We celebrated December 25th on Christmas Eve. Manohara made Italian raviolis with fresh homemade pasta and sage butter, also eggplants grilled and rolled up. There was a carbonated pomegranate drink. Gathered were myself, Baladeva, Kathi and David, Manohara, Amit, Atindra and Lalita-kaisora. We savored the meal and at the same time went on with our out-loud reading from The Nectar of Devotion. Afterwards, we exchanged gifts. They asked me to open my gift first. It was a wonderful coat made by PrAna, light in weight but giving much warmth, from Atindra and Lalita-kaisori. Baladeva received numerous gifts, many of them picked out by Lalita-kaisori. He received snacks from Trader Joe’s—crispy kale chips and other vegetable chips, chocolate-covered cherries and strawberries. For when after he eats the snacks, there was a small bottle of 100% ginger drink. David received a first-class electric saw made by Dewalt. Kathi received an electric teakettle. Amit and Atindra received gift certificates to Macy’s. Manohara received a nice cook’s apron and a gift certificate to T.J. Maxx, which has a good kitchen supply area. Lalita-kaisora also received a gift certificate from me. Kathi gave humorous Christmas cards to Baladeva and me. I received a card that said the best thing about Christmas was the gathering together. It showed people of different religions and races gathered together in a big house.
After a full week of not being bathed or changed, since we have no pujaris, Manohara stepped in today and did the service. He was guided on Whatsapp by both Krsna dasi and his wife Visakha. They could see each other and the Deities. It came out successfully. Radha-Govinda are wearing a blue outfit with green parrots. Govinda’s turban is a little thin, but it’s all right, and Their necklaces are properly placed. Manohara finished the Deity service early and went into the kitchen and prepared lunch. He made a vegetable soup of medium thickness and soft rolls and zucchini, which was used in the rolls to make sandwiches. For dessert he prepared a wonderful Croatian dish he called “wasp” because it’s shaped in strips of curling pastry. So he performed excellently both as pujari and cook today. Baladeva cleaned the pots and dishes.
It’s just the three of us now at Viraha Bhavan: me, Baladeva, and Manohara. I don’t do the actual duties, except for keeping the Journal and reading. But there’s great stress on Baladeva and Manohara to cover all the things that have to be done. Manohara dressed the Deities beautifully with help from Visakha and Krsna dasi. That was for one day. Now he’s back to serving me personally and cooking lunch and cleaning. Baladeva is burdened with many things—serving me personally, going out on errands, etc. Manohara will be leaving on January 9th. He has been an excellent servant, and he’ll be hard to replace. He knows now all the ways to do his service, many of which are personal, intimate personal services with me. I don’t expect the next person who comes will be able to match Manohara, and he’s only staying for two weeks. Baladeva has trouble catching up on his sleep and has to take at least one good nap during the day.
The next devotee coming to replace Manohara will be Sankarsana from Potomac. He’s been here before, so he knows how to cook (especially pizza) but he’ll have to learn new bodily services and personal services to me. He can do nice Deity worship also. So I’m wishing him the best in his upcoming service here.
I have ordered two books by Andrew Holecek, an expert on lucid dreaming. He was recommended to me by Baladeva’s sister Kathi, who has some experience in this. This is just an introductory note; I won’t even receive the books until Wednesday. But my intention is the practice of L.D. will help me with my repetitive, frustrated dreams about wanting to write a book but not having time or facility. It will take me a while to digest the books and start the practice. But Kathi has already told me to make an intention every night before I go to sleep, that I can change any dream I have and make it non-frustrating, change it to make it to come out successful. (More to come later).
Kathi and her son David have delayed their departure from Viraha Bhavan due to repeated bad reports of the weather in Maine. But tomorrow there’s supposed to be a “window,” good weather for traveling. It’s a nine-hour drive, but they’ll do it in one day. They’re leaving early in the morning, so I won’t see them again. They’ve been good, warm, loving company, and we’ve enjoyed spending the holiday together.
Kathi phoned at about 4:30 P.M. while Baladeva was out on errands. She told me she just wanted to say that their drive today was safe and sound, in good weather. They left at 7:30 A.M. and drove nine hours without a problem. In Maine there was no snow awaiting them. She told me Baladeva didn’t have to call her back. She just wanted to inform me of their safe arrival in Maine. We talked a few minutes about lucid dreaming, and she encouraged me to take to it when my new books arrive by Andrew Holecek. Then she probably crashed out after a long drive.
One day while she was here, Kathi reminisced about when she was a cheerleader in high school. In her senior year, she was caught by the high school coach smoking a Kool cigarette in the back of a car. On Monday morning at school, the loudspeaker announced: “Kathi Schlenz to the office!” She was kicked off the squad with only one football game left in the season. Her mother was lividly angry and went to complain to the high school authorities, but to no avail. The coach who saw her smoking was adamant. Kathi said she didn’t so much mind being kicked off the squad. She continued to go to the high school games and mixed in the stands with the other high school kids, having a good time.
The out-loud readings are getting very intimate toward the end of the book. We are hearing the ecstasies of Radharani in Her relationship with Krsna—Her ecstasy of love in bashfulness, in shame, in anger, and in all sorts of mellows.
