My room on the second floor is where Radha-Govinda and Srila Prabhupada are worshiped, and we have developed it gradually into a wild kunja with vines and leafy plants growing everywhere. Some of them have been here ten years. So many fresh creepers, it’s hard not to think of Vrndavana in the spring. Amidst the greenery, there sometimes appears small bouquets of “happy flowers,” small white bunches that sometimes appear right over Radha-Govinda’s heads. Or sometimes we pick them out and place them at Their lotus feet. The appearance of the “happy flowers” is elusive—sometimes we do not see them, and then as we search, suddenly some appear. There is a special rasa in going out in the morning and finding varied flowers for the Deities.
Krsna Bhajana has given me a list of books that can be available for distribution at the July meeting of my disciples and friends and the Vyasa-puja meeting in December. These include the titles Prabhupada Nectar, Srila Prabhupada Smaranam, 100 Prabhupada Poems and Life with the Perfect Master, which are all in stock in our book storage.
Prabhupada Meditations 1 & 2 have been reprinted by Nitai in India. He is sending us the files so that we can reprint them in America. My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, Volumes 1 & 2 (titled With Srila Prabhupada in the Early Days and You Cannot Leave Boston) are with Lal Krsna, who is doing the layout and colors.
We have a few regular donors to pay for these printings, but they don’t want to be the only ones to bear the burden. We request more donors to help us print these books and help us with the marathon to print the books I have written about Prabhupada in 2022. We need them printed by July and by the Vyasa-puja meeting in December. That would be the nicest birthday present I could imagine or hope for.
The new stove arrived today. It’s sitting in the middle room, waiting to be installed. The man may come today to do it. It has a convection oven and also an air-fryer function, which are important items in cooking. It has a nine-inch-long burner on top which fits under a griddle, or it can be used for large festival pots. For example, it can make three or four gallons of paneer at one time. Dina-bandhu cut out the countertop stove and the cabinets underneath so that the new stove will fit right it. He’ll come back and do tiling work so that it’s easy to clean. This is a great improvement over the thirty-year-old stove and oven because the parts are no longer available, and it would cost almost $100 every time a man came out to fix something (which is becoming more regular). Radha-Govinda and Gaura Nitai should have the best cooking facilities (without burning out the cooks). If we were in India we would get a coconut, break it, and perform and arati to welcome the new piece of equipment.
The new oven has been installed and is working well. Dina-bandhu has to come back and do some carpentry work around the stove so that it doesn’t look so rough. He can also tile it so that it can easily be cleaned. We should try to do everything first-class for Krsna.
Silavati dasi sent a picture of herself today sitting in an airplane in Ireland ready to fly to New York. She’s scheduled to be here by 5:00 P.M. at our train station. We are tempted to get long-term visas for Silavati and Anuradha so they can form a team with Krsna dasi to do all the varied services at the ashram that have been neglected. And they will keep company for Krsna dasi, who doesn’t like staying in her house alone since her husband has passed away. They have stayed here before for three weeks, and they like to call themselves “The Three Musketeers.” They get along quite well together as a team. We haven’t got the long-term visas yet; there are technicalities in obtaining them. But at least the three have gathered, and they are determined to work it out.
Two lady servitors are here to keep company for Krsna dasi and to help out with the ashram duties. Anuradha dasi said that she and Krsna dasi had different needs. Krsna dasi has been living for forty years with her husband, her life’s companion, and now she is alone. Anuradha loves to be alone and needs open space. But they talk this out together and get along well. Silavati appreciates the good association she finds in the other two devotees, and she acts as a balance between Krsna dasi and Anuradha. So it’s going well, and we’re striving to get long-term visas for the two from Ireland.
I’m concerned that Dr. Kozer’s increase in dosage of medicine for what he diagnoses as Parkinson’s disease hasn’t helped my inability to walk. Now for the past two days, I developed a chest cough and am worried that it doesn’t develop into something like pneumonia or bronchitis, both of which I’m prone to. Both of these top up my anxiety disease, which is already piqued by my worrying about the visas for the two women who are here from Ireland.
Krsna Bhajana’s wife, Satyasara, is doing important service. She has typed up manuscripts, and now she is proofreading books we hope will be ready for the July meeting and the Vyasa-puja meeting. She is supporting Krsna Bhajana while he writes email to the other team members and looks for more material for the Prabhupada Meditations sections for Volumes 5 and 6, which requires a lot of reading. She’s also very strong in sadhana and keeps the family in line.
