Our July 3 meeting for disciples and friends will be held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Pavilion in Stuyvesant Falls, New York. The address is 845 Hudson Avenue, Stuyvesant Falls, New York, 12174.
Here is the tentative schedule:
- 10:00-10:45 AM Opening kirtana
- 10:45-11:30 AM Lecture by SDG and presentation of two new books.
- 11:30AM-1:00 PM Deity arati and kirtana
- 1:00 PM Prasadam feast
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL FESTIVAL ATTENDEES
The devotees who attend the July 3 meeting should all have had their first and second-anti COVID vaccines. There is time for you to do this.
If you plan to come but you don’t have the vaccinations, then you must wear a mask.
Yours in service,
I received a letter from a devotee at Inis Rath asking me to donate for renovation of the temple there. I have many fond memories of Radha-Govinda at Inis Rath. I installed the Deities. I lived on the peninsula connected to Inis Rath Island (Geaglum) for several years. I wrote many books in Geaglum and crossed the lake strait in a rowboat once a week to give a class in the Inis Rath temple.
The Deities were always beautifully dressed and cared for by Their pujari, Mahamantra dasi. Sometimes They were dressed in Irish lace and varieties of colors. We honored feasts at Inis Rath and held arati kirtanas. I named my small Radha-Krsna Deities after Radha-Govinda at Inis Rath.
I am two-thirds finished with Giriraj Swami’s book I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story. He sent me a copy with a personal inscription stating, “You have been my exemplar and inspiration for writing about Srila Prabhupada.” The book is long (750 pages), but it’s a fast-paced page-turner. Prabhupada and his disciples face innumerable obstacles as they attempt to buy the land and get permission to build a temple. Prabhupada is quoted as saying, “It was a good fight. Someone should write a book about it . . . It is worth writing—history.” The general public of Bombay is friendly and receptive, but there are inimical persons intent on driving him out of his original purchase, and the governmental bureaucracy is corrupt and obstructive. At different points his disciples want to give up the fight to keep the land, and they even agree with the landlord to cancel the agreement. But Prabhupada says, “I will be the last man to surrender to Mr. Nair.” Mr. Nair dies, but his wife carries on the fight against Prabhupada and sends truckloads of police and construction workers to destroy the temporary temple where the Deities of Radha-Rasabhihari are being worshiped. They do great damage and almost succeed, but Prabhupada said the demolition attack will turn in their favor, and it does. Gradually Prabhupada gains support from the people of Bombay, and the devotees reconstruct their temple and gain in good public opinion. The story is filled with action-packed incidents, many of them obstacles to building the temple. But Prabhupada remains determined and finally comes out triumphant. We are all grateful to Giriraj Swami for writing this history of Prabhupada in Juhu, Bombay.
Here is part of a letter I wrote to Giriraj after finishing his book:
“Dear Giriraj Swami,
“Thank you for personally sending me a copy of The Juhu Story with an inscribed note. I love your book! You portray Prabhupada’s great determination and love for Radha-Rasabihari. Like Prabhupada, you were unflinching in the battle to secure the land and get permission to build a temple. I read the book with great absorption and couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. You have portrayed Prabhupada as a great warrior and yourself as an unflinching disciple to carry out his orders. To overcome all the obstacles Prabhupada faced is a miracle story, and you tell it all as it actually happened. Many years after Prabhupada said it was a “good fight,” you wrote your magnificent book. As Gopal Krsna Goswami has written, “Giriraja Maharaja has translated his long years of commendable involvement in the leadership of ISKCON Juhu as well as his intense desire to serve Prabhupada’s instructions to him to write into a riveting, thoughtful, and inspiring book.”
“Thank you, Giriraj Maharaja, for your magnificent book and your friendship.
“Yours in service,
“Satsvarupa dasa Goswami”
After twenty years of serving Avesarupa, his sankirtana leader and soul partner, my disciple Adi Rasa writes me that Avesarupa has passed away from terminal cancer. I offer him my sincere condolences over his loss. I appreciate that he has approached me as his spiritual master to ask how he can serve me next. This is the proper etiquette. I will suggest that he report to the leader for Spain, Yadunandana Swami, and ask him to direct him to a next service. I think Yadunandana Swami will keep in mind a service that is suitable for Adi Rasa and also supports the Spanish yatra.
Haridasa will leave at 5:00 PM today. He has been filling in in the absence of Bala, who feels it is necessary to stay in Trinidad to take care of his dying mother. Haridasa has generously stepped in and taken up Bala’s service for more than a month. He has cooked and cleaned, done Deity worship, gone for water, done garden work, shopping, and many things that relieve Baladeva Vidyabhusana. He also serves me personally. I appreciate the sacrifice he has made to stay with us at Viraha Bhavan in the absence of Bala. We will miss him sorely. He has been such a good servant. I wish we had a replacement for him.
