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
From SDG: “We are asking all devotees and friends who attend my Vyasa-puja event on December 4, 2021 to wear masks. You can bring your own, or if you don’t have one we can give you one when you arrive at Stuyvesant Falls. Thank you very much.”
We’re having a quiet Thanksgiving. Vyasa-puja is in a week, and we’re working on that. Plus we just celebrated Govardhana Puja. Krsna dasi just returned from Trinidad, and the roof workers were here for four days, disrupting things. Our washer-dryer crashed, and we’ve ordered a new one. These are reasons why we’re having such a small Thanksgiving observance. Only Atindra, Lalita-kaisori and Amit are coming. Anuradha and Krsna dasi are here to save the day. If it was just Bhakti Rasa and Baladeva, it would be hard to get by.
I was thinking of sending copies of my lecture to devotees in different locations. But Baladeva told me that Ishvara Govinda is coming, and he will film it and put it on our own YouTube channel. It won’t be merely me speaking my lecture as a “talking head.” But he will capture shots of devotees—chanting, dancing, speaking homages, taking prasadam, looking at books and art—in a variety of images. Plus, the whole talk will be there. Ishvara Govinda is an excellent filmmaker. He edits and makes it interesting video with variety and quick movement.
The out-loud readers finished Caitanya-caritamrta and a select group met to vote for the next book. We have included Haryasva as a voter in the wake of the passing of Trinidad Baladeva. Haryasva’s choice was The Nectar of Devotion. I phoned Krsna dasi in Trinidad, and she voted for Caitanya-bhagavata. Baladeva has been keeping no secret about his choice, and he voted for Caitanya-bhagavata also. I also voted for Caitanya-bhagavata, and so now it is concluded. That’s the book we will read, probably starting tomorrow afternoon.
Today we began our out-loud reading of Caitanya-bhagavata. But the devotees have three versions. Some have no purports, and others have different editing, and different wording in the verses. We had trouble agreeing on a way to proceed. Someone suggested that one reader could do the verse and another reader could do the purport. But we saw that was too complicated and confusing. Some were also a little wary in general of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s purports, thinking them too technical. After remaining confused for a while, I decided that we should read only the verses and omit the purports. This way everyone had the same verses. It was not as good as what we had just read in Caitanya-caritamrta with the Bhaktivedanta purports. But it was streamlined and clear reading once we got into it. So far we haven’t even heard much lila of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, just introductory material. We’re hearing what’s coming ahead. A few readers were complaining, but I found it accessible and clear, so we’re going ahead this way.
We just finished Volume 1 and have started Volume 2 of Caitanya-bhagavata, Adi-khanda. Jagannatha Misra is afraid of his son Visvambhara’s great attachment for scholarship. He feels that Nimai will do like his brother Visvarupa and leave home and take sannyasa. So he orders Visvambhara to stop His studies. Visvambhara obeys, but He’s disappointed. In rebellion, He sits on a pile of dirty pots that were used in cooking for Lord Visnu. His mother Saci tells Him to get down from the pots, but He tells her that the pots are pure because He is sitting on them and because they were used to cook offerings to Lord Visnu. He also says to her, “Since you won’t let Me study, how can I know what is right and what is wrong?” The neighbors join in and say to Saci and Jagannatha Misra that they shouldn’t have stopped Visvambhara from studying; they should be glad He has such a strong desire for scholarship. Jagannatha Misra submits to them and says he will do whatever they say. So they plan on giving Visvambhara a brahmana thread, and He resumes His studies. Nimai is very happy about this, and He immediately becomes the best student in Navadvipa, defeating all the other boys. He establishes an argument and then immediately refutes it, and then He refutes that argument again and re-establishes a new one. Everyone is amazed at His genius.
The other devotees were busy this morning, and Krishna Kripa cooked lunch. He made upma, which he said was taught to him by Yamaraja Prabhu, the BTG artist and designer. Today Krishna Kripa is leaving after six weeks. He sacrificed his beloved daily harinama just to help out at the short-staffed Viraha Bhavan. He did good service here even though his heart is in his harinama party. The weather has changed to cold in New York City, and they’ll be going into the subways. He says he likes Times Square best, and then Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Krishna Kripa also has family responsibilities near here. His 97-year-old mother lives near Albany, and his sister also lives near there. His sister is going in tomorrow for hip surgery, and his mother wants Krishna Kripa to stay with her during that time until his sister gets out of the hospital.
