In the very early years of ISKCON, Swamiji personally acted as matchmaker in marriages. In 1968, I was living in the small Boston storefront temple with two other devotees. One was a girl, Jadurani, and one was a brahmacari, Pradyumna. And I was also a brahmacari and the temple president. One time when we Boston devotees visited Prabhupada in New York, he asked to see me and Jadurani. He right away asked us to marry each other. We immediately protested and said we wanted to remain unmarried. Swamiji remained firm and said we should get married. I said to him, “Do you really want us to get married?” He said, “Yes.” I thought I had to surrender to his order, but Jadurani continued to protest that she wanted to remain a brahmacarini. I said to her, “Swamiji is asking us to get married. We should surrender.” She temporarily accepted his order, although not at heart. Devotees congratulated us and said it was a good match, but it wasn’t. All she wanted to do was paint all day, and she didn’t accept my authority as her husband. After some time ISKCON Press managers decided they wanted to move to New York City, and this meant the art department would also go with them. I didn’t like the idea of their taking my wife away, but she insisted that she needed the artists’ association for inspiration. So she moved to New York, and I didn’t see much of her after that. A year later, I moved to Dallas to start the ISKCON Gurukula, and this made us more estranged. After a couple of years, Prabhupada announced that he wanted some of his GBC men to accept sannyasa. I wrote him and asked him if he would award me the renounced order and he wrote back yes, I should come to Los Angeles, and he would give me sannyasa. So I wrote a letter to Jadurani informing her that I was going to take sannyasa. I assured her that she was a better devotee than I was and that she would be happier staying with the artists in New York. So that was the end of my short marriage.
I am hearing of devotees breaking up their marriages and getting divorced. This is completely against the Vedic way and the varnasrama system. Prabhupada called marriage “a license for sense gratification,” but the austerity is to stay together and never separate until it’s time for vanaprastha. Often when grhasthas separate, they have young children, and this can be a great disturbance to their lives. In the beginning of the movement, Prabhupada was enthusiastic about making grhasthas out of boyfriends and girlfriends. He personally took part in the marriages. But when the couples started breaking up, he became disgusted and withdrew from making marriages.
Sometimes I receive letters or interview grhastha disciples where one partner is more serious in devotional service, whereas the other partner is stubborn and doesn’t want to change. Occasionally I’ve been successful in mediating and giving advice that they should both surrender and make their lives Krsna conscious. But sometimes I can’t change the unfortunate situation. It seems it will take an act of God before the less-obedient partner will give up their attachment to material ways and live more like an ideal married couple. Prabhupada didn’t get much involved as a marriage counselor. He preached equally to husband and wife and asked them to surrender. When a wife complained to Prabhupada about the behavior of her husband, he said, “We have to forgive and forget, or else how can we live?”
I’m preparing for my speech at the July 3rd Festival held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Pavillion. I plan to tell how at Viraha Bhavan we read together every day for two and a half hours. About fifteen devotees take turns as we’re going through the Srimad-Bhagavatam now. I’ll speak on sections that we have already read. It’s an easy way to prepare a lecture, but it should be interesting. It’s a relief to again meet together in person after a year of lockdown when we couldn’t be together due to COVID. Now we can turn our attention to krsna-katha and live kirtana.
Paramatma from Guyana has sent his wife Nrsimha dasi and her twenty-year-old daughter to come and help out for five weeks. This is a great boon to our understaffed ashram. Dina-bandhu and Surottama dasa drove Nrsimha dasi and Gaura Priya, from the airport to our ashram. The men then repaired the back steps of Bala’s house. Nrsimha was particularly happy and enlivened. She brought many gifts from Guyana. It was like Raghava carrying a bag of preparations that his sister Damayanti made, and he presented it to Lord Caitanya. She brought several fresh vegetables from their garden, and baked pine tarts and pone (a kind of cassava cake). She also brought coconut oil, cane juice, dobs (fresh coconut water), several chutneys, and chidwa.
Nrsimha dasi is a surrendered soul and a good worker (cooking and cleaning, etc.). She will also take up service in our pujari department. We actually have a big department for Deity worship, with many arca-vigrahas and a high standard of worship. Krsna dasi has been doing it alone, but she welcomes qualified help. Krsna dasi’s motto in her service is “cleanliness,” and she works hard to maintain it. Nrsimha devi will be a good support in this seva, so we’re very glad she and her daughter are here. Their added supported is a treat for Viraha Bhavan.
Muktavandya from Boston showed up at Stuyvesant Falls without announcement. Being the surrendered person that he is, he immediately agreed to stay on until Krsna dasi returned from the New York Ratha-yatra. He brought flowers, and he is cooking, cleaning and sharing good humor. Mukta also relieved Baladeva by going out on errands, especially to the farm to pick up milk.
