this world. That is voidism. I am experiencing everything here material, so this material thinking and other material thinking induces him to conclude that it must be opposite. It must be opposite. This is material. So spiritual means not this form, or formless, or void. So that is also material thinking. Just the opposite number.
Syamasundara: He is still proceeding in his method. He comes to some good conclusions. He is trying to understand what makes men’s minds work. He says that “Thus this real world becomes an ideal construction in the mind of man.”
Prabhupada: Yes. Ideal construction… Here we are frustrated because everything is temporary; therefore ideal is eternal. That much we can understand. Temporary. Just like I want to live; that is my tendency. Nobody wants to die. But I am hopeless, because this body is not eternal. Therefore ideal life is eternal body.
Syamasundara: He says but the mind makes a mistake to apply these categories of reason to achieve transcendental knowledge. Because it realizes the futility of this…
Prabhupada: This must be. One who goes with mental speculation, he must fail. Therefore our process is not mental speculation—to receive knowledge from the perfect.
Syamasundara: So he says that man tends to create ideas about the universe which transcend the bounds of experience, and this is what he calls the third stage, or the transcendental dialectic. He says these ideas which transcend the bounds of experience are the realm of pure reason. He calls it pure reason, or transcendental reason. And these are not fictions, but these spring from the very nature of reason itself, these transcendental ideas.
Prabhupada: Yes. That I already explained: transcendental. We are seeking eternity. I find myself as a soul; I am eternal; so I must seek an eternal world. This is not my place. I am eternal. The same example: just like fish taken from the water, he is not finding comfortable life. So when the fish is thrown in the water, then it is comfortable. Similarly, I am spirit soul. I am not feeling comfortable with this material body. Therefore the right conclusion is how to go to the spiritual world or attain a spiritual body. That information we are getting from Bhagavad-gita, that one who understands Krsna or develops his love for Krsna, how to see Krsna, then he gets a spiritual body to see Krsna. Because if one is very much anxious, these thoughts will continue, and at the time of his death, ending this body, if he is filled up with Krsna consciousness, he is immediately transferred. That is assured in the Bhagavad-gita by Krsna. So our business should be: Krsna is eternal; Krsna says, “I have spoken to sun-god, forty millions of years ago.” Arjuna says, “How is that?” and He says that “That is the nature: I do not forget, you forget.” So Krsna’s body is eternal, because forgetfulness is due to change of body. As I do not remember what happened in my last life, that means I have to change my body. And Krsna remembers; therefore He does not change His body. Is it not? I forget. Why do I forget? Because I change my body. But Krsna does not. That means He does not change His body. That is eternal body. And sastra also confirms, sat-cid-ananda vigrahah. So if you become Krsna conscious, then you get also a similar body like Krsna. If you get a material body, why not a spiritual body? It requires simply a process, how to get a spiritual body. So these things they do not know.
Syamasundara: He’s getting a hint, Kant.
Prabhupada: Yes. By intellectual speculation one may get some hint, but not perfect knowledge.
Syamasundara: He says, for instance, that this pure reason or this transcendental reason is there to guide man to an understanding of wider knowledge, to guide his understanding to knowledge, and that the aim of this pure reason is to find the totality of synthesis, in other words, to understand everything. By knowing the ultimate reality, one will understand everything.
Prabhupada: So simply by understanding that he is spirit, gradually he understands that there is a spiritual world. This spiritual world is full of varieties. Everything is there, exactly like this, but that is eternal and this is temporary.
Syamasundara: He says that this pure reason has a regulative value, that is, by attempting to grasp the totality of conditions by connecting a particular phenomenon with the whole experience. In other words, for example, the idea of a supreme being is a regulative principle of reason because it tells us to view everything in the world in connection, as if it proceeded from the necessary cause, or the Supreme Being.
Prabhupada: The Supreme Being is the cause of all causes.
Syamasundara: Yes. So he says to suppose, or to use my pure reason, to come to the conclusion that there is a Supreme Being is a regulative function, because it makes everything regular. By coming to the conclusion that there is a Supreme Being, the rest of everything, all phenomena, become regulated in relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the natural impulse.
Prabhupada: That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram: [Bg. 9.10] “Under My direction the whole material nature is working, and everything is going on,” hetunanena kaunteya, jagat viparivartate. On this account, everything in this cosmic manifestation is going on regularly. All Vedic sastras describe like that, that behind these phenomena there is a direction of a person, and He is the Supreme Person.
Syamasundara: So he says that this is a natural impulse, that it is the nature of reason itself to find regularity, a total regularity, for everything. So that it must suppose that there is a Supreme Being in order to find that total synthesis.
Prabhupada: So in your preaching you can use this Kant’s statement, how he is confirming the statement of Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita directly says and he as a philosopher has found out that this is a fact. So this may help in our preaching work.
Syamasundara: He says that phenomena are so endless that it is impossible to arrive at ultimate reality by the reason alone, because there are certain what he calls transcendental illusions.
Prabhupada: Therefore you have to take Krsna’s assertion. I am puzzled with these varieties of phenomenal changes, and you cannot understand how these things are being done. But as soon as you come to Krsna, He says that “I am behind this. I am doing it.” Then your conclusion is perfect.
Syamasundara: He says that when you examine material phenomena by your reason, you come to certain contradictions, and he calls them antimonies. He lists four antimonies. An antimony means both sides are true.
Prabhupada: In Sanskrit it is called bhiruda dharma—words that mean both “yes” and “no.” He can adjust—yes and no, both.
Syamasundara: He says logically these are not fallacious; both sides are true. For instance, his first antimony is, “The world has a beginning in time and is enclosed in limits of space.” This is the thesis. Then the antithesis is, “The world has no beginning in time and no limits in space, but is infinite with regard to both time and space.” So he says reasonably both conclusions are true.
Prabhupada: So how to adjust? How to adjust is there in the Bhagavad-gita. It says this material phenomenal world is coming into existence and again annihilated. Again coming. Bhutva bhutva praliyate. So this material nature, coming in manifestation and again vanquished, this process, coming into existence and then vanquished, this is also true. Just like day and night, it is coming and going. This is true. But night is not day; day is not night.
