This is the sixth week of the Free Write Journal. I saw John today and asked him to make editorial changes in the poem compilations we are making. I read to him from the ending of the fifth week of the Free Write Journal where I state that I have taken a vow not to hear jazz anymore. Now I listen only to Prabhupada’s bhajanas and Hare Krsna kirtana from kirtaneers. But the poems printed in EJW, late 1990s, have explicit references to jazz musicians and the music. John was submissive and agreed to make omissions. But when we went down for lunch and John told the devotees, Baladeva had a different opinion. He wanted me to keep the jazz from EJW but write in the preface that in the summer of 2018, I considered hearing jazz dangerous for a person my age–approaching death. Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita, “Whatever one thinks of at the time of death, he will attain that state.” I agreed to keep both, my poems from the 1990s when I was influenced by John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, etc., and make a prefatory note that I had taken a vow to renounce jazz. Keeping both would make the vrata appear stronger. I would put the author’s note in bold print. Let them see what I was twenty years ago and what I am today.
Krsna dasi has changed Radha-Govinda’s dress after three days of the majestic, festive outfit. It’s a relief to see Them as simple Vrajavasis, but very pretty. They wear green, and Govinda has a state-of-the-art turban. Radharani wears a single slim necklace, and Her shape is revealed. The next three days will be highly relishable for meditative darsana. Prabhupada is looking wonderful, with no leaves or branches blocking my view. Tulasi-devi is healthy; Gauranga is dancing joyously.
Krsna dasi has suggested that we four inmates of Viraha Bhavan write every day on the calendar when we have completed our quota of japa. My report is consistent: “SDG finished sixteen rounds by 6:00 A.M.” Some of the men don’t finish their rounds until the evening time.
Death is in the air. Gunagrahi Maharaja is being “air streamed” on TV during his last hours. His face is famished, and his mouth is open. I think it is a little strange that they are broadcasting him as a kind of death vigil. My correspondent and reader of my books, Matthew Wheelock, has a father-in-law who is in the advanced stage of leukemia and has entered hospice care. His condition has prompted Matthew to read Giriraja Swami’s book The Final Exam: Dying and Death from the Vedic Perspective. Hearing this, I have a desire to read Giriraja Swami’s book, and I have ordered it. We all have to go. Whose turn is next? I will grieve when my dear ones go. When it is my turn, I hope to rise to the occasion. Where will I go? I shouldn’t trouble the Lord with my request. I should turn to my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, for guidance. He will direct me.
You go into a motorcycle shop and pick out a big Harley-Davidson. But you can’t even walk. What’s wrong with this picture? He can’t even keep his balance on an ordinary bicycle. But I have a stationary bicycle that I can pedal for seven minutes before I get too tired to continue. When Saci is around and he is helping me to walk, he barks out, “Stand up straight!” and he only offers me one hand to support me. I don’t appreciate his “coach-bhava,” but he is doing the best he can. Because the bones are fused together in my left foot, I don’t expect improvement or return to normal walking. Yet my pain from arthritis is less than before I had the surgery. I have to accept that I am a permanent cripple, and I can’t walk by myself. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I suffer by not being able to do vigorous exercise. I gradually gain weight (180 lbs.), and my muscles aren’t strong.
Now some are saying that Pope Francis knew something about the coverups of priests who were guilty of abusing children. I hope it isn’t so. Francis seems to be a humble, liberal Prelate. He seems to be avoiding Vatican pomp and politics and presenting a sane face for Catholicism. The Church is being rocked again and again with scandals. Less people are attending Mass. I do not enjoy any feelings of “holier than thou.” I sincerely wish they could clean up their act and provide a shelter for all aspiring Catholics.
It’s only eight days until Radhastami. I better stop writing so much and research Prabhupada’s books about Radharani. I will look into the Krsna Book, Radha and Krsna’s dealings at the rasa dance. Tell about Radharani’s mad talking to the bumblebee. Maybe something from the Goswamis’ literature. And a cautionary note: no loose talk about Swamini (no “Radhe-Radhe-Radhe-Radhe/ Jaya Radhe, Jaya Sri Radhe.”)
