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Philosophy Discussion on Plotinus

Philosophy Discussion on Plotinus - 49:26 Minutes

Plotinus (204/5 - 270 B.C.)

Hayagrīva: This is Plotinus. Plotinus lived from 204-269 A.D. He was not Christian. He took... He's what's called a neo-Platonist, a new Platonist. Much of his philosophy comes from Plato. But he believed in the theory of emanation, that the soul emanates from the intelligence, what Aristotle called the nous, or the intelligence, and the intelligence emanates from the One, what he calls the One, who is omnipresent, transcendental, the cause of all multiplicities, the Lord of all. So there's a hierarchy in Plotinus of the One, the intelligence, and the individual souls.

Prabhupāda: The One is Vedic conception, ekaṁ brahma dvitīyaṁ nāsti, Supreme Truth, Absolute Truth, advaya-jñāna. So this is our philosophy, that these living entities, soul, they are of the same quality as the one Supreme, but they are fragmental parts, emanation from Him. He has got the same intelligence, same mind, but limited jurisdiction. God is... That One is omnipresent, but we are not omnipresent, but we are present. Omniscient; but we are not omniscient, but we are (sic:) sentient, not that dull matter. In this way, that One has got all spiritual qualities in fullness; we have got spiritual qualities in minute quantity. That is our constitutional position. But we are like sparks, and the Supreme One is like big fire. When we leave the association of the big fire, as sparks we become extinguished, means our illumination stops. That is called māyā, māyā andhakāra, darkness. That we can revive also, again be put with the One and revive our illuminating power, spiritual power, and live with the Supreme One peacefully, eternal life of bliss.

Hayagrīva: Plotinus is an impersonalist. He believed that attributing attributes to God limit God.

Prabhupāda: Hm?

Hayagrīva: He believes that attributing qualities to God necessarily limit God, so he's an impersonalist.

Prabhupāda: Limit?

Hayagrīva: Limit. Any attribute or quality is by necessary limiting. This is a typical impersonalist stand.

Prabhupāda: If he is...

Hayagrīva: That the One, the One is transcendental, but there's no multiplicity in Him. That means im..., impersonal. Although He is the cause of all multiplicities, He is the cause of all living entities, He Himself...

Prabhupāda: Yes, He is the cause of all living entities. That is Vedic conception. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13). He is the chief amongst the eternals, chief amongst the sentients, but unless He has got unlimited transcendental qualities, how He can be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, all-powerful? That is not perfection. A perfect conception of the Supreme One: He is unlimited, we are limited. That is sense. How the Supreme One, who is the cause of everything, He can be limited? I do not know what do they mean by "limit." He cannot be limited by anything. Even the impersonal Brahman, that Brahman, sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: everything is Brahman, unlimited. Why He should be limited? Mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni: (BG 9.4) everything is emanation from Him and resting in Him. That is His impersonal conception. Everywhere He is there. And personal is localized, and..., but from the person, the impersonal effulgence come out. That we understand from the Bhagavad-gītā: brahmaṇaḥ ahaṁ pratiṣṭhā. As the big sunshine comes from the localized sun globe—the sun globe is situated in one place, but this, the rays of the sun is distributed all over the universe—similarly, impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth is that by His transcendental rays, prabhā, yasya prabhā prabhavata (Bs. 5.40), illumination. Just like the fire has got heat and light. It expands. So the impersonal feature of the Lord expands unlimitedly, and the Personality, it appears that He is limited, but He is unlimited by His energy. That is the perfect conception. Brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate (SB 1.2.11). By His impersonal feature He is all-pervading. By His localized aspect He is living everywhere, omnipresent, within the heart of all living entities, within the atom even. And by His personal feature He is worshiped by the devotee. Wherever the devotee is there, He is present personally. Tatra dṛṣṭami dhanataḥ yatra nayanti mad-bhaktaḥ (?). That is His omnipresent, although He is in Goloka Vṛndāvana. So nobody can calculate how many miles away that planet is, still, when a devotee like Prahlāda is in danger, He is immediately present there. That is the meaning of omnipresence. Not that because He is millions and trillions of miles away He cannot give protection to His devotee millions and trillions of miles away from His abode. That is the meaning of omnipresent.

