Announcements: Zoom Lectures + 2 New SDG Books Now in Print
Message from Rev. John Endler:
Dear readers of Free Write Journal,
Satsvarupa Maharaja’s latest books are now available! These books continue the current series of volumes dedicated to treasures found within the Every Day, Just Write literary series. These latest publications contain different formats: prose meditations, poetry and free-writes. This variety provides an introduction to the diversity of literary styles within the EJW project.
Due to the cancellation of the July program in Stuyvesant Falls, we are distributing Meditations and Poems by mail order. The companion summer book, Daily Compositions, is now available for purchase exclusively on Amazon.
To purchase Meditations and Poems, please send a check or money order made out to “GN Press” for $15 (including USA shipping) to: Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, P.O. Box 233, Stuyvesant Falls, NY 12174. For international orders, please go to Amazon.com. Happy reading!
For two weeks I’ve been selecting writings from my two new books to read for the Zoom presentation on Saturday, August 22 at 11:00 a.m. Here is one of my favorite poems:
“Krsna and Prabhupada
and many lines. He said he read
in a book on stone walls—
which you see throughout
rural Ireland—that the
best walls were made by
placing each rock just once
onto another, no going
back to do it over.
“All over Ireland. I said I
thought it was forced labor,
by the British. No, he said,
there are so many rocks in
the fields they had to do
something with them.
“Go back into the house and open
Srimad-Bhagavatam. That’s what
you are meant for. Student
book work. But building
walls must contain some
metaphor, ask him . . .
why and how he’s building a
garden wall for another
man, does he think
this man is a guru?
“Or ask him how can I
serve you? No, no, be
aloof. Work indoors,
no wine or smoke—
just be calm and stroke
with the pen. If your head
was clear you’d read Vyasa
after these lines
put down once and don’t
move them from here.”
I have been feeling very tired lately, especially in recent weeks. It has been increasing. It comes out especially during the time of my exercise regimen. I am going downhill in each of the exercises I do. I used to walk six laps behind the walker, but now I can only do two. My performance on the stationary bike has fallen way off. I used to do one mile in over eight minutes, but now I’ve fallen so far behind. I can’t reach a mile until I do it for ten and a half minutes or even eleven minutes. This is alarming. This may be connected to my COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). For this we are going to see the pulmonologist in a couple of weeks. So far no one has given a clear diagnosis as to why I am so exhausted, but it’s alarming to me. We thought my diabetes might be a possible cause. I did blood work, and the result was that my diabetes count was high. So I have a new medication for that.
I received a video in the mail of Mahadyuti Swami speaking of his association with me in the beginning of the Library Party days. He spoke highly of me and said I was the most influential person for him in Krsna consciousness. I was very touched to hear him speak this way. We were close in those old days, and I was surprised to hear him remember it now that he’s a swami and a guru. I have not been in touch with him for years. Naturally he looked older, but handsome. He has matured well with the years. He thanked me for teaching him the simple melody for samsara-dava prayers at mangala-arati the way Prabhupada taught me. (But it isn’t done that way hardly anywhere in ISKCON anymore.) Mahadyuti Maharaja sings it the way I taught him every morning, and he thinks of me.
Bhurijana was speaking about the birth of Krsna in Vrndavana. All the residents of Vrndavana were in bliss on seeing the beautiful form of Krsna. Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda were especially blissful, since they were older and Nanda had not yet conceived a child. He gave and gave in charity to all the brahmanas, and whoever came to see his child. The atmosphere in Vrndavana was just the opposite of that in Mathura, where Kamsa was planning to terrorize the Vaisnavas. In Vrndavana it was a grand festival, and all the matajis and cowherd men came running to see the child. Nanda simply asked the brahmanas to bless his son to live a long life. He gave them in charity abundantly and whatever they wanted. They also rewarded him profusely with gifts. Only a few days after Krsna’s birth, Nanda decided to go to Mathura to see Kamsa and pay the taxes. On the surface it seems a little odd that Nanda would leave his child so soon after His appearance. But the acaryas explain that Nanda Maharaja wanted to divert attention away from Vrndavana. He didn’t want Kamsa’s men coming to Vrndavana to collect the taxes or making any inspection. He didn’t want them laying their eyes on Krsna. So he went swiftly to Kamsa, paid the taxes and gave him gifts. Kamsa was pacified and didn’t go to Vrndavana.
While in Mathura, Nanda had a friendly meeting with his close relative Vasudeva. They exchanged sweet words. But Vasudeva said to Nanda Maharaja that since he had paid the taxes he should go at once back to Vrndavana because Vasudeva thought there may be some disturbances there. The decree had already gone out from Kamsa to kill all the babies born within ten days because of his fear that Krsna might be born. Actually, while Nanda Maharaja was away, the first demon already arrived in Vrndavana. She was Putana, a gigantic witch who disguised herself as a beautiful woman. Baby Krsna, merely an infant, grabbed hold of her breast, which she had smeared with poison, and He sucked out her life and killed her. This happened while Nanda Maharaja was away in Mathura. When he came home and saw the dead body of Putana, he was amazed that Vasudeva had prophesized there would be trouble in Vrndavana. He considered Vasudeva a great seer and mystic to know about the future.
