Saturday, December 4, 2021
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall
845 Hudson Avenue
Stuyvesant Falls, New York 12173
(There is plenty of parking near the Hall. The facility is just a few minutes’ walk from SDG’s home at 909 Albany Ave.)
10:00 – 10:30 A.M. Opening kirtana
10:30 – 11:00 A.M. SDG Lecture
11:00 – 11:45 A.M. Introduction to new books and opportunity to peruse book table and art
11:45 A.M.– 12:30 P.M. Homages (written please, 3 minutes max.)
12:30 – 1:15 P.M. Puspanjali, arati, kirtana
1:15 P.M. Feast
Contact: Baladeva Vidyabhusana [email protected] (518) 754-1108
I’ve decided that it’s more important to keep my relationships strong with my disciples even though they may hold different opinions on various material subjects. The important thing is our spiritual relationship, me accepting them as disciples and they accepting me as their spiritual master. The disagreement over vaccinations may become political, different opinions. But the relationship between guru and disciple is absolute and based on love and trust.
At our July 3rd disciples meeting, we sold out most of our new books—we had no more in stock. So now we are trying to collect new ones from various sources. Today we order the following books from Amazon: Last Days of the Year; Seeking New Land (A Story); Forgetting the Audience: Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland; Kaleidoscope; Daily Compositions. All these books are in new condition, and we’ll have them in hand for distribution at my Vyasa-puja function.
Bhakti Rasa dasa is trying to arrange to ship a thousand of my books which are sitting in the basement of the Newcastle, England temple, having wound up there from our early European distribution days.
We also have a man ready to go and pick up a substantial amount of my books which are stored in Visnu Aradhanam’s garage. There is some urgency involved in getting them because the house is being sold. We just have to hear from Haryasva how many cases there are so we can arrange for a suitable vehicle to pick them up.
On Friday, Mahaprabhu, the director of the Museum of Sacred Art in Belgium, will bring 140 copies of the important book The Many Colors of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. Amit will meet him at the airport, pick the books up and deliver them here.
This book was published some years ago by Mahaprabhu and The Museum of Sacred Art. Mahaprabhu bought over thirty-five paintings of mine and held an exhibition at the Museum in Radhadesh, Belgium. To go along with that exhibition he published this book. I have not painted for two years, so this book is important to me because it is like a permanent gallery of my work, which is rare to find now. The book contains paintings of Prabhupada, self-portraits, Krsna, Lord Caitanya, devotees, nondevotees, etc. It contains a wonderful essay by Satyaraja Prabhu in which he places my art literally under the umbrella of “outsider art,” as pioneered by the twentieth-century artist Jean Du Buffet. His essay clarifies that my art is not just primitive and childlike, but it comes in a tradition which is continued by many artists worldwide who have their own following and school and champions. Du Buffet’s work is featured monthly in Raw Vision magazine. I’m so glad to have a substantial collection of these books now and will distribute them at my meetings.
We start off the Free Write Journal by picking out two “rabbits.” The process is modeled after a magician pulling a rabbit out of a top hat. Baladeva and I come up with topics under different categories like review of books I’m reading, sections from Prabhupada’s lectures that I’m hearing, local news, selections from out-loud reading, inspiration from letters I receive, and occasional medical reports. Pulling out a rabbit is hard work, but we get blessed by inspirations. After finding two rabbits, I go on to quote sections from my books.
Concluding that most readers would not be able to read my entire Journal of thirty-five pages each week, Ananda Kishora has been posting daily three condensed excerpts from the Journal. I asked him to send them to me every day, and I received the first batch today. The first post was from “The Sweetness and Opulence of Krsna” in Cc. Lord Caitanya began to speak of one thing, and then His mind wandered to another thing in teaching Sanatana Gosvami. He spoke about the influence of the flute on the gopis, and then He spoke about the beauty of Krsna. And He did all of this just to benefit Sanatana Gosvami. It was pure nectar.
His post #2 was accompanied by an illustration of Krsna playing the flute from my book He Lives Forever: On Separation from Srila Prabhupada. I tell of Prabhupada’s early years in ISKCON and how he translated so many books using the Dictaphone. Wherever he went and took the Dictaphone and translated, even if only a single page was done in a night. “Little drops of water wear away the stone,” he said. “In this way I have written all these books.”
The third post was from my poetry collection Remembering Srila Prabhupada, and the poem was titled “Prabhupada in Moscow.” He spoke once with a professor, and then there were no more programs to his agenda. But Syamasundara brought to his apartment a young Indian man and a young Russian man. The Russian man was particularly interested, and Prabhupada, within a couple of hours, told him everything about Krsna consciousness and taught him how he could practice it even in a place like Moscow. On a second visit, Prabhupada taught Ivan the art of making capatis, rice and dal. The poem ends with these four lines:
“Two days quickly went by. It was time to leave
but he had planted the seed.
