Write and Die ($12, includes shipping)
We are pleased to reintroduce to you Satsvarupa Maharaja’s magnificent Write and Die, a book published in 2007 during a period of rest and renewal. In this volume, the author explores an array of existential themes both through the literary arts and his close relationship with his Godbrother, Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja, in the final period of his life. Through prose narrative and poetic styles, Satsvarupa Maharaja invites the reader to join him in this experience of contemplation and renewal as he reveals that to write is to live, even as we contend with our own mortality. Within these pages, one journeys beneath the clouds of struggle to the bright skies of redemption.
Rev. John Endler
In this time of pandemic, many devotees have more time to themselves. It is a good occasion to take to introspection. The directors at Mayapur are conducting very intelligent writing courses for the devotees who are enrolled in their programs. Devotees are encouraged to write by looking inward and describing how Krsna and Prabhupada advise us to deal with our suffering in our life. They ask the participants to write at length about sufferings they’ve gone through in their lives and to cite sastric references that they have applied to help them cope with their troubles.
This integrating of personal autobiographical writing and having the devotees apply the sastras in an introspective way to tell how the Vedic wisdom has helped them to endure their difficulties is a brilliant teaching method.
Here is the most famous sloka among Vaisnavas for guidance through distressful situations:
tat te ’nukampam su-samiksamano
bhunjana evatma-kṛtam vipakam
hrd -vag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak
“My dear Lord, any person who is constantly awaiting Your causeless mercy to be bestowed upon him and who goes on suffering the resultant actions of his past misdeeds, offering You obeisances from the core of his heart, is surely eligible to become liberated, for it has become his rightful claim.” (S.B. 10.14.8)
I would advise devotees to take the time to meditate on intense personal experiences that brought them under the shelter of this powerful sloka.
My own process for dealing with difficulties is to put them into writing by taking shelter of Krsna in this powerful Bhagavatam verse. Therefore from personal experience I can advise devotees to also take to writing down their innermost thoughts, the difficulties they have experienced and their triumphs in Krsna consciousness as related in this Srimad-Bhagavatam verse. The regular practice of writing in this way is very efficacious.
Since most devotees are stuck in one place, without access to the holy dhamas in India, they can take this time to go within and write down the sequence of personal experiences that bring them under the shelter of Bhagavatam 10.4.18.
I have new recordings of Jagattarini Mataji speaking on parikramas in Navadvipa, Jagannatha Puri and Vrndavana. She said she didn’t have sufficient time to speak completely about Navadvipa parikrama, but she selected two outstanding persons, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who held parikramas there. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was an outstanding devotee who for a while was in charge of the management of the main temple at Jagannatha Puri. He also became the presiding judge in the area. He wrote over a hundred books and many soulful bhajanas in simple Bengali language which were profound but accessible to the common people. He organized nam-hatta programs in people’s homes. He said a Vaisnava is known by how many Vaisnavas he has created in his preaching. He wrote the famous lines on Haridasa Thakura:
“He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around!”
Bhaktivinoda and his wife conceived many children. The most outstanding and beloved was the son who became Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. They spent much time together, with Bhaktisiddhanta assisting his father in proofreading and publishing his books. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati took a vow to chant as many rounds as Haridasa Thakura chanted daily. He did this while living in poverty in Mayapur. He completed this vow after many years.
Then, in a vision, Lord Caitanya and the parampara appeared to him and told him to take up active preaching. He then went to Calcutta and established the Gaudiya Math. He awarded brahmana initiation to anyone who was qualified, regardless of whether they were born in a brahmana family or not. This outraged the caste-conscious brahmanas, who thought that no one could become brahmana unless he was born into a brahminical family. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was stoned on occasions during his parikramas for his position on this issue. There were even several plots for his assassination, but he escaped them all. Gundas approached the police and said they wanted to kill Bhaktisiddhanta, and they offered the police a bribe. But the police said, “We do these things sometimes, but not for a saintly person.” Then the police went to Bhaktisiddhanta and told him to be careful. Another time, another assassination attempt was made while Bhaktisiddhanta was residing in a house. He avoided that by changing his white cloth for the saffron cloth of his Godbrother Kesava Maharaja. Bhaktisiddhanta came out of the house wearing saffron, and Kesava Maharaja came out wearing white; the gundas didn’t detect and chased the wrong man, and Bhaktisiddhanta was saved. Once there was a big gathering to discuss Brahmanism and Vaisnavism. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was ill and sent his son Bhaktisiddhanta to speak. He began his talk with long scholarly praises of the brahmanas, and the caste brahmanas who were present were very much satisfied. Then Bhaktisiddhanta changed the course of his lecture and began praising the glories of the Vaisnava, which were even greater than those of the brahmanas. He spoke with a command of much Vedic evidence, and in the end the entire audience, including the born- brahmanas, celebrated Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and were very pleased with him.
Jagattarini urged her audience in Vrndavana to go on Navadvipa parikrama, despite the austerities of heat and crowds. If they did so they would find great purification just by being there in that sacred place so dear to Lord Caitanya and Nityananda. Jagattarini said she would next speak of parikrama in Jagannatha Puri.
Jagattarini Mataji also spoke at length (and very well) on Mayapur dhama. She told of Prabhupada’s vision for it. It started out with no buildings at all, but he envisioned that it would eventually be a city of 50,000 devotees. They would construct a grand puspa Samadhi and the tallest temple in India, the Vedic planetarium. All these things are going on progressively.
