On a morning walk in 1976 in Melbourne, Prabhupada said that a devotee is always happy. One of the disciples ventured to say that a devotee is more unhappy than a materialist because he’s aware of his unhappiness. Prabhupada said, “Then that means he is not a devotee . . . Devotee means the first sign is that he will be happy. If he’s not prasannatma, he’s a rascal. He has not even entered devotional life.” He gave the example of Dhruva Maharaja. When he saw Visnu, he said, “Everything is all right. I don’t want anything.”
But I was thinking of examples of devotees who expressed unhappiness that there were so many nondevotees in the world. The devotee is happy for himself, but he feels compassion for those who are outside Krsna consciousness. He wants to help them by approaching them and giving them spiritual knowledge. So this is his unhappiness.
I heard Prabhupada lecturing from 1972 in Los Angeles. He was speaking on a section where many avataras of Krsna are mentioned. Yesterday he spoke on Ramacandra, who built a bridge to Ravana’s kingdom, Lanka, by floating stones and boulders on the water. Prabhupada said that scientists have experimented with weightlessness, but they cannot bring it about anywhere and everywhere. This is the work of an avatara. Even Ravana, with all his powers, could not build a staircase to heaven, which he tried to do to enable people to go to the heavenly planets without having any pious activities. Many people come and say they are avataras, but they cannot perform wonderful acts. Prabhupada mentioned Nrsimhadeva and how He did not take away any of the benedictions that Brahma gave to Hiranyakasipu, yet He killed him nevertheless. For example, Hiranyakasipu had a benediction that he would not be killed by any weapon. Nrsimhadeva came and killed him with His chisel-like nails, which are neither living nor dead. In many other ways, Nrsimhadeva avoided breaking the benedictions of Brahma but vanquished Hiranyakasipu. Many people come and say they are avataras, but they cannot perform wonderful acts as the actual avataras do. God is not such a cheap thing that someone can come with a big beard and an artificial helmet and claim that he is God. This is what Prabhupada said.
Dear ex-gurukulis who attended the Dallas school,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I want to write you a letter of apology for my misconduct or abuse toward you when you were small children and I was the GBC of Dallas Gurukula. During my period of service there, I did not enact any punishments for psychological abuses such as I have heard you suffered from in the extreme. I have heard you say you were beaten, put into closets, threatened that rats would come after you, yelled at, etc. My abuses were not things I did do but an omission of proper management and care for you. I was aloof from you; I should have been more of a father and mixed with them intimately and with compassion and love. You were sent away from your parental homes and we, the faculty at Dallas Gurukula (including myself as the figurehead-leader) became your surrogate parents. I should have been more compassionate to you and forgiven you for their inevitable rambunctiousness as young children. I was not an ashram teacher or class teacher, so I did not mix much intimately with you. My sin was not to come close to you, show you affection and guidance. I am sorry I inadvertently caused abuse to you for not being your friend, more big-hearted and forgiving.
My guilt is not so much what I did to you but what I didn’t do. I didn’t play with you or hug you. I didn’t act as your close friend or surrogate father. I ask you to please forgive me for being an aloof “principal” of the school, rather than an exemplary Vaisnava friend and companion.
I ask your forgiveness,
Satsvarupa das Goswami
He read from the section on Uddhava’s visit to Vrndavana and Radharani talking to a bumblebee. Radharani took the bee to be a messenger from Krsna (like Uddhava). She chastised the bee and said he was an unfaithful messenger from an unfaithful master. She made many critical remarks against the character of Krsna. Then suddenly the bee disappeared. Srimati Radharani was thrown into anxiety thinking that the bee had gone back to Mathura and would report all the critical remarks Radharani had made about Krsna.But then She suddenly saw that the bee had returned. She felt happy and greeted the bee very courteously, calling him magnanimous and being very careful not to say anything against Krsna.
Uddhava was standing nearby, reading a letter from Krsna to the other gopis. He heard the mad speaking of Radharani to the bee, and he was astounded. He took it as an expression of maha-bhava, the highest ecstasy of love in separation from Krsna.
I’ve been having trouble coughing and choking, especially when I drink. Recently I coughed up a lot of phlegm. I have a feeling I am giving too much attention to the body. But Prabhupada said when one is ill, he should make health his first priority. So I am submissively undergoing various treatments. It was a hassle yesterday traveling all the way to Albany to the Albany ENT and Allergy Center. There was a lot of bureaucracy there and long filling out of forms. We had to pass through secretaries and nurses before we met a Dr. Kaufman, who we will have to meet again—once again all the way to Albany. But the third test will be held in a local hospital. It’s important that I pay attention to this choking problem because it can lead to pneumonia, which I have contacted several times, and each time I have not returned to a fully normal state.
We had an appointment to see the urologist, Dr. Subudhi. When he arrived at his office, we learned that he had been called to the operating room for an emergency procedure. We had to wait an hour before we saw him. He apologized but said he was backed up and one of his nurses was missing. He wanted to perform a procedure to open up the urethra because my bladder is backed up, which could lead to other problems like urinary tract infection. He wanted us to come back in three months but we said no, because I’m already experiencing urgency and incontinence. This urology report may not sound Krsna conscious, but when I’m going through it, it’s the reality of old age and disease, a red flag. Prabhupada said philosophy means we must keep death before us. So these physical breakdowns are the living-out of what we’re taught about the body and the soul. As we grow older, we must be more aware of death; we must remain detached.
