Ananda Kisora writes me that according to his website, thousands of people read the Journal but very few buy the books. John Endler, whose sister works in book publishing, says that with all the alternative means of reading available via Internet and other electronic means, there is a waning of book readers. But I have made a personal plea to my disciples to buy my books. They can even buy them and give them to someone else to read. But their ignoring my plea to buy the books denotes something wrong in the relationship of the guru and disciple. We are just about to come out with two advertisements for new published books: The Last Days of the Year and Forgetting the Audience. These are fresh new adventures in reading, and I sincerely request my disciples to get them and read them (or give them to someone who will read them). They may think these new books are “just poetry,” but that’s not true. They are each a mixture of prose and poetry with Krsna consciousness themes.
Please don’t ignore my request. Get the books and read them.
We have decided to go ahead and hold our July 3rd disciples meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars pavilion. We have already booked the hall, and Nimai Ananda promises a special feast. I was disappointed we couldn’t have a family party last summer. Please plan to attend; make your plans to join us the weekend of Saturday, July 3. It will be good fun.
Bhurijana lectured from the Bhagavad-gita that all things, even in the material world, can be dovetailed as service to Krsna. Prabhupada often spoke on this theme in his Bowery lectures, showing how palatable and easy it was to serve the Lord. Simply do what you are doing, but offer it to Krsna under the guidance of the spiritual master. He gave the example of the feast they had cooked. All the preparations were offered to the Deities and then honored by the devotees. Renouncing material things is incomplete renunciation. Linking all things like cars, music, singing and dancing to the service of the Lord turns the material energy into spiritual service, bhakti-yoga. And there is no material reaction to such endeavors. Singing and dancing, cooking and honoring, then distributing the food are all easy ways to engage the senses in Krsna consciousness.
A devotee wrote me asking for the meanings of the Gayatri mantras.
The first mantra is a meditation on the effulgence of the sun god. We have heard that Surya-narayana lives in the sun planet, so he is the worshipable Deity of the sun.
The second Gayatri mantra offers respectful obeisances unto the spiritual master. It is simple and direct, but it is deep and specific.
The third Gayatri mantra is also to the spiritual master, but it is more alert. The devotee says he is trying to understand his spiritual master. That means it is not guaranteed that he can understand his guru—“who is always in blissful Krsna consciousness.” He wants to “meditate on him being enthused as he enthuses us.”
The fourth Gayatri mantra makes obeisances unto Lord Caitanya.
The fifth Gayatri mantra is an elaboration on the meditation upon Lord Caitanya. He is understood as the Maintainer of the universe, and He has enthused us to meditate upon Him. The Sanskrit for this mantra includes the word visvambharaya, which was Lord Caitanya’s name given to Him at birth, and indicates He is the maintainer of the universe. He enthuses us to meditate upon Him as Visvambhara.
The sixth Gayatri mantra makes offerings unto Lord Krsna, who is Govinda, the lover of the gopis. This is a klim Gayatri mantra, a mantra of madhurya-rasa.
The seventh Gayatri mantra is a meditation on the Master of the senses, Who carries the arrows of flowers. The devotee wants to meditate on Him, being enthused by the transcendental Cupid. This is a confidential mantra for worshiping Krsna in madhurya-rasa with His arrows of flowers. He conquers the gopis and they surrender to Him.
The ashram staff weeded and mulched in the Deity flower garden and then mowed the lawn. The local Walgreens pharmacist noticed Baladeva’s tattoos of Radha and Krsna and the Hare Krsna mantra, and she inquired who were They, what was this all about? He told her some things, and she went on the Internet to explore it further. She asked him, “Is all that horrible stuff true about you?” He said, “Ninety-five percent of it is bogus, but even five percent is embarrassing. That’s the way it is in a big organization.” The pharmacist wanted to know more, and particularly asked, “Who is Prabhupada?” We lent her a DVD of Yadubara and Visakha’s film, Hare Krishna: The Mantra, The Movement and the Swami Who Started It All. Pharmacists are considered intelligent, so her watching the Prabhupada film was a triumph, despite her having to wade through the garbage of bad publicity. Next we plan to give her a Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
We also went shopping and bought twenty gallons of gasoline as emergency backup for our generator and the car.
Muktavandya came yesterday bringing lots of flowers from the Boston market. He has had two heart attacks, he wears a pacemaker, but he pushes himself and does service until it hurts, then he lies down and recovers. The Boston temple is short one pujari, so he fills in doing Deity worship. Then he also cooks breakfast for all the devotees three times a week. He takes out all the temple garbage in a huge container and dumps it into a big dumpster. He is really doing too much for a man in his physical condition. Just to bring the flowers to Viraha Bhavan, he has to drive two and a half hours. Upon arrival, he chops the stems off the bottom of the bunches, and puts them in water in a dry, cool room. After that he lays down to take rest and gets up for lunch. After lunch he shows me a collection of “dumb jokes,” and then he heads back to the Boston temple because he has to cook in the morning at 5:30 A.M. Otherwise he would stay overnight and take a break.
Haryasva has been staying with us for a few days. He has a daily japa program at his place in Philadelphia that they do daily on Zoom. It’s a serious sanga, and he and his friends gather starting at 5:30 A.M. on Zoom during the week because the people have to go to work. On the weekend they have a meeting at his preaching center. They start by reciting the Siksastikam. Then they chant Hare Krsna on beads. (My schedule is different. I start japa at 2:30 A.M.) In the absence of Visnu Aradhanam, Haryasva has to take care of all the Deities, He has to dress the Panca-tattva and Srila Prabhupada. He needs a pujari.
Kirtan Rasa has received two vaccines, and now he is free to visit me on every other weekend, when he doesn’t have to take care of Oliver. I told Haridasa that I would be making my phone calls to him every other week instead of weekly, and he said it was all right. I offer them each a kind of counseling, addressing their troubles, and they seem to appreciate it. Now I will start talking to both of them and not just one of them every week.
