I received a letter from my disciple in Russia, Ishana dasi, which was thought-provoking.
She writes about how Srila Prabhupada spoke about the ideas of materialistic communism, and said that it cannot take place because it lacks a spiritual basis. She then writes that in Prabhupada-lilamrta she read how much enthusiasm devotees had during the early years of the movement because the devotees believed our movement was revolutionary and called for the victory of the holy name of Lord Krsna throughout the world. She writes,
“And now the time has passed. Materialistic communism—which was built by people in the USSR—fell apart. However, spiritual communism—which devotees tried their best to build by distributing millions of copies of books—also failed. So what now? . . . Is Lord Caitanya’s movement meant for all devotees to FLIGHT [sic] from this planet? What future should we build on earth for our children and descendants? What should we build on earth next?”
I wrote her back and said that ISKCON is thriving on earth, and noted how thousands of devotees in her Russia have become devotees. Although the devotees have not changed the civilization in the corrupt societies of the world, they have had some influence on it. Despite that, even Lord Caitanya lived under the subordination of the Muslims. He did not overthrow the Muslims, but He preached widely to the innocent and ignorant and converted thousands to Krsna consciousness. We must remember how powerful Kali-yuga is. Attempts should be made to protect the environment of the earth and to stabilize society; it may be said that our movement is not meant only for devotees to fly from the planet. We’re trying to improve the earth and its present population by the yajna prescribed for this age, the congregational chanting of Hare Krsna.
However, our movement is not meant primarily for the change of civilization. Prabhupada has said that this earth in Kali-yuga is impossible to change by any methods other than those prescribed by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He existed and succeeded in India while the government was corrupt. Prabhupada said, “This world is not a fit place for a gentleman.” We should preach and try to move our countrymen away from their vices and be faithful to God, but the best thing is to get out of this world and go back to Godhead. Prabhupada was crusading for changing the earth, and he spoke about this in all of his lectures. But he was pessimistic about worldly life. Even Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami said that devotees should purify themselves in this one lifetime and then go back to Godhead. When Prabhupada went to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati for the first time and said that we couldn’t have spiritualism in India because it was under British rule, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said to him that there was no need to change the society but to take to Krsna consciousness immediately. Indeed, BSS did not agitate the British colonial rule over India.
“I know you are very compassionate and intelligent,” I told Ishana. So she should spend the remainder of her life preaching, purifying herself and preparing to leave a material body and obtain a spiritual one. I am so thankful to her for managing to get many of my books translated into Russian. The Russians also have Prabhupada’s books in the Russian language. “Everything is under Krsna’s control,” I said further.”The day may come within ten thousand years that there can become a golden period where the earth would be like Satya-yuga. But the present leaders of the government are impossible to change. You should work for ISKCON, develop your internal Krsna consciousness and hope for the best.”
In our out-loud reading group, we are hearing of Lord Caitanya and His associates in the Caitanya-caritamrta. We are realizing our good fortune.
Lord Krsna descended in the Dvapara-yuga five thousand years ago. After Krsna disappeared, He considered that He had not bestowed krsna-prema on the people of the world. Prabhupada said that only a few hundred people knew that Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Fortunately, Srila Vyasadeva has compiled many literatures telling us about Krsna and His activities.)
But Krsna Himself, in order to realize three unfulfilled desires (one, to realize the position of Radharani, two, to understand His own beauty which attracts Radharani, and three, to know the bliss that Radharani felt, which is greater than His own bliss when He met Her) that He couldn’t realize about Radharani because He was the male and She was the female) came again in the age of Kali in the form of Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya is actually Krsna (sri krsna-caitanya, radha-krsna nahe anya). But as Caitanya He played the part of a great Vaisnava devotee of the Lord, and He and His associates freely gave out love of God, especially through the chanting of Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. About Lord Caitanya, one of the Gosvamis wrote: namo maha-vadanyaya, krsna-prema pradayate, krsnaya krsna caitanya namne gaura tvise namah. The Lord spread love of God throughout India, but He did not go outside. So we in the West were bereft of real knowledge of Krsna, what to speak of Lord Caitanya.
It was only with the coming of Srila Prabhupada to America that we learned about Krsna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Prabhupada singlehandedly began teach Krsna consciousness, and about Lord Caitanya’s specific merciful gift of how to easily approach Krsna. That is, through the sankirtana movement of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. So ultimately, Srila Prabhupada made our good fortune by revealing to us all the mysteries of Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya. We owe a great debt to him. He taught that the only way to know Krsna was to go through Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He compiled books about Krsna and His appearance, and then compiled the Caitanya-caritamrta to tell us about the audarya Lord who gives krsna-prema freely. All glories to Prabhupada! All glories to Caitanya-caritamrta!
In our out-loud reading group, we are hearing Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Four, “The Confidential Reasons for the Lord’s Appearance.” We’re at the point where the author is describing the essence of the relationship of Radha and Krsna. He’s doing this to lead to talk about Lord Caitanya. Once we understand Radha-Krsna, then we can understand Lord Caitanya. That’s how he put it, in that order. Then he explained that Lord Caitanya is in the mood of Radharani in separation from Krsna.
We are not elevated devotees, and maybe the material is over our heads. But Srila Prabhupada was kind enough to give us this rich vein of nectar. Everyone participating was thrilled, especially Haryasva, who spoke up and told how great the session was. We still have more to read in Chapter Four, and I always remember it and appreciate that Prabhupada has written purports about it. No one can say that Prabhupada didn’t teach higher topics. You can’t get higher than Radha-Krsna and Lord Caitanya.
