G eorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism. He achieved wide renown in his day and, while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy, has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although he remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel sought to synthesize other philosophies to arrive at the truth, and in so doing, he concluded that everything that exists is reason; what is real is rational, and what is rational is real.
Srila Prabhupada: This means that he wanted to arrive at the Absolute in whom there is no duality. That is Krsna. Krsna says:
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
"In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium." (Bg. 4.8) He comes to earth to protect the devotees and kill the demons. Although He actually did this, we should not think that He is partial. When He killed the great demon Putana, for instance, Putana attained a position like Krsna's mother Yasoda. Because Krsna is Absolute, there is no difference between His loving Yasoda and killing Putana. Whatever He does is good: be it killing or loving. The two opposites are reconciled in Him. The Sanskrit word for this is viruddartha-sambandha.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel saw that his predecessors had become so increasingly abstract in trying to find out the nature of substance, that they had reduced substance to nothingness.
Srila Prabhupada: This was due to ignorance. That is called virasa. When one cannot understand the nature or form of God through speculation, out of frustration he says, "Oh, there is no God."
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel's predecessors analyzed an object into smaller and smaller parts until they arrived at a nonentity.
Srila Prabhupada: The fact is that the Absolute cannot be divided into parts. In Bhagavad-gita it is stated:
nainam chindanti sastrani
nainam dahati pavakah
na cainam kledayanty apo
na sosayati marutah
"The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind." (Bg. 2.23) It is possible to cut a material thing into pieces, but it is impossible to divide a spiritual being. A spiritual being is inexhaustible. The Mayavadis think that since the Absolute is all-pervading, He has no form, but this is incorrect. The Absolute can maintain His form as He is and yet expand Himself. Krsna says, maya tatamidam sarvam jagad avyakta- murtina. "By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded." (Bg. 9.4) Krsna has three features: brahmetiparamatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate ( Bhag. 1.2.11)—the impersonal, localized, and personal. Unless we come to understand this science, it is very difficult to know the forms of the Absolute Truth. One who is incompetent, who has a poor fund of knowledge, concludes that the Absolute Truth is nirakara, void, but this is not so.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel wanted to reverse the trend from abstraction to concretion. He believed that every phenomenal object has its relationship with the whole, which is reality. To understand reality, we must examine all objects and relate them to the whole and to each other.
Srila Prabhupada: That is our process. The whole is Krsna, and everything is related to Krsna. Because we see everything related to Krsna, we do not artificially renounce anything, but try to utilize everything in the service of Krsna. Although the Mayavadi philosophers say that everything is Brahman, their process is neti-neti: "Not this, not that." In this way, the Mayavadis say that Krsna and His worship are also maya. Our philosophy is that everything is a manifestation of Krsna's energy; the energy and the energetic are one. Narada explained:
idam hi visvam bhagavan ivetaro
tad dhi svayam veda bhavams tathapi te
pradesa-matram bhavatah pradarsitam
"The Supreme Lord Personality of Godhead is Himself this cosmos, and still He is aloof from it. From Him only has this cosmic manifestation emanated, in Him it rests, and unto Him it enters after annihilation. Your good self knows all about this. I have given only a synopsis." (Bhag. 1.5.20) The whole universe is Bhagavan, Krsna, but it appears to be separate. How it is not separate can be understood through Krsna consciousness. Ordinary men think of Krsna and non-Krsna, but there is no non-Krsna. That is illusion. Everything is Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, nothing can be separated from the spiritual whole because everything is related to it. For Kant, phenomenon is the mode in which things-in-themselves represent themselves to the individual.
Srila Prabhupada: It is explained in Bhagavad-gita that Krsna has two energies: the spiritual and the material. His spiritual energy is described as superior, and His material energy as inferior. These designations are given for our consideration because we cannot understand otherwise, but the fact is that there is only one energy: the superior spiritual energy. When this spiritual energy is covered by ignorance, it is called material energy. The sky is naturally clear, and we can normally see the sun, but when there are clouds, we cannot see it. Still, the sun is there. When we cannot see Krsna or understand Him, we experience what is called the material energy. The fact is that there is nothing material because everything is Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel says that objects themselves are the spirit expressing itself in objective nature, whereas Kant maintains that the spirit expresses itself through objects. There is a distinction made between the spirit within the object expressing itself, and the spirit as the object.
Srila Prabhupada: The object as it is is spirit. In one sense, the sunshine is not the sun, but at the same time, it is not different from the sun because it is the sun's heat and light. Therefore our philosophy is acintya- bhedabheda-tattva: simultaneously one and different. All these objects are actually spirit, but if we have no sense of Krsna, we consider them to be material. Sometimes people criticize us for using material devices like dictaphones, typewriters, and airplanes, but we reply that these things are spiritual. If they are used for our sense gratification, they are material, but if used in relation to Krsna, they are spiritual. It is the consciousness that is important. Rupa Gosvami says:
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
vairagyam phalgu kathyate
"One is said to be situated in the fully renounced order of life if he lives in accordance with Krsna consciousness. He should be without attachment for sense gratification and should accept only what is necessary for the upkeep of the body. On the other hand, one who renounces things which could be used in the service of Krsna, under the pretext that such things are material, does not practice complete renunciation." ( Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255-256) Everything has its relationship with Krsna. Rejecting everything as false is artificial renunciation. Our method is to renounce things for our sense gratification, but accept everything for Krsna's satisfaction. Krsna says:
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
"One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman." (Bg. 14.26) As soon as we engage fully in devotional service, we are immediately spiritualized. When we are in devotional service, the spiritual quality of everything is revived. In truth, everything is spirit, but it is covered by our material consciousness, just as gold may be covered by mud. If we cleanse the heart, we immediately understand that things are spiritual. In material consciousness, we conceive of ourselves as Americans, Indians, men, women, and so on, but when we come to our spiritual consciousness, we realize, "I am Krsna's servant." Thus we understand that we are spiritual. These material conceptions are like dreams. When we are dreaming, we may think that we are this or that, or that we are performing so many acts, but when we awake, we understand our real identity. Because we are part and parcel of Krsna, we have no duty other than to serve Krsna. When this consciousness comes, everything is spiritual.
