DEAR DEVOTEES: A MESSAGE FROM SATSVARUPA MAHARAJA.
“I was very disappointed that our July gathering was cancelled. But I earnestly ask my disciples to order Meditations and Poems and Daily Compositions.
The price is $10 for the former and $12 for the latter. Please be aware that Daily Compositions must be ordered from Amazon.
To order Meditations and Poems, please send your home address and a check for $10 made out to “GNP” to Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa, PO Box 233, Stuyvesant Falls, NY 12174. John Endler will mail the book to you.
This will bring us close together as guru and disciples. These are new books and I expect a big response from my disciples to make up for the cancelled summer meeting. Please don’t disappoint me—order these books.”
An excerpt from Meditations and Poems:
“The life force of my words is Krishna. Krishna is the life force
of everything. I say ‘my words,’ but I don’t
own them. They pass through me. By
convention we say my house, my head, my
soul. But a pure devotee thinks that whatever
he has actually belongs to Krsna. Hrisikena
hrisikesa . . . Krishna is the controller of the
senses, and the senses should be used in His
service. My words should be used in His service.
He gives the power. If you take the power but don’t
serve Him with it, you are a thief. You will be punished.
You will cheat only yourself. I like this thought and feeling
that Krishna is the life force (prana) of my words. Whether
you acknowledge it or not, your source of strength is Krishna.”
An excerpt from Daily Compositions:
“Chestnuts, stories, what’s
true for me now—orthodox
touchstone, Krishna conscious nerve
brushing death and rebirth
but they say there are too many books
for people to read
but I guess that’s all right
because the main thing is process;
having lunch in the here and now
walking to the shed while
touching base with Srimad-Bhagavatam
and prayer and discovering whether it’s all true
and your own dedication
to what the Swami taught . . .”
We are several days into the month of Karttika. We are lighting candles and singing Damodarastakam in the morning. My favorite memory of Karttika is that in the late autumn of 1966, we boys walked into Swamiji’s worship room, and he was there and gave out small birthday candles. He had us light up the bottom of the candle and let the wax drip on the coffee table. Then we stuck the candle into the wax and lit the wick. We didn’t sing Damodarastakam that year but quietly and excitedly watched the candles burn down. We played a game in which we said our souls (our lives) were burning down with the candle, and we wanted to see whose candle went out first. We asked Swamiji, “What is the meaning of this?” He simply replied, “It is to increase your devotion.” In later years the temples began singing Damodarastakam, often before a murti of Krsna and Yasoda where she’s binding Him. My favorite verse in the Damodarastakam is verse #8: “O Lord, the entire universe was created by Lord Brahma, who was born from Your abdomen, which was bound by a rope by Mother Yasoda. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer my obeisances to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani and to Your unlimited pastimes.”
Prabhupada had Pradyumna read an opening section from Nectar of Devotion where Rupa Gosvami dedicates the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu to his older brother Sanatana Gosvami, whom he accepts as his spiritual master. This is the method of disciplic succession. One cannot manufacture spiritual knowledge by the speculative process but has to receive it coming down from previous acaryas. Sanatana Gosvami heard from Lord Caitanya for two consecutive months at Varanasi. He then wrote the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, a guidebook for Gaudiya Vaisnavas. There he stated that as one can combine different metals with sulfur and produce gold, so a bona fide spiritual master can transform a mleccha into a brahmana by authoritative initiation. This process of turning the fallen into brahmanas was openly adopted by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, although he met with great opposition from the caste brahmanas. Our Srila Prabhupada also accepted fallen souls by the process of second initiation, and he made thousands into brahmanas in ISKCON with great success.
In our out-loud reading, Bala spoke text 47 of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita:
“And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within Himself and renders transcendental service unto Me—he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.”
This verse is the conclusion and culmination of the chapter all about the different kinds of yoga. In his purport, Prabhupada describes yoga as a kind of ladder. The first rung is karma-yoga, where one offers his actions to the Supreme with hopes of getting material remuneration. In karma-yoga one keeps the results for himself, but if karma-yoga is mixed with bhakti, then he offers the results of his work to the Supreme. In jnana-yoga, one meditates on the Supreme without material attachment. In astanga-yoga, one meditates upon the Supersoul and is not interested in the mystic siddhis or any material gain. Prabhupada ends his purport to verse 6.47 with these words:
“Bhakti means devotional service to the Lord which is free from desire for material profit, either in this life or in the next. Devoid of such inclinations, one should fully absorb the mind in the Supreme. That is the purpose of naiskarmya.
“These are some of the means for performance of bhakti, or Krsna consciousness, the highest perfectional stage of the yoga system.”
The chiropractor has been ill and unable to make a house call. But now he’s recovered. I still have an ache across my back and so look forward to his coming in a few days. My exercise program has pretty much collapsed. I stopped doing the stationary bike because it pinched my pelvic area and caused too much pain. Also I had a general crash in health and didn’t have the stamina to run the bike. (Kirtan Rasa has told me there’s a different stationary bike that won’t cause me the pinching. I’m going to remind him of this and see if he can’t get me the new bike.) During this period after my crash, I started taking oxygen at night. My pulmonologist gave me an oximeter for an overnight test of how much oxygen I was inhaling. The test proved that I needed an extra two liters per minute, and so the hospital gave me a bedside oxygen machine that pumps in oxygen through my nose all night.