Muktavandya came, and he brought two devotees from Boston. One was a young man who is a Bengali but who lives in Boston and is the head pujari there. He is a disciple of Jayapataka Swami. The other was a girl, Bhaktin Suzanna, who is from America. In advance, she told Baladeva she had a question for me about Queen Kunti. He told her it better not be a “guru-stumper.” Her question was about a statement in the book The Teachings of Queen Kunti that Krsna has no friends or enemies. I told her that Krsna is a friend to all. Even the demons He kills get elevated to the spiritual world. The example is the witch Putana, who gave Krsna her poisonous breast to suck. Krsna killed her, but He awarded her a place in the spiritual world because she acted as His nurse and gave Him her breast to suck. She was given the position of a mother of Krsna in the spiritual world. Then the Bengali pujari asked me questions about Prabhupada. He asked me what was the first question I asked Prabhupada, and I told him. Then he asked other questions about Prabhupada, and I assured him that he has access to Srila Prabhupada even though he is not Prabhupada’s direct disciple. Prabhupada is the siksa guru for all the devotees in ISKCON. They have equal access to his association if they want it. Both of them asked several more questions, and it was nice answering them in a friendly atmosphere. The Bengali young man wanted a picture taken of he and me together with my hand on his head. Suzanna took pictures of me honoring prasadam, which was a little embarrassing to me. But it was all good fun. Muktavandya was glad to see his friends were well treated by the devotees at Viraha Bhavan.
Our car’s tires have been changed to snow tires which have been used for only one winter season.
Anuradha has cleaned up the basement art gallery/work room and my quarters on the second floor. This is all deep cleaning in preparation for the Vyasa-puja festival, when there will be many guests.
Our washer and dryer have died. A man came and proclaimed they were indeed dead, and we needed new ones. Fortunately a generous donor has stepped forward and volunteered to pay for new ones. The new machines are scheduled to arrive December 2nd.
Anuradha dasi waited five and a half hours at Krsna dasi’s for the men to come and deliver a new refrigerator; they had the wrong address. They finally came, put in a new one and took out the old one. Later while we were eating lunch, Leo came to get his receipt for his donation towards renting the VFW hall. It wasn’t exactly a quiet day. And last night the police came to the door and asked us if we had seen anything suspicious in the neighborhood. They said someone had stolen a truck and left it at the post office, but then it rolled into a house. That was the big news of the day at Stuyvesant Falls.
Men came to put a new roof on the side shelter, which covers all the garden tools, the lawn mower and other machines. While fixing the roof they found a lot of rotten supports that have to be replaced. They will be back tomorrow to finish up the job, unless it rains.
The workmen who were here yesterday putting up a roof on our back building came again today. They’re racing to get it done before a pending rainstorm comes. There are black clouds in the sky, and it’s predicted. If it actually does rain, they’ll put a tarp over the work that they’ve completed and come back tomorrow, and if it’s not actually raining they’ll put the shingles on.
My books arrived that were at Amazon, replacement for all the books that had been sold out at our July 3rd meeting. There are also eighty cases of books at Visnu Aradhanam’s house that haven’t been inventoried. There are also thirty cases over at Saci Suta’s house that we just found. We have rented a new storage unit ten minutes away. So we are well-stocked with books. Now devotees just have to distribute them.
I had a meeting with John Endler. He was very enthusiastic about all the books we are receiving from various sources so that we will have a good variety to distribute on my Vyasa-puja day. John is reading books like Write and Die and Kaleidoscope so he’ll be fresh and prepared to guide the devotees who come to the book table and explain to them what each book is about. He is well qualified to do this. John reads the books every day and is excited and enthusiastic about them. He reads the books cover to cover, not a “Cliff Notes” cheater. We are keeping some of the prices low to encourage the readers to get as many books as possible.
Krishna-bhajana sent a quick progress report on our project of reprinting all of my books about Srila Prabhupada. Lalita Manjari devi dasi has completed the files for One Hundred Prabhupada Poems and Prabhupada Nectar. We received two copies of Srila Prabhupada Smaranam from Amazon. They were very costly because the books are rare. Krishna-bhajana is expecting soon to receive files from Nitai dasa. With his files we will have all the Prabhupada titles at some stage of completion. Also, Caitanya Candrodaya sent the files for Srila Prabhupada Smaranam. Satyasara devi dasi is about fifteen percent done typing Remembering Srila Prabhupada. John Endler is transcribing Calling Out to Srila Prabhupada. I was especially interested to hear that Lalita Manjari was on board typing my books about Prabhupada. She especially likes books I write about Srila Prabhupada.
The quick progress report showed that our project to print all the books I’ve written about Prabhupada is not just a pipe dream. The devotees are really working at it. But there’s so much to be done. Everyone has to work together in cooperation for it to really happen. I am hopeful, but I remain cautious . . .
“We can only pray to overcome all reluctance and corruption and be allowed to enter the mysterious, happy region of loving devotional service in this world and the next.
“Whew! I finally made it here despite the detours and my corruptions. And my old age. I’m here to rumble along some more.
“I used to wipe off the picnic table in the courtyard at 26 2nd Avenue. Swamiji didn’t even ask me to do it, a Godbrother did.
“I was happy to do it though.
“What is pure devotional service? Is my holding this red pen pure devotion?
“No, silly, you have to be a pure devotee holding the red pen.
“What if a Hare Krsna kid plays Rama
and Nrsimha and later hates
ISKCON cult and opts
for sex and drugs?
