Today we waited four hours for the workers to bring a new washer and dryer. It disrupted our cooking and eating. We had to empty out the whole kitchen so they could work there. But when they finally came, they said the new washing machine was damaged, and they took it back. How frustrating! Plus we are in the middle of a marathon to get ready for the Vyasa-puja festival.
The marathon seems to be going well without too many hitches. Everyone who we’re counting on is showing up. The paraphernalia that we ordered has arrived from UPS. Tomorrow we will be able to use the hall for set-up. Hopefully it won’t take way into the night getting ready.
The Vyasa-puja function, held at the VFW Hall, was successful. About 100 people attended. The program, as scheduled, went on smoothly. The devotees worked hard in preparation, setting up and cleaning the hall, displaying the books and paintings, etc. At 10:00 A.M. we had an opening kirtana led by Madana Gopal and Rama Raya and his men from New York City. Everyone took part in the kirtana wholeheartedly. After half an hour, I was scheduled to speak. I first told some early memories of Prabhupada, from 1966, even before I was initiated. I so much love those memories, and I think the devotees like to hear them also. Then I spoke about my books. I said we had three newly-published books. One was The Best I Could Do, which was Krsna conscious free-writing. We also had two haiku books. One was Under the Banyan Tree, about my first coming to Prabhupada. The other book was The Dust of Vrndavana, telling about the vrajavasis and animals in haiku form. I then showed the devotees the book of illustrated paintings, The Many Colors of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. I then showed them another book, Write and Die. We had sold out of this book at the last summer meeting, but then we found in storage a substantial supply. So I told them briefly about the book, how it has references to world literature and an ongoing description of my attaining a confidential relationship with Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja. Then I told the devotees about the current project of reprinting. My book team, consisting of Krsna-bhajana, his wife Satyasara and Lal Krsna from Oxford are getting ready to reprint all the books I have written about Prabhupada and getting them ready to be distributed at next year’s Vyasa-puja. I read off the titles of twelve books, including Prabhupada Meditations in four volumes and Prabhupada Nectar. I then invited devotees to go to the book table, which was manned by Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and asked them to pick out books they wanted. We had set the prices at bargain rates, and many people bought. After giving enough time for book distribution, we had homages. After the devotees read their homages, we had guru puja and puspanjali. Then the devotees served a substantial feast. I went back to my house and had the feast with Jayadvaita Maharaja, Kavicandra Maharaja and some of my senior disciples. I was satisfied with the procedures, and the devotees also seemed to enjoy it.
At Viraha Bhavan, where some of us had the feast, Anarta Mahajana was there with her daughter Shyama and Shyama’s son, and some other members of the Mahajana family, and Nitai-Gaurasundara and his daughter Manjari. Jayadvaita Maharaja liked the feast and had a lot, asking Anarta dasi to give him some more dahiwada. She also served rice, samosa, chutney and dal. Before I even came to the house to honor the feast, I had to cut a big cake that Damodara Priya had made that they gave to me in the VFW Hall. I had to cut the first piece and eat the first piece before they would distribute it. It was a little awkward for me to eat a piece of sweet prasadam before beginning my regular meal. But I cut it with a knife and tasted the very sweet cake before going for regular lunch. Anarta dasi had just undergone a serious surgery in her neck two days before Vyasa-puja, but she was so determined that she attended anyway. She stayed with us and watched as we ate, and she was very happy to see especially Jayadvaita Maharaja’s eating so much. There was a dessert after lunch consisting of cheesecake and sweet rice, and I partook of that. Our conversation was light, as is appropriate when honoring prasadam.
I received about thirty Vyasa-puja letters and answered them with the Dictaphone. More are coming daily. I try to make my answers sincere and relevant to what they wrote in their homages.
A disciple wrote me and appreciated that at the end of our out-loud readings I call on all the names of the devotees who have participated. I call them by name and see their faces on the Zoom. He compared this to a statement Prabhupada made:
“It is a natural psychology in every individual case that a person likes to hear and enjoy his personal glories enumerated by others. That is a natural instinct, and the Lord, being also an individual personality like others, is not an exception to this psychology because psychological characteristics visible in the individual souls are but reflections of the same psychology in the Absolute Lord.” (Bhag. 1.6.33, purport)
Parked outside is our own van filled with the books left over from our sales on Vyasa-puja and whatever was left in the art storage. Also parked outside is a big U-Haul van containing 80 cases delivered from Visnu Aradhanam’s garage. Tomorrow they get unloaded into the new book storage space we are renting. Into that space we also have to put all the books that Saci Suta has (1,000) into storage and all the books left that were unsold at the festival (about 500). And they have to be organized by title so we can easily find them again when someone asks for a particular book, We have to be ready to locate it for them. Some rare books have been “pillaged” by visitors to Viraha Bhavan, and I don’t even have copies of them. We hope they will turn up.
