Madhavendra Puri was a pure devotee in the Madhva sampradaya. One day he was sitting at Govardhana and chanting the Hare Krsna mantra all day. Then a beautiful young boy of Vrndavana came to him and gave him a pot of milk. The boy asked Madhavendra Puri, “What kind of meditation are you doing? Why are you fasting?” The boy said, “No one fasts in my village.” Madhavendra Puri said, “How did you know I was fasting?” The boy said, “The women in the village saw you here and asked me to bring you some milk.” The boy gave him the pot and said, “I must go now, but I will be back later to take the pot.” Madhavendra Puri was amazed at the beauty of the boy. He drank the milk, and after chanting he drowsed a little and had a dream. In his dream the Deity of Gopala appeared to him and told him that He had been put in a bush by the pujari when the Muslims attacked. He had been in the bush for a long time, and He was hot and dirty. Gopala asked Madhavendra Puri to bring Him out from the bush.
Madhavendra Puri woke and considered what to do. He went into the village and told all the people that Gopala was in the bushes in the jungle, and they should get choppers and go enter there and take Him out. The villagers obeyed him, and with much effort, they found the Deity of Gopala. The Deity was heavy, and it took several strong men to pick Him up and set Him up standing. They supported Him with a large stone, and placed a stone behind Him to steady Him further. Then, under Madhavendra Puri’s direction, they secured many pots of water and began to wash Him clean. Once they washed Him they did abhisekha, with special paste to make Him shine, and then poured scented oils and rinsed Him off again. Then they dressed Him nicely.
Then many brahmanas were engaged in cooking. The people brought all their food grains and milk from the whole village. A big feast was prepared for the Deity. Everything was placed in pots around Him, and then the offering was made. The prasadam was offered to Gopala and then distributed, from the children to the old men. But the brahmanas were served first. The villagers in Vrndavana performed this annakuta ceremony every day for a while. Then people started coming from other villages and provinces and took up the ceremonies of arati and the offering of prasadam. They established gorgeous worship of the Deity. Madhavendra Puri initiated two brahmanas to take care of the Deity worship, and the worship gradually became very opulent.
Some time later, Madhavendra Puri had a dream. In the dream his Lord Gopala revealed that His body temperature was high and ordered Madhavendra Puri to bring Him cooling sandalwood from Malaya, Jagannatha Puri. On the way Madhavendra Puri reached Santipura and initiated Sri Advaita Acarya according to His desire. Then he left for South India. While he was traveling, he heard about the famous ksira that was offered to the Gopinatha Deity in Remuna. He wanted to try some so that He could make the same preparation for his Gopala. He was chanting in the temple while the offering was going on, and he was thinking that he would like to try the famous ksira so he could offer it to his Gopala. But then he considered that that was an offense on his part, so he left the temple and went to the empty marketplace and was chanting Hare Krsna. When the pujari in the Remuna temple finished his duties and went to sleep at night, he had a dream. The Gopinatha Deity said to him, “I have hidden a pot of ksira behind the curtains. You did not see it because of My tricks. Please take that pot of ksira and deliver it to Madhavendra Puri, who is chanting in the vacant marketplace.” The pujari took a bath and then found the pot of ksira. He went out from the temple to the marketplace and started calling out for Sri Madhavendra Puri, “Please come and take the pot of ksira that Gopinatha has stolen for you.” When Madhavendra Puri came forward, the priest offered him full dandavats. Madhavendra Puri then accepted the sweet rice, ate it, and then broke the pot into little pieces and put it in his cloth, in order to eat a piece every day. Madhavendra Puri worried that he would become very popular for receiving the stolen sweet rice that Gopinatha had given him. So he quickly left Remuna before morning for Jagannatha Puri.
We had our monthly book team meeting on Zoom. Only a few attended, myself, Baladeva, and from across the sea, Krsna-bhajana and Lal Krishna. Krsna-bhajana and his wife Satyasara have COVID. Their proposed visit to Viraha Bhavan is threatened. Satyasara dasi recently had a knee replacement, and so they can’t travel by plane; they would have to come by ship.
We had a full meeting. The first thing we discussed was finishing up the printing of eight books on time for Vyasa-puja day on December 3rd. I have received four books that are completed. The book run is one hundred copies. They are making progress on the last four books, and they think they will get them done on time. Thus the sixteen books I wrote on Prabhupada will be back in print.
Krsna-bhajana made up notes with agenda items. After discussing the eight books we want to publish for December 3rd, we discussed publication targets for 2023. He asked me if the book I’m writing, New Writing, would be ready by that time. I told him I’m only up to page 150, and it won’t be ready by that time. (Maybe a year later.) Krsna-bhajana is in the middle of getting permission from Ranjit Prabhu of BBTI to use essay compilations of mine that are copyright-owned by the BBT.
Although he didn’t have it on his agenda items, I am interested in a new publication, a revised edition of Sanatorium. John Endler has edited it and taken out all the objectionable passages that caused it to be banned by the GBC. I would like to see the book come out without objectionable passages so it can have a wide audience. But the whole book needs to be retyped, and that will take a long time.
We talked for an hour, and some of it was too technical for me to pick up. We are short on voluntary typists, and that creates a bottleneck. Krsna-bhajana and Lal Krishna are doing a lot of the work. Lal Krishna does layout, covers and design. Krishna-bhajana coordinates the different team members through email and phone. John Endler is preparing a book from a volume of my Every Day, Just Write. His title: Yes to Krsna (Y2K). He’s selecting from the book prose and poems. We have scheduled our next meeting for the first Saturday of November, the 5th.
John Endler paid me a visit today. We spoke about japa. We said that japa is not just for oneself, but by japa, which is nondifferent than Krsna Himself, one can reach out to the world. John is doing editing on my book Sanatorium. He has taken out all the sections which contain explicit references to sex, for which the book was banned by the GBC. It is now cleaned of all objectionable material and can be read by a wide audience.
