I spoke on the phone with John Endler. He was sick on July 2nd and couldn’t make it to the festival. But he’s been busy reading and editing my books. He’s waiting to deliver to me the long manuscript of California Search for Gold. Baladeva just told me it’s an “unruly” manuscript, but it has a theme of a devotee not being able to chant sixteen rounds due to illness, but then at the end making a comeback and returning to his sixteen-round standard. John has also been editing Sanatorium and taking out the objectionable material. He also has been reading my most recently discovered manuscript, While Waiting. He likes it very much. He reminded me that tomorrow, July 9, we’re scheduled to have a book production meeting on Zoom. I had forgotten, but I’ll be ready to attend tomorrow morning and see all the wonderful devotees who make things happen for me.
Today we had a team meeting of our book production group. In attendance was Krsna Bhajana, who does production management, editing and proofreading, as well as his wife Satyasara, who does proofreading and typing; also in attendance was Lal Krishna from Oxford, who does layout and covers; also in attendance was John Endler who does editing, typing and proofreading; and also in attendance was Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who is a fundraiser. Today we mostly talked about the deadlines for books to be ready for the Vyasa-puja meeting on December 3rd, 2o22. The team reported that progress was well underway, and that they are confident they can meet their deadlines, with help from Nitai in India and Krishna Kripa on traveling harinama, who are proofreaders. There are approximately eight books to be readied for the December 3 Vyasa-puja meeting. The book production team is also working on other books. The ultimate goal is to get everything I have written back into print. Most of the books we first published years ago were produced in such small printing runs that they were quickly sold out and no one has seen them for decades. So it’s like we’re producing new books by bringing them back into print for new readers. In previous years I could only dream of this. This recently formed team has captured my heart by their dedication and producing real results.
Tomorrow we are being visited by the volunteer group of devotees who call themselves Prabhupada Sena. They are a group of young men, mostly coming from Indian families, living in New Jersey. They have been out here to do service for us before. They have done spring cleaning, fall cleaning, and tomorrow they’re going to do some scraping and painting in the back building. They wear yellow T-shirts with the words “Prabhupada Sena” on them. They are pure and have a wonderful enthusiasm. Baladeva is buying paints and brushes and scrapers to be ready for the small crew who come tomorrow. They said they will arrive at 10:00 AM and work for probably around five hours. One time a group of twenty of them came on a bus to do a major overhaul on our yard. I held a darsana for them and spoke about Krsna consciousness. They did their own cooking and cleanup, and major work in the yard. It is all spontaneously arranged by their leader, Narottama dasa.
Narottama dasa is here with two helpers. On their T-shirts it says, “How may I serve you?” and under that, Prabhupada-lilamrta, a quote from a letter Prabhupada wrote his spiritual master in the last month of his Guru Maharaja’s life. The Prabhupada Sena men have used it as their motto. Today they are scraping down the back barn, which we used to call the “manger.” It’s where most of the paintings are kept, and there are two bunk beds there for overflow guests. The Prabhupada Sena men will come back in two weeks and paint the barn. They ate Ekadasi lunch with us and heard the out-loud reading from Caitanya-caritamrta. They are all very submissive and hardworking. I will have a meeting with them today at 5:00 when they finish their work.
I am going to talk to them about their special service. It is unique in ISKCON. As there are different departments of service, book distribution, Deity worship, harinama, temple management, prasadam distribution, etc., the Prabhupada Sena men focus on practical service (seva). They go to different temples and devotees in need and take on projects. Narottama has assembled as many as twenty devotees to work in Prabhupada Sena. They like the fact that it is no-nonsense service. No politics, no controversies, just hard work voluntarily rendered to the devotees in need. They are a compassionate group.
Narottama dasa, the leader of the Prabhupada Sena group, is a great fan of Prabhupada memoirs. He loves the Prabhupada-lilamrta and the other memoirs written by my Godbrothers and Godsisters. He especially likes memories from 1966-1967 . . . He especially likes Mukunda Maharaja’s Miracle on Second Avenue. He has read it many times, but he never finishes the book. He always stops short at the last chapter because it’s too good to finish. I am also a great fan of the 1966-1967- and 1968 years because Prabhupada was so accessible. Talking with Narottama this way made me want to keep living in old age and not die soon. I’ve got a treasury of these memories, and I don’t want to give them up.
Ballabhadra Bhattacarya took Lord Caitanya out of Vrndavana because He was displaying too many ecstasies there and endangering His life. With His group of companions, He traveled to Prayaga. While they were going, Sri Caitanya heard a cowherd boy playing a flute. The Lord became overwhelmed with ecstasy and fainted, unconscious. Just then some Pathan Muslim soldiers on horses rode up. They surmised that the sannyasi Krsna Caitanya had been robbed by His companions, and so they arrested them all and called them rogues. Two of Lord Caitanya’s companions, the Sanodiya brahmana and Rajaputa Krsnadasa, were fearless. Just then Lord Caitanya seemed to revive. He jumped up and shouted, “Hari! Hari!” and danced in ecstasy. Ballabhadra sat Lord Caitanya down and calmed Him. The Lord then noticed the Pathan soldiers and came to His external consciousness. The Pathan soldiers said to Lord Caitanya, “These four rogues have poisoned You with dhutura and taken Your money.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “These men are not rogues, they are My associates. Sometimes because of epilepsy I fall unconscious. These men are maintaining Me. I am a mendicant sannyasi and I own nothing.” Rajaputa Krsna said that he lived nearby and that he had two hundred soldiers and one hundred cannons. If he shouted, his men would come and plunder the Pathan soldiers, their horses and saddles, etc. The Pathans became hesitant. They were all affected by Lord Caitanya’s ecstasy, and they bowed down at His feet. One of them in particular was dressed in black, and he was supposed to be a saintly person. He approached Lord Caitanya and said he wanted to establish impersonalism based on the Koran. Lord Caitanya refuted all his arguments and said the Koran teaches impersonalism in the beginning, but in the conclusion it establishes that the Absolute Truth is a person, with form, and He is blackish. The saintly person among the Pathans finally became speechless. Among the Pathans was a man, Vijuli Khan, who also bowed down to Lord Caitanya’s feet. All of the Pathans became mendicants. Caitanya Mahaprabhu initiated the holy man and gave him the name Ramadasa. Vijuli Khan also surrendered to Lord Caitanya, and the Lord put His feet upon Vijuli Khan’s head. These men later toured the holy places and became famous as the Pathan Vaisnavas. Vijuli Khan became a very advanced devotee.