Does he get to go back to Godhead?
Where are the poems of mercy?
“I asked Madhu what would happen if the water pump in our new van broke while we were driving in rural Czech Republic. I liked his answer. He said, ‘Oh, that happened to me once in England before I became a devotee. I ordered a part and then checked into a hotel until the part came.’
“I told him that I could write a poem, ‘Song While Waiting for a Part.’ Get ready for it. If I prepare in advance for all calamities and assume the crash position, it seems to help.”
“Ladies, please take off your high heels as they may rip the escape slide (disaster!). Get out fast, top off your life jacket by blowing air through the tube, then blow the whistle attached to attract help as you go down, down,
no sweet rice now—
and one last ‘Hare Krsna.’
“The Lord with the wheel in His hand. Why is He
carrying that wheel? O Bhismadeva,
“Krsna carried a wheel for you, who
rendered Him pure devotional service.
“Mental speculators in a cave—how to rescue them? Get yourself out first. Become a light and then don’t keep that light under the bushel, Christ said.
“Those who render service onto the lotus feet of Krsna get to know the creator of the universe in His full glory. What if you want to know the Lord not in His full glory with the wheel in His hand but as He holds a flute in Vraja?
“Well, that’s a secret. Anyway, the process is the same: chant and hear and light up your soul with Krsna’s kindness.
“Sats, you made a sad, sweet tune hiding timid at Haryasva‘s in his own Bro apartment on South Street, a room reserved for you, flowers on the desk.
“How about this title:
‘A pen flows in Brooklyn’?
‘Poetry is crap,’ said Mailer.
What’s his beef?
Life is writ. Birds twit at
“Krsna carries wheel.
Know Him if you are pure. If you are
not, love homogenized
Stay with guru and serve him.
“A van cross-country.
Enter an ISKCON temple, go
through all the formalities—sit and lecture
on Bhagavatam and hit the essence, but are
you on empty?
You say about Bhagavatam
that we should all read.
We have heard that before!
But Krsna grabbed the wheel.
Krsna loved His devotee. What about that?!
Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, the children
draw from innocent hearts and
Srila Prabhupada lectures best. Surrender
there. Surrender, you errant fellow.
“I listened to a taped workshop of Gabriele Rico teaching clustering exercises. She asked her group to cluster on the phrase ‘I remember,’ and she reminded them that after clustering with the right brain, they should use the left brain to write something. This is how my exercise came out:
“I remember clustering in days of old, Faery Queene, doctor bald taught Ed Spenser’s poem from lectern. I wanted to be a poet even then in crowded Jewish halls of Brooklyn College. I did okay.
“I remember you, dear Greenleaf Whittier, and Swami, and me in backroom kitchen—Bombay ’74, freaking out. Don’t intrude on my memories—they have no cumulative point. Each day I remember to give myself permission to write open prose. I have to give permission because to improvise means to lose your way. I remember fire engines, fire houses, hoses—you could go on forever remembering because memory comes from Krsna. I hope I remember at last to preach and at death to chant the holy name.
“There are so many books in this world. We need almost none of them. Celine keeps popping up for me, but I know that if I look at him, I will have no real inclination to turn to him and invest my heart. Better to invest my heart in the sensitive act of penetrating my own barriers to reach my master. His accent, his heaviness, the fact that he repeats the same basic philosophy, the hype surrounding him, ISKCON’s enemies, my fading memories, the fact that photos of him or even his voice doesn’t carry the weight of the full Srila Prabhupada, whom I remember. The mind, the finding of fault, the plain fact that I’m already half-dead and still struggling—all of that makes it harder to approach him. But what can I do but type this and speak from the heart at the bottom of the barrel? I am a barrel caster, a newscaster, a shy, ornery hornet of a man grown old.”
“Let my whole life be dedicated to the Bhagavatam, even though I am poor. And let my writing follow. For now, the life of a Bhagavatam reader is still a little theoretical, but maybe it could become true. And just think, anything that I do that is not directly Bhagavatam, and my errant thoughts, my new taking of allopathic medicine—just think. All this is not really the point. Real redemption comes when I turn to the Bhagavatam verse and purport and read it. That’s the one in front of the zeros. I hope the Bhagavatam’s influence will spread throughout my life.
“ Like when I was a kid—we used to get this margarine-type substance. I doubt they sell it like this anymore. Anyway, you bought this lump of fat. It came with a package of some kind of concentrate, and you would knead the two together by hand. As you kneaded, the color and flavor would spread throughout the fat, turning it yellow. Maybe the Bhagavatam verse and purport can be like that in my life. It’s the bright colored essence, the essential stuff, and as I knead my life, as I write and draw and live, the ‘color’ of the Bhagavatam can spread throughout.”
