Tomorrow for Thanksgiving we’re going to go over to Ravindra Svarupa’s house and honor prasadam with our esteemed neighbors. We will be celebrating in the mood of real thanksgiving, not the turkey-eating, watching-the-football-game, etc. Not making plans for the Black Friday shopping spree. I’ll tell you about our prasadam feast tomorrow.
Thanksgiving feast at Ravindra Svarupa’s. Many stories of early Ratha-yatras in Philadelphia, from Saudamani devi dasi and Ravindra Svarupa. I didn’t eat much except succotash, mashed potatoes, and a slice of pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream. The conversations were Krsna conscious, but after a while they deteriorated and the devotees were talking about 9/11, the crashing down of the World Trade buildings. At this point I excused myself and went back to my room.
I received a first Vyasa-puja homage from Adi-rasa dasa of Spain. He doesn’t speak or write in English, so he sent me the typed homage in Spanish and then a translation in English. I don’t know who did the translation for him, but the homage is very nice. Here is an excerpt from it:
“Learn, know, pray,
Grow up, know yourself.
Know that behind the wall, there is a beautiful forest,
Full of peace and happiness
And knowing that you will take me to that forest
Where everything is light and bliss.
Thanks a lot for being there,
Looking at me from His place,
Trying to give me some shelter and encouragement,
(Which I don’t deserve).
Please keep depositing
His merciful gaze on this fallen soul,
And so someday I’ll become qualified,
To be your servant,
I don’t care, neither the time nor the lives it may take.
I know that by His grace I will succeed.
His would-be servant,
Adi Rasa dasa
A disciple wrote to me with a “japa question:”
“How does one avoid the pitfall of having japa go on automatic? It is necessary to chant at a pretty rapid speed, or it would take all day, and there are other services that need to be rendered. But it seems like going quickly can easily lead to blanking out.”
I wrote the disciple back and said that chanting at a rapid pace needn’t bring on “blanking out.” Prabhupada’s japa is recorded, and he goes at a pretty quick rate. But you can hear that he is deeply meditating on the sixteen syllables of the maha-mantra. What you have to do is pay attention to the syllables as you chant them. There is no harm in chanting quickly. If you think you’re going too fast, then you can slow down a little. But otherwise a quick pace is not objectionable. Prabhupada used to advise us, “Just hear!” My Godbrother Bhurijana Prabhu has given good advice in a book, Japa. He writes that one should meditate on one mantra at a time, not thinking ahead or worried about the count. Just pay attention to one mantra at a time, and get that done nicely. Chanting this way, your speed will increase automatically. My main advice is pay attention! Then you won’t be blanking out.
I used to love to take long walks. At Gita Nagari, even in the winter, I would put on layers of clothes, warm boots, and take long walks. I would carry a Dictaphone and record for my writing. That was before my ankle fusion, and now my weak legs, which make me unable to walk. I only go out, with great difficulty, to go to the doctors’ offices in the hospital. It’s a “trip” for me to go down the stairs of the front porch and to go in my little “wheelchair” in the halls of the hospital. To get in and out of the car is difficult. Going out to the doctor doesn’t inspire Krsna conscious thoughts. I go into “survival mode” and just tolerate the minutes and hours we spend traveling, sitting in waiting rooms, TVs on, the chit-chat of people. I don’t lament. I just accept my lot as a disabled person.
The migraines didn’t stop right away. I started taking the allopathic medicine in 2000, and counseling, and it took ten years, until I came to Stuyvesant Falls, New York, to genuinely retire. The incident that made devotees aware of the seriousness of the situation came at Vyasa-puja of that year, in 2010. I almost physically passed out on the vyasasana the morning after Vyasa-puja and had to be manually carried to the car by two men. This was in Philadelphia, and after a four-hour drive. I got worse, and ended up in the hospital for three days with pneumonia. There was a videotape of me crashing, and the devotees finally understood that I couldn’t carry on and fulfill their wish that I come visit them. So this relieved me of the whole guilty complex and allowed me to live the life I needed to completely break the migraine cycle.
Present for the meeting on Zoom were Krsna-bhajana, Lal Krishna, Satyasara dasi, Baladeva, Manohara and myself. We first concentrated on the books of my essays from Back to Godhead magazine, which have a deadline set by the BBT of January 16, 2023 for all three volumes. The three books are BTG Essays, Volume 1: A Handbook for Krsna Consciousness; BTG Essays, Volume 2: Notes from the Editor; and BTG Essays, Volume 3: Lessons from the Road.
SDG’s New Writing Journal, Volume 1, will be finished by December 3, 2022. It is planned to be printed and distributed at the summer meeting, 2023. There was discussion of reprinting the Nimai series. The book production team decided to print one hardbound volume containing all four books in the series, as well as printing four small, individual books. That progress is underway. There is a group of writings called “1996 Centennial Year writings” which is underway and in progress. The book team plans to print these books in three or four volumes.
Anuradha prepared an Ekadasi lunch, with baked vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli and yams) with cheese on top. She also made tomato soup with crispy lotus seeds on the side. There were little potatoes with sour cream. For dessert there was mascarpone and heavy cream whipped together. The dessert had crushed hazlenuts on it, which is a real Italian touch, prepared by Manohara.
