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Philosophy Discussion on Rene Descartes

Philosophy Discussion on Rene Descartes - 31:52 Minutes

René Descartes
René Descartes (1596 - 1650)

Hayagrīva: This is the continuation of the notations on Descartes.

Prabhupāda: Hm?

Hayagrīva: Descartes, Rene Descartes, the French... Descartes writes, "The power of forming a good judgment and of distinguishing the true from the false, which is, properly speaking, what is called good sense or reason, is by nature equal in all men. God has given to each of us some light with which to distinguish truth from error." Now in the West this has been called conscience, and Descartes uses the term "reason." Now is this simply a form of mental speculation, or is the...

Prabhupāda: No. Mental speculation should be there. It is not actually speculation but it is reasoning. Just like if we study our own body, whether I am this lump of matter, namely this skin, bone and stool, urine and muscle and blood... If we analyze this body we find practically these things. So the reasoning is that whether combination of these things can give life. So externally we have got all these things. Blood we can get from slaughterhouse, and bone we can collect, or you can manufacture and set up an instrument with these things. Will it be, bring life? So the reasoning is life is different from this lump of matter. That is reasoning. Why...

Hayagrīva: But he...

Prabhupāda: Huh?

Hayagrīva: He says reason is by nature equal in all men. Now isn't reasoning power different in different men?

Prabhupāda: Yes. Otherwise why it is called "This man is intelligent," other man is called "You are ass." So when, on this reasoning platform, when one comes to the conclusion that the living force within the body is different from this lump of matter, then he is on the human platform. And if he keeps himself that this life means combination of these material things, then he remains an animal. This is the reasoning. Where is the life? You analyze beginning from the breathing up to the urine and stool—where you will find life? That is human reasoning. Human civilization is now advanced in analyzing things in the chemical laboratory. So if we analyze this breathing, it is air. So you replace this air, let life come again. What is this breathing? Breathing is simply exhaling and inhaling some air. So by machine, by electric, what is called, batteries, let it work and it will act accordingly, breathing. But does it mean it will bring life? So they say breathing is stopped; therefore life is stopped. So breathing can be revived, but where is the life? They say the blood has become white. So blood can be colored. So anything of this body, analyze perfectly and bring life; then you say that life is combination of this matter. You cannot bring it; therefore it must be concluded that life is different from this combination of matter. This is reasoning. This is human reasoning. And if you still keep yourself that this body is, it is everything, then you are animal. This is reasoning. That is the verdict of the Vedic..., sa eva go-kharaḥ. Yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke (SB 10.84.13). If one is thinking still that he is this body, he is no better than animal. There is no reasoning. Who can challenge this? Analyze every part of the body. Where is life? Hm? What do you think? Is that reasoning or not?

Hayagrīva: Yes. Now the reason is one thing, but intellection is another there.

Prabhupāda: Huh?

Hayagrīva: Intellection and reason you would call the same?

Prabhupāda: Intellect?

Hayagrīva: Intellection and reason and the Supersoul speaking from within?

Prabhupāda: The Supersoul, soul...

Hayagrīva: That's something different.

Prabhupāda: ...that we shall consider later. First of all come to the reasoning, that this combination of air, water and bone and muscle and urine and stool is not life. You first of all come to that, then we have to find out that what is that soul. First of all you come to this conclusion. "This is not," neti. "This is not." Then what is the positive thing, that we have to search, athāto. That is brahma-jijñāsā. What is that Brahman? It is not matter. Then we will come to the conclusion that Brahman is the origin of this matter, because the matter is developing on the soul. That is also reasoning. Simply sex does not create pregnancy unless there is soul. They have so many times sex, so not every time there is pregnancy. Of course, it is expected, but... Anyway, when the soul is injected in the womb of the woman, then the pregnancy means the matter develops, and that we can see outside the pregnancy also—when the child comes out it develops a body. And if this child comes out dead, there is no development. Therefore the soul is the basic principle of material development. That means a seed of a tree, so you sow it, and if the soul takes shelter of the seed, then it grows to a plant; otherwise does not grow. The same seed, if you fry it and sow it, then it will not, because unsuitable for the soul to remain in that seed. So athāto brahma jijñāsā janmādy asya yataḥ (SB 1.1.1).

