A devotee living in an East coast USA temple wrote to me. He’s observed that new devotees, after practicing for a year, do not consider getting initiated. He is initiated, and he suggests to them that they should try to decide who they could be initiated by. But he says that people are really sensitive about someone emphasizing—or “pushing” as they say. He writes that he understands a lot of the hesitations that are in their minds. Still, it is a very basic point in our philosophy that initiation is required. It is stressed that Srila Prabhupada is everyone’s guru, but that may give everyone the idea that taking initiation is not so urgent. I wrote back to him and said he was right in suggesting devotees take initiation. There are many qualified ISKCON gurus, and the devotees should get acquainted with them, hear their Zoom presentations and read their writings. It is not that one should go on indefinitely in an uninitiated state. That would be to follow the ritvik philosophy, which is rejected by ISKCON and the GBC. They should closely observe the various initiating gurus and try to correspond with one and tell him their situation. It is a kind of pride that prevents one from humbly approaching a spiritual master. It can be an excuse for not taking vows and following them. All the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas recommend the importance of taking initiation. The GBC states that Prabhupada is the preeminent siksa-guru for all disciples in ISKCON. But one still has to take initiation from a diksa-guru in order to fully connect to Prabhupada and Krsna.
There’s not much in ISKCON training on taking darsana of the lotus feet of Krsna or guru and Gauranga. But the sastras have plenty to say about the importance of the lotus feet of the Lord. When looking upon the form of the Supreme Lord, it is humble to first stay fixed on His lotus feet. In my personal japa, I chant my first eight rounds looking at the lotus feet of Kalachandji and alternating that with looking at the benedictory hand of Radharani. Only after the eight rounds do I look at Their faces. There is much description in the sastras of taking the dust of the Lord’s and the guru’s lotus feet on one’s head.
The first two cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam are the lotus feet of the Lord. One should begin reading the Bhagavatam by meditating on the first two cantos. Then one can gradually rise up to the Lord’s shins, knees, thighs, waist, chest, neck, face, etc. “The lotus feet of the spiritual master are the only way that one can attain pure devotional service to Krsna.”
Indradyumna Swami spoke through a Russian translator and told the pastime of the first devotees who came to Vrndavana after the disappearance of most of the Gosvamis (except for Jiva Gosvami). One of them was Narottama dasa Thakur; another was named Dukhi Krsna. They became disciples of Jiva Gosvami. They inquired from him and rendered menial service. Dukhi Krsna took up the service of sweeping Seva Kunja every day where the rasa lila was held. One day he found an ankle-bell. When he touched it, he became fully ecstatic. He realized it was sacred, and he buried it in the ground. Meanwhile, Radharani told Lalita that She had lost Her foot ring, and She asked Lalita to go and search for it. Maharaja said Lalita transformed herself into an old lady and approached Dukhi Krsna where he was sweeping. She asked him if he had found an ankle-bell. He inquired from the old lady about her identity and who owned the ankle-bell. Lalita told him that her sister owned it, and Dukhi Krsna wanted to follow her home and personally return the ankle-bell to the owner. Dukhi Krsna insisted on knowing the identity of the old woman, and she finally revealed herself as the beautiful young Lalita with golden complexion and peacock-colored clothes. Dukhi Krsna fainted on the spot. Lalita then asked for the ankle-bell and said she would give a boon to Dukhi Krsna. He asked to become a servant of Lalita. He was humble and did not ask for direct service to Radharani but to Her servant. Lalita touched Dukhi Krsna’s forehead and tilaka appeared—two parallel lines and a little bell at the bottom. She also changed his name to Syamananda, and his body turned a golden color. She told him not to tell anyone what had happened except for his guru, Jiva Gosvami. When Syamananda appeared before his guru, Jiva Gosvami asked him, “What has happened to you?” Syamananda said, “I have had darsana of Lalita!” He then told him the whole story, and Jiva Gosvami accepted it totally as true.
Indradyumna Maharaja spoke about the Yamuna River. He said Krsna and Arjuna were once riding their chariot and they saw a beautiful young girl loitering by the Yamuna. Krsna sent Arjuna to inquire about her. She told Arjuna that she was the sister of Yamaraja, and her brother constructed a little house for her under the Yamuna’s waters. She was living there as an ascetic, practicing penances with the desire to marry Krsna. Arjuna went back to Krsna and told Him about Yamuna. Krsna then went to her, put her on His chariot, and brought her back to Dvaraka, where He married her.
Indradyumna Maharaja asked all the devotees to bathe in the Yamuna. He said it contained tons of sewage from Delhi but they should have sraddha (faith) and bathe in its sacred waters. Rupa Gosvami writes in Upadesamrta that in the rainy season the Ganges has many dirty water puddles, but a pilgrim should bathe in the Ganges despite traces of filth. The Yamuna was the place of many of Krsna’s sportive pastimes—with the gopas when He was young, and with the gopis when He was older. They used to splash each other with water and play games. Therefore it is sacred. Krsna stole the clothes of the unmarried gopis when they were bathing naked in the Yamuna. He also drove away the poisonous snake Kaliya and purified the waters of the river once again.