Today we had our monthly book team meeting on Zoom. Present were Krsna-bhajana and Lal Krsna, but Krsna-bhajana’s wife, Satyasara, was ill and did not attend. Baladeva also attended. KB produced a chart with the status of the books we are trying to get ready for my Vyasa-puja on December 3. The title Calling Out to Srila Prabhupada is “ready to print;” Srila Prabhupada Samadhi Diary is “ready to print;” Remembering Srila Prabhupada is “ready to print;” He Lives Forever is “ready to print;” the third volume of My Letters from Srila Prabhupada: I Am Never Displeased with Any Member—“ready to print;” My book Here Is Srila Prabhupada is “with Lal Krsna for layout and printing;” Prabhupada Appreciation is “with Lal Krsna for layout and printing.” There is a problem with Prabhupada Meditations, Volume Five. When we first printed Prabhupada Meditations, there were four volumes, but Krsna-bhajana found material suitable for Prabhupada Meditations in other of my books. There is a problem with this book; the laid-out version is with Guru dasa for proofreading. Then it will go back to Nitai in India for corrections to be made. This Volume Five got held up by the “Indian Factor” as Nitai was trying to work with people in Bangladesh.
Krsna-bhajana has compiled a book, Best Use of a Bad Bargain, about illness. It consists of: 1) the physical illness chapter from Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service, 2) essays from Hope This Meets You In Good Health, a magazine that Prahladananda used to put out, and 3) “Best Use of a Bad Bargain,” essays from Among Friends.
I am very happy with the book team. Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara, and Lal Krsna and his wife, Shyama, plan to visit me in Viraha Bhavan in October.
I am fortunate to have a neighbor just across the street in Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu.
He is a longtime devotee of Srila Prabhupada, and he is also well educated. I had a philosophical question that I couldn’t figure out, so I asked him if I could talk with him. Since I was the one who was inquiring, I thought it would be proper that I go over to his house. But it is very difficult for me to get down the steps of the front porch and go across the street and into his house. He did not mind coming to see me, since all he had to do was walk across the street. We talked some more, and he lent me a book by Anton T. Boisen. It’s called The Exploration of the Inner World. When I get to read it, I’ll let you know. It’s nice to have Ravindra Prabhu’s association. He comes over to our place during festivals and usually speaks something along with me, and then stays for prasadam.
Maitreya dasa, who was here for two weeks, leaves early tomorrow morning. Later on the same day, Paramatma dasa from Guyana will arrive around lunchtime. Maitreya did very good service, doing all the menial tasks in good spirits. He was respectful and friendly. I wrote a recommendation for his memoir, Escape to Paradise and Beyond, and he will send it to Amazon, where they will use it in promoting his book. Maitreya will return to Alachua, where he does groundskeeping on the 127-acre property.
Paramatma has been here several times before. He has many preaching responsibilities in Guyana and also in Suriname. He has connections with the GBC. I will report more about that when I talk to him.
My longtime disciple Paramatma dasa from Guyana arrived today to render two weeks of service. He is a very responsible leading devotee, not only in Guyana but all over the world. He told me of all the different appointments he has from the GBC. I’m going to report on another day what posts he holds. But for now, I’ll just say he’s developed beyond Guyana into the country north of Guyana, Suriname. He is well-liked by the GBC members, and at least five of them have pressed him to start taking up the responsibility of diksa-guru. I also encouraged him, but he is not jumping into it yet. He said he wants to be cautious. I offered him the opportunity to take some of my books while he’s here, since I never can send them so far away to Guyana. He said he would take some, and he would like to get one translated in particular, He Lives Forever, into Spanish and maybe Portuguese. He said he can do it and will maybe look into it. He has a garden of four acres and is successfully growing many fruit trees and vegetables. He and his wife Nrsimha devi use these foodstuffs for their own consumption, but there is so much that they also sell their produce in the market. He is very respectful. He takes part regularly in our out-loud reading group on Zoom. I will write more about him when I get more specific information about the various services and posts he has in ISKCON.
I have already written that my disciple Paramatma has wide services in Guyana and the Caribbean, but I was not able to give you the particulars. Now I have them.
Paramatma was introduced to Krsna consciousness in 1976 and was among the early pioneers in setting the foundation of ISKCON in Guyana, when there were no devotees or established temples there.
He started the first temple in Guyana at Sewell Village, East Berbice.
He served as temple president there from 1979-1992.
He was appointed by the GBC body as zonal supervisor for Surinam in 2017.
Paramatma is a representive of the ISKCON Global Ministry of Education for English Speaking Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
He is a representative of the ISKCON Global Property Protection Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Paramatma supports his family by developing and depending solely on a four-acre organic farm.
This is just a brief selection of his services. I am very proud to have such a responsible and loyal disciple.
It’s 5:46 PM, and I haven’t got a second rabbit yet. Me and my partner are scratching our heads and talking back and forth—we can’t think of one yet. I have such a quiet life I don’t have any big events to tell of, except my inner world and my writing. If you want to know me, read my books. I very much like the “rabbits.” Some readers think it’s the most interesting part of my weekly Journal. I don’t like to let you down, but today we could find only one rabbit.
I haven’t been able to work at this new book in a long time. Today I confessed to Baladeva that sometimes I feel low. He said, “Why don’t you write your way out of it?” I took up the challenge happily. I returned to my New Writing book and my pen flowed with thoughts and insights that enabled me to readjust myself. Writing is such wonderful therapy. I only hope this vein continues.
