Today I spoke on Zoom to the audience at the Trinidad temple, where they are observing a three-day festival. They first showed me a video of the temple. It looked very clean and beautiful. I saw the full-sized Prabhupada murti, and a close-up of Radha-Gopinatha, the main Deities, and a shot of the large crowd attending, sitting in chairs. Then my disciple, the temple president Pancha Tattva devi dasi, introduced me to speak. I spoke about the prediction Lord Caitanya made 500 years ago that in every town and village the chanting of Hare Krsna will be heard. Since His time, many generations of His followers have come and gone. Although they all believed in His prediction, they wondered how the miracle would take place. The world outside India seemed too remote, the language barrier seemed impenetrable, and the Krsna conscious philosophy seemed too refined to ever go out of India. It wasn’t until 1965, when His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada went west that Lord Caitanya’s prediction began to become a reality. Just before Prabhupada was ready to leave for the West, he received a letter from a man in Trinidad inviting him to come there. Prabhupada wrote back and thanked him, but asked him to get a “No Objection” certificate from the Indian embassy. Prabhupada and the man exchanged a few letters, but the man never followed through on the invitation. In the meantime, Prabhupada got free passage to New York City, and he began the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON).
But he didn’t forget Trinidad. In 1968, he sent some of his disciples there to start a center. The rest is history. I spoke about the history of ISKCON Trinidad for about twenty-five minutes, and then I made some personal remarks. I thanked my disciples down there for remaining faithful to Prabhupada’s mission, and I asked them to keep a living bond with me. I mentioned that they could write me letters and read my writings. I made my obeisances to His Holiness Guru Prasada Maharaja, who is the GBC for Trinidad and who initiates devotees there. I expressed my gratitude to my disciple Pancha Tattva devi dasi, who is the temple president there. She works tirelessly there to renovate the temple and to engage the devotees. I expressed my sorrow for the loss of a great devotee of Trinidad, my disciple Baladeva, who used to organize the Ratha-yatras and who told everyone he met about Krsna. And I expressed my thanks to the congregation who had gathered there today.
I phoned Pancha Tattva devi dasi in Trinidad to find out if she could give me a link to get onto the Zoom at the time I’m scheduled to speak at the 40th Anniversary of the Installation of Radha-Gopinath in February 1982. I have received memories of the event from devotees who were there. (My own memories are scarce.) I have also received the transcript of the feature article in Back to Godhead magazine about the opening of the temple in 1982. It was written by Dravida dasa. So I have enough materials to give my talk, if I can just remember what to say. The memories from the devotees are helping me.
I spent days memorizing my lecture from typed pages of notes. It was an over-exertion. When it came time to speak, I found I had to read from my notes because I couldn’t remember what I had tried to memorized. I tried speaking without reading my notes, but then I couldn’t remember what to say, and I froze in silence for awkward moments. When I finally turned and read from my notes, it wasn’t very noticeable to the Zoom watchers, and I felt relieved. I’m not fond of lecturing anymore. I prefer for devotees to read my writings, such as my weekly Journal and my many, many books. But on some occasions they demand that you speak. I recall that Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu always reads from his laptop computer when he’s giving a talk, and others do that also. They look up verses and read them, paraphrase Prabhupada, and so on. So I shouldn’t feel so bad that I have to mostly read from my notes.
Devotees are in a world of their own, but they are impacted by world events. We have nothing to do with the international politics, but Prabhupada has said that the widespread chanting of Hare Krsna could prevent World War III. The devotees, both in Russia and in Ukraine, are avid chanters of the holy name, and their combined hari-nama could avoid the worst disasters for both countries. We pray that diplomacy and peace will prevail and that there will be no invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
I am personally worried about my disciple Caitanya-candrodaya and his family in Ukraine.
I watched about an hour of footage of the inauguration of the renovated building at Ultadanga Road in Kolkata. This was the building that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja started his preaching movement in and resided in for twelve years (1918-1930). And this is the historic place where His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada for the very first time. Our Prabhupada was reluctant to go and see the sadhu, but his friends, who had seen Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and were impressed by him, urged Prabhupada to go up to and see Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who gave his lectures on the roof. He was giving his lecture when our Prabhupada and his friends entered the roof-space. They made their dandavats to the spiritual master. He interrupted his lecture and addressed the small group, including our Prabhupada. He said—“You are educated young men. You should preach this message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to the English-speaking people.” Our Prabhupada then said to his future spiritual master that India should first gain its independence from England; otherwise, people wouldn’t take them seriously. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura replied that Krsna consciousness did not depend on who was in political power. They talked some more, and our Prabhupada felt he was defeated. He was impressed that he had met a person who had Lord Caitanya’s message in his expert hands.
I watched on YouTube about an hour of ISKCON speakers all telling about the event that happened 100 years ago, when Abhay Charan De met Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. I watched Bhakti-Caitanya Maharaja, Radhanatha Maharaja, Giriraja Maharaja, Hari Sauri Prabhu,
Her Grace Daivi Sakti, Lokanatha Maharaja and several others speak about the glorious history of Ultadanga Road. ISKCON obtained the building some years ago, but it was in very broken down condition. They restored it and renovated it so that it looks just like it did 100 years ago. I saw video footage of the restored building, and it is very beautiful! You can see the exact spot on the roof where Abhay Charan De met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. I was thrilled and humbled to see my exalted Godbrothers and sister speaking wonderfully about the history of the place.
