At the July 3rd festival I’m distributing five new books that my disciples have never seen before. There is a tension between asking them to pay for all the books or to just give a donation for whatever they can afford. I don’t want to come off as a high-pressure salesman. I’ve decided to ask $5.00 as a donation to get one book. I’ll ask them to please take two books. If they can afford it, they can take the five books and donate $20.00. We only have a small amount of books that were printed (approximately 40 books each), so we’re sure to sell out. Although we are expecting about a hundred people to be in attendance, and a high percentage my disciples, some of them are not. Because all the people who come are expecting me to speak something Krsna conscious, I’m selecting sections that are completely within the Krsna conscious canon. Some of my most recent books, which I’ll be distributing sometimes, in some parts, veer over the line of being KC canon, and I don’t want to read those parts. For example, I’ve selected to read excerpts from The Story of My Life, where I tell how I first met Srila Prabhupada. I’ll also read a selection of haikus I wrote in Vrndavana, with prose commentaries explaining why I wrote them and how they are Krsna conscious. I had already picked out the poems I intended to read, but now I’ve changed my mind. It’s a big audience, and even some of my Godbrothers are coming. So I want to be sure I give them something Krsna conscious. Some of my most recent books are daring and experimental, avant-garde. So I’ve decided to pick out a new selection, including exerpts from The Story of My Life, Volume 1, where I tell how I first met Srila Prabhupada and poems I wrote while residing in Mayapur and Vrndavana.
John asked me if he could make an announcement at the festival. He’s going to man a big book table with many of my books, and he’ll be there to introduce the devotees to the many different volumes. I will be presenting the five new books, but he’ll have plenty of other titles. I gave permission to John to make his announcement, but then I had mixed feelings whether it was appropriate. I mentioned it to Baladeva, and he said yes, it’s appropriate. The devotees will be so distracted that anything we can say to them about a book table and the distribution of books will set it in their minds. This whole festival is focused on book distribution. We are setting the prices so low ($5 per book), and so we are focusing on distribution, not money collection.
My request to my disciples to receive my books applies not to just this one festival on July 3 but wherever they may be. If they are not at the festival, they can order the books by mail order–through John Endler or Amazon. We’re not even asking the devotees to read the books. If it’s not convenient for them to read a book, they can give it to an interested person—someone they think is a potential reader. If they do that, it will make me very happy at this stage of my life.
Dhanurdhara Swami kept coming up to me and saying what a wonderful success the meeting was. More than a hundred people attended. It was great seeing them all come out from their lockdown situation. We made wearing masks mandatory for everyone, and even my Godbrothers and myself wore them. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, his wife Saudamani dasi and Sraddha dasi all arrived late and missed my talk. But Jayadvaita Maharaja was close by for my short speech. I said that reading my books is a very intimate exchange and is best done not by reading out loud to a hundred people, but by each individual getting a book and reading it for themselves. I said the Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard used to dedicate his books, “To that individual who is my reader.” I said that even when I pass away, the best part of me will remain, my books. John Endler was present with all of my books spread out on a book table. He made an announcement inviting people to come to the book table and get book. We asked for a donation of five dollars per book. There was lots of kirtana led by Rama Raya’s Yuga Dharma group from New York City. Aside from kirtana, all the people got a chance to talk to each other. It was a very relaxed mood. Nimai Ananda sponsored a feast, and Anartha dasi and her daughter, Syama dasi, made a separate feast for me and my guests, Godbrothers, etc. The sound system was good, and our big neem Gaura-Nitai Deities looked beautiful on Their flower-decorated altar. Seventy of my paintings were displayed, and several were purchased. (Guru dasa set up the paintings in the hall nicely, and that’s why we were able to sell so many.) The people at the gathering did not eat and run but lingered on. Bala from Trinidad had a dedicated crew to help him set up the pavilion and break it down when the event was over. In previous years he had to do all this by himself. But now there was a crew to help him set up and clean up afterwards. When I left, most of the crowd gathered to see me off in my car. They stopped their conversations and spontaneously began chanting Hare Krsna. It was a warm sendoff.
I was very pleased with the book distribution at our July 3 meeting. We sold approximately 400 books, which is the most we’ve ever distributed at an event. It was a great addition to have John Endler at the book table. He knows the books thoroughly, and he helped the people and directed them to what they were most looking for. His presence made a big difference. In terms of book distribution, kirtana, feasting, painting sales, etc., this was the best festival we have ever held.
I’ve noticed a slight, slight improvement in my Parkinson’s disease. Baladeva pointed it out to me. I used to have to dictate out loud to my feet to get them to move when I was standing. I’d say, “Right foot, move!” But yesterday I was able to move both of my feet without speaking to them. When I noticed it (when it was pointed out to me), I thought, “Hey, I wasn’t able to do that before.” We were grabbing at straws in going to see the neurologist, and it looks like we’ve caught one, at least. I just hope it continues to improve. I’ve been taking the pills for six days now, three pills per day, and Dr. Kozer said I should be showing some improvement after about six days. I don’t expect any quantum leaps or dramatic changes, but I’ll be happy if I can see subtle shifts toward the better.