Our Prabhupada gave credit to his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura for the vision to build Mayapur dhama. Bhaktisiddhanta underwent many austerities and dangers in his career. Because he gave brahminical second initiation to persons who were not born in brahmana families, he incurred the wrath of the caste-conscious brahmanas. They stoned him and even tried to make a plot to assassinate him. But Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati survived and prevailed over all these difficulties.
He wrote many books and expanded the Gaudiya Math into sixty monasteries located all over India. But when money came to the Math and they constructed a marble temple in Calcutta, dissention arose among the inmates as to who would occupy the different rooms in the mandir. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati became disgusted by this neophyte-disciple mentality. On a morning walk at Radha-kunda, Vrndavana, in the presence of our Srila Prabhupada, he said it would be better to take the marble down from the building and print books, and he said to our Prabhupada, “If ever you get money, print books.” This order went deep into the heart of our Prabhupada, and he made it a life mission. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was disturbed by the quarreling of his neophyte disciples, and for that reason he left the world.
Prabhupada wanted to build an ISKCON world center at Mayapur. The first disciples to go there had to face great austerities, with no proper accommodations, and in a place overrun by snakes and rats. But they endured and gradually constructed a decent building. And that was only the beginning. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati organized parikramas (walking to the holy places). He did this in Navadvipa, Jagannatha Puri, and in Vrndavana dhama. Thousands of followers went with him but had to face the same opposition from the caste-conscious brahmanas. ISKCON continues with the parikrama tradition, and there is no longer angry opposition to their endeavors. This is all to the credit of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s brave pioneering. One year at our Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja, he thanked the devotees for their appreciations. But he said he was not great, his spiritual master was great. His spiritual master was like the sun, and he was like the moon. The moon is actually a dark planet, but it appears bright in the sky from the reflection of the sun.
At another notable meeting of the Govardhana Retreat, Sacinandana Swami spoke about meditation in service to Krsna. He is very fond of this topic. He had two quotes from Prabhupada about serving Krsna in the mind. One was from a lecture that Prabhupada gave in Geneva in 1974. He said, ‘You can prepare a costly throne in your mind and decorate it with fine ornaments. Place Krsna there. Wash His lotus feet with Ganges or Yamuna water, then dry His feet and dress Him in costly garments. Serve Krsna excellent prasadam. This is not false, it is fact.’
Maharaja also quoted from a Caitanya-caritamrta purport. Prabhupada said that service in the mind is as good as physical service. The main thing, the main ingredient, is to serve Krsna with love.
Sacinandana Maharaja also told a story of Krsna avoiding a grand feast that was prepared by Duryodhana. Instead He went to Vidura’s house, but Vidura had gone to Duryodhana’s feast and only his wife was at home. She told Him she had done no cooking. Krsna told her to look and see if there was anything to eat. She discovered some bananas, but in her confusion and ecstasy she threw the fruit away and served Krsna the skins of the bananas. Krsna was pleased to eat them because they were offered in love. Maharaja pointed out that in the Bhagavad-gita, where Krsna says He accepts a little water or leaf or flower or fruit, He two times mentions that it must be done with bhakti. So offerings can be made in the mind (or with banana peels), and if they are made with love, Krsna will accept them. He is not at all interested in eating Duryodhana’s feast, where there is no bhakti.
Prabhupada invited the devotees to come to Vrndavana to hear his NOD lectures in the fall of 1972. They were held outdoors in the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple, where Rupa Gosvami’s bhajana-kutira and Samadhi are located.
About twenty devotees from all around the world took up Prabhupada’s invitation and gathered with him for a long series of daily lectures. He would have Pradyumna read from the book, and then he would interrupt him and speak on a particular section. A prominent topic was yukta-vairagya, Rupa Gosvami’s teachings that everything material can be used in the service of Krsna. One who rejects material things is practicing incomplete renunciation. This was a very bold proposal taught by Rupa Gosvami and applied by Bhaktisiddhanta and our Srila Prabhupada. On hearing the lectures, one can hear many sounds from the background: birds, pilgrims passing by, and once Prabhupada called out, “Hut!” to chase away a monkey who came too close. This amused the devotees and made them laugh.
The temple authorities worldwide did not assign the devotees to go to Vrndavana, but those who came were bold and free enough to answer their spiritual master’s invitation.
I was the GBC in Dallas, and I and the devotees there were too much involved in taking care of gurukula, so none of us went. The tapes of these lectures were widely distributed by the Bhaktivedanta Tape Ministry, and they were greatly appreciated by devotees who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to Vrndavana. I highly recommend devotees hear these NOD tapes as part of their sadhana.
I spoke on Zoom face to face with Giri Maharaja and others on the occasion of his Vyasa-puja. I told early memories of Giriraj Maharaja in Boston, even before he was initiated. As soon as he joined the temple in 1969, the whole atmosphere was uplifted. I was Boston’s temple president, and I wrote to Prabhupada how he was so enthusiastic and submissive. Prabhupada wrote back that he noted Giriraj was very intelligent. One time our temple was attacked by a gang. The police arrested them, but before they left they swore they’d be back the next night and attack us again. Many devotees were traumatized, and all the women went down to New York to stay there for safety. Some of the men also went to New York. At first Giriraj and I decided to go to New York. But when we started driving there in the car, we began conversing, and Giriraj said, “Why are we going to New York?” We discussed back and forth and concluded it wasn’t honorable to desert our prabhu-datta-desa just out of fear of being attacked. I told the memory to point out how brave Giriraj was. We never went to New York but turned the car back to Boston, where we were heartily greeted by Brahmananda and Rsi Kumar, who had come from New York to guard the Boston temple.