My oxygen concentrator machine broke down and, for four days, I have not been able to use it while sleeping. A previous test showed that my oxygen level was going down too low overnight, and so I need this machine to breathe in more oxygen. An emergency repairman came out today and fixed the machine. We’ve been trying to get him on the phone for four days. Yesterday Baladeva spent forty-five minutes on the telephone on “hold,” waiting for someone to answer. We finally got through and were able to put our petition into the status of emergency repair. The man came out today, a Saturday, and in half an hour he cleaned and replaced the filters on our machine and gave us new tubing and a new nosepiece (which had been broken). Now I can rest and get the l necessary oxygen for my COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
She’s been treating the eczema on my left index finger, which has been there for years. It’s red and raw and sensitive. It doesn’t go away. Last time we were there, she gave me some ointment to apply. She measured the area and said if it didn’t shrink in a few months, she’d cut off a piece of it through biopsy (send it to the lab). But today she just looked at it and decided not to cut it. She wants me to continue to use the ointment that she gave me last time, but two weeks on and one week off, which is more than we were doing before.
The dermatologist can’t take gluten, so she can’t accept Baladeva’s chocolate chip cookies. He therefore made coconut macaroon cookies just for her. But alas, they were in the bag he forgot to bring, so he had no phone, no ID and no cookies. It was a shorter than usual visit this time, without a long wait.
The dermatologist was reluctant to do the biopsy today. She asked us to come back in six weeks and she’ll decide what to do next with my ornery eczema.
Baladeva appears today like Lord Siva when he was struck with the yawning weapon by Lord Krsna. B. keeps making wide yawns, revealing his tonsils. He says it’s because for three nights in a row he’s gone to bed substantially past 7:00 PM, his usual bedtime hour. Last night he was watching Janardana install our new printer to replace the broken old one. Janardana got the new printer to work successfully. But when he left, Baladeva tried to use it and it wouldn’t work. He claims it’s his “computer karma.” The night before last night, he was up spraying the Tulasis, who are under another attack by the spider-mites, and he was also cutting and pruning the flowers and putting them in water, the flowers which he had purchased earlier in the day. The night before that he was up late cleaning all the dishes and pots, etc. from our Lord Nityananda feast. There was no extra man here to help do the cleanup, as Krishna Kripa had left and Bhakti Rasa hadn’t arrived yet.
In our out-loud reading we are hearing Lord Kapila describe the miseries of the embryo in the womb of his mother:”
“At the end of five months, hunger and thirst make themselves felt, and at the end of six months, the fetus, enclosed by the amnion, begins to move on the right side of the abdomen. Deriving its nutrition from the food and drink consumed by the mother, the fetus grows and remains in that abominable residence of stools and urine, which is the breeding place of all kinds of worms. Bitten again and again all over the body by the hungry worms in the abdomen itself, the child suffers terrible agony because of his tenderness. He thus becomes unconscious moment after moment because of the terrible condition.
“The human soul says: ‘I take shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears in His various eternal forms and walks on the surface of the world. I take shelter of Him only, because He can give me relief from all fear and from Him I have received this condition of life, which is just befitting my impious activities.
“I, the pure soul, appearing now bound by my activities, am lying in the womb of my mother by the arrangement of maya. I offer my respectful obeisances unto Him who is also here with me but who is unaffected and changeless. He is unlimited, but He is perceived in the repentant heart. To Him I offer my respectful obeisances.’” (Bhag. 3.31.4–6, 12–13)
Guru dasa sent Krsna dasi a picture of her deceased husband, Bala, tending to the Deities at Viraha Bhavan. She said she’s going to hang the picture on the wall and it will help her to remember her husband.
We came early from our appointment with the dermatologist, and Bhakti Rasa was not at home; he was still out shopping. So Baladeva went across the street and asked Sraddha if she could help us in getting me up the front stairs in the carrier. She is young enough and strong because she practices exercises. So she was able to safely help us mount the stairs.
We continue researching to find a low-mileage Honda Odyssey. (We’ll keep our present Odyssey as a back up car, although it’s got very high mileage on it.)We’ll trade in the 1998 Toyota because the brake lines and transmission lines are rusting out and can be very dangerous if they break while driving.
Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu broke his arm in two places and has not been able to do much for weeks. But today he went on a three-mile walk, although he said it hurt him when it was over. But he’s gradually recovering. When Ravindra Svarupa joined us to honor prasadam on Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day, he kept apologizing for eating with his left arm/hand. This led to a discussion of people who are left-handed. There were other people around the table on Lord Nityananda’s day who were left-handed. There’s a stigma about being left-handed. When Prabhupada noticed that some of his devotees were left-handed, including Rukmini devi dasi, he told an anecdote. He said there was a man who used to play several instruments by using different limbs on his body. He played a harmonium with his feet, he played karatalas with one hand, and he also played a drum with the other. Prabhupada said this man reminded him of the writing of his left-handed disciples.
Sraddha dasi fixed our printer, and now I’m able to read the pages of my incoming mail instead of hearing it on the computer. I prefer to read the paper because it’s easier for me that way in answering mail with my Dictaphone. I hope we didn’t lose any mail during the period when the printer wasn’t working. Answering mail is very important to me and I want my correspondents to receive my answer as soon as possible.
John Endler visited today. He brought with him the manuscript of a journal I kept while staying at Sastra’s townhouse thirteen years ago. The journal is called The Yellow Submarine. I wrote in it every day. John has been reading it, and he says it’s very good. I don’t remember what it was like myself, but I’m eager to read it. Writing was productive during my several-year stay at Sastra’s townhouse. We used to go on daily walks in the morning at Rehoboth Beach. John Endler read a poem from the journal. It was a jazz poem. He loved it, but I have ambivalent feelings about jazz writing. It’s a closed chapter for me now. I don’t have anything to do with jazz anymore. John said the full manuscript of The Yellow Submarine is over 300 pages. We’re deciding whether to print a book of it or serialize it in my daily Journal.
“Do you think it is a tall claim that the Vedas are the original sources of knowledge? Can it be proven, or is it something we are expected to accept on faith?
