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 Krsna, 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 Krsna, 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 Krsna 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 Krsna 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.”
We left the ashram at 5:30 A.M. for our appointment at the hospital. There was much preliminary procedure. Two nurses ordered me to take off all of my clothes except my underwear. They had me put on a hospital gown and get into a hospital bed. I had to wait and wait while another patient was taken care of, and whom I could hear talking to the nurses through the thin curtain that separated us. The nurses gave me an IV, checked my vital symptoms and did other preop procedures. Finally, after more than an hour, Dr. McPherson came. Then things moved more quickly. She brought me into an operating area. I was given a mild sedative. I felt no pain, and I remained conscious. The doctor had me look into a microscope which had bright lights in it. I had to keep staring into the lights while she performed her operation. Loud sounds came out of her machinery while she operated. It took her only about ten minutes to complete the surgery, and I felt no pain. When it was over, she said it was successful. But she taped the right side of my face, covering the eye and the eyeball in a plastic cup. This was to prevent me from scratching the eye, especially during the night while I slept. I have an appointment with the doctor today for post-operational checkup. I was given many instructions, such as not to bend my head down and not to incur pressure, and not to lift anything. I am not able to read, unless I read with the left eye only, but that’s a botheration. I’m scheduled to have the cataract surgery in my left eye on January 13th. That’s a long wait. We’re hoping some patient will cancel and I can go earlier. Only when the second eye is done can I go to the eye doctor and get new lenses put in, and then my eyes will be normal (or improved). I was tolerant through the whole procedure, but it is an inconvenience not to be able to read. I am experiencing the inconveniences of old age and disease. A liberated soul is transcendental to these miseries, but I am not quite yet there.
We went yesterday for a post-op examination by the surgeon, Dr. McPherson. She said the eye looked all right and gave me new instructions. I have to keep wearing the cap taped over my right eye and kept in place with tape. But in the daytime I don’t have to wear it. They’ve given me dark sunglasses to wear whenever I go outside to keep out excessive light and grit and dirt. When I’m at home I wear my regular eyeglasses. But I can only see through the left eye. I still take many eye drops during the day, and they leave my eyesight blurry.
The surgery for cataracts in the left eye was scheduled for January 13th. By giving the schedulers ample homemade cookies, Baladeva was able to move up the second operation to January 6th. Prasadam rocks!
I’m not sure how well or how much I can read in the interim. The new Journal that should be posted today is here for me to proofread, plus I have to dictate and read the choices we make for next week’s Journal. I don’t know how much reading I can do, but I may need help from others (dictating). Baladeva Vidyabhusana is my medical proxy, and he helps me immensely with my hospital visits and my home care. The dragged-out treatments—I am looking forward to when they are done and I can go for new prescription eyeglasses, with the hope that it will improve my vision.
The Vyasa-puja celebration was a great success. Someone called it a “love-fest.” It began at 10:00 AM EST, with devotees chanting kirtana and bhajanas, first 15 minutes from Spain, then 15 minutes from Italy, and finally 15 minutes from Guyana. The images of the devotees were clearly displayed on the Zoom—no one was out of focus, and sound projected excellently. After the kirtanas, I gave my speech. I said the year 2020 was a tough one for our having gatherings as disciples and guru. I usually have two gatherings, both at the VFW Hall in Stuyvesant Falls. You may remember that at the beginning of the year I announced that in honor of my 80th year I wanted to publish four books in 2020. We planned to go on a fund-raising campaign to print the books. We were able to gather the books and had two volumes ready for distribution at the early July meeting. But the COVID pandemic canceled our gathering. I posted advertisements on my Free Write Journal for the two books and the devotees to please get them and receive them in the mail. But very few responded. I was disappointed in this because I consider reading my books a very important connection with my disciples. We also managed to publish two more books, Kaleidoscope and Seeing New Land, on time for my Vyasa-puja on December 5th. But once again our actual meeting had to be cancelled because of COVID. Again we posted advertisements in the Free Write Journal urging devotees urging devotees to order the books by mail. But very few responded. I was disappointed in this because I consider reading my books such an important connection with my disciples. In my Vyasa-puja speech I earnestly urged the devotees to order the books by mail. I said if they didn’t feel up to reading the books, they still should order them and give some of the books to acquaintances whom they think will be interested in reading them. I am not writing exclusively for my disciples but for any eager reader, and I know that there are some whom we just have to reach. So I ask the devotees to please help me distribute my books.
After my talk, leading sannyasis and other senior devotees spoke homages. First Giriraja Swami spoke and said I inspired him to do what is now his main service, writing about Prabhupada and Krsna consciousness. Next Radhanatha Swami spoke, and I was greatly honored that such a leading preacher spoke favorably of our relationship in ISKCON. My friend Jayadvaita Swami spoke, and so did Suresvara, Sesa Prabhu and the disciples were pleased and impressed to hear them talk favorably of me. Then we opened the floor to disciples’ homages. We had limited time, but we allowed many devotees to appear on Zoom and speak their homages. They were all sincere and heartfelt. The homages continued until 1:00 P.M. Unfortunately, all the disciples were not given time to speak, but they were asked to write me homages by email.
One hundred thirty-eight people listened to the Zoom Vyasa-puja, and that was very pleasing and nice. The devotees didn’t want to end their homages at 1:00, but we had to follow our schedule and terminated the program. I’m sorry everyone didn’t get a chance to speak on Zoom. In honor of my birthday, the devotees of the ashram made a feast of my favorite preparations. Usually a feast is made of preparations which I may or may not like, but this feast was prepared just of items I like. They had dal, rice, spinach and cheese, hot puris, and for dessert Lalita-kaisori made a luxurious chocolate cake with homemade raspberry jam in layers, a chocolaty cake, hazelnut cream, thick chocolate icing and a lot of love. The cook admitted it was a rich and even “decadent” cake, but it was irresistible, and we all shared large portions.
