I watched an extraordinary harinama video of Rama Raya and a group of men chanting in the Atlantic Avenue subway station, one stop from the ISKCON Brooklyn temple. They go there two days a week and chant for hours. Rama Raya played a large harmonium, and his men played mrdanga and karatalas. It was filmed in late January and it was cold. Rama Raya was bundled up in layers of clothing, and he wore gloves which had the fingers cut off them so he could play the harmonium but keep his hands warm. The extraordinary thing was the mood of Rama’s chanting. He was crying out to the Lord with extreme emotion. It has to be seen and heard to believe it.
The actual date of the harinama was January 31. I advise my readers to tune in to this video. It was in the last 25 minutes of that night’s harinama when Rama was at the peak of his ecstasies. He was wailing and screaming with a strong voice. He was completely oblivious to his surroundings. The other kirtaniyas were able to support his singing with their musical talents and join his mood. Rama was crying out to the Lord from the bottom of his heart.
The group goes two days a week to the Atlantic Avenue station, but has many other stops where they go and chant. They have good relationships with the police, but they have to move around every day so the police can tolerate them, not just in one spot all the time. The group posts in advance where they are going to be for chanting, so that people can go there and share the live performance. (To find out when and where Rama Raya Prabhu’s party is singing each day, text Natabara Gauranga Prabhu at (734) 355-1822.) Krishna Kripa has noted that he can pass out more literature when Rama Raya is singing.
Today we celebrate the appearance of Lord Varaha, and in our out-loud reading group we are hearing the activities of Varaha, the boar incarnation. The demigods and other living entities were distressed when the earth planet was submerged in the Garbhodaka waters by the actions of Hiranyaksa. Being bewildered what to do, the demigods made prayers to the Lord. As a result, the tiny-sized body of a boar emerged from a nostril of Lord Brahma. In a moment this tiny boar assumed a gigantic size like that of an elephant, and then much bigger than that. He was as big as the Himalayas. He emitted a tremendous roaring sound. (It appears that mountains can also roar according to their size.) When the demigods heard this they were assured that this must be the voice of the Supreme Lord, and they uttered hymns and offered obeisances to Him. Varaha’s body was transcendental and appeared beautiful to the devotees. But the demons and nondevotees saw Him as an ordinary hog, whereas the devotees saw His beautiful body with white tusks, and the hairs on His body dripping with droplets of water from when He emerged from the ocean. Giving repeated roars, He dove down into the depths of the ocean and found the earth by His smelling capacity. He lifted up the earth and brought it out from the waters. While He was doing this He killed the demon Hiranyaksa.
Hiranyaksa was one of the twin brothers who was born to Diti and her husband Kasyapa. Diti was very lusty and demanded that her husband engage in sex with her although it was nighttime, the inauspicious time when Siva wanders about with his ghost companions, and unsuitable for proper sexual intercourse. Diti kept her twin demon embryos in her womb for 100 years, just so that the world would not be disturbed for as long as possible. Hiranyaksa was the first one born. His body was huge and steel-framed. He was very powerful and malicious. Wandering through the planets with his mace and trident, he conquered all the worlds. He challenged the god of the waters, Varuna, but Varuna said he was too old to fight. Varuna recommended that if the demon wanted a real fight, he should go and challenge Lord Visnu, who was appearing as the boar incarnation. Visnu would give him a good fight and cause his death. The demon learned from Narada where Lord Boar was located in the depths of the ocean. He was down there to rescue the earth planet, which Hiranyaksa had pushed there. In great eagerness to fight, the demon went to the place and challenged Vahara in insulting words. Varaha patiently bore the insults and did His duty of lifting the earth planet out of the depths of the ocean and floating it in space. Then the two faced each other for mortal combat. The Bhagavatam describes their fight in a long, drawn-out way. Both combatants get chances to hit each other, and the demon also conducts conjuring tricks, as demons can do. But Lord Visnu uses His Sudarsana disc and vanquishes all the magical tricks of the demon. The Boar incarnation then smashes the mace and then the trident of Hiranyaksa. Enraged, the demon begins striking the Lord with his fists. Brahma and the demigods arrive on the scene. They are not aware of Varaha’s invincible powers, and they ask Him to please not play with the demon but dispatch him right away because it is getting later at night, entering the inauspicious hour. The two were fighting with fisticuffs, and the Lord indifferently hit the demon in the head. Hiranyaksa’s eyes bulged out, and he trembled to pieces and fell down dead. Brahma and the demigods were astonished to see that Hiranyaksa maintained a healthy luster in his body even though he was dead. This was due to his contacting the body of the Supreme Lord. Brahma and the demigods showered flowers upon the Boar.
Some say the demon was pierced with a tusk; others say Varaha kicked him in the ear. There are two versions of the boar appearing in the different millenniums, according to the acaryas. Hiranyaksa was the twin brother of another demon, Hiranyakasipu who, when he learned of his brother’s death by the hands of Visnu, became enraged and sought revenge. This brought about another adventure told later in the Srimad-Bhagtavatam. Vidura heard this account of Varaha from Maitreya Muni, who passed it to him in disciplic succession. Thus we have complete faith in this pastime and all its details.
Syama Gopa Rupa dasi wrote and commiserated with our Tulasi-devi’s troubles. She said we were applying wrong remedies. She referred us to a Facebook group for Tulasi-devi with over 3,000 members. She gave us much advice:
“Spray insecticidal soap every three days for about a week. This is necessary to get all newly-hatched juveniles that survive while in their eggs. Cover all branch and leaf surfaces, especially the underside of the leaves.