I dictated my Author’s Note for the preface of POEMS From Every Day, Just Write. It contains three main points: 1) In the late 1990s when I wrote the poems, I was influenced by jazz. That is why there are jazz references in the poems. 2) In the summer of 2018, I decided it was dangerous to listen to jazz, and I took a vow to renounce it. (I wrote in my Author’s Note, “I want to pass away hearing Srila Prabhupada singing Hare Krsna without John Coltrane in the back of my mind.”) At first I asked my main editor to take out all the names of musicians as well as explicit references to the music. 3) When they heard my decision to take jazz out of the poems, two devotees close to me objected. They said keep the poems as they are but put an explanation in an author’s note that now I hear only bhajanas and kirtanas. That way the writing will be fully confessional: I will tell the readers what I was twenty years ago and what I am today. I will not attempt to “rewrite history.”
Yesterday after lunch I stood up, and Bala offered me his two hands for support in walking. After a few steps he let me go and indicated I should try to walk unaided. I took several steps and was able to do it. It was a breakthrough, and I was thrilled. I told Bala that I would try to walk a little without support every day. I will attempt to extend my walking alone. After yesterday’s small success, I thought, “Maybe I’m not so limited after all.”
My typist asked me if I wanted to call this body of work “Free Write Sessions” or “Free Write Journal.” They have mostly been titling the weekly posting “Free Write Sessions,” but I don’t think I am engaged in a weekly session. I am putting together small pieces and in a journal mood. I am coming out, being with my readers and telling my daily activities and thoughts. I am not purely doing free writing, which means writing whatever comes to mind. I’m steering to Krsna, paraphrasing our mealtime scriptural reading, receiving darsana of Radha-Govinda–(Their present simple green outfits are one of my all-time favorites) and telling of my preparation for Radhastami. Rupa Gosvami encourages us that if one is fully engaged in Krsna-consciousness, he is liberated, even in the material body.
Gunagrahi Maharaja left his body at 4:00 A.M. in the hospice center in the holy dhama of Vrndavana. He was fortunate to be surrounded by devotees chanting Hare Krsna right up until the end. I knew him as a very sweet person and preacher. He loved chanting the holy names, playing on his conga drum, and the company of devotees. I liked him very much, and it was easy being intimate with him. His many friends and well-wishers are confident that he has gone back to Godhead.
I had a migraine headache during japa, but it cleared up. By exercise time, at 10:30 A.M., I was tired. I struggled through seven minutes and three laps on the stationary bike, nothing extra. Baladeva said Joe Peliza, the physical therapist, would not allow me to take such long rest breaks between each set of exercises. Baladeva is more lenient. At least I finished all my reps, but it doesn’t bode well for my walking on my own after lunch.
After finishing lunch, I stood up and Bala put his two hands in mine for support. I was wearing my “wide-balance” Nike sneakers, socks and tight ankle supports. For a few steps I depended on his hand-grips, but then he let me go. At first I felt like I was walking on a tightrope with no safety net beneath me. Then the reality of my keeping balance hit me. How was I doing? Was I painful, shaky or steady? My crippled left foot and the muscles in my legs were the deciders. Unfortunately, I didn’t stand straight but moved forward, fast and bent-over like Groucho Marx! I made a beeline for the chair lift and sat down sloppily in the seat. “That wasn’t so good,” I said to Bala. He replied, “We can try tomorrow.” And so we shall. (I just have to remember to control my mind, stand up straight and walk slowly.)
