Free Write Journal #178


Free Write Journal #178

January 14, 2022

Free Writes


Some time back, Baladeva complained to me that we shouldn’t wake up at 2:00 A.M. He said it was artificial, and that I really needed to sleep or I’d be tired during japa and in the morning. He gave his arguments, but I didn’t reply. He went on arguing until I finally relented and said, “All right. Set the alarm for 3:00 A.M.” Two nights in a row, my rest was broken before 3:00 A.M. by urgent calls of nature. Then I asked Baladeva to set my own alarm back to 2:00. But Baladeva responded with the same old arguments that I should set the alarm for 3:00. I didn’t reply to Baladeva, and after half an hour he began to feel the heat, my displeasure. Baladeva said, “All right, make it 2:30.” And again I didn’t respond. Baladeva said, “Let’s compromise—2:15 A.M.” Then I said, with some disdain, “Okay. 2:15 A.M.” After several days, Baladeva began to feel he had committed an offense for the fifteen minutes of sleep. Then Baladeva said, “All right, I’ll set the alarm clock at 2:00.” I said, “That’s good. You shouldn’t bargain with the spiritual master.”

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Today we took down the Christmas decoration lights on our front door, and we dismantled our little indoor Christmas tree. Baladeva asked Manohara, who is from Italy, how long do Italians celebrate Christmas. Manohara said yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas, which is when the wise men show up. The appearance of the wise men signify the end of Christmas, and everyone takes their decorations down the next day. So we seem to be following that custom. In previous years we left our decorations up for a month, and it seemed too much. But now we have a spiritual tradition to follow.

Chasing Rabbits

Writing down the first two entries in my Free Write Journal—what I call “rabbits.” After rabbits, I quote from books that I have written. But the rabbits are not always so easy to get. I tie myself in knots; it’s like trying to get a rock to bleed. Someone suggested that I might try omitting the rabbits and not forcing myself mechanically. The idea is that this might eventually free myself up to finding rabbits again naturally. But I so much want to find the rabbits; I think that they are the best part of the Journal. Maybe I should just try giving a glimpse of a rabbit running by if I can’t think of a more extended anecdote.

Here’s a glimpse of a rabbit: I just instructed Sankarsana that during his two weeks here he should cook simple meals, just kichari every day would be fine. Manohara cooked wonderful feasts every day, but I gained several pounds and I wasn’t pleased with that. Sankarsana agreed to try it (he said he’s not an experienced cook) but he said that if I get sick of it I should tell him and he’ll try something varied. Baladeva suggested that I don’t go from one extreme to another. He said I might get tired of kichari every day, so ask Sankarsana to cook it sometimes, and then Baladeva himself would take turns at making a light but interesting meal.

Dhrtarastra Quits Home

In our out-loud reading we are hearing how Vidura convinced Dhrtarastra to leave his false position of living like a “king” in the house of King Yudhisthira. Vidura returns from his pilgrimage and goes to Hastinapura just to give enlightenment to his older brother Dhrtarastra. He tells him, within the hearing of everyone in the palace, “You should go out immediately. You are living on scraps from Bhima. You are old and invalid. You should practice the narottama stage of life and leave home without anyone’s knowing it. Practice yoga in a remote place and give up your body.” Vidura’s words strike at the heart of Dhrtarastra and change him from a man hopelessly hanging onto the charity of his enemies into a man determined to finish his life honorably. Dhrtarastra does leave home and goes to a remote place, followed by his ascetic wife Gandhari. No one knows that he has left, not even his intimate secretary Sanjaya, but Narada arrives at Hastinapura and tells all the people that Dhrtarastra has quit home, and they should not try to go after him and get him to come back. He is practicing astanga-yoga, taking bath three times a day and fasting only on water, and fixing his mind on the supreme truth. Narada predicts that on a certain date Dhrtarastra will be consumed by self-made flames, and his wife Gandhari will follow him. Thus Vidura saved his older brother, although he could not turn him into a pure devotee because of Dhrtarastra’s offenses to the Pandavas.

As for Gandhari, she follows her husband and consumes herself in the fire he has created. This was an ideal act known as the sati rite, performed voluntarily by women in the olden times. But in the recent ages it became obnoxious, because the women were forced to enter the fire even though they did not want to. So the sati rite is now outlawed. But it was a great act when performed by Gandhari.

A Change for Gaura-Nitai

Haridasa from Guyana has just changed the outfits of our large neem Gaura-Nitai Deities. I am taking my first darsana today. With the new change of clothes, They now need fresh flowers. The flowers that Muktavandya recently gave us are still fresh, and we will use them in vases.

Gaura-Nitai are awesome. Their beauty is partly because They are so large, and Their complexions are golden. They are beautiful. They were made in Ekacakra, India, and that makes Them special. They are truly lotus-eyed, and Their feet are like lotuses. This comparison was often made in relation to the Supreme Lord, and Gaura-Nitai remind You of this poetic example.


