Three medical appointments on two days this week.
We had an 8:15 appointment to do blood work. The appointment was so early because I had to fast. We got ready to go on time, but after five minutes of driving, Baladeva remembered that he left my wheelchair on the porch. He hurried back to the spot, and we lost only six minutes. But there was a man in the office ahead of us, and we had to wait. Everyone is still wearing masks in the medical facilities. Before we even got in the office, we had an accident in the parking lot. The wheelchair slid back from under me and I fell to the ground. Baladeva couldn’t hold me up. He tried to lift me up from the ground, but I slipped to the pavement three times. No one was around to help us hold the wheelchair steady. I wasn’t injured, but I felt sorry for Baladeva, who had to lift so much dead weight and doesn’t know yet how it may have affected him. Once we got into the office, we had to wait awhile. Brenda, the nurse’s aide, apologized and said she still had to figure out the new computer. When she finished with one man who was ahead of us, she spent fifteen minutes trying to enter the information into her records. But she finally got to us and it felt okay. Then we had a picnic breakfast in the parking lot, honoring blueberry halava out of a short thermos. I got bounced around quite a bit and struggled getting up the stairs when we got back. Finally I was able to get into my “bedly” chair, and I was able to calm down.
The dentist, Dr. Danz, arranged a special emergency appointment for us early Tuesday morning to fix my upper denture, which was so loose it would fall out when I tried to speak. But we again forgot to load the wheelchair into the van in the rush to leave. We left the wheelchair on the porch. Halfway to the dentist Baladeva suggested we cancel the appointment, but I said, “That’s ridiculous.” But he was right; as it turned out, we should have canceled.
When we got there, the two of us held onto each other, and we walked up a long inclined wooden ramp for people with wheelchairs. B. first went in and asked if they had any wheelchairs, but they didn’t. So we had to walk. We gripped onto each other and headed up the long ramp. My legs are very weak. I had been getting some strength by taking Parkinson’s disease medicine, but the Parkinson’s doctor has canceled his appointments for us twice, for two months each. I haven’t had a medicine upgrade for five months. So I’m very heavy weight for Baladeva to handle. We struggled up the ramp, and when we were two-thirds of the way there, a nurse came out from Dr. Danz’s office and offered us a chair to sit on. Then she took our dentures and went in the office, where Dr. Danz put in new hardware to make the denture a better fit. He put in only one hardware, in the upper left-hand part of the denture. It was cold out, and I was waiting for him. He came out and asked me how it fit. I didn’t attempt to try and see how it fit with my hands. It just sat in there and seemed “all right.” So we didn’t really examine whether the fit was tight. He scared me when he said he didn’t want to make it too tight so that it couldn’t come out. Then we had to struggle down the ramp again, and it was hard going. Two men came up the ramp, and at first they ignored us. But then Baladeva called out to them desperately, “Can you help us?” One man said, “Sure,” and he came over and backed up Baladeva. He took half of the weight so we could make it to the car—otherwise, we wouldn’t have! But by the time we got back to our house, I noticed that the denture was loose again. It was just hanging in there with one piece of new hardware, and it felt very loose. It was so awkward sitting outside on a chair on the ramp with the dentist coming out and putting in the new hardware. I didn’t have my wits about me and didn’t test it to see how fixed it was. After the long struggle walking up the ramp, we were both spaced out. We have tried to make a new appointment, but their office is closed today.
Krsna dasi has the book The Myth of Closure, from which I read from and shared excerpts, and she said it was very helpful. She may share some of that with her and Bala’s grown children, Dhanvantari and Rasesvari, who are visiting her. Rasesvari flew in from Houston to be with her mother, but her flight was bumped in Philadelphia. The small plane to Albany couldn’t fly in bad weather, and the larger plane was overbooked. So she rented a car and drove to Albany, where Saci Suta met her and gave her one of his children’s cars to drive to Viraha Bhavan. It was an ordeal for Rasesvari. Her brother Dhanvantari is also here from Houston. They are processing their grief over their father Bala’s untimely disappearance. I have yet to meet with them, but I will. They’re carrying on with their duties all right, but they’re still in shock. It will be an emotional meeting, but it’s one they don’t want to avoid.
Krsna dasi seems to be taking things well. She regularly mentions something Bala did, some memories of him, and not in a very mournful way, but upbeat. For example, at our Gaura Purnima feast, a mataji made kofta balls. Krsna dasi remarked that they were as good as the ones Bala made. “He was the kofta ball man.” Krsna dasi remembers that Bala was always a helpful, active partner. He would empty the garbage, clean the dishes, and do the needful. She said, “I got a man.” Bala was an attractive preacher. He was very good at engaging people in devotional service, including our neighbors.
I have too many books to read. I just finished reading the third and last volume of Shyamasundar’s memoir, Chasing Rhinos with the Swami. I couldn’t put it down, it was such interesting writing. But someone has offered me the twelve cantos of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam. To get it, I’d have to assign someone to do a marathon printing ordeal when I’m not really that interested in doing it. I have a book of Visvanatha’s Tenth Canto commentaries, and I’m satisfied with that, although even that I’m not up to reading just now. And then John Endler discovered the huge manuscript of The Yellow Submarine, a journal I kept in Delaware thirteen years ago. John estimated that the manuscript is over 600 pages. He’s printing it for me, but it’s just too overwhelming. I can’t find the time to read it, although John encourages me that it’s a wonderful book. I just struggle to create my Free Write Journal every day, and I’m squeezing out short paragraphs of New Writings 2022. And not only this is “required reading,” but I have to read and approve the books we’re newly reprinting that I have written which are about Srila Prabhupada.