Ivan was a budding bhakta.
In like a needle . . .”
The post on Moscow is accompanied by a photo of Prabhupada walking in Red Square early in the morning.
Ananda Kishora is creative in making the Journal more accessible.
Just when we thought we collected all the books I wrote about Prabhupada, another one has turned up. When I first heard the title Srila Prabhupada Smaranam mentioned, I couldn’t remember it, but then I recalled it. It’s a collection of many glossy colored photos of Srila Prabhupada, many of which include me as his servant. We don’t have any stock of these books, but Caitanya Candrodaya has sent the file to us. We now have to get bids from various printers on having it reprinted so that it can be included in our complete set of books about Prabhupada, which we want to have ready for distribution for my Vyasa-puja day 2022.
I was visited today by Jayanta, a disciple of Kadamba Kanana Maharaja. We exchange poems and that’s a mutual interest. He is an immigration lawyer and has taken on many immigration cases for ISKCON. He feels his immigration caseload is a burden on his shoulders, and he has other burdens too. He was a practicing Buddhist for over thirty-five years. But now he’s finished with it and feels that Buddhism is a dead end. Dhanurdhara Swami said of Jayanta, “He’d rather have halava than Nirvana.”
Anuradha arrived last night by plane and train from Oxford, England. I spoke with her today. She said she is happy with her service, which is something like “office manager.” It’s similar to being temple commander and seeing that everything is in running order. She likes her service. She likes it here at Viraha Bhavan and plans to stay for a month. She’s a good worker and a “chirpy-burpy” person, a good asset to the ashram.
Baladeva and Anuradha dasi worked in the yard intensively. They cleaned up the leaves around the rose beds (which had to be done by hand), put down compost, and edged the beds to make them wider. They started mulching, and may or may not finish this afternoon before the rain tomorrow. Anuradha did most of the leaf raking, which was substantial. She filled eight 40-gallon bags, then tied them up and dragged them to the back of the yard, out of sight. They’ll go out gradually with the garbage on Wednesdays. This is part of the local preaching, to make the yard look pretty for our neighbors.
I asked Anuradha dasi if the OCHS is mostly for Vaisnava studies. She said no, they have a full presentation of Hinduism in the various philosophies, including Shaktism, Sankaracarya, etc., but they are building a most formidable presentation of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. They have a weekly lunch on Wednesday, and it’s better than any food served in the big dining halls at Oxford. If you’re a vegetarian there, all you can get is potatoes and cheese, but our Oxford Centre has a feast-like meal the way Prabhupada taught us to cook. They also have times for kirtana and times for Hindus to come and sing their bhajanas. The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies is headed up by my disciple Shaunaka Rishi dasa. It’s been there for twenty years and is well-respected in the Oxford community of colleges.
In our out-loud reading, we’ve begun the Antya-lila of Caitanya-caritamrta. When the devotees from Bengal were walking together to visit Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Jagannatha Puri, a street dog joined them, and Sivananda Sena fed it meals and maintained it. When a boatman wouldn’t take it on board, Sivananda Sena paid money to include it. But then one day a devotee neglected to feed the dog, and he disappeared. Sivananda Sena was unhappy, and he fasted. But when they arrived in Lord Caitanya’s presence they saw that same dog sitting a little distant from Lord Caitanya. The Lord was feeding him pieces of coconut pulp and asking the dog to chant “Krsna, Krsna!”, which he did. Everyone was astonished. The next day the dog disappeared, and everyone concluded that he had gone back to Vaikuntha. Prabhupada writes that there are many instances of animals becoming pets of Vaisnavas and attaining entrance to the spiritual world.
Many devotees like this story. They think that if a dog can go back to Godhead, then they have a chance also by Lord Caitanya’s mercy.
“I’m writing what I’ve understood from your purports in my own words. Then I go on to express myself—imperfectly, of course—saying how I feel and trying to link the Bhagavatam to my day-to-day life. I have already told you all about this and explained my reasoning, so I won’t bring it all up again. I’ve come before you to ask your permission to continue this writing. I don’t want my request to be granted if I should be doing something more or different. Please relieve me of whatever selfish motives I have, whatever superficial or temporary coverings of the self that still plague me. What’s the use of my writing and publishing if it doesn’t hit the heart of Krsna consciousness? I will simply spoil my activities unless they are pleasing to you.
“Perhaps in a sense I am begging the question: ‘What else can I do?’ Like many of your disciples I have hatched a plan for how to serve you, and it seems good to me. Your longtime Bombay disciple, Aditya dasi, showed me her plan for a way to preach by teaching music lessons at Hare Krsna Land. It’s a good idea too, and it can induce musically inclined people to learn about kirtana. And there’s Devakinandana Prabhu, who also has many plans and activities for you. He cares for the life members and collects money for Hare Krsna Land. Now he wants to set up Deity worship in factories around Bombay. I told him you had written about this in Message of Godhead even before you came to America. We all have plans how to preach—writing, teaching, life membership, whatever—all to glorify you.