I’m procrastinating on doing research for Radhastami. Whenever I have a little time, I give priority to writing. But eventually I can’t avoid it. I’m going to read in the Krsna Book and Caitanya-caritamrta. My Radharani murti is special, with all the changes of dresses. So is Rama-raya’s Govardhana-sila of Radharani. We are so fortunate to worship Her close beside Krsna. Baladeva mentioned that in my Journal description of my Deities, I left out Nrsimhadeva. I didn’t mean to. He is very much a part of my worship. (Rama-raya said to me that when a rowdy or crazy person threatens them on harinama in NYC, the devotees shout out, “Nsrimha!”, and it usually neutralizes the menace.) In our Bhagavatam reading (Ninth Canto), we are coming upon many strange and fantastic things: a person who fell down but didn’t fall all the way–“He can be seen hanging in outer space;” thousands of warriors who came upon Kapiladeva meditating and who mistook him for a horse-thief, and were all burnt to ashes from fire emanating from their bodies; a raksasa who came upon a brahmana couple about to engage in sex, and the raksasa ate the man alive. His wife pleaded with the man-eater to spare her husband, but he ignored her. The brahmana’s wife then cursed the raksasa that whenever he engaged in sex, he would die. We take all this in submissively, accepting it as absolute truth.
We roll in. We’ve got something to say. Bhagiratha prayed to Mother Ganga and asked her to bring back to life his ancestors who were burnt to ashes when they tried to attack Kapiladeva. She told him the ancestors could be revived only if they were sprinkled with Ganges water. This was done, and they revived and went to reside in the heavenly planets. As for coming down to the Earth, Ganga agreed, on two conditions. She wanted someone to sustain the force of her entering so that she wouldn’t crash violently on the Earth. Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Siva–who is known as asutosha, or one who is easily pleased–and he agreed to catch the Ganges on his head. Mother Ganga’s second condition was that she would be reknowned for relieving the sins of whoever bathed in her. She wanted to know how she would not be adversely affected by the karma of all the sinful persons who bathed in her waters. Bhagiratha told her that many saintly persons would bathe in the Ganges, and they would counteract the karma of the sinful persons. So Gangadevi agreed to descend.
We had a busy morning. We drove to the Chatham Internal Medicine Unit, where I submitted to blood work. Brenda took five vials of blood from me in preparation for my first meeting with Ryan, who will be my new Nurse Practitioner. There was much pushing of my four-wheeler, and walking of steps in and out of the car. We heard Madhava’s mellow kirtana to and from the trip. It was tiring, but efficient and pleasant.
Try to avoid news magazines. Politics in the Church. Afghanistan war; U.S. is involved. I want to write a Krsna-conscious journal. But not just paraphrasing the Bhagavatam. Tell about the writer’s life. He is quiet and not attending major festivals. It’s almost 6:00; time to take pills and stop writing. I didn’t write much today: attempt to increase it. Describe your room. Books and Deities. Rukmini and Vraja-vihari are attending the festival in Russia, with 5,000 people. At the same time, an equally big festival is being held in Odessa, Ukraine. Jayadvaita Swami is attending. I doubt they are selling my books translated into Russian there. Ask Ishana and Arjuna if they are able to go. They have many books. They are just in storage at Ishana’s house.
Prabhupada writes that when a man goes traveling, he should not take his wife with him. Rama took Sita with Him when He was banished from the kingdom, and there was so much trouble. Sita was kidnapped, and husband and wife suffered in separation. But one should not think this was material bereavement. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Sita is His hladini-sakti. They experienced Their separation not with sorrow but in transcendental bliss. It was a pastime where Rama would kill Ravana and reunite with His wife. Besides, it was false (maya) Sita that Ravana kidnapped. He never actually touched Rama’s wife, the goddess of fortune. Ravana was not even able to enjoy the false Sita because, by a curse, he was forbidden from seducing Her. Despite the appearance of tragedies in the dealings of Sita-Rama, Rama’s dear devotee Hanuman chants the Ramayana every day; because it is transcendental. We have been reading a brief version of Ramacandra’s pastimes as told by Sukadeva Gosvami in the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
I will mention a couple of things Srila Prabhupada said about Radharani. As early as 1966, he gave us a “mantra”: “Radharani is the best devotee of Krsna; because She loves Him the most.” Later he was lecturing in Vrndavana, making the point that Krsna is the Supreme Controller and no one controls Him. He went on to say, “There is one who controls Krsna, Radharani.” The devotees sighed, appreciating the supremacy of Radha. Prabhupada added, “But that is out of love.” I appreciated these last words as very significant. Radharani is not a chief goddess higher than Krsna. Some “rasika” devotees are especially fond of paintings of Radharani in Her mood of jealous anger spurning Krsna while He places His crown and flute at Her feet. They favor paintings of Radharani dominating Krsna and declare the nectar of Radha dasi and aspire for Her actual eternal service. They want to be sakhis or gopi-manjaris. and point out that most of our previous acaryas after Lord Caitanya were gopi-manjaris in their spiritual bodies. They can take to this mindset prematurely, forgetting that in Her normal mode Radharani considers Herself a humble maidservant of Krsna. Thinking oneself a “palya dasi,” an exclusive maidservant of Radharani, is a highly advanced realization. We should follow the examples of Vaisesikha and Kesava Bharati Maharaja and stick to Prabhupada’s books, remaining chaste to his vani.
