Maharaja Pariksit was out touring the world when he became hungry and thirsty. He entered the hermitage of the mystic Samika Rsi and found him with his eyes closed, appearing in trance. The King asked the sage for some water to quench his thirst, but the sage ignored him. Maharaja Pariksit didn’t know whether the sage was actually in trance, or was he just uncivilly ignoring the King? The King became angry. On leaving the hermitage, he placed a dead snake around the neck of the mystic. This was astounding because King Pariksit was able to withstand the heat of the brahmastra in the womb of his mother, yet now he was afflicted by thirst. It could only be taken as due to the will of providence. Samika Rsi’s young son heard the news of what the King had done to his father, and he became outraged. He was just a young child, but he possessed brahma tejas, the powers of a brahmana. Yet he lacked in culture. Showing off before his playmates and acting in ignorance, he cursed the King to die in seven days, being bitten by a snake-bird. He didn’t realize how pure and great was Maharaja Pariksit and that by his rule, Kali was being kept out of the kingdom. The boy made all these mistakes because he was an ignorant child. When Maharaha Pariksit learned of the curse upon him, he took it in a favorable way. He accepted it as an opportunity to renounce all his material attachments as a king and surrender to Krsna. He went down to the bank of the Yamuna and vowed to fast, even from water, until the end of his life, and meditate upon Krsna. Fortunately for him, the great devotee Sukadeva Gosvami, the son of Srila Vyasadeva, came to that spot. Many other saintly persons had gathered to be with the King, and they were giving different suggestions as to how he should spend his last days. But when Sukadeva arrived, they deferred to him. The King asked Sukadeva, “What is the duty of a human being, especially one who is about to die?” Sukadeva Gosvami replied that the utmost duty was to chant and hear the glories of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. This question and answer began the recitation of the Srimad Bhagavatam as Sukadeva had heard it from his father.
I’m reading The Seventh Gosvami, Rupa Vilasa’s revised biography of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. With his new research and revising, the book has doubled in size. It is scheduled for publishing this year by the BBT. I’m halfway through reading it and find it exciting and inspiring. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was such a strong influence for Vaisnavism against the many apa-sampradayas and bogus religious groups in India. In his books and public lectures he argued against the Mayavadi philosophy and gave sastric evidence that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
For a period in his life he was appointed in charge of the affairs at the temple in Jagannatha Puri. At that time, a fanatic imposter came to Puri and claimed that he was “Maha-Visnu.” By some yogic siddhis that he had learned, “Maha-Visnu” was able to cure some of his followers of diseases, and he was able show magic illusions. He declared that on a certain date in the near future he would manifest himself and drive out all the British from India. He engaged in immoral practices with the wives of the men in Puri, conducting “rasa-lila” with them. There were complaints against him, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura was appointed to stop him. The Thakura went to him and asked him to desist, but the “yogi” was rebellious and threatened the Thakura with harm. Bhaktivinoda Thakura was not afraid of him and had him arrested by many policemen and put in jail. Someone cut off the hair of “Maha-Visnu,” and he suddenly collapsed and lost all his powers. His followers then rejected him. He took poison in prison and died. The defeat of this bogus yogi was a great triumph for Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The people rallied around him as he improved the standard of worship in the temple and continued to oppose more pseudo-saints in the same way he had dealt with the “Maha-Visnu.” The Thakura wrote many books which were appreciated by learned circles. He suffered personal tragedies as his first wife and one of his children died. He continued pushing on with reforms in the temple at Puri. I’m enjoying The Seventh Gosvami very much and asking Rupa Vilasa what he wants me to write as a “short review” to be published with the book.
We went to see the pulmonologist, Dr. Garcia, for our six-month appointment. She told us we could increase the intake of oxygen on the machine that I sleep with at night. I will also use a humidifier with the oxygen to keep down a hacking, dry cough. Dr. Garcia stopped us from taking Prednisone, which was just a short-term trial to get more energy, but it’s not recommended to take for a long time. She is very enthusiastic to take Baladeva’s chocolate chip cookie prasadam. She says she can’t promise she’ll save some for her son.
Another event was that Krsna dasi got an appointment for an anti-COVID vaccine inoculation. But despite all attempts, she could not get a car ride to Albany to get the vaccine, so her appointment had to be cancelled. The whole system is opening up, and it doesn’t take so long to get a new appointment. So we are hopeful Krsna dasi will get one soon.
I have a new recumbent exercise bike. The former one I had was called a stationary bike, but the seat rubbed against my inner thighs, irritating me when I pedaled, so I practically couldn’t use it. So this bike is better. The new bike puts less strain on my exoskeleton and gives good back support. It has a wide, comfortable seat. Our neighbor devotees, Janardana dasa and his son Rama, carried the heavy bike up the flight of stairs to my room and put the many pieces together. I’m looking forward to having a better exercise regimen with the new Schwinn bicycle. I wish it had wheels so I could go shopping in Hudson, but my bicycle locomotion days are over.
