Krsna Bhajana sent some possible agenda items. One item was to review progress on the “Prabhupada Set.” He says Prabhupada Meditations, Volumes 1-2, and Prabhupada Meditations, Volumes 3-4 are in preparation for printing in two weeks. This is my favorite set of books, done just after finishing Prabhupada-lilamrta. Srila Prabhupada Smaranam, which is filled with color photographs, and One Hundred Prabhupada Poems are both printed, and we have the volumes here, about one hundred each, ready to distribute at the July 2nd meeting.
In the series My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, the first volume, With Srila Prabhupada in the Early Days and the second volume, You Cannot Leave Boston, are both corrected and proofread. They need a final check and an addition of a first-page photo and they’ll be ready for the July 2nd festival.
John Endler is working on other projects, books I’ve written in the past. They are scheduled to be printed in 2023 and 2024 because this year we are concentrating on books I have written about Prabhupada.
Another agenda item is how Baladeva and I intend to collect donations to cover the cost of all the books we need to print this year.
I received my weekly newsmagazine today, and the main story is still Russia’s war on Ukraine. Despite the fierce resistance of Ukrainians using weapons donated by foreign countries, Russia continues to relentlessly bomb Ukraine, leveling cities and targeting civilian populations. Millions of women and children have fled the countries as refugees and found shelter in foreign countries. The world cannot fathom the senseless horror of it all. But Srila Prabhupada said that war is inevitable because of the collective karma.
Haridasa dasa from Maryland gifted me with the one-volume edition of the Krsna book, published by the Northwest European BBT, with illustrations done by the Lithuanian artist Devaki devi dasi. The print is not so small, although the book is a little bulky.
I’m reading the chapter “The Rasa Dance: An Introduction.” In the season of autumn, Krsna desired to have a rasa dance, and He played His flute calling for all the gopis. They immediately stopped what they were doing at home and came running to Him, following the sound of the flute. Although their superiors tried to stop them, they came anyway, except in a few instances where the men forced them to stay at home. When the gopis reached Krsna, He greeted them in a formal, polite way, treating them as ordinary society ladies. Krsna told them that there were ferocious animals roaming in the forest and they should return to their homes at once. He told them to return to the shelter of their husbands and relatives and that it wasn’t good for them to be alone at night with a young man. The gopis were unhappy to hear Him speak that way, although at first they could only cry, and they didn’t have the courage to speak up. But finally they began to verbally protest and tell Krsna that He should not be cruel and speak that way. They had given up everything to come to Him, and they expected Him to embrace them and kiss them as He had done in the past. Krsna spoke at length, but then the gopis also spoke at length. There is a nice illustration of them pleading with Him, and He is still in the instructor mood. Eventually the gopis’ earnest presentation changed Krsna’s mind, and He accepted them as lovers. In Krsna book Prabhupada explains that the relationship with Krsna and the married or unmarried gopis is parakiya rasa, the relationship of an unmarried young man with young girls who may be married but have a paramour. In the material world, this kind of relationship is abominable, but in the spiritual world with Krsna and the gopis, it is the topmost transcendental rasa. Sukadeva Gosvami explained this to Maharaja Pariksit, who was at first doubtful of Krsna and the gopis’ behavior. Srila Prabhupada has made the descriptions so palatable and clear that no one will mistake it for mundane amorous pastimes.
In our out-loud reading of the Fifth Canto we are hearing of the structure of the universe. The verses in this chapter are packed with incredulous information about the sizes of mountains and the planets and the distances between them. None of this seems corroborated by the modern scientific findings. But the modern scientists are limited by their faulty senses and lack of respect for Vedic astrology. I am bewildered to read these chapters, but I accept the version of Sukadeva Gosvami in preference to the speculations of modern science.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Orbits of the Planets”:
“‘There are many stars located 200,000 yojanas [1,600,000 miles] above the moon. By the supreme will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are fixed to the wheel of time, and thus they rotate with Mount Sumeru on their right, their motion being different from that of the sun. There are twenty-eight important stars, headed by Abhijit.
