Last year when we took all our tulasis in at the end of summer, they were in beautiful shape from the summertime of sunshine and rain, and our watering them with spring water. But when the cold weather came on, they weakened, even though we have a good lighting system. The lighting system we have is not as potent as the direct sunlight. At some point they were hit by a vicious disease, which killed twenty-three small ones and four large ones. For offerings to the Deities three times a day, we had a very limited supply of dry leaves, which ran out after some months. We were reduced to using a tulasi stick dipped in water for the Deities. This past week, when Narottama dasa and the Prabhupada Sena men came, they asked what they could bring, and Baladeva asked for two medium-sized tulasis, which they did bring—two beautiful, healthy tulasis.
Now I can chant before the tulasi for my full sixteen rounds and more. There is a strong tie between tulasi and chanting. Haridasa Thakura chanted before the tulasi, and when he converted the prostitute he asked her to take over his bhajana kutira and chant before the tulasi. Narada Muni gave the same advice to Mrgari the hunter: simply chant, circumambulate and water the tulasi, and all his needs would be supplied. Also our beads are made from tulasi beads.
The barn is an important building on our land. It was built in 1850 and housed a carriage, two horses and hay upstairs. Now it stores many of my old paintings (about two thousand) in an atmosphere-controlled room. There are two bunk beds for guests in another room, and there’s an open area for an office that includes a big desk. The room where the carriage was is where we keep our electric tools and chop saws, as well as the generator, snowblower, lawnmower, etc. In all the rooms there is air conditioning and heat. All the floors have been rebuilt, and the walls were very well insulated before being closed in. Now we’re renovating the outside to protect the investment. Janardana replaced rotted wood protected by a roof outside where we keep garden tools, potting soil, gas for the generator and snowblower. Volunteers are coming forward to complete the renovation. The Prabhupada Sena men will be back to scrape and paint the building, and today Akash, a friend from Albany, is here to sand the new posts, which are very rough, and then paint them.
Lord Caitanya speaks to Sanatana about the opulence of Krsna. But He becomes overwhelmed in ecstasy and starts speaking on another subject—the sweetness of Krsna. Lord Caitanya speaks to Sanatana Gosvami in this way:
“When Lord Krsna wanders in the forest of Vrndavana with His friends on an equal level, there are innumerable cows grazing. This is another of the Lord’s blissful enjoyments. When He plays on His flute, all living entities, including trees, plants, animals and human beings, tremble and are saturated with jubilation. Tears flow constantly from their eyes.
“Krsna wears a pearl necklace which appears like a chain of white ducks around His neck. A peacock feather in His hair appears like a rainbow, and His yellow garments appear like lightning in the sky. Krsna appears like a newly risen cloud and the gopis appear like newly grown grains in the field. Constant rains of nectarean pastimes fall upon these newly grown grains, and it seems that the gopis are receiving beams of life from Krsna exactly as grains receive life from the rains. Such sweetness is the quintessence of His qualities.” (Cc. Madhya-lila 21.108-9)
Silavati dasi leaves today after a three-month stay. Amit is driving her to JFK airport to catch her plane back to Ireland. Today Manohara is cooking a homemade ravioli feast as a goodbye gesture to Silavati. Amit will drop off Silavati and then stay at Vidvam’s house, which is near the airport. The next day he will remain at Vidvam’s and work at his computer. Tuesday night he will return to JFK and pick up Krsna dasi, who is returning from Trinidad on a midnight flight. He will then remain at Vidvam’s place and then the next morning return with Krsna dasi to Viraha Bhavan. Amit is very generous and kind. He volunteered on his own to do all this service for the devotees.
I am reading Mukunda’s book for the second time. It’s all fresh to me, as if I’m reading it for the first time. I am very interested to hear about Prabhupada and his dealings with the new American devotees. Mukunda writes about Prabhupada in New York and then San Francisco.
The devotees make a good impression with the hippies at Haight Ashbury and hold a “Mantra-Rock Dance” at the Avalon Ballroom. Famous rock bands play there, and the Swami and Allen Ginsberg chant the Hare Krsna mantra together and get the whole crowd to join in. After a few months, three of Swamiji’s married and initiated disciples decide they want to go and start a new temple in London, England. The Swami encourages them. I’m up to the part where the devotees have arrived in London. They’re struggling, with little money and not as good a reception as in San Francisco. But the devotees are enthusiastic and determined. They exchange weekly letters with Swamiji, who enthuses them to carry on.
Manohara flew in from Italy, and I had a 10:00 AM appointment with him. When he entered the room he made full dandavats with all the points of his body. I told him that he didn’t have to make dandavats every time he entered the room but just the first time he sees me in the morning. He replied that he liked to do dandavats. Later in the meeting when he was leaving, he repeated his desire to do repeated dandavats, so we will have to see how many times he wants to bow down. I told him I appreciated his volunteering to come here for six weeks. He is teaching Indian music and other related Indian subjects, and he’s getting paid for it. He’s also teaching Sanskrit. He’s a smart cookie, and he’s not worried about his financial situation. His wife, Visakha, is working for the season in an ice cream shop, and she’s happy that she’s busy and earning money. Their relationship has improved.
