It’s Vedic custom that on the eleventh day after the departure of a Vaisnava, the devotees prepare a feast and distribute it to the brahmanas. We did it here in Viraha Bhavan in honor of our beloved Bala. A few devotees gathered to prepare it. Lalita-kaisori made the dhal. Baladeva Vidyabhusana made the halava, a banana bread with whipped cream and plum filling, cauliflower sabji and a raspberry lemonade nectar. Hemamukhi made spinach sabji and fancy rice. Krsna dasi made fried plantain and hot puris. We fed the devotees at Viraha Bhavan and carried plates across the street to the local brahmanas. Everyone agreed it was a satisfying meal, and we soberly honored Trini Bala. Before we ate the meal, we held an extended kirtana in the temple room, with Bhakti Rasa playing a mrdanga and leading the Hare Krsna mantra. I sat in and responded in chorus along with Atindra and, later on, a few of the women joined in. It was an appropriate and meaningful gesture. Krsna dasi says she’s going to keep up this eleventh-day feast every year.
We had a Zoom conference meeting of the book publishing team. There was Krsna-bhajana and his wife Satyasara from Alachua, Lal Krishna spoke from Oxford, and John Endler spoke from Connecticut. It was fun watching their images appear as they spoke up about book concerns. We went over final corrections for books we’re planning to publish by December 4th, my Vyasa-puja day, and further ahead, books we plan to publish at the summer meeting of 2022. For Vyasa-puja we’re printing the haiku books in two volumes. For the summer we hope to have the big book The Best I Could Do and other books. (We had to change the back-cover copy of The Best I Could Do because it wasn’t what I wanted.) This book team is so dedicated, and I’m grateful to work with them.
Lunch was attended by a group of devotees. Krsna dasi was there, and her close friend Hemamukhi. Atindra and his wife Lalita-kisora. Bhakti-rasa was here, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, myself and Amit. So it was a lively lunch get-together with an out-loud reading, many devotees taking part online and in Viraha Bhavan. Devotees from England, India, Ireland, Trinidad and other locations took turns reading the Caitanya-caritamrta. The Cc. reading told how Haridasa Thakura, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami did not dare to enter the Jagannatha temple because of their previous association with Muslims. But every day, Jagannatha Himself in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu would go and visit them at their place. We read a section where Lord Caitanya at Ratha-yatra sang a song about two lovers who are meeting after long separation. No one but Svarupa Damodara can understand the meaning of this song. But one year Rupa Gosvami attended the Ratha-yatra, heard the song, and wrote a poem of his own explicitly describing the loving affairs of Radha and Krsna. He wrote his poem on a palm leaf and placed it on the top of his hut. Then he went to bathe. While he was absent, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to visit him and discovered the poem on top of his hut. Krsna Caitanya became ecstatic and asked Svarupa Damodara, “How could Rupa Gosvami know My mind?” Svarupa Damodara said, “You must have empowered him.” It was a very nice time, gathering with so many devotees and hearing the nectarean pastimes of Lord Caitanya and His associates in Jagannatha Puri.
One of my favorite sections in Madhya-lila is where Nrsimhananda Brahmacari builds a mental road for Lord Caitanya to walk on on His way to Vrndavana. Nrsimhananda Brahmacari was not wealthy, but he constructed a gorgeous road imbedded with jewels, trees, birds and fountains. First Nrsimhananda Brahmacari contemplated a broad road starting from the city of Kuliya. He bedecked the road with jewels, upon which he put a bed of stemless flowers. He mentally decorated both sides of the road with bakula flower trees, and at intervals on both sides he placed lakes of a transcendental nature. These lakes had bathing places constructed with jewels and were filled with blossoming lotus flowers. There were various birds chirping, and the water was exactly like nectar. The entire road was surcharged with many beautiful breezes. For the Lord, a path made of actual jewels and a path made with mental jewels are the same. Though subtle, mind is also matter, so any path—indeed anything for the service of the Lord, whether in gross matter or subtle matter—is accepted equally by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
There is a nice painting illustration in the book which shows Lord Caitanya blissfully dancing down the mental road made by Nrsimhananda Brahmacari. But Krsnadasa Kaviraja writes that when Nrsimhananda Brahmacari reached Kanai-natasala, he could construct the road no further, not even in his mind. Thus Nrsimhananda assured the devotees that Lord Caitanya was not goingto walk all the way to Vrndavana at that time.
