Jayadvaita Swami is visiting myself and Ravindra Svarupa for a week. Bala prepared lunch just to Maharaja’s liking: kichari, karela and okra, served with condiments. For dessert he honored a piece of pumpkin pie made by Krsna Kumari with maple syrup, and Maharaja salted it liberally (as he does with most things).
In the afternoon, we talked and read together. I gave him a copy of Daily Compositions and told him about my publishing writings from years ago. He told me he was reading a book about Kavi Karnapura by a devotee named Gopinatha who is a Ph.D. devotee at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He said the book was “dense” reading, and he told me about the contents: it very technically describes poetry, what it is, who is a poet, and how it is read by a sensitive audience. Maharaja told me something of the life of Kavi Karnapura, and how Lord Caitanya put His toe into Kavi Karnapura’s mouth when he was a baby. He lived through the tragic era when the Muslims sacked the Jagannatha temple in Puri.
While Maharaja is here, he is continuing to give his series of Bhagavatam lectures on Zoom. It is wonderful to have his association again after long separation.
A devotee wrote me and told me he is enthusiastic to write a memoir about Prabhupada’s visit to his country. But he described himself as a “greenhorn” memoirist and asked for advice. I told him I preferred memoirs that are written in the first person rather than historical biographies following chronological order. He should interview people who were there at the time, and they can supply him with information he may have forgotten. He should study all the lectures and conversations Prabhupada had with people during his visit. He shouldn’t feel he has to “fluff out” the book by repeating all that Prabhupada said in a lecture or room conversation. Better to give his own personal reflections on what Prabhupada said. Natalie Goldberg wrote a book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, which I found somewhat helpful. Try writing something every day and then edit it later. I find it’s best to write in the early morning hours, before the material energy becomes very active in your life. The devotee said he was enthusiastic to write the memoir, so he should convey his spontaneous enthusiasm in the writing. Surround yourself with photos and available films of that period. Get the names and occupations of the people that Prabhupada actually spoke to. Try visualization and meditation techniques that bring you back to the time you are trying to write about.
Removal of my cataracts will be a long, drawn-out ordeal. The doctors are backed up in their work because of the Covid-19 epidemic. Appointments are scheduled well in advance, with waiting periods in between.
Yesterday we went for consultation. You have to park your car in the parking lot and phone the office building, which is locked. They tell you not to come too early, and when you phone them, they let you in the building. Inside there were three doctors, at least six nurses and a few receptionists. There were a few patients there also, being tended to. I waited my turn and was seen first by a nurse. She checked out my eyes with various instruments and put in eye drops to dilate the pupils. She said this would make my eyesight bleary all day. I read alphabets from the chart. Then I saw Dr. Levine. He examined my eyes with instruments and said my cataracts were not extremely bad, and if I wanted I could wait for a year to have them removed. I told him I wanted them removed this year. The doctor determined that there was no damage to the eyes due to glaucoma or diabetes. To make a final diagnosis, he needed a photo of the back of my eye. After seeing him, the nurse saw me and took the pictures of the back of my eyes. There was so much flashing of lights, and the dilation caused everything to become bleary; I could hardly see at all. The nurse told us that she would call me back later in the day to schedule an assessment of measuring the cataracts and lenses. But she didn’t call.
Between all of these steps in the day there were fifteen- to twenty-minute waits, which was trying on the patience. On our arrival back at the ashram we met a man who was delivering an oxygen machine for me ordered by the pulmonologist, Dr. Garcia. This was based on tests from the previous week, where I wore a wristband device and a device measuring my finger that proved I don’t get enough oxygen when I sleep. So the man we met at the ashram was delivering an oxygen machine that I’m supposed to wear every night. It goes around my ears with two tubes and will supply a metered amount of oxygen while I sleep. This may improve my COPD and also my energy level in the morning. I can expect the future trying of my patience in subsequent visits to the cataract office, with appointments drawn out over weeks and months. I am relieved that the day is over and that we made some progress.
Rev. John Endler wants to publish two small books which are out of print, my haiku collections Under the Banyan Tree and The Dust of Vrndavana. They would be small books, low cost, and we’d sell them in a package. He and Baladeva also want me to print two books for my Vyasa-puja in 2021. They want me to come out with the two books I wrote in California, California Search for Gold and New, Newer and Newer. I’ve been resisting their desires, concerned that it is too much reading for my followers. But Baladeva says I should strike while the iron is hot: Rev. John Endler is working for us full time now. The nursing homes and hospitals are closed, and he has free time to do my book service. But as soon as there’s a vaccine he may have to stop all that devotion to my books and get back to his pastoral role. In three months I’ll be 81, and my health is breaking down in different ways. They say I should get the books out while I’m still able to function. They are important books and should be circulated. I am inclined to yield to the “arm-twisting” of my two friends, and we shall see what we will publish in 2021.
A devotee wrote me an email asking how I feel about the fact that my books are “ahead of their time” and I get criticism for them. I replied that I mostly don’t hear criticism. I know my books are not read by the mainstream members of ISKCON, but I receive enough mail from different persons of all walks of life all around the world who say that particular books have helped them. Every book gets at least a few responses from persons who are touched by them appreciatively. So I am mostly oblivious of the critics who I say don’t communicate with me. I was very much hurt by the censorship and order to recall my unsold books of a particular title which had a passage that was objectionable to the GBC committee. The committee didn’t even read the whole book but just the small objectionable part. After that banning, I was discouraged from writing for a while but then bounced back and took up my vocation.
I’m corresponding with a devotee who has written a book about his forty-year experience as a book distributor. His manuscript is being reviewed by the BBT, and he’s hopeful there won’t be an objection. He doesn’t think there will be one. But he’s sensitive to the fact that ISKCON authors sometimes get censored. He likes to read my books.
