It’s so nice that we’re getting our own flowers from the back yard, planted by devotees. There will be different waves of flowers blooming, one after another. Now is the time for the hyacinths. They are of many colors. Blue, pink, light pink, red, yellow, etc. They all are highly fragrant, more so than any flowers we bought during the winter from the Price Chopper store. They had some lilies, but they weren’t as fragrant as the hyacinths. We cut the hyacinths and leave them at the altar of Radha-Govinda and downstairs by Gaura-Nitai. You pick off the small blooms from the large clumps, and they are just the right size for the altar and garlands. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, “Of seasons, I am flower-bearing spring.” An item from The Nectar of Devotion: “Every time you offer incense, you should also offer flowers.” They are an inherent part of all Deity worship. The gopis would spend many hours a day picking flowers, making garlands for Krsna and decorating their own hair. In the new photo of Radha-Kalachandji, Radharani has a waist belt made of flowers and a bouquet in Her left hand to offer to Krsna. And Kalachandji is wearing a vaijayanti garland composed of flowers of five different colors, and it hangs below His knees.
Yesterday we went out in a van and drove to the dermatologist’s. Going and coming back, we saw trees in spring bloom. We saw the yellow forsythia, the white flowering cherry and the pink crabapple, and many daffodils planted here and there. The willow trees are starting to get in their soft red buds and leaves. But this morning there was an inch of snow on the ground! It covered all the lawns and stayed all day, a throwback to winter. Even though the hyacinths were covered with snow, they didn’t get frozen, and so they’ll still be good for putting on the altar (although they may lose some aroma from the rain).
Krsna dasi just brought up Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda in new outfits. They are pale purple, very soft and lovely. On Radharani’s skirt are two small deer, and at the tip of the braid there is a bumblebee. There is also a bumblebee in Govinda’s turban. I asked Krsna dasi if the bees would hurt Radha-Govinda. She said, “They might get chastised.” The altar is spread with a riotous color array of hyacinth flowers. They are pretty and star-shaped, and very aromatic. I was reluctant to change the Deities’ dress from the bright tan outfits They had been wearing, and which were one of my favorites. But I know that the principle of variety is most important, and so it is with no reluctance that I take darsana of this light-purple dress.
The pandemic has eased off enough so that there can be a full schedule of Ratha-yatras from May to September. Madhuha’s Festival of India is already booked for the whole season ’til September.
There was a spontaneous Ratha-yatra meeting here after lunch. Amit is very enthusiastic to have Ratha-yatra in Albany. He’s very committed and intelligent, and he’s already contacted the state, the city and the police for park and parade permits. And he knows the authorities like the idea and are willing to work with us. He’s a main Shaivite of the Hindu temple in Albany and has many friends there who will help. And there’s also a fired-up group of devotees in Schenectady, New York, which is maybe fifteen miles away from Albany, and they want to have a Ratha-yatra too. We’ll have to see if they can work together without the traditional differences of opinion. It’s quite expensive to get Maduha and his Festival of India. The last one they’ve booked is September in Boston, and that would be a good time—with the students coming back to school—to have festivals in Albany and Schenectady. For those cities who are putting on Ratha-yatra for the first time, there’s a big question of logistics with prasadam—do you make 300 plates or 3000 plates?—and you have to have a stage and a full schedule of performers . Big question: can enough donations be raised by September to pay for the Festival of India? And what community labor force is going to be available to make it happen? These are the questions and challenges. Maybe it’s just impractical until next year.
In our out-loud reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam Seventh Canto, we are hearing of the tension between Prahlada Maharaja and his demoniac father Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyakasipu asked Prahlada, “What is the best thing you’ve learned in school?” Prahlada Maharaja responds by citing the nine principles of devotional service to Lord Visnu. When his father hears this he becomes enraged. He pushes his little son and orders his associates to kill him. His men take their iron tridents and strike the tender parts of Prahlada’s body. Prahlada remains silent, meditating on Lord Krsna, and the tridents have no effect. Hiranyakasipu then orders that big elephants trample the boy. Then he tries poisoning him; his men push Prahlada off a steep cliff, and they throw him into a pit of poisonous snakes. They try to kill him in other ways, but Prahlada remains unharmed. Hiranyakasipu then grows very morose. He says, “This boy has got such great powers he may kill me, or perhaps this won’t happen.” At this point Prahlada’s teachers Sanda and Amarka rush up to Hiranyakasipu and try to console him. They say, “Prahlada is only a small boy. You needn’t worry about him. Tie him up in the ropes of Varuna so that he doesn’t run away, and we’ll keep him tied until his spiritual master Sukracarya returns and deals with him. Besides, as he grows up, he will no doubt give up these deviant ways.” Hiranyakasipu is somewhat solaced, and he gives Prahlada back to them in their charge. The teachers take him back to the school and speak to him in sweet words. They say, “My dear son, please tell us how you have become polluted like this. None of the other boys of the school are polluted. Please tell us who has taught you this.” Their aim is to get the names of the Vaisnavas who may have taught Prahlada and then have them killed. But Prahlada does not give any names. The teachers return to teaching him about material policies—dharma, artha, and kama.
