We invite devotees to take part in the out-loud reading we hold from Viraha Bhavan. Devotees can tune in from anywhere around the world with Zoom (Zoom ID: 617 108 1206/ Password: 108). If you don’t want to join in the out-loud reading part, you can just listen while the others read. Here are the Prabhupada books we have been reading from:
The readings are at 7:30-8:30 A.M. and 1:00-2:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. We have a facilitator who calls on devotees who are present on the Zoom and asks them to read for about five minutes. He then asks them to stop and calls on another devotee. Everyone who is participating is very enlivened. We seem to move quickly through the books; we don’t get bogged down. No one gets tired or bored because of the short amount of time for the reading assignments. I also participate in reading myself for about ten minutes. After the reading I greet the devotees whose pictures are on Zoom. Then we chant Hare Krsna, first lead, then response in unison. The whole session takes place in a jolly mood. So please consider joining us. It’s an excellent way for you to get your reading quota of Prabhupada’s books done, with the association of other devotees.
Manohara is working on his first book for layout and design. He’s doing the reprint of my book The Qualities of Sri Krsna, doubling up our layout and design power, being an additional artist to Lal Krishna’s layouts and designs. He’s also been very creative in finding new ways to speed up production, which brings us closer to my desire that all the books be put back into reprint while I’m still available.
Anuradha dasi will be scanning artwork at a professional level, good enough to use inside the books and on covers. We have the machine to do it, we just needed someone who knows how to operate it.
Here is a sample of what Manohara has done so far:
“The gopis were so much in love with Krsna that they were able to visualize His form throughout the day and night. When they thought of Krsna, they thought of all His beautiful bodily features.
“The gopis were not satisfied to contemplate Krsna’s beautiful form from a distance. Therefore, they lamented that although they see Krsna returning from the pastures, they were not allowed to approach Him because of the presence of their superiors. Whether in separation from Krsna or with Krsna in the rasa dance, the gopis were always stunned with Krsna’s beauty. Therefore it is said that Krsna by Himself is not so beautiful, but when He is with the gopis, then He manifests His true all-attractive form.”
Plagiarizing is cheating. It’s stealing someone’s speech exactly as they said it and claiming it is your words. This is plain cheating. But putting old wine in new bottles is different. It means keeping the parampara, but saying it in an original voice. For example, my Nimai series discusses some deep philosophical topics for adults, but it’s in the guise of a child’s book. Many parents have found this out by reading the book to their children. Similarly, Japa Reform Notebook was produced by stepping out of the regular duties and focusing on japa alone. This was considered very alarming to those who thought the only way of advancement in Krsna consciousness was book distribution. And they didn’t like that a guru in ISKCON would admit that he was making a struggle in perfecting his japa. Twenty years after Japa Reform Notebook, many retreats are taking place in exotic locations for considerable fees to achieve the same purpose, which is to achieve a deeper appreciation of the holy name, based on focusing on chanting the holy name alone. At one point this practice was considered so disruptive of book distribution that the Japa Reform Notebook was banned iu two different GBC zones.
In his books and lectures, Srila Prabhupada is strict parampara. He teaches what he heard from his spiritual master Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and the previous acaryas, the Six Gosvamis, Lord Caitanya, and all the other stalwart commentators in the Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. An outstanding example is Prabhupada’s translations and purports to Bhagavad-gita As It Is. There are many, many editions of the Bhagavad-gita in English and other languages, but they all avoid Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita,. Whether the Gita is teaching karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, dhyana-yoga, astanga-yoga, etc., Krsna always makes it clear in His words in the Bhagavad-gita that bhakti-yoga—devotional service unto Krsna—is the highest teaching. In the conclusive verse to the Bhagavad-gita, 18.66, Krsna says to Arjuna, “Give up all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I will protect you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” In all his books Prabhupada asserted that Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even before he was initiated, he wrote in a Vyasa-puja homage to his spiritual master,
Absolute is sentient, thou hast proved
Impersonal calamity thou hast removed.
In this simple couplet Prabhupada captured the essence of his spiritual master’s teachings, and his spiritual master was very pleased with him for this verse.
Right now Anuradha dasi is in the basement with a rubber mallet, pounding new shelving together to help organize vertically all the things that have to go into the basement. It has always been cluttered and unorganized there. We are taking advantage of the fact that the basement had to be completely emptied in order for the workmen to be able to remove the oil tank and install a new furnace. Now, to reorganize the space properly, we’re putting in eight new sets of shelves to take advantage of all the possible vertical space we can use. This will ultimately take pressure off all the shelving in the kitchen. We can move out all the big festival pots that rarely get used and make proper usable space for the things that regularly get used in the kitchen. The basement will also be a good space for storing paper goods and bulk quantities of food items, such as ghee, tomatoes puree, and other goods.
We also got new plastic boxes which will contain different collections of smaller items. In general, with good planning, this will make better use of the space in the kitchen, the pantry and the basement.
Along with buying all the shelving this morning, devotees went to Staples and invested in a new laser printer for the Press. The old one was starting to fade out, and some of the manuscripts were beginning to get hard to read. There are going to be a lot of manuscripts lying around, and so this new printer was required. The 2023 GN Press marathon is just warming up, and the new printer will play a key role in the marathon to keep up with all the manuscripts coming in for printing. An exact number of new books hasn’t been announced yet, but the marathon pace will be as least as intense as 2022 in our progress toward the goal of getting everything back into print before I disappear.