I was listening to a lecture, and Prabhupada told a story. He said that when Krsna left Vrndavana for Mathura, all the residents of Vrndavana, especially the gopis, constantly wept and were miserable at heart. Then they heard that Krsna was going to Kuruksetra, so they took the opportunity to travel there and see Him. Radha met Krsna at Kuruksetra, and She said, “You are the same Krsna, and I am the same Radharani, but You are different here. You are surrounded by Your ministers, military men, horses and elephants. I don’t like You in this mood. I want You to return to Vrndavana, where You play like a cowherd boy in the jungles and bushes.”
(Once the cowherd boys traveled to the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. They went because they wanted to see their beloved friend. Vrndavana is only nineteen miles from Kuruksetra, so they made the journey. But when they saw Krsna driving the chariot of Arjuna amidst the fighting on the battlefield, they were astonished.)
He spoke with a Russian translator and said the devotees should be gosthyanandis when in the West, preaching in places such as his Polish Woodstock festival. Then they should come to Vrndavana and be bhajananandi, immersing themselves in the holy places and hearing from authorized sources about the pastimes of Radha and Krsna.
He told a story about a wrestling match between Krsna and the gopis. Krsna was on one side by Himself and was boasting that He was the best wrestler in Vrndavana. There were many gopis on the other side. They became a little intimidated by His talk, but then they gained their courage and entered combat. He said that Radharani pinned Krsna down to the ground by His shoulders. Krsna finally admitted defeat. The gopis said that He had to go around all of Vrndavana, to every kund and kunda and village and chant loudly, “Jaya Radhe! Jaya Radhe!” Although Krsna was “defeated,” this was all under His will and was done out of love in the rasa of madhurya.
Maharaja quoted Rupa Gosvami, who wrote, “One should live in Vrndavana. But if one cannot live there physically, one should live there in one’s mind.” When devotees do go to Vrndavana, they may inquire what seva they may do when they go there. They should ask, “What should I do? What service can I have?” Bhajananandi doesn’t mean not doing service. But it does mean concentration on chanting and hearing and remembering Krsna.
Indradyumna Swami and the Russian ISKCON devotees were gathered in Bharatapura, which is in the northern part of Vrndavana. He spoke through a fluent translator. He told about the king of Bharatapura, who ruled in the seventeenth century. His people were farmers, but they were also fierce fighters. They always wanted their independence, and they fought with the Muslims and British when they occupied India. Maharaja Bharata was a fierce fighter, but he was also a devotee of Krsna. He built the architecturally beautiful buildings at Kusuma-sarovara and the palace at Kesi-ghat.
The devotees with Indradyumna Maharaja walked on harinama through the town of Bharatapura. They were very well received by the people and two prominent newspapers came to cover the event.
Indradyumna Maharaja stated that Vrndavana and Mayapur were nondifferent. He told the story of a resident of Vrndavana who went on pilgrimage and arrived in Ekacakra, the birthplace of Lord Nityananda. The people there told him that Ekacakra was nondifferent than Vrndavana, but he doubted it. He asked, ‘Where is the Yamuna River?” They showed him a small stream. He bathed in it and said his Gayatri. But the stream washed away his walking stick, and it was lost. When he returned to Vrndavana and was bathing in the Yamuna, something got stuck between his legs. He found it to be the walking stick that had washed away in Ekacakra. That’s when he concluded that Ekacandra and Vrndavana were nondifferent. The devotees schedule the classes of Dhanurdhara Swami, B.B. Govinda Maharaja and Indradyumna Maharaja so they are not in conflict but have consecutive schedules for the sangas.
Later Indradyumna Maharaja was speaking to the devotees at Prema-sarovara. He told a pastime where Radharani was being bothered by a bumblebee who was hovering around Her face. Madhumangala got his stick and chased the bee away. Then he proudly announced, “Madhusudana is gone! Madhusudana is gone!” Madhusudana is another name for Krsna, and Radharani experienced what is known as prema-vaicitra. This is the feeling of separation by the lover when the beloved is still present. Krsna also experienced prema-vaicitra at this time, and They both had very intense vipralambha, crying of tears and other symptoms of ecstasy. Up to this point Krsna had not separated Himself from the gopis. But when He saw how much ecstasy this gave Radharani, He decided to be separate from Her more. This led up to Krsna’s accepting Kamsa’s invitation to go to Mathura. He left Vrndavana, telling the gopis, “I’ll be back,” but He never returned. Indradyumna Swami invited the devotees to respectfully bathe in Prema-sarovara, and he claimed it was the same water that came from the tears of Krsna and Radha. When Madhumangala cried, “Madhusudana is gone!”, They fell into prema-vaicitra emotions.
Our usual Sunday guests—Atindra Mahajan, his wife Lalita Kaisori and Bhakta Amit from Albany—who have been working outside in the garden, came inside because it was too cold. They worked cleaning the guest room for the arrival of Jayadvaita Swami. They listened to the out-loud reading from the other room, where they were wearing masks. Amit, through his mask, took a turn in out-loud reading. They also went shopping for articles for the guest room. After the Trinidad feast, which they look forward to on Sunday, they pitched in and cleaned up the kitchen. Then they went out shopping for supplies for the pantry and the house. Every week Atindra fixes some of the “bugs” in the computer. After that, they went to Bala and Krsna dasi’s house and hung out (which is called “limin’” in Trinidad).
Someone wrote me and asked about the fall of the living entity. I wrote them back and said that Prabhupada stated that it wasn’t important. It occurred in time immemorial and there’s no tracing it out. The important thing is that we are now fallen, and we have to get out. If you have no butter and you say, “When did I run out of butter,” that is not important. The crucial thing is that you have to get butter now. We conditioned souls are all fallen. We are under the illusion of the material nature in modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Our business is to cleanse ourselves, surrender to Krsna and go back to Godhead. Krsna says at the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita, “Give up all other religious practices and just surrender to Me. I will relieve you of all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” This should be our concentration, surrendering to Krsna and stopping the cycle of repeated birth and death.
