William James
William James
April 3, 2017

American Pragmatism

John Dewey

J ohn Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with the philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the fathers of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Dewey as the 93rd most cited psychologist of the 20th century. A well-known public intellectual, he was also a major voice of progressive education and liberalism.


October 20, 1859 Burlington, Vermont, United States


June 1, 1952 (aged 92) New York City, New York, United States


20th-century philosophy


Western philosophy

Main interests

Philosophy of education, epistemology, journalism, ethics

Chapter Ⅺ. American Pragmatism

John Dewey


Hayagriva dasa: Dewey believed that religions are basically myths and that experience is of the utmost necessity. He considered philosophy superior to religion. "The form [in philosophy] ceases to be that of the story told in imaginative and emotional style," he writes, "and becomes that of rational discourse observing the canons of logic." For him, the Vedic accounts of Krsna's pastimes would be purely mythical.

Srila Prabhupada: Krsna is a historical fact; He is not imaginary. The Mahabharata is accepted by all Indian authorities, especially by the acaryas who control the spiritual life of India. They do not, however, accept Mr. Dewey's imaginative thinking.

Hayagriva dasa: When science began to investigate the phenomenal universe without admitting the proprietorship of God, a breakdown in morality and value ensued. Dewey tried to reassemble these shattered values in a philosophical way, but he, like science, attempted to do so without acknowledging the proprietorship of a Supreme Being.

Srila Prabhupada: That is simply a form of lunacy because everything has a proprietor. Why should this great cosmic manifestation not have a proprietor? It is natural and logical to accept a proprietor. Who would think that an organized nation has no government? How can a logical man come to such conclusions?

Hayagriva dasa: He felt that science dealt a death blow to the orthodox, historical religions as we know them.

Srila Prabhupada: As I have repeatedly explained, religion means accepting the laws of God. The whole cosmic manifestation has a date of creation and is therefore historical. Anything material that has a beginning has a history, but long before this cosmic manifestation was created, religion existed. We are tiny people and know the small history of this world, which extends for some thousands of years, but the history of Brahma is far different. That history covers billions and billions of earth years. At the same time, our history is different from an ant's history. So, historically speaking, everything is relative according to the living entity computing or experiencing the history. Most people have no information of greater personalities, which we call the demigods, but Vedic literatures inform us that in the higher planetary systems, the standard of life is different and the duration longer. Unless one has thorough knowledge of the entire universe, religions may seem imaginary, but what is imaginary to one may be factual to another. For an ant, the history of man is imaginary. Unfortunately, scientists and philosophers on this planet are thinking in their own terms and taking everything they think to be factual. On the other hand, whatever they cannot conceive, they consider mythological.

Hayagriva dasa: Writing in the early part of this century, Dewey felt that it was high time to set aside all superstitious religions. According to him, logic "demands that in imagination we wipe the slate clean and start afresh by asking what would be the idea of the unseen...." In other words, we must define God and religion anew.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is required. Srimad-Bhagavatam rejects all religions considered to be "cheating religions," because they do not contain perfect knowledge.

dharmah projjhita-kaitavo 'tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam tapa-trayonmulanam
srimad-bhagavate maha-muni-krte kim va parair isvarah
sadyo hrdy avarudhyate 'tra krtibhih susrusubhis tat-ksanat

"Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Sri Vyasadeva, is sufficient in itself for God realization. As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, he becomes attached to the Supreme Lord." (Bhag. 1.1.2)

The sum and substance of the Bhagavata religion is the acceptance of God as supreme controller. Janmady asya yato'nvayad itaratas carthesv abhijnah svarat ( Bhag. 1.1.1). That is the principle: Brahman is He from whom everything emanates. Unless we know the ultimate source of emanation, our knowledge is imperfect. Our experience tells us that everything has a source of emanation. Similarly, this entire creation has a history and a source from which it has emanated. Just because we are unable to reach that source, we should not think that it is imaginary. There is no question of starting a new religion because religion is always there. Someone must be the supreme controller, and that someone is called God. Dewey may ask, "Well, what is your experience?" We experience inert matter without consciousness, and we experience consciousness. We cannot go beyond this. Above these, there is one controller, a third element, which is the Absolute Truth, the controller of all visible animate and inanimate objects. Why is it difficult to understand this?

