I had a dream that I wanted to write full-time. I had graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree. I didn’t want to go back to college for more degrees. I thought the best thing to do was to get a job to support myself. I thought of the jobs that I had before: summers at the beach in the Parks Department, full-time for five years as a caseworker in the welfare department. But then I thought about the present economy, and just before waking up I flashed on the reality of my present condition. I am eighty-two years old and I am crippled, can’t even walk. Not likely that I could get a job. Very frustrated about this. Sometimes I think of getting someone to support me so I could write. But I didn’t think clearly about how this could come about. And what would I write? And how would I be able to publish it?
This is a variation of the same dream I have almost every night. When I wake up I realize my actual situation: I am a retired Hare Krsna monk with many years of service in the movement. I’ve written an enormous amount of books geared to the Krsna conscious audience. I think I have, at most, a few more years to live.
This desire to begin a writing career is folly. I think of Franz Kafka, who had a full-time job with an insurance company and wrote his books at night. He was very frustrated about how his job took up his time, yet he managed to write several world-acclaimed novels and stories. I guess I will keep having these frustrating dreams and waking up to my reality of writing the Free Write Journal and publishing books that I have written in the past. I’m still alive as a writer in Krsna consciousness, but not in a way it comes in these dreams.
It’s a few weeks before December 25th. We have a Christmas wreath with electric lights around the door. Inside the house we have a miniature live Christmas tree. When the season is over, we give the tree to Lalita-kaisori, who plants it in her garden, and it remains alive, surviving the winter. One reason we observe Christmas is to keep up with our American neighbors, just as we mow our lawn and keep a nice garden so that people will think we are “normal.” We don’t observe Christmas in a commercial way. We exchange gifts at Christmastime among our close friends, an exchange of love. This is also a Vaisnava tradition, to give gifts and to receive gifts. To the neighbors—and to the businesses and doctors, etc.—we give out homemade cookies that have been offered to our Deities and given in charity as krsna-prasadam. This is a nice way of preaching.
The Krsna consciousness movement conducts a marathon of book distribution leading up to Christmas Day. The temples compete to see who can distribute the most books by Srila Prabhupada.
Atindra, Silavati dasi and Muktavandya have been doing nice service here. Atindra answers my radio calls throughout the day and comes up to do personal service. He’s very humble and efficient. He also does little projects around the house, fixing broken things—replaced the towel racks in the bathroom and fixed the blender. And he always keeps the computer going. Silavati dasi she’s a solitary type and so is able to function all right without the company of Krsna dasi and Anuradha, although she misses them both. She does plenty of service for the Deities: polishing Their silver, arranging the flowers and arranging the vases. And she cooks nicely. Muktavandya came today and brought flowers. They are a great savings for us, and they’re beautiful. He sat with me and showed me his “dumb jokes,” which are cartoons with corny captions. So things are working smoothly with the “skeleton crew.”
When I was a little boy, my mother force-fed me beets. I never liked them. As soon as I moved out and could choose the food I would eat, I never again had beets. Today Lalita-kaisori was excited to serve me and the others a cleansing juice made from beets, carrots, celery and ginger. As soon as I saw it I said, “No thanks!” I didn’t even like to see it being served to others. She was excited to give it to me because she said it was a good cleanser. But when she knew my taste, she gave me a glass which was simple apple juice, and that I liked.
(There’s a good side to Lalita-kaisori. You can depend on her to do thorough cleaning. She gets down on her hands and knees and scrubs the dirt. She cleaned up after the workmen who were just here to deliver our washing machine. She even cleans places where the sun hasn’t shined for a long time. She’s always willing to help with the festivals and taking care of the flowers in the garden.)
Manohara is coming. He will arrive here by tomorrow night from Italy. He’s planning to take on personal service to me. He’s in his mid-40s, so he has youthful energy on his side. He’s planning to stay for three weeks. I’m looking forward to his energetic application of service attitude. He brings expertise in Italian cooking. As I remember him from his past visit, he moves through the day like a whirlwind. I have a good relationship with him.
We are near the end of reading Caitanya-bhagavata in our out-loud reading sessions. The four designated voters for a new book made secret ballots, and I read them at the time of our out-loud reading. For the third time, it was a unanimous vote. As I recall, first we picked Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and then Caitanya-caritamrta. This time, we voted unanimously for The Nectar of Devotion. It is so nice when the four votes get cast for the same book. It shows a comforting unity and thinking alike. So probably by tomorrow we’ll start a new reading of NOD. The devotees cheered and were happy with the outcome of the vote.