Byron Clough came today with a fresh load of organic, double-ground hardwood mulch. Byron likes prasadam, and doesn’t charge us for the mulch delivery (which is $75.00). He takes bread, cookies and jam, and anything else we can give him. We’re going to put the mulch around the roses this year. The roses have been cut back to half the size, and now we’ll pile up the mulch nine inches high all the way around the plant. Then Jananivasa has volunteered to come and put burlap around the rest of the bush. The mulch protects the roots, and the burlap protects the branches against hard weather and ice. We hope to get a much bigger crop this year for the Deities, because roses with fragrance are a first class offering. The more we can learn about how to take care of them, the better it is. Generally you get a strong crop of roses in the spring, scattered blooms throughout the summer and then another strong crop in the fall. We hope to make our rosebush more productive during all the seasons.
Tomorrow Krishna Kripa is coming for a stay of three weeks. He is very committed to his own program of doing harinama in different places of the world all year long. But he has reasoned that my time is short, and he wanted to commit himself to serving me three or four weeks a year at Viraha Bhavan and focus on that instead of his own program. I think this is a good example.
The day after Krishna Kripa arrives, Manohara leaves to return to Italy. He does a lot of expert service. And now he’s become an official member of the GN Press book team, doing design and layout, which was a major bottleneck this year. With Manohara aboard GN Press, we should be able to increase production without so much strain on Lal Krishna. Now we need more typists and proofreaders to keep Manohara busy. When Krishna Kripa is here, he will also do more proofreading because he has more time now to focus on my projects.
Manohara is leaving tomorrow (making pizza today as his last Italian meal). He extended his visit here five or six weeks so that he could cover until Krishna Kripa arrived. Manohara is a good example of someone who gives up his own program in order to spend time here with me, but we won’t be seeing Manohara soon. Manohara had trouble entering the U.S.A. this time at U.S. Immigration. He told them he was coming to help take care of his spiritual master, who is old and sick. The lady was being mean and said, “That’s a job.” Manohara replied by asking her, “In your religion, if you’re taking care of someone, is that a job?” The mean lady replied, “Yeah, that’s a job.” She doesn’t like the pattern he’s been following of coming often and staying a long time. She says he can’t come back again unless he gets another kind of visa. So when he goes back to Italy, he’ll apply for a new visa. But we both agreed he shouldn’t try to come back soon, and our lawyer friend advised that he try to enter from a different city than New York (Boston would be better). Manohara has been an excellent servant, and I will miss him. We probably won’t see him for a year, or whatever. While he’s away he’ll be working on design and layout of my books. I get to see him on the monthly GN Press book meetings on Zoom. But no intimate vapuh service.
Manohara has returned to Italy. Krishna Kripa and Purusa are both here for three weeks. Krishna Kripa has to concentrate on proofreading. He has four hundred fifty pages to proofread in eight days. His usual output is twenty pages a day, but in order to make this deadline, he has to do over fifty pages a day. So he really has to focus himself and detach himself from the daily services, which will be covered by Purusa.
“NOTE FROM TYPIST: Friday, November 18, Guru Maharaja dictated this note:
“Sorry Prabhus, we have no rabbits today. We are all well, and our bhajana and seva are going on nicely. Hope to have rabbits tomorrow.
—SDG and associates.
TYPIST: Guru Maharaja has ordered that I write something of my Vrndavana experiences. So with apologies to all and begging for the blessings of Guru Maharaja, here’s a brief attempt:
Guru Maharaja writes of an external Vrndavana we experience with our senses, and an internal Vrndavana, our developing relationship with Krsna, which He may choose to reveal according to the sincerity of our devotional service. Externally, all the standard things, I guess.Vrndavana is eye-popping. So many cows wander freely on the road—in both directions!—and all drivers give them a wide berth. Horns honk continually as the rickshaws pass by, but not out of impatience, like in the West. Transportation is incredibly cheap, no traffic lights or lanes. Roadside stand after stand, selling fruit, chapatis, sugarcane juice, beadbags, chadars, water. An occasional street kirtana performed by a family of five or six. Radhe, Radhe. Songs about Radha blare from the speakers and radios. Chanting goes on into the night, sometimes resembling the sound of a high school football game pep rally.
Of the internal Vrndavana I have absolutely no realization or qualification to speak. But I can testify that darsanas at Krishna Balaram Mandir, with breathtaking Radha-Syamasundara, Lalita and Visakha, Krishna-Balarama and white marble Gaura-Nitai are always jampacked, with handfuls of ISKCON devotees straining to see Their Lordships amidst throngs of pious visitors. (Mangala-arati is usually just ISKCON devotees, who then proceed to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms or Samadhi to chant their japa.) After his ecstatic Guru Puja, Prabhupada is taken on parikrama three times around the entire mandir, stopping briefly at each important place along the way (Guest House, Govinda’s Restaurant, ITV, etc.), as well as a long darsana of each of the three Deity altars.
