I’ve been invited to share a Zoom talk with Ravindra Svarupa and Jayadvaita Swami on Janmastami. It will be shown in Berlin and picked up in Oslo, Norway or by anyone else who wants to watch. In Europe they are having all-day coverage for Janmastami on Zoom (kirtanas, readings, talks, etc.). This will go on in all major ISKCON temples. I’m going to start at 11:00 A.M. EST and Ravindra Svarupa can follow me with a lecture and Questions and answers. I think I will speak from the Krsna book about Krsna’s appearance in the prison cell of Devaki and Vasudeva. He appeared not like an ordinary child, but as four-armed Visnu with ornaments and dress. Vasudeva and Devaki recognized Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they made their prayers. They recognized Him by the symbols of Visnu, and they knew that He was God. But by their vatsalya (parental) rasa, they also saw Him as their child, to be protected. They feared that Kamsa would come in at any moment and hearing from the prediction of the voice in the sky, he would take Devaki’s son as the eighth child who was meant to kill him. So Kamsa was prepared to kill the baby as soon as He was born. Devaki was even more absorbed in the vatsalya rasa. She prayed to Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead that Kamsa would come to kill Him, and so she asked Visnu to change His appearance and become just like an ordinary child so that she could somehow spare Him from Kamsa’s wrath. Krsna spoke and told His mother and father of His previous appearances in the world, where He also was born with them as His mother and father. Then to please them, He changed His body to a two-armed baby child and asked Vasudeva to bring Him to Vrndavana and exchange him for a baby that had been born to Yasoda. Suddenly, by the influence of yoga-maya, Vasudeva was able to get out of his chains and out of the palace door’s locks and proceed to Vrndavana, where he found Mother Yasoda asleep and changed the baby he had for the female child born to Yasoda. He then returned to the prison-house, put the shackles back on and the girl began to cry like a baby, which woke up Kamsa and entered his heart as the sound of death, who had come as predicted by the omen in the sky.
For the first time since the pandemic began (in March), I left the house with a mask on and went to the dentist. It was an easy visit, since the hygienist found less plaque on my implants than in my previous visit. We were out of there after a short while. We returned to Viraha Bhavan and swung Radha-Gopinatha on the first day of Their Jhulan-yatra. The swing was nicely decorated and built. Bala sang a sweet song by Srila Rupa Gosvami, “Sri Radhika-stava” (from Stava-mala):
radhe jaya jaya madhava-dayite
Our ashram had guests (with masks), and they always stayed in the back room. But they worked together harmoniously to make extra decorations for a full kunja of flowers and creepers for the last day of Jhulan-yatra. Bala cooked an elaborate feast with large samosas stuffed with peas and potatoes. He prepared two subjis, sweet rice and a varuni drink. Krsna dasi created a full-scale decoration of the Deities both downstairs and upstairs. Radha-Govinda now have a splendid new outfit of black and yellow, and Govinda wears a stylish yellow turban with a peacock feather. On the border of Radharani’s skirt are green parrots. She carries a tulasi manjari in Her right hand, and there are three small vases of wildflowers on Their altar.
I am proofreading two books, California Search for Gold and New, Newer and Newer. Although they are not recent writings (they were completed around 2004), they are vintage books written at a time when I was struggling with migraines and trying to come up to my sixteen-round quota of japa. They are very “open” books. California Search for Gold tells how I moved to California from Ireland seeking peace and healing. I went to CA with a core group of caretakers. It was a difficult time I was going through, seeking internal cleansing while hampered by physical and mental pain. At this time I had a painful arthritic left ankle which eventually led to surgery fusing three bones. But it didn’t lead to improvement. I like the protected environment in California and the favorable association of my friends, who supported me in my recovery efforts. At this time I was listening to jazz and Bach, and I justified it by writing about Krsna and talking about Krsna on top of the music. Years later I took a vow (vrata) not to listen to any more jazz or any other music except for Prabhupada’s bhajanas, and I felt a relief in that renunciation. In New, Newer and Newer, I write with more confidence of the free expression. I wrote freely and lived freely, and this was gradually conducive to my recovery.
Everyone tells me my posture is poor, and I know it. Don’t stand up straight but bend low at the knees as I try to push the carriage. Weak legs and shortness of breath. Walking slower seems to help, but I cannot keep it up. Is this my permanent position? I’ll keep up with the exercises and hope for improvement.
If I could clean my heart (by chanting and hearing and loving Krsna), I would go back to Godhead in a body of sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. I would be able to serve and play with Krsna with no anxiety or impediment. This may take many lifetimes, but Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada told their disciples not to wait but to be determined and active and finish up their “business” in one lifetime. It doesn’t seem possible, but I pray to Krsna for the utsaha and mercy to achieve it.
The Sunday workers arrived prepared to work in the garden pulling weeds. But they got here too late, and the weather was so hot that we had to cancel their outside service. They came inside—Atindra, his wife Lalita-kaisori and the single man, Amit from Albany. Amit helped Bala install a new smartphone. Meanwhile, Atindra was replacing the house phone system—the advantage being that the new phones have much louder speakers for hearing the devotees read from the Bhagavatam at mealtimes. Another advantage is that I now have a phone in my room that doesn’t ring but still can be used in emergencies. The ladies sat on the porch in the shade, talking. And then everyone had a nice feast of lasagna, fresh corn, sweet rice and cookies for dessert.