I received a letter from Kalakantha saying he has a party of three young devotees who are coming to the Albany area to distribute books. They want to visit with me and Ravindra Svarupa, and he asked if that were possible. I would like to accommodate them at our ashram. I hope I can entertain them and enliven them in Krsna consciousness. They are college graduates in their mid-twenties, out to see more of the ISKCON world while distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Today I received my copy of the latest Free Write Journal. It tells of my personal daily activities, and then I give excerpts from published books, many of which have been out of print for a number of years. The excerpts are in all different genres. The back copies of the Journal can be read on satsvarupadasagoswami.com, and interested readers can download many of my past published books from SDGLegacy.com.
In our out-loud reading we are beginning to hear the Sixth Canto, first chapter, “The History of the Life of Ajamila.” This chapter begins immediately after Chapter 26 of the Fifth Canto, “A Description of the Hellish Planets.” That chapter is very uncomfortable to read. It graphically describes the sufferings that sinful persons have to undergo on the hellish planets. Prabhupada asserts that the hellish planets are not fictitious but are real places where sinful persons are taken and undergo extreme suffering. For example, plunderers are bitten by ferocious dogs with strong teeth. Men and women who indulge in illicit sex are made to embrace each other’s forms made out of hot iron. The chapter describes many forms of punishment, and there is no relief. The punished souls do not even die although they are tormented, but they live on to suffer.
It was with great relief that I began to read the Sixth Canto, which tells how sinful persons can escape the hellish punishments after death. Maharaja Pariksit, as a compassionate Vaisnava, asks if there is a way that sinful persons can be spared from the hellish punishments. His spiritual master, Sukadeva Gosvami, first tests his disciple by telling him two inadequate processes to get relief from hell. He initially recommends the process of atonement, and then he recommends cultivating speculative knowledge. Maharaja Pariksit passes these tests by rejecting these formulas. Sukadeva then tells him the real remedy: practicing pure devotional service to Krsna. Sukadeva Gosvami then begins to tell an old history from the Puranas about a sinful man named Ajamila. At the time of his death, the agents of Yamaraja came to snatch Ajamila’s soul from his body to bring him to hell for punishment. But Ajamila, at the moment of death, called out the name “Narayana!” Narayana is the name of God, but Ajamila was actually calling for his little son who was nearby. However, because he called on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, four messengers of Visnu, the Visnudutas, rushed to the spot and forbade the Yamadutas, the agents of death, from taking Ajamila to Yamaraja, the lord of Death, who punishes sinners. They challenged the Yamadutas, claiming that Ajamila was innocent because he chanted the name of God, and an argument between the messengers began.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing the Hamsa Guhya prayers. They are recited to the Supreme Lord by Prajapati Daksa. Daksa didn’t personally compose the prayers, but they are standard Vedic prayers. This was one of my first attempts at writing something in Krsna consciousness in my own words. I gave the manuscript to Baladeva Vidyabhusana along with $75.00 and asked him to print a book. He was living in the Berkeley temple, and it wasn’t conducive there to print my books. But years later he serialized it in our newsletter Sadhu-bhusanam. (If one would like to get a copy, he can contact Krsna-bhajana, firstname.lastname@example.org). My Hamsa Guhya Prayers was a book of personal purports to the prayers done around 1978.
When Indra and his forces were weakened by his offense to Brhaspati, his spiritual master, the demons became rejuvenated and attacked Indra with redoubled strength. They cut off the limbs of the demigods, who could see no way to defend themselves. The demigods gathered and then went to Lord Brahma for consultation. Brahma told them that they should accept Visvarupa as their guru. Visvarupa was younger than Indra and his forces, but he had strong potency. The demigods approached him humbly and begged him to arrange that Visvarupa become the priest of the demigods. Visvarupa humbly said that he was younger than the demigods, but since they asked him he could not refuse. So he came forth and agreed to perform a yajna for the demigods, although he indicated that he was also favorable to the demons. Visvarupa gave the demigods the narayana-kavaca shield, and by that protective weapon they were able to subdue and disperse the demons. The demigods scattered the demons. But later Indra found out that Visvarupa was giving oblation shares of the yajna to the demons.Indra became furious and cut off Visvarupa’s three heads. Thus he again became an offender, first by ignoring his guru Brhaspati and then by killing the brahmana Visvarupa. For this latter offense Indra had to take shelter among the lotus plants in the water. He survived this way for a long, long time.
I received a letter from a devotee who was disturbed by an article he read on Facebook. It said that the jiva was never with Krsna but that he fell from the brahmajyoti. The devotee wrote me,
“Well, did I ever have a relationship with Krsna? Do I matter to Him at all? It has a very discouraging effect.
“As soon as I met the devotees, I was taught that we came from Krsna’s association and we can go back to Him, back to Godhead, and that is wonderful. I’ve never stopped understanding in that way, and you reaffirmed it when I asked you a few years ago . . .”
