Haridasa is leaving. He has to get a job to earn money for his personal needs. Bala is coming back from Trinidad for a scheduled appointment to get an MRI to see if any cancer has developed in his body after his major surgery several years ago for removing his bladder. Krsna dasi is planning to go to Trinidad to take Bala’s place in caretaking his mother. She needs twenty-four hour personal care. She is slowly dying after a heart attack. She is 85 years old, and they cannot afford to pay for any professional caretaker who would live in and be with her around the clock. With Krsna dasi leaving, there will be a drastic reduction in the standard of the Deity worship. I am making an appeal to devotees—for someone to come and help out here for several weeks at a time. Ideally the devotees who come would have their vaccination shots so as not have to wear a mask all the time (but we can work around that). and be able to be in the same room with me. Please consider this “want ad” urgent, because there’s no telling when Bala’s mother will actually pass away.
I received two copies of the Indian reprint of Begging published by Nitai. He described to me how labor-intensive it was correcting all the mistakes and proofreading. He said he got major help from Krsna Bhajan. He wrote me his impression of the book and said its contents help him very much to improve his japa. I also received a letter from Lalita Manjari (Bhurijana’s daughter) who also read a copy of the new reprint of Begging.
Nitai made a list of suggestions he received from Begging and how they boost his Krsna consciousness:
He adds that, “Lately the biggest obstacle for me during chanting is that I tend to contemplate philosophical parts from the Gita and other Prabhupada books. Please bless me so that I can simply focus on the above seven points.”
I received a letter from a devotee who read in my book Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name that I chant at the level of nama-bhasa and sometimes nama-aparadha. She told me I should not write that and should change it in a future edition. She claimed many devotees are writing books in which they say they are at the ruci (taste) stage and even higher. She is my disciple and doesn’t want to see me claim that I am at the lower stages. But I have to honestly admit that I am at the stage of “clearing” or getting a glimpse (as at dawn) of the first light of the holy name sun. And sometimes I commit one of the ten offenses in chanting the holy names. I don’t want to assert that I am at a higher stage than I actually am. What to do? I have to be more serious and try harder to pay attention in my japa and clear out the wanderings of the mind. As Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, “When, O when will that day be mine, when my offenses ceasing, taste for the holy name increasing, when O when will that day be mine?”
A devotee wrote me in a letter that she has had a significant shift in her japa. She suddenly had an epiphany moment, in which she realized that the holy name is Krsna and that she is the servant of the Lord. This devotee has had a long, checkered career in Krsna consciousness, but she has always held on with faith in performing japa. This sounds to me like a permanent change for the good. I am encouraged that a devotee “broke through” and is chanting seriously and sincerely—with taste.
Prabhupada started recording his lectures as early as 1965. He took great care in preserving his speeches on excellent reel-to-reel tape recorders.
In the same way, he began writing Srimad-Bhagavatam in 1961 in India. (So he was way ahead of his time.) He was recording and writing before he had any audience. But gradually he created a bigger and bigger audience. Devotees still listen to his talks and read his books forty years after his disappearance. And now his followers have followed in his footsteps and have written books and made many recordings of talks based on his books. There is a great, impressive library—an immense variety—of different speakers with their own individual styles—producing Krsna conscious lectures that are listened to every day by thousands of devotees. Prabhupada began the process, and now it is being carried out by many, many followers. For a while there was a misconception that there was not enough of a variety of krsna-katha available. But now, with maturity of Prabhupada’s followers, there is an immense treasure house of lectures, videos, kirtanas, bhajanas. As Prabhupada used to say, there is enough krsna-katha available that you could read or hear twenty-four hours a day and not complete the library. Whoever one may be, he should take advantage of the unlimited stock of Krsna conscious material and become a true Prabhupadanuga.
I heard a recording of Bhanu Swami lecturing on the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He said it has many layers of meaning, and he personally revealed them in his one-hour talk. We have heard that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura lectured for three months in Dacca on the first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Previous acaryas such as Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura are transcendental archeologists, have dug and sifted the sloka to reveal different layers of meanings. We can trust in their findings. Bhanu Swami said that the first verse reveals many different ways that Krsna is supreme, and it points out why He is the all-attractive, even among the other forms of Visnu. His all-attractiveness is revealed especially in His exchanges with His pure devotees. They pass it down intact in the disciplic succession, without change, for thousands of years. Bhanu Swami said that the first verse even tells us of Krsna’s rasas with His unalloyed devotees. Of all the rasas, the relationship of Krsna with the gopis, and especially with Srimati Radharani, is the highest and most intimate form of bhakti. Maharaja has translated many Sanskrit and Bengali literatures into English, and they are all bona-fide and in strict parampara. He emphasized that the first verse is really all about Sri Krsna, and that He is the highest object of worship and devotion. With his mastery in different languages and his authoritative realizations, it is thrilling to hear him speak. I want to hear more lectures by Bhanu Swami.
I listened to a Zoom lecture by B.B. Govinda Maharaja. He read a verse from the Bhagavatam and then went over the points in Prabhupada’s purport. It was very enlivening. This is a primary process in Krsna consciousness: to associate with advanced devotees and receive new lights from their realizations. In his purport Prabhupada wrote that one should not hear from illegal persons. B.B. Govinda told of a time when devotees coerced him to go see an unknown sannyasi and ask him for a donation. Maharaja reluctantly went there, but he heard the man was speaking Mayavadi nonsense. Maharaja chastised the sannyasi and said he was speaking just to collect money. The sannyasi became frightened and said, “No, I love Krsna.” Maharaja was repentant that he went to see the sannyasi, and he abruptly left. So Prabhupada said don’t hear from “illegal” sources; hear from Prabhupada and his advanced followers. I felt confident when I was listening to B.B. Govinda Maharaja. He was lecturing to a small gathering because of social distancing, but he was reaching a wider audience through Zoom. Maharaja said that attaining bhava-bhakti was not enough. We had to move on to reach prema. As Lord Caitanya said, prema pumartho mahan. Some of Prabhupada’s followers have read deeply into his books and into the books he authorized by the Gaudiya sampradaya acaryas. They can give us access into the realm of prema-bhakti.