John asked if he could write an introduction, and I said it was okay. He wants to tell how he used Sanatorium in pastoral counseling. He used it once for a couple who were about to get married, and once for a couple who had just lost their child. It is a book of healing in a community of devotees. John is editing a book from a volume of Every Day, Just Write. It will include prose and poetry. And the title is Yes to Krsna (Y2K). He is very enthusiastic to read my books. He has a new system in his personal reading. He reads my EJWs slowly, and when I make a scriptural reference he turns to Prabhupada’s books and looks up the verse and purport. He said this practice is making his Krsna consciousness “blossom.” He has read some of my books several times. He read to me selections from favorite parts. He is a senior pastor of a Baptist church in Connecticut. But he has developed a very serious interest in Krsna consciousness.
I received a letter from Bhakta Ward. The letter started out, “I just wanted to check in with you to let you know you are in my heart daily, even on the days I fail to make time to read your or Prabhupada’s books.” He gave an update of his activities. I like it when devotees “check in” and give me an update of their life and their activities. It makes me aware of what they’re doing, and it makes them aware of what they’re doing also because they have to report in. It’s not necessary to wait ’til it’s good news. Even if you don’t have good news, if I become aware of your status, then I can help. It becomes a two-way relationship. Srila Prabhupada wrote me in a letter, “Don’t keep me in the dark,” after I hadn’t written him for several weeks. The spiritual master likes an update from his disciples.
Atindra went and drove to the airport to pick up Manohara, who had flown here from Italy. The last time Manohara was here he spent six weeks, and so he is trained up to be an expert servant. He knows almost all the duties, and performs them with care. This time he arrived on October 8th and said he will stay five weeks. The first day here he cooked lunch—pesto pasta and butternut squash soup. The pasta was particularly delicious. He brought me two rasa books from Radhadesh: one, An Epic Poem Describing Caitanya’s Life by Kavi Karnapura, and one by Murari Gupta also describing Lord Caitanya and His associates. They look very good, and when I have time I will read them. Krsna dasi likes it that Manohara cleans the kitchen after he makes lunch, and whatever he does with the Deity worship, it is first-class. He’s the ISKCON Deity Worship Minister for Italy. He and Krsna dasi do not harass Baladeva for not being up to their standard in Deity worship. I’ll have a talk with him and ask him what he’s been doing since he was last here.
I had a talk with Manohara, and he told me the trouble he had entering the USA at immigration. They asked him why he was making so many trips to the USA from Italy and staying so long. He explained that he was working for the church. The lady at U.S. immigration asked him why he was coming so often. He explained that he was taking care of his spiritual master, who was older, and couldn’t walk and needed help, and he was cooking for him and doing different services. The lady said, “Well, that’s a job.” Manohara replied, “How is that a job? If you go to the church and do some service, is that a job?” She said, “Yes.” Manohara didn’t know what else to say. She said, “We’ll let you come in this time, but you’ll have to get a business visa, and if you try to come in again without that visa, we’ll send you back.” Manohara now intends to stay longer, perhaps even three months, and then go to try to sort things out in Italy. He said there’s a chance he may not come back for a while.
I have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). It became so bad two years ago that I could hardly do anything without becoming breathless. Now I have a whole array of tools to deal with it. And it’s helping a lot. In the morning I take an inhaler of three different powders and then rinse my mouth and gargle. I use a nebulizer three times a day, each time inhaling a three ml. capsule, some solution that helps to keep the airways open. Twice a day I take a pill that keeps the mucus moving out, so that I can spit it out rather than it clogging the tubes. Then at night I breathe from an oxygen concentrator through a nosepiece, and it keeps my oxygen level up overnight. This whole combination of things is working, so now I’m not out of wind so quickly. It’s allopathic and may seem like an overendeavor, but the result is I’m able to do things without becoming breathless.
The leafers are mainly people from New York City who come upstate during the last few weekends in October, hoping to catch the perfect days to witness the beautiful fall colors. All the hotels raise their prices, and they’re all booked solid to take advantage of this phenomenon. But it’s all a big crapshoot. In order for the experience to be perfect, the leaves themselves will have had a chance to change colors, and the perfection of sight is brought out if it’s a nice sunny day. Then the vistas are quite stunning, with the sunlight showing off the almost fluorescent color of the leaves. Unfortunately for the leafers, the last two years both weekends in the end of October were rainy. So the colors were dull, and there was no sun to show off what there was. So the anticipation that it would all be wonderful turned out to be one big disappointment and waste of money. The locals feel their space is being violated by the leafers, who can be recognized by their driving slowly and erratically with their cameras out the windows, trying to get the perfect picture. So it’s a hint of satisfaction to the locals when the parade gets rained on.
Yesterday we were reading how, when Lord Caitanya first saw Lord Jagannatha in His temple at Nilacala, He went into an ecstatic swoon, became unconscious and apparently was not breathing. The guards were going to eject Him forcibly, but Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, observing this, could understand that Lord Caitanya was a genuine saint exhibiting ecstatic symptoms. So he brought Him to his house. Eventually His devotees arrived, and they understood that in order to bring Lord Caitanya to external consciousness, they had to hold ecstatic kirtana. Eventually Lord Caitanya did come to external consciousness and met Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya for the first time.
Sarvabhauma procured a large amount of Lord Jagannatha’s prasadam for the devotees, but when Lord Caitanya saw all this opulence, He said, “I will just take a few boiled vegetables, and My devotees can have the rest.” In the purport, Prabhupada describes the preparation that Lord Caitanya wanted as laphra vyanjana: mustard-flavored mixed vegetable soup/stew. It is a very simple combination of many vegetables, with a chaunce of cumin seed, mustard seed, black pepper, and other simple spices. Ultimately Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya got Lord Caitanya to eat everything to his satisfaction. He said, “You should at least try to eat what Jagannatha had today for lunch.” Hearing this story, Manohara became very enlivened to make the preparation Lord Caitanya wanted for lunch and offer it to Lord Caitanya here on our altar. So he looked it up in Yamuna’s cookbook and then made another famous sabji from Puri, along with bhaturas, a fried flatbread. This lunch was offered to Lord Caitanya here at Viraha Bhavan, and the devotees were all ecstatic about how our lunch here was connected to what we had read about in the morning.