Hayagriva dasa: In Philosophy of Religion, Hegel writes: "God is a living God, who is acting and working. Religion is a product of the divine spirit; it is not a discovery of man, but a work of divine operation and creation in Him (God)."
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is very important to understand that a man cannot manufacture religion. We define religion as "the orders given by God." As stated in Bhagavad-gita:
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
"Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time, I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I appear Myself millennium after millennium." (Bg. 4.7-8) This is religion. Religion rests on the orders of Krsna, or God, and if you strictly follow Krsna's instructions, you are religious, pious, and transcendental. If you defy Krsna and manufacture your own religion, you are asuric, demoniac.
Syamasundara dasa: According to Plato's and Kant's philosophy, these temporary objects are representations of an ideal. This table, for instance, represents or expresses the ideal table, but it is not the ideal itself.
Srila Prabhupada: We also say that this material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. It is like a mirage. Sridhara Svami said that it is due to the actuality of the spiritual world that this illusory world appears to be true. Because there is in reality a real table, we can perceive this table. Although the entire material creation is but a perverted reflection of the reality, people are enamored by it. People take this to be a real table, a real body, a real society, real happiness, and so on.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel would say that these are genuine externalizations of the reality, that this is a real table and that these are real objects. It is not that they are images of the real, but that they themselves are real.
Srila Prabhupada: What does he mean by real? For us, reality means that which does and will exist. If this is not the case, it is not real.
nasato vidyate bhavo
nabhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drsto 'ntas
tv anayos tattva-darsibhih
"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both." (Bg. 2.16) Reality refers to that which exists eternally. This table exists temporarily; therefore it cannot be classified as reality. It is like a dream or hallucination because it is temporary. We cannot say that a dream is real, although in a dream everything appears to be real.
Syamasundara dasa: But isn't there a table on the spiritual platform? An absolute table?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, in Krsna's abode there are tables, chairs, all kinds of furniture eternally existing. But these things are manifest here only temporarily.
Syamasundara dasa: Which is correct? Does the spirit express itself in this object, or is it that the spirit is this object?
Srila Prabhupada: The object is an expression of the spiritual energy. Whatever is manifest is the energy of Krsna, but one energy is eternal, and another energy is temporary. That which is manifest temporarily is material, and that which is manifest eternally is spiritual.
Syamasundara dasa: So, in that sense, can you say that this table is made of spirit, but at the same time is not?
Srila Prabhupada: Originally, it is made of spirit in the sense that Krsna is the whole spirit, and because it is Krsna's energy, it is factually Krsna. You may make various images out of clay. You may mold pots and bricks, and they may be manifest temporarily as pots and bricks, but originally they are clay, and when they are destroyed, they will again merge into their original condition. There are three conditions: the formless condition, the form, and again a merging into the formless. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Krsna tells Lord Brahma:
aham evasam evagre
nanyad yat sad-asat param
pascad aham yad etac ca
yo 'vasisyeta so 'smy aham
"It is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead." (Bhag. 2.9.33) So, Krsna existed in the beginning of the creation; He maintains the creation; and when the creation is annihilated, He continues to exist.
Syamasundara dasa: Therefore the Mayavadis would say that this table is maya?
Srila Prabhupada: They say that it is maya, but we say that it is temporary.
Syamasundara dasa: But there's also a spiritual world full of form?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but the Mayavadis do not know of this. What is the source of these forms? The Vedanta-sutra [1.1.2] states: janmady asya. Form comes from the original source. These forms that we see here are not eternal forms. They are imitations, perverted reflections of eternal forms. A reflection is not eternal.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel says that these forms are not eternal but that the interaction of forms is an eternal process.
Srila Prabhupada: A mirage is neither factual nor eternal, but there is factual and eternal water. Otherwise, how could anyone have a conception of water?
Syamasundara dasa: But if the universe is rational and everything has a purpose, this temporary form is also spiritual because it has some kind of purpose.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are utilizing everything for Krsna's purpose. Our proposal is to make the best use of a bad bargain.
Syamasundara dasa: But what if a person doesn't know the purpose? Is the object still spiritual?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Whether a person knows or does not know, fact is fact. We have only to receive knowledge from one who knows. All objects are spiritual, but one who does not have knowledge does not have the eyes to see that spirituality.
Syamasundara dasa: Then, is God's plan unfolding itself everywhere, whether we understand it or not?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, He reveals Himself in Bhagavad-gita, and He sends His representative to unfold His plan. The essence of things is spiritual, but our imperfect vision makes things material.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believes that everything has a purpose, that the whole universe is rational, and that it is unfolding under the direction of reason, the spirit of the Absolute.
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. Only rascals think that there is no purpose in life, that everything is a result of chance.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, in order to understand this reality, we must examine the interrelationships of things.
Srila Prabhupada: We are also teaching that. The origin of everything is Krsna, and Krsna's energetic expansions constitute everything.
parasya brahmanah saksaj
jata-vedo 'si havyavat
yajnena purusam yajeti
"O fire-god, you are a part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, and you carry to Him all the offerings of sacrifices. Therefore we request you to offer to Him the sacrificial ingredients we are offering the demigods, for the Lord is the real enjoyer." (Bhag. 5.20.17) Physical existence is heat and light, and these energies emanate from Krsna, the original light. Everything material and spiritual is composed of heat and light. One who has eyes to see that which is spiritual can see.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel attempted to establish the relationship between concrete realities. Isolated facts, or moments, as he calls them, can never constitute the truth because the truth is the whole, an integrated unity that is organic and dynamic.
