The best preparation was Anuradha’s mashed potatoes: smooth, without lumps, and just right. She also made green beans. Lalita-kaisori made a tossed salad with a sweet-and-tangy dressing. Baladeva made stuffing and gravy. The stuffing had pecans and celery in it. For dessert, Lalita-kaisori made two pies, a squash-pumpkin pie and an apple crumble pie with ice cream and whipped cream on top. Atindra and Lalita-kaisora did the tedious work of making fresh pomegranate juice for everyone, and it was served in new tumblers. Everyone honored the prasadam at a slow to medium pace, with not much talking. Including the pies, we all ate a lot, as is the tradition for Thanksgiving feasting. And this is also the tradition of Lord Caitanya honoring prasadam with His associates, “up to the neck.” We will see tomorrow, which is “Weigh-In Day,” whether we gained weight and what the “damage” was.
Anuradha remembered when she was here in a previous year and we all got into the car and went down to the Farm Store and had ice cream. They would go inside and check out the various flavors and tell them to me, and I’d pick out one. We did that mostly in the summertime. Today, indoors, Baladeva had a small bowl of blueberry ice cream, Anuradha had mocha made with Ovaltine and barley cups; Krsna dasi had salted vanilla with caramel flakes. I didn’t take any because I’m trying to lose weight. When she examined me, the dermatologist said I should get rid of the big tummy I have. Now I’m up to 175 lbs., and twenty years ago I used to weigh way less, approximately 118 lbs. After Vyasa-puja I’m going to resume my exercise on the stationary bike. But Baladeva says the bike exercise won’t reduce the tummy. For that, I need to work out on exercise bands and do routines specifically for abdominal muscles. And for that I’ll have to consult with Saci Suta.
The first snowfall came in nearby Valatie, ten minutes away from Stuyvesant Falls. It was only a few inches. It looked very pretty without causing any inconvenience. Where Atindra and Lalita Kaisora live in nearby Massachusetts, six inches fell. So this is just the beginning.
It snowed, and it’s cloudy. Baladeva tells me the options for lunch are veggie burgers or sandwiches. I opt for sandwiches, but when I arrive at the kitchen table I see the women are taking yesterday’s kichari, and I go for that, even though there wasn’t much left in the pot. The malls are packed with Christmas shoppers. It’s not a light-hearted Christmas mood; rather it’s intense shopping for Black Friday deals before the supplies run out. It’s 3:45 P.M., but it’s already getting dark and dreary. Except for Krsna consciousness, the world is not really a happy place.
Anuradha prepared delicious baked samosas with potato, pea and cauliflower filling, served with chutney. I honored three pieces and offered my fourth to Baladeva, who passed it on to Atindra. I was glad to see Atindra honor my fourth samosa.
Bhakti Rasa is training up Atindra to do his services, because Bhakti Rasa is leaving tomorrow after more than two months of wonderful service. Atindra will fill in and do the personal service for two weeks until Manohara comes from Italy. In this way we are patching together servant duties because Baladeva cannot do it all alone.
Ishana sent me a long backlog of all the letters we have exchanged over the months. It told the saga of her husband Arjuna losing faith in God and not wanting to cooperate with his wife. Ishana blamed his condition on her own demanding and harsh behavior toward him. She felt she wasn’t acting as an affectionate, supporting wife but as a demanding book publisher. She included letters from me in which I told her to make her priority keeping peace at home and being gentle with Arjuna and not being a fanatic to publish book after book of mine. Things turned for the better, and they are living peacefully, and Arjuna has regained his faith in God and his harmonious relationship with his wife.
I received an email from a disciple who wrote that it’s too cold to attend my Vyasa-puja. I’ve heard lots of excuses, but that was a wimpy one. You can just wear some more warm clothes, even from the Salvation Army.
Chiseled in the granite over the New York City Post Office is this motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” But this disciple is canceling his homage because he fears the temperature may be down to thirty degrees.
At the dinner table we were talking about how to find replacements when Krsna dasi finally leaves for Trinidad for the winter. The commitments we have are from people who say they can stay two or three weeks. This is better than nothing, but it’s not enough. We need a pujari who will get into the routine and stay longer, and Baladeva needs a man to help out in body service to me for more than a week or two. We didn’t see any solution to the problem, as so far we only have promises for short-time help. It’s going to be hard.
Silavati arrived from Ireland. Three women staying at Krsna dasi’s house are having good camaraderie. Silavati is staying in quarantine for a few days because she was exposed on the transatlantic plane trip and the train. She’s wearing a mask. Eventually I will meet with her. I heard she has a lot to say.
John Endler received 40 copies of the two haiku books and 40 copies of The Best I Could Do. I was supposed to receive forty copies of those two books also, but mine didn’t arrive. We’ll sell out the books we have on December 4th, but if mine don’t come in on time they can be ordered by mail. It’s disappointing that I didn’t receive my forty copies of these new books, but they are due to arrive two days after my Vyasa-puja, and they can be ordered from John. At least we’ll have forty copies of each to distribute on Vyasa-puja day.
