Panditji and two brahmacaris came up to Stuyvesant Falls to remove Panditji’s large library of books from Saci Suta’s garage. When they were finished their mission, he paid me a visit, and then paid a visit to Ravindra Svarupa. Panditji now has long white hair and hair on his cheeks. He wore a protective mask against COVID. We were old friends, so it was good to see him, and it was a congenial meeting. We spoke of many things, such as the controversy over the Bhagavad-gita editions, recent essays by senior devotees, and reminiscences of our days together in 1969 in Boston. While in Boston, Pradyumna (Panditji) first began auditing classes in Sanskrit in Harvard University. Now he has trained himself to be a competent reader and writer of Sanskrit. He lives at the Bhakti Center in New York City, where he is welcome. Everyone likes his presence.
He is teaching now in some places, studying Sanskrit. He said he works all day at the Bhakti Center by himself, studying commentaries of the scriptures in Sanskrit and writing. He plans to publish books. He remembered a time in Boston when two Harvard professors were talking with me and another devotee. One professor said the Bhagavad-gita was obviously something like a “sublimation,” or something like that. But, he said that when I heard that I spoke up to the professor and told him the truth. He told other memories of me chasing hoodlums down the street with a stick in Boston. It was very pleasant meeting with him again. He seems to be in good health and active. He is a learned devotee. Pradyumna traveled a lot with Srila Prabhupada. It was Pradyumna and his wife Arundhati who both were both part of Prabhupada’s traveling team. Pradyumna did the diacritics for Prabhupada’s books; Arundhati did typing for Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada acknowledged their good service in one of his books.
I had the honor of a visit from Malati devi dasi. She was initiated in 1967 in San Francisco. She went to India, where she did much service for Srila Prabhupada and was close to him. She became a GBC member. She has great love for Srila Prabhupada and talks about him in her lectures. She organized interviews for a book, A Bond of Love: Srila Prabhupada and His Daughters. She has compassion and appreciates so many devotees in ISKCON. I read her a purport from Caitanya-caritamrta where Srila Prabhupada says that in ISKCON boys and girls can mingle together and interact. But he doesn’t allow illicit sex. In that purport he said that these girls are not ordinary girls. They are special. They are preachers. She asked for the location of that purport, and I gave it to her. She spoke of many things concerning devotees who she counseled, and how she is seeing devotees suffering from physical illness. We stayed together for an hour and fifteen minutes. I was very pleased that she had come to see me.
Samika Rishi Prabhu visited today with a couple of his disciples. He was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, and I gave him second initiation in 1978. I have visited his house in Pennsylvania a number of times for writing retreats and mixed with his family, including his wife Anartha dasi and their children. He used to be a doctor for many years. But then he retired and concentrated on his spiritual life. He’s now an initiating guru and has some disciples. Not so long ago, he went to India and financed the building of a huge temple and big, big guesthouse in his hometown of Khargone. He mostly stays there now. He says there are not so many devotees in the Khargone temple, and so he is trying to manage and gain more disciples. He humbly said he is not a charismatic devotee who can quote from different Vaisnava acaryas. I told him all he needed to do was preach from Prabhupada’s books; that was sufficient. He left Khargone and visited the United States. He’s traveling. He went to New Jersey, then came here. And after lunch he was picked up by one of his disciples from Syracuse who said they had about twenty devotees there. He’s traveling more as he gets more disciples. He asked for my blessings.
When devotees come for a week or two, or more, to assist Baladeva by doing menial service to me, they sometimes find it difficult to learn all the duties. As Baladeva shows them the many different duties of menial service, they should record the instructions so that they will have them on hand and not be able to forget. I talked to one devotee who wasn’t doing so well at the service, and I told him about the past acaryas who did menial service when they were old or ill, and how the spiritual master very much appreciated that devotee. I gave the example of Madhavendra Puri, whom Isvara Puri served. By serving Madhavendra Puri so nicely, Isvara Puri became very dear to him. Even at Madhavendra’s deathbed he was praising Isvara Puri. Aside from Madhavendra Puri, there are many other examples of this in Vaisnava history. Prabhupada has so many sons and daughters who are pushing on the movement, opening temples, Deity worship, etc., and he felt very indebted to them. For himself, he was sometimes ill, and especially at the end of his life he definitely needed support to do his basic duties. At the very end of Srila Prabhupada’s life he had Tamal Krishna Goswami, Upendra and Bhakti Charu Swami taking care of his body. He could not do anything without their assistance. So I ask my disciples who come here to serve for a few weeks to take it seriously, and think of it as important devotional service and leave their regular duties behind. There is more than enough service here to keep them busy without them having to make many phone calls back to their zone or engaging in other than servant duties.
I received an email from a devotee named Muktinath. He’s from a Spanish-speaking country. He read my book Sri Caitanya-daya. He loved it and spoke about it to devotees, who also liked it very much. What he wrote to me for was permission to make an audiobook in Spanish. Sri Caitany-daya contains diaries of a husband and wife, the difficulties they go through and how the wife supports the husband. Muktinath seemed to think that the book was not fiction, but that I compiled and translated it. He said he’s had conversations with devotees, and he wants to speak the voice of Harideva, and he’s found a woman who will speak the part of Chayadevi, reading from their respective diaries. He asked if it was necessary to pay royalties, and were there any other requirements. In any case, he wrote, “I remain enormously grateful for your attention and for your service to Srila Prabhupada and all the Vaisnavas. The books you produce continue to guide our strayed hearts. Please forgive my boldness and understand my enthusiasm.” He said he didn’t know if I speak or understand Spanish, “as it is a language that abounds in nuances and inflections, and I fear it may not be easy for an English speaker to appreciate the bittersweet tone of Chayadevi and Harideva’s diaries.” He said if I give permission, it would be a great privilege to acquaint me with the progress of the audiobook, directly or through His Holiness Yadunandana Swami.