The new Govardhana Retreat Center campus is about a quarter-mile from the Govardhana Parikrama trail. About three hundred devotees serious about advancing their relationship with guru and Krsna have gathered here. At a tiny spot at the base of Govardhana, against a background of chattering birds and monkeys, and cows wandering in and out, Sacinandana Swami gives classes on the transcendental heart and mission of Srila Rupa Gosvami. Bhurijana gives the afternoon class, “Secret Answers to the Prayers of Foolish Kings,” and Jagattarini Mataji gives a dynamic nightly reading from Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Sri Madhava-mahotsava, which is rasa-sastra. It is all very wonderful, and with gratitude I aspire to remember and pray to Giri-Govardhana for my ongoing purification and gradual absorption in Krsna consciousness at my spiritual master’s lotus feet.
“‘Our son has taken sannyasa at an early age. The Lord should be merciful so that he will always be engaged in proper dharma.’ In sorrow they lamented in this way. Taking Gauranga in their arms, they became joyful by the auspicious association with His bo dy.
“With an affectionate heart, the ocean of mercy, taking shelter of His mother’s limbs, spoke to His father and mother with sweet words which deliver the jiva from death.
“‘My peaceful brother, ignoring his father, has left with great forbearance. I will soon do all services to you and Mother.’
“When they heard these sweet words endowed with great meaning, His parents’ hairs stood on end because of great happiness.
“Their minds were filled with streams of nectar through association with His body. The streams flowed out through their eyes.
“Serving His parents at all times, being most merciful to them and bringing them joy, He began studies and played constantly with boys His age in a friendly manner.
“Seeing the independent nature of his son, the father scolded him constantly. While sleeping, the fortunate, most pure-minded father then had a dream.
“‘You think “My son is independent and is absorbed in playing all the time.” You do not respect Him since He has not revealed His golden form.
“‘An animal can touch and see a valuable gem but cannot understand its value. How can an innate fool have power of discernment?’
“With red eyes, that brahmana scolded Jagannatha Misra with these words. The father woke up and, joyful with astonishment, told everyone what he had dreamed.
“Hearing about this dream and being astonished, people eagerly regarded the child, the Lord, and the best of men, as a great person by their mind and by their words.”
“Dear Srila Prabhupada, please accept my humble obeisances.
“I worked on an essay this morning for two hours. It was knotty, but it is happy work. I want to make something attractive and strong in Krsna consciousness, and it is a challenge to do it in words. You once said that writing about Krsna and speaking about Him are some of the best ways to meditate on Him; we are forced to think of Him at every moment.
“This morning I was preaching against the rebel authors I read in my youth. It was difficult to present the right attitude—I did not want to seem over-righteous or too moralistic. However, Krsna consciousness is righteous and true, and I took pains to express it in a way that would be both correct and appealing. I was especially trying to address young people who are so prone to rebel.
“This makes me consider how authorities usually fail us, and how we turn to rebellious ‘heroes.’ It was nice to be working side by side with you, Srila Prabhupada. You are always with me when I try to write in Krsna consciousness.
“I was writing somewhat autobiographically. I gave myself as an example of someone who was attracted to decadent, anti-religious writers. The authors assert that we should live uninhibited lives. I read these writers in the Navy, when I felt oppressed by parents and the government. This leads me to remember how you entered my life, Srila Prabhupada, and saved me from all that.
“You gave such a good twist to my wrongly directed life that I am still aimed in the right direction. I know you are saving me from many, many lifetimes of hell. I only wish that I could contribute more to my own progress. It would be pleasing to you to see another disciple finish up all his business and go back to Godhead. Sometimes I think I am just coasting on your strength. You gave me a push, and its force is not slowing down. Even without my contributing my own strength to it, I am saved, as long as I don’t steer myself into a ditch.
“You are my lord and master, life after life. You are pushing me over the ground of jnana and karma into bhakti. What you want from me will finally happen. My heart, which is originally Krsna conscious like yours, will awaken one day. I will understand that you are teaching aham brahmasmi, I am spirit soul. Then I will start moving under my own power, attracted to Krsna as an iron filing is attracted to a magnet. I will make up the last ground for going back to Godhead. I hope it will be like that, Prabhupada, by your grace.
“Your eternal servant,
“Satsvarupa dasa Goswami”
“His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada stressed that all his followers must strictly follow the spiritual principles as an absolute requirement. He said he was trying to train first-class men—devotees of brahminical character who could, in turn, guide and uplift the lower divisions of society. The regulative principles are designed to take us gradually to the platform of spontaneous love of Krsna, which is the perfection of human life. If a so-called devotee thinks he has already attained perfection and gives up the spiritual principles, then he is known as a prakrta-bhakta, or one who takes things cheaply and merely imitates true devotional service.
Repeatedly, Srila Prabhupada gave his students this overall direction: live with the devotees, rise early and attend mangala-arati, chant 16 rounds of the maha-mantra on beads, attend the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, and read his books. And after attending a full morning’s spiritual program, everyone should work all day in some honest service for Krsna, under the order of the spiritual master. And the basic restrictions of avoiding the four pillars of sinful life—illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxications, and gambling—these things a devotee must avoid without fail, or there is no question of spiritual life.