A disciple of mine re-entered college and worked on a project researching Ekadasis. He said he learned a lot using the facilities of the university, but he realized that with determination, he could have done it without being in school and without their deadlines and requirements. He decided to drop out of college and rejoin the Hare Krsna movement. This gives him more time to work at editing my books and more time on his sadhana. He’s pleased with this decision to spend more time improving his sadhana as a Krsna conscious person. His wife is also pleased with his decision to drop out of school. Now, combinedly, they can work on preparing my books for publication.
I received a letter from one of the earliest disciples I gave initiation to. I initiated him in the late 1970s, but he strayed off the course and stopped following the principles. He became somewhat mentally deranged. After fifteen years he finally consulted with his confidential Godbrothers about whether he should get married. They encouraged him, and he went to a “devotee marriage website.” In his research he found a woman from South India whose parents were devotees and musicians. My disciple was also a professional musician, so the matchmaking seemed compatible. His married life has been successful. He reads from Prabhupada’s books to his wife every evening. The moral lesson is true: if my disciples commit sins, I have to face reactions. But this devotee has rectified.
I’m re-reading the manuscript of a book I wrote in the 1990s, My Purpose at Isolde di Albarella. We were staying at a high-end tourist resort, but it was in the off-season and none of the tourists were there. A disciple from Italy came with us and cooked, and Baladeva took turns cooking in order to give the Italian devotee a break. After about a week the migraines seemed to be subdued, so I threw out my remaining pills. But it was premature; the headaches kept coming. I endured them without high-powered allopathic medicine. This reduced my ability to write or read. When the headaches kept coming, I lay down in bed and endured them. But I couldn’t do any of my service—of writing and reading. After a month of nonproductive suffering from migraines, I made the decision to continue writing and reading, and thus I resumed taking allopathic anti-migraine pills. I went back to the regimen of accumulating pages for Welcome Home to the One Big Book of Your Life.
“‘When will that opportune moment come to us when there will be shivering of the body as soon as we chant Lord Gauranga’s name, and while chanting Hare Krsna, there will be tears in the eyes? When will we receive the mercy of Lord Nityananda and desires for material enjoyment will become insignificant? When will I be very eager to study the books left by the Six Gosvamis and become able to understand the conjugal love of Radha-Krsna? When the mind is completely purified, being freed from material anxieties and desires, then I shall be able to understand Vrndavana and the love of Radha-Krsna, and then my spiritual life will be successful.’ (Lalasamayi, from Prarthana by Narottama dasa Thakura)
“Srila Prabhupada has given many warnings that we should not become like prakrta-sahajiyas who take things cheaply and assume to enter the pastimes of Radha and Krsna, although they are not yet free of material desires. The result is falldown and blasphemy. And yet the entire process of Krsna consciousness is meant to bring us to worship of Krsna in His original form, in Vrndavana.
“‘One should be attracted by the beautiful vision of Krsna. His name is Krsna because He is all-attractive. One who becomes attracted by the beautiful, all-powerful, omnipotent vision of Krsna is fortunate. There are different kinds of transcendentalists—some of them are attached to the impersonal Brahman vision, some of them are attracted by the Supersoul feature, etc., but one who is attracted to the personal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and, above all, one who is attracted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead as Krsna Himself, is the most perfect transcendentalist. (Bhagavad-gita 18.66, purport)
“This brings us to the summit of prayer, to Radha-Krsna, beyond begging from God as the order-supplier or Father.
“Prabhupada liked to sing this bhajana by Narottama dasa, and he emphasized that one cannot approach Radha-Krsna unless one does so through the merciful instructions of Lord Caitanya’s followers, primarily the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. Prabhupada writes that even Narottama dasa Thakura ‘has explained his inability to understand such spiritual affairs.’ And even the Six Gosvamis did not claim to have attained direct association of Radha and Krsna but wandered in Vrndavana in the ecstasy of love in separation:
“‘I offer my respectful obeisances to the Six Gosvamis, who were chanting very loudly everywhere in Vrndavana, shouting, “Queen of Vrndavana, Radharani! O Lalita! O Son of Nanda Maharaja! Where are you all now? Are you just on the hill of Govardhana, or are you under the trees on the bank of the Yamuna? Where are you?” These were their moods in executing Krsna consciousness.’ (Sri-Sri Sad-gosvamy-astaka, Verse 8)
“When will the day come? We pray the time will come and now we relish the anticipation. Guided by the previous spiritual masters, we do not jump forward rashly like monkeys and try to enter the inner meaning of Radha-kunda and rasa-lila. Yet we have to hear that this is the goal. Radha-Krsna should enter our prayers. And this we can do, pray to Them, when guided by souls who are self-realized and intimate in Radha-Krsna exchanges.
“‘The spiritual master is always eager to hear and chant about the unlimited conjugal pastimes of Radha and Madhava, and Their qualities, names, and forms. The spiritual master aspires to relish these at every moment. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.’ (Sri Gurvastakam, Verse 5)
“We want to be conscious and aware of He to whom we are praying. Prabhupada encourages this in another Bhagavad-gita purport:
“‘. . . One should concentrate his mind upon Krsna—the very form with two hands carrying a flute, the bluish boy with a beautiful face and peacock feathers in His hair. There are descriptions of Krsna found in the Brahma-samhita and other literatures. One should fix his mind on this original form of Godhead, Krsna. One should not even divert his attention to other forms of the Lord.’ (Bg. 18.65, purport)
“By enrolling and persisting in the full course of Krsna conscious life, we will be promoted step by step to hear about the original form of Godhead and His pastimes in Goloka Vrndavana. As soon as our desires are aroused, we will start to relish the authorized descriptions of krsna-lila, and we will begin to recite the prayers of the previous acaryas who worship Him as Govinda, Madana-mohana, and Gopinatha. ‘One should desire and hanker,’ Srila Prabhupada writes in the introduction to Bhagavad-gita, ‘after that supreme kingdom, for when one attains that kingdom, he does not have to return to this material world.’ And later Prabhupada writes, ‘One should be captivated by this information. He should desire to transfer himself to that eternal world and extricate himself from this false reflection of reality.’ (Bg. 15.6, ppt.)