I had two Dictaphones to go out early this morning. But Krsna dasi couldn’t do it because she was gone for a yearly physical examination. Paramatma, who is a great man on tech support, said he had done it in the past but didn’t know how to do it now. So he had to wait for Krsna dasi to teach him. But when Krsna dasi came back, she didn’t urgently send them out. She went to her house. In other words, she didn’t have a sense of urgency to send them out. She actually could have sent them out before she went for her physical exam. But I am very anxious to get the Dictaphones sent out as soon as possible. They are time-sensitive. So she taught Paramatma how to do it, and now he knows, but he will only be here for a few days, then the task will go back to Krsna dasi. She is competent and pretty regular on picking them up. I don’t think she knows how much they mean to me and how I feel urgency about it. Right now the Dictaphones are being used for three purposes: 1) Our daily Journal, 2) letters, and 3) installations of the new book I’m writing. So I’m fortunate to have people to help me send them out, and I’m taking advantage of the technology of Dictaphones and voluntary typists. For the writing, I’m anxious to get the material back as soon as possible. It gives me inspiration to go on writing.
The salesman came to see our leaky oil tank and assess the furnace. He thinks there’s a good chance that the furnace is good enough still, so that we can just take a conversion kit and change it from oil to propane, which is much more cost-effective. If the furnace is not compatible, we’ll have to replace it with a propane furnace. In either case, we will be able to add a humidifier, which will make the air much easier to breathe in the winter, which is helpful for my COPD.
Other work done on the old ashram house: Atindra and Maitreya installed new gutters on the renovated back barn, which contains tools and equipment, an overflow ashram, and my whole collection of paintings (around two thousand).
The first anniversary of Trinidad Bala’s passing away is approaching in a week. His widow Krsna dasi, our dear pujari, is feeling emotional, and her friend, Hemamukhi dasi, has come to stay with her for the week. Krsna dasi wants to do something on the anniversary date to commemorate Bala’s passing away. I heard Prabhupada talk in a lecture about the Vedic system, and how devotees would go to the Visnu temple on the anniversary date and make offerings of sraddha and pinda, which goes to Lord Visnu and then ultimately to the deceased soul. So we are going to do something like that on the date of his first anniversary of departure.
Today we had five extra guests for lunch. There was Atindra and Lalita-kisori, Dina Bandhu and Sarottama, who drove Paramatma here from the airport. Hemamukhi dasi came from Queens for a several-day visit to associate with Krsna dasi. With so many guests we might have canceled our out-loud reading group and had table conversation, but I preferred to keep steady with the out-loud reading. So we all ate in silence.
“36) O King and Queen, when will Your playful and crooked lovers’ quarrels, when Your friends plaintively grasp Your heels, fill my ears with wonder?
37) When, O killer of Agha, Your flute stolen by Her, and Yourself, as You eagerly search and ask everywhere for it, cheated by the smiling gopis, will You delight my eyes?
38) When, O Queen, as You bite Your flower-petal lips, raise Your eyebrows, and crookedly smile from the corner of Your eyes while Krsna chats with Your friend Lalita, will the beauty of Your face delight me?
39) Will this lowly person ever be able to desire the treasure desired by great souls? O King and Queen who remove all sufferings, great and small, all glories to the splendor of Your kindness!
40) O Lord Damodara, when, Your glittering, love-filled eyes restless with apprehension in the destined separation from the daughter of the gopa King’s friend, and Yourself seen by the sari birds expert at understanding hints, will You delight my eyes?
41) When, in the beginning of the rasa dance seeing You leave the lotus-eyed girls of Vraja, be led by Your independent lover Kesava to a secluded place in Vrndavana forest, and be worshiped by Him, will I at once abandon all my pride?
42) When, handsome with curling locks of hair, its eyes closing with fatigue, decorated with the reddish color of Queen Radha’s yavaka cosmetic, and stared at with crooked eyes by Candravali’s pale friends, will the splendor of Your face at dawn, O King of Vraja, make me happy and proud?
43) O Queen, when will I see Your face at once crying and smiling, the vine of its eyebrows crookedly raised in scorn, and its eyes reddish, as Lord Hari, having won Your lips’ nectar in the water-splashing contest, grasps Your neck, eager to drink?
44) O Prince of Vraja, when, Your flower garland stealthily stolen by Srimati Radharani and the gopis, will I see You retaliate by coming before them, and with a secret smile, suddenly rip open the bodice covering the breasts of Bhanumati?
45) O Prince of Vraja, when, surrounded by Srimati Radharani’s friends in the spring festival, will I see You, on the signal of my Queen’s smiling, glistening, and restless sidelong glance, suddenly kiss the mouth of Guna-manjari?”
56) O Lord, will the day come when, repeatedly worshiping me, You will beg from me a way to break the jealous anger of the daughter of the King of Vraja’s friend?
57) O Damodara, when will You order this person: “Carry to Sridama’s sister this flower letter, which says, ‘On Your order, as I heard it spoken by the sari bird, I am waiting here at Your pond. O friend, why are You late?’”
58) ‘I have the wealth of My own good honor! I shall never see that rake again! Subala’s friend has come here disguised as a woman! Surround Him at once!’ Hearing Your words, and in my heart understanding Your intentions, will we cleverly trap the best of the gopas?
59) ‘O killer of Aghasura, Your favorite young bull is now violently attacked by a demon in the form of a bull in Vraja!’ O Mukunda, when, speaking this lie, will I lead You from Candravali’s place to My Queen in the forest?
60) When, O Queen, removing your jewel belts and anklets and covering Your splendid transcendental body with a cloak the color of a swarm of black bees, will I lead You to a new meeting with Krsna in the dense darkness now swallowing the world?”