Syamasundara: The first antimony describes the quantity of the world. The second antimony deals with the quality of the world. The thesis is, “Every composite substance in the world is made up of simple parts, and nothing whatever exists but the simple, or that which is composed out of the simple.” And the antithesis is, “No composite thing in the world is made up of simple parts, nor does anything simple exist anywhere in the world.” On the one hand, everything is simple, made up of simple parts. On the other hand, nothing is simple; everything is complex.
Prabhupada: Yes. The simple is, we say, the whole world is made of material energy. This is simple. Now, the component parts of material energy, there are so many things—mahat-tattva, then pradhana, then purusa, then twenty-four elements, the five gross elements, eight subtle elements, the five senses, the objects of the senses—and in this way there are so many analytical complications.
Syamasundara: So his third antimony is the causal, or relation (?) of the world. He says, first of all, thesis: “Causality in conformity with laws of nature is not the only causality from which all the phenomena of the world can be derived. To explain these phenomena it is necessary to suppose that there is also a free causality.” And the antithesis is, “There is no freedom, but all that comes to be in the world takes place entirely in accordance with laws of nature.” So on the one hand he is saying that sometimes we observe an exception to the laws of causality, that something happens which is completely uncaused or unexplainable, so that there must be no such thing as a strict law of cause and effect.
Prabhupada: No. There is, strictly. He cannot explain—you do not know—but there must be some cause. Therefore ultimate cause is Krsna, or God.
Syamasundara: Sometimes when there is some aberration…
Prabhupada: There is no such thing as accident. We do not accept anything as accident. There cannot be any accident.
Syamasundara: So if you saw something miraculous, it could be explained that Krsna…
Prabhupada: Yes. Miracles means you cannot conceive how it is being done. The same example, as I said, that if you want to paint one rose flower you require so many things, but that also is not real rose flower. But imitation, it may be perfect, but you have to take so much trouble in collecting the paint, the colors, and your energy, then duration of work, and some day it may come out perfect. But the same energy is working so swiftly that you see automatically a rose flower is coming out. The same example again: just like this airplane, there are thousands of complicated electronic machinery arrangements, but you see that the pilot is simply pushing a button. That’s all. But layman is seeing that “Simply by pushing a button, a miraculous thing is happening.” But no, with the pushing of the button there are so many complicated machineries, they work one after another, one after another. So similarly, God’s energy is so subtle that simply by His willing, the process takes place, but it takes place so swiftly and quickly, we see it as miracle. So there is no such thing as miracle. The process is there, but it acts so quickly and nicely, we see it as miracle. Just like a man is very innocent, illiterate, so servant, so I give a chit, “Just give it to Bhavananda,” Bhavananda gives you ten thousand rupees. So he says, “Oh, what is this miracle? He writes some few lines and immediately ten thousand rupees came?” So to him, it is miracle. Isn’t it? But Bhavananda says “Prabhupada wants ten thousand—I’ll give him,” that’s all. He sees my signature and I want it. But this man does not know. He takes it as miracle: “Oh, a chit of paper brings immediately ten thousand rupees?” Miracles to the rascals, fools!
Syamasundara: So they can exist simultaneously. On one hand, there are very strict laws of nature, which no one can counteract. But on the other hand, we see something like Krsna lifting the Govardhana Hill.
Prabhupada: That is also not miracle. That is not miracle, because in the yoga-siddhi you can make anything lighter than this cotton. So Krsna is Yogesvara. So by His yogic power He made the whole hill as a cotton swab. That is yogic principle. But for a layman, for a human being, he has to practice this yoga for millions of years; then he comes to perfection. But Krsna is Yogesvara. By His will, immediately it is done. It is not a miracle. It is turning the whole thing. Just like Krsna is floating so many big big planets in the air. These modern scientists can say all nonsense, but it is miracle, it is miracle to them. But to Krsna it is not. Krsna has got such a sankarsana. He has got some power, Yogesvara. He can do that.
Syamasundara: What is this yogic power? What does that mean?
Prabhupada: That is called laghima siddhi, anima siddhi, laghima siddhi. Anima, you become the smallest. The yogis, you pack in a box. I’ve seen it. Pack them in a box. One Mr. Cakravarti, (laughter) he was packed in… I told you, he was packed in a bag, it was sealed then put in a box. The box was locked, it was sealed, and he came out. I have seen it. That is called anima siddhi. Simple: there must be some hole—however tightly you pack it, there is little hole—and the spirit soul is so little, one ten-thousandth part of the tip of the hair, then comes out…
Syamasundara: And then he materializes another body outside.
Syamasundara: And the other yogic powers?
Prabhupada: There are eight kinds: anima, laghima, prapti. Prapti, now you are sitting here, now you have left something in London, you simply… (laughter). No telephone call; stretch your hand and get it. Prapti. They can go by the beams of the sun in the sun globe. Prapti. Then mahima, you can become bigger than the biggest.
Syamasundara: How is that?
Prabhupada: How is that? That you have to learn. (laughter) You practice yoga and you learn. Just like Hanuman, he jumped over the sea. So it is a question of becoming bigger. Just like you can jump over this space, but if you have got bigger body, then you can jump bigger space. That is called mahima-siddhi. So if you increase you body proportionately, then you can cross the sea from here to here. Your legs become bigger and your jumping becomes more bigger. This is the process. It is called mahima-siddhi. Again he carried the hill. Ramacandra asked him, “You bring Me that medicine from there.” He could not find it so he got up the whole hill. So those are yogic siddhis.
Syamasundara: What are the others?
Prabhupada: Anima, laghima, prapti, mahima, prakamya, isita, vasita. You can control anyone. Whatever you say, he will carry out. Any big man, you can put some influence. Vasita. Just like these this rascal Maharishi, he has got little yogic power. So he controls, gives you some mantra you’ll become God and all this nonsense, but he is controlling. Whatever he’ll ask, you will pay. That is control. Actually he is controlling his mind, that whatever he asks, you will do. These are bogus things.
Syamasundara: Like hypnotism.