“Insecticidal soap is best. It is completely organic, vegan, and is completely biodegradable. It can be safely used on food crops which can then be harvested and eaten in the same day.
“There’s no necessity to use any sort of poison. Please don’t do it.
“Extensive testing by expert tulasi servants has shown that neem oil to be not very effective and very slow to work. It smells bad, tastes bad, and leaves a sticky residue that cannot be easily removed. A simple soap solution is very effective.”
She gave us an Internet link for “Safer brand 518-6 Insect-killing Soap Concentrate, 16 oz.” She advised us to use a one-hand pressure sprayer with adjustable telescoping wand.
Baladeva immediately ordered all these products. He had said he felt helpless, but now with this new information, we may have new hope.
It rained all day yesterday, and at night it turned to an ice storm, ice and sleet. The roads and walkways are treacherous. The city trucks have been by repeatedly. But it’s 18° F (-8° C) outside and they haven’t been able to remove the ice. The salt is working slowly. First Baladeva will work with a spade, and then he’ll go back and work over it with a shovel. After working in this way, Baladeva anticipates feeling like a rusty engine. His sister, Kathi, in Maine, is in her seventies but has to shovel the snow herself. In the old days you used to pay a boy 75 cents an hour to shovel snow, but now they want $15 an hour. The boys would rather stay indoors and work at their computers. The same is true here in upstate New York. No boys come around volunteering to shovel your snow for a low price. They don’t even come at all. At the local post office, they say, “If you don’t like it, move to North Carolina.”
Baladeva saw that our neighbor, Jeremy, was out with his CAT machine clearing the ice on another neighbor’s driveway. He went to Jeremy’s house with cookies and asked if he would clear our driveway. Jeremy said, “Anytime you need help, just call on me.” He is a Trump supporter and had a Confederate flag flying on his porch, along with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. He’s a smoker and drinker, and you can smell it from six feet away. But he was friendly and generous with us. When we had a Janmastami festival years ago, we had a tent outside and he walked by with his daughter. His daughter asked to come into the tent, so he brought her in and honored prasadam.
He cleared away the whole front of our house and half the driveway. But because our cars were all iced up and we couldn’t move them, he only did half the driveway. When Jeremy was done, Baladeva went over to his house, thanked him and shook his hand. J. invited B. into his house and said, “C’mon in, play with the kids. The dogs won’t bother you.” But Baladeva had to take care of me, and so he didn’t go in. But we’re very grateful that J. cleared our front parking area. J. even cleared the roadway so that the city plows couldn’t push any more ice over the cleared area.
Krishna Kripa prepared lunch today. He asked if it was all right if he made upma, since it is one of the few preparations he knows. I told him that Prabhupada wrote me a letter asking me if I knew what was upma. He was describing in a letter about his health. He said he was fit. Gaurasundara was giving him massages and Govinda dasi was preparing him upma. He asked me if I knew what upma was, and if I didn’t he would send the “formula” so that Jadurani could make it. Krishna Kripa said this letter using the word upma is the only letter in the Archives where Prabhupada uses the word. I have learned to make upma to my satisfaction (and the Lord’s satisfaction, I hope). It is a wonderful winter comfort meal. It is like a savory version of halava, but not sweet—grains, vegetables and butter. Krishna Kripa made very good upma. He learned to make it from the BTG layout devotee Yamaraja dasa. Krishna Kripa said not many devotees prepare upma nowadays—it’s too expensive for ashrams to afford, especially because of all the butter. That’s a shame because it’s such a favorite dish.
Saci Suta cleared his porch but was unable to remove the ice from his driveway. He dropped over for a visit with his daughter’s dog, named Curry. Curry is a small old pup, about 14 years old. He needs some veterinarian work on his teeth. He walked around my room and explored things. But I didn’t encourage him or pick him up. Saci says when he chants japa the dog sits in his lap. Saci and his daughter Kaulini are worried how Curry will survive the sedation he’ll have to undergo to work on his teeth.
Our old car is a 2005 Honda Odyssey. After thirteen years and 220,000 miles, it’s showing signs of wear and tear. The latest problems are the bearing on the side door (you can’t always open it), and now there’s something called a speed sensor for the front wheels, which sounds expensive. We’ll find out on Monday—it doesn’t look good. This car was purchased by Saci Suta, and Kirtan Rasa chipped in some. We’ll have to ask the donors and get a new used car—another fundraiser.
I received an email yesterday from Rama dasi, who ardently volunteered to do typing for me. She pledged to do typing for the rest of her life. She said she has long been a devotee of my books and has been reading them since she was a young girl. She asked if she could be part of our out-loud reading group and I warmly invited her.
She informed me that my books are being sold for very high prices by booksellers because they are so rare. I told her that she could write to me and ask for particular books, and I would sell them at a reasonable price.
Baladeva was so tied up with emergency duties on February 7th that we didn’t work together and do the Journal for that day. This leaves me distressed. I have an obligation to myself to do the Journal. Nowadays it’s my main writing; otherwise I’m publishing books that I wrote years ago. So it’s very important to my writer-self to produce the Journal every day. I can’t do it without Baladeva’s help. The other obligation is to all the readers of the Journal. They look forward to the steadiness of the Journal every week, our doing it every day. Ananda Kisora’s three postings a day in a brief version of my full Journal, which comes to 35-36 pages, is a wonderful addition, provided people know how to get to AK’s website (www.satsvarupadasagoswami.com) His website is not a substitute for my full weekly Journal with the “rabbits,” etc. Baladeva has emergency duties today also, so we’re doing this Journal at 5:00 in the morning during japa time or time to write correspondence.