After I finished my Zoom testimony, Giriraj spoke to me face to face. He said he had many fond memories of Boston, but he didn’t have time to mention them now. But he said I was like an older brother or even a father to him and that I nurtured him in spiritual life.
After a few years, Prabhupada made a call to all the temples that they should send devotees to India to permanently join the preaching there. I didn’t want to be stingy or reluctant to carry out Prabhupada’s order. So in consultation with the other devotees, we decided to send our very best man, Giriraj Brahmachary, to India, and he was quite willing to go.
After I spoke, Ravindra Svarupa appeared on Zoom to speak about Giriraj Maharaja. He said we devotees were now old, and the next big event in our life would be our deaths. He remarked that Prabhupada said there would be an ISKCON in the spiritual world. He and Giriraj Maharaja spoke back and forth about this, and they concluded it would be good to join ISKCON in the spiritual world.
I received a letter from a devotee lawyer who went through an especially difficult day. His practice is immigration law, and in the era of Trump it’s particularly difficult. Neither do the clients show gratitude for his work. His particular day was so stressful that he felt pains in his back, neck and chest. He turned to my weekly Journal and found relief in my words that the chanting is very powerful. He’s thinking of possibly changing to a semi-retired vanaprastha style of life, but that can’t be done whimsically. The renunciation of vanaprastha is a serious change and requires renunciation. He will have to chant regularly or constantly in order to get through it. At any rate, in November the era of Trump may be over, and so he should be cautious about giving up his legal practice. His case is one that requires a mode of goodness decision, not one of passion. He should pray to Krsna for some direction and see what He reveals.
I met with John Endler on the front porch. He was excited about new projects. He is writing advertisements for my books to be posted in the Free Write Journal and sold by mail order and Amazon. He wants me to go on Raghunatha’s sanga and read my poetry on Zoom. I agreed. He also wants to reprint a small economic edition of The Dust of Vrndavana with all my Vrndavana haikus. He read to me some of his favorites from my stream of consciousness poems. He sees my opus as Every Day, Just Write, Volume 1: The One Big Book of Your Life.
We heard of the first demon killed by Krsna when He was still in the maternity room. This was Putana, the gigantic witch, whom Kamsa sent to Vrndavana to kill innocent babies. She had the mystic power to transform her body, so she appeared there as a beautiful woman, and the Vrajavasis allowed her to enter Krsna’s room. She even picked up the baby and brought Him to her breast, which was smeared with a deadly poison. Krsna was angry with her for her killing of innocent children, so He sucked at her breast and sucked out her life-air. She screamed and assumed her gigantic witch body and fell down dead in the orchard, where she knocked down many trees. Krsna fearlessly played on her breasts. The gopis took Him off and placed Him in Yasoda’s lap, where she gave Him her breast milk and He was pacified. Just then Nanda Maharaja came back from Vrndavana. Vasudeva had told him to go home because there were troublesome events taking place there. When Nanda saw the dead body of Putana, he marveled that Vasudeva had predicted the future and credited him with mystic powers. The cowherd men chopped up the body of Putana and set it ablaze. The burning body gave off a pleasant aroma of aguru incense. This was because Putana had touched Krsna and had been relieved of her sins. She was considered very fortunate and was transferred to the spiritual world, where she became a nurse.
The acaryas remark that in other incarnations the Lord has to assume powerful bodies in order to kill formidable demons. But in the case of Putana, Krsna finished her off while remaining in His infant form. Such is the power of Krsna.
We heard of Krsna’s damodara-lila. Once all the maidservants were engaged in other duties, and Mother Yasoda herself churned the yogurt into butter. Krsna came by and indicated that He wanted her to stop churning and feed Him her breast milk. She was happily willing to do so. But then she noted that milk in a pot was overflowing from the stove. She quickly put Krsna down and took the milk off the fire. This interruption made Krsna very angry, and He broke one of the yogurt pots. When Yasoda returned and saw the spilled yogurt, she knew it was the work of her child. She took up a stick and began running after Him, but He fled quickly in fear of her. All great jnanis and yogis try to catch Krsna in their meditations, but they are not able to do so. Yet Krsna, seeing His mother’s fatigue in chasing Him, allowed her to catch Him because she was His pure unalloyed devotee. Seeing the child so afraid, Mother Yasoda threw away the stick, but she told Krsna she was going to bind Him with ropes. She thought that Krsna was so restless He might run out of the house in fear of her. So she took up some ropes and tried to tie Him. But when she came to tie the knot, the rope was two fingers short. She gathered more ropes, but again they came out two fingers short. She gathered all the ropes in the houses, but the same thing occurred: the ropes were always two fingers too short to tie Krsna. The ladies of the house, and Mother Yasoda too, began to smile at their inability to tie up Krsna. Mother Yasoda labored hard, and flowers fell from her hair, and it became disarrayed. Seeing His mother working so hard, Krsna became compassionate and allowed her to tie Him up. She then tied Him to a big grinding mortar and left Him to do other duties. Krsna crawled back and forth, dragging the mortar. In the garden, there were two tall twin Arjuna trees. They actually contained two demigods who were cursed to become trees by Narada Muni. Narada had seen them in the heavenly planets, where they were drinking varuni liquor and playing naked with naked young girls. When the girls saw Narada they quickly put their clothes on, but the two demigods, Nalakuvera and Manigriva, were so shameless that they remained naked in the presence of Narada. He then saw it fit to curse them to become trees. But his curse contained a blessing: after staying one hundred years in the calculation of celestial time, the two demigods would meet Krsna face to face. While Krsna was crawling attached to the mortar, He came upon the trees and thought of the curse by Narada which had imprisoned these demigods in the trees. To satisfy the promise of His devotee Narada, Krsna caught the mortar between the trees and pulled them strongly until they trembled and fell uprooted to the ground with a great crash. The neighboring cowherd men came rushing to this scene of the great sound, and they were astonished to see Krsna tied up between the trees and unharmed. The children told them exactly what had happened, how Krsna pulled down the trees and two effulgent men had come out and made prayers to Krsna. But the elders did not believe the children’s talk. They thought it may have happened as the work of demons. The demigods had made reverent prayers to Krsna, and they asked His permission to return to their homes in the heavenly planets. Krsna allowed them to go. Nanda Maharaja came back from Mathura and untied his little son. He was astonished that Mother Yasoda could be so cruel as to tie up the boy attached to a mortar close to the twin arjuna trees. Everyone was relieved to get back their Krsna unharmed.
