DEAR DEVOTEES: A MESSAGE FROM SATSVARUPA MAHARAJA.
“I was very disappointed that our July gathering and then our December in-person Vyasa-puja was canceled.
But I earnestly ask my disciples to order Kaleidoscope and Seeking New Land. The price is $10 for the former and $12 for the latter.
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.”
From Rev. John Endler:
Seeking New Land represents a bold new step in the writing of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami and is the sixth volume in the ongoing retrospective of his literary series, Every Day, Just Write. Seeking New Land may be considered a narrative poem and the reader follows the journey of an itinerant monk who pursues new means of self-expression as part of a larger journey to discern a renewed vocation within his religious tradition and the institution which he serves. This book is characterized by a literary complexity and existential subtleties which are the hallmarks of the author’s artistic and theological vision. A volume that is challenging and profound, the reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages.as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.
I am going today for my second testing whether I have contacted COVID-19. A test is required as preparation for my eye cataract surgery. I am a little worried because the pandemic is so widespread, but everything is up to Krsna. I have done my best to stay isolated and avoid contact with the virus. Unlike the first COVID testing, where I did it in a drive-thru while remaining seated in the car, this time I have to park outside and call the building and then, when they are ready, they will call me back and ask me to come into the building for the test. This may involve a longer wait and is less convenient. It also breaks my isolation.
Tomorrow I go for my cataract eye surgery in my left eye. The last time I went, over a month ago, for surgery in the right eye, a nurse remarked to me that when I came back again for surgery in the other eye it would be a “piece of cake” because I had already done it once. But my experience is that it wasn’t a piece of cake. I had to go in very early in the morning, fasting overnight, and they made me take off all my clothes except my underwear and put on a hospital gown. For three or four hours, a number of nurses prepared me. They hooked me up to an IV and did many things they thought were necessary to prepare me for the procedure. It was cold there, and I wasn’t comfortable. Baladeva had to stay in the waiting room. The first time, I had to take four eye drops three times a day. I had to wear a plastic shield over my eye all day and keep it taped to my face overnight for a week. The day after the operation I had to come back to the doctor’s office and spent two hours while I was put through a post-op exam. The next week, I had to do it again. At first I couldn’t read at all. After some time, I used my regular glasses and took out the lens of the eye that had been operated on. That worked pretty well. But this time I’ll have the limited vision in both eyes and won’t be able tol use my [prescription glasses. I’ll have to use the reading (“cheaters”) all the time. At least I think that’s what she’ll prescribe. I don’t know whether I will be able to read at all. This time I’ll have to wait three weeks until I can go to the optometrist and get a new prescription for new glasses—and then wait a week before the glasses actually come in. The first time I didn’t constantly chant Hare Krsna while I was in the hospital, which would have been the best thing to do. I will try to improve tomorrow. It’s hardly “a piece of cake,” even for the second time.
We left the ashram at 5:15 AM. for a 6:30 AM appointment at the hospital. We wanted to be the first patients and get treated before anyone else. We were there so early the secretary wasn’t even in. She dealt with us first, and by the time we were finished, the waiting room was filled with other patients. But unfortunately we were bumped into the number two spot. A man named “Harvey” had first priority, and we had to share a room with him with just a curtain separating us. For an hour we had to hear his nurse questioning him, and with all cozy bedside manner, calling him, “Honey,” “Harvey, hun,” etc. When he was finally finished, then two nurses came to prepare me. One nurse told me that the preparation was worse than the actual surgery, and she was right. She took another hour preparing us, making us strip down to our underwear and a hospital gown, lying in bed while she gave us an IV and other preparations. She asked us many questions, and finally we got to see the surgeon, Dr. McPherson. This time I hardly noticed anything during the surgery. The first time, I was quite aware of what she was doing and saw flashing lights and heard little noises. But this time I hardly noticed anything.
I have a 2:30 PM appointment with her today for a post-op examination. The surgery day was a test of tolerance; today will also be a test, and we’ll have to spend about two hours there. I forgot to chant the names of Krsna in my mind yesterday. It’s hard to do when there are so many distractions, needles and questions. I have to wear a plastic eye-guard over my left eye for seven to ten days so that I don’t scratch at the eye inadvertently while I’m sleeping. I can’t read books right now. It will be one more month before I actually have new prescription eyeglasses on my face.
For now I use reading glasses (“cheaters”) and read some mail, but not much prolonged. Reading whole manuscripts or books is not open to me now. I cannot receive darsana of Radha-Govinda, Lord Caitanya, Prabhupada and Laksmi-Nrsimha. All these murtis are on my altar, but I see them only as a blur. For solace, I listen to hours of recordings. I hear a couple of Prabhupada lectures every day, and I listen for hours to talks by his followers focusing on bhakti-yoga.
Some devotees, when they’re young, claim they don’t have time to read Prabhupada’s books.They’re too busy with other active service. They think that when they grow old then they can enjoy the practice of reading Prabhupada’s books. But with old age comes diseases and other inabilities. We should read Prabhupada’s books while we’re young and still have vigor and mental strength. Don’t expect to wait to read when you’re retired. It may not be possible then.