I wrote him back and said I was very happy to give him permission, and that there was nothing else he needed. I’m very happy that a book of mine was appreciated in a Spanish-speaking country, and that they’re going to use it.
This morning I took a nap and got up at 10:30 A.M. I made my way to my chair and called for Paramatma (who’s here for two weeks as a servant) to come up, then I would take a nebulizer, etc. I kept calling him on the radio, but he didn’t come up. I called for Baladeva, and he didn’t come up because he was out. So I sat there alone without my glasses and nothing to do. I finally got up using my carriage and went back to the bedroom and got my eyeglasses. With my glasses on I would be able to do work. But my carriage got stuck as I tried to get past an object in the room. Within a few minutes, Baladeva came back from his errand. He answered my call and got me unstuck with my carriage. Then I was able to get back to my chair and consider working.
I had used the radio many times to call for Paramatma. Then I used the emergency buzzer three times, and still no one came up. (Paramatma says the emergency bell doesn’t reach into his quarters.) Paramatma finally came up after Baladeva had to wake him from a very deep sleep. Paramatma thought it was 11:oo P.M., he was so dazed and sleepy from his long flight from Guyana. When I finally saw Paramatma, I praised his service in the Caribbean and his being on committees and working with GBC members. But I said his service here was a little imperfect. He was humble and said he would improve by keeping the radio turned on. I really need to have someone who will answer my call because I can’t move around by myself. I reprimanded Paramatma, but now we’re back on loving terms.
Today is the first anniversary of the disappearance of my dear disciple, Trinidad Baladeva. We are trying to follow the traditional Vedic way to observe this day. Bala’s widow, Krsna dasi, is emotional, but she is carrying on and trying her best to make this a special day. She, with the help of other devotees, is preparing a special feast. The system is, since time immemorial, that the survivors of the dear one offer him prasadam from Lord Visnu (preferably do this in Gaya, India, at the temple of Visnu’s lotus feet.) So here at Viraha Bhavan devotees close to Bala are preparing a feast and offering it to Krsna in honor of him. The idea is that the offering will be given to Krsna, and the remnants will be given to the deceased one, who will benefit from it spiritually. Afterwards the feast prasadam will be offered to the Vaisnavas and brahmanas. By pleasing the devotees, the relative receives further benefit. We are doing it here in Viraha Bhavan for Bala and remembering him in our prayers.
Early this week I asked Paramatma to go to the computer and bring me up Daivisakti’s Sunday lecture. He came up with a video of a lecture she gave, but it wasn’t much about Prabhupada arriving at the pier in Boston. Also Daivisakti apparently didn’t use the poem I sent her, which was about Prabhupada’s first arriving in Boston. Then I received a letter from Daivisakti saying, “You saw an old class, not this year’s class.” She wrote, “You were misled to a previous lecture.” Paramatma then gave me the video of her lecture from last Sunday. I listened to it, and it was very good, about Prabhupada’s landing in Boston, then going to New York, and then going to Butler, Pennsylvania. So she didn’t cover so much ground, like in the lecture Paramatma had given me, which had seemed inappropriate for the celebration of the day Prabhupada arrived in America, Boston, 1965. I reprimanded Paramatma a little, and he said he’ll be more alert from now on. But he really does better when he’s in his normal place and service, leading the yatras of Guyana and Suriname, writing papers for ISKCON reform, and rubbing shoulders with members of the GBC.
Kirtan Rasa and Damodara, two disciples who are dear to me, visited me today. I told them that I knew they both had unhappy homes. One has a difficult wife and one is divorced and lives alone. I told them they should tolerate their difficulties and push on with their Krsna consciousness. I said some more, but when I was finished they both laughed. They said, “We thought you were going to tell us to take sannyasa.” I said no, I wasn’t thinking of that. They should tolerate their unhappy home situations. I told about Srila Prabhupada in his household life. As written in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Prabhupada said his home life was miserable. Not only he said that, but members of the Gaudiya Math with whom he associated also knew it. One of them, Atullananda, asked Prabhupada to quit his family and join them in the Math. But Prabhupada (Abhay Charan De) said, “No, I have family responsibilities.”
They told me about their spiritual practices. Both of them are seriously chanting japa, and one is regularly hearing Krsna consciousness, Prabhupada’s lectures, on audio while he takes a long drive to his office. One is helping devotees in Atlanta, where they are starting a new temple. He is their counselor.
Damodara likes to talk about the old days years ago when he was my servant. He has many stories and memories of that time, and he likes to recall them to me. Not long ago Kirtan Rasa went through a “dark night of the soul.” But by talking to Damodara, who encouraged him, and myself, he passed through it, and now accepts ISKCON as his natural home. He no longer has angst. I was glad to spend time with them, hear how they are managing their lives, and finding relief from misery by their spiritual practices. In their troubles, they reached out to devotees. Association with devotees is a most important thing. We cannot go it alone. They took lunch with us and listened to the out-loud reading of my disciples on Zoom.
Lalita-kisori is married to Atindra. They both often come to Viraha Bhavan and are eager to do service. Today she was very helpful in serving out prasadam to our extra guests, Samika Rishi and two disciples. She also cleaned up after the lunch and then served out the just-arrived sister of Baladeva, Kathi and her son David. She does a lot of gardening work at her house and here. She is very knowledgeable about plants and getting our devastated tulasi back in order. I am always happy to see her, and she’s always busy serving. She is a very good friend of our pujari, Krsna dasi, who has very little female association. She gives much encouragement to her husband, Atindra, in spiritual life. Together she and Atindra make an ideal devotee couple.