Upendra has been making nice daily garlands for large Gaura-Nitai. He went out and picked the marigolds himself. He cut up vegetables for lunch and is eager to do any chores that he is asked to do. His 22-year-old daughter Radhika is determined to get initiated by Radhanath Swami, and I’m advising him that they should get in touch with Radhanath Maharaja’s community system and go through their requirements for initiation. Like any Indian father, Upendra is anxious to get his daughter married. Radhika told her father that she’s not anxious; she’s confident that Krsna will send her a nice boy.
Upendra told me he is thinking of joining with a group of devotees in Houston who are going to read Srimad-Bhagavatam, Cantos 7-12. They will be guided by Hanumat Presaka Maharaja. It is not a simple reading only, but a classroom setting with quizzes, closed-book exams and as much as 100 pages of essays throughout the course. Upendra guesses that it will take as long as six or seven years to complete the task. They read Srimad-Bhagavatam Cantos 1-6 and it took seven years. For different reasons the classes get cancelled, so it’s not completely uninterrupted. Upendra says that he will have to give up some time from his writing letters to prison inmates in order to do this. I didn’t give him any strong opinion as to whether he should do it, but he seems intent.
He very much appreciates the seven days he spent here at Viraha Bhavan. Atindra, who is also here, says Upendra was in a good service spirit, always wanting to do the needful. He frequently made garlands for our large Nitai-Gaura Deities, washed dishes and picked flowers and did other Deity services. And he was helpful in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables for the cooks, etc.
Upendra’s main service in Boise is to write letters to prison inmates. They write him back, and he has cultivated some men over the years to the point where they are serious about taking up Krsna consciousness. He also sends them books that people donate to the Prison Ministry. We have also donated some of my books, which he sends into the prisons. He does his letter writing for hours first thing in the morning when he gets up, and wants to do it for the rest of his life.
I have written to H.H. Radhanath Maharaja introducing Radhika Narsinghani, the 23-year-old daughter of my initiated disciples Upendra and Panchali. I have written to Radhanath Maharaja that I don’t want him to initiate her simply based on our friendship, but that she should go through all the requirements for a devotee to be initiated by him. I have enclosed a description of her devotional activities and ask that it be forwarded to a disciple of Radhanath Maharaja who deals with devotees aspiring for initiation by him. She is willing to go through this regular process to be a part of the system of Radhanath Maharaja’s disciples. I have met with Radhika a number of times and have spoken with the whole family at different times also. Radhika is determined to be initiated by Radhanath Maharaja, and she is willing to go through his system for eligibility for initiation. I have known Radhika since she was a young girl in high school, and I know she was brought up in a Gaudiya Vaisnava household, so I think she is a worthy candidate.
Our small neem wood murti of Lord Caitanya needs renovation. One of His hands was broken, and it was glued and a wood filler put in. The wood filler is now cracking a little and it’s rough. He was made in Jagannatha Puri and bought in the gift shop of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir. The Indian paint job has worn thin. We have asked Hemagaura (who regularly renovates old ISKCON paintings and who has worked on our large neem Gaura-Nitai) to do the work required on the small murti of Lord Caitanya, who stands dancing in ecstatic pose in Navadvipa (pre-sannyasa lila.) So His renovation is in the works. Hemagaura has agreed to do it, and Atindra has agreed to drive the Lord to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, where Hemagaura lives. Shippensburg is near Gita Nagari, so when the work is done we are hoping someone can pick Him up in Shippensburg and give Him a ride back home. He is very dear to us, and we are currently reading about Him in the Caitanya-caritamrta.
We went to give a blood sample this morning, preparing for my CAT scan. They want to make sure my kidneys are functioning properly. A nurse named Brenda poked a needle into my arm. It hurt a little. The blood flowed quickly up the tube. Baladeva exclaimed, “It’s a geyser!” Brenda said, “I wish they would all come out like that.” We were out of there in a flash, one of the quickest medical visits we ever had. The purpose for the blood sample was a kidney function test because I have to take a “barium cocktail” two hours before the CAT scan on Thursday. The cocktail is radioactive, and it’s hard on the kidneys. So they just want to make sure I can take the CAT scan.