Finally we heard the Brahma-vimohana-lila, the bewildering of Lord Brahma. It starts by Maharaja Pariksit’s inquiry after Krsna killed the demon Aghasura. The pastime was kept secret for a year. Maharaja Pariksit asked why this was so. Sukadeva replied by telling that Lord Brahma came down to see the dead Aghasura and was astonished that it had been done by Krsna, who appeared like a small uneducated cowherd boy. Brahma knew that Krsna was his master, but he wanted to show some of his own mystic power. Thus he became entangled. Krsna was out searching for the calves, who had wandered off, and Brahma kidnapped all the boys and calves who were waiting for Krsna to return to their lunch place. Brahma put them in a cave and into mystic slumber. When Krsna returned to the lunch spot and saw the boys had disappeared, He knew it was the work of Brahma. He decided to give mercy to the mothers of Vrndavnaa and to show Brahma His own superior power. So He expanded Himself into all the missing boys and calves. He assumed their exact individual identities, their same features, characters and clothes. He returned to Vrndavana with the boys, and the mothers felt a great increase in love for their children. Formerly they used to think, “If only Krsna could be my child.” But now Krsna had actually become their child, and they were overjoyed.
Meanwhile, Lord Brahma returned to earthly Vraja after only a moment in his time calculation. He was astonished to see that Krsna was still playing with His boys and calves, while he also observed that the boys and calves he had kidnapped were still lying down in the cave where he had put them into mystic slumber. Krsna then revealed to Brahma that all the boys and calves who He had expanded into were actually innumerable Visnu forms. This bewildered Brahma completely, and he gave up his pride and attempt to outdo Krsna. Krsna then resumed His original form as a small cowherd boy holding a small morsel of food in His left hand. Lord Brahma bowed down and made magnificent prayers of praise of Krsna. He finally prayed to become a piece of grass in Vrndavana so that Krsna and the boys could step on his head as they passed by. But he realized that he was not qualified to live in Vrndavana. Meanwhile Krsna was indifferent to all of Brahma’s fervent philosophical prayers. He made no comments or approval of the words of Brahma. It was as if He was just waiting for Brahma to finish so that He could return to playing with the boys. Lord Brahma took permission and returned to Brahmaloka, and Krsna happily rejoined His intimate cowherd friends for lunch.
“This diary will be filled with complaints and laments. The maha-mantra eludes me. My mind goes off somewhere else and doesn’t think of the maha-mantra and Vrndavana. During one round I was reviewing the war with Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Remember that one? How did I get there? I think—it was yesterday when I told Mahavakya I had recently visited the Caribbean. He didn’t know where the West Indies were, so I started telling him. This morning I recalled that and began a geography review of South America. This included thinking of the Falklands. This is just one example of hundreds and thousands. There is no end to the possible combinations—they don’t even have to conform to reality.
“Anyway . . . I’m awake and slugging it out. My Falklands war of the mind—to return my attention. In between, I have read a few pages in the Tenth Canto aloud (“The Gopis Praise Krsna’s Flute”), and a few pages of Sankalpa–kalpadruma and a few opening pages from Vrndavana-mahimamrta. Link these to japa: falling down like a stick, may I offer my respectful obeisances to all the residents of Vrndavana. (Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 1.14)
“The ten offenses in chanting are a bit puzzling. When we actually go to chant it is too late, to avoid the ten offenses, although we can still try to cure inattention. It is never too late to reform our lives.”
“Srila Prabhupada defines Krsna as everything, but for our purpose we will use The Nectar of Devotion’s definition: Krsna means Krsna with His expansions and pure devotees. I see obstacles: lack of faith (sraddha) and a lack of spontaneous love. These obstacles prevent me from staying once and for all in staying in the ocean of Krsna’s nama, rupa, guna and lila. So I turn to Krsna—or steer to Him. When I veer off, then I again turn to Him by approaching His many forms, qualities and pastimes by hearing from the sastras and His pure devotees. I have eliminated all other interests in my life; I want only Krsna. I cannot have Him yet.
“This situation not only perplexes me, but has become a critical concern. I cannot skip over my reluctance to surrender as if it didn’t exist. I could stick to recording sastra or writing study notes or philosophical essays convincing people to take up Krsna consciousness. But I don’t do that. My writing is my bhajana, my internal practice of recording first thoughts and then steering to Krsna. I have faith that this process will eventually lead me to pure devotional service, where all my thoughts are Krsna conscious.