My disciple Bhaktivinode from Canada visited with his wife and two children. They are girls—one is in the third grade, and one is in the sixth grade at school. Bhaktivinode has a job in a woodworking place. But he balances his work with his practice of Krsna consciousness. He and his wife do seva at home. They also attend a nearby preaching center, and they cook prasadam and bring it there.
He told me he was mourning the passing away of his two closest friends, my disciple Trinidad Baladeva and Hari Bhakti Vilasa from Canada. Baladeva for a long time was a mentor to Bhaktivinode. They lived in the same village in Trinidad. Baladeva used to help him in his Krsna consciousness. Just as we are feeling the great loss of Baladeva, so Bhaktivinode is feeling it too. His other close friend was Hari Bhakti Vilasa. Bhaktivinode said Hari Bhakti Vilasa was a very quiet devotee, unassuming and humble. He liked him very much, just as I did. So he has lost his two closest friends this year.
He and his wife are preparing lunch for us today, a Trinidad meal. It is curried corn, eggplant choka, and dhal puris. Bhaktivinode’s whole family bowed down to me, coming and going. Bhaktivinode’s wife Jitamrta dasi has a job catering, and she also takes care of the children. For a long time Bhaktivinode took care of his old and ailing mother in Trinidad, as well as her cow. When she passed away he inherited her house, which he still goes to when he visits Trinidad. Bhaktivinode didn’t get married until his mother passed away. He was fifty years old when he finally got married. He’s a quiet person, but very likeable. On weekends he attends our out-loud readings. Otherwise he cannot join us because he’s working.
Every Sunday Saci Suta attends our out-loud reading. He comes early and updates me on the latest sports news. (That is an ongoing part of our relationship.) He is a staunch and generous supporter of senior devotees. He has given me our house at Viraha Bhavan and a place for Krsna dasi, our irreplaceable pujari. He has also given a place for Ravindra Svarupa and his wife, who live across the street, as well as an office/library space which also has room for Ravindra Svarupa’s secretary, Sraddha dasi. Without these facilities he has given us, we would all be sad.
Saci has been living in Albany because his children went to private schools there and his business is there. He was hoping to move back to Stuyvesant Falls when they went to college. But his business has grown substantially, and his wife wants to stay there in the Albany house to teach yoga and have programs. Plus, Saci’s 97-year-old father is in a nursing home in Albany, and he visits him every morning at 8:00 A.M. before work. That’s another reason why he’s there and not here. So it may be some time before he moves back to his house in Stuyvesant Falls. I look forward to that time because I like his company.
Krsna dasi’s water heater broke. Now she only has cold water in her apartment, and it’s very, very cold. For bathing, she can warm up a bucket and have a bucket bath. But for laundry, washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc., it’s very shocking for her, a tropical bird. So far, the earliest we can get it fixed is two weeks, but Saci Suta’s trying to get it done sooner with another company.
Living in the country, we have some opulences in offering to the Deities. We can go get water from a spring. It comes up from a deep Artesian well, so its not contaminated by any runoff water or agricultural chemicals. It’s free—we just have to go get it Another opulence is fresh farm milk. It’s full-cream raw milk drawn from the cow on the same morning. It makes for very fresh offerings and sweets. Because we have very good agricultural quality soil, our flowers grow profusely during three seasons of the year for the Deities.
I was visited by my disciple Kirtan Rasa, who has been practicing for a long time as a lawyer. I showed him a “last will and testament” written by a Godbrother of mine. I said it was well-written and that I would like Kirtan Rasa to write a last will for me. He said there was already a last will made for me. But he will read this last will I gave him, consult with lawyer friends and add a codicil to my will covering points of who I want to receive my possessions, such as books, Deities, etc., after my passing away.
It’s so busy in Vrndavana during Karttika that there’s no guarantee the recording team will be able to catch her Sunday lecture about Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. So she’s sending us a link to get her class directly from her on the same day she gives the class. Manohara says he knows how to do it. I very much like these classes and the fact that they enrich and enlarge on what’s already in the SPL.
“O Prabhupada, whose pastimes and phrases of speech decorate the lectures of all his learned followers; O Prabhupada, whose disciples are always saying ‘Prabhupada said’;
“O Prabhupada, who preached krsna-bhakti for many decades in India while carrying out the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as a grhastha; O Prabhupada, who then outshone all sannyasis by carrying the message of Lord Caitanya to America, leading the way with kirtana in ISKCON;
“O Prabhupada, who took morning walks beginning just before sunrise, who installed Radha-Krsna Deities around the world, and who led American and European young men and women in blissful dancing and chanting in the parks and streets;
“O Prabhupada, whose activities are appreciated by demigods and by eternal associates of Lord Krsna; 0 Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna having taken shelter at the lotus feet of the transcendental Lord;
“O Prabhupada, who brought liberation and bhakti and maha-mantra and Krsna into the English language, and who brought puris and halava and dal and sabji into the Western diet, and who didn’t insist that his followers shave their heads and wear robes and saris, but whose disciples wanted to change their jeans for dhotis and wanted to wear tilaka and kanti-mala for pleasing you;
“O Prabhupada, may we please you despite our many faults, may we please be included in your sankirtana party, and may we always chant Hare Krsna mantra, while completely disdaining illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling, and intoxication.”
