Starting today, the ashram is in something of an uproar. Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara dasi are arriving. But they can’t move into a room in the ashram because early Monday morning the workmen are beginning to remove the old furnace and oil tank, and all the work goes on through that room in the back of the ashram. So the room is off-limits for living until sometime Wednesday. So Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara dasi are going to stay at Krsna dasi’s tonight. Tomorrow morning Lal Krsna and Shyama dasi leave on a 10:00 AM train back to Oxford, with a few days’ stop in New York City.
Krsna dasi is also going to leave tomorrow. She has to meet up with her son Dhanvantari in Trinidad. He’s beginning a new job in Houston the following week, and so he probably won’t see his grandmother again (she is gravely ill). There’s some legal work to do in Trinidad. Dhanvantari and Krsna dasi have to sign some papers to protect the property in Trinidad. Krsna dasi will come back next weekend. By that time Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara dasi will be settled back into the guest room behind the kitchen in the ashram.
Lal Krishna and Shyama dasi left today to return to Oxford. Lal Krishna fulfilled his quota for this marathon, and all the books (about Prabhupada) are printed and in storage at Viraha Bhavan, waiting for distribution at Vyasa-puja. Lal Krishna taught Manohara how to do layout and design for GN Press. It is very important that we get another devotee other than Lal Krishna to work at this, so that we can double the work. Lal Krishna found Manohara a very good student, and he theoretically learned the process. But now he’ll have to actually do it by producing a book, and there he’ll face practical issues.
At the July meeting of disciples and friends, we had eight new books published that I had written about Prabhupada. Now for December 3rd we’ll have another eight books about Prabhupada to distribute. When November starts (in a few days) I’ll look through the new eight books that have arrived here already and pick out excerpts to read on Vyasa-puja day. The eight books that are already here or on their way: 1) Calling Out to Srila Prabhupada; 2) Srila Prabhupada Samadhi Diary; 3) Remembering Srila Prabhupada; 4) He Lives Forever; 5) My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, Volume 3: “I Am Never Displeased by Any Member”; 6) Here Is Srila Prabhupada; 7) Prabhupada Appreciation; 8) Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 5. We’re waiting in anticipation for Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara dasi. They have traveled by boat from Wales to New York. Neither of them like to fly, and Satyasara has a new knee replacement, making flying not possible. They’ll spend one day here while Lal Krishna and Shyama dasi are here. Lal Krsna has to leave tomorrow at 10:30 AM. If the newcomers are not exhausted, we can have a book meeting today, and I’ll report about it here.
Everyone pitched in and cooked for Prabhupada’s disappearance day. Baladeva made spinach and paneer. Shyama dasi made a vegetable-cheese pie, rasagullas and sandesa, as well as two chutneys. Krsna dasi made karela chips, rice and dhal. Manohara made puris and kachoris with peas.
We are encouraging both Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara dasi to focus exclusively on GN Press service while they are here for two weeks. We are not asking them to do any cleaning or cooking or other ashram services. They have a place of their own, and we want them to focus on GN Press service and not start thinking ahead, to the next place they’re going to in two weeks, which is their home in Alachua, where they haven’t been for six months and are likely to get distracted once they’re there. He’ll be working on compiling a book from my Back to Godhead essays, Notes from the Editor, etc. Satyasara will do proofreading and typing. The book team is gearing up for the two festivals in 2023.
Now that we have Manohara as a new and solid layout and design person, we should be able to produce more books than we did this year. But it will require more typists and proofreaders to keep up.
Krsna-bhajana is finding his two-week stay here at Viraha Bhavan very conducive to working on reprinting my earlier writings. He and his wife Satyasara dasi are living in the back rooms, which are guest rooms, and they’re able to live there peacefully without interruption. She is working on typing and proofreading, and he is working on compiling material from earlier writings of mine. Specifically, now he is working on essays I wrote every month in Back to Godhead magazine in the 1970s, called “Notes from the Editor,” mostly about current events. The deal with BTG giving us permission to print material from the magazine is that we have to have it printed as a book by January 2023. So Krsna-bhajana is working against that deadline. He wants me to help him write an introduction to the essays. We don’t want to disappoint the BBT, so we have to meet this deadline so that they’ll be willing to lend us other materials that may have been printed in BTG. The race is on to finish on time.
In one essay I wrote about the time when churches offered “sanctuary” to draft resistors:
“It was big news for a while, in 1968, as part of the protest against the Vietnam War. Every few day you’d see in the headlines another young man was telling the government, ‘I won’t go!’ by going into a church. The church officials would refuse to allow the federal authorities to enter and arrest him, and for a few days the tension would mount. As a member of the Boston Hare Krsna center, I attended one such meeting at Boston University’s campus chapel. I had hoped to speak on Krsna consciousness, but I couldn’t break through the crowd of politicians, ministers and monitors surrounding the pulpit. A little bewildered by the intense mixture of political rhetoric and Biblical quotes, and unsure what was the proper course of action for me, I returned to our center and wrote a letter to our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His reply (dated October 9, 1968) arrived a few days later.