Fortunately, I’ve read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta, etc. repeated times. I didn’t just read the books, but I studied them, took notes, memorized verses, and used them in frequent lectures.
I have received notice for writing an homage to Prabhupada for the 2021 Tributes book. I have begun thinking of a possible theme to write about. How bold Prabhupada was in presenting the Hare Krsna mantra as the panacea, especially when he did so to outside audiences who had never heard about the Hare Krsna mantra. On one lecture I recently heard, he described in detail the authentic practice of astanga-yoga: one has to go to a secluded place, a sacred place, sit straight on a mat and look at the tip of one’s nose. Control the breath (pranayama), obstain from sex desire, and control the mind from errant thoughts. Five thousand years ago, when Lord Krsna taught this system to Arjuna, Arjuna said that it was not possible for him to practice it, so what to speak of persons now in Kali-yuga, when circumstances are so adverse to the strict practice of actual yoga? It cannot be done in this age. After giving all detail about how yoga was performed, according to sastras and the teachings of the great acaryas, Prabhupada said it was not possible today. When he forcefully taught that the chanting of the holy names was the only way to attain God consciousness in the age of Kali. I am amazed when I hear Prabhupada’s confidence and faith as he presents the teaching harer nama, harer nama, harer namaiva kevalam . . . . .chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name—in the age of Kali there is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.
In our group out-loud reading of Caitanya-caritamrta we are hearing of the Lord’s tour of southern India. He visited the temple of Kurma and danced and chanted before the Deity in ecstasy. There He met a brahmana who was very attracted to the Lord. We learn something of the history of the Kurma Deity. One time Lord Jagannatha threw the great devotee Sri Ramanuja from Jagannatha Puri thousands of miles to the mandir of Kurma-ksetra. At first Ramanuja thought the Deity was of Lord Siva, but later he discovered the Deity was Visnu-tattva, and he began to worship Him. When Lord Caitanya met a brahmana at the Kurma mandir, the brahmana became very attracted to the Lord. He begged that Sri Caitanya free him from his household life and take him with Him on His sannyasa tour. Lord Caitanya told him not to speak like that again. He said the brahmana should stay at home in family life, chant Hare Krsna and tell others to do the same. In his purports, Prabhupada supports this teaching of Lord Caitanya and says it is not necessary to change one’s social position or to take up sannnyasa. One can perfect his life just by following the Lord’s instructions to the Kurma brahmana. Some devotees who emphasize varnasrama evolution say that a person should eventually leave family life and take up the renounced order. But in the case of the Kurma brahmana, Lord Caitanya contradicts this teaching. He says that one can stay at home and perfect his life by constantly chanting Hare Krsna and telling others to do so.
In this section about the Kurma brahmana, there’s also the story of the leper named Vasudeva. He was actually a very advanced devotee, but he had a terrible case of leprosy. Due to his advancement as a devotee, although his body was filled with living worms, whenever a worm would emerge from his body, he would place him back where he came from. Vasudeva came eagerly to the Kurma brahmana’s place, hoping for an audience with Lord Caitanya. But when he found that the Lord had already left that place, he fainted in grief. This anxiety to see the Lord prompted Lord Caitanya to return to the Kurma brahmana’s house and reveal Himself to Vasudeva. He completely cured him of his leprosy, and his body became that of a beautiful young man. Vasudeva made prayers to the Lord but said he was afraid he would become proud of his transformation. Lord Caitanya advised him that if he chanted the holy names of Krsna incessantly, he would not become proud and would be free of all taints. When Lord Caitanya left that place, the Kurma brahmana and Vasudeva were grief-stricken in separaton. They embraced one another and cried tears of ecstasy.
I have been asked by the Bhakti-Vrksa group at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in England to give a presentation on the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. I will describe the genesis: the BBT leaders in Los Angeles wrote to Prabhupada near the end of his life inquiring whether he wanted a biography about him. At this time Prabhupada was not personally replying to letters. He would hear a letter and give verbatim replies to important questions. His secretary Tamal Krsna Maharaja would record the answers and personally answering the letters, quoting Prabhupada’s replies. To this BBT letter Prabhupada said, yes, he wanted a biography, and that “someone like Satsvarupa could write it.” Immediately after saying this, he began enthusiastically telling half a dozen stories from his early childhood.At the 1978 annual GBC meeting, I was commissioned to write the biography. The multivolume work was not one person’s effort. We formed a team to do it. In the “acknowledgements” pages of the book, persons are credited with their service.
I began writing with Volume 2, and the BBT first published Volume 2. That is because we did not have sufficient research done to compete Volume 1 first, Prabhupada’s life before he came to America, A Lifetime in Preparation.
Our interviewers assisted the chief interviewer, Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa. We used a
“cross-reference” system to get the interviews, interviewing different people until we got the authenticity of the story from the right person.