Manohara left Viraha Bhavan at 5:00 A.M. yesterday. But he appeared on our computers during our breakfast out-loud reading. He was strapped into his chair on the Amtrak train. He wore earphones and a white mask. Then at our lunchtime reading he was still with us. We saw his image on the computer. He said he was at the gate waiting for the plane to Italy. Sankarsana is cooking kichari today. He is slow but steady. He asked that Baladeva do the cooking tomorrow so he could concentrate on the Deities. Sankarsana said it would be difficult for him to dress Them because although his hands are small, they are not delicate like Krsna dasi’s. But he is willing to try. He thinks he can do it. I told Baladeva that I would like him to offer to Gaura-Nitai tiny, tiny sandwiches on homemade bread. Two of the sandwiches should be filled with spinach, and one of the sandwiches filled with asparagus. We enjoyed Manohara’s every-day feasts, but we gained several pounds. Now we’re enjoying lighter meals cooked by Sankarsana.

Radha-Govinda’s Change of Dress

After several weeks of not being cleaned or having Their dress changed, Sankarsana took a turn and became a pujari, cleaning and dressing Them in the morning. The outfit is one by Tapan, one where he has painted on figures. There are flowers on Radharani’s skirt, and there are two chipmunks and there is green grass. The dominant color is green and then a light blue (like the sky). Sankarsana did a great job on Govinda’s turban, making it like one of Krsna dasi’s. Govinda plays an ornate flute with a peacock at the end and a dangling pearl below. They are standing close together. Govinda’s feet are exposed but not His shin. It’s a great relief that he did a good job of taking care of Them. They now look fresh and beautiful with Their Vrndavana backdrop made by Uddhava dasa. We have managed to buy some flowers, which are placed on Their altar. Not as good as summertime, when we filled the altar with our own garden flowers. But still, They have flowers every day. I have a little trouble seeing Them clearly from my chair. But I manage to take darsana, and it’s sweet.

A Trying Day

By late afternoon, Baladeva had summed it up: “It was a crazy day.” The day began by him having to go by himself to collect water from the natural spring. There were two cars ahead of him, and he had to wait. As soon as he arrived, two cars pulled up behind him. That put pressure on everyone. We had eight 5-gallon bottles to fill. That created a little tension with the others who were waiting. After that, B. went to pay Krsna dasi’s phone bill, which was overdue. At the phone company, all the workers but one were eating their lunch. It was close to our lunchtime too. Just before 1:00 PM the workers finished their lunch and came out to do business. Baladeva paid the bill and got back to Viraha Bhavan exactly at 1:00 PM. We had extra people in the house. Hari dasa from Guyana and his driver were here, and Hari dasa changed our Gaura-Nitai Deities’ dress. Amit was also present. Manohara was running late preparing lunch, making his last feast. All during lunch he was still cooking, trying to keep up with everyone. He made eggplant parmesan sandwiches in homemade pita bread and a green pesto sabji. After lunch, there was a big kitchen cleanup, along with major prasadam distribution and production of three gallons of barbeque sauce, which took a lot of room and created even more dishes. Suddenly, at 4:30 all the guests left, and Baladeva and Amit were left to do a second cleanup and finish preparing the barbeque sauce. Meanwhile I went upstairs and phoned Krsna dasi in Trinidad.

Lost Letters

Sankarsana is new in sending out my Dictaphone recordings. Manohara showed him how to do it and even made a video of the step-by-step procedures. Sankarsana did send off my Dictaphone in the presence of Manohara, and it seemed to go all right. But after Manohara left, Sankarsana made a technical mistake and erased a batch of letters before the typist confirmed that he had received them. There is no way to retrieve them. Sankarsana acknowledged his mistake and wrote an email to the typist telling him what happened and how he knows what he did wrong and that it won’t happen again. I’m announcing here that if anyone wrote me an email and didn’t receive an answer for two weeks, he should write to me again his or her letter. It may have been one of those that got lost. If you haven’t received a reply to one of your emails, write me again, and I can answer yours with a new one by me.

Parkinson’s Doctor

Sankarsana surprised me by coming up, handing me the telephone and telling me it was the doctor’s office. As a rule I don’t speak on the phone with doctors or doctors’ secretaries. That’s Baladeva’s job (or one of my other servants could take down the message). But Sankarsana didn’t know, and so he handed me the phone. It was Dr. Kozer’s secretary. She told me that my January 10th appointment was canceled because the doctor had emergencies at home. Dr. Kozer is treating me for Parkinson’s disease. I was looking forward to going on January 10th. Every time he sees me he gives me a different medicine, and it seems to help. (For example, I am now able to use the stationary bike, which before I wasn’t able to use because of my legs being too weak.) Dr. Kozer’s secretary said there’s no open appointment until March. I was really disappointed to hear this. Then she said I had to bring in my three cards, proof that I had three vaccinations against COVID. This was the first time a doctor asked me for this proof. Fortunately, we have the cards. I was willing to go out in the snow and cold and ice just to get treated by the good doctor.


I’m trying to get to the bottom of my recurring dream that I’m a frustrated writer who wants to create a book but is always interrupted. Kathi wrote me that I should maybe ease off from writing and see what happens. But I’m already not writing (except for the weekly Journal and publishing books that I’ve written in the past). At least I’m having these recurring dreams, and it shows my desire is still alive. Kathi had wild experiences about dreams when she was younger, and now she is enthusiastic to get back into it. I think I’ll capitalize on her enthusiasm and try to get back to finding the bottom of my recurring dream.

