At the Krsna Balaram Mandir, they’re making a presentation to commemorate the day that Prabhupada arrived in America, landing in Boston on September 17, 1965. Daivisakti Mataji wrote me and asked me if I had any poem that could be used in a slide show that she had made. I looked up a poem in Remembering Srila Prabhupada: A Free-Verse Rendition of the Life and Teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada . . . I was enlivened to think that I was helping a presentation at the Krsna-Balaram temple. Daivisakti wrote, “I will read the poem at appropriate places during the slide show.” She said it will be shown from 8:00-9:00 A.M. on September 17th, but otherwise it can be watched later on the ISKCON Vrindavan YouTube channel. (It can be seen at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH8GBbJtiWs
Baladeva went down into the basement to get some books, and he smelled some oil. He went over to the heating oil tank and slid his hand across the bottom, and it was wet with oil, indicating that it was leaking. He phoned an emergency number for the oil company, and they were obliged to come out, even though it was late at night. The man came and discovered a leak; there was a hole in the tank. He put a patch on it, with a strap around the whole tank, and said that we would have to deal with it in the morning, immediately. The man said that one week ago he had looked at a tank in a similar condition as ours, with a small hole in the bottom, and then the next day the hole opened up and 200 gallons of oil spilled in the basement. So yesterday morning, they sent a truck out to pump out the tank. To do this they had to turn the furnace off. They advised that we take out the old furnace and tank and replace it with a highly-efficient propane heater. The salesman for the propane heater is coming here in a few days. It will cost many thousands of dollars to replace the unit. From our side it will be a labor-intensive ordeal to move everything out of the basement so they have room to remove all the old equipment. It’s been a bad year at this ashram for equipment breaking down—first the refrigerator, then the kitchen stove, then part of the barn roof had to be replaced, and two-thirds of the barn had to be repainted. We are getting good lessons on how things are temporary in the material world, bringing it home.
After we finished Bhagavad-gita, the four designated devotees took a secret ballot vote on what book we would read next. It came out unanimous: all four voted for The Nectar of Devotion.
So many nectarean verses from the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic sources are given as evidence to points that Srila Rupa Gosvami is making. The book reads like a panorama of sastric beauties. We are now up to the qualities of Krsna, and they are numbered. Prabhupada is expert in his writing of a summary study of the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, just suitable to his western audience.
Today we read the quality of Krsna as “shy.” When Krsna was holding up the Govardhana Hill, and the residents of Vrndavana, including the gopis, were gathered underneath, Krsna looked over the gopis, and as He glanced at their breasts His hand began to tremble. This caused great concern to the residents, and they began to shout, thinking the mountain would fall. Balarama was smiling, and Krsna became bashful, thinking that His big brother had read His mind and knew Krsna was unsteady because He was glancing at the gopis.
In our out loud reading, we are now halfway through The Nectar of Devotion: The Complete Science of Bhakti-Yoga by Srila Prabhupada. It is a wondrous book. As you read it time and time again, it is fresh and enticing. There are so many examples given of Radha, Krsna and the other Vrajavasis in their intimate exchanges. It goes by fast, and we attempt to relish it. It is simply wonderful!
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Indirect Expressions of Ecstatic Love.” The subheading is “Laughter.”
“After He had stolen some yogurt from the pots of two gopis, Krsna told one of His gopi friends, ‘My dear beautiful friend, I can take oath that I have not stolen even a drop of yogurt from your pot! But still your friend Radharani is very shamelessly smelling the flavor of My mouth. Kindly forbid Her from this devious policy of putting Her face near Mine.’ When Krsna was speaking like this, the friends of Radharani could not check their laughter. This is an instance of laughter in ecstatic love.”
My longtime disciples Nitai Gaurasundara and his wife Matsya devi are visiting us here for several days. They flew from their home in Tennessee just to see me. As a doctor, Nitai Gaurasundara phones me every day and inquires about my health. He adjusts my medicines and receives copies of my various test results. It’s nice to have a disciple-doctor who is personally interested in my health. He always asks if I’m sleeping well, eating well, etc. Matsya has always had difficulties with her various pains, but she remains cheerful and still does a lot of service despite having two knee replacements, hip replacement and shoulder replacement. She told me all she takes for the pain is Advil; other medicines have too many side effects. Twenty-five years ago Nitai Gaurasundara moved from Baltimore to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He complained of not having any association there, and I advised him to preach and make his own association. He began giving classes at his home, inviting sannyasis and distributing prasadam. Gradually people started coming, attracted by his devotional family (two daughters and a son). Nitai Gaurasundara is both an M.D. and a psychiatrist. He treats many crazy and ghostly-haunted people with medicines. Every year, they go to India on pilgrimage, usually with Romapada Swami. They are here for several days, so the saga will be continued.
For the second day in a row, Matsya devi made parathas. The first day she made them on her own inititiave, but today I asked for them. She makes the best parathas. Baladeva doesn’t know how to do them.
I had my second meeting with them. I asked Nitai Gaurasundara about his retirement plans. He said he has a party interested in buying his practice. He met with them, and it looks favorable. He may retire in a year. He’s seventy-four years old.
