I received an email from a devotee who is not my disciple. She said she loves to read my books but has difficulty securing them. I wrote and told her how she can get them from Amazon or SDGLegacy.com. She also wrote and said she could do some service for me. I wrote her back and asked her if she can do typing. We need typists if we are going to meet the marathon deadline of printing all the books I have written about Prabhupada by next Vyasa-puja.
Krishna Bhajana has come up with material I’ve written for two more volumes of Prabhupada Meditations (Volume 5 and Volume 6). I was happy to hear this, but that is so much more typing that has to be done, and we have so few people who are typing on this project. I wrote to this devotee and asked her if she could type. I am hoping from a positive response from her. I also ask all my readers of this Journal to consider whether they could do some typing on my project of getting all the books I’ve written about Srila Prabhupada into print. Please let me know if you could volunteer to do some typing.
In February of 2022, the devotees in Trinidad will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the installation of Radha-Gopinatha. The temple president, Panca Tattva devi dasi, wants to talk to me on the phone about it. Then she wants me to speak on Zoom on the occasion of the celebration. I don’t remember much about it, but she will fill me in with some of the details. I like Panca Tattva very much. She is a staunch manager.
I talk frequently to Krsna dasi in Trinidad, trying to give her consolation over the loss of her husband, Bala. She is doing well. She told me some of the women in Trinidad asked her what are her plans. I suggested they were thinking whether she would get remarried. But she said that thought never enters her mind. She will stay for some time in Trinidad and then come up and join us in Viraha Bhavan, where she will be joined by a couple of ladies who will keep her company in her house. She is setting an ideal example of a chaste widow, an example that other women can follow. She says she often thinks about the Krsna conscious philosophy and applies it to her life. She means that every one of us can pass away at any moment, and we must prepare ourselves for going back to Godhead.
Jayanta made the long drive from New Jersey to visit us today. He said he likes driving alone; it gives him freedom to think of many things, like themes for poetry and other thoughts. Jayanta is a lawyer. We talked about two hours about legal matters with GN Press and about the history of his coming to Krsna consciousness. I told him he should write about the whole story. It’s one of the most interesting stories a devotee can write: “How I Came to Krsna Consciousness.” I told him it would be good therapy, and that it would help other people in their coming to K.C.
Jayanta stayed for lunch. He enjoyed Sankarsana’s pizza, which was taught to Sankarsana by Guna-grahi Maharaja of Krishnafest. These thin and crispy pizzas are his trademark pizzas. Jayanta took a turn reading in our out-loud reading session. He very much enjoyed it and said how much better it was for him to read aloud than to read silently. He said Prabhupada came through more for him in the purports when he read aloud.
Jayanta talked to Sankarsana, and Sankarsana reminded him of a time when they met in Vrndavana. During that Vrndavana trip Jayanta received an overseas phone call from his law office. It was about an ugly legal case he had to deal with. The phone call ruined Jayanta’s day, and he said people don’t understand what it means to be in Vrndavana—they think you’re on vacation. Jayanta went to the basement and saw my art place. He was very impressed by the bas-relief work done by Yasoda Dulal, the scene of Lord Caitanya caught in the net by a fisherman, and another one of Srila Vyasadeva, with me touching his feet. Jayanta picked out a painting by myself of Krsna lifting Govardhana Hill, and he took it home.
Haridasa from Guyana also came today. He cleaned the temple room, plucked manjaris from the tulasis, made nice vases for the altar and went through last week’s flowers to separate them and find out if any were still good.
I frequently make phone calls to Krsna dasi. She’s staying in Trinidad during the bitter months of winter, avoiding upstate New York. I try my best to offer her condolences for her deceased husband, Bala. Of course she’s grieving for him, but she’s gradually getting stronger and enjoys the paradise-like climate of the Caribbean. She wears white saris and takes morning walks and listens to the many birds. She’s planning to come back in March, and we hope she’ll be joined by two lady devotees who will share her house up here at Stuyvesant Falls. She’ll then stay here during all the months of moderate weather. She does many services here, and we miss her very much.
I dreamt I was running along with hundreds of people, like in an Iron Man competition. The dream lasted awhile, and I was running and running and running. I was very happy, and when I woke up from the dream, I continued to feel blissful. The fact is my legs are crippled and I can’t even walk, except when I push a four-wheeled Rollator. But from books I have read in the past about lucid dreaming, they give testimonies that many people have cured physical ailments. By dreaming, they got better during their sleep. After that running dream, I wish I would have more dreams of myself running or even walking on a hike. That would be blissful.
Just opposite to my happy dream about running and running, I had a bad dream that I was at a party with young people. I was dressed in new clothing, with a white sweater and white pants. But every surface of the house—the walls, the table, the floor, etc.—was fresh white paint! I rubbed up against it inadvertently and became stained with the paint. There were supervisors present to see that law and order were kept, and they came up to me and reprimanded me for being painted. It was a comedy of errors, a nightmare. I thought of Vaikunthanatha Prabhu’s memoirs of Srila Prabhupada. He wrote that just after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, he had many recurring dreams where Prabhupada came to him and said, “I’m still here. I haven’t left. I’m still with you.” These dreams gave Vaikunthanatha great solace. I wish I had had dreams like that. I’ll state my strong intentions to have some before I go to sleep and see what happens.