In our our-loud reading, we are hearing from a Seventh Canto section called “The Supreme Lord Is Equal to Everyone.” In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says He descends to this world to protect His devotees and annihilate the miscreants. Hearing this, people claim that Krsna shows partiality towards His devotees. But the fact is Krsna responds to anyone who is constantly thinking of Him or saying His names, even in enmity. The demons that Krsna personally kills when He comes into this world gain liberation to the spiritual world. So Krsna is partial to no one, but whoever thinks of Him constantly, in any mood, gains great benediction.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing about the increased animosity between Hiranyakasipu and his five year old son Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu asks his saintly son what is the best thing he has learned in school. Prahlada replies that rather than staying in the dark well of household life, one should go to the forest and practice austerities. Hiranyakasipu laughs at this and says, “Thus is the intelligence of children spoiled.” He turns Prahlada over to his teachers, Sanda and Amarka, and they try to interrogate him and find out where he learned these Vaisnava teachings. But Prahlada doesn’t give them information. He doesn’t tell them he has learned from Narada Muni, who became his spiritual master while he was still in the womb of his mother. Sanda and Amarka continue teaching Prahlada about politics and diplomacy, and when they think Prahlada has reformed, they take him to his father again. Hiranyakasipu asks the same question: “What is the best thing your teachers have taught you?” Hiranyakasipu expects Prahlada to reply what he’s learned from Sanda and Amarka, the sons of his guru. But Prahlada Maharaja prefers to answer from what he’s heard by Narada Muni, his real spiritual master. He describes the nine processes of devotional service, beginning with sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam, hearing, chanting and remembering the Supreme Lord. This time Hiranyakasipu becomes furious, and he pushes Prahlada off his lap. He says his son is his enemy, and he orders the demons to kill him. The demons come forward with choppers and strike the tender parts of Prahlada’s body. When this leaves him unharmed, they revert to any means of torture in an attempt to kill him—they push him under the feet of elephants, they throw him off a cliff, they push him among poisonous snakes, and employ other methods. But Prahlada remains peaceful in trance, remembering Lord Visnu, and he is unharmed. Hiranyakasipu becomes morose that he cannot kill his son. But the two demoniac teachers, Sanda and Amarka, tell him not to be so disturbed. They say Prahlada is just a child; when he grows up, he will gain proper intelligence and change his views.
Then Prahlada starts teaching his schoolmates, the sons of demons, what he has learned from Narada Muni—the teachings of Krsna consciousness. The boys are very submissive and not spoiled. They eagerly listen to Prahlada and become Vaisnavas, chanting and dancing with him. When Sanda and Amarka see that the entire school is being converted to Vaisnavas by Prahlada, they run to Hiranyakasipu and tell him the news in detail. Hiranyakasipu becomes infuriated, like a snake that has been stepped on. He calls for his son in great anger and demands to know where Prahlada gets his power. His little son replies that he gets his power from the same place that Hiranyakasipu gets his power, from the Supreme Lord. This reply just increases Hiranyakasipu’s fury, and he says he is personally going to kill Prahlada. Hiranyakasipu says, “You have always spoken of a God who is more powerful than me. I want to see Him. Is He here, in the pillar of the palace?” Prahlada replies, “Yes, the Lord is present everywhere.” Hiranyakasipu then gets down from his throne and delivers a mighty punch to the pillar. Out of the pillar comes a tumultuous noise that is heard all over the universe, and the demons, as well as the demigods, are afraid. Then out of the cracked pillar leaps a wondrous form, half-lion and half-man. This is the incarnation Nrsimhadeva, and Hiranyakasipu realizes that He has come to kill him.
Yesterday we had an appointment with a doctor, an Indian man named Peter D’sa, M.D. I already had had a test for my tendency to choke and cough while I drink water or eat food. At the hospital I ate small portions of food which had barium in them, and they said they saw no suspicious signs that I had blockage. Dr. D’sa was a followup visit.
Dr. D’sa is scheduled to give me an endoscopy in mid-July. He will give me anesthesia and then pass a scope down my esophagus past the stomach and take pictures of it. He is investigating a procedure I underwent three years ago when I had a stricture (where the esophagus gets restricted due to the scar tissue from acid reflux). The previous doctor put a scope down with a balloon attached to stretch the scar tissue from the acid reflux. He said it would probably last a few years. That was three years ago, so perhaps we need new work in that area. This is all to prevent aspiration where food or liquid would enter the lungs and cause an infection leading to pneumonia. I have had pneumonia several times, and a recurrence would be no joke. Pneumonia is the biggest killer of senior citizens. They get weakened by other diseases and conditions, but it’s the pneumonia that finishes them off.
Yesterday around 9:00 A.M. Baladeva suddenly started bleeding from his leg. It wasn’t painful but it was profuse, and there were puddles on the kitchen floor. He put a bandage on it to stop the bleeding but was in denial about the actual condition. After six hours, he took the bandage off and again the profuse bleeding continued. He phoned his primary caregiver, who told him to go to the emergency room. Baladeva went there and had to wait two hours in the emergency room before the doctor finally saw him. He did the same thing that Baladeva had done in the morning: he cleaned the area, put on antibiotic cream and a pressure bandage to try to get it to close up. It was diagnosed as a “popped varicose vein.” They don’t heal so quickly. If he had had a varicose vein pop in his head, he would have had a stroke. He was discharged from the emergency room and is back home now. But he has to be careful for a few days not to bump it or scratch it. A blood spot has appeared underneath the bandage. But he feels it’s beginning to heal, and it’s starting to itch.
ISKCON devotees have been successful in entering the yoga world and presenting the path of bhakti. But there are some drawbacks. Sometimes in deference to the yoga people, the devotees pay more attention to asanas and other yogic methods than to pure Krsna consciousness the way Prabhupada presented it. We wonder if he would be pleased by all the teachings going on in ISKCON’s mixing with the yoga people. They chant mantras other than the Hare Krsna mantra, and they sing mantras from other sampradayas (which Prabhupada never did). It reminds me of the story of a Hindu who went to eat at a Muslim’s house but didn’t get enough to eat. He lamented, “Alas! I have lost my caste, but my stomach isn’t satisfied!” Devotees who conduct sanga in yoga circles should be certain to present Krsna as the goal, the way the Lord expresses it in Verse 6.47 of the Bhagavad-gita, where He says that of all yogis, he who worships Him with all devotion is the most intimately united with Him in yoga and is the highest of all. Yoga without Krsna consciousness is a failure.
