“SHARING MEMORIES OF PRABHUPADA AT 26 SECOND AVENUE”
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, December 24th. We will have a quiet, modest Christmas feast lunch. Then we will open presents. We’re keeping it quiet and small—but not too small—because of the COVID variant. Saci Suta will be going for Christmas to be with his father in a nursing home near Albany. Saci is bringing his children, and other relatives will attend. According to Rupa Gosvami in The Nectar of Instruction, one of the exchanges of love among Vaisnavas is the giving and receiving of gifts. We’re planning to exchange quite a few gifts, coinciding with the Christmas spirit.
Full parking lots, long lines in the stores.
Saci Suta wanted web-type long underwear, and we found it at the tractor supply store. We bought three gift cards for the Reddy children and a gift card to the Bodhi Spa for Keli-lalita. Baladeva bought Christmas glasses for the house because the old ones kept chipping on the granite counter. Baladeva bought cooking tongs to be used by Manohara in his cooking arts. Baladeva thought of a good present for me, but he doesn’t know if he can get it on time. There are five more shopping days ’til Christmas. Baladeva wants a long-sleeved shirt with a pocket, but they’re not available. They may not be on sale until the spring. Silavati bought Baladeva an orange wool cap. He said he won’t use it too often, because he says it’s “too orange and too warm.” As we do every year, we gave a gift to the Svarupa family group of special pears—one box for three months. The pear company is called Harry and David.
Manohara cooked his first meal for the Deities. It was fresh-made rolls, fusilli pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, and thin-sliced eggplant and zucchini that had been grilled and made into little sandwiches with the rolls.
Baladeva talked with our immigration lawyer Jayanta last night, who thinks that we can get Silavati from Ireland into the United States on a religious worker’s visa. She’s doing all the services of a pujari in an ISKCON temple, making flower arrangements, dressing the Deities, cooking and cleaning.
It was nice that with our extra guests here Manohara cooked for the first time. He made made five different authentic Italian pizzas with five different toppings, including grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, capers, green olives from Italy, and green peppers, fresh spinach and ricotta, which I especially liked. They served out so many pieces, but I could not eat so much. I ate one spinach pizza and another piece, then left the rest as remnants. I enjoyed the cool apple cider in our new glasses which Baladeva picked up for the house while he was getting Christmas presents for our friends. Guru dasa wrote in last week’s Journal that Vaisnavas don’t celebrate Christmas, but I don’t agree. We’re celebrating it in grand style, spending a lot for presents, and our downstairs rooms remind you of a Norman Rockwell painting, with trimmings and presents stacked under the tree.
In the absence of our main pujari, Krsna dasi, Silavati dasi is doing her best to keep up the standard. She’s especially good on providing flowers both for garlands for Gaura-Nitai downstairs and for flower arrangements for Radha-Govinda upstairs. The silver is all polished, and she does all the aratis. Silavati also cooks lunch on most days. I mean to talk with her about her returning here in March. She has to get a visa and coincide her return with the arrival of Krsna dasi from Trinidad.
My disciple Bhakti Rasa has many of my books stored in his house. Baladeva has suggested that we ask Bhakti Rasa to offer to give the books away as charity to the Bhaktivedanta Manor, who can, in turn, distribute the books for a donation to their congregation. The Manor would have to drive to Newcastle to pick up the books. But it seems to me to be a good deal for them. The books are hardbound, printed in India, and we think they should be distributed before they begin to deteriorate. Prabhupada Nectar is filled with anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada told by many of his different disciples. It’s definitely a “nectar” book.
I spoke to a householder disciple of mine who is having trouble in his marriage. He and his wife are in their 40s, and she has become more interested in material comforts and disinclined to strictly follow the life of sadhana bhakti. He’s not trying to force her into anything, but for himself he’s content to follow Prabhupada’s instructions. It seems to be a typical case of middle age crisis. A close lady friend of the wife advised her not to leave her husband. To try to find a new husband at her age would be very difficult and to simply break off and live alone would also be very difficult, getting a full-time job and living on her own. The husband is concerned and talks with his wife about the problem, but she doesn’t seem to want to change. He doesn’t know what to do, and I don’t either. I can advise them both that they’re never alone—they are always with Krsna if they’ll just turn to Him. Better that they do it together and accept each other even with their new differences. Accept how they want to lead their lives.