We’re in the grips of winter. The temperatures go down at night to one degree Fahrenheit or even zero. The snow falls. The plow trucks come by regularly and clean the road. But the snow doesn’t melt and stays on the lawns. But the time seems to go by quickly. It’s already past the middle of January, and then February comes close behind. As for March, they say, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The poet Shelley wrote, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
By “Little Life” I mean small, everyday events that I write about when there’s nothing momentous happening. In the past I’ve written about what my neighbors may be doing, news about my health, etc. This week I have a changing of the guard in servants. Sankarsana, who has been here for two weeks, is leaving, and Krishna Kripa has just arrived. He didn’t have time to get trained up by Sankarsana, so he’s fitting in quickly and learning how to do things, keeping a notebook. I have a visit upcoming, an appointment with the healthcare provider, and tomorrow I go to the dentist to get my upper loose denture fixed. I have been appearing on Zoom with no upper teeth, and it’s a little embarrassing to me. That means I have two outdoor appointments in the frigid cold (2° Fahrenheit). I’ll wear long underwear under my sweatpants and hope that will be enough. John Endler is scheduled to come on Friday, his first visit since before Christmas. Sankarsana trained Krishna Kripa up for one day only. We hope that he will catch on to the many details of service. And that’s what it’s like to live in a little ashram in a little town in upstate New York.
It looks like I have only one rabbit today. Me and my partner scratched our heads quite a while but couldn’t come up with a second rabbit. We threw the bucket down the well, and it came up empty. We reached into the magician’s hat but couldn’t catch any rabbit ears. And that’s the way it is on a one-rabbit day. I’m not afraid of rabbits, but a big hare is something else. Today’s rabbit may have run into the briar patch, and I can’t follow him in there. Regarding throwing the bucket into the well, pulling it up and finding there’s no water, St. Theresa of Avila wrote that one should not give up trying. One day you throw the bucket in the well and it will come up with water. Similarly, we should not give up on looking for rabbits—they will come in their own way.
I’ve explained what “rabbits” are in my writing process. I say they are like a magician putting his hand into a top hat and pulling out a rabbit by its ears. They’re not easy to get, but we sincerely try for them, and often find a couple each day. Ouijas are a different thing. After picking two rabbits, we turn to my published books. I look at the long row of books on the shelf and pick out one randomly. Then I open the book at random and put my finger on the page. I compare it to a divining rod: a stick you hold over the ground, and it trembles and jerks downward when it finds water under the ground. It’s kind of “mystical.” We have faith that there’s enough good material in my books that we’ll find an excerpt, not too long or too short, and that’s interesting, and I’ll use that for my “Ouija of the day.” Then I do it again. I pick up another random book off my shelf, open the book, turn to the page at random and place my finger on the page. We have more luck with the Ouijas than with the rabbits.
“Even in the early days of ISKCON, Prabhupada handed out healthy doses of responsibility to his disciples. He didn’t want irresponsible hippies around. My first impulse upon establishing the beginnings of a relationship with Prabhupada was to quit my job at the welfare office. I wanted to be able to sit around with the boys in the storefront, listening to Swamiji all day. Prabhupada did not approve, however, and he requested that I keep my job and donate money to 26 Second Avenue. Following his advice made me feel responsible to him and to our little ISKCON family. He never allowed me to think that spiritual life was a transcendental version of hippie life, which might have been my tendency. Rather, he encouraged me to help him provide shelter for the devotees so that there could be an environment where everyone could hear and chant about Krsna.
“Therefore Saunaka Rsi’s question: how could the Emperor, who is responsible to provide such shelter to millions of living beings, renounce his duty in the name of peacefully executing his own Krsna consciousness? How could he become purified by such an act? Purification comes when we diligently perform our assigned duties and fulfill our Krsna conscious responsibility to others. The Bhagavatam states, gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat: ‘One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.’ (Bhag. 5.5.18) That means more than simply teaching transcendental precepts or setting an example of ascetic renunciation. It means creating a situation in which others can practically prosecute their own spiritual development.
“Again, Srila Prabhupada taught us this in his own preaching. When he awarded us sannyasa in 1972, I was immediately eager to take on the life of a traveling preacher. At the same time, I was hesitant to leave my duties with the Dallas gurukula and the Spiritual Sky Incense company that was supporting the temple. Gradually I found that there were others who were willing to assume my duties, and I realized that I had to renounce the mentality that things would not go on without my input. I saw that it was immature to leave my service without proper consideration, and it was just as immature to unnecessarily remain attached to it.
“But what about Maharaja Pariksit? A key factor in his own determination was that he had been cursed to die within seven days. If he had not known of this curse, he would not have renounced his duties so quickly. As long as we are young and in normal health, our Krsna conscious duty is to remain active in the mission. In fact, remaining active in service is the best way to prepare for death. Life is more important than death, and real life is Krsna consciousness. Neither should we create a false duality in our minds about what our duties are while we are alive and what they will become when we are preparing to die. The essence of our duty is to hear and chant about Krsna, and to render Him selfless service under the directions of the spiritual master. At the time of death our concentration may shift from outward preaching to inward cultivation, but the same basic Krsna conscious essence is there in either case. In Maharaja Pariksit’s case, it was time for him to switch his concentration to inward cultivation. He had his notice.”
“We gabble like hurt seagulls
sometimes, fast-talking poets on street
corners. Will we devotees break out
from what we cannot understand?
Find freedom? Prove something?
