Bhakta Aakash has been personally serving me for a while and was going to stay on but he heard that an ice storm may come tonight and so he left Viraha Bhavan a bit suddenly. He decided to get an early bus and Kathi gave him a ride to Albany to catch the bus to Boston. We got ready for the ice storm by getting 20 gallon of gasoline for the generator. If the ice is thick, then trees and branches can fall on electrical wires, breaking them and leaving us without electricity and heat. Now we are prepared for that, but we hope it doesn’t come.
Atindra is coming tomorrow and hopefully he doesn’t get delayed by the ice storm. He helps me out early in the morning with my personal service. He is a “Good Samaritan.” This time of year is slow for his business and he’s in the middle of renovations, but that will have to stop in order to do the service here until Gopal Campu is here on January 2nd, 2023. He did the same thing last year but he didn’t have anything going on. It’s a sacrifice also for his wife, Lalita Kishori, who will stay home in Massachusetts.
I received a letter from Narayana Kavaca praising my Free Write Journal. He wrote “it is very illuminating and makes me feel as though I am there with you. They are very organic and sound just like you. I think the courage to write so openly is extremely rare and will help devotees for generations to come. Most gurus would never allow their disciples to know them in such an intimate and truthful way. I think it is your best writing. And even though you may in your humility, be judgmental of it, or thinking it inadequate, it will be the writing that endures and is followed by countless devotees to come. For me, and I imagine most readers, despite what the content is, say it is a worrisome or anxious topic, which you tell simply and honestly; I always find it uplifting and enthusing. It teaches us how Krsna consciousness really works our problems. Our problems don’t magically go away in this lifetime, even for exalted souls like yourself; we must deal with them, say a residual karma as it plays out on the path to perfection. It is so brave of you to state openly and clearly how to manage our personal struggles. And those devotees referring to themselves indirectly or sometimes even directly as extraordinary, pure souls without any so-called mundane struggles are lying to themselves and to us, their readers. I applaud you for the excitement and organization and planning you maintain in your personal temple, Viraha Bhavan. It seems perfect in the descriptions from you and you make it sweet beyond compare.
In our out loud reading group, we are hearing about Jaya and Vijaya, the two doorkeepers in Vaikuntha, who are cursed by the four Kumaras. In his purport, Prabhupada gives the inner, confidential meaning of this lila. He says that the inner meaning is that the Lord wants to fight. He has that propensity or else it could not exist in the material world. But who will fight with the Lord in Vaikuntha; everyone there is His devotee. So, to exercise his propensity to fight, the Lord sends down devotees like Jaya and Vijaya into the material world to take births as demons and to fight with Him. He then becomes an avatar and descends and fights with the demons. In the case of Jaya and Vijaya, they had to take three separate births in the material world as demons and fight and be killed by the Lord. It is wonderful how Prabhupada explains the inner meanings of the Bhagavatam verses.
In our group out loud reading, we are hearing about the Varaha, the Lord Boar incarnation, and the demon Hiranyaksha. Lord Boar was lifting the earth out of the Garbhodaka ocean and the demon was challenging Him to a fight. The Boar first did His duty with the earth while He had to bear insults yelled at Him by the demon. The Lord secured the earth in a safe place. He was then pursued by Hiranyaksha, who was calling Him obnoxious names. The people were frightened by Hiranyaksha, who is very powerful. The first duty of Lord Boar was to pacify the devotees who were afraid of Hiranyaksha, who had been harassing them. Hiranyaksha threw his giant mace at Lord Boar, but the Lord stepped aside and it missed Him. Then the demon threw a giant trident, which the Load also dismissed. Next the demon struck the body of Lord Boar, but the Supreme Lord was not affected. The fight escalated, and each of them was bleeding. The smell of blood was making them more and more enraged. The demigods begged the Lord to please not play with the demon but to punish him at once. The Lord then responded by kicking indifferently and hit the demon below his ear. He immediately fell with broken legs, scattered hair, eyes popping out and his ornaments blowing off. Lord Brahma and his party had gathered to watch the fight. They were joyous when the demon was killed. All the demigods rejoiced.