In our out-loud reading of Nectar of Devotion, we are hearing the qualities of Krsna. One interesting one which caught our attention was that Krsna is dependable.
“Any person who is reliable in all circumstances is called dependable. In this connection Rupa Gosvami says that even the demons were relying upon the dependability of Kṛṣṇa because they were confident that Kṛṣṇa would never attack them without due cause. Therefore, with faith and confidence, they used to live with their doors wide open. And the demigods, although afraid of the demons, were confident of the protection of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, even in the midst of danger they were engaged in sportive activities.” (NOD, Chapter 24)
I received a book in the mail, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver. I like her poems very much. Her poems are at one with nature, and are like prayers. Here’s an example:
“It’s almost dawn
and the usual half-miracles begin
within my own personal body as the light
enters the gates of the east and climbs
into the fields of the sky, and the birds lift
their very unimportant heads from the branches
and begin to sing; and the insects too
and the rustling leaves, and even
that most common of earthly things, the grass,
can’t let it begin—another morning—without
making some comment of gladness, respiring softly
with the honey of their green bodies; and the white
blossoms of the swamp honeysuckle, hovering just where
the path and the pond almost meet,
shake from the folds of their bodies
such happiness it enters the air of fragrance,
the day’s first pale and elegant affirmation.
And the old gods liked so well, they say,
the sweet odor of prayer.”
One after another, her poems all hit the mark, coming from her humble praise of nature.
Kathi and David returned from their visit with relatives for a Christmas party in New Jersey. David has plunged into work projects here. He worked on the guest toilet and put finishing touches on the washing machine. Kathi is going out on errands that Baladeva was going to do so he can stay back and be a helper for David, who can concentrate on his projects.
Baladeva is helping Kathi’s son David repair her guest-room toilet. They’re going again and again to the hardware store to get the right parts to make it work. It’s a problematic case. The first repair kit that they got didn’t have the right fit, so they had to go back and get another kit. The problem isn’t solved yet after two days. David is right now downstairs working on the toilet, and Baladeva is upstairs with me, working on the Journal. We’re hopeful we can complete the job.
David, with Baladeva’s help, has fixed the guest room toilet and completed the leveling of the washer/dryer. He now has a tricky job left to do. The overhead fan in our kitchen was not working properly and had to be replaced. A new one has to be put together and then replace it where the old one was, and there’s no guarantee that the hardware will be matching. So it will be a tricky maneuver. David will try to attach the new fan while Baladeva holds the weight of it. They are hoping to complete this today. (P.S. The guest bathroom is still not finished because the shower is leaking. It needs a bead of silicon to keep it from leaking. It has to dry out now and then set overnight.)
Kathi and David, with Baladeva’s persuading, have decided to stay on at Viraha Bhavan through Christmas before returning to Maine. I had wanted Baladeva to immediately work with me on an urgent secretarial project. But now I may have to wait while Baladeva assists David in working at house projects. I am very frustrated. Why do my priorities have to be overlooked? I have told Baladeva for days that I want him to follow my priorities, but he has put them aside as if they are unimportant. Why do the spiritual master’s instructions have to be put aside in preference to the servant’s desires?
“List of writing blocks and hesitancies, worries—and some exonerations:
“Open up over the lake,
open up, unfold—
I’ve got something new to say.
“Sukadeva walked along and the
ladies weren’t ashamed, he
wasn’t agitated, that
a male, we could say
but ‘male’ spirit
and not omnipotent
but close to God
the Supreme Pure.
Sukadeva was just a young boy of sixteen years
his body full grown
and beautiful with his
long locks of black hair,
his strong but delicate limbs.
He was not just a spirit of air
or something dead or impersonal
but liberated, beyond sex, flesh,
and all that.
The ladies knew.
They could see it.