Immediately after accepting the sannyasa order, Krsna Caitanya intended to go to Vrndavana. But Lord Nityananda tricked Him and led Him to the house of Advaita Acarya. Once there, Advaita Acarya invited the devotees of Navadvipa to gather at His house. They all came, led by Mother Saci. When Mother Saci saw the Lord’s shaven head, she was unhappy, but she became pacified by being in her beloved son’s presence. She begged the assembled devotees that only she should do the cooking for Lord Caitanya while He was at Advaita’s house. Then she asked the Lord to make His headquarters at Jagannatha Puri because it was close to Navadvipa and she could get news of His activities.
Each day the Lord and His associates talked about Krsna during the day, and at night they held harinama sankirtana for three hours. When the time was up, Advaita Acarya asked Lord Caitanya to stay four more days. The Lord complied, but after that He abruptly left for Jagannatha Puri. All the devotees at Advaita Acarya’s house made a tumult of crying when the Lord left them in that way, but He was neutral.
I heard two lectures by Prabhupada given in different places of the world, but both on the prayers of Queen Kunti. Prabhupada said she addressed Krsna (who was her nephew) both as the son of Vasudeva and the son of Nanda Maharaja. Prabhupada said we should follow in the footsteps of Queen Kunti, remaining very humble and addressing the Lord as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At the end of his lecture, Prabhupada congratulated the devotees in New York, saying the temple was very clean and the Deities were very beautifully dressed. He stressed that we should never think of the arca-vigraha as stone or marble, but He is Krsna Himself. The devotees were very inspired to hear him talk that way about their temple, and they cheered at the end of his lecture.
“Liming” is a word used in Trinidad for friendly, casual talk. When Muktavandya from Boston visits Viraha Bhavan, after lunch he engages me in liming by showing me “dumb jokes.” They are colored photos with a dumb joke to them. Some are cartoons and pictures of animals. The humor of the dumb jokes is not very sharp. Mukta shows them to me for as much as half an hour, and then I can’t stand it anymore. Baladeva Vidyabhusana suggested we do something alternative. He said I could ask Mukta to show me short segments of old-time movies.
Today Lalita-kaisori led the liming. She told of her involvement with Maharishi Mahesh’s university, which is the only big university that teaches Ayurveda medicine. She tried to defend Maharishi as a God-seeking person, but the other devotees at the table reminded her of what Prabhupada said about T.M. He never gave it credit as genuinely God consciousness. But Lalita-kaisori said that as a teacher of students, she always changes the subject to bhakti-yoga and japa as a meditation alternative.
We’re trying to change our liming from plain prajalpa to something spiritual and Krsna conscious. I say, “What about talking of Radha-Govinda?” As for Krsna dasi, she has just abruptly entered vanaprastha life. We have here a very high standard of Deity worship with Radha-Govinda and big Gaura-Nitai, and I don’t want to see it go down. That standard makes Viraha Bhavan an ashram and not just a house.
“I think of Rupa and Sanatana going to see Lord Caitanya at Ramakeli. They were dressed as Mohammedan officials. They confessed their bad habits and said that they were ashamed to come before the Lord in that state. It took courage to approach Him like that. They knew it would mean giving up their old way of life, but they wanted to be delivered by Patita-pavana.
“I’m interested in this passage because it’s a moving sequence. They pray with such humility. Their prayers are exemplary for anyone interested in the art of prayer or the practice of humility. To pray as they prayed, we would have to be prepared to change our ways. Those two things go together—sincere prayer and the readiness to become something that we are not at present. We can’t go to Lord Caitanya, make a confession, and expect to go away with our life and habits the same. Everything will change, starting with our name, right down to how we eat and how we sleep.
