Our Janmastami program had disappointingly low attendance. But Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu and his secretary Sraddha were there. And Kirtan Rasa got excused from a court hearing just to attend. Damodara and his son Prahlad attended. And the usual close members and friends of Viraha Bhavan were present. Those who attended said it was nicer this way than attending a big temple program with hundreds or thousands of people standing elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder in a big crowd.
I was gratified to be able to deliver my lecture to a live audience, instead of just rehearsing it in my mind. I read a few commentaries by the acaryas which said that Krsna was born from Yasoda, who also gave birth to Yogamaya, the spiritual energy. But then I said, “In the face of this evidence we have to face the fact that Prabhupada called Nanda Maharaja the foster father of Krsna two dozen times in his writings and two dozen times in his speeches.” I recalled for my audience how, when I was a young sannyasi staying at the Krsna Balaram Guesthouse, an elderly sannyasi from the Gaudiya Math came to my room just for the purpose of telling me that Prabhupada made a mistake by calling Nanda Maharaja the stepfather of Krsna. I was annoyed and disgusted with him, but didn’t argue. Today I was able to explain myself further and defend Srila Prabhupada. I said, “In the ultimate issue, there is not much difference between saying Krsna was born of Devaki or that He is the foster son of Nanda. A foster son and his foster father can have just as loving a relationship as the son and his biological father and mother.” In Devaki and Vasudeva’s case, Krsna was in danger of being killed by Kamsa when He was in the care of Devaki. So He had to be transferred to Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja, under whose care He grew up. The relationship of Nanda and Yasoda with Krsna is very sweet. And Prabhupada has many times said that Yasoda is a higher devotee than Devaki because she loves Krsna as her own child with no conception of His godhood, whereas Devaki thinks of Krsna as the Supreme Lord. I was glad to explain to the audience that it was a matter of substance over form. Nanda took the substance, that Krsna was his lovable son. And Prabhupada explained it this way without bothering with the formalities. By doing this, Prabhupada didn’t disturb his new audience, who were reading English and who were Westernized, and he did not want to tell them the esoteric meaning of Yasoda’s giving birth to Krsna.
After I finished speaking, a devotee came up to me and said how outrageous that Gaudiya sannyasi was. Regardless of the issues of the birth, he was wrong to try to break the faith of a young disciple of Prabhupada by telling him his spiritual master was wrong. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is not a single mention of Yasoda giving birth to Krsna or also giving birth to Krsna. It was gratifying that on the day of Janmastami I was able to turn my talk into an expression of faith in Srila Prabhupada’s presentation.
We had a lot of kirtan and arati. The kirtan was performed by Damodara Priya dasi while playing a harmonium. Then Krsna dasi performed an arati to the Deities. (She also prepared a floral backdrop to Radha-Govinda upstairs.) After the singing and arati, I asked Ravindra Svarupa whether he was going to fast today until midnight, or would he honor prasadam with us? He said he would be glad to honor prasadam with us. Almost all the other devotees in attendance honored the delicious feast, which was a joint effort by several devotees. Kamini dasi made a peas, curd and cauliflower sabji, and made coriander chutney for the savories and a lemon-mint drink, which was very refreshing. The savories were made by Lalita-kisori and Manohara. They consisted of well made samosas with a crispy outside and sweet pepper pakoras and bathuras. They also jointly made sweets: tiramisu and sandesa. Baladeva prepared spinach, paneer sabji, blueberry halava and sweet rice. There were compliments from everyone about the feast. I only complained that two big portions were put on my plate. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu also asked for half of what they had put on his plate.
For Janmastami we had a special flower bower erected over the wooden backdrop behind Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda. The bower was filled with red carnations, pink roses, daisies, mums, and other flowers. Krsna dasi made it, and it added a splendor for Radha-Govinda. The only drawback was that the bower blocked my view of the Prabhupada murti. So we are taking it down today in order to clearly see and worship Prabhupada on his Vyasa-puja day.
We celebrated Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja intimately but very nicely. Krsna dasi did all the organizing, with a few assistants. Janardana, Krishna Kumari and their grown up young children graced us with their presence. My Prabhupada murti and his vyasasana were placed downstairs. I had a perfect front-row view of him. He had a long arch of flowers over his head. He was wearing a big yellow garland of dahlias, and another made of red carnations. We took turns reading from the Tributes book. I read my own, the one by Jayadvaita Swami, and the contribution by Giriraja Swami. Then I passed the book to Janardana and he read from Krishna Kshetra Swami’s tribute. We proceeded to pass the book around, and devotees read the different tributes. I had chosen my favorite tributes, and the devotees said they were moving. I asked the devotees present to read tributes, but only one devotee read his. The others were too shy to read an homage of their own. After the readings, a devotee recited the mangalacarana prayers, and we ended with throwing flowers at Prabhupada and calling out, “Svaha!” Then after some kirtana and singing of Guruvastakam, we went to the kitchen, or outside under the tents, and honored a feast for Prabhupada that was equal to the feast on Janmastami. Everyone agreed it was a nice, intimate way to observe Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja.
Garuda sent me a Janmastami gift: his translation of the famous song, Jaya Radha-Madhava:
jaya radha-madhava kunja-vihari
“How wonderful is the Goddess Radha
with Her divine beloved Madhava
who is Sri Krsna, Lord of Sweetness,
as They play in the lush groves of Vraja.
The Vraja Gopikas, the cowherd maidens
are so very loved by Sri Krsna.
Sri Krsna is He who holds up Govardhana,
the most excellent among mountains.
Yasoda is Sri Krsna’s mother,
to whom He gives unending joy.