The resident devotees of Viraha Bhavan and visitors, Lalita Kisori, Atindra, Kathi and David all gathered around the Christmas tree and exchanged and opened gifts. Receiving and giving gifts are two items of loving exchange described by Rupa Goswami in his book Upadesamrta. Six new aprons were received by the devotees with the sewn description across the front: “Viraha Bhavan Inmate #108.” The gifts included: warm socks for Baladev, winter saffron t-shirts for me, incense and homemade cosmetics made by Lalita Kishori for Kathi, muck boots for Kathi, Home Depot gift card for Dave, and IKEA gift card for Lalita Kishori and Atindra for furniture at their newly remodeled townhouse. Dave completed his long and excellent work of kitchen cabinets and presented them to the inmates of Viraha Bhavan as a Christmas gift.
The real vyasa-puja of Jesus Christ is to is to dedicate one’s life to service to God and live a sinless life. The devotees in Krsna consciousness are honoring Jesus’s birthday in the proper Vaisnava spirit. Some devotees get together on Christmas Day and honor the birth of a great saintly person in an appropriate way mainly by following his example of preaching love of God. There is a famous quote by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who wrote that when he visits a place of worship of another religion, he appreciates their mode of worship and it makes him appreciate even more his own Vaisnava practices. So the sharing of gifts and prasadam between devotees and performing kirtana together is in the right perspective.
Kathi and David left to spend the day at a Buddhist monastery, where they have friends and have spent quite a bit of time over the years. They plan to be back early in the afternoon today so Baladeva and David can go and get water at the spring, which will be quite dangerous since everything is icy.
Atindra and Lalita Kishori left for the day to go to their home in Massachusetts. They are cleaning it up, removing the snow and ice, getting it warm because tomorrow a real estate agent will be showing it to a couple who seem serious about purchasing, since they have come twice before to look at it.
Muktavandya and Bhaktin Christina from Krishna House in Gainesville came this morning bringing two buckets of lilies and some Christmas bouquets for the Deities. Baladeva fed them prasadam this morning, and they will stay for lunch also and then head back to Boston. Christina is here visiting her family.
The day after Christmas, intended to be a kind of anticlimax, turned out to be a busy day.
Brahma populated the universe at the beginning of creation. The Prajapatis were populating in their own way, and Brahma also created various beings. He was reinstating them from the condition they were in before the dissolution of the last universe. In the beginning he had to create vicious beings like the Yakshas, Rakshashas, ghosts, and hobgoblins. The Rakshashas attacked him, and he went to Lord Vishnu for protection. Then he created Gandharvas, Apsaras, demigods and humans, according to their particular modes of nature.
Brahma, the self-formed living creature, finally evolved great sages as his beloved sons. To each of these sons, he gave a part of his own body which was characterized by deep mediation, mental concentration, supernatural power, austerity, adoration, and renunciation.
In our out-loud reading group we are hearing about the arrangements of marriage of the sage Kardama Muni and Princess Devahuti. Their marriage was a first-class one, arranged by the parents—a religious marriage. Devahuti had also heard of Kardama Muni through Narada Muni, who extolled his wonderful qualities. She became attached to Kardama and gave her heart to him. So Svayambhuva Manu one day went with his wife and his daughter Devahuti on a tour on their chariot. The emperor was inspecting to see if there were any miscreants. But he also went to the cottage of the renounced sage and brought with him his beloved daughter.
He said to the sage Kardama, “I know you are looking for a wife in marriage. Please accept my daughter, who is of the same age and as qualified as you. If you don’t accept her, you will have to ask someone else for a daughter, and they may not be as agreeable as we are. So please accept her.” Kardama Muni was a renounced sage. He is described as looking like an unpolished gem. He wore rags, and his body wasn’t clean. But he had had darsana with the Supreme Lord, so his body wasn’t emaciated. Kardama Muni agreed to accept Devahuti as his wife, and the matter was resolved.
