Rev. John Endler writes:
“To the disciples, friends and well-wishers of Satsvarupa Maharaja:
“I am excited to share with you the news that Maharaja’s latest books are now available! These books continue the current series of volumes dedicated to treasures found within the Every Day, Just Write literary series. These latest publications contain different formats: prose meditations, poetry and free-writes. This variety provides an introduction to the diversity of literary styles within the EJW project.
“Originally, these two volumes would have been presented by Satsvarupa Maharaja at the annual July program in Stuyvesant Falls, but due to the global pandemic that gathering was canceled. So, we intend to distribute Meditations and Poems by mail order. The companion summer book, Daily Compositions, is now available for purchase exclusively on Amazon.
“To purchase Meditations and Poems, please send a check or money order in the amount of $15 (made out to GN Press) to:
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
P.O. Box 233, Stuyvesant Falls, NY 12174
“Shipping expenses are included in that cost. Further, we request that international orders be made through Amazon.
“Rev. John Endler”
I gave a Zoom talk especially for the congregation at the Boston temple, telling my memories of Prabhupada’s early visits to Boston and his installation of Radha-Gopivallabha in 1971. I felt comfortable giving the talk, but they said my voice was hard to hear sometimes. We plan to get a microphone to make future talks louder. For those who missed the broadcast, they can get the YouTube link by going to my Facebook page or the Boston temple website.
We had many college engagements for Prabhupada in 1968, but the highlight of his visit was his awarding brahmana initiation in ISKCON for the first time and his accepting the name “Prabhupada.” I made the mistake of paying for the VIP Suite at the Boston Sheraton hotel for Swamiji to stay. We didn’t have any proper arrangements for him at the temple. But when I asked him to go to the hotel, he flatly refused. He said staying in the hotel was like residing in a brothel. He insisted on staying in the temple, even though we had to give him a not-so-great room and a shared bathroom down the hall. He accepted these humble accommodations without complaint. He next went to New York, where I knew they had lavish quarters for him, and I wrote him a letter apologizing for what we offered in Boston. He wrote back that he was pleased with his quarters in Boston. He said he was a mendicant and accepted whatever was offered, and that the principle should be to offer the very best thing you have to the spiritual master. He told the Indian congregation that, “This boy (his secretary, Karandhara) is fit to perform the agnihotra sacrifice because he is chanting Hare Krsna.” I thought he said that just to pacify the audience’s doubts and prejudices. Similarly, he allowed me to be the priest and pour abhisekha liquids onto Radha-Gopivallabha during Their installation. Everything was bona-fide because Prabhupada oversaw the ceremony.
I didn’t tell the story of Prabhupada’s sensational 1969 visit. It was in the wintertime, and heavy snowfall was on the ground. We had a comfortable house for Srila Prabhupada half an hour away from the temple. He found it inconvenient to even take a walk outside of his guest house and decided to go back to Los Angeles within a couple of days. But he toured the temple, surrounded by many excited devotees. He inspected the building, and in the press room said, “The Press is my heart.” At that time the Boston temple was the most populated of all the temples in ISKCON because of the residence of the ISKCON Press workers.”
Yesterday I received another letter asking me to make important changes in the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. This has upset me very much. Ten years ago I allowed many changes for our new edition at the request of the BBT. Now I don’t want any more changes to be made. The book was written short years after Prabhupada’s disappearance, when everyone’s memories were fresh and our research team sifted the different opinions and facts to reach the right conclusion. How can they dare come forward now with “new” memories? If they have the audacity to want to change the book while I am still present, then after I leave this mortal plane, will they want to rewrite the entire book?
Nimai Ananda came to Viraha Bhavan. He built two rails in the kitchen where last week I fell down without support. Now it’s more safe, and I should be able to get into my chair without mishap. He and his wife are very concerned about bringing up their daughter, Subhadra, in a Krsna conscious way. But she’s only 19 months old, so they’re not forcing any Krsna conscious practices on her. Spontaneously she bows down to their Gaura-Nitai Deities and raises her arms during the kirtana. He exchanges weekly letters with Narayana Kavaca and listens daily in his car to a lecture by Radhanatha Swami. He is disturbed that the leaders in ISKCON, when asked a question, try to motivate him to help their temple. He would prefer unmotivated exchanges of love. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and has a prestigious job making a final inspection of newly installed elevators in Manhattan. If anything goes wrong, ultimately he’s responsible. But he’s only working part-time now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has always been courteous and respectful in his relationship with me, which has been going on for over ten years. He does many practical services, including sponsoring the feasts at my public gatherings. He is an ideal siksa disciple.
We have a full-scale war on with the predators of our gardens. Bala poisons the cutworms, cabbage worms and other leaf-eating bugs. For the larger animals, we catch them in a Havahart trap. Then we relocate them across the river, seven miles down the road; being across the river, they can’t come back.
Before we could catch him, a raccoon ate our first fully-ripened tomato and a delicious-looking melon. We also trapped six groundhogs who devastate the plants. A neighbor saw a deer jump over the fence into the garden. Another predator.
This is Krsna’s garden, where we are raising produce to offer to the Deities, so we are very protective of our garden against the predators. Our stargazer lilies are under attack by red beetles, and the roses are under attack by Japanese beetles and cabbage worms. These bugs seem to be driven away by neem oil spray.
Aside from the plant gardens, Krsna dasi’s flower gardens, which are used directly for the Deities, are also under siege by beetles and worms. In the hot dry weather, everything has to be watered every day. The Bhagavatam says that one living entity is food for another. We are trying our best to protect the plants and flowers to offer to Krsna. It is a full-scale battle for survival, but we are able to salvage a good amount of healthy plants and flowers by our protective measures.
