Satsvarupa das Goswami Maharaja
Saturday, July 2, 2022
Meeting of Disciples and friends of SDG
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall
845 Hudson Avenue
Stuyvesant Falls, New York 12173
There is plenty of parking near the Hall. The facility is just a few minutes’ walk from SDG’s home at 909 Albany Ave.
10:00 – 10:30 A.M. Opening Kirtana
10:30 – 11:00 A.M. Lecture by SDG
11:00 – 11:30 P.M. Presentation of New Books
11:30 – 12:00 P.M. Opportunity to Purchase New Books
12:00 – 1:00 P.M. Arati and Kirtana
1:00 — 2:00 P.M. Prasadam Feast
Baladeva Vidyabhusana [email protected]
SDG: “I request as many devotees as possible to attend so we can feel the family spirit strongly. I become very satisfied when we are all gathered together.”
Srila Prabhupāda: “Therefore, our Society is association. If we keep good association, then we don’t touch the darkness. What is the association? There is a song, sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa, te-kāraṇe lāgila mora karma-bandha-phāṅsa (Gaurā Pahū, verse 3). Sat-saṅga. Sat-saṅga means association with the devotees. So the one poet, Vaiṣṇava poet, is regretting that, “I did not keep association with the devotees, and I wanted to enjoy life with the nondevotees. Therefore I’m being entangled in the fruitive activities.” Karma bandha phāṅsa. Entanglement.” [Conversation with David Wynne, July 9, 1973, London]
In our out-loud reading we are hearing of Krsna and Balarama stealing butter and yogurt from the neighboring houses. When they were old enough to walk, Krsna and His friends used to go to the neighbors’ houses and steal butter. They would eat as much as they could, and when their bellies were full they would feed it to the monkeys. Sometimes the men would catch them and cry out, “Here is the butter thief! Catch Him!” Krsna would reply, “You are the butter thief!” When they couldn’t find any butter, they would pinch the infant children and make them cry.
Sometimes Krsna and Balarama passed urine and stool in the clean places of the houses. The neighboring women went to Mother Yasoda and lodged complaints about the mischievous boys. But when Yasoda saw her transcendental son sitting and looking innocently, she could not chastise Him. And the other women also lost their anger and were charmed with the beauty of Krsna and Balarama.
One time all the boys, including Balarama, went together to Mother Yasoda and told her that Krsna was eating dirt. Mother Yasoda became alarmed and asked Krsna if this were true. Krsna said His friends were lying, and that if she thought He were eating dirt, He would open His mouth wide and she could see for herself. Then Krsna opened His mouth wide, and Mother Yasoda saw within her child’s mouth a vision of the Universal Form. She saw all the stars and planets, and moving and nonmoving beings. She even saw herself within Krsna’s mouth. This cosmic vision very much disturbed Yasoda’s maternal affection. She tried to reason with herself what was happening. She questioned whether it was a dream or whether she was diseased, or whether Krsna was under some evil spell. But when she couldn’t find the answer, she surrendered to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and renounced her claim to be the Queen of Vrndavana and the wife of Nanda Maharaja and the owner of thousands of cows. Prabhupada writes that her attitude was that of a pure devotee. Whenever we cannot understand something wondrous that is happening, or something troubling, we should just surrender to the Supreme Lord and leave it in His hands. She thought that maybe her son was a demigod or a mystic yogi, but then she returned to her maternal affection and didn’t want to see the vision in His mouth. She wanted to only love Him as her child.
We are going to reprint all the books I’ve written about Srila Prabhupada (except for Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, which is available in full sets from the BBT in Mumbai and distributed around the world). We will have eight books reprinted for our July 2nd meeting in Stuyvesant Falls, and another eight books printed by early December. Some of these books are new, and some were printed thirty years ago in such low runs that no one has seen them. For example, the series Prabhupada Meditations was originally published in four volumes. Now additional material has been added, and it will be published in a six-volume set. The books are newly proofread, and most of them had to be retyped so that they could be digitized. Here is a list of the books that will be available:
Most of these books have new covers and new layouts. They will be available electronically at SDGLegacy.com, and also they can be downloaded for free. Ninety full sets will be available by the end of the year , and they can be pre-ordered.
Parasurama and his crew are in Ukraine with vans amid the ruins of bombed-out buildings and roads. Their operation is called “Food for All.” A video (https://youtu.be/u6z-BcUkLy0) shows as soon as they appear in a war zone, Ukrainians queue up behind the van looking for food. They generously give out full meals collected from the donations of devotees around the world. You can hear Russian bombs going off near their food distribution, and a devotee makes a plea for donations to “Food for All.”
