S amuel Alexander was born at 436 George Street, in what is now the commercial heart of Sydney, Australia. He was the third son of Samuel Alexander, a prosperous saddler, and Eliza née Sloman. Both parents were Jewish. His father died just before he was born, and Eliza moved to the adjacent colony of Victoria in 1863 or 1864. They went to live at St Kilda, and Alexander was placed at a private school kept by a Mr Atkinson.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander is the philosopher of emergent evolution. For him, external objects have an existence independent of consciousness. Unlike many other philosophies, Alexander's neo-realism contends that something may exist even though it is not perceived.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is so. God exists whether we perceive Him or not. God is the original creator, and just as everyone has a father, all living entities are coming originally from this original father. The father is there. Fact is fact, whether anyone perceives it or not. You may not have seen my father, but you know that I had a father. You do not have to perceive him directly to know that he is a fact. Because I exist, my father is essential. That is understood and assumed by everyone. Therefore people say, "What is your father's name?" instead of, "Do you have a father?" It is assumed that one has a father, even though this father is not immediately perceived.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander uses the example of a house: whether we are conscious of a house or not, the house itself is a real entity unaffected by our awareness of it. It has a real, objective existence.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, as far as that proposition is concerned, if we accept the fact that we are eternal, it is very natural to assume that we have an eternal house, an eternal home. That is back home, back to Godhead. When people ask, "Where do you live?" they are asking for your residence. Your present address may not be your birthplace, but it is a fact that we must live somewhere. No one may be interested in knowing where I live, but everyone knows that I have a place to live.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that our consciousness of an object gives us only limited perspective. When we shift our position, our perspective changes. If I see a table, that table has an objective reality; it is not just a mental image.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you cannot say that the table is just a mental image. If someone throws the table and knocks you down, you will bleed. That is not simply mental.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander also claims that even illusions or hallucinations are genuinely real objects. If I think I see a snake, which is really a rope, the illusion of that snake is real.
Srila Prabhupada: There is in reality a snake, otherwise how can the image of a snake come to the imagination? I may falsely take a rope to be a snake, but that doesn't matter. In reality, the snake exists.
Syamasundara dasa: For Alexander, the mind never creates anything new, but rearranges things. Since everything already exists, there is no question of creating anything.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you cannot create anything. You can only transform. This table is nothing but wood. The wood is not my creation; it is already there. I have only transformed the wood into a shape called a table. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. When I need something to sit on, I invent a chair.
Syamasundara dasa: Some philosophers reason that because man feels a necessity for God, he has invented God.
Srila Prabhupada: Not invented. He knows God. And this is perfectly natural. Any sane man would ask, "Who is the original father?" There is no question of inventing the original father. Anyone can understand that there is an original father by philosophical research. The Vedanta-sutra [1.1.2] states, janmady asya yatah. "God is the original father of everyone." Invention refers to a thing that I create which was not in existence, and discovery refers to something I find that is already there. Invention and discovery practically convey the same idea because nothing is new. In the case of God, it is discovery. There is no question of invention.
Hayagriva dasa: In his major work, Space, Time and Deity, Alexander writes: "Religion leans on metaphysics for the justification of its indefeasible conviction of the reality of its object (God); philosophy leans on religion to justify it in calling the possessor of deity by the religious name of God. The two methods of approach are therefore complementary."
Srila Prabhupada: We have often said that philosophy without religion is mental speculation, and religion without philosophy is sentiment. The combination of the two is most desirable. Bhagavad-gita is religion and philosophy combined. Religion is explained in terms of worship of God, and philosophy is explained in terms of the immortality of the soul, and other subjects. Thus Bhagavad-gita is the supreme combination of religion and philosophy.
Hayagriva dasa: If religion is like hunger, God is the food for that hunger. Alexander writes: "This religious appetite may either be stirred in us directly by the impact of the world with its tendency to deity, or it may first be felt by us as a need of our nature—"
Srila Prabhupada: We are seeking love of God beginning with our own body. We love this body because we live within it, and as long as the living soul is there, the body has value. The living soul is valuable because he is part and parcel of God. We also understand from Bhagavad-gita that within the body God is also living. So within there are two ksetra- jnas, one who knows the individual body, and the other who knows all bodies. The ultimate conclusion is that because the Supreme Living Entity, God, is within the body and within the universe, we are attracted by love, society, friendship, communalism, and nationalism. When all this culminates in love for God, we attain perfection. We are searching for love of God, but we are moving by degrees from one platform to another.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander writes: "It is idle to hope that by defining God in conceptual terms, whether as the sum of reality, or the perfect being, or the first cause, or by other device, we can establish the connection between such a being and the rest of our experience. We do but start with an abstraction, and we do but end with one. Proofs of God's existence in nature there are none, if such a God is to be identified with the object of worship."