On the Govardhana Retreat recording, Sacinandana Maharaja is speaking at length on Krsna-karnamrta. He notes that it was written centuries before the appearance of Lord Caitanya and the Six Gosvamis, but it contains the same ecstatic mood hundreds of years earlier. Bilvamangala has poked out his eyes to prevent lustful looking at women. He is stumbling on his way to Vrndavana, falling into ditches, bruising himself and bumping into trees, but he is singing the ecstatic songs of separation from Krsna. A young boy comes up to him and takes his hand and says, “I am going to Vrndavana too. I’ll take you there. Guided by the boy, Bilvamangala reaches Vrndavana in a few days. Then the boy slips his hand away from Bilvamangala Thakura. The Thakura suddenly realizes that the boy was Krsna! Some devotees join Bilvamangala, and they write down his songs of separation. Lord Caitanya treasured Krsna-karnamrta, and He had it read to Him along with the poems by Candidasa, Vidyapati and those of the Gita-govinda, in the confidential company of Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara in the Gambhira at Jagannatha Puri.
Bhurijana is narrating the appearance of Lord Visnu before Vasudeva and Devaki in the prison house of Kamsa. By His extraordinary presence with Visnu’s symbols and four arms, they immediately accept Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vasudeva first makes prayers to the Lord, recognizing His supreme authority and ability to protect His devotees. But then He changes His mood with the rise of vatsalya-rasa (parental mood) and asks Krsna not to stay in His Visnu form because Kamsa will soon discover Him and act out his demoniac hatred of the Lord. Kamsa has already killed six sons of Devaki, and he is seeking out Krsna with even more vehemence. Devaki’s prayers are even more in the vatsalya-rasa. She begs Krsna to protect Himself by assuming the body of an ordinary child. Their parental love of Krsna is so great that they simply want to see Him spared from Kamsa’s attempts to kill Him. Krsna submitted to their wishes and transformed Himself into a normal baby child. Then He ordered them to take Him to Vrndavana, where He could live incognito as the son of Nanda and Yasoda. By the influence of Yogamaya, the guards slept deeply, as did Kamsa, and the locks on the chains of Devaki and Vasudeva automatically opened, as did the doors of the prison. Taking Krsna in his arms, Vasudeva started out for Gokula. There was a great storm outside, and the waters of the Yamuna were roaring and overflooding the banks. But Yamunadevi parted a space for Vasudeva to walk safely with the baby. Yamunadevi wanted to have a little darsana with Krsna, so she took him from Vasudeva’s arms and held Him in the water. Vasudeva panicked and grabbed the baby back and held him a hundred times harder. When they reached Gokula, they found that Yasoda had given birth to twins, two male babies and Durgadevi, the younger sister of Krsna. Vasudeva merged the baby he was carrying into one of the children born to Yasoda. Then he picked up Durgadevi in his arms. He started back to Mathura and placed himself back into his chains and placed the baby girl next to Devaki. The girl began to cry, and the guard ran to warn Kamsa. In great alarm, with his hair disheveled, Kamsa came running to the prison. Devaki pleaded with him to spare the baby girl, but Kamsa went down on his knees, grabbed the baby by the ankles and attempted to smash her against the stone. But Durgadevi slipped out of his hands and went up to the sky. She assumed a full size and was armed with many weapons and displayed many arms. She called Kamsa a fool and said the child He was attempting to kill had already been born somewhere else, and he should stop his atrocious activities of killing babies. Kamsa was so shocked by events and by the appearance of his worshipable Deity, Durgadevi, that he repented his acts and asked forgiveness from Devaki and Vasudeva. They magnanimously forgave him, and Kamsa returned to his home. In the morning, he told his demoniac assistants what had happened during the night. They all advised him that he should not have apologized to Devaki and Vasudeva. They said that Devi had told them the child that was to kill him had already been born somewhere, so he should make a plan to kill all the newly-born babies within ten days, and he should persecute the brahmanas and put Devaki and Vasudeva back in their chains. Kamsa was swayed by his demoniac ministers, and he gave them his blessings to carry out their nefarious plans.
Jagattarini Mataji spoke on the rasa-lila. Once, in the autumn season, when the moon was full and the atmosphere was very pleasant, Krsna desired to have a rasa dance with the gopis. He played on His all-attracting flute, and the gopis ran out from their homes at night to join with Him. The gopis took all risks to go with Krsna. They left their families and babies against all Vedic injunctions. They were willing to sacrifice everything to go to Krsna. Millions of gopis formed a huge circle around Krsna on the banks of the Yamuna. Radha and Krsna danced alone within the circle. To fulfill the other gopis’ desires, Krsna expanded Himself so that He was at the side of each and every gopi. They danced expertly, and in the rapture of transcendental love. The devatas came on their airplanes to witness the amazing dance and to play musical instruments in tune with the singing and dancing. The gopis stamped their feet hard on the ground, but no dust was produced.
Radha’s dancing was unexcelled. She didn’t dance from practice or talent but out of Her superexcellent love for Krsna. Krsna Himself danced with exquisite steps and hand mudras. When Krsna saw the gopis becoming fatigued, He asked them to rest for a while on the bank of the Yamuna. After a while, they revived and continued the rasa dance. The dance lasted for a day of Lord Brahma (4,320,000,000 years) but it seemed to pass by in but a second. After dancing, Krsna led the gopis into the Yamuna, where they had water fights—Krsna sometimes winning, and Radha and the gopis sometimes winning. They returned to shore, and the sakhis served them delicious juice and fruits. Finally dawn came, and the gopis returned to their homes. Their husbands were not aware of their absence because they went to Krsna in their spiritual bodies and left a maya body lying in bed with their husbands. Although the rasa dance ended, it is still going on in the hearts of the gopis. They never leave their participation in the ecstatic dance with Krsna.
Jagattarini Mataji was giving outstanding recitations of Krsna and the gopis. She has finished the rasa dance, but another time Krsna played His flute and called the gopis to Him. They ran in great eagerness for loving affairs, but when they gathered Krsna was indifferent to them. They became confused and cried. Krsna eventually softened to them and reciprocated with them as their paramour-lover. The gopis became joyful, and they also felt great pride, thinking themselves the most fortunate women in the universe. Responding to their pride, Krsna disappeared from them. The gopis became mad in Krsna’s absence and began to search for Him.
