Yesterday I picked up my new eyeglasses from the optometrist. The two young ladies who gave them to me applauded and cheered as they put them on me. It had been seven and a half weeks since I was without my normal-vision glasses. Baladeva said I was the only one who was detached from the happy moment, unlike the eyeglass girls. He said I was like the exemplary person in Bhagavad-gita who doesn’t celebrate when there is gain and doesn’t lament when there is loss. I was able to read letters in diminishing size from a small card, all the way down to the bottom line, where they were incredibly small. This indicated that I had 20-20 vision.
Today I was able to see Radha-Kalachandji very clearly during my sixteen rounds of japa. I am also able to see Radha-Govinda in darsana. So everything is back to normal after a long hiatus. Now I can read books and manuscripts without having to resort to reading glasses, which were inferior. This is the biggest gain.
Jayadvaita Maharaja sent me an email in which he said he was not good at scheduling his time. He asked me to send him my schedule. Here it is:
On Inauguration Day, a girl recited her poem with hope that the nation will “climb the hill” of strife and obstacles and emerge victorious. One stanza of hers mirrors our situation:
“The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it.”
Prabhupada said our love for him
would be tested by how
we cooperated to preserve the institution.
We are at the beginning of the Golden Age
which Lord Caitanya predicted
would be auspicious for Krsna consciousness
for the next 10,000 years.
ISKCON has seen its troubles and obstacles from outside,
but at 60 years old it is flourishing
gaining many new members
in countries and cultures all over the globe.
Millions are chanting
the Hare Krsna mantra
which is the panacea against all sinful acts.
Let us climb the hill together
against all calamities and differences.
and see the day when God is pleased with us
and shows His full mercy to all the fallen
and realize the Golden Age.
The translator of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu writes that it was written for the members of the Krsna consciousness movement. It is the lawbook for the behavior of the devotees. It tells us what to do and what not to do: one should not speak harshly in front of the Deity; one should not speak blasphemy against the Lord or His devotees. For anyone who follows these rules and regulations of decorating the body with tilaka and offered garlands, there is no question of being conquered by the spell of material energy. In the Dvaraka-mahatmya, Narada asserts that for any person who claps and dances before the Deities, all the birds of sinful activities fly away upwards. “My dear King, this word ‘Krsna’ is so auspicious that anyone who chants His holy name immediately gets rid of the resultant actions of sinful activities from many, many births.” (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter Nine: “Further Consideration of Devotional Principles”) There are many chapters of what to do and what to avoid in practicing Krsna consciousness.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing the transcendental qualities of Krsna. Great demigods like Lord Brahma and Siva possess many of these qualities to a lesser degree. Krsna’s Visnu expansion as Lord Narayana possesses even more qualities than the demigods, but there are four qualities which only Krsna possesses: 1) He is the performer of wonderful activities; 2) Krsna is surrounded by loving devotees; 3) Krsna’s attractive flute; 4) Krsna’s exquisite beauty.
I received an email from a devotee who’s a lawyer and just received some disturbing news. Trump managed to pass some last-minute legislation which very much hurt this devotee-lawyer’s immigration clients. He hopes that President Biden will change the legislation. In the early morning, he drove in his car to pick up his daughter at the airport. He suddenly hit a deer and instantly killed it. His car was wrecked. This put him in a further bad mood, but his daughter wasn’t sympathetic. She seemed to want to get away from him. But he was inspired by something he read in my writing. I told how the gopis were so distressed when they went to Krsna but He was indifferent to them. Seeing how deep and strong their love for Krsna was, this devotee felt solace and thanked me for writing it.
What does a devotee do with the inevitable “bad hair” days that come in the material world? He has to go inward and find his faith in guru and Krsna and seek relief in the Lord’s protection. He or she should not be shaken by material upheavals but stay fixed in Krsna consciousness. In the material world there is danger at every step, but one who has surrendered to Murari (Krsna) is not affected by the dangers. The calamities that come are shrunk up for a pure devotee so that they are no more than the impression of a calf’s hoof in the mud. He can cross the calamities easily by the strength of guru and Gauranga.
