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:
“I sat and stared into the fire
at chimeras I didn’t want
to consort with lower spirits
give me God or nothing
but cement walls.
Give me the ending as he did it
in kind of blue. Calling us home,
get ready to pick out tomorrow’s
clothing for Radha-Govinda and
accept this leads to
your service in the spiritual world –
a dresser of Radha and Govinda.
“A procurer of new clothes for
Them. And Narottama dasa Thakura’s hands.”
An excerpt from Daily Compositions:
“O Krishna, when You return from the pasturing ground with the animals, we see Your face covered by Your curly hair and dusted by the hoof dust of the cows. We see Your mildly smiling face, and our desire to enjoy You increases. O dear Krishna, You are the supreme lover, and You always give shelter to surrendered souls.
“Light snowfall. Hope it doesn’t gather for our looked-forward-to getaway on Sunday. You came and surprised them, and soon you’ll go. Hope I can give two talks on Saturday. The first one is about seeing Krishna even when He is within the cloud. The verse describes the cloud of dust made by the cows’ hooves, and I want to mention the cloud caused by our ignorance.
“Find time today to study and think of the wonderful verse of Krishna coming home covered with dust, but they can see it is Him. Start by relishing the lila itself. Then your angle on it as a neophyte who can’t see Him but trusts that He is there.”
In ISKCON, Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day is celebrated as a festival. Large numbers of devotees get together, and they share their reminiscences and glorify Prabhupada and the days he was with us. On this day I am in a different mood. I don’t see it as a festival day. I stood all day from morning to 7:00 PM in the evening at the foot of Prabhupada’s bed, where he was lying, completely inward. No one thought he would survive the day. For me and others it was not a happy day but one that culminated in grief and numbness. I can’t bring myself to celebrate it as a festival, even though that I know theoretically that the appearance and disappearance of the spiritual master is the same. My main attitude was numbness. When I phoned the Germany temple to tell them the news of Prabhupada’s disappearance, the leader said their attitude was business-as-usual, or rather “more than usual.” I could not pick up that spirit.
I will submit to blood work. The urologist wants to see what the white blood cell count is in the blood to give some indication as to how serious the infection is. As for the kidney stones, if they are large enough, they will have to be smashed. Of course, the main health issue is my inability to walk except with a four-wheel carriage. In general, I am tired with no vigor.
In our area of upstate New York, we seem to live in a bubble of relative peace and quiet. The immediate neighbors on our block are mostly drunksters, but they are all friendly with us. We offer them prasadam and they take it. There are sizeable populations around of Blacks, Muslims, and Hispanics, and there doesn’t seem to be any violence or particular unrest. There are not high numbers of COVID-19 cases like in more populated areas. When we go outside and mix with people for medical purposes, we always wear our masks for protection from COVID-19. Otherwise we stay at home in Viraha Bhavan with our ashram inmates, and we don’t wear masks.
Yesterday morning I experienced serious incontinence and bleeding. There was blood in my urine. We went for a noon appointment with the urologist, Dr. Subudhi. He wants me to take an ultrasound procedure next Tuesday to see if there are any kidney stones causing infection or being big enough to block the urinary tract tube. The last sample we sent to the hospital was especially red with blood and pus. The doctor said I had a nasty infection, and he prescribed me a potent 10-day antibiotic. I haven’t had this condition for six months. I don’t experience pain, just infectious blood, incontinence and disorientation. I also never have a fever. I hope the antibiotic regimen will clear up the problem.
These urinary issues are occurring close to the dates for the proposed Vyasa-puja on December 5th and my cataract operation on December 9th. We will see what develops.
I received the new cover of my book Seeking New Land. It has a picture by Lal Krishna. It shows a boat with some tourists on it plying the waters in Antarctica in the summer tourist season. We have worked on this cover back and forth, but I am finally satisfied, and I approve it. There’s a good chance that the book will be out by Vyasa-puja. Lal Krishna has been polishing the covers of the other Vyasa-puja book, Kaleidoscope, and he says we will get our copies in the next couple of weeks. That makes it close to coming out on time for the Vyasa-puja books, and the devotees can immediately mail-order them. I’m hoping all the books will sell. The back cover of Seeking New Land shows the map of Greenland, where the main character, Hemanta Swami, pioneered his preaching base and became established. It is an avant-garde book, but it has introductory essays by John Endler and author’s notes by me to help the devotees understand and gain access to the writing. Kaleidoscope is a book like that too, written ahead of its time and with experimental expressions. It has ample introductory essays to explain “stream-of-consciousness” writing, which makes the book accessible to the reader.
Here is an excerpt from John Endler’s introductory essay to Kaleidoscope:
“There is a wonderful freedom in [Kaleidoscope’s] type of expression, but let us not mistake freedom for ease. As I have suggested earlier, this type of writing demands a full surrender: the surrender of an agenda and a concomitant surrender of one’s sense of self. Can one predict what will emerge from this vast sea of consciousness? That is hardly the case. Stream of consciousness writing is wild and freewheeling, it is moved by an energy that is inexhaustible, an energy that often erupts volcanically when we relinquish our sense of control to what lies within our depths. This emerges especially when we relinquish our ideas and presuppositions about the novel and poetry themselves. Now, some may call this writing nonsensical and in a particular manner, there may be a kernel of truth in this evaluation. For this writing challenges every sense and sensibility of what writing should be, it is therefore non-sense in the purest mood of this word. Concerns with the sensible and the acceptable are cast aside to allow for a new creation to be born. As with snowflakes and the singular patterns of shapes and colors within the kaleidoscope, each phrase, image and theme, bears the flash of a moment which then passes with the energy of the subsequent roll of thunder.”
Here is part of an essay John wrote introducing the new volume Seeking New Land:
“Finally, I would like to raise a question which may certainly seem to have an obvious answer: what is a story? . . . . This is an especially pertinent theme to be addressed when considering Seeking New Land. In this book, not only will the reader discover an artistic playfulness related to the movement of time but the reader will discover that the characters, Hemanta and Melodeon, will themselves appear and recede during the course of this volume. This then is a story narrated in fragments where the connective tissue, if you will, is the voice of Satsvarupa Maharaja himself as he inhabits his literary persona, Hemanta Swami.