Krsna dasi left today after a three-week stay. She plans to remain in Trinidad, avoiding the frigid winter in upstate New York. She will stay in Trinidad through December, January and February, and return sometime in March, when she hopes the weather will break. Anuradha also returns tomorrow to the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Anuradha has led the way in cleaning up parts of the ashram that have been long neglected. Silavati will stay on here and take care of the Deities until December 21, when Manohara from Italy comes. Krsna dasi trained Silavati in the parts of the Deity worship that she didn’t know. Silavati is planning to return to Viraha Bhavan. Other short-time help is expected in the winter.
We’re still having days above freezing, and Baladeva and Anuradha can do yard work in the garden such as final weeding of the flower beds, cleaning up the edges of the beds, cutting down the dead stalks of the flowers and removing them, pruning the roses, one last raking of the leaves—getting ready for winter in general.
“In Vancouver, they’re reading the Fourth Canto about the Kumaras speaking to Prthu Maharaja. Reading the purports makes me want to get through the First Canto in my writing and get on to these verses.
“This particular verse is an old friend. It has a catchy and compelling metaphor: ‘When one’s mind and senses are attracted to sense objects for enjoyment, the mind becomes agitated. As a result of continually thinking of sense objects, one’s real consciousness almost becomes lost, like the water in a lake that is gradually sucked up by the big grass straws on its bank.’ (Bhag. 4.22.30)
“Even as I prepare the lecture, I’m thinking of the things I do out of sense gratification. Exactly what’s being discussed here. Am I claiming a new standard which enables me to engage in sense gratification in the name of service and still make advancement in devotional service?
“This verse refers to our original Krsna consciousness and how it is gradually ‘lost’ or covered. Krsna consciousness is the primal state which we cannot recall. ISKCON devotees also think of this verse as referring to their own better days in devotional service, and how the energy of their devotion has been sucked dry by their sense desires. How did it happen?
“This is the sentence I often recall from the purport: ‘If our mind is simply filled with sense gratification, even though we want Krsna consciousness, by continuous practice we cannot forget the subject matter of sense gratification.’ Srila Prabhupada states, ‘We cannot kill desires.’ All we can do is to apply them in the Lord’s service.
The exterior of the Vancouver temple looks a little worse for wear and the huge statue of Lord Caitanya in the backyard seems cold in the open air. It’s tough to live in a temple. Anyway, I gave the class and spoke with my hands. There was a small sign on the lectern: ‘Dear speaker, please accept our obeisances at your lotus feet.’ Then it directed the lecturer not to speak for more than forty-five minutes, including questions. They even pasted a clock to the lectern so that the lecturer would know when time was running out.”
“Maharaja Pariksit didn’t take food or drink while he awaited death on the bank of the Ganges. Such is the serious proposal we all face in one way or another. No more merry-making or upkeep. All that’s important is hearing about Krsna and developing our attraction for Him. I plan to speak about that at a ‘disciples’ meeting’ tonight. I put that in quotes because on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf, I gave initiation to dozens of persons here, but only a few are left. Of them, only a few bother to write me letters. So what do I say at such a gathering? I’m not going to attempt to talk of our relationship, how it has failed or how to revive it. Instead, I have chosen Bhagavad-gita 7.1. I’ll talk about how we should read Prabhupada’s books and approach Krsna through them.
Krsna is a person. We tend to forget that, at least in an active way. But He is the most important person in our lives. Christians refer to Him vaguely as God. We know Him personally—the all-attractive Krsna who speaks Bhagavad-gita and who is described more fully in the Bhagavatam. When He speaks and when we hear, our hearts become cleansed and our original Krsna conscious nature is revived. I’ll say all that, and if they have questions, I’ll answer them. In that context, we will actually carry out the heart of the guru-disciple relationship. The heart is hearing about Krsna. Within that realm, the guru guides the disciple and the disciple inquires and serves. That’s all.
“When the meeting is over, we’ll pack our items loosely in boxes, shopping bags, and suitcases, and stow them in Rupa’s van. Then early in the morning off we’ll go. I pray Krsna allows me a productive month. I’m looking forward to breathing in that cold mountain air.”
“This sloka is inviting. We ‘shall get light from this Purana.’ By contrast, Prabhupada’s purport is heavy. He denounces the blindness of this age. Everyone is practicing a pretense of religion. Pretense means it’s actually animal life. Of course, the processes of dharma, artha, kama, and moksa are actually part of the Vedas. Srila Prabhupada is not denouncing the Vedic processes in themselves but is pointing out that they are not actually being followed in the way that fulfills their purpose of elevating the human being. And even beyond that, the essential ingredient in any life process is bhakti. Without bhakti as the ultimate goal, even these Vedic processes are not so progressive. Dharma without God consciousness is not real dharma. Kama based on a slaughterhouse society is hellish. Artha without sacrifice binds one tighter to the material world. Moksa aimed at impersonal realization is not even permanent. Therefore, Prabhupada points out in this purport that we have to understand the true essence of human life by referring to the three essential steps described in sastra: sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana.