A reader asked me about the next book we’re going to read because Nectar of Devotion has only twenty pages left. We will finish it by tomorrow morning, so he wanted everyone to know the next book. I phoned Krsna dasi in Trinidad, and she voted for Bhagavad-gita. Baladeva and I cast secret ballots, and they both came out for Srimad-Bhagavatam. I tried reaching Haryasva, but he was in Puerto Rico. So I was close to deciding we would just conclude the election with three voters for the next book. I finally got in touch with Haryasva in Puerto Rico, and he voted for the Bhagavad-gita. That meant it was a tie—two votes for Bhagavad-gita and two votes for Srimad-Bhagavatam. I pulled rank and broke the tie, picking Srimad-Bhagavatam for our next book. I want to read the Srimad-Bhagavatam with Prabhupada’s purports. I’m looking forward to that, probably starting tomorrow.
The first chapters of the First Canto are introductory. They are interesting, beautiful and profound. There’s heavy emphasis on the importance of reading the Bhagavatam. One of the sages asks, “Now that Krsna has left the planet, where can religious principles be found?” The answer stated is that this Purana, which is as brilliant as the sun, can bring all light to this dark age. There are many memorable slokas such as sa vai pumsam paro dharmo . . . The purport says that one should be thoroughly acquainted with the Bhagavad-gita before one embarks on the Bhagavata Purana.
The stove is broken. The repairman phoned and said he’d be here tomorrow between 10:00 and 12:00 to fix it. It seems something is always breaking down in the house one after another. It’s like an old car where suddenly the different parts are breaking down. But we have to keep up with the repairs. It’s an essential part of our preaching program.
“I don’t know why a writer is or is not an avadhuta. If he misses the mark, he can try again. If someone cooks and it doesn’t come out, he can try again. If he asks a question that doesn’t make sense, he can rephrase it. If something is wrong,
send it back.
“So writers too,
“they open up feelings through expression. Hastinapura in ancient days. Who can imagine what that was like?”
“In this verse, the sages are inquiring about the initial meeting between Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit. First meeting stories are great favorites among devotees. That’s because they are significant. Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit met due to the influence of Krsna. That is the transcendental way by which great souls meet. How else to explain how the emperor of the world could find a lonely spot on the Ganges to finish his last few days and could somehow or other meet that naked sixteen-year-old mendicant? Obviously, it’s Krsna’s arrangement.
“Similarly, Abhay Charan, the young manager of a growing pharmaceutical company in Calcutta, met the pure devotee-scholar Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura on the Gaudiya Math rooftop in Calcutta. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura immediately asked the young man to become a devotee of Lord Caitanya and to spread His teachings to the West. Our Srila Prabhupada remembers that meeting and describes it with relish, tasting again how he was defeated by his spiritual master and how he appreciated his power. ‘He is wonderful! Now Lord Caitanya’s movement is in expert hands.’
“I also met a great saintly person in the form of Srila Prabhupada simply because I saw taped to a storefront window a sign that said, ‘Classes on Bhagavad-gita Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.’”
“I came to know him and love him. I was just an insignificant New York City welfare worker, flotsam and jetsam in the world of karma, a writer/artist already feeling burnt out. How could I have met Prabhupada without the Lord’s direct intervention in my life? How else would I have had access to those ISKCON bullets that saved my spiritual life, or have tasted the strength of service to the Swami? Only by Krsna’s grace was I able to part from those who didn’t care for God.
“Everyone who has met Srila Prabhupada either directly or through his devotees or books will appreciate what I am saying. Krsna intervened not because we showed so much eagerness for spiritual life, but for His own reasons in His love for Prabhupada. Prabhupada wanted to spread the message of Krsna consciousness; we were given the opportunity to hear it. It is not an imaginary story.”
“In 1972, when Srila Prabhupada awarded sannyasa to four of his young disciples, we asked him, ‘Is there any special instruction for sannyasis?’ He said that in the course of our traveling and preaching we might meet householders and notice the beauty of their wives or the opulence of their homes. In neither case should we become attracted to these things or resent that we had renounced them. Too much association with householders can therefore be dangerous to a renunciate because it may reawaken his desire for sense gratification.
“We shouldn’t think after hearing this that Prabhupada was preaching against householder devotees. Prabhupada said that those who financially support the activities of the Krsna consciousness movement are doing as much worthy service as the brahmacari preachers. One should not feel inferior or superior on the basis of asrama. Rather, all devotees are meant to practice renunciation and to protect themselves against association with materialists.
“Each asrama has its own duty. Here the preacher is warned not to become too dependent on the householder and to approach him with a pure heart. The preacher should not try to greedily ‘milk’ the householder or exploit his piety. That is, he should not approach the householder to have his sense gratification fulfilled. The pious householder will appreciate an actually renounced sannyasi.
“In ISKCON, we have had to learn this point. Prabhupada didn’t want devotees in different asramas to avoid associating with one another, but he wanted them to learn how to associate properly. In his childhood, Prabhupada saw his father invite sadhus to his home. Although his father was not wealthy, he would invite at least four guests daily for meals. Unless the householder feeds others, he is not living in the grhastha-asrama and is considered a materialist.”