“My book Write and Die sold out at the July 3rd meeting, but we found a substantial stock in storage. So we’ll be distributing them on December 4th for $5.00 a copy. It’s a sophisticated book with lots of references to world literature, and a description throughout of my attaining an intimate relationship with Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja in the very last weeks before his departure from the world. John Endler will be at hand on the book table to explain the book in an accessible way, and I will mention it in my talk too.
In my talk I will also mention that we were able to obtain a good stock of The Many Colors of Satsvarupa Maharaja. This is a book with colored illustrations of my paintings published by the Museum of Sacred Art. They published this book to go along with the gallery exhibition in 2019. I consider it important because it contains so many pictures of my art in full color, and I’m not painting any more. It also contains a wonderful essay by Satyaraja explaining my art as under the school of “outsider art.”
We are enjoying reading the Madhya-khanda of the Caitanya Bhagavata. There are constant ecstasies, wild kirtanas, with Lord Caitanya, Nityananda, Advaita Acarya and all the confidential devotees of the Lord. They cry out, shed tears, hairs standing on end, rolling on the ground, jumping in the air—no one knows who’s falling on who. Mother Saci watches from a distance, and Visnupriya hides. Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s descriptions are a high level of mad, ecstatic joy. No one can enter these pastimes except the confidential devotees of the Lord. Even Lord Brahma and Lord Siva do not know this transcendental bliss. The devotees gather at Srivasa Pandita’s house, and they keep the nondevotees outside. The atheists threaten them, but Gauracandra makes the devotees fearless.
Constant dream: Strong but always frustrated desire to take up a writing project. The dream comes every night. Obstacles: lack of finances.
Describe the feeling that my vigorous years of serving Srila Prabhupada are over. For decades I burned the candle at both ends, and then decades of chronic migraine headaches. Served as temple president, GBC, guru traveling widely to where disciples were located . . . Now, due to old age and invalidity, I am retired. What do I do? I read and hear with a group of devotees two and a half hours daily in Srila Prabhupada’s and Gaudiya Vaisnava books.
I work daily on my Free Write Journal.
“I just read what I wrote for 1.3.40 and I feel satisfied. What should I write now, something clownish? A devotee skit? I don’t want to be like my zany Uncle Mickey, who was called upon at family gatherings to be outrageous. Sometimes he would strip down to a towel (he was fat) and do a hula dance on the table. Other times he would stand on a chair, his hair combed forward like Hitler, and imitate the Fuhrer’s speech. Come on, Sats, do an act. Make us laugh off our dinner.
“No, I’m not a clown for hire.
“Well, instead I’ll tell you about my little life. Today we have to sort out our belongings and decide what we will carry to Saranagati. We travel tomorrow. I would like to take my colored pencils, but we have so little room in the luggage. Glass votive candle holders? Do I really want to lug them all the way there? A month’s supply of earplugs? Yes. Toothpaste, of course. How much can Madhu and I bear on our skinny backs?
“Someone just presented us with new carry-on luggage—with wheels. That should ease the burden somewhat, but often the airlines stop us from carrying them on. We depend so much for our comfort on how the world functions. We trust the government to keep the thieves and other cheaters enough at bay so that we can travel from here to there without incidents of that sort, and we trust that the border guards are sufficiently cultured to allow two Hare Krsnas to enter wearing ‘skirts.’
“We’ll have our papers in order, don’t worry.
O Lord of the universe, I
hope to survive, but I know it’s not
possible my bones
are so breakable.
Like a cricket I chirp,
‘Read Bhagavatam, read
Bhagavatam,’ a summer cricket
“This is Baladeva’s drawing. It came with this note:
“‘Srimad-Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada are the booster rocket delivering the soul to Krsna . . . as long as he hangs on and doesn’t go to other planets. During the trip, all kinds of coatings are burnt to ashes or are flying off in little hot pieces, but soon all that will be left is the pure soul glowing with bhakti. He’s getting hotter. That’s good. The stuff that flies off (free-writing) is important. Upon examination, we can understand that the flight is being embarked upon. As more stuff comes off, we can determine that it’s cutting closer to the soul. The nuggets themselves are interesting . . . some of them are just burnt junk, some are glowing on one side and burnt on the other and have to be dusted off to be seen clearly, and some are pure gold nuggets from the deep layers close to the soul. Your DASA team is eager to collect the evidence and track the mission’s progress. Quarterly reports will be made available to the public.’”
“I read the phrase, ‘poverty stricken.’ Lord Caitanya said He was poverty stricken, and I definitely say that about myself. The Bhagavatam is rich, but I am poor. I told one disciple not to be so attached to hearing about the gopis: ‘Are you sure you are qualified to read Ujjvala-nilamani?’ He says he can’t repress it. He reads with others who share his interests. I told him that if he was reading Prabhupada’s books, he would find everything in the correct measure, but his friends worship Radha-Krsna Deities and meditate on direct service. What do I know, me who dreams of false teeth? Still, I will read my master’s books. I am living in a broken-down container, but I keep going, seeking open spaces in which to write and learn to serve Krsna with my whole heart.