Storytelling, yes. But customary storytelling, hardly! This is precisely what makes Seeking New Land unique moment in the unfolding of Satsvarupa Maharaja’s literary vision within the Every Day, Just Write series. So, we might ask again, what is a story? Satsvarupa Maharaja . . . . expresses his understanding that a story or novel is not necessarily defined by traditional understandings of plot but rather by the development of a theme. He writes [in California Search for Gold], “I know the swami doesn’t have a fiction plot yet, but I saw a tiny beginning: when he goes on his retreat today, he’s going to have an exchange with his soul (p. 240). With or without a plot, it will be the theme that ultimately defines this work as a story: “the exchange with his soul.” This realization of a theme rather than a typical plot is of critical importance in understanding the complexity of Seeking New Land, with its theme of the search actually supplanting the concrete the details of the search itself.
“. . . . As with every work that he has created, Satsvarupa Maharaja pursues his literary art with a clear sense of his identity as first and foremost a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and as a devotee of Sri Krishna. He does this in his own unique way as a writer steeped in the literary currents of the twentieth century. He does this with a radical humility, which may be described as a spiritual nakedness before the Lord. As Satsvarupa Maharaja writes in Seeking New Land:
“Search my mind for topics that I care about. Find I don’t care much for analytical discussions, Sankhya, Vedanta, even steps of bhakti. I could get into it, I guess, if I did it in my own way. But they expect you…Then I hit on the topic of truthfulness. I do care about that. Tell how I go about my own search for truth.
“It’s naked to do so. They may see it as mere psychology rather than hari-katha. But I see it as crucial self-realization and immediately a way to have
Give it to me.
During the 21 hours Lord Caitanya revealed Himself as Visnu, known as sata-prahariya-maha-prakasa, Lord Caitanya called each of His devotees forward and spoke to them about their confidential relationship with Him in the past, and then asked them to take any boon they wanted from Him. All the devotees were called forth except Mukunda. When the devotees appealed on behalf of Mukunda, the Lord said, “Don’t speak to Me about that fellow.” He said Mukunda was like one who carried straws of humility in his mouth but carried a heavy stick. Mukunda would submit to the Lord in humility with the straws, but then he would beat Him by attending Mayavadi lectures, which made the Lord without arms, without feet, without a head, etc. The devotees said, “When will Mukunda be able to see You?” The Lord replied, “He will not be able to see Me for a million births.” Hearing this, Mukunda became jubilant and jumped up and down, knowing that again he would see Lord Caitanya even after the expiry of a million human births. Hearing such faith from Mukunda, Lord Caitanya asked him to come forward at once. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said to him, “Mukunda, you should appear with Me in every incarnation, and you will be My singer.” Mukunda and the Lord both felt great ecstasy in these dealings. Sridhara Kolaveca: It is described they used to have a relationship where they would argue every day over the price of Sridhara’s banana products. The Lord would demand that He be given half-price. They pushed and shoved each other to take possession of the bananas. Sridhara was afraid of the arrogant young scholar, and he was enchanted by Him also. He would finally submit and give Him the bananas free. When Lord Caitanya asked Sridhara to take a boon, he said he only wanted to be able to come back, life after life, and argue with Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the price of his bananas and be able to give them freely to the Lord. Murari Gupta was another great devotee of Lord Caitanya. But he had his heart set on Lord Ramacandra as his worshipable Deity. He knew that Lord Caitanya wanted him to worship Krsna, and his failure to do so caused Him great pain. So Mukunda took a knife and kept it in his house, intending to kill himself. Lord Caitanya, being omniscient, came to Murari’s house and asked him to give Him over the knife. Lord Caitanya kept pushing Murari to keep chanting Hare Krsna as the best, but Murari was attached to chanting the names of Rama. The two felt great ecstasy in their relationship. Lord Caitanya said Murari was actually Hanuman, and He approved of his devotion.
In our out-loud reading, we are recently hearing about the ecstatic meetings of the great devotees of Mahaprabhu. Pundarika Vidyanidhi comes to town and is discovered as a great devotee despite his materialistic appearance. Gadadhara at first misunderstands him, and then in repentance asks Pundarika to accept him as his disciple and give him initiation. Lord Caitanya approves of this. Lord Nityananda was biding His time in Vrndavana, awaiting for when Visvambhara would manifest Himself as a great Vaisnava and not a proud scholar of the scriptures. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu began His sankirtana activities, Lord Nityananda came to Navadvipa to join Him. But He stayed hidden in the home of Nandanacarya. Being omniscient, Lord Caitanya knew where Lord Nityananda was hiding, although none of the devotees could find Him out. Their meeting is blissful beyond words to describe. They chant and dance together and induce all the devotees to join Them. From then on, Lord Nityananda always stays by Lord Caitanya’s side, sharing the ecstasy of sankirtana in each other’s company. Seeing these two Persons react this way, the other devotees begin to speculate on Their identity. Some say the two are like Laksman and Lord Rama; some say They are like Krsna and Balarama. Vrndavana dasa Thakura states that anyone who thinks that there is a difference between Krsna and Balarama is in deep illusion. Lord Ananta has the inclination to serve Lord Caitanya; similarly, Balarama wants to serve His younger brother, Lord Krsna. The Lord and His devotees join together for nocturnal kirtana in the house of Srivasa Pandita. As Lord Caitanya inaugurates the sankirtana, He brings together all the great devotees at Srivasa Pandita’s house. Seeing the Lord glorifying each devotee who joins, the other devotees come to appreciate how great each one of them is. The devotees decided to extend their kirtana until midnight. When they did this, their loud chanting disturbed the Kazi, who could not sleep and complained to the Muslim king. He decided to take action against the nocturnal chanters, but they were not afraid.