Last week Baladeva and I received our flu shots at the Walgreens pharmacy. The pharmacist is Larry, the same person who has given us vaccines for five years. We very much like his friendly expertise. Today I go to the eye doctor to get my cataracts and lenses measured for the scheduled operation in December. The cataract appointments are stretched out over long time periods, and I have to be patient. This is due to the Covid lockdown, where the cataract people weren’t doing any operations for several months.
Yesterday I finally got my dentist’s appointment after waiting two months. I have full implants, and the top dentures had became so loose that I had to apply adhesive every time I ate or they would fall out. DDS Danz replaced the hardware and fixed the problem in about ten minutes, and now everything is firmly in place. It was hard getting there with my crippled legs and backache.
When Vidura spoke to Dhrtarastra, he told Dhrtarastra that he had so many old-age maladies that he was quickly falling apart. He recommended that Dhrtarastra leave the comfortable home he had—living at the cost of his former enemies, the Pandavas—and go out and live as a dhira (self-controlled mendicant) and practice yoga in a secluded place. At 81 years old I am also falling apart, but I am not going to leave the ashram and practice living alone in the forest. I perform my bhajana of reading, writing, chanting, and answering correspondence. Along with my outreach preaching of writing online and publishing books, I also have the facility of using Zoom to speak to devotees outside the ashram.
There was no out-loud reading in the morning because Bala (who is the only one who knows how to operate it) had to take his wife Krsna dasi to the dentist in Connecticut. And there was no out-loud reading at lunch because the prasadam was served late, since it had to be warmed up, and I couldn’t stay long because I had to race out for an appointment with the cataract doctor. That turned out to be an arduous two-hour session with six different tests involving me pushing my chin and forehead against machines and their taking photographs. The actual surgery to remove the cataract, first in the right eye, is scheduled for December 9th.
These eye procedures are all pre-operative, determining the size and fit of the replacement for the lens that will be removed. They deluged us with information about the surgery, and we couldn’t understand it all. Will I be able to read after the surgery? Some of these crucial things weren’t clear.
Jayadvaita Swami surprised us by showing up for lunch and saying he will be staying for almost a week. He will stay in the “swami room” in the yoga barn across the street. We thought things were to be prepared by Sraddha-devi dasi, and she thought we were going to do it. There was no heat turned on, and Jayadvaita Maharaja is very sensitive about the cold. He has a special diet, but the meal for us inmates had been prepared by Anarta-devi dasi and her daughter Shyama. I asked Jayadvaita Maharaja if he could take their prasadam, and he said it was all right for him even though it was different. As it turned out, we all relished the prasadam.
Today Jayadvaita Swami had breakfast with Ravindra Svarupa and Sudamani and lunch with the inmates of Viraha Bhavan. We supplied them applesauce for their breakfast; for lunch, Bala prepared soup and lotus buds. We listened to an out-loud reading of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Haryasva and Guru dasa spoke on the Ninth Chapter section where Krsna says He accepts a leaf, a flower, a fruit and water, if it’s offered with love and devotion. He won’t accept anything, no matter how opulent, if offered by a nondevotee.
In the late morning, J.S. and I met. Among other things, we spoke of our maladies due to old age and disease. It’s election day and they’re still counting up the votes, but the race is unfortunately close. J.S. advised me to quit the chiropractor with his high price and have a devotee massage my back every day. We shared a reading of Caitanya-caritamrta, but after a while J.S. grew tired. He asked what I wanted to do. I said, “Let’s flow in conversation.” So we did that until it was time for Gayatri and lunch. I very much like the association of Jayadvaita Maharaja.
On November 1st we celebrated Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s 69th birthday at Viraha Bhavan. Baladeva is in the mood of King Kulasekhara, who wanted to die while he was healthy and in full Krsna conscious activity. Otherwise if he waited to he was old and invalid, he would not be able to meditate properly on Krsna at the end. Nevertheless, we had a nice celebration for Baladeva. Devotees prepared a pizza lunch and two guests came by, Atindra Mahajan and his wife Lalita-kaisori. Lalita-kaisori baked a chocolate cake for Baladeva, and Atindra gave him a new bread-making machine. We then spoke with Baladeva’s sister Kathi and his nephew David on a video call. Everyone gave praise of Baladeva, who is such a stalwart servant of his spiritual master and Prabhupada.
It was the first day of Karttika, and everyone was encouraged to make a vrata (vow) to increase some aspect of their devotional service for the month of Karttika, in which Radharani is especially celebrated.
In the morning we held arati and afterwards lit ghee wicks and offered them to Yasoda-Damodara murtis. Then we sang together the Damodarastakam song.
Yesterday Atindra and Lalita-kaisori also did big service outdoors in the garden. They pulled out all the flower plants that had been frozen dead after a 20 degree night last week, and they bagged the leaves that Saci Suta had blown into a big pile.