Prabhupada: By hypnotism, yes. I think I have discussed in The Nectar of Devotion. So this is possible even by ordinary yogis, and what to speak of Krsna, who is known as Yogesvara. He is the master of all mystic power. So one who does not know these things, they say, “Oh, these are all stories.” It is not story. It is no miracle. They are all possible. So there is no such thing as miracle. It is a process of doing. One must know how to do it. There is no miracle. We don’t say anything miracle. But for appreciating, you can say it is. You see Krsna is said as Yogesvara, master of all mystic yoga processes: yatra yogesvara hari. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said. So our yogic power is, our yoga process is to take shelter of Krsna. He’ll act, and you’ll get the credits. (laughter) Just like our movement: Krsna is doing and I am getting the credit. (laughter) Yes. Why should we bother about acquiring all this mystic power? Just depend on Krsna. He is Yogesvara. He’ll do everything, and you’ll get the credit. And Krsna wants that. Just like his advice to Arjuna, “This is already planned. You don’t think that if you do not fight they’ll go back. That is not possible. But you simply take the credit, that’s all.”
Syamasundara: His fourth antimony relates to the modality of the world, whether or not the world requires an absolute being. First of all, that is the thesis: “There exists an absolutely necessary being, which belongs to the world either as a part or as a cause of it,” and the antithesis is, “There nowhere exists an absolutely necessary being, either in the world or outside of the world, as its cause.” So by reason alone one can either say that there is a God or that there is not a God.
Prabhupada: There is a God. That is reason. And how can one support that there is no God? What is that reason?
Syamasundara: Well, strictly according to these categories of quality, quantity, relation and modality, it is possible also to conclude that there is nothing beyond the material nature. If one uses only the senses…
Prabhupada: But where do you get your senses?
Syamasundara: One could say that they are only a combination of matter.
Prabhupada: But where does the matter come from?
Syamasundara: According to material reasoning, one could say that there is no necessary source of matter; it is not necessary to conclude that there is a cause of matter.
Prabhupada: But we see that matter is growing. Just like a tree is matter, it is growing.
Syamasundara: It may have been eternally existing.
Prabhupada: How eternally existing? The tree is not eternally existing. This brass pot is metal. Somebody has made it.
Syamasundara: But the matter itself could have been eternally existing.
Prabhupada: Similarly, matter also, we see, just like the tree is growing. The tree is wood. Wood is also matter. Stone is also growing. So how is it growing?
Syamasundara: Well, strictly materially speaking, I could say, well, there are some material reasons…
Prabhupada: Just like my material body, it has grown. There was no existence, but combination of father and mother, the body is made and it grows, and again it is vanquished. That is the nature of matter. It takes birth at a certain moment, it grows, then it makes by-products, then it dwindles, then vanquishes. This is the nature of matter, any matter, anything you take. This material world is also like that. All these trees, they have grown up, and when they are grown up, you take the wood, you make houses, you make boxes, you make bedsteads, and so many things. But it is a fact that the trees have grown up from the seed. And wherefrom the seed comes?
Syamasundara: From the father tree.
Prabhupada: Father tree. Now Krsna says, bijam mam sarva-bhutanam. Therefore Krsna is the cause of everything.
Syamasundara: Well, his point is that these contradictions—saying that “There is a God,” “There is no God”—these contradictions only arise because the reason attempts to apply its categories to the transcendent of the absolute, whereas these categories are only applicable to empirical experience. In other words, by reason alone I cannot…
Prabhupada: This is by reason only. I see everything is growing; therefore the whole cosmic manifestation must have grown from a source. This is reason.
Syamasundara: This is transcendental reason.
Prabhupada: No. Common reason. Every matter is growing from a certain source, so therefore this material world must have grown from a certain source.
Syamasundara: How could some people look at the seed of a tree and come to a different conclusion?
Prabhupada: From a source. Therefore the perfect reason is that this cosmic manifestation. Also we get from authoritative books, Vedic literature, how it has grown.
Syamasundara: How is it that someone else could apply their material reason and come to a different conclusion?
Prabhupada: What is that reason? How can he prove? He must have proved by his experience. Thus his experience proving that things are… The man who is talking of this nonsense can he prove that he is born without his father? How is that? How his existing is there? How his material body came into existence? It was caused by his father. Then how can he deny the cause? His very existence is depending upon some cause.
Syamasundara: So according to one point of view, Hume’s point of view, cause and effect are not necessarily related, that they are habitually connected.
Prabhupada: The scientist, he’ll say that the father begets the child. Why it is not related? It is simply lunacy not to believe this. Where is the instance that without father some child has taken birth? Where is such instance? He himself is talking such nonsense. He is born by his father. The cause is his father. Similarly, his father is also the effect of his father. Therefore there is supreme father, father of this cosmic manifestation. How you can deny it? That is the defect of the speculators: they contradict themselves.
Syamasundara: This is just what he is saying, that whenever you try to speculate about the Absolute you will run into contradictions.
Prabhupada: Yes. So contradiction mean imperfect knowledge. Perfect knowledge means who sticks to his principles. That is perfect knowledge. One who does not stick to his original proposal, his knowledge is imperfect.
Syamasundara: He says that by trying to apply their reason to the transcendental, that they naturally will run into trouble, that there will be contradictions in their thought. By trying to apply these empirical categories to the transcendental, naturally there will be these contradictions. They will not be able to discover the real nature of things because there is always some contradiction by using the reason.
Prabhupada: Without fixed up conclusion, there is contradiction. Our fixed-up conclusion is that Krsna is the cause of all causes. How, one after another, the categories are developed, that is in the Vedic literature. But it is summarized that Krsna desired or He put His glance over the material nature and the material nature became impregnated, and then He delivered so many things. Matter and spirit have combined together, and the whole cosmic manifestation has come into being.
Syamasundara: To go back to this idea of cause and effect, Kant says that just as time and space are a priori concepts or mental creations—in other words, before we have any sense experience, we still have an idea of time and space—just as this is so, so also cause and effect is a priori category of human understanding.
Prabhupada: So that a priori existence is there, time and space.
Syamasundara: Time and space, and cause and effect.
Prabhupada: I take my birth and at a certain time time. So time was existing before my birth, and after my death time will continue to exist. Similarly, space. But, temporarily, I take some time. That is the duration of my life. Or I am occupying some space. This is temporary. Time and space are eternally there. At least time is eternally there, because space is also born in time.
Syamasundara: How is that?
Prabhupada: That we get from Bhagavata. Because this material space is also akasa, it is born of the finer subtle mind and intelligence. In the Bhagavata the description is there. Space is also the creation.