As for Baladeva’s emergency engagements which keep him from participating and cooperating with me in the Journal every day, they are serious things that have to be done and there’s no one else to do them but him. During the recent ice storm, the lock on our new storage unit froze shut. With his torch he got the lock to open, but he has to go back today with a spade, pick and shovel, and a torch to free up the door from the ice. The urgency is because we’ve already rented a U-Haul, and we have a man to help us move the books from the smaller storage unit to the bigger one because there’s another 1000 books coming from England, and that’s supposed to happen today. Plus he has his many other duties like cooking and phoning, etc. Yesterday he had to put our old car into repair to be fixed and get flowers and milk for the Deities from the farm.
Yesterday I received a big package from the Sankhla family from Maryland. I spent several hours going through the contents. It contained pictures and material about the head of the family, Kiran Sankhla, who has been the chaplain for Hinduism at the University of Maryland for thirty years. Her children and grandchildren are all active in Krsna consciousness. Recently the grandchildren packaged Prabhupada’s books and pictures they colored of Krsna and sent them to soldiers and senior citizens. Because of the pandemic, they are not able to personally meet with so many people. But they distributed thousands of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is in the month of December and were written up in the ISKCON News. This distribution was done by the grandchildren. The package contained pictures of Kiran Sankhla posing with different politicians and congressmen. They are very determined to meet with influential persons and present Krsna consciousness to them. They are not shy. In the package I received there were several booklets with many-paged handwritten letters to me from the grandchildren. They effusively expressed their love for me, and one of them sent me beads to chant on. Two of them also sent their allowances of $108.00. They also sent me a knit scarf and cap. When Kiran Sankhla is asked how she has such dedication to her chaplaincy, she always tells them that I am the inspiration behind her service and that I told her originally to become a chaplain at the university.
“I look down the road. Is someone coming?
But Death could sneak up from behind in this warm room
while I’m shaving my head
“And that music keeps running
constructed and sprung loose
You are the truth
and I already wrote my list ten years ago: one more trip to
Gita-nagari before I die, one last mail pack, one more tour in the
van, one last night of peace at a P-stop in France. Oh, and to see
Radha Govinda Madhava at New Mayapur one more time,
to say good night
to my odes
my headaches, the veins
in my head
and ripened time
my mottoes and credos,
the organic apples I had for breakfast.
Oh, to make pure music
and love my neighbor
and to find good in all
and to chant as He wants
“Anomalies means things are awry. The guy on the top should really be at the bottom, and the fellow at the bottom should be leading society. The devotees are at the bottom. And the weather. We have warm weather in winter and cold weather in summer sometimes—crazy things, nature not in order. Nature was once inviolable, but now we have raped the forests and polluted the waterways and finally ‘discovered’ that we’re running out of oil. Is it too late to restore the delicate balance between living beings and material nature? How can we possibly continue plundering the earth without meeting disaster? Our present talks of ecology and recycling are more like cosmetic work because they are not God-centered.
“Devotees seem no better. We use fax machines and computers, all of which belong to Kali and contribute to the anomalies. That’s because we are preaching in the last hour and we have no choice but to apply the principle of yukta-vairagya. Better we use what we can in Krsna’s service rather than have it wasted by the demons. Still, we should refrain from using things that are made in hell. Don’t become unnecessarily contaminated on the plea that we are immune by working for the Lord.
“ISKCON can renounce styrofoam cups. We can also pass a resolution that husbands should not beat their wives. Pets should not adorn graveyards, teeth should be placed on bedposts, tilaka should be made of clay, not rubber. Sentences should be logical. Or rather, they should be natural. Sober. We have problems to solve. Sats tends to be eccentric, talking to the moon or searching the outer spectrum for sounds and their meanings. You know.
“Vyasadeva saw the anomalies, and the ignorance that would cause them, and arranged to help. That’s no joke. We devotees have to take our work seriously.”
“Those who contact Krsna consciousness by the pure devotee’s mercy, however, are so fortunate that all of this can be overcome. If in turn they go out and preach, and rather than hating the ignorant people of Kali they show them compassion, then Prabhupada said Kali-yuga could become another Satya-yuga. It’s interesting to see how devotees have stepped out of synch with the prevailing mood of Kali-yuga. Because it would be possible for us to simply separate ourselves from the surrounding atmosphere, we should be careful to remember Srila Prabhupada’s deep purpose to preach to others.
“Neither should we expect or become frustrated by the fact that serving in Kali-yuga means running up against the deteriorating material nature. Matter has little potency compared to the power it had in previous ages. Cars will inevitably break down—we will all run out of gas one day anyway—so we have to remember that neither our preaching nor our Krsna consciousness is dependent on matter. A devotee can serve Krsna without electricity, without computers, without cars, and without even a roof over his head. All he needs is the holy name of Krsna to remain on his tongue. The holy name, being Krsna Himself, is never diminished by the age in which it is chanted.
“Neither are the devotees ‘Kali-yuga’ devotees. It may be that in previous ages people in general had more personal potency—they were stronger or could be more humble or had greater endurance and longer lives—but those of us who have come to Krsna consciousness now are not disadvantaged. Only our own shortcomings prevent us from seeing the good in others. Therefore, Lord Caitanya advises that we remain as humble as a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. We should never see any quality of the devotees as one of the anomalies of Kali.