Jayanta sent me a short video of his teacher doing chair tai-chi. He wore a sleeveless shirt, black boots and a cap. His arm movements were very graceful and powerful. I am waiting for Jayanta to visit me and give me my first in-person lessons.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing the activities of Matsya, the fish incarnation and King Satyavrata. Satyavrata was performing acamana when he saw a tiny fish in the water in the palm of his hand. He compassionately placed the fish in a jug of water. But the fish immediately expanded in size and said to Satyavrata, “This jug you have put Me in is not suitable for Me. I need something bigger.” Satyavrata then placed the fish in a well, but He immediately expanded and plaintively asked the king to give him a bigger place. The king placed the fish in a big well, then in a river, and finally he placed him in the ocean. But the fish said to Satyavrata, “There are dangerous sharks in the ocean. Please give Me protection.” Matsya then gave instructions in the Absolute Truth, while swimming in the waters of inundation. King Satyavrata and the rishis all became enlightened by Matsya’s speaking from the Vedic literature, and they were confident that they had received the Absolute Truth (bhakti-yoga) from the Lord.
The temple president of ISKCON Boston wrote to me and asked if I could participate online (on Zoom) on the 50th anniversary of the installation of their Radha-Gopivallabha Deities. I replied yes, that I could do something, although my memories are sketchy. Prabhupada very kindly came to install the Deities himself. By now, he was an international preacher, Founder-Acarya, starting big projects in India and going all over the world. Boston was no longer a very important temple. But he so kindly complied to my repeated requests that he come to Boston and install the Deities. I felt it was a personal gesture on his part to reward the devotees for sticking out in cold Bean Town, where the weather was cold and the people were cold. We were living in the old “mansion” in Allston, Massachusetts. We rented a VIP suite in the Sheraton hotel for him, but he refused to go to the hotel, saying that it was a brothel. We didn’t have nice quarters prepared for him in the temple, but he agreed to stay and told me that, as a sannyasi, he was prepared to go anywhere and didn’t require special opulent quarters. He came in the summer of 1971 . Gauri devi dasi was the head pujari, and she dressed the Deities in Prabhupada’s presence. The clothes wouldn’t fit, and she had to do last-minute sewing. Prabhupada wasn’t angry and accepted everything graciously. I was the priest during the installation ceremony, pouring liquids in abhisekha on Radha and Krsna, while Prabhupada sat on a mat and read from the Brahma-samhita verses. After the installation ceremony, Prabhupada came back and took darsana of the Deities. I stood beside him. He asked me what did I think the devotees thought about the Deities. I said, “They love Them very much.” They looked so beautiful and charming, and Prabhupada was pleased.
I am planning to publish a book that I wrote over twenty years ago, The Best I Could Do. Krishna Bhajana and his wife Satyasara d.d. have transcribed it and made many editing changes and caught mistakes and brought it up to a quality that is ready to print. It’s a free-writing book. In different chapters I have written what came to my mind spontaneously. Sometimes I’m contemplating whether I should write fiction, or I’m quoting a poem by Mary Oliver, but not much direct reference to Srila Prabhupada. (I’m going to write to Jayadvaita Swami and tell him I’m embarrassed that I gave him free-writing books written over twenty years ago.) But I like The Best I Could Do.
I met with a disciple of mine who has been out of touch for over thirty-five years. He is very favorable toward me and has memories of the time we spent together in Vrndavana and Ireland. He doesn’t chant any rounds, but after meeting with me he said he’s going to start again. He read aloud with us at the out-loud reading session from Srimad Bhagavatam. He read well. I complimented him and he said since he was young he was always advanced in his class in reading. So I welcomed him back into the fold. He has a brother who lives nearby in Chatham, New York, and he said he might move in with him and come by and visit us more often. When he comes he can perform services here.
The prodigal son came again for lunch and asked me many questions. We have to train him in how to relate to me. He shouldn’t ask philosophical questions, or “guru-stumpers,” during lunch. (Yesterday he asked me, “If the Ganges is so holy, why is it polluted?” I replied that the Ganges is not polluted [although the Yamuna is]). He worked in the garden with two other devotees and went shopping with Baladeva. He paid for the groceries they bought, although he is not a monied man but lives on Social Security and food stamps. It seems that we’ll be seeing a lot of him. We welcome him back to the family.
A disciple asked me what was my relationship with death. Has it changed over the years? What is it now that I’m in my 80s? I replied that I’m really not ready for it, but I think about it every day. Every day I pray to Krsna that He take me wherever He wills, and that I accept it. I reminded him of what I said in my July 3rd speech: even after I pass away, the best part of me will remain—my books. So in a sense, “my relationship with death” hasn’t changed over the years.