Jayanta was honored that his Guru Maharaja, Kadamba Kanana Swami, read two of his poems on a Zoom broadcast. He read the poem where Jayanta describes a Vrndavana scene with Krsna and then contrasts it with walking the streets of lower Manhattan, where the people were “dangerous” and didn’t look at each other. He also read Jayanta’s poem for springtime. In it, Jayanta describes how every year he plants vegetables and tries to protect them with wire fencing. But the wild animals always come and manage to eat his crop. This year he tried some new protective measures which will make the animals stay away from his plants. He’s also planting marigolds, which are supposed to keep the bugs and animals away by their particular aroma. Kadamba Kanana Maharaja said when a devotee dovetails his talent and interest and creates something Krsna conscious, it’s a good thing to do.
A lead man and his girlfriend had a rock band in the 1960s. They were both avid skiers. But the man died when he smashed into a tree. I am worried for Kirtan Rasa’s 15-year-old son, who wants to make a lifetime career of skiing. Kirtan Rasa says the ski trails are carefully marked out to avoid collision.
Spring yard work has begun. Almost everyone in the neighborhood was outside mowing lawns and picking weeds. Although the farmers don’t begin planting their crops until May 15, we have begun our flower planting in advance. We have begun our preparation for flower planting now. Baladeva mowed the lawn and picked weeds. The mulch is arriving in a week. Once the mulch is on the ground, the weeds won’t have a chance to firmly establish their roots. They can be easily picked out for the rest of the summer, before they get a chance to build root systems. I was thinking that as soon as April arrived we could plant all our flowers, but it’s not as easy as that. First must come the mulching, and then the flowers, and then the careful watering until the flowers get established. Our main crop will be marigolds and roses for the Deities. The roses will be planted up front, and the marigolds go everywhere. In between, we’ll have lily-of-the-valley, mock orange and lilacs, which are all very fragrant and pleasing to the Deities. These bloom for three weeks, while the marigolds and the roses continue through October.
N.K. recently told me he’s writing strictly from sastra or books by the acaryas. He’ll post a quote from that source and then expand on it. I wrote back and told him what I’m doing now. I’m also reading books by the acaryas (especially Bhaktivinoda Thakura) and taking off from what they have said. I like to read Bhaktivinoda’s books about Radha and Krsna. Previously N.K. wrote me that he was keeping a daily poetic journal. He said he was writing “whatever came into my head.” He said he was getting good responses from his followers in Mexico. But this is different from what he said he’s writing now, strictly from the acaryas. So I asked him about it and told him what I was doing, and asked him his opinion as to what he thought I should do. I like exchanging with him and opening up to his influence. I think it’s a nice, healthy exchange.
Going forward, I have decided to stop publishing excerpts from A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, Volume 3. I find my writing on this chapter was getting repetitious, with Narada chastising Vyasadeva for his not exclusively glorifying Krsna in bhakti-yoga. I’m going to post from another book I wrote, 100 Prabhupada Poems.
In 1996 ISKCON celebrated the centennial of Prabhupada’s birth. Srila Prabhupada was born in Calcutta in 1896, so 1996 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of his appearance. ISKCON observed and celebrated this centennial in many ways during the year 1996. I made a personal contribution by writing 100 Prabhupada Poems. They are a humble offering; not great poetry, but I made them sincerely.
“Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept this or it’s worse than useless.
You have given me spiritual life and so my time is yours.
You want me to be happy in Krsna consciousness.
You want me to spread Krsna consciousness,
working with my brothers
in the Society for Krsna Consciousness.
Please accept these lines
made so I can recollect you,
made in separation from you
from the back of a van in Europe,
two years before your Centennial.
Each of us is alone, Prabhupada, and we need to
protect a little territory which is our soul.
I mean protect it from being unduly influenced.
We want to be entirely influenced
and impressed by you
and by Narada and by Hare Krsna vibrations,
but you know what I mean—
you don’t want ‘Yes men,’ carbon copies,
superficially jolly haribols.
We’re tested by action. You see whether we
are willing to sell your books or do something equivalent.
What did we do for the sankirtana movement?
Did we attract others to the lotus feet
of the Lord? Do we defy the atheists,
willing to fight them—
what is our credit?”
“I suppose that’s the biggest defect of worldly literature, even when expertly produced. It reflects only the temporary, a so-called reality. We get caught up in it, but it cannot deliver us to the higher world. The world’s writers think there is no other reality. Therefore, they write passionately about this one. Inadvertently, they do reflect God’s glories by their honesty, sincerity, and their depth of understanding the human heart, but they seem to know nothing more.