The saintly sons of King Pracinabarhisat, the Pracetas, entered a large body of water near the ocean to practice meditation. Sages used to go into the Himalayas to avoid the company of ordinary people and do their mantra in seclusion. The Pracetas, in a similar way, entered the ocean for secluded meditation. Being very pleased with them because they were devotees of Krsna, Lord Siva came to them and told them he was going to recite (for their benefit) an auspicious song that was empowered. Lord Siva specifically came to deliver the mantra personally, because when a great personality delivers the mantra, it becomes more powerful. Although the Hare Krsna mantra is powerful in itself, a disciple, upon initiation, receives the mantra from his spiritual master, for when the mantra is chanted by the spiritual master, it becomes more powerful. Lord Siva advised the Pracetas to hear the mantra attentively, for inattentive hearing is offensive. He was very pleased with them, and he wanted to do them good because they were devotees of Krsna, who is Siva’s worshipable Lord (vaisnavanam yatha sambu). Lord Siva addressed the Supreme Personality of Godhead with the following prayer: “O Supreme Personality of Godhead, all glories unto You. You are the most exalted of all self-realized souls. Since You are always auspicious for the self-realized souls, I wish that You be auspicious for me. You are worshipable by virtue of the pure instructions You give. You are the Supersoul; therefore I offer my obeisances unto You as the supreme living being.” (Bhag. 4.24.33) Thus Lord Siva prayed to Lord Krsna for the benefit of the Pracetas, who received Lord Krsna’s words directly from the mouth of Siva.
Our next-door neighbor, the fire department of Stuyvesant Falls, held their biannual barbeque chicken fundraiser. A long line of fashionable cars queued up on Firehouse Lane, which directly borders our property. Outside the firehouse was the barbeque pit. It was twenty feet long and six feet wide. It was an open pavilion covered with a tin roof. Four men with grimy, sweaty tee shirts and bandanas worked over the fires, tossing in quarter-chickens into the blaze. They put them in cardboard boxes and handed them to the customers, who were lined up bumper-to-bumper. Each customer got potato salad and a biscuit. Last year when they held this event, they ran out of chickens after distributing five hundred. So this year they prepared six hundred chicken boxes, but they still ran out near the end. Smoke poured out from the pit and blew over toward our yard. It was unpalatable for Baladeva and Haridasa, who were outside spreading mulch in our garden. The swirling smoke and the men tossing the chickens into the fire resembled the painting of the Fifth Canto where the hellish planets are depicted and we see where people go who slaughter chickens and serve them up in barbeques. There is heavy karma for those who participate in this ritual. Maharaja Pariksit asks how can they be saved? Sukadeva Gosvami tells him the story of Ajamila, who was saved from hell because he chanted the holy name of Narayana at the time of his death.
I received about three or four letters in response to my “letter of apology.” They were critical of and my letters. Their traumas have gone so deep that they weren’t satisfied by my apology. As a result, I became frustrated. But then Manoram dasa, the most active of the ex-gurukulis, who works with the GBC, wrote me a letter that brought me some relief. He thanked me for my apology and suggested he would gather responses from the students over time and send them to me. He will approach ex-students whom he has been in touch with over the years who may be more responsive to a heartfelt apology. I hope Manoram’s responses will be more favorable and indicate some healing has taken place. I am sorry that the others are still in such a painful condition.
Yesterday I went to see the cataract doctor for a three-month followup visit after my surgeries in both eyes. It was uncomfortable for me to travel—to get out of the car and into the wheelchair, and into the wheelchair and back into the car. And so many times inside of the building I had to get out of the wheelchair and into a hospital chair. All these maneuvers were not easy. First I saw Frank the assistant, and he gave me a thorough examination. He had me read letters off a chart to test my vision while I was dilated with many eye drops. He said my right eye was much improved, and in general he said the vision was in good condition. He checked the prescription on my new eyeglasses to make sure the prescription complemented the condition of my eyes. He said they were all right. Then I saw Dr. McPherson. She gave me less time, more eye drops. She did a series of tests and wrote them into my chart—eye pressure, clarity, anything possible in the back of the eye (like glaucoma) and everything was “very good” or “excellent.” Dr. McPherson wants to see me again in six months to make sure there’s no damage due to glaucoma or diabetes.
Ishvara Govinda made the four-and-a-half hour drive from Rochester, New York to our ashram. He has some time off from work, and he wants to make a film. He saw a documentary film, A Day in the Life of Ram Dass, and he thought he could do something similar for me. He has good camera equipment and time off from work, so we welcomed him and will cooperate with his project. He wants to give a picture of my life starting from early in the morning when I wake up at 2:00 A.M. and start my japa, with glimpses of my activities through the day, including working on my Journal, and maybe giving an interview. He’s staying here for a week, so he should be able to get enough material to get a complete picture. He’ll condense it so it won’t be boring. For example, yesterday he went with us to the doctor and filmed me struggling to get down the porch steps and then get in and out of the car. (Going to the doctor is apparently a simple thing, but it is actually an intense physical experience.)
I received a letter from a devotee in Europe who asked me for advice in a domestic, legal matter. Recently one of his brothers left his body. There is inheritance, and according to law it should be divided among the relatives, three brothers and a sister to the wife of the departed. His brothers want him to give up his right to the inheritance and give them the right to give him whatever they think he should have according to their understanding. They don’t accept that he wants to give his inheritance to ISKCON. He asked devotees in his area what he should do, and they said under no circumstances should he give up his right. He says he doesn’t need the money personally, but he wants to give it to Prabhupada and Krsna. They are becoming offensive to him, but he remembers Prabhupada saying that when you deal with lunatic people, you have to be patient. He is asking my advice how he should act to please Krsna and at the same time not act like a person who doesn’t know how to respect materialistic people without imitating them. I will tell him that I don’t want to get entangled in this decision. It could mean dealing with courts and lawyers. My position is to always be aloof from giving materialistic advice to devotees. It’s his decision, and I don’t want to be involved.