“We recite these prayers humbly. Perhaps that day will never come. But today we can hear, we are not excluded. Today, in the ‘Song of the Six Gosvamis,’ we may see them wandering on the banks of the Yamund, crying, ‘He Radhe! Vraja devake!’ Today, as urged by Srila Prabhupada, we can pray with Narottama dasa Thakura and repeat the words, ‘When will tears come to my eyes by chanting Hare Krsna?’ We are also invited by Prabhupada to take part directly in the Deity worship and darsana of Radha-Krsna in the many temples of ISKCON around the world. And we can endeavor to carefully study Prabhupada’s books, such as The Nectar of Devotion and Krsna book, hoping to appreciate the teachings of Radha-Krsna seva as the goal of pure devotional service.
“Even while entangled in this world, we can enter that world by chanting and hearing favorite songs and prayers of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, who are all pure devotees of Lord Caitanya and Radha-Krsna. Now we have come to where—at least we can see from afar—the summit of all prayer.”
“Sivarama Swami is giving the Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture this morning, and I plan to attend. Hope I’ll be warm enough. Perhaps I need to ignore my bodily pains, or at least tolerate them, and then the headache wouldn’t come. Yesterday I met and spoke with a baba who is eighty-five years old. He spoke in a lively way, although he had trouble raising himself out of the easy chair. He was certainly doing well for eighty-five. When he spoke he didn’t complain of bodily pains, laughed a lot, spoke about Krsna consciousness and other affairs with an alert mind. Here I am, a mere fifty-seven, and I can’t take extended discussions. That baba gave me and my friends apples, a garland, and a small yellow cloth.
“O babaji, O summit of
perfection of writing art,
O daily chores and all I try to do.
“I asked M. to buy Prema-pradipa, a novel by Bhaktivinoda Thakura which I saw in the showcase of the temple bookstore. Two days went by and only when I asked for it again did Madhu bring it in. He told me he had just read it.
“‘How did you like it?’
“I find it hard to get into. M. breezed through it, the novel form and the primary-to-advanced topics of Krsna consciousness catching his imagination.
“Almost time to go to class.
“Madhu just came in and remarked that we have to be careful because we’re in Vrndavana. This morning as we walked into the temple to attend the class, I forgot to take my sandals off until I had crossed the courtyard and was just about to enter the kirtana hall. Then I noticed, took them off, and Madhu took them away. When Madhu was leaving the temple, a widow came up to him and asked, ‘Why did Maharaja wear his shoes in the temple?’
“Madhu replied that I didn’t do it intentionally.
“She muttered bitterly, ‘It’s too much! It’s just too much!’
“Madhu later found out from other ladies that this widow keeps an eye out for any little thing that goes wrong. I was caught in error. I have to be careful. I can’t claim I walked into the temple in transcendental ecstasy, and that’s why I forgot to remove my shoes.”
“Looking down from my fourth-floor window I see into the yard of the Mayapur-Vrndavana Trust homes. They’re really splendid. The whole area looks like a high-class neighborhood in poor Vrndavana. When I see the rows of buildings with their penthouses on top, it looks like a painting of the spiritual world. Just inside the wall there’s a playground for children with a slide, sandbox, and swings. Two healthy-looking American girls about eight years old are playing in the sand. Some of the workers are sitting on the edge; two of them smoking. I could see the puffs of smoke, and it seemed so incongruous. The girls must have thought so too because they retreated. You can’t completely wall out the world even in a compound. On a distant roof within the compound I see a woman with a stylish coat pacing back and forth, chanting. On another roof I see a worker with a trowel spreading cement.
“In his class Sivarama Swami stated the Vedic maxim that one should speak the truth palatably. He said that sometimes the truth is painful, but we can speak it nicely. After the lecture Dadu Prabhu asked, ‘Can you give an example of how the truth is painful?’ Sivarama Maharaja replied that if we are detached, the truth is always sweet, but if we have material attachment (false ego), when the source of attachment is taken away, that truth causes pain.
“Are you sorry, literary man, that you are not an apex master loving and caring for artists and training them in the school of ‘Satsvarupa art’? Are you garbled and ‘gobble-de-gooked’?
“‘Are you able to chant prema-nama?’ A disciple just asked that question. He said that a devotee recommends they always play a tape of Prabhupada chanting japa in the temple so that ‘we’ll be assured we’re hearing prema-nama.’ My disciple wants to know if it’s possible Prabhupada could empower his disciples to chant prema-nama. Well, Prabhupada teaches, and if the devotees follow, of course it is possible. Prema-nama comes from Krsna. Of course, I haven’t answered whether I have prema-nama. I don’t. I can state that frankly. In my chanting you’ll only hear someone struggling for it.
“The truth may be too painful for a disciple to hear—that his spiritual master doesn’t have prema-nama, and he has to go to Prabhupada for that. We could say that Srila Prabhupada is not the only one who has it, although we don’t like to say that. But I mean, aside from him, who has it? And who actually knows that Prabhupada has it? It’s heresy to consider that he doesn’t. But I mean, how do you know that he has it?
“One response is that he spread the holy name all over the world, so he must be empowered with krsna-sakti. Is krsna-sakti the same as prema-nama? I don’t know. I don’t know the answers to all these questions. Leave me alone.
“We have to dig for the truth, dig for it. I was saying that a crow came and did nonsense, and then a monkey came and did the same. At this moment they are hammering in a nearby room in the Guesthouse. The guests are disturbed—no peace —just bang! bang! Blocking out even the normal sounds of Vrndavana.
“Yes, the truth is painful both to hear and to admit. I get tired of all the measuring of me and of falling short of expectations. ‘He walked into the temple with his shoes on! This indicates that he will fall down soon for this offense.’ Should I apologize to the widow who complained as if she is the caretaker of all etiquette in Vrndavana? But that would just give her a chance to vent her bitterness, because she’s got her gripes.”
