Krsna Kumari sent a message: “There will be a Govardhana Puja party on the 25th of October at Damodara Priya’s house.” I’m sorry to miss the party, but I don’t plan to go out anywhere, nor invite many people to the house during this flu/COVID season, which lasts until March. On Govardhana Puja day I will be giving a Zoom talk on govardhana-lila from 2:00-2:45 PM EDT. The Zoom ID is 617 108 1206, and the password is 108, and all are invited to watch that. I have almost memorized the three chapters of the KRSNA book to give an extemporaneous speech: 1) “Govardhana Puja,” 2) “Devastating Rainfall in Vrndavana,” and 3) “Wonderful Krsna.” I’ll look over the chapters again before I attempt the speech.
On the advice of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Lord Caitanya met with Ramananda Raya, the governor of Vidyanagara, on the banks of the Godavari River in South India. Lord Caitanya asked questions, and Ramananda Raya gave the answers. Lord Caitanya asked him to speak on the ultimate goal of life. At first Ramananda Raya said the goal of life was to execute one’s prescribed duties in Krsna consciousness, varnasrama dharma. Lord Caitanya rejected it and said, “That is external.” Ramananda Raya then spoke of different processes and supported them with sastras. He spoke of five different processes: occupational duties, karma-yoga in Krsna consciousness, the renunciation of varnasrama dharma in favor of Krsna conscious activities, and the mixture of empiric knowledge with devotional service, and Lord Caitanya said, “That is external” to them all.
Finally Ramananda Raya quoted a verse spoken by Lord Brahma in the Tenth Canto, fourteenth chapter, jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva:
“[Lord Brahma said:] My dear Lord, those devotees who have thrown away the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth and have therefore abandoned empiric philosophical truths should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes and qualities. They should completely follow the principles of devotional service and remain free from illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and animal slaughter. Surrendering themselves with body, words and mind, they can live in any ashram or social status. Indeed You are conquered by such persons, although You are always unconquerable.”
Lord Caitanya said this verse was all right. He accepted it but asked Ramananda Raya to go on speaking further.
Ramananda Raya described the five rasas a devotee can have with Krsna: santa rasa (neutrality), dasya-rasa (service as a servant of Krsna), sakhya-rasa (service in friendship), vatsalya-rasa (parental love), and finally madhurya-rasa (conjugal love). Lord Caitanya was very satisfied when Ramananda Raya got to madhurya-rasa, but He asked Ramananda Raya to speak on further if he knew anything more. Then Ramananda Raya began to speak of the love of Srimati Radharani. Lord Caitanya kept asking him to go further. Going further and further, Ramananda Raya began to sing a song of his own composition. At this point, Lord Caitanya put His hand over Ramananda Raya’s mouth and stopped him from singing the song. He thought it was too confidential to be spoken.
Lal Krsna and Shyama dasi are arriving today from Oxford, England on the 4:20 PM train to stay for a couple of weeks. Lal Krsna will teach Manohara how to become a second layout and design person. Fortunately, Manohara used this technical computer program (a different version) twelve years ago. Hopefully there won’t have been so many changes from the older version, and he will quickly be able to become adept at using it. We found during this year’s Prabhupada marathon of 2022, producing sixteen books about Prabhupada, that the bottleneck was in layout and design. There were a few typists and proofreaders but only one design person. So now with two layout and design persons, we’ll be able to build to a second production team in order to fulfill my desire that all my books be put back in print before I leave. I’ll greet them today but have a meeting with them tomorrow.
I had a nice meeting with Lal Krsna and Shyama dasi, who are visiting for two weeks from Oxford, England. One of Lal Krsna’s main services while he’s here is to teach Manohara the layout and design program that Lal uses for our books so that we can start a second production line. I asked them what they were doing in Oxford. Shyama dasi is working five hours a day at a library which is connected to Oxford University. She said that during the pandemic lockdown no one came to the library and it was frustrating to be there alone, with no one coming. But now it has picked up back to normal, and she likes her job. She also takes part in two reading groups. In one group they read the entire KRSNA book, and now that they’re finished they have just turned over to Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. She very much likes these interactive discussion groups. She also takes part in a reading group which is covering the Bhagavad-gita. While she’s here, Shyama intends to cook at least every other day, sharing with Manohara. She is also doing tulasi and Deity service here, which are much needed. At the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Lal Krsna is serving in the “Continuing Education” department, which is an online service. Lal Krsna also produces the annual reports for the Hindu Studies Centre, and also produces other catalogues and reports, which have to be at a first-class standard for the academic community. He also puts in many hours as the layout and design person for GN Press. This year he has helped us wonderfully fulfilling my desire to produce sixteen books about Srila Prabhupada. We did eight books for the July meeting of my disciples, and we’re on target for producing another eight books about Prabhupada for my Vyasa-puja on December 3rd. They have all been finished and in the process of being printed, and we’re just waiting to take delivery over the next month.
Right now Lal Krsna is teaching Manohara about layout and design. Lal Krsna is confident that Manohara can pick it up, since he used an earlier version of the same program ten years ago for laying out books, and in general Manohara is a precise worker. If Manohara can learn from Lal Krsna and become adept at using the program and designing covers, then with a “double team”we can produce many more books than we did this year, which will make it feasible that all my books can be put back into print before I leave.
She spoke on the section in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta where Abhay Charan’s business was failing. Daivisakti told of Prabhupada’s success in selling the chemical products from Dr. Bose’s lab. Unfortunately, his customers didn’t pay him. He was in deep debt, and Dr. Bose came out to see him. Some of the managers who were with Prabhupada when he worked in Calcutta were talking against him to Dr. Bose. So Dr. Bose went and saw Prabhupada (Abhay Charan De) and Prabhupada turned over to him all the accounts. This made Prabhupada insolvent and broke. He was unable to earn until he found some new job.