Jagattarini Mataji spoke on Krsna and the gopis. Krsna left the gopis, and they were in despair. They questioned the trees and the flowers and tulasi whether they knew the whereabouts of Krsna, whether He had passed by there. (Jagattarini’s performance was outstanding. She used to be a professional actress, and she used her talents, crying and lamenting in the voices of the gopis. She cried out to Krsna in lamenting emotion: “Where are You?”) Finally the gopis found Krsna’s footprints on the forest floor. They identified them by the symbolic marks on Krsna’s soles. They followed the footprints with hope. But after a while, they saw another pair of footprints intertwined with Krsna’s. They cried out, “This gopi must have worshiped Krsna the best, that He left all of us to be with Her.” Radharani wanted Her sakhi friends to catch up to Her. She acted in a way that Krsna disappeared from Her, and She fell to the ground, crying. The gopis came by and soon discovered Her. She honestly told them all that had happened between Her and Krsna. The gopis became sympathetic to Her. Radharani then joined them, and they all searched for Krsna as the night got darker. Finally they could see no further, so they sat down on the bank of the Yamuna and began singing songs of separation from Krsna. Krsna was watching from a little distance. He was so drawn by their sorrowful singing that He came out of the bushes and revealed Himself. Jagattarini stopped here and said tomorrow night she would tell how the gopis questioned Krsna as to what kind of a lover He preferred. Jagattarini’s performances of Krsna and the gopis are the most confidential and nectarean talks at the Govardhana Retreat.
I listened to Jagattarini Mataji speak on how she prepares for talks at the Govardhana Retreat. She researches thoroughly and sometimes struggles until she can find a breakthrough for how to present the material. She says she finds the commentaries by the previous Vaisnava acaryas very valuable. Sanatana Gosvami, Visvanatha Cakravarti, and the original Bhagavatam commentator, Sridhara Svami, provide valuable insights to the Bhagavatam verses. She said Prabhupada always traveled with a big book which contained a number of commentaries by the acaryas, and he used them in his purports. They are invaluable for understanding the Bhagavatam. She conducted questions and answers, and I understood that she is very much looked up to by the devotees who go to the Govardhana Retreats. And she is wise and deeply learned in Krsna consciousness. She said her basic answer to all questions was “Yes and no,” referring to acintya-bheda-bheda-tattva. She is not prideful but self-effacing and often laughs loudly at her own imperfections.
Jagattarini has been speaking at length about the rasa-lila. A devotee asked her why did she say it was so difficult preparing for the talks on Lord Brahma’s stealing the calves, cows and cowherd boys and then making beautiful prayers to Krsna when he was enlightened? She said she found it very difficult to understand Brahma’s prayers. There are 40 verses of them, and when she went to the Vaisnava acaryas she found that they also did not write much about Brahma’s prayers. Kavi-karnapura merely says, “Lord Brahma spoke beautiful prayers to Krsna,” but he doesn’t linger on it. She mentioned that Krsna appeared indifferent to the prayers of Lord Brahma, and He didn’t even make any comment on them. But they are beautiful, exalted prayers, and Brahma finally expresses his desire to be born as grass in Vrndavana so that the gopis would step on him. He speaks with great devotion about the Vrajavasis and their spontaneous love for Krsna.
I am listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures on Sri Isopanisad, delivered in 1970 in Los Angeles. In the class everyone had a book, and Prabhupada led the devotees in chanting all the mantras out loud. It was our first time to chant the mantras daily, and devotees began to memorize them all. Prabhupada made it clear that the Personality of Godhead in this Isopanisad was Krsna. He was the only one to do this. In a famous sloka near the end of the book, the devotee prays to the Lord, “Please remove the glowing effulgence around You so that I may see Your personal form.” The book had been recently published in 1970, and it had cover art of four-armed Lord Visnu in bright colors. Posters of the cover were made, and they were popular even with the college students, hippies, seekers, etc. The book is a little technical, and in his lectures Prabhupada felt free to talk of many subject matters. One class was devoted to eating food that had been offered first to Krsna. Those who don’t do this are committing sin. The devotees not only distributed the book, but they read it enthusiastically and held classes on it in all the different temples. Prabhupada had written the book in India and published it in his Back to Godhead magazine.
I heard Prabhupada speaking in 1970 in Los Angeles. He was reading from the Isopanisad, recently published. But on this day he talked a lot about Lord Buddha. He said Lord Buddha cheated His atheistic followers. They told Him they didn’t believe in God. Buddha said, “I also don’t believe in God, but you follow what I say.” He preached to them ahimsa paramo dharma: nonviolence is the highest dharma. They were indulging in meat-eating on the plea that it was sanctioned by the Vedas. He told them He didn’t follow the Vedas, but they should give up meat-eating on His order. He told them the ill effects of meat eating. When Prabhupada (then called “Swamiji”) kept saying that Buddha cheated his followers, Prabhupada’s young followers in 1966 heartily laughed again and again, and Prabhupada laughed too. Swamiji said Buddha’s followers said, “We have such a nice leader. He doesn’t believe in God.” But by following Buddha they were actually following God. He is described in the scriptures as an avatara of Krsna, so His mission was very important, and He was sent by Krsna to preach a temporary instruction needed at that time.
Rev. John Endler came for his weekly visit. He wore a mask and kept eight feet away, and we sat on the porch with a fan directing the air away from us. He read to me from different books, sections he appreciated, and told me why he liked them. Getting his enthusiastic response was enlivening to me. I enjoy feedback from anyone who reads my books. John was especially excited about the Zoom talk I’m giving this Saturday, August 22 at 11:00 a.m., when I’m going to read from my two new published books, Daily Compositions and Meditations and Poems. John is going to give a five-minute introduction, speaking in a way to help the readers appreciate my writing. He is going to tell the viewers how they can order my two new books. It will be a good occasion for book distribution.
Since our July 4th meeting was cancelled because of the pandemic, the mail-order process is the best we can do. I will still sign the books and write the names of the persons who are receiving them. If our collection of books runs out, the readers can order them from Amazon. John is also enthusiastic to distribute older books that we have in stock that people may not have in their collection. He’s going to post an announcement for Under Dark Stars and Write and Die. (Meanwhile Satyasara d.d. is typing my book Forgetting the Audience, which was published in a limited edition 35 years ago in the series “Books Among Friends.” This one is a favorite of John, Krishna Bhajana and I.)