“I confessed to Madhu that I felt troubled when we read yesterday about Radha and Krsna’s conjugal pastimes. I prefaced my remarks to Madhu by saying that I hoped what I had to say wouldn’t hurt his faith in me as his spiritual master. I said that my concept of spiritual master is someone who’s sincere, dedicated to Prabhupada, and who is also piercingly honest. He shouldn’t have to make a show of being a perfect devotee on the highest level. Too often someone pretends and then later has to back down in embarrassment. Madhumangala has a similar conviction about the nature of the spiritual master, so we proceeded to talk about my discomfort. Perhaps I shouldn’t read that type of material—I still need to think about that—but I was relieved to have discussed it with a confidential friend. It also opens up the area of discussion that I lack any positive feelings of devotion for Radha and Krsna.
“Madhu told me that this morning at mangala-arati he stood before Radha-Syamasundara and prayed to Krsna, ‘You are very beautiful, and I know that You are a debauch.’ In other words, he wanted to see Krsna not as Narayana, but with an awareness of His sportive nature. Still, the question remains: how far do we investigate Radha, Krsna, and the gopis? We shouldn’t think that if we hold back and maintain reverence for Radha and Krsna, we will be disqualified from madhurya-rasa. It’s all rather complicated. We don’t want to rush in where we don’t belong, but neither do we want to remain dull and dead with no feelings at all.”
“I’ve got my Post-its in the Srimad-Bhagavatam for tomorrow’s lecture. Material happiness and misery come automatically, so ‘don’t bother about it.’ As soon as you try to find happiness, your miseries begin. The remedies that you seek to counteract suffering turn out to be worse than the suffering itself. (In 1967 I remember Prabhupada saying that LSD was like that.) Later in his life, Prahlada Maharaja received similar good instructions from a sannyasi who was found lying in the road like a python. That avadhuta sannyasi said that from his observations, so-called sex pleasure brought only misery. Therefore, he was no longer taking part in such activities. He was just lying in the road and meeting his bodily necessities as Nature provided them and without any effort on his part at all. In another early lecture, Prabhupada was pleased to remark that one of his disciples was depending on Krsna for temple maintenance. Prabhupada said that that doesn’t mean we should be lazy and not do anything, but we should work fearlessly. Krsna supplies His devotees’ necessities. After this, I may give a reference to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati on this subject and whatever else Krsna inspires me to speak.
“As you see, I have solid references, so I will make a moderate trot through these topics one after another. Then I will have put another duty behind me.”
“I couldn’t give the class today, but I’m scheduled to speak tomorrow. I’ll use many of the same references I had for today’s verse. I have a good opener: In the beginning of this chapter, Prahlada Maharaja says that human life is very rare and that one should use it to learn bhagavata-dharma. He should start his education at five years old. Prahlada then said that the Supreme Lord Krsna is our dearmost friend. Therefore, we should search Him out. The children to whom he was preaching objected. They preferred to play now and search for Krsna later in life. An adult might object in a similar way: ‘If I search out Krsna, how will my material necessities be met?’
“After this I have a number of references, but my planned lecture seems to peter out with no relevant message for today’s devotees. They’re likely to ask me nitty-gritty questions about economic development and dependence on Krsna. They’ll want to know where the dividing line is between surrender and obligation.
“I heard this morning that a woman devotee asked the lecturer, ‘Why does ISKCON mistreat its devotees when they grow older, or neglect them completely?’ If I were asked such a question, I might reply, ‘Just because I’m giving the Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture for half an hour today doesn’t mean I have the answers to all of ISKCON’s problems.’ But that probably wouldn’t satisfy such a questioner.”
“Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
“I wanted to place before you a problem I have been having for some years now regarding my visits to Vrndavana-dhama. I don’t think you will be able to solve this for me in a decisive way, because it’s something like a personal problem and a situation I don’t think can be entirely controlled, but I would be grateful to hear your realizations as a friend, and especially because you are so deeply acquainted with living in Vrndavana.
“Whenever I come to Vrndavana, I find that it becomes an intense period of socializing, with pressure from Godbrothers and disciples. There really doesn’t seem to be any off-season at ISKCON Vrndavana, because whenever I come it’s the same. It’s natural that at this temple, more than any other temple in ISKCON, one is likely to meet devotees from anywhere in the world. Also, ISKCON controversies often seem to be focused here. This has been my experience in recent years, and although I tend to forget it when I’m away and again desire to return to Vrndavana, as soon as I arrive I have the same experience. Then the tension begins to build day after day, week after week, until the pressure becomes almost unbearable for me and I find myself looking forward to leaving. This pressure usually means more headaches than usual, and also anxiety because when I have pain, I can’t perform the duties I am expected to perform. Neither do I find devotees overly sympathetic toward my chronic illness.
“This year I decided not to give the VIHE seminar, but that doesn’t seem to have alleviated the pressure.
“One alternative I considered is coming to Vrndavana and living outside the ISKCON temple. I did that one year when I lived at Baladeva’s house for four weeks to write. I didn’t visit the temple at all during the period I was writing. The writing went well, and the fact is that I produced some of the best writing I have ever done about Vrndavana (it was included in the front of the book called The Wild Garden). After those four weeks, however, a great sense of obligation had built in me that now I should participate fully in temple life. Once I did, the usual pressures developed, devotees wanted to meet me, my refusing to meet displeased them, letters poured in, and there were so many demands and controversies.
“Neither do I like to live outside ISKCON because I don’t think it sets a good example. I mean, not just living a few blocks away from the temple, but the idea of living here and not going regularly to the programs. If sometime during the year I want to take a writing retreat, I would never think of doing it in Vrndavana for this very reason. I find some other more remote place in the world more suitable.
“But I don’t think this is a good attitude to take toward the most sacred place in the universe. I may be developing an offensive attitude toward Vrndavana as I come here, complain, and so on. This year I even said to Madhumangala that next year we might not come. It almost seems like I’m starting to not like Vrndavana, and that’s bad.
