Before Janmastami I stopped hearing the Govardhana Retreats and proofreading my books and spent my time reading and memorizing sections of the Krsna book. Some devotees might think it’s repetitious that on holidays I speak memorized excerpts from the Krsna book, but I feel confident about it, as it challenges me to absorb the text and speak it. I just gave the beginning, called “Advent of Lord Krsna,” which tells that once the world was overburdened by the unnecessary defense forces of different kings who were actually demons in the dress of the royal order. The whole world was perturbed by their activities, and Mother Earth (Bhumi), assuming the form of a cow, went to Lord Brahma to tell him of the calamitous situation. Bhumi went with tears in her eyes. She was weeping to invoke the Lord’s compassion. She told him of the calamitous situation on the earth, and Lord Brahma immediately left for Lord Visnu’s abode, accompanied by all the demigods, with Bhumi following. The demigods went to the Milk Ocean, where they tried to pacify the Lord by first reciting the Purusa-sukta prayers. When they finished their prayers, they apparently got no response. Then Brahma sat in meditation and received a transmission-message from Lord Visnu. This is the system for getting Vedic knowledge. Visnu teaches Lord Brahma by the medium of the heart. As it’s stated in the very beginning of Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda. Brahma sat down and meditated by himself. He received a message from Visnu, and he broadcast it to the demigods. The message was: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is very soon going to descend to the earth. As long as He carries out His mission of annihilating the demons and saving the devotees, you demigods should also remain here to assist Him.” Brahma spoke these sweet words, pacifying the demigods and Bhumi, and then he left for his abode in Brahmaloka.
That’s the opening scene of the Krsna book. It can be enlivening to hear this pastime every year at Janmastami. As Brahma transmitted the message of Visnu to the demigods, so a devotee in parampara can carry the same message and enliven an audience in the ever-fresh Bhagavatam narration. The importance of repeatedly hearing of Janmastami is described in the Bhagavad-gita verse: “Whoever understands My appearance and activities, does not, upon death, take birth again in this material world but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bg. 4.9)
Three speakers shared a Zoom presentation on Janmastami. I spoke first, then Jayadvaita Swami, then Ravindra Svarupa. I had half-memorized the section on the advent of Lord Krsna from the Krsna book. Jayadvaita Maharaja emphasized practical service in bhakti. He quoted Prabhupada focusing on book distribution and added other practical services that we do in addition to chanting and hearing. Ravindra Svarupa spoke about how rare it is that Krsna appears on the earth, once in a day of Lord Brahma—which is an incredibly long time. After Lord Krsna appears, then Lord Caitanya appears in Kali-yuga in a disguised form as a pure devotee. He spoke how fortunate we are to have this information from the sastra about the birth and activities of Krsna. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita that anyone who knows His birth and activities does not, at the time of death, return to another material body, but he goes back to home, back to Godhead, never to return to the material world. We learned that almost 100 people watched the live presentation and another 750 watched on Facebook. There were many questions from the Zoom audience, and some inquired through the chat.
Devotees started cooking the day before Janmastami—a feast to be served before midnight on Krsna’s Appearance Day. They prepared fresh ghee for cooking all the offerings, and made fresh palak panir for the “Indian set” (spinach and cheese chunks). Then there was rice, dal and puris, somosas, kofta balls with tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, fresh cabbage and cauliflower from the garden. The night before Janmastami another kitchen crew (Bala and Krsna dasi) moved in and prepared three sweets, sweet rice, jalebis and kheer. Along with the sweets, Bala also prepared samosa filling, and Baladeva V. made fresh cookies. The Janmastami feast also included blueberry halava.
While the cooking was going on, there was a maha cleanup of the house and decoration of the downstairs altar (Gaura-Nitai) and Radha-Govinda upstairs with flowers from the garden, flowers that Muktavandhya brought and other flowers dropped off by devotees for the occasion.
I received a letter from a devotee who has been distributing books for 40 years. Now with Covid-19 restrictions he says he’s not able to distribute books the way he used to. He’s living in a cabin in the woods of California and writing a book of his sankirtana experiences. He wrote me questions about writing, editors and publishing. I told him my experience over a long career. For twelve years I wrote Back to Godhead essays, and they were strictly edited by Dravida Prabhu. When I wrote Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, a devotee named Mandalesvara was my editor. He frequently used the red pen but did his best to keep my voice. For many years I worked with Kaisori-devi dasi as my editor in producing books. I gave her a free hand in cleaning up my prose, but she did not change my voice. In recent years I don’t use an editor and I print books with on-demand printers. I have my own publishing house, GN Press. I am glad that I worked under the tutelage of various editors, but I’m satisfied writing now the way I do. I collaborate with a close friend, Rev. John Endler, who helps me pick out writing that I did in the past which we’re compiling into new books.
I encourage devotees, especially during the lockdown period, to write your experiences in Krsna consciousness. They can try to publish, or at least write for purification—just as in Lord Caitanya’s time, where the notebooks kept by His devotees are valuable as history. A book that was helpful to me in getting started in writing was Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, with her “free-writing” practice. I could tell from the devotee who wrote me a letter that he was intimidated by editors and publishing. I encouraged him to be enthusiastic and not worry so much about the audience, editors or publishing.
I spoke on the phone with John Endler. He is excited that Krsna Bhajana’s wife Satyasara is typing up the Forgetting the Audience manuscript to get it ready for reprinting. Forgetting the Audience is a full-length book of free writing. I wrote it in Castlegregory, Ireland. I wrote it in longhand in legal pads, and my typist Lalitamrta was able to salvage it with some help from me. I wrote it according to Natalie Goldberg’s advice: ‘Keep the hand moving’—‘Don’t think’—But I steered to Krsna, even without thinking of an audience. Next week when John visits for a porch meeting (with his mask), we’ll go over the manuscript for New, Newer and Newer. I have made many omissions on it, and he will have to incorporate them into his unedited copy. He is confident that we will have enough material, after my omissions, to print what he thinks is a wonderful book. We plan that to be available by 2021. In New, Newer and Newer, I’m in the grips of chronic migraine and I can’t chant my sixteen rounds’ quota. I keep trying to do it, and by the end of the book I r,each the quota again, and I’m very happy to report it. I write about the same subject of japa struggle in California Search for Gold, but I do it with much more detail in New, Newer and Newer.