We talked of many things. He says he doesn’t have many friends in Krsna consciousness, not people he would speak to confidentially, although he has taken the role of being a counselor to others. He told me that Trai dasa Prabhu from Bologna is a good friend. I encouraged him in his friendship with Trai dasa and said that one should have at least one or two good friends that one can speak one’s mind to. He said he would take my advice. He has a longtime relationship with a couple who teach yoga, and he works in their studio. But they have impersonalist backgrounds, while at the same time they are reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and taking the Bhakti Sastra test. This yoga couple is very generous to Manohara, and Visakha is also close to them. But he’s trying to wean them away from their Sankarite background and doesn’t want to be dependent on them. I asked him if he ever does any writing. He says it’s very difficult for him to write—it’s not his forte.
He also doesn’t have a natural desire to speak in public, but he does it as a teacher. He told me he is able to teach, and once he’s doing it he’s all right. But afterwards he needs some time to recover. I said to him, “You are an introvert,” and he smilingly agreed. I told him I was an introvert also. As extroverts charge their batteries by making outside contacts, we charge our batteries by being alone. He said, “Yes, I remember how you liked to take walks alone, that is the sign of an introvert.” When he’s at a big kirtana in Vrndavana or Mayapur, he feels just fine, but in a confrontational meeting he feels very exposed and uneasy. He asked me if I felt the same, and I said yes. When I can avoid the maddening crowd, I prefer to read and write and chant. I get into anxiety while preparing myself for a festival where I have to speak. But once I do it, I feel happy and satisfied. We bonded on that mutual quality in our characters.
Manohara has settled in. He is expert in many humble services, but he’s most loved by the devotees for his expert Italian cooking. Even humble Italian family dinners seem exotic and relishable to us. Yesterday was fusilli cooked with cauliflower and peas, and mixed with a cheesy bechamel sauce. And this was served with salad and foccacia bread. Today is gnocchi a la romana, etc.
Baladeva found some ripe tomatoes at the farm store. They were overripe tomatoes and were selling at discount prices. So Manohara is busy making pizza today, with chopped tomatoes instead of pureed. While Manohara prepared the pizza, Baladeva worked in the kitchen with him, making cookie dough. It’s the first time he’s made cookie dough in about a month. We have missed a number of occasions with regular prasadam-lovers who look forward to our giving them cookies when we make our office visits to them. So starting tomorrow, Baladeva will have new batch of cookies so as not to disappoint our cookie lovers.
Krsna dasi, our pujari, returned yesterday. Today she cleaned and dressed Radha-Govinda, while Manohara watched her do it. He is the ISKCON Minister for Deity Worship in Italy, so he knows how to dress Deities. But he wanted to see Krsna dasi do it for Radha-Govinda. They were neglected for two weeks, and it is a great relief that she is back. Their new dress is very fitting for summer, and it is in the Vrajavasi style. The main color is pale yellow, with decorations of red and green filigree. Govinda has a nice Vraja turban of yellow and pale blue. And the flute has red and blue jewels in it. They look clean and fresh in Their new outfits, and it’s a pleasure to take darsana after two weeks of the same outfit. Krsna dasi picked flowers from our garden: the main flowers were large yellow dahlias, and there are also many orange marigolds and little red roses. Manohara approved of Krsna dasi’s expertise. At home he is dealing with the sad condition of the temples in Italy, some of which have lowered worship standards due to lack of manpower. Our standard at Viraha Bhavan is high, as long as Krsna dasi doesn’t have to make visits to Trinidad. It seems she has to leave sporadically on family missions.
We are having trouble fulfilling the occasional orders we get for my books. Baladeva is too stressed out with his other duties to do the three step process: 1) Pick out from storage the books they want; 2) Pack up the books for shipping; 3) Take the books to the post office and mail them out. We have been sending some books by UPS, but it’s too expensive. We can send them by “Media Mail” (which can only be done within the United States). It’s slower than UPS, and they don’t take great care in how they handle the books. But it’s a feasible process. We’re thinking of asking John Endler to take this service back. He was doing it before, and he liked it. But we’re definitely not set up for big-time mailing out of books, especially internationally.
We live in Stuyvesant Falls, an agricultural community. The farmers grow corn and other vegetables. There are many small organic farms. Most of them do not have big sprinkler systems—they depend on the rain. So in the summertime it’s common to hear people gather at the post office and say, “We’re praying for the rain.” This gesture of God consciousness is real, although fruitive. This year we had a good spring season with sufficient rain. But as the summer wears on it’s become dry. It’s not yet a drought, but the farmers are praying, “Please send the rains.”