Garuda Prabhu wrote me a letter describing the different meanings of the name Prabhupada gave me at first initiation. They were interesting to learn from a scholarly point of view. He asked me for a response. I told him that I was sorry I didn’t get initiated at the first initiation he gave, but I immediately wanted to get initiated afterwards, when I saw the boys chanting on their red beads which had been chanted on by Swamiji. I asked him if I could get initiated, and he said, “You’ll have to be a vegetarian.” I told him I already was. That was all he asked. On the night of the initiation, I had some doubts whether to go ahead. My roommate, Raya Rama dasa, said that taking the vows was a gamble, but I should go ahead and take the gamble. Then up in Swamiji’s apartment I expressed some lingering doubts to another Godbrother. He quoted to me from the Bhagavad-gita: “O conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests on Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Bg 7.7) This verse gave me encouragement to go ahead. We had a full fire sacrifice in his apartment. He kept the windows shut, and the air became thick with smoke, so we were choking. When the sacrifice was over he opened the windows and said, “I thought they would call the fire brigade.” Prabhupada gave a lecture for our initiation, and he said something that I had never heard before. He said now that we were initiated, we had a debt to the spiritual master, and it was called guru-daksina, a payment in reciprocation for the gift by the spiritual master. He said our guru-daksina was to tell everyone about Krsna in a preaching spirit. That was new to me, and I felt the new responsibility connected with initiation. A few days after the initiation, I asked Swamiji what was the meaning of the name he gave me. He said Satsvarupa means “the inner truth of reality.” Another time I walked into his apartment room where the boys were gathered around. He greeted me and said, “Oh, here is the Truth personified.” Of course I took it to mean I was not the Truth personified but I was Satsvarupa dasa, the servant of the Truth personified. A few weeks after initiation I shaved my head, and when Swamiji saw me, he said, “Thank you.” When I went to the welfare office for work the next day, a senior boss called me into his office and interrogated me about the shaved head and haircut. I answered him soberly, telling him it was my religion, based on the ancient Indian text Bhagavad-gita. I said that I had a spiritual master who conducted worship services a few blocks away at 26 Second Avenue. He was pacified by my remarks and let me go back to work.
The Vaisnava calendar tells holidays which are exciting and colorful. Today (March 3rd) is the appearance of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the spiritually outstanding son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He is also the initiating spiritual master of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In March, Ekadasis appear on the 9th and 25th. Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s appearance day is the 13th. He was the siksa-guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. On the 10th of March is Isvara Puri’s disappearance day. He was the initiating spiritual master of Lord Caitanya. Madhavendra Puri’s disappearance day is on the 26th. In addition to being a paramahamsa and the spiritual master of Isvara Puri and Advaita Acarya, Madhavendra Puri is famous for being gifted a pot of sweet rice stolen by the Gopinatha Deity out of love for His pure devotee. The Advent Day of Lord Caitanya, Gaura Purnima, is the 28th of March. One should observe a festival on the appearance and disappearance days of these acaryas. The sastras say that he who takes advantage and performs pure devotional service on these all-auspicious Vaisnava holy days certainly makes great progress on the path of going back home, back to Godhead.
Bhakta Amit from Albany dropped by yesterday and offered much-needed help to our skeletal crew. First he honored prasadam and took part in the out-loud reading. Then he fixed the printer on our computer, which has been going flaky. He went with Baladeva to the pure spring at Chatham. Baladeva is unable to lift the big bottles of water that we collect there. So Amit did the heavy work in picking up the bottles and carrying them up a slight incline into the car. After that, he and Baladeva went to shop for flowers for the Deities. Then they went to a small Mennonite farm and purchased raw milk. Then they came back to Viraha Bhavan, and Amit unloaded all the water bottles. He also cleaned all the dishes and pots from lunch. In Bala’s absence, a serious helper like Amit is crucial. We welcome others who are quarantined and have had a recent COVID test to come by and offer whatever service they can.
Bhakta Amit came by and did his work on the computer again. He was on hand to help get me down the stairs and into the car to go to the pulmonologist. Ordinarily Bala would do this chore, but he is still in Trinidad with his ailing mother. Amit is a great helper. Although Amit is somewhat mixed up with Hindu ideas, he likes to chant before the Deities in our temple room, and he’s fond of honoring prasadam. At first Amit was on a strict yoga diet, taking a health smoothie in the morning and kichauri every day as his main meal. But now he’s eating as we do, taking pasta, soup, laddus, sweet rice, homemade bread and cookies. He takes home all that he can as leftovers, and he distributes some prasadam to his Indian friends.
I have a library of non-Krsna conscious books which I’ve gathered over the years. They are mostly poetry collections, which I obtained to help me with my own poetry writing. I got some mileage out of them because the poets are very expert at what they do. But I don’t read them anymore. They are like my collection of jazz CDs—I was attached to the music, but a couple of years ago I decided it was a bad habit and would not help me at the time of death. So I sent them to my disciple Sankirtana dasa, who is a professional jazz guitarist. He accepted them on the principle of yukta-vairagya, using material things in the service of Krsna. They helped him and inspired him in his vocation of making music. But I am free of them now, and I won’t go back to them.
The books are similar. I don’t read them, but they’re like “old friends,” something I used in the past and no longer find useful. My Godbrother Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu has a large library of books outside the canon of Krsna consciousness. His secretary keeps them well organized on shelves in his study. I don’t know if he reads them, but he’s such a widely read intellectual (and a Ph.D.), that he often refers to writers over the centuries in his lectures to devotees. I heard Prabhupada in a lecture say he looked at Hayagriva’s library, and they were all philosophical books, serious books, not low-grade literature. So I suppose there’s something to be said about intellectual devotees keeping books, maybe as objects from the past which they no longer cultivate, or maybe as something they occasionally look back to again.