I heard a recording of Prabhupada lecturing in 1966 on the occasion of Govardhana Puja. He didn’t have a published book in English, so he read the Sanskrit slokas and immediately translated them. He didn’t make many comments but just told the story. The dozen or so disciples listened with rapt attention to the “new” lila of Krsna. It was an extremely interesting treat. We had all accepted Swamiji as our guru, and so we listened submissively to the story coming from Prabhupada. It was “far out” for us to hear how Krsna lifted Govardhana Hill on the pinkie of His left hand and held it for seven days. And Swamiji told it with so much confidence and conviction that we dared not doubt him. At the end of the lecture, he announced that there would be a feast; everyone was invited, and the prasadam would be ready at 11:00 a.m. In those early days Swamiji himself cooked, assisted by Kirtanananda and Acyutananda. A typical feast menu included rice with peas, vegetable-stuffed samosas, sweet rice, halava, puris and subjis. Devotees would eat voraciously, taking seconds and thirds.
By this time, guests were coming for the festival-feast, and the devotees were serving out the prasadam. At that time we had no Govardhana-sila (pebble or rock from Govardhana Hill), but we were impressed with the importance of Giri-Govardhana in krsna-lila. The whole day was a special surprise—the reading from Sanskrit, the talk, and hours later, the sumptuous feast. Prabhupada was showing us how Krsna consciousness was always new and full of celebrations.
On another recording, Prabhupada spoke on verses about the brahmacari living in the spiritual master’s gurukula. He described the brahmacari’s dress. He would wear a deerskin (and sleep on it so that no snakes would disturb him). He would carry a waterpot. Two times a day he would go out and beg alms from the householders. He did not expect them to give much, just a little grains and dal, etc. All that he collected he would give to the spiritual master. The spiritual master would offer it to the Deity, and everyone would take prasadam. But if on a particular day the spiritual master forgot to call an individual brahmacari, that boy would not ask for food but would fast. All the boys wore their hair in dreadlocks and practiced strict celibacy. They learned the Vedas and chanted Hare Krsna. They regarded their spiritual master as a friend. That was the way it was done in days of yore. The essence is the same, but details have been changed such as using the deerskin or wearing dreadlocks. Brahmacari training was the strong basis and foundation of the Vedic system, and brahmacaris and ksatriyas would attend the gurukula and grow up strong in character and behavior. Even Hiranyakasipu knew the philosophy as he was trained. It was shown when he preached to the lamenting relatives of his deceased younger brother Hiranyaksa. He taught them that material life is mortal, but the eternal soul transmigrates to another body at death.
At the Govardhana Retreat, Sacinandana Maharaja always speaks on transformation. Srila Rupa Gosvami has given a step-by-step process for how to advance. Initially there is a little faith, sraddha, when he’s curious to know about the Hare Krsna movement. Next he associates with devotees and gains great devotion by chanting and hearing with them. The next step is bhajana-kriya. The candidate asks the spiritual master to initiate him, and he vows to follow the rules and regulations. Gradually he develops firm faith (nistha). After this comes taste (ruci). This can bring about ecstatic symptoms in the practice of serving the devotees who are more advanced than oneself. Further stages are bhava, at which ecstatic symptoms develop. The process culminates in krsna-prema, the summit of realizations. Sacinandana Swami strongly recommends attending the yearly Govardhana Retreats. It is an ideal situation for transformations. The devotees sit in view of Giri-Govardhana and hear krsna-katha talks by qualified devotees. The Retreats have been going on for nineteen years, and the devotees who regularly attend show signs of tangible advancement and absorption and transcendental bliss.
I heard Sacinandana Swami talking about Krsna-karnamrta. He said when Bilvamangala made himself blind on the way to Vrndavana, all the strings on Cintamani’s vina broke where she was living in Hardwar. She wondered whether the breaking of the strings had something to do with Bilvamangala Thakura. She inquired about him and learned there was a blind babaji living in Vrndavana, and that people said Krsna came to him every day and delivered sweet rice. He was singing beautiful songs about Krsna of his own composition. Cintamani, who was Bilvamangala’s vartma-pradarsaka guru, wanted to see him. She traveled to Vrndavana and found him at Brahma-kunda. He was indeed blind, but he was happy singing songs of Krsna and Radha. She went up to him and spoke to him. She said she would like to receive a pot of sweet rice from Krsna just as he got one every day. Krsna then appeared with two pots of sweet rice, and they shared it. Cintamani received saksad-darsana of Krsna in His eternal form, and Bilvamangala saw Radha and Krsna in his heart. (To be continued)
Right in the midst of Janmastami I received a letter from a pujari who’s having a conflict with the head pujari in the temple. He has removed her from her service of dressing Radha-Krsna and doing some baking. He said he’s doing this for her health, but she thinks he has a different agenda—her health is improved. There’s a system where one can appeal to higher authorities in the Deity Ministry, and so she is writing to them with her complaint. I usually don’t get involved in managerial conflicts, marriages, etc. I prefer to give spiritual advice. I gave her permission to use the appeals system so there will not be any backlash against me personally. Nowadays there are appeal boards, marriage counseling, and other committees so that the gurus and sannyasis don’t have to get involved in intervening with temple authorities on behalf of their disciples. I’m getting more letters like this from siksa devotees asking me to intervene in squabbles they’re having with temple authorities and other disagreements, and I’m giving them the same advice.