Rev. John Endler asked my permission to read my paragraph written to Charles Mingus’s
“Yesterdays” as part of his sermon on Easter Sunday. I asked him if he might get into trouble with his church. He assured me it would be all right. Every year at Christmas and Easter, he gives the exact same sermon. He thinks the congregation would appreciate it if he gave something new. He will still support his talk with references to Christ’s resurrection. He says he has been pastor at the same church for twenty years, and his flock completely trusts him. So it’s all right with me.
John and I both love the paragraph on “Yesterdays.”
I have finished using selections from Volume 2 of A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam for book excerpts in my Journal. Volume 2 comprises First Canto Chapters Three and Four. The first verse in this volume is 1.3.28, the famous verse krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: “All the incarnations are parts of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead.” Chapter Four describes Vyasadeva’s despondency even after writing many Vedic books. Just as he is discovering the cause of his despondency, his spiritual master Narada Muni arrives at his place. Narada Muni tells him that he is feeling despondent because in all of his books so far he has not directly glorified devotional service to Sri Krsna. In the Preface to Volume 2 I say that,
“I want to write philosophical purports expressing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in my own words, much as one might do when lecturing on the vyasasana. At the same time I desire to write something personal, pushing the boundaries of honesty and spontaneity beyond their normal bounds and certainly beyond the formal official bounds of a lecturer’s presentation. In PMRB, I have discovered a way to blend both approaches in one book. I stay strictly under the shelter of Prabhupada’s purports, and then express myself in diary fashion, which includes confessional writing, poetry and play.
“My format is as follows: I read the verse and purport, paraphrase the contents, repeat teachings given on that particular subject, then turn to free-writing and sketching, and then go on to the next Srimad-Bhagavatam verse.
“I feel a deep satisfaction and gratitude to be engaged in this project, and I want to show Krsna that I am earnest about it so He won’t take it away from me. . . .”
I used up much of the free-writes and personal material in my excerpts for the Journal. I claim that Krsna gave me this inspiration in Vrndavana, after I prayed to Him and specifically petitioned Him to give me a long-term project in a prayer I made to Vrndadevi at Kamyavana. I wanted it to be a long-term project, and in Volume 2 I really hit my stride.
I was encouraged that yesterday I wrote some in my New Writing 2022. I won’t quote from it now because I’m searching for a new voice different from the regular Journal. But I am enthusiastic when I can add even a little bit to the new writing. Most of the writing I publish was done many years ago. But this new writing project is the only thing I’m doing now that’s coming from today except for the “rabbits” in my Free Write Journal. I had months of dreaming that I was writing something new, but there were always interruptions and obstacles, and it was frustrating. But finally I decided to go ahead and write something new from the present. So far, it’s “Little drops of water wear away the stone.” But I am grateful that something is happening.
Maharaja Rsabha gave up the rulership of the kingdom and adopted the way of the avadhuta. He went naked, with disheveled hair, and wandered about like one haunted by a ghost. He also didn’t speak. The common people abused him, threw sticks and stones at Him, and passed urine on His body. But He was not affected. However, to avoid the trouble caused by the common people, Maharaja Rsabha stopped traveling and lay down in one place like a python. He passed stool and urine and rubbed it over His body to keep the people away. His stool and urine, however, created an aroma like perfume that spread around for miles. One day Maharaja Rsabhadeva got up and walked into a forest. There He met a forest fire created by the rubbing of bamboos. He entered into that forest fire and was burned to ashes. But the Bhagavatam’s verses and purports say that Rsabhadeva was not actually burned because He had a spiritual body, which is never burned. He actually went back to home, back to Godhead, and He left the kingdom to be ruled by Bharata Maharaja.
“‘As mentioned before, Narada reached the cottage of Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasa on the banks of the Sarasvati just as Vyasadeva was regretting his defects.’
“Srila Prabhupada states that the void Vyasadeva felt was not due to lack of knowledge. Prabhupada’s statement, ‘Bhagavata-dharma is purely devotional service of the Lord to which the monist has no access,’ almost hints that Vyasadeva was in a position similar to an impersonalist. Of course, Vyasadeva was never an impersonalist, but the fact that he did not fully concentrate on glorifying Krsna but stressed religiosity and jnana indicates that his books so far were less than bhagavata-dharma. It stands to reason that if a work does not present pure bhagavata-dharma, it must contain to some degree karma and jnana.