Baladeva’s sister Kathi is here with her son David. David and Baladeva worked on trying to fit the washer/dryer so that it’s level and stable. They spent the whole day working at it. Baladeva said they could leave it alone now, but David is a perfectionist. So when he comes back again in a few weeks he wants to shim it and put a bracket on it so that it’s level and doesn’t shake so much. So the curse of the new washer/dryer continues. While the men were working on the washing machine, Baladeva’s sister went shopping for groceries and did some things around the house like dishes and cleaning. I had to eat lunch upstairs, as the kitchen area was a disaster zone because of the work going on for the washer/dryer.
I met with Kathi and David. They told me that Kathi did all the driving from Maine to Stuyvesant Falls, New York. She’s in her seventies and he’s in his fifties, but she did all the driving. She says, “Yeah, I’m a driver. Me and Baladeva too.” I was surprised that she did so much driving. They’re leaving here tomorrow to visit with some relatives. They’ll be giving Christmas gifts to grandchildren, and they’ll visit a Buddhist monastery. Then they’ll come back here next week, and David will work some more on the washer and dryer. It was late when we met, and she said she was a little “brain-tired” and not up to talking much. I was also tired at that time of the day. But it was good for us to see each other, and this was the only time I visited them while they were here because I had to eat upstairs while David worked on the washing machine. They have to leave early tomorrow morning to go to the monastery.
Baladeva’s sister went with Baladeva and purchased a hose clamp for the washer/dryer, and we did our first load of wash this morning without any incident. Still, David is coming back because he still wants to put another shim in to give it more balance. David is a perfectionist.
Atindra has to miss lunch today because he has Zoom meetings with the people that work under him on a big project for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He’s in charge of a team of 50 people. But because it’s Christmastime he has more time to do service at the ashram. In two days we’re expecting Manohara to come. Atindra will have to spend a few days training him up on personal service to me. So many things have changed in the two years since Manohara was here.
A book came in the mail. It’s Hrdayananda Maharaja’s novel Justin Davis. I am halfway through and find it fascinating. The title of the book is Justin Davis. He is 15 years old and is the hero of the story. He has encounters with higher beings and lives for a while with them. He returns to the earth and the story continues with Justin as a growing man who has powers but is faced with dangers. In the higher worlds he met a woman who was dedicated to Krsna, “the first avatara.” The book is well-written fiction. He manages to enroll in a highly prestigious college called Whitehall. But his father is dead and his mother is forced to work at menial jobs. Justin meets beautiful women, both on the earth and in the higher planets. Justin is a master of high-level martial arts, and he defends himself against the asuras both on the higher planets and on earth. It’s all fiction, but fascinating. I will wait until I read the entire book to describe more what happens to Justin Davis and the world he lives in.
“We relish Srila Prabhupada’s realizations as he speaks and writes on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. One time, Prabhupada was explaining that mental disturbance arises from ignorance. As an example, he said that when he first came to America, he did not know how to catch the bus to Pennsylvania. This put him in anxiety. It was a wonderful life experience story which helped illustrate his point. Another time, Prabhupada was describing how maya is Krsna’s agency for punishing those in the material world. He called her job a ‘thankless task,’ and then compared it to the New York City police force, whom ‘nobody likes.’ Even if a policeman would come to the storefront at 26 Second Avenue and sit down to hear, he said, the devotees would be suspicious and wonder why he had come. Again his example illustrated his point in a way in which the audience could understand.
“While preaching, however, a speaker should not try to titillate the audience’s material sentiments, or to cause others to become attracted to him. The speaker is the servant of the sastra. If he can entertain his audience, or move them to laughter or sobriety, he does it only to attract them to the Bhagavatam message. If there is any mundane motivation behind the speaking, then although the audience may enjoy the class, the purpose of bringing them to Krsna’s darsana will not have been served.
“In this context, it is useful to understand the difference between jnana and vijnana. Jnana refers to theoretical knowledge; vijnana to practical realization. The Bhagavatam speaker should have both.
“Sometimes we wonder why Suta Gosvami was considered better than all others present. The Bhagavatam answers by telling us that both Sukadeva Gosvami and Suta Gosvami were ‘thoroughly learned’ in the Bhagavatam and were great devotees of the Lord. Also, it became a matter of service. Someone had to serve as speaker and others as hearers, although it may have been true that other hearers were also qualified to speak. This is similar to when Lord Caitanya became a receptive audience to the discourses by Ramananda Raya. When devotees want to churn the nectar of krsna-katha, both qualified speakers and hearers are required.
“We may also wonder what it means to present the Bhagavatam in an ‘interesting manner.’ Isn’t the Bhagavatam already interesting? It is interesting for those who have developed spiritual senses. For others, some of the topics seem remote. Therefore, when a speaker brings the Bhagavatam forward for a present-day audience to hear, he may find it necessary to ‘create’ their interest.