“This verse assures us that a devotee is immune to repeated birth and death, but it doesn’t assure us that a devotee is immune from suffering. Prahlada Maharaja was tortured, Narada Muni lost his mother when he was only five years old, Queen Kunti suffered on behalf of her sons, Vasudeva and Devaki lost all their children and spent years in prison, and even Prabhupada appeared to experience tribulation. What about that?
“I remember a disciple asking Prabhupada this question on a morning walk. Prabhupada said that at least a devotee knows that when he is suffering, he is suffering for the last time. His suffering is not useless, but it is purifying him so that he can go back to Godhead. At least we can take that much solace when we are suffering.
“Beyond that, however, we shouldn’t approach devotional service as a means to relieve or eliminate suffering. Bhakti is not a painkiller. If we approach devotional service in that way, we are looking for salvation—a material desire—and not pure devotion. I remember one Indian man who complained to me that his wife was threatening to divorce him. Then he joined the temple, attended it regularly, and his wife divorced him anyway. He became disappointed in Bhagavan. We shouldn’t be like that. Krsna consciousness is not to be approached as an antidote to suffering, although ultimately, it relieves the greatest pain.
“Once a devotee approached Prabhupada in tears and asked, ‘Why does Krsna make us suffer?’ Rather than respond gently, Prabhupada became stern. ‘You should not come to Krsna to reduce your suffering. Come to Krsna to surrender and to serve.’
“This will be our last time suffering in this place of suffering. When we go back to Godhead there will be no more misery. Rather, we will enjoy eternal, transcendental pleasure serving Krsna.
“As for those great devotees who suffered, they weren’t suffering in an ordinary way. They were always in contact with Krsna and remained in internal bliss.
“We should be grateful to the sadhus from whom we can inquire confidentially and with trust about Krsna. These inquiries are the only way in which we can invoke love of Godhead. Therefore, the association of learned Vaisnavas is the greatest gift. Prabhupada said we shouldn’t dare to think we are Vaisnavas, but that we are the servants of the Vaisnavas. The servant inquires, ‘How may I serve Krsna?’”
“Tadiyanam—everything should be connected, even memories of Monk and Bartok and breakfast cereals. When the American immigration man says, ‘Welcome home,’ I have to connect that to Krsna’s service. At least it has to inspire remembrance of His lotus feet. That long train in India that I saw during that tedious car ride from Khargone to Bombay—connect it. The fresh, forty-degree. air outside JFK, the smells (all American), the parking lot where I slowed my steps and my breathing in order to savor the coolness and the drizzle. O air of America, am I home?
“O soul of me, if I do belong
to Goloka then enlighten me.
I’m not American or man
or saint or bug
or worm or indigestion.
tell me where to go.
“This image just came to mind in terms of writing this book: Remember tag-team wrestling matches? They showed them regularly on TV in the 1950s. The wrestler had a partner waiting outside the ring. When the wrestler felt he was in trouble, he could reach out and tag his partner. Then his partner would leap into the ring and the wrestler would leap out, and the fight would begin again. I wrestle with my mind and playfulness and ‘chaos’ as Rico calls it, but when I’m flattened on the mat, I stretch out my bony arm as far as I can and tag the next Bhagavatam verse. Then the Bhagavatam springs into the ring and vanquishes my opponent.
“While standing on the road in the woods I suddenly heard voices, but I couldn’t make out where they were coming from. There was no one else there. Was it a radio? I listened more carefully and realized that they weren’t human voices at all. Up above me, wild geese were forming a V and honking. Is it already spring? Yes, winter is on the way out.”
“Many great Vaisnava acaryas have commented on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Jiva Gosvami proves in his Tattva Sandarbha that of all the Vedas and Puranas, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is the scripture par excellence. Those who think that it’s simply a book written by an ordinary person have not studied it deeply.
“Srila Prabhupada summarizes the Bhagavatam as ‘selected histories of great devotees who are in direct contact with the Personality of Godhead.’ Thus in the Bhagavatam, we’ll read about devotees and how they achieved Krsna’s darsana. We’ll also hear of their prayers, their methods of worship, how they were saved by Krsna, and the details of their affectionate relationships with the Lord.
“Whatever we would expect to gain by associating with Krsna directly can be achieved in the pages of the Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam should be worshiped as Krsna. By patient study of the book, we will receive the blessings of the Supreme Lord. Because of the Bhagavatam’s nature, however, we must read it under guidance, or as Prabhupada writes, ‘through the medium of the transparent spiritual master.’ Sometimes scholars and poets would go to see Lord Caitanya and present their writings based on the Bhagavatam. When Svarupa Damodara heard the discrepancies in their presentation, however, he would recommend that they study under someone more realized in the Bhagavatam. There is no other way to understand Bhagavan than through the medium of the person bhagavata. By submitting ourselves at the feet of the devotees, we come to understand Krsna’s nature and the nature of bhakti, and then we are truly blessed.”
“I like to look at photos of Srila Prabhupada. I have one where Prabhupada is talking to a worker who is preparing the altar at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Srila Prabhupada had such unique facial expressions. I can’t really describe them. Sometimes when he was observing or listening to someone else, he would let his mouth fall open a bit. It seemed to aid his concentration on the other person.