Right now our tulasis are doing well. We have three medium-size plants and a dozen smaller ones. They are all under grow lights for fourteen hours a day. Presently they are free of spider-mites, which indicates that their immune systems are strong. When their systems become weak, then they get attacked. They have green leaves and some manjaris, and they’re growing. Last winter they got a severe blight, and then a week later a major attack from the spider-mites. Ultimately six maha-tulasis and twenty-three smaller ones died as a result. This summer we were gifted two medium tulasis, and a dozen new ones came up from the rubble of last year’s attack, and the new ones are growing very strongly. We hope their good fortune continues.
We had a visit by Kalakantha Prabhu, Madan Gopal and Kalakantha’s disciple Brhad Mrdanga. Kalakantha has now left the Krishna House in Gaiusville, Florida and is establishing new Krishna Houses in other cities. He sent his disciple Brhad Mrdanga to set up Krishna Houses in Toronto and Syracuse, and now he’s going to Philadelphia. I asked him how the Krishna House was different than other Krsna conscious centers. He said they were accommodating new devotees. They ask them to go to the morning program, but after that they have free time. Everything is done to gradually introduce them in a friendly, laid-back manner, into Krsna consciousness. He said before they began Krishna House in Gainsville, there weren’t many devotees there. But as soon as they started this program, many, many devotees have passed through and become serious.
Kalakantha has written several books, and he gave me his most recent one, The Saint Within: A Poetic Rendition of the First and Second Cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I enjoyed talking with him about old days when we were both on the Library Party in the USA. He is very favorable and friendly.
Madan Gopal has been working many years on opening a big temple in Parsippany, New Jersey. They are near completing it, and it is a great triumph. They have spent many years of battling it out with city hall and the neighbors, finally they have gotten all their permissions and have come up with the required money.
We spoke together for about an hour and a half and then went down to lunch, and they joined us in the out-loud reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Baladeva’s iddlis, sambar, coconut chutney, and the strawberry lassi that Manohara made went over very successfully with the guests, who kept taking seconds and thirds.
Madan Gopal has been contemplating becoming an initiating guru in ISKCON. He asked me if it was a good idea that he begin the process. He wanted my permission and blessings. That seems like a proper way to go about it. Yadunandana Swami did the same thing, and now he’s an initiating spiritual master. I like it when my disciples include me in major life decisions. Yadunandana Swami sent me a list of the first devotees he initiated and said he’ll continue to do that, with a little introduction of each one. He wants his disciples to consider themselves as my grand-disciples. I accept that. As of now, all my disciples who are qualified can go to the GBC Initiating Guru Committee with my permission and blessings.
Baladeva purchased one hundred twenty yards of colored ribbon to wrap up the stacks of the newly-printed eight books about Prabhupada. We will set up a production line in the barn like we did for the last festival. Anuradha dasi is in charge of wrapping up the books. I am looking forward to distributing a lot of books at Vyasa-puja. I hope the devotees are just as excited about it as I am. This is the culmination of an historic marathon done in 2022, getting sixteen books about Prabhupada back into circulation.
“Krsna, full of knowledge and bliss, of dark complexion danced in Vrndavana with golden complexioned gopis of similar beauty. All glories to Gauranga appearing in Navadvipa, who is the same Krsna but with a complexion golden because of constantly embracing the gopis tightly.
“I offer respects to Gauranga, whose lotus feet constantly shower the universe with streams of nectar and whose limbs sprinkle the universe with expansive golden showers of sweetness that destroy unlimited suffering.
“I worship Gauranga, whose arms reach His knees, whose limbs shine like a fierce sun, whose eyes extend to His ears, whose cheeks are radiant, and who plays like a hundred lions . . . What poet can describe even a part of Gauracandra’s skill, the ocean of His qualities or the storehouse of His beauty? Even with twice the ability one cannot describe Sri Gauracandra.
“Hearing from the mouths of bees at the lotus feet of Gauranga, His pastimes endowed with youthful sweetness and intense beauty of Krsna’s pastimes, this insignificant person, with trembling heart; out of insolence, now describes His pastimes.
“What I am, a great fool, with fickle mind, compared to the Lord whose feet I worship by the crown jewels of the best of the devatas. But still I will not be rejected by the devotees, who are full of great mercy.
“I am most fallen and foolish. But by His mercy I will describe a little of what was heard and seen, what was remembered and told,
repeatedly to me by His dear devotees.
“Even if this attempt cannot be completed, what loss is there for me? There is great auspiciousness in glorifying Gauranga’s pastimes. Since I try my best to describe things properly, I will not be mocked. Even Lord Brahma cannot measure all the pastimes of the Lord.
“If there is fault in what I write, it is not because of inattention on my part. The wise will not regard the faults seriously, since they are completely absorbed in singing at the lotus feet of the Lord. Therefore, why should I worry about them at all?”