At the same time as his business was failing, his spiritual life was increasing as he associated with the members of the Gaudiya Math in his hometown, Prayaga, where the Math had a center. The head man of the Math, Atulananda, asked Prabhupada to join them in the Math. But Prabhupada felt he couldn’t go because of family responsibilities. Then he heard that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was coming to Prayag, where Abhay Charan was staying, to inaugurate a cornerstone-laying for the new Math there. He was also going to hold initiations. Abhay asked the temple head, Atulananda, if he could be initiated. Atulananda said yes, he would recommend him to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
In a meeting with Atulananda, Abhay Charan and his spiritual master, face to face with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Abhay was humble but ecstatic. Atulananda introduced Abhay to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, praising Abhay’s participation in the Gaudiya Math’s activities in Prayaga. Abhay donated money to the Math, and he introduced the sannyasis to businessmen there. He also attend the Math regularly, played the mrdanga, and made friendships with the Math members. Abhay also helped his Godbrothers in raising funds for the temple in Prayaga. He used to go with Atulananda Maharaja to see different pious businessmen. Atulananda would speak, and then Abhay would ask for the donation. After hearing Atulananda’s praise of Abhay, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, “I have marked him. He listens to my classes, and he does not go away. I will initiate him and accept him as my disciple.” Abhay was given the name at initiation: Abhay Caranaravindam. So Prabhupada received both first and second initiations from his spiritual master, and now he took part more in the activities of the Math. His wife didn’t object to him getting initiated, but she didn’t want to get initiated herself. She was satisfied to worship Krsna with the Deity, and lead a peaceful life. Prabhupada later said, “My wife’s idea was to be chaste and faithful to her husband, do Deity worship at home, that was all she wanted to do for spiritual life.” But this was not enough for Abhay Caranaravindam. He wanted to preach.
Yesterday was so busy I didn’t have time to write in my New Writing journal. First, Jayanta and Hari Vilas came to visit from Brooklyn. I asked Hari Vilas what were his duties as vice president in the Brooklyn temple. He said he tries to keep the devotees happy. He does legal work and administration work. They came up to see me at 11:30 and we talked until 1:00 PM. It was pleasant, and I was glad to meet with them. We talked about writing, Jayanta’s and mine. Jayanta is going to have printed a selection of his best poems. They praised me for my prolific writing of so many books. Hari Vilas said he used to write when he was younger, but now there is too much management to do at the Brooklyn center. We talked about ISKCON memories and how they were both disciples of His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Maharaja. At 1:00 PM we went down to lunch, which was homemade ravioli by Manohara. There were cheese biscuits, an Italian salad and rolls with butter. For dessert there was blueberry halava, a special request by Jayanta. Everyone ate to their heart’s content, and then Baladeva made up containers of the ravioli and halava for the two guests to take home.
After leaving the guests, I went upstairs and watched the Sunday lecture by Daivisakti Mataji.
After that we did the weekly Journal. At 5:00 PM, Haridasa dasa from Maryland phoned. We exchanged news of our week’s activities. We spoke for thirty-six minutes. After that it was time for my nebulizer. After that it was time to get ready to take rest. I regretted that there was no time in the day to write.
About a week ago I wrote in this Journal, quoting Prabhupada in a letter to me: “Don’t keep me in the dark.” He was referring to the fact that I hadn’t written him a letter in quite a while. I felt neglectful, quickly wrote him, and kept up a steady weekly practice of writing letters to my spiritual master.
As a result of my quoting, “Don’t keep me in the dark,” I received two responses from disciples. They weren’t all rosy, but honestly told me of their struggles to keep going forward in Krsna consciousness despite the obstacles. It is good that my disciples write to me and “check in.”
After all, we are a family.
We’ve had profuse flowers from our garden since the end of March, all through spring and summer. Now it’s October 14th. We still have marigolds, asters and mums. But it’s inevitable that in about two weeks there will be a killer frost, down to 29° F. (-2° C.), and our garden flowers will be wiped out. We’ll have to go to the store for flowers, and we’ll put less of them on the altar. All summer we’ve had so many flowers, and many times they’ve exactly matched the outfits of Radha-Govinda. For example, today Radha-Govinda is dressed in a very beautiful outfit which has rarely been used. The main c0lor is light green, but the stitchwork is more prominent in colors of light blue, dark blue, red and green. A picture of Their present look would appear striking in the centerfold of a gardening magazine, what with all the flowers and the backdrop painting of Vrndavana.
Our dryer was taking two hours to dry a regular load of laundry. That’s more than double what it should be doing, and it’s a new machine. So the repairman came out and assessed that the problem was that our vent tube was clogged with lint. For starters, he could see the end of the vent outlet from outside was all plugged up. So Baladeva went up on the roof and dug out everything in the end of the tube, which allowed the hot air to escape. But that is just the start of the project. The tube is thirty feet long and needs a spinning brush put up it to push out the rest of the lint that is stuck to the side of the pipe, restricting the airflow. In order to do that we have to pull out the washer/dryer far enough from the wall to get behind it and run the machine up the exhaust tube.
Fall has come. So our main big tree is a red maple, and it only drops its leaves slowly. That means on a regular basis the leaves have to be raked up so they don’t kill the grass, especially when they get wet, like yesterday. So Baladeva had to go out today, rake up the wet leaves, put them in a big bag and put them out for the garbagemen tomorrow. He’ll have to do this five or six times before the tree is bare.