“Also, I have a permanently crippled ankle. After walking about an hour on any one day, I can’t walk the next day, or if I were to walk two days in a row, then I can only walk for a short period. This, my tendency for headaches, and my general temperament, prevent me from having much enthusiasm for going out. I can’t even do the two- or three-hour parikrama around Vrndavana, although I know it’s a blissful and purifying experience.
“I like to read about the Vrndavana of the spiritual world in Krsna book and other books, and I like it here also, despite my complaints. Even here in Room 42 I can feel the blessings seeping through the walls. But mostly my stay in Vrndavana is rewarding because I feel I have fulfilled the obligations I have to meet disciples and Godbrothers. It’s an austere yajna. I go away from Vrndavana thinking I have paid some dues, but not with the bliss of falling in love with the place, tasting its simple life, tasting its intense devotion to Krsna even found in the ordinary residents—and what to speak of the deeper secrets of Vrndavana, of Radha-Krsna bhajana.
“I would be appreciative of your comments on this predicament. Thank you.
“I hope this meets you in good health.
“Satsvarupa dasa Goswami”
“What am I doing to connect my chanting with the rasika pastimes? I am simply reading about Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana. Their pastimes, as given in the rasa-sastras, are so potent that they may rub off on me and gradually become part of my ‘normal’ thinking. I cannot artificially impress these pastimes into my japa, but I pray that they may kindly appear. And thus I am begging for the nectar of the holy names as I chant.
“My main practice during these twenty-one days and for a long time after, will be to return the mind from its errant wanderings and fix it on the sound of the holy names. I do this because I have faith in the order of my spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada said that everything would come by attentive chanting, so I am striving to become attentive. But I cannot personally relate through my diary to experience of nama-rasa, the nature of entrance into krsna-lila in svarupa-siddha, or any of these stages. I can only tell something of the struggles and rewards of the fallen jiva who has become fortunate enough to meet a pure devotee of the holy name. I cannot tell a higher truth than I know (except theoretically), but neither can I remain silent.
“Having touched on the advanced stages of nama-rasa, I must now return to my actual state, but now we know the ultimate goal of life.”
“Bhaktivinode Thakura next sings of Krsna’s pastimes in Gokula. He is the protector of the residents of Vrndavana. Bhaktivinode Thakura identifies himself as a vrajavasi and glorifies his Protector:
“‘You will kill Agha and Baka. I will drink the water of the Yamuna and Kaliya’s poison will not act because You will purify the water, and Your heroic deeds will enhance our faith. You will protect me and the others by swallowing the forest fire. You will counteract Indra’s malice and rainstorms and protect us by lifting Govardhana Hill. You will protect me when four-headed Brahma steals Your boys and calves . . . . Bhaktivinoda is now the property of Gokula, Your holy abode. O Kesava, kindly protect him with care.’ (Saranagati, 4.3.10).
“Where did the once-fallen soul learn all this nectar of Krsna’s protection in Gokula? He must have heard it from his guru and from Krsna Himself through the scriptures. May Krsna protect our attempt to follow our initiation vows and honor our allegiance to Prabhupada. May He protect us from demons of doubts and from the fear and influence of asuras. May He protect our newly sprouted desire to serve Him. Please protect our wish to live even now in the spiritual world with no need of tidings from the three material worlds. Kindly protect us.
“Yes, He will protect you, but you have to protect yourself by following as purely as possible. Krsna will reciprocate when He sees you are trying to protect what you have already been given. Don’t throw it away, don’t neglect it—the treasure of pure feelings and obedience to guru, sastra, and sadhu.”
“Dear Srila Prabhupada,
“I led the singing at mangala-arati. I’m sometimes afraid that I’ll forget the words. To comfort myself against that fear, I remembered how everyone here is my friend—my Godbrothers and disciples, men as well as women, and of course, you. You protect me from the material world, which I fear. When there’s a threat, I don’t want to think of myself as a loner. I’m surrounded by friends— even the flower in your hand and the pujari, and the Mandir itself.
“I am just an average person. ‘Please be kind,’ Rupa Gosvami prays to Radha and Krsna. I pray to you, Srila Prabhupada, please be kind. Rupa Gosvarni knows the Lord and Radha are kind, and I know you are also.
“We stride in past a group of Indian visitors. They watch us bow down and take our seats in the rear of the Samadhi. We know our purpose in coming here. They don’t make full dandavats to your golden form, but we do. Yet how deep does it go? Is my striding in and out of your Mandir just a show? I pray you’ll accept me as sincere.
“What do you think of the Samadhi Mandir, Srila Prabhupada? In your last days, you asked only that the hole be dug and the proper ceremonies and procedures take place. I don’t think you gave any instructions as to what kind of a memorial building should be made. The devotees decided to do it in grand style, but it bogged down over a decade of delayed construction. Now it is almost completed. I think you like it when many devotees gather here as they did this morning, and when visitors come and go during the day. You did not want people to worship you; you wanted people to worship Krsna. If you could serve the Supreme Lord as His representative and collect ‘taxes’ as the king’s viceroy, you were willing to do that. Thus you have written in your purports to convince us of the topmost position of the Founder-Acarya of this Krsna consciousness movement.
“When you left us in New York City in January 1967, we felt keen separation. You wrote back from San Francisco that the main association with the spiritual master is by hearing and following his vani. You said that if we felt too much separation, we could put your picture on your sitting places. Those days gave us the first indication of what we now experience all the time.
“Then, your separation was only for a few months; now it’s much longer.”
“My dear Lord Krsna,
“Yesterday I prayed for krsna-prema. I prayed for connection to You and Radharani in loving service. I said that this is what I want. But I think it was presumption or posturing on my part to publicly pray for such an exalted destination. I want to pray more modestly today. I pray for any mercy You can bestow upon me and any connection You can give me in my next life. Certainly I want the best thing, but I don’t think it was right to ask for it so outwardly. This has to do with keeping this journal in good taste. I may harbor secret yearnings, but it is exhibitionistic to claim them so loudly and specifically in public.