Srila Prabhupada: We can understand the presence of God in nature, and we can certainly see His presence there. We can understand that there is a proprietor of the land, sea, and air. We may not be able to see the proprietor of the universe, but from our present experience with proprietorship, we can understand that there must be an ultimate proprietor. God is the proprietor of the sun, moon, and the sky itself. Vedic literatures describe the moon as the mind of God, the sun as the eyes of God, the land as the food of God, and the waters as the semina of God. This is the beginning of impersonal realization, but we should understand that there is a person in the background. Although we have not seen the Governor of Hawaii, we can understand that he is present by seeing the different branches of government. Similarly, as long as we are not qualified to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we can understand that this is God's hand, this is God's heart, His mind, His eyes, and so on. When we are qualified, we can personally see God, face to face.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander felt that "even the description of God...is full of figurative language." For him, it is impossible to describe God.
Srila Prabhupada: If it is impossible, why is he trying? Why shouldn't we accept the Vedic descriptions? In Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna tells Krsna:
param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan
adi-devam ajam vibhum
ahus tvam rsayah sarve
devarsir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah
svayam caiva bravisi me
"You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me." ( Bg. 10.12-13) If all authorities accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, what further evidence do we need? No further argument is necessary. Things should be simplified.
Syamasundara dasa: The mind is always reorganizing existing things, new comes from old, and from this, Alexander draws his idea of evolution.
Srila Prabhupada: Since there is gold and mountains, I can imagine a gold mountain. I can combine many ideas with my imagination. The mind creates some ideas, and then rejects them to create others, and then rejects them also. The mind is not satisfied with creating something final. The mind by nature is creative. It creates something, then thinks, "Oh, this is not perfect," and then begins again. That is the mind's business: accepting and rejecting.
Syamasundara dasa: For Alexander, the mind has two functions: contemplation and enjoyment. Contemplation involves perceiving the qualities of an object—for instance, an apple's redness.
Srila Prabhupada: Or, if I see a tamarind, I immediately salivate.
Syamasundara dasa: Enjoyment involves a mental awareness of inner, physiological activity.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there are many examples. One may dream of a sex object and have a nocturnal discharge. The mind creates things in this way, and there are actual physical reactions. In a dream, the mind may create a tiger, and the dreamer may cry aloud in fright. But actually there is no tiger.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that even these dream images have an objective reality in our consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, when I dream of a woman or a tiger, they exist in objective reality. The impressions in my mind are created hallucinations, but they may evoke physical reactions.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander describes time as an infinity of single instants, and space as an infinity of points. Together, they constitute primordial reality.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we also consider time and space to be reality. Time is eternal, and therefore we take time to be another feature of God. Space is a later creation. Space is prakrti. Prakrti refers to nature, the elements like earth, water, fire, ether, space. Space or sky is one of the fundamental factors of prakrti. Prakrti, kala, jiva, Bhagavan: nature, time, the individual soul, and God. These are all realities, and they are all eternal. There is only one ultimate creator, Bhagavan, and the jivatma, the individual soul, is the subsequent creator. God creates wood, and from this wood I create a table or a chair. Thus I am the subsequent, not the ultimate creator. Both creators, Bhagavan and jivatma, are eternal. Because the creation has a past, present, and future, time is also eternal.
Syamasundara dasa: Is there such a thing as spiritual space?
Srila Prabhupada: Of course. If not, how could there be a spiritual world? The quality is different, but the ingredients are exactly the same.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander, like Bergson, also believes that nothing remains at rest, that everything is in perpetual transition.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we also accept that. Everything is going forward. That is called jagat.
Syamasundara dasa: Can this be said of the activities in the spiritual world?
Srila Prabhupada: We are speaking of the material world. The spiritual world is different. In the spiritual world, activities are eternal. In the material world, they are not.
Syamasundara dasa: But isn't the motion of everything eternal?
Srila Prabhupada: That motion is the interaction of the three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. In course of time, these modes react, and creation takes place. There is certainly motion. Without motion, there cannot be creation. Material nature is composed of earth, water, fire, ether, and space. Whatever you see is composed of one or more of these ingredients. There are also subtler ingredients: mind, intelligence, and ego. These are the eight material elements given in Bhagavad-gita, and they are considered the differentiated energy of Krsna.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander's primary category is more abstract. He says that it is motion.
Srila Prabhupada: But where does the motion come from? Motion means that there must be someone there to push.
Syamasundara dasa: Another major category is identity, or diversity. Everything has a personal identity and individuality differentiating it from every other thing.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is called sajatiyo vijatiya in Sanskrit. There is difference (vijatiya) even between like things. There may be two mango trees, but there is still a difference between them. They may be one as mango trees, but there is still individuality. Similarly, my fingers are one, but each finger is different from the other. Sajatiya refers to the same category, but even within that category there is a difference.
Syamasundara dasa: Existence, or being, is another major category.
Srila Prabhupada: That existence is composed of one or more of the five elements. One ingredient may be more prominent than the other, but there is at least one ingredient.
Syamasundara dasa: Relation and order are other categories. Everything relates to everything else, and there is order in everything.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is certainly order in prakrti. The sun rises and sets at designated times. There is order everywhere.