Syamasundara: So this Hume has said that cause and effect are habitual assumptions, that we can naturally assume that a certain effect follows a certain cause. But it is not necessary that the cause makes the effect.
Prabhupada: No. We disagree with that. Without cause there cannot be any effect. Let him prove that this is…, there is an existence without any cause. Then he can say like that.
Syamasundara: Hume’s example is if we find a footprint on the beach, normally we can assume that a human being left it…
Prabhupada: That is a fact. Why normally? That is factually.
Syamasundara: Still, it remains a probability.
Prabhupada: Why probability?
Syamasundara: It is possible that something else left the footprint.
Prabhupada: How is it possible?
Syamasundara: There could have been a cast made of another foot, and someone else could have made it. Other possibilities could exist.
Prabhupada: That is nonsensical. Someone will come and make a footprint to mislead you! That is also caused. (laughter) So it is a foolish idea. That is also caused—someone came; there is cause.
Syamasundara: This is just what Kant is saying. He says, no, still we are born with an idea of cause and effect. This is a priori…
Prabhupada: No. This is fact: cause and effect is always there.
Syamasundara: He says that intuitively, when we see something, we understand what is cause and what is effect.
Prabhupada: You cannot understand what is the cause, but there must be cause. There must be cause. Without cause, nothing can happen. That is his imperfect knowledge, that something may happen without cause. No. That does not happen.
Syamasundara: For example, the idea of the bird flying on the limb and the fruit. Either the bird caused the fruit to fall, or it fell, but the cause is still there.
Prabhupada: Yes. Either you accept this cause or that cause, that is a different thing, but cause must be there. So this example is given that they are fighting unnecessarily to find out the cause. But cause is there. Just like some foolish person enquired when the living entity became fallen. What is the use of this question? Simply take it is fallen.
Syamasundara: There is a cause.
Prabhupada: There is a cause. Now, you may not find out the cause, just like here is a diseased man, and there is some cause. So instead of finding out the cause, you go on treating the disease. Get it cured. But cause must be there. Otherwise he is infected, why others are not infected? The cause must be there.
Syamasundara: So he says that the laws of physics are not inherent in nature, but they are modes of thought.
Prabhupada: No. This is also nonsense. There is a law. All physical things which are going on, there is a law. Just like while the temperature is below zero, the water becomes solid. That is a physical law.
Syamasundara: Yes. That happens when it is below zero, but our understanding of that phenomenon, that law of physics, is only because of our thought process. Our thought process analyzes it.
Prabhupada: Analysis is also thought process, but you cannot think that when the water becomes solid, at a certain temperature, you cannot think that it is liquid. This is factual. (indistinct) Here is a medical man; there is disease. We may not find out, but he knows it must have been caused.
Syamasundara: What he is saying is that so that water may freeze, physical nature goes through changes, but it only becomes a law in our minds, when we begin to think about it.
Prabhupada: Why in your mind? That is the law. When the temperature is reduced to a certain point, the water becomes frozen and becomes solid. That is the law. How can you say without law?
Syamasundara: But the concept of law is a mode of thought.
Prabhupada: Well, that is imperfect human society. But nature’s law, God’s law, is not like that. Nature’s law: just like fire burns; it burns everywhere. It is fact, perpetually. It is not that in certain cases it burns and in certain cases it does not. It burns. Even a child touches the fire, it will burn. No consideration. Just like in human law, a child steals and an adult steals. Court excuses, “He is a child. Let him be.” But nature’s law is not like that. The fire, whether adult touches or a child touches, it must burn. That is nature’s law.
Syamasundara: When we conceive of “fire burns,” we are shaping an interpretation of the phenomenon. We have experienced it, so we shape an interpretation, and that becomes a law in our minds.
Prabhupada: What is that law in the mind, you may think or may not think, the law will act. (laughter) Simply speculation. It has no meaning. It is called jugglery of words, that’s all. To some foolish men, he is accepted as a great philosopher, but it is simply jugglery of words, that’s all.
Syamasundara: He says because the mind imposes a priori these laws upon nature as both necessary and universal, that proves that the mind is creative and that it’s not a blank slate or tabula rasa.
Prabhupada: Mind is creative, that’s a fact. Creative. He is creating and again rejecting. That is the mind’s business, sankalpa-vikalpa.
Syamasundara: So he says that to apply those four categories of reason onto objects in order to understand them, he says this creates certain knowledge, and so that further judgment beyond these categories would be guesswork or unprovable dogma. But, he says, still the mind is not satisfied with these partial explanations. Even though knowledge that transcends these categories is guesswork, still the mind desires to know something beyond them.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is called philosophy. That inquisitiveness is called philosophy. Cause of the cause: this is caused by this; what is the cause of this? Unless he comes to the final cause, this research goes on. That is the nature of advanced mind. They are called munis, those who are very thoughtful. So that is the nature of greater mind, mahatma, to find out the ultimate cause. That is human nature. Therefore, athato brahma jijnasa. The Vedanta-sutra says this jijnasa, inquiry, “What is after this? What is after this? What is brahmanas? What is Brahman? This is not Brahman. This is not Brahman…” The next answer is that “Brahman means janmady asya [Bhag. 1.1.1], the supreme source from where everything emanates.” So unless he goes to the supreme source, he is not satisfied. So those who are going by mental speculation, they come to that impersonal feature. Then, if he makes further advancement, just like in Isopanisad, that “You wind up Your glaring impersonal feature so that we can see You brightly.” So this glaring impersonal Brahman, if you go, penetrate, again through this impersonal Brahman, when you come to Krsna, then you will be satisfied. That is explained in Bhagavad-gita. Bahunam janmanam ante: [Bg. 7.19] after researching in this way, speculating, researching and researching and researching, bahunam janmanam, birth after birth, and when he comes to the conclusion that Krsna is the cause of all causes, vasudevah sarvam iti, sa mahatma su-durlabhah [Bg. 7.19], that mahatma is rare.
(break—continues next day)
Syamasundara: Yesterday we were discussing Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, wherein he tried simply through exercising his reason to understand the totality of things. Today we will discuss the conclusions of that particular attempt at pure reason. He says that man, after the futility of applying this categorical analysis to transcendental knowledge, then he attempts to create ideas about the universe which transcend his experience. He finds his efforts fail when he tries to understand more than material nature, so he tries to create ideals about that which transcends his experience.