Jana pramana means narrations about Krsna which are circulated by “the people.” That is, they are stories that are not in the sastra. Each village around Vrndavana has its own stories about Radha and Krsna. I heard an ISKCON devotee telling such stories, and I was wary. The pastimes in Srila Prabhupada’s books, and those told by the parampara acaryas are solid proof. But it is dangerous to hear stories about demon-killing, amorous dealings with the gopis, pranks on the cowherd boys. Prabhupada has warned us not to associate intimately with the Vrajavasis because they carry such stories. At least the people and babajis are always talking about Krsna, and Krsna has innumerable pastimes, but what they speak may not be authentic and found in the sastras. Lord Caitanya’s personal secretary, Svarupa Damodara, would review any writings by devotees, and if there was any rasa-bhasa (conflicting mellows), he would not show the writings to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The study of rasa-bhasa is very technical, and only an expert devotee like Svarupa Damodara can understand whether the writing is bona-fide. So by submissively hearing unauthorized pastimes, one is putting oneself in a dangerous position, passing on stories about Krsna that are not bona-fide. We should stick faithfully to Prabhupada’s Krsna book and the notes of the parampara acaryas, and we will be safe. We should be satisfied by what we’ve been given from authorized sources. Prabhupada wrote that if we memorize Krsna book, we can go back to Godhead.
In our out-loud reading, Rukmini, the princess of Vidarbha, heard from Narada about the glories of Krsna. She fell in love with Him and determined that she would marry Him. She boldly wrote a love letter to Krsna telling Him of her great devotion to Him and her desire to marry Him. She told Him that her brother Rukmi, against the wishes of his father, had arranged her marriage with Sisupala. The marriage was to take place within a few days. She asked Krsna to come and kidnap her. She wrote a letter to Krsna and gave it to a trusted brahmana to deliver. The brahmana went to Dvaraka, and Krsna received him well. When He heard the letter from Rukmini, He stated that as she had great attraction for Him, He also thought of her as His future bride. She was qualified in all respects, although she was only 13 years old. The brahmana told Krsna that if He wanted to marry Rukmini He had to go at once to Vidarbha and kidnap her before the proposed marriage to Sisupala. Without delay, Krsna took the brahmana on His chariot, and with four speedy horses He raced the distance to Vidarbha, which is more than a thousand miles away from Dvaraka, in one night. Krsna’s brother Balarama prepared a military force to go to Vidarbha to confront any opposing forces in their plan. Rukmini in her letter had advised Krsna to kidnap her when she was coming out of the Durga mandir just before her marriage. Krsna was well received by Rukmini’s father Bhismaka. There were many princes gathered from around the world hoping to gain Rukmini’s hand. When they saw her emerging from the Durga mandir they were so struck by her exquisite effulgent beauty that they fell unconscious from their horses and elephants. Krsna took the opportunity to take Rukmini on His chariot and to drive away slowly from the midst of the many bewildered princes. Finally Sisupala came to his senses, and he and the other princes chased after Krsna in their chariots. But they were blocked by Balarama and the Yadu forces. All the princes were defeated by Balarama’s forces, but Sisupala managed to get free and confront Krsna. But Krsna defeated all of Sisupala’s attempts to kill Him. Rukmi gathered a military force and attacked Krsna’s chariot, taking a vow that if he did not kill Krsna he would not return to his home. Krsna defeated and arrested Rukmi, and He was about to kill him, but Rukmini broke down and pleaded that her husband spare her brother. Lord Balarama appeared and chastised Krsna for tying up His brother-in-law. Krsna had already punished Rukmi by cutting off his hair and mustaches in odd places and taking the jewel off the top of his head, all of which was humiliating like death to Rukmi. Balarama then appeared on the scene, and at first He chastised Krsna for punishing Rukmi so severely. Then Balarama turned to Rukmini and told her not to be so upset about the punishing of her brother. So Balarama alternately reprimanded Krsna and pacified Rukmini by His transcendental instructions. Rukmini calmed down, and Krsna released Rukmi. Rukmi had so boastfully made his vow in front of everyone, but he had not been able to rescue Rukmini or kill Krsna. So he followed his vow and did not return to his home but built a cottage in an isolated place and stayed there for the rest of his life.
Krsna then took Rukmini to Dvaraka. All the citizens were jubilant to see the union of Krsna and Rukmini. A grand marriage ceremony was celebrated. The whole city was decorated, and the citizens presented gifts to the couple according to their means. Thus Krsna and Rukmini were joyously united.
The next day we heard how Krsna killed a powerful demon named Bhaumasura. He then entered his palace. He discovered that Bhaumasura had kidnapped 16o00 young princesses and kept them imprisoned in his house. When the princesses saw Krsna enter, they became relieved of all their distress. They found Him so beautiful that they all aspired to marry Him. Being kidnapped girls, no one else would accept them in marriage. But Krsna saw their sincere devotion to Him, and becoming compassionate, He accepted them all to be His wives. He gave them costly garments and ornaments, and placed each of them on a palanquin and brought them back to Dvaraka. He expanded Himself into 16,000 thousand forms, and constructed a palace for each of these new queens. His expansions were each exactly compatible to the different wives, and He lived with them as an ordinary husband.
Rukmini was Krsna’s senior Queen. She was a “right-wing” gopi, being always submissive to Krsna and never envious of favors He showed His other wives. Sometimes His other wives would quarrel with Krsna and show anger. But Rukmini was always satisfied with His desires. One day Krsna wanted to joke with her so that He could see her beautiful face expressing irritation. He began to tell her that He was not qualified to be her husband. He said He was a coward, was a beggar, was not fond of household life, and that Rukmini could divorce Him and find a more suitable husband. Rukmini took these words not as jokes but seriously. She was shocked and distraught, and finally she fell down on the floor unconscious. Krsna expanded Himself into a four-armed form just to catch her. Then He soothed her with loving words and told her He was only joking by what He had said. He assured her of His special love for her. Rukmini regained her normal mood and became cheerful. She then spoke to Him and reversed all the negative statements He had made and told Him in a positive, loving way. Rukmini resumed her cheerful countenance, and they were reconciled.