Before the main body of gopis was searching for Krsna, Radharani had Herself disappeared from the group because She was not being paid enough attention. Noticing this, Krsna set out to search for Her, leaving behind all the other gopis. As the gopis searched, they found Krsna’s footprints on the ground, and they began to follow them. Soon they saw another pair of smaller footsteps beside Krsna’s. Radharani’s girlfriends recognized these footprints as Radhika’s because of the markings, and they became very happy. But the other gopis were envious that Krsna had taken one gopi alone. As they continued to search, they finally found Radharani lying on the ground and weeping. She told them everything that had happened, how She had become proud and Krsna had disappeared from Her. The other gopis became sympathetic to Her, and as one combined group they all continued to search for Krsna. But the forest became darker and darker, and they had to stop searching. They returned to the bank of the Yamuna, sat down, and began singing heartfelt songs of separation from Krsna. Krsna was watching them, and He felt great compassion. He appeared before the gopis holding His yellow cloth between His teeth as a sign of meekness and seeking forgiveness. The gopis then asked Krsna a series of questions about lovers. They said, ‘Some lovers reciprocate only as much as the other lover gives to them. Another kind of lover is neutral. Another lover is atma-rama or self-satisfied. Another lover is like a ruffian.’ They asked Krsna which kind of lover did He prefer? Krsna defended Himself and said He was none of the lovers that they had described. He said sometimes He did not immediately reciprocate with one of His lovers, but that was just to intensify their devotion to Him. These words pacified the gopis, and they gave Krsna a seat on their cadars and gathered around Him. The moon appeared again, and Krsna and the gopis began to stroll.
I’m continuing to hear Prabhupada speak on Prahlada’s prayers to Nrsimhadeva. The lectures were delivered in March of 1976 in Mayapur. Prahlada is praying to Nrsimhadeva, but yesterday the verse spoke of the incarnation of Hayagriva and how He retrieved the Vedas when they were stolen by two demons. Prabhupada chose not to speak about Hayagriva but about Nrsimhadeva. He said Nrsimhadeva has a planet of His own where He’s worshiped by followers who are inclined to Him in that form. He takes away the remaining anarthas in the hearts of His devotees so that they become completely pure and devoted to Him. They glorify Him and serve His lotus feet.
Nrsimhadeva wanted to give a boon to Prahlada. But Prahlada said he was happy chanting and glorifying Lord Krsna, and he didn’t want any boon. Yet he asked one benediction. He asked that his sinful father, Hiranyakasipu, be delivered from birth and death. Lord Nrsimha replied to Prahlada that fourteen generations of his family were all already delivered from material life. This encourages me in my own family life. My parents were so harsh about me joining Prabhupada that they said, “As long as you’re with him, we don’t want anything to do with you.” Thus they disowned me and wouldn’t even let me talk to them. But there’s a silver lining in their relationship with me—somehow or other, they are my material parents, and although it is a temporal relationship, they received the benefit of my joining and obeying the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. Although they rejected me, Krsna poured His mercy upon them.
We are hearing in the Fifth Canto the prayers of Laksmi-devi to Lord Visnu. She expresses her heartfelt desire to enter the rasa dance with Krsna and the gopis. She undergoes long severe austerities in order to become qualified. She is Krsna’s wife and is always personally serving Him, but despite their intimacy as husband and wife, Laksmidevi could not enter the rasa dance. She couldn’t give up her attachment to being the opulent goddess of fortune and become born as one of the Vraja gopis. She was attached to her opulent lifestyle and couldn’t give it up to become one of Krsna’s gopis. Because Laksmidevi couldn’t give up her opulent lifestyle, she was unable to enter the dance and be kissed by Krsna.
We have just finished reading the Fifth Canto chapter “A Description of the Hellish Planets.” Sukadeva Gosvami describes the different hells where sinful persons have to suffer the reactions for their sins. The atheists don’t believe in the hellish planets. But the Bhagavatam informs us that Yamaraja is a real person, and he judges the conditioned souls and assigns them to different hellish planets according to their sins. They suffer miserably but they do not die. While suffering, the conditioned souls remember the cause of their falldown, but when they are born again in the human form of life, they forget their misdeeds and commit new sins that bring them back to the hellish planets. A large percentage of the punishments are due to forms of illicit sex. For example, a lusty man or woman have to embrace a red-hot form of the opposite sex without relief. Another large percentage of sufferers are those who eat forbidden food. They have to eat obnoxious things in the hellish planets, and they’re also attacked by the animals they killed for eating. Reading this chapter makes one frightened and sober. We realize how important it is to avoid the four prohibited activities: illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling.
It was too hot for the garden workers to work outside today—it was 97°F (36°C). So they came in to the air-conditioned guest quarters, which are separate from the house, and they had their picnic lunch and listened to the Bhagavatam reading.
Maharaja Pariksit has just heard about the sufferings that go on in the hellish planets. He asks Sukadeva if there is any way the sinful souls can be saved. Sukadeva first says, “By atonement they can be free of their sins.” But Maharaja Pariksit can’t accept atonement as the long-term solution. A person can atone for his sins but then go on sinning because the seed desire for material enjoyment is still in his heart. Pariksit must pass the first test of his spiritual master. Sukadeva then said jnana, knowledge, is the means to become free from sin. But Pariksit said knowledge is not sufficient because it doesn’t burn up the seeds for more material desires. Then finally Sukadeva gives him the ultimate solution: the practice of bhakti unto Krsna. Sukadeva then illustrates this by telling the story of Ajamila, who was a great sinner but was saved from the Yamadutas by calling out the name of his son Narayana at the moment of death.
Ajamila was an ideal brahmacari in his youth. He had all good qualities. But one day Ajamila saw a low-class prostitute embracing a drunken man and engaging in illicit sex with him. Ajamila was affected by what he saw, and he could not control his senses. He approached the prostitute and asked her to become a maidservant in his house. He broke all the religious principles, forgot his chaste wife and ruined himself with the prostitute. The Yamadutas witnessed all this and saw Ajamila as a fit candidate for hellish punishment. At the time of his death, the Yamadutas approached Ajamila with ropes in their hands to drive the soul out of the body and deliver it to Yamaraja for judgment. Full of fear, Ajamila began calling out the name of his son Narayana. He was actually not thinking of the Supreme Lord Narayana but of his little son. Nevertheless, the power of the holy name is so great that the Visnudutas immediately arrived on the scene to prevent the Yamadutas from dragging Ajamila down to hell with their ropes. The Visnudutas took it as helpless chanting of Visnu’s names, and they appeared on the spot to prevent the Yamadutas from taking Ajamila’s soul.