“ . . . In each of the disciples’ meetings I’ve been citing references and speaking on the same items: (1) Living in Vrndavana; (2) reading sastras; (3) japa; and (4) our spiritual master/ disciple relationship. On the last topic I always read something from one of my books. My point is that the best way we can relate is by their reading my books. Only in my writings am I able to be most honest and intimate. Last night I read from the first chapter of Radio Shows. It ends with the words, ‘This has become the assumption of my writing life and the code I live by.’ In that session I describe my participation in a harinama party in Verona, Italy. My perceptions were those of the mechanical man, not very deep, but then I assert that it’s worthwhile to write any experience in order to preserve the moment. Rather than lose, lose, lose, dyur harati vai pumsam.
“‘. . . An artist wants to hold onto what happens between sun¬rise and sunset, and if he can write it down, it will be saved.’
“I like this spirit. Here in Vrndavana I feel that I’m not preserving as much as I’d like. By following this code I have faith that life is not just trash or a series of trivial events. ‘Although I can’t feel it when I walk on the street with the harinama, still, I know that even if I describe the mechanical level of existence, it will be meaningful. The essential Krsna conscious impressions will be beautiful and worth saving.’ This is especially true in Vrndavana. At least I’ve accumulated a good number of pages in my weeks here. I look forward to traveling to Delhi, the long plane flights to the Caribbean, my stay in Trinidad, and going to Guyana. It’s all worth saving, even though I’m in the mundane world, and my Krsna conscious insights are not deep. I’ll say it again: it’s worth saving. As Prabhupada said about his own writing, he gets up at midnight and writes because he must, he has to. He has taste.”
“Little waves do come, and then I know I’m in Vrndavana. When I leave, my main regret will be that I didn’t love this place and its residents. But I don’t want phony trends or a ‘bhava’ of the imagination only. In that sense, this visit is real. I mainly want to come back with a proper attitude. I think only by going away from this strait-jacketed life of temple obligations will I be able to read Prabhupada’s books more steadily. So the Vrndavana mood, loving Krsna, may be better attained by leaving. Today an ISKCON guru will arrive, and his secretary has already invited me to lunch tomorrow. I don’t want to go. Another leader is phoning me from abroad, probably to get me to cooperate with his side in a controversy, and I’m lying low from another big Godbrother—letters and requests pour in. People suffering. ‘My heart is full of pain,’ she said. What does she mean?
“‘The school needs a new headmaster. What do you think?’ I don’t think.
“‘Come see my newly installed murti.’ No thanks. I’m not up to it and don’t want to make a farce: ‘He looks cute. What’s His name?’
“‘Come lecture to the children in our writing class. We like to invite ISKCON writers to come share their realizations about the craft.’ I don’t know the craft. I wouldn’t be a good influence on your junior craftsmen.
“Arrogant sonofa . . .
“‘So-and-so is making huge amounts of money.’
“‘What is my varna?’
“Eating food cooked in butter is not good for you. Why don’t you do yoga?’
Vraja, Vraja . . . twenty-four-hour kirtana. Look it up in his books.
“You see what I mean?
“Room alone before 9 A.M., sounds
distant. Open your mouth, shut it, saumya.
Open-shut case. He’s a nervous
wreck. A lazy piece. Too many pies
burning in gut.
Four, four. Two, two, his
room number. Give up the key when
you leave in
two days plus one and a half.
Then where do you go? When do you return?”
“Vrnda I’m plumb out
realize I love Krsna
somehow and tulasi. Oh, chant.”
“Bell ringing 12:30, caw caw elephant hand? No, little hand of me
little bell, moment gone Swami, Prabhupada is in his rooms and I’m with him dying—got a long (a little) way to go. Not long now. Hang on to the rail.
“Walking over to MVT buildings to give last disciples’ meeting—met the bright warm sunshine. How nice! Small monkey on ledge of one-story building and me with strong pole in my hands. I read about leaving Vrndavana from Wild Garden (1992), on reading Srila Prabhupada’s books from Cc. Asraya, and on japa from Begging For the Nectar of the Holy Name. Didn’t talk much in between. I didn’t read sections I had lined up as examples of the intimacy of the relationship through my books. I said it’s too intimate to read to a group. It’s just between each one of you and me when you read my books. In this way I honored the precious relationship of reader and author. You can only go so far in an out-loud reading with such a large, diverse group. Anyway, some of them know, and I know.”
“List of things to do in last afternoon in Vrndavana:
“(1) Make this list.
(2) Feel nonverbal.
(3) Feel nothing to say.
(4) Think over.
(5) Get a book like Easy Journey to Other Planets to read on the plane.
(6) Think in the vein of fictive lists (A Fictive Diary, Nemerov).
(7) Think, think, drink, drink.
(8) ‘Vrndavana! Vrndavana!’
(9) Say jaya.
(10) Answer letters.
(11) Avoid a headache.
(12) Maintain. Heart-beat.
(14) Be confident your 4 P.M. class will be okay.
(15) Think of Trivikrama Swami.
(16) The lot.
(17) Be here as crows and parrots caw and screech your last day over.
(18) Sneak-away plan—keep it.
(19) Moneybag pouch on wall—get it down.
(20) O ladies and gents, I tried to be a guru. Don’t suck at my ear.
(21) I am the kitty in my dream—hurry, lick up the milk from the floor, get down and do it.
(22) Sorry R.R., I love you anyway.
(23) I’m going to stay fit.
(24) Phone, phone, write letters, notes—prove something.
(25) Make prayers to Radha and Krsna—please give me strength to serve my guru.
(26) I can’t go to his room, go to Radha-Damodara, Nandagrama, Yamuna. It’s too late. I couldn’t taste it if I went anyway, but it would have been good for me.