“Without following the spiritual principles, a devotee’s enthusiasm dwindles, and degradation follows. These are the simple austerities of Krsna conscious life, and they are never to be abandoned, even at the higher stages. Exalted Vaisnavas—like Haridasa Thakura, the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself—never gave up the basic spiritual practices. Pure devotional service in its progressive stages is like a ripening mango. The beginning of devotional service, if the devotional principles are taken up strictly, is pure devotional service, even though it is not fully mature. This is like a green mango; the full sweet mango taste is not present yet. But it is still a mango. So the only difference between the neophyte and the advanced is that the neophyte practices devotional principles out of duty and the advanced devotee does so in spontaneous love and full realization.”
“Regardless of approaches, everyone has a direct line to reaching Prabhupada’s mercy. For some, it may be their service to his mission, even if they don’t find much time to read. The heart of attachment to him is dedication, and it may be taken up in many individual ways. Some devotees stress obedience to the vows of sadhana, and another group take as more important, the spreading of the teachings to new people. And everyone draws examples from the life of Srila Prabhupada to support their own way of serving him—whether by cooking, preaching, worshiping the Deities, leading kirtana, giving classes, teaching children, or whatever.
“For example, some parents believe in ‘indulging’ their children up to the age of five, because Srila Prabhupada said something to this effect. Or devotee-parents will say that Srila Prabhupada’s father sent him to college for a career and use that as an example for their children’s future. A business-inclined devotee will look at Prabhupada’s life during his pharmaceutical business and take direction from that. A family man sees Prabhupada’s responsibility towards his family members as a motto and it helps him to chalk out his own life. Should we take vanaprastha and sannyasa, or try to engage all family members in preaching until we die? What did Prabhupada do? The list of angles is endless, since people from all walks of life have made Prabhupada and Krsna their goal.
“What does this mean? Why the confusion? Shall I alone break through this bewildering variety of sincere attempts to understand Prabhupada and present the real, definitive Prabhupada? No, they are all serving him, and each is a testimony to his dearness and greatness.
“Let each follower do it in his best way. In a 1966 lecture on the Bowery, Prabhupada emphasized ‘dovetailing our consciousness with the Supreme.’ He said, ‘Don’t stop your activity (that’s not possible) but act in a way that you can serve the Lord of the senses with your senses.’ So everyone’s service is possible. And yet we must admit that there are servants who are pleasing and those who are more pleasing.”
“Recently at Gita-nagari we held an old-time kirtana. First we listened to a 1966 kirtana led by Prabhupada. I pointed out that Prabhupada sang only one tune and kept a steady beat for half an hour. Then we tried it. It produced a wonderful feeling, and so we repeated it again the next night. Here are some of the letters I received from devotees who were in those kirtanas.
‘I feel like we discovered a great secret about the essence of Krsna consciousness tonight. I suggest you do this wherever you go because it will remind and enlighten everyone about what it was like with Prabhupada. The chanting tonight was very, very nice. Very powerful medicine. Not at all mechanical.’
From Bhakta Larry:
“Both nights that we had kirtana, I suddenly felt Prabhupada’s presence there. For those moments my suffering was dissolved, as the tears rolled down my face. Any memory of Prabhupada from twenty-five years ago is enlivening when you speak. My heart was filled with ecstatic love of Prabhupada.’
From Caitanya-rupa dasi:
‘The kirtana last night was wonderful! One devotee told me her opinion that if we were to do this more often we would all come to love each other. I hope we’re going to have this type of kirtana again.’
“Our experiment took place in front of Prabhupada murti in the Gita-nagari temple room. The Deity doors were open and Radha-Damodara gave us Their darsana. We began sitting, and we were careful not to speed up. After fifteen minutes, one or two devotees stood up to dance. Soon everyone was up. The dancing was that style which some persons have called ‘The Swami Step.’ The nice thing about it was that the dancing energy was not concentrated in one place. There were no superstar dancers. The women were also dancing, as the kirtana energy spread democratically throughout the room.
“I thought I would become bored, and I braced myself for that, but it did not occur. The only reason I looked at the clock was to make sure we did not go too long. Something nice was happening for everyone. It was a combination of the timeless potency of harinama, and the special effect of chanting the way we used to when Prabhupada was present.”
“Today I woke at 2:55 A.M. But on my third round, I got a headache. The more intensely I chanted, the worse the headache got. But I didn’t stop chanting intensely. I wanted to get them done. I wanted to persist in the yajna. I’ve chanted thirteen rounds, but I’m not in good shape. I chanted at a whisper, but I went down the track at a rapid pace— six and a half minutes per round. If only I could chant with a clear head. If only I could chant with an open heart. At least I was chanting, no doubt about that. My mind stayed on the track without going disastrously to other thoughts. It was a strain with the pain. My japa train hurtled through the barrier regardless. Nothing can stop it from its charge. Now I am left shattered. Better to have gotten them done than to have laid back sleeping, nursing your wound.
“The engineer stokes his locomotive
and charges down the track.
He chooses japa over pain
because the holy names comes first.
We can always repair the engine,
but we don’t want to miss the
golden opportunity of early-morning
yajna speeding through brahma-muhurta.
You take your choice and favor nama.