“Okay, but often devotees give so many apparently mundane examples in the name of appealing to factory workers or lawyers or college students or hippies that we have to wonder whether the examples are really part of bhagavata-katha . But it’s true. If the purpose behind speaking the Bhagavatam is being served, then the apparently mundane examples become part of the vehicle that carries the message into people’s hearts.
“Not only that, but the speakers themselves, if they have internalized the Bhagavatam, will speak from their realization. What is that realization? It will be the Bhagavatam principles as they are practically applied in the modern day. Such talks are absolute if they glorify Krsna and the process of devotional service. Srila Prabhupada also gave examples from his everyday life. One time, when trying to convey the meaning of the rasa dance, Prabhupada described it by referring to how the boys and girls had joined hands and danced in Golden Gate Park during kirtana. To explain why Lord Caitanya appeared in the mood of Srimati Radharani, he gave the example that if the spiritual master wanted to know what his disciples felt for him, he would have to take their position. We treasure such personal examples, and they do not divert us from understanding the point for which they were given. The examples themselves can form a corollary literature—written in pursuance of the Vedic version.
“Following Prabhupada’s guidelines, we should try to make our Bhagavatam lectures interesting and relevant to the audience. But we should be cautious. ‘Interesting’ and ‘relevant’ doesn’t mean using the lecture to present an agenda. Bhagavatam lectures are not for soap-boxing. While the speaker’s ‘realizations’ about the problems he is addressing may be valid, they don’t always have much to do with finding Krsna’s darsana in the pages of the Bhagavatam. When pressing managerial issues need to be addressed, better that the devotees schedule a separate istagosthi. At the end of a Bhagavatam class, everyone should feel enthused to stand up and congratulate the speaker.
“Well, my friend, how does this apply to you as a poor man? Do you preserve the original purpose of the verse and purport, or do you screw out obscure meanings in order to show off your mental agility? Are you using a purport as ammunition for an argument you have been having?
“We each judge ourselves
(and often, each other).
Betide when he’s off
skating or talking about the
outhouse at Saranagati—
where is that Bhagavatam verse
1.4.1? Are my struggles valid because
I want to be a devotee?
Some think I should be more conservative
than I am?
I say, ‘I can’t. I’m bustin’
out all over.’
“Snow fell during the night and drifted up against the window panes. It brings light into the room even thought it’s dark outside. How deep it is I’ll find out only when I go outside to the outhouse.
“The Bhagavatam subjects are weighty. We each have to find our heart’s honesty if we are to understand how to apply them. Dear readers, can we help each other find our own expression of Krsna consciousness? Can we help each other define the scope of bona fide realizations as Prabhupada has defined them? Our sincere intent is what counts.”
“Got to keep loading logs into the stove, so please excuse me. Jaya Gaura backs me up, comes daily to recharge batteries, clean out the ashes, keep me supplied with logs.
“My back aches from lifting the logs and because I’m old. Today is a fast day, so I’ll be drinking only water. The devotees will gather today to celebrate Gaura-Purnima, and we’ll keep the original purpose intact.
“We can’t include a hundred other influences in our lives and study the Bhagavatam with rapt attention. We read something from a native American poet, hear about a jazz musician, study a Danish philosopher, read a poet from Kent State, and each one whirls in our minds. Do you know what I mean? Even what I touch in this room spills onto the page like the black soot from the stove. This morning I burnt my skinny forearm when I brushed against the hot stove. It’s like that—you stain things or burn them or try to enjoy something that later will only cause you pain. Still, it’s difficult to fit a rough and uneven self into the context of the sacred and timeless Bhagavatam.
“The older and vastly learned speaker stood and said, ‘I want to congratulate you, Suta, for speaking these topics according to your realization. We appreciate that you were there and heard it from Suka. You have that advantage, and we are grateful that you will now share it with us. We very much appreciate that.’
“That was going on right in that forest, and I am here, a speck in a pine forest in Canada. Not only that, but we live only for a speck of time. Then we are wiped from the world’s memory like any other cipher. In some cases, species become extinct, but Prabhupada said that they continue to live on other planets. I accept that as brahma-sabda, although it’s different than what the people on this planet assert. I get it from the spotless Purana.”
“A symphony can be written to express feelings, but it takes a soft heart, not male aggressiveness. Me, I’m a passive fellow (organism) taking in the world with my amoebic feelers and reporting on local life, like last night’s snowfall.
“To have no extraneous message is good. A Vedic speaker shouldn’t add anything. In Western culture, we consider it a kind of genius to bypass the previous ‘acaryas’ in any field, especially if someone is able to articulate their theory well. Actually, that’s the definition of muni—he always has to say something that has not been said before. A Krsna conscious speaker does not have to be a muni, but he should have an art to his presentation of the parampara’s message. Often audiences are passive or undeveloped or expectant. A speaker shapes his audience and takes them in a new direction of consciousness by his words.