But then Prahlada begins teaching his schoolmates, the sons of demons, about Krsna consciousness during the tiffin hour. Being young, his schoolmates are not so polluted by the teachers, and they listen eagerly to Prahlada teaching them to be Krsna conscious. Prahlada converts the boys to spiritual ways, and when they understand it they run to Hiranyakasipu and tell him what has happened. Enraged, the great demon calls for the boy to be brought before him.
Krsna Bhajana and his wife, Satyasara dasi, arrived from Alachua to stay thirteen days and do service. He is one of the leaders of my book production team, and his wife is a typist. They both do proofreading. During his stay here, Krsna Bhajana indicated that he mostly wanted to stay with his editing and proofreading work and that he was not so inclined to do bodily service or cleaning. But he will have to do some, in the absence of any other servant. Satyasara, as well as her husband, kept talking about being forgetful in old age. They would talk about it, and then—boom!—it would happen. They forgot the names of people and places that they were trying to talk about. All in all, they took it in a jolly spirit, but it was a little disconcerting how they kept forgetting. I feel at ease in their company and look forward to serving with them while they’re here.
While he’s here, Krsna Bhajana will be working on putting together Prabhupada Meditations, Volumes Five and Six by adding meditations materials from other books of mine such as Churning the Milk Ocean. This is an exciting project, to expand the Prabhupada Meditation series into two more substantial books. These additions to the Prabhupada Meditations series will be ready to publish and distribute at the July 2nd meeting. Now Krsna Bhajana can turn his attention to completing books for presentation at the Vyasa-puja ceremony in early December. Some of the writings we want to use are copyrighted by the BBT. Krsna Bhajana has the responsibility of getting permission from the various BBTs to use my material in my republished books. So far, he’s having good luck in getting this done.
Krsna Bhajana seems happy to be here. He runs quickly up the stairs and is always in the middle of some project for the book distribution team. And he doesn’t seem to mind doing humble menial service, even though he has so much book production work to do. Krsna Bhajana is the main coordinator of the book production team. He calls the different devotees and gets commitments from them to do various services. It’s wonderful having him here at Viraha Bhavan for two weeks.
Jahnava devi dasi had sent me some photos of her and Prabhupada taken in 1973. It was to prove that Prabhupada had forgiven her for the initial blunder she made in painting the Kalachandji Deity before His installation in Dallas. These pictures certainly show that she’s pleasing him as she’s showing him a drawing and he’s paying attention nicely. Bali Mardana and Jayadvaita Brahmacari are also in the picture. At first I couldn’t find the photos that Jahnava had sent, but Krsna Bhajana looked around and found them. He also discovered a way that I could see them easily. All day long he has questions for me and tells me how he’s in touch with the other team members. He asks me many questions, and I’m glad to answer them. He was in touch with Lalita Manjari, who wants to put my books on Kindle, and she knows how to do it. I told him I liked the idea, and so he’s telling her to go ahead and do it. He’s also directing her how to type the Niti-sastras with diacritics. His questions are pertinent and technical about how I want things done. His attitude and his expertise are excellent.
wife Satyasara is mostly busy in the kitchen. She will go out with Baladeva today and fetch water, purchase flowers to supplement the hyacinths growing in our yard, small flowers for Radha-Govinda. While getting flowers, she’ll also pick up vegetables for cooking over the next few days. She spends much of her time in the kitchen backing up Anuradha dasi. Satyasara also helps with the Deity worship.
Mother Kaulini had a bicycle which she used to love to ride. It has become a “guest bicycle,” and different devotees have used it. Now that Anuradha is here, she wants to ride it. So we have tried to fix up Mother Kaulini’s bike for her. We spent money on repairs, but they didn’t completely finish the job. We are waiting today, a little impatiently, for the fix-it man to make the final repairs. They said it was done yesterday, but when we went in, it was still faulty. We are all somewhat impatiently waiting for the delivery of the bike so Anuradha can get her daily exercise.
Baladeva phoned the bike store, and they told him all repairs were finished, and we could pick it up right away. I was about to ask Anuradha if she knew how to ride a bike. But then I heard that in Oxford she only rides a bike or takes a bus. She never drives a car. So there is no question of her not knowing how to ride a bike.
My own experience with bike riding took place in childhood. For many years I used to speed home from school in five minutes and reach our family home. My mother would be there with lunch, usually tomato soup and two sandwiches. (I never learned to drive because I found it too scary with incoming traffic, and living in New York City, there wasn’t much need of a car. I took the train, the ferry and the subway.) But fifteen years ago, as a sannyasi living in an ashram in Delaware, I went out for a bike ride with Baladeva. I was doing all right, but I became spooked by a distant truck which was turning my way. I lost my composure, lost my balance, and fell down with the bike. I felt a pain in my shoulder and went to the emergency room. They diagnosed that I had a broken collarbone and told me to go to a specialist. He confirmed the diagnosis and had me wear a sling for several weeks. I kept visiting him, and the pain didn’t go away. Eventually he told me not to wear the sling, and slowly, bit by bit, the pain went away. But now I’m too old to ride the bike.