“ . . . I worship my Prabhupada murti. He is kind to me. Sometimes I come before him wearing my old slippers, which I also wear in the toilet room. My mind knows it’s not good, but sometimes I ask Prabhupada to excuse me. Sometimes I remove the slippers if I feel enough mental presence. Sometimes I feel too physically tired to remove them, or I think, ‘Prabhupada, my worship of you is very familiar. That’s the way it is because we live together. It’s not so formal, so don’t mind if I keep my slippers on.’ Or sometimes I stand in the doorway to the bathroom, drying off from my bath. That’s also not on the standard of right conduct before a deity. But we live so closely together. I am admitting these things, not saying they are right. Perhaps I should try harder to correct them. At least Prabhupada is always in my life, and I pray he won’t be offended and leave me. I could not bear his leaving me. If this beloved form I have worshiped for so many years were to leave me, I would get another form just like him and continue the puja. I have cadars and hats and sannyasa uniforms for him. Sometimes I am impatient when the sannyasi top piece doesn’t fit easily, or the fasteners on his clothes have worn out and don’t keep his clothes in place. Prabhupada sees me fretting and trying to finish the dressing. He may think, ‘Why do you worship me at all if you feel it’s a botheration?’ I don’t want to ruin it.
“Polished poems are OK.
You have to work for everything,
not just fill up pages.
But there is a place for that too.
Fill ’em up—
your Indian cheap paper pads,
your luxury American legal pad,
your poem page,
ink, ink, where does it come from?
I hope some animal didn’t
have to sacrifice its blood
for me to write this.
“In a nice Chinese
poem written long ago
the recluse says,
‘I sing my lonely song alone.
Perhaps a true friend will find in these words
the signature of a sage.’”
“Now get friendly
now get relaxed
fill your page with
“Now be playful and juice the way
with currants, pecans, and daisies.
Now abandon the sorry frown,
kick on apes and
Muddy your boots in
and sing the mighty chant.
“Now be true to oxen’s pull,
now slide over mud and ice,
throw a snowball and run
and hide—be young and warm
in cold outdoors.
“Now face truth or hide from it,
admit your anger and
“Now write admissions and lists
and quests—let your hand speak
and your intellect admit
and bawl away the mighty
Diary’s day is just an ember flaming still with
little life of
“Why be the center and
Why be the hero and not
Why your list and not
you got to explain.
“Why so quick to write it
Why do you love it, ink and
And pictures. Can’t you tell
us why you cartoon so?
“Now’s the time to write these
things, or if you won’t then
chant instead the mighty hymn
you said you’d memorize.”
“They may say it’s no harm if I try out different literary forms and want to be myself. ‘He’s teaching us in this way to sacrifice all face-saving images in preference to the truth. Honesty is his altar of sacrifice. It’s good, it’s bracing, and our place is to take what he says.’
“I like to write on mountaintops or by the sea or in any quiet room. I want to write before it’s too late—before the dying out fact of candlelight at its gut end.
“I do not know Vasudeva. I am an outsider to the nectar of His name and pastimes. But this Bhagavatam quest is doing me good, bringing me in from the cold.
“This is the time to relax and be
a bee of little consequence.
This is the hive of workers’ stings
of tired hands and springs of steel,
this is the India I feared,
the book of no smoking, no hallucinations, the book
of preferred pure goodness or whatever I
can get of God’s mercy from His
worktable. This foolish writer
may be given some toys or sawdust
on the Carpenter’s floor.
In such a way I stay at
Vasudeva, Vasudeva, Vasudeva
para makhah, para yoga
p. 328, 332
“My contact with Vasudeva through hearing is unfortunately limited. It is impossible to understand Krsna in full, but I fall short even in understanding the little bit I know. Although this makes me unhappy, it also gives me hope. It is possible to improve. I think this writing and reading will help. By my writing on each verse and purport of the Bhagavatam, Krsna will see my earnestness and possibly bless my endeavor with increased stamina and taste. Maybe He’ll think, ‘This person is setting out on quite a task. He says he’ll write on all 4700 purports. Where does he think he’ll get the energy for such a project? How worthy does he think his contribution will be? Of course I could enable him to say it in such a way.’
All this makes me tingle with expectation and appreciation of the potential this endeavor carries. That is, if Krsna desires, it could be a wonderful thing.
“ . . . Got a list? Lists unload the line. They allow me to state something that wants to be said, but briefly, and then to put it aside. A good list may grow and bloom like a poem, complete in itself. I don’t have to ‘do’ something with a list.
“I know that if someone turns randomly to a page of this book, he may find colloquial language—maybe even slang—as if suddenly he had stumbled into someone’s back room. If he reads progressively, however, he may better understand the method behind it. I ask forgiveness for my impurities.