And it is the inhabitants of Vraja
in whom Sri Krsna constantly delights.
It is on the river Yamuna
and its banks that Sri Krsna roams.
And it is the forest of Vraja
through which Sri Krsna wanders.”
I went for blood work today. We had a late start because there was some confusion whether we had the wheelchair in the back of the car. Baladeva asked Manohara if it was there, but Manohara was confused with the question and said it wasn’t there. (Manohara thought Baladeva said, “Are the dentures in the back of the car?”) So after five minutes of driving to the medical center we returned to the house, only to discover that the wheelchair was in the back of the car.
We drove quickly and reached the Valatie Medical Center on time for our appointment. We had to wait awhile while our nurse, Brenda, was figuring out which tests to give us because it was unclear. Part of the blood work was for the CAT scan on Thursday, and part of it was for the annual wellness exam I took earlier this month with my doctor, Ryan Marshall. When we finally got to see her, she was her expert self, not causing any pain when she inserted the needle and withdrawing three vials of blood. We told her she was the best, and she said, “I try.” When the office visit was over, we went to the parking lot and I broke my fast. It was Ekadasi, so I had banana buckwheat halava and milk. It was a delicious change from tapioca. The other men also honored prasadam, and we returned to Viraha Bhavan at 10:30 A.M. We accomplished the whole adventure in an hour, which was pretty good.
Thursday morning we went for the CAT scan, as ordered by my doctor. At home, in the morning, I had to drink two bottles of a radioactive cocktail, barium sulfate, and I had to fast four hours before the CAT scan. The cocktail wasn’t pleasant-tasting, and this time I had to drink two bottles of it. As predicted, it lay unsettled in my stomach.
We drove to the St. Peter’s Imaging Center half an hour away. We didn’t have to wait long before the technician called for me, “Stephen?” I went into the room, and she gave me directions. She gave me a contrast injection in my arm. As she did so, the technician told me I might feel some “flushing” in my intestines as if I was passing urine (although I did not pass any). I felt the warmth in my lower region. Then I had to lay down with my feet facing a large machine with an open mouth. The technician told me that the machine itself would give me directions once it moved me “inside the ring.” She told me to expect that it would command me to first take a small breath and then a long breath lasting twenty seconds. She asked me to raise my arms and hands and put them to the back of my head. I told her this position was very uncomfortable. She told me to “hang in there” and that it would not be long. But it was a painful position. Then she went away, and the machine moved me to its “innards.” I heard the machine telling me to take a breath, and I took a short breath. After I let it out, it commanded me to take another breath, this one lasting twenty seconds. I did the best I could do, and then it was over. The whole thing took only ten minutes. She told us our doctor would get the results later today, and that we would know the results tomorrow. So aside from the results and the ill-tasting cocktail, the whole experience was an easy one. Baladeva maneuvered us in a half-hour drive, hanging behind two different long trailer trucks.
(Immediately after we left the imaging center, I had my second picnic in less than a week in the parking lot, in the car, to break my fast. This time it was pistachio-banana halava with a cup of warm milk. I asked if it was offered, and they said of course, yes. We left our house at 8:30 A.M. and were back at 10:30.)
All the employees at the imaging center took Baladeva’s prasadam chocolate-chip cookies, and they welcomed them. So it was another good date for prasadam distribution. I am still uncomfortable in the stomach from the barium cocktail, but the technician said it would eventually go away. I am supposed to drink more water in order to flush the barium out of my kidneys.
(Two poems by Jayanta dasa, a disciple of Kadamba Kanana Maharaja)
Four days before leaving for Vrndavana
I tested positive for COVID
I’m already gliding into couch-potato mode.
Did you know that a home virus test takes exactly as long to show results
as a frozen pizza?
Hard to chant with a scratchy throat, easy to find excuses.
How does one respond to this kind of event?
I determined to go there in my mind, touch the dust to my head when I enter,
go to Mangala Arati at 4:00 A.M. each day,
Buy beautiful outfits for Gaura-Nitai,
And feel the undeniable inspiration from Deity whose eyes can see me
From japa sitting quietly at the Samadhi of Srila Prabhupada,
From every moment that I feel that I am right there in my own heart
And the heart of everything.”
He learned of my inability to join him.
‘That is a disappointment. In my mind I already had several
conversations with you.’
they have taken place
in the timeless realm of our affection.
Everything was composed perfectly.”
(Jayanta has a website where his recent poems are regularly posted. I recommend to my readers to go there regularly. The website is poetrybyjayanta.com)
We are anticipating a visit by ten members of the Prabhupada Sena group on Saturday. They are planning to finish painting the barn. For the high side of the barn, they are going to rent a lift and a power paint-sprayer, because to use ladder is too dangerous for inexperienced men. We have to get permission from the fire chief of the Stuyvesant Falls Fire Company to use their lane for several hours while the work is going on. In any case, if there’s a fire we can get out of the way because the lift is driveable.
The Sena group is also going to take everything out of the garage and clean it. After they clean the tools, they’ll put them back on the proper shelves so that everything can be seen and in order. At present, there are many mixed piles of tools and fasteners and other types of hardware. There are also plumbing supplies, electrical supplies and masonry supplies. So it’s a big mess. Also included in the garage is all the paraphernalia for the festivals: spoons, forks, tablecloths, plates, chafing dishes, propane tanks, burners, etc.