We went to the Berkshire Eye Center, where Dr. Goodrich is the boss. Many women assistants work there. When Baladeva went to the front desk and tried to give the woman a bag of his cookies, she said, “Oh, we can’t take them because of COVID. But they’re good!” (She remembered from the time prior to COVID, when they could take them.) We went to see one of the assistants, Naomi, who pre-checked my vision and checked out my paperwork: medicine I’m taking, medical history, etc. Then we saw Dr. Goodrich in his office. We told him about our specific request. We wanted to get eyeglasses with a prescription that would enable me to see my Radha-Govinda Deities clearly, in all detail, from five to six feet away, and still maintain reading with the same glasses. He seemed to understand what we wanted and said he could do it. He said my distance vision was pretty good (but I don’t use it anyway. I don’t drive, I don’t look out the windows of my room, birdwatching, etc.) Then he checked the present status of my vision by having me read the letters on a screen. He kept changing the lenses to come up with the proper prescription. Dr. Goodrich looks like an eye doctor out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with his little white coat, white moustache and long white hair. He said I could continue to wear my present eyeglasses (which have some scratches on them after a year and a half of use. Baladeva opines that the scratches are due to the tilaka dust on my forehead, which acts as an abrasive, just as if I were polishing brass Deities.) Then we were shuffled out by the saleswoman, Heather, who we always get our glasses from. She makes fun of us for getting the same style glasses all the time. She says, “Getting new glasses shouldn’t be boring.” She said on her morning shift she had sold a pair of green eyeglasses studded with semiprecious stones to an old woman, and they looked great. She mocked some of the supposedly beautiful models that are pictured throughout their office wearing chic eyeglasses from around the world. Baladeva attempted to give Heather prasadam cookies, and she quickly agreed to take them. He mentioned to her that they had been rejected at the front desk, but she said to him, “Of course I’ll take them!” She laid out five different pairs of glasses for me to choose, and I randomly picked a pair that are almost exactly like the ones I’m currently using. She had to laugh.
Today we picked up the new eyeglasses at the Berkshire Eye Center. They are custom-made, so I can see the Deities of Radha-Govinda better. The Deities are six feet away from my chair, and They are about six inches tall Themselves. When I got home and tried the glasses, Their features were still not quite clear enough. Baladeva then pulled the whole altar about three or four inches closer to me. Now there’s a distinct difference, and I can take darsana of Them more clearly and make out Govinda’s conch shell eyes and make out Radharani’s features also as a young girl. I am satisfied that this is the best we can get, and I can take long-term, leisurely darsana of my Deities in Their many new sets of clothes.
“We either focus on Krsna or what we say has no value. Later Narada will develop his argument. He will make this high standard attainable for all of us; no one will be exempt. Narada will explain that we first need to accept sastric authority which insists on Krsna’s supremacy, then use whatever we have or are attracted to doing in His service. Even those of us who live down here in the pits will find engagement and hope. We too can serve the Absolute Truth. We too can go beyond what Vyasadeva wrote in his preliminary books by aiming at pure bhakti. Vyasadeva himself will guide us through the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Can Krsna be more merciful? He who gave salvation to the Putana demon, although she came to poison Him, is our Lord.
“I’m writing this, a little fearful of Narada’s stick. He keeps me on the road. I want to give the Lord pleasure. I think He is pleased when I make an all-out effort to flow with everything and direct it to His lotus feet. Nondual. Krsna is apart from all, yet everything is connected to Him.”
“The little men I draw always wear tilaka. They often smile, and if not, their mouths are straight lines, making them look grave, foolish, or a little sad. But they always wear tilaka because they are engaged in devotional service despite everything.
No, I will not abandon the path.
It is too fearful to wander lost in
the city of dreams, searching for
the Staten Island ferry
terminal. That only leads to Great Kills
and not to my real home.
“Narada’s words have sobered us. When Lord Caitanya rejected Chota Haridasa and Chota later committed suicide, the devotees became so afraid they didn’t think of women even in their dreams.
“Dear Lord, my sweater is fraying—this instead of something wilder.
“Two days left at Saranagati. I’m ready to move on.
may my words
“Sometimes we think satisfaction is the goal, but a devotee is never satiated by hearing Krsna’s glories. Neither is he satisfied with his own performance of devotional service. He wants always to improve, to hear more, to please Krsna more. The sat¬isfaction of brahma-bhuta refers to the peace that comes when one becomes free of the bodily conception. It is certainly a relief to overcome one of the most major obstacles to happiness.
“Still, understanding our eternal nature is only a beginning. To actually maintain our ‘eternal’ status, we have to understand our individual selves and the nature of the Supreme Lord. This is called practicing sanatana-dharma, and we cannot practice such realization until we possess it. Therefore it is said that devotional service comes after liberation. Liberation cannot stand by itself as an impersonal concept (vimukta-maninah).