Free from resentment for lives spent
differently than planned,
now picking up the thread again,
dancing in chorus
refusing to question too deeply
back to the freedom
of where I feel happiest—
writing for Krsna
before I die.
I’ll draw the curtains over the door
windows and rest my arm
on the desk.
Do I write by hand?
Yes, I said.
Who knows my world?
‘‘I’m watching the mud path for anyone’s advance and expect¬ing a headache any moment. I’m far away and I don’t have to make sense.
‘‘(Three verses in a row they asked why he quit. Ask me why I quit and I’ll tell you. I got out of management and out of material life and it’s been good for me.)’”
“Ldd., our dear typist, was in a car accident. She says the car went out of control. The men who later arrived at the scene of the accident speculated that she might have fallen asleep at the wheel. The road was curvy and they had just laid gravel, but her car flipped over. A passing citizen found her almost unconscious in the car and called out to her. She climbed out. The wheels were off the car and the top was smashed in, but she appeared to have no injuries. The passerby dropped her off at a telephone booth, not wanting to become more entangled with this strange woman from America with the out-of-province license plates. She couldn’t reach her coworker by phone, so she had to walk the six kilometers back to the apartment where she is staying. Felt some ache in shoulder and chest, but last night was back at her typing tasks. While relating this story to me, a devotee said, ‘She passed the test.’ The owner of the car, her coworker, must also be going through a test now, since her car is a total wreck.
“All this so that this boy can write his codes. His cry, ‘Oh, let me be a devotee’—does it warrant someone risking her life to transport this fare?
“The weather is warm, the rain straight down, and a big puddle is becoming a pond outside my door.
“Thinking about it some more, yes, even though I allow my first thoughts to play on the page, I contend that it’s worth the risk of life. I mean, my own life. I am serious. Therefore I thank Ldd for her dedication and hope I can follow her example: get out of the car wreck and get back to writing in a simple and brave way—even if I have to rub at my arm and chest.”
“Saunaka Rsi praises Suta Gosvami as a parivrajakacarya, or a learned preacher. Srila Prabhupada explains the difference between brahmanas who know the Vedas and administer their rituals, and preachers who know the Puranas and distribute their knowledge.
“Each of these transcendentalists has his own function. When Saunaka says that Sata is not expert in certain portions of the Vedas, this refers to his not being expert in ritualistic performances. This does not make him inferior or disqualified in any way. The Vedic mantras must be recited with exact metrical pronunciation. Suta Gosvami, following Sukadeva Gosvami was fully absorbed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Therefore, he did not take time to master all the pronunciations of the Vedic fruitive rites.
“By studying Srimad-Bhagavatam we become self-sufficient and learned in the essence of the Vedic literature. As already stated, ‘This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture?’ (Bhag. 1.1.2). Srila Prabhupada adds: ‘Realization is more important than parrot-like chanting.’
“There are various kinds of gurus, Vedic teachers, priests, and brahmanas, and all of them serve a purpose within a varnasrama society. (Of course, we are not discussing those who teach bogus doctrines or who misbehave in the name of guru or brahminical status.) Of all the Vedic teachers, the sad-guru, or pure devotee of Krsna who teaches us of our eternal relationship with God is the most important. Such a guru is capable of guiding us in the practices of sadhana-bhakti and helping us to elevate ourselves gradually toward spontaneous love of God. He is the essential link to our going back to Godhead.
“The Bhagavatam refers to such a guru as ‘the person bhagavata.’ His spiritual advancement is so complete that his character contains within it the qualities of brahminical life: peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness. Still, he may or may not be conversant with some of the karma-kanda sections of the Vedas. That is not a measure of his perfection. The real perfection of the sad-guru is that he always remembers Krsna and never forgets Him. Of all the rules and regulations, this one is foremost: smartavyah satatam visnur, vismartavyo na jatucit.
“While praising Haridasa Thakura, Lord Caitanya stated that some devotees behave well but don’t preach, while others preach but don’t behave well. Haridasa, however, did both of these things excellently. To do both is to be fully conversant with the essence of Vedic knowledge. This is more important than understanding the ritualistic prescriptions for dharma, kama, and artha.”
“Was Sukadeva Gosvami or Suta Gosvami distracted by problems in the course of their Bhagavatam recitation? Maybe the field was muddy because it rained, or dacoits surrounded the camp. There’s no mention of it. All we hear is what they spoke. Occasionally the Bhagavatam reminds us of the setting: Maharaja Pariksit, Sukadeva Gosvami, the assembled sages, the king’s fasting, his lack of fear in the face of death. Occasionally Sukadeva praises him for his enthusiasm. Occasionally we hear that some persons present didn’t appreciate everything that was being said, especially when Sukadeva began to describe the Tenth Canto pastimes with the gopis. Little glimpses of a life beyond the actual hearing, but not much. I’d like to follow that example—tell what is already written in Prabhupada’s purports and expand on it a little.
“But I get distracted and have to acknowledge that. Yesterday a disciple wrote me an angry letter. He wants me to initiate his wife. I said I would consider it but thought there were things that should be discussed first. She needs proper recommendation from the temple authorities; I don’t even have a relationship with her; I wondered how his marriage is progressing since it’s so new. I was looking for assurance, but I got anger. He reminded me that I had been a part of the zonal acarya days, that I had had an exaggerated estimation of myself as guru. How can I say my simple meditation on the Bhagavatam hasn’t been disturbed by this exchange?