Baladeva has wrecked his back manually shoveling snow in the last two snowstorms. We are the only people in the neighborhood who don’t have a snowblower. It used to be that teenagers and kids would shovel your place for a fee. We all did that when we were younger. But now, apparently, the kids get an allowance that is big enough for them to stay at home and work the computer. I feel sorry for Baladeva, who is now seventy years old and cannot take it any more. He’s going through physical therapy, but that’s not an instant cure. So I volunteered to buy him a snowblower as a birthday gift, although his birthday isn’t until November 1st. Immediately he’s going shopping to find out if we can afford a snowblower. Baladeva joked that if we buy a snowblower, there won’t be any more snowstorms this winter. But I’m convinced there will be more snow, and so we definitely need the snowblower. Bala from Trinidad is in a similar condition. He had a very serious operation where his bladder was removed. This limits his mobility to lift. So he does a little light shoveling, but that’s all he can do. Someone donated a snowblower to Bala, but it is made of all plastic and is battery operated. It is underpowered to do the job we need in upstate New York. I just hope that Baladeva can find a hard-working snowblower and that we can afford the price.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana went with Amit to collect water at the Chatham spring. Baladeva had a sudden realization that he was incapable of doing the heavy work of lifting the water bottles and walking the incline to the car. This was due to his sciatica condition, which came after shoveling two big snowstorms. It was the first time he considered that he couldn’t do what he wanted to do with his body. This was the stark reality of approaching old age. It is maya to think that this will not happen to a conditioned soul. Birth, death, disease and old age are the inevitable miseries of material life. Baladeva may be disappointed if his sciatica does not go away by practicing physical therapy. We will then have to give up the luxury of fetching first-class clear water for tulasi. We may be able to come up with some alternative plans to get the water, but right now it’s a dilemma.
As a member of the Library Party going to the universities with Prabhupada’s books, I found that most of the professors admired Prabhupada’s presentation. They liked the Devanagari alphabets, the English translation, the word-to-word synonyms and even the profuse illustrations. But did they read all the purports? If they did they would have seen Prabhupada smashing material civilization and mundane scholarship of the Vedas. Yet few of them complained about his point of view. They took it that he was writing in Vaisnava parampara, being true to the acaryas and the literal meanings of the verses. Few complained. They accepted Prabhupada as a scholar of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and thought he was bona fide.
In the very beginning the ISKCON Tape Ministry produced cassette tapes of Prabhupada’s lectures and bhajanas. You would hear them playing on cassette tape players wherever you went in the ashram. It was a happy, shared experience. The tape recordings were somewhat fragile, bulky, and difficult to travel with. With the evolution of technology, Prabhupada’s lectures came out on CDs. This enabled devotees to collect all of Prabhupada’s lectures on just a very few CDs. It was now possible to get much more recordings in a small space. With the introduction of new ISKCON gurus, Prabhupada’s lectures were no longer exclusively presented. In some places you didn’t hear Prabhupada at all. Instead, senior disciples of Prabhupada produced lectures of seminars or retreats focused on japa or some other practice of bhakti. Some devotees mainly hear Prabhupada’s lectures and think this is the chaste way to hear. In some places, hearing Prabhupada was a public affair with different lectures being broadcast, even in different stations of the temple. This became gradually changed to individuals privately hearing Prabhupada in earphones or having everyone listen to him maybe once a week as a special class.
The weather is the all-pervasive social interaction among all human beings. The only thing that’s talked more about is by dog owners who are walking their pets and stop together when the pets pass stool and sniff each other. Then a few friendly words are exchanged, but that’s only for people with dogs. The dog conversation is terminated at the behest of the animal. When the animal wants to move on, the conversation is ended. But weather-talk is for everyone. People ask each other, “How much snow will fall?”, “How cold is it supposed to be tomorrow?”, “Last year at this time it was much warmer/colder.” Even with the facility of high-tech weather tracking, the weather will always remain unpredictable, and therefore not a serious issue except for the farmers and travelers. Other than that, the weather is just a disturbance in the air. The poet Shelley wrote, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” But predicting weather becomes the ground for many useless conversations which have nothing to do with the soul or Krsna. Oh, how the world would change if the main conversation was krsna-katha and not the latest weather!
Saci Suta and his wife Keli-lalita went walking on top of frozen ponds where they used to go swimming in the summer. They thought it was great. Krsna dasi heard about it and said she wanted to go too, and Lalita Kaisori said she’d take her. Other people were out on the lake in snowmobiles. The thrill and excitement of it is that you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation, and for a devotee that means you think more of Krsna. You may even think, “Why have I put myself in this risky situation? The material world is dangerous enough.” Our Hindu friend Amit walked on the pond, and when he made his daily phone call to his mother in India and told her, she was very upset. She had no concept of how snowy ice could become so thick that you could walk upon it.
“‘Be yourself. Ask for what you want. Don’t let my opinions sway you or pressure you into thinking you should be something I want you to be.’ Someone said that to me yesterday. What is it I would like to be that’s being denied me? I want to be a devotee enriched with bhakti. No one is standing in my way except myself and the whole world which is engineered to keep souls in bondage. In prison, if someone asks, ‘Who’s preventing you from being your blissful self?’ it comes off as a bad joke.
“I want to make a quantum leap. That means letting Krsna take over. If I could just stop being concerned with performance, with my bodily inconveniences, with what is being said in the room—I beg to rise to the occasion of a Krsna conscious life.
“At the time of death, humility and honesty can save us. We have been dedicated to our spiritual master’s mission and we may have been modest about that. But then the wave of truth: we have not attained devotion to Krsna and guru. We will be fortunate if such a thought should occur to us. Then we can regret our fallen condition and beg for forgiveness and mercy. We can beg to again try to serve the devotees.