“O Prabhupada, who from great conviction desired
to make love of Krsna the predominant way of life on earth,
because he was convinced that without surrender to Krsna
humankind would destroy itself completely, and who knew that most
souls would descend to a next life less than the human species;
“O Prabhupada, who was like a rose and sometimes like
a thunderbolt, and whose disciples always granted to him the absolute
right to guide them as he saw fit, according to time, persons, and
place: ‘You hold the mace, you have the right’;
“O Prabhupada, whose entire lila on this earth is the story
of a liberated soul carrying out the will
of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Lord Krsna,
and whose life is for us like that lila of Lord Krsna, Lord Rama,
or Lord Caitanya, meant for uplifting and directing us
in spiritual life by following your footsteps.”
“O Prabhupada, who printed the first volume
of Srimad-Bhagavatam with printing and grammar and spelling
mistakes, who said he had to get it done somehow or other,
just as a man cries out in any language
to save people inside a burning house;
“O Prabhupada, who printed his first books despite
errors and Indian misprinting, but who later insisted that not a single
mistake should be made in the republishing of his books, and who,
when he was asked by disciples whether they could also make mistakes
in the translations of his books, replied, ‘You first spread
the Krsna consciousness movement all over the world as I did,
then you can do everything I did, such as print with mistakes,’
and who therefore ordered that no one should print
his books with mistakes;
“O Srila Prabhupada, who taught in his own way, guided
by Lord Krsna in parampara, and who was much
rarer than one in a million. Please allow us to serve you
“O Srila Prabhupada, who gave assurance to
his followers that if one practiced
chanting and hearing, then he
was fully liberated and could purify his family,
who made it clear that no one was a pure Vaisnava
unless he was free from all material desires
and fully surrendered to the will of Krsna;
“O great teacher, who lived simply and honored a simple
variety of prasadam at breakfast and lunch,
and at night a cup of milk,
and who encouraged his disciples to
‘eat sumptuously, but not too much;’”
“O Prabhupada, who knew that some of his disciples
couldn’t follow him, and who was troubled by this;
“O Prabhupada, whose books are filled with all the
instructions required for reaching the topmost stage of
Krsna consciousness, and who therefore urged sincere
followers to read his books along with other regular
acts of devotional service;
“O Prabhupada, whose books are also personal darsana
with him for those fortunate enough to seek it, and
whose books are also the royal road to personal
darsana with Sri Krsna and all the devotees of the Lord;
“O Prabhupada, who was very demanding because he
was single-handedly trying to create the most difficult
and important world revolution;
“O Prabhupada, who accepted all service, even a little
girl’s offering to him of a bookmark, and who never considered
anyone’s service insignificant;
“O Srila Prabhupada, whose sojourn on this earth as the
ISKCON Founder-Acarya now seems very brief, may we
always keep and protect the impression you have made
upon us, and may we continue to cultivate your teachings as you intended.”
“O Prabhupada, who brought the whole way of life as
taught by Lord Caitanya, including the maha-mantra,
rules and regulations, Deity worship, Vaisnava culture,
food, dress, music, all instructions—who offered it
humbly and was himself surprised that so many wanted
and embraced it;
“O Prabhupada, who is therefore the spiritual father
of the widespread culture of Lord Caitanya’s movement,
who is the treasurer and the distributor of the wealth
of bhakti, who came in the spirit of Lord Caitanya and
His associates by tasting the fruits of love of God and
distributing them without discrimination as to who
should receive them, exclaiming, ‘How many fruits can
I distribute by Myself? Please taste and help Me distribute
these delicious fruits’;
“O Prabhupada, who is still preparing the feasts and
inviting us to enjoy Krsna conscious life, and who promises
us that we can become free from repeated birth and
death—although that is a very difficult achievement—
simply if we serve Lord Caitanya sincerely through
“O Srila Prabhupada, who instructed your disciples
never to give up sankirtana-yajna, I pray to be with you
always, serving your maha-prasadam remnants to the
growing crowds of devotees and guests.”
(End of Calling Out to Srila Prabhupada)
“It was a real yajna to work for Swamiji at the welfare office. But it was successful yoga, partly because Swamiji was so physically near and I could beam in on him and know that I would see him soon enough. I was there to work for him, to get the money and pay the rent. It was an open secret to all the welfare workers and clients that I was a devotee of Krsna and the Swamiji. Before Prabhupada came, my secret was that I was taking marijuana, but now my secret was open and different—that I had become a devotee of Krsna, with shaven head and sikha. I couldn’t preach at the office, and so except for the visible appearance of a Vaisnava, I did the exact same work that everyone else did.
“Devotional service was new to me, and I wanted to keep it alive. I was aware that at every moment I was acting outwardly while trying to maintain an inward meditation. Swamiji had told us that Krsna is present in the heart as Visnu or Paramatma. And so I tried to think of Visnu and love Visnu in the heart. I was also writing a poem about Him which I worked on at my office desk.
“One morning I told Swamiji it was hard to remain Krsna conscious at work. I said, ‘Swamiji, sometimes when the people in the office say nonsense, I chant within myself without making any sound. Is that all right?’
“Prabhupada replied, ‘Not only are they saying nonsense sometimes, but even the greatest philosopher is talking nonsense. So you can chant all the time like that within, when you can’t actually chant out loud.’