Hayagrīva: Yes. He also believed that God is present in all objects yet remains distinct and transcendental to all created things.

Prabhupāda: That is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā, mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni nāhaṁ teṣu avasthitaḥ: (BG 9.4) "Everything is resting in Me, but I am not present there."

Hayagrīva: As for the individual souls, some are unembodied and some are embodied. He believes that some are celestial—they are heavenly—and these souls do not suffer, and some, the ones on earth, suffer. In either case, they are all individuals.

Prabhupāda: That's right. There are souls, innumerable souls. Anantāya kalpate. Nobody can count how many souls are there. So all the souls are as described above. They have got the same qualities of the One, in minute quantity, but some of them are fallen. Just like in the fire there are so many sparks, but one or two may fall down from the fire. Others remains in the fire. Those who are not falling down, they are called nitya-mukta, everlastingly liberated. They are never conditioned. And those who have fallen within this material world for sense gratification, they are baddha. They are called nitya-baddha, eternally conditioned. And eternally means that nobody can estimate how long one conditioned soul within this material world is existing here, because the creation is going on perpetually—sometimes manifest, sometimes nonmanifest. But the conditioned soul without Kṛṣṇa consciousness is continuing to exist in this material world. Before the creation he was there in dormant condition. Again with the manifestation he comes out. This is going on. They are conditioned. And for their deliverance that One, Supreme Personality, comes, descends, sends His incarnation, sends His devotee to call him back to home, back to Godhead. That is also going on. Those who are fortunate, they take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and go back to home, back to Godhead, and those who are unfortunate do not take advantage of the instruction personally given by God, and later on His devotees are engaged to preach, they do not take care; they remain conditioned within this material world. And material world is created and annihilated, and he suffers this annihilation while in this body, while in this material world. But the intelligent living entity, if he is fortunate, he takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and again he goes back to home, back to Godhead.

Hayagrīva: He believed that the soul is eternal and incorporeal in men, animals, and even in plants, and in this he differed from other philosophers of the time.

Prabhupāda: What... In which way differs? Because he accepts...

Hayagrīva: Accepted in..., the soul living in animals and also in plants.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is the fact. He is right. That is Vedic conclusion. Sarva-yoniṣu, all different forms of life, there is soul, part and parcel of God. How some foolish person can think of animal has no soul? What is the reason? There is no very strong argument. The animals may be less intelligent. A child may be less intelligent than the father; that does not mean there is no soul. This gross and doggish mentality, animal mentality, is killing the human civilization. Now they have degraded so much that they think that the embryo has no soul. In this way man is being put into darker and darkest region of ignorance. Everyone has soul. That is real. We get it from Kṛṣṇa: sarva-yoniṣu. In different forms of life the soul is there, undoubtedly. That is real conception of soul. Evolution means he is evolving from one lower grade of body to another, higher grade of body, and in this way by evolution he comes to the human form of life. And in this human form of life he can understand the teachings of Bhagavad-gītā, that if he likes, he can surrender to the Supreme Lord and go back to home, back to Godhead, and if he does not, then he remains in this material world, undergoing the tribulations of the repetition of birth, death, old age, and disease. Corporal body.

Hayagrīva: Plotinus saw the individual souls returning to God or the One through three stages. The first stage is that of asceticism, detaching oneself from the material world. The second stage, one detaches oneself from the process of reasoning itself. That would be mental speculation. And in the third stage the intellect transcends itself into the realm of the unknown, the realm of the One, and he speaks of this as an ecstasy, an involvement, or a transcendence of the ego. So these are the three stages of God realization that he sets down.