I asked them if they were proud of their children. They emphatically said yes. They have three wonderful children, all grown up and out of the house now, mostly married and with their own children.
We praised Radhanatha Maharaja and Jayapataka Maharaja (the unstoppable) for their wonderful preaching and influence.
Their son Abhishek, a lawyer, has been accepted as a member of SABHA, the ISKCON group that gives suggestions and advice to the GBC. I told Nitai Gaurasundara not to let Abhishek get too involved with ISKCON politics, and he agreed.
At the dinnertable today I put my arm around Nitai Gaurasundara and told him how I felt nice and warm in their company honoring prasadam. This evoked a few tears from Nitai Gaurasundara; he is such a softhearted person. I like their company.
I don’t have any good collection or equipment for listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures. But I very much want to hear him every day. I have a small metal mechanism that contains some of Srila Prabhupada’s lectures, but I keep getting a few of the same lectures again and again. And the speaker isn’t good.
I wrote to Haridasa dasa and asked him for help. Haridasa told me to use a website and then “select ‘AUDIO’ from the menu.” He went on with instructions how to do it, but it was too complicated for me. I’m waiting for our technician devotee, Atindra, to come on the weekend, and I’ll ask him if he can fix me up. I’d like to start listening to the 1966 lectures, starting with him uptown, then on the Bowery loft, then at 26 Second Avenue, then go on from there. This is very important to me, and I’m eagerly awaiting Atindra’s coming here on the weekend.
I love to hear Prabhupada’s voice. It makes me warm and feel close to him. It banishes any doubts I have. I like to curl up and listen to a lecture by him. I don’t venture out much and listen to other lecturing. O Prabhupada, please pick me up with easy access to you in a collection of your lectures.
Sing, Dance and Pray is a biography of Srila Prabhupada written by a man named Hindol Sengupta. It is a book by a rather young Indian scholar. It is favorable to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON. I have been reading it, and I think it is all right that there may be many biographies of Srila Prabhupada. But they don’t replace the authorized version, the unabridged Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. In the index to this book, in every chapter, the author refers to SPL and gives the volume and chapter where he got the information from. SPL is a major sourcebook for Sengupta’s new biography. I thought it was nice how a distinguished scholar was praising Prabhupada, researching his activities and his movement and sharing it independently with the wider world.
I wrote a recommendation for Maitreya’s memoir, and Guru dasa typed it up. I interviewed Maitreya before I wrote it, and since then he has come to me and said he has some new insights about the interview and wants to rephrase some of the information he gave me. He read my recommendation and said he wants to think about it for awhile and meet with me another day. He said he likes it very much, but there may be some things he wants me to add. I’m willing to change whatever he wants. I really think it is a very good book.
Here is the recommendation:
“I highly recommend Maitreya Dasa’s memoir Escape to Paradise and Beyond as a source of essential knowledge, including knowledge of the ultimate goal of human life. It will change your thinking and relieve you of any anxiety for the future.
“Although the subject matter is grave, it is written with humor and is a great pleasure to read. The narrative gets more exciting with each page. In following his destiny, Maitreya experiences a rollercoaster ride of ecstatic highs and lows, accepted with great stoicism. Once the scene is set, be prepared for an incredible adventure in a spiritual travelogue that takes him to seventy countries.
“By following the thread running through the memoir, the reader can appreciate the blissful circumstances under which the Lord within the heart gradually reveals Himself to those seeking truth. At the highest level, He reveals Himself to Maitreya as the cause of all causes and the source of all that exists.
“As a bonus, the reader will discover how to attain freedom from the threefold miseries of the material world: miseries arising from one’s own mind, from other living entities, and from natural calamities.
“I have read this wondrous memoir once and am going to read it again.”
—Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, ISKCON guru
and author of many spiritual books
Amit has his last lunch with us today. He’s planning to go to San Francisco, California for two months. When he first came to America from India, his first stop was San Francisco. He got a job there. San Francisco is supposedly one of the best places to live in America. Amit thought all of America was like that, but he was disappointed when he explored more. He’s got an offer for a housesitting arrangement, and he’ll continue his job there on his computer.
We have gotten used to Amit’s presence in our ashram. He has graciously done us many favors by driving devotees to and from JFK airport, and other favors. He is a “kichari” Hindu, with various mixed beliefs. But he loves Hare Krsna association. He’s welcome here. He’s always been ready to do any kind of service in our ashram. I hope he decides to come back and stay in the area.
A devotee visited me and told me of his widespread preaching activities. He travels to different countries, gives lectures, harinama, and in India goes on vraja-mandala parikrama. He says wherever he goes, the devotees are very appreciative. They love him and they want him to return, or stay at their place. But he said he thought all this preaching was just “show” because within, he felt nothing. I assured him that his preaching was not show but the real thing. The evidence is in the appreciation of so many Vaisnavas for what he is doing. He should be satisfied with their appreciation of him, which is an indication of Krsna’s pleasure with him. He listened to what I said, and I think he accepted it.
16) O King and Queen, the lakes of whose hearts are filled by the swiftly flowing sweet nectar mountain streams of Your great mercy, please be kind to this wicked person. Please show him the luster of the transcendental happiness that is the guarantee of being able to see You in the future.