“The cicadas are rattling. Throughout the farm it’s summer-quiet. Blue haze in the trees. The odor of fresh-cut hay. My illness gives me the opportunity to minutely observe the changes of season here at Gita-nagari, but I wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to observe as closely the life of Vrndavana. In Vrndavana the changes in calendar are wed more closely to Vaisnava activities. Yet Gita-nagari is breaking new ground for Lord Caitanya’s movement. As an example of varnasrama community in the remote lands of the mlecchas, it is a spiritual miracle. And Krsna has put me here, in a particular body: let me serve and praise Him.
the cicadas have arrived,
‘Only eight days left.’
His procession should be sunny—
not like today.
preparing my lecture
while the ducks swim by.”
“The weather changed today, below fifty degrees all morning. Devotees bought me new sweatshirts and knit hats. Soon we will stop using the peacock fan.
“My disciple R. dasi visited me. She has left her husband and run away with another man, but has been persuaded by her brother to come back. I asked her to spend a day at Gita-nagari before I spoke with her, and suggested that she should pray to Krsna for the answer. When I asked her if she had reached any resolve, she said that she had decided to do whatever I said. It was simple, straightforward preaching for me, upholding the religious principles. At first she said that since she had now committed a scandal, she might as well go all the way and be completely scandalous. Her other argument was that she was now attached to the man she had sinned with. I told her that devotees are kind and will forgive her for mistakes. She can become glorious for coming back to Krsna after a serious mistake. I told her how I had stopped taking my medicines abruptly even though there was supposed to be some withdrawal pain, and how by Krsna’s mercy that pain was reduced. Similarly there would be pain of attachment as she cut off relationships with her ‘lover,’ but eventually this renunciation would lead her to the real happiness. Real happiness is when we do something right and feel the peace and righteousness.”
“SECOND DAY OF THE ISKCON WORLD MEETING AT NEW VRINDABAN
“I had an all-night headache and I’m not able to attend the meetings. I’ll attend in the afternoon. I got information about what went on in yesterday afternoon’s meetings, and it’s more of the same. They are complicated issues, but mainly there’s a feeling that there must be a change. But there is resistance to this change.
“I agree that there should be change, although I don’t have a deep feeling of guilt or wrong about what I’ve been doing, and I don’t find so much a sense of that either in my GBC Godbrothers. I mean I can’t enter the hearts and activities of Godbrothers to understand just how wrong they are or how devious they are and make a judgment on them. I can certainly hear that many Godbrothers are displeased. If we all were very responsive and surrendered, that would be better.
“I really don’t know how it will end, but I’m certainly caught in between both ways, being condemned categorically and sympathetic to both sides. The devotees here are representatives of the world of ISKCON, but not entirely. But they’re pushing everything through by force of their enthusiasm and conviction.
“It’s an ordeal and a purification that I am willing to go through, and I regret that I haven’t got the physical capacity to partake in it fully. Wanting others to think right of me, I also regret that they may think that I am not able to take part because of some kind of moral weakness, which is not the fact. The pressure of these events may trigger off headaches, as would any intense event, and no doubt many others at this meeting are getting headaches. But for them the headache is suppressed by a pill or lasts for a few hours on its own, whereas my headaches will go on for twenty-four hours.
“So there’s the old syndrome of the person who’s still convalescing trying to be understood by the vital, healthy ones. And that is occurring at a time of more intense demand than ever. So I have to just take care of myself first, partake in the meetings as I can, make my own position clear. After all, I’m not going to decide everything. I’ll just do the best I can at this meeting, and the best I can after the meeting, with the aim to cooperate with Godbrothers, devotees, and disciples in ISKCON.”
“My reportage will be anti-climactic. After verses and paragraphs of anticipation of Country Ratha-yatra, now what do I have to say? So many images at once! Perhaps this will be more what it’s like when I get well again, that things happen so fast I cannot report them in detail. There’s too much to capture unless one meticulously becomes the news reporter of the day’s events. I cannot be a news reporter because all my attention is geared to functioning, getting through it successfully, serving. And I’ve been successful so far.
“I gave out fifteen names and fifteen brahmana threads and performed a marriage and did my duty, and it went right. The sun was out, Gour Hari was there making humorous remarks, the ladies and their children, the ladies and their men, the brahmacaris, Mahanidhi Swami performing the fire sacrifice, and now the parade.
“I didn’t fall apart. Sat for two hours. Only some pain in the eye.
“Mr. Hoover, our neighbor across the river, decides today—of all days—to cut down creekside trees with his power saw. This places him strategically in view of the Ratha-yatra. While we are waiting for the cart to come down, suddenly there’s a loud crash as Mr. Hoover saws a tree which tumbles into the river. Exactly what is he doing? No one seems to know. Anyway, the kirtana will drown him out.
“Now I can hear Jagannatha’s kirtana starting down the dirt road. I, who have been a recluse for months, now see familiar faces of devotees wherever I turn. Look out squirrels! And look out Mr. Hoover!”
“It was a long procession, but it was wonderful. I was able to squirt the devotees with water from fire extinguishers as I rode in an ox-drawn sled between Prabhupada’s cart, which led the procession, and Lord Jagannatha’s. Hour after hour, we chanted, walked in the sunshine, and I exchanged with the devotees by spraying them with water and sometimes throwing cookies to them. At one point near the end, one of the oxen pulling my sled became too exhausted to go on. He was breathing so heavily his sides were heaving in and out. At Vaisnava dasa’s suggestion I squirted him with water from the extinguisher. Wetting him up and down, including his legs and feet, he seemed to revive by the cooling. Then we proceeded for the last mile. Now the large feast is beginning, but my own participation is over and I am back in the cabin.
“There are hundreds of devotees here now. My day was completely different than usual, with intense exchanges with the devotees from the oxen sled, but now I’m back to my old routine, even while devotees and guests roam Gita-nagari. Many are wandering through the woods as I often do. I can see a saffron-dressed brahmacari sitting by the creekside. Most devotees here are from the cities, and some of them are meandering away from the main festival area, looking for peaceful moments alone. They have quickly found the Gita-nagari charm.
“In terms of medicine, today was a large intake of love.”
