Journey of Self Discovery 7.3:
Psychoanalysis and the Soul
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Presenting a Vedic perspective on
psychology, Çréla Prabhupäda discusses the subject with
his disciple Çyämasundara in the following conversation, recorded
in Calcutta on October 5, 1971. Çréla Prabhupäda says,
“By speculating on some shock that may or may not have occurred in childhood,
one will never discover the root disease.... He [Freud] did not know the
basic principle of spiritual understanding, which is that we are not this
body.... We are different from this body, and we are transmigrating from
one body to another.”
Sigmund Freud’s idea was that many psychological problems originate with
traumatic experiences in childhood or infancy. His method of cure was to
have the patient try to recall these painful events and analyze them.
he did not know that one must again become an infant. After this life,
one will be put into another womb, and the same traumatic experiences will
happen again. Therefore it is the duty of the spiritual master and the
parents to save the child from taking another birth. The opportunity of
this human form of life is that we can understand the horrible experiences
of birth, death, old age, and disease and act so that we shall not be forced
to go through the same things again. Otherwise, after death we shall have
to take birth in a womb and suffer repeated miseries.
Freud treated many people suffering from neuroses. For instance, suppose
a man is sexually impotent. By recalling his childhood, he may remember
some harmful experience with his father or mother that caused him to be
repelled by women. In this way he can resolve the conflict and lead a normal
However, even in the so-called normal condition, the pleasure derived from
sexual intercourse is simply frustrating and insignificant. For ordinary
men attached to the materialistic way of life, their only pleasure is sexual
intercourse. But the çästras [Vedic scriptures] say, yan maithunädi-gåhamedhi-sukhaà
hi tuccham: the pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is tenth class
at best. Because they have no idea of the pleasure of Kåñëa
consciousness, the materialists regard sex as the highest pleasure. And
how is it actually experienced? We have an itch, and when we scratch it,
we feel some pleasure. But the aftereffects of sexual pleasure are abominable.
The mother has to undergo labor pains, and the father has to take responsibility
for raising the children nicely and giving them an education. Of course,
if one is irresponsible like cats and dogs, that is another thing. But
for those who are actually gentlemen, is it not painful to bear and raise
children? Certainly. Therefore everyone is avoiding children by contraceptive
methods. But much better is to follow the injunction of the çästras:
Simply try to tolerate the itching sensation and avoid so much pain. This
is real psychology. That itching sensation can be tolerated if one practices
Kåñëa consciousness. Then one will not be very attracted
by sex life.
Freud’s philosophy is that people have neuroses or disorders of their total
personality—various conflicts and anxieties—and that all these originate
with the sexual impulse.
we admit. An embodied living being must have hunger, and he must have the
sex impulse. We find that even in the animals these impulses are there.
Freud believed that the ego tries to restrain these primitive drives, and
that all anxieties arise from this conflict.
Our explanation is as follows: Materialistic life is no doubt very painful.
As soon as one acquires a material body, he must always suffer three kinds
of miseries: miseries caused by other living beings, miseries caused by
the elements, and miseries caused by his own body and mind. So the whole
problem is how to stop these miseries and attain permanent happiness. Unless
one stops his materialistic way of life, with its threefold miseries and
repeated birth and death, there is no question of happiness. The whole
Vedic civilization is based on how one can cure this materialistic disease.
If we can cure this disease, its symptoms will automatically vanish. Freud
is simply dealing with the symptoms of the basic disease. When you have
a disease, sometimes you have headaches, sometimes your leg aches, sometimes
you have a pain in your stomach, and so on. But if your disease is cured,
then all your symptoms disappear. That is our program.
In his theory of psychoanalysis, Freud states that by remembering and reevaluating
emotional shocks from our childhood, we can release the tension we are
But what is the guarantee that one will not get shocked again? He may cure
the results of one shock, but there is no guarantee that the patient will
not receive another shock. Therefore Freud’s treatment is useless. Our
program is total cure—no more shocks of any kind. If one is situated in
real Kåñëa consciousness, he can face the most severe
type of adversity and remain completely undisturbed. In our Kåñëa
consciousness movement, we are giving people this ability. Freud tries
to cure the reactions of one kind of shock, but other shocks will come,
one after another. This is how material nature works. If you solve one
problem, another problem arises immediately. And if you solve that one,
another one comes. As long as you are under the control of material nature,
these repeated shocks will come. But if you become Kåñëa
conscious, there are no more shocks.