“The Vedas constitute truth. We have already discussed this under the topic of epistemology. There are various ways to prove any knowledge. We can use direct sensory perception, inference, speculation, the study of tradition, and logic. But each of these methods has an inherent flaw and cannot deliver absolute certainty that what we are discerning is actually true. Therefore, the superior method to gain knowledge is brahma-sabda, or hearing from faultless authorities. That is especially true when we are trying to gain knowledge of things that happened in the distant past or transcendental knowledge. Transcendental knowledge is beyond the range of the senses and cannot be understood by speculation, inference, or logic. We must hear from authority. If we want to know our father, we must ask our mother. Therefore, the Vedas are their own authority. This is not circular reasoning. The Vedas are absolute; they don’t need separate confirmation, which would imply that some other authority surpasses the Vedas. As the sun doesn’t need a lamp to illuminate it, so the Vedas are self-luminous and provide the infallible proof of themselves. Furthermore, persons who have approached Vedic knowledge and become thoroughly immersed in it, present us with their realizations and life examples, and these also constitute proof. Their learned discourses often employ logic to convince and satisfy our hearts, although ultimately the logic is used only to serve the Vedas, not really as a means to prove them.”
“Nowadays, those who take up Vedic knowledge do so not by birth or custom, but by approaching the spiritual master in Vedic study through intelligence and spiritual inquiry. The Vedas state that in Kali-yuga everyone is born as a disqualified sudra. Still, anyone can become a learned brahmana by submissively hearing Vedic knowledge from authority. Once someone grasps the principles of Krsna consciousness, he may become qualified to help reclaim all the various branches of knowledge that exist in the world and again link them to Krsna consciousness. Thus it is not depressing to learn that Vedic knowledge has splintered and fragmented into all the world’s teachings. Rather, it is a source of encouragement when we see Vedic truth in so many places. Now it is a matter of reclaiming it to its source and for its original purpose. That means breaking it away from atheism and returning it to theism.
“The first step in doing so is understanding that our immersion in material miseries comes from our turning away from God’s mercy. When we learn to offer our activities as service and to accept Him as the Supreme, then we not only save ourselves, but we also help others. The truth is actually simple.
“In a later Srimad-Bhagavatam purport, Srila Prabhupada describes how we can dedicate to the Supreme all the various departments of knowledge:
“‘If one is a learned scholar, scientist, philosopher, poet, etc., then he should employ his learning to establish the supremacy of the Lord . . . If one is an administrator, statesman, warrior, politician, etc., then one should try to establish the Lord’s supremacy in statesmanship . . . Similarly, if one is a businessman, an industrialist, an agriculturist, etc., then one should spend his hard-earned money for the cause of the Lord.’ (Bhag. 1.5.32)
“Krsna consciousness has jurisdiction over all subjects; they become re-spiritualized simply by the touch of a devoted person.
“Prabhupada used to encourage us that we could speak on any topic and in any department of knowledge—psychology, sociology, literature, history, and even science and math—even if it appeared that Krsna consciousness had no relevance. A devotee can always make the connection with Krsna and show the defect in any body of knowledge that has lost its connection.”
“The mahajana does not dwell unnecessarily on details. This is not an age for getting hung up on innumerable Vedic details but for learning the art of devotion. Relevance is defined by that which most evokes our original love of God. Lord Caitanya has determined that chanting Hare Krsna mantra and hearing narrations from Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam will do that best. We may also worship the Deity, although in an abridged form, as taught by the expert spiritual master in disciplic succession.
“When I hear of how the original Vedas were divided, I am impressed by Vyasadeva’s mood in caring for and protecting the knowledge. Knowledge is something real; it has to be cared for if it is not to be lost or distorted. Knowledge should be seen as a precious gift; we should be reverent toward it, learn it, and practice its tenets chastely. It is not something to be maintained in an underground archives as if it has no modern application. This was Srila Prabhupada’s own mood. Prabhupada was concerned that his written and taped teachings not be lost. At first they concentrated on preserving these materials on acid-free paper, putting them in vaults in case of war or natural disaster. While this is certainly commendable and necessary, Prabhupada considered it even more important that the knowledge be spread around the world to as many places and living representatives as possible in the form of his books. Prabhupada also carried his first printed volumes of the Bhagavatam with him from India and wrote in ‘The Motto’ in the front matter:
“‘It is admitted even in the higher circle that in fact the whole root and background of Indian culture is wrapped in the Sanskrit language. And we know that the foreign invaders of India could break down some of the monumental architectural work in India but they were unable to break up the perfect ideals of human civilization so far kept hidden within the Sanskrit language of Vedic wisdom.
“‘Srimad Bhagwatam is the mature ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic literature. We have begun to give it rendered into English with broader outlook, and it is the duty of leading Indians to spread up the culture all over the world at this momentous hour of need.’
“Vedic books are best preserved by publishing them in as many languages as possible, always keeping the original message intact, but spreading it further and further, deeper and deeper into every town and village.
“Oh, I hear the gremlin taking hold of this. He belongs in a cave with Henry Miller and the other apes—such a self-starting proclaimer, typical Kali-yuga type. He tries to stand on his hind legs and speak as if no one has spoken before him. What arrogance. He yawns and shows his teeth (or lack thereof). Does he really think his preening and fretting is a subject worth hearing? And now—get this—he claims to be a master and receives biscuits in a sealed plastic carton, saving them for when he gets the urge to reach in and eat one.
“Who is this impostor? He appears to have absconded with the truth.
“Well, gremlin, begone. It’s hot in here, so I think I’ll open the window. I have to sing my song before my heart stops beating. Yes, professor and student, artist and dancer, layman and servant of the servants of the acaryas—that is, if Prabhupada will accept me and not kick me away. I am trying to serve him, and I try to evoke my devotion and faith and marshal my conviction enough to present the basic facts with their Krsna conscious conclusions as they are revealed in the verses and purports of the Bhagavatam. Everything comes from the Vedas. I don’t have trouble accepting that.”