I was chosen to place Jayananda Prabhu’s ashes in the Yamuna. Another time I also bathed there. I first sprinkled drops of her water upon my head and then proceeded reverently into her waters. I swam a little. One time I got caught under a giant pontoon which was holding up a bridge over the Yamuna. I panicked when I was beneath the pontoon, and for a while I couldn’t get myself free and was afraid of drowning. Finally, using all my strength, I pushed myself free of the pontoon and came out of the water.
I am hearing recordings of B.B. Govinda Maharaja on parikrama in Vrndavana. He tells a story about Radha and Krsna. The mother-in-law, Jatila, sent Radharani to the place of the sun god, to worship and receive blessings. Radharani was ready to comply. But Jatila could find no qualified brahmanas to do the ceremony. The sakhis then said they knew of a first-class brahmana who could do it. They brought forth young Krsna dressed as a brahmana, His hair in a topknot, wearing brahmana clothes and wooden shoes. Mother Jatila was impressed by Him, although she couldn’t understand the mantras He was chanting, which were actually love-songs to Radharani. When the worship of the sun god was completed, the people started for their homes, but one sakhi shouted out that Radharani was possessed of a ghost. Jatila became upset and asked for an exorcist to come and cure her daughter-in-law. The sakhis again presented Krsna dressed as an exorcist. He chanted many mantras and kissed Radharani on the cheek, and the “ghosts” went away. Jatila had promised that if the cowherd boys and gopis would bring the brahmana and the exorcist to cure her daughter-in-law, she would give daksina to everyone and cook a feast. Madhumangala reminded her of her promise, and Jatila gave a valuable ring of Radharani’s, and she cooked a big feast. After the feast, Radha and Krsna managed to find some time alone for amorous pastimes while Jatila went to her home.
I received a letter from a reader encouraging me to print my two books written in California for 2021. She wrote as follows:
“You mentioned in your Free Write Journal that you are hesitant to publish the books you wrote in California for 2021 because you feel it is a burden for devotees regarding it being ‘too much reading for your followers.’ Please keep publishing as many books as you feel comfortable; please do not worry about us. We love your writings, and it will be our pleasure (and duty!) to try and keep up! It is not just a contribution to ISKCON but to the literary world in general. I hope you believe that.”
This letter makes me think I should work in producing books with Rev. John Endler as long as he’s available. Now he works full time in typing my manuscripts and keeping in touch with all stages of production and distribution. If the pandemic quiets down, he will have to get back to his pastoral duties with his congregation. So I should take advantage of his enthusiastic availability. Each single book usually finds at least one reader who feels it is a contribution to his or her spiritual life. So this is leaning in the direction of my publishing two books for Vyasa-puja 2021. Earlier in 2021 we plan to print a Karttika-themed book.
When John and I met on the porch the other day, both of us admitted it’s a real challenge to distribute my books when we can’t have group meetings where all the devotees gather. But with determination and creativity, we are trying our best. We are posting advertisements for the new books with a brief description of them and a picture of the cover in the Free Write Journal. The books we wanted to distribute at our July meeting were Meditations and Poems and Daily Compositions. We will post ads for them. It doesn’t look likely that we will be able to hold a group meeting in early December because of COVID restrictions. But we are publishing two new books on the day of Vyasa-puja. We urge our readers to obtain these books by mail order. We are all set to ship them out.
Please order my books through John Endler or Amazon. Reading my books and the Free Write Journal are the main ways to keep our bond during this pandemic.
John Endler also talked about reprinting my two haiku books, Under the Banyan Tree and The Dust of Vrndavana. They have been out of circulation for many years, and they are not available on the various venues, nor do we have any in stock. Under the Banyan Tree received a favorable review in the haiku magazine Wind Chimes. The Dust of Vrndavana is all about Vraja, and it brings you there in vivid evocations. We are planning to print two small books and wrap them up as a set.
Rev. John is enthusiastic to read selected poems of mine to me for our mutual enjoyment:
Krsna—the favorite word,
the saving direction.
in his 1920s
poems and cannot
find words pretty and feeling enough
to express his love.
O Krsna, Krsna
O inconceivably personal
in the hearts of pure devotees
I spent a good week with Jayadvaita Swami here. He split up his time in meeting with me, Ravindra Svarupa, and holding Zoom classes and conference calls. He told me about the two-day Vaisnava/Christian conference. The Hindu representatives were mostly ISKCON people— Anuttama, Rukmini dasi, Gopal Hari dasa and other specialists in the field. The Christian side was mostly Catholics, some of whom had considerable knowledge of the Vaisnava philosophy. One major theme of the conference was that both the Vaisnava and Christian traditions need the guidance of mystics and saints to develop the path of love of God. Next year the theme of their meeting will be “Women and Leadership.” These meetings have been going on for about seventeen years, with many of the same participants, and there is a warm rapport among them. Jayadvaita Maharaja’s book Vanity Karma has almost sold out of its 10,000 copies. He’s trying to think of whether to give the second edition the same title or change it.