(to be continued)
“Yet, we always knew Srila Prabhupada as an elderly person. He came to us at 71 years old and lived until he was 82. As a senior citizen, he did not do any physical exercise except for his approximately one hour walk in the morning. He sat for a massage daily and that was a kind of exercise without moving. He remarked that his walk and his massage kept him alive. He began taking his daily walk on the recommendation of a doctor after his 1967 stroke. He began taking his massage at about that time also. But aside from these things he was a sedentary person in his old age. He did not engage in any hatha-yoga or workout or swimming or cycling or sport. Sometimes in the afternoon he paced in his room while chanting japa but mostly he sat whenever he could. When traveling on airplanes he had to sometimes briefly stand on queues before boarding or on immigration lines, but whenever possible he would sit in a seat. Once arriving at a temple he would sit in quarters his devotees provided for him in temples all over the world. That is, he would lean against bolster pillows and fold or stretch his legs under a low table. He sat on the vyasasana during ecstatic kirtanas and only on extraordinary occasions did he stand and dance or walk in a Ratha-yatra procession.
“Yet he was always expending energy. He did as shown here, by vigorous talking and gesturing. He spoke to large audiences in his daily Bhagavatam lecture, and he spoke to smaller groups in his room. He was always speaking Krsna conscious philosophy, which required logic and argument and quoting of Sanskrit verses. He also taxed his brain in each place he visited to discuss the management of the temple affairs, personal differences and financial matters. Daily he expended energy with his sitting with his secretary and dictating letters in answer to problems that came in the mail from all over the world.
“He said it required great concentration to write his books. He strained his body by keeping his sleep at a minimum and rising around one in the morning to work on his translations and purports. He had to provide the synonyms for each Sanskrit word and then arrange a flowing English translation of the sloka. This was not easy because English was not his first—or second—language. Then he consulted the Bhagavatam commentaries of the past acaryas, Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and several others. After assembling their comments on the verse, he spoke his Bhaktivedanta purport into the Dictaphone. Much of his commentaries came from his own personal realization and experience as the Founder-Acarya of the Hare Krsna movement.
“So although Prabhupada was sedentary, and also suffered illness periodically, he led a very energetic old age. Even considering his travels alone, he outpaced the rigors of younger men, and he expended all his energy purely as service to his Guru Maharaja and Krsna, as service to the conditioned souls of the world.”
“The fourth stanza of this song is wonderful: ‘Devoid of even a particle of devotion, lacking any enlightenment—what help is there for me now? Only You, O Lord, friend of the fallen. I am certainly fallen, the lowest of men. Please, therefore, lift me to Your lotus feet.’
“ . . . Let’s look again at Song Six. Sometimes I think the English translation isn’t giving enough. We lose a lot when we translate from Bengali to English. We end up with only an approximation, or a remnant, of the actual song that issued from Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s heart. But it’s all we have. He wrote so powerfully, so purely. His songs are like the sun’s rays (tivra), so his potency survives the translation.
“‘At Your feet, soft as new-grown leaves, I offer this humble prayer.’ I remember one naturopathic doctor I was seeing years ago discouraging me from listening to the laments of Narottama dasa Thakura and Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He thought they were pessimistic and that reading them would work against my recovery. I tried to explain to him about the ecstasy of the pure devotees, and of their humility and feelings of separation from Krsna, but he pushed it away. He was horrified that anyone would induce such a state in themselves.
“Of course, it’s not pessimism. I am trying to get beyond official reverence for these songs. I feel so distant from them. I want other things—I don’t have the spiritual fixedness to understand them properly. I want peace, productivity, good digestion . . . I want a better desk lamp, beautiful things to see, fresh strawberries, good writing paper, creamy and thick. I want to adjust the angle of the sun so it doesn’t shine straight into my eyes. I want to be thoughtful, but are these my thoughts?
“I am in process as a writer and a vaidhi-bhakta. I cling to Prabhupda’s instructions. But as for feelings . . . Srila Prabhupada was once asked how we could find quality in our chanting. He replied that first we have to have quantity before we can experience quality. It may take many lifetimes. It comes automatically, not by force. For now, we chant out of duty. I also write out of duty. I consider Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s songs and hope a few crumbs will fall to me.”
“No matter what else he was doing, Srila Prabhupada put it in his schedule, even when he was ill. Wherever he traveled, he lived with the devotees and joined them to give the morning class.
“Here was the opportunity to watch his gestures and expressions as he spoke, absorbed in Srimad-Bhagavatam. A dull student might think that Prabhupada was saying the same things, using the same repertoire of verses, but Prabhupada was always quoting the verses to prove different points in different contexts. He was always discovering new lights. He also said that repetition was necessary to learn. For most devotees in the later years, this was the one sure time to be with him in his personal form, to sit and hear. It was formal, and one might wish for other situations in which to ask personal questions and to have a reply just for oneself, yet the lectures were great mercy, and to the receptive student they were very personal. Devotees have testified how in a large audience, when Prabhupada said, ‘Distribute books,’ they took it to heart and formed their lives on that order. Many have testified that they found Prabhupada looked at them and spoke especially to them in his lecture, even though they knew he was speaking to everyone else as well.
“This was the time for all to be with him. Each morning without fail he would begin, looking at the verse and speaking as if he was entering a sacred river. He immersed himself at once in Srimad-Bhagavatam. He hardly ever chose another literature to speak from in the morning. What an example, that the Srimad-Bhagavatam contains all else and is perfect for all our days!
“He sat in one place in the traditional posture of the guru— legs crossed, sitting on the vyasasana—with spectacles, book in hand, microphone, gesturing and looking up. He was a hundred percent Vyasadeva’s representative, giving us the transcendental wisdom. Seeing Srila Prabhupada’s personal example even today by means of movies or tape recordings, all the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement may adopt the same procedures and do as he taught. Like him, we can precede the class by singing ‘Jaya Radha-Madhava’ with karatalas. Then we can recite om namo bhagavate vasudevaya, then the Sanskrit, synonyms, translation, purport. We have no need to invent something new. After he showed us hundreds and hundreds of times, how can we fail to grasp the instruction—that we should continue the morning tradition of sitting together and hearing and speaking?”
