While we were honoring our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, one of Louise’s chickens pecked on the door signaling Sraddha that they were ready for their prasadam. They come over excitedly two or three times a day. There are 15 of them. Then Sraddha ceremoniously walks out and throws out some rice prasadam for them, which they quickly jump on and finish. They hang around waiting for more, but they’re trained only to get small doses at a time. So instead of “feeding” Louise’s chickens, we’re just giving them prasadam a few times a day.
As the chickens went away, the conversation turned to a mother and a baby black bear who were seen walking down the road in the morning in front of Sachi’s house! Black bears are the ones that like to knock over garbage cans. So, these are not city events and our country news. Stay tuned.
Baladeva had an infection on his leg, which got out of hand overnight. It doubled in size and went from his knee to his ankle. It is called cellulitis. It’s just a general name for a skin infection. He was lucky enough to get an appointment with his doctor the Friday after Thanksgiving. They looked at it and said he should immediately go to the hospital for an ultrasound. They did this to make sure it wasn’t a blood clot. The radiologists will call tonight this afternoon or tonight if there’s anything serious.
My disciple, Hari Das, originally from Guyana, now lives in Schenectady. He came down today with a driver, Rishi Isvara, and while our group was honoring lunch, Hari Das cleaned the upstairs room and adjoining bathroom. There is a thriving community of devotees in Schenectady. About five Grihastha families live in the area, and they have been able to purchase a VFW building. The facility has a large commercial kitchen. They are continuing a snack business that Rishi Ishvara and his wife started long ago. His wife passed away a few years ago, and he stopped the business. Now with some devotee help, he has revived the business, which is helping to pay for the building. They also plan to have Ratha Yatra next summer and regularly go out on Harinam in the area, where there are many Guyanese families. Krishna Dasi and Anuradha Dasi are going to Schenectady tomorrow for the Sunday program, and they will invite the devotees to attend the Vyasa Puja ceremony next week on December 3rd. Schenectady is definitely an active preaching center.
We’re in the process of reprinting the Nimai series of books into one volume. It would be first class if we could get one artist to do all the sketches in one volume for consistency’s sake. The pictures of the mice in their various activities are very popular because it is, in some ways, a children’s book, but not really. If anyone knows a skilled artist or is one themselves, please consider this important project. A stipend can be involved.
I avoid advising my disciples on householder life or non-sastric topics. I’ve had so many experiences in the past where devotees have asked my advice but don’t follow it; that’s offensive. So is it better for me not to give advice and risk someone making a mistake in their spiritual life. Recently I had a disciple whose household arrangements had changed drastically, and she asked her advice on what to do. I told her to move to some ISKCON project like Mayapur or another project where they need service and can give shelter to devotees, but she refuses to take my advice, and she wants me to make some other arrangement to her liking. Then she accuses me of not protecting her, but I can only give sastric advice. The moral of this story is don’t ask for instruction if you’re not prepared to follow.
Krishna Dasi is busy planning her flower arrangements and decorations, including new clothes and jewelry, for big Gaur Nitai, who will be the presiding deities at Vyasa Puja. She is lining up her assistants to help her with such a major project. We all look forward to seeing Gaur Nitai in the VFW hall, surrounded by chanting and dancing devotees as their lordships stand there majestically dressed in new clothes and jewelry and adorned by beautiful garlands amongst excellent flower arrangements.
The weekly journal came out late a few days this week because Guru Das is in India and coping with the “Indian factor.” He has erratic internet access, and now he’s staying at the Govardhan retreat to hear lectures, making him even more remote. I hope he gets back in time for Vyasa Puja. We’ve scheduled him to work the book table and distribute the new books on Srila Prabhupada. I am spoiled by his fast work when he is in America. I depend on him to turn things around very quickly, come at any time of the day.
Vyasa Puja marathon is definitely on. Everyone is engaged full-time every day and into the night. In preparation, Anuradha Dasi cleared the whole barn and made it ready for guests who may overflow that evening. She’s also using the space to make up the stacks of books, so they’re prepared to be distributed as sets of eight books with a ribbon tied around them. They are also cleaning the house here and at the woman’s ashram.
Purusha Prabhu has been shopping for all the necessary paraphernalia. His shopping is taking pressure off others. For example, he just returned from getting small flowers for the small Radha Govinda. This saved a couple of hours from someone else’s schedule. The girls also prepared buckets to receive all the flowers Muktavanya will bring soon. Krishna Kripa Prabhu does deity services and my personal services morning and evening, which frees him to focus on the proofreading book marathon during the day. Purusha covers his mid-day services. Nimai Ananda is staying on top of the feast to see that goes properly. Haryasva is doing his biannual service, ensuring there are tablecloths, eating paraphernalia, and heating paraphernalia to keep the prasadam warm. Anarta Dasi just returned from India a few days ago and said she’d like to cook some preparations for my Vyas Puja. She is a good cook; she knows my taste. I have been steadily reading all the eight new books on Prabhupada to pick excerpts for my lecture.
I have picked out excerpts I want to read on Vyasa Puja from the last eight books we have printed for this occasion. The 2022 marathon was a success; our goal was to publish sixteen books I have written about Prabhupada in 2022. We distributed a batch of eight at the July meeting this year and the last eight will be distributed on December 3rd.
While going through and picking out excerpts to read, I rejoiced in finding the nectar in those books. Vyasa Puja is a celebration of my birthday and my being a spiritual master of my disciples. But I am going to concentrate on Prabhupada in my readings. I think this is proper because one of the main functions I do when I initiate disciples is to link them to Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON. My disciples like to hear me read about Prabhupada.
I remember, many years ago, that the ISKCON headquarters in Los Angeles received a letter from the headquarters of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the TM people (Transcendental Meditation). In quasi-legal language, they warned us that we could no longer use the phrase “Transcendental Meditation” in any of Prabhupada’s books because those words were copyrighted. Prabhupada and the devotees were not fazed. Prabhupada still occasionally used the phrase “Transcendental Meditation,” and we never heard from the TM organization again.
We are hearing how Maharaj Pariksit met the age of Kali. The king found a cow and bull being beaten by a black man dressed in royal costume. Maharaj Pariksit said, “who are you dressed as a king and abusing these most valuable animals? I shall kill you at once.” When Kali saw that Maharaj Pariksit drew out his sword and was prepared to kill him, he trembled and surrendered to the king. The king became compassionate and spared Kali’s life because he was surrendered. But the king told Kali you can live only in those places where there is intoxication, meat-eating, illicit sex, and gambling. Kali replied that there are no places like that in your kingdom. Then the king said, you can live in a place where there is gold. Because wherever gold is, all the sinful activities gather there. When the king asked the bull, who was religion personified, “who had broken his three legs,” the bull did not reply and gave the name of the magical monger. The cow, who was a symbol of the earth, also did not identify the wrongdoer. In that situation, the cow and the bull answered in such a way because they believed it was the will of the Lord that they were put in such a situation. The cow and bull were religion personified on earth, and so it was proper for them not to name the perpetrator and to accept it as their lot.
Last week, Baladev was summoned for jury duty. Our lawyer friend says that they are so desperate for jurors that they don’t let anyone off by any excuses, and at best, all you can do is to get it postponed. This is shocking news! I need Baladev here at Viraha Bhavan. He is my right-armed man. He may even have to go this afternoon on November 30th, two days before the Vyasa Puja festival, which are very intense days full of anxiety for Baladev.