“‘Some 1,600,000 miles above this group of stars is the planet Venus, which moves at almost exactly the same pace as the sun according to swift, slow and moderate movements. Sometimes Venus moves behind the sun, sometimes in front of the sun and sometimes along with it. Venus nullifies the influence of planets that are obstacles to rainfall. Consequently its presence causes rainfall, and it is therefore considered very favorable for all living beings within this universe. This has been accepted by learned scholars. . . .’” (Bhag. 5.22.11-12)
Atindra Mahajana is here for a week to perform menial servant’s duties. As soon as he heard there was a gap between Bhakti Rasa and Manohara, he volunteered to come for a week. He manages a team of ninety people for Blue Cross/Blue Shield on business/computer projects. He manages to do this even while he is here. Since COVID, he’s been able to work “from home”— wherever that is. So he’s regularly on the phone with employees or on Zoom conferences involving his work. As much as possible he schedules his day to accommodate his service here. Atindra now comes in the early morning with Baladeva and helps me in the bathroom to undress, bathe, dress, and do whatever is needful. Because of my weak legs, when I stand for dressing I have to be supported, and he does that now. Baladeva says that Atindra is very good at household duties. Whenever he sees that something has to be done, he just does it. His wife, Lalita Kaisori, mostly stays at home, which is 45 minutes away in Massachusetts. She does her own work there. She’s mostly focused at giving or taking classes as a professional Ayurvedic practitioner. Lalita Kaisora is initiated by Radhanath Swami. Atindra’s mother is my disciple, and he was raised in a strict Vaisnava family. They are temporarily living in a kind of vanaprastha situation, which will hopefully make them more serious as they grow older.
Anuradha has arrived from Oxford. Her intention is to stay here and keep Krsna dasi company so she won’t have to be alone. Anuradha is ready to do any number of services, and she does them all well. She serves in the Deity department, in the cleaning department, in the kitchen department, and landscaping outdoors in our yard (now that spring is here). She says she wants to take part in the group out-loud readings and considers it a privilege to be here. This still leaves us empty for ongoing male help for intimate bodily service. We’re thinking of making a yearly schedule of men who can come and do this service and then come back again.
Last week the dentist, whom we call Dr. Danz, put a new piece of hardware in my dentures, but they still were loose. We went back today with a new appointment, and he put three new pieces of hardware in. The fit is better now, but it’s still a little loose. I can speak to my disciples and close groups without wearing the upper dentures, and I can still speak audibly. If I had to give a big formal lecture before a prestigious audience, I could always put in PolyGrip. But the whole business of creating a smile made up of dentures is vanity. There are many, many sadhus, both in the past and at present, whose teeth have fallen out, but they can still speak spiritual knowledge, and they are not embarrassed about their looks. For most of them there’s no question of paying high fees to a dentist (or getting insurance to pay for it). So I’m not going to worry myself too much about it and just speak, with or without that upper denture.
In the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sukadeva Gosvami tells about the horrific sufferings that jivas undergo when they commit sinful activities and get punished by the agents of Yamaraja in the various hellish planets. Many different planets and tortures are described, and I don’t even want to repeat them here. When I heard them, I inwardly shuddered to think will I have to suffer any hellish punishments. But then I remembered Prabhupada saying his devotees would be free of that and not be approached by Yamaraja. When the description of the hellish planets is finished Maharaja Pariksit, being very compassionate, asks Sukadeva Gosvami how the souls can be rectified so that they don’t have to enter the hellish planets. Sukadeva Gosvami first tests his disciple by telling him that the conditioned souls first have to undergo atonement (prayascitta), and that will clear them from sins and their punishments. But Maharaja Pariksit, being an intelligent disciple, cannot accept atonement as the remedy for sins. If a person practices atonement to remove his sins, but then sins again, then what is the use of atonement? Such people are simply professional sinners. Sukadeva Gosvami sees that his disciple has passed the first test by rejecting atonement as the solution. He then says cultivation of knowledge is the remedy. But then the insufficiency of knowledge as a remedy is explained. It is compared to burning down the plants in a field. The burning will not remove the seeds, and they will grow up again in a new season. So simply having knowledge of what is right and wrong doesn’t remove the desire to commit more sins. Finally Sukadeva Gosvami says that only pure unalloyed devotional service to Lord Krsna can remove the sins and the desire for sins by giving the higher taste of bhakti unto Krsna. In this regard Sukadeva Gosvami says he knows a story from the old histories that he will tell to Pariksit to illustrate the potency of pure devotional service.
It’s spring, April 1st. According to Google, the origin of April Fool’s Day goes back to the sixteenth century. It is celebrated all over the world connected with different pranks played on that day. In the Catholic Church, a donkey was brought into the church just to break down the stiff relationships with the senior clergy. People were encouraged to wear masks. The buds are appearing on the branches of the trees. We’ve changed our winter tires for tires worn in spring and summer. I see the birds courting in the air and in the trees, and chasing each other on the ground. It’s warmer out, and we don’t have to wear so many layers of clothes. No more hard-chill days predicted. People are out wearing T-shirts and lighter clothes in general. Krsna dasi is still not acclimated to the season after spending the winter in the tropics. She still wears her “penguin coat” in the morning for walking to the ashram. We change our immune system booster from super Echinacea to Manuka honey until November first. But the Bhagavatam reading never changes seasons—it’s always fresh.