Our affectionate friend, John Mulligan, received hari-nama initiation from Ravindra Svarupa yesterday. It was supposed to have been held outdoors, but the day before it had snowed, and the weather forecast for the initiation day was cold weather, so it was held indoors and broadcast Zoom. It turned out well. All the main participants were seen on the screen. Ravindra Svarupa gave a standard initiation lecture. He said this is what Prabhupada wanted the lecturers to say for this event. He spoke on the ten offenses in chanting the holy names as found in the Caitanya-caritamrta (in Lord Caitanya’s teachings to Sanatana Gosvami). Ravindra Svarupa noted that there were two offenses that were both mentioned as “the worst offense”: 1) blaspheming the devotees who are spreading the holy name around, and 2) committing sins on the strength of chanting. After describing the ten, he went back and added another one, one which Bhaktivinoda Thakura said was the root of all offenses: this was pramada, or “madness,” being inattentive while chanting. From this one offense, all the other offenses spread out.
Ravindra noted that John had nice japa mala, rustic tulasi beads. He said that when he was initiated they didn’t have tulasi beads yet, and his beads were neem. The organizers let the devotees in the audience speak blessings and good wishes upon John in his successful spiritual life. I spoke first and said that I had known John for a year and considered him an affectionate friend. He was a perfect gentleman and interested in spiritual topics. He would cook and share lunch with us, bringing his homemade mango ice cream. John is a householder, married to Rosey. He has a two-year-old son named Narayana who has a special liking for laddus. Another baby is on the way, predicted to be born in two weeks. John has his own company doing landscaping and construction. His spiritual master gave him the spiritual name Jananivasa. Ravindra Svarupa gave four different meanings to the name. Everyone felt satisfied and purified by the initiation ceremony.
I was about to be initiated in September 1966. I had some doubts about my faith in Krsna just before the ceremony was to begin, and I mentioned it to a Godbrother who was also about to be initiated. He quoted to me from Bhagavad-gita Chapter 7, Verse 7: “O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me as pearls are strung on a thread.”
I received courage from this recitation of the verse about Krsna, enough so that I went through the initiation process, thanks to the help of a Godbrother.
Another verse from the Gita that struck my attention at this time was Bg. 7.8: “O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras. I am the sound in ether and the ability in man.” The idea that Krsna was available even in the taste of water seemed so natural and accessible. Everyone has to drink water, and when we do so we can thank Krsna for kindly supplying tasty water to quench our thirst.
It’s so quiet and peaceful around Viraha Bhavan that a few activities constitute a busy, exciting day.
Yesterday I received news that my desire to read stream-of-consciousness poetry from Kaleidoscope on a promising Zoom venue was shut down by the organizers of the broadcast.
In the mail I received a few books by the Nobel prize winner Louise Gluck. I didn’t warm up to her poetry. I prefer the poetry of Mary Oliver:
if you were
and a soft wind
“and a certain allowance of time
had summoned you
out of your wrappings,
and there you were,
so many legs
more than one pair of eyes
and the whole world
in front of you
And what if you had wings
into the garden,
into the up-tipped
“of a white flower,
and what if you had
a sort of mouth,
“to place close
to the skim
that kept offering itself—
“what would you think then
of the world
as, night and day,
you were kept there—
“Oh happy prisoner—
that deep cup?”
“All afternoon, Sir,
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still,
just one of the common miracles,|
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and it serves
“the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
like corn, or wheat, shining and useful.”
I recently heard a recording of the devotees at Towaco, New Jersey, mostly grand-disciples, speaking their appreciations of Prabhupada on Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja day,. One outstanding homage was by a devotee who quoted from an article by Giriraja Swami. Maharaja mentioned many world disasters that had taken place over the centuries, including the sinking of the Titanic, in which thousands lost their lives, and the disaster of the terrorists crashing down the World Trade Center buildings on 9-11 and causing the deaths of thousands. He also mentioned how Prabhupada faced disasters in his own life. In India, he translated into English the entire Bhagavad-gita, with commentaries. But the book was stolen before he could print it. When he began his journey to America in 1965 on a steamship, he suffered two heart attacks in two days. In New York City he lived on the Bowery with a crazy LSD boy as a roommate. Prabhupada trusted in Krsna and tolerated these difficulties. The Lord reciprocated, and Prabhupada gradually met with great success. There were many other wonderful homages by the grand-disciples, who praised Prabhupada’s outstanding qualities and pledged their lives to serve in his mission.
I received an email from a devotee named Sukhananya devi-dasi, who enclosed a long and detailed dream she had of meeting Srila Prabhupada. I thought it was a fortunate dream, although not necessarily to be taken literally or as “miraculous,” as she claimed.
Years ago I used to take my dreams seriously and write them down and study about dreams; now I do not do so. But I keep a tape recorder by my pillow just in case a dream of Prabhupada comes (although I do not get them frequently now). Just last week I dreamed of Prabhupada. He was deathly ill. He woke up each night at 1:00 A.M., laid in bed, and began speaking to someone. The devotees asked me to cut out my eye and my ear, and this would enable me to witness who Prabhupada was talking to. I was hesitant to follow their order but was glad the dream involved me with Prabhupada.
How to tell the difference whether a dream is valid or just something not to be taken importantly? If Prabhupada comes and gives instructions consistent with his message in books and lectures and gives you a certain direction, that can be taken seriously. But if the dream is just phantasmagoria, out of character, etc., then it needn’t be considered so important.
Over the years I have had some dreams of Prabhupada that seemed real to me and important, turned me in a certain direction, and I tried to follow them.
