I received a letter from a disciple inquiring about his gradual retirement from the musical profession. Many devotees are thinking about retirement as they grow older and consider their priorities. They should at some point consider cutting down their material needs and decrease their involvement with social media in order to increase their sadhana and preaching. Householders acquire TV and dogs, often to satisfy their children. But now their children have grown up and left the home, so there’s no justification for keeping the distractions. One can keep a time-chart schedule and scrutinize how one is spending his time. I’ve done this for years and always tried to emphasize the most important things, reading, chanting, and telling others about Krsna. Now with more time spent at home, one can prepare simple prasadam like cookies and distribute them to one’s neighbors and business contacts. H.D. Thoreau said, “Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!” One can do this by eliminating prajalpa and unnecessary material activity and spending one’s time in chanting, hearing, etc.
I heard a Prabhupada lecture given in Los Angeles in 1972. I love the recordings of him given at Watseka Avenue temple. I can just visualize the hundreds of devotees listening attentively, and you can hear a pin drop. The sound reproduction on the lectures is excellent, not like some of the speeches given in India over poor sound systems. In the lecture I just heard, Prabhupada was saying we can’t render service as bhagavan-seva, worshiping Krsna directly. We have to worship bhagavata-seva, persons or the book or sacred things in connection with Krsna. He mentioned the tulasi, the spiritual master, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He quoted the verse spoken by Lord Siva to his wife Parvati in the Padma Purana, aradhanam sarvesam/visnor aradhanam param. She asked him what is the best form of worship? He replied the highest worship is worship of Visnu, visnor aradhanam. But even higher than that is tadiya, things in relation to Visnu, such as the book Bhagavatam or the pure-devotee spiritual master. He also mentioned tulasi and the holy name as tadiya. Worshiping tadiya is the most direct way that we can worship Krsna.
I heard a devotee giving a lecture on a verse from the First Canto (1.2.17) :
srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah
hrdy antah stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam
“Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.”
Messages of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are nondifferent from Him. Lord Caitanya, in His Siksastakam, says that the Lord has placed all His potencies in the holy name, but unfortunately (because we chant with offenses) we don’t have a taste for chanting these names. The open secret as to how one should chant is that one should render service to the Lord and His devotees. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting, and the Lord is so kind to us that He can be present before us in transcendental sound. The Lord reciprocates with His devotee. When He sees that the devotee is eager to hear about Him, the Lord acts within the devotee so that the devotee can easily go back to Him. Service and hearing are both required. The Lord is more anxious to get us back into His kingdom than we can desire.
One cannot go forward to meet the Lord if one is sinful. Desire for wealth and women have been stumbling blocks since time immemorial. But if one is engaged in hearing about the Lord, gradually he realizes his real position. By the grace of God, such a devotee gets sufficient strength to defend himself from the state of disturbances, and gradually all disturbing elements are eliminated from his mind.
I listened to a recording of the first half of a lecture by Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja on an important verse in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He began by describing that the author and compiler of all the Vedic literatures, Srila Vyasadeva, was feeling despondent. His spiritual master, Narada Muni, came to him at that time and diagnosed his despondency. He told Vyasa that although he had compiled volumes of Vedic knowledge, he had not specifically and sufficiently glorified Sri Krsna as the original Personality of Godhead. And this was the cause of his despondency. Vyasa took Narada’s advice and went into meditation. He saw Krsna and the material energy and the cause of suffering for the conditioned souls. He became inspired with knowledge (vijnana) and began composing his mature work, the Bhagavata Purana, which glorifies Sri Krsna as the original Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavatam, Vyasa wrote that there are many, many incarnations, but krsnas tu bhagavan svayam—Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead from whom all the avataras emanate. Krsna is mentioned as the Supreme Lord throughout the Bhagavatam, and in the Tenth Canto His life is specifically described when He descended on the earth 5,000 years ago. Krsna’s full lilas are manifest in the Tenth Canto. Some persons with a poor fund of knowledge state that the Srimad-Bhagavatam declares Lord Visnu is the Supreme Lord and Krsna is one of His incarnations. But a clear and close reading of the Bhagavatam conclusively reveals that Krsna is the source of Visnu: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.
I look forward to hearing the second half of this Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja lecture on the Bhagavatam. He is well-versed in the subject matter and makes it interesting when he talks.
What if my present situation of not being able to see the Deities because of cataract surgery were to be not a temporary situation but a permanent one? I would very much regret this curtailing of this important part of my bhajana. I would have to accept it as Krsna’s will. I think Their pujari, Krsna dasi, would be willing to keep up the standard of changing Their dress every three days. She does it as seva, not just for me but for Radha-Govinda. They are not metal statues but sat-cid-ananda vigraha, Krsna in spiritual form. I have been the main one to benefit from Their darsana, but Their pujari and the two Baladevas see Them also. It seems a little futile if I could not participate in the darsana, but I think it’s better if we keep up the high standard even without me.
And what if I couldn’t read my manuscripts? I read them to give my approval that they be published. No one but me can do this. So “what if” I didn’t gain back my normal sight and couldn’t read? I would have to ask one of the devotees to read the manuscript out loud to me, so I could pass my judgment on whether it should be published.