“Dear Diary, I’m at Samika Rsi’s on this last day, writing this testimony and thinking of how Prabhupada pronounced ‘literary incarnation.’ It’s a tired phrase and hard to say when you have no teeth. People respect the sadhu and give him honor and privilege, but he does not possess love of God, so he writes about that, advertising his poverty and telling people that if you say ‘literary incarnation’ too many times without realization, it will lose its meaning.
“I am a pilot on a night flight. I hope we don’t crash because the cargo is precious. Devotees are practicing self-sufficiency in various places, others distributing books, holding Ratha-yatras, and preaching in thousands of ways. God is a person with hands and feet, and if we could just be with Him, we would know the perfection of happiness. Without Him, our lives are wasted. Therefore, keep reading the Bhagavatam and come as close as you can in this life to Krsna’s lotus feet. Don’t just sit on the sidelines and carp. Chant Hare Krsna. Hear from pure devotees. We are each piloting a plane, homing into the airport, wanting to land safely. We don’t need the sensation of falling through space to make the trip more exciting. Just get down on the ground safely, with all systems intact, honorably. You are the pilot, the ‘literary incarnation’ of God is the cargo, the search for meaning is the fuel, and your own poverty is the driving force.
“Now some last words from hand. Sheltered poet fears breakdown and loss of time. Krsna gives us limited time. Better spend it well.
“Red cable-knit sweater—leave it behind.
No galoshes allowed in the suitcase.
Memory of public schoolroom—
carry it at your own peril. Blue jays
of childhood, poems, pages—
you can’t take it all with you,
leave it behind.”
“Every sentence I have written here has been difficult. I tried to be open, but it was hard, and I have no diary other than this one; everything is going into this one book. That puts a kind of pressure on me.
“Now I want my sentences to become unhinged. I want to put them all into the pipeline and send them as far as they will go. Some will see the light of day and some will not. They will each have the strength to determine their ultimate fate on their own.
“For example, I just said that Vyasadeva extracted the cream from the Vedas and taught it to his son, Sukadeva. I also said that the spiritual master teaches us not to reject the Puranas just because we don’t understand them from our Western point of view. We think that when the Vedas were being written, people were prehistoric cavemen. No one knew how to write then! Well, it ain’t so. It’s the old tussle—what we say against what they say—that old fight between words and proofs and philosophies. Prabhupada said, ‘When they say, we say, we say, we say.’ And then we repeat it.
“We say what Prabhupada said. The newspapers say that man went to the moon; Prabhupada says he didn’t. It’s one authority over another. We haven’t gone to the moon, not personally, so how can we prove it one way or another? It’s all based on authority.
“Essence. Selected histories, different planets, a variety of kalpas represented. They are still wondering if there’s even life on other planets. You can just hear the doubters in the background.”
“We’re in Toronto. Immigration went okay. A friendly woman asked where I was going and why, and I told her briefly that I was visiting friends in Vancouver and would leave by April 5. She stamped my passport and I was grateful. By then, however, I had a headache.
“Announcement: ‘Plane delayed twenty minutes.’
“Lying down across two chairs in waiting lounge, thinking of Vyasadeva and ‘literary incarnation,’ then of the four-year-old girl lying down on her stomach coloring with markers across from me while her grandfather keeps her amused. ‘Where’s Mommy?’ Grandpa says she’ll be back in a minute.
“Sat up and read a little Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says He is the source of all material and spiritual worlds. One who thinks of Him at the time of death..
“The Toronto Star: ‘Diana Agrees to a Divorce.’ ‘Strike Blamed for Road Chaos.’
“Facing a Salvation Army lady. She has her small black derby on her lap and I can just see the red cloth badge. ‘We may board any minute now.’
“Vyasa . . . old Vyasa. Young Krsna. Hopeless me clinging on.
“We finally boarded. Descending now from 39,000 feet over Vancouver. All I see are snowy forests. Madhu is reading The Inconceivable: One More Time by Ravindra-svarupa Prabhu. I have not been able to do anything but doze with a wet rag over my eye. Madhu is encouraging me to rest. I’m feeling more hopeful that we will reach that cabin in the woods after a few days in Vancouver.
“‘Thank you for choosing Air Canada.’
“Vyasa and Bhagavatam and Krsna. ‘I am in one sense everything and yet I am independent.’ Krsna is above the modes of nature. The point for us is to enter His pastimes. Narada penetrates into the Lord’s presence by His transcendental chanting.
“I composed a letter to Yamuna dasi in Ohio in my mind. My body is descending in this thick, steel tube of a jet, and all I can see below me are sharp mountaintops and deep valleys. And of course, the river.