“And that is why Prabhupada says such writers cheat people. To enter a novel describing the passions of men and women, to hear descriptions of the setting, to be drawn into the theme, is to exercise the emotions. The more expert the author, the more involved the reader is able to become in the imaginary web he or she has created. But where does it leave us at the end? We have simply managed to escape for some time from the pressing fact that we are lost in the material world. We have found some entertainment and little more. We didn’t get out.
“Literature written to lead us to God is always helpful, but it is better if it is written with art. If the writing is too heavy-handed, without concern for the nuances of expression or sensitivity, it may not serve its purpose. Krsna conscious writing should reflect Krsna’s own beauty. It should be poetic, metaphorical, concise. A devotee is meant to be the greatest poet; why should such claims go only to the nondevotee literary giants? The perfection of our literature will be when it both glorifies God and pleases the readers’ ears.
“Of course, Narada will tell us in the next verse that literary standards do not apply as long as the praise of God is sincere, but it is a great blessing to read literature composed for Krsna’s pleasure that is full of expressive beauty.
“I am not over-sensitive about Narada’s statement condemning world literature, but am I hypocritical because I still admire good writing, even when it is not directly God-conscious? Let me use my admiration to aspire for high literary standards in Krsna conscious writing.”
“Someone asked, ‘Are Krsna conscious authors predestined to perform that service?’
“Another asks, ‘Can a crow become a swan?’
“‘Is the world of mundane literature off-limits, or can it be rescued for Krsna’s service?’
“We die and are reborn. Whatever happened to Kafka? Shakespeare? What will become of Salinger after he is finished hiding behind his fence in Vermont, practicing his own brand of Vivekananda-influenced yoga? Henry Miller croaks in Big Sur and William Saroyan cracks a joke at death—a good one even—then goes off. The destination for many: Yamaraja’s court. ‘What did you write, and what was its value?’
“Writers addicted to the seven deadly vices, vulnerable souls, dope poets, Beats. I was one of them at one time. I couldn’t make it as a worldly writer, some say, so I turned to writing religious stuff for our little congregation. They say I’m spoiling spiritual literature. Call me frustrated. I’ve heard it all before. I don’t care; I am writing as the snow melts in generous drops and the rivulets begin to run off the roof. I told you it wasn’t a serious snowfall this close to April.”
those authors can jump in a lake.
Do I dare put down honorable
English department World Lit classics?
Ray Carver and Hermit Hesse—
no, I’m exorcising them all. Even Rilke’s
Malte Laurids Brigge notebooks—
couldn’t read a page. I’m done with it. O
sages of the Bhagavatam,
may I stay always with you
and with my own expressions.
I’ll walk in the footprints
now covered by snow, and blink
snowflakes from my
eyes. This is here and this is now,
and I have eternal sastra.
“Absolutely last day here. The routine I followed so carefully and lovingly—this quiet—is about to disappear. This is sacred land, truly.
“Clunk, clank, sigh, pop, expire—I will miss the sound of logs burning themselves into black hunks glowing red, then coal black, then ashen as I write.
“Why don’t people appreciate Krsna conscious books? Why don’t neighbors like Krsna’s looks? Where are the hooks and ivies and sassafras?
“If I were more serious, were even someone else, I could comment on Art and Reality. I know some who wouldn’t have hesitated as I did. Well, I’m too thin, and I’ve gathered no moss.
“Here are some statements direct:
‘This world expressed is art.’
I agree, but we know its eternal connection.
They fall short, claim their art-writing is reality.
But it’s not, it’s not.
“Anyway, that wasn’t my idea. All I know is what I perceive with my senses and what I hear from Swamiji and Sukadeva. I stand on that. I wrote alone before I met him, and now I write for him. I was looking for honest expression before I met him, and now that honesty is directed. Inconceivable how that contact gave my writing life, even if it’s clumsy sometimes.
“Balls of wool straggle and fall off this sweater. I guess that means I’ve been wearing it.
I’m not the main point.
“No, but I fit in somewhere. Glad I’m connected. I want to serve, my reason to be—ananda, bhakti, svarupa, writing it down.”
“Rivers of praise coming down the mountains in the melting snow. Rainbows—the bow Krsna broke.
“Newspapers! Now there’s a pilgrimage place for crows if ever there was one.
“He said in two or three years the infrastructure will collapse. They will have to live like worms or something unless we learn to save ourselves now. O Krsna, please make me strong enough to sing this canto.