Speaking of disease, we just learned that my disciple in India and his entire family of four have just contacted COVID.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing how the professional reciters, having been instructed by the great sages, made praises to King Prthu for all his wonderful characteristics. But King Prthu said, “My dear devotees, headed by the Suta, just now I am not famous for my personal activities because I have not done anything praiseworthy you could glorify. Therefore how could I engage you in praising my activities just like children? While King Prthu thus spoke, the humility of his nectarean speeches pleased the reciters very much. Then again they continued to praise the King very highly with exalted prayers as they had been instructed by the elevated sages. The reciters continued, “Although we are unable to glorify you adequately, we nonetheless have a transcendental taste for glorifying your activities. We shall try to glorify you according to the instructions received from authoritative sages and scholars. Whatever we speak, however, is always inadequate and very insignificant. Dear King, because you are a direct incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all your activities are liberal and ever-laudable. No one will be able to disobey your orders. After conquering the world, you will greatly eradicate the threefold miseries of the citizens. Then you will be recognized all over the world. At that time both the suras and the asuras will undoubtedly glorify your magnanimous activities.
We are hearing the section in the Fourth Canto where Lord Visnu appears before King Prthu and is received with worship and love. Lord Visnu is pleased, and He returns to His abode. Prthu Maharaja leaves the sacrificial arena and returns to his city. He is greeted warmly by his citizens. Then the Four Kumaras show up at Maharaja Prthu’s city. The Kumaras are among the oldest living beings in the universe. But they appear as young children no more than four or five years old. They do this to protect their celibacy because when one reaches puberty, he may become agitated by sex desire. The Four Kumaras were free from all material attachments. They were highly learned and devotees of the Supreme Lord. Maharaja Prthu and the citizens received the Kumaras with worship and prayers. Maharaja Prthu spoke sweet words to the Four Kumaras. He said,
“The Supreme Lord is always anxious to elevate the living entities who are His parts and parcels, and for their special benefit, the Lord travels all over the world in the form of self-realized persons like you. Sanat-kumara said: My dear king, you already have an inclination to glorify the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a position is very hard to achieve, but when one has such unflinching faith in the Lord, it automatically cleanses lusty desires from the heart. The Kumaras continued to say, “Attachment for the Supreme can be increased by practicing devotional service, inquiring about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, practicing bhakti-yoga in life, worshiping the yogesvara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These actions are pious in themselves.” (Bhag. 4.22.16-22)
A Russian devotee named Dinadayadri dasi wrote me a letter. The letter included a picture of my painting, which Muktavandya had given her as a gift. She loves the painting and has placed it in her house in a prominent place (where the television used to be). The picture is of Radha and Krsna, with Lalita and Visakha at Their sides. Radha and Krsna have yellow auras over Their heads. Krsna is wearing a brilliant yellow dhoti, and Radharani is dressed in blue. It is a primitive painting, but Dina-dayadri loves it. Dinadayadri wrote me,
“I just spent a lot of time chanting on the couch in front of this painting, and looked into the eyes of Krsna, Radha, Lalita and Visakha. My eyes have studied every detail of this painting, while glancing them over and back into Krsna’s eyes, Radha’s shy smile with big eyes, onto Their crossed fingers, onto His hand over Her neck, onto Her hand over His waist. All of their faces express very lively something that makes me feel very grave. I wanted to thank you for this painting. . . .Would you please kindly bless me to become internal in my meditation on Krsna and guru.”
I wrote a book about a swami who had chronic migraine headaches and couldn’t complete his daily quota of sixteen japa rounds. He doesn’t give up trying, and by the end of the book he successfully returns to the standard. I showed sections of the book to Jayadvaita Swami. He liked the theme that in the beginning of the book I wasn’t chanting my full sixteen rounds but by the end of the book I returned to the standard sixteen. We hope to have the book published by my Vyasa-puja 2021. Rev. John Endler said the book will be helpful to anyone recovering from a trauma. He is currently counseling a young couple whose infant child suddenly died.
Another disciple is greatly depressed over a harsh divorce he’s gone through, along with other troubles in his life. Another devotee has mental problems, but he’s taking solace in seriously chanting japa, and it’s giving him relief. If the others would take shelter in japa, they would also feel less the victims of trauma.
Prabhupada gave John Favors the initiation name, “Ghanasyama.” It means “dark cloud,” a name describing Krsna, whose complexion is like a monsoon cloud. Ghanasyama had a very dark complexion, and the name seemed to fit him perfectly. When Kirtanananda gave him sannyasa, he changed Ghanasyama’s name to Bhakti-Tirtha Swami. That is a very nice name for a sannyasi, but I would have preferred that he kept the name that Prabhupada gave, Ghanasyama. I knew and loved him as Ghanasyama and never gave up my attachment to the name.
Because today rain is expected, yesterday our ashram did an outdoor marathon working in the garden. Baladeva, Krsna dasi, Lalita-kaisori, and Amit all worked at mulching and pulling weeds. Amit remarked that people nowadays are keen on remaining sanitized, and they avoid working with dirt and weeds. But some natural contact with these elements is actually healthy for the human being. Krsna dasi is motivated to get so many different flowers for Deity worship. Lalita-kaisori likes to watch plants grow and nurture them. Baladeva likes the look of mulch; it enhances the individual identity of all the plants. Bala likes to plant vegetables and he likes to grow marigolds because they are so prolific. Bala can make garlands from marigolds every day. Muktavandya likes to bring flowers from the Boston flower market, where he can get flowers that we can’t grow here.