17) O King dark with a splendid complexion, O Queen dark with youthful beauty, O King golden with transcendental fame, O Queen golden with a splendidly beautiful complexion, O King and Queen who are the handsome crowns of everyone, please eternally display Your sweetness in my heart.
18) O son and daughter of the best of the gopas, I bow down before You and beg: ‘Please give me service to You! Please give me service to You!’
19) O Prince of the gopas, I fall down before You and beg in a choked voice: ‘Please make me an object of mercy for She who is the jasmine crown of the girls of Vraja!’
20) O Queen of Kartikka, Kartikka I fall down before You and beg with sweet words: May Lord Krsna, the killer of Baka, be as merciful to me as You.
26) . . . Where is this fool? Where is that state even the great devotees cannot attain? Still, a new and intense thirst for it now makes me tremble.
27) O all-powerful Lord, when will Your sweet and glorious flute music, which possesses the greatest opulence of the kingdom of all beautiful sounds, and which is accompanied by Srimati Radharani’s anklet tinkling, which eclipses the warbling of Brahma’s swan, be joyfully worshiped by my two slow ears?
28) O Queen of Vrndavana, when will the sound of Your lute, which silences the flute of the peacock-feather crowned Lord, become the guest of my ears?
29) O great King and Queen, when will Your graceful music, flooded with waves of sweetness, purify my ears? When will that day come?
30) O charming King and Queen whose fair and dark forms are splendidly decorated with musk and kunkuma, when will Your sweet fragrance, bearing only a fraction of Your transcendental glories, bring a festival of happiness to the black bee of my nose?
31) Placing his forefinger to his mouth, this person repeatedly cries out in the forest: ‘O King and Queen, please be merciful for a moment! Please be merciful! May Your forms, as splendid as a monsoon cloud and lightning, appear before my eyes.’
32) O crowning garlands of the charming people of Vraja, this person begs something of You: may the moonlight of Your toenails, even for only a moment, fill my eyes with wonder.
33) May the splendor of You both, whose fair and golden forms, charmingly decorated with golden jasmine petals, joyfully embrace in the courtyard of the forest cottage, suddenly fill my eyes with wonder.
34) The most exalted devotee cannot attain in his heart even a small portion of Your glory. Yearning that You appear on the pathway of his eyes, this person has now swallowed his fear and shame.
35) O King and Queen of Vrndavana, how sinful I am! Still, who will not become maddened by the sweetness of Your transcendental qualities?”
(to be continued)
“Krsna’s strength is spiritual. If He were only another strong man of this material world, He would eventually slacken with age and be replaced by younger, more powerful men. Krsna is not like that. He is the prowess of all powerful men (tejas tejasvinam aham). In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna declares, ‘I am the strength of the strong.’ Prabhupada writes, ‘When Krsna was present on earth, no one could surpass Him in strength. Even in His childhood He lifted Govardhana Hill. No one can surpass Him in cheating, no one can surpass Him in splendor, no one can surpass Him in victory, no one can surpass Him in enterprise, and no one can surpass Him in strength.’ (Bg. 10.36, purport)
“May Krsna protect us. We are weak in every way. The strongest among us is a plaything against the power of maya. We try to control our minds, but it is as difficult as controlling the wind. We want to be renunciates, but we feel weak in the grip of our own lust. We want to defeat the demons, but sometimes they defeat us. In all circumstances, we have no recourse but to seek shelter in all-powerful, all-good Krsna. The demigods know this well, and whenever a demon like Hiranyakasipu or Hiranyaksa appears, they pray to the Lord to please destroy the evil force. Krsna complies with their prayers, appearing in the world to rescue the devotees and to destroy the demons.
“In Kali-yuga, it often appears that the devotees are hopelessly outnumbered and in no position to fight. Even when they lack physical strength, however, devotees can appeal to the ultimate power. Srila Prabhupada writes,
“‘There are two kinds of strength—daiva and purusakara. Daiva refers to the strength achieved from the Transcendence, and purusakara refers to the strength organized by one’s own intelligence and power. Transcendental power is always superior to the power of the materialist. . . . We should fight our enemy to the best of our ability, but for victory we must depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ (Bhag. 9.10.20, purport)
“In this age of quarrel, Lord Caitanya advises that we fight with the divine weapon of harinama sankirtana. ‘Think of Me and fight,’ Krsna tells Arjuna. Prabhupada has encouraged us, ‘Go on chanting. Be tolerant. You will be victorious. There is no other way.’
“My dear devotees of Lord Krsna, may the left hand of Krsna, which has lifted Govardhana Hill like a ball, save you from all dangers.”
“‘. . . Every devotee wants to chant the transcendental qualities of the Lord. Devotees are always interested in hearing about the Lord’s transcendental qualities, and they are always eager to glorify these qualities. But sometimes they feel inconvenienced by humbleness. The Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart specifically gives the devotee intelligence to describe Him. It is therefore understood that when a devotee writes or speaks about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his words are dictated by the Lord from within. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, Tenth Chapter: “To those who constantly engage in the transcendental service of the Lord, the Lord from within dictates what to do next in order to serve Him. . . . To glorify or offer prayers unto the Supreme, one needs the Lord’s mercy. One cannot write to glorify the Lord unless one is endowed with His causeless mercy.” (Bhag. 4.9.4–5, purports).’
