I have been asked by a now-grown up ex-gurukuli for my memories of what it was like to be an adult leader in the gurukula at Dallas. We were very enlivened that soon we had enrolled a hundred boys and girls living in the gurukula buildings. One of the main challenges we faced was how to control the children’s enthusiasm from wild playfulness to disciplined behavior. The children were mostly from the West, and they did not come from backgrounds where they were trained to be submissive and obedient students. We knew we could not punish them for misbehavior, but we did not know how go about controlling them and conduct orderly classes. When Prabhupada came to visit Dallas we asked him how we should discipline the children, and he said we should not punish them but treat them with love. The teachers should set good examples themselves and impart that to the children. The elders were also young and untrained, and it was a challenge for them to govern the children. The adults loved the children and liked their service, but it was sometimes overwhelming, facing all the wild energy coming from the children. The faculty had no handbooks of guides for how to deal with the children. We had private meetings (ista-gosthis) to try to help each other in our situation. Some children were incorrigible in their behavior, and they were a bad influence on the others. But we had no strict policy to send children home who did not behave well. While I was at gurukula, none of the teachers became so frustrated that they resorted to corporal punishment to the children. Those abuses began after I left. Some of the parents were reluctant to send their children away from home, but they did it because it was Prabhupada’s order. Other parents were glad to send their children away because it freed them for preaching and distributing books. We had to deal with both kinds of parents.
I was there in the beginning with Mohanananda. I was the GBC for Texas, and he was the headmaster of the school. At first we were in a residential house on Turtle Creek Boulevard, with only a few children and two teachers, Aniruddha and Jayadevi. I was the most active in purchasing the new buildings, which were a former church and which are still the location of ISKCON Dallas. I dealt with the former landlords and realtors, and Karandhar, who managed the west coast and who gave me a loan to pay off the first mortgage. I doubted whether all these dealings in purchasing the buildings were actually spiritual activities. Prabhupada wrote me that they were certainly spiritual and I should go ahead and purchase the buildings for Krsna’s service. So I was there in the beginning years, purchasing the buildings and recruiting many children to join. But after a few years, Prabhupada invited me to come to Los Angeles and accept sannyasa along with a few other devotees. After accepting sannyasa, I lessened my staying at the gurukula and left the management to others. I remained GBC for Dallas, but after a few years the gurukula moved to Vrndavana, and I was no longer involved in it. After a while I gave up my zonal responsibilities in Texas and gave them to Tamal Krishna Goswami.
I received a letter from a devotee who said she was recently reading letters from me which she has saved for more than thirty years. She wanted to thank me for these letters. She said my good wishes and kind attention set her by my example on the “trajectory of sadhu-sanga.” I do not remember this devotee, and I take it that the trajectory I sent her on was the association of devotees in another Gaudiya group. I am grateful that I helped her, because association with devotees is a most important principle in devotional service.
I also received a letter from a disciple in India who writes me with some regularity. But she is displeased with me because I do not fulfill her material desires. She wants me to find a husband for her; she refuses my suggestions that she move into a temple such as ISKCON Mayapur; and she wants me to bring her to America to work with me on my book production. She says that she could not please me to get my mercy and grace, and that her position is that she’s a failure either in this world or that. I will write her back and tell her although I cannot fulfill her material desires, and although she won’t follow my instructions, I never consider her outside of my mercy and grace. She is dear to me, and I’m sorry she feels that she is a failure in our relationship.
I received a letter from a grhastha couple who have been maintaining a small herd of cows on ISKCON property for forty years. The devotees are getting older now, 64 and 61 years old, and they find it difficult to keep up the physical labor of caring for the cows and oxen. Aside from themselves, no one at the temple is inclined to work at cow protection. The basic commitment is for twenty years, and it’s very hard to find devotees who are willing to take on that commitment. Very few devotees seem inclined to give up the freedom of coming and going to be firmly rooted in the cows and land. We saw at Gita Nagari how the original enthusiasm for taking care of the cows diminished, and there was hardly anyone committed to taking care of them.
I heard a reading of Caitanya-caritamrta by Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja where he read out loud from the section where Lord Caitanya meets Rupa Gosvami and has him read selected verses from his drama. Lord Caitanya becomes ecstatic hearing the verses of Rupa Gosvami, and the next day He brings His confidential devotees to hear more from the dramas. Rupa Gosvami says that he is impudent to speak before them, but on the insistence of the Lord he reads his verses to Ramananda Raya and asks him to comment. (Ramananda Raya is a great expert in composing and judging Vaisnava drama.) On hearing selected verses by Rupa Gosvami, Ramananda Raya is highly pleased and says the drama meets all his highest standards for Vaisnava Sanskrit verse. Ramananda Raya said Rupa Gosvami had exactly followed all the rules of Vaisnava drama. Lord Caitanya and all His confidential devotees were astounded at the excellence of Rupa Gosvami’s two dramas Lalita-madhava and Vidagdha-madhava, and they praised them profusely. Rupa Gosvami remained shy and humbled by the devotees’ words, but the devotees went on explaining that Rupa’s writings were not exactly dramas but a shower of nectar.
I listened to Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja reading from Caitanya-caritamrta about Raghunatha Bhatta. Lord Caitanya instructed him to chant the Hare Krsna mantra twenty-four hours a day and to constantly read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Raghunatha Bhatta could recite the slokas of the Bhagavatam in several different melodies, and they were very sweet. Although he was junior to Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, they wanted to hear Raghunatha Bhatta chant in their presence. Raghunatha Bhatta never criticized or heard criticism of another devotee. He said that everyone was performing devotional service, so he didn’t find fault. He was an ideal Vaisnava.
