This is the eighth week of the Free Write Journal. On the last four rounds of japa this morning, I was sleepy. I daydreamed of trying to come up with subjects to write about in the Journal. I remembered an illustration I had recently seen in Rolling Stone magazine while waiting for the doctor. (I have a bad habit of looking through magazines in medical waiting rooms. I’ve decided to bring with me a small book by Prabhupada or one of my own and avoid magazines entirely.)
I did my morning exercises, maintaining good positions and at a decent speed. A sense of accomplishment, as when finishing sixteen rounds.
Krsna-dasi changed the dress of Radha-Govinda. They wear beautiful simple maroon with golden floral work. Govinda has red ankle bracelets, a red turban, red jeweled anklets on His feet. I asked our pujari to fix Radharani the same way as he did last time. She is wearing a single, slim necklace, a belt around Her waist to emphasize its thinness, and Her skirt flares out at the hips. Her candrika is decorated with a large red jewel. We have comfortable, opulent Vrajavasi darsana for three days long.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The Names can be served with ardor and passion or chanted in a sloppy, mechanical way. Go in the footsteps of the acaryas or follow your cancala mind. Do as Prabhupada said, “Hear yourself chanting sincerely” and “think of the pastimes of Krsna.” Do it continually, even “without love for Krsna,” and at least you are on the right track. The Names have such potency, even when chanted in jest, or to indicate something else (as Ajamila did). They are effective.
I dreamt I was in Mayapura. (It was not the present, built-up dhama but a Mayapura from many years ago, when it was not much developed or populated.) Not much was happening. I questioned why we had been asked to travel and gather here because there was no clear program or organization. I had brought with me a manuscript I had written fifty years ago and hadn’t shown to anyone. Someone at Mayapura had stolen it from me, and they were passing it around and making fun of me. I was anxious to get it back and read it after fifty years. Regardless of that manuscript, I was confident that I could do a good new writing project. But I needed full time and money to support myself while I wrote. I have this same dream repeatedly. Actually I have retired from active service and have time to write. I also receive enough donations each month to get by. So what is this writing project I am thinking of in the dream? I already have two projects I am working on. One is this Free Write Journal, which I am posting on a weekly basis. It is not becoming an awesome book. It is me sharing myself and my little activities with my readers. It is a creation by a writer of pieces. The other project is more formidable. It is POEMS from Every Day, Just Write, a compilation of poetry written in the late 1990s with prefaces by Rev. John Endler. So I guess I don’t have to think of what to write. I have enough projects to occupy myself. In fact, the Journal is so demanding I can only write some pieces of it.
In our mealtime reading, we are hearing the glories of Narayana. The verses by Sukadeva Gosvami and the purports by Srila Prabhupada are waxing poetic about what a topmost lover of Krsna is Mother Yasoda. When she sees the universal form in His mouth, when she gives her breast milk to drink, when she ties naughty Krsna with ropes, when she is grief-stricken by the attack of demons, Mother Yasoda shows herself as the most glorious devotee of Krsna. The greatest of yogis can’t capture Krsna as the Supersoul in their hearts, but Yasoda runs up beside Him and catches Him in her hand. Because of their mutual intimate love, Mother Yasoda is able to catch up to her son (whom the Upanisads say is the swiftest in running) and Krsna allows His beloved mother to overcome Him–because He sees she is tiring.
Autumn has officially begun. In four days it will be October. We have taken out our air conditioner and replaced it with an electric radiator, and we are wearing hoodies (sweatshirts) in the house.
Haridasa is regularly reading Caitanya-caritamrta. He says it makes him more confident in his teaching and counseling in his position at the college. He says he is, overall, stronger. I wish I read more, but I don’t seem to have the time. I find myself slowly scratching the pen in the Journal. Trying to think of Krsna all the time. During japa, I have been thinking of Vamanadeva, the dwarf-incarnation of the Lord. But in our out-loud readings, we are hearing the childhood pastimes of Krsna. Prabhupada writes that unlike Vamanadeva and Nrsimhadeva, who had to assume extraordinary forms to accomplish Their pastimes, Child Krsna remains as a small boy and killed gigantic demons and lifted Govardhana Hill, without changing His form. That is because the other avataras are partial expansions, whereas Krsna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.
I just finished my exercises. Tired out. (On the bike I did 7.5 minutes, and a distance of four laps.) Better than average.