Prabhupada: So he fails in the material knowledge, and then he attains transcendental knowledge. What is this?
Syamasundara: He fails to understand transcendental knowledge by applying the techniques of material knowledge.
Prabhupada: Yes. That means with material senses you cannot go to the transcendental knowledge. Then how can he form ideas of transcendence?
Syamasundara: Well, in this particular attempt Kant is trying to form those ideas purely through the reason. Pure reason.
Prabhupada: You say that material senses cannot reach transcendence. Then what is the meaning of reasoning? If your senses are imperfect, so if you put some reason by the senses, then that is also imperfect.
Syamasundara: He says that reason acts a priori, or separate from the senses, independent of the senses; that reason can understand that there is God, there is soul, etc., without use of the senses.
Prabhupada: That is possible.
Syamasundara: In fact he recognizes three such ideals of pure reason: one is the soul, two is the ultimate world or reality, and three is God. He says that these three ideals are a priori to the reason. They are born with us. We know these things.
Prabhupada: That is also true. We also accept. Nitya siddha krsna bhakti. Our tendency to offer service to the Lord, that is natural. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that He is eternal servant; therefore that tendency should be natural. But it is some way or another covered by material ignorance.
Syamasundara: He says whereas sense perception cannot provide the information about the soul and about God, pure reason can penetrate into the unknowable and provide us with conceptions in order to grasp the whole of reality.
Prabhupada: This is not very clear, that sense perception cannot reach soul. But he says that reason is beyond the senses.
Syamasundara: Yes. He says that we can grasp conceptions of God and soul and reality through the use of pure reason.
Prabhupada: How the reason is exercised?
Syamasundara: He comes to the conclusion that these ideals of perfect knowledge are set up, but they are unprovable and unknowable. We can never know any more than that, that there is God, there is soul, there is reality, but we cannot know anything more than that. We don’t have any more information than that.
Prabhupada: Anything cannot be known more than that by his personal attempt. But they can be known through a process which is called parampara.
Syamasundara: He says they cannot be known through pure reason alone. Later he admits they can be known in other ways. But purely through the exercise of reason, we cannot know that there is anything about God or anything about soul, even though we may know they exist.
Prabhupada: When God speaks, then it is possible. That is our process. We hear from God—what, where, how He is—therefore our knowledge is perfect. According to Kant, one cannot reach by reason and senses. Avan-manasa gocarah. That’s a fact. That is admitted in Vedas: avan-manasa gocarah. Vana means words, mana means mind. Neither by words, neither by the mind one can reach. But it is a fact that he is convinced there is God, so if God speaks, God descends by His causeless mercy and speaks, then you can understand about God.
Syamasundara: He comes to that point in a way by saying that he has limited all that we can know to mere phenomena, and he has therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge of God, freedom and immortality in order to find a place for faith. In other words, he says that through the reason and the senses we cannot know anything about God, soul, immortality or freedom, so the rest has to be done by faith.
Prabhupada: No. Faith, that is a compromise, you see. That is not fact. But this is good that he admits that we cannot approach the final God by our senses or reason. To have faith, that is also not perfect. Therefore the Western philosophers, they have created different faiths, and religion means faith. Somebody may believe in some faith, others may believe in another faith. But that is not factual. The factual is this: if we are actually convinced that there is God, and God is omnipotent, so by His omnipotency He descends. As it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata [Bg. 4.7] “Whenever there is discrepancies in the process of religious principles,” abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham, “when people become irreligious, at that time I descend.” He descends for two reasons: paritranaya sadhunam, for relief of the devotees. Devotees are always anxious to see God, but somehow or other they are unable to see. Of course, they are seeing God, but at the same time face to face(?). So in order to give them relief God descends to be seen face to face. The other reason is that vinasaya ca duskrtam: rascals, miscreants, to kill them. Just like Hiranyakasipu, Kamsa, Ravana, they are the symbolic representations of miscreants. So to kill them. Two things. So one may say that God is partial. No. God is not partial. God is kind to everyone, both to the devotees and to the demons. The demons being killed by God, they get immediate salvation, whereas the devotees, by seeing God, they can understand what is actually the position of God. So God displays himself factually as He does in the spiritual world in Vrndavana. His nature is to play with the cowherd boys, to dance with the gopis. These things are actually displayed, and devotees became encouraged that “After finishing this material body, we are going to Krsna, or God, to join these pastimes of the Lord.” This is called paritranaya sadhunam. Sadhus, they heard from the sastras, but Krsna practically demonstrates. So they become doubly confirmed, doubly assured what they are going to have next life. So these things, the transcendental world, God, His activities, we hear. By hearing also we realize. Because God is absolute, therefore to see Him and to hear about Him, there is no difference. There cannot be any difference. By seeing eye to eye or to hear about Him, the same thing.
Syamasundara: So after he finished his investigation about what the limits are of pure reason, then he began his critique of practical reason.
Prabhupada: This is to be understood, that however expert logician you may be, this is not possible, by your reasons, by your knowledge, to approach the Supreme Absolute. That is not possible. This process that when God descends Himself and He speaks about Himself, He demonstrates about His pastimes, then it is possible. So the Bhagavata is the record of God’s descents. The whole Bhagavata is philosophy about God, theology about God, and practical demonstration of God. Therefore anyone who takes to Srimad-Bhagavatam or the process of understanding God through Bhagavad-gita, therefore it is called Bhagavata, and it is simply about God. Bhagavad-gita, God speaks Himself about His activities, and Bhagavata is the record of God’s activities, pastimes, and when He appeared on this earth, just like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Ninth Canto. Nine cantos are devoted for understanding the transcendental nature of God, and the Tenth Canto is practical demonstration of God’s activities before the eyes of the people of the world. But those who are miscreants, they think that Krsna, or God, He is like an ordinary man but a superhuman being. That’s all. But that is actually the position of God. By His causeless mercy He demonstrates Himself to be convincing. So instead of philosophizing, the people take to these two books, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and if he practices the process, then he will understand God.