Krsna Kripa came with harinama videos. One was of Madhava leading kirtana in Prabhupada’s room in Vrndavana before a graceful murti of Srila Prabhupada(https://youtu.be/UQGn8JMzucA). In another, Niranjana Swami plays the harmonium on a roof in Mayapura, with devotees dancing to the kirtana (https://youtu.be/2POusv4dy24). Another video is of Rama Raya chanting in Union Square (https://youtu.be/-UZikZUymus), and one of him singing in the Brooklyn temple with four men wildly dancing along with him (https://youtu.be/8b55pfxZEZc).
I have a disciple who was a practicing veterinarian in the West. But most of her customers brought animals to her to have abortions or be euthanized, which means killing a wounded or old animal. She felt a conflict with so many animals being dropped at her door for these two treatments. It caused an ethical conflict for her, and she finally walked away from being a vet. But later, as a devotee, she felt the calling of going to Vrndavana and treating the wounded and injured animals there. These animals were not pets but were roaming freely. But inevitably she interacted with the human vrajavasis. The vrajavasis understood that the animals were also vrajavasis, but fallen. They had to take a last birth in Vrndavana, and then they would be elevated. So the human vrajavasis appreciated what the vet was doing. She brought a full stock of medicines from the West, and accompanied by an Indian doctor, she went into the field and treated innumerable animals. She feels it’s a real calling, and after spending time in Vrndavana and returning to the West, she wants to go back again and continue the service. She has written about her experiences; I’ve read them and found them very compassionate and moving.
Krsna dasi is going to Houston for a week to attend the graduation of her son Dhanvantari from college. She has the full support of the two women here. I gave her my blessings too. She will be reunited with Dhanvantari and her daughter Rasesvari. This will be healing for all of them since Krsna dasi’s husband and the children’s father passed away six months ago. She said it’s very important to be with her children since the loss of her husband, Baladeva. The two women, Anuradha and Silavati, will perform the worship of Radha-Govinda in her absence. Baladeva Vidyabhusana will cook while they dress the Deities. The graduation is a big family affair. Bala saved every dollar he could to see that his son went through college. His daughter Rasesvari helped also and will be attending the graduation ceremony. For all of them, it’s living out Bala’s desire.
Every week or so, Haridasa from Schenectady comes to Viraha Bhavan and renders service. He works hard and expertly, dressing the Gaura-Nitai Deities, cleaning in the kitchen, Deity worship, and now that spring is here, working in the garden. Today he’s come to plant marigolds for the Deities. We had a successful purchase day at the market, beating the Mother’s Day rush before the stores were sold out. It’s one thing to buy the flowers on time, but now we have to plant them. Haridasa is doing a major share of the work.
Amit is leaving today and going back to his home in Albany to prepare for the upcoming week of work in the office. He will be here on Monday and Tuesday to help Baladeva, and then he drives Krsna dasi to the airport on Tuesday for her flight to Houston. While he’s away, Baladeva sings, “It’s just the two of us . . .” We’re trying to get more male devotees to come in shifts and help out with my personal services, which Baladeva struggles to do alone.
The dryer on our washing machine has been having issues for months. A sensor was broken, and the heat of the dryer was cutting out prematurely. For example, it would take an hour and a half to dry four towels and a few other pieces of cloth. But today a workman is coming who has obtained the right part, and he says it’s a quick job to repair it. All the residents of Viraha Bhavan would be relieved when this machine is fixed.
Yesterday Baladeva, Haridasa from Schenectady and Rishi Ishvara worked all afternoon in the garden. Baladeva was clipping the dead wood out of the roses. The other two were weeding, starting with the front of the house and moving back. They got three big wheelbarrows mounded with weeds, and they’re only two-thirds finished, but they’ll come back next week to finish the job. Meanwhile Baladeva will finish cleaning around the roses and then fertilize and mulch the rose beds.
The ladies will be planting geraniums and marigolds around Krsna dasi’s house and around the ashram so that there will be plenty of flowers for the Deity worship.
Meanwhile, while these devotees worked outdoors, I sat restricted to my chair upstairs, unable to walk the yard and inspect the work. It’s so difficult for me to get outside that I only go for medical visits. My part is getting reports and sharing them in the Journal.
Baladeva has been staying up late at night doing overdue paperwork to preserve our tax exempt status. He was tipped off by our lawyer that we were amiss in this and hadn’t filed for several years. This kind of secretarial work is the least thing Bala likes to do. So it piles up on his desk, which looks like a bomb went off there. Two nights in a row he’s stayed up two hours late and three hours late trying to sort out the mess—two years’ worth of paperwork. When he thought he’d got it done, he went to the accountant, who told him he had to do another year. So Baladeva went back for another night’s staying up to complete the work. Miraculously, he finally got it done to suit the accountant’s satisfaction. But now while we’re supposed to be doing Journal work, he’s sitting across from me with his eyes closed and drooling. I tried to wake him up and ask him to help me come up with a “rabbit,” but he’s still too far behind in his sleep to be of much use. So we decided to make his sleeplessness into a “rabbit.”