He often seemed simultaneously amused and absorbed in what was going on. His powers of concentration were so great that we could feel his intelligence penetrating into the situation. In this photo, Prabhupada was asking the devotee what was going on with the construction. I could tell from the photo that the construction was still in the early stages. The devotees took a long time to build that altar. Maybe Prabhupada was seeing through their excuses.
“In the photo, Srila Prabhupada is surrounded by other devotees. All of them look amused, all small extensions of Prabhupada’s mood. It was easier to be in that position, tagging along, than to be the devotee-worker who was under Prabhupada’s discerning gaze. But what mercy to be scrutinized by him, even if it meant he saw your faults.
“No one could look as serious and grave as Srila Prabhupada. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking. The corners of his mouth turned down. He had so much to bear, and his followers were always demanding that he look and act at the highest level of inspiration. He was naturally on that level, but still it was demanding. He was always giving himself for Krsna’s service.”
“Even if a devotee suppresses certain features of his or her material personality to maximize the preaching, what is the harm of that? That is the truest expression of humanness and concern for others.
“A full life need not include giving expression to the baser instincts, and a person who strives to attain the Absolute Truth is not less human for it. Actual social repression occurs when one withholds oneself or others from contact with the Supreme. Becoming God-realization is the highest prerogative of human life.
“In Vedic culture, if a devotee humbly renounces various social customs (which may even include getting married and raising a family), he is held up as a model of human behavior. To chide the genuine monk for not participating in sinful activities or for being celibate is uncultured. Just the sight of a sannyasi in his traditional saffron robes should compel a civilized person to bow down at the feet of the renunciant and then invite him to stay at one’s home.
“The sannyasi is also a human being, but he has been blessed to live for a higher purpose. Thus he is like a wise elder within the family of humanity. He is not outside the family, and he should certainly not be derided as an incomplete man. But he serves within the family and is their spiritual leader.
“If the devotee is ‘always the missionary,’ then that is to his or her credit. Always thinking of Krsna and always spreading His glories is the aspiration of the devotee.”
“He stayed with them to mold a temple.
He pointed his cane
to a bird’s nest on the ceiling—
no one else had noticed.
On his walks he didn’t speak much
of Krsna dancing with the gopis,
but made criticisms.
When would they get the temple together?
When would they do things right,
not get cheated, learn to cook,
be happy with hard work
in Krsna conscious duties?
He stayed shaping them.
He was beyond anger,
a gravity beyond knowing.
Sitting in his room
he may seem displeased,
but that is his ecstasy before the Lord.
(Madhavendra Puri cried at
the time of his disappearance:
‘I could not attain Krsna,
I could not attain Mathura.’
But only the foolish Ramachandra Puri
came to console his guru saying,
‘Why don’t you be happy in Brahman?’)
His down-turned mouth,
his sharp glancing eyes
full of light
and with a look
that penetrated self,
he was heavy at disciples’ mistakes,
but then he would dismiss it
with no trace of a grudge.
But like a storm it recurred
at the next foolish incident;
when after showing us first-hand,
we still could not do it,
then came his reprimands.
Another type of teaching,
not easy to surrender to
as when sitting back adoring him from a distance,
or comfortably hearing his lecture.
But chastisements were just as important,
and more merciful.
He stayed to mold the temple,
to mold his men and women.”
“Waiting an hour before writing in the morning is humbling. I see I cannot chant in deep meditation on Radha and Krsna—not as Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, ‘At the time of taking Nama, the true meaning of Nama should be cultivated with fondness, and prayer should be made to Krsna with piteous cry.’ How can I come to this page and write high-flying bhava if I cannot even pray during japa?
“And yet I do have a fondness for it. These times are very nice, sitting in the darkened room with a small light focused on the feet of the Panca-tattva and extending its rays to the six Gosvamis. The votive candles flicker in the warmth of the room, while outside the wind reminds me it is winter. I sit on a blanket on the floor, alone, and chant the holy name. It is the act that is successful, not my actual performance of the act. Even the shadow of the holy name . . .
“Although there is no piteous cry yet—am I afraid to open my heart like that?—and I know this japa I am chanting is way below standard, still, my wish to improve is worth something. Improvement is not really in my power, so chanting becomes an act of patience, waiting on the Lord, as is written about the devotee who has developed bhava, ‘He is always certain that Krsna will bestow His mercy upon him.’ Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘Because I am trying my best to follow the routine principles of devotional service, I am sure that I will go back to Godhead, back to home.’
“But when will the day come? Rupa Gosvami says, ‘I have no love for Krsna, nor for the causes of developing love of Krsna—namely, hearing and chanting.’ Srila Prabhupada concludes,
‘. . . 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).