“Srila Prabhupada was one of the greatest philanthropists in line from Vyasadeva and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Certainly he was able to uplift the people in this age. Our lives were immersed in Kali-yuga poison—we were drinking it willingly—and Srila Prabhupada rescued us with the nectar of the Hare Krsna mantra. He is the great kaviraja to cure all ills. Therefore, instead of measuring the quality of others, we should gratefully remember our debt to Srila Prabhupada and work to help him increase Krsna consciousness in the world. If we didn’t have the holy name and the opportunity to distribute it, we would be in a dangerous position. As disciples we have to cry out Lord Caitanya’s words: ‘ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram,’ ‘O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.’”
“Kali is the worst of ages and the best of ages, and I am here for two more weeks to write about it. Although I said we shouldn’t measure the quality of Vaisnavas in this age but simply appreciate them, I have to admit that it’s true—I’m an example of diminishment in Kali-yuga. Time slips through my fingers, and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. If I try to use time to write, and if I can find fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, I now consider myself lucky. We are ‘unlucky fellows’ with our diminished statures, diminished brain substance, diminished patience, diminished power, diminished poetry, education, culture—we have nothing of value left except the holy names. And even that we chant poorly.
“If you don’t have realization of it, do the meditation offered in the Bhagavatam. Visualize yourself surrounded by bad and dangerous elements. Then call out to Krsna for protection. Cut through the idea that life is comfortable, or even meant to be. Yes, you’re eating every day. Yes, your health is tolerable. Yes, you can do a little service. All that is true, but don’t be lulled into complacency. Life is tottering like water on a lotus leaf. Time is slipping through your hands and what progress have you made? At any moment you could fall prey to the senses and the mind. The holy name is all we have. Pray to Krsna.”
“(1) That I could find the right-sized slim pocket pad, carry it in kurta pocket, and whip it out whenever I want, like now, to add to my list.
(2) Am I serious or telling jokes? Can I really help the world? This is what I want to know. If I am a serious contender, a heavyweight, then am I in the line of Canakya Pandita or Gopal Ban? Or Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca? Am I worshiping the dust of the Six Gosvamis’ feet or the Three Stooges and Alan Freed? Of course, I know I am a serious spiritual aspirant, at least as serious as Ted Berk because I don’t think he’s still in ISKCON whereas I, I, I—I am boastful and proud, and therefore disqualified.
(3) I am a connoisseur of sandesa. Today’s was pink, soft, but I rated it at three and a half stars. On this St. Paddy’s Day he could have dyed them green had he known our proclivity.
(4) This is not a serious Kali-yuga list. I mean, I am exposing myself, but on a day when bombs are dropping and more bombs are ready to go, I should be saying something to stop them poisoning the oceans and killing cows. Stop the terrorists.
(5) Well, I am saying the world is blissful except that we have mismanaged it. I see the photo of the Liberals’ candidate in the Canadian newspapers, the way his hair is styled to drape rakishly with just a touch of wildness over his forehead—but just a touch. We want to know that he can be controlled, too, were he to become the Prime Minister. He knots his tie carefully, but he’s a bit too fat, yet still handsome with his even teeth. He promises to balance the budget and accuses the opposition of making ‘speech trash.’ He means they are blowing hot air. Well, isn’t that what he’s doing? No, he says, he’s an example of a serious talker. The world is full of serious talkers. For example, there are those professional philosophers who don’t accept the Srimad-Bhatavatam’s account of Krsna. And there are car mechanics, always willing to tell you what’s wrong with your car. And there are the crooks on the street with their knives and guns. They’re serious too. But that’s not the question that started all this. The question was, am I serious enough to actually help the world?
(6) Allen Ginsberg wrote in the Introduction to the Macmillan Bhagavad-gita As It Is, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that we are in Kali-yuga, the worst age, the iron age?’ That was his giddy, gay craziness to talk like that. He didn’t acknowledge the suffering.
“I don’t seem to acknowledge it either, but at least I’m more sober than he is with his wild, arrogant speculations. ‘Wichita Vortex Sutra,’ indeed. I don’t claim to write sutra or satstra or to say that Kali is far-out the way it gets so bad. I believe this is the worst age, and I know that Srila Prabhupada wants us to finish our business and get out. So I’m making my list. The actual list is too heavy to print—animals killed, babies aborted, pain to flesh and bones by our own unkindness. I want my list to be positive, to remind people to chant Hare Krsna, and to instruct people progressively, logically in bhakti. Perhaps this list isn’t so orderly, but that’s the point. This list is a quick writing-it-down on this St. Paddy’s morning before the time factor robs it away.
(7) Kali steals, Kali reduces, Kali shrinks. Everything goes up in smoke. What was born must die, and what dies must return in one species or another according to karma. For the most part, that means humans will return in less than human species, so there is serious work to be done.”
“Kali-yuga saint dreaming he’s back in the Navy. Hmm. Scratching pen on the wooden chest, our spiritual master in New Mexico—hippies storm down from the mountains as if on cue to hear and see him and eat peanut butter laddus from his hand. High clouds, blue sky, a high plateau. Altitude not good for his heart?
“In his heart
the Hare Krsna movement as
in Krsna’s mouth
all the universes. His
mother, His devotee, saw them.