“Someone asked me recently more about this verse. He said that since Lord Krsna returned to His abode accompanied by religion and knowledge, it doesn’t seem that He left anything behind for us. If all we have is the pretension of religion and knowledge, if that’s all He left us with, how then can we be held responsible for our ignorance? How can we possibly be expected to know enough to approach the Bhagavatam if all we have experienced in life is falsity?
“Such a question misses the point of this verse. Krsna returned to His abode with religion and knowledge, but He also left it behind, just as the sages use the boat of knowledge to carry them across the river, but simultaneously leave it on the other shore for others to follow later. In Dvapara-yuga, Krsna blessed the earth with His presence; in Kali-yuga, He continues to bless the world with His presence through Srimad-Bhagavatam. Wake up and receive the nectar.
“‘This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. . . . As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart.’ (Bhag. 1.1.2)”
“Make it a practice to turn to the Bhagavatam from your moments of darkness—the darkness of dreams, where images collide and riddles are posed. Turn on the light of the Bhagavatam.
“And speaking of darkness, who’s to say physical darkness won’t soon descend on any of us? We scribble words down while light pours on a page, and we use the light in our brains, but the dimming influence of old age is approaching, and our wits are bound to become more feeble. Light! Give us the light of Sri Krsna’s pastimes!
“Do I sound like a cheerleader kicking up my majorette knee in a skirt, and twirling a baton?
“‘Why is it that you have evolved now so that your writing is just focused on Krsna, as in Qualities of Sri Krsna, whereas formerly . . . ?’
“I was always for Krsna even in the beginning, and wrote what the Swami taught. It seems to me that I’ve evolved a more ‘centered-in-self-and-who-we-are-now’ approach in my attempt to place myself and everything else in the circle of devotional life. That’s where I am right now, and this too—this too—is Krsna conscious. The light of the bhagavata reaches here too, and transforms music and books and art, and claims them for Krsna’s service.
“Louisiana Purchase, Louis and Clark expedition—wherever you go, claim everything for the Lord.
“Is that weak winter sunlight reaching me and hitting my page like a distant polar star? Yes, spring is not far away. You can feel the electricity in the air. Therefore, let us meditate on the effulgence of the divine sun, Surya Narayana, the source of all suns, Sri Krsna.”
“The Bhagavatam is not so easily approached, it’s true, but somehow or other just hear. Dedicate your life to the cause. No one said you had to be completely pure before you could apply the process. The classes are open, the books are available (we even hand them out on the street), and all we have to do is develop rapt attention.
We wonder when we will achieve it. Just qs there are stages in chanting—nama-aparadha, namabhasa, and suddha-nama—so there are stages in reading. Perhaps despite our efforts we have not really begun to read. When, oh when will that day come? By constant association with the Bhagavatam (nityam bhagavata-sevaya), it will come sooner than we think.
“Actually, it will come even sooner if we concentrate on wanting it.
“Prabhupada says ‘somehow or other.’ I think that means that even if we don’t yet possess all the qualifications, if we’re not completely pure in mind and action, then it appears that there is no hope. Rupa Gosvami says a devotee should hope against hope, ‘somehow or other.’ He should act on his hope by associating with the book and with the devotees and by doing everything in his power to achieve his goal of bhagavata-darsana. It’s true that we won’t get it before we’re qualified, but go for it anyway. Somehow or other, get in there and beg for it. It can’t be stolen, but we can borrow it, or beg for it, or at least show our greed to attain it.
“If we’re told that we are disqualified from rapt hearing, don’t accept it. Go anyway to the guru’s door and beg. If he still says you’re disqualified, then ask what you must do to become qualified. Perhaps you need to learn the humility of a beggar. But somehow or other . . .
“Prabhupada taught us that Krsna (and the Bhagavatam) gives mercy even beyond justice. That is Krsna’s nature as the friend of His devotees. This was also the mood Prabhupada personally exemplified in his own life. He himself broke the rules of Vaisnava society to extend the Bhagavatam’s mercy to the hippie men and women of the 1960s. Therefore, for us, Prabhupada himself is the ‘somehow-or- other’ factor. We didn’t deserve the mercy, but he insisted that we take it. As he said, he created our pious credits. This is also proof that the pure devotee has been given the license by Krsna to dispense His mercy.”
