Sometimes devotees ask me obscure questions which I call “guru-stumpers.” The other day a devotee asked me about animals that are sacrificed in the yajna. Prabhupada says they are not actually killed, but they are just rejuvenated. But an old animal is sacrificed and rejuvenated and comes back as a young animal. But the guru-stumper persisted and asked me, “How is this compassionate on the part of the priest? After all, the animal comes back as the same thing, an animal, and he has to suffer the duration of that life in an animal body? How is that beneficial for him?” I didn’t have the answer—I was stumped. When some of us were given sannyasa by Prabhupada, I asked him, “Can we offer our food to the danda?” Prabhupada scoffed and said, “No.” That was an aborted guru-stumper on my part. Visnujana Swami asked Prabupada that when we offer Krsna prasadam, he sees a red light. “Does that mean that’s when Krsna is taking the food?” Prabhupada scoffed at that one too.
Sometimes guru stumpers ask me a question and say they’ve already asked this question of someone else and gotten an answer. But then they ask me too. This seems frivolous of them to bother me with a question they’ve already had answered.
Baladeva’s daughter, Rasesvari, is here receiving consolation and giving consolation to her mother Krsna dasi. Her brother was also here. Rasesvari is so involved in her work that since she’s been here, she’s been constantly on the Zoom talking to her employers. She has a very responsible job, but she said it’s been a hard year living with the departure of her dad. She showed us many pictures of him and didn’t do it with tears or sad emotions, but in a cheerful way. They’re sorting out Bala’s belongings here and keeping mementos to wear or use.
My large (39-inch) Gaura-Nitai Deities from Ekacakra are wearing a wonderful change of dress. It is simple but elegant. The color is light yellow, with a blue-jeweled border. They have big rose garlands and pale orange turbans. Most people who come to Viraha Bhavan take shelter of these Gaura-Nitai brothers and do not come up to see Radha-Govinda. Radha-Govinda are on an altar in a corner in my upstairs room, just four feet from my easy chair. It’s not convenient for visitors to take darsana of Them. But everyone who comes here, even deliverymen, get to see Gaura-Nitai. In these new outfits, They look calm yet transcendental. There are lilies in vases at Their feet, and a backdrop of a primitive painting I did of Krsna with His flute playing with His cowherd friends. They are on serious harinama, and Gaura-Nitai are joining with them with Their arms upraised. The word “lotus-eyed” really fits Them. They have large elongated eyes and exposed lotus feet. They have been with me for many years in different places, including Mexico and California. But now They’re here to stay at Viraha Bhavan. (I think They first came to me in 1994.) I wanted to worship Them in Their audarya feature, full of mercy and forgiveness, and this outfit perfectly fits that mood.
Just today, UPS delivered several “heavy” boxes of books at our front porch. They are for distribution at the July meeting of disciples and friends. Their titles are Srila Prabhupada Smaranam and One Hundred Prabhupada Poems. These are reprints of books that have been out of circulation for a long time. The book Prabhupada Smaranam is especially nice. It contains many colored pictures of Prabhupada, and I am in some of them. The writing is poetic prose describing what Prabhupada was doing. We have donors to print the books, and we have storage space to keep them in. The books delivered today are the first two of eight books about Prabhupada that will be ready for the festival on July 2nd. (We just confirmed that date with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Stuyvesant Falls). We have printed a hundred copies of each of these books, but they are also available on Amazon.
When the books were delivered the other day by UPS, there were 135 copies of Srila Prabhupada Smaranam, but no copies of One Hundred Prabhupada Poems which we had expected. But today boxes of One Hundred Prabhupada Poems came. That completes the shipment of books we’re planning to distribute at the July 2nd meeting. Both books were very well done by our team of book producers and by the printer we used.
Bhakti Rasa had one thousand of my books stored in England. We are getting them shipped to the United States. All the books will be stored in one place now. The bank transfer has been made to complete the business, and the books are set to sail on April 4th, arriving in storage in Stuyvesant Falls after a few weeks. So it’s the strong beginning of a new era for GN Press. We’ve been waiting to reach this level of activity and production for years. The book production team is working smoothly to bring out this year all the books I’ve written about Prabhupada (except Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta). And after this year we will continue to produce books that have been out of print for many, many years. Some of them were originally printed in two hundred copies, so they are like a new event. And some of them have never been in print.