Prabhupada was as hard as a thunderbolt and soft as a rose. He showed the two sides to his intimate disciples and to his general audiences in his books and lectures. “Rascals” was one of his favorite words, and “Krsna is very kind to His devotees.” Prabhupada didn’t play favorites, but to those who were capable and fully surrendered to him, he gave confidential assignments. He wanted to hand over all responsibilities to his disciples, but they couldn’t handle it. They quarreled among themselves. He never stopped loving them or giving them another chance. Either as a sannyasi or changed to grhastha, he accepted them–“Just don’t go away and give up the fight with maya.” “I will be the last one to give in to Mr. Nair and lose the land at Juhu.”
When it was over and the land secured, Prabhupada said, “It was a good fight,” and he honored prasadam with the devotees. Giriraja Swami has written the book, and we are waiting for it to come out in its final form.
At the Philadelphia Ratha-Yatra, the devotees gave out five thousand plates of prasadam. Each plate contained a salad, two subjis, rice, a chapati and blueberry halavah. The crowd waited on a long line. All the food was free. As it was being distributed, devotees sang a melodious kirtana. In the procession, there were three large Ratha carts pulled on ropes by all sorts of folks. That was the last of the Ratha-Yatras this year in America.
I didn’t attend the Philly Ratha-Yatra. I stay in the house, except when I have medical appointments. Tomorrow I have an 11:00 A.M. dental appointment for cleaning my implants. It will be done by a dental hygienist, and I may not even get to see Dr. Danz. I am waiting for Dr. Subudhi to call me and make an appointment to discuss my kidney stones, which were recently X-rayed. I hope his office calls soon.
Raghunatha dasa Gosvami didn’t go to the dentist or worry about his kidney stones. He was transcendental to the body. He was always feeling separation from Srimati Radharani (Vilapa-kusumanjali). All the Gosvamis were above the bodily conception, unlike me. I am a fallen soul aspiring to follow in their footsteps. But I don’t even know the words to Srinivasa Acarya’s song Sad-Gosvamyastakam, except for the last line to each stanza: vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau.
You say you are so downtrodden, but is it really so? You are working at two writing projects. This one goes in fits and starts. The POEMS book goes faster. Tomorrow I will get a big batch from John, and I will take time out from the Journal to read them and estimate how good they are. I think many of them were written while listening to jazz. (I even used the ampersand at the beginning and a double-staff at the end to indicate musical composition.) Refer to my decision to keep the jazz influence in the 1990s compilation but my vow in 2018 to listen only to bhajanas and Hare Krsna kirtana. So I am fully engaged in literary devotional service.
I brought Readings in Vedic Literature to the dental office. I read the preface by Thomas Hopkins. He wrote that as an academic, he disagreed with me in some essentials, but in my book the spirit of parampara was alive and well. The book was published by the BBT in 1977. Srila Prabhupada looked through it and approved: “He has quoted the rascals without getting contaminated.” It was not widely circulated as a textbook for college students, but I was satisfied by the efforts of the BBTs in the USA and India to distribute it. ISKCON temples also used it as a “special book” for reaching undergraduates and their professors, a book easily sold to college libraries.
Baladeva is busy building shelves for the Tulasi plants and their pots. Right now they are all outdoors, but he is anxious to bring them in under grow lights because it’s getting colder. He is a genuine devotee of Tulasi-devi; we are going to keep about twenty plants in various places. One is always upstairs (switched every day), and she is right beside my Deities.
In our out-loud reading (“just the four of us”) we are now up to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Tenth Canto, Chapter Thirteen: “The Stealing of the Boys and Calves by Brahma.” This is the last chapter completed by Srila Prabhupada. At lunch today, I said I didn’t want to go on to Chapter Fourteen because it wasn’t Prabhupada’s work. We would have to read a new book. I turned to Baladeva and asked him what he would like to read. Right away he said, “Brhad-Bhagavatamrta;” he said he never read it. I said, “Okay,” and was satisfied. But later in the day, I thought it wasn’t democratic; I didn’t ask Bala or Krsna-dasi what they wanted to hear. I’m uncertain what to do.
I’ve decided to put it to a vote for the four residents of Viraha Bhavan as to which book we want to read next. I’m going to vote for Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. Unless Bala and Krsna-dasi pick the same book, Brhad-Bhagavatamrta will be the winner. If they both vote for the same book it will be a tie, and we’ll have to figure out what to do next. Whichever book we pick, we’ll be reading it for a long time. Much is at stake in our voting process.
John will be coming today and bringing approximately one hundred typed poems from three especially poem-prolific volumes of EJW written in Ireland in the late 1990s. I look forward to reading, but I have two trepidations: 1) I’m afraid the quantity will be too much for a reader; 2) I am worried that the poems may be too influenced by jazz. I simply don’t know; I’ll have to see by a careful study.