Little Life

I’ve been wearing a pair of New Balance saffron shoes for three years, and they have become a bit worn down and dirty. Today I changed to a rusty-reddish pair. Why does a sannyasi change his shoes for new ones and pick a particular color? This reminds me of an anecdote about Srila Prabhupada. An outsider came and watched Prabhupada honoring prasadam and noticed he was using hot sauce. The fellow asked one of the devotees, “What’s with the hot sauce? I thought he was supposed to be completely renounced. Why does he use it?” A devotee answered the outsider: “He uses it because he likes it.” People have different tastes, and even a mahatma can express his preference for a certain taste. There is nothing hypocritical in this. Devotees also have different tastes in service, ultimately in their rasa with Krsna.

Today is Ekadasi. There’s a controversy in ISKCON whether Ekadasi should be observed by nirjala fasting or whether it should be a feast, a celebration, but avoidance of grains and beans. At Viraha Bhavan, we prefer the celebration mood. We serve Radha-Govinda a nice feast for Ekadasi. Today we offered Them baked cheesy zucchini, small round potatoes, broccoli with sour cream dip and sweet potato chips. And burfi for dessert. Srila Prabhupada did not observe nirjala fasting but honored a variety of Ekadasi preparations.

A Busy Weekend Ahead

Tomorrow (Friday) John Endler comes for a visit. His visits are charged with enthusiasm. On Saturday, Kirtan Rasa is coming, and also the devotees from Schenectady who will change the dress of large Gaura-Nitai. On Sunday, our friend and immigration lawyer Jayanta comes, along with a companion, Hari Vilasa, who is vice president of the Brooklyn temple. It will be a little strenuous to have so many visitors, but I like the association.

Book Excerpts

From A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, Volume 2


Canto 1, Chapter 4, “The Appearance of Sri Narada”

“Text 11

“‘He was such a great emperor that all his enemies would come and bow down at his feet and surrender all their wealth for their own benefit. He was full of youth and strength, and he possessed insuperable kingly opulences. Why did he want to give up everything, including his life?’


“This verse repeats the question asked in the previous verse, but it also provides more evidence of Maharaja Pariksit’s good fortune. The sages are emphasizing his power and opulence and success so that we can feel the shock of his choice to renounce it all to hear the Bhagavatam at the end of his life.

“I am reminded, in a very different context, of Srila Prabhupada lecturing on how President John F. Kennedy had everything—youth, wealth, a most powerful position, a beautiful wife—when suddenly it was taken away by death. Prabhupada’s point regarding JFK was that material opulence is illusion because it is destroyed by death. Maharaja Pariksit’s case, of course, is different because his opulence comes from spiritual cultivation. He was not a plunderer who faced the reaction of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword.’ Although the world was shocked by Kennedy’s death, how much more shocked we are to hear that the king has been cursed to die. The sages imply that Maharaja Pariksit’s renunciation was voluntary; he wasn’t driven out of office.

“The main cause of surprise at his power of renunciation is his youth. When an old man renounces everything, we say, ‘All right, he got out before it became ridiculous.’ But why a handsome youth at the height of his powers? Not only that, but he wasn’t struggling in any way to maintain his position. All other kings were subordinate to him. And he was pious and prosperous, and both his subjects and the earth were productive. It’s natural that people derive a portion of their own potency from the potency of the king. That is also true of the land which the king rules.

“Renunciation is one of the six opulences that defines Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Aisvaryasya samagrasya, viryasya yasasah sriyah (Visnu Purana, 6.5.47): ‘Full wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation—these are the six opulences of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ The Lord possesses all opulences, but still He is not attached to any of them. Therefore, His power of renunciation is the greatest. Nara-Narayana Rsi is sometimes considered the manifestation of the Lord’s opulence of renunciation, but Krsna also manifested vairagya when He appeared as Lord Caitanya and followed the sannyasa principles.

Bhakti-yoga is described as vairagya-vidya nija bhakti-yoga, or the life of devotion and renunciation. Therefore, it is not amazing for experienced devotees to hear that a bhakta as great as the king is capable of manifesting such an opulence. Maharaja Bharata was a similarly young and powerful king, and he too renounced everything as if it were stool. The Six Gosvamis were also highly placed men in society, and they too renounced their positions as insignificant and went to live as mendicants in Vrndavana. It may seem incredible to outsiders that a devotee in a fortunate situation is so easily able to extricate himself from it and take to a life of apparent hardship and reduced facilities.

“Actually, however, the devotee is joyful as he enhances his Krsna consciousness. This is especially true when a devotee eliminates all distractions and concentrates only on chanting and hearing as Maharaja Pariksit did.”



“We may practice our own renunciation in a variety of ways. We may take on a discipline, as when we follow rules and regulations under the order of an authority. In the beginning of spiritual life, a neophyte may still have a taste for illicit sex or intoxication, but he renounces them under the authority of the guru. The strength of the vow can counteract the persistent material desires.

“At a more advanced stage, we practice renunciation based on our taste for something higher. Visaya-vinivartante, niraharasya dehinah/ rasa-varjam raso ‘py asya, param drstva nivartate. (Bg. 2.59) ‘The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.’