I just finished reading Sri Lalita-madhava, and I will share the all-is-well happy ending. Radharani thinks Krsna has rejected Her, and She enters the lake of the poisonous snakes intending to commit suicide. But Krsna sees Her, and He enters the lake behind Her and puts His arms around Her. She thinks His arms are the poisonous snakes, but She’s surprised to feel that they’re not biting Her—in fact, it feels very pleasant! She gradually turns to see the snake’s arms and beholds that it’s Her lover Krsna holding Her around the waist. She becomes blissful and realizes that Krsna hasn’t rejected Her. He takes Her out of the waters and They have loving pastimes. At this point in the book, Radharani is in “Nava Vrndavana,” and She has been transformed into Satyabhama but living under the subordination of Rukmini. It’s a very complicated book, and I couldn’t quite understand it, but I loved it. At the end of the book, all the residents of Vrndavana come to Dvaraka, and there’s a happy meeting of all of them. All is harmony in the relationships, including Candravali, Visakha, Lalita, Yasoda, etc. They had all been devastated when Akrura took Krsna out of Vrndavana and brought Him to Mathura, but at the end of this particular book by Srila Rupa Gosvami, they gain union.
In our out-loud group reading, we are hearing the further conversations of Maharaja Rahugana and Jada Bharata. Maharaja Rahugana had forced Jada Bharata to become one of his palanquin carriers, but he couldn’t carry the palanquin nicely because he kept stopping to avoid stepping on ants. The other carriers said it wasn’t their fault, it was the new man, Jada Bharata. The king became angry at Jada Bharata, spoke sarcastic words to him and threatened to punish him. Jada Bharata then broke out of his long silence as an avadhuta and began speaking to Maharaja Rahugana. He told him that he was not the body, and the so the king shouldn’t have addressed him in those terms. And the king was not in knowledge. As Jada Bharata spoke on, uttering the words of the Absolute Truth, King Rahugana was astonished and impressed that Jada Bharata was actually a realized soul. Maharaja Rahugana got down from his palanquin and made dandavats at the feet of Jada Bharata. Maharaja Rahugana said he was very much afraid of offending a Vaisnava, and he begged forgiveness. Jada Bharata then spoke at length about the spirit soul and the illusion that the self is the material body. He directly told the king that he was speaking in illusion, and he told him the reality of the spirit soul. Maharaja Rahugana was very impressed, but he could not grasp the fine points of the purport that Jada Bharata was speaking to him. He asked for clarification of his talk. Jada Bharata then spoke in allegory of the “forest of material enjoyment.” He compared householder life to a merchant who goes into the forest to find inexpensive items and bring them back to sell at a higher price. The merchant suffers many miseries in his attempt to earn money in the forest, and he is very attached to his wife and family in material life. The verses and Prabhupada’s purports are very heavy about family life, which is centered on sex life, and he condemns the way of sense gratification. Jada Bharata finally gets through to Maharaja Rahugana, who becomes enlightened by the words of the liberated soul.
We got a 2019 Toyota Minivan with 50,000 miles on the odometer, which is considered low mileage for these types of cars because they usually run for over 200,000 miles. We’ll keep the Honda, which already has over 200,000 miles on it, for errands and local work projects.
I have begun reading Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Vidagdha-madhava. Radha loves Krsna, and Krsna loves Radha. Radha gives Krsna a kunja garland, and somehow He rejects it. He immediately feels very sorry He did so. He thinks Radharani may be brokenhearted, and She may even take Her life. He asks Madhumangala what to do. Krsna decides to write Her a love letter using ink from roses. They get back together and have loving pastimes. There’s much description of the beauty and qualities of Radharani and the beauty and qualities of Sri Krsna.
Bhakti Rasa leaves tomorrow morning after a six week stay. He was hampered by illness, but he did steady service. He is good association. He will be replaced by Atindra Mahajan. Atindra will come early in the morning, and Bhakti Rasa will show him some new services which he didn’t do the last time he was here. Atindra is a gentle soul and easy to be with.
Krsna dasi is now taking turns cooking lunch, which provides a welcome relief for Baladeva. She cooks Trinidad-style, but not too extreme. After Atindra leaves (in less than two weeks), Manohara from Italy will come and cook his extravaganza Italian meals.
Baladeva just brought up a tulasi plant in a big pot and placed it on a stand as we begin to do the Journal. This plant reminds me of Vrndavana. In Vrndavana, also at Krishna-Balaram Mandir, some of the plants look weathered, enduring the harsh climate. Our tulasi also has survived an upstate New York winter, and she looks a little austere—not many manjaris or leaves.
Actually the tulasis at Krishna-Balaram temple look pretty nice. They have a greenhouse there. By comparison, the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana, the tulasi is on a podium with bars around it to protect from people reaching in. But she doesn’t look so healthy withstanding the harsh weather there.
“Therefore, Narada’s question is direct. He does not compromise the principles of self-realization. His words carry deep meaning. His question reminds me of Srila Prabhupada’s preaching, especially to those who claimed to be teachers, political leaders, scholars, or religionists. Did they know their ABCs? Did they understand that they were not the body?
“By reading this verse we can affirm that Prabhupada’s emphasis on our understanding aham brahmasmi is not a particular predilection of his, nor was it a shortcoming that he repeated this teaching so often. His emphasis has its roots at the beginning of our disciplic succession. Prabhupada tailored the message for the modern day, but he spoke the eternal parampara.