One can imagine why peacocks are Krsna’s favorite birds—they have such antic personalities! They extend their feathered fans before the female peahens, but the ladies ignore them, look in the other direction and walk away. The male won’t even acknowledge that the females have left, yet when he notices the peahens are gone, he will run up to where they are and extend his fan again. If there are no females around, they may show their full extended fans to a shiny car or to a wheelbarrow, anything with a reflection. They will even fight with their reflections. Peacocks sometimes play by chasing one another around a tree again and again. Although they can fly, two males will chase each other running on foot, sometimes as much as a quarter of a mile. At the Gita-nagari cabin in the evening, the peacocks fly up into the trees. In the early morning, they begin to make loud cries. They are very bold; if you’re not paying attention, they’ll come and eat off of your plate!
“I just began Conversations With Srila Prabhupada, a series of spoken prayers. I’m springboarding from St. Teresa’s method of personal prayer as taught in a book called Conversation With Christ. It’s interesting how prayer seeks to control the mind’s wanderings while writing allows it. When I’m writing, the words take a trip of their own, but when speaking to Prabhupada, I’m in the confessional, contrite, eyes shut, aspiring for the holy contact. He said it would depend on my purity whether I would be able to contact the spiritual master in the heart.
“Today I introduced myself to Prabhupada and mentioned my failings, but I also acknowledged that he is my link to Krsna. I quoted the last two slokas of ‘Gurvastakam.’ I made no petitions; I mainly wanted to make contact. I want to develop the habit of being able to pray to him always. It’s quite simple.
“Next to last day of November. Still awaiting word from Madhu on his hernia operation. Tomorrow I’ll speak to disciples by having Syamananda read from The Wild Garden. Then I’ll comment. Chant a round with them too.
“O Lord, it ain’t easy?
“O Lord, ain’t it hard?
“The rain came down even through the sunshine and I saw a rainbow. Then it rained some more. Little Jayananda had to stay indoors, but as soon as it cleared he ran outdoors and shot his twig arrows high in the sky. He said, ‘There’s an invisible demon up there. No one can see him but me.’”
“In preparing for this morning’s lecture I found a nice section in the Lilamrta describing the quiet kirtanas in Prabhupada’s room.
“‘Srila Prabhupada would ask that the kirtana be continued, and he would become silent, as the devotees sang softly, hour after hour: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. A very small pair of kartalas, the only instrument, produced a soft, pleasant ringing. The voices of the chanters were subdued, but their minds were firmly fixed in devotion to Srila Prabhupada and the holy name, concerned that Prabhupada could hear the maha-mantra without interruption. (SPL, Volume 6, p. 320)
“I read that section during the lecture and added that Srila Prabhupada taught us the importance of chanting Hare Krsna and reading from his books without speculation, and that Prabhupada would always be with us in the future through this method. Then I described (without naming myself as the subject) an experience I actually felt while chanting in Prabhupada’s presence. I said that sometimes during this chanting, Prabhupada communicated unspoken feelings to his disciples:
“‘He might simply glance at one of the devotees, but that devotee would feel a surge of loving emotion and realization. Suddenly he would understand better how pure and compassionate Srila Prabhupada was. And the devotee might recall how Srila Prabhupada had come and saved him, bringing him to Krsna consciousness.’ (SPL, Vol. 6, pp. 320-21)”
“Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says near the end of Chapter Seven of Madhya-lila, ‘One who hears these pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu with great faith will surely very soon attain the lotus feet of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.’ In his purport to the next verse, Prabhupada writes that everyone should engage in preaching, following in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Certainly Chapter Seven shows Lord Caitanya preaching mightily, empowering all kinds of people as He tours South India. Every person who met Him went and preached and influenced others to become devotees.
“‘In this way one will be very much appreciated by Lord Krsna and will quickly be recognized by Him. Actually a devotee of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must engage in preaching in order to increase the followers of the Lord. By thus preaching actual Vedic knowledge all over the world, one will benefit all mankind.’ (Cc. Madhya 7.153, purport)
“I again asked myself in an accusatory way, ‘Are you preaching?’ I even wondered why Prabhupada should mention preaching, since Krsnadasa Kaviraja didn’t mention it in his verse. Thus I tortured myself. Yes, yes, I am preaching with the brhad-mrdanga. For example, just the other day a devotee called from Japan and asked to use some of my drawings on the cover of the Japanese edition of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. That’s preaching, isn’t it?
“But perhaps Prabhupada and the acaryas want us to always feel bad. He says that unless we feel really unworthy, then we won’t be able to improve. I know the psychologists say we ought to feel good, and that makes sense too, but there’s a balance there somewhere.
“Am I convinced that Krsna consciousness is for the betterment of mankind? Yes, and I’m also convinced that a preacher has to keep striving to teach that. Out of the many persons to whom a preacher speaks, hardly one will become serious. Still, the preacher is determined to continue for Krsna’s pleasure.”