“So I would chant within myself. But sometimes I was able to be alone in a corner of the welfare building and then I could chant audibly, at least loud enough for me to hear. A good place to do that was on the second floor in the soundproof booths where caseworkers dictated their day’s interviews in order to be typed up. You would take your recorder up there and start speaking into the machine: ‘I just visited Mrs. Sally Burns at 62 Suffolk Street. She is receiving aid for dependent children. I found her alone with her two children. She re¬quests a refrigerator. . . .” This was a good place to do it—‘Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. . .’ When I chanted softly but intensely, I felt as if I was pushing away the whole Manhattan welfare department and all their crazy clients and office girls and office men. . . . Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. In my mind’s eye I could sense the presence of Swamiji. And I spoke and prayed to him, ‘Swamiji, please let me get through this job for you and make money so the temple can run and you can spread Krsna consciousness. Please protect me. Nrsimhadeva, Prahlada, please protect me. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.’ If someone came by and eyed me suspiciously, I went back to dictating my welfare case. Or I took out my poem-in-progress:
‘I say I want to
just to be at Your feet—
but what do I do? Why
don’t I answer every question
with Visnu? Why do I flinch
when they ask me why I’m flowering
just by the thought of You?
—You the indweller in all of us—Visnu-in-me!’
“Although in certain ways we may have grown up and matured, we remain disciples of Srila Prabhupada. After a few years of experience, a disciple knows what he is supposed to do, and so he follows the rules and regulations and discharges routine duties. He doesn’t need to be constantly told these things. One also comes to know that the strength for performing devotional service is given by Lord Krsna in the form of transcendental knowledge. But even when one knows these facts and preaches about them to others, the active ingredient is always the guru’s mercy.
“The warrior may possess a good weapon, but unless he has the strength to pick it up and use it, he will be defeated. The strength for fighting maya is a spiritual strength, bala, which is given by the grace of Lord Balarama. The spiritual master is the representative of Lord Balarama, and so it’s to Him that we should pray for ongoing protection. (We may make a distinction here between meditation and prayer. Prayer is a type of meditation, but with the emphasis on personal importuning. In the example of Lord Brahma previously quoted, he was meditating on the Supreme Lord and urgently requesting His help. Prabhupada states, ‘The only prayer to Krsna to make is,
“Dear Lord Krsna, please give me the strength to serve You.” Any other prayer, you’ll never be happy.’
(Lecture August 1975)
As Prabhupada’s mercy is the constant factor for spiritual success, so his disfavor will be the direct cause of falldown. So we should always be aware of the gross and subtle forms of guru aparadha. But all such dangers on the path, such as continued temptations from maya, or the committing of offenses to the guru can be mitigated by sincerely attempting to follow the teachings of Lord Krsna given by His pure devotee. We need not be distressed by the fact that we’re always in need of help, and that there is danger at every step. All we need is to be constantly aware of our weakness and turn to the one who can save us. As Prabhupada advises, ‘We must simply pray, “Krsna, please pick me up,”’ not just once.”
“One evening as Prabhupada was lecturing, a guest became restless. He stood up and moved from one part of the room to another. Prabhupada asked him what was wrong. The man, whose name was Burton Greene, said, ‘I feel boxed-in sitting over there.’
“Prabhupada smiled and said, ‘A box within a box.’ He then explained that our material body is like a box for the soul, and the room we are in is another box—and the whole material universe is another box.
“When we remember Prabhupada, it is like crawling outside all the boxes and entering the spiritual world. There is an old-fashioned drawing that depicts this. A shepherd is in a field. The sky above is filled with stars and is shaped like an inverted bowl. The shepherd is crawling outside the border of the drawing. By an optical illusion the drawing suggests that the shepherd is crawling outside the universe. I want to do this by entering the kirtana with Prabhupada and hearing from him with faith.
“Sadhu sanga, sadhu sanga—sarva-sastra kaya /lava-matra sadhu sanga sarva-siddhi haya (Cc. Madhya, 22.54). Even one moment’s association with a pure devotee can give one liberation. We are trying to go back to that moment. ‘The value of a moment’s association with the devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which are for those who are meant for death.’ (Bhag. 1.18.13)
“We live within a mortal anxiety, which builds during the day. Toward evening we sink and think, ‘Another day in which I have not done enough.’ When I feel like this, like a box within a box, I go to hear Srila Prabhupada in his 1966 kirtana. I chant with him and stop worrying about my failure to follow him. At least during the period of the kirtana I escape mortality. I hear the sweet roughness of his voice. I sing and clap. I crawl outside the boundary of the universe.”
“Prabhupada’s mood was that he was ready to go to hell for Krsna. According to the ninth offense against the holy name, the guru must not give the holy name to unqualified persons. Technically speaking, we lack some of the qualifications for initiation, but Prabhupada accepted us because we showed at least some sparks of serious interest. Prabhupada impressed upon us that initiation vows were lifelong and serious, and he expected us to follow them. Nevertheless he went ahead with trememdous trust, even though we hadn’t done that much to show we were trustworthy.
Sometimes I wonder how Swamiji saw me in those early days. He had spiritual vision, and he was also a very perceptive gentleman, with much experience in business and in dealing with people. He could see into a person’s character, and so he liked to quote, ‘The face is the index of the mind.’ What good did he see in me?
