Dialectic Spiritualism – Vi British Empiricism – John Locke (1632-1704)

Hayagriva dasa: In Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke writes: “This argument of universal consent, which is made use of to prove innate principles, seems to me a demonstration that there are none such because there are none to which all mankind give a universal con­sent.” That is, it cannot be argued that all people have an innate or inborn idea of God. But do innate ideas have to be universal? Might they not differ from person to person?

Srila Prabhupada: Innate ideas depend on the development of our con­sciousness. Animals have no innate idea of God due to their undeveloped consciousness. In every human society, however, men have some innate idea of a superior power. For instance, even aborigines offer obeisances when they see lightning. The offering of obeisances to something wonder­ful or powerful is innate in man. The consciousness of offering respects is not developed in animals. When we have developed this innate idea to its fullest extent, we are Krsna conscious.

Hayagriva dasa: Wouldn’t it be better to say that the living entity is hom with certain tendencies, which carry over from the previous life, and that all he needs is to meet with some stimulus in order for them to be manifest?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, when an animal is born, it natu­rally searches for the nipples of its mother. This means that the animal has had experience in a previous life, and therefore knows how to find food. Although the animal may not be able to see, it knows how to search for its food by virtue of past experience. This proves the eternal continuity of the soul. Presently, I am living in this room, and if I go away for ten years, then return, I can still remember where the bathroom and living room are. This remembrance is due to my having lived here before. In material life, the living entity passes through different species, or forms.

Hayagriva dasa: Locke would argue that the idea of Krsna is not innate because it is not universally assented to. Since not everyone ac­knowledges that Krsna is God, Locke would say that the idea is not inborn in the mind.

Srila Prabhupada: In the material world, different living entities have different ideas. The ideas of a person with developed consciousness are different from those of a person with undeveloped consciousness. If someone is Krsna conscious shortly after his birth, we are to understand that he has previously contemplated Krsna. In Bhagavad-gita, Sri Krsna says:

tatra tam buddhi-samyogam
labhate paurva-dehikam
yatate ca tato bhuyah
samsiddhau kuru-nandana

“On taking such a birth, he again revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success. ” (Bg. 6. 43) Our culture of Krsna consciousness is never lost; it grows until it is perfected. Therefore Krsna says:

nehabhikrama-naso’ sti
pratyavayo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trayate mahato bhayat

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advance­ment on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Bg. 2.40) We have the example of Ajamila, who cultivated Krsna con­sciousness in the beginning of his life, and then fell down and became the greatest debauchee. Yet at the end of his life, he again remembered Narayava and attained salvation.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke maintains that there are two basic ideas: those which come from sensations, external experience, and those provided by inner reflection.

Srila Prabhupada: That is known as pratyaksa pramana. However, we have to go higher. Pratyaksa, paro’ksa, anumana, adhoksaja, and aparajita. These are different stages of knowledge. Pratyak?a means di­rect knowledge, paro’?a is knowledge received from others, and anumana, inference, is knowledge acquired after judging direct knowl­edge and knowledge received from authorities. Adhokjata is knowledge beyond the limits of direct perception. Aparajita is spiritual knowledge. All the stages of knowledge advance toward spiritual knowledge. Direct perception is material.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke states that the mind can reflect only after it has acquired some sense experience. In other words, only after acquir­ing some knowledge of this world through the senses can we have thoughts and ideas.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, but my ideas may not always be true. I may have experience of gold and a mountain, and I may dream of a golden mountain, but a golden mountain does not exist in the external world.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke distinguished between simple ideas and complex ideas. There are four types of simple ideas: those we perceive from one sense, such as sound, touch, and so on; those we receive from two or more senses, such as motion or space; those we receive by reflection, such as remembering, reasoning, knowing, and believing; and those we receive from both sensation and reflection, ideas of existence, or unity.

Srila Prabhupada: These all arise out of different material conditions. For instance, how do we experience ether? By sound. We can neither see nor touch ether. As the material condition changes, the sense percep­tion also changes. We can sense air and water by touch, fire by form, and fragrance by smell. In the beginning, the living entity has his mind, intelligence, and ego, but presently the mind, intelligence and ego are false, just as this present body is false. The spirit soul has a body, but this body is covered. Similarly, the mind, ego, and intelligence are cov­ered by material conditioning. When they are uncovered, we acquire our pure mind, pure intelligence, and pure identity. Devotional service means bringing the soul to his original, pure condition. In Krsna con­sciousness, everything is pure: pure mind, pure intelligence, and pure ego. Tat-paratvena nirmalam (Narada-panicaratra). Everything is purified when it is connected with the supreme spirit. When we are purified, we have nothing to do with the material mind, body, intelli­gence, or ego. We are purely spiritual.