Spring is here, but many tulasis suffered from the winter and the majority died. We lost two large ones and twenty-one small ones. Lalita Kaisori left with us her tulasis for safekeeping while they were gone for the winter. But unfortunately two of her big ones died and a third one is not doing so well. The good news is that the three small ones are doing very well, with many long manjaris and fresh, green, healthy-looking leaves. She plans to make beads out of the big dead ones. The string of beads will look rustic, and she is very excited to get started on that project. We are hoping that when the warmer weather comes we can put the tulasis outside and some can bounce back to their former healthy state. Jayadvaita said that tulasi, in any condition, is worshipable. You can make beads out of them, or the twigs can be saved and used as kindling in a sacrificial fire on the occasion of initiations or weddings.
Some of the devotees are reading all the Srimad-Bhagavatam commentaries written by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. They find he says amazing things about Krsna’s pastimes, very confidential and creative. Srila Prabhupada quoted Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura almost more than any other Bhagavatam commentator. Visvanatha writes in the 1700s, and Prabhupada applies him to 20th century concerns. Prabhupada was so expert in translating and using the acaryas for the present mindset. He often wrote that he was writing for Western readers by writing in English, and he found Visvanatha suited his purposes very well. Srila Prabhupada started publishing in the 1940s in his Back to Godhead magazine in English, which he distributed on the streets of New Delhi and in the tea stalls. In the first verse of the First Canto of his Srimad-Bhagavatam, he notes that Visvanatha Cakravarti was especially expert in his realizations of Krsna’s conjugal rasa.
Rupa Vilasa wrote me and asked if I have received his latest book Babaji, about Gaurakisora dasa Babaji and Jagannatha dasa Babaji. I told him I never received the book; it must have gotten lost in the mail. I asked him to send me the book again. I like reading Rupa Vilasa’s books. The last one he wrote in the series of books on Vaisnavas was Fearless and was a big book about Srila Prabhupada. In that book Rupa Vilasa tells all his own memories about association with Srila Prabhupada in Dallas and in Vrndavana. I read his book Namacarya, A Biography of Haridasa Thakura, and we also read The Seventh Goswami about Bhaktivinoda Thankura. All his books are well-researched and lively reading.
“Addressing Vyasadeva, the son of Parasara, Narada inquired: Are you satisfied by identifying with the body or the mind as objects of self-realization?
“Srila Narada addresses Vyasadeva as maha-bhaga, greatly fortunate, yet his question is frank: Are you transcendentally situated? Srila Prabhupada writes that this is Narada’s hint about the cause of Vyasadeva’s despondency. Vyasadeva has great parentage—his father is the great Parasara Muni. Therefore, he should not be deluded. If we are raised in Krsna consciousness, we should be able to overcome illusion and understand the causes of unhappiness. An ordinary person might identify with the body and mind, but not someone elevated like Vyasa.
“Srila Prabhupada’s last sentence is a classic: ‘One cannot be cheerful by nature unless one is factually seated in self-realization, which is transcendental to the material body and mind.’
“We all know about glad-handers, or superficially cheerful persons. They are not jolly according to Prabhupada’s definition. It is encouraging to know that a transcendentalist does not have to hate the world; he is not a negative person who punishes himself (images of self-flagellating ascetics come to mind) for his sins. A Krsna conscious person is satisfied, at ease, smiling. If we are morose, we are not Krsna conscious.
“Self-realization brings happiness because misery stems from the ignorance of identifying the self with the body. The bodily condition in the material world is just the opposite of the spiritual condition. Spiritual existence is sat-cid-ananda, and matter is asat, acit, and nirananda. When a transcendentalist can actually say aham brahmasmi with realization, he feels real happiness. Aham brahmasmi is nothing more than understanding our own eternality. Since such self-understanding brings relief from the fear of death, it’s natural that it manifests in steady cheerfulness. Then we can tolerate material tribulations even while in this body because we know we are situated on the path of perfection.
“According to Narada Muni, a self-realized person never becomes baffled or despondent. A self-realized person trusts only in Krsna’s love for him; he knows he will soon be delivered by Krsna’s mercy. Krsna assures the devotee of this truth in Bhagavad-gita:
“‘But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Prtha—for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.’ (Bg. 12.6-7)”
“A disciple wrote to tell me how much trouble he went through to copy Aindra tapes for me. He says he works full-time, so has little time to run such errands. He also had to wait for his paycheck so he could purchase blank tapes on which to record. Neither does he have professional equipment. He was not complaining, he said, yet I couldn’t help but think he was affixing a price tag to the gift he had given rather than giving it openly and freely. Annie Dillard said writing should be like that: a gift delivered without saying, ‘I worked hard to do this.’
“Okay, now tie this all in to Bhag. 1.5.3-4, because we are still on that verse and purport.
“Well, it’s like this, see. Narada told Vyasadeva he had compiled two maha-bhuta books, the Mahabharata and the Vedanta-sutra. No mundane author could equal his contribution.