How do I feel about Baladev being called to jury duty? The worst that could happen would be that he’s ordered to go on jury duty and he has to go every day for a long period of time until the case is settled. How long? The whole thing is unknown right now. It could be finished in one day or it could take days. How long? I need him here every day. Our skeleton crew here at Viraha Bhavan can’t bear to him away for long. Today and tomorrow are the worst two days of the year for this. Baladev has been “terrified” since last Thursday when he received the notice. They didn’t tell me about it until yesterday, so the reality of it didn’t hit me yet. I’ll be hit if he actually is taken on jury duty and he’s not here for a number of days. That’s when I’ll feel the pinch. TO BE CONTINUED.
These are the busiest days of the year and the worst days for Baladev to be on jury duty. If he were here, he’d be cooking lunch, loading the car with books to get ready for the book table, and covering for other devotees who will be setting up the festival site tomorrow afternoon on December 2nd, so it doesn’t have to be done the next morning of December 3rd.
As for myself, I am mostly apart from the passionate preparations. I have picked out the excerpts I want to read out loud in my lecture from the books about Prabhupada that we are reprinting. I look forward to hearing the devotees read their Vyasa Puja homages on that day, but I am mostly peaceful upstairs in my room, trying to find a little time to write in the journal and not getting swept up in the externals.
A batch of devotees gathered downstairs for lunch. I am honoring prasadam alone upstairs. The VFW opened their doors to us, and our devotees were over there setting up for our festival. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, but we will be indoors. There were eight devotees helping, and they worked hard and quickly. It went very smoothly. The devotees helping were Hari Das, Bhadra, Lalita Kishori, Anuradha, Krishna Dasi, Purusha, Haryasva, Amit, Baladev, and then, at the end Hari Das and Sankarsan from Maryland. It went very well this year because of all the smart preparations ahead of time and the hard work. First there was cleaning, then the setting up of the vyasasana, paintings, flowers, book tables, painting on the walls, and finally, setting up chafing dishes to keep the prasadam warm.
Returning home, the Lord, having changed, shone with continual kīrtana and crying. Seeing this behavior, Śacī was constantly astonished. “What is this? What is this?” she asked.
Fortunate Śacī one time saw him lying down and crying in the evening. She first said in anxiety, “Please tell me why you are crying.”
The Lord, soft with prema, his tears soaking his body, hearing this, said nothing. She began thinking constantly. She understood by good fortune that this was prema.
Pure-minded Śacī, understanding about her son, with tears in her eyes, with humility requested him again and again, “Will you not now give me the treasure called prema?
“If you have a little affection for me, please give to this fallen soul that prema which you obtained at Gayā, which is rare and unknown even to the devatās.”
Hearing her words, Gauracandra, with affectionate heart answered his mother. “O mother! When I am very merciful to the devotees after some time, this will happen.”
Hearing this, she became very happy. She thought joyfully, “This will happen to me.” Gaurāṅga, understanding the mind of his mother, then spoke to the brāhmaṇas with humility.
“My mother is continually seeking prema and intense devotion at the lotus feet of the Lord. You should bless give her blessings so that this will happen quickly.” They then gave her blessings.
Hearing the blessing, he wept, and tears flowed from his eyes in hundreds of streams onto his chest. Mucus poured abundantly from his nose and he rolled on the ground.
From the dawn, all day he wept with abundant tears of prema. When evening came he recovered and wondered whether it was still day time, out of confusion.
Crying loudly in the evening, he returned to external consciousness. Out of confusion he said, “It was morning. How did night appear?” He could not distinguish the passing of time.
When the Lord heard just one utterance of the name, he would roll on the ground with force. He shone brightly with heavy breathing, trembling, and profuse tears.
With great enthusiasm he constantly chanted the name of Kṛṣṇa, sometimes with a choked voice. He shone, with hairs standing on end. This happened almost every day.
He would bathe at dawn, perform worship and eat prasādam daily in joy. He taught excellent, pure brāhmaṇas boys. In this way, four months starting with Māgha passed.
One day, the ocean of mercy, filled with prema and hairs standing on end, went to the house of the physician named Murārī. Entering his temple, immediately he stood there with tears in his eyes and a contracted body.
“How amazing! This strong body of Varāha is carrying the earth on his two tusks. Like a great mountain he attacks, touching the vital points.” Saying this, he retreated.
On saying this, immediately he took on the identity of Varāha and moved about on his hands and knees. He roared for a long time while rolling his eyes.
He quickly took a brass water pot in his teeth and, as if facing something fearful, threw it far away. He then said repeatedly to Murārī Gupta, “Describe my natural form.”
Hearing this, Murāri fell on the ground in fear and said, repeating words from the Gītā, “I do not know this form of yours. You alone know yourself by yourself.”
Again the Lord spoke with a smile, using sweet words. “The bewildered Vedas do not know my glories at all. Like blind persons, they search for me constantly in ignorance.”
Uttering this, he recited the Vedas, laughed in derision and said, “The Vedas do not have the power to know me.” He then went home.
On another day, while going home, the most auspicious Lord endowed with the beauty of a million moons spoke to Śrīvāsa near his house in a loud voice, with great roaring sounds.
“Do you not see Śiva, Kartikeya and Brahmā gathered here?” Śrīvāsa said, “I do not see Kartikeya and the others gathered here.”
After saying this, Śrīvāsa saw his younger brother Śrīpati situated behind him. Approaching him, he said gravely, “Advaita has come to see the Lord.”
Understanding that Advaita had come to see him, the Lord, endowed with the greatest powers, immediately rose, approached, and spoke in a loud voice.
“People without qualification should know that they will quickly take another body on earth in their next life.” Saying this with loud roaring, the Lord quickly altered his mood and went to Śrīvāsa’s house.
Quickly going there, he then locked the door firmly, while his legs trembled. Gauracandra remained there alone, shining like the sun, emanating profuse natural light.
Advaita came from his house and, making up his mind to see the Lord who had manifested himself in a natural way, stood outside the door panels at that time.
Śrīvāsa’s younger brother Śrīpati came in anxiety and quickly informed the Lord about Advaita. The Lord then unlocked the door.
“I have seen the Lord endowed with beauty just as I have imagined.” Saying this, Advaita, with grass in his teeth, fell to the ground with great affection.
Seeing Advaita, the abode of beauty, the Lord quickly raised him up with his two arms. He embraced him tightly with joy and moistened him profusely with tears of prema.
Gaurāṅga, emanating great splendor and effulgence, then said to Śrīvāsa, the jewel among brāhmaṇas, “I will go from this excellent room to your house.”
Hearing this, Śrīvāsa’s younger brothers, quickly cleansed and decorated with room in joy, and covered the middle door, so that it one could not see inside.
Śrīvāsa said to Gadādhara, “Bring all the furniture include the bed from your house.” Gadādhara with great prema, forgetting his actions constantly, brought everything there.
In the room, they quickly spread a canopy above and arranged attractive cāmaras. They placed a cushion on the couch with beautiful cloth and offered this to the Lord.
Gaurāṅga entered the room and defeated the sun with his effulgence. He was like a thousand lightning bolts lighting up the earth.
Gracefully, the glorious Lord placed his feet on the ground and sat on the attractive couch. He was like the pinnacle of Meru Mountain putting other mountains behind.
Because of joy did they not spread a continuous experience of bliss like the taste produced by mixing milk with camphor, pepper and sugar?
Gadādhara was absorbed with longing in skillfully stringing garlands using attractive, fragrant flowers. It seemed he was stringing a garland of desires with his mind.