“Superficial me (false ego), I went to the bathroom and stopped for a cup of water. I chatted with the three middle-aged stewardesses. ‘How long have you been traveling?’ I didn’t tell her that last week we were in India. I told them I had a headache, but they didn’t seem to hear me. One said that Vancouver was beautiful, and I added, ‘It’s not so cold.’ That’s all. Our lives are too different. I am trying to enter Srimad-Bhagavatam, although I’m fallen and so sadly human, and they are not. That’s the distinction. Our lives look similar in such ways, but below the surface, we share nothing at all in common. We’re so near the mountaintops! I can see the dark pines and the shock of white snow. Hare Krsna!”
“Dear Srila Prabhupada, I remember you on morning walks. I remember you sitting behind your low desk, playfully fingering an object—an envelope opener or a tilaka mirror—on your desk. I remember seeing your lotus feet facing us as we sat opposite you. I remember coming into your presence, falling flat like a rod, and feeling that I could surrender to you, and surrendering at that moment. I remember looking up, prepared to hear anything you had to say.
“My sankirtana partner and I were newly-made sannyasis. We traveled to American colleges. We told you their reception was discouraging. You said you knew what we meant, but you encouraged us. You were also ready to analyze whether our service was the best and whether we could do something better. Whatever it was, you thought it over and gave us your conclusion. We were always ready to leave your room, our chests filled out like brave soldiers, ready to fight. You enlightened us.
Prabhupada, you are a great acarya and I am a small person born in the West. Only lately have I been trying to understand the meaning of Krsna consciousness. There is no reason for me to become puffed-up or to think myself your equal, but neither should I think I need a teacher other than you. I have so many faults. They don’t seem to go away. We live in an ocean of vice. I have my share of anarthas. In this age, there is one good quality, and that is that you, Srila Prabhupada, the bona fide deliverer of Krsna’s holy name, appeared. You have entered my life and my heart. You have taken charge of the ship of my life and you are guiding me back to Godhead. All I have to do is remain alive and obedient. Despite my faults, I ask you again and again to please accept me and keep me in your charge.”
“One of the wonderful things about chanting is that it makes us small, as mentioned in the trnad api verse. The chanting isn’t our show, it’s Krsna’s; I mean, it’s Krsna’s names we are chanting, and we can’t really do it for any length of time or with concentration and devotion unless we love Krsna. How desirable and how beneficial it is to be attracted to the chanting.
“The wind inclined me to walk and chant faster. I liked the walk, but I looked forward to finishing it and getting back to the house. Something ran across the road so fast I couldn’t even see what it was—probably a rabbit. A bird was flying so low toward me that I thought it was going to fly into me, and I cried out, ‘Krsna!’ After that, I imagined a moving shadow was an animal following me. All these illusions existed because the sky was only beginning to lighten.
“Was I afraid? This morning I read about the Narayana-kavaca shield. The Bhagavatam says that when fear comes, we should put these mantras on our bodies like armor. I prefer to chant the Hare Krsna mantra in any situation. That’s recommended as more than sufficient. All other protective expansions and agents of God—Garuda-deva, Lord Nrsimha, and Lord Narayana Himself—are present in the Hare Krsna mantra.
“No lingering at the bridge this morning-the wind was so cold. As I walked the home stretch, I started to see nature’s colors-the yellow ragwort and the tall four and five-foot wildflowers knocked over by the buffeting winds. The wind is stronger than they are.
“This morning I didn’t feel reluctant to see the dim, gray world go away; I welcomed light and rosiness. I want to see. I want more light.”
“Prabhupada states that according to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, that whenever a person offers a prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he asks for a benediction. ‘Even pure (niskama) devotees pray for some benediction, as instructed by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka. ‘ (Bhag. 5.18.9, purport).
“I don’t find it contradictory that in the Isopanisad mantras the devotee prayed for his own deliverance, and in Prahlada’s prayer he prayed for the deliverance of everyone else. They are different moods, but both are compatible to pure devotional service. Prahlada also sometimes expressed fear of the kala-cakra, the wheel of time, and asked to be freed of material desires and delivered back to Godhead. Even if a devotee asks for the deliverance of his own soul, it is in order to become an eternal devotee of the Lord and to render service that is pleasing to Him. Thus Lord Caitanya prays, ‘Life after life, kindly let me have unalloyed love and devotion at Your Lordship’s lotus feet.’
“But Prahlada’s prayer is particularly sublime. Let us pray with him, desiring to become nonenvious and daring to petition the Lord that the Krsna consciousness movement spread and change the hearts of people who are now very envious. We can take this as a prayer to become a Vaisnava so that we too can pray for others. Prabhupada writes, ‘Prahlada prays that everyone’s mind become gentle by being fixed at the lotus feet of Krsna.’ Just to contemplate this pure and great desire will surely work to enlarge our own scope of prayer.”
“In his Prospectus written in the 1950s for the League of Devotees, Swamiji gave prominent mention to prasadam. He invited members to live with him in the ashram, and he advertised the daily schedule. There were many times during the day when prasadam was served. The menu was described exactly. By studying that daily schedule, one can understand that prasadam is like attending aratis, bhajanas, or Bhagavatam readings. Prasadam was not a material break in a spiritual day. It was another full-fledged spiritual activity—a devotee is either chanting or working or honoring prasadam.