I received two letters about devotees who are moving on in life. One concerned me. A disciple sent me some ancient Christian scrolls which had recently been discovered in Egypt. She thought, because of my previous interest in the Christian saints, that I would be interested in this new discovery. It is about a “Gospel of Judas.” I didn’t read the material but told her I wasn’t interested anymore in Christian literature. I expressed the hope that she was reading Krsna conscious literature. My interest in the Krsna consciousness of Christian saints was about 30 years ago, and people shouldn’t think I’m still interested in it.
The other letter was from a person who seriously practiced Buddhism for many years but is now seriously coming to Krsna consciousness. He has even approached an ISKCON initiating guru and asked to become his disciple, and the guru has agreed. This person recently met a Buddhist friend from his past association. He spoke Krsna consciousness to him and told him how Buddhist thought wasn’t satisfying to him anymore. The Buddhist friend couldn’t understand Krsna consciousness, and they didn’t go into debate. But my friend has definitely moved on and left his Buddhist practice. He is becoming a serious candidate for Vaisnavism.
In our out-loud reading, we are hearing of the churning of the Milk Ocean, where a large amount of poison was produced. It spread throughout the world. Lord Visnu wanted to give the credit for saving the world to Lord Siva. The demigods begged Lord Siva to save them. He consulted with his wife Sati, and since she knew her lord’s prowess, she gave him permission. There was a vast amount of poison, but Lord Siva was able to reduce its size so he could drink it all by cupping it in his hand. Some drops spilled onto the earth and sprung up as poisonous creatures like scorpions and snakes. But Lord Siva swallowed the poison and kept it in his throat, which turned the color blue and appeared like an ornament on Lord Mahadeva. There was beating of drums in the sky, and the demigods praised Siva for his quality of doing things for others.
Finally out of the churning of the Milk Ocean, a strongly-built man, Dhanvantari, appeared. He held a chalice in his hand, and this was the nectar of immortality. The demons immediately rushed and snatched the chalice of nectar from Dhanvantari’s hands. The demigods became morose and went to Lord Visnu for direction. He told them not to worry. The demons would fight among themselves as to who should get the nectar. And Visnu Himself would appear in the form of a most beautiful woman who would bewilder the demons and give the nectar to the demigods.
Then Mohini Murti appeared. She stunned the demons as She spoke sweet words to them, and they surrendered to Her. They said they would do whatever She desired. She had them sit in rows, and at a distance She seated the demigods. Then while speaking continuous sweet words to the demons by which they came under Her control, the Lord, in the form of Mohini Murti, distributed the nectar to the demigods.
One demon named Rahu saw that the demigods were getting the nectar. He changed his dress into that of a demigod and mixed with them in order to get a drink of that immortal elixir. Lord Krsna didn’t prevent him because He wanted to show the special potency of the nectar. But the moon and the sun, who were avowed enemies of Rahu, detected his cheating and told Lord Visnu. Visnu then took His Sudarsana cakra and cut off the head of Rahu. But Rahu had already drunk from the cup of nectar, although it only went down to his neck. His body died, but his head assumed immortality. Lord Brahma then acknowledged that Rahu was an eternal entity although the demigods were opposed to him. Rahu appears whenever there is an eclipse of the sun or moon.
We are in the Eighth Canto, the pastimes of Vamanadeva and Bali Maharaja. Lord Visnu was pleased with Aditi’s performance of the payo-vrata vow, and He agreed to become her son and restore her demigod sons back into power when they were defeated by the demons. He appeared as a dwarf brahmacari with a brilliant effulgence. The demigods and beings in the upper planets celebrated His appearance, and they presented Him with valuable gifts. Vamanadeva then went to the place where Bali Maharaja, who was the emperor of the world, was holding Asvamedha sacrifices to assure his position of power. Bali Maharaja was very attracted to the dwarf brahmana who came into his arena, and all Bali’s men showed respect to Vamanadeva because of His bright effulgence, which dimmed their own. Bali Maharaja requests the brahmacari to ask for a boon, but Vamanadeva says He only wants three steps of land. Bali says Vamana is just a child and is not very intelligent for asking such a small boon. But Vamanadeva says if one’s senses are not controlled and he doesn’t ask for unnecessary boons, then he will be peaceful. Bali Maharaja agrees to give the boy what He wants, and he sprinkles water on His head to confirm the boon. At that moment, Bali’s spiritual master interrupts and says that Bali should not give any charity to this boy in the dress of a brahmacari. He says the dwarf brahmana is actually none other than Visnu, and that He will take away all of Bali’s possessions. Sukracarya gives different reasons why Bali can go back on his word. Bali thought deeply about this before he made his decision. He finally concluded that the worst thing he could do was to lie and take back his word. He said the earth can bear anything except a liar. Sukracarya angrily curses his disciple and says he will be bereft of all his possessions. But Bali remains firm and disobeys his spiritual master. He says the best thing to do is to please Lord Visnu. Vamanadeva then expands Himself into a universal form; with His first step, He covers the entire world. With His second step, He pierces the covering of the universe and some water comes in from the celestial Ganges. To prevent the water from smashing on the earth, Lord Siva agrees to take some on his head. The demigods and higher beings are very pleased with Bali’s decision and Vamanadeva’s expansion, and they shower millions of flowers. Vamana says to Bali, “I have covered the whole universe in two steps, but how are you going to allow Me my third step?” Bali offers his body for the third step, but Vamanadeva orders Garuda to tie up Bali Maharaja with the ropes of Varuna. He is now arrested and bereft of all his possessions, humiliated in the presence of Vamandeva and his grandfather Prahlada Maharaja. Vamanadeva was doing all this just to show how great, pure and humble was His devotee Bali Maharaja.
“I think of the brahmana from South India who pleased Lord Visnu simply by meditating on active service. Because of poverty, the brahmana could not externalize his service, but he constantly thought of bringing gorgeous articles to serve the Lord.