“In the many attempts to remember Prabhupada by ‘recall sessions,’ reminiscences, daydreams and night dreams, poems and prayers—I never seem to attain his direct association, or rarely. When I close my eyes, listen to a 1966 kirtana or think of being with him in his room, I never quite see or attain him. However the anxiety of trying to get to Prabhupada produces many good things.
“Although my separation from Prabhupada is on a small scale, it is the authorized way for Gaudiya Vaisnavas. As the great devotees think of Krsna, this little devotee is trying to think of his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada writes,
“‘Srinivasa Acarya said that the Gosvamis were always absorbed in the nectar of transcendental dealings in the mood of the gopis. They never said, “We have now seen Radha and Krsna. Therefore our mission is fulfilled.” Their mission remained always unfulfilled; they never met Radha and Krsna.’ (Krsna, Vol. 2, p. 73, 1974 edition.)
“Also when Uddhava saw the gopis in separation from Krsna, he congratulated them. The gopis then realized that ‘they were actually experiencing the supernatural method of Krsna worship, and they were very much relieved and happy to understand it.’ Uddhava advised the gopis that they should be saved from the fire of separation ‘by closing their eyes and meditating on the activities of Krsna from the very beginning of their association with Him.’
“Can we apply, however, the exalted feelings of separation from Krsna to our separation from the spiritual master? Apparently, yes. Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘It is recommended in authoritative scriptures that the spiritual master should be worshiped on the level of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of his being His very confidential servitor, and it is accepted by great authorities that the spiritual master is the external manifestation of Krsna (Sri Guruvastakam).
“If my failure to obtain Srila Prabhupada by service and meditation seems to be a source of unhappiness, I may note that this was also described by Narottama dasa Thakura in his song ‘Lamentation Due to Separation from the Lord and His Associates.’”
Most of us were contaminated with drugs and illicit sex. Prabhupada restrained us. He controlled the activities in his apartment and storefront, and we soon got into line. There were unspoken boundaries. No one ever smoked in his apartment. He sat on one side of the silver trunk, and we sat on the other. Sometimes we stood close beside him in the kitchenette or other places, but we did not get too familiar. We maintained politeness and formality out of respect. Even those who were not his disciples respected him as an elderly sadhu.
If anyone talked jive to the Swami, they didn’t get far with it. He remained who he was. He did not want to waste his time, but spoke in a meaningful way about God. He insisted on that. He did not mind a challenging question, as long as it was put in a coherent way, and he could direct the conversation toward God consciousness.
“‘What is this chanting? Is it some mumbo-jumbo? Is it hypnotism?’ Prabhupada accepted a question like that because at least it was moving in the direction of an inquiry about God.
“‘As far as I am concerned, there is no next life. The scientists have proven it.’ That too would be acceptable for Swamiji because it led to important subjects. As long as we were willing to hear, he would talk. When things got out of hand, Prabhupada would turn to Raymond or Howard and ask, ‘His is a general question. Can you answer it?’ But that did not happen often.
“Prabhupada did not ask people much about their family background or education or hobbies. He wanted to speak to them about the Absolute Truth.
“‘I am living with my mother. She has arthritis. I don’t have enough money, so I am working two jobs.’ Prabhupada would hear with concern, but soon then turn the situation to ultimate matters. He was not living in the world for talking about relative situations. As a sannyasi, he had left all that behind. It was often Prabhupada who was the challenger. Those who wished to stay with him had to come up to his level.
“Often someone mentioned a Western thinker who Prabhupada had not heard of. It was a simple thing to adjust. ‘What is their philosophy?’—and then put it into the context of Mayavada, pantheist or mental speculation.
“I asked Prabhupada, ‘What about the spiritual culture of China? Is it advanced?’ He simply shook his head no. I was willing to accept that. Even to this day I am attracted to recluses and poets of ancient China. Prabhupada did not say they were all useless, but he told me in no uncertain terms that they were not important in the absolute sense, for going back to Godhead: ‘It is not important.’ If we were academic scholars, I would have insisted on developing a comparison of Confucianism and Taoism and how they came from India. I would demand that he explain why it was inferior to Krsna consciousness. Perhaps I would debate with him and say that the Indian mentality is different but not necessarily better than the Chinese mentality. However, all these considerations were dispensed with in a meaningful way, just by a shake of the head. They were also dealt with in informal talks while taking prasadam or sitting together. We heard from him submissively and accepted the Vedas from his lips.”
“The Bhagavatam class was on the verse from the Ninth Canto about the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. It described military action. After the lecture one of the devotees asked 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 and bombs. He said that we should fight with sankirtana and 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 continued to set good examples and not admit defeat or hopelessness, that is the fighting spirit of Srila Prabhupada.
“Try This: Take time to appreciate how different devotees could be taking this fighting of Prabhupada to heart. Perhaps you could even keep a list and occasionally add to it as you hear of other examples.”
“Srila Prabhupada always encouraged us in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. He told audiences that the boys and girls who are chanting Hare Krsna are experiencing pleasure and absorption in love of God. What could be obtained previously only through great austerity can now be achieved simply by chanting Hare Krsna. As proof of this, Prabhupada offered the example of thousands of his disciples who are chanting Hare Krsna and giving up attraction to material life.