The infinitely fortunate Gadādhara with longing then applied camphor, āguru, sandalwood and kuṁkuma thickly to the Lord’s body from his toes to forehead.
Seeing the crowd spread everywhere in the yard, the wives of Śrīvāsa and others felt pain, thinking, “We will not be able to see the Lord.”
Understanding their thoughts, Gaurāṅga considered, “Will all the pious wives of the brāhmaṇas not be able to enter the house?” He then gave the order, “Let them come in.”
Understanding Gaurāṅga’s order, Śrīvāsa immediately called all the women in joy. In a flurry they entered the room shyly with joy in order to see the Lord.
Saying repeatedly, “Concentrate your mind on me always,” Gaurāṅga, the ocean of the greatest qualities, soft with a sprinkling of the sweet rasa of mercy, offered his lotus feet to their heads.
Śrīvāsa brought Śacī, famous as Mahāprabhu’s mother, who was the mother of the whole universe. She trembled in fear in front of the Lord at that time.
Seeing his mother, Mahāprabhu suddenly bent his lotus face in alarm. Śrīvāsa, on seeing this, felt sorrow in his heart and spoke to Gauracandra timidly.
“This is not suitable for you, the most merciful Lord. If it is, what are we to you? O best master! Showing your powerful aspect is not proper.” Then he quickly spoke to Śacī.
“Come and first fall on the ground.” Hearing this, she delayed. He said with affection, “Falling on the ground immediately, do not consider him to be your son.”
Hearing this Śacī fell on the ground and offered respects to the Lord. Wise Śrīvāsa then spoke to the Lord in fear.
“O Lord! O master! Show mercy to Śacī so that she does not think of you as her son and so that she will surrender to you. Then I can be happy.”
When he said this, the merciful Lord suddenly placed his lotus feet on her head. Showing mercy to her, he spoke in joy.
“On touching my lotus feet, immediately she cries profusely. Confused, her hairs stand on end. Without shyness she dances with enthusiasm.”
After a long time, Śacī recovered her composure with great endeavors of many types. Crying, with tears washing her body, she returned home alone in fear.
With eyes like freshly blossoming lotuses, most attractive, merciful Gaurāṅga, after two praharas of the night had passed, spent two more prahāras relaxing with the devotees.
The great ocean of mercy satisfied some by embraces, some by kisses and some by giving chewed items as part of his glorious, beautiful pastimes.
He again went to the temple and remained there for a short time. Then the merciful Lord went swiftly to the houses of the four brothers.
Having revealed himself and having performed many pastimes, the beautiful golden Lord again entered the temple. He spoke to all present. “Without delay I will go away.”
Hearing these words Advaita and all others said, “If you do this, we will all put swords to our throats and immediately give up our bodies.”
Smiling, Gaurāṅga immediately said, “What are you saying?” Remaining there, he fell on the ground roaring for a long time.
The Lord with golden body remained on the ground for a long time without moving at all. He was like an attractive peak of the constantly shining Golden Mountain, which had fallen on the ground.
In the yard the beautiful form lay on the ground, in a deep faint. There was no movement, no response, no pulse and no breathing.
His arms remained on the earth just as when he had fell for a long time. His feet remained just as when he fell. For some time he lost complete use of his limbs.
In this condition, night ended, and the sun quickly rose. All his activities had ceased because of his fainting. Gauracandra still did not regain consciousness.
They all said loudly in pain, “What has happened?” Seeing the Lord motionless on the ground, they perspired and became completely disturbed.
“Night has passed and the sun has risen. Half a ghaṭika has passed. Half a yāma has passed. Now a yāma has passed. What has happened? The Lord has not woken up.”
Saying this constantly, filled with sorrow, they loudly lamented, “He has gone.” They placed him in a sturdy room with a door in the house and remained waiting.
Advaita, roaring loudly, sprinkled water on his face with his hand but the Lord did not recover consciousness, tremble or begin breathing.
The worried devotees began to perform soft, sweet kīrtana. Hearing that for a long time, the Lord still did not recover.
Tirelessly, the nectar of sweet kīrtana entered by the ears into his heart. Suddenly his hairs stood on end, along with theirs, as they rejoiced.
Gaurāṅga had regained consciousness, with hairs standing on end in bliss. But then, the Lord turned over while they lamented to the extreme.
A long time later, after manifesting deep sleep, Gaurāṅga became aware of the kīrtana and slowly got up. When the Lord had finished his revelation as the Lord, his ornaments and clothing had come undone.
Climbing onto the partition of the temple, the Lord withdrew his effulgence and again showed his soft, sweet beauty, like the summer sun becoming the autumn sun.
Recovering slightly, he parted his lips, showing the luster of his flower-like teeth, and answered as if he had woken up after a long sleep, without being aware of anything.
“O devotees! Was I in deep sleep for all this time? I slept for a long time. I remember that every morning I have taught the brāhmaṇas. How astonishing!”
He laughed loudly. Śrīvāsa laughing slightly then spoke to Gauracandra. “You do not need to show your power. I have understood well this māyā.”
Hearing this, Gauracandra said timidly, “What is this? What did you say? You laugh loudly. I do not for a moment understand this at all.”
Three praharas of the day and eight praharas of the previous day had passed. The devotees during this time had not bathed, performed household duties or other actions. They had not slept or rested.
The long duration of eleven praharas had passed in a second. The devotees however in great happiness had not blinked their eyes at all.
All people became motionless for a long time, their eyes not seeing, their ears not hearing, and their minds inoperable like those of new born infants.
The wives of brāhmaṇas looked at the Lord with unblinking eyes continually. Happy with the great mercy given by Gaurāṅga, with external and internal joy, they forgot their bodies for a short time.
Beholding this great secret, the devotees did not have urges of hunger and thirst. Two days felt like a moment. What is the use of hunger, thirst and other bodily urges?
Remembering to collect excellent ingredients for massaging his body, the devotees made preparations with great happiness. Gaurāṅga, the ocean of great mercy, then prepared to bathe with the devotees.
After bathing, they all returned to their houses but Gaurāṅga went to Śrīvāsa’s house and was nicely worshipped by the four brothers and their wives.
Gaurāṅga became very satisfied when they daily offered with affection fresh garlands, incense, excellent cloth, ornaments and sandalwood and saffron paste.
They anointed his limbs with sandalwood, decorated his body with many garlands, dressed him in fine, white cloth and fed him suitable food in joy.
The best brāhmaṇas and their wives offered this with affection every day and attained continual bliss, with an ocean of incomparable good fortune.
Showing his natural bright effulgence, dallying for a long time, fixed in his mind, the sweet-faced Lord then returned to his house and made his mother extremely happy.
As the moon with the stars poured out nectar in the clear sky, Gauraṅga with his shining rays, enjoyed the rasa of sweet kīrtana with his devotees on earth.
As the bewilderer of Cupid, with golden rays began dancing, the place shone with the anklets on his lotus feet, with the bracelets on his pink arms and with the rhythm.
There was a tumultuous festivity with joyful voices of the devatās situated in the sky, mixed with the loud shouts of “Jaya” and ulū-dvāni emanating from the mouths of the wives of brāhmaṇas.
As he danced with garlands made of jasmine, karavīra, fresh malli and jāti flowers, his whole body shone with ointments of musk, sandalwood and kuṁkuma.
Mahāprabhu, attractive with extreme ecstatic symptoms, climbed the shoulders of his devotees who served his lotus feet. The Lord, more beautiful than a million moons, performed his pastimes, increasing the full ocean of joy of his devotees.