But for his father,
dressed as a grhastha,
they dressed, ashamed.
He was not a lesser man,
he was the literary incarnation.
It’s a lesson in life.”
“‘God is love.’ He will visit us. Walking on the road I chanted my tenth round of japa, then an eleventh and twelfth. I was waiting to feel something for those rounds, even conjectured that if I were a Christian, I would feel the same dryness. I don’t deserve much, and that’s the truth.
“I get bored with superfice. Devotees will come after lunch. Wish I could go deep with them, but can I? Want to pray to Krsna in His holy names, but can I? There seem to be so many hindrances. I turn to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and think of this book. I write my summary in a routine way, then field questions, review, then move on to this.
“I don’t want to be anywhere else
but I can’t seem to go to Krsna either.
Gayatri is blank.
Gave up some of the interpretations I had heard.
I just want Prabhupada now.
But I need to explore that—
what I feel,
what I need.
Prabhupada, please help me!”
“We each have our work in life. Sometimes we don’t feel like doing it, or we at least need to take a break, eat, and sit back. I don’t know what I had expected to happen here at Saranagati. Am I disappointed? Sometimes I catch myself having romantic ideas about solitude. I think, ‘Deep solitude is available at Saranagati.’ Well, it’s probably true, but being alone is not the same thing as achieving solitude. It takes heart and depth and a determined searching for God in the aloneness before a solitary life becomes solitude. Often, solitude allows us to hit a new vein of the rarest ores. Solitude is a life. I face my inability to achieve it at the end of each day.
“Chanting gayatri. Trying to hear. Our minds move in the same grooves often. We hanker to do things differently, or at least not to be so predictable, even to ourselves. That’s the amazing thing about Prabhupada. He maintained the same philosophy but varied the angle of his teaching in subtle ways. He is dear to Krsna, and that in itself constitutes his originality. He is enthused, and he enthused us.
“Obeisances to Lord Caitanya, who maintains the universe and the bhaktas. I meditate on Lord Krsna, who comes home in the evening with the cows. He doesn’t live in this wintry climate but in beautiful Vrndavana. Still, I see the pink light of the setting sun and think of Him. He plays with the gopis and stuns their senses with His cupid-like attraction. He showers them with arrows from His bow. I offer myself in gopi-bhava, in some future life; so we sannyasis pray.
“Saunaka already knew that Sukadeva had left his paternal home and was wandering like a madman. Srila Prabhupada states that a sage is not recognized by sight, but by hearing. Prabhupada sometimes recalled that his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, used to say the same thing: a sadhu is heard, not seen.
“That doesn’t mean, however, that physical presence is not at all important. Seeing a sadhu is also purifying, and his presence in a place is never inconsequential. Especially as the communications become increasingly technological, there seems to be no need for people to make a physical appearance in order to express something. Everything can be done by phone, video, or email. Still, the personal touch will never be out of vogue. Srila Prabhupada took the time and trouble to physically travel all over the world in order to sustain his devotees. His personal presence on the temple vyasasanas, on morning walks, and in room conversations gave his disciples the courage to serve him. Prabhupada wanted his disciples, especially his sannyasis, to continue the tradition of door-to-door preaching, which was extended to mean city-to-city and country-to-country. Because we are embodied, seeing the sadhu adds another dimension to our spiritual experience. That was true of Prabhupada’s disciples and of the nondevotees whom Prabhupada’s disciples contacted.
“This needn’t contradict the fact that hearing from the sadhu is more important than seeing him. Seeing usually leads to hearing, and it is often the beginning point of discipleship. Prabhupada taught us that vani-seva was more important than vapuh-seva. Physical presence is not always available; the sadhu’s instructions are more enduring. We cannot expect that a wandering preacher will always stay with us. He has to move from place to place on Krsna’s order.
“Ultimately, he will leave the material world. Therefore, after seeing the sadhu and hearing his words, we should fix our faith on his vani. His words should become as dear to us as the air we breathe. ‘He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him.’”