Ravindra Svarupa’s car didn’t start this morning, and the devotees didn’t know whether it was out of gas or the battery was dead. They tried jumpstarting it with cables from a pickup truck, to no avail. Baladeva took over five gallons of gas from the generator stash, and also brought a jumpstart kit, which was fully charged. So they put the five gallons of gas in and then hooked up the jump starter, and the car started up right away. But it still doesn’t explain why it went dead to begin with. If it’s a short, then it’s just going to go dead again. So we left our jump starter in their car, in case they get stuck out somewhere. And they have to go get the battery tested to see if it’s beyond repair and if they need a new battery. And they also need to find out why it is being shorted out, which could be any number of things.
“O Prabhupada, whose essence is beyond time and space in the activities of the Supreme Lord in the spiritual world, and who continues to teach the readers of his Bhaktivedanta purports exactly how they may transform their thinking so that they can understand the Absolute Truth as the supreme friend and lover, whose form is inconceivably spiritual and personal;
“O Prabhupada, please stay at home with us, sit in your favorite chair with your slippers on our heads, and listen along with us as we replay your lectures—and travel with us in the van as we drive through the city for harinama; O Prabhupada, be pleased with us as we survey the farm; be pleased as .you sing Dasavatara, be pleased as you behold the lunch-hour businesspeople crowding into your Govinda’s restaurants; be pleased as the pious Indian immigrants become your staunch and learned disciples, giving up their Hindu impersonalism and telling their friends and relatives that Prabhupada is the way;
“O Prabhupada, be pleased that we have rectified some of our biggest mistakes that were hampering your Movement, and especially, Prabhupada, please accept our sincere regrets, forgive us for our offenses and help us not to commit them again.”
“O Prabhupada, the ability to remember you and speak of you is itself a blessing and solace—please inspire us to recall you wherever we are and to seek out the company of those who thirst for Prabhupada nectar;
“O Prabhupada, when we turn to you again, we remember your strict standards and we want to obey; when we turn to you we realize that pure Krsna consciousness needs no supplementation from outside disciplines, and we desire again to practice it the way you wanted;
“O Prabhupada, who did not own a car or real estate or anything, because he lived as a renounced mendicant, and therefore when he left this world whatever he had belonged to ISKCON for the benefit of his followers, and to be shared with the whole world;
“O Prabhupada, whose personal paraphernalia is kept now in museum cases, showing us that for himself, he mostly used humble things like cheap tongue scraper, a saffron winter coat patterned and sewn by a disciple, cheap canvas shoes, a sadhu’s kowpeen, plain wool sweater, Vrndavana swami’s hat—all of which are used while directing the spending of millions of dollars for a marble temple in Bombay, and for temples in Mayapur and Vrndavana, built with as much as he could afford, although he wanted to spend much more.”
“O Prabhupada, who expands himself into the life of whoever wants to approach him, just like the Supersoul who can enter into the hearts of all;
“O Prabhupada, who wrote in his purports the symptoms of jagad-guru, and whose followers and readers can prove that Prabhupada himself fulfills those qualifications by his actions in personally establishing Krsna consciousness worldwide;
“O Prabhupada, who said that Bhaktivinoda Thakura could have personally spread Krsna consciousness worldwide, but he left it to be done by a Vaisnava in the future, and who said that we should also continue as rays of parampara and distribute Krsna consciousness;
“O Prabhupada, who is in our vision as an elderly pure devotee sannyasi, according to Krsna’s plan; O Prabhupada, who therefore became our spiritual master and who said, ‘Before I had a few sons and daughters and maintained them with much difficulty. But I left that family, and now I have hundreds of children who are rendering better service than my other family—so this is happiness given to me by Krsna.
“O Prabhupada, who told us, ‘I am your real father, the other father is ephemeral;’ therefore we were able to come out of our middle-class homes and accept your love and lie down happily on the bare floor in the storefront.”
“O Srila Prabhupada, who desires only that we love Lord Krsna—“Save your love for God”—and by loving Krsna we can then love all beings as His parts and parcels; but Prabhupada, we find it much easier to love and express our thanks to you, because you gave us Krsna’s love, and without you we do not know Lord Krsna.
“O Prabhupada, who is pained to see his sons and daughters fall again into maya; who keeps the light on in his room so that we can come back to him; who has given us something that we will never lose, and which can save us at the time of death;
O Prabhupada, great teacher in the knowledge of the soul and love of God, please accept our humble obeisances and give us menial service in your Krsna consciousness movement!
O Prabhupada, let us praise you with growing appreciation; let us not ask of you or seek to take from you, but serve you in gratitude; let us hear from you, so that both you and we will enjoy transcendental bliss in sravanam-kirtanam;
O Prabhupada, we pray to you for courage, because even in little things our hearts quake; we often cannot cooperate with your sons and daughters, and the demons’ attacks depress us, and we find ourselves drifting away from association with devotees, and away from dependence on Krsna, and out of the fire of preaching. Please bring us back. We want to come back, but we need your help. We need your presence more, a little more like it was when you were here . . . .
O Prabhupada, as Bhaktivinoda Thakura sang to Gopinatha, so we sing to you, “You are the wisest person. Please think of a way that we may be delivered.”