Another day, shining like a thousand rising suns, he sat on the ground, filling the directions with the sound of karatālas held in his two hands. He then spoke to his devotees who served his lotus feet.
“Look! Look! I planted a mango seed in the earth. The mango has sprouted. Look! Now it has become a foot high. Now look! It has manifested branches quickly.
“Look! It has branches. In a second it has buds everywhere. Look! The fruit have become ripe. It is most astonishing to see.
On a walk through Golden Gate
they had shown him Hippie Hill
“Hold kirtan here,” said Swamiji.
And on a balmy Sunday
he sent them to the park
and joined them, eager to sing.
They had a flag for each religion;
the blue Star of David,
the Islam Star and Crescent,
the Vedic Omkara,
the Christian Cross.
And universal dharma
poured forth as Hari Nama,
with trumpet, karatals, and kettle drum.
Hundreds were already watching
the Swami’s people with their large red beads.
The rhythmic chanting was peace and joy.
And when the Swami himself sat down
to play mrdanga,
“the whole disciplic succession arrived.”
Bhaktivinode Thakur had also proclaimed
that when the Holy Name showers nectar,
all the people of the universe
become mad in ecstasy,
and Lord Brahma joins the dancing
and exclaims, “All of you kindly chant,
‘Hari Bol! Hari Bol!’”
Brahma’s son, sage Narada,
wanders singing the Holy Names
and sometimes goes to hellish worlds.
He also saw
Prabhupada delivering nectar
in the eucalyptus meadow
with his warm and expert playing
on the reddish clay mrdanga.
Narada was blissful
as Srila Prabhupada
playing the same role as Narada,
whose vina causes joy and dancing,
enlivening even Mahadev,
who cries, embracing Narada.
For composing Srimad-Bhagwatam,
that brhad-mrdanga which Prabhupada
continually played in his pre-dawn trance,
Srila Vyasa (the follower of Narada)
was already intimate with Prabhupada.
And Vyasa was pleased to see the kirtan,
for as he had predicted,
Kali would be an age of fortune,
but only because of sankirtan,
“By which one can attain the Supreme
and free oneself from birth and death.”
All the past acharyas, all transcendental causes
were present in Srila Prabhupada
as he sat with the tight-strapped mrdanga on his lap
in the center of the chanters,
surrounded by receptive hearers.
It was open and free,
a sunny Sunday kirtan
on Hippie Hill,
they bounding in a circle around him
in the meadow
and he, the beautiful saffron center,
like a cheerful lotus.
the wise person with greying hair,
not old man but saintly traveler
from the spiritual world.
Swamiji danced from side to side
in stately measure
while they leaped
as lively as colts,
throwing their limbs into it
and thinking of the body,
thinking the soul is a way
to put your body into it,
a physical dance with the mantra.
Their dancing showed little awareness
of Krishna, the Supreme Person,
or of their being His servant.
Nevertheless, they exulted
in the kirtan of His Holy Name.
conducting the dance with knowledge.
He stood in the center, swaying.
They ringed around him, bounding.
They didn’t know
how very good it was
for the soul.
But he knew.
And he led them.
Through the afternoon they danced,
boys and girls hand in hand,
with the Holy Name
ringing around them
as breathlessly they ran,
the mantra wreathing
through all their movements.
They thought it was a far out song,
a free form dance,
as Swamiji led them
back to Godhead.
The Swami Said
The Swami said, “I am not God,
but the guru is as good as God.”
For a week they misunderstood,
thinking he said that he was God.
They went to him and he clarified,
“No, never God, but servant of God.
But therefore you should honor.”
The Swami said we are going on an outing
to Dr. Mishra’s ashram, to show them
how to chant with heart and soul
and to be together in the countryside.
“One day you should also aspire
to get such a place for Krishna.”
The Swami said, “If I told you everything
at once you would faint. You should all become devotees.”
Hours and hours of inquiry, days and nights
in learning and dreams
that the Swami is like Krishna and we Arjuna,
that the Swami is really like a beautiful youth.
Each wants to be alone with him
for the confidential exchange, to ask the questions
a little child can ask his father:
“Why is the sky blue?
Where does God come from?
Can I really be saintly and not slide back again?”
And taking private assurance from him.
LSD is not needed, the Swami said.
Your spiritual life is already here.
Whatever he said was passed around.
Slowly at first, some still skeptical
joking on his name, the Swami.
“Old Swami Cigars, Old Swami Rum,” they said.
But I said “Ah, don’t joke about him.”
“The Swami said we are going to the U.N.”
In sneakers and jeans, they rode the bus
to U.N. plaza, but were not allowed kirtan.
“This is a silent vigil.”
But Prabhupada adjusted. Standing erect,
with morning river breezes rustling his saffron,
he spoke and then sat with his boys,
chanting japa in a ring around the monument.
These vigils will never work, he said,
unless they turn to Krishna.
The Swami said, you can come to my room
in the off-evenings.
They lost the key and had to break the door,
then lost it again and forgot to replace the lock.
They used his bathroom but didn’t clean it.
They failed to allow an important visitor to see him,
slept through his classes,
argued with one another,
read Ramakrishna and then asked his permission to do so,
spoke loosely and slept extra hours,
hung around lazily in the storefront,
kept long hair and old musical tastes
and wondered how Krishna could really have
sixteen thousand wives.
The Swami said, what do you know?
You are wet behind the ears.
You only know your mother’s womb.
You are prejudiced in favor of the scientists
and proud of American highways.
You’re on the material platform .
You don’t know what you speak.
You’re like the rascals who are cheaters.
Your impersonal conception of Krishna is foolish.
What do you really know? You are simply rascals,
all nonsense rascals. Don’t mind if I say so.
The Swami said, just come and eat with us each noon,
all you want. (And there was no charge.)
Just come with the boys and sit
and take prasadam. Keith will cook.
I have taught him and called him Kitchen-ananda.
You just come and take all the hot rice,
hot subjis, hot chapatis, fresh food as you like,
to your heart’s content. Take more, take more!
Sit on the clean floor with plates in a circle.
Take prasad in the sunlit front room.
Say the prayers, and eat to your heart’s content.
And not just once, but never again go hungry.
Don’t eat in a restaurant or go lonely with bad food.
Just come and I will be with you.
I will show you the best food, the best everything.
The Swami said, “Chant one round.”
and sat with the boys at 6 A.M.,
quiet sessions so as not to enrage the neighbors.
But eternal wisdom was with him,
in the fresh morning, a revolutionary movement
with this revolutionary thought: Everything,
including the telephone, is actually spiritual,
as long as you use it in Krishna’s service.
There is no other qualification for spiritual.
Now take this knowledge and be strong, he said,
and next time we meet I will teach you more –
such as how to share this with others.
When all is said and done, I’m confident that Prabhupada will claim his devotees as long as we turn to him. He has specifically instructed us about the time of death. He said the same thing that Bhagavan Krnsa says: Think of Krsna at the end of life and “surely you will come to Me, without doubt.” This time-of-death meditation will carry us to the spiritual world. And Krsna will note the brand of our meditation, as the followers of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada personally meditated on Lord Krsna until the last breath, while residing in Krsna-Balarama Mandir, while urging his disciples never to give up preaching.
There is no conflict between thinking of Prabhupada and thinking of Krsna. Even when we feel we are most in tune with Krsna directly, by His words in Bhagavad-gita or in His beautiful Form in the arca-vigraha, even then we are gratefully aware, “Srila Prabhupada, I am doing what you told me and as always, you were right—Krsna is so nice.” According to Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, the spiritual master leads the devotee into his eternal rasa with Sri Sri Radha-Krsna in Vrndavana. And just in case we have not done so well, it’s Srila Prabhupada who will stand between us and the Yamadutas’ fierce punishments.