We had two appointments on the same day, first with Dr. Goodrich, the optometrist, who was to give me a new prescription and fit me for new eyeglasses, which can be ordered and delivered probably in a week. But we didn’t know if the eye surgeon’s office would give us permission to go see Dr. Goodrich before first seeing them. Dr. Goodrich’s appointment was in the morning, and theirs was in the afternoon. We called the cataract office, and to our relief the nurse told us that it was fine for us to first go see Dr. Goodrich and order my new eyeglasses. If they hadn’t given permission, it is possible that Dr. Goodrich would not have given us another appointment until far in the future, thus delaying the end of the whole process. Now I’m counting off the hours until I can see the Deities, which are now a blur to me, and I can read again comfortably.
We had an appointment to see the urologist, Dr. Subudhi. We told him that there were no more urgent occurrences of passing urine and no more incontinence. He told us to come back in three months to see him again, and if we had any difficulty before that to let him know by phone. Twelve hours after we left his appointment, there was an incident during the night that soaked the bedding. So much for the report that our urgency was finished! We are not going to call him back right away—we’ll see if this pattern continues, in which case we figure I have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a recurrence of the incontinence which Dr. Subudhi treated with a procedure three months ago just below the prostate.
Other than that, my lameness continues. I have to use a wheelchair when I go out for my medical appointments. I’m looking forward to getting new prescriptions for eyeglasses in a week, assuming my cataracts have been cured.
My disciple Ishana d.d. has been doing wonderful service in Russia for many years. She arranges for the translation and production of my books, and she personally distributes the books along with her husband Arjuna. They attend the big festivals, and they have sold thousands of books, each of which gets read by many different persons. She is very loyal and determined. She makes this book service the main priority of her life. She can’t afford storage, so she keeps the books in her apartment and sleeps on top of one of the piles. Now that Ishana is getting older, I have started paying for her translator every month.
Ishana engages other devotees in rendering services to the production. Her new husband is a godsend because she was no longer able to carry the books to the festivals. She does all this while speaking only a little bit of English. When the books come from the translator in Russian, Ishana is able to edit them. I have less than half a dozen disciples in Russia, but Ishana is worth hundreds. I’m grateful for her service to my books over the years. Due to her service, there are many titles available, and many devotees read them. I wish I had a few other disciples in foreign countries who could take up this service with all its austerities as Ishana has done.
We are hearing the explanation of the atmarama verse, in which the story of Mrgari the hunter is told. Narada Muni was walking in the forest when he came upon animals who were half-dead and twitching in pain. He followed the trail and came upon a hunter who was preparing to kill another animal with his bow and arrow. Narada intervened, and the animal fled away. Narada told the hunter that it would be better to kill the animals at once and not leave them half-dead, which caused them great pain. The hunter told Narada his father had taught him to wound the animals half-dead, and it gave him great pleasure.
Narada told the hunter that the animals he killed would come back in their next life and kill him. The hunter was deeply impressed by Narada’s presence. Such is the influence of a pure devotee. The hunter repented and surrendered to Narada, asking him how he could be released from the reactions of killing animals or leaving them half-dead. Narada said, “First of all, break your bow.” The hunter protested that the bow was the source of his income. But Narada instructed the hunter to give up his wealth and construct one small cottage where he should install the tulasi plant and stay there, constantly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Narada assured Mrgari that he would provide him food every day. Later Narada brought his intimate friend Parvata Muni to see his new disciple. When the ex-hunter saw his spiritual master approaching, he got up to receive him. But he could only approach slowly, because he wanted to be careful to avoid stepping on any ants that were on his path. Parvata Muni said to Narada, “You are a touchstone” because he had changed a sinful hunter to a pure devotee of the Lord.
A Godbrother sent me an email in which he remembered a statement I told him that Prabhupada made. A devotee asked Prabhupada, “How is your health?” Prabhupada replied, “The windows are broken, but there is a light on inside.” The devotee who wrote me said this statement inspired him to write a rare free-verse poem. Here it is:
“I asked how he was.
He said, smiling,
‘The windows are broken
but there is a light on inside.’
“Birth, growth, maturation,
by-products, dwindling, death.
Six changes for everyone
on the merry-go-round of samsara.
“Death is sure and certain.
Will it end in light or darkness?
As age encroaches and our windows break
Let there be a light on inside.”
As one grows older, he inevitably meets up with “dis-ease.” But a devotee meets this in a Krsna conscious way. He is not attached to his body, so he tolerates his aches and pains with detachment. He takes it as a small token reaction to his past sinful activities and goes on serving Krsna as best he can. The saintly leper Vasudeva had worms crawling out of his body. When a worm fell out, Vasudeva would replace it back into his body. Later Lord Caitanya blessed him and cured him of his disease. Prahlada Maharaja was subjected to the tortures given by his father, although he remained in remembrance of Krsna. He had to go through atrocious punishments such as being thrown off a cliff, put in boiling oil, thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes, etc.
Some devotees complain, but many devotees do not complain and go on with their service, especially chanting and hearing. By enduring his sufferings, a devotee becomes completely purified and earns the right to join with Krsna and His associates in the spiritual world.