Syamasundara dasa: The mind also occupies space and works in time.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we are occupying space, and since the mind is within us, the mind also occupies space. From practical experience we can understand that the mind can immediately travel thousands of miles with no difficulties.
Syamasundara dasa: But is that distance within me, or does my mind actually travel there?
Srila Prabhupada: It travels. It actually occupies space. Unless it occupies space, how could it travel? It travels so fast that you can't exactly remember how it is going, but as soon as it reaches its destination, you can apprehend it. In any case, it occupies space.
Syamasundara dasa: The mind can leave the body and go somewhere?
Srila Prabhupada: Not leave. It is just like a shoot: it extends. At night, when we are dreaming, the subtle body also extends and comes back again. In fact, we may take the subtle bodies in dreams to be very important at the time.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander maintains that new categories are constantly being uncovered because evolution is progressing. The living entity can evolve into new forms that we now know nothing about.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we do not agree. We know that the days are going on now, and will continue, just as we have experienced them in the past. In the past there was summer, autumn, winter, and spring, and in the future these will also be experienced. Of course, the old order changes and yields to the new, but from our past experience we know what will be there.
Syamasundara dasa: Then in the future there will be nothing unpredictable appearing, such as an entirely new form of existence?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Why should there be? Why should there be a winter without spring, or a spring without summer? Why should there be a new type of man? A new species? According to the Vedic version, everything is here. The number of species in the water, in air, and on land is fixed. There is no question of the species increasing.
Syamasundara dasa: Some scientists predict that the future man will have no bodily hair, that his head will be very large due to increased brain capacity, that the rest of his body will be atrophied, that he may lose some of his toes, and so on.
Srila Prabhupada: This is more foolishness. There has never been such a thing, nor will there ever be. Man has always had ten toes, and he always will.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that man may evolve to the demigod platform in the future, that he may have super consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is possible. Yanti deva-vrata devan (Bg. 9.25). If you are fond of the demigods, you will go to the demigods. Pitrn yanti pitr-vratah (Bg. 9.25). Or you can go to the ancestors. Or remain within this material world.
Syamasundara dasa: But Alexander thinks that evolution is moving in this way, progressing from inorganic life, to organic, to mental, and to demigod.
Srila Prabhupada: How can life come from inorganic matter? That is nonsense. What evidence do we have that life is developing from inorganic matter? If that is the case, why don't they manufacture life in the laboratory? Living force cannot be produced from matter. Matter is different from living force, or soul. Of course, in one sense, they are both the energy of God, but categorically they are different. You cannot even manufacture an ant. You may have all the chemicals, but you cannot inject the soul. The soul appears in different ways. For instance, fermentation, perspiration. When rock and water decompose, there may be fermentation, and it may be possible that the soul takes advantage of this and comes out, being born in some life form. In any case, life never comes from matter. It is thought by the foolish that scorpions are born out of rice, but actually the scorpion lays its eggs within the rice, and by the fermentation, or heating of the rice, the eggs incubate, and scorpions are born. But this does not mean that matter itself is producing life. The Vedas accept the fact that living creatures can arise from fermentation, but this is only because the soul finds refuge there.
Syamasundara dasa: But what of the idea that nature is progressing? Will man some day evolve to the demigod stage?
Srila Prabhupada: According to the Vedas, the demigods were created before men. First, Lord Brahma was created, and from Lord Brahma, Lord Siva was created. By created, I mean born. Similarly, from Brahma, others came, the Prajapatis, and then the Manus. There were many. There is no question of these personalities emerging from inorganic life. Lord Brahma came from the navel of Visnu. You may ask, What is the origin of Visnu? We have no information of this because Visnu is the origin, and it was from Him that Brahma and all the other demigods came. Then the animals and others came. The first created being is Lord Brahma, and he is also the most intelligent. It is not that he evolved from animals or man. These evolutionists propose that life evolves from the lowest to the highest, but we believe that it begins with the highest, with Visnu. Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavah. "I am the origin of everything." (Bg. 10.8) How can you say that higher species will develop from the lower? God is the origin. Vedanta-sutra also says, "The Absolute Truth is He from whom everything is generating." The Absolute Truth is the supreme life, and from Him all life is coming. What evidence do we have of a dead stone giving birth to a man or animals?
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander felt that in the future, the race of man will evolve into super-conscious beings, into demigods.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we have no information of this. Why is he so anxious about the planet earth? These super-conscious beings are already existing on Siddha-loka, Gandharva-loka, and many other higher planets. There are millions of planets with super-human beings. From the sastras we learn that the inhabitants of Siddha-loka can fly from one planet to another without the aid of a space vehicle.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander proposes that nature develops bodies to that point.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Bodies never develop in that way. There are different types of bodies, and the soul takes shelter of a particular type, selecting bodies just as a person selects clothes in a store. When we are within a suit, the suit moves. Bodies are selected according to the soul's desires. By your karma, you get a particular type of body. We have already discussed this.