Srila Prabhupada: Just by analyzing ourselves, we can understand that I, the soul, am existing and that my bodily features are changing. When things change, we call them material. The spirit soul exists in all conditions, and that is the difference between spirit and matter.
Syamasundara dasa: Moments, factors in the organic whole, progress in an evolutionary way according to the course set by reason, which Hegel calls the Welt Geist, the World Spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: That World Spirit is a person. Unless you accept a personal God, there is no question of reason. The reason guiding everything in the universe is explained in Bhagavad-gita: mayadhyaksenaprakrtih. "This material nature is working under My direction." ( Bg. 9.10) Direction means reason; therefore as soon as you speak of reason, you must accept the Supreme Person who is directing everything according to His supreme reason.
Syamasundara dasa: Would you say that all world events are expressions of this World Spirit, or world reason, unfolding itself? If so, what is the ultimate purpose of that plan?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is a plan, otherwise why would Krsna say adhyaksena, superintendence? There is a plan, direction, and also reason. The living entities are part and parcel of Krsna, and somehow or other they wanted to enjoy this material world. Therefore Krsna has given them a chance, just as a father gives a chance to his small children to play. Krsna says:
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
"I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." (Bg. 15.15) The whole plan is that Krsna gives the living entity freedom to play and then again come home. He says, "All right, you want to play, but when you are tired of all this nonsense, give it up and come back to Me." This world is like a playground for conditioned souls, and the body is like a small field (ksetra) on which the living entity wants to play.
idam sariram kaunteya
ksetram ity abhidhiyate
etad yo vetti tam prahuh
ksetra-jna iti tad-vidah
"This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field." (Bg. 13.2) The material body is nothing but a field of action, and Krsna says, "All right, utilize this field and enjoy yourself. When you are exhausted playing in this field, you can have another." In this way, the living entity is changing bodies, changing different fields of action.
Syamasundara dasa: Is this play aimless, or is there gradual evolution?
Srila Prabhupada: There is a goal. Krsna gives us knowledge, and the Vedas are also there. Krsna says, "This play is not very healthy; therefore I request that you give it up and come back to Me." This is the plan.
Syamasundara dasa: According to the Hegelian dialectic, being and nothing are empty abstractions. Being is the thesis, nothing is the antithesis, and the synthesis is change, becoming.
Srila Prabhupada: The question of becoming arises because we are now in this awkward, marginal position. Although I am eternal, I have been trapped by something mortal. Consequently, I am changing my position, and this is called transmigration. When I cease transmigrating, I attain my own true being, which is eternal.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believes that when the dialectic is exhausted, it reveals the whole, unified Absolute Truth. But since nature is constantly unfolding, guided by the World Spirit, the dialectic process continues indefinitely.
Srila Prabhupada: In other words, you cannot find out the ultimate synthesis. Therefore you have to receive information from sastra. The thesis is that the soul within the body is immortal, and the antithesis is that the body is mortal. The liberation of the soul from the body is the synthesis. When we understand that we are in an awkward position within this material world, we strive for liberation. Unless we understand that we are entrapped, there is no question of liberation.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel understood the Absolute Truth to be always changing and yet always permanent.
Srila Prabhupada: The Absolute does not change. Even we are permanent. Being part and parcel of Krsna, we are permanent even though we are moving about in these material bodies. Although Krsna manifests Himself in various expansions, He remains the same.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel saw the Absolute Truth unfolding itself in history, biology, sociology, and other sciences.
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is in the center of everything, and everything is emanating from Krsna. Temporary manifestations come from Krsna and then return to Krsna. History is simply repetition.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, God, or the Absolute Truth, manifests in three forms: the idea-in-itself, the idea-for-itself, and the idea-in-and-for-itself.
Srila Prabhupada: This means that he is trying to create God. For him, God is an idea. Is this his philosophy? The Mayavadis also believe that actually there is no God, that God is created by man's imagination, that He is impersonal or dead. So many people are busy creating God. Vivekananda, for instance, claimed Ramakrishna to be God.
Hayagriva dasa: In maintaining that God's essence is "thought and thinking"—despite whatever images God may assume—Hegel is basically an impersonalist. He writes: "God is in His very essence thought and thinking, however His image and configuration be determined otherwise."
Srila Prabhupada: If God is Absolute, His image is also Absolute and also God. If God is Absolute, His words are also Absolute and are non-different from Him. The image of God worshipped in the temple is God Himself because God is Absolute. God says that earth, water, fire, and everything else is His energy, and even if we think that the image of God is made of stone, we must acknowledge that the stone is God's energy. Even though a copper wire may not be electricity, it carries electricity, and if you touch it, you will understand it to be nondifferent from electricity. We may think materially that an object is different from God, but spiritually, everything is God.
arcye visnau siladhir gurusu
nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhih
"One who considers the arca-murti or worshipable Deity of Lord Visnu to be stone, the spiritual master to be an ordinary human being, and a Vaisnava to belong to a particular caste or creed, is possessed of hellish intelligence and is doomed." (Padma Purana) We should not look upon the Deity as something material, as stone (sila). As soon as Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the Jagannatha Deity, Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately fainted. In order to realize God's omnipresence, we must be trained to follow God's instructions. It appears that Hegel is theorizing that God is an idea, but God is substance.
Syamasundara dasa: And what do you mean by substance?