“As a sannyasi wants to stay free of sense gratification, so does the grhastha. A grhastha’s austerity is to follow the rules and regulations of his asrama and to always preserve the sanctity of his sadhana. Although he may have to work for his income in a materialistic workplace and tend to family matters, he is always conscientious about his worship of the Deity and his daily chanting and reading. He also uses the fruits of his occupation in Krsna’s service. He does not neglect the opportunity to serve the Vaisnavas, and especially to inquire from them about spiritual life. When such exchanges between asramas are pure and regulated, all devotees, regardless of their asramas, feel the happiness of belonging to a spiritual family. By each of us following the rules set out for our own asrama, and by properly associating between the asramas, we will find ourselves becoming free of envy, arrogance, and the desire to exploit others.”
“A devotee recently told me of a dream he had. He dreamt that Prabhupada was on a chariot that was being pulled by one of his disciples from 1966. Prabhupada was pacing back and forth on the chariot, using up a lot of energy. Then he said to the dreamer, ‘We will very soon lose all our bodily strength.’ Then Prabhupada disappeared. I told the dreamer that Prabhupada was speaking the truth; time is short and our life duration is dwindling by the moment. We should use everything in Krsna’s service.
“That’s a tall order. Here I am, explaining how a sannyasi should relate to a householder. As Vyasadeva’s representative seated on the vyasasana, I try to be honest. Who wants to be a hypocrite? On some points in the speech, however, I feel I am crossing my fingers or knocking on wood. I hope I’m not a hypocrite, but feel I may be squeaking by every now and then. Do I accept too many amenities from householders? Do I demand from them or condescend toward them? Do I think the world owes me a living? I’m not such a renounced person.
“The same dreamer related to me that he wanted to build an asrama at Govardhana Hill for some sadhus he met there. He said I could stay there and it could become ‘mine’ for a writing retreat. It all sounded entangling and I thanked him but declined. I don’t want to become the owner of real estate in Vrndavana. That’s my advice to myself. Yet I accept all the pens and colored pencils I can get. I am even writing notes to a man and his wife who are cooking for me: ‘I like your buckwheat muffins, but yesterday they were served as the sweet. I prefer to eat the muffins with the vegetables. Serve it one day instead of capatis. But as a sweet, it is too plain.’ Is that the way for a sadhu to write?”
“Today is Prabhupada’s disappearance day. Srila Prabhupada left this world sixteen years ago. There will be a function today in all ISKCON temples. The devotees will gather and speak homages one after the other. In a sense, we observe Prabhupada’s disappearance day in the same way we observe his appearance day.
“Aside from how we observe Prabhupada’s disappearance day in ISKCON, I recognize my tendency to avoid the sadness connected with this day. As a movement, we tend to emphasize the transcendental aspects of Prabhupada’s disappearance. That is, that there is no difference between the pure devotee’s appearance and disappearance. The spiritual master is eternal—all souls are eternal—but a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada does not come into this world like a conditioned soul. He comes to this world to do the compassionate work of enlightening people about their spiritual identities and their individual relationships with Krsna. He does this work and then he leaves. We shouldn’t lament his coming or going because he is always with Krsna.
“But this absolute philosophy was contradicted on the human level when we watched Prabhupada leaving us. He didn’t show signs of physical suffering, and he certainly didn’t lament his own departure, but his body showed signs of the last stages. Prabhupada never complained. I remember how in the last days, Prabhupada’s breastbone began to curl outwards. We asked the kaviraja about it and he told us that this happens at the end of someone’s life. The symptoms in Prabhupada’s body were undeniable.
“The kaviraja saw that Prabhupada was transcendental because he was not expressing pain. He asked only for the medicine of harinama. The doctor was astounded and impressed. On the other hand, the doctor saw Prabhupada’s body steadily dwindling. I remember how on the last day, he told us that Prabhupada had about four hours left, and he was right.
“We could not understand Prabhupada’s mind at this time, but we could see he was glorious. It reminded us of the passing of Bhismadeva. Prabhupada was in an obviously uncomfortable situation, but he maintained pure consciousness. He was surrounded by disciples chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in the holiest of all places, Vrndavana dhama, during Karttika, just after Govardhana-puja.
“ . . . Part of the heaviness of this day is that we thought it was heavy for Prabhupada and not for us. In other words, Prabhupada had to leave his body. It’s the greatest difficulty in a person’s life, even in the life of a transcendentalist. Of course, we can’t imagine how a pure devotee feels about it; and we can’t imagine his relationship with Krsna. The depth of Prabhupada’s feelings and realizations about leaving his mission and returning to Krsna are far beyond me. Neither could we know how he was feeling in a physical way. Was he in pain? He wasn’t talking to us during his last twenty-four hours. He was completely internal. Was there anything we could do? How could we help? We just gathered around to be with him in those last hours. Prabhupada was doing the most difficult thing a human being can do, and we were all gathered around like bystanders. There was no austerity we could perform to equal what he was going through. It was so difficult and yet he went back to the spiritual world. It brought on such a confusion of emotions.”
“Staying eight days or so in Dallas. Trying to think deeper about the biography.