I spoke to Nitai-Gaurasundara and told him I have no pain anymore for over three weeks in my right abdomen, and I want to cancel the July 26th rescheduled appointment for the CAT scan. Originally Baladeva was against my decision. But when I talked with Nitai Gaurasundara, he agreed with me that if I have no more pain up to July 26th, I should cancel the rescheduled appointment.
“Oh, the savage last strokes on the canvas. After I had a neat circus tent canvas face drawn of thy own self out of pigments shown in mirror with jaw and all, the words, ‘Don’t tread on me, please’— then I went back and maddened it as if I’d gone back after a few drinks. It was needed however, to make the impression more exciting.
“Oh, but what is the use of it? Is this the face upon the barroom floor or the picture of Dorian Gray in which the artist simply dies for no good cause? We prefer you and list yourself in the sankirtana movement in a way that God and His pure devotee will be pleased.
“I reply, ‘That is exactly what I want to do, but it is better to do it by messing up sometimes the neat exterior’ and showing the agitation in the hand and blood. I don’t mean ill. But those forces are still running through this sixty-year-old man. He’s not entirely tamed by doctors and assistants, and institutional heads and committees. There is some wild man and aborigine shaman and poet in him, let him come out and also celebrate for Sri Krsna Caitanya, just as we have heard there are some avadhutas in the group. And we all have them within us. It’s a shame when they come out in destructive ways and disturb the individual as well as those around him or her.
“What else did you paint? I did a stocky Tulasi devi as best I could with grainy, sandy, brown wood (you could make beads from her after she leaves her body) and green leaves stocky carpenter’s Tulasi devi in a pot. And some strange figures facing each other, men and women, I don’t know what they are doing but each painting has a few KC words on it. One is a very simple cartoon face in profile with words addressed to the Supreme Lord saying, ‘I want to be Your devotee and the devotee of Your devotee but I am a fool and fallen, please save me.’ It is visual and visceral. I thanked Caitanya for mixing the sand into the paint and down on my knees painting what came, sure it would come to a Krsna conscious conclusion because what else do we live for?” (Every Day, Just Write #40: Seeing Krsna Within the Cloud)
“Krsna fun and frolics. This boy is happy. He says he wants to face his reality. He means he wants to be good and see good. But reality might be more stark and stripped away than that. Do you know what you are saying when you declare, ‘I’ll face my reality’? I’ll see. I have no choice.
“We are in mid-March. We march, pushed by time. Reality is, I am so tiny I almost don’t count. I can’t change the universe. But I try to write what Srila Prabhupada taught, and some people like it. Not the masses, not the top 10 books in Macy’s. I don’t know. I don’t know. Face reality. You are a jerk. You still don’t have the guts to face your enemies and embrace them. Real, real.
“He’s got to admit he takes joy in rhythm and blues. On Blueberry Hill. Pick blueberries for poems. Stains his mouth bear-like. Hide from mice. Spiders dangle in front of him down their amazing cable. Little white shoes dance in his dream. He harbors hallucinations to paint them. Saw a jet in the sky. The Irish lane, don’t talk to him, he hopes. Rocks and dirt washing down the hill.
This is no springtime, it’s always cool and wet. Hare Krsna, for Easter will you again view the Zeffirelli film? I want to know. You keep saying, ‘I don’t know,’ but you should.
“I know I’m a devotee connected by initiation and service to Srila Prabhupada. Not a devotee, but aspiring. Oh, I put down whatever I think of, therefore I play dumb (like Jada Bharata) and say
I don’t know
body and soul
there’s no way.
“Fresh and direct as the morning. Eternity horizon. Write pen bliss ink dries in your eyes the fleshy, knotty, bony hands operate, no thanks to Darwin—he picked up his theory from hints in the Padma Purana and got paid. The thing is playing the way you like, fun and surrender don’t have to be so far apart.”
‘I’d like not to mention so much about writing but to some degree it’s my favorite subject, so why hold back? As a horseman might tell of horses, a baseball player, talk of the game, I talk of my vocation and service. It’s like this, you see? You take a pen and write. It comes out, what you’re doing and thinking. It appears to have the fault of self-centeredness rather than Krsna consciousness, but you contend the self is also just a means to the end. The goal is to play the big mrdanga, the larger sankirtana of Krsna conscious writing and publishing.’ (Every Day, Just Write, #41: Trust the Process)
“Walk fast, walk fast as good exercise, what the doctor ordered. Get out of the house sometimes and move those limbs, get that blood flowing. Yes, it’s all right to say your Gayatri mantras while you walk. No one is going to check up on you. You’re alone in your freedom. But it’s between you and Krsna, and you think that Krsna won’t mind if you dispense with some of the formalities. After all, a guy’s got to keep alive and awake and not be deadened by all these formal trappings. Things should be streamlined, things should come from the heart. Someone said, ‘Do you know how to make Krsna laugh?’ The answer is, ‘Tell Him your plans.’