“I’m reading of Kaliya and of fish-eating Garuda, then Pralambhasura being smashed by Baladeva, who is at first surprised to see the boy on whose shoulders he is riding turn into a big demon.
“We cheer Baladeva on, ‘Catch that black snake!’”
“Lord of Vaikuntha,
You are like the running deer:
I cannot reach You.
Lord of Vaikuntha,
You are like the fir treetop:
I cannot reach You.
Lord of Vaikuntha, You are like the dawn:
I see You every day.
Lord of Vaikuntha,
You are like the running creek:
You are always near.
Lord of Vaikuntha,
there is no one else like You:
You are in Your name,
and You are my all.”
“His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada stressed that all his followers must strictly follow the spiritual principles as an absolute requirement. He said he was trying to train first-class men—devotees of brahminical character who could, in turn, guide and uplift the lower divisions of society. The regulative principles are designed to take us gradually to the platform of spontaneous love of Krsna, which is the perfection of human life. If a so-called devotee thinks he has already attained perfection and gives up the spiritual principles, then he is known as a prakrta-bhakta, or one who takes things cheaply and merely imitates true devotional service.
“Repeatedly, Srila Prabhupada gave his students this overall direction: live with the devotees, rise early and attend mangala-arati, chant 16 rounds of the maha-mantra on beads, attend the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, and read his books. And after attending a full morning’s spiritual program, everyone should work all day in some honest service for Krsna, under the order of the spiritual master. And the basic restrictions of avoiding the four pillars of sinful life—illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxications, and gambling—these things a devotee must avoid without fail, or there is no question of spiritual life.
“Without following the spiritual principles, a devotee’s enthusiasm dwindles, and degradation follows. These are the simple austerities of Krsna conscious life, and they are never to be abandoned, even at the higher stages. Exalted Vaisnavas—like Haridasa Thakura, the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself—never gave up the basic spiritual practices. Pure devotional service in its progressive stages is like a ripening mango. The beginning of devotional service, if the devotional principles are taken up strictly, is pure devotional service, even though it is not fully mature. This is like a green mango; the full sweet mango taste is not present yet. But it is still a mango. So the only difference between the neophyte and the advanced is that the neophyte practices devotional principles out of duty and the advanced devotee does so in spontaneous love and full realization.
“We have been discussing Vaisnava behavior and stressing that a devotee’s activities must not be superficial or hypocritical but up to the genuine standard. We think, therefore, that it is important to point out the most essential rules and regulations of spiritual life to consider once again the symptoms of one who is truly living as a devotee.”
“The Vedic aphorism, tat tvam asi, ‘you are that too,’ is often used by impersonalists to claim that each jiva is exactly one with the Absolute Truth. Prabhupada explains that the real application of tat tvam asi is to address You, dear Lord. Therefore we pray, ‘You are that too. You, Krsna, are the boar incarnation, You are the ideal king, Rama. You are the jiva because the jiva is an eternal part and parcel of You.’ You are Lord Caitanya and You expand into all the saktis possessed by devotees and demons alike. The material energy is not outside Your domain, but is one of Your energies. We have only to understand all this scientifically and with clear intelligence and devotion. Then we will know how to approach You favorably.
silanam bhaktir uttama
“Thank you, dear Lord, for giving me the enthusiasm to write and preach. I pray for the strength given by Lord Balarama and my spiritual master to cut down my doubts and anarthas, which appear as obnoxious weeds. I pray to see You in the morning clouds that move over the hill in the beautiful blue sky, and I pray especially to see You in Vrndavana. Thank You for the devotional energy that flows through me. All glories to You. All glories to Your Krsna book. All glories to Srila Prabhupada’s presentation of You, the life and soul of Srimati Radharani. All glories to Your golden form as Lord Caitanya. I offer my obeisances to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who is kindly teaching the message of Lord Caitanya and delivering these Western countries which are filled with voidism and impersonalism.”
“When Krsna’s beloveds lamented
in the burning heat of separation they fell unconscious.
At that time happy memories of meeting began
to awaken in their hearts, where the previous
night of rasa dance manifested. The feelings
of the gopis’ separation are very difficult
to understand. It appears to produce great
pain but that leads to meditation on
blissful exchanges with Krsna. I would
like to comprehend it and by hearing authorized
descriptions, and serving my guru in separation
I may begin to get an inkling. One
day I might realize the great secret
“We observed Janmastami in a great
spirit in the yoga studio. The three
swamis spoke, and I got to speak twice,
from Bhagavad-Gita and Krsna book. While
the little children played wildly on the veranda,
Arundhati dasi let us in kirtana and then
a thunderstorm arrived. Dhanurdhara Swami performed
a one-man drama about Krsna’s pastimes with
Kaliya. Damodara held and abhiseka of the
Radha-GovindaDeities and everyone got a chance
to pour liquids on the Deities from a large conch
shell. Then a full feast was served at
8:30 PM and Syamadas arrived
to tell stories until midnight. Today
we will observe Vyasa-puja.
Yesterday my Radha-Govinda were bathed
and polished and dressed in new
outfits and Prabhupada too.”
“It’s Saturday, so the devotee audience was a little bigger this morning. Still, they seem less responsive here than in other temples. When I ask for questions, they’re silent. I wait and then finally someone, perhaps out of sympathy for me, asks a question. The questions today were not on the points I covered. I covered quite a few topics such as the neglect of duty, not being interested in subtle science, the price of spiritual science, chanting, etc., but there were no questions. Finally someone asked, ‘In a previous verse it states that Lord Siva once chased Lord Brahma. Can you explain that?’ I said I didn’t know. Then another devotee said that in the purport to that verse it states that once Brahma lusted after his daughter and Lord Siva became infuriated. I was embarrassed that I didn’t remember the incident. But why ask a question that is already answered in the purport and a question not even on today’s purport?