The emperor Svayambhuva Manu gave a large dowry to Kardama Muni so that his daughter would be handed over in an appropriate way, with costly jewelry, furniture, etc. Kardama Muni gladly accepted the offer, but he said he did not want to remain married for his entire life. After giving Devahuti one child, who would be a ray of Visnu, he would give up household life and become a sannyasi.
Kathi and David left this morning after an almost three-week-long visit at Viraha Bhavan. David was taking time working on finishing the kitchen cabinets, which he did to perfection. But Kathi’s car broke down; the battery had to be replaced, and the rear brakes too. She had the car towed to the nearby Toyota dealer, and they kept it for a while.
I don’t think the two of them enjoyed our out-loud reading sessions, especially the one at 1:00 P.M., which lasts an hour and a half. They get up in the middle of it and leave. After all, they are Buddhists, and they can’t relate to the Bhagavatam. But they are good friends. We spent Christmas with them and exchanged presents. The Toyota dealer was delaying in finishing their car, but at the last moment they finally completed their work and charged them a lot of money for it. They left this morning at 6:30 A.M., anticipating a long nine-hour drive all the way to Maine.
I had a long talk with John Endler on Zoom. He started by telling me of his interest in my reading about lectio divina in my book while I read Nectar of Devotion. (Lectio divina is a meditative method of reading used by Christian monks. They chose a small amount of scripture and read it very slowly, almost “chewing,” like chewing cud, on the words, repeating them again and again in a meditative way.)
He was interested in how I used that method or described it while I was reading The Nectar of Devotion. He asked me if I was still interested in that. I told him that was many years ago, and I no longer practice lectio divina. I told him I like the way we read at our out-loud reading sessions, at a moderate pace.
He went on to talk about how he likes to read what I write about taking darsana of Radha-Govinda. He said, “That is a little like lectio divina.” I felt a little embarrassed while he was praising my meditative darsana in a devotional way with Radha-Govinda, and how I reciprocate with Them. I was a little embarrassed because I can’t see Radha-Govinda so well, and I don’t have long periods of meditation on Them. But I didn’t mention any of that.
Finally we connected more when I told him how I was finishing a volume of my Journal, Worshiping with the Pen. I told him at the beginning of the year I’m planning to start a new volume of the Journal, but I’m a little unsure about it. He tried to reassure me, and told me that it would be very interesting to readers. He said I should write about my “inner life,” but I wasn’t sure what that meant to me.
The directions changed color, becoming like musk and kuṁkuma, when the darkness of the clouds mixed with the effulgence of golden body of the Lord as He danced.
Seeing the arrival of the exalted Hari-dāsa, endowed with the greatest qualities, who was like a bee mad for the honey of the Lord’s lotus feet, the Lord became happy.
The merciful Lord tightly embraced Hari-dāsa, a devotee attached to His lotus feet, and had His devotees, by a hint to his glance, offer him an excellent seat.
Hari-dāsa saluted the seat and offered respects to it with his head. With great devotion, accepting the dust from the Lord’s lotus feet, he made a seat on the earth.
The merciful Lord applied sandalwood to his body and placed a garland on his heart. He fed him tasty food of four types and rejoiced.
Dancing to kīrtana in the Lord’s house, Hari-dāsa shone. Seeing Hari-dāsa, who was fond of His lotus feet, Gauracandra became blissful.
The Lord, whose feet are lit by the priceless jewels in the devatās’ crowns, suddenly gave permission for Kamalākṣa (Advaita), who had come with Hari-dāsa, to go home (to Śāntipura).
Śiva, who was known as Kamalākṣa on earth, agreeing to his words, went home, blissful because of the words of the Lord.
The Lord then spoke to Nityānanda, the avadhūta and Lord, controller of his senses, who wanted to go. Following after him, Gaurāṅga said, “O Lord! Take this pure cloth and give great mercy.”