From the time I was commissioned to do the work, I immediately began writing on Volume 2. The time period was 1965 and 1966. We had the advantage of writing about Prabhupada shortly after his disappearance, when many witnesses were still alive and with fresh memories.
It was not a hagiography. I told of real austeries and obstacles that Prabhupada faced. A hagiography is written from the viewpoint where a saint is described, giving credit to all his miracles and saintly character, with not much emphasis on objective fact or realism. Some academics described the Prabhupada-lilamrta as a hagiography, but I argued against them and specifically made it an effort to make it an objective story, although preserving the truth that Prabhupada was a great saintly person.
Harvey Cox, professor of divinity at Harvard University, wrote a preface to the first volume. He particularly appreciated my use of oral history, where I had contributors give verbatim accounts of their relationship with Srila Prabhupada
Some people ask me how I knew what Prabhupada was thinking. I did not imagine it. I took reference from Prabhupada himself, from descriptions in his books or talks where he reveals his thoughts in different situations.
I don’t recommend that serious devotees read the condensed version of the Prabhupada-lilamrta. (The condensed version, which comes under different titles, such as Prabhupada: He Built A House In Which the Whole World Can Live, Your Ever-Well-Wisher, etc., is meant for outsiders. Devotees who don’t read the unabridged or full version are missing a great deal. To make the condensed version, the BBT ordered us to make the book no more than 300 pages so it could be accessible for public distribution and readership. This meant I had to rewrite the entire first volume, A Lifetime In Preparation. I reduced it from its original 400 pages to 55 pages. This meant I took out many wonderful accounts of Prabhupada’s life in India before his coming to America at age 69.
In addition to reducing the first volume to a mere fragment, we deleted many other sections in the multivolume set. All the editing was done without any rewriting, strictly deletion. But this left a condensed book, without the sweetness of Prabhupada as a person. I think it is a shame for someone to read only the condensed version and leave out the major portion of the opus.
I had a questions and answers session after my talk to the Bhakti-vrksa group in England. First Visakha Prabhu asked me how we understand Prabhupada’s moods in various situations? I laughed and told her to read the whole book, and she will see him in action, as soft as a rose and as hard as a thunderbolt. One will see Prabhupada in transcendental anger, in gentle intimacy with his disciples, as a warrior defending his movement, as a deep scholar who rises at 1:00 A.M. every morning and composes his books.
Someone asked me what was a particular section that was challenging in the writing. I referred to the very, very last days of Prabhupada’s life. I wrote about it while staying at the Krsna-Balaram Mandir during the month of Karttika. Day by day I wrote the unfolding events: the workers digging the big hole for the Samadhi, the devotees all around the world praying, ‘My dear Lord, if you desire, please cure Srila Prabhupada.’ But Prabhupada was voluntarily fasting and diminishing his longevity. As devotees feel empowered while serving in different aspects of Prabhupada’s mission, I felt empowered to be writing the details of his disappearance.
I said I did not approve of serious devotees reading the condensed version of the Prabhupada-lilamrta. The devotees were referring to the title of the book as Your Ever Well-Wisher and thanking me sincerely for writing it. I told them I appreciated the importance of the condensed verion for book distribution and reading but it was essentially meant for outsiders. A real student of Prabhupada’s life should read the entire seven volumes and really study Prabhupada’s life. I meant to tell them the example of Radhanatha Maharaja at Chowpatty, Mumbai. There a devotee reads aloud from the unabridged book every day at lunchtime, and everyone is attentively quiet. They have been reading and re-reading for some thirty years, with no intentions of giving up. The seven-volume work is meant for study, enjoying and coming close to Prabhupada.
I received a letter from an old-time disciple. He told me how much he likes reading my earlier books but has difficulty reading the books published in recent years. English is his second language. He doesn’t give up trying on the newly published books but uses a dictionary to look up the unfamiliar words. I wrote back to him that he should not worry if he cannot read the recently-published books. I am glad that he finds the earlier books fresh re-reading. I told him the books published in recent years were for a sophisticated, “hip” English readership. I like the new books (which happen to have been written 20 years ago but were ahead of their time). Like many senior devotees who have dedicated their lives to following Prabhupada’s orders, in the mature stage they develop a project according to their own nature and desire, so I am doing that. Prabhupada did that himself. His spiritual master instructed him to preach in the West. Prabhupada did so on a grand scale. But then he turned his attention to India, which had first been so unreceptive. He followed the verse from the scriptures that states a person born in Bharata-varsa should become Krsna conscious and then go out and spread it around the world. Prabhupada turned his attention toward building major temples in India and preaching to his countrymen not to give up their own Vedic culture. I like my recently published books (they are close to my heart), and I hope to gain a readership for them, now and in the future.
It snowed all night and left an accumulation of wet, furry snow. It is thirty-two degrees and the snow is dense, heavy to shovel. A snow-covered field is pretty to look at. Prabhupada described it as “Krsna’s picture.” An eighty-five year old disciple with knee issues has moved to South Carolina for the winter: “It’s too cold on my own bones living in Pennsylvania.”