Srila Prabhupada: Substance is something concrete. You may form an idea of a golden mountain, but there,is a difference between that idea and the golden mountain itself. When you actually see and touch a golden mountain, it is a fact. That fact is substance.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, there is idea, substance, and the synthesis, which is spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: According to our philosophy, spirit is realized in three phases: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Realizing Brahman is like realizing the sunshine, which is impersonal. Realizing Paramatma is like realizing the sun disc itself, which is localized. However, if we have the capacity to enter the sun, we will see the sun god himself, and this may be compared to Bhagavan realization, the personal feature of God. Once we realize the personal feature, we automatically understand the impersonal and localized features. According to Brahma-samhita (5.40), the impersonal brahmajyoti is the bodily rays of Krsna. Similarly, Paramatma is the localized feature of Krsna sitting in everyone's heart. The sun is one, not many, but it is capable of being reflected in countless waterpots. One who sees the sun's reflections in the pots may think, "Oh, there are millions of suns." One who has seen only the sunshine thinks of the sun impersonally. But when one knows the sun god, he has attained personal realization. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is a person, Sri Krsna. When you have a clear conception of God, you understand this. You cannot make God into an idea. Ideas arise because there is substance.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel uses the word "idea" to refer to rational form, which precedes material or physical form.
Srila Prabhupada: It is stated in Brahma-samhita that Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has form (vigraha), but what kind of form is this? Isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid -ananda-vigrahah. "Krsna is the Supreme Godhead, and He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body." (Brahma-samhita 5.1)Sat means eternal. Presently, we have bodies which areasat, temporary, but Krsna's body is different from ours. The word ananda means blissful; Krsna is always blissful. And cit means knowledge; Krsna knows everything. In this way, He is different from us. He is not an idea but substance itself.
Syamasundara dasa: When we were discussing Plato, you agreed that the ideal precedes the physical representation.
Srila Prabhupada: From the sastras we learn that there is a spiritual world, and that this material world is a perverted reflection of that world. From the sastras we also understand that the houses in the spiritual world are made of cintamani. Cintamani prakara-sadmasu . In this world, we have no experience of cintamani [philosophers' stone], a stone that turns other metals to gold, but we may have some idea by hearing from authorities. It is not that we manufacture or think up the spiritual world. In other words, we have ideas of substances which we may not have seen.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, spirit generates ideas and actualizes them.
Srila Prabhupada: We say that everything comes from Krsna. Why just ideas and substances? Why this or that? Why so many distinctions? Everything comes from Him. Unless there is substance in the spiritual world, nothing could exist. In the final analysis, we have to accept the fact that everything is emanating from the substance. Janmady asya. All ideas can be traced back to the original substance, which is Krsna. Therefore Krsna says, "Everything is emanating from Me." If you attain Krsna, therefore, you attain the ultimate substance. If you understand God, you understand everything.
Syamasundara dasa: Then you would say that form precedes idea, not that idea precedes form?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, form precedes idea. Krsna says, sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca. "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness." (Bg. 15.15) As far as man is concerned, he cannot invent anything. He can only discover things that are already there.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel sees idea and substance opposing one another as thesis and antithesis; spirit is the synthesis containing both.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we agree. Viruddhartha-sambandha. Contradictory things are adjusted in Krsna; therefore we say that Krsna is inconceivable. He is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. Since it is impossible to conceive of these things in the material world, they are called inconceivable.
Syamasundara dasa: Then, if we can conceive of something, must it exist somewhere?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. It is a fact that you cannot conceive of anything that does not have existence. In this material world, we understand that one plus one equals two, and that one minus one equals zero, but in the spiritual world, this law does not apply. There, one plus one equals one, and one minus one equals one.
Syamasundara dasa: But what of the idea that God is evil? Can I conceive of this?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, God is also evil, but not according to our understanding. God is Absolute, and evil and good are reconciled in Him. We cannot say that because we think of God as evil that He is evil. Rather, we say that He is all good because He is Absolute.
Syamasundara dasa: What of the idea that God does not exist?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is a fact that He does not exist as far as rascals are concerned. Since a rascal cannot understand God, God does not exist for him.
Syamasundara dasa: What of the idea that I am God?
Srila Prabhupada: That is also a fact because you are part and parcel of God. You may say, "I am an American," and President Nixon can also say, "I am an American," but this does not mean that you are President Nixon. It is madness to claim such a thing.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning God and man, Hegel writes: "God is only God insofar as He knows Himself; His self-knowledge is moreover His consciousness of Himself in man, and man's knowledge of God, a knowledge that extends itself into the self-knowledge of man in God."
Srila Prabhupada: If he accepts the existence of God and man, why does he not agree to receive knowledge of God from God Himself? Why speculate? To possess knowledge of God, man had best take knowledge from God Himself. Yet Hegel is opposed to receiving knowledge or instructions from an exterior source. It stands to reason that if you want to know about me and my nature, you had best take knowledge from me personally instead of speculating. In Bhagavad-gita, God explains Himself, and if we accept this knowledge, which is given by God, our knowledge of God will be perfect. Why waste time speculating?
Hayagriva dasa: Perhaps without speculation, a philosopher wouldn't be able to write so many books.
Srila Prabhupada: No. When you have perfect knowledge, you can write perfectly. Without perfect knowledge, your writings will simply be nonsensical. If there is any meaning in our books, it is there because we are not speculating about God but are understanding God from God Himself. This is theparampara system. According to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura,saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair ( Sri Gurv-astaka 7). All scriptures accept the guru, the spiritual master, as the Supreme Lord Himself because he does not concoct anything. He is the servant of God, and his knowledge is given by God. If Hegel accepts the fact that he is a man and that God exists, he should logically receive knowledge about God from God Himself.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, the absolute idea, the idea-in-and-for-itself, manifests itself in the objective mind in the form of laws, morality, and social ethics, and the free will develops in these areas.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is the field of the free will. As soon as we accept a controller, all these are manifest. Laws will come, morality will come, and social ethics will come. Since atheists do not accept the controller, they act immorally. Unless we have a platform on which to execute the free will, there is no meaning to free will. There must be some law, some system of morality. At the same time, Krsna told Arjuna to do whatever he decides (Bg. 18.63). That is free will. After explaining Bhagavad- gita to him, Krsna told him that the choice was his.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel placed a great deal of emphasis on human freedom. He accused the "Orientals," specificially the Hindus, of not knowing "that the spirit is free in itself or that man is free in himself. Because they do not know it, they are not free."