We went through all the preliminary requirements to get the CAT scan. For several weeks I had an on and off pain in my right abdomen. I reported it to our Primary Care Provider (PCP), who wrote a prescription for an X-ray and a CAT scan with contrast. Then several days before the scheduled CAT scan I went for blood work to see if my kidneys could process the “radioactive barium cocktail” I had to drink before the CAT scan. I fasted from solid food on the day of the scan and drank down an ill-tasting barium liquid. Twenty minutes before we were supposed to leave the house, we got a phone call from the Medical Arts building that a thunderstorm with lightning had hit the hospital and knocked out the CAT scanner. They have rescheduled me for a 26th of July appointment. I am inclined to cancel the new appointment. I have not had the pain in my abdomen since the first day we reported it to the PCP. Baladeva doesn’t agree with me, and says, “Preposterous.” But I remember Prabhupada saying, “I am not doctor dasa, I am Krsna dasa,” so we’ll have to see what I actually do.
This morning Upendra leaves for a long day’s journey (twelve hours, two trains and two planes) to return to his home in Boise, Idaho. He has been a well-behaved helper. Tomorrow Manohara comes from Italy to stay for six weeks. I appreciate his scheduling for that long a time. And I have already experienced that he is an excellent servant in many ways. Krsna dasi phoned from Trinidad and said she cannot come back tomorrow as planned. She’s now scheduled to comes back on Wednesday, the 20th of July. Silavati dasi has to leave on Monday, July 18th. So the changing of the crew is going on.
The day will come when I’ll die,
but that’s not the end.
I’ll be reborn,
But the day will come—
it may take lakhs and lakhs of births,
when I will go home, back to Godhead.
I’ll leave behind all memories,
no need of godless poets,
no more passport worries—
that day will come.
Until then I work away,
so afraid or impressed by a
father with tattoos and
a mother who sat at the round kitchen table
saying, ‘Stevie, you can’t do that.
I won’t let you. I’ll tell your father.’
When can I get out?
Swing low, sweet chariot . . .”
It’s a holy operation
like going on the altar—
divine access, and not to be abused.
‘This work is complete in 12 cantos,’
Srila Prabhupada wrote as he began.
You are thinking
of your own work and where it fits.
Tiny print, voluminous footnotes
to your spiritual master’s writings—
that would be fine! May I be his
and not be cast out.
They used to offer food to Jagannatha
in a little storefront.
They pioneered in Boston and St. Louis.
What are you getting at?
I mean it was a good time spreading Krsna consciousness,
selling Back to Godhead and writing letters every week,
getting replies straight from Prabhupada.
It’s all still available.
We’re older now.
Young ones are doing those exploits.
Time in ISKCON passes fast because
our whole time with Prabhupada took
place in a little over 10 years.
Now decades have gone by in a flash.
When Krsna appears it’s always good.
A prisoner in Colorado detention wrote me,
‘At night I think over events of the day and I feel
grateful to Krsna and Prabhupada.’ I wrote him
back and said he was as good as a monk in a
monastery; the world of prison forces him to
find shelter in the blissful Krsna conscious realm
of Vrndavana, spiritual thoughts, maha-mantra.
In ISKCON temples, in the evening,
only a few attend the last arati,
when Radha and Krsna stand in Their nightclothes.
After the arati the pujari puts
Them to bed. He may be tired,
but if he’s attentive and doesn’t feel angry,
(‘Why am I on the altar at night?’)
He’s grateful and moves,
clean in thoughts and body, under the lights, his
careful hands arranging for overnight,
he says goodnight, recites prayers from the book,
turns out the lights, locks up. By then he
may be the only one awake, except some
late-comer begging for maha-prasadam or a
sankirtana devotee returning from the streets.
Maybe a mouse.
I’m leaving this altar in the same way.
‘Good night, Lords. Please allow me to come back
and serve You early in the morning.
May it never end, from
this world to the next. May You always enjoy
Your pastimes in this temple, inconceivably.
May I be worthy.’
The pujari steps off the altar and
in front of the carved doors, bows and offers
prayers for relief from offenses committed during worship.”
The heater is humming.
We are back from our walk.
I could have talked out loud on the
lonely sea beach; it’s a vast theater
all to myself. Ideal for poets.
But I preferred to chant Your names,
I look out at the ocean breakers, dawn
hasn’t arrived yet. I could talk, something
would come day after day, creative
in this lonely, grand place.
I think about that but decide
I’ll go on chanting and hearing.
Later perhaps I can remember some of it.”
Welcome to India. A big, beautiful tiger.
A crowd of people.
“‘Good morning, good morning. Your middle name is Thomas?’
“‘You left it out.’
“‘You are staying in Mathura?’
“Indian businessman buys a bottle of whiskey at the Duty Free Shop.
It’s 4:00 A.M.
“A poodle stands whimpering in a cage on the baggage belt. I finger my beads.
“Nobody met us, so we took a taxi. Insolent boys! My silver-looking Seiko.”
“ . . . India is like that, she says. There is an open space under the door and all kinds of creatures come in. If it’s not ants, flies, or mosquitoes, it’s . . . as we speak, a big insect scurries over the floor. He tells me the problems of his management and his desire to be with his son at the gurukula. Everything is individual, I reply. I can’t give a suggestion during a 45-minute introduction to someone’s life. She asks me, ‘After reading your book Vandanam, I have some questions about prayer.’ I can’t tell her how far I am from it now.
“Surely going to Jagannatha Puri to be on my own with a few devotees has to be good for my prayer life. People think of the ‘interior life’ as a kind of excuse not to work or as something vague or devious. But for me, inner life means thinking straight, overcoming the superficial, external life I so easily fall into.