“If one is ill, he also may not be able to externalize his service, but activity must remain, the desire to serve.
He could not see Krsna nor could he see the trees,
But in his heart
he always prayed to serve Him,
and he sang the glories of the cowherd boy.
When he went to Vrndavana, Krsna came to him.
Vasudeva the leper lived in his affliction
like a Buddha of compassion,
and never cursed the worms
who ate at his skin.
He chanted purely
and Lord Caitanya brought him
deliverance from distress.
Many mahajanas in suffering
show us the way:
and He will deliver you
from limited pain
to unlimited bliss.
‘But I can’t work.’
—Then sit and chant.
‘But I can’t chant.’
–Yes, you can,
just pray to Him,
‘Please let me hear,
please let me chant.’”
“In Book One of Journal and Poems, I stated that disease is inevitable—birth, death, disease and old age come to everyone that lives in a material body. But I am learning more that the intensity of disease can be regulated by hygienic principles. And the less disease we have, the more active service we are able to perform.
“Prabhupada has described that a yogi is less prone to illness than a bhogi (sense enjoyer), and a rogi (diseased man) is defined as one who eats too much, three or more times a day. There are many statements affirming that a spiritualist can be relatively free of disease. (Srila Prabhupada: “There are three causes of disease: overeating, uncleanliness and anxiety.”)
“Srila Prabhupada’s emphasis was to stay transcendental in all circumstances. As he wrote to a disciple in 1968:
“Physically and mentally we may be disturbed sometimes, but we have to stand erect on the spiritual platform. I may inform you in this connection that I at the present moment am physically unfit; I am having always a buzzing sound in my brain. I cannot sleep soundly at night, but still I am working because I try to be in my position of spiritual platform. I hope you shall try to understand me right and do the needful.”
“Srila Prabhupada was a unique example in his ability to work even while ill. He also gave all of his followers a legacy of a very demanding mission—to preserve and expand his ISKCON. We may try to endure illness and remain active while physically unfit, but it is better for us to be free of disease than sick and tolerating pains while in bed.”
“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 is more of the same. There are complicated issues, but mainly there’s a feeling that there must be a change. But there is resistance to this change. I agree 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.”
“I complained that Krsna came in as a deus ex machina in my life and thought and writing. Too often Krsna occurs as an afterthought, a rubber-stamping by which I try to make a mundane thought transcendental. One of the best ways to correct this and enter more directly and completely into Krsna consciousness is to give receptive hearing to His words and teachings in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“With this in mind, I took my turn this morning and gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture in the temple. The taste of this is beyond body, beyond the mind, beyond the speculative intelligence. To speak and hear Srimad-Bhagavatam sincerely is to enter the spiritual realm.
“I gave a class on the prayers of Dhruva Maharaja. The verses stated that Dhruva gained his realization and ability to pray about the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead only because it was given to him by Krsna through Krsna’s internal energy. So there was a great transformation in Dhruva. I tried to encourage the devotees (including myself) that we also can be transformed into more ecstatic, realized devotees by hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam. We can study the prayers of Dhruva Maharaja and other great bhaktas. When we make our own prayer, that should be guided by authorized knowledge of Krsna which we receive by hearing the prayers of great mahajanas. For example, how do we know how to pray without material desire, except we have been guided by prayers such as Lord Caitanya’s Siksastakam, wherein He says, ‘I don’t pray for wealth, women, or followers, but only for Your causeless devotional service life after life.’
“A devotee lives by the scriptural rules and rejoices in them. A real devotee cherishes whatever moments he can spend with Srimad-Bhagavatam, and after he hears, he tells others. And he remembers Krsna always. Today’s verse and purport declared that a person who forgets Krsna is no better than someone asleep.”
“My sixteen rounds
must be done,
my daily quota,
before I rest at night.
“The chanting carries me
beyond the illusion
of Steve Kowit’s erotica,
and from a grinding karmi’s workday
and from death in my bones.
“Srila Prabhupada started me off
by chanting the first round
on these red wooden beads
and he chanted so pure and strong
the momentum continues
though the beads wear down.
“As butter comes from milk that’s churned,
and a rubbed match bursts into flames,
I hope I practice to reach spontaneous love.
“Rejoice and proclaim the greatness
of our spiritual master
who kindly gave us
the right to utter the Names of God!
“Sixteen rounds,” he said,
“and what are the four rules?”
No illicit sex, no intoxication
No meat-eating and no gambling.
And we are rolling on
in the protection of that order,
blessed by his initial push
and we will easily make it Home
as long as we follow.
Even our mistakes will be overcome.
“Please, energy of the Lord,
forgive my mounting offenses
to the merciful Names.
Please give me offensesless chanting;
engage me in Your service.”
“Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you’ve written and be tempted to re-read it. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing section there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard. It is somewhat of a problem to form an opinion about the next sentence; it doubtlessly partakes both of our conscious activity and the other . . . Go on as long as you like. Put your trust in the inexhaustible nature of the river.
“I like the idea of writing like that. I have a desire, which I hope is Krsna conscious, to write not just from the mind—the flickering or academic student’s brain—but directly from the arm-body, ‘the unconscious,’ and then dovetail it with the supreme consciousness, with Krsna’s purpose. Can I connect with Krsna and not with the demon-babbler within?
“If you paint over the surface as fast as you can, you eventually get bored. Better to go deeper, or rather more toward the unconscious.
“Fake teeth, we know,
but false hearts are worse.
False hats. ‘Thank you.’ False
words. I’m going now,
make a quick exit
out the side gate. I couldn’t
see or attain Vrndavana, but I’m
bringing the dirt from my room
where I claim Krsna and His angels
of mercy told me to write
A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam.