Srila Prabhupada: He speaks of human freedom, but he is subjected to birth, old age, disease, and death. Where is his freedom when he dies?
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel writes that "only the Germanic nations have in and through Christianity achieved the consciousness that man qua man is free and that freedom of the spirit constitutes his very nature."
Srila Prabhupada: According to the Christian religion, a man has the freedom either to go to heaven or to hell. That is, he has the freedom to make a choice. However, if he goes to hell, where is his freedom? Every citizen has the freedom either to live as a free citizen or to go to jail, but if one goes to jail, where is freedom? His freedom is dependent on someone else who gives him a chance to either remain free or go to prison. Our freedom is relative, and God is the supreme absolute controller. It is God who gives the living entity the freedom to make his choice. The living entity is never completely free, as God is.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel criticized Hinduism as a theocracy in which man is handed laws from an exterior God; for Hegel, this is a blind following of an exterior will, a following not confirmed within the individual himself. He believed that man could best attain God through the exercise of his own free will.
Srila Prabhupada: If this is the case, why can't animals attain God? They are also given a free will.
Hayagriva dasa: He claims that animals have no will.
Srila Prabhupada: If they have no will, why do they go different directions?
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel even went further to say in The Philosophy of Right and Law that animals have no right to life because they have no will.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, you must determine what is life. Animals are eating, sleeping, defending, and mating just as we are. A small ant has all the life symptoms that we have. Who is to say that a man has more right to live than an ant? The life symptoms are the same.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, the individual conscience evaluates itself and sets its own standard of morality.
Srila Prabhupada: Our morality is not like that because we accept morality from a higher authority. Our morality is standardized. Krsna says, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66) This is the morality we accept. The laws of man are imperfect, but God's are perfect. Why should we accept the imperfect advice of other men?
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel sees the subjective mind dealing with inner experiences, the objective mind with exterior, and the absolute mind dealing with both, and uniting them.
Srila Prab hupada: That is correct. Anyone can understand that this is the case with the Absolute.
Syamasundara dasa: This Absolute expresses itself in three forms: art, religion, and philosophy. In art, the Absolute assumes the form we call beauty.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we define God as all beautiful.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel considers religion to be like an art form. Whereas philosophy conceives or thinks of the Absolute, religion represents or pictures it.
Srila Prabhupada: Without a philosophical basis, religion is simply sentiment.
Syamasundara dasa: He maintains that art is an expression of spirit.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, everything is an expression of spirit. How is that a definition of art?
Syamasundara dasa: What about a tree? Can we say that a tree is the artful display of the Absolute?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, a tree is also a form of art. Krsna is the supreme artist also.
Syamasundara dasa: The absolute mind expresses itself through religion, which presents the Absolute Truth as representations in our consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Religion means accepting God. If he thinks that religion is a mere representation in our consciousness, he has no clear idea of religion. Abiding by the laws of God is religion.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, the highest form in which the Absolute manifests itself is philosophy, which is the synthesis of art and religion.
Srila Prabhupada: Philosophy also means obeying the orders of God. Anything else is dry speculation. God says, "Thou shalt not kill." If we are religious, we stop killing. However, if we understand why we should not kill, we are philosophic. There are many people who accept Krsna as God, but an advanced devotee understands Krsna, and therefore he is very dear to Krsna. But highest of all is love of Krsna. The gopis were not philosophers, but they loved Krsna without ulterior consideration. Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself expressed this love of Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: Once, you said that even higher than philosophy is the practice of philosophy.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the gopis were practicing philosophy because they were loving Krsna. Moreover, they were enjoying the results of philosophy.
Hayagriva dasa: Since the body is the soul's instrument, Hegel considered injury to the body to be injury to the person himself. In The Philosophy of Right and Law, he says: "It is but vain sophistry that says that the real person—the soul—cannot be injured by maltreatment offered to one's body....Violence done to the body is really done to me."
Srila Prabhupada: Then what is the justification for killing animals?
Hayagriva dasa: He would say that a person can possess his body because he can put his will into it. Animals, however, have no right to life because they do not put their will into the possession of their bodies.
Srila Prabhupada: If that is the case, why do animals object when you kill them? What kind of philosophy is he expounding?
Hayagriva dasa: He says that mankind has the right of absolute proprietorship. He writes: "A thing belongs to the accidental first comer who gets it, because a second comer cannot take possession of what is already the property of another."
Srila Prabhupada: In other words, might makes right. But consider, how would you take ownership of gold? First of all, you must hunt out gold that has no proprietor. You must inquire who the actual proprietor of the gold is. You may claim first proprietorship, but the gold was there in the first place. Whose property is it? Who made the gold and kept it before you came along?
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel would say that "the first comer is not legal owner by virtue of his being the first comer, but because he has free will." That is, it is mine because I put my will into it.
Srila Prabhupada: That's all right, but someone made the gold and kept it before you went to capture it. Since this was the case, by willing it to be yours, or by taking it, you become a common thief, not a philosopher. Our claim to proprietorship is false because we are neither the creators nor maintainers of property.
Syamasundara dasa: As far as action is concerned, activity in accordance with conscience is proper activity for Hegel.
Srila Prabhupada: A thief becomes accustomed to stealing, and therefore his conscience says, "Yes, I must steal. It is my right." The conscience of a murderer tells him to murder. Originally, the Bible said, "Thou shalt not kill," but people have created a conscience by which they can think, "Yes, killing is all right." Conscience is created by association. If our association is good, we create a good conscience, and if it is bad, we create a bad conscience. There is no absolute standard for the conscience. Conscience means discriminating power.
Syamasundara dasa: He maintains that there is an absolute conscience, which is pure rationality.