“DIGRESSION: There’s a drawing of a man seated with a book and Sanskrit words are coming from him, “shemaya ca bhavaya ca,” and then he’s facing a man who is seated on an elevated seat with his hand in the jnana-mudra position, and a book that says Srimad-Bhagavatam on it. And from him is coming the words “Sru-sru-sumananam, hari kathamrta, and there’s a poem form.
I honestly conceived of, imagined a place
where sages speak the truth
and no ordinary poet is allowed
to go like a rat newspaper reporter
to later write down rancid lines.
Naimisaranya is an actual place,
near Nimsar railway station
where today . . . I need to go there in my imagination—
any quiet time. I’m there—in suit and tie?
No, I’ll wear khadi always now that
I’ve rediscovered it, the perfect cloth
for the Hare Krsna brahmacari monk.
I’ll wear Indian-dyed khadi
and sit in a half-lotus no more than
forty minutes at a time
and hear the angels speak—a
figure of speech meaning that the Divine
speaks through Suta’s latest
He says, “Krsna.” He says, “Atma.”
And I listen to whatever he says.
Then in this vision I have, I
become transformed into a
better person. I love others,
I’m not afraid. I even
cure my indigestion and
headaches for a while
(although flesh is mortal and pained).
I hear with faith and
devotion for Krsna in His
parts and plenary parts.
I like it very much and I
don’t forget it, some of it.
Krsna blesses me with
the desire to preach
whatever I’ve heard.
“ . . . A servant is afraid when he does something wrong and he has to face a reprimand from his master. It was not so much fear of punishment from Prabhupada, as the personal anxiety of doing wrong in service of the pure devotee and the fear of displeasing him. One evening when I returned from the Bombay temple with Prabhupada, I discovered that I had lost his spectacles case. It was my job to carry it at all times and to hand Prabhupada his glasses when he needed them to read. This case was tan and had a figure of Lord Jagannatha sewn on its cover. When I lost it I became frantic. Prabhupada did not know that it was misplaced, but when he asked for it, what was I going to do? I excused myself from his apartment and went down to trace my steps back to the temple. Luckily I found it on the ground, but by the time I got back to his apartment, it had again slipped out of my hands! I was in total anxiety and yet no one else knew what was happening. It was like a nightmare: ‘How could this happen? I just had it! Now it’s gone again!’ I had no alternative but to go out of the apartment and again trace my steps. I thought I was losing my mind. Fortunately, I found it for the second time.
“When I returned to Prabhupada’s room, I felt great relief. He looked up mildly, perhaps wondering why I was coming in and out of the apartment so often. I did not say anything about it to Prabhupada, but when I went to the back room one of my Godbrothers was there and asked, ‘What are you so happy about?’
“I replied, ‘I just found something that I lost of Prabhupada’s.’”
“Chanting the holy name, dancing in ecstasy, singing, and playing musical instruments, the spiritual master is always gladdened by the sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Because he is relishing the mellows of pure devotion within his mind, sometimes his hair stands on end, he feels quivering in his body, and tears flow from his eyes like waves. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.”
“By Krsna’s grace, the spiritual master is an ecstatic devotee; he is always engladdened by the sankirtana movement. Naturally, he engages his disciple in chanting the holy name, and dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. Then the disciple also becomes ecstatic in the natural happiness of kirtana. Except for the grace of the spiritual master, the disciple could never enter the kirtana-rasa. Sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah: ‘Unless you have received the mantra in disciplic succession from the spiritual master, it will not have the desired effect.’ The spiritual master is like a touchstone. He gives us the holy name, and if we chant the name with devotion, we realize our relationship with Krsna.Sometimes the spiritual master is with us in his personal form (vapuh), but more often not. Yet in either case, as we chant and dance in kirtana under his instructions, our relationship with him will grow and improve. Lord Krsna says that although He is not personally present in the heart of the yogi, or even in Vaikuntha, He is present wherever His pure devotees chant His name.
“This is also true of the spiritual master; if we desire to be with him always and serve at his lotus feet, then just by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra (in kirtana or in japa) as he has instructed, we can experience his presence and approval. As we chant the holy name under the order of the spiritual master, we are always united with our Lord and His pure devotee.”
“If we are fortunate to live in a society of devotees, then, whether we ‘notice’ or not, we are regularly being exposed to Prabhupada’s lectures, books, kirtanas, and way of life. Even when we don’t actively remember him, we can be assured that our inner self is benefiting by exposure to Prabhupada. If an iron rod is placed in fire, gradually it will become hotter and hotter, even if only by imperceptible degrees. Prabhupada used to give the example that a preoccupied airplane passenger may not notice when the plane takes off, but, after a while, he will be surprised to see that he is thousands of feet above the earth. Similarly, even if we sometimes fail to notice the benefit of living in Prabhupada’s shelter, eventually, Prabhupada will bless us to become more aware.
