Go to Vaniquotes | Go to Vanipedia | Go to Vanimedia

Vanisource - the complete essence of Vedic knowledge

Philosophy Discussion on Benedict Spinoza

Philosophy Discussion on Benedict Spinoza - 29:43 Minutes

Benedict Spinoza
Benedict Spinoza (1632 - 1677)

Hayagrīva: Spinoza. Spinoza says that "The infinite God must possess infinite attributes." He is saying that God, being the basis of all existence, cannot be described in a material way. He is a pantheist in the sense that he believes in the one substance. However, he believes that God has infinite divine attributes, and only two of these attributes fall within the realm of human experience, and these are thought and extension, or mind and matter.

Prabhupāda: So, so far God is concerned, and undoubtedly He is unlimited and His qualities are unlimited. So His one of the most important quality is called Bhakta-vatsala. He is very much dear to His devotee, Bhakta-vatsala. So He has unlimited devotees and unlimited dealings with them; therefore He is unlimitedly expanded. That is pantheism. But it does not mean because He is unlimitedly expanded, His personality is lost. He is person always, even though He is unlimitedly expanded. That is the Vedic version: pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam eva avaśiṣyate (ISO Invocation). He is complete, and if another complete form expands from Him, still He remains complete. He is not lost. The material conception is if one unit, if something is taken from it, then it becomes less of that thing. But God is so complete that you can go on taking from Him unlimitedly, still He remains unlimited. That is pantheist. I think they are impersonalist.

Hayagrīva: Yes. Spinoza is impersonal. He asserts that God cannot be a remote cause of the creation. He says that the creation flows from God in the same way that conclusions flow from principles in mathematics. God is free to create, but He is the eminent cause. That is to say, the creation is an extension of Himself.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is, He creates by His energy. Just like in the Bhagavad-gītā it is stated,

bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
bhinnā me prakṛtiḥ aṣṭadhā
(BG 7.4)

These eight kinds of material elements—earth, water, air, fire, sky, mind, intelligence and ego—they are material energies, and this material world is made of these material elements. So because it is made of God's energy, therefore it is called created by God. But this is creation of His energy. Prakṛtiḥ pradhāna, upadhāna, pradhāna. The ingredients are coming from Him, and prakṛtiḥ, nature, creates. This is the idea of creation. So God is a remote cause and a eminent cause also, because these elements, they are God's energy. So the eminent cause is the energy. Therefore it is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, mayā tatam idaṁ sarvam: "By Me, everything is expanding." So when He says "By Me," then He is the eminent cause. There are two causes: remote and eminent.

Hayagrīva: Yes.

Prabhupāda: So both, He is remote cause and eminent cause.

Hayagrīva: Both remote and eminent.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: He says that each soul coincides with its body. That is to say, the soul acquires a body befitting it...

Prabhupāda: Hm?

Hayagrīva: ...a soul acquires a body befitting it. A soul can progress beyond bodies to come to know spiritual truths by turning toward God rather than the material world.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: Or, as Spinoza would put it, by turning toward God's extensions. He calls them God's extensions.

Prabhupāda: No.

Hayagrīva: Because he is pantheistic.

Prabhupāda: This is..., expansion also we accept. What is called, there is technical name, pracāra (?). Expansion, that is stated in Bhāgavatam, mayā tatam idaṁ sarvam: "By Me everything is expanded." This very word is used. Mayā tatam idaṁ sarvam (BG 9.4). So expansion is also God, but at the same time in expansion there is no God. "No God" means not in person. The expansion is imperson, but expansion is from the person. Just as a government, this is impersonal, but the governor is person. So government means under the control of the governor. So impersonal expansion of God is controlled by the personal God. This is like pantheism. And pantheism, so I think that because everything is God, that God has no personal existence. Is it not?

Hayagrīva: Yes. Pantheists would say that God is eminent in everything.

Prabhupāda: Everything.

Hayagrīva: But has no personal or remote...

Prabhupāda: So that is material thought. That is material thought, because the paper in your hand, if it is made into pieces and thrown, expanding, then the original paper is lost. So this is material conception. But the spiritual conception is that He may expand Himself unlimitedly; still, He remains in His own person.

Hayagrīva: He believed that as long as man is composed of body and soul, he will be under the mode of passion, and as long as the soul is confined to the body, the living entity will necessarily be attached to the physical world.