A devotee who has been away a long, long time has sent me a big package of photographs from the 1970s when he was serving as a photographer in the temple. There are pictures of Prabhupada riding on the Ratha cart in San Francisco in 1975. A picture of my Laksmi-Nrsimha Deity, and a couple of pictures of myself when I was young and skinny. The picttures of me remind me of the “Changing Bodies” display. He was once a boy and then a young man, and now an old man. I am at the same age now that Prabhupada was when these photos were taken of him at the Ratha-yatra. But as he said, the spirit soul is always the same, eternal, full of bliss and knowledge, but it has become covered by a material body. I think I’ll send this devotee a picture of me in my present state so he doesn’t get shocked if he ever meets me. He enclosed a check for fifty dollars. I’ll send him a recent book. I’ll also ask him for a photo of himself as he looks now after all these years.
“Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I talk to encourage myself. I should encourage myself about the fact that I have to face many meetings compared to the solitude I had recently. I am seeing that prayer means the life of sacrifice, sacrificing every minute for Krsna. Prayer means always communing with the Lord and asking Him to please engage me in His service. So He is engaging me in His service, not just by my saying His name, but also by my talking to other devotees, my preaching, my helping to keep them strong.
“That’s my service, too. It’s funny that the means by which I feel I can commune and develop inner life is to be alone, and yet the life of preaching or service by meeting others is a way that I have to serve and is a sign of my advancement in prayer. On the one hand meetings seem to be depleting, but on the other hand, it’s a sacrifice. So when I feel pinched or don’t like the fact that I have yet another meeting, but I become cheerful about it and do it for Krsna, that’s as good as prayer, or that is a kind of prayer. I become conscious of meeting for Krsna, even though I find it difficult. The more you can take satisfaction in that, the better. In addition to this inner solitude of talking to Krsna as much as possible during the day, I am hoping to develop sacrifice as a kind of talking to Krsna. There is definitely a conflict involved at a certain level, and I am trying to overcome that.
“Jagannatha is checked in to room 903.
How can the Lord
of the universe
be a Sheraton guest?
Because He consents.
“First thing to do
is make up His altar—
today He’s in yellow,
Subhadra red, Balarama blue.
And I’m collapsed beside Them.
Travel is exciting
if you choose as your companion
the best friend, enjoyer,
the ruler of all.
Nothing else really matters—
jets, buses, oceans,
the enormous world of nondevotion
that’s all illusion.
But He is the center,
and I am His servant.
That’s all that matters:
“O Lord Jagannatha,
please save me,
please keep me,
take me home.
Keep me traveling.
Keep me sick.
Make me well.
Whatever You want.
Keep Your name on my mind.”
“The pilgrimage is ongoing. Accumulate what you can, go away to assimilate it, and then come back. Don’t take it for granted; don’t for a moment be ungrateful or unaware of the rare opportunity to advance.
“A letter from a disciple:
“‘I had a little realization just after two weeks of my arrival here in Vrndavana. Since my last visit, two years ago, I prayed, I dreamt, I wished, I wanted so much to come back and live here. But after my arrival I understood that I am not ready at all. It is not easy to live permanently in Vrndavana. I felt my lack of austerity, purity, and many other qualities. I understood that my desire was immature and maybe sentimental. Anyway, I am eager to purify myself, clean up my heart of material desire and be able to really appreciate the simple and deep life of Vrndavana’s people and to share it with them. Although it was painful to see myself so unqualified in a certain sense, I felt happy because the Lord was taking care of me. He had listened to my prayer, but He also made it clear to me that I asked for something which I am not ready for
“Maybe this letter also states my own situation.”
The gopis are the best lovers of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He tests them, sometimes, or behaves contrarily with them, as when He told them to go home after they joined Him in the forest. Previously we read how the gopis weren’t able to join Him. They suffered the transcendental agony of separation. These same gopis suffered when Krsna told them to go home. They cried torrents of tears and felt a burning heat in their chests. They were stunned by His cruel words.
“We will all have to go through trials to prove our love for Krsna. At present, most of the trials seem to be related to the material world. When we can finally quiet our material desire, by our guru’s grace, then we can face the emptiness of our love, Then perhaps we will be more prepared for another kind of trial.
“The fact that the gopis’ trials are with Krsna doesn’t make it easier for them. He bewildered them with His loud statements about religious duty to their husbands and superiors. They simply wanted to serve Him.
“I am bringing this up because I want to make advancement as do all devotees. How can we cry tears of prema? We have not attained Krsna. That is our misfortune. He has not bewildered us with His strong statements of dharma or His rasika mood! Being petty creatures, we have petty difficulties.