Prabhupāda: That means, what he called three stages, karmī, jñānī, yogi. That karmīs, they are trying to improve their condition by this material science and material advancement of education, and some of them are trying to go the heavenly planets by pious activities. These are karmīs. And higher than the karmīs are the jñānīs. They are speculating on the Absolute Truth by their education and coming to the conclusion that God is impersonal; when we merge into that impersonal feature, that is our liberation. And the yogis, they are trying to get some mystic power by practicing mystic yoga system—wonderful power, aṣṭa-siddhi, eight kinds of perfection: to become lighter than the lightest, to become smaller than the smallest, to become bigger than the biggest. Whatever they like, they can get. They can subdue anyone, bring under his control with that yogic (indistinct). But real yoga means to see the Supreme within the core of the heart. Dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yaṁ yoginaḥ (SB 12.13.1). In this way there are different processes. They are called karma, jñāna and yoga. But they require endeavor to elevate, strenuous endeavor, all these practices. But the, the supreme process is simply to surrender unto the Supreme One, and He gives out intelligence how to be free from this material entanglement, and that is called bhakti-yoga. It is very pleasing to execute, and without any, much endeavor. Simply being fully surrendered to the Supreme Lord, he immediately becomes purified from all material contamination, and little practice of bhakti-yoga makes him completely fit for going back to home, back to Godhead.

Hayagrīva: Concerning evil, Plotinus feels that matter is evil in the sense that it imprisons the soul, but the visible cosmos...

Prabhupāda: This is our conception. This Plotinus is all, all our, practically ninety percent our conception. This is the...

Hayagrīva: But the visible cosmos is beautiful, and the evil does not arise from the creator.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That the individual soul, being attracted by this illusory energy, he comes here for sense gratification. It is not by the desire of the Supreme One. By his personal desire. So God gives him freedom. So he begins the life from a very exalted position in this material world—sometimes like Brahma. But on account of material activities he becomes entangled, so much so that degradation from the exalted position like Lord Brahma, he comes to become a worm in the stool. Therefore we find so many species of life. The degradation and elevation is going on—sometimes elevated, sometimes degraded—and in this way they will..., individual soul is suffering. That is his suffering, material miserable condition. When he comes to understand that "This kind of degradation and elevation going on perpetually, this is my suffering," then at that time he becomes fortunate. Then he seeks after the Supreme One, Kṛṣṇa, and by the grace of Kṛṣṇa he gets bona fide spiritual master. So by the mercy of both the spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa, he gets the chance of being engaged in devotional service, and little effort and sincerity makes him perfect, and he goes back to home back to Godhead.

Hayagrīva: Although most of his philosophy is impersonal—his conception of God is mainly impersonal—he writes, "Let us flee then to the beloved fatherland. Here is sound council. But what is this flight? How are we to gain the open sea? The fatherland for us is there whence we have come. There is the father." So he does some..., have some conception, it seems, of God as father.

Prabhupāda: He, he is confused because he is also speculating. So these things will remain confused, whether the Absolute Truth is person, imperson. Generally, without spiritual advancement nobody can understand about the Absolute Truth, and so he, that doubt continues. But when there is question of love between the Absolute and the relative, there must be the personal conception, and actually He is person, Kṛṣṇa. So by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, when he gets in touch with the devotee, his impersonal conception of the Absolute is removed, and then he worships the personal aspect of the Absolute Truth, Kṛṣṇa, and devotee. Then his life is successful.

Hayagrīva: Concerning the fall of the soul, Plotinus believes that the human soul never entirely leaves the spiritual realm.

Prabhupāda: Because he is constitutionally spiritual being, he is not any product of this material world. He is part and parcel of the Supreme One. But he is embodied by the material elements, and the material elements requires change. It becomes old. Just like our shoes, our dress, it becomes old. I can have one shirt and coat, but as soon as I change the body, the shirt and coat is no more fitting the body, so I have to change. So material life means to change. It is called jagat. Jagat means changing. But we are eternal, the same spirit soul. That this material life is not very happy, because it will change. Even if we are in the very comfortable condition of life or in miserable condition of life, it will change to better or lower grade of life. That is going on. So in order to save ourselves from the repetition of changing body, if we want to remain in our original, eternal, spiritual form, we must take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and then we are relieved from this rotten business of repetition of birth, death, old age and disease.