“I spoke about the misuse of this planet’s resources, but no one had anything to say. I said devotees sometimes misbehave on sankirtana and while doing other services, but no response. Maybe they are shy or this is Swiss conservatism. Anyway, I finally sighed audibly and they let me go or I let them go. ‘Thank you very much.’ Big preacher crooning into the microphone, can’t get any response.
“Why don’t they ask questions? Because you didn’t move them. You were not simple and profound. You covered too many subjects. You were too well prepared with your Post-its, talking as if you were on stage performing. You don’t know how to actually pray. They think that their gurus can preach better than you. You don’t go on sankirtana or push book distribution, and neither do you work with managers or attend meetings, and all this shows when you speak. They have your number. They are not interested in what you have to say. They prefer to hear it from someone else. Or maybe they just don’t listen to philosophy so well. What the hell, it’s breakfast time. You’ve been jabbering away for forty-five minutes, so why should they prolong it when—if they don’t ask you any questions—they can go right to breakfast and then get on with the day’s work? You have filled the air with your orations, now let’s give silence a break. You know what it’s like when a class is over, and you (in the audience) are relieved, and you just want to get out of there. That’s what they felt like. And they were all in agreement, they cooperated, so none of them asked and therefore they could all exit quickly. The joke is on you.
“Besides, you too wanted to get away. Go upstairs and now you have the remains of a late morning to do something with—to prepare for the next lecture. But if they don’t ask, if they don’t listen, then why prepare? Because you don’t want to fail and fall flat on your face. At least you do the job presentably. That’s what we all want. Give a presentable class, and then as soon as it’s over, we can all leave.”
“Frankly, my time is just about up.
I don’t want to be sardonic
or even reach for a joke in closing.
Free last hopes
fritter and sputter the fire
the last hopes,
that we get no flat tire,
boat doesn’t sink,
van makes it to Wicklow’s
tranquil slopes and cottages
by tomorrow night and
then . . .
read and write
no tidal wave covers Eire.
Sing and be changed and contribute
to improving the condition of ISKCON
which they are acknowledging is full of wrongs.
Do I have to say that too?
To show I’m hip to the times?
Outmoded is simple
fresh allegiance of
1960s and ’70s?”
“On board. Without asking us our opinion, they suddenly upgraded us to first class seats. I would have preferred to stay where we were. In first class, they dote on you more and offer you wine and meat. It is embarrassing for a monk to ride first class. They just came by with newspapers. I glanced with interest over the international Herald Tribune as the stewardess walked past our seats, but M. remarked, ‘We’re leaving that world behind.’ At the same moment, my eyes rested on this verse by Narottama dasa Thakura:
“Vrndavana is beyond the descriptive power of words. It is the best of all holy places. It is self-manifest, filled with most intense transcendental bliss, free from the touch of the material miseries of old age and death, and the place where Lord Krsna eternally enjoys His nectar pastimes.’ (Song 8, Text 1)”
“We made the mistake of leaving Delhi at 1:00 P.M. for Vrndavana. We were fried and dried-out and jarred to pieces by the taxi ride. When we were only about a hundred feet away from Krishna-Balaram, we were stopped by ‘police.’ Our car was surrounded by people who had nothing to do with police, but who demanded that we open our luggage, pay them tolls and taxes and so on. We couldn’t tell who was official or unofficial, and I fell for the trap, becoming exasperated and headached. This was our initiation into Vrndavana.
“Now I’m sitting on the porch under the full moon with crickets chirping away. I’m too tired and weak to pray or think straight, yet I’m aware that the spirit of Vrndavana is working on me.
“Lights on in a few rooms, crickets, the evening sky. A kirtana drum.
Even the surface of Vrndavana brings me nearer
to the heart.”
“We speak of instructions to the mind, and sometimes we say ‘prayers to the mind.’ But the mind is not a deity. Krsna is the Deity. The guru is the worshipable representative of the Deity. Instructing the mind is a good practice. I wonder sometimes, however, ‘When Raghunatha dasa Gosvami beseeches and prays to his mind, is this only a literary device so that he can preach to us?’ Bhaktivinoda Tha-kura writes in Sri Bhajana-darpana, his commentary on Manah-siksa, that the twelve verses of Manah-siksa are ‘the source of life and inspiration to the entire Gaudiya Vaisnava community, for by instructing his own mind, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami teaches all Gaudiya Vaisnavas.’ (Manah-siksa, p. 1).
“We shouldn’t disbelieve the intentions of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. If Raghunatha dasa Gosvami says that he prostrates himself before his ‘dear brother mind,’ we should take it as a sincere statement. His humility and sense of unworthiness are real. In his ‘Ten Appeals for Residence at Govardhana Hill,’ Raghunatha dasa Gosvami declares that he is a cheater and a criminal. We shall always worship the Six Gosvamis and their followers as pure, exalted souls, but we must also honor their individual moods.