Advaita Acarya always wanted to be treated as the servant of Lord Caitanya. He was unhappy that Caitanya Mahaprabhu treated Him with great respect, as a disciple of Madhavendra Puri. Advaita Prabhu made a plan to get the Lord to disrespect Him. He began teaching that jnana was superior to bhakti. Lord Caitanya and Nityananda came to Advaita’s house, and Visvambhara asked Him frankly which was better, jnana or bhakti. Advaita Prabhu replied that jnana was superior to bhakti. Hearing this, Lord Caitanya became very angry and began beating Advaita with His fists on His back. Advaita’s chaste wife intervened and protested to Lord Caitanya saying, ‘Leave Him alone! He is an old man. What will You gain by beating Him?’ Lord Caitanya proclaimed His own glories, and then He desisted in beating Advaita. Advaita Prabhu then began dancing with ecstasy, and He explained how previously Lord Caitanya treated Him with respect. He begged for Gaura’s service birth after birth, took dust from Mahaprabhu’s feet and smeared it all over His own body. Advaita’s house then became flooded with tears of love. Mahaprabhu then awarded Advaita that His (Gaura’s) mercy would be easily available to those who took shelter at Advaita Prabhu’s feet for even a moment.” Mahaprabhu said that if anyone worships Him (Gaura) while disregarding His devotee, He will never accept such worship, as such devotional service feels like fire burning His body. After ordering Advaita Acarya’s wife to cook, and after taking Their bath They returned to eat. As they finished eating, Nityananda Prabhu threw rice all over the room, whereupon Lord Caitanya recited Nityananda’s unlimited glories on the pretext of criticizing Him.
My disciple Upendra has been working with the ISKCON Prison Ministry for a long time. He has a fulltime job, a family to maintain, a personal practice of sadhana (reading Srimad-Bhagavatam and chanting Hare Krsna, and reading my books too)—yet despite all this, he keeps a large correspondence with favorable prison inmates. He also sends them Prabhupada’s books. He just gave me a report for an 18-month period in which he distributed 1,954 small books, 228 large books. One is reminded of Haridasa Thakura going to prison and giving an ambiguous talk to the inmates. He told them they were in an ideal situation. They were confused by his words. Then he explained it further. He said they were living a lifestyle free of sense-gratification, and they had time to read Krsna conscious books and chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Upendra’s prison correspondents are like that. They are grateful to him for what he sends them in the mail. Some of them have given up all bad habits and are living purified lives. He has encouraged those who are aspiring for initiation to start corresponding with potential ISKCON spiritual masters. The example of Haridasa Thakura preaching to the prisoners shows that anyone in any circumstance can carry on preaching work. Upendra is doing this.
I am listening to Jayadvaita Maharaja with his interactive lecturing on the 18th Chapter of the First Canto. He has described how Maharaja Pariksit entered the cottage of the sage Samika Rsi. He found the sage deep in trance of meditation. But the king was very thirsty, and he asked the sage for a glass of water. Samika Rsi made no response. It was very unusual that the king should not have recognized that the rishi was deep in meditation and could not receive him. The king became angry and insulted the rishi by garlanding him with a dead snake. This insult was learned by the rishi’s young son Sringi, who was playing with boys. The son became furious at the king. Although he was a child, he had great brahminical powers despite lacking culture. He impulsively cursed the king to die within seven days. This can be seen only as the providential action of the Supreme Lord. Otherwise, why couldn’t the king have understood that the rishi was actually in trance and could not receive him? It was all a plan of the Lord to drag the king out of his deep attachment to family and political affairs, and free him to pursue spiritual life without distraction. Maharaja Pariksit renounced all worldly affairs and went to the bank of the Ganges, where many great sages had assembled to see him in his last days. The sages offered different advice as to what the king should perform for spiritual practice at the end of his life. But when young Sukadeva Gosvami, the son of Vyasa, entered the scene, they all deferred to him. Pariksit Maharaja asked Sukadeva what is the responsibility of a human being, especially one who is about to die? Sukadeva replied, “He should chant and hear about Krsna.” And so they began their comprehensive discussion of spiritual life, which is the entire Srimad-Bhagavatam.
I was inspired by Jayadvaita Maharaja’s lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam where he condemned all the vices current in Kali-yuga. He said the coronavirus epidemic was a reaction against people’s sinful activities. He spoke what a Krsna conscious king would do in these times. He would forbid all advertisements for smoking and liquor. And if possible he would shut down the slaughterhouses of cows. He was speaking heavy for a long time. He said those who were working to promote cow slaughter or to promote the slaughterhouse would suffer in their future lives by falling from the human standard of life and having to take birth in the animal species.
In his purport to this section, Prabhupada writes,
“It is foretold herein that in the absence of a monarchical regime, the general mass of people will be an unwanted population like dogs and monkeys. As the monkeys are too sexually inclined and dogs are shameless in sexual intercourse, the general mass of population born of illegitimate connection will systematically go astray from the Vedic way of good manners and qualitative engagements in the castes and orders of life.” (SB 1.18.45, purport)
It was refreshing to hear Maharaja speak so strongly, just like Prabhupada does in his purports and lectures.
Jayadvaita Maharaja said that men and women should get married early—girls at 16 and men at 25. When they first invest in their education and then their career and get married as late as 40 years old, it is not right. They should get their business and family duties done early so that they can get disentangled and be free for preaching. Having young children at an old age is a difficulty. The Vedic varnasrama system is set up so that one is finished with business and family affairs by the age of 50. Then one moves into the vanaprastha ashram, where one performs austerity and study, with husband and wife as partners, with no more sex. Alternatively, the wife can stay with the older children if she still wants family life. In The Nectar of Devotion, several things are forbidden in the age of Kali, including the taking of sannyasa. In whatever ashram one is in, he can tell everyone about Krsna. Lord Caitanya met a brahmana in Kasi who wanted to go along with the Lord. But Caitanya Mahaprabhu told him to stay at home, chant Hare Krsna, and tell everyone he met about Krsna.
“Prabhupada always did the needful—whatever was best for spreading Krsna consciousness. His own Krsna consciousness was mature; therefore, he wanted to give Krsna consciousness to others. As he preached, his own enthusiasm and attachment to Krsna increased more and more. Although he was perfect, the ocean of Krsna consciousness is always increasing.
