Joh Dewey
John Dewey
April 3, 2017

American Pragmatism

William James

W illiam James was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labeled him the "Father of American psychology".


January 11, 1842 New York City, New York


August 26, 1910 (aged 68) Tamworth, New Hampshire


19th/20th century philosophy


Western philosophy

Main interests

Pragmatism, psychology, philosophy of religion, epistemology, meaning

Chapter Ⅺ. American Pragmatism

William James


Hayagriva dasa: In his most famous book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, James writes: "Were we to limit our view to it, we should have to define religion as an external art, the art of winning the favor of God....The relation goes direct from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and his maker."

Srila Prabhupada: There are varieties of living beings living everywhere from the water up to the higher planetary systems. In fact, Padma Purana informs us that there are 8,400,000 species: plants, creepers, trees, insects, aquatics, birds, animals, and so forth. God is concerned with all of them, because they are all part and parcel of God. In one word, God is the Father and maintainer of all living entities. He has two subordinate energies—material and spiritual. In the material world, material nature is the mother, God is the Father, and the various living entities are all sons maintained by the Supreme Father. This is the basis of universal brotherhood. It is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita ( sarva-yonisu, Bg. 14.4) that material nature is the mother and that Krsna is the seed-giving father. If we understand these relationships, we will attain peace and advanced knowledge.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the founding of religions, James writes: "The founders of every church owed their power originally to the fact of their direct personal communion with the divine. Not only the superhuman founders, the Christ, the Buddha, Mohammed, but all the originators of Christian sects have been in this case;—so personal religion should seem the primordial thing, even to those who continue to esteem it incomplete."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the Supreme Father is a person. We have no experience of a father being anything but a person. Just as in the material world, all fathers are persons, the ultimate Father is also a person. The personal conception of God is there in every religion: Christian, Mohammedan, and Vedic. In the Vedic religion, it is stated, om tad visnoh paramam padam. Those who are spiritually advanced know that the Supreme Father is Lord Visnu. Lord Visnu and Krsna are the same. Impersonal realization is imperfect and incomplete, whereas Bhagavan, the personal God, is the ultimate end of realization. Our first business is to know God and our relationship with Him. Then we can act accordingly to perfect our lives. This is the process of God realization.

Hayagriva dasa: James considered religion to be the source of philosophy. He writes: "Since the relation (of man to God) may be either moral, physical, or ritual, it is evident that out of religion in the sense in which we take it, theologies, philosophies, and ecclesiastical organizations may secondarily grow."

Srila Prabhupada: Philosophy means advancing knowledge, and we are perfecting our knowledge when we begin our understanding of God. Due to foolishness, we sometimes deride God's existence. Sometimes we concoct some imaginary idea, and sometimes we have impersonal and pantheistic conceptions. Philosophy is the search for God, but due to our imperfection, we have different opinions and conceptions of Him. God is a person, and when we know God, talk with Him, see Him, feel His presence, and play with Him, we have attained the highest platform of God realization. We then come to realize that God is great and that we are small and always subordinate. Carrying out God's orders is religion, and the more we realize this, the more we perfect our religion.

Syamasundara dasa: James noted that there are two fundamental philosophical temperaments. One is called tender-mindedness, and this is typified by the rationalist, the idealist, the optimist, the religionist, and the dogmatist. Tough-mindedness is typified by the empiricist, the materialist, the pessimist, the atheist, the fatalist, and the skeptic.

Srila Prabhupada: This depends upon our education, whether we become tender or tough-minded. In either case, we propose that originally the soul is good. Tenderness and toughness are developed later on. They are not the standard. When you come to the platform of the soul, everything is good. From Bhagavad- gita, we understand that every living entity is part and parcel of God, and God is good. Arjuna accepts Krsna asparam brahma param dhama pavitram (Bg. 10.12). The word pavitra means "pure." Because we are part of God, we are pure. Impurities are acquired due to contamination in this material world. We may be either tender or tough-minded: this is due to our impurity acquired in this material world. We don't credit a person either way, being tender or tough. A man suffering from a headache thinks that it is better to be suffering from indigestion instead, and vice versa. Because the pure soul is affected by the three gunassattva, rajas, and tamas—he is suffering. He must be relieved from all suffering. From the material point of view, one may be a brahmana contaminated by sattva-guna, or a sudra contaminated by tamo-guna or rajo-guna, but from the spiritual platform, both are contaminated by material nature. Because of this, both are suffering. It is explained in Bhagavad- gita that the brahmana thinks, "Oh, I am so pure and learned. I am so this, I am so that." This is called contamination by sattva-guna. He is not thinking that he is part and parcel of Krsna. As long as we are affected by these material modes of nature, our position is the same.