“It’s such a deep thing to say that Krsna conscious knowledge is the source of all other knowledge. It’s not a mundane concept, but requires that we understand and accept the supremacy of God. Therefore, whatever we say, we had better make sure we connect it to Krsna. We should always speak as His representatives, even as we allow our spirits to fly. Wherever we go, whatever we see, whatever we want to say—Krsna has already been there. It has all emanated from Him. While the atheists use knowledge to run and hide from Krsna, we find Him everywhere in every understanding. Our duty, then, is only to help make His presence and teachings clear to others so that they can see Him too. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.
“It’s nice early in the morning to approach a rough newsprint page with a pen and sail and to glide, to tell what you know. Here’s what I know:
“(1) Krsna is the God of gods. He has millions of names. ‘When we say Krsna we mean God.’ Ha ha prabhu nanda-suta.
“(2) The stove produces warmth, and cold air pours in from the open window. Where is there comfort? Nowhere. ‘Open wide,’ says the dentist.
“(3) I don’t need to be self-conscious or feel inferior. Just say what comes. Yesterday a long-lost disciple came to see me from a great distance, but I refused to see him. I wrote him a note, ‘You are so out of touch with me that you didn’t know I was on a writing retreat and that I don’t have individual meetings because of my weak health.’ I was sorry I couldn’t meet with him, I said, and then this image popped into my head. Sometimes in Zen stories a student is denied entrance at the monastery gate. It’s a test of his sincerity and his determination. I denied this disciple entrance, and I was sorry that he traveled so far ‘for nothing,’ but perhaps he will see Krsna there.
“Is He there? Is this even the subject of a Bhagavatam commentary? It probably has no place in a discussion about how the Vedic knowledge was spread and disseminated to all cultures. But it does. For example, you don’t like to hear me (and I don’t like to say) that I’m a spiritual master and such-and-such happened with my disciple. The words ‘spiritual master’ and ‘disciple’ stick in my throat when I use them in that context. But what else can I say? That I’m a city bus driver or I
didn’t meet with a passenger?
Oh, we know you’re sitting around
in your long underwear
scratching out odes, scratching your ear
and sometimes sorry about that.
“O lost son, I do welcome you back, but you can’t expect to just burst in on me without first making a gentle approach.”
“Tell us, sir, what did you discover in your solitude? Can you quote from Merton or Thoreau on this? Well, as a matter of fact, I read Thoreau for five minutes yesterday and this is what he said. He said a saint needs to go outdoors in winter as often as a hunter or other outdoorsman. I have to admit that he worked the metaphor until it became tired, about how a saint goes out to search a prey more worthy than a fox. His point was that internal life is easily pursued when we take long walks and observe nature. This line was good: ‘Do the Indian and hunter only need snowshoes while the saint sits indoors in embroidered slippers?’
“He got me there—I wear booties. But it’s so muddy and icy and hilly here I keep deciding to stay inside to write. After all, I can see nature from my window. But you are right, Thoreau-ji, one ought to get out and inspect the snowstorm and know of the coming of spring.
“When I finish this little report I will chant some rounds and then ‘compose.’ Why don’t I just think of Krsna as Raghunatha dasa Gosvami demands of his mind, or think of the Vaisnava gurus, the residents of Vraja, of Radha and Krsna’s service?
I do think about them, but this manah certainly does go other places. Now one could say the mind should be ignored or tossed aside. Let the nondevotee thoughts go like leaves floating down a stream. Let them go and don’t record them.
“Yes, one could say that, but I do record them. It’s true-life experience. Someone nowadays may compile a book about Vrndavana parikrama without telling what he actually experienced when he made the walk. That’s his choice, and this is mine.
“Krsna, please forgive us both. Please let me chant Your holy name with attention and devotion. I cannot do it, but pray to You for the ability.
“I love acknowledging my littleness and I don’t love it. I am little. I must walk into a dirty shower stall—walk right on the dirt. I would like to go back to Krsna and be divested of all foolishness, but I can’t pay the price, the laulyam, make the sacrifice. Anyway, my relationship with my guru is eternal. I don’t know exactly how it works, but he won’t abandon me. Questions like, ‘How will I know my rasa?’ are almost silly to ask because I am so far from perfection. Just keep on. What else can we do?
“My purpose while traveling is to stop and write. Writing is the purpose of the expression. I travel to be a bona-fide sannyasi in ISKCON and to speak Srimad-Bhagavatam lectures. That’s no joke. In fact, for most people it’s more important that I lecture than that I write. But they are mistaken. For me, it is more important that I write. Twenty-three of my books are translated into Italian, and they want to translate the rest. Matsya-avatara Prabhu wrote me that he thinks the previous acaryas inspired me in writing Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta and that it will be appreciated for generations to come. Hearing that was solace after reading the scathing attack on SPL.”
“Hare Krsna. I am starting another morning walk. My dear Lord Krsna, please have mercy on this sinner. My dear Lord Krsna, thank You for Your mercy. Talking to myself to help me pray is not a sentimental thing or merely emotional: it is philosophical reason.
“The motivation for prayer and for always thinking of Krsna is that we are actually helpless in this world. We are in a very dangerous position. We don’t know what is going to happen at death, what may happen at any moment. The sastras say there will be transmigration and so much suffering. That is the salvation angle; we should get out of this condition. Beyond that, however, is the attraction to Krsna.
We are rascals. We have come to this material world and committed so many sinful activities; so we should want to get out of this situation. We are helpless, sinful. This is the motivation for prayer, to talk to our protector, our well-wisher, who will take us beyond salvation to Him—if we can just attain this immediate, simple thing of always talking to Krsna and of being with Krsna by chanting the holy name while thinking of Him.
“It seems to me that I might have had a little bit more of that when I first joined as a devotee, when I saw it in Prabhupada, and when I thought spontaneously of Krsna from minute to minute while at the welfare office. I think it has been drying up by the institutional work, by Prabhupada’s absence now, by the offenses I committed as guru, and just by the resurfacing of material desires. To be gaining this again is nothing extraordinary; it is my natural situation and I am going back to it.”
“Defined in theology:
“‘Study of the divine accomplishment of the salvation of humanity; specifically in Christian theology, study of this as effected through Jesus Christ.’