“When we read of Jagai and Madhai or of Mgrari‘s conversion or of the conversion of Valmiki, we want to hear a little about the person’s former crudeness so that we can understand the depth of their conversion. Although after the conversion these persons become gentle and soft, they may have continued to use some of their former language. A little roughness is not a bad thing. . . . A free writer does not censor everything that comes down to mental pike just to assure some gentle souls that he is now perfect (which he is not).
“ . . . Krsna, You operate this body. I am helpless. If You like, You can allow this body to keep going a little longer. I know it’s a flopping instrument. Sooner or later, its dance will be done. Please let it dance for you. Let my rude words soften and sound mellifluous to the devotees. Let my brain be more inclined to speak more directly in the channel of Krsna consciousness. Let my ear be receptive to His Divine Grace’s words. Let me be Yours.’”
“There will be a red orb on the horizon soon—time to sleep. But you slept enough last night. Better to light candles and just go on chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare.”
“Hearing, hearing, listening is the primary act. I don’t do it so well, but at least I do it. Hearing the message Lalita gave to the swan, telling of the piteous condition of Radha. Is it make-believe, the ravings of an ordinary girl? Or just from the mind of the poet to mislead people? No, no. It has all the inner meaning of Vedic scriptures. We hear of mystics in various traditions. Mostly the inner meaning of scriptures is like that direct experience of oneness with an impersonal tinge (even if it is sometimes in the language of amorous love). But there is something different entirely. The Lord has a spiritual body and so do His consorts. And you can go and join them. Who can understand this except one free of carnal desire and also free of jnana? I am not so free and pure.
“But I do hear pastimes regularly, and I want to feel the bhava. Sometimes I read on the tape and sometimes Madhu, and sometimes I ask others to do it, and I hear them. I listen while putting bracelets on Radha and Krsna and dressing Them (today the cycle returns to the brown color and the stiff cloth, the gold crust, very nice) for morning puja.”
“‘Going forward means to stumble, veer off, correct yourself. It also means that I feel the need to divest myself of the influence of even good devotees. When that influence is too much their opinions and not my own self.
“‘The sun hasn’t risen yet. It steals the duration of life. But if you spend your day chanting and hearing, it is counted as eternal activity. “A devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is but an impetus to such guaranteed eternal life.” (Bhag. 2.3.17) It makes him want to not waste time during the day. Be careful about doing things that are within the wide bounds of Krsna consciousness but in a watered down way. I’m near the last stage, and I should do away with all but the most potent and basic forms of Krsna consciousness. Don’t add the burden of duties that are less than the best. Anyway, I don’t have the capacity to do so many other things. But I do want to improve my writing, and to relax from tensions.’
“How do I feel about the above statement now, over ten years later? I feel I have achieved what I was striving for in my expression. I am free to write, and I have a desire to write. I don’t feel guilty about it. I know it’s my preaching, my vocation. I am writing from my little life and from the scriptures, as I aspired to. I’m not doing things in a watered down way. In the preceding piece I seemed to not yet be at that stage, but hoping for it. Now I have attained it.”
“Mostly on these walks I encourage myself about the extra praying and thinking of Krsna aside from the chanting, but chanting is more important than other praying. So, if I am a little excited by extra prayer, I must direct that prayer more toward ways to be attentive in chanting. The first prayer may be, ‘My Lord, please let me pay attention to Your holy name. Please let me honor Your holy name.’ However, I can’t even do this interjected prayer. While chanting japa, I just plow ahead. At best, I count what round I am on. I am sorry to have to say this.
This should be the first, attention for prayer improvement. What I want to reach is not a new mystic connection with the Lord as much as just to enter attentive chanting as a servant. I want to be able to say, ‘Good, you are doing better. You are paying attention to the sound of the Lord’s names: Hare, Krsna, and Rama. Just be very simple. Hear and chant, and ask the Lord to let you hear and chant. Please engage me in Your service, starting with the chanting.’”
“Association is all-important. As the company of the mahatmas can open the door to liberation, so the company of degraded materialists can drag an aspiring devotee into ignorance. Persons fond of enjoying illicit sex and persons opposed to God consciousness destroy by their association the purity of Vaisnava behavior. It is no wonder, therefore, that a devotee does not enjoy such association.