“Man proposes, God disposes. My big, serious plans. My cute, minstrel script. He may just turn it upside down and make you a barber in Seville, or make you a dog of Dogen, the Zen poet reincarnated. He could make you a piano player out of some irony. Turn you in and turn you out, so Krsna can do it. And nobody can question Him, He’s so all-powerful. He does whatever He wants, it’s always good and yet, you can’t even figure it out. You just have to bow to Him and say, ‘Krsna, You’re the incomprehensible Supreme Person, or whatever I’ve heard about You. I want to use my wits to serve You. Please let me do that and give up all these other things.’
“Morning walk in Wicklow, so dark you can’t see. Tomorrow it gets even darker because the clocks are going forward, but at this hour today I see the sloped hills, gentle but big. I stop at the little bridge and mostly hear, can’t see, the water rushing below. The sound of lots of water passing over the rocks, cutting through a stream. Walk and walk. Hope no car comes out and sees me, or doesn’t see me and knocks me down. You can’t tell what objects are, you look to the side and think maybe it’s a huge ox head, but maybe it’s just a barrel. Something else looks like a spider or a termite hanging from the ceiling of the sky. Make-believes and spoofs.
“Walk on along the light-colored ribbon of road—sky, road, land, that much I can distinguish. I don’t really know one thing from another. Churn those legs, partner. Keep walking as if in military discipline. Krsna is your captain in your heart telling you, go, go, left right, right left, do what I say. And so, that little rebel part of me says, ‘Why do I have to do what You say? Why can’t I do what I want?’ Then Krsna says back, ‘You can do what you want, but you’ll have to suffer. Do it My way and you’ll be happy. If you do it My way you’ll actually find the freedom that you want. It’s a different kind of freedom. It’s not possible to be free in this material world.’”
“Why not tell what happened,
at least some of it if you’re not
a complete coward?
The years . . . I forget a lot . . .
trivial, and you don’t want to hurt
those still living (or get a slander-
case). Why not tell . . . I’m trying.
One time I tried to write a poem but
felt a twinge behind the eye. Kept quiet.
Even Madhu couldn’t hear from me.
Why not tell? Sometimes because it’s
self-pity, repetitious, parampara—
you’ve heard it “several times“
and I don’t know . . . so I go
ahead in silence and pull out
from the unconscious, not-yet-known
the word it decides as it says
‘Why not tell what we have
for you? He who hesitates is lost.’
Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna
and then we’re gone.”
“Dainty wainty went to town,
cleared his head with several meds,
escape the pain to quick-tell
his story, will be sorry
when the payment’s due?
Dainty head pain has his
run, claims the artist
must be won, sings in chains
to prove he can do,
wainty dainty too.”
“When Srila Prabhupada was planning the layout of the temple room in Mayapur, his disciples were also taking part.
“‘Where can we build a vyasasana?” one devotee asked. ‘Should we put it at the other end of the temple facing the Deities?’
“But another devotee objected, ‘Isn’t that too far for you, Srila Prabhupada? Will you be able to see the Deities from such a distance?’
“Srila Prabhupada replied strongly, ‘There’s no question of separation of distance between me and Krsna.’ So the vyasasana was placed at the opposite end from Sri-Sri-Radha-Madhava, and Prabhupada could see Them very nicely.
“On a departure from Australia, Srila Prabhupada was waiting for his plane. Devotees had brought him a simple chair, and he sat in an outdoor garden, just outside the entrance to the airport. Watching while hundreds of people walked in and out of the terminal, Prabhupada sometimes inquired about their appearance and their clothing styles. When he asked about the elevated shoes he saw men wearing, devotees explained that they were called ‘stacks.’
“‘Some of them are elevated five or six inches high,’ said Amogha dasa. ‘People even twist their ankles trying to walk in them.’
“Srila Prabhupada laughed lightly. ‘There is a Bengali proverb,’ he said. ‘Do something new.’ That is Western civilization. And they think that God is very old. Not new.’
“The devotees were feeling awkward and apologetic that Prabhupada had to sit in such a crowded public place. One of them remarked, ‘Someday, Prabhupada, we shall have our own airport.’
“‘It is our airport,’ he said. ‘Everything belongs to Krsna, so it is already ours.’”
“You can see his motion on films. Don’t expect to see much big, athletic jumping up and down. He would mostly start from the waist and shoulders, moving up and down in rhythm with kirtana, and then jump. Dancing for Prabhupada always meant upraised arms and extended fingers, like the depiction of Gaura and Nitai. That was how he introduced dancing in his room at 26 Second Avenue, leading us around in a circle, showing how you put your left foot to the right side and how you sway back and forth with the arms always upraised. Kirtanananda called it ‘the Swami step.’ Once in Chicago he admonished boys who were twisting, disco-style. Emphatically from the vyasasana he raised up his arms. He did it once, and when the dancers did not heed, he did it again: ‘Like this!’