I listened to a lecture by Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja. It was given a week before the appearance day of Balarama. He said the devotees should get ready by remembering as many pastimes of Balarama as possible. He was speaking from the Bhagavad-gita 4.9, where Krsna says that anyone who knows of His birth and activities does not upon leaving the body take another material body, but he goes to Krsna’s abode eternally. Since it was a week before Balarama’s Appearance Day that he gave this lecture, he prompted the devotees to recall the pastimes of Balarama. He asked them to name the demons that Balarama killed. The devotees spoke up and first said Dhenukasura, the demon who took the shape of a donkey and attacked Balarama by kicking Him on the chest. Balarama easily killed him, grabbing him by the hind legs and throwing him high up into a palm tree. Dhenukasura had many demon-donkey allies, and they all rushed out of their home, the Tala forest, and attacked Balarama and Krsna. The two Brothers swung the rear legs of the donkeys and whirled them around until their life-air was gone, and then threw them to the tops of the trees. One of the devotees mentioned Pralambasura, who took the shape of a giant demon and rode Balarama on his shoulders. But when Balarama saw the dangerous situation, He finished off Pralambasura with one mighty blow of His fist. Sambha, one of Krsna’s sons, kidnapped a girl from the Kuru dynasty, but he was arrested by the Kurus and taken away. The Yadus were prepared to fight the Kurus in warfare. But Balarama went first to the Kurus to see if He could make peace talks. The Kurus demeaned Balarama and the Yadus, and they ignored His entreaties for a peaceful settlement. Balarama became angry, and with His plow He dragged the land of Hastinapur and moved it until He was pulling it into the Ganges. The Kurus became very frightened and went to Balarama and prayed to Him for forgiveness. Balarama also killed Romaharsana, who did not show Balarama any respect when He came into the arena where Romaharsana was speaking to the sages. Romaharsana did not get up to give Balarama any respect, and Balarama was insulted. With a mere blade of grass, He struck Romaharsana and caused his death. There were many other pastimes of Balarama which Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja and his audience recited with great pleasure. Bhakti Caitanya said we could call our Society “The International Society of Balarama Consciousness” because there are so many pastimes of the Lord in that feature.
Baladeva has been mulching the entire garden area. Mulch is composed of ground-up tree bark. It has a beautiful appearance and makes the ground look very professional and finished. It keeps the weeds from growing up. It encourages the flowers to grow. Since mulching, we have had a new growth of flowers, and now we have so many—hyacinths, flowering quince, daffodils and tulips coming, and soon gladiolas, so that we no longer have to purchase flowers from the florist for our needs in decorating the altars. It is nice to be growing our own flowers for Radha-Govinda and Gaura-Nitai. That is the state of our spring garden today, but the local farmers don’t plant their crops until May 15th.
Haryasva is anxious that his Godbrother, Visnu Aradhanam, have a good sendoff. Fortunately, the Philadelphia temple paid all expenses for the crematorium and funeral. Visnu’s sister gave her permission for Haryasva to cremate the body and place the ashes in the sacred Yamuna River. There are a number of legal matters to be cleared up. Visnu had considerable debts on his credit card and mortgage. Haryasva’s mood is to satisfy the blood relatives of Visnu, his sister and stepdaughter. He’s meeting with them to hear out their desires for the property. All this stress has made Haryasva very tired.
In our out-loud reading, we have come to the section on Dhruva Maharaja. When he was only five years old, he was insulted by his stepmother Suruci.
“Once upon a time, King Uttanapada was patting the son of Suruci, Uttama, placing him on his lap. Dhruva Maharaja was also trying to get on the King’s lap, but the King did not very much welcome him. While the child, Dhruva Maharaja, was trying to get on the lap of his father, Suruci, his stepmother, became very envious of the child, and with great pride she began to speak so as to be heard by the King himself. . . . Suruci said, ‘If you at all desire to rise to the throne of the King, then you have to undergo severe austerities. First of all you must please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, and then, when you are favored by Him because of such worship, you shall have to take your next birth from my womb.’” (Bhag. 4.8.9-10,13)
Hearing these words, Dhruva Maharaja hissed like an angry snake that has been hit by a stick. He left his father’s palace and went to his mother, crying grievously. Dhruva’s mother lamented and said to her son,
“My dear boy, whatever has been spoken by Suruci, your stepmother, although very harsh to hear, is factual. Therefore, if you desire at all to sit on the same throne as your stepbrother, Uttama, then give up your envious attitude and immediately try to execute the instructions of your stepmother. Without further delay, you must engage yourself in worshiping the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhag. 4.8.19)
Dhruva Maharaja, although a small boy, had ksatriya blood flowing in his veins. After due consideration and fixed determination, he left his father’s house.
“We have become afraid of excessive self-expression. We don’t want to wind up like those who have left, saying that to be true to self is higher than any duty given by guru.
“Draupadi (the cow) is growling, then moaning right outside this window. I could go out and pet her . . . She’s a strange cow.
“Be confident. Guy standing with hand on hip, right hand in beadbag. He’s heroic in swell of chest, cock of head, happy and simple, but daring and active. Wearing brahmacari dress. My attempt at an earnest portraiture.