“Where did we develop such a stiff-upper-lip policy? We avoid emotion, whether spiritual or material. We will reciprocate with Krsna, but we expect Him to be fair-minded and civil in return. Although we have heard that Krsna will make up for what we lack—if we give ten percent of our love, He will respond with ninety percent of His—we simply expect it of Him rather than use that knowledge as an impetus to increase our own surrender. But are we ready for the rasa of Krsna’s reciprocation? Are we ready for His cunning words? His thievery? Are we ready to run after Him and claim back what He has stolen from us?”
In India, I hear truck horns instead of Krsna’s flute, but I hear about His flute, especially early in the morning when I am fresh. I am not indifferent to my material situation; I prefer indoors because there is a fan and no flies.
To make advancement, we have to perform seva for our spiritual master. We have to contribute to the Krsna consciousness movement. We have to serve Krsna. The whole Vedic system, he told his Lower East Side audience in 1966, is for giving facility in human life so that misery can be relieved. Krsna consciousness is for stopping birth and death. People shouldn’t live like cats and dogs. I want to always serve the guru who said that, who drove us hard, his voice excited and strong, over the barking dogs and car traffic on Second Avenue. That guru has an eternal form that brings Krsna pleasure, and I will serve him in this life and future ones. Now I am writing. Previously I did other services—I gave him my paycheck, gave lectures, managed things (although I didn’t do that well), organized the gurukula. In the future I may be cooking or sweeping or grinding sandalwood paste. Making garlands–any humble service. The important thing is to be earnest and to do menial service.
“Recovering from illness. But this bodily condition has been persisting since time immemorial. When will I take devotional service seriously and understand the literature of the Six Gosvamis?
“Trying a new personal reading schedule, a chapter each day from different volumes of the Bhagavatam. I didn’t account for the fact that I would read with miserable inattention, however.
“Already restless at my BTG position. Be patient, I tell myself.
“Feeling my youth as a sannyasi fading along with romantic notions of myself as a parivrajakacarya, wandering and preaching and making devotees, absorbed in preaching to others at all times. Now after years of trying at college classes, I am set as an editor, and all my preaching is within the ISKCON institution. I have lost almost all taste to preach to young persons and convince them to come to Krsna consciousness. I have my magazine to edit—a highly professional task. I lecture in the temple, read essays, talk with devotees, answer the phone, eat prasada.
“Be patient and pray, I tell myself. If you want to be an inspired preacher in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps, simply pray to be empowered and ready to preach—and be qualified. For now—especially this entire year—do the specific duties given and do not over-lament.
“Chant and hear. Fall at the feet of the Bhagavatam pages. Pray to be lifted out of the muck of sense gratification. Pray to inspire devotees here to be enlivened on the spiritual platform. Pray to be free of envy yourself.
“As for my youth, certainly it is passing. But all chance and opportunity to surrender to Krsna is still before me.
“Let me do something, let me go down as being steadfast in my service. Let me serve. Give me courage, boldness, direction.
“Dear fellow lecturers,
“I’m thinking about lectures and what they can convey to people about the Krsna conscious philosophy. Lectures have their limitations—and these are related to the speaker’s limits and the limits of his or her audience. The expert lecturer knows his audience and speaks to it in a way that will give the most benefit. However, he’s not unnecessarily worried whether his audience will be pleased with his words. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that if he worries how others will receive his writing, he will not be able to fullfill his purpose. He is praising Krsna and repeating what he has heard from previous authorities. He is not trying to cater to the likes and dislikes of his readership. With this attitude, he produced the most powerful literature.
“When I prepare to give Bhagavatam class, I select powerful statements from the philosophy, but whether they’ll be powerful when spoken by me I don’t know. I never know. We may think our lecture was good, but its effect may have come across as superficial. We may think our lecture was mediocre, yet it might have a lasting effect on someone. The duty of speaking has to be discharged sincerely, and if possible, with compassion. I think that’s certainly more important than trying to be inspired or to give what we think is a dazzling performance. A dazzling performance is only surface charm. We have to speak with a real desire to be faithful to parampara, and with faith that it will help people.
“In simpler terms, we want to give a lecture that will be interesting rather than a routine exposition of dogma. But there’s a fine line between being interesting and giving a performance. Likewise, there’s a fine line between being an unpretentious, parampara teacher and a lackluster, boring speaker. After all, we are employing speaking skills. We are engaging in the art of oratory. We are trying to hold the audience’s attention. We may have to use the methods any speaker would use: getting to the heart of the message, avoiding a long preamble, conveying, if possible, one simple message, and giving many concrete examples. These are standard methods used in the college classroom or in political speechwriting, and they can be used in the service of Krsna.
“And while it’s good to try to help people, we should not be attached to a particular result. We should keep on speaking about Krsna and how to practice Krsna consciousness, taking every opportunity to glorify the Lord on the basis of Srimad- Bhagavatam and the Bhaktivedanta purports. This is our life.”
“Although I said that remembering the past is useful and is a sign of life, I would like to add that we should still be careful in how much we value the various memories. We have committed so many destructive and sinful acts in this lifetime, especially in our youth, that remembering them all has questionable value.