“The impersonalist thinks he is liberated, but there is no liberation until we are aware of ourselves not only as spirit souls, but as Krsna’s eternal servants. If we are aware of our service to Krsna, then we are liberated even while living in the material body (jivan-muktah sa ucyate).
“Brahma-bhuta is also described as the stage of bliss. This too has to be realized within the context of pleasing Krsna’s senses and becoming happy in His service. Even a devotee in the early stages of sadhana-bhakti feels a bliss which resembles the first symptom of brahma-bhuta. Actually, such a devotee will travel beyond brahma-bhuta if he persists in practicing sadhana-bhakti. The gayatri-mantra honors the spiritual master: I meditate on the spiritual master, who is always in blissful Krsna consciousness. I want to be enthusiastic serving him, just as he enthuses me.
“With such goals, we can never think we have attained perfect Krsna consciousness. Those who wish to overcome their present position in devotional service and attain a higher status, will find their purposes will best be served by honoring the advanced Vaisnavas. It takes lifetimes to become a purified Vaisnava, and it also requires the Lord’s full mercy. Srila Prabhupada condemned those who thought Vaisnavas were those who stayed home to ring bells, show the Deity, hope to receive some donation, then fall asleep in the afternoon sun while chanting their rounds.
“All our despondency is therefore due to a lack of love of God, and in the earlier stages, of proper hearing and chanting. We need to save ourselves, and Narada has given the cure.”
“Our method is different; we take it straight from scripture, from Narada. It’s the simple act of hearing with rapt attention. Pray to Krsna to give us faith. He’s Supreme, He is present in His transcendental form, in the sound of His names, in His beautiful pastimes. That’s all we need.
“A list of what I like in this verse:
(1) that Narada speaks so directly
(2) that he will help Vyasadeva
(3) that it is part of an entire train of thought
(4) that the answer is clear
“A list of how I failed with this verse:
(1) I failed to love, to enter, to believe
(2) I failed to think about it during the day
(3) I didn’t make plans yet how to stay more with Krsna’s pastimes
(4) I don’t draw pictures of Krsna inspired by this verse.
There’s still time,
for Krsna to be merciful
“O Krsna, O holy name, please rescue me. It is coldest winter and we are waiting for the thaw. You are the most intelligent person. Please arrange for me to reach Your feet. Don’t reject me because of my faults. Enliven me with faith and love.
“You know, I always wanted to be loved, and I wanted to be made an exception, although I didn’t get the best grades. No grades, no money in the family—shame. Forget it, man.
“You’re a devotee now. The nondevotees think I’m a jerk cultist, but I think they’re out to lunch—the President, his daughter, the divorced Queen—all of them. They’re all sordid, bored, boarded up
of the soul.
They don’t know anything
and they won’t admit it.
Interject a prayer. Of all
orders of the guru, his order
to chant sixteen rounds
“I was very resigned that Prabhupada was going to leave us in his last days. Some devotees maintained hope that he would revive by diet or regimen. The majority knew that he wanted us to preach after his departure. So much trouble came about the last instructions he gave. But it was worth it. It was clear what he wanted: ‘If you love me show it by working together to preserve this institution.’ New gurus. But they began to fall down. Schisms formed. The main body of ISKCON remained as an institution, governed by the GBC. It looks as if it will survive. In many places, in the American temples, it has diminished. In India and Russia it has increased. It has gained influence in the yoga movements. There is a committee to keep Prabhupada in the center, to maintain his legacy. More Indians are joining and Indian immigrants. Small numbers of nationals in the individual countries are joining. No sense in being afraid. It will revive. Krsna will protect us.
“We don’t want a strict, dictatorial, militaristic rules and regulations movement. No one will follow that. It has to be a loving, compassionate body. Welcoming people, kirtana and dancing, prasadam and a modest, self-realized Krsna conscious lecture. Keep Prabhupada in the center, his books, his pictures, his bhajans, his lectures, memories of him. ISKCON has over four hundred centers and preaching outposts. Visit them and maintain them, they are beacon lights in the darkness of Kali-yuga.
“He took a morning walk, do as he did. Walking rapidly to keep up to him and Krsna conscious talk. On the beach or in the park, remembering Krsna. Sing his guru-puja song, bow down to his murti, offer him flowers. Put a blanket on that murti at night and wake him in the morning and change his dress. Sit beside him and chant your mantras. Hear his voice blend with yours.”
“I have a series of three photos—Srila Prabhupada and Srutakirti are folding Prabhupada’s chadar. First, Srutakirti holds it while Srila Prabhupada folds it. Then Srutakirti folds it while Prabhupada watches. Srila Prabhupada is attentive. He wants it done neatly and just right. He knows exactly how to do it; it’s another art that should be done the right way. In the third photo, Srila Prabhupada has the chadar and Srutakirti is watching. I imagine Srila Prabhupada said, ‘Not like that. Give it to me.’ Prabhupada is meditative, absorbed in the moment of chadar-folding. I love Prabhupada in that mood.