Prabhupāda: Yes. We call it māyā. So that can... The body and soul in the material world is there, and therefore the aim of life is how to separate this soul from material body and remain in his original, spiritual form. That is the whole ideal objective for human life, because as long as he remains attached to the body, and... But he has to change the body. That is our practical experience also. We are changing always the body, one after another, and if we give up our attachment for this body, then we are liberated. That is called mukti, to remain in a spiritual body. That is possible only by always thinking of God. That is meditation. That is actual meditation. Man-manā bhava mad-bhakta, always thinking of Kṛṣṇa. To become Kṛṣṇa's devotee, to become worshiper of Kṛṣṇa, and always offering obeisances: "My Lord, I am Your eternal servant. Kindly keep me engaged in Your service"—that much prayer; nothing more. Then he remains always in... (break)

Hayagrīva: Continuation of Spinoza. Spinoza considered good and evil to relate only to man. They have no basis in God, who is beyond good and evil.

Prabhupāda: Right. But as everything is God, as Spinoza thinks that his... What is his position of bad? What is his conception?

Hayagrīva: That God is beyond good and...

Prabhupāda: God is beyond, but what is his position of evil? Evil is there, but he said that God has no evil. Then wherefrom the evil comes?

Hayagrīva: Seems inconsistent.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: He writes...

Prabhupāda: We, we say that God... Good and evil, they are also emanation from God. Evil is the back side and good is the front side.

Hayagrīva: He writes, "He who knows himself and knows his affections clearly and distinctly, and that with the accompaniment of the idea of God is joyous, for he knows and loves God. Thus through knowledge of the self one can come to know something of God, and in this way man can be happy and love God." But there is no mention here of service.

Prabhupāda: Love means service. Just like mother loves the child, she gives, she gives service. The father loves the child, she gives the service, he gives the service. So,

dadāti pratigṛhṇāti
guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati
bhuṅkte bhojayate caiva
ṣaḍ-vidhaṁ prīti-lakṣaṇam

Love means to give and to accept some gift from the lover, dadāti pratigṛhṇāti, to feed him and to take foodstuff from him, to disclose his mind to him and understand his mind also. These six reciprocation of dealings is love. So love includes service.

Hayagrīva: Spinoza's God is clearly not a personal God. Spinoza is an impersonalist, and his love for God is more intellectual or philosophical than theistic or religious. Being an impersonalist, Spinoza believed in the identity of the individual soul with God. This is not to say that he believed that the individual soul is infinite, but that it is not distinct from God. He writes, "Thus that love of the soul is a part of the infinite love with which God loves Himself." He sees the soul's intellectual love of God and God's love for the individual soul, which is within man, to be one and the same love.

Prabhupāda: Love is five kinds of love: śānta, dāsya, sākhya, vatsalya, mādhurya. The beginning of love is awe and adoration: "Oh, God is so great. God is everything." When he understands God's potency, unlimitedness, the soul adores Him. That adoration is also love. When that adoration is further advanced, then he serves God as master and servant. When the service is more intimate, then friend to friend—as one friend renders service to other friend, the other friend renders to other friend, like that, reciprocal. Then further expanded, the love is turned into paternal love, and further expanded it is expanding into conjugal love. So there are different stages of love. So Spinoza is touching only the beginning of love, simply adoring, appreciating God's power, expansion, that much. But when this love of adoration expands, that is called dasya-rasa, sākhya-rasa, vatsalya-rasa, madhurya-rasa. So he is on the beginning state of loving God. He has not advanced farther.

Hayagrīva: It, it seems that he believes in the Paramātmā present within all beings but does not believe in the jīva along with Paramātmā. Is this a typical impersonalist position?

Prabhupāda: That means he does not know what is love. If God loves the living entity, then He must be well-wisher, friend of the living entity. And because God expands Himself unlimitedly, therefore He lives with the living entity, and living entities are unlimited. That is said in the Bhagavad-gītā: īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe arjuna tiṣṭhati (BG 18.61). In Upaniṣads also it is confirmed that two birds are sitting on tree; one is eating the fruit and the other is simply witness. So this witnessing bird is God; therefore Paramātmā and jīvātmā live together. And there are many other places-sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo (BG 15.15). He reminds the living entity that "Unless Paramātmā is there, I forget everything of my past life." But because I wanted to enjoy something in my past life, God gives him the opportunity and reminds him, "Now you wanted this. Here is the opportunity. You do it." So Paramātmā is always with the jīva.