The house which is the Viraha Bhavan asrama and the house where Krsna dasi and the women stay are both old houses (1860) and in constant need of maintenance. Today Baladeva went over to Krsna dasi’s house, and he was asked to do some emergency repair work. Her shower was plugged, and was only letting out hot water. Baladeva, although not much experienced in plumbing, was able to fix the shower, at least temporarily. Atindra dasa said that he would like to look at it, and he thinks a more permanent fix is possible. (He took a course in plumbing, so he has some extra ability.)
Back at Viraha Bhavan, Baladeva also cut down some small trees that were crowding out the flower plants around the house. Fortunately he was able to do it, and there’s still more to be done. While he was working at removing the trees, I interrupted him and called him upstairs to work on the Journal. Krsna dasi also asked him to fix her front door, which was missing a doorknob and has a faulty lock. So she’s not able to leave the door open and get fresh air in the house, nor is she able to lock it at night for safety. Fortunately, Atindra showed up and said he could fix that. These are all small, intricate jobs that wind up taking a lot of time because you’re working on very old walls and doors and hardware which is so old it’s sometimes hard to replace without turning into a more serious project.
The Prabhupada Sena men have to come back to finish their work on the barn, which was in a seriously deteriorated condition before they started working on it.
These are the “horrors” of household life.
“I’d rather be chanting.”
I have just begun my preparation for a Radhastami lecture. I want to stick to what Prabhupada has given us. I will begin with a quote by Prabhupada in a lecture where he says, “In order to understand Radha-Krsna, we have to go to Lord Caitanya.” Today’s Journal will come out on Friday. And the next Saturday (September 3) is Radhastami. I invite you to listen to the Zoom coverage (Meeting ID 617 108 1206/ Password 108) or the YouTube the next day.
It’s finally raining today in Stuyvesant Falls after a month of no rain. It’s too late to make up for the dry days, but it’s better than nothing. If it could only rain all day, and more days of rain! As far as the delicious sweet corn which we humans eat, the season may be shorter than usual if we don’t start getting rain. All the other crops like eggplants, peppers and tomatoes are all smaller due to lack of water, unless they are automatically irrigated, which the small farms can’t afford. We’re living in an agricultural community, so this is hometown news. Sorry it’s not more exciting. (At least it’s not like the city, where there is murder, drive-by shootings, armed robbery, arson, and other serious crimes.)
Baladeva’s sister Kathi and her fifty-year-old son David are coming from Maine for a visit. They will stay upstairs in the attic rooms of Krsna dasi’s house. This week that they’re here, there’s going to be a heat wave. So the rooms would be uncomfortable without air conditioning. One room already has a window unit; Baladeva picked up another unit on sale this morning for the other room, so that they’re more comfortable. Dave is going to remodel the kitchen. He’s going to remove the two thirty-year-old ovens and replace them with cabinets for utensils and small pots. Dave is an expert carpenter, so we are lucky they are coming. We lost all the cabinet space when we installed our new stove, so it’s been very unwieldy to cook in our busy kitchen.
Kathi usually helps with cleaning, and she’s good entertainment. Both mother and son are Buddhists, and we have to be careful not to do any Buddha-bashing when they’re around. In our out-loud reading we hope we won’t come to a passage where there’s Buddha-bashing. (Kathi stopped coming to the readings after one particularly strong Buddha-bashing session in Caitanya-caritamrta.)
1) Please reveal the lotus faces of You Both as, with the
enthusiasm of two maddened elephants, You enjoy pastimes
in the pleasure-groves of Vrndavana. O Queen, please be kind
to me. Please be kind.
2) Falling down like a stick on the ground, distressed,
and stammering with words choked with emotion, I beg You:
O Queen Gandharvika, please be kind to this foolish person
and count him one of Your associates.
3) O beautiful one, when shall I worship You, Your intense
beauty leaving the goddess of fortune far behind, and Your
transcendental form bound by the left arm of Lord Syama, who
charms all the worlds with His handsomeness far greater than
that of Lord Narayana?
4) O Queen, when, covering You with a cape that is as
splendid as a monsoon cloud, and removing Your ankle-bells from
Your feet, will I lead happy You to a splendid forest grove at night
for a meeting with the Prince of Vraja?
5) When, as You, the two ornaments of the three worlds,
recline on a pastime-bed of flowers and enjoy pastimes of sweet
joking words, will this person massage Your lotus feet?
6) O Queen of Vrndavana, when, the two of You, staying
under a tree by the shore of Your lake and Your handsome lotus faces
kissed with perspiration from the fatigue of Your pastimes, will I fan
You Both with a camara whisk?
7) When, as You playfully hide in a forest cave, and Citra hints
that now, O beautiful-eyed one, You are trapped by Mukunda, and I
say, ‘Don’t knit Your eyebrows,’ will I lead You, as You feign anger,
into the presence of the Prince of Vraja?
8) When will I see You as, after defeating the Prince of Vraja
in a playful verbal duel, intoxicated with happiness and speaking
many proud words, You are elaborately praised by Your blossoming
9) Whatever surrendered devotee reads these eight appeals
to the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, She, along with Her Beloved,
happily splashes with waves of mercy.
“In the early days of surrendering to the Swami, we believed the sastra or whatever the Swami said, just because he said it. And we were attracted to his teachings not because an institution taught us the “official truth,” but because we were very pleased and enthused to read his books and hear from him. We found his writing style exciting. All of this original wonder is still available, but with time and repetition, we tend to become familiar, and read only as duty. I notice when I do read more carefully, and when I seek a rendezvous with Prabhupada and Krsna, then the vital appreciation comes back. Recalling the early days may also be helpful, reminding us how Krsna consciousness was so personal and entertaining. If we do not keep up the process for staying alive and awake to original nectar, we may fall dead in spiritual life, even without knowing it.