“So it’s proven. I cannot write on my own. When a devotee writes, it is sanctioned by Krsna. Writing is especially important to me, and it is good to see it mentioned so prominently in Prabhupada’s purport. Dhruva Maharaja gained the direct darsana of Krsna, and he wanted to praise Him, but he could not out of humbleness. Lord Visnu touched Dhruva’s head with His conchshell, and the boy was empowered with all knowledge to glorify Krsna in beautiful prayers. I want to make my own prayers. I want to know and feel enough about Krsna to say words approved by Him.
“You, Lord, are my constant companion. You are trying to guide me back to You. You give me intelligence and see how willing I am to use it in your service. You are most appreciated by Your friends in Goloka Våndävana, where they see You in Your humanlike form. And among all the devotees in Vraja, the gopis are the best. You want to please them, and you wait outside the kunjas when they display their anger toward You. To contemplate on You in this way is raganuga sadhana bhakti. It is beyond the rules and regulations path and is based on greed to have You. I desire to possess some of that greed (laulyam). Please show me the way. I want to thrill to transcendental descriptions of Your form and activities.
“I must present myself to You in my present state. I am very lukewarm and slow to see You with intense desire. I am not fixed like Dhruva Maharaja. I perform penance weakly. But I call on You from my room. I write to you hesitantly, yet with confidence. Each day I try again.
“You care for me. You maintain me. You have called me to Vrndavana. I am coming with my small courage and some misgivings. I hope you will reveal Yourself to me there. Prabhupada says if one thinks he can perform devotional service without the association of a Krsna conscious society, he is in hallucination, so I will not avoid the devotees. They are Your wealth. But I must call to You alone also with the sanctity of my personal self. Both alone and with devotees, I will try to know You. You are revealed to the sanctified heart that turns to You and renders service. The first service is chanting and hearing, then remembering. I can do that from my bhajana-kutir. I may also read to the devotees at night, and I may take part in temple kirtana. I may visit some holy places. I need to be with You in various forms. I am eager to read the books of the Six Gosvamis and other rasa-tattva acaryas. I am eager to know my Krsna and be closer to Him. Please let me speak to You with the confidence stated in Prabhupada’s purport, that when a devotee writes of Krsna, it is sanctioned by the Lord.”
“Writing gives us darsana with the rare and advanced souls of the past. How else could we know Rupa Gosvami’s heart? He writes, ‘Although I have not the dimmest shadow of pure devotion, which is the only way to attain You, still, because You are the master of playful transcendental pastimes, please be merciful to me.’
“Lord Caitanya has been very kind to arrange for these great devotees like Rupa Gosvami, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada to leave us the fruit of their devotional research and realization in the written word. Reading the writing of such great souls is so moving that it is no wonder that even Srila Prabhupada’s typist gets it into his head to try to write something Krsna conscious too. ‘All of you write.’
“See heaven or Viraja as you call it.
It’s the horizon, like an old Chinese print
or a flatland Wordsworth might see.
It’s nirvana, the morning mist
not mixed with carbon monoxide.
The Creator is not far away—
if you want to know Him.
His hand has caused all that you see,
indirectly through His energy.
Wise devotees see Krsna
in a gnarled tree trunk,
in the nude body of a tree,
the moving dress of leaves,
in the thin cloud layers.
A white chimney, a sheep’s pasture plot,
you name it, He is there . . . A rock,
a barbed wire, sunshine on a portion of hill.
This is the world.
And then there is another world, eternal.
This one comes from that one.
I space out and almost
fall into the typewriter.
What was it you saw?
Come back to this world
of fresh senses—you see,
I cannot avoid this world.
I have to stay awake in it.
If I daydream I simply space out.
So let me see this ‘Universal Form’—
A rose bush leaning against a white-washed wall,
stomach hankering for breakfast,
the world in the body, let me use it
as service to the Lord
who comes to this world
to accept our service.
After resting, we will hear His book.
Krsna will appear
in the words of vrajavasis,
Krsna will appear.”
“You began to gather them. They came to you—
Keith and Chuck and Howard
and Wally and Mike and Steve
and Ray and Bruce and Stanley and Bob and Jim—
looking up to you with the first inkling
that one has to surrender to the guru.
Spending the summer in coming to you,
taking the storefront and your back room as hallowed places,
religiously attending the evening class,
they effortlessly gave up drugs,
while losing a taste for illicit sex—not trying to give these up,
but like a snake throwing off his old skin.
They came to you.
The first to consider you as their spiritual father,
enjoying your elderly, spiritual company.
Ragtag eclectic youth, but plain and simple enough
to see clear truth through the mind’s confusion,
that you are their spiritual master.
The hot city summer passing,
their lives came to new birth,
confiding to one another, ‘This is really it.
We should not kid ourselves and assume
to know everything.
Swami is telling the truth.
Why try to be smart over what we’ve read
and what drugs and women we’ve known?
There’s nothing to be proud of. Let’s face it.
He is our spiritual guide.’
