Why The Existence Exists?

Srila Prabhupada answers this question in the most elaborate and sublime way in a conversation with philosophers.

Guest (1) [German man]: I would like to ask you a question. Once Leibniz, who is one of the fathers of the Western tradition, formulated the question which was the beginning of metaphysics in a way, Western metaphysics. The question is, "Why there is anything?" What is your stand about this classic point?

Prabhupada: Why...?

Guest (1): Why there is anything?

Prabhupada: Anything?

Hrdayananda: Why anything exists? What is the reason for the existence of...?

Professor: Existence of him.

Prabhupada: [chuckles] "Why anything exists?" [laughter] What do you mean by "anything"?

Guest (1): Well, that's precisely the point. What is the purpose? What is the sense, if there is any, or does the very question make sense?

Prabhupada: No, no, unless understand what is that "anything..." First of all, you have to understand what is that "anything." Anything... Just like this book, this table, this bell, the electric, they are so many things. So you can take any one of them; that is anything. What is your idea of "anything"?

Guest (1): Oh, reality. Material, external reality to our ego; our internal reality as well.

Prabhupada: Internal reality and external reality?

Guest (1): Both. For me, the word "anything" covers both.

Prabhupada: Yes. So that also we understand, "anything." There are so many varieties of things, and you can take any one of them. That is "anything." But your question should be, "Wherefrom these things coming?" That should be the proper question.

Professor: What is the reason of the existence of anything?

Prabhupada: Yes. There are so many things, and you can take any one of them. That is "anything." But the real question should be, "Wherefrom all these things are coming?" That is real question, "What is the origin of all these things?"

Guest (1): Well, origin, that is more on the theoretical side. It's a question... question, "Why?" But I am, rather, after the purpose.

Prabhupada: Yes. That is a nice question. But there is the real source of everything. That is the Vedanta-sutra. Perhaps you have read. Vedanta-sutra, first question is, "Wherefrom all these things come?" So the answer is that janmady asya yatah [SB 1.1.1]: "Brahman. The original thing is Brahman, or the Absolute Truth, and from Him, everything is emanating." Just like physical... The sun is there, and whole material world is product of the sunshine. What your physical science says? [laughter] Eh? Eh? Do they not say? It is a fact that sunshine... Due to the sunshine all these material things are there.

Guest (1): Well, it's more involved than just saying that. Sun is just a big complex of hydrogen and helium, a big pile of rubbish really, but it develops this marvelous reactions which causes it, work as a big nuclear reactor. That's an entirely different story, what the vision of science, of the present science, about the meaning of celestial bodies and the meaning of, in particular, of sun and moon and so on. We are extremely realistic about this world. We don't, we can't see, assuming all the glory of that what happens on the earth due to the existence of those bodies, we do not try to look inside of the structure of these things as something meant for us. Just universe as it is. And this question, like Nietzschean question which I am repeating -- that's not my point -- this big question is... Western philosophy presently does not answer, one does not ask this question. I think that this scientist who did ask it has quite a point. This question expresses this quest of the human race for some meaning, for some sense, for some sense. That's what religion is now offering us, or philosophies, or... Rarely, directly, we hear the direct answer to that.

Prabhupada: What is your direct answer?

Guest (1): Oh, I don't have any. If I would have, I wouldn't ask you.

Prabhupada: That means your knowledge is insufficient.

Guest (1): Precisely. Precisely. That is the beginning of [indistinct] wisdom We know we don't know. I am aware of that.

Prabhupada: Therefore, if you have no answer... That's all right. That "We don't know" means our knowledge is insufficient. But knowledge means must be progressive. We should not remain in insufficient knowledge. We must make further progress to get sufficient knowledge. Inquiry.

Guest (1): But you referred to some other, more direct ways of acquiring knowledge than just the standard study.

Prabhupada: No, because we have got insufficient knowledge, we cannot approach directly. It is not possible. We have to take knowledge -- who has got sufficient knowledge, from him. Because you have got insufficient knowledge, so you cannot make progress. Just like beyond this wall, you cannot say what is there. That is insufficient knowledge. But that does not mean there is nothing. Because you cannot say what is beyond this wall, that does not mean that there is nothing beyond this wall. Your knowledge is insufficient. Is it not?

Professor: Well yes but, this is, his was more or less like reaching a question I think...

Prabhupada: Just try to hear. Then...

Professor: If Indian philosophy proposes...