Syamasundara: After Kant finished this analysis of the pure reason, then he began his Critique of Practical Reason, of reason applied to practical living, to try to find out what were the limits of that study. This is his idea: moral laws are necessary and universal objects of the human will, which must be accepted as valid for everyone. He calls this his categorical imperative. That means that there are certain moral commandments which are universal, and which must be applied to everyone, and which everyone must obey without exception. Now, he says that we know these moral laws a priori, by intuition, and that the individual fact and the situations have no bearing, and there is no consideration of what I want or what I desire, but what I must do, what I ought to do.
Prabhupada: No. Morality varies according to the development of the particular society. There are so many immoral things going on in the particular type of society which are very, very immoral, but they do not care for it; they do it.
Syamasundara: There is no universal morality?
Prabhupada: Universal morality is to obey God, that’s all. This is universal morality.
Syamasundara: But are any of God’s laws fixed…
Prabhupada: That is included. If you obey God, then all the laws are also included. That is the universal morality. Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru: [Bg. 18.65] “Just become My servitor, always think of Me, just offer obeisances unto Me,” that is morality.
Syamasundara: Oh, that’s the basis for morality?
Prabhupada: Yes. Otherwise, there are so many immoral things going on that are accepted as morality. How can you find out?
Syamasundara: He says that there are…
Prabhupada: I do not wish to say that in the Koran it is said that “From this day you should stop intercourse with mother.”
Syamasundara: He says that there are…
Prabhupada: Does it not say in the Koran? Yes. I’ve seen one Koran translation. Such a society. Similarly, Lord Jesus Christ said that “You shall not kill.” So, so many immoral things are going on that are accepted as not sinful.
Syamasundara: He recognizes this, and he says that there are certain imperatives that we are born with, that we know are…
Prabhupada: What are these? He should say practically. The certain, imperative morality is this: that you should be obedient to God. That’s all.
Syamasundara: He says that the standard for the categorical imperative is that one should act only in such a way that he would want his action to be followed by everyone. In other words, sort of “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” That is his…
Prabhupada: This is a compromise. This is not morality.
Syamasundara: That you should act only in such a way that your action, you would want everyone in the world to act in the same way. You would want it to be a universal law.
Prabhupada: So you can allow me to do in my own way, and I allow you to do in your own way.
Syamasundara: He uses the example of breaking a promise. He says that if the opportunity is there to break a promise, I should never break the promise, because I would never want anyone else to break a promise.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is going on, man-made laws. But that is not morality. That standard of morality is one in one country and just the opposite in another country.
Syamasundara: But isn’t the breaking of a promise a universal moral command, that one should never break his promise, whether it is here or other countries?
Prabhupada: Well that’s all right, but for practical purposes they are breaking promises at every moment.
Syamasundara: Yes. He understands this, but his idea, he wants to get to the basis of morality by saying that…
Prabhupada: That is a good quality. That is brahminical quality, not to break promise, to be truthful. That is goodness.
Syamasundara: This is an example of how one should look at his actions; that he should judge his own actions according to what he would want everyone else to do, and that these must be…
Prabhupada: But it is not possible that everyone will be able to do. Just like you become truthful. It may be universal truth, but you do not expect that everyone will be truthful. That is not possible. Therefore it is not universal. It is meant for certain types of men. How can he say this is universal?
Syamasundara: But he says that the fact that I ought to do this implies that I can do it, and everyone can do it.
Prabhupada: That is nice. I ought to do it, but I cannot do it. So there is therefore a scientific method of classification of people. That is varnasrama. Certain people cannot do it, although they know they ought to do it. He is a sudra. And a man who does it practically, he is brahmana. So therefore there must be classification. This class of men, they know that this is good and they do it, and the other class, either they do not know, or even they do know, they cannot do it. So therefore there must be distinction between these two classes of men. Therefore this classification, as Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, catur-varnyam maya srstam: [Bg. 4.13] “The four classes of men, it is designed by Me.” But you cannot find all men of the same level. Therefore there must be a class of men who are to be called brahmana, a class of men who are to be called ksatriyas, a class of men who are to be called vaisyas, and a class to be called sudras. That is a natural division. Because in this world, you cannot find all men of the equal level, on the same platform. That is not possible.
Syamasundara: He says that these moral imperatives or these moral commands must be obeyed without exception.
Prabhupada: That is nice, but it is not possible.
Syamasundara: Individual circumstances should not have any bearing.
Prabhupada: Yes. Then the basic principles of civilization should be that those who are unable to do it, they should be trained up. That is our Krsna consciousness movement. We are elevating persons from the lowest level to the highest level. That we are actually doing. So these four classes of men exist, but by education, by training, the lowest class of men can be elevated to the highest class. That is our movement, Krsna consciousness.
Syamasundara: It is true that if there are certain laws, moral commandments, that I should follow them regardless of individual exception? There are no exceptions, regardless…
Prabhupada: That is brahminical qualification. A brahmana shall be truthful in all circumstances. Even before his enemy, he will disclose everything, what is truth. That is brahminical qualification, whereas ksatriya, he is a diplomat. Although he is truthful, but he will not be truthful before his enemy.
Syamasundara: Because his function is different.
Syamasundara: He says that duty is one’s individual obligation to obey the categorical imperative by choosing the morally right action. In other words, duty means it is my duty to choose the morally right action, free from emotion.
Prabhupada: Therefore, as soon as you say duty, duty should be prescribed by some higher authority. In that sense, this system is very scientific: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. It is very scientific. For brahmana, these are the duties; a ksatriya, these are the duties. Every duty may appear different, but because it is a command of the Supreme, by discharging these duties on different platform, he is serving the Supreme. If Krsna says, “All right, I see you are a brahmana. Your duties are like this,” “I see you are a ksatriya. Your duties are like this,” “I see you are a vaisya. Your duties are like this…” But Krsna says catur-varnyam maya srstam [Bg. 4.13]. I have divided, so Krsna gives duty, that “Your duty is this, your duty is this, and your duty is this.” And if he faithfully serves the duty, that means he is serving Krsna. The duties may appear different, but because he is serving Krsna, he is going to perfection. Just like in our institution, I am the head man, so I may say, “You paint. You preach. You type. You do this.” So the duties may be different, but by discharging duty, you are serving me; therefore you are perfect. Similarly, duties are given by the Supreme. Because I see that you are a sudra, you cannot discharge the duties of a brahmana. That is not possible. So you do your duty like this. So superficially it may seem that a sudra’s duty is inferior to the brahmana’s duty, but if the sudra is performing his duty in accordance to the order of the Supreme, then he is also serving. The service is the main point. The same example of our body, that the duty of eyes, seeing, it is different from the duty of the legs, walking. But walking and seeing, both of them are being utilized for the whole body; therefore all of them are useful. So there cannot be any fixed-up duty, neither is everyone able to follow the same principles. Therefore this varnasrama-dharma is very scientific. That is to be understood.