“The scriptures inform us that the association of devotees gives the greatest benefit and is the only solace in this material world. More important than techniques meant to bring us into greater awareness of Prabhupada is to first situate ourselves solidly in the association of devotees. In this way, our hearts and minds will automatically fill up with Krsna consciousness. But when we do become situated, we will want to develop our abilities to remember and love Prabhupada. We will want to fill our minds only with positive impressions of Prabhupada’s presence in our lives. This will not only help us come closer to Krsna, but will give us even greater appreciation for Prabhupada’s other followers. It will help to eradicate envy from our hearts, which in turn will give us a stronger desire to absorb ourselves in Prabhupada consciousness.
“You might want to practice this technique of noticing small things in your life and how they are connected to Prabhupada. For instance, right now as you read this, what do you notice in your external surroundings that is there because of Srila Prabhupada? Pictures of Krsna? An altar? Even the absence of certain things could show Prabhupada’s influence in your life. What about internally? As you were reading this essay, did you notice any feelings you wouldn’t have had before meeting Prabhupada, such as a genuine desire to remember the guru? Can you think of anything else?”
“Each person has to ascertain his own motives and position as aspirants to approach the Absolute Truth. Show of dress, speech and mannerisms of being devotees, yet deliberately maintain material desires, what kind of Vaisnavas are we? At best we are third-class prakrta bhaktas.
In my own list of admissions, I’ve dug up all kinds of impure thoughts and inclinations, yet I go on hearing and trying to assimilate the Bhagavatam. Is that a contradiction? Hypocrisy? How can one suddenly vanquish all desires and meditate exclusively on the spiritual master’s desires? What about a Bhagavatam verse such as akama sarva kamo ‘va moksa kama udara-dhih: “A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead”? Isn’t hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam the best method to cleanse dirt from the heart? Yes, it is.
“We won’t be outright hypocrites if we follow our initiation vows (no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication and no gambling, and to chant at least sixteen rounds of Hare Krsna mantras a day), but we can’t claim to be advanced devotees as long as we are more concerned with material benefits than transcendental profit as a result of the practice of sadhana bhakti. Remove the weeds, straws and aparadhas that we perceive either by self-examination or by Krsna’s pointing them out. In that way, we won’t remain perpetually nonsensical and become an embarrassment to ourselves and to our guru. We have to become sraddhana-munayo, seriously inquisitive students. “
“Srila Prabhupada directed his followers to stay active in the world, in order to preach Krsna consciousness. His own spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, preferred to remain in cities like Bombay and Calcutta because the city offered the best opportunity to meet people, give classes in sastra, and spread the holy names. Now the Krsna consciousness movement is spread all over the world, and if one is too disturbed to live in the city, one can live on a Krsna conscious farm. Srila Prabhupada has spread the jurisdiction of Krsna consciousness so widely that one can confidently practice bhakti-yoga both in the city as well as in the country—and one can practice in one’s own home with one’s own family, as well as in the asrama of devotees in the ISKCON temple.
“In all cases, one should be directed by the spiritual master. When we choose to live in a certain country or city or farm or home, with the aim to please the Lord and the pure devotee, the place where we live becomes designated as prabhu-datta-desa. This means the place given by the spiritual master for executing our spiritual duties. A preacher can identify with a metropolis like New York City or London, and always think how to give the people of that area the benefit of Krsna consciousness. Or one may identify with a patch of land for development of varnasrama-dharma, by cow protection and living from the produce of the land. And certainly one can choose as prabhu-datta-desa one of the holy dhamas of this planet, such as Vrndavana or Mayapura. In each case, the ideal circumstance is created by dedicating oneself to a place for the pleasure of the spiritual master.
“We do not have to duplicate or imitate either Srila Vyasadeva in his cottage surrounded by berries, or Arjuna on a battlefield surrounded by fighting warriors. We have to simply start serving Krsna wherever we are without being too fickle. We can’t wait to change our material body because it happens to be giving us trouble, and similarly, sometimes we can’t change our locality. We have to learn to transcend and somehow find peace and quiet, at least within ourselves, on a daily basis. By ardent efforts to serve Krsna according to the ninefold practice of bhakti-yoga, the mind becomes peaceful. And so the advice Krsna gives to the yogi—to find a peaceful, secluded place—can be attained by everyone when the mind is fixed in Prabhupada meditation.”
“ , , , The whole project was a Herculean task. We had only the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam at this point, and as the years began to pass, we realized more and more just how large a project this was. Prabhupada always remained serious about it—he had been serious since he had begun the First Canto translation and commentary in 1959, before coming to America—and he knew it would take him his lifetime to finish it. He took it more seriously than opening temples, and I think it was his main dedication, despite the fact that he was needed in so many other ways. Realistically, he knew he wouldn’t finish it unless he calculated how to get it done. He arrived in America after having published only the First Canto. Could he finish the rest by 1980? It would take incredible attention and work. He was already in his early seventies by 1970, and he definitely felt the urgency of his approaching departure. We were so young at that time that we couldn’t understand his urgency, couldn’t understand how little time he probably had. The devotees couldn’t be forced to see things the same way Prabhupada saw them. Even if the arithmetic was done for them, they couldn’t understand just what it meant to Prabhupada.
“Beside the book production, we had given little thought to distribution. We were about to publish sixty books and print them in the thousands. Who would read them beyond our small band of devotees? The devotees did talk about this problem, and Pradyumna even ran ads in certain magazines and books to attract customers. We made plans to get them into the bookstores. Prabhupada was, after all, writing these books not just for his few disciples but for mass distribution.”