“Being criticized by my own disciple makes me think about how vulnerable I make myself through my writing. I supply the ammunition for such attacks. ‘Just see.’
“So what? Should I stop writing?
“Well, I can’t. I’m just not interested in parrotlike recitations, and what else would there be to say? I have to speak my honest realization, and for me that means confession and an honest tapping of the mind as it flows. Everyone’s mind picks up lint here and there unless they’re liberated. We don’t identify with the lint, but we can’t deny that it’s there. I’m looking for the connection of everything to Krsna.”
“I am feeling good about my service in ISKCON. I am a writer, and I admitted it to a brother just like that. Then I thought perhaps I had said too much. Our vocation (calling) is something we want to keep private.
“Anyway here I am, asserting it again. I just found a strong statement on this theme in Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Miller talks about finding the level from which to reach the reading public. He writes,
“‘The most important thing is how to reach the public, or better, how to create your own public. It still remains to be faced. Without a public, it’s suicide. No matter how small, there has to be an audience. I mean, an appreciative, enthusiastic audience, a selective audience.’
“He goes on to say:
“‘The writer who wants to communicate with his fellow man, and thereby establish communion with him, has only to speak with sincerity and directness. He has not to think about literary standards—he will make them as he goes along—he has not to think about trends, vogues, markets, acceptable ideas or unacceptable ideas: he has only to deliver himself, naked and vulnerable. All that constricts and restricts him, to use the language of ‘not-ness,’ his fellow reader, even though he may not be an artist, feels with equal despair and bewilderment. The world presses down on all alike. Men are not suffering from the lack of good literature, good art, good theater, good music, but from that which has made it impossible for these to become manifest. In short, they are suffering from the silent, shameful conspiracy (the more shameful since it is unacknowledged) which has bound them together as enemies of art and artists. They are suffering from the fact that art is not the primary moving force in their lives [emphasis added]. They are suffering from the act, repeated daily, of keeping up the pretense that they can go their way, lead their lives, without art. They never dreamed—or they behave as if they never realized—that the reason why they feel sterile, frustrated and joyless is because art (and with it the artist) has been ruled out of their lives. For every artist who has been assassinated thus (unwittingly?), thousands of ordinary citizens, who might have known a normal, joyous life, are condemned to lead a purgatorial existence of neurotics, psychotics, and schizophrenics. No, the man who’s about to blow his top does not have to fix his eye on The Iliad, The Divine Comedy, or any other great model; he has only to give us, in his own language, the saga of his woes and tribulations, the saga of his nonexistentialism. In this mirror of not-ness everyone will recognize himself for what he is as well as what he is not. He will no longer be able to hold his head up either before his children or before his neighbors; he will have to admit that he—not the other fellow—is that terrible person who is contributing, wittingly or unwittingly, to the speedy downfall and disintegration of his own people. . . . who will print such books? Who will publish and disseminate them? No one!’
“‘You will have to do it yourself, dear man, or do as Homer did: travel the highways and byways with a white cane, singing your song as you go.’”
“Although I am very wretched and fallen I still yearn to attain the wonderful state that even Laksmi, Siva, and all the demigods cannot attain. Because I have offended you I cannot attain even a single drop of your transcendental nectar. I do not make even the slightest attempt to renounce the objects of sense gratification, which make one forget the path of religion. I am filled with bewilderment, grief, fear, and shame. O Vrndavana, please protect me!’ (Vrndavana-mahimamrta, Sataka 6.3)
“How do I relate to this verse? I lack the intensity to feel myself wretched and fallen or to be filled with shame. But when he says, ‘I have offended Vrndavana,’ I think that is why I cannot attain the nectar for which I am anxious. And when he says, ‘I don’t make even the slightest effort to renounce sense gratification,’ I think, ‘What does he mean?’ Does he mean illicit sense gratification, heavy stuff like the karmis do? I have renounced all that, smoking, drinking, going out for entertainment. But if he means the regulated sense gratification which is allowable, then it is true: I make no effort to reduce it. I am attached to my bodily comfort. Then if I am guilty of aparadha and sense gratification, why don’t I admit it and feel low and ashamed? I don’t know why.
“Berating my complacency. But let me be peaceful, I say. I want to hear the flapping of the laundry in the wind, see the play of shadows as the clothesline sways in the evening sunlight. Don’t tear me away from this peaceful vision. I am here on an assignment, so why are you distracting me by telling me I am so unworthy?
“Vrndavana is rural and religious, even today. More dhoti than pants. When you see a young man in a gold-and-black striped shirt, gray pants and sandals, it looks out of place. Your eyes are used to the old dhotis and informal religious garb of mendicants or poor people—Indian cowherd garb.
“If I lived here all the time, I wouldn’t try so hard. I would settle for a regular, long-term service. I would read calmly. But I have other places I need to go. I have to preach in the West and guide disciples. So I am here like any Western-based devotee, soaking up the nectar. I want to go back with something to share. This is my slide show, my gift for my friends.”