“I seem to be writing less each day. I’m tired—tired of meeting with disciples and giving a full class because it causes me physical pain. I don’t have the spirit for it now. Neither do I feel comfortable acting as if I’m so much more advanced than they are. Still, there is no other scope for our relationship. I’m also feeling the tensions that exist between them. How many days left here? It was wonderful for awhile . . . probably still would be all right if I didn’t feel so weak. Canakya Pandita says that if you don’t have money, then everything is lost. Similarly, if you don’t have physical strength, you can’t do all the things that are demanded—editing, writing letters and books and poems, and on top of that, meeting daily with disciples for class and parikrama.
“Yesterday when I felt relieved of the headache I was confident we would go to the Caribbean. This afternoon I’m feeling fed up with having to perform as a guru before disciples in one scene after another. Puri is only the beginning, and I’ll have to do it again and again in many other places. I don’t want to reach that point where I would actually despise the audience and myself for living out a role. I need to recognize my need for being alone and reforming myself, as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says. My children in the Caribbean . . . my children in America . . . my children who will gather to see me in Vrndavana. Me inside feeling that my time is being stolen. I hate myself for allowing it to happen.
“I can argue that the karmis have to go through this—they have to work every day whether they want to or not. Why not me? But that doesn’t seem like a good argument. Why shouldn’t I try for the best for myself? If I can be really satisfied, then I can give people the best thing. It’s not a given that by showing up in their camp and saying ‘I love you’ that I am giving the best part of myself to my disciples.”
“No way to prepare for going to the Gambhira. Be grave if possible. What Lord Caitanya felt there no one can really understand. We dabble in it and hope to become purified by it. Let me at least look at Caitanya-caritamrta for references.
“I decided to meet with the devotees before going to the Gambhira to read a few passages. I want to tell them what a sacred place it is. Since I’m acting as spiritual master, do it with deep subject matter and pass it on to them. Then when we go, we’ll conduct ourselves in an internal way and know that the real meaning of the place is inexplicably deep.
“‘Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s emotion of transcendental madness in separation from Krsna is very deep and mysterious. Even though one is very advanced and learned he cannot understand it.” (Cc. Antya 14.5)
“I will read the section where Prabhupada said Lord Caitanya was in the mood of Srimati Radharani in separation from Krsna, that He taught this method of separation from Krsna for His devotees to follow.
“I’ll also read little scenes where we see Lord Caitanya in the Gambhira with Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara. Svarupa Damodara would sing a song that would increase the Lord’s ecstasy, and Ramananda Raya would also sing or recite verses from their favorite poets about Radha and Krsna. The Lord would speak in madness, expanding on the meaning of the verses in Srimati Radharani’s mood. Ramananda Raya would leave for the night, and the Lord would stay up chanting loudly in the Gambhira. Then during the night, He would suddenly be silent, and when Govinda would enter the room, he would find that the Lord had escaped, although all three doors were locked. It was on occasions like this that He went either to the Simha-dvara gate or to some other place and manifested the extreme bodily transformations no one had ever seen before.
“We have a right to hear these things because this is our movement and we are servants in this sampradaya. I’ll tell them about the Lord injuring His face and the devotees suggesting that Sankara Pandita stay inside the Gambhira as the Lord’s pillow. They wanted to prevent the Lord from injuring Himself. Finally, I’ll give a glimpse of how the Lord, while composing verses or speaking and hearing others, spoke His Siksastakam to Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya.”
“They were friendly. As you walk in, there’s a Deity of Krsna and the gopis on the left—Kasi Misra’s Deities. I moved toward Them, but Baladeva said, ‘No, first go into the Gambhira. The Kasi Misra Deity is where a troublesome panda stays.’ We went right into the Gambhira and the men there waved us in, ‘Come on, take a look.’ At first I thought, ‘Wow! I’m going right into the Gambhira itself?’ Then I saw that there was an enclosure with pillars where one babaji was sitting and singing. Nearby there was a small window through which you can see inside to the Gambhira.
“Anyway, what would I do if I went in? I belong outside.
“And I looked to my fill. I no longer cared what they were saying behind me or what we were supposed to pay or say. I knew the other men would take care of it. I just drank in the room with my eyes for a minute or so. I saw an electric lamp pressed down right on top of the place where the Lord’s slippers were. I saw an excellent picture of Lord Caitanya with His hand on His heart. That was the main image in the Gambhira. There was also a murti in there—but of who?
“I was conscious that the ten devotees in our party also wanted to look in the window, so I moved aside.
“I was then invited to the open side doorway leading into the inner doorway of the Gambhira. Both doors were open. I took a step into the first room and was told to back out. The pujari in there gave me a tulasi leaf. Someone else gave me some sweet grains. I stood back while the devotees in our party squeezed up to the window and peered in. I looked at the bas-relief over the window of the Gambhira—Lord Caitanya with His two dear friends on either side of Him. When the Gambhira window was clear, I went up and looked in for a second time. How much can you cram in?
“Then we left. Took darsana of Kasi Misra’s beautiful Deities. The priest invited us to step in closer. I said, ‘Kali Misra’ to show that I knew and to let the others know.
“The devotees are going now to various places, shopping and temple visiting on our last night in Jagannatha Puri. Madhu and I came back in our puttering motor rickshaw. I regretted that we didn’t go on to see Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya’s house. Is that where the Gaura-Gopal Swami murti is? But then some pressure started in my head, and I figured that I’d done enough, although it was so little.”