“I would also like to instruct my mind. Raghunatha dasa Gosvami has given me the idea that I may also pray to my mind. The mind is either a valuable friend in our service to Krsna—we are meant to perform manasa-seva, worship in the mind—or our worst enemy. The uncontrolled mind can destroy us. As described in the song of the Avanti brahmana:
“All the senses have been under the control of the mind since time immemorial, and the mind himself never comes under the sway of any other. He is stronger than the strongest, and his godlike power is fearsome. Therefore, anyone who can bring the mind under control becomes a master of all the senses.
“Failing to conquer this irrepressible enemy, the mind, whose urges are intolerable and who torments the heart, many people are completely bewildered and create useless quarrel with others. Thus they conclude that other people are either their friends, their enemies or parties indifferent to them.”
“ . . . Not to know yourself is certainly a serious dilemma; if you don’t know who you are, then how can you be happy? But the process of self-realization, the process that brings self-knowledge and peace, is bhakti-yoga. We have to link up with Krsna in service, then we will know who we are. Free from ignorance of the self, we can finally be free and happy. Srila Prabhupada describes satisfaction of the self.
“The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead.’ (Bhag. 1.2.8, purport)
“Making peace with God automatically includes making peace with the self as well as with the body. When we try to become happy through the senses of the material body, we fall into great distress. For example, people base their life’s satisfaction on sex pleasure; but after a few short years the body grows too old to enjoy. Then what? Seeking satisfaction through sex and other material, bodily pleasures, we meet frustration at every turn, until finally everything is destroyed by encroaching death. There is an inherent anxiety for the soul who, in ignorance, takes his body to be his very self. A person in bodily consciousness is in a precarious situation; even if he denies it, unconsciously he is afraid that at any moment he may be dashed in oblivion. A devotee, however, understands that the real self is different from the body, and therefore he can come to peaceful terms with his body. He understands that the demands of the body should be neither neglected nor exaggerated. This is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“‘Life’s desires should never be directed towards sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s works.’ (Bhag. 1.2.10)”
“Dear Lord, dear energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service. We think proper thoughts sometimes—they float across our complacent attention. The sinner has more strength. He wholeheartedly prays for forgiveness. Though he claims he has no strength to continue his miserable life, he’s still able to fix his contrite and painful mind upon the Lord and seek His shelter. He does not doubt or hesitate. He has arrived at this point by a torturous route. We should all be so fortunate.
“We cannot judge whose life is successful. Everything is judged by the final outcome— ante narayana-smrtih. The goal of all endeavors is to think of Narayana at the time of death. Our worth is tested in that way. Now, dear brothers, accumulate that wealth of remembrance and practice it. Maharaja Pariksit perfected his life by hearing about Krsna without cessation during the last seven days of his life.
“Our pulse beats at every moment, and at every moment, we can either think of Krsna or forget Him. To remember Krsna is the greatest gain; to forget Him for a moment is the greatest loss. How is such constant remembrance possible? How is it not possible, as long as we are aware that Krsna is everything? ‘Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor. But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe.’ (Bg. 10.41–42)
“I wish to dedicate everything I am and everything I do to Krsna. I want to remember Him constantly. This is why we worship our guru: he inspires us to remember and serve Krsna at every moment. Bhaktivinode Thakura sings, ‘O venerable Vaisnava . . . Give me the shade of your lotus feet and purify me. . . . Please bless me by giving me one drop of faith by which to obtain the great treasure of the holy name of Krsna.’ (‘Vaisnava Thakura,’ verses 1-3)”
“My friend is bringing his astrologer for
a visit and asked if I’d want
to see him too. I’ve decided
not to see him. I’m already
following his formulas for
remedies against shortened longevity:
“the worship of Hanuman and the
Ashvini Kumaras, fresh air
around my head and a life of
renunciation. But I don’t
wish to get into it more.
Narayana said they are subject
to mistakes, limits of the senses
and cheating. I will stay
dependent on Radha and Krsna
to deal with me as They like.
“I have no aspirations of
my own beyond serving Them.
Let Them take care of me.
The astrologer’s conjectures
are relative, and I have taken
them seriously in part with
my extra worship. But
it’s best not to hang on
their guidance as the all-
“Keep writing of your personal
life in the time that’s offered
you. You have already
written plenty. Whatever
more time He gives you is
‘gravy,’ gratuitous freedom.
“Wave your incense first to
Radha and Govinda and
rest in Their beauty and
opulence. Then you
go to Hanuman with an
extra wish. There is no
need to consult further
with the astrologer in
search of some magic
will be will be
under the grace of
guru and Krsna.”
“About to leave. Get fresh water for the bathroom bottles. I warned M. not to leave late. I want to arrive two hours before the possible boarding time. Best to get up front on the queue so you can get off first. Also, we have a two-hour drive, so there could be delays; don’t cut the time short. Have leeway just in case. And the ‘long’ voyage, entry into England, and Customs, where they always ask some questions. One man, I remember, said, ‘Lovely,’ when we gave the right answers. I’ve got my dhoti on. It was cool in the morning but now warm. It’s what Radha-ramana dasa in the USA would call good World Series weather. Good weather as we encountered in October, 1966, chanting Sunday afternoon in Tompkins Square Park.
“You are talking to pass the time. Waiting for him to say he’s ready. I plan to spend the two hours back here. Maybe lie down; sort of blot out the time-stress, so I’m less likely to get a headache. Srila Prabhupada said on tape that sunlight cures without any medicine, by its ultraviolet rays. But if you get cured from the sun (worship) and you are satisfied with that, you are less intelligent. You’ll get another disease later. Human life should be used to go back to Godhead; no more bodily diseases.