Syamasundara dasa: James called himself a radical empiricist. He did not see the universe as a neat set of relationships because direct experience informs us that facts are mosaic and discontinuous in their design. Thus for him the universe is a composition of facts which do not form a perfect unity.

Srila Prabhupada: Because he is seeing the universe with imperfect eyes, it appears imperfect. Actually, everything is complete. According to the first verse of Isopanisad:

om purnam adah purnam idea
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
purnam evavasisyate

"The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance." (Isopanisad, Invocation) God is perfect, and whatever is created by God is perfect. James thinks that it is imperfect because he cannot see it through the eyes of God.

Syamasundara dasa: For James, the ultimate unification of the universe is never fully attained. He writes: "The universe continually grows in quantity by new experiences that graft themselves upon the older mass; but these very new experiences often help the mass to a more consolidated form."

Srila Prabhupada: This conception results from a poor fund of knowledge. The universe is complete, but man alone is not complete. Because the universe is created by a perfect being, it is also perfect. It is not that the universe is evolving. It has been perfect since its creation. Since our knowledge is imperfect, we think that it is evolving.

Syamasundara dasa: Is this because my observations of the universe are evolving toward a unity?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Syamasundara dasa: Well, this is James's criterion for truth: that which I perceive is true. Truth is what one can experience.

Srila Prabhupada: But what you can perceive may also be wrong because you are not perfect. You may think an imperfect thing perfect, or a perfect thing imperfect. In the sastras it is stated that because human beings are controlled by the mode of passion, they love to work very hard, and thus they think that hard work is happiness. At the same time, the sastras point out that hard work for sense gratification is also being carried on by hogs and dogs. Animals are also working hard for some remuneration, for food, or sense enjoyment. This is called maya, illusion.

Syamasundara dasa: James felt that truth is more than just an agreement of idea with reality. It also has practical significance. What is practical is true.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the truth must be practical. From the verses of Prabodhananda Sarasvati, we can understand that one who receives but the slightest merciful glance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu considers Brahman and liberation to be hellish. Kaivalyam narakayate. Such a person also considers the heavenly planets to be mere phantasmagoria, and the yoga-siddhis, the yoga potencies, to be unimportant. Materialists suffer in this material condition, but a devotee is always satisfied. Although others are full of anxiety, a devotee sees everything as pleasing. All of this is possible by a fragment of the merciful glance of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is practical. As soon as we become Krsna conscious, all this takes place.

Syamasundara dasa: For James, truth means experience.

Srila Prabhupada: That is also our proposal. Bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra caisa (Bhag. 11.2.42). One who is advanced in bhakti is no longer interested in material enjoyment. Unless we come to detest material things, it is to be understood that we are not making progress. When a hungry man eats, he feels satisfied, and his body gains strength. Similarly, when we advance in Krsna consciousness, we feel spiritually strong and lose our taste for material enjoyment.

Syamasundara dasa: James felt that truths can be created or developed in the same way as wealth or health.

Srila Prabhupada: Health may be created, but truth cannot. It is not that truth is developing; rather, you are gradually progressing towards truth. It is not that the sun is developing, but as the clouds disappear, your ability to see the sun develops. The sun is fixed in its position.

Syamasundara dasa: Well, for James, truth is a system of verification. That is, ideas become true or are made true through our experience of them.

Srila Prabhupada: No, as you make progress, truth is revealed. In Bhagavad- gita, Krsna says that as we surrender unto Him, He reveals Himself proportionately (Bg. 4.11).

Syamasundara dasa: But if an idea works, and is applied to concrete facts of experience, we can accept it as a true idea. As our experiences develop, our life progresses. If an idea works in my experience, it becomes true for me.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is our process. In the beginning, it is through faith that we enter into the Krsna consciousness movement. In the beginning, we have no practical experience of Krsna consciousness. We may see that people who are Krsna conscious appear to have very bright faces, and our interest may increase on seeing this. Thus we first come with a little faith and interest, and as we associate with the devotees, our interest increases.