I am so grateful that we distributed four hundred books on July 3rd. As Brahmananda said when his autobiographical book had been published, “Now I can die in peace.”
Srila Prabhupada showed us the stark reality of death by his own passing away. He told one of his disciples, “Don’t think that this won’t happen to you.” He fasted at the end and said his condition was like Hiranyakasipu when he fasted and performed severe austerities: life remained in his body, although his body reduced to skin and bones. Prabhupada demonstrated to us a noble passing away, giving instructions until the end, and then silently withdrawing into himself. As his disciple, I pray that I may follow in his footsteps.
I have had some difficulty adjusting to my Guyanese disciple’s cooking. I have asked her to cook every day a simple kichari and a preparation of spinach. She can prepare one other sabji, but that’s all. I think that will be nice. In general, I like varieties of cooking during the week, not every day the same thing. But I like the kichari staple. I have made a list of about twenty different meals that I prefer and that can be rotated by an expert cook.
“One poet (Heissenbuttel) wrote a list of all the things he would be homesick for:
“‘For the clouds above the garden in Papenberg
for the small boy that I was
for the black flakes of peat in the bog
for the smell of the highways when I turned 17
for the smell of footlockers when I served as a soldier
for the trip with my mother through the desolate city
for the spring afternoon on small town train platforms
for the walks I took with Lilo Allendorf in Dresden
for the sky one snowy day in November
for the face of Jeanne d’Arc in the movie by Dreyer
for the canceled dates on old calendars
for the cries of the gulls
for the nights without sleep. . . .’
“Sounds musical and poignant, we agree, and we probably all remember similar moments in our lives that allowed us to empathize, to enter a moment of emotion. A poet’s job is to evoke empathy and emotion. Let’s become poets of our own lives and fill our lines with the particulars of moments in ISKCON, common acceptance of what we have been through, even the superficiality we have felt in our hearts.
“Don’t cut those moments down. Don’t reject him. O Lord, we are petty children who demand Your love and who know it because we are unqualified and lacking in desire (laulyam), You don’t appear fully when we chance Your name. You see our restless spirits, our pettiness, our desires for power and fame. We know better; these are all material pursuits, and they end only in the grave. Useless profits. But we lack the courage and confidence and humility.
“Still, You are kind. We let go and touch the moments we have experienced, taste the small emotions we have felt, and aspire for more. We follow the schedule. Time can only be lived in small measurements, a bit at a time, as You allow.”
“O Swami, O boss, O ruler of me, you know my tendency. I am weak, a wiseguy, a monkey jumping, and I cannot manage men and money, but I love you.
“ . . . I don’t know—maybe it’s good. If I go all the way in writing life, it can count as work for you. You said in 1976 in Vrndavana that your Guru Maharaja didn’t give disciples the opportunity to be idle, and neither did you. Don’t claim ‘I can’t go out, I’m chanting all day.’ No, you said, ‘Go out and work hard and sell books!’ Well, I work hard at this wooden desk—as many hours as possible.
But one day . . .
Nicanor, give us a line
hip poet slant against door, heavy vibes,
“No, I am not at peace. ‘Shine! Shine!’ Dago black clothes, shoeshine men on Staten Island Ferry, and me with magazines inside a brown paper bag inside my Brooklyn College gym bag, along with books on French and Spanish and Shakespeare and English romantic poets and Geology I and II. I wanted good grades. I hated my father and his ignorance. I didn’t know anything yet.
“You dope, you hadn’t even begun to smoke pot. You were still drinking beer at the Swiss Chalet. I remember you now. I got you by the throat, your full length black overcoat your parents bought you, them both looking at it and you in the mirror. Then you got that three-quarter length, stylish Greenwich Village black coat to replace it. Didn’t wear that old one anymore.
“Banish these thoughts! Clear a new path to peace. Put it in your book. It doesn’t belong in a nice man’s house or that of a qualified Bhagavatam hearer or reciter.
“Or does it?
“Ease yourself and take your Nature Cure massage. Think over how to again become a nice sadhu, deep and peaceful. Bring yourself to approach the Bhagavatam and read and write as you have been trained all these years.
“May we live to pen many volumes and in the process surrender and become pure devotees who only speak the truth.”
“I honestly conceive of, imagine a place
where sages just speak the truth
and no ordinary mortal poet is allowed
to go like a rat newspaper reporter
to later write down rancid lines.
“Naimisaranya is an actual place,
near Nimsar railroad station
where today . . . I need to go there in my imagination—
any quiet time. I’m there—in suit and tie?
No, I’ll wear khadi always now that
I’ve re-discovered it, the perfect cloth
For the saffron Hare Krsna monk.
I’ll wear Indian-dyed khadi
and sit in a half-lotus no more than
forty minutes at a time
and hear the angels speak—a
figure of speech meaning that the divine
speaks through Suta’s latest
“He says, ‘Krsna,’ he says, ‘atma,’
and I listen to whatever he says.
