Jean-Paul Sartre


Hayagriva: And this is a very short section on Jean-Paul Sartre. The...
Prabhupada: Who is he?
Hayagriva: The... He is a contemporary French philosopher.
Prabhupada: Hm.
Hayagriva: Probably the most famous of the French philosophers. Perhaps the most well known philosopher in this century. He calls himself an existentialist. He calls himself an atheistic existentialist in that he believes existence precedes essence. That the essence of man... According to creation by design, God has the essence of man in His mind, and He creates man just as a paper cutter creates some kind of a figure. Sartre doesn't believe this. He says, "Atheistic existentialism, which I represent, is more coherent. It states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and that this being is man, or human reality." So that for Sartre a human reality is all in all.
Prabhupada: So wherefrom the human reality comes? There are no realities also, so why he is stressing on human realities?
Hayagriva: There again, he would emphasize accident--he uses the word--that man is thrown into the world, or cast into the world.
Prabhupada: Thrown by whom? "Thrown into the world," as soon you say like that, then the next question will be, "Thrown by whom?"
Devotee: They don't like that question.
Prabhupada: Hm?
Hayagriva: He...
Devotee: They do not like that question.
Hayagriva: Well, he says, "Existentialism isn't so atheistic that it wears itself out showing God doesn't exist. Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, that would change nothing. There you've got our point of view."
Prabhupada: No, if you exist as others exist, then what is the fault there? God also exists. He exists. Others also existing. So if there is God, what is the fault if He exists? Why he is denying the existence of God? Let them all exist.
Hayagriva: First of all, he feels that God does not exist.
Prabhupada: Why? If you exist, if others exist, why God will not exist?
Hayagriva: That is his position as an atheist.
Prabhupada: No, atheist, that is there should be reasonable proposal. If you speak something nonsense, that "I exist," why he, does he bring the word God, if God does not exist? God is there, but He denies the existence. That is atheism. Otherwise, why bringing the word God? If God does not exist, why he is bringing the word God?
Hayagriva: He wants, he's trying to...
Prabhupada: That means God is there. He wants his existence; he does not want God to exist. That is his proposal.
Hayagriva: Yes. Emphasis is on man.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is nonsense. If you believe in your existence, you should believe in others' existence also. Actually there is. Human being is not only existing, but there are so many, 8,400,000 different forms of living being. They are existing. So God is also one of them. According to Vedic understanding of God, that God is also one of the living being, but He is the chief, supreme living being. That is the difference. So, in the ordinary understanding a man is better than the animal, and another intelligent man is better than the nonintelligent man. So similarly, you go on with comparative study, one after another, when you come to the final living being, He is the Supreme. As it is said in the Bhagavad-gita, mattah parataram nanyat: there is no more superior living being, and that is God. That we have got practical experience. You may be more intelligent than me, he may be more intelligent than you, go on, go on searching. So when you find somebody that He is the final intelligent, that is God. So what is the difficulty to understand? Why God shall not exist? If one person better intelligent than me he can exist, so why a person who exceeds all others in intelligence, He cannot exist? So there is no meaning of atheism. That is ignorance.
Hayagriva: By..., by setting aside or denying the existence of God, he is able to write this: "Thus there is no human..."
Prabhupada: That, that kind of understanding, denying the existence, that is foolishness. How he can? We have given the definition, that practical field you will find one man is more intelligent than the other man, or one animal is better intelligent than other animal. That is positive, comparative, superiority, divisions. So naturally we can think of, at least, that we approach this way to a certain personality, He is the final intelligent. No more exceeds in the intelligence than Him, and no more equal intelligence. That is God. There is possibility of such person's existence. How he can deny it?
Hayagriva: But if God exists, then...
Prabhupada: God exists, must exist!
Hayagriva: ...then He must be the center.
Prabhupada: Huh?
Hayagriva: Then He must be the center.
Prabhupada: No, no. He has to accept that God exists. He cannot deny it, because practically we see. You may be intelligent, more intelligent than me, and he may be more intelligent you. So go on, go on, and find out, if you have got power, that we come to a person there is no more more intelligent than Him, as God defines: mattah parataram nanyat. And Krsna, "Above Me there is no more intelligent person." There is not. So you cannot deny this existence, a superpowerful, superintelligent person, because we practically see. Not that everyone is on the equal level. That is not the case. He is a philosopher, another philosopher more intelligent than him, another philosopher more intelligent. So you go on searching. Anyway, either in richness or in intelligence or in power, strength, beauty, there is comparative superlative degrees. So God means the superlative degree in everything. How he can deny this existence? That is not possible.