I told Bala and Krsna-dasi that I thought our method of picking the next book to read was not democratic. I wanted them to cast votes as to what scripture they wanted to hear. Krsna-dasi replied that she and her husband had been discussing it among themselves. She said the book they both wanted to choose was Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, because they have never read it. That makes the decision unanimous. I’m satisfied because I very much like Gopiparanadhana’s translation and commentary, with Jayadvaita Swami’s editing. Gopi accepts Brhad-Bhagavatamrta as revealed scripture, not as a fictive story created by Sanatana Gosvami. In the years when I was going to hear from Narayana Maharaja, he also opined that Brhad-Bhagavamrta was an absolute scripture. In a few days we will start to read the book, starting with a favorable preface by Professor Joseph O’Connell.
John came Friday, but he didn’t bring the poems from EJW Volumes 10-16, as I expected. That was a disappointment. He said he had them in his computer but forgot to print them out. He did bring many poems from EJW Volumes 17-19. I have been reading them twice over for the last two days. I rejected forty-five to fifty percent from publication. There were too many references to jazz, and they were too long. Although I had planned to keep the jazz references (and post an author’s note that I had since taken a vow to renounce listening to the music), when I read the poems from Volumes 16-19, it was “too much.” I used a method of listening to the music through earphones while writing. I also referred to the poems (and even titled some) as ItM, “Improvisations to Music.” The early volumes, 7-9, were not music-oriented, and I will have to see what Volumes 10-16 are like when John brings them next week. It’s becoming a laborious task to select poems written twenty-one years ago, at least after reading the latest big batch from Volumes 16-19.
Saci-suta came for a rare visit and started on the reading of Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. It begins with invocation verses, a dedication to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, verses praising the pure love of the gopis, especially the glories of Srimati Radharani. And then the narration begins. The text, as well as Gopi’s commentaries, are enlightening and nectar. The opening scene describes a gathering of saintly persons, to which an anonymous brahmana arrives. The brahmana performs a one-man yajna, installing a Deity, worshiping the Lord with singing and dancing, preparing and distributing prasadam, etc. Everyone appreciates him, and they declare that he is the object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy. The brahmana objects and minimizes himself. He refers to a devoted and pious king who resides nearby and says he is much more elevated than himself. And thus begins the theme of the first book of Brhad-Bhagavatamrta–the long Quest to discover the person who is the actual object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy.
Sanatana Gosvami and the translator and commentator make it clear that Brhad-Bhagavatamrta is not a work of fiction but is realized transcendental literature.
Radha-Govinda underwent a change of dress yesterday. They are wearing a beautiful gray outfit with yellow golden floral embroidery. Radharani has an ornamented belt which emphasizes the thinness of Her waist. She has a large blooming lotus on Her skirt. Govinda’s feet and shin are exposed, and He has a piece of yellow silk around the waist. His turban is yellow and expertly braided with a discreet peacock feather at an angle. This outfit doesn’t shine in one’s eyes like some of the others, and so it is comfortable to receive darsana. It’s going to be a pleasant meditation for three days.
I’m looking at the poems from EJW 16-19 for the third time. I’m trying to be a little lenient and save some, but many of them have to go. When I keep some, it’s obvious that I’m listening to music, and that’s not forbidden on a limited scale. I have explained in the prefatory author’s note
that in 1997 I was “under the influence,” and I’m keeping some of them. But I informed my readers that in 2018, I took a vrata not to hear jazz any more, but to confine my listening to Prabhupada’s bhajanas and Hare Krsna kirtanas. The poems I keep will have to be good and not just an exercise of listening to jazz while writing, ItM, etc.
Working at a marathon pace for several days, Baladeva, with assistance from Bala, worked to install new shelves to accomodate big Tulasis in their pots. Last night the temperature went down to 44°, and he brought the plants indoors in the nick of time. We have almost one hundred of the new-generation baby Tulasis, and Sunanda, who runs a temple in Queens, is willing to take care of them. Bhaktin Laura will drive them down to Queens today (Sunday), when she doesn’t have to go to work. We will keep about twenty, but Sunanda has a large congregation, and he will give some away to qualified persons. If they are willing to buy a grow lamp to get through the winter and learn the basic care of Tulasi, they can have one. I am very attached to living with Tulasi-devi close beside my altar, a new one switched every day.