Hayagriva dasa: In A Common Faith, Dewey writes: "What I have been criticizing is the identification of the ideal with a particular Being, especially when that identification makes necessary the conclusion that this Being is outside of nature, and what I have tried to show is that the ideal itself has its roots in natural conditions "

Srila Prabhupada: God does not arise out of nature. God is the supreme controller in charge of nature. How can anyone think that this great phenomenon which we call nature has no controller? How can anyone think that everything is happening automatically?

Hayagriva dasa: Dewey sees God emerging out of man's striving for perfection.

Srila Prabhupada: God is already there, and man's perfection depends on his ability to understand God. It is not that a perfect man can create God through his imagination. Anything created by man is controlled, but God is the supreme controller. If man dies under the control of the Supreme, how can he be said to create or control the Supreme? If he cannot control what is already imposed by God—birth, old age, disease, and death—how can he imagine or create God? First, one should become independent of the laws of God before thinking of creating God.

Hayagriva dasa: It appears that Dewey wants to use the word "God" to serve his own ends: promoting his philosophic conception of "the working union of the ideal and actual." He writes: "Use of the words God or divine to convey the union of actual with ideal may protect man from a sense of isolation and from consequent despair or defiance."

Srila Prabhupada: Of course, one may define God, but one must be a muni, a very learned man, to define Him properly. For instance, one may say, "God is there," or, "God is great." We can go on from there to define His greatness. This greatness includes ultimate greatness in six opulences: power, wealth, knowledge, fame, beauty, and renunciation. Only God possesses these opulences in complete fullness. When Krsna was present on this planet, He proved that He was the strongest, the most influential, the most beautiful and pure, and the most supremely wise. Krsna's teachings, Bhagavad-gita, are still being studied all over the world. Great acaryas like Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka, Sankaracarya, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu have all accepted Krsna as the Supreme Lord. There is complete agreement among the authorities that Krsna is God. There is no question of mythology. Krsna's lifting of Govardhana Hill is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, and when speculators read it, they consider it to be mythological. But, really, is it difficult for God to lift a hill? If He is all powerful, what is the difficulty? When God comes and shows His godly powers, we should not consider it mythical.

Hayagriva dasa: Unlike Marx and Comte, Dewey rejects humanity as an object of worship. He writes: "Nature produces whatever gives reinforcement and direction but also what occasions discord and confusion. The divine is thus a term of human choice and aspiration."

Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of human choice. Can you say that death is your choice? Obviously there is force, and where is that force coming from? No one wants to die, but everyone dies. No one wants to grow old, but everyone grows old. We must understand the origin of this enforcement. The supreme authority, the supreme force, is God. You may call this God "nature," or whatever, but you must admit that there is something supreme controlling you. How can we philosophize and imagine that man can become God?

Hayagriva dasa: Dewey writes that "a humanistic religion, if it excludes our relationship to nature, is pale and thin, as it is presumptuous, when it takes humanity as an object of worship."

Srila Prabhupada: For a God conscious person, everything is worshipable, even an ant. But the supremely worshipable is God: isvarah paramah krsnah. Some people think that nature is the supreme, but those who are aware of God know that God is the controller of nature also. Mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sa-caracaram, "This material nature is working under My direction, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings." (Bg. 9.10) Nature is only matter, and matter cannot act independently. Matter is being handled and controlled by a living being, who is the superior nature. Bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca (Bg. 7.4). Earth, water, air, fire, and so forth constitute inferior nature. Above and beyond this is the superior nature. The living entities are finite controllers, but above them is another controller, the supreme controller who is God. It is very easy to understand. There are two natures: an active and an inactive nature. Above both of these natures is an active personality who is controlling both.

Syamasundara dasa: As far as his methodology is concerned, Dewey believed that practical consequences are the only valid test of truth. He claimed that the proof of an idea consists in its being subject to predictable results.