I had a meeting with Kathi, Baladeva’s sister, who is visiting us. She is a confirmed follower of Buddhism. For a while she was interested in Hare Krsna. She still maintains sympathy for us, but she is fully engaged in practicing Buddhism. She meditates every day. She also listens to Buddhist teachers on Zoom. By Zoom she is able to contact masters in Tibet and other places. She is constantly hearing the teachings of these masters and going to see them personally whenever she can. She is in her seventies but is very active and alert. I like her very much. She’s visiting us now at Viraha Bhavan with her son David, who also practices Buddhist meditation.
Sometimes in our out-loud reading, Prabhupada criticizes the Buddhists. We call this “Buddha-bashing.” Sometimes Kathi hears this and is sensitive about it. She took part today in the out-loud reading, and when it was over she said, “Oh, there was no Buddhist-bashing today.” Actually, although she wasn’t here, the other day Prabhupada was smashing the Buddhist philosophy. Nirvesesya sunyavadi is in his pranam mantra. Nirvesesya means the impersonalists, led by Sankaracarya. And sunyavadi means the voidists, like the Buddhists. I’m glad she didn’t hear that today. She watched the whole out-loud reading group, which we have on Zoom, said it was very nice because there was no Buddhist-bashing, and she liked to see me with my disciples on Zoom. We both praised the wonderful capability of Zoom. She says when some of these Buddhist masters speak on Zoom, they have an audience of five hundred people all around the world by Zoom. Kathi is a natural preacher, so she has all her friends into what she’s doing. She likes to help out at the monasteries and here. She has a good idea of seva, which she likes to perform here at Viraha Bhavan. She stays in a room in Krsna dasi’s house and does meditation there. After watching our out-loud reading and sitting by, she said, “After all, Krsna consciousness and Buddhism are similar.” She said in times of duress, like when her husband died, or when troubles come to her, she gets much solace in her meditation and becomes peaceful.
When I spoke with her, she brought up the name of Ram Dass, and how he had a stroke, lived through it and lasted twenty years more. She thinks he was a wonderful person and wants to send me a video of him.
At the end of our out-loud reading every day, I ask the devotees on Zoom to chant Hare Krsna with me—I lead and they respond. Today when we did it, Kathi was sitting at the table, and she also joined us in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. We call her a “Haribu,” and she also refers to herself like that. Hare Krsna has influenced her.
I had an appointment today with Dr. Subudhi, the urologist, at the hospital. It was a trip for me to go to the hospital. I had to struggle down the front porch stairs and had to be aided by two persons, Baladeva and Paramatma. When we got there we had to wait a long time in the waiting room. Finally we got in and saw the doctor. First the nurse took a urine sample from me and it turned out that it was clean, not infected, and that it was all right. She said I had no infections and everything was healthy. When we finally got to see Dr. Subudhi, who is a Hindu, he only spent brief time with us. He had many people seeing him that day, and it was a busy day for him and his assistants. I told him my urinary practices were in order. He was satisfied that I was all right with my urinary situation. He then said my next appointment with him would be in a year. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to go back to the hospital so soon.
Dr. Subudhi recommended a book to us on Hinduism, but we will not try to get it. He is a “kichari-Hindu” but likes us, me and Baladeva, as Hare Krsna persons, and we exchange pranams with him when we come there.
A man named Bhagavat Acarya knocked on our door without prior notice. I exchanged letters with him, and he says he is my disciple. He is from the Ukraine, but he was able to get out and come to the USA, sponsored by New Vrindaban. After getting told to leave the Brooklyn temple, he is now going to try to serve at New Vrindaban. It is a little questionable whether I actually initiated him through the mail. Bhagavat Acarya, who signs his letters “BAD,” had disagreements with his GBC man, Niranjana Swami. Niranjana Swami was very compassionate toward him and managed to calm him down and counseled him. Bhagavat Acarya made criticisms of other devotees, including Ishana dasi, who helps with the translation of my books into Russian. So he has a reputation like the initials he uses, BAD. When he came to see me, he brought the gift of a painting that he had been carrying with him since Milan, Italy, where it was hanging in the brahmacari ashram. He has a good heart, but seems to create trouble. I am doubtful whether I actually initiated him or Niranjana Swami initiated him on my behalf. His plan now is to go and reside in New Vrindaban, where he was sponsored to come to America. Unfortunately he knocked on our door at a quarter to six in the evening, and I take rest at 6:00 P.M. So we were only able to talk fifteen minutes or so before he left.
61) When, O Queen, will this dwarf, understanding your intentions, take the betel nuts the Lord happily placed in Your mouth and You affectionately spat on a leaf, and, bodily hairs erect with joy, taste them in a secret place?
62) When, O lovers who, because You rarely see each other, always long to meet, will I make You smile by pretending to complain, “Mukunda! Why do You agitate Me with this dancing from the corner of Your eyes? Stop it!” ?
63) O King and Queen, when will I have the opportunity in the great forest to lovingly decorate You by drawing on Your foreheads elaborate pictures in fragrant colours?
64) The splendour of pure love, which makes the good fortune of Your direct service easy to obtain, is not mine, even in dream. Still, O King and Queen, simply living in Your Vraja gives Me great hope.
65) In public places I glorify Your mercy, which is granted to even the lowest creatures, and which enables me, even though I am lowborn, to live in this forest of Vraja, the place where Your great devotees, filled with pure love, aspire to take birth, even as blades of grass.
66) O handsome, fragrant tamala desire tree blooming in Vrndavana forest and embraced by the madhavi vine of the goddess ruling this forest, O tree, the shade of whose glory protects the world from a host of burning sufferings, what wonderful fruits do people find at Your feet?
67) O Vrndavana desire vine, it is not at all surprising that the entire world is delighted by the flowing stream of the honey of Your pastimes, shining with the nectar showered by the black cloud of Krsna, by Your all-pervading fragrance, and by Your great sweetness, and it is also not surprising that the vines on the ground, who have attained the dust of Your feet, are now standing erect in ecstasy.
68) O prince and princess of the gopas, again and again I pray for this benediction: Birth after birth may I love Your lotus feet.