According to Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, Srila Prabhupada may be in Goloka Vrndavana in the form of a gopa directly playing with Krsna, or he may be in the form of a manjari assisting the gopis who are arranging for the conjugal pastimes, of Radha-Krsna, or He may be moving in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. Just as the eternally liberated Narada Muni travels sometimes in the spiritual world and sometimes in the material world, playing his vina and helping conditioned souls by glorifying Krsna and giving relevant instructions, so Srila Prabhupada may be doing like that. I do not know.
I do know I had a very definite pastime connection with His Divine Grace, when he came to us at 26 Second Avenue. A tiny, conditioned entity cannot expect to know very much about confidential devotional service. Furthermore, he should be satisfied to carry out the orders of the spiritual master as given in this world.
So what is the basic message of Prabhupada? The very first thing he said to us was, “Chant Hare Krsna, and be happy.” And for reading, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam are all we need. Live with devotees, cooperate and push on Krnsa consciousness. These are our goals and this is our work. Only by faithfully prosecuting these orders can we realize Prabhupada’s promise that we will think of Krsna twenty-four hours a day.
Prabhupada meditation needn’t be thought of as something esoteric and elusive. It’s remembering your spiritual father. You’re sorry that you’re not serving him better. But you know you shouldn’t just dwell on that in a negative way. Prabhupada writes, “If one has faith, even if for the time being he can’t fully carry out the injunctions of the Lord—as long as he doesn’t admit defeat and hopelessness—then gradually he will be elevated to the right position.”
So you remember your spiritual father and you live by his instructions.
Another point: Are Prabhupada meditations private or public? They’re both. Sometimes it is shared among the devotees, as when everyone gathers for the Prabhupada guru-puja and sings the same prayers. There should be agreed upon conclusions as to what Prabhupada meant in his teachings and what he intended for his followers. He’s not just one person’s Prabhupada. One of the best ways to remember him is to work with his followers even when it’s difficult.
And as a complement to the public worship, there is a private relationship with him. It must be so, and we don’t want it otherwise. Sometimes we even feel disturbed when someone starts talking about Prabhupada. We think, “Prabhupada remembrance is not so easy to attain as this.” Or we think, “They have asked me to speak of Prabhupada, but how can I do it? It is not something to be so openly discussed.”
Then it is esoteric? Yes and no. It is an open secret; it is pure love—which you cannot weigh and put into a package. We each have our pure devotion for Prabhupada, and it is not always touched on in the general recitation of his glories.
Sometimes we are unsure, “Does Prabhupada know I’m here? Does he love me? Does he understand my inner nature?” The answer to this is yes, but you have to enter a real relationship as menial servant, as disciplined follower, practicing devotee. Srila Prabhupada will shower his blessings on you and you will know him, without a doubt.
In the beginning I wanted to tell him, “I feel I have a loving relationship with you.” One of the first ways I expressed this was when I told him I felt obliged to attend all his classes. This came up when I had to miss a weekend to visit my parents in Avalon, New Jersey.
“Swamiji, I won’t be able to attend classes for the next two days because I have to visit with my mother and father.”
“That’s all right.”
I said, “The reason I’m telling you is because I don’t want to do anything without your permission.”
Swamiji had never assumed control over my activities, but when I spelled out my feeling of obligation to him, he smiled.
He wanted us to surrender. In his lectures he would say, “Just like these boys who are with me. They are grown up, but they don’t do anything without my permission. They will say, ‘Swamiji, may I have a piece of fruit?’ And I will say, ‘Of course, it’s in the refrigerator.’ They could take it, but the etiquette is to first ask the spiritual master.”
But sometimes when you make your gesture of surrender, it turns out to be a mistake. Then the guru has to correct you, and you have to accept it. It’s a sign that the relationship is becoming more developed.
One of the first times Swamiji corrected me, he did it without saying a word. I was in his room when he was unwrapping a parcel he had received from India. I don’t remember the contents, but it was wrapped in a piece of saffron cloth about the size of a handkerchief. Swamiji put this cloth aside as if to discard it. I looked at it and said, “Can I have that?” He said, “Yes,” and I took it as a prize.
The next morning when I came to Swamiji’s morning class, I had tied the saffron handkerchief around my neck, like a pirate’s bandanna. Part of my motive was pure whimsy, to create a new clothing fashion. But also I wanted to show the Swami that I was his man, and so I wore his cloth. But saffron kerchiefs around the neck are not part of the brahmachari dress. While lecturing on the Bhagavatam, Swamiji noticed the scarf, and he looked a bit alarmed. His glance was clear, and so I removed the kerchief and never wore it again.
Srila Prabhupada liked to exchange gestures of love, but he didn’t like concoctions. Years later, when he heard that some of his disciples were taking the used brahmana thread that had been worn by the temple Deity and putting it on their own wrist, he said it was a concoction. The sentiment behind these gestures was nice, but we should be willing to do it in a way that actually pleases Prabhupada and Krsna. This becomes a delicate matter when a newcomer is an artist or a “free spirit” and wants to serve Krsna in his own way. You want to tell them that their sentiment is nice, but you also have to inform them sooner or later, “This is not the way we do it in Krsna consciousness.” Swamiji bypassed all that just by giving me a look, and I was glad to get off that easy. I thought, “Okay, that’s cool. No more pirate scarf.”
Throughout the ages, speaking and hearing about Krsna has always been one of the most important and relishable ways for Vaisnavas to associate together. Devotees hold kirtanas, they share prasadam, and almost more than anything else, they like to enlighten one another in Krsna Consciousness. If we are therefore interested in meditations on Srila Prabhupada, one of the best ways to achieve it is to attend his lectures and hear what he says.
He enters the temple a few moments before the darsana of the Deities. To the accompaniment of the “Govindam” song, he offers his full dandavats before each of the altars, and then stands to slowly and lovingly greet the Deities. Srila Prabhupada then goes to his vyasasana, and joins in the kirtana. After that, his servant hands him his reading spectacles and another devotee opens the Srimad-Bhagavatam and places it before Srila Prabhupada on the bookstand.
Prabhupada sings, “Jaya Radha Madhava” and only “Jaya Radha-Madhava” for a few minutes. One of the devotees leads recitation of the Sanskrit and then Prabhupada begins to lecture on the verse. He dips into the stream of parampara. Although the devotees are somewhat familiar with the subject matter, no one can ever guess exactly where and how Srila Prabhupada will start again. His speaking is as good as the speaking of Sukadeva Gosvami, and it is up to his audience to be like Maharaja Pariksit and listen with rapt attention.
Prabhupada was aware that he was battling against outer forces for the attention of his audience, and that the minds of conditioned souls are flickering. One can hear this battle as the background to his lectures of 1966 given at 26 Second Avenue. It was not unusual for a Bowery bum or rowdy to step in the open doorway and hurl insults even while Srila Prabhupada was lecturing. Prabhupada was not phased by these interruptions. He would immediately say to an intruder, “Don’t disturb, don’t disturb.” Sometimes teenagers would stop outside and turn up the volume on their radios, pouring Latin American music into the store front.