There ensues a kind of debate between the Yamadutas and the Visnudutas as to the fate of Ajamila. The Yamadutas say Ajamila is due to be punished by dint of his irreligious acts. But the Visnudutas say that just by once chanting the name of Narayana, Ajamila has become free of sin. This is the power of the holy name.
By the force of their arguments and their superior strength, the Visnudutas prevented the Yamadutas from touching Ajamila. The Yamadutas went back to their master, Yamaraja, to receive new instructions and explanations. They were upset and angry that they couldn’t carry out the order, the order of their master. They asked Yamaraja whether he was the only controller, and if not, they wondered what was the use of following him? (This was similar to the incident where Narada approached Lord Brahma and said, “You appear to be the Supreme Controller, having all energies within your fist like holding a walnut . . . And yet we see you sometimes meditating, so what is this?” Brahma honestly answered his son and said he was not the Supreme Controller, he meditated upon Lord Visnu, the Supreme Lord, and received instructions from Him.)
Yamaraja calmed the Yamadutas and told them that he was not the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Being was Lord Visnu, under whose order even Brahmaji took instructions. The Yamadutas knew well how sinful Ajamila was and deserving of punishment from Yamaraja, but they did not know the ultimate power of chanting the holy names, which Ajamila chanted helplessly at the end of his life.
“From the gospel according to St. John: Jesus was once talking to a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well. Thinking he was hungry, his disciples approached him and encouraged him to eat. ‘I have food to eat of which you know nothing,’ said Jesus. ‘It is food and drink for me to do the will of Him who sent me until I have finished His work.’
“Srila Prabhupada was also like that. He would work tirelessly and sometimes go without eating. He worked with full dedication throughout his very last days despite many bodily difficulties and extended fasting. Although these great examples of empowered persons cannot be imitated, we should follow them with fiery dedication.
“It surprises me how much Jesus taught by performing miracles. He himself did not take them as all-important, it seems. He showed them so frequently because only in this way would the faithless and dull people come to accept him and hear from him submissively. ‘Will none of you ever believe,’ said Jesus, ‘without seeing signs and portents?’ Srila Prabhupada did not show such miracles, although we know that as an expert yogi he could have done so. But Srila Prabhupada’s greater miracle was to convert Western mlecchas into bona fide devotees of Lord Krsna.”
“An intellectual editor of an underground newspaper once spoke with Srila Prabhupada in Boston. Prabhupada asked the man why he himself didn’t join Krsna consciousness. The man replied, ‘My way is very difficult.’
“‘Get serious,’ Prabhupada replied.
“I remember once speaking to a Godbrother, B. dasa, after he left Krsna consciousness and abandoned his vows. I reminded him that we had both taken lifelong vows and had to fulfill them for Srila Prabhupada.
“B. dasa said, ‘But we were so young when we took those vows.’
“‘Nevertheless,” I said, ‘we took them for life.’
“‘I wish it was so simple,’ he said.
“Those who say that life is very complicated cannot give any good argument as to why they do not surrender. And the fallen devotees cannot really explain away why they have given up the path of surrender.
“‘Well, I guess I’m just a bum,’ admits a misbehaving devotee after being caught smoking marijuana. But where is the repentance? Where is the resolve not to do it again?
“‘I wish it was so simple.’
“‘My way is difficult.’
“‘I took the weed because I was so miserable.’
“But we can’t accept these as valid reasons. If we do the right thing Krsna will always help us. In this way Lord Caitanya helped Jagai and Madhai, forgetting their sins. And also Jesus said to the adulterous woman: ‘Nor do I condemn. You may go; do not sin again.’
“No one is exempt from the responsibility to free oneself from entanglement in sinful actions and reactions, and no one is doomed as a permanent outcast from the spiritual world.”
“Reading an anthology of diaries. One excerpt was by a man who lived through the Hiroshima A-bomb. Another was by a man who suffered great pain through a terminal illness but who did not indulge in self-pity. After a while the book got confusing, but it did impress upon me the need to be very truthful.
“There was a remark in a diary excerpt by John Quincy Adams which I thought important. He had been reading the memoirs of Thomas Jefferson, and he commented, ‘There are no confessions. He tells nothing but what redounds to his own credit . . . always in the right. This is not uncommon to writers of their own lives.’
“I think in his writings a devotee should be careful about making confessions. He should certainly be candid and admit his failures, but if he were to, say, confess a stray thought of illicit sex, what would be the benefit of that? Such a confession could benefit no one, including the confessor.
“Another reason why there are not ‘juicy’ confessions in a devotee’s writings is that a decent devotee will not commit gross falldowns against the four regulative principles. As I write this, I wonder if I am not being too confident. Am I even now writing in the manner abhorred by Adams, trying to draw a good picture of myself as one who is humble and willing to admit failures, provided those failures do not make me look bad? Who knows the tricks of the faithless mind? Therefore, why allow it free play in ‘confessions’?
“In my writing I want to be honest and admit my failures. But I also want to help others in Krsna consciousness. The scriptures state that one should not speak of the previous life of a Vaisnava or attempt to know his mind. With senses and mind controlled, we push on in spiritual life and represent our spiritual master.
“In court, judges and juries have difficulty assessing the actions of a devotee because they do not know his inner motives. Nowadays people don’t even know why one should refrain from illicit sex life or meat-eating, and they especially do not appreciate the devotee’s absolute obedience to his spiritual master. Neither can a psychoanalyst understand our thoughts and actions (unless he is himself a devotee). So just as we avoid the psychoanalyst’s couch, we should also avoid indulging in confessions.
“Confess what? I have already confessed that I was a fallen fool until I met His Divine Grace. Since then, I have been hanging onto his dhoti cloth and praying to remain faithful and not to deviate. I have my shortcomings, but by Krsna’s grace I am still his man.