“Honesty is important because Krsna sees through all poses. He knows what we want, and He awards us accordingly. We beg Him not to award us on that basis. We beg Him to disregard our desires for sense gratification and liberation. We beg Him to honor what little bhakti we have attained. We beg Him to increase that small store of devotion.
“Who needs a theme other than impending death?
“‘Again offering obeisances unto all you brahmanas, I pray that if I should again take my birth in the material world I will have complete attachment to the unlimited Lord Krsna, association with His devotees and friendly relations with all living beings (Bhag. 1.19.16).
“Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘Maharaja Pariksit was certainly going back to Godhead, but even if he were not to go back, he prayed for a pattern of life which is the most perfect way in the material world. A pure devotee does not desire the company of a personality as great as Brahma, but he prefers the association of a petty living being, provided he is a devotee of the Lord.’ (Bhag. 1.19.16, purport)
“As for japa . . . By walking the ground in Vrndavana while chanting, maybe something will stick. You will have the tendency to romanticize it when you think back. You may recall only some good details—imagining yourself alone at any hour in the bhajana-kutir by candlelight. It will help sustain you in less ideal situations. You may tend to forget how inattentive you were, how concerned you were with the body. I don’t say it’s good to create a rosy picture of Vrndavana memories, but whatever you can do honestly, now and later, is worth the endeavor. You have no choice but to chant and go to the temple, even if you can’t attract Krsna by your activities. Then add the plea to it.
“O Gopinatha, I have fallen into the deep rut of mechanical ‘bhakti’ performances. My faultfinding mind gives me no rest. I hold on to my false ego as if it were my most precious possession. How will You extricate me from this position? I beg You to give me special mercy, for then I will be able to tell the devotees how nice Krsna consciousness is and what we all have to look forward to. I will remain humble. It’s up to You.”
“Bhurijana Prabhu is flying off to America today. We spent some good time together in nice exchanges between friends. We spoke of old days in Krsna consciousness. He quoted an early Bob Dylan song about old friends gathering: ‘Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat/ I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.’
“Before I leave, I want to meet with disciples here at least briefly. I would like to ask Gopi-manjari dasi how the college preaching is going and express my admiration of her service quality and the inconveniences she tolerates in doing management work. I would like to commiserate with Syama dasi’s back pain and anxieties, and speak to Nitai Sacinandana dasa, a humble brahmacari. There’s no time left though, but maybe I can squeeze in at least a few minutes. It will mean a lot to me and maybe to them also.
“ . . . I’m also feeling a growing attachment, in a nice way, to the affectionate exchanges between me and my disciples.
“Vani is fine, even best, but we also want to see each other. Both are required. Give it while I can.
“I hope to rid myself of pride and especially faultfinding. Give credit to super-managers and bold, frontline preachers, even though I am not one. Assert your own preaching place in the movement. With fear and trembling, present your offering at guru’s feet, your little piece placed into the mosaic. I think Bhurijana Prabhu understood me. I admire his deep study and analysis of the Bhagavatam, although I can’t do that myself. Just hearing how he reads each Canto three times—first the verses ‘for the story line,’ then making notes and an overview, then again to tie it all together—made me want to go back to Cc. and read only the verses and then later the verses with purports. I think I’ll try it from the beginning of Madhya-lila.”
“In the autumn of 1996, while finishing one timed book and trying to decide on the form of the next, it occurred to me that everything I write is part of one big book. Although it is good for a writer to think in different genres, it can also be right to admit that he is essentially writing the same book each time he sets pen to paper. That is, a writer is writing his life. While he may express it in one genre or another, it is still his life that he is expressing. In my case, it is as Kerouac stated: ‘Uninterrupted and unrevised full confessions about what actually happened in life.’
“When this thought occurred to me about my own writing, I was traveling from Italy to Ireland. By the time I arrived, I had decided to begin a project without end. I would call it Every Day, Just Write, and title each segment thematically.
“Although each volume of Every Day, Just Write was composed individually, due to economic concerns, Gita-nagari Press has chosen to bind the first three volumes, and in future books, a subsequent two or three volumes, together. The very first title in the series, Welcome Home to the One Big Book of Your Life, seems particularly right to me. I welcome readers who would like to join me on an open-ended journey. The direction is to Krsna, whom the Vedas accept as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I cannot guarantee when I’ll ‘arrive’ (back home, back to Godhead). But by the grace of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, I know I won’t give up.”
“First thing I did on rising was to read Caitanya-caritamrta. As I began, however, other thoughts crept into my mind—notes I might write to Madhu or letters to others, editing and publishing topics, dreams. But I stayed with the book for twenty minutes and read about the cleansing of the Gundica temple. That section contains the long purport about cleansing the heart of anarthas before Krsna will be pleased to sit there and reveal Himself.