Another great, favorite queen of Krsna’s was Satyabhauma. She was a “left-wing” gopi; she sometimes quarreled with Krsna. Krsna once gave a flower of a parijata tree, which only grows on Indra’s heavenly planet, to Rukmini. Satyabhauma was envious and said she wanted a parijata flower too. Krsna took her on His carrier Garuda up to the heavenly planet. He told her, “Why take only another flower? You can pick out a whole parijata tree.” Indra became offended that Krsna took a tree from his garden, and he gave the Lord a fight to get it back. But Krsna defeated him and brought the parijata flower to Dvaraka, where He planted it in Satyabhauma’s garden. Rukmini, in her typical mood of submissiveness, did not become jealous that Satyabhauma had a whole tree, but she was satisfied with her flower.
Further in the Krsna book we heard about Yudhisthira wanting to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice to show the demigods that everything should be offered to the Supreme Personlity of Godhead. He told his plan to Krsna, who agreed but said that Yudhisthira would first have to send the Pandavas out to the kings of the world to collect taxes from them for the sacrifice. Anyone who refused to pay taxes would have to fight. Everyone submitted except Jarasandha. Yudhusthira’s representatives brought back enough taxes and booty so they could afford to perform the costly sacrifice. One of the first functions of the yajna was to select the best person present, who would receive the first worship. The Pandavas’ younger brother Sahadeva stood up and made a bold speech glorifying Sri Krsna and saying He was undoubtedly the best person present for all His qualities and powers. The people in the assembly all applauded Sahadeva’s speech; everyone except Sisupala, who was an avowed enemy of Krsna. Sisupala couldn’t contain himself, and in anger he stood up and protested within the hearing of Krsna and all the persons present. He denounced Sahadeva as a young boy and began to blaspheme Krsna in many ways. Some of the royalty blocked their ears and left the assembly so as not to hear the infamous words of Sisupala. But others drew their swords with the intention to kill Sisupala. Sisupala, however, boldly continued his quite vituperative speech. He had some men on his side, and they prepared themselves with their swords to fight. Krsna did not want to see a bloody fight on the auspicious occasion of the Rajasuya sacrifice, so He handled matters Himself. He released the Sudarsana cakra and cut off Sisupala’s head. All the persons present saw the shining particle of Sisupala’s spirit soul fly in the air and enter into Krsna’s body, where he attained sayuja liberation.
The Rajasuya sacrifice was then performed in a grand manner, with all details. Various members of the Pandavas and others took up services for the sacrifice. Bhima took the service of being in charge of the cooking. And most amazingly, Lord Krsna took charge of washing the feet of all the guests. The sacrifice was performed to perfection, and at the end King Yudhisthira and his wife Draupadi took separate sacred baths and put on costly garments.
Today we heard of Krsna’s brahmana friend Sudama vipra, who had been a school friend of Krsna in the gurukula school of Sandipani Muni. Sudama was so poor that he and his wife didn’t have sufficient food to eat, and their clothes were ragged. Sudama’s wife repeatedly asked him to go to Krsna in Dvaraka and ask for some aid. Sudama was not inclined to beg, but he thought it would be a good opportunity to go visit his dearmost friend in Dvaraka. Sudama visited, entered one of the palaces, and was received by Krsna with great affection. Krsna’s chief wife, Rukmini, fanned Sudama with a camara, and Krsna washed the brahmana’s feet.
Krsna reminded Sudama of their experience in the gurukula. Once the two boys, on the order of the guru’s wife, went out to collect firewood in the forest, but they became lost. As the night came, a terrible rainstorm fell, and the two boys held each other’s hands and waited to be rescued. Early the next morning, Sandipani Muni, accompanied by the boys at the school, came out and discovered Krsna and Sudama in their sorry plight. Sandipani Muni expressed his gratitude that his two disciples had sacrificed their bodies just to carry out his order, and he granted them a benediction.
Krsna then asked Sudama if he had brought any presentation for Him. Sudama was shy to deliver his humble chipped rice wrapped in a handkerchief, but Krsna spied it, snatched it and ate a morsel. He went to eat another portion, but Rukmini stopped him. She said that by Krsna’s accepting one morsel from His pure devotee, all the world was satisfied. Krsna and Sudama conversed for a long while, and Sudama was plunged into deep ecstasy. He forgot to ask the Lord for anything in begging, and he departed for home feeling very blissful about his visit. When Sudama reached his home, he saw that everything had been transformed. His humble house was now a palace, and his wife was very beautiful and loving in receiving her husband. She was accompanied by other ladies and men who were also very beautiful and well dressed. Sudama accepted the gift of new wealth with no pride, and he did not use it for sense gratification but only for serving Krsna. Eventually he ascended to the spiritual world.
“The other day I came to you, Swamiji,
after I’d just talked with my father on the phone.
He said he didn’t like Krsna or the Swami.
And he said he and my mom
will have nothing to do with me until I quit.
I was teary-eyed when I spoke this to you,
and I don’t remember what you said
(I should have written it down.)
But I remember your eyes smiled
when you saw that I’m definitely your son.
Please keep me that way.
Although I’m old enough to live
without my mom and dad,
spiritually speaking I’m only three months old.
My upbringing was so bad
that I think insulting thoughts in your presence
and I tend to disbelieve scriptures
But I’m sure it will come out all right
and you say that you are sure too,
as long as I stick to it.
I need you to correct me,
but I can’t take stern reprimands.
You know this and so
you’re always easy with me.
I want to say that I appreciate it,
although I wish I were made of stronger stuff.