In the days after the Vyasa-puja Zoom “love-fest,” I’ve received numerous email Vyasa-puja letters. They are all encouraging. They show me that the guru-disciple relationship is alive and well. I received letters from devotees who keep in touch with me as well as ones I haven’t heard from in a long time. I answer all the emails. I not only respond to their Vyasa-puja letter, but I go on to inquire about how they are doing externally and internally. I make it an occasion for further personal correspondence.
Some disciples with a “mystical” attitude think I know everything about them without their telling me. But Prabhupada once wrote me, “Don’t keep me in the dark.” He wanted regular correspondence and hearing from me about my service to him in the message.
Unless they write to me, how can I respond to them and keep up to date with their activities and struggles? Not writing to me weakens their position.
I heard Prabhupada lecturing in Ahmedabad in 1972. He began by thanking the ‘ladies and gentlemen’ present for inviting him to speak on sanatana-dharma. He said ‘sanatana’ means eternal, and ‘dharma’ means characteristic. For example, the characteristic of sugar is that it is sweet. The characteristic of all living entities is to serve. Even big government ministers are serving the people. But the ultimate pure service is unto Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
After the lecture, Prabhupada took extended questions from the audience. Their questions were unsubmissive challenges, not like the ladies and gentlemen he had described at the beginning of the lecture. One man stated that no one can see God. Prabhupada became worked up emotionally and said, ‘You cannot see God. But that does not mean that no one can see God. One has to be qualified, and then he can see God.’ The questions were not submissive inquiries into the truth put submissively to the bona fide spiritual master; they were materialistic and rather uncivilized. They were ignorant. Prabhupada rose to the occasion and answered their questions strongly, chastising the disbelief at the core of their inquiries. All the questions from the audience at Ahmedabad were like that, and Prabhupada finally stopped the process, seeing it as unprofitable.
Sukadeva was sixteen years old, an avadhuta who did not follow strictly the Vedic formalities. He was naked and was surrounded by children and women who treated him irreverently. But when these common people saw him being honored by all the sages, they quickly dispersed. The sages had been giving Maharaja Pariksit different directions as to what he should do in his remaining days. But when Sukadeva Gosvami arrived, all the sages stood up and deferred to him. Maharaja Pariksit asked him, “What is the duty for persons at all times, and especially for one who is about to die?” Prabhupada comments that this question and Sukadeva’s explanations form the whole basis of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Sukadeva Gosvami’s first reply to the king was that he should chant and hear the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Later, at a meeting of sages at Naimisaranya, Suta Gosvami, who had heard Sukadeva Gosvami speak to the king, answered their questions. He first said to them,
“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (SB 1.2.6)
Maharaja spoke on corruption in government. He described the ancient monarchy as vastly superior to democracy. Emperors like Maharaja Yudhisthira and Maharaja Pariksit were trained and qualified leaders. During their reign, they protected the citizens as if they were their own children. There was no excessive disease or disturbance. The kings were so powerful that they personally curbed down the criminal elements in society. They did not overtax the people for their own sense gratification. They were fully aware of Vedic injunctions and the system of varnashrama dharma, so they saw to it that all classes of society were properly engaged in their occupational duties. The emperors were pure devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Under the emperors’ rule, the rainfall was regulated for good agriculture. Animal slaughter was prohibited, and women were protected. Since the monarch saw to it that all the people were engaged in their proper occupational duty, therefore the people were happy and satisfied and worked harmoniously.
By contrast, Srila Prabhupada called democracy “demon-crazy.” In the democratic state, the top posts are captured by untrained persons, who by hook or crook manage to get the most votes. They do this by making promises and clever speeches. But they are not following the Vedic scriptures nor are they God-conscious, so the state is a fool’s paradise. The highest goals in the democratic state are economic development and sense gratification. They have no knowledge of how to lead the citizenry on the clean, straight path of offering all their services to Krsna. The so-called ksatriyas don’t take any advice from the so-called brahmanas. In America, where democracy is praised as the best form of government, the two major parties are always in disagreement and block each other’s policies. This results in no progress.
In our out-loud reading of Caitanya-caritamrta, we are just beginning the chapter about the confidential reasons for the Lord’s appearance. The first reason for His appearance is to spread the glories of the holy name, but there is another reason that he comes. He comes to teach the nectar of madhurya-rasa with the gopis, of whom Radharani is the crest jewel. The consorts of Krsna are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Radhika. Just as the fountainhead, Lord Krsna, is the cause of all incarnations, so Sri Radha is the source of all these consorts. Among them are various groups of consorts in Vraja who have varieties of sentiments and mellows. They help Lord Krsna taste all the sweetness of the rasa-dance and other pastimes. Radha is the one who gives pleasure to Govinda, and She is also the enchantress of Govinda. She is the be-all and end-all of Govinda, and the crest jewel of all His consorts. Without many consorts, there’s not much exultation in rasa. Therefore there are many manifestations of Srimati Radharani to assist in the Lord’s pastimes.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja writes, “I shall first delineate the position of Radha and Krsna. From that description, the glory of Lord Caitanya will be known.”
Radha and Krsna are one and the same, but They have assumed two bodies. Thus They enjoy one another, tasting the mellows of love. Now, to enjoy rasa, They have appeared in one body as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
Adi-lila Chapter Four is most wonderful because it fully describes the glories of Srimati Radharani and how Krsna is attracted to Her. In the Gopi-premamrta Krsna says, “O Partha, I speak to you the truth. The gopis are my helpers, teachers, disciples, servants, friends and consorts. I do not know what they are not to Me.”
In the Adi Purana, Krsna says, “Among the gopis, Srimati Radhika is the foremost. She surpasses all in beauty, in good qualities, in good fortune, and above all, in love.”