Srila Prabhupada would incorporate these interruptions into his lecture. In one class, while explaining how conditioned souls are beset with the threefold miseries, he said, “Just like we are trying to speak. We are not harming anyone, causing any problem, but still, some people come and they cause disturbances.” Srila Prabhupada was determined and unperturbed, but he was also vulnerable. When a few teenagers stayed longer than usual at the doorway making noise, Prabhupada said, “Where do they come from? They are disturbing.” And then he laughed with resignation. On another occasions when young girls were screaming outside, Prabhupada softly moaned, “Oh,” and it seemed to pain his heart. He turned to his audience for help, “Can you not stop them?”
Prabhupada was sensitive to the smallest noise, but when there was nothing else to do, he simply raised his voice and went on with his talk. He was able to keep his mind fixed on his lecture even though the disturbances continued. (Hear the constant fireworks during his lectures in Bombay.)
When there are no disturbances from other living entities, then we suffer from the distractions from our own minds. We attend Prabhupada’s class, but our minds continue to scheme about other matters and other persons. Despite mental distractions, devotees tried to hear Prabhupada, because we knew that this was sacred ground. He might even notice if we were too inattentive or sleepy, and he might comment on it.
Prabhupada’s lecture was the place where you could hear pure philosophy, no matter who you were. If you could listen you would find immediate satisfaction in Krsna Consciousness. We also knew that if we surrendered to hearing, Prabhupada would never mislead us in the slightest way. His lectures were devoid of any political motivations or mundane thoughts and implications. Nowadays, devotees sometimes complain that the lecturers are “too motivated.” But everyone trusted that Prabhupada’s only motivation was to attract us to Krsna and to the performance of devotional service. When he did make references to contemporary persons and situations, it was only to illustrate the siddhanta.
So you sat and tried your best, looking up to him, hearing and appreciating him and following the flow of his logic and sastric reference; watching the way he moves his hands and the way he looks down his reading spectacles to the book in front of him. Sometimes he closes his eyes and then looks up suddenly into the faces of his audience.
Prabhupada knew it was a struggle for his audiences to hear, and he sometimes tried to prod them. In a 1966 lecture Prabhupada said, “So these are very sublime topics. I’m sure if you will just give your attention you will be benefitted undoubtedly.” Another time he paused and said, “Of course, people are not interested in these topics.” He laughed in sympathy with the ordinary mind. “They are just dry topics,” he said, “simply dry topics.” Aside from occasional remarks to catch attention, Prabhupada assumed that his disciples would listen and, at any rate, he continued to deliver the message because his Guru Maharaja wanted him to do it.
Srila Prabhupada’s lectures were spontaneous. One night, after a lecture in Hyderabad when I had managed to pay attention, I told Prabhupada afterwards that I had appreciated his talk. I said, “Your lecture had so much symmetry to it.” Prabhupada replied, “Did it? It’s not my speaking. It is Krsna who is speaking.” Prabhupada’s talks were spontaneous, but that did not mean they were not well-formed. They were spontaneously well-formed. If I have to give a lecture before devotees, I will think and worry about it; I will have to choose a topic and verse to speak on. But Prabhupada spoke without any preparation except for his constant Krsna Consciousness, and very rarely did he choose any topic beforehand, except the topics that were raised by the verse and purport of the Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita.
Prabhupada’s lectures seemed to follow a free form, and if one listens superficially he may not detect any form. But there is always a structural beginning, middle and end to his talks. He liked to follow a train of association, and so discussion of a word like “Bharat-varsa” might lead to telling us how the word “India” was given by the foreigners and that might led to talk about how invaders attempted to ruin India—and then he would go on to something else. At his own speed, he (and Krsna) would finally gather together the relevant topics and bring them to a satisfactory conclusion. These recorded talks can now be studied and the more carefully one looks at them, one will appreciate them in all respects.
Keeping in mind that Srila Prabhupada was lecturing when he was eighty years old, he was a dramatic orator. He did not jump around or shout, and yet he was colorful and emphatic. He sat cross legged in the way of Vaisnava speakers, and so his bodily language was mostly with his hands. He also “spoke” by widening his eyes as well as raising his voice, which was never monotone. When Prabhupada wanted to emphasize an idea like “peace,” he wouldn’t merely say the word, but he would say, “Take to Krsna consciousness and you will feel peace.” He would express it with his whole being, and if you listened well, it would enter your being too.
Although I’ve tried to indicate that there was something special about actually being there while Prabhupada spoke, and that it can’t be entirely captured by tape recordings or videos, I don’t claim that people who didn’t meet Prabhupada are missing out. We may have to give more of ourselves nowadays than we did when we sat back and enjoyed his presence, but Prabhupada continues to reciprocate through the sound vibration. It is the same as hearing from Krsna through the Bhagavad-gita thousands of years after His conversation on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. By recalling some of what it was like to personally hear from Prabhupada, we are trying to stimulate interest in attentive hearing of Prabhupada even today.
Each day is a new chance to be with Prabhupada. One way to do it is to see him in your present activities. As you go out on a morning walk, you see a three-quarter moon and the puddles from last night’s rain reflecting the sky that is just beginning to turn blue—and you share the joy of it with Srila Prabhupada. You do this by thanking him and being with him in the present moment. You do it also by correcting any errors in your point of view. For example, I may be intoxicated by the animal sensations in my body, the tingling of health at being outdoors. So I gently remind myself, “This is only Krsna’s material energy. The thrill and beauty here is only a fraction of Krsna’s splendor.” I thank Prabhupada for guiding me on an enlightened morning walk.
We also may go back in time to be with Prabhupada. Maybe it takes a little imagination to get it started, but once you give yourself a prod, you can live in the past again, right now. The past is as real as the water running now in a stream or the surf from the ocean or the gulls’ calls. Why can’t you remember?
You went on a walk with Prabhupada. Ducks started quacking. He said. “They think we are disturbing them and we think they are disturbing us.” Devotees laughed with Prabhupada. We were all close to him. Since his departure, we have not been able to gather around a great soul like that.
You can mix the past and present. Take a walk with him today just as he used to walk.
We might say, “Prabhupada, this is the countryside of Ireland. They divide the land with rock walls so the sheep can graze. Ireland’s role in the European Common Market is to supply beef.”
How would Prabhupada reply? I cannot say for sure, but according to his teachings he might say, “Beef is their industry, and, therefore, their young men are being slaughtered in the war fields of Iraq.”
“Actually, Prabhupada, not many of the Europeans were killed in Iraq. It was the Iraqis who were killed.”
“Then? You will not be killed?”
“What is this ‘not yet’? Someone is killed today and someone is killed tomorrow. According to your karma you will have to suffer next life, whether in Europe or Iraq or America, whether as a human or bird or beast.”
“But Prabhupada, some people don’t seem to suffer as much as others. For example, the Europeans…”
“Everyone suffers! Perhaps I should not imagine Prabhupada, yet it gives me solace. It is a kind of madness, I suppose. I am grasping at ways to be with him. We can be with Prabhupada just by being quiet, without clever attempts to recreate his presence. Be confident he is with you as you walk. Hear the cries of gulls, earthy and primal. Just think, the same birds have been singing like that generation after generation for many centuries, back to when Krsna was here on earth. According to the Bhagavad-gita, everything we see is earth, water, fire, air, and sky. It is all Krsna’s energy. Everything reminds us of Him. It is Prabhupada who points this out. We can be philosophers and meditators on Krsna Consciousness wherever we are, thanks to Prabhupada.
Try This …
It is a challenge … but why not try it? Wherever you are, be with Prabhupada now.