That ability to be artful in our presentation of Krsna consciousness is a virtue (a devotee is poetic), and to make such a presentation, he has to have control over
his mind and senses and he
has to be humble.
Hapless, random words.
I didn’t compose an
opera in Czech language with
a soprano part in praise
of Christ. I didn’t write
a great Krsna conscious work today.
I only told you what happened
as I groped through the day—the names and places.
“I went to the morning program this Gaura-Purnima morning. It was at somebody’s house, or was that the brahmacari-asrama? Immediately I started to feel weak behind my right eye. They asked me to give the lecture, but I said, ‘Why don’t we just read together?’
“Srila Prabhupada said that we should have the information in our minds when we go to speak, not that we always have to run to the book. That’s personal realization too. Personal realization means you can cite the sastra in your own words without screwing out some obscure meaning which wasn’t intended by the text. You can add the spice of your bona fide understanding to make it clear, but don’t concoct.”
“An hour has gone by. Stove hissing red coals. Madhu said he would come by hourly to see how I am doing. The next time he comes, which should be soon, I’ll bluff and pretend I’m interested in what I’m doing, or that I’m doing something very Krsna conscious, or that I’m at least being self-sufficient in my loneliness. I’ll pretend a writer needs his space and is absorbed in his project.
“Jaded jade, the poet beguiles.
Gaura-Purnima in Mayapur, stone floors—
whoever is left is preparing to return
to his own place, his prabhu-datta-desa,
to spread Lord Caitanya’s glories. This movement
is small in world influence,
but Lord Caitanya set it in
motion in Navadvipa and it will go on,
His devotees the moon’s reflecting
the sun of the original Lord.
“I see a car creeping along like a mouse on wheels way down in the valley by the snow-covered lake. Pines like toys in a boy’s railroad set, hills crinkled. End of the day. O Srila Suta Gosvami, I am grateful that you were so qualified and willing to share your realization of Bhagavatam with us. I want to get out of this limited, snow-covered world, out of this limited universe. I want freedom and light. Please help me contain the continuity of Bhagavatam topics, the interest and sincerity and willingness to enter.”
“In the first volume, I wrote lists of things about which I wanted to write, things that come from the non-logical part of my brain but that I might want to put in this book. Here are some:
“(1) Gabrielle Rico talking about spontaneity in writing. Give yourself permission to write. Yes, I want to do it.
(2) The daily meal and getting down to particulars—the hominy grains, the hot cereal.
(3) Mortality—life and death.
(4) Wood in stove. Heavy iron doors. A concrete, sensual perception. Life’s particulars.
(5) The Bhagavatam standard—speak of the verses. Who is this man in between? The sages might say that life is so brief it doesn’t matter who he is. It’s all bondage anyway. Think only that you are eternal spirit soul.
“Yesterday I burnt my forearm as I placed a log into the wood-burning stove. It stung, but I coated it with aloe gel and I was able to sleep and perform my other activities. Today the burnt skin fell off and the skin beneath is raw and sensitive. I will have to keep it open to air to allow it to heal. What an inconvenience. How will I wear a coat when I go for a walk?
“This is the sort of information you get when I open the door to diary. Mine is the diary of a man-mouse, or a cornbread sniffer, and I allow the words to come regardless of what they are. That’s permissiveness, I say, and freedom from constraint. I want to breathe quietly and acknowledge my desires. I am ready to tighten my dhoti if and when I get an order that to progress in Krsna consciousness, I have to do such-and-such. I think I’ll be able to chuck off all sorts of debris when that order comes.
“Anyway, for now, I’m burnt but ready to read Srimad-Bhagavatam. The sages are asking Vyasadeva for the details of how the book was written. Suta will relate that story at length.
“Oh no, don’t make light of the fact
that you come back to Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Don’t insinuate you could float off or
be alone on a mountaintop and find
yourself without it. It’s the way
the best transcendental literature.
I admit I speak dogma
and don’t have much jnana.
The Sanskrit is ever-fresh to me
because I usually don’t recognize it.
“What I want to say is
I reach out to Srimad-Bhagavatam not
realized but desperate.
The other poets are, as Srila Prabhupada says,
not able to offer what we need.
“I’ve adopted the language and the dress and the way and the food. Nothing else satisfies. I’m with the devotees.”
“The devotee is described here as alert. Arjuna is sometimes called Gudakesa, ‘one who never sleeps,’ by Krsna. A devotee is vigilant and he avoids maya’s traps. Prabhupada alludes to the Bhagavad-gita verse, ‘What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.’ (Bg. 2.69)
“. . . Although Sukadeva Gosvami was liberated even from birth, he is described as vigilant. There is always work to be done in our Krsna consciousness, whether that means staving off the influence of the modes or engaging in the activities of a liberated soul. It takes an alert mind.