“My dear Satsvarupa,
“Please accept my blessings. I have received your letter about the situation in Boston. From the statements in your letter, I can understand that it is a political situation. This political struggle is the reaction of karma. Both the opposing parties—namely the students who have taken shelter in the churches and the government force which is coming to arrest them—both of them are in the same category, because if it were a question of meat-eating or supporting the slaughterhouse, both of them would agree. So the present situation is a reaction to man’s sinful activities.
“We ask people to restrain themselves from four kinds of primary sinful activities—namely illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating, and gambling. But all these fighting people are cent per cent addicted to all these habits. So if they are serious about mitigating the unpalatable situation of society, they must agree to accept Krsna consciousness. Otherwise, there is no possibility of peace in the world.”
He went on to say that,
“The protesters’ process is not very genuine. They want to make God their order supplier. But God is not an order supplier, He is an order giver. He orders everyone to surrender unto Him, and the fools and rascals who do not surrender unto Him want to order God through so-called prayer—that He should ask material nature to stop her legal activities of punishment. That is not possible. So the situation is not very favorable . . .’
“Now, many years later, the ‘sanctuary’ protest is all but forgotten. There are new political struggles, new allies and enemies. But I think Srila Prabhupada’s analysis is still the devastating truth. Unfortunately, the world’s leaders are not listening to his advice. Most political and military leaders are completely unaware of the laws of karma—action-and-reaction—that Srila Prabhupada and the Vedic literatures describe. But they should know that such laws actually exist—as surely as they know of nature’s other unbreakable laws. . . ”
Today, November 1st (also All-Saints Day) is Baladeva’s seventy-first birthday. His sister Kathi called from Maine and sang the “Happy Birthday” song over the phone. Baladeva phoned her back, and they spoke. At lunch, the assembled devotees, including the devotees on Zoom, sang “Happy Birthday” to Baladeva. At lunchtime Bala received a few gifts. One was a card from Lalita-kisora, which said, “Happy Krsna conscious birthday!” and also, “Baladeva, may the dearest Srimati Radharani continue to shower Her blessings upon you.” Saudamani devi dasi and Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu gave a card: “Thank you for your kindness. Hope you have a healthy, happy, Krsna conscious year. Your servants, Saudamani devi dasi and Ravindra Svarupa dasa.” Manohara, Lalita-kisori and Atindra gave the gift of an air tag. It’s something you use to find your keys or wallet. If you’re prone to lose things, like Baladeva does, this can locate your lost item, no matter where it is. It’s a product of new technology. Lalita-kisori also gave two big bags of Indian snacks. One was Moong Dal, “Salty, fried split-moong beans snack.” The other bag was Khatta Meetha, “a sweet and spicy blend of chickpeas, flour noodles, rice flakes, green peas and peanuts.” Ananda Kishore and his wife Linda, and son Achyuta sent a video of them all singing “Happy Birthday”—in Italian! (and then they sang it in English). Krsna-bhajana apologized for not having a gift. Baladeva said, “If you could just produce a book, then I’ll be happy.”
Two men from Long Energy, our fuel supplier, came today to change our old furnace system to a modern, efficient propane system. They worked all day doing preparation work for tomorrow’s job of taking out the old furnace and the old oil tank from the basement.
From our side we had previously cleaned out Everything from the basement so they had room to work. Now Krsna-bhajana and Satyasara are displaced from their rooms for two more days, and there are piles of Stuff in the house, and in their bedroom and in the barn. All day long there was banging and drilling, and noise went through the whole house because it was going through the vent system. They’ll be back tomorrow at 8:00 A.M.
The workmen have just installed the new propane unit. It’s working! Starting tonight, which will be a cold one, we will have our own heat by propane. The workers broke up the old furnace. It was so big they couldn’t remove it from the basement until they broke it into pieces. Tomorrow they’ll take out the old oil tank and install the humidifier in the new heating system. The humidifier should give us moist air, not dry air, so we won’t have cracked cuticles, dry skin and hard breathing.
Krsna dasi is away for a week in Trinidad. Manohara and Satyasara are trying to do some minimum Deity worship to keep up the standard. Manohara keeps the cups and silverware polished for Radha-Govinda. Satyasara takes care of cleaning the cups and silverware downstairs, where Gaura-Nitai are standing on the altar. She made many ghee wicks for use during Damodarastakam. Satyasara prepares breakfast, and Manohara, almost every day, prepares lunch. Today we had homemade ravioli. Manohara and Satyasara’s taking care of the Deities leaves Krsna-bhajana completely free to do the books.
With an email introduction, a devotee named Jiva Goswami knocked on my door. He said he received both initiations from me in Boston around 1983. I haven’t had any contact with him in decades. He is now living in Alachua, Florida and working with computers in a university. I tried to counsel him and he acknowledged that I was trying to help. He stayed for lunch and took part in the out-loud reading. I was glad he visited. We had a friendly talk in which he told me of his hopes in Krsna consciousness and some of the stress he feels in his service. I wish more disciples who are out of touch with me would arrange visits and reconfirm their relationship with me.