Srila Prabhupada: Pure rationality is Krsna consciousness. Unless we come to that platform, so-called conscience and philosophy have no value.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believes that punishment for crime is justified because it vindicates justice and restores rights.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore when one kills an animal, he should be prepared to be killed. That is justice. According to the Manu-samhita, it is justice to hang a murderer. It is unjust to save him because if he is not hanged in this life, he escapes justice, and has to suffer severely in the next. In order to be saved from many troubles in the next life, the murderer should be killed. The king who is hanging him is doing him justice in rendering a life for a life. But according to Vedic philosophy, if one kills an animal, he should also be prepared to be killed. A sane man would not run such a risk.
Syamasundara dasa: If I observe in nature that living entities are killing one another to eat, it only seems rational that I should be able to eat animals.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, Vedic philosophy also accepts the fact that one living being is food for another.
phalguni tatra mahatam
jivo jivasya jivanam
"Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another." (Bhag. 1.13.47) But this does not mean that you should kill your son and eat him. There must be discrimination. It is nature's law that we have to eat other living beings in order to exist; therefore we can eat fruit and vegetables. We can take these without killing the trees and plants. But if we eat animals, we have to kill them. The point is that we should act intelligently to make the best of a bad bargain. We take fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk products, and offer them to Krsna. If there is any responsibility, it is Krsna's. After offering the food to Krsna, we then accept it as prasadam.
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat
"The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin." (Bg. 3.13) If you cook for yourself, you have to take all the responsibility for your sinful activity, even if you are a vegetarian. We therefore take the remnants of yajna, sacrifice, and in this way we perform yajna. It is not that we prepare food directly for our own consumption.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel was a strong believer in the right of man to choose his own occupation. He writes: "In the Platonic State, subjective freedom was of no account, since the government assigned to each individual his occupation. In many Oriental states, this assignment results from birth. The subjective choice which ought to be respected requires free choice by individuals."
Srila Prabhupada: The occupations are already given, but you have the freedom to select one of them. Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita:
catur-varnyam maya srstam
"According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me." ( Bg. 4.13) One can make his selection according to his qualifications. A man can become an engineer, for instance, when he becomes qualified to do the work. The words used are guna-karma: the work is determined by one's qualities, not by birth. It is not that one automatically becomes a brahmana because he is born in a brahmana family. Rather, he has a better chance of being trained as a brahmana if his father is a brahmana, just as one stands a better chance of being trained as a musician or a cobbler if those are his father's occupations. However, it is not that a cobbler cannot become a brahmana. If he acquires the qualifications, he should be considered a brahmana. Nor is it that a brahmana' s son necessarily becomes a brahmana without qualification. The point is that we must first attain the qualifications and then work accordingly.
Syamasundara dasa: Concerning the state, Hegel writes: "The state is the realization of the ethical ideal....We must therefore worship the state as the manifestation of the divine on earth."
Srila Prabhupada: First, we have to understand the duty of the state. If it is accepted that the state is the representative of God, the state's first business is to make its citizens God conscious. Any state that neglects this duty should be immediately rejected as unqualified. The leader may either be a president or a king—it doesn't matter. In Vedic culture, the king is called naradeva, God in human form, and he is offered respect in that way. A king is respected because he is considered God's representative. We also present ourselves as Krsna's representative. And what is our duty? To lift others to God consciousness.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel recommended a constitutional monarch to be the executor for the World Spirit, but he was so vague that even Hitler could utilize his political philosophy to his ends.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, the monarch has to be educated. Hitler came not as a king but a usurper. Nowadays, any rascal can assume power. Because the leaders are not trained to protect the citizens, the whole world is in trouble. A leader can whimsically declare war and involve all the citizens. In Vedic monarchy, there is a kind of disciplic succession wherein the king trains his son, and in this way he can govern properly.
Syamasundara dasa: According to Hegel, in a well-ordered monarchy, only the law has objective power; the king is simply the servant of the law.
Srila Prabhupada: That is constitutional monarchy, a showbottle king. If a king is God conscious and is trained up properly and has complete power, he is a rajarsi. In Bhagavad-gita, it is mentioned that the ancient saintly kings had understood this science of Krsna consciousness (Bg. 4.2). They were not ordinary men. The king was supposed to have been saintly. He had to understand the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and introduce an educational system so that the people could understand the science of God. That is the very first duty of the state and king. It is also stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that one should not become a head of state, a father, or a guru if he cannot save his wards from the imminent danger of death (Bhag. 5.5.18). We are now entangled in repeated birth and death, and it is the state's duty to promote liberation from this cycle.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel considers it the purpose of the state and king to apply the moral law.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the duty of the king, but the leaders in modern democratic states are concerned only with exacting taxes. It is stated in the sastras that if the leaders keep the citizens morally blind and exact taxes from them, the leaders will go to ruination. Because they are sinfully earning money, they suffer in this life and the next. Similarly, when the guru accepts disciples, he takes the responsibility for their sinful reactions. When a king levies taxes, he takes a share of the sinful reactions of the citizens. If the citizens are pious, both the king and the citizens will profit. If not, if it is a case of the blind leading the blind, they will lead one another to hell. The main point is that the head of state should be a representative of God, and his duty should be to train citizens to become God conscious.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel also maintains that each state should be independent in itself and not be subordinate to other states.
Srila Prabhupada: Every state may be independent in an individual capacity, but every state is dependent on God's order. If the states are representatives of God, how can they be independent?
Syamasundara dasa: He claims that there is no higher body to judge the states, and that their differences must be settled by war.
Srila Prabhupada: There is a higher authority if there is religion, philosophy, and learned brahmanas.
Syamasundara dasa: He can see no potential world authority.
Srila Prabhupada: That is because the Vedic varnasrama dharma has been rejected. According to that system, the brahminical culture was superior to the ksatriya culture. The brahmanas are to advise the kings. Because people have rejected the Vedic system, they say that there is no authority.