“Nowadays, we hear even some of Prabhupada’s own followers accuse him of not speaking the ‘higher topics.’ Prabhupada was convinced that there were no higher topics until his disciples and followers had mastered the ABCs. We saw that especially with guests. A guest would try to jump past Prabhupada’s elementary presentation and try to ask questions about Krsna, but Srila Prabhupada would say, ‘Don’t talk about Krsna. Krsna is millions of miles away. First we have to understand, ‘Who am I? Am I this body, am I this mind, or am I something else?’
“Sanatana Gosvami also asked this question when he first approached Lord Caitanya: ‘Who am I and why do the material miseries give me trouble?’ If one does not understand that he is not this body, then he has to seek the help of a spiritual master. Sanatana Gosvami said, ‘People praise me as a scholar, but I don’t even know who I am. Please instruct me.’ One who has accepted a spiritual master should not fail to identify the atma. Otherwise, he will never be satisfied ‘by identifying with the body or the mind as objects of self-realization.’ A disciple must live up to such a heritage.”
“At this stage of the discussion we may note the similarity between Narada speaking to Vyasa and Krsna speaking to Arjuna. In both cases the guru smiled, then quickly became grave. Both gurus referred to the disciples’ parentage and reprimanded them for harboring a basic misunderstanding: ‘While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.’ (Bg. 2.11)
“All disciples are in a similar position when they approach a spiritual master. Disciples are praiseworthy in that they are seeking the Absolute Truth, but to the degree to which they are unsuccessful in fulfilling their quest, they are also foolish. Our failure to find the Absolute Truth is based on our identification with body and mind, and our lack of understanding that we are Krsna’s eternal servants. Only the spiritual master can help us. Anyone now living in this material world who thinks himself above the need for guru is proud and therefore doubly foolish. Disciples should always be prepared to have their faults exposed by their spiritual master. Such care shown by the spiritual master is the life of a disciple. If we don’t admit that we don’t know Krsna, and if we don’t open ourselves to instruction from higher authorities, we will always remain dissatisfied, lost to our attachments.
I’m not my body
I am not my body
and I am foolish because I
still don’t believe it.
“A list of birds at Saranagati—a non-logical play or madness:
“What is the importance of this list? I’m an artist.
“There, I said it. I confess I spend my precious time doing amateur drawings to remove the obstacles from my chest, to bring joy to my heart in Krsna consciousness and to help me bring that joy into the Krsna conscious society. Does it require apologetics?
“So this list is important.
It contains no apologies.
Lists of birds,
a list of lists,
of peeves and the
items of confidence
“I’ll try, but it has grown late. I have to chant. See you next verse. ‘They heard we are very ill,’ I told Madhu, ‘and weak. They want to know how they can help.’
Madhu said, ‘Bring on the sweet rice.’
“How far we are now from Nature Cure and all our ribs showing.”
“‘You have fully delineated the subject of impersonal Brahman as well as the knowledge derived therefrom. Why should you be despondent in spite of all this, thinking that you are undone, my dear prabhu?’
“As Vyasadeva examined himself and considered his own good activities, so Narada now reviews them. Narada’s opening remark was almost sarcastic: ‘Did you think you would be satisfied identifying the self with the body and mind?’ Now he softens and offers praise for Vyasadeva’s great achievements. In particular, he mentions the Mahabharata, which makes the Vedic teachings available in elaborate story form. Narada states that Vyasadeva has also delineated the impersonal Brahman. This refers to the compilation of Vedanta-sutra. The person who compiled Vedanta-sutra must be the transcendental philosopher par excellence because the Vedanta-sutra ‘is accepted as the most exalted philosophical exposition in the world. It covers the subject of eternity, and the methods are scholarly.’ As the writer of such diversified books—an elaborate saga and the scholarly sutra—Vyasadeva is worthy of everyone’s respect.
“Narada’s address, ‘My dear prabhu,’ is touching. We feel the affection between guru and disciple. Narada is Vyasadeva’s master, but also his close friend and affectionate well-wisher. He is sorry that such a dear prabhu now feels despondent. He wishes to relieve him by offering instruction.
“After all, Vyasadeva is no fool and his concerns are not trivial. Vyasadeva incarnated just to give the people of Kali-yuga relief from the dangers of the age. One reason Vyasadeva was despondent was that he realized he had not provided the boat by which the people in Kali-yuga could be rescued. His concerns and his understanding of the solution are already profound, and therefore Narada reminds Vyasa of what he has already accomplished.”
“Narada implies that literary prowess and expertise in jnana is not sufficient to produce self-satisfaction. Despite compiling other scriptures, Vyasa remained dry. Narada will remedy this by directing Vyasadeva to write the Bhagavatam.