By 1976, Prabhupada’s health was dwindling, yet he gave a long, long series of lectures on the prayers of Prahlada Maharaja to Nrsimhadeva from the Seventh Canto, Ninth Chapter. Nrsimhadeva wanted to give Prahlada a boon, but Prahlada said he didn’t render his service like a merchant expecting something in return. Prahlada said he wanted to associate with the devotees of the Lord and render devotional service. He also said he didn’t want to be a recluse, one who practices spiritual life just for his own benefit. He wanted to save all the “fools and rascals” who had turned away from Krsna. He spoke to his classmates, who were all sons of demons, but who were innocent and eager to hear the teachings of Prahlada. He told them they should cultivate Krsna consciousness from the very early age of their life. He is the typical example of a preacher Prabhupada wanted his disciples to be. Prahlada was very bold, preaching right in the palace of his demoniac father, to the boys who were supervised by the atheistic teachers, the so-called brahmanas Sanda and Amarka, who were disciples of Sukracarya. Prahlada knew that Krsna would protect him, just as He had done when Hiranyakasipu had tried to torture him for being a devotee of Visnu, his avowed enemy.
Hiranyakasipu hears that his son Prahlada has been preaching Krsna consciousness to all his classmates, the sons of the demons, and that they have been converted to becoming devotees of Visnu. In extreme anger, he has Prahlada brought to him, and he says, “You have always spoken of a God superior to me. Now I want to see Him. If He is everywhere, is He in the pillar of this column?” Prahlada says, “Yes, He is in the pillar. He is everywhere.” Hiranyakasipu then smashes the pillar with his fist. Out of the column comes a tumultuous noise which is heard in fear even up to the planet of Lord Brahma. Then out of the pillar leaps the wondrous form of the half-lion/half-man Nrsimhadeva. The demon thinks that this wondrous Being has come to kill him, so he takes up his own sword and shield. But Lord Nrsimhadeva captures him and puts him on His lap. With His fingernails, Nrsimhadeva tears apart the abdomen of the great demon. He pulls out his intestines and puts them around His neck as a garland. Nrsimhadeva sits down on the throne of Hiranyakasipu, and thousands of the demon’s faithful soldiers come forth to attack Him, but Nrsimhadeva kills them all with His nails. Seeing that Hiranyakasipu is dead, all the demigods and higher beings are relieved and joyous. They come forward to make their obeisances to the half-lion/half-man form, but He is still very angry and they are afraid of Him. Even Laksmidevi had never experienced this angry form, and out of fear she could not approach Him. But Lord Brahma pushes Prahlada Maharaja forward and asks him to pacify his Lord. Prahlada thinks he is not qualified to pray to the Lord, but he is not afraid of His form. So he makes dandavats before the Lord, and Nrsimhadeva touches Prahlada on the head, giving him brahma-jnana, the ability to speak eloquent prayers.
I received a Facebook message from Sumit Chaudary. He asks, “Can you tell me where is God?”
Dear Sumit, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is expanded all over the universes, even in every atom. At the same time, He resides in His original abode in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana. He is attracted to stay there with His topmost eternal devotees, the Vrajavasis: His father Nanda Maharaja, His mother Yasodamayi, His cowherd friends the gopas, His innumerable gopi girlfriends, and all the residents of Vraja. It is said that because of their affection for Him, Krsna never leaves a step out of Vrndavana. When He appears to be somewhere else, He is actually remaining in Goloka Vrndavana in His bhava form. So Krsna is expanded everywhere throughout the universe, and yet He remains in Vraja. We should associate with and serve His pure devotees and aspire to join Him in Goloka Vrndavana.
I received a letter from Aniruddha dasa, the temple president of ISKCON Melbourne. He is fine-tuning a set of presentations on Upadesamrta (The Nectar of Instruction) by Srila Rupa Gosvami. He wants to know how Prabhupada conceived and produced the book. Ramesvara Prabhu gave him some information, since he was in charge of the BBT around that time. Aniruddha heard that I was acting as Prabhupada’s secretary when he translated the Upadesamrta. Ramesvara told him that the manuscript of the original copy came handwritten by me. He wants to know if I recall that period.
I remember Prabhupada was in Mayapur, and I was there too. He just said he wanted to translate and comment on the Upadesamrta (The Nectar of Instruction). He used to call me in every day and dictate verses and purports. I would write down what he said in a notebook. I don’t remember why Prabhupada started The Nectar of Instruction but it was a fresh project. Prabhupada’s disciple Hrisikesananda has associated with the Gaudiya Math, and he was there in Mayapura. He supplied two verses by Rupa Gosvami which Prabhupada put into his purport. It took about a month for Prabhupada to complete the book. I don’t know whether he used a Bengali text, but he worked effortlessly composing the translations and purports spontaneously. The book starts out with basic instructions and ends with esoteric slokas about living at Radha-kunda. Prabhupada ordered an extra-large printing run of this book. It was small and suitable for mass distribution by the book distributors. The BBT made a cover of Rupa Gosvami’s bhajana kutir at the Radha-Damodara temple. It was bliss serving as a menial secretary for this project. I welcome Questions from Aniruddha to help him and his students understand the background of The Nectar of Instruction.