“Prabhupada says that both the conditioned soul and the lib¬erated soul are ‘always alert.’ Alertness, or attentiveness, seems to be a characteristic of a living entity. The choice that we are given in this life is where to place our attention. Do we stay concentrated on the body or do we turn to Kr§na conscious concerns? It’s one or the other. ‘Well,’ we say, ‘I don’t want material life, but I can’t seem to come up to the standard of spiritual attentiveness that is required to attain the goal. It seems I am just a conditioned soul who dreams about true spiritual engagement.’ Then we can feel regret for that condition. Ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram: ‘O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.’ (Siksastakam, Verse 5)
“Hurry up before it gets dark or before another machine breaks down. Stay alert. Prabhupada says that we’re always alert, but when I awoke after my post-lunch nap, I felt dull. I didn’t want sense gratification, but I couldn’t reach spiritual life. Too many obstacles seemed to be in the way. First I had to try on my boots with layers of socks to see if the boots were too tight. Then I had to get wood from outside and pile it in the room. I had to put new wood in the fire and stoke it. I had to talk with Madhu about the notes I had sent him. Through all this, I felt I was not able to reach what I wanted to reach, which was a place of constant meditation on reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam and writing.
“We can become dull, I suppose, especially if we get diverted or weighed down by things on the periphery of Krsna consciousness.”
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu again embraced him, and Sanatana became disturbed. He chose to walk along the beach in order to protect the pujaris from his ‘contaminating’ presence, but here the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself embraced him. Although he forbade Lord Caitanya to touch him, the Lord forcibly embraced him, and His body became smeared with the moistudre oozing from the sores on Sanatana’s body. Sanatana was convinced that he was committing a great offenses at the Lord’s feet, but he didn’t know what to do. The Lord had already forbidden him to commit suicide.
“Finally, Sanatana spoke to Jagadananda Pandita. ‘I came here to diminish my unhappiness by seeing Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but the Lord did not allow me to execute what was in my mind. Although I forbid Him to do so, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu nevertheless embraces me, and therefore His body becomes smeared with the discharges from my itching sores. In this way I am committing offenses at His lotus feet, for which I shall certainly not be delivered. At the same time, I cannot see Lord Jagannatha. This is my great unhappiness. I came here for my benefit, but now I see I am getting just the opposite.’
“Sanatana Gosvami is a perfect devotee, but we can apply the lessons from this pastime to ourselves. There appears to be too much emphasis on his own self-interest. We cannot judge, however, what is ultimately beneficial for us by the fact that our plans do not bear fruit. The Lord may have another plan for us. Jagadananda Pandita suggested that Sanatana go to Vrndavana, and Sanatana replied, ‘You have given me very good advice. I shall certainly go there, for that is the place the Lord has given me for my residence.’
“In this verse, the word prabhu-datta-desa is used. It is not often used in Prabhupada’s purports; in this purport he gives us the definition of that phrase. ISKCON is a worldwide mission. We have to take up our guru’s order to serve the mission somewhere in the world. Wherever that desa (land) is, we accept it as the place where we are the datta (servant) of our prabhu (master).
“‘[Devotees in this Krsna consciousness movement] should go everywhere, to all parts of the world, accepting those places as prabhu-datta-desa, the places of residence given by the spiritual master or Lord Krsna.’ When we choose our prabhu-datta-desa, we should feel that it is a good place to discharge our spiritual master’s order. Without that sense, it will be difficult to overcome the difficulties that inevitably arise. This is an important concept. Surrender to the prabhu-datta-desa provides a way to satisfy Lord Caitanya.”
“‘Doctors give medicine and they speak surety, but there is no surety, and where there is no surety why should we break our four basic principles? I don’t think there is guarantee of surety by taking this medicine with animal products. But if there is surety, you can take. But it is very doubtful.’ (Letter of February 12, 1972)
“‘There are many examples in history of persons who have been very much disabled physically but who still have executed Krsna consciousness. Still, up-to-date in places like Vrndavana, India, there are many persons who are blind, crippled, lame, deformed, etc., but they are determined to practice Krsna consciousness to their best ability. Simply be determined to practice the process of bhakti-yoga with whatever abilities you have. If you are really sincere, then Krsna will give you help. If you require any medical help, you take as much as is needed.’ (Letter of June 3, 1975)
“‘So you have done your duty at the last moments of your wife’s life so that she could hear the chanting. As to where she has gone, that depends on what she was thinking of at the time of her passing away. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
“‘“And whoever at the time of death quits his body remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.”