My opinion on this matter is that it is not important. I believe Prabhupada said that. The important thing is that we are fallen and that we have to get out and go back to Krsna. An example can be given that someone has run out of his supply of butter. It is not important for him to speculate when and why he ran out of butter. Crucial for him is that he has no butter now, and he has to get some. We are eternal spirit souls, parts and parcels of Krsna. Nityera-krsna-dasa. But we have forgotten our relationship with Krsna, and we have to revive it by practicing Krsna consciousness.
On May 30 I received a wonderful email photograph from Guru Gauranga Prabhu. It’s a picture of Srila Prabhupada disembarking from a SwissAir jet surrounded by Guru Gauranga and myself (loaded down like a donkey with Prabhupada’s possessions.) Guru Gauranga sent a note that this picture was taken on May 30, 1974, “exactly forty-seven years ago today.” I am delighted to see this picture and remember being with Prabhupada on his European tour of 1974. Guru Gauranga and a lady devotee are smiling, and I’m gritting my teeth, struggling with the things I’m carrying.
I am still trying to get a full collection of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books translated into English. Krsna Bhajana has a personal collection that he says he got from Divya Books. He has volunteered to get me the Thakura’s books if I send my house address. I’m very fond of Dasarath Suta’s translations, but they are out of print. I’ve seen some of his books, and they are very lively and filled with the devotion of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. If anyone has books translated by Dasarath Suta (or others), I am asking if they could sell them to me or donate them to me, or loan them to me (I can copy them and send you back the originals).
A devotee has written me with an invitation to go see a shaman in the White Mountains of Russia. He says shamans have mystic powers and can cure me of my diseases. But I’m not inclined to go see a shaman. They’re supposed to have powers to communicate with another world, which only the shaman can see. If I’m going to go somewhere for cure, I’ll go to Mayapur/Navadvipa and associate with the pure devotees of Krsna and worship the many sacred arca-vigrahas. It is said that one circumambulation around the Panca-Tattva Deities is more powerful than a trip to the White Mountains. The empowered gurus and brahmanas could bring their dead followers back to life by bathing them in nectar tanks, from which they arose hale and hearty, living to fight another day.
“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.”
“Just before going down to hear Dhanurdhara Maharaja’s class, I felt the budding of a twinge behind the right eye. I calculated that it might go down and that it was very important for me to attend the class. He’ll be attending my class tomorrow.
“As I sat in his class the headache gradually settled in, like a mole digging in the earth, and began to flower. Dhanurdhara Maharaja’s verse was about Prahlada Maharaja, but he soon shifted to praising Pariksit Maharaja for tolerating the pain he was experiencing by not eating and drinking, and because he didn’t lament even though he knew he would die within a few days. It was sincere praise, but I wondered what it had to do with us—that spiritual giant so far above us.
“Now I’ve come back to my room. Tried sleeping off the pain, but it hasn’t worked. Dhanurdhara Maharaja once told me that when you’re sick, the one pleasure you have is that you’re the object of others’ compassion. Maharaja Pariksit renounced this in favor of feeling compassion for those who were consigned to hell. Instead of looking to his own suffering, he inquired how they could be saved.
“As Dhanurdhara Maharaja spoke, I doubted that a chronically ill person is always the object of compassion. Rather, he is often misunderstood.
“The ‘story’ of a headache may not be so interesting, but I track it as I track dreams, as I track the day. Literary soul. Record-maker. I just hope I’m well enough to give my class tomorrow. Big performance.”
“Some good things are happening here in Vrndavana. I’m feeling a growing conviction about my exclusive dependence on Srila Prabhupada. That came up strongly in 1993. It’s still growing. It’s fed by the challenge of ISKCON devotees taking shelter of Narayana Maharaja. My dependence on Srila Prabhupada is also fed by my seeing a Godbrother leave his post—he gave up guru duties and sannyasa—and by signs of others deviating. I can only depend on the strength I get from Prabhupada. It’s that strength that enabled me in 1966 to give up my nasty habits and to continue on the platform of decent obedience. I don’t say it’s only the chanting that has helped me; it’s the chanting as Srila Prabhupada gave it to me.
“A Godbrother wrote me, ‘I feel our prime duty as the spiritual leaders of ISKCON is to bring bhakti more and more into our heart. Vrndavana has a special potency to facilitate that.’ He advised me to come to Vrndavana only for the purpose of deepening my attraction for the holy name, but he also acknowledged that as a senior man, I have to fulfill obligations wherever I am in ISKCON. He suggests I come here and not announce disciples’ meetings. ‘You can meet them in America.’
“He suggested I live outside ISKCON Vrndavana when I come here and attend the temple two or three times at the beginning, then again at the end of my stay. Use Vrndavana for a retreat.
“‘I would strongly encourage you in this regard to take care of your own needs, but if it disturbs you that you are setting a bad example if you do—then that will also disturb you. I beg you not to be disturbed, and set the example of keeping Vrndavana sacred for yourself.”