“O Prabhupada, you are the saintly person guiding the lives of thousands of devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement, and you will continue to be the central person because of your Bhaktivedanta purports and your unexcelled achievements as a preacher and pure devotee;
“O Prabhupada, who sometimes appears very dimly in the memory, because our Kali-yuga brains are so limited, and who is therefore Narada Muni of the modern age, available in retrieval systems like books, murtis of exact likeness, and taped lectures, movies and photos—in which we find you strongly present;
“O Prabhupada, we request you to please walk into our dreams just as you were in life, and give us a hint that we will meet with you again in the spiritual world;
“O Prabhupada, you are the early morning bhagavata writer, the witty commentator, the blasting attacker of demons who misinterpret the Bhagavad-gita, and the enjoyer of a simple meal of Krsna prasadam;
“O Lord Krsna, please reveal Prabhupada to our minds in many ways throughout the day and night, and let him appear in our speech; and as we scan a page of a letter or essay that we have written, let the name “Prabhupada” appear a few times on each page, along with “Krsna” and “Caitanya,” thus assuring literary excellence and substance to our writings.”
“As a young brahmacari in a young ISKCON movement, Tamal Krsna asked Srila Prabhupada, ‘What is it like in the spiritual word, in Krsnaloka?’
“Prabhupada replied, ‘There are no draft boards there.’ The devotees laughed at Prabhupada’s witty pertinence. Srila Prabhupada then told a story about a Christian missionary preaching among coal miners. The missionary began a fire-and-brimstone speech by telling the miners that a sinful person would have to go to hell and could only be saved if he surrendered to Jesus Christ.
“On hearing the name Jesus Christ, one of the miners asked, “What is his number?” Since everyone in the mining company was assigned a number, the miners could not imagine Jesus Christ being anyone other than a mine worker.
“The missionary tried again, by describing the misery of hell.
“‘Hell,’ he said, ‘is very dark and damp.’
“The miners looked back at the missionary without concern. His description of hell sounded just like the mine, which they already knew. Then the missionary understood that he was preaching to people with a very limited conception of reality, so he would have to address their actual experience.
“‘And in hell,’ he said, ‘there are no newspapers!’
“‘Oh, horrible! Very frightening!’ the miners exclaimed.
“Srila Prabhupada’s joke made the devotees laugh, and they also appreciated that a preacher has to think carefully when addressing an audience and speak according to time, place, and circumstance. But personally, for Tamal Krsna and the other young men, it was also a great relief to think that there was a spiritual world where they would not be in anxiety about being drafted into the army.”
“The Lord accepts the attitude of His devotee and sees how much he is prepared to serve Him. The devotee is at liberty to serve the Lord either in gross matter or in subtle matter. The important point is that the service be in relation with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
—Cc, Madhya, 1.161, purport
“Needless to say, we are not advocating stopping physical activities in the service of Srila Prabhupada. One should serve the spiritual master with all one’s senses, but one who has a tendency and who has the opportunity, can make concentrated attempts to return to times when he was in the presence of Srila Prabhupada, to relive the kirtanas, the hearing of lectures, and the personal inquiries made in the presence of Prabhupada’s vapuh form.
“Just as a parivrajakacarya sannyasi does not reside in a particular temple or home, and therefore worships the Deity of Krsna in his mind wherever he is, so a devotee of Prabhupada, wherever he is, can stop and recall Srila Prabhupada by the process of mental worship. By meditation we are no longer restricted by time or other physical inabilities, just as the poor brahmana overcame his financial disability, just as Vasudeva overcame his imprisonment, and just as Nrsimhananda brahmacari overcame the distance of miles which separated him from Lord Caitanya.
“In Prabhupada Meditations we are attempting to share such mental worship through writing. Thus anyone who is inclined can come with us into Swamiji’s room at 26 Second Avenue, talk informally with him, feel what it was like, and join in the kirtanas with him. One can recall the early days and hear the philosophy for the first time while typing up the tapes of Prabhupada’s Teachings of Lord Caitanya and KRSNA book. In this way, one may be completely absorbed in thinking of Prabhupada, both in one’s present day services within Prabhupada’s mission, as well as by the worship of remembrance. As recommended by Srila Prabhupada:
“‘By his mind, a Krsna conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord—as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kuruketra or engaging in His various pastimes in Vrndavana with His devotees. In this way, one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is mental culture of Krsna consciousness’ (Nectar of Devotion, xxii).”
“One time while Swamiji was lecturing about life on the higher planets, he added, ‘I am not just saying this, but I am convinced.’ That blew my mind. Other times he said, ‘Rest assured,’ or ‘Take it from me.’ He was willing to teach us on that basis also. He was saying in effect, ‘I know what I’m talking about. I realize this. It is a fact, so please accept it and take it from me. If you chant Hare Krsna you will understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these things will become revealed to you. Take it from me, there are higher planets. Just because you cannot understand it, and you cannot touch it with your senses, that does not mean that it does not exist.’
“Gradually, I accepted whatever Prabhupada said. Whatever answers and convictions I now hold, they come from that process—as a doubtful person, I inquired and got answers from Swamiji.
“A Godbrother said that when you accept Krsna consciousness, it is like a package deal; you accept everything—the demigods in the higher planets, four-armed forms, thousand-headed forms, and so on. Everything starts to be part of the same axiomatic truth—whatever is in the Vedas or whatever is taught by the spiritual master. You do not pick and choose. Besides, there is a reason why everything is believable. If it is not ‘believable’ to you, that is also understandable. You do not have to comprehend it with your own brain—it is often beyond you. Once you accept these premises, then you accept particular teachings that sound strange to outsiders, on the principle of acintya, inconceivable knowledge. And as we know, knowledge born of the senses is defective. The realities of other worlds don’t have to tally with our world. The guru knows what is right.
“Once you plunged into it, you began to accept it. You saw American devotees painting pictures of Visnu with four arms. There is Lord Visnu and He does have four arms, and it is not the most impossible thing in the world. You have two arms, and He has two more arms, so what’s the big deal? There is spiritual form. We started getting unstuck from our previous conceptions by Prabhupada’s grace.