“My list of creatures is only extra energy given by God. I want to contain everything in Krsna consciousness,
then publish it,
like a relevant handbill
as revolutionary and as necessary
as Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’
or Gandhi’s call to arms
and the vitality of Charlie Parker.
“Now you had better quiet down and let this excess energy go before lunch. I am happy because I have no pain right now Therefore, I’m singing a longer song like a canary let out of its cage.
It’s almost spring here
and everything will melt
including the bears
out of hibernation.
“Lists are meant to help get past the logical mind. I have disciples, and I should be sensible, but I also have file cabinets and that leads to drawers, which makes me think of long johns, and a johnny, and the finding of one’s own voice with which to speak. While they are being serious and organized, I will play and take nonlogical hops from one thing to another. It’s a private method that I’m publishing, and it subverts the logical, serious mind of The Organizer, the one who thinks he has all the answers. It’s the real mind of the man about to die I’m looking for, and not that staid, upstanding citizen who isn’t sure what he thinks. Does he think only what others think of him? That is the connection to Bhagavatam 1.5.5.”
“‘Sri Vyasadeva said: All you have said about me is perfectly correct. Despite all this, I am not pacified. I therefore question you about the root cause of my dissatisfaction, for you are a man of unlimited knowledge due to your being the offspring of one [Brahma] who is self-born [without mundane father and mother].
“‘My lord! Everything that is mysterious is known to you be-cause you worship the creator and destroyer of the material world and the maintainer of the spiritual world, the original Personality of Godhead, who is transcendental to the three modes of material nature.’
“Now Vyasadeva responds. He agrees with Narada’s assessment of himself, but still he is not satisfied. As a true disciple, Vyasa trusts that his spiritual master will find the root (mulam) of his dissatisfaction. He recognizes that Narada is powerful because he himself is the disciple of a powerful father and spiritual master, Lord Brahma.
“Prabhupada comments that the whole material world runs on the basic misidentification of body with self. This is a powerful and sweeping criticism. Krsna consciousness does not criticize people from a sectarian stance. Prabhupada is not discussing religion, but basic truths. Truth is nonsectarian. Anyone must ask themselves, ‘Who am I? Am I the body, the mind, or the soul?’ Most people, despite what they respond, act as though the body is the sum total of their identity. That is, we live in a world of material designation. Some may consider that the mind is the more important point in describing their designation. Few people will refer to scripture—their scripture or anyone’s—to understand that the soul exists beyond the body. Rather, they speculate. When they do decide there is life beyond the body, their concepts are vague, often rooted in bodily designation (sectarian), and tending toward the impersonal. How can they help themselves? They have no scientific knowledge of the soul. Krsna consciousness can fill in the gaps in education.”
“If we lack knowledge of the self, we will automatically be dissatisfied. We will be able to heal our body to a point, and even our minds to a point, but we will not feel grounded in truth. We will be blown about by our speculations and sense desires; the soul cannot be pacified by dogma. Partial solutions give only partial satisfaction. What is the root cause of unhappiness?
“Vyasa asserts that Narada is qualified to offer a solution because he worships the infallible, all-knowing Supreme Personality of Godhead. ‘A person who is cent-percent engaged in the service of the Lord is the emblem of all knowledge.’ The devotee is so intimate with the Supreme through devotional service that he imbibes Krsna’s qualities and becomes enriched with transcendental knowledge. Lord Krsna assures us of the enlightenment we will receive when we hear from Him: ‘I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know.’ (Bg. 7.2)
“The individual spirit souls have the same quality as Krsna. Therefore, when they become perfect they can develop up to seventy-eight percent of Krsna’s qualities in part. In his purport, Srila Prabhupada refers to the eight mystic perfections developed by perfect yogis. Then he writes that one who is one hundred percent surrendered to Krsna possesses these powers automatically and they “constitute very little of his godly opulence.” Of course, this standard is rarely found, even among those who practice devotional service in the higher stages, but Srila Vyasadeva is confident that Narada Muni, by his intimate contact with Lord Brahma and Lord Krsna, can deliver perfect knowledge and realization.”
“It’s Rama-navami today. I remember the Rama-navami we observed in 1968 when Srila Prabhupada was away from New York City. We went to a peace rally in the park next to the public library on 42nd Street. The whole park was filled with people demonstrating to end the war. We shook our tambourines and clackers, played karatalas and drums, and chanted Hare Krsna, our devotees lined up in rows facing the crowd. People watched and listened. Later we went down to the Lower East Side, and I seem to remember fasting, chanting, then eating potatoes after an entire day out on harinama.
“Someone told me that an inauspicious comet caused my headache the other day. I don’t know about that, but I saw the comet (I think) when I went out to the outhouse around 3:30 yesterday morning. It was a star with a long white smudge behind it. Just now (it’s midnight) I couldn’t find it. There were only good stars up there, and the half-moon.