“I’m carrying a notebook I’m calling, ‘In favor of staying with Every Day, Just Write.’ I’ve been keeping it to encourage myself to maintain this format. It also contains some of the doubts. This morning as I complete a section of Every Day, Just Write and consider the next—which will be written in Vrndavana—a question arises: Writing is my active service and preaching. Gita-nagari Press is publishing the books and we will distribute them. People appreciate them. For example, Narayana-kavaca wrote me that I am not futilely trying to tell people to become Indians, but I write from the Western mindset. He said I’m writing a literature as expert as any Western art, I’m delivering Krsna consciousness, I’m presenting myself as naked before the readers, and my books will have an impact on readers, especially of the future, etc.
“I have a responsibility. I want to deliver the goods. Therefore, my question today is whether the ‘effortless’ true-to-self, true-to-day’s-flow touch I’ve developed in Every Day, Just Write is in any way a relinquishing of the responsibility to work at making literature.
“When I rise at midnight I give Srila Prabhupada his Dictaphone and I think, ‘You are writing the Bhaktivedanta purports. I am going to write too.’ Is Every Day, Just Write just for me? Or am I writing my equivalent of the Bhaktivedanta purports? I mean, is it worthy enough that others could read what I write? Will it help them in their Krsna consciousness?
“Well, the fact is, I don’t know what else I can do except to be true to myself. For now, I’ve left A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam behind. It was more on parampara teachings than EJW is (whenever I write the initials, I keep thinking of ‘easy journey,’ as in Easy Journey to Other Planets. Easy journey to where?), but after 1500 pages of Poor Man, I thought, ‘Enough. This is not my unique contribution.’ Narayana-kavaca also said—as others do—that he especially likes the free-writing. I do have a responsibility to readers, and for now, EJW may be the best and only way I know how to fulfill it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t improve it, deepen it, make more effort to bring out the best in it. Natalie Goldberg quoted her guru as saying, ‘No one is asking us to open our hearts, but we must do it every day. Make a great effort for the truth.’ Yes, that’s what I want to do. And I want to write it down, my secret report on the adventures of a sadhaka or whatever it is I am. I will probably never be completely certain of the value of what I’m doing—I tremble with uncertainty—because in a sense, Prabhupada’s mission is in my hands, as it is in the hands of each and every one of his followers.”
“Don’t feel obliged to write an objective or even overly descriptive “pilgrim’s progress” of what we saw at ISKCON Bhubaneshwar, but it is overwhelming how Gaura-Govinda Swami’s followers have praised him since his disappearance. I respect and honor it. Who was he? Lord Caitanya said, when worshiping Advaita Acarya, ‘You are who you are.’ Krsna knows and I can’t add to or subtract from any other person.
“I’ve got an accessible Srimad-Bhagavatam verse to speak on (3.2.20). Makes me want to revive my Bhagavatam studies with this Third Canto. Arjuna’s arrows liberated the enemy, and the enemy saw and appreciated (nayanabhirama) Krsna’s beauty. This is the Lord’s extraordinary morality. There are degrees of liberation; Goloka Vrndavana is the highest. Pure love is dormant in all souls and is awakened by chanting and hearing. The pure devotee is the agent of the Lord’s mercy. I thank Lord Krsna for allowing me to speak this today.
“You don’t have to be a big politician to get sole possession of this VIP room, you just have to have rupees. The room contains two beds and a toilet, and it’s away from the maddening crowd. Again, I don’t have to tell you, dear reader, what happened at the temple, but I’ll say this much. After my lecture, a questioner threw me a challenge. ‘As you probably know,’ he began (but I didn’t know), ‘two hostile camps of Gurudeva’s followers exist. Some don’t accept ISKCON authority and have spilt and gone to His Holiness Narayana Maharaja, who, as you know, is a pure devotee. What do you think of that?’
“I said I didn’t know anything about it and that such a thing is best discussed in an ista-gosthi and not in a Bhagavatam class. Then I spoke in favor of maintaining the temple their spiritual master had worked so hard to build, and to keep it within ISKCON as Prabhupada certainly would want.
“Later, a devotee drove us to the airport in an Indian-made Mercedes. We were given tiffins full of nice prasadam—iddlis, subji, a pasta preparation, and a clay vessel full of Ksira-cora-gopinatha’s condensed milk from Remuna.
“Now to wait for the airplane to Delhi. Devotees in our party are flying together, but at Delhi they’ll go on to Vrnda-vana. We’ll stay overnight.
“Spare your ink, your pages. This is India. Relax and as always, try to drop the pose.”
“Crows caw. ‘In your country I do not see so many crows, but in India there are many crows. They gather wherever garbage is thrown.’ What was his point? That we are like crows if we don’t take to self-realization? Something like that. Newspaper readers and Indians in the West, new crows. Hogs, cats and dogs, Prabhupada told them at Uppsala University. I listen today, and it’s not always easy to hear. It’s a workout to hear him urge them to take to Krsna consciousness. He recommends the Krsna consciousness movement, his ISKCON, which gets the LSD-addicted hippies free of intoxicants. He advises his audience to observe the boys and girls who dance in brahma-bhuta. ‘If you are not jubilant you cannot dance like this. It is not dog’s dancing. And we have no anxiety over expenditures. We chant Hare Krsna, and Krsna meets all our needs.’
“I particularly liked it when Prabhupada spoke strongly in favor of nonviolence, of kindness to all creatures, not just humans. An Animal Liberation spokesperson couldn’t have done better. He proved that the animal has a soul and shouldn’t be slaughtered. Not even a plant should be killed, he said. He told the story of Narada and the hunter. When converted, the ex-hunter wouldn’t even step on an ant.
“My head is clean-shaven. We are due to leave in two hours. It’s over here.
“In our last meeting I read a statement about full surrender to Krsna. I was responding to a Godbrother’s analysis of pure devotion in the Bhagavad-gita. He said that when we serve Krsna spontaneously according to our propensity, that’s a less-than-ultimate stage. The final stage is when we do whatever Krsna wants us to do, beyond our personal propensity.