“Prabhupada is always the instructor for his disciples. There is usually an edge of chiding in his voice, but it’s still gentle and loving. Of the disciple Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘ . . . A disciple cannot disobey the order of his spiritual master. That is the relationship between a disciple and his master.’ He gives the example of Arjuna, who surrendered to Krsna ‘without any vanity regarding his own erudition, and without any reservation.’ If you relax your defenses and allow him to instruct you, even in how to fold a chadar, then your relationship will be smooth. You will not become aggravated and neither will he become displeased; you will quickly learn how to do things his way. The spiritual master is supposed to train you to be expert in spiritual activities, including the details of how to fold a chadar. As soon as you resist, thinking you know how to do something or that he is too demanding, then there will be trouble.”
“Repeatedly the devotee calls on the Lord in a personal way, ‘O my Lord.’ It’s in a tone of awe and reverence, ‘falling on the ground at Your feet,’ but very intense. It’s not just a formally offered praise. It is surcharged with the personality of the devotee and his desire for deliverance, but not in a self-centered way. His end has come, and he is ready to surrender; give up the body and life-air, and go to Krsna, ‘if He will kindly remember me, free me from karma and lead me on the right path to reach You.’ He wants to go back to Godhead, beyond birth and death and he is crying out helplessly and yet courageously, ‘Please take me, Lord!’ It’s a bit reminiscent of Lord Caitanya’s cry, ‘O Son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.’ (Sri Siksastakam, verse 5)
When you can enter a sastric prayer like this, then you feel no need to add anything of your own. Your own case is completely stated, exactly as you would want to pray, except you don’t have the ability to express yourself. So we are grateful to find slokas like this and make them our own.
“Without the Bhaktivedanta purport we really couldn’t do this, couldn’t confidently embrace this sloka knowing that Prabhupada is all for it. So the purport is part of the whole, and it elucidates and enlightens the prayer as when Prabhupada states, ‘The Lord is addressed as fire because He can burn anything into ashes, including the sins of the surrendered soul.’ (Isopanisad 18, purport)”
“I wasn’t star-gazing as I walked, but something caught my eye. It was a shooting star moving horizontally but down. I watched it burn out like a Roman candle and disappear.
“I took the walk to meditate on and speak about Prabhupada. Slowly the dawn arrived, but the sky remained subdued. I felt joyful to be walking and talking, dovetailing my energy in prabhupada-katha. Otherwise, whatever elation I was feeling would be animal spirit—walking and poking holes in the iced-over puddles with my walking stick. What a waste.
“As far as spirituality, I might have a vague feeling of being one with Nature. But that wouldn’t lead me anywhere. It certainly wouldn’t save me at the time of death. Therefore, it’s nice to walk and think of Prabhupada in the unavoidable feeling of well-being.
“Even when we aren’t feeling physical well-being, real joy comes from serving Prabhupada. We’re always looking for immediate physical or mental gratification, but when we apply that gratification in Prabhupada’s service, that is solid Krsna consciousness—chanting, hearing, and doing other forms of service. Let us follow the path enunciated by the Srimad-Bhagavatam and offer everything we have and are to Krsna. Life is not meant for sense gratification. Our happiness should be long-term (sreyas), not short-term (preyasa).
“When I talk like this, I think of it as a ‘Prabhupada now’ meditation. Usually, I am looking for memories. They are hard to find; they take a lot of concentration and mercy. But we also want to see Prabhupada in the present. Our tendency is that if we stay in the present moment, we won’t remember Prabhupada unless we are actually reading his books, but if in a particular country at a particular time of day we see roadside bushes and a lightening sky, silhouettes of chimneys and rooftops, hills and slopes, how is this Prabhupada conscious? How is the feeling in my body Prabhupada conscious? Is linking up these present moments to Prabhupada artificial?
“Prabhupada is with us in all circumstances. We don’t want to concoct his presence, and we don’t want to dishonor him by connecting him to the material world. Prabhupada is not the source of everything, the Supreme Controller. He understands that Krsna is in everything and is controlling everything and He understands that Krsna and His energies are simultaneously one and different. Therefore, even in the variegated elements of the world, he sees Krsna and he feels love for Krsna. Prabhupada compares it to the way a mother feels when she sees her child’s shoe. She feels love not for the shoe, but for her child, who is associated with the shoe. That shoe becomes a stimulus for loving emotion. The mahabhagavata sees everything as promoting his constant absorption in Krsna.”
“Please enter my life,
please fill my mind
with Your names and
forms and qualities.
“I’m not passing the time
in a numbers game but
praying to Persons who
protect and rule my life. I
should think of Them and
worship as I chant.”
“As I entered, the Indian guests were sitting there and Prabhupada said to me, ‘Go and get some asanas.’ I ran out and tried to get asanas, but I realized, ‘I don’t know where to go to get asanas.’ Then I was in a quandary. I didn’t know what to do. I thought ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to go and ask Prabhupada.’ I went back in and said, ‘Srila Prabhupada?’ He said, ‘Yes?’ ‘Where should I get the asanas?’ He said, ‘Go and see Hari Sauri. He will show you.’ Then I ran and found Hari Sauri. ‘Hari Sauri, Prabhupada wants some asanas for the guests. Can you give me some?’ He said, ‘I don’t think we have any.’ Then I said, ‘Oh no!’ He said, ‘Let me look.’ Then he rummaged around in his closet and he came up with one crumpled-looking asana. I thought, ‘I’ve only got one asana. What am I going to do?’ Then I went back out and the guests were getting up to leave.