“At Saranagati and on my first trip to the outhouse. There’s no trail out there, so I had to walk by breaking my way through the crust of snow. It’s just a small A-frame set up on logs, with a flap of canvas for a door. It’s the kind of place where if you leave a jug of water for more than few hours, it will be ice by the time you return. I feel liberated just to get back into the heated cabin. Snow flurries falling gently. Settled in.
“Suta spoke the Bhagavatam to the sages at Naimisaranya long ago. Now thousands of years later, we are reading Prabhupada’s books and gaining knowledge, although we are not so pure. Prabhupada was kind enough to let us practice Krsna consciousness.
“We are about to begin the fourth chapter. Up until now, we have mostly been listening to introductory talk. Still, these praises of the Bhagavatam and the process of hearing are some of the best in the whole book. They give us enthusiasm to continue. It’s like how I feel about writing. Some of the best writing is actually written about the writing process—a writer talking shop. Similarly, the sages appreciate hearing about the process by which they can attain Krsna as much as they relish hearing the narrations of His pastimes.
“Now the snow is lashing around the cabin, but we’ll be warm tonight. Even if the fire goes out, I can always get up and start it again. The devotees left me a pile of newspapers with which to get it going. Tomorrow morning, I hope to walk in the snow and join the two resident sannyasis to hear and chant on Gaura-Purnima.”
“Why not give your heart and urgency? Why not abandon other thoughts and taste the sweetness of the holy name?
“Go ahead and like to do it, Prabhu. I give you permission and all good wishes.
Years ago I did have a simpler faith—I temporarily recaptured it this morning—straining to only hear, with faith in the mantra Prabhupada gave us. All you have to do is fix your mind and two senses on this maha-mantra. Krsna will not remain indifferent to our cry. But if there is no bhakti, Krsna will not be personally interested. If in your heart, you are not calling to Krsna, then He won’t hear you, or rather, He will hear that you are crying for something else, moksa, ecstasy for yourself, whatever, and He will give you some of it. Chanting the outer form of the mantra is not enough.
“So when I say have simple faith only in hearing, that hearing must be internal. But the all-importance of the holy names does not preclude the necessity to chant them prayerfully, with attention. Krsna will not appear if we say the Names without thought or feeling for He whom we are addressing or if we commit offenses to the holy names. . . . it is the quality of our utterances which counts the most.”
“I am writing for the devotees. This is a sacred task. We say japa is for one’s own benefit, and kirtana is to benefit others as well. Writing is a kind of kirtana. My writing celebrates japa.
“I praise the chanting of the holy name on beads. Thank you, Srila Prabhupada, for introducing the japa mala to America and to me. I love my red beads. Touching the beads, I touch your kindness and wisdom. How courageous and surrendered you were to come here to give us beads. How pleasing this was to your Guru Maharaja. How pleasing this was to your param-gurudeva, Bhaktivinoda Thakura. These acaryas wanted Krsna consciousness spread to the Westerners because they knew it was the desire of Rupa Gosvami and Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
“ . . . We were discussing how the world is true and at the same time not true. But the world of the nondevotees is clearly false. An honest man sees the falsity and keeps away from it. Yes, we can ‘use everything’ in the service of Krsna according to our capacity. But Srila Prabhupada warned, ‘You have to catch the fish without getting wet.’
“I have no purpose in trying to enjoy the world or to alleviate its misery by sociopolitical means. This world will consume me and kick me back-and-forth like a soccer ball. I want to know myself as a servant of Krsna, and that means I cannot be a servant of man or servant of country or family. I have to flee the world. I can flee into the temple, or I may flee into the shelter of a Krsna conscious grhastha life. Or if my family turns out to be too much opposed to spiritual life, I can flee to the vanam, the forest. But I must flee, and if you call it ‘escape,’ I reply, ‘Yes I’m escaping from the grip of maya at last. Why don’t you come also?’
“We reject sense gratification in all of its tantalizing forms because of its falsity. In sense gratification, you lose your honest self.”
“Quiet, the bell is ringing
for noon. You just have to listen
as all Vrndavana chimes in
even in this room.
The heater hums except when
the electricity cuts off—
as it does at 6 A.M. when I eat breakfast
in the dark and light candles to see by.
Then the heater comes on
and I remember I was dreaming
awake in Vrndavana.
In Vrndavana while lecturing
I noticed Aindra Prabhu wrapped
in woolen robes
just like the ones Bhagavat Purana
dasa is wearing—the uniform of the
My uniform is a knit cap from New York,
a sweatshirt from London,
a wrist watch from Hong Kong,
Glider slip-on shoes from Puri,
and Fixodent pasted-in teeth from Brescia—
and all this paraphernalia
I’m carrying from state to state.