“We can please Srila Prabhupada by following his instructions with sincerity. We have to actually love to serve his order and give ourselves to him in service. He is a pleasing master to serve, and yet our minds may offer many reasons to resist serving him. Ultimately, if we desire to resist Krsna consciousness, to avoid the stage of anartha nivritti (giving up unwanted habits) and remain comfortably in material consciousness, we will have to avoid Srila Prabhupada’s association. But by the power of serving Srila Prabhupada (who carries the power of Krsna in parampara), a sincere seeker can have his or her material attachments ripped out by the roots and become a pure devotee of Krsna.
“How do we please Srila Prabhupada? To begin with, we must accept him as the authority. A devotee who was working as a construction worker once said that Prabhupada was the best ‘boss’ he ever had. There are so many different moods in which we may accept Srila Prabhupada—but we have to recognize that he is the leader.
“We also have to accept him as a transcendental person. In my own case, in the beginning, I was serving Srila Prabhupada mechanically, and yet I expected him to love me. But he told me, ‘If you love me, then I will love you.’ It is up to each of us to approach Srila Prabhupada and to love him. We also have to learn to accept his reciprocation in whatever form it appears, as an expression of his love for us. As soon as we become appreciative of the gifts that Prabhupada is offering us, then the question of how to please him is easily answered. If you love a person, you will find a way to please him; the desire to please him will fill your thoughts.
“And Prabhupada seemed to be easily pleased. There are countless letters and statements wherein he expresses his satisfaction with the offerings of his disciples. He was pleased, for example, with book distribution, with preaching, with temples opening, with disciples executing nice Deity worship. He was pleased by the artists, pleased that a husband and wife were cooperatively preaching, pleased that someone was trying to understand the guru-disciple relationship, and pleased that disciples were trying to serve with body, mind, and words.”
“I want to link every moment to Krsna. I just stopped on the road and saw a calf tugging at her mother’s milk bag. (Is this what Robert Frost is getting at in ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’? Treasure the moments by making them Krsna conscious.)
“Ask yourself, ‘What was meaningful to me? What happened?’ I walked down stairs this morning in the dark, holding on to the rail, stepping out with my foot to find that last step. ‘You are fifty-one,’ I said, ‘yet you feel quite young. Still, people die at sixty in an accident . . .’ In the bathroom, I turned on a tape of Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna book dictation, ‘Prayers of Lord Brahma.’ Even the sound is liberating.
“These are the innumerable little waves of time (I say they are innumerable but I know they are limited). I don’t mean to relate every little incident as if everything that happens is important, I just mean that awareness of the present moment assures us that we are still alive; if we can learn to see those moments in Krsna consciousness, then they will have real value and our lives will not be wasted.
“A moment: Here is Srila Prabhupada’s spectacle case. It is made of hard, crush-proof plastic and covered in tan cloth with an embroidered figure of Lord Jagannatha on it. I used to take Srila Prabhupada’s spectacles out of such a box and hand them to him. Although at the time, I thought it was a bit tiresome to do this over and over again, I also know it was one of the best things I did. It required no taxing of the brain; I needed only to keep a menial attitude.”
“Abhaya dasi’s at the hospital with her
daughter turned blue and the hospital
authorities are concerned.
Abhaya is overwhelmed, thinking of the cats and dogs
she has seen chloroformed, some she did herself,
her three favorite aunts who died in
their 40s from cancer, her own
younger brother died from an ‘OD.’
“‘If I were in a man’s body,’ she said,
‘I would come to you and beg to talk with you.’
Please don’t. I am only a teacup.
I don’t know how to face oceans of misery.
I can quote like a sadhu, but are
you ready to hear from the scripture’s statements
supporting that we should be callous toward the death
of even a close relative
and go on with our Krsna conscious duties?
“Are you ready to admit that lamentation is
in the mode of ignorance
and recall Krsna’s statement that the wise lament neither
for the living nor the dead?
Abhaya asks for instruction. She
wants to leap ahead so she won’t
be reborn in this world of sorrow.
I don’t know. If I did, I’d be leaping.
But instead I’m slow and steady.
I doubt I’ll be going back to Godhead at the end
of this life. Is it faithless
she asked, if she doesn’t expect
to go back to Godhead right away?
No, it’s realistic, humble.
Even Maharaja Pariksit prayed, ‘If I don’t
make it to the spiritual world at the end,
let me be born with full devotion to Krsna,
with friends who are devotees,
and compassion for all.’
“Her daughter’s still in the hospital, soon to be released.
Then smoke will rise from her chimney and
life will go on in the cold and happy-sad
Gay-glum. The key to life
on the quay—hard work and don’t complain
of cold, eat simply (not too much),
row your own boat,
and get together with others to talk
out what’s wrong, how to make money,
how to improve.
“And where’s that hermit?
He’s gone to the shed.”
“Happy and strong-voiced, I sing in the shed. Six—count them—six swams bob on the rough strait water. Steady downpour of rain. I’m snug in here reading and praying to my Guru Maharaja. I explained myself to him—felt good.
“Strong voice awhile. Our limited senses. Pen scratches. Dharma art—an attitude of nonaggressive, unpretentious, honest self-observation painted in brilliant colors and bold lines with a meditative mind. What do I see? I see how truth ebbs and flows.
“Think of the swan’s way. There are no clouds because the sky is all one dark blanket. I have already chanted my sixteen rounds, but I could chant more. I lost an hour this morning because of headache pain. Had to retreat in bed around 4:15, but I’m okay now singing here in the rain.