In the Adi Purana Krsna also says, “O Partha, in all the three planetary systems, this earth is especially fortunate, for on earth is the town of Vrndavana, and there the gopis are especially glorious because among them is My Srimati Radharani.”
Krsnadasa Kaviraja states, “Radha is the beloved Consort of Krsna, She is the wealth of His life. Without Her, the gopis cannot give Him pleasure.”
In the out-loud reading, we heard the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, “The Glories of Nityananda Rama.” Lord Caitanya sent Him to Bengal to spread the Hare Krsna movement. Nityananda Rama met with great success in Bengal and anywhere He went. Just by chanting, or even glancing at people, He revived their dormant love of God. On Sri Caitanya’s order Nityananda Rama went to Bengal with the original cowherd boys, Krsna’s associates:
“His devotees, dressed like cowherd boys, surrounded His feet like so many bees, and also chanted ‘Krsna! Krsna!’, absorbed in ecstatic love. Some of them played horns and flutes and others danced and sang. Some of them offered betel nuts, and others waved camara fans about Him.” (Cc. Adi 5.191)
In His Visnu expansion, Lord Nityananda is the purusa avatara, Karanodakasayi Visnu. Through the pores of His skin, all the universes come out, and in one inhalation He draws them back into Himself. When the universes come out, they rest on the head of the serpent Ananta Sesa, who is the plenary portion of Lord Nityananda. Sesa is so immense that He doesn’t even feel where the universes are situated on His head. Each universe is, to Him, like a mustardseed in a big bag of mustardseeds.
Being pleased with Krsnadasa Kaviraja, Lord Nityananda appeared to him in a dream. He ordered him, “Go to Vrndavana, and there you will obtain all things.” Although in advanced old age, Krsnadasa Kaviraja went immediately to Vrndavana. There he attained the shelter of Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami and the Madana-mohan Deity. By prolonged association with Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, from whom he received initiation, he got the inspiration to write the Caitanya-caritamrta.
I went a few days ago for my COVID test. I had heard several scare stories that it was an ordeal: they put a little swab up your nostrils. One devotee told me it goes so far up the nostril it can penetrate your brain, and it causes great pain. This alarmed me. There was another opinion similar to this.
To our great relief, the test was a piece of cake. It was a drive-through process. We went in our car and lined up for a 1:00 P.M. appointment. We got there early and they took us right away. Two quick-moving, efficient nurses came up to our car and asked for my identification and date of birth. Then she ran away and quickly came back with the swab. She inserted it in my right nostril, but it was clogged. She then moved to the left nostril, and it was clear. She didn’t go so far up, and I felt no inconvenience. She said we wouldn’t hear from her unless there was an actual issue.
I am writing this to assure people who have to be tested for COVID. Don’t be affected by scare stories that it is an ordeal and a great inconvenience, or that you have to wait many hours to be treated. At least our experience was to the contrary. It was very efficient, and the nurses were quick-moving. Now we’ll have to wait for the results, but I feel no symptoms of any illness. I needed this test for COVID as a requirement before I go for my eye surgery for cataracts. The doctors have given me a long list of “Problems.” These are not necessarily alarming but are typical for a person my age. Gone are the decades of daily chronic migraine headaches which made me an invalid. They went away with a regimen of allopathic medicines and counseling. I saw the copy of my medical records, they listed 40 problems. I’ll mention a few—diabetes, COPD, a history of falls, chronic pain, anxiety state, etc. In reality, the long list is probably consistent with other senior citizens. But this list is much longer than when I was 30 years old. The current list is an impersonal analysis of what is actually old age. Old age and disease go together.
This entry in my Free Write Journal is consistent with the way I write. It is not meant to be an alarmist report but my honest assessment of life. My ultimate method of dealing with the list is to chant Hare Krsna and hear Vedic scriptures, especially the books of my spiritual master. Despite the physical problems, I continue my bhajan, which is appreciated by many devotees.
“Reading Prabhupada’s life, a little each day.
He is traveling all over the world.
‘It requires acute management.’
You open the book, a bit fearful
that Prabhupada will reprimand you, too.
Not just Gurudasa and Karandhara fall short,
last night I didn’t have the heart
to read of the rowdy students in Australia.
But I did it today without flinching—
I went through the exit with Prabhupada,
into the back seat beside him, driving off
before they started throwing rocks.
Whatever he said is right.
“Student: ‘You Krsnas are just into money!’
“Prabhupada: ‘I don’t want money!’
“Student: ‘I am a Christian.’
“Prabhupada: ‘You are a Christian, we are Krsn-ian,
it is practically the same thing.
“Student: ‘Why do you sit on a big throne?’
“Prabhupada: ‘These devotees have arranged a raised seat.
If they wanted me to sit down on the floor,
I would have gladly accepted.
Students are learning not to honor.
But that is not actually the system.’
“Traveling fast to Ratha-yatras,
Australia, Chicago, San Francisco.
Prabhupada began to cry . . . ‘Don’t deviate.
That is my only request.’
I am reading in Volume Five. And you?
Wherever one reads
that strong figure emerges,
the dauntless pure devotee.
What’s he saying to you?
“Prabhupada spent much of his time teaching basic Krsna consciousness. This was the work that Krsna wanted him to do. He introduced Krsna consciousness into the West by writing and speaking untiringly on the basis of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
“ . . . A mixture of basic and advanced Krsna consciousness appears constantly in Prabhupada’s purports. In his Bhagavatam purports, he does not always stick to a story line explanation of the verses. He feels free to lecture in each particular purport, expanding on the themes in different directions. . . . The more we study the purports, the more we will appreciate Prabhupada’s relationship with Krsna. As Prabhupadanugas, we want to understand Prabhupada’s Krsna consciousness as much as we can. This will help us to understand our own relationship with Krsna.