“It’s obvious that in predominantly Christian countries, we’ll find predominately Christian definitions of theism. This term refers to how a person is delivered from material life, specifically through Christ. We have a similar teaching in Krsna consciousness. The Bhagavad-gita describes, daivi hy esa guna-mayi, that it’s very difficult to be delivered from the material world because it is Krsna’s energy that entangles us. But it’s Krsna’s external energy. If we surrender to Krsna in the spiritual energy, however, He will deliver us.
“Despite the fact that Krsna consciousness has a similar concept, soteriology is defined only in Christian terms: Christ is God’s one son and he is the only savior of the world. My only point in saying this is that we have to acknowledge that the dictionary definitely has a Christian slant to it, and this contributes to the idea that Western theism is synonymous with Christian theology.
“Often people of other cultures reject Christian theology as insubstantial. Or they reject it because it comes in a whole package of social and political ideals from the churches. Some even feel that Christian theology has been so watered down over the ages that it barely has meaning anymore. It was originally grafted onto Greek thought by Thomas Aquinas, and in the modern age, it tends to be grafted onto Darwin’s theory, which every Christian child is spoon-fed from early on. Regardless, if we scan the different theological words and concepts listed in the dictionary, we will see the Christian slant. That means that there is a mundane slant and a Christian slant. So much for the dictionary’s objectivity.”
“Go after it. Be greedy for this. Collect mantras. Cram mantras. Give yourself three weeks for the exclusive practice of chanting. Neglect other duties at this time. For so long you have done the other things dutifully and pushed the japa into a corner like a neglected child. How many devotees do I know who must admit, ‘My chanting is poor’? So go and do it. But don’t be proud that you have increased your quota by a minuscule amount. Premature saint, namacarya coming back to the pack boasting, ‘I did a big vrata. I discovered something.’ Bosh.
“You have discovered you have no taste. That’s why you didn’t want to get into it. You thought, better leave it in its state of perpetual neglect because once you pay attention, you will see how bad the case is. Advanced cancer. Too late? No, never. It’s just in time. It’s the perfect time. Go on chanting now and tell us about it as honestly as possible. Let your loud pen scratch us a simple report of these days and nights. Come back again for more retreats like this and write more of this simple and sublime theme: ‘This is what happens when you spend time chanting.’”
“I have read the prayers of devotees begging You, my dear Lord Krsna, for the nectar of the holy name. Please accept my japa as a form of begging for that same nectar. I am just a Kali-yuga beggar with no pious credits, but Your pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, induced me to chant. I can’t stop.
“I regret that I don’t regret my lack of achievement. I cannot tell this to anyone, but You know my heart. I cannot tell the nondevotees because they will use it as ammunition in their war against theism. I cannot tell the devotees because they don’t want to hear my continual complaints—they want relief for their own situations. I must tell the truth—I don’t want to hide it or be afraid of it or bluff. I chant but can’t pay attention. Due to offenses, I am not attracted to the holy name. With these words, I am able to express what doesn’t come out clearly even in chanting. At least let me confess and beg for mercy from the Supreme.
“I have heard that pure chanting will solve all the problems for oneself and for the whole world (param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam). Please, Lord, descend to me in Your most merciful form. If You will not descend because I am an offender, please let me know what I must do, because now I cannot even face You. I try, but I cannot hold my focus. Something is wrong. You are not allowing me to face You and pray to You. I have been given the mantra in parampara. I am trying to follow the order of my beloved, exalted spiritual master, although imperfectly, so why can’t I at least pray and be aware of harer nama? Will You help me?
“Srila Prabhupada is fingering his beads. He roars, ‘Sit properly!’ and loudly chants by the hour. I can do it too.”
“Sometimes a specific quality of the Vaisnava will come forth and shine, just as at night a certain star may first appear and then others. On another occasion, another quality may be called for and come forth. And sometimes, like blossoms on a tree in spring, many show at once. The pure devotee is capable of showing one quality after another, not as a theatrical performance but as is needed in the course of rendering service to Krsna and the Vaisnavas. And all the transcendental qualities come naturally to him, without separate effort, as integral parts of his Krsna consciousness.
“We should not demand a consistency according to material standards in a devotee’s display of these qualities. His meekness does not mean he cannot on occasion become angry. Detachment does not mean he cannot use material things in the service of Krsna. The devotee is consistent, but not in a small-minded way. All a devotee’s actions are consistent with his rendering pure, unalloyed devotional service to Krsna.
“The quality of aniha, indifference to material acquisitions, is another part of the Vaisnava’s opulence. He doesn’t have to acquire things because he is already satisfied in devotional service. A devotee may use material things in the service of Krsna, but he doesn’t become attached or dependent on them. He may serve Krsna with millions of dollars, construct buildings, and profusely publish Krsna conscious literatures; but even if he has nothing material to use, he can serve Krsna just by chanting Hare Krsna.”
“Japa requires alertness. If I feel myself going down, I have to become aware and pick myself up. Chanting in the mind without making a sound vibration is not as good.
“Japa is our daily bread
of devotion. Don’t starve
the beads. Stay alert
and devotional, move along
at a lively pace.
Japa is our daily prayer, ,
don’t go without it or
your spiritual life will
wither and die. Keep it
up in spritely spirit.
“Japa requires concentration. You obviously can’t do two things at once, such as watch television and chant on your beads. If you attempt that, it is offensive chanting and of little value. So you have to make up your mind, ‘This is my time for chanting,’ and put other things aside. This includes not only other external activities but also the activities of the mind. The Bhagavad-gita says that controlling the mind is as difficult as controlling the wind. But there is a surprisingly simple way to control the mind while chanting. Prabhupada’s famous expression is, ‘Just hear.’ To practice this, you should chant audibly. If for some reason you are not able to chant audibly, then you must chant the syllables of the mantra in your mind.”