“I call out Sri Krsna’s names as if old age doesn’t mean death.
“Near the tall water tower is a sand elevation, ‘Cataka-parvata,’ and across the street from that is Tota-gopinatha.
“Yesterday, I said nothing about the Deities. There is Balarama with His unpolished silver horn, Gaura-Gadadhara, who looked almost like dolls, and of course, Tota-gopinatha.
“Clothes hanging out on balconies
of Hotel Raj some hundreds
of yards from here and
Frisbees have finally made it
waves break standard anywhere
but here you know it’s
ocean at Poori.
“A crow’s conference in the sandy courtyard of Birla guest house. The unsteady whine-cough of the motorscooter rickshaw sailed down the beachside paved road. Our men went swimming. Bala made a do-it-yourself dessert where I could combine the ingredients myself—a thin custard, toasted crumbs, and an apple mash.
wash your heart.
“The words ‘music box’
drift into mind . . .
Jagannatha Swami calendar . . .
the nature of music.
I just write.
‘In case of fire, break glass.’
‘Give me a little
peace,’ he said just when
he began hearing the gopis
had anything but peace and
‘Krsna told Arjuna, “If you don’t
fight then I’d prefer you die.”
He was so dissatisfied
with Arjuna’s decision,’
strong in lecturing in
Master, where are you?
I ask rhetorically,
not expecting an answer as
the wind rustles the page.”
“Milk worm I never
heard of but I like it
I, me, the servant
draws without caring how
to an observer.
Krsna, I love
to draw Your name and form
whenever I can but
if I don’t You’re there anyway
in all Your energies.
My truth is yours—
I’m part and parcel of
the one Supreme
form pouring out
of hands like words,
‘Krsna’ the best of all
to cry out at death
with knowledge and pleading
for devotional service life after life.
“Sharp headache all last night and this morning. Couldn’t do anything else but tolerate it. Checking in now.
“Sitting on the dark balcony, different thoughts going through my mind. As usual when I get a headache like this one, I question whether I can continue my traveling and preaching. I’ll talk with Madhu about it later.
“I am also recalling a conversation I had a few days ago with a couple of devotees here. We were discussing our mutual experience of fighting in the trenches of the sankirtana war on behalf of our zone. We each concluded that we would’’t do it again in this lifetime. One devotee spoke of a deep distrust of authority he now has. He felt he was a victim of the system.
“Another devotee said that we couldn’t condemn the whole system. We had to take personal responsibility for our parts in it.
“That conversation lingers in my mind. Conversations are themselves acts of conscience, and they are binding. Legally, if you discuss murdering someone, you can be convicted as a conspirator in the murder.
“Do I really think that we should mistrust ISKCON authorities? My first response is to say that I wouldn’t want to trust my life to them. I couldn’t live subject to all the things that come up on the ISKCON calendar: ‘Okay, Prabhus, now it’s World Relief Day and we have to go out and distribute food in such-and-such a way,’ or, ‘Okay, Prabhus, now it’s the marathon. We have to surrender for the next month.’
“Some devotees tend to think that ISKCON is more suitable or geared for young idealists than older devotees. It’s hard to imagine myself going back to live the way I lived years ago. At the same time, I have disciples who live in temples, and I don’t think they’re in a bad place or wrongly situated. I think of some of my old-timer disciples, and even some newcomers. They basically like where they are and accept the difficulties. Anyway, there are difficulties everywhere.
“Recently I wrote a letter to a prominent author in the world in response to her book and note she sent me. The typist gave me the letter to sign and asked me whether I wanted it to be sent on ISKCON stationery or plain paper. I said offhand to use ISKCON stationery. Well, do I actually want to be known as a member of ISKCON? Am I proud of it? Am I willing to stand for all that goes on in the movement and represent it? As I walk in the world catching planes as a Hare Krsna person, I think, ‘People won’t really know all of what goes on in ISKCON, so it’s okay if they see me as a member. Right?’”
“Oh yeah, man, we feel better finally, but don’t know what to do with the little bit of energy and time left at our disposal. I think I’ll have to revise my schedule so as not to go to the Caribbean. It’s too much for me right now. These days of pain are leaving me drained. I hate to disappoint devotees by not traveling to their country, but I don’t know . . . I’m weak and can’t do much without feeling pain.
“In this condition, I’m asking You (Arjuna said) how I should act. Please instruct me. He was weak-hearted. Krsna wanted him to fight. Should I also fight by going to the Caribbean?
“M. says I should be realistic—not that I call off all lecturing and traveling after a bad day, but proceed according to what I can do. He says my criteria for action shouldn’t be what will please (and not disappoint) the devotees. If that’s the standard, there is no end to travel, lecture, and the dance.
“Better I travel at a pace I can control, as I do in the van in Europe. If that fails, perhaps I can at last go home and stay in a cabin in America—at Gita-nagari for a couple of weeks, then to Baltimore.
“And then the bigger question: I want to show them the essence of love between guru and disciple, and I don’t want to be guilty of hypocrisy. But how does my going there or not actually change their lives? How can I measure it? What’s best to do? What’s possible to do?”