“‘Krsna Himself will cleanse the heart because he is already seated there. Krsna wants to continue living within the heart, and the Lord wants to give directions, but one has to keep his heart as clean as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu kept the Gundica temple.’ (Cc. Madhya 12.135, purport)
“Some of the faults listed are those committed by outright materialists, but some are committed by neophyte devotees. Srila Prabhupada says,
‘‘Jiva himsa (envy of other living entities) actually means to stop the preaching of Krsna consciousness . . . If one stops preaching and simply sits down in a solitary place, he is engaging in material activity.’
“‘With this in mind I think I ought to persist in trying to travel this year. I should go to the Caribbean and to America, then back to Europe. It may provoke headaches, but I get them regardless. We can only take as much caution as possible, be careful not to push beyond my limits, and hope the devotees will understand that I can only preach when I don’t have a headache. My condition seems to be benign. That is, although I’m fragile, I don’t have a life-threatening disease. When I stay in one place, I can write. The more alone I can be at those times, allowing outer activities to calm themselves, the easier it is for me to turn within and to face anarthas, and to sometimes churn out a literary gem.”
“This afternoon I was looking out my window and I saw a truck go by across the ISKCON property. Two young men were sitting in the front seat chewing thick sticks of sugarcane, and the back of the truck was stacked high with it. I was gazing out at them, not feeling anything particular, but then the dome of the Prabhupada Samadhi caught my eye and I suddenly tuned in to the sound of Prabhupada’s bhajana playing over the loudspeaker. I was jolted into remembering that I was in the sacred land of Mayapur. I tried to go deeper, but felt stuck, so I thought of turning to free-writing to draw it out of myself. I also wanted to chant. I want to learn to trust myself to turn to Krsna, to pray. I want to pray.
“A storm! First flashes of lightning, then rain, thunder, and the lights go out. Mayapur in the rain makes me want to be a devotee. Service to Prabhupada is my life and the fulfillment of my self-interest. Serving Prabhupada includes serving his followers. Many important prayers make this point as devotees humbly but fervently desire service to the Vaisnavas life after life. As Maharaja Pariksit said, if I have to be born again, let me have staunch faith in Lord Krsna, love for His devotees, and compassion for all living entities.”
“Wrestled with Bg. 3.17 to get a handle on it for the lecture tonight. When I first looked at it, it seemed academic or technical, about atma-ratih (one who doesn’t have to perform the rituals of yajna). I wondered what it had to do with me. Then I found a copy of Prabhupada’s verbatim Bhagavad-gita lectures and scanned through the one he gave in 1966 and another in 1968 touching on this same verse. He gave the example of Sukadeva Gosvami as atma-ratih. He walked naked, he spoke the verse that you can lie on the ground and don’t need a bed, live in a cave and don’t need a house, etc.
“How does this apply to the devotees in this elegant Zurich building and to their spirit of book distribution?
“I struggle to speak and feel resistance. I flail and grope. Then slowly the parts begin to come together and I come up with something to say. I make a second draft of an outline and it becomes even clearer. Then I hit on an idea that I could use the four rules and sixteen rounds as an example of yajna given by Prabhupada. Follow this and you’ll be beyond the duty of those who look for sense gratification. Then the idea flashes to me of what I saw here in the Prabhupada museum—the murti holds in his hand the ‘Notice’ Prabhupada wrote in November 1966 telling what the devotees should do. If I read this notice point by point, I can say that this is our practical life. We cannot imitate the atma-ratih practiced by Sukadeva, Sanatana, and Haridasa, but we can follow this. The perfection of atma-ratih is to work in the sankirtana movement, yukta-vairagya.
“Okay, so I wrestled the lecture into shape. Now the morning has gone. Go worship Prabhupada murti. After lunch and rest, prepare for tomorrow’s Bhagavatam lecture. Maybe tomorrow night instead of another technical Gita verse on the same subject of how the devotee does his work even though not obliged, I can speak about Prabhupada. But that also will have to be drafted into shape. They would like to hear nectar, I’m sure.
“Gaura-lila dasa introduced me this morning before the class and said I’ve been a devotee for thirty years and that I am able to give unending nectar about Srila Prabhupada. Twice he said that I would speak about Prabhupada, so let me think of how to do that.”
“I wake up humming, “It would take, I know/ a Michelangelo . . .” and feel my head clearing after an all-night headache. Got one dream recorded, but refused to record the second one, now gone forever unless the unconscious wants to send it again. What messages?
“Told M. last night that I doubt there’s something wrong with me. He met a man yesterday who asked, ‘How is your Guru Maharaja? Does he still get headaches?’ They speak as if I’m supposed to get rid of something bad and become a better person. I live with my conditions and limits at this point.
“Now is my chance to read Srila Prabhupada’s books. What about Bhagavad-gita? You have clear consciousness, it’s quiet, and the predominate sound is the heavy surf washing and thudding for miles along the dark beach. This time is yours, and the free will to move in Krsna’s direction with faith.