“The BBT publishers list many of Prabhupada’s accomplishments in the ‘About the Author’ section at the end of Prabhupada’s books. Finally they state, ‘Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books.’ Therefore we think of Prabhupada as a writer of transcendental literature. He was a translator and a commentator on sastra. He was a philosophical writer who carefully represented the parampara in modern English. His writings contained his personal experiences and realizations.
“Prabhupada had much personal love and enthusiasm for his practice of writing the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He had the satisfaction toward the end of his life of seeing his works quickly edited and published by the BBT, and then distributed with wild enthusiasm by his sankirtana devotees.
“But Prabhupada was not attached to his own writing. He saw it as Krsna’s writing, with himself only recording what Krsna wanted to say. Although he knew it was important to spend as much time as possible producing Srimad-Bhagavatam—and it also gave him personal peace and satisfaction to produce Bhagavatam—yet he often had to forego his writing time in order to manage ISKCON. Sometimes, days would go by where he would not touch the Dictaphone. We would gently remind Prabhupada that we hoped he would continue working on his translations. He didn’t need our reminders. He loved the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but he also saw that he couldn’t always work under all circumstances. He sometimes spoke of giving up other activities in favor of his translation, but he was never really able to do that.
“ . . . Maybe Prabhupada could have lived another ten years or more if he had given more attention to his own health and relaxed his elderly body. He certainly could have translated more if he had stopped traveling and if he had withdrawn from interaction with his thousands of disciples in hundreds of temples. But he didn’t do those things. We have to pay attention to what he did. Certainly Lord Krsna, whom Prabhupada says keeps accounts of his devotees’ activities, is very pleased with Prabhupada’s priorities. Krsna doesn’t consider that Prabhupada neglected his duties. Therefore, Prabhupada’s work was not left unfinished. It was complete in the eyes of Krsna.”
“One of the best times for telling Prabhupada stories was just after I had been with him as his servant for seven months. I then joined the library party and traveled around the United States quickly, visiting many universities and libraries in all parts of the country. We were always traveling, but usually we wound up in a motel for the night. The devotees—Mahabuddhi, Ghanasyama, Mahadyuti, Kalakanta, Sesa, and others—gathered as I read to them from the manuscripts of the not-yet-published Caitanya-caritamrta. Then I remembered Srila Prabhupada.
“I had fresh stories to tell since I had just been with him. They were such a nice audience, always delighting in hearing about our spiritual master. In their company I felt free to admit my foolishness with Prabhupada, and they inspired me to remember many details. Let me recall again being with them in a motel just north of Little Rock, Arkansas, after a good day in which the local university took full sets of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta. In the company of the brahmacaris, I remembered . . . days with Prabhupada in Bombay.
“He was in his bed under the mosquito net, and I was out on the veranda. I took rest shortly after he did, listening to the mosquitoes buzzing outside my net. Sometimes I awoke around 1 A.M. when Prabhupada got up to dictate. It was not my duty to rise then, so I drifted in and out of sleep while hearing him click the buttons on the dictation machine. Then around 3 A.M., while he was still dictating, I got up, and in a sleepy, unclean state, walked past Prabhupada. He sat in his big mosquito net ‘tent’ at his writing desk. I made obeisances, but did not say anything, so as not to disturb his writing mood. I went outside and bathed in a nearby shack, pouring water on myself from a can. I returned and tried not to interrupt Prabhupada, who was still under his net.
“After Prabhupada finished dictation, he began to chant Hare Krsna. I folded up both my own net and his net and fixed his bed. After cleaning my area, I went to the kitchen to chant japa silently. When Prabhupada chanted, I mostly heard, ‘Rama, Rama.’ It seemed that the volume of his japa would rise a little and become more distinct—at least to my ears in the other room—with the words, ‘Ram, Ram.’ I had to chant in the kitchen, and it was very difficult. I fought to stay awake and had little duties to perform, such as getting Prabhupada’s medicine ready. I had to crush a particular type of nut with a black mortar and pestle, and then his red medicine would be mixed in, mashed together, and served to him. These little rituals were my life and soul, and I did them as best I could.
“It was nice to be able to base the whole day’s routine around Prabhupada. At dawn (around 5 A.M.) I came out of the kitchen and indicated that it was time for Prabhupada’s walk. I had the tape recorder ready over my shoulder; then through the dark streets to the beach as the sun rose. A full walk, with Prabhupada in his most glorious aspect of preaching the philosophy to the devotees! We felt protected and loved by him! As the morning sunlight brightened the sky, we walked back along Juhu Beach to the temple and attended guru-puja, then went back to the apartment for his breakfast of ginger and fruits.”
“When Srila Prabhupada attended the Kumbha-mela in 1977, he emphasized to the devotees that a mahatma (great soul) cannot be created with a rubber stamp. Lord Krsna defines mahatma as one who is under the protection of the divine nature. He is fully engaged in devotional service because he knows Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mahatma is always engaged in chanting the glories of Krsna and worshiping Him with determination.
“Prabhupada warned the devotees to be careful of associating with persons who claim to be God or to be mahatmas. ‘They are not mahatma. Rather they are duratma (crooked).’ Yet Prabhupada said it is not difficult to become a Krsna conscious mahatma. All one has to do is follow what Krsna says: ‘It is difficult to actually find a mahatma living in this world. This is Krsna’s opinion, ‘Vasudeva sarvam iti/sa mahatma sudurlabhah.’
“Let us appreciate how rare Srila Prabhupada is. Even by material calculation, Indian sannyasis were scarce in America in the 1960s. Vaisnava sannyasis were extremely rare. The true rarity of Srila Prabhupada is that he was a pure devotee of Krsna. He left Vrndavana to give Krsna to others. That makes Prabhupada one among millions.
“It is also unusual to find Westerners accepting pure devotional service. When Prabhupada came to America, we were groping for consciousness expansion. We did not find what we wanted in LSD or in friendship, in art, or in music. We were being dragged toward a cliff to be plunged into death and rebirth. We are very fortunate to have met the pure devotee.
“Although we were not qualified, Krsna within our hearts told us, ‘Go ahead and follow the Swami. Do as he says, chant Hare Krsna.’ It was Krsna who allowed us to take that opportunity in the summer of 1966.