Ran through those memories quickly
then stopped and said I can’t remember more.
Fortunate. Funny stories now.
Brief flame rises when I tell.
Most of these boys and girls weren’t even
born then. LSD, Lower East Side,
even the Swami is another world.
Went through those memories and
I can do it again, just ask me.
I can tell it and it’s jolly and sad and
primitive . . . never mind, it is what it
is. No one can judge it. They live in
their own in
an imagined memory state—
Swamiji in summer with
no kurta just dhoti and sannyasa top
piece . . . no photograph can capture
the inner state. He said my name
means inner form of truth.
Another time I entered when
they were burning birthday candles
and sticking them to the tabletop
‘To increase your devotion’
during autumn, Karttika.
He said, “Here comes the truth
personified.” He gave me typing. He
gave me life to break away from most
I became quickly
one of the Swami’s boys,
remain so to this day.
Remember for audiences wherever
call it an art, a show performed,
my ‘66 monologue,
I’ll clown it, be serious,
poeticize, it’s all true,
he really did give out ISKCON bullets,
I really did phone him from my
office and say, ‘Swamiji, this is Steve.
Remember me? I can’t come to lunch
at 1:00 today. Can you save something for me?’
And when I went to him he
put the plate of prasadam on the floor and
I bowed down.
‘If you love me, I will love you’
is still in my ears.”
They had to unlock the door
I was the first one into the temple room
No light on except one over Srila Prabhupada.
He sat high up on the vyasasana
wearing a light wool saffron chadar
and I fell at his feet
as we all do. Secure here in this
marble-floored temple of stout pillows and elegance,
chanting before my master.
The verse for today’s lecture tells
of Mother Yasoda’s faith in cow protection
and the holy names of Visnu.
Prabhupada says these Vedic ways
are mostly forgotten today,
yet has given them to us
to cherish and practice.
By his grace I will be able to expand on
some of his points.
By the grace of Lord Krsna, I have
breath and heartbeat to carry it out.
By his divine grace, I am a shaven-headed
saffron monk sanctified by light
of ghee lamps in an otherwise dark room.
Srila Prabhupada is our leader.”
The window is open. It’s not even
5 A.M. but it’s light outside, German
lush foliage of summer.
Like this all over Europe now,
Last night Astha-ratha took the evening
train to Berlin and after some initial
engine trouble, Krsna-ksetra got his
van onto the highway headed for Belgium.
I lingered overnight. They handed me The
Nectar of Devotion and I read our master’s
words about practicing bhakti.
He said it is latent in the heart of
every living entity; even the aborigines
recognize something wonderful in nature.
When this consciousness is matured it is
‘Keep the wheels moving,’ you told
the sannyasisi. I’m one of them.
May I keep in mind the regal image
of you in saffron,
wrapped in light shawl for summer,
and devotees coming to be with you.
I hope to read your books and
write in my way and honor
the vows I made before you.
That’s the purpose of human life
and you don’t want me to keep it to myself
but tell others
Krsna consciousness is the greatest need
for all the world.”
“You are not fit for nirjana or bhajana,” Prabhupada
told his disciple Syama dasa
who was chanting 150 rounds in Mayapur.
He said and did . . . He did and said…
Let me get fresh images of Prabhupada,
the little things and
big decisions noted by Hari-sauri.
It’s a way to be with him.
Reading his books is another way.
You fit the pieces together
for a composite Prabhupada.
You are one of many
many, many disciples and you don’t
shoulder the most burdens.
But he keeps a place for you
and doesn’t forget
you’ve been with him since
the beginning in New York City.
He is your own
spiritual master and you have a right
to keep him very close.
You can treasure the statements he made
which make you feel special—
go ahead and take them.
It’s not that I want some illusion or
false propaganda that I’m the best son.
But I want my own relationship.
I admit I’m insignificant
but at the same time I care
for my Prabhupada devotional creeper.
You do that by cherishing
his love for you.
Is it unrealistic to say Prabhupada
is always with you?
No, he can do it.
Therefore I call them my Prabhupada poems
and there’s nothing wrong in that.
He is a father,
he’s got work for me to do.”
‘All glories to Prabhupada,’ I said and I
meant good night, like a person might say,
‘God bless you,’ or ‘God protect us.’
I wasn’t in a personal mood but you
don’t have to have six Prabhupada memoirs on
the tip of your tongue. You just say it,
‘Jaya Prabhupada’ because you’ve
lived through another day in his service.