Hayagrīva: He says, "If the souls remain in the intelligible or spiritual realm with the Soul, or Supersoul, they are beyond harm and share in the soul's governance. They are like kings who live with the high King and govern with Him and like Him do not come down from the palace. But if they wish to be independent, if they are tired, you may say, of living with someone else..."

Rāmeśvara: Śrīla Prabhupāda, excuse me. The sannyāsī...

Hayagrīva: So when the individual soul decides to withdraw, he becomes fragmented, isolated and weak, when he decides to withdraw from the, what he calls the palace of the King.

Prabhupāda: Withdraw, withdraw from the material world?

Hayagrīva: When he decides to withdraw from the spiritual realm, from the governance of the high King.

Prabhupāda: Spiritual wrong?

Hayagrīva: Spiritual realm, the spiritual kingdom.

Prabhupāda: Kingdom. Yes. That is his falldown. When he decides to give up the spiritual life, he falls down in the material life, and that is the beginning of his material tribulations. And so long he will maintain a tinge of material happiness, the nature's life, that he has to accept, a type of material body, and there are varieties. So in all condition the spirit soul remains the part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but according to the different body he gets different circumstances. A dog is thinking, on account of the dog's body, that he is a dog. A man is thinking that he is a man on account of the human body. The same thing—an American is thinking, because the body has been gotten from America, he is thinking "American." That similarly an Indian, a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, all these designations, due to the body. So when he understands that "I am not this body," this is spiritual education. That "I am different, I am part and parcel of God," then he becomes liberated, impersonally. And when he makes further advancement, and he comes to the platform of understanding the Supreme Truth as the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa, and he engages himself in Kṛṣṇa's service, that is his actual life. Kṛṣṇa, in the spiritual world, in the Vaikuṇṭha planets, in the Goloka Vṛndāvana planets, so they can be promoted to any one of them—in the Vaikuṇṭha planets or Goloka Vṛndāvana planet. Then he is happy as associate of Kṛṣṇa. He can enjoy life eternally.

Hayagrīva: Plotinus conceives of the soul as having basically two parts: a lower part, directed toward the body, and a higher part, directed toward the spiritual.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is, he is prone to fall down because he is very minute quantity, he is small, so there is tendency of falldown. The same example: the small spark of the fire, because it is very small, sometimes it falls down from the fire. So we become, being very small, minute particle of God, we become entangled by this material, external energy. Just like the example: a less intelligent person, in ignorance, commits criminal activities and he goes to jail. He is not supposed to go to the jail, but on account of his little intelligence or ignorance, he commits something which is criminal. This criminality is done by less intelligent class of men. Similarly, persons who are coming into this material world, they are less intelligent. Kṛṣṇa bhuliya jīva bhoga vāñchā kare (Prema-vivarta). They think that they will be able to enjoy life independently, without Kṛṣṇa. This is less intelligence. Just like a very rich man's son, if he thinks that "If I live independently, without being dependent on father," that is his foolishness. How he can become happy independently, living aside from the father? The supreme father is all-opulent, full of everything, and I am minute only. So if I live under the care of the father, naturally I will live very comfortably, like rich man's son. But if I prefer that I shall live independently, that is my foolishness. So only the fools and rascals they try to remain independent of Kṛṣṇa, and they suffer. That is the consequence. And those who are intelligent, even in the, this material life, by association of devotee and spiritual opportunities, when he comes to this understanding, that "I am son of Kṛṣṇa. He claims, ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā (BG 14.4), 'I am the father,' so I am the son of Kṛṣṇa, and why I am rotting in this way? Let me go back to my father," that is back to home, back to Godhead—that is intelligence. But so long a living entity remains fools and rascal he suffers in this material world. And as soon as he is intelligent enough... That is described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, kṛṣṇa ye bhaje sevā (indistinct): anyone who is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is the first-class intelligent man. Without being first-class intelligent man, nobody can come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So this training, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, means those who are fortunate, they have come to accept Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This movement is training them how to know perfectly well that he is..., he will be or he is always very, very happy in Kṛṣṇa, not without Kṛṣṇa. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. When practically we see anyone who has given up this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, they are not happy. I don't find anyone. That's fact. They are not happy. They are rotting in degradation. That is their misfortune, less intelligent.