Maharaja gives Bhagavatam lectures on Madana-gopala’s Towaco Zoom website three times a week. He also speaks at other venues, and he listens to the presentations of others. He has a man working on producing his Bhagavatam lectures for me to hear. It’s interesting to see what he eats for lunch. Mostly it’s kichari with okra or squash on the side. But on Ekadasi he had only applesauce, and into the applesauce he profusely sprinkled amaranth seeds. He has govardhana-silas of Krsna and Balarama given to him by Gopiparanadhana’s widow. He wakes Them in the morning and bathes Them, and puts on oil and tilaka. He makes an offering of nuts and fruits. They give a short darsana and then go back in the box for rest all day. I had the privilege of Their darsana for five or ten minutes. They have beautiful paraphernalia of crowns and flutes, turbans, buffalo horns and sticks. He said Prabhupada said the worship of the silas should be “Puja and then back in the box,” or “Puja and rest,” so he’s following that process. On leaving for Towaco, he said he wanted to return to Stuyvesant Falls in a month.
On the same morning I had a meeting with Maharaja, I had another meeting with three faithful disciples who came up from Brooklyn. We met on the porch, and they all wore masks. They were Rama Raya, Narada Rishi and Krishna Kripa. Rama Raya now stays in the Brooklyn temple and conducts his Yuga Dharma daily harinama from there. Now in the good weather, they are going out to Washington Square Park, Union Square Park or Columbus Circle and getting a good reception. When it gets cold in the winter, they will do their harinama in the Brooklyn temple. The party is split up now, with some men remaining in Atlanta, and Rama and another kirtaniya in Brooklyn. Narada Rsi resides in the Brooklyn temple and preaches to the Indian congregation. Krishna Kripa is spending some months serving with Rama Raya’s party in Brooklyn. We had a very affectionate meeting. They all read my Free Write Journal, and they inquired in detail about my health. I reassured them that it wasn’t so bad except for my inability to walk properly and breathe normally. They were encouraged that I continue to do so much writing. I gave two new books to Rama Raya because he’s an avid reader. I also gave two books to Radheya, who is serving a few weeks as Jayadvaita Maharaja’s servant. He is a third-generation devotee. His grandmother is my disciple Laulyam dasi, and they both have residence in Hawaii. At Radheya’s request I sold a painting and a book to give to Laulyam dasi, and he took a painting for himself also. The meeting on the porch was jolly. The men are all brahmacaris ranging from 58 to 61 years old. They have a good camaraderie and are affectionate disciples.
Yesterday I went to the hospital for an echocardiogram test. It was the last procedure to determine the cause of my exhaustion. I had to lay on a stretcher while they took 70 pictures of my heart. I could hear the machine going “ker-thump, ker-thump,” but I couldn’t see the pictures of the heart. It was uncomfortable lying there for an hour in one position. The pulmonologist tested my overnight intake of oxygen and prescribed that I use an oxygen machine which breathes in oxygen all night while I sleep. This I take along with a low dose of Prednisone, which helps open the lungs. So far I have not felt a tangible improvement in the breathing. A higher dose of Prednisone would probably help, but it might disturb the good readings I’m getting on my blood sugar level for diabetes. We are checking the blood levels for a month, and if it’s under control, I’ll ask for an increase in the dose of Prednisone and more oxygen received from the machine overnight.
On this visit, the slow flow on the urine was addressed and corrected. These issues all come under the umbrella of the aging factor. Fortunately I’m able to continue my preaching, which is writing, without having to travel 0r give many lectures.
In the longest chapter of the Krsna book (by far), the Vedas personified make eloquent philosophical prayers to Lord Krsna. They are mostly directed against the philosophy of the Mayavadis. The Mayavadi philosophy that the jiva souls are all equal to Krsna is refuted. The Mayavadi philosophy that the material world is not real (brahma satyam jagan mithya) and the material world is false. The Vaisnavas assert that since all the energies in the world are from Krsna, they are not false—but they are temporary. The Vaisnava philosophers assert that material objects can be used in the service of Krsna, and that is complete renunciation. They give many examples and arguments to show this is true.
In the next chapter, “The Deliverance of Lord Siva,” Maharaja Pariksit asks his spiritual master Sukadeva Gosvami how come the devotees of Lord Siva are wealthy in this world, whereas the Vaisnavas appear to be poverty-stricken? Lord Siva himself lives under a tree on a mountain slope of the Himalayas whereas Lord Krsna lives in opulence, so how is it that their devotees are differently situated? Lord Siva is a demigod in the modes of material nature, and his benedictions can only involve the interactions of the three modes. But Krsna, however, is above the three modes. In order to attain Krsna you have to become free of the contaminated modes of nature, “nirguna.” Material opulence means an increase in attachment to the material modes of nature. “To achieve nirguna means to achieve eternal peace, fearlessness, religiousness and renunciation. All these are symptoms of becoming free from the contamination of the material qualities.” (Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Chapter 88).