“But is avoiding the association of nondevotees contradictory to the Lord’s desire that sinful persons be delivered? According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, as quoted by Hrdayananda Maharaja in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, a devotee’s avoiding atheists is quite in accord with the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The madhyama-bhakta should avoid envious nondevotees so that he won’t become disturbed or polluted by them. And he is also benefiting the envious by denying them the opportunity to commit further offenses against the Vaisnavas. Hrdayananda Maharaja explains this point in his purport.
“‘Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has given an elaborate explanation to prove that the discrimination employed by a madhyama-adhikari preacher does not at all show a lack of mercy. He states that the upeksa, or neglect, mentioned in the verse, is the proper medicine for those who are inimical to the Supreme Lord and His devotees. Indifference from the preacher checks feelings of hostility from both sides . . . It is the duty of a Vaisnava preacher to point out the futility of any process besides surrendering to the Supreme Lord. An envious person, however, will resent such strong preaching by a Vaisnava and disrespect him, considering the devotee to be unnecessarily criticizing others. Such a person, who cannot appreciate the mercy of the Vaisnavas, should be neglected. Otherwise, according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura his cheating mentality will increase day by day.’ (Bhag. 11.2.46, purport)
“In describing the devotee’s selective application of mercy toward the nondevotees, Srila Prabhupada used what he called ‘the hospital rule.’ At a time of war or catastrophe, when the hospital is filled with more cases than can be treated, the doctors may neglect a patient in critical condition in favor of a patient who could be saved if given immediate attention. Similarly, the envious are too far gone, and when a devotee attempts to inform them of the glories of the Supreme Lord, their scornful response only worsens their condition. It is better for devotees to use their limited time and manpower in approaching innocent persons. This is sometimes referred to as ‘preaching where it is favorable.’ Lord Caitanya Himself abandoned extensive preaching in Navadvipa, because the place was saturated with intellectual wranglers who refused to accept Lord Caitanya’s teachings. He therefore preferred to travel through South India, where the people were more pious and receptive.”
“In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada comments, ‘The purport is that under this heading of asa-bandha, one should continue to hope against hope that some way or other he will be able to approach the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.’ (NOD, p. 137). Srila Prabhupada’s use of the English idiom ‘hope against hope’ expresses well my own attitude. The dictionary defines ‘hope against hope’ as: ‘to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment.’
“I usually don’t even think it out. We go ahead with vaidhi-bhakti because Srila Prabhupada told us to. We keep hearing cf the brilliant goal of going back to Godhead, but as we read more we also sense how disqualified we are and how rare it is to attain bhava-bhakti. We also see more our stubborn, remaining anarthas. Yet we keep going. We think, ‘Oh well, if He likes, Krsna may be merciful.’
“My case is rather dull and not thought out. I think I am afraid to face the consequences. For example, Srila Prabhupada says the atheistic hedonists are so afraid to face the consequences of their sinful acts that they summarily dismiss the facts of karma and transmigration of the soul. Similarly, I don’t face my own situation. That is my misfortune. That is the lack of contrition, the lack of piteous crying in japa. If we admit, even intellectually, that we are not qualified for love of God, and that we seem hopeless for reform—hopeless for retaining that intense, selfless love that drives the gopis out at night, abandoning all pride, shame and morality, just to please Krsna—then why don’t we feel remorse? Why don’t we increase our attempts to attain real Krsna consciousness before oar lives are over?”
“For his own reasons, Prabhupada taught his disciples in different ways. It would be too simple to say that the ones he reprimanded heavily were more faulty, or those he reprimanded were more in his favor. He saw the temperaments of his disciples, and he knew what they could bear and how to teach them best. Prabhupada said that in teaching children, you should apply continual pressure, the way you control a plant by tying it next to a stick. By a gentle, continual pressure, the plant or child will be kept in control, but if you try to apply sporadic pressure of a more violent sort, you may break him.
“A disciple should value reprimands from the spiritual master for the corrective value, and also as a sign of intimacy. After I had been relieved of my duties as Prabhupada’s personal secretary in 1974, he called me in because he wanted me to show Jayatirtha the financial records I had been keeping. It was a business exchange, but at one point Prabhupada said, ‘Satsvarupa is very expert.’ This was a sarcastic remark about my poor record-keeping. But Prabhupada had said it so casually that Jayatirtha didn’t notice it at first. Suddenly it caught him and he laughed, looked at Prabhupada, and then looked at me. Prabhupada, however, just went on discussing the financial business in a matter-of-fact way. His remark that I was ‘very expert’ went into me like a shaft, but at the same time, it was an intimate exchange which the third party could only observe from the outside.