“ . . . Aside from sectarian Hindus, those who are agnostic and atheistic also challenge the Vaisnava’s claim to be a welfare worker. They want to know, “What are you doing to help the poor, politically oppressed? What’s your claim to being a welfare worker?” They think devotional service merely sentimental. In answer to this, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, author of Caitanya-caritamrta, invites intelligent men to apply their arguments and logic to understanding the humanitarian work of Lord Caitanya. ‘If you are indeed interested in logic and argument, kindly apply it to the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If you do so, you will find it to be strikingly wonderful.’ (Cc. Adi 8.15)
“I have already discussed under the quality of ‘mercifulness’ that there is no real mercy without Krsna consciousness. People are suffering in the material world due to their karma, and one cannot alleviate the suffering simply by material adjustments. Usually people engage in humanitarian activities on the basis of the body. But the material body is ultimately subject to destruction, whereas the spiritual soul is eternal. Lord Caitanya’s philanthropic activities are performed in connection with the eternal soul. Whatever benefit one can give to this body, politically, socially, or medically, is only a patchwork solution. In the end, the body will be destroyed, and one will have to accept another body according to his life’s activities. If a person does not understand the science of transmigration and takes his body to be the self, then he is in ignorance. And any welfare worker who gives no information on these facts of life is a cheater. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s program, while not neglecting material necessities, stresses on spiritual necessities, the real need of human society.
“Lord Caitanya confided in Haridasa Thakura regarding His anxiety to deliver yavanas (persons against the Vedic principles). Haridasa Thakura assured Lord Caitanya that the yavanas would be saved by their inadvertent chanting of the holy names of God. A devotee in ecstatic love chants ‘ha rama’ (‘O my Lord Ramacandra’), and the yavanas also chant ‘ha rama,’ taking it to mean something else. By this accidental chanting of the holy name, Haridasa Thakura said, the yavanas would be saved. Haridasa Thakura then informed Lord Caitanya that, by the Lord’s holding loud sankirtana, all the moving and nonmoving living entities had already been delivered. And in the future the deliverance of the yavanas would be carried out by those in succession from Lord Caitanya.
“Haridasa Thakura said, ‘When loud chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is performed all over the world by those who follow in the Your footsteps, all the living entities, moving and nonmoving, dance in ecstatic devotional love.’”
“ . . . A chapter of my Svevo manuscript did get published in that Chicago magazine, but I never got around to reading it. I was already too absorbed in my newfound Krsna consciousness. Then one day the publisher showed up at the door of my First Street apartment. By then, my apartment was an asrama that I shared with the others. I spoke with the publisher in one corner of the room and told him that if he liked, I could write a sequel to Svevo and tell about how I came to Krsna consciousness, and I gave him a summary of the chanting. Although he said he was interested, I never heard from him again.
“I took the idea of writing a sequel seriously, however, and I went to talk to Srila Prabhupada about it. I still remember going into his room when no one else was there and telling him I had something practical to discuss. He smiled and asked me what it was. I told him that I had written a book that somebody wanted to publish, but that it was not Krsna conscious. However, I could write a sequel telling how my hero, who was in so much illusion, finally found the true path of Krsna consciousness. Prabhupada was encouraging, but he added that I should make money from it. It’s not that they should pay me less because I was religious. I was pleased that Prabhupada approved the idea, but I never did write it, probably because around this time I had decided that true renunciation meant I should give up writing. Not long after this incident, I carried all my writings—half a dozen short novels, many stories, poems, and diaries—and threw them into the incinerator in the hallway at 26 Second Avenue. The only manuscript I saved was Svevo, because Prabhupada said I could do the sequel. Eventually, though, that too was lost.”
“It’s cold today, with a chilly wind blowing over and ruffling the surface of the lake. I’ll go over to the island at noon. Feeling the cold, however, and looking at that green island, reminds me that there is no paradise on earth. All we can do is take shelter in Krsna. I have just fmished reading the Caitanya-caritamrta and now I am ready to read something else. I looked at a few books—translations of verses by Raghunatha dasa Gosvand and Rupa Gosvami—but they have no purports. Shall I re-enter the spotless Purana? Not yet. I’m still too much under the influence of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. Since the new editions have just been published, and their print is so pleasing to read, I’ll browse through various chapters of the Cc., not sequentially, but according to my interest. Today I looked at the sections about Srimati Radharani in Madhya 8 and Adi 4.
“Train of thought while lying in bed at noon: I thought about my headaches and how they are not life-threatening. Then I thought about the poet Jane Kenyon, who was told she had leukemia and died within a year. Then I wondered what I would do if I were told I had only a year to live. Of course, I would want to go to Vrndavana, but perhaps I would first go to America. I’m not sure what I would do there, but I would probably visit some devotees and see Gita-nagart’s Radha-Damodara for the last time. Then on to Vrndavana.
“Well, isn’t this the end of my life? Whether I realize it or not, time is running out. What should I do? Thinking this suddenly made me think I shouldn’t travel but stay right here to read Caitanya-caritamrta and write in a relaxed way. This place provides a perfect opportunity to live a hermit-like life because there’s not only a temple nearby and devotees, but peace and quiet too. Surely traveling around and deepening affectionate relationships with other devotees would not be as important to me as this.”
“Why are they going? To preach the glories of Lord Krsna as ordered by Srila Prabhupada.
“Will this take place on a high level? That depends on how much the Supreme Lord is willing to appear in my words. Srila Prabhupada describes this phenomenon in a purport to the section about Dhruva Maharaja in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
“‘Devotees are always interested in hearing about the Lord’s transcendental qualities, and they are always eager to glorify these qualities, but sometimes they feel inconvenienced by humbleness. The Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart, specifically gives a devotee intelligence to describe Him. It is therefore understood that when a devotee writes or speaks about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his words are dictated by the Lord from within.’ (Bhag. 4.9.4, purport)
“Am I feeling inconvenienced by humbleness? Unfortunately, I’m inconvenienced by anarthas. Therefore, I admit that this story is going to be more about what happened to two conditioned souls trying to practice vaidhi-bhakti and sannyasa- or brahmacarya-dharma in ISKCON as it was in 1994 than a story full of glorification of the Supreme Lord (although that will be there too).”
