When I thought of speaking about Visnu Aradhanam after his passing away, my first idea was to speak on the twenty-six qualities of a devotee, and I think I will speak of those now, because Visnu exemplified them. But first I want to speak of some qualities that come to my mind personally and spontaneously.
I think of Visnu Aradhanam as humble. This is a very important quality of a devotee. Lord Caitanya says a devotee should be humbler than a blade of grass. So Visnu was like that. He didn’t push himself forward. He wasn’t showy. He was humble and meek. Everyone who knew him will attest to that quality in Visnu. He was quiet. He was meek. He was humble.
Visnu also was never offensive toward any devotee or any person. To be offensive toward a devotee is a very serious offense. It’s called the “mad elephant offense.” So Visnu never spoke against another devotee or criticized another devotee. This is another remarkable feature that he lived up to.
. . . Looking at the twenty-six qualities of a devotee, they begin as follows: “Devotees are always merciful, humble, truthful, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean.”
“They are without material possessions, and they perform welfare work for everyone.” Visnu worked in this way, serving in sankirtana.
“They are peaceful, surrendered to Krsna and desireless. They are indifferent to material acquisitions and are fixed in devotional service.” Visnu displayed all these qualities—peaceful, surrendered to Krsna and desireless. He was indifferent to material acquisitions and fixed in devotional service. He completely controlled the six bad qualities—lust, anger, greed, and so forth. He ate only as much as required, and he was not inebriated. He was respectful, brave, compassionate, without false prestige. He was friendly, poetic, expert and silent. (These qualities are all listed in Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 22.78-80.)
Visnu Aradhanam married Lila-Avatara dasi. She was a very charismatic, outspoken person and a “queen” of book distribution at the airport, out-distributing all the other devotees. In their marital combination, Lila Avatara was dominant, but they had a harmonious, loving combination. At one point Lila Avatara had kidney failure, and the doctors diagnosed her as in need of a kidney transplant from a qualified, compatible donor. Such a person was not easy to find. But Visnu Aradhanam volunteered to transplant one of his kidneys, and it turned out he was exactly qualified to do it. Lila recovered from the operation and went back to book distribution at the airport. Visnu was grateful that he was able to save his wife’s life.
Lila suffered from other diseases and gradually succumbed to death at a relatively young age. Visnu was grief-stricken and never quite recovered from the loss of his beloved wife. Visnu had to be hospitalized for his depression, and he finally, reluctantly, consulted a psychologist. Talks with the psychologist revealed that Visnu was not only suffering from the loss of his wife but from trauma he experienced in the Army while serving in the war in Vietnam. He continued to speak suicidal thoughts with his best friend Haryasva. But his friend never thought Visnu would actually take his life.
Haryasva was shocked when one night Visnu Aradhanam took a gun to his head and committed suicide. In the Vedic scriptures, suicide is considered an inauspicious death. A person can become a ghost in his next life if he commits suicide. So we who knew and loved Visnu Aradhanam are making prayers that in his next life, he will get a better life and not have to suffer for taking his life. Surely all the long years that Visnu served as an exemplary, gentle, humble soul may be taken into account, and he will be saved from a degraded life next time around. Let our prayers reach the Lord and deliver Visnu Aradhanam to a next life of devotional service!
Jaya Govinda forwarded to me an illustrated article from the Dandavats newsletter. It tells of raids on three different harinama parties at the same time in Moscow. They were charged with illegal rallies and obstructing pedestrian movement. Previously, the devotees had won eighteen court cases with the help of their lawyer Maha Balaram. But these recent arrests in Moscow are very threatening. If the devotees lose the forty-eight cases now being tried in Moscow, they will face heavy fines, and the loss of the suit in the capital will serve as a precedent and put the movement under threat of a ban on public chanting throughout Russia. The devotees in Russia request all devotees worldwide to make prayers to Lord Nrsimha for the protection of harinama.
On one hand I think, “What good will my prayers do, I’m just a tiny devotee. But then I think of how Prabhupada asked the devotees several times over the years to make intercessory prayers to the Lord for the cure of his health. As early as 1967, he requested us all to pray, “My dear Lord Nrsimha, please protect Srila Prabhupada. Our master has not finished his work.” So I believe in the effectiveness of intercessory prayer and will make my appeal to the Lord to protect the devotees in Moscow.
Our out-loud group reading at mealtimes is growing stronger. On some days we have fifteen people sharing the reading. It is a blissful exercise, hearing so many men and women and seeing the images of their faces on the Zoom. We are up to the Third Canto, Part Four: the teachings of Lord Kapila to His mother, Devahuti. He tells her how a person attached to sense gratification actually suffers, though he tries to enjoy at any cost. As he grows older, he is afflicted with bodily ailments, an inability to enjoy his family members no longer treat him with respect, just as a farmer no longer respects old worn-out oxen.