“The publication of Srila Prabhupada’s unedited letters is controversial. Some devotees feel that the letters should be private; others feel that while the letters should be available among the devotee community, they should not be available so indiscriminately to the outside society. But the letters themselves are bona fide, and our goal in studying them is to increase our enthusiasm and devotional practices.
“The letters are somewhat less authoritative than Prabhupada’s books because they are relevant in a much more specific way. Prabhupada addressed his correspondence to individuals (or particular groups of individuals) in certain temple situations and at different times. He also usually wrote in response to his disciples’ inquiries to him, and we do not have that side of the correspondence to give us an even clearer picture of why Prabhupada was speaking in a certain way or how he was applying the Krsna conscious philosophy to the mentality of a particular individual.
“Although in a general sense the letters are less authoritative, to the recipient, they are most relevant. Prabhupada was personally instructing his disciples in the details of their own devotional service. Instructions to one devotee in a letter may not apply to another devotee, or they may change with time (i.e., Prabhupada told me to keep my job at the welfare office and then later said I could give it up). Because of this, Prabhupada stopped the circulation of his letters among the various centers.
“It had been the practice of the devotees that as soon as someone received a letter from Srila Prabhupada, we would xerox it and send it to all the other centers. But in 1969 Prabhupada wrote, ‘Letters are sometimes personal and confidential, and if all letters are circulated, it may act reversely.’”
“B. has been growing a Norfolk pine (Christmas tree) in our house since December, and she has been flourishing nicely. But he thought, ‘Why not worship tulasi?’ At his request Kaulini Mataji brought him back tulasi seeds from Vrnda Kunda (the resident pond of the gopi Tulasi devi in Vrndavana). She also has a book on how to take care of tulasi, and she assured him that he has devotion and that tulasi will grow nicely here. Worshiping tulasi is a part of Baladeva’s larger desire to live in Vrndavana. When he was last there for six months, Mahanidhi Swami told him on leaving that you cannot join the lila of Krsna without worshiping tulasi and the residents of Goloka.
“Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport of his Srimad-Bhagavatam that he sorely regretted not being able to grow tulasi in the West. But then his disciple Govinda dasi cultivated them in the West, and he was very happy. This is an extremely rare instance of Prabhupada mentioning a disciple by name in his books. In Hawaii they have been able to grow tulasi as large bushes and keep them outdoors. In Vancouver, Canada, the ISKCON temple also cultivates many large healthy bushes in pots.
“Prabhupada approved the formal worship of tulasi as part of the daily ‘morning program’ by offering an arati and singing the ‘tulasi kirtana’ song after the mangala arati in the temple. The Gaudiya Math devotees criticize ISKCON for singing this song and then reciting the English translation because they say it contains a line that is too rasika for general worship. The line states that my only wish is to become a maidservant of the gopis in Vrndavana. Prabhupada has approved this song, and the devotees recite it with simple and innocent devotion.
“To worship tulasi in temples and homes is common in India. Now it is widespread all over the world in all the towns and villages. Worshiping tulasi is a very “Vrndavana” type of bhajan, and it is possible to perform in the West. Haridasa Thakura used to sit in front of a tulasi plant and chant his numerous number of japa rounds. Narada Muni converted a hunter to become a Vaisnava, and he told him to build a simple cabin and to live there chastely with his wife and worship the tulasi plant and chant the maha-mantra. That ex-hunter gained fame as a first-class Vaisnava, and people used to bring him enough food to eat, so he didn’t have to endeavor to gather food.”
“Narahari comes back after two minutes and asks, ‘Do you want time to write?’
“‘Yes, I do.’ I have to speak up for my five minutes. When we are eating, we might prefer that the servers approach us Indian style, ‘forcing’ us to take more, or at least bringing seconds out to us rather than showing up empty-handed and asking, ‘Would you like anything else?’ But I’m hungry enough to write that I am willing to speak up boldly for my five minutes.
“White-haired gents in stylish sweaters standing around, taking a break. Narahari is eager to get going. He promises that if we push on without a break, we can stop for the day by 1 P.M. Then I can bathe Srila Prabhupada while Narahari cooks. I’ll try to read also. Don’t hold him up by writing now. Besides, I’m too spaced-out to say much. Hills and mist and tourist shop. It’s really behind us. Cote d’Azur, signs in French, brighter insides to the tunnels. As we pass Monaco, I go into a whole reverie about Grace Kelly and then Jackie Onassis. The mind never gives us relief.
“Srila Prabhupada says we’ve got to change the quality of our thoughts, that’s all. Think of Krsna’s heroic activities—how He kidnapped Rukmini, anything! Think of Srila Prabhupada’s heroic activities—what did he do when he left Melbourne? Driving is tedious, but at least we can chant.
“I’m drowsy again. Nodding, and now we are pulling off for another stop. It’s an Esso station. Men and women, I’m sorry I’m so drowsy. Can’t seem to do anything about it. It’s like being hypnotized, mesmerized. Oh, let me chant! Maybe I’ll improve. But I don’t. It’s just an Esso shop, and everything’s the same.
“Narahari serves himself from the diesel pump and then goes in to pay. One day it will all be over, and I’ll have only memories of these temple visits and of the friendly devotees, admiration for the confederation of temples, the books I’ve read, the paintings I’ve seen of Bhagavatam heroes, Lord Visnu on Garuda, Lord Krsna in Vrndavana, Radha-Krsna. That’s old age. But how deep, how dear, what will it mean to me, my devotional life, as I review it and relive it in flashes?
“Again Narahari asked me if I want to pause these five minutes for writing. Again I say yes. The van is parked facing a billboard advertising what you can buy in the store: Nestle’s KitKat candy bars at 10 F, a little apple tart wrapped in tin foil, 10 F. What’s the price on my tongue? What can I give up? How much can I love the transcendental realm?