“When reading these purports, it occurred to me that we should be patient and happy to follow Prabhupada as he goes from one topic to another. Gradually, we may begin to understand that, for Prabhupada, Krsna is present everywhere, and the jurisdiction of Krsna consciousness is everywhere.
“. . . We should move with Prabhupada in his Bhaktivedanta purports from one topic to another. With each purport, he gives all that the previous acaryas have said, and he reflects on it in his own experience. If we read Prabhupada with at least a little understanding of how he composed his purports, one after another, then we will begin to see Krsna everywhere.”
“Prabhupada, I was your servant once in India. The library party had covered most of the U.S. and Europe, and you suggested I come to India and distribute books there. You mentioned it twice. I think you mentioned it the firt time when I was massaging you—you said it would be nice. Of course, you were always giving us ideas. You told us that some of the ideas were more like suggestions, that you might suggest something else later. As it turned out, the GBC made a strong request that I become editor-in-chief of BTG again. It would have been hard to get out of accepting that position, but perhaps I could have done it by insisting that you had made this suggestion: ‘Well, Prabhupada wants me to stay in India and distribute his books. That’s more important.’
“I didn’t say that. I started to think of the attractive features of Los Angeles and of working with BTG, and I decided to go there. It is another one of the many things that Prabhupada said that I didn’t do. He once told me to write a book about how things fail without Krsna consciousness. I didn’t do that either, at least not specifically. But I like to think that I am writing that book one way or another, even though I have not written any one book with that title. Maybe one day I will also be able to fulfill his request to help distribute his books, even though, again, it may not be in such a specific way.
“What do we do about the different things Prabhupada asked us to do that we haven’t always been able to do? One answer is to take them as suggestions, as he himself said. He mainly wanted us to always be engaged in Krsna’s service in a substantial, productive way. ISKCON is always in a state of flux about what is the best way to preach, but we have that order from Prabhupada, somehow always to be engaged in his service.
“I remember Prabhupada coming down the stairs in Mayapura. Devotees were chanting kirtana, ‘Jaya Prabhupada.’ He was majestic in those last years as he walked in the center of all the devotees. But he was also unrelenting when he saw discrepancies. He demanded that things be improved. For example, he didn’t like to see dirt around the dhama. He also didn’t like it when the shenai band concentrated on their musical performance without concentrating on Krsna. He was always ready to stop devotees from wasting money and resources and to stop their ‘trips’—like the devotee who came to Mayapura to chant all day and live in a tree. Or the devotee who asked Prabhupada, ‘There is no bhajana here, I want to leave. Please give me your blessings.’ Prabhupada was unrelenting in the face of all these challenges.
“Prabhupada went on with his work, and we should go on with ours. Let me think of him in Mayapura, everywhere, and pray he is accepting my service. I talk too much. Let me get back to work. Hare Krsna.”
“That publisher from Chicago came to New York City. He published a segment of my novel on Svevo. He was surprised to find me a disciple of the Swami. He came and sat on the floor with me in my apartment. He wasn’t particularly impressed by my “religion.” He noticed that the thumbnail on my left hand is filled with grooves and asked me if it had been injured. “I’m not sure what it’s from,” I said, “maybe nail-biting.” It was as if he wanted to say something actual, true and meaningful, personal, and perceptive, so he chose to comment on my pitiful-looking thumbnail. But I am not this body. Talking about my thumbnail didn’t bring us much of an intimate exchange.
“Anyway, I said to him maybe I can write a sequel to the novel telling how Svevo joined the Hare Krishna movement. He said okay. Rayarama came and met him. Then the publisher left. I don’t think I even have his address. He’ll probably go see Murray and Steve Kowit and see what they’re writing. His coming here was like a visit from my past self. But I’m fixed in Krishna consciousness now. I probably won’t find time to write that sequel. I’m definitely not very interested in reliving the scenes with Eliot and Anna and all the stuff that Svevo went through. But a sequel might be good for preaching purposes.
“I asked Swamiji last night about whether I should write the sequel. He said, ‘Yes, you can do it.’ I felt foolish telling him somebody wanted to publish what I had written. I didn’t want Swamiji to misunderstand. He understood perfectly well. He said, ‘But they should pay you. Just because you are religious does not mean you should get less money or no money. You should get more.’ That’s all he said. So let’s see what happens about that.
“ . . . Days end with kirtana, dancing in a circle with other devotees before Swamiji. That cleanses me of all dirt accumulated during the day. Not just during the day, but for many lifetimes. I believe this because I can feel it.
“I’ve got Swamiji’s manuscript to type. I’m fortunate! Ready to work for him at the welfare office on East 5th Street.
“Swamiji has allowed me to convert my energy from material to spiritual. O creative spirit of devotional life, please let me serve the Lord and the Lord’s pure devotee. Swamiji, I don’t know anything but what you teach. You are kind to us. I am a fool of false ego. But you say I can learn Bhagavad-gita.”
“‘Let this temporary body be burnt to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.
“‘O my Lord, as powerful as fire, O omnipotent one, now I offer You all obeisances, falling to the ground at Your feet. O my Lord, please lead me on the right path to reach You, and since You know all that I have done in the past, please free me from the reactions to my past sins so that there will be no hindrance to my progress. (Isopanisad, verses 17-18)
“Prabhupada writes, ‘This prayer is made at the time of death in full consciousness of one’s past deeds and of the ultimate goal.’ This is one particular devotee’s prayer, and yet it is everyone’s prayer.
“The devotee is reminding Krsna, ‘Now that I am about to die, please remember my devotional service.’ I take it that this is said not in a demanding way, but in a friendly spirit between servant and master. And after all, death is a fearful moment. The devotee knows that he has done heaps of sinful acts in the past, so he hopes his service will be recalled. Prabhupada says that even if a devotee does not remind Krsna, ‘The Lord does not forget the devotional service of His devotee.’”