“Thus the man, who engaged with uncontrolled senses in maintaining a family, dies in great grief, seeing his relatives crying. He dies most pathetically, in great pain and without consciousness.” (Bhag. 3.3o.18)
In our out-loud reading at mealtimes, we are in the beginning chapters of Bhagavatam Fourth Canto. Sati asked Siva for permission to go to her father’s yajna, even though they had not been invited. Lord Siva tells her, “If in spite of this instruction you decide to go, neglecting my words, the future will not be good for you. You are most respectable. When you are insulted by your relatives, this insult will immediately be equal to death.” (Bhag. 4.3.25) Sati ignored the words of Lord Siva and started out alone for her father’s house. But all the followers of Siva followed her in procession. When she arrived at the sacrificial arena, Sati spoke against fruitive sacrifices, and especially directed her anger toward her father for his neglect of Siva. She said,
“Lord Siva is the most beloved of all living entities. He has no rival. No one is very dear to him, and no one is his enemy. No one but you could be envious of such a universal being, who is free from all enmity.” Sati said, “My dear father, you are committing the greatest offense by envying Lord Siva, whose very name, consisting of the two syllables Si and va, purifies one of all sinful activities. His order is never neglected. Lord Siva is always pure, and no one but you envies him. Therefore, I shall no longer bear this unworthy body, which has been received from you, who have blasphemed Lord Siva. If someone has taken food which is poisonous, the best treatment is to vomit.
“Sati concentrated all her meditation on the holy lotus feet of her husband, Lord Siva, who is the supreme spiritual master of all the worlds. Thus she became completely cleansed of all taints of sin and quit her body in a blazing fire by meditation on the fiery elements.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.4.11-12, 14, 18, 27)
I very much enjoyed Rupa Vilasa’s book The Seventh Gosvami, a biography and study of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. It has made me eager to read Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books. I wrote Rupa Vilasa and asked him for a list of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books in English. He wrote me back and said that he doesn’t read Bengali, but there are many English translations. He said that many of the books of the Thakura are on the Vedabase. His version of the Vedabase is 2003, but that the books he listed for me may be on the Vedabase by now. I have read a few of the books but want to read all of them again. I appeal to the readers of Free Write Journal to give me direction as to how I may obtain the actual books in translation. I particularly like the translations of Sarvabhavana dasa, Dasaratha-Suta and Bhanu Swami.
Hyacinths, daffodils and forsythia are in full bloom in our yard. There are plenty enough to decorate Radha-Govinda’s altar. The main bunch of daffodils was offered in vases to Gaura-Nitai on Gaura-purnima.
The musical ice cream truck, playing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” has just begun making its rounds through the neighborhood.
Motorcycles and lawn mowers break up the silence.
The people are wearing light clothes.
Devotees wander through the forest picking wildflowers and beautiful things for Krsna. There is such an abundance that the devotees can go all day changing the flowers on the Deities, making garlands and decorations in Their hair. Krsna and the cowherd boys (Krsna-Balarama) will often put a flower in their hair over their ear.
Sri Krsna decorates Radharani’s hair with flowers.
In springtime, the waters are cleared up and flow freely and crystal-clear.
For the animal kingdom as well as the birds and bees, there’s much activity giving birth and feeding the offspring with the abundance of food, fruits and flowers growing.
The human pilgrims are joyful with the fresh breezes and the aroma of flowers. There’s a big variety of vegetables available in the market for offering to the temple Deities.
Baladeva’s sister, Kathi, is staying with us for a couple of weeks. She is a great help in taking up service in the ashram. She wears a T-shirt with a portrait of John Lennon and the words, “I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Kathi is a practicing Buddhist and does a lot of service in the Buddhist monastery, which is an hour and a half from Stuyvesant Falls. Her grown up son, David, is also a serious practitioner. Kathi used to be more involved with Krsna consciousness, and we called her “Hare Bu.” She had association with Mother Kaulini and other devotees at Gita Nagari. But as time has gone by, she’s become less Krsna-ized and more dedicated to her Buddhistic ways. She’s a fundraiser and does personal meditation. She’s also an active, hands-on worker for their festivals. We are sorry to see her not participating so much in Krsna consciousness because she’s following a path which is ultimately voidism, and her future doesn’t look bright, but doomed.
We’re going to the doctor’s more frequently. “Disease and old age.” I was treated for early-stage pneumonia and Baladeva was treated for unusual pains in his legs stemming from his back issues. But there’s not much more to say than that. The doctors do what they can do, and we do what we can do. But it’s a downhill trip.
I listen to a daily lecture by Prabhupada and at least one by one of his disciples. I stay awake, but I don’t take notes or try to memorize the contents. I’m purified by making the effort to hear krsna-katha, although I usually can’t tell you later what each lecture was about. Even if you can’t remember, the exercise is not futile because you are directly in touch with Krsna. The speakers are repeating parampara. Krsna says He first taught this ancient science of yoga to the sun god millions of years ago. In turn, Vivasvan taught it to Iksvaku, and the message was passed down unchanged in disciplic succession. It was taught to the royal order. But in the course of time the message was disrupted and broken, and so Krsna had to come Himself and reinstate it by speaking the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. Forgetting the message happens to the best of them, and so it’s not unusual to think of one of us forgetting without intense study. We can revive it again by turning back to the scripture and reading it once again with fresh attention.
“Answered almost all the mail yesterday. This morning I answered a letter to a friend who was raising the question of how to balance traveling and preaching and concentration on chanting and reading. He read something I wrote in ‘Among Friends’ where I referred to Prabhupada saying that a sannyasi need do nothing other than to chant Hare Krsna. Prabhupada has a particular way of balancing these two. He mostly seems to say that we should not go alone to chant in a solitary place, but should simultaneously chant Hare Krsna and preach. He wanted us to be gosthyanandis. One verse seems to sum up the balance:
“‘My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting krsna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.’ (Cc. Adi 7.92)
“I was with some devotees and we were all putting fuel into stoves. The heat became intense because the stoves were good quality and the heating system complicated. I was part of an award-winning team of men building these stoves.