“Although impersonalism is a heavy charge, we may lean toward impersonalism not only by teaching Sankara’s speculations, but simply by not openly acknowledging Krsna’s transcendental form and pastimes. Anyone who claims to speak Vedic knowledge but doesn’t refer to Krsna the person is omitting something vital from his talks. We see with scholars who remain neutral and who comment on the Bhagavad-gita without teaching surrender to the Personality of Godhead that Krsna regards them as fools. Srila Prabhupada refers to Vyasadeva’s regret as ‘inspiration . . . infused by Sri Krsna directly in the heart.’ Inspiration, or Krsna’s dictation through the heart, doesn’t always come as a discovery of something wonderful; we may also see our defects. We heard in the previous verse Vyasa’s diagnosis of his own fault. Now Srila Prabhupada informs us that this insight was inspired by Krsna.
“ . . . Another point to note in this verse and purport is Vyasadeva’s expression of regret. Without experiencing regret we cannot experience reform. Reform means more than simply giving up a bad habit for a better one; it implies a changed heart.
“There are many examples throughout the scriptures of the purifying effects of regret. Maharaja Pariksit also regretted neglecting to honor Samika Rsi. Prabhupada writes, ‘Repentance comes in the mind of a good soul as soon as he commits something wrong.’ (Bhag. 1.18.31, purport) And again, ‘ . . . by the grace of the Lord all sins unwillingly committed by a devotee are burnt in the fire of repentance.’ (Bhag. 1.19.1, purport)”
“‘At the auspicious arrival of Sri Narada, Sri Vyasadeva got up respectfully and worshiped him, giving him veneration equal to that given to Brahmaji, the creator.’
“Chapter 4 ends with the arrival of Sri Narada, the spiritual master of Srila Vyasadeva. Seeing him approaching, Vyasadeva rose and offered him veneration equal to that given to Lord Brahma, the original Vedic teacher (brahma adi-kavaye). Lord Brahma is the first living being in the universe and the secondary creator. He was born directly from Garbhodaksayi Visnu’s body and is the head of our disciplic succession. Narada is among the first generation of Brahma’s disciples, but here he is given the same respect as his guru. Srila Prabhupada adds, ‘Similarly all other successive disciples in the chain are also equally respected as representatives of the original spiritual master.’
“Vyasadeva rose to receive his guru. I imagine Vyasadeva sitting in the lotus asana as Narada descends from the sky, vina in hand. In a spontaneous and reverent way, Vyasadeva stood and perhaps folded his hands in pranams. Perhaps he then made dandavats at his feet. The disciple usually then offers appropriate prayers to receive the spiritual master and offers him a sitting place; a meal, and any other comforts. These points of etiquette should never be overlooked when the guru arrives. Beyond that, however, Vyasadeva honored his guru by mentally becoming his servant. He molded his entire life around Narada Muni’s instructions. The spiritual master should be the master of the disciple’s heart and the director of all his activities. Yasya deve para bhaktir, yatha deve tatha gurau: ‘Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.’ Visvanatha Cakravarti has said that as a person cannot live without his life air (pran) circulating through his body, similarly, a disciple cannot live without the ‘life air’ of the spiritual master’s order. Dedicating all activities of body, mind, and words to carrying out the guru’s order is real honor and real worship. If we fail to follow the order wholeheartedly, we are dead. The guru’s order is the source of life.”
“So the chapter ends with Narada’s auspicious arrival, and so I end the second volume of A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam. Now I gather my resolve to write the third.
“O Narada Muni, you are arriving to give solace and inspiration to the heart and mind of Vyasadeva. We shall follow your instructions with keen attention and try to apply them to our lives. .
“The spiritual master is Krsna’s representative. He sees himself as the humble servitor of the Lord and the Lord’s devotees. The disciple, however, sees him as always representing Krsna in this world. All gurus in our line are honored by their disciples and not considered relative or partial teachers. At the same time, we freely glorify the special stature of great spiritual masters such as Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada.
“The relative and absolute viewpoints can be adjusted. Krsna is also worshiped simultaneously as relative (the naughty son of Yasoda) and as absolute (the Supreme Lord who contains all the universes in His mouth).
“As I prepare to continue A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, I must also remind myself of the responsibility I have toward my readers. Even when I play with words, I have to serve Krsna. If I am sometimes shackled by nondevotee thoughts, and if I express them, that expression should not be an indulgence but an attempt to shake off maya. Thus I need to follow Narada’s advice to Vyasa to directly glorify Krsna in devotional service. There is no point in becoming bogged down by mundane speculations and sense gratification. In my case, my struggle is evident on every page. My readers are bound to see blood, but please trust that the self is becoming purified by this process.
“We pray at the lotus feet of the spiritual masters in disciplic succession, who are all contained in essence in the lotus feet of our own spiritual master. We also pray for the mercy to be able to represent them, to dare to serve them. The servant takes the guru’s order upon his head and helps others as a way of offering service to his guru. He glorifies Krsna and the bhakti process.
“Bhakti is so merciful that even the fallen souls can practice it; bhakti is liberal and free. It engages all our propensities and allows us to engage art and freedom in His service. It establishes the supremacy of Krsna in this world.”
“A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, Volume Two, completed Sunday, March 24, 1996 at Saranagati-dhama, British Columbia.”
“In the two volumes of A Poor Man Read the Bhagavatam completed so far, I regularly discuss the nature of this work. That is, that I am mixing the straight presentation of a Bhagavatam lecture with the relaxed freedom of an ordinary soul, a poor man. I do this in order to speak constantly about Krsna.