“The holy name is so powerful that compared to it, everything else appears inconsequential. Whatever good is to be found in anything in this world, it is only in its ability to lead someone to the feet of the holy name. Scriptural study, which leads the intellect to understand the difference between matter and spirit, is culminated when the scholar chants the holy name. Karma-kandiya activities culminate when the fruitive worker realizes that he must surrender to Krsna through His holy name. Every activity culminates in surrender to the holy name.
“Srila Prabhupada was immersed in chanting Hare Krsna—Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Aware of the holy name’s power, he was confident enough to travel to America. He knew that although the Hare Krsna mantra would sound foreign to Western ears, the holy name was so powerful that it could manifest in their hearts regardless. By Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, the powerful movement of chanting the holy names is spreading to every town and village around the world.
“The holy name’s power is not yet fully unleashed in Kali-yuga. People can see Krsna, if only they will take wholeheartedly to chanting. Those who are already chanting can see the holy name’s power in their lives. Spreading the power of the holy name is the work of the Hare Krsna movement.”
“Goloka dasa asked, ‘How is Krsna’s mercy given to us through chanting? I have been chanting for fourteen years and still have little or no taste for it. Is Krsna’s mercy given in other ways than the mere taste for chanting?’
“The answer is obvious. We have received the mercy of being spared from the hellish planets we were on. We were committing the four sinful activities, and according to the Bhagavatam, we were headed for horrible, painful punishment in the hellish planets. The first installment of mercy by chanting is that we break the chain of sinful reactions. How could we overlook this as mercy coming from the holy name?
“The Vaisnava is so exalted, however, that he doesn’t regard freedom from sin and reaction as the goal of his chanting. Shadow chanting is enough to remove more sinful reactions that we are able to incur, but as Srila Haridasa Thakura states, that is not the goal of chanting. The goal is to taste—to awaken to the fact that Krsna is all-attractive, to love Krsna while chanting and to crave to serve Him in chanting. That craving-chanting will result in service desires in other ways. Krsna’s mercy will come to us then in so many different ways—the desire to preach, sometimes even if it is abruptly breaking our last bond of attachment to this world.
“I am enlivened by answering questions. I feel as if I have woken up. I am not deluding myself that I have achieved perfection in chanting just because I can answer these questions, but answering them makes me feel that I can do something. When I say we have to show Krsna our sincerity by our chanting effort, and that wonderful, auspicious things will come from the Lord when we increase our efforts—I feel excited. I start getting the inkling for an idea. Maybe it’s another vain idea, and I can attain the summit by increasing my numerical strength of chanting, or something. But what is a person supposed to live for, except the hope to improve? The only alternative is to be fatalistic or too passive: ‘When Krsna wants me to improve in chanting, He will do it for me. There is no point in my even trying.’”
“Goloka dasa is no exception to the rule of devotees admitting that their chanting is inattentive, but he added, ‘Sometimes there is focus and some actual happiness derived from chanting.’ I was more interested in hearing about his happiness than his inattention. Inattention is old stuff around here. We hear about it all the time. It’s a heartbreaker to have to speak positively about it—I feel like a hypocrite. ‘How much qualification is needed, or what is the qualification to get the taste?’
“Goloka said that he finds the best way to be attentive is to chant in a prayerful mood, praying for spiritual things like the ability to do my service for guru, prayers for taste, prayers to a particular Deity. Should this be cultivated, or is the goal a simple glorification of the holy name?
“All the prayers he mentioned are good. At our neophyte stage, we may not even know what it means to ‘make a simple glorification of the holy name.’ The most effective prayerful mood is given in Prabhupada’s mini-translation of the Hare Krsna mantra: ‘O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service.’ This prayer includes various kinds of service, and it certainly includes the service of glorifying the holy names. We want to serve Krsna and His eternal associates in Vrndavana, but we know we can’t pray exclusively for this.
“First we have to pray to have our anarthas removed. Chanting itself will cleanse the dirt accumulated for many lifetimes together (ceto-darpana-marjanam). Therefore we stress attentive chanting. It’s not that we’re hung up on some technicality called ‘inattention,’ as if it’s just another kind of mental gymnastics. But because we have full faith in the holy name, and we know we are fallen, we long to surrender to the yajna of hearing the holy names. If we could only pay attention, then everything would be accomplished.
“‘Sometimes there is nothing but a vow to hold onto,’ Goloka said. ‘At these times, hope for taste is so low, and it turns mechanical.’ At that time he puts his beads down and does something else for which he has more immediate taste, then he goes back to the japa. ‘Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and I turn into a bead-pusher.’”
“COMMENT: The GBC assigned me to write an essay against the rtvik philosophy and encouraging people to stay in ISKCON and the bona-fide nature of the disciplic succession of gurus among Prabhupada’s disciples. I had until the end of October to write it. I did it. They just gave me the assignment, and I had to come up with my own expression. Not like the old days in the GBC, when I was the scribe and everybody gave their input, and I was supposed to be the author, and I wrote an offensive essay against Sridhara Maharaja.
“Maybe the Sunday lecture on japa as meditation isn’t a good idea—because you already did it once. Besides, you yourself don’t bring the mind to pay attention, right? You feel it’s too rigorous for you. And what to speak about?
“How about no theme, just go down there and say, ‘Hi!’ Then start it, something about devotee association, feasting, keeping the project New Vraja Mandala. No, don’t get heavy on them.
“Oh, just say that Prabhupada is great. But I need to work that carefully on my own. A public version is simplistic. Speak something of Krsna, Krsna in our lives.
“In Europe I was lecturing mostly to the devotees in the congregation. I didn’t do outside public lectures. That suited me better, speaking from Prabhuipada’s books to people who were somewhat interested, trying to engage them, to elevate them. I had been reading on my own in Ireland, and now I was well-stocked up and could give them what I had gained in intimacy and solitude.”