“Then one of my Godbrothers from the beginning days said, ‘Satsvarupa, you used to fire these stoves long ago when it was a simple job. Now it’s been built up and become complicated, but you’re still here.’
“I went back to tending the fire, but thought, ‘I’m an old-timer in ISKCON. I was here in the days when we did everything simply.’ Often I think I can’t keep pace nowadays, and I’m not even that interested in making the change to how devotees do things now. In the dream I was there stoking the fire. Seems similar.
“Chant a little, cry, beg for mercy. Prabhupada is merciful, has been merciful already. Now it is my turn to show mercy.
“How to help myself on this page? Bolder strokes? I’m still recovering from the disruption of the last few days’ headaches. First time in three days in the shed. Swans out on the lake, the lake cold, dark, gray at near nine.
“Photo of Prabhupada at the airport and we, his young disciples, looking up to him. Open adoration on our faces even though we are in public. The nondevotees can see our bliss. Good for them. He was an elderly saint, and we were young kids in those days.
“I write these sentences with no oomph behind them, or clarity. My endurance is low right now. I write on anyway.
“Someone told me that in Vrndavana it’s going from bad to worse. She meant that devotees were leaving ISKCON and moving into the Gaudiya Math. The same in Australia. Some devotees are sad and disgusted and heartbroken over my Godbrothers’ departure. They’re afraid they’ll keep accepting one ISKCON guru after another only to hope that one won’t fall down before they die. Therefore, they run to an Indian guru, someone older and proven and who will teach them of the higher topics. I think about this often and feel sorry.
“This propaganda that other gurus are discussing more advanced topics, and that we are missing out on something doesn’t hurt my faith in Prabhupada. I’m not concerned that much about objectivity in my following of Prabhupada. I have decided that I want only to be nurtured by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Krsna consciousness is ultimately subjective in that sense—who we give our faith to and our individual relationship with Krsna.
“We all want to be enlivened in spiritual life. Prabhupada says we should preach if we want to taste bhava. We will taste Lord Nityananda’s bhava. That’s what Prabhupada said.”
“This is my reading time, but I’m praying here and noting it down. I attempted to incubate a dream last night. I wrote this down on an index card and put it under my pillow: ‘Please send me a dream to help inspire me to read Srila Prabhupada’s books in a fresh, worshipful way.’
“I’ll tell you what dreams I had later, although they remain enigmatic. Here I am in the waking light of the desk lamp with the intention of rereading Isopanisad, starting with Mantra Fourteen. I still feel a little haunted by hearing that we need more than Prabhupada’s books to go all the way back to Godhead. Therefore, I want to enter his books slowly and stop and pray on the way. That’s harder than the usual way I read, but I think it’s required. Prabhupada has packed his purports with thoughtful statements, and I should read them carefully.
“For example, the purport to Mantra Fourteen states that the advancement of material knowledge has not relieved us of the basic problems of birth, death, disease, and old age. Everything and everyone in the material world has to pass through six stages of transformation. ‘Therefore the entire material universe is called Martyaloka, the place of death.’
“Do we doubt it? I mean, the literal truth of Vedic knowledge? It contradicts all material knowledge, and it demands that we accept eternal spirit and the Supreme Person in the specific way presented in India’s spiritual heritage. I contend with those ideas and go on reading. Determination helps.
“Then another thought passed through my mind. I could turn to a Godbrother and find out how he reads, how he maintains fresh interest and faith. It wouldn’t hurt, but ultimately no one else can do what’s necessary for me to do. In that sense we are each alone with Prabhupada and his books. That’s good because if we became conscious of it, it would create a prayer of desperation and hope.”
“Do what Krsna says. His representative, the spiritual master, gives Krsna’s order and we shouldn’t neglect it. Don’t make whimsical offerings in the name of service.
“Don’t try to act as the master and enjoyer of the world. Get it?
“What is Prabhupada’s order?
“Follow initiation vows—four rules and sixteen rounds. Preach. Always hear about Krsna in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Live with devotees. Don’t deviate. So many instructions. Among all the instructions, however, the practical details as to where in the world I’ll live, what kind of preaching I’ll develop for ISKCON, which devotees I’ll work with, whether I’ll manage affairs or lecture or write—and to what degree I’ll “do everything”—that depends on my capac¬ity as a person. And on other factors too. Some of those cru¬cial factors have to be, decided by the devotee himself by careful discrimination. Srila Prabhupada didn’t tell us what to do exactly in each and every circumstance in changing times, but he gave sufficient instruction so that we can carry them out no matter where we are and who we are.
“Do you understand, Satsvarupa?
“Yes, I think I do, and I’m trying.
“Swans duck their heads under the water. Hamsas. That is mentioned in King Kulasekhara’s prayer. ‘As the swan entangles its head in the network of the lotus’s underwater roots, please allow me to entangle my mind in thoughts of Krsna’s holy name, pastimes, and form. Let me die now chanting while I’m able to utter the Name well because at death my throat will be choked and I may not be able to speak hari-nama or think clearly of Krsna.’
“Do you hear that, Lough Erne hamsas?
“Yes, they know. Everyone knows.”
“Hearing submissively, applying intelligence to understand the Supreme Lord in sastra. Don’t need to hear any emphasis other than Prabhupada’s. Krsna will help me if I sincerely want to approach Him. I am tiny and prone to doubt, prone to maintain contaminating association in this world. Nevertheless I pray to be uplifted and kept in devotional service. Any service is valid and pleasing if it’s done with devotion. Prahlada was able to please the Lord even when Brahma and Laksmidevi could not approach Him in His anger. Prahlada acted as a simple boy and went forward when asked, ‘Lord Nrsimha came to kill your father, so it’s your duty, Prabhu, to calm Him down.’ All right, Prahlada agreed. He was unafraid. How sweetly Srila Prabhupada described it in his ’76 Vrndavana lecture.
“Steadily, slowly, I approach Prabhupada, although he may be angry with me sometimes. If he is displeased with me I have to face him and accept the punishment or penance. That’s how confession operates: you confess sins, feel the contrition, and accept the blessing. We are meant to live a life of service.
“I’m anxious about the spider. He came wonderfully into my view, lowering himself on an invisible thread, stepped onto the desk, and cavorted around. In order to avoid his crawling on my papers, I slipped a piece of paper under him and tried to lift him away, but it didn’t happen so smoothly and he fell about a foot. I thought he’d be able to take it, but he remained contracted into a ball. I worried that he was unconscious or even dead. After some time I placed him back on the desk. Finally, he stuck out a leg. Minutes passed and he stuck out another leg. He’s definitely alive. I’ll have to be more careful how I handle Krsna’s creatures when they get in my way.
“ . . . The spider is on a sit-down strike. I know he’s not paralyzed, but he remains immobile. His front legs (there are two legs, but they divide halfway down so that he has a total of four front legs) and two rear legs are poised, and his body is one turtle-like lump in the middle. If he’s going to walk, he will unfold more and start galumphing around. I could touch him to get him going, but I have meddled enough.”
“Mantras Seventeen and Eighteen from Isopanisad are wonderful. All the books are wonderful if we can just find the clarity and patience to read them. When I read alertly, I see how Prabhupada addresses my immediate concerns.
“In Mantra Seventeen, the devotee prays to enter the kingdom of God after death. What happens in the next life is determined by our thoughts at the time of death. ‘The devotees, however, develop a sense of love for Godhead by practicing devotional service to the Lord. Even if at the time of death a devotee does not remember his service to the Lord, the Lord does not forget him.’ The devotee also asks the Lord, ‘Please remember all my sacrifices.’ This sacrifice refers to, ‘denying the interest of the senses. One has to learn this art by employing the senses in the service of the Lord during one’s lifetime.’
“Prabhupada begins his purport to Mantra Eighteen: ‘By surrendering to the Lord and praying for His causeless mercy, the devotee can progress on the path of complete self-realization.’ It’s nice to see Prabhupada stating that prayer itself is an act of devotion. Then I should pray for the Lord’s causeless mercy. That’s like the Jesus prayer, ‘Jesus Christ, please have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Krsna can respond to the person who is praying to Him and trying to surrender. ‘He can give directions to His sincere devotees by which they can attain the right path. Such directions are especially offered to the devotee, even if he desires something else.’
‘Of course, we have to try to rectify ourselves, but Krsna is powerful and He can cleanse our hearts from within. In the purport Prabhupada quotes Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.5.42:
“‘The Lord is so kind to the devotee who is fully surrendered to His lotus feet that even though the devotee sometimes falls into the entanglement of vikarma—acts against the Vedic directions—the Lord at once rectifies such mistakes from within his heart. This is because the devotees are very dear to the Lord.’
“Prabhupada goes on to say that it’s human to make mistakes, and the only remedial measure against our perhaps unknown sins is to surrender to Krsna in the heart so He can guide us. We’re guided in four ways: by the saints, scriptures, and spiritual master, and by the Lord in the heart Himself.”
“I wasn’t intending to type this morning, but Madhu put the typewriter out here in the van with paper in it, so here goes.
“I walked a little longer than usual down a nice narrow road, but I woke up a watchdog. The dog started howling, and a light went on inside the house. What a botheration. It’s hard to find a place to walk where you don’t disturb dogs or people. Anyway, I managed to keep walking back and forth over one stretch where I wouldn’t bother anyone. These spring mornings are stinging cold.
“Madhu is slowly getting the van ready. I hope it will be livable when we break camp here in about two weeks. Until then, let me bear down in discovering all I can about the glories of the holy name. We are trying to minimize phone calls and letter exchanges and anything that may take us away from the lotus feet of Nama Prabhu. The names of Krsna will see that I am growing in affection for them, even though I continue to do poor japa-yajna. If I display enough determination, I am sure Krsna will take me more seriously, and a ray of His personal service will enter my heart on the wings of the sound vibration.”
“We always wonder if we are doing the best thing. We want to be able to have a deep conviction in the direction our lives are taking. Krsna is maintaining us, and up to a point, we also have to help ourselves. We trust Krsna and we have to learn to trust our own intentions in Krsna consciousness. The Madhurya Kadambini lists a symptom of unsteadiness as ‘indecision.’ You go back and forth, back and forth, trying to decide what course to take even in spiritual life. It’s better just to plunge in and trust that Krsna will take care of the results.
“Do you want to be Krsna conscious? The intelligence consults the self:’How do you feel about your surrender to Krsna consciousness?’ We consult even the senses and the body and the sub-persons. ‘Are you all right? Do you want to quit Krsna consciousness or lessen it? Any other desires needing to be fulfilled? Are you convinced?’ If you’re actually a devotee, all your selves will express their loyalty to this path. They may all have their own opinion as to how Krsna consciousness will best be accomplished, though. The intelligence has to have control. It’s not as simple as it sounds.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes himself as a dog in the Lord’s household. ‘Chain me nearby and maintain me as You will. I shall remain at the doorstep, and allow no enemies to enter Your house.’ (Saranagati, 3.3.2) He’ll eat whatever prasada remnants are left by the devotees, and he’ll feast on them with ecstasy. ‘Whenever You call, I will immediately run to You and dance in rapture.’
“Krsna, please engage me in Your service. Vanquish my reluctance and uncertainty of whether I can serve You, whether I can trust those who claim to represent You, whether the tasks are suitable for me. You gave me so much freedom because I asked for it. You gave me a ‘license’ for sense gratification. It’s good to know my service is voluntary, but am I not Your servant, Your household dog? I pray to be able to sing honestly like Bhaktivinoda Thakura (and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami), ‘I am Yours! I am Yours! I am Yours!’”
Even if we consider that Prabhupada’s purports are partly translations of previous commentaries, this does not diminish our gratitude for his preaching and giving us access to the thoughts and devotion in disciplic succession. Once, the devotees were commenting on how quickly Prabhupada was writing. Prabhupada said, “Oh, I can finish very quickly, but I have to present it for your understanding. It requires deep thought, very carefully, to present.
“And neither were his purports just static translations of other commentaries, but he struggled to apply the words of the previous acaryas to the present-day mentality of the Westerners. We can imagine how difficult this must have been— trying to present the principles of government, or the position of women in Vedic culture, or even the necessity to avoid sinful life—to persons who were addicted to sense gratification and who had no idea what was wrong with it. He saturated his purports with Krsna, and built the groundwork to supply his readers with a cultural language to enable them to enter into the pages of the Bhagavatam.
“Many scholars appreciated his purports for this reason. Dr. Bruce Long, from the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University, wrote:
“Anyone who gives a close reading to the commentary will sense that here, as in his other works, Sri Bhaktivedanta has combined a healthy mixture of the fervent devotion and aesthetic sensitivity of a devotee with the intellectual rigor of a textual scholar. At no point does the author allow the intended meaning of the text to be eclipsed by the promotion of a particular doctrine or persuasion.”
“Thomas Hopkins commented that Srila Prabhupada bridged ‘an enormous cultural gap’ by his purports. Scripture that was originally composed for people in a completely different cultural nearly year was being made applicable to Westerners. He adds,
“‘That kind of teaching that really makes an impact is the kind where you know that someone is speaking out of his own experience. You certainly get that sense with Bhaktivedanta Swami. When that wealth of knowledge and insight is processed through the mind and experience of a holy person, it emerges as a statement of his own understanding.’”
“A balance is all right. But what did he mean when he asked whether chanting should be in the forefront? Chanting should be enough in the forefront that we don’t chant our rounds while driving. It should be enough in the forefront that it gets prime time in the morning. If that’s what he meant by forefront, then yes, chanting should be in the forefront.
“But it’s not either-or: either I spend time to raise money (for Krsna conscious purposes), or I spend time being truthful and associating with other devotees. There has to be time for everything. Otherwise, if chanting were the all in all, our movement would advise everyone to become babajis. Prabhupada says that babaji life is a liberated state. We can’t artificially jump to that position. We have to be balanced.
“We are fortunate to find other things in Krsna consciousness for which we have some taste. I love to write and read. But chant too. Don’t neglect the chanting.
If I were to ask myself this question: ‘Should chanting always be in the forefront?’ I would have to admit that I could always do better. The chanting is so easy to do that we can do it along with other activities. We can chant all the time. Why not always put chanting in the forefront of our lives? Prabhupada told people that they didn’t have to give up anything; they should just add the chanting. It doesn’t really ‘take up’ time. It doesn’t steal interest away from other projects.
“We’re unfortunate if we take an ‘efficiency expert’ attitude toward our lives and say, ‘With all respects to the chanting, I shall have to omit it from my life between 10 A.M. and 1 P.M. because at that time I cook lunch, clean up, and eat.’ Why can’t we chant while doing those things? Let’s put chanting always in the forefront. Chanting is the one before all the zeroes.”
“The dictionary meaning of prayer mostly centers on this aspect. Although in Srimad-Bhagavatam the praise element is more dominant, at the end of a series of praises, a devotee in need will often make a request to the Lord. Some of these requests appear to be material and some are requests for pure devotional service. Here is a pure request made by Brahma:
“‘My dear Lord, I therefore pray to be so fortunate that in this life as Lord Brahma or in another life, wherever I take my birth, I may be counted as one of Your devotees. I pray that wherever I may be, even among the animal species, I can engage in devotional service to Your lotus feet. (Bhag. 10.14.30)
“When Gajendra was in the jaws of the crocodile, he prayed for immediate relief as well as liberation from samsara:
“‘. . . May that Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is unlimitedly merciful, bestow upon me the benediction of liberation from this present danger and from the materialistic way of life. (Bhag. 8.3.19)’
“Srila Prabhupada remarks here that devotees prefer not to ask for boons, but sometimes they are forced to do so out of helplessness. However, even when asking for such help, they regret it.
“Dhruva Maharaja expressed his regret that he had prayed to the Lord for a material benediction. Queen Kunti prayed that the Lord would please break her ties to her kinsmen and that she might have single-minded devotion to Him. There are many other prayers of pure requests in the sastras, where devotees refuse all boons and simply ask for pure devotional service.”
The Krsna consciousness movement
is trying to bring back Vedic culture
so that people may be very happy.
It is not a business,
or religious sentiment,
but a program to make everyone happy,
sarve sukhena bhavantu.
Not, “I exploit you, you exploit me.
I cut your throat, you cut my throat.
” This is not human society
but it has already begun:
because you are very expert
in cutting the throats of the animals,
now you will cut each other’s throats.
So a sober man,
thinking of all this downfall
of the human civilization,
he becomes very unhappy,
he becomes very unhappy.
(Bhag. 1.6.21, Los Angeles, 7 November 1974)
“Prabhupada asked one sannyasi to argue with him that there are oceans of milk and liquor as stated in the Bhagavatam. Pancadravida Swami said the Bhagavatam is myth. Srila Prabhupada replied, ‘To us your science is myth.’ Pancadravida Swami said, ‘But the findings of material science can be verified by many persons, whereas self-realized findings rest on the authority of a few.’ Prabhupada said, ‘Do we have to believe something just because many asses say so?’
“The ocean of liquor is manufactured by the same Personality who manufactures the saltwater ocean. Vibhuti-bhinnam—people on those planets are able to be sustained by liquor in the ocean without going mad as we would.
“I said the Americans and Europeans are leaving Vrndavana now and are eager to return to preaching. His face expressed approval, ‘Yes, preaching and book distribution is our business.’ There was discussion of leaving Vrndavana. Prabhupada said, ‘You have learned how to keep Vrndavana in your heart.’
“I was mostly satisfied to see my divine master at least on frequent occasions, and to always bring him news of the library party’s successful sale of his books at the universities. (We tried to schedule our university visits to coincide with the cities Prabhupada visited.) Little did we know then that his stay with us would be so brief and that this was his next to last tour of the U.S.A.
“Here also we get a view of Prabhupada in argumentation and some of the very rebellious challenges that he met, such as the group of longhaired ‘disciples’ he spoke to in Los Angeles. Sometimes Prabhupada used to say that he could have stayed at home and loved Krsna, but because he saw people were suffering, he traveled; traveling meant to expose himself to many challenges. People may think that Prabhupada speaks too strongly, but if you get a glimpse of some of the challenges that Prabhupada faced, you realize that he had to be strong. It was his opponents who resented that Prabhupada was so strong, whereas those who wanted to remain in Krsna consciousness aspired to be led by Prabhupada’s argumentation.
“This also helps us to understand Prabhupada’s statement about Christ, ‘We adore and offer obeisances to Christ.’ Since he himself was always on the preaching field, Prabhupada could appreciate how Christ gave everything to preach and yet was always tolerant, even against the ultimate challenges.
“The lecture notes from June 31 of Prabhupada in dialogue are actually a session with some of his sannyasi disciples. Prabhupada invited us to challenge him. Gradually, we opened up. For myself, I was actually speaking my own doubts and speculations, pretending to be a speculator challenging Prabhupada. All of us who were fighting against Prabhupada in that mock battle were happy as he smashed us with strong and humorous arguments. He was like a father taking on his sons who try to pile up on him but who are ultimately defeated.
“Sometimes the father even has to give a hard slap to subdue a rambunctious youngster. When I challenged Prabhupada that whatever he said was actually just a presentation of the Vedic tradition, he replied, ‘What is your tradition, nonsense ?’
“Seeing my notes in which I half-complain and half-assure myself to work hard, I draw some solace. I was doing as much as I could do in the spirit of ‘Work now, samadhi later.’ Prabhupada’s inspirational presence enabled hundreds of us to work hard, assisting him to expand the Krsna consciousness movement. We pray to always be thankful to Prabhupada for pushing us in those days. According to the Bhagavad-gita, whatever little assistance we offer to the Vaisnava is to our eternal credit.
“When Prabhupada visited Dallas and spoke to us in the garden behind the temple, I remember a special moment which is only partly indicated here. Devotees were reading aloud to Prabhupada from the Krsna book—a prayer by Lord Siva, who declared that Lord Krsna is the creator of the material elements. ‘So,’ Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘if we do not accept that Krsna made the sky, then who made it?’ My diary adds, ‘There were no answers.’ There were no answers, but at that moment, many of us who were seated at Prabhupada’s feet looked up at the big Texan sky, and because of Prabhupada’s presence, we saw Krsna as the creator. It was a very simple but profound moment of shared God consciousness. By not answering Prabhupada’s challenge as to who had made the sky, and by humbly accepting what he had said, we were able to see.
“Even from a sketchy diary like mine, one can appreciate how Prabhupada was scattering seeds of spiritual instructions wherever he went. Many of those bhakti seeds are still growing; some are waiting to be cultivated by whomever will come forward to do it. For example, from his informal talk one evening in Detroit: ‘He is keen for an institute of all our philosophy books. Any scholar may come and study and then argue with us, and we shall demonstrate how Krsna consciousness is superior.’ Prabhupada’s lectures are also full of hundreds of seeds, bhakti-lata-bija, thrown out to the hearts of the listeners. ‘The only prayer to make to Krsna is, “Dear Lord, please give me the strength to serve You.”’”
“There are many sastric statements which describe the symptoms of an advanced devotee of the Lord. If we read these with honesty, we will be humiliated:
“‘In pure devotional service, the only motive should be to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ (Bhag. 3.29.8, purport)
“‘A pure devotee has no interest but to act on behalf of the Supreme Lord. When one has even a tinge of personal interest, his devotion is mixed with the three modes of material nature.’ (Bhag. 3.29.9, purport)
“As I read these verses, I ask myself, ‘Do I have any other motive than to please the Supreme Lord? Do I perform my service with great concern for the personal facilities that I can gain, such as comforts, reputation, and so on?’ If I am honest, I have to admit that I don’t measure up to the standard described in these verses.
“One who works for the satisfaction of the Lord only, however difficult such work may be, is working under the principles of buddhi-yoga (bhakti-yoga) and finds himself always in transcendental bliss. (Bg. 2.39, purport)
“Again, I have to admit I don’t always experience transcendental bliss, and therefore, I am not desireless.
“In describing the divine qualities (Sixteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita), Lord Krsna includes ‘freedom from envy and a passion for honor.’ But that’s not me. And what about the demoniac qualities beginning with pride? Isn’t it true that I still have some demoniac qualities? Therefore, I should cultivate humility, the first item of knowledge.
“It is only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord and the spiritual master, that I have been allowed to perform activities which they accept as devotional service. Otherwise, on my own I cannot claim to be on the level of liberation which is required before one can practice bhakti.”
“‘A holy man from India,
described as one of the more conservative
leaders of his faith,
launched a kind of evangelistic effort yesterday
in the heart of San Francisco’s hippie haven.’
Conservative means he doesn’t approve
of LSD, of homosexual acts,
of boys and girls touching, wasting vital energy
with no connection to Krsna.
and he decries the slaughterhouse.
But Prabhupada was thinking
in a different way than they,
not politically left or right,
but bringing the Vedic truth unchanged.
No one among the Vaisnavas had ever
come to mingle with the mad
who call being sane conservative.
He was not for preserving the existing order.
Not an old fogey, no stand-patter,
he dared to move among the wildest youth
yet remained as a lily on water.
No conservative could do that.
Arriving from his first plane trip,
he passed between two rows
of chanting, incense-bearing hippies
and accepted their Wild-West obeisances.
“The bewildered young seekers
saw him, golden, smiling, dancing,
arms upraised in the airport,
and all their hopes were satisfied.
They were attracted by his words:
‘From the sky the houses looked like matchboxes.
Just imagine how it looks
from Krsna’s point of view.’
Never had they thought like that
or known anyone who did.
They were wild ones,
and for him to land among them
to teach and guide them,
he could not be conservative.”
“The bell is ringing. Noon arati is going on in the temple. I imagine myself five months from now in the back of my Renault van, sitting on the bunk. I have a six-hundred page manuscript typed and bound, and I am reading an excerpt aloud to Madhu and another devotee. Maybe we are parked in South France on the way to Barcelona. Reading the manuscript, we get a glimpse of Vrndavana and the goal we hope to always keep in mind. Cars and trucks whiz by on the European highway. I read something about the chirping of the squirrels at noontime while the temple bell rings slowly, tolling . . . tolling . . . and everyone is busy in his existence—workers hammering and sawing, brahmanas busy on the altar, and the animal kingdom, sleeping, defending, climbing walls, cawing. Then the sound of the conch resonating through the air.
“It is ironic how we keep thinking of going somewhere else. When in County Kerry, I think of Vrndavana, and in Vrndavana, I think of County Kerry. There is a little bird on the gurukula wall. I don’t imagine he is thinking of any faraway place or future time better than the present. He is not waiting for his secretary to return from New Delhi to tell him whether plane tickets are available during the Christmas rush. The bird stands on his spindly legs for just a few moments before his instincts take hold and he soars off to catch an air current.
“Everything in Vrndavana is sweet and meaningful. I would like to write down at least one millionth of what is going on here. The earthiness of the parikrama trail, the people who say, ‘Radhe, Radhe.’ One millionth. Keep at it.
“Tonight I will give a talk to disciples. The group gets smaller as Karttika draws to a close. I plan to read from Uddhava’s remembrance of Krsna in Vrndavana in the Third Canto. Uddhava went deeply into trance remembering Krsna.
“Earlier, I read the talks of Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya. Prabhupada states that we have to hear with pure faith, not like the impersonalist logicians or scholars, and definitely not like the sahajiyas who hear from a guru outside the authorized parampara. As I read Caitanya-caritamrta, the monkeys in the courtyard jabbered and screamed. I ignored them. I stayed with Caitanya-caritamrta.”
“Walking in the park by 5:15 A.M. Some van parked near the forest, and I walked past it a little fearful. The engine was running, but I couldn’t see anyone there. Thought about how somebody could kill you and all they would get off my body was a Sony Dictaphone and a set of japa beads which would be useless to them. How valuable is my life anyway? I saw an interesting line in a poem by Milosz in which he’s recalling his youth and how a particular river was very nice, but as he recalls it, he remembers all the garbage heaped on the bank. He said it is good to remember like that as a caution against trying to find an ideal place on earth. From the Krsna conscious point of view, we know there’s no ideal place because no place is eternal, full of bliss and knowledge. Also, many of the paradises we seek are kingdoms of God without God. Just know I’m on a knoll looking down at a powerful flow of water down a waterfall and into a small lake surrounded by rocks. It’s nature’s ‘violence,’ but thrilling. And you could be peaceful there sitting on a ledge. I see a raft also. But if it all produces a kind of raw sense grat and forgetfulness of Krsna of Vrndavana, what’s the use?
Look at it a while and turn my back. Start walking and chanting and taking this Upstate in search of a devotee writing life.
Squirrel running along a low wooden fence. Limp American flag on a pole with a silver ball on top. Outdoor barbecue stands. Only me in the park because it’s so early. Puff balls of dandelions. Leftover picnic litter from yesterday and here is the ‘Orenda Spring…a naturally carbonated, saline alkalized mineral water. This is a highly mineralized water and contains radium. Its continuous or excessive use may be harmful to your health.’ It’s arranged like a shrine. You approach it and the water is pouring down out of a little rock-built shelter into a stone fountain. Just where the water is coming out the rock is red. It reminds me of the tongue of Krsna at Govardhana. But there’s no personal worship of God involved unless you already bring it with you.
“Now into deeper forest areas where the floor is earth. Thick tree trunks of deciduous trees. All around, you see the tall columns reminding you of temple architecture. And the earth floor is covered with pine needles and other mulch. Valley, old rotting wood. Reminds you of a spot like this in Gita-nagari woods. But you can’t walk far because your foot hurts, and anyway you’re soon at the edge of the deep woods and into another part of Saratoga Spa.
“When I have physical pain, my world shrinks up to the body, but this should be a training time to try to see beyond the body and don’t just feel the pain sensations. At least keep chanting as you limp along. Pain relief isn’t everything.
“White Birch trees. Pale golden palm weeds by the side of the road. Beautiful blue enamel sky with white wisps in front of it, painted by the Artist. Many shades of green in the leaves and grass. I’m on my sixteenth round and still a lot of the day is ahead.
“Krsna’s love for the gopis is pure and their love for Him is purely transcendental. One can understand it only by following the path of the gopis. ‘One has to practice living in Vrindavan by hearing about the talks of the gopis with Krsna. However, one should not consider himself a gopi, for this is offensive.’ (Cc. Madhya 8.205, purport)
“The gopis find their greatest pleasure not by directly meeting with Krsna but in uniting Radha and Krishna.
“I read some in Cc. although still drowsy, even after resting. Head bangs on the neck, like a big flower on a stem. Now I will write of other things although some may find the mixture jarring. It is my actual life to sometimes read esoteric passages in Srila Prabhupada’s books and then do something else. This is not necessarily offensive. It is my actual life.
“It is quite cold in the morning, so much so that we wear gloves on our morning walks. But gradually the morning warms up and you may remove Srila Prabhupada’s knit cap and open a window. Be aware of these changes and don’t get left behind.
All right. Funny words and puns are always peeking out. But I don’t have to notice them. Try to find Krsna in the mess of this organization. That’s the best idea.
“Novels, crafts, poems, plays, Cadillacs, peas, lunch for breakfast, gliders, turtles, mishes, mashes, and more turtles. Nothing is permanent in this world. The soul is permanent, however, and takes one body after another. This is the law. You stiff neck doesn’t change the law – you are eternal and the body will pass.”
“Blue Jay calls. My childhood pangs. The Red Maples bloom dark, dark wine in the end of May. Bloomers and pajamas are still in fashion in the cold.
“He said it gets ‘chilly’ here in winter, ‘but if you come then we will keep you warm.’
“I told him I was writing two things at once. They are kind to feed and house us.
“I won’t tell all the things that occur. There was, however, a contest he saw by which you were invited to write an essay, ‘What I would do on my first day in my cottage in Ireland.’ The author of the prize-winning essay would be awarded a cottage in Ireland. How about that? And he brought me a flimsy walking stick, just like the one I used in Ireland. It would be better to have a traditionally shaped cane to lean on, when you sprain and strain in the New York forest of performing arts.
“Be aware O’Hare
Airport isn’t the only
and money can come in
‘A poem must rhyme,’
said a silly serious girl and
I lectured her on the history
of English poems but had no
to tell her of T.S. Eliot and
Father Williams but said
poets got tired of the shackles
or rhyming and meter and
wanted to make poems more
like human speech.
“Speaking to such an innocent, second generation Hare Krsna child, I myself questioned, ‘Why is it so important or valuable to approximate valuable speech?’ But anyway, I much prefer the vers libre and so tried to convince her it is best this way.
The airport got its name
when Tripurari and his troopers
did the change-up there
like a bear
he growled his way
into his spiritual master’s heart
and I can’t condemn it
as they risked their lives.
But it could have been
honester is all we
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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A narrative poem. challenging and profound, about the journey of an itinerant monk who pursues new means of self-expression.The reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.