Hayagrīva: He believes that the cosmic order awards and punishes everyone according to merit, according to one's merit. So this is a form of belief in karma also.

Prabhupāda: Yes. Just like we are discussing Ajāmila's, this Ajāmila is going to be punished. The Yamarāja is there, the officer is there. He has sent his men to arrest. So just like it is the father's duty if the son goes astray, in wrong way, the father is always affectionate. He tries to bring him back again home by, either by punishing or some way or some means. That is father's duty. So this is going on. Those who are in this material world, they are simply suffering on account of foolishness. So they are punished. This punishment means to correct him, to correct him to the proper position, and this is going on. So without being corrected, if one is intelligent enough, he surrenders to Kṛṣṇa and revives his old constitutional position, and that is the platform of spiritual life of bliss and knowledge.

Hayagrīva: He uses this following metaphor. He says, "We are like a chorus grouped about a conductor who allow their attention to be distracted by the audience. If, however, they"—that is we, the individual souls—"were to turn toward their conductor, they would sing as they should and would really be with him. We are always around the One. If we were not, we would dissolve and cease to exist. Yet our gaze does not remain fixed upon the One. When we look at it, we then attain the end of our desires and find rest. Then it is that all discord passes. We dance an inspired dance around it. In this dance the soul looks upon the source of life, the source of the intelligence, the root of being, the cause of the good, the root of the soul. All these entities emanate from the One without any lessening, for it is not a material mass."

Prabhupāda: Yes. There is good sense, that God is individual and the soul is individual. As he has given the metaphor or analogy that the con..., parties of a concert party...

Devotee: Conductor and a chorus.

Prabhupāda: ...they are singing in the tune, sometimes attention diverted by the audience, it becomes out of the tune. Similarly we, when we divert our attention to the illusory energy, then we fall down, and although we remain the same part and parcel of the Lord, but the influence of the material energy covers us, and we identify with the covering elements, and life after life bodies changing, and we are identify with the covering, and this is our miserable condition of material existence. And therefore first education is that "I am not this covering." That is spiritual education. That is the beginning of Bhagavad-gītā instruction, that "You are not this body. Arjuna, you are not this body. Why you are taking this bodily concepts of life, your relatives, your family, so seriously? It is all foolishness. It is accidental. You are born in this family, and you have got so-called relatives. You are actually spirit. So now you are identifying with this bodily concept of life, you are member of the Kuru family. Then as soon as this change of body takes place, you will again enter into the dog's family or cat's family or demigod's family. Again you identify, 'I am dog,' 'I am cat,' 'I am demigod.' " So this is the, our ignorance. We have to stop this mentality of bodily concept of life, identify ourself as a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, and act according to His direction. Ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-śīlanam (CC Madhya 19.167). What Kṛṣṇa says, if we act, then gradually, sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam (CC Madhya 19.170), we become immediately free from all upādhi, designation, and gradually develop our Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the instruction of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to spread this knowledge all over the world.

Hayagrīva: Plotinus accounts for the fall of the soul in this way. He says, "How is it that souls forget the divinity that begot them? This evil that has befallen them has its source in self-will, in being born, in becoming different and desiring to be independent."

Prabhupāda: Yes, that I have already explained, that...

Hayagrīva: "Once having tasted the pleasures of independence, they use their freedom to go any direction that leads away from their origin, and when they have gone a great distance, they even forget that they came from it."