“When challenged as to whether he was a great devotee, Prabhupada would sometimes say to the challenger,
‘That you should judge for yourself. We are repeating the message of Krsna and we are following the rules and regulations. That much we are doing. As to whether or not we fail or what degree of holiness we attain, that you can judge for yourself. Krsna is also seeing and judging, but He is not obliged to you.’
“So there is a limit to the benefit or need of disclosures of private life.
“This may seem to contradict the fact that I am immersed in a personal form of writing. But personal writing does not mean one’s attempts at every turn to raise doubts or to push oneself into sensual and mental muck. (After all, thinking is followed by feeling and willing. One should not meditate on the lower nature.) Suffice to say we are faulty, so all may know it once and for all; I know it too. But we have better things, more important things to say. And as long as we remain faithful in spiritual life by following the regulative principles, even though we are fallen we are qualified to speak about Krsna.”
“Green head, yellow beak,
brown and white shades of down;
better arrayed than any man.
Who made them so?
“Why kill them?
What’s the need?
Eat corn with butter,
cups of milk,
soft potatoes cooked by fire—
no need to kill
the cows, the birds,
“But you hunt, shoot,
tear out their vitals,
eat their inner parts.
carried by the stream,
graceful on the water,
the duck rides on,
by God’s grace.
But you kill him
and you too will ride
on the dangerous waters.
swimming deer stroke, fast-moving—
is he being carried away in panic?
Or is it sport?
I thought it was a log—
a swimming deer!
If you had been here, hunter,
you would have shot him.
But try to understand:
he has a soul as good as you.
“One devious argument runs as follows: the demands of the institution of ISKCON and the demands of the vows (four rules, sannyasa, etc.) are stifling to individual expression and fulfillment. According to this view, a faithful disciple is seen as one-dimensional, soldier-like or even robot-like, and in order to function, he has to de-emphasize his loving, personal, sociable nature. This is bogus.
“Although on the field of battle the devotee is soldier-like, his whole life is motivated by personal loving feelings. Primarily, we are serving in a loving relationship with our spiritual master. I can feel this just by thinking about Srila Prabhupada or by looking at his picture. He kindly came from the spiritual world to this world to deliver Krsna consciousness. Anyone who has accepted him has already come out of the ocean of birth and death into the boat of liberation. Prabhupada’s loving act melts our own hearts, and so we serve him in this way. He has done what no one else could do, and so our obligation to him is genuine. It is not to be likened to the force exerted by governments and institutions.
“‘I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But your servant Narada Muni, kindly accepted me as his disciple . . . Therefore, my first duty is to serve him. How could I leave his service?’ (Bhagavatam 7.9.28)
“It is a false claim, therefore, that life within the institution of ISKCON and within the bounds of its rules and regulations is personally stifling. One leaves ISKCON motivated only by forces of illusion, epitomized by attraction to women. The nondevotee can never understand devotional life, even theoretically, and thus he falls into stereotyped criticism and completely mistaken notions. The fact is that devotees lack nothing—either spiritually or materially.”
“There is a kind of talking or writing which can help you in chanting. Maybe that’s the strict sense of what we mean by japa talk. I was being a little facetious when I coined the title Japa Walks, Japa Talks. My intended pun is that what starts out as a japa session turns instead into a talking session. There is something ironic about the phrase ‘japa talk.’ Japa itself means no talking, only to chant the thirty-two syllables over and over again. However, I think there is something we can properly call japa talk. Japa talk means glorifying the holy name, describing its qualities, or reading verses about the holy name. We could call the Ajamila section of the Bliagavatam japa talk or talk about kirtana because the holy name is being elaborately praised, and its miraculous potency in saving a sinful person is being described.
“Any kind of expression that helps us in our chanting is worthwhile. From the strict Vaisnava point of view, we shouldn’t be talking about other things. All other talk is prajalpa.
“The first symptom of surrender is to do what is favorable to Krsna consciousness. The urge to speak (vaco-vegam) cannot be controlled by complete silence, but we have to speak those things that impel our Krsna consciousness.
“The second symptom of surrender is to avoid what is unfavorable to Krsna consciousness. This might mean not talking, especially during japa time. Restrain yourself from speech. Restrain the tongue. Just chant.”
“Once you start, there’s no problem in thinking of things to ask Krsna for. Rather, our effort has to be to control our personal prayers so that they don’t consist only of petitions, ‘Give me this, give me that.’
“We shouldn’t approach God as the order-supplier for our material desires. In this connection, Prabhupada once said that we should pray to Krsna, ‘Please give me the strength to serve You.’ Any other prayer and you won’t be happy.
“Since we are so dependent and want to be honest with Krsna, we should give time in prayer to express our needs, but we should purify them. For example, ‘My dear Lord, I don’t want to be so envious of other devotees, but it keeps coming. Please help me. Please protect my vows. Please, I want to be a devotee. Let me be a devotee. I’m helpless without You.’ Those who are not inclined to prayer sometimes remark that since God already knows everything about us, why bother to tell Him? Although He knows, He is pleased if we use our free will to spend time with Him, to be affectionate with Him, and to pray to Him to increase our desires for loving service.
“Krsna wants us to be happy in a loving relationship with Him, and that can only take place if we use our will to approach Him—which includes conversing with Him. Prabhupada said, ‘Then what will you do there? He’ll talk or not talk?’
“We can learn how to do this by studying uttamaslokas, but this shouldn’t be a substitute for examining our own conscience, seeing the wrongs, and feeling sincere regrets. Yes, Rupa Gosvami did it perfectly and more humbly than you or I can do, but as Rupa Gosvami prayed, so Krsna is waiting to hear from you.”
“I have so many shortcomings and faults. I cannot overcome them by myself. I need Your karunya-sakti, Your potency of mercy to help me. How can I gain this? I think the answer is to try to work at my shortcomings, and then You will be inclined to help me. But some of my faults are so deeply ingrained that I can’t seem to improve them. So I ask for Your causeless mercy.
“This may seem like an unworthy proposal, to simply ask for Your help. But I’ve been trying so long to improve at the mentioned faults and those faults of mine that I haven’t mentioned here, and yet the faults remain. In one sense, I simply have to accept myself as I am, “warts and all,” and not give up hope that I can improve by my own endeavors. I do think this way. I do try to improve, and I also accept myself as I am. But in addition, I ask for Your help.