“She asks me what I pray for. I pray to develop my inner life—to chant, hear, and write.”
“Prabhupada taught us that all souls have an intimacy with Krsna, and any feelings we had of alienation were not based on fact. They were illusion, based on false designation. Thus he gave a new consciousness and a new way to see reality.
“The awkwardness of those early days was also expressed in our feelings at first taking on the dress of the Vaisnava and the shaved head and sikha. So much awkwardness! Not knowing how to pronounce the Sanskrit, not being able to spell or chant properly—gradually these things were overcome. Prabhupada did not push them on us.
“As for Srila Prabhupada’s own unfamiliarity with Western culture, it was a feature that simply made him more dear to us. If he did not understand the use of a word in the English or American language, it was another occasion to love him. One time a devotee told Prabhupada that he might get fired from his job. Prabhupada was astonished and said, ‘Fired? They would fire on you?’ Prabhupada thought the devotee would be fired with a gun. The devotee replied, ‘Oh no, Prabhupada! Fired just means they would release me from the job.’ We would all laugh together about his not knowing these words. We did not expect him to know such things, but neither did we think of him as a ‘foreigner.’ Prabhupada knew the transcendental world, the real home. To be unaware of the material world was just another sign of his detachment. We did not expect that eventually he would educate himself in such things. He was not interested. They were all in the category of ignorance and passion.
“Awkwardness was overcome. The all-important first step was to learn the words to the maha-mantra—Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Once we got that straight, everything became easy and natural. When you think about the fact that within a few months a new devotee feels familiar with the philosophy and with Prabhupada, it makes you think that maybe it really won’t take so long to feel at home in Krsna consciousness and to develop a desire to go back to Godhead.”
“It’s only nine degrees. I’m not even going to bother wearing my glasses. Another tiny layer of snow was added overnight ti the already existing snowfall. Everything is clean again. It hard to walk, but at least this new covering has given me a lit tle bit of footing on the slippery ice.
“I was determined this morning not to complain about my difficulties in walking on the snow. I decided to make the best of it and appreciate the light and that I’ve been given eyes to see. Everything comes from Krsna. Once on a morning walk in San Francisco, I think Upendra dasa asked Prabhupada, ‘Does the pure devotee see Krsna everywhere? Does he look at wall and see Krsna on the wall playing His flute?’ Prabhupada replied that it’s more a vision of love. It’s like a mother who sees the small shoe of her child and feels love. If we love Krsna, then anything we see will remind us of Krsna. That was a wonderful reply. We have to remember that Prabhupada was a devotee of Vrndavana, a Vrajavasi come to America to preach. He had to say things in such a way that we Westerners could understand them. But Prabhupada always thought of Krsna in the Vraja mood. Prabhupada was not a Vaikuntha bhakta but a Vrndavana bhakta. He put it nicely for us. The fact is, in whatever we see, we can seek Krsna there in the particular form we wish to worship.
“Can that be translated into these snowy woods? I think I can do it, but I can’t explain it to others. I can feel it within myself, but I can’t present a manifesto to prove it. I think I’ll stop bothering to attempt it. I just have to go ahead and be Krsna conscious. Just be happy that this snow is also Krsna and I’m Krsna’s devotee.
“Walking on a trail following the tire tracks and chanting Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare .. .
Everything is shining with an inner light. That’s not quite the expression I am looking for. I think of iodine, or a cold ocean, the way it looks when you’re on a snow-covered beach on Cape Cod. The colors of blue and iodine through the waves.
“I think of getting back to where my fingers can thaw out. But I feel a communion with this place, this day. It’s hard to keep expressing this, but I am feeling deeply the conviction that I want to become more Krsna conscious. This snowy walk may not appear to have anything to do with my prayers, but Krsna knows what I want. I don’t want wealth. I don’t want women or beautiful poetry, although I do want a kind of plain poetry that speaks and reaches Krsna. I don’t want followers, just a small group of people here and there who want to read what I write. And even that I only want if it’s right. But what I really want is to give up everything else and practice devotional service like Prabhupada is asking us to. That’s what I came out here for, although it’s hard for others to see the connection. That’s what the cold is about.”
“Let me share a little experience of ‘Prabhupada Now.’ Recently I spoke with the abbot of a Carmelite monastery in Belgium. He was quite friendly and interested in Krsna consciousness, but puzzled as to why a Westerner would take to Indian culture. I tried explaining to him that Vaisnavism is not a sect or an Indian religion, but he still couldn’t understand why we have adopted so many Indian styles of dress and prayer.
“The real (and simplest) explanation, which I didn’t tell him at the time, is that I live and dress the way I do because my spiritual master did. I doubt this answer would have satisfied the abbot. He would still ask, ‘But isn’t it difficult? You are a Westerner. Why do you do this?’
“I don’t have another reason though. I do it only because my spiritual master convinced me that this was the best way for me to live. I do it as an act of immediate surrender to him, and I do it as «a act of faith in the past and future of his mission. And most of all, I do it because it helps me to meditate on Prabhupada and see yet another way that he is with me now.”