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Syamasundara dasa: Locke is trying to find a basis for knowledge begin­ning with sense perception. He states that the mind receives knowledge from the senses and is able to reflect on this.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we agree that the mind receives knowledge through the senses. Then there is thinking, feeling, and willing. There is also judgment and work. We receive many impressions and then plan something. We think and feel, and then we put the plan into action. That action is the process of work.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke states that these simple ideas combine to form complex or abstract ideas like the conception of God. This is an enlargement upon the simple ideas of existence, knowledge, time, power, and so on. We combine these to make a complex idea like the idea of God.

Srila Prabhupada: God is not a complex idea but a perfect idea. How­ever, God is so great that He is naturally complex to the ordinary man.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke states that there are three types of complex ideas: that which depends upon substances like roundness, hardness, and so on; that which is a relation between one idea and another, agreeing or disagreeing with another; and that which is a substance or body sub­sisting by itself and providing the basis for experience. Because we can know only the quality of a substance, we cannot know what the substance itself is, nor where it comes from, nor how it is produced. The nature of ultimate reality cannot be known or proved.

Srila Prabhupada: It is a fact that it cannot be known by such mental speculation, but it can be known from a person who knows it. Locke may not know, but someone else may know. Everyone thinks that others are like himself. Because he does not know, he thinks that others do not know. But that is not a fact. There may be someone who knows.

tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

“In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.” (Mundaka Upanisad l.2.12) The Vedas tell us to seek out the person who knows. That is the bona fide guru. Caitanya Maha­prabhu says that such a guru is one who knows that the ultimate reality is Ksna. That is the most important qualification.

kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya

“Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi, or a sudra-regardless of what he is-he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna. ” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madh. 8. 128)

Syamasundara dasa: Locke claims that objective reality has primary qualities that are inseparable from the object itself, just as the color red is inseparable from a red object.

Srila Prabhupada: We say that which cannot be separated is called dharma. Dharma is the particular characteristic of a particular thing. For every living entity, dharma means rendering service to Krsna, the supreme. That is liberation and the perfection of life.

Hayagriva dasa: Some people claim to remember events from their pre­vious lives. How are these reminiscences different from innate ideas?

Srila Prabhupada: An innate idea is inevitable. The idea that God is great and that I am controlled is innate everywhere, but sometimes out of ignorance, one tries to become God. That is not possible. That is maya, and one simply suffers. It is an innate idea with the living entity that he is a servant and that God is great.

Hayagriva dasa: Locke further writes: “The knowledge of our own being we have by intuition. The existence of God, reason clearly makes known to us. We have a more certain knowledge of the existence of a God than of anything our senses can discover. ” How is this? If this is the case, how is it that some men have no conception of God?

Srila Prabhupada: Everyone has some conception of God, but under the spell of maya, the living entity tries to cover that conception. How can any sane man deny God’s existence? Some superior power must be pre­sent to create the vast ocean, land, and sky. No one can avoid some conception of God, but one can artificially and foolishly attempt to avoid it. This is called atheism, and this will not endure. One’s foolishness will ultimately be exposed.

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Srila Prabhupada: Locke recommends four tests to know whether knowl­edge is true, by which we can perceive agreement or disagreement be­tween ideas.

Srila Prabhupada: Whether we agree or not, truth is truth. There is no question of my agreement or disagreement.

Syamasundara dasa: We can objectively study something to see if there is agreement or disagreement. It is not that knowledge depends on our subjective opinion. There must be some scientific proof.

Srila Prabhupada: Our test of truth is Vedic evidence. For instance, it is stated in the Vedas that cow stool is pure. We accept this as true. We cannot reach this conclusion by argument.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke states that God must be a thinking being because matter, which is senseless, could never produce sense experi­ence, perception, and thoughts.

Srila Prabhupada: Certainly. By definition, God has full knowledge of everything. Krsna says:

vedaham samatitani
vartamanani carjuna
bhavisyani ca bhutani
marh tu veda na kascana

“O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities, but Me no one knows.” (Bg. 7.26) Krsna also told Arjuna that millions of years ago He instructed the sun god in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gfta. Krsna also points out that Arjuna took birth with Him, but that Arjuna had forgotten. Krsna knows everything. That is the meaning of omniscience.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke also says that since there are no innate ideas, moral, religious, and political values must be regarded as products of experience.

Srila Prabhupada: We should understand what is the best experience. For instance, we consider Manu to be the authority on political and social affairs. Manur iksvakave’bravit (Bg. 4.1). Manu instructed his son lk?viiku. If this depends on experience, we should accept perfect, un­adulterated experience.

Syamasundara dasa: He states that values must obey the will of God as expressed in natural law, the laws upon which men agree, such as social contracts, and the established traditions, customs, and opinions of man­kind. He states that our laws must be obeyed in such a way that we will exist in harmony.