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes, ‘If humility becomes very deep and intense, Krsna will be merciful. In that case, feelings of bhava will arise in his mind and then these [anarthas] will be destroyed in no time. Then favorable and smooth cultivation of bhajana will gradually improve.’ (Sri Caitanya-siksamrta, p. 218)”
Krsna open arms the
japa is complete with
opened eyes but the mind
was pulled to writing topics
for today. The air conditioner
makes loud, disturbing sounds.
We don’t know how to fix it.
“Today I received my yoga, Thai massage
and that will interrupt my writing
“Fleetingly the mantras counted
and piled up like snow.
I couldn’t concentrate on their
deeper meaning but accomplished
“Sometimes we have the ladies for
lunch. Nandarani is deciding
whether she’ll retire and move
here to live permanently and
type for me. It’s up to
whether she feels comfortable
in this association.
“Krsna enters my ears
but doesn’t stay in
I go on hearing enjoying
His pastimes and teachings.
“Krsna is the most important factor in
my life, even if I
sometimes forget it
and fall into illusion.
“He’s the Supreme Controller
I have faith
He’s my friend, and I
aspire to join Him.
“I am so lonely, and
He is so great it
would only be a
great act of mercy
if He would decide to take
me home, back to Godhead.
“I can only hope and
go on performing my
sadhana as best I can.”
“You are present in my life, but not enough. I should love You and see You everywhere. I should feel the whole world void in Your absence. I say, ‘I should,’ but what do I feel in my gut? Do I want You? Right now as I ask myself this, I think, ‘I don’t seem to want it so badly, not in terms of having to make a radical break from my present activities. I have my writing service, and my traveling to lecture in temples. I have Srila Prabhupada’s books and tapes and the concept of following him exclusively. I know about preaching, and I am trying to preach in my own way. I know about going back to Godhead and the likelihood that I may not make it in this lifetime. I know that the best prayer is, ‘Please let me be born in the association of pure devotees so I can render service to Lord Krsna.’ I don’t seem to be able to do something different, although I’m aware that I fall far short of pure devotion. If Krsna wants to change me, He will.’
“I write quickly, as if to outdistance my own thoughts, but I am willing to stop and reassess. Still, my prayer continues, the prayer that You Yourself have allowed and ignited. I pray the prayer my spiritual master gave me, my strong, unflinching master who called me to him and who still teaches me the way. I fail to be the best I can be, but still I try. All your followers try to serve you, Srila Prabhupada. You say, ‘Serve Krsna, worship Him, save the people—they are dying!—by, giving them the chance to hear about Krsna.’
“My dear Lord, I am traveling to various temples and trying to live a sannyasi’s life. May something I write help the faith of another soul. Can this too be preaching on Lord Caitanya’s order?”
“In distributing truth, one has to consider how it will affect others. According to social convention one should only speak the truth when it is palatable to others: satyam bruyat priyam bruyat. Describing the etiquette of ‘palatable truth only,’ Prabhupada writes, ‘But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way so that others will actually understand what the facts are.’ (Bg. 10.4-5, purport).
“In Sanskrit, a saintly person is called a sadhu, which literally means ‘one who cuts’ illusion. The cutting words of the sadhu, who tells us to give up our material attachments, are not always pleasant to hear, but it is the sadhu’s humble duty to tell the truth. If a man is a thief, and if people are warned that he is a thief, that is the truth. One should not refrain from speaking the truth, even if it is unpalatable. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others.”
“Yesterday, in the early evening, Nanda phoned me. He said three men had just arrived at his house. One of them was my disciple Upendra of Puerto Rico. Two others were local men from California who had driven up with him from San Francisco. What was it all about? Upendra had come to visit me, but how had he found the way? Nanda was as puzzled as I. He was sleeping when they came. Part of the trouble was understanding Upendra’s heavy Spanish accent. He had mentioned Mukhi, so Nanda phoned her in Washington, D.C. It turned out she was the culprit. She had given an intricate map showing how to get to Philo to Upendra’s wife. She gave her the map on the condition that it could not be used until there was an agreement sometime in the future that Upendra and his wife could actually visit the farm. Upendra, however, didn’t need any invitation. All he needed was the map and his greed to see his spiritual master. So after attending the Ratha-yatra in San Francisco, he picked up a couple of men down there and convinced them to drive him up to Philo.
“Now they were standing in Nanda’s house while Nanda swung between fuming and being hospitable. Nanda told his son to start making supper, and then he phoned me. He asked me if I wanted to see them. I said yes, they could come right down to my house, and then they could have supper with me and the men in the ashram, and then they could leave. So they did that. The whole pack of them came down to the house, along with Nanda, and we sat and talked. Upendra is now the president of the Puerto Rico temple. We talked about the heavy mortgage that the Puerto Rico temple has and the difficulty that Upendra has in meeting it, how they have had a loss of manpower. Nanda offered him different business strategies for dealing with the bank.
