Srila Prabhupada tussles with psychiatrists

    Posted on August 25, 2014

Caracas, 1975

Another night the psychiatrists came. They also disagreed with Prabhupada. They thought he was claiming too much and criticizing too much. Prabhupada explained, "Mental disease is there basically because he is thinking he is the body." He gave the example of the driver and the car. If a man identifies with the damage done to his car, then that is a mental disease. The man is actually different from his car, but he thinks that he has become damaged by the damage of the car. "So if the psychiatrist informs him, 'Why are you sorry? You are not the car,' then the man is cured. So the defect of modern civilization is that he is not this body, but he does not know it."
The psychiatrists objected, arguing that even if a doctor was looking for God, that did not mean he should stop trying to cure his patients' physical ailments with psychiatry.
"No, no," Prabhupada corrected, "it is not that I am talking of God. I am talking of the constitutional position of the living being." Although Srila Prabhupada repeatedly hammered out the example of the driver and the car, the psychiatrists kept insisting, in effect, that it was the car that was important. "But," Prabhupada insisted, "the insanity is not of the car. The insanity is of the driver. So when we feel the problems of humanity, it means the insanity of the soul, not of the body." To this the psychiatrists
replied that Prabhupada's points were in common with many philosophies. They said there were many different ways and different philosophies for passing the time of this temporary life.
Prabhupada: "'So you are interested only in the temporary life, never mind there may be disaster." The psychiatrists insisted that both body and spirit were important. As for the body, they felt responsibility for curing it through psychiatry; as for the soul, that was a speculative field in which one persons opinion was as good as another. Finally, after repeated attempts, Prabhupada made them admit the simplest truth. Prabhupada: "Just like the dead body. Everything is present in the dead body. The machine is there. Now somehow or other you try to drive it. But you cannot."
Psychiatrist (translated through Hrdayananda Maharaja): "The body cannot be driven because the spirit is gone. I admit that."
Prabhupada: "That means the driver is gone. So who is important, the body or the driver?"
Psychiatrist: "Both are important."
Prabhupada: "Both are there, but comparatively which is more important?"
Psychiatrist: "The spirit is."
But then a woman psychiatrist spoke, suggesting that Srila Prabhupada was being overly critical of society, without a specific solution. Again Srila Prabhupada referred to the car and the driver. When Prabhupada said that no educational department was giving clear information of the prime factor, the car's driver, she said he was a radical, because many groups were doing just
that, and she herself had studied theology for two years in college. As on previous nights, the talk was tense, the guests unyielding in their refusal to accept the most elementary aspects of transcendental science. Srila Prabhupada was offering them instruction in Krsna consciousness, but he would not compromise.

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