“Manu and W.M. have gone for the afternoon to distribute books. Uddhava and Patri are going into Dublin today to distribute books, and then they’ll come here for my class tomorrow morning. I’m going to play excerpts of Srila Prabhupada speaking on a morning walk in Chicago. He praises the book distributors, asks Ghanagyama dasa to increase his enthusiasm (it was already great) for distributing books. He says the preacher will be quickly recognized by Krsna and, ‘once recognized by Krsna, his going back to Godhead is guaranteed.’ Preachers don’t have to follow all the regulations (such as chanting extra rounds and fasting on Ekadasi). Preaching is so exalted.
“‘Then why don’t you do it?’
“‘I do, Sam. This is it.’
“‘What, this scribbling?’
“Yes, watch your language. Don’t offend me. I’s preaching by this word. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead—that’s preaching. To say it and mean it and get it out somehow on the airwaves or the printed form.”
“Ah, look at all those swans gliding in the overcast day on the rippled lake. It is a most aesthetic sight, like seeing ballerinas in Swan Lake. They glide by.
“Open the door to the shed, feel time passing when soon it’ll be my last time in and out of here. End of year? Yes, that too.
“Parry and thrust. He’s going to write every day. You mean until the gas bottle runs out?
“In mail—letters from Bhaktin Sile of Dublin, Pradyumna of Portlaoise, an Irish sweater mailed by Patti, and two tapes of poets reading their works.
“O fallow, O Derry
O dew and blood and
rocks and fists by the
heart that ails you,
“Believe in poet and jazzter. Don’t forget you’re supposed to be a devotee first and last. Muster, fall in for muster. ‘Guarino!’
“‘Here! Yo!’ and so it goes. The exact welfare route I go down is bugged and booted to speak the ISKCON message—no mistaking it.
“He says it sounds so predictable.
“‘Be careful—our master talks that way. Yeah, but he’s got surprises and authority and he did it, he spread the Krsna consciousness movement all over with his words. It’s different in your mouth.’
“‘I repeat. I thought that was the supreme virtue.’
“‘Yes, you should be true.’
“You should be. Take the chance to serve him under all conditions. Prabhupada admitted the nondevotee enjoyers are not likely to take to Krsna consciousness. ‘Don’t bother us,’ they say. But the devotees keep plugging away at them.
“Getting close to Friday night.
“This is the way it ends. I drew a yin and yang circle to show Manu that I strive to write as much as possible, cutting through with free-writing to reveal my hidden truths, and with the other half relaxing and not striving to achieve, flowing with the little life as it occurs each day. In either case I try to let go of words, to write without premeditation. Touch Krsna consciousness.
“Tonight it’s over; tomorrow, keep going.”
“If Krsna consciousness is to relieve the miseries of the world, we have to preach it. People are free to take to it or not, as they like. I like to preach to the devotees who have already pledged themselves to the practice. They too are free to hear or not, as they like. After all, we’re asking for a lot—complete surrender—and even we who are preaching it have not always attained that ideal. Still we teach it, speak it, recite it from memory, repeat it again and again. To whatever degree we each surrender, to that degree we will become free of the material miseries. To that degree we give up hope of seeing improvement in this world. Seamus Heaney wrote poems touching on the violence in Northern Ireland. You see, he wants to make things better, but he doesn’t know how. We ‘know’ the answer but can’t live in it enough to show the way completely or to cause a major shift in world consciousness. Our stories are still incomplete.”
“Very nice meeting today with devotees asking questions about the affectionate dealings of Lord Caitanya with His devotees. I told of Jagadananda and Gadadhara Pandita and how they were different, stories of Prabhupada criticizing devotees, Sanatana Gosvami’s intimate desires to be close to the Lord as Jaga was. All nice.
“This afternoon we plan to walk to Tota-gopinatha temple. We will go to these places and hope to arouse sentiment in our hearts for Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. I will ask the devotees to tell me of their experiences in the different places they visit.
“The ocean is never exhausted. When I tell stories I think I will soon exhaust my stock, but it is never exhausted. It will go on and on and it will always find new connections, one to another. Today I connected Jambavan’s fighting with Lord Krsna with Lord Caitanya’s defeating Sarvabhauma with argument. Both recognized, ‘This must be God.’ Let it come together. Strain your ear to hear the word of God.
“Typing this while Kalindi plays in the backyard sand. She has no truck or shovel or friends, but spends an hour in her world building little mounds and playing with sticks. Who knows what she is thinking as she plays there.
“Hands on typewriter. Girl playing in the sand, the wall beyond, the surf pounding, the big slide, barefoot walk through sand on this cool gray day, the constant crows.
“Evergreens growing in sandy earth, and I haven’t seen rodents since I’ve been in India, just mangy dogs and an elephant in a Mahabharata video. Ganesa rides a rat. In a dream I saw a rat in the water. The mosquitoes I see when I’m awake. They live in the corners, in cloth bags, in any dark place. They come to life at night, and as I turn the pages of the Bhagavad-gita in the early morning hours, they bite. Krsna says yoga is hard, but we can practice it with determination and devotion. I try to hear. Try to hear.
“Dear Lord, please clean me of wrong desires and make me Your devotee.
“Now the sun is clear of clouds for the first time in a couple of days. I’m going inside to worship Srila Prabhupada and hear him speak from 1973. May I be blessed, and tested, but successful.
“Pujari with swollen legs let us inside Deity rooms for darsana; group of Manipuri ladies arrived while we were there. After darsana at the three altars, we sat in the kirtana hall, marble floor, walls painted green-blue. I read from Mahanidhi Swami’s book and mine on Tota-Gopinatha Mandir. Then we chanted a round together. I was not so conscious of spiritual emotions, but wary of the possibility of a twinge in the head. Rupa-Raghunatha gave me a walking stick. It was a leisurely outing and the air was warm. As we strolled, I stopped occasionally and spoke about Srila Prabhupada’s stay here in 1977. I also told of our past visits to Puri and how we were rejected. I seem to relish the stories of the insults we received. Walked near village where fisher families live. Two children, a girl with a basket of silver fish, boy with a crab and fish dangling from his hand, like toys. Walk and stop and point out buildings—Caitanya Sarasvati Math, etc.”