“ . . . Therefore, Srila Prabhupada himself, working in obscurity, produced the first volume of the Bhagavatam in English with the hope to distribute it around the world. This was his effort to bring about world peace. Most people, even if they knew of his work, saw it as proselytizing. To promote peace they think they must work through the political sphere. Prabhupada, like the sages at Naimisaranya, understood the truth: peace comes from our giving up material designations and understanding spiritual reality.
“In his purport, Prabhupada humbly admits that his rendering of the Bhagavata Purana will be ‘fraught with many difficulties. Our presenting this matter in adequate language, especially a foreign language, will certainly fail, and there will be so many literary discrepancies despite our honest attempt to present it in the proper way.’
“Although Prabhupada mentions his inadequacies, however, he sees them in the spirit of the Bhagavatam verse upon which he is commenting. The verse states that even if the Krsna conscious writing is imperfectly composed, it will be accepted by those who are thoroughly honest. Some devotees have thus seen this sloka as a prediction of Srila Prabhupada’s coming. The relevant elements in the verse are (1 ) that the writing will ‘bring about a revolution in the impious lives of the world’s misdirected civilization’; (2) the writing may appear to some to be imperfectly composed; and (3) it will be accepted by sincere souls all over the world. This is the effect the Bhaktivedanta purports have had, and prior to Srila Prabhupada’s edition, Srimad-Bhagavatam was not known outside of small Vaisnava circles in India and a few nondevotee Indologists in their cloistered academies.
“Prabhupada then asks that his book not be rejected on pedantic grounds. Maybe there are flaws in the printing or grammar, but, ‘After all, it is a technical science of spiritual values, and thus we are concerned with the techniques and not with the language.’ If people cooperate to learn and distribute Srimad-Bhagavatam, it can replace the crow-like literature with literature that can fill the spiritual vacuum. A mass movement toward reading Srimad-Bhagavatam is possible because the book is not only the highest and most edifying, but it is also ‘food for their hankering after reading some interesting literature.’
“Prabhupada writes, ‘We are sure, therefore, that everyone in human society will welcome Srimad-Bhagavatam, even though it is now presented with so many faults, for it is recommended by Sri Narada, who has very kindly appeared in this chapter.’”
“Prabhupada writes that we should make systematic propaganda to popularize the Bhagavatam. That seems difficult, because crows are crows and swans are swans. Or so it seems. The fact is, everyone is spirit soul, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam can reach everyone in one way or another, either now or in the future. This was Srila Prabhupada’s own meditation when he arrived at Boston pier in 1965. How would the nondevotees take to Krsna consciousness? He took heart by remembering these verses of the Bhagavatam.
“And Prabhupada did make the Bhagavatam popular. His disciples have arranged for the Bhagavatam to be distributed in the West for over thirty years, and millions of books have been sold.
“Devotees are now teaching classes on the Bhagavatam at universities as well as their ISKCON centers. They also preach in people’s homes and try to help them understand the books they have received. We also distribute Back to Godhead magazine, and we are finding that although many of the recipients of the Bhagavatam did not become devotees, their children are becoming attracted to the principles of Krsna consciousness.
“When the leaders of society begin to follow the Bhagavatam, their citizens will follow naturally. At present, the leaders are corrupt, even demoniac in their behavior, so it appears hopeless.
“Our philosophy seems too high-natured for such people. Therefore, Prabhupada taught us to distribute prasadam and to hold public kirtana in order to soften their hearts and incline them toward God. We know it is not really hopeless; we ourselves are proof of that.
“‘That literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of . . . the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation.’ The Bhagavatam is not material. An author cannot hide his inner feelings when he writes; whatever he is will show through. Therefore, Vyasadeva’s mood of devotion cannot be hidden in the Bhagavatam descriptions. By reading his words, we too can learn to love God. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada has held nothing back from us in his purports. He has created his purports from his own bhava.”
“Even knowledge of self-realization, free from material designations ‘does not look well’ when devoid of God consciousness. Karma is even less valuable when it has no connection to the Lord. Since literature for swanlike persons must glorify God, this verse also rejects discussions of impersonal Brahman. Both karma and jnana are impurities in that they don’t focus life’s goal on pure devotional service. The goal of lesser paths is bhukti (sense enjoyment) and mukti (impersonal liberation), and the aspiring Vaisnava avoids their poison.
“Work performed to achieve material results is particularly entangling. Such work is maya’s way to keep insincere, unlucky jivas bound to the cycle of birth and death. Still, we have to work to live, so Krsna advises us to perform work as sacrifice to Visnu (yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra). If we offer the results of our work to Krsna, we will become spiritually satisfied; if we perform work to attain a higher level of sense gratification, then such work will ‘become an acute source of trouble.’