“So while you are chanting, you don’t have to get to something else or go somewhere else or wait for ‘it’ to happen, but you just have to realize that this is actually Krsna. Then, as you realize Krsna more, you get more into the chanting. You realize that the chanting is simply to chant Krsna’s name, and you want to do it more and more.
“Of course, in a sense it is true that the chanting leads to a breakthrough and to higher understanding, but to higher understanding of the same thing—that Krsna is His name, that Krsna is actually His name. And then you realize it more—that actually Krsna is His name. Sometimes we gain a little understanding of it. We say, ‘You know, I’ve been chanting. I am understanding that actually the name is Krsna.’ Or we may be reading and then understand, ‘Oh, actually the name is Krsna. Krsna is His name, Krsna is so wonderful, and Krsna is appearing in His name.’ Improving chanting means realizing this more and more. Just like with the Deity— Krsna is standing on the altar, so we keep going and seeing Krsna. The best way to take His darsana is to get more and more realization that Krsna is actually here. Not that you have to see a light coming from the Deity or see Him move, but He has come in this form. He’s exactly Krsna in this brass form. He’s not brass, He’s Krsna—but exactly as He is. The name is like this. The name is actually Krsna. Not that by chanting—then something else. But the sound vibration is Krsna. It’s just a matter of becoming submissive or receptive. Prabhupada uses the phrase ‘aural reception.’ We produce this sound, and we hear it; this is yoga. Therefore, it’s such a simple process. We can make all advancement.”
“The beads of wood pass through his fingers; japa begins for the tiny jiva, pacing and calling out to Krsna in pre-dawn solitude.
“It cleans the heart of the dust accumulated from many lifetimes; it extinguishes the fire of repeated birth and death. It is not so easy. But even the shadow-name offered by a shadow devotee, even the first step counts a million times better than anything else.
“He has the beads properly in his hands and the Name on his lips. He walks, but he tires. But if he sits, he sleeps. They say even the beginner is engaged in love of God, just as an unripe mango is a mango even though not like the ripened mango.
“. . . . Just the utterance will save him, as it saved Ajamila. He pours out so many names, all imperfect from the chanter, like poorly-manufactured products from a defective assembly line—and yet each name retains its perfection.
“ . . . Guides of the holy name, please grant the extra spark of mercy to the slow chanters of Your holy names! Ah, but You have already done this! Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu has gone to unlimited lengths to deliver us by this easiest and sublime method. It is up to us. Now if we refuse! No, it is unspeakable. We must accept—we will not remain so fallen.
“The Vaisnava poet declares that he must have been cursed by Yamaraja and therefore he has no taste for devotional practices. Yet it is also true that Srila Prabhupada has come and rescued us from our own distaste for bhakti. By his chanting and dancing we are attracted, and by his order we go on patiently, placing the maha-mantra on our heads and aspiring to serve Him.”
“Then there was a nice moment later in the airport in London. I was standing by myself waiting for my danda to come off the oversize luggage area and I was trying to think of Krsna by praying, saying little prayers like, ‘Please have mercy on this sinner. My dear Lord Krsna, please let me think of You.’ Then I thought that one should actually think of the pastimes of Krsna, so I thought of the verse man-mana bhava mad-bhakto, and I began to analyze it in my mind. It means ‘Always think of Me.’ What does that mean? Well, Prabhupada says it means to think of Vedic literatures. So I thought of the Bhagavad-gita a little bit, and thought maybe I should read the Bhagavad-gita more because it contains Krsna’s words. It then occurred to me that the whole idea of praying mixes in with all other advised forms of Krsna consciousness, like thinking of verses and Vedic literature. That’s also remembering or praying. These things don’t usually occur to me. They don’t come alive, but through prayer, things like thinking of verses or sections of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam actually take on more of a substance as something always to be thought of.
“It also occurred to me that usually we don’t think like this at all, or at least I do not have such mental life. Even if I am traveling or doing things in service, how often do I really think in a prayerful way about Krsna? When you do, however, it puts you on a completely different level of reality than what is going on immediately before you (such as talking with the girls at the desk where I am trying to find my danda). Then it occurred to me that wherever I may go or whatever I may do, the ordinary reality will not satisfy me. If I attain this inner life, then I will be satisfied. If I am in a very bad place, I will also get great relief by being able to think of Krsna. This dimension of inner life is so important, and I got a little tiny taste of it. Now I shouldn’t let it become so completely disrupted or interrupted or forgotten. There is a way of life which is more conducive to this, and that way should be followed.”
“Gunshots, loud and more of them.
So much trouble in each life,
and me with meager resources.
A disciple wrote me,
‘You tell us to follow the rules
but we need to be hugged, your philosophy
doesn’t grow corn and run oxen.
People hurt us and play games,
so what are you going to do?
We don’t see you as the one who can heal.’
“I go out the back door
into the woods,
come back healed but
Who can help the deer?”
“Those who showed up at mangala-arati:
Me and Mathuresa,
a little kid in an orange dhoti,
Baladeva, who cruised in overnight
in his Iveco truck,
Janaka returning from Atlanta, (the flower business
he was planning didn’t work out),
strong Steve was there in his
and Acarya dasa, Bhubhrt,
Gudakesa . . .
“The main Persons are Radha and Damodara,
and Tulasi-devi who is growing to the left
searching after sunlight.
As we serve her, we gain love of Krsna,
and therefore we’ve come.”
“To illustrate the foolishness of becoming a blind follower, Prabhupada told a story about the death of Sargal Singh.
“Sargal Singh was very much loved by a merchant, so when Sargal Singh died, the man shaved his head and wore dark clothes. When another man came into the merchant’s shop, he asked who had died.
“‘Sargal Singh has died,’ said the merchant. The visitor did not want to seem ignorant, so he did not ask who Sargal Singh was, but he also shaved his head and wore dark clothes. Other people in town began to follow, not wanting to appear ignorant. When anyone asked who had died, they replied, ‘Sargal Singh has died.’
When a minister of the king saw so many citizens in mourning he also wore dark clothes and shaved his head, but when the king saw this, he inquired, ‘Why are you mourning and for whom?’