“I like the principle of coming to Vrndavana to purify my heart and not thinking of it as a chore full of institutional obligations. I set myself up for suffering in that way, and the result is I may become offensive toward Vrndavana. On the other hand, I cannot conceive of using Vrndavana for a retreat without living or at least participating in the Krishna-Balaram temple. When we hear that someone has come to Vrndavana and doesn’t come to Prabhupada’s temple, we think something is wrong with him.
“I think I will no longer announce to my disciples in advance that I’m coming to Vrndavana. In that sense I will try to use Vrndavana for my own spiritual needs. I’ll be discussing the details of this in coming weeks and months with Madhu, working out whether we’ll actually come back next year and how. And when we do come, it can be for some specific function such as chanting sixty-four rounds a day, living near the temple, and participating a little, but especially making it known that I’ve come for a japa-vrata.”
Krsna-Balarama Mandir, Vrndavana
“I propose to take notes during the day. At the end of the day I’ll note the total rounds done and make a summary or final statement. This is an attempt to get my japa ‘going.’ It seems to have no feeling. My only purpose seems to be to count each round in the sixteen minimum quota. No prayer, no attention, hardly any hearing of the actual mantras, hardly any attempt to control the flickering mind.
“This log is a small gesture to indicate that I’m seeking improvement. I might also write here other ideas I have for improvement, and anything to encourage me about the importance of japa in my life.
“Seventeen rounds. I heard of a Godbrother who is in Vrndavana but who doesn’t come to the ISKCON temple. I heard that he’s chanting a high quota japa-bhajana. I thought of going to see him to talk about chanting on beads, but I decided not to. I’ll talk with myself.
“Want to increase the quantity?
“I heard Bhakti-rasa dasa chants japa on the roof. Maybe I could go up there and try it out. But in many ways, this room is an ideal bhakti-kutir. The door is bolted, a sign on it in both Hindi and English says, ‘Do not disturb,’ and an arrow points all would-be intruders to Madhu’s room. I am free to chant here. But I don’t want to. Have no taste.
“My health limits me from vigorous quotas.
“A deadness prevents me from pushing on with extra rounds or from relishing the bare sixteen. For now I must proceed with firm faith in the principle that chanting will produce the sweet taste which I now find bitter.
“Total of twenty rounds today. This writing makes me conscientious. Some devotees say, ‘I feel that my daily chanting starts only after I complete my sixteen rounds.’ A little extra quantity makes for hope—adventure in japa.”
“My dear Lord Krsna, please have mercy on this sinner. What do You think of this proposal that I try to turn to You in this way, aware that I am just a rascal and unwilling to do anything for You that requires real sacrifice? Although it appears that I am doing something, I do it to my own satisfaction, not to the point of sacrifice. I may claim that if I sacrifice too much, then I get so distracted and bodily and mentally obsessed (as when I have to live with people, or when I have to go to the nondevotees) that I can’t really think of You. I can see that inner life has a kind of compensation to it because it’s also my tendency to be introverted. Is this the best way for me? The inner and the outer have to be combined, I know, but without inner life, then mere acts, even preaching acts, are not very good.
“Krsna is actually there with boundless love, and He wants to reciprocate. If I am not feeling it, it must be that I don’t want it. I have to show Him that I want it. To begin with, just think of Krsna, hear about Him; it’s so easy.”
“Then I worried about a guru who is making an American tour. Madhu said my ‘Prabhupada only’ essay in Among Friends was bold. He used the word ‘bold’ not with unequivocal praise, but to suggest that maybe I shouldn’t have published such an essay at a time when ISKCON is struggling with the question of hospitality in this case.
“Most of all I worry about my writing. Is there more meaning to be wrung out of this fictional pada-yatra? If not, why continue the pretense? And if I don’t continue writing this, what else should I write?
“Things that come to mind:
“(1) I don’t want to sustain any one theme but take shots at sensitive themes one after another.
“(2) Now writing in peacock blue ink because someone sent it.
“(3) I remember Hugo’s remark that a poet doesn’t owe reality anything. Even if I’m not on pada-yatra, if I want to write a little story about it, I have a right.
“When people wonder why I am always questioning my own writing, I thought of this point: I want to throw off all pretense. Tobias said that all writing employs a persona of one kind or another. I know I shouldn’t be uptight about the limits of this one. It may not be absolutely true, but it carries the flash of truth. I’m looking for that flash.
“All right. I have to accept that this is how it’s coming out right now. My pada-yatra is about writing (serving) without quitting. It’s about endurance despite the circumstances.
“A summer night in Central Square Park, New York City. It’s 1959 and my sister and I have gone together to an outdoor jazz concert. Jean Shepherd, another close friend of mine, was the MC. He teased the paying audience by telling them that the freebies outside the theater could hear the music just as well as those who paid for their seats. That was true, and even from our paid seats we couldn’t see much.
“I remember him introducing, in his stream of consciousness way, ‘Speaking of grapes—here’s the George Shearing Quintet!’ Errol Garner played piano while sitting on a telephone book and grunting to an old-time rhythm. I liked it anyway.
“Or did I? Hard to remember clearly.