Prabhupāda: That's a fact. More and more degraded. That I have already explained. He begins his life as Lord Brahmā and goes down as the worm in the stool. That is his degradation. And again, by nature's way, by evolution, he comes to the human form of life. That is a chance to understand that how he has fallen. And if he takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then from this life he goes again back to Kṛṣṇa. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti (BG 4.9). If he fully becomes trained up in Kṛṣṇa consciousness... And everyone has to give up this body, so a devotee will give up this body, but he is not going to accept any more material body. Immediately transferred to the spiritual world. Mām eti: "He comes to Me." That is the advantage. They sometimes, foolish persons, say that "You are also going to die." Yes, you are going to die, I am also going to die, it's a fact, but a devotee's death means giving up this body and remain in his original, spiritual body. Sometimes it is said, jīvo vā maro vā. A devotee, either he is living or he is dead, his business is the same. And those on the lowest platform of material life, just like the butcher, that he is advised, mā jīva mā maro, "Don't live; don't die." Because he is living very abominable life, daily cutting the throats of so many animals. Is that very nice life? So it is abominable, and as soon as he dies, he is going to suffer. So his position is, "Either you live or you die, his position is very, er, horrible." And a devotee, either he lives or dies, his business is the same—to serve Kṛṣṇa. So jīvo vā maro vā. He is not different from Kṛṣṇa, so living or dead, it hasn't even no meaning for him. Therefore he is called liberated, jīvan-muktaḥ. Jīvan-muktaḥ means although he is in body, in this body, material body, he is liberated. Jīvan mukta sa ucyate. Īhā yasya harer dāsye karmaṇā manasā vacaḥ. That is Rūpa Goswami's definition. A person who is cent percent engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, karmaṇā, by action, by mind, karmaṇā manasā, by words, he is not to be considered that possessing any more a material body. Jīvan-muktaḥ sa ucyate. He is already liberated, on the spiritual platform, although apparently he moves like material body. Jīvan-muktaḥ sa ucyate. And in Bhagavad-gītā also it is confirmed, brahma-bhūyāya kalpate, sa guṇān samatītyā: he is not under the condition of the modes of material nature. He is already in the Brahman platform, brahma-bhūyāya kalpate (BG 14.26).

Therefore the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so nice. Anyone who takes it seriously, he becomes immediately liberated, because liberation means to be engaged in Kṛṣṇa's service. This is liberation. We are engaged in māyā's service. That is our bondage. But service we have to render. We are servant—either māyā's servant or Kṛṣṇa's servant. Servant is our constitutional position. Jīvera svarūpa haya nitya kṛṣṇa dāsa (CC Madhya 20.108-109), Caitanya Mahāprabhu says. Our real identity is eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. So even if he is..., are in this material body, if you are engaged in Kṛṣṇa's service, that is liberation. Hitvā anyathā rūpaṁ sva-rūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ. When we give up our otherwise life... "Otherwise life" means to be engaged in māyā's service—as the head of the family, head of the community, head or member of this and... We have designated in so many ways. So that is our conditional life. And the same service, when we render to Kṛṣṇa cent percent, we are liberated. Sva-rūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ. That is mukti. Mukti, they, by impersonalism, account of poor fund of knowledge, they think mukti means no more activity. Why no more activity? Because the soul is active, and the active soul is within the body; therefore we find these bodily activities. The body itself is not active; the soul is active. So when he gives up this bodily concept of life, how his activities will be stopped? But this poor fund of knowledge, Māyāvāda, they cannot understand. The active principle is the soul. So, so long the active principle is within the body, the body is active, and the active principle gone, the body is lump of matter. So even one is liberated from this lump of matter, he must remain active. That is explained in the Bhakti-śāstra, that when he is no more in bodily concept of life, then he remains active, but activity hṛṣīkena hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate (CC Madhya 19.170). When his senses are completely engaged in the service of Hṛṣīkeśa-Hṛṣīkeśa is another name of Kṛṣṇa—that is called bhakti. Bhakti means the activities of liberated life. One may understand or not understand; if he is actually engaged in Kṛṣṇa's service, under the direction of spiritual master, he is liberated. But if he voluntarily accepts again māyā's service, then he is become conditioned. This is the secret. Is that...?

Hayagrīva: That's the conclusion of Plotinus.

Prabhupāda: That's all. (end)