“O Prabhupada, who favored New York City by opening his first ISKCON center there and by singing in Tompkins Square Park, who beat the one-headed drum hours at a time and sang strongly, who braved all the rudeness and strangeness just to deliver us from birth and death by giving us the holy names of Krsna;
“O Prabhupada, whose preaching was guided by Lord Krsna, whose preaching was ‘to go in like a needle and come out like a plow,’ whose preaching was pure, and who stayed to do it, who fulfilled all the qualities of a saint, being tolerant, merciful, friendly to all, and fixed in the Absolute Truth;
“O Prabhupada, who loved his disciples and nurtured them like a mother cares for her children, and who, like a father, imparted to his sons and daughters the gift of courage to stand and fight; O Prabhupada, please live vibrantly in our thoughts and actions.”
“O Srila Prabhupada, whom we think of day and night;
“O Prabhupada, who came to America with Srimad-Bhagavatams as his only means, who sold volumes to bookstores in order to pay for groceries, and who thought in the beginning, ‘They will never accept this Hare Krsna mantra, but let me try;
“O Prabhupada, who happily endured the austerities of New York winters on behalf of Lord Krsna; O master, who years later made thousands of disciples and had many houses to reside in, but who said, “I was happier in the beginning in New York because I had no one to depend on but Krsna’;
“O Prabhupada, whom we sometimes prefer to worship at a distance, as is recommended in the scriptures, but whose lotus feet we want to touch, whose hand we want to feel on our heads and backs; O Prabhupada, who is with us, but who is also in another dimension, and of whom we think, ‘How can I reach you? When and where will we meet again?’
“O Prabhupada, who is not just another link in the disciplic succession of gurus, but who is the Founder-Acarya of the Krsna consciousness movement, and who said, ‘None of these men could fulfill the desires of Bhaktivinoda Thakura in the matter of preaching in the foreign countries.’”
“O Prabhupada, who said, ‘Everything is all right,’ indicating that there is no need for anxiety because Krsna is the controller of everything, yet who also used to say, ‘What can be done?’ indicating that he wanted even more success for spreading Krsna consciousness, but obstacles remained in the way—this also was the will of providence;
“O Prabhupada, who didn’t speak of hidden obscure meanings in the Vedas, who said the conclusion was very clear, and yet whose instructions may be looked at in new light, and whose sincere followers sometimes discover that they really haven’t understood what he meant even on basic issues;
“O Prabhupada, who is the source of all writings and teachings in the ISKCON sampradaya; O Prabhupada, who will always have true followers, and whose followers will keep up his standards in many places in the world; O Prabhupada, please keep us at your lotus feet, please keep us alive in your service.
“O Prabhupada, who truly lived in complete dependence on Krsna in a foreign land with no income and at an old age, who followed the trail of favorable preaching as a full Vaisnava sannyasi, who went to San Francisco and there increased his hope and his followers, who wrote his translations of the best Vaisnava texts, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta, with purports composed while in the midst of Western preaching adventures such as no previous acarya had ever encountered;
“O Prabhupada, who paid careful attention to each person who came to him, who stopped to hear others and to convince them of spiritual reality and material falsity, who became the best friend and guru of his followers—who said, ‘If you love me then I’ll love you’;”
“O Prabhupada, whose life is a shelter for thousands, who is the admiration of any intelligent person capable of appreciating extraordinary merit for the cause of God consciousness, and whose life’s activities are very, very dear to Lord Krsna, who declared, ‘There is no servant more dear to Me, nor will there ever be one more dear’;
“O Prabhupada, please do not let us stray from your protection in the illusion that we don’t need you, and please let us grow strong and fight opposition on your behalf. But even while appearing competent, materially or spiritually, let us not be deluded to think we can survive happily in this world or go back to Godhead without pleasing you and serving you by following your instructions to be Krsna conscious devotees, your followers.”
“O Prabhupada, who brought his followers far beyond mental speculation and far beyond voidism and far, far beyond the light of undifferentiated spirit (Brahman); who brought his followers into the presence of Sri Krsna in Krsnaloka, and who did this simply by singing the prayers of the Brahma-samhita and by explaining that we’re all gods, but Krsna is the isvara-parama, the sarva-karana-karanam, the cause of all causes;
“O Prabhupada, who in older age stayed mostly in his room or in a temple, or who was seen in the lecture hall, at a festival site, in a brief visit to someone’s home, or who was seen on morning walks in a park or on a beach; who moved two or three times a month thousands of miles to another country, and who thereby showed the places that a sannyasi preacher frequents if he wants to follow Prabhupada’s example;
“O Prabhupada, who cannot be imitated in all the little de¬tails of life, such as what articles he placed on his desk, or how he gestured with his head and hands or how he thought, because no one can exactly know the mind of a liberated Vaisnava;
“O Prabhupada, who should also not be imitated as a guru by accepting daily guru-puja from a big opulent vyasasana, and whom we cannot imitate by attempting to surpass the Bhaktivedanta purports to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta, and The Nectar of Devotion, but who left an unlimited field for his followers to develop in the literature and arts of Krsna consciousness;
“O Prabhupada, who sacrificed everything to spread the teachings of Lord Krsna, but who never lost his own simple devotion to Lord Krsna;”
“One may say that this definition of friendliness is a personal interpretation given by Srila Prabhupada. But Prabhupada would always deny that he was giving his own opinions. (The previou acaryas and Lord Krsna Himself also define friendliness in terms of being compassionate to others by distributing Krsna consciousness.) But even if we consider that Prabhupada’s emphasis on preaching is his personal opinion, the disciple wants to adopt that opinion as his own. Even Lord Krsna, while teaching His viewpoint to Arjuna, concludes, ‘That is My final opinion.’ Every living entity has the free will to hold a different opinion than Krsna. But we should not do so.