“Maharaja Pariksit was not giving up sinful activity or those things detrimental to his Krsna consciousness, but because his duties were complicated and did not allow him full time for hearing and chanting, Krsna made the arrangement that he could hear the Bhagavatam. And through him, the whole world was able to hear it. Sometimes a devotee is forced to become renounced in order to leave behind those things that are unfavorable to his devotional service. This forced renunciation is Krsna’s special mercy upon the sincere devotee. Prabhupada said that Krsna worked like that in his own life, extricating him from business and family in order to fully situate him in life as a renounced preacher. Yasyaham anugrhnami, harisye tad-dhanam sanaih/ tato ‘dhanam tyajanty asya, svajana duhkha-duhkhitam: ‘If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.’ (Bhag. 10.88.8)”



“This is my prayer: as Maharaja Pariksit surrendered everything, I have to surrender everything. I have to give my life, my desires, my service to the will of Krsna. Let my life flow in a way that serves the sankirtana movement and pleases my spiritual master. Please allow me to be renounced, not in a stunted or miserly way, but with overflowing attachment to Krsna.

“Prabhupada was the most renounced because he never claimed his assets for himself. Rather, he used them all—wealth, power, his thousands of disciples—in Krsna’s service. He accepted the responsibility of his austerity. That is, he managed a world movement and traveled widely to maintain it. He stayed up late at night worrying about his disciples and their deviations, rebellions, quarrels, and the growing opposition from the nondevotees. He described his own mood as similar to that of Vasudeva, who feared that Kamsa would kill Krsna. Prabhupada felt the same ecstasy of fearfulness as ISKCON’s protective parent.

“Renunciation isn’t always accomplished, therefore, by renouncing our duties. Sometimes accepting a burden on behalf of guru is a symptom of renunciation. A critic might see Prabhupada taking wealth from his disciples, assuming power over their lives, enjoying worldwide travel, and receiving affectionate worship, but a devotee will understand the mood of austerity and sacrifice behind Prabhupada’s activities. If Prabhupada enjoyed anything, it was the pleasure he was able to give to his spiritual master through his preaching efforts. He also enjoyed defeating Mayavadis. Prabhupada was a fighter who, like Arjuna, loved to use his warrior spirit in the Lord’s service. Whatever he enjoyed was not sense gratification but a flavor of bhakti. It should not be misunderstood as anything but that.”



“Actually, Prabhupada’s life story reminds me of the story of King Priyavrata. Priyavrata was living a renounced life as Narada’s disciple on a mountaintop. He had already given the throne to his younger brother, Uttanapada, but when Uttanapada was killed, Lord Brahma requested Priyavrata to assume the duties of emperor. Lord Brahma assured Priyavrata that even though he was leaving the life of a renunciate and taking on the life of a worldly man, Krsna would protect his devotion. That proved to be true.

“In a similar way, we may be required at different times of our lives to renounce the pleasure of our convenient renunciation—as Prabhupada did when he left the shelter of Radha-Damodara in Vrndavana and came to America—and to accept the life of active service. Or, we may be required to renounce the life of active service and take up a quieter routine of internal cultivation. What we must never renounce, however, is the order of guru and Krsna. And, Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, we must never renounce charity, penance, and sacrifice.

“In other words, don’t renounce chanting on your beads, don’t renounce eating only krsna-prasadam, don’t renounce Vaisnava association, don’t renounce hearing the Bhagavatam. Stay alive in Krsna consciousness. Krsna will usually signal to us what we need to jettison (if we are a king) and what burdens we must accept (even if we prefer not to accept them) if we want to come closer to His lotus feet.”



“Keep going, mate, and try to follow your own good advice. You’re on a roll, so go ahead, but don’t go beyond your realization.

“We do that sometimes in our enthusiasm to preach. We start saying all this ideal stuff that we can’t even follow ourselves. It’s the power of the verse and purports—we get carried away by their wisdom—and we try to carry away the audience too. Suddenly, we all find ourselves saying, ‘Yeah, you’re right,’ and considering how to renounce all the unfavorable things in our lives to improve our Krsna consciousness. The power of sound vibration.

“Someone had that renounced attitude after meeting Lord Caitanya too. He immediately decided to renounce wife and home and follow the Lord. Lord Caitanya told that Kurma brahmana to stay at home but to tell everyone he met about Krsna and to become guru of his country. Lord Caitanya promised to be with him always in his service.

“Yeah, renounce, go to Vrndavana, live in a cave in seclusion, and chant Hare Krsna day and night. Who needs an apartment? Just go out and distribute books full-time, always dependent on Krsnas mercy. Or even better, move your family into the nearest Hare Krsna temple and surrender. Accept any accommodations and educate your children with whatever means are available. Don’t worry, the temple president will take care of that. Simply engage all your energies in the temple’s service.

“Hmm. . . . It doesn’t always work that way. The temple president may not be able to accommodate you or your needs or your actual level of realization or renunciation.

“We’re left to figure it out. Let’s do it now. Okay, Satsvarupa, open all the drawers in this desk. Let’s see what you have in there. Aha! A tape of Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writer’s Workshop’ and some poetry books. Come on, throw them out. What else have you got? Burn those slang words and those Americanisms and memories. And no more dreams unless they are explicitly Krsna conscious. Where’s your dhoti?! How come you’re wearing sweatpants? And what about those dentures? Raghunatha dasa Gosvami didn’t wear dentures, and he only ate a spot of butter every third day. Don’t wear sewn clothes, and chant more rounds. Bow down to a hundred thousand Vaisnavas a day. What’s this fax machine? And a typewriter? For publishing books, you say? Your books? Give it up, give it all up, and simply chant Hare Krsna.