“Everything fits together in this universe, but I can’t see much of it. I’m just a tiny living entity. Well, it’s a toy universe anyway. I’m seeing more in the Caitanya-caritamrta than I could ever see in this universe. It’s sweet to enter the Lord’s return to Jagannatha Puri.
“Then I read some Tattva-sandarbha, which states that Srimad-Bhagavatam should be understood according to the Vaisnava realizations of Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Gosvami, and Suta Gosvami. Yes, I agree. Now a small portion of Bhagavatam—Vyasadeva and Narada. Hare Krsna.
“I’m eager to tell Madhu I am ready for more fasting, although the Ayurvedic doctor says I should not fast—wrong constitution for it. I mean, I want to fast today because it’s Lord Rama’s Appearance Day. Religious fasting never hurt anyone. Hare Krsna. Sukadeva Gosvami became attracted by hearing about Lord Hari in the Bhagavatam, so why not me?”
“O spiritual master, who created the Hare Krsna movement on the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and who made a sweet-sounding tamboura by picking up discarded wires and an old gourd (the wasted youths of Western countries), and who played that tamboura all over the world to the words and tune of the Hare Krsna mantra;
“O Prabhupada, who pleased Krsna very much, and who assured us that if we sing the praises of the Supreme Lord, He will be very pleased with us;
“O Prabhupada, who taught us how to cook and clean up the kitchen, who demonstrated on his hands and knees how to mop the floor with a wet rag; O Prabhupada, who bowed down before the Deity, who pushed the button on his Dictaphone and spoke into it immortal words at 1:00 A.M., who received caranamrta in the soft open palm of his right hand, and who smiled and laughed with ecstasy in reciting the pastimes of Krsna;
“O Prabhupada, who cleans the dirty minds of those who hear him, who lifts us up strongly, never to fall again; O protector, who advises us to carry out the direct order of the spiritual master and thus be saved from the clutches of maya;
“O Prabhupada, who played shiny brass karatalas tied with saffron silk cloth, who allowed his disciples to cook and provide for him, and who said, ‘You are like little fathers and mothers’;
“O Prabhupada, as we tolerate the token summary punishment for our many past offenses, may we remember your tolerance with us, and may we be peaceful and satisfied in any situation simply by knowing that we are serving you.”
“Words like ‘lover,’ ‘disciple,’ ‘guru,’ ‘service’—these are strong words. One has to know how to use them. They have specific meanings and it takes practice to know how to use them properly, how to understand their subtleties. It can only be taught by a master.”
“Prabhupada loved to write because it was an effective way to spread Krsna consciousness. He got good results from his writing.
“He also communed deeply with the previous acaryas when he wrote. He felt their power, even when his essays weren’t being read.
“Writing seemed to be his dharma. Even his spiritual master encouraged him to write. So Srila Prabhupada became occupied with writing books, and he saw temple construction as not important for him, especially in the years before he first came to America.
“He saw himself as following his guru’s example and his order, ‘If you ever get money, print books.’ Prabhupada said the first duty of a sannyasi is to write books.”
“As we try to move deeply into Prabhupada meditation, mosquitoes come and bite us. Some of the most bothersome ones are the mosquitoes of envy and jealousy.
Prabhupada said that there is no envy in the spiritual world. There is a loving competition for pleasing Krsna, but it is never malicious. When a gopi offers Krsna a garland and He is pleased, another gopi thinks, “Now I shall make a garland that will be even nicer so that He’ll be more pleased.’ The attempt to make a better garland is not done to the detriment of another devotee’s offering to Krsna. Rather one devotee’s service inspires another’s. Spiritual phenomena appear in the material world as a perverted reflection, and so envy is poisonous. Canakya Pandita says that the most envious animal is the snake because it bites anyone who passes. Even the envious snake, however, can be charmed by mantras. But a human being is incurable once he becomes envious.
“Here is a scenario, which is more fact than fiction. Some devotees have brought the latest sankirtana newsletter to Prabhupada, and they are reading the book scores to him. Prabhupada says, “This book distribution is my life. I can keep living as long as I hear the book scores. Who is number 1?”
“I reply, ‘Prabhupada, Los Angeles temple was number one, and the Radha-Damodara party is number two. Tripurari Swami’s party is number three. His party did as much as the whole east coast of the U.S.’
“I feel obliged to give Prabhupada the basic information, but I’m thinking, ‘Why does Prabhupada want to hear these scores? I like it when he does something else instead. I hope this is over soon and he talks about the philosophy. It is painful for me to hear all these big scores because I don’t have a big score. I don’t want to think that Prabhupada only likes devotees who make big scores. I don’t think he really pays attention to these scores. I think they make more out of this than it actually is. Now he is going to ask me to read off all the names of the book distributors.’