Then in this vision I have, I
become transformed into a
better person. I love others,
I’m not afraid. I even
cure my indigestion and
headaches for awhile
(although flesh is mortal and pained).
I hear with faith and
devotion for Krsna and His
parts and plenary parts.
I like it very much and I
don’t forget it, some of it.
Krsna blesses me with
the desire to preach
whatever I’ve heard.”
“‘When chanting the maha-mantra, we are completely safe, even in this most dangerous position. In this material world, we are always in a dangerous position. Srimad-Bhagavatam confirms: padam padam yad vipadam na tesam. In this world, there is danger at every step. The devotees of the Lord, however, are not meant to remain in this miserable, dangerous place. Therefore we should take care to advance in Krsna consciousness while in this human form. Then our happiness is assured.’ (The Path of Perfection, p. 152)”
“What’s on my list and how does it look in the light of the Bhagavata?
“Dreams. I wake up nowadays and grasp only fragments. Remembering dreams is not a practice I give time to, but dream life can be compelling. When I do remember a dream, I ask, ‘What does this say about my Krsna consciousness?’ I think the dream may signify the fear of transmigration and the threefold (or fourfold) miseries.
“Other list items: Things overhead, epiphanies.
“I can’t work a list.
I don’t have the gumption.
It’s too long, too short, too heavy,
each one could be a whole
report but too personal and what
connection does it have with
Prabhupada and Visnupada and
prolonged use of the Ganges?
“I first saw the Ganges from an airplane
when I was 33 years old.
Before that I had always lived in New York City.
My mother’s mother and father came from Ireland.
My father’s mother and father came from Italy.
My list then was Elvis, devil’s food cakes,
sugar, and unmentionables.
I learned what a scum bag was
when some kids and I were playing
hooky sitting in a tree and we saw
the bags floating in the pond below.
I learned all sorts of things from
the kids during recess in the
dirt lot outside the wooden school.
“So my list—New York Daily News,
the top song hits from Alan Freed’s show—
is not so good for seeing by the
light of the Bhagavata.
The Bhagavatam would kick it out.
Tear down and shred and burn your
list and start a new one
from sraddha to sadhu-
sanga to bhajana-kriya.
“Is it right to destroy things?
Was it right to toss a thousand pages
of writing into the incinerator in the hallway of
the 26 Second Avenue apartment building,
my agony poems, ‘Li’l Chaos’
and the short novels I wrote?
Yes, it was right.
Started a new life,
new lists, maybe,
but they still include at
least something of the past.
I admit I’m tainted.
How else will I demonstrate that
Bhagavatam can uplift the fallen?
I can’t prove Bhagavatam is my
constant life and soul ever since I
was born. I was not given an infant’s
choice between Bhagavatam and coins.
Can’t sing a Bhagavatam verse in five tunes
as Raghunatha Bhatta did, so that even the
animals cry when they hear it.
But I can testify—
A hell-bound, eclectic reader now
enters Bhagavatam daily.
My list? Later.”
“(1) Preparing for the time of death.
(2) Losing passport.
(3) How far away the reality of going back to Godhead seems.
(4) Devotees in Rome temple sitting down after 10 P.M. for extra pasta snack.
(5) Picking blackberries in stainless steel pot in Great Kills, late 1940s.
(6) Whole concept of writing about childhood or adolescence and how it seems off limits because it’s ‘maya.’ And yet it’s part of my life.
(7) Influence of Zen Buddhism, the ultimate turn off to it.
(8) The loneliness of the writing life.
(9) ‘Don’t tread on me.’
(10) The question of money: how much do you need and what do you do to get it?
(11) The human illusion that life will go on more or less like it’s going on now. Not living as Prabhupada said to live, ‘with death at your front.’
(12) Members have ISKCON subculture talking about the earth changes that will take place with entirely new geography and survivor populations in America, and the people from outer space who told them this and who are ‘okay.’
(13) Assuming attitudes which are not my actual attitude at heart just to make a literary pose of apparent spirituality, broad-mindedness, or just to have a niche in the world.
(14) Avoiding Vaisnava aparadha—a serious business, not just a theory or philosophy.
(15) Faith in sastra and my own simple faith. Arguments against agnosticism and atheism.
(16) Letter from a Godbrother in Barcelona, vituperative attack—said anyone who considers you humble is in ignorance.
(17)Morning walks in the country or the seashore. How blissful. Walk with a cane.
(18) Slave to the clock, to the schedule.
(19) Swamiji, Swamiji.
(20) My sister.
(21) How karma-yoga, as described in the Bhagavad-gita verse yat karosi, is not pure devotional service, but I sometimes tried to say it was.
(22) The Australian artist about whom Baladeva sent me an article, who spent his last years living in a shack on the beach and painting. Madman.