“Next thing is to have a management meeting with my assistant, Sesa dasa. Where do we go from here? See ahead the periods in his life we intend to cover. See what materials we have to use in covering it. Decide what we have to do to get more materials. (Basically, even if we do not have much, we have to go ahead. Make clear signs of what we have to get to enrich it later). Ultimately, a period is not complete unless I have some personal memory, or a memory of another, or it is very much covered by letters or other authoritative knowledge of the period. We have to see what is coming ahead and how slim the coverage is or how full. By plotting ahead we may also estimate in how much time we will cover the periods.
“We can also plan how we will gather the needed material. Then thinking ahead further, see if we personally have to do work in India. Plan when I will go to India before the festival and what I expect of interviews with ISKCON leaders there.
“What will my approach be? Jayapataka, Bhavananda, Tamal Krishna, Giriraja, Tejyas, and numbers of others can tell us about Srila Prabhupada in India. It will be a matter of making tapes and inserting them in the proper time periods as before.
“Biography/ Before I leave for N.Y.
“Is Srila Prabhupada fading as a person for me? Am I trying to become that person? Am I able to revive my ‘memory’? But what good is memory? Is this uneasiness grief and separation? Is it my own death also, as I too go on in time to the jumping off point known by materialists as death?
“Headaches almost every day. Brahmacari meeting tonight. Tell them to avoid the misery of sex life. Aware I’m shallow in thinking of Prabhupada. Get ready to go to New York.
“I thought I should be very strict and careful about my association with women. Soon I will have so many disciples and they will be drawn to follow and worship me by virtue of the transcendental system. I have to stress not only attaching them to me, but the stern side too.
“Then there was the feeling that to date, I’m not positively sure I’m doing what Prabhupada does and wants, but I have to use my own intelligence as to what he would have me do as far as I am able.
“More certainty is possible. Do as he did. Pray, behave, and the possibility of his intimacy (for biography blessing, assurance of importance of your work, ability to write about him intimately) and his empowering you are much more than is realized at present. You are not in any real trouble at present—except that you could be so much more! He could be with you. Your prayer for more intimacy is a sound one. Keep it up. Cry, call for him. Prabhupada can visit you in dreams. He is a real force. He is waiting, observing everything you do.
“In being guru to my disciples, I am to them the direct servant of God. But within myself, I remain the servant of the servant of God and my guru. My disciples become servants of the servant.
“Prabhupada remains jagad-guru. From his earliest appearance, he was involved with Radha-Krsna worship.
“Guru is one, but Prabhupada is always our guru and we are always his disciples. The plans he started as Founder-Acarya are to be carried out by us. Founder-Acarya is not merely a pioneer who started something crude. He said we had to obey him by continuing to carry out his instructions. His disciples have to go on feeling the separation from Prabhupada at the same time they cheer on the new gurus. The new gurus don’t suddenly become their Godbrothers’ gurus as if the Godbrothers have lost substantial guidance in the particular instructions of Prabhupada and now need to hear everything from one of the new gurus!”
“Now it is only two days until the gathering of hundreds of people in the tiny storefront at 26 Second Avenue. The event doesn’t seem well-organized because ISKCON obtained the place very recently, and they have had little time or money to fix it up. Still, devotees are eager to go there. I probably will be given a chance to speak. I thought of saying, ‘This spot is very important. It reminds me of a verse in a Gosvami poem about Vrndavana where he says, “In this place Krsna killed the cart demon, in this place Krsna did the rasa dance, etc. . . .” It is as good as a tirtha in Vrndavana for us.’ But then what? Here it is in 1991 and the Lower East Side is much tougher now than it was in 1966. So it is a preaching center and not just a shrine. We must love this sacred ground together. We are so few. Lord, teach us the way to love each other—and to spread this message of Prabhupada and Krsna.”
“This word has a long list of definitions having to do, of course, with tying things together to connect them. However, it also means a puckering or furrowing of the brow, and it refers to a protuberance on a tree. Other kinds of lumps and ornamentation. A hill, a small group of persons clustered together, people talking and arguing on a street corner, chatty little knot at the back of the PTA meeting, yarn measure, length of yarn, one nautical mile.
“We also know different kinds of knots from our study of sastra. Hrdaya-grantha binds the heart to matter. This knot is worse than the Gordian knot because it is the knot of sex desire, and it is almost impossible to cut. It was prophesied that the Gordian knot would be untied by the man who would conquer Asia. Alexander the Great didn’t untie it; he cut it apart with his sword. But who will cut the hrdaya-grantha? Only a sadhu, and his association is rare.”
“One day, the king’s wife gave birth to a male child and the king was rejoicing. At that moment, Gopala came into the room and the king said, ‘Gopala, on this very, very happy occasion, please tell me, what do you have to say? Tell me exactly how you feel at this moment.’
“Gopala replied, ‘Frankly, at this moment, I feel very happy after passing stool.’
“‘Gopala! How could you say such a thing?’ The king was mortified. ‘On this auspicious moment, that’s all you have to say? I am completely disgusted. It’s not funny, and I don’t appreciate your humor at all.’
“After that, the relations between the king and Gopala were strained for some time. One day, Gopala was rowing the king down the river when the king suddenly had an urgent call of nature. Gopala said, ‘On this side there is a very heavy jungle area. It’s not very suitable. Let us go a little further down and we’ll find a better place.’