“It would come upon him at different memorable times, walking-dancing with ecstatic kirtana at Ratha-yatras in London and Australia or in temple rooms packed with devotees, or before thousands at outdoor pandals in India. Suddenly creating waves of excitement—all devotees rising with him—he would dance, and we would dance. He danced, and we are dancing.”
“In Mayapur, especially at the time of the international festivals, different disciples would take the service to guard Srila Prabhupada’s door. Their function was mostly to screen potential visitors so that Srila Prabhupada was not constantly interrupted. The guard would also go and fetch anything that Srila Prabhupada wanted.
“One time, while Mahabuddhi dasa was guarding Prabhupada’s door, Srila Prabhupada called him in and asked for the juice of a fresh dob, but even while Prabhupada was talking, his sister, Bhavatarini, suddenly entered his room. Prabhupada’s sister, known as Pishima (or ‘aunt’) to Prabhupada’s disciples, had free entrance to see Prabhupada whenever she wanted. Besides, no one could really restrain her if she wanted to see Prabhupada, to talk with him, or to cook for him.
“As Pishima sat down in the room, Mahabuddhi got up to carry out Prabhupada’s desire for the fresh dob, but Prabhupada spoke sternly, ‘Sit down.’ Mahabuddhi sat down again.
“Srila Prabhupada spoke with his sister in Bengali for about twenty minutes while Mahabuddhi waited, chanting silently on his beads. The talk between Prabhupada and his sister was enthusiastic until towards the end, when Prabhupada became somewhat reprimanding. Finally Bhavatarini offered her respects to her exalted brother and left the room. Prabhupada stood up, and Mahabuddhi started to leave to carry out his interrupted errand.
“As if to explain his action, Prabhupada quoted a verse:
matra svasra duhitra va
vidvaṁsam api karsati
“‘Never stay alone with a woman,’ said Prabhupada.”
“While Jagaddhatri-devi dasi was receiving her gayatri mantra instructions from Prabhupada, she asked him when the mantra should be chanted. Prabhupada replied, ‘Morning, noon, and night.’ Then she asked, ‘Srila Prabhupada, how am I going to remember you and surrender to you for the rest of my life?’ Prabhupada smiled and replied that if she chanted sixteen rounds a day and followed the four principles she would remember him and surrender to him. Prabhupada was then quiet for a few seconds and added, ‘Don’t forget to feed me.’”
“Later in Message of Godhead, Srila Prabhupada goes on to demonstrate that sense perception is limited and mistaken. Those in darkness need someone to shine a light; they need the preceptor gurus. This is my subject matter, the coming of the preceptor guru into my life, my getting to know him, my deep encounters with him, my continuing to live in his mission even after his disappearance. He is the main person in my life. I have forsaken all friends and family because they do not tally with the life prescribed by my spiritual preceptor. He has become everything for me, and he is the source of all my satisfaction—emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual. Srila Prabhupada is not just giving me official teachings from an official institution. He is not handing out diplomas. He is giving us Krsna.
“Srila Prabhupada writes of the importance of the guru, ‘We go forward on the path of knowledge by the mercy of our preceptor—from learning the alphabet up to completing our university career.’ And to this we may add that we go forward on the paths of love, art, life, work, play—all by the mercy of the preceptors. It does not happen automatically.
“Dear Srila Prabhupada, I am trying to open up the dark rooms in my heart to let your sunlight in. How can I improve? I know you can see my poor state of devotion. Kindly help me. I wish to serve you strongly and simply. I want to be with you in any capacity. Please give me your mercy to do this.”
“Tonight we read of Abhay’s initiation. I defended the Lilamrta’s presentation which only hints at the fact that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura recognized Srila Prabhupada as an eternal, great, pure devotee, even in the early years of Abhay’s household life. Ganga dasa said when he heard of Abhay’s meeting with his spiritual master in Kosi (when Prabhupada joined with the sannyasi disciples of his guru maharaja and listened well), it reminded him of Lord Caitanya’s visit to Gaya and His meeting with Isvara Puri. Ganga’s point was that a reader will make those connections himself; if a reader doesn’t see the inner meanings, it shouldn’t be forced on him.
“‘He likes to hear, I have marked him.’
“Our reading over, we walk outside, where there’s a fleeting bit of intense late sunlight. In Ireland, this is a special event. We sit on the stone wall conversing just before the inevitable clouds bring back the evening chill. I’m looking forward to one more full week here, with ever-new proof that the soul wants to remember guru and Krsna. The soul is like a hardy plant—give him a little sunshine and plenty of rain and he will grow, maybe a bit wild and weedy looking, but bhakti-lata nonetheless.”