(27) Look out the window down into the edge of the prasadam hall—line of six devotees sitting on green mat facing a brahmacari who’s giving them a class. His hand gestures.
(28) Just outside the prasadam hall in the February afternoon sunlight, small tulasi in a pot on a table. Worship her.
(29) ‘But Prabhu, this is a list of things to do. You’re just talking about things that are.’ Yes, because to be is also as good as to do. There’s nothing to do but just carry out your duties as faithfully as you can.
(30) Vinay Aggarwal became Varuna dasa, and his sister Madhu became Madhumati.
(31) Looking for the bag to put my sleeping bag in.
(32) Waiting the last hour, chanting a round.
(33) Watch Prabhupada’s clothes dry.
From the front cover flap to the book Every Day, Just Write: Volumes 1-3:
“The cover depicts life at Lough Erne, North Ireland, where most of this book was written. The climate at Lough Erne changes constantly, and I watch it from my window—that wonderful, beautiful vista of sky, land, and water, untouched by modern civilization.
“In my drawing the sun is out, but Rahu waits to eat it. Rahu is the dark planet, a disembodied head that retained its life because it drank the elixir of immortality. It is Rahu that causes the solar eclipses.
“As there is the sun and Rahu, so there are two forces alive within us—the force of light and the force of darkness. We do not yet live in pure love of God. We have not defeated our dark planet.
“Still, Krsna is always with us, and our sun will emerge from behind Rahu’s shadow. Although our eyes are sometimes eclipsed and we lose our Krsna conscious vision, such illusion is temporary. Our relationship with Krsna will again open in our hearts if even during moments of darkness we go on serving, go on waiting for the clouds to pass.”
“I am a writer, and Every Day, Just Write is my book. All writers must sacrifice to say what they want to say. I have sacrificed the rope that binds me to any one form in writing. Rather, I have allowed myself to write diary, then to go beyond the usual diary concerns about self in order to sink the deeper self into life itself, into scripture, and into the holy name. My health and temperament do not allow me to write with the burning intensity to convince my audience of my point. They do allow me to burn with the desire to spend everything I have and am when I write, and to spend it in this roomy book, the one big book of my life.”
“I don’t advocate that devotees talk about the details of the material world just because that’s where we’re at. We don’t want to stay at Brooklyn College or in the Manhattan subways forever. But what to do if we can’t simply leap to Goloka? We’re in Bhakti-devi’s camp, preaching to each other in our khadi dhotis. We know the spiritual potency is real, but perhaps we haven’t realized it yet. We are still repeating perfect knowledge while hoping to one day understand it.
“Things appear real here only because Lord Krsna, true reality, exists eternally in the spiritual world with all His transcendental paraphernalia. We have already purchased our tickets to go there. Therefore, we sing at the departure gate.
“Reading Srimad-Bhagavatam I think of many
things, also not all connected
with the sports and
teachings of the Lord.
But I’ll be OK, delivered
by virtue of holding the book,
The Indian brick – covered volume with
dust-jacket art of Goloka emanating
brahmajyoti light and the Vaikunthas
and down under a cloud,
the material world.
“ . . . When I first read this as a young man, I awakened to my path. Now I continue to imbibe it. There is nothing else to do but read Srimad-Bhagavatam. I hold onto the particular verses and purports for a while, then read on. Do I retain anything? Some impression? Maybe. It seems to come unstuck from my mind and flow into forgetfulness, so I read it again, pointing with a pencil along the page, left to right and down, guiding myself, reading aloud. I am trying to stay with the Bhagavatam, not abandon it for those other thoughts, those distractions. I keep it up for a while, then take a break.
“Why do I hesitate to say that I am
Hearing a bhajana loudspeakered
outside our ISKCON walls?”
“Don’t make a mockery of
by adding your name to the list.
You don’t dare.
I’ll explain, ‘This is
not intended as a joke
or a serious attempt at
It’s not a take-off,
or minimization of what
the great commentators have done.’
Then why have you dared?
Because He sent it to me in
my room in Vrndavan when
I prayed and I submitted to
Vrnda-devi in Kamyavan.
I asked Srila Prabhupada,
‘Tell me what to do,
Although you know I’m a madman,’
And I got this quick response.
“Prabhupada writes, surprisingly, about spiritual sex life (adi-rasa) at the end of his first Bhagavatam purport. He says that because sex is so prominent, it must be real. Its true feature, however, isn’t found in this world but in the spiritual world, free of material desire. ‘This Srimad-Bhagavatam will gradually elevate the unbiased reader to the highest perfectional stage of transcendence.’
“I may say I’ve read the Bhagavatam quite a few times in my life and therefore I’m ready to study spiritual adi-rasa. Some devotees hanker for it, but I have decided to start again with the First Canto. That feels right to me. (That’s perhaps another virtue of free-writing—it gives me release and also reveals the reality of my immature state.) I’m satisfied to read Prabhupada’s books, provided I can be myself and work out the details of what his purports mean to me here and now. I guess you could call that a virtue too, if you know what I mean.”
“O Prabhupada, whose pastimes and phrases of speech decorate the lectures of all his learned followers; O Prabhupada, whose disciples are always saying ‘Prabhupada said’;
“O Prabhupada, who preached krsna-bhakti for many decades in India while carrying out the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as a grhastha; O Prabhupada, who then outshone all sannyasis by carrying the message of Lord Caitanya to America, leading the way with kirtana in ISKCON;
“O Prabhupada, who took morning walks beginning just before sunrise, who installed Radha-Krsna Deities around the world, and who led American and European young men and women in blissful dancing and chanting in the parks and streets;
“O Prabhupada, whose activities are appreciated by demigods and by eternal associates of Lord Krsna; O Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna having taken shelter at the lotus feet of the transcendental Lord;
“O Prabhupada, who brought liberation and bhakti and maha-mantra and Krsna into the English language, and who brought puris and halava and dal and sabji into the Western diet, and who didn’t insist that his followers shave their heads and wear robes and saris, but whose disciples wanted to change their jeans for dhotis and wanted to wear tilaka and kunti-mala for pleasing you;
“O Prabhupada, may we please you despite our many faults, may we please be included in your sankirtana party, and may we always chant Hare Krsna mantra, while completely disdaining illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication.”