“‘Sargal Singh,’ the minister replied. The king asked, ‘Who is that?’ When the minister couldn’t answer the king told him to find out. The minister then inquired and inquired and finally reached the merchant.
“‘Who is Sargal Singh?’
“The merchant replied, ‘Sargal Singh was my donkey, whom I loved very much.’”
“The ground is always being cut out from under my feet. I have no laurels to rest on, no stock of praises to create complacency. Whatever encouragement I receive is immediately consumed by the hungry, temporary ego-self. He knows that he cannot live on praise—it gets him through today, but what about tomorrow? I am perpetually impoverished. Let me live the life of a brahmana. Whatever he gets in one day he must give away in charity by nighttime. In that way, he starts each day fresh. His pockets are empty, but his heart is clean. He knows Krsna is maintaining him.
“A proud person who lives in the world without personally recognizing God’s will and His desires for us wastes the human form of life. Regardless of what our past karma has given us in this life, the material energy continues to deceive us and delivers us cruel blows of Fate. In the end we are discarded, just like a plastic cup thrown onto the garbage heap by the consumer. Material nature is merciless.
“No one how to end this decay, the accumulation of garbage and waste known as human history. No one even knows what it is, although there is so much speculation. The Vedic directions inform us how the destruction works, why it so happens that we live and dream a brief while, and then we are chucked aside. Vedic directions also inform us how to stop torturing each other during our brief life in these bodies. Although the Vedic social model was recognized successfully in history for thousands of years, modern historians deny its authenticity and relegate the Vedas to the world of mythology. Without knowledge of the Vedic instructions, how can anyone become free from the cycle of birth, death, disease and old age?
“Srila Prabhupada is the representative of Lord Caitanya. He specifically came to the West to teach how to live properly and happily and in God consciousness. Therefore he wrote many books to act as guides for social and spiritual order. He pushed his disciples to distribute his books widely so that as many people as possible would have an opportunity to hear the reality of Krsna consciousness. Again, we can only be grateful to Prabhupada in the face of such an achievement, and we patiently serve and wait for the day when his books will become the law books for humankind.”
“What are the barriers preventing me from loving service to Srila Prabhupada? For a pure devotee, even death is not a barrier, but I am not a pure devotee.
One barrier is the resistance I’ve built up against reading his books. It’s just a bad habit. In order to be regulated at it, it takes deliberate planning on my part. I remember when we stayed a couple of weeks in Kerry near the Skelligs Rocks. I read a solid hour every day in the Fourth Canto (the Kumaras speaking to Maharaja Prthu). I sat on the floor, back straight, book on a box in front of me. It required a touch of Spartan discipline to fight against sleepiness. Eventually I did it though.
“A few summers ago, also in Kerry, I was reading Prabhupada’s books for three and a half hours daily. I kept track of it in a log. I have to make a deliberate yajna like that. It’s also better for me that I don’t read just to write about it. I need to read for the sake of reading. It’s the most basic way to fill up the empty tank of the spirit soul. The BBT likes to quote Srila Prabhupada, ‘If you really want to please me . . . distribute my books.’ Prabhupada also said, ‘If you really want to know me, read my books.’
“By performing basic, Prabhupada-given sadhana, like reading and chanting Hare Krsna with full attention, the barriers to my pure association with Prabhupada will fall away. There are no shortcuts to following his order.”
“The next song is everyone’s favorite, suddha-bhakata-carana-renu.’ I remember reading it in a small collection of unpublished translations passed among the devotees. It struck me more than the other passages. It opened a window for me to understand bliss. It is such an open acknowledgment of the joy Bhaktivinoda Thakura feels in devotional service. It can be true for us too.
“‘My mind always begs for the opportunity to hear the music of the mrdanga.” (Srila Prabhupada said, ‘When I hear a mrdanga played in Germany, I become ecstatic’—the joy of the world preacher.) ‘Upon hearing the kirtana ordained by Lord Caitanya, my heart dances in ecstasy.’ (Saranagati 6.3.4)
“‘I feel the greatest joy when I see the Deity forms of Radha and Krsna. When I honor the Lord’s prasada, I conquer over worldly illusions.’ Miracles take place by the simple execution of bhakti practices in the heart of the pure devotee. Especially this one—‘Goloka Vrndavana appears in my home whenever I see the worship and service of Lord Hari taking place there.’ On reading these lines, we want to tell each other, ‘Look what can happen!’
“When I first read the next line, it was translated like this: ‘When I take the caranamrta which flows from the Deities, I see it as the Ganges coming directly from the lotus feet of Krsna.’
“It depends on your purity, but all these things are possible and potent within the seva. Everyone can meditate like this. We simply have to look at our everyday occurrences with faith. Have faith in the activities that are favorable to pure devotional service. They are designed to provoke ecstasy. Tulasi devi pleases Krsna, so if you serve her, why will you not see how she pleases Him? When you honor sak, one of Lord Caitanya’s favorite vegetable preparations, you can consider your life worthwhile.
“Do what is favorable.”
“One may also say, ‘You claim that your spiritual master is special for teaching Krsna consciousness, but all he is doing is presenting the Vaisnava tradition. Why do you focus on him so completely? Don’t you think that’s naive?’
“But we heard from Srila Prabhupada. He is not just an ordinary speaker. He was a vigorous preacher who created a Krsna consciousness revolution around the world. It is only natural that we repeat what we have heard from him, and natural that we express our gratitude to him. We note his preaching methods. He knew how to preach to us; therefore, we are especially eager to listen to him within the tradition of Vaisnava preachers. We are indebted to him. The Vaisnava conclusion states that one cannot hear directly from Krsna; one has to hear from Krsna’s representative. Prabhupada is that representative for us.
“As we hear from Prabhupada, we also begin to recognize other preachers and ways of presenting the parampara. We were naive in the beginning of ISKCON. We thought no one knew anything about Krsna except Prabhupada, or we assumed that everyone would teach the philosophy in exactly the same way. Now we know there are other Vaisnavas and other ways to present the same conclusion. But this does not diminish our desire to hear directly from Prabhupada. Our equating Krsna consciousness with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is not accidental; we deliberately cultivate this loyalty on the advice of the sastras. Unless we please our spiritual master, Krsna will not be pleased with us.”