And in your way you are true to him
and he walks with you.
was joking about the fanfare of the
1996 Prabhupada Centennial.
He said people are asking him, ‘What are
you going to do for the Centennial year?’
‘I don’t know,’ he says to them,
‘I hope I don’t bloop!’
I say, ‘I am waiting for the year
1997 when the fanfare will be over.’
We will love him on our own
even without publicity
and official speeches of his greatness.
Love him by our actions and plain prose
and print more books as Prabhupada praise
in 1997, even though we can’t
sell them at Centennial prices.
‘All glories to Prabhupada.’ I said it
which is the best way,
like the heart beating until death.”
“Saw the art place of Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhu and the team of forty devotees, mostly Russians, who work with him. Splendid place. Area of several acres, walled in, a temple in Vrndavana near Madana-mohana temple. They work there at art day and night. He is the master of the new devotees coming to paint krsna- and caitanya-lila, and who work on sculptures, all for the museum at the New Delhi temple. What can I learn from it? Can I ever work like that with artists? I don’t think so. I write alone. And give out my books. I don’t train others to write diaries or free-write poems. I myself have to agonize whether it’s right or wrong, so how can I tell others that they should do it? We would be inundated with bad poetry and other outpourings. Rather, I see myself as teaching not writing but honesty, self-searching. If some keep a diary, that’s their business.
“Meetings each day. The little knot of a twinge is always ready to go off behind the right eye. Cat-and-mouse game. The editor is taking out references to my illness in a book I wrote because people won’t be interested in my condition. They want to hear the notes I kept while reading Caitanya-caritamrta, but what about the human element—that I struggled? Aches and pains don’t belong in a book.
“I asked Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhu where he and his artists get their ideas. He said they paint out of their own heads and hearts; they don’t use models, and I presume they don’t study Western artists. He did mention Rodin in our conversation.”
“The First Canto, Chapter 17 stresses the crucial connection between religious principles and state support. Prabhupada writes, ‘Without state support, no doctrines of philosophy or religious principles can progressively advance.’ (Bhag. 1.17.45, purport).
“Inspiration for morality and religion must come from the brahmana class. If they become corrupt by interest in politics and sense gratification, then there is no hope for other sections of society. People have become cynical due to the many examples of hypocritical priests and religionists, but this is still the task of the brahmanas, to teach by their example of truthfulness, renunciation, and pure God consciousness.
“In the Vedic state, the governors turned to the brahmana community for advice, and with the brahmanas’ support, the governors would enact strong measures against irreligion. If the king is inclined to corruption and the priests are looking for soft berths and political favors, then the reform claims of such leaders are a mockery. But if the leaders are pure in habit and determined, then religion can be restored even in the Age of Kali. If you break your leg, it can be healed again, and so the legs broken by Kali can be restored.”
“Up all night with the sounds of the street. This morning I picked a Seventh Canto purport wherein Prabhupada states that book distribution is more important than temple worship. The D.C. and Philadelphia book distributors were present, and I asked them to speak their realizations. They want to see more devotees take part in book distribution, not just themselves. It isn’t enough to encourage them as a small, valiant group; they want to see everyone doing it. Some are critical of managers maintaining a big temple as we are doing at Potomac. Some also said everyone should go on harinama, chanting in the streets. Yet someone said it was up to the book distributors to be positive and encourage the other devotees to go out, not to just make negative criticisms. The criticism sometimes gets heavy toward householders or toward anyone doing anything other than book distribution. But the book distributors have the sastras and Prabhupada’s emphasis on their side. They should appreciate, though, that there are many kinds of persons joining our movement. . . . Anyway, the dialogue keeps going back and forth, and the pressure is on me to see that book distribution is not neglected, to see it is increased, and to lead the way by participation in preaching and harinama.
“Now I am back at Potomac, which is a different story. Here action and results are also required, but of a kind which is different than the downtown center. I have to empathize with both projects—the book distribution in downtown D.C., and the beautiful New Hastinapura Deities, the wonderful potential of Their land, the gradual development of engaging devotees and inspiring them to stay here and develop.
A word of encouragement
can change my whole outlook
as when sunlight clears the clouds.
Maybe at midday I am feeling slow,
wondering if I have done anything at all
to serve Prabhupada,
doubting whether I have any hope,
but all it takes is a sincere devotee’s word
pointing out the good,
and hope pours in.”
“In ISKCON we often hear claims made on behalf of Prabhupada which seemed to others to be exaggerations made out of love. We say things like ‘Prabhupada is Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s greatest disciple,’ and that he is jagad-guru, the greatest modern Vaisnava preacher. We say that his books will be the lawbooks for the next 10,000 years (something that Prabhupada himself told us). We say that he is as great as Jesus Christ and that he sees Krsna at every moment. Krsna speaks to him. He is the great soul predicted by Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Lord Caitanya. He is the savior of the whole world. But these claims, like the praises of Sati, the chaste wife of Lord Siva, are our duty, and are rooted in both partiality and objectivity. They are based on descriptions in the sastra defining the maha-bhagavata and they are born out by our experience as disciples of Prabhupada.