Our kirtanas were not exactly crying the blues. It was more a cry of relief, “Lord, Energy of the Lord, Krsna Krsna!” By chanting we will get out. If we don’t chant, we’re trapped. It was a cry of relief from our suffering.
Prabhupada could see that we were fools. There was no scope for us to pretend we were advanced. In that sense, it was easy for him to be affectionate toward us. We were not spiritual masters or advanced souls. He looked upon us and was lenient and kind. He encouraged us through the chanting and guided us in our spiritual childhood. Since we couldn’t hide our infantile state, it made for a good, honest relationship. No pretension that I am a GBC man or a sannyasi, or that I can keep a little aloof from Prabhupada because I’ve got my own preaching scene—no, it was obvious where we were at.
In later years Prabhupada said, “Always remain a fool before the spiritual master. Don’t think you are advanced.” He would sometimes see disciples thinking that they were advanced, but he preferred that we be fools without pretension.
When we cried in kirtana, maybe that was foolish too, but Swamiji encouraged us. He knew everything nonsense would be washed away in the spiritual “vibrations.” We experienced that too, how the evening kirtana washed away our material attractions and the insults of the day, the grime of the city, the stress. The evening kirtana was like a spiritual washing away of our fatigue. Dealing with our Illusory Prabhupada The first time I heard the term “illusory Prabhupada,” it was spoken to me by my Godbrother, Bhurijana Prabhu. I was startled to hear that phrase. Bhurijana said he had been serving Srila Prabhupada in separation in Hong Kong while Prabhupada was in America. Bhurijana thought that he had subtly begun to do things differently from the way Prabhupada did them. To rationalize his behavior, Bhurijana tried to justify his actions based on what he thought Prabhupada would say. In this way, he felt like he was still in line with Prabhupada. He never actually forgot Prabhupada and had no other desire than to serve him, so he began to serve Prabhupada as he conceived of him in his own mind.
Then Prabhupada came to Hong Kong. When Bhurijana went to meet him at the airport, it was a shocking experience. Seeing the real Prabhupada, to have to answer to him and surrender to his instructions was a crushing blow. To describe one’s creation of an “illusory” Prabhupada is a very honest statement for a disciple-to admit that a duality can exist between Prabhupada as he is, and Prabhupada as we want him to be.
We all want to strive to replace any imagined idea of Prabhupada with the real person. One way to do this is to expose ourselves to Prabhupada’s books and letters. Of course, the letters are sometimes jarring, unless they are read carefully according to person, time, and place. For example, Prabhupada might strongly reprimand someone and tell him not to write poetry. A poet may be hurt by Prabhupada’s condemnation of something he holds dear. But one has to consider whether the person Prabhupada wrote the letter to was misbehaving in other ways—was writing poetry an excuse for not doing other service? Was his or her poetry expressing impersonalistic sentiments?
There are so many things to consider. Therefore, it is good for us to expose ourselves to the “real” Prabhupada as he wrote letters to people, but we have to carefully understand the context from which he is speaking.
There are many “Prabhupadas” floating around our movement. (How often do we hear, “Prabhupada said” offered by someone trying to end an argument?) Our search for the real Prabhupada will have to be a sensitive and ongoing one. We have to be patient with ourselves as we serve Prabhupada. Even if there is some trace of illusion in ourselves, ultimately, there is nothing illusory about Prabhupada. It is natural to select certain instructions that we think fit our situations and our personalities when we try to relate to the spiritual master. As preachers, we even encourage newcomers to find something in Prabhupada’s teachings which they can follow wholeheartedly. We just have to be careful not to present a watered down version of what Prabhupada is teaching. Until we are pure, there will always be some trace of compromise in our ability to follow, but we should always seek to increase our surrender and to know internally who our spiritual master is and what he wants from us.
Neither should we be afraid of the possibility that we have created an “illusory Prabhupada.” It’s not like the “illusory Vasudeva” which the demon Salva created to dishearten Krsna on the battlefield. Salva said, “Krsna, I have your father here, and I’m going to cut off his head. There is nothing you can do about it.” Salva then cut off the head of his mystic illusion. When Krsna saw it, He appeared to be unhappy for a moment. But since Krsna is never overcome by illusion, He then grew more determined to fight. Any service to Prabhupada is valid. If we are determined, we will gradually work out our misconceptions of Prabhupada. And we are never cut off from the mercy.
The Prabhupada we worship and who appeals to us is our inspiration for devotional service. Salva used the “illusory Vasudeva” in an attempt to harm Krsna. But if we worship Prabhupada, we will always be benefited. With confidence in Prabhupada’s mercy, we can strive to cut away too much compromise in our service and to respond to Prabhupada as he is.
On a morning walk in Boston Srila Prabhupada told of a funny expression used in India. He said that if you see a fat man in India, you sometimes say to him, “Where do you get your merchandise?” These idea is that to become so fat, the man must be obtaining good merchandise. As he said this, Srila Prabhupada was accompanied only by a few disciples, walking down Allston Street near the old Boston storefront temple. Suddenly, a beer-bellied cab driver got out of his car just in front of the devotees. Srila Prabhupada looked directly at the fat man and said, “Where do you get your merchandise?” The meaning of Prabhupada’s words went completely over the cabbie’s head, and Prabhupada continued walking and talking.
While speaking at Harvard University one time, Srila Prabhupada told the students the story of how the Himalayan mountains once gave birth. When the word spread that the world-famous, huge Himalayan mountain range was going to produce offspring, hundreds of people began to gather in the foothills of the mountains. In anticipation, crowds waited, and finally they saw hundreds of rats running out from the Himalayan Mountains! Srila Prabhupada linked this strange story to the student population of Harvard. He said that it was expected that from the greatest university in America something wonderful would come out, but unless they became Krsna conscious, they would be like the offspring of the Himalayan mountains.
Devotees have painted and drawn hundreds of pictures of Prabhupada. It started out with Jadurani’s crude paintings and has evolved into more accurate and artistic renderings of his face. There is a Russian woman living in Vrindavan, and she does excellent charcoal paintings that look just like photographs, and Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhu has done larger than life bronze statues of Prabhupada for the samadhi mandirs at Vrindavan and Mayapur. All these renderings are realistic; none are abstract. The artists and the audience think it would be sacrilegious to do nonrepresentational art of Srila Prabhupada. But I think it could be done by a very good artist. He or she would probably also have to be good at rendering very realistic art that makes you think, “When is he going to speak?” Picasso did abstract paintings of people of his time, like the famous portrait of Gertrude Stein. It looks like her but it also has more than photographic reproduction. Miro’s paintings of contemporaries are also recognizable but distortions in caricature of the person. They capture the spirit of the person more than a Polaroid image.
I can’t do them myself, but I would like to see accomplished artists attempt it. They will look more haunting in “spiritual” than the exact realistic images. There could be collages of Prabhupada walking, sitting and talking on the vyasasana, and sleeping in bed. There could be studies of his “soul eyes,” even flashes of his anger and studies of his compassion.
As yet no one has done abstract paintings of Srila Prabhupada. But in the future, they will be done, and I hope they will not be misused or done for the wrong reasons. It might be received with initial shock, or even laughter or condemnation, but eventually there can be a place for abstract renditions of Srila Prabhupada.
Picasso is the great master of “distorting faces” but not making them ugly. He breaks them up into pieces, and it has a startling effect. There is a painting of his called something like “A Man in a Straw Hat” which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and I really love it. He often draws picture of women with their eyes at an odd angle and even the ears and nose at odd angles. The experimental paintings of Prabhupada could be done if somebody had the great skill to do it so that it wouldn’t look as if it was mocking him, but it would look like known modern art.