“‘O Mother, in this forest all the birds have risen onto the beautiful branches of the trees to see Krsna. With closed eye, they are simply listening in silence to the sweet vibrations of His flute, and they are not attracted by any other sound. Surely these birds are on the same level as great sages.’ (Bhag. 10.21.14).
“If we hear Prabhupada’s purports to the Bhagavatam, then we will remember what he says and develop faith. We are faithful to the Vedas because Prabhupada has explained them to us. If we had read Srimad-Bhagavatam on our own, even with Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentaries, we would still not have become devotees. We would still have needed a guru’s favor. We receive the guru’s favor by ‘submissive aural reception.’ It’s hard to understand, but it’s true.
“If my own speaking has any potency, it’s because I repeat what Srila Prabhupada says. I say it in faith and someone can hear it with faith. That is parampara. I cannot speak it on my own; I have to be linked to the disciplic succession. I stay linked by repeating the words of my spiritual master. Therefore, although I don’t see Krsna’s pastimes or realize them, I pass on the sraddha and the pleasure and conviction that comes when you hear from the pure devotee.
“In this verse, the birds are compared to sages. They close their eyes in ecstasy when they hear the flute. The branches of the trees are also transformed in ecstasy. In Krsna book, Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘From the behavior of these birds, it appeared that they were great scholars in Vedic knowledge and that they took to Krsna’s transcendental vibration and rejected all branches of Vedic knowledge.’ They rejected other Vedic branches and preferred the branches of an ecstatic tree that was struck with the vibration of Krsna’s flute.”
“This is my last night in Mayapur. The green kadamba leaves move in the breeze. I hear the train horn in the distance. The gurukula boys are off on a boat, propelling it with a long pole. They have moved to the center of the flooded plain. One of them dives from the boat, and a moment later, the sound of the splash reaches my ears. Then another boy dives. I wish I could be with them instead of watching. Their lives seem simple and sublime, living in a grove of palm trees and clean mud huts.
“Now they have brought their boat ashore. The muggy heat and the Radhastami feasting leave me feeling lethargic. I am counting on early morning to revive my mind with pointed and flowing expressions. If I get up enough drive tonight, I will return to reading aloud from Prabhupada’s books. It doesn’t look like Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Road will flood. Our brief stay in the dhama is coming to an end.
“Before I leave the dhama, I want to remember that it is an offense to commit violence to any of its residents or ‘to consider Navadvipa and Vrndavana different.’ Can I make a list of everything ordinary I can think of here? Give homage to light across the water as night comes on. Drum sounds coming from different directions. Radio—violins and a cinema singer. The red sandstone railing on the roof. The pinnacle of the Yoga Pitha. Madhu’s bowing down after each japa round while facing in that direction.
“An army of ants surrounds a piece of iddli on the floor. When I removed the iddli, the ants panicked and ran back and forth. Two gurukula boys made me two dandas, and I gave them each a ‘silver jubilee’ ISKCON pen as gifts. I saw the gazelle, in the zoo standing on the high ground. I thought they looked happy until I saw the big one with the horns push the smaller ones off the hill into the water.
“Tall Radha-Madhava in the temple with Their broad shoulders. I saw the golden back of small Radha-Madhava during the abhiseka. We poured green liquid, then red, then yellow.
“Jananivasa told me not to use my left hand and my feet felt tired on the cool marble floor. Bengali devotees leave off the ‘a’ when they sing ‘Jaya Radha-Madhav.’
“I pray to take these impressions with me. I returned to sit in the old GBC room and allowed twelve years of memories and ghosts to pass by briefly. But then I saw no profit in staying there. The sun is bright now in the land of Gaura-Nitai. ‘Peaceful.’ Someone wrote that in the guest book. Sweets. Clear water, four showers a day. It didn’t flood, but we saw it come close.”
“Nowadays when people write me questions like, ‘If we chant Hare Krsna at the time of death, even though we are sinful, will we go back to Godhead?’ I see the naïveté in it. I used to automatically answer that it was possible and not think much about it. Now I know differently. I think that for myself, I will obviously have to come back to work toward love of God. And objectively, it doesn’t seem possible that so many attached persons are going immediately to Vrajaloka. It should be clear that I will have to come back for more service-in-training. But I’m like the person who thinks, ‘Others have died, but I may be an exception.’ I don’t think it out; I don’t know how to face it; I don’t realize that the acarya-poets have written with me in mind when they say, ‘Now I am coming to the end of my life and I see I have not served Radha and Krsna. Fie on me. Alas!’ I looked at it as poetry. I can’t think of it. Although I brag that I have a taste for being alone and reading, I am not introspective. I enjoy the quiet life, the semblance of solitary pursuits, and the atmosphere of ‘a life of prayer,’ but I don’t enter. Entering The Life of Prayer woke me up, but I . . . I can’t say . . . I can’t say what it is, except I cannot and will not make an estimation of my own spiritual life.”
“Pure devotional service grants the devotee the power to break the chain of sinful activities in which all souls are suffering within the material world. A conditioned soul suffers due to his past sinful acts, and future suffering also awaits him for present sinful acts. But devotional service secures the special mercy of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, who promises to protect the surrendered devotee from all his past and future sinful reactions. This benediction one could never achieve on his own, even after hundreds of years of pious activities and acts of atonement. And yet, relief from sin is only a beginning installment of the rewards of devotional service, which ultimately leads on to the eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the spiritual world with Krsna.
“When we consider how almost all human beings in the present age of Kali are very prone to sinful acts, and when we consider how these acts condemn one to repeated birth and death, then we can perceive that the devotee is certainly the recipient of inconceivable mercy. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu expressed this when He welcomed Sanatana Gosvami to become His disciple. ‘Krsna has saved you from Maharaurava, life’s deepest hell. He is an ocean of mercy and His activities are very grave.’ (Cc. Madhya 20.63)
“The devotee’s good fortune is due to the causeless mercy of Krsna and the spiritual master. This mercy is extended to all souls in the human form of life, but only the fortunate—those who accept Lord Krsna and His representative as their saviors—become picked up from the ocean of sins and suffering. Why this great fortune is bestowed on some and not others may be partially attributed to karma. And yet with or without past pious acts, Krsna bestows His benedictions as He pleases, out of His causeless, inconceivable mercy.