“Someone may raise the doubt, ‘Are there any statements that praise Prabhupada too much?’ According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, praise should be given according to the actual qualities possessed, otherwise, it is insulting. ‘Praising a man by saying that if he were educated he might have become a great scholar or a great personality is nothing but a process of cheating.’ In applying this to Prabhupada, we would be hard-pressed to find devotional qualities that he did not possess. But there is a good instruction here: it is better to focus on his actual manifest qualities and achievements then try to concoct or imagine things we have no experience of. This will help us to keep a realistic vision of our spiritual master and help us to avoid sentimentality.”
“How will it take place that the ordinary, struggling japa will evolve into awareness of Krsna’s presence in His form, qualities, and names? What does Srila Prabhupada say? He says it will happen. There is no doubt about it. Krsna will reveal Himself; Krsna will teach us if we follow the guru’s order with full faith.
“Srila Prabhupada should be confidently accepted as a great authority for faith and realization of the holy name. He did what no one else dared, and what many Vaisnavas hardly dreamed of—brought the chanting of Hare Krsna mantra to mlecchas and yavanas who had never even heard of Krsna before. And Srila Prabhupada convinced us to chant with love, to enjoy kirtana, and to join and work with him in founding the Hare Krsna movement. No one could spread the chanting of the holy name so widely and deeply unless he was empowered by Krsna (krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana).”
“The breeze is up. Krsna seems far away. I know He is a young boy, but sometimes He is God, the oldest. He seems so far away. I guess it’s because I don’t work hard enough to reach Him, don’t pray enough.
“Dear Krsna, will You come closer and be my best friend? I am lazy and, therefore, not worthy of Your association. I am sulky and don’t even want to be better. I think this means I have been stung into a coma by maya. But if You could release me from this coma, it would be fun to run and play with You.
“Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
“About a month before His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami left this world, I asked him if there was something I could do for him when he passed away. He immediately said yes, I could write a letter on his behalf and spread it widely. I was glad that he had such a positive request in mind, but unfortunately he never gave me many points about what to say in this letter. I spoke to him a number of times afterward, as it was my custom to speak to him weekly. But often times he could not focus on points for the letter and toward the end of his stay it was very difficult for him to use the telephone. But I do have a few items that he did ask me to write in the letter. When he couldn’t give me more than that, we mutually agreed that I would have to write the rest of the letter from my heart.
“One point he particularly asked me to write is that we are all going to die and the Krsna Conscious centers in which we live have to go on. We have to anticipate the grief that will occur when the leaders depart and we have to serve each other to ensure that the legacy of these centers continues. He asked me to help in the legacy of Gita Nagari because it was an important project for the whole ISKCON movement. He expanded on this and said that in general the leaders, being older members, had to “be there” for each other in all ways.
He reminded me that personally I had a connection with Gita Nagari in the early days when it was very dear to me as my own residence. So I should wish Gita Nagari well under the leadership of Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja’s disciples.
At present, I’m not fit in health to travel to Gita Nagari, but I’ve honestly put into this letter his wish for me to support his disciples there, and I will try to fulfill his request as soon as I am able.
He wanted to remind readers of my letter how he and I were very close to each other in his early years in Krsna Consciousness when he was only a bhakta and how we revived our friendship and came close together near the end of his life, thank God.
Perhaps this is a good place for me to say something in my own words about his prayer, “in the mood of Vasudeva Datta” and the ensuing cancer. I trust that Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja was sincere in his prayer. It was a different tactic than the way he had been acting up to that point. He had been very actively preaching sometimes in unorthodox ways, presenting himself to business men, to political leaders, and getting great effects. Since I first worked with him he was an unorthodox preacher, when we worked together on the library party. In order to sell full sets of books the BBT salesmen had to wear a wig and suit and present oneself as a book salesman and one had to do some fancy talk to convince the professor to take a full set of books. They didn’t want to take them from a missionary or a Hare Krsna person so we made a presentation that we were straight book salesmen from a book company known as The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. We had to do it all in one day before we moved on to the next campus. There were about six salesmen in our party and Bhakti Tirtha (known as Ghanasyama) was the most adroit and successful member in the party. To be most successful, he had to sometimes talk in very clever and roundabout ways, far beyond a simple missionary presentation. We all knew that he was making this kind of presentation, and we praised him for it. Prabhupada also knew that he was making a tricky presentation, and he appreciated it. Ghanashyama continued this not only through the United States but in Europe, not only in Western Europe but in Eastern Europe also. He had amazing adventures and sent the sales results to Prabhupada.