“Soon cold breakfast, soon take off your long johns. How long it is before I can reach perfection. If we worship Radha and Krsna as Deities with veneration in vaidhi-bhakti, the perfection we attain is Goloka in Vaikuntha. I read this in Raga-vartma Candrika:
“‘In Goloka the devotee becomes an eternal associate of Queen Satyabhama in Dvaraka, serving her and Krsna in svakiya-bhava with madhurya-jnana mixed with aisvarya-jnana. But in raga-bhakti the devotee goes to the highest spiritual abode of Vraja where he resides as an eternal associate of Srimati Radhika, serving Her in parakiya-bhava and pure madhurya-jnana.’
“I don’t understand this, and I don’t understand how we’re going to get to this stage. Recently I told a devotee that Prabhupada’s emphasis has to do with more immediate concerns: surrender to guru and Krsna and freeing ourselves from anarthas. Then how will we realize the higher stages?
“They say it will happen automatically. Well, does that mean you just sit around and wait for it to happen? No, you surrender to Krsna and guru and by their mercy, everything will come about. Krsna indicates something like that in the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, verses 6 and 7, when He says that He is the swift deliver from the ocean of birth and death. Prabhupada writes, ‘The devotee does not need to wait to become very experienced in order to transfer himself to the spiritual sky . . . The responsibility is taken by the Supreme Lord Himself.’ Prabhupada is here referring to the fact that we don’t need to practice astanga-yoga.
“Nowadays, devotees are wondering whether it’s enough to wait for Krsna. They have heard a different emphasis from other gurus. They have been told that it’s not enough to serve Prabhupada’s mission; we must also know Prabhupada in his eternal form.
“I prefer to think it is enough to wait for Krsna simply because that’s what Prabhupada said. Therefore, we can only conclude that if we do what Prabhupada says, we will reach the highest perfection. We have to have that confidence. Prabhupada is not leading us to worship Satyabhama but Radha and Krsna in Vraja. We may be so inexperienced that we don’t understand how it will all come about. It’s natural for children to have little understanding of the mechanics of life. Anyway, we will not be able to go to Vraja by academic or theoretical understanding. Actually, a premature understanding can hinder our progress and even delay us. It has been said that if we think ourselves female servants in our eternal form without becoming free from mundane bodily identification, we could be forced to take a female body next time around—in the material world.”
“Prabhupada has brought us here
where in a few days we accrue
great spiritual gain—
beyond our dull perception.
We can see
even without love-annointed eyes.
We can see morning stars
in a clear, country sky.
a radio all night,
violins and falsetto voices
drifting across the darkened fields . . .
Brass gongs of mangala-arati worship.
of the cuckoos.
The steady, busy crickets,
and the first devotees
chanting Hare Krishna.
We can hear the pre-dawn sound of workers
cutting rice and wheat,
and we see the starting of cow dung fires . . .
When the sun silently emerges,
filling the world with light
like a vital liquid
poured onto land and sky,
then the myna birds,
start their squawking,
and sparrows dutifully appear,
hopping along the wall.
Simply dressed men without machines
beat and thrash the paddy.
“These ordinary things
anyone can see,
but in Mayapur
we can better understand
all things are related to Krishna.
the Bengali portals,
and the sweet, delicious
through the quiet of midday heat.
As we bathe in the afternoon
we feel the water and Ganges mud.
We hear the parrots screeching,
taste the dob’s liquid,
and smell the delicate,
malati and campak.
“With evening comes
the tick-tick of the lizards,
the invasion of the insects,
owls hooting, hyenas laughing,
fruit bats moving near the light
And at dark,
the aroma of nightqueens blooming.”
“My dear Lord Krsna . . .
“I write to You who are the seeker of devotion from Your parts and parcels. You want us to serve You and love You. You are conquered by this love of Your devotees. I want to be submissive to this desire of Yours and offer You my love. You are so great and compassionate and divine that You deserve this love. There is no reason why I should hold back my love to You. But I do hold back. I am particularly hesitant to love my neighbor as myself. Yet You are especially fond of devotees who sacrifice themselves to spread Your message of love of God.
“I’m afraid of being rejected when I try to spread Your word. I lack the courage to approach people cold and tell them about Your glories and the efficacy of chanting Your holy names. I am introverted and don’t want to come out of myself and impose myself on others. For that reason, I don’t like to distribute Prabhupada’s books to strangers. For years, I gave many lectures in college classes, but I am not up to that anymore. I’m at a stage of life where I like to keep to myself. I love reaching out to people by writing. That is my saving grace. I like telling people about You through the written word. It’s an effective way, and it’s standard in our sampradaya. So I hope You will accept my offering of love to You in this way.
“I would like to reach as many people as possible through the written word and give them the knowledge they are lacking. I want to be personally fit and do this in a way that is not hypocritical. I will follow the rules and regulations and tell people they have to follow the regulative principles of freedom in order to cleanse their hearts. Only when their hearts are clean can they cut off the knot of karma, which leads to repeated birth and death. Only when their hearts are cleansed by regularly hearing about Your glories can they develop a devotional relationship with You and transfer to the spiritual world.