“I see myself as a good fellow, or let’s say a person with a good disposition toward spiritual life, and certainly I’ve heard and received good training. Still, I’m so limited and cut off by those limits. Limited desire for attaining devotional service; limited drive for austerity; limited willingness to give up my own interests in favor of Lord Krsna’s—this seems to be exposed as I sit in the front of the van in springtime and doze while we drive through the monotonous land of highway.”
“An amazing sight: so many babajis inside the building on the shore of Radha-kunda. I don’t have to judge them. I am a pink cow next to them. There is a slight camaraderie among us, but mostly we stay apart. I am afraid to write even a single descriptive word about them. When Srila Prabhupada heard that Indira Gandhi, in the days of emergency rule, ordered that some Radha-kunda babajis be gathered and sterilized to fulfill her quota, Prabhupada was insulted and angered to hear it. Later, he said it was the cause of her fall from power. A few days after perpetrating this act she was deposed.
“As I left Radha-kunda I suddenly noticed that I did not have my cane with me. ‘My cane! I can walk without it! I’m cured!’”
“Nice things I believe Srila Prabhupada and pure devotees experience when they say, ‘It is such a nice thing’:
(1) Seeing Krsna.
(2) Feeling compassion for fallen souls.
(3) Freeing others from maya.
(4) Being thrilled in bodily ecstasy.
(5) Being in contact with Krsna and knowing they will soon return to the spiritual world.
(6) Happiness of leaving material family, etc., and being maintained by Krsna.
(8) Freedom from fear by awareness of Krsna’s grace.
(9) Seeing Krsna’s hand in their lives.
(10) Knowing Krsna as a cowherd boy.
(11) Tasting the nectar of the Hare Krsna mantra and engaging others in chanting it.”
“So I was talking with Patri. He said, ‘Yes, we have to be ready for death.’ We were talking in front of the coal-burning fireplace, I’m glad to say.
“I said, he said . . . ‘I’m feeling good in my connection with you, even though my wife and I don’t write to you much.’
“I whispered, ‘Thank you,’ inaudibly. I said, ‘To live for death isn’t morbid. We don’t practice like Christian monks who picture themselves on their deathbed.’ I said we live for life, for doing nice things in Krsna’s service.
“‘Yes,’ said Patri, ‘I like the example Prabhupada gave that a million dollars includes all your ten dollar problems. So by serving Krsna, all other things are taken care of.’ (He meant our preparedness for death.)
“I said, ‘Yes, psychologists teach people how to prepare for death, and mainly they’re getting them to be detached, to let go, coaching them that you can’t possess things, you have to let go to die peacefully. That is nothing but simple renunciation and it is already included in Krsna consciousness.’
“Thus we talked. I said, ‘Patri, you went to the edge of the cliff of death and you have come back. But you will have to go there again and we all, not only to the edge, but we will have to go over. But it is not a terrible thing. It can be wonderful going back to Godhead, to Krsna.’ I said . . . death . . . I didn’t really know what the hell I was talking about. I have not been to the cliff.
“But he has, and he became sobered by it. His hair is growing again, and he has lost the unhealthy fat. He is not a liquor drinker, but he thinks that by eating so much carbohydrates (potatoes and fried things were his sole diet) and not in protein, he got the same disease an alcoholic will get. That made me think I should eat right.
I don’t want to die. I told him I figure I may live twenty more years and get a good warning and go to Vrndavana. ‘But you, Patri, have showed us that one may not get such a warning. It may happen while we are out selling paintings at 1:00 P.M. and there’s no warning.’
“He told me how he was put in the respiratory ward where he saw three old men die. Now you could put all this in your story, right? But why not keep it in here in the timed book where it has appeared?
“Yes, he saw the dying. One man was surrounded by his relatives, ‘just like in the Bhagavatam.’ The son was shouting, ‘Keep breathing! Keep breathing!’ Patri said, ‘I saw the old man was running out of his breaths.’ (We say that one has a limited number of breaths in which to live a lifetime.) The son was shouting, but the old man was running out, and there was nothing he could do. Patri saw the priest with a chalice who said some prayers, but when the man died, he said to the mourning relatives, ‘I’m sorry about your troubles,’ which is what every Irish person says in a conventional way to survivors. He expected the priest to say more. Patri said that I wrote him a letter in which I quoted Srila Prabhupada saying, ‘Philosophy means to keep death in front of you,’ and that was better than the priest saying only, ‘Sorry for your troubles.’”
“Mumuksavo ghora-rupan. The devotees go on worshiping their Narayana or Radha-Krsna Deities. They don’t bear a grudge toward demigod worshipers but remain absorbed in the pure worship of Krsna forms.
“How sweet and graceful are Radha-Gopinatha! He bears a flute, not an ax. Radha holds a flower for Her Lord, not a sword. She blesses the devotees—not with material wealth but with assurance that they will attain service to Radha and Krsna through authorized devotees. Worship Them in the early morning and throughout the day. Worship Them with camara and peacock fan. Worship Them with incense and lamps, songs, pure water, soft towels, and the recitation of devotional mantras. Worship punctually and with the best food and dress. The finery we might pick out for ourselves or our wives can be used to decorate Their beautiful forms.”
“I also asked Prabhupada if Palika dasi could come to work at ISKCON Press. She already knew how to compose type, and we were trying to centralize the Press workers in Boston. Palika was married to Bhavananda at that time, and he was a leader among the devotees in Los Angeles. He was also both an interior decorator and an active preacher.
“I clearly remember Prabhupada giving her permission, then Palika arriving with her husband. They had been willing to live separately from each other for Prabhupada’s service, and Prabhupada appreciated their attitudes, but in the end, they were able to come together. While Prabhupada was speaking to them about this, when it seemed that they would live separately, he made a typing motion with his hands to indicate that he appreciated their service attitude. He said that service was more important than marriage.