69) O King and Queen who eternally enjoy transcendental pastimes, this vine of longing (utkalika-vallari) has sprouted up before you in Vrndavana forest. I tremble as I recite it. O King and Queen, please hear this prayer and please fulfill my desires.
70) This vine of longings (utkalika-vallari) was written by me, a resident of Gokula, in the month of Pausa (December-January) in the Saka year Candrasva-bhuvana (1471 Saka or 1549 AD).”
“1) Even though her eyes were filled with tears as she caressed her playful son, and even though Rohini largely blocked her view, Mother Yasoda carefully noted the entrance of Sri Radha. When will I humbly offer betel nuts to Visakha’s friend, Sri Radha?
2) When, again and again taking jewels from the box and placing them in Sri Radha’s hand as in Her home She and Her friends make necklaces for Lord Hari, will the vine of my hand bear fruit?
3) When will Sri Radha, my Queen, happily playing with the cuckoos, bees and other citizens in Her pastime kingdom of Vraja’s forest, fill me with transcendental bliss?
4) Stringing flower garlands with three or four friends by the Yamuna’s shore, Radha bends down. Hiding Krsna suddenly approaches and earnestly tries to embrace Her. She resists, knitting Her eyebrows. When will I fan Sri Radha as She enjoys these pastimes?
5) In the splendid rasa dance arena on the sandy shore, Lord Hari became a blue lotus to test the value of a host of golden-complexioned girls intoxicated by pride. When will Sri Radha, the greatest treasure among them, delight us all?
6) When will this person draw a picture of Radha’s beloved Krsna? When will this person give the picture to the flowering vine that is Visakha’s dear friend Radha as She sits with Her friends on thrones of flowers deep in beautiful Bhandiravana Forest? When will this person show that picture to Krsna?
7) When, in a solitary place at the top of a mountain, will She point out the various cottages of flowering vines and recount the pastimes She enjoyed there? When, filled with happiness and embarrassment, will She eagerly ask me a question in stuttering words?
8) This lake is my eternal home. It is everything for Radha’s friends. It is filled with the glory of Radha’s love for Krsna. Krsna loves it as much as He loves Radha. I pray that at this lake Lalita’s friend Radha may eternally enjoy pastimes before my eyes.”
Nursing a slight twinge
in my right eye, I persist
in rapid japa and transcend
the merely mechanical, thinking,
‘This mantra is to celebrate the
union of Radha and Krsna
as represented by my Radha-Govinda’s
standing peacefully before me
in Their holy dress.
Sanatana bowed at the lotus
feet of the Lord and began
his inquiry, ‘They tell me
I am learned, and I think it
so. But who am I, and why
do the threefold miseries give
me trouble?’ This is ideal
inquiry, and the answers shall
be supplied directly from
the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Today we plan to attend
Laksmana‘s Little League baseball
game and watch Saci coach.
It will be an outing.
Kaulini is going too.
Dhanudhara Swami says that writing
of devotees’ service is mentioned as an
item of bhakti in The Nectar of
Devotion. I hope to keep
telling of the good they did
and realistically telling of
Krsna leads the dance,
and I follow in my
mind. I am too old
and crippled to actually
dance, but I keep up
in spirits to His
jazz beat and improvised
melodies by expert players.
It’s my secret worship
of the Lifter of Govardhana Hill,
the Enchanter of the gopis.
He is my Lord, and I
live in the wonder
of His love for me
and being with Him
even in this world.”
“It’s hot and muggy. It has been a hard day at the office. The room is closed and I’m perspiring under the arms. But I don’t want this to get me down. I admit that I’m tired, but I’ll try to transcend. Swamiji sure looks fresh. He’s starting the kirtana, so let’s just get into it.
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Prabhupada chants and then we chant. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna. He is playing the drum. The waves keep coming again and again as we sing. The chanting is full force and you get out of the body. You just keep chanting, led by the Swamiji. After a while, a few devotees get up and start walking around in a circle. I also get up and do the Swami step. Once you’re up standing, you see everything from a different perspective. Swamiji noticed when I got up, just like he noticed the others. He’s cool, he doesn’t make a big thing about it, but he sees what you’re doing. He likes you to be dancing. It’s another surrender. To get up and dance means that you’re feeling the ecstasy of the chanting. Now you have to live up to it and not worry what the people are thinking. Be daring and keep dancing with the devotees who are going around in a circle. It’s not hard.
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. I know I look foolish, but I don’t care, because I’m not this body. I’m chanting Hare Krsna; it doesn’t matter how I look; I’m not this body. I don’t care what the people in the storefront think, or my parents or the people at work. It doesn’t matter because I’m into this, and this is what counts. This is what I love. If it looks foolish or whatever, I don’t care.
“By dancing you get close to Swamiji. When you go around in the circle you get very close to him and see the objects on his desk, like the pocket watch and his reading glasses. And the book is there and you notice the sink by the right side of Prabhupada. You see his face closer and the drum, and the brass rivets around the head of the drum and the two different colors of the wood of the drum. His hand is playing on the bongo head. The circle you’re dancing in goes out towards the side where the audience is and you see the people in the room. Hayagriva is playing that big cymbal with a shimmering sound. Someone’s got a flute and he’s going with that. Someone is strumming the strings of the old piano set up by the door.
“Swamiji goes the full half hour and over—be-cause he loves to chant. He’s really happy when a lot of people are chanting together and his devotees are up dancing. We don’t know what he’s thinking, he’s so beyond us, but at least we know he’s deeply in the kirtana, feeling the rasa within himself. He’s within himself and at the same time, he’s doing everything. We’re all chanting because he’s leading.
“It’s Friday night and so throughout the Lower East Side, people are getting drunk and many are on LSD trips and other things, but our scene is goodness, in the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the shelter of the pure devotee.”