Hayagriva: According to him he says, "The first principle of existentialism is that man is nothing else but what he makes of himself, since there is no God to conceive of human nature."
Prabhupada: When, if he can see that man exists in his own idea, so why not a superman who exists in his own idea, or his own capacity, completely independent of anyone? Why, how he can deny that? That is not possible.
Hayagriva: He feels that... He puts a great deal of emphasis on man's responsibility, of his existence on himself.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Hayagriva: That since he's not responsible to God, he's responsible for himself.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Hayagriva: Or to himself.

Prabhupada: What does he mean, "responsible"? Responsible, if somebody gives you duties, and if you feel responsible to discharge that duty, then you are responsible. But there is no duty, nobody is to see above you, then where is your responsibility?
Hayagriva: Well, he feels that all values... If there is no God, all values disappear. There are no values, there's no criteria.
Prabhupada: So his value also disappear.
Hayagriva: So from this he concludes that without God, everything is possible. He says, "Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist. If God did not exist, everything would be possible. That is the very starting point of existentialism."
Prabhupada: But he does not know what, what is the meaning of God. We have several times repeated this. God is the Supreme, Supreme Being. So we have defined in so many ways. Another thing that God is the Supreme, Supreme means He is supreme father. The Supreme everything means He is supreme father also. The conception of father is there. So as we are standing, we are talking with that gentleman priest, that mother nature, nature is giving, producing so many living entities. So she is supposed to be the mother. And as soon as we accept mother, there must be father. Mother cannot, alone cannot give birth to any offspring, so there must be the conception of father. And that is, practically we are seeing that mother nature... We say "mother nature" because she gives birth to so many forms of life, and if we accept mother, then you must to accept father, and that God is supreme father. How he can deny it? Father's duty is to maintain the children. So all living beings are being maintained, so there must be father. How he can deny that?
Hayagriva: How, how, well, he does. He says, his very words, he says, "Since we have discarded God the father, there has to be someone to invent values. Before you become alive, life is nothing. It's up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose."
Prabhupada: I will have to give meaning of my life? So what is that idea?
Hayagriva: You must give meaning to your own life. Since, since there is no God to give life meaning, man must invent his own meaning.
Prabhupada: Everyone will invent his meaning.
Hayagriva: Yes.
Prabhupada: Then where, where there will be symmetry?
Hayagriva: Si..., similitude.
Prabhupada: No, symmetry.
Devotee: Symmetry.
Prabhupada: Yes. How the people will live peacefully in the society? I will give my own idea, you will give your own idea, he will give his own idea, then where there is collaboration? No, there is no possibility. Then it is chaotic condition. Then why do you want government? You live without government. You don't require government.
Hayagriva: Lately he's turned into a Marxist.
Prabhupada: Whatever it may be, there is government. In the Marxist, Communist country, there is government, so how you can avoid the government and leadership? That is not possible. Then the society is in chaotic condition.
Hayagriva: He believes that each man is responsible for other men, but that he believes..., he also believes that each man has the freedom to work out his own destiny, so to speak.
Prabhupada: Say, suppose if I want to do with you some, something good, and you are free. So if you don't accept me, then I don't accept that, that is, means chaotic. How you are responsible for me? If I don't obey, so how you can become responsible for me? So he says that a man should be responsible for other men. But if he does not obey you, where is the responsibility? So crazy fellow that.
Hayagriva: It appears to be contradictory.
Prabhupada: Everything is contradictory. That must be contradictory. Unless there is standard idea, standard thing, there must be contradiction.
Hayagriva: This is the last point. He says, "To be man..."
Prabhupada: Therefore we say first of all God.
Hayagriva: Yes.
Prabhupada: There is Supreme Person, and we should be all obedient servant to Him. Then the society will be in order. That, that is responsibility. God gives us some duty, and if we carry that, that is our responsibility, and that makes the whole society perfect. That should... In the beginning if we reject God, so then it is chaotic. So religion means to avoid this chaotic condition, and in order, fulfilling the responsibility given by God, we make progress, and finally we live with God personally. That is our eternal right.
Hayagriva: His final point is that..., is, "To be man means to reach toward being God, or, if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God."
Prabhupada: So he, at last he accept there is God. (laughter) Otherwise what is the meaning of going to God? Yes, he is trying to deny God when there is God. Unless there is God, where is the question of accepting or denying? He is denying in the other way; that means there is God.
Devotee: As soon as he mentions God he's proved there is God.
Prabhupada: No, as soon as he denies God, there is God.