Srila Prabhupada: If an idea is concocted, its results cannot be ascertained. If it is factual, the results can be predicted.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, the object of inquiry is belief itself. Because we want something to believe in, we ask questions. This is the nature of inquiry.

Srila Prabhupada: The Vedanta-sutra advises us to find out the ultimate cause of everything, to inquire into the Absolute Truth. But inquiries should be directed to a person who knows. Otherwise, what is the use in inquiring? The Vedas advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master, a guru, if we want to find the truth. Unfortunately, at the present moment, there are many pseudo gurus; therefore we have to add this word "bona fide." Otherwise, the word guru means bona fide, because one who is not bona fide cannot be a guru. Now, when we speak of inquiry, we mean learning the truth. Therefore we should inquire from one who knows the truth, otherwise our inquiry has no validity. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him." (Bg. 4.34) This is the Vedic injunction. The inquiry should be genuine, and the answer should come from a genuine person.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey believes that the final outcome of inquiry is the fulfillment of human needs. By practical action, we can change the external environment.

Srila Prabhupada: Unless a human being inquires about the Absolute Truth, he is not considered sufficiently developed in his human form. For the consciousness to be developed, one must inquire about the self, asking, "What am I?" If this question is not asked, he is still in ignorance.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey felt that by inquiry, we can determine what is wrong with our environment, act to change it, and fulfill human needs.

Srila Prabhupada: If a person is serious, inquiry will clear up everything. If he inquires about the aim of human life, he is intelligent. It is not possible for animals to ask these questions. Animals are only eating, sleeping, defending, and mating.

Syamasundara dasa: But should the aim of our inquiry be to change our external environment?

Srila Prabhupada: If you are seriously inquiring, and if you know things as they are, you will change your activities. We are preaching that it is our business to know Krsna. If people take this movement seriously, their entire mode of living will be changed. This is happening now. Previously, our students were leading a certain undesirable type of life, and since they have come to Krsna consciousness, their entire lives have been changed.

Syamasundara dasa: Then, setting aside trying to improve the environment, we should first try to change our consciousness?

Srila Prabhupada: It is the consciousness that needs to be changed, either by hearing from authority, or by circumstances. There are two processes by which knowledge can be attained—by hearing, and by direct experience. An intelligent person can understand by hearing. He knows that if he acts in a such a way, he will fall into danger. So he learns by listening to authorities. A less intelligent man has to experience an awkward or dangerous position in order to change his consciousness. For him, hearing is not sufficient. Of the two processes, learning by hearing is better. It is therefore our process to approach the bona fide teacher and learn from him. That is the process of brahmacarya. It is not that we have to learn by practical experience. The experience is already there. We only have to hear of it and accept it; then it becomes easier. We should not say, "Let me fall into the ditch, then I shall cry." Better we take good advice and avoid the ditch altogether.

Hayagriva dasa: In the realm of philosophy and religion, Dewey believes that certainty is impossible. He writes: "Any philosophy that in its quest for certainty ignores the reality of the uncertain in the ongoing processes of nature, denies the conditions out of which it arises."

Srila Prabhupada: There is uncertainty when you do not accept the reality. The reality is God, and God explains how nature is working. If we do not accept His explanation, our position is very precarious, very uncertain. But if God comes and reveals Himself and His activities, and we consider them mythological, how can we be convinced? How can we ever be certain?

Hayagriva dasa: For Dewey, there is but one sure road of access to truth: what he calls "the road of patient, cooperative inquiry operating by means of observation, experiment, record, and controlled reflection."

Srila Prabhupada: The record is there in the Mahabharata, and those who have seen have confirmed it. Vyasadeva, Narada, and Arjuna all confirm that everything is there in the record, but if people do not believe, how can they be convinced? Conditioned living entities do not have the perfect senses to see, and if they remain unconvinced, they will always live in darkness. They may go on imagining in the dark, but they will never attain perfect knowledge in this way.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey set down five steps for solving problems and attaining truths: we observe a problem and consider its nature; we intellectualize and analyze it; we hypothesize and consider solutions; we analyze our hypothesis according to past experience, and choose possible solutions; and we put the solutions into practice.