“‘Tell us about Krsna.’ He’s the hero cowherd boy. He’s captivated everyone in Vrndavana, especially the young gopis. Sometimes h He appears to leave Vrndavana and leave everyone brokenhearted, but it’s just a way of showing them more affection. He’s the Supreme, as He teaches in Bhagavad-gita, and peace can only be attained when we recognize Him as the supreme proprietor, the object of all sacrifices, and everyone’s well-wisher.
“‘Tell us about Radha.’ She’s the Queen of Krsna’s Consorts, the most beautiful Lady in all the worlds. By Her charming qualities and talents, She captivates Krsna, who is always eager to be in Her company. They think of each other always, and one cannot live without the other.
“Mother Yasoda sees Krsna lying in bed in the morning and mistakes the signs of His conjugal acts for being accidents He had in the forest. She takes the fingernail scratches from the gopis to be scratches from forest thorns. But how could He have them on His lips? He must have fallen headlong into a thorny bush. He’s still sleeping, not because He was up all night with the gopis but because He’s just a little boy. His necklaces are broken and in disarray from tossing and turning in bed. The gopas didn’t properly clean Him yesterday. That’s why h He’s smeared with mascara and clay tilaka. That’s what she thinks, but actually, it’s the mascara and kunkum from the bodies of the gopis.
“In the evening, Krsna enjoys a lovingly-prepared meal made by His mother and the gopis. “Nanda Maharaja went out into the cow pastures, intelligent Balarama went to sleep, and Krsna, singing songs, wandered about the village courtyard”. S0 Balarama understood that this was a good time for Krsna to enjoy some of His more private pastimes, and Yasoda was also inside, busy with housework. So Krsna enjoyed playing with the gopis. But hearing the distant call of His mother, out of respect for her, He came home and went straight to His bedroom and lay down comfortably on His bed. The commentary states, “Gaurava means ‘great respect.’ Although Krsna is always eager to consort with the gopis, He is also attracted by the special love of His mother. He is akhila-rasamrta-murti, the embodiment of all relationships, not just the madhurya-rasa”
“It is nice to hear that Krsna reciprocates with the devotees in all the rasas and satisfies them. Sarupa is not privy to Krsna’s conjugal pastimes with the gopis in the evening, but he receives plenty of intimate affection as a cowherd boy, such as when Krsna personally hands him the manohara laddus made by Radharani.”
“‘We think that we have met Your Goodness, by the will of Providence, just so that we may accept you as captain of the ship for those who desire to cross the difficult ocean of Kali, which deteriorates all the good qualities of a human being.
“Prabhupada’s purports provide the best meditation. It is Prabhupada who meditates on Krsna, and we get to share his direct realizations in the form of the Bhaktivedanta purport. In this case, our part in the meditation is to submissively ponder over what he has said and apply it in our lives.
“We also like to meditate on how Prabhupada composed his purports—how Krsna worked through him, how he consulted the previous Vaisnava commentators, how he deeply felt the anomalies of the age of Kali, and how he desired to broadcast Srimad-Bhagavatam as the remedy to all ills. The depths of his realizations are beyond us, but we can detect their force in all of Prabhupada’s work. He heard from his Guru Maharaja, he thought about it, he waited, he wrote, he worked and Krsna empowered him as saktyavesa-avatara.
“The ideal person has given us his personal ecstasies in the shape of Bhagavatam purports. The challenge is whether we can read them in a pure and simple way. Compared to former methods of meditation, reading the purports is very easy. You don’t have to sit for thousands of years in yogic trance and endure severe austerities. But you have to be humble and blessed by guru and Krsna. Desiring deliverance from the vices of the age of Kali, who is not willing to submissively hear the Bhaktivedanta purports?
“In the verse quoted above, Prabhupada is the captain of the ship and the ship is the message of Lord Krsna in the shape of Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam. In another Bhagavatam verse, Lord Kapila recommends that the messages of Godhead are best heard in the company of pure devotees: ‘In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart.’ (Bhag. 1.2.14).”
“ . . . In the KRSNA book Srila Prabhupada describes how the young students in the gurukula practice the austerity of rising early at the bidding of the spiritual master. When a bell is sounded in the temple, they immediately rise, ‘and after finishing their morning duties, they sit down to study the Vedas or chant Vedic mantras.’ Early rising and obedience to the guru are a basic regulative duty. This is described in The Nectar of Devotion.
“‘One has to follow these different regulative principles by the order of the spiritual master or on the strength of authoritative scriptures, and there can be no question of refusal. . . . For example, a person engaged in devotional service may be ordered to rise early in the morning and offer arati, which is a form of Deity worship. In the beginning, by the order of his spiritual master, one rises early in the morning and offers arati, but then he develops real attachment.’
— The Nectar of Devotion, pp. 21-22
“By practicing the regulative principles, a devotee will awaken his original, natural love of Krsna. The love is already there in one’s heart, but it is the gift of the regulative practice that that love manifests. Bhakti-yoga is a science, and the devotee must proceed step by step to reach the higher stages. By practicing the regulative principles, we lose our desire for sinful habits; this leads us to firm conviction and then to the stages just prior to spontaneous love of God. Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas were fully aware of this scientific nature of bhakti-yoga; therefore, they did not recommend any compromise in a daily program that begins with early rising and mangala-arati. If Srila Prabhupada had compromised on some important points of regulative practice, he might have made or retained more followers, but that was not his interest. He was interested in creating first-class persons, genuine devotees of Krsna, because only the devotee can actually attain love of God and distribute it to others. Even if there is only one pure devotee in the world, Srila Prabhupada used to say, he can do great good for others. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada instructed his temple managers to maintain the morning program as a prime responsibility.
“‘Everything is done in conformity to a regular standard. For example, all the temple members, without exception must rise by 4:00 AM and attend mangala arati. Everyone living in the temple must agree to the standard by proper understanding of the philosophy of tapasya. We cannot expect our guests to follow all our principles, but whoever lives in the temple must follow.’