Srila Prabhupada: And what is that harmony? Perfect harmony is in knowing that we are part and parcel of God. In this body, there are different parts, and each part has a particular function. When each part performs its function, the body is harmonious. The hand is meant for touching, lifting, and grasping, but if the hand says, “I shall walk,” there is disharmony. Being part and parcel of God, we have a particular func­tion. If we fulfill that function, there is harmony. If we do not, there is disharmony. The law of nature means working in harmony with the desire of God.

mayadhyaksena prakrtih
suyate sa-caracaram
hetunanena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

”This material nature is working under My direction, 0 son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again. “(Bg. 9. 10) Under Krsna’s superintendence, everything is functioning in harmony. Events do not happen blindly. In any organization, there is a supreme authority under whose orders everything moves in harmony. Harmony means that there must be some supreme superintendent. It is generally said that obedience is the first law of discipline. There cannot be harmony without obedience.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke would say that we have to obey the laws of nature.

Srila Prabhupada: Everyone is obeying the laws of nature. Yasyajnaya bhramati. Brahma-samhita (5. 52) states that the sun is moving in its orbit fixed by the law of Govinda. The ocean has certain limitations fixed by the Supreme. All nature is functioning according to the law of God.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke believes that we must also obey the laws upon which we agree, that is, the social contract.

Srila Prabhupada: This is the law: we must surrender to Krsna. When we agree to the laws of the Supreme, that is religion.

Syamasundara dasa: Men agree socially not to steal one another’s prop­erty, or to kill one another. Shouldn’t we obey these laws of man?

Srila Prabhupada: Men’s laws are imitations of God’s laws. God’s law states: iavasyam idam sarvam. “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. ” (lsopanisad 1) Every living entity is the son of God, and he has the right to live at the cost of God. Everyone is eating food supplied by God. The animals are eating their food. The cow is eating grass, but why should we kill the cow? This is against God’s law. We have rice, grains, fruits, vegetables, and so on. These are for us. Tigers do not come to eat our fruits or grains, so why should we kill tigers? A tiger is not encroaching upon our rights.

Hayagriva dasa: Locke argues on behalf of private property given to man by God. He believes that a man may have stewardship over a certain amount of property. Is this in compliance with the Isopanisadic version?

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Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Tena tyaktena bhunjitha. “One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota. ” (lsopanisad 1) Everything belongs to God. A father may have many sons and be the ultimate proprietor of his house, yet he gives different rooms to his sons. The obedient son is satisfied with what his father has alloted him. The disobedient son simply wants to disturb his other brothers, and so he claims their rooms. This creates chaos and confusion in the world. The United Nations has been formed to unify nations, but they have not succeeded. People continue to encroach on one another’s property, and therefore there is no peace. If we accept God as the supreme proprietor, and are satisfied with the allotment He has given us, there will be no trouble. Unfortunately, we are not satisfied.

Syamasundara dasa: According to Locke’s utilitarian ethic, happiness is the greatest good, and obedience to the moral law results in happiness.

Srila Prabhupada: But the difficulty is that here in this material world, happiness is temporary. And even if we follow moral laws, other people will give us trouble. There are people who don’t care whether you are moral or immoral. Bhagavad-gita confirms that this is not a place of happiness. Duhkhalayam asasvatam. ”This temporary world is full of miseries.” (Bg.8.15) Therefore we have to find where real happiness exists. That is the spiritual world. Happiness here is only another illu­sion. It is not possible. If Krsna Himself says that this is a place of misery, how can we find happiness here? In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna speaks of real happiness:

sukham atyantikam yat tad
buddhi-grahyam atindriyam
vetti yatra na caivayam
sthitas calati tattvatah

“In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happi­ness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this, he thinks there is no greater gain. “(Bg. 6. 21) Real happiness is beyond the senses. It is atindriya. In other words, we have to purify our senses in order to attain it. This is also confirmed by Rsabhadeva:

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

“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 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) Presently, our existence is impure. If a man is suffering from jaundice, he tastes sweet things as bitter. In order to taste real happiness, we have to purify our senses. Materialists think that as soon as they have sexual intercourse, they will be happy, but that is not real happiness. We cannot even enjoy that happiness. The conclusion is that we should not seek happiness like cats, dogs, and hogs, but as human beings. This means tapasya, purification of the senses. First we must be cured of this material disease, then we can taste real happiness in our healthy life. A sane man knows that he is spirit soul covered by a material coating. So let this coating be washed away by devotional service. Tat-paratvena nirmalam (Narada-pancaratra). When we engage in devotional service, we remove the false coating, and our real senses emerge. We enjoy those real senses by serving Krsna.

Syamasundara dasa: Locke also says that all men are born free and equal in the state of nature and that they have formed a social contract; therefore the government must be based on and subject to the mutual consent of all the citizens.

Srila Prabhupada: That agreement can be reached when everyone is situated on the spiritual platform. On the material platform, people are subject to the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. How can the vote of a God conscious man and the vote of a drunkard be equal? Equality is not possible unless everyone comes to the spiritual platform.

Syamasundara dasa: Is it true that all men are born free and equal?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a fact. If we are not free, how can we commit sin? Committing sin means that we have the freedom to commit sins. And equality means that we all have small independence. We are equal in the sense that we can properly utilize or misuse our inde­pendence. Because we all have independence, we are equal. If we mis­use it, we go downward, and if we use it properly, we go upward. In the use of our independence, we have equal rights.