“While accepting this conclusion, I argued in favor of the existential reality whereby we have to surrender the ‘whole person’ to the Lord. My propensity to write and read and avoid management may be considered ‘impure,’ but it is the way for me to purify myself. Furthermore, although we should do whatever Krsna wants, it’s not easy to understand what Krsna actually wants, specifically, in our lives. We have to agonize over that, and then go ahead with our best intelligence, guided by guru, sastra, and sadhu.
“The devotees present made encouraging contributions to this discussion, and I’ll note them here briefly.
“Lalitamrta referred to a story about Srila Prabhupada where a frustrated disciple had pleaded with him to make a solution, ‘Prabhupada, you know Krsna. What does He want us to do?” Prabhupada replied, ‘Krsna wants to know what you want to do.’
“Rama-raya referred to Prabhupada’s purport where he says freedom is the pivot in devotional service. We don’t give up our initiative to serve Krsna when we surrender.
“I had mentioned that St. Francis of Assisi was praised for being able to give up not only many material things, but to conquer himself. Narayana-kavaca said that sounded a bit impersonal. We have to use our self to surrender.
“Although I read my defense of surrendering to Krsna with one’s own will and propensity, I went on to say that now we are going to Vrndavana and should pray to Krsna there to tell us what He wants us to do. I said that maybe Krsna doesn’t want me to be a writer and to be away from ISKCON management, so I have to be open to that possibility. Kaisori remarked that it didn’t sound right that I should think of renouncing the very means of my surrender. I agreed, just as I agreed to the other remarks, which were all in favor of using the self and not thinking that it can be annihilated in the name of doing what Krsna wants us to do.
“Madhurya-lila quoted The Nectar of Devotion where it states that particular propensities are not just material but are spiritual tastes.
“I’m grateful to the devotees for speaking in this way. I agree with this direction, and I know that Krsna is fully capable of stepping in and changing our service if He wants. I don’t want to think that after thirty years of service I have no idea of how to please Krsna. I want to go on doing what I’m doing, but ask Him to help me improve, deepen, become pure, and so on.
“Go to Vrndavana in a humble mood and pray to Krsna. He can do anything, and it may not be what you think is going to happen.”
“I want spiritual life. I just read Srila Prabhupada saying that the young people in his first New York City storefront were not offenders to Krsna’s name and form. They were not from Benares. Lord Caitanya went to Benares with His heavy load of krsna-prema to sell, but the Mayavadis didn’t want it. Srila Prabhupada got a better reception when he brought the Hare Krsna mantra to New York City.
“‘. . .the Lord’s holy name is so attractive that simply by coming to our storefront in New York, fortunate young people became Krsna conscious. . . . The youths who joined this movement were not very advanced as far as purity was concerned, nor were they very well-educated in Vedic knowledge, but because they were not offenders, they could accept the importance of the Hare Krsna movement. . . . We therefore conclude that the so-called mlecchas and yavanas of the Western countries are more purified than offensive Mayavadis.’ (Cc., Madhya 17.145, purport)
“Reading this, I thought of Srila Prabhupada leading his Western devotees. Wherever he went, we gathered and followed him. He accepted devotees from all races, including Indians. He didn’t enter the Jagannatha temple in Puri because his disciples weren’t allowed to enter. He almost always spoke English, the language of his worldwide movement.
“Is this just a pleasant, sentimental memory? No, it is the true story of Prabhupada’s compassion. He did what no one else dared to do or could do. He went alone with the blessings of his spiritual master. I never want to tire from telling these stories and describing my own participation in those early days.”
“Vrnda-devi, I don’t know how best to pray to you. I expect things to turn out as I want them to and then I consider that I am blessed. But please don’t cheat me by awarding my inferior desires. Whatever I have to go through—whatever austerity, poverty, humility, or pain—take me through it to loving service to Radha and Krsna. I can only attain this goal by Srila Prabhupada’s intimate direction. Vrnda-devi, you know my heart. Please grant me only those desires that are best for the growth of my bhakti creeper.
“Dear Vrnda-devi, your Radha-Syamasundara are beautiful. I am not qualified to be here, but I am allowed to come to Vrndavana by your grace and by the grace of my spiritual master. Although I am here, I cannot perceive the spiritual reality. Still, I honor it. I have placed my prayers, requests for self-improvement, and prayers for others at your lotus feet. May you destroy my false ego and the false attachments that prevent me from serving you, even if those attachments are dear to me. Please do the same for other devotees I know and live with. We call it purification. Please take away the anarthas.”
“More mail. More than once we have been shown that in a pinch, Hare Krsna devotees don’t always act better than meat-eaters. Devotees tell how they experienced some terrible crisis and while the devotees let them down, the nondevotees were sympathetic and helpful. This especially happens when there is something shameful involved in the devotee’s life.
“One devotee told me how her husband raped their daughter. When other devotees heard about it, they kept their distance from both daughter and mother, but nondevotee friends embraced them and solaced them.
“We have to face it—we’re not always the greatest, most compassionate human beings, even though we read the Bhagavatam. We ought to be better than we are, often. Prabhupada said we should be gold with aroma. We have the gold of being in line with the Vedic scriptures, but we haven’t always taken the time to actually improve ourselves. It means we may not have taken what we have heard to heart. Otherwise, we would see Krsna in every living entity’s heart and care for them.
“Yet that one factor is a redeeming one: we are developing love for Krsna and we chant His holy name. We practice sadhana and accept Srila Prabhupada as mentor. We Hare Krsnas, these are my people, despite all our shortcomings.”
“I have been ill. Srila Prabhupada said bile. He recommended sugar cane juice and bitter sukta and said it was due to overwork.
“Srila Prabhupada: ‘They are keeping Balaji as a stone statue and collecting. I am the only single person preaching that Krsna is God. No one appreciates or understands, not even my own disciples. There had been some discussion.’