Devotee: Or denies, because he has admitted God...
Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: way or another.
Hayagriva: He says that he prefers to set the question aside, but at the same time...
Prabhupada: That is the main question. That is the main question, that God has created everything. He has created you, He has created your mind, intelligence, your body, your existential circumstances--everything He has created. So how you can deny God? In the beginning, that Bible says, "In the beginning there was God." Is it not?
Devotee: Yes.
Prabhupada: And the Vedanta also it is, aham evasam evagre. That God says that "I existed in the beginning." Here the creation is temporary, existence is temporary, and annihilation is also temporary. This is material nature. And we can understand it very easily, that this body, your body, my body is created at a certain date, it will continue to a certain date, and it will be finished. This is material understanding. Anything you will take, it has a beginning, it has a duration of period to exist, then finished. So if you take broader way, the whole cosmic manifestation, it has a beginning and it has an end and it has a duration of period to exist. But before this creation, who was there? That is God. Otherwise how the creation is possible if God is not there before the creation?
Hayagriva: Well, new philosophy means to resolve this question. You can't possibly resolve it by setting it aside, if it's the major question. It's been the major question of all philosophers we studied. So how can you say let us just set it aside?

Prabhupada: No. What the philosophers, the... Not all philosophers they denied the existence, but from our practical study we can see that take personal existence, that before I got this body, there was my father and mother. So how can I deny this fact? This whole cosmic manifestation is exactly like the manifestation of my body. Everything you take, there is practical experience. So far you take this spectacle, it is created by some spectacle..., spectacle manufacturer, and it will exist for some time, then it will annihilate. Similarly, the whole creation, annihilation. There is another crude example, just like earthen pot is made from the clay, earth. It is, it gets a shape, and it continues to exist for a certain time, and then it is broken. So when it is broken, again it is clay. So in the beginning the clay was there, in the middle there is a form, and at the end again clay. So clay is the original. Similarly, God is everything original. That is explained by God in the Bhagavad-gita: aham sarvasya prabhavah. And the Vedanta says, janmady asya yatah. This is clear understanding where your existence comes from. You cannot say all of a sudden you dropped from the sky. You have your father and mother, and from them you have appeared. How you can say that "There was nobody else before my creation, and there will be nobody else after my annihilation"? That is foolishness. How you can do it? So you have to accept that before your manifestation there was your father and mother. So this is right philosophy. The mother is the material nature and father is God. So father gives the seed, and mother begets so many children. So it is a big family. Father is God and material nature is the mother, and then we, as children, we are taken care of by the father and mother, so our duty is to remain peacefully at the cost of the father and mother and become obedient to the father and mother. This is natural. Beyond this, all speculation. That will not give us real peace and prosperity. We must, have to accept. God is there, the nature is there, and we are also there, a big family. Let us live peacefully according to the order of the father. That is natural.
Ramesvara: He is describing responsibility to the family without considering the father.
Prabhupada: Family... He is also one of the member of the family, who created the family. How he, can you disobey the father?
Hayagriva: Well, he says, "First of all man exists, turns up, appears on the scene."
Prabhupada: Wherefrom the man exists? That is his foolishness.
Hayagriva: He just says he appears on the scene.
Ramesvara: He is not concerned.
Prabhupada: Huh?
Ramesvara: He is not concerned.
Prabhupada: That is his foolishness. He does not know that he appears on account of father and mother. How he can deny this? That is his foolishness. How can this man say, "I appeared all of a sudden. I dropped from the sky." It is a crazy fellow. How we can give time to hear it? That's not possible. You appeared on account of your father and mother. How can you deny it? That is not possible. Is it possible to deny it?
Hayagriva: Not intelligently.
Prabhupada: That means a rascal. A rascal can say that "I appeared without father and mother." That's not possible. So we say that everyone appears, not only human being. All animals, all plants, trees, everywhere--there are 8,400,000 species of life--they have appeared from these material elements. Either from the water... The fishes is appearing in the water, and the plants and trees, they are appearing on the land, and then insects, birds and everything. Everything is appearing. So material nature is the mother. That is accepted. So as soon as you accept mother there must be father. Where you get this conception that we are appearing without father and mother? How it, how it is possible?
Ramesvara: He just wants to put the question aside.
Prabhupada: Why? This is the primary question, wherefrom you appeared.
Ramesvara: Christians also, and the Jew, the Western religions, they say there is a God, but He has put us here in this world. So He is in His heaven, and we are here on earth, and our business now is to become happy. They also put the question aside. (end)