—Letter, January 12, 1974 to Mukunda dasa”
“The second part of the agenda had to do with Rayarama. This was a personal question I couldn’t resolve on my own. I had looked up to Rayarama, and Prabhupada himself had praised him many times for his sincerity and hard-working attitude. He had been Prabhupada’s editor for Back to Godhead magazine.Then suddenly he left. He left in an unpleasant way, speaking harsh words toward Prabhupada and the devotees. Now he had become a persona non grata. He no longer came to the temple, and few devotees were in touch with him. I couldn’t understand it. He had been a friend, but I too was avoiding him. He had insulted Prabhupada, and that hurt me. But I couldn’t quite understand how he could have been a good devotee and then—suddenly—wasn’t. I couldn’t understand how he had fallen down. I couldn’t understand it because he had helped me so much in my own Krsna consciousness, giving me the inspiration I needed to develop my relationship with Prabhupada. He was also a good lecturer, an intellectual, and had appeared to me to be a serious spiritualist. I think I mentioned how when Prabhupada went to San Francisco and was stranded there in 1967, Rayarama took up the task of lecturing and was good at holding off the cynics who came to 26 Second Avenue. How could this person have left Krsna consciousness? He was so intelligent.
Prabhupada’s answer satisfied me. He said Rayarama hadn’t been serious. Later, I understood more the implications of what Prabhupada had said, but in those days, we were easily dogmatic. We would simply repeat what Prabhupada said without much depth of understanding. I wonder how many devotees walked around with the same doubts that I had, but we saved ourselves by repeating Prabhupada’s words as if they were mantras. If someone had asked us what we thought Prabhupada had meant when he said that Rayarama wasn’t serious, we might not have been able to respond clearly, but to me it meant that even though a devotee like Rayarama seemed able to do so many wonderful things, he wasn’t serious in Krsna consciousness and he hadn’t fooled Prabhupada. Prabhupada had known either from the beginning or at least by the end that Rayarama wasn’t serious about his spiritual life. We accepted Prabhupada’s analysis as Krsna’s statement on Rayarama.”
“On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, Swamiji gave everyone a piece of apple. The two kirtanas were over, the lecture and debates had ended, and now before going back into the city night, you sat in the audience of the storefront and chomped on a little piece of apple. The daily lunch with Swamiji, however, was for those who wanted a real fix.
“Prasadam worked. It made you feel satisfied and free of sex agitation. Everything seemed nice. You didn’t want to argue with people. Prasadam helped to heal the ailing self. The atma is not only the soul; it is also the mind, body, and self. All of these will be satisfied by eating prasadam.
“When you honor prasadam, the body says, ‘I like Krsna consciousness.’ The mind says, ‘I like it too. I am not agitated anymore.’ The self exclaims, ‘This prasadam was offered to Krsna. Swamiji says it is not ordinary food.’
“Prasadam was an item of faith, a sacrament. It was as good as the Eucharist taken in the Catholic Church. The Eucharist is surrounded with awe and mystery in a ceremonial ritual. Prasadam was eaten from a plate on the floor with the boys and the Swami. Someone might doubt, ‘You are eating like everyone else. What is the difference?’ Swamiji would reply, ‘This is offered to Krsna.’
As with all other Krsna conscious activities, prasadam depended on Swamiji’s presence. He was right in our midst as we ate with his invitation, ‘Take more, take more.’
“Nations such as the Italians know how to relax and satisfy themselves when it is dinnertime. They put their problems aside and they eat. With Swamiji, we did that also, but without heavy sense gratification and without wine and meat. It was spiritual eating. It was satisfying, but not merely gastronomic satiation. It was also different from taking the holy Eucharist once a week (or at most once a day) in the form of a tiny, thin wafer.”
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura offers the remedy of going into the association of devotees and asking their forgiveness. This means, of course, that we have to give up our attachment to sin, humbly expose the fact that we are cheating, and take the reaction of having our prestige reduced. We can become clean by the mercy of the Vaisnavas. They will console us and assure us that we can rectify ourselves, and they will engage us in devotional service again.
“At that time, we can take up the chanting of the holy name in earnest, and not use it to again gather followers or material rewards. Things that are not sinful in themselves, such as followers or beautiful women or money, can very easily become sinful. It is best that a chanter of the holy name keep a distance from these things. If in the name of service he does accept followers or does have any kind of connection with beautiful women or beautiful things, even beautiful poetry (whatever is implied by the word ‘sundarim’), then he has to be watchful that his association doesn’t turn into an enjoying mood. When he falls into the enjoying mood, then his chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra entangles him in nama-aparadha.”
“‘What are the things that should never, ever be said and right here you are going to say them? Go ahead. Bring yourself to say them.’
“I should not speak criticism of the GBC. I have some unhappy feelings over how I was dealt with by the GBC regarding censorship of Sanatorium, but I do not bear a grudge against them. I will leave them the necessary task of managing ISKCON. I am not against them, but I do not want to have any dealings with the GBC or take any assignments from them.
“I should never speak of my past sinful life. This is true in general. But for the sake of openness and honesty to memory, I have written some things of my pre-Krsna conscious life and my falldown in ISKCON. I felt I should not omit them entirely, if only to show that I am now free of them.
“COMMENT: It is said in Vaisnava circles that one should not reveal his bhajana–how many rounds he’s chanting, if he’s chanting extra rounds, what his advanced realization is of Radha’s and Krsna’s pastimes, and so forth. Sometimes in poems I say I want to be a servant of Radharani, so I shouldn’t really do that. But sometimes I make allusions to advanced aspirations. But I really don’t talk about Prabhupada’s eternal identity or my own. I don’t have realizations of these things, so I don’t speculate. I don’t like it when people say they know what Prabhupada’s eternal identity is, since he didn’t reveal it to us. Tripurari wrote a paper that Prabhupada was in sakhya-rasa, and Dhanurdhara Swami wrote that that wasn’t necessarily so and made a case for Prabhupada being in madhurya-rasa.”