(23) Episodic technique in Mahabharata, Victory at Sea, Don Quixote.”
“He taught how God
doesn’t have to be
perceived in fear as someone
wanting to cast you into hell.
“Instead He appears as Sri
Krsna, a darling cowherd boy
. . . the ultimate musician, friend, lover.
He taught him that Srila Prabhupada was
Krsna’s perfect representative and
that the purpose of life was to serve.
“He said as his brother was leaving his body
a friend told him to
think of Krsna. He had lost
the ability to speak,
but he nodded his head, ‘Yes.’”
I woke up late at
4 AM and rushed through
Two rounds to get to this
poem it’s home, but I
have to think of what to say.
In any case, praise Krsna.
“It is not too late. Don’t
Get into a panic over that.
Praising Krsna is always apropos and your
unorthodox approach can
be accepted if it’s sincere.
“Although askew, he
waved the incense at
Radharani’s feet and to the
Others praying divine
insight although not
in regulated form.
He prayed for a long
life and true allegiance
to the Divine Couple
and Srila Prabhupada.
They are lenient masters.
and will accept your homage
even if offered in a behind-
I do bow down like a
soldier with his gun,
like a monk in solitude.
This was not a regular journey,
but I declare it was offered
in sincerity and plain sight
of the authorities, a little
ruffled but well-intended.
You are in the right place
at the lotus feet of
Krsna, a tiny part and
parcel, grateful for the
parampara grace which
doesn’t desert you even
in a hurried poem.”
Up at two grinding
them out in vaidhi
bhakti, eyes closed and
opened racing the clock.
all get done before 4:00 A.M.
but no time to complete your
“When Vidura went to meet
Maitreya it was expected he
would ask him about the
qualities and pastimes of
Lord Krsna but instead he
started with a common question—
“How to find happiness in life?
That was because he was asking
on behalf of the general mass
of humankind who don’t know
the difference between spiritual and
material. Later he would ask
directly about the Lord.
“I started a little writing on
a new project just one page
something about internal life but
I don’t know if I can keep it
Bhakti-rasa has written
me a letter reminiscing on the
time he spent here in Dec.-
January when I went into the
hospital, and he read to me a
book by John Steinbeck on
World War II and Aindra’s
book on harinama sankirtana.
“It’s sweet that he has
a personal bond with
me, but it’s not likely
I’ll read the book he
sent me by Steinbeck
about King Arthur’s court.
“The poem is personal
and surcharged with music.
People don’t read poems
much compared to prose.
The difference is the poem
is melody. It focuses
on Krsna, who can only
be understood by hearing
from a pure devotee.
Bhurijana wrote me, ‘Prabhupada
was from a different realm,
wasn’t he?’ and that’s true.
“He was always absorbed in
Krsna consciousness and intent
on glorifying Him and
convincing you with logic
and scripture to accept Him
as the summum bonum. I
have accepted Him entirely,
and the Vedic way is mine.
My poem is Krsna
“Satyadeva dasa was saying that in the future, gurus won’t have to constantly distinguish themselves from their previous guru. They will come and manifest themselves as Krsna’s representatives to their own disciples and win their hearts, and their guru’s guru will be a little removed to them. We often heard Srila Prabhupada say he was the mere servant of his Guru Maharaja and we accepted it, but we didn’t really think of him as being overshadowed by his guru—I mean, we never thought, ‘I wish I could have taken initiation from his guru, since he recognizes him as greater.’ We knew that was his humility and his greatness, that he was the servant of his guru—but he was coming as all-guru, all-preceptor to us, quite on his own.
“In my case, as I’ve said, my only achievement is to please Srila Prabhupada and to be invested by him with Krsna’s mercy. There is no question of someone staying in disciplic succession thinking, ‘I am doing nicely and am in association with Prabhupada’s books, his service in sankirtana, his disciples’ leadership’—and yet not being initiated. That is a misunderstanding. The conclusion is, the ISKCON gurus are completely dependent on Srila Prabhupada. He’s not just the parama-guru; he is everyone’s Founder-Acarya, jagat-guru.”
“ . . . Haridasa Thakura got up to leave, and
the bosses of Gopala Cakravarti kicked him out and
dismissed him from their
service. Within three days that
brahmana was attacked by leprosy
and his nose melted away and fell off
his toes and fingers all withered and fell away although
Haridasa did not take seriously the brahmana’s offense,
the Supreme Lord could not tolerate it and made the
suffer the consequences. While chanting japa I vowed
never to minimize
the glories of the holy name and
to take assurance that even namabhasa
brings liberation from the world.
“The poem-song is my offering
in free-verse writing after
the day’s poem. It is musical and
focused on Krsna. He is Kartama-sayi, the ‘Boss’ of
the village. What He orders for lunch the whole village
eats. He stands with His hand on His hip and asks, ‘Do
you want to serve Me?’ He appeared as arca-vigraha
in San Francisco and appealed to the hippies. Now we
have Radha-Krsna murtis all over
the world. The music is offered to Their lotus feet in
sincere love and is a sentiment
of excitement and verve. I truly hope you like it, just as
I like to serve it to you.”