Prabhupada: No, no, it is no "Indian" or "American." It is the philosophy. It is philosophy. The philosophy is not Indian or American. Truth is truth, not Indian truth or American truth. That is not truth. That is relative truth. The Absolute Truth is absolute. That is neither Indian nor American nor...

Guest (1): But in what sense you use the concept "truth" here? Is it in the ontological sense, or is it in somehow in a more pragmatical, human sense, refers to human beings or...?

Prabhupada: Yes, it is pragmatic, that you cannot see beyond this wall. That is your insufficient knowledge or your senses are insufficient. You cannot go beyond this wall. But that does not mean there is nothing beyond this wall. So if you want to know what is beyond this wall, you have to know from a person who knows it.

Professor: Yes, that is correct. Yes.

Prabhupada: Yes. Because you cannot see, you cannot know, that is not the end. There must be something.

Guest (1): Why?

Prabhupada: Eh? It is actual fact. That is pragmatic. It is actual fact. There is... So many things there are, but you do not know because your senses are imperfect. Your eyes are imperfect, your touch, imperfect, the gathering senses... The senses which gathers knowledge... Just like eyes... We can see and gather knowledge. We can hear; we gather knowledge. We can taste; we gather knowledge. So, because your senses are imperfect, therefore your knowledge gathered, that is imperfect.

Professor: But for instance in the case of a mystical man that has been able to see... [indistinct]... man has been able to see... [indistinct].... yes.

Prabhupada: There is no question of mystic. First of all we have to admit that on account of our senses being imperfect, whatever knowledge we gather, that is imperfect. That is imperfect. Therefore, if you want to possess real knowledge you have to approach somebody who is perfect.

Professor: Yes, yes.

Prabhupada: You cannot... Huh?

Guest (1): How can we know that somebody is perfect?

Prabhupada: That is another thing. But first of all, the basic principle is we have to understand that our senses are imperfect, and whatever knowledge we gather by this imperfect senses, there imperfect. So if we want perfect knowledge, then we have to approach somebody who is, whose senses are perfect, whose knowledge is perfect. That is the principle. That is the Vedic principle. Therefore the Vedic principle says, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet,

tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet

samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

"To understand these things properly, one must humbly approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth." [Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12]

You know Sanskrit, yes? "In order to know that perfect knowledge, one should approach guru." So who is guru? Then the next question will be. Your question is that, "How I can?"

Guest (1): How can I know that...?

Prabhupada: That I am coming. That I am coming. Guru... That is next line. It is said, srotriyam brahma-nistham. Guru means who has properly heard the Vedas, sruti. Srotriyam. And as a result of his hearing he is firmly convinced in the existence of the Absolute Truth, God.

Professor: Well, this is... We've only come to one of the, as I mentioned, the theories of knowledge, I think, sabda.

Prabhupada: Sata?

Professor: Sabda.

Prabhupada: Sabda, yes, sabda-brahman. Yes.

Professor: Then if you are able to communicate to have this knowledge through sabda, what?

Prabhupada: Yes. Sabda-brahman. Just like many thousands of miles away we are getting some radio message and we learn that "Something is happening there. Something is there." Therefore sabda. This is... Sabda means sound. Sound. Sound vibration. So that is the real source of knowledge. That is the real source of... Sabda-brahman.

Professor: One of the sources of knowledge, of the only one?

Prabhupada: No, that is the only one. There are others; they are subordinate. But the sabda, knowledge received, sabda, through sabda, sabda-brahman, that is perfect knowledge. Just like the same example: beyond this wall I cannot see, but if somebody there says, "This is the position here" -- the sound comes -- that is perfect. You cannot see what is going on, but if somebody says..., sends radio message or any message, sound, then you know. Therefore sabda-pramana, sabda, knowledge received through sabda, that is perfect knowledge.

Professor: That means that through sabda, and through other means you can have a direct intuition, but you can't intact... Direct intuition of things.

Prabhupada: Intuition is different. Direct perception. Sabda, you can direct perception. It is not intuition; it is perception. Therefore the word is used, srotriyam brahma-nistham [Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12].

[To understand these things properly, one must humbly approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth.]

So our process is to receive knowledge through sabda-brahman, Vedic. Just like eko narayana asit. Eko narayana asit: "Before creation there was only Narayana." Na brahma na isah: "There was no Brahma; there was no Siva." So this is sabda-pramana, sabda-pramana, that "In the beginning there was God; nothing else." So in this way our Vedic principle is: when your knowledge is corroborated by the Vedic version, then it is perfect.

Professor: But according to Sankara, if I am interpreting well, it is not only way that you can approach truth. You can also approach through deduction.