“Anyone who is fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Govinda is called tirtha-pada; he does not need to travel on various pilgrimages, for he can enjoy all the benefits of such travel simply by engaging in the service of the lotus feet of the Lord … Whoever is engaged one hundred percent in the service of the Lord can remain anywhere in the universe, and that part of the universe immediately becomes a sacred place where he can peacefully render service to the Lord as the Lord desires. (Bhag. 4.6.25, purport)
“I may consider making my place in say, Ireland. Not that I am a great soul and wherever I stay is a tirtha. But you can find tirtha wherever you are by executing devotional service. Often when I go to the tirthas of India they appear covered. It may be that they are influenced by materialistic people, or that I am unable to see under the cover. But in either case, making a pilgrimage in India often leaves me cold. It’s just troublesome, Indianized, and I feel alien. I do better in any quiet place, preferably in an isolated country atmosphere away from the hustle-bustle of the city, and even away from the busy community life of a big asrama of devotees.”
“Comment: In the early years of ISKCON, it was considered spiritual sense gratification to go to a nice place. You were expected to stay in the hellish city and pound it out and preach. Then, we started to get our New Vrindaban places which were beautiful, countryside communities. That was considered maya by some, but Prabhupada liked it because they were taking care of cows and farming and living a simple life, and he went and stayed there and enjoyed it. So, he liked those communities, too. What I was doing was radical, but some people were glad that I was doing it as an example. Now it’s become more acceptable and others are doing it. And Narottama dasa Thakura says you can stay anywhere in the universe, and Prabhupada says you can stay anywhere and it’s a tirtha. You can serve Krsna peacefully and not be disturbed.”
“One quiet afternoon, Prabhupada called for me, and I found him sitting pensively before the low glass table. As I offered obeisances and sat before him. Prabhupada began talking, and at first I could not comprehend his meaning. ‘On this planet Earth,’ he said, ‘human beings live under the water, because Varuna has his palaces there.’ It was not so unusual for Prabhupada to call in a secretary or servant and speak about something entirely philosophical from the Bhagavatam. Most often he called for his secretary to execute some official function, but it only took a moment’s adjustment to understand when Prabhupada simply wanted to speak on Krsna consciousness.
“‘Krsna built a city on the sea,’ said Srila Prabhupada. ‘This Pacific Ocean that we see here is just a smear of water on the table compared to the universes. Therefore it doesn’t fall off.’ As he said this, Prabhupada looked down at a small smear of water on his glass table. The small drop of water seemed to be the source of his present meditation. He looked at the small drop and then turned toward the picture window and the vast sky and the Pacific Ocean.”
“Another silver lining that came to me while I was ill was that I was forced to spend more time alone. Before my breakdown, I was very active in meeting people all day long and traveling all over the world. My attention was filled up with the challenges of life in ISKCON. If I thought of solitude at all, I regarded it as a kind of sense gratification. There was so much to be done to help other people by spreading Krsna consciousness, so there was no reason to be alone. But when I had to be alone because of illness, I gradually began to appreciate it. There is, of course, a danger in that you may indulge in solitude and withdraw from the world. I do not say that I escaped completely from that indulgence. And yet I considered it a great benefit to learn more of the introspective and thoughtful aspects of a human life.
“There is more to spiritual life than meeting people and giving people books. There is also a time for thinking about Krsna. Krsna says that the best of all yogis is one who is ‘always absorbed in Me and thinks of Me within himself.’ Krsna also says that we should experience life within; do not think that happiness comes only by contact of the senses with the world. When you are an invalid, you learn to face yourself.
“I took up diary writing at this time, and it became a form of preaching or kirtana for me. Even if one is not inclined to write, he will naturally start to think more when he lives alone. You review your whole life, consider how you have been superficial and how you have hurt people. You think of your mistakes, and you try to turn more to Krsna. You do this because there is nothing else you can do. If this happens during your confined state, then you have found a valuable silver lining to your illness.
“A healthy person does not want to remain sick and inactive. We have important work to do. The Krsna consciousness movement could not continue if everyone was in a sickbed. And yet one at a time, each of us becomes sick. So instead of being completely miserable and distressed in mind, or ‘spacing out’—instead of thinking of yourself as a lump of mucus, or a big ball of pain, you have to find yourself within that situation, and find the silver lining.”
“ . . . I am writing to You with a clear head. I thank You for giving me this day my daily bread. By that I mean literally the fine breakfast and lunch prepared by Narayana-kavaca and the clear, cognitive consciousness to face the world. Dhanurdhara Swami approved of my style of life, living quietly in one place and writing my journal, which is posted on the website. I’m pleased that he approved. It hints that maybe You approve, too, if Your devotee approves.
“I’m praying to You another thanksgiving. I thank You for the just-published Under Dark Stars. It’s wild but good, I think. I hope You like it. I thank You for my evening snack and for Dattatreya reading to me while I honor the prasadam. I thank You for the medication that quells my headaches.
“I thank You for the training I’ve received, mainly from Prabhupada’s books and lectures, training in Krsna consciousness. This knowledge of bhakti is the most important thing in the world, but it is rare that people come in contact with it and accept it. You have brought me in contact with my spiritual master and given me the faith to accept him as my guru and accept his orders as my vocation. I’m very grateful for this. I’m thankful that I’ve imbibed the basic instructions of the bhakti-sastras, coming as guru, sadhu and sastra.
“I thank You for being who You are, Govinda, the cowherd boy, the lover of the gopis, especially Srimati Radharani. You are lovable and beautiful in Your all-attractive spiritual form. You are also the most powerful person and can subdue any army of enemies. You possess the six qualifications of Bhagavan—fame, beauty, wisdom, strength, riches, and renunciation—and You possess them to an unlimited degree. I am proud to have such a supreme, all-attractive person as my Lord.