“‘To remember Krsna requires practice, and this is mostly to be done by chanting Hare Krsna mantra.’ (Letter of November 6, 1974)”
“Srila Prabhupada was always expert in the way he dealt with people. Once his Indian disciple, Haridasa, walked into Srila Prabhupada’s room, put his beads on Prabhupada’s desk, and told Prabhupada he was leaving. Prabhupada asked him what the difficulty was. Haridasa explained that although they were struggling so hard to raise money and make life members, no one wanted to join. It was just too difficult to continue. Prabhupada said, ‘Be patient, be patient.’ He said that when the new building opened up, people would line up to become life members. Then Haridasa said that he could not work with the foreign disciples. Prabhupada explained that when you milk a cow, you should expect to get kicked sometimes. He told Haridasa that the foreigners were doing so much service and that their kicks must be tolerated because we want the milk. In this way, Haridasa was pacified and he renewed his determination and enthusiasm.
“When Prabhupada first arrived in San Francisco in 1967, Mukunda dasa had a beard. The beard was very full, but it was not very long, and Mukunda kept it trimmed. Shortly after his arrival, Prabhupada said, ‘You look just like a sage.’ This left Mukunda feeling satisfied, and he did not think it necessary to shave his beard or his hair. Later, however, as more and more disciples shaved their heads, Mukunda felt unsure of himself. One day he approached Prabhupada. ‘Prabhupada,’ he said, ‘do you like this?’ and he gestured to his beard. Prabhupada stroked his own clean face and said, ‘I like this.’ Then he smiled. Mukunda understood that the beard was not in order and he shaved it off the next day.”
“All right, start now, before we get on the road, with this question: do I want to get into the van and subject myself to the rigors of travel?
“Here are what thoughts come up: I want to travel partly to respond to all the endeavor Madhu has put into preparing the van. He has worked long and hard, and if we didn’t use the van to travel, all that work would go in vain. In another sense, it may be an unnecessary strain to go here and there. What is my real purpose, to read and write? That can be done anywhere, while traveling or not.
“Maybe the question is whether it could be done better by traveling or by staying in one place. Am I too settled and sedentary? Would a trip around Europe stimulate my thinking and feeling? What do Krsna and PrabhupAda want of me? Am I a wandering sannyasi or a resident reader and writer?”
“A bird was singing melodically just outside the bathroom window. The window is such that it’s half-opened, and you cannot open it more to look out. No chance of seeing what kind of bird that was. He was there when I was in the bathroom last night around 8:00, then just before dawn. Not a wood thrush, but beautiful like one. It could have been one of many kinds of birds because birds are particularly melodic at this time of year.
“The big picture of Lord Nrsimha on this desk: look into the dark, inner sanctum of His darsana. A picture of Prabhupada looking quiet and to himself even though he’s on the vyasasana with a microphone in front of him and probably hundreds of devotees out front. Still, he is thoughtful and inward, not interacting with the group. Our Prabhupada, away from us, within. In the temple room, I looked on the altar for a picture of Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana, but there is none. I look for one in this room . . .”
“We can’t leave England with a broken exhaust pipe. Got to stay over to get it fixed. Poor M., runnin’ around, trying to get someone to service our brave and sleek Econoline.
Rather die in St. Louis
parked in front of a temple.
During the night someone comes and bothers us—or
worse—as we try to sleep in our van.
Deep waves at sea last night, but nothing too rough.
Still, it was different than land.
“I have an outline of Big Questions for the disciples’ meeting tomorrow and I, I shall answer them as best I can from my relative position on the couch or floor-cushion:
“(1) ‘As spiritual master, are you absolute or relative in your disciples’ lives?’
(2) ‘As spiritual master, are you fit? Are you a pure devotee?’
(3) ‘If I do what I want for Krsna, how do I know it’s what pleases Him?’
“I is alive. Wert newt boss angel
sob cast off Oliver Twist inner
city slob belly in backyard London accent—I hear them
all rising up to this third-floor attic. Madhu says that
in England it’s smart to have a London accent and
that even devotees have them.”
“I am writing at Baladeva’s house. A turtle is trampling down the blades of grass on his path. His chassis is low-slung. He stops and stretches his long yellow neck upward—it bulges, like a frog’s. He gets around.
“This yard has nice shade, but I think of reasons to leave soon. The neighbors are suddenly noisy as they clean their pots on the other side of the wall. The flies are merciless, as is the heat.
“O Radha and Krsna, all universes emanate from You. You are the best persons of all. You reside in the aprakata Vraja and in the hearts of pure devotees. I know how to form the letters of the English alphabet and how to make sentences. Therefore I can record the things I have heard in sastra. Is it all right if I do so? Will it be a consolation? Will it be pleasing to You? I cannot sing or write poems like Tulasi-manjari or Tungavidya-gopi.