Syamasundara dasa: Then demigods will not evolve on this planet in the natural course of things?
Srila Prabhupada: No.
Syamasundara dasa: How is genius, accounted for?
Srila Prabhupada: When one is born a genius, we must understand that in his previous life he cultivated a particular faculty, and that knowledge is being manifested in this life. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that if a yogi does not complete the yoga process, he is given another chance (Bg. 6.41). It is not that these things happen accidently.
Syamasundara dasa: Then, through the practice of yoga, a higher consciousness can be developed?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, we are practicing bhakti-yoga to develop Krsna consciousness. As far as your spiritual development is concerned, you must understand that you are spirit soul. Then you can qualify yourself to return to the spiritual world. There you can associate with the Lord and engage in spiritual activities. The sastras tell us that we should try for spiritual perfection and not waste our time endeavoring for material comforts. Material comforts and distresses automatically come; there is no need in wasting time striving for them. In nature, there are many millions of living entities without business or profession, yet they are living, eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These things will come automatically. Our endeavor should be for spiritual emancipation.
Syamasundara dasa: According to Alexander, on the mental level, we are capable of enjoying objects and receiving pleasure from them, but cannot understand them as they are. On the higher level, we can contemplate objects and understand them as they are, as well as enjoy them.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is our philosophy. A common man may see a rose and think, "Oh, I will offer this nice flower to my girlfriend." But when a devotee sees a rose, he thinks, "How wonderfully God's energy is acting!" He understands that it is through Krsna's energy that such a wonderful flower exists, and therefore he knows that the flower should be offered to Krsna. After all, since Krsna produced it, it is Krsna's property. After offering the rose to Krsna, the devotee smells it. Then it is prasadam, the Lord's mercy. This is higher consciousness. Lower consciousness thinks, "Let me pick it and enjoy it!" That is mere enjoyment without understanding. An animal eats just as man eats, but a man should have sufficiently developed consciousness to understand that what he is eating is given by Krsna. The Vedas state: eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. "The Supreme Lord is supplying all necessities of life to everyone." (Katha Upanisad 2.2.13). When one understands that Krsna is supplying everything, he thinks, "First, let me offer this to Krsna." If everything is not offered in sacrifice to the Supreme Lord, we will be entangled. Higher consciousness is mature consciousness. It is like a flower that has blossomed and is emitting a fragrance. That full blossom of consciousness is Krsna consciousness.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that the entire world is moving to that point.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, nature is giving us the chance, but because we have independence, we may or may not take the opportunity.
Syamasundara dasa: Will only certain individuals attain that higher consciousness, or will the whole world attain it?
Srila Prabhupada: That is a nonsensical question. Sometimes rascals inquire, "Swamiji, if everyone becomes God conscious and goes back to Godhead, then who will remain here?" What is the meaning of such a nonsensical question? Why is a fool anxious for everyone? Why is he not anxious for himself? It is the same to ask, "If everyone is honest, then who will go to jail?" As if maintaining the jail is a very important business!
Syamasundara dasa: During Alexander's day, people were very optimistic about man's future, thinking that everyone would be benefitted by scientific discoveries.
Srila Prabhupada: People think that by nature's way, they will be promoted, that once they have attained the status of man, they cannot be degraded. But if one can go up, he can also go down. The rich can become poor again. Theosophists and others think that everything goes up, progresses. They don't even have the common sense to look around them.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander distinguished between deity and God Himself. For him, deity is a relative term for the next highest level of existence. For an ant, a dog may be a deity; for a dog, a man may be a deity; for a man, a demigod may be a deity. Deity is always one evolutionary step ahead of us. Alexander defines God as "the being which possesses deity in full." That is, God is always one step ahead of every creature.
Srila Prabhupada: He does not know the exact Vedic science of God, but as a philosopher he is suggesting a very nice method. For an ant, a bird is a deity; for a bird, a cat is a deity, and so on according to one's position. And if you continue searching, you will find someone who has no one to worship. The ant must worship the bird, the bird worship the cat, and so on, but when we arrive at a person who has no one to worship, we have arrived at God. In the lower stages, there are always higher living beings, but when we come to the highest living being, we come to God Himself. This is explained in the Vedic literatures:
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
"Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes." (Brahma-samhita 5.1) And in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:
mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre mani-gana iva
"O conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bg. 7.7) There is no authority superior to Krsna. As long as one has a superior, he is not God, but a servant of God.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believes that lower organisms strive to emulate higher. Animals strive to become like men, and men strive to become like gods.
Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of striving. It is by nature's way that the lower animals come to the platform of men. The living entity evolves from one life form to another, but this is with the help of nature. This law holds, up to the human platform. Having developed consciousness, the human being has the power of discrimination. Originally, the soul is given independence. Krsna tells Arjuna, "Whatever you like, you do." ( Bg. 18.63) God is the Supersoul, and we are the jiva souls subordinate to Him. Therefore we are called tatastha, which means that we are marginal; we can go either way. We may take God's side, or maya's side. That is our choice. When we don't want to serve God, we are sent to maya to serve her. Man's position as a subordinate remains the same, but in maya he thinks, "I am the master." This is just like a child trying to act against his father's wishes. When he is given a chance to do as he likes, the child thinks, "Oh, I am independent now." Actually he is never independent, but he thinks that he is. When death comes, no one is independent. Although man continually serves maya life after life, he still thinks of himself as independent. Only when we surrender to Krsna do we enjoy our real independence.