“How is it that new disciples need me? I am to act as spiri¬tual master. There is no doubt about it. But how to realize how they need me? How to act on it and impart to them the spiritual seed? I can say, ‘Oh, ISKCON is taking care of them, it is not like Srila Prabhupada taking care of us.’ How am I linking them up? It is up to individual endeavor, how much of a spiritual master I become. How to go about it? If I become a pure devotee, that is how. Or one could say, become a very active preacher now, knowing that you are guru, go and save the land. Fulfill the verse, ‘Whomever you meet, tell them about Krsna.’ These ways. My Godbrother Harikesh Swami said it is a great feeling and experience—you take together all you know of His Divine Grace and give it to them. Am I doing that? I have my own work and not so much time to give a lot of care and instruction to the new men. But I should impart to them a special relationship and let them know if there is anything they want to talk about, I am available. And I should make myself available to talk with them whenever they have questions.”
“Srila Prabhupada, where are you? Your sacred body lies in the samadhi in the Krsna-Balarama Mandir in Vrndavana, India, but where are you actively as spirit soul? Have you gone to join the residents of Vrndavana in a suitable body for serving Radha-Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana? Are you a gopi-manjari? Or have you gone to the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Navadvipa with Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara Pandit, Srivasa Thakura, Sacimata and all those blissful residents? And can I join you in some capacity for service as I served you when you were in this world? Soon I will get to know the answers to these questions. It may be that you see me as not pure enough to join you in the spiritual world. What about meeting you for further service in this material world? Please don’t say I have no continued connection with you. Am I not your eternal servant? You have said there is an ISKCON in the spiritual world. We must be free of the imperfections of the ISKCON in the material world. It must be a perfect ISKCON, with you at the head. We have to be perfect to serve you there.
“Some of this will be revealed to me in a few years. In the meantime, I will chant and hear to understand you better and develop taste. I want to serve you here so I can serve you there. I feel confident that if I meet with you again, you will remember me and take me in your service. You will be affectionate to me despite my failures and falldown. Because you are so compassionate you will accept the legacy that I have left in written books, and they will help people coming to Krsna consciousness. Please accept me as a particle of dust at your lotus feet.
“Prabhupada, please notice me in the crowd. Please don’t neglect me but pick me up and place me at your feet. I have been crippled in this material body for many years. Give me a new, fresh body, not for sense gratification, but for the ability to serve you strongly. Give me eternal life of reverence to you with no ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ Let me consider it the greatest honor to serve you and give me menial services in joy. Let me work to bring the fallen souls back to Godhead as Lord Caitanya did and as you did in His service.
“Let me be sincere and humble and true to you.”
“The Vaisnava guru is regularly serving Radha and Krsna. He arranges for Their swing for Jhulana-yatra, and he helps to decorate Srimati Radharani, Lalita, and Visaka in the groves of Vrndavana. He directly takes part in such pastimes and encourages his disciples to join him. In another way—as a preacher, arranging for sankirtana — the spiritual master is attempting to bring the fallen souls back into their constitutional position, and he urges them to enter their relationship with the devotees of Radha and Krsna in Vrndavana. This is especially accomplished when the spiritual master engages devotees in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: ‘O Radha! O Krsna! Please engage me in Your service.” When disciples assist the spiritual master in these activities, they are also acting as assistants of the gopis. The spiritual master has the responsibility of directly assisting the intimate servants of the Lord, and the disciples participate, under his direction, as his servants.
“This spirit of assisting in the devotional mood of the spiritual master was displayed in its highest form when Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya assisted Lord Caitanya in His mood of separation from Krsna. Svarupa Damodara would sing songs exactly suitable for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s transcendental emotions, and Ramananda Raya would quote verses from the writings of Vidyapati, Candidasa, and Jayadeva Gosvami to compliment the ecstasy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya would pass half the night experiencing varieties of emotions, and finally Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya, after making the Lord lie down on His bed, would return to their homes. Then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal servant, Govinda, would lie down at the door while the Lord loudly chanted the Hare Krsna mantra all night.
“Although this level of reciprocation cannot be duplicated or imitated, the disciple should appreciate that he is factually serving Radha and Krsna as his spiritual master’s instrument. The disciple is confident that by cleaning the temple floor as his spiritual master has asked him to he is also cleaning his heart through a direct relationship with Radha and Krsna. The disciple cannot presume, however, to fully understand the mind of the spiritual master! Vaisnavera kriya-mudra-vijneha na bujhaya.”
“That scene–walking past the sankirtana men in the van–was a little awkward. But I justified it to myself. Prabhupada told me to write. So I have spent my time in ISKCON distributing Prabhupada’s books and managing his temples, but now I’m spending my time writing my own books and distributing them. I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. I live the life of a ‘hermit’ for a purpose, the purpose of writing. And sometimes it’s very naked, but I don’t know what to write, or I’m writing in the style of a diary–in all its openness, its flailing awkwardness–and this may seem in contrast, or even contradiction, to Prabhupada’s books, which are so right on. But I am explaining myself to my readers. I feel this is the best way to go forward now, to write literature without pretensions, searching for the authentic self and quietly spending my days in Geaglum reading and writing. Thank you.
“My ‘diary book’ is not my only kind of writing. It’s my process. Out of this process come other important books, contributions to ISKCON, books that are more appreciated, like Vaisnava Compassion, and seminars for VIHE, and so on. But the matrix is the open diary in which I am myself and write what’s happening to me day to day. This process produces good things.
“By this kind of diary writing I am giving full access to my disciples and friends. I am shy by nature and also physically frail in health, and so can’t give much of my time in one-to-one association. But through the book I share myself intimately with whoever wants to be with me. This is my life.”