“I asked Bhurijana Prabhu how doing what we want is the same as pleasing Krsna. We discussed it for awhile. He said that the disciple’s duty is to completely surrender to the guru and then the spiritual master will engage him according to his nature. Also, he said if we inevitably (especially as we age) do what we like to do in devotional service, then we must try to render it in a way that pleases Krsna. We were trying to reconcile doing what you want for Krsna with doing what Krsna wants. Bhurijana Prabhu said that even Arjuna was asked to surrender to Krsna as a ksatriya, to fight, which was his nature.
“I said that I’m so intent on my choice of service that I must try to purify it, increase it, and improve it. We can know if our service is pleasing to Krsna by the fruit it bears. For example, if it increases the preaching and if it pleases the Vaisnavas.
“I said I was no longer leaving myself open to be redirected by my peers according to what they might think Krsna wants me to do. I must please Srila Prabhupada according to my own heart’s understanding. The die is already cast. Besides, my health limits me. I am not a manager by nature. I cannot overcome my reluctance to confront people and my nonassertive nature. Therefore, I serve accordingly. We discuss these things in humility and confidence.”
“By the term ‘personal prayer,’ I mean a confidential revealing of the mind to Krsna in conversation, not using prepared or memorized statements, but speaking spontaneously. The main topic of this prayer is one’s desire to render the Lord loving service.
“Some devotees express doubt as to the place of personal prayer in Krsna consciousness. They think all praying should be confined to reciting uttamaslokas found in the scripture. Personal praying, they say, can only be attempted by a very advanced devotee. But this is not a fact. If a devotee does not have a life of personal prayer, he is neglecting a source of great solace and inspiration for rendering service to guru and Krsna.
“What does Prabhupada say about this type of prayer?
“‘In addition to giving and receiving, in the execution of devotional service one has to submit to Krsna whatever distress or confidential problem he has. He should say, “Krsna, I am suffering in this way. I have fallen in this tossing ocean of material illusion. Kindly pick me up.”’ (Raja-vidya, pp. 17-18)
“Prabhupada’s statement indicates that even a devotee who is struggling to execute his service—in other words, not only a pure, liberated soul—should speak confidentially to Krsna. ‘We must simply pray, “Krsna please pick me up.”’ Another evidence that all devotees should turn to the Supreme Lord with personal prayer is in Prabhupada’s purport regarding Lord Brahma’s prayers for protection.
“‘Brahma, as the supermost brahmana, is afraid of such a falldown, and therefore he prays to the Lord for protection. This is a warning for one and all in the spiritual advancement of life. Unless one is sufficiently protected by the Lord, he may fall down from his spiritual position; therefore one has to pray constantly to the Lord for protection and the blessing to carry out one’s duty.’ (Bhag. 3.9.24, purport (emphasis added)’
“At Bhaktivedanta Manor in London in 1973, Srila Prabhupada held a series of conversations with respectable guests. Some of them were priests. During one young priest’s visit, several of Prabhupada’s disciples began to argue with him on the basis of the Bible. The debate was whether the Bible condoned meat-eating. One of the devotees cited a passage in Genesis indicating that man was meant to protect the animals and eat vegetable foodstuffs, but the priest countered this by making reference to a later passage in the Bible regarding the covenant of Noah, where God allowed His followers to eat meat. Another devotee brought up the example of Daniel in the Old Testament and made a claim that he was a vegetarian. The priest also countered this with other Biblical arguments. The conversation then turned to Greek and Hebrew translations, with the priest countering the devotees’ arguments, and they again stating new arguments from different places in the Bible. During this excited exchange, Srila Prabhupada was mostly silent. He had brought up his main argument that the Bible recommends “Thou shalt not kill,” and that Jesus was upholding this law, but once the conversation got into many different areas of Biblical scholarship, Prabhupada did not take part. Of course, the priest was not convinced by any of the Biblical arguments presented by the devotees, and after some time he left.
“Later in the evening, Prabhupada called the devotees into his room. Commenting on the discussion with the priest, Prabhupada said that he did not think it was a good idea that the devotees had discussed so much on the basis of the Bible. Giving serious instructions to his preacher-disciples, Prabhupada said that in the future, they should stick to the Bhagavad-gita and make their arguments on this basis.”
“One time I told Prabhupada that since hearing from him about Krsna, I now felt transcendental to my situation in the welfare office. I could realize that life was beset with birth, death, disease, and old age, and that none of my co-workers or their government leaders could solve these problems, yet they could be solved in Krsna consciousness. Prabhupada was pleased to hear me state it.
“I also asked him if it was all right to chant Hare Krsna while at the office, at least to myself, when other persons were speaking to me. I explained that people sometimes spoke complete nonsense, and rather than actually listen to them I preferred to superficially hear their words while I chanted within. Prabhupada replied, ‘Not only the people you say are speaking nonsense, but everyone—even the greatest philosopher—is speaking nonsense. There is no real knowledge except Krsna consciousness, knowledge of the soul beyond the bodily conception.’