Nityānanda accepted one piece of cloth as an outer garment and thus spread mercy. He gave the rest of the cloth to the devotees, whose lives and wealth were his lotus feet, except for Kamalākṣa (who was not present).
Respecting the cloth with their heads, they left with Nityānanda to their homes. After taking bath in the Gaṅgā, they performed worship according to the rules.
With greatly radiant body the Lord, danced to the kīrtana. Spreading great effulgence as He whirled around like a wheel, with His attractive face and sweet words, He defeated the glory of Ilāvṛta-varṣa.
After dancing, He strongly embraced the devotees and rolled with them on the ground. Spreading joy with His lotus glances, He shone like a lion.
After rolling on the ground for a long time among the devotees, He took Śrīvāsa and disappeared.
Not seeing him, the devotees became greatly afflicted. They searched everywhere for him. Not finding Him anywhere, they were inundated in great sorrow.
Merciful, sweet Gauracandra, understanding the suffering of the devotees, then appeared and sprinkled the nectar of his attractive glance upon them.
On all sides, continually they drunk with their eyes, Gaurāṅga, composed of concentrated bliss, who was looking at them with great compassion.
The moon in an ocean of rasa danced for a long time, to the rasa of sweet kīrtana along with the devotees who took His feet as their only wealth and who became agitated with bliss.
On one evening, the ocean of many pastimes, the ocean of bliss, snatched the devotees’ clothing, and after thorough joking, gave the clothing back to them.
Then the avadhūta Lord, Nityānanda, arrived with great happiness, and, seeing Gaurāṅga shining brightly, sang and danced sweetly.
After the dancing was over, the Lord of the universe ordered his devotees, “Each of you should drink the foot water of Nityānanda.”
Hearing these words, the devotees took Nityānanda’s foot water on their bowed heads. The devotees, who took the Lord’s lotus feet as their life, always followed his orders.
Merciful to all people of the world, Mahāprabhu, gave happiness by his words, his coming to perform pastimes, his sweet glance filled with tender mercy, and his very sweet smile.
Constantly gazing upon the Supreme Lord performing pastimes, the devatās in the sky, along with their wives, overflowing with pleasure, spent their days and nights in joy.
One day a great singer came before the Lord, the ocean of mercy, and sang a song about Śiva in great happiness for the Lord, the abode of mercy.
Hearing the skillful song with clever verses, the Lord became joyful and mounting the shining shoulders of the singer, he danced like Śiva.
With eyes rolling in intoxication, with hairs standing on end, shining attractively, the ocean of mercy mounted the singer’s shoulders and danced like Śiva.
Śrīvāsa, known as Nārada on earth, began to recite verses glorifying Śiva in a sweet voice. Mukunda, the physician, sang verses there with majesty.
Then getting off the shoulders of the singer, the Lord quickly sat on an excellent seat, giving joy to his devotees constantly, as the moon gives joy to the night lotus.
One day after the dancing was finished, one excellent wife of a brāhmaṇa approached the Lord and falling on the ground, took the dust of His lotus feet.
Seeing her do that, He experienced great sorrow, became very disturbed and, quickly leaving, threw Himself in the Gaṅgā.
Strong Nityānanda, best of the avadhūtas, seeing the Lord in this state, became agitated and, with great energy quickly pulled Gaurāṅga from the water using his huge arms.
Hari-dāsa and other followers quickly gathered in great distress. They surrounded his pitiful figure in fear and with choked voice wept.
The merciful Lord then went to Murāri Gupta’s house with the devotees. He then went to a brāhmaṇa’s house and spent the night there.
On another day in the early morning, the Lord crossed the Gaṅgā with the devotees and came to the northern bank. He rested there for a moment, with His heart agitated.
In great fear the devotees constantly tried to calm Him in a gentle way. Joyfully they brought Him to a house. He was under the control of the mood of the devotees.
Swamiji was seventy or eighty years old. We were all young men, so why were we attracted to this “old man”? (Swamiji used to say, “I’m an old man, I may die at any moment.” And, “I am a poor foreigner. Why are they after me?”)