“My asking for help may seem like a kind of bargaining with You, which does not sound right. You are already giving me full mercy and full opportunity to improve. And You are accepting me as I am. But I want to please You more. I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be a better devotee.
“And I should also mention that I am satisfied. I like the peaceful isolation I enjoy. It goes deep. I’m pretty satisfied and fixed at staying at home and writing the journal. It fits in with my headaches.
“My writing turns to You, especially the prayer. Like the free writing, it’s a demanding task. I think my poems are a bit dogmatic. I introduce You clumsily, but it’s Krsna conscious, so it’s good for that. I want to improve them and make them as free as my older poems. I’m just saying I’m absorbed in the writing, and it’s a satisfying life. I’m not completely absorbed in my shortcomings.
But if You could help me to become a staunch devotee, that would be nice. On my own, it’s “hope against hope.” I cannot see how I will reach the higher realms of Krsna consciousness, though I would like to. Can You please give me some of Your karunya-sakti so that I can be more pleasing to You? And from my side, although it sounds like bargaining, I will try to do my best, stay in the phalanx, and even improve my efforts.”
“It is painful to have to talk to people you don’t like or who you don’t want to associate with. It is such a lonely thing. Although I have been saying that my reading into deep books and sensitive novels was just a pose, it wasn’t a light pose. Over the years, I had actually developed into a sensitive poet, a fellow traveler with the writers of the great books I read. When I came in contact with uneducated, rough people, it was painful for me. They used foul speech, and I recoiled from it. It hurt to be with them, but in the Navy, I had no choice. To constantly do what is painful, to live with those gross, horrible people—I couldn’t be reached by my comrades, nor could I feel compassion for them. I was isolated. I felt like my spirit was being damaged, and my wings were clipped. Steppenwolfe, Look Homeward, Angel, and what to speak of Rilke . . . they cultured the alienated and sensitive individual. Here I was, thrust into it.
“When Lord Caitanya asked Ramananda Raya what was the greatest unhappiness, Ramananda Raya replied, ‘To be separated from the association of devotees.’ He said it was like being in a cage of fire.
“What if I had to do it again, to be in the Navy with foul-mouthed guys who don’t like Krsna? For one thing, I wouldn’t allow myself to do it if it were at all possible to avoid. In my pre-Prabhupada years, I was so covered over that I didn’t know that I could be who I actually was. I thought I had to do whatever my father and the government said. I did not know who I was, but even if I had known, I would not have dared to assert myself against the norm. It is not likely that I will have to go back into an imprisonment like that, but I still dream I am in the Navy, and when I wake from it, I think, ‘If you don’t go back to Godhead, then next life, you may have to go through that again.’
“It still frightens me to recall those days. I am stronger now and willing to walk away from nondevotee situations. This is Prabhupada’s mercy. He has created temples and made people into devotees. I can go into a community of devotees and live with them. I don’t have to be in a cage of fire. And if by some calamity I was suddenly forced to be among them, I would have something to live for, something I didn’t have in 1962—Krsna consciousness.”
“Srila Prabhupada completely accepted the reality of Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was born into a family of Krsna conscious parents. Does Prabhupada know the gap we suffer from our ruined childhoods in the West? One brother (who was raised like me in greater New York City) recently remarked, ‘The first twenty years of my life were a disaster.’ That’s common. The family is dysfunctional, as is the culture we were born into. This nation was (and is) suffering from a mania of epidemic proportions. We were picked up and saved by Prabhupada. We may have had some past pious activities, but actually, we were picked up the way a mother cat saves her wet kitten from drowning. Now we are hanging on like the baby monkey holds onto its mother.
“These days, I am realizing more how much I am hampered by my background. That faithlessness has thrown me into whirlwind of mercy, so I’m not complaining—I’m happy I survived. Still, I realize more how much I am hampered by the past.
“For example, I can pick up The Nectar of Devotion and hear about the amazing qualities of Krsna’s flute. I just picked the book up without any forethought and started reading in that section. Then I caught myself not understanding any of it and a voice (like a wise guy New Yorker in a Hollywood film) inside me saying, ‘Do you believe this? God plays a flute? A simple flute and it turns the whole universe upside down? Who are these demigods anyway? Who do you know who has even heard this flute?’
“Hmmm. I turn off the New Yorker and pencil in a note in the margin of that page: ‘It is amazing that a simple flute can do all this. And are we ready to doubt the whole Krsna conscious philosophy because of this?’
“This is what I have to contend with. Srila Prabhupada is transcendental to this; he is dragging me away from my doubts. Srila Prabhupada has known me since I was a nondevotee. Srila Prabhupada continues to smash me, continues to make me strong enough for something more. I am certainly nica jati, nica-sangi, patita adhama.
“More wincing here as I read this years later—phrases like, ‘Disciples have to worship me,’ and, ‘I am standing as their guru.’ The situation has become humbler now, and one also speaks with more tact, doesn’t speak of himself in terms of ‘I’ and ‘me’ in guru-disciple relationships. But I should not presume too much to judge what I was going through in those 1978 days. The courage and dependence on Prabhupada is also admirable in some ways. No doubt, the job was too big to take on and the service too demanding, but Prabhupada wants us to do as much as we can.
“I was fortunate in having the combined services of acting as a spiritual master and worshiping Srila Prabhupada through the biography. The ecstasy of diving into the biography, organizing materials, and seeking inspiration for lifelike writing kept me from deviating during difficult times.
“I’ve heard many times that when authors are very much absorbed with writing a novel, they become obsessed with the thought of completing it. I was no exception. Unlike the materialist whose compulsion to complete the work is a futile meditation, however, I had an assignment that was important for the whole world!
“ . . . In this chapter, there are a number of references to the concept of ‘mission’ in Krsna consciousness. At that time, my mission was to write the biography and to preach to disciples.
“In retrospect, it may sound a bit grandiose for an individual disciple to speak of ‘my mission.’ In fact, we are all within the big mission of Srila Prabhupada, which is the mission of Lord Caitanya: to bring the Hare Krsna mantra to all the conditioned souls in Kali-yuga. Inevitably, devotees will have their own services, and those smaller missions must all work in a cooperative way within the big mission. Otherwise, if a follower gets too strong-headed an idea of ‘my mission,’ it could lead to something separate from the whole.”