“Pancadravida Swami was in to see Srila Prabhupada before his breakfast. He told him that our mission is to make a certain section of the population ideal men. We cannot expect everyone. If by this way or that way you can bring one person to Krsna, He is very pleased to have one of His sons return. Hearing him giving his sannyasi disciple impetus like this to go and preach, I felt again the desire to leave my secretarial duties in direct service of Srila Prabhupada and go preaching in the U.S. colleges. I remember how I was doing that before and vowed that if given the chance, I would try harder this time. But I have already brought this up to Prabhupada and he dismissed it as whimsical. I have my present duties assigned to me. I am trying to chant Hare Krsna and pray to Krsna to treat me as He likes for my betterment, as only He knows. To ask for a certain situation in devotional service is my sense gratification—that is not bhakti. The Lord knows my heart and knows all things considered, which I do not know—what is best. Bhakti is not for my pleasure, but for Krsna’s. I have to have more faith in Krsna that everything is all right.
“Walking on Juhu Beach, reading from the Krsna Book about Krsna stealing the clothes of the unmarried gopi girls. Srila Prabhupada said they would do whatever Krsna asked. That is love. ‘You can do whatever You want, still I love You,’ Lord Caitanya prayed. Otherwise it becomes a business exchange.
“As in my miserable case, my spiritual master has clearly asked me to do one duty, but I am thinking of doing another and still pleasing him.
“The best thing is even if one doesn’t want to do something, if he is ordered by his spiritual master, he should do it. You cannot say that by following the direct order of the spiritual master it will hinder your spiritual progress. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado. ‘By the mercy of the spiritual master, one gets the mercy of Krsna. Without the blessings of the spiritual master, no one can make any advancement.’ I may think it is very difficult to be asked to suspend traveling and preaching, but if my spiritual master has asked me to do so, then I must.”
“I can give an example of an early misunderstanding I had of Srila Prabhupada, based on my defective vision. On Janmastami Day 1966, Prabhupada asked us to stay in the storefront all day. He was lecturing on the Bhagavad-gita, and as usual, he used the text of Dr. Radhakrishnan’s edition. Swamiji said that he was preparing his own Bhagavad-gita As It Is; eventually he would have it printed and we would not have to read Dr. Radhakrishnan’s book with its impersonalistic commentary.
“Janaki asked, ‘Swamiji, could you read to us today from your Bhagavad-gita?’
“With my impure vision, I thought that Prabhupada became a bit embarrassed at this request that he read his book. I thought that he wanted to read his manuscript, but like an ordinary person, he first pretended to be shy. If someone had asked me to read some of my writings, I would have first said, ‘Do you really want to hear this?’ I would want the person to say, ‘Yes, we really want to hear it.’
“Prabhupada got his manuscript from the apartment and read from it for several hours. I also failed to appreciate the reading because of inattention. But as the years have gone by, Prabhupada has purified me at least a bit, and I think I know now what actually happened on that Janmastami occasion. I made the same type of mistake that people made when they saw Prabhupada wearing two rings on his fingers and thought, ‘This man is enjoying the riches offered by his disciples.’ Prabhupada was not in that mood, but they misunderstood. They also misunderstood why he was riding in an opulent car. At the New Delhi pandal, some misunderstood why he became angry and then criticized him according to their stereotype that a sadhu should never get angry. The Vaisnava, however, is always rightly situated and is not subject to the criticism and judgments of materialistic people.
“I have dredged up this one faulty perception that I had of Prabhupada, but for the most part, these misconceptions are better not even mentioned. If we do remember them, we can at least correct the mistake now so that we may have a clear conscience for worshiping the pure devotee. Hearing corrective accounts can be beneficial, and they also may contain valuable pieces of history.
“I can understand better now why Prabhupada responded as he did when he was requested to read his Bhagavad-gita in 1966. He was not playing coy. He did have a desire to read the Bhagavad-gita manuscript, and he responded, pure and simple, with pleasure, when asked to read it. The important thing to remember is that we were still reading Dr. Radhakrishnan’s book with its Mayavada commentaries. Many of Prabhupada’s disciples had their own copy of the book, and we were reading from it as our scripture. Prabhupada said it was all right for the time being, but he was trying to get his own book ready. He said as soon as he got his book published, we would have the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and hear what Krsna says. Prabhupada was not proud of his book—he did not even think of it as his book, but Krsna’s. He was eager to get it into our hands so that we could have a genuine Bhagavad-gita. He wanted to give us Krsna.
“This is the true picture of Prabhupada’s position as an author: he saw himself as the mouthpiece of Krsna. He was pleased that a disciple had enough sense to ask if there were some way we could immediately stop hearing from Dr. Radhakrishnan. Prabhupada thought that his books could save the world, not because they were his creations, but because they were spoken by Krsna. Naturally, he was eager to read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is to his disciples. My misconception was due to defective vision (cheating, tendency to commit mistakes, illusion, and limited senses)—and was a projection of my own egotistic experience as an author who wanted to read ‘his’ book.”
“Darkening sky, looks like rain. Reading between japa rounds, a few verses of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s ‘Appeals for Residence at Govardhana Hill.’ The thought crosses my mind that I wouldn’t want to live at Govardhana Hill nowadays. When I walked through its secluded parts, I noticed no bhajana-kutirs there and asked why. I was told that it is dangerous because of gundas. But there are other places at Govardhana Hill where groups of sadhus live. Those places are safer.
“But the real point is that if I actually understood how Govardhana can grant me closeness to Radha-Krsna pastimes in its caves and lakes and under its trees.. . its dust . . . Chant in Vrndavana, that is the point.
“Srila Prabhupada answered an American devotee who asked, ‘Is this Vrndavana the same as Goloka Vrndavana?’
“‘Yes,’ Prabhupada replied, ‘but your mind is in America.’
“It is helpful between rounds to hear the words of the maha-bhagavata.
“‘O Govardhana, O king of mountains, O hill whose nectar name ‘The best of Lord Hari’s servants’ flows from the moon of Sri Radha’s mouth, O hill that the Vedas declare to be the tilaka marking of Vraja, please grant to me residence near you.’