“According to the Vedic sastras, ‘A pure devotee can impart Krsna consciousness to others through his words, his good wishes, and by his glance. ‘Simply by seeing such empowered individuals, people from different villages would become like them by the mercy of their glance.’ (Cc. Madhya 7.104)
“In confidential exchanges between Radha and Krsna, much is accomplished by the lovers’ glances. The gopis are thrilled to receive the direct or sidelong glance of Sri Krsna, and Lord Krsna is especially anxious to receive the glance of Srimati Radharani. One time while Krsna was searching for Radharani in the groves of Vrndavana, He spoke in this way to a female deer: ‘O doe, the walking young vine that is the beautiful girl Radha must have passed through this forest because, O friend, I see you have accepted Me as your guru and taken initiation from Her in the art of playful, sweet restless glances.’ (Lalita-madhava, Act 9.62)
“In the loving exchanges between spiritual master and disciple, Srila Prabhupada’s glances were certainly treasured by his devotees.
“I remember receiving a glance from Srila Prabhupada in the back seat of his car in Toronto. Our BBT Library had been with Srila Prabhupada in Detroit; however, when Prabhupada traveled on to Toronto, we were a day late because we stopped to sell books at a college. Arriving during Srila Prabhupada’s second morning in Toronto, I was allowed to go into the car with him for his morning walk. As I entered and sat beside him, he glanced and said, ‘Where were you?’ I replied that we had been selling books at a university. Prabhupada then asked me for the results, and I was able to tell him some good news. Hearing the words of my spiritual master was certainly important, but his glance was very wonderful.
“I doubt that we fully understand how much those glances went into us and how they stayed with us. The Krsna conscious siddhanta asserts that words are able to convey the Absolute Truth, yet we also think that there are certain things that cannot be conveyed fully in words: for example, what it feels like to receive Prabhupada’s glance.
“Sometimes the glances were loving, and sometimes they reprimanded. If Mucukunda could reduce a person to fiery ashes just by his gaze, Krsna’s pure devotee could ‘knock over’ a misbehaving disciple. Once when I was performing a yajna in Boston, I whimsically omitted reciting the first few verses of the mangalacarana prayers. Prabhupada gave me one of those looks. He seemed hurt that one who was supposed to be a disciple could act so whimsically. Mixed in with the hurt was the stern reprimand of the teacher. He said, ‘Why have you done this?’ With a language of their own, his eyes also said, ‘Why?’
“Prabhupada’s looks clued us in on his emotions. His eyes sparkled with humor. Tears came down his cheeks while talking about the cruelty of cow slaughter. Sometimes, though, his glance excluded us. In a memoir by a Zen student about her guru, she said that when you looked into his eyes, you saw ‘total zero for 10,000 miles.’ Prabhupada never conveyed blankness to us. But his gaze did convince us that he was experiencing something we could not. Prabhupada would glance at an ISKCON painting or Indian print in his room and say, ‘Here is Krsna.’ Yet when we looked at the picture of Lord Krsna, so many relative thoughts and impressions register in our hearts and minds. We knew that Prabhupada saw Him differently. We saw the difference when we looked into his eyes.
“In Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s Sri Stavavali, one of the poems ends with the refrain: ‘When will Saci’s son again walk on the pathway of my eyes?’ We pray to know when we may be able to see Prabhupada—and when he will again bestow his glance upon us.”
“The Bhagavatam class was on the verse from Ninth Canto about the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. It described military action. After the lecture, one of the devotees asked me a question about Prabhupada. He said that Prabhupada’s disciples often say that he was like an army general on the battlefield. Did I think this was Prabhupada’s actual character? I replied that Prabhupada certainly did appear like a general, and he himself said that taking to Krsna consciousness was a war against maya. Prabhupada stood in front of the army and moved all over the world to spread the Krsna consciousness movement. However, this is only one of Prabhupada’s many different natures. He is also a transcendental scholar who rises at 1:00 A.M. and composes the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Nevertheless, because Prabhupada was following the orders of the previous acaryas to spread Krsna consciousness, he had to enter the battle and go forward, fighting, organizing the troops.
“Of course Prabhupada did not ask for militant action with rifles or bombs. He said that we should fight by sankirtana and by cultural weapons. Book distribution and prasadam distribution are peaceful ways to spread Krsna consciousness. In performing sankirtana, though, Prabhupada was determined not to be stopped by anyone.
“We need not be intimidated by thinking of Prabhupada as a general. One can possess the fighting spirit in many ways. If a devotee has a terminal disease and continues to chant his rounds, that is fighting. If a mother continues to take care of her children despite the difficulties, that is the fighting spirit. Whenever we continue to set good examples and not admit defeat or hopelessness—that is the fighting spirit of Srila Prabhupada.
“Take time to appreciate how different devotees could be taking this fighting spirit of Prabhupada to heart. Perhaps you could keep a list and occasionally add to it as you hear of other examples.”
“Prabhupada sat down and began singing. Hayagriva, with his beard and checkered shirt, was hitting the big cymbal with the drumstick. Swamiji accepted it.