“For me, writing keeps me busy in a way that nothing else will. It also keeps me satisfied. And I haven’t always been satisfied over the years, even in work that has my Godbrothers’ sanction. Somehow those other services did not engage my proclivities. In that sense, I think the symptoms are good when I write. There are certain people who come to Krsna consciousness who seem to take what I say as beneficial for their spiritual lives. That is the Lord’s mercy on me. We each seem to have a certain capacity to approach different types of people in society.
“ . . . I am very pleased to be able to serve you in your murti form and to serve you by chanting and lecturing. You are kind to each of us, your disciples, as you give us each a service by which we can come closer to you. I hope it will not be too long before I can enter my eternal relationship with you and stop spoiling my lives in this material world. All I want is your causeless devotional service life after life.”
“How does a man disappear?
Is he guided toward death or
just eats beans and dies?
Does he suddenly wake at 9 P.M. only
to find that he’s on another
planet? Is death something we can intellectualize?”
“This is a point: let’s not intellectualize Krsna consciousness. Get it from the gut. After all, we’re not reading Pravda. What does Krsna consciousness feel like when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? Poem language can help to discover that.
For example how does a man dive?
Is he lost if he pauses
as a Pepsi sign flashes?
Does he split into demon and divine?
And how does he disappear?
We are too pampered to care.
Do we have to
die and be born in tough
lower castes to know the
truth? But then how will
we write it?”
“I suffered when I was in the U.S. Navy. It left me with a strong distaste for being part of the Establishment.
“I remember Dr. Alexander telling me it was good that I was an enlisted man and not a Naval officer. She was a Marxist. She thought It would benefit me to know the plight of the ordinary sailor. And it’s true, I saw that suffering up close. I learned from that that I didn’t want to become an accomplice to the system, but neither was I an ordinary Joe.
“I remember reading Celine in my bunk with the curtain drawn. My college buddies read him too. We thought he was great. I also read The Gay Science, by Nietszche, and trash.
“I remember Giriraja joining ISKCON (his name was Glenn Teton then). He had a red car, and we loaded the devotees into it. Thugs and punks from South Boston threatened us or jeered when we chanted on the Common, and the local Allston hoodlums attacked us in our house.
“I remember Srila Prabhupada coming to Boston and lecturing at the Arlington Street Church. He shouted, ‘Bhaktosi!’ referring to that Bhagavad-gita verse. He looked beautiful, and I was thrilled. I wore a suit jacket over my dhoti and kurta.
“I remember walking behind or beside Prabhupada on his morning walks. Sometimes he would turn to me. He knew I had to go to work soon at the Welfare office.
“Well, do any of these memories remind me of a time when I converted the material energy to spirit? When those guys attacked our temple, that was the material energy acting. They were intoxicated with hate and envy. It was a test of our courage and especially of our commitment to Krsna consciousness. Perhaps it purified us. I didn’t think about it much while it happened, but when it was over, I could see that Krsna had enabled the devotees to protect one another from the demons. Yes, even then the material energy acted favorably if we had the right attitude.
“I explained a similar point once on a TV show in New York. I said that when you use something material for Krsna, it becomes spiritual, and I held up a pair of brass karatalas. Something is material or spiritual depending on your consciousness toward it.”
“Since I wrote here last, I have traveled from Mumbai to London to New York City to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Big deal. It’s 11:30 P.M. and I’m typing, but the machine is loud. I do it anyway at the risk of waking the devotees in this house.
“Let me tell you about what happened when I left the Bombay temple. We arrived at the airport, and Devakinandana went to the front of the line, gave the policemen some sweets, and asked them to please allow Madhu and I to go first.
“One policeman said that the line was being held up because of a bomb scare, but after a few minutes, he waved us forward. I knew the other people in line would resent us, but it was a relief not to have to face the long wait. Then we exchanged smiles with Devakinandana and his wife, waved good-bye, and overlooked the sea of angry faces behind us. Sorry folks, this one slipped ahead of you because of the potency of krsna-prasadam and the Lord’s devotees in India. Then off we went, into the world of the British Airways flight and the rest is my own little history. Now I’m here, trying to adjust my body to a new time zone, and trying to get back into reading the Bhagavatam.
“I felt a special blessing for this project while I was in India. I felt protected there, unlikely to be distracted by anything else. India has both a chaste and chastening nature. This quality is inextricably mixed with the inconvenience and material backwardness of India. Prabhupada says that Indians try ‘artificially’ to become advanced materialists. Remember all those days in Khargone with me complaining about the dirty rug, the mice, the inability of our hosts to understand our language or come through on all our demands? He said he couldn’t send a fax because ‘Something is wrong with the talar.’ Talar? Now that I’ve left India, however, I recognize the special flow of mercy I felt while I was there.