“I prayed and tried and this is what came. Why deny it? Take it as Vrndavana’s dust. I craved the authorization for my imagination to be used in Krsna’s service. I want to say, ‘This is the form given to me to preach to people at this time, and I’m only an instrument.’”
“A brahmacari sits before you, Srila Prabhupada, chanting japa. He’s so young, I think, ‘I’m senior.’ What does that mean? Do I think it means I should be given honor and privilege? It means I should do more, I should know more and give more. I should freely tell your pastimes to others and assure them of their relationship with you. I should speak from my own experience and encourage them about the power of reading your books. That’s what being senior means. It means taking responsibility.
“The letter on your desk today is to Kesava dasa, January 1972. Big, strong Kesava, Karandhara’s brother. Karandhara was the captain of L.A., and Kesava was the captain of San Francisco. Those good old days. He requested initiation for many boys. ‘I have been receiving so many reports about how my disciples of the San Franscisco temple cannot be surpassed in distributing my books. Sometimes they are selling as many as seventy Krsna books daily.’
“The beginning of the tidal wave of book distribution in America. By hook or by crook. How did they do it? Kesava used to say, ‘No secret. Just go out and try.’ They were determined and enthusiastic.
“‘By distributing my books profusely, you are giving me great encouragement to translate. And you are all helping me to fulfill the order which my Guru Maharaja gave me. So I am so much grateful to you, and I am sure Krsna will bless you a million times over for doing this work.’”
“Some of the most direct instruction is in the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, where Srila Prabhupada explains that the disciple is supposed to cry after the disappearance of the spiritual master. He also describes how the disciple is supposed to get solace from the Supersoul, take up the instructions of the spiritual master, and in that way become Krsna conscious. As far as separation from Krsna or separation from the devotee is concerned, it’s the most exalted part of our philosophy. When you start your spiritual life you learn, ‘I am not this body,’ — and then you go on to different ideas. Finally you begin to understand the intimate relationships between the devotee and God. And the highest stage of spiritual realization is to understand conjugal love of God and the feelings of separation. But although this is the highest level of spiritual understanding, the same principle applies in our present situation also. So we should understand the Vaisnava philosophy of separation.
“According to today’s verse, the worst kind of unhappiness is separation from a devotee. One way to understand this is in reference to the unfortunate person who, by his own foolishness, cuts himself off from the devotees—not only from the spiritual master but from his own Godbrothers or fellow disciples. Such a person finds himself in a very unhappy condition. He thinks he will become happy by leaving the association of devotees; but if he’s actually a devotee, even though he’s trying not to be one, he’ll be very unhappy outside the association of devotees. The best devotee is the spiritual master, the pure devotee, and his passing away is the greatest pain. But the solace is that now, more than ever, we have to associate with the other devotees.
“. . . Someone may think, ‘I would like to associate with Prabhupada, but now there is no such exalted devotee.’ Yes, but Prabhupada’s disciples are devotees! If you think that these devotees are not suitable for you and you want to do without any association, then you will experience the worst unhappiness. You should stay in the association of devotees. Any person who doesn’t worship Krsna, who is too attached to his family, who doesn’t stick to devotional service, who doesn’t associate with devotees, and who doesn’t render service to a superior—he is most unhappy.”
“Distracted chanting. I haven’t grasped yet what it means to meditate during japa. One can think that he is serving the spiritual master, and one can think that he is serving Radha and Krsna. But I cannot sustain that kind of meditation. I am left with the work of a new bhakta, straining to hear the mantra itself. I know there is much more to this mantra-chanting. If I don’t think of Krsna in Vraja, then even if I go on chanting ‘attentively,’ it will not bring me to His sweetest pastimes.
“Plod on. Sit on the cold floor, back to the wall. Sit near that trunk, no wall to lean against. Get up and walk. Keep going with your not-so-good japa. Keep this purport in mind—continue chanting and ask forgiveness for the poor quality.
“You are not trying to polish and craft a small number of ‘good’ rounds. You are going for quantity. Sustained quality is hopeless for me now, but better to go for abundance rather than chanting early in the morning and then hanging your beads up for the day. Srila Prabhupada’s purport is my guide: ‘Constant chanting of the holy name will make one free of offenses.’”
“What’s wrong? Why do we fail to find a taste, why do we lose the discipline to perform hearing and chanting as a daily duty of life? In Hari-nama-cintamani, Bhaktivinoda Thakura analyzes this difficulty in regard to inattentive chanting of the holy names. He states that if a neophyte devotee is not very scrupulous in taking up the practices of chanting and hearing, he will quickly grow distracted, and this will produce “a type of illusion causing serious offenses against the holy name that are very difficult to overcome.” What happens is that one simply gives up interest in the pursuit of spiritual life and turns his attention to cravings for wealth, sex and fame. “When these attractions cover the heart, the neophyte gradually loses interest in chanting of the holy name.” Realized in this way, the failure to pursue the two main practices of bhakti (sravanam-kirtanam) is not the fault of the practice of bhakti itself. The fault is in ourselves. We have become weakhearted, and so maya has entered once again and turned our heads. We do not want to chant and hear about Lord Krsna because we are absorbed in sense gratification.
“A good beginning for japa and reading reform is to accept this blunt analysis of why we are not interested in sravanam-kirtanam. Let me admit, ‘I’m not interested in chanting because I have too many material desires.’ This is humbling, and it is the truth. I could offer more intricate and psychological reasons and even circumstantial explanations, excuses and rationalizations, but it’s better to reach the bedrock: acceptance of our causeless unwillingness to serve the Supreme Lord. Now we will be in a better position to consider the grave dangers of material life and to recall why we were attracted to Krsna consciousness in the first place.