Hayagrīva: He does not believe that God has a body because by body, he says, we understand a certain quantity possessing life, breadth and depth, limited by some fixed form, and that to attribute these to God, a being absolutely infinite, is the greatest absurdity.

Prabhupāda: No. God has body, but not this material body. The material body is limited. That does not mean... This is imperfect knowledge of the spiritual quality. God has got body. That is confirmed in Vedic literature, sac-cid-ānanda vigrahaḥ (Bs. 5.1). Vigraha means body, a form. But His form is eternal. He is all-aware, sat-cit, and He is always blissful. So this body is neither eternal nor blissful nor all-awareness. Therefore this body is different from God's body. But God has got a body which is different in quality. That is spiritual body.

Hayagrīva: He writes, "God is free from passions, nor is He affected with any emotion of joy or sorrow. Properly speaking, God loves no one and hates no one, for God is not affected with any emotion of joy or sorrow, and consequently he neither loves nor hates anyone."

Prabhupāda: Yes. He is called ātmā-pama (?). He doesn't require anything from anyone. He is complete. But if anyone offers Him something out of love, it is his benefit who is offering something to God. God doesn't require anything. Just like in the Bhagavad-gītā God says, patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati: (BG 9.26) "A devotee, out of his love, even he offers Me a little leaf, little water, little flower," tad aham aśnāmi, "I eat that." So God is fully satisfied in Himself. Why He desires a patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyam from a devotee? It is not for His benefit. But if he begins to offer something out of love, then his love begins with God. He gives him the chance. So offering to God does not mean God is benefited. It is benefit of the devotee that he begins to offer, and if he gradually develops that love, then his life is successful. So it is a chance. God does not require anything, but the giver, whatever he, he gives to God, it is for his own benefit. Just like the example is given, the..., if your face is decorated, then the reflection of the face in the mirror is automatically decorated. So we are reflection of God. If God is decorated then we become decorated. That is the idea.

Hayagrīva: So when Kṛṣṇa destroys demons, He does so without passion or without hatred?

Prabhupāda: Yes, naturally. It is the benefit of the demon.

Hayagrīva: Spinoza writes, "No sorrow can exist with the accompanying idea of God. No one can hate God."

Prabhupāda: Therefore He is sac-cid-ānanda. That is the description of Vedic literature, ānanda-mayo 'bhyāsāt, by nature is always full of pleasure. He is the source of pleasure. We therefore see Kṛṣṇa's picture when He is dancing with the gopīs, He looks very pleasing, and when He is killing some demon He looks very pleasing. Not that He is morose that His is killing, because you know that He is not killing; He is giving him salvation.

Hayagrīva: Well, he says no one can hate God, but what about Kaṁsa and others?

Prabhupāda: That is demonic. Naturally one is in love with God. He should love God. But when he is in māyā he thinks himself as separate from God. Instead of loving Him, he thinks himself as separate from God. Instead of loving Him, he thinks that God is hindrance, my competitor of sense gratification, therefore avoid God, kill God, I become absolute sense gratifier. Anyone who hates God means he is a demon.

Hayagrīva: Spinoza writes, "The more we understand individual objects, the more we understand God." Is this the proper process? Wouldn't you say that the more we understand God the more we understand individual objects? Which is uh...

Prabhupāda: Anything you take, that is perfection of knowledge in God. Which thing is not related with God? Everything is related with God. In the material world anything you will take it is made of the five elements, but these five elements, they are expansion of God's energy. So intelligent person sees in everything with reference to God's expansion of energy. That is the position of devotee. He does not think anything separate from God. And as he is lover of God, devotee of God, he wants to engage everything, because if everything is God's property, that should be used for God's benefit. This is devotee's conception. The asuras, they have no conception of God. Neither they are obedient to God, neither lover of God. He thinks the material world is for his enjoyment. He cannot see the material world is expansion of God's energy. Therefore anyone who uses the material product for his personal benefit, he is called a thief. Just like I have created something. If somebody use up that something and does not think of the proprietor, he is a thief. Thief means, in our childhood we got a definition of thief, that anything taken without the permission the property is theft. That is very nice. So anything in this world has reference to the expansion of energy of God. So if you do not take everything as prasādam, then you are thief and you are punishable. A thief is always punished. So therefore those who are enjoying things without reference to the God, they are all demons and they are punishable. They are thieves.

Hayagrīva: That's all on Spinoza. (end)