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Home » featured, philosophy

Love and Reason

Submitted by on January 25, 2018 – 12:33 am5 Comments

bhaktivinode-3By Thakura Bhaktivinoda

We do not mean to say that reason is a foolish principle. On the contrary, we do not find better admirers of reason than our humble selves. We hold that humanity’s superiority amongst all created beings consists in its possessing the noble gift of reason.

What we maintain is this: that independent of this noble principle there is another, higher gift in humanity, which goes by the name of love. Reason helps love to maintain its proper bounds in the spiritual world. Love often tends to degrade itself by exercising its function on objects other than God and converting itself into lust for women, wine, meat, and gold. Here, reason advises love to rise higher till she reaches her proper sphere above.

Thus we find that the object of reason is to help love and not to create it. Reason may be properly styled as the servant of love and must always be subject to her in all her hopes, aspirations, and holy works.

The rationalist, on the contrary, considers reason as all and all. This is a degradation of humanity. The progressive rationalist, on the other hand, believes in the principle of love but attempts to make her the maidservant of reason. This is another error! Such a person sometimes makes spiritual love a prisoner in the jails of reason! Love wants to soar on her spiritual wings to a realm where the jailer (reason) cannot go, and the latter is sure to tie up her wings for fear that she goes to an unworthy place.

Love utters sounds of a spiritual character peculiar to herself, but reason, having no previous experience of it, mistakes it for a disease and administers medicine for her cure. Thus it is that the natural strength of the queen of our soul is crippled by artificial administration of the dry principle of reason, and she rests in us as if a bird taken in a cage. Oh! What a havoc doth reason commit by abuse of its power. Oh! Shame to the rationalist. God help the man!

Theists take care of those amongst you who mix with you only by assuming the name of theist but are in fact rationalists of a very dry character. They are divisible into two classes: the designing and the dupes. The designing theist is he who is, in fact, a rationalist but by assuming the name of theist wants to degrade the sincere by his bad influence. He that calls himself a theist in order to get rid of the name of rationalist but still holds love in subjugation to reason is a dupe because he is unable to find out his own position. The sincere theist should, however, take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of love over reason and his comrades.

5 Comments »

  • Citta Hari dasa

    Absolutely brilliant. This article practically leaves me dumbfounded at his genius.

  • Living Entity

    It would seem that this argument of love being above reason is important especially in Gaudiya Vaishnavism due to the complete internal transformation that must take place when spiritually minded men are introduced to the conjugal conception of love of Krishna.
    For a male to embark on a path that leads to conjugal love of Godhead there must take place this internal change of thinking and in fact an over-riding of the typical reason and rational thought that an average male must typically possess as a soul in a male body identifying with that male body.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      This may be true on the higher end but I think Bhaktivinoda’s emphasis of reason as the servant of love and not the other way around is about a more basic ontological reality than about srngara rasa specifically. Any kind of transcendent love is above reason.

  • Zvonimir Tosic

    I’ll quote several sentences from above to pose an observation:

    1. We hold that humanity’s superiority amongst all created beings consists in its possessing the noble gift of reason.
    2. Reason helps love to maintain its proper bounds in the spiritual world.
    3. Love wants to soar on her spiritual wings to a realm where the jailer (reason) cannot go …
    4. The sincere theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of love over reason and his comrades.
    5. Any kind of transcendent love is above reason.

    These are statements, opinions and conclusions. How did Bhaktivinode Thakur consider, weight and evaluate all these? How he came up with his decisions? How he decided to take his pen, or quill, and write them all down? Using reason, or no reason?

    Bhaktivinode Thakur was influenced by British Orientalists and scientific methods they’ve used, and also influenced with culture and beliefs of 19th century Bengal. British Orientalists indeed did use rational techniques in examination of the evidence, but something interesting is evident too, especially if studying scientific writing (in general) and conclusions made in that period. They’re quite different than today’s.