A kindergarten of spiritual life,
a free grounds of learning for the first time,
They unlearned the old empirical ways,
gaining hope in God consciousness,
what they always wanted.”
“After our visit to these two places we traveled a short distance to another part of Aitota. By doing this we followed in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya: ‘After offering obeisances to Lord Nrsimha, whose temple was nearby, the Lord entered a garden. In the garden, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu sat down with the other devotees.’ (Madhya-lila 12.152-3)
Some of the nicest gardens in Aitota are disappearing due to the construction of a bus stand by the Puri municipality. As we sat in a garden, under the shade of a cashew tree, our peace was disrupted by the rumbling of an old steamroller which was tamping down the ground for the bus stand.
The Gaudiya brahmana who lives here says that Lord Caitanya rested and feasted in this spot during the nine-day Gundica festival. There are small ponds here and naked boys swimming in them. Villagers are passing on the soft dust footpaths. A few calves and cows are helping themselves to wild grass. These rural scenes seem just like it must have been five hundred years ago.
“Prabhupada stated that India is meant for preserving the simple village life of living in a small hut, chanting, and worshiping God and the cow. What do people gain by constructing a bus stand and running the latest Luxury Video Coach and other buses to Bhubaneswar and further points? Of course, it’s impossible to convince them not to go ahead with material progress. The rest of the world, which has been quick to invade or exploit India, is gaining all amenities, so why should India lag behind? But Prabhupada said she will be left behind materially despite all efforts. Like the brahmana who lost his caste by eating at a Muslim’s house, Indians will lose their spiritual position but remain half-hungry. ISKCON is meant to use the wealth, energy and ingenuity of the West to help spread Vedic culture. The blind man and the lame man should walk together. So let us do it. In the meantime, a few gardens still remain in Aitota.
you are lucky there is grass left
and your owner allows you free pasture.
He wears Gaudiya Vaisnava tilaka,
and he has no objection
to Western devotees
sitting under his tree.
But he doesn’t like us
to take snapshots,
and he is right—
‘It’s a sacred place.’
He doesn’t mind kirtana,
so let us sing the holy names.”
Uddhava lamented for the
conditioned souls who could not
understand Krsna because of the
apparent contradictions in His
life. It appeared He was carried
by Vasudeva to Gokula out
of fear of Kamsa, and that He
died as a reaction to sin, shot
in the foot by a hunter.
The pure devotees are never
swayed by such faithless
propaganda, but those who
doubt are doomed.
Haridasa asked me if I was
writing. I said it appears
the autobiog. is finished,
and I don’t have a new project
as yet. He said, ‘After a big
work like you have just
finished, it’s natural to take a break.’
That seems to be the case,
as I wait on His mercy,
knowing I am a writer who
likes to work.”
“I’ve already stated that the worst thing is to be sleepy during japa. It slows down your total count. It makes you inattentive. Sloppy and unholy. It’s offensive. I must work at it. Everyone should do this. Sleepy chanting is a plague. Keep awake. You have to be mindful and always on the alert. You can’t drift off. It’s good to keep track of your numbers carefully to note that you haven’t lost the count. So my japa essay for today is against sleepy japa in favor of awake japa. It’s one of the most crucial matters. What good is it if you spend five minutes nodding over the chanting, doing “dive-bombing” chanting, drowsing off into spaced-out land? You have to keep on the track. Notice the mantras passing through your mind and your vocalization. Then you’re approaching real chanting. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
“Having said the above and given myself a stern warning, I must say that I’ve improved this morning. I’m chanting more alertly. The worst thing about sleepy chanting is that it slows down your speed. I won’t be able to chant eight rounds before 5:00 A.M. I’ll be lucky if I chant five.
Japa is the life and soul of the devotee. The bead bag is his constant companion. He’s always chanting whenever he has a spare moment. But it’s best to chant a lot of rounds consecutively, not to chant one or two here and there at spare moments. It is good to save time for chanting lots of rounds at a time. That way you build up momentum and concentration. We will do that this morning. It’s fun chanting and hearing the rounds roll off your tongue, putting aside all other subject matters.”
“COMMENT: . . . Tomorrow is the 31st anniversary of my getting initiated by Srila Prabhupada. I never get to observe this day with close friends who would like to hear me talk something about it. I don’t do much about it myself. So what shall I say? ‘I got initiated.’ You could just as well say that today. You promised, and still you promise. You still have the red beads, that’s the most wonderful thing. I would like to honor those beads. Ask Manu to give me a clean bead bag to use tomorrow. I am afraid that I may lose them or they may break, but until that happens . . . It’s like worrying that I will break my bones or lose my life. You will lose it, but live it fully until then. Besides, the blessings of the spiritual master are eternal, even if you lose your beads. The red beads will always be with me, even in memory. The beads on which I chanted all those inattentive rounds. The beads on which Prabhupada chanted one round.
“COMMENT: I keep my original red beads in a bead bag given to me by Prabhupada’s disciple Yamuna devi dasi. She has hand-embroidered a picture of Lord Caitanya on it. He is chanting on beads as a sannyasi, and underneath, the word ‘Mahaprabhu’ is there in black letters. It’s a beautiful remnant of Yamuna devi dasi.”