“Jayadvaita Swami tells of the time when he was a new devotee and was allowed to assist in cooking for Prabhupada in Boston. Jayadvaita made a few mistakes and Prabhupada reprimanded him, saying that he didn’t have any brains. Jayadvaita had previously heard that a reprimand by the spiritual master was a serious thing, but he couldn’t help feeling very blissful when Prabhupada was raking him over the coals. He sensed that he was getting special mercy.”
“My retreat has been successful. I have broken through the complacency of a mere sixteen hopelessly inattentive rounds. I have gone beyond it, at least for now. It can easily happen to full-time ISKCON devotees that the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra gets relegated to a quite neglected place in their daily sadhana. We work for the movement, but we don’t put time and effort into chanting. Srila Prabhupada has given us a challenge because he expects so much of us in preaching Krsna consciousness within the complicated material world. He assures us that the preacher will be protected by Krsna. He strongly criticizes a follower who gives up the work of preaching and who then sits down full-time in a secluded place for bhajana. But the same Srila Prabhupada has written extensively about the glories of the holy name and the need for devotees to chant nicely and seriously.
“For Srila Prabhupada, chanting means not only with beads, but lecturing—and of course, kirtana, singing in congregation:
“‘The members of the Krsna consciousness movement should perform sankirtana-yajnas one after another, so much so that all the people of the world will either jokingly or seriously chant Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, and thus they will derive the benefit of cleansing the heart.’ (Bhag. 4.24.10, purport)
“Book distribution is the ‘big mrdanga’ for spreading the chanting even further than can be done by the musical parties. And so the word sankirtana has become synonymous with book distribution.
“It seems that constant chanting on beads is not encouraged by Srila Prabhupada, although he did expect us to be constantly focused on Krsna’s names and Krsna’s service. Srila Prabhupada expected sixteen rounds to be enough because he thought the Westerners wouldn’t be able to chant more. That sixteen could never be given up. Srila Prabhupada writes that one who cannot complete his assigned number of rounds is in a diseased condition of life. Lord Caitanya’s order is to preach and to become a spiritual master, but in order to do so, one must follow the regulative principles and chant at least sixteen rounds daily. Then, even though preaching in the modern world is very demanding, the preacher will not become contaminated by maya.”
“The stories of how a devotee comes to Krsna consciousness are among the favorite stories devotees share. A person coming to Krsna consciousness may have overcome some oppressive situation such as opposition from parents or the government. At the beginning, circumstances may have been very difficult, but still, Krsna guided the devotee on, sometimes touching the devotee’s life in extraordinary ways. To hear these stories is encouraging.
“Even the conversion stories of great souls like Narada Muni or Valmiki are among our favorites in the sastric narrations. For when we hear how Sukadeva Gosvami or the Kumaras were impersonalists and became devotees, we see the potency of the spiritual energy and how it touches lives. And then we think, ‘Yes, it’s real, it’s true, and I can do it too.’ The example of others also impels us to want to make our own story a success, not an aborted tale of someone who came and then fell away.
“The initial coming to Krsna consciousness is a triumphant story. But it would be superficial to end all the stories by saying, ‘And then she moved into the temple and lived happily ever after in Vaikuntha bliss.’ That initial story has many subsequent chapters. Those are harder to write.
“Sometimes the story ends after a few chapters when someone quits practicing, apparently for this lifetime. Or the story gets lost in so many duties, and we only reminisce about the time that we rose up as a spirit soul. Or, as I said in the beginning of this letter, we keep hitting up against the wall of the same personal defects, the same limitations, and it seems like we can go no further. So in that case, rather than say, ‘She lived happily ever after,’ we would say, ‘And then after twenty years, she realized she could go no further because she could never overcome her basic defects.’ That’s not a very triumphant ending. Let’s keep going and find a way to get Krsna’s mercy so that we can say and feel, ‘Jaya Jaya Sri Krsna—param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam.”