“By the arrangement of Providence, it appeared quite easy to take to Krsna consciousness. It was as easy as entering the front door that Prabhupada always kept open. My workplace was only a few blocks away from Swamiji’s place. My apartment was also nearby. I discovered the storefront on my lunch hour. If it had been something more difficult, I do not know how I could have taken to it. Therefore, I am very thankful to Prabhupada and Krsna that they brought me to Krsna consciousness by such an easy and convenient path.
“Krsna consciousness was right up my alley. It was consciousness expansion on the Lower East Side of New York City, as taught by an exotic swami. It fit into my desires to turn away from my parents’ way of life and to reject the ethics of the middle-class karmi. It was something different from the mundane, far beyond the influence of government power. It fit in with all I wanted to do, so Prabhupada and Krsna led me.
“I thank Srila Prabhupada for being who he was. I was not expecting an elderly person to come into my life; I was not expecting a guru. Prabhupada, however, satisfied me because he was who he was. He was better than anyone I could imagine—golden in complexion, elderly, dressed in sannyasi robes. Everything about him was attractive to us, and, by Krsna’s grace, his path was easy to take to.
“Shortly before I met Prabhupada, I shared an LSD trip with my friend Murray. I remember his conclusion that night—‘Life is cheap.’ I liked to think that life was rare and valuable, but Murray’s vision seemed realistic and in tune with what was actually happening in New York City. Life is cheap. You can buy and sell it if you have money or sex appeal or power. Life is cheap because the powers-that-be can snuff it out in a minute. I am thankful to Srila Prabhupada for making my life valuable. He upgraded our lives in a way that we could never have done on our own.
“A Prabhupada meditation may begin with any tributary, but always reaches the ocean of gratitude. We thank him for being who he is, for being rare (sa mahatma sudurlabhah.) The mahatma’s heart is expanded to help everyone, and our gratitude should be expressed by helping him in his cause.
“Consider how Prabhupada has helped you in your life and write him a thank-you note.”
“Do not forget that Prabhupada is your master. Never be condescending in your praise or estimation of him. As disciples, we worship our guru with affection as well as with objective evidence of his greatness. We also have to be regularly touched by his greatness. I say this having been touched by listening to Prabhupada’s lecture at the 1977 Mayapur festival, on Prahlada Maharaja’s prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva.
“Prabhupada said that Prahlada was able to please Lord Nrsimhadeva even though others—great demigods and even Laksmidevi herself—could not. What was Prahlada’s quality that so attracted the Lord? Prabhupada went right to the heart of it. He spoke sweetly and simply, entering the mentality of Prahlada Maharaja and explaining it to us. A great teacher is one who can convey tremendous thoughts and experiences to the students. It is one thing to feel something, and it is an added empowerment to convey it to others. That teaching ability arises from compassion and empathy. Prabhupada was able to grasp the whole relationship of Prahlada Maharaja and Nrsimhadeva and give it to an audience—not of great scholars or longtime practicing sadhus—but to us ISKCON folk in 1977. He stressed the simplicity of Prahlada Maharaja’s approach: in a childlike way, he prostrated himself before Nrsimhadeva.
“ . . . According to Prabhupada, Nrsimhadeva said to Prahlada, ‘It must have been very difficult for you to be tortured by your father, and then to witness his killing. Do not worry, do not be afraid. Now be pacified. I am here and you are all right, everything is all right.’ When Prabhupada said, ‘Everything is all right,’ I remembered how he had said that to me and to others at different times. He is our Lord Nrsimhadeva-protector.
“Prabhupada quoted a song on praise of the spiritual master, but he changed one word to make it ‘janme janme pita sei’ instead of its usual ‘janme janme prabhu sei.’ Prabhupada said that Prahlada Maharaja never prayed to the Lord, ‘Please engage me in the service of my father Hiranyakasipu.’ He prayed to be in the service of Narada Muni, his spiritual master. Prabhupada said that the spiritual master is the real father.
“In the same lecture, Prabhupada spoke about the difference between imitation and following. We should not imitate great personalities like Rupa Gosvami. Prabhupada said that one of his own disciples was leaving him. This disciple said there was no bhajana here, and he asked Prabhupada to bless him so that he could find a guru. Prabhupada spoke this to the whole audience at Mayapur. It was shocking to hear, very heavy.
“. . . I pray, Srila Prabhupada, please let me never come to you and ask blessings that I may find a guru to teach me Krsna conscious bhajana. I pray that I might find you as you are. I pray to be able to find you in ways that I have not yet found you, because you are hidden from my nondevotee eyes. Let me find you in your purports and in your spoken lectures and your community of devotees. When I approach you rightly in surrender, then you will give me protection the way Lord Nrsimha gave protection to Prahlada.”
In a ‘childlike way,’ prostrate yourself before Srila Prabhupada. Take the risk of revealing your heart to him, then allow him to accept you.”
“My dear Lord Krsna . . .
“I pray for Your protection in my life. I just heard that a very respectable Godsister of mine has an advanced case of cancer. No doubt she is praying to You and chanting Your names and hearing the scriptures as much as she can. She has a Godsister living with her and taking care of her. She is seeking intimacy and mercy from You. Her husband passed away with something like cancer a number of years ago.
“I pray for her too. I pray that You can take this disease as Your handling her “roughly in Your embrace” and make it a cancer to come closer to You. If she can recover, she will continue her saintly life of conducting a preaching center and making frequent visits to the holy dhamas. But if the disease is terminal, then she will want You to bring her mind to total surrender to Your will and thinking of You at the time of departure.
“When I pray for protection in my life, I do not mean I will not get a terminal disease. If a terminal disease is to come to me, I hope to see it as Your will and prepare myself for the best departure—I hope I may come to You. I pray for protection of my consciousness, that I am not letting anything come as an impediment to my faith in You and my love for You. I wish the same for other devotees: may they come closer to You for final protection by the fire of the ordeal of illness. We all have to go sooner or later, and terminal illness gives us a chance to prepare for the inevitable.