“In the same meeting I raised points about ISKCON Press. I had an agenda, the first part of which was to ask if I could quit my job. I’m sure other devotees in the Boston temple supported me in asking that question. Many of the devotees didn’t like it that I was gone all day. The fact that I was gone all day was causing me problems at work, too, because the devotees would call me at the office to ask my advice. Although I tried to hide the fact that I was counseling devotees by phone, my supervisor would sometimes overhear me and say, ‘This isn’t a church!’ She would overhear me saying things like, ‘Well, if she doesn’t want to go out on sankirtana, tell her that at least she has to cook and get her rounds done.”
“‘What are you talking about over there? This isn’t a church!’ I’d hang up, then find myself ten minutes later mumbling over the telephone in the corner, hearing how we were overdrawn at the bank and that a collection agent was standing on the doorstep. ‘Call so-and-so,’ or, ‘Do this, do that. I can’t talk more now.’ But I had to talk! It was too hard to sort out the problems from my office. The devotees wanted me at the temple full-time.”
“A day after forming the GBC (July 28, 1970), Prabhupada formed the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. He established it as a separate entity intended only for publishing his books. This, of course, proved to be a significant step in ISKCON’s development.
That Prabhupada separated it from ISKCON went along with his remark that even if some sections of ISKCON failed, his books would still be published and would make new devotees. At the time, however, we didn’t realize how significant the creation of the BBT was. Neither were the persons appointed to the BBT particularly outstanding devotees in the realm of book distribution or publishing. The BBT’s first trustees were devotees like Rupanuga, Bhagavan, and Karandhara. Because of that, we didn’t really get an impression of what the BBT would one day become. Later, as more trustees were added, devotees chose those who showed leadership in distributing or protecting Prabhupada’s books and who gave utmost importance to the books, especially in terms of printing and distribution. Prabhupada’s establishment of the BBT made it possible for the devotees to develop Prabhupada’s book publishing and distribution into an actual business. It was also a way for Prabhupada to protect his publishing money from being swallowed up by ISKCON temple mismanagement. It’s amazing how much forethought Prabhupada had for the future of his growing institution and his book publishing, and what steps he took to protect it—giving certain devotees sannyasa and sending them out to preach, establishing the GBC, and forming the BBT. We had no idea of the significance of these steps at the time.”
“This quality of the Vaisnava is explicitly devotional. The Sanskrit words krsnaika, ‘only to Krsna,’ and sarana, ‘surrendered to,’ are clear and to the point. Although ‘mercifulness,’ ‘truthfulness,’ and other qualities are also strictly in relation to Krsna, with ‘krsnaika-saranam’ the connection is transparent and the meaning saturated with bhakti.
“And yet there are impersonalist philosophers—the Mayavadis—who would try to misinterpret krsnaika-saranam and mislead others away from Krsna. Once when a Hinduism professor visited Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada asked him, ‘What is Hinduism?’ When the Hinduism professor replied, ‘I do not know,’ Prabhupada said, ‘You mean you are teaching Hinduism, but you don’t even know what it is?’
“The professor confessed that Hinduism was so complex and many-branched that he didn’t know how to describe it. Srila Prabhupada then explained how the word ‘Hindu’ is a misnomer, and that the real purpose of the Vedic literature is to educate the human being about his relationship with the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. Prabhupada cited Bhagavad-gita:
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
“The Hinduism professor, rather than accept the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita, asked Prabhupada if he could give an etymological meaning of the word saranam. Prabhupada replied simply, ‘Saranam means “surrender.”’ The professor became argumentative. He did not want to accept the conclusion that Krsna is everything and that the goal of Vedic or Hindu culture is to understand Him. He insisted Prabhupada give a different etymological explanation of saranam. When Prabhupada again replied that saranam means surrender, the professor explained, ‘No, no. That is a definition. I asked you for the etymology. What is the root? What is the history of this word?’ Seeing that his guest was uninterested in hearing submissively, Prabhupada said that for root explanations of words the professor would do better to talk with a Sanskrit scholar instead of a spiritual master. Since Srila Prabhupada’s expertise in translating Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita has been praised by Sanskrit professors around the world, we should not think his straightforward definition of the word saranam was incorrect or unscholarly. There are always those who, not wanting to surrender to Krsna, evade the issue on the pretext of scholarship.”
“Once again a bout with doubt—
why does Lord Visnu
walk without touching the ground?
I know He can do anything,
but, why walk that way?
Silly questions we humans ask
who break our feet on the earth.
You walk as You please;
leaning Your hand on Garuda.
You are inclined to Your devotees.
And Srila Prabhupada, our arya-sangama
walked on the earth
and sat writing the glories of Visnu.”
“As we read today, a devotee expressed his interest in learning Krsna consciousness by hearing about the gopis. Up until now, he thought it was taboo to think in this way. But he is taking courage from several of Srila Prabhupada’s phrases. Prabhupada writes, ‘Sukadeva Gosvami has recommended that anyone who hears from the right source about the dealings of the gopis with Krsna, and who follows the instructions, will be elevated to the topmost position of devotional service and be able to give up the lust of material enjoyment.’ He said he felt encouraged to do this in the company of a few trusted friends who are all willing to share inner impressions and intimate thoughts.
“I said that appreciation of the gopis by us is a very delicate thing. When we hear in the KRSNA book of kissing and embracing, we sometimes flinch because it reminds us of the material kissing and hugging we indulged in or hankered for with the opposite sex. But then how are we to get rid of lust? Srila Prabhupada recommends that by hearing of the gopis, the higher taste will banish the lower, perverted ‘rasa.’ At the same time, we must keep rigid vows not to begin new chapters of mundane conjugality.