“It’s not so easy. O Krsna, I don’t want to be counted among Your enemies. Please teach me how to surrender. Teach me whatever I need to know in my own interests. I am stuck with this free will and I tend to play with it and string out my desires.

“O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please save me.
Here is a list of things I do want to renounce:
I want to renounce falling asleep in the rocking chair
while I chant my rounds.
I want to renounce too much comfort.
No, I need to drop beneath logic. . . .”



“Nonlogical Quick List of Things to Renounce”

“(1) Buttermilk.
(2) Persimmons.
(3) Haiku, Japanese poetry—the enjoying mood.
(4) Attachment, taste of sense grat.
(5) Oh, but I can’t.
(6) Nature Cure strictures—stop eating at first belch, don’t eat grains, never take medicine.
(7) Hermit life.
(8) Christian books.
(9) Anything unfavorable for service.
(10) Confessing all in print (it may be a form of exhibitionism).
(11) ‘Streaking’ (running naked in public).
(12) Mundane poets.
(13) Life—you’ll have to. Actually, you don’t give it up, you just consent to what Time takes away.
(14) Fear and resentment. Anger at Madhu and the cooks when they bring the wrong things—cold halava—or they run out of cider.
(15) Looking at women with an enjoying spirit. It’s a joke at my age.
(16) Faultfinding of all kinds.
(17) Naivete.

“And use whatever you have in the Lord’s service. Yukta-vairagya. Let it flow. Use the armies! Use the missiles!

“I can’t use anything. My festival is like a muni’s forest festival; all I have is a few roots and herbs—a few writing tricks. Don’t renounce them. Write on.

“I hereby renounce the Bank of America. I hereby renounce my American citizenship and my membership in the European Economic Community or any such community in Brazil or India. (But I won’t surrender my faded U.S. passport.)

“I won’t surrender, not to karmis, to cuties, to fear.

“I won’t surrender to New Age gurus, to girls’ wiles, to demons or to the pressure of the anti-cultists.

“I won’t give up!

“A twinkling, merry man I am, a real Rock Bottom who carved himself a walking stick and put on Wellies.

“I won’t renounce this cabin while I’m here to use it, although it’s not mine to possess (nothing is mine.) I won’t renounce my attempt to improve my sixteen rounds.

“I can’t renounce my upcoming death, or the idea of it, but would like to renounce samsara.

“O Lord, I won’t give up the mad hope of attaining Your lotus feet.

“I won’t give up writing letters to disciples or printing Among
Friends or give in to the critics. I will give up upadhis. Although
I’d like to, I can’t renounce my headaches. They seem to be here
to stay.”

From Morning Songs


Village Celebration”

“5:46 AM, March 20

“We had a village celebration
of Gaura Purnima
in our house. All the chairs
removed to make more
room for twenty adults and twelve children
including the two newest superstar infants
and the 12-year-old girls with long
legs, tight pants and long hair braiding
and the rowdy five-year-old boys
sprawling and fighting on the floor
and many respectable adults listening
to the Swami tell biographical sketch
of the entire gaura-lila. The
girls were braiding their hair in front
of him and he aptly said Lord Caitanya
made everyone sad by cutting His hair,
how would you feel if you had to
shave your hair? ‘I would cry,’
Subhadra said, and Clare looked at
me seriously innocently as if to say,
‘You wouldn’t do that.’

“I led the chant in a steady
voice, not fearful that they would
think the monotony of my same
tune boring but pushing on
in a bhava that they responded
to strongly all looking up to me
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna for forty
minutes, holding the tune.

“While in the kitchen they prepared
the plates, and I watched them
do it, until finally he came
out and told me you can stop now and we’ll distribute
sweet rice, pakoras, kerela wheels,
spinach and many things and drinks.
It was a free spirit village
festival. Our little community
turned out strong, mixing,
talking among themselves
while they were eating.
They said my lecture was
good, and kirtana, and afterwards
I stayed and talked singly
to individuals about their
lives, struggles and progress,
a nice day at Stuyvesant
Falls held in our house.”



“4:55 A.M.

“I woke up at 1:30 AM and
began my japa bhajana.
After an hour I developed
a twinge in my right eye and
took a med. I had no time
to write a poem. I can’t judge
my chanting, but it was all performed
in the numerical count and the syllables
heard in my mind.

“There are thirty-three
varieties of subordinate ecstasies that
rise and fall in the five steady
of neutrality, servitorship,
friendship, parental love and conjugal
love. The position of neutrality
reaches up to the point where one
can appreciate love of Godhead. The
nature of servitorship gradually rises
to the point of spontaneous love of
Godhead. Only in the conjugal
mellow are there two ecstatic
symptoms called rudha (advanced) and
(highly advanced).

“The advanced ecstasies are found among the
queens of Dvaraka, and the highly advanced
ecstasies are found among the gopis.
Highly advanced ecstasy is divided
into two categories—madan
and mohana. Madan is called meeting, and separation
is called mohana. On the madan platform
there are kissing and many other
symptoms. In the mohana stage
there are divisions with unsteadiness
and varieties of mad emotional talks.”