“I want to be a priest. I want to inquire more about You and know more about You. I want to have a sweet relationship with You, more than a relationship of awe and reverence. I want to keep advancing in my relationship with You and not be stagnant. I want to go on a date with You and converse and have fun with You. I want to be very grave about my relationship with You, very serious. I want to celebrate with You. I want to sit with You and honor the remnants of Your food. I want to feel the sensation that You’re paying attention to me only, the way You do when You’re having lunch with the cowherd boys and each one thinks You’re looking at him only. I want You to trust me to carry a message from You to the gopis. I want to take part in tollgate pastimes with You and block the gopis from going past without paying You a toll. I want to hear the witty talk that You engage with them when You defeat them and when they sometimes defeat You.
“I want to see You confront a great demon and not be afraid and witness You kill and deliver him. I want to be a student in Your class where You are teaching as Nimai Pandit and be able to keep up with the lesson, which is all about Krsna. I’d like to see You frighten demons like Aristasura (the bull demon) and Bakasura (the duck demon) and see them be very scared of You.
“I’d like to see You in nature—really see You in a flower, like the lilac on a spring day (‘Of seasons, I am flower-bearing spring’), in an isolated stretch of beach with mild breakers, in a big oak tree, in a pansy.
“I’d like to see You in my heart as two-armed Krsna and in my small Radha-Govinda murti in saksad darsana.
“I want to feel very humble and unworthy before You, yet maintain ‘hope against hope.’ I want to glimpse Your personal beauty and feel proud that You are my Lord. I want to feel Your protection against dangers. I want to enjoy laughter with You and feel secure in Your company. I want to feel conviction in the various verses in Bhagavad-gita where You are speaking directly to me, like, ‘Declare it boldly, My devotee will never perish,’ and ‘He who worships Me and bows down to Me will come to Me,’ and ‘He who thinks of Me at the time of death will come to Me,’ and ‘He who knows the nature of My appearance and activities will not upon leaving the body come back to this world but will come to Me.’
“I want You to accept me as Your devotee and as a bona fide disciple of Srila Prabhupada. I want to please You with loving service. I specifically want to chant the Hare Krsna mantra with love. There are many other things I wish to achieve in my relationship with You, and I will mention them at another time. I want to go on petitioning You and praising You always.”
“Free Write – admit there is no subject page after page; are you qualified to be guru?
“Listen folks, the ranch show is about to begin. We are holding secrets of our future plans as to where we will be in December.
“As I write this the rain is pouring down heavily. The cows are not grazing but sitting it out. Can you give us something worthy, friend? I can report a little more Cc. and see where that leads us.
“LC said the avataras are taking place continually in the unlimited universes of the material world and simultaneously they are occurring in the spiritual world. In the material world each lila moves from one universe to another the way the sun moves across the earth. It is difficult to understand, but hear from the sastras. Then He begins to tell the different ages of Lord Krsna, who never grows older than the kaisora age. Nava yauvana ca. I read it, but it was dull and not totally believable. You think unconsciously, ‘How could this be? How could this one Krsna who is a cowherd boy, be the source of the universes?’ They think it must be impersonal, the Spirit, or there is no spirit at all. But their own explanations are not satisfactory. God is a person, Supreme. But what kind of person? The Christians leave it vague and say Christ is His only son. They have many camps of speculators. God and His son, God the alone, the unknown, the chemicals themselves, the impersonal Brahman unchanging…no, no. But then Krsna with ankle bells, with staff and gopis? Yes, please accept it and stop arguing.
“There is no profit in arguing. Accept the Vedic literature. It is the authority. I read it and ask for the blessing whereby you can read it with sraddha and open up to it and have it revealed to you. Read more. Even though it is not going so smoothly always. Krsna is the source of all the avataras. There are many Visnus, and they’re all above the material nature. The Sivas and Brahmas are associated with the material modes of nature. When there is no living entity fit to be a Brahma, Lord Visnu takes the place. Siva is special, like yogurt . . . he’s not God, but he’s not a jiva either. When he is untouched by matter, he is Sankarsana in the spiritual world. When he comes into this material world, he is Rudra. The science or theology eludes me. I try but never can accept it totally by realization.
Sri Krsna Caitanya. Hear the steady downpour of the rain on the roof, on the land. Be here inside this hut, dry but cool. It is the last day of July. I remember being with the Kamadhuk in Saranagati. We were parked in the woods, and then one night we had to close the windows overnight because it got cool and I realized the summer was over. That happens, and sometimes you like it when you get your sweaters out of storage. But here in Ireland you never retire your sweaters. Rain and cold never leave you.
“Krsna is the Supreme One. Often, I come downstairs and M. is reading a book or a catalog about computers and programs. He’s into it and no way out. I wish he would spend more time on the van so it will be ready for our travels in September. But it is raining, so he can’t work on it. His desire is also not that strong and now he has indoor interests. I might as well get ready to accept the possibility that in September it won’t be ready to move into, at least not finished in all particularities. It will never be fully ready. He is tired of working on it. I am tired of traveling in it. Am I tired of living in the material world?
“Maybe, but then you have to develop your KC before you actually get out of this world. I read that the naïve painter Nikifor painted some 10,000 pictures and in old age he finally received some material rewards. But by then he was tired of living and tired of painting also. No more joy of living. Does that in itself mean that you will have to take another body? No, you have to come back if you have any material desire. The sages in the old days used to go alone into the forest to live without any attachments. By meditation they fixed on freeing themselves from the cycle of birth and death, realizing themselves as spirit. Now we are told to do the same by chanting Hare Krsna and becoming very serious to follow the simple rules of no illicit sex, etc.