I want to explore this act of turning to Krsna more in my writing. Sometimes devotees want me write more expository essays, but I write like this. It is more than a simple choice of one genre over another; I have chosen to write for self-purification, to hope to preach with whatever honest experience I can come out with. I want writing to be more personal and less restrictive than a formal lecture. I will not satisfy by repeating dogma. I am willing to do it in a lecture for an hour or so, but I don’t want to do it in writing.
“I’m learning more about vraja Krsna. Sometimes things I hear are theoretical to me, but I accept them on authority. Krsna consciousness is like that—it is based on submissive reception. It will only be complete when there is realization. Writing is my means to explore what I am hearing and to pray for realization.”
“Krsna. Flow-writing means to look at an object and go. Why am I offering resistance? Don’t I have faith that deeper life is waiting below the surface? Trees . . . The yellow growth on the tree trunk, a putty-like mushroom . . . Remember Saranagati? The black bear striding near where I wrote. I will never forget him, I think. What wildness!
“So tiny I am, like an insect under a rock, looking out with furrowed brow at the big world. Time has slipped by.
“‘But the bears,’ I say, ‘the bears.’ Can they lead me to spiritual perception? Bears are excitement, fear, courage. They make me chant Hare Krsna when I see them. Anything can lead to Krsna, even if the connection is awkward. Someone’s black hair can remind me of Krsna’s black hair. Simply seeing a bee can remind me of the gopis’ comparison of the bee to Krsna. And a little pain in my heart can remind me that my end is coming. It can remind me to call on Him for all I am worth. How can I not think of Krsna?
“‘Here is a connection: “Ecology” notepad—it makes me think of something preachy. Real ecology is to use everything for Krsna in the isavasya concept. Man should not exploit the resources of nature because they are supplied by God.’
“A tape recorder reminds me of Krsna conscious work ahead. The Pilot pen reminds me of editing, of making rough versions that will become polished and tight.
“Funny how things pop up. As I write I see the smiling face of Gaurahari dasa. He was always a comedian in the community, and now that community is gone, replaced by a new one. Faces of friends . . .”
“The instruction given in my books is supposed to be personal instruction. When we read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, it is understood that we are receiving personal instructions of Krsna. No physical barrier is there in the case of spiritual affairs. (Letter to Dristaketu, October 14, 1973)
“COMMENTARY: Sometimes a devotee feels sorry that he does not see the spiritual master enough, or that he cannot be physically with him personally. In time, he may even feel that he has little personal connection with him. In the letter quoted above, Prabhupada removes such doubts by indicating the difference between material and spiritual life. Although in material life the instructions one receives are always external to one’s real self, in spiritual life this is not true. Rather, Prabhupada indicates that in spiritual life we associate personally with the spiritual master and with Krsna through the instructions we receive in parampara.
“When we read Bhagavad-gita we should not feel bereft because we are not ourselves present on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra with Krsna and Arjuna. Such feelings are due only to material shortcomings. If we are actually enthusiastic to be with Krsna, and if we are receptive to His message, then we can have direct, personal connection with Him through His representative. It is simply a question of our submissiveness.
“In a similar way we can enter the most intimate association with Prabhupada by carefully reading his books. In the intimate solitude of the early morning hours, Prabhupada concentrated on delivering his nectarean message to his disciples. By entering into the intimate mode of Prabhupada speaking his books in the early hours, we can have very personal darsana with this greatest of Vaisnavas, and through such association as this, what could be lacking?”
“This morning in the Baltimore temple during the japa period, I was upstairs in a small room. I was taking fifteen minutes to do yoga exercises while listening to a tape of Prabhupada. The tape I found was titled, ‘People Want to Banish God,’ a morning walk in Germany 1974.
I recognized it right away by the discussion about transmigration. I was on that walk with Prabhupada, along with many other devotees, and you could hear the sound of many feet walking and people chanting japa. We were walking on the path through the wheatfields nearby the schloss, the temple of ISKCON Germany.
“Prabhupada asserted that anyone who does not accept the transmigration of the soul is a rascal. He said that Lord Krsna explains it clearly in the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Just as we change from boyhood to youth to old age in this body, so the soul, at the end of life, accepts another body. Prabhupada asked several times, ‘What is the possible objection?’
“I had raised some objections on that morning walk, and sure enough, I heard it again on the tape. I said Krsna’s analogy does not apply to the next life. He tells us we change bodies in youth to old age, but this cannot be used as a proof for the next life. Prabhupada said, ‘What is wrong with this as a proof?’ I replied that we do not perceive ourselves changing bodies.
“Prabhupada replied that we do perceive it. He gave the example of dreams. If we dream of something fearful, we actually become afraid in our dream. He said if a man dreams of a woman he loves, he may even have a seminal discharge during the dream. By the example of dreams, Prabhupada said, we have proof that we do perceive the subtle body. Therefore there is a subtle body that is different from the gross body, and that subtle body transmigrates at the time of death.
“After explaining it this far, Prabhupada asked if there were any further objections. No one said anything. I could have continued to play the demon, but I remembered back to that morning walk in 1974, when I chose to be quiet and hear and be impressed by Prabhupada’s examples. I knew that his examples were good debating replies, and they contained a way for us to realize the truth. Krsna’s analogy is perfect evidence, but if you want to go on arguing, there will be no end to the discussion. In that case we will never understand transmigration, and transmigration is only the first step in knowledge.
“It was an odd sensation to hear in 1990 what happened in 1974 and think of my mentality from that time. I knew that my silence on that 1974 tape—my refraining from playing the demon—was because I really wanted to hear what Prabhupada was saying. Now in 1990 I still want to hear. (This may be taken as another proof for the subtle body—the fact that I was present in 1974 and can remember twenty years later the mental state I was in during that walk, although my body has changed considerably.