“Although writing the Bhagavatam cured Vyasadeva’s despondency, it somehow doesn’t always seem to cure ours. Therefore, it is obvious that it takes a certain quality to become a scholar of Srimad-Bhagavatam. That is, our sincerity must be deep when we approach the Bhagavatam, and completely focused on spiritual gain. To understand the Bhagavatam’s essence we must study it under the guidance of pure devotees, just as Vyasadeva undertook to write the Bhagavatam under the guidance of the pure devotee, Narada. Without such guidance, we will not be able to cure our own despondency and taste the desired result of krsna-bhakti when we approach Vyasadeva’s book.”
“We need bhakti, but it is not easy to attain. Nevertheless we have bhakti-filled literature and bhakti-filled practices prescribed by pure bhaktas. Serve with the tongue by chanting and honoring prasadam.
“My dear prabhu—I like that. Prabhupada gave us the word ‘prabhu,’ and he told us to bow down to each other and see others as master. No one, however, was supposed to exploit another in the name of being called prabhu. That would be too much of a contradiction. If we say prabhu, we should treat each other as masters, not try to engage them in our service. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said his disciples were masters sent to him by Krsna for training in devotional service. That was the service he was to render them.
“My dear prabhu, why are you feeling undone? Take to bhakti. It’s not enough to be a scholar or writer. You can’t help others unless you immerse yourself in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam contains Krsna and is therefore the sum total of all things.”
“There are different kinds of despondency. Whichever flavor we each taste will help us feel compassion for others. It will also cleanse our hearts. We might experience a sadness that we have left material enjoyment behind, but we all know that’s a waste of time and energy. Such despondency should be renounced as quickly as possible. We may also be sad that our Krsna consciousness is so undeveloped. Sometimes that sadness borders on spiritual emotion. Prabhupada told us that a true Vaisnava is never unhappy no matter how much he seems to be; rather, he is always experiencing spiritual bliss. A Vaisnava may feel sad in his ecstasy of compassion for others, or he may be feeling separation from Krsna. He may lament that he cannot taste the holy name, or that he is not a bold enough preacher to help more people. He may feel a mixture of emotions, but his lamentation is never material. Ours may be tinged.
“So lift yourself up, Prabhu,
and go on chanting
Hare Krsna, insisting
there is no other way—no other way
“Srila Prabhupada looks so lonely and all by himself as he walks towards the Red Square in Moscow in 1971. He visited during the time of political oppression, when the Soviet Union was engaged in Cold War with United States and the West. His visa allowed him only a several-day visit, staying in an old fashioned hotel. He was not allowed any speaking engagements, and even his personal copy of the Bhagavad-gita 0was examined at customs before they allowed him to keep it. He had one appointment, a state-supervised interview with a professor of Indology, Prof. Kotovsky. The professor was a Marxist teaching at the university. Prabhupada could not convince him of the tenets of Krsna consciousness, and he always remembered (and repeated in lectures) that the professor had said, ‘Swami, after death there is no life.’
“Living for even a few days in Moscow was inconvenient, and Shyamasundar had to stand in long lines to get milk, and few vegetables were available. Shyamasundar dressed in his devotee clothes when he went outside, and once he was stopped and detained by some hooligans. But a young man approached him and was attracted to his dress and made some inquiries. Shyamasundar invited him to see Prabhupada in his hotel. The young man was submissive, and Prabhupada filled him with the basics of Krsna consciousness. The boy came back for a repeated visit and soaked up Prabhupada’s words like a dry sponge. Prabhupada did not formally initiate him, but after Prabhupada’s departure the young man told his friends about Krsna consciousness, and an underground movement began. The persons who became interested were very enthusiastic, but the secret police found out about their activities and began to persecute them. This story is told in the book Salted Bread, which relates how devotees were imprisoned, tortured, put into an insane asylum, and one boy lost his life in there. Despite the opposition, the movement flourished.
With glastnost, the thawing of relations with Soviet Union in the West, the movement grew, and devotees even printed books in Russian translations and chanted on the streets. It was a long struggle, but Russia (in the demised Soviet Union) is now one of the most successful countries in the world for recruiting Krsna conscious devotees. All this came from Prabhupada’s seemingly innocuous but truly revolutionary visit for a few days. Such is the potency of the pure devotee.”
“Bhakti Tirtha Swami set an important precedent in departing his body at Gita Nagari. He had time to go to Mayapur or Vrndavana to pass away, but he did not. He wanted to set the example that his own prabhu-datta-desa was a holy dhama and he passed away there to set the example to his disciples that this is where they should work and worship. His Holiness Radhanatha Swami set a wonderful example of compassion by staying over seven and a half weeks at Gita Nagari—despite so many demands for him to be elsewhere—just to give Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja solace and association. He also took part in the final ceremonies of his passing away. The plan was to place sannyasa mantras on his chest in the ceremony held in the Gita Nagari temple where Bhakti Tirtha Swami was to be taken on a palanquin and placed before the Deities and garlanded with flowers. After that, three devotees were to take his body to a professional crematorium where he was cremated. His ashes were then to be taken in an urn to Mayapura where they will be buried in the standard ISKCON guru fashion in a row where his Godbrothers, Tamal Krishna Goswami, His Holiness Sridhara Swami, and the others are to be buried. A small puspa samadhi is being built at Gita Nagari. But if someone asks: ‘Why didn’t he go and leave his body in Mayapur or Vrndavana; this is controversial,’ I think the answer is that Bhakti Tirtha’s precedent is backed up by sastra and will be repeated by others.