“Our enthusiasm for hearing philosophy from Prabhupada in the early days was not without a sound basis. We understood that the absolute truth did not have to tally with mundane science or material reality. There was a higher principle of truth, coming by the descending process. We accepted this principle with vigor and enthusiasm. It is probably a fact that our innocence has been lost over the years, although it has been replaced realistically with strong foundations of knowledge and faith in Prabhupada. ISKCON continues to take Srila Prabhupada’s statements very seriously, but we have also become ‘sadder but wiser’ in seeing our inability to carry out those instructions. We have also gradually become more aware of the many kinds of philosophies and groups who are in opposition to what Prabhupada was saying. As Krsna consciousness has spread, it has been challenged more, and there has been more counter-reply. Thus we become more aware that our appreciation of Prabhupada clashes with the material reality. We are concerned with ‘presenting’ Prabhupada in a palatable way, and we are more careful with our logical presentation. We also sometimes assume that we have now fully grasped Prabhupada’s message; now we are more interested in tracking down the details and in working out any of the apparent contradictions in what he said. But this kind of sober scholarship can sometimes become boring.
“Another possible danger as time goes by is that Prabhupada’s followers may lose touch with his personal nature. We can see this in the history of world religions. In Christianity some of the followers have developed an impersonal attitude toward Jesus Christ, and some may not even believe in his historic reality. They talk more about ‘The Christ within each one of us.’ There is also a danger of doing that with Prabhupada. Although we do say that Prabhupada is inconceivable and beyond what we know of him in Prabhupada, yet we also know that his personal nature is very real, important, and lasting. He is the pure devotee of Krsna, and his appearance in our lives is still our greatest solace. When Prabhupada delivers us Krsria conscious knowledge, we accept it in parampara and because the knowledge is formidable and appealing—but also because it comes from him.
“By the sheer number of times we refer to Prabhupada and turn to him, a strain is placed upon the freshness of our perception. Our desire for novelty is not satisfied. When that happens we look elsewhere for pleasure. And then an unfortunate thing occurs. Despite our official praise for Prabhupada, we find difficulty in reading his books. This is the dreaded rigor mortis that comes from too much institutionalism and not enough personal care for our personal relationship and memories with Srila Prabhupada.
“As with any worthy human relationship, our loving relationship with Prabhupada can be kept fresh, but we have to make an effort. One way I have found to fight against mechanical or boring reading sessions is to read Prabhupada prayerfully, not just for gaining information or to finish a big quantity of pages. I read as a way to meet him and be with him. This is just one of many methods. We may have to try out new varieties and approaches just to stay alive in Prabhupada consciousness. It will not happen automatically by reciting a ‘Pledge of Allegiance,’ but by keeping oneself alive.
“I had some success recently in rereading the purports of Isopanisad.
I walked back and forth so that I would not become sleepy. With my senses and mind alert, I began to appreciate how Prabhupada was using words that were down-to-earth. There was a constant energy in his sentences and in his thinking. Prabhupada did not write as a mechanical routine; it was real for him, and so it can be real for us if we tune in to his wavelength. Prabhupada refers to this as ‘submissive aural reception.’
“When we can read in this way, it becomes enjoyable. When we read only as duty, we become guilt-ridden. We think, ‘I know I am supposed to worship this book, so why can’t I? What is wrong with me?” Then we start forcing ourselves and kicking ourselves, ‘Read Prabhupada! You are supposed to do it!’ But if you push and nag a little child, he will not like it and he will rebel. While reading and walking with the Isopanisad, I found myself spontaneously appreciating Prabhupada’s purport, ‘Hey, this is good!’ (I also got renewed appreciation for the fact that the verses were translated by Prabhupada. They had his flavor: ‘The self-sufficient philosopher who is awarding everyone’s desires since time immemorial . . . ‘)
“As I received the gift of an alert rereading, it also occurred to me that it used to be like this. Everything was exciting—the change of diet on Ekadasi days; the evening kirtanas; your new relationships with Godbrothers and Godsisters in the temples of other cities; the Deity worship; the excitement of giving a lecture; meeting the public and representing Prabhupada . . . everything was new and fresh, including the reading of his books.”
“When Christian theologians use the term ‘the historical Christ,’ they mean that person whose life story is told in the gospel. This is only one level of thinking about Christ for them. They also think of him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord, and so on. Some speculate about Christ in an impersonal way. Thus they speak of ‘the logos’ and ‘the Christ within everyone.’ Sometimes when you hear this talk, you say, ‘
‘Wait a minute. What about the person?’ The scholars reply, ‘We’re not so interested in the historical person.’
“The first time I heard one of Prabhupada’s followers say this I was shocked.
‘We don’t want to become a cult of Prabhupada worshipers,’ he said. ‘Prabhupada is a link in the parampara. The important thing is the message coming down. Prabhupada never said that he was important.”
“‘But Prabhupada is the person who saved me,’ I said. The message did not come to save me by itself; the person saved me. I want to worship and think of that person.
“If we minimize the historical Prabhupada, then we open the possibility that one of us can take his place. ‘Now I am the next person in the link. I am important now.’ Therefore, when remembering the teachings of Krsna consciousness, it is important to do it in a personal way. When I think of Prahlada Maharaja and his relationship with Krsna, I think, ‘Prabhupada is sweet to write it in these words.’ If I don’t think of Prabhupada in a personal way, then I am missing out.