“When I repeat Prabhupada’s opinion, I give it as the final word. I also give it as if it were my own conviction. If I had not met Srila Prabhupada, I certainly would have had some other attitude about friendliness (or any topic). I would have been inconclusive, or I would have had a new opinion every few years. But once you accept a spiritual master you should also accept his conclusions.
“In the beginning of spiritual life, one may adopt the opinion of the spiritual master in a somewhat superficial or even dogmatic way. When our surrender is incomplete, we may be the mouthpiece for the convictions of our spiritual master without actually being convinced of them in the depths of our own being. At worst, a pseudo-disciple may disagree with his spiritual master. Arjuna disagreed with Krsna at the beginning of their talks, when Arjuna did not want to fight. After Lord Krsna spoke the whole Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, He then asked Arjuna to make up his mind. Arjuna replied, ‘I am now firm and free from doubt and prepared to act according to Your instructions.’
“I examine myself to see if I have actually accepted the personal convictions of Srila Prabhupada. I try to think deeply why I cannot do what he asks me, and whether I can rectify my unsurrendered self. By studying his words, and associating with his sincere followers, I try to understand better the basis of Prabhupada’s convictions and ‘personal opinions.’ And I consider, as the best example, Srila Prabhupada’s surrender to his spiritual master. Prabhupada claimed that he had no special potency except for this: ‘I believed a hundred percent in the words of my spiritual master, and always tried to carry them out.’”
“Let’s talk about some other problems related to hearing stories about Prabhupada. One problem is becoming envious of the person who is telling the story. Another obstacle might be thinking that the person who is telling the story has too many faults, and, therefore, you don’t want to hear attentively from them.
“ . . . It is not that we have to hear without discrimination. If there are flaws in the presentation of his story—if he exaggerates or uses the story to advocate his pet theory—we can note it. We have to become like a swan who knows how to take the milk from the mixture of milk and water. We should ourselves be trained enough to recognize an au-thentic story about Prabhupada, and we should have developed our own convictions about Prabhupada by reading his books. A single story is only an isolated report; it has to be fitted into the total life of Prabhupada. But stories have their place, just as the person who is speaking about Prabhupada has his place. Why not sit back and enjoy hearing prabhupada-katha, instead of being hung up by the servant of Prabhupada and his ways that you don’t appreciate?
“The same thing holds true for judging the speaker’s qualifications. Perhaps he has fallen down and is not following his vows, or he has been disobedient, and we are unable to simply dismiss those faults from our minds. When he speaks, we might think, ‘Who are you to talk about Prabhupada? Why didn’t you do what he said?’
“But a Vaisnava is supposed to be forgiving. The fact that this devotee, fallen though he may be, is talking about Prabhupada is to his credit. We can think of Prabhupada’s mercy and hope that by telling about Prabhupada, this person can revive himself and start to serve rightly again. If we listen with our own discriminating ear, we will gain a nugget of gold, even from a filthy place.
“Also, we should try not to mix up different time periods. The storyteller may be speaking from a time when he was faithful to Prabhupada, so why should it be ruined just because later he couldn’t keep up his sincerity and obedience? He did share those moments with Prabhupada in the past, and if he is giving an accurate account as an eyewitness, then we should be happy to add to our own meditation on Prabhupada.”
“When Swamiji started dictating the KRSNA book, he sent me the tapes. That was a special treat. He also wrote a letter and asked if Jadurani or someone could do paintings very quickly. He wanted three or four done per week. So we were off to a flying start on his new project, the KRSNA book, and I was the typist.
“When I typed The Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I was the first one to hear about it and to tell the devotees. But with the KRSNA book, it was much more exciting for everyone because we were hearing for the first time some of the personal pastimes of Child Krsna in Vrndavana. When I would give classes in the Boston temple, I would repeat almost word for word the descriptions Prabhupada gave of Krsna stealing butter, Krsna showing the Universal form to His mother, and so on.
“One night during one of Prabhupada’s visits to Boston, when we were still in the storefront in Allston, he asked me to speak in front of the group who had come to hear him. Prabhupada would sometimes ask several disciples to lecture during the same evening. He did it to train us up and I thought that he also liked to sit back and let the disciples do some of the work. He liked to speak himself, but when we spoke, he seemed to listen and at the same time, he withdrew himself.
“I stood up so that Swamiji and I were both facing in the same direction towards the audience. He was on the dais and I was standing by his side. I began preaching the same basic philosophy, which is all I knew: You’re not this body, chant Hare Krsna. But then I thought of what I’d been hearing on the KRSNA book tapes. So I started telling the story of Krsna stealing the butter. Krsna would steal the butter and distribute it to the monkeys, and when the monkeys had eaten to their satisfaction and wouldn’t take anymore, then Krsna said, ‘Your butter is useless, even the monkeys won’t eat it.’