Syamasundara dasa: But don't lower forms try to emulate higher ones?
Srila Prabhupada: That is natural. Everyone wants a higher position because everyone is trying to be master. That is the whole problem. One can be a master to some extent: a head clerk in an office, a president, or prime minister. There is much ambition in the material world because materialistic men are guided by the idea that "I shall become like Krsna." When their efforts fail in-the material world, they strive to merge into Krsna. This is Mayavadi philosophy. Not knowing that they are already Brahman, spirit soul, they consider themselves the Supreme Brahman, God Himself. Therefore they sit and meditate, thinking, "I am moving the sun. I am moving the moon." This is simply imagination. This is the last snare of maya. Maya first of all allures us to become a big merchant, a prime minister, a president. Maya is always saying, "Become this, become that, become, become." Maya is always telling us to work under her direction. Finally, she says, "Now you have failed in all these things. It is better now that you become God, and attain your real status again." So the living entity begins to think, "I am God," but maya is still kicking him. As soon as this so-called God gets some toothache, he runs to the doctor. He does not stop to think, "What kind of God am I?"
Syamasundara dasa: But what is that urge for promotion?
Srila Prabhupada: It is not the individual's urge. Nature is giving the impetus. For instance, when you were a child, there was no sex urge, but when you attained adolescence, immediately the sex urge became manifest. Similarly, the perfection of consciousness is there, but unless you come to the platform of human life, it will not develop.
Syamasundara dasa: Is there also an urge among lower animals to improve themselves, to be promoted?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but all that is being carried out by nature. That is evolution. Darwin has taken this idea from the Vedas, but he has no idea of the soul. The only business of animals is eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. You may call this the struggle for existence. They are simply trying to live; they have no other ambition. If a man, having attained the human stage, is interested only in these things, he is no better than an animal. Nowadays, these are being taught by modern civilization. They teach you how to live comfortably with a car, a bungalow, a girlfriend, and restaurants. All living entities in this material world have the propensity to enjoy. On one platform, the living entity enjoys certain types of pleasure, but he is always wanting more. It is the spirit of material enjoyment that brings about the disease of materialistic life.
Syamasundara dasa: So the urge to advance is perverted by the urge to enjoy?
Srila Prab hupada: Yes, perverted. The living entity's position is to serve Krsna, but instead he is serving his senses and thinking that he is enjoying. You can see how everyone is working hard day and night in order to enjoy. Everyone is thinking that he will be happy if he just becomes a millionaire. Animals work hard to get some food, and as soon as they acquire food, they are satisfied. But human beings are not so easily satisfied. They are so passionate that they are constantly working very hard to be happy. People do not understand that in material life, they cannot be happy in any position.
Syamasundara dasa: Can the urge to advance be the desire to become godly?
Srila Prabhupada: Desire means that one has lost his real happiness dancing with God like the gopis. Anandamayo 'bhyasat. The Vedanta-sutra [1.1.12] says that by nature, the living entity wants ananda, bliss. Because he seeks ananda in a perverted way, he is confused and frustrated; therefore he thinks, "Not this state but that will give me happiness." However, when he goes to his desired state, he again finds unhappiness. This is because he is seeking ananda in a perverted way. In Vaikuntha-loka, there is eternal happiness because everyone is surrendered to Krsna. In Vrndavana, all the cowherd boys, gopis, cows, trees, and other living entities are centered about Krsna. They are all concerned with making Krsna happy. Only on that platform will we avoid confusion and frustration.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander says that at this point, we cannot know the qualities of the next stage of evolution.
Srila Prabhupada: He may not know, but we know. One who has Krsna as his master and teacher knows everything. Yasmin vijnate sarvam eva vijnatam bhavanti. If you understand Krsna, you understand everything.
Hayagriva dasa: Again, concerning the conception of deity, which is so central, Alexander writes: 'The infinitude of God's deity marks the difference between Him and all other empirical beings....Not only is God infinite in extent and duration, but His deity is also infinite in both respects."
Srila Prabhupada: If God is infinite deity, He is not subject to created living beings. It is incorrect to think of God's deity as one of the deities within this material world. A person who thinks in this way is condemned as a mudha. "Because I appear as an ordinary human being," Krsna tells us, "mudhas, asses, consider Me an ordinary human." (Bg. 9.11)
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander states that God is both body and soul, and that His soul is His deity. "All finites are included in Him," he writes, "and are fragments of God's body, though their individuality is not lost in it—God is...an individual being just as man or any other finite is, only that He is infinite."