“Envy works in many ways, and it can continue even after Prabhupada’s disappearance. It also works its way into hearing Prabhupada meditations. If the hearer becomes absorbed in fault-finding, then they cannot hear someone talking about Prabhupada. He will think, ‘What is his trip? Are these true stories that he’s telling? Why is he putting his own purport into it?’ In this way one can cover over one’s ability to hear. Granted, any devotee telling memories of Prabhupada speaks in a limited way and with some imperfections, but why don’t we hear and derive the nectar?”
“One time, when I was sitting inside the storefront, I overheard two guys who stopped to read Swamiji’s sign in the window. One of them read aloud: ‘Classes in Bhagavad-gita—Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Chant this transcendental sound vibration, Hare Krsna mantra. Learn the science of Krsna from a bona fide spiritual master.’ Then he said to his friend, ‘What kind of word is that to use for a guru—bona fide? It sounds like a legal term.’ They laughed at the use of the word ‘bona fide.’ I knew what they meant because I also used to laugh cynically at anything that was a little strange.
“Their attitude was typical of middle-class Americans, who had become hip and were ready to take apart anything that didn’t seem to be hip. By laughing at Prabhupada’s use of ‘bona fide,’ they were mocking our whole scene. In hippie life, the worst mistake was to do anything ‘square.’ So by detecting this one phrase that didn’t seem to fit in with hip consciousness—‘bona fide spiritual master’—they laughed and walked on, dismissing the seriousness of our movement.
“From inside the storefront I thought, ‘You don’t understand. Just because the Swami uses a few words differently than you doesn’t mean you have a reason to reject him.’ As Prabhupada writes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, he is more interested in the techniques of bhakti than in the language. By ‘bona fide’ he meant that a spiritual master cannot be concocted, cannot be an upstart. He has to be genuine. There is nothing wrong with the meaning of the words ‘bona fide’ to define a spiritual master, but with the hippie movement, style was worth more than content.”
“The house I live in is cozy and likeable. It has two floors and a small basement which is set up with an easel for drawing or painting but which I haven’t used much. I stay mostly on the second floor in a comfortable chair with my feet stretched out on an ottoman. I go downstairs for lunch in the company of my two sadhu companions. At 4 p.m. I go out for a walk. Otherwise I am in my chair in my second-floor room. The room has ample bookcases, a desk and a television/DVD player, and Deities of Radha-Govinda, Hanuman and Prabhupada. I am planning to live in this house for the rest of my life and not do much traveling away from here. The house is over a hundred years old but will certainly last another twenty years, which is the utmost I could use it. It will need new shingling on the roof but not much else in the way of upkeep.
“We recently held a Gaura Purnima festival here and fit approximately thirty adults and children without overcrowding (we removed the furniture from the main downstairs room). I am content to write a poem a day and episodes of my life and hear from Prabhupada at meal times and read a little at other times.
“I do yoga and massage once a week and that helps to keep me limber. T.J. says I am a ‘limber dude’ (although I am overweight by ten pounds. I am obese in tummy and chest.) I wrote yesterday that my life was important, although humble, because I am a devotee of the Lord. How exactly important? I am chanting sixteen rounds early in the morning. I have survived a falldown, and I’m keeping good spiritual health in renunciation and devotion. So I am a quiet treasure in Prabhupada’s movement—causing no harm—by doing good in preaching and publishing. (These lines reek of self-satisfaction. A devotee should not feel satisfied?) I keep a presence of dainya, or feelings of unworthiness, as recommended by Bhaktivinoda Thakura as a symptom of saranagati (surrender). I take my japa seriously, and I realize I do not chant in the perfect stage. I do not experience symptoms of ecstasy when I chant, and this is a sign of my lack of taste due to offenses in chanting the Holy Names. I lament over this and try to improve, but I stay in the same faulty position. I do have a desire to share my realizations and to teach Krsna consciousness, to speak krsna-katha among devotees, but I do it almost exclusively through writing and no longer give lectures. This is a lacking. I make excuses why it’s not important, but it’s a lacking.
“And I don’t seek out the association of senior Godbrothers. This is pointed out to me as a fault. If a Godbrother happens to pass through this neighborhood I will meet with him, but I don’t go to festivals where I will find them, and I don’t chant and hear with them. I somehow don’t feel guilty about this loneness and introversion in my character, but I accept it as part of my nature. I am satisfied to spend the day mostly alone, writing, reading and chanting, and I don’t feel a need for more. I pray to Krsna to protect His devotees, and I pray to become a better devotee myself, but I don’t feel a drive to socialize. I socialize through writing and reach out to friends in that way. I also presume to teach Vaisnava behavior through writing, and I love to keep in touch with as many people as possible. So that’s a little write-up of my nature, and I think I need improvement in a number of ways. But I seek to improve in my own school of self-improvement through self-expression and a life of prayer.”