“Radha and Krsna love blissful Vraja. Sometimes Krsna points out to Radha, ‘Just see the moon, the lotuses, and the Yamuna. They are all praising You.’ Vraja’s nature is to serve Radha and Krsna. They please all who are pure in heart. He is God and She is His eternal consort. To the vrajavasis, They are even dearer than that.
“I heard that when Ganges water mixes with any water, even water in a drain, that water becomes Ganges. I beg that the genius of this place, Vrndavana, will mix with any streams of words I write and they will become Vrndavana writing.
“Dear Gurudeva, I mean no harm. I am a jester, a caretaker of spiritual children and uneasy bhaktas. I am one myself. I amuse myself. But I want to be serious too. I keep insisting you take me as I am, but I know that the final choice is yours. You can allow me to follow my whimsy and it will leave me stranded. Please do not kick me away. I hope to learn to love Vrndavana on this visit. I hope not to offend. I am working at this for you and the bhaktas.”
“A sudden shower, even while the sunshine was out, caught me on the bench and soaked my page. I have run for shelter to the calf’s shed. Even one minute in that downpour has drenched my clothes. It’s so pleasant. Yamuna watched me as if it were a sport. She probably thought I was foolish to run inside. After all, it was just a quick shower, and she is accustomed to standing outside all day long, even in heavy rain. Everything at once—dark clouds, sunshine, and rain! Good for the grass. Always something growing.
“This morning, Uddhava asked me something about the relationship of work to favorable meditation on Krsna. I was insisting on reading the scriptures. But he has this wonderful field of backyard activities where he can engage his family members in devotional service. All I meant was that while working, in order to think of Krsna, we should have fresh subject matters in our minds, and those come from regular hearing.
But I have to be aware of what others are doing before I tell them to do something else. Therefore, all I said was add sravanam-kirtanam. Who will not be attracted to the narrations of uttama-sloka except one who is a butcher or who is killing his own self? Someone has to remind us to read. That’s my job.”
“I always feel hopeful about the next morning’s japa. Maybe it’s not warranted. I shouldn’t analyze it so much; just accept it. See the sitting mat, votive candles in glasses, three shelves of pictures, boxes of memoirs from Vrndavana, incense, my beads . . .
“O hari-nama, please forgive my offenses. When I come to You in the morning, please overlook my mistakes. Please appear in my heart.
“This morning I finished eight rounds while sitting in a darkened room. The votive candles illumined the holy pictures, and the moon shone full through the windows. A few times, I tried recalling that I am fallen.
“I may not make full progress in this lifetime. It isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me, but it seems likely that I will have to take birth again. Will I ever just accept it as a matter of fact, that the higher powers will transfer me to my next life? As Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays, let it be an insignificant life in the family of devotees. At least allow me to take birth where devotees are chanting Krsna’s Name and hearing His pastimes.
“As I wait for death, I don’t want to waste my time in defeat. Go forward expectant that someone like me can still make significant gains. But I have to admit this: so much about me seems closed and implacable, like a wizened Chinese man. Who knows what goes on in this mind and heart? Is there a warm heart at all? Before I can feel regret, I will have to admit that I am closed to those feelings. Why don’t I open to the truth about myself, the real truth, and live in that? Why am I living in the back room of my self with only a small light on?
“My mornings are long and filled with the heavy training befitting an Olympic athlete. Be alert. Even as I run through my japa like a conscientious runner, there may be moments when I find myself on my knees begging to serve. Watch for that moment.”
“What is it? It’s so subtle. Hold onto the sound of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. Hold it in your mind. It is not like the breeze or the rain, not sensual like that. The mind is more subtle.
“The mind eats up plans, ruminating like a great beast. Recent impressions carry it away.
“My prayer is feeble. I utter my prayers and my inattentive japa at the base of Tulasi’s table. She sees me chanting without attention, staring blankly.
“I ‘finished’ my rounds for today, a bare sixteen. I also finished breakfast, a walk, lunch, brushed my teeth. Tonight I’ll swallow a spoonful of triphala. Japa is one of those things I do; it’s part of my sadhana.
“What is blocking me? Did I commit a serious offense to a Vaisnava? Did I split an ant with a straw? Am I suffering some past life karma or is it something in this life I have forgotten or that I refuse to face? We say atonement is unnecessary, but where does that leave me?
“There is a stone in the throat of my desire to love Krsna by serving His holy names. Brothers and sisters, please pray for me to unlock this mystery. I want to be free.
“Do you doubt that anyone chants nicely? Do you look to see if they get ecstatic bodily transformations? No, no, I can’t know what they do or feel. That’s not my business.
“Bowing at the base of Tulasi’s table, I pray to remember Nama Prabhu and to ask, ‘Please allow me to chant sincerely, as service. Tell me what I can do to improve and give me the strength to do it.’”