Freud’s idea is that the basic instinct in the human personality is the
sexual drive, or libido, and that if the expressions of a child’s sexuality
are inhibited, then his personality becomes disordered.
Everyone has the sex appetite: this tendency is innate. But our brahmacarya
system restricts a child’s sex life from the earliest stages of his development
and diverts his attention to Kåñëa consciousness. As
a result there is very little chance that he will suffer such personality
disorders. In the Vedic age the leaders of society knew that if a person
engaged in unrestricted sex indulgence, then the duration of his materialistic
life would increase. He would have to accept a material body birth after
birth. Therefore the çästras enjoin that one may have sexual
intercourse only if married. Otherwise it is illicit. In our Kåñëa
consciousness society, we prohibit illicit sex, but not legal sex. In the
Bhagavad-gétä [7.11] Kåñëa says, dharmäviruddho
bhüteñu kämo ’smi bharatarñabha: “I am sexual intercourse
that is not against religious principles.” This means that sex must be
regulated. Everyone has a tendency to have sex unrestrictedly—and in Western
countries they are actually doing this—but according to the Vedic system,
there must be restrictions. And not only must sex be restricted, but meat-eating,
gambling, and drinking as well. So in our Society we have eliminated all
these things, and our Western students are becoming pure devotees of Kåñëa.
The people at large, however, must at least restrict these sinful activities,
as explained in the Vedic çästras.
The Vedic system of varëäçrama-dharma
[four social orders and four spiritual orders] is so scientific that everything
is automatically adjusted. Life becomes very peaceful, and everyone can
make progress in Kåñëa consciousness. If the Vedic system
is followed by human society, there will be no more of these mental disturbances.
Freud says that sexual energy is not only expressed in sexual intercourse,
but is associated with a wide variety of pleasurable bodily sensations
such as pleasures of the mouth, like eating and sucking.
That is confirmed in the çästras: yan maithunädi-gåhamedhi-sukham.
The only pleasure in this material world is sex. The word ädi indicates
that the basic principle is maithuna, sexual intercourse. The whole system
of materialistic life revolves around this sexual pleasure. But this pleasure
is like one drop of water in the desert. The desert requires an ocean of
water. If you find one drop of water in a desert, you can certainly say,
“Here is some water.” But what is its value? Similarly, there is certainly
some pleasure in sex life, but what is the value of that pleasure? Compared
to the unlimited pleasure of Kåñëa consciousness, it
is like one drop of water in the desert. Everyone is seeking unlimited
pleasure, but no one is becoming satisfied. They are having sex in so many
different ways, and the young girls walking on the street are almost naked.
The whole society has become degraded. Now the female population has increased
everywhere, and every woman and girl is trying to attract a man. The men
take advantage of the situation. There is a saying in Bengal: “When milk
is available in the marketplace, what is the use of keeping a cow?” So
men are declining to keep a wife because sex is so cheap. They are deserting
their families. And the more that men become attached to women, the more
the female population of the world will increase.
How does that result in more women?
When men have more sex, they lose the power to beget a male child. If the
woman is sexually more powerful, a girl is born, and when the man is more
powerful, a boy is born. This is Äyur-vedic science. For instance,
in the Punjab State of India, there are fewer women because the men are
very stout and strong. So when women are very easily available, the men
become weak and beget female children. Sometimes they become impotent.
If sex life is not restricted, there are so many disasters. And now we
are actually seeing them: impotency, no marriage, increased female population.
But no one knows why these things are happening or how human psychology
can be controlled to avoid them. For this they must look to the perfect
system of Vedic civilization.
Freud says that as the child grows up, he begins to learn that by giving
up immediate sensual satisfaction, he can gain a greater benefit later
even this so-called greater benefit is illusory, because it is still based
on the principle of material pleasure. The only way to entirely give up
these lower pleasures is to take to Kåñëa consciousness.