“In an article in Back to Godhead magazine about a year ago, this subject matter was covered. Longtime Vrndavana resident Kurma Rupa Prabhu quoted the Bhagavad-gita verse, ‘Whoever thinks of Me at the time of death will attain Me,’ and said that this verse refers to consciousness, not geographical location. Whoever is thinking of Krsna at the time of death will go to him. Certainly Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s room very much had a Vrndavana atmosphere, with chanting going on day and night and Radhanatha Swami leading him by the hand to the holy abode of Krsna. Also I have heard Bir Krsna Goswami’s intention to pass away in the holy dhama in North Carolina where his beloved Deities reside. I have also heard Sivarama Swami’s intention to pass away where his Radha Krsna Deities reside in Hungary. So, this is not something wrong that Bhakti Tirtha Swami has done to pass away at Gita Nagari, which is not within the material world.”
“Were you pleased when I spoke
a lecture from your books?
When I met with them
did I make mistakes?
Mostly I listened and agreed
with whomever I met.
And so it is late and only now
I try to speak directly to you.
The ladies asked me, ‘How could
he say that women are all less intelligent
and that we only want bangles and saris?’
Prabhupada said many things.
We have to examine them all.
He said women are more religious than
‘Therefore in every religion
the women gather in greater numbers
in the temples and churches.’
‘Do you think women have to be shy
and can’t read aloud or lead bhajanas
or give a lecture?’ No! He has written letters
that women may lecture.
And so I believe, although years ago
I believed in a different way.
And some disagree with me.
We each follow Prabhupada as we see fit.
Hoping for dreams of you,
and now it is time to offer you
your evening milk, as I used to in Bombay,
in a silver cup,
with sugar in a separate cup.
Please take it.
Hear my prayers.
I’ll eat and drink only your remnants:
‘You are so kindly teaching
the message of Lord Caitanya
and delivering these Western countries
which are filled with voidism and impersonalism.’
Today was failure, chances missed,
but at least this.”
“I just told myself to write to help my japa, and immediately I came up with a practical plan—going outdoors when drowsy. This idea never came until I wrote it. The writing has such power. Whatever I turn it toward, it starts thinking creatively, productively. Even the ‘practical’ lines about fishing boats have meaning. It’s leading us somewhere, have faith. We are staying true to whatever comes. But when I can drift into vital concerns, that’s welcome. In this new freedom of writing practice without making a book, I should never refuse a thinking session on the page, even if it’s just practical plans. Not that I have to always be artistic. Be a practical sadhaka. Help yourself. Have fun too. Use writing sessions as best you can.
“Move through concerns one after another. If something I write is worth immediate action, write it separately in a brief note, and then back here.
“The wretched world of perverts—I mean those who are cruel and degraded and ruin the pure life. They do it in me; they do it in themselves and in others. I can’t wipe them out. I can, however, help to make the Krsna consciousness movement a haven for those who want to escape the cruel and filthy minds of the world.”
“I join a river of people on parikrama, following the saints of history. Keeping the Deities and temples on the right, moving clockwise, on the border of Vrndavana, moving inward to meet the inconceivable.
The path through their ashram—
at the water pump,
men in loincloths.
from a sadhu,
Confronted by a peacock,
we keep walking.
Red arrows mark the way—
I’m the only one with shoes.
the dirt trail
gradually includes me
Stopping to sit,
bid us onward.
in Krsna’s grip
I talk too much
sun reflections in a pond.
Calling ‘Radhe-e-e Shyam,’
a shaven-headed widow
passes us on the left.”
Even without tail feathers
The peacock struts.
Land of Vraja,
with his rear legs,
the dog kicks up dust.
A painting in his kutir,
Sanatana in loincloth
visited by Krsna
It was quiet
’til you awoke—
At Jiva’s tomb,
My knees touched stone—
the monkeys move in closer.
Thinking what it was like
when he was here.
A frog jumps through the lattice.
an oarsman plys through the Yamuna.
Shawl over his head,
a devotee of Hanuman
sits at the shrine.
At the Kesi ghat
a vicious dog fight,
The forest crane
sighing and grunting.
Alone in the woods
the parrots predominate.
into Vrndavana forest—
In this silent yard,
bells from a second temple,
drums from a third.
Up all night temple-visiting,
he brings me water
from Radha‘s pond.