Although for a few years I had been living a strung out life no the Lower East Side, I still had a karmi background of middle-class values. By the time I met Swamiji, I had in some ways plunged over the edge and almost lost my physical life. He must have seen that craziness in my eyes. So why did he trust that I could follow the rules? Perhaps he also saw my desire to be a respectable citizen in his ISKCON. At least he hadn’t seen me high on drugs or making loose jokes. I had shaped up soon after seeing him and had become eager to prove myself with responsible duties. He could see that I was willing to keep my welfare job and give money. I was the boy who typed.
“But even though I had stopped the four major sins soon after meeting him, Prabhupada could see my leftover decadence. I did not have to say anything; he could look through me. When he met me, he seemed somewhat startled, amused, and also compassionate. Although Srila Prabhupada knew Calcutta and its gundas, beggars, and ruffians, still, because he was so pure and childlike, he was sometimes surprised to see that his ISKCON boys were also like that. It was part of his learning to be in the West.
“If you kept yourself humble before Srila Prabhupada, even when he was seeing through to your corrupt core, and if you had faith in Krsna consciousness and in Swamiji to help you get rid of those vices forever, then you qualified for initiation.”
“One of the devotees asked me, ‘Can you tell us what are your favorite memories of Prabhupada?’ I spoke about 1966. I admitted, however, that there are many different times and anyone can have his favorite Prabhupada mood, such as Prabhupada in Vrndavana or in New York City or at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Anyone can have an intimate relationship with Prabhupada through his books and by serving him. It is not a fact that those who were with him in 1966 have more intimacy. The most empowered devotees of Prabhupada may have not appeared yet. For example, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the greatest biographer of Lord Caitanya, appeared forty years after Lord Caitanya’s disappearance. Devotees who were with Prabhupada personally can serve devotees in the present and the future by preserving the memories. Let us pass them on so that when the empowered devotees come, our memories will help them to gain access to Srila Prabhupada.”
“In New York, Prabhupada is wrapped up in the preaching mood. He thinks, ‘My dear Lord Krsna, why have you brought me here? This place of demons is far away from Vrndavana. But You must have some purpose.’ Prabhupada’s disciples find themselves in similar situations when they go to preach in countries where there is no ISKCON temple to support them. Fortunately, by Prabhupada’s work, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is never very far away from us. Yet occasionally we are on our own. At times like that, we can remember what it was like for Prabhupada alone in New York City.
“Prabhupada was very compassionate to accept his first disciples. Nowadays, those disciples tell of the old days in a humorous way, but for Prabhupada, it was not merely humorous. Sometimes it was painful to see how degraded the youth were.
Prabhupada realized in a humble way that this was the opportunity Krsna was giving him. He said that our natural beauty was covered over by a morose, dirty appearance.
“Those who became his disciples were respectful, but some people were insulting, even while sitting in the audience of the Bhagavad-gita lectures. Prabhupada’s disciples were indirectly offensive in their failure to understand the etiquette of approaching the guru. Also, after initiation, they were offensive when they broke the vows. These things were painful to Prabhupada.
“We get a little hint of how Prabhupada saw things from some of his expressions. He said that working with the broken youth of America was similar to picking up a discarded wire and an old gourd and making a vina out of it. Prabhupada said that his work was similar to Lord Ramacandra’s task of creating an army of monkeys.
“Prabhupada might have thought like this: ‘At first I planned to open a Gaudiya Math branch in uptown Manhattan, where ladies and gentlemen could come. But Krsna is arranging it that these bewildered hippies—all young enough to be my grandchildren and great grandchildren—are coming forward. They are asking me, “Swamiji, can I take LSD? Do we really have to follow these rules?”’
“Prabhupada preached wholeheartedly. He was a refined and elderly gentleman, yet he took on rough, untrained disciples. He gave himself in a loving relationship, yet always remained dependent on Krsna—and that is what made him attractive to us.”
“Memories slow down and fade, just as the physical body slows down with old age. Aging, though, can be checked so that it does not deteriorate so quickly. If you begin an exercise program and improve your diet, you may feel rejuvenated. Similarly, memories do not have to wither and die if you exercise them. As a singer grows older, he or she loses the wonderful timbre and range of the peak years, but sometimes a singer develops a personal phrasing that substitutes for lack of power. These artists go right on to the very end making poignant expressions. In this way, our memories of Prabhupada may continue as long as we live. As we serve, we get fresh realizations.
“We want to go back without obstruction to whatever memory is there and accept it. We want to go back and ask, ‘Memories of Prabhupada, please come forward.’ When the memories come forward, we meet them halfway.
“When events in the world push us to take shelter of Prabhupada, then we can remember him best. Humility and gratitude help us here. In The Nectar of Devotion, we read that remembrance of Krsna may be invoked by hearing someone play a flute, or just by seeing a darkish cloud. These impetuses help us to remember Krsna and become flooded with krsna-prema. It works like that with Srila Prabhupada also.”
“Today Madhu asked me whether I would I be doing ‘Prabhupada recall’ in India. I said I hoped so. That was a rather strange reply, admitting that I wasn’t so confident. I’m going to India to teach at the VIHE. Why was I saying I hope I would do Prabhupada recall? Perhaps I meant I hoped I would say something inspired.
“I got a letter from a staunch book distributor recently. He was criticizing me (and other U.S. ISKCON leaders) for my lack of participation in book distribution. He was accusing me of cheating by talking so much about internal development without personally doing book distribution. He said the leaders should go out. It shook my confidence at first. How can I think I am pleasing Prabhupada in a personal way when I hear a criticism like that?