    If you examine closely the structure and the tone of writing, say this article from Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1911 (I’ve mentioned this once before in another forum, to illustrate what was acceptable scientific, encyclopaedic entry of 100 years ago):

    “Bullroarer, the English name for an instrument made of a small flat slip of wood, through a hole in one end of which a string is passed; swung round rapidly it makes a booming, humming noise. Though treated as a toy by Europeans, the bullroarer has had the highest mystic significance and sanctity among primitive people. This is notably the case in Australia, where it figures in the initiation ceremonies and is regarded with the utmost awe by the “blackfellows.”

    Or one above from Bhaktivinode Thakur:


    The sincere theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of love over reason and his comrades.

    In both something sounds somewhat similar, and that the “cracking noise”. “Toys”, “primitive people”, “blackfellows”, “reason and comrades” (which ones?). Plenty of conclusions were made a priori, with an already predetermined outcome, filled with cultural/personal bias. Both have omitted setting up the rules of observation and deciding precisely what are exact variables and observables in question, without indulging into conjecture.

    The results are some illogical and doubtful conclusions: from above, statement 2 cannot really yield in statement 5. Statement 4 is in contradiction with statement 2: how can theist assure sovereignty of love if he/she doesn’t make a decision made with reason to do so? 2 and 3 are in contradiction too.

    That profound weakness in setup we find in scientific thinking and everyday culture widespread till the WWI, resulting in many doubtful decisions and conclusions made that influence society even today. Situation changes slightly in between wars and after the WWII thanks to profound discoveries in physics that significantly change our perspective on observation. Although scientific approach changed considerably, we’re still prone to those mistakes.

    An agreed definition on what is reason and what is love is missing in above statements before putting them in any relation. And yet, how we evaluate conclusions, considering that we indeed must use both variables to make an observation and final conclusion? Who can draw a clear line between them?

    Because those variables are left to reader to decide upon them, or to a pre-assumption that everyone already knows what those are, no clear conclusions can be made. What was reasonable then may not be reasonable today, or what was incomprehensible then may be comprehensible now. Or what was considered a special “act of unselfish love” then, may be an everyday, automatic “act of reason” society has integrated in itself today.

    Or can we be sure in all that at all? Considering statements mentioned and conclusions drawn, perhaps the better interpretation would be that reason and love are interrelated and that interrelation needs to be observed constantly. Can we really separate ourselves from the “realm of reason” and claim something like statement 5?

    Or what I’m describing here is totally unreasonable? 🙂

    • You don’t seem to understand what BVT is saying.

      1. We hold that humanity’s superiority amongst all created beings consists in its possessing the noble gift of reason.
      2. Reason helps love to maintain its proper bounds in the spiritual world.
      3. Love wants to soar on her spiritual wings to a realm where the jailer (reason) cannot go …
      4. The sincere theist should however take care of both of them and preserve the sovereignty of love over reason and his comrades.
      5. Any kind of transcendent love is above reason.

      2. Reason helps us to understand that real love belongs to the spiritual world, not the material world or the realm of material attachment.
      3. At the same time love itself rises above the limits of reason.
      4. The sincere theist should understand both love and reason and their place in spiritual culture, and that involves keeping in mind that spiritual love (bhava) is categorically different from reason and the rest of the material hierarchy of knowing (mind, senses, sense objects).

      Thus 2 yields to 5 and there is no contradiction between 2 and 4 or 2 and 3.

      You write,

      An agreed definition on what is reason and what is love is missing in above statements before putting them in any relation. And yet, how we evaluate conclusions, considering that we indeed must use both variables to make an observation and final conclusion?

      First of all philosophy is not science, and secondly it should be obvious to any one familiar with Gaudiya Vaisnavism and Thakura Bhaktivinoda how he uses the terms love and reason in his books. It is assumed that on a Gaudiya Vaisnava site that when the Thakura is published discussing love and reason that his definition of them is already clear to the vast majority of the audience. This piece in an excerpt from the writing of a very well known acarya.

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