“As I was telling this pastime, the audience was attentive and some were smiling, but when I said that Krsna said the butter was useless, something changed in the audience. Suddenly, they were all charmed, and I knew what it was. They weren’t looking at me, they were looking at Prabhupada. They started to laugh and go, ‘O000! Aaah!’ I looked over at Prabhupada and he had a big smile on his face. He was delighted by hearing about Krsna, even when I told it, and it had sent him into the ecstasy of Krsna’s pastimes.”
“According to Vaisnava siddhanta, serving the order (vani) of the spiritual master is more substantial than serving him in his physical presence (vapuh). But if you have no attachment at all for his personal presence, then when the spiritual master is gone from your sight you may forget him. This is what we were afraid of in 1967 when Swamiji went to India. He even said, ‘I may not come back, but you continue the Krsna consciousness movement.’ We replied, ‘Swamiji, how can we continue it without you? We’ve only known you for a few months, please don’t go away.’ At that time we did not think that we could endure service in separation, which all followers of Prabhupada are now asked to practice. In 1967, we had barely even a toehold on our own spiritual lives, and not much conviction that we could represent him. It was Krsna’s arrangement that Prabhupada did not leave at that time, but stayed with us for another ten years. We may take this as a sign that a certain amount of development is required before a disciple can fully prosecute service in separation.
“When Prabhupada left in November 1977, it seemed like a catastrophe. But in terms of service in separation from Prabhupada, there were also signs of solace. For example, after Prabhupada’s disappearance, a new equality was ushered in as to who could approach him. Previously, only a small elite were allowed to spend time with Srila Prabhupada; after his disappearance everyone could go into Prabhupada’s room. And now everyone can have their own murti of Prabhupada and massage him daily and bathe him and dress him and cook for him. By studying his books and serving, each devotee is entitled to his own realizations, and even more than before, he is free to confirm the results of his surrender. As Prabhupada used to say, “It is not that someone has to give you a certificate to prove that you are Krsna conscious, but you will know yourself. It is just like a hungry man who, when he eats, knows his own satisfaction without anyone else telling him.”
“In the later 1970s ISKCON grew so big that Srila Prabhupada decided to manage it through his leaders, and he stressed the institutional formulas of temple life for all devotees. One time a devotee went and complained to Srila Prabhupada that ISKCON had become so big that he felt he no longer had access to Prabhupada. Prabhupada replied, ‘ISKCON may be big, but I am small.’ Srila Prabhupada went on to explain that he was always the same person, and that each devotee could serve him wherever they were in the world. Prabhupada said that the multi-duties of ISKCON everywhere were actually Prabhupada’s own service to his Guru Maharaja. When each of Prabhupada’s disciples assisted him, whether by waving the peacock fan before the Deity or by preaching on Prabhupada’s behalf, they should know that they were personally assisting their spiritual master.
“One could be with Srila Prabhupada by that service meditation, but most devotees could not expect to go to Prabhupada and reveal their minds to him. Although Prabhupada personally knew hundreds of devotees, still most followers could not go to Prabhupada and express how they were growing as persons and ask if some of their tendencies could be dovetailed in Krsna consciousness. Such matters were dealt with by Prabhupada’s representatives, who counseled most of the devotees.
“By Prabhupada’s desire, his senior followers continue to give counsel to all the followers of Prabhupada. But for better or worse, more devotees are also deciding on their own how they want to render service to the Krsna consciousness movement. Thus they claim that they know best how they can serve Srila Prabhupada.”
“A spoken lecture is an important medium for the Vaisnava acarya. Speaking Vedic truth requires special qualification. The more purely the message is spoken, the more potent the result. For example, unless one has memorized and assimilated Sanskrit slokas, he cannot cross-reference and prove his points. And for the audience, what strength is available by hearing transcendental sound vibration from a realized devotee! He calls us with his knowledge and realization of the scriptures, and our souls respond, leaving the critical mind and sleepy body behind. Transcendental sound cuts through matter.
“Lecturing is ultimate communication. When Prabhupada says, ‘Krsna cannot be served with matter. He has to be served with spirit,’ Prabhupada feels the weight of his own words. He wants to convey their import to us. Psychologists inform us that it is important to communicate if one wants to develop personal relationships. Dialogue is necessary in order to keep love alive. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what to say to each other in order to have a loving relationship. And, of course, they cannot grant each other eternity, bliss, and knowledge. Ultimate communication takes place between Krsna and the conditioned soul hankering to recapture his relationship with Krsna. When the jiva is awakened by hearing, then he can begin to serve God. Further communication can then take place. This is called bhakti.
“Srila Prabhupada is a dramatic orator, a real communicator. He communicates on Krsna’s behalf as the via medium for Krsna’s love to the conditioned souls who have not yet developed their desire to go back to Krsna. His voice was tempered and his points balanced, yet his lectures were powerful. They were quite different from his ordinary speech. His lectures were full of feeling—strong, loud reprimands of the nondevotee mentality, and soft, loving expressions of bhakti. His voice rose and fell in sonorous tones. ‘You cannot understand Krsna with these blunt senses,’ he said, his voice keyed both to his audience and to his own sense of delivering the message. He spoke from the heart. He spoke to wake us up.