Syamasundara: So ideally it is the moral obligation of everyone to obey the moral command, but…
Prabhupada: Not moral command—the supreme command. What is moral for you, it may be immoral for others. One man’s food is another man’s poison. So therefore Krsna says to Yudhisthira, “Go and tell lies.” That is moral. Krsna says to Arjuna, “What is this nonsense? You fight. Kill them.” That is moral. So moral means to obey Krsna’s order, God’s order. That is morality. You cannot create morality. You are imperfect. Your senses are imperfect. You do not know what is actually moral. Therefore we should implicitly, blindly follow the orders of Krsna or His representative. That is moral.
Syamasundara: So the real categorical imperative is to obey the Supreme.
Prabhupada: That is right. That is moral. Other things, all immoral.
Syamasundara: He says that we must follow our duty—not mechanically, but out of respect for it.
Prabhupada: Yes. Suppose if I say that “You do this,” just like Krsna says that “You go and say Dronacarya.” So unless he has got implicit faith… Yudhisthira was lacking that implicit faith. Therefore he said, “How can I say such lies?” But Arjuna is better than Yudhisthira. He thought that “Although I am thinking it is very moral not to kill my relatives, but Krsna likes it, I must do it.” That’s all.
Syamasundara: He says that ethics or morality should be institutionalized, regardless of the individual circumstances.
Prabhupada: He comes to the circumstances. Therefore the morality should be according to the circumstances.
Syamasundara: He says the opposite: regardless of individual circumstances, everyone should follow the moral imperative. But we say that circumstances determine how one follows.
Prabhupada: Then suppose the (indistinct) state, “Thou shalt not kill.” So why killing is going on?
Syamasundara: In wars.
Prabhupada: In any circumstances. It is not that killing is stopped, although the state is meant for prohibiting killing. But there is still in the slaughterhouse killing is going on, in war killing is going on, and so many other places killing is going on.
Syamasundara: He is thinking of it more as a personal way of determining how to act, like “I should not act counter to this moral imperative.”
Prabhupada: No. Because suppose that a snake is here and it is dangerous; he’ll bite. So killing is necessary. But if you say, “No. I shall not kill this snake. Let it bite. All right, let them all die…” These are simply mental speculations. He has no perfect knowledge.
Syamasundara: He has the idea that we know what is morally right.
Prabhupada: You do not know what is morally right! Therefore you have to take instruction from Krsna, or His representative. You do not know.
Syamasundara: A priori we are not born with knowledge of what is right?
Prabhupada: No. A priori, in this sense, that imperceptively I have got obedience to Krsna, or God—everyone. That is manifested even in uncivilized men. Whenever they see a thunderbolt, they offer prayer. Just like these Africans, they are coming here, offering obeisances. That is inborn. Although we say they are not civilized, but that thing is there, that we are sadhus, or here is God. So that is there. But it is not very much manifest.
Syamasundara: So we don’t really know, but we have some idea.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is there, everywhere.
Syamasundara: He says it is not the act itself which is good or bad but the will behind the act.
Prabhupada: Yes. That will is sometimes not manifest. Therefore one has to take the help of superior person to develop that willingness.
Syamasundara: He says when we see an activity, it’s not the act that’s good or bad…
Prabhupada: Just like a child: its will is there, but it has to be developed by the teacher. So he develops his willingness to study more and more and he becomes a scholar. But the will is there already.
Syamasundara: But he says when you see an action, the act itself cannot be judged as good or bad, but the will behind the act may be good or bad. That’s how we have to judge good or bad, by the will behind the act.
Prabhupada: That is not very important subject, unless there is willing. So that good or bad also has to be trained. The conditioned soul, anyone in this material world, he is in ignorance. It is called darkness. This material world is called darkness. Everyone, more or less, they are in darkness. The Vedas therefore say, “Don’t remain in darkness. Go to the light.” And the spiritual world is light. Just like day and night. Side by side there is day and night, or sunlight and darkness. So the Vedas say “Don’t remain in darkness. Go to the light.” So willingness in darkness is imperfect. So this willingness has to be dragged to the light. That requires superior help.
Syamasundara: What he is saying by that is just like if you see a soldier killing, you can’t say that the action is good or bad, of his killing; but the will behind it—if his will is to serve the state—then the will is good, so the killing is good. But if you see the man killing someone on the street for his money, then you can say that the will is bad, so the killing is bad. So the action itself of killing is neither good nor bad, but the will behind the killing is what determines if an action is good or bad.
Prabhupada: Yes. But that will has to be trained. Otherwise he will manufacture that “I am doing this in good sense; therefore it is good.” He will manufacture his idea. That is nonsense. Therefore you require guidance.
Syamasundara: So there is no inborn idea of that is always correct.
Prabhupada: Even inborn there is, you must get it confirmed by the superior.
Syamasundara: He says that man, because he respects the moral law and practices it, is a personality having infinite dignity. He believes in the dignity of man based upon his adherence to moral principles. If a man follows moral principles, then he has dignity, which is different than any other…
Prabhupada: That is already explained, that varnasrama-dharma, because the brahmanas, they follow the good laws, therefore dignity. A brahmana is supposed to be the first-class man in the society, and therefore they are honored.
Syamasundara: He says everything else has an exchange value or a price, but man alone possesses self-direction or dignity, and this is priceless, and so we should never stoop to sell ourselves. If we sell ourselves like a commodity, then we lose our dignity.
Prabhupada: That dignity is his inherent quality of obedience to the Supreme. That we should not sacrifice. Here, modern civilization is that he knows that he is not independent, he is subordinate to God’s will. Still, artificially, to defy God he is manufacturing so many philosophies, hypocrisy.