“Sukadeva Gosvami is the most empowered of all Bhagavatam preachers. We cannot accuse him of being a bhajananandi or of lacking compassion. Rather, he was waiting for the right audience before releasing his potent message. Jesus Christ similarly advised his disciples not to cast pearls before swine lest they trample them.
A sadhu may also remain hidden from common people in order to protect his own Krsna consciousness. This was true of Jada Bharata. The Vedas assure us that we cannot understand the mind of a Vaisnava. Therefore, we cannot judge Sukadeva Gosvami’s reasons for living as an avadhuta or consider that it would have been better for him to have been more social in his behavior. Whatever his mood, it was perfect. Furthermore, when we hear from Sukadeva, we will follow his instructions, not imitate his behavior.
“That Sukadeva Gosvami withheld information from the common people also indicates that we ourselves have to become qualified before we can receive transcendental instruction. We have to perform austerity and receive initiation from a bona fide spiritual master if we wish to receive the confidential mercy of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada was a liberal preacher; he held open classes and publicly chanted Hare Krsna and spoke on the sastra. For those who wished to become more serious and to actually apply the process, however, he established requirements: four rules and sixteen rounds.
“Sukadeva Gosvami didn’t satisfy the whims of the ordinary people. I don’t know why he chose to wander as a madman. We ask so many questions, it seems. We don’t seem satisfied with all the answers, either. We don’t always know how they fit into our own lives in a practical way.
“We don’t like to hear from madmen, but what a sadhu says is more important than the way he looks. We think he should at least look halfway decent, not like a dirty bum. . . . But there’s a limit to what we can do to spruce up a real sadhu.”
“Snowy wet snow
I walk. Got
early symptoms of a headache
so I laid down. Now
the virgin fresh morning is running out,
but there’s still time
to shout or speak softly
why an avadhuta writer should write.
“I was thinking again of how Sukadeva remained unexposed to others. That means he didn’t display his advanced condition. Foolish people thought him crazy. Did they disturb him, actually? It seems not. Later, we’ll read how he stopped at the homes of householders only long enough for a cow to be milked in the morning. The rest of the day he stayed alone. Admirers are sometimes worse than detractors. Sukadeva Gosvami reminds me of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji in that regard.
“ . . . Then I thought,
‘Why not pray?’
But I don’t know how.
Should I ask someone? Madhu?
“Prayer is not meant to be a list of petitions.
“Pray only for causeless devotional service in Lord Caitanya’s mood.
“Sometimes devotees wonder why we don’t stay on the vyasasana even when we’ve climbed down from it.
I’ll tell you why.
You get sick of it.
You aren’t perfect.
You need to rest,
you did it for ten years . . .
You are praying as you write.
“A monk can pray as he writes. Merton said that one of the prime benefits of being a writer is that you get to be alone, and as you write you can pray. He also spoke against rushing into print, although now almost every word he wrote is being printed. ‘Write slowly,’ said the cardboard advice on the calligraphy pen set. ‘Practice slowly until you gain control. Quality is what counts.’ Not speed but quiet rhythm.
“I just want to fill up the morning, that’s all, so I can tell my (inner) boss
that I wrote
and a naked young man.
“I’m dressed in a gray and white Scandinavian snowflake sweater, saffron sweat pants, and fat booties. There is no end to the dissimilarities between myself and
I am . . .”
“‘O King, when the young ladies in Vraja heard the sound of Krsna’s flute, which captivates the mind of all living beings, they all embraced one another and began describing it.’ Is it that the flute song reminds them of Krsna? Although we cannot hear it now, can we say it produces overwhelming feelings of Krsna’s sweet presence? The verse says they ‘began describing it.’ But in the verses that follow, they don’t attempt to describe a melody, but a person, Krsna—and the effect His flute has upon those who hear its song. For us, if we want to know the flute, is it a process of neti-neti, not this, not that?
“How can a sadhaka become eligible to hear Krsna’s flute? Should he try to imagine it? No, no imagination. What about those who play the flute in this world? Especially in India, people are fond of the flute. There are many expert flutists, and it is even sometimes played in bhajanas. Does a devotee ‘spit on’ such noise, taking it as irrelevant to Krsna’s flute? Or does remind advanced devotees of Krsna? I seem to remember that in Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Lord Caitanya once heard a cowherd playing a flute and it sent Him into ecstatic trance.