“Syamananda tells me that Draupadi’s bellowing is not out of rage or to scare us away from her sister cow. He says she just wants attention. When she was a baby, she got a lot of human attention, so now she demands it. He said when she bellows like that, he goes right up to her and pats her and she becomes silent and calm. I don’t know. She looks pretty unfriendly to me. And I heard about the protecting-the-herd theory from a reliable source.”
“It’s easy enough in writing to bash oneself as to why we are not lovers of Radha and Krsna. It supplies an immediate satisfaction that we have traced out the cause of all ills—our ‘minds’ or our ‘uncontrolled senses.’ But sometimes the bashing may be inaccurate and just thoughtless or foolish. One wants to take the blame, and of course not blame Krsna or guru, but things have to be analyzed more carefully before we write our ills off so easily and often glibly. Thoughtless self-denigration may be another trick of the lower self to leave us unenthusiastic to work toward the improvement we are actually capable of.
“We can see this caution being exercised by the acaryas. They don’t spend so much time tearing us down as guiding us step by step. We should also learn to guide ourselves by encouragement as well as self-criticism. Often, when we criticize ourselves so much, we don’t really believe it anyway. It becomes a literary flourish, a show of humility, a quick escape from the point. My above statement about ‘procrastination and timidity’ seems to be an example of this sloppy self-berating.”
“Even as a businessman, Abhay was spirited. After the war, he started Back to Godhead, although he had to fight the government to print it. They wouldn’t let him buy newsprint because of the paper shortage. Abhay went to their offices and explained the importance of Krsna consciousness and convinced them to ‘sacrifice a few reams of paper in the midst of many wastages … for the sake of humanity and Godhead.’ An early instance of what Prabhupada would do repeatedly, and the example his disciples would be inspired to follow: when you go to preach, don’t let the opposition stop you. Explain to people calmly and logically that Krsna consciousness is important. Permission should be given for God conscious activities because that is the ultimate responsibility of the government.
“Prabhupada was so spirited that when he was still a grhastha, he tried to convince the neighboring Gaudiya Math sannyasis to go with him and charge Gandhi and Nehru with not following the principles of Bhagavad-gita. When Abhay tried to start his own factory, not one of his family members would help him with the work, and neither were they interested in devotional service.
“I can imagine how a letter might arrive at his address in Calcutta in answer to one of his preaching missives. He would read it and maybe sit down on the bed thinking it over. But there were no family members to share it with. He must have kept files for his letters. If the latest reply provoked him, he might immediately start typing or writing a counter-reply, filled with the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and always ending with practical suggestions of how to apply devotional service. For example, he suggested that harinama and prasadam distribution would be the best way to rehabilitate Calcutta after the Hindu-Muslims riots of 1947. In reply to that suggestion, a chairman of the rehabilitation committee replied, ‘I’m afraid I’m not interested . . . nor my committee, and therefore there is no necessity of your meeting with me.’ But Abhay was undaunted.”
“‘You’re My Everything.’ This is a Radha-Krsna song. A song of every pure devotee toward the Lord. King Yudhisthira had opulence beyond the king of heaven, but he didn’t care for it. All he cared for was serving Krsna. Krsna was his everything. We should strive for this. ‘You’re my everything, Krsna. I don’t want anything else. I just want to love You and serve You.’ ‘You’re My Everything’ is a tender sentiment and one to be kept true. It’s the highest thing. You’re mine, mamata. You belong to me, and I belong to You.
“Lord Caitanya came to teach the ujjvala-rasa, the most radiant mellow, conjugal love, and He personally took on the complexion and mood of Radharani and expressed Her emotions of separation from Krsna in the Gambhira at Jagannatha Puri. The greatest followers of Lord Caitanya, the Six Gosvamis, (as well as Visvanatha Cakravarti and other notable acaryas), were all gopi manjaris in their siddha-dehas, or eternal spiritual forms. So there is no doubt that Srimati Radharani and the gopis are the most intimate devotees of the Lord.”
“White spots or stripes on highway make me dizzy. I take in air and then exhale. Sleep peaceful, this body and life charmed because no matter what else happens, I have the fortunate link to my spiritual master and Lord Krsna. It’s the next life that’s in doubt. If I am so concerned with ISKCON’s wrongs, and if, as I say, those wrongs are actually thorough and deep, then I very well may be born again into this problematic movement, the child of some ISKCON grhasthas, born and raised in one of those temples I complain about. Again I will either become part of the problem or work to solve it. I could be born life after life in a struggling ISKCON. Not so bad? Well, it could certainly be worse.
“Write it, roll the dice, serpent, you are playing a dangerous game with the high stakes of samsara. If this ISKCON house is seriously defective, and I myself don’t live in it but skirt it and travel through it, then what do I expect? Take a look. Can’t figure it out? Want to make a contribution? Claim you are not implicated by the others’ mistakes? Your bottom line is you think your spiritual master wants you to continue working for the movement. With all its faults, its good is better than its bad. It must go on; it is a worthy cause; we have no other life; all we know is this.”