“O Prabhupada, please appear before us in your pastimes and teachings as reward for our service;
“O Prabhupada, assure us that you are still with us and guiding us onward in Krsna consciousness;
“O Prabhupada, protect us from quarreling with one another and from diseases like prakrta-sahajiya, Mayavada, pride, laziness, and many other anarthas only you can remove;
“O Prabhupada, who walked to the shore of the Ganges and splashed your head with her water, and who walked with a cane, striding with upright posture and enjoying philosophical debate as you walked with your men;
“O Prabhupada, who ordinary persons fail to appreciate, who is worshiped by all followers of Krsna because you represent the epitome of Lord Krsna’s statement, ‘One who preaches to the devotees is the dearmost, and there will never be one more dear than he’;
“O Prabhupada, who kept close watch on financial accounts of ISKCON in India, and pushed your followers to work hard as you did, please appear in our minds in a lively way and keep us strictly under your charge;
“O Prabhupada, who knew how to convert all energy and activity throughout the whole universe into the service of Lord Krsna, but who lamented that so few people were willing to surrender their false egos and to recognize Krsna as the summum bonum;
“O Prabhupada, I am calling to you from a great distance, hoping to close the gap between us, calling upon you as a lost child looking for his parent, calling to keep myself from drowning in darkness and false ego madness. Only you can save me.
“O Prabhupada, I think of your devotees’ worship of you, especially those who guide their lives by your books, who carefully keep your math in their room, or those who live in an ISKCON temple and stand daily before your life-size murti and bow down flat before you and think of what you have said as appropriate instructions for every conceivable occasion—I think of those who are confident you can take them back to Godhead;
“O Prabhupada, you have made it clear to us by your repeated instructions and by your own realizations and dedication to Lord Krsna that we are not the body, we are spirit souls, we are not impersonal, the Absolute is sentient, Sri Krsna is the Godhead, we should serve only Him, but you’ve also made it clear that it’s not easy to give up maya;
“O Prabhupada, you’ve shown us success, you have done it all, you’ve even shown the way to die surrounded by krsna-kirtana in Vrndavana after a life of hard work, inspired up to the last breath;
“O Prabhupada, we have your scarves, towels, vyasasanas, photos, memories, and more important we have transcendental feelings of separation for you, definite duties, and the maha-mantra. You are always alive for us as long as we want you, we just have to be receptive to you;
“O Prabhupada, you have said life is short and one lifetime is but a flash on the soul’s long journey, you have said even a little material desire will force us to come back again to birth and death, and you have said, ‘Distribute my books, chant Hare Krsna, live with the devotees’;
“O Prabhupada, what does it mean that we live forever with you? How will we know it? How can we throw off the shackles? Who can we trust in this world besides you?”
“O Srila Prabhupada, of whom Allen Ginsberg wrote in his poem, ‘Bhaktivedanta Swami at desk, staring sad Krsna at my hopeless self-consciousness.’;
“O Prabhupada, who so impressed the pious and impious at Bombay that hundreds still remember him and go to see Sri-Sri Radha-Rasabihari in the Juhu temple because Prabhupada is their siksa-guru;
“O Prabhupada, did that subway conductor, Mr. Rubin, really sit with you, and did you really tell him, ‘I have many devotees and temples. Only time is separating us’? It sure sounds like you!
“O Prabhupada, is there any doubt that you presided over your little flock at 26 Second Avenue and took us to the park to chant? No, I’m sure of it, as sure as the fact that my parents rejected me—and ever since, you’ve kept me busy in your ISKCON;
“O Prabhupada, will we be with you again? Can we become your children again and sit in a room and laugh and listen seriously, and feel great hopes for changing the world on your behalf? And after being with you will you dismiss, us saying, “You can give me a little milk and finish business.’?
“O Prabhupada, forgive my foolish questions. Let us all follow your vani forever, accepting all adventures as further chapters of blissful association with you. For you will lead us as long as we stay true to you.”
“I want to remember the time when Prabhupada accepted a daily mango from me. The amazing thing is that Srila Prabhupada used to remember this insignificant act, and even in his very last weeks in Vrndavana, while recalling the happy days at 26 Second Avenue he said, ‘Satsvarupa would bring me a mango.’ So there was something about it that I wish to remember. But when I try to recall the exchange, I come up with only the same old memory. I complained about this to myself, to the ‘file clerk’ whose job it is to keep all these memories intact. He began to answer me back:
“‘You have spoken in a deriding way about canned memories. But the very thing you deride is also a strength. Time after time when you want to recall something, I’ve got it and I can supply it. You feel it’s stale by repeating it, but what can I say? At least you have them. And you can feel sure about these memories—they’re reliable. The fact that you don’t experience all the emotions you’d like to and all the colors you’d like to see, and that fact that you’re really not there as a person, but it’s the information presented in a codified way, well what can I say? A memory is what it is. So take it and appreciate it.’
“When the file clerk spoke up so strongly, I began to pacify him, telling him my appreciation for his work. It’s true he’s kept important facts for history. But what about the actual experience? We didn’t appreciate how important Srila Prabhupada was. Now we understand that even things in relation to him which seemed unimportant at the time, were certainly worth keeping. Nothing should have been rejected. And so without criticizing the memories that still exist, I pointed out to my clerk that we should make more effort to remember Srila Prabhupada and not claim ‘that’s all there is.’
“To this file clerk I replied:
“‘I admit that memory is very deep and elusive: the ways of the mind are unknown to me also. I did not deliberately reject anything about Prabhupada, but we are all subjected to forgetfulness. Ultimately, Krsna is the final decider on these things. From Him comes knowledge, memory and forgetfulness. If He wants us to suddenly remember Srila Prabhupada, then that’s a great blessing on us, and if He wants us to forget something, it is our fate to accept that. The files of memory have no bottom to them, and so we can go as deep as possible and still keep going. If you like, we can do it together and keep trying.’”
“What were some of the ingredients of those days that made it so safe and secure? One of the main things was Prabhupada’s complete accessibility at all times. He didn’t have so many other things to attend to, except take care of the devotees at his one center. His disciples all had menial but important services for him, and everyone was in complete admiration of him. He was our one and only guru, and we had to stop all other intellectual, sensual and spiritual interests just to follow him. Everything was focused on learning about Krsna from Swamiji. And if we had any doubts about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the way to resolve them was clear and open—ask the Swami. It was the kindergarten of spiritual life. He was always gentle and you were often physically close to him. He led us in singing the kirtanas and everything was filled with hope for spreading the movement.