“The king said, ‘Go over to the side!’
“Gopala said, ‘Not here. There is danger. Some thieves and dacoits. Your life may be endangered. There’s a place ahead.’
“The king said, ‘Gopala, I cannot wait any longer. Immediately go over!” Gopala had to go over and the king jumped out. He could hardly contain himself. When the king returned, Gopala asked him, ‘How are you feeling?’
“The king replied, ‘I am feeling very happy after passing stool.’
“Then Gopala said, ‘Don’t you remember? This was exactly the situation I was in after your child was born. When you asked me at that moment what exactly I was feeling, I was in the same situation as you are now. I told you how I was feeling, but you thought I was insulting your son and you never appreciated it. Now do you understand?’”
“Prabhupada’s activities in the unusual and sometimes stressful situation of airplane travel constitute a special lila. Sometimes the devotees accompanying Prabhupada felt acute discomfort in having to see their spiritual master in such an inconvenient setting. For example, it was Srila Prabhupada’s habit to eat alone, but on planes this was not possible. Of course, he was sitting on the same, equal level with his disciples and with nondevotees. Usually, after finishing eating, he told his disciples to share the remnants among themselves. Sometimes the devotees felt that such eating in Prabhupada’s presence was perhaps offensive, but Prabhupada always insisted that they should honor the prasadam after he did. He was concerned to see that the devotees were nicely taken care of. Sometimes passengers in the opposite seats would observe the devotees eating and notice that they were eating leftovers from their master’s plate. These situations had their nice features in that the devotees were forced, by Prabhupada’s presence, to stay in transcendental consciousness and not be affected by the mundane opinions of the karmis.
“On one occasion when Srila Prabhupada was flying from Venezuela, the only food he had with him was puffed rice wrapped up in aluminum foil. When his servant told Srila Prabhupada that this was all they had and asked whether Prabhupada wanted to take something from the plane kitchen, Prabhupada replied, ‘No, we have our prasadam. That’s all right.’
“Prabhupada’s servant unwrapped the aluminum foil and sat it on the little table before Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada ate about half of the puffed rice and then handed it over to the two disciples beside him. Just as the devotees were about to share the remnants, a stewardess walked down the aisle, looked at the scene with Prabhupada, stuck her hand into the puffed rice, took a handful, and ate it. ‘This is very good,’ she said innocently. ‘What is it?’
“‘Prabhupada’s servant replied, ‘It is puffed rice.’
“Prabhupada looked up at the stewardess and was smiling at her. She smiled back at Prabhupada, saying, ‘This is very good.’
“‘I’m glad you like it,’ said Prabhupada’s servant.
“‘Are you having anything else to eat?’ the stewardess asked.
“‘Well, we are vegetarians,’ said Srutakirti. ‘Unless there is some fruit or something, we won’t take.’
“‘Oh, I’ll go up to first-class and get you a basket of fruit,’ she said. The stewardess was back in a few moments with a basket of fruit along with knives and glasses. She asked if there was anything further she could get.
“‘Prabhupada, would you like some milk?’ asked Srutakirti.
“‘Yes,’ said Prabhupada, ‘hot milk.’ Usually it was not an easy thing to get a cup of hot milk from the airplane crew, but on this occasion, the stewardess was very willing. She went forward and soon returned with hot milk. Everything had happened spontaneously, starting from the moment the stewardess took a bit of prasadam from Prabhupada’s plate. Devotees in the temple used to run and dive to get Prabhupada’s maha-prasadam, but this stewardess had just spontaneously grabbed a handful and eaten it, and then she had become inspired to render service to Srila Prabhupada.
“‘That was really something,’ remarked Srutakirti after the stewardess had left.
“‘It’s natural,’ said Srila Prabhupada. ‘Women have a motherly tendency to be like this.’”
“Go and chant and pray to Krsna. This writing requires humility, and japa does also. All arts require humility and honesty. I am begging for attraction to the holy name.
“There’s nothing to say except, ‘Please help me.’ Other than that, I’m saying to myself, ‘Here are some ideas on how to help yourself.’ And I’m saying, ‘Here are some obstacles.’ And I’m saying, ‘This is what is happening’ (when I write as a reporter on reality).
“Japa is a grand feast of chanting the holy names. When it is going well, I feel happy. I know I’m doing a proper prayer and that Lord Hari and Srimati Radharani are hearing me. I have firm faith. Even if I can’t chant loudly, I chant with inner attention and keep my mind fixed. I did all this today, and in a speedy way. So I am not regretful, but thankful to Krsna for the gift of japa. It is so easy to do, simply repeating those sacred names and coming closer to Krsna in meditation. Even when I don’t ‘meditate’ in the deeper sense, I’m meditating by chanting the absolute sound vibration and keeping my mind away from all plethora of objects in the universe. It’s a chance to narrow my consciousness and pinpoint it on the most important thing. Lord Caitanya has given us a brilliant method just suitable for people in the age of Kali, and we should always be thankful to Him and take up His process.”
“Srila Rupa Gosvami is chanting his japa in his sadhaka form. Srila Prabhupada is also chanting with japa-mala in his photo. He desired more than anything to give us the names. He possessed what he gave us and preached to us—devotion to the holy names and to the Hare Krsna movement.