From My Dear Lord Krsna: A Book of Prayers


I pray to You to spare me from calamities. In 1974, Srila Prabhupada wrote me a personal note. It contained the sentence, ‘May Krsna save you from all calamities.’ That struck me deeply, and I felt it was a blessing of protection from my spiritual master. But many years later, I fell to a personal calamity due to disobedience and misuse of my free will. I am praying to You to show me how to avoid any repetition of personal calamity, especially due to my own misuse of free will. I realize a personal calamity may befall me for a reason beyond my control, such as an adhibautika or adhidaivika misery (miseries committed by other living entities or from natural forces, like earthquakes). How can I avoid the adhyatmika’s miseries, miseries caused by my own mind or body? Miseries caused by my body, such as cancer, are beyond my control for the most part. But miseries caused by the mind can be controlled or go out of control by my own misbehavior.

“A transcendentalist can tolerate the disturbances to the body by practice of self-control. But how can I tolerate temptations and not fall under illusion and commit acts of illicit sex, intoxication, or blasphemy?

“Maybe I am overcomplicating this question. The simple answer is to be submissive to You and my spiritual master and to obey my initiation vows. But maya is strong and attacks us in subtle ways and seeks out our weaknesses. I know some sure-fire techniques for fighting the enemy. A sannyasi should never stay alone and talk intimately with a woman, not even his mother or daughter. One should avoid the association of persons who have bad habits such as smoking, drinking or faultfinding. But even these strictures may not be enough. You say, ‘One’s own mind can be the best friend or the worst enemy.’ Just keeping to yourself may still leave you vulnerable to illicit whisperings of maya.

“Keeping the company of good, like-minded devotees is a sharp antidote to wrong action. Spending a good amount of time chanting Hare Krsna japa keeps you on the safe side, and engaging in congregational sankirtana is an excellent emergency measure to engage in regularly. You have recommended all these acts, and I shall follow them to save myself. Staying out of maya is of prime importance because we need to practice thinking of You at the time of death—which is fast approaching.

“A beautiful woman is the quintessential symbol of maya. When Putana, the horrible-looking witch, wanted to gain entry into Your presence as a baby, she assumed the form of a shapely woman with beautiful features and was permitted to enter Your room, although she was a stranger. Although all the vrajavasis were tricked by Putana’s apparent beauty, You saw through her disguise and killed her by sucking out her life. Another demon infiltrated Your presence in the disguise of a cowherd boy, and another came in the form of a charming calf, but You saw through these façades and killed these dangerous demons. I pray that You will give me the savvy to see the approach of Mayadevi in my life so that I will be able to act as You and Balarama acted and not be bewildered by outer appearances.

Maya may enter our lives in many ways, but if we are attentive in our Krsna consciousness, You will always give us the signal that, ‘Here is another demon.’ You will also give us the discretion and strength to avoid her. By following Srila Prabhupada’s clear advice, I will always be spared from further calamities and ultimately take shelter at Your lotus feet, where there is no material maya.

From Japa Reform Notebook



“The Third Offense

“Srila Prabhupada was chanting Hare Krsna when he came to New York City in 1965. One could have thought, ‘Well, he’s Indian, sannyasi. This is his religion. It’s not mine.’ But then when you become his disciple, his servant, then you chant Hare Krsna, because he’s the spiritual master and he says that this is the process. And when you become the servant and you chant in that way, then the name will reveal itself to you. But you can’t chant without that connection with the spiritual master as his servant. This is the meaning of diksa.

“‘It is the spiritual master who delivers the disciple from the clutches of maya by initiating him into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. In this way, a sleeping human being can revive his consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In other words, the spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Visnu. This is the purpose of diksa, or initiation.’

“So for any disciple to make advancement in spiritual life, he must guard carefully against this offense. He must not neglect the orders of the spiritual master.”

From Songs from Stuyvesant Falls


“5:01 AM”

Raghunatha began begging alms from
the priest at the Simha-dvara gate.
When He heard this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
was very pleased with Raghunatha’s
renunciation. But then Raghunatha began
to think that this method of obtaining food was
like a prostitute. He would think, ‘This person
gave me food yesterday,
maybe he will give me again.
I shall approach this other person and
beg from him.’ So he stopped begging at
the Simha-dvara gate and went to the free-
food distribution booths. This pleased Sri Caitanya
more and He gave Raghunatha
His personal Govardhana-sila and conchshells to
worship. Then Raghunatha started eating
the rejected food that even the cows
would not eat. When Lord Caitanya heard
this He went to Raghunatha and forcibly ate
some of that rejected food. Raghunatha tried
to stop the Lord but He said, ‘This food
is nectar, why don’t you invite Me
to come and share it?’ In this way the
Lord showed His great pleasure with Raghunatha
who spent all his time chanting the holy
names and worshiping the Govardhana-sila.
Hearing of the Lord‘s affection for
Raghunatha I am amazed, and I know that I can’t imitate
His practices. I chant my sixteen
rounds with attention and relish
hearing the Lord’s dealings with His
intimate devotees”



Radha addresses Krsna as the Lord of Mathura
and asks, ‘Why would You be merciful to
us now?’ She became stunned and said,
‘O Syamasundara, You are more dear
to us than our own lives . . . When You
left us You said, ‘I will return.’ But
having to wonder whether You will
return or not confuses us. So please
give us some consolation.’ Bhaktivinoda Thakura
writes that the topmost bhajana is to
follow the gopis’ mood of separation
from Krsna.