“On that same morning walk, Prabhupada said that our past lives, within this body or in previous bodies, are full of suffering. He said that if we remember the sufferings that we have endured during this very lifetime, we will shudder and think, ‘Oh, I was in this state of life. Krsna has saved me.’
“The last thing I heard on the tape were Prabhupada’s words: ‘Do not be misled by this illusion as others are being misled. Stick to Krsna and be saved. That is the only way.’”
“A news reporter in South Africa spoke of LSD gurus. He mentioned Richard Alpert, who went to India and then became guru.
Prabhupada said, ‘That is bogus.’
“The reporter said, ‘But he started the experimentation with LSD. He and another fellow.
“Prabhupada said, ‘Timothy?’
“ ‘Yes, Timothy Leary.’
“Prabhupada pulled the word ‘Timothy’ out of his memory. Timothy Leary is not in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, nor had anyone heard of him in Calcutta. Prabhupada picked up his name on the Lower East Side. Nowadays, many young Americans have never heard of Timothy Leary, but if you were around in the 1960s he was well known. Prabhupada knew of Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, President Johnson, Viet Nam, hippies, LSD, marijuana, The Village Voice, Second Avenue, Bowery bums, Empire State Building, bus route, subways, . . . Although he was in transcendental consciousness, he knew of Chambers Streeet, lawyer’s fees, New York state religious corporation rules, green card . . . and when he went back to India he talked about these things to the sadhus and to his old friends.
‘In America they have no problem for money. One of my students was absent one morning. So I asked him, “Where were you?” “Oh,” he said, “I needed some money, so I went working on the docks and got ten dollars.” Without any appointment, he can go and get $10. Ten dollars in our exchange is ninety rupees, but he can get that in a day without any problem. And they have freeways with four lines in one direction and four in the other. The roads are like velvet. There’s no comparision to our roads in India. Now we have five temples in the US and one in Canada. I have my green card and can come and go as I like.’
“When Prabhupada was in New York, he never said, ‘I’m very impressed by the Americans,’ or ‘It is amazing that you can make so much money on one day.’ However, when he returned to India, he impressed them with the strangeness and opulence of foreign lands. Prabhupada noticed everything and often kept it to himself. Later, whatever impressed him (or whatever he could use) came out in his speech or writing.
“On a morning walk in Beverly Hills, Prabhupada noticed a young man coming out of a wealthy house. The boy lived in that house, but he was dressed like a poor hippie. Prabhupada did not say anything at the time, but later he told an Indian audience that in America, even though they have nice homes, the young people are morose. He retold, with details, what he had seen that morning in Beverly Hills.”
“I remember one lecture Prabhupada gave in Mayapur (1975), in which he spoke of immortality. He said people do not know how to become immortal, and this is the greatest blunder in Western civilization. They think they can attain lasting goals within the temporary material world, but that is impossible. Prabhupada’s lecture was the most thrilling of any possible topic. If he had spoken something ‘higher,’ we would have loved that also; he gave us what we most needed, though, and it was blissful and assuring. Prabhupada explained immortality in many ways. Every time he said the word ‘immortal’ or ‘immortality,’ he struck down all doubts. Prabhupada said it was the mission of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna to teach immortality. If we can know why Krsna comes into the world, as taught by Lord Caitanya, we also will become immortal—janma karma ca me divyam.
“Immortality is inconceivable to us. It is not a topic that we have already mastered. It is the basis of everything. Although we may grasp it academically, what do we know of eternity? Who is thoroughly convinced that he is spirit soul? How nourishing it was, therefore, to hear this from Srila Prabhupada. It was another crowning achievement by Prabhupada to gather us in Mayapur and instruct us in our individual immortality.”
“Turn to Prabhupada. What do I mean by that? You are facing in one direction, and you hear a sound; or your mind tells you you want to look in another direction. Physically you move your neck and head in order to see the desired object. Or you may turn your whole body. At least you turn your attention.
“When we turn to Prabhupada, what do we see? Like dawn, at first we do not see much. We strain our eyes and wait as our outlines start to become clear. We see the peaks of hills and can clearly distinguish the horizon. The sun is not up yet, but we desire to be with Prabhupada—so we talk of him.
“Way off in the mind’s eye, we seem to see him going out on another walk, and we run to catch up. Abstractly, but in truth, we think of how our lives have been made fortunate by meeting a great devotee of the Lord. He gives us salvation and turns us to the next life without so much fear. As Christ says, ‘To those who are given, more is expected.’ Because we have been given his association, there is an obligation. This is guru-daksina.
“People who have a relationship bound in love are obliged to continue it. One reason personal relationships diminish is that people do not communicate. The same thing can happen in the guru-disciple relationship. One can continue to perform the rituals but lose the sense of being in love. When the guru relationship begins, it is romantic. One is swept off one’s feet in admiration. You promised to give everything; however, we have to learn how to stay in love with Srila Prabhupada.
“We do not think of Prabhupada as similar to Yamaraja. He is not someone who is going to smash us. We feel assured that he loves us, even though we can do only insignificant service, and we have many faults. He has the right to reprimand us, and that is also part of love. When reprimands come, we go on serving and loving. We can take it on our heads for our wrongs. We have faith that he is always trying to help us. Prabhupada says, ‘I will take care of you. I can bring you back to Godhead if you will follow.’