I received a book in the mail. It was sent from New Delhi. It was posted with no notice of who sent it. It is The Veil Begins to Part: A Detailed Overview of Srimad-Bhagavatam Cantos Five and Six. By joining Srila Prabhupada’s narrative with other acaryas’ commentaries, Bhurijana Prabhu’s detailed overview provides a seamless narrative assisting the reader to grasp the text as it was originally delivered by Sukadeva Gosvami.
I like these books by Bhurijana. They give a fresh, in-depth experience of the cantos. This book I received is very long (806 pages). When I get my vision restored with new eyeglasses, I will dive into The Veil Begins to Part with anticipatory relish.
Jayanta dasa (formerly Jan Potemkin) regularly sends out pictures of his Gaura-Nitai Deities. He sends them to a long list of people. He is an ideal example of a person who is very enthusiastic and attached to his worship of home Deities. He gets new dresses for Them, and in the winter They are wearing stylish yellow and blue chadars. Presently Jayanta’s Deities are wearing beautiful yellow outfits with ornamental trim.
We also post pictures on Facebook every three days when our pujari, Krsna dasi, changes the clothes of Radha-Govinda. They have many outfits, and people comment to her that they are impressed and appreciative of the standard of worship. Prabhupada said that every householder should have Gaura-Nitai or Radha-Krsna at home. It’s a nice way to be intimate with the arca-vigraha in a personal way. Many sannyasis and mature brahmacaris keep Deities. They are especially attracted to the worship of Govardana-silas taken directly from the Hill.
Keli-lalita, across the street, was the last one in the neighborhood to take down her wreath and lights. We followed her example the same day and immediately took down our wreath and door lights. At Christmastime people tend to be more generous and kind to each other. As devotees we take advantage of this in approaching people for distributing our books. By exchanging gifts we are following one of Rupa Gosvami’s principles for exchanges of love between devotees. Getting together, holding kirtana, preparing special prasadam can all be observed at Christmastime. By our example, we are showing the Christians a way to observe Vyasa-puja, the birthday of the Spiritual Master. We have had a north Alberta spruce tree in our house decorated with lights. It was just so pretty. Now we can place her outdoors in the earth or in a pot, and she will stay alive throughout the winter, and we can take her indoors next Christmas. It is good local preaching for our neighbors to see we are celebrating Christmas and acknowledging their spiritual master. Whereas most of the population has taken Christ out of Christmas and made it a mostly commercialized occasion, we are showing that Christmas can be Krsna-ized.
“The first day at Gita-nagari was like walking in paradise. Birds were crying out strong, water rushing in the streams. I loved it and wanted to see Krsna in nature. But then, I have to love the other aspect of material nature and see Krsna there too—nature as savage, dumb, dark, and fearful. That is also Krsna, and it is beautiful, if one can see the Whole Thing.
“Now I am too busy and cannot deeply appreciate the spring. I cannot relax with the wild mustard flowers, the tiny spring beauties, the Judas tree blooming, the may-apple covering the forest floor, and clover everywhere. Few here know the names of birds or care much if you say, ‘That’s the wood thrush.’ Someone even asked, ‘Why do you write about nature?’
“How pretty everything is, my Lord. I know it is savage, but You’ve made it very pretty. Virginia bluebells, dandelions turned to puff, violets in the grass, and the wood thrush. This is all Your energy. Your personal form beyond this material world is only known to those in pure transcendence. But this world is also You, because everything is Your energy. It’s not just happening automatically.”
“Although I am very wretched and fallen, I still yearn to attain the wonderful state that even Laksmi, Siva, and all the demigods cannot attain. Because I have offended you I cannot attain even a single drop of your transcendental nectar. I do not make even the slightest attempt to renounce the objects of sense gratification, which make one forget the path of religion. I am filled with bewilderment, grief, fear, and shame. O Vrndavana please protect me.’(Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 6.3)
“How do I relate to this verse? I lack the intensity to feel myself wretched and fallen or to be filled with shame. But when he says, ‘I have offended Vrndavana,’ I think that is why I cannot attain the nectar for which I am anxious. And when he says, ‘I don’t make even the slightest effort to renounce sense gratification,’ I think, ‘What does he mean?’ Does he mean illicit sense gratification, heavy stuff like the karmis do? I have renounced all that, smoking, drinking, going out for entertainment. But if he means the regulated sense gratification which is allowable, then it is true: I make no effort to reduce it. I am attached to my bodily comfort. Then if I am guilty of aparadha and sense gratification, why don’t I admit it and feel low and ashamed? I don’t know why.
“Berating my complacency. But let me be peaceful, I say. I want to hear the flapping of the laundry in the wind, see the play of shadows as the clothesline sways in the evening sunlight. Don’t tear me away from this peaceful vision. I am here on an assignment, so why are you distracting me by telling I am so unworthy?
“If I lived here all the time, I wouldn’t try so hard. I would settle for a regular, long-term service. I would read calmly. I have other places I need to go. I have to preach in the West and guide disciples. So I am here like any Western-based devotee, soaking up the nectar. I want to go back with something to share. This is my slide show, my gift for my friends.”
“April’s cold in Ireland
but yesterday was a sunny
Halfway up the hill I followed
the muddy impressions of cows’ hooves,
and found a bit of turf to sit on.
White clouds floating.
Pasture and fences.
I spend my time reading.
The hare didn’t stop running
until he was over the hill.
The magpies kept their distance.