Srila Prabhupada: That is right. God is a person, but not like us. People mistake Him to be like an ordinary human being, but this is due to illusion. Krsna is infinite, and Arjuna is finite. It is explained in Bhagavad- gita that Krsna, being infinite, knows everything in the past, present, and future (Bg. 4.5). That is one of the differences between an ordinary living entity and God. The living entity forgets, but God does not.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander sees God's body as neither spaceless nor timeless, for it is space-time itself.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, since everything emanates from Him, there is nothing separate from Him. God includes everything. Everything is part and parcel of God. The Mayavadis say that everything is one, but they do not accept the variety. The wheel is one, but there are different parts: the rim, the spokes, and the hub.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander writes: "Now the body of God is the whole universe, and there is no body outside His. For Him, therefore, all objects are internal, and the distinction of organic and special senses disappears."
Srila Prabhupada: For the impersonalists who are not familiar with the personal form of God, Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita requested Krsna to show His universal form, the virat-rupa. Arjuna himself was accepting the person Krsna as the Supreme, but he knew that those with a poor fund of knowledge would not accept Him. For this reason, in the Eleventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the universal form of God is very elaborately explained. However, we should understand that since the universal form was shown by Krsna, Krsna is the originator. It is not that the universal form is the origin. It was manifested by Krsna, and Lord Krsna's natural form is that of Krsna Himself. The universal form is a feature. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita:aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me." (Bg. 10.8) Since everything emanates from Him, the universal form has also emanated from Him. One who understands this becomes Krsna's devotee.
Hayagriva dasa: For Alexander, theism is equated with personalism, and pantheism with impersonalism. He writes: "For theism, God is an individual being distinct from the finite beings which make up the world....For pantheism, God is eminent in the universe of finite things...."
Srila Prabhupada: When we cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God is impersonal. The sunshine is impersonal, but the sun god is in the background. Because we are on a lower platform, we cannot talk with the sun god; we can experience only the sunshine. Similarly, the expansion of God's energy is impersonal, but the personality is in the background. Because we are in the material energy, we are not in direct touch with God; therefore we say that God is impersonal. If we become devotees, we can talk with God in person, just as the cowherd boys and girls did in Vrndavana. It is also stated, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam (Katha- Up. 2.2.13). God is an eternal, living being, and we are also eternal, living beings. Yet He is different from us in that He is the chief. He has arranged everything for us in both the material and spiritual worlds. He has given us air, water, and fire in order to live. He is the maintainer, and we are subordinate jivas.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander seems to acknowledge both theistic and pantheistic views.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, as I said, because water has come from God, we say that it is God's semina. Because light has come from Him, we say that the sun is his eye. In that everything is an emanation from God, everything is related to God. In any case, the impersonal features are subordinate to the personal.
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) Just as the sunshine depends on the sun itself, so the entire cosmic manifestation depends on God. Krsna says that although everything is resting on Him, He is personally not present. Queen Kunti also says, "You are within and without, yet fools cannot see you." These verses spoken by Queen Kunti are given in Srimad-Bhagavatam:
namasye purusam tvadyam
isvaram prakrteh param
antar bahir avasthitam
na laksyase mudha-drsa
nato natyadharo yatha
katham pasyema hi striyah
"O Krsna, I offer my obeisances unto You because You are the original personality and are unaffected by the qualities of the material world. You are existing both within and without everything, yet You are invisible to all. Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognizable. You Yourself descend to propagate the transcendental science of devotional service unto the hearts of the advanced transcendentalists and mental speculators, who are purified by being able to discriminate between matter and spirit. How, then, can we women know You perfectly?" (Bhag. 1.8.18-20)
This is a very good example. Krsna is playing on the stage, and His son is seeing Him, and another friend is saying, "Do you see your father?" But the son does not recognize his father. A devotee can understand, but a speculator with limited sense perception cannot.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander writes: "It is not so much that God is in everything but rather that everything is in God."
Srila Prabhupada: Since there is nothing but God, how can anything be without God? Since everything is God's expansion, how can we be sometimes with God and sometimes without Him? When we are not in God, we are in maya, but maya is also God's. It is illusion to think that we are without God.
Hayagriva dasa: After analyzing both theism and pantheism, the personal and impersonal, Alexander finds them both defective in themselves, but he concludes, "if a choice must be made, it is theistic"
Srila Prabhupada: This means that when one comes to the personal aspect of God, he sees that everything refers to God and that there is nothing independent. To the unintelligent, it appears that the cosmic manifestation is different from Bhagavan, but actually nothing can exist without the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Hayagriva dasa: At times, Alexander takes the Aristotelian view in maintaining that "there is no reciprocal action from God. For though we speak, as we inevitably must, in human terms of God's response to us, there is no direct experience of that response except through our own feeling that devotion to God or worship carries with it its own satisfaction."
Srila Prabhupada: This means that he does not understand God's omnipotence. God is omnipotent, and He comes before Arjuna to speak Bhagavad- gita. Being all powerful, God can come and speak to His devotee. If He cannot, what is the meaning of His omnipotence? Krsna reciprocates with the advanced devotees.