“With rough and ready hands (clap-clap-clap), we were like a bunch of peasants stomping their feet. Our sleeves were rolled up. Young men clapping as Swamiji sang the bhajana. The boys played off each other’s voices so we wouldn’t get bored. The main thing, though, is to hear when the Swami sings.
“Look over at the others. Look at their faces moving back and forth with eyes closed. Look up at the Swami. Each one is into his own experience, but you are all together. You are not long-time friends, but there is a bond.
“The thick-bodied clapping keeps the kirtana solid. It helps concentration; it is what the Swami invites.
“The kids are at the door. Trucks grinding gears. We are bunched at that Swamiji’s feet in that one part of the universe, drawing from the kirtana that he is giving—and they can’t get at us now. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“He walked from his room
through the backyard garden of the L.A. temple
where we sat with him on a patch of grass,
hearing Krsna book and the shouts
from the neighboring karate school.
“Prabhupada said, ‘Dvivida Gorilla was no joke.
He had to be brave to fight with Krsna.’
He opened the book anywhere
as you and me listening
can dip in anywhere,
into Prabhupada’s lila;
he said to Hari Sauri, ‘Again, finger problem,’
because his servant picked at his fingernail.
He said of my financial records: ‘Satsvarupa is expert.’
He saw through poet Ginsberg’s
and once to Gaurasundara dasa:
‘You look skinny
and you talk skinny.’
Here is Hrdayananda Maharaja:
‘He gave me a piece of prasadam
and one second after I ate it he said,
“You rascal! You are a sannyasi and you do not
wash your hand after eating?”’
My thoughts fly to Prabhupada—
spiritual master, I still have the finger problem;
I am still expert at avoiding your mercy.
The night of separation from you grows darker.
But you are sending help.”
“There is only one small light on, down at the boathouse. I could write many choruses too, rhyming and chiming. As Kerouac gives out his half-baked Buddhism, can I give out my twice-baked KC? KC is the pinnacle. Only devotees can understand it.
“Just a small light on at the boathouse. I could say, ‘Krsna, Krsna” and be proud I chanted an extra round. Hope for the day when many poets and writers, many thousands of intelligentsia, politicians, and athletes who chant Hare Krsna. When will that day come when we will spread out like a vast oak or banyan tree under the sky? Kirtana played out with musical instruments of every country.
“Of course we wish for such a thing, but Soren Kierkegaard said that when Christianity became the state religion, it ceased to exist. He said that there was a day when the apostles made a huge number of converts, and that signaled doom to pure religion. Lord Caitanya doesn’t say things like that. Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada don’t say those things either, but it does seem to imply the risk of watering down as the movement grows and spreads. How will we keep our simple purity?”
“It is important to me to make my own testimony. I try to make it honest, admitting the lack of taste and other inabilities. It is not enough for me to read the commentaries of Rupa Gosvami. Why is that? Rupa Gosvami writes, “ . . . When the holy name dances in the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, therefore all the senses become inert.” (Vidagdha-madhava, quoted in Cc. Antya 1.99) I treasure thst statement. Sanatana Gosvami writes, ‘The holy name of Krsna is the highest nectar. It is my very life and my only treasure.’ (Brhad-bhagavatamrta). Hearing it from him, the bhakti rubs off on us. We want to also take to the chanting of the holy names. Bhaktivinode Thakura writes of the powerful effect of the enthusiastic chanter on the poor chanter.”
“He asked the mayor
of Evanston to donate a large building
even after being told by the mayor
that he wanted it for his City Hall.
Prabhupada asserted a solution to crime
based solely on the transcendental power
of the Holy Name and prasadam
to purify the hearts of criminals.
When challenged that his plans
were like that of so many religions,
Prabhupada replied, ‘No.’
We are strictly following,
and it is potent.”
“Japa cannot be compared to anything else. You pray from the heart. Yet japa can be compared to championship golf. Sometimes you use a heavy driver, sometimes you use the iron, sometimes you use the putter, sometimes you make a birdie or an eagle, or you make a lot of bogies, or you make par. Sometimes you wind up in the water. Sometimes you wind up in a sand trap. Sometimes you do real well and move up in the competition. You play it real carefully and measure your shots. You don’t have to wear special shoes or shirt. There are no hard and fast rules. The main thing is to keep trying sincerely and stay awake. This morning I have been alert for eight rounds so far, and I’m hoping to keep it going. I’m chanting mostly subpar in audibility, but I’m paying attention.
“I love japa! It’s my favorite sport. But I’m not a champion. I’m just an amateur. I’ve been working at it for a long time, and yet I remain an amateur. Sometimes I have to cry out, ‘Fore!’ as my ball sails into the crowd. You wouldn’t expect that from me after all these years. But I keep trying. I honestly keep trying. Japa is the easiest form of spiritual meditation. Many people enter the competition, and many people improve over the years. They attend seminars. They go on japa retreats. They study books. They get down on their knees and pray. They get frustrated and throw the clubs down. You do it on your own.