“Sometimes in his lectures Prabhupada says, ‘These disciples are working twenty-four hours a day, and why? Out of love.’ He reminded us that he saw our loving attitude toward him. It was not forced, he did not bribe us. It was not fear. It was love. Now, how to stay in love?
“By Prabhupada meditation and by right acts, we are trying to stay in love. In the relationship between the servant of God and the Supreme Lord, obedience is one of the first requirements. A disciple has to be obedient, and that must be given freely, from one’s entire self. This is the obligation of the eternal disciple. He humbly knows that he is always in need of instructions. He keeps trying to please Prabhupada and ask for mercy.”
“Krsna consciousness is an evolution. My relationship with Srila Prabhupada is part of that evolution, the most important part of my evolution. I need to express it aloud, to write about it, to digest it and assimilate it. Although the writing medium is usually considered a place for settled, perfect presentations, writing can be used as a tool in my evolution; it’s like having an informal talk with myself.
“It takes time to break down the barriers created against self-exploration by formal structured thought. I often compared it to when Prabhupada would continue to speak in his room after giving the evening lecture. As the evening got later, fewer guests would stay and sit with him. As each person left, the talk became more personal. Finally we would be alone with him. We could ask him our personal questions, the ones we would never dare ask in public. ‘Swamiji, is there a spiritual progress one can make from which one doesn’t fall down?’ or ‘Srila Prabhupada, should I take sannyasa? Should I travel and preach? Or do you want me to stay here and manage?’ Important issues that require thought and attention.
“Sometimes Srila Prabhupada wouldn’t give a definite answer. One of his methods of instructing us was to teach us how to figure things out for ourselves. This private writing is one of my methods for learning about myself in relation to Prabhupada. I am not an acarya like Srila Prabhupada. I sit on the floor of the ashram like everyone else. Now that I’ve explained it, I feel much better. I think you understand me.”
“‘O Narada,’ the Lord spoke. ‘I regret that during this lifetime you will not be able to see Me any more. Those who are incomplete in service and who are not completely free from all material taints can hardly see Me.’ (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.6.21)
“This verse is from the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The story tells how Narada Muni actually saw Krsna face to face by meditation. But Krsna disappeared, and Narada attempted to see Him again. But although Narada tried, he could not see the Lord any more. Srila Prabhupada, in his purport, describes that seeing Krsna is not mechanical. Krsna appears by His own sweet will, and He also leaves out of His own causeless mercy —just like the sun. He is not subject to our demands.
“Now, only a short time after the disappearance of our beloved spiritual master Srila Prabhupada, we are seeing so many things in this light of separation. And we can understand both separation from Krsna and separation from the spiritual master in the same way. Of course, the spiritual master is not Krsna, but —saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair—because he is the direct manifestation of Krsna, his coming and going are just as spiritual as Krsna’s coming and going.
“Here Krsna has left Narada after giving him only a brief darsana [audience], but then He communicates to Narada through transcendental sound vibration. Narada says, ‘Seeing my attempts in that lonely place, the Personality of Godhead, who is transcendental to all mundane description, spoke to me with gravity and pleasing words, just to mitigate my grief.’ Of course, these are very extraordinary dealings. Narada was so pure that he was able to feel great separation from Krsna. And Krsna spoke to him, although Krsna was no longer personally present. And the words that He spoke are this morning’s verse.
“Krsna next tells Narada, ‘I have left you just to increase your attachment to Me.’ And the same thing applies to the spiritual master. It should not be that after the spiritual master disappears the disciple’s attachment for him gradually wanes, that the devotees are sustained when the spiritual master is present but in his absence their memory of him deteriorates. And don’t think that if you did not have personal association with Srila Prabhupada you did not know him. Even if that is a fact, the opportunity to approach him continues. Many who had personal association with Srila Prabhupada feel that they did not take advantage of it. Yet they also have the opportunity, even now after he has left, to increase their attachment for him. This association is something each of us deliberately has to cultivate.”
“‘Memories’ underway, a slow and gradual attempt to attain gold flashes by speaking. But there is still a place for Writing Sessions.
“Mail came yesterday. Reading ISKCON World Review and Back to Godhead, I first felt a wave of being left out (along with my fault-finding, knee-jerk response to persons and projects. But neither do I support anti-ISKCON persons and their rhetoric. I’m a loyalist with reservations.) Then a second wave was feeling I’m right to be solitary and to show up in temples to prove I’m still alive and well in ISKCON. Be truthful and true.
“So, mail…X dasa’s torment kept me awake as did a headache and maybe caffeine after I took a headache pill. I answered a letter at 8 P.M. in a way more deep and sincere than my first attempt at it. I could use help in answering them, but mostly I don’t take any.
“Rigamarole. Take notes in a separate notebook about to conduct ‘Memories.’ But basically, it’s improvised. Try not to show off or perform to make a good one or to be preachy. Really hone in one and tell it with details. The first I did on Bay Terrace is a standard but the preachy attempt to recall the first time I went to 26 Second Ave. was also okay.
“Trust in the process.
“Same with Writing Sessions. Read it later in bound form.
“P. Swami lived in an unfinished apartment in a busy city. I stayed there overnight but didn’t like it. I told you
the jazz mentors may not be KC
your own stomach is purring right now
but I didn’t overeat. Maybe he’s
tired of lying down.
“Get up as early as you can, my man. You’re gun-shy of a headache. Drink lots of water. M. clears his throat. Drink. Be alive.
“News, news, don’t present it raw in an unfiltered way in WS or you have another IWR with ad pages and don’t scope your letters. However, I can’t (won’t) tell you: don’t do this, don’t do that.