“ . . . I pray that my Godsister is deeply absorbed in chanting and hearing and remembering the Lord, and that You will deal with her as You see fit. She would be a great loss to the Vaisnava community if You took her soon. Should we ask You to cure her and give her active years for bringing people to Krsna? But if You take her, then we ask You to take her gently to You in Your abode.”
“I did not study Nietzsche under a teacher in a philosophy course, but on my own as an impressionable teenager. The special book for me was Thus Spake Zarathustra. I became intoxicated by his poetry and aphorisms. I was not able to grasp from it a consistent or clear philosophy. I was knocked over by one-liners like, ‘Of all writings, I love only that which is written with blood.’ Even if I had only fifteen minutes at night before going to sleep, I would open the book and ingest a few pages, each written with the greatest intensity. As Nietzsche said, ‘I have at all times written my writings with my whole heart and soul. I do not know what purely intellectual problems are.’ (Years later I read critical studies of his work and began to piece together the system he was propounding, but by then, the ardor was gone.)
“And that was the best thing about Nietzsche for me, not so much what he was saying but his passion for intellectual life. I read him at a time when my own intellectual life was just erupting. My ‘eruption’ was a minor one, but his was like the blowing up of the Earth. Even my fired-up professors were not this hot! Nietzsche’s claim, which I tended to believe, was that he lived and felt ideas as no one before him had done: ‘I speak only of things I have experienced and do not offer only events in the head. One must want to experience the great problems with one’s body and one’s soul.’
“Although I was not sophisticated enough to follow this heavy-weight philosopher step-by-step, I did receive the message of skepticism.”
“Sanatana’s plan was to make the Nawab so angry he would release Sanatana from his government activities. Because of their relationship, Sanatana did not expect the Nawab to have him arrested, but that is what the Nawab did.
“At that time Rupa Gosvami had successfully set out to meet Lord Caitanya. Later, Sanatana received an enigmatic letter from him: ‘Where has the northern kosala of Raghupati gone? By reflection, make the mind steady, thinking: “This universe is not eternal.”
“‘The holy dhamas are the most permanent places in the material world but they are eternal. But in time even the dhamas are obscured from vision.’ Rupa Gosvami thus told his brother to remember the temporality of everything in the universe, and to steady his mind by that remembrance.
“All of us have had the experience of becoming overwhelmed by physical or mental pain or misfortune. Although theoretically we know that we are spiritual by nature and therefore not really affected by the misery, we choose to be absorbed in it, and then we lose our Krsna consciousness. We fall into the illusion that we’ll be suffering forever. Then we lose our gravity.
“This is the essence of Rupa Gosvami’s encouragement to his brother: ‘The situation you are in is temporary because the entire universe is temporary. Think about that which is eternal and become steady and fixed.’
“Sanatana was joyful upon receiving this letter. He immediately called for the jailer and bribed him into letting him go free.
“We could also use such an encouraging letter to help us through our own troubles—a letter from a dear, wise brother. Actually, Rupa Gosvami and Srila Prabhupada are just like our brothers. They write to us or for us, in our desperation, and save us from despair. They remind us of our deeper purpose, and encourage us to act on the transcendental platform.”
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura next gives more songs of bhakti-pratikula-bhava varjanangikara, renunciation of conduct averse to pure devotion. He has given us a full glimpse of the ultimate liberation as a sakhi in Gokula, and now he returns to instruct all jivas how to avoid obstacles on the path. We’ll hear more from him about yearning for the perfect state, but if we want to progress there, we still have a lot of ground to cover. Also, he wants to equip us as preachers so that we can help others.
“‘This material creation of Yours, O Kesava, is most strange. I have roamed throughout the forest of this universe in consequence of my selfish acts, and I have beheld many strange and curious sights.’(Saranagati , 5.1.1)
“‘In this dangerous world, cheating philosophers come forward to deliver me. They offer me material pleasures and liberation. But it is forgetfulness of Lord Kesava’s feet that has brought on my anguish and grief—and these philosophers are averse to His devotional service. They are fatally dangerous. Bhaktivinoda, considering refuge at the feet of the Vaisnava as essential, pays his respects to these cheating philosophers from afar.’ (Saranagati, 5.1.4)
“Don’t play with fire. Having come to devotional service, don’t look back to see if there was anything you missed enjoying in the world or would like to take with you. You can’t bring your old rocks across the river: they will make you sink. You renounced everything and you felt such relief. Krsna gave you the strength and courage then. He took away all your old friends. Don’t rummage through the heap of discarded memories and desires. You have already been given the best. Don’t become a crow again.
“‘I shall never reside at a place unfavorable for devotional practices, and may I never take pleasure in non-devotional works. I will read no book opposed to pure devotion, nor listen to any explanation which disagrees with pure devotional principles.’ (Saranagati , 5.2.3-4)
“‘I vow to completely shun whatever I know to contradict pure devotion. This I strongly promise. Bhaktivinoda, falling at the feet of the Lord, begs for the strength to give up all obstacles to pure devotion.’ (Saranagati, 5.2.8-9)
“Don’t complain that he’s not being broadminded. Cut off all ties with nondevotees. You can’t be interested in pure bhakti and at the same time, averse to its principles. There is no such thing as being favorable to Krsna consciousness and maintaining relationships with those who are averse. How could you live with them or talk with them? No, we have to get out of all unfavorable situations. We are only interested in our ultimate benefit. Therefore, have a healthy fear of any attachments which are averse to pure devotional service.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura is not discussing yukta-vairagya. If you need to study something or use something for your service, ask your guru’s permission and then carefully proceed. But don’t fool yourself. Non-devotional music and writing and work is often empowered by the grace of Mayadevi. She bewildered you before and she can do it again if you leave the shelter of the Vaisnavas.”
“In Song Four, Bhaktivinode Thakura confesses, ‘I am a sinner. I caused others pain.’ He doesn’t commit sins anymore, but his karma weighs heavily on him. (My karma weighs on me too. During japa this morning, I roamed back to 1964 when I was confused, helpless, and sinful—a welfare worker, marijuana-smoker . . . Are these the thoughts fit to accompany japa? It’s bad enough that I lived those things, but do I have to remember them while I am chanting the holy name? Prabhupada saved me just in time.) Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura does not describe the details, but he lays it on the line—a sense-gratifier hurts others, but he doesn’t care. Therefore he hurts and ruins himself.
