Can a white man be an Haribol?


Can a white man be an Haribol?


St. Augustine said that perceptions made free of past or present associations provide “presages of the Divine.” By living with our sense perceptions in present time, even if what we see is not absolute, we can find ourselves pointed to the Absolute—if that’s where we wish to go. Krishna hints at this when He describes in Bhagavad-gita all the things in this world that are manifestations of His potency. Of course, Krishna lists only the most prominent features; His opulences are unlimited. The nonpretentious can appreciate weather, lakes, flowers—whatever—as part of Him and learn to become fixed in remembrance of Him.

We don’t want to become nonentities in our relationship with Krishna but to exchange with Krishna in loving ways. For now, our sense perceptions may remind us that we feel the ache of cold in our fingers or that we are tired, and of course, we know such sensations are not the final truth. They are not sensations felt by the soul. Still, they touch us, help us open our hearts, and help us seek for and pray to the Divine.

Gaurakisora dasa babaji was the epitome of the nonpretentious. He recognized fakers among so-called tapasvis, but he never became one. Instead he tasted the mood of separation from Krishna even as He went blind, wandered naked along the bank of the river, ate Ganges mud, chanted the holy name in his deep voice, and sometimes let out sounds of disgust. He never claimed anything. Those who are pretentious make claims, explicit or implicit, to distinction, importance, dignity, or excellence. They are, as the dictionary says, “too affectedly grand; ostentatious.” One who is nonpretentious simply lives. A nonpretentious devotee simply lives in Krishna through whatever he is at the moment. Poetry is meant to capture that state.

A point about the demands particular art forms make on readers, listeners, viewers—haiku, for example: To read haiku properly, a reader needs to actively participate in it and thus help to create the poem’s effect, aided by his own imagination. Otherwise, those seventeen syllables remain a fragment of prose. When a reader can’t get inside a haiku, he suspects that the poem is a bluff and that the author is playing in pseudo profundities. We don’t want to be bluffed. Therefore, most people prefer writing that appears straightforward.

We may face similar blocks when we view visual art, especially paintings that are primitive or distorted. Even abstract or nonrepresentational paintings can give us trouble. We may feel they demand too much participation, something we don’t necessarily want to give, because our participation in art may leave us feeling vulnerable.

For that matter, the science of Krishna consciousness gives us trouble. It demands that we accept Vedic axioms as truth. If we don’t, we are left with a handful of myths and Hindu beliefs about transmigration of the soul. When it comes down to it, it’s not enough to hear convincing analogies that explain transmigration as universal truth; we have to accept the axiomatic authority of the Vedas.

What am I demanding of readers of this book? That they agree to the mix of Vedic truth, honest expression, and the perceptions of a conditioned soul. ask readers to accept, axiomatically, my sincerity in Krishna consciousness, and to trust both the process in which I am engaged and me. If you can meet that demand, if you can enter my “mix,” then I hope through it that you will learn to enter your own, to face it, and to find within it your most personal ways to offer yourself to Krishna. Poetry is not discursive or linear, and it doesn’t always guarantee a clear storyline, but it contains the mood of steering the mind and heart toward Krishna. It can leave us free enough to become ourselves.

You will notice some poems having the phrase “Alternative Take” after the title. In improvisation, there is no rewriting. Rather, if an artist wants to improve the work, he or she simply does it again.

The improvisational poems in this book were mainly written at the same time I was writing Every Day, Just Write, Volume 14 and subsequent volumes. In the spirit of improvisation, I wrote certain poems more than once and thought of them as separate “takes.” That is acknowledged here by the words “Alternative Take.”

Well, You Needn’t (Alternative Take)

Head foggy. Foggy, bump, the funk, the monk.
Serious swinging we hear
the Word—exquisite
Krishna we ride the waves
of sound not to gain
for material pleasure,
because that’s sense grat and
we’ll have to come back next life,
thinking more of ourselves
than it’s worth. We
seek the solo virtuoso sound
plain and humble
the one that speaks to Prabhupada
a monologue of surrender
that faces slam-bang reality
without avoidance.
One that actually sees.
Emily wanted Surprise.
I feel the thrill of taking the same walk
down the same lanes
day after day
not feeling I need to chase my mind
to a new place
as if these lanes
are out of chestnuts.
Krishna, I lived through the days
of throwing myself at passersby, begging
them to take Your BTG.
They laughed at me as if I were absurd,
but even then I was alone
keeping the beat of love
for You
alive in my heart, the chords, the rhythms
of a hope to surrender.

Soft Illusions (Alternative Take)

Music means mood and a mood
is to be entered
slow blues
or otherwise
music for old time’s sake.
It makes you sad enough,
because times are sad
and rawky
raucous rawky.
Didn’t you see the
leaves piled in sad
piles of red-yellow wet stuff
and that there was no way
it could be
Only Vrndavana is transcendental to all this
but when a cow dies there or
a pig squeals in pain
a sadhu is carried to the river
or horny toads are caught by
ISKCON guards
while dogs hitch along with crooked
the overall sweetness—
I don’t know.

Vrndavana is Krishna’s land, and it has been stripped
of soft illusions that would tempt us
to misunderstand.
Instead we stay at the Guesthouse,
our minds screaming sometimes
screams wanting to go
to find a place of peace where we can sing
“Auld Lang Syne”—type songs
and live closer to those soft illusions
where we think we know the way.