“I want to tell this to as many people as possible in an effective way. So I do it by writing. And I publish books. It’s the ‘brhad-mrdanga,’ the sankirtana party that’s larger than the group that plays the mrdanga that can be heard for only a city block. The brhad-mrdanga can be heard all around the world. And the electronic Internet mrdanga is the latest version of this worldwide preaching.
It would be better if I were an all-around preacher. But I must work with what I can do. I want to write more potently and more entertainingly and distribute it more widely than I am doing. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura declared that he could print an edition of spiritual news every moment, there was no shortage of information or ability to express it. ‘The only problem is we have no customers.’ People are more interested in reading Time and Newsweek and Playboy and The National Enquirer—rubbish literature that does not present scientific knowledge of the soul, literature that tells of the world of illusion.
“Preachers who lecture and preachers who write need bigger audiences. Since I’ve admitted I’m preaching only by writing, I’ve got to make it as good as possible. I ask You for help in giving me eloquence and punch. May I write about You in such a way that more people will come to the website, and they will receive more sustenance and interesting presentation. May I warm their hearts and stimulate their minds and even give them an occasional laugh.
“Dear Lord, I am writing on Your behalf in giving my love to You in this form, and I ask You to make it more successful.”
“One can’t help but be drawn into action when he reads and meditates on Prabhupada’s purports. They are calls to action on many levels: ‘Surrender to Krsna,’ ‘Chant Hare Krsna,’ ‘Tell everyone you meet about Krsna.’
“If you want to keep your life unchanged but you still want to read Srila Prabhupada’s books, it will put you into conflict. He pricks the conscience. And yet he soothes the mind and spirit as he reminds us that we are not this body and we don’t belong to the perishable and temporary world.
“Srila Prabhupada also reminds us of the easy process of chanting Hare Krsna and performing devotional service, by which we can transcend birth and death:
“‘The process is so easy that even a leaf or a little water or fruit can be offered to the Supreme Lord in genuine love and the Lord will be pleased to accept it. No one, therefore, can be barred from Krsna consciousness, because it is so easy and universal. Who is such a fool that he does not want to be Krsna conscious by this simple method and thus attain the highest perfection of life of eternity, bliss and knowledge?’
—Bg. 9.26, purport
“Is it possible to read Prabhupada without responding to his call for action? What if one rationalizes his reading in such a way that he reads without changing his life? No, it’s not possible. Any attraction to his books will change a person’s consciousness in a favorable way. At least the reader will continue hearing the holy names of Krsna. And the fact that he likes to read means he is favorable to the pure devotee; and so Krsna will be favorable to him.
“But it’s natural that as we meditate on Srila Prabhupada’s preaching, we should desire to become a preacher too. He wants this of his followers. It’s also natural for each reader to try to adjust Prabhupada’s command to his own situation. Srila Prabhupada also advises this when he says that one should take up Krsna consciousness and preach ‘according to his capacity.’
“Prabhupada’s invitation to completely surrender to the will of Krsna will find us falling short somewhere or other. But we can follow the mahajanas described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Gradually we will find ourselves swept up by the flow of their devotional service. Therefore, let us not be afraid to read Srila Prabhupada’s books, even though we feel we’re not capable of fully responding. It is better, in any case, to hear his message and to be humbled by thoughts of pure devotional service. Even if one did nothing else but read Prabhupada’s books, that in itself would be a reply to the call for action:
“‘In this age, devotional service of hearing and repeating the holy glories of the Lord is strongly recommended, and one who takes the vow of renunciation to family life need not imitate the parivrajakacarya like Narada or Lord Caitanya, but may sit down at some holy place and devote his whole time and energy to hear and repeatedly chant the holy scriptures left by the great acaryas like the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana.’ (Bhag. 1.6.13)”
“The pada-yatris are clearing their throats. Do they want to say something? I had ten or twenty good ideas for a talk, such as reading from Narottama dasa Thakura’s songs and other things. We have got to give up this world and find eternity. Live in the present.
“‘This is not civilization,’ Srila Prabhupada said, about the places where they work hard for sense gratification. Real civilization is to minimize your wants and to cultivate Krsna consciousness. Seems impossible to turn back the clock and recapture wasted time, but we can at least claim the present. Lower your expenses, chant Hare Krsna, finally find pleasure in simple things, such as devotion.
“B.M. Swami preached that in his walk across Canada, and it attracted attention. He proved that a man can be occupied by walking and singing (praying) God’s names. It doesn’t take much to entertain yourself.
“His preaching is a Krsna conscious gesture. No one has to point out that his shoes were manufactured in a factory and that he had a backup car. That means someone was out there making those items while he was out walking. The whole world works for a living.
“His point is that Srila Prabhupada instructed us not to work like dogs or asses. Work is fine, but life is for restraining the senses and discriminating what to eat, when to have sex, how to perform the tapasya that will bring you to the goal of life. Clean your heart.”
“Japa is an art. It’s a gift from Krsna. We have to take advantage of it. You have to put your heart into it and not just chant off rounds mechanically. Feel your chanting, believe in it, adhere to it, and be sorry you’re not doing better. But rise to the occasion. There’s always another chance, another bead, another round.”
pp. 204 -5
“Just as there are symptoms by which one can determine who is a liberated soul, so there is a symptomatic psychology of a Prabhupadanuga. The objection may be put, ‘Your glorification of Prabhupada is due to your love for him and therefore it is not objective.’ But the fact is that love and loyalty for a great soul goes harmoniously with an objective assessment of his position. Srila Prabhupada, in discussing his initial attraction to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, said, ‘I was from a Vaisnava family, so I could appreciate what he was preaching. Of course, he was speaking to everyone, but he found something in me. And I was convinced about his argument and mode of presentation. I was so much struck with wonder. I can understand: here is the proper person who can give a real religious idea.’