“Most of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s statements seem so extreme that we don’t quite know what to do with them. It’s almost hard to believe him when he says, ‘I am remorseful seeing others’ happiness.’ But I experience this all the time. ‘I’m a perpetual liar.’—That’s not true of me. I am honest. But wait a minute, you can’t face the truth. You don’t even know what the truth is. Isn’t that a form of lying?
“‘The misery of others is a source of great pleasure for me.’ Now that’s an exaggeration as far as I’m concerned. That sounds like a sadist. Do I think like that? But isn’t a holier-than-thou attitude the same thing? Seeing the nondevotees unhappy is proof of my own righteousness. I tell you, I haven’t faced the truth; I have no idea what it is. I know neither the evil in me nor the good. I know neither the love nor the pain. I don’t know separation from Krsna at all. I am a vaidhi-bhakta, fingering my beads by candlelight and reminiscing about 1964.
“I am easily disturbed. I don’t feel deep emotion. I can’t confess. I remember going to confession as a child. The nun told us to prepare ourselves to tell the priest our sins, but all I could think of was that I talked back to my mother and told a lie. We were looking for the cracks in the sidewalk instead of the chasms in our souls. Why? Because the main thing was to stay as calm as possible. It was the middle of the war.
“Don’t look at the chasms. Don’t wake up the sleeping beasts. ‘The material desires within the core of my heart are unlimited.’ Again I wonder if he is calling up the worst possible condition to describe an ‘Everyman.’ But any one of us can fall to the lowest depths of depravity. ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ We generously ascribe all possible weaknesses to ourselves, even though we don’t believe we have them, but Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that kama, material lust, is in the core of his heart. He speaks the truth, even for you. Admit it.
“‘No, I’m not such a bad guy. I used to be bad, but I’m okay now. I’m a sadhu traveling in a Renault van.’
“Ah, but in the core, the secret core of your heart . . .
“Dhruva Maharaja disowned all his desires when he saw the Lord, but Lord Visnu said, ‘That’s very nice, Dhruva, that you say svamin krtartho’smi varam na yace. But I know you still harbor one desire. Therefore, I am going to give you the Pole Star and a fabulously long duration as king. After that, you can come back to Me in the spiritual world.’
“It’s in the heart. You dream of surrendering yourself to . . . you dream . . .
“My Krsna consciousness is only a covering. At the ultimate core, I am spirit- soul. Then there are lumps of filth around that, then an outer layer of devotional service in ISKCON, and finally, most recently added, a thin powdery covering of real hope.”
12:06 A.M., July 30, 1996
“I go by flow and trying to achieve or shape; be kind when you read this later; acknowledge changing and mistakes in your life, such as the rasika episode; quiet time to produce.
“You were the landlord of a big apartment building and had to allow the tenants to keep two bulls or sheep downstairs in a parking lot although they were cruel, keeping them under tight control by pulling at them. Intrigues of fear…come away from those dreams to this lamp of light and duty. It may be that free writes this way are digging into the psyche and things are coming up now more in dreams and from the unconscious. That’s not bad if it works for the betterment of one’s KC.
“Speak truth, the ‘heavy’ KC conclusions, that we must tend to our devotional creeper. Oh, he said, the guru spoke heavy.
“The guru went to Goloka. We heard of the last days and the passing away of Sanatana Goswami. It happens to everyone.
“Mahatmas and sages came to attend to his disappearance. The rounding out of each day with a little editing of your poems, bringing them down to terse statements, reducing the stanzas from wordy to essential. You are getting more of a feel for what poetry is.
“‘Krsna Krsna,’ you kept writing yesterday the holy words and trying to drift toward Him by words. He appears in every age in incarnations so numerous they’re uncountable like the waves in the river, all over the universes. In Kali-yuga, however, He appears only as LCM, krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam. One knows the symptoms from the sastra. An ordinary man can’t claim to be an incarnation. Sanatana said, “Who is the Kali avatara?” “Give up your tricks,” said Lord Caitanya.
“Trivikrama Swami in Krakow, Poland. I plan to go there if he’s there. Plan our tour of September, and October too. You just write all the time, but sometimes it’s a timed book and sometimes it’s Writing Sessions. The flow or process determines itself. You write along in it. It’s bigger than my own self. When you describe it that way it sounds as if there is a shaping in your work, but you see it as somehow mystical. You don’t want to step into what comes next, when you should start a Pada-yatra and when you leave it. When you want to work out in the detached, non-shaping, non-book of WS, and when it’s time to submit to another more shaped or thematic activity.
“Yes, we listen closely to inner urges. We’d like to write what is most pleasing and useful for Krsna and His devotees.
“Flatter me and I’ll flatter you. That’s limited stuff. A deeper respect occurs less usually. One wants recognition for big preaching. A rock opera, a filmed biography of SP in which many people participate and spend money. You hustle to try to organize them. Work at something even if a few respond, like Caranaravinda dasi and her children’s magazine. And who responds to HK dasi’s garden? They work silently. I should learn from their example, the joy of creating something nice for Krsna. Express your own appreciation, but how deep can you like another’s effort? It’s the Lord who notices what they do and sees into their hearts.
“These days are peaceful but I’m keeping up a momentum of extensive writing sessions. It is work. You have some expectation that it will be good. But you can’t demand of a process like this – ‘Am I going to go deeper? Is this session going to catch fire and reveal and confess? Where is the good poem I could take out of this for publishing?’ No motives, but writing. And devotional service is the assumed purpose of it all, even though not always explicit.
“Krsna on the ranch, in the sky, even in hellish planets. In the hearts of worms, He’s transcendental.
“‘In Kali-yuga what is attained in former yugas by meditation or sacrifice, is attained simply by chanting the holy names of God.’ Mukta-sangah param vrajet. Kirtana. Chant. Chant on your beads.