“‘Although I am a cheater and a criminal, unlimitedly merciful Lord Sacinandana, who is very dear to you, has given me to you. O Govardhana, please do not consider whether I am acceptable or not, but simply grant me residence near you.’ (Sri Stavavali, Volume 1, ‘Sri Govardhana-vasa-prarthana-dasaka,’ by Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, verses 8-10).
“Push on, now that you have declared that it should be rasika. It’s pitiful. Like a parrot I repeat the word ‘Radha,’ then ‘Krsna,’ then repeat the descriptions of Their pastimes. I have no realization.
“Stay honest, but don’t give into that bludgeoning cynicism which assassinates. Fight off degradation. Honesty does not mean saying, ‘After all, I’m a pig, so let me eat and live like one.’ I am not a pig. I am the eternal servant of Krsna, as revealed to me by the mercy of my spiritual master. Don’t drown in degradation or hopelessness. Know that the midday slough is temporary. Know that Krsna is my protector. I will pass through all difficulties by His grace. Know that I know nothing and therefore depend on guru, sastra, and sadhu. That is the honesty I want.”
“Devotees often look to Prabhupada’s letters on particular services for support in their own endeavors. There are many, many references to book distribution, and therefore we can understand the importance Prabhupada gave to this activity. ‘There is no doubt about it, to distribute books is our most important activity.’
“There may be there may only be one or two important references to other services, but these are sufficient to give the devotees the enthusiasm and support to continue. For example, he wrote to one devotee, congratulating him on running for mayor (February 2, 1972). He praised a householder couple for spreading Krsna consciousness through radio and TV shows (February 21, 1972). He wrote to one devotee and said that our men should be the chairman of the religion department, and he encouraged another in scholarly preaching. These encouragements and instructions from Prabhupada can be claimed by any devotee who wishes to serve him in that particular way.
“The letters can also be looked at chronologically to show Prabhupada’s evolution from his leaving Vrndavana to come to America, to his returning there to close his pastimes. When we look at his letters written while he was still in India, we can see his tactful and creative preaching. He approached politicians, big industrialists and business magnates, trying to encourage them to surrender to Krsna and aid in the preaching movement. One famous letter was the one he wrote to Mahatma Gandhi, but that letter is typical of his correspondence at that time.
“These letters often show Prabhupada trying to engage us asking for something ambitious, although he was poor. Once he wrote a probation officer asking for Rs. 10,000 and ‘a batch of selfless workers’ to start a League of Devotees.
“In another letter Prabhupada humorously described his preaching:
“‘As advised by you the other day, I went to see Mr. Mangumal at Kaladevi, but he did not entertain the idea of missionary work. I talked with him and found him perfect gentleman, but he has spiritual realization of the lowest rank.
“‘He has, of course, honored me with Rs.11 and a glass of milk, for which I have thanked him very much, but my mission is not fulfilled.’”
“O Prabhupada, who carried within himself the treasure of krsna-bhakti and who brought that treasure to the West, knowing it could not be plundered, and knowing the people were in dire need of it, but who was unsure at first whether they would accept it;
“O Prabhupada, who came to America appearing like an old Indian swami, and who felt himself ‘an insignificant beggar,’ who survived difficulties alone and gradually found a few rebellious and sinful—but spiritually innocent—persons, who were willing and eager to accept the treasure of Krsna’s love;
“O Prabhupada, who distributed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the form of the Hare Krsna mantra, and Bhagavad-gita lectures, and krsna-prasadam, and whose new followers found krsna-bhakti very delicious and nutritious, which gave their spiritual master increased hope in the possibility of wider distribution;
“O Prabhupada, who truly lived in complete dependence on Krsna in a foreign land with no income and at an old age, who followed the trail of favorable preaching as a full Vaisnava sannyasi, who went to San Francisco and there increased his hope and his followers, who wrote his translations of the best Vaisnava texts, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta, with purports composed while in the midst of Western preaching adventures such as no previous acarya had ever encountered;
“O Prabhupada, who paid careful attention to each person who came to him, who stopped to hear others and to convince them of spiritual reality and material falsity, who became the best friend and guru of his followers–who said, ‘If you love me then I’ll love you’;
“O Prabhupada, whose life is a shelter for thousands, who is the admiration of any intelligent person capable of appreciating extraordinary merit for the cause of God consciousness, and whose life’s activities are very, very dear to Lord Krsna, who declared, ‘There is no servant more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear’;
“O Prabhupada, please do not let us stray from your protection in the illusion that we don’t need you, and please let us grow strong and fight opposition on your behalf. But even while appearing competent, materially or spiritually, let us not be deluded to think we can survive happily in this world or go back to Godhead without pleasing you and serving you by following your instructions to be Krsna conscious devotees, your followers.”
pp. 378-80 pp. 24-25
“What is honesty? In Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers, Srila Prabhupada is speaking with a Peace Corps worker named Bob Cohen. Prabhupada had to explain it at length before Bob’s misconceptions were removed. At first Bob thought that being honest was not necessarily connected to God consciousness. He felt that if a person tries to do what is right, then he is honest; and honesty is a result of good karma. Prabhupada agreed that to become honest was good karma but there was more to it than that.
“Prabhupada said, ‘If you know what is honesty, then you can become honest. But you do not know what is honesty. What is honesty?’
“Bob replied, ‘Honesty is doing what you really feel is right.
“Prabhupada: ‘Then a thief is feeling that “I must steal to provide my children.” Does it mean he’s honest?’
“Prabhupada gave this preliminary definition of honesty: ‘You should not encroach upon others’ rights.’ Recognition of others’ rights will lead us to the knowledge that everything belongs to Krsna. As stated in Sri-Isopanisad:
“‘Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.’ (Isopanisad, Mantra One)
“Our talk of honesty is uninformed and useless until we realize that honesty has to be achieved in relationship to the Supreme Proprietor.”