“National forests are dear to the ecologists and naturalists. Their work to protect the species is praiseworthy, but usually they do not recognize that everything belongs to God. For example, in his poems, Gary Snyder criticizes the loggers for harvesting trees without caring for their replacement (‘How many people were harvested in Vietnam?’), and he condemns politicians who don’t recognize the constituency of the animals and trees. This is certainly an expanded awareness, but more thoughtfulness is required. Where do all these living entities come from? Whose nature is this? Who is the supreme intelligent being from whom everything has come? Who continues to empower the species so that they multiply? What are His intentions for the wilderness, and what is His conception of human civilization? For this information we have to turn to knowledge beyond that of the animals and the primitive races and beyond the speculations of thoughtful poets. Naturalism is poor and dumb until the Supreme Being informs us of His nature, as He does in sastra.
“After awhile I began to recognize the redwoods, the little vegetation around them—some scrubby pines, rough barks and cones full of seeds, but huge! By comparison, the nearby birch groves looked like matchsticks. Douglas firs are also big. The redwoods are so large that only a few fill up a big space of land; competition for room is tight in the forest. Some trunks looked ten or twelve feet wide. Gray, shaggy, vertically grooved barks, like big muscles and ligaments, with moss on their sides. They grow straight up. In India, people would probably worship trees like these and place vermilion at their trunks, or sprinkle milk and circumambulate them with prayers.”
“You have to become more humble. You say you want to improve chanting? Then the most essential element is trnad api sunicena. For example, guruship is a great responsibility. You cannot goof off and be silly with hundreds of people expecting you to guide them in the most important way. There are many ways to be a silly ass; you have to strive to avoid them.
“But humility doesn’t mean being focused on yourself as grave, as guru. You have to be able to laugh (or cry) at yourself. Humility includes being a well-loved servant of the devotees. It means not indulging in sensual or mental gratification. It means not living only for yourself.
“Think of what it means to be humble. If you have no idea and no practice, then how can you chant the holy name? How can you read in that mood?”
cintamani-prakara-sadmasu . . . .
“Aravinda, Krsna. Here I am, speaking presumptuously. When you hear other people speak, you see their limits and you judge. That probably makes it harder to speak yourself, to make it on your own hot air.
“It’s Valentine’s Day today. Another money-making day in the material world. Those paper cut-out hearts, all those people turning to other people and telling them of their undying love. Of course, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about cupidity, lust and sex and romance, but nowadays, they’ve spread out the concept so widely that you send Valentines to your mother or brother or to people you barely know. You’re supposed to express love wherever you can.
“Romance originates in adi-rasa. Krsna has romantic feelings, just as He has bellicose feelings, feelings of wanting to be parented, boyish feelings, and chivalry. Therefore, He expands His hladini-sakti as Srimati Radharani. In effect, He becomes two and enjoys conjugal pastimes. He doesn’t do this out of lust or a sense of incompleteness as we try to do it in the material world, but out of abundant desire. The Absolute is not a dead stone. He is also supremely powerful because when He experiences desire, He immediately fulfills it by His own potency.
“He plays with all-attractive Srimati Radharani, who attracts even the all-attractive Krsna, Madana-mohana-mohani. She’s the attractor of Madana-mohana. He attracts everyone, even Cupid, but She attracts Him. ‘That is out of love,’ Srila Prabhupada says.
“Out of the fullness of love, Krsna agrees to be conquered by Srimati Radharani, who is nondifferent from Himself the way a flower and its aroma are nondifferent. Srimati Radharani also expands Herself into many gopis, and Krsna enjoys with each of them. The details of Their ‘lusty affairs,’ as they are sometimes called, Their prema, is told in many scriptures. Those details are really meant for the liberated souls, those who have no taint of material lust. I am not one of them.
“There are persons who may actually be competent to guide other competent persons into relishing the many details of the conjugal rasa, as appreciated so much by Rupa Gosvami, Raghunatha Gosvami, and others; our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, rightly thought that we were not so liberated, so free of sex desire that we could hear these details and not have our mundane sex desire aroused. Hare Krsna.
“Still, it’s Valentine’s Day, so I will acknowledge that Krsna and Radha are the ideal Couple to exchange that mellow, and that at some distant time, in some distant birth, I hope to assist Them in Vrndavana.”
“The second offense in chanting is to consider the names of the demigods like Lord Brahma or Lord Siva to be equal to or independent of the holy name of Lord Visnu. In one sense, this seems like an offense that is relevant only to Hindus and not to me, but there are other ways to consider this offense. For example, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Mayavada thought is offensive under the second offense in chanting. If we think that ultimately the Absolute Truth is formless and that Krsna’s pastimes are just illusion, then we are offensive. Any consideration that the Name is different than Krsna is namaparadha.