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
"To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." (Bg. 10.10) God talks to His devotee who is fully in love with Him, but He does not talk with ordinary men.
santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
"I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Syamasundara situated within the heart of the devotee." ( Brahma-samhita 5.38) Just as a king talks with his immediate officers and ministers and not with the ordinary man in the street, God personally talks to His devotees but not to the nondevotees or atheists. We understand that Krsna talked to the gopis and gopas in Vrndavana and reciprocated with His parents, Mother Yasoda and Maharaja Nanda. The cowherd boys who played with Krsna amassed many pious activities in their previous lives to arrive at a position where they could play with God. This is not an ordinary position. People generally think that such play is inconceivable, but when we come to that platform of devotion, we can play with God, ride on God's shoulders, and talk with Him just as with an ordinary friend. Of course, one comes to that position of perfection after many millions of pious births.
Hayagriva dasa: Within the same book, Space, Time and Deity, Alexander contradicts himself on this issue of reciprocation. "God reciprocates the worship man pays Him and the confidence he reposes in Him," he writes. "There is always the double relationship of need. If man wants God and depends upon Him, God wants man, and is so far dependent."
Srila Prabhupada: God is not dependent on anyone. God is independent, but that statement is acceptable in the sense that sometimes God wants to become dependent. That is according to His pleasure. Sometimes He accepts some of His devotees in ways that He can depend on them. He became dependent on Mother Yasoda, just as an ordinary child becomes dependent on his mother. Although everything is dependent on God, and He is not dependent on anyone, He takes pleasure in this kind of relationship.
Hayagriva dasa: I don't think Alexander understood it in that way.
Srila Prabhupada: This is not a very ordinary thing to understand. It cannot be understood by mental speculation.
Hayagriva dasa: Alexander also writes that God Himself is involved in our acts and their issues. "Not only does He matter to us, but we matter to Him." Is this actually so?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, although we are sons of God, we are fallen conditioned souls and are suffering. Therefore God is very compassionate, and He comes personally to teach us. He says, "Why are you rotting in this material world? Surrender to Me and go back to Godhead. Then you will be happy." God is the father of everyone, and it is natural for a father to be concerned about his sons. Presently we are conditioned by material nature because we are disobedient. God, being the Supreme Father, feels for our suffering. But He is not suffering. The devotees of God also feel for the conditioned souls, and Krsna's devotees are very dear to Him because they are trying to spread His instructions, Bhagavad-gita. The devotees are acting on behalf of God to deliver conditioned souls.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believed that man, being part of God, is capable of cooperating with God to make further progress in the universe.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is real life, cooperating with God. But in this material world, man is uncooperative. Krsna says, "Surrender unto Me," but no one wants to do this. Even when people attain the highest levels of human life wherein their karma is regulated and they possess knowledge and yogic abilities, they still will not surrender to Krsna.
krsna-bhakta—niskama, ata eva 'santa'
"Because a devotee of Lord Krsna is desireless, he is peaceful. Fruitive workers desire material enjoyment, jnanis desire liberation, and yogis desire material opulence; therefore they are all lusty and cannot be peaceful." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madh. 19.149) The karmis want sense enjoyment, the jnanis want mukti, liberation, and the yogis want yoga-siddhis, the yoga powers. All these people are demanding various things: sense gratification, liberation, mystic powers. Only the Krsna-bhakta makes no demands. He says, "Dear Lord, I am Your eternal servitor. I surrender unto You. Now do whatever You like with me."
jnatva mamsantim rcchati
"The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries." (Bg. 5.29) By understanding that Krsna is the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend, we can become santa, peaceful.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander felt that man should cooperate with God in order to usher in a higher stage of consciousness, the next stage of evolution. This is man's responsibility.
Srila Prabhupada: But what is the next stage of evolution? When man is prepared to cooperate with God, he has already attained the highest position. Unfortunately, no one wants to cooperate. There is simply enjoyment; there is no more evolution. If you come to the point of worshipping the Supreme Lord, there is no question of evolution. You have already attained the highest form of evolution.
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) The Brahman platform is already attained; he doesn't have to strive to become Brahman. He immediately transcends the three gunas and comes to the platform of spirit. Without being Brahman, how can you serve the Supreme Brahman?
Alexander speaks of the higher stages of evolution, but he has no real knowledge of them. According to the Vaisnava philosophy, there are five basic stages: santa, dasya, sakhya,vatsalya, and madhurya. When you attain the brahma-bhuta stage and understand that you are not the body but spirit soul, you have attained the santa platform. On that platform, you think, "Oh, God is so great!" From the santa stage, you can progress to the dasya stage, wherein you realize that God is so great that some service must be rendered to Him. In the sakhya stage, you not only know that God is great and render service to God, but you also serve God as a friend, like Arjuna. On the vatsalya platform, service is rendered to Krsna as a father or a mother. Yasoda, for instance, rendered service to Krsna as a mother, and she was always thinking, "Krsna is hungry. I must feed Him. I must protect Him from monkeys and fire." On the platform of madhurya- rasa, the highest platform, you can enter into intimate pastimes with Krsna. Although there are many stages in spiritual life, there is actually no difference between them. It is not that those who serve Krsna as friends are inferior to Radharani, who serves Krsna as His consort.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander sees the freedom of the will operating as an activity not subject to extraneous forces. It is the expression of a person acting to serve not only his own interests but those of society as well.