Vrndavana catechism: I believe in the holy ghost, the
forgiveness of sins in Akrura-ghat, and the old mother who
wears saffron, and everyone’s right to be disappointed in me.
I believe in the sands of Ramana-reti.
I believe I will get out there and see it.
I believe in Abhirama’s house and the reddish
flowers that grow there on that metal frame.
I believe Bhagatji lived there and
gave me an orange once.
I believe in Prabhupada
who makes all this remembrance possible.”
“Thanks to Lord Krsna, Bhagavan, that I am free to write, no headache, don’t take it lightly that you are alive in this human body and can form words. Don’t splurge it away like cheap thing, like kindling gone up in flame, like junk music, junk food. This is the human form of life. All hail, I say, to the Lord. There has been enormous waste of human life, and words are one of the worst ways. People expend energy and written and spoken words all nonsense, and others spoof and no one can speak honestly to the point. The Vedic literature is the way to truth, but people can’t pick them out from the morass of billions of books in the libraries. It gets worse with the superhighway of information and exchange of political speeches, radio shows, TV shows, videos, guess what is next? They will be talking nonstop and old and new, but it’s chewing the chewed in this miserable material world.
“So you don’t be part of it, sonny. You serve and get your face straight and do what you are told. You repeat the Vedic maxims, you hear, you repeat the teachings of your spiritual master. Yes, but don’t become a Charlie McCarthy-Jerry Mahoney dummy. You have to speak in your own words.
“Food for thought.”
“One of the most important principles of Vaisnava behavior is that one should perform devotional service in the association of devotees and never give this up under any circumstance.
“‘My dear highly glorified Lord, if one, in the association of pure devotees, hear even once the glories of Your activities, he does not, unless he is nothing but an animal, give up the association of devotees, for no intelligent person would be so careless as to leave their association.’
“As living beings, we need engagement, and we need some form of society. Going into perpetual seclusion or silent meditation is not recommended, and it is almost impossible for most persons. Therefore, we should take up the right engagement, devotional service, and in the right company, the association of devotees. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada created the International Society for Krsna Consciousness with the intention of providing centers and communities for people to come and hear and chant about Krsna and live together in devotional service.
“In former ages, devotees like Dhruva Maharaja were ordered to perform austerities in the forest, but that is not congenial or recommended for the people of Kali-yuga. By the mercy of Lord Caitanya, devotional service has been made easy. Of course, the principles must still be followed, and that is best done by serving in the company of other devotees who are avoiding illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling—in a society where there is constant chanting of the holy name and rendering of devotional service. In this way, devotees live together harmoniously, and they transcend the limited identity of time and space. Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘If the members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, putting faith in Krsna as the center, live in harmony according to the order and principles of Bhagavad-gita, then they are living in Vaikuntha, not in this material world.’ (Bhag. 3.15.33, purport)
One may say that he has tried living in the association of devotees but that the situation is not always exactly like Vaikuntha. This is understandable, because the Krsna consciousness movement is recruiting devotees from among the conditioned souls and because the movement exists amidst opposing forces within the world of maya. Yet the association of devotees remains the only solace for one aspiring to serve Krsna and go back to Godhead.
“One of Srila Prabhupada’s most memorable statements, spoken during his last days on earth, was his request that his followers cooperate among themselves. ‘Your love for me will be shown,’ he said, ‘by how much you cooperate to keep this institution together after I am gone.’ Not only in his last days, but also during all his days as Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada was promoting cooperation among the members. He acknowledged that individuals would sometimes differ, but it should not cause disruption. ‘I know the fight spirit is there in you Westerners,’ he wrote in a letter, ‘even if you do not care to fight, someone will induce you to fight.’ (Letter, November 13, 1975 to Alanatha dasa)”
“We talked in the meadow,
on the third day of the hunting season.
I said I don’t like to hear so many Krsna stories
when they’re without Prabhupada’s purports.
They make me unsure. He said he’s the opposite,
always after some new stuff.
But we both want the truth.
He read in Bhaktivinoda Thakura,
‘No idea is false.’
But it’s all brought together in the Vedic literature
with its many centuries of faithful acaryas.
“Jnana-sakti is a big man, affectionate,
a young devotee.
We’re both tied up to the Vedic truth.
And me his spiritual master?
I wanted to say,
Don’t expect too much of me.
“We talked about the deer.
I saw one limping.
He said he saw three does without their buck.
‘Yes, they travel that way,’ I said.
‘I read it in Bambi,
their hatred and fear of man.’
Jnana-sakti winces: he’s vulnerable. He says
he didn’t read Bambi but recalls one scene
where the animals are fleeing from the hunters.
“He mentioned the biography
of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
‘When I read that,’ he said
‘I felt I could confidently surrender
myself at his feet.’
We part, both in our orange hats.
I head into the woods, on warm wet ground.