“Prabhupada is mysterious and we cannot fully understand him. We know him the way an affectionate child knows his father. We think, ‘This was my father’s cup and these were his shoes. This is what he says.’ We know him in a familiar way, yet we also know that he is inconceivable. We should never minimize the strength that we get by thinking of ourselves as followers of that person, Prabhupada.
“If I study a God consciousness or Vaisnava philosophy with someone who does not have a tight connection with guru—or if I myself do not feel my connection to Srila Prabhupada—then spiritual life becomes vague. There is a hollow feeling. Someone may talk of ‘experience of God,’ but you want to ask him, ‘Do you know what you are talking about? Do you have experience of this?’ No matter what he may say, he cannot convince or touch me the way Prabhupada did. That which is most solid for me in Krsna consciousness is based on my relationship with Prabhupada. It comes to this: God is known by our relationship to the guru. If all you know is guru, you are doing all right. Vaisnava philosophy does not approve of strong aspirations for connection with God while maintaining weak connections to guru.”
“When Prabhupada heard that IBM was donating free typewriters to bona fide educational institutions, he asked me to go get one. I met with the man, but when he heard the description of our ISKCON storefront, he said, ‘I am sorry, but these typewriters are only for educational institutions.’ I replied that Krsna consciousness is the king of education. It teaches absolute knowledge. Mathematics, for example, is one department of knowledge within the Absolute Truth. Therefore, ISKCON is an educational institution. He decided not to argue with me, but said that he would send his representative out to check on the quality of classes at 26 Second Avenue. Of course, no one ever came. An impartial educator, however, would have to admit that learning was going on in Prabhupada’s classes. Prabhupada was teaching us the principles and objectives of spiritual science as passed down by the great acaryas of India.
“Anyone who studies Prabhupada’s books becomes educated in the most important subject. Whenever a follower of Prabhupada hears a discussion of God consciousness, he spots contradictions or a ‘poor fund of knowledge’ wherever it occurs. Even a young brahmacari can note the flaws in the presentation of learned theologians or clergymen. Theologians are puzzled as to ‘why bad things happen to good people.’ Some of them theorize that God may be all good, but He is not all powerful.
“Some say that God cannot have a form or that God exists only in human relationships—but we can see this as a poor fund of knowledge.
“One of the benefits of a good education in any field is that one easily meets opposition from prejudiced or ignorant persons. Sometimes people would ask Prabhupada, ‘What is your faith?’ Prabhupada usually replied, ‘It is not faith, it is fact.’ He also said, ‘You may believe or not believe, that is a different thing.’ When a devotee meets a strong-minded atheist, the devotee sees right away that the atheist is only speaking for himself. We are not shaken in our convictions. Let us always thank Prabhupada for giving us the best education in the most important of all subjects. It is not a sectarian religious education. It is not less important than material knowledge. Prabhupada teaches raja-vidya, the king of education. Most of us are unqualified to receive this education, and yet we have received a full scholarship. Just as an underprivileged person feels fortunate to receive a scholarship to a top university, we are grateful that Prabhupada has accepted us into the university of Vaisnava brahmanism.
A few colleges now give credits to Prabhupada’s students in courses based on his books. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that Krsna conscious students will be given as much credit in the world as science or business students. If Vaisnavas became recognized as educators, that would be nice. If not, we will go on teaching. One who is trained by Prabhupada is better than a Ph.D.—yet he humbly thinks himself unadvanced.
“The subject in which we are trained, love of Krsna, is unlimitedly vast. We can never know everything about Krsna. Therefore, a Ph.D. in this field honestly says that he does not have deep love for Krsna. He reasons that if he had love for Krsna, how could he live in this world without Him? The accomplished student of Krsna consciousness never considers himself a master of this subject and never becomes puffed-up. He acknowledges that even simple people can receive God consciousness by the direct method of chanting the holy names. Prabhupada has taught us everything: he has given the syllabus and the practices, and he has stressed humility. This is true education.”
“One of my favorite examples of this is how Prabhupada spoke in his very last days and how he lightened one of the heaviest moments of all. At that time, the devotees were in great anxiety because Prabhupada said he wanted to go on an oxcart parikrama. When some of the devotees pleaded with Prabhupada to please not go, Prabhupada agreed because they were in so much anxiety. Then Tamal Krsna Maharaja said, ‘Actually, Srila Prabhupada, we’re so much attached to you that you practically drive us to madness sometimes. Tonight we’re becoming mad.’
“‘No, no, I shall not do that,’ said Prabhupada. ‘Babaji Maharaja,’ Prabhupada turned to Niskincana Krsnadasa Babaji and said, ‘just see how much affection they have for me.’
“‘Srila Prabhupada,’ said Tamal Krsna, ‘the way you deal with us simply deepens our attachment every moment.’
“‘It is my duty,’ said Prabhupada.
“This remark is almost the climax of Prabhupada’s life, and the explanation of his relationship with all of his disciples. It is a profound and final statement. ‘That is my duty’—it was his duty to draw us to him in love. But Prabhupada followed this remark immediately with a lighthearted remark. He said, ‘That is my duty. . . . My Scottish professors used to pronounce the word “duty” as “juti.”’ Prabhupada wouldn’t refuse a sweet, light moment whenever it occurred to him, or a reminiscence or a touch of humanness even in the midst of deep and transcendental talk.
“Prabhupada never behaved loosely. No one ever questioned his restraint, and he never acted inappropriately. He was a perfect gentleman. Being elderly, he was also restrained in his physical expressions. Yet one can see in photos of Prabhupada how he sometimes swung a fist or made exuberant gestures with his cane on a morning walk. He would burst into a radiant smile, and all the devotees around him would also smile. Even at these times, however, Prabhupada always seemed to be in control. His manner was refined, as was befitting a world acarya. He wouldn’t even sit down on a chair at an outdoor cafe in Paris because liquor was served in that place.