It was nice to look out on the sunny day,
with white daisies popping up.
If I could only quiet my mind,
and find my heart,
I’d be face to face with Lord Krsna.
But if He does not reveal Himself to me,
I want to go again through the mud,
over the fence,
and open His book.
With Prabhupada’s guidance,
He is my Lord.”
“A man intones his sastra all night. He wants the world to witness the fulfillment of his vow, so he broadcasts into the cricket-chirping, pigeon-roosting night. The distant stars are cold witnesses. Some of us complain, ‘Why is he keeping us from sleep just because he has a vow?’ But in Vrndavana, you just have to learn how to adjust. You cannot call the police and complain, ‘Some guy is broadcasting his prayers over a loudspeaker and keeping us awake.’ No policeman would think of stopping the sadhu in his ashram any more than he would consider rounding up the dogs or hogs or monkeys. Vrndavana means live and let live. All these creatures have somehow gained shelter in Radharani’s earthly Vrndavana. It is we Westerners, with our ambitious, hurried natures, who need to learn to adjust to Vrndavana’s Krsna consciousness. We have to learn to live humbly in the land where everyone is given mercy. We are not better.
“Another sadhu has begun to recite. His voice is hoarse and sometimes bawling. He is earnest. I cannot make out what he is saying, but sometimes I catch the words, ‘Radhe, Radhe,’ ‘Patita,’ ‘Kumari.’ Who am I to judge?
“There is also a line of beggars who sit just outside the wall of Krishna-Balaram Mandir. I think they do well there, and that is why they regularly line up. We on the other side of the wall are also beggars, but we have money and airline tickets in belts strapped to our chests. We beg for Srimati Radharani’s mercy, beg for faith (which even poor Vrajavasis have), and beg to live in the dust of Vrndavana.
“The bell strikes 12:30 A.M. Krsna knows—He is in my heart. Srila Prabhupada encourages me, but he also knows my plight. Srila Prabhupada is happy to say, ‘My sons are trying to improve.’ I blank out with sleepiness.”
“You are in Bhauma Vrndavana. Crickets are like stars in the night—twinkling sounds. Things seem pretty (like the play of the antelopes in Mayapur), but I know if I look closer, I will see savagery rather than tenderness in the animal king dom. But there are tender moments also. Srila Prabhupada notes in The Nectar of Devotion how even a she-tiger has affection for her cubs. I saw one monkey lying in the lap of another while the other monkey carefully and patiently removed lice with both hands.
“O Kesava, Your material nature is very strange. I don’t want to stare in fascination at it. I want to come gaze at Your lotus feet in the temple. But wherever I look, it is Your kingdom and Your potency. Please bring my attention to the best place, devotional service, to the names, pastimes, and qualities of the Supreme Lord. Bring me to Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Mandir. Let me shuffle in the dark over to the Krishna-Balaram Mandir and bow down before Your beauty. Let me see the colors and the transcendental variegatedness. Your tulasi garland is thick, and the white garland in Radharani’s hand sways slightly in the breeze. . . .
“It is only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord and His associates that we can gain entrance into Vrndavana dhama. Even to stand nibbling a banana in a nearby village is glorious in terms of the varieties of births available in the cosmos. But we want to enter in earnest. We have to be patient, I know, but we should make real endeavor too. Don’t make offenses. Stay here for a few weeks, absorb the mood of the dhama, then go back a changed person.
“I keep reminding myself that I might not be able to return here. This could be my last visit. I walk the dirt lanes with this in mind. Where is Bhagatji, Srila Prabhupada’s old friend of sakhya-rasa inclination, now? Where are so many? They have gone to join Lord Gauranga, the great dancer. We will go too, but we must work hard for that visa. It will be stamped in the passport of pure devotional service.
“Even if I lack that passport, I can continue thinking of Vrndavana. Being here helps immensely. Imbibe it. Don’t waste time. Bow down to this sacred earth. Don’t be concerned with what others think. That soft, enchanting sand is waiting to embrace me.”
“Realities of touring a holy place: pay for parking, bustle through busloads of tourists, sidestep the bars and hamburger stands. Then you go inside and see the 700-year-old (restored) frescoes by Giotto and wish that the era of Lord Caitanya was as well preserved. We couldn’t enter St. Francis’ crypt because a German group was there holding Mass. Other parts of the Basilica were also alive with Mass, confession, monks sitting alone praying, and the upper church was closed because we were there too early.
“Then we drove to the cave where St. Francis and his brothers used to meditate. The chapel of St. Mary, where the monks used to pray together, seemed authentic—small and old—but as we entered the ‘Saints’ Grotto,’ a nun was in there praying, and since it is also small, we felt like intruders and walked through quickly and out into the woods where other Franciscan brothers used to pray in caves. A sign said, ‘Zona Sacra: Silenzio Rispetto Decoro.’ M. said we could use signs like that at our ISKCON temples for guests and resident devotees. In the woods, several signs read ‘No Picnic.’ It was a sign: spiritual life is no picnic.
“It was hard to trace the original spirit here. We three were lighthearted, taking a break from our regular duties. If you came all alone and stayed awhile, then maybe. Yet a Vaisnava starts to yearn for the direct manifestations of Radha-Krsna’s sweet mercy. We come and see, are silent, respectful, properly dressed, and do not indulge in picnics, but we’re tourists after all.”