“‘Great Gordon’s gin!’ —
black lady boss laughs
at the karma-yogi.
Swamiji just four blocks away.
On interoffice phone
a chant comes out loud —
‘What the hell is that!’
workers of the world
try chanting for a week.
Girls don’t bother
him and Supreme:
Swami just four blocks away.”
“So first of all, I want to be sure that I have grasped who you are and where you are situated. The Bhagavad-gita tells us that the mind is the function that rejects and accepts sense gratification. Armed with this definition, I can identify you as you work. You are always at work. Sometimes people misidentify you with their very self because you are all they can see, you are so dominant.
“When the mind is in tune with spiritual reality, it is close to the self; otherwise, it works against the self. I sometimes call you the ‘gremlin’ because you have so often been a negative, down-pulling function for me. But you have potential to be immersed in spirituality.
“You are always distracting me with useless thoughts. Why won’t you pay attention to the Hare Krsna mantra? Why won’t you allow yourself to be captured by the chanting tongue and the hearing ear? Should I be blaming you for all the offenses I commit against the holy name? (It gets quite complicated and I’m not a sankhya-yoga expert to delineate the relationship of the false ego with the mode of passion and where the mind fits into that—how it all works.)
“Anyway, rather than blame you, I plead with you to please hear the Hare Krsna mantra. It will be good for both of us. I am going to try to give up these aparadhas, but in one sense, you are the only hope, dear mind.
“I say this, but I know that the greatest hope is from the Vaisnavas who bathe us in Krsna consciousness and free our minds and senses from material meditation.”
“But what happens if a devotee is initiated and afterwards feels an urge for sinful activity? What is that urge, and how can he overcome it? The urge for sin is the contamination of the false ego (ahankara). Due to false ego a conditioned soul thinks that he is the center and enjoyer of existence; therefore, he is not inclined to be restrained by God’s law. He does not like to be God’s servant or the servant of God’s servant. This means the bewildered soul has forgotten his identity, just like a madman or a person delirious with a fever. As to how the pure spirit soul contacts the false ego, that is due to the misuse of his free will. Devotional service can correct all these anomalies, provided one stays tightly at the lotus feet of the spiritual master and goes on hearing from him and serving his order. Thus the conditioned soul will retain his original spiritual intelligence, free of false ego.
“The false ego first contaminates the intelligence and then the mind and senses. The conditioned soul then thinks of himself as the enjoyer of the world of matter, forgetting that his real self-satisfaction can be had only in relation to Krsna. This predicament of the spirit soul within the material world should be already known to the devotee, but if he is at a stage where his realization is only theoretical, he may again meditate on the possibilities of enjoying himself apart from Krsna. At that point he again misuses his free will and becomes covered by false ego. In the beginning stages, therefore, before the devotee is completely fixed in the higher spiritual taste, he must avoid sinful life by the strength of sadhana (devotional acts based on duty). Just as on the order of the spiritual master the neophyte devotee rises early to worship the Deity, so on the order of the guru and sastra he must also agree to restrain himself from sinful acts. It is as simple as that.”
“I was going to call this Karttika Candles, but it doesn’t sound right. I burn candles (from non-animal products) every morning while I chant japa facing the altar. One Godbrother read of me and my votive candles and wrote me saying, ‘Why don’t you try using ghee and wicks? I think it’s more Vedic than candles.’ I suppose it’s possible, but I think that the life of travel makes candles easy for me. Sometimes we have to start so quickly, and I have only a few minutes to blow out the candles and put them away in a bin in our van. Ghee and wicks sound messy for a van traveler.
“It was candles, skinny little birthday candles, that Srila Prabhupada gave us in the autumn of 1966. It was a surprise. I remember going to his room in the evening as usual one night. A little ceremony was in progress. On Prabhupada’s low table, which was his altar in his worship room, he had us place and burn candles. He directed each of us to go up and set the candle on the tabletop, which we did by first burning a little wax until some drops fell and then fixing the candle onto the table.
“When we asked Swamiji what it was for, he replied, ‘To increase your devotion.’ Only later did I figure out that this was our observance of the evening ceremony of Karttika lamps, which goes on for the whole Damodara month. This is observed in the temples in Vrndavana and done in a very grand fashion at ISKCON’s Krsna-Balaram Mandir. But for me, nothing will ever be as sweet as lighting those first birthday candles on Swamiji’s tabletop in October-November, 1966. After we would light our candles, we would sit around and watch them burn down. We would joke quietly to one another, saying that the candle represented our soul and we would we see whose soul went out first. Sometimes it was a close race down to the very bottom of the candle—
‘There goes mine!’—and we would laugh as a puff of smoke went up in the air.
“I want to write this book in that mood, of watching our souls burn down, day by day, mine and yours too. I’ll try to increase my devotion during the day, light the candle at night, and watch them go down, day by day through Karttika. Each day is a candle which starts off with a fresh wick and full length and gradually burns down and goes out. And the next morning we light another. My supply of candles (days) is not unlimited. But I hope to last at least through Karttika, and even that will slip by day by day. So, this book is also on the theme of tempus fugit, ‘time flies.’
“I write seeking devotion in the day. That’s all I know. When I grope and wander, I’ll remember my purpose is ‘to increase your devotion’ and steer to krsna-bhakti again.