“‘Yes sir, yes, it is a military life of no regrets. You have to work. You spread KC in some way, and that will attract the attention of the Lord on you because that is what He wants. Do you admit you’re not doing that? Can you explain why you are working in a different way than managing an ISKCON center?’
“Yes, I can. It doesn’t seem to be my mission anymore. It used to be that I would do that, and all my activities would be consumed in outer acts. You didn’t have time to think of inner acts. You figured the outer acts would save you, working in Prabhupada’s center, somehow collecting the money, counseling the devotees, overseeing all departments. Then you go to lecture on the philosophy. And when the natural enemies came (who you considered as asuras), you beat them back as best you could. And you regularly turned to your own authorities and to coworkers for some protection that they could afford. And you read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and tried to organize your own life because you are like a businessman and executive planner. And you read Scott Peck and western psychologists to learn how to live, in community. And all these things left you not much time to chant Hare Krsna, although you knew that was important too.
“Hare Krsna. Please keep going. The movements of the hand are the heart. The purpose is a dance, and you are not allowed to stop. You will feel better when it’s over. There are trials and tribulations even in a quiet life. You overcome daily illness and threats, and you tend to duties. The mail is on the way, the editing of books is a source of joy and satisfaction. There are triumphs in life even though things don’t always go your way. So, the successful coming out of books is Krsna’s mercy on you. And when those books reach far-off people and they are favorably impressed and they say you have helped them, then you have the fullest satisfaction. That’s your reward, and you should not forget it. Recall it so you can go on and not succumb to outer and especially inner critics who tell you that you are a bum and your way of writing should be stopped. No, continue it. Fight on Krsna’s side and speed out the words of KC through the stories of daily efforts.
“Sri Krsna saranam. The music of the spheres. Aindra singing twenty-four-hour group kirtana. Sometimes in Vrndavana there’s no one hear it, but the Deities hear it. Don’t think They are only statues. When They are not giving darsana but are behind the heavy wooden doors, do They hear kirtana? Does Srila Prabhupada on his vyasasana hear over in his Samadhi Mandir? Do the sounds of the singing reach him?
“Does the sound of writing reach so far? Will it be effective? It is not as potent as Lord Caitanya’s kirtana, but at least it will partake of that spirit. Krsna Krsna. Lord Caitanya is your daily fare and rigorous life. There is no need to supplement it with the Bible and Koran.
“We are about halfway through although only four pages done. Maybe now a little slower than before. The park department, the police department, the bakers, the guttersnipes, the chimneysweepers, the computer trainers, the politicians, the doctors of all kinds, the drivers and fixers of automobiles, the hordes of criminals who steal and mug, the cheaters of many kinds, the teachers and their students, the rigorous armies, the factory workers and military men, the newspaper offices, advertising, Coca-Cola and beer and cigarette manufacturers, farmers, food processors, ladies who work at home, poets and artists who take no other job but sell their art at flea markets and other places, the displaced who walk on the streets and sleep there…These are just a few of the occupations that people take and anyone of them can cultivate an inner life. The writers of private prose, the diarists and journal-keepers who are trying for personal growth by writing down, ‘I feel angry, I feel pretty. Last night I broke up with G. But today I feel sorry.’
“Can you read this later?
“Jagannatha Puri, Damodara Pandita, kesava dhrta-narahari-rupa jaya jagadisa hare.
“They said I keep going like this. You have to give me a go-ahead to write. Give me some topics that I can quietly plan with outlines and write into an essay. Oh, that is too boring. You want to write in the actual field of writing. You keep three notebooks. You can read it later if you live so long and don’t get scuttled off to prison. What is this prison? It is not likely. Yes, but I haven’t committed any crime. Yes, but there are political prisoners just as the Nazis put people into jail. It is possible. You lose your privacy and ability to write.
“In that case I’d have to let it go, stop tending to the daily cultivation of the writing process and seek within yourself for the presence of God in chanting His names and praying for peace, for relief from headaches. You might not have your pills with you and you pray.
“In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna stands on the chariot and turns to the grief-stricken Arjuna. Arjuna has put down his bow and we can imagine he is also crying. Lord Krsna tells him that his action is not befitting an Aryan. ‘You are speaking learned words but you don’t know that a wise man doesn’t grieve for the living or the dead.’
“The words of Krsna lead us to surrender to Him. But people make a business from Krsna’s book while diverting us from Krsna Himself. The say Krsna the person is just a myth. Look at what He teaches. But the actual teaching is to surrender to Him. They say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t mean that you literally surrender to Krsna but to the unborn within Krsna.’ They don’t know that with Krsna there is no inside or outside. He is all-spiritual. His body is spirit. When He says, ‘Think of Me, bow down to Me, and offer obeisances to Me,’ He means Himself, through the guru.
“Krsna never leaves Vrndavana. He leaves in His expansion of Vasudeva. The Godbrothers in Vrndavana are hot nowadays, but they still manage to get around on parikrama and to temples and to bow down. And they stay in their rooms and chant more than sixteen rounds, and many of them worship silas such as Govardhana silas. I worship the SP murti with his blankets and the warm water on his body as long as it lasts. That’s another activity I would have to leave behind if I had to go into some hospital or something. I would say, ‘Please take care of this murti, I have to go.’ And my pens also would have to sit because you can’t take them into the place where I am going. So, until then, keep at it,
this nursery rhyme, this mercy go,
this brave enough call. He is singing the Italian song as we go over Mont Blanc, the big white chunk. We can accept the chunk theory, SP says, provided we call the chunk the mahat-tattva. And we must understand it is put into motion by the glance of Lord Hari. Then the chunk explanation is valid. Thank you very much. Please chant Hare Krsna.
“Twenty more minutes on this. Can you keep up?
“Well, I can’t beg off on the grounds that I have a headache. I’m doing all right. But this chair could be more comfortable. There, sit in closer to the desk. Now you are in a position to say more, Seymour.
“JDS wrote good books for us, and me too. Mercury and Venus, the Skylab, the jazz lab, the notes I write to Madhu and ask him to mail out my drawings and letters tape. And what about the incinerator and crematorium and the news from abroad? What about the weather report? ‘Be reasonable,’ he says. ‘Don’t expect too much of me.’