“The impersonalists fail to understand Your personal form. In Bhagavad-gita, You say that the fools (mudhas) deride You when You appear in Your personal, humanlike form. They do not know Your supreme dominion over all the universes. Your impersonal form, the shining effulgence of the brahmajyoti, is but a pale reflection of the beauty of Your personal form as Govinda or Visnu. Only a rare, fortunate soul knows You in Your personal form. As You state in Bhagavad-gita, out of millions of souls, only one knows You in truth.
“How is it that we are so fortunate as to accept You as Govinda and reject the speculations of those who think You are something void or impersonal? It is Lord Caitanya’s mercy and the mercy of His followers (acaryas) in disciplic succession. They have informed us—as You have also directly informed us in Bhagavad-gita—that You are a person with all the attributes of personhood that You have bestowed on Your parts and parcels. The sastras state, nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. (Katha Upanisad 2.2.13), both the Lord and His innumerable expansions, including the living entities, are personal and eternal. The only difference is that we are all infinitesimal and maintained, and You are the infinite maintainer.
“I thank You for saving me from becoming a Mayavadi or atheist who does not believe in Your personal form. Srila Prabhupada’s pranama-mantra states that he has come to save the Western world (and the whole world) from the delusion of nirvisesa (impersonalism) and sunyavada (voidism). The so-called religionists and spiritualists of the world are rampant with the mayavada concept that the personal form of God is a material illusion, but acaryas like Prabhupada in disciplic succession have rescued us from this dangerous, misleading philosophy. If one thinks of You as merely an imperfect force and not a person, he has no chance of liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Even if one reaches the apex of spiritual discipline and knowledge of impersonal Brahman, he has to fall back down to the material world if he does not take shelter at Your lotus feet.
“So we (all the followers of You and Caitanya Mahaprabhu) thank You for saving us from the ignorance of mayavada and situating us as personal servants of Your Lordship. Even if we are but neophytes in personalism, we are safe and can cherish the hope of joining You in the spiritual world after this lifetime. Otherwise, our position is doomed, like a man with no goal except the position of being a lost particle of light in the impersonal effulgence of Brahman—a position considered hellish by the true Vaisnavas.”
“Scientific issues in general tend to be very complicated. Devotees like Sadaputa Prabhu have made extensive presentations of the Vedic version in scientific terms, and their work can be studied to get a better understanding. Prabhupada wanted the scientists within ISKCON to confront the issues, but he also warned them to remain faithful to the Bhagavatam version:
“‘Regarding detail of the universe, be satisfied by reading only Bhagavatam. What is the use of reading other books—you are not going there. . . .
“‘Simply keep faith that whatever we describe, that is a fact. After all, we are insignificant creatures in the universe, so whether you take to modern scientists or Sukadeva Gosvami, it is inconceivable. It is best to keep the faith in Sukadeva Gosvami because actually our only business is to go back home, back to Godhead. So whether Sukadeva Gosvami or the modern scientist are right, or wrong, it is nothing interesting to us. We want to go back home, back to Godhead. Yanti mam yajino ‘pi mam.’
“Logic and scientific support may be used as tools to both understand and preach on these difficult issues. Using the jargon of the scientific community is a way to present Krsna consciousness in an authoritative way to persons who lack complete faith in the scriptures. Prabhupada wanted scientific support for his statements. He asserted the Vedic statements as fact, not theories that absolutely required proof from the scientists. But if Vedic knowledge is presented in the language of science it will be more acceptable to the mass of people.”
“After writing this down, I feel meditative. I look at Madhu and Ganga and think, ‘We are still eating some of the remnants of Prabhupada’s prasadam and touching some of the same worshipable objects he left behind.’ We promise each other to be true to the experience.
“I also sense that I need to meditate more like this. It’s fantasy really, but it made me feel Prabhupada’s presence very strongly. It has value. It can help me cope with my life in separation. May these meditations bathe my parched heart and give some pleasure to the devotees. Srila Prabhupada moments should be shared.”
“The ground is always being cut out from under my feet. I have no laurels to rest on, no stock of praises to create complacency. Whatever encouragement I receive is immediately consumed by the hungry, temporary ego-self. He knows that he cannot live on praise—it gets him through today, but what about tomorrow? I am perpetually impoverished. Let me live the life of a brahmana. Whatever he gets in one day he must give away in charity by nighttime. In that way, he starts each day fresh. His pockets are empty but his heart is clean. He knows Krsna is maintaining him.
“A proud person who lives in the world without personally recognizing God’s will and His desires for us wastes the human form of life. Regardless of what our past karma has given us in this life, the material energy continues to deceive us and delivers us cruel blows of Fate. In the end, we are discarded, just like a plastic cup thrown onto the garbage heap by the consumer. Material nature is merciless.
“No one knows how to end this decay and accumulation of garbage and waste known as human history. No one even knows what it is, although there is so much speculation. The Vedic directions inform us how the destruction works, why it so happens that we live and dream a brief while and then are chucked aside. Vedic directions also inform us how to become free of bitterness, cruelty, and greed so that we stop torturing each other during our brief life in these bodies. Although the Vedic social model was recognized successfully in history for thousands of years, modern historians deny its authenticity and relegate the Vedas to the world of mythology. Without knowledge of the Vedic instructions, how can anyone become free from the cycle of birth, death, disease, and old age?