“An orange-colored sun disk gently, slowly lowers in the sky. The rays shine through the hairs on the cows’ tails as they switch off the flies. I remember how spring came very gradually: week after week there was no sign of leaves. Now summer goes gradually. One notices more brown leaves underfoot, yet everything remains green and dense.
“My six months’ confinement in Gita-nagari is soon coming to an end. I have already left the monk-like concentration in solitude. But I loiter around the cows in a field, at sunset, savoring the old Gita-nagari magic, if only for a little while. They are fortunate who live here in this village and follow Prabhupada’s dictate.for Krsna conscious farm life. He said their perfection would be that they never have to leave the farm; everything here is self-sufficient and they are satisfied.”
“. . . We should understand that our seeing Prabhupada as a nitya-siddha and saktyavesa avatara, or our claiming that he was especially empowered by Lord Nityananda, is not sentimental or concocted; by studying Srila Prabhupada’s words and activities in relation to the scriptures, we can understand that these exalted designations are true.
“Prabhupada also fulfills the descriptions of maha-bhagavata and paramahamsa. He had equal vision for all living entities, although he also acted with the preacher’s discrimination. Once, an Indian gentleman accused Prabhupada of not seeing everyone equally because Prabhupada made a distinction between the sinful nondevotee and the devotee. Prabhupada responded by saying that he was not on such an elevated platform. He saw the sinner and felt compelled to tell him to stop. And he did this on the authority of the Bhagavad-gita and the past acaryas. When the man asked further, ‘But what have you done (besides repeating the words of the disciplic succession)?’ Prabhupada said that he had done nothing more than offered these teachings indiscriminately to the world: ‘That is my contribution, and that is my version of pandita sama darsana.’
“With an equal vision, Prabhupada, by his pure association, was able to create thousands of bhaktas. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura said that a Vaisnava is measured by the number of devotees he creates, and by this standard, Prabhupada was certainly very meritorious. Not only did he create devotees in the relatively fertile preaching field of those born and raised with some understanding of Vedic culture, but he crossed the ocean and brought the mlecchas to Krsna’s lotus feet.”
“Japa is an open field in which you enter and do the best you can. With a physical handicap, I feel impinged upon and can’t roam deeply into contemplation of the Hare Krsna mantra. So I cut my losses and my lamentations, and the bare mantras move along quickly. I sit back in the chair and watch the count rise. I draw satisfaction from the accumulation of rounds and don’t get depressed by the lack of freedom to go deeper. I trust that Krsna knows I’m trying. People who chant with a handicap have to remain brave and keep optimistic about the efficacy of the chanting. I should take stock in my sincerity and plead to Krsna that I may do better. I take satisfaction in the accumulation and the fact that I am not stopped by the impairment. All will go well somehow or other, and Krsna will take the difficulties into account. He wants to see me trying, and that is my success. A person who does not give up despite difficulty is a good chanter. Try to reach further. Improve the quality of the names and think of Krsna and Radha. I let a certain sorrow set in, but I restrain it also. It is a kind of war, or at least a struggle, and in times of difficulty, gains are made.”
“Tiny bugs, I don’t kill them but
they gather on the white marble desk.
More and more, I don’t kill them but
they die. Gather their corpses, then you
spill a cup of drinking water and the river
floods the tiny bugs under the hot
People are dying, that nice old lady
in Vrindavan and an AIDS-afflicted devotee
of Krsna in Italy and I am all right.
“Yes, I am all right; I just arrived today
in Mayapur, had breakfast at the mango grove
where Prabhupada used to stop.
Prabhupada? Did he die? No. But
did he pass on? Did Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
pass on? Yes, long ago, 1935. And Lord
Caitanya, didn’t He leave too? Doesn’t a
human being stay here only briefly,
even avataras nowadays?
“And you? I told you, I’m fine.
Only a headache often and little
things – I don’t like gur in
my milk. I don’t like to read
so many letters from disciples whose
marriages have busted up.
“So, this is the fact – that people die and
the land stays but the River Ganges moves,
There’s a kind of music you can make now
and it lasts and people can hear it later.
‘Jazz is now,’ said the jazz photographer.
“But next life…
“This is my first day in Mayapur and I am not
perfect, not even aware of Lord Caitanya’s
personal presence and yet the dhama is so
merciful I get the benefit just to sleep here
and Navadvipa-mahatmya says there’
even if you overeat. In Kali-yuga all
tirthas have diminished but not Navadvipa.