Japa, please let me perform You to the end of my days. Don’t let me break my legs or need surgery that I have to lose a year of japa. I’m already chanting less because of my injured shoulder. I’ll get better, though. You’ll see me. I’ll get better. Japa is my favorite sport. Japa is my most serious meditation. Japa has been given to us by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Prabhupada says the order of the spiritual master to chant at least sixteen rounds daily is most essential. I pray to Krsna to bless me.”
“While talking to a roomful of devotees yesterday
that Srila Prabhupada was a perfect psychologist.
He assured us that we were fortunate and happy.
We have given up sinful life and
attained Krsna consciousness
so no one should be despondent.
But Prabhupada also made it clear
we are not Vaisnavas
but servants of the Vaisnavas.
A pure devotee is very rare.
He was expert and did it subtly.
So no one noticed how—
giving us confidence and humility at the same time.
And what he gave, we accepted.
“In arguing for Krsna
he’d take any side
to prove the truth, to defeat the Lord’s opponents.
Prabhupada said the devotees
may call the nondevotees
by ornamented names like vimukta-maninas,
‘those who think they have become liberated.’
But Krsna is superior and so he tells it plain,
they are mudhas, asses.
Prabhupada did that too, like father and guru.
“I’m remembering him
and collecting my appreciations.
He’d prefer to see me battling like him
but if all I can do is discover
some of his expert ways and admire them
he will accept that too as a kind of service.
But if you admire him, you really ought to preach.”
“Within a few months of taking sannyasa, Tamala Krsna Goswami was drawn back into ISKCON management. Too much was happening and the demands were too great for Srila Prabhupada to allow him to renounce the heavy duties of Indian management. At one point, however, it became, from Tamala Krsna Goswami’s viewpoint, an overburden.
“Prabhupada was allowing Giriraja to return to America because he had jaundice, and Giriraja’s replacement, Mohanananda, had also decided to quit India because it was too difficult for him. As Tamala Krsna Goswami was GBC for India, all of the Indian management was on him, and at the same time he now had to personally manage Bombay. Prabhupada also told him that the GBC should personally collect funds.
“In great anxiety, Tamala Krsna Goswami went before Srila Prabhupada and began to cry.
“Prabhupada, it is hopeless,” he said. “How can I do it? It’s impossible. How can I do so many things?”
Prabhupada sat back and said, “This is very good. You should pray to be entangled in Krsna’s service so that there is not a free moment for maya to attack.”
During the cornerstone-laying ceremony in Mayapur, Giriraja went to see Srila Prabhupada in his grass hut. Prabhupada told him that during the time of the British Empire there were three states in India—Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta—and there was one governor in charge of each state.
“Which state do you want?” asked Srila Prabhupada. Giriraja had always followed his authorities and had never before made any important decisions. He had no idea which to decide, so he said, “Prabhupada, I will do whatever you want me to do.”
“No,” said Prabhupada. “I want you to decide.”
Giriraja meditated on his choice for about a week, but still he couldn’t decide. He hatched a plan, however, to trick Srila Prabhupada into deciding for him.
“I was thinking of going to Bombay,“ said Giriraja.
Giriraja’s idea was that by mentioning Bombay, Prabhupada’s face would make some expression that would show Giriraja what Srila Prabhupada wanted him to do, but Prabhupada didn’t show any expression at all. He only said, “That’s all right.”
“But then again,” said Giriraja, “I was also thinking of going back to Madras.” As with his Bombay choice, Giriraja gave some feasible reasons why he should go to Madras. He waited to see if Prabhupada would reveal himself, but again there was no expression. “Yes,” said Prabhupada, “that is all right.”
Then Giriraja realized that it wasn’t going to work.
“I was thinking of staying in Calcutta,” said Giriraja, “because … ” But again the same thing. Prabhupada did not show even the slightest hint of any expression that would reveal what he wanted.
“That’s all right,” said Prabhupada.
At this point, Giriraja felt ashamed of trying to trick his spiritual master, but he was also exhilarated because he could see that Prabhupada was so great and perfect that he could not be tricked by his foolish disciple.”
“The reason I’m free of a headache right now and able to write this is because of the medicine that I took at about midnight. But I’m going to Isola di Albarella for the purpose of stopping the habit of my allopathic medications. A naturopathic doctor here in Italy looked into my eyes (iridology) and said that they are full of flakes, indicating many maladies in my body which are side-effects of taking allopathic medicine. I decided to believe him and kick this habit.
“But yesterday I was trying to express to Madhu a kind of giving credit to this medicine over these eight months for a lot of up-time I’ve had. I mentioned the elating experience of being able to give a lecture in Chowpatty temple in Bombay last February. I’d just begun to get a headache, but I took the medicine and I was able to feel strong and enthusiastic to speak to those affectionate devotees. In previous years I had never been able to go to Chowpatty, but because of starting to take this medication I got the strength to do it. I wanted to own up to the fact that this medication had been used in the service of Krsna and not for sense gratification. I wanted to acknowledge that it had given me good times. Then I told him that just that very day (October 17, 1996) I was able to speak in the evening my memories of Prabhupada in 1966, only because the medication gave me strength. I said that now I would stop taking these pills we would have to not be confident that I could give many lectures anymore and not schedule engagement. I wanted his sympathy for this expression.