“It’s never too late to look at a photo of your spiritual master and pay homage to him. In the KRSNA book chapter containing the story of the forest fire, the trapped gopas looked to Krsna the way a man who is about to die looks at a picture of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I want to look at Prabhupada like that.
“He is walking outside the temple, starting a morning walk, surrounded by his sannyasi disciples and their upraised dandas. They are so youthful. Some are smiling. They jostle for a place. Me too. Srila Prabhupada’s hands are filled with flowers and other items, probably gifts handed to him by his spiritual daughters and their children. The morning is always bright in Mayapura at this time of year. Just outside the temple hangs the wooden sign, ‘Sri Mayapura Candrodaya.’ Srila Prabhupada is accompanied by one of his Godbrothers or a Bengali sannyasi.
“Listening to the man beside him, Prabhupada’s head is turned to hear him. He is compassionate and intent on what he has to do as spiritual father for thousands. And such heavy personalities among his young leaders! Srila Prabhupada wants a worldwide movement. He already has it, but he wants much more. Political heads and mass population ignore the Hare Krsna movement. Prabhupada knows this isn’t right. People cannot be happy without Krsna. He worked for this when he was unknown and he works for it now as Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, on behalf of his guru maharaja.
“Taking a morning walk, directing affairs, taking the burden. The glory of Lord Caitanya’s movement and Westerners coming to India to worship and serve. Prabhupada has to defend them from critics and from their own minds and fratricidal quarrels.
“Just the colors—what is it like in the cool morning in pleasant Mayapura? What is it like to walk with him, your danda in the air?
“‘What is it you are saying?’ Srila Prabhupada seems to say as he hears the sadhu beside him. But at the same time, Prabhupada is looking beyond. He took on so much for Lord Caitanya’s movement. He was empowered tremendously. Strong-minded young men and women became his dear disciples and traveled anywhere on his order. His power was and is very great.
“I offer my obeisances to him tonight as I hold this photo.”
“. . . In another letter, Prabhupada stated, ‘It is the duty of the spiritual master to find fault with the students so that they can make progress, not that he should always be praising them. (Letter, May 24, 1972) And so I must accept his reprimands in that spirit. He wants to see only that I advance in Krsna consciousness. That means some of my most cherished notions may have to be thrown over. And he can do it.
“But how to be certain that the voice of reprimand we hear today is actually his? We may not always be a hundred percent sure, but we must listen humbly to the consensus of our Godbrothers. And our ears should be developed to hear Prabhupada speaking, which he does so clearly in his books. We worship the guru who can correct us.
“Once on a morning walk in Mayapur, a disciple asked, ‘Prabhupada, I heard that once you were chastised by your spiritual master. Could you tell us?’ Most of us had heard the story before, and some of us thought that it was improper to press Srila Prabhupada for a story that was perhaps too personal. Prabhupada paused, but then he began to tell the incident. He said that while his Guru Maharaja was lecturing, an older man wanted to speak something to our Prabhupada. So our Prabhupada leaned over—and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura caught them both being inattentive to the lecture. To the older man, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, ‘Do you think that your so many rupees per month has purchased me?’ And to our Prabhupada he said, ‘Do you want to come up here and give the lecture?’ Once before, when Prabhupada mentioned this incident he said, ‘We were sometimes chastised by our spiritual master. That was on our brilliant days.’ Srila Prabhupada was the perfect example of a disciple who pleased his spiritual master, yet he said it was a brilliant occasion when he was reprimanded.
(I prefer to use the word ‘reprimand’ rather than ‘chastise.’ One of the BTG editors pointed out to me that ‘chastise’ usually means physical punishment, and so it is stronger than we perhaps intend when we use it in ISKCON. Prabhupada almost never dealt in any kind of physical chastisement. By sarcasm or by raising his voice or speaking strong words, he could make us feel crushed and corrected.)
“Prabhupada used to reprimand me gently, with a few sarcastic words. When he once bore down on me in a concentrated way, I broke into tears. Harikesa Maharaja swears that his relationship with Prabhupada was always biff, bam, kick, smash. But Nanda Kumara, Upendra and Srutakirti told me that they rarely got reprimanded by Srila Prabhupada, even when they did something wrong.”
“I don’t know much, but I was with the Swami. He led the chanting and we sang with him. He talked and we heard. We went home and thought over what he said. ‘The Swami is self-realized. In the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, it says that you have to hear from a self-realized soul. Swamiji says he is going to teach us about Krsna.’ I remember the books in his room, and the Swami in his room, and him coming down to have kirtana.
“Years later Prabhupada said, ‘In the beginning, I did not tell them that you have to follow any rules and regulations. I simply said chant.’ It is a fact, he simply said chant Hare Krsna and we chanted with him. That was a different time when Swamiji was here on earth, and now he is not here. He is in samadhi, gone back to Godhead. He had left us behind to continue the Krsna consciousness movement. We follow his instructions.
“Sometimes my mind says, ‘If you go back to those days, you will be disappointed. You will see that you were such a raw neophyte. You had bad ideas in your mind and you did not fully appreciate the Swami. Over the years, you have built up an image of how faithful you were and how much you estimated Prabhupada as very dear to Krsna. That is what you think now, but back then . . .’