“This was a school where we sat in his apartment and asked questions, and where he lectured in the temple and taught us all these things. We became different than other people. We became his ‘confidential devotees.’ As he said in one lecture, ‘The other day, some of our confidential devotees were talking together, and we all concluded that Krsna consciousness is the great need of human society.’”
“Prabhupada was lecturing in the storefront when the phone rang. His vyasasana was in the back of the room, and the phone was about twenty feet away near the front entrance. I should have picked up the phone and said, ‘I’ll call you back later. The spiritual master is speaking.’ I didn’t, though, because it was the people from whom we had rented the apartment. The man wanted to know, ‘When are you going to pay?’ Swamiji was planning to stay a few extra days into the month of June, so I had to work that out with the landlord. I said, ‘We’re definitely going to be out of the apartment by June 3rd. We just want to stay there three more days.’ I was distracted from Prabhupada’s lecture, and I also distracted the audience, although I tried to speak in a low voice. As fast as I could, I hung up the phone and went back to hearing Prabhupada.
“Later, Swamiji asked, ‘Who was on the phone? Was that Montreal?’ (Montreal was the next place he was going to.)
“I said, ‘No, it was the people who rented the building where you are staying. They wanted to know when I am going to pay. I am sorry I caused a distraction during your lecture.’
“I have told this incident before, but now as I tell it again, I hear Prabhupada saying in a fresh way within myself, ‘Was that Montreal on the phone?’ It is as if I just took that phone call five minutes ago and Prabhupada said, ‘Was that Montreal?’ And that is what we all want—to serve him and to talk with him, no matter what the subject.
“When Prabhupada was staying in his Chester Street apartment, I didn’t have much time to see him there. I had to be in the welfare office every morning. I did go one morning, though, to tell him that my editing of his Srimad-Bhagavatam manuscripts was going slowly because of my other work. Prabhupada said, ‘It is all right. Just go slowly but surely. Like when you put one foot on the street, you do not put the next one down until you are sure. Go ahead like that.’
“Whether you spoke with him and told someone else about it, or if someone else spoke with Prabhupada and told you what had happened, it was all valid. Srila Prabhupada could say anything he liked. He could say, ‘Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead,’ or ‘Was that Montreal on the phone?’ The words did not seem as important as the connection with him.
“People remember their father or mother after they have passed away. They come back in dreams, and this can be deeply felt even when seemingly ordinary words are spoken. The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh wrote a poem recalling his mother. He tells how he met her on a Sunday. She was walking back from church and they met in their village. She said, ‘Don’t forget to feed the cows.’ There is also a haiku poem where two people are talking, and suddenly a servant enters the room and says, ‘It is time to light the lamps.’ In these examples, ordinary words create a whole characterization of time and meaning. Similarly, I like to dream of Prabhupada doing ordinary things. Usually we think of him coming in a dream and saying, ‘Go to Vrndavana,’ or ‘You’ve forgotten your vow’—something heavy. However, he may also come in a dream and say, ‘Was that Montreal on the phone?’”
“Our meditation on Prabhupada should be pleasing to him. When Lord Brahma praised Lord Krsna, He remained silent and grave. It appeared that the Supreme Lord was not much impressed by Brahma’s speech. Nevertheless, Brahma’s words on that occasion are glorious as preserved in the Tenth Canto, Fourteenth Chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Our own homages to our spiritual master cannot be as eloquent as those spoken by Lord Brahma, but how will we know if Prabhupada and Lord Krsna are pleased with our words?
“One criteria is that we cooperate within the society of devotees. If we make a disturbance among his devotees, then our praises of Srila Prabhupada become a travesty.
“Lord Krsna is not alone; He is always with His devotees. Similarly, Prabhupada’s followers are part of his eternal entourage. Too much criticism of his followers is a type of criticism against Prabhupada. We may think that we have built an indomitable fortress around Prabhupada in our minds—we can defend him from all critics. Nevertheless, if we allow ourselves free pot-shots at his disciples, then we are not protecting Prabhupada.
“Protecting the disciples of Prabhupada does not mean blindly accepting whatever they do. We are sometimes compelled by conscience to say that some devotees are not following Prabhupada. This, though, is a difficult area to enter. We may easily fall into aparadha. The best thing is to set a good example among our devotee friends, and try to honor all devotees.
“Visvanatha Cakravarti has stated that we should offer respect by words and etiquette to all persons who acknowledge Krsna as the Supreme and who are part of the Vaisnava movement. If we think that certain devotees are not fit to associate with, then we are not compelled to associate with them intimately. We can select like-minded friends, but we should be respectful toward all.
“When we combine respect for Prabhupada with respect for his disciples, then we have the perfect union. One way to do this is to recall Prabhupada in his pastimes with his disciples. Lord Caitanya’s pastimes are not only about Himself, but are about His disciples and relationships among them.”
“As we sat out on the veranda in Mayapura taking prasadam—Bhakti Charu Swami, Hamsaduta, Subhaga Maharaja, Dhananjaya—many stories about Prabhupada were passed back and forth. Stories, little snippets, pieces of Prabhupada remembrance. Bhakti Charu Swami related how one night in 1977, he was massaging Prabhupada. He said he was feeling sad that he had only now come to serve Prabhupada. Prabhupada had already been with us for eleven years, but he had not come early when Prabhupada needed more help. By now, Prabhupada had thousands of disciples by which to spread the preaching. Bhakti Charu Swami expressed this sentiment to Prabhupada, and Prabhupada replied, ‘But I was never alone.’ When Bhakti Charu Swami heard that, he felt very insignificant. He realized that Prabhupada didn’t need his help.