“This is the purnima. Look up through the skylight and you will see a sky brighter than usual. The rays will fill the room enough to see objects faintly. As you chant. No disturbing sights. Just chant in the rays of LC’s moon and beg to be able to hear those Names and ask the Supreme Lord, who’s in your heart, to keep you always faithful and affectionate to your spiritual master. One is supposed to pray always with petitions. But yes, you ask for strength to serve. And you try to listen, just hear what Krsna wants you to do.
“Pray, recite and savor verses, strive to be a devotee. A lowly sadhaka practices his bhajana. I don’t try to think of Krsna’s activities in Vraja and myself a manjari. I just chant and try to hear.
“The cars don’t go by here. When I walk at 5 A.M, I usually see deer (or yesterday, foxes).
“Krsna Krsna Krsna. You could draw a picture as artists show you what words are not showing. How to serve Krsna in the best way.
“Thank you, brother and sister. We live in a community, and they help us to love and serve one another. Things come in the mail.
“Is He an ordinary person, a nice person, is He a neighborly person? Krsna is the only reality, and He is revealed in sastra. One verse I saw asserted that everything is revealed in sastra and there is no other way. Srimad-Bhagavatam is best for revealing the truth of Krsna and His incarnations and the superiority of devotional service. Lord Caitanya praised SB as the spotless Purana. And Cc. is full of instructions and the life of LC among His devotees, beautifully composed by Krsnadasa Kaviraja in his native tongue, Bengali.
“Rendered into English by His Divine Grace, who translated, and his disciples helped him. Translated from the Bengali. The purports, and now my own book of some favorite selections. When will it be published?
“Oh, it’s nothing new he told Svarupa Damodara, expose the rascal scientists. I am exposing the rascal self of me. Expose the scientists and toads.
“You are not in a mood to
trip light fantastic.
It seems what? Frivolous
or too much effort of your
own. There’s a trail or flow
stream and you watch it and write it
down. That’s better for now but
I’m not forbidding you
“I warned M., get the van ready in time, and he’s doing his best. He’s getting the thing ready before Janmastami. Roadworthy. And then we leave it behind in December.
“Not a good year for van travel, but don’t complain. You’re getting all this writing time.
“Someone has little awareness what we are doing because he’s so busy. Hare Krsna comes straight from Krsnaloka.
“I’d say it’s rough or nothing is coming if I were in that expectant mood. But better to just accept it. Editors must too. If you scan this later, be kind. At least it’s not offensive.
“Eggs and meat and wine and such enjoyment. Abstain from that so you can devote yourself to full service and pleasing Krsna. Food and acts must be yajna to please Him. And violence to others He doesn’t like. He wants service. Sometimes a warrior-devotee is violent to the violent demon.
“For me, I need to be kind,
brahminical, study his words,
teachings of the Lord
and tolerate what comes and
when you get a chance, paint
a picture in colors.
“There are too many demands on me when I go to Vrindavan to do it then.
“‘Why do you keep your whereabouts a secret?’ she asked. That’s my business.
“Where are you going, and when will you be back?
“Where are the sheep?
“Sherpas, they call them. Lamas. Dhamas. Voidists on the ridge (The Snow Leopard).
“Creative greeting cards. Avoid the billboards in Italy (or any city). You’ll have to enter cities, but beware.
“He prefers to sandwich his own? Make sense not always.
“It’s the unconscious makes sense too, he says.
“The chance encounter is better than a plan. They have no faith in reason or institutions. Play surreal games. But I’m more earnest in seeking shelter in sastra than these things. You can draw a face, a walker, a talker. But even that isn’t coming.
“Face mirror of self.
“Hello. What do you want?
“To say hello. And to state I am here, dear Lord Krsna. I am Your servant (a thousand times removed) practicing my penmanship. You may see I’m working in that way. Be a devotee, color and serve and walk and look forward to ending this and chanting japa – but in other activities there’s always something to be desired. Be patient then, be present in the act.
“This is the same body with freckles or a little brown mole on the back of the left hand. That’s you with the nose and ears. Accept who you are. Move along. There is no way out. But human passages
are not so long
say farewell and do your work before your allotted time runs out.
“What are you trying to achieve today?
“Oh, it’s clear. He doesn’t know. Send us the manual (to run the machines) and Madhu will figure it out for himself.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya Prabhu Nityananda.
“I’ll stay out of that world.
“Come here to be with you. The stories of Sanatana Goswami are still on my mind. Let it inspire you to visit Vrindavan and to be a better devotee, to increase your taste for chanting and hearing in devotional service.
“Give them enough to chew on, to live on. There’s the mantra, Hare Krsna prayers given to us by His Divine Grace, who was here recently enough so that we don’t have to make big changes in what he taught. He said it’s all right. He said, ‘Please work, my children.’
“One might say I am going through a phase now of keeping to myself, self-cultivation, solitude, and certainly keeping away from most temples and institutional affairs. Yet I keep showing up and participating to assure them I’m still alive and contributing. This is an age of rapid communication, and also by regular letters—and by book publication especially—I remain on the scene. It’s a bit of an illusion – I’m actually on my own in the countryside but appear to be in the thick of things.
“I’m just a wanderer
a philanderer not
don’t pull wool over their eyes
and function for disciples.
“You’ll write a little more and then finish this one out. It’s in peacock blue ink again. Mild, mild. I can’t stand strong, loud music or fast changes or violence, pungent food, keep this pace at which I can do my own work.
“The way is paved. The garden roses mostly smashed. Raspberries on just one small wall producing enough each day. I’ve been picking, but it won’t last forever. Greens too. Father and children. The tots like angels. Our way is best for me, and you don’t want to get confused by hearing from another, such as virginity (celibacy) as described by the Christians. We sow it our way. It’s natural.
“I didn’t go deep or painfully in this session. But flowed like blood in the veins. My health is not so bad, it seems, that at least works. Live awhile and produce while you can. Be accustomed to working by writing, and you’ll be there when something exciting and to the point flows through you.
“When I jumped from the window . . .
stay tuned and I’ll try to tell it all, from a shattered, unhappy life. Each one is like that. Survivors tell a tale. Better you tell the Vedic truth in your presentation.
(One hour, twelve handwritten pages, July 30, 1996)