Srila Prabhupada: In a state, a citizen also cooperates in two ways. When he does not break the law, he cooperates as a free citizen, and when he breaks the law, he cooperates by going to prison. He either cooperates by free will or by force. Forceful cooperation is inferior. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said:
jivera 'svarupa' haya—krsnera 'nitya-dasa'
krsnera 'tatastha-sakti' 'bhedabheda-prakasa
suryamsa-kirana, yaiche agni-jvala-caya
svabhavika krsnera tina-prakara 'sakti' haya
"It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna because he is the marginal energy of Krsna, and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krsna has three varieties of energy." ( Caitanya-caritamrta, Madh. 20.108-109) By his constitutional position, the living entity is the eternal servant of Krsna. In the Vaikuntha planets, cooperation is voluntary, and here in this material world, cooperation is forced. In the material world, we are serving maya, working under her force. We can avoid that force only by voluntarily cooperating with Krsna.
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) Automatic cooperation is bhakti, and forced cooperation is karma. These may appear to be the same, but they are not. The karmi may be typing, and the bhakta may be typing, but the karmi is typing under the force of maya, to earn money for sense gratification, and the bhakta is typing for the glorification of Krsna. The activity is the same, but the consciousness is different.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander believed that when one has attained the higher levels of evolution, he can see that everything on the lower levels is determined.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, we should not try to improve our economic condition because it is already decided. Why is one man born rich, and another born to work so hard? Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.18) says that we should not strive hard for material happiness, because material happiness and distress come automatically. An intelligent man utilizes his time to develop his Krsna consciousness.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander accepted Plato's three greatest values in life—truth, beauty, and goodness—as values to be accepted by the majority.
Srila Prabhupada: Unfortunately, in the material world, no one likes the truth. At least in this age, the majority of people are not truthful. As soon as one becomes truthful, he becomes a brahmana. Where are the brahmanas in this age? Kalau sudra sambhava. In Kali-yuga, everyone is a sudra. If Alexander thinks that everyone will accept truthfulness as a great value, he is mistaken.
Syamasundara dasa: For Alexander, there is a practical criterion for truth, but he preferred the coherence principle by which the majority opinion determined truth by mutual agreement.
Srila Prabhupada: Because he is European, he is thinking in a democratic way. The hard fact is that truth is not accepted by ordinary men. Truth is truth. Either it is in your mind or not; truth is absolute. Only highly elevated persons can understand the truth. Out of many truthful men, perhaps only one can understand Krsna as He is.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander defines a good person as one who integrates and controls his impulses for the best interests of himself and society.
Srila Prabhupada: This is also described in Vedic literatures:
samena ca damena ca
yamena niyamena va
"To concentrate the mind, one must observe a life of celibacy and not fall down. One must undergo the austerity of voluntarily giving up sense enjoyment. One must then control the mind and senses, give charity, be truthful, clean and nonviolent, follow the regulative principles, and regularly chant the holy name of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.1.13) These are the processes by which we may become perfect, but if we become devotees of Krsna, we immediately attain all the good qualities. 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." ( Bhag. 5.18.12).
Syamasundara dasa: In the second sense of the word "good," Alexander says that whatever enhances man's welfare or happiness is good.
Srila Prabhupada: That is not necessarily so. One may open hospitals to help people, but spreading Krsna consciousness is greater welfare work. What is really good for man is Krsna bhakti. Nothing else.
Syamasundara dasa: Alexander maintains that goodness consists of modifications in the environment that will aid man in his spiritual pursuits.
Srila Prabhupada: That is what we are trying to do in this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not that everyone can follow the regulative principles strictly. We are proposing that people chant Hare Krsna. Whatever the situation, somehow or other, we must engage our mind in Krsna. Rupa Gosvami said: yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet [Brs. 1.2.4]. "Never mind the rules and regulations. Just fix your mind on Krsna! As soon as you become Krsna conscious, the regulative principles will be your servants."
Hayagriva dasa: As for the existence of evil and suffering in the world, Alexander writes: "God is not responsible for the miseries endured in working out His providence, but rather we are responsible for our acts...."
Srila Prab hupada: Yes, we create our own miserable condition, just as a silkworm creates a cocoon, becomes entrapped and dies.
aprapya mam nivartante
“Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of foes, but return to birth and death in this material world." (Bg. 9.3) Because the living entity acts independently, not caring for God's instructions, he is entangled, and he suffers. In this Way, he creates his own suffering.