“The words venu-ravam in this verse indicate ‘the vibration of the flute.’ This reminds us that the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is also a sound vibration. Sometimes it is said that the gayatri mantra has a connection to the flute song—what is it? Brahma heard the flute of Krsna and spoke it in the form of gayatri. What does that mean?
“This is a sort of scholarship of the intellect. Do I think I can probe Prabhupada’s heart by intellectual inquiries so that he will reveal his devotional gems to me? I just want to continue hearing Prabhupada’s descriptions in the Krsna book and learn to appreciate what he is giving. It cannot be gained by intellectual exchange. I have to hear with submission.”
“Prabhupada says the goal of chanting is love of God. We are chanting in good faith. Theoretically, we accept that chanting is itself krsna-prema, or is the full bliss of direct service to Krsna, but we haven’t realized it.
“At least we know that chanting is the way, although even that remains theoretical. Therefore, we are both fortunate and unfortunate. We have no way to map out our progress. We know we don’t want to try to squeeze out sense gratification from the chanting, but neither can we pay attention. Perhaps we are too proud. We keep refusing to see the obvious conclusion that we are offensive and bereft of self-realization. If we could accept our place as a blade of grass, without false ego, then tears could come, and submission to the holy names.
“‘One who chants with a pure heart experiences how divine bliss enters his heart and makes it soar with sublime light. This is the essential nature of the holy name.’ (Hari-nama-cintamani, p. 78)”
“Murdering the rhyme in favor
of free verse. The main point
is reaching Krsna’s feet.
By a roundabout or direct
way. Do not be afraid, if
we surrender to Him, He will
protect us, and we shall give
up all other forms of
religion and surrender unto
Him. That was His order.
“How to do it He showed
500 years ago as Mahaprabhu
in the chanting rhythm
of the holy names with
mrdanga and karatalas and
His leading the kirtana
with love of God.
“Follow Him and His devotees,
the acaryas in parampara.
Prabhupada is a prominent one in the
20th century. He did come
on the Jaladuta, risking two
heart attacks, yet he made it
to New York City, his town
for breaking the silence
“Three nights a week,
then every morning
his movement grew.
In San Francisco he
planted the seed in the
same way with affectionate
enthusiastic young followers.
This is the history of disciplic
succession coming down
around the world in
every town and village.
“Its power is still growing.
The prediction will take place:
in every town and
village, His name
shall be sung.”
“‘My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.’ (Bhag. 1.8.26)
“Sometimes people argue against the total dedication a devotee makes when coming to Krsna consciousness. ‘Why do you have to give up your possessions?’ the nondevotee complains. ‘God doesn’t ask that we give up our wealth. He wants us to be happy!’ But God does ask that we give up our wealth.
“Yes, God does want us to be happy, and that’s why He asks us to give up our wealth. Material possessions will not make us happy. We can be happy only in the eternal, spiritual world, free of the unhappiness of birth, death, disease, and old age. Lord Jesus stresses the same wisdom of renunciation: ‘It is more difficult for a man attached to wealth to enter the kingdom of God than it is for a camel to enter the eye of a needle!’ If we are going to love Krsna with our mind, words, and body, then why not with our wealth also?”
“We know what Krsna thinks because He tells us in His own words in the scriptures. He says, ‘If one offers Me with love and devotion. . . I will accept it’ (Bg. 9.26). He also says, ‘Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.’ (Bg. 18.65)
“That means we go to Krsna not only at the time of death, but whenever we become fully and favorable absorbed in Him. Lord Krsna is not far away or difficult to reach. ‘To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.’ (Bg. 10.11)
“Prabhupada says that if we go one step forward towards Krsna, He comes a hundred steps forward to meet us.
“We shouldn’t doubt that He hears our prayers, and we should hear His response, in the sastras, from His own Self, as caitya-guru in our hearts, and from the words of the bona fide gurus and sadhus.”