“I’d like to trim my sails from yesterday’s prayer and simply say that I want to be with You and hope someday to achieve it. I do want to go on chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in my next life, but it is up to You whether You award me that fortune. I am so tiny and unaware of my position in devotional service that I should not leap up and try to touch the moon by my declaration that I want to attain krsna-prema. It should be understood and assumed that I have such a desire, and I don’t have to shout it so loudly. It may be impatient on my part. As for laulyam, I either have it or I don’t. Begging the question won’t help. I don’t want to be a sahajiya and take things cheaply. I should concentrate on my feelings of dainya, or unworthiness, and be humble. I am fallen and lowly. I should pray for tears of contrition, and pray to cry tears when chanting Hare Krsna—that I have been chanting so long and have not obtained nama ruci. I should not think that I am close to krsna-prema or that I can become closer by announcing on the Internet that it is my topmost goal.
“My desire is to please You, but when I examined myself, I can’t claim I am pleasing You by my present activities. I can only continue to struggle in my place and try to improve.
“The other day, I made a prayer about feelings of separation about You. I quoted Prabhupada’s saying that the spiritual masters in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya should cultivate these feelings in their disciples. I also quoted from Krsna book, where Prabhupada stated that the Six Gosvamis were always crying, ‘Where is Krsna? Where is Radha?’ They never claimed, ‘Now I have seen Krsna and Radha.’ Their mission to see Them remained unfulfilled as they cultivated their feelings of separation. I should be very mindful of these sentiments and be careful when I say, ‘I want krsna-prema.’
“Maybe I truly want it, But my desires are not overwhelming. I am still at a lower stage. So please forgive me for this excessive outpouring of what I want to achieve or impatience in asking it to come about. I am not a powerful swimmer in the ocean of ecstatic symptoms for Radha and Krsna. I am just a small devotee standing on the shore trying to taste a drop of that ocean. Please do not reject me but encourage me to develop my feelings of separation and improve in my performance of bhakti. I am not a surfer in the big waves of bhava or prema. I pray to be a servant of Your servants, a thousand times removed.”
“There is a typewriter in this van. It’s on the small separate deskette facing the Prabhupada murti. It is a warm October day and quiet. I was thinking of breaking camp because people had set up tents next to us, and in the late morning they play pop rock. ‘That’s enough,’ I thought, ‘let’s leave.’ The sound seeps into my brain and consciousness. Earplugs reduce it to a faint roar, but what’s the use of enduring it when you can take shelter in a temple where the only sounds are kirtana, Krsna conscious and friendly? But now it’s quiet.
“M. is squashed in his section of the van, which is larger than mine but houses many things. He is not able to move about freely. Now he’s trying to sort out the stuff and leave a few cartons behind. He has to decide what we can do without while traveling.
“If this is travel, then where is home? It’s difficult for me to say. Geaglum is a new base; I have already lived there for a couple of months. Hardly what you would call home, though. I have no home. The van is not my home either. Perhaps my home is this body, but even that has changed from boyhood to youth to old age. The soul wanders as my body wanders. I wish I could develop a strong desire to know my original home in the spiritual world.
“All amenities here, but I am not the perfect lover. The devotee who has faith believes that by serving the Supreme Lord, he can reach perfection. Such faith drives out ignorance and doubt. Krsna’s words gradually filter through to him. Krsna, Krsna.
“Raw wood-varnished interior, rows of Srila Prabhupada’s lecture tapes in their albums, the Prabhupada murti—the whole thing cannot last forever. Therefore, I had better use the amenities while I have them. Madhu is using up petrol, and the van is gradually becoming consumed by constant driving. Our mighty Econoline. Use it up. The exhaust pipe is already broken. Use it up. Prabhupada writes in the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita, ‘If one has fifty years of life ahead of him, he should engage that brief time in cultivating this practice of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ He must have been thinking of young people when he wrote that. Fifty years ahead of you, and he calls it ‘brief.’ Think of Krsna while in the world.”
“The young gopi manjaris are simple and open-hearted, and thus they are allowed to enter into all the confidential dealings of Radha and Krsna. Radha and Krsna know that when these manjaris are present, They can feel free to act as if They were alone. The manjaris will never be envious or betray confidences or misunderstand the dealings of the Lord and Radharani. They can be trusted because they are completely pure. They are happy to keep their own place and to make arrangements for the pastimes of Radha and Krsna.
“When I think of the gopi manjaris, it becomes clear to me how I failed. I always wanted to be included in the intimate, confidential dealings of Prabhupada, but for my own satisfaction. At least that taint was there. I wanted a special place and recognition. I preferred Prabhupada my way, not his way. The completely surrendered servant does not demand special intimate moments with his master. He does not mind if his master reminds him of his subordinate place by excluding him from certain meetings. The servant waits outside the door with a pure heart, and he goes to fetch other devotees who the master wants to see, and he cleans up the master’s sitting room and workroom and bathroom with equal relish for each task. If the pure servant is reprimanded, he does not become envious of the master who holds the weapon of chastisement. He doesn’t think, ‘This is unfair. I have surrendered to you, and now you are taking advantage.’
“There is a correlation between envy and confidentiality. The disciple who is non-confidential may yearn for what he thinks of as confidential moments, but because he has his own concept of sweet intimate times, and because he rejects and accepts what is good in relation to his guru, he misses out on the dynamics of confidential service.”
“In New York temple for one week. Demons trying to destroy our movement by declaring us Communists, taking testimony from former devotees. There is an organized attempt to turn the public against Krsna consciousness. Devotees have organized a good legal man to fight back. There are many intelligent devotees involved. A press conference is also arranged for tomorrow. Demons are trying hard, using all legal means available to defeat and defame our movement.
“Devotees are endeavoring. Now Krsna will enact His plan according to His will. Devotees are saying it should be taken as an opportunity to distinguish our movement from bogus groups. Let us stand up and show them what we are. But they are so devious and print slanderous lies. My direct role in it has not been very important, except that I helped to gather scholarly reviews, which are being used in our testimony.