“The method in this volume is the same: I present the translation of a Srimad-Bhagavatam verse, then make a brief overview of the contents of Srila Prabhupada’s purport. Then I field questions devotees have submitted. When all that is done, I take off in a freer form of writing. When that cow has reached the end of its rope, I fall at the feet of the next verse and purport and start all over.
“I wrote the first volume of the series in India—Vmdavana, then Khargone, Madhya Pradesh. The second volume opened in Hare Krishna Land, Mumbai, stayed for a week in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, then was completed at Saranagati, British Columbia. This volume begins at Saranagati and ends in New York.
“As I began this volume, a friend gave me a volume of Thomas Merton’s diaries. On the dust jacket it says that Merton endured the tension between remaining an observant monk and being a writer:
“‘Faithful to both of these passions, Merton struggled with the requirements of daily monastic life while he continued to grace the world with his fresh observations and profound insights . . . He eloquently reconciled his spiritual life with his writing life, drawing deep connections between the two.’
“These themes reverberate for me. I experience the same tension, and I attempt to reconcile my two passions—that of striving for love of God and that of my nature as a writer. Krsna consciousness creates the grounds for reconciliation in that we can offer up our nature to Krsna’s service, but the strain comes in fulfilling not only my nature as a writer but the other obligations I have accepted as well. Our society is rife with peer pressure, criticism, judgment, and what is expected of a devotee and a writer seems to have been decided by our movement. Therefore, there is tension, and not only for me as a writer, but for anyone who is forging ahead in a mode of expression that appears new in our disciplic line.
“Although I will be interested to see how Merton reconciled his life of prayer with his writer’s identity, I know I am not Thomas Merton and that I do not live in the Catholic Church. Neither am I an intellectual, as he was, or an omnivorous reader. And therein lies the other tension in my life: how to immerse myself totally and submissively into the life of reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“Prabhupada has encouraged me to write, and he has ordered me to chant, hear, preach Krsna consciousness, and of course, to do all this in the mood of coming to love God. I particularly remember his instruction that we BTG writers should express ourselves in our own words, our own language. He said that if our writing was cumbersome, it was a sign that we had not assimilated the philosophy. I find this comment pertinent now for the writing of this book. It is not enough for me to simply repeat the philosophy; I must assimilate it and then speak it from my heart, in my own words, with my own aspirations and realizations. Nothing will be changed, but the expression of it may be simplified.
“When Prabhupada discussed the topics upon which an author should concentrate, he said,
“‘So far as special topics for writing, all our topics are in the books. There is nothing “special.” Krsna is the Supreme Person and we are all His servants. This philosophy we have to present in different ways. One cannot be happy without this understanding of his constitutional position.’ (Letter, April 9, 1971)
“So that will be the nature of this book: I have not changed anything, and I have tried to take a personal approach to understanding how we can regain our constitutional position, how we can love the Supreme Person, how we can be true to ourselves and to our spiritual master. Nothing special.”
“Prabhupada writes: ‘Prahlada Maharaja’s smiling is very significant.’ Prahlada Maharaja was actually laughing at the boys’ foolishness. They thought they could be happy by advancing in material life! A devotee laughs to see the foolishness, but he is also compassionate. ‘The mistake of materialistic life is understood by devotees, and therefore they smile upon it, considering it insignificant. Out of compassion, however, such devotees preach the gospel of Bhagavad-gita all over the world.’ (Bhag. 7.5.55, purport)
“It seems, too, that great devotees smile when they are pre¬sented with an opportunity to discuss Krsna. It pleases them to alleviate their friend’s (or disciple’s) distress by giving the highest truth.
“We have read up until this point that Vyasadeva feels despondent, and although he has an intimation of what might be wrong, he does not know for certain. He does know, however, that the cause of his despondency is serious. Still Narada smiles. What is grave for a disciple is often simply solved by the spiritual master. When a disciple is troubled by his own childishness and inexperience, the master, like a parent, smiles away the disciple’s fears. Sometimes we take our problems so seriously that if the master smiles we become upset. Vyasa was an ideal disciple, however, and he was willing to bask in the rays of his spiritual master’s serene smile. Prabhupada assures us that ‘he will explain gradually,’ patiently, and we need not fear. The spiritual master is a kind father; he will protect us and enlighten us. We can just imagine how Vyasadeva must have felt when he turned himself over to Narada’s kindness and control.”
“As the spiritual master smiles to see his disciple’s foolishness, so he may smile when he sees his disciple’s maturation. Sometimes the guru smiles in the mood of the father with his child, sometimes in the mood of a father who has realized that his children have grown to become friends. Both relationships are sublime. Krsna was pleased to see Arjuna’s dependence on Him and He honored his desire to submit before the Lord’s superior intelligence, but the Lord was also pleased on other occasions when He and Arjuna joked as friends and shared the same eating or sitting places.
“When the guru smiles at a maturing disciple, it may indicate his relief that his disciple appears worthy to take up his mission. A mature disciple relieves the spiritual master of some of his duties so that he may perform his personal bhajana.