Prabhupada: There are many ways. Just like hypothesis. Hypothesis. Yes. History, history. Hypothesis, history. Then direct perception. There are many. But the, of all these, sabda-pramana is taken as best. Sabda-pramana, evidence through the sound. That is the best.

Professor: Yes, but... I'm coming again to [indistinct]. According to, if I am correct, I want to know what the use is, if one prove, can prove the value, existential value of a thing, through deduction... If it is possible or not only through intuition, through direct intuition of the reality of the thing?

Prabhupada: Value by intuition?

Professor: Knowledge of the existence of a thing, of anything.

Prabhupada: Yes. The knowledge of existence, that nityah-sasvato 'yam [Bg 2.20], nityah sasvatah, that is knowledge of existence.

[For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.]

So you have to learn which is nitya and which is not nitya from the authority. "This is nitya, and this is anitya." So nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam [Katha Upanisad 2.2.13].

[The Supreme Lord is eternal and the living beings are eternal. The Supreme Lord is cognizant and the living beings are cognizant. The difference is that the Supreme Lord is supplying all the necessities of life for the many other living entities.]

These are the Vedic versions: "There is one chief nitya amongst the many nityas." Just like we, we living entities, we are nityas, eternal. First of all try to understand eternity. You were a child or I was a child. Now that body, child body, is no longer existing. But I understand, I know, that I had a body, child. That I am nitya. I am existing. The body has gone, but I am existing. Therefore I am eternal, nitya. Is it clear?

Professor: Well, I remember one other explanation, that when you are sleeping and you have a dream...

Prabhupada: No, when I am sleeping I am working.

Professor: ...and you have a dream, and then, when you are coming back from sleep...

Prabhupada: Yes.

Professor: ...you can remember your dream.

Prabhupada: Yes.

Professor: That means that you are conscious of your existence even on the suppression of consciousness. [laughs] Normal... [indistinct].

Prabhupada: I am not only conscious, but the consciousness depends on me. Because I am there, therefore consciousness. So I am nitya. This is the proof of nitya, that many changes have taken place, but the changes, the phenomenal changes, they have gone out. They are no more existing. Therefore they are not nitya. Just like dream. At night I saw one dream, but the dream is no more existing, but I remember that last night I saw the dream. Therefore I am nitya and the dream is anitya. The dream is anitya. Similarly, this phenomenal world, when I am not sleeping, but I am so-called awakened, so I am seeing. I am seeing you, I am seeing this table, this book, you see, but... [aside:] Don't... But when I am asleep I forget all these things. I forget. I am in a different world. I am seeing different things. So this is also dream, and the dream at night, that is also dream. But I, the seer of this dream and that dream, I am the eternal.

Professor: But this is not to make depending on the conscious of any individual the existence of things.

Prabhupada: Existence of thing... I say that at night, when I am dreaming, I do not see existence of these things. And at this time, in daytime, when I am seeing these things, I do not see the existence of the dream. So the conclusion should be both these things I see in daytime and I see at night, they have no existence. They are phenomenal. But I am the seer; I am eternal. I am existing. This is the proof. Because at night I am seeing and daytime I am seeing, so therefore I am eternal. But the phenomenal manifestation, they are temporary. We don't say it is false. Temporary. The Mayavadi philo... Sankara said it is false. Brahma satyam jagan mithya. Mithya means false. We don't say false. We don't say that this book is false. It has got reality, but temporary. This book has come into form at a certain date, and it will exist for certain days, and when it will be worn out or old, there will be no existence. Therefore the formation of this book is temporary. But I am the reader of the book; I am eternal. So two things are there: temporary and eternal. The temporary existence, somebody says "False," but we say, "It is not false; it is temporary." But there is an eternal existence. Just like I am eternal. That is... We have to learn from sabda, vibration. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire [Bg 2.20]. You understand Sanskrit. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. That eternal thing is exist, existing, it will continue to exist. Even after the destruction of this temporary body, it will continue to exist.

Professor: But coming again to the question that Dr. [indistinct] put to you, but it is possible to understand all those things [indistinct] and hear in the sense of [indistinct]?

Prabhupada: You have to understand... I have already said that we have got our imperfect senses. We cannot understand. But we have to understand from a person who has got perfect knowledge.

Professor: But why the existence of all these things, why the existence of all these things [indistinct]... knowledge.