(When I told you I sleep only five hours
like the Six Gosvamis
you were not impressed.
You scoffed at me, “You are not a Gosvami!”
I really liked that one.)
Please teach me the Bhagavad-gita,
tell me of Nanda and Yasoda’s son.
Tell me every morning of Lord Caitanya
and please never stop.
And as you get to know me
and see I’m shot with vices—unclean,
can’t sit up straight, can’t remember,
don’t have pure faith to carry out orders—
please know that despite my faults,
I really think I can make it
and be a follower of yours
my whole life,
if you’ll accept me.
That’s what I’m asking.”
I read some letters, one to Nehru;
it was very pleasing hearing Prabhupada say,
that in the ideal past, everyone followed
brahmanas and lived in cottages.
Canakya Pandit said a wise man sees all women
as mothers, others’ property as pebbles,
and he treats everyone as he wants to be treated.
Prabhupada said sages of all religions,
like Christ, Buddha and Mohammed taught
not to be materialists.
And so he preached to Nehru,
‘Let us be true to one another.’—
Become real brahmanas
revive the proper use of temples in India,
teach Krsna consciousness.
Then I looked at Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta:
Prabhupada in Mayapur in the early 1970s,
as the mahant of the building, in the lamp-lit evening,
the room filled with frankincense smoke.
Prabhupada said that the insects
are better than jet planes.
‘Don’t waste, build Mayapur.’
I loved going there and hearing.
And then I read morning walks in Vrndavana.
He said the Mayavadis are worse than the Buddhists.
Brahmananda spoke on behalf of ‘them,’
‘The Krsna book is just a story.’
Bhurijana was saying he disliked
cheating methods on book distribution.
Pusta Krsta and Hari Sauri preached to him.
and Prabhupada said that his order
is to distribute books, so
if there is something wrong, then do it
the right way yourself, but don’t stop it.’
“That was about 45 minutes,
the most peaceful part of the day. If I didn’t do it,
I’d be sad and incomplete.”
“One evening, as Prabhupada was lecturing, a guest became restless. He stood up and moved from one part of the room to another. Prabhupada asked him what was wrong. The man, whose name was Burton Greene, said, ‘I feel boxed-in sitting over there.’
“Prabhupada smiled and said, ‘A box within a box.’ He then explained that our material body is like a box for the soul, and the room we are in is another box—and the whole material universe is another box.
“When we remember Prabhupada it is like crawling outside all the boxes and entering the spiritual world. There’s an old-fashioned drawing that depicts this. A shepherd is in a field. The sky above is filled stars and is shaped like an inverted bowl. The shepherd is crawling outside the border of the drawing. By an optical illusion, the drawing suggests that the shepherd is crawling outside the universe. I want to do this by entering the kirtana with Prabhupada and hearing him with faith.
“Sadhu sanga, sadhu sanga—sarva sastra kaya / lava-matra sadhu sange sarva-siddhi haya (Cc. Madhya 22.54) Even one moment’s association with a pure devotee can give one liberation. We are trying to go back to that moment. ‘The value of a moment’s association with the devotee of the Lord cannot be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.’ (Bhag. 1.18.13)
“We live within a mortal anxiety, which builds throughout the day. Toward evening we sink and think, ‘Another day in which I have not done enough.’ When I feel like this, like a box within a box, I go to hear Prabhupada in his 1966 kirtana. I chant with him and stop worrying about my failure to follow him. At least during the period of the kirtana, I escape mortality. I hear the roughness of his voice. I sing and clap. I crawl outside the border of the universe.
“Try This . . .
“Listen to a recording of any kirtana led by Prabhupada. Close your eyes and sing in the chorus. Even if you feel like a ‘box within a box,’ have faith that the kirtana is beating on your heart and doing its work. When the kirtana is over, speak what you experienced, or write it down.”
“Just Imagine . . .
“Would you like to use your imagination? What if you could rise out of the body and travel into the sky into outer space? What if the earth began to spin backwards in time? What if you were able to descend onto the earth planet during the time when Srila Prabhupada was living with us in 1966-77? What if you could be with him again?
“If this could be done, I would like to spend at least a few days in Prabhupada’s association. I want to ask him how we can conduct ourselves after his disappearance. I want to ask about the disciplic succession after his departure, about qualifications for the guru. Also, after he is gone, how can we get further guidance?
“However, such questioning does not seem advisable. Krsna has arranged everything in His own way. Why should I expect to understand things before they happen? If I try to talk to Prabhupada in pre-1977 days, it will be in one of those imaginary “As If” sessions. That is one way he is available to us now, in the present.
“Straight remembering is good. If you practice, you can get better at it. As you walk in a city, or down a country hill, close your eyes briefly and think of him. Do not heed the inner censors who have to hear Prabhupada stories again and again. Go to the favorites, listen for the sounds, consider the tastes and possible sights.
“Just imagine all your association with Srila Prabhupada to be like a big ball of golden thread. Look at the ball and see if there are any threads sticking out, even small ones. Whatever you find, take it and start unraveling.
“Since I am near the ocean this week, I am thinking of Prabhupada walking on Juhu Beach. He is surrounded by devotees who come as close as possible to hear from him. Even nondevotees can see this is a guru walking with his disciples, but the inner meaning of what is happening is closed to them.
“Come close to Prabhupada and try to hear. Sometimes his words are blown away by the wind or lost in the crashing surf. ‘What did he say? What did he say? You feel a desperation to recapture his words, as if they were being blown out to sea.
“‘Srila Prabhupada?’ (He turns, or sometimes gives only a glance.)
“‘Prabhupada, how can we love Krsna?’ Our questions are sometimes impertinent, sometimes sincere. Prabhupada responds deeply, but it depends on the listener to remember and follow what he says.