“Then Srila Prabhupada states that Narada knew the defect ‘and it was confirmed by the position of Vyasa.’ Narada could see the nature of the problem in Vyasadeva’s demeanor because the face is the index of the mind. Great sages such as Narada can see into our hearts. Vyasa’s position was also confirmed by his own insight because Krsna had inspired him to understand the vacuum in his heart.’”
“This book is unique in the retrospective series of poems taken from Every Day, Just Write. Rev. John Endler has explained how the title of the book, Kaleidoscope, applies to most of the poems in the book. Most of the poems in the book are so freewheeling and improvisational that by a slight shift in the reading, one will see new images and viewpoints. As for the Krsna content of the poems, they are not doctrinal but ars poetica, the art of poetry. I have written spontaneously from the heart and mind, and I request the readers to come forward and meet me, going with the flow of words and not analyzing them to death.
“There are frequent references to jazz musicians in this book. I would like to make a caveat statement to this. Kaleidoscope was written in 1993 when I was a serious listener to jazz. Many years have passed since then, and as I came close to reaching my 80th birthday, I began to think it was inappropriate to be tuned into this music. Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita that whatever one thinks at the time of death, one will attain a body like this in one’s next life.
“My aspiration is to be free of all material attachments and to go back home, back to Godhead. In 2018 I made a solemn vow to not listen to any more jazz (the same is true of my smaller collection of Bach and Beethoven). I am fixed and satisfied in my vrata. My collaborator, Rev. John Endler, and I have decided to keep the jazz names in our new publication of Kaleidoscope. They are too essential to the authenticity of the poems. They belong honestly with the flow of the freewriting. There will be no such references in future writings but they belong as a part of the creative process of Kaleidoscope.
“In his introductory essays, John Endler has explained that most of the poems are written in stream-of-consciousness. He has given examples of this from world literature to make my poems more accessible to readers unfamiliar with stream-of- consciousness. I have not imitated any of the published literary artists, but I have created my own stream-of-consciousness as I have been inspired. The result is experimental writing, but I find it more exciting and refreshing than my previous poems. I hope that my readers will join in the adventure and enjoy the shapes and colors of my spiritual kaleidoscope.
“Prabhupada taught from an elementary level of Krsna consciousness up to the highest point of the philosophy, and this he did in his books, his talks, and his actions.
“He was strongly against people taking Krsna consciousness cheaply, as the prakrta-sahajiyas do. Therefore, he repeatedly stressed that one must first understand, ‘I am not this body.’ As a compassionate teacher, Prabhupada gave people as much Krsna consciousness as they could assimilate and as was best for their advancement. But his writings ranged the gamut from the preliminary teachings of the Bhagavad-gita all the way to the Caitanya-caritamrta and the intimate lila of Krsna and the gopis.
“Furthermore, since Srila Prabhupada was preaching in the twentieth century, he had to confront the heavy forces of atheism represented by Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudism. He wrote and spoke to establish God’s existence, the need for God in human society (varnasrama-dharma), and to defeat the scientific theory that life comes from matter. This defense of Krsna consciousness did not consist of very easily accepted lessons. Krsna consciousness had to be presented with logic and by boldly attacking the opposition.
“Because Prabhupada was representing the Vaisnava sampradaya from Lord Caitanya, he continually opposed the Mayavadi philosophy. Lord Caitanya Himself always spoke on the basis of the Vedanta-sutra, establishing the Absolute Truth as the Supreme Person whenever He met with leading scholars. Lord Caitanya’s talks about Radha and Krsna were reserved for a few people such as Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara. Srila Prabhupada followed this parampara of Lord Caitanya by constantly giving arguments against Mayavadism and by stressing the chanting of Hare Krsna.”
“ . . . I cannot simply ‘study’ Prabhupada as a scientist studies a specimen under a microscope. I have many photographs of Prabhupada representing many posed and candid moments. Still, I cannot understand the mind of my spiritual master. I can study his words and teachings, but even that has to be done with faithful hearing and service. I am not a literary critic or a lawyer who can endlessly dissect his instructions, looking for . . . what? Loopholes? That would be over-intelligent, and it is an offense.
“I have my service in his movement like anyone else. But regardless of whether my service differs from yours, we are all students at the feet of the guru. I don’t want to become like a jaded sense gratifier, always needing more and more stimulation to get the same ‘high.’ Prabhupada is enthusing me. I collect his memories and photographs to remind myself of that.
“To stay alive in Prabhupada memories, while remaining free of dilettantism, is to know that he has a current connection with us. Don’t relegate Prabhupada to the museum in your mind, and think that you are the antiquarian collector of rare books and artifacts. Prabhupada is out preaching.”
“Pure devotees of Krsna meditate on Krsna’s schedule. Krsna performs various pastimes with His eternal associates according to the time of day. Krsna’s day is divided into eight main periods, and within those eight periods, there are minute divisions. Pure devotees fill their minds with remembrance of Radha-Krsna by meditating in this way.
“Similarly, Srila Prabhupada’s daily schedule is well-known to his devotees. We can meditate on Prabhupada at different times of the day. For example, Prabhupada rose around 1:00 A.M. to write. He took prasadam at specific times, chanted his Gayatri at specific times, and had scheduled meeting times for guests. He took a noon bath and a little nap afterwards, and he was usually prepared to lecture in the evening. As we go through our own day’s activities, we can meditate on Prabhupada’s schedule and even try to do some of the things he did at the times he did them. That will fill our minds with remembrance of Prabhupada.