“But he did not go along with it. He took the strict line that this medicine had to be stopped. I was hinting in fact that maybe even though I stopped these pills I could use them on occasion for special events. But I myself saw that this was a useless compromise because once you begin again then you find so many reasons for special events. I felt a little hurt that M. didn’t at least share with me the reminiscences of the good times this medication had given me. Now that I think it over it was all right for him not to go soft with me in that memory. But neither do I want his repressive attitude.
“So, here we go in this new phase of my life. I want to record it with all of its tentative day-to-day experiments. I hope that that the writing will result in the way Kerouac describes it:
“This I believe to be the only possible literature of the future. Uninterrupted and unrevised full confessions about what actually happened.
“Blow as deep as you want – write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then the reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by the same laws operating in his own human mind.”
“Although this writing may be a too-personal medical log, because of its honesty it will convey a “telepathic shock” to the reader in his own mind and the struggle to practice the Krsna consciousness that we share.
“We have arrived at Isola di Albarella. But there’s a private entrance to the island, and the security gate is not open yet. So, we’re parked, waiting. I took a headache pill which perhaps will be the last one that I’ll take.
“I asked Madhu whether I should take the big fast typewriter or the smaller battery-run. I was thinking to take the smaller, but he said, “The bigger, it’s better, isn’t it?” I was afraid that it might invite a faster, heavier typing pace and provoke headaches. But I like the idea – don’t be afraid to write.
“And – maybe for a week I could gradually reduce the pills to one a day and then go to zero. Or zero right away.
“Isola di Albarella is an island off of the east coast of Italy, south of Venice. There are many wealthy people’s yachts in the port here. Where we’re staying there are many summer houses, but fortunately no one is here now, and so it’s quiet and suitable for health repair.
“What’s my purpose in writing? To get rid of a shaking hand? A headache? (That is, to write before it comes, like taking in hay before the rain?) To tell ‘ye old reading audience’ where we are, what the view is from the window?
“I’m making a daily schedule with time to read Cc. and some Bg, I hope and some time to write here. But it depends on what happens with the head.
“A reason to take one pill a day rather than cold turkey would be because you want time to read and write. But if it’s your intention to return to natural, pill-less – is that your intention? – then why not just go for it – even if at first you don’t get a regular time to read and write?
And what’s this
about listening to Bach?
“I think he’s beautiful and comes from God,
something new – “Concerto for Solo Harpsichord and Strings. Concerto 8 in D Minor
He’s happy and so am I
the sky-bird, sea-lark, I mean seagull, was floating in the canal in the back of the house. I saw him (it) poke at food in water and cry
when other birds came over . . .
You can get full KC from SP.
But some don’t believe it, want whole the rasika,
I’ve been there
my light blue daughter peacock ink
my finger slips
the vise awaits, the pain you can concerto
and Krsna waiting soon to see you
when you get back
down the hill.
This is the way.
The albino boy
the blue boy
the pink pack
lady fingers (pastry)
firecrackers of boyhood
Krsna came to me from my master.
He dragged me
I don’t want to leave him.
Please Gurudeva, accept this Western boy’s offering to you. Make a deal? Let me listen to Bach and still go to Krsna heaven and I won’t leave you. Absurd.
Each one’s got his and her own way. Gals and guys.
I’m a monk true
afraid of all cops out to get me. I sound my horn, dig strings of violin and music plays along, and I’ve cut my own way.
Bach used to write out all music scores he found by moonlight or candlelight until he went blind. Gave the world this music. Be happy and rejoice
I am yours too…Srila Prabhupada.
“Next movement: Siciliano Adagio
“We will be true to guru. Our bed (deathbeds all) playing down the scale. I never said the bad things about a Vaishnava. I take it back. I take back the dead snake from Samika Rsi’s neck. I take back blasphemy of Prthu Maharaja and Maharaja Pariksit.
“I believe in the Kumaras and the four-headed and million-headed. I’m true to my own way.
“This is the way to write – tell your daddy you are his son and working for him, send money home. Got no wife, want none, go to Jag Puri.
“Where is your guru? What about this one, and that one? Let’s see the skeleton in your closet. The trick up your sleeve. I do beseech.
“I love my editors, workers, artists, cooks, servants, brothers, sisters.
“I write until death the uncertain odes.
“Tell ‘em (your correspondents) any sweet talk sounds good, be a mellow friend, what they want to hear, but parampara—O Gurudeva, I am yours. You know it too. Presto is coming up soon with oboe, and I’ll draw a picture for you with tilaka on his forehead. May headaches come as my due karma and I lie in bed waiting for the day when I can do the truth of reading Cc.
“My master said good stuff, said we are spirit soul. I can’t remember now – if the hand is cut off from the body it is useless. We are also servants of Radharani.
“Siciliano Adagio – in this place all summer-timers have left and I don’t revolt.
“Summer. M. gave me the health program.