“Prabhupada used to walk for over half an hour on Juhu Beach. Then he would stop as if an imaginary line had been drawn in the sand. ‘Should we go back now?’ His question was more of a statement. As one, we would turn and walk back to Hare Krsna Land. The vista was no longer pre-dawn but sunlight on the beach—pigs and donkeys running, people dressed in white out for their morning walk, coconut sellers, debris scattered here and there—it is Juhu, and Prabhupada is cutting a swath through maya.
“There is still time to ask him a question. He pokes his cane into the sand and turns to you. The devotees form a circle around Prabhupada.
“‘Prabhupada, they say, religion is blind faith. “If there is God, then show Him to me.”’
“‘Prabhupada says, ‘You cannot see God because you are blind, however, everyone is not blind. If you want to see God, you have to come to one who has the vision.’
“What did he say?”
“What would it be like if all shame were removed, and you were left with only the truth? It would be very embarrassing, but maybe you would not be so surprised by the few true things you were left with. You might even feel shy to have it known how fortunate you are to be connected to Srila Prabhupada.
“Let’s say that a ‘truth operation’ was performed on you, and the results were published in the newspapers, and even written across your face. The truth might be that you have no faith in Lord Krsna and the Vedic scriptures. Your main concerns in life are not ‘chanting and hearing’ or ‘spreading the mission of Krsna consciousness,’ but getting sufficient and palatable food to eat daily, a comfortable place to sleep, companions, reputation, and so on. And there are more extreme and unpalatable truths that might conclude, ‘This person is a first-class hypocrite.’ And yet they would add, ‘but Prabhupada gave his blessings.’
“Is this the truth report? ‘He had a very fortunate opportunity, but he blew it.’”
“Constant prayer is advised by Lord Krsna when He states man mana bhava mad bhakto, ‘Always think of Me.’ Of course, this is a very advanced state, but prayer can help us beyond two sessions a day and japa, even while in the midst of active service, one can offer brief prayers to Krsna and Prabhupada. We can also try to improve our conversations with fellow devotees, so that they are more on the standard of the bhakta’s talks as described by Lord Krsna: ‘The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.’ (Bg. 10.9)
“If the demands of daily life are too pressing to allow us to pray to our full satisfaction, we should at least try to secure a half-hour time in which to draw away from everything else and speak to Krsna and His pure devotee. Then we should listen and allow them to speak to us. As we plan for vacations on a yearly basis, why not plan to spend a few days—or a week or two—each year in a place devoted to prayerful reading and thinking? If not this year, maybe next year. It is something to try for. Once you do it, you will want to do it again.”
“We may think, ‘Yes, Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada can be merciful, but how can I be merciful? The answer is that by serving the merciful great soul and by serving his cause, we can act mercifully on his order. We can serve the merciful mahatma by sharing in his distribution of mercy. We can distribute Krsna consciousness under the authorization of the merciful and compassionate great soul. Thus we also become merciful workers. A medic on the battlefield engaged in the menial task of bandaging the wounded may lack a deep feeling of mercy, but he is merciful nonetheless because his work is a mercy mission. He is compassionate because he has enlisted in the cause of compassion. But mercifulness is best expressed out of the tendency simply to tend to the bodily needs of others but in giving back to them their eternal relationship with Krsna. In fact, to give a person anything other than Krsna consciousness is violence.
“The principles of bhagavata dharma are merciful, and anyone who follows them automatically gives up all kinds of unkindness and its resultant karma. If we follow the Vedic codes of religion, then by obedience alone we will act on the platform of mercifulness to all living entities. We will not kill innocent animals, and we will give the human beings Krsna consciousness.”
“The temple is filled with weekend guests. I took the privilege of standing close to the Deities while the crowds were kept on the other side of the rope. The lead singer was loud and not so sweet. I was able to come here to be with you in your room. Both today and tomorrow, I won’t be able to spend the 10:00-11:00 A.M. hour with you. I prefer to be in your tirthas, but I have other commitments. My solace will be to think those commitments are service to you, while thinking of you.
“The world is full of threats. Noises. Calamities. Intrigues. Unpleasantness. Breakdowns. Disappointments. You and Krsna said it would be like this. Krsna says as long as we are in this miserable and temporary material world we should engage in devotional service and plan to go back to Godhead.
“There’s a noise in the air cooler in your room. It is disturbing to me and probably to you. Better they turn it off. We try to serve you, but sometimes we create more inconveniences for you. You didn’t like noise, but peace and quiet to spend your hours in routine Krsna consciousness, preaching strongly in an atmosphere where people could hear you attentively.
“I don’t take it for granted that I’m allowed the privilege of standing near the Deities or coming early to your room. I know it’s rare and that I’m not deserving. Still, I have beggar’s greed, and I grab what I can. I’m also looking to get a piece of cloth or some object I knew you wore or used. I want to keep it with me.
“These things have value only when we come close to you for service. The word upanisad derives from upaniti, which means to come close to the guru. We come close so that you can speak mantras and instruction into our ear. These are instructions for performing more austerities. I want to come close to you in order to serve you and to be willing to perform difficult tasks. That’s the price of intimacy.”
“4:07 P.M. (Uddhava’s hut)
“O Writing Session, please let me serve you. Please serve me to reach my spiritual master in the heaven of pure devotees. Please let me dress myself and clean my body and heart so I’m fit to go before him again.
“The writing is in its own world. And yet we cannot claim to be…
“‘We belong to Krsna,’ Lord Caitanya said to Sanatana. ‘Your body belongs to Me. You have surrendered.’ And so, my body belongs to the service of my guru. And yet here I am writing this down because you are my life and soul. Let’s break loose.