In June 1973,
before the building was yet complete
and despite the workers’ hammering,
Prabhupada came there to live.
The King of Devotees
showed his followers how
to reside in ISKCON Mayapur:
no abuse, no careless breaking,
no slamming of doors,
not simply sleeping and eating—
but working and preaching.
The marble floors must be
in the early morning—
everything clean and simple.
Prabhupada walked the wide
veranda, with constant loving care,
pointing out deficiencies.
What they had worked so hard to obtain—
a precious gift from Lord Krsna—
had to be maintained
by a lifetime of work.
that his devotees had no milk.
He was indebted to those
who were fortunate
to live in his house.
By their personal difficulties,
they were securing the pleasure
of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
His own room was simple:
a clean stone floor
covered with thin mattresses,
covered with white sheets.
There was a desk,
white bolster pillows,
a shelf of books,
a picture of his Guru Maharaj.
When a violent wind storm howled
through Prabhupada’s room,
billowing the clothes
on his body,
he happily declared,
“There is no place
in the whole world like this!”
He instructed his devotees
by his own delight:
‘I have given you
the kingdom of God.
Now develop it
and enjoy it.’”
“Now that Srila Prabhupada has disappeared from the world in his vapu form, it remains somewhat of a mystery as to when we will meet up with him again. He is a liberated soul, and therefore, he has a place in the pastimes of Krsna. We have also read in a song by Narottama dasa Thakura that he aspired to be in the form of a gopi-manjari along with his spiritual master, assisting the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. These secrets are quite beyond me at present. But I can put my understanding in a simple form: since the liberated spiritual master is in Goloka Vrndavana, it stands to reason that if we follow him, we also will come to be in his presence in Vrndavana (provided we reach the perfect stage).
And yet the next life meeting with the spiritual master remains, at least for me, highly theoretical. This much I can say with personal conviction: I wish to always hear about Krsna from Srila Prabhupada. And I want to think that Prabhupada is the eternal resident of Vrndavana whom I should follow. Krsnadasa Kaviraja says that the Vrndavana resident should be ‘a very dear devotee.’ That certainly fits Srila Prabhupada who is very dear to Krsna on this earth. The servitor is also supposed to be an associate of Krsna in Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada is from Vrndavana, both within the context of Vrndavana, India, where he resided at the Radha-Damodara temple, in the Prabhupada samadhi and at Krsna-Balarama Mandira, and he is also a resident in the eternal Vrndavana. He is the teacher of eternal Vrndavana in this world. He has spread the glories of Vrndavana far and wide.
“What’s really on my mind is this—I want to know whether the 1966 pastimes and other pastimes of Srila Prabhupada as we knew them—whether they are eternal. Did Prabhupada, the eternal servitor, appear within this material world in a temporary lila? But how little we know! What is eternality? Even if you define it for me, I cannot comprehend it. All I know is that Srila Prabhupada came here and taught us of eternal Vrndavana. And I know that I can—if I concentrate and lead the proper life—think of him now, and worship him and follow his orders.
“Krsnadasa Kaviraja advises that, ‘One should constantly engage in topics about the servitor and his loving relationship to Krsna.’ This would seem to be an approval of Prabhupada Meditations. When I think of Srila Prabhupada singing in the kirtana and I read about ‘his’ Krsna, and meditate on the faith he has instilled in me to be a servitor of the Lord—I think this is good enough for me. Krsnadasa Kaviraja even advises that if one awakens his attraction for an eternal resident, he is not to be checked by ordinary standards. ‘When such covetousness is awakened, one’s intelligence no longer depends on the instruction of sastra, revealed scriptures, logic or argument.’
“I do not claim that I comprehend Srila Prabhupada as the eternal resident of Vrndavana, but I think that it fulfills the purport regarding serving Krsna in Vrndavana in a particular way. Actually, I should probably not even be discussing these topics, but be content with the original instructions Prabhupada gave me: ‘It will be automatically revealed to you in proper time.’ Srila Prabhupada, please forgive my impertinence. Please keep me engaged in your eternal service, wherever and whatever that may be.”
“I walked across the meadow. Sheep don’t use it. I want to communicate. I want to be a devotee happy in life in a temple or community or movement. But life is the way it is. You can feel all right all day and then suddenly, with no apparent cause, in the late afternoon, after a good reading—feel no meaning in anything. So you run out to the cliff, hoping the change of pace and the fresh air and the washing sound of the sea on rocks will bring a favorable change. It’s possible that a little physical change can out-trick the doldrums. At least we don’t take this down mood as all-in-all. We are steady.
“The tide is high, the sky dark and menacing. The air is cool. The ocean surface is smooth as far as I can see; no breakers. Speaking of moods, the sea certainly has its own.