Srila Prabhupada: Our process for solving problems is Krsna. Krsna says, kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati. "O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes." (Bg. 9.31) When we take shelter of Krsna, our problems are solved. Yatra yogesvarah krsnah (Bg. 18.78). Krsna is the reservoir of all mystic power. He is yogesvarah. It is not the bhakta's business to strive to become a yogi; rather, he takes shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is yogesvarah, the master of all mystic power. We consider this to be the solution to all our problems.

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) There are various methods for solving problems, but the best method is to surrender unto Krsna. Then all problems are solved.

Syamasundara dasa: On the social platform as well?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Everything is solved. For instance, the Pandavas had a political problem, and when they took shelter of Krsna, their political and social problems were solved.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, truth must satisfy human needs and improve social conditions. He sees truth as a practical tool.

Srila Prabhupada: We are the ones who have created social problems. Krsna is perfect, andwhatever Krsna has created is perfect. Om purnam adah purnam idam (Isopanisad, Invocation). Things appear to be imperfect because we disobey Krsna's orders. If we remain faithful to Krsna, there are no problems. People speak of truth, but unfortunately, they do not know the truth.

na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum
durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah
andha yathandhair upaniyamanas
te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah

"Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries." (Bhag. 7.5.31) The ultimate truth, the ultimate objective, is Visnu. Unfortunately, people are trying to solve the problems of this world without referring to Visnu. Of course, this is not possible.

Syamasundara dasa: How does worship of Visnu solve social problems?

Srila Prabhupada: Man who executes this varnasrama-dharma satisfies Visnu. Thebrahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras have various prescribed duties. If they follow them, all problems are solved. Unfortunately, in India thisvarnasrama-dharma has been killed. Now everyone is a sudra. The word sudra refers to an unintelligent person. Since everyone is unintelligent, how can they solve problems? What can they do? They are trying to run a democratic government according to the votes of sudras, but sudras cannot solve anything. Once, America belonged to the red Indians, but they did not develop it. Why couldn't they improve their condition? The land and everything else was there. But when the Europeans came, they developed the land.Sudras cannot actualize anything. If we once again establish the varnasrama-dharma, all problems will be solved. That was the plan of my Guru Maharaja. Daiva-varnasrama refers to that which is stated by Krsna. The varnas are not established by birth, but by qualification. By qualification, one is a brahmana or a sudra. By following the course prescribed for our varna, we can satisfy Lord Visnu and in this way be happy.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey writes: "The good man is the man who no matter how morally worthy he has been, is moving to become better. Growth itself is the only moral end."

Srila Prabhupada: In the beginning, a devotee may still do something wrong, but because he has taken to Krsna consciousness, he is accepted as a sadhu.

api cet suduracaro
bhajate mam ananya-bhak
sadhur eva sa mantavyah
samyag vyavasito hi sah

"Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated." (Bg. 9.30) There may be many discrepancies in one's life, but if one's heart is in the right place, if he is working for Krsna consciousness, he is considered a sadhu, even though he has not corrected his bad habits. Ksipram bhavati dharmatmasasvac-chantim nigacchati. "He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace." (Bg. 9.31) Because he has taken to Krsna consciousness, all his bad habits will be rectified very soon.

Syamasundara dasa: In other words, he is striving to improve his moral condition?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. If one takes to Krsna consciousness, his morality will gradually develop.

yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana
sarvair gunais tatra samasate surah

"All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge, and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva." ( Bhag. 5.18.12) All good qualities will automatically come. We should stick to the four regulative principles: avoiding illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating, and gambling. And we should chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. By abiding by the orders of the spiritual master, everything will automatically develop. All good moral qualities will follow. It is not that we have to develop these qualities separately or independently. All good qualities are already there in the spirit soul, but presently they are covered by material contamination. When we are purified by Krsna consciousness, all these original qualities emerge.Hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate ( Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu, 1.1.12). We should purify our senses by engaging them in the service of the master of the senses, Krsna. That is the process of bhakti.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey did not believe in absolute good or evil; each situation must be treated individually.