“Yes, and we will soothe
seventeenth century strings when in
India, Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura
was writing inner meanings
to Rupa Goswami’s and
Vyasadeva’s poetry and I was
in a dog’s body?
“Guru pulled me out, I spoke of it last night, the ’66 days of happiness again. To purify me.
“‘If you love me, then I’ll love you,’ he said. And I gave money and loved and surrendered and chanted Hare Krsna, still do. Not disloyal to his movement. And don’t claim they are better. There is no way around it. Be obscure to please only God in heaven and Gurudeva and the rest will come out all right. By itself, the hand moves in stately time to rescue us from pernicious flies and dead time.
when I didn’t know what to say.
“Can’t answer all those letters but slowly it’ll get done. Yes, that is me in the picture massaging him, don’t tell her otherwise. Did you think you’d miss your Krsna?”
“During the night I developed head pain which is difficult to defuse throughout the head but tightening like a vise. Lying in bed I thought that my purpose in this health retreat is to stop taking the allopathic medicine. The medicine clearly gives a warning on the label that it tends to become habit-forming. What does this mean? Surely it means that one should try to avoid this. But I have become habituated to taking this medicine several times in twenty-four hours to avert pain. But the head pains continue to come before and after taking the pills, and when I try to be active traveling and going to temples, I’m often lying down with a wet rag on my head and constantly dodging headaches when I don’t actually have them.
“I’ve come to accept again the basic premises of the natural schools of health regarding allopathic medicine. That is, they should not be taken steadily because their ingredients cause adverse side-effects.
“So, this is the first headache I have had in many months which I’m not going to try bring down by a pill. I will let it take its course. My hope is that even if in this health retreat I don’t find a cure for the headaches (which really is quite unlikely) I will diminish the bad side-effects of this medication and give up the habit of taking it.
“Of course, wherever I am, my purpose in life is to read Prabhupada’s books and to serve him. I will try to do that here by reading Caitanya-caritamrta and also by answering letters from my disciples. I will try to make myself fit physically and spiritually to serve the devotees and Prabhupada’s movement. I want to make that statement, not just a ‘look good’ public announcement, but an inner conviction held honestly.
“Be confident that when you allow your hand to draw in colors and black ink it is therapeutic – and that means it moves me to KC, further along. Writing too, take the journey, walk it, your move.
“By moving the hand, jog the mind for at least a few crucial thoughts.
“I don’t want to be critical of my spiritual master. The tendency comes, like mind quirks, like the rashes that mysteriously appear on my body. Like the pervading headaches. One shouldn’t commit ninda to anyone, especially to great Vaishnavas and also to ordinary devotees and even to any living entity. Guru-aparadha is especially destructive.
“So, those quirks come, and there’s no need to always enumerate the particulars in writing. It comes when you listen to a lecture or read. But when you read and listen carefully and submissively, you overcome it.
“You become convinced anew in the wonderful presentation of your spiritual master in his books. The books, he said, are Krsna’s books, Krsna is speaking through them. Krsna speaks in Bhagavad-gita. Lord Caitanya speaks in Caitanya-caritamrta. And learned sages and devotees like Vyasadeva and Sukadeva speak about Krsna in SB. Let me keep my nose in the books.
The table here in my room is not really a desk. It’s a white plastic shaky model that we took in from outside. It’s also a bit low for reading and writing, and I have to lean my neck forward somewhat. Not the best posture. But read. Haribol.
“Go, go, go, you are a dodo
you lost the train of thought.
Head is starting to bang but
“I sneak in these lines and read some sublime words of Lord Caitanya in the madness of Radharani in separation and Srila Prabhupada’s explanation.
“Bhurijana Prabhu told someone that I was able to dive almost completely into heart issues. I want that to be true. It can happen when you live all the time on the heart level. Then when someone meets you, you naturally can talk deeper than superficialities.
“By heart I mean what really counts, the feelings and needs of devotees under the surface, under pretension and position. Heart doesn’t get into controversial debates but reaches the simple essence of an issue.
“This is it. My cold-turkey penance. Nothing else to do all day but live in the pain, pressure behind the two eyes, back-of-the-neck pain. Every once in a while, you get a mental wave of wanting to do something, but the body soon calls you back. Too much of this and you get nausea too. This is just a tiny dose compared to what the heavy drug users experience when they try to kick the habit. Maybe I won’t have many days of this.
“But then what’s ahead? I’ll be so vulnerable to getting a headache at any time with no way to check it except gradual holistic methods?
“Either the painkiller was a friend whom I’ve now abandoned, or it was all an illusion that he was a friend.
Before noon I had to vomit the blackberry jam breakfast. I skipped all of lunch, and then a few hours later had to throw up again more red jam.
“I haven’t had a sharp behind-the-eye headache like this in many months. It’s as if the ‘natural’ headache syndrome wants to reclaim the body and show me that the painkillers were just falsely suppressing what has to be.
“I may look forward to something else happening for the first time in eight months – the natural going down of headache pain and reaching a clear state. Maybe it will happen overnight.”