“But I was surprised that he made such a sudden change in the momentum of his outward preaching to make a prayer to take away the world’s sins by an act of petition to the Lord, an intercessionary prayer, or prayer that all the world’s karma be put upon himself. It was a very different kind of thing than he had been doing. When I asked him about it, one answer he gave was that he thought that his present preaching had not been effective enough. He wanted to do something more dramatic because the world’s corruption was so great and there was also a need for purification even in ISKCON. So he was willing to put his body on the line completely for total purification of himself (so that he could become a pure actor on behalf of Krsna) and – provided Krsna would take the karma from others in return for Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s sacrifice – he would increase his work in this world.
Some have doubted his prayer. But I accept it as sincere and also as efficacious. Bhakti Tirtha Swami has shown the proof of its working in the many good things that have happened as a result of his prayer. He did not expect to get hit so fast with a terminal illness. But neither did he expect to get so many good results in terms of people reforming their ways. Many, many people wrote him letters that they were inspired by his sacrifice and that they themselves were now reforming their acts and purifying themselves. He said that in particular many ex-gurukulis wrote to him of their change for the better and also many errant ISKCON adults appreciated what he was doing and were returning to the field – many, many. So he could not help but think that his intercessionary prayer on behalf of karmic-laden souls was doing good. And he felt it was doing good for himself also. So this is one thing I am writing in my letter as my own personal faith in the spiritual warrior.”
“This is a long letter. I always assessed the length of Prabhupada’s letters before reading them. I would then look at his signature and prepare my mind for whatever he had to say. At the beginning of the letter, Prabhupada mentions the fortnightly report I was required to submit as a member of the GBC. Although some devotees struggled over the years to get Prabhupada his fortnightly report, I was quite active in writing to him. He wrote me on November 4 and November 25, which means I also wrote to him twice that month. My letters of October 7, October 24, November 2, and November 13 had not been answered immediately as he traveled in India. Even today it gives me pleasure to see how often Prabhupada and I were able to exchange correspondence. In the GBC report, I would have informed him about how the preaching, temple activities, finances, and spiritual standards were being maintained in my zone. Sending Prabhupada reports was at least one thing I could do well, and Prabhupada later praised me for it. Somehow, no matter what was going on, I was able to file my report and give Prabhupada the news. My zonal news was mostly based on phone calls with the various centers in my zone (except, of course, the Boston temple). By this date, I still had not visited those temples.
“. . . Prabhupada also mentions how we should not be disturbed by comments made about us and that it is not our business to reject anyone on personal grounds. I don’t remember what I was writing to him about, but perhaps I was reporting in more detail about my relationship with Advaita. My relationship with Advaita was generally good, but this was not long after my return from my U.S. tour. When I returned, the devotees were affectionate, saying how they missed me and how the temple had been under strain in my absence. Advaita, however, told me that it didn’t matter whether I was there or not. He said I wasn’t going to improve anything because I was not a hands-on manager. That was our only tension as we tried to work together. Prabhupada tells me to maintain a humble attitude and not to reject anyone because of any grievance I may have with them.
“It was also typical of my attitude toward Prabhupada that I took any angst I was feeling about this to him. Devotees would see a letter like this and wonder why I had written to Prabhupada about ‘disturbing comments.’ Perhaps devotees feel I shouldn’t have bothered Prabhupada with something so petty, but Prabhupada was my father, and I wrote him whatever was on my mind that I wanted advice about.
In this case, he advised me not to reject anyone on a personal level but to engage everyone in Krsna’s service. Just because someone might not think I was an ideal leader didn’t mean I should hold a grudge against him or try to eject him from the temple.
“Ultimately, he wanted his leaders to encourage everyone, just as he was doing. That is the broadmindedness of a leader. Again, he wanted us to be kindly guides. If we really wish to lead, we have to accept that some people may not like us and that we may not like them either. We still have to encourage everyone. Prabhupada himself encouraged all of us on the common platform that we were spirit souls, servants of Krsna, and that entitled us to be a part of his ISKCON movement. We are working so hard to bring nondevotees into our camp; how much harder should we work to encourage those who have already surrendered their lives, even if we think they are not always so nice. Do we keep only the devotees we think are nice and reject ones we consider not to our taste? There can be no preference on personal grounds. Prabhupada didn’t play favorites, and he didn’t want us to play favorites either. Prabhupada was able to see through the veneer of someone’s aggressive behavior or other problem behaviors and assess what services they could perform. We needed to learn that skill.”