“Here comes a red fishing boat, puttering in from left to right. I feel like I am sitting in the first row of an otherwise empty theater. The fishing boat is offstage Atlantic Ocean.
“How do I look to the fisherman? He sees a lone figure in a silver coat writing away the afternoon and sitting oddly on a cliff against a low stone wall. Don’t I have any work to do? Am I some tourist from America daydreaming while others work?
“The boat cuts in closer, although it’s not close enough that I can hear its engine or see who is on board. They are doughty boats, well-tuned and with powerful engines. There’s room for plenty of fish. Soon he’ll pass away.”
“We are like children trying to remember the spiritual master. In the old Boston temple, sometimes we played a game during prasadam.
“One day it was raining outside so I said, ‘Think of something Krsna conscious connected to rain.’
“Someone said, ‘When it rains, Krsna and His friends sit in a cave and have lunch there, talking until the rain stops.’
“Another devotee said, ‘Krsna sends the rain at night so it won’t disturb the farmer’s day, but the ungrateful man wakes in the morning and com-plains that it didn’t rain enough. That’s in the Krsna book, ‘Description of Autumn.’
“‘Isn’t there something about the demigods raining down the benefits that people want?’ ‘Demigods shower flowers from the sky.’ ‘Rain is one of the elements, water.’
“‘Rain comes from yajna.’
“Playing this game during prasadam always left us with a nice feeling for each other. It was better than fighting among ourselves or talking prajalpa.
“Let’s play it now. Can you think of anything connected to Prabhupada and rain?
“‘One time Prabhupada walked outside in the rain without an umbrella. Govinda dasi took the shower curtain off the shower and ran out and covered Srila Prabhupada with it.’
“‘When it was raining one day at the time he usually took his morning walk, Prabhupada said, ‘Today we shall take our walk sitting down.’ Karandhara drove him around Beverly Hills in the rain while Srila Prabhupada closed his eyes and rested.
‘He walked in the snow in Manhattan in 1965.’
“‘He told us about Krsna who held up Govardhana Hill in the rain. And he told us that Krsna went to collect wood for His guru and the rains came.’
“‘He said that ISKCON sankirtana in India stopped the drought.’”
“Here we are outside
of India, so it’s only a
and I can’t even see
the evening star
it went on and out
Around I walked on
covered with chicken wire
seeking out my mind’s attention, footfalls,
don’t wake that man
up, if you can help it –
he was up till 1:00 A.M.
playing his music and
the pub over the hill
As for Krsna, night and
day, He’s the Lord of
so Vedas say and master
says, look out, there are
eighteen Puranas, and Padma
says, in this age,
bad as it is,
have one great boon.
I heard all this and
I’d take a bop with me
even to Vraja? No,
have to leave it
with the garrah-garrah
sound in your throat
good-bye to relatives
I never knew. And that envy
of preachers I can’t
give up! That will
choke me like a
You can’t go so cheaply to
Goloka, must be free
he knew only
oh, all right I give
up, there’s no poem
I knew and only wanted
a light breakfast
One man alone in a
A free associate. Candles for
Karttika. How come he
gets money and comfort
we rant, rebel against him.
It’s funny how they change
mood fairly quick
from tender to jumpin’
Because he’s a man and
life changes. Life kicks
us: ‘Get going. You
have to find a clientele,
a part-time job
now that you’ve split up.’
Can I make enough by
playing the trumpet the way
I want, writing a journal
of my days?
No, you have to dance like a monkey
for the organ-grinder.
His talking, ‘explaining’
himself and what happened
in his life. God, did he
ever really meet God or
just repeat what he said
in the holy writ?
What’s the harm in that?
Big black fly
going too near my face
Does he know the milk
fast ends tomorrow.
Prabhupada and Raghunatha Goswami’s
disappearance days are not so far away.
So quiet, I’m thinking
I’ll stay and remember Krsna
and kick away the blues
with my boots,
What do you think?
I approve. I bless your
trip to India. Please bring
me back a trinket and
some water – and bhakti
Tinkle, smash, the heavy
rain in Ireland today
comes down on the skylight
just above my head in
this room as I work
at my desk, under the
light pool of the desk lamp
time to get ready for worshiping our master.
The mystic life, I don’t
know what I am
The man from Barrack Street
in Georgetown, Guyana
has it right – even
advanced ISKCON devotees
can’t say for sure they will
go back to Godhead.
But he has it wrong when
he says this is the ultimate defeat.
It’s all right. It takes
a while. The right life
is to go on even if you
don’t taste, realize,
see, but you have
some kind of faith
your spiritual master told you so
you trust in him
You don’t trust others, so
trust him. It feels good. The old way
is lost and desperate
what that will be.
too frightening the punishments
of the next life. Scared
Seeking the Lord as He
says He exists.”
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.