So the matter is coming out on the positive existence of the soul. This is to be learned. Without soul being present within the womb of the woman there is no pregnancy, there is no development of the matter. We can see the same thing, that the child is developing or changing the body because the soul is there. This is reasoning. Where is the difficulty? So the philosophy, first of all find out what is that external thing which is the living force. By analyzing this material body we don't find any symptom of life either from breathing or from blood or from (indistinct). Therefore something extra. Now you find out what is that extra. That extra you will find out if you come to the right platform—that it is soul, jīvātmā. And on the basis of jīvātmā, that is very minute. If you take authority of the Vedic śās..., very, very minute, one ten-thousandth part of the top of the hair, a very small particle that we cannot find it where it is in the body. It is very small. So with your material eyes and material instruments it can not be found. We are missing. But this thing is there, we get information from the śāstra. Therefore the life is going on, it is so powerful. Just like the sun is ninety-three million miles away, but it is keeping the whole universe illuminated. Similarly, although the soul is very, very small particle, it is keeping this body alive, fresh. So by material analysis you cannot find out, because it is so small you cannot see that. But it is to be accepted that because that small particle is there, this body has developed. So the conclusion is that matter comes on account of soul, not that combination of matter produces soul. Athāto brahma jijñāsā. First of all the inquiry, "What is that living force?" Then the conclusion is next, that on account of this living force this material body has come. Therefore the conclusion should be that God is the supreme living force on which the cosmic manifestation has developed. That is our theory, that Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is there, then the universe comes into existence, and Brahmā is born and he creates so many.

Hayagrīva: And this reason... He says, "I fall into error because the power which God has given me of distinguishing the true from the false is not in me an infinite power." So by reason we can never...

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: ...be certain...

Prabhupāda: Yes, infinite. I am, I am finite. I, as soul or as Brahman, am finite Brahman, and therefore there must be one infinite Brahman. That infinite Brahman is God, and finite Brahman is jīva, living entity. Therefore in the Vedic literature the God is accepted as the chief living being. Just like we have got in our family the father is supposedly chief man in the family, and sons and daughters, they are subordinate. These are common understanding. Similarly, God is the origin of all living entities and we are subordinate living entity, just like the father and the sons, and that is accepted by any religious sect, that God is the supreme father and we are son. That is accepted everywhere. And as the sons, children, they exist by the mercy of the father, similarly, our existence is continuing on account of mercy of the supreme father. This is reasoning.

Hayagrīva: He says, "These perfections which I am attributing to God, which are infinite, immutable, independent, all-knowing, all-powerful..."

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: "...these perfections are in some fashion potentially in me...,"

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: "...although they do not show themselves."

Prabhupāda: But they are finite. They are finite, very small particle. That I have already explained many times, that the creative force is in me. I can create also. Now in the modern scientific knowledge, so I have created a big plane floating in the air, but I cannot create another planet with so many mountains and vast water, oceans, and trees. That I cannot do. That is done by God. This planet is also floating in the air and the tiny 747 plane is also floating in the air. So that is created by me, infinite, ah, finite. I have no other more power. Even if I float a city like plane, still I am finite. But God has created this planet or many other planets with so many things—mountains, seas and forests and cities and so many. That is the difference between... The creative power is there. Because I am part and parcel of God, I have got that creative power. So I have got also little knowledge. I know my knowledge within my atmosphere, but God knows everything. That is explained, janmādy asya yataḥ (SB 1.1.1), abhijñaḥ, itarataś ca. Abhijñaḥ, abhijñaḥ means He knows everything. In the Bhagavad-gītā also it is said, vedāhaṁ sarvam, "I know everything." That is the difference. When Arjuna questioned Kṛṣṇa that "How it is that You remember millions of years ago, You taught Bhagavad-gītā?" And that Kṛṣṇa says, "Yes, that is the difference between you and Me. I remember; you forgot." So therefore in all cases God is also living being, I am also living being, but I am very, very small, finite, and He is infinite. He is also living being. (break)

Hayagrīva: Continuing Descartes, he writes, "It is not an imperfection in God that He has given me the freedom of assenting or not assenting to things of which He has not placed a clear and distinct knowledge in my understanding. On the other hand, unquestionably it is an imperfection in me that I do not use this freedom right, yet..." So but one may then ask, Why doesn't God give us the understanding whereby we can choose properly in all cases?