“Daydream: I was thinking to myself how I like my maroon sweatshirt. It is a soft color, goes well with saffron, and it is an inexpensive item, so it cannot be criticized as too opulent. I imagined I was on an airplane going to India and Acaryadeva asked me how come I was wearing such a plain old sweatshirt. Other ISKCON leaders were also thinking that I should take a higher profile, but I explained to them why I wore my sweatshirt. By daydreaming about this I realized that my so-called humility is really petty vanity! Thinking about clothes and how I look and what people will say and think of me. Oh, and I will say to them, ‘My opulence is in my writings. It is in the books I publish.’”
“ . . . Surrender of material possessions should be done in the awareness that one is giving up a burden, freeing himself from an entanglement. Material wealth creates an illusion. We put our faith in the power of our bank account. We depend on our country, our family, or friends. We love our material possessions. And in doing so, we cannot feel that Krsna is our only shelter. Utter dependence on Krsna includes becoming akincana, materially exhausted. Queen Kunti therefore addresses Lord Krsna as akincana-gocara. Krsna can be achieved by a person who does not put faith in material possessions.
“It is for our ultimate good that Krsna and Krsna’s representative tell us to surrender our material possessions. To think that certain riches belong to us is maya, illusion. At the time of death we will have to give up all our possessions; but the kama, the material desiring by which we possess our wealth, will drive us on to another body, where we will try again to become happy by material possessions and where we will again suffer the pangs of birth, death, disease, and old age. So as the transcendentalist must learn ‘I am not this body, I am spirit soul,’ he must also learn, ‘The possessions I have accumulated are not mine.’ Srila Prabhupada explains how material possessions can ‘intoxicate’ a person to the point of making him unable to properly chant the holy name of Krsna.”
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
the uh . . . guru (call him) sat
skinny upright and they trusted him.
I can’t read their minds but almost
all trusted him to
represent Prabhupada and Krsna.
“I took it seriously when he asked
‘Do you talk too much of Prabhupada
and not enough of Krsna?’
After the meeting in which I expressed
sorrow at my imperfection and yet
defended myself, he walked with
me to the door and said, ‘I’m sorry if
I was too heavy.’ I put my arm around
him because he’s a man and dear
to Prabhupada, distributor of books. Once
a guy punched him on the jaw yet
he went on selling them.
Most people admire him, stern,
big-chested, best of all Puerto Ricans.
Head was banging, gave out
big balls like laddus baby Krsna holds.
We’re trying to be happy.
I said the teacher has responsibility
to free his dependents from death.
They want to cheer me up.
“‘Let’s read about japa leading to
our chanting one round together.’
Be positive. Jananivasa told me to be
satisified with whatever mercy I get.
Mercy is rare. Don’t be dissatisfied
or how can you be a peaceful devotee?
When the japa died out last voices it
sounded better than a kirtana.
Some things I couldn’t say like how Prabhupada
is so dear to Krsna because he wants everyone
to accept original Krsna as the Supreme.
I groped, forgot what I wanted to say –
couldn’t find more, fell silent and
called it a night.
Give what you can.
“I need to surrender, we all do. But how? It seems I have to do it gently, gradually. Writing will help me. I’m already looking forward to the roominess of the Writing Sessions and the chance to say what’s really on my mind without fear of how it will look in print or be misunderstood.
“Let your guard down. Let voices speak. Then apply the full Krsna consciousness of your spiritual master to your own life.
“Here I am, Prabhupada, one of your men, Satsvarupa dasa. Your Dictaphone is on your desk, just where you used to use it.
“Whatever you told me to do I would try to execute, although I was never able to walk through fire like some of your men. Please continue to engage me in your service in ISKCON. I do have a place at your lotus feet. I pray for strength to carry out the tasks entrusted to me by you, especially in regard to maintaining disciples, so that they are rightly connected to you as their savior, the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON.
“The Krsna book (old edition) is open on your desk. I want to read it again and re-read all your books with devotion and attention.
“I’m leaving Mayapur tomorrow. As when we left Mayapur in 1973-77, I want to go out with your orders in my heart. I will cooperate with my brothers in this movement. I will also work on my own with integrity to my individual vows to you. I want to make myself a true servant of yours especially by brahminical services of reading and then presenting your teachings in my own words in lectures and writings.
“I want to surrender to the holy names, the Hare Krsna mantra.
“Dear master, I too am growing older, almost fifty-five now. I hope to serve you loyally and do what Krsna wants me to do. A disciple feels helpless before the spiritual master. I don’t want to bluff and make false claims.
“You know my weakness and inability. Still you maintain me. You once said I do whatever you say (although I wasn’t a good manager). I want to live up to that statement.
“I am pinning all hope on attaining a surrendered state by reading your books and encouraging devotees in chanting and hearing.”
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.