“Yes, I say, but the kind persons who write to me asking for direction…No one should assume to be a guardian unless he can save his subordinates from death. Loud voices say if you can’t save yourself, how can you claim to save others? I say that I can simultaneously save myself and in the saving process do it for others. It’s true I’m not so intrepid and fearless that I should assume to be someone’s guru. I don’t meditate on Krsna all the time. I’m unworthy. We say that the saving grace is to remember whatever Prabhupada taught and to pass it on. But even that I don’t do exclusively here. I write this jargon, this blues melody improvised.
“This is me—this is me, or rather this is what passes through me. Give me a clean fluffy towel in your bathroom. Make lunch for me. Schedule a time when I can speak for an hour to guests on SB topics. Then after that I will retire with earplugs and sleep in your house to get up and write more of this and that, the way I live.
“I admit this is not scripture.
‘How can you be a guru?’ he asks.
I say it is answered in Zen.
Do you know the pastimes of Radha and Krsna intimately?
‘No, but enough,’ he said.
And if you can’t, then why do you do it?
“It’s questionable. We don’t know for sure if we are qualified, but it is too late to turn back. Seventy-five ISKCON gurus and thousands of disciples. The internal enemies say this is all wrong, there should be only initiating guru, Srila Prabhupada. But JS has disproved their theory in an essay. SP didn’t ask for that, and it’s not the Vedic standard. He who is the disciple now becomes the guru in the future. Yes, for me personally it seems I would have done better not to do it, but it is too late.
“Michaelmas, the beer that made Fort Worth famous. The heel that made the shoe, the Krsna chimes, the Krsna ranch, the Krsna Krsna name can be inserted anywhere. It is always appropriate. He is the meaning of everyone’s name. He is the first and the last letter in the alphabet and every one in between. He does that through His all-pervading energies. So, you cannot be apart from Him. There is no non-Krsna atmosphere. But there is a place of antagonistic people who are disobeying Krsna. Even that is allowed by Him, and He punishes them through His material nature. If a pure devotee goes to such a place, he will see Krsna living there in various ways, and he will try in a humble effort to do Krsna’s work. But sometimes it seems there is nothing you can do, the asuras have such control. Thousands of people are so averse to Krsna. Yes, it is like that sometimes.
“Now the Krsna train is starting and the Indians onboard don’t speak English and we feel out of place. We want to get a hotel and rest. We feel the first signs of a headache. We are worried that we may lose our luggage. We want to put the Prabhupada murti safely somewhere. And why are we traveling anyway? It’s to get to a temple to lecture, or maybe to a writing retreat in which you will write a structured book like a novel of Punch and Judy. It’s going to be all right. We are singing
the latest song, accentuate the positive
don’t mess with Mister In-between.
“Snow flies in the Arab desert. The poems, the obscure ones seeking some relief from the tyranny and stuffiness of words. Take chance and error, surreal game, don’t worry anymore about logical sense and those connections. Yes, but insert KC or live the KC camp. The interrogators believed they could coop up pigeons and snakes to be slaughtered. The man said don’t talk of that stuff, but liberate us from typing mistakes.
“Go slower if you have to so we can read what you wrote later.
“We will live in the rare place and…avoid the bartenders who are on strike, they are serving glasses with shots of whiskey and drying the empty glasses with a white towel until they are dry and singing…The balsawood airplane made by the kid later bores him, and he breaks it. Stay indoors on a rainy day and bother your parents. They say, ‘Sit down with me and have kirtana.’ He says, ‘No, no, I don’t want to do kirtana.’ So, you can’t force the child, right? What does he want to do? He wants to see some video that he’s seen before. Okay, watch it, sit and waste your time in that way, or play with a truck or golf ball, ping-pong ball or run around the house.
“In his study the scholar is trying to make sense, trying to write a chapter on the science of a religious movement, giving his ideas how a proper society can be conducted and how we may combat inimical fanatics who work against us within the same movement, or a split from it. Nothing you can do with such people who hate you and are irrational. They are like born-again Christians who consider Hare Krsna from the devil. How can you go and talk with them? They don’t want to hear it. And those who are against you as a cult mostly don’t want to hear it. You say we have not done anything wrong, and they turn to the internet for rumors and lies.
“But the guy thinks that where there is smoke, there must be fire. And he takes to reading scurrilous stories and accusations and gets his doubts confirmed. Can you look on a sadhu anymore except in a distorted way?
“The fallout. The key is under the mat. The Aztecs were good at building. Minstrels put up posters giving us notice of next week’s rock concerts in Dublin. If the Sex Pistols are appearing again along with Elton John, I don’t want to hear him anymore.
“I will tell the man who sent me the rock opera demo tape that I am fifty-seven years old and don’t like this sort of music. What do you like? Oh, something with a flute and a voice saying to relax, you are lying on a beach, warm, and heavy breathing in and out. The waves I like, and no drums, and when I’m okay I hear the Aindra and SP kirtanas. You can call that music. I call it devotion. Be careful.
“I won’t be able to finish this last page. I’ve run out of time. If you wanna finish it, you’ll have to go over the hour. The teacher says, ‘Only two minutes, hurry up and then turn in your pages.’ Time ran out while I wasn’t looking.
“I didn’t say, ‘Surrender to Krsna’ enough, thought out loud, ‘Am I qualified to be guru?’ and admitted in a certain sense I am not but I cannot give it up. Yes, I can do this work. We can prosecute the teachings Srila Prabhupada gave us and pass it on and give them hari-nama. Don’t dilute them. Admit to them that you are just a castor tree guru and the message of our Founder-Acarya is coming through, and that’s the real potency. It’s a fact that I don’t do that when I write, I just come out with what’s on my mind because I think that it serves some purpose to move along in truthfulness to the next place where we can speak sastra and have realization in KC.”
(One hour, 9 ½ typed pages inside the hut, July 31, 1996. No headache, thanks.)