“The potency of those ‘66 days is not mere nostalgia. But the word nostalgia has bad press. In the material world there are many nostalgia crazes, such as old car aficionados, Elvis Presley fans, etc. Genuine nostalgia, however, is not a craze or a fad or an industry. When I remember Prabhupada in the best way, it turns into prayer and it leads to positive action for the present.
“By going back to remember my first year with Swamiji, I become aware that my relationship is actually the same, despite the external changes. Prabhupada’s devotees haven’t become monsters forgetting their guru and taking advantage of his property. No, we’re just like we were in the beginning. We eat when he says to eat and we give him our money, and when there’s a doubt, we ask him. Prabhupada knew that there would be changes, as he wrote in the Bhagavad-gita, ‘There is always some upheaval in the material world.’ But if we keep our original Krsna consciousness intact, then our relationship with him is always strong. He gave us our beads and he told us to chant. He told us to offer prasadam and to do some preaching. This we can do no matter what the upheaval is, favorable or unfavorable. No one can take it away. And even though the external scene of 26 Second Avenue has vanished, I can go back for a special memory—what it was like to be a spiritual child in a young man’s body with Prabhupada as strong as a lion, and the gusto of his playing on the drum.”
“Although Prabhupada spoke in public halls around the world, he mostly lectured to his disciples in the temple. His lectures were therefore very intimate forums for the spiritual master to speak and for the disciple to hear.
“The morning lecture was treated by all devotees as one of the main ways to worship and be with Srila Prabhupada—a grand occasion for vapuh. Although Prabhupada didn’t invite pomp, yet he behaved with formality in the morning class. Those who attended knew that it was a serious happening.
“The Bhagavatam volume had to be open for him in the right place, his servant had to bring his eyeglasses and a glass of water. The P.A. system had to be adjusted to the perfect pitch. The temple president made sure that nothing went wrong to disturb the sacred function. In a sense, it was the major reason that Prabhupada had come to visit the temple. When he went to the Berkeley temple and sat on the vyasasana with its lions on the armrests, he told the devotees that he was traveling to the centers in order to give his disciples inspiration. And the main way he did that was by lecturing in the morning. It was the only time when everyone could sit down and hear him speak.
“Hearing in the class was a crucial test of how well a disciple was serving Srila Prabhupada. Even if one was an ISKCON leader and therefore entitled to sit up front, if he was not listening during Prabhupada’s lecture, then it would affect him adversely sooner or later. According to the bhakti science, no one could neglect hearing from Srila Prabhupada.
“Srila Prabhupada personally felt that lecturing was an important way for him to associate with us. He took it as the duty of the Vaisnava acarya. We think of Srila Prabhupada as a liberated person who has no duties, and yet the jivan-mukta acts dutifully just to set an example. Prabhupada lectured even when his health was not good, and he was always enthusiastic.
“When Prabhupada lectured, you were aware that you were not hearing just one person, but you were in the presence of a living parampara. I remember feeling that from the very first times I heard Srila Prabhupada. Once I tried to convey it to one of my Lower East Side friends. I said, ‘He’s not just sitting here now, but what he says is connected, and it’s going back thousands of years through all the different teachers and gurus. It’s actually going back to Lord Krsna when He first spoke the message, and in fact, it’s eternal.’ As with many things about Krsna consciousness, I have now come to accept this doctrine as matter-of-fact. But even in the beginning it was a fascinating mystery, and an important reason to go and hear from Swamiji.”
“At the end of the section, ‘Aversion to Things Unfavorable to Krsna Consciousness,’ Bhaktivinoda Thakura inserts another song of perfection in sakhi-bhava: ‘I am a resident of Svananda-Sukhada kutir and a maidservant of the lotus feet of Radhika and Madhava. At the union of the Divine Couple I rejoice, and in Their separation, I die in anguish.’ (Saranagati, 5.4.1-2). The pure devotee judges as ‘unfavorable’ things which hinder Radha and Krsna’s union. His happiness is not based on selfishness, but is dependent on the happiness of Srimati Radhika.
He says he never looks at sakhi-sthali, Candravali’s place. (Raghunatha dasa Gosvami became angry when a friend brought him yogurt obtained at sakhi-sthali and he threw the leaf cup away.) Why? Because Candravali and Her group are transcendental rivals to Radhika. ‘Candravali wants to take away Radha’s Lord Hari, thus covering the grove of Radhika with the darkness of gloom.’ (Saranagati, 5.15).
“(I’m writing this in a blaze of sunshine over my shoulder. It’s Saturday and the motorcyclists are zooming up and down this road. When they gun their engines the sound is alive, insistent, and forces me to pay attention. But Bhaktivinoda Thakura is holding me here, reading Saranagati and writing something about it.)
“I won’t say more about sakhi-sthali appearing under ‘Aversion to Things Unfavorable to Krsna consciousness.’ There are rules in Krsna consciousness for the vaidhi-bhakta, and some different rules for those practicing raganuga. The raganuga-bhakta is fixed only in his own mood. What is favorable or unfavorable is determined according to that mood.
“Ordinary devotees don’t even know that Candravali’s success brings darkness to Radha’s grove.
“But how many acts do we ignorantly (or not so ignorantly) commit that are unfavorable to our Krsna consciousness? It’s like when you follow a health regimen. Sometimes we speak of compromise as a way to make peace with the mind. Premature renunciation can harden the heart, so we want to keep balanced. Many health books advise that a sweet after a meal does not promote digestion, but we may like it. Our tongue may crave sweets. So we compromise. If we try to completely deny the tongue, he’ll get us in another way. He’ll force us to binge at the Sunday feast or something.
“We don’t even want to admit to ourselves what compromises we may be making in terms of our practice of Krsna consciousness and our lower selves. Do we say, ‘Go ahead, do what you like to do, although it’s temporary and will hinder you from obtaining pure devotion. What’s a few more births rotting in the material world?’ Where is our greed to attain the goal? Why are we so interested in this one, short life that we won’t offer obeisances just because we feel tired? We tell ourselves that our spiritual master will understand, that Lord Caitanya was extremely merciful, and that we would bow down except we just don’t feel like it right now. This is not the mood of a follower of Raghunatha Gosvami.”