I received a number of respectable articles on memory from my lawyer-friend Kirtan Rasa. They all stated that memory is the weakest evidence in court cases and criminal testimonies. Many people have gone to jail when victims identify them as the one who committed a crime against them, but years later when DNA became a reliable tool, the “guilty” parties were freed on the testimony of DNA.
I am lucky that I wrote down my memories of Srila Prabhupada soon after I was with him and the details were fresh in my mind. They are now in Prabhupada-lilamrta and many other books I have written about Srila Prabhupada. For me, telling these memories gives me confidence and keeps alive my Prabhupada consciousness. For the audience, my memories can produce a thrill as devotees hear them and feel they are in the presence of Prabhupada. I encourage devotees to keep journals so they can be confident later of what they experienced in the Krsna consciousness movement.
The publishers of Prabhupada’s Tributes book have informed us that the printer cannot complete the books on time for Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja because of the Covid pandemic. The publishers have advised us to download the file of the book and print it ourselves at a place like Staples in a spiral-bound form. At least this means we’ll have the book on time.
I received a few checks ordering my new books Meditations and Poems and Daily Compositions. It is good if all the devotees will order the books on time for them to receive them by August 22, which is the day that I will read from them on Zoom. Then they can read along as I read the poems. I advise my readers to order the books on Amazon. That is the only way to be sure to get them by August 22.
“Question: Why don’t you pray to God for better health if you’re so God-conscious? Don’t you know any kind of faith healing, like laying on of hands? Why don’t you try that?
“Answer: We don’t want to beg something material from Krsna.
“Question: But I thought everything was spiritual, so your desire to get well must be spiritual.
“Answer:: First of all, if I have an illness, it’s due to my past sins. In fact, since I am engaged in devotional service, whatever I’m suffering from now is just a token reaction and not the full karma for what I’ve done. But suppose I ask and He cures. Then I’ve taken some service from Krsna! But I should serve Him. Prayers should be, ‘Let me serve You and love You.’
“Question: Oh, that’s why you want to get better, isn’t it? To serve Him?
“Answer: But I can serve Him in any condition. I don’t have to be rich or strong or free of pain. Also there are so many diseases and maladies. If I pray today to be cured of headaches, then should I pray to be cured of pyorrhea tomorrow? Then for backache? Where will it end? When we go to Krsna, it should be to surrender and serve. That will automatically include freedom from all miseries as a biproduct, so pray to serve.
“Question: Do you do that?
“Answer: A little. I am serving Krsna by waiting and seeing what He wants, and I want to get well so I can serve more. I am showing Krsna that I am trying to get well by every available means and that I am depending on Him. Everything is up to Him.
“Question: May I ask a question?
“Question: Why do you always insert Krsna consciousness in your answers?
“Answer: Because I’m a devotee.
“Question: But how is that different from repeating a party line?
“Answer: It is a party line—Krsna’s. We are sold out to Him. Whatever He likes, we want to like. But that doesn’t make me less of a person, less of an individual just because I am committed to Krsna. Why shouldn’t I assert Krsna consciousness? He is the object of my worship and service.
“Question: You have already admitted you are not completely absorbed in spontaneous love of Krsna. I am interested in the wedge between your declared surrender to Krsna and where you are actually at.
“Answer: Are you trying to create a wedge?
“Question: No, I’m just asking do you want to know the truth?
“Answer: The sad truth is that I lack spontaneous love, but Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that if one doesn’t have spontaneous thoughts of Krsna all the time, that one should at least follow the rules and regulations and in time come to the higher stage.
“Question: But if you’re only in that rules and regulations stage, why do you act as guru? I thought a guru had to be on the topmost platform.
“Answer: Where there are no trees, a small tree is a big tree. And as long as I follow the rules and regulations strictly and speak exactly what Krsna says and what I have heard my spiritual master say, that is perfect, and I can be guru. Nothing else is required.
“Question: You’ve really got the party line down.
“Answer: It’s Krsna’s party line.
“Question: But who are you?
“Answer: I am Krsna’s servant, or the servant of His servant. And your doubt is helping me to establish the fact. But who are you?”
“The other day I was speaking with devotees about how physically strong and vigorous Prabhupada was when he first started his movement in New York City. After his stroke in 1967, that physical vigor was never quite the same. Although as the years went by he continued to manifest more and more beauty and wisdom and potency to spread Krsna consciousness, those who were with him in the first days in New York City saw a level of physical vigor that was never quite the same after the stroke. A prominent sign of Prabhupada’s youthful vigor was that he always led the kirtanas himself, and once a week during the autumn season he would sing loudly in Tompkins Square Park. Anyone who has performed kirtana outdoors, projecting one’s voice hour after hour so the crowd can hear, knows how much energy it takes. Prabhupada would chant for two hours, stop and give a short speech, and then chant again for an hour. Afterwards he would walk back to the temple and give a lecture, then go on talking in his room. Also in those days there was no secretary to screen visitors. It was not unusual for Prabhupada to talk throughout the day and night with few breaks and little rest.”