“I’m in St. Louis. My engagement has changed again. When GBC members met in New York, I was given the assignment to travel for now, especially in New England and the New York area, seeing professors who will agree to give testimony that brainwashing charges against us are outrageous. Either get them to agree to come and testify in New York or sign an affidavit. This is a more direct role in this emergency.
“Now here in St. Louis for a convention of religious scholars. I have a pamphlet to distribute to them, and one of their leaders already agreed to assist. Go in a simple way and do it to the best of my ability, and there will be results. But after the convention I wonder whether it will be worthwhile to travel through New England to see these professors. The main thing is to get an immediate list of as many as possible who may go to New York to testify, or at least sign affidavits. Also, try for those in the psychology field, psychiatrists at medical centers. This is ‘strike-while-the-iron-is-hot’ preaching. We are in danger, and the testimonies are needed, and I have been delegated. Also, we have an eye-catching, morally appealing case to present to them: denial of basic religious and human freedoms. I cannot judge prematurely. It is new. Let me engage as proposed.”
“The day is still young; I can do things. Keep mindful of their quality. The days are rushing by. You can’t gain immortality in this world except by acts which have the eternal quality of pure bhakti. They are the currency that can be used in the next life. Other currencies all become useless at time of death, just stacks of meaningless paper.
“A strong wind is up. Heavy boards (or something) are shifting, and sometimes slamming against the house. Reminders.
“Don’t look up at your own reflection in the window. Keep concentrated.
“Rupa Gosvami writes,
“‘My dear foolish friend, I think that you have already heard some of the auspicious Srimad-Bhagavatam, which decries seeking the results of fruitive activities, economic development and liberation. I think that now it is certain that gradually the verses of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, describing the pastimes of the Lord, will enter your ears and go into your heart.’ (The Nectar of Devotion, p. 109)
“The heaters are rattling. My stomach is asking for something or other. The world demands attention. Link the moments together by different methods of chanting and hearing Govinda’s glories and upadesa. I think this is sufficient for me.”
VOW (n.) from the French, votum; see vote.
“‘1. a solemn promise or pledge, especially one made to God or to a god, dedicating oneself to an act, service, or way of life.’
“‘2. a solemn promise of love and fidelity [marriage vows].’
“‘3. a solemn affirmation or assertion. To praise, to promise solemnly.’
“As vt: ‘To make a solemn resolution to do, to declare emphatically, earnestly, or solemnly.’
“As vi: ‘To make a vow, to take vows. To make the vows required for formal entrance into a religious order or community.’
“We take vows at our initiation into Krsna consciousness. Perhaps they don’t sound as weighty as the vows required of candidates seeking entrance into a religious order or community, at least in the Christian sense, but they are. For example, out of millions of Catholics, how many actually take vows? Very few. Only those who become priests, monks, or nuns.
“A vow is meant to be upheld for an entire lifetime. It’s not unusual that devotees (and Catholics) reconsider their vows after some years have passed. Often, they decide the vows are no longer relevant to their lives.
“Recently, a disciple wrote me to explain why he planned to no longer follow his initiation vows. He said he saw it as a positive step forward in his life, and indirectly he criticized Prabhupada and the whole process of becoming bound by vows. He said that he has been studying psychology, and that psychology teaches that only a rare person can sublimate sex desire and avoid all illicit sex throughout his life. Therefore, we shouldn’t look upon illicit sex as some dragon to be conquered. It’s natural. Similarly, he no longer wanted to chant sixteen rounds. He said vows make us neurotic because when we cannot follow them due to the circumstances in our lives, we feel guilty. Better to chant a little bit and read on occasion and just balance life as we see best. The pressure of the vow is too much.
“His reasons seem feasible enough, but what’s that got to do with the integrity of the vow? It’s not my job to revise other people’s vows. A vow is not something we argue about or readjust. Just imagine the chaos that would result if the leaders of a world religion conferred and wrote papers to revise the nature of people’s commitment to their religion. They would only do so after a tremendous groundswell from the religion’s adherents who were demanding reform. Prabhupada would never allow us to declare that it was no longer necessary to follow the four regulative principles or to chant sixteen rounds.
“In the absence of a higher authority releasing us from our vows, we have to take the responsibility ourselves to follow them or not. I cannot condone the breaking of vows. Even the dictionary, mundane as it is, calls it a ‘solemn pledge’ and admits that such pledges are often made in service to God.
“If we lack the strength to follow our vows, we should pray to Krsna. He is the source of all strength. Nayam atma bala-hinena labhyo: only by Lord Balarama’s mercy can we follow our vows. Balarama’s potency comes through the spiritual master.
“Our particular vows are not so difficult to practice. We don’t have to be proud that we maintain them. They are only the standard of civilized human behavior. They’re not so extraordinary. It’s not only saints who can sublimate their sex desire. Anyone can do it by guru and Krsna’s grace. Rather than want to give up our vows, we should thank Prabhupada and Krsna for these regulative principles of freedom.”
“O Srila Prabhupada, the waves of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana were spread by you much further than the waves made directly by Gaura-Nitai, although you are simply extending Their mercy, and your mercy is also the personified grace of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati;
“O Srila Prabhupada, true teacher, who never invented theories to surpass the original truth, but who handed the delicate and delicious mango-truth of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and passed it into the hands of thousands of hungry followers;
“O Srila Prabhupada, transplanter of the tulasi of Krsna consciousness, your personal work continues now and will grow in importance into the twenty-first century and beyond that, as willed by Lord Caitanya;
“O Srila Prabhupada, you are the representative of all bhaktivedantas, but you are an individual, rare soul. You kindly came to the Lower East Side of New York and acted humbly as if it were something not impossible, and yet you performed kirtana and cooked and spoke as no one before or since has done;
“O Prabhupada, where is there purity such as yours? Where is there dedication to guru and Krsna such as yours? Where is there an example of humility and daring such as yours? Where is there an example of such a benefactor as you?
“O Prabhupada, in your absence what can we do? Please enlighten us again, take us by the hand and lead us through the dark of Kali-yuga.