“The main reason for avoiding a revolving door of visitors is to be alone with God, solitary much of the time so that you can search Him out within yourself. Look within. Pray with the great saints, such as Srila Rupa Goswami:
“’O my Lord, I do not have any love for You, nor am I qualified for discharging devotional service by chanting and hearing. Nor do I possess the mystical power of a Vaisnava, knowledge, or pious activities, nor do I belong to a very high-caste family. On the whole, I do not possess anything. Still, O beloved of the gopis, because You bestow Your mercy on the most fallen, I have an unbreakable hope that is constantly in my heart. That hope is always giving me pain.’
“What is that hope that is giving him pain? It is the ‘hope against hope.’ Bittersweet doesn’t qualify, no adhikara, but he doesn’t give up hoping. The golden grain of hope remains. It hurts because he’s a wretch, he doesn’t even cry tears, his heart is stone, he is so dead he doesn’t even hurt. He doesn’t melt to the chanting of Hare Krsna, he doesn’t become joyful on seeing Vaisnavas. And yet he has an unbreakable hope. Is that hope some kind of arrogant presumption? Does he think he’s going to be saved just by some cheap claim of connection to Prabhupada? Why is he so proud? And yet he does claim, ‘Oh, I was there in the early days with Prabhupada.’ There are many photographs of me with him. I did much service. He will not forget me. He will come for me at the end. Krsna will force Himself into my attention.
“Prabhupada will come for me. He’ll grab me by the hair, whatever hair is left. He’ll grab me by the limb. He may not take me back to Godhead, but He’ll take me to some eternal service.
“But that would be heartbreaking. I want to go to the spiritual world. I want the best thing. I don’t want to be disappointed, but I’m not working with qualification. Then why this unbreakable hope? You are so stupid. You know what it takes, how rare it is to go to the spiritual world, go to Goloka.”
“ . . . Even Haridasa Thakura’s dwelling place, although simple, reflected his pure state of mind: ‘Everyone who saw the beauty of the cave [of Haridasa Thakura], with the tulasi plant on a clean altar, was astonished and satisfied at heart.’ (Cc., Antya 3.231) Not only was Haridasa’s cave calm and clean, but his heart and mind were so steadfast and pure than even Mayadevi herself, who came in the form of an alluring woman, could not dissuade Haridasa from the ecstasy of chanting Hare Krsna.
“A devotee is also mild in his dealings with others. Of course, the saying is ‘A Vaisnava is as soft as a rose and as hard as a thunderbolt.’ So sometimes, when responding to a blasphemous person, for example, he is not mild.
“Lord Caitanya was not mild when He ran with the Sudarsana cakra to kill Jagai and Madhai. But the devotee is generally mild in his responses, especially when there is a question of tolerating some wrongdoing against himself. His mild disposition toward events is also compatible with the quality of meekness, or humility. He does not get into a great huff if personally inconvenienced but tends to react mildly, like Haridasa Thakura in relation to the men who were ordered to cane him in twenty-two marketplaces. That mildness, again, comes not from timidity but from deep self-satisfaction. Like the great ocean, he is pacific. Others get agitated and rant over worldly happenings, personal frustrations, and misgivings, but the devotee depends upon Krsna, and tries to carry out His order. Thus a nonviolent, undisturbed, transcendental mildness is another attractive feature of the devotee.”
“This morning in the Baltimore temple during the japa period, I was upstairs in a small room. I was taking fifteen minutes for yoga exercises while listening to a tape of Prabhupada. The tape I found was titled, ‘People Want to Banish God,’ a morning walk in Germany, 1974.
“I recognized it right away by the discussion about transmigration. I was on that walk with Prabhupada, along with many other devotees, and you could hear the sound of many feet walking and people chanting japa. We were walking on a path through the wheat fields near the Schloss, the temple of ISKCON Germany.
“Prabhupada asserted that anyone who does not accept the transmigration of the soul is a rascal. He said that Lord Krsna explains it clearly in the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita. Just as we change from boyhood to youth to old age in this body, so the soul at the end of life accepts another body. Prabhupada asked several times, ‘What is a possible objection?’
“I had raised some objections on that morning walk, and sure enough I heard it again on the tape. I said Krsna’s analogy does not apply to the next life. He tells us that we change bodies in this life from youth to old age, but this cannot be used as a proof for the next life. Prabhupada said, ‘What is wrong with this as proof?’ I replied that we do not perceive ourselves changing bodies.
“Prabhupada replied that we do perceive it. He gave the example of dreams. If we dream of something fearful, we actually become afraid in our dream. He said if a man dreams of a woman he loves, he may even have a seminal discharge during the dream. By the example of dreams, Prabhupada said, we have proof that we do perceive the subtle body.
“Therefore, there is a subtle body which is different than the gross body, and that subtle body transmigrates at the time of death.
“After explaining it this far, Prabhupada asked if there were any further objections. No one said anything. I could have continued to play the demon, but I remembered back to that morning walk in 1974, how I chose to be quiet and hear. I wanted to understand and be impressed by Prabhupada’s examples. I knew that his examples were good debating replies, and they contained a way for us to realize the truth. Krsna’s analogy is perfect evidence, but if you want to go on arguing, there will be no end to the discussion. In that case, we will never understand transmigration, and transmigration is only the first step in knowledge.”
“Sometimes we have what I like to call a ‘Prabhupada moment,’ that is, we connect something in our present-day reality to a memory or impression of Prabhupada. These things are usually not momentous revelations, so we tend to disregard them. But Krsna conscious life is filled with service to the spiritual master, and that service is filled with little remembrances of his personality or instructions, little moments. We don’t have to wait for the demigods to shower flowers on our remembrances or for cymbals to start crashing in the sky. We are followers of Srila Prabhupada. He is jagad-guru. We just have to notice and appreciate whatever moments come to us and be favorable toward them.