Before the poet’s tomb,
under a half moon.
When can we see Krsna?
The young priest
holds up eight fingers.”
“I’m praying to Hanuman to give me protection from disease and pain and trouble. I’m praying to Radha-Govinda for gopi-bhava. I’m praying to Prabhupada to accept my humble offering. This is the end of this session based on my sitting meditation. It showed me that my life is peaceful. It exposed my brain. For how many more years am I going to live like this? If you have a warning, will you want to stay here in New York?
“Yet another exercise asks me to tuck in my chin. Sit up straighter. Hold my hands together in a circle with the right hand under my left hand, the tips of my thumbs touching. This is a mudra, and it’s meant to make me determined to complete what I am working on. I will not be discouraged, no matter how long it is. I will not get discouraged. Yes, I am determined to write this memoir. I will do all the exercises in The Practice of Writing Memoir. I will go through the volumes of Every Day, Just Write and read out what I want to print, and I will make some comments. It’s my main preaching—this and my daily poem. I have already written a lot of it. It will probably be published posthumously. Keep determined – keep on truckin’ – and I think you will be confident about your work. Work through to the memories. Vladimir Nabokov gave his memoir the title Speak, Memory. That means the memories speak to me. They are standing silently in a darkened room, and I am asking them to come forward into the sunlight and speak.”
“When Prabhupada was a baby boy, he used to run through the house and pick up mangoes. They weren’t a rich family, but they had mangoes in abundance. When he wanted to go to the bathroom he used to grab his mother’s hand. ‘What do you want?’ she would say. ‘You know how to go by yourself.’ He wanted a toy gun. When his father took him to the store he said, ‘I want two guns.’ ‘Why two?’ ‘Because I have two hands.’
“He told his father he wanted to hold a Ratha-yatra procession. His father, Gaura Mohan De, built him a beautifully decorated cart with horses and wheels. He made him Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama Deities. Prabhupada asked the neighbors to make prasadam, and he invited his friends. They pulled the cart around the neighborhood, and they distributed prasadam. They performed it seriously, just as he had seen the priests do at the big Ratha-yatra festival in the temple. His father gave him Radha-Krsna murtis for his childhood play. He kept Them in a box and took Them out for worship. When he grew up and went to school, he put the Deities in a box and didn’t worship Them anymore. But then he regretted it and took Them out and resumed the regular puja.
“His father hired a man to give him mrdanga lessons. His mother objected and said he’s not going to become a mrdanga player, what’s the sense of giving him mrdanga lessons? But his father said he wanted him to be a devotee of Radharani and a player of the mrdanga. The boy was not interested in becoming a lawyer and going to England. He used to go to the Radha-Krsna Mandir at the neighboring Mulliks and stand and watch the pujari dress the Deities. ‘They were so beautiful with Their slanty eyes. I would stand and watch Them for hours. He was especially fond of kachoris. His mother would make him some, and he would beg some from the neighboring ladies. He kept them in his vest pockets and ate them. They called him ‘Kachori Mukhi’—‘Kachori Face’ for this attachment.
“When his mother died, he was very sad. His father explained to him about the transmigration of the soul and how the soul never dies and how his mother had gone to a good place. This gave him solace. He used to play with his sister Bhavatarini. They would run and play with kites. He found good relationships with the Christian teachers at Scottish Church College, but he told his friend he didn’t like the subject matter they taught. A professor rejected the teachings of transmigration because he said for a person to be punished there has to be witnesses. Who is the witness of our sins? Prabhupada said he didn’t know at the time, but later he learned that the Supersoul is the witness of our sins. When it was time to get his diploma, he had been converted to a Gandhian advocate. Gandhians didn’t support anything made in Britain. So he refused to accept his graduation diploma. Through his father’s influence he got a prestigious position and management job in Bose’s Laboratory. He married his wife, who was twelve years old.”
“I don’t miss or resent not being a published author. I actually don’t miss being in Barnes and Noble, having a bestselling book. It would be nice, but I haven’t tried for it. I have deliberately tried the path of Rupa and Raghunatha Gosvamis and written books for the devotee audience.
“I’ve missed out on all the affairs of my family because they cut me off, they disowned me when I became a devotee. I don’t know the whereabouts of my sister, or whether she’s alive. (She’d be 76 years old). And . . . I dream about her a lot, so there must be some unconscious feeling of incompletion there. No closure.
“I don’t know that I wrote about it – Madeline, my sister. [How much do people know about her?]
“I don’t know. I missed out on her family growing up. Missed out on visits to her. But that’s renunciation–no entanglement. Prabhupada wouldn’t regret it for me.
“People talk about closure, that there should be closure to relationships. And when it’s not there, then something’s missing. Yes, there was no closure to that relationship. She never told me that she disowned me, but it was just assumed. She never tried to get in touch with me. There was no closure.