Prabhupada lectured mainly from Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. He didn’t title his lectures, and they didn’t have a specific subject other than a commentary on the particular verse he was speaking on. He took advantage of the wealth of material in the Vedic scriptures and taught us to lecture. Prabhupada had to lecture frequently, but he had such a great command of the Vedic scriptures that he was free to speak on a wide variety of topics within the realm of Krsna consciousness. We should try to follow his example.”
“ . . . ISKCON is not meant to be just a cult for remembering Prabhupada. Rather, it is a mission meant to benefit the whole world by the distribution of God-conscious knowledge. Prabhupada knew that ignorance of God was the greatest misfortune in the world. Due to ignorance, people don’t know the nature of the soul. Therefore, they base their activities on the temporary body and become entangled in the cycle of samsara—they make a big mistake. Prabhupada understood that education in the basic purpose of life is crucial to world peace and happiness. As his followers, we have to work together to disseminate this knowledge.
“But the only way for us either to preach or to work together is to remember Prabhupada and stay focused on his example. This is the Vaisnava siddhanta: yasya prasadad bhagavata-prasado/yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi.
“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.”
“I told the devotees, ‘You go first to Siddha-bakula and report back to me. If it’s okay, I’ll go out with you.’
“Oh jeez. You go out and have fun, then come back and tell me. I’ll limp into a taxi and go out tomorrow. On the day I visit a tirtha, will I also be able to lecture?
“Lecture? Are you any smarter than the other devotees in this group? Just a little? A lot? How much? What’s the difference between you and them? ‘Their disciples and granddisciples’ form a sampradaya, branches of the great tree. Yes, we’re part of a tree—guru and disciples and granddisciples and great-granddisciples. That’s sampradaya.
“I hear conch shells—and now see the man selling them,
and peas, and pearls, on the beach.
Darker it grows
the soul tight and eternal
can’t die. Eating
evening bananas is another
chance to hear your master
lecture on surrender, on
Krsna, that the soul is
eternal, can’t slay or
Master, you’ve bound me
in a network of
lotus stems. You
in New York—
you brought me
to truth and gave grapes
as a reward
for my typing.”
and the palm tree breezes.
Even when there was litigation
you always liked
to take an outdoor massage
with palm drops of mustard oil
applied by one of your men.
Of the aged body you said,
‘The windows are broken,
but there is a light inside.’
You were always jolly,
as a saint should be.
So many aspects to you—
this is one:
You sat on a thin mat,
your body moving languorously
back and forth in the sunlight
under the hands of the
at the same time talking
with a trusted devotee.
Your talk would always
turn to Krsna
as you examined a thing
in its Krsna conscious light.
Sitting for massage,
your whole spiritual body
was golden and smooth.
Eyes half-closed, smiling
amidst tropic breezes and mustard oil aroma,
‘I am not anxious
about going back to Godhead.
I just want to
expose these rascals.’”
A Sincere Friend to all the Devotees of the Lord
“We have just discussed how the madhyama-bhakta offers his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the spiritual master, the holy name, and the Deity of Krsna. Now we shall consider the Vaisnava behavior of the madhyama-bhakta as expressed in his relationships with other devotees.
The devotees of Krsna are friends. ‘The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me,’ says Lord Krsna, ‘their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.’ (Bg. 10.9) The sastras strongly advise associating with like-minded devotees, and strongly warn against association with nondevotees. The sastras also contain many instructions about various kinds of relationship between the various kinds of devotees, and these teachings form an important part of Vaisnava etiquette.
In one sense, all devotees may be considered as a single class, as sincere followers of Lord Krsna. Srila Prabhupada writes in a Caitanya-caritamrta purport, ‘Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja sets the example of offering obeisances to all the preacher devotees of Lord Caitanya, without distinction as to higher and lower.’
“‘I offer my obeisances to all the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the eternal tree of love of Godhead. I offer my respects to all the branches of the tree, the devotees of the Lord who distribute the fruit of love of Krsna.’
—Cc. Adi 10.7
“‘The devotees are all personalists who glorify the Supreme Person with transcendental chanting and hearing, and they take pleasure in the company of other personal servitors of the Lord. ‘A pure devotee does not desire the company of a personality as great as Brahma,’ writes Srila Prabhupada, ‘but he prefers the association of a petty living being provided he is a devotee of the Lord.’ (Bhag. 1.19.16, purport)”
JK annoys me with his
Buddhist palaver. Pick up
my own ax and
tell the teachings.
Krsna is the Supreme Lord. I
know it because I have a guru
who is bona fide, whom I accept
whom you can’t measure
because you are an outsider.
It is raining gently in Gealglum.
My clothes will be washed and placed
in a saffron pile
outside this door. I don’t know who
cooked today but it was okay.
I will slice an Irish apple tonight in the
kitchenette and pour out the apple juice
into Prabhupada’s little
cup and my larger cup.