“Prabhupada also manifested the other symptoms of steady bhava, including always expecting the Lord’s mercy, pridelessness, attraction for living in a holy place, and attraction for chanting the holy names. Prabhupada manifested all these symptoms with full, Krsna conscious emotion and with the strong awareness of a preacher. He was a pure devotee. Prabhupada wanted his followers to also become pure devotees. Therefore, we can please Prabhupada not only by meditating on him throughout the day as he performs his bhajana, but by performing it ourselves. This is the perfection of Prabhupada meditation.
“Another way to follow Srila Prabhupada’s schedule is to worship his murti and serve him throughout the day in that way. If you have a murti, you may find that your schedule is already formed around service to your deity. But you can make it even more personal by trying to serve the murti according to Prabhupada’s actual schedule.”
“Tonight I went with some other devotees for a walk to the Yamuna River to bathe. Afterwards, we read from The Nectar of Devotion. Then, on the way back, I started remembering anecdotes about Prabhupada. One’s audience is a very important factor in being able to remember stories about Prabhupada, as is the place and time. Everything was ideal—the place was perfect, Vrndavana (which was finally cool after a hot day); the time was perfect because we had just bathed in the Yamuna and shared reading The Nectar of Devotion; and the company was very friendly, mostly my disciples and a close friend and Godbrother, Sesa Prabhu. I felt relaxed enough to tell one story after another. I didn’t feel I had to connect them by a particular theme, but I just went from one frame of reference to another easily.
“One story I remembered: Prabhupada was walking in Montreal. He was being challenged by a boy who thought the vegetarian diet wouldn’t make a man strong. Prabhupada replied, ‘You see this boy here (indicating Brahmananda), if I asked him to, he could kill you with his bare hands, and he is a pure vegetarian.’
“Each story I told reminded me of another, especially morning walk stories. I found myself telling a string of stories about being faithful to Prabhupada because this is so much on my mind. I saw how stern he was in some of the statements he made. When I was traveling with Prabhupada in ’74, he was disturbed to hear that one of his disciples was leading others away from Prabhupada’s strict practices. They weren’t worshiping the Deity or having a morning program. They were claiming that a particular disciple of Prabhupada was the most advanced. Then when we got to Japan, the guests bowed down on seeing Prabhupada. Prabhupada exclaimed, ‘This is an advanced devotee, who bows down before the Vaisnava or the spiritual master. Not a disciple who goes away and claims he is more advanced but who doesn’t follow strictly anymore.’ Advertising oneself as advanced means you are not advanced, especially if you lessen your tie with your spiritual master.”
“When I left Saranagati to go and preach, I didn’t want to give up the process of meditating on Prabhupada. After performing Prabhupada meditations for an uninterrupted month in the solitude at Saranagati, I resumed the normal duties of an ISKCON sannyasi, traveling, preaching and mixing with devotees. But since I did not want to entirely abandon the regular practice of thinking and writing about Prabhupada, I attempted to do it in the midst of a busy schedule. More often I noticed I was not doing it. That led me to discover ways in which I could fit Prabhupada meditations into my schedule. I don’t think I have ever recaptured the concentration I had at Saranagati, but I did learn ways to keep the meditations alive in my mind.
“I found that I could dictate material onto tapes and send it to a typist. Wherever I was, I could use the tape recorder and speak something about Prabhupada into it. Although these recalls were crude and groping, I made a discipline out of them and gradually developed volumes of Prabhupada Meditations. I also continued to write the short essays exploring the different attitudes in relationship with Srila Prabhupada and trying to make observations and applications for devotees.
“I found myself not only speaking about 26 Second Avenue, but about life in ISKCON after Prabhupada’s disappearance. That also felt like a valid meditation. It seems that the more we try to think about Prabhupada, the more thoughtful we become. Often, the essays I felt like writing explored what it means to be serving Prabhupada in separation since his disappearance. This is one difference between Prabhupada Meditations and books like Hari Sauri Prabhu’s diary. Prabhupada Meditations does not only consist of memories, but it contains reflections too. That may be disappointing to some devotees because they are not looking for a subjective presentation. I think, however, that when the memories of Prabhupada’s association are exhausted by those who were eyewitnesses, in order to write further about Prabhupada, we will have to resort to our own devotional expression, meditation, and personal feelings. It is not that these should be rejected by someone who is looking for Prabhupada nectar.
“For me, Prabhupada meditations has become a genre. Genres are not only different ways to create books, but are the variety of expressions in which I look for self-purification.”
“When Prabhupada left us in New York City to go to San Francisco, he said, ‘If you are missing me, you can put my pictures on my sitting places.’ That was the start of worshiping his form. Much later, he approved the making of a marble murti in Vrndavana. And when I began the writing of Prabhupada-lilamrta, I obtained the first twelve-inch murti made by Locana dasa. I massaged and bathed that Deity daily at noon, changed his clothes to fresh pressed ones, and bowed down before him to offer the prasadam. In the evening I laid him down to rest in blankets. It was a new relationship I kept up, even while living and traveling in the van. Massaging his head and back and shoulders I sometimes talked to him, or was just silent and did the work, of worshiping Prabhupada. And I wrote a poem:
Because the murti is somehow him,
therefore it is absolutely him.