“But . . . I don’t think it’s important for spiritual life. I think renunciation means you leave these things behind and you don’t think of them, family relationships.
“I’ve missed out on so many things of material life. I’ve missed out on going to baseball games in major league stadiums. I’ve missed going to concerts, I’ve missed going to the movies. But I don’t regret it. When I took sannyasa Prabhupada told me that, ‘As you are a preacher, you’ll meet rich men and their beautiful wives, but don’t think, ‘I once had a wife like that, or I could have a house like this.’ Don’t resent becoming a sannyasi and becoming civilly dead.”
“Swami, put your teeth in
wow, you look good now
As I said many times, ‘I like you.’
Make sun while the hay shines or
is it raining as usual in Dublin?
Swami, it’s almost time now
for your breakfast.
Rescind bad desires, regret harshness
eat with hearty appetite
always remembering the Lord (wish you could)
Kafka isn’t needed
fast, eat it up
as you do, don’t make plans—or
Swami, hear this lecture
today by Prabhupada.
Immigrant in this country
means you don’t belong, but
maybe they’ll let you stay..
I want to go home to Goloka
grant me that passage I pray
Real desire is shown in blood
and words chosen, effort, love,
No one goes unless
the Lord allows.
Swami, control your senses
wounds, do you feel
at home in your ISKCON?
My attempt will soon be
measured in total
in a cup.
Hare Krsna floats up
from my practice.”
“Nine days left, and this one already running out. I love the way the day grows and rises, then slips into a valley only to rise again toward nightfall. Last days.
“Everything comes to us according to our destiny. If we receive the mercy to spend time with a pure devotee, we are receiving more than our due. Pure devotional service is beyond fate. It is wholly spiritual.
“The devotees in Belgium once put on a skit of Sudama Vipra visiting Lord Krsna in Dvaraka. They performed it on the indoor stairs of the castle. That’s a dramatic staircase, with European fixtures. We all sat in the front hall, and the pastime was pantomimed against recorded music. Nice costumes, nice actors and actresses. A Western flair. I saw it just before leaving for Vrndavana to celebrate Karttika in 1992.
“I went to the Karttika, heard what I heard, and still confess that when I chant nothing happens. I just can’t pay attention. What the hell. You know too.
“Words coming out slow this morning. I keep looking to see how many pages I’ve accumulated. Need to end up with six. The poems seem hard to break into.
“The fire is also burning slow, which is lucky since I am almost out of wood.
“But time is not slow—Krsna Himself. Baladeva said he wants to get me an hourglass. He thought it would be fun for me to work with it. He sent me a photo of an ad for one. The ad showed an old white-haired couple in their ’60s, photo models, hugging each other on the beach with the waves running over their ankles. It said, ‘Time is running.’ Yes, it’s true.
“The parcel that was sent from America contained food ingredients and prepared food. It also contained used microcassettes and one volume of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. I guess it really is lost in the mail. M. says a hungry Irish postal or customs clerk probably opened it and ate the contents. I find that hard to believe, and prefer to think that it has been held up somewhere, waiting for us to pay duty because of all the tapes or something. By now, the prasadam will be stale.”
“How is the Shannon flowing? Don’t push. We have don’t have a big motorboat. Get in the rowboat and drift. Be careful, lad. You can’t move so quickly. That’s all right for reading practice, just a little at a time. Read how Govindaji acts as siksa-guru for the pure devotees. Use the flowing pen tip that doesn’t offer resistance. Walk not too fast or too long to overexert. Don’t overexert.
“But I like to work as much as possible, produce, produce.
“The Shannon broadens out here to a lake called Lough Derg. I went down to the lakeshore yesterday. Sat on a flat rock there and used a Dictaphone to make additions to the Caitanya-caritamrta selections book. That was after the headache finally cleared. Leaves on the trees here in Ireland turn brown and yellow slower than they do in northeastern America. That’s my observation, Mr. Thoreau.
“Last night (after missing it two nights), we lit candles before the altar. Mine burned down more slowly than the two others. Nice way to end the day.
“Tomorrow is Madhumangala dasa’s birthday; we will break our sweets fast.
“The house is the scene of packing boxes, rearranging things to go to India or to go in storage, since we have entered this van in anticipation of selling it. M. gets some phone calls about which new van to buy. He prefers the Ford Econoline. I heard him speak of V8 and V6 engines. I remembered hearing about them in my childhood and how I felt better about my father favoring the V8. He used to say the V8 has more power and we could sometimes use that power, provided we could afford to pay for it. I didn’t want our family car to have the mere V6, which although functional, couldn’t give you that full power when you needed it. When was that? On some long uphill like ascending Todt Hill? Or on unseen hills and stress on the family drive to Washington, D.C.? Or when father was alone driving to and from work, maybe some as yet unseen occasion in a snowstorm? Let us have V8 power. We climb those big hills in Spain, always more of them, demanding up and up, and our poor Renault straining with its 3.2-ton burden of our belongings. In the next van we will not have heavy wood for a desk and shelves. Probably we will carry less, not all of Prabhupada’s tapes and albums as we have now. Less storage items. Hare Krsna. This goes on in the retreat house. What would you have, more solitude, more austerity, more prayer? I could still go down to the lake alone. It’s up to me to stay in my room; no one will disturb me or involve me much.