“I call our house Viraha Bhavan because I cultivate the
separation of Radha and Krsna. On a daily basis
Radha misses Krsna when
He enters the forest pasturing the cows.
Then She has to endure long-term
separation when He goes to Mathura and Dvaraka. He
breaks Her heart but is true to
Her in His own way. He never
leaves Vrndavana but remains
in His bhava manifestation.
“These emotions can be tasted only by the pure devotees
immersed in the madhurya-bhava of the Lord. I hear
and appreciate that they are topmost although I have
no access to the inner realm.
My daily song is an offering made in melody to
celebrate viraha and bring
it forth for viewing
“Well folks, Dennis arrived, carrying the parcel from America. It finally got here! M. came right into the room with it, and I cut up the box with scissors (and cut my thumb in the process).
“The package contained a large number of microcassettes. It also contained bags of things like buckwheat flour and other flours with which M. could have prepared sweets and other offerings for the last Ekadasi. It contained three kinds of offered sweets and a Teachings of Lord Caitanya (and while we sat on the floor I read the section where Bhattacarya eats prasadam from Lord Caitanya’s hand).
“The package also held thirty letters, and most importantly, the long-awaited Tenth Canto, chapters 6-12. By reading them, I can almost complete my project of reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Bhaktivedanta purports, and having selected excerpts typed up into a little booklet.
“After reading the Lord Caitanya pastime, I opened the package and offered sweets, and we each ate one, although they were now stale and old, and as the Bhattacarya states, our ‘prasadam has come a long distance.’ Suddenly I realized how impetuous it was to eat them right under Prabhupada’s altar without offering any to him. We stopped what we were doing, and I asked M. to put the sweets on a plate for Srila Prabhupada. It is only by his mercy that we can have such fun and remain innocent. I should not have overlooked him.”
“Dear yellow flowers,
“I’m picking you from the bush. You’re easy to rip off because your stems are so soft. Now the big question is, why am I killing you? I’m not even sure that I am killing you, since after all, I’m only picking you off at the stems, and the bush is still growing. It’s difficult to figure out about spirit souls. If you pick an apple, you’re not killing the apple because the spirit soul is in the tree itself; the apple is a by-product. But even if you consider a flower on a bush as an entity, then I’m sacrificing these flowers to the pictures on my altar. I want to glorify Krsna. But that makes me doubtful too. Am I actually offering the flowers, or am I just trying to create a nice atmosphere in my room for my own benefit? Are the pictures themselves to cheer me up and help me to be what I consider Krsna conscious? These doubts make me unsure enough to stop picking flowers. Okay, I’ve got enough. Let’s not pick so many. We pick flowers and put them in a glass of water, and after a few days, they die. I reason that if I didn’t pick these particular flowers, they would die anyway. But still, we should be careful not to plunder our environment unnecessarily.
“Dear yellow flowers, I’ll try to find out your Italian name (and maybe your English name) so I can address this letter properly. What I wanted to say is, you’re very pretty and you probably have some cousins who participate in Radha-Krsna’s Vrndavana pastimes.
“Do you know that in Vrndavana, Vrnda-devi decorates the forest for Krsna’s pastimes? Her work very much depends on flowers. In Vrndavana, there are flower garlands, flower earrings, flower crowns, even beds made of flowers. So you’re a very important part of krsna-lila. There the spirit souls don’t die; they’re eternal. Exactly how it all works I don’t know. But in this world, the acaryas have encouraged us to pick flowers and use them in Krsna’s service. Therefore in all the temples in India, the Deities are offered many flower garlands. Flowers are also picked and sewn into garlands for saintly persons.
“Everything has to be done thoughtfully. If you pick flowers, you can say they’re for Krsna, but you have to actually offer them, and without unnecessarily devastating a whole bush or wasting any or making the offering improper somehow.”
“I was just calling out for You in distress. I was stuck in the La-Z-Boy chair and couldn’t get out. I couldn’t move my right shoulder because it’s too much pain, and so I couldn’t get out of the chair. Bala was not in the house, so I couldn’t reach him by the radio. Dattatreya is down one floor below, but his door is shut and my door is shut. I started crying out his name, ‘Dattatreya!’ I was actually calling for You, Krsna, but I couldn’t expect You to come into my room and pick me out of my chair, so I was calling for Dattatreya. It was like Ajamila calling for his son Narayana. I felt such great pain in my shoulder and cried, ‘Dattatreya!’ Finally, I pushed my buttocks forward and was able to squeeze out of the chair, but it took about ten minutes of agony.
“Is this what it’s like to be in this body and to be without You? To call for You and not have You answer? You can’t answer because something’s not right. You can’t hear me.