“There will never be a clearer analysis of why we can’t chant nicely than the explanation and remedy given by Rupa Gosvami in the Upadesamrta:
“The holy name, character, pastimes and activities of Krsna are transcendentally sweet like sugar candy. Although the tongue of one afflicted by the jaundice of avidya (ignorance) cannot taste anything sweet, it is wonderful that simply by carefully chanting these Names every day, a natural relish awakens within his tongue, and his disease is gradually destroyed at the root.” (Nectar of Instruction, Text 7)
“Rupa Gosvami’s verse is worth putting on a three-by-five card and in a place where we can see it every day—and not just see it but feel it.”
“Writing Practice; discussed “first thoughts” in KC; consider looking at published “confessions”; discussion of cunning silence, etc.
“You can’t wait long before the moment passes. Demons on the internet with accusations … I want sweet ‘Swing low, sweet chariot.’ I want to call to the Lord. Well, you don’t have to keep telling the immediate things on your mind. Or put them elsewhere. Go ahead, write it down elsewhere, Wild Mind and Bones. [Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones, two books on writing practice by Natalie Goldberg.] Bones chapters just looked at say writing is a practice. You have to keep in shape, always practicing, giving yourself a lot of space to write without having to reach a destination. That’s what I’m doing. I figure I paid my dues. I’m way ahead of what they can publish, six or more books, more than that. So, now just write of yourself, and this is a fact that you could contact the best. But that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to practice.
“Capture first thoughts so that you become a better writer, and then you’ll be able to write those cutting-through sentences. You have been fantasizing that you may be put into a tight situation. If so, you will be able to write every day. Yes, write even though you don’t want to. You’ll be able to pick up a pen and just cut through. You are fortunate, you can get typed up to be read conveniently later although that they may also cause some censorship. But I think it’s not so bad.
Someone wrote to me and said, ‘I keep a diary too, but it’s not as valuable as yours, which can be read by the whole world with benefit.’ They said that earnestly but somehow, I picked up on the implication as if they were saying something else. Why does she say this? Why is my diary better than hers? Why is hers only of interest to herself and mine to many others? It may be or it may not be. But I’m taking the opportunity to publish it. I could say, ‘Let me be a patron of all writers, get my disciples and friends to write and publish them.’ But I would have to reject some and accept others. It would be a trip. So, go on ahead and publish at least some of it, and don’t feel guilty. They have their service and I have mine.
“Edgar Allen Poe committed suicide when he was twenty-three in 1945 after the Nazis retreated from Bern. At that time, Poe was a raven living in Baltimore in black, brass form. He asked Allen Ginsberg if it was all right and AG said, ‘I don’t’ know, I’ll have to ask Walt Whitman.’ I wrote little stuff like that in the attic with photos of Rilke and Fyodor Dostoevsky cut out and some businessman’s blurbs underneath. A friend, Lenny, said my humor was like that of Mad magazine. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
“Krsna Krsna Krsna, the words come out. The practice school of writing and the first thoughts as taught by NG (Nathalie Goldberg). Sounds all right, but how does it fit in with the teachings of KC? You have to accept KC and it must come first, no matter what some writing school says. I can say that first thoughts are the honest ones without censorship. I can say that it is an experiment that I write as honestly as possible. It is good to do not only for a nondevotee but a devotee also. Because he can become smug or too righteous, thinking that he is always right in his institution. First thoughts help him learn his actual mind. I need that. I don’t want to be just a group thinker. I want to know where I fall short, where I doubt, what is my lust and anger so I can curb them. And writing practice will help me be a writer who can write past the stuffy, perfect, boring prose and say things as they are. Of course, that will be good, that will flower in a presentation of Krsna consciousness. I can share it. Yes, I want to be a good writer for Krsna and these are methods. They take a long while. You are practicing many hours. You are trying to get good at it. Then when you find a structure that will take you along, you can pour what you have learned into that. You see? Yes, I can believe this or not. But I think there is stuff in here that I can learn.
“Look up and see the sunlight in the clouds. It’s burning through them but mostly not. The silver clouds are hiding it. White light behind them. Irish weather is such that the sun comes out fully and then the clouds blow over it again. Someone wrote that the ocean has never fully recognized Ireland’s right to be a body of land. Pours rain on it constantly.
“Be who you are, write down things of the mind. Krsna Krsna. That word comes out automatically, and what you think of at the time of death determines your next life. They say it’s better to write by hand. But I like the machine too. It bats away. It goes faster and you cannot capture all that you want to say. It is also physical in its own way.
“Otherwise, by Jane Kenyon. Can’t stop to look at her book since I’ve started the full hour writing session. Trying to fit in poem time and walk time, but missed both of those struggling with headache and other illness. Go, go.
“The KC movement gains ground somewhere, and then it loses it somewhere else. Some politician says we’re okay in an obscure country or in India. Then in another place they call us a cult. The anti-cultists try to inform the countries that like us that we are regarded as dangerous in other places. We try to keep it going. Aside from how we present ourselves, what are we actually? The presenter sometimes loses sight of that. I remember Ravindra Svarupa telling me that once. Deep thoughts from the philosopher. Do I have deep thoughts? I have deep bottoms. Bucket was the name of the detective in Dickens’ Bleak House. Dr. A. asked our class, ‘Why is he called Bucket?’ We guessed and guessed but she said no. She said you are dull and stupid for not knowing. We guessed some more, but still we couldn’t get it. Then she said, ‘Because he is deep!’ But I thought, Well a bucket isn’t so deep. Yes, a bucket can be lowered deeply into a well. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
“Complete your thought, compose yourself. Take your finger out of your mouth. Don’t belch. Don’t associate with the Navy men or the louts in your mind. Go back up to the PIO room alone, alone and cry out, oh, I’m a sensitive soul and wish to be away from the sight and sound of the obscenity-speaking boys. I want gentle company where we can discuss literature and we don’t have to use obscene words, but if we want to do it, it will be in a different context. It will be clever and so on. I want my literary friends, not these animals. The artists, those who value books and read them. And yet you were phony, and still you are phony.