“I want to stay connected with that flow. Of course, spiritual life is not limited to geography or nation. Prabhupada himself championed our ability to practice Krsna consciousness anywhere. He even reprimanded his Indian brothers as dullards for neglecting Krsna, and he said that the Western boys and girls were good. Let me therefore be good by entering the Bhagavatam.
“Anyway, my point in saying all this is that I wanted you to know that it is certainly different here. I will visit Stroudsburg for a week while Madhu fixes our van, then travel on to Saranagati, where I hope to enter deeply into the Bhagavatam verses. If someone disapproves of my plans, then all I can do is apologize and continue to push my way to the front of the line.”
“I’m back in America and I feel it. It must be the American vitamins and warm shoes and the songs in the air. It can’t be he who is writing this to the world who never wrote him.
“Can you practice love of God in the West? Why not? I write to release the diversions, to entertain, to bedevil, to stuff a pepper, and to rid myself of fear and pain and the desire to escape.
“O jazzmen of my soul,
give joy, your best
and talk of Krsna,
O kavayah. Music is for that.”
“Release words and emotion. I was exposed to the world’s contamination just like anyone else. My father knew it and tried to protect me. He even once tried to make sure I knew to stay clear of a barber who was a pervert and who would invite kids to Yankee Stadium. My father wanted me to be a winner, not a loser, an officer, not a common sailor.
“See? I didn’t want to write all that, but sometimes it builds a bridge to hurt and truth. Whew.
“(Head, please cooperate and let me write.) Dad, you were a white man. I liked the
‘n—–’ (your word) music. I was beginning to turn black. Dad, you were wrong on many counts. Not your fault, I know, because you didn’t have a liberal arts education as I did. Ha! We were both wrong in so many ways.
“Remember that beach house in Avalon? I felt so much angst. I couldn’t find my way, but I knew that Eric Dolphy’s music was as poignant as the cry of a seagull. It didn’t deliver me.
“The Swami came and I parted with you, tattooed dad. I close the book. These memories continue to surface, but at least all roads lead to Swamiji and my gratitude to him.
“I wore a pin-striped summer suit jacket. I was an NYC youth on amphetamines and weight-reducing pills. How quickly the candle burned at both ends in my prune-like life. I would have been snuffed out, thrown in the garbage.
“I won’t take time to explain.”
“Srila Prabhupada did not want his disciples to become interested in rasa before they became free of material desire and strongly fixed in pure devotion service to the spiritual master. He therefore set the example for all of us to follow by refraining from discussion on his or his disciples’ individual rasas.
“But he did teach the concept of rasa. He told us that when we are in a perfect stage of devotional service we can know our eternal relationship with Krsna. Then ‘one of the associates of Krsna becomes our ideal leader.’ But he warned, ‘This acceptance by one of the eternal associates of the Lord is not artificial. Do not therefore try it at present. It will automatically be revealed to you in proper time.’
“It sometimes occurred to Prabhupada’s disciples that he was that eternal resident of Vrndavana who was their ideal leader. In a conversation about following a resident of Vrndavana, Revatinandana dasa pointed out that because Prabhupada was always in Vrndavana consciousness, his disciples were following a Vrndavana inhabitant.”
“Someone’s shoe is on the road and a car is about to run it over. I won’t say, ‘Poor shoe,’ because cars are people too, I mean, people-driven. When we see the car of the President, we say, ‘Here comes the President,’ although the car is not the person. Similarly, when we see a moving body we say, ‘There’s John,’ or ‘Here’s me,’ but the body only covers the soul.
“Therefore, sages tell us to look to ourselves, to look within, and to know ourselves as spirit soul.
“To do this we have to be directed by sastra. There is no other way of knowing the soul, no experiment we can do, no other books we can study.
“Knowledge of the soul is important. If people could understand their true nature, they would not need to kill each other over bodily differences. The world would be a safer place to live.
“Knowledge of body and soul includes knowledge of transmigration. These laws teach us not to commit sins so that we will have to suffer in our next life.
“Some people hear this and say, ‘That’s an interesting concept, but we need help now. Come into this building and help us remove the dead bodies after the bombing.’ Or ‘Help us feed the poor.’
“We say, ‘You help us teach. Everyone acknowledges the importance 0f education, even if education is a slow process. Teaching Bhagavad-gita is the only way to stop the bombing and to put food on the table.’
And the shoe lies in the road
and the cars roll on!
“Civilization is filled with places like what is depicted in this photograph, and they make you lose heart. Every inch covered with pavement (although grass grows despite it). Where can the heart rest?”