“During a November 1966 lecture, Srila Prabhupada stressed that all human beings are imperfect, no matter how expert they pretend to be. In the midst of his lecture Prabhupada began to cough, and he paused to drink water. While the evening crowd watched him, Srila Prabhupada remarked, ‘See our imperfectness. We have got imperfectness! Talking something. So how we can become perfect?’ Then he began to cough again, and he continued to give his own case as an example: ‘So, we are under the stringent rules and regulations of the nature.’ Even while in the midst of an apparently uncontrollable coughing fit, Prabhupada proved himself liberated from the body, and he used his ‘imperfection’ to enlighten us.
“Prabhupada also used his coughing as part of his preaching during a morning lecture in December 1966. After several prolonged interruptions by severe coughing, Prabhupada remarked, ‘Just see how material entanglement, karma, this body. At any moment. At any moment you can be finished. You will not be finished, but your activities. Therefore we should be very careful, because we have to pull on with this body. Because unless you are perfect in understanding Krsna, there is no relief from this body.’ Prabhupada then went on to say how one could never be free of the material body, even by suicide. But it was another magical display of preaching dexterity. Although in the grips of a bad winter cough, Prabhupada delivered his transcendental lesson about material frailties.”
“My disciple Krsna-Balarama dasa has come here from Puerto Rico to be my servant for a few weeks. He knows the importance of devotional service, but most in this world do not know. They think, ‘Why is he serving like that? And why is the other letting someone serve him? What do the words “Krsna-Balarama” mean anyway?’ They do not understand why others should serve Krsna and Krsna’s devotee.
“The nondevotees need to have so much explained! Most have no knowledge of the soul and at best only speculate about it. If they are not openly atheistic and say God is dead, then they speculate about Him in a whimsical way. They are like silkworms trapped in their own cocoons. They are like persons bound up in ropes (and their leaders are no better off than they are). They are like he-elephants who have been lured to fall into a covered well by a she-elephant. They are like little animals praising a big animal. They are like logs drifting forever down a river. But sometimes, as if by chance, a log goes on the shore. Somehow or other a covered soul gets the association of a pure devotee and hears with some faith. Maybe it is due to a past life in which they accidentally performed some pious activity. Or it may just be the causeless mercy of the empowered devotee that brings about the auspicious meeting. But only by the grace of the pure devotee can one come out of the prison of illusion and ignorance.
“Srila Prabhupada pulled me out of that prison, as he did thousands of others. Like reverberating waves from his force, or like stars reflecting his original light, we are able to reach out to others and give them the message unchanged, the chanting and the hearing of the holy name.”
“As a bookworm grows older, his memory continues to grow weaker. He forgets much of what he has read. The reason for reading all the books, and the meaning of life itself, falls through his fingers like sand. Just as a gross enjoyer loses pleasure for sense enjoyment as he grows older, the book collector becomes disappointed when he sees that all his reading has not improved him much as a person or brought him to even one simple conclusion. Near the end of his life, the actor Richard Burton, said that he wished to go to the grave crammed with knowledge. But what good is it to be packed with knowledge (or to be the possessor of thousands of books) if one goes to the grave and leaves behind all the knowledge in the library? The Srimad-Bhagavatam declares that a person who owns many jewels and ornaments, including the ornament of education, but does not praise the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will sink down at the time of death—and his ornaments will be the cause of his drowning. One’s library may do the same. The Japanese monk Gensei, predicted that because of his being a bookworm, he might become a silverfish (a little bug) who inhabits the pages of books.
“A person interested in spiritual development also reads books, but he is warned of the danger of deviation through promiscuous book reading. Thus it is stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, ‘Literature that is a useless waste of time—in other words, literature without spiritual benefit—should be rejected.’”
“Among all the Vedic literatures, Srimad-Bhagavatam has an exalted place. ‘Sri Vyasadeva delivered it to his son, who is the most respected among the self-realized, after extracting the cream of all Vedic literatures and histories of the universe.’ The Vedas are compared to the milk ocean of knowledge, and the most palatable essence is Srimad-Bhagavatam. It consists of teachings, activities, and descriptions of Bhagavan Sri Krsna, His incarnations, and His pure devotees.
“Srimad-Bhagavatam, like the chanting of Hare Krsna, must be heard from lips of the pure devotee. Hearing from the nondevotee should be avoided as much as possible. Although Bhagavatam has been compared to cream, even cream can become polluted if touched by a poisonous serpent. Academic scholars or professional reciters of the Bhagavatam have no faith in the parampara. They cannot accept histories as ancient as those recorded in the Bhagavatam, nor can they believe in the ‘fantastic’ descriptions of demigods and hellish planets. The defect of such scholars is that they try to impose their empirical worldview upon the entire material universe as well as transcendental existence. Srimad-Bhagavatam, however, contains histories and biographies selected from many different planets and different millennia. It is not confined to the experience of the earth planet. Srimad-Bhagavatam has been accepted as the science of God by the most sober and self-realized teachers in Indian cultural history, such as Vyasadeva, Madhva, Ramanuja, and many others. It is from these acaryas in disciplic succession of the Srimad-Bhagavatam that we should hear the message rightly, and not from those who have no genuine access to transcendental science.
“One may say that there is no harm in hearing estimations of the Bhagavatam from nondevotees, because there is benefit in controversy. Conflict makes one strong; the more a preacher can meet opposition, the better he becomes. That’s true to a certain degree.