“On the one hand, we have our personal affection for Srila Prabhupada, and due to this affection we may want to see him glorified unlimitedly. But an objective analysis of his character and traits, one that is based on sastra, also reveals that he is worthy of such glorification. Therefore, both personal affection and objective evidence can be used to understand and appreciate Srila Prabhupada more deeply.
“This question of objectivity and personal affection comes up in the Srimad-Bhagavatam in the story of Daksa’s sacrifice. Sati, the wife of Lord Siva, had to defend her husband’s honor before her father. Prabhupada explains in a purport to this section:
“‘Since Sati was chaste and the wife of Lord Siva, it was her duty to establish the elevated position of Lord Siva, not only by sentiment but by facts. Here Lord Siva is praised by Sati, partially due to her personal respect for Lord Siva, since he is her husband, and partially due to his exalted position, which exceeds that of ordinary living entities, even Lord Brahma.’” (Bhag. 4.4.16)
“I compiled a list of Caitanya-caritamrta verses most often quoted by Srila Prabhupada or the previous acaryas to help us appreciate the philosophical range and depth of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Studying these verses will help us gain an overview of the entire work and help us to appreciate the Caitanya-caritamrta as an authoritative sastra, equal to Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“Although we can quote these verses in our preaching, we should be aware that the Caitanya-caritamrta is not as widely accepted by the other sampradayas or by religionists in general. This is because Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a covered incarnation and not widely known. Even Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, the greatest logician of his time, was unfamiliar with the verses proving Lord Caitanya’s appearance and divinity.
“From time to time, the Gaudiya sampradaya has had to reassert its authority. In the centuries after Lord Caitanya, there was a debate whether the Gaudiya sampradaya was bona fide at all. To be considered authorized, a sampradaya must produce a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. Therefore, Baladeva Vidyabhusana prepared a commentary after being inspired by Govindadeva, his worshipable Deity.
“Although Lord Caitanya—and the Caitanya-caritamrta—are not widely known or appreciated, it is our duty as preachers in Srila Prabhupada’s mission to spread Lord Caitanya’s fame and to establish the authority of Sri Caitanya-earitamrta.
“One way to establish Lord Caitanya’s authority is to show how Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami draws his authority from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Jiva Gosvami proved in his Tattva-sandarbha that Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ultimate evidence for Vedic discussion. Caitanya-caritamrta is based on that evidence.
“We can also show how all the authorities in the Gaudiya line have accepted Sri Caitanya-caritamrta’s authority. It was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s favorite scripture. It may be true, however, that as Radha-kunda is appreciated only by the members of the Gaudiya sampradaya and not others, so the Caitanya-caritamrta will not be appreciated outside this sampradaya. Regardless, we should not be afraid to preach from the Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Prabhupada often quoted from the Caitanya-caritamrta in his Western preaching. (Most of the Caitanya-caritamrta verses he quoted were composed by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami.)”
“I received a letter from a Godbrother who said that ISKCON has many deep-seated faults that make it hard for a preacher to maintain his enthusiasm. I told him that I preach by concentrating on the importance of hearing and chanting. He challenged that I could become an instrument for misleading people. If ISKCON were corrupt and I asked devotees to remain loyal and to concentrate on their sadhana, I could be displeasing Srila Prabhupada. I replied that it’s healthy to admit wrongs and to discuss how to reform ISKCON, but I want to stay aloof from that wrangling. I don’t think ISKCON should be abandoned; I have my own niche, my own contribution to make, and that is to stress the essential priorities. I don’t say everything is perfect, but I cannot tackle the problems.
“Neither do I expend my energies attacking persons I might suspect of being manipulative. To some degree, I trust the GBC, and I don’t speak against it. I trust that Lord Caitanya’s will shall prevail.
“I am basically happy and simple. I encourage people to practice bhakti-yoga, either inside or outside the temple. Hear from Srila Prabhupada.
“My Godbrother said we have enough preachers who can make learned presentations of the philosophy. We need people to face facts, such as that many devotees don’t follow the four rules or chant sixteen rounds, and for many, there is no lifelong future in ISKCON.
“ISKCON may be in a sad state. Heading for a crisis—either it will get well or die. Maybe that’s healthy. I keep thinking that if and when the conservative GBC leaders admit that plenty is wrong and become more liberal and want to improve—even then I wouldn’t want to go to all those meetings, roundtable discussions, Internet forums and seminars. I don’t think it’s wrong to support an ailing ISKCON. I think ISKCON’s good outweighs its bad. I don’t think Prabhupada wants me to quit it. So as long as there are temples or groups of devotees, they will need lecturers and simple presentations of the philosophy.”
“I can relax in your room. I sit in the back, distant yet close. This is all the intensity I can take these days. The devotees are assembling out front for a Sunday afternoon harinama party into Vrndavana, but I don’t feel up to it. No one else is here in your room. You might be sitting here and I’m here with you as your servant and disciple, telling you, ‘Srila Prabhupada, they’re going on harinama. Can I get you a drink? Any prasadam you would like? It’s Ekadasi and you might not want anything, but if you do, I can arrange for it . . .’