Prabhupada: So? Why? Then the answer will be: "Why there shall not be existence?" First of all you answer this. If you question like that -- "Why there is existence?" -- then I shall inquire, "Why there shall not be existence?" Therefore the decision should be taken from the Absolute. Your question, my answer, will not solve. If you say, "Why there is existence?" I can ask you, "Why there shall not be existence?" And who will decide this?

Guest (1): If I may say something, this basic question, I suppose, may be asked only on the level of all religion, all philosophy, which does not put a line of division between practice in life...

Prabhupada: Yes.

Guest (1): ...and abstract investigations. Now, in normal Western thinking we do deny the very purpose of that question. As a matter of fact, we never ask it. Since time was when Leibniz did ask this question we all forgot it, or deliberately we suppress it. We simply say, "All right, let's be concerned only with those things which we can deal with effectively in material world. And the question of purpose, let's leave aside." Now, I suppose that within this system of thought which you have...

Prabhupada: I may tell you two things. The purpose is... That is experienced by every one of us, what is the purpose of life, what is the purpose anything. That, everyone, we can understand very easily. The purpose is ananda, pleasure.

Professor: [indistinct].

Prabhupada: That is the purpose. There is no difficulty to understand what is the purpose. The purpose is pleasure-seeking. Or purpose is pleasure. One who hasn't got the pleasure, he's seeking after it. That is the purpose. Purpose is ananda. Anandamayo 'bhyasat [Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12].

[By nature, the Supreme Lord is blissful.]

That is the Vedanta-sutra. Every one of us, seeking ananda. The scientific knowledge, philosophy, or even driving the car or whatever you are doing -- the purpose is ananda. That is a common factor. Purpose is... Why I am eating palatable dishes? I can eat anything, but I am seeking that "This sort of foodstuff will please me." That is ananda.

Guest (1): That is driving force and motivation of most of human activities. But the question, purpose, which Leibniz was asking for, he was asking on higher plane, in abstraction.

Prabhupada: Higher plane means you are seeking after pleasure, but that is being obstructed. That is your position. You are seeking pleasure, but it is not unobstructed. Therefore you are seeking higher, where there is no obstruction. Pleasure is the purpose, but when you speak of higher plane, that means you are experiencing obstruction in getting pleasure. So you are seeking a platform where there is no obstruction. But the purpose is the same.

Guest (1): Must it necessarily be so? That would be so, supposing that we human beings are precisly the center of existence, and all criteria should be applied, measuring everything what exists. Now, the question, "Why there is anything?" is asked on the more higher, I said higher, level, in the sense, trying to forget about this anthropocentric thinking. This why...

Prabhupada: No, thinking...

Guest (1): Why everything relates to everything what may exist -- other beings, other intelligences. That is... [indistinct]

Prabhupada: This is a fact, that intelligent or not intelligent, that doesn't matter. Everyone is seeking pleasure, ananda. The Sanskrit word is ananda. So ananda... Suppose I am constructing big a house to live there, but before the construction is finished I am, by nature, I am taken away, I die. Just like Napoleon. That, in France, that Arc in Paris?

Devotee: Arc de Triomphe.

Prabhupada: He could not finish it. You see? There are so many things. We are thinking, "By finishing this, we shall be happy," but that is sometimes hampered. So ananda is checked. So this is the position. So higher means where ananda is not checked. That is higher position. The purpose is ananda, but in this material world we are experiencing ananda being checked. Just like nobody wants to die. That's a fact. Why he shall die? I already discussed that I know that I was a child, I was a boy, I was a young man, and now I have got this body, old man's body. It is now going to finish. So I am little anxious. Now, whatever ananda I was drawing in my living condition, now it is going to be finished. But if we think properly, that "I am eternal, so although the body will be finished, I'll not be finished..." This is very natural, which, "I was not finished. Because my childhood body was finished, so I was not finished. My boyhood body was not finished; I was not finished. My youthhood was finished, but I was not finished." Similarly, the conclusion should be: "Even though this body will be finished, I'll not be finished." That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: tatha dehantara praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati [Bg 2.13].

[As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.]

Dhira, one who is intelligent, he is not disturbed. Dhiras tatra na muhyati.

So dhira, one who is dhira, sober, philosopher, he knows that "I am not going to be finished. I shall have to accept another body." Now, whether that body will be ananda? That is the consideration. I'll get another body, just like I have got this body, after changing so many bodies. Moment after moment, we are changing body. That is the medical science, changing of blood corpuscles. So this body will be changed again. Then I will have to enter the mother's womb and packed up for at least ten months in suffocated condition. This is scientific, all. Then again I'll come out when the body is prepared nicely to come out and exist. So that period of formation of body is not ananda. To remain compact in this way for ten months, it is not ananda. It is not ananda; just opposite ananda. Then when we die... Die, death means the miserable condition is so great that we cannot live. We have to go out. So there is no ananda. Then, when we have got this body, changing, there is no ananda because we are sometimes diseased, and to become old man, that is also not ananda.