“But when it comes right down to it, we each have to have faith that Prabhupada knows our hearts. We have to have faith that he is accepting our service, even if it is not book distribution (or the myriad of other things other people think we should be doing). It may be true that I am not brave enough to distribute books, and it may even be a real lacking on my part, but that doesn’t mean I cannot make another offering to Krsna and Prabhupada. I can still please them. Prabhupada praised book distributors as the foremost preachers, but he also accepted other kinds of preaching. We should all cooperate together, not just tolerate each other.
“We all want to praise the book distributors and encourage them, but we also have to encourage many other people. We have to encourage ourselves in our service, too. That may mean that since not everyone will distribute books, less books will be distributed. They may have to accept that fact as something they can’t do much about. We may have to accept their insistence on book distribution as coming from their realization of Prabhupada’s pleasure with that service. I try to see it like that. We do not have to be inimical to each other because of our different realizations. Still, this devotee’s words shook me up, and maybe that’s good.”
“COMMENT: I write in the mix, both because it’s natural to me and because I need relief from 100% scriptures, but also because I do it for my audience. I think people need variety from the scriptures, and that it’s entertaining writing to give them the great scriptures and then look up from the book, look out the window and see some birds on the tree, and tell them about them. Or tell them something else, some memory from your past. I think it makes for entertaining reading. Some people think that Prabhupada’s books are too heavy and repetitious; they’re not. My books are lighter reading, and part of it is due to the mix. It helps people come to Prabhupada.
“What’s the relationship between the mix and what Bhaktivinoda Thakura calls ‘the zig-zag path of truth?’ He used that expression to say that as you go forward in Krsna consciousness, if you make a mistake, you don’t go all the way back to the beginning, you don’t stop in a race and go all the way back to the beginning. You may make a left turn because of your mistake, and then you correct it and make a right turn and a left turn. You never get your way, and your chart towards perfection is a zig-zag course. But he approved of it. When we look at our spiritual life, it’s not like a chart that goes straight up. When you see those charts of business activity, it doesn’t go straight up. The business goes down in the month of April and then it goes up in the month of May. So, actually our lives are like that. When we joined we were some kind of devotee, and we were going up. And then maybe we reached a plateau and maybe we had a little falldown, then we came up again, and it’s zigging and sagging. But that’s different than what I write in the mix. My writing in the mix is an artistic expression, a plan to present a literature in a certain form.
“The mixed writing is different from the straight journal writing. I also call it ‘Reading While Writing.’ I give direct quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam, I tell people I’m sitting down at midnight to read the Srimad-Bhagavatam, I tell them my aspiration—to be a Bhagavatam student. I give actual content from Jada Bharata and Maharaja Rahugana, but then I drop it and say something about myself or about life in general. Most journals don’t include a lot of scriptural references unless they are by religious people.”
“Srila Prabhupada compared the fighting of disciples to the fighting of sons who ultimately cause pain to the father. He told the story of the father who came home at night after a hard day’s work and requested his sons to massage different parts of his body. But while the sons were massaging, they fell to quarreling with one another and began punching the different parts of his body. ‘By your fighting you are killing me!’ the father cried out. And so also did Prabhupada cry out: the inevitable quarreling should not become a painful situation for the spiritual master. ‘We must exist on cooperation,’ wrote Srila Prabhupada, ‘otherwise the whole thing is doomed if we simply go on fighting over some small thing.’ (Letter, November 18, 1972 to Madhumangala dasa)
“A neophyte disciple soon sees the practical realities of spiritual life, such as occasional quarreling among devotees. But if he becomes too disappointed at seeing imperfections, that may become a cause for falldown. It should be understood that the Krsna consciousness movement is a sample of the spiritual world, but it is not yet perfect, since its individual members are still undergoing purification. Yet because Krsna consciousness is a purificatory process, all devotees are on the right path for purification, and they should not be criticized unduly for faults that they are still maintaining.”
“As living beings, we need engagement and we need some form of society. Going into perpetual seclusion or silent meditation is not recommended, and it is almost impossible for most persons.
Therefore we should take up the right engagement, devotional service and in the right company, the association of devotees. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada created the International Society for Krsna consciousness with the intention of providing centers and communities for people to come and hear about Krsna and live together in devotional service.
In former ages devotees like Dhruva Maharaja were ordered to perform austerities in the forest, but that is not congenial or recommended for the people of Kali-yuga. By the mercy of Lord Caitanya, devotional service has been made easy. Of course, the principles must still be followed, and that is best done by serving in the company of other devotees who are avoiding illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling—in a society where there is constant chanting of the holy name and rendering of devotional service. In this way devotees live together harmoniously, and they transcend the limited identity of time and space. Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘If the members of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness put faith in Krsna as the center, live in harmony according to the principles of Bhagavad-gita, then they are living in Vaikuntha, not in the material world (Bhag. 3.15.33).
One may say that he has tried living in the association of devotees but that the situation is not always exactly like Vaikuntha. This is understandable because the Krsna consciousness movement is recruiting devotees from among the conditioned souls, and because the movement exists amidst opposing forces within the world of maya. Yet the association of devotees remains the only solace for one aspiring to serve Krsna and go back to Godhead.