“Each story that was told brought to mind six more, but I didn’t want to tell them. I have recorded many of these stories in my books already. I was more in the mood to hear other devotees’ stories and to feel the goodwill between us. The formalities fell away as we honored prasadam. It also made me see how prabhupada-katha, and similarly krsna-katha, is such a leveling experience. To sit down hungry for the association of devotees who know about the most important things in one’s life and to feel at home with those devotees is wonderful.
“Dhananjaya told us how, when Prabhupada installed Radha-Krsna in London, he said something like, ‘Radharani’s hand is blessing you so you can approach Krsna. Otherwise you cannot approach Krsna.’ Then he told another story about Yamuna dasi receiving some Radha-Krsna Deities from a traveling lady sadhu named Syama. Prabhupada warned her sternly in a letter that she could not worship these Deities unless he gave permission.
“Hamsaduta then told how Prabhupada stopped at Gorakhpur and worshiped Radha-Madhava there by singing ‘Jaya Radha-Madhava.’ I told what I knew about the New York installation of the brass Deities and how there was no flute. Prabhupada improvised a flute with some sticks wrapped in cloth. Then I told how Prabhupada saw the little brass Deities we had in Boston. When we started to dress Them, he said They should be more fatty. Himavati had made dresses that were too short, but Prabhupada said, ‘It is all right, it affords us a view of Radharani’s feet.’”
“I spoke with another Godbrother earlier this morning and showed him my photo of the original Panca-tattva painting Prabhupada brought with him to America. This Godbrother asked me details about Prabhupada’s altar and worship.
“I described how he didn’t have a picture of his guru, but only this one picture of Panca-tattva. As we spoke, it occurred to me that Prabhupada wasn’t doing puja per se. He wasn’t setting up a brahmana’s sila or anything like that. We have to remember that just before Prabhupada moved to 26 Second Avenue, he was staying in a house where he had to keep his bhoga next to the cat food in the refrigerator. He wasn’t able to keep up standards. That was another delightful little moment where we both laughed and shared thinking about Prabhupada.
“And I was again inspired in a morning talk with a sannyasi Godbrother. He said that people tend to say Prabhupada taught only vaidhi-bhakti. They claim they have to go elsewhere to get the higher teachings about the rasas. But it is not true. Everything is there in Prabhupada’s books. Then this devotee gestured with his arms pointing up and said, ‘Prabhupada is on the highest, highest platform. He is way up there.’ He meant that Prabhupada is very advanced in his love for Krsna and that he has a very intimate relationship with Krsna in Vrndavana. He said we should never mistake that. My Godbrother also said that the word ‘Prabhupada’ is reserved for only the most exalted devotees. It is an appropriate name for Prabhupada. It is such an exalted name that we can understand why his Godbrothers were startled to hear his disciples referring to him that way. But it was right for us to do it.
“Like this, we can go through our day, and at least briefly think of the different ways we connected with and can remember Prabhupada. If we can’t think of anything, we should change our lives or surround ourselves with people who will remind us of Prabhupada. But anyone who reads Prabhupada’s books will remember Prabhupada.
“In addition to assuring ourselves that we did contact Prabhupada on a given day, we should also review how we may have failed him by our lack of surrender. How about our japa, was it attentive? How about our service attitude with the other devotees, were we loving? Did we push on? Did we preach? Did we distribute his books? Did we do what we were supposed to do? Did we refuse to give someone our time? In this way, we can see how we failed to serve Prabhupada properly, and we can make a plan to improve. We can also beg for his mercy and forgiveness.”
“Srila Prabhupada often recalled how Brahmananda and Acyutananda were the first to dance at the Tompkins Square Park kirtanas. Sometimes he would also ask the rest of us to dance. He once looked over at me and gestured with his head that I should dance. At first, I thought he must’ve been gesturing to someone behind me. I looked behind, then looked at him again, and Srila Prabhupada repeated the gesture, which was undoubtedly meant for me. On his direct but unspoken order, I got up and danced. Tompkins Square Park was one of the few places where some of my old friends came and saw me. They seemed to be observing me sarcastically, but I didn’t care. I got up wearing my robes and danced with my hands in the air before all the people. When the kirtana was over, we dispersed and walked back to the temple with Prabhupada.
“After our first kirtana there, the New York Times had carried an article with a picture of us. Srila Prabhupada took that as a milestone. Later we also received coverage in the local newspaper, the East Village Other. We were on the front page with the headline: “Save Earth Now,“ and a picture of Prabhupada standing and speaking by a tree in Tompkins Square Park. Prabhupada had us read this article to him aloud in his room, and he especially appreciated that the writer had said,’Most people say God is dead, but the Swami on the Lower East Side shows us that He’s very much alive.’ Prabhupada appreciated the newspaper writer’s recognition that we were alive and chanting. We had been chanting in the park that day the East Village Other newspaper article had appeared. After the kirtana, a wave of interested people came back to the storefront. Prabhupada spoke from the vyasasana, and he had us distribute cups of sweet rice to everyone who came. We felt Krsna consciousness was a new movement with good potential for gaining a strong following among young people.
“Around this time, the poet Allen Ginsberg took more interest in our movement and donated some money. He became a kind of patron, and his interest in us was to our advantage. I remember being with Srila Prabhupada after Allen Ginsberg had visited, and Prabhupada asked us to understand that he was prophylactic, not affected or contaminated by Allen Ginsberg’s association.”