“I couldn’t think of too much to say but sat smiling at Upendra and encouraged him. I encouraged him to go on with book distribution at the airport, which is his natural love. He said he feels separation from the temple, now that he’s on a tour of the ratha-yatras. He yearns to return to his daily sadhana. He also told us about the joy he feels in cultivating his own farm. He raises plantains, pumpkins, avocadoes, and other things. It all goes for his own family’s consumption, the temple devotees, and the congregational members. No cash. And he has to do it all himself. That’s his spare-time hobby. Otherwise he’s in the temple or at the airport.
“There we were, our room packed with visitors. But I knew it wouldn’t last long because after about half an hour supper would start, and we would have our usual reading. After that, they would have to go. The talk went smoothly, and then we went next door to the ashram, where Deepak read from the scriptures. Before he left, Upendra privately gave me a donation. It was a pleasant visit, but exactly the kind of thing we don’t want—someone finding our address and coming in the night without an invitation. And yet the scriptures say that the uninvited guest should be treated with special care and affection, so we did that and hoped to receive Krsna’s blessings.”
“1 a. Of a person: possessing outstanding qualities (as of eminence, dignity); ILLUSTRIOUS.
“2. Having the power of transmitting by inheritance some recognized preeminence founded on hereditary succession; of high birth or exalted rank; belonging to, or constituting the nobility; ARISTOCRATIC.
“3 a. Possessing very high or excellent qualities or properties.
b. very good or excellent; superior of its kind.
“4. Outstanding or impressive, especially by reason of grandeur, largeness, magnificence.
“5. Possessing, characterized by, arising from, or indicating superiority or commanding excellence of mind or character, or high ideals or morals.
“Noble. That’s a hard word to live up to in Kali-yuga. Of course, Krsna consciousness is the path which is really noble, but as usual, people are sarcastic in their use of this word and want to drag down anything with nobility to the dregs of this age of degradation. We can’t hope anymore to be born with noble qualities. Those who surround us are hardly qualified to bring out such qualities even if we are born with them because they are barely living as human beings. Rather, they are two-footed beasts.
“Although it’s too late for us to have a noble birth, we were fortunate enough to have met someone noble and have whatever little qualities we might have had developed in his service. Prabhupada had such high ideals, and by encouraging us to follow them, he has created our characters. Part of that development is the recognition of responsibility. If we say we are following Prabhupada but do not act with appropriate nobility, then it turns people toward cynicism.
“Being noble means living for the interest of the spirit soul, rendering service to Krsna. It means begging that Krsna become reality for us; it means faith. It means trust that Krsna is always with us, that He wants to bring us to His lotus feet, and that all we have to do is respond to His loving direction.
“Being noble means we don’t live in ignorance like animals. The whole world is suffering because people don’t recognize Krsna as the proprietor, the object of all sacrifice, and the best friend. Some say there is no God; others say we are all God; others worship a God but have no information about Him. Therefore, spiritual nobility includes generosity—we are willing to share our wealth in spiritual life. It doesn’t mean we are narrow-minded, crippled, dull, unhappy, uncreative, or persistent in illusion. It means preaching what we have realized from the heart.”
“Why is it a struggle on some days to concentrate while on other days it is easier? This is the very definition of unsteadiness. When you become steady, it will be good every day. You can make advancement in japa when you always look forward to doing it, feel pleasure when you do it, and do it with steady consciousness. Another measure is that you will feel less material desires. That symptom is more important than exactly how much bliss you feel while fingering the beads.”
“The cold in my chest makes me
not want to read more,
disables my patience
to hear of Kumaras
and the steadily descending purports.
Despite it I pluck up my
and nibble at
Krsna in all things.”
“Some of the twenty-six qualities appear to be quite similar. I have already discussed ‘mild,’ which is close in meaning to ‘peaceful,’ and I shall also discuss ‘desireless,’ which is the main basis for peacefulness. Also I have discussed ‘without material possessions,’ and I shall later discuss ‘indifference to material acquisitions.’ ‘Mercifulness’ has been discussed, and its near-synonym, ‘compassion,’ is yet to come. So there are often fine distinctions in the various meanings, with some overlapping and repetition. But this indicates that certain traits are an especially important part of a devotee’s character. I will present these similar qualities strictly in parampara but from different angles of vision.
“A devotee is peaceful because he realizes that Krsna is everything. There is a common expression, ‘Make peace with God.’ This implies that one is ‘warring’ with God and that he cannot become peaceful until he makes peace with the Supreme. This is correct. We have to make peace with Krsna; then we can make peace with ourselves, with our body, with others, and with the whole universe. And we can remain peaceful even in times of distress.
“To make peace with God we first must know who He is and what His position is. Bhagavad-gita describes this knowledge: vasudevah sarvam iti, or ‘Krsna is everything.’ Krsna says this understanding can only be attained after many lifetimes of researching the Absolute Truth. ‘That mahatma is very rare’ who realizes Krsna is everything. This is far more than merely admitting that God exists; it is the realization that nothing exists except Krsna, and that therefore one should live one’s life in full devotion to Him. To think there is anything outside of Krsna or to make plans to enjoy apart from Him is illusion and cannot make us happy or peaceful.”