“Recently, I heard a devotee say that we should ‘honor prasadam and not just eat it.’ I understood what he meant by that, but in 1966, there was little distinction between honoring and eating. Swamiji said to eat. We came off the streets, and he did not care how we ate. He did not say, ‘Be careful that you do not enjoy this, it is prasadam.’ Instead he said, “This is prasadam; therefore, enjoy it. You are not taking enough.’
“The boys joked, ‘Satsvarupa, you have to work this afternoon, so you need to eat more to be spiritually strong.’
Swamiji heard them and smiled, ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘be spiritually strong. Eat prasadam. This is our answer.’
“Regardless of what a critical onlooker might say about overeating, Swamiji was our leader and he was the one who told us to eat more. He did not say we should start with one capati and decrease from there—not in those days. This was the happy entrance into Krsna consciousness. Each of us came with our many hangups and lamentations, but prasadam took care of it all. Although it is true that we should not eat in a mood of sense gratification and indulgence, there was something wonderful in the beginning—the enjoyment of eating in good company. The loving exchanges brought us into Krsna consciousness.
“Eating has always been celebrated as a way to share love and togetherness. Rupa Gosvami even mentions these two forms of loving exchanges among devotees: ‘To accept prasadam and to offer it to others.’ A spiritual family eats together in the spirit that Swamiji showed us. There was something to be learned from that example and not just laughed at as funny stories from 1966 ‘when everyone ate a lot.’
“Devotees can sit and take prasadam together in spiritual communion. If you do not have the fortune of having Swamiji in your midst, you can bring him into your midst by meditation. Before we eat, we offer the food with prayers. We can also converse with Prabhupada in our minds, “Prabhupada, please take this prasadam. They have given it to me, but I am bringing it to you, just as we used to bring you prasadam. Please take it.’ By meditation, you can offer your food to Prabhupada. He can be with you, and he can take prasadam with you. Anything is possible. Everything depends on your purity.
“Like chanting Hare Krsna, wonderful prasadam (offering, serving, and feasting) is not too distant from thinking about Prabhupada. How can we avoid the connection? Just think about it—here are some suggestions: Tell Prabhupada stories about prasadam while you cook or honor a feast. Cook his favorite recipes. Also, think of statements that Prabhupada used about prasadam like, ‘Eat sumptuously, but not too much.’”
“In the autobiog. I wrote of taking
on Dr. Sarma and practicing
naturopathy. And the earthshaking
world meeting of ISKCON in New
Vrndavana in September of 1985.
As a result, I lowered the
standard of guru worship
in my zone.
“In the poem I focus
on Krsna in melody.
I celebrate my love for
Him and Radha and
play music to enjoy the
important features of art
dovetailed for the Lord.
He is present everywhere,
and on the piano he
tinkles in free form
of playing that I find friendly and relaxed.
He is thus the Supreme Controller
but decides to descend to
the material world in His
original form as a Cowherd
Boy. This is known only to
the pure devotees whose eyes
are anointed with love.
“I follow Him with my
pen and feel the emotions
of a practicing devotee.”
“A summary of the stage of nama-rasa is given as follows in Hari-nama-cintamani (p. 105):
“The introspective devotee must at first discard all the ten offenses and simply meditate on the holy name, trying to chant constantly. He should distinctly pronounce the holy name and meditate upon the transcendental sound vibration. When his chanting is clear, steady and blissful, he should try to meditate on the Syamasundara form of the Lord. With chanting beads in hand, his chanting and meditation should seek out the transcendental form of the holy name. He will indeed see with spiritual vision the real meaning the Name represents.
“‘Another method he may employ to see this form is to sit in front of the Deities, drink the beautiful form of the Lord with his eyes and meditate upon the holy name. Even after reaching the stage where the holy name and the form of the Lord become one, he must try to remember the transcendental qualities of Lord Krsna. The holy name and qualities of Krsna must merge through constant chanting.’
“Nama-rasa develops further into realization of one’s own eternal rasa with Radha and Krsna and continual meditation on service to Them in the daily Vraja pastimes. A serious practitioner of harer nama may consult the authorized books of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravarti and other authorities to learn about it. These topics can be appreciated only when one is personally guided by the authorized spiritual master who knows and practices the science. It cannot be ‘mastered’ by the usual process of knowledge associated with academic studies. It is revealed in the heart of a sincere devotee who wholeheartedly follows the order of his spiritual master to chant the Hare Krsna mantra and to render devotional service free of aparadhas and anarthas.”