“How exactly do we offer the results of work to Krsna? We give money, we use our talents to glorify Krsna in some way, we help the devotees and the preaching. Somehow or other, find the connection between work and God and then perform the work for His pleasure with earnestness. It is not a matter of tagging on ‘for Krsna’ after we perform the work, but we must find the connection of using our senses for Krsna’s pleasure, engaging ourselves in our work in such a way that we are making an offering to Him, and then lovingly and willingly handing over the fruits. Only that attitude will make it yoga.
“Narada and Srila Prabhupada make strong statements asserting that material activity will cause only trouble. They are not trying to frighten us with fire-and-brimstone preaching, but rather are presenting facts. If we drink poison, we can expect to die. If we touch fire, we can expect to be burnt. Karmic activity devoid of God consciousness is fire. It produces karmic reactions from which it is difficult to recover—the web of action leads us ever forward into more and more material suffering as the modes of nature combine to pierce us and tear us to pieces.
“When we come to understand the definition of yoga, we will want to more and more purify our work offering in order to make it more pleasing to Krsna. There are gross impurities and subtle impurities that must be washed out. The impurities are based on our own attachments. At first, we may be attached to possessing the results of our work, even if we make the sacrifice. Later, we may be willing to give up the physical fruits of work but retain attachment to receiving recognition for what we have accomplished. We may also remain attached to controlling the outcome of our endeavors.
“The heart of the offering has to become our devotion. When Krsna says we should offer what we eat to Him first, it is not that He is hungry. He is asking us to express our devotion. When we give money, if it is to please Krsna’s senses, it needs to be given with love and an open heart. It is the warmth and care with which an offering is made that makes it an exchange between Krsna and the devotee.”
“Talking with M. about what I read yesterday in Merton. I said what I found most helpful was his attitude not to look for taste, nectar, or to ‘get high’ from his prayers or duties, but his desire to serve humbly for God’s pleasure. Merton found that example in St. John of the Cross. It reminds me of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s ‘Don’t try to see Krsna, but act in such a way that Krsna sees you.’
“How about a list before we descend to Toronto? Start with words: bhagavata, baby crying, mental energy up and down, woman with earrings, her husband humoring the baby, Bhagavata dasa, automatic writ, miracle of the loaves, milk from Ganesa murti, Sadaputa Prabhu’s explanation of it, avoiding controversies, love to write
free the spirit!
Words pour forth
“Half-cooked chunks of carrots, broccoli—no sweets today. Thought the carrots were like a sweet. Talking to Madhu was sweeter. An upswing after painkiller. Toronto.
“Dovetail. Narada is firm. Use what you have for Krsna; don’t acquire new material skills if they eat up your time. Work with what you already have. Then bhaja govinda. At the time of death, nothing else will help.”
“Now we’re at Gate 98 to Newark. Samika Rsi is supposed to pick us up when we land and drive us to Pennsylvania.
“So, Narada sir, you travel with much more ease than this. I believe it. You move in your spiritual body and you don’t carry luggage. While waiting for my luggage, I read my pocket-sized Gita, opened at random at the ninth chapter. Krsna says He is the ritual, the seed, immortality, death—everything. He is impartial to ordinary souls, but is especially inclined as a friend to His devotees. Then the luggage traveled around the belt and it was time to go through customs. The guy asked us if there is a central headquarters for Hare Krsnas. I said no, but we have many branches.
“‘But in any organization there is some kind of structure and somebody at the top.”
“‘That’s our problem,’ Madhu said, ‘we all think we’re at the top.’
“The customs guy gave a bored, forced laugh, then let us through. What more could he do? He had already asked us if we had $10,000 or had received any monetary gifts in Canada. What else was there to say?
“I wanted to demonstrate that I could write a Bhagavatam comment even while traveling, but maybe I proved the opposite. In either case, it kept me alive and interested, and definitely helped pass the time. Time to board another plane.
“Hearing sweet birdsongs again, although the crows are not so sweet. Maybe it’s my old friend the wood thrush I’m hearing. I’m so out of touch with its song that I don’t remember what bird it is. It’s 40°F and a light rain is falling. I just finished my twelfth round.
“I want to talk about present writing. I don’t mean writing I’m doing now, but the idea of the author being present in his words. That is, he is investing his heart. Present writing allows the reader to be there with the author, to share the experience, and to see it through his or her own eyes. That’s how the Bhagavatam is, and we should be present enough as readers to see that.