“My dear Lord Krsna and my dear Srimati Radharani, it’s good that I call for You like that in distress. Calling to get out of this material world, but You don’t seem to answer. I call louder and louder, but there’s no relief. I’ll have to do it with more devotion if I expect You to respond. It was a crazy little episode, but I’m making an analogy out of it. My shoulder still aches. My heart still aches because I call for You and You cannot come. I do not deserve that You come. It is premature for me to call for You. I am calling to You for relief from my own distress. I should call to You for service. ‘Please let me serve You!’ My shoulder is throbbing. Why isn’t my heart throbbing? Why aren’t I distressed in mind because You cannot hear me when I call for service? I’m certainly like Ajamila, calling for his son, calling for the right thing. I do call Your names, and so Your Visnudutas will come and at least ensure that the Yamadutas will not take me away. My dear Lord Krsna, You’re the only one who can save me from pain and danger. You are the only ones who love me, You and Your devotees. I pray for relief. I pray to serve You. I pray to understand that that’s what I need. I can be stuck in a chair for ten minutes, but that’s nothing compared to being stuck in hell for eternity. And if I am not nice, my cries will go in vain. Please teach me to cry in the right way, and please teach me to behave so I will not be stuck. This is not much of a prayer, but it is a genuine cry for You from my need. At least I see You are the one I have to call to, the only one who can save me. Hare Krsna.
“Fourteen days down, seven to go. It would be nice if I could finish strong with additional realization. At least the quality is improving. I still can’t bring together those two seemingly disparate elements—the lila of Krsna and Radha and the service to Them by Their dearmost associates, and those eight minutes or so that I spend chanting a round.
“It is a cold, rainy night. In these last few days I have not been writing much about happenings in the house and the outward form of my life. It doesn’t seem important.
“Tonight I gave a warm-up lecture on Prabhupada in 1966. I told the devotees it was my favorite time. Raindrops spattered on the windowpane as I spoke. I thought, ‘I never want to abuse Prabhupada’s authority. Wherever he is, he is always concerned for his Krsna consciousness movement. Make this chanting reform your contribution. Tell everyone you meet to chant Hare Krsna as you are doing yourself. That way you will be like Prabhupada, a harer nama preacher, and he will be pleased.”
“Begin in Geaglum. The hall is empty and clean. Despite hay fever and asthma, Madhu stayed up and packed and cleaned. I dreamt of being an artist. A retreat house attracted another brother who wanted to come there and take it over. I decided that when he came, I’d leave. Phlegm rising in my lungs and nose.
“We have a 9:30 appointment in Dublin with the motor registration department. Prove again that I am Stephen Guarino and have always lived in the USA and now I intend to live permanently in Ireland. Give us the license plate, etc. As of now, 12:30 midnight, I don’t know where we’ll be staying. When I thought we’d be in the preaching center, I decided to accompany and pacify myself with writing Dublin Pieces. It’s hectic, the construction work going on just a few yards from the building where the devotees stay. It’s obvious we are just temporary tenants. Not many comforts. We plan to be there four days but maybe instead we will stay in someone’s flat. Still, wherever you are, write. That is your nature.
“You may make mistakes. Preach to yourself to purge doubt and weakness. Dreamt my enemy burnt his eyes. I don’t wish ill on others but freedom to do my service. Let it go out to be read by others. These pieces are more for myself in following the river of the process.
“I packed articles in the van yesterday. Gradually overcoming the disappointment that there is so little space in the back of the van. Lower my own stress, please. Don’t find fault with Madhu. If you think he’s controlling you too much, then speak up and tell him. Get relief. Basically . . . this life of much writing is required of me as bhajana to Sri Krsna so I can produce some publishing things. Drawing to amuse yourself, to blend, to intertwine. Oh, and I thought that when I am in Dublin to sometimes paste in flotsam and jetsam – like momentous – even if they are mundane, to remember this time and place, and springboard from there.
Just finished Madhya-lila Chapter Fourteen. Svarupa Damodara speaks of the glories of Srimati Radharani in Vrndavana, compared to which Dvaraka and Vaikuntha are only a drop in the ocean.
“Yeah, the Blimstones and Flintstones. I fantasized, ‘Sir, if you had time and if you had expertise, you could conduct any kind of interview to test whether I am a lifelong resident of the USA. I would prove to you I am a genuine article. My 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s memories could not be manufactured by a foreigner. Since 1966 I can tell you life in America and as a Hare Krsna member.’ But they have no such interview test. Or perhaps the short version of it is just to hear my accent. I wear ‘USA’ and the Olympic rings sewn onto my saffron sweatshirt. I speak like one of them: “Don’ bodder y’hear?” I look like an older man who you should not harass like a youngster. The skin is beginning to seriously sag under my chin and on the sides, jowls. I can expect more of that as I grow older. I don’t think it’s fat as much as general sagging, aging, falling apart. So, you ought to write and read and chant while you can.