“As Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples how to die, throughout his time in the West, he also expertly instructed his disciples how to love the spiritual master. One may wonder why I have arbitrarily combined Srila Prabhupada’s lessons on dying with those he gave on love. I am doing this partly because Prabhupada emphasized these two things in his last days. Also, they go together in Krsna consciousness because death is transcended by love. Love and death are such important universal topics that every philosopher and spiritual leader has some obligation to discuss them. Love and death are not just something devotees study as sectarian doctrine; we have to hear the instructions given by such a great teacher as Srila Prabhupada on those profound experiences. This was also a great lesson.
“Just as Krsna increased the love of the residents of Vrndavana through the lila of Kaliya-Krsna, Prabhupada often placed himself in a position of dependence on his disciples and then acted in a way that brought out their feelings of love. This was especially true during his lengthy illness. But like Krsna, who showed the Vrajavasis His triumph over Kaliya, Prabhupada revealed his true and sole dependence on Krsna.
“From when he first arrived in America, Srila Prabhupada taught us how to love through different types of loving relationships. He taught us how to love the spiritual master by his personal dealings with us. He taught us how to love Krsna by making his own loving exchanges with Krsna so visible to us; he taught us to appreciate Krsna‘s love for us and to appreciate the love of the eternal associates for Krsna. He also revealed to us his own love for all jivas. (In 1966, he told me that if I loved him, he would love me.) He thought that love was not mechanical or official, but a real, heartfelt spiritual emotion. And in his very last days in Vrndavana in 1977, he encouraged his devotees to reciprocate with his own great capacity to love them.”
“Srila Prabhupada’s first edition of Srimad-Bhagavatam came out in India under difficult conditions and con-tained grammatical, spelling, and printing errors. But the philosophy was completely perfect and in parampara from Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna; therefore, those who are ‘thoroughly honest’ have no difficulty overlooking the errors. Srila Prabhupada and his disciples were very happy in subsequent years when they came out with a new edition of the same volume with technical errors removed, but they never thought that the original volume lacked any transcendental perfection. Rather, those volumes are treasured today as collector’s items and are read with as much pleasure and gain as the technically improved volumes. The very errors remind us how Srila Prabhupada first published these books, without any income or assistance, overseeing all aspects of the production, personally collecting the funds, proofreading, and transporting the paper to the printer. The devotees see the technical mistakes as the mud in the Ganges, which doesn’t affect the purifying effect of the holy Ganges; and they see Srila Prabhupada’s own humble statement about the matter as confirmation of the true nature of faultlessness:
“‘We are sure, therefore, that everyone in the human society will welcome Srimad-Bhagavatam, even though it is now presented with so many faults, for it is recommended by Sri Narada, who has very kindly appeared in this chapter.’
—Bhag. 1.5.11, purport
“So the quality of faultlessness manifests when a devotee is fully engaged in the service of Krsna. The true identity of a living entity is to be a servitor of the Supreme Lord. When this realization is mature, the devotee goes to join Krsna in his liberated, eternal, spiritual body. Even while in the material world, however, he is liberated by being fully situated in the service of the Supreme Lord. We must determine whether a person is faultless by his activities in devotional service, not by other symptoms. As long as he is in the material world, there will be material necessities, illness, imperfection of senses, and various perceivable limitations and defects; but these do not constitute faults. The devotee is saintly because he has right resolved to serve Krsna and guru.”
“ . . . They have their leader, Jesus Christ,
‘Tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was,’
and we have ours, Prabhupada.
A man in prison writes to his wife,
‘Life should be beautiful like you,
friendly and loving. . .’
And we too are reassured
by our spiritual master’s
tender and real presence.
He is mother, father, lover, lord,
preceptor, the way to the light,
intimate of Krsna.
But underneath all that I say,
is the dread of my insincerity. . . .
I think of your love for your Guru Maharaja,
even though you only met him 4 or 5 times.”
“The third set of songs in Saranagati are to Krsna as the maintainer of the devotees. A devotee should have a firm sense that the Lord will take care of him and therefore he needn’t seek shelter anywhere else. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. Lord Krsna maintains all creatures in the universe as well as maintaining the universe itself. Why should we doubt that He will maintain His surrendered servants? A devotee’s realization on this point is always tested in practical ways. They strive to collect funds for the temple, they fall into debts, litigation, etc., but Krsna maintains and protects.
“‘I have given up everything and come to Your lotus feet. I am Your eternal servant, and You are my protector and maintainer, O Lord of the universe!’ (Saranagati, 3.1.4).
“‘Please don’t be heavy-hearted. Are you sorrowful because you cannot love Radha and Krsna and write directly of Them? That sorrow is all right. We read of sorrowful gopis, sorrowful Radha shedding ears in Nava-Vrndavana (the replica of Vrndavana in Dvaraka). Such sorrow is the fruit of intense prema.
“What is it when I feel despondent and think, ‘How can I go on writing? Why? When? I’m so far away, and approaching Them seems so slow.’ Inch by inch, I study the scriptures and try to concentrate on them for as many hours a day as possible. I pray to be overwhelmed. But I keep up the discipline in the meantime, waiting for love to descend from visuddha-sattva.