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: Why can't we have free will and at the same time...

Prabhupāda: Free will means...

Hayagrīva: ...infallible judgment?

Prabhupāda: Free will means that you can act wrongly. That is free will. Unless there is chance of doing wrong or right, there is no question of free will. Where is free will then? If I act only one sided, that means I have no free will. Because we act sometimes wrongly, that means free will.

Hayagrīva: A man may know better but still act wrongly.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: Yes.

Prabhupāda: But that is free will. He misuses his. Just like a thief, he knows that his stealing, it is bad, but still he does it. That is free will. He cannot check his greediness, so in spite of his knowing that he is doing wrong thing—he will be punished, he knows; he has seen another thief, he was punished, he was put into prison—everything he knows, but still he steals. Why? Misuse of free will. Unless there is misuse of free will, there is no question of free will.

Hayagrīva: In a sense he says that when one knows God he knows everything else, because...

Prabhupāda: Yes. If he knows God and follows the instruction of God then he is right, and as soon as he goes against the instruction of God, then he is wrong. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: "Now I have given you all instruction. It is up to you to accept or reject." Yathecchasi tathā kuru (BG 18.63). That is free will. So now it depends on me whether I shall act according to the instruction of God or I shall act according to my whims, according to my sensual inclinations.

Hayagrīva: He says, "I see that the certainty in truth of all knowledge depends on knowledge of the true God, and that before I knew Him I could have no perfect knowledge of any other thing, and now that I know Him I have a means of acquiring a perfect knowledge of innumerable things, not only in respect of God Himself and other intelligible things, but also in respect of that corporeal nature which is the object of pure mathematics." Now he says he knows God but at the same time he seems to be deceived in matters, certain matters that we haven't come to yet, but, uh...

Prabhupāda: No. If he has actually followed God's instruction and if he has actually knowledge of what is God, then he will never be misled. Either he selects a false God or he has not met God, real God. Then he is... But to save this danger there is God's instruction, Bhagavad-gītā. Anyone who will follow, he will be perfect.

Hayagrīva: Concerning the soul, Descartes concludes that...

Prabhupāda: Now in this connection, regarding the soul, if he has received the knowledge of soul from God, therefore at that time there is no chance of he is thinking. If, as soon as he thinks in his own way, then there may be mistakes, because he is imperfect, finite. But when Kṛṣṇa says directly that "Within this body the soul is there," so if we accept God's instruction, then immediately we understand that the soul is different from this body. Exactly just like if somebody inquires, "Where is Prabhupāda?" If somebody says that "He is in this room," it does not mean this room is Prabhupāda; Prabhupāda is within this room. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa says that this, the owner of the body, the soul, is within this body. So immediately the false impression that "I am this body," the fool's conclusion, immediately it is eradicated. The light is there, but he will not accept. He wants to continue to live as a fool and speculate and waste time and con..., give conclusion in so many ways, so many rascal jugglery, "The living force is like this, like that, like that." But Kṛṣṇa gives instruction immediately that the living force, soul, is within this body; he is not this body. And He gives complete instruction on this at... He says, na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre: (BG 2.20) "This soul is never killed even the body is killed." This is knowledge. In spite of this knowledge, if somebody sticks to his foolish theories, then he remains animal.

Hayagrīva: There was a lot of conjecture at this time on where the soul is located, and he writes, "It is likewise necessary to know that although the soul is joined to the whole body, there is yet in there a certain part in which it exercises its functions more particularly than in all the others, and that it is usually believed that this part is the brain or possibly the heart."

Prabhupāda: The heart.

Hayagrīva: "The brain because it is within..., because it is with that the organ of sense are connected, and the heart because it is apparently in it that we experience the passions." We... He thought that the soul was in the pineal gland at the base of the brain, because we think with the brain, but that he wasn't certain. He thought, "Well, our passions are in the heart, so maybe it's in the heart."

Prabhupāda: No.

Hayagrīva: "Maybe it's in the brain."