I will speak of Radha and Krsna’s pastimes. Once, on an autumn night when the moon was full, Krsna desired to have rasa dance, and He played on His flute, calling on the gopis to come to Him. All of the gopis stopped their household duties, and despite their elders’ objections they ran out of their homes to join Krsna. When they gathered around Him, He at first treated them very formally. He told them it was dangerous to be out in the dead of night, when wild animals were roaming about. He said as chaste women, they should return to their husbands. When Krsna spoke in this way, the gopis became disappointed and disturbed. They told Him they had given up their families just to be with Him, and it wasn’t right for Him to talk to them in that way. After a while Krsna relented, and He became affectionate to His beautiful, beloved gopis. He kissed them and embraced them. He walked with them, and they began to feel that they werethe most fortunate of all women. Seeing their pride, Krsna disappeard from their midst. The gopis became mad in separation. They inquired from the trees and plants whether they had seen Krsna pass by. And they began to deliriously imitate Krsna’s pastimes.
The gopis discovered Krsna’s sacred footprints, and they began to follow them. Soon they saw another pair of footprints beside their Beloved’s. They began to criticize Her for going alone with Krsna. But then they thought, “This gopi must have worshiped Krsna the best, and that is why He has chosen to take Her alone.” (Sukadeva uses the word aradhitah to indicate the best worshiper. It is the only verse in the entire Bhagavatam where Radharani is directly named, although Her activities are described in different places.) The searching gopis came upon a place where they conjectured the Divine Couple had sat down, and Krsna had put flowers into Radharani’s hair. Going further into the forest, the searchers imagined that the special Gopi had said, “I am tired. I can walk no longer. Please carry Me on Your shoulders.” Taking this as a sign of pride, Krsna took Her on His shoulders–and then He disappeared. Radharani laments and calls on Krsna to return. At this point the searching gopis came upon Radharani crying, and they are sympathetic to Her. Radharani joins the other gopis, and they go on searching for Krsna. They come to the bank of the Yamuna and sing together: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Krsna finally comes out from hiding and unites with the gopis. After a discussion about who is the best kind of lover, Krsna says to the gopis, “Please do not find fault with Me. I disappear from you just to increase your love for Me; actually, you are so devoted that I cannot find any way to repay you. Please accept your own pious acts as your payment.” As He spoke, Radharani was looking at Him with burning eyes.
Radharani is the origin of all the conjugal lovers of Krsna. All of the innumerable gopis, queens and wives are emanations from Her. Just as Krsna is the source of all the Visnu expansions, all of the Supreme Lord’s conjugal lovers emanate from Radharani. Radha and Krsna are the topmost summit of conjugal love in the Divinity. Laksmi-Narayana in Vaikuntha are but a plenary part of madhurya-lila displayed by Radha-Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana.