“What does it mean to treat our ‘Prabhupada moments’ favorably? We can treat them more carefully, for one thing. Just as we tend to plants by watering them and keeping them free of insects and ensuring that they get enough sunlight, we can tend to our connection with Prabhupada. Paying attention to our ‘Prabhupada moments’ will make us more conscious of our entire relationship with Prabhupada. Perhaps we can pray to Prabhupada as we wipe the dust from his framed picture. Or when we say something like, ‘All glories to Srila Prabhupada,’ we can stop and think about him for a moment, rather than just rattling it off mechanically.
“For example, I like to remember how Prabhupada used to stop between Calcutta and Mayapura in a mango grove. He did it a number of times. It was his habit. But it was always something special for the devotees who were with him. The grove was almost halfway between Calcutta and Mayapura. Stopping there broke the three-hour journey.
“We used to bring tiffins filled with puffed rice and fruits—mango, papaya—and maybe sandesa. Usually two carloads of devotees would be at the grove. The women would sit a little apart, and Prabhupada would sit with his secretaries and male disciples. Prasadam would be served to Prabhupada first, and then he would wash his hands and mouth. After Prabhupada was finished, his prasadam would be distributed, and we would all eat. We all felt happy to be with him and honor prasadam before getting on with the journey.
“Even while it happened, the stop at the mango grove with Prabhupada was just a ‘moment.’ Now when we recall it, it is not a ‘major’ event. We have these experiences, and then life goes on, yet what is life but a collection of such moments? Some of them are special, although they may not actually be earthshaking events. Then what is a tremendous event? Usually we think of them as disasters or violence or sudden windfalls. But with Prabhupada, so many things happen subtly, quietly. For example, the publication of Srimad-Bhagavatam will revolutionize the world. It is a tremendous event. But Prabhupada composed it morning after morning. Although he was internally intense, the mornings were routine for him. Morning after morning, he added a little bit to the entire Bhagavatam. As Prabhupada himself said, ‘Little drops of water wear away the stone. In this way I have written all these books.’”
“According to Harinama-cintamani, the seventh offense in chanting is to commit sins on the strength of chanting the holy names. This is the most grievous offense, along with the first offense, sadhu-ninda. But what does it mean exactly? If we deliberately use whatever benefits or advantages or strengths we gain by chanting to counteract our sins, without intending to stop our sins, then we are committing this offense. Prabhupada says that this offense is committed by religionists when they confess their sins, ask forgiveness from God’s representative, and then expect to go on sinning. Bhaktivinoda Thakura also explains that there is a vast difference between an accidental falldown and a premeditated sin.
“I may claim to be innocent of this mentality. I can even say that I don’t understand this mentality. It is such an insidious way to think, and unless one changes his attitude, there will be no way to become released from this offense. It will bring one to worse and worse states because the chanter is abusing the Lord’s name. Chanting is meant to save us from sin, to deliver us from sin, and here the chanter is using the holy name to make a career of sinful life.”
On a walk through Golden Gate
they had shown him Hippie Hill
‘Hold kirtana here,’ said Swamiji.
And on a balmy Sunday
he sent them to the park
and joined them, eager to sing.
They had a flag for each religion;
the blue Star of David,
the Islam Star and Crescent,
the Vedic Omkara,
the Christian Cross.
And universal dharma
poured forth as harinama,
with trumpet, karatalas, and kettledrum.
Hundreds were already watching
the Swami’s people with their large red beads.
The rhythmic chanting was peace and joy.
And when the Swami himself sat down
to play mrdanga,
‘the whole disciplic succession arrived.’
All the past acaryas, all transcendental causes
were present in Srila Prabhupada
as he sat with the tight-strapped mrdanga on his lap
in the center of the chanters,
surrounded by receptive hearers.
The person with graying hair,
not old man but saintly traveler
from the spiritual world.
conducting the dance with knowledge.
He stood in the center, swaying.
They ringed around him, bounding.
They didn’t know
how very good it was
for the soul.
But he knew.
And he led them.”
“Reading a little in the Namamrta with some feeling. And I think about taste. Could I discuss such a thing at lunch? Say, ‘You know our philosophy has all the answers. Steve Galeburg said to me he didn’t want pat answers to everything…’ Say I believe and accept and live in Krsna conscious teachings, but what do I feel? Or say I used to feel this more keenly and was more willing to tell the world with hopes of ‘converting’ them to Krsna consciousness or at least I had faith that even if they didn’t join us and become devotees, people would become greatly benefited just to hear Hare Krsna chanting or to take prasadam. Where is that fervor? Gone with the old days of the Boston temple? Did it exist even then? I was always one who preferred to stay indoors and read . . .
“Reading C.K. Williams telling of cruelty and violence and lust. Puts it on the pages in his poems. Confesses, attests to it, all the details of the gory and horrible. I flinch from it. Yeah. Timid soul, they say, took to the Krsna consciousness movement (Religion) because it provided him Answers to all of the sufferings. He couldn’t handle it in the real world of lust and crime and injustice and competition.
“So, he opted for religion, like joining a monastery. Neither could he go the way of middle-class values; he’d rebelled from that so much in coming of age, getting out of his parents’ mode, US Navy and then the Lower East Side.
“What are you trying to say? I know worldly people, poets like C.K. Williams and so many others see Krsna consciousness as a –
“Here we are. Leave at 4:30 A.M. M. is waiting for a mechanic to come and he’s got washers and bolts, big ones, and they’ll tighten the parts under the van. Hope that will be good enough until the company sends us new parts in the mail. Sure hope we don’t break down en route to New York City or Philly. It’s my van, Steven Guarino; although I don’t drive, I’m the owner.