“I have seen photos of Srila Prabhupada smiling at the antics of his Western disciples. In one picture it looks like he almost wants to refrain from smiling. His teeth aren’t showing, but he can’t help but be amused, and his eyes show that he is pleased to see that the devotees are at least enthusiastic. He permits them to sing and dance in their own way, as long as it’s within bounds. They work hard, so if they look a little strange and don’t dance exactly like Gandharvas, and if their Sanskrit is sometimes wrong, pronouncing ‘goru’ (cow) instead of ‘guru’ (spiritual master), Srila Prabhupada overlooks it. He says, ‘I am guru, not a cow, but I realize they don’t mean it wrongly. They cannot always pronounce the Sanskrit correctly, that’s all.’
“And sometimes we ate too much, some of us. We had lots of faults. We’re working them out. We know we need to be more cultured. And we want to increase our family members. As the movement grows in many countries, we cannot expect that everything will be done just as it is in India. Krsna consciousness will have its Western flare:
“‘Sometimes our Indian friends, puffed up with concocted notions, criticize, “This has not been done. That has not been done.” But they forget this instruction of Narada Muni to one of the greatest Vaisnavas, Dhruva Maharaja. One has to consider the particular time, country and conveniences. What is convenient in India may not be convenient in the Western countries. Those who are not actually in the line of acaryas, or who personally have no knowledge of how to act in the role of acarya, unnecessarily criticize the activities of the ISKCON movement in countries outside of India. The fact is that such critics cannot do anything personally to spread Krsna consciousness. If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to sastra. . . . The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas.’ (Bhag. 4.8.54, purport)”
“He is satisfied to see us eating bhagavata-prasadam. I wish I could learn to actually offer the food to him in my mind and prayers.
“He is always praising the pastimes of Radha and Krsna and Their names, forms, qualities, and pastimes.
“I want to die here, or wherever I am, in intense, positive, dependent Prabhupada consciousness. But I feel ‘not yet.’ Let me write more books praising him. I haven’t run out of steam. I can remember more, surrender more, read more deeply. Maybe I’ll never think I’m ready to die. I’m no King Kulasekhara. Srila Prabhupada said, ‘What is the use of begging or striving to increase your life duration? It means increasing sufferings.’ Anyway, you can’t increase it much. Do you want to live for 7,000 years as a tree in California? No, I want to attain Prabhupada consciousness. There is truth in the supposition that it’s best we dedicate our life energies to Prabhupada’s mission and then Krsna will be kindly disposed when He takes us to our next life.
“If we think of Srila Prabhupada as His eternal servant and as a result we go where he is, is that not the param gati? Besides, no other path is open to us. This Bhaktivedanta Swami marga is safe, affectionate, enlightened in vraja-bhava. It’s our identity and purpose.
“O Swamiji, tomorrow is the twenty-seventh anniversary of my initiation by you. Please bless me to never leave your lotus feet. I wish to serve you
in sickness and in health,
in joy and unhappiness,
success and failure,
wealth and poverty—
at all times and in all situations, in future lives. Whoever you are in the spiritual world, Prabhupada, please let me help you in your service to Radha and Krsna. Please teach me whatever is best. I will preach in praise of all Vraja rasas and Vaikuntha too, the teachings of Prahlada Maharaja, Kuntidevi, whatever you feel is best. But I need your inspiration to keep me going. Let me achieve for you so that when I die, it won’t be bitter and gnashing my teeth like a condemned sinner or an unfaithful sisya.”
“Sometimes outer events act on us to change us. But to change our hearts takes time. We can change ourselves gradually by practicing sadhana. Sadhana brings real change. Real change is deep. It encompasses both the external and the internal. If someone is forced to go to prison, that revolutionizes his or her life. Sometimes apparently external events force us to change.
“I am musing here. My point is that I have only been able to make a few forays into a topic too big to solve. My relationship with Lord Krsma is the most worthy topic; I cannot help but benefit by exploring it. Someone might say that a halfhearted attempt at a vital subject is harmful, but it’s only harmful if we think we have completely dispensed with it. If we accept that we have succeeded only in opening a window to let us see what we couldn’t see before, then it is helpful.
“This writing reminds me that Lord Krsna is a person and that He is part of my life. I become embarrassed when I see that I don’t make my relationship with the Supreme Person the most important relationship in my life. I want to improve that. I am hopeful.
“What’s the difficulty? Lord Krsna is so kind and approachable. He makes Himself available to me, especially in His holy names. Writing about my lack of devotion makes me aware of Prabhupada’s and Lord Krsna’s standing invitation to exchange with them. They don’t reject me. I can take up Krsna consciousness earnestly and improve my relationship with the Lord, who is my ever well-wisher and protector.”
“Every day I try to write something about japa, just a little short essay. It’s hard to think of something new. The experience is always new. There is always new opportunity. It’s like life itself. Krsna gives you a new day every day until your death. Yesterday Kaulini told us that when she was in the emergency room and they were taking blood from her, she was very staunchly chanting Hare Krsna mantras. She said this is not her custom, as she is a shy person. Every once in a while she would say to the doctors and nurses, ‘I’m sorry, I hope I’m not disturbing anyone,’ but then she would get back to her life-and-death chanting. She knew that this was a crucial moment for her because she was near death, and she had to chant as the most important thing in her life, regardless of embarrassing people around her. We should always chant like that, knowing that this is our crucial hour.”
“It’s a crude analogy, but let’s use it for a start.