“Traffic jams occur in the town of Vrndavana. I am trying to see them in a more relaxed way from the seat of my rickshaw. Today our rickshaw driver stopped because an unmanned motor rickshaw blocked half the road. The other half of the road was blocked by a large oxcart. Workers were unloading big stone slabs from the cart. A car approached from the other direction, but he couldn’t get through either. Then from our direction came a dozen pack mules. They hesitated, afraid to go between the long-horned bullock and the parked motor rickshaw. By the time the motor rickshaw driver arrived, there was a traffic jam. Horns honked, bells rang, and the drivers were angry. All we needed to complete the scene were a few camels or elephants and maybe a motorcycle. Gradually, by moving aside, backing up, gesticulating wildly, and yelling back and forth—along with bystanders contributing their advice—the jam dissolved, and we continued on our way. Not your average bumper-to-bumper, grind-to-a-halt you meet in the West.”
“We went for a swim in a near-perfect spot on the Columbia River. No one was around, except young children at a safe distance. I had seen a dozen large carp at another spot but none where we were swimming. Three ducks quacked and moved off as we took over their beach. On a small hill there was a chunk of solid lava about twenty feet high and twenty feet across which they say oozed up from the earth millions of years ago.
“The water was cool and refreshing, but here is what I want to say: in Krsna consciousness, you don’t completely surrender at any moment unless you can directly see Krsna there. I mean, everything was beautiful in this swimming spot—even our van parked in the distance was sparkling metallic brown, waiting for us like a friend. The trees were making that ‘whishing’ sound. There was not a cloud in the sky. Everything was agreeable, but I didn’t fall for it. The setting wasn’t false—it’s Krsna’s—but my goal goes far beyond the tiny moment of exercise in a river.
“Our Krsna conscious transcendentalism alienates us from most people. Our view is extreme. They are looking for the ideal enjoyment, but I know they will never find it. The only ideal with any hope to be realized is love and direct union with the Supreme.
“While playing in the Columbia River, I also noticed white butterflies and the late summer crumpling of the leaves on the trees, and it reminded me of how I surrendered to similar surroundings while living at Gita-nagari. I am often astonished at how far I took shelter there, resting in the lap of Mother Earth.”
“Hare Krsna. In the van, driving. No book up front because I forgot to bring one. I know the books, but vaguely because I have a poor memory. I’m reading the chapter again where the three Gosvamis, Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva, are mentioned, and the ‘innumerable’ books that they wrote. I would like to get lost in the music of caitanya-lila, to wake in the morning and turn to the book and to carry that meditation into all that I do. I should try for it.
“‘I guess I don’t think I’m going to die,’ said baby-faced, chubby-cheeked Eloise, to explain why she doesn’t chant her rounds. A puerile remark, but do I also think that way? I could chant to Krsna and His Radha, pleading, ‘Please protect me. Please allow me to serve You and grant me a drop of mercy so that I may receive Nama Prabhu.’
“‘O Holy Name, the tips of Your toes are worshiped by the Upanisads. The holy name is my only shelter and treasure.’ Thus pray Rupa and Sanatana Gosyamis.
“O Holy Name, the power of illusion grabs me. Please wrap me in the sonata and serenade of kirtana-life-giving and the breath of japa utterances.”
“I pray my hesitating pen will find the right course.
“But what conviction do I have that today will be any different than yesterday? What hope that I will become that much more advanced? Partly I could tell myself, ‘Have faith in the process itself.’ We all have to have that. Then I could tell myself to apply myself more. Reading sacred texts will have a good effect. As for making huge, quantum leaps ahead, why should I expect it to be so easy? Prayer is prayer. When it is sincere, it always seems to bring us back to the beginning stage. We have to admit we are struggling to remember Krsna, that we don’t really love Krsna, and we have to beg for tears of remorse. Our goal is to one day assist Krsna’s intimate associates. We need to practice more and more.
“Pray to serve, and serve, and serve. I heard Srila Prabhupada say with conviction—and experience—in his voice, ‘The preacher is not afraid to go to heaven or hell for Krsna. He will go to hell to preach.’ The devotee-preacher will do whatever Krsna wants; he takes the holy names and distributes them to everyone he meets.
“For me, this preaching spirit should be nondifferent than my internal cultivation. They are both ultimately part of the same state. They are both part of spontaneous love. Neither preaching nor prayer is external. Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays,
“‘My offenses ceasing, taste for the Name increasing, when in my heart will Your mercy shine? . . . When kindness to all beings will be appearing, with free heart forget myself comforting, Bhaktivinoda in all humility prays, ‘Now I will set out to preach Your order sublime.’ (Saranagati, 9.1.1,8).”
October 9, 6:02 A.M.
“Oh! Let us keep afar off from us all that glitters, let us love our littleness, and be satisfied to feel nothing. Then shall we be truly poor in spirit. Jesus will come to seek us how far so ever we may be, and he will transform us into flames of love.” (Saint Therese of Lisieux)
“The struggle in littleness is a good thing—to have a poor spirit and to feel the pinch of poverty. That’s what I maintain in my writing. It doesn’t have a handsome, well-built structure or keep to a theme, follow an outline, etc. It’s not that I’m trying to write something slipshod; I just want to admit that I am poor and write from that poverty. Poverty is not despicable, and neither is the littleness of ordinary life if that life is offered to Krsna.”