“Srila Prabhupada is the representative of Lord Caitanya. He specifically came to the West to teach us how to live properly and happily and in God consciousness. Therefore, he wrote many books to act as guides for social and spiritual order. He pushed his disciples to distribute his books widely so that as many people as possible would have an opportunity to hear the reality of Krsna consciousness. Again, we can only be grateful to Prabhupada in the face of such an achievement. And we patiently serve and wait for the day when his books will become the lawbooks for mankind.”
“Prabhupada’s books are filled with ‘shoulds’:
“‘One who is twice-born should reside in the gurukula under the care of the spiritual master. There he should study and learn all the Vedic literatures. If possible, the student or disciple should reward the spiritual master. . . . (Bhag. 7.12.13-14)
“‘A sannyasi should travel from one place to another, passing one night in each village. . . . The sannyasi should travel all over the world. . . . A sannyasi should avoid carrying anything but a danda and a kamandalu. (Bhag. 7.13.1-2)
“‘A grhastha must associate again and again with saintly persons. . . . Thus one should gradually become detached from affection for his wife and children, exactly like a man awakening from a dream. (Bhag. 7.14.3)
“Some of the ‘shoulds’ in these injunctions are not absolute but are given according to time and place, like the order that a sannyasi should always carry the kamandalu. In the West, walking around with a lota at all times makes no sense, and Srila Prabhupada never expected us to do it. Other ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ may be taken as goals and not always as immediate orders to be fulfilled.
“‘You should associate with devotees if you are a grhastha businessman.’ There may be so many reasons why this seems impossible, but this is the nature of austerity. It is not easy to perform. But on the order of the guru you carry it out, or at least work toward that end.
“Srila Prabhupada says, ‘you should’ or ‘you must,’ although he knows we are not capable of living up to every injunction immediately. We may never be capable of living up to every injunction. So he says, ‘Just chant Hare Krsna in the mood of Lord Caitanya. Do not be attached to the body, palatable food, a good reputation, or peaceful home life. Love Radha-Krsna.’ He has given us the biggest ‘should’ to compensate for all other injunctions. He has given us the essence of Krsna consciousness and told us to concentrate on following that one point.”
“‘In normal health, a devotee should chant his sixteen rounds and then be prepared to do anything and everything all day in the service of Krsna. So if you are recovering your health, then any action which contributes to that, such as exercise or extra rest, is in a sense more important than any added attention to chanting.’
“Reply from a japa booster: ‘But one of these days I had better learn to chant expertly. And I have to do this before it’s too late. With all respects to your gradual health recovery, preparation for the time of death is top priority.’
“Japa is such a basic and profound indication of one’s spiritual life! One cannot force its progress suddenly by instant reform. It’s like trying to turn oneself into a pure devotee at once. Enthusiasm and patience. The cycle of improvement may take years in my case.
“One big problem with japa is an obvious one: the same short mantra is repeated constantly. The unfriendly mind tends to reject this as an unsatisfying engagement and thinks it must do much more than simply pay attention to the repetitive sounds. So it is a battle, and there is no question who wins—just by creating a battle, the unfriendly mind disturbs successful chanting.
“Remedies: with intelligence we have to regularly cultivate philosophical appreciation of the powers and benefits of chanting. Thus we can fight back and sometimes drive away the atheistic challenge that the chanting is not sufficient engagement. Intelligence gives discrimination; we must remember our constitutional position as eternal, blissful souls and how we have lost this position. We must now recognize our dangerous predicament, how we are liable to die at any moment.
“We should hear accounts of great chanters like Haridasa Thakura and their appreciations of the holy name.
“We should chant at the best times of the day—primarily early morning, but at other times when circumstances are favorable, even if only for brief times. We should arrange our lives so that chanting has a chance to flourish.”
“We may ask how these sastric prayers are relevant to the lives of we ordinary devotees who haven’t seen the universal form as Arjuna did, and who have not performed Dhruva’s austerities in order to gain the darsana of the Lord.
“One application, as advised in The Nectar of Devotion, is to recite prayers when we go before the Deity. Prayers should be regularly recited. Regarding the ‘Hymns of Lord Brahma’ in the Brahma-samhita, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati writes, ‘Readers are requested to study and try to enter the spirit of this hymn with great care and attention, as a regular daily function.’ The key here is to enter the spirit. As the great devotees prayed, we may pray. We may pray with them. This is done not by imagining that we are Lord Brahma, but by empathizing with him and with the pastime in which he made his prayer.
“Although we are not as great as those whose prayers are contained in Srimad-Bhagavatam, we are the same in quality as spirit souls. We are also servants of God, and we have the need to worship Him and to thank Him. If we slowly and carefully recite their prayers, we will benefit. We cannot simply rattle them off with no attempt to make them our own.
“Certain prayers seem to be meant for us, addressed to our needs, or they say what we would say to Krsna if we could express ourselves. Each of us should find our own favorites and enter their spirit.
“Practice them, memorize them, live with them, use them in real situations. Surrender to them. When we enter the spirit of a sastric prayer it is as if we are saying, ‘O great devotee, you please pray for me. You know the Lord far better than I do. As you ask for forgiveness, let me do that also, praying with you in your stotra.’
“Especially for expressing higher sentiments of devotion, such as the love of Radha-Krsna, it would not be possible for us to pray without having these uttamaslokas, so kindly given to us in the scriptures. By reciting these prayers we can associate with Lord Krsna in vandanam.”
don’t be sorry
you’re not a Lord Brahma.