“Prabhupada said, ‘Get them some prasadam.’ So I ran back and found Hari Sauri again. I said, ‘The ‘The guests are leaving. Prabhupada wants me to give them some prasadam.’ He said, ‘All right, here is some prasadam.’ Then I came out and gave them each some prasadam. At this point I was thinking, ‘Well, at least I did one thing right.’ But I still have this one asana, so I went back to the garden.
“‘As I came in, Prabhupada was talking to Bhagatji and no one else was around. It looked like Bhagatji was already sitting on something and Prabhupada was sitting on his own raised seat. I stood there with the one asana, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t understand whether Prabhupada meant for me to use the asana, or Bhagatji, or whether it was for the guests or what—I didn’t know. I was completely bewildered. As I came in, Prabhupada said, ‘I have several times asked you to get asanas. What is the difficulty?’
“‘I said, ‘Srila Prabhupada, I could only get this one asana.’
“‘Prabhupada replied by just saying, ‘Hmmm.’
“‘What should I do with the asana?’
“Prabhupada said, ‘Take your one asana and sit down on it!’ Then he began to laugh. I felt like a complete fool as he began to laugh. Bhagatji also started laughing, and I also started to laugh. I could understand at that point how I was so puffed up thinking I was a big personality that I could go in and see Srila Prabhupada, but he had just revealed to me what a complete fool I was—an incompetent bungler. They were both laughing and I was also laughing. I couldn’t even quite understand why I was laughing, but somehow or other, by his chastisement in making me look like a fool, I felt completely relieved, because I could understand my actual position. I was just an insignificant, foolish servant who couldn’t do practically anything right. Somehow it was a great relief just to know that, so I sat down, and they went on talking.
—Rupa-vilasa dasa Adhikari”
“Here’s a review of some of the summer marathon’s themes:
“1) The search for honesty on a daily basis, although I did not pursue it in a formal or systematized way.
2) The pressure of travel—it was good, but demanding. I could not always take time in the evening to quietly ask myself, ‘What made me happy?’ I had to live and flow, but always within my Krsna conscious duties. I know I would like to go deeper, but there’s a higher priority or pressure to simply operate, cope.
“At night I don’t ‘meditate’ and write down careful gut observations. No, I put out the clocks, set the alarms, and try to take rest. But here and there, I played that game and said that what made me happy was yogurt and fruit and stopping at a P-stop for breakfast, resting and driving on. In general, I like the van-traveling life, and I like the van with its handy supply of Prabhupada’s books and tapes, and its privacy and mobility. Travel days also, although potentially tiring, have their own magic. They move me along in a way that’s almost symbolic: they remind me constantly that I cannot stay in this life. I have to flow with it and then out of it. That creates lightness and nonattachment.
“M. likes to joke: after a day of van travel when we finally pull into some spot for the night, when he backs into the spot, turns off the engine and pulls on the emergency brake, he turns to me as if presenting me with something wonderful and says, ‘We’re home!’ Our ‘home, sweet home’ lasts only six to eight hours, and then we’re back on the road. Some ‘homes’ are more idyllic than others. Some are in forests, some are along the road or at truck stops or P-stops. There’s no control over what they are or what they will become by morning. Even the quietest place can be noisy within hours. We have learned to be detached. It’s also true that our compact accommodations are comfortable. It’s a blissful life, and we’re out of reach of phones and other long-arm message systems.”
“There were a number of people, mostly elderly, who Prabhupada knew in India. Dr. Patel, and in Vrndavana his friend, Bhagatji, Pishima, his sister. One time in Calcutta, Prabhupada talked to a man and Acyutananda asked him, ‘Who was he? Was he a sadhu, was he a Gaudiya Matha member?’ Prabhupada said, ‘He’s my friend.’ So he had these contacts with people who were outside his ISKCON disciples, and he didn’t tell us much about them but just related to them individually.
“Prabhupada was very affectionate with Krsna dasa Babaji Maharaja, his Godbrother who often stayed in Vrndavana, who always used to laugh and chant Hare Krsna. Prabhupada would relax with him and talk in Bengali. He came and visited Prabhupada a lot in Prabhupada’s very last days. Prabhupada knew the owner of the Radha-Damodara temple and the sweeping lady there, who used to be there when he lived there.”
From the back cover:
“Start 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, the picture of the murti of the picture of the murti, how many times removed from the actual Swami who came to us?
“Yet by doing it, you draw close to him. You have to smile at your drawing
“It doesn’t look like him, it looks like a drawing, like a carved wood rendition of a seafarer, a fisherman kind of thing you could buy in a tourist shop, but in this case it is your Swami and he smiles back to you from the murti form as if amused at your devotion to draw him as yet another way to serve and come close, yet another way to be childishly proud of your own so-called prowess.”