Syamasundara dasa: Well, there was no judge to settle the dispute between Rama and Ravana, and that resulted in war.
Srila Prabhupada: The judge was Lord Ramacandra Himself. He is God.
Syamasundara dasa: In a sense, Hegel glorifies war. "War protects the people from the corruption which an everlasting peace would bring upon them," he says.
Srila Prabhupada: At the conclusion of the battle of Kuruksetra, Sanjaya points out that wherever there is Krsna, there will be victory (Bg. 18.78). If there is a war, the party that is God conscious will be victorious. If neither side is God conscious, it is a demonic war. It is not justified; it is just like a cat and dog fight. If we fight, we should fight on behalf of the Supreme God. That is called dharma-yuddha. Arjuna did not want to fight, but Krsna told him, "I am on your side. Fight." Arjuna was victorious because God was on his side.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, because the conflict itself is purifying, it has some ethical value. He writes, "By war, the ethical health of the nation is preserved, and its finite aims uprooted."
Srila Prabhupada: Then he wants continuous war? If that is the case, Hitler is a first-class man. But why is he condemned? Of course, in the material world, there are opposing elements, and therefore there must be war. It is not that war can be stopped. Rather, the party that has Krsna's support will emerge victorious. We don't say that you can stop war, but that if you fight, you should fight on behalf of Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: But what of Hegel's view that progress comes only through conflict, and that peace means stagnation?
Srila Prabhupada: We do not agree that peace is stagnation. Our peace is working for Krsna. That is real peace. We are educating people to understand that Krsna is our friend, and this is not stagnation. Telling people about Krsna is our peace.
Syamasundara dasa: Are we not in a state of war with material nature, maya?
Srila Prabhupada: We don't fight with maya. Those who are under maya's clutches and who are being kicked by maya are struggling with maya. We have nothing to do with maya.
daivi hy esa gunamayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it." (Bg. 7.14) If maya does not disturb us, what is the point of fighting?
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel looks on world history as the supreme tribunal, the higher judge of events. History will bear out the worth of an empire and national policy.
Srila Prabhupada: We say that whatever empire comes will certainly fall. There is no need to study history to know that. A godless empire will never endure.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel considered history and theology to be intrinsic. History is "a justification of God," and tells the story of man's elevation to God. Without the history of man, God would be alone and lifeless. Since God is not transcendental but is manifest in the world, He depends on human history.
Srila Prabhupada: But if God is dependent on human history, how can He be God? God is always independent. Janmady asya yato 'nvayaditaratas carthesv abhijnah sva- rat (Bhag. 1.1.1). If He is dependent on anything, He is not God.
Hayagriva dasa: Does the history of man necessarily make any sense? Hegel looked on history as evolutionary.
Srila Prabhupada: As soon as there is creation, there is history. This history will continue until the universe is annihilated. We may superficially consider history as existing from the beginning to the end of the universal manifestation, just as we may consider our personal history to extend from our birth to our death, but God is not subjected to such a history. It is not that God is created at a certain point and then annihilated. Since God is eternal, there is no question of history in respect to Him. History is for the finite, for things that have a past, present, and future. Since there is no past, present, and future for God, there is no history. You must have a past, present, and future in order to have history.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believes that the dominant nation in any epoch represents a dominant phase of the Absolute at that time. For instance, if the United States is currently predominant, the Absolute is being expressed through the United States.
Srila Prabhupada: Aeons ago, the Absolute Truth was connected to the dominant nation. That is, to Maharaja Pariksit. Because Maharaja Pariksit and Maharaja Yudhisthira were representing God, they could dominate the entire world. Now all that is lost, and today there are many small states that are not God conscious; therefore they are fighting each other like cats and dogs. Still, it is a fact that Vedic kings like Maharaja Ramacandra, Maharaja Prthu, Maharaja Yudhisthira, and Maharaja Pariksit were actually representatives of God. In those days, one king ruled the entire world. Therefore there was no trouble.
Syamasundara dasa: Could America's dominance in this century be attributed to God's will?
Srila Prabhupada: Whenever we see some extraordinary power, we should understand that it is derived from God's power. We may therefore say that the predominance of America is due to God's favor. However, if Americans spread Krsna consciousness and make their president Krsna conscious, America will be God's empowered nation. Let the president be Krsna conscious. Why not? Educate the American people to be Krsna conscious and elect a Krsna conscious president. This Krsna consciousness movement is in your hands, and it is up to you to utilize it and become the factual leaders of the world. It was my mission to go to America and educate the Americans in Krsna consciousness because I knew that if they become Krsna conscious, the whole world will follow. You are young men, and this mission is in your hands. A few Communists like Stalin and Lenin formed a big Communist Party, and now this Party is dominating most of the world. It was started simply by a few men. Now many of you young Americans have understood this God conscious philosophy, and it is up to you to spread this movement. You should not become stagnant, thinking, "Now I have understood Krsna consciousness. Now let me sit down and just chant Hare Krsna." This is not desired. Go spread Krsna consciousness, and in this way glorify your nation.
Syamasundara dasa: According to Hegel's aesthetics, beauty is the Absolute penetrating the world of the senses.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, Krsna is the most beautiful. Because Krsna is beautiful, even the chirping of a bird is beautiful. Krsna is the reservoir of all pleasure and beauty. Beauty is appreciated in the world because beauty is one of Krsna's qualities. Whatever little beauty we find in this material world is but the perverted reflection of Krsna's beauty.
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel feels that art is a combination of spiritual content and sensuous form, and that the artist should try to imbue his material forms with spiritual content.
Srila Prabhupada: We agree with that. When we are painting pictures, playing music, or writing books, we are placing Krsna at the center.