“Saint Augustine‘s mother wept and prayed all her life that her son would give up his sinful ways and become Your faithful servant. When he converted, she rejoiced. When she died, he grieved with great reverence and gratitude for her intercession. Srila Prabhupada interceded for us. He prayed and worked to convince us to become Your devotees. He sacrificed all his physical and mental comforts to come to America. I am eternally grateful that he turned me into Your worker. Otherwise, I would have died in a miserable condition, without You. When I see him, I am reminded of Krsna because he is a mahabhagavata, the highest category of pure devotee. He sees that it is possible for all kinds of people to become Your devotees, regardless of their birth or bad habits. I praise Lord Krsna because Prabhupada has given me the means and realization to do so.
“Now over thirty years since Prabhupada’s disappearance, I speak to Krsna directly in the mood my spiritual master taught me and as he has described in his purports. I should see Krsna as my ever well-wisher. Lord Krsna wants me to help others to come to Him. Without Krsna, no one is safe in this material world. We are all subject to death and coming back for another term of miserable material existence. But if we worship You, Lord Krsna, we may return to the spiritual world, where life is eternal, full of bliss and knowledge. It behooves everyone to surrender to You and be happy in this world and the next. You can bring us this peace as we render You devotion and service and give up other activities.”
“But the pure devotee is a person. Like any person, he will have personal preferences. What we notice if we minutely examine the life of a pure devotee is that all of his preferences are favorable to devotional service. They are each individual ex-pressions of his meditation on and service to Krsna. This may not always be comprehensible when we examine the pure devotee without the requisite faith. There are nine principles of devotional service. If a devotee chooses mainly to hear about Krsna or only to chant, we cannot accuse him of whimsical behavior. There are also five primary rasas. A devotee in the liberated state serves Krsna in a particular way according to his realization of his relationship with Krsna. Rather than consider this fact whimsical, we should understand that these preferences are the perfection of devotional development.”
“Don’t expect novelty
sameness is everywhere and
yet it’s new because your life-
force is eating air every moment
“even another body is an old
variety but is new when
you go to Vaikuntha it’ll
be so different
I’m telling you what the
“in this world we eat air
and grains too until you
reach the end of trip.
“Well, all right blue sing
but it’s Krsna conscious
and we want the true
mind the guts the divine spark
and don’t feel it yet
will I guess one day
“until then we play this
way saying I will be true
to the lessons of Gurudeva
“birds chirping and sheep against
the wall, two babies against a shaggy mother
greet dawn with walking
prayers and pain may come you
really don’t know but do
your stuff haribol service.”
“He Prabhu, whose feet are as soft as new-grown leaves, please hear my prayer. He Prabhu, please cause me to remember You. You are the goal of all works. If we do our duty in forgetfulness of You, then our lives are useless. If we sin because we have forgotten You, then how will we again find the shelter of Your lotus feet?
“If material ruin brings on remembrance of You, then that is Your mercy. Remembrance of You comes from so far away; it is born from the sraddha our spiritual master cultured in us. He is Your confidential servant.
“In another song, Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays, ‘O Gopinatha, You know everything. Now, having punished Your servant, please give him a place at Your lotus feet.’ Lord Caitanya also prays to the son of Nanda Maharaja, ‘Please place Me as an atom at Your lotus feet.’
“It is sometimes said that prayers to the lotus feet of Krsna indicate dasya-rasa. But the gopis also pray for the touch of His feet on their heads and breasts. They want Krsna’s love. Cowherd boys want to massage Krsna’s feet and give Him pleasure. All devotees hanker to serve His feet. I do too. O Mukunda, please allow me to come to Your feet with my mind and pen, seeking a small space and complete shelter.”
“I just heard a tape of Srila Prabhupada on a morning walk in Geneva, June 1974. He was speaking favorably of the practice of prayer and worship of God in other religions, provided they actually follow their scriptures. During that whole spring tour—Rome, Geneva, Paris, Germany, Australia—Prabhupada got quite involved in exchanges with Christian priests, and he expressed ecumenical ideas to his own disciples.
“On the Geneva walk, he began by asking whether there were many churches in the city. When he was told, ‘Not so many,’ he replied. ‘That means godlessness.’ He said that when he first went to Butler, Pennsylvania, he saw at least a dozen well-attended churches, although it was a small county. ‘I very much appreciated,’ he said. ‘Churches mean God consciousness. I never criticize churches or mosques—never. Because whatever it may be, at least there is God consciousness. Then they are good. In details [they may differ], but I only criticize those who don’t follow. Otherwise, we don’t criticize.’
“‘We’re not sectarian,’ said one of the devotees.
“‘Why?’ said Srila Prabhupada. ‘God is one. Why sectarian? According to circumstances, he’s doing. And that prayer is also vandanam. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh-smaranam pada sevanam. This vandanam is prayer. That is bhakti, one of the items of bhakti.’
“Devotee: ‘Everyone needs to be encouraged in their God consciousness.’
“Prabhupada repeated his point about vandanam, offering prayer, and he acknowledged that it also existed, at least in a preliminary stage, in churches of different religions.
“Devotee: ‘Is it required for them to have a spiritual master to guide them?’