“Sometimes, I doubt whether these things are actually coming true. Were they true when Prabhupada was present but not true now? Were they never true? If they are true, how to understand them, or should we not make attempts to analyze?
“Prabhupada’s statements are true because they are based on sastra. In sastra we find much encouragement that the lowborn or low-class persons can successfully chant Hare Krsna. Even if a person is born in a family of dog-eaters and chants Hare Krsna once, he becomes qualified to perform Vedic yajnas. Those who are chanting Hare Krsna in this lifetime must have accomplished all Vedic practices in previous lifetimes. There is no doubt that the Vaisnava acaryas, and especially the followers of Lord Caitanya, praise the power of the holy name over all other spiritual practices. What Prabhupada has added to all of this is the claim that now these teachings are actually taking place: people from all races and religions all over the world are chanting Hare Krsna and getting good results.
“Sociologists have their empirical methods for assessing the effects of chanting. They might follow a group of devotees for twenty years. They give them questionnaires and interviews and judge how they progress in spiritual life from year to year. In this way they try to build statistical evidence for theories. That is not the Vaisnava way—at least it is not my way.
“One way to reply to doubts is to speak for yourself. When your experience confirms what is stated by the sastra and by the spiritual master, then you have strong evidence. I want to be a successful “statistic” to prove Prabhupada correct. If I can do that, then my confidence will be strong. If someone claims that most devotees do not get benefit from chanting as Prabhupada predicted, I can reply, “I know the benefits have been there for me.” Unfortunately, I cannot claim significant progress in my own chanting. I look at some of the positive statements Prabhupada makes about chanting, and I feel sorry.
“I know, however, that Prabhupada is not making false predictions. One has to look carefully at his use of language. He may say that if a devotee sincerely chants, then he will get the good result. In one purport Prabhupada states that chanting is very simple, but one has to take it seriously.
“There may be something wrong in ourselves rather than Prabhupada’s statements. Our long inability to experience the benefits of chanting may be a cause for concern, but that should not lead us to doubt the spiritual master or the namacarya, Haridasa Thakura, whom he represents. In fact, our individual failure is also predicted by the acaryas. They say that if one does not take advantage of this easy system of chanting Hare Krsna, then there is no other hope for him.
“The Vaisnava acaryas sympathize with people like me. They have stated on our behalf, ‘I do not have attraction for the chanting of Hare Krsna, therefore I must be cursed by Yamaraja.’ Lord Caitanya speaks for the conditioned souls and says, ‘I do not have a taste for chanting because of committing offenses.’
“We have also been encouraged by Prabhupada that the real symptoms of successful chanting are not the attainment of ecstatic bodily symptoms. Steady results of chanting are shown when a devotee utilizes his time always in Krsna’s service, and when he patiently depends on Krsna’s mercy. Another general symptom is detachment from material life.
“Let us not avoid the difficult or make up excuses. Prabhupada did not predict cheap overnight success. Let me enter that ‘workshop’ mood once again, even though I have tried before. Do whatever will help. Keep notebooks, time myself with a stopwatch, increase my quota of rounds, get up as early as possible, talk about chanting with interested devotees, study the scriptures to this end, and go on chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
“Robert Bly wrote a poem about snow and a man in a black coat who turns. Mystery of life, thoughts and snowdrifts compared. The rich imagery. But what is a poet? Why doesn’t he so yearn for God that it comes out nakedly in each poem?
“Or do you just play that role? I discovered in Shack Notes that there’s a difference between what we in ISKCON publicly say that one should do and what one actually feels. We have buried our feelings, thinking they may be inappropriate. I was trying to unearth them in that book. That process is not a one-time event. I continue it if I think it’s worthwhile.
“Are you one who calls out, ‘Oh, my God!’ all night?
“No. I hope to sleep soundly for at least three or four hours, and I do. Then I get up and write, beginning, ‘Capt. Smith, reporting for work.’
“God knows all; He’s in the heart. May He see the drive for God consciousness (Krsna consciousness) in me and my efforts.”
“I’ve mostly been searching for my personal preaching program, but as GBC, sannyasi, and soon, initiating guru, my preaching is also to set up others in programs I would like to see, Send them where I would like to go but can’t go personally.
“The college recruiting a month at a time is always attractive. A leader like Mahabuddhi could go with a man or two who could work with him. I could visit such places periodically; the whole team together in some location like N.C., etc. Anyway, I should think like that, how men could preach under my direction. I would have to give real direction, however, not just ‘go out there.’
“I mentioned this ‘Let me preach in different college towns by your going there and preaching’ to three members of the Library Party and they liked the idea, but they insisted that I get behind it, really into it, etc. Not that I had to always travel there personally, but give whatever support I can. I have no manpower or money at present, nor did I want to subsidize it. They’d simply go there under my authority and preach and collect enough to support themselves and be in regular contact with me. Moreover, they would carry out a program whose outline I would give them. It would be: get an apartment, go on campus or into town, and chant for at least an hour a day. Give out fruit or prasadam at a table on campus, invite people to a Sunday feast and/or cooking class, and do an hour door to door at night. Try to get people into chanting and reading and offering prasadam and make full-fledged devotees. Try to get people meeting on a weekly Sunday basis. Speak on radio, at clubs, and at school engagements.