“Most of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura’s statements seem so extreme that we don’t quite know what to do with them. It’s almost hard to believe him when he says, ‘I am remorseful seeing others happy.’ But I experience this all the time. ‘I’m a perpetual liar.’ That’s not true of me—I am honest. But wait a minute, you can’t face the truth. You don’t even know what the truth is. Isn’t that a form of lying?
“‘The misery of others is a source of great pleasure for me.’ Now that’s an exaggeration as far as I’m concerned. That sounds like a sadist. Do I think like that? But isn’t a holier-than-thou attitude the same thing? Seeing the nondevotees unhappy is proof of my own righteousness. I tell you, I haven’t faced the truth; I have no idea what it is. I know neither the evil in me nor the good. I know neither the love nor the pain. I don’t know separation from Krsna at all.”
“I was afraid – he was talking with
an Australian government minister who
challenged, ‘Isn’t your incense also an
intoxicant?’ It was a relief
when he said, ‘I must depart.’
Srila Prabhupada had told him
if you don’t remember God then
all your reform is spoiled.
‘Excuse me, I must depart.’
“The tape continues and Prabhupada
is telling his disciples that
the government man had brought
his beautiful lady secretary with him and
‘The main tendency is sex – all
over the world.’
“Pusta-Krsna then asked Prabhupada,
‘There’s a big yoga conference being held
in Chicago. Should our men
attend and try to speak?’
SP said, ‘Just a book stall.
It should say, “Bhakti-yoga Books.”
Display a picture of five-year-old Dhruva
Maharaja, practicing meditation and
another picture showing devotees chanting Hare Krsna mantra
in a nice setting.’ ‘And Radharani,’
he said. ‘She cried all day and night
in separation when Krsna went
to Mathura – who can practice such
yoga as this?’
“The conversation ends as he’s asked,
‘Would you like to take your massage now,
Srila Prabhupada?’ A wonderful bhajana
begins, ‘Hari Haraye Namah,’ with SP
playing harmonium and his mrdangam
playing, dubbed in…I’m finished
massaging and bathing him and drying
him and putting on the faded
saffron rough silk clothes,
very satisfying to have such a
master and to be with him this
“Narottama dasa Thakura longs to live in Vrndavana, completely detached from eating and other comforts. He wants to directly serve the Divine Couple. I read song after song while waiting for the delayed lunch today. This gives me more time to read Prarthana, the ‘forbidden’ subject matter –
“‘O Lokanatha, O my master, please be merciful to me and bless me that Sri Sri Radha-Krsna’s lotus feet may always be manifested within my mind.
“‘I wish to have your association when you manifest your form as a gopi friend of the Divine Couple. This desire continually arises in my mind.
“‘O master, when by your mercy, will I be allowed to serve the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani, the best of all gopis?’ (Prarthana, song 21)
“‘No harm,’ we used to say. ‘If a blind man prays to see, what is the harm?’
“Twenty minutes late. I saw he’s making pizza. But don’t think of it as for you – hope that Prabhupada will take it as I pray at his feet his pranama mantras.
“O Narottama dasa Thakura,
you are a king of devotion
to Radha-Krsna, you
are very humble. I don’t
know Bengali but I’ve heard
your songs are in simple speech
and your heart longs for
the summit –
direct service to Yugalakisora.
“‘When accompanying myself on a musical instrument, will I happily sing sweet songs describing the beautiful forms and qualities of the Divine Couple?’ (Prarthana, Song 25)
“Without much of a game plan, we are underway, November. Leaves curled in the gutter.
“I said, ‘You cannot expect me to bang away at a typewriter or act like I’m on a writing retreat.’
He said, ‘Why not?’
“I said, “Because this is a rest retreat.”
“He said, ‘But it’s not like when we were in the health retreat in south India, where we always doing something for health.’
“I said, ‘I shy away from the headache-producing typewriter. I can’t work three-four hours driving time in the old writing retreat mode.’
“‘That’s true, that’s true,’ he admitted.
“We are cooling it because we are not able to keep up the pace of temple visits. When we were in Prabhupada-desa, which is a friendly temple, there were demands every day. A devotee wanted me to meet with him, and when I said, ‘I can’t, you see, I have to take these pills if I meet…,’ then he said, ‘At least meet five minutes with a rich man.’
“‘No,’ I said, ‘I can’t, you don’t understand.’ So, we couldn’t go from one temple to another like that. We came here to eliminate the allopathic medication. Now, the question is, can you write without it? Can you write a lot?
“O November, sweeter than storms.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you write about Prabhupada a lot, make it your main theme. You can imagine you go out the door for a walk and he’s here in Albarella. You see him with some of his disciples and you can imagine what he said to them.’
“I listened but didn’t think I could do that. I will write about my master, of course, but not by announcing it beforehand, ‘This is going to be about him, mainly.’ No, let it come in the door sincerely. Let it come out and that’s fine.
“He said (another suggestion), ‘Why not write at night, “O Prabhupada, where did I meet you today?”’ But that too wasn’t something I could take up. I don’t like too much direct Prabhupada consciousness although I know yasya deve para bhaktir . . . one can’t know the Vedic truths unless he pleases his spiritual master.
“Let it come naturally, you mean, as November rises. This can be a dark, wet, cold month with the leaves packed wet and dead in the gutters. God in warm light in your heart. Your spiritual master will bless you, be sure.”
“Be confident Krsna is always present and also your own KC is present, in every situation, even in those dreams which don’t have explicit KC content. Yes. It’s like an underground spring. But, of course, you need to regularly get in direct touch, by hearing SB, chanting HK, and so on (nine principles of bhakti, six items favorable and unfavorable for devotional service, six symptoms of surrender and three symptoms of a person advancing, raga, bhaya, krodha – he’s free of attachment, fear and anger.)
“Yamadutas in the court. Angry servants demand their master explain, ‘What happened?’ It’s all quite right, he said. Ajamila chanted the names of God and this act of bhagavata-dharma has saved him from your jurisdiction.