“O Prabhupada, whose followers never tire of praising him because he is their life-breath;
“O Prabhupada, who is like the cow that protects the devotee-calves, and who is like a policeman to catch the Mayavadi thieves by the throats—all glories to your actions in this world;
“O master, whose instructions bind us to the regulative principles of devotional service, whose timely presence in our lives has saved us from descending to painful lower species of life;
“O master, who reinforces the teachings of the previous acaryas, and who says “No!” to illicit desires;
“O Prabhupada, who invites us to the Sunday prasadam feast of many excellent preparations, such as spiced sabjis, tender puris, sweetrice and halava, all prepared personally by him and his servants, and who induces us to ‘Take more!’ until we forget all our wayward desires, being satisfied with krsna-prasadam;
“O Prabhupada, who leads us from event to event, like the gracious host of a festival, who points the way as the leading explorer on the expedition, and who waits for us at the destination in Krsnaloka—may we never lose connection to you.”
“My intro will tell of my anticipation and anxiety to leave the U.S.A. and safely enter Ireland. I want to avoid the NYC and the all-America Centennial festivals, which are just about to happen. Why avoid them? Answering may bring us deep and confidential. However, I haven’t left yet, so I’m anxious. I have to travel four hours by car today down into the city. Then tomorrow, a scheduled flight out of JFK. In material life there is danger at every step. I assume all factors are favorable. I am depending on British Airways, but you never know. (After all, Britain is cursed—Mad Cow disease.)
“Before telling my story, I want to recount last night’s dream because it led me to think I should write my actual story of a devotee in this life and times. Tell it straight. Hare Krsna. Here’s why–as I learned in a dream of ‘Lost in a City.’
“I was lost in the city but received the favor of some ‘mystics,’ empowered persons. They appeared as restaurant workers and owners, ordinary people, not religious or intellectual. I couldn’t pay for transportation and was sitting on an ordinary railing, but those empowered persons told me that they would transform it into a magical method of transportation which would speed me through the maze of the city to my destination.
“I sat on the rail and the journey began. After a while, we stopped at what was some kind of headquarters for these persons. It was a restaurant, and people were eating there – food on the tables. Some of their high-ranking representatives came out to me and questioned me about the nature of sannyasa and what I was doing.
“I replied that in the Krsna consciousness movement we allow sex for grhasthas as long as they intend to conceive children, but a sannyasi avoids sex completely.
“‘Yes, yes,’ the mystic approved, and nodded at what I said, indicating to his companion that this would indeed bring a person power.
“Then he spoke to me – or revealed to me without speaking – some of the special things that I had learned by listening to jazz musicians. I felt fortunate to have seen John Coltrane in some places. Then the mystic told me the secret of Thelonius Monk’s genius was that he was himself. ‘Me, me, me,’ Thelonius Monk played in his music. This was somehow related to Thelonius Monk in a vegetable garden with pumpkins and other vegetables.
“After assimilating some of these secrets, I was supposed to resume my magic journey on the rail, but somehow, I didn’t. It was the end of the ride. The restaurant-eating mystics pointed out to me how I could proceed, presumably on foot now, into the same difficulties of the night city. While still in the dream, I began to chant Hare Krsna and hear Srila Prabhupada’s intonations in lectures. I awoke and realized I had not been in any way improved in my search, despite all the expectations of a free ride or of learning the jazzman’s secret. My real power was to stay straight in Krsna consciousness. All other offers and insights were extraneous, pointless detours. Let us not get lured by them. At best they know almost nothing of what we are doing in Krsna consciousness. I had to explain very basic practices to the mystic, and when he approved my sannyasa-dharma, it was only on principle.
“Let me write the true story of what actually happens to me each day while trying to practice Krsna consciousness as a sannyasi disciple of Srila Prabhupada–while traveling, writing, preaching, and reading his books.
“We’re in rush-hour traffic coming into the Bronx at 230th Street. Stop and start. M. is driving the car, Kirtana-rasa chanting japa in the front seat, and I’m in back packages. ‘It’s a Woman Thing’ says a billboard for Virginia Slims cigarettes. I wanted to write; it took mental effort to get out the notebook. But I can’t think of much except what I see–dirty city trees in bloom, the long crawl of traffic ahead, my tendency to exaggerate, to worry . . . Imagine if things went wrong. I want to go within to tell you something Krsna conscious but that’s not possible. Kool. Art. Yankee Stadium.
“Relax, man. At the Queens apartment I spent the morning and afternoon answering the last mail. Agni dasa came by and gave me a message. M. phoned British Airways and asked if their flight would be leaving on time. ‘Of course,’ she replied. ‘Sometimes we can even leave early.’ ‘Tragicomic gifts’ of Alice Walker’s poetry, says the New York Times on the back of her book. Kirtana-rasa, who drove us here, stopped only briefly at the apartment and then drove off. ‘Escape from New York,’ he said. ‘There was a movie by that name.’ Nandimukhi said the skyline of the buildings is like fists raised against the sky. It becomes daunting to preach here. They are duty-bound.
“Will you be able to roll along? Forget performance; be genuine in some way.
“Hare Krsna. I was born in Queens in this lifetime. Guess what? A mail package won’t come to me until a month from now. I tell you, man, in June, the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Eire, or in mostly Northern Ireland, in a house overlooking the island and the lakes…
“Can I prove to the Irish Immigration Department that (1) Stephen Guarino and Satsvarupa dasa Goswami are the same person, and (2) he is an author of books. M. says it will be easy because the Irish are lax about that sort of thing and will give no trouble to an American who wants to claim residency on the Emerald Isle. Who am I? Can I prove it? Also, I own the van although I don’t drive it.
“In the vase on the windowsill, purple phlox and goldenrod. Outside, people lounging on front steps – kids roller-skating, many races—Asians, Muslims, Blacks, Indians, Islanders, plain vanilla, Hare Krsna in this one looking out. Four big suitcases all tied up and ready to go. I asked him, M., how we plan to carry them to the ticket counter. We may resort to hiring a red cap. How much do you pay them? Phlox, goldenrod. Escape from New York.”
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.