“Tired old pawpaw. Want to go to Krsna. Someone says, “I’m very attached to Prabhupada—more than I am to Krsna. Is that bad?”
“No, I say, he will lead you to Krsna.
“Krsna dancing with flute. I saw Him in my mind’s eye faintly, momentarily, above the hotel building’s predawn, while I was sitting on the balcony as a sharp headache was finally going down. Was thinking about what I’d read, and also how a Zen practitioner doesn’t strive for enlightenment but realizes it’s more a matter of tuning in than discovering. That seems similar to the maha-bhagavata’s vision that everyone and everything is already perfect. Yes, but we want to add Krsna to that. Not that we click into enlightenment while looking at a hotel, sky, and ocean at Puri and feel, ‘This is it. It’s perfect now and always was.’
dancing, what we want,
but He’s a long way off—
“Many lives both you and I, Arjuna,
we’ve had, but never can you
remember them, although I do.
Yes, Arjuna knew it too by His grace.
Love to be there one day
but so far I struggle
for strength each day—
I want to be a devotee,
make a beeline to His lotus feet,
but ecstasies must be paid for and
samadhi is no joke.”
“First thing I did on rising was to read Caitanya-caritamrta. As I began, however, other thoughts crept into my mind—notes I might write to Madhu or letters to others, editing and publishing topics, dreams. But I stayed with the book for twenty minutes and read about the cleansing of the Gundica temple. That section contains the long purport about cleansing the heart of anarthas before Krsna will be pleased to sit there and reveal Himself.
“‘Krsna Himself will cleanse the heart because He is already seated there. Krsna wants to continue living within the heart, and the Lord wants to give directions, but one has to keep his heart as clean as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu kept the Gundica temple.’ (Cc. Madhya 12.135, purport)
“Some of the faults listed are those committed by outright materialists, but some are committed by neophyte devotees. Srila Prabhupada says,
“‘Jiva-himsa (envy of other living entities) actually means to stop the preaching of Krsna consciousness. . . . If one stops preaching and simply sits down in a solitary place, he is engaging in material activity.’
“With this in mind I think I ought to persist in trying to travel this year. I should go to the Caribbean and to America, then back to Europe. It may provoke headaches, but I get them regardless. We can only take as much caution as possible, be careful not to push beyond my limits, and hope the devotees will understand that I can only preach when I don’t have a headache. My condition seems to be benign. That is, although I’m fragile, I don’t have a life-threatening disease. When I stay in one place I can write. The more alone I can be at those times, allowing outer activities to calm themselves, the easier it is for me to turn within and to face anarthas, and to sometimes churn out a literary gem.”
“I’ve been sitting out on the balcony since I began chanting japa at 12:20 A.M. I usually chant out here for a round or so, go inside, then come out again. When I first came out this morning I looked over to the hotel a few hundred yards from here. On their second floor there were two rooms that had red lights on the porch. One of the lights went out. I also noticed an electric line flashing on and off. It would flash on for a moment, then go off for several minutes, then come on again. I imagined myself as a forest fire watcher—when I saw this electric line I would report it to headquarters as something potentially dangerous. Now that flashing has become a constant burning light. I’ve seen that in other places in India—the electric line on the telephone pole suddenly blazes.
“Out here I also have heard and seen a watchman in another hotel come out of a door and blow a sad whistle. Now it’s raining pleasant dripping sounds. Rounds out here are ‘good’ —wide awake and once or twice, I caught myself listening to the words Hare, Krsna, and Rama.
“I feel like apologizing to my Boots tape recorder for dropping it in the bathroom. I resolved previously never to do that. It was tucked under my clothes and I didn’t notice it until it slid out and hit the stone floor. I’m grateful it’s not broken. I need it to hear Prabhupada. Turning it on I suddenly heard Prabhupada come on loudly and it made me glad to be alive and awake. ‘Cats and dogs, cats and dogs,’ he said.
“I’d like to do more things than it’s possible for me to do today on this last day in Jagannatha Puri. Here’s a partial list:
“I was thinking about this writing this morning. I made a resolution to keep writing, but I realized that at any moment, my peace and ease could be violently torn away. I felt this in a small way today while walking and listening to tapes. I made a gesture with my hand, and it caught the wire that leads to the Walkman. Suddenly the earplugs were jerked out of my ears. It didn’t hurt, but it was sudden, accidental—the sound was gone. It produced a mental shock as I humbly returned the earplugs to my ears.
“That was just a small inconvenience—not even serious—but with the same suddenness, I could lose my life. I try to write with that in mind. Every moment is special, and when you pass the fifty-year mark, every moment becomes more precious. I still haven’t been able to write a profound epic, but at least I am able to stop and breathe prayers and to remind myself that I am writing as one who is about to die for those who are also about to die. Don’t waste time. We are all looking for earnestness. We are all looking for that feeling that will connect us to Krsna.”
“Yesterday I got another important, inspiring letter from His Divine Grace. He said service to Krsna is not stuck up in one particular service (such as book distribution), but depends on sincere service in any of the nine ways of service. Of the nine ways, sravanam kirtanam is very important. Lecturing is also sravanam kirtanam. I will try, therefore, to put together a preaching program, and at the same time, maintain the library program, which is so dear to His Divine Grace.
“Also, the inspiring instruction he gave is that one has to render sincere service—whatever one can do or offer, that is suitable and best. ‘It is not inglorious’ for one to think his own service is best. All departments of service are absolute, but one must try to do his service perfectly.