“It might be said, ‘Yes, you are now phony in a different way. Now you appear to be in KC and you are a sannyasi and a writer who wants to speak spiritual truths and be single-minded. You are honest and humble.’ (Some see through you). What do you really think? You could look at books which discuss this and which do this. Which are the most confessional? Confessions of an opium eater, confessions of a guy as a dope. I never did get into Augustine’s Confessions. It didn’t seem very readable. Are there any confessions by people who write honestly in modern idioms?
“Investigate that. Okay, I’ll do it but I want to see somebody who writes more quickly without revising. You could say Kerouac does that on the run. Look then at one of his books like Desolation Angels. Ah, you’d probably get tired of it in ten minutes. They write of the dead past. Let me read someone who writes a diary of now and who runs on quickly and I don’t mean actually of their daily thoughts but the running on.
“But it’s all marketplace. You’ll get the mad stuff of Charles Simic on the other extreme. He writes very carefully and crafted, but it’s nothing coherent you could figure out. Tread your way in between them.
“And say, ‘I do believe, I do believe’
there is no way into this but to say I believe
the consecrated path is the best one
he said he could invite Manu down to get his letter.
But I don’t want to exchange with him. I don’t have another book to give him except June Bug, which is too small. Krsna Krsna, the days are going by fast. There are six alternatives.
“So, I opened a catuspati and taught only Krsna Krsna as Lord Caitanya did. They said, ‘No, teach me something else.’ So, I closed it. When someone writes to me and says that they like certain of my books and not others, I’m never satisfied. Why not, be happy that they like anything at all. But when she says, ‘I did not like Radio Shows,’ then I think, ‘Oh, she’s liking only half a hen. All she liked was The Qualities of Sri Krsna, that small book.’ All right sister, you better read it.
“And the vast theater-like dimensions of the inner dome of the Prabhupada Samadhi in Mayapur. They could have done a lot better for artists, but it is okay for India, we said. Where are the artists? Am I doing better? Well, I will try to get better in a different kind of art. Be grateful that something is done in praise of your master. O my sweet Lord, there is a mosaic of you with your hands upraised at the Ratha-yatra in San Francisco, and another shows you with the child, DDd, and you are demonstrating to him how to write his first Sanskrit letters. It is very nice even though the art is crude and not like Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel or Giotto. Do you even know of such artists? Where is the KC artist of that caliber? Not only an accurate draftsman but someone with a soul who can portray it? Yes, I don’t know. We haven’t them produced them yet but it will come. They commissioned that job out to karmis.
“You can use first thoughts and the other things. KC, please be merry. Please marry me. Please pluck the daisies and the marigolds and put them in the vase. You have your medicine, and there is no way out of these. It may be habit-forming. But after all, the body is only temporary and cannot be kept running just on its own. It’s not that you avoid all medicine on the material idea of purity and then lose a tremendous amount of time when you could be serving. The body can’t function due to pain. I did that for ten years, and it was virtuous in its own way but didn’t lead me to getting better. So, now I’m back on the allopathic trip, but trying not to overdo it. Don’t put that nature-cure trip on me again. I tried it seriously twice, and it doesn’t work on its own. Let them who want to believe in it and fasting and avoiding all the wrong mixes do it. I never saw that I improved that much. They said, ‘Oh, you didn’t try enough.’ Well, I did try it enough as far as I am concerned. Far away in Wicklow, we give ourselves time to write what comes.
(Halfway through …)
“Yes, you will find a structured work and novel again. You will find a joy in persona and his writing, his story again or a clever box of traps to spring on the reader. He says, ‘Thank you for tricking me and entertaining me. This is almost as good as a rock opera. Yes, it is almost as good as a plant in June, as woman in loon.’
It is Krsna on the verge of a breakdown.
He never did that but when
the demon said, ‘Here is Your father and I’m going to cut his head off,’ Krsna appeared depressed for a moment. That was just to display human feelings. Then He did the needful. Sounds like Superman of the comics. Well, Superman comes from Krsna. Krsna was first with the infinite most. I don’t care if you Indologists don’t believe. I am in Srimad-Bhagavatam and will follow and fight in the courts and on the streets. No, we will fight, but like gentlemen.
“‘The only weapon I will allow myself to use,’ James Joyce said, ‘is cunning, exile and silence.’ He was saying that there are some things I will do and some things I will not do. He wanted unfettered art and life, and he would gain it by using only those weapons. I don’t understand it. How does it apply to me? Well, you could say that now you refuse to be a manager or even come close to managers. You refuse to partake in their judgments and nitty-gritty activities and mixing. But then how will you resist it? How will you keep yourself free of it? (This implies also that you don’t agree with that kind of life. So, how will you resist it or speak against it?) There are many ways you could express this disagreement. You could write papers against it, you could quit the movement and so on. But JJ says he will only use those three weapons. I don’t have to think that I have to fit in to that.
“I choose my secret places, the retreats and the writing expressions which I keep private. I have my headaches, and I travel and show up and lecture (cunning). My exile is that I don’t stay long in the U.S.A. or one place. As for being silent, I don’t speak out against the GBC. Yes, to some degree I may be said to follow those three things.
“Twenty pages is all you get out of one of these ribbons. It’s cloudy today, the sun is mostly not in evidence. Madhu is gluing together a holding tank to fix under the van so that we can take a shower and the water will catch there. Can be used on the road even in a rest area with other cars around us. Clever. Do it and go ahead. And Ireland, please give us permission to get the license plates for the vehicle. And drive on. Drive on to the apex of your career. Get out of the scene and come back again.