“O Krsna, I do seek Krsna consciousness in my life, I write ‘what comes’ and I am embarrassed by it, but also glad I can be honest and unpretentious while practicing Krsna consciousness. That’s important to me. Because one can become artificial or blind while presuming to practice Krsna consciousness and teach others. One can become hypocritical. I don’t want to entirely forget my sinful past as long as it still affects me.
“Finally, I want to do whatever You want me to do, but it’s not easy to qualify myself to receive such direct dictation from You within my heart.
“You seem to wish me well in my present course. Or do You laugh at me in my foolishness?
“Am I crazy? At least I am in Your service, or aspiring for that, even with my headachy head.
“Hickory dickory dock—
a clock near Kenmore reports
four minutes after 1:00 to my eyes and
I pray by reading and reciting
the sacred Hare Krsna
Clock hands move toward Christmas
dawn. The wood burns and
I am quiet and at peace,
willing and eager to go out
to meet and lecture on behalf
of Sri Krsna on the order
of the Swami, whom I met in that very
storefront in New York.
“Okay, close this out. Signed and delivered—Christmas consciousness with wordplay—a compelling dream of a search and a vision for the advanced stage in devotional writing when an author writes that for which he was created, although more informal and direct, carried on waves of sincerity and inspiration. That’s a dream.
“For now, sitting on a vacuumed rug, contrite, words strewn like seeds.”
“A list of fears I have about being more authentic:
“1. I’m afraid that if I try to become more authentic, it will turn into mundane realization, and I may go the way of a Godbrother who gave up guru and sannyasa duties.
“2. If I became authentic, it may not be acceptable to ISKCON authorities. (This fear I will attempt to subdivide under other numbers on this list.)
“In making this list I see I have two different definitions of ‘authentic.’ The absolute definition is to understand that I am an eternal servant of Krsna, so I should follow the six symptoms of surrender, which begin with doing everything favorable for Krsna consciousness and avoiding anything unfavorable to Krsna consciousness. By this standard I would have quite a different list, because my list has started off mixed due to the two definitions of authentic I carry in my mind. I need to find a synthesis. I need self-realization and fulfillment of my individual nature in the conditioned state before I can fully surrender. Or, to say it more accurately, I think I need that kind of concession. I think that if I can be satisfied by developing my psycho-physical nature, I’ll be better able to give my love to Krsna. If I am told too abruptly, ‘Your authentic nature is to do everything for Krsna and nothing for yourself, Prabhu—we will now give you a detailed account of what you should be doing,’ then that introduces another problem. That is, different people inevitably have their own ideas of what it means for someone else to be authentic.
“Well, who is the authentic Satsvarupa dasa? Someone might say, ‘Satsvarupa used to be an authentic devotee of Prabhupada in ISKCON, but now he’s gone a little weird.’ I tend to think of becoming authentic by searching on my own. This is what psychologists refer to as the ‘acculturated self,’ and how it comes into conflict with the authentic self. Being authentic means to live a lie.
“This is all quite tricky and not easy to write down on paper – what is authentic and what is not, what my fears about authenticity are, and so on. I’ll proceed with the list, but I will add that I understand it’s basically coming from a confused person who is not always sure which action is truly authentic – whether it is more authentic, a more honest way to approach Krsna, to indulge the psycho-physical nature or to reject an inner urge.”
“Anyone alive has had great suffering (if we are willing to admit it). Can you also notice the great tenderness at its edge?”
“I’ve suffered a lot from migraines, sometimes for twenty-four or even forty-eight hours at a time. I would lie in bed in a dark room, with a piercing pain in my right eye. I can’t say there was a tenderness at the edge. But I tolerated it without complaining. I would wait for it to go and in the meantime let my mind wander where it wanted without bashing it with a broom. The physical pain was enough to deal with, so I went easy on myself. I’m grateful I’ve passed through these ordeals, and I hope they don’t come back. Whenever I had to endure this sort of torment, I felt close to Krsna and basically accepted it as a joke, as something like a token punishment for the much greater offenses I had committed.
“I was never able to meet the pain personified. I never spoke to him or saw him. Alternative healers sometimes say that if you can talk with your pain, it might help you to deal with it or even overcome it.”
“Devotees sometimes wonder whether it’s ethical to engage other devotees to help them in their service to Prabhupada. Yes, it is. Prabhupada told us that he had given us a limited number of GBC secretaries, but those secretaries should have their own secretaries and teams to help them carry the mission forward. We are all meant to serve together, and if we are to serve on a worldwide scale, we will need organization. We should trust that our Godbrothers are not expressing their ego when they ask devotees to help them in their services to Srila Prabhupada.