“I try to pray. I know I don’t have to follow a set formula, but I do. If I feel strong urges to speak ‘out of turn,’ not following my chart, I do so. But usually I proceed step by step.
“I first try to come into the presence of Prabhupada and Krsna. They are together. Through Prabhupada I can speak to Krsna; otherwise, the Supreme Lord won’t recognize me.
“But when I speak directly to Krsna, I think that’s also what Prabhupada has taught me to do. For ‘coming into the presence,’ I often think of this Bhagavatam verse which has caught my attention:
“‘The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, whose glories and activities are pleasing to hear, at once appears on the seat of my heart, as if called for, as soon as I begin to chant His holy activities.’
“And I add a sentence from the purport, ‘Narada Muni penetrates into the presence of the Lord by the transcendental chanting.’
“I rarely open the envelopes and look at my cards. In the case of this Narada verse, I’ve memorized it. Since I mostly keep my eyes closed during the entire one-half hour session, I don’t want to break my concentration by reading cards. But just to know the cards are there if I need them is comforting.
“I don’t wait for anything special to happen. I just proceed. I try the best I can at each stage and keep moving along. I often say something like, ‘What I want more than anything is the communion of prayer itself. Please Lord, let me do this.’ Sometimes I may have a bout with doubts about the whole procedure of Krsna consciousness, so I often recite, ‘Ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures cannot attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this life nor the next.’ That usually helps. Prayer sessions are potent.”
“Srila Prabhupada was a great humorist. Here in his room in Denver, Colorado, in 1975, he had his three sannyasi disciples all breaking up into full laughter. Memory is so faulty I do not remember what produced this magic moment. It is nice to see Srila Prabhupada so relaxed that he is leaning back with his leg, and arm relaxed and cracking jokes to the amusement of his disciples. It is summertime and we are all wearing sandalwood paste smeared on our temples. Although Prabhupada was making a brief stop at a remote place, his table is stocked with all the paraphernalia he needs for his daily work on Srimad-Bhagavatam and his correspondence. The devotees have provided him with fresh flowers and a table full of devotional pictures. Prabhupada could travel around the world and simulate a similar environment wherever he stayed. His needs were standard and simple, and the devotees everywhere were aware of what to provide and what to cook. Still, the airplane traveling was tiring on his body, and wherever he went he kept a daily schedule of lecturing and meeting devotees individually.
“Although he had worldwide managerial burdens which he carried with him wherever he went, he was able to be transcendental to them and relax intimately with a few of his senior men.”
“The devotees always got excited and ecstatic when Prabhupada was in their midst. Their love for what he brought to their lives and the charisma of his presence made them smile and dance and made them want to take his photo, audio and video. He was the most important celebrity to them, more than the president of the United States or any popular entertainer. This response to Prabhupada by the devotees created scenes which seemed fanatical to outsiders. Why should these young people be so much attracted to this ‘old man’? The outsiders didn’t understand. Prabhupada was bringing Krsna, the Supreme Lord, to the devotees. He was Krsna’s direct representative. They wanted to record and retain his transcendental words and capture a visual image of his holy form. They wanted to make eye contact with him, to catch his attention, and if possible his smile.
“As it turns out, none of this behavior was exaggerated. Prabhupada was with us for only a few years, and the meetings were rare. Capturing his voice on tape or a picture of his form has become a great solace and important inspiration since his disappearance. The devotees did not overdo their enthusiasm for being near Prabhupada. He deserved every bit of it.
“For his own part, Prabhupada sometimes expressed annoyance at being photographed so much and recorded by multiple tape recorders. But he considered the recordings of his lectures important and did it himself with his own tape recorder in 1966. The crowds of eager devotees pressing to be near him may seem amusing or overdone to an outsider, but the devotees were right in their guru-bhakti and it never went in vain.”
“Prabhupada’s disciples are very attentive as he lectures, especially TKG, Bhagavan and a young Indian boy who looks like Yasomati Nandana, except he looks so young. In the second row on chairs three men dressed in white are taking notes; the others appear not so attentive. This is a big, official event, the opening ceremony for the Krishna-Balaram Mandir. Many uniformed policemen are present standing in rows at military attention; perhaps they can understand English. The most striking thing is how focused the disciples are upon Prabhupada. They are truly engaged in sravanam, in submissively hearing from their spiritual master. They are convinced in his message and soaking it in. They want to be able to preach what he is saying to others, and they know the most important key to devotional service is hearing faithfully. If they hear Prabhupada, they will be able to speak like him. They are not listening simply out of duty, but he has captured them, mesmerized them. Whatever you are going to do, if you get distracted from it you will lose the learning spell. But the disciples are wrapped up, at least for this hour.
“The policemen may not be listening learnedly, but at least they are present and are pious. That is more than you can say for more educated or uneducated people in the general population. A pure devotee is speaking krsna-katha in a holy place at an auspicious time. He is eminently qualified, and the audience ranges from total absorption to politeness. No one is disruptive.”