Therefore I am eternal; I'm seeking after something which is eternal ananda. Therefore next considerance should be that "Whether this condition of repetition of birth, death, old age and disease can be changed?" That is next question. And if there is possibility, then we shall try for that. But there is possibility here. The conclusion is: so long we get this material body... Because matter is not eternal. Anything you take, material -- earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, intelligence and false ego, these are all material things. So these material things, they are not eternal, none of them. This table is created; it is not eternal. It will be finished at a certain date, anything you take. But I am eternal. So if I transfer myself in another nature which is eternal, then my ananda will be eternal. That is the purpose of life.

Professor: Not that the, [indistinct] identity between atman and..., in the sense of the atman...

Prabhupada: Yes, I am atma. You are atma. Atma.

Professor: ...the atman of the world, let's say, the absolute atma.

Prabhupada: Yes. The atma and Paramatma, Paramatma. As I was speaking, nityo nityanam. We are all nityas, eternal, but there is one chief nitya. Just like leader. Anywhere we go, we have got a leader. Now this, your Mexico state, there is a president. You cannot avoid it. In your college there is principal. There must be a leader. Similarly, the whole thing taken together, there must be one leader. You have to speak from experience that in your physical department or in your religious department there is a chief, leader, professor. Or you may be. But that is the way. Therefore Vedic information is that we are eternals, but there is another eternal who is chief eternal. That is God. He is eternal; we are also eternal. Then what is difference? The difference is that eko yo bahunam vidadhati kaman: "That one eternal, chief eternal, He is maintaining all the subordinate eternals." So both the eternals are eternal and... The purpose is pleasure. Just like a small example: a family man. The father is the chief man in the family. The mother is there, the children are there, all together. But the father is the chief man in the family. He is maintaining the family, and there is ananda, pleasure. Similarly, ananda is the aim of both..., all the eternals, the chief eternal or the subordinate eternal. But the supplier is the chief eternal. So when we come together, the chief eternal and the subordinate eternals, and enjoy together, that is the purpose of life. [pause]

Professor: According to existential philosophy... Indian philosophy I am thinking about, like for instance the Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and all these...

Prabhupada: They are not philosopher.

Professor: They are all [indistinct] variations.

Prabhupada: They have no philosophy.

Professor: Eh?

Prabhupada: They have no philosophy.

Professor: I said you are also proposing the possibility to acquire knowledge through contact.

Prabhupada: Our position is -- I have already explained -- that we are all imperfect. Therefore we have to take knowledge from the perfect. So God is perfect, or Krsna is perfect, so we have to receive knowledge from Him. Then our knowledge is perfect. And so long we shall speculate, that is not perfect. Because you are speculating with imperfect instruments, what is the use?

Professor: [indistinct]... Thing that the only way to aquire... through sabda.

Prabhupada: If I want to cut this table, I must have proper instrument. If I want to cut this table with this book, "Let me cut this," how it will be possible? You must know that for cutting this table it requires this instrument.

Professor: Yes, they say that the only way to acquire knowledge is through sabda.

Prabhupada: Yes. Sabda-pramana.

Professor: And I think other pramanas will be also possible according to those.

Prabhupada: Just like I am trying something, and some experienced man says, "Do like this." This is sabda-pramana. The sabda-pramana, one who is..., knows, he says, "Do like this." The "Do like this" means sabda, sound, and it enters your ear, and you do adjustment. Therefore sabda-pramana. Just like you are sleeping, and one is..., another man is coming to kill you. And another friend says, "Get up, get up, get up! There is enemy. He is coming to kill you." Then you wake up. Therefore the sound is the pramana there was enemy. These are crude examples. When you are asleep, you cannot understand. You have got eyes, you have got hands, you have legs but no experience, but the ear gives you warning even if you are sleeping. There is enemy -- your eyes cannot see, your hand cannot touch, but the ear can give you evidence, "Yes." As soon as you are awakened you say, "Yes, here is enemy. He is coming to kill me." Therefore the aural reception, sound reception, is the evidence. Knowledge received through authentic sound vibration, that is perfect.


Room Conversation with Woman Sanskrit Professor – February 13, 1975, Mexico City





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