“The same thing is true for my doodles on paper – I may love them and they may manifest KC. This is something that maybe you can’t openly assert. It might be taken wrongly if you espouse it as a teaching. You might even be wrong about it. But…I did feel love for a doodle of a man-deer with antlers; he was walking left, colored brown, initially sketched quickly in black lines. Madhu was speaking to me at my request about where to go in November writing, structure or no structure – and as he spoke, we both realized a person has to write for himself. I glanced at the page, at the deer-man and he was mine, he was like the answer to our discussion as to what to write. Staring me in the face. If you say, but he wasn’t wearing tilaka and although you often put Krsna conscious words in your drawings, this one had no words. But he was mine and he expressed himself nicely and at that moment I liked him very much in a secret but obvious way.
“Oh, oh, too precious for words. They want to beat you with sticks.
“The rascal son of the elder brahmana in Vidyanagra. A typical villain. He disbelieved in the Deity and was prepared to beat the younger brahmana who had prayed to Gopal to become his witness. The atheist told his father, ‘Don’t worry. The Deity in Vrndavana cannot come here to bear witness. You just say, “I don’t remember making any promise.” And I’ll do the rest and defeat this poor brahmana.’
“Halloween over. New insect bites on your arm. Today is All-Saints’ Day.
“Yamaraja may have an angry face sometimes, if required, in punishing miscreants. He is the powerful Chief of Police of the universe. He’s in charge of sinful humans, not others. May we always be free of his jurisdiction.
“You’re not fully surrendered and you admit it and live with yourself. You can’t hate yourself for your failings or whip yourself into acts of superior renunciation, devotion for the cause. You can’t at once remove all doubts for all times. When he said, ‘Why don’t you make the main theme of your book your meditations on Srila Prabhupada?’ – you thought, no, I can’t do that. You said it has to come naturally (and you were confident it would come).
“Rasa Fournier said that her mother taught her a prayer. I can’t remember the exact words and I threw the letter away. It was something like, ‘My dear Lord Krsna, Your mercy is all that I am made of.’ Rasa said that prayer has helped her very much in times of trouble and she has had plenty of that. I thought it sounds like a deliberate fashioning of the Jesus prayer (‘Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!’) into a KC format. She’s not asking for mercy but assumes it’s already flowing and filling us. (The Supreme Lord is otam protam—He exists like the two threads, horizontal and vertical, of which a quilt is made.)
“I could pray that, but I can’t remember. Yesterday, in a semi-sleep state I recalled my accident of thirty-five years ago and became so frightened that I prayed fervently, ‘Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna…please Krsna, protect me so that I can remember You in calamities.’ SP wrote me a note, ‘You are very pure. May Krsna protect you from calamities.’ You have the best word formula in the Hare Krsna mantra, but you have to invest it with feeling and consciousness.
“A conscience needn’t prick but bring you to His lotus feet.
“‘The Supreme Lord is worshipable, and everyone worships Him directly or indirectly. Those who worship Him directly get the results of liberation quickly, whereas the liberation of those who serve Him indirectly is delayed.’ (Bhag. 6.3.13, purport)
“‘If you examine me, you will find no good qualities. Your mercy is all that I am made of. If you are not merciful unto me, I can only weep, and I will not be able to maintain my life.’ (“Gurudeva!” by Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
“In an autobiography, Maps to Anywhere by Bernard Cooper, he says that his whole family was always absorbed in their health problems.
“‘Burning at the center of our discourse, like the sun, is the one subject we never miss, the subject which tops and outshines all the others: the state of health. We carefully monitor every ache and crimp and itch. We talk about our blocked sinuses, fallen arches, ingrown hairs.”
“I’m like that too, especially as I grow older. And so, I’ll have to write about it. For example, this morning after writing my midnight pages, I turned to chanting japa. But all of a sudden, I began to get chills all over my body. My teeth were chattering and my body was shaking. I put on all the clothes that I could but it wasn’t enough. The room wasn’t even cold, but just inside me. I called Madhu and asked him to get me a hot water bottle while I dove into the sleeping bag wearing gloves, scarf, hooded sweatshirt, knit cap, two pairs of socks, etc. After a while, with the hot water bottle clutched at my stomach, my chills began to go down. But they were followed by pressure, the first signs of a threatening headache.
“So, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Headaches, chills, indigestion, aches and pains, and the headaches are in varieties too…
“The reason I mention it today is not to get sympathy or to complain as much as to explain why I’m off my schedule. I’m way behind in my japa rounds, and I think that I’ve lost the rhythm-momentum which I had hoped to keep going through the first day of November and on through the month. Bodily ailments throw you into a different mental space and then you have to recoup and remember the inner touch again. But it can be done.
“Madhu makes fun of American fads for pure foods, blue-green algae, and this and that. But he himself is a nutritionist, a combination of naturopathic and Ayurvedic. He tells me what’s best for me. But what’s my position? I’m somewhat skeptical, and also inclined to eating foods that I like. Not willing to be austere for better health. Besides, how can you believe it – that your headaches could be cured just by not drinking a cup of milk with porridge in the morning? Or that a sweet after lunch is the root of all evil?
“When ‘Peter Pain’ hammers behind my right eye, I can’t write, read or chant on beads.
“Over the years I’ve tried many methods to get rid of headaches. The most imaginative was auto-hypnotism. You imagine that you’re putting on a glove which is coated with powerful anesthesia. When you rub your hand on your forehead your headache will go away. You meditate that the pain is reducing itself to just a small area, or just a fragment of pain volume so that the pain can do its thing, but at the same time you’ll be able to go on with your normal functions. Since pain is like an alarm system clanging, you suggest to the body that it turn the switches off that activate the alarm. But none of these things ever worked with me. Most recently I went to the strong painkillers of allopathic medicine. But after a brief honeymoon of illusion, they were also unable to stop the headaches. It seems that pain comes, stays and goes when it wants to. Your job is mostly just to live with it, make peace with it and even develop positive thinking about it. For the most part, at least today, my positive thinking is looking forward to when the pain clears and I can continue writing and reading and chanting as normal.