“As I write, I’m brought back out of the past to 1993. I look out the window and see two bhaktas from Russia, both named Alex, who want to take initiation from me. They would like to meet with me, but I avoid meetings. What do you think, Srila Prabhupada, of me initiating them and others? Should I stop, or is it my duty? One thing is clear: my only credential for initiating is my bona fide link to you. Today, so many people wanted to attend the meeting for my disciples that they couldn’t fit into the room. I have never even seen some of them before. Later I thought, ‘Why would anyone consider me a spiritual master?’ The only answer is my connection to you.
“Initiating disciples is a duty I perform for you. It is how I sacrifice myself and serve your movement, but I’m not always sure, and that’s one of the important items I’d like to hear from you about. I say ‘hear’ from you, but I don’t expect a letter from the spiritual world or to hear your voice from the sky. If you could enlighten my intelligence so that I could know what you want . . . For now, I initiate only on an exceptional basis, a few a year.
“Many of the ones I initiated over ten years ago have gone defunct.”
“I didn’t perform as well as expected after my first two-day fast. Therefore, when trouble came again on trying the next two-day fast, the doctor recommended that I break it. I expressed disappointment based on a time schedule whereby I thought I would be all well and ready to travel on December 1. The doctor gave sensible advice. ‘There is no way to health, but health is the way.’ In other words, it’s a perpetual self-improving, not that once I’m ‘cured’ I stop right health practices.
This is not a negative or neglectful attitude, but a positive one with emphasis on active devotional service. In the past, my attitude toward health was positive in the philosophical sense, but was somewhat fatalistic about the frequency of diseases I thought all mortals were doomed to. Now I am getting a more advanced understanding of health by practicing natural hygiene in the service of Prabhupada.
“But it is important that I act normally and be active right now. With this sensible ‘action now’ attitude, I spoke last night with two interested young men. Greg has been practicing T.M. for fourteen years and is now switching to chanting Hare Krsna. He said he had difficulty in giving up the silent meditation and feels physical illness in withdrawal from that addiction. I told him it was mostly a crisis of faith and that if he became convinced in intellect and spirit that the chanting of Hare Krsna is superior, then he won’t mind even if there is some feeling of regret on giving up his former practice. For example, if a man was giving up smoking after twenty years of habit, he might feel some withdrawal, but he would know by his intelligence that it was good to give up. I also explained how the sastras inform us that silent meditation was really possible only in a remote age in the past. Greg also explained that his girlfriend was still practicing TM and asked whether it was possible for a devotee and a nondevotee to live together as man and wife. I told him that he should just develop himself and see what Krsna desires.
“The other young man who came last night was an Indian named Avinash who asked why we chant the maha-mantra ‘backwards.’ He was raised to chant it ‘Hare Rama, Hare Rama’ . . . He also asked why we call Siva a demigod, since Lord Rama Himself worshiped Lord Siva. I answered the questions as best I could, according to parampara. I felt like a serviceable typewriter, with Prabhupada and Krsna punching the keys. The servant should serve.”
“Coming to the end of Volume Three of PMRB. Just one more verse and comment. I’ll start it tonight and finish in the early A.M. Then go on to do a preface for Volume Four.
“But I’ve still got doubts about it. That gives room for this sort of writing project done for myself—with hopes someone else can read it as something honest.
“But bit by bit as I hack away at PMRB . . . I don’t intend to quit. It’s substantial. You are moving now more like a turtle in it, whereas you started like the hare.
“O hare, O hell, I don’t want to waste your time.
“Performing Arts of Saratoga does stay here in the summer and tonight we’ll perform ‘the end of a volume.’
“A quiet moment of music heard by no one – even while bigger affairs are cooking and the pavilions reserved and filled up with new campers barbecuing on the lawns and in ISKCON-land, pure vegetarian feasts and senior devotees espousing faith and knowledge.
“Narada said – I just wrote it over there – he accomplished first transcendental knowledge, then yogic siddhis and finally love of Krsna (bhava to prema) just by hearing and chanting.
“Motorcycle man, please pass me by. I’m ready for my turtle-feed if they’ll give me something at 5 P.M. I open my mouth and receive it like a holy wafer – chomp.”
“‘Who is the greatest capitalist?’ asked Lord Caitanya. Ramananda Raya replied that the richest person is one who has love for Radha and Krsna. The greatest distress is to be separated from the devotees. The most auspicious activity is to be with the devotees of Krsna. (Krsna bhakta sanga). And so, the perfect questions and answers continue, with reference to the highest truths, devotion to Radha and Krsna.
“Now ask yourself some simple questions. Why do you write this? I write it out of a penchant, out of a desire to do it.
“Answer better than that.
“But this is the immediate answer. I feel a need to do it. I don’t want to write only an important book but also an unimportant diary of sorts, to come out with whatever I can. I can’t really answer that question. I just need to do it. And then I make it in line with my commitment to Krsna consciousness. You see, this is maybe my greatest drive, this yen to create something with words and to allow it to come life. Since I am deeply committed to Krsna consciousness (afraid of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell) I make the writing into something Krsna conscious. That’s an answer. Try to accept it.
“‘But if writing is what you want to do, why don’t you write in a more orderly fashion?’
“Because this is truer. Or maybe because I am too lazy to do the other. No, I think it is because that doesn’t give me pleasure to do it with too much structure and rewrites. Also, I learnt this hip method and I like it, to write what comes. I like books in this way. Hope to be lucky enough to come out so natural that a reader is compelled to go through it and they hear Krsna along the way.