As Kåñëa states in the Bhagavad-gétä [2.59],
paraà dåñövä nivartate: “By experiencing
a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” And as Yämunäcärya
said, “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of
Kåñëa, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I
think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl in distaste.”
That is Kåñëa consciousness. Our prescription is that
in the beginning of life the child should be taught self-restraint (brahmacarya)
and when he is past twenty he can marry. In the beginning he should learn
how to restrain his senses. If a child is taught to become saintly, his
semen rises to his brain, and he is able to understand spiritual values.
Wasting semen decreases intelligence. So from the beginning, if he is a
brahmacäré and does not misuse his semen, then he will become
intelligent and strong and fully grown.
For want of this education, everyone’s
brain and bodily growth are being stunted. After the boy has been trained
as a brahmacäré, if he still wants to enjoy sex he may get
married. But because he then has full strength of body and brain, he will
immediately beget a male child. And because he has been trained from childhood
to renounce materialistic enjoyment, when he is fifty years old he can
retire from household life. At that time naturally his firstborn child
will be twenty-five years old, and he can take responsibility for maintaining
the household. Household life is simply a license for sex life—that’s all.
Sex is not required, but one who cannot restrain himself is given a license
to get married and have sex. This is the real program that will save society.
By speculating on some shock that may or may not have occurred in childhood,
one will never discover the root disease. The sex impulse, as well as the
impulse to become intoxicated and to eat meat, is present from the very
beginning of life. Therefore one must restrain himself. Otherwise he will
So the Western system of bringing up children seems artificial because
the parents either repress the child too severely or don’t restrict him
That is not good. The Vedic system is to give the child direction for becoming
Kåñëa conscious. There must be some repression, but our
use of repression is different. We say the child must rise early in the
morning, worship the Deity in the temple, and chant Hare Kåñëa.
In the beginning, force may be necessary. Otherwise the child will not
become habituated. But the idea is to divert his attention to Kåñëa
conscious activities. Then, when he realizes he is not his body, all difficulties
will disappear. As one increases his Kåñëa consciousness,
he becomes neglectful of all these material things. So Kåñëa
consciousness is the prime remedy—the panacea for all diseases.
Freud divided the personality into three departments: the ego, the superego,
and the id. The id is the irrational instinct for enjoyment. The ego is
one’s image of his own body, and is the instinct for self-preservation.
The superego represents the moral restrictions of parents and other authorities.
It is certainly true that everyone has some false egoism, or ahaìkära.
For example, Freud thought he was Austrian. That is false ego, or identifying
oneself with one’s place of birth. We are giving everyone the information
that this identification with a material body is ignorance. It is due to
ignorance only that I think I am Indian, American, Hindu, or Muslim. This
is egoism of the inferior quality. The superior egoism is, “I am Brahman.
I am an eternal servant of Kåñëa.” If a child is taught
this superior egoism from the beginning, then automatically his false egoism
says that the ego tries to preserve the individual by organizing and controlling
the irrational demands of the id. In other words, if the id sees something,
like food, it automatically demands to eat it, and the ego controls that
desire in order to preserve the individual. The superego reinforces this
control. So these three systems are always conflicting in the personality.
the basic principle is false, since Freud has no conception of the soul
existing beyond the body. He is considering the body only. Therefore he
is a great fool. According to bhägavata philosophy, anyone in the
bodily concept of life—anyone who identifies this body, composed of mucus,
bile, and air, as his self—is no better than an ass.
Then these interactions of the id, the ego, and the superego are all bodily
they are all subtle bodily interactions. The mind is the first element
of the subtle body. The gross senses are controlled by the mind, which
in turn is controlled by the intelligence. And the intelligence is controlled
by the ego. So if the ego is false, then everything is false. If I falsely
identify with this body because of false ego, then anything based on this
false idea is also false. This is called mäyä, or illusion. The
whole of Vedic education aims at getting off this false platform and coming
to the real platform of spiritual knowledge, called brahma-jïäna.