“Therefore, just to fail to come to the realization and appreciation of the holy name as Krsna Himself (nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah) means we commit offense. If in the presence of Krsna’s most merciful form, we don’t pay attention, don’t worship, don’t fall down on our knees, don’t cry, it means we don’t love Him. We insult Him. Yesterday I thought that offense to sadhus was obviously my biggest obstacle and that this offense of not appreciating the uniqueness of Krsna’s name doesn’t apply to me, but actually, neglecting the holy name is equally bad. The second offense is not a minor offense.
“Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the truth, and no other form of God is equal to Krsna. The second offense actually means that we should accept the names of the visnu-tattva as holy, but never think of the demigods or any person as equal to visnu-tattva. When I study it further, however, we have to conclude that among visnu-tattva, the name of Krsna is supreme, the names of Vrndavana Krsna. I shouldn’t be attached to any other names but the names of Krsna in Vrndavana. Therefore, my vagueness when I chant is also a failure. Where is my specific attraction to Vrndavana Krsna?
“To think of Krsna in Vrndavana, I have to read about His pastimes there. Unfortunately, nothing is quickened, nothing is awakened. I don’t have the emotions of a young man seeing the woman he is in love with. But it has to come to that—some awareness, some appreciation of the power of the Name. If we don’t have that awareness leading to love, then we are committing the second offense. It means that we think Krsna is different than His name.
“We may not create this duality out of some intellectual impersonalism, but inadvertently we live in that duality. Our offense is not one of picking the wrong doctrine or of being misled, but by our misfortune, we live in this duality. We live in the consciousness that we are the body and that our bodily affairs are very important. Therefore, fear, hunger, thirst, fatigue, lust, envy—these affect us so much that they cover our consciousness. The holy name doesn’t appear to change that much in us. This can only mean that Krsna is not appearing fully in our chanting. He is not responding to our calls; something about our chanting doesn’t move Him, doesn’t attract Him. Thus we live in this duality. Therefore, when Krsna says naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya samavrtah—when He says that He puts a curtain between Himself and foolish people, doesn’t this include us too?
“Regarding the second offense in chanting, Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes,
“The only remedy is to repent intensely and meditate on Lord Visnu, Krsna, for by His remembrance offenses are dissolved. Thereafter, one must meticulously avoid committing the same offense again. . . . Remembering the Lord’s name is the same as meditating upon His lotus feet. The holy name can disperse all previous offenses, for it acts as the devotee’s best friend.’ (HNC, p. 46)”
“You come out of your mother connected by the navel. Birthday candles. When you go to school, if the kids find out it’s your birthday, they slap your behind hard. Seven years old, give me gifts. I’m eight years old. Give me, give me. Greedy kid. King for the day. He wants the right gift.
“Birth? Not again! Suffering in the airtight bag for nine months. No one is free no matter who his mother is. Don’t come back.
“The real birthday is the janma of Krsna or Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati or Srila Prabhupada. Birthdays of saints are lila.
“I’m fifty-seven this year, Bill Clinton is fifty, and next year I’ll be fifty-eight. How many more? One of them will be my death-day.
“December 1939, I came out with the navel, Mom, dead Dad. Birthday cake on my face.
“Give me money. It’s my birthday. Give me records, give me toys, give me plastic soldiers, cowboys and Indians on horses, give me records and toy guns.”
“I want to state my gratitude to Lord Krsna for allowing me to speak on His behalf in the Bhagavatam class. This morning I spoke on Prahlada Maharaja’s prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva. I said that we have to hear his statements with real sraddha, not official sraddha. Then I gave a straight parampara version about the meaning of bhakta-vatsala. During the question and answer period, my headache increased and I took a pill while sitting on the vyasasana. The pills are friendly in that sense, but it’s deceptive. It would be better to not give lectures, I suppose, than to take pills. Anyway, I’m going to try to adjust this in the coming weeks.
“After the lecture I rushed off to bed and put a wet rag on my head. Madhu closed the shutters to darken the room. After an hour, the headache went down, but it left me feeling dispirited. I spoke with Madhu and hinted that maybe I wouldn’t give the Sunday feast lecture, but he thought it best I do. Partly, I wasn’t inclined to speak because I couldn’t think of a good topic.
“Then Krsna gave me an idea. I’ll start with Prabhupada’s statement that the Bhagavad-gita has everything that is in other scriptures, but it also contains things that are not in other scriptures. I’ll give as an example the dehino’ smin verse and verses that point specifically to Krsna worship. As devotees, we should feel allegiance for the specifics of our own path. For example, patram puspam phalam toyam—the offering of food—is unique to our movement. Then I’ll choose another verse about thinking of Krsna at the time of death, and I’ll link it to the harer-nama verse. By citing harer-nama, I’ll say that we also go beyond the Bhagavad-gita to learn from Lord Caitanya how to chant Hare Krsna.”