“No, it is not true! We held him in esteem, I am sure we did. I am not afraid to go back. I know it will be imperfect, and I know that imperfection will be due to my perception. So, my dear unconscious self and all other selves, do not be afraid to use this body and mind to allow us to go back and chant with Swami as it was then. We can do it.”
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura is claiming a lot. He has held the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord to his head. Those same lotus feet were attained by Laksmi-devi only after severe austerities. Only when he attained a place at the Lord’s feet did Lord Siva attain auspiciousness. And Brahma, and Narada. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says he too has surrendered at the soles of those feet and thus become free of misery.
“What can I say? He who was singing the opening songs has already attained the param-gati which even great souls do not attain before many lifetimes of bhajana. He wants us to follow him, but I don’t know if I can. The most I seem to be able to do is honor him.
“How are these songs going to affect me? That is also Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s concern. He is writing them for us. He wants the songs to deliver us the joy of saranagati. He is an acarya.
“My dear Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I cannot attain so quickly what you have attained. I know it’s not so easily gained. We can read Bhagavad-gita in an hour and see Arjuna go from doubt to saranagati. We can read Brhad-bhagavatamrta and instantly traverse many lifetimes of Brahma with Gopa-kumara until he finally returns to Goloka Vrndavana. We can read Jaiva Dharma and observe the guru ask his disciples what rasa they prefer. None of these things take long to read, but it took lifetimes for these devotees to reach their goal.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s complete surrender takes place within a relatively few stanzas. He is teaching us the way, how it will happen, what to expect when we faithfully practice Krsna consciousness with determination. But it’s not going to happen today.
“God’s command is all-powerful. In fear of Him the wind blows, and the sun, moon and all others perform their allotted duties. He’s Supreme above all and lives in the heart of His loving devotees. Whomever He protects, no one can kill. ‘O Lord, Your eternal servant Bhaktivinoda has bowed down at Your lotus feet. O master, he cherishes the faith that You will surely protect him from all dangers.’ (Saranagati, 4.2.5).
Who came from Butler, Pennsylvania
who came from the spiritual world,
who wore a frayed cadar to America
who came to NYC with no money,
survived two winters there carried by the Lord
who rides on Garuda, who protects
We were lucky.
Allen Ginsberg, it’s not too late.
Before you die you could remember
to chant Hare Krsna again.
You called it, ‘A monkey on my back’
a bad habit that you wanted to kick—
faith in God.
For that you’ll be sorry
if you can’t remember it
although you chanted with the Swami
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
“. . . . When Narada Muni was trying to regain the vision of Lord Krsna in his meditation, the Lord spoke to him and told him that a devotee had to be completely ‘free from all material taints’ before he could expect to see Him. In this age Lord Caitanya’s magnanimous distribution of the chanting of Hare Krsna provides us with the most effective method for cleaning the dirty mind and heart and thereby gives us a pure vision of Krsna.
“An example of the dynamic relationship between outer and inner cleanliness was shown by Lord Caitanya in His pastimes of cleaning the Gundica temple. As the leader of the Vaisnavas, Lord Caitanya showed not only symbolically but practically the importance of cleanliness. In preparing the temple for the appearance of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Caitanya led the devotees by personally cleaning on His hands and knees. He praised those devotees who collected the most dust, and He chastised those who did not collect enough. Engaging many sweepers, He swept the whole temple and courtyard and then began to wash everything with Ganges water.
“Lord Caitanya’s devotees splashed water high on the ceilings and walls of the temple, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself wiped the stone altar clean with His own cloth. In his commentary on this section of Caitanya-caritamrta, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati takes an internal view of these pastimes and says that unless a devotee makes his own heart perfectly pure of all material taints and desires, then he cannot expect Krsna, who is all pure, to appear there.
“The political and intellectual leaders of this age are badly lacking in all twenty-six qualities of a Vaisnava, and their lack of cleanliness is easily seen. The country’s political leaders claim they want to lead the people and help them, but they actually have other motives in mind. Even at best, the nation’s leaders want to engage the people in the cause of nationalism and the pursuit of illusory happiness. The very goals they want the people to strive for and attain are anarthas, stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization. Where there is ignorance, an impure heart, an unclean vision—where all is dirty—no one can expect to see purity. And in fact, no one really expects clean dealings even from the president, the father, or the priest.”
I’ve got hundreds of photos of Prabhupada
and supposedly I’m in each one.
They are in no special order . . . 1973, 1971, 1977—
mostly morning walks and I am
one of the crowd.
I went through them like a file clerk.
There I am, there he is, there’s
someone else . . . Look at us all
surrounding him on the beach.
there’s Bhagavan dasa with long hair, Hamsaduta . .
I look so young and handsome in this one.
Oh, this one I should keep separate,
he is looking at me.
I’m wearing a swami hat,
I’m holding the microphone,
Prabhupada has a special expression.
Then I get confused, nothing seems real . .
I go outside and as I unlock the gate
I see myself as in those photos,
young me and Prabhupada walking.
But he is not here. I am alone.
The young man is now old,
walking alone on an Irish road.
He is a writer who likes to live alone.