Syamasundara: He sees that men sell themselves like commodities. In order to get something, they sell themselves.
Prabhupada: Yes. To get some popularity, to get some money, to get some adoration, he sacrifices.
Syamasundara: He says that the way man should really act is to follow the moral code, and then he has dignity, because he has self- direction. He is determined to follow the moral principles, so he has dignity.
Prabhupada: The moral codes are there. If anyone follows actually, he has dignity.
Syamasundara: He says that man belongs to what he calls the “kingdom of ends,” because he looks to the ideal, or the perfect. He sees everything in relation to the perfect end and guides his life accordingly. So the means and the end are both perfect, ideal.
Prabhupada: And what is that end? That he does not describe.
Syamasundara: He calls the end the moral law, the moral imperative.
Prabhupada: That moral law is… What is moral in one circumstance is immoral in another circumstance. That means again imperfectness of idea.
Syamasundara: He calls the end the golden rule, that one should act…
Prabhupada: That is simply abstract ideas. He does not give any concrete example.
Syamasundara: He gives the example of breaking a promise.
Prabhupada: Breaking a promise is sometime moral. Just like Krsna broke His promise, Himself. Krsna broke His promise. He promised that “In this fight, this war, I shall not take a weapon.” But when Arjuna was jeopardized by the fighting of Bhisma, He immediately took some weapon and approached Bhisma, because Bhisma promised that either Krsna has to break His promise or Arjuna will die, two things… “Tomorrow I shall fight in this way, then Arjuna will die, unless Krsna takes special step.” That means He has to break His promise. So he wanted to see that Krsna breaks His promise to protect His devotee. That was his idea. So when He broke His promise, he gave up fighting. “That was my purpose, that You have to break your promise to protect your devotee.”
Syamasundara: He says that a man should never become a mere object of utility. In other words, he should not lower his standard just because it is practical at the time.
Prabhupada: More or less, he is a strict moralist. But that is not the highest stage. One has to transcend even this moral principle. That is perfection. Because this moral value is within this material world, moral values, morality, immorality are of this material world. Just like there are three qualities. Morality is on the platform of the modes of goodness. So from higher standard, here in the modes of goodness, suppose one is brahmana, perfect brahmana, but he is in the material world. Even though he has got some moral principles, still he is existing in the material world. But according to transcendental spiritual vision, the whole material world is condemned. It is like that if one is a first-class prisoner. Just like if a politician is in prison, he is given first-class treatment, he is given special bungalow, servants, many facilities, does it mean that he is not a criminal? As soon as one comes to the prison, he’s a criminal. He may be a great politician or an ordinary pickpocket. A pickpocket is given third-class prisoner’s life, and a politician, Gandhi or Nehru or someone else, big politicians, when they are imprisoned, they are given special treatment. But on account of his being within prison walls, he is condemned. Similarly, anyone who is in this material world, either with the brahminical qualifications or sudra qualifications, he is a conditioned soul. Of course, so far conditioned life is concerned, there is value of morality and immorality. But the morality may help him to transcend, to come to the transcendental platform, but to come to the transcendental platform is not dependent on morality. It is independent of anything. Just like under the order of Krsna, fighting by Arjuna, killing his kinsmen, that is above morality.
Syamasundara: It’s like you say: morality may help him to transcend. He is beginning to perceive behind this moral law.
Prabhupada: No. From this instance we find that Arjuna was trying to become moral, not killing his own men; but that did not help him. Rather, by directly abiding by the orders of Krsna, he transcended morality. So morality does not always help.
Syamasundara: In this particular case of Kant, he begins to perceive that behind morality there is something higher. He says that even though a man is sinful…
Prabhupada: Yes. Certainly there is higher. That highness is within this material world. There are two stages, two platforms: transcendental platform and physical platform. That highness is physical. Just like Mahatma Gandhi. He was known as a very high- class man, but he was a materialist, that’s all. By his pious activities he may be elevated materially. Just like if you act piously, giving charity, then next birth you get very nice opulent birth, you are born in a rich family, you get enough money. But that is not the solution of your conditional life. To take birth in this family does not mean he hasn’t got to undergo the process of birth, the pains of birth, the pains of death. But real problem is that I want to stop these pains of birth, death, old age and disease. Hari me nana mitinatante (?). Without love of Krsna, nobody can escape these material conditions of life.
Syamasundara: So Kant is beginning to realize that, by observing that if a man does sin, nevertheless, the fact that the moral law is present somewhere in his personality, that he is able to understand it if he is rightly trained, that this in itself must be regarded as holy. This propensity to understand the moral principles is an inborn holy trait that everyone has. And he says that this self-determination is the indispensable condition of all morality, that in order to be moral one must be self-determined.
Prabhupada: That point we have already discussed, that one should be self-determined. But sometimes it is not possible to become self-determined. So first of all he does not know what is the aim of life. Suppose one becomes moral or becomes immoral. So what is the difference? I say that it is very easy for me to earn my livelihood by becoming immoral. Why shall I become moral? Then should he be condemned? If he is condemned, why is he condemned?
Syamasundara: Because he is not realizing the real nature of man, which is to be dignified and moral.
Prabhupada: But then he must say what is the real nature of man.
Syamasundara: He comes to that. He finds out what is the nature of men through his investigation of morals. He later comes to that point of understanding what is the purpose of man.
Prabhupada: What does he say is the purpose, ultimate goal of life?
Syamasundara: The ultimate goal of life is to attain its own perfection, and to attain…
Prabhupada: But he does not describe what is perfection.
Syamasundara: Perfection is happiness combined with virtue.
Prabhupada: Happiness everyone thinks. Even a drunkard, he is feeling happiness. Is that happiness? The hog, by eating stool, is feeling happiness. Is that happiness?
Syamasundara: But it is not combined with virtue.
Prabhupada: Why not virtue? If you get happiness, that is virtuous. That means he has no standard knowledge. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna [SB 5.18.12]. If a man is not a devotee of Krsna, he has no good qualities. He may be a great philosopher, scientist, but he is a nonsense. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna, mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih [SB 5.18.12]. By his mental speculation he is coming again and again on this material platform, that’s all. He has no idea what is happiness, what is goal of life, the aim of life. He has no such idea. Vague. So therefore imperfect knowledge. [break] (end)