A song is a penny each,
I have a bag of pears and a bag of apples
it’s December 14th, World Enlightenment Day
and devotees are giving out books
by milk of kindness, read one page
and your life can become perfect.
They laugh at us, joke and demean,
‘They’re just out selling books for money. It’s a scam.’
But devotees don’t care for that. They know
the Founder-Acarya wants this and
the Six Gosvamis and Lord Caitanya
are happy to hear the books are going out
into the hands of needy persons everywhere.
We need to hear Krsna
we need to be near our spiritual master
Prabhupada is the one
he’s writing it and we are reading it
‘I’m okay, you’re okay,’ the psychologist said
but who is actually free?
If you think of Krsna you can get
a spiritual body at death
chant His holy names and hear
Srimad-Bhagavatam—Krsna in His appearances
and His pure devotees.
He’s the goal of yoga and sacrifice
and Vedic study. He’s father, mother
and best lover, cowherd boy.
Devotees can know, I don’t know
but at least I’ve got a chance to
work in this devotional camp for
controlling the wild mind to
his devotees made a sign:
‘Welcome Srila Prabhupada.’
Some of his Godbrothers
‘You cannot use that name.’
used for Rupa Goswami
and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati,
meant one at whose feet
the masters sit—
so it was fitting
for A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.
No one had ever
preached as widely as he,
by the mercy of Gaura-Nitai.
in the straw-roofed hut.
Under a mosquito net
he wrote his books.
He was happy
to see his disciples
on their own land in Mayapur
distributing prasadam to the thousands
and on the pandal stage
holding kirtanas and lectures.
At the ground-breaking,
he nimbly climbed down
into the 15-foot pit,
looking up wide-eyed
as they handed him
the golden Deity
upon whose serpent heads
the future temple would rest.
Prabhupada is more wonderful
than the past, present,
or future buildings.
His form is better than
his order stronger than
and his purpose higher
than the Kailash dome
atop the tallest temple.
By his empowered effort
the waxing moon
of Lord Caitanya
visible from every corner of the earth.”
“Praise Sri Krsna who performs the rasa dance and who lives in the dhama. There are peacocks here in Mayapur, and steady din of crickets (and a million other insect species) in the night. They are background music. Poets hear them asking a question: ‘What are you going to do to attain Krsna consciousness in your brief lifetime?’
“Soon devotees will start rising, scraping chairs, clearing their throats in the bathroom. The sounds will get louder. Then we all gather for darsana before Radha-Madhava.
“I do not want to feel out of place. Social obligations are here too. But right now it is just me and the crickets. Is this my imagination? Do I really hear them asking me a question? Do I really sense them speaking a secret? Do they know what I don’t know, the simple facts of life? I turn to the pictures of the acaryas in disciplic succession and to the sophisticated cultural technique of writing symbols on a page.
“Soon I will turn to the spiritual vibration. Crickets may ‘chant’ in Mayapur, but we humans are meant to directly enunciate God’s holy names, as Lord Caitanya Himself did in Gauda only five hundred years ago.”
“Lord who kills demons—
we routinely ‘pray’—
please kill mine, make me strong.
That’s a prayer of a
brave soldier. I say Lord
protect my sannyasa.
May You reign and be prayed
to by all devotees.
This day at dusk
the Lord killed the demon
in the archway hall
and later sat
on his blood-spattered throne
and heard prayers of Prahlada.
We keep asking
You for help.
May devotees get
better and me
remember You and serve You,
“I don’t want this to be a mere exercise racing by the clock. I feel something that I’m reluctant to preach. I’d rather go deep inside myself and know something. Does that sound bad?
“You don’t understand (dear reader) what I’m trying to say. I’ve said this before? It sounds familiar? Sounds like when I was in the Pyrenees trying to decide whether to live in a house in remote Ireland for prayer? No, it’s not like that. “Prayer” isn’t happening like that with me, with heavy Christian influence. Neither am I under Narayana Maharaja or other Gaudiya Math influences or “rasika.” Or – nondevotee writers or listening to jazz. Or even thinking life means to write nonstop.
“But something is happening, some tickling sensation inside tells me – if you do need to change for your betterment, then be open to it. If I lecture in temples maybe I’ll get more taste for that. But I’m in the extreme position of not meeting with people. Someone might therefore say, “He doesn’t preach much. Not like he used to. Although he does preach through his books.”
“I’m on course as usual. Just wanted to mention there is a tickle of something inside and I wanted to be aware of it.
“We all want direction from Krsna. But we can’t expect the Lord of Vrndavana to come and dance for us and play His flute as if He’s our servant. You hear of Him and you serve Him – that’s the way.
“Names of flowers in this room, one a weedy yellow and purple, a little bit like a daisy – real American wildflowers. I want you to say as many poems as you can. Rasaraja’s band, 108, has a new CD and single – angry lyrics. Feel the void in yourself. I’m sick of society and the slaughtering they do to our minds. And fools, I’m not going to hide it anymore, etc.
“I am hanging around in this apartment doing a little puja for Srila Prabhupada and answering some letters. Not a very active man.
“Hey, he’s not an active man.
“Doesn’t like to stay up past 7 P.M. Ever heard of such a thing? He likes to get up at midnight and read and write and chant his rounds then.
“Won’t condemn himself for being a non-devout, non-emotional, non-living chanter. Got a cut on his thumbprint from rubbing the beads, and another on his long finger, but that doesn’t mean you are chanting with love.
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna. The Lord is the topmost Person. I was in tune with His Srimad-Bhagavatam and now I seem to have stopped it for the time being.
“Say Krsna. Do you want to be a devotee? Do you want to pay the price?