“I liked that night, being with my older sister and hearing groups perform. It’s all over now. Does it mean anything today?”
“Even in the rainy season, one can protect himself by boarding up his shop or by using an umbrella. It is not inevitable that we be overrun by the vices of Kali, although Kali does have his allotted time for expansion. Maharaja Pariksit allowed Kali to live in his kingdom, but he had to stay in restricted areas. Unfortunately, once Kali got a toehold, he began to expand his influence everywhere.
“Measures for government action recommended in this chapter include strong law enforcement against gambling, drinking, prostitution and animal slaughter. Positive programs for spiritual life would include the suggestion that grhasthas spend fifty percent of their income for propagation of sankirtana-yajna.
“When everyone is taught to sacrifice fifty percent of his accumulated gold for the Lord’s service, certainly austerity, cleanliness and mercy automatically ensue, and thus the lost three legs of the personality of religion are automatically established.
“‘When there is sufficient austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness, naturally mother earth is completely satisfied, and there is very little chance for Kali to infiltrate the structure of human society.’
(Bhag. 1.17.42, purport)
“As we struggle to protect ‘the last leg’ of truthfulness against the flourishing of Kali, we may think it is not possible to restore the other legs also. But as recommended in Srimad-Bhagavatam, if humanity takes part in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement, a golden age of religion will occur, even within the time of Kali-yuga.”
(From Teachings and Precepts of Lord Caitanya)
“‘Place a Sri Murti in your house.
Think that God Almighty
is the Guardian of the house.
The food that you take is His prasadam.
The flower and scents are also His prasadam.
The eye, ear, nose, touch, and the tongue,
all have a spiritual culture.
Do it with a holy heart,
and God will know it
and judge by your sincerity.
Satan and Beelzebub will have
nothing to do with you in that matter!
“‘If the divine compassion, love, and justice
could be portrayed by the pencil
and expressed by the chisel,
why should not the personal beauty of the Deity,
embracing all other attributes,
be portrayed in poetry or in picture
or expressed by the chisel
for the benefit of man?
If words could impress thoughts,
if the watch could indicate time,
and song could tell us a history,
why should not the picture or figure
bring higher thoughts and feelings—
the Transcendental Beauty of Divine Personage?’”
“What is it you want to say to us as we look into this photo? Shall we walk over to you and offer dandavats? Will you ask, ‘What are you doing here in Vrndavana?’
“‘We came here because we heard you were here.’
“‘Then?’ Maybe you think we are making fancy words and our hearts are not so fully surrendered. That’s a fact.
“‘Prabhupada,’ we say, ‘we have been to Vrndavana many times on visits, and we never met Krsna in Loi Bazaar. We chant your holy name and Krsna’s holy name. We try to serve. We live at Krsna Balarama Mandir. Hundreds of your followers from all over the world are always visiting here. May we walk behind you?’
“Pick my bushels of apples and leave them on Krsna’s doorstep. Walk away somewhat heavy-hearted because I couldn’t love. Don’t know how to break down and cry.
“Don’t know how to break pride.
“Don’t have the courage to break in and smash up anarthas or perform heavy austerities. Therefore, I compare myself to a cat sunning on the windowsill.
“Srila Prabhupada said bhakti-yoga is like pedaling a bicycle and then catching onto a truck that’s moving at fifty miles an hour. Where is that truck? Am I afraid to catch on?
“Krsna, I am writing like I chant. Down where the heart is supposed to be. Somewhat stupefied. Not eloquent. Thinking, ‘If this keeps up, I may start to get a headache.’ But this is just a phase you have to go through.”
“Yesterday, I listened to an initiation lecture Prabhupada gave on September 4, 1969, in Hamburg, Germany. One may be in any condition— pure or impure—if he remembers the lotus-eyed Supreme Lord, that person becomes internally and externally purified, suci. Suci also means brahmana. One is not a brahmana by birth but by practicing. Krsna consciousness is to purify people from their contaminated condition. By nature , a person is pure, but by contact with nature, he becomes impure. Initiation means he’s being accepted by the spiritual master so that he can be in a purified condition to understand God. If you want to enter a place, you have to be adjusted. The moon is very cold, so if they want to go there, they have to wear warm clothing. If you adjust yourself, you can go to higher material planets. In India, the climate is different. When we go to Western countries, we wear more clothes. So those who have adjusted to come to Me can come to Me, says Krsna in Bhagavad-gita. After leaving this body, you can come to Me. That’s a planet where one doesn’t have to return. That is My abode. There is no need of sunshine or moon there. One who goes there never comes back. Cats and dogs cannot take initiation. Every human being, however, can take advantage.