“I was recently reading books Srila Prabhupada wrote out in longhand as early as 1955 at the Radha-Damodara temple—Science of Devotion and Lord Caitanya, His Sannyasa and Sankirtana—many of which were never published but were forerunners of his later works, The Nectar of Devotion and Teachings of Lord Caitanya. It is inspiring to meditate on my spiritual master writing so extensively in those days when he was all alone with no big ISKCON movement. I would very much like to write following in his footsteps, out of preaching mood, and as sannyasa duty for self-purification. He wrote on and on and produced so many works, even then, which are now benefiting thousands of persons all over the world. Srila Prabhupada once wrote me that by always writing, one’s language will be sharper when he preaches, and one will always be forced—in choosing words—to think of Krsna. Topics later used, early versions of books, bases for philosophic themes are constantly developed as he writes.”
“Yesterday, a total of four classes. Three were with Professor Kroger at St. Michaels in Winooski, then we drove three hours to Plymouth and had an evening program with students connected with the campus ministry. We showed slides.
“Today, two classes on yoga and Zen.
“I am trying to speak the straight parampara. It is sometimes almost painful, since our presentation is so blunt and the Western ‘intellectual’ tradition is to be a mental speculator. But it is best if I find the courage to say it: ‘Krsna is the Absolute Truth. He is the Supreme Brahman. He is the Supreme Person. We are eternal spiritual persons meant to be with Him in the spiritual world. Everything else is nonsensical if it doesn’t lead to love of Krsna. Take to Krsna by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. Give up sense gratification.’”
“Everyone should desire intimate association with a pure devotee. If you don’t desire that, then you’re as good as dead, because by association with a pure devotee you can develop love of Krsna but otherwise it’s not possible. You can never know Krsna by your own endeavor; you have to know Him through the spiritual master. And we all know that the spiritual master is present in his spiritual sound vibration. That is even more important than his physical presence. So we have the opportunity to become intimately associated with Srila Prabhupada. And that intimate association means that you are serving and he is pleased by your service. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado /yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto’ pi. ‘By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krsna, and without the grace of the spiritual master one cannot make any advancement.’
“There are so many aspects in understanding the disappearance of the great personality, the pure devotee. Here we see that his disappearance is meant to increase our affection and our devotion and our meditation on him. This is what Krsna says here to Narada. Of course, He also says that He left because Narada was not fully able to appreciate Him; Narada was not completely pure. So it is a cause for lamentation—and this is another aspect of his departure—that when the spiritual master leaves, you realize, ‘I never really knew him. I never took advantage of this great person. Such a great devotee will never appear again on the earth for hundreds of years, yet somehow, due to my lack of purity, I did not get to know him or take up his service, heart and soul.’ That is a cause of lamentation.”
“As devotees of Prabhupada, we need to have an objective assessment of Prabhupada’s qualities both to further our own spiritual growth and for preaching. Objectivity is necessary to convince a skeptic that Prabhupada is great and that our attachment is not merely sentimental. We have to explain why we have such high worship of Prabhupada. ‘The spiritual master is to be honored as much is the Supreme Lord because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord.”
According to the Caitanya-caritamrta, the acarya is considered to be as good as Krsna and the representative of all the demigods.
“For ourselves, the objective understanding of Prabhupada quells whatever tendencies we may have toward sentimentality. The person who is being praised must be worthy of the sentiment; even if he is a great person, the praise or emotion must be worthy.
“What is an example of sentimental attachment to Prabhupada? If we offer lip-service but do not follow his teachings, then we are guilty of sentimentality. In 1968, Prabhupada himself gave the instruction that prayer should be accompanied by actively following his example:
“‘After staying up very late at night, Prabhupada rose and traveled early in the morning to Boston. He then wrote back to his temple president in New York City, who had not been able to rise on the morning of proper departure to Boston. “Don’t just praise me,” Prabhupada wrote, “but do as I do.”’
“If our description of his glories does not have the effect of changing our behavior by bringing it more in line with his, then that is sentimental. And if we praise him in a way that is not in line with scripture, that is also sentimental.”
“You want to be a part of the spiritual world, of Krsna’s pastimes in Vraja. It is beginning to happen. But so far, it is not that real to you. You have only been hearing it for a few years, and it has only been a few months since you gained the focus that this should be the goal of your life. For many years and lifetimes, a file has accumulated, filled with so many real and imagined adventures (they are all actually mayic misadventures). So you cannot be part of any world right now. You cannot sink roots into this earth and neither can you fly to Goloka. You cannot entirely give up your sense of self in this world, and you are tired of playing the center of existence. The condition of your japa reflects this confused state of being.
“I am not confused, but between worlds is a more accurate word. Arjuna also felt this and expressed it to Sri Krsna: ‘But for Yourself, there is no one who can remove this doubt.’ Arjuna thought that if he followed Krsna’s instructions for self-realization, then he would have to give up his hopes for happiness in this world. But what if he failed to attain the transcendental goal? Then he would be neither here nor there, but be like a small cloud torn apart from a big cloud and floating loose in the big sky. Lord Krsna assured his friend that one who does good never meets with evil. Even if Arjuna could not completely succeed on the path of bhakti, there would be no loss. Whatever gains he had made would be continued in the next life. As a result of his spiritual efforts in this life, he would be born in the family of yogis or devotees, or pious, wealthy people. From there he would be automatically attracted to spiritual life again, and as soon as possible, complete the course for going back to Godhead.