If I see a hunter, I’ll tell him.”
“My dear Lord Krsna . . .
“I pray to You because Prabhupada has encouraged devotees to do so. He says we may pray to You in the perfect prayers in the sastras, such as the Brahma-samhita, or we may compose prayers to You from our hearts, in our own words. The latter prayers are likely to be imperfect, but You lovingly accept them as a father accepts the broken words of his affectionate little son.
“Being trained for many years in Krsna consciousness, my prayers should at least be correct in siddhanta (Vedic conclusion) and in parampara (disciplic succession of the acaryas). My prayer today is one I’ve made before—a prayer for intimacy. I would like to know You better, to know You are my friend and well-wisher. If I can be close to You, I will feel protected and happy.
“You are intimately connected to all Your parts and parcels. You dwell in our hearts as the indwelling guide. We just have to be aware of this, turn to You, be aware of the intimacy and enjoy it. It is an intimacy of servant and served. Srila Prabhupada has written, ‘Service is the most congenial form of intimacy.’ We are meant to serve You.
“Service begins with chanting and hearing. It includes preaching. I have to perform these things until I attain a taste for them. With ruci, my intimacy with You will increase. When one has a taste for something, that means he likes it. I want to like serving You so that I’m always engaged in some sort of service. It has to be spontaneous, as in raganuga-bhakti. Raganuga is when you go beyond serving because it is the order of the spiritual master, and you serve because you have a greed for it. It goes beyond the rules and regulations of the scriptures. That is real intimacy.
“Your eternal servants in the spiritual world serve You because they love You. They don’t even serve You because they think You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they’d be condemned if they didn’t serve You. They serve You in intimate ways out of natural love as parents, friends, and conjugal lovers.
“I serve You through my spiritual master. I think of You as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I like to think of You as the cowherd boy of Vraja, but I have not yet realized my siddha-svarupa, or spiritual form, in which I could serve You with greater intimacy as a parent, friend, or lover. You are my Supreme Lord. I chant Your names daily, and the names of Your consort Radharani. That is primary service, and You like it when I chant with attention and devotion.
“You’ll be present at the time I have to leave this body, and I pray that I can chant Your names and think of You and return to You. You are the Almighty, and You will decide where to place me in my next body. You have that power.
“So I say I wish to become more intimate with You because I want You to remember me favorably and take me to You. I don’t wish to be merely an official worshiper or one who comes to You with a selfish, material motive. I want to live the sentiment which Prabhupada says is the meaning of the Hare Krsna mantra prayer: ‘Please let me serve You.’
“I want to help others come to Krsna consciousness. In the Bhagavad-gita, You say that he who tells others about You is Your dearmost servant. Please let me be Your instrument in helping to remind others about Your glories and the importance of chanting Your names. If I can serve You in many ways, or in one way, I will gain realization of You and appreciate more Your wonderful qualities. I pray that You will give me these opportunities and allow me to become a more intimate servant.”
“Krsna, it would be nice to know Your fierce Garuda. How we have been mortally afflicted by skepticism in this lifetime! But Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya used to be like an iron bar, and he became a soft-hearted devotee of Lord Caitanya. We can be converted.
“May I have such a conversion one day. May inner life—the life of Krsna’s pastimes and names and teachings, drive me to distraction.
“I am so intent on a regulated life that I find even the concept of being ‘distracted’ by love of Krsna a disturbing one. I wouldn’t want to lose sleep over anything. I would hate to miss my hot rice, dal, and capatis.
“Although it is admirable to become fixed in following rules and regulations, is it possible that I am really petrified at heart? Why don’t I ever cry? Why does my heart throb only when I perceive danger to my body or an attack on my false ego? Where is my heart? Where has my original love gone? It is lost. As Thomas Wolfe said, ‘O, lost!’”
“O Prabhupada, who was like a rose and sometimes like a thunderbolt, and whose disciples always granted to him the absolute right to guide them as he saw fit, according to time, persons, and place: ‘You hold the mace, you have the right’;
“O Prabhupada, whose entire lila on this earth is the story of a liberated soul carrying out the will of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Lord Krsna, and whose life is for us like that lila of Lord Krsna, Lord Rama, or Lord Caitanya, meant for uplifting and directing us in spiritual life by following your footsteps.
“O Srila Prabhupada, who pushed his disciples to work hard and who said, ‘This is guru-krpa (guru’s mercy)’;
“O Prabhupada, who consoled his disciples when they became overwrought with work and worry, who assured them that he was not interested in results like money, buildings, and recruited members, but in practical engagement for his devotees, and who assured them that they should never be disturbed or lose their spiritual status, and who promised his followers that Sri Krsna had a special plan for them and would never allow them to suffer;
“O Prabhupada, who said, ‘In the beginning I could not understand what my spiritual master was speaking but I wanted to hear him,’ and who advised his own followers, ‘We should read and read again, and simply that vibration will help us . . . that will make us advanced, even if we do not understand everything.’”