“Do we associate the notion of attaining Krsna with something too difficult to achieve? If so, the thought of, surrender produces feelings of failure and crushing humiliation. It’s too uncomfortable to even think about. We would rather be accepted and honored.
“We shouldn’t confuse the issues and hide our failure. Attaining Krsna consciousness is done by softening the heart, not by hardening it. We don’t have to compete with anyone else, and we cannot be cajoled into pure devotion. It’s something we have to want to do on our own. Furthermore, there is no failure—whatever we do in Krsna consciousness is to our eternal benefit.
“It’s also a fact, however, that we shouldn’t try for something beyond our reach. If a young man prematurely takes sannyasa, he will shame himself. It’s better to take the slow and steady route, staying firmly fixed on the bhakti-marga and not to waste time.
“‘My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.’ (Bg. 12.9)
“If you can’t distribute books, then preach in another way. Do something that takes courage but is possible for you. Show Krsna your earnestness, and He will remove the obstacles on the path.
“In the beginning of Krsna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness.’ (Bg. 3.31, purport).”
“I want Krsna conscious substance. I want something genuine. But that also can become a sense of false pride. So I push ahead imperfectly. ‘I submit at Your lotus feet, O Lord, that I am fallen ,and wretched, a fact known to the three worlds.’ (Saranagati 2.7.1). Bhaktivinoda Thakura declares himself redeemed in an earlier verse, but now he again claims that he is fallen. ‘By attempting to clear myself of all these sins and offenses I am put to shame and beg Your forgiveness.’ (Saranagati 2.7.3).
“He is serious. I am too. Why else would I be up at this desk at midnight writing? ‘Is it difficult?’ asked a technician at the Ayurvedic clinic. ‘No,’ I said, ‘because I want to do it. I have a serious purpose.’ It doesn’t matter that I don’t exactly know what ‘my purpose’ means. I am uncovering it a little bit at a time. I am not just filling up space; I am begging for mercy.
“The same words we hear referring to sinfulness in the material world, kama and lobha, are the topmost expressions of spiritual love. These are the things I am trying to understand and distinguish. Material greed or lust has nothing to do with the spiritual world. I am trying to puncture whatever remaining enthusiasm I have for worldly achievement—flatten it out. Who am I trying to impress in this world? Enthusiasm is for bhakti-yoga.
“Enthusiasm means action. ‘Always act for Krsna—krsnarthakhila-cesta. (NOI, Text 3, purport). But at the same time, be patient. Non-parampara enthusiasm is a disturbance. Follow the acaryas. They have provided detailed maps of the way. ‘ . . . In devotional service, surrender means that one has to become confident. The devotee thinks, avasya raksibe krsna: ‘Krsna will surely protect me and give me help for the successful execution of devotional service.’ (Nectar of Instruction, Text 3, purport)
“Bhaktivinode Thakura is joyful. Be confident of his direction. Seek the shelter of Lord Nityananda. But I’m here in this body, in Italy, and I don’t know where to find Him. I can’t buzz my intercom and call for Him. Can’t wake Madhu up and say, ‘Bring me Lord Nityananda.’ Can’t even plan to go to Mayapur and find Him there. Unless I am serious.”
“Here we go. I wrote about May apples in Journal and Poems, Vol.1 in 1986:
“‘The large leafy plant I see everywhere is called May apple or mandrake. It produces an obscure waxy flower which usually hides under the large leaves. These wildflowers are very lowly, and their blossoms are sometimes obscure – one could call them humble. They are not very beautiful or not even noticeable.’
“That was a pretty May, sensitive to birds at dawn and rain on the tin roof of the cabin, and flowers coming and going but sensitive to too much pain and even medicine couldn’t stop the headaches. Much better off now traveling and preaching and writing more. But it lasts a little longer. Blues singer, ‘Give me another year, Lord.’
“What will you do with that year or with seven days to help yourself and help others? A young man came here last night, Agni dasa, tall and muscular. He is expert in massage and he does it free as a service to devotees. His massage was very thorough and I slept soundly last night. We each have a service. Can I bring people some relief? Yes, I know that I can.
“May apples aren’t showoffs. Not bright blossoms. They produce only one flower. Their flat green roof leaf is low, lowly, mandrake the magician. Green smelly along the creek, the May apples used to carpet big areas and it’s probably still like that. In Manhattan you have to purchase wildflowers from a florist as P.B.M. did to give us these yellow and purple ones.
“108 band. One oh ate. One and fate presides. The old man says, ‘It hurt when you pulled at my middle toe.’
“Agni: ‘That’s the stomach.’
“Oh, yes. It figures. Indigestion. Never feel clean hunger.
“So, this Godbrother was saying, ‘No Vaisnavas ever wrote diaries.’ Of course, he’d concede to the diary of Svarupa Damodara on Lord Caitanya, but that’s different! Or Murari Gupta’s diary of Nimai in Navadvipa. But because there were no Vaisnava diaries in the past, especially by minor, aspiring Vaisnavas, does that mean that diaries can never be used as a genre? Yukta vairagya tells us yes, you can use it. Claim it for the Lord.
“And if the diarist is less than perfect? Never mind, write to improve. Write to help yourself and others. Why should we rule out this genre as taboo just because it is so honest and personal?