“Young people tend to be wasteful. Prabhupada said that the more sinful and extravagant we were in youth, the more we would suffer in old age. Persons who indulged too much in intoxication when they were young may be seriously hampered in spiritual life. Someone who wasted his energy in illicit sex will have to remember those acts again and again. The brain is affected by our youthful craziness and it is then difficult to be steady in devotional service. We also suffered traumas as we grew up in our families, and they too can possibly affect our attempts at devotional service adversely. We were wrong and we were wronged. Serving Krsna is completely transcendental, but we are stuck under the modes along with our particular warped impressions of the past.
“Do we remember our own past simply as therapy, then? No. If I’m going to stick to my original premise, then I have to say that we don’t have to psychoanalyze ourselves when we remember. My point now is that neither should we remember as unredeemed hedonists.
“Rather, we should trust the memory process to bring us closer to Krsna.
“Is anyone shaking his head, not understanding what I’m saying? I keep speaking about this because I don’t completely trust my readers’ comprehension. I’m also afraid someone will misuse what I am saying to defame me or the Krsna consciousness movement. That sort of thing. Or, because I’m not writing purports to all the memories, it’s likely that if I tell a memory not centered on Krsna, certain devotees will wave their fingers at me admonishingly and say, ‘Anything that doesn’t explicitly center on Krsna is maya. You’re leading people into maya.’
“I don’t think they’re right, but it will require my trust and yours to get past these obstacles. In other words, I know that the things I say will be available to unsympathetic readers, but I have to say them anyway in order to reach those who will appreciate and make a similar attempt. It’s a saintly attempt. Being saintly doesn’t always mean treading the well-paved road of recited scriptures; it also means sharing some honest notes about the struggle. The struggle means ‘where we’ve been.’ Without looking at our memories, how can we feel gratitude, repentance, even happiness or sadness? Looking at our memories helps us to live our lives in context instead of as a series of disjointed events that we rubber-stamp ‘Krsna conscious.’”
“I hear a constant background noise of parrots screeching. They are not so loud—just telling us that it’s morning. Their constant song is punctuated by the mourning doves’ occasional coos. A distant car horn reminds us that people do come and go from areas outside Vraja. This morning, an unbroken line of people in drab clothes have walked by. I also saw a dog on a roof and the pieces of broken bottles set in cement on top of the neighbor’s wall.
“A crowd has gathered out there. Above their heads I see a Saivite trident and a person’s foot. He is standing on his head—some kind of public austerity.
“Madhu has called me to look at a ‘fabulous bird’ on the electric wire. It is black and has a bright blue-green stripe on each wing, a white breast, and a long thin beak. Its mouth is open and it appears to be panting in the heat.
“A donkey brays a short poem. Sadhus walk by, brown-skinned and barefoot in their dark orange cloth.
“This morning I saw ants eating something white on the floor. Baladeva mused, ‘A real Vrndavana scene. It began last night. It was a lizard. About forty ants attacked it while it was still alive.’ I thought, ‘How is this a Vrndavana scene?’ Yet it is happening here.
“A dog walked through the front gate and sat down, ‘offering obeisances’ with her long-extended front legs. She sat patiently and quietly, wagging her tail.
“Baladeva said to Madhu, ‘Someone is here to see you.’ Madhu went to the front porch and assumed a tough expression. Baladeva said, ‘You know the philosophy.’ (Meaning, you know this dog is not an ordinary soul and has come to beg.)
“‘But,’ I said, ‘if you feed this one, they will all come around.’
“She went on wagging her tail and I left it to them to figure out. Then the rains came and the eye ache, and still I hear the tinkling drops.”
“Caitanya-candrodaya dasa said that Jananivasa Prabhu gave a lecture in which he quoted Vamsidasa Babaji as speaking to his Gaura-Nitai Deities at the end of his life, ‘I have served You all my life. I’m tired now.’ When Jananivasa said it, he began to cry. Caitanya-candrodaya commented, ‘He’s tired. He works so hard.’ We tend to think the twin pujaris are angels floating in nectar, but they work hard and become fatigued as they earn their residence in Sridhama Mayapur.”
“You’re being forced to ask yourself, “Why do I write?” The shape of the title, writing, etc. seem not important. I’m being taught this by events. If I can’t write my book in three divisions, three European countries, then what will I write and why?
“If Madhu has to get a hernia operation, if you have to be in England on Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day and have to attend (or avoid attending) the ceremonies at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, what will you write and why? Who are you writing for? Do you do it just to cope? Can you get deeper? Are you feeling frustrated that time is slipping by and you’re not writing something definitive? But Miro says it’s better to be the artist who keeps writing and says this not it yet, not yet.