“‘The instruction given in my books is supposed to be personal instruction. When we read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, it is understood that we are receiving the personal instruction of Krsna. No physical barrier is there in the case of spiritual affairs.’(Letter to Drstakhetu, October 14, 1973)
“COMMENTARY: Sometimes a devotee feels sorry that he does not see his spiritual master enough, or that he cannot be with him physically. In time he may even feel he has little personal connection with him. In the letter quoted above, Prabhupada removes such doubts by indicating the difference between material and spiritual life. Although in material life the instructions one receives are always external to one’s real self, in spiritual life this is not true. Rather, Prabhupada indicates that in spiritual life, we associate personally with the spiritual master and with Krsna through the instructions we receive in parampara.
“When we read Bhagavad-gita, we should not feel bereft because we are not ourselves present on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra with Krsna and Arjuna. Such feelings are due only to material shortcomings. If we are actually enthusiastic to be with Krsna, and if we are receptive to His message, then we can have direct, personal contact with Him through His representative. It is simply a matter of our submissiveness.
“In a similar way, we can enter the most intimate association with Prabhupada by reading his books. In the intimate solitude of the early morning hours, Prabhupada would concentrate on delivering his nectarean message to his disciples. By entering into the intimate mood of Prabhupada speaking his books in the early hours, we can have very personal darsana with this greatest of Vaisnavas. And through such association as this, what could be lacking?
“Nowadays there are so many so-called spiritual masters, it becomes bewildering to us as to who can actually give spiritual knowledge. Therefore I have written volumes of books, authorized Vedic literature, of which you can take advantage in association with the devotees who are practicing this knowledge. Thus you will be able to learn the science of God.” (Science of God, Letter to Swami Sat-Premananda Saraswati, June 9, 1974
“COMMENTARY: In the course of his preaching activities, Prabhupada received letters from thousands of people inquiring into the nature of spiritual life. Again and again Prabhupada would recommend that they learn the scuience of Krsna consciousness by studying his books.
“An impersonalist sannyasi once wrote to Prabhupada asking questions about topics often misrepresented by other swamis. In the letter quoted above, Prabhupada directs the swami to learn the Absolute Truth by reading the authorized books and by associating with the devotees. And in a similar instance, one Dr. Kumar, a professor at McMaster University in Ontario, wrote asking about the claims of some to be incarnations of God. Prabhupadda referred him to the books as well, saying, ‘The words of the Lord have been recorded in Bhagavad-gita, so if someone claims to be an incarnation but also contradicts the Bhagavad-gita, you can be sure he is a phony. Please try to read our books.”
“‘I’ve got no legs, see? I’m not a fraud. Give me money!’
“Hey, at least he’s got a decent wheelchair and a hat and coat. After all, this is America. The Washington Post is on sale on the corner.
“I wonder who is worse off, the man in the wheelchair or the guy with the baseball cap lumbering by? Who can say? You’d have to see what was in each heart. Sometimes a hurt heart is worse than no legs. As I say, we’re not these bodies.
“Maybe the man in the wheelchair likes to go to church. I mean, maybe he loves God. Maybe he likes to sing—he’s got a good voice, and people like to hear him. ‘Rock of ages, rock of ages . . .’ Maybe he sees Christ as his rock.
“And what if the other man just went for an interview at the U.S. Army Recruiting Office? He’s got AIDS and he doesn’t know it. His building is about to collapse. Water covering the continent next year isn’t the only Doomsday report; sometimes it’s as simple as being at the edge of crisis.
“When I look at the dome of the Capitol
it doesn’t seem possible
to change the course of that so-called ‘power’—
that madness. We preachers
have about as much chance
of changing the world
as the guy in the wheelchair has
of being elected president of the United States.
But there are other kinds
The leader of men,
the pure exemplary devotee
the kind soul,
the preachers on a cold day
“It is not easy to be a devotee in Kali-yuga, but it is certainly possible. Prabhupada used to say, ‘It is easy for those who are simple, and difficult for those who are crooked or unsubmissive.’ We should not be discouraged by the fact that we have bad habits and a tendency to cheat. Even persons who were considered great criminals in society, such as the hunter Mrgari, became pure Vaisnavas when they submitted to the teachings of the spiritual master, Narada Muni. Another disciple of Narada Muni’s was formerly a robber and murderer but became converted into Valmiki, the spotless author of the Ramayana. The path of success is to surrender to the order of the spiritual master and give up our cheating.
“There is an old drawing of Christ hanging on the cross in this room, and a poem to Mother Maria. I found a nail to hang the picture of Gita-nagari’s Radha- Damodara. Now I am gauging how cool it is and what clothes I should wear, what I should say . . . I threw drops of water on the desk and wiped it with a tissue. It is twilight. The lights are on, but the front door is still open, and I can smell the fresh mowed grass. I love this life.
“Sometimes I think I am seeking what could be called a ‘heaven on earth.’ When we drove up here, I saw quite a few roadside altars, prayer spots, shelves with a relief or statue of Mary, and it occurred to me that some people are honestly pious. They want a life with God present in it, and they want people to honor the saints and behave respectably. They don’t want crime, but gentleness. But how is it possible? And what am I doing to contribute to their vision? If I am shallow, sensitive only to my own pains, then I cannot be of any help.
“So I write here, ‘Let me always think of Govinda.’ Remember to remember. Remember and live now.”
“Perhaps this writing could take a more active part in assisting my japa. One point is to attempt to link the holy names to Krsna’s pastimes. Nothing artificial, please. The Names already contain the pastimes, but I don’t chant with awareness. I am in forgetfulness.
I could try pausing every three or four rounds and reading or praying. I have abandoned that practice for the last while—lost the muscles I had from doing it for several years. I have been reading twenty minutes early in the morning after bathing, and praying for fifteen minutes when I rise from bed. These are some of the best moments in the entire day, so why not try for more, interspersed between rounds. Just writing this down helps.”