Be satisfied to serve.
“Lord Brahma showed us
the pride and the fall.
Contrition saved him
(after Krsna’s force
completely perplexed him);
he fell flat like a rod.
And it was Krsna
Who showed him pure Vrndavana,
where everyone loves Krsna
in simple village ways:
Mother Yasoda gives Him her breast milk,
boys wrestle and dance with Him,
girls yearn to see Him
as He returns from the fields,
playing on His flute.
“Simple devotees are best.
We who are puffed up
must pass through
a fire of contrition
and give up our attachment
to scepters and crowns.
Becoming poor at heart,
we will see ourselves as puppets,
and beg to Srila Prabhupada,
‘Please, give me a menial job.’”
“For years in India, Srila Prabhupada had traveled in dilapidated autos, and he often had to borrow cars. But as his movement grew, he felt it was not right. ‘We are spending crores of rupees to finish this Bombay construction,’ he said, ‘but whenever I arrive at the airport, I am picked up in a borrowed car. What kind of impression is it to the life members that we always have to approach them to borrow their car?’
For years, the car was discussed and contemplated, but it never appeared. Later, Prabhupada received a letter from a disciple in Europe who said that he would purchase a Mercedes for Prabhupada in Germany and drive it to India. Prabhupada sent him a telegram, ‘Yes, purchase Mercedes.’ At that time, the devotees with Prabhupada in India said that they had heard the devotee was going to purchase the car with money from Prabhupada’s book fund. Prabhupada said this was like a famous story. A guru went to his disciple’s home and was greeted very elaborately. When he inquired how it was possible for his disciple to afford such nice arrangements, the disciple told him, ‘Gurudeva, everything belongs to you.’ Later the guru saw that he had no money left in his own bank account and he could understand that the disciple had spent all of his guru’s money.
“Prabhupada ordered that his disciples should not purchase a car for him with money from the book fund and then claim, ‘Prabhupada, everything belongs to you.’”
“‘Eager to claim this body and house as my own, I am very pathetic. Pleased by worship from the people, I am pathetic Blossoming with happiness to hear a few words of faint praise, I am pathetic. Even though in my hand rests the eternal splendid fruit named Vrndavana, which even goddess Laksmi and the great demigod Siva cannot attain, I still refuse to taste it.’ (Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 12.12)
“I am pathetic. I can’t enter Vrndavana.
“I want to say, ‘Accept Vrndavana as it is,’ but I’m not qualified to do that. Actual Vraja means Radha and Krsna sporting on a swing, in the river, at a game of dice. When I say, ‘Vrndavana as it is,’ I translate it into Vrndavana as I perceive it in my extremely limited way; the place where day after day there is no electricity; the place where my body is always sweaty and the bathwater brown and salty.
“Don’t deny your good fortune in the name of modesty or the cynical habit of chopping down all good things. Don’t cut down this auspicious young tree of hope of living in Vrndavana.
“‘Take me to Vrndavana. I will pass my entire life there placing myself at the feet of the great souls who are the crest jewels of all saints, and from whose mouths flows the nectar stream of the sweet transcendental pastimes of the dear lover of Sri Radha.’ (Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 12.55).’”
“If one prays for one theme song or maha-vakya instruction, it might be this: ‘From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.’ (Bg. 6.26) I realize this is not a rasika sloka. Sounds like yoga, meditation. One ‘should be’ thinking of Krsna and Radha, impelled by the higher taste. There is also the concern that by vociferous japa and the attainment of mental control, one still won’t think of Krsna.
“Chanting is meant to arouse love. We have to start with faith in the holy name. Bhaktivinoda Thakura said that the whole panorama of Krsna’s lila will unfold from harer nama. I am aware that the goal of life is to be immersed in Krsna—in His qualities, name, form, and pastimes. I am also aware that I am on a low level—I am mad, a victim of mental torpor. But I cannot neglect harer nama. I cannot neglect the main instruction of my spiritual master.
“I am also aware that sravanam has a broader application than just chanting on beads. There is kirtana, reading, hearing lectures, and talking with Vaisnavas.
“‘Hearing of the transcendental activities of Lord Krsna is therefore expert treatment for the mad mind, and eating the foodstuff offered to Krsna is the appropriate diet for the suffering patient.’ (Bg. 6.35, purport)
“This is a three-week crash course (two weeks left) on surrender in japa. I won’t have such luxury later to only chant. Take advantage and pray for help.”
“Passed out again, sitting at the desk. Picasso. Pass out salt and filigrees.
“There was no way morning consciousness. We hope you ain’t got tonsillitis or diphtheria. She almost died, and not with devotees surrounding her, just stevedores and parents and a priest not of her religion. Why didn’t the authorities allow people of her own religion to enter as she was about to die? I said, ‘Maybe it doesn’t matter so much. What matters is up until the very end of life, what you practice.’
“I wouldn’t want to go to jail. Keep slipping off awake-thought to the unconscious. Contact the unconscious.
“The scripture tells that Lord Krsna’s absolute and should be worshiped for ultimate effect and not demigods. Do you believe it? That’s a test of your faith. G.M. We both have birth in impious families, but we can be rectified, he said. Let us take shelter. Let us invite you; come to a shindig.
“Old members are replaced by new until they too are disillusioned. Maybe. Speaks open in this and he’ll be punishable . . . ISKCON.
“Now you speak. Yeah, while I realized the Hare Krsna movement is an aid to surrender, but it’s not the pinnacle. Anywhere you are, be . . .
“Hear the beating of the rooks’ wings in my room. They might come into my room.
“Better call it quits if you can’t do better than this. Everybody’s reputation subject to revision.