“Devotees in Ireland quarrel among themselves and I can’t stop that, but I sense their affection for me. They write me letters and say it was good that I spoke to the group. Spoke about cleaning the Gundica temple, cleaning our hearts. Lord Caitanya collected more dirt than all the others. I said, ‘My writing is like this—be introspective and seek out anarthas (anartha-nivrtti).’ The next morning, I read from Cc. to them, the pastimes.
“Lord Caitanya’s devotees from Bengal came to join Him after He returned from His tour of Southern India. They had always been thinking of Him in separation.
“So, the disciples here write me in letters that they are trying, and that our relationship is very meaningful. I respond that, ‘I will never forget you.’
“Why put mundane pieces in your writing? Can you avoid saying the metal crane descended like a hook lowered from the sky, and you see it swinging just a few yards from the building of the preaching center? The T.P. is a disciple of Harikesa Maharaja. I suffer when I compare myself to other GBC men. Either I think myself better in my own way, or I think they don’t like or appreciate me. Neither do I want them to come where I am – as in my dream where a leader decided to get in on the art scene where I was. He wanted to drive his car into the hallway. No, leave me to write.
“Let’s go slow on the road. We are scheduled to leave at 5:00 A.M. Chant more rounds in the van. Think of Krsna in Vrndavana. Svarupa Damodara is suddha-vrajavasi. Lord Caitanya loved to hear him speak of Vrndavana before the devotees. Aitota. The garden. Srivasa Thakura in the mood of Narada is under the influence of Krsna’s opulence (aisvarya).
“I too want to be under His influence and not the influence of Dublin city. I can’t help but be affected by it. I plan to tell you, or write down some of these effects, if only to clear myself of them. And perhaps I can preach in the city if anyone will come in the morning when I’m there. They expect you to do something worth their traveling to Dublin from Wicklow. I feel pressured to perform something special, but it is really up to them to tune in and be receptive. Remember writing advice: ‘Spend all, don’t hold back, don’t save for later.’ I’ll follow that, but I can’t hype, act up, and imitate as if I’m a pure devotee. Neither do I want to wrangle and tell them, ‘You should do this, you should do that, don’t quarrel, etc.’ How are you? We are getting old.
the crane lowers with a bundle
of cut wood or metal rods.
Don’t look now but the girls
and guys are passing under in a danger
zone. Do you want to go out there
and find a few distilled words
in a bookshop? Or write your own, exclusively trained by His Divine Grace. ‘We don’t read some rascal’s books,’ said Srila Prabhupada. ‘We don’t read Mr. John’s philosophy. We read Bhagavatam, we read Bhagavad-gita As It Is.’ I want to be like that too. Sit in the bare room on whatever chair or floor cushion is available, and in the daylight read one of these books as time goes by. Take it in carefully – or else how will you preach?
“Dublin Pieces means writing pieces in a series and means that I am fractured and distracted there, not whole, and it means here are little pieces of that city, like tiny pieces of plaster. I could understand if you said, “Vrndavana Pieces” or “Vrndavana Dust” or even, ‘Here is a piece of dust from the hall where we chanted to 430,000 people.’ Or, ‘Here is a chip from the lectern where I spoke to the archbishop.” But you say only, “Here is the place where I stayed for four days and wrote and worried and read. Yes, read, and did and didn’t. Fell short in the mundane city but didn’t despair. Get it together enough to write on a stiff board, “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare.
(Indirectly) ask them to cooperate, but it is theoretical and abstract. You keep distant. You don’t know their history of disagreement. Can’t patch it up. Then just be a neutral force that recommends krsna-katha and the healing power of hari-nama and chanting. Syamananda said he realized how most important was to preach to himself. Sounds like something you’d conclude by reading my books. Yes, to preach to oneself, but it shouldn’t stop there.
“I admit I fall short but I don’t want to get worse. I don’t want to glorify my mediocrity. A writer’s got to write, and if all he sees is a swinging crane outside his window and it looks menacingly close and if he is intent on his celibacy and aloneness and freedom to write without constraints of structure, then let him do so.
“Now end this piece #1 and enter the peace of japa, chanted softly in those sacred hours. Pray to Krsna to allow you to say His name with faith and attention and yearning to get the mercy whereby one can understand His name as nondifferent than Himself. I want to at least pray to help others. People in this congregation will hear from me. I pray to be effective.
“One devotee said, ‘I see myself and many ISKCONites as like the persons in the story of the wedding party who rowed in a boat that was anchored. We shout righteously at those who are not in boats, but we ourselves go nowhere.’ It does seem that many of us don’t advance in attraction for hearing about Krsna and making Him the center of our lives. So, if I can improve in japa and be peaceful and come out with a few good books a year, then it is okay.”
“(June 24, 1996, 1:00 A.M., Geaglum)”
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.