“Smooth border crossing, immigration guys wore no uniforms, were unshaven, and spoke in Italian to Madhu. Agents in the other lines wore uniforms and pistols in holsters. I sat chanting, enjoying the 6 A.M. atmosphere and high hills and harbor, trees, I saw high corn growing.
That’s the outward. Inward, a contented cat, he looked at the tourists, thought what is it to be a devotee, wondered whether he could attain love of Krsna. Could he even think of that? Keep chanting.
“Ask now—what would it take for me? I seem unable to do much. Kierkegaard wanted Christians to admit their failure. That was the first big step, but they couldn’t take it; they were too complacent and wanted a religion to lull them in this unhappy world.
“I cannot do much more. What austerities would I perform? Eat less? Increase japa? Dive into ISKCON’s front ranks? None of the above? Write better?
“If I could discern the truth amid all the deception and follow that truth, I’d be a devotee according to the Lord’s desire. I know that in theory, but it seems hard. We act for our own pleasure. In ISKCON, including its outer reaches and critics, everyone discusses issues which almost divert you from the real point—your individual surrender to please Krsna. Or is it something easy to understand yet difficult to do? Something like, ‘Live in a temple and push on this movement and chant your rounds and go to Mayapur’?”
Remembering Srila Prabhupada: A Free-Verse Rendition of the Life and Teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness
“He is the origin and model
for all book distributors going out
to meet conditioned souls,
approaching them without knowing
whether they will be rude, violent, cold, or receptive.
As he was going door to door,
a homeowner shouted from his second-floor veranda,
‘Go away! We don’t want you here!’
He carried a stack of newspapers
and sometimes went to the tea stalls,
sat at the table with tea drinkers,
kindly offering them his paper.
They usually had No Time for him—
too busy paying illusion’s toll,
sipping tea, dazed by maya,
on-the-go, making a living,
unconcerned about Krishna and sadhus.
But they would look up in an off-hand way
at A.C. Bhaktivedanta, and sometimes took
a copy of his unusual tabloid,
with headlines, ‘Sufferings of Humanity.’
Prabhupada was kind to them
as Prahlad was kind to his demon schoolmates.
‘Please take to Krishna Consciousness,’ he pleaded.
Mostly they replied, No Time.
Despite long hours of refusals,
walking in the passionate Delhi thoroughfares,
pausing to catch someone in the rushing
throngs of passersby, Abhay was always feeling
brahma bhuta, spiritual happiness.
He prayed to his Guru Maharaj,
knowing he was pleasing him.
He tasted the supreme bliss.
“He was walking
and a cow gored him.
In India even in the city
cows come and go,
but this one, when she saw him,
lunged forward and put her horn in
his side, knocking him down.
‘Why is this?’ he thought.
‘I have taken to renounced life to preach,
so why this reverse has come to knock me down?’
But such things were assets,
he later said, and he understood this as Krishna’s mercy.
“Reeling in the 112 degree heat,
he tried to sell BTG
even in the oven atmosphere of midday Delhi.
A person had recently died from the heat,
but Abhay was out distributing BTGs
despite the heat. As he reeled,
a man passing by in a car noticed
and stopped and took him to a doctor.
Unremitting beyond body and intense weather,
Abhay paid it little mind, although warned.
He went on preaching.
He sent copies of Back to Godhead
to the people of the West,
with a letter: ‘You have seen so much wealth,
but peace is not within your control.’
He sent copies to the President of India:
‘Don’t think of me as a madman
when I say I shall go back to Godhead.
It is quite possible for everyone and all of us.’
“At the post office
an Arya Samajist clerk criticized,
‘What is the use of propagating Godhead?’
The copies each contained the truths of Vedic sages
and Prabhupada’s own experience from
preaching on the streets and meeting
all varieties of speculators.
One man saw the title and challenged,
‘Where is Godhead? Can you show me God?’
Next issue an article appeared with Abhay’s response:
‘Seeing God is not so cheap.’
One thousand copies a month,
eight consecutive issues by June of ’56,
all written and delivered
by his own hands.
“India was so fallen—
thousands welcomed Lord Mountbatten
at the Delhi airport,
likewise the Shah of Iran,
and Secretary of State Dulles—
honored guests to Delhi.
the Indians cheered,
not caring for their own Visnujana, Prabhupada.
Not knowing, not caring, not heeding.
In the land of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama
true religion was ignored
in favor of the flitting fireflies of Maya.
Prabhupada had come to expect it—
He went on and went out,
searching for one in a million,
and yet everyone he met
was blessed by his contact. Just a glance
or a touch of his journal could save them
from the greatest fear.
Such is the potency
of the mahabhagavata’s preaching.”
“Madhu suggested I write on the theme of darkness in society, but he added that I would probably have to be more involved in the world to do it. He mentioned Thomas Merton, who didn’t find it incompatible to be a monk and yet be involved in the anti-nuclear and civil rights movements in America. I could write about darkness. (Yes, it’s true. I live in a monk’s world. But do I want it otherwise? Is living otherwise required for a novelist? Can I know darkness from a devotee’s life? But do I want to?)