And any worshiper has the right
to dress, garland and feed him.
All are chosen servants now—
if you will receive him with care,
he will stay in your home,
giving purpose to a life.
Some nights I surrender,
and he knows, smiles.
I can touch him
and bow down.
One brother said, ‘I realized
Prabhupada was my only friend.’
I lectured to him, ‘No, appreciate others
you are not alone with only him.’
Now I realize he was right:
when all else fails, Prabhupada doesn’t.
When I was tired of the world,
and no one understood,
I appealed to coworkers,
‘Let us always stay together.’
But they joked in reply:
‘Is there a threat if we don’t?’
‘How about a two-year contract?’
Both are true in Prabhupada—
he’s keeping us together,
and he’s keeping me together.
This murti is nice.’”
“Since there is no sunshine in those subterranean planets, time is not divided into days and nights, and consequently fear produced by time does not exist.
“That is the illusion in the subterranean planets, that everything is all right. You don’t get wrinkles or smell bad, you can have sex and maybe even be religious and live a long, long time without noticing the days and nights are passing. You are not afraid of that. But better to be afraid. Look, Frank Sinatra got so old, no hair, no teeth, no nothing, it will happen to you. Did you see the photo of William Burroughs in 1995 on the back of his book? Who is going to save those guys from hell? It is the devotees of Krsna who have that responsibility. They’re working against time. They are sincere workers going to the battle fronts, borders of war-torn countries, risking life saying, ‘We have to get over to deliver Food For Life,’ and they deliver the Hare Krsna mantra and Prabhupada’s books in the same way. These are sankirtana stories. Did you see that one about the Druze people in north Israel? Yeah, I looked through it. Not so much of a book, but first-class service to the Lord they did. One devotee went right up to a butcher who stood in the worst neighborhood on the street holding his bloody chopper in hand. The devotee started speaking to him, aware that one wrong word or one wrong move and he could be killed.”
“The Prabhupada murti in the samadhi mandira is treated just like the Deities of Radha-Syama or Krsna-Balaram in the main mandira. He has his own pujaris and cooks and his own schedule of aratis. One of his major aratis is held after 4 A.M. in the morning before the mangala arati in the temple.
“It is usually not fully attended but has a very intimate air. Most of the day the samadhi mandira is open and visitors file in, make dandavats and leave coins. He is very public and many people file through to see him. During the japa period some devotees sit in front of him and chant all their rounds.
“One should approach the Prabhupada murti as one approaches the Deities of Radha-Krsna or Gaura-Nitai, not accepting him as an idol but as Prabhupada himself. The sastras and acaryas concur that worshiping the pure devotees is more essential than approaching the Lord directly. There is a common saying that one should first love the dog of the beloved before one shows any loving sentiments for the beloved. The stage of pure devotion is attained by sincerely serving a pure devotee of the Lord. The first condition of devotional service to the Lord is therefore to be a servant of a pure devotee, and this condition is fulfilled by the statement, ‘Reception of the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee who has also served another pure devotee.’ This is the way of pure disciplic succession or devotional parampara. Prabhupada writes as follows in a purport in Srimad-Bhagavatam:
“‘In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krsna . . . Therefore the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krsna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance to His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly . . .’ (Bhag. 2.3.23, purport)”
From the back cover:
“Memories of Prabhupada are nectar. Without them, there would be no substance to Prabhupada consciousness.
“If there were no memories of Prabhupada, then he would become only a legend. But there’s a lot more to Prabhupada consciousness than memories of him.
“By meditating on the memories and practicing internal, minute-to-minute surrender, we will be Prabhupada conscious.
This internal cultivation is very important. Prabhupada-recall doesn’t mean only remembering what he did in the 1970s; it means recalling our need to serve him now.”
The Deity did not suddenly arrive
when a girl found Him in an import store,
but because of Prabhupada,
the inconceivable took place—
it didn’t happen by chance.
Swamiji explained why the stubby arms,
the special shape of the head,
the simple round eyes, the big smile.
Jagannath had been carved at the request of an ancient king,
who could not wait to see the Lord
but had burst in on the sculptor.
The sculptor had fled, and the king had accepted:
‘I shall worship Him in this form.’
And Lord Caitanya had accepted,
‘This is Krsna, whom I have longed to see.’
‘Yes, He is Jagannath,’ said Swamiji.
‘The Lord of the Universe,’ and he explained:
God can appear in metal or wood or stone—
it is no problem for Him.
Everything is His energy,
but we cannot see Him in person
in His original spiritual form
as long as our eyes are covered
with material desires.
Yet He appears in His form,
as described in the sastra,
with blackish hue like a fresh rain cloud,
as in the picture of Govinda in the moonlight
or the statue of Kartama-sayi with His hand on His hip.
He is not a youth of this world
but is the transcendental source
from whom all worlds have come
and all gods and time and space—
all from that eternal form.