Syamasundara dasa: So our experiences prove that the ideas are true.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, otherwise how can European and American boys be satisfied with so few material possessions? They are realizing in practice that a simple life is better than an artificial one.

Syamasundara dasa: But what is practical for one person may not be for another. What is the criterion?

Srila Prabhupada: There are relative truths, and there is the Absolute Truth. Some people are interested in one, and some in the other. We may accept some temporary means to attain a goal; however, the ultimate goal is to please Krsna, and for this end we may adopt some temporary, relative means.

Syamasundara dasa: According to James, one who believes has a greater chance to discover the truth than one who doubts.

Srila Prabhupada: That is so.

ajnas casraddadhanas ca
samsayatma vinasyati
nayam loko 'sti na paro
na sukham samsayatmanah

"But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul, there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next." (Bg. 4.40) Those who are doubters are finished. Is James a believer or a doubter?

Syamasundara dasa: He was a believer, a New England Protestant. He says that one who disbelieves faces the risk of losing any chance of discovering the truth.

Srila Prabhupada: That is so. This means that we accept the fact that God is truth and that He is existing. He believes that we have a better chance to get at the truth by believing in God, and God is truth; therefore God is existing. If you believe that you can become warm by getting next to fire, you are asserting the existence of fire. Unless there is a fire, how can there be warmth? So the belief itself is the proof.

Syamasundara dasa: For James, the mind must survive the body, since the mind is not dependent on the body for its existence.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a fact. When the gross body is finished, the subtle body consisting of the mind, intelligence, and ego remains. These guide us to another gross body. They are like the aroma coming from a rose. We can see the rose, but we cannot see the aroma. Still, the aroma is being scattered by the air. Similarly, when the spirit soul gives up the gross body, it is carried by the mind, intelligence, and ego. According to our desire, that subtle body enters another gross body.

Syamasundara dasa: If the mind and intelligence are not material, do they not die?

Srila Prabhupada: To die means to disappear. The mind disappears when you are liberated.

Syamasundara dasa: Then I carry my mind with me throughout all my lifetimes?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, as long as you are not liberated.

Syamasundara dasa: Is this the same mind I have now and have always had?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but the body, which is material and gross, changes. The subtle material body—mind, intelligence, and false ego—accompanies us until we are liberated.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning nondevotional religions, James gives the following estimation of impersonalism and Buddhism: "There are systems of thought which the world usually calls religious, and yet do not positively assume a God. Buddhism is in this case. Popularly, of course, the Buddha himself stands in place of a God; but in strictness the Buddhistic system is atheistic."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and that is also the description given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Lord Buddha appeared at a time when people were atheistic and accustomed to killing many animals in sacrificial offerings. Lord Buddha was very much aggrieved to see poor animals being killed unnecessarily; therefore he preached a religion of nonviolence. Because the people were atheists, Lord Buddha, in order to bring them under his control, agreed with them and said, "Yes, there is no God, but listen to me." This is a kind of transcendental cheating. In the beginning he said there is no God, but he is God Himself. In this way, people accepted his words and instructions. Animal killers cannot understand God and religion, although they may have some vague idea. Lord Buddha wanted to stop their sinful activities and reestablish a system of religion dedicated to nonviolence. Therefore he rejected the Vedas, which allow restricted animal sacrifice.

Hayagriva dasa: For James, religion means surrender and total involvement. He writes: "In the religious life....surrender and sacrifice are positively espoused: even unnecessary givings-up are added in order that the happiness may increase. Religion thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is necessary....It becomes an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no other portion of our life can so successfully fulfill."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, society without religion is animalistic. We have already defined religion as understanding, loving, and obeying God. These principles are personally taught by God Himself in Bhagavad-gita:

manmana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo 'si me

"Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend." (Bg. 18.65) We may think of God either as a personal God or a localized or all-pervading God, but in any case, God has form. It is easier to think of the form of the Lord. Attempting to meditate on the impersonal aspect is very troublesome ( Bg. 12.5). Although Krsna has different incarnations and forms, He is the Supreme; therefore we meditate upon Him. In our Krsna consciousness movement, we can think of Krsna easily because His form, the Deity, is in the temple. We also have the perfect instructions of Bhagavad- gita. God gives perfect instructions in everything: religion, politics, sociology, philosophy, science, physics, and history. Those who are fortunate will see the actual form of God according to His instructions, and perfect their lives. This is what is wanted.