“But one can also be in too much intimate contact with the purveyors of doubt. By an overdose of association with skeptics, one may begin to doubt the benefits of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam. We cannot be in deep agreement with the atheists and at the same time faithfully hear the Bhagavatam. One has to choose his own food and avoid what is poison to him.”
“Shortly before the disappearance of his spiritual master, Abhay wrote him a letter: ‘Dear Guru Maharaja, Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. You have got many disciples, and I am one of them . . . Is there any particular service I can do?” Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura replied, ‘I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher.’
“It was Krsna’s arrangement that Srila Prabhupada was spared from the controversy and litigation within the Gaudiya Math. We get an interesting picture of him in the years that followed . . . his business diminishing, the move to Calcutta . . .
Gaudiya Math sannyasis moving into rooms rented from Abhay.
“The wind is blowing hard outside. A neighbor kid walks by. I think of Abhay Charan De and how he lived in a ‘joint neighborhood family’ with the Gangulis living in the back, the Mukerjees next door, and the Gaudiya Math sannyasis . . . Srila Prabhupada would often go to them and talk about Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“‘He was interested only in devotional activities and he did his business only to maintain the family . . . He would speak only of Krsna.’
“This day is coming to an end. Krsna will sustain us, I have no doubt. Or I should say, I know how to deal with doubts. There’s some late sunshine; I can chant an extra round. Everything is going as it should. Krsna is the Supreme. Let me end here.”
“I write because there is sweat on my upper lip. I write because I came here to do it. I write because I learned how to do it in college. It is a way I have chosen. If I don’t write, I won’t collect pages.
“I write because there is an old woman in a faded sari slowly walking across the field and I want to tell you about it. I write to chase blues, to race ahead of my agitated mind and not dwell on material desire. I write to chase the flies. I write because Prabhupada told me to.
“I write because we came to Vrndavana, and I am always saying this is the best place to write. There is a bamboo-supported tent up here to protect me from the sun just so I can write.
“I write because we have typists and Baladeva and Madhu and everybody, even my high school English teacher, and the dictionary—and what would I do if I didn’t write?
“I write to join the elite order of eternal Vaisnavas. I write in hopes that Krsna will say, ‘All right, give him some mercy. Let his writing improve and be filled with sweetness.’ I write to explain myself and to do honest work. I write to serve read¬ers. I write to do something crucial during the crucial hours of the day. When I don’t write, I think, ‘That time could have been spent writing.’
“I write to use precious health and life duration. After I die, something will be left behind. They will say, ‘He wrote many books like Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Not like Bhaktivinoda Thakura, but for ordinary strugglers like himself.’
“Here comes Baladeva on a rickshaw. He has a red gamcha on his head. The small walla is pedaling the heavyset sadhu in white cloth. Baladeva may have bought me some India ink—which is why I write. I write also to tell you that last night, after I attended a class, the pujari handed me some of Radha Soma’s flowers. I put them in a reticule. Yesterday was Baladeva Jayanti.
“I pray to Balarama and the guru parampara—I treasure those yellow daisy petals with the brown whorl that I received. It’s worth writing down.
“I am foolish. I write in hopes of getting beyond foolishness. It doesn’t matter that I am a fool; I write and connect with Krsna consciousness. Anyone can write, and if he lives a sadhaka’s life, he can give the most valuable thing.”
“I began to resent the time I was spending at my job for eight hours a day. The other boys, who had no jobs, could see him all day. They would sit around him in his clean, sunny apartment while he talked about Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So I filled out an official resignation form and gave it to my boss. My reason: ‘To study the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita with my guru.’ During my lunch hour, I ran to Prabhupada and the boys to tell them the good news.
‘Oh, why is that?’ said Prabhupada. ‘You are offering such nice service.” He seemed disappointed.
“‘But I want to come daily and be part of the camp. I want to learn Krsna consciousness.’
“Prabhupada smiled and then told me a story. There was once a faithful wife who had an ugly husband with a morose disposition. One day his wife asked, ‘Why are you so morose? I do anything you want but still you feel morose. Why is that?’
“‘I wish to have sex with a certain prostitute,’ he admitted, ‘but she costs Rs.1000 just for one night, and I cannot afford her.’
“The faithful wife said to her ugly husband, ‘Don’t worry, I shall arrange it.’ She immediately went to the prostitute’s house and began personally attending her by cleaning her room and performing other service. When the prostitute came home and noticed her activity she asked, ‘Why are you working here?’
“The woman said, ‘My husband desires to enjoy you, and I hope you will take my services as payment so that he might spend one night with you.’
“The prostitute laughed, ‘Don’t you realize that I cost over Rs. 1000 per night? How can you ever raise that much money?’ So in addition to serving the prostitute, the wife turned to prostitution and eventually raised the required money. She told her husband, ‘All right, you can go to that prostitute now,’ and he gladly went.
“Prabhupada ended the story and said that people could criticize this wife as crazy and immoral, but nonetheless she was unquestionably faithful to her husband and tried her best to fulfill his desires. Prabhupada didn’t have to say more. I got the point: Although I did not think it was spiritually beneficial to work at the welfare office, he thought that by contributing the earnings from my job I was rendering the best possible service. So if that was what he required of me, I should do it and please Krsna. I was inspired by Prabhupada’s instructions in the form of this story. It was a wonderful way for him to tell me what he wanted, better than if he had said it in a sentence. His story convinced me to keep my job and be a ‘faithful wife’ at all costs.”