The self-denigration by the devotees in Brhad-Bhagavatamrta is a true indication of their Vaisnava humility. Narada praises them as the object of the Lord’s mercy, and he points out why it is so. But the devotee denies it is so. He says Krsna has not shown them mercy. The devotee describes his relationship with Krsna as a distant one in which he was not given any special attention. And then he recommends Narada to see a real devotee who is the object of Krsna’s mercy. Hearing each devotee’s turning the tables on Narada is a perpetual surprise and a repeated lesson in self-effacement and humility. We are now up to the meeting with Narada and Indra. Narada says that Indra is fortunate to be ruling in the kingdom of heaven, which is opulent beyond the imagination of earthlings. Surely this means Indra is an object of the Lord’s mercy. Indra replies by telling the real situation of Heaven. Indra and his followers are in continual fear of the demons, whose armies regularly attack the heavenly planet. Repeatedly, the demigods are driven out from their residence and forced to wander incognito on the earth, and sometimes they starve. Indra admits he’s sometimes envious of Lord Visnu and even fights with Him over petty issues. Indra finally recommends Narada to go see his father, the controller of the universe, Lord Brahma, on Satyaloka, the highest planet in the material world. Narada immediately goes there, and as he approaches he hears the sound of many sacrifices being offered. He sees Lord Visnu there, along with Brahma. Gopi writes that Lord Visnu’s two activities on Brahmaloka are to eat the offerings in the sacrifices and to go and sleep. Lord Visnu departs to sleep, and Narada is left alone with his father, Brahmaji. Narada praises Brahma and says he is the Personality of Godhead. Hearing this, Brahma, who is in the mode of passion, becomes angry and almost loses his temper. Barely controlling himself, Brahma tells his son, “I am not God! Don’t you remember what I told you?” Brahma then goes on speaking in self-deprecation. He says that although he lives a long life, he is always afraid of his inevitable death. Brahma says that bearing the heavy responsibility of managing the universe is hardly a sign that he is a special object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy. Brahma continues to berate himself. Indra had praised Brahma for being in charge of all the demigods, but Brahma says he is responsible for their many offenses against the Supreme Lord. He then confesses his personal faults. Lord Visnu was angry with him and chastised him for giving boons to Hiranyakasipu by which he terrorized the universe. Brahma said his worst offense was stealing the cowherd boys and calves of Krsna. Brahma advised Narada to go see Lord Siva if he wanted to meet the object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy. Siva is detached from ruling or power. Unlike the other demigods who dress in costly garments and flower garlands, Siva wears a necklace of skulls, and he smears crematorium dust over his body. Despite his strange appearance and behavior, he is always meditating on Sankarsana, the expansion of Krsna, in love. His throat is decorated with a blue line, from a time when poison emerged from the churning of the Milk Ocean–and he saved the lives of the demigods and demons by swallowing the poison. He bears a portion of the Ganges on his head, which he did to prevent the holy river from crashing violently on the earth in its descent from outer space. His name means “auspicious,” and he is dear to Krsna, who always protects him when he makes mistakes.
I just went through the batch of poems from EJW 17-19 for the fourth time. I rejected half of them, and I approve that decision. I am becoming more confident of my editing decisions. I am waiting for next Friday, when John will bring me the poems of Volumes 10-16. I hope they are not too long or jazz-influenced. I already know about the beginning poems from Volumes 4-9. They are fine. They are free of jazz influence, and they are personal, Krsna conscious. They were composed in Jagannatha Puri, Vrndavana, and Ireland, and as John Endler writes in the preface, they are full of the atmosphere of where I was residing.
We were reading from Brhad-bhagavatamrta where Siva denies he is an object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy, when Baladeva suddenly spoke out, “Where is Gopala?” He’s impatient to reach the part of the book where the cowherd boy Gopala appears. I told him we have many pages to go in Narada’s quest for the most-favored devotee. This is not the first time Baladeva has asked for Gopala. He’s exposing the fact that if you don’t hear carefully and submissively, the Quest can begin to become tedious. (But when we reach Uddhava and the gopis, it’s hard to deny it is super- interesting.) Even when Gopala is introduced, a pattern sets in where it can be repetitious. I’m going to suggest that we just calm down and savor the nectarean scripture, don’t read it superficially, looking for perks. With that in mind, let’s get back to Siva, who is recommending that Narada visit the eternal Vaikuntha-vasis who reside in the spiritual world.
I want my journaling to be vibrant. I can’t make a preacher’s diary like Indradyumna Swami, filled with sankirtana adventures, big festivals, etc. I can tell my inner world, my book of poems and paraphrases of scriptures, but I want to go beyond my routine fare. I want to push the envelope. I did that before I met the Swami by taking LSD (about twenty times). I experienced some far-out trips, but one time I dropped acid and jumped out a third-story window and broke both my heels–which I suffer from fifty years later. So don’t take LSD; it’s too unpredictable and dangerous. But sometimes try to go beyond your limits. I am happy when I can do this.