“Prabhupada wrote, ‘As long as preaching work is going on somehow or other, that is first-class program.’ You also said, ‘The test of the strength of our preaching work is that we sell many books and magazines. So what is the difficulty?’ By preaching sincerely to anyone and everyone, ‘the demand for our books will increase.’
‘Krsna will give you all help.’
Prabhupada, please be in my heart and guide us all.
I want to be yours in a simple, giving way, obedient, as I was in the beginning. Basic obedience is my virtue. I pray to always keep it.
You have always been my
guardian angel, boss,
father, patron saint,
whose books I read
and whose word is absolute.
You are the source of wonderful anecdotes.
“Your lila is divine. We don’t know you in your siddha form, but we consider your form as a sannyasi preacher to be a siddha form. On this day as my body moves lethargically in the heat, I pray to keep my inner devotion and my remembrance of you and offer some tangible service. Please grant me a place in your eternal service.”
“Whenever a devotee gets an opportunity to hear from or serve an advanced Vaisnava, he should remember the sastric injuctions and go forward with great eagerness to honor the devotee. If there is an imbalance between two disciples, a devotee should not be envious. Srrla Prabhupada writes, ‘If a Godbrother is more enlightened and advanced in Krsna consciousness, one should accept him as almost equal to the spiritual master, and one should be happy to see such Godbrothers advance in Krsna consciousness.’ (Bhag. 3.32.42, purport) Srimad-Bhagavatam also states, ‘The value of a moment’s association with the devotees of the Lord cannot be even compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.’ (Bhag. 1.18.13)
“But how, someone may well ask, do we know who is an advanced devotee? Is every Godbrother of the spiritual master really deserving to be accepted as almost equal to one’s guru? Is every sannyasi or senior devotee to be considered advanced?
If a senior devotee’s or sannyasi’s behavior does not correspond with the symptoms for proper Vaisnava behavior, then one has to judge for oneself; but even if one does not see symptoms of advancement, he should continue to observe the etiquette befitting senior devotees and sannyasis. This manner of behavior was demonstrated by Lord Caitanya who continued to honor a senior sannyasi, Ramacandra Puri, even though Ramacandra Puri behaved offensively in many ways. When individual cases become extremely subtle, one should consult respectable devotees for guidance in how to behave.
‘An example of a most baffling case is that of Asvatthama who, although the son of a brahmana, was a great offender to the Lord and the Lord’s devotees. He had murdered the five sleeping sons of Draupadi. When Arjuna captured him, Bhima thought Asvatthama should be killed, while Yudhisthira and Draupadi thought he should be spared. Arjuna, however, through careful consideration and with inspiration from Lord Krsna, came up with a suitable solution. Thus we have this example that, despite the difficulties of making judgments, one should refer to the standard guides of Vaisnava behavior. We must be guided by guru, sastra, and sadhu, and not sentimentally assess things only from our intuitive likes and dislikes.
“The Vedic law books, however, have to be understood and applied according to time and place, and this must be done by the authorized devotee, for as we have already discussed, great authorities must set the example in what is to be done and what is not to be done in the course of devotional service. Citing a reference from a scripture and making a quick judgment will not always do, nor is lenience always justified.”
“ . . . Because, even if I were free of headaches, as long as I am in this body more danger and breakdown will come. Still, I yearn for a time when I can get some physical relief so that I might serve in my post in ISKCON. I somehow have to remember that an even higher priority is to attain Krsna consciousness.
“I wrote a series of haiku, interspersed with the prose, about the impending Ratha-yatra:
A sign in the temple hall,
‘Just ten days left.’
Preparing my lecture
while the ducks fly by.
Widening His roadway –
the sound of the scythe.
Wind and rain break flowers
but the tents are up.’
“On the day of the Ratha-yatra I was not able to write much, as I was so busily engaged in the festivities and the initiation ceremony. And the parade! Still, at 5:30 p.m. I wrote:
“‘It was a long procession, but it was wonderful. I was able to squirt the devotees with water from fire extinguishers as I rode in an ox-drawn sled between Prabhupada’s cart, which led the procession, and Lord Jagannatha’s. Hour after hour we chanted, walking in the sunshine. And I exchanged with the devotees by spraying them with water and sometimes throwing cookies to them. At one point, near the end, one of the oxen pulling my sled became too exhausted to go on. He was breathing so heavily his sides were heaving in and out. At Vaisnava Dasa’s suggestion I squirted him with water from the extinguisher, wetting him up and down, including his legs and feet. He seemed to be revived by the cooling. Then we proceeded for the last mile. Now the large feast is beginning. But my own participation is over, and I am back in the cabin.’”
“You said, ‘That feeling that you have that “I am something” is not wrong. But who are you? You are a servant of Krsna.’ Neither am I the direct servant of Lord Krsna, but hundreds of times removed—the servant of the servant of the servant . . .