“Uddhava wished to take the dust of the gopis’ feet on his head. But he dared not ask them. So he prayed to take birth as a clump of grass or an herb growing where the gopis ran as they hurried to hear Krsna playing His flute.
“When Uddhava left Vrndavana, the residents asked him for a benediction. They prayed to always be able to remember Krsna. Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘The method is very simple: to fix the mind always on the lotus feet of Krsna, to talk always of Krsna without passing on to any other subject matter, and to engage the body in Krsna’s service constantly.’ (KRSNA, Vol. 2, p. 78-9).
“Harken. We are writing anyway. Sunday afternoon in a Poconos suburb. Lawn mower sounds and kids’ voices. On Monday there won’t be so much of this. Tomorrow is the last day here. Carpet of leaves. Stories of a big black bear seen in the neighbor’s yard. Sound of a Blue Jay alarm clock. And the highway, I-80.
“Hey, hey, where are my red sweatpants and, one more time, where is the right clock to travel with?
“If you could hear more about Krsna. It’s the worth the effort to turn your thinking in that direction. I read a couple of entries in Namamrta. One said that even if you have sins, they can be removed by chanting. And provided you don’t commit new sins (yesam tvanta-gatam papam), then love of God will manifest in you just by chanting the Lord’s names. (Kirtanad eva krsnasya).
“I read it. And a light of hope is in me. To chant and to do it in prayer. You don’t have to read a certain numerical quota of pages. But stay with even one marvelous purport of His Divine Grace and pray – please, I’d like to enter the loving service in chanting. Srila Prabhupada says Krsna doesn’t need your offering of food. He has laksmi-sahasra, millions of Laksmis serving Him with reverence and affection. He wants your love for deliverance from suffering. (You cause your suffering; it’s not caused by Him.) So, offer Him even a little water or a leaf. He wants your love and serving mood. Think – please, Lord, I am fallen but I want to serve You. Please accept this offering from me.
“And the best offering is to chant His holy names. Know you have nothing that Krsna needs. But you need His love. Pray He accepts your chanting as service.
May I think of You.
“All those faces I was drawing over ten days and saving them now. Seriously playing at collages. But during that time, I didn’t think much of writing. And here I am now – trying to catch up? Trying to build up, starting off a half-hour dedicated to easy writing practice.
“You be serious. Massimo wants to be an artist. He said he’ll go daily to the academy. But they will have live nudes there. I said better not to paint female nudes. Why is he so academy-oriented? Is that the way to become an artist? I guess so. You learn how to draw a likeness. Not like me. He wants to paint backdrops for the altar on canvases and be admired for it. Just another kind of labor.
“And Hare Krishna dasi asserts that it’s good therapy to smell the earth. Krsna is the original fragrance. And to pull weeds, it’s a sensual act, get close to the flowers and be there in Krsna consciousness.
“Yeah, and who else said that? I’ll tell you by and by.
“What’s the sadness? Empty…alone…lack…No reason really. Aware life is passing us by. We don’t have the guts. Neither can we reform in our own Krsna consciousness movement or in our own lives. At least then don’t deteriorate. A book that says we reach full growth around – was it fifteen years of age? Around eighteen or so it goes downhill and the downhill starts picking up speed in old age. You die of some related breakdowns, poisoning, etc. They have a medicine you take; intravenous liquid drops over three or four hours, and you need to do it about twenty times. Chelation?
“And the acupulsar.
“He wants me to do these two the next time I come here. I’d rather not. They give you rich food, though.
“Good to leave here and not be a pet resident. Move along.
“The trees don’t move. The sparrows do. I don’t need more food today. A tea only. No food, please. Go see M. in his van (my van?) which he cannot get started until he calls some company tomorrow.
“I am recording things so that they won’t go into oblivion.
“If you chant the Hare Krsna mantra, you will escape the worst of Kali-yuga. You will go on chanting and attain the blessed state of krsna-prema.
“If I meet my Godbrother, I’ll talk with him about the possibility raised than no one in ISKCON may be qualified to initiate. Say, ‘This is scary.’ Assess our shortcomings and what to do to become more qualified. Chant more rounds. Or engage in more book distribution and hari-nama on the streets? People will have different prescriptions as to what is right to do.
“OK, approximately twenty-five days and during this time you are not doing your daily PMRB. You can come here and write.
head newly shaven
I’m alone in peace
apart can chant
an ‘extra’ round.
Christ will accept me in
Hare Krsna mode which is
best for me more and more
in my master’s books
whatever he has written
“See you later at the tall gate. Be there soon, son. Say your Amens.
“I wish you’d fall asleep and not dream you have to go to a karmi movie show. Not a moment needs to be wasted in that, nor pleasing, nor serving any such nondevotees.
“Old age breaks your day, arthritis, coronary, lead poisoning. Take the cure. Or don’t take it and just depend on Krsna even if you don’t live so long. Die a natural death.
“He died. He was sixty or seventy-years old. And did enough work. He did or didn’t attain his goal. He copied, moped, watched the clocks and was named a guru.
“These eleven are henceforth eternal rkvik gurus. That’s the logic JS exposed in sarcastic words. They think its bunk and not for love or money would they be rkviks, the survivors among the eleven.
So, I guess you know
my code here.
“Get a new heart or just die a natural death and if anyone is interested, they can print books in Hindi. The books saved a marriage from breaking up. ‘I liked them,’ said a boy in France, ‘because the hero, Nimai, has the same name as me.’”
(35 minutes, written in the Shack, first of a proposed month-balance of Writing Sessions, while a bird is whistling bird, bird, bird. Sunday. God help us. May 5, 1996)
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.