“Hare Krsna. I have sections from Govardhana-lila picked out from Krsna book and I will read a few passages and speak on them. They are out phoning now. We are each distracted. Bhakti-rasa’s luggage was lost on the plane on his way. But now they just delivered it. Devotees are sending us mail packages to Avignon, but now we won’t be going there. Madhu just phoned the ferry company and paid by credit card for the voyage from Spain to England, but now we won’t be going. He’ll also have to phone Spain ISKCON and tell them we’re not coming because he has a hernia. They’ll be disappointed, especially Radha-carana dasi. Maybe she’ll say that she is not worthy and that is why I am not coming. Cancel this and cancel that. We make plans. Head straight for the treatment of the man with the hernia. Headache man can take a back seat and figure out what to write. It’s no joke and no frustration. I keep going while I can. Hey doc, I’ve got a slight, flashing ache in my left wrist.
“I have to avoid the ‘Manor disease.’ You see, I’ll have to enter into the company of many devotees on the day of Prabhupada’s disappearance. The Godbrothers and Godsisters all speak praises of him, and you’re supposed to sit through each other’s talks. But I can’t do it. In Vrndavana I used to give my talk and then leave. Can’t do that here. Can you go for a 7 P.M. ceremony, do they have one? Stay home and say you were sick. Or say something. Come and go from England to Northern Ireland where you sit down for a while and hope M. can work it out on time for our travels to India.
“This is the form and the story. I will try to go. The point is you needn’t be frustrated and say, ‘I didn’t have time to plan out my novel or to write it.’ Don’t complain, ‘I planned a book to go along with our travels but then our travels were disrupted and I found myself writing false expectations that never happened.’ No, just forget all that and write what happens. You won’t complain that it’s not deeper because it’s just who you are and that’s all. You want deepening? Can you earn it? Not yet. Krsna will push you deeper when He wants. Find time each day to read Prabhupada’s books.
“You won’t live much longer, so finish up this series of daily accounts and it will be the nicest reading you can possibly supply.”
“‘Karmis change their professions at any moment, but a Krsna conscious person does not change his profession, for his only profession is to attract the attention of Krsna by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and live a very simple life, without following daily changes of fashion.” (Bhag. 6.5.14, purport)
“Firm determination. Running out of time. Glories of the Lord. Going to America, going to Belfast, going to the bathroom . . . wherever you are or wherever you are moving to, you should do the simple acts of a devotee. Preach in some way. I’m helplessly repeating myself. But that’s the very point Srila Prabhupada makes in his ‘prostitute’ purport, following the instructions of Narada. A prostitute is one who changes her dress to attract customers. One who does not turn to Krsna consciousness is like that: he changes his bodies one after another. There is no need for the daily changes of fashion.
“‘In our Krsna consciousness movement, fashionable persons are taught to adopt one fashion – the dress of a Vaisnava with a shaved head and tilaka. They’re taught to be always clean in mind, dress, and eating in order to be fixed in Krsna consciousness.’
“I can’t come up new words and ways. Or rather I can if Krsna desires. But I must also respect the ‘sames’ of my life. The changeable is urgent or outer – M.’s hernia, our changed plans, highway driving starting tomorrow, hope he lasts for the three-day journey, me too in tolerable shape. But the non-changeable is the sixteen rounds, some reading – and preaching. For me, as the December book marathon approaches, preaching means setting the example of a simple sannyasi who doesn’t hanker after women. Don’t go after frivolous sports and entertainment. You know what they are.
“Oh, you say, ‘It’s not frivolous. It’s good music.’
“But it doesn’t impel me to Krsna consciousness. It doesn’t put me in the consciousness I want for the very end of life. If you were in Vrndavana in your last days would you be listening to Bach? Would you be stimulating your writing with the ‘write to music’ method?
“No. Don’t need it then, so don’t need it now. What is the duty of a human being, especially one who is about to die?
“It is to hear about Krsna. Simplify all else.
“As it shapes up, the next five weeks for me could be solitary and quiet and you could invest yourself in the non-prostitute adventures of reading and simple Krsna conscious searching/writing. Be yourself in that way. I’m not able to range on the front lines of preaching but I can behave rightly behind the lines.
“The other day the three of us were discussing Prabhupada’s purport where he says that material danger is not for the devotee. The devotees are protected by the Visnudutas. We discussed that this doesn’t mean that a devotee never has mishap. Devotees die and sometimes in car accidents, get paralyzed, and so on. Bhakti-rasa, however, said that he has experienced being saved by Krsna in those situations. So, we can’t negate the clear statement about the Visnudutas protecting devotees while they’re in the material world.
“Madhu also raised the point that why do we chant the Nrsimhadeva prayers before we take a car journey? We do want a safe journey such as the one coming up and hope that our man gets proper medical treatment. But it’s also a time to remember Krsna and to be aware that this material body is not meant for safety. The ultimate protection is to be transferred to the spiritual world. Krsna says He saves His devotee from drowning in the material ocean.
“What is every time you had a bad thought it put you into physical pain? You’d be in pain all day. And so it was for me, with sharp pain behind my right eye and still it continues.”
“All day and all night, sharp pain behind my right eye. I would wake up at eight and nine and ten, etc., asking, ‘Has it gone down yet?’ But not yet. Finally, at about 2 A.M., it had gone down. But it’s not completely gone, and my fear is that it will come up again. In any case, we’re going to travel today.