“The naïve artists, the politicians, they all recycle. That is Bhagavad-gita philosophy basically. SP was saying we should stop the cycle. But then on a walk Jayapataka Swami said, ‘Isn’t it true that a devotee doesn’t care to attain Vaikuntha but he wants to just be situated as the pure devotee of Krsna?’ ‘Yes,’ Prabhupada said, ‘he doesn’t want anything but to serve Krsna.’ That was interesting. And it seems different than saying that we should strive to cut the cycle. Perhaps the two points can be adjusted by saying that the devotee should efficiently cut the karma which would impel him to be reborn. He should remove all material desires from his heart which create samsara. But then if the Lord wants him to come back, he agrees. Or if he doesn’t attain perfection in this life, he will not begrudge the Lord but will take up his main task in the next life, which is to attain perfection in devotional service. Jada Bharata was so intent to that in his last birth. No more getting detained by a last-minute material attraction. And he went back to Godhead, attained perfection.
“Thank God I remember an SB reference. I think, okay, now it’s justified. Someone can read this and it will look good. But it is just as rewarding when I write something that is not explicitly KC. That means I’m going through rough terrain which I have to pass through to reach another place where I may actually speak SB realizations. He who remembers the instructions of the Lord in the morning and at night, the mysterious incarnations, will attain going back to Godhead. The mysterious incarnations. Here we go, into the mystery of rahasyam because you are My dear friend and My devotee.
He is the guy who works on book distribution, who works in the temple, who works on the ISKCON board and temple grounds—not the fellow like me?
“About seventeen minutes left. You will finish this eighth page, but maybe not the next. So, you are going rather slowly and you took that time out to make a note. O Lordy, You are the best. You are the worst. There is no joy in Mudville. Look at some published confessions. (I thought of that.)
“Thinking of some unpalatable memories of the U.S. Navy and that little bunk where I slept at the bottom of three with magazines and marijuana. O angels, you protected me and I got out without punishment. And I had such a cushy berth in the PIO office. Toward the end did I consider re-enlisting? I don’t think so. But you might think, ‘I’ve got some security, I could work my way up to second class.’ But what about the morality of it? You want to be a Public Relations man for stinking Navy? No, I wanted to get out and hit the mystical Lower East Side and write my poems. Oh, but was I writing too carefully? Now I write more quickly but go over them a few times.
“Confessions of a…usually they tell some sinful life and it’s all in the past. I don’t think I want to read it. I would like however, to look at some good prose, sure, but find something modern like a James Huston book.
“I don’t have any good books but the Merton diary maybe. You could read it entering daily observations of his intellect roaming into the books he reads. I don’t have anything to say.
“Make this the ninth page. Christopher Columbus. The Russian poet said that Christopher was a real bum, an exploiter of the Indians. He carried chains. I went to Santo Domingo where he is supposed to have first landed. There is a tourist section and museums there but I never went. I went only from the airport to the temple and back to the airport or downtown in front of the government building for harinama. That’s all, and on the roof of the temple from where I saw rats across the street, and in the temple I stayed in my room and ran the electric fan and sat on the veranda and took prasadam of fresh juice drinks and talked with Gobhatta Prabhu and the other devotee (whose name I forget) with crippled hands. It happens.
“And now I have no reason to go back to Santo Domingo in my travels. But maybe one day I could go hiding off in a writing retreat somewhere like that and say I’m here, but there is no typewriter, and so I’m writing and saving the microcassettes and mailing them from there. I’m in exile.
“Angels of mercy surrounding the dying
patient in the hospital maybe
the modern machine records his heartbeat
and he draws forty pictures of no account.
His best work is already done but
he doesn’t know it. Friends come and pay
respects. An eagle mounts the top
of the temple and a vulture, to indicate
his next life is not so auspicious.
He’ll be born in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium
and only at thirty years old will he get a book of Srila Prabhupada’s
from a book distributor, those devotees he never fully respected.
They will save his life again.
He will have to get it and get married
and go through a lot of bad stuff. Only at thirty does he come again, and before that he tries zazen and macrobiotics and new interpretations of the Vedas from South America as he gets bad infections from chewing sugar cane because he was born in India in short pants. But anyway, he gets back to Krsna.
“Krsna in the heart of the ant
Krsna Caitanya telling of the avataras
who was listening. And I’d better listen more and get the work done. You have five minutes left, but you could quit at any moment. Jerry Davis, Corky, Kent, we all worked together in that office under Lieutenant Richardson and a junior officer. We got released, got the hell out of there. Hello, mister. This is the ways you guys have got to behave. There is no respect given to the enlisted man. He has to work as the officer tells him. But they gave me a break pretty much and told me to close up the office. Lieutenant Richardson was often under a cloud, not a happy man. He wanted war to enliven him. He was too old to fly the jets now, and he only flew an old prop plane, I think. I don’t care, I’m KC and can’t help those people in my past now.
“The confessions of so-and-so where they give the truth. The blueprint for the fall of Rome, Krsna Krsna, deliver me from this blather. If you call this practice, I don’t know what it will lead to. This doesn’t seem like what I want to be, but what comes when you let your fingers write. Perhaps the pen would be more fruitful. You can also try shorter ones where you just get your stuff out and then stop.
“The detergent is on the shelf. John Updike is sharpening pencils. Mailer is putting down all of the writers, Celine, Genet, Burroughs, you keep looking for the favorite author, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence. I didn’t even mention them sufficiently in my book…Lawrence, I tried to find a friend, but never found one I loved. Did you love your own self? Well, that is true but not in a vacuum. You have to have companions.
“I did like the writing of Murray and Steve. I did admire them. It was a true spontaneous enthusiasm. I liked it when we wrote what we actually thought instead of otherwise.
“This has been a trip, I hope the typist doesn’t mind. It is practice, you see, and first thoughts to generate the release of censors and gain momentum for the great, ordered, clean smooth short book I will write maybe later this summer which will be as good as Photo Preaching. This is a warm-up for it. So you say, and yet in its own way this is the best I could do.
“(One hour, 10½ pages, hut, July 31, 1996, afternoon)”