“‘In Madhurya-kadambini, it describes that our practice of sadhana is not the cause of Krsna’s mercy upon us, but that there is some connection between them. Can you explain this?’
“I discussed it yesterday. We know that the mercy of the holy name comes by the descending process. It’s not that we can get it by our own endeavor. In fact, when we chant, we see that our minds disperse onto so many subjects. We can’t control our minds, but Krsna can. He’s called Yogesvara, the master of yoga.
“This explains how our sadhana is not the cause of successful japa , but why will Krsna award His mercy on one devotee and not another? Krsna says samo ‘ham sarva-bhutesu, ‘I am equally disposed to everyone.’ When one becomes a devotee and a friend in Him, then Krsna and that devotee have an intimate exchange. Therefore, if Krsna is pleased by our endeavor, if He likes, He can award us success in chanting Hare Krsna. Sadhana is therefore not the cause of our success. If it were, then we would be working in a karma-kandiya sense, thinking that Krsna is obliged because we chanted a certain number of rounds, were attentive, shed a few tears, etc. We performed the right ritual, so we should get a response from ‘the God’ and not in the process of chanting Hare Krsna. When one sincerely tries to follow the bona fide spiritual master’s order, following the rules and regulations, giving preeminence to the chanting, then he creates a fertile situation in which to receive Krsna’s mercy. When Krsna’s independent and causeless mercy falls on his heart, shoots of good chanting sprout, and early symptoms of love of God soon appear.”
“No poem song?
What did you expect?
Trip a wee–sing a dee
I heard so much GBC stuff
and controversy in Vrndavana
it gluts my brain – I did
relax: say, ‘I am calm,’
and breathe easy and put lavender
on my temples before and met –
it works. I am calm.
I was happy. I am happy.
I serve the Lord.
“It’s a combination of circumstances why I broke down in the India writing. Call them India and ISKCON factors – the climate takes my energy, gives headaches, so even though I could write at least a little more, I can’t turn it on in spare moments. ‘Oh, what is there to say, what’s the use?’ Not only do I forget some original themes and intentions for Karttika Papers, but even the general rules of free-writing evaporate, get misplaced as forgotten during the Indian day. What was it?
“That energy to try even before you know what to say, that excessive confidence that the process will be worthwhile. And where is the abandon to sing in your own way, even if the offering includes scum in a hoped-for Ganges of spiritual flow dividing lines like a poet?
“You see…Poems to writing…the yearning to capture the unique opportunity of living in India…Yeah, I know I’ll be asked to do this and that…But you can write it too, ‘I just spoke to the millionaire
and he yapped his good works while
I fiddled and faddled and thought
once of the photos of jazz men
in my drawer, one of Elvin
Jones glaring out of the side of
his eye, in a thin necktie and
pinstriped 1960s suit, his
drums glaring in studio lights . . .’
“Lord Caitanya…there’s no train the ‘Radha Express’ here, no cries ‘Radhe-Syama!’, no bunches of monkeys and there’s more space and land and fewer Western devotees, the tirthas are harder to reach…devotees prefer Vrndavana and I seem to say I don’t prefer anything, not loud kirtanas,
not ‘Jaya Gaura!’?
What do you want?
They bring nim, silver oxygen,
some oil to dispel cold, lavender,
lemon peels for the forehead,
come on, get with it.
“I seem to be dull because Gauranga won’t let me see Him or the dhama engulfed in His mercy. Too proud (because of my secrets of writing) to go to a Godbrother (who is senior to me?) and say, ‘I can’t get in touch with the dhama, please help me to taste it, where is the dust and the appreciation for the dust?’
“If I attempt to go to them, could I do it humbly. They’d laugh seeing my pose and say, ‘O Maharaja, you already have the mercy!’ Or they may take me as seriously inept and in need and say, ‘Okay, join the sankirtana party and preach in India, distribute books, make members and you’ll see Gaura in two weeks. But the first two weeks will be hard, as it was for the boy Madhava from Ireland, who joined the Vrndavana gurukula.’
“If I attempt . . . Sri-krsna-caitanya at the beginning of a round.
“Lord, please accept this writing too as a way that I make effort to appreciate the dhama. It’s worth writing here, make the effort. I can’t force into my writing a certain ‘Lord Nityananda presence,’ no pretense or professional Bengali-ism
But some effort to keep the hand moving.
“Just meandered off again after half-hour of writing
when I could have pushed further.
Doubt you’ll ask anyone–even
yourself, how to get Mayapur’s
mercy. Maybe ask someone
easy to approach like that
widow who attends your class
or maybe the twin brothers,
the one you know a little bit.
Even by a written note.
Like this, ‘Could you tell me
something I could do or proper
attitude to get Mayapur’s mercy
in my remaining week even
though I can’t go out on parikrama?
Any help will be appreciated.’”
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.