He had the attractive features of a sage. The way he sat, the shape of his head, the gestures of his hands. He was from the East, like Gautama Buddha. He sat on the floor or on the ground, and whatever furniture he had was at a low center of gravity, no chairs. The aura and look in his eyes was from another world. You can’t describe it, his shining eyes. His eyes signaled, “You can look in my eyes but you will not be able to understand my love of Krsna, but that’s what’s there.” He was childlike also, very sweet but very strong. You couldn’t come before him like a rogue and a rascal and still approach him. You had to accept that he was an elderly person, a guru, and you must be respectful to him, and then things could happen. Then you could begin to perceive his actual beauty; he would relax and allow himself to be taken care of by you and to exchange with you.
Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental beauty transcended his old age. The way he smiled is not a worldly thing. So young men and young women liked to come to hear the wisdom. It wasn’t just the wisdom, it was his way of moving, his graceful movements, his clothes, the things on his desk. It was a treat to be there in his presence and to watch everything, with respect and friendliness and wanting to serve.
Since all the Vedas praise the pure devotee and inform us of the supreme value of associating with him, what is the need for me to recall my subjective experiences? Even if my memories of Srila Prabhupada give me personal comfort, how do they help others? The answer is that our faith is enhanced when we personally experience what the sastra declares. Reliable personal witnesses also help to confirm that a particular spiritual master actually fulfills the qualities which the sastra ascribes to great souls.
“There is no doubt about one’s becoming freed from all reactions to sinful activities after visiting a devotee or touching his lotus feet or giving him a sitting place. Even by remembering the activities of such a Vaisnava one becomes purified, along with one’s whole family. And what then can be said of rendering direct service to Him?”
If a disciple’s personal remembrances also help readers to remember Prabhupada, and if they inspire them to serve him, then they are in line with the sastras. But my personal experience of Srila Prabhupada will be limited in many ways. For example, the Srimad-Bhagavatam states that one’s sinful reactions are taken away by seeing the pure devotee. But I may not be aware how my karma has been removed. Also, as long as there are impurities in my heart, I will not be able to see the pure spiritual form of the Vaisnava. Even without my memories of Prabhupada, the sastric verses praise Prabhupada and point to his writings and activities. Sensitive seekers, even if they come many years after the disappearance of Prabhupada, will recognize Srila Prabhupada in the sastras and they themselves will become testimonies of his ongoing ability to rescue souls from maya.
When personal experience of Srila Prabhupada concurs with the eternal scriptures, then we feel complete confirmation. A good example is the Caitanya-caritamrta verse, “The fundamental religious system in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. Unless empowered by Krsna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement.” (Cc. Antya 7.11) It is now historically verifiable that Srila Prabhupada spread the chanting of Hare Krsna all over the world, and so this sastric statement now reads as prophecy.
The presence of Prabhupada in separation is a mystical topic. He is not there in his physical form, and yet you claim that in some way he is there. What are you saying? Are you communing with spirits? Is it something weird?
No, it’s not weird. Prabhupada’s presence is very real and personal, and very tangible. In one sense, it simply means to follow the guru’s instructions. But his presence is also something inconceivable to the material senses and mind.
I do not doubt that Prabhupada can be present before me, but I have some fear of coming into his presence—and I should remove that fear. My fear is that he will reprimand me and tell me to stop what I am doing; or I fear that he will not understand me. I am putting so much energy into my work and sometimes coming up with some “discoveries.” But what if Prabhupada dismissed all that I do as nonsense? That would be hard to take.
Although I have some hesitation, I am trying to listen to what Prabhupada is telling me to do. One way to accomplish this is by prayerful reading, when I speak my mind and then read from Prabhupada’s purport and listen to what he is saying. I try to apply it to my life. Aside from reading his books, I also desire his presence in my heart. As I am alive and talking, so Prabhupada is alive and can hear me. He can communicate to me. This should be possible for all of Prabhupada’s disciples who are immersed in his teachings. They know his way of thinking and speaking from his purports, conversations, and lectures; so why should it be impossible for them to meditate on Prabhupada, desire his presence, and know his will?