One of Srila Prabhupada’s most memorable statements, spoken during his last days on earth, his request that his followers cooperate among themselves. “Your love for me will be shown,” he said, “by how much you cooperate to keep this institution together after I am gone.’ Not only in his last days but during all his days as Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada was promoting cooperation among the members. He acknowledged that individuals would sometimes differ, but it should not cause disruption. ‘I know the fighting spirit is there in you westerners,’ he wrote in a letter, ‘and even if you do not care to fight, someone will induce you to fight’ (November 13, 1975 to Alalanatha dasa).
“Don’t be anxious about your maintenance. Krsna will provide. He takes care of His servants. This attitude can be taken up to different degrees. One may go on working hard and continue to be anxious about money-making and paying bills, yet have a certain satisfaction that the final outcome is up to Krsna. Thus to some extent the worldly anxiety is reduced. After all, we’re not the doers. Bhaktivinode Thakura’s proposal seems more radical, that he will no longer make money or provide for his relatives, but instead he will engage full-time in chanting Hare Krsna. Remember Mrgari the hunter who was saved by Narada? He was also worried about how he would survive when Narada told him to break his bow. But Narada assured him that he would arrange for his meals. So Mrgari spent his full time chanting in his little hut. Bhaktivinode Thakura sings, ‘I will serve You free from all anxiety, and at home, if any good or evil should occur, it will not be my responsibility.’ (Saranagati, 3.2.7).
“The pure devotee is ready to do whatever the Lord wants and is not afraid of the outcome. He may continue earning money, or he may stop. Often he continues earning money just to set an example for others.
“So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities (for the gradual development of Krsna consciousness).” (Bg. 3.26)
“We desire to be full-time servants of Krsna. We want no other occupation. Many of us have been full-time devotees for most of our adult lives. Externally, this means we haven’t had jobs, we have served in ISKCON. But ISKCON has its own anxieties about raising money and it has evolving attitudes as to what is the best way to go about it.
“What is my duty as a sannyasi? I don’t need a job, that’s clear. I should live as a biksu tridandi and accept alms. I should live according to what comes. I drive around in our Renault Master van and then fly to India once a year. Krsna is providing. I try not to misuse this facility, because abusing it would be an anartha in bhakti. But at least I should be grateful enough to acknowledge that Krsna is maintaining me.
“We always wonder if we are doing the best thing. We want to be able to have a deep conviction in the direction our lives are taking. Krsna is maintaining us, and up to a point, we also have to help ourselves. We trust Krsna, and we have to learn to trust our own intentions in Krsna consciousness. The Madhur0ya-kadambini lists a symptom of unsteadiness as “indecision.” You go back and forth, back and forth, trying to decide what course to take even in spiritual life. It’s better just to plunge in and trust that Krsna will take care of the results.”
“Someone said ISKCON devotees tend to be arrogant and not respect the saints of other sampradayas or other religions. Granted, we neophytes tend to be arrogant. We should be as humble as a blade of grass. We should think we know nothing or very little of love of God. We should respect all living entities—no sadhu-ninda, no ninda at all.
“But I suspect a hidden agenda in my friend who says, ‘We should respect all saints.’ What if I say to him, ‘I respect all saints from afar, but I am fully satisfied to follow the acaryas of the rupanuga sampradaya. And within that channel, I want to follow the line of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I am such an ignorant child in spiritual life. That’s why I don’t trust myself to go to so many saints from different paths. I may get bewildered. The teachings and examples of the Six Gosvamis and the way their siksa has been presented by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada, is fully satisfying and the safest for me.’?
“Before I met Srila Prabhupada, although the saints of many religions were existing, and, in a sense, available to me, they could not help me. Even the many incarnations of Lord Visnu who appeared when I was wandering from birth to birth did not deliver me. But Prabhupada has saved me. He is teaching that Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Caitanya is teaching the same thing, literally giving harinama sankirtana and the ujjvala-rasa of Radha and Krsna’s pastimes. There’s nothing equal to this.
As for the contemporary practitioners in other faiths or sampradayas, they may be more adept than ISKCON devotees in performing austerity, in study, in purity, even in surrender by devotion. I respect them. But it is not just a dogmatic attitude that keeps me from studying their books or going to talk intimately with them. I am too intent on the work of assimilating my own sampradaya’s gift, the mercy of Lord Caitanya. And despite my disqualifications, I am stuck like a bee in the honey of the flower that is vraja-lila I don’t want to leave. For friends, I seek those persons whether householders or sannyasis, who cry when they sing, ‘He Gauranga!’
“Am I being sentimental? Narrowminded? Hypocritical? Maybe. Although I want to be free of sadhu-ninda, and I don’t want to slight others, I want to keep my simple faith and interest reposed at the lotus feet of my spiritual master.”
“When Pradyumna dasa had a hernia and had to go to the hospital for an operation, the Boston temple had no money to pay for it, and Pradyumna’s parents were unwilling. I wrote to Prabhupada and asked him for the money. He got it (if I remember correctly) from the San Francisco temple. But in his letter to me he said our Society would have to have a managerial committee to handle these things, not that he should be asked for money. This was the first hint of the forming of the GBC (Governing Body Commission). Later he asked that a few temple presidents on the east coast have a meeting and discuss some management of temple affairs. One thing led to another, and I can’t recall the details, but at one point he appointed ten devotees to be the GBC, and I was one of them.