“Dancing down the road
with joy an innocent boy,
piping down the lanes with glee,
what have I to offer thee?
He plays his wooden flute,
praising Sri Krsna,
naming Sri Krsna,
and telling secrets he himself
doesn’t know but he’s heard
and even the birds in Vraja sing,
‘It’s Radha, it’s Radhika!’
“The female parrot sings,
‘Tell us quickly
who is the be-all of Sri Krsna’s life,
who has such intense dedication
to only Krsna,
that by comparison the dedicated birds—
the cataki who waits for raindrops,
the cakora who waits for the moonbeams
and the lotus who waits for the sun—
all seem fickle and not at all
dedicated to their objects
tell us who
is the most beautiful
in form and devotion and—
it’s Svamini Radhika
whose name I am not fit
to utter, but I must.
“There, you broke through a little. Humble yourself. Become arrogant enough. A lout singing. He knows the most precious songs, so let him sing. Sometimes a fallen man, a drunkard, has a heart filled with gold, if only we can make something of him.”
“Sastric and personal prayers can help us to chant the holy names. There are many Vedic verses praising the holy names, and as we enter their spirit they inspire us to perform this sacred yajna. Some verses remind us of the authoritative nature of the holy names, such as the harer nama verse in Brhan-naradiya Purana. Other verses invite us to enter the ocean of bliss:
“‘I do not know how much nectar the two syllables “Krs-na” have produced. When the holy name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.’
“Still other verses inform us that chanting will vanquish our sins, and that we must strive especially to chant the names at the time of death, as did the fortune Ajamila. Sastric verses also instruct us how to chant: ‘One should chant the holy name in a humble state of mind, considering oneself lower than the straw in the street.’ There is special encouragement in songs by the acaryas when they speak as conditioned souls and lament that they do not taste the nectar of God’s names because they chant with offenses.
“The obvious effect of these statements is that we feel we are understood by the great sages, and we somehow take hope that our own poor chanting may improve. As we lament and hope, we become purified.
“‘O Lord, You have brought Your innumerable holy names to this world and have taught the chanting of them to the fallen living beings just for their deliverance; therefore You are an ocean of mercy and compassion.
“‘You invest all Your energies in Your holy name, and on the chanting of Your holy name You have not placed any consideration such as time and place.
“‘Your holy name, which is like touchstone, is nondifferent from You. You have distributed Your holy name throughout the creation, and that is the essence of Your kindness.
“‘Such is Your great mercy, O Lord, but I am extremely unfortunate!
“‘My attraction and love for the holy name never came about! Therefore the heart of Bhaktivinoda is overwhelmed with sadness.’
“The heart is beating strong.
If there was an EKG test it
would come out positive. Rapid
mantras don’t cause heart attack
but sustain the strength of
sixteen rounds by 4:00 AM, about
“My mind was fixed straight on the
heart and how it continued so
strong. My vital symptoms
have always been strong.
It’s not the entire purport of
chanting, but it’s important.
I kept entirely smaller
with the heart beating
silently and prodigiously.
I don’t want to brag,
it’s His grace for a
limited time. He allows
“The technician said I’m
tachycardia, meaning I
jog just by sitting in a
chair. Have a slow heart
beat, but it was
fear in standing the nutrients.
Everyone should have this
facility to keep going
the allotted time like
a metronome. The other
meaning of heart is
seat of affection where
you put your prayer sentiment
into the exchange and
penetrate past mechanical japa
into priti, love, for
Radha and Krsna, who appeared
like a nice cowherd boy and
His girlfriend. I assessed
Them and worshiped Them
in my arati and was
glad that Narayana gave
me assurance I’ll have
no trouble in reading
with the swami.”
“One response to skepticism is to fight back with knowledge. This is recommended by Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita, and we may refer to this response as the intellectual approach. Flush out that demoniac doubt and get it to speak to you. Enter into dialogue with your doubt. You can do this within your own mind or in a diary. Or it may be more helpful to talk with another devotee about it. Srila Prabhupada used to encourage debate on his morning walks. He would ask the devotees for opposing views—‘What do they say?’—and he would train us to argue against the atheistic points of view.
“Let me raise a couple of doubts and respond briefly to them by the intellectual or debate approach:
“1. ‘Krsna consciousness seems to be just another of the many world religions and world mythologies that speak of gods and have a theory of creation and afterlife. So isn’t the Vedic view a relative thing? And aren’t all these religions really creations of humans?’
“2. ‘Even if I accept that there is a divine force that is beyond the senses and the mind, how can I accept the exclusive viewpoint of the Vaisnavas of India, that Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Does this mean all the other religions are wrong? I’m afraid if I follow Krsna consciousness I’ll just get into a narrow sectarian process.’