“But we are here only for four weeks. And we do have to consider things like the future in India, passport, visa, travel decisions made ahead of time, and all details.
“Hare Krsna chanting yesterday was poor because of a headache. I had to excuse myself. But do better today. Feel grateful for a return to a normal state of no pain. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.
“How are they doing in Karttika elsewhere? You just do this one here. Srila Prabhupada singing, ‘Jaya Radhe, Jaya Krsna, Jaya Vrndavana. . . .’ You think he is not in a Vraja mood? Don’t be a nonsense. Hear him more carefully and follow his mood in your own way.
“Rain shadows fall down, be careful, God protects, He says so, in the heart He gives instructions to pure devotees who are convinced. They share realizations like great scientists.
“Instructing guru, He helps you get it together so you can chant. He’s the Lord of land, cows and senses.
“He imparts knowledge.
“Go, go, Govinda, the stately Deity. Go back to Godhead, not to go-go girls.
“Get up early and chant. I’m trying to write, but I hear Madhu chanting; it disturbs my concentration. Wind outside is more of the solitude. I’m in a hurry to write what comes. Hum of heating system is also disturbing. Don’t like to keep earplugs in. Okay, so a man is up chanting. Incorporate that into your poems; swing with it. You have to, or else die.
“The restaurants are named ‘Govinda’s,’ where even an old lady can bus tables. Kowit used to go to the restaurant in San Diego. Govinda’s is a nifty place, they make profit, they cook.
“Go means cows. That’s the reality of it, mud, dirt, udders, beasts. Go means senses, mine and His. Govinda and the cowherd boys.
“Govinda rock music. New York, Boston (I know, it’s Radha-Gopivallabha there), Calcutta, Inis Rath.
“Govindaji – I want to love Thee and know Thee as a Christian knows Christ and says his name. Please give sweetness to me when I say ‘Govinda’ or Your many names. Gopala, Gopinatha, Gopi-jana-vallabha.
“Go Go Gopinatha
they call the Sanskrit editor
Gopi, our gopi elephant.
Most gopis are young, slim girls.
Govinda’s name we don’t say in Hare
We say, “Radhe-Syama.”
Write despite a chanter vibrating through
wood floors. What’s it to you, if
he’s calling out fervent, rapid-fire
names? You’ve got your own.
Yeah, but he disturbs me.
Then knock on the floor with boots
or go down toothless and say with
puckered lips, obsequious, ‘Dear
Prabhu-servant, please don’t chant when
your bedraggled master is trying to write
because he may lose a thread.
You see, he gets headaches if he tries too hard
and he believes he’s got a sacred line to
the Supreme but it’s a delicate connection
like a long-distance phone call or
a view of clouds or stars.
There, I just lost it.’
If you’re in prison, you
couldn’t control sounds.
Lord, make me a strong man
to write something people
can eat for nourishment.
Give me strength of my own thoughts,
but soft too,
by your Lake Lough Derg, give
me hopes to fly upward. But
Srila Prabhupada says don’t ask God. But serve
and please Him.
I savor and treasure alone-time
in pax silence to find my
way to Him. All glories
to the Lord.
(Open a window, it’s getting stuffy)
Hear the soft rush of wind in the leaves
of night trees.
Pray for blessings of Govinda.
“Govinda is your theme.
“I’ve only got five minutes to breakfast. Drawings I am ashamed of. Not. But keep some things private. That’s all.
“Then after breakfast, although it’s not light out, I’ll ask him to put on some outside light so I can walk on the ground just outside the house and chant japa awake. Saw this poem, Japanese point of view but a good description of an uncontrolled mind, applies to japa also.
the mind, like quicksilver, goes,
down those old long-headed roads,
each more wrong than one before.
“Another, by Muso Seki translated by Sam Himel, describes retreat mode.
“If only people
would not come to visit me
in lonely mountains
where I have built my retreat
from the world’s many trials.
“Pax alone. But I roamed the house feverish in mind to stay awake and pen or draw something. Sloppy gayatri. Sharpened colored pencils and drew two men, one with wings sort of sheltering the other, who was dressed like a stage actor in tights and dancing shoes.
“I read some Louis Simpson and another guy (whom I threw in the garbage after that). Then I wanted to turn to Uddhava-gita, Eleventh Canto. But I need to control my intake, a little at a time and not such a mixture. Keep holy, Willy,
Keep a hold on the flower
they offered you.
Don’t be drunken,
you’re a guru,
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.
Read more »
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.