“This is not exactly a Karttika vrata (vow). I want to feel and do what I like. But I do intend to read and write every day and to stay at our retreat house, if Krsna desires.
“Here is a letter written by Dhanurdhara Swami, announcing the First Annual Gita-nagari Karttika Festival, October – November, 1995:
“‘Dear Baladeva Vidyabhusana Prabhu,
“‘Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
“‘I am very excited about the Gita-nagari Karttika festival. My initial inspiration for the idea came in May of this year at the Gita-nagari Institute while staying in the cabin. Thank you for fixing up the cabin. Srila Prabhupada visited there, and Srila Satsvarupa Maharaja wrote the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta there. You’re right, the place has spiritual potency and should be used so that ISKCON sadhus in the West can spend some quality time in sadhana and writing. On the basis of your desire to use the cabin for this purpose, and your hospitality, I became inspired that a Karttika festival should be a mainstay at Gita-nagari, and I should do Karttika there. Here is my idea.
“‘Personally, this is my first year out of Vrndavana during Karttika in nineteen years. Karttika in Vrndavana is wonderful. During Karttika in Vrndavana, devotees come from all over the world and perform nitya-seva. Nitya-seva means that they stay for the month and increase their spiritual practice and regulate their spiritual lives. Vows are made, ‘I will increase the number of mala (rounds) I do every day,’ or ‘I will circumambulate the temple every day ten times,’ or ‘I will not eat sweets,’ or “I will read a chapter of Bhagavad-gita every day.’ Of course, one can make several vows, but according to one’s capacity, he should increase his spiritual practices and do them in a regulated way, nitya-seva. Especially the sannyasis who are constantly traveling stay in one place for Caturmasya and perform activities. Of course, the Vaisnava sannyasis, for their personal purification, go to one of the holy dhamas (Mayapur or Vrndavana) and for one month live simple, regulated lives and increase their sadhana. So, in Karttika in Vrndavana and our own Krishna-Balaram Mandir, there are many sannyasis and senior devotees increasing their spiritual practices, and even Vrndavana becomes spiritually surcharged. Devotees from all over look forward to coming for Karttika, associating with the dhama and uplifting their spiritual lives. There are also benedictions which Srila Prabhupada discusses in The Nectar of Devotion (see page 103), the essence of which is that spiritual attainments which can be achieved only with great effort can be achieved easily if one performs Karttika vrata in Vrndavana. There is an incredibly intense spiritual potency during Karttika, but Srila Prabhupada has asked me through my Godbrothers to spend this year in America assisting the preaching. What to do? Now, like most of Srila Prabhupada’s followers, I will not be able to go to Vrndavana in October. In separation from Vrndavana and sitting in ‘Satsvarupa’s’ cabin last May at Gita-nagari, I came up with this idea.’
“I’m not there at Gita-nagari. It makes me ask, ‘What am I doing for Karttika?’ Not at Vrndavana, not at Gita-nagari. In a hidden place, a rural retreat house, three of us. We can light our candle each evening. I’m eager for the relief of the retreat. I can’t think, however, in terms of rigid vows. I want to read Srila Prabhupada’s Caitanya-caritamrta and to write. Do it every day and light the candles – the candles of hope.
“Woke with some pressure in the head, read for twenty-five minutes in Caitanya-caritamrta, the opening chapter. ‘May that Lord, the son of Sri Sacidevi, the Supeme Lord (source of Brahman and Supersoul), appear in the core of your heart, accompanied by Lord Nityananda. He has come to deliver the secret treasure of His own service, of ujjvala-rasa.’
“And here I am, unfit but not unwilling.
“Woke thinking maybe I should take a Karttika vrata of ‘no sweets.’ I did it one year. It wasn’t so hard. Just a month. You still have honey with your milk in the morning. Everything is sweet. What does your tongue and body need? Can you control them?
“I asked, ‘But will this increase devotion?’ It’s at least a requirement to be able to control one’s senses (goswami).
“I ask, ‘But Srila Prabhupada didn’t fast from sweets.’ Maybe he did before he met you. If you could do it as a devotional offering to him, then it would have meaning. When I thought of it first, however, it wasn’t so devotional; more like a health item, a warm-up for my entry into a naturopathic yoga clinic. But I see your point. Better decide quick, before 6 A.M. breakfast. Or at least you skip the sweets at breakfast.
“I see the point—those scrumptious extras at dessert. You can give them up and say, ‘I want to live not for the pleasures of my own tongue.’
“Modified: sweets on Sunday only.
“So, here we are in Africa, Spain, in this aging body not yet all clear in the head despite six hours spent in the sleeping bag. Awoke to greet the Karttika in the temple of Radha-Govindacandra and Gaura-Nitai and Laksmi-Nrsimha and the devotees of ISKCON Spain. No more lectures by me here this visit. We leave at 3 P.M. to start five days of travel.
“All glories to the son of Saci. I criticize or fail to appreciate the dress and decoration of the Deity. But when you are away from Them, traveling in the vast realm of maya (Spain-sea-England . . .), we will wish for Their shelter. Prabhupada has given it to us Westerners.
“I spoke what I could, my prepared lectures. But yesterday I heard myself speaking to them during the actual delivery of the lecture, and it was not so ecstatic. Some drowsed.
“May this be honest writing. I do feel happy to be given this project for the month. I hereby light my first symbolic, literary candle.
“May Gaura-Nitai light the way.
Please let me serve.”
Free Write Journal #180 >>>
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.