“A reply to doubt number one:
“You seem to equate all world religions with man-made mythologies. But the true science of God is beyond the creation of humankind and its poets. Do you think man is everything? Did humans create the sun and planets, do they create time and life and death? Can they control these forces? Not really, although puffed-up scientists may claim to. To begin to understand God and religion, you have to accept the existence of acintya-sakti, or inconceivable powers beyond human understanding. Since time immemorial, spiritually-minded persons have inquired into the existence of the Supreme, and God has revealed Himself to them in sacred texts or scriptures. Krsna consciousness honors the truths found in other scriptures, but also teaches something more—a nonsectarian science by which all religions can be appreciated in their highest essence. That science is known as bhagavata-dharma or bhakti-yoga. Bhagavata-dharma refers to the universal religion that is passed down by God to humanity, wherever it may occur in the world. Those who are sincerely interested in ultimate truths may consult this science by the proper method, and see for themselves. It is certainly unlike any ordinary book.
“A reply to doubt number two:
“The name Krsna means ‘all attractive,’ and it is the all-inclusive name of God. Krsna is revealed in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna devotees do not decry the “divine force” as revealed in other religions. It is not a narrow, sectarian process as you fear. For example, the Srimad-Bhagavatam describes the best devotee and the highest religion as follows:
“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.’ (Bhag. 1.2.6)
“Does this definition of religion sound sectarian? It is not. It allows that wherever pure devotion to the Supreme Lord appears in a total way, that is the best religion.’”
“Krsna is not partial and does not favor one group over another. In the material world, politics means gaining allies in order to strengthen our own position. When canvassing for allies, we naturally create enemies, whom we then have to curb in some way. We favor or disapprove of a person or cause based on fear, sense gratification, or idealistic dedication. Even what passes for altruism in this world is incomplete unless linked with God consciousness.
“Sometimes people pretend to have attained equilibrium because it appears to be a desirable quality. People admire balance and impartiality in others and consider it a sign of saintliness or wisdom. Often what happens, however, is that when the pretender’s selfish interests are threatened, his true colors are revealed and his impartiality falls apart in anger or selfishness.
The Nectar of Devotion glorifies Lord Krsna for possessing equilibrium. The prayers of Kaliya’s wives are cited because although Kaliya was such an offender and the Lord punished him, yet the chastisement purified the serpent.
“‘O dear Lord, You are equal to everyone. For You there is no distinction between Your sons, friends or enemies. Therefore the punishment which You have so kindly offered to Kaliya is exactly befitting. O Lord, You have descended especially for the purpose of annihilating all kinds of disturbing elements within the world, and because You are the Absolute Truth, there is no difference between Your mercy and punishment. . . .” (Krsna, Chap. 16, pp. 159-60)
“Vital questions on the mind and consider what to do. One might even stop the show, later in life, of traveling and lecturing, which is often a social act in which one says things without much conviction. Why go through the motions? What is the effect of it? Could I be doing something more important for surrender to Krsna? I felt a little of this last night, that my talk at the Sunday gathering was nice reminiscences of Srila Prabhupada, and yet some of it was just a public performance to please the audience of laidback devotee householders. I am also laid-back.
“You know what I mean? I told them how we preferred the Swami in his 1966 mode and didn’t want him to leave NYC. That’s true and that’s a sweet mood, how Srila Prabhupada sacrificed to preach, and so we also had to sacrifice the life of being with him as the father of a small family. But maybe I didn’t feel it as I said it. I could be honoring that feeling in some more intense way, maybe by directly writing the emotion or drawing a picture of it . . . Anyway, to have recalled it as I did doesn’t harm me, but maybe I can do better.
“I am not Srila Prabhupada, that by running here and there I hold ISKCON together. Even disciples . . . I could see them only if they came to me. I might situate myself somewhere and ‘do bhajana.’ Of course, how do you reconcile that with Srila Prabhupada’s books and the ISKCON mood and his saying, ‘Preach, preach, preach’ as he handed me the danda? But he also said preach while you are young, and when you are older, retire and go to Mayapur or Vrndavana. But the ISKCON dhamas are sometimes ‘contaminated’ by persons who don’t make it possible to live there and do that bhajana, or one falls into the rasika mood prematurely. So, sometimes we consider the idea of a life of solitude outside of Vrndavana.
“What is best?
“As I go into the next retreat, I continue to consider these things. I have to decide the bounds of reading/writing/chanting, maybe favoring one over the other in this retreat and then shifting it in the next retreat. We just spent seven days of sixty-four rounds each.
“Also, I asked but didn’t answer whether my writing should be a more direct effort to control the mind rather than practice tapping into the wild and wandering mind. But what does that mean?
“Immediately we travel today, so try to stay in Krsna consciousness one way or another. Lecture to devotees.
“You are a good boy, kid, man. They laugh at your jokes and give you prasadam on time and a garland, and a garland for Srila Prabhupada murti. So many opinions! The most senior devotees have the most opinions, so you should know yourself by now what to do and think as a servant and not to others like a new bhakta. Sounds proud and wrong? It may be practical and humble too.”
“(12 minutes, October 2, Jalon, Alicante, Spain)”
“Time is racing. My health is weak. Our van has major engine trouble. Typical of a visit to Spain, the jinx. I hope we can get to our Ireland retreat on time. Pay money and you can get that.
“Lives pass through me at least temporarily as I imbibe the letters and reply to them. Remember your duties of lecturing and letter answering on nectar, life-giving links of service to Srila Prabhupada. So, don’t begrudge them. Live in the day. It’s here, and soon you too may reach your beloved retreat and spend more time on reading and writing. I feel denied in both of these areas by the duties of a temple visit as a sannyasi guest. Speak twice a day. Hare Krsna.