“I am writing to You to thank You for all that You have done for me. You have given me the human form of life and put me in contact with Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee spiritual master. By Your grace, he accepted me as a disciple and initiated me into the Hare Krsna mantra. He gave me second initiation into the gayatri mantras, and he awarded me sannyasa, the renounced order of life. He has given me much service unto You in the Krsna consciousness movement. He has planted the bhakti-lata-bija—the seed of devotional service to You—in my heart.
“You have let me live considerably long so far, with many opportunities to serve You. You have given me life and tolerable health. You have always given me a place to live and food to eat. I’ve had to endure some oppression in serving in ISKCON, but You have always given me the resources to tolerate it and the attitude to see the bright side and remain loyal to ISKCON. I have had to deal with some difficult persons, but You have enabled me to survive my relationships with them without intolerable stress. You have given me strength in difficult times.
“You have forgiven me my trespasses, as I have forgiven those who trespassed against me.
“You have given me a growing taste for chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. You have enabled me to write many books in Your service, and You have given me appreciative readers.
“You have allowed me to travel to Mayapur and Vrndavana and live there, although I have encountered difficulties, and You will give me more chances to visit the holy dhamas.
“You have given me knowledge of You, appreciation of Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta, and the ability to grasp the knowledge in these books. And You have given me faith in You and Your pure devotees. I am especially grateful for the faith I have in You as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I love to hear accounts of Your lilas and descriptions of knowledge about You—scientific knowledge of the Vedic literature.”
“Time you can be with us that’s
the thing to be aware of.
They can’t be with us
I am a melancholy baby. Be with us
please don’t be blue I will cheer you
up. I’ll be on your side I’ll bring you
what you like and need.
In a quarrel, I’ll take your side
dry your eyes
oh, I’d like that
Krsna let me be
Your well-wisher servant,
I can chant
I want to live in this
or else I’ll be melancholy
“I have to be grave and simple. When a frivolous thought or word comes to mind, an entertaining air—put it aside with a second thought, and with a more serious, reserved commitment. In this way, see, hear, speak, act, eat—the second thought: ‘Is this for Krsna?’
“Along with simple desire to repeat his message is endless verbal ability and realization to preach, especially to my disciples. I do not have to perform: simple surrender will bring parampara to my thoughts and speech, since surely I have been trained sufficiently.
“Here a few days, following duties of initiating guru. Typically, however, I am resenting the loss of my time toward writing the biography. It requires more than grabbing an hour here or there. It requires concentration and a regular schedule. All right. If there is time when I cannot work at that, then let me hear Srila Prabhupada’s tapes and read his books for an hour here and there. I am waiting to get back to work, however long it takes.
“Thinking also I have very, very far to go in understanding how I am spiritual master to these souls.
“Placing the garland on Srila Prabhupada’s murti, I suddenly felt my devotion to him. It came as a remembrance that I must execute the glorification of his life in the literary form of his biography. I should especially realize the value of that literary samadhi. A pure devotee has attained the great, rare mystery (rahasyam), love of Godhead, and he can impart it to others. So how am I to do that? Now I think of glorifying Srila Prabhupada as my proof of seeing Krsna and loving Him. I love His servant. I want to carry out His servants’ will, although I am hardly able (nija jati, nija sangi . . .)
“Sastra says it’s rare, far rarer than the eightfold perfections. As a touchstone is rare, it is rare to find a pure devotee. I know such a rare mahatma. Serve him, yes—but remember him. Be rapt in that Prabhupada mood and remembrance.”
“He liked the photo of himself on the back of the first Hare Krsna Happening album. In that photo his hair seems to be standing on end and his visage is grave, penetrating, mystical. He said of that photo, ‘A swami should look philosophical.’
“A disciple named Dinesh told Srila Prabhupada that he wanted a picture of him with his mrdanga for a second record album, Vande ’ham. Prabhupada said, ‘I am not a professional musician that I should pose with a mrdanga.’ He suggested instead more formal pictures, like those of his own Guru Maharaja.