“Three men should go to each center, or two, and do not make an easy-going life. Try all ways to speak Krsna consciousness. They don’t have to be attached to the results but should endeavor exhaustively. Cook and distribute prasadam, make a nice apartment to welcome guests. Go out and preach and chant and do door to door and whatever. Try to penetrate the university to have a club there, etc.
“If they will assist me in this program, it will be good for us and for the conditioned souls as well.”
“It cannot be repeated too much how Srila Prabhupada said: ‘How much you love me will be demonstrated by how you cooperate amongst yourselves.’ Let us preserve. My talk and thought need not be novel. It is, in a sense, predictable. But if we follow the parampara path, then it can also be predicted that we will attain pure devotion to Krsna and will attain Krsnaloka.
“The enemies are lust, greed, and anger. We have to personally control our own senses. We have to be satisfied that we are each one small part of ISKCON and not try subtly or overtly to take over as the ‘lord’ (greed). We should avoid anger over our being directed by our authorities. If we can control these enemies within, then we can certainly withstand the attacks of demons.
“Now India again—our fifth annual pilgrimage. We are becoming more seasoned. Let us avoid the old pitfalls of misspending our time in the dhama.
Srila Prabhupada, you are like Krsna, knowing my position, knowing my limits, knowing my individual place. I pray to you, do not let me fall away. Do not let me merely remain here uselessly, but let me have some real, instrumental role in maintaining ISKCON.”
“‘Don’t be anxious about your maintenance. Kṛṣṇa will provide. He takes care of His servants.’ This attitude can be adopted to different degrees. One may go on working hard and continue to be anxious about money-making and paying bills, yet have a certain satisfaction that the final outcome is up to Kṛṣṇa. Thus to some extent the worldly anxiety is reduced. After all, we’re not the doers.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s proposal seems more radical, that he will no longer make money or provide for his relatives, but instead he will engage full-time in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Remember Mṛgari the hunter who was saved by Narada? He was also worried about how he would survive when Narada told him to break his bow. But Narada assured him that he would arrange for his meals. So Mṛgari spent his full time chanting in his little hut. Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, ‘I will serve You free from all anxiety, and at home, if any good or evil should occur, it will not be my responsibility.’ (Saranagati , 3.2.7)
“The pure devotee is ready to do whatever the Lord wants and is not afraid of the outcome. He may continue earning money, or he may stop. Often he continues earning money just to set an example for others.
“‘So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities (for the gradual development of Krsna consciousness).’ (Bg. 3.26)
“We desire to be full-time servants of Krsna. We want no other occupation. Many of us have been full-time devotees for most of our adult lives. Externally, this means we haven’t had jobs, we have served in ISKCON. But ISKCON has its own anxieties about raising money, and it has evolving attitudes as to what is the best way to go about it.
“What is my duty as a sannyasi? I don’t need a job, that’s clear. I should live as a biksu tridandi and accept alms. I should live according to what comes. I drive around in our Renault Master van and then fly to India once a year. Kṛṣṇa is providing. I try not to misuse this facility, because abusing it would be an anartha in bhakti. But at least I should be grateful enough to acknowledge that Kṛṣṇa is maintaining me.
“We always wonder if we are doing the best thing. We want to be able to have a deep conviction in the direction our lives are taking. Krsna is maintaining us, and up to a point, we also have to help ourselves. We trust Krsna, and we have to learn to trust our own intentions in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Madhurya Kadambini lists a symptom of unsteadiness as ‘indecision.’ You go back and forth, back and forth, trying to decide what course to take even in spiritual life. It’s better just to plunge in and trust that Krsna will take care of the results.”
“‘But if I die in this condition
my mission will remain unfulfilled.
Please pray to Prabhu Lord Caitanya
and Vrndavana Bihar
to rescue me this time.
My mission is still not finished.’
“It was enough to fell any man,
But he asked his students to pray.
‘Our master has not finished his work.’
A bhakti-yogi can evade death’s blow
and by Krsna’s grace his life-duration may grow
and he may step on the head of approaching death
to go on with his mission in this world.”
“When I arose from bed this morning, I made a few notes for the talk I have to give tomorrow morning at the disciples meeting. I’m going to start out by saying I’m going to Vrndavana. I will read references from Prabhupada’s books. The first one will establish that Krsna in Vrndavana is the object of our worship. Vrndavana, in India, is a replica of the spiritual world. It is important for us to go there. Then I’ll read a quote that says if you can’t go to Vrndavana, then you should think of Vrndavana in your mind. This refers to raganuga-bhakti, but it can also be applied to our level of devotional service. That means we can practice chanting and hearing in a Vrndavana-like mood, or to put it more simply, in an attentive and serious way. Then just to assure us that we don’t need to travel to India, I’ll read a quote by Prabhupada where he says that we can think of Vrndavana wherever we are in the world.
“But the real substance of my talk is to encourage devotees to establish a sacred space in their life for daily sadhana. One of the keys is regulation, then maintaining that regulation. And being creative so that we find it interesting and we make gains by practicing it.”