“Therefore, if we cannot chant with attention right now, chant anyway and chant more. Make efforts to control the mind. Discuss the aparadhas in chanting and be alert to when you may be about to commit them. Be glad if you don’t feel part of this world. Go on hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. Associate with devotees and avoid those who would destroy your faith and enthusiasm. Your devotional activities are all gains. They often seem comical because of the awkward place you are in, so there is no harm in having a laugh at yourself. At least you won’t become proud that you are an accomplished taster of rasa.”
“Sometimes we think, ‘Let me be honest,’ but we are actually attempting to avoid surrender. We rationalize, ‘I cannot be a fired-up devotee and preacher as I once thought I could.’ And so we decide to take it easy; mix in some sense gratification in the name of honesty.
“This laid-back version of truthfulness sometimes includes an implied criticism of those who still try to subdue all their own interests in favor of carrying out the order of the guru.
“Since we may easily mistake dishonesty for honesty, it requires careful thought and balance. It may be best if one admits, for example, that one is not a brahmacari and so stops the false appearance of one. One devotee who had been living as a brahmacari for years decided to get married and wrote this poem:
watching the girls go by:
stop living this lie.’
“Being honest with oneself might also include admitting that I am ease-loving and that I tend to put myself in situations that indulge my weakness. So in honesty, I decide not to indulge these weaknesses but to put myself in a more austere situation. With this in mind I may join with a party of traveling preachers in order to improve my discipline and enthusiasm.”
“Why I Like This Section
“Madhya-lila Chapters 19 and 20 describe Rupa and Sanatana’s going to Lord Caitanya and His instructions to them. This is one of my favorite sections of the Caitanya-caritamrta. It is a real-life adventure story, especially when Sanatana Gosvami escapes his captors and arrives at the Lord’s lotus feet.
“This was the first pastime Srila Prabhupada ever shared with us when he introduced us to the Caitanya-caritamrta in 1966. I still remember how he read the story in installments, always stopping at a dramatic point which only left us hankering for more. I wrote about this event in Planting the Seed. In the very beginning, Prabhupada gave classes both morning and evening only on the Bhagavad-gita. After a few months of regular attendance, he told us that ‘because you are a little advanced, I will speak from Caitanya-caritamrta.’ That was typical of Srila Prabhupada’s leniency and generosity. How advanced could we have been after having attended his lectures for only a few months? Still, he shared the Caitanya-caritamrta, the ‘post-graduate study’ of Krsna consciousness with us. This is itself a good argument that we can read Caitanya-caritamrta even before having read all the other scriptures, under Srila Prabhupada’s protection.
“What I like most about this story is Sanatana Gosvami’s determined effort to free himself from material entanglement and to join Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We all have such a story to tell. Almost all of us had to cross over the obstacles placed before us by our nondevotee friends and relatives in order to join this movement. Sanatana Gosvami’s story ends with such success—it is the story of the spiritual seeker escaping the clutches of the material energy to reach his Lord.”
“Sometimes when you begin your japa, you feel reluctant. It just doesn’t have a taste. The only solution for that is to keep going resolutely. The taste eventually comes, always. The lack of taste may be due to many things, often physical. You may be tired from lack of sleep or some physical malady. Mental lack of taste is due to your poor Krsna consciousness. It may be prominent on a particular day just because of the whims of the cancala mind. It is a sad reflection to reveal to you that you’re just not a good chanter. There is no excuse for it, you just must keep chanting and overcome the bad state of the mind. It’s sad that we are not instantly excellent chanters in the morning, and that some mornings find us with the blues. During the chanting we can pray to Krsna to help us out of this slump and bring us to our rightful position.
“Chanting is a kind of mechanism. With a little effort, we’ll find ourselves back on track. Those are the days to push with extra effort to find our rightful place. Determination is required and the strength not to become overwhelmed with depression at our poor state. Don’t take it as such a terrible thing, just work through it and come to the right position.
“This morning I found this tastelessness when I began, but it did not last long. Within a couple of rounds, I was feeling better and cheerful, and I was chanting at a good speed. I didn’t give in to the poor start, which could have lasted longer. Maya is always waiting to catch us and tell us that the chanting is not working and that we are worthless and might as well give up. But actually we are just having a little bump in the road that we can overcome with persistence. It is just a temporary mood that can easily be overcome by chanting several rounds of japa without quitting. Krsna does not want to withhold the sweetness of the holy names, and He is just testing us. He is showing us our low state. He will allow us to overcome it in short order.
“A poor beginning will not
last for the gutsy chanter of
the Names. Soon the
soothing balm of Nama
Prabhu covers the rough
patch with its nectar.
“Like a bad dream, the
faulty start evaporates, and a
cheerful sunrise appears
through the beads.
“All that was required was that
I show Krsna I’m sincere and
not a fair-weather chanter—I
can endure a bad first inning.”
“He woke up with a headache and took a pill, but began his pada-yatra late this morning. Everyone had already gathered. Someone handed him a page from Cc. with this quote from the Bhagavatam:
“To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him. (Bhag. 3.33.6)
“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘this is a very important verse for us.’