He is my master, appears small
because I need to carry him around
place him in the airport security machine—
and not break him, carry him tenderly,
my father and son, my
dear statue in knit hat
signaling to me it’s okay.
But sometimes he’s stern and always
sits facing me to chant all those
rounds together and he accepts distracted prayers
of food offerings
but I say he will forgive me,
we will live together and I hope
he outlasts me, doesn’t break
before I do and
if that happens, someone can care for him.
And if I have to go
Then take these poems home
and don’t burn them.
“Why should I need to pray for faith? I pray because it is so important, and I don’t know if I have officially reached the stage of nistha, firm faith. I can always use more. Do I firmly believe that You are nondifferent than Your holy names? Theoretically, I do. But do I chant with faith, or do I go through the motions? Do I firmly believe my Radha-Govinda Deities are nondifferent than Your spiritual forms and not mere brass statues? I like my Deities, and I respect them and can defend intellectually Their spiritual status. But in my heart, do I accept Them as Radha and Krsna? And do I accept the pastimes of Radha and Krsna and all of Krsna’s childhood pastimes and His pastimes in His other incarnations as Varaha and Matsya and Garbhodaksayi.
“Again, I accept Them and believe in Them as my religion, my theology, but do I believe with my whole heart and mind and soul?
“I need a more fervent faith, not just an official belief, as an enrolled member of the Krsria consciousness movement. Reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and Caitanya-caritamrta will help make my faith strong. Reading Prabhupada’s purports with his logical presentation will help me keep nistha, firm faith.
“The astronomical view of the universe given in Srimad-Bhagavatam is at odds with modern science, and I have to keep faith in the Vedic version. I am able to do this. Devotees have made strong presentations of the Vedic view of science against the speculations of modern science, and I believe them. I have faith in the basic presentation of Sukadeva Gosvami. Some of them I don’t understand. I am not a scientifically minded person, and it is not hard for me to accept Srimad-Bhagavatam over modern science.
“But I ask for Your mercy that I may never doubt Srimad-Bhagavatam. Give me the mental strength to study and understand the Vedic view, and to accept it. Let me believe You and Your representatives, Srila Vyasadeva, Sukadeva Gosvami, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Six Gosvamis, and all the acaryas in the Gaudiya-Vaisnava sampradaya. Give me faith in Your promises in Bhagavad-gita, Your statements about Your protection, Your defense of the faithful soul and the result of complete surrender to You.
“I do not feel doubtful, but I beg for a learned and heartfelt faith that will save me at the time of death. Please let me obey Your orders with no doubts, and let me please You with my faithful service. Let me pass all the challenges that may come my way, and let me come to You in the reality of Your spiritual world. I want to be a faithful servant.”
“If this were a thorough manual on japa, I would teach everything from the basics to the most advanced states. In Harinama-cintamani, thirteen chapters are devoted to discussion of the ten offenses to be avoided, then the fourteenth chapter describes other offenses in devotional service. The fifteenth and final chapter gives a sutra-like run-through of the most advanced states of chanting, known as nama-rasa.
“After listing the general offenses to be avoided in Deity worship (seva-aparadha), Harinama-cintamani speaks of the stage of bhakta-seva. This begins only after one has surmounted all the other nama-aparadhas and seva-aparadhas. It is the mental or inner service (manasa-seva) where one is drawn spontaneously and constantly to worship Krsna by chanting His holy names. The bhava-seva that can be achieved by chanting is so powerful and sweet, that Bhaktivinoda Thakura advises that no other devotional process is necessary except harer nama: ‘Meditation upon the holy name of the Lord engenders bhava-seva, or spontaneous loving devotional service. O Lord Caitanya, this is Your grace upon the jivas: all the different limbs of sadhana-bhakti or the practice of devotional service finally culminate in prema. One must therefore submerge himself in the nectar of chanting the holy name and forget all other processes of elevation.” (HNC, p. 97)
“Bhaktivinoda Thakura defines nama-rasa as ‘the topmost spiritual science of the mellows of the holy name.’ It is revealed briefly in Harinama-cintamani through the instructions of Srila Haridasa Thakura, who spoke it to Lord Caitanya, being empowered by the Lord to do so. (The topic is covered more elaborately in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Jaiva Dharma.) The main point is that chanting is not an impersonal meditation. It culminates in development of personal loving service for Radha and Krsna. As Srila Prabhupada used to say, by chanting you can come to know Krsna face to face.”
“Very little time for this one. We have to get ready and Madhu will be in here probably. May apples. Strawberries for lunch in a whipped cream pie. Remember the annual ‘Strawberry Festival’ at the Moravian Church, Great Kills? All kinds of pies and cakes and everything with strawberries to raise funds for that church. You went there as a boy. Our Roman Catholic church was more ‘big time’ gambling.