“There are some devotees, like Madhavananda, who live in Bhubaneswar and who think Jagannatha Puri is the best place. He lives in Bhubaneswar and likes to speak about Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in Jagannatha Puri. This is where Lord Caitanya chose to live His life and where He spent His last 12 years, in an intense mood of separation, in the mood of Radharani. So some devotees feel Jagannatha Puri is the best of all holy places.
“Lord Caitanya didn’t spend much time in Vrndavana, and many of His most advanced devotees never visited Vrndavana. When Jagadananda Pandita wanted to go there, Lord Caitanya told him not to stay there long and not to associate with the residents because they’re on a different platform. On the other hand, Lord Caitanya commissioned Rupa and Sanatana to stay there and perform service. Lord Caitanya’s attitude toward Vrndavana makes me feel comfortable not living in Vrndavana. It makes me feel all right to be living in New York, thinking of Vrndavana in separation, in the mood that Vrndavana is Goloka rather than a place in India.”
I and my friends.
Deliver us from commotion
of streets, deliver us from notions
of our inferior status.
Ha! We are white and black.
We are not brahmanas or
Hindus of Puri.
Believe we will
go there, Prabhupada our guide,
and if I can find a corner
quiet enough, Krsna
will speak through
me and to me, and
we will understand the holy names,
learn them again,
and chant, chant, chant.
Impressions while at Siddha-bakula,
back in room, feels like landing
awkwardly on the moon.
I’ve been here before,
haven’t I? Rikshaw rides,
heavy Indian voices, and
Rupa-raghunatha, soft and insistent,
takes care of the business.
Dirt streets. The entrance?
He points ahead towards more
confusion and poverty and dirt
to the sign ‘Sri Siddha-
“These memories are available in a very ready form when you listen to the lectures. In that same lecture where Prabhupada is speaking and the ice cream truck comes, there are other moments in which you feel his personal presence. Prabhupada asked a devotee to read from the Bhagavad-gita, then periodically interrupted and added his own commentary. While they were all listening to the purport being read aloud, Prabhupada’s breathing was audible on the tape. Sometimes he sighed. At one point, we hear Prabhupada say, ‘Yes.’ Hearing Prabhupada’s own submission to the sastric truth produces a special moment of faith. His whole preaching career, and, therefore, the whole Krsna consciousness movement, is based on faith that whatever is stated in the scriptures is truth. There is no way to experiment upon or investigate into matters such as the existence of the soul or the Supreme Lord. We have to accept it on the authority of the scriptures. Therefore, to hear Prabhupada say, “Yes,” in a grave voice, affirming the purport and his belief in it, is nectar. Such are the joys and intimate moment we can have by listening to tapes.”
“Srila Prabhupada rose early in the morning and spoke alone to Krsna; through his books he shared these ‘conversations’ with the whole world. His purports are a special, intimate communion with him, and through them, we can know Krsna.
We can gain more appreciation for Srila Prabhupada’s books just by understanding how much time and effort he put into writing them for our benefit. He personally typed the First and Second Cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam on his small, portable typewriter. Later, he began to dictate the verses and purports onto tapes and mail them to the typist. He rose early, usually around 1:00 A.M., and in the quiet of those early morning hours, he would absorb himself in the voices of the previous acaryas and then present their words for the common understanding of the world.
“Prabhupada said, ‘The purports are my devotional ecstasies.’ Ecstasy was a very important part of Lord Caitanya’s influence in preaching. Stern warnings from preachers may not prompt us to leave the material world, but the ecstasy of the Lord and His devotees can attract us. We can get a taste of that ecstasy if we submissively study Srila Prabhupada’s books.”
“‘Hear, O Lord, my story of sadness.’ Now Bhaktivinoda Thakura is directly requesting the Lord’s audience. His is not a purposeless lament. We need to fall before Krsna with our troubles, our self-inflicted woes, and admit to Him how we have failed to become devotees.
“A man who gets this far into Saranagati is pious enough to believe in God. Atheists don’t feel regret, at least not for failing to have served God. If they do feel regret, they either accuse God or blame other people for the corruption in their own souls. A pious man is confident that Krsna hears him.
“Admitting our wretchedness is not quite in the spiritual dimension—it’s not above the modes of nature—but it is an essential prerequisite, a sub-religious principle. If we think we are at a more transcendental stage, yet we haven’t experienced remorse for our failings, then we may be wrong.
“How can a sannyasi with disciples of his own turn back and confess his sins? It’s too embarrassing. It’s incongruous. We’d like to do it, but for various reasons we hesitate.