“Ask disciples to ask me questions in the meeting tonight. I’ve spoken twice on the qualifications of a disciple. I could speak more on that in a personal way to them—responsibilities of my disciples. You don’t want to demand so much of them.
“Health is good for sadhana. Keep it for that reason. Don’t eat (overeat, etc.) in an unhealthy way.
“In a dream, an elephant trainer used the danda, long, strong stick wrapped by saffron, as a means to control the elephant. What does that mean? Use danda, use sannyasa life to control powerful senses? Also, to control the powerful forces of everything and everyone ‘out there,’ outside of me. I can exert control over my own life and achieve my purposes.
“Speaking here on qualifications of a disciple, I see it’s very demanding to come up to the standard.
“The history seemed external. But that’s one way of telling things. I do it too sometimes when someone asks me for it. Hare Krsna.
“Who is the best poet in ISKCON? Don’t think you are. Be a poet. Write then – with divided lines and without. All poetry. Hare Krsna.
“Write, write, write.
“My strength as a writer. All strength is in Krsna. A good writer gives us Krsna.
“One tends to see Srila Prabhupada as very restrictive, not allowing for artistic expression. But that’s not really so. I have to, however, stay close to him and his books to earn the right.
“Just paused five minutes or so to write a thank you note to Madhu. We want to push on and reach the upcoming retreat. It’s okay that it’s a secret, but even if we were to be found out, I’d take it, need it, for body, mind, and spirit. Let them criticize if they will. I must do what I feel and think is best for my spiritual life. I can’t repress it. In the meantime, and after retreats, let me render temple service. And even in retreats, I’m not going alone in a selfish motive. I make myself fit; I advance my art of service. I preserve my integrity. I take time to read (next is Caitanya-caritamrta). Thank you, Lord, for this sublime, happy way of life. The strain of lecturing and travel is part of it. Answering letters too. Even japa is a strain, and I should go for it now, concentrating to hear.”
“(15 minutes, October 4, New Vraja-mandala, ISKCON Spain)”
“Haven’t written in a few days. Answering mail (almost done now) and preparing lectures here at Nueva Vraja-Mandala, and getting headaches. So, no writing and no reading either, and no drawing. The internal pressure is building up. I want to go on a retreat. I’m an ISKCON man. I go apart to gain wholeness, to hear again the pure sound.
“What will I write when I go there? More WS or will it be a ‘timed book?’ Do I want to shape, to tell a story, create a book? That’s an ambition. But what about straight, released writing as you did in Castlegregory and later called Forgetting the Audience? A collection of WS can also be made into a book. Writing every day, sessions . . . I look forward to it, come what may. Can’t control life.
“May our van, old as it is, get us there. May we not sink. Even if we . . . break down, Madhu said, ‘I’ll get you there somehow or other.’
“This morning I began a reading of Cc. Good start. Made some honest notes, not like mere review of contents, but express how I feel. I don’t live in Vrndavana, and maybe it’s just as well. But by reading Cc., I can enter the divine realm of Gaudiya Vaisnavism at its best, with Srila Prabhupada as my guide. Srila Prabhupada (not demanding that we do management or cooperate with our Godbrothers. Or does he? We’ll read and see.) This fellow grows older, is already among the oldest men in ISKCON, needs his space, asserts his right.
“Afraid they may come after me. Even if they do, I won’t come out. They may know, if my secret leaks out, that it’s not a bad act; I have gone for the month of Karttika to a hidden place to write the story of my life as I try to enter the nectar of the pastimes and instructions of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They may know.
“May I write poems,
be satisfied with good companionship
of two brothers.
All glories to Prabhupada.
“You are free to write as it comes. Now, go through these last days here, lecturing through the translator. The devotees don’t make demands of me. They leave me alone during the day. I can read a manuscript of a book being prepared by Gita-nagari Press. And maybe a few more sessions like this.”
“I can’t expect to unwind here. But live, persevere, and save a record as you go. Octoberfest, quiet life. Get us through. Mid-November, go to India. That’s what’s scheduled. Keep in touch with Lord Krsna by the chanting. Aware my gayatri chanting has dropped so low. Dallas Weir in prison. Me here. He says, ‘Prisons are getting tighter.’ He’s in ‘the best place to do time in the state (of Washington).’ He says if they transfer him, he’ll try not to be attached. I write him back that he doesn’t need anyone’s permission to practice the essence of Krsna consciousness. It comes from the cry of the soul imprisoned in the body. Do I myself cry out in my relative prison, relative freedom? I write at the end of my letters, ‘We are traveling in Europe in our van.’ We are trying to get a new van. A Ford Econoline. Hare Krsna. Help us.
“Now, get yourself over to that comfortable chair. I won’t fall asleep. I’ll utter mantras, Hare Krsna mantra, and try to hear, Srila Prabhupada tape will play, in candlelight, be glad that you can stay in this nice sannyasi room this morning. See you later, writing friend.”
“(16 minutes, October 6, New Vraja-mandala, Spain)”
Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…
I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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A narrative poem. challenging and profound, about the journey of an itinerant monk who pursues new means of self-expression.The reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.