“Today is the next to last day here. A shorty of a writing retreat. Early this morning I finished Volume Three of PMRB and did the preface too for the next volume, in which I will now proceed like the turtle in it, slow but sure. Maybe this program is one I can continue as we go to Ireland. Turtle pace steady on Poor Man and something else going on at the same time, a free form, and accumulation. Be alert and see what you want to do and what is best to do. Don’t neglect regular reading and of course, chanting.
“Upstate was the place in five days where I got back on track.
“I’ll be dedicated to writing always. But if Krsna says, ‘Give it up,’ that’s a different thing.
“Now go walk, but not as quickly as the other day. The old man is not able to prance around. Down the hill, up the hill, the turns in the road, the green life, the morning and little fear too. But altogether he’s doing okay, a half-hour walk and back for a poem and breakfast. This is all right, and adds to the writing. Maybe you’ll be able to discover something.
“Get out there just as the dawn lights are coming up, before a sun yellow. But the theater of sky is light. The car is only a thousand feet away from the entrance to the big parking lot. Madhu lets me run out to run alone, with my walking stick. Go for it, but if you can’t think of much to say outdoors, say ‘Hello.’ Say ‘Hare Krsna,’ I’m chanting fourteen and thinking this morning of baseball. So much gunk. Go beyond that. Be simple. I am. Please Lord, give me just a drop of devotion. And because I don’t have devotion, allow me to cry for it. Open my eyes, let me be awake to the reality. Time is going by and routines are certainly all right, but beyond routine you want to call out Krsna, Krsna, Krsna. While chanting Hare Krsna we want to have the presence of mind to remember and pay attention to Krsna’s holy names. And when we can’t do it, at least don’t indulge in these long trains of thought so that the chanting just…
“K.R. invited us to stay here longer if we liked. He heard that there was a delay in our shipping the van to Europe. But we can’t stay longer. We want to get over to Ireland/Europe. One reason is to get out of America before all the big festivals get underway. New York City ISKCON’s celebrations begin June 2nd and they go for a week including Ratha-yatras. On June 9th they have something called World Holy Name Day and they are going to celebrate it at Tompkins Square Park. Imagine my being in the city at that time, hiding out in Rasaraja’s apartment and not attending the function. Unheard of. They’d think I’m strange indeed. How could I explain it to them? Real Tompkins Square Park exists in my mind in memories where you cherish Prabhupada there. Of course, you can do it outwardly too…but not me.
“So, we want to move on. But coming here has a special function. I was hoping K.R. could come up with some quotes by New York upstaters about their particular attitude. I seem to recall that the poets and writers of this region describe affection for the land, as typical of any region. They like the deep forests and the fact that it’s not New York City. Because they are part of New York state but not the city, that’s part of their regional pride. The land is spread out here. In New York City you have fourteen million people hovering around Manhattan like bees after “honey”. But upstate, so fewer people and spread out. Surely their mentality is different. I figured that somehow there was some parallel to this in my own coming here rather than in the intensity of devotee association available around Brooklyn and the city. Materially speaking I am not an upstater, that’s why I don’t even know much about it. But I’ve pretty much left New York City as a devotee, although I joined there. Prabhupada said he also joined in New York City. We like to go there and visit now. But I have no base, and it’s time to move, catch a plane across the ocean, start a new book over there.
“Outdoors upstate. No animals in this park except squirrels and crows and many other chirping birds. Other animals have been driven or scared away. In one zoo, after you see all the different beasts in their cages, you come to a place where there’s a full-size mirror, and you look into it and then you see yourself and then at the bottom it says, ‘Homo sapiens. You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world.’ The human being. He doesn’t stand the tallest or the broadest, doesn’t have the biggest teeth and claws, but he’s got the duskrtina brain to ruin it for himself and for everybody else. These animals stalk the city jungles with handguns, ready to gouge out each other and start big wars with atomic weapons. And when they’re not actually in war, then they are enjoying in such a way as to foul up the air and the water. All this is cliché now.
“Everybody knows it but no one does anything.
“Ant hills at my feet. Miniature replicas of human life. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Narada ends the fifth chapter of the Bhagavatam saying to Vyasa that you please broadcast the glories of Krsna, the almighty Lord. This will be very pleasing to learned persons and it will give relief to the common mass of people who are suffering so many miseries and have no other relief. He has that conviction that hearing about Krsna will really remove trouble, but we are so into it now, into Kali-yuga, it doesn’t seem like you can turn it the other way. But Prabhupada has said there is a period, a Golden Age possible now, so we work for that. Hare Krsna, make some contribution so that the Golden Age can come about, give a library of books, written by somebody who was among the first-recruited, met up with Prabhupada but at a time when the Golden Age seemed highly unlikely. Because now thirty years after Prabhupada came here our organization is operating with plenty of laws and is improving itself financially, but there’s a certain lack of love and unity. With so much of this you wonder how could the organization “take over” the world? How can we deliver peace and harmony to the world when we can’t even achieve it on the miniscule level of direct followers of Prabhupada? That’s the big question, again something of a cliché. But it’s a question that no one can really answer to our satisfaction. So, you make a contribution some way, not in a negative mood, not in a tear-down mood. Yet you can’t help but compare yourself to Prabhupada who lived at a time when his spiritual master’s movement was in complete disarray, so he had to start something new. We don’t start a new movement, but we make a contribution that doesn’t depend only on the authorities and laws of the institution. We go to the heart of what Prabhupada did and try to continue something that will continue and not be revised or rejected, either by the ISKCON official body or by the grassroots force of devotees now and in the future. Calculate in that way, what will really last and make your individual contribution. It’s sort of a quiet revolution without having to resort to open rebellion. One wants to live as a citizen in the movement as it is and yet point to something better.”
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.