“‘To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.’ —Bhagavad-gita 10.10
“I used to try by different methods to give up my attachment to sinful activity. But after a few weeks the cravings would develop again, and I had no moral uprightness to combat them. I was all alone against the forces of illusion. No one had taught me to call out to God. And so eventually I would weaken and take the ferry to Manhattan, for folly. I remember just before I actually met Srila Prabhupada for the first time, I again tried to resist sinful activities. I made a personal resolution not to engage in bad habits, and as a ‘promise’ or signal of my purpose, I placed a record album in a prominent place, on a moulding which was high on the wall of my apartment. It was a record album with a picture of the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Whenever I would glance at it while coming or going, it would signal to me the strength of my resolve not to indulge in nonsense. I had done this before, inventing tricks and mental aids. But as the saying goes, ‘The strongest vows are straws to the fire in the blood.’ I knew my gimmick with the Miles Davis album would not last long, especially when I weakened again, once more alone and aware of the futility of life.
“But this time my promise was to triumph. It was not due to the picture of Miles Davis, or to his abilities in jazz improvisation, or to my determination. Neither was it due to whatever strength I had gained from my mother and father. What happened was, within a few days after that attempt to reform, I wandered into 26 Second Avenue and met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. By his grace I was able to take up the practice of chanting from the first night, and as I heard Prabhupada’s lectures and joined in the kirtanas, I left behind the life of illicit activities.
“I do not wish to recall now the details of the slum in which I was living on Suffolk Street. Suffice to say that it was so bad that the landlord was not even attempting to collect rent from the tenants. And friends who visited me complained that if I lived in such a dive, how could I expect them to come and see me? But that was the place in which I was living when I met His Divine Grace, who immediately rid me of the worst dirtiness of the heart. Within about a month of our first meeting, I left that place and also left behind my possessions, including the record album placed in the corner of the room. It was obvious to me that I wouldn’t need that good luck charm to sustain my resistance to vice. I had found new strength, and it was obvious to me that it was not a strength of my own doing. I did not even have to exert any effort. I had simply ceased to desire sinful activities. What I could not do on my own, Krsna and His pure devotee had done; they had released me.”
“Going into the world is only for Krsna’s purpose. The point is to remember Krsna and serve Him wherever we are.
“But sometimes I ‘look within’ and it’s empty or just full of old, secondhand ideas. That’s why I say what I perceive with my senses. Finally I surrender (again and again) and open the sastra and recite. Krsna appears in hari-katha, in the words of His devotees. He is actually in His own place doing things His way with His dearmost devotees. This place where we jivas live isn’t everything! We can do a lot better than staying here and trying to remember and serve Him from such a distance. He has His abode.
“He is here too, through His external energy. The souls in the material world are unconscious. They don’t want to be with Krsna because they are mad. A few want to reform, but we are stuck in our attachments to the body and the false ego.
“Therefore, the best Krsna conscious message comes from Krsnaloka. That is the definition of sastra. The message also gets through when the dhama (Lord’s residence) appears in the heart of the pure devotee. Then we can see a living example of one who is apparently living in the world, but who is steeped in Krsna’s pastimes.
“Srila Prabhupada sometimes said the Lord’s pastimes are ‘televised’ into the hearts of devotees. Krsna and His lila appear in Rupa Gosvami’s heart, and he writes down what he sees. Then the mahabhagavatas write commentaries on the sastras to create a smrti, a supplementary sastra to educate people who want to know God.
“So where does that leave me? Praying at the feet of those great Vaisnavas, tolerating flies on the bench, writing until I get too disturbed. No, it is not a first-class literature, and yet it is within the fire of Krsna consciousness. It is in the shelter of my Gurudeva. It’s what I must do.”
“Yesterday afternoon as I looked out from the porch into a small compound of trees and old buildings, it seemed as wild as a jungle. I saw and heard peacocks, parrots and monkeys, hogs and dogs. Undisturbed wildlife living alongside the humans. In Vrndavana, it’s live and let live.
“Talking with Godbrothers, looking out the window—the temple domes.
“Who Touched Krsna’s Foot In The Forest Of Govardhana?
“It was me and my brothers,
crawling into the underbrush on our knees.
A large reddish stone,
in the shape of a human foot.*
In its center
was a hole filled with water,
which I sprinkled on my head.
Almost no one knows this place.
There are no signs, or temples there,
no rickshaw wallas know the way.
We sat in the woods and sang
*This footprint of Krsna has now been ‘discovered,’ and you can’t touch it unless you pay a fee.
Stroudsburg, PA – Queens, NY – Philadelphia, PA (May 5-13, 1996)
“Read Bhagavad-gita and prayed to be able to enter the meanings. Thought, “Should I read TLC instead?” But this is good, Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It’s personal, Krishna Himself instructing.
“That makes it special. And Prabhupada makes it more personal, explaining that you should chant the Hare Krishna mantra and achieve Krishna in Goloka as described in the eighth chapter verses and purports.