“But he did not say more than that because this was not the time to lecture but the time to walk. He walked and waited for the pain to go down. He hoped it would. They told him of the osteopath in town who had relieved many brahmanas of their pains in one twenty-minute session, but in order to see him he would have to abandon the pada-yatra and take a different route. He didn’t want to do that. Besides, he didn’t have much faith in such cures.
“He decided to keep walking. He remembered how Srila Prabhupada had written that hearing is more important than thinking in this age. Of course, he didn’t mean that we should stop intelligent thought, but it’s difficult to meditate silently on God, and we definitely should not waste our time in speculation on Him. Better to hear from authorized sources the sound coming down in disciplic succession.”
“Deep, basic faith is required at every step. I am not above needing to pray for protection of my creeper in the most elementary ways—freedom from sex desire, from nama-aparadha, from Vaisnava and guru-aparadha, from desire for fame, protection from contamination of atheism, from excessive fear of injury to this body, from laziness and sleep—you name it, I need release from all dangers of anarthas and aparadhas. From top to bottom, I pray to Gurudeva: ‘Please accept my activities, such as these writing sessions, as service to you. Please employ my energy in your service.’
“One has to go on one’s own path within bhakti, within ISKCON. Each pilot in his own airplane. That’s good, and all flying to Krsna under the guru’s direction.”
“Ramananda Raya and Lord Caitanya, I read in a rocking chair. M. receives a computer from a courier company and walks upstairs with the two boxes. He was chanting japa before but now he’s quiet, reading the directions and hooking it up. A new world. I go on reading. It’s been cloudy skies, so I position the chair to catch the outdoor life. Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya.
Ramananda Raya said, “I have one doubt. I see You as a cowherd boy, blackish; You are the Supreme Lord Krsna. But I also see You as a golden form.”
Lord Caitanya replied seriously that Ramananda Raya was a maha-bhagavata and therefore saw everything moving and stationary as Krsna, or reminding him of Krsna.
“Give up these serious talks,” said Ramananda Raya. “Why are You deceiving me?”
“Then Lord Caitanya showed Ramananda Raya His combined form as Lord Caitanya – Radha and Krsna. Lord Caitanya and Krsna are not two separate persons. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna but He has become golden by mixing with the form and mood of Radharani.
“And now everything confidential is revealed to you,” said Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. “But don’t tell this to others or they would think we are crazy.”
“Reading, reading, why doesn’t it open my heart? It does me good. Think of my book, From Copper to Touchstone, which will contain this and favorite selections of Caitanya-caritamrta. With some nice drawings by Guru-seva.
“Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Played out. K.R.’s gone all the way up to the Adirondacks, then back down here.
“Three different courts in one day, and then back to his office for more work.
He’s a self-employed lawyer. Chant sixteen rounds as you drive, my boy? It must be hard to get them done otherwise.
“My life is comparatively easy, sitting here and looking out at that very dark red Maple tree in full foliage, leaves trembling in the spring breeze. Summer’s on the way.
“Nirjala Ekadasi today but I ate buckwheat pancakes and drank milk. No stopping me. Eat the house.
“Sri Krsna appeared in this world in many incarnations. Sometimes you think if you go to India and stay in the dhamas it will be different. And it is different when you go there. But I don’t even attempt to stay more than three months. Some Americans have managed to live there permanently—by the grace of Radha, they say. What is the best place to live, abandoning all other places, asked Lord Caitanya. And Ramananda Raya replied, ‘The holy place known as Vrndavana or Vrajabhumi, where the Lord performed His rasa dance.’ Let me become one of the herbs and creepers there . . . I’ve discussed why I don’t live there. Maybe one day I’ll feel I’ve discussed everything I needed to and will fall silent. No more pen on the page. No more need for it? Not even doodles and colors? Not to say – the orange, black and white cat is nosing around outside. Her colors remind me of playing marbles of that color combination. Nature’s odd ways.
“No water even, no cat or mouse or grass or neighbors’ boys playing basketball, smack, smack, smack. No computer. (I wouldn’t give up my truth of the moment seeking writing and turn to a message by email.)
“Silence is golden.
The cat’s got your tongue.
In a rung
the b-ball clanged.
“The rattle is a pencil vibrating as I cause the vibration of the desk with my writing hand and arm. And the soft crackle you hear is heat coming up in the low radiator. Death’s distant (?) approach.
“A pious Christian was dying. Her friends told her an eagle had landed on the roof. She said, ‘Tell him to stay. That’s my ride.’
Little did she know. Garuda…
“Yeah, the day could well come when I admit I am played out. Then? You just read and say things you’ve read to others. You will talk, won’t you? Talk and chant Hare Krsna mantras.
“But don’t sleep and eat excessively.
And don’t play with the glider airplane.
Or go back to management affairs.
“What about answering mail? That’s a form or writing or talking. Don’t increase it. I mean if you stop writing it seems only fair that you stop the other stuff too. But why?
“It’s like daydreaming. “Maybe I’ll slow down my heartbeat and bring it to a stop. It has beaten enough all these years. The same old thump, thump. Nothing new. Let’s call it quits.” Stopping writing might be like that?
“You don’t want to do it prematurely.
“As for writing only in a perfectionist-editor mode and cutting out the small talk, no thanks, please. I don’t need it. Let the other guys write such essays and chapters. That’s not my contribution, the one I want to make.
“Don’t tell anyone what I have revealed to you. You and I are mad men. “Ordinary people would think the subjects of discussion by Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya were crazy talks. They prefer to talk of the world and their power trips and speculations.