“Head pressure all night, the diffuse, tolerable kind, not sharp behind the right eye. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to get up at midnight. Dreamt I was staying in the Dallas temple. When I was about to go, and anticipated a friendly farewell, I offended a devotee there. It started when I would not lend him my Cross ballpoint pen. He became angry and threatened me in many ways. I went to a temple officer for sympathy but he gave none. They began to charge me with various wrongdoings during my stay in their temple. Driven out and accused.
“Why this dream? Infamy.
“Then I get up and go, not so enthusiastically (Schubert’s “Ave Maria” humming in my mind), to read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Slowly, it attracts me. I have to read passages over twice or thrice to pay attention.
“Krsna is speaking in Bhagavad-gita. We need to surrender to Him through His pure devotee. Other methods of atonement, without devotional service, won’t free us from sin. If you surrender to Krsna, even imperfectly, or even once only, then Yamaraja and his followers won’t come after you, not even in dreams (no, I didn’t dream of them, although the “temple driving out” was pretty bad).
“Surrender to Krsna. Take to devotional service, not to drive out your sins but to develop love of Krsna.
“How? I will chant Hare Krsna mantra in a few minutes. That’s an excellent method. And write. (Travel and lecture.)
“Not feeling so enthusiastic or determined to write. Maybe that’s appropriate for a health retreat – body repair comes first. Consider M.’s reminding me not to write for performance—just do it to express, to help yourself in devotional service.
“Yes, I am reading Pada-yatra which I wrote in July-August. Write something now and read it later. But even if you don’t read it, you do it. You don’t have to question yourself so much why.
“Why, oh why, do birds
fall in love
why do birds fly
why do they fall in love?
“Listen mate, be true to yourself in devotional service, words that come are fine enough in service, service. Pray – stop and lower your head, contrite. (It may seem odd and laughable but just try it anyhow, while you read or anytime. Stop and ask yourself, ‘Please let me do it.’)
“On the way here:
pack of letters
books on pain
and later, books by Carmelites. But you’ve got SB now and your own writings. Go with it and chant the holy names.
“Head fog built up. Skipped bending-forward exercises. Slept and dreamt I was going for my first day of work at the welfare office (dressed in a sailor’s uniform) but no one would tell me what department to go to for an assignment or indoctrination. I asked one woman employee and she started talking about medication (things happened like in a Kafka novel). I told her you need a guru, you can’t learn yoga just by reading books. Militant welfare clients, like a men’s gang, dressed in blue and gray sweatshirts. On a queue with clients, it appeared to be a line for getting an eye examination. When I got up to the window I said, ‘I may not be at the right window, but I’m trying to find out where to go on my first day of work here.’
“She said, ‘Do you have your name and number?’ She was laughing at me.
“I said, ‘I know my name (sarcastically), but I don’t have any number.’ On and on it went in vast offices and busy departments . . .
“I thought maybe what I need is to preach more to nondevotees and be absorbed in that. I’m missing out on that. Is that why TKG and others took up academic preaching by becoming themselves university students and academic scholars? I couldn’t do that. I’ve said this free-writing was my surrender, but it’s an odd sort.
“I have headaches.
I’m not asking for your sympathy.
Yes, you are.
“I’m just trying to explain to you why I can’t preach in usual ways to nondevotees or to devotees and a congregation. I have to spend most time in quiet, alone, but supported by friends. From this position I contribute, dictating letters, writing and drawing pictures. It’s ‘all’ I can do.
“Morning nap and another dream that I’m a new man looking for my assignment. This time I was in the Navy with a uniform and present in many different sections and scenes with other sailors. But I had no occupation. Unlike the dream in the welfare office, I wasn’t looking so much to get assignment but was more evading authorities and just hanging around. Of course, I did want to be engaged in a proper way, but I wasn’t directly asking anyone what I was supposed to do.
“Maybe I’m getting these dreams because I want to be a new man, I want to be newly assigned and I’m waiting for some new chapter in devotional service.
“Patram puspam phalam toyam.
“The man overcame his allopathic medication, and he glowed with pride. Free! But then the fog moved in and clenched inside his skull.
“Yeah, and it clears enough to run out and mail your letter to Mathura. And read in your Pada-yatra and in Bhagavad-gita. OKrsna, he paused, like Brother Lawrence? And prayed for the presence of Krsna.
“Waiting for M. to come in here and massage this head and neck. Relax.
“When I get on a jet plane from southern Spain to Belfast, I could switch at Madrid and “run-away” to America. But what would you do there? In Madison Square Garden? In Gita-nagari? Samika Rsi’s house’s backroom (‘Leave me alone and no heavy desserts.’) But without M. I might not follow a strict diet.
“What? Krsna Krsna Krsna.
“The poets I look at are casual, and I’d like that again. No poems for months now. No corn growing in poet practice field. You can do it if you like.
“Krsna went hunting in springtime for the gopis’ hearts.
Krsna went punting in the
boat on the Yamuna. And in
Vasudeva form He spoke the
Song of God wherein
“He’s introduced as Sri Bhagavan uvaca, because sometimes fools misunderstandKrsna. So, He (Vyasa) says He’s Bhagavan. I know this stuff, memorized verses, traveled the U.S. distributing books with the Library Party. I lectured in most of the temples in the U.S.A. long ago, not recently. Recently in Italy and Belfast. I spoke in the Wicklow schoolhouse and in spring at 26 Second Avenue. There a man named Agape came into the room carrying lilacs; he was an African-American man, at 26 Second Avenue. And I told my SP memories once again.