When will I chant Hare Krsna with tears in my eyes and my voice choked up? It doesn’t seem like it will happen in this lifetime. And it doesn’t appear I will go back to Godhead after I leave this body. Srila Prabhupada quotes Lord Caitanya’s Siksastakam prayer, “Na dhanam na janam na sundarim,” and he wrote that it is not important whether we are in a material or spiritual body. The crucial thing is to be engaged in devotional service, even “birth after birth.” It is hard not to desire to go back to Godhead as soon as possible, but “man proposes, and God disposes.” I will go where the higher authorities determine. One doesn’t want to get packed in the womb of another mother, go through babyhood, childhood and adolescence. And when will you meet with a bonafide spiritual master? It is all too hazardous. How can you expect to avoid bad association and become fixed up in Krsna consciousness? In this life I wasted twenty-five years as a nondevotee. How can I join the association of pure devotees from my very birth? The material world is danger at every step. It is not a fit place for a gentleman, and Kali-yuga is getting worse quickly.
We have a new standard of Deity dressing, especially Radharani. Krsna dasi places an ornamental belt on Her waist, emphasizing the narrowness of Her waist. Below the waist Her skirt flares out, revealing the wideness of Her hips. She wears a single, slim necklace revealing Her breasts. Before, I didn’t notiee these features of Radharani unless She was undressed and being cleaned. But now I can see them when She is fully dressed. We are certain that Govinda likes Her this way. Govinda’s turbans continue to be a new wonder every three days. When I begin my rounds about 3:30 A.M., my eyes are still tired from coming awake after a night’s sleep, and steady darsana is a little difficult. Later in the day I clear up, and seeing Radha-Govinda is not a strain.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Just attempt to go your way. It may come out absurd. Two women disciples of mine are trying to renovate the cabin at Gita-nagari and turn it into a kind of museum commemorating that I wrote the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta there. But the devotees at Gita-nagari are using the cabin as a storage shed, and they are not cooperating with the two ladies who want to make it into a museum. I used to sit at my desk and type the biography while looking out the windows while the Tuscarora Creek flowed by. Sesa Prabhu helped me by sending me files with data on Prabhupada’s life. It took us five years to finish all the volumes of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. It is probably the best thing I did in ISKCON.
Baladeva is preparing ravioli for lunch. He’s putting sage butter on it and says that’s more authentic Italian than tomato sauce. At 2:00 A.M. we play a game of tossing moist hand-towels at the doorknob and rail of the door. We try to get them to stick. Baladeva usually has a higher average of success, but this morning I was better. When we get all the towels to stick, we bump knuckles and do “high-five” with our hands.
Parasurama killed all the ksatriyas in the world twenty-one times. Although He was a plenary part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, His father told Him that so much killing was a sin, and to atone for it He had to visit all the holy places. He did so. He had created lakes of blood by such mass-killing. By traveling to the holy places, he was relieved from his sin. Mass killers today do not get such benedictions. They usually get killed while committing their crime. Some kill over a hundred people and wound many others before they get shot down themselves. If even Parasurama had to atone for killing, what to speak of ordinary terrorists and madmen? Their destiny is described at the end of the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam in narrations of punishments in the hellish planets. Maharaja Pariksit asks Sukadeva Gosvami how such sinners can be saved. Sukadeva tells the history of Ajamila, who was a great sinner but who was saved at the time of death by crying out the holy name, “Narayana!” What atonement cannot do, the holy name of Krsna can do. Even the killing of animals (especially cows) makes the killer subject to hellish reactions. The Buddhists say, ahimsa paramo dharma: “Nonviolence is the highest religion.”
It is time for me to prepare for bed. I usually have dreams, but I scarcely remember them. Often they are anxiety scenarios. I dreamt we were traveling, and I got separated from the group. Then I found them again, but still it wasn’t right. People were selling books on Jesus Christ, big stacks of books.
I have to go to the urologist. I will report to him that I have had frequent cases of UTI (urinary tract infection). They have been treated by repeated usage of antibiotics. The doctor, Subhudi, performed two surgical operations on my prostate gland and improved conditions there. But we should try to stop the UTI and treating it with antibiotics, which weaken my immune system. Starting in October, we will start taking echinacea and turmeric to boost my immune system and prevent diseases. It’s a long, arduous winter ahead in upstate New York. Right now I am feeling better except for my left foot, which leaves me crippled.