“The guru is in his picture. ‘There is no difference between me and my picture,’ he wrote in a letter. ‘Therefore we should honor and keep pictures in that spirit. If we throw pictures this way and that way, that is offense. The name and the picture are as good as the person in the spiritual world. In the material world, either picture or person, everything is illusion.’”
“While Srila Prabhupada was speaking in his room, his disciple, Rukmini devi dasi, who is left-handed, was busily writing notes on Prabhupada’s talk. The left-handed phenomenon seemed strange to Prabhupada and he finally commented on it.
‘You write like Gargamuni,’ said Prabhupada, ‘backwards and topsy-turvy.’
“Prabhupada then said that he had once seen a man in Calcutta who played harmonium with his elbows, karatalas with his knees, and mrdanga with his feet. Prabhupada seemed to think that the ‘backwards and topsy-turvy’ writing was in a similar category.”
“We cannot overestimate the importance of sastra for understanding and entering the nectar of the holy name. Early this morning I read in the Sixth Canto, Chapter Two, ‘Ajamila Delivered by the Visnudutas.’ The sastra gives us strength when we read with faith. Our own individual weakness is not a great thing, but the power of the holy name is very great indeed and can overcome our inadequacy.
“‘. . . Ajamila unconsciously accumulated the results of bhakti. Indeed, even his first utterance of the holy name was sufficient to nullify all the sinful reactions of his life.
“‘. . . In the sastras it is said that if one chants the holy name of the Lord even once, the reactions of past, present or future sinful life do not affect him. . . . Similarly, if a devotee chants the holy name even once inoffensively, this protects him eternally. He need only wait for the results of the chanting to mature in due course of time.’ (Bhag. 6.2.49, purport)
“The time of death is a time of bewilderment because bodily functions are in disorder:
“‘At the time, even one who throughout his life has practiced chanting the holy name of the Lord, may not be able to chant the Hare Krsna mantra very distinctly. Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit, therefore, why should we not chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly? If one does so, it is quite possible that even at the time of death, he will be properly able to chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith. In conclusion, one who chants the holy name of the Lord constantly is guaranteed to return home, back to Godhead, without a doubt.’
“It is guaranteed. There is no doubt. But we have to chant with faith and love.”
“Chanting japa on the roof:
“By 5:00 AM. the moon is still bright in the sky. This isn’t the Gaura-purnima moon. That will appear tonight. Yet it looks like a perfectly round moon this morning. We are not glorifying or celebrating the moon itself, but the moon is the bright symbol noting the celebration of Lord Caitanya’s appearance. The moon is beaming on this occasion. And the moon is also symbolic, as used in Lord Caitanya’s own metaphor—the waxing moon of the sankirtana movement. Although this 1986 moon will start to wane after tomorrow and the momentous noting of the 500th anniversary will change into the 501st year of the Caitanya era, nevertheless, the transcendental moon that Lord Caitanya described will continue to wax throughout ten thousand years of Kali-yuga darkness.”
“It’s October 1st and I’m writing with a knit hat on my head. The question, can you break a long-standing habit of inattentive chanting? I think, ‘Yes, you can.’ He gave me the example of learning to play the mrdanga the wrong way (or holding the tennis racquet the wrong way). You have to break down to the elementary thing you did wrong.
“Okay, you have to help yourself. But you have to call out to Krsna. Whatever you wrote . . . You chanted 64 rounds a day for seven days and learned some things about yourself. You can improve your japa if you work at it more. We’ll have to do that.
“And for writing, I propose I could use this period of time, October 1-12, to help myself enter the longer retreat. Yes, you’ll have a lot of time to write and to read. You’ll want to sink once you get there, but there’s no harm in clearing the way beforehand if you can. What do you want to write? What discipline might you take on? I don’t have much time right now. This is an intro to those early October Writing Sessions (WS).
“I do wish to communicate with people. Not selfish. Didn’t go all alone to chant but took two men and Madhu too, and we worked together. We may do it again next spring.