“Srila Prabhupada exposes my mentality when he says, ‘Some people object to Krsna’s order, “Surrender to Me.” They think, “Who is Krsna that I have to surrender to Him? I am as good as Krsna.”’ You feel selfish and tired and don’t want to serve Him. Better wake up, spirit souls! The stakes are high. If out of laziness and false ego you don’t want to serve Krsna, do you know what the alternatives are? The way to serve is by prayerfully saying His Names. Don’t do it looking for your own bliss, and thereby thinking, ‘The chanting is not working,’ when you don’t feel ‘something.’ If all you want is to feel something, you can take a glass of whiskey. When you chant, be aware that you are serving Krsna, serving Nama, and that you want to do it. I truly want to serve with bhava, but because I cannot serve Him in that way right now, still I will serve Him with whatever I have.
“This day has been given to you. It is given to the sparrows and worms and trees and flowers also. But the gift of a day in human life is a rare chance. Don’t think all you need to do is eat two meals and rest and fill up the other hours in a routine way. It may be possible today to make a serious improvement in japa. Even if it is a small step forward, you may be able to do it. Speak to your mind. Tell him the benefits of staying fixed on harer nama. And then stay fixed.
“I have picked yellow-and-white wildflowers for the vase. The dogs didn’t bark. It’s cold but clear-skied. I tell you, it’s a great opportunity. To prove it, why don’t you chant a round now and really pay attention to the mantras, from tongue to ear to mind to heart to soul.”
“Woke feeling too much alienated from the routine ISKCON scene for a sannyasi. He should be in a temple, or if outside, in the midst of preaching programs. But when I think how to immediately change my situation, I find I cannot. A longer stay in Spain ISKCON would increase chances of other sannyasis or GBCs visiting, and they would not be able to understand my inability to meet and lecture. I’d be staying in the temple in a semi-invalid condition. Yes, ill health, headaches is the main reason for my alienation.
“But you should not be an unhappy man, if you can help it. Take your limits as Krsna’s mercy. (What does she mean by that prayer, ‘Your mercy is all that I am made of’? One meaning can be to feel gratitude and blessing on you, wherever you are. It’s like saying thank you, thank you, meaningfully.) He allows me to be alone and I can read, write, and chant, and realize I’m limited to these. I can focus on these.
“‘It is to be concluded that with a strong vow one should chant the holy name of the Lord – Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare – for thus one will be delivered from the clutches of maya by the grace of Krsna.
“‘The chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is recommended even for persons who commit offenses because if they continue chanting they will gradually chant offenselessly…one’s main concern should be to increase one’s attachment to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to increase one’s love for Him.’ (Bhag. 6.3.24, purport)
“Hari haraye nama krsna…Yes sir, it’s a good day. You couldn’t, wouldn’t rise at midnight because of too much head pressure, and yesterday you got chills when rising very early. Limits. But now the night sky of your head is not painful. So, I request you to attempt prayerful chanting. You don’t chant all day and night as recommended in the purport – the remedy for offensive chanting. Neither, on a practical basis, does Srila Prabhupada allow us to do that. Neither can I do it; it sticks in my throat. Loveless. Can’t remember Lord Hari even when I chant His names. Narottama dasa Thakura has described my state in his own songs of lamentation. But he has great hopes too. So, don’t despair, sit and finger the beads, and chant at least loud enough so you can hear the utterances. The wind is chuffing around the house, and we can hear it. So, why not hear yourself say Hare Krsna mantra?
“Diffuse headache pressure all morning. Madhu and I talk about cancelling the trip to the Caribbean in 1997. Just go to four places, and if disciples want to see me they can come there (Baltimore, Ireland, Radhadesh in Belgium, and India). And we talk about the future when I may travel even less than that.
“Prabhupada writes in a letter,
“‘I’m sorry to learn that you are not well. Pray to Krsna and chant. Hare Krsna. The body is a temple of disease, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. Disease is our inevitable companion. We still have to execute our duty of Krsna consciousness as far as possible, and Krsna will help us.’ (Letter August 31, 1976))
“If you are feeling tired, you may take rest. Your body is very valuable. It is dedicated to Krsna, so you must take care of the body very carefully. The best medicine is to rest and chant Hare Krsna mantra, along with the doctor’s prescription. Hare Krsna mantra is bhavausadhi, the panacea for all material disease.” (Letter to Giriraja, August 12, 1971)
“I want to do something worthy, satisfying, in the sankirtana movement. I seem to be hooked to writing whenever I get the time. But nowadays it has no shape.
“My life is limited. Today I had head pressure all day. Couldn’t act. If you read the see-through pages of the SB that may bring more headaches, and the same with writing in pen or typewriter. So, you sometimes just sit and breathe and keep looking at your watch. Let the afternoon pass so I can take rest for the night, and maybe the headache will go away overnight.
“The new diet brings no interest at meals. Porridge with tea, very uninteresting. You eat like a horse with the feed bag. I don’t have the enthusiasm or dietetic righteousness by which you can eat raw food and think, ‘Wonderful!’ Want something tasty. But they say anything that tastes good shouldn’t be eaten, the combinations you crave. How long will I keep that up? SP didn’t prescribe such a ‘starvation diet’ nor did he follow it himself.
“Maybe the pressure will ease off. Maybe it already did, somewhat. But when you lie down maybe it will come back. That often happens.
“Please, please, the scriptures say you should live with devotees and discuss the pastimes of Lord Hari.
“It was unfortunate I couldn’t talk with Stokakrsna. He’s almost 100% Italian in speech, and I’m 100% English. No communication. I didn’t even tell him, ‘Write me a letter once a year.’ He’s not inclined to that. He asked me when will I return to Italia, primavera?