“Prabhupada: ‘Certainly. But these rascals, the priests, they do not guide them. They’re also fallen. Otherwise, Christian religion is very nice. If they follow. So many times they ask me. I say, “Yes, if you follow. Your Christian religion will make you perfect.” And Caitanya Mahaprabhu proved devotional service from the Koran. It requires a devotee who can explain from any godly literature about God.’
“This last statement particularly struck me: ‘It requires a devotee who can explain from any godly literature about God.’ I have often been skeptical about ecumenical or interfaith exchanges. Sometimes ecumenicists seem to be no more than polite sectarian opponents feeling each other out so that they can then go later and preach to members of the opposing religion and be more expert at their conversions. Or else it seems to be quite mundane, an indulgence for religionists who have no conclusive path. But Prabhupada spoke of a substantial service to be done for religionists, especially by one who knows the science of God. I want to try to understand better what he meant, especially as he expressed it during his tour through Europe and Australia in 1974.”
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw on the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”
“It would be hard to choose only one verse of Siksastakam as the most important, but if we were hard-pressed, we would probably choose this one. Krsnadasa Kaviraja calls this verse the thread upon which the holy name is strung. Lord Caitanya informed Ramananda Raya that this verse was the perfection of love of God. No matter what the rasa, every pure devotee worships Krsna in this mood. It is perhaps the most ‘practical’ of the Siksastakam verses. It teaches us how to chant.
“ . . . Prabhupada once said that if most people were asked to go on chanting constantly, they would go mad. Constant chanting can only be practiced by an advanced devotee. Here, the advancement is described as thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street. That means giving up the false prestige that comes with the material body. ‘I have an American body. I have a wife and family and a house.’ Or, ‘I have a sannyasi’s danda and a reputation. I have published some books. I practice austerity.’ Give it up when you chant! Stop thinking about the busy world in which you are a manipulator and a mover, an exchange of money and goods. Stop being puffed up.
“But because we spend about twenty-two hours a day being puffed up, it’s hard to switch suddenly and become humble when we pick up our beads. Therefore, this instruction is not just for the japa period, but it is the life of the chanter. If we really want to chant, we will have to live with humility. It’s not something that can be affected by an imitative physical posture or a look in the eyes or sound in the voice. It has to come from the heart and from our actions.”
pp. 229 pp. 63-64
“We arrived at the temple around noon. It is elegant. I felt a little like a gypsy foraging around in the resident GBC-guru’s room looking at the books and photo albums, etc.
“There was one letter from a devotee who has left ISKCON and sends out his booklets on practical ways to improve material society (and ISKCON too). I’ve seen his pamphlets before—lots of material research on how to improve democracy and to stop the cheating. He mentions in his letter that in ISKCON, the brahmanas try to control everything while they themselves live like demigods. People should have financial incentives and not be expected to do service for free while leaders live on a high material standard and don’t disclose their bank accounts. He also says people need to see more practical results, not just philosophy and temple construction. Hard-hitting stuff, but I couldn’t read through his plans for revived democracy, the American dream. As he himself writes in his letter, ‘I chant my rounds almost every day. Otherwise I get mentally sick. I really can’t take the material world. I study it too much and I’m getting to be known as “a very intelligent politician.”’
“I leave it, but take warning not to live high on the hog and ask others to sacrifice. Be truthful about money, about everything. As for being impractical/ practical, it’s not wrong for someone in society, namely sadhus, to go around speaking Krsna conscious philosophy. It’s what I do. Someone writes books so we can have culture in our American dream-practical society and not get mentally sick.
“We are like two poor children, Madhu and I, in this suite of rooms, trying not to stain the spotless rugs or think bad thoughts. Don’t use the piano or the exercise bike, don’t break the shower, and don’t nose around inside the desk drawers.”
“We have just discussed how the madhyama-bhakta offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the spiritual master, the holy name, and the Deity of Krsna. Now we shall consider the Vaisnava behavior of the madhyama-bhakta, as expressed in his relationships with other devotees.
“‘The devotees of Krsna are friends. ‘The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me,’ says Lord Krsna, ‘their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.’ (Bg. 10.9) The sastras strongly advise associating with like-minded devotees, and strongly warn against association with nondevotees. The sastras also contain many instructions about various kinds of relationships between the various kinds of devotees, and these teachings form an important part of Vaisnava etiquette.