“When I arrived at the rock, I had to chase two horned sheep away. They were afraid of me. The water sloshes around the sharp, jagged rocks. I am alone, I think, with some gulls and other creatures unbeknownst to me. I hear what sounds like a low japa uttering. Maybe it’s just my frame of mind.
“Dear Lord, what does it mean to seek You? You have found me out wherever I go. You are best found in the direct places where You appear fully—in harinama, in scripture, in the hearts and words of Your pure devotees, in the arca-vigraha, in special places like Vrndavana and Mayapur. Here, I may feel separation from Radha-Syama, just as an American immigrant might think back to this pretty shore where I am sitting, facing east.
“Why do I seek You out? You are already in my heart. You are Krsna. You are in my self. I don’t mean that I have attained You, but my very self, that which is most precious and individual, is not apart from You. Srila Prabhupada said that I am a sample of God, a tiny spark of the whole. I seek to be joined with my Supreme Lord. That is my desire, even if I can’t express it properly.
“There is water all around. I think of death by drowning, death by being dashed against the rocks. Delicate bodies die. The sun is rising behind the mountain, and I see streaks and layers of blue clouds. The sun, like pure gold, is rising. This is Your universal form.
“I have my black thorn stick in case a seal comes up suddenly, or the rocks suddenly materialize into some threatening form. My body feels chilled. Let me not stay here where I don’t belong. I sought You and found You. Now I will go back to the house, walking and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. I’ll find You as I enter the door of the house and chat with my friend. I’ll find You upstairs when I am alone again. I’ll find You when I bow before Prabhupada and offer him breakfast. I’ll find You all day, as the hours go by and I continue to write.”
“I can chant to my heart’s content, but my heart doesn’t take part yet. Not yet. Soul on ice.
“I thought of something . . . why Krsna doesn’t appear fully in my utterances of His name. I had some idea but I can’t remember it. Philosophy doesn’t have to be active for me while I chant. MV met me on the stairs and said he had some Questions. He asked the hair-splitting Question about the limit of free-will as opposed to ordained karma. I frankly don’t know, and I don’t care much. I gave simple, practical replies. The other Question was why does a pure devotee sometimes suffer in this world. I got warmed up answering that one, and then he left me alone. I’m back to chanting.”
“The usual bewildered condition when I’m put in the midst of many leaders and a social role is demanded. I was also thinking how now in ISKCON, wherever I go there is an honorable reception, but I am possibly meant to be thrown into a pit of snakes and beset with all violence and disease, perhaps in the body of a lower animal. Do not, therefore, languish in the honor paid you amid the Vaisnavas. Cling to the holy name. Chant Hare Krsna as one who is lost and completely dependent on Krsna. That I have to remember—the reality of suffering and death. Countless living beings are now subject to great sufferings due to their karma. By spreading Krsna consciousness they can be relieved.
“Just finished three and a half days of intense GBC meetings. I am chairman for this year. I was given the order by the Vaisnavas to write an official biography of His Divine Grace. Soon I will probably initiate disciples. Thus, Krsna consciousness is not only newer and newer, but more and more serious and responsible.
“Being chairman of the meetings, and also gaining understanding of the order to become guru, have increased my seriousness. I desire not to be frivolous and to control my tongue, and of course, my mind.
“On Gaura-Purnima I am supposed to give a lecture on the occasion of awarding sannyasa. I was thinking of quoting the verse of the Vaisnava taking sannyasa. Relation with the spiritual master and Krsna.
yasya deve para bhaktir /yatha-deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah /prakasante mahatmanah
(Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.38)
“Faith. Simple lecture. Speak on how the guru instills faith in the heart of the disciple.”
“‘Deepak wants to say goodbye to you,’ said Nara as they were ready to depart in the Marriott Hotel. I embraced him, thanked him for the three-row tulasi neckbeads he had given me as a replacement for my broken ones. I told him to keep working in the beautiful garden and make some arrangements that when I come back we can all read together in the evening. Jim said, ‘I chant Hare Krsna a lot in my mind.’ That was an odd thing to say, wasn’t it? But it’s true. Do you want to impress him that you do chant? Deepak had started chanting in the car on his beads. Otherwise, none of us were chanting. We were pointing out different things about the Golden Gate Bridge, about the fact that we didn’t have to pay a fee because we were three in a car and considered a ‘carpool vehicle.’ Or we didn’t talk. I was in the back seat, so I couldn’t hear much of the talk. And I was chanting in my mind. What I’m trying to do is depend more on Krsna for everything that happens. Make all arrangements, such as we did: tell the person at the hotel desk to ring our room at 2:45 A.M., set the alarms on our room clocks at 2:45 A.M., set the alarm on the neon clock facing me at 2:45 A.M. But know that everything depends on Krsna, so you really have to relax and know that that’s where your ultimate dependence lies. The plane may not fly, Bhakti-tirtha Swami may not meet you, you may not be fit to go to Houston, something may happen in New York, Nanda may . . . he may not . . . so just go along depending on the Lord at every step, and one way to do that is by chanting. Out loud is best, but that inner churning is nice too, since you have so much trouble outwardly. Here it is inwardly: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare (even below a whisper) Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. But it’s definitely something, a recitation that you pay attention to, and a dependence that you turn to, and a turning away from other things. A turning away from other thoughts, and not even music, paying attention to the inner mantras.”