“Krsnadasa Kaviraja tells us that he is so sinful that if we remember his name, we will lose all our pious credits. Then he goes on to describe Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. Do we have such a humble estimation of ourselves? Are we aware of our own lack of devotion? Don’t be numb or invulnerable to sorrow. At the same time, discharge your duties in Krsna consciousness. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s songs are our guide.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura repeats his theme:
“‘I spent my childhood in play, my youth in academic pursuit, and in me there arose no sense of right or wrong. In young manhood I set up a household and settled down to the spell of material enjoyment. . . . Soon old age arrived and all happiness departed. . . . All my senses are feeble now, my body wracked and exhausted, and my spirits downcast in the absence of youthful pleasures. Devoid of even a particle of devotion, lacking any enlightenment—what help is there for me now?’
“At the end of life, you tend to summarize everything you have done. Thus you come to regret all the years you spent in illusion. You are finally free of illusion, but it is too late to suddenly turn a misspent life into a useful one. This life is already recorded—not only in your memory, but in the account books of Yamaraja’s servant, Citragupta.
“The sun is setting on the horizon of my life and it’s not a pretty picture—yet I can see it all, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I am singing this song of sadness and asking the Lord to hear it. He already knows my story, but He hears the fresh emotions of a grieving ‘old’ jiva. The grief is purifying.
“We should be so fortunate as to attain this grief before death. We are persistent in thinking that we are not sinners who wasted our lives, so we cannot sing these grief-stricken songs. Our own song, we think, should sound different. We would sing it with a stately measure and just a touch of sadness (‘Into each life a little rain must fall’). We would carefully avoid including our many misdemeanors and felonies or the overall wretchedness of our condition. We don’t sing our true song because we don’t even know what it is. We can at least admit, however, that the song of contrition is more purifying and pleasing to God than a song that leaves these elements out.
“What is this life that moves into old age with no deep sense of spiritual assessment? Why do we only measure success or failure by worldly calculation?: ‘I’m fifty-three years old. Maybe I’ll live to be seventy. I better keep active and fit. I should try to repair my health, change my diet, and get regular exercise. I could still learn a new language, and there’s time for picking up some computer skills. Maybe I would like to go back to college and get an extra degree? Or learn to play the harmonium? It’s not too late . . .’ So we calculate.”
I’ll have no ITM in Newcastle
but you dance with me
don’t drop the ‘g’
If you want to be proper
dance a little in your
old age and still be happy
Hoppy I planned with
him, gave us tapioca and
soya drink for breakfast
I can rhyme on time
they couldn’t find
but the soul, Rama assured,
with his around the person
and Narada too,
he goes to Vaikuntha or
much lower but is
How can you know?
We say it,
Vedas say it
You don’t know me?
I was a Catholic, I
was a samba dancer
I was a black-and-white
kind to cats and dogs
but rats I killed
when the man was
old and cold, no one cared
for him and Lear went nuts
Krsna emotion grab onto
be nuts for Him, Swami said
is okay, fiercely
tear out hair
wear heart on sleeve
fresh up wrist
prove you’re a devotee
or artist, I don’t want to
hurt/I just want to
be treated easy, put me
in a time slot to perform
each takes a solo and I’ve got mine
he begins and ends and I was not
start and leap, Krsna taught
persons sought cooperate
and come together or stay
no politics, just emotion
he said, she said
Buy the pancake batter
in seven wheats, no white”
I’m losing weight
to South Side Samba
the son and grandson
of Krsna danced all night
with His –
Here we are
at the preaching place
exile of halava hill
Hindu temple on
Diwali day in Tyneside
football crowd throw the
prasadam and run
I told you, I’d leave Wicklow.
Karttika in exile I told in
arranged meters in Newcastle
regular alphabet-soup poems
“To remember ISKCON’s height
intensifies its demise,” he said.
Krsna, I said, is
exile from Vrindavan is
X-rated as a theme but he
intended to make it cute.
Long-winded prose experts
extolled him as a rascal.
His cela said,
You’re back. Now prove yourself.
No young woman or aging woman,
no temple to maintain,
no schedule to lead the devotees
I don’t get on the telephone.
Except with my doctor
squeeze it out
Krsna, Hare Krsna, it will take
some time to get back to a
routine and ask yourself
who you are and chant
your Lord’s names,
don’t be afraid.
Lord doesn’t fit in
land of Vraja is
more for fit for it
I give you Eire, U.S.A.,
I give you who I am
but if you are an ISKCONite
you want Gaura and
He could blow a tune
we knew was cool
if fortune breaks
your cushy scene
you can drink beer at
the bar but the devotee
of Krsna won’t care for
it. He’ll go on trading
fours with his best friend
Sri Krsna in his heart.
He shakes it and I’m glad
for Krsna. No other way
paint the house,
ask for a cat to come
and live with you to chase
away the rats.
Eat a pie and watch it digest
close your eyes and prefer
a digestion taking place
in a jiff so you
can honor the next feast
and glow with austerity
in the afternoon.
Lest my Lester leaps in.
Oh, hold, man, I didn’t see
you as idea, but I understand
you – why do you…”
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.