“Prabhupada never overate, and he always kept his diet simple. But perhaps ‘‘letting go’ might be expressed when he ate a few extra samosas or a few extra sweets. None of this was ever seen as excessive by his devotees, but rather it gave them extra delight.
“When Prabhupada wasn’t in public, he would relax more. There is a nice photo of him in his Mayapur room where he’s leaning back and has his feet up on the low desk. In most formal photos, Prabhupada sits in the half-lotus position, but this photo shows a ‘down home,’ intimate moment, with his servant, Srutakirti, sitting nearby.
“Prabhupada was also relaxed with some of his Godbrothers or contemporary sadhus. There are pictures of Prabhupada with Hanuman Prasad Poddar and with other aged persons, and pictures of Prabhupada with Sridhara Maharaja of Navadvipa. Prabhupada and the other persons present are breaking into huge grins, and everyone seems to be shaking uncontrollably with laughter at a shared joke. Prabhupada’s disciples certainly considered themselves part of a rare moment when they were included in on such scenes, even if they didn’t know exactly what was going on.”
“One of the nicest pleasures in life is to be able to walk before dawn in a place like Ireland, ready to recall Prabhupada. I am very grateful to Krsna and Prabhupada for allowing me to do this. And I am thankful these recalled memories can be preserved and shared with others.
“It has been fourteen years since Prabhupada left. You can almost see the lifelines, like lines drawn on a piece of paper. You can see where Prabhupada’s life begins in 1896, and where it ended in 1977. Then you can see our lives, starting at much later points, then running along contemporaneously with Prabhupada. His line stops, and our line continues. That’s what is going on now. To say that Prabhupada’s line stops doesn’t mean he is finished. It means he has gone somewhere else, perhaps in a different form. Our line may be continuing in this world, but it will not continue forever. It’s all relative. As Krsna says to Arjuna, ‘Before you were born you were unmanifest, now you are manifest for a little while, after this you will be unmanifest again. So why are you lamenting?’
“Don’t lament that your contact with Prabhupada was so brief. Don’t lament that he has been gone so long that you can hardly remember him. And don’t think that you will never see him again. The time that you were with him, although brief, is precious; that association continues through his vani. You feel his absence, you feel separation, and you anticipate joining him wherever he is. All this will come true for one who has faith. You will go to Krsna, and you will be with Prabhupada. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, ‘Only by devotional service can I be known as I am, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And when one is absorbed in such consciousness of Me, then he will be able to enter the kingdom of God.’
“In his purport to that verse, Prabhupada says that by devotional service, the devotee will ‘eventually’ reach the Lord in Krsnaloka. The pure devotee will also be present. Krsna is never alone. You will be with your spiritual master again when you attain the perfection of life.
“If the spiritual world is the real goal, then why do I keep going back to that infinitesimal span of time—the 1966 days? Prabhupada’s lila was so sweet then, and it was also a special time for me, the time when he lifted me out of the cycle of birth and death. I cannot help remembering it now. That remembrance reinforces my conviction not to fall back into material life.”
“We can see the perfect example of service in separation in Srila Prabhupada’s own relationship with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Prabhupada only met him a handful of times over the years, but the instructions he received through those few meetings, and those contained within a letter he received before his spiritual master’s departure, formed his entire life’s work. In 1967, when Prabhupada was leaving for India, one devotee was crying, and Prabhupada said, ‘I can understand that you are feeling separation. I am feeling for my Guru Maharaja also. This is Krsna consciousness.’ (Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta)
“We have heard that serving Krsna in separation is the same as being with Him, because He is absolute. Although Prabhupada is a jiva, this same principle can be applied. The Bhagavatam states that the pure devotee is always within the core of the heart of the Lord, and the Lord is always within the heart of the devotee. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.4.68: ‘The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them.’) In the Introduction to the Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada defines ‘Krsna’ as including all the expansions and pure devotees. (‘Introduction.’ Nectar of Devotion) Srila Prabhupada states the principle of the spiritual master being present in the heart in his concluding words to Caitanya-caritamrta. ‘I think that His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adi kavaye. ‘Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Paramatma feature is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.’ That the spiritual master is considered the same as the caitya-guru and the serving guru (diksa or siksa) is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
“‘When one becomes serious to follow the mission of the spiritual master, his resolution is tantamount to seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means the meeting of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the instruction of the spiritual master. . . . One should serve the words of the spiritual master and stick to whatever he orders, and by following that line one sees the Personality of Godhead.’ (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.51)”
“Before meeting my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, I used to think of humility as extremely elusive and mental; if one became humble, then wouldn’t he be proud of his humility? It seemed more like an abstract game than a substantial reality. But now I have seen humility in Srila Prabhupada and in the great Vaisnava acaryas of the past. In his Saranagati, Bhaktivinoda Thakura evokes the attitude of humility in a way that is very helpful to devotees. Although Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an empowered, liberated acarya, he describes himself as one of the fallen conditioned souls, and thus he laments having wasted his life without Krsna consciousness. He says that he is coming to Krsna consciousness at the end of his life, not because of his own virtuous decision but because material life has ruined him and he now has no alternative. He is truly humiliated, forced by the vicissitudes of time and fate to be humble. Seeing ‘gloomy death approaching,’ finding himself unable to enjoy sense pleasures, he humbly harkens to the message of Lord Caitanya.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura also expresses sadness that he did not surrender to Krsna long before, and this sadness is also a devotional sentiment. It is far superior to the blind enjoyer, who goes along merrily in ignorance. The humble devotee, as expressed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, captures the dictionary meaning of humble: ‘aware of one’s shortcomings.’ But beyond the dictionary meaning, Bhaktivinoda Thakura is seeing everything in its relation to Krsna. Having reached the point of hopelessness, he thinks he cannot be saved; and yet, going beyond hopelessness, he receives the message Krsna’s pure devotee compassionately delivers to him. There is hope. Krsna has saved so many fallen souls, and He can save another. Saranagati, therefore, teaches us that humility is not a superficial thing. It is deep, honest, and natural, and it comes when a conditioned soul sees his failure and unpretentiously begs Krsna for forgiveness and engagement in devotional service.