“Sometimes I practice present writing by delving into my own memories. It’s hard to always draw up the heart through the pen, especially when you are bound by a theme. It can be easier to do it by leaving oneself some freedom to emote rather than to argue a point. I look for the blend of sastra with the actual life I am living.”
“I used to have many hundreds of disciples. And although their priorities were decided on by their temple presidents, I could always get typists. There were people eager to do it as service to their spiritual master, Srila Gurupada or even Guru Maharaj. Once I stayed up all night typing a manuscript for Prabhupada on a manual typewriter. When I gave it to him in the morning he gave me a few grapes. My first reaction was to think, ‘This is all I get for staying up all night, a few grapes?’ But then I calmed my mind and was grateful to have been given the service, for the moment of intimacy, and was ready for more typing. My typists didn’t get much in the way of compensation. I didn’t pay them anything, and sometimes I didn’t give them a special meeting—but just more typing. In the sacred bond of guru and disciple, they were honored to get the assignments, and some of them worked long hours. Some of them not only typed but also edited the manuscripts.
“And I had willing cooks to choose from. Many wanted a chance to cook for their guru, and they would make it a feast with many preparations. And among the many disciples wherever I traveled, someone was eager to wash my clothes and iron them.
“Things ain’t like they used to be. I just lost a typist for my daily Internet typing. The man has to spend more time with his children and can’t do the three days a week he was doing. I am looking for a replacement. B. asked me if I have spoken to this man on the telephone to encourage him along all these months. I admitted, ‘No,’ but said, ‘I’ve written letters.’ ‘How many letters have you written?’ he asked. ‘Not enough,’ I said. ‘They want love,’ he said. And it struck me that I expect my typists to keep working studiously and in gratitude to the guru. But things ain’t like they used to be. I have only one servant who’s willing to stay with me, who is willing to give up his desire to render service in Vrndavana, who is willing to stay on a short leash.
“I will call my lost typist and thank him for being willing to continue until I get a replacement. Yasya prasadat bhagavat prasado / yasya aprasadan na gatih kuto ’pi. I have typing service to give out. Those who will take it will be blessed. I must encourage them with sweet words. ‘If this union does not take place it is sterile.’”
“He had a good idea that
he wanted to be thought of as
a jazz poet improvising
on a Sunday afternoon.
I haven’t found an equivalent
but I’m grooving anyway—
I’m a servant
of the servant of the servant—
that’s the main riff
and many variations, in Sanskrit too,
like ekala isvara krsna.
But are you sufficiently reverent?
Krsna says that our reverent
worship doesn’t bring Him
If all you have is following rules
it’s not likely you are receiving
Krsna’s mercy. You are practicing religion
on your own strength. But if you
serve with love, then He’s pleased.
The devotees of Lord Caitanya
arriving at Puri from Bengal
went straight to see Caitanya Mahaprabhu
not fasting and not shaving their
heads, not even going first to
see Lord Jagannatha.
King Prataparudra was surprised
but Sarvabhauma told him, ‘Yes, there is a standard
of rules but there is also a standard
of spontaneous love. When the Lord Himself
is giving out prasadam
from His transcendental hand,
who will fast?’
Trying to communicate all this to you
in proper fashion, not ripped socks,
not farts and gulps and
being a slob and being a nondevotee
or material enjoyer. I’m a servant
but also serving via this
quick express route.
No more memories?
No more cakes and ale?
Do you think because you have
joined ISKCON, there shall be no more sweetrice,
no more nectar drinks of the
best kind offered to the Deity?
Are you a dry vairagi?
Oh please don’t force me
I’m not ready yet . . . Prabhupada
pushes me out anyway
and I surrender.”
“You were alone in the city
where no one knew Krsna.
Only a backward boy came,
but Krsna in your heart
was your direct companion.
You had kept your courage on the lonely Atlantic,
and now alone in the ocean of vices.
The Lord protected you,
just as He protects the sages in the forest.
Loitering in neighborhoods
thinking how they could be transformed
for Krsna’s mission.
But it seemed impossible,
and you went to Scindia’s man
to ask when a ship was returning.
Still you extended your stay again:
‘Let me try a little longer.’
Subway trains rumbled beneath your feet,
steel-reinforced concrete soared to the sky,
carcasses hung in the deli windows.
The laws of the streets,
the laws of the traffic—
rush or get run over.
The false sense of Uptown Civilization,
dignity for two-legged animals.
But then why are you here?
‘Now, because it is my duty.
I have brought some message for you people
as ordered by my spiritual master.’”