“Jayadvaita Maharaja told me of his work
with the BBT in 40 countries of
Africa. They have a beautiful building
in South Africa and hold a yearly
conference to which 600 BBT
representatives attend and receive
inspired directions. They have
printed a book in Zulu.
He also visited Cairo and found
the people very friendly and
they are preparing a book in Arabic.
He’s still working on his commentary on
Ecclesiastes and hopes to find some
concentrated time for writing it
in India. He’s friendly to me, and
his health is pretty good.
He is a world-traveler
and lectures often, a
real sannyasi.

“Radharani stands faithfully beside Govinda,
holding flowers in Her hands. He plays His flute,
and They give me solace in the worship of
madhurya-rasa. I play music while I
look upon Them. I am feeling weak in
my body and confine my movements and
talk only an hour a day with the Swami.
But I am basically happy in my bhajana
kutir. My solitary early morning japa
is a great balm on my heart.”

From ISKCON in the 1970s: Diaries

“Why This Party Feeling?”

February 5—March 23, 1976

“In this chapter we see, among other things, how Srila Prabhupada expertly assuaged a big debate regarding the so-called superiority of sannyasi devotees over grhastha devotees, which had threatened to form a schism in his movement. We have to admit that there has been a change since Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. Because he was personally present to sit us all down together before him, he was able to correct the party spirit of the grhastha-sannyasi debates. He is not present in the same way now to solve such disagreements, which regrettably still go on among his devotees. This means that now we have to be even more sober, and it is expected that we will be, since we have grown up over the years. If we study Prabhupada’s instructions, and if we all act humbly as servants, we can still come before him—at least in spirit—and try to solve our problems.

“In some of the ongoing debates that continue in ISKCON, there is often intricate discussion of detailed arguments. We might better take the advice Prabhupada gives as quoted in this chapter: ‘When too many questions were asked, he said, “Too much detail will make us lose the central thing.’ When hearing both sides as to why sannyasis should be allowed to take men from the temples, or why the temples should not be disturbed by the sannyasis, Prabhupada kept emphasizing, ‘Why this party feeling?’ Even more important than the rightness or wrongness of the individual arguments was the need to stop the party spirit, which could crack the movement’s unity. ‘Everyone should be a servant,’ Prabhupada said.”

From Japa Transformations


Chanting the names,
don’t exaggerate how well you did. But
you have to give credit
where credit is due.

“The credit is due to Mahaprabhu
and His munificent gesture of giving
and emphasizing harinama. I
chanted this morning with most
working parts intact, and that makes
me very satisfied, even though I
know it was not a brilliant session.

“He’s so kind, He’s made the names
absolute, so even feeble chanting
counts for a lot. And He gives you
hope you’ll get better.

“‘Better quality, better quantity,’ that’s my private prayer-mantra. Today I feel patient with myself, assuring it will come. Adding times when I chant. But I rarely chant except with the beads in hand, counting it as my quota. I have a tape of Srila Prabhupada holding kirtana at Dr. Mishra’s ashram. When I play that, I sing along, and I continue singing when it stops.”



“But when I was asked if I knew what I wanted, I quietly answered, ‘Yes,’ and thought of krsna-prema. Am I like a blind man trying to see the moon? Nevertheless, this is my desire.

“What am I doing to try to attain it? I am practicing regular Krsna consciousness and harboring my desire for the advanced state. I am following the recommended process of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra every day, and I am rendering service in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. I am regularly hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana. I may not succeed in my desire in this lifetime. Rupa Gosvami says pious activities are not enough, but the practices that I am following are more than mere pious activities performed for elevation to higher planets or other auspicious material results. My practices are pure bhakti-yoga, as taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu and given to me by my spiritual master, a pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.

“I pray that You nurture this desire in me so that it becomes intense greed. I pray in the mood of Lord Caitanya’s Siksastakam, ‘I do not want wealth, beautiful women, or followers. All I want in my life is Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.’ My standing in devotional service may be laughably immature for me to ask for krsna-prema, but that is my stubborn desire. I don’t want something else. I want the best thing. I may not be serving strongly enough to deserve it, but I openly beg for Your mercy. Why should a person desire less than this? Pure love of God is the ultimate goal of life, the most desirable object.”

From From Imperfection, Purity Will Come About: Writing Sessions While Reading Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Saranagati


“Bhaktivinode Thakura’s Dainya songs are intense. The word dainya means ‘wretched, miserable, afflicted, poverty-stricken, low-spirited, feeble.’ He has infused every stanza with that mood in his depiction of an old man who sees all his plans frustrated. Too old to enjoy the senses now, troubled by diseases and anxieties—and it’s obvious that nothing will improve. There’s nothing to look forward to but death. ‘I would worship You, O Lord, but it is a useless hope.’

“I want to empathize with his mood, but I will have to depart from it also. It’s not my normal state. My state is peace-seeking, counting blessings, looking for deeper entrance into Krsna consciousness, an awareness that I’m not advanced and not pure. I’m thankful for what I have. I haven’t awakened to deep remorse over what I lack.

“I don’t feel complacent or ingenuous as we sit in our Renault van atop a mountain, near a sanctuary built into the rock. I am a little worried thieves and murderers could come during the night, but I also entrust my life to Krsna and try to overlook that possibility.