“Some Vedic scriptures say that if you reverently visit a Visnu or Krsna temple, you will be liberated from birth and death. If you bow down before the forms of Radha and Krsna, you can gain love of God. But the visit to the temple cannot be a casual touristic visit. It must be made as a pilgrim, as a devotee of God. One should learn the etiquette involved. When entering the temple, one should ring the bell. One should bring a gift, like rice or flowers, and offer it to the Deity or the pujari. One may offer money to the pujari for the Deities’ service. When visiting the temple, it is auspicious to take the water that was used to bathe the Deity (caranamrita) in the palm of one’s right hand and sip it. Then wash one’s hand with water.
“Deities hold regular visiting hours when special functions are being held, like mangala-arati, the greeting of the Deities when They are dressed, lectures from the Bhagavatam before the Deities, kirtanas, and it’s best to visit the Deities at those times. Best at those times rather than when the Deities are asleep and the doors are closed. When the doors are closed, one will not be able to get a darsana of the Deities. A nice time to visit is the early evening when sundara or evening arati is held. Then the Deities are in full display and a melodious kirtana is held. There is a year-long calendar of special events when it is most auspicious to visit the Deities, like Chandan-yatra, Janmastami, Govardhan-yatra, Jhulan-yatra, etc. etc. In a place like Vrndavana, there are hundreds of Deities, and one can visit one after another, making a kind of pilgrimage to the many Deities in the many temples.
“If you visit a temple you should be open-minded, especially if you are ignorant or prejudiced against the arca-vigraha (worship of Deities or statues). Best to inquire respectfully about it in an ecumenical spirit. For God, everything is possible. This is a holy temple. In a mosque or church or synagogue, any derogatory ignorant opening remark about what is going on is also likely to be offensive to their God, and who are you to say that God cannot manifest Himself to people in this way?
“If you want to visit a Christian heshyat (hermit) in his cave in the mountains of Greece or the desert of Egypt and he doesn’t allow visitors, don’t curse him in your mind. You have spiritual questions to ask him? Read the Philokalia. These men are doing important work and can’t be disturbed. Besides, you have your own Guru Maharaja. Why do you want to go sightseeing among other monks, cells, and temples of the various religions? Respect them from a distance. Visit daily the temple, where your own God is named. Visit always, stay with the God in your heart, don’t you know who He is? Sri Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. Try for this. Visit these temples with your offering. See Them in your heart.”
“The supreme occupation (dharma) for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.”
“Comment: Prabhupada lectured often on this verse. He liked to present it as a nonsectarian definition of true dharma or religion. He said the dictionary defines religion as ‘a kind of faith,’ but true dharma is not a faith that can be changed as one converts from Hindu to Christian or Christian to Muslim. True dharma is the original, unchanging nature of the living being. That is, his tendency to render service to someone or something.
“The innate serving nature is perfected when we render devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is our eternal occupation, just as it is the permanent ‘dharma’ or nature of sugar to be sweet or of water to be liquid, the sa vai pumsam verse therefore describes a first-class religionist without claiming that one world denomination is better than another. That religion which promotes unmotivated and uninterrupted loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is best. By speaking this verse, Suta answers the sages’ first question. They requested him to go through all the Vedic literature and select the essence which could be given to the unfortunate people of Kali-yuga.
“Pure devotional service is free of karma and jnana. Bhakti is therefore an uncovering or an awakening to who we actually are: the eternal, spiritual, blissful servants of the Supreme. ‘This relation of servant and the served is the most congenial form of intimacy.’
“I accept that. It’s a clear, tight, scientific definition. I like to follow Prabhupada’s example and lecture on it too. It disarms the notion, ‘My religion is better than yours,’ but it is not vague sentiment. It reveals the pure current of bhakti as the essence and acknowledges that this current may be found in other world religions.
“Prabhupada was once asked his opinion about the Christian mystics. He said he hadn’t studied their lives, but one could judge by the criteria of this Bhagavatam verse. If you find someone anywhere in the world who is rendering devotional service without any motive other than to please God, and if he does it without interruption, then that is bhakti. Doesn’t matter if such a person appears as a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew, or even a Buddhist. The paro-dharma potentially exists in all cultures. It is always pure, just as gold is always pure no matter who possesses it. To actually find the symptoms of such a pure devotee is rare.
“The criteria is sufficiently broadminded, yet stringent. I am always happy to explain this verse point by point, elaborating on the words para-dharma, bhakti, adhoksaje, ahaituki, apratihata, and yayatma suprasidati.”