Hayagriva dasa: James sees happiness as an integral part of religion.

Srila Prabhupada: When you know and follow God, you become happy.

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na socati na kanksati
samah sarvesu bhutesu
mad-bhaktim labhate param

"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me." (Bg. 18.54) As soon as we are God realized, we transcend duality and all distress, and become immediately happy. There is no longer hankering and lamentation. We no longer distinguish between men and nations. We see everyone within the material world—whether man, animal, or a tree—as a living entity, a part and parcel of God. In this way, we have a clear understanding and a perfect life.

Hayagriva dasa: In The Varieties of Religious Experience, James further writes: "If a creed makes a man feel happy, he almost inevitably adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true; therefore it is true—such rightly or wrongly, is one of the immediate inferences of the religious logic used by ordinary men."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you have a clear conception of God, and have decided to obey Him and love Him, you will be happy. This is the process utilized by this Krsna consciousness movement. We have no other business than obeying the orders of God. God has told us to preach this confidential philosophy of Bhagavad-gita everywhere. Since we are trying to love God and obey His orders, we are eager to spread this Krsna consciousness movement. Otherwise, it is Krsna's business. Why should we bother about Him? We are attempting to spread this movement because we love Krsna, and He is happy that His message is being spread throughout the world. That is our happiness also. Since we are serving God without a doubt, we also feel happiness. This is reciprocation with God. This is religion. Religion is not sentiment, but actual realization of God, the actual carrying out of His orders. Our progressive life is secure if we are happy when God is happy.

Hayagriva dasa: James sees the lover of God as being a morally free person. He writes: "St. Augustine's maxim, 'If you but love God, you may do as you incline—' is morally one of the profoundest of observations, yet it is pregnant, for such persons, with passports beyond the bounds of conventional morality."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is very nicely put. If God is satisfied with our action, our action is moral. Conventional morality, which says, "This is good, and this is bad," is a mental concoction. Morality refers to the activities which satisfy God. If our action dissatisfies God, it is immoral. We therefore sing every day, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado ( Sri Gurv-astaka 8). The orders of God are carried out by the representative of God, the spiritual master. When we have no direct connection with God, the spiritual master serves as a transparent intermediary between God and ourselves. In the perfectional stage, of course, we can talk with God directly, but in the beginning, the neophyte must receive instructions from the spiritual master who is directly connected with God. If we satisfy the spiritual master, we have satisfied God, and this is our happiness.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning evil, James writes: "Evil is a disease; and worry over disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds to the original complaint....The best repentence is to up and act for righteousness, and forget that you ever had relations with sin."

Srila Prabhupada: When you are in a diseased condition, your suffering increases. When no one attempts to extinguish a fire, it increases. Debts unpaid will compound interests. Therefore diseases, fire, and debts should not be left unattended. They should be completely extinguished. We must know that our suffering is due to our disobedience to the orders of God, to our being irreligious. We have a relationship with God, but because we are now covered by material contamination, we are ignorant of it. We are thinking of ourselves as independent, and that is our foolishness. The demoniac and atheistic incorrectly think themselves independent of the orders of God; therefore they are forced to accept what they do not want: the punishments of birth, old age, disease, and death. Despite this punishment, the atheists still deny God's existence. God is there, and His orders are there. We should accept the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master, the representative of God, and execute them. Then we become happy and overcome the results of evil.

Syamasundara dasa: Like Mill and others, James felt that due to the existence of evil in the universe, God is not unlimited.

Srila Prabhupada: He did not know that evil does not exist independent of God. According to the sastras, evil is the back side of God. Back side or front side, God is God. God is absolute. It is not that I can neglect or deny my back. I cannot say, "Beat me on my back side." The back is as important as the front. Those who are sinful cannot stand the front of God. Therefore Krsna says:

yesam tv anta-gatam papam
jananam punya-karmanam
te dvandva-moha-nirmukta
bhajante mam drdha-vratah

"Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated, and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination." ( Bg. 7.28) Unless we are completely uncontaminated, we cannot come to Krsna consciousness. Once we surrender unto Krsna and accept His orders, Krsna immediately relieves us from all sinful reactions.

Syamasundara dasa: James defines the world as the "stuff of pure experience," and says that experience is sometimes manifest as mind, and sometimes as matter.