“In previous chapters we have discussed how the devotee endeavors to free himself from material implication by engaging in the transcendental service of the Lord, Sri Krsna. Thus service begins with submissive hearing of the philosophy of spiritual life as spoken by Krsna’s representative. When a devotee becomes fixed in the conception of self-realization and devotional service, he goes beyond working only for his own salvation and becomes inspired by the mission of the great acaryas within this world—to give freedom from death to all people.
“Now let us discuss why and how a Vaisnava avoids sinful activities. A devotee is one who has recovered his intelligence and sanity. Thus he avoids sin, just as an intelligent child or sane person avoids touching fire. ‘A devotee is nevertheless always alert not to commit any sinful activities,’ states Srila Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion, ‘this is his specific qualification as a devotee.’ The Vaisnava’s strictness against committing sinful activities is another sense in which devotional service is beyond sentimental of sham religion. The devotee does not cry out God’s name while continuing to defy His laws. An honest devotee is not such a hypocrite or blasphemer of God’s mercy. In the beginning, when a neophyte is first entering devotional service, he may retain some of his bad habits, but Lord Krsna clearly states in Bhagavad-gita that He overlooks such residual tendencies. Anyone who has resolved to serve and worship Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is already a devotee, and Krsna will protect him, even if there are discrepancies due to past bad habits. Whatever was done in the past will not be held against the devotee, but from the time he accepts initiation from an authorized spiritual master, Krsna relieves him from his sinful reactions—from then on he must very strictly avoid sinful acts. The vow taken at initiation, therefore, consists of four ‘do nots’: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling. The basic vow also includes the main ‘do’: always chant at least sixteen rounds of the Hare Kmia mantra daily.
“These four prohibitions and one positive principle will enable a devotee to stay clear of all vicious karma.”
“The lowest thing I said to Prabhupada was on a long flight with just he and I from Germany to Australia. He had already granted me permission to give up my service as his servant and secretary and to go and start a traveling library party in the USA. I had informed the brahmacaris that I was coming. Prabhupada, in consultation with some of the GBC men, had decided that Brahmananda Swami could leave Africa and come and join him as his permanent traveling secretary. We had sent express communication to Brahmananda, but so far we hadn’t received his reply. I was a little anxious about that. What if he said he couldn’t come? My mind was filled with my transference. So I said something to Prabhupada which I shouldn’t have said. I don’t remember the exact words but it was something like, ‘Prabhupada, you promised I could leave and start the library party and Brahmananda Swami would take my place. If something happens and he can’t come, we will have to get someone else—because you promised.’ The nagging, demanding tone of my words were certainly out of place and not the words of a surrendered disciple. He had already said I could go, there was no need to remind him, ‘You promised.’ Prabhupada took my outrageous words like a gentleman. He just said something like, ‘Yes, I know,’ and left it at that. He didn’t chastise me, although I deserved it. After this exchange he didn’t change his attitude toward me. We still had considerable time together in Australia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles where I would be his servant and do my duties as usual. He continued to deal with me as his permanent secretary-servant, and he never brought up the low words I uttered on the plane.”
“ . . . The Story: The Visiting Sannyasi took part in an informal symposium of devotees arranged by the editor of Back to Godhead. The editor wanted them to discuss ‘Community’ and hoped he could use the points of their discussion in his magazine. During that meeting, the Visiting Sannyasi mentioned that he sometimes wrote poetry. Another member remarked, ‘I think a sannyasi has to do a lot more than write poetry if we are going to develop true community in our movement.’ This remark drew several assents: ‘Yeah.’ ‘Right.’ All this was later published in the magazine, and it made our sannyasi feel ashamed and guilty. And chagrined. In a separate incident, he heard third- or fourth-hand that during the annual meeting of the ultimate directors of the movement, someone said in passing, ‘We’ve got so much work to do for Srila Prabhupada in spreading Krsna consciousness, but it’s not going to happen if our sannyasis are sitting around writing poetry and the householders are completely bewildered with family duties.’ That also helped to kill his joyful spirit.
“As a result, the sannyasi stopped writing poetry for awhile. It had been an occasional practice over the years but had recently flared up into a post middle-age steady fire. He didn’t agree that poetry writing was idle, but felt too emotional about it to articulate his feelings. Besides, others made him feel guilty about it. He decided to again write poems but to keep them to himself. It was a secret. He also tried to keep his profile of one tangibly engaged in the acceptable duty of sannyasa preaching.
“The Visiting Sannyasi had several problems connected with the poetry writing. First, he was frustrated because he had so little time to write—or even think—in that way.
“Another problem was that whenever he expressed himself, he found he was filled with worldly allusions and images, whereas a Vaisnava poet ought to write directly about Krsna.”
“We can judge our advancement in Krsna consciousness by our attraction to hear about Krsna and to render devotional service unto Him. The science of Krsna is unfathomable, but preliminary recognition of Krsna as the Supreme Person is not difficult.
“Surrender to Krsna is also not difficult to understand or to execute. According to Lord Caitanya, a person has four things he can surrender: his life, his wealth, his intelligence, and his words. Complete surrender is to give one’s whole life. If someone can’t do that, then he can at least give some of his wealth or intelligence or words. Studying Bhagavad-gita is surrender of one’s intelligence to Krsna; speaking something favorable about Krsna is surrender of words.