“Although the present age is most sinful, it has a most merciful feature. In Kali-yuga the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, expands His mercy to the fallen. Lord Caitanya offers an easy method—chanting and hearing the holy names—which alone is powerful enough to free a sinful person from more sins than he could ever commit.”
“Water very calm. Some rain broke color in it, sunlight. Boat cruising last miles to Plymouth. From cabin porthole, we see only the ship’s bow and a patch of sea. M. said he feels like it’s the end of the day, relaxed, etc., yet he’s aware that he has to drive more.
“‘Get revved up,’ I say.
“He reads Hari-sauri’s diary, recites aloud with Srila Prabhupada walking in New Vrndavana and a dog barks at them. ‘Immigration department,’ says Srila Prabhupada. He says the devotees are walking with no offense, but still the dog is barking at them; that’s the mentality of the dog. M. says he has a tendency to be like that but doesn’t want to be. I’m reading a few short chapters of Wild Mind. You can’t read the Zen advice or even the writer’s advice submissively. But the dedication is good. Writing practice without thinking, editing, and so on. Go on writing; the hand will tell the truth if ‘monkey mind’ can be quieted, or even if it can’t be quieted, but we go on writing.
“Closer to land every minute. Many circus vehicles on this boat. I also saw a group of people in wheelchairs. Old folks and us. I tend to want to be seen as respectable. I am staid, no longer wild and adventurous in the world. Yet my appearance—orange sheets for clothes, short hair, etc.—draws surprised looks as if I’m another bare, tattooed juggler. I’m a quiet senior citizen of the Hare Krsna cult who writes. Give me easy passage, so I can go to a writing retreat and discover. Discover what? That I love God (Krsna) and He loves me; He loves us all.
“We need to remember Him. We are not these bodies. Tell it in a new way, or the old way, compelling; write from the quiet place. Don’t try to impress. Let it come out—powerfully. You pray as you travel, as the boat nears land.
“Krsna the Supreme. He exists as His energy in all things. But as a person He’s not involved with that material energy. You can be aware He’s there. Better remind you of Him.
“Happiness is getting off the ferry quickly.
“As we neared the shore, they announced that access to the car deck was strictly forbidden and that we could expect a delay in disembarking. Madhu said that was because everything would be held up by the railway car on board, and even the cars on top would have to wait until the lower deck exited. We went onto the car deck, however, before they made any official announcement. I went into the back of the van and figured I was at my leisure to put articles back in their place, but then suddenly I heard Madhu start up the engine. I opened the door and saw him slowly inching forward. We were at the very rear of the ferry and by normal procedure, we’d be one of the last ones off. But he had found an open lane all the way to the front, and he was slowly crawling forward. Several times we met deckhands who were busy removing chains that held trucks down. We went so slowly and yet so outrageously, and none of them stopped us. They seemed preoccupied with their own work. Finally, we went right to the front of the ferry and with no one signaling us, we just went right off, and I think we were the second vehicle off of the ferry. It was a masterful piece of sleight by Madhu.
“The immigration man was an elderly British fellow with some kind of raincoat on, and there were others assisting him in the booth. He was friendly, but he had some penetrating questions which I hadn’t been asked before. He was interested in Mr. Guarino, the American. When Madhu told him that we were going right to Ireland, I thought that would take the pressure off of his inquiry. But he became curious as to the frequency of my visits to Ireland. Suddenly, I saw a pattern unfolding that I was going to Ireland too frequently. He saw a stamp for my entry in March and asked if that was the last time I went to Ireland.
“‘Yes,’ I said, ‘we arrived there in March.’ I wanted him to think that was the last time we were there. He asked me if my residency was in Ireland. I said no. He asked me how long I was going to stay there this time and how long I had stayed the last time. Then finally, he stamped the passport for entry into England.
“We went through the next stop, which was customs, with no holdup at all, and there we were, free to drive into merry England. The first sign I saw once we got there was for a store for Indian food, ‘India Take Away,’ fast food.
“Madhu and I spoke about the implications of the talk with the immigration man. It appears that actually what I am doing is not so legal. I’m spending so much time in Europe, as I’m moving from one country after another in the European community, no one really seems to check up on me. So we thought I should try to get Irish residency sooner or later.
“Then we saw the moon, which looked completely full. At first it was like a muffle-covered moon, low on the horizon on our left. But as we drove in the sparkling nighttime, our way lit by only by other car lights and taillights, the moon began to rise and look brilliant. It is the Karttika moon. I remember that Prabhupada said that sometimes in New York City in 1966 he looked up and saw that it’s the same moon, same sky, same clouds, so why should he think that he’s a foreigner in America? Every place belongs to Krsna. By the same logic, it’s the same moon of Karttika whether over the land of Vrndavana or here in England or wherever. You can think of Krsna under the Karttika moon in England and you can think of Him in Vrndavana, India. Or you can be in Vrndavana, India and actually be in maya, and you can certainly be in maya in the West.
“I mentioned to Madhu that if I realized beforehand the significance of Karttika, I would have tried to have planned our schedule so that we could have finished the visits to France and Spain and be at the retreat house by the beginning of Karttika. So, I was trying to make up for that by observing Karttika as we travel. But how do we observe it? I don’t think we’ll even light candles tonight. We’re speeding now up toward the town of Exeter, and there we join the National Motorway where we will find a ‘Welcome Break’ place, which is a legitimate place to park overnight. In other words, I don’t think we’ll be able to stop before 9 o’clock, if we’re lucky. And we were certainly lucky getting off that ferry. Happiness is getting off the ferry quickly, getting through Immigration with a wink from the Immigration man, and driving under the full Karttika moon – heading for a retreat house.”