Francis of Assisi referred to his body as “the donkey,” indicating it was a humble creature meant to bear the burden of the mortal body. On a morning walk Prabhupada was asked about his health. He replied, “The windows are broken, but there is a light on inside.” After a lecture Prabhupada was asked by a naturopathic doctor (whom the devotees knew was puffed up): “What about health?” Prabhupada slammed him, “What health? You are going to die!”
Prabhupada cared for the well-being of his devotees, and he once wrote that keeping good health was the first priority, even before chanting.
More visits to outpatient units are scheduled. Dr. Subhudi saw me reading the Krsna Book while waiting for him. He said he read the Bhagavad-gita. I wonder what edition he read, what impression he received from it. I’m not close enough to ask him; we have a strictly professional relationship. We gave him a urine sample. Because of seeing him (11:00 A.M.), I forgot to say my noon Gayatri. That conflict will come up with the next two outpatient appointments, 11:00 A.M. and 11:30 A.M. Medical visits disrupt my sadhana. If I were living in Vrndavana, I wouldn’t even have these interruptions.
I am running out of time. In fifteen minutes I have to prepare for going to bed. I wish I could stay up and write or read Krsna Book. I have to follow my routine. Sruti Singh is pregnant with twins. She has only a month left, but she’s still working as a doctor in the hospital. That’s all the news for today from SDG. I start my sleep at night on my right side; that’s my natural position. In my naps after eating, I do l.s.d.–“left-side duty.”
Baladeva is in the kitchen stirring butter into ghee. It turns out he’s the main cook for the gathering at our ashram on Radhastami. I seem to be the main speaker. I am reading to gather two sections about Radharani. Maybe Ravindra Svarupa will come. If he speaks, he will expose me as not an original thinker but a parrot repeating what Prabhupada has written.
Radharani controls Krsna, “but that is out of love.” He is subordinate to Her. He is called Madana-mohan (“the controller of Cupid”). And Radharani is known as Madana-mohan-mohini (“The Controller of the Controller of Cupid”). When They are together, Radharani sometimes feels so fortunate that She becomes proud. Krsna doesn’t like this, and He disappears from Her. Radharani laments and calls out, “O Beloved, You are so fine and powerful. Please come back to Me. I am Your obedient maidservant.” Lord Caitanya prays as Radharani in the last verse of Siksastakam: “You may handle Me roughly in Your embrace or You may make Me broken-hearted by not being present before Me. You can do as You like. But You are My absolute Lover above all else.” Elsewhere in Siksastakam He says, “I don’t want wealth, a beautiful woman, or many followers. All I want in my life is Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.” He doesn’t even ask to go back to Godhead, but just to unflinchingly engage in pure devotional service, even in this material world. Radharani is often separated from Krsna, but She keeps Him in Her heart and mind and senses, and She keeps alive, waiting to reunite with Him again. Actually They are never apart. In vipralambha, the ecstasy of separation, They are together in the highest bliss. As Lord Caitanya, He is Radha-Krsna combined in one person:
Sri krsna caitanya, radha-krsna nahe anya.
(“Guru Parampara,” by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura).
Usually Lord Caitanya disguises His Divinity and appears as a devotee. But in various places in the scriptures, notably in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, He is revealed to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
yajanti hi su-medhasah
“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” (Bhag. 11.5.32)
“Not blackish” refers to the fact that His complexion is golden, like Radharani’s. And He appears in Her mood, feeling intense loving separation from Krsna. He revealed His identification with Radharani to His confidential devotees in the Gambhira at Jagannatha Puri during the last twelve years of His life. So Lord Caitanya appeared as Radharani in Kali-yuga. From Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 1.1.5:
radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
caitanyakhyaṁ prakaṭam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitaṁ naumi krsna-svarupam
“The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, previously They separated Themselves. Now these two transcendental identities have again united, in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya. I bow down to Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani although He is Krsna Himself.”