“Please maintain me. I forget what I wrote five minutes ago. I forget what I was doing twenty-four hours ago. I am not God. Krsna, please maintain me. I want to be open-hearted. Please maintain me. I know You do. You nourish my bhakti. You provide food.
“Anyway, it has been a day of regulated practice. The readings were good, prasadam was okay, although Sridama is sorry again because the sweet cake he made didn’t come out well and the capatis were so-so. I’m happy with prasadam and with him and Madhu and this house and the Caitanya-caritamrta. I wish I could do something more wonderful with my pen, but it’s the process, not the substance, that counts.
“Keep trying to write. Don’t be distracted by the voices coming this way, those Italian, full-of-life voices. And don’t be satisfied with a good front. (The voices are even nearer, and I hear a dull bell ringing 5 P.M. Say it! It sounds like the bell in Vrndavana.)
“The foolish birds never stop their symphony for a moment. They don’t wonder whether their songs are expendable. They simply sing.
“O lonely singer-writer, you are surrendering to Krsna. He sees your surrender. Do you wish you were better? Wish you were closer to the Lord’s Vrndavana pastimes? Of course. But I am grateful too.”
“ . . . For art’s sake I really like to do poems, even though they are not as popular or accessible forms. I said to devotees, “We have to find our inclination by self-examination and also by some consultation with others. And when after years of search we finally decide, ‘This is it,’ then we may be embarrassed by it and others may think it odd—but we should do our best then to purify it and perfect it.” In the back of my mind I was thinking of my own case. What I want to declare is I am a poet. I didn’t think of that specifically when I was facing the devotees but I kept thinking of the story of Robert Frost as a child, and that story I did want to tell was on the tip of my tongue but I refrained from it. I would have said it like this Robert Frost was a world-class American poet. When he was a child, I think about fifteen years old, he wrote a poem which won a prize and was published. He then became very interested in being a poet. His father was worried about such a non-profitable career for his son and took what he thought was a clever strategy. He said to his son, ‘You can try being a poet for two years.’ Robert Frost blurted back, ‘Give me fifty!’
“As a poet, I need to write the crazy lines, the loping cat, the jazz play, the mad career, looking at American writers (because that is my mother tongue and culture and I will carry its sound with me even into ISKCON over twenty-seven years where much of what speak is also American sourced). I try to speak the honest core, coming out with my actual state of Krsna consciousness or lack of Krsna consciousness. To whom can I tell this except the private page and the readers who are willing to share it with me? I am a poet.
“I asked someone how I could taste Mayapur better. She suggested I ask some devotees to lead us on a meditation of parikrama and bhajanas and talking by them. She suggested two Bengali devotees (whom I don’t know) who are full of nectar for telling lilas and singing. The idea didn’t go over well with me. Sounds like ‘guided imagery.’ I wanted more personal advice for me.
It’s probably a nice suggestion she made, but somehow it was not what I was looking for.
“My own suggestion was to write more.
“Talking with the disciples is a nice function. They asked, ‘Now that the parikrama is over, will we meet twice a day?’ But I’d rather do once a day. Could we go out to some place? Maybe just to the gurukula? The place we went today had a cleared earthen floor and thatched roof. You could see daylight clearly through the walls. It’s maybe the main ‘temple’ room.
“Talking this and that, memories of Prabhupada in Mayapur. What else? What else? Tell us some stories. Comment on Srimad-Bhagavatam excerpts. Just once a day.
“That picture of Elvin Jones, his arms folded, sitting at the drums but not playing yet.
“Hare Rama Hare Rama. Progresso’s bold call. You need to be alone with your own time to write like that. So, these Mayapur jottings are lucky to exist at all in short bursts.
“Gave out sections of tangerine after the meeting. There was also a clay pot of sweets. Some devotees said “No” to the sweets. Haribol, haribol, they are singing and pounding a drum downstairs the kirtana to sundara-arati.
“Ul-ul-ula-ulalalulaulaula, Bengali ladies and pounding drums, the night outside is quiet, in the distance I said so much. Want to take a shower now and wash it all down the drain?
“In the last years could you could do in writing some great achievement the equivalent of ISKCON building the temple at Mayapur? No, I couldn’t. Well, some new literary idea as ambitious and parampara as the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta? Or will you keep doing these,
You want a temple, from me?
And Ayurveda? New Veda?
You want a sastric commentary?
“a Bhaktivedanta scholar,
need time to read his books.
“Out of aging flesh in dying bone and heart
in the last years you expect something better than what you did before?
“Just become a humble devotee, attached to sravanam-kirtanam, whether or not it comes as a Best Book Yet.
the lizard click-click
confirms, the truth.
a White Light is
only The Impersonal Ray
‘Have you contacted Aurobindo?’
‘No, why should I contact
him?’ Prabhupada is contact
with Lord Krsna
and that’s good enough!
So, why am I in contact with
James Ebenezer Scrooge
McDuck and Alvin and Tubby
and the fire hydrant in front of
our house in Great Kills?
Is it because you are not
in touch with Krsna?