“O hearers, may this flow. Tonight, I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Be honest and say, ‘Yes, I remember the Swami.’ And to the degree that I don’t feel it, that’s not their business. Just play your excerpt of his lectures and comment on whatever you can. You are not the greatest lecturer ever to set foot into that place. It’s like a Radio Show. Let them ask questions and I can preach. That comes naturally to me. Just be there and play his ’66 tapes. I don’t have to push it and push it—it’s already there, the nostalgia and the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and whatever dedication I have. Then tomorrow we leave. This is a little journal written in the spring during a cold spell. I wear a scarf and hat in the room, and sweater and sweatshirt. Boom-boom music from the street, but not much.
“Batten the hatches, glue your teeth in, put on fresh tilaka, carry a headache pill in your pocket just in case, and a pen and pad, and the tape you’ll play, and pray on beads if you get a chance. And converse in the car with the driver, if he wants to. Give them what you can.
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna.
“The truth report. The world of Hare Krsna. Those preachers are kind. They are affectionate well-wishers of people coming to Krsna consciousness. That’s nice. I am not so open but have my own role to be ‘Guru Maharaja’ to some. They ask me to resume holding Vyasa-puja. I could consider it. And then go off to India.
“O Lord, energy of the Lord, what do you think?
“Get ready to go out. Answer your mail.
“There is no hope for the karmis unless they take to Krsna consciousness. Do I believe it? I’m just telling people lilas and truths of Krsna consciousness for those already inclined to hear it. That’s what we do, talk of our spiritual master who was here thirty years ago and we were here too. It’s natural we do this. The memory is thin? Then thicken it. Twine the rope strong, the connection. Don’t let it atrophy. Speak in that place for your purification. You’ll do all right.
“Smooth-skinned youngsters. Angle-headed—naw, I don’t want that ‘Howl’ allusion.
“Krsna consciousness, get on the road. Precious time and dangers too. What else can we do? Turn to the Lord. It’s not just a matter of increasing quotas of reading or japa, although that may help. The thing is love, dependency, calling out, remembering and serving for His pleasure.
“Krsna wants you to serve Him. That’s all. That will make you happy.
“Write three more minutes. A scarf. A doodle. You’ve got a black pen but can’t draw except the same man, the simple man with tilaka walking, or close-up of his face, or your naïve Radha-Krsna. I don’t even attempt Lord Caitanya and full associates. Too much, okay, okay.
“Chant the mantras.
“Folks, we may travel together and when it is your turn to lecture or write or draw, may I pay attention to you as you have done to me. I am taking more than my share of your attention and service from others. Say I’m giving to personal writing. I think of it that way.
“Next life menial service for the Vaisnavas and you may not be an author. You published enough books in this lifetime to use up a lot of good karma and taken so much service from others. Are you giving back to them – freeing them from birth and death? Well, I point the way. Tell them tonight – surrender to Krsna.
“Haribol. What else might I say?”
(Fifteen minutes, Queens apartment, May 9, 1996)
“This will be a real quickie. It’s morning and we have to leave the Queens apartment in a few minutes. I just want to say that the wonderful thing about Prabhupada at 26 Second Avenue is that he got us committed for a lifetime basis to things that were very foreign to us. Namely, that Krsna is God and that we should chant the Hare Krsna mantra over and over again. Of course, from this there are also many details of the commitment. But it is astounding that he so boldly and yet gently presented this to us and it is astounding that we took it up. Just consider: Krsna was completely unheard of to us and yet Prabhupada asserted that He was the one God for all creation and the Supreme all-attractive person. And the way to reach Him is to do this repetitive out-loud chanting again and again and again and again and again as much as possible. What a wonderful mission Prabhupada undertook and it was successful.
“I don’t like to rub it in and criticize his Godbrothers, but since they deny Prabhupada, the use of the word ‘Prabhupada’ we have to assert it. That he did what no one else could do.
“It’s exciting to be traveling this morning out of the metropolis and down to another metropolis for lunch with a Godbrother. A fax came in last night from a GBC man and I had to answer it. I don’t like to be chased by such things. It’s excitement in the mode of passion which I used to be used to.
“I’m looking forward to returning to writing A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam and, in the meantime, I am happy to be doing these May apples. I just received some information about the May apples, and I’ll try to put some of it into this narrative as we go along.
“One thing to note is that the American May apple, which is also called mandrake, is not to be confused with the European mandrake. The European mandrake has forked roots like in the shape of a man, and gets its name in that way. It’s got a history of being connected with witchcraft. In the time of the Inquisition and witch hunts, people could be killed just for possessing these mandrakes. They have psychedelic and hallucinogenic properties. Not so of the American May apple, although oddly it is also called May apple.
“It is also known as a suicide plant in America. Native Americans used to eat fresh shoots when they wanted to commit suicide. But later, when the fruit comes, it’s edible and has strong medicinal properties. Sounds pretty dangerous to play around with, in any case. I’ll get back to you with more about that. It’s somehow a symbol for my journey these weeks in May and the fact that I’m denied seeing May apples in the backwoods roads of the woods and forests where they grow. As they are hiding, so they are hiding from me and I can’t see spring. I see mostly asphalt and billboards as we race by in our car or as we enter the next temple.
“Okay, time is up, say goodbye now to your hosts and go into the car and lie down in the back and think of many things you could write. Hare Krsna.”
(five minutes, Queens apartment, May 10, 1996)
Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…
I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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expression.The reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.