P.S.: Picasso’s technique is to combine a profile with a full face.
Krsna likes to hear His name chanted. It is simply a natural thing. If a little child calls his father’s name, the father does not feel that out of humility he should not be pleased or that out of false ego he should become puffed up. Rather, it just touches his heart. Of course, I do not know what Krsna’s mind is or how He is pleased by the devotees. But I have given an example of how it works even in human affairs—that one likes to hear his name called by a lovable relative. At any rate, we should not only believe the sastra that Krsna likes to hear His name, but we should rejoice to know that we can please Krsna in such an easy way.
The morning program is a power-packed succession of the most beneficial devotional practices. By taking part attentively in mangala-arti, kirtana, tulasi-arati, japa, guru-puja, Deity worship, and Srimad-Bhagavatam class, a devotee is sure to stimulate his original, ecstatic love of God, which has long been covered by maya. All the senses, the mind, and the intelligence are cleansed of material conceptions, and one comes to see Krsna face to face—with the eyes, with the heart, and with the intellect. One must attend the program not only physically but mentally. A devotee must make the mind his friend and bring it under the control of the intelligence by careful chanting, hearing, and remembering. If a person drags himself through the program reluctantly and allows himself to remain sleepy (in the mode of ignorance), he will not be able to fully derive the strength and purification that is easily available if one is attentive.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the feelings of Krsna prema which are obtainable by participation in even the simplest parts of the morning observances.
When I hear the sound of the mrdanga, in my heart I always desire to join in kirtana, and when I hear the bona fide songs describing Lord Caitanya’s pastimes, my heart dances in ecstasy . . . When I take caranamrta of the Deity I see the holy Ganges water that comes from the feet of Lord Visnu, and my bliss knows no bounds. By seeing the tulasi tree my heart feels joy, and Lord Madhava is also satisfied.
— “Suddha-bhakata” by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
Why should a temple leader have to nag and coerce reluctant persons to take part in such blissful morning practices? He shouldn’t. Therefore, unless a person rises early and attends the morning program, he shouldn’t live in a temple. In writing to one temple president, Srila Prabhupada asserted that attendance at mangala-arati and chanting of sixteen rounds were the most important points of the Krsna conscious process. “But make it so that people may not think it too repressive so they will not go away, impressive but not repressive, that is the system.” (Letter, February 13,1972 to Hayagriva dasa)
The morning program will be impressive if the temple leaders themselves are strictly participating and are also feeling some of the happy mood of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, then they can better inspire the others to follow. But if despite good example and precept, someone doesn’t care to participate in the most required morning practices, then that person is unfit to live in the temple. In an anxiety to recruit new, full-time members, the temple authorities should not bring in persons who are not advanced enough to voluntarily attend the morning program.
Of course we work very very hard just to get someone to come to the platform of a devotee of Krsna, so we shall not be too much hasty to drive anyone out. Therefore we may forgive once, twice, but more than that we must take other steps. So if any new candidate for devotee comes forward you may test him very thoroughly to understand from him if he is ready to accept our strict standard of temple living. Let him understand that it is not an arbitrary or whimsical decision on our parts to become like military camp, rather we are strictly adhering to our devotional principles only so that we may make advancement in Krsna consciousness and be protected from the attack of maya consciousness.
—Letter, December 31,1972 to Dhananjaya dasa
At the heart of the morning program is the recitation and lecture from Srimad-Bhagavatam. Hearing from Srimad-Bhagavatam is an eternal process, and on this planet it has been going on for at least 5,000 years, ever since Sukadeva Gosvami explained it to Maharaja Pariksit. But the specific format of the Srimad-Bhagavatam class that devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement follow was introduced by Srila Prabhupada. From Vandanam, A Krishna Consciousness Book on Prayer
The Upanisads, Puranas, and Lord Caitanya Himself all declare that the chanting of the holy is the only means to cross the ocean of nescience in Kali-yuga. Praying cannot succeed without this main prayer. In our prayers of gratitude, we should always thank the Lord and the previous acaryas for making union with God so accessible, simply by chanting His holy name.
There is no need to invent a new method or to adopt methods which were applicable in former millennia, such as dhyana-yoga. We cannot reach transcendence by the ascending process of our own efforts or mental speculations, even if we were to attempt this for many lifetimes. But the Supreme Personality of Godhead wishes to reveal Himself to us, and He does so by appearing in the form of His hold names. The Hare Krsna mantra is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a transcendental vibration. Srila Prabhupada writes, “In the present age, the vibration of the Hare Krsna mantra is the only process which is in a transcendental position beyond material contamination. Since the holy name of the lord can deliver a conditioned soul, it is explained here to be sarva-mantra-sara, the essence of all Vedic hymns (Cc. Adi, 7.74, purport). And in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Narada Muni declares to Vyasadeva, “Thus he is the actual seer who worships, in the form of transcendental sound representation, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, who has no material form (Bhag. 1.5.38).
Bhaktivinoda Thakura leaves us, at the end of his Saranagati by assuring us of his full attainment of the nectar of the holy name. But how much can we understand of this, and how much can a great soul give to us little ones? He attempts to describe the power of the holy name, but words have their limit.
“The holy name speaks from within my heart, moves on the tip of my tongue, and constantly dances on it in the form of transcendental sound. My throat becomes choked up, my body violently trembles, and my feet move uncomfortably.”
These are the symptoms of the sattvika ecstasies, which are attained only by rare souls. It happens when unparalleled nectar showers upon their heads.
Speaking of the holy name as nondifferent than Krsna, he says, “He does not allow me to understand anything, for He has made me truly mad and has stolen away my heart and all my wealth.”
It is remarkable that Bhaktivinoda Thakura is even able to send back these messages from the absolute plane to our limited range of understanding based on comparison and poor-hearted perception. We can understand that Bhaktivinoda Thakura is truly “gone” from this world, and yet he keeps in touch with us and wants the best for us. We listen in awe and full faith, although from a respectful distance at his manifestation of ecstasies.
“Such is the behavior of Him who is now my only shelter. I am not capable of describing all this. The holy name of Krsna is independent and thus acts at His own sweet will. In whatever way He becomes happy, that is also my way of happiness” (Saranagati 10.5) Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that when the holy name manifests even a slight degree of His power, He steals our heart and takes it to Krsna. When the holy name is fully manifest, “The holy name takes me to Vraja and reveals to me His own love dalliance. He gives me my own divine eternal body, keeps me near Krsna, and completely destroys this mortal frame of mine.”
Do we want to go? Can we pay the price? I doubt we will do it in this lifetime, although it is always possible. But I beg to have my name added to the list of souls hankering to taste the name’s nectar. I don’t aspire for anything else. Please let me go on hearing of those who actually appreciate Saranagati. Let me hear them sing and speak on these sacred topics. And let it never stop. Please allow the rest of the world to simply fade away.
Let the day come when we will be forced to hear Saranagati. What then will we remember of our struggles to chant sixteen rounds with attention and our feeling overwhelmed in our services? We will be compassionate. We will simultaneously chant and desire to spread the chanting throughout the world.
All this is possible only by the mercy of the spiritual master. Beg to receive from him the nectar of the holy name.
“The name of Krsna is touchstone, a mine of all devotional mellows, eternally liberated and the embodiment of pure rasa. When all impediments to the pure chanting of the holy name are taken away and destroyed, then my happiness will know its true awakening.” (Saranagati 10.8)
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.