‘Prabhupada,’ said a homage speaker,
‘was not like Thomas Merton
shopping for ideas by going to
hear from Buddhists.’ Maybe
I need to be in touch –
with a photo of Cannonball
Adderley, Kenny Burrell thoughtful
over the electric guitar because
there’s no good reason if you
were a pure devotee all
you need is the Lord in His
original form and rasas.
But since you are a garbage man,
then I ask you to cast it
and dump it
where the crows hover
and you return, refresh
with a shower and go up-
stairs and speak like a new man
of Lord Gaura’s grace as if
it’s all you know
and don’t tell the folks all
the jive and junk you go through
or even how you live in
and what’s a heart? (Is it
like an artichoke in layers?)
“go upstairs and eliminate
all excess stream of consciousness
Ladies and gents it’s been
swell. I thank the Swami
and management on behalf of
who went with them on
parikrama while I stayed
back twiddling my notes
(confirmed by the chick-chick
chick of the lizard).
“No time to read here, and that explains why you can’t write more directly in Krsna consciousness. It’s also a good argument in favor of the quiet life which allows for reading. I mean non-motivated reading, not preparing the day’s Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture or a disciples’ meeting. The reading I want is ongoing Srimad-Bhagavatam or any book of Srila Prabhupada’s. I’ll use it in classes in the future, but for now I just read. That kind of reading I’m not doing at all and may have to wait until I leave Mayapur before I can resume it.
“So, ironically counting the days and we can leave this pressure. Vrndavana socializing would be much harder. There are intense controversies and debates going on there. But even safe Mayapur is heavy for me. You have to go to mangala-arati or people will judge you. Same for the second half of the morning program. You calculate how much you can get away with.
“‘Everybody in ISKCON knows Satsvarupa Maharaja is a very advanced devotee.’ As he said it, I blocked my ears and laughed. But I heard it. Before that I said he was such a gentleman and a Vaishnava. Even if you mean it, to talk like that before a large group, it’s like eating something too sweet. You’ll get indigestion.
“Let’s get out of here.
“Go to that place (I can’t tell you, dear reader, but you can imagine, somewhere quiet like Sister Karen’s shack in West Virginia, except not with a leaky roof.
“Gong, gong, we are in Mayapur and that is special too, so I will try not to be a fault-finder and grumbler in these last days. I can occupy myself splendidly if people would just leave me alone.
Stork shrieks or honks.
Enough jazz musician photos,
enough Prabhodhananda Sarasvati
without any purport,
and your pen squeaks, ‘enough
writing too’ but I drive it one
by force. You ought to write
your teenage confession.
“Gable, shrink, hyena crack, the impetus, the sweet green tasting laxative, the dobs I don’t drink and don’t bounce off my head, sadhus I don’t meet
“Sats and Buts are great friends, see each other by chance every five years.
“An etiquette prone etiquette-prone fellow will always observe the sweet talk or the hard talk too and be righteous
“Stop – I really don’t know what it’s like to be in a brother’s skin, just as he doesn’t know my life. So, don’t criticize or judge.
But get away from here.
Shreh! Trumpet the elephant.
He calls out loudly.
“Lights on these rooms. Are you going to a mangala-arati? Yes, as long as I feel well, I wouldn’t miss it. Chance to see Krsna, Radha and gopi, Vrnda. A chance.
“Mayapur. Bhajana loudspeaker starts so all inmates may be awake. He sang, gauranga-lila.” The meaning is significant. The associates of Lord Caitanya are eternal. Even these we see here today? Stop now and chant comma sleepyhead.
“Someone has sent me a nectar package of photos mostly of Ekacakra, Lord Nityananda’s birthplace. Also included were verses indicating that by Lord Nityananda’s mercy one will enter Vraja and become the maidservant of Radhika.
“Too much emphasis on this for me. I asked, ‘How can I get the special mercy of Mayapur?’ – and this was the response. It’s philosophically accurate according to Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. But too much too soon.
“It’s not the emphasis Prabhupada gave. So, without making a big righteous protest or show of allegiance, I do desire to return to the shelter of his books taking only what he gives and confident that will automatically bring me to the best place. No need for separate routes, jumping over or speeding up.
“It won’t be easy. I go to read his books, but still my mind sometimes says, “This is for beginners” (and this is mythology, etc.)
Answer the mind back,
‘I am a beginner.
But full nectar is here.’
“Birds, bhajana, broadcast, hot weather, but cool in the A.M., not so harsh as in Vrndavana.
“No one knows my inner heart, mood. Or very few. The Godbrother I spoke to today doesn’t know. I treasure being alone, look forward to it. Don’t make a big thing about it. Just do it. Gaura-kisora dasa Babaji.
your Prabhupada is
singing Govinda Jaya
and recorded it so we
can hear many years later
the ecstatic sound. When
electric power cuts off you
hear birds whistle and
feel the Vaikuntha breezes.
Hari, please attract me
To Your names
Krsna, please pull my mind to You.”
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.