“In one sense, all devotees may be considered as a single class, as sincere followers of Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada writes in a Caitanya-caritamrta purport,
“‘Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja sets the example of offering obeisances to all the preacher devotees of Lord Caitanya, without distinction as to higher and lower:
“‘“I offer my obeisances to all the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the eternal tree of love of Godhead. I offer my respects to all the branches of the tree, the devotees of the Lord who distribute the fruit of love of Krsna.”’ (Cc. Adi 10.7)
“The devotees are all personalists who glorify the Supreme Person with transcendental chanting and hearing, and they take pleasure in the company of other personal servitors of the Lord. ‘A pure devotee does not desire the company of a personality as great as Brahma,’ writes Srila Prabhupada, ‘but he prefers the association of a petty living being, provided he is a devotee of the Lord.’ (Bhag. 1.19.16, purport)”
“The gopis were envious of the flute. They said he was taking all the nectar from Krsna’s lips and leaving none for them. They said they were the rightful inheritors of that nectar because they knew Krsna from their birth, whereas the flute— a dry piece of bamboo—had become acquainted with Krsna only since His taking the cows into the fields. Nevertheless, Krsna gave the touch of His lips to His flute. He has several flutes—a venu, a murali, and others too. He puts the beautiful touch of His lips to the holes of His flute and fingers it, and out comes music that enchants the whole world. The parents of the flute—the trees and the ponds—are proud of their offspring. But the gopis remain piqued. They say it’s better to take birth as a flute than to take birth as a gopi.
“The cows in Goloka Vrndavana are far superior to the deer. When they hear the sound of Krsna’s flute, they stop chewing the grass in their mouths and stand stunned. The Pulinda aborigine women are superior to the cows. They take the red kunkuma from Krsna’s feet and rub it on their breasts and faces, relieving themselves from lust. The gopis observe these things and lament their misfortune at not getting Krsna’s association.
“Did you ever think that love had a sound? It’s in the sound of sweet music. Best tunes are sounds of love. They can be played in the present, and they exist now. The sound of love is embracing and feeling love right now. The sound of love is music. The sound of love is you talking to me and me talking to you in affection, laughing together, having a good time. The sound of love is Hare Krsna when it’s chanted with emotion and devotion. The sound of love is Krsna’s words when He says, ‘Bow down to Me, offer homage to Me, and you will come to Me.’ Those promises of Krsna are sounds of love. The sound of love is sweet and tender. It’s not fighting, raucous voices. The sound of love is tender. It’s confidential words, and sometimes just whispers. Words that don’t really mean so much but are just spoken in the ear, the way the cowherd boys sometimes talk to Krsna with not much meaning but lots of bliss. The sound of love is blissful, although not always coherent.
“Having heard the music, let’s go back to japa, another type of music, music for the soul. A whispered music from my own lips. Today we’re going to Mahahari’s and Yasoda’s for lunch. That will be a treat. But a little more time taken off my day. Thinking of japa as music is an interesting parallel. It’s not really the same, but when you glide along through the mantras, it has a similar effect. (Maybe not. Maybe I’m just making it up. But I did enjoy the music. And now I have to return to japa, so I’m just giving myself some solace.) Go, my friend, listen to the music of the holy names. Accumulate your rounds.”
“Sorry I couldn’t get another Writing Session in here today. We went to Bhaktivinoda’s place. I spoke there in quiet before the crowd came and then again. Now I seem to have caught a cold.
“I wrote a letter and said I need a tailor-made program to get through life or the material world. But the world doesn’t always arrange or allow for Satsvarupa to have it his way. In which case I ‘rebel’ and get a headache. But if I can control the situation, I don’t get a headache. I said I am amazed how ISKCON devotees, young ones and also leaders, go seven hours in a morning program and then only begin their day and go nonstop until one o’clock. I said my full days of participation like that are over. I wrote in this letter that I am pursuing a career of personal writing which I began with Journal & Poems in 1986 and which has evolved . . . I do it mostly for myself, but some of it can be edited and shared.
“Maybe after tonight’s meeting I can come back and do a poem and then some more. Initial reluctance to sit and write is, I suppose, part of the India experience. But it is worth writing.
“I ventured an opinion in private that the kailash on top of Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi looks too big. Alex said all architects who come also think like that. The strangeness is the mixture of different styles, Western and Eastern which he said is typical of everything in ISKCON. There is classical handsomeness in the marble dome, like the Jefferson Memorial but the ‘gold’ kailash on top looks like a big gaudy thing, stuck on the top of a Christmas tree. Oh well, he said, it’s done, and will stay there 150 years. He said books are better than buildings because books are eternal. I thought, “Well, they are “eternal” only if someone keeps putting them in reprints.’
“I’ve got a headache.
“‘You are avoiding raganuga’ he said, ‘while
I’m pursuing it and feel acaryas are
encouraging me when I pray at their
samadhi in Vrndavana.’
His guru has gone simple, asserts,
“‘It’s all in Prabhupada’s books.’
But I don’t want to bully him from
my superior position as father.
“‘Are you tired?’ I asked the 50 disciples
after an hour. But they looked alert.
I keep going commenting from Prabhupada’s
’66 diaries daring to expose my own thought
as ‘not best, but best for me.’
‘How do you develop selfless service for
the guru?’ she asks. I’m at a loss to
answer precisely because
I don’t know myself!
Then did you bluff an answer?