She quit her twelve-year job
as a schoolteacher
and became a bartender,
just to experience the change.
They put a bobby-pin
in my sikha just to keep
it tight. Baladeva asked
if I’d like to keep
a little American flag
in my hair, but I said no.
He suggested I attach
a marigold to my
sikha but I refused.
This is not a poem but a bacchanal
practice. I’m letting my hand go free.
I may steer to Krsna
and I know the way:
chant Hare Krsna mantras
and take up one or all
nine of the bhakti processes.
I would like to write
to Sankirtana the jazz
guitarist who is my
disciple and make
a proposal: Would he
let me send him my collection
of jazz CDs? He
could keep the ones he likes and
try to sell the rest to
a second-hand buyer.
This is the end of my
pioneer freedom run.
But I’ll try it again
to break up the routine
of the Free Write Journal.
I dictated a letter to Sankirtana. I warned him not to follow the example of my vow. For him, giving up playing and listening to jazz would be phalgu-vairagya, false renunciation. Rupa Gosvami writes that using material things in Krsna’s service is complete renunciation.
This morning the four of us read on in BB. Siva praises Vaikuntha and says that Sri, the goddess of fortune, is the prime object of the Supreme Lord’s mercy. Narada becomes excited and wants to go at once to Vaikuntha and pay obeisances at Sri’s lotus feet. But Siva restrains him. He says, “Don’t you know that Krsna in His four-armed form is residing on earth in Dvaraka with His queens? Chief among them is Rukmini, who is Laksmi herself.” So Siva advises Narada to change his itinerary: go to Dvaraka (a short trip), not to Vaikuntha, and all your desires will be fulfilled.
Steer to Krsna.
This morning I had
a gift of a one-page
poem. It lived with
me and then left me alone,
back to my ordinary self.
Baladeva asked me, “When
Narada went to Dvaraka did
he enter the 16,000
palaces of Krsna, see
with each of His
queens and become
astounded?” I said
I didn’t remember:
We would have to find out at
lunchtime. I like N.G. as
a writing teacher.
She advocates doing it a lot,
writing for an hour
with a friend. She fills
up notebooks and calls
it “practice.” She doesn’t need
to publish it all.
I am the same but different.
I go slower and I
want to share what
I write with friends.
I want to always
write about Krsna
but I include
my tiny self because
I am part of Him.
I was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1949-1955. Avid rooter. I kept scrapbooks and attended a few games at Ebbets Field. When they finally won the World Series in 1955, I lost interest.
When I met the Swami in 1966, I dropped out of all worldly interests. I strictly followed his regimen of chanting japa sixteen rounds, avoiding the four sinful activities, and associating with devotees. I followed his lead in kirtanas. I attentively listened to his lectures. When he wasn’t holding temple programs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, I gathered with the others in his apartment room and asked questions and heard his informal talks. I attended and relished his daily lunch for twelve men and a girl in his worship room. I faithfully attended his class on Caitanya-caritamrta in the morning.
“Krsna alone is not particularly beautiful, but when He is combined with His hladini potency, Radharani, He appears magnificent.” Srila Prabhupada wrote this in Krsna Book, and I treasure it. We don’t worship Krsna alone.
Bakasura was a huge demon sent by Kamsa to kill Krsna, but the Child bifurcated his beaks and took away his life. The demons kept coming, and they were routine interruptions to Krsna’s playing with the cowherd boys. They would play, a dangerous demon would come to attack, Krsna would easily finish him off: then Krsna would get back to playing or sitting to eat lunch with the boys. The demons were often siblings, and they tried to avenge the death of their brother or sister by destroying Krsna, but they were all vanquished by Him, who casually crushed them like a boy who breaks toy dolls. But any demon who met death at Krsna’s hands was able to gain liberation by his soul’s merging into Krsna’s body or by gaining an eternal body in the spiritual world. Such was the great fortune of the asuras who were personally delivered by Krsna.
Krsna’s childhood pastimes are relished by the devotees, but the nondevotees dismiss them as mythical stories. Similarly, they cannot accept Krsna’s youthhood, where He flirts with the gopis and engages with them in the rasa dance. They think that Krsna is a thief and an immoralist. We have had the rare good fortune to have met Srila Prabhupada, who introduced us to Lord Caitanya and the whole line of Vaisnava acaryas, who proved to us that Krsna’s lila is the Absolute Truth.