“‘Here are some japa meditations, Maharaja,
compiled by Sanatana Goswami and others but
don’t tell your audience that you
got it from me lest pride and arrogance
swell up in me. Please don’t tell.’
Well, I won’t like I did tonight
when they asked where did you
get that meditation from Bhakti-
“I’ll tell them . . . Heave chest and pose with
garland for flash photos. When you step
into the wrong shoes, someone says, ‘They
are getting special mercy.’ My sacred feet.
That’s how it is and you get two sweets.
You get these benefits and . . .
“This song . . . this life is ending.
‘Give us a reference, please, of the verse
you just quoted.’ A Godbrother sits back
and monitors my presentation as I field
questions on how to improve
japa. A sad joke, a sad
bloke when it’s his turn to chant.
“I read and chanted and ended a one-and-a-half
with triumphant sailor’s shout,
‘Chanting Hare Krsna mantra and reading
Srimad-Bhagavatam, ki jaya!’ I said it –
the simple message pulled into One,
Let it rest with them and live with
me. Dear Prabhupada, I take this
next retreat not to Do Nothing
in a lonely place, but to
gain practice and conviction for the
next round of meetings in snow-
“All you can get from the personal
meeting with Krsna you can find
in the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam and
Goodnight Mayapur sweets while
they’re chanting Damodarastakam and I’m
getting ready to turn in, five
days left in Heaven.
the old past, jukebox,
don’t name it now, put
your finger over your lips and
say, ‘Shhh.’ Let it pass
and wait to see Krsna
from the vantage of Mayapur.
Shhh. Be here now,
Mayapur crickets move you
along . . . Too soon trucks
again, and people who are
not devotees of Krsna.
But you have seen Lord Nrsimha
and can call His names,
please protect me from demons,
please kill my own demons
in the heart.
You have seen the picture of
the kirtana of Gauranga,
you have stood on this ground
and missed most of it, but
A little. A day here is worth
millions somewhere else says
Bumpkin returns to the
West with stars in eyes
and plan. He’ll be a
Prabhupada Gauranga man.
“The most that can be said –
Dimmed lights of Indian electrical system
and his lined face, Spanish accent,
why I write ‘my struggles in Krsna
consciousness’ if I’m supposed to be guru.
That old ball, pop fly, high up, I
get under it to catch it again.
‘What can I say? You should
accept guru as perfect, blah blah.’
Don’t you know by now I write
that way ‘til death?
Besides, maybe I’m a midget sort
of guru, you know, a castor tree.
“The cherry pie hunks, who made them?
‘It’s maha-prasada.’ I carefully give out
each piece. Me laughing, and laughable
comedian of . . . Bhagavatam purports
sweating in the last half-hour of one-and-a-half hour
lecture, come to the end and leave
once again, laughing to be light with
alas, Stefan, I too used to
be called Stephen and sooner or later
you’ll have to get a spiritual name,
maybe when it really counts and you
want it and someone must give it to
you. (The lizard confirms.)
“So, Mayapur black night now, no fountain,
no folk walking around the maha-mantra
stones, but loud kirtana from the temple and
maybe I’ll ask for a little piece of that
pie but actually
you don’t need it – could do some
extra, sweet chanting just as you
profess to them –
sorry it’s not much better, sorry
and glad too my hand wants
to chant and write
Lord, as You will,
as You allow and as You desire
You favor someone.
“No one can know what a sweet
group it is ‘tho we have our
overweight, sore ankles, bad
teeth, or none at all, and this
one is too young to know,
these speak only Russian or
Italian with no translator.
I can’t begin to tell you but
since I’m writing—here!
“He asked, ‘Is our rasa shown in present
service?’ . . . I was aware of the rasika
fan clubs. Big chunks of cheesecake to
give out—I did.
“I began with a small headache but it
went away, partly because I
loved what I was doing and
they didn’t exert pressure on me
I could have stopped when I wanted.
“I spoke of bhakti as a science. I read
my notes on struggling japa. We chanted a
round together. Now less than three days
left. It will be sweet sorrow parting
with a promise to come back next year.
But Prabhupada writes, ‘To avoid unlawful
desires, don’t make plans.’
Krsna loves all rasas. Chip-chip chip: the
lizard confirms all I just said.
“Up here I hear,
kirtana over, he makes an announcement in
Bengali, they applaud. It’s 7 P.M. that
means now the darsana will begin and
ghee wicks distributed in clay pots and
they will offer them to Yasoda and Damodara.
I’m not there because I’m up here but
I’ve seen the blackish boy no-so-afraid,
plump, His mother with a rope.
In the morning I’ll rise to chant,
my patient, my patient
bad attempt again.
Only Krsna can save me.”
(to be continued)
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.
Read more »
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.