“Tomorrow we will go down to this town and begin a five-day Ayurvedic treatment. After that, I’ll be free to write in peace. This is where I’m at externally. Internally, the quality I am seeking may take many, many births. It’s not cheap. But this is all I have for now. Anyway, let me write even now. I am not writing because I feel forced, but because I want to. Prabhupada said of his own writing, ‘Why I get up at night, one o’clock, and do this job? Because I cannot do without it. How will one do it artificially? This is quality. Therefore they like my purports.’ (Conversation With Srila Prabhupada, November 2, 1975).”

Writing Sessions

From Karttika Moon


Karttika Lights, 1995


(Writing Sessions from October 1-7)

“Writing Session #8”

“October 8

“Time flies; tempus fugit. Also, flies buzz in this room, dying. Respect them, don’t just be annoyed with them. It’s a tough life. You are fortunate, just a little chilly, but you have some clothes to keep warm and can use heaters. So, unlike the flies, you intend to survive the winter. And many more winters. Then like the flies too, go against the window pane, buzz some last times, bump and grope and expire, and it’s another corpse on the floor.

“But you leave your writings; you and Thomas Merton. Library. Library of Congress. ‘A spirit embalmed forever.’ Spirit goes on to a next body. Where you go is real self-interest, more than what you leave in this world. But what you do leave is also important, as a contribution. You should do something worthy.

Some disciples of Srila Prabhupada think that maybe he is not the only figure in their lives. They want to find themselves. Maybe they think, ‘I am meant to do something further; maybe being the strict disciple of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON is one long phase of my life, but I need to move on to the next.’ They could even argue that Srila Prabhupada went outside of his spiritual master’s institution when it broke into factions. That is circumstantial, however. The essence is that he dedicated his life to the full-time carrying out of his spiritual master’s order that he preach Krsna consciousness in the West.

“So, for me too, guru-seva is the essence. I seek it in reading and writing. Associate with devotees. I don’t see ISKCON as fit to abandon.

“Tomorrow is Karttika’s first day. I won’t be in Vrndavana or Gita-nagari. In the afternoon we’ll start to travel. Can I begin some writing project on Karttika? Could it continue during the five days’ scheduled travel until we reach the retreat house? Would that be nice? It would give you a cause, a means to absorb yourself as you travel. But you don’t want to confine yourself to what you write once you reach the retreat.

“But you could use guidance, no harm in a running start. The retreat can sometimes be a time when you are relieved, grateful, but can’t write as directedly as you’d like to.

“Seems you do either Writing Sessions or a timed book or both. And poems and drawings. Let your spirit enter the free realms. While you practice reading at different times in the day and with limited body and intellect.

“Yes, no harm if you get a head start. You could put down a statement tomorrow, ‘Here starts my Karttika book.’

“Karttika book, a schnook in spirit. (No, don’t mock yourself.)

“A Karttika festival. (No.)

“A Karttika in Ireland. (No. But that’s closer to the truth.)

“A Karttika retreat. (But what the heck is Karttika to me? Don’t you have some direction actually?)

“‘No, not yet. I’m looking forward to increasing writing. I don’t call it a vow. Vrata. Let it be more free than that, a love, Katyayani. Katyayani, we want Krsna as our husband.

Can’t claim that either.
But like it or not,
ready or not,
Karttika is upon us
time flies
we are writing
on the run
and when settled in
it’s Karttika and
you are supposed to be doing something.”

“(15 minutes, October 7, New Vraja-mandala, Spain)

“Writing Session #9”

“We are going to go with the Karttika Lights, to vow (sort of) that the whole Damodara month is a timed book. Not to quit it is my vow. That means the WS method will be probably be retired for now. We can ‘always’ write WS, eh? It is good, the no-form form.

“This day at the ISKCON farm (which is not a farm, has a small gurukula). I told M. that I feel anxious because I had no definite writing project, and the precious days would go by on the road disjointed, without the center that writing gives to life.

“(Just see, he’s in the writing life, this guy.) It’s true.

“Also anxious because on the road means you may break down. The Brittany Ferry company said phone twenty-four hours before the scheduled departure. Why? Because something might happen. The whole trip is like that. We already had warnings that our van is gradually falling apart. Therefore, if I am committed to writing, even if there is a breakdown, it can become grist for the mill. Even a bad situation can be interesting writing. But I like to be prepared for that. For example, if you decide to write a travel diary, then unusual incidents provide you with something to write about, and of course, you reflect on it in a Krsna conscious way.

“Is the Karttika Lights a book you can start and take on the road? Yes, we will. But it’s more for settling in at the retreat house. Karttika in one place, in contemplating, concentrating on your practices. And if you are in Vrndavana, reap the benefits of residence in a holy dhama. The retreat is a holy space. The road in our van may be less so. But you can transform it from mere mileage and fatigue and ache into something, I hope, ‘to increase your devotion.’

“We’ll see when we get underway.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare.
A writing session is a shesh-in, a kind of dance
where you sit in a wigwam.
But you’re a devotee of Krsna
and pen words to that effect.
He taught me three modes,
taught us how to transcend.
You can listen to a lecture,
say ‘We are at a P-stop,
here’s a biscuit offered to
photo of Prabhupada murti,’
now on, on, M. is pressing
to cover 500 kilometers and
soon stop, reach the ferry
port, Karttika ki jaya.
Somehow, we’ll get there
and then write in mood
of studier of books
chanter of rounds.”

“(10 minutes, October 7, New Vraja-mandala, Spain)”


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