Where is his spiritual master?
Who is more important, guru or disciple?
How is it possible we can all be
accommodated as intimate servants of Gurudeva?
You might as well ask
how can so many members of the Yadu dynasty
live in Dvaraka?
How can millions of gopis and gopas play with Him?
He can do it.
I walk and chant
as he told me
and do this writing
to offer to him.”
“Just read for the last time with Rupa-vilasa. My vision was blurry. I painted Krsna and Balarama confronting the wrestlers Canura and Mustika with a worried Kamsa on the throne. I did three elongated bodies intertwined. As usual I splashed with spray paint like Holi colors. Rupa-vilasa makes interesting comments about Srila Prabhupada’s purports. It’s the end of the day for me and I’m tired. Prabhupada wrote that the preachers are nitya-siddha devotees. I am a dead-head. I wind down in my Journal with a headache. I took Excedrin. My handwriting is laboriously slow. We follow madhurya rasa, the gift of Lord Caitanya. It is very pure, but you have to be cautious. We are reading the Second Canto. Oh, I am beleaguered. No, I’m at peace. I just need a little rest. Krsna is infinitely kind. So is His pure devotee, although he is sometimes stern. Rupa-vilasa is writing a good book. I am writing on my website, nothing else. I haven’t begun the third volume. I’m on a journey in the Journal. I just close down my day’s activities and take a look at myself. I am not splayed out. I am regulated and follow a schedule. I love getting up before midnight and chanting japa.
“I have not exercised in five days. A man on a radio call-in show asked me about quantum physics. The radio host came to my defense. I said chant Hare Krsna. You have to surrender to a spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada is still living in his instructions. He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die. The devotees of Lord Caitanya were on the spontaneous platform.”
“One suggestion of an overall nature is that one should be willing to make changes in one’s life in order to give sadhana a chance to survive. For example, if a business firm discovers that it is in financial difficulty, then the members sit down and decide on appropriate action. This may require sacrifices, and changes. Everything cannot stay the way it is. The willingness to sit down, discuss, and bring about changes is a prerequisite. Otherwise, friends may offer you many suggestions for improving your chanting and hearing, but you will not budge an inch. As 8rila Prabhupada has said, if one wants to keep everything the way it is, then he cannot help himself in devotional service.
“What are some of the changes that may be required? Perhaps we are living with people who make it impossible to pursue devotional service. Maybe our means of making money is too hellish, sapping our vital energy so that we have no inclination left for spiritual practices. Or there may be unresolved grudges in our life. As Jesus Christ says, ‘If you are going to make an offering on the altar, but you remember that you have cheated someone, first go and make peace with that person, then come back and make your offering.’
“Maybe we have to move into a temple community in order to chant. Or maybe we have to move out of the temple. What has to be done will vary with each person. But some adjustment in favor of sadhana has to be considered and actually carried out. Maybe it means we have to make less money. Maybe we have to move our place of residence. Or after considering, we may think that there is really no external change that is necessary: ‘It’s just a matter of my own will power.’ But that in itself is a major change or adjustment. We have to agree, ‘All right, I’m going to do the needful.’”
“Starting the day after tomorrow, I count twenty-five days until we have to (I want to) leave for England-Ireland.
“I’ve suspended my A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam for now. So that you could write a collection of Writing Sessions. Several times a day, the writing practice method. You could be serious and capture sad or lonely feelings. Some diary reportage, repartee, fly by night. Some thinking, ‘This may be used later.’ But some freedom from that.
“You could write awhile like that. Sri Krsna Caitanya. Can you last?
“Letters. M. or S.M. or whatever, wrote me that she loves the Panca-tattva. They are potent and present and not in a purusa mood, but They can conquer by Their sweetness. Sounds nice. I’d like to be conquered by love and not afraid, safe in the shelter of Nrsimhadeva. O whose worshiper, am I? It appears I worship my Guru Maharaja.
“I practice (worship?) at the fount of writing too.
“My beads in hand, I chant the quota with much attention focused on the counter beads and the clock. Less than ten minutes per round. Sometimes eight minutes per round. That sort of thing I watch carefully, but not the individual mantras.
“By writing here I gain access…the clichés, relieve yourself (aware of derogatory connotation to that one). Aware of critics and censors and hamperers.
“O God. You don’t have to write anything special. Just go. Your collection of sessions for your approximately twenty-five days in America, going mostly to preaching places. Starting the day after tomorrow, going to New York City. Then Philly. You write here what you did.
“But is it right to abandon the PMRB? I thought everything was going to go into it. What’s the problem and reason why you’re stopping? Is it because you don’t like the regimentation? There are a number of reasons that keep coming up, so I thought to honor the resistance I feel. Take a break from it. When you get back into retreat mode you could take it up again. Last week in May, may be like that. May, may.
and do you read
and do you weep
and do you keep protected in
your patrons’ houses and
your spiritual master’s temples?
And does the roof of the van or
car you ride in present you
shelter? But the fumes and
toxins are coming in too.
There’s a process by which you
can increase your circulation
so that the arteries don’t harden
too soon before you die.
But more important is –
the numbered prose
and a daily shot at poems.”
(to be continued)
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.