I’m here before you, weak and tired physically and spiritually. I don’t know. You are keeping me anyway. I know that for sure. I’m one of your followers, for better or for worse. Knowing this and feeling secure, let me increase my service to you.
“You want to see the Krsna consciousness movement spread and maintained all over the world. I can contribute to that by my temple visits. My visits seem insignificant, but so is everything else I do, so I’ll go to Trinidad or Guyana or Italy or Spain.
“Prabhupada, you said the whole world is made up of cheaters and rascals and that we should try to give Krsna consciousness to the bewildered victims of this age. I’m working for that. Diary and autobiographical writing are literary ways, tools of Krsna conscious culture. I leave behind the history and struggle and triumph over the material world. It’s the triumph on your order and blessing that converts a sow’s ear into a purse.”
Oh! You are happy are
you not with your
toys and I didn’t want
to take them away
but you’ve got to give them
up with the rented
rowboat of your body
…early birds at dawn
and even in winter the titmouse
and the fears as well
turn to Krsna why not and
as he said, pure devotees
supply the Lord who
wants to gather the mad
children back to Godhead
“that is the best service you
can render to the Lord.”
Circus sounds, on dad’s
What is there to say
“at even-faced wedlock”
His young face I remember
it was a new thing
I thought – what I
thought, I won’t repeat because
the slang is so dated,
like “groovy”, but the
length of his hair, the
style of his jacket
can’t all be dismissed
as sentimental junk now
old photos – or can
it, his whole life
like that from one decade
It’s for listening. For walking.
Your best friend. Don’t make
it a scandal. We just
wanted to serve our master
Together they sounded good and I’d find
but only now
sifted together into
Oh, you can go forward
one giant step, back
one little step…
Playing games in the
streets of Queens, NYC
chalk washed away
by the rain
You may go forward
to your school building,
school room, in
rows, the teacher
And then you may
look back on all that
Krsna Sundari from the
rear of the room
Boomers from the side
bangers, bankers, ‘n’
with your words your
sparkle of humor
You are waving a flag of
Damodara painting in
incense pack gift
from a spiritual
person, “thanks but
I don’t use the smoke”
“Oh yeah, I’m goin’ home!”
he moaned and cried.
I knew about that too.
Crying from the rear.
What else? Tell your
mother we had to live a
little longer and make some
nice books (like cookies) out of our days.
And your nights? Nights, we were sleeping
and up at one to chant
You old parson,
get thee to a shed and write
like a monk
admit they head gets trouble,
squeeze it for faith,
and lust no more – when is
that gonna come?
When you love Lord Krsna,
the doctor says.
Too tired to write
the face is falling groggy
I was trying to tell him
what it’s like – you
lose sense of time and self
and place and become like a
gray-haired character in
a movie –
Then a dream,
tell them it’s not good
to see my picture in their
room. Tell them
“before you go to worship
remove my picture.”
Practice to remember
Hare Krsna, say goodbye
to all nonsense. I get
these groggies because
I’m free of it.
Now know no tragic poems,
just the click of the clock
towards six, the hour we
Flat voice, hard kirtana, it
quickly gets monotonous,
a strain, we have to
keep going. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna.
We are not the twenty-four-hour kirtana
group in Vrndavana
be compassionate, float off.
It’s Damodara masa
It’s Erin, in Vrndavana,
same thing, same sound –
barefoot cold earth.
Darker night walking,
the sky redder going down on
town of temples, you on rickshaw
seat falling off almost…
Vrndavana, I said the wrong thing.
Bring your meds to Newcastle
like coals, words,
havens, Sri Krsna, the pain
may come if I give too many
lectures. That’s all right, I’ll
try my best to bring it out.
Talk of voluntary nature,
That’s it/when I go there
I’ll tell people what it’s
like to live
an ordinary devotee life
full of so many doubts
but you know
a devotee’s way is
so, I don’t complain, oh
no. I enjoy the chances
we get and try to give to
Lord Krsna, in a way He’ll accept.
He cries and we all do
for people who have
it tough. You know
“there’s not enough justice to
go around.” Karma bending
down on them
gruff, response to this
clear sounds, clear days
we all had and hold onto those memories also
now I’ll tell the time
I met the pure devotee and
chanted God’s names
on his order, I’ll continue
to my dying day. He gave,
I found it that way
and he said, you take every
chance, like Prahlada, to give
it to others even though it’s
Krsna will protect you.
If you’re timid, we’ll
find a way to reach out –
give your prayer your
handkerchiefs, your good
wishes, your cookies for
the preachers, just think it over
and do something that
is compassion. Start with
yourself. Don’t feel guilty, love
God in your heart ask
Him, please make me
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.