Srila Prabhupada: It is made up of experience, but whose experience? It is not due to your experience that these flowers are here. You have not created these flowers. He speaks of pure experience, but he does not know that it is Krsna's experience.

na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate
na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drsyate
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate
svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca

"He does not possess bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence." (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.7-8) According to the Vedas, the Supreme is equipped with different kinds of energies, and those energies can be experienced. This universe and everything within the cosmic manifestation is designed by the Supreme. Everything is a result of His multi-energies. In order for a man to create a flower on canvas, he must be thoroughly experienced in his art, but we can see that the multi-energies of Krsna are working so nicely that flowers appear automatically.

Hayagriva dasa: James divides religion into two basic types. One he calls the "sky-blue optimistic gospel," and the other "pessimistic" in its recognition of the futility and miseries of materialistic life. He felt that the completest religions take a pessimistic view of material existence, and offer liberation from it.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, only an animal is not pessimistic about life in this material world. A man is capable of knowing the threefold sufferings of material life. There are sufferings of the mind and body, sufferings offered by other living entities, and sufferings forced upon us by natural catastrophes and the laws of nature. The world is full of suffering, but under the spell of maya, illusion, we think we are progressing. Ultimately, whatever we do, death is there to annihilate the results. Under these circumstances, there is no happiness within this material world. We may make all arrangements for happiness, but at any moment, death may capture us. So what happiness can we have here? Therefore an intelligent man is always pessimistic about material life. He knows that he will not be allowed to be happy here. As we further advance, we understand the orders of Krsna: sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. "Abandon all religions and just surrender unto Me." (Bg. 18.66) We must surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and after surrendering and understanding Him fully, we can go to the world that is full of bliss, knowledge, and eternal life. Unless we take a pessimistic view of this material world, we will remain attached to it, and the repetition of birth and death will ensue. In this world, everyone is attempting to live permanently, but nature does not allow this. People work very hard, and sometimes get good results, bad results, or frustration. So where is happiness? Happiness is understanding God, acting according to His advice, and returning home, back to Godhead.

Hayagriva dasa: James believes that there is a certain composite picture of universal saintliness, which is the same in all religions, and of which the features can be easily traced. He has noted that holymen possess: "One, a feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world's selfish little interest; and a conviction...of the existence of an Ideal Power."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that feeling is there because the greatness of God is experienced. God is great in six opulences: wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation.

Hayagriva dasa: Secondly, holymen possess "a sense of the friendly continuity of the Ideal Power with our own life, in a willing self-surrender to its control."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, there is a friendly continuity. There are five basic relationships. In the first, the relationship is between master and servant, then friend to friend, son to father, father to son, and beloved to beloved. All of these are friendly relationships, and every living entity has a natural instinct to accept any one of them. Thus our friendly relationships with God can be chosen. Someone may like to relate to Him as a servant, a friend, a father, a son, or a conjugal lover. When we are free from material contamination, our particular relationship is revived, and we understand ourselves as eternal parts and parcels of God.

Hayagriva dasa: Thirdly, the holyman experiences "an immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, material selfishness is maya. Those who are enchanted by the spell of maya do not know that their real self-interest is in knowing their relationship with God. Our first duty is to have a complete idea of God and our relationship with Him. According to the Vedic process, whether we take up the hatha-yoga, jnana-yoga, or bhakti-yoga system, the purpose is realization of God. A perfect human being knows that God is supplying his necessities and that he need not try to improve his economic condition. A sadhu, or holyman, is not interested in improving his material condition, but his spiritual condition.

Hayagriva dasa: Lastly, James speaks of the holyman experiencing "a shifting of the emotional center toward loving and harmonious affections, toward 'yes' and away from 'no' where the claims of the non-ego are concerned."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, God is always asking us to obey His orders, and as soon as we do so, as soon as we agree with Him, we become liberated. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes liberation as giving up everything except devotional life.

narayana-parah sarve
na kutascana bibhyati
api tulyartha-darsinah

"Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them, the heavenly planets, liberation, and the hellish planets are all the same, because such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord." (Bhag. 6.17.28) Life is meant for rendering devotional service to the Lord, and as soon as we understand this and commit ourselves to the rendering of such service, we are liberated. That is called mukti.