“I do want to also have discipline in controlling the mind. Writing is also to control the mind, but sometimes we do it by tapping in for a while and seeing where the mind is already going, then steer it. Writing is in some ways different than japa.
“Today is Sunday, two lectures, get ready to travel tomorrow.
“Decide what to read, what to read…in the next few days and also at the retreat. You could Cc. But first I must ‘finish’ Srimad-Bhagavatam. Start that up and answers will come.
“Always my health . . . Last night I felt a headache coming and had to end the meeting. Now, take care so that you can do the two lectures today. In the first, I’ll tell the devotees nearby here, who have cooked for us at this retreat, what we were doing and the glories of the Name. In the afternoon, talk of how we are advised to always think of Krsna and that it’s hard work.
“Can you break the bad habit learned early? Maybe not? I think you have to be willing to go to a rehab house or just break it all down to become a beginner again. Under a teacher in some setting where you are willing to be a baby neophyte and learn things from the beginning, teeny, teeny-taw. What did Natalie Goldberg (NG) say about the habit of her holding the tennis racquet in the wrong way? She gripped it up rather than at the end because gripping it up was easy. But then she could never become the best player. But one could, one could . . . It takes breaking down the act and starting all over again. Like Erickson, learning to walk after polio; crippling, slow, guts, did it.
“All right, let’s end this early and look at a book and start japa. It’s a short WS, not even a ‘session,’ but at least a hello to October and a desire to write. What shall I write?
“(October 1st, fifteen minutes or less. Jalon, Alicante, Spain)
“Itch from midge bites, scratchin’ and they bleed and your kurta gets stains. Local devotees say it’s best just to tolerate them and don’t scratch. See if I can learn that. But tomorrow we leave. This afternoon, leave in half hour to go lecture at a householder’s where five families gather every Sunday and like they do in Wicklow, they read out loud together for a half hour and then share a feast, each family brings a prep.
“I decided not to inquire how the GBC actually dealt with the ‘rasika’ GBC members. Whatever news comes to me, that’s enough. Don’t be curious. I looked up the words ‘curious,’ ‘busybody,’ and ‘nosy.’ Habitual inquiry into other people’s business unneccesarily. Stay clear of intrigues. Chant and read; inquire as to what Krsna is doing and your own sadhana, etc. This will help in my desire to avoid sadhu-ninda.
“Flies. One bothered me during the hour I tried to rest after lunch. They are busybodies going to my face and its sores. I hope it will be dark enough at 7 P.M. when I take rest for the night so the flies may also take rest.
“The September Catchall asked me to perform a bit to tell the story of the day. Now, write about that.
“I’d like to resume reading Cc. with notes. So I tell myself.
“And we will see what I like to write or what Krsna allows. Haribol, haribol.
“Chanting the names of Jesus, they say, stopped the Lisbon plague of 1432. What if it didn’t? Why pray to be saved? It’s natural. But Srila Prabhupada doesn’t advise that. If Krsna wants you to die, don’t pray to Him to save you. Pray to remember Him as you die. Do we like to hear of the power of prayer? But what is that power? That He may give me the nectar of hari-nama? Or allow me to live without the nectar (like a cactus that goes so long on a drop of water)? But let me chant and remember Him and serve His devotees.
“At the Sunday gathering, I’ll speak of Srila Prabhupada. Yes, do. Tell them he’s great. They know that. Let us remember him. Hare Krsna. I’ll read that he said I should go on reading three hours daily in his books as I was doing then. Be with Srila Prabhupada in that way. Read his books and read of him too.
“Haribol. Can’t write much longer; got to get ready (put teeth in, polish head, shine hubcaps, align motor and fevers) and go there and smile and talk.
“Dear folks, be ready for your end when the bell strikes 11 or less, you’ll get to crawl like an ant, well chant then, and chant now to practice.
“It’s brown October
or green and hot like the
days we chanted in
Tompkins Square Park
Raya Rama and Hayagriva and
me too, Bruce,
etc., but don’t find fault
with them and make yourself
as if the best
in your mind. It’s absurd
and you lose
when you think ill of
“(15 minutes, October 1, Alicante)”
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.