“He’s going to rent a bicycle. Man, you wrote out in PY days last summer.
“Then he got the fog. Brakes. Deer and pheasant roam freely here, no fences. Canal water, summer’s over, no boats. Rest comes first here, writing second. But I picked up my pace in reading SB, Yamadutas meet Visnudutas over the near-dead body of Ajamila. Why have you come to stop us? (Yamas said.)
“Don’t you know religion? (Visnudutas said.)
“Yamas spoke that we know religion is in the Vedas breathed by Narayana. We heard this from Yamaraja.
“Good, but you don’t know that the real meaning of religion is to surrender to Krsna beginning with chanting His holy names. This sinful man has chanted the name Narayana while he’s dying and so, you can’t take him to hell. The chanting of God’s names has saved him; ante narayana smrti. It doesn’t matter what sins he committed or that he was calling out for his son named Narayana.
“Breathe in and out. While you can. Breathing isn’t life, blood flow neither. It’s the soul in the body.
“The soul is in the heart. All creatures have the Lord in their heart.
“Pusta-Krishna said, ‘But ants have no hearts biologically.’
“SP didn’t accept that. It’s crucial that everyone has a heart because sastra says the Supreme Lord is in all hearts: isvarah sarvah-bhutanam hrd-dese.
“I asked Madhusudana to list his doubts. He hasn’t done it yet. Afraid to? Maybe he knows I can’t answer them in a way to make them disappear. Don’t claim I can. Don’t be like overconfident doctors who promise to get rid of your headaches.
“But I know the answers how to slay doubts – read Bhagavad-gita and believe what Krsna says.
“Socks tucked in the sweatpants. Girls’ bicycles. We pedaled around flat roads in this expansive reservation. Vigilante cars passed us. Cement-mixing truck. Nice exercise. Next time I may go alone, fishing for some insights. I’m listening to whatKrsna may reveal within, that which I can do to please Him by pleasing my guru, preaching.
“For now, read and write and ride out the head-tightening, it’s not so bad. Pineapple or cranberry juice at five.
“Saw ‘Irish’ magpies. Plenty of pheasants. Turn left at the sign, ‘Quarto Oeste,’ that’s where we live these three weeks.
“Yamadutas have a long speech why they are punishing Ajamila. I’ll take it in small installments and switch to reading my PY. Day goes by. Darkens, go to bed. And will you dream again that you are a new man on the job?
“Madhusudana dasa submitted his three big doubts to me in writing, wondering where is the advancement even after stopping sinful activities, persistence of flaws, envy and other spiritual diseases. He wonders whether Krsna consciousness will act only on the mental platform but won’t change the heart.
“I would like to answer your doubts in writing and suggest practices or readings that could help you. The general subject of philosophical doubts I wrote about in the first chapter of Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service. I suggest that you read that. I also find LordKrsna’s statement in Bhagavad-gita 4:42 to be inspiring.Krsna consciousness is to declare war on maya. So, you need a fighting spirit against your doubts. ‘Therefore, the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.’ You may memorize and recite this verse to help you attain the fighting spirit to combat your doubts.
“Regarding your first doubt, you should be humble and not expect an overnight victory over your anarthas. Attraction for sex and wealth have been with the conditioned soul since time immemorial. Even advanced devotees may fall victim to these temptations. So, I request you not to doubt the process.
“I think you have a tendency to fall into negative thinking. With regard to sastra and bhakti we should have positive thinking. We can face our doubts but then overcome them by logic and argument and faith – a positive rather than a negative approach.
“You admit that you have stopped sinful activities even though the desire remains in your heart. It is a great gain that you have given up illicit sex. Now, if you keep practicing then you eventually attain the higher taste and not be attracted to sex desire. Even if you don’t complete the course in this lifetime, your credit in giving up sins will go with you for advancement in your next life. (See Bg. 2.40, 2.59, and 6.37-45 – read these verses, first without the purports.)
“You say, negatively, that some elder devotees still have these attachments. Yes, but they are also devotees who are becoming free of these anarthas. Why don’t you look at that proof and not just examples to support your doubt? Therefore, I say to you, you have to save yourself. Make an effort. Regarding attraction to women as your greatest attachment, the Krsna conscious process recommends that a man with this attachment become married. That is the way to deal with it, within regulated marriage. I hope that you become married in order to control the urge in that way gradually.
“Better to admit your own fallen nature, to admit that you are getting reactions to your own misdeeds. Don’t find fault with bhakti for not bringing you freedom from dirty things in your heart. You haven’t applied yourself long enough or hard enough. Read Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam daily and the dirty things will go away. (See nasta-prayesv abhadresu, SB First Canto.) Chant more with a cry from the heart (ceto darpana marjanam) and then you’ll see the process working.
“So, we may lament that we haven’t attained freedom but don’t doubt the Lord and the acaryas and the process they kindly give us.
“‘When, oh when, will that day be mine
when my offenses ceasing
taste for the holy name increasing
when in my heart will Your mercy shine
when, oh when, will that day be mine?’
“A verse like that expresses that one hasn’t attained pure Krsna consciousness, longs for it, but doesn’t blame the process for not bringing it to me yet.
“Keep trying. Don’t give up.”