“Rupanuga, who was also appointed, told me it was a great honor to be selected to this board. We first came into action when we debated the errant sannyasis who were preaching maya at the Janmastami ceremony in New Vrindavan. As Brahmananda Swami explains it, he had been guilty of underestimating Srila Prabhupada and had been chastised by him. As a reaction he ‘overestimated’ Srila Prabhupada and said he was actually God. He convinced another four sannyasis to join him in preaching that Srila Prabhupada was dissatisfied with all his disciples for misunderstanding him and that he had withdrawn his mercy from us. There was no way that we could get it back. We had failed to realize that Prabhupada was one with Krsna and this was a great insult to him. The five sannyasis spread this poison vigorously at the Janmastami festival, and a heavy gloom came down upon us all: Prabhupada had dismissed us.
“Prabhupada, at the time, was in Japan with Kirtanananda Swami and TKG. Someone in New Vrindavan, maybe Hayagriva, phoned Prabhupada’s secretaries and told them what the sannyasis were preaching. Prabhupada said it was all bogus. He was not God. He was the servant of God, and he was not displeased with his disciples. But the sannyasis must leave the movement for preaching this Mayavadi nonsense.
“Armed with this information from Prabhupada, the newly-formed members of the GBC met in an A-frame house and found references in Prabhupada’s books to support what he had said on the phone. Then they held a debate with the sannyasis in the temple —packed with devotees — and defeated their notions. It was the first combined action of the GBC, and it was a good one. The sannyasis were temporarily expelled from the Society. They went out on their own and did preaching in cities in the south, and later were reinstated. The mood of the festival turned around when the devotees realized Prabhupada had not rejected them. A letter from him arrived and was read aloud, and everyone cheered at the good news and the correct understanding of the parampara.
“I had a GBC zone which included the cities where the sannyasis were preaching—Gainesville, Tallahassee and San Antonio. I traveled to see them, and they were still preaching remnants of their distorted philosophy. They were powerful preachers, and I became a little contaminated and influenced by what they said. I came back to Boston and presented it to the devotees. But my GBC Godbrothers straightened me out, and I threw off the misunderstanding. Those were heavy times.
“One by one the sannyasis gave up their concoctions and were permitted back into the Society, and their few followers along with them. ISKCON had survived its first schism, and the GBC played a good part in restoring order. Prabhupada welcomed back his sannyasi disciples and held no grudge.”
“So, you want to try to write and the typewriter is quiet. The baby is crying on the floor below, but not as loud for me as for the mother. I am free of that. I wanted to get up at midnight, but I am out of practice and slept until 1:00 A.M. I’m also out of practice reading the scriptures, and so could not get through it. That’s a serious lacking. I don’t want to bash myself for it, but carefully, tenderly, build up interest in it. Some part of me says I already know what’s being discussed, truths about God and so on, and don’t need to or want to read it again. I don’t relish it. But I want to. I know there is depth in the descriptions. I want to enter it and to be able to enjoy it. It is an important part of the identity I’m trying to cut out for myself, that although I am not a manager, I am a sannyasi who likes to read and write. If I don’t like to read but only write, then what is that? Not good. I want to be a devotee of Krsna. If I write but I am not a devotee . . .
“I’d like to be attracted to the Lord and talking about Him, in a way that would bring people’s interest into it. Not artificial for me. I’ll be speaking four nights here and I have to prepare for that. Shall I read some sections from the Caitanya-caritamrta? But what if I myself am not interested in what I am saying? Shall I then bluff it? You have to consider this. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna.
“The North American managers meeting will be going on in Alachua, and I’ll be here in Baltimore, and then we will go to Boston. Lecturing here and there.
“I grind out the japa, counting my rounds. But it is very important for me. I don’t measure it by my taste, which I get very little of. I think of it in terms of its importance to me. I must do it. I know that an important development of a devotee’s life lies in his chanting career. Perhaps I will always talk somewhere about japa. I could do it in one meeting here in Baltimore. They come to hear from me. I should not think that it’s me but it’s Krsna they are coming to hear from. Give them a good dose of it. We come together to discuss Krsna consciousness, not that we come together to discuss Satsvarupa. If I do talk of myself, it’s part of the expression of a devotee’s life, as if I were talking Zen.
“Sri Krsna Caitanya Prabhu Nityananda. Now you are on sabbatical from your A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, but I want that poor man to come again to reading. Maybe I could take to writing while reading again. That was a form to express yourself and yet go back to the text. Your system for taking notes for Caitanya-caritamrta is more rigid and doesn’t allow you to reach that sort of thing. I could do it throughout the day in installments. I could drop this May Apples writing session format and put together reading while writing. Or do some of both. Think about.
“Hare Krsna. I promised a poem every day and will oblige. If your writing could serve to get you to read, even when you find that you are not interested in reading . . . and if the reading could also help you to write . . . and allow you to do free-writing . . . that would be a boon.
“(Less than fifteen minutes, Baltimore, Monday, May 13, 1996)”
END OF MAY APPLES
Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…
I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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expression.The reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.