“He mentioned some examples of the world’s ‘darkness’: Hitler’s death camps, England’s enforced famine on India, the Mafia’s killing and protection racket, how America controls its interests and how people get killed when they go against them, and a personal incident for Madhu about the British agents who killed a friend of his in the IRA and how no investigation was ever held.
“He said if I didn’t want to take on social darkness, then I could still explore the darkness in my own heart. He said that I’m capable of perceiving darkness without prejudging it in others.
“The Vedas state tamasi ma jyotir gamah—‘Come out of the darkness into the light.’ ‘This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun . . . Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.’ Gaura-Nitai rise like the simultaneous appearance of the sun and moon to drive out the dense darkness within people’s hearts. Om ajnana-timirandhasya: ‘I was standing in darkness with my eyes shut, but my spiritual master has opened my eyes by the torch light of knowledge.’ ‘Krsna-surya-sama, ‘Krsna is light.’ Where there is light, there cannot be nescience.
“Devotees have already climbed out of the darkness at least to some degree. We’re already enlightened with transcendental knowledge, thanks to Srila Prabhupada. We’re no longer engaged in our lower natures and being dragged to hell.
“‘The living entity . . . sometimes . . . merges into the dark material nature and identifies himself with matter, and sometimes he identifies himself with the superior, spiritual nature. Therefore he is called the Supreme Lord’s marginal energy.’ [Bg. 8.3, purport]
“Yes, we’re enlightened as long as we stay as the servant of the servant of the Lord. That is our eternal svarupa. To recognize that is liberation. Then, having received the light by which we can see ourselves and the world, we are obliged to give it to others.
“It’s when a devotee goes to preach that he encounters darkness. It can be frightening. Some transcendentalists prefer not to confront the ignorance of the bewildered and evil-prone conditioned souls. If we take the risk to enlighten them, however, we become dearmost servants of Krsna.
“The dirtiness, the horror is material life. Vyasadeva saw it in a vision where he saw the material miseries of the living beings. He also saw their deliverance by the linking process of devotional service. Therefore, he compiled the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth. Our spiritual master wants us to distribute that knowledge in the mood of humble servants to the previous acaryas. Srila Prabhupada did this on a grand scale and I must always serve him as he desires.
“Whatever darkness there is in me is my leaning toward material desires and my failure to follow my spiritual master’s order for my own and others’ deliverance. In recent years, I have been concentrating on delivering myself. It seems logical to me that if I am convinced and strong and honest and exemplary, I’ll automatically become a good preacher. Still, one has to actually put one’s body on the preaching field and confront the darkness. Krsna will help us. ‘To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.’
“It’s all right to be afraid of the darkness of material life and to avoid Kali’s haunts—the gambling houses, the brothels, the liquor shops, the meat-serving restaurants. Prahlada Maharaja said he was afraid of the wheel of time. We may have a respectful fear of Mayadevi’s trident, but we shouldn’t be afraid to preach or afraid of the angry demon’s reaction to our preaching. March with the forces of light against the darkness. In that sense, the preacher enters the heart of darkness to save souls, and he is never affected by the darkness himself.”
Stroudsburg, PA – Queens, NY – Philadelphia, PA (May 5-13, 1996)
“Starting the day after tomorrow, I count twenty-five days until we have to (I want to) leave for England-Ireland.
“I’ve suspended my A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam for now. So that you could write a collection of Writing Sessions. Several times a day, the writing practice method. You could be serious and capture sad or lonely feelings. Some diary reportage, repartee, fly by night. Some thinking, ‘This may be used later.’ But some freedom from that.
“You could write awhile like that. Sri Krsna Caitanya. Can you last?
“Letters. M., or S.M., or whatever, wrote me that she loves the Panca-tattva. They are potent and present and not in a purusa mood, but They can conquer by Their sweetness. Sounds nice. I’d like to be conquered by love and not afraid, safe in the shelter of Nrsimhadeva. Oh, whose worshiper am I? It appears I worship my Guru Maharaja.
“I practice (worship?) at the fount of writing too.
“My beads in hand, I chant the quota with much attention focused on the counter beads and the clock. Less than ten minutes per round. Sometimes eight minutes per round. That sort of thing I watch carefully, but not the individual mantras.
“By writing here I gain access
the clichés, relieve yourself (aware of derogatory
connotation to that one). Aware of critics and censors and hamperers.
“Oh God. You don’t have to write anything special. Just go. Your collection of sessions for your approximately twenty-five days in America, going mostly to preaching places. Starting the day after tomorrow, going to New York City. Then Philly. You write here what you did.
“But is it right to abandon the PMRB? I thought everything was going to go into it.
“What’s the problem and reason why you’re stopping? Is it because you don’t like the regimentation? There are a number of reasons that keep coming up, so I thought to honor the resistance I feel. Take a break from it. When you get back into retreat mode you could take it up again. Last week in May, may be like that. May, may.
and do you read
and do you weep
and do you keep protected in
your patrons’ houses and
your spiritual master’s temples?
And does the roof of the van or
car you ride in present you
shelter? But the fumes and
toxins are coming in too.
There’s a process by which you
can increase your circulation
so that the arteries don’t harden
too soon before you die.
But more important is –
the numbered prose
and a daily shot at poems.