When one comes to the knowledge that he is spirit soul, he immediately
becomes happy. All his troubles are due to the false ego, and as soon as
the individual realizes his true ego, the blazing fire of material existence
is immediately extinguished. These philosophers are simply describing the
blazing fire, but we are trying to get him out of the burning prison house
of the material world altogether. They may attempt to make him happy within
the fire, but how can they be successful? He must be saved from the fire.
Then he will be happy. That is the message of Caitanya Mahäprabhu,
and that is Lord Kåñëa’s message in the Bhagavad-gétä.
Freud identifies the body with the soul. He does not know the basic principle
of spiritual understanding, which is that we are not this body. We are
different from this body and are transmigrating from one body to another.
Without this knowledge, all his theories are based on a misunderstanding.
Not only Freud, but everyone in
this material world is under illusion. In Bengal, a psychiatrist in the
civil service was once called to give evidence in a case where the murderer
was pleading insanity. The civil servant examined him to discover whether
he actually was insane or whether he was simply under intense stress. In
the courtroom he said, “I have tested many persons, and I have concluded
that everyone is insane to some degree. In the present case, if the defendant
is pleading insanity, then you may acquit him if you like, but as far as
I know, everyone is more or less insane.” And that is our conclusion as
well. Anyone who identifies with his material body must be crazy, for his
life is based on a misconception.
Freud also investigated the problem of anxiety, which he said was produced
when the impulses of the id threaten to overpower the rational ego and
the moral superego.
Anxiety will continue as long as one is in the material condition. No one
can be free from anxiety in conditioned life.
Is it because our desires are always frustrated?
Yes. Your desires must be frustrated because you desire something that
is not permanent. Suppose I wish to live forever, but since I have accepted
a material body, there is no question of living forever. Therefore I am
always anxious that death will come. I am afraid of death, when the body
will be destroyed. This is the cause of all anxiety: acceptance of something
impermanent as permanent.
Freud says that anxiety develops when the superego represses the primitive
desires of the id to protect the ego. Is such repression of basic instincts
Yes. For us repression means restraining oneself from doing something which,
in the long run, is against one’s welfare. For example, suppose you are
suffering from diabetes and the doctor says, “Don’t eat any sweet food.”
If you desire to eat sweets, you must repress that desire. Similarly, in
our system of brahmacarya there is also repression. A brahmacäré
should not sit down with a young woman, or even see one. He may desire
to see a young woman, but he must repress the desire. This is called tapasya,
or voluntary repression.
aren’t these desires given outlet in other ways? For instance, instead
of looking at a beautiful woman, we look at the beautiful form of Kåñëa.
Yes, that is our process: paraà dåñövä nivartate.
If you have a better engagement, you can give up an inferior engagement.
When you are captivated by seeing the beautiful form of Kåñëa,
naturally you have no more desire to see the beautiful form of a young
What’s the effect of childhood experiences on one’s later development?
Children imitate whoever they associate with. You all know the movie Tarzan.
He was brought up by monkeys, and he took on the habits of monkeys. If
you keep children in good association, their psychological development
will be very good—they will become like demigods. But if you keep them
in bad association, they will turn out to be demons. Children are a blank
slate. You can mold them as you like, and they are eager to learn.
a child’s personality doesn’t develop according to a fixed pattern?
No. You can mold them in any way, like soft dough. However you put them
into the mold, they will come out—like bharats, capätés or
kacaurés [types of Indian pastries]. Therefore if you give children
good association, they will develop nicely, and if you put them in bad
association, they will develop poorly. They have no independent psychology.
Actually, Freud had a rather pessimistic view of human nature: he believed
that we are all beset with irrational and chaotic impulses that cannot
This is not only pessimism, but evidence of his poor fund of knowledge.
He did not have perfect knowledge, nor was he trained by a perfect man.
Therefore his theories are all nonsense.
He concluded that it was impossible to be happy in this material world,
but that one can alleviate some of the conflicts through psychoanalysis.
He thought one can try to make the path as smooth as possible, but it will
always be troublesome.
is true that one cannot be happy in this material world. But if one becomes
spiritually elevated—if his consciousness is changed to Kåñëa
consciousness—then he will be happy.
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