“In his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada writes: “Humility means that one should not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honored by others.”
And Lord Caitanya in Siksastaka gives the ultimate expression of humility: ‘One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.’
“Humility is glorious and is one of the prime qualities of a transcendentally situated person. Srrla Prabhupada says, ‘The qualities of humbleness and meekness lead very quickly to spiritual realization.’
“Out of humility the sannyasi goes from door to door, not exactly to beg but to awaken the householders to Krsna consciousness. Meeting many difficulties in his traveling and preaching, the sannyasi remains tolerant and humble and therefore gains the strength to go on preaching.
“No one is fit to approach Krsna’s lotus feet unless he is humble. Humility before Krsna is natural, of course, because He is the Supreme. Similarly, humility before the Vaisnava is also natural, because he is the servant of the greatest.
“When Krsnadasa Kaviraja said, ‘I am so sinful that if you simply remember my name you will lose all the credit for your pious activities,’ he actually meant it. Such humility, however, is not so cheap that one can obtain it simply by writing ‘Humbly yours’ before signing his name. It cannot be imitated; it must develop gradually. If one sincerely desires to be a devotee and faces facts honestly, then he must drop all arrogance and pride. Following in the path of the previous acaryas, he will note how Lord Caitanya showed humility by accepting Himself as a fool before His spiritual master, Isvara Puri. An honest devotee will conclude, ‘What am I compared to Lord Caitanya? My place is humble. I have very stupidly entered the cycle of birth and death. So what do I have to be proud of?’
“When Lord Caitanya came into the company of Mayavadi sannyasis at Benares, He humbly sat by the place where everyone washed their feet. The Mayavadi sannyasis had taken elevated seats, and when they saw Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu so humble and meek, they thought He must be lamenting. They couldn’t understand His meekness. His humility was inconceivable.
“Rupa Gosvami. and Haridasa Thakura also exemplified humility by living in a hut at a distance from the temple in Jagannatha Puri. And in recognition of their humility Lord Caitanya daily visited them, giving them His intimate blessings.
“Sanatana Gosvami showed his humility in all his acts. Thinking himself impure and fearing that the temple pujaris might brush his body while walking on the road, Sanatana chose to walk on the beach instead. The price of such humility was that the hot sand burnt the soles of his feet. But the glory of his humility was that he didn’t feel the burning and that Lord Caitanya embraced him as His dear devotee.”
“No way to prepare for going to the Gambhira. Be grave if possible. What Lord Caitanya felt there no one can really understand. We dabble in it and hope to become purified by it. Let me at least look at Caitanya-caritamrta for references.
“I decided to meet with the devotees before going to the Gambhira to read a few passages. I want to tell them what a sacred place it is. Since I’m acting as spiritual master, do it with deep subject matter and pass it on to them. Then when we go, we’ll conduct ourselves in an internal way and know that the real meaning of the place is inexplicably deep.
“‘Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s emotion of transcendental madness in separation from Krsna is very deep and mysterious.
“‘Even though one is very advanced and learned, he cannot understand it.’ (Cc. Antya 14.5)
“I will read the section where Prabhupada said Lord Caitanya was in the mood of Srimati Radharani in separation from Krsna, that He taught this method of separation from Krsna for His devotees to follow.
“I’ll also read little scenes where we see Lord Caitanya in the Gambhira with Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara. Svarupa Damodara would sing a song that would increase the Lord’s ecstasy, and Ramananda Raya would also sing or recite verses from their favorite poets about Radha and Krsna. The Lord would speak in madness, expanding on the meaning of the verses in Srimati Radharani’s mood. Ramananda Raya would leave for the night, and the Lord would stay up chanting loudly in the Gambhira. Then during the night, He would suddenly be silent, and when Govinda would enter the room, he would find that the Lord had escaped, although all three doors were locked. It was on occasions like this that He went either to the Simha-dvara gate or to some other place and manifested the extreme bodily transformations no one had ever seen before.
“We have a right to hear these things because this is our movement and we are servants in this sampradaya. I’ll tell them about the Lord injuring His face and the devotees suggesting that Sankara Pandita stay inside the Gambhira as the Lord’s pillow. They wanted to prevent the Lord from injuring Himself. Finally, I’ll give a glimpse of how the Lord, while composing verses or speaking and hearing others, spoke His ‘Siksastakam’ to Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya.”
“May I dedicate this to my
spiritual master? Unless you please
him you are nowhere. Only devotees
can understand this. Those without
a bona fide spiritual master will see it
as some kind of oppression or
I have a loving and sometimes stern
spiritual master. He is expert and
empowered by his spiritual master to
spread the mercy of Lord Caitanya all over this world.
I am doing my best, I say,
to serve him.
If my expressions are tired it’s
my fault. Srila Prabhupada was strong up
until his last breath; he said
he prayed to Krsna for enthusiasm,
and the Lord gave it.