“I thank You for accepting the services I have rendered in ISKCON and for forgiving me for my wrongs. You have been very kind to me in protecting my relationship with Srila Prabhupada.”
“Writing . . . after reading fifteen minutes or so in Caitanya-caritamrta and at least that long in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s commentary on Upadesamrta. Good boy to be up answering your clock alarm and reading. A new schedule for the balance of May as we travel. And this writing.
“I’ve suspended A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam. But I intend to return to it. If it’s my only writing in life, that seems not right.
It could be all-consuming. A formidable literature with regular addressing of substantial Bhagavatam themes. And free-writing. I still would not capture the wider audience of ISKCON, including Godbrothers. Mostly the new generation reads me. And they like my more intimate, honest writing (which they also can get in Poor Man’s Bhagavatam).
“I’ll be thinking of A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam even while I take a break from writing it. See where it fits into my life. See if I’m drawn back to it. And see, in temporary absence, what other kinds of writing I take up.
“Don’t rush. No preyasa, useless endeavor, or jnana, or karma. Some bhakti endeavor is required. Atyaharah means you can do things for Krsna but not otherwise.
“Haribol. You’ll be speaking to groups in the coming days. Partly you feel it’s a presumption on your part, a strain on inner credulity, bordering on hypocrisy. If I don’t have deep taste for attentive chanting of the holy names and hearing krsna-katha, then how can I lecture to others? In general, one feels it’s better just to advise oneself. And also, lecturing is a performance. A natural, quiet sadhu’s contemplation is perhaps disturbed by the outgoing act of lecturing on perfection and advocating that we endeavor for perfection. You can do it honestly. At least, as far as possible.
Don’t get on a high horse.
“Dreamt Rupanuga was a spiritual leader for a group of people. One practice was to go on the city streets and walk in a line. A bearded man with knives in his belt went first. Others followed, interesting folks of the congregation who Rupanuga was cultivating. I was there too. I don’t recall that we chanted Hare Krsna but there was some kind of walking in a single file. Then later it was over and we went somewhere to eat and rest but it was sparse and austere. I was looking for a place to lie down.
“I woke from this dream impressed by Rupanuga’s natural role as a spiritual leader. The actual Rupanuga…in Buffalo in 1969 was like that. I should honor the older devotees and see the good in all sincere devotees. Feeling of my place in that group…
“Now awake, rain dripping outside. I hear it at the window. Frogs chirping at 1:30 A.M. Last day here in the restful house. Two days in a row with no headaches. I look forward to leaving here. Test your capacity on the road in the northeast USA. There’s a chance to go on the streets for harinama on South Street in Philadelphia on Saturday. But on the same day I will give a morning and evening lecture. Don’t know if I can do it all. And then return at night to the Philly temple.
“Sri Krishna Caitanya Prabhu Nityananda…try to get these early morning hours.
“Expose yourself to ‘new’ realities. The reality beyond my own little world of writing and limits. Your conceptions come crashing down. Let it happen in a gentle way. You see others at work in life according to conceptions that are different from yours.
“Rain dripping. Florida Scott-Maxwell writes sensitively of old age. Some devotees I know complain, or are occupied fully with their bodily pains and are not as personally reflective as Ms. Scott-Maxwell. But her thoughts are not Krishna conscious although somewhat God-conscious. What is their ultimate value? At least she teaches me to be perceptive and honest and write even during extreme old age. She was in her eighties when she wrote The Measure of My Days.
“God is the center of life. I want it. Scott-Maxwell says it feels to her that God is the central meaning of life but, ‘We have tried so many ways and have let them become bigotry or tyranny or dreary pretense.’
“I am completely within a life of religion and spirituality as a sannyasi member of ISKCON. But I seek a genuine essence, not a bigotry, deadness to life and my own humanness. Want to be creative, etc. Many older ISKCON-ites, younger too, are also seeking that authenticity. It doesn’t come so easily just by carrying banners and beating drums or being hard-line or soft-line.
“The poems you’d like to write are like these jottings, but they become some kind of separate pieces as songs. It’s the philosophy and it’s a feeling but it’s also a unit as a song. How that happens is by practicing them.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya Prabhu Nityananda.
“Will you draw your doodles as you travel? If I get time for it. Don’t make a big to-do over it in terms of art supplies and color. For now, it may be better to just use a black ink pen whenever you feel inclined. Express friendly figures or tension. Don’t think about what to do with it. Image-making version of free-writing. I’ll look for how to take it up easily. Maybe after such big collages I’d do better for awhile with a small sketchbook.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare.
Oh, now I’ll end this. Just a little longer.
“I’ll go now to chant. Getting my act together. In these twenty-five days I’ll tell you…But I can’t say if I will write the whole twenty-five days, so it’s a presumption to give the writing sessions that title. Yet you do want to start out with a title. How about a purely descriptive one? That would be, Writing Sessions in May While Traveling in the Northeast USA. But that’s more like a subtitle. Give it a poetic name. Uh…back to Writing Session. Measure of My Days. Spring Watch. But will watching spring be a major occupation? I don’t think so. Not in the cities. More like Self-Watch in May.
In May. Weeks in May. Not Watching Spring. Myself a spring, a mechanism like a spring in a watch or car springs. Writing Sessions in Spring. Oh, I can’t hit on the right title yet. But I will try to come up with one. Make a list.
US Air, here we go. Okay, end this one. And dictate it so you won’t be late for japa.
“Be your friend. Death is not a tyrant over me. I still have life to live. Don’t be timid. Write on. Scott-Maxwell wrote at eighty.
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Prabhupada . . .
“(30 minutes, at Samika Rsi’s house while it rains outside, May 6, 1996, Monday).”
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.