“Prabhupada’s Godbrothers didn’t support Prabhupada, even when he asked them to send some of their disciples to help him in the preaching. They chose not to come themselves, and they even stopped their disciples from coming. Prabhupada wrote so many letters begging his Godbrothers for help—even inviting them to help him while remaining in India. He needed someone to help him find an Indian printer for his books, to buy karatalas, mrdangas, saris and dhotis. His Godbrothers wouldn’t even inquire into prices for him, what to speak of actually helping him. That attitude is small-minded.
“Just after Srila Prabhupada left the planet, some of the GBC members went to see Sridhara Maharaja. He instructed us on different points about initiation. One devotee told Sridhara Maharaja that he wasn’t interested in initiating disciples because he simply wanted to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. Sridhara Maharaja told him that if he accepted disciples, he could engage his disciples in that work. It was not possible for this devotee to carry out his ideas about book distribution alone; he needed help. Either we need help from our juniors, or we must ask for help from our peers, but none of us can work alone.
“It seems ideal that devotees who see someone struggling with a big load in some area of Prabhupada’s movement will humbly volunteer to help. This is Lord Caitanya’s mission. Prabhupada managed to engage the devotees in this mission, and we can also help each other carry it out on Prabhupada’s behalf. Nowadays in ISKCON there are more and more departments–Pada-yatra, Food-for-Life, Life Membership, book distribution, book publishing, communications, and many more. We all have to serve in one aspect of the mission or another.
“If we are leaders in a particular project, we can plan the concepts and principles of whatever form of sankirtana we are carrying out. For example, Srila Prabhupada instructed Lokanatha Maharaja to travel with oxen. From there he developed the Pada-yatra program. Lokanatha Maharaja was always present on the traveling party, and those who were inspired by his method of preaching joined him to help. Now there are Pada-yatra parties traveling through countries around the world. Lokanatha Maharaja is no longer capable of attending every Pada-yatra march, but he has become the recognized founder of that style of preaching.”
“Corruption can enter the heart easily when a devotee accepts a position. If we think we are special, we may begin to accept privileges. We may also deflect the praise directed at Prabhupada to ourselves. That is a spiritual corruption. In a less personally motivated situation, it is natural for elder brothers and sisters to share their father’s mercy with those younger than them. In Vedic culture, the eldest sons of royal families would be given gold ornaments and eating utensils to strengthen the difference between themselves and their younger siblings. Making distinctions was deliberately encouraged in order to strengthen the chain of respect and to lessen envy. In a king’s family, the eldest son would accede to the throne and the younger brothers would serve him for the rest of their lives. But if that eldest brother accepted the golden utensils and allowed pride and envy to spoil the feelings of compassion that such privileges were meant to engender, then he would fall down from his position. Of course, we have seen so much of this in ISKCON.”
I’m just a poor boy/a long way from home.
Oh, we finished another
put your little foot
don’t be afraid
God is Krsna
He said (I’m not responsible)
I’m the one who is
He said, there are varnas
I’m trying to remember
a crude example, a shop-
keeper can give you what
you have money for, that’s
not his partiality . . .
He said, we’re always active –
just do your thing for Krsna
as acceptable and guided
by the guru, our spiritual master
guides us very expertly.
Questing, surfing, he believed in God
and so do I, it comes out…
I don’t care so much
with things not in our
sampradaya, but I honor
the blessing, the enjoying…
Don’t neglect the use of time
you get only three or five minutes
and then a guy comes in
and you have to dismantle your
Hear his footfalls
I don’t want to be disturbed…
got in enough licks before
it had to terminate, now
turn your face to the
wall, God – faith –
the devotee sees only
He is the reality even in
bedpost, tree, rock
and especially the picture
and venu descriptions
the pure devotee knows all
this and even people like me.
Back off man, I want
to be your man
You remember and I’ll
be with you all the
time. Hey, Hare
Oh, we danced what
kirtana, blessed the town
Could we do the same
for Dublin? On the
city steps. Well, let’s
see you set an example.
All those decades, you
missed the boat
you missed the ferry
with your bicycle and your
eighth grade, arithmetic
teacher, Mrs. Mulligan
It’s not too late to
stumble. You are a
young enough old man
and God graced your
right arm with power
“nonsense!” he orated
but I wasn’t stopped.
It wasn’t a worldly sound.
We dove the tail of
dry sound. Wound
Krsna topics. Give me
a little time and I’ll
be open to Govardhana
knowledge, tell a hungry
crowd, we’ll walk
around a hill of food
Please come, don’t hold
against it me when I
asked you to see me
as exalted, special –
I’ll sit with you and help
you understand your own
Oh, that’s all nonsense.
Let’s enter new days
praise Lord Hari.
Can you write some lines before
you lie down on the floor?
Yes, why not?
The monk in gray and saffron
shirt will rise again,
you’ll see, to enter
the child’s, emperor’s
naked clothing art room
prepared for him by other
and he will…paint nemesis
of all evil, and amulet,
a naïve hooded wise one
and deva-nagari. Gaudiya
Vaishnava tilaka will save the
You’ll see. It will be a supreme.
We’ll declare it not
a waste. Because what is
canvas for? What’s this life
for? If we can make
the form of Lord Hari.”
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.