He is eternal, we are all eternal.
He has gone to his nitya-lila.
We will all go somewhere.
It was a quick eleven years and the rest
of life is recounting it and living
out service in separation.
Separation is longer and more important
than brief meeting. I want to
live for him in my own way.
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
I write this as rain pours down
on our van roof. I’m dry
under lamp light, we are about
to leave this camping spot and head
for the ferry to Ireland,
a rendezvous for lots of writing.
I pray you won’t see me as a
nonsense, or motivated like
Ekalavya. I don’t want to be a
great writer. I write to please
you by achieving an honest state.
I do love it, but it’s work,
long and patient love like you gave
to us in ISKCON.
I don’t want to write to please myself
and just tag on “for Prabhupada.”
But I’ve got to tell it honest.
I’m trusting in your
“It was nice speaking krsna-lila to the devotees on the Vraja Mandala parikrama. Later we sat parked at a train crossing, waiting for the train to pass while our senses and minds were bombarded by the noisy traffic. A sign on the road: ‘Be kind to birds and animals. Notice their pains.’ I noticed a skinny female dog being harassed by eight puppies. They demanded her milk, and eventually she couldn’t refuse them. In another village, I saw a dog with a bone sticking out of its mouth.
The ancient locomotive finally chugged by. Backward India. But only here can we find the dust of Vraja. I ate some dirt from the same place where Krsna ate dirt. Then I drank a few drops of Yamuna water.
“’OM’ sign on a bus. Water chestnuts for sale. We pass a roadside chapel with orange Hanuman inside.
“With the parikrama devotees, we discussed the riches available in Vrndavana. Some verses declare that there are jewels to be found everywhere and that the associates of Krsna live in great palaces. ‘In a temple of jewels in Vrndavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne.’ Devotee gave different views of what this means. Vrndavana is usually simple and rural, but it can manifest any opulence desired b the Lord and His devotees for Their pastimes. But there is an inner meaning—the true wealth of Vraja is not gold or marble, but the pure affection exchanged between Krsna and His devotees. We look for flashes of that opulence as we traverse the land of Vraja.
“I knew that I was supposed to walk yesterday morning. I wondered whether I would be able to make it barefoot. The most important thing is to be humble as we walk on the same earth Radha and Krsna walked on. This earth is more fortunate than we are.”
“‘According to my schedule, I should have begun this volume on April 7, 1997, which was the day after I finished EJW Volume 7. But on that morning I suddenly decided to restart A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam instead. I could come back to EJW sometime in the future.
“‘I started up the engines for PMRB, informed my associates to do research for it, and started covering four verses in one day, and two verses the next day.
“‘But then this morning around 8:00 A.M., while walking out to the shed to do my next Srimad-Bhagavatam verse, I had a thought or emotion that I wanted to write down, and I wasn’t sure whether it would fit into the next purport or a comment of A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam. I forget what it was now, something about the blossoming black thorns, an emotion that seemed low, like a low note on a horn. As I think of it now, it reminds me of Kerouac’s advice for spontaneous prose, ‘Blow as deep as you want.’ To be able to just write exactly what was coming at the moment. You wanted to say it without any hesitation, whether it fits in with what went before or after. I had to ask myself whether PMRB offered me that facility.
“‘By the time I reached the shed—the walk takes about two minutes—I decided to resume EJW. But what about The Poor Man? I decided I could give it one shot each day, at midnight, and the rest of the day go for EJW. Will it be possible to do both of these?
“‘Anyway, here I am starting two days late, with a new title and a fresh gratitude for the facility to write at any time whatever you want, especially to capture the flow. And without worrying whether you are preparing enough literature, whether it is formidable enough to publish and so on.’
“I felt good about that decision to return to EJW. It is such a liberating format. It allows me to write whatever is on my mind during the day. I was happy to return to it after a two-day lapse. I had been going strong for seven volumes, one after another, since I arrived in Ireland.”
The knocked over mushrooms
people going through changes don’t
keep in touch with me.
Those who do, I write
struggle. Same old food
for lunch. Same old
poems. God is fresh but
we don’t know Him.
I am happy to be alive.
I’ll go rest in the dark bed
again. Please no one of
those dreams where I
get punched in the head
willing to paint my
Lord’s creatures and
armatures and fixtures
and tilaka faces
on the walk.
We wanted to be a devotee
Hare Krsna antics. The best I could do
then M. clearing his throat in the bathroom
I see imprints of what I wrote
he painted a picture of Guru guiding
“Fair enough” – if Hare Krsnas want
to give out food to poor people,
said Indian restaurant owner,
but not if they cut my sales.
Krsna antics means my heavy
foot falls footfalls around the wooden parikrama trail
on the cement wall
no against – help!
I can’t get clear to say it – I
walk like men and women and children
walk around Govardhana Hill and
I walk around the outside of this
cement-walled house. The house
has bulges where rocks are
covered by the cement and it
looks like a playhouse or
storybook wizard cottage.
Always some surprise if you listen clearly
like the time you
graduated from high school –
what’s next? All the things
you never knew that were
Advent. Christmas. Visitors.
Krsna in the sands of India
only and not outside of there.
Look at the sand in your reticule
Raman Reti cow dung, dog dung
black disease forming in a bottle
of Radha-kunda water – I’d
never drink it!
Hare Krsna O ye of little faith.
Those who, like James Joyce
in his little-lens spectacles,
have surrendered to Vraja –
are better than me.
That means I am
knock over toadstool in
or a sturdy enough prolific eyes heavy stop broadcaster watching the hurling match between the Devil and the Lord.”
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.