“‘I don’t know,’ I said. I felt a bit put-off that he should think I’m coming back here so soon. Our plans are more to not travel here. If they want to see me, they can travel where I am. But Italian and Spanish devotees don’t usually leave their countries unless they go on a pilgrimage to India. Okay.
“Arrivederci.” Misericordia. “Bona reposa,” he said to me each night, wishing me a good night. Pressure builds in the head and that’s why I live in exile. But we’ve got some travel plans too.
“O Krsna, O Rama,
please be kind to us. Your mercy is all that I am made of.
“This is the forest of primeval. There’s nothing to say. Keep your head. Germans go by on bicycles, gentle-looking family wearing helmets. I don’t wear one. Wait for a symbol to come in my words. Wait for an urge to pray and love. At least be a student of Vaishnava sastras and repeat them. I believe Lord Krsna is the summum bonum.
“Now you’ve got to cool off the pajamas, the head man, the man who resigns to the little portion of pain that is his lot. Sip some juice. Be kind to the body and mind. Don’t bash. Tomorrow you may do better. Read the very nice statements by Yamaraja on the glories of the holy name.”
“I went to bed soon after 4 P.M. By 6 P.M. Madhu returned to the house. I called him up to my darkened room and asked him for a basic report. He had successfully picked up Bhakti-rasa at the airport and returned Stokakrsna to his temple in Vicenza. But he failed to pick up the courier package that was supposedly waiting for us. The package has been cleared through Customs since Tuesday and should have been delivered, but the local Italian office doesn’t seem to take ‘extremely urgent packages’ the same way that American (and British and Germans) do. After the initial disappointment, I think that maybe the Italians have the right idea. What’s the big rush?
“I’m feeling disappointed in not being able to write something continuous. Headaches throw me off, and I’ve lost the momentum that I had in writing an introduction to this book. It very much depends on writing each day as you go through life. It also depends on a great optimism and hopefulness that the writing is worthwhile. A couple of days ago when I was speaking about this with Madhu, he said I was in limbo. When I asked him to explain what he meant, he said that since I write all the time, I can’t expect to always be writing a worthy book that can be shared with the world. I think he also meant to say that if I want to write all the time, you can’t expect to always be writing something worthwhile on any level. But usually I discount that idea of being in limbo. I think I’m always on the map of Krsna consciousness and that whatever I write is worth my time to do it. After all, it’s my service.
So, I’m trying to fight this loss of hope and positive spirit. But when everyday head pressure comes it’s difficult to keep up your literary nerve. You begin to think, “I really have no ‘story’ to write except pain.”
“‘Confidence of success’ is one of the six items for favorable devotional service mentioned by Srila Rupa Goswami in Upadesamrta. A devotee in any service department may lose this confidence. A ‘nama-hatta’ preacher, college lecturer, even a book distributor may come to think, ‘I work so hard but there’s so little result in terms of serious per”sons coming to Krsna consciousness.’ Or one thinks that he doesn’t feel any spiritual development through his service. The high hope of confidence is not just an intellectual agreement but a deeper thing, beyond argument, a ‘blind’ faith. A blessing.
“Opposed to the concept that I’m a writer in limbo, in between occasional projects, is this quote by Saint Teresa of Avila: ‘All the way to heaven is heaven.’”
“Yesterday was a ‘Red-X’ day. When I have a full day of sharp pain behind the right eye, I indicate it on the calendar by a red X. I was incapacitated all day by pain, no reading or writing. I couldn’t even think seriously without it hurting.
“I didn’t eat lunch and passed through waves of nausea but didn’t vomit. For the second day in a row I tried to close up shop by 4 P.M. and get into bed for the night. As I did so last night the pain began to go down. It’s been two days in a row of this—the day before yesterday was a milder variety of headache, but also incapacitating. One wonders how I’ll be able to schedule travel dates or anything at all if these headaches are going to regularly come. Another effect these days have had is to make me think that I have lost touch with my proposed November book. It’ll be an act of determination for me to get back into it and believe there’s something worth doing, telling my little life, writing my lines, writing my one big book now in the month of November 1996.
“I was up by 11:30 and did some quality work, answering a couple of GNP letters, and then I chanted nine rounds. After that I felt I chanted all I could for a while. It was then 2:30 A.M., a half-hour before my scheduled time to go to the bathroom. I looked over at the bed where I propped up three pillows for the half-sitting position. I eased myself in there, turned off the light and had a very sweet sleep, the kind of sleep you can’t have when there’s a painful headache. I had a dream of Prabhupada. But it was like those films of Mohammad or Lord Caitanya, where the main person is never on camera although he’s present in some scenes.
“Prabhupada was present in a bed, and to the right and left of him were beds in which were seated leading disciples of his. I was an observer of the dream, not in one of the beds, but I seemed satisfied. There was a remark made in the dream that Prabhupada would always be surrounded by some big four or big six various groups of elite leading disciples. Now that I think of it, it was quite a cozy scene – Prabhupada in the lead bed surrounded by other beds where exalted disciples were sitting and relating to Prabhupada.
One of them began to tell a story of something that happened in an ISKCON temple. Then Brahmananda picked up the narration. It started out that hoodlums were attending a wake and were getting drunk and decided to attack the ISKCON temple. All I can remember of the story now is that turned into one of those cases where the hoodlums inadvertently contact Krsna consciousness and become favorably affected. Perhaps one of them picked up a book and began to read it, or something like that, and began to preach Krsna conscious philosophy. It was the kind of story that would, on the hand sound alarming to Prabhupada, but then he would be deeply amused about the potency of Hare Krsna to infect even the wrong-doers. So, the devotees were relishing relating the story to His Divine Grace.
“My habit nowadays is not to record the dreams at all. But later this morning I thought of this one, and I knew it was nice. But first I told myself, ‘There’ll be plenty more of those, and you can record them in the future when they come.’ But who knows how many more Prabhupada dreams I’ll have in this lifetime?”
(To be continued)