Hayagriva dasa: James believes that the existence of many religions in the world is not regrettable because different types of men necessitate different types of religion. "Some may really be the better for a religion of consolation and reassurance," he writes, "whilst others are better for one of terror and reproof...."

Srila Prabhupada: I have said that religion means accepting God as the Supreme Father, material nature as the mother, and all living entities as sons of God. The father is the maintainer, and all his sons have the right to live at his expense. Every living being should be satisfied with his condition, which is given by God. No one should encroach upon the rights of others, including the rights of animals to live peacefully. According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a happy life means living in the family of Krsna without violating the rules and regulations. In a family, the sons can live very happily by obeying their father. So there may be many types of religion, but awareness of this basic relationship with God and His creation should be there.

Hayagriva dasa: Since James was acquainted only with the impersonalist Vedanta school of Hinduism, he wrote of samadhi instead of devotional service. "When a man comes out of samadhi" he writes, "...he remains 'enlightened, a sage, a prophet, a saint, his whole character changed, his life changed, illumined."'

Srila Prabhupada: Samadhi means ecstasy, and if we are in God consciousness, we are in samadhi. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna speaks of the yogi in samadhi:

yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah

"And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." (Bg. 6.47) In samadhi, the mind is always absorbed in God. If we continue in Krsna consciousness, we are in samadhi.

Hayagriva dasa: James describes samadhi to be a union in which the individual has lost contact with the external world.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

Hayagriva dasa: And he therefore concludes that "Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half an hour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light of common day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; but when they recur, it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuous development in what is felt as inner richness and importance."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that richness is perfected when we think of Krsna constantly. That is recommended in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, which I quoted previously. Consequently, in our Krsna consciousness movement, we are devoted to thinking of Krsna twenty-four hours daily. When we do not fall down from the yoga principle, we experience samadhi.

Hayagriva dasa: James himself claims to have experienced such a state momentarily, under the influence of ether. And today, people claim to induce mystical states through psychedelic drugs.

Srila Prabhupada: These are artificial means, and they cannot be sustained. It is better to engage in the bona fide devotional process— sravanam kirtanam visnohsmaranam pada-sevanam (Bhag. 7.5.23)—always hearing about Krsna, talking about Him, remembering Him, serving Him in the temple, distributing His literatures, and so on. There are many services we can render in order to be fully absorbed in Krsna consciousness.

Hayagriva dasa: After analyzing many different religious experiences, James arrives at five basic conclusions. One: "That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the material universe is existing on the spiritual effulgence of the Lord, just as all the planets are resting upon the sunshine. Everything rests on the spiritual effulgence of the Lord, but when we forget the Lord, we call this the material world. Actually, the material world is in the spiritual world, but forgetfulness of God is material. When we revive our dormant God consciousness, the material world no longer exists. For a person truly advanced in God consciousness, there is nothing material. Everything is spiritual.

Hayagriva dasa: You are anticipating James's second conclusion, which is: "Union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is so. When we no longer forget our eternal relationship with God, nothing is material.

Hayagriva dasa: Third, prayer, or communion with God, "is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world." And, fourth, religion produces "a new zest which adds itself like a gift to life."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, realizing God's creation with awe, veneration, and appreciation constitutes one type of relationship called santa-rasa. From there, we can progress to the point of dasya-rasa, which involves serving God, and finally to the madhurya- rasa, which includes accepting God as our most beloved object. The devotee may choose whichever relationship he likes; the result is the same. However, by comparative study, the sadhus have decided that the madhurya-rasa, our relationship with God as lover and beloved, is the highest relationship.

Hayagriva dasa: Finally, religion produces "an assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is very nice. A devotee is always at peace because he is always confident that since he is sincerely serving Krsna, Krsna will save him from all danger. Prahlada Maharaja was always peaceful, although his demoniac father, Hiranyakasipu, attempted to kill him in so many ways. God always protects His devotee, and therefore the pure devotee is not disturbed by any material condition. He has firm faith in God, and this is called surrender. Full surrender means accepting everything favorable to God consciousness and rejecting everything unfavorable. When we enter the family of God, we have firm faith and security under the protection of God.

Hayagriva dasa: James then concludes that "in opening ourselves to God's influence, our deepest destiny is fulfilled."

Srila Prabhupada:

Yes, that fulfillment is what is wanted. God demands that we fully surrender unto Him, and when we do so, our lives are perfected.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons