This is the fourteenth week of the Free Write Journal. I proofread the complete Ms. of POEMS From Every Day, Just Write. I found many mistakes, including some I had already corrected (omitted) but which popped back into the book. I’m thinking of asking Guru dasa to also do a proofreading. “The more sets of eyes, the better.”
Bala in the hospital has been running high fevers. The doctor hasn’t figured out the cause. As a result, Bala has perspired a lot. He wants to take a bath, but he doesn’t want the nurses to do it. So he has asked Baladeva to bathe him. Baladeva has gone today to do it. Krsna dasi goes to the hospital almost every day for several hours. I think maybe I should meet Bala in the hospital. I am mostly immobile; I only leave the house to go to a doctor’s. But if I am able to travel to see a doctor, why can’t I go and visit a patient? I can show him I care.
We are enjoying our out-loud reading of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Hearing the familiar and famous verses is inspirational. Prabhupada’s purports are tremendous. He never misses a chance to hammer home that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Cause of all causes. The verses also make it clear about Krsna’s supremacy. There is God, and Krsna is God. We are now on the Ninth Chapter, “The Most Confidential Knowledge.” Prabhupada writes that the middle chapters of the book are essential. We have just read the verse, “If one offers Me with devotion a leaf, a fruit, some water or a flower, I will accept.” Prabhupada explains how the impersonalists misunderstand this, taking it as allegorical or proof that Krsna is mundane. Prabhupada slams them and points out what a loving, easy exchange Krsna offers here.
Krsna asserts Himself in Bhagavad-gita: “A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Bg. 5.29) Srila Prabhupada called this “The Peace Formula.” He wrote, “One can attain perfect peace only in complete Krsna consciousness.”
I like POEMS From Every Day, Just Write. They are best approached through John’s prefaces and a submissive reading of my wild poesy. Everything is typed, and we are going through proofreading. I plan to publish it with my own private funds. John is eager to get the printed book because he has ideas how to distribute it, such as having readings in bookstores, etc. The fact that they were written in the 1990s, and are long out-of-print–and we are presenting new prefaces for each volume of poems from EJW–makes for a fresh and exciting publishing event.
Bala is supposed to be released from the hospital today. This will be a big relief for him, as he can recover in privacy. It will also be a relief for the devotees at Viraha Bhavan. Their schedules have been interrupted by traveling to and from Albany and staying with Bala in the hospital. We hope he will not have any more relapses.
Prabhupada lecturing in early 1966, even before he had his own home base. He had not given any initiations yet, so none of the group of listeners were his disciples. Yet he spoke with confidence and enthusiasm. His earnestness was charming. He spoke how in prisons there are first-class, second-class and third-class prisoners. He said our aspiration in the human form of life should not be rising to become first-class prisoners. We should be striving to get out of prison–breaking the shackles of sense-gratification that bind us to repeated birth and death.
This afternoon our Stuyvesant Falls community is observing Govardhana Puja at Krishna-kumari’s house. Ravindra Svarupa is going to speak, and I have said I will not speak. Every year I would tell the entire lila from the Krsna Book, and I’m afraid it would be repetitious to do it again. There is, however, one part of the lila that I wouldn’t mind repeating. Krsna’s lifting of Govardhana Hill was the first time that the cowherd men and women all witnessed Krsna’s miraculous prowess. Previously, with the killing of Putana, Sakatasura, Trnavarta, Aghasura and Bakasura, the grownups didn’t believe that the little child Krsna had vanquished the demons. But they believed He was protected by Lord Visnu. Krsna’s young cowherd boyfriends witnessed all the miracles, but the elders didn’t believe them, especially when the boys witnessed Krsna uprooting the twin Arjuna trees and delivering two demigods, the boys tried to convince the Vrajavasis of what had happened, but they were not believed.
Govardhana, however, was different. The whole population of Vrndavana, with their cows, saw seven-year-old Krsna holding the hill on the pinkie of His left hand for seven days. They couldn’t deny that it was child Krsna holding up the hill. After Indra backed off and withdrew the rains, Krsna placed the hill back on the ground. The cowherd men surrounded Nanda Maharaja and inquired about the identity of Krsna. They asked, “How is it that this boy has come to live in our village? He appears to be an ordinary child, but we have just seen Him lift up Govardhana Hill in order to protect us. Is He a demigod, or perhaps He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead?” Nanda Maharaja replied, “I can just tell you what Gargamuni said at the name-giving ceremony. He said that this child is as good as Narayana in every way. We may meet with difficulties here in Vrndavana, but Krsna will protect us always.” Hearing this, the cowherd men became very happy and said, “Let us always stay under the protection of wonderful Krsna!” The young gopis, who had a good opportunity of looking upon Krsna for seven days, offered Him curd mixed with their tears, for they were beginning to fall deeply in love with Him.
Obeisances to the spiritual master. Dandavats before Radha-Krsna. A person who worships the Deity in the temple but does not respect all living entities (in whose heart Krsna dwells) is a prakrta-bhakta, the lowest class of devotee.
Viraha Bhavan Journal has arrived from the printers. I intend to distribute them to the devotees on my Vyasa-Puja day, December 1st. Caitanya-candrodaya has done an expert and beautiful job on the covers. He has made collages of photos of Radha-Govinda and Prabhupada with me. The Viraha Bhavan Journal is only 129 pages, but I think it is accessible and enjoyable. A festival meeting with my disciples is incomplete unless I have a new book to give them. I need to be prolific enough to produce two books a year. I read them before the assembled devotees and then pass them out one by one while I sign my name in the book. Here is an except from Viraha Bhavan Journal:
Question: “How were you affected when you first ‘discovered’ the poems by the Gosvamis? Has your appreciation improved? Do you think of them during darsana?”
Answer: “At first I was hesitant to read the poems of the Gosvamis of Vrndavana. I worried that they might be too advanced for me. Some devotees have vowed to confine their reading to Prabhupada’s books only. But I gradually began to read the Gosvamis’ poems. After all, Prabhupada has quoted them profusely in books like Caitanya-caritamrta and Nectar of Devotion. I did not find that the Gosvamis’ books were too intimate or amorous in their descriptions. They did not agitate my mind in that way. Kusakratha Prabhu is a qualified translator from Sanskrit to English. Gopiparanadhana Prabhu and his editors produced an excellent, authorized translation, with commentary, of Sanatana Gosvami’s masterpiece Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. My appreciation of these translations has improved by re-reading. I have posted Rupa Gosvami’s Padyavali on my website in excerpts, two times. I don’t confuse the Gosvamis’ poems with mundane writing about material sexual affairs.
Question: “Can any advanced soul seek ‘new stories’ in their heart’s meditation and be confident they are real and shareable? Is that what advanced krsna-kathah is?”
Answer: “It is best to be safe and read the lila stories that Prabhupada has presented. An ordinary devotee should not imagine “new” pastimes of Krsna and expect other devotees to accept them as authorized pastimes. But it’s a fact that “new’ pastimes are going on in the spiritual world. Krsna is ever-fresh, newer and newer, and He is always inventing new pastimes. Great souls like Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami have experienced these pastimes; Rupa Gosvami has presented them in his dramas Lalita-madhava and Vidagdha-madhava. Sanatana Gosvami’s narration about Gopa-kumara and how he persistently chanted his mantra until he attained Goloka Vrndavana are as good as authorized scriptures. But only pseudo- devotees like the prakrta-sahajjiyas imagine that they are taking part in Krsna’s pastimes. They take things cheaply and mislead innocent persons on the devotional path.” (Viraha Bhavan Journal, pp. 28-30)
We attended Govardhana-puja at Krishna-kumari’s house. There were about thirty devotees with children. Krishna-kumari had created a beautiful hill with sweets. It had many signs on it with the names of sacred places in Vrndavana, such as “Radha-kunda,” “Krsna’s footprint,” “Kusuma-sarovara,” etc., etc. Ravindra Svarupa gave a talk quoting the verse spoken by a gopi that Govardhana Hill was the best servant of Hari. I began my talk by saying that Krsna’s lifting of Govardhana Hill was witnessed by the entire population of Vrndavana. Previous to this, the grownups never attributed Krsna’s extraordinary feats as due to His own prowess. When He killed the gigantic witch Putana, the wind-demon Trnavarta, the huge duck Baka, the serpent Agha, Krsna’s parents concluded that He was being protected by Lord Visnu. Krsna’s young playmates had actually been with Krsna and witnessed His miraculous feats. But when the boys reported what wonderful things Krsna had accomplished, their accounts were taken as childish imagination. The boys were especially eager to convince the elders about Krsna’s uprooting the twin Arjuna trees, and two demigods emerging from the trees. Again, their eyewitness accounts were dismissed as fantastic.
But Govardhana was different. The entire population of Vrndavana witnessed seven-year-old Krsna holding the hill aloft on the pinkie of His left hand for seven days to protect the residents from the rainstorms of Indra. When Indra backed off and withdrew the clouds, Krsna placed the hill back on the ground. Then the cowherd men gathered around Nanda Maharaja and eagerly inquired about the identity of Krsna: “Who is this boy who has come to live in our village? He appears to be an ordinary child who reciprocates with us in affection. But now we have just seen Him pick up Govardhana Hill on the pinkie of His left hand to protect us from the wrath of Indra. Tell us, Nanda Maharaja. He may be a demigod. Or perhaps He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Nanda Maharaja replied, “I can only tell you what Gargamuni said at the time of Krsna’s name-giving ceremony. He said that this child is equal to Narayana in all respects. We may meet with many difficulties, but we will always be protected by Krsna.” When the cowherd men heard this, they were very elated. They said, “May we alway live under the protection of wonderful Krsna!” I ended my talk by saying, “The young gopis gathered around Krsna and presented Him with curd mixed with their tears–because they were falling deeply in love with Krsna.”
The room was darkened, except for the ghee lamps being offered to Giriraja and the tirtha-sthalis on the hill. After more kirtana, the devotees honored prasadam, including halavah and cookies from the hill, and Baladeva’s devotional sweet rice. We left at 7:00 P.M.; Krishna-kumari’s husband led us to our car with a flashlight. “Thank you for coming to my house,” he said in a gentlemanly way. Our party of three was leaving early without honoring prasadam. “Will you at least take some cookies?” Janardana asked. Baladeva replied that Manohara would come back and gather some prasadam for us. We went to bed with the Westernized melody of the Hare Krsna mantra, as led by Akendra and Tulasi-priya, running through our heads.
Veganism seems wrong. There are so many references in Prabhupada’s books and lectures to cow protection and the benefit of drinking milk, “which purifies the finer tissues in the brain.” They say we should not drink the milk from the cows who are destined to be slaughtered. In recent years ahimsa milk has been distributed widely from ISKCON dairy farms such as Gita-nagari and Bhaktivedanta Manor. But in many places, ahimsa milk is not available. Prabhupada knew what he was getting when he drank store-bought milk. He thought the principle of taking store-bought milk offered to Krsna was more important than insisting it be ahimsa. (For a cow whose milk is offered to Krsna, she gets a higher next birth. That is far better than a cow who simply continues in the samsara transmigration of being slaughtered.)
It’s one thing to follow veganism for oneself, but to look upon devotees who drink milk as inferior is offensive. Veganism is a new “religion.” Vegans often take a “holier-than-thou” attitude, which works against humility. Vegans don’t just stop at not drinking milk. In their new religion, they sometimes don’t follow all the principles but adopt new lifestyles such as overemphasizing hatha yoga (which Prabhupada didn’t think was very useful for a bhakti practitioner) and taking up aspects of New Age philosophy which are a distraction to those on the path of pure Krsna consciousness.
They prepared halavah for the Govardhana Hill, but they used no sugar or Splenda. So it had no sweet taste. It was almost like eating upma. I thought, “This isn’t halavah!” In the early days of ISKCON, our temple communities gathered at night for a cup of warm, sweetened milk and a Krsna Book reading. That was a nice way to go off to sleep.
So I wrote against the vegans. Maybe I’ll get a reaction from readers who follow that diet. Generally I get no response from my Journal. I would like it if someone would write a question that I could answer. It’s rare that I write anything controversial. This is perhaps the first time.
I don’t care if I don’t get a response to my Journal. I am interested in writing and posting. The editor of Wind Chimes, a haiku magazine, published my poems several times. I wrote to the editor and asked him what I should think about the Big Silence, the fact that no readers respond to my poems. He wrote back that I should not expect to hear from anyone. Some may read and even like my poems, but people are very busy; do not be disappointed that a reader does not acknowledge you. The real reward is your love of the writing process. Getting published is just the icing on the cake. I took the advice from the Wind Chimes editor seriously. I am pretty much satisfied just by writing a poem that I like and by publishing a collection of them in “print-on-demand,” 150 copies. I distribute them to my disciples, friends and well-wishers.
The Other Day
(in the mood of Satsvarupa dasa Brahmachary)
The other day I came to you, Swamiji,
after I had just talked with my father on the phone.
He said he didn’t like Krsna or the Swami
and he said he and my mom
will have nothing to do with me unless I quit.
I was teary-eyed when I spoke this to you and I don’t remember what you said.
(Should have written it down.)
But I remember that your eyes smiled
when you saw that I’m definitely your son.
Please keep me that way.
Although I’m old enough to live
without my mom and dad,
spiritually speaking, I’m only three months old.
My upbringing was so bad
that I think insulting thoughts in your presence,
and I tend to disbelieve the scriptures.
But I’m sure you will come out all right
and you say that you are sure too,
as long as I stick to it.
I need you to correct me,
but I can’t take stern reprimands.
You know this and so you are always easy with me. I just want to say that I appreciate it
although I wish I were made of stronger stuff.
(When I told you I sleep only five hours like the Six Gosvamis
you were not impressed.
You scoffed at me, “You are not a gosvami!”
I really liked that one.)
Please teach me Bhagavad-gita,
tell me of Nanda and Yasoda’s son,
tell me every morning of Lord Caitanya
and please never stop. And as you get to know me
and see I’m shot with vices–unclean,
can’t sit up straight, can’t remember,
don’t have pure faith to carry out orders–
please know that despite my faults,
I really think I can make it
and be a follower of yours
my whole life
if you’ll accept me.
That’s what I’m asking.
The Glories of Lunchtime at 26 Second Avenue
One of the nicest times with the Swami was when we all came together to eat lunch. At the beginning, a group of regulars would attend the Swami’s lecture, but as soon as the kirtana was over, each person would go back to his apartment and his separate life. But once we ate together, it created an intimacy.
Let me remember it again: I come in just a few minutes after one o’clock, straight from the welfare office. I’m not exactly late, but lunch is already underway. I am a little anxious and hungry. I want to be sure I get a plate. “Satsvarupa, come on!” They make a space for me, and I sit down near the wall. The rug has been rolled back, and we sit on the bare parquet floors. There is one row of eaters along the three walls, and then another half-circle of people in the center of the room. In the center of everything, sitting just to the right of the low table with the Panca-Tattva picture, is the Swami. Kirtanananda comes in with chapatis and says, “Everybody has to take at least two helpings. Right, Swamiji?” “Yes,” Swamiji says, “Eat more.” Swamiji himself is eating. He mixes the different preparations together with his right hand–pours the dal onto the rice and then mixes the rice with the dal with his fingers, then pushes the subji into the rice and takes the chapati and pushes everything together. He eats quickly, while everything is still warm, and he continues to mix it. It’s almost like he’s tasting with his hand as well as with his mouth and eyes. The Swami’s eating was another art which was new and fascinating to us. We all eat with our right hands, just like Swamiji. It’s joyful, but serious business, chewing meditatively and relishing.
“This is very succulent!” Others praise the food. Swamiji says, “I can teach you many preparations. I’ve only taught a few. How foolish the nondevotees are for not knowing how to eat in Krsna-consciousness! Aromas of food from the kitchen, the smell of hot rice as it goes on everyone’s plate, and the vegetables and the chapatis and the butter and the combined good dinner aroma. Eating first and talking second. But there is talk also. The Swami is usually quiet, especially at the peak of the eating. But sometimes Hayagriva is talking about American poetry, Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, and Raya-rama has something to say about that. After a while, the Swami looks up and asks, “Raphael, when will you fix the door lock?” and, “Strayadhisa, how is your mother?” An old acquaintance, Mr. Nelson, has come, and the Swami is glad to see him. Some who come to see him are a bit eccentric, and some aren’t serious devotees, but Swamiji is always cordial to them. He invites everyone to eat, and eat more.
I like sitting cross-legged in front of my dish. I’m hungry, and I like it when it is hot. I never liked hot rice before. Rice was something my mother would be embarrassed to give you. It was for poor people or Chinese. But wow! This was good, rice and vegetable, and you touch it with your hand. Kirtanananda’s chapatis are like pancakes. The Swami calls them rotis. I ask, “How do you make the chapatis come out like this?” Kirtanananda laughs and says, “Swamiji showed me.” Everyone is eating away or passing their plates in for seconds or thirds. We’re all sitting on the same level as the Swami and looking over to him. The Swami leans slightly over his plate, and there he is–the heart of the new Krsna conscious life which you’ve adopted. His clothes are humble, whatever khadi he brought from India, with inexpensive provisions that we bought him, t-shirts or jerseys from the Orchard Street markets. Although he is the guru, there is no elevated seat. He is barefoot and eating the same prasadam as everyone. When he finishes, Swamiji gets up and walks across the room and washes his hands in the bathroom, and then goes to his own room. We begin to finish up also. This is a good time for sneaking in to see Swamiji to ask him a question or get some more typing.
Last night the meteorologists predicted we would have a snowstorm of 4-8 inches. Only about six inches fell, but Baladeva will have to shovel it from our driveway and walk. I hope this early snowfall doesn’t mean we will get snow on December 1st, my Vyasa-Puja. It’s rare that Krsna’s pastimes take place in the snow. But on earth, tirthas in the Himalayas, such as the source of the Ganges, and the source of the Yamuna, are inaccessible places in the winter due to the snow and cold. They are holy places, but one can go there only in the moderate seasons. Here in Stuyvesant Falls, the plow trucks have passed through twice, one at 7:00 P.M. and then at 5:00 A.M. Even if it snowed on Vyasa-Puja, the plow trucks could clear the road, but just the thought and threat of snow could keep devotees away.
I want to urge my disciples to attend the Vyasa-Puja ceremony on December 1st, even if it snows. The plow trucks are very active, repeatedly clearing the roads and making them black and passable, even while the lawns are white and last snowflakes fall from the sky. In this civilized part of the world, in this time of the 21st century, with snowplows scrupulously scraping away the snow, there is no danger of being stuck in your car on the road. Please join us for kirtana in the VFW Hall at 10:00 A.M.