“Midnight, July 31, 1996
“Return to WS after an afternoon of illness, surface jotting; stop after a half-hour in fear of physical incapacitation.
Sweet rice in honor of Sanatana Gosvami’s disappearance day.
“So, we have begun. We missed the afternoon writing session, and I was sorry for that. Momentum.
“What is it you seek? Seeing the little biographies of naïve artists. They painted all day their inept but touching depictions. Some worked religious themes. One man lived in the attic in complete darkness from 1942-44 during the Nazi occupation of Poland. By candlelight he painted pictures of God with many eyes. After his death his family didn’t give any importance to his paintings and threw many of them out but the five hundred that were saved are considered very valuable.
“My art of words. Leaving a record. While sidelined from writing yesterday, I thought it could end at any moment. I could have written my last WS. So, do it while you can. This current series needs more.
“But I feel aches all over and am afraid of headaches too. That sort of thing may increase with age, and you won’t get so much writing in. The body gets infected, breaks down. Medicine gives temporary relief. We’ve all heard of the bad side-effects of antibiotics, but when needed, you take them.
“Wrist aches, thumb ache.
“Lord Krsna is calling me and I am calling out His holy names, Hare Krsna mantra.
“Motorcycle pest. Pines close in on both sides of the road. It is mostly peaceful here. Woke at 11 P.M. with nostrils (sinuses) stuffed. So, I took out the earplugs. It was quiet, pleasant quiet.
“Krsna Krsna. Lord Caitanya taught the symptoms of the avataras, primary and secondary. Primary is His nature and bodily symptoms (svarupa laksana), secondary is His activities (tatastha). Kindly tell me then the identification of the Kali-yuga avatara. LC had indicated that the avatara for this age was golden, and He engaged in chanting harinama with His associates. When Sanatana pressed for identification, LC said, “Give up your intelligent tricks, Sanatana and let’s discuss the saktyavesa-avatara.”
“He’d said earlier an avatara never declares, “I am an avatara.”
“Get the basic stories from O.B.L. Kapoor’s book on the Gosvamis, but not his philosophizing on the truth. For that we will hear from the spiritual master.
“People may also say that about me and my books. They have their spiritual master and he has his mood, so too much reading of me will be a distraction. And perhaps they even ask him, and he indicates that my books are not very important or not even favorable. Then? Do you want to initiate disciples just so they’ll read your books? It’s a deal: I’ll take care of your soul, counsel you, etc., if you will feel obliged to read my books.
“No. I appeal to a wider congregation and newcomers and nondevotees. When I’m gone from the scene then they can read them, and there will be no Question of initiation.
“You think of scenarios like that but not really. You say it with a daring flourish – ‘Oh, when I die bury me on a lone prairie, but fence in my grave so the wolves don’t get it.’ But you don’t really feel it. You feel the present life. So much sitting at a desk produces aches in the neck and joints? Walking doesn’t seem to help, or even lying down.
the witch is dead.
“Pause and reconcile. A little despair or desperation. Sigh. Go forward. The patches of void. I keep going. He never sold my books in New Age stores. Talked about it but couldn’t get it together. Too many things on his mind.
“I don’t blame them
see it from their point of view
“‘I’m sorry to hear your gerbils died…why don’t you try again to find some friends among devotees?’
“Some stay at a distance from him for fear they may appear in his writings, ‘I notice B. dasa was in maya at our gatherings.’
“‘Yeah, well we could do a job on you too, Gurudeva.’ Some do.
“Everyone’s entitled to say his bit.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya. I am not afraid. Or I will try not to be afraid.
“Where is my hat
where is he at?
The cat stole the milk
but the kiwis remained
I had no time or freedom
to pick more raspberries or
peace of mind to enter Tulasi’s
house shoeless and chant
But I’ll do those things if my bodily condition permits it today.
“Flowers bend over, dashed by rain. Never mind. Grow more, grow so many that some are always coming up. And grow hardy ones that straighten themselves after a storm.
“Faith in God revealed in scripture.
“O, O, O Bhagavan.
“Please go to India. Or stay where you are. Tune into chanting or some kind of preaching activity. Writing and selling books is the brhad-mrdanga. I don’t sit at a computer; I write with a pen, but it’s the same sort of indoors, retired activity. Rather than go face-to-face, you write – to everyone in a book, and to individuals by letter. ‘How are you? You seemed estranged. Are you peaceful? Please write if you get time and let me know how you are doing.’
“The spirit and the letter.
‘It’s gonna be all right,’
the leader said.
‘Just follow me.
I will build bombs to
thwart all enemies and improve
the economy which my rival
has devastated by his
Please elect me.’
“If you speak against democracy, they remove your status as a religion. Only democrats allowed. Hare Krsna appears to be monarchical (‘neofascist,’ as they say in fearful Germany).
“Little notes are all I’ve got moving along the surface. At least I’m back at the desk. Been going a half hour and maybe I won’t push myself the full hour here at midnight. Still not feeling really strong. Go back to rest? At whose request?”