Syamasundara dasa: Of all the arts, Hegel says, music and poetry are the highest.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, therefore we are writing many books. Vyasadeva has written many great epics in praise of Krsna. Lord Brahma has written Brahma-samhita, cintamani prakara-sadmasu. There are many poems in praise of Krsna; therefore another name for Krsna is Uttama-sloka, the greatest of poems. He is described in beautiful poetry in the Vedic literatures. It is not very important whether it is poetry or prose. Anything sublime is called poetry. It is not that it has to be written in meter.
Syamasundara dasa: For Hegel, religion is pure thought put into form.
Srila Prabhupada: He has no knowledge of what religion is. Religion is neither imagination nor pure thought. Religion is the order coming from the most pure. This cannot be imagined or created. We need only receive the instructions from the most pure. These are given in Bhagavad-gita. We are not imagining this.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel maintained that since God is necessarily manifest in the infinite, the incarnation is central to any religion. In order for God to be manifest, He has to incarnate as a finite man.
Srila Prabhupada: If God becomes a mere man and is to be considered such, why should His instructions be followed?
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel did not believe in following any exterior will.
Srila Prabhupada: This means that he is either godless, or that God has no meaning for him.
Hayagriva dasa: He interpreted the goal of Indian philosophy to be nirvana, spiritual as well as physical extinction.
Srila Prabhupada: Everyone acknowledges physical extinction, and as far as the spiritual is concerned, there is no such thing as extinction. The spirit is eternal.
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire
"For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (Bg. 2.20) If the spirit is annihilated, how is it different from matter?
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel believed that in the highest religion, God is seen as Father, Son, and all-pervasive Holy Spirit. Thus he considered Christianity to be the perfect religion.
Srila Prabhupada: Is it perfect to say that God only has one son? If God is unlimited, why is He limited to only one son?
Syamasundara dasa: Well, he claims that Christ represents nature, or the objective world, because Christ is God incarnate.
Srila Prabhupada: When there is an incarnation of God as the son of God, and an incarnation of God as God Himself, which is superior? If God has begotten a son, God is a father, a person. How can a son be born of an impersonal father? What evidence do we have of such a thing ever happening?
Syamasundara dasa: Hegel would like to have philosophy without religion because he saw religion as basically an encumbrance.
Srila Prabhupada: Such a philosophy is simply mental speculation. If he claims that philosophy is superior to religion, then religion supported by philosophy is real religion; otherwise it is sentiment. As I stated before, the orders of God constitute religion. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, "Surrender unto Me." This is religion. When we try to understand why Krsna wants us to surrender unto Him, why we are obliged to surrender unto Him, we are in the realm of philosophy. When philosophy supports religion, it is perfect. It is neither sentiment, nor mental speculation.
Hayagriva dasa: In The Phenomenology of the Spirit, Hegel deprecates the use of plants and animals as objects of religion, considering it a kind of pantheism typical of Hinduism. How would worship of the tulasi plant or the cow differ?
Srila Prabhupada: God has specifically said that among plants, He is the tulasi. It is not that the Hindus are worshipping just any plant. For instance, inBhagavad-gita, Krsna says, pranavah sarva-vedesu. "I am the syllable om in the Vedic mantras." (Bg. 7.8) Therefore the word Om is used in mantras, as in om tad visnoh paramam padam. We know that omkara is God because God says so. God gives instructions on how He should be realized, and we have only to follow. What is the point in speculating? We can never understand the unlimited God by our limited speculation.
Hayagriva dasa: But if God is in all animals and in all plants, why concentrate on any particular ones? Why not worship all?
Srila Prabhupada: That is especially prohibited. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:
maya tatam idam sarvam
na caham tesv avasthitah
"By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them." (Bg. 9.4) The soul and the Supersoul exist within the body of a dog, but this does not mean that the barking of a dog is the word of God. Vivekananda said that we should worship daridra, the poor man in the street. He even used the word daridra-narayana, indicating that Narayana, God, has become poor, daridra. Although the body of a daridra rests in God, Narayana, we should not consider his body to be the body of Narayana. Everything in a government may rest on the orders of the king, but the king is not personally present everywhere. According to the acintya-bhedabheda philosophy, God is simultaneously one with and different from His creation. God is undoubtedly present in the heart of the daridra, the poor man, but we should not consider the daridra to be God. That is an impersonalist Mayavadi mistake. That is pantheism.
Hayagriva dasa: When Lord Krsna says that He is sex life according to dharma, does that mean that He can be perceived in that way?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if one performs the Garbhadhana ceremony to beget a Krsna conscious child, Krsna is remembered. It is the duty of the father to remember Krsna while having sex, thinking, "Krsna, give me a child who will be Your devotee." This kind of sex is for Krsna, and is Krsna, but if one has sex for his own sense enjoyment, that is demoniac.
Hayagriva dasa: But isn't Krsna present nonetheless?
Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is always present, but when we hold the Garbhadhana ceremony to beget a Krsna conscious child, we remember Krsna. The rules and regulations for the Garbhadhana ceremony are given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. As soon as society abandons this ceremony, people become degraded.
Hayagriva dasa: So the philosophy behind reverence for the tulasi plant and the cow, or the sexual ceremony, is that these can bring remembrance of Krsna.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Krsna says:
satatam kirtayanto mam
yatantas ca drdha-vratah
namasyantas ca mam bhaktya
"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion." ( Bg. 9.14) If somehow or other you always think of Krsna, you become Krsna conscious.
Hayagriva dasa: Is it that you shouldn't think of Krsna in any other way? For instance, as a palm tree?
Srila Prabhupada: When Krsna says that among trees He is the tulasi, or whatever, we should simply accept it. For instance, He says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya. "I am the taste of water." (Bg. 7.8) When we follow these instructions, we think, "I am drinking water and am feeling satisfaction. This satisfaction is Krsna." In this way, we can remember Him.
Hayagriva dasa: Hegel mistook this for pantheism.
Srila Prabhupada: He is mistaken in so many ways.