“Srila Prabhupada and the sastras state that by chanting, one associates with Krsna directly. Since this is the result of the proper chanting of Hare Krsna, we should strive to bring it about. Granted, you cannot force Krsna to appear, but neither should we be indifferent to Him or chant in an impersonal way. If we can call out to Him, ‘Please appear in Your holy names, I want to see You in this way’—then what is the harm? Krsna may not appear—it is His prerogative—but if we go on calling Him, it is not wrong. ‘You may make Me brokenhearted by not being present before Me, but still You are My Lord unconditionally.’ I want to chant like this.
“Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘Some people complain that when they pray to God, they do not feel His presence. We should know this is due to our incapacities, not God’s. . . . We can touch Krsna immediately by sound vibration . . .’ (Elevation to Krsna Consciousness, pp. 57-58).”
“So many words.
The essence is:
please let me love You,
please let me serve You.
—15 May 1988”
“Eventually, things were sorted out between Rukmini’s father and Krsna, and they agreed on the marriage. The marriage that took place was very elaborate. According to the Padma Purana, Nanda Maharaja,Yasoda and the cowherd boys were invited to this marriage. This caused me great surprise, because I had not remembered that. I looked at Deepak and said, ‘Oh, the boys were invited?’ And he said, ‘Yes, but not the gopis.’ And then we thought how sad it must have been for the gopis to remain home while all the men attended the marriage of Krsna. It had been terribly sad enough that He had left, but now they would hear the news that Krsna was marrying other women! He had promised to be true to the Vrajavasis and return in His original form as a cowherd boy milking cows, running barefoot, and being with them every day. But now He had constructed His own city, Dvaraka, and he had invited everyone to that place for His marriage. How unbearable to think of it. Of course they could not go, and would not want to go! But it was the first time we, who are of course barely aspiring to be devotees, were forced to think that Krsna was getting married, and the gopis were being informed about it while they stayed home in Vrndavana.
“So Krsna is newer and newer, but sometimes those newer and newer ways are like torture. To the person who is being tortured, the cruel torture may apply new methods. Sometimes we have seen in museums the old methods of torturing people, and now they torture them in new ways. We cannot claim to feel anything in terms of pain when we hear this narration of Krsna’s marriage, but gradually we begin to sympathize with the gopis. When we read last night that all the Vrajavasis attended the marriage of Krsna and Rukmini, except for the gopis, who stayed home in a flood of tears, we can confess what a shock it was to suddenly think of the way the gopis must have experienced that.”
“How could He do it? Was He smiling and enjoying, as is typical of a new groom? We cannot imagine it. How could the gopis bear it after all the treats and favors He had given them, all the declarations that they were the most beautiful girls, all the assurances that Vraja was His life and soul? How could He enjoy riding on big horses, participating in the cavalry, being a big government manager? Even the cowherd boys attended the wedding. How did they feel about it? And Yasoda and Nanda could at least kiss and embrace their son. These truths were something that would leave the gopis sleepless and half-dead. And for a moment we share a tiny drop of the gopis’ bereavement, and puzzle at the newer and newer ways that Krsna causes pain to His beloveds—for a higher purpose that will later bring them bliss.”
“We sat ready to memorize. I was tired and just watched from inside my sweatshirt hood as Madhu went over the definitions of asakti: ‘It is like a polished mirror in which the Lord is sometimes seen.’ A person at the stage of asakti is absorbed in the Lord without even trying. Neighbors think he is a ‘born idiot.’ And in bhava, more symptoms: the buds appear that will in turn become flowers and fruits
. . . I can remember so little.
“‘Do you want to memorize these?’ he asks.
“‘I’d like to, but I don’t know if I can.’
“‘Well, you’ll have to say. Unless I underline them, we won’t do them any more.’
“‘Okay, go ahead.’
“He underlines. The devotee loses attachment for other things. He loves Krsna, that’s the point. It develops. I watch and allow myself to relax and feel tired because it’s the end of the day. I feel satisfied with this day.
“‘There are two kinds of bhava. One arises from vaidhi and one from raganuga.’”
“He says, ‘The bhava of vaidhi emphasizes Krsna’s power and majesty.’
Hmmm, like the Christians.
“‘It tends to be less in strength and in natural feeling.’ . . . Do you want to memorize this?
“‘Yes. But I don’t have much time now.’
“He served milk late.
“‘Let me just read about the stages of bhava. Do you want to hear it? We can try to memorize them tomorrow.’
“‘Yes, go ahead.’
“He reads, sometimes stopping to blow his nose (we both have hay fever). First is sneha. Santa-rasa cannot reach there. How does it go? Sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava, maha-bhava, which has two types. The queens have viruddha and the gopis have the highest, aviruddha.