“O Lord, let this pen run smooth and speak what I have to speak. Krishna Krishna
“There is no teaching like this. Lately I am not attracted to read Christian descriptions. God seems so far away to them. He’s never Krishna as taught by Lord Caitanya. So, I should not be afraid or feel guilty to study God consciousness without the Bible or Christ-centric teachers. May they be peaceful and devout to their istha-devata, Jesus Christ. May he be pleased with me.
“Neither could I accept worship of the Deity of Lord Nrsimha as proposed to me the day before yesterday. I worship my guru and the Panca-tattva in Their picture and the picture of Radha-Krishna. All glories.
“You are writing for solace against loneliness, isolation, fears, passing moods.
“You felt some anger or resentment when he gave you the wrong pill out of his desire to
save money. But don’t cause anyone pain. Don’t bring up objections. What am I doing? Trying to spare myself pain. Trying to be cured.
“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna. There’s no way.
“Let words come, a List:
“Filing cabinets, drawers, jokes, a disciple who turns to Christ and away from Krsna, someone says someone else threatened him with a gun, waiting for another fax, for this day to come to its end. The fact that time flows and can’t be stopped, not this day or hour is symbolic and factual evidence that we will all die. But the Gita teaches us that the soul will live on.
“Scientists say no. ‘After death, Swamiji, there is no more life.’ And he was a big professor, Kotovski.
“Don’t care for them. Accept the authority of Krsna. ‘Many lives both you and I have had; I remember them, Arjuna, but you do not.’
“I will continue to live after the body dies. Turn to these truths.
“To the ultimate.
“On Friday you meet for lunch with R.S. and his wife. Auld Lang Syne. Play the tune by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, ‘Should old acquaintances be forgotten and never brought to mind?’ And I’ll have topics although they say lunch topics shouldn’t be heavy.
“Here’s a spoof on them:
“What does he think of the essay, ‘Where the Rtvik People are Right.’ J.S. wants us to discuss issues facing them, including possibilities that no ISKCON guru is qualified. What do you want to ask R.S. to comment on?
“Are you playing a game as if you are his student? Do you ask out of curiosity in a disarming way? You are not on his level of philosophizing. So, no harm in taking advantage of his friendliness to ask some questions which you do ponder.
“Or what about a disciple turning to Christ?
“Or arguments about the origin of the soul?
“Or are these dodges from talking about yourself? Say I was a pimpled scarf, a word with no names or wounds. I took some allopathic pills and it stopped the impending headache and that’s why we are able to meet now.
“I said bear, a baby bear, a Smoky State Trooper, a slang dictionary, forget it and leave it behind. It’s less than sixty degrees and so I stayed indoors. It’s also dripping with rain. Monday
and a neighbor man is not at work but staying at home today in his backyard, working now with a wheelbarrow. This house needs a repair to the front door, the cellar, the lawn and many places.
“We leave – mendicants who don’t have to repair their house. Suggestion: when you get old, don’t travel so much. Stay in one place.
“But sir, I have a van to live in.
“Oh, but that’s too tiny a space for a human to live in.
But for now
I’ll mosey along the trail, cactus to the left
Old comedy routines I saw on T.V., masses
laughed and I laughed along with them, my upbringing in humor and songs of Tin Pan Alley. But I’m not that body, drifter, your body does grow old. You will take a new life in a new body. Just as the clothes wear out and you get new clothes, so the soul has a body and when it grows old (or gets ripped apart, burns up suddenly, etc.) the soul takes on the dress of a new body.
“The self-realized (dhirah) person is not disturbed by this.
Drink a little water.
Depend on your thumb.
Oh, I can’t call out but
send my signal, Lord.
“I read: ‘He is the smallest of the smallest, He’s the oldest, knows all, is always a person.’ Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya said that Brahman is impersonal, and so Lord Caitanya says that’s nonsense. The direct meaning of the scripture is that the Absolute Truth is a person, the Supreme Person. He has qualities, but not like you and I. He has no origin because He’s God. If He required an origin, He wouldn’t be God.
“Do you have any theological
topic for your friend?
Do you have a wiener to roast
a pickle to boast?
I have an ace card
a kite with rags on it,
delicate wooden ribs –
I have a poem I wrote in
Delhi and would like to
start a new one.
“You have permission to glorify Krishna and purify your mental condition. Do it by chanting and writing in your own words what the sastra teaches.
“Persian carpets for sale. What you see from the car or van window. For sale.
Hamburgers. Pada-yatra America. Parasurama dasa the leader. The Manor campaign. Preach to young people to go out and sell CDs and prasadam and books and make as much money as
“A. in Poland writes that he doesn’t get as enthusiastic as he used to when he hears the sankirtana scores or joins in a raucous kirtana. Things aren’t the same. He grows older. Ought to get married like his Polish Godbrother.
“Present GNPress books as good for all. Buy them in sets. We are a valid ISKCON entity.
“Thanks for improving our image.
“(½ hour, Monday morning late, rain still dripping, Stroudsburg, May 6, 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.
Read more »
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.