They took it on his word,
and Shyamasundar carved the three-foot forms
and made a redwood altar with canopy
and colored blinking lights.
They cooked a feast for the local hippies,
who came to celebrate with chanting.
And all were glancing up
at the Lord in His round-eyed majesty
beside His sister, the auspicious Yogamaya,
and His Brother, Lord Balaram,
the source of strength
for those who take shelter in Him.
While the two Lord Brothers and Their Sister beamed down
from Their place on the altar,
Prabhupada introduced Them:
‘Here is Krsna.
His form is there, His color is there,
His instruction is there, His helmet is there,
His advice is there—everything Krsna.’
They knew when Swamiji spoke
about Lord Jagannatha and Lord Caitanya,
he was intensely feeling separation.
And one day right before them
he entered an internal trance—
beyond their vision,
and yet they saw and felt him go away
and then return to them,
in ecstasy of separation from the Lord.”
You came to us from Vrndavana
and you brought Vrndavana with you.
In Radha-Govinda Mandir
you saw Vrndavana worship.
At five years old
you wanted your own.
In your household life
you traveled to Vrndavana
and named your son Vrndavana;
but when you met your Guru Maharaja,
then you went to Kosi
(on the border of Vrndavana)
and heard from him—
the pure consummation
of all your youthful yearnings
for entering Vrndavana.
And it was in Vrndavana
that you heard from him—
whom you held
as the expert knower of Vrndavana—
heard of his desire
for printing books.
Vrndavana, you learned,
should not be kept hidden:
the message of Vrndavana Chandra,
and Their eternal abode
should be widely given
as nectar and
as sumptuous food
to the parched and starving
souls of Kali-yuga.
On the banks of the Yamuna
Simple, pure days
and nights, writing
but also leaving Keshi Ghat
and going to deliver
Back to Godhead
to materialistic men and women in New Delhi.
You took sannyasa
and at Radha-Damodara you began
the Srimad Bhagwatam.
Reside and write in Vrndavana,
collect and print in Delhi—
three volumes you published that way.
In Vrndavana, ISKCON was created
from the desires of the acaryas
and from your personal will
to deliver Krsna to the West.
But so much were you
attached to Vrndavana’s dust
that when you journeyed
on the Jaladuta,
you thought yourself
the son and messenger of Vraja:
‘I am feeling separation
from Sri Vrndavana and my Lords
Sri Govinda, Gopinatha, Radha-Damodara.’
And in Manhattan’s winter
‘My heart is always hankering
after that Vrndavana . . .’”
“Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was bad luck for me. I got a headache starting in late morning and it built up to a sharp pain behind the right eye by the afternoon. I retired to bed about 5 P.M., hoping it would go away overnight. But it didn’t. I wasn’t able to do any writing or reading yesterday beyond what I did in the early morning, thus the short chapter six.
“When I wrote that last chapter title, ‘Don’t Rev But Flow,’ I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t even going to be able to flow. But the ‘don’t rev’ warning was a good one. I remarked to Madhu that it seems as if my body was bracing itself during that five days of travel and somehow preventing a headache because it would have been more inconvenient along the road. But now the body was letting happen what had to happen.
“Madhu said something to the effect that, ‘You are weak, and you can’t do too much.’ When he said it, I realized that this shouldn’t be of permanent nature, my ‘defect.’ It’s my mortality. I’m suffering from old age and disease. Surprised? Did you think you could cure yourself of this or get out of it? I’ve seen some recent photos of myself in which one can tell that the man has false teeth and his face is very emaciated. What does that mean? Who’s kidding himself? Ahany ahani bhutani gacchantiha yamalayam . . .
“It occurred to me that I ought to do things ‘as if’ this is it, this is my last position or statement in life. One should always have this awareness, but there is a certain factual accuracy to it, if you knew you were at the very end of life. When one has a warning of a definite end, then he tends to make apologies to persons he may have offended, and he makes a last effort to cut himself off from various material interests, nondevotional books, and so on. There’s no more justification for it. It’s time to drop all illusions and also antagonisms and foolish, material attachments, romantic feelings, anything that will hinder one as he is forced to leave this body and take a new one.
“I’m fifty-six years old, but I don’t think I’ve reached that stage yet. I’m still producing literature, and so I do some research.
“I heard Srila Prabhupada comparing material nature to the police force. He said the law and order department is so strict that even a child is not excused. If a child touches fire, he will also be burned. It struck me since I heard this while suffering a headache. So, it’s the police.
“Sometimes I’ve been thinking that it’s Krsna directly handling me since I’m a devotee. But even if I flatter myself in that way, still, Krsna might be using the material energy to punish me. I don’t think I’m an ordinary culprit. I’m Prabhupada’s disciple, so there should be some special consideration. Even if I take it that way, that Krsna is removing from me the last vestiges of material attachment, still, it appears that it is He who has sent the police. And so I have been busted.
“It went on all day yesterday, persisted after twelve hours in bed, and now my lawyers are still negotiating with the police to let me free. Come on, give the guy a break, it’s Karttika and he wants to write some books.
“What is my crime? Perhaps there is no crime I didn’t commit. I am mostly rectified, but the last reactions are being meted out in token measure. Tat te ‘nukampam susamiksamano.”
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.