“Harken. We are writing anyway. Sunday afternoon in a Poconos suburb. Lawn mower sounds and kids’ voices. On Monday there won’t be so much of this. Tomorrow is the last day here. Carpet of leaves. Stories of a big black bear seen in the neighbor’s yard. Sound of a Blue Jay alarm clock. And the highway, I-80.
“Hey, hey, where are my red sweatpants and, one more time, where is the right clock to travel with?
“If you could hear more about Krsna. It’s the worth the effort to turn your thinking in that direction. I read a couple of entries in Namamrta. One said that even if you have sins, they can be removed by chanting. And provided you don’t commit new sins (yesam tvanta-gatam papam), then love of God will manifest in you just by chanting the Lord’s names. (Kirtanad eva krsnasya).
“I read it. And a light of hope is in me. To chant and to do it in prayer. You don’t have to read a certain numerical quota of pages. But stay with even one marvelous purport of His Divine Grace and pray – ‘Please, I’d like to enter the loving service in chanting.’ Srila Prabhupada says Krsna doesn’t need your offering of food. He has laksmi-sahasra, millions of Laksmis, serving Him with reverence and affection. He wants your love for deliverance from suffering.
“(You cause your suffering; it’s not caused by Him.) So, offer Him even a little water or a leaf. He wants your love and serving mood. Think – ‘Please, Lord, I am fallen but I want to serve You. Please accept this offering from me.’
“And the best offering is to chant His holy names. Know you have nothing that Krsna needs. But you need His love. Pray He accepts your chanting as service.
“May I think of You.
“All those faces I was drawing over ten days and saving them now. Seriously playing at collages. But during that time, I didn’t think much of writing. And here I am now – trying to catch up? Trying to build up, starting off a half-hour dedicated to easy writing practice.
“You be serious. Massimo wants to be an artist. He said he’ll go daily to the academy. But they will have live nudes there. I said better not to paint female nudes. Why is he so academy-oriented? Is that the way to become an artist? I guess so. You learn how to draw a likeness. Not like me. He wants to paint backdrops for the altar on canvases and be admired for it. Just another kind of labor.
“And Hare Krsna dasi asserts that it’s good therapy to smell the earth. Krsna is the original fragrance. And to pull weeds, it’s a sensual act, get close to the flowers and be there in Krsna consciousness.
“Yeah, and who else said that? I’ll tell you by and by.
What’s the sadness? Empty
No reason really.
Aware life is passing us by.
“We don’t have the guts. Neither can we reform in our own Krsna consciousness movement or in our own lives. At least then don’t deteriorate. A book that says we reach full growth around – was it fifteen years of age? Around eighteen or so it goes downhill, and the downhill starts picking up speed in old age. You die of some related breakdowns, poisoning, etc. They have a medicine you take; intravenous liquid drops over three or four hours, and you need to do it about twenty times. Chelation?
“And the acupulsar.
“He wants me to do these two the next time I come here. I’d rather not. They give you rich food, though.
“Good to leave here and not be a pet resident. Move along.
“The trees don’t move. The sparrows do. I don’t need more food today. A tea only. No food, please. Go see M. in his van (my van?) which he cannot get started until he calls some company tomorrow.
“I am recording things so that they won’t go into oblivion.
“If you chant the Hare Krsna mantra, you will escape the worst of Kali-yuga. You will go on chanting and attain the blessed state of krsna-prema.
“If I meet my Godbrother, I’ll talk with him about the possibility raised that no one in ISKCON may be qualified to initiate. Say, ‘This is scary.’ Assess our shortcomings and what to do to become more qualified. Chant more rounds. Or engage in more book distribution and harinama on the streets? People will have different prescriptions as to what is right to do.
“OK, approximately twenty-five days and during this time you are not doing your daily PMRB. You can come here and write.
head newly shaven
I’m alone in peace
apart can chant
an ‘extra’ round.
Christ will accept me in
Hare Krsna mode which is
best for me more and more
in my master’s books
whatever he has written
“See you later at the tall gate. Be there soon, son. Say your ‘Amens.’
“I wish you’d fall asleep and not dream you have to go to a karmi movie show. Not a moment needs to be wasted in that, nor pleasing, nor serving any such nondevotees.
“Old age breaks your day, arthritis, coronary, lead poisoning. Take the cure. Or don’t take it and just depend on Krsna, even if you don’t live so long. Die a natural death.
“He died. He was sixty or seventy-years old. And did enough work. He did or didn’t attain his goal. He copied, moped, watched the clock and was named a guru.
“‘These eleven are henceforth eternal rtvik gurus.’ That’s the logic JS exposed in sarcastic words. They think it’s bunk, and not for love or money would they be
rtviks, the survivors
among the eleven.
So, I guess you know
my code here.
“Get a new heart or just die a natural death, and if anyone is interested, they can print books in Hindi. The books saved a marriage from breaking up. ‘I liked them,’ said a boy in France, ‘because the hero, Nimai, has the same name as me.’
“(35 minutes, written in the Shack, first of a proposed month-balance of Writing Sessions, while a bird is whistling bird, bird, bird. Sunday. God help us. May 5, 1996.)”
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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A narrative poem. challenging and profound, about the journey of an itinerant monk who pursues new means of self-expression.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.