“Madhu couldn’t sleep, and so we started out from our English “Welcome Break” spot at about 2 A.M. for further driving. I rode up front and chanted nine rounds, and now we’ve stopped in Wales to rest. What more is there to say?
“Dreamt some people were filming India, all optical details, rats, children, workers, etc. I said, “This isn’t the spiritual inside of India.” How would you actually film that? Go to an ISKCON temple? But you’d have to find the spiritual essence of ISKCON.
“I daydream, plan, scheme, of a long poem, ‘The Real ISKCON,’ or ‘What’s Wrong With ISKCON?,’ or make-believe Ubu Roi sort of thing with drawings and especially it should be make-believe and we should love it despite its faults. More on that elsewhere.
“M. says he’s serving breakfast right away and then driving off. I didn’t even shower today! Strange day but upbeat too, all the miles we’ve covered, $12 fee just to cross one toll bridge to Wales where they are reviving their language. I should talk while alive in this tongue. I said to myself, ‘You could die at any moment as Srila Prabhupada says, so you better chant and pray.’ Well, I did nine rounds. I know my ISKCON contemporaries must sometimes pray too. Don’t say, ‘I’ll teach them. They need me to solve the riddle. I’m the only one, the old leader come to the fore in their hour of need.’ But do it yourself, for yourself. It will make your books better.
“It’s 10:30 A.M. and we’re lined up for the Stena Sealink crossing at 3 P.M. Holyhead to Rosslare or is it Fishguard to Rosslare. Anyway, it’s Wales to Ireland. Sraddhavan dasa is supposed to meet us on the other side. All of this is secret from most folks. We then have a full day’s drive tomorrow to the North.
“Don’t know how this writing will develop. It will definitely change from the jouncing ride in the back of the van, irregular hours, queue anxiety, riding onboard the ferry, etc. So, what that changes I don’t know. I figure the first two days there will be a winding down from travel. You could even stop Karttika Lights, but I sort of promised to stick it out like my “vow” of no sweets during Karttika and twenty rounds per day. You want to maintain some flavor of observing Karttika in Vrndavana. You may not feel it, but it’s a fact that it’s Karttika and you are living in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya who takes it seriously as a time special to increase your devotion to Krsna. Okay. But writing may take any turn. But the promise is to only keep writing and to call it Karttika Loghts.
“‘Moderate swell’ is the weather report. Wind is ‘3, 4.’ That’s a numbered code. I think ‘10’ is a gale for us. So, it’s not bad. Of course, you’d like it all velvet; you’d like everything handed to you on a silver platter. Can’t have it your way.
“Moderate swell. Middle-aged couple pull up behind us in their white van. She gets out and reads Madhu’s ‘For Sale’ sign. She jokes she’ll give five thousand pounds or a swap, theirs for ours. This goes on while our back door is open and I’m face to face with her. I say, “I didn’t think anyone else would get on line so early.” But my words are lost in the wind.
“What’s wrong with Fiskcon the Near? His tummy-ache? His uncle left him? People go to see him and inquire. On the way, they speculate what’s wrong. Here’s the unofficial song.
“Just now a knock on the door. I go up front. It’s a man, suit and tie and intercom in hand. He asked me if I waiting for the 13:00. I said, “Oh, yes.” But we are not for that. We are for the 3 P.M. So, he said we will board at 12:00. I said the wrong thing. M. is out making phone calls. We are for the 15:00. Why don’t they leave me out of it? I’m writing in the back and not thinking of 13:00 or 15:00 boat timings. Now I’ll have to tell M. when he gets back. I don’t like dealing with the world and glad I don’t have to. If I didn’t have M. here, for sure I’d be staying in a room in some temple, make it my residence with not so much adventure of an outward sort – or opportunities to run away? No, you could get that in another way.
“So far, so good with headaches this trip. But it’s never far away.
“Stena Sealink has magic words flashing on a screen. You get hooked into reading it. Timings and ads. My writing today feels on that level of communication. Pushing on a caravan. Hope to get to an inward place by noon. I anticipate that winding down is needed, but at least we’ll be in retreat outwardly, if all goes well.
“Sound familiar? We’re on a ferry again. This one’s called Felicity. The deck where the games are located is madness. Loud, loud, aggressive music and a dozen different video backgrounds for the games. It confuses me to stand anywhere near it. We made our way to Reception and M. got on line to buy a cabin. I sat down before a TV showing Milton Berle and Elvis Presley doing a routine where Berle is imitating rockabilly and Elvis is coaching him and singing, ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ I was curious and sat down. Then I figured I shouldn’t watch it, so I went to the other side, but another T.V. had the same black and white film on. I resigned myself to it, half eager to see the documentary of a history I had been part of. The narrator was saying how Elvis was so wild, ‘Elvis the Pelvis,’ and so something had to be done to tone down his image. He said the answer came on the historic Steve Allen Show in 1956. Then we see bespectacled Steve announcing Elvis and a greased-slick-haired Elvis singing, ‘I want you, I need you, I love you with all my heart.’ By then, M. had the key to our cabin and pulled me away from the T.V. which I left out of duty and relief.
“So, here we are again, me and Tom Merton’s history (I don’t mean that I have a book here by Merton, I mean…). Here we are one hour before departure. M. says he is sleepy and hopes to rest during the short journey. Yes, after the 24-hour journey, this one should be relatively easy. You can read something.
Maya is dangerous
can appear beautiful
nostalgic, tugs at
heart strings, sex stirrings too.
But Krishna is more
powerful, beautiful and
transcends all sex for
of love of Krsna.
“I hope for that. Was tired today. Not tired of life or of bhakti, but just tired in thought, “I hope at the end of life I am not like this where you don’t feel interest in calling out to Krsna.” A tired, beat person would just lie down and die maybe with no interest. I’ve got to stay awake and alive and enhance my chances to show interest in the next destination.”
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.