“Telling any story is a delicate operation. We have to have faith in the story we are telling and enter into it. And it must be accurate. Sometimes we hear a devotee retell a story like this: ‘One time, Prabhupada said to Guru dasa, “You say you want to be at my lotus feet, but my lotus feet are always moving.” When Prabhupada said that, he pushed Guru dasa away with his lotus feet.’ The difficulty with that last detail is that no one who was actually present for this episode said that Prabhupada actually pushed Guru dasa with his feet. In this way, stories sometimes get blown into tall tales. They may become very different from what actually happened. Therefore, it is good to be enthusiastic when telling Prabhupada stories, but we should never exaggerate or make up details. Our enthusiasm may capture the ears of some, and may even impress some people, but if the story has untrue elements, then people will have a false impression. The story has to be authentic and the story-teller has to be honest.
“If you were never with Prabhupada, you can openly say, ‘I wasn’t present for this story, but I heard it, and it impressed me.’ Admitting that you weren’t there may be humbling. It shows that you don’t appear so prominently in Prabhupada’s manifest pastimes. But even that fact may add a poignancy to your story that will draw your listeners in. The fact is that most of your listeners will not have had direct contact with Prabhupada either. If you tell the story in a genuine, humble way, it may be even more effective than someone who boasts slightly as he relates the story of when he was with Prabhupada. The direct witness may also mistake the facts or exaggerate his role in the story. The honest approach is always best.”
“‘ . . . In our temple
we are worshiping Krsna
in a marble hall with chandeliers,
and one day we will build the actual temple.
Then you will see!’
His first structure in Mayapur
he planned from his pure mind,
putting the plan on paper.
It would be pink and copper-toned
trimmed in yellow
with Rajastani arches,
a long flat roof,
and surrounding gardens—
a palace on the Ganges plains.
He planned an entire city
with the Temple of Understanding
bigger than the U.S. Capitol
or St. Peter’s of Rome.
The whole world will be drawn
to Sri Dham Mayapur
to worship by appreciation
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
a vast ceiling like the sky,
with models depicting the universe:
the lower, hellish planets,
then the middle planets (including Earth),
then the demigods’ planets,
then the spiritual sky,
and at the top—
the eternal planet of Krsnaloka,
full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss,
where Krsna and His dearmost reside.
Any visitor—and they would come
from every country—
that here was the spiritual world
They would be awed by the colossal architecture,
charmed by the beauty of the gardens,
impressed by the social planning—
a city peacefully providing all human needs.
And an inquiring visitor
would hear deep, scientific knowledge.
sumptuous Krsna prasadam,
theater, dance, literature,
crafts, agriculture, ecological engineering—
a living example of good government
with everyone contributing
to please Krsna
and to instruct others
in the knowledge of the soul
and the soul’s service to the Supreme.”
namo gaura-kisoriya . . .
I am Krsna conscious by Prabhupada’s grace. I had a dream last night that I was an accomplice to a robbery and murder. Just before we were supposed to carry out the crime, by Prabhupada’s grace, we decided we didn’t want to kill. Exactly what Prabhupada’s grace was wasn’t clear in the dream, but when I think of it now, I realize how deeply he has influenced my life.
Sometimes we hear about planetary influences and how the planets are malefic or benefic in order to enforce our karma. The spiritual master’s influence is causeless. Especially after he has left this world, and especially as his influence enters the dream world, although we feel his presence, we cannot define it. We’re just grateful for it.
Later in that dream, we were listening to Prabhupada on tape. He was talking about the importance of hearing from the spiritual master. This time he was present in his sound vibration.
I listen to Prabhupada’s lectures often. I hear and comprehend them, and to whatever degree I am capable, I appreciate them. Sometimes I fail to pay attention and thus fail to appreciate, but as long as I’m not offensive, exposing myself to the sun rays of his speech will have its effect.
akamah sarva-kamo va
yajeta purusam param
The powerful rays of the sun purify, so the powerful rays of bhakti-yoga and guru-seva, hearing from the spiritual master, have their good effect, as much as any good planet gives benefic effects.
namo bhaktivinodaya sac-cid-ananda-namine
gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te
“When I go into a room to stay on a visit and there’s a mirror on the bureau, I cover it with a cloth. The reason I put a cloth over the mirror is that I don’t want to see my face. I see enough of my face mentally when I write. I don’t need to also have the visual image before me. I think of teachers like Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who I heard never used a mirror even to put on tilaka. It’s not that I avoid my face because I hate it; it’s just that I’ve seen it enough.
Mirrors can enamor us to our faces. It sounds silly, because most of us will admit, especially as we grow older, that we’re not that good-looking anymore. It’s funny how it happens. I remember a segment in a movie where Bing Crosby looks at himself in the mirror. He talks to his reflection and at one point, makes fun of his looks. Bing Crosby’s ears, like mine, stick out. He says something like, ‘My ears look like the two open doors of a taxicab.’ Then he adds affectionately, ‘Well, stick around and I might give you a shave.’