“We cannot surrender unless we are free of pride. (Bg. 15.5, purport) Surrender begins by surrendering to the spiritual master, as Arjuna did: ‘Now I am your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.’ (Bg. 2.7)
“Bali Maharaja surrendered everything to Krsna. Then when there was nothing left, still Krsna was asking for more. Bali said, ‘Please, therefore, place Your third lotus footstep on my head.’ (Bhag. 8.22.2)
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura surrendered his body, his mind, his family, his home; he said he would live simply as an attendant for all these properties of Krsna. (Saranagati)
“Surrender means to give everything to Krsna with no consideration of reward (Siksastakam #8).
“‘To surrender wealth and other possessions doesn’t mean to reject them but, rather, to live in Krsna consciousness and use everything in the Lord’s service.’ (Rupa Gosvami)
“The greatest surrender of all was that of the gopis, who risked social ruin and the dangers of the forest at night, and who gave Krsna all their love and affection. They gave Krsna their minds and always thought of Him, even after He had left Vrndavana. (Krsna, Vol. I, ‘Krsna’s Hiding from the Gopis.’)
“Surrender to the guru is unconditional. ‘My Guru Maharaja gave me a task, and always I was discour-aged by my godbrothers. But I did not forget him even for a moment, and I was determined to follow my duty.’ (Letter to Satsvarupa, Nov. 5, 1972)
“Krsna rewards us according to our surrender to Him. (Bg. 4.11).
“One who knows how to surrender unto the Supreme Person attains the eternal kingdom. (Bg. 15.5)
“Surrender means to rise early, bathe, and go to mangala-arati, even when you lack spontaneous love to do so. (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu)
“Surrender is to follow all the rules, even the small ones. (Srila Prabhupada)”
“Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.22.35 enjoins: ‘It is the duty of every living being to perform welfare activities for the benefit of others with his life, wealth, intelligence, and words.’ The Visnu Purana 3.12.45 states: ‘By his work, thoughts and words, an intelligent man must perform actions which will be beneficial for all living entities in this life and in the next.’ We have just discussed the ability of the empowered devotee to spiritualize material things in the service of Krsna. One who knows the techniques of bhakti-yoga can therefore give ultimate benefit to whomever he meets wherever he goes. As the sage Parvata said to Narada Muni, ‘You are a touchstone, for by your association even a great hunter has turned into a devotee.’ In praising the ideal Vaisnava, Santana Gosvami, Lord Caitanya said, ‘By the force of your devotional service you purify the whole universe.’
“The devotee can perform welfare work for everyone, because Krsna consciousness applies to all humanity and all species. It is not for only a certain race, nationality, or sex; it is for all living entities. Commenting on the catur-sloki section of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada expounds on the universal application of Krsna consciousness:
“‘Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhupada therefore comments on the words sarvatra sarvada in the sense that the principles of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to the Lord, are apt in all circumstances; i.e., bhakti-yoga is recommended in all the revealed scriptures, it is performed by all authorities, it is important in all places, it is useful in all causes and effects, etc. . . .
“‘Similarly, the liberty of discharging loving transcendental service to the Lord is invested in everyone, even the women, the sudras, the forest tribes, or any other living beings born into sinful conditions.’
—Bhag. 2.9.36, purport
“The devotee distributes Krsna consciousness to everyone, thus proving its universality. Lord Caitanya has given this duty of distributing Krsna consciousness to everyone.
“‘bharata-bhumite haila manusya-janma yara janma sarthaka kari’ kara para-upakara
“‘One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India (bharata-varsa) should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people.’
—Cc. Adi 9.41
“His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is, without exaggeration, a transcendental worker who stands supreme in the application of para-upakara. (Note that the above verse contains the words para and upakara, ‘benefit for others,’ which are very similar to sarvopakaraka.) For thousands of years the most valuable knowledge of bhakti-yoga remained within India. Even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu traveled only within India. People outside of bharata-varsa were considered uncivilized mlecchas. Even persons who considered themselves Vaisnavas did not think it possible to deliver these fallen mlecchas. No devotee could deny the sastric statements that Krsna consciousness should and could apply even to Europeans and Africans, and later to new countries like America, but the sastric injunction remained theoretical.”
“‘May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other’s welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.’
“I like to read this verse to an audience on Christmas. It is like the prayer in St. Luke’s Gospel: ‘Peace on earth, good will to men.’
“It is an ultimate prayer asking the Supreme Lord to give all souls peace, let them accept Krsna consciousness, let even the demons’ hearts be changed. We may feel that it is not possible for us to ask for universal blessings like this, although Prahlada did it. But Prahlada is a mahajana, which means that we should follow his example. There is certainly no harm in our reciting his words and appreciating his compassion, worshiping his prayer. Just by reciting it, we too turn to the Supreme Lord and express what is there in everyone’s heart, although we hardly dare to express it—the desire that everyone be happy and peaceful and that love of God reign everywhere. Maybe it is not possible in Kali-yuga, but we can pray for it. Anything is possible if enough sincere prayers are rendered by surrendered souls.
“Prabhupada makes many wonderful statements in his purport which brings out the full beauty of Prahlada’s prayer. He states that a Vaisnava actually can fulfill the desires of anyone (vancha-kalpa-tarubhyas ca), provided that we surrender to Him and take to devotional service. Therefore this is a prayer by a Vaisnava asking the Lord to let people become devotees. Prabhupada writes, ‘He prays not for himself, but for all living entities—the gentle, the envious and the mischievous.’ He doesn’t ask anything for himself, but for his demonic father and for the welfare of the entire universe.
“Prabhupada encourages all of us to pray to become free of demonic desires and doubts and become fit to help others.