“This is a fairly quiet street in Queens. Apartments are two stories high. Rent. Diverse, multi-racial. Cars parked at all spots. I told you Our Lady is out front.
“So, P.B.M. is going to 26 Second Avenue tonight but we will stay back. A devotee named Agni is coming and offers to give a Shiatsu massage. I agreed to it. Good health for this aging body. Get on it, man. Don’t play too old before your time.
“I tell you Gentle Power is what we are calling our poetry book. Krsna consciousness and gentle power.
“It was not a mouse, just a shadow.
“If you write only fifteen minutes, it may not be enough. I started this one mainly to express an inkling of change. Don’t say I didn’t mention it. If it comes again, I’ll note it. It starts with the recognition that I am not so eager to preach. That I ask myself, why. I don’t have a clear answer, but it is related to honesty, to admitting I don’t have realization or taste for Krsna in Goloka. My spiritual ambitions seem tired out. Bogged down with realities of this world, the institution, the physical issues of raising money, etc., disagreements among people…how to apply the teachings. If I don’t realize Krsna consciousness deeply, then when I preach – I feel the credulity gap between where I am and the perfection of the state described in the scriptures.
“When I read rightly it helps, but I can’t sustain that. And all of these letters coming in and more requests that I give lectures – or demands from my writer self to write something – so, I can’t follow up this inkling. Maybe there is something different I could do. That’s what I wanted to say. But don’t forget that you are in the world like everyone else, so it is not likely you’ll discover a way out of it that is so different from what everyone of us is dealing with.
“(21 minutes, Queens apartment, May 7, 1996)”
“Here we go. I wrote about May apples in Journal and Poems, Vol.1 in 1986:
“‘The large leafy plant I see everywhere is called May apple or mandrake. It produces an obscure waxy flower which usually hides under the large leaves. These wildflowers are very lowly, and their blossoms are sometimes obscure – one could call them humble. They are not very beautiful or not even noticeable.’
“That was a pretty May, sensitive to birds at dawn and rain on the tin roof of the cabin, and flowers coming and going but sensitive to too much pain and even medicine couldn’t stop the headaches. Much better off now traveling and preaching and writing more. But it lasts a little longer. Blues singer, “Give me another year, Lord.”
“What will you do with that year or with seven days to help yourself and help others? A young man came here last night, Agni dasa, tall and muscular. He is expert in massage and he does it free as a service to devotees. His massage was very thorough and I slept soundly last night. We each have a service. Can I bring people some relief? Yes, I know that I can.
“May apples aren’t showoffs. Not bright blossoms. They produce only one flower. Their flat green roof leaf is low, lowly, mandrake the magician. Green smelly along the creek, the May apples used to carpet big areas and it’s probably still like that. In Manhattan you have to purchase wildflowers from a florist as P.B.M. did to give us these yellow and purple ones.
“108, band. One oh ate. One and fate presides. The old man says, “It hurt when you pulled at my middle toe.”
“Agni: ‘That’s the stomach.’
“Oh, yes. It figures. Indigestion. Never feel clean hunger.
“So, this Godbrother was saying, ‘No Vaisnavas ever wrote diaries.’ Of course, he’d concede to the diary of Svarupa Damodara on Lord Caitanya, but that’s different! Or Murari Gupta’s diary of Nimai in Navadvipa. But because there were no Vaisnava diaries in the past, especially by minor, aspiring Vaisnavas, does that mean that diaries can never be used as a genre? Yukta vairagya tells us yes, you can use it. Claim it for the Lord.
“And if the diarist is less than perfect? Never mind, write to improve. Write to help yourself and others. Why should we rule out this genre as taboo just because it is so honest and personal?
“Marines. Go out this weekend. ‘Take off this weekend – Naval Reserves.’ No thanks. I’ll be quiet on the street in Queens. Get into the car and drive over the bridge to the Lower East Side, Manhattan, and give your talk. Don’t yawn or cry tears or beep or belch. Just start saying, ‘A.H. is glad to be here in this sacred place where the Krsna consciousness movement took hold in America thirty years ago.’ Fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bob Marley celebrated in Jamaica with a postage stamp of a dollar ten cents. The one hundred years since Prabhupada’s birth is much more important, but Jamaicans don’t know it yet.
Tighten your teeth, vassal
give us a smart look as you march
by – ‘Eyes right!’ to
look at the generals in the reviewing stand.
“O first thoughts, I have to keep you at arm’s length. It’s too flotsam-y and jetsam-y to make a list of what’s happening in my little life.
“If you read sastra you can tell us the powerful effect of the holy names, even when chanted neglectfully or in jest.
“I am tired and need a little break. Get through this day to speak in the evening, recalling our Swami.
“He accepted the name Prabhupada and his Godbrothers objected. But he deserves the name and they should accept him. Never mind that Abhay Charan De was a grhastha in those early days. He was always thinking of his spiritual master even when he did business. And in the 1940’s he was writing Back to Godhead and preaching, waiting for a chance to spread Krsna consciousness. So, he was a Krsna conscious person and it took some time to fully manifest.
you lowly plant,
“I am here in the city and so much you could say. Compared to you, Mandrake, growing and producing your waxy flower which nobody wants to wear on their lapel or give to their girlfriend to put on their prom gown;
“You lowly green plant
please preserve us.
And let us pray to Tulasi-devi
the Lord’s dear-most,
that our kurta’s don’t get ripped
before the bombs drop.
May she, my spiritual daughter,
may I be true
may the Lord deliver us
(Fifteen minutes, Queens morning, May 8, 1996)”
Free Write Journal #219Free Write Journal #219 >>
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.