Srila Prabhupada: Whatever is done in Krsna consciousness is good, and whatever is done for something other than Krsna's satisfaction is useless, although it may be ethically correct.

Syamasundara dasa: He felt that the greatest good is the elimination of the greatest evil. It is the fulfillment of man's greatest needs.

Srila Prabhupada: The highest objective is Krsna, Visnu. By becoming a Vaisnava, we attain the highest perfection of human life. The greatest need is Krsna consciousness, pure, supreme consciousness. Every living entity is Krsna's part and parcel. Mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah. "The living entities in this conditioned world are my eternal fragmental parts." (Bg. 15.7) Therefore we must always remember that, being part and parcel of Krsna, it is our duty to serve Krsna. In perverted consciousness, we think, "I am Krsna. I am God." That is not Krsna consciousness.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey believed that we should not choose good or evil simply on the basis of some theory. We should choose in order to alleviate specific evils.

Srila Prabhupada: The virat-rupa, the universal form of the Lord, was manifest before Arjuna. Arjuna then saw that everything within the universe is part and parcel of that virat-rupa, within which everything has a function, a duty. When we work according to that function, problems are automatically solved.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, we can never attain absolute certainty or perfection. We can only attain higher levels of moral progress.

Srila Prabhupada: This means that he has no knowledge of absolute perfection.

Syamasundara dasa: The world can be made better by man's efforts, but perfection in the world is not possible.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a different thing. This world is so made that if you perfect it today, tomorrow it will deteriorate. Therefore in one sense you cannot make it perfect. But you can improve it.

paritranaya sadhunam
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) Any bad condition can be improved by Krsna consciousness. Krsna and Krsna consciousness are the same. If you are in Krsna consciousness, you are living with Krsna, and if you are living with Krsna, then what is your fear? On the battlefield of Kuruksetra, Arjuna was fearless because Krsna was beside him.

samasrita ye padapallava-plavam
mahat-padam punya-yaso murareh
bhavambudhir vatsa-padam param adam
padam padam yad vipadam na tesam

"For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda, the giver of liberation, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. Vaikuntha is his goal, not the place where there is danger at every step." (Bhag. 10.14.58) In this material world, there is danger at every step, but as soon as we understand Krsna, we become eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world.

janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so 'rjuna

"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna." (Bg. 4.9)

Syamasundara dasa: So people are removed from all danger, or evil, by becoming Krsna conscious?

Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. Therefore this is the best welfare activity for the entire world. By other means, people may be able to give some temporary benefit or temporary relief, but the situation will again deteriorate. You may give charity to a needy man, and this charity will serve him for a temporary period, but if you give him Krsna prema he is immediately transferred to the spiritual world. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu is called the most munificent incarnation because He has delivered Krsna prema to the world. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah . [Madhya 19.53]

Syamasundara dasa: But the goal of the utilitarians is to achieve what the people desire and require.

Srila Prabhupada: The people desire and require happiness, but they are searching for it in temporary things.

rsabha uvaca
nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam

"Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness, and which continues forever." ( Bhag. 5.5.1) Purify your existence, and you will attain eternal happiness and bliss. Everyone is working hard for happiness, but how can happiness be attained in a diseased condition? First the disease must be cured because it is an impediment to happiness. The real disease is janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi (Bg. 13.9): birth, old age, disease, and death. Cure these, and you will attain real happiness. Whatever you may desire, the ultimate end is happiness. Unfortunately, a diseased person is thinking, "I am happy." This is false happiness. Although you are dying, you are thinking that you are happy. This is called a fool's paradise.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey felt that the desirable course of action should meet certain conditions subject to prediction, and should be based on judgments or appraisals that might serve as guidelines to future activity.

Srila Prabhupada: This is predictable: You say, "I don't want to die." I say, "Come to this position, and you will not die."