“Don’t want it that way, to be accountable. M. says, don’t worry, it will go alright. Whatever you own can get you into trouble but you need to have things…
“I write of the past but the present too. Well, May Apples was my happy choice. I opened a dictionary at random and immediately turned right to the page where ‘May apple’ appeared. Those yellowish apples are edible but no one eats them. They grow along the banks of the Tuscarora Creek at Gita-nagari. I’m not there and can’t be. They don’t know why. It’s because I can’t be myself there; too much has changed. I have to move on but can always go back and visit.
until you die. If Gour Govinda Swami can die, I can too. That’s the logic. It’s like saying Socrates is mortal; Socrates is a man, therefore all men are mortal. But Socrates said he was immortal. You know what I mean. Don’t say ‘die’ then. Say as the ISKCON World Review did, ‘ISKCON leader passing on.’ Passes to where? That’s unknown. But as that Swami passed on, you will too. He went suddenly while discussing Krsna’s pastimes as Lord Jagannatha in Dvaraka. Clutched at his heart. Asked them to chant Hare Krsna. They did. In fifteen minutes, he was gone, in Mayapur, on the disappearance day of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
“You have a little story of bare facts too. Your father, it says on his death certificate, died of a heart attack in Philadelphia in 1989 (I think). Mother is now eighty-five. They were both twenty-nine years old when I was born on December 5, 1939.
“I was supposed to hear a Godbrother telling me what the astrologer said he was going through. I thought he was above that. He said, ‘Don’t trust anything Srila Prabhupada didn’t specifically tell us by 1977.’ Well, he didn’t teach astrology; only at the end of his life did he consult. And those predictions didn’t come true, they said he would live longer. I say don’t bother with it. Keep your resolve not to get a horoscope done. I’ve stopped listening to jazz, and no horoscope, no women dallying and no serious interest in Christianity or any writer. If only instead I could be “into” prayer or hari-nama, or preaching sankirtana. At least I’ve got this writing.
“May apples. Crab apples. May fly. Tsetse fly. No, no kidding. They are May apples, seasonally raw woods’ herbage, not so pretty, a shy plant that hides its waxy white flowers under a broad waxy green leaf, and later that flower becomes the fruit. You know when they come its full spring. May at Gita-nagari. But I’ll be in the cities mostly, NYC, Philly and the suburbs of Baltimore and then Boston. Won’t see much of spring apples but I’ll be thinking of them. And maybe when you see white blossoming trees. I know in the Philly suburbs, around Mt. Airy, it’s spectacular – pink blossoms in the trees of many yards, maybe in the temple yard too. All these years, Ravindra Svarupa and Saudamani there. I come and go,
Pens, for writing and making doodle pictures.
“The serious frown of Kevin of the USN and others. . . . And me on the road, seeking protection, solitude, a room alone and then I come out to lecture on Prabhupada and his teachings. Don’t let it all show when you lecture. Put on a bold front. It’s required. Advocate what Visvanatha Cakravarti does and what Srila Prabhupada does and say, I have not realized this “fully” but I do follow it and isn’t it nice? Isn’t this a beautiful truth to live by? Is it possible? Let us hear it more, how chanting Hare Krsna can wash all dirty (material) things from one’s heart and give you the original position of loving service to Krsna. Yeah, I can do it.
“(1/2 hour – afternoon, May 6, 1996, indoors at Samika Rsi’s house, 50 degrees, rainy day)”
Traveled to NYC, Queens, to P.B.M.’s apartment. Here I am in one piece. I can give two lectures in two nights. Given means to repeat Krsna consciousness as I’ve heard it. Play the lecture excerpts of His Divine Grace. Without this Krsna consciousness we have no intelligence. New York Yankees. We drove past Yankee Stadium and I said aloud, “There’s Yankee Stadium.” I thought it would have some meaning to Madhu. Rested for the first time in the back of the new van. It’s too early to make a judgment.
What is true in me? I don’t even want to know some scary hollowness, cowardice, lack of spiritual realization. I want a cozy, comfortable existence. You can’t have what you want. But as a result of my time and service I get some reward, material conveniences. We move from place to place. Stay out of reach of the directional arm of the GBC.
I don’t know who I am. By chanting Hare Krsna one can control the mind.
May apples are a sojourn. There’s no country lane. Calm down, man.
You don’t want a woman.
You don’t want worship fuss.
You do like it when they edit and publish your writings. You don’t like a headache.
In this room are Srimad Bhagavatam’s and Caitanya-caritamrta’s. Candles in glasses because they know I use them. Bare wood floor, feel cold. It was thirty-two degrees when left Stroudsburg. Sign for East Stroudsburg University. Small-time place. One wants prestige in a place of education he attends. Wants money, sex, security, longevity. But if you strive for those and don’t advance your spiritual cause, you’re no better than an animal.
Chant, chant. Road in the back of the van. No curtain over the windows yet. Could sleep, that would be nice.
May apples in a secluded lane. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna. Airplane scratching the sky. Delta guarantees a seat on the shuttle. Advertisement of a video camera shows three photos of your daughter from childhood to her marriage in a white bridal gown. It says, “Going…going…gone!” Before you know it, your daughter will grow up and get married and leave your home – and if you don’t capture her activities on video it will be lost forever. Get in there and take pictures.
“Detroit tonight: 7:35” sign at Yankee Stadium. Who will win the game?
Write a little longer but if you want to doze it’s alright. They will leave you alone here. Box of mail caught up with us.
I don’t feel a deep urge to preach but when I start, I can do it. I’d just like to be left alone. I am not someone special. I don’t…trust.
The rumba. Let’s take a break, man. Write me three more minutes. It’s a tough town, a chaos of karma, hell. The rich get richer and you see if I lived here as a nondevotee I’d have to get a job and my horizons limited to the daily grind and seeking relief in it. Fears of crime, assaults, attempts at happiness. Foolish attempts. We are transcendental to that. I could lecture on some of that. But have paltry realization. Hare Krsna.
(15 minutes, P.B.M.’s and Rasaraja’s apartment, Queens, NYC, May 7, 19956, just arrived. A book on wildflowers here but no May apples)
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.