“Very early in His youth, Lord Caitanya gave us this maha-mantra. Whoever chants the mantra becomes purified. Everyone should keep himself in touch with the chanting. It is the only way. One who leaves this body chanting will not come back to the material world. Read our literature also. In the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says that this is the process, and by chanting, you can understand you are making progress. Students who are taking to this process know that they are making progress. Prabhupada said, ‘My request to the initiates is to please keep in contact and avoid the four sinful activities.’ Intoxication means even coffee and cigarettes. You make quick progress, and after leaving this body, you don’t come back to another material body. Anyone in this world has to suffer. The spirit soul is by nature joyful, but it doesn’t know how to become joyful. By intoxication, you may think something, but it’s not actually joyful. Spiritual life is sac-cid-ananda vigraha. It is up to you. Everyone has his free will to make a choice for God. He doesn’t interfere with your choice, or what is the meaning of your independence? Don’t misuse it. What is the proper use? Krsna consciousness. You are meant to render service to Krsna. Prabhupada said, ‘Here in Germany, you are meant to render service to the state. But now you have to make service to the whole cosmic universe.’ The conditioned state is due to rebellious acts against God. The Krsna consciousness movement is to give people a chance to become free.
“In yesterday’s lecture, Prabhupada spoke on the verse that says, ‘By serving great sages, great service is done.’ He says this means rendering service to a pure devotee, a mahat, one who is serving the Lord twenty-four hours a day. The great soul is under the daivi prakriti, or transcendental nature. We are trying to be under the guidance of Radharani. Those who are materialists take shelter of the material energy. The first stage in devotional service is to hear with faith. This is a development of appreciation. We must take the sword. Prabhupada said, ‘I started in New York, and I had the sword. But not, “Take the scripture or I cut off your head.” That is another type of preaching. I had chanting and hearing.
“The taste, ruci, comes, but not to a materially diseased person. First comes appreciation, then sadhu-sanga, associating with devotees. Next comes bhajana-kriya. He feels, ‘Why not become a disciple? Prabhupada, please initiate me.’ Next comes anartha-nivrtti, observing regulative activities and stopping sinful habits. The next stage is nistha, firm faith. And then ruci, taste. A jaundiced person takes sugar candy and gets taste. You have to go through five stages to reach taste. If you continue to hear with faith and appreciation, you come to taste. Taste means you like it. Then you can go on nicely chanting. Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada wrote, ‘If I had millions of heads, I could satisfy my desire for chanting.’ But for us, sixteen rounds is a big job because we have no taste. Taste is created by serving a pure devotee. If you satisfy a pure devotee, you get all good qualities. Even if there is low taste, we are creating taste. No one was interested, but now thousands are following.
“Krsna-bhakti is in everyone’s heart, but it is covered by dirty things. The more you chant and hear, you will become cleansed of dirty things.”
“My sixteen rounds
must be done,
my daily quota,
before I rest at night.
The chanting carries me
beyond the illusions
“of Steve Kowit’s erotica,
and from a grinding karmi’s workday
and from death in my bones.
“Srila Prabhupada started me off
by chanting the first round
on these red wooden beads
and he chanted so pure and strong
the momentum continues
tho’ the beads wear down.
As butter comes from milk that’s churned,
and as a rubbed match bursts into flames,
I hope by practice to reach spontaneous love.
“Rejoice and proclaim the greatness
of our spiritual master
who kindly gave us
the right to utter the names of God!
“‘Chant sixteen rounds,’ he said,
‘and what are the four rules?”
No illicit sex, no intoxication,
no meat-eating and no gambling.
And we are rolling on
in the protection of that order,
blessed by his initial push
and we will easily make it Home
as long as we follow.
Even our mistakes will be overcome.
“Please, energy of Lord,
forgive my mounting offenses
to the merciful Names.
Please give me offenseless chanting;
engage me in Your service.”
he returned to India,
into Calcutta heat.
For his neophyte disciples
in strangeness and sickness,
he was their only solace.
He wanted to give them
a place in Sri Dham Mayapur.
‘Is it right?’ he asked a Godbrother,
‘that they are loitering
in the streets of Calcutta?’
Taking a few men
and setting out for Mayapur,
he got only as far as Navadwip
when floods turned him back. ‘Maybe,’ he said,
‘Lord Caitanya doesn’t want us
to have land in Mayapur.’
But Lord Caitanya willed it
and the land was acquired,
adjoining Bhaktisiddhanta Road
very near His birthplace.
“In England he called together
talented devotees to plan
a building for Mayapur.
He himself gave the full idea.
A residence-palace for devotees
and for the Deity of Radha-Madhava,
the Mayapur building,
to get the best breezes,
would be the first of many.
When someone criticized,
“Why don’t you build a temple first?
You can’t have devotees
living in the upper rooms
with the Deity below!”
He replied, “I build
for the devotees first,
because the devotee is greater than God.
And as for living above Him,
the road is also Krsna,
so why do you walk on the Krsna-road?
‘In our temple
we are worshiping Krsna
in a marble hall with chandeliers,
and one day we will build the actual temple.
Then you will see!’
His first structure in Mayapur
he planned from his pure mind,
putting the plan on paper.
It would be pink and copper-toned
trimmed in yellow
with Rajastani arches,
a long flat roof,
and surrounding gardens—
a palace on the Ganges plains.