Prabhupāda: Therefore we have to accept God's instruction. He definitely gives the information, īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe arjuna tiṣṭhati (BG 18.61). Īśvaraḥ means the controller. So the soul is the controller of this body. So He is within the heart; it is already there. Īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānāṁ hṛd-deśe arjuna tiṣṭhati. There are two kinds of īśvaraḥ, controller. One is the ordinary controller, that means the individual living being, and the other is the supreme living being. We get from Vedic information both of them sitting together on this body tree. So both cases, the Supersoul and the individual soul, they are living within the heart. That is the right conclusion.

Hayagrīva: But at the same time the soul pervades the entire body.

Prabhupāda: Yes. That is also explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. Avināśi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idaṁ tatam. That portion which is spread all over the body, that is immortal. So this is the illumination or the shining of the soul. That the sun is situated localized in a particular place, that we can see everyday, but his illumination is distributed all over the universe. Similarly, although the soul is situated within the heart, his illumination is spread all over the body. So that is consciousness. So as soon as the soul is out from the heart, which is known as heart failure, when he leaves the heart, then what is the use of this heart? It becomes a lump of matter. Immediately consciousness is absent from the whole body. So it is upon the leaving of the soul this body there is no more consciousness. This is reasoning. Why a second before there was consciousness and after there is no consciousness? If you chopped up the body there will be no protest, there will be no feeling of pain, that "What is that?" This is reasoning, that something is missing. That soul has gone out; therefore the consciousness in the body is absent. That soul is immortal; the consciousness is also immortal. Now the consciousness, by the influence of illusory energy, is engaged in so many material things—consciousness of society, consciousness of nationality, consciousness of this, that, so many. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is educating movement, how the consciousness can be purified to remain only Kṛṣṇa conscious. Then his life is successful.

Hayagrīva: All right...

Prabhupāda: What?

Hayagrīva: Here we go. In a letter, Descartes wrote, "I know that brutes," that is animals, "do many things better than we do, and I am not surprised at this, for that also goes to prove that they act by course of nature. If they could think as we do..."

Prabhupāda: No. Not force of nature. By force of God.

Hayagrīva: Yes.

Prabhupāda: In the heart of the brute also there is God.

Hayagrīva: "If they could think as we do, they would have an immortal soul as well as we, which is not likely because there is no reason for believing it of some animals without believing it of all, and there are many of them too imperfect to make it possible to believe it of them, such as oysters, sponges, etc." Is thinking a necessary function of the soul? He says, well for instance an oyster. How does he know whether or not an oyster thinks?

Prabhupāda: God is there giving him. God is, gives us instruction that we will advance, human being. We refuse, but they do not refuse.

Hayagrīva: You've said that anything that grows has a soul. The grass has a soul, has soul.

Prabhupāda: Yes. In dormant state.

Hayagrīva: Dormant.

Prabhupāda: Yes. Just as child has soul, but it is not yet..., the body has not yet developed. According to the body, according to the circumstances, the soul acts.

Hayagrīva: But he equates the mind and the higher mental processes with the soul.

Prabhupāda: No.

Hayagrīva: And, uh...

Prabhupāda: Mind is an instrument through which the soul acts. Mind is rejecting and accepting by the dictation of the soul.

Hayagrīva: He looked on animals as machines that react, and the basis for this view is..., he called it radiosenation, or language, because they do not have language...

Prabhupāda: They have got language.

Hayagrīva: They react as machines.

Prabhupāda: They have got language. You do not understand it.

Hayagrīva: It's been proved scientifically...

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Hayagrīva: ...that they actually... Dolphins, we, we have been able to even speak to dolphins, to communicate verbally. That also...

Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa was speaking with everyone. With the birds He was speaking. One old gopī went to the Yamunā to take bath, and when she saw that Kṛṣṇa was speaking with the bird, then she, "Oh, Kṛṣṇa can speak with the birds." She became surprised. So because Kṛṣṇa is God, He can understand everyone's language. That is God.

Hayagrīva: Oh, even during his day Descartes was attacked on this...

Prabhupāda: That, that, that qualification is described in the, our Science of Devotion. What is that?

Hari-śauri: Nectar of Devotion.

Prabhupāda: Nectar of Devotion. Vāvadūka. This qualification is called vāvadūka. He can understand everyone's language. Just like a human being, if he understands many languages he is called linguist. Similarly, Kṛṣṇa's another title is Vāvadūka. That means he understands everyone's language, even the birds, beasts. That is vāvadūka.

Hayagrīva: So that's the end of Descartes. (end)