“Remember when you played typewriter while that girl was playing piano in the next room? Wow, that was the true madness of letting the unconscious take over. I was merely flowing in it. I didn’t know what was happening. But later I analyzed that I had allowed the piano piece that she was playing to go straight through me and it came out in the words of a woman complaining that her young lover was ungrateful and had rejected her. It was an outpouring of that sort of emotion. This was being expressed through the music of a classical romantic piece which the piano student was pounding on the piano in the next room. The house which I rented had a furnished room, and I hit that streak. I thought it was a great piece of automatic writing and brought it down on Sunday to show Murray. But I don’t think he was able to grasp what it was. It was madness, the artist gone mad.
“So, if you want artistic madness and to let it go in writing, that’s the sort of thing it leads you to. You pick up ‘ghosts,’ or forces that flow right through you. You lose your individual ego, and large forces pass through you. You become the channel. Natalie Goldberg says something like that when her Zen guru told her that the universe writes through you. I think it can happen in a milder and KC way when we allow the KC teachings that we have assimilated to come through us and not just to recite them by rote but when they come through the heart, what we’re actually feeling. I want to write in that kind of released way.
“The ‘Memories’ project is surviving after a few days and after resistance from my inner critics. I just did one revealing my mother, which might open the door for similar things. Don’t say to the reader, ‘If you have heard this already please stop me.’ But tell it again, and tell it better and fuller this time.
“‘Oh, but it is not connected to KC.
“‘Well, we are going to connect it. We are going to get it out one way or another. It is a memory, you see. It is not my life per se, the life of the false ego which I’m celebrating or focusing on. It is a memory itself as best as I can recall it. And be sure you will get a liberal share of the memories you have had in connection with the spiritual energy, the spiritual master, and so on. You will learn the art and discipline of telling memories honestly and then the ones in ISKCON can also be told that way. But you’ve got to really confess, man, tell it as it is. Not fearing, ‘Oh, this can be misused, people will think ill of me if they read this, it’s not appropriate for a guru, etc.’
“And how is the Writing Session separate if this memory project gets so absorbing? Well, there is always time for some writing. You finished your letter answering yesterday. Getting more headaches than usual. The sunshine is here and a heavy wind. The first week of August is moving along, and it won’t be long before Janmastami shows up.
“I’m coming out in the open this year and am taking lots of Ireland writing retreat time. The excuse is that the van is not registered and we are waiting for that. It’s a good excuse, so let’s stay stuck and write away. The Justice Department doesn’t care one way or another whether I write my book. They don’t care as long as I don’t cheat on them. Nobody cares. You have to care yourself. Hare Krsna. And some of my friends care, and readers too. So, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. There’s a race to be won, with fair play, of Rudyard Kipling and the Boy Scouts. I don’t have much more to say before I go back inside the house. Maybe I could read Caitayna-caritamrta a little. It would be nice if you had taste for it.
“We discussed a lack of taste in the class this morning and I said you should hang in there and serve only Krsna and nothing else. Don’t indulge in music or any other things except service to Adhoksaja. It sounds good. Man, I am for you. I am going to do it. May the Lord look kindly upon us as we chant the Hare Krsna mantra in this way, and don’t forget…
“A photo of three devotees with long, unknotted sikhas on a downtown street corner, singing. One guy has just gone past them and suddenly turns and looks at the devotees. On his face you see an incredulous expression like, ‘What the heck are they doing?’ He looks as if he’s thinking the devotees are nuts, fanatics, and he’d bust their faces if he could, but there are three devotees and he’s just one, so he keeps going. And there is also a potbellied guy standing on the street corner and neon store lights flashing across the street while the devotees are emoting and letting go, chanting Hare Krsna for all they’re worth in those early days of harinama from the heart – which are still upon us.
“Praghosa said they loved chanting harinama the other day, but they were also looking at their watches and glad to end to it and go back home. Yeah, I know what that’s about. You lose your taste when you get old, but you get a new taste.
“Dear writer, I pound away for a full hour. I’ll get a headache, you know. So, Krsna has given us a talking project which we can do a little at a time. But I’ll try to give you at least these two half-hour Writing Sessions each day. I like it and there’s no way out of it: to write in a disciplined life …
“Give us pictures of places and memories such as Fairyland, where they had motorcycle races in Great Kills. Talk about all of this, please. It will be a different kind of thing for sure.
“This morning I also talked about the proper atmosphere for chanting and writing and reading. I said that if we have the best atmosphere, then the japa will come out best. No one raised any questions about it. I wanted to talk more about it, how we should rise early and give our japa the best chance. They asked, and we discussed instead about taste. I was more interested in talking about the ideal circumstances for japa.
“A similar thing happened in Belgium. I spoke on a verse where Vyasa asked Narada, ‘What did you do after the spiritual master initiated you and left?’ It was an inquiry about the life of the spiritual master, which is as important an inquiry from him about the absolute philosophy. So I told a little bit about Narada’s life, and then I told about Srila Prabhupada’s life. Then I said, ‘There is also another life we should inquire about. It is the life of each of us.’ I said we used to call a certain article in BTG, ‘How I came to Krsna Consciousness.’ So, each of us has our own story. I said we’re not great like Narada, and so we should regret that we were sinful before. What I couldn’t say—what was really on my mind and heart—is that we ought tell our confession, our real story, we ought to know who we are, and that is a part of Krsna consciousness.
“That lecture was like a harbinger for the ‘Memories’ project, but no one in the audience, nor I, could know that at the time. When I asked for questions, no one touched on the subject about the inquiry into the life of the guru or into one’s own life. And today no one inquired about creating an atmosphere for good japa. But these are the topics I thought were juicy and practical. Regarding the japa atmosphere, someone could have said I have such-and-such a problem early in the morning. I can’t chant because of this and that.
“Okay man, it’s fine if the audience doesn’t inquire into what you want. You can bring it out in your own writing. Writing is like a second chance to do right what didn’t come out right in life. Now I am using the WS to ask you to please support the ‘Memories’ project. Don’t give up on it. Talk whenever you get a chance. It’s first-class. Thank you.