“Marines. Go out this weekend. ‘Take off this weekend – Naval Reserves.’ No thanks. I’ll be quiet on the street in Queens. Get into the car and drive over the bridge to the Lower East Side, Manhattan, and give your talk. Don’t yawn or cry tears or beep or belch. Just start saying, ‘A.H. is glad to be here in this sacred place where the Krsna consciousness movement took hold in America thirty years ago.’ Fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bob Marley celebrated in Jamaica with a postage stamp of a dollar ten cents. The one hundred years since Prabhupada’s birth is much more important, but Jamaicans don’t know it yet.
“Tighten your teeth, vassal
give us a smart look as you march
by – ‘Eyes right!’ to
look at the generals in the reviewing stand.
“O first thoughts, I have to keep you at arm’s length. It’s too flotsam-y and jetsam-y to make a list of what’s happening in my little life.
“If you read sastra you can tell us the powerful effect of the holy names, even when chanted neglectfully or in jest.
“I am tired and need a little break. Get through this day to speak in the evening, recalling our Swami.
“He accepted the name Prabhupada and his Godbrothers objected. But he deserves the name, and they should accept him. Never mind that Abhay Charan De was a grhastha in those early days. He was always thinking of his spiritual master even when he did business. And in the 1940’s he was writing Back to Godhead and preaching, waiting for a chance to spread Krsna consciousness. So, he was a Krsna conscious person, and it took some time to fully manifest.
you lowly plant,
“I am here in the city and so much you could say. Compared to you, Mandrake, growing and producing your waxy flower which nobody wants to wear on their lapel or give to their girlfriend to put on their prom gown;
“You lowly green plant
please preserve us.
And let us pray to Tulasi-devi
the Lord’s dearmost,
that our kurtas don’t get ripped
before the bombs drop.
May she, my spiritual daughter,
may I be true
may the Lord deliver us
“(Fifteen minutes, Queens morning, May 8, 1996)”
“This is the way to go back to Godhead, not to hell. Chant Hare Krsna. Thought to say tonight – this tirtha is spiritual reality for me. I may not know Krsna, but I know I came here and met Srila Prabhupada in 1966, thirty years ago. Once meeting him I stopped all – no, it sounds too much boasting and I have that tendency. But I do mean to say I know this place is where it began and …
“What if I don’t like the outer forms of ISKCON now? Still the river began of chanting Hare Krsna. What he taught was pure. Whether it is pure now or changed, you can decide and time and will decide. But what he taught was never lost. Caught some of it in Planting the Seed. Happy days.
“Krsna and Swamiji we don’t do things over. He was hinting that liked Volume 1 of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta so much but he thought I should redo Volume 2.
“May is over after one week. This is rare time. I am missing it. What to say.
“Time can’t be stopped. Winter is followed by spring.
“I don’t have much deep inner peace. I speak gibberish. Or to a reporter I’d say more what Srila Prabhupada taught us. I am helpless to do that and not something else. Sorry I am not a realized person.
“That’s what I thought of saying in introductory remarks tonight. I am not realized but I know even as history or empirical fact that Swamiji came and he was without any mean or selfish motive. He wanted to distribute Krsna consciousness and the chanting. And teach that we are all eternal servants of Lord Krsna. He was teaching what his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati taught him. Unique among the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to come out of India and do it.
“My master pulled me out of material life. He was no ordinary spiritual master.
“Yes, I said the May apple has a waxy flower. You may introduce your talk that way. Then speak on the absolute truth as he does in his tape excerpts.
“When we go to Europe I’ll continue writing. No end of it. How long can you live? Depends on your writing thumb and your heart. Gita-nagari dasa in India says he has seen thirty to forty corpses in public there but never saw one in America.
“O May apple, you ugly flower. You hide. If I were on that back walk, I could see you and be alone. But we always have the good duty to go to a lecture hall.
“Now it’s 5 P.M. In one hour, we are supposed to leave here. I have done this hundreds of times. Other devotees too. We take turns. Speak on the scriptures. But in your own words. Feel purified by repeating with faith, especially for the benefit of newcomers. My particular hang-up after thirty years of devotional service is not so pertinent to them. So, put it aside. Just work out a riff for them. Trust in guru, sadhu, sastra and simple presentation. The first tape excerpt is about choosing the guru. How can you know?
“You can know by the fact that you learn what a spiritual master is.
“I don’t feel like reaching for comic effect, ‘boast that I am fortunate.’ Tell simple truths with life and interest.
“As much as I care for this writing, so do I care to make a relevant speech in the tirtha.
“OK, go for it.
“I will speak one hour and chant and take questions after each excerpt.
“I can end this now, but there’s no prep I have to do. I am prepared by the fact that I live and have received his grace as we all do. It’s just my turn to speak and others get a turn, That I am now a spiritual master with a few followers is remarkable considering what I was thirty years ago. Live up to it and don’t be afraid of it. It’s the credit of the system. It’s normal. It’s odd that we are occidental but it is no accident. We are not these bodies. It is working in parampara. Oh, Sacinandana Swami, you are kind to me to make use of my books and talks. I want to be alive and will give it out – help people come to Krsna consciousness. Do it by example – and precept.
“(20 minutes, Queens apartment before lecturing at 26 Second Avenue, May 8, 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.