(32 minutes, 6 ¾ pages, July 31, 1996)
3:58 A.M., July 31, 1996
A short one because I’m not feeling well; writing about writing; admitting I can’t write structured; want to imbibe KC – can writing nourish me?
“Optimism bubbles…delivery wagon of work to deliver your Writing Sessions. Do it out of ecstasy or out of duty. But do it. It’s about writing but it’s also about KC. SP says the purpose of the KC movement is the same as what Dasaratha said to Visvamitra: aihistham yat tam punar-janma jayaya – to conquer the cycle of birth and death. But you have to be very serious. The biggest bar is sex attraction. Be very serious. Don’t cheat as a sannyasi, no illicit sex for anyone.
“I may take extra rest today, and this session will not go very long. I may not be able to go the full hour when I don’t feel strong enough. But you can still number them and do shorties, I give you whatever you can to do it. Not that you forget to log in with the record.
Hare Krsna comes down. The moon was still full behind the cloud. I looked up through the skylight for it. Only occasionally would it come out. I chanted, but a dull headache started forming on top of my head. So, I had to quit it after eleven rounds. But those rounds were almost entirely just the counting of the quota. You know this, Lord, and You know I expect more, and I want You to give me more. I don’t resent that You don’t give me more. But still I call out to You, ‘Please grant me better chanting. Better writing too. May my writing benefit people.’
“Srila Prabhupada appealed to the Americans in his 1975 Mayapur speech, because that country was against the communist movement which he saw as so dangerous for its atheism. If America could become devas by KC, they could fight the asuras. But is it turning out that way? It seems that the Russians, who represent the spirit of communism, are now perhaps more numerous as devotees than the Americans in ISKCON. But they are largely untrained, all newcomers, not direct disciples of Prabhupada. That’s all right, they don’t have to be direct disciples. Surely, they are growing up a new nation of KC. So, the complexion of things has changed in a way no one could have guessed. But what Srila Prabhupada said is still true. Our duty is to overcome the cycle of birth and death. And we have to be very careful, very serious or we won’t succeed. Watch out for illicit sex. And pop songs too. So, write your own September song in ISKCON, traveling and reading. That’s all you’ve got to tell. You don’t have some other thing to offer. If people don’t want it, or if it doesn’t turn out to be artistic and literary, then I’m sorry. But I can’t take back my KC life and try to sell something else. I can’t compromise with Mayavadis and nondevotees. Write the way it is, a KC life. And you live that life, so you have a good story to tell.
This is writing practice. You learn to capture the states of the mind. You discipline yourself to write as many times as possible in the day. I want to stretch out for an hour, but now I see that’s not regularly possible unless I feel quite strong.
“Oh mama, I think of you in pre-KC life. I think of the naïve artists because I just read of them and saw their pictures. I am the naïve writer. The taker-in of influences and the putter-down of all I absorb. Then please absorb strong KC also. You can honestly write that down. I don’t have to tell so much of a committee meeting, but still the bare essence: I chanted, I read, I thought, ‘How to surrender in KC?’ It’s the life of the practitioner.
“Scraping bare the bare earth
of a deer of a fox of a walk.
Will you go for one?
You are in the countryside.
Be peaceful and take rest if
you need it and report back to me
later. The coast is clear.
“No headache but you can’t push it. Please give me, then, one more page. I beg that of you. That page can tell of the works of Sanatana Gosvami such as Brhad Bhagavatamrta and how Gopa-kumara experienced all of the lokas and became Indra and Brahma but was never satisfied. He kept chanting his mantra and that pushed him beyond each place, even Vaikuntha. That’s because his mantra was to Madana-Gopal and that bhava is satisfied only in Goloka. So, he went up and up and sometimes down to various lokas until he finally went to Goloka Vrindavan beyond the aisvarya. There he tasted the madhurya or sweetness. Now we read of Rupa Gosvami.
“Lionel train tracks, Jean Shepherd in Ratners store, at the counter where you eat, watching the toy trains riding, writing an essay. Andre Dubus’ essays, me thinking I’d like to write powerful essays and capture people in KC. But you can’t do it the way they do. Because you write this way, not revising, not shaping unless it comes naturally to you. That’s the way. When I attempted some fictional Hare Krsna stories, I got one good story out of it, but I wasn’t really cutting to the bone of who I am and what I think.
“The body is not such a good bargain. You say, ‘Come on fellow, keep working for me. I’ll give you some milk and cereal and I’ll put into it as much honey as I dare, although I heard it’s not good for you. I’m no Nature Cure man. Come on body, I’ll be sweet to you. I’ll give you rest but you also work for me and put the sentences down.’ ‘Dear brain, please keep working in KC. I can’t make it nicer. It is what it is. You are not going to structure it so much.’ (The typewriter tape ran out here and I don’t recall what I was saying.) I am committed to another timed book even if it’s honest and doesn’t bring finished results. The unfinished but true is better. The most honest…
“This is my path. Now go for the last. I am trying to say Krsna is in the books but sometimes the act of reading is not enthusing for me. I don’t do it with it joy. I want to imbibe KC but how? Do it (read) even if not with joy, but as duty. And writing is a way of expressing but KC also goes through. So, it is nourishing in that way. Now end this and come back as soon as you can.
(Eighteen minutes, July 31, 1996, three typed pages)