This is the benefit of living in the dhama.
“So dear friends, let us talk together. Let us go to the riverside. Plague risk is low. But you can die of something else.
Make a joke and die laughing.
“It’s better to die of overeating
than under-eating,” said the man
to his sons, as he died. Yeah, he meant at least he was so poor he starved to death. Die from scratch by rose thorn that turned into infection. How many ways can you die? But the important thing is not how externally but whether – ant-kale ca mam eva. ‘And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.’ (Bg. 8.5).
“This japa papa
ain’t so good
O momma, wish you
could chant with me.
O Sesa Naga, You hold up
all the worlds
how’s about holding up
me? I mean my japa,
“You better wise up. Bugs fly and hit you in the head. They collide, head into me. Oh, go about your business. I write, if I come on something better said then go and yup it.
“But nothin’ can replace
of devoted lines.
Red wheelbarrow glazed
At time of death say
farewell poets and
“He said why doncha write my stories. We need imagination. Well bro’, I say here are my stories of a different kind, maybe harder for most folks to read. I can’t cater to straight fiction characters right now. But maybe . . . something in-between.
When shakes dissolve,
when people can understand
what I’m sayin’
‘cause what use is it to me
if – you write a poem and no-
‘But you gotta try hard.’
“Tell him, they say he writes even without thinking. A quirk of his hand. Lord Caitanya’s land is liberal and bestows boons even to fools like me. I betcha.
“Be serious. No man is an island. When so much pain came, the young girl couldn’t concentrate on Krishna and Radha. She finally died with her guru saying holy names in her ear and a picture of Radharani near her.
“I am cynical
and disbelieving but I want
the real thing for me.
I mean just by holding a picture
of Radha, is that
the way? Prabhupada didn’t
But an ISKCON guru could
help, couldn’t he? Couldn’t
he serve by chanting holy names
in the ear?
Couldn’t he serve?
“Serve in the school of free
expression. To flee to thee
Gosh, I’d like to make it clearer,
But what can I do? No
ghosts. I’m listening to voices
tho’ that want Out.
‘Let me out!’ Let me speak.
“O.J. Simpson, is he in
jail? My thumb hurts from
this writing. So much depends upon
the opposing thumb and forefinger.
Man’s whole early progress
and advancing over the monkeys is
due to this – can make stone axe,
and hinges and wheels.
Oh bosh and crap I said
to Dr. Pessen, if giraffes were
more intelligent despite their
“Listen pal, don’t overeat
the brain that functions
outside of krsna-katha.
No – I say this is within
(Crushing, flying bugs of many
varieties at this hour – in Mayapur)
I say all is Brahman.
“She said I thought St. Teresa
of Avila (Who? I can’t hear so well
and your enunciation is a foreign
tongue – St. Teresa (louder)
is in Krsna consciousness? Oh yes, I said but
she is but in a vague way.
She probably never uttered the
word Krishna. Or Syama or
saw Him that way. So you
can rightly call it love of
but vraja-rasa, Vraja
consciousness is very rare.
“You better believe it, apples
aren’t so great in India but
you can be happy
Please give me joy.
He said, ‘I have been here 10
days in Mayapur “transcendentally
enjoying,”’ along with his son. Now they went on
What’s all this moving around
A reformed ISKCON sannyasi
said, ‘Come to the dhama and
serve – that’s the secret. Don’t
be a monk but I mean a pilgrim.
Seeking. But give.’
Oh, I see.
He got the clues right and
inspired wisdom authority.
“Come to the dhama to serve
by vigorous dancing, he said.
Oh, I can’t do that.
But my heart does.
And my words.
“If I could love a little doll,
like a doll of Gaura or
maybe Nrsimha. No rules, just
love Him like a pet object.
What? That’s whimsy
brother! Keep your whimsy
at least confined to short
“I mean a marble or brass…
I know, I know, but
Prabhupada said don’t make
it a plaything, a farce.
“You feel better now as if you’ve been
to a doctor?
Whew, this is gettin’ real and
body rank, brother.
Don’t mind me, there is however
no harm in some truth-letting.
Yes, come to think of it
I do feel joy in little things.
“Relief and sigh! I am no
longer right now for the
present moment, afflicted
See you later.”
Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…
I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…
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.