Is this your poem or are you
too busy with your family tonight?
“Sore throat, sniffles, give them all.
You can ‘write me letters.’ Pretend he can
take care of disciples but admits,
‘There’s a limit.’
“A stack of new letters on my desk but
I chose to come here to you, big page
and blue felt ink. Goodnight, they’re
singing namamisvaram, weather changing,
I spouted out all I could, their
faces, best wishes . . . I lingered on
a Zen line, ‘When you carry wood,
carry wood, when you draw water,
draw water,’ and said it can be included
within Krsna consciousness. When you
chant japa, chant japa, when you
go to mangala-arati, be there. One
devotee raised his hand and said, ‘I’ve been
keeping a journal here in Mayapur and
the details.’ I had no comment.
No comment? Yeah! Details, Kaliya, and
the main thing also—the chanting
and surrender day by day. Be here now—
no other way. Oh—Srila Prabhupada,
serve, a pure
devotee has no desire for anything
except his immediate engagement.
And that is spontaneous bhakti.
Not raganuga? Sorry, this is tonight.
“Bang, it’s Diwali candles on railings
of stone, I noticed them all right as I
came out of the old GBC room wearing two
garlands, not a GBC member but
Mayapur mercy in later years I’m
teaching disciples, ‘Krsna is God.’
Spending time with them in the
same room where I was silent and
gagged and finally gave up in pain and
was carried out: resigned.
“‘BANG.’ It could be a bad night, no sleep
just loud explosions and louder explosions
until 1 or 2 A.M.? We’ll see, the world
is rumbly out in darkness plains of
Mayapur and candles burn down. I’m here.
“Told them Krsna is God and yet a cow-
herd boy. Do you know what you
are talking about? Is it aisvarya, is
it madhurya, is it Prabhupada? I speak
what I think he’s teaching in his books
and they listen, they listen and question,
driving me to be sincere. ‘If Mayapur
doesn’t accept offenses, then where
do the offenses go?’ I don’t know.
I don’t know. ‘What does it mean that
Mayapur is Prabhupada’s place of worship?’
I shoot from the hip. I can’t hear them
because of electric fans. Give me a break.
“Bang. Bang. Lie down and hear the
rockets exploding and people and music ex-
tending for miles. I’m safe but blasted
by the vibration I hate. Give me
peace I plead, but Krsna wants me
to serve these devotees in noisy places
like Prabhupada did in New York.
“Women, lads, give out sweets, stumble
out the door of the old GBC room in
two garlands of campaka and up here,
Lord, Lord, I’ll see You when I
qualify. Please forgive me, please
give me strength to go on talking that
I’m faithful and Krsna is God and may these
devotees take it . . . . Okay, right, go
try with lights out to absorb the night
of explosions with earplugs.
“Hard day yesterday enduring sharp pain of ‘old pain’ behind my right eye. Years ago, it used to be worse. Went to bed by 5 P.M. And it went away overnight. I still have a heavy cough in my lungs, last stages (I hope) of a Mayapur cold.
“Seem to have lost the thread and impetus of these ‘Karttika Papers.’
“Also, we are cutting short our stay in India.
“Also! I am taking back my original Prabhupada murti. He’s here in these rooms and I intend to massage and bathe him. M. will have a box made for carrying him. He’s heavy. I won’t be able to carry my new typewriter. It’s either-or: either Prabhupada or the typewriter. So, I’ve decided I need the murti, want to be with him.
“Navadvipa wrote me a letter hinting how tasty it is to be going to see Maharaja. So, I want to be Prabhupada’s servant and realize that tastiness again. Please come to me, Prabhupada, or rather, please draw me to you!
May I write,
is the be-bop prose and prosody
“Mayapur birds screeching. Heavy Prabhupada is back in my care. How could I have forgotten him? He’s back; he was always mine and now he’s mine again.
“Beautiful Deity,” said Rupa Raghunatha, who’s been worshiping him all these years.
“Prabhupada’s back. He looks nice. Make a box for him.
“Karttika Papers running out. I could possibly be leaving India as early as November 16th. Last days especially I’ve been unable to write. Parikramas brings stress. I have to go to bed to nurse headaches. Then an evening meeting with disciples.
“It’s just diary-readin’ and moments for now . . . getting to know you again, dear diary, my sister, brother, father, mother. You are not exactly my guru; Prabhupada is guru. By writing, the diary teaches me in its own way.
“Relax cough. Wear a T-shirt instead of a long-sleeved kurta. Barefoot in TKG’s room, at his luxury desk.
“What I mean is, I’ve lost impetus to record impressions of Mayapur, to sense that the dhama is special or that I will grasp something special here. It hasn’t happened and doesn’t seem it will. But if I get the Prabhupada murti back, well, that’s certainly special, isn’t it?
“We may go to Calcutta…
“‘Hup!’ Someone calls to an ox in the Mayapur fields.”
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.