He planned an entire city
with the Temple of Understanding
bigger than the U.S. Capitol
or St. Peter’s of Rome.
The whole world will be drawn
to Sri Dham Mayapur
to worship by appreciation
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
a vast ceiling like the sky,
with models depicting the universe:
the lower, hellish planets,
then the middle planets (including Earth),
then the demigods’ planets,
then the Spiritual Sky,
and at the top—
the eternal planet of Krsna-loka,
full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss,
where Krsna and His dearmost reside.
Any visitor—and they would come
from every country—
that here was the spiritual world
They would be awed by the colossal architecture,
charmed by the beauty of the gardens,
impressed by the social planning—
a city peacefully providing all human needs.
And an inquiring visitor
would hear deep, scientific knowledge.
sumptuous Krsna prasadam,
theater, dance, literature,
crafts, agriculture, ecological engineering—
a living example of good government
with everyone contributing
to please Krsna
and to instruct others
in the knowledge of the soul
and the soul’s service to the Supreme.
“‘I was talking with Srila Prabhupäda when another devotee brought in a tall glass of tea. I accepted it, but Prabhupada said, ‘Why are you drinking this tea?’ He used a semi-reprimanding tone. I replied that I was taking it because a devotee had offered it to me. Prabhupada said that tea is for taking if you have a cold; it is not to be taken otherwise. I was holding the glass of tea in my hand, and instead of just putting it down I looked at Prabhupada and said, ‘Then I shouldn’t take it?’ I was thinking it really wasn’t so serious and that unless Prabhupada really insisted, I could go ahead and take it anyway. When Prabhupada understood my mood, that I wasn’t really taking the whole thing very seriously, he chose to be lenient and said that I could take it this time but not again. I didn’t want to sit there and drink it slowly in front of Prabhupada, so I drank the whole glass down very quickly. Then I began to feel guilty.
“‘Then after drinking the tea, while I was talking to Prabhupada, my face began to perspire profusely and I felt embarrassed for that also. Prabhupada appeared to flow along with everything, and I had a strong sense that he was just tolerating me. I knew that he was never compromising in his principles, yet I felt that it was very wonderful that he was willing to experience new, different things in different people and that he was a very lenient and flexible person. I considered this part of his greatness, and I think it’s mainly because I knew that he actually, inwardly, was not making any compromises at all. But we all felt grateful and enlivened with the way Prabhupada was interacting with us and relating with us.’ (Mukunda Goswami)”
“‘A person who believes in a utopia, especially of a social or political nature; a visionary or idealist.’
“It’s a good word, but as often happens to such words, it gets bandied around in spiritual movements, politics, and economics. Everyone has their own version of utopia, but worse, most people have become cynical. Utopia has become something silly and unattainable.
“For example, one apostate devotee who used to work in ISKCON’s public relations department wrote a paper called ‘The Fading of Utopia.’ He described how ISKCON, with its vision of a perfect society of pure devotees and world reformers and its sense of being the only correct human beings on this planet—that utopian vision—has faded. It has been jaded by reality. He said that too many leaders have fallen, and too many devotees have become corrupt. He wrote this paper to attest to his own fading idealism just before he ditched the whole movement.
“That’s what I mean. In modern usage, ‘utopia’ usually means something foolishly idealistic and impossible to attain.
“What are the alternatives to idealism? Is it foolish to defend ourselves against the claim that there are no Shangri-las in this world? Those who tear at utopian ideals say the world contains only ordinary people, and that religious movements can only be filled with them. Therefore, they say, there is no point in trying to raise ourselves above the ordinary, no point in claiming one truth over another, one form of God over another.
“It is not foolish to defend ourselves against such statements. Why? Because there is the truth, and it is absolute. The spiritual world exists, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead exists. We prefer to look toward that world and that Lord, rather than the world of ordinary people and ordinary religion, where the Vedic scriptures have to be measured against the vision of Emerson and Allen Ginsberg. In fact, when I saw that very same apostate some years later, he said, ‘I no longer accept the Vedic scriptures with their pat explanations of the nature of existence. I prefer a more romantic view of reality.’
“Romantic? So now he quotes Emerson and Ginsberg instead of Vyasadeva and Prabhupada. To hell with that. ISKCON may not fulfill our hopes for a utopian world, but at least it’s trying to understand what it is, admitting its imperfections, endeavoring to feel its own sincerity, clinging to the standards of purity, and reaching toward the goal of a perfect society—a society of persons who reflect the values of the perfect, eternal spiritual world.”
June 1st was wiped out for me. I had an all-day headache and couldn’t think of writing my story.
“From Hare Krsna dasi’s welcome letter, which she left on the desk for me in their house:
“‘I hope that you like the garden and will feel free to use it . . . Unfortunately we cannot do anything about the weather (it has been very wet lately), but I hope the hut will be a useful alternative to outdoors when it is raining . . . There is a family of rooks nesting in the chimney stack (not in the chimney pot – the fire can be lit without disturbing them). The babies are very noisy when the parents come home with food, so I hope they won’t disturb you too much. We couldn’t “evict” them!’