“There’s no use not telling the truth. Please be Krsna conscious. Get up early and chant, and if you question, why should you do it all. We ought to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s got six out of ten votes.
(2) wire fence
(4) behind eye-pain
(5) no gymnasium around here or pure oxygen to breathe in a bottle.
(8) June bug philosophy. Look in the slang dictionary and see.
(9) M. and I talk it out to improve our relationship. It ought to be light for quite a while. At least I’m out here. We’ll see what develops.
“Read how . . . they give a speech on accepting the Nobel prize. Faulkner said, ‘Man will endure.’ Mother Theresa said, ‘Stop abortions.’ And I say the same, the barefoot man in the wet winter sod. Good-bye. The years will be here. Summer ahead and we have a month.
“Sounds to me like Uddhava and his wife are working in the garden. That’s all right. My peripheral vision imagines toads and stuff. I will have to stay awake and write.
“Maybe the air wasn’t good in that hut and that’s why I keep passing out, but M. and I are still suffering the effects of jet lag. Oh, lag behind, lag, lag. Slag too. The cat is old and the black hair on the back of the spine thinning and reddish. She still meows for food, the same, sharp, white teeth. ‘I’m not going to give you anything.’ Ask Hare Krsna who is tending to the nursery beds. As for me … I am false-teeth-waltzing my way back into the house of mouse of cup of water tea. I am not about to tumult the world, but seek peace behind a garden screen even if it isn’t grown up yet. And if the rainy season obscures the moon when I wake up at 9 P.M. and again at 10 P.M., well nothing I can do about that. Look up at it, finally get up, don’t put on any light, and chant your first rounds of japa by whatever light comes through. Covered sasi moon …
“This will be all we can do. I’m afraid there will be no more. M. and I have discussed strategy. He advises me to put none of that in this narrative. Impulse to write silly things I repress, but if it’s important . . .The strategy of how come I am importing my used van into Ireland, me the non-driver/writer who wants to make Dublin his base, but go here and there in cottages and hide, always provided for by my Irish friends so I can write more books like this Prabhupada, which indicates under the “About the Author” that he was born in 1939 as Stephen Guarino. So, you see, your honor, your constable, this is the proof and if you’ll accept it, I invite you to stop with me in the pub and I’ll stand drinks for both of us. M. thinks it will be easy enough to “sign on.” Then we will just drive off to the north for the day and commence the two-week writing retreat. Which is already underway in the Wicklow chapter.
“June Bug is certainly not a respectable title – it has no particular meaning for transcendence, and it’s not even materially fitting. But it came to mind. Now I know only that the world outside my own imagination and instinct considers the June bug just a fat, scarab-like beetle that damages new plants. What has that got to do with me? You see, he’s a scarab. He was important in the theology of Carl Jung. He had a dream of a scarab, I seem to remember, the sacred beetle. Then you have the Fab Four, the Beatles. Maybe what I was really thinking of was ‘love bug,’ in which case the whole June Bug is a mistake, a name-de-error, but I will stick to it anyway. June Bug is like a character in a Marvel comic book who chases away the forces of evil, such as the ‘Amazing Spiderman.’ The June Bug cruise crusades over the crops and demons. Just occurred when we were looking for someone to start and give us a lift. It was he who came and we respect him for that. Pass it on. June Bug.
“It does sound like romance, but if so, I mean it as the love for a writer’s life, and the return to affectionate reading of my spiritual master’s books.”
“Twenty-five minutes to midnight. Here is the first installment of June Bug for today, written before headaches come. The life, story and times of me. The bug and bug’s crawl.
“I read a little bit in Bhagavad-gita 9.3. Importance of faith. A Godbrother has passed away. He taught advanced subjects. One of his disciples wrote me, ‘What is my bhajana now?’ I said, ‘Do whatever your spiritual master taught you. Serve in separation now.’
“But here I am on the basic tenet – faith whether God even exists. Srila Prabhupada puts it so well: ‘Unfortunate people, even after hearing all the evidence of Vedic literature from great personalities, still have no faith in God.’ There is a verse by Yamunacarya similar to that, addressed as a prayer to the Supreme Lord. I don’t want to be faithless. Srila Prabhupada speaks of someone who comes to practice Krsna consciousness for a motive. After a while he goes away. You need more than preliminary faith. You also need knowledge of the scriptures. You need to keep moving forward or you’ll slip down if you stay at the lowest rung.
“‘It is only by faith that one can advance in Krsna consciousness.’
“I also need faith in my own writing service, but not blind arrogance that whatever I write or draw is great. Had an incident in a dream on that. I drew a picture (on top of an existing picture) and someone commented that I thought it was great. I said, ‘No, I don’t claim that, but the means (the experience of doing it) was intense.’ That much I can claim and enjoy. But even that has to be motivated as purely as possible for service to Krsna. And that takes faith in the process.
“Dare I compare the writing process I am embarked upon to devotional service? It is my service for better or worse. Persist in this folly and become wise. Faith.
“Don’t blaspheme the devotees, yourself or others. Weak in the head, I have to stop this writing soon and sit more quietly in the room, all lights out and let the moonlight be our only light and the lightness of this June night, which in the northern hemisphere is such that even at 11 P.M. or 12 A.M. It is never completely dark. Sweden is topmost for this. June 21st is the longest day. But I can’t fill up all the light hours with prose and song and dance.
“I grow older and ration it out. Don’t do time-serving bhakti like the Mayavadi. ‘Have firm faith that krsna-bhakti or service to Krsna is the best course and so in good faith you have taken it up.’
“It’s a story of sorts and I ask you to keep it up.”
(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.
Read more »
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.