“Unfettered freedom in life and art, James Joyce wanted, and now he is friendly-looking on the twenty-pound note of Ireland with the first line of Finnegan’s Wake, ‘riverun…’ What if our van is not ready on time?
“Oh, no problem. It will be ready, said M.
“A thousand pounds. Thirty rounds a day, G. chants. He says, ‘Sixteen is only a warm-up for me.’ But he has another ‘mantra’ in his heart which is his material attachment and the bereavement it causes him. Citraketu suffered when his son died and Narada said it was maya. Angira. Angira Plectorius.
“The way, the August month. The late summer bugs eat through leaves, flowers fade, last hot days and maybe a hint of cool ones – at least in Ireland. Spent time here writing. It’s all right.
“You say what comes to mind. Leather wings.
“But I like…maybe should have read of the Gosvamis before taking rest instead of just the mail. I went to bed extra early but didn’t gain from it. O Gosvamis of Vrindavan, you are great indeed and hearing of your lives is inspiring.
“Read Cc. – an ad to myself –
Flash it on the screen
Read Cc. and save yourself
Become a complete person
Be happy in KC
Learn esoteric secrets and solid
basics and be with your s.m.
“I thought of being in prison and they said you could have one book and I asked for the one-volume Cc. But did they say, ‘No, it’s hardbound. You can only have paperbacks?’
“‘I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please consider that you may be wrong’ – one British statesman said to the other.
“Nixon: I’m no crook.
“If I only had another helicopter, said Carter. (I’m not a fairy.)
“Satsvarupa said – if only my audience would appreciate my books and I didn’t get headaches. I wanted peace. I knew the Swami in ’66, so you’ve got to forgive me. I belong in ISKCON, don’t think otherwise.
“I didn’t listen (or stopped) to jazz.
“They didn’t understand my writing. It takes study and sympathy. Many subtle points may tend to be taken the wrong way. The persona, for example.
“Oh, the art of the rose
is blooming and even
and rain shatter them,
new ones come forth.
“Please see all this as Krsna’s arrangement. It is cruel nature. God is in control and puts you under the care of Durga and you try to get amenities from her, Mother. She gives so-called enjoyments and slaps too. Better to surrender to Krsna since you have to surrender somewhere.
“Yeah, it would be nice.
“I’ll write here, Writing Sessions, probably shorties like this one, leave a trail of blood drops or ink patterns, daisy and rose petals. Blaze a trail with an axe, lay maxims and laws, and strew (spew) the way with dreams. (P. Swami was up early chanting in the one room that was nicely arranged. I spent my time preaching to that economist. Told him that SP said India’s true economy is a very simple one and they should not be a beggar nation but give spiritual teachings to the world. Of course, now…)
“That was a dream. This is a sheam.
“Let’s see you make each day special. I will go to the garden and speak out loud.
“Do shorter Writing Sessions, frequently as you can. Even five minutes is okay.
“(28 minutes, 5 7/8 pages, August 3, 1996)
“Good to do ‘Memories.’ Twice in two days you quit on them and then came back. They are for you.
“I was remembering Cozille (Italy) and how I struggled the first time there (in hay fever season) writing What Shall I Write? We may romanticize the past, I realize that. But I still I recalled that I struggled to free-write, to continue the process – to write with not subject, to improve the form and to finally say, ‘I want a form but cannot find one, but how about this?’ And that memory made me want to come back to these writing sessions in Wicklow which have recently diminished.
“They keep you honest. They sent me tapes of NM speaking at 26 Second Avenue but I don’t want to hear them. If I like them or if I find fault with them, either way it’s dangerous. Those who see it in a simple way that, ‘He’s a soft and very advanced devotee; I don’t know what all of this controversy is about?’ are naïve and one doesn’t even want to break into their naivete for fear of disturbing them. Let it go. But at least I have to mention these things.
“Madhu cut a large whole in the side of the van. It’s where the fridge goes, and he will replace the hole with a plastic vent. I grow detached from the van but wonder about all the money we borrowed to get it. Still not on the road with registration. Everything is going along as expected on schedule, Irish time.
“Some things you keep to yourself.
“I remember hyacinths? You ought to quit the ‘Memories’ out of a good urge to be seriously KC. As you massaged SP you asked him what to do, what did he want you to do? And the answer you felt was, ‘You decide.’ You decide how you want to serve him. Aren’t those the terms of pure, loving service? We have to serve, either maya or Krsna. We are not the master. So, if we decide to serve Krsna then still, we keep our individuality and initiative. We submit to the guru. We take a service and that is also according to capacity and proclivity (according to one’s psycho-physical nature or maybe something more spiritual than that). By trial and error, we come to our career, our chosen service. Do the needful we are told. We do what an authority tells us to do. You men and women, go out and distribute books. They’re told this is the best way to get the Lord’s mercy. So, try the best service. Keep at it if you can. Save people by giving them a book. It actually happens.
“Find your service even if it’s something other than the heroic book distribution. Just a job? Why did you get married? Doing whatever service they offer you in the temple in return for room and board and spiritual shelter?
“What do you want to do?
“As a writer, what? A book? A series of practice sessions? Let the process unfold and the shape will come like a Picasso drawing developing its story in a succession of strokes. It begins looking like a fish or a bird and in the last two minutes it turns into a strange black cat.
“Oh, humor me, Smith
I’ve got an ego on ice
we can’t go with you on
vacation to the tirtha
because our home would freeze
in our absence and
the Sahara Bar needs tending
by Uncle Mike
the covered-over loan shark
You know what I mean?”