“(Memorization work is serious. Remember Thomas à Kempis’s remark, ‘I would rather experience compunction than know the meaning of the word.’ A critic responded, ‘Why not experience compunction and know the meaning?)’
“I’m into learning all these terms. It’s just that I’m a little feeble—we vatas get like that, especially as we grow older—and I’m tired tonight. But I am also happy—happy with this day and happy to be hearing these sublime terms and their definitions.”
“Swami, rise and fight,
right now, do it by hearing
your own voice and Prabhupada’s
running over the maha-mantra.
You met yourself once again as prone
to weakness and doubt. Yet, you
are called Swami. So, live up to it—
control your lower nature. Fold
your hands and offer respects to the
all great Supreme Person.
Don’t be one He calls a mudha
stay with the mahatma.”
“April is the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire. I went to the kirtana last night. Get beneath the persiflage. I’m drawing. Ate alone today to escape the tyranny of faces. One-to-one. He’s talking to himself: ‘Your painting is no good,’ said Hrdayananda Maharaja to me in a dream. I wanted to get back at him. Writing for self-awareness. I am the drawer of little people with tilaka and upraised arms. Who was I when it all happened, the zonal acarya of many places. Going along with the wave of elitism, excessive worship, female disciples. Where was I during those years? Doing my duty, I thought. Is it your duty so sit on an exclusive vyasasana high above your Godbrothers? Is it your duty to wear the best silk? We all came down. Now I wear saffron pants and an orange T-shirt and hoodie, and shoes in the house.”
“Avoid the gossip. Who was whose young girlfriend. Who is gay? I am not going to say. I won’t bash my inner child drinking his mother’s ice tea with lemons in it in summertime. Little boy sitting at the table. His feet don’t touch the ground. Drank so many cold drinks and ate so many popsicles he had to go to the doctor, Dr. Workman in Eltingville. He diagnosed me as having Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee, and I couldn’t play sports for six months. I listened to the Brooklyn Dodgers winning the seventh game of the World Series in 1955. My radio’s batteries were fading, and I held it against my ear. A physical education teacher, Bernie Atkinson, kept coming to me and asking the score. When I arrived home after school the game was already over, and I watched the Brooklyn celebration on TV. Suddenly it was anti-climatic. I didn’t care that much anymore. Now I don’t root for any particular team, I’m a Krsna conscious devotee, and I read Srimad-Bhagavatam and Gopala-campu. I root for myself in the production of my books. Hare Krsna comes straight from Krsnaloka, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, ‘Chant three lakhs.’”
Fickle, don’t be so for
brown or a white bread
just take what comes
for chanting Hare Krsna
with your Maker and friends
go ahead in walking
or Wellie boots
and I’ll be with you
round and round
you didn’t forget
what you wanted to do
today. There is no
way to forget when
Krsna is your center
O Boss, I didn’t want
a boss, but had to
accept one because
I’m just a tiny one
what do you want instead, a head for yourself?
Crown of diamonds
be who you are, and ask
Krsna to reveal. She said
I’m learning and it’s painful
on many levels, I’m
discovering who I am and
in relationship (some of it)
to Krsna –
Sounds like more than I
know – a ship coming in – Emily’s frigate like
the myrrh and incense of wise men in November
just getting it cranked
up in the malls
the images of books sold,
clanging clanky sounds too
my sensitive ears
If I had to live alone here
with no one to answer the
door, it would be hard…
I’d flee to a place
where I could be sheltered
by a host, so I could
eat toast and milk
and read Bhagavatam and come
out of my room. A
in saffron only for
those who knew.
Round and round
you didn’t forget
your celibate vows
and pulling on the reins.
What you wanted to do
O Lord, don’t be afraid
There’s plenty of mercy in
oh, Krsna will
Krsna of the black wavy locks,
He protects the surrendered
“You know I’ve been wrong –
yeah – I have”
He was kind to me, gave
me the link called Krsna consciousness
and like a child, I reached
for it, a golden ring
it holds me good today.
For that ride I must
take, that fate
as in my dream
full of danger
at every step
He honks, he is not
afraid to make a
mistake in calling
because God hears
the sincere, painful cries
of His tiny servant
I meant well
“We don’t want your
sorry. We want
“We want your neck
and a written confession
– in blood.”
You think you’ll walk in and out again,
fly off the roof
of the embassy in Saigon
he said all this and
played the blues piano
slow and then fast as
called for, chanting
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.