For me, the idea of speaking a monologue while watching myself speak is a bit too much. In the tradition of sadhus like Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, I don’t want the mirror around except when I need it. I already have enough internal mirrors.
vancha-kalpa tarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah
namo maha-vadanya krsna-prema-pradaya te
krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah
“From the sublime to the ridiculous, from the top to the bottom, the dirty mind and the pure mind, the duality which is my conditioned self in touch with the most sublime and liberated knowledge, His knowledge, which brings fearlessness and at the same time, me being a fearful creature jumping at noises and mice, afraid someone comes speculating and hearing the truth without speculation. Want to be pure, but dwelling in impure places—this is the duality that is me.
“Being encouraged when I hear we should not associate with the nondevotees, yet I look for a nondevotee’s book. Working against myself and my best interests. A devotee is happy, but I’m sad A devotee is eternal, but I am disturbed by thoughts of death. A devotee is full of knowledge, but I don’t know what will happen. A devotee is generous and friendly, but I want to keep my time to myself. I feel. ‘I can’t give to others.’ This is a duality, my conditioned self.
“The devotee always thinks of Krsna in the center. Alas, I think of myself as the center. Yet I know I’m not. Stubborn, unredeemed, plagued by the uncontrolled mind, I have the best sadhana practice. I’m convinced of that.
“I ran into an old acquaintance here. He’s initiated, but his spiritual master gave up the practices of Krsna consciousness. That, no doubt, contributed to his lack of faith, but actually, he always tended toward faithlessness and liked to speculate on other philosophies. He was always trying to determine whether they were as good as Krsna consciousness. When I met him a few years ago, he was studying religions academically, trying to see how Krsna consciousness could be explained by the university professors, and so on. He was also studying world religions from the interfaith point of view, where everything is smoothed out and you don’t follow a particular path. He preferred dabbling in these things than chanting his rounds or hearing from Prabhupada.
“I remember one time he admitted to me that his lack of faith was all due to his painful reaction at the demise of his spiritual master. He said he didn’t really want to be faithless. His wife is faithful to Prabhupada.
“I met him again this year in the hallway of the temple on my way to give a lecture. He was there as a Sunday guest. He came forward and in a friendly way, put his hand on my arm and said, ‘How are you?’ I found out partly from him, and then later, in a distressed letter from his wife, that he has gone off the deep end in terms of his identity as a devotee, and he wants instead to follow the path of impersonalism. Previously he may not have been getting up early to practice sadhana, but now he gets up early to read Rajneesh and to meditate. He also teaches hatha-yoga. I was shocked to hear these things. It’s one thing to hear that a devotee is burnt out on ISKCON’s authorities and doesn’t want to live in the temple. I’m sorry enough about that. Or to hear that someone is becoming materialistic. But to hear of someone becoming an impersonalist is so strange.
“I thought about it. He had gone up to the top rungs of the ladder by Prabhupada’s grace. He was attached to a movement with bhakti as the goal. Now he’s climbing down to consider that the soul will become one with the ultimate impersonal Soul.
“Over the centuries, the Vaisnavas have argued against the sanity of this proposition. I don’t need to go into it here, but I happen to be reading Srila Prabhupada’s arguments with Dr. Radhakrishnan.
“It’s good for me to hear again and again that Krsna is not an ordinary person, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Brahman concept of oneness is Krsna’s bodily effulgence. Krsna is all-powerful, inconceivably so. In His humanlike form, He displays pastimes. His pure devotees don’t think of Him in His impersonal Brahman feature. They don’t even think of Him as Bhagavan. They just love Him for who He is—a cowherd boy in Vraja. Prabhupada insists that we solidify our approach to Krsna by being aware of His greatness. He doesn’t want us ever to make the mistake of thinking of Krsna as impersonal.
“I want to hear this. I need to hear this. Maybe I have to defeat the Mayavadi within myself. All these basic teachings are important. I am not a bumblebee stuck in the flower of madhurya-rasa. I need the ABCs. The whole world thinks they are the body. To get on that nerve, on that point, and to face the world’s ignorance, that’s what need. By being convinced of that ignorance and by being disgusted by it, feeling pity for whoever functions under that ignorance, especially with sex life and politics—I have to hurl my invective: ‘It’s not wliat you think it is!’
“These thoughts bring emotion—anger, disgust, compassion. If prematurely I spend all my energies collecting the nectar-dripping flowers of verses about the gopis’ jokes with Krsna, then it seems like I won’t be able to comprehend the philosophy necessary for a preacher. I’m at a stage in my Krsna consciousness where it’s good for me to hear the basics—good for me as a preacher and good for me as a practicing devotee.
“This happened to me today; they gave me two sweets at lunch, I was starting on the first one—they were good too, made with cocoa and crushed nuts—and as is usual for me when I eat, I was listening to Srila Prabhupada lecture on tape. Prabhupada said that there are ix unfavorable things in devotional service: atyaharah—it seems I always get these tapes when I’m savoring my lunch—don’t eat too much. Prabhupada said to eat only enough to keep the body fit.
“I needed to hear that. I’m not the body and I shouldn’t live for sense gratification. I should develop my Krsna consciousness. I should surrender to my spiritual master.”
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.