“Another devotee here wrote me about how they’re progressing in their community relations. He told me how one devotee has been trying to maintain a false image of his advancement. Recently it has been dismantled, and everyone is relieved. Describing the various steps that this took, he writes to me:
“‘From time to time he was caught out. On one occasion, when D. walked into the house where F. was studying alone and surprised him. F. threw a packet of crisps he was eating onto the floor, under the desk, where they couldn’t be seen. But the problem was D. had seen him throw them away! Eating crisps, of course isn’t really a crime, and certainly the devotees here wouldn’t take issue with it, but deliberately trying to conceal it, that’s the crime.’
“For myself, I keep thinking that trying to hide the crisps is a human thing and not a crime. Of course, a whole network of trying to cover up discrepancies might be called a crime, but if for the time being we are doing something we shouldn’t be doing, and we hold it from others, it seems only natural. Maybe it’s also a part of privacy, not only to be alone to do noble things, but to not have the government or community privy to everything we do and to every weakness. In this particular incident I would say that eating crisps was worse than trying to hide them.
“Thinking of what I might write in the two weeks at Geaglum. I tell myself that right now, I don’t have to come up with anything. I am recovering from the two days of headaches incurred on the trans-Atlantic flight. Staying in Uddhava’s house. Lots of interruptions. People come by for different reasons and some of them drop me a letter. I try to reply as soon as possible to get it out of the way. We are each doing what we can to contribute to Prabhupada’s movement. Thank you, thank you. This one alone, those ones together.
“He looked out the window and saw the rook on the chimney where he heard they have their nest. They are only a few feet apart, him and the bird. The rook didn’t seem to like the proximity, so he flew away. But the man in the magenta sweater had seen the eye of the rook and the crow-ish body, and he’d heard from his hosts that the rooks were living there. When the parent birds returned to the nest with food, the babies made a lot of noise, and it’s nearby. Rooks are not pleasant singers, not thrushes or cardinals – more like crows. But they said they could not evict them. A nice sentiment of ‘live and let live.’ I will participate in it too. But I don’t know what I will write and Wicklow doesn’t seem the time and place where I’ll figure it out. I did have an idea of someone speaking in the third person, but as I say, it’s not very clear. No one to talk to about this. Trust in the process. Go there before June is too old and write what you can . . .
“He is still tired from the flight over the ocean. Doesn’t want to go to Dublin to see the statue of a half-naked Mollie Malone or the pubs or the claustrophobic streets. Not even thinking that there is some treasure hiding in a bookstore that would tip me off to a persona and a direction for my book. (There, I slipped from he to me pretty quickly.)
“It’s actually 11:20 P.M. on June 2nd, but I’ll count it as a new day. I lay awake thinking about what to write. Seems I want to allow (discipline) myself to do more writing and without particular structure. I know this has its limits, but it’s the most direct way to increase writing output and put trust in the process. That is, just schedule yourself more periods for it and ‘go’ without waiting for the right ideas. It’s classic writing practice. Let’s see if I can still do it. I like to produce something that can be published in a big block as a whole work, but . . . I don’t at present have something like that which simultaneously allows for the hand to keep writing.
“Something about the Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam makes me not able to turn to it as a full-time work. It’s methodical how I go from verse to verse, take up the questions and field them, and then do the free-write which is a performance meant to improvise on those themes. I’ll be doing it again, but it’s not the rawest writing.
“Perhaps Basic Sketch Book, but even there, without emphasis on graphic art that has to spot the pages.
“You are aware that much writing could be a vain pursuit, egotistical. The way to check that is to read Srila Prabhupada’s books, and that’s a way to combine writing and reading. You could (1) read for a while without interruption and later write extended free-writes without interruption, or (2) keep a freer schedule without even noticing so closely how much you read and how much you write, but always be doing both as Srila Prabhupada said he did in the Bowery loft – he wished he had more than twenty-four hours per day to do it without fatigue, ‘something reading or writing, something reading or writing.’
“Yeah, I’d like to try that. Need a better lamp in here. Three days in Wicklow and then move on. As for calling the writing something, I don’t know why that’s so important. Forgetting the Audience was a good one. I guess the title helps your imagination and gives you a sense of a general place and direction on the map. Just start out in June in Ireland. It’s a ‘June Bug.’ ‘June Bug’ means you fall in love in June. The ‘June Bug’ by which one decides to get married. There are so many marriages in June. Is that because it’s a ‘June Bug?’ Are you bitten?
“Wish you’d get bitten by a bug to read C.c., chant japa with devotion, and write of it? Hare Krsna.
“It’s the same thing.
“A high electric whining sound comes on and off, mostly on. It could be the sound of Nature, some bird or bugs out there, but it sounds like electricity through an old telephone line.
(to be continued)
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.