“Narada, the midget Basho, the biddget…the gone-loose unhinged writer. Put him back inside the box. He’s gone loco. The article in BTG says we’ve got to serve Krsna and nothing else.
“I think if I write like this, confessional memories, it can take its place alongside such literature and be read avidly by people who read Maya Angelou and other books like hers. They dig it. It will be like that. At least I will try and cut through a false presentation. Speak this way as best I can.
“Oh, it’s a long, long way from the Sheridan Baker essay and ‘the proper preaching’ BTG essay. But it’s what I’m doing. Even my own BTG essays are worlds apart from this. Goodbye folks, I’m ending this one and going upstairs for tea and crumpets and trumpet.
“(27 minutes, 5 typed pages)”
“12:20 midnight, August 5, 1996
“Feeling tired…; I surrender to free association and Krsna consciousness.
“A Writing Session is when you write what comes. I feel weary sometimes. I sleep. I don’t want to get up at midnight, but I get up. I don’t want to do this writing – either about myself, the world or sastric study – but I do it anyway. I am pushed on by duty. (So he says.)
“Run out of jokes, repartee.
“The man wants relief. He asks his ma for marmalade on toast. She says, ‘Don’t forget that one of the twenty-six qualities is – doesn’t eat more than required.’
“Trust in medicine
it will cure your headache
it will cure your avidya,
the holy names will
sweeten and lighten
“Small bugs appear under the lamplight in early August. I read evidence by Lord Caitanya that a devotee should avoid the association of women, should wash his underwear, avoid peaches and pears unless sliced. (No, it doesn’t say that.) It says asat-sanga-tyaga. He should satam prasangan, read SB, etc. with mahatmas and serve them. Know any? Don’t find fault or your lila-smaranam will be cut off. But I don’t have it anyway.
“But do your duty and your work. Don’t collapse under the bad wishes of others. ‘If a vulture curses a cow to die, the cow doesn’t die from that.’ I’ll go on producing my writing.
“KC is a very good thing. We may not feel the highest ruci.
“You write a kind of newspaper with faith in the news that even a little life has some value. Hare Krsna. Books in the mail. Today I’ll receive a manuscript of a book I wrote, and I have to read it for any mistakes or changes that I want to make in it. That’s nice. This is a good time to do it. It’s called Spiritualized Dictionary. What about the headaches? Maybe you need extra rest. Consider skipping the morning walk. Do Memories from four to five and then go to sleep.
“O sleep, beloved from pole to pole. You knit the raveled sleeve of care. But too much is in the mode of ignorance. We are not great devotees in the Age of Kali.
“He is tired. Tired. Don’t like to say this. It’s the most dreadful, down thing you could say.
“Rain on the skylight just now cheers me up.
“Tired of writing and of reading. What’s the old song line from ‘Old Man River’?
“‘I’m tired of livin’
and scared of dyin’
but ol’ man river, he just
keeps rollin’ along.’
“No illustrations included. Beware of avataras. Do our memories. I remember Lord Kapila and when I made believe I was Captain Cook. I remember when I mistook and got kidnapped and played New Year’s Eve and got drunk. The worst is when people get violent. I read that the Epicureans and maybe the Stoics desired peace more than anything, and so they gave up some extreme pleasures because they knew it might bring too much emotional upheavals (ups and downs). When I read it (in a Christian book) I thought I might be infected with some of that. I may not want to sacrifice for Krsna’s service because it would disturb my mind and feelings too much, thus my highest and dearmost interest is not attaining pure devotional service of Krsna, but peace and privacy, quiet.
“‘If that’s true, you’re dead.
you are stilled in the water
and your boat won’t go.
You’ve got to be brave and set
sail, be daring – leave the
harbor of peace and go for it.
As Krsna desires. Take a chance and work hard.
My path is writing, so I’ll be daring in that.
“Go a half-hour here. Fill up the pages and tapes and bouquets and your little belly. No one much asks you to open up but you do it with determination – because it seems a good thing to do.
“He made a living sacrifice. O Krsna. O Krsna. It’s a holy name.
“Lord Caitanya quoted such excellent verses. You could study each one carefully but you move through them rather quickly. Nondevotees have no good qualities; twenty-six qualities of a devotee; if a devotee has material desires, Lord Krsna replaces them with taste for His lotus feet, titiksavah karunikah; serve devotees.
“Hear about Krsna. Don’t associate with women or nondevotees. You’ve heard all these things many times, they are the fare and the code of a sadhu. So, you read it for your whole life and you make a “sastra check,” that is, you check whether your own life lines up with these truths.
“He’s on his way. We are tired of Pada yatra symbolism of the walk, and our drawings don’t interest us so much as quick scribbles, but when I set up a studio and I can paint with full body and materials and attention, then I can get into it.
“Devotional forms. Don’t do things that distract the eye, and don’t bring people to KC. One way or another, that’s your goal.
“The lines on the page. A striped shirt. A border of a dhoti or lungi or sari. The Band-aid. The ruled page. Crooked lines of veins and arteries. Please don’t spurt. The doctor or nurse will stop you from dying. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Red Cross, first aid, asphyxiation, compress, shock, tourniquet, mouth-to-mouth breathing, shock, those who are trained in those professions, state troopers at car accidents, nurses, doctors, surgeons, cops, street people, dumb masses, lie bleeding, no one came to save him. Bessie Smith turned away from the hospital for race reasons.
“Now, Apple Records, ‘Scrapple of the Apple’ in two dimensions starring Charlie Chaplin and don’t make fun of devotees but you can have your own film and producer. It will be all right.
“L.A. Ratha-yatra yesterday. Advertised, ‘– and Hare Krsna rock ‘n’ roll!’ Wonderful rock ‘n’ roll and feed the poor and go back to college.
“Got his own problems. Looking for joy, I work anyway and ready to remember.
“(30 minutes, 7 ½ handwritten pages)”
END OF WICKLOW WRITING SESSIONS