“Therefore we should pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva to sit in our hearts. We should pray, bahir nrsimho hrdaye nrsimhah:
“‘Let Lord Nrsimhadeva sit in the core of my heart, killing all my bad propensities. Let my mind become clean so that I may peacefully worship the Lord and bring peace to the entire world.’
—Bhag. 5.18.9, purport”
“I used to like to recall being struck or enlightened by something particular I read in the Bhagavatam, or maybe it wasn’t like that. I did, however, and do, like to read in a steady, peaceful way. Sometimes I can enter it and feel, ‘This is it. Now I am entering Krsna consciousness.’ This usually happens when I read more than one verse and purport. It happens more if I read for at least half an hour to an hour, especially in the early morning. There is a time limit to my ecstasies, but I am satisfied.
“Then there is a drawing of me in my knit cap sitting under the lamp reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and it says, ‘Take your time reading in an unmotivated way. Even the pressure to write this book may be too much. Just head for the darsana.’
“This is an authorial aside: I told you that I like it when an author tells us what is going on with him when he is writing his book, so here goes. I hit on something important today. First came a feeling of resistance. Then I pushed that out of the way and began writing. I find myself saying how nice it is to read the Bhagavatam in an unmotivated way, then I realize that reading a verse and purport in order to write A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam as I’m doing now doesn’t produce the best reading experience. I may also be projecting this lack of reading satisfaction into what I am writing. I noticed it—I write a short, perfunctory summary of the Krsna conscious topics and then I write ‘what I want.’ In this way, I may be setting myself up for something that is not really in my best interests, or the interests of the reader.
“I’ve been writing full time now for six days. I give myself no time for leisurely reading. All day I read one verse and purport then write the review in a preacher’s straight prose, then break into free expression. It’s writing work, and I’ve been driven to do it due to my vocation. It’s been joyful too, with the emphasis on accomplishment. I am writing a book. It’s projected as the first of many, my hope is, given to me by Krsna.
“Yet everything has to find a natural level, especially if I expect this to last for years. I’ll have to change the pace sometimes. I see at least two reasons to change the pace immediately: 1. So that writing on the verse and purport doesn’t become a chore while I prefer to write something else, and 2. so that I don’t deny myself more extended, unmotivated reading, which in turn will promote a deeper experience and appreciation of the Bhagavatam.
“Do I really want to read the Bhagavatam? Yes. Then the next question is, ‘What is the best way for me to do that?’
“After these thoughts, I decided to let myself read in an unmotivated way in Prabhupada’s Caitanya-caritamrta. This will cut down on my daily production of A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, but it will be worth it if I can get Krsna’s darsana. Then my straight parampara rating will also improve. Who knows? Even the wild stuff may improve.”
“Sometimes a devotee takes on the sixteen-round quota in earnest but later rationalizes that he has become too busy in Krsna’s service and has no time to chant the minimum rounds. He may even imagine that his spiritual master has given him permission to do this and that by so working he is demonstrating advancement as a Krsna conscious preacher. But Srila Prabhupada refutes this bad logic: ‘We have witnessed that some of our contemporaries who are supposed to be great preachers have gradually fallen into the material conception of life because they have failed to chant the holy name of the Lord.’ (Upadesamrta #5)
“People also speculate as to why sixteen rounds have been chosen as a minimum. They sometimes remark that the number seems arbitrary and that there is no absolute obligation to chant that much. But Srila Prabhupada, as the authorized spiritual master for establishing Krsna consciousness, very deliberately arrived at sixteen as the absolute minimum number of rounds daily for his disciples. Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master asked his disciples to chant sixty-four rounds, but Srila Prabhupada experienced that that was not possible for the restless Westerners. His choice of sixteen rounds as a rock-bottom minimum is not a whimsical thing of a number that can be lowered as one likes.
“Once Srila Prabhupada was informed by mail that one of his temple presidents was chanting only fourteen rounds daily. Srila Prabhupada replied simply that he should be encouraged to chant his sixteen rounds. ‘The injunction is kirtaniya sada hari,’ wrote Srila Prabhupada. ‘One should always be chanting all day. The 16 rounds is just a minimum I set for my disciples so that they would chant at least that much.’”
Never fear, never leave me
I want Krishna’s help, you
get it despite struggles
in this world
sent me a photo of her and
her dad, looked risqué.
I want only to know and
see some pleasing KC
work for it. Shave your
face and dress right like
the military man going on
shore. Show up for
Show passport and salute
Sri Krsna’s servant
here reporting for action,
ready to speak on topics
of Lord Hari and even
answer thorny queries.
I’ll put last needfuls
in the big suitcase and try to
stay awake over a letter but
if I can’t, then conk out
non-guilty–‘I am impressed
that you’re trying to be honest.
Yes, I read Vyasaki’s
book and I’m amazed that
Visnujana Swami got the
whole prison to chant
and dance Hare Krsna mantra.’
You feel blue? Me too.
I don’t expect you to be
rehearsed or sad, let
Griff, I saw a seagull
I wanted to be a spiritualist
devotee of the Supreme Lord
as taught by the Swami
She visited that little tirtha
of Avalon where I floated
on my back in a canal
and felt my surrender taking
My small square window.
Clear allotment to see
the world. Which leaves
are ash and which are beech?
I can’t say unless you
label the trees as friends
and label me as a
scaredy cat, a fellow
who encouraged others
to pick up their loads
and think, ‘I’m doing okay.’”
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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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.