You are talking to pass the time as in a waiting room or driving in the van. Listening to the rattle of parts as he cleans up the kitchen. We will go soon. Hare Krsna.
Sharp hills, grade 10%, too much for our van. Twisting. Not chanting japa. Talk about no rural places very friendly for a devotee in this world. Clans and sheep in Ireland. Italian, I don’t speak. Better not to have a home base. But then you have to pay with transit days.
“Santander is the port. I don’t think we’ll make it by 4 P.M., but certainly on time. Relax onboard the boat and do bhajana, chant and read and write as you would do anywhere.
“Twist, twist, the mind too.
“I want to go in the back of the van, but there’s really a hypnotic hold once you get up front here. What is it you want to see? You want to go on record as having driven all the way through the hills into Santander? Want to have a memory of Santander village-town? Want to see that man with his cap on backwards and a big pole walking out towards the cows, and another one with a bucket walking after two calves tied down? Want to say at least to yourself, ‘I’ve been here’? The beautiful country of Spain in these hills in this warm October weather . . .
“We’re on queue. Two full lines of cars and vans ahead of us. Directly in front of us is a young, blond man juggling. He has three bowling pin-shaped objects, and keeps them up in the air by constant eye-and-hand’s art. He’s got a beard, no shirt, low waistband, a head of hair pleated like a Rasta man, tattoos. Quite a show. M. and I don’t even mention that he’s there. M. is lettering a ‘For Sale’ sign and wants to tape it on the back window. So, we are for sale, our home, that is. We are planning to get another.
“If you could go within, I don’t know what you’d write. I can’t claim…it’s enough to cope with this day in the traveling, those hills we just went through and the sea journey that awaits us.
“The juggler’s not alone; there are several other young men also bare-chested doing other kinds of small-time juggling acts and tricks. I guess they’re part of some troupe. Life goes on.
“Waiting. Calm down. When do we board? Why is no one behind us? If I were a better devotee . . .
“Listen, Krsna, put Krsna in your heart.
“Where is your sraddha? I’m grateful that I have no pain at least. Let me keep calm. Got my bags ready to carry to our cabin.
“This is Karttika. A mataji at New Vraja Mandala gave me a green-yellow feather just as we were leaving and said, ‘This is from Vrndavana.’ I said, ‘That’s what I want.’ It looks like a parrot’s feather, fell off his wing onto the dust. It’s the king of the dhamas, Vrndavana.
“Listen . . . it’s too dark in here to read. I’d read something where Srila Prabhupada says Krsna is your friend and we can meet Him. He hands over Krsna to you. But you have to work for it too.
“Every minute, this is the story.
“Krsna, Krsna, Krsna. My dear Lord . . .
Words come out of the pen
not realized but still . . .
Krsna is the chief name
He speaks Bhagavad-gita.
“Still no move.
“Reason it, man. They won’t leave without you. Reason it—you are at the start of a substantial retreat, followed by India-going. No shortage of time for yourself, for the right purpose. One reason you go alone is to write and explore your life, to pray to God, and so on. Well, commence it on this queue; and I don’t mean to pray, ‘Dear God, let us get on the ferry boat soon. Don’t let them leave without us. Spare me a headache.’
“(I remember praying that my father and the other men would dig their cars out of the street on the snowy night when they were laboring out there and me and my mother and sister and other ladies waited in our house.)
“I will read Caitanya-caritamrta. I will look at it and take to it to myself and worship and pray. Please make me an exclusive devotee of Gaura-Nitai. Give me a taste of this excellent book. In steady, daily reading. I don’t want to show off, become any kind of artist or writer and not a devotee. You just read those verses in the ISKCON temple in Spain, that Vyasa was despondent and Narada said it’s because you have not broadcast the sublime glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“Why don’t they let us on the ferry? It’s almost 6:30.
“Madhu came to the back of the van and told me the reason for the delay—they were loading a railway car onto the ferry by a trailer, and it was scraping the ground. He said it’s almost on now and so we should be going soon. That was five minutes ago. Still, a deadly silence here as we wait. Now it makes me think that if we had left early as I wanted to, this wouldn’t have happened. Three-fourths of the cars and vans went on before this railway car. It also is likely to mean that if and when we do get to go, we’ll be stuck behind that monster and it’ll take ages to get off the ferry tomorrow night in England.
“It’s five minutes to seven and we’re still on queue. The night is getting dark. He started his engine, then we moved about thirty seconds and now stopped. I’m not even going up there to look at what’s going on. But my thoughts have been pushed forward to another kind of brink, and I’m thinking, ‘Just why am I striving to go alone?’ In other words, if I’m all riled up just about getting on the ferry for my own purposes, is that right? Shouldn’t I be meeting with other Godbrothers and on the phone about some strategy for distributing books or some crisis in some Russian country or something like that? Why aren’t I preaching in Prabhupada’s movement? Well, the answer I come up with is that we’re all preaching in different ways. We’ve got some people like Mahanidhi Swami there in Vrndavana, and then you’ve got others on the front lines and in the communications departments and so on. It’s not just that one department is right. So, I’ve really got to prove myself and study those books nicely and keep going to lecture in temples when I do. But it’s not wrong if I take a good amount of retreat time. Besides, I haven’t had a retreat in a long time! So, let’s get on that ferry. And let’s not wait, let’s think about it now—how to chant better, how to pray to Krsna to make you a better devotee and to tell you what to do and to give you the courage to do it.”
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.