Syamasundara dasa: Is there some experience that would show this to be a predictable result?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. You might not have the experience, but your superiors do.

abrahma-bhuvanal lokah
punar avartino 'rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate

"From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again." ( Bg. 8.16) If we go to Krsna, we will never come back to this material world again. Who can excel Krsna's experience? Since He knows past, present, and future, it is to our good to accept His instructions.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey would recommend basing our judgments on personal experience.

Srila Prabhupada: We may not have personal experience, but we can take the advice of a person who does. Such experience is as good as our own. You may not have gone to New York, but because others have purchased tickets there and gone and returned, you can take advantage of their experience and learn something about that place.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey claims that value exists only where there is satisfaction.

Srila Prabhupada: Unless you have faith in a person, how can you be satisfied? You should find a person in whom you can place your faith. Who can be a better person than Krsna?

Syamasundara dasa: If certain conditions are met, satisfaction is transformed into value. If my hunger is satisfied by eating certain food, that food is given value.

Srila Prabhupada: It is Krsna who gives that value. In the beginning of Bhagavad- gita, Arjuna was refusing to fight, but because he valued Krsna and was satisfied by his faith in Krsna, he was victorious.

Syamasundara dasa: For Dewey, moral laws may serve as guidelines for action. They are comparable to physical laws, in that if I act in a certain way, I can expect a certain result.

Srila Prabhupada: We prescribe:

adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango 'tha bhajana-kriya
tato 'nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah

"In the beginning, the neophyte devotee must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring him to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage, he becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and, under his instruction, begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, he becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. This taste leads him further forward to attachment for Krsna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life." (Bhakti-rasamrta -sindhu [1.4.15-16]) If you follow one step after the other, you get the results. If you have faith, and associate with the devotees, you will be eager to execute devotional service. Then all misgivings are eradicated, and your faith becomes firm. Unless you experience the next result, how can you make progress? Moral guidelines are also given by Rupa Gosvami:

utsahan niscayad dhairyat
sanga-tyagat sato vrtteh
sadbhir bhaktih prasidhyati

"There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: being enthusiastic, endeavoring with confidence, being patient, acting according to regulative principles [such as sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam—hearing, chanting, and remembering Krsna], abandoning the association of nondevotees, and following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service." (Upadesamrta, 3) We should be patient, enthusiastic, and firmly convinced. We should be fair in our dealings, and should associate with saintly persons. In this way, we can advance.

Syamasundara dasa: Then the results follow these guidelines predictably and automatically?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, one after another. A teacher instructs his students, and when they realize one instruction, he gives another, then another. In this way, the students can make progress. Consider the guidelines. First of all, we must be enthusiastic. Unless we are enthusiastic, how can we enter into any activity? We should also be patient. We should not think, "Oh, I am working so hard, but am getting no results." The results will come in time. We should also have firm conviction that because we have taken the path of the mahajanas, the path prescribed by Krsna, success is imminent. Although success may be delayed, it doesn't really matter. We must know that success will definitely come. We must also perform our prescribed duties fairly and in good faith. And we should also associate with saintly people. This will give us impetus. If we follow these guidelines, the result is certain and predictable.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey believes that moral laws are not inflexible absolute rules that never permit exceptions.

Srila Prabhupada: The real moral law is the law of the Supreme. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna described many different types of yoga: dhyana-yoga, jnana-yoga, hatha-yoga, and so on. However, at the end, He said, sarva-dharmanparityajya. "Abandon all these dharmas and surrender unto Me." ( Bg. 18.66) Krsna's word is the ultimate morality. Vaisnavas do not consider this or that moral or immoral. Whatever Krsna or His representative orders is moral. That is our position.

Syamasundara dasa: Dewey claims that we place value upon that which we must act on.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is certainly value in Krsna, and because Arjuna followed the decision of Krsna, he became victorious, enjoyed his kingdom, and became a famous devotee. These were practical results of his activities. Pariksit Maharaja compared the battle of Kuruksetra to a great ocean in which Bhisma, Drona, Karna, and others were like great sharks. It was important for his grandfather, Arjuna, to cross that ocean, which was dangerously infested with many ferocious fish. Although this was very difficult, by the grace of Krsna it was possible.

yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama

"Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion." (



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