“The Krsna book says if you don’t observe Govardhana Puja you’ll be bitten by the snakes that live on Govardhana Hill and you’ll die. But we did observe it already by reading from Krsna book one night together about Krsna’s arranging for the Govardhana Puja. Today maybe we’ll have an extra ‘snack’ before we leave and that will be annukuta. Despite pain, happy spirit for returning to Geaglum.
“Yesterday when I went outside for awhile, the rust hue on the trees (their leaves were weeping willow leaves) looked very beautiful everywhere I looked. It was empty of people, the trees were in the pattern of soft rust, green and yellow. True taste of autumn which I wanted. It was a misty morning.
“Glad to be in alive-consciousness. Life always anew. I’m looking for that.
“Propped up on three pillows, I turned the lights out and lay in bed. Dreamt that an old prostitute appeared before me and winked. Indicated to her that I was permanently free and finished with sex desire. She became pacified and asked me what was next. Just at that moment Madhu knocked on the door and came in. Afterward I thought that the dream was symbolic, as if the old prostitute was a form of Mayadevi. But I’ll have to pass a more severe test than that. May Krsna give me strength to overcome all gross and subtle attractions.
“Before dawn Madhu and I both make trips out to the van to load and strap things in. While walking back to the house alone I thought of love for life. I thought of the consciousness that one may die at any moment – or the consciousness one will actually have when he’s about to die. These are standard, “important” thoughts but lately they’ve been coming close to me. I thought I should embrace them. While thinking this I noticed the yellowish light beaming out from the inside of the house, and it silhouetted against a pine branch.
“Madhu told me that he phoned Manu to tell him that we were coming a month early. Madhu reached Ishani dasi instead of Manu and told her. M. said she was surprised and happy to hear we were coming. When I heard that I at first felt disappointed. I imagined I may become a pet figure there, very domesticated, coming and going out of my room, taking a walk, and so on. But that’s only the outer form. I must look for the inner form, such as those rare thoughts I just mentioned about life and death and the next life. They can be attained in any place. Wherever you are there is always an outer shape of your life which is either boring or too hectic, and in one way or another, displeasing. That’s the nature of the material world. Therefore, go for the inner consciousness. Passing places, eternal truths…
“We’re roaring in the van on the autostrada. Madhu wants to reach Milano before we stop to take lunch. The courier pack with books I ordered weeks ago on pain finally arrived. The van is too bouncy to read but I’m looking forward to reading them. I have already decided to tell Madhu that I don’t want to follow the naturopathic diet anymore. It’s just a matter of how to break it to him, whether by letter or by speaking. We followed a modified version of it for three weeks at the health retreat in Italy. I think Madhu also thought that’s as long as it would last. I want to tell him that I don’t want to take it anymore which basically means returning to dal at lunchtime and not such a severe reduction of possibilities for sweets.
“Our annukuta feast was samosas with tomato sauce and a thin soup. For dessert we had halava, sweet rice, and a milk sweet. We are parked in a woodland area, the same place where we stopped on our way down into Italy in early October.
“I have enlarged color photos on the inside wall of the van. One of Madana-Mohana temple and one of white cows at the bottom of Govardhana Hill. It’s quiet now and raining outside. Madhu is taking rest, we’re about to drive in twenty-five minutes. He said we ought to reach the French border at Mt. Blanc in two hours.
“I just listened to three parts of Vivaldi’s ‘Autumn.’ It didn’t seem to be a sin. Perhaps some things you can do once in awhile but not all the time, then it’s not bad.
“Right now, it’s dark because we’re going through a tunnel. I told Madhu to buzz me over the intercom when we’re ten miles from the French border. That should be soon. There will be formalities. Rainy day but we’re making good time. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Thinking ahead about what it will be like in Northern Ireland for my stay. I was thinking to try for two Srimad-Bhagavatam visits a week before Radha-Govinda at the Inis Rath temple. And a meeting on the weekend at my place, if the water is not too rough and I don’t bet headaches. It will be a nice place to be with devotees while being alone. I’ll also have to be without Madhu when he goes to the hospital. I hope I can concentrate and not get splayed out. Read Prabhupada’s books. Take advantage of these days, these precious few.
“In and out of the tunnels, in and out of the light. O marginal jiva, why don’t you get it straight once and for all? Tamasi ma jyotir gamah. One who knows that Krsna is beginningless, the Lord of all the planets, He alone is free from sin. It’s a great sin not to know the Supreme Person. Even if you’re trying to develop yourself spiritually but you don’t know the Supreme Lord, there is still sin. I ‘know’ Krsna. But not enough. I want to write as a Krsna conscious person for other persons who are coming to Krsna consciousness. Develop that art, that religion, that way of writing. From your own self. So and so is a Catholic artist or actor. Well, I am a Krsna conscious writer. Go down in that way, known for that.”
(To Be Continued)