“In July-August, the rainy season—
season of bugs and humidity—
when the heat spell breaks,
when the peacocks dance,
and thousands of village pilgrims arrive
(kadamba. malati. and jasmine also arriving)
during Janmastami festival,
you are pleased to hear the villagers
singing and dancing
in the Krsna-Balaram kirtan hall.
And you inquire about prasadam—
you want halava and puris
to be given out freely
at the temple front.
‘How many plates?’
In your lectures you mention
the benefit of the dham
in the rainy season
for serving saintly persons.
‘If you aspire for menial service
and you eat the remnants of a pure devotee,
you will get his “disease.”’
When a sudden rain occurs
while you are working outdoors,
you gather Dictaphone and Bhagwatam
and move indoors,
hearing the pleasant downpour
as you recommence your work.”
“Get it together, man. Know what these timed books are about. I remember getting warmed up and happy while in Guyana, about the timed book. I would begin in Ireland. It was The Best I Could Do. Where is it now? Sunk in the sand? Will it ever be published? Those are not my main concerns, as strange as it may sound. If I did write honestly then it will come out in one way or another. It was not all that I hoped it would be. I lacked a central theme. So, now you have a book that proceeds with structure, A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam. At the same time, I have little books like this one. It is more a match. I mean it is for the Boy Scout drive, the Girl Scout cookie drive. Come to your door and ask, ‘Do you have any old newspapers for the Salvation Army?’ Do you have any . . . old ‘timed books’?
“Yes, we have quite a few stored in a steel trunk in an Irish attic. Go there and check them out. Hare Krsna, you are the emblem of peace. You rattle and ramble and bounce along. When will you get your Ford van into Ireland legally and sufficiently? That’s what M. wants to know. I try to hang back and act detached from it all. Doesn’t matter to me. One way of another we will get around. All my secrets come out. Feeble depths.
“A mother (my daughter) wrote me and asked me on behalf of her kids about the dinosaur bones. She said her son speculated that they were the bones of demons. She said she heard what our master said that there are monsters but we can’t see them because they go so deep and what did I think of that. I made no comment in response but addressed more salient points such as her going to see a Christian psychiatrist and I won’t tell the rest here. This is the Upstate mode, the free mouth, the kid away from the bullies, the old man who wants peace and quiet.
“This is the latest news. We are puffed up about the way we write. We can’t stand to hear the so-called truth from a critic who says it is no good and should be re-written. We don’t have to hear it from him. We will get disciplined in another way. Make sure you write down the holy words such as Krsna and Caitanya and they should appear enough times. Then it is acceptable writing. That’s the criteria of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. He could print articles as long as the holy words appeared frequently. Then it would be viplava, revolutionary. Srila Prabhupada speaks of this humbly, saying that he is not a great scholar or Sanskritist, and there may be mistakes, ‘but we are trying,’ and professors and librarians like the books. His own disciples distributed them mightily. Prabhupada inspired us to do that, his books made us devotees, therefore they are potent.
“It creates a revolution. The materialists want to become devotees of Krsna.
“Wrote this morning, serious on the theme of Vyasa inquiring about his spiritual master. I said in the free section of Poor Man I don’t have to cavort and do automatic writing and stray off the subject. I may continue to write seriously the whole time. Wonder why that occurred to me only after 1,005 pages. It may be that I am allowing myself to let off steam separately. This is the kind of writing we are considering Upstate.
“The word is revolutionary, viplava in Sanskrit. There are some words that cannot be translated like keli kincit or rasa. You have to go by what you learn in the Krsna conscious class, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. I should use the holy words frequently and then my book will be valid. If Krsna is pleased you are saved. If Krsna’s not pleased – but even if He is not pleased and yet He takes the time to kick you, that is a blessing too. But I don’t want to be kicked. I want the guru to be pleased with me and Krsna to reveal a tiny drop of the sweetness of the holy name. Not always forever-dry chanting. I can’t control the mind, but He can bless me if He wants, and then I can control it. Go walk now and look for clarity and enter it and speak.
“One maxim for writing practice is that you should go ahead and write what you’re afraid to say. It won’t kill you. Yesterday I was talking with M., making comments on my letters from Srila Prabhupada and I was talking in some pretty safe area about how householders who don’t live in the temples are still part of the Krsna consciousness movement. They’re not under the control of the temple president and their service may not be dictated to them in that way, or how they spend their money. But still, they can surrender to Krsna and Prabhupada. Madhu remarked that when you give this example you always speak of the grhastha but what about a sannyasi or vanaprastha? Is it possible that they could also do their service and live outside the temple? Here he was starting to get on sensitive ground. I said I sure hope that it’s true that they can make a contribution while not living in the temple. I started to sketch a theoretical example of a person who was renounced enough not to be married but for one reason or another did not want to live in a temple, or could not live in a temple. Aside from theoretical models, what’s my position
“I think I’m in a post-institutional phase. I’ve read of someone like Matthew Fox, who’s now a post-denominational priest. Well, I’m not like that. At least I hope not. Somebody in ISKCON may say I am that, but that’s just his opinion. But I’m not living in the temples, at least not now. It’s conceivable that I could change and again become a temple resident. But it doesn’t appeal to me. I move from place to place. I’m most happy when I can follow my own morning schedule. The prospect of having to permanently follow the temple schedule is hard for me to face now. I think it’s a privilege of old age and seniority to carve out your own morning program, especially if it begins at midnight and you’re hard-working. You just don’t want to take out all that time for group liturgy.
“So, it wasn’t frightening to face after all, was it? Maybe there are some things that I didn’t face that I just scooped the top of. For example, what if the GBC got down on you and said you had to live in a temple? What if they strongly disapprove your moving around? I think I could swallow it if it came to that. I’d pick out a place where I could live with a streamlined morning program, where they appreciated me, and I’d make my writing schedule around it. I’d learn to write poems about being at mangala-arati. I’d make a game out of it, a way to survive. Anything is possible. But as long as you’ve got the freedom, then go for it.”
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.