“But your lips, Raya.
“O Lord Caitanya, I will seek You out again at Jagannatha Puri. Once again, stay at a hotel and write there my notes, my oats. It’s bound to be a little different. Is that you point of doubt? That you’ve covered the ground again and again as best you could and there’s nothing new?
“First of all, that’s not true.
“But even if you say it is, you may try to write “the same thing” (a trip to Jagannatha Puri, what it’s like at Siddha Bakula, Gambhira, the beach, etc.) and do it better than before. Do it again.
“Only one spare ink cartridge left. No need to replace it. Just today and tomorrow. This notebook is more than enough. I didn’t get ‘anywhere’ in this Upstate but I said something on my walk this morning—
“That I am ‘Upstate’ in relation to the NYC center of activities in ISKCON.
“That I have a contribution to make. Won’t repeat that here.
“Walked and didn’t hurt my ankle or foot. The springs of natural water. All alone in the state park. Even the stadium is all yours if you would like to go on stage and do a quick ballet or applaud from the balcony. For only a few moments, before the parkies come to work.
“You didn’t get anywhere, but claimed it’s a momentum of what I hope to continue, a program of how to spend the day when you have it to yourself:
“Midnight – 2 A.M. – on PMRB. After that you write as you like in some free-write collection, especially late morning until time to worship Prabhupada murti. (11 A.M.) Then after lunch and rest, from then on you prepare another PMRB. While here I’ve been doing a whole verse that is question and answer and free-write and then I set up a second one by 7 P.M. before I take rest.
“And a poem when you come back from the morning walk.
“So, you’ve got two or three things going at once. PMRB is a steady (slow but steady) factor. And some time for reading. None of the projects leap ahead, but all moving along. You are always writing or reading in variety. This combination occurred only here at Upstate, and if I like to continue then it is a good thing I learned here. M. gave me a hint of it. Krsna supplied the ability. And He wrote SB by His agency as Vyasa and Srila Prabhupada wrote the purports.
“Won’t take a snack at 5 P.M. today. M. smiles and laughs as I enter the room and see him for the first time in front of the computer screen. He’s hooked. He says that it’s incredible, Internet…and breaking news. Of course, he will do only a few simple functions…He mentions Jagadisa Maharaja gave up the computer to live more simply. GN Press is computerized but I am left out of it. Feed in my handwritten and dictated notes on Sony pages.
“What have you got to say with all the speed and modems and phone hook-ups? What is the news that’s breaking? I already know Bob Dole is running for president and goes around the country crashing other people’s big crowds and speaking at them, just outside the football stadium. Now I am writing without accuracy. That’s okay, just say how you feel. If you feel like saying football stadium in June, go ahead and say it.
“I feel like saying there is a word I can’t think of that has bird’s wings. ‘If they are romantic, we sell them Dear Sky,’ wrote Mark Shmults to me. We have our plans and God as providence has His plans. See if the computer can tell you that. It can’t. It can’t read the providence factor. It can’t deliver you back to Godhead. Can’t chant rounds for you. Best to do them on ancient beads.
“‘For hundreds of thousands of years, devotees have been worshiping Hanuman,’ Srila Prabhupada wrote. Lord Caitanya visited a Hanuman temple on His tour of the south. Srila Prabhupada says wherever the Lord went everyone was converted to Vaisnavism. Then he says our ISKCON preachers are almost as potent. Wherever they go people chant Hare Krsna and become devotees. But I thought, we have such a small effect in the cities where we have preached for many years. People regard us as odd and very, very few become devotees. But you could look at it another way. Almost everyone does hear the Hare Krsna mantra at one time or another. In that sense we get them to chant. But you could hardly say we converted them to Vaisnavism. Was Srila Prabhupada exaggerating? No, he may have had bigger hopes at that time in 1973 when he was writing Cc. But Krsna consciousness is spreading. Think of Russia. Don’t be dour. My thoughts ran that way and then I thought how I’m not such an outward preacher. Maybe a fired-up preacher thinks that way and only a critic thinks otherwise. But then I saved myself and said, ‘Well, you are preaching too. People write to you and depend on you.’ One wrote and asked me how I measure up to the fifth and sixth verses of Guruvastaka. I initiated him, but he has been doing heavy drugs and has been gone for eight years. This is the first letter to me in all that time. He asks if I am measuring up to the fifth and sixth verse. I said, ‘Let’s get to know one another again before you put me on the witness stand as if in court: “Do you assist the gopis in the kunjas in Vrndavana, and if not, why are you sitting on the vyasasana?”’ I told him to read the first chapter of Adi-lila in Cc. for guru-tattva, and said that guru is humble but his disciple sees him as a direct representative of Krsna.
“One might say these casual timed books are for when I’m not inspired enough to do PMRB. I want to be ‘up’ for that. I can do it once or twice in a day, but there are more hours when I still want to write. So, I talk over the back fence. Or I pray to God. Casually? Just who I am. Also, I could push out the purport and free-write to another PMRB as duty, but that doesn’t seem right. If I don’t feel like doing it, don’t do it as drudgery. But Upstate is never quite drudgery, because I speak whatever I am capable of.
“Lord Caitanya’s travels. We are getting in our own travel mode. I spent time gathering belongings and gave them to M. for his suitcase. This is a big one – leave the USA for the year. Carrying four big suitcases plus carry-ons. Hare Krsna.”
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.