I should assume with more confidence that Prabhupada is my friend and that he is quite capable of understanding my mind. If I make my position clear to him, he will understand. And he will accept me. I am a grown up son now, at least in terms of years, although spiritually I am still a baby. I am exerting my free will more than when I was a youngster. And that I must do. It is part of my surrender, to give my whole life and not just wait for Prabhupada to direct me at each moment.
Prabhupada is also present in the association of his devotees.
My Prabhupada meditation has been disturbed today by reading the Vyasa-puja book that just came out. It almost always has that effect on me. I become very envious and fault-finding as I read my Godbrothers’ pieces. Partly my reaction comes because some of the writers use the Vyasa-puja homage as an opportunity to criticize other devotees and to point out that “I am doing the best service.”
I am afraid that my Prabhupada meditation is perhaps another grand attempt in that genre, to assert that I am the best disciple. We all have this tendency, even when we draw attention to ourselves as “the most fallen.”
Simply to be an individual in the company of many other individuals is bound to bring about strife. Others will look at what we have written and find fault with us. They will measure us in comparison to our Godbrothers. The psychologists speak of sibling rivalry, and so there is also a Godbrother rivalry. What can be done? It is like a storm, and you have to weather it.
One devotee wrote in his Vyasa-puja homage that his memories of Prabhupada are definitely fading. I thought, “Well that’s not inevitable.” But to preserve them you have to take it as an important service to recapture the memories. Another devotee wrote, “I do remember the essential instruction Prabhupada gave me, to print his books.” That is impressive, and it is certainly correct for a disciple to remember the essential instructions that his guru gave him. He builds his life by following that order, rather than remembering many of the details. But my contention is that it is also valid to dedicate yourself to remembrance of the details.
One of the devotees speaking his homage today said, “I have received some jewels of Prabhupada’s personal association, but I have not taken care of them very well. I never wrote them down.” I thought of saying to him, “O my Godbrother, although you may not have taken care of these precious jewels, they are still within you, and you can take care of them now. It is not too late.”
It is reassuring to take stock of the fact that we follow Prabhupada in almost everything we do. Often we feel bereft of love for Prabhupada, and we think that we are distant from him. However, if you take inventory, you will see that you are always doing what he wanted you to do.
I do not wear sannyasi clothes because it is my destiny to be a Vaisnava monk. I do it because he introduced it. When I think like this, it gives me assurance that I am completely immersed in Prabhupada consciousness. Even me, a laggard who does not fulfill frontline duties, who fails in many ways to cooperate with devotees—even I am following Prabhupada in general and in the particulars with devotion.
Here are more examples of things we do as Prabhupada taught us. You use a tongue scraper the way he does. You sit on a toilet crouched with the soles of the feet on the seat like an Oriental, not the way Westerners do. You eat only food that is offered to Krsna. In order to offer the food, you say prayers to Srila Prabhupada three times and ask him to accept it with devotion, so that the food can be offered to the Deity. You read the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Whatever you do, you are always thinking, “How is this service to Prabhupada?” If it is something he did not explicitly teach, how can it be accepted as an innovative form within the mainstream of Prabhupada teachings? If there is anything we do that is not given by him, we must deliberate whether it is acceptable. By taking inventory of our actions, we want to conclude that we are doing everything for him.
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet.
I have been chanting for decades. It is impossible for me to analyze where I am at in my progressive attempts to become Krsna conscious. Sometimes I think I have made no progress at all; other times I think I was making more progress in the past, but now I have fallen back. Sometimes I just feel stagnant. But I know that despite all these feelings, I am rightly situated. Even though I am not chanting suddha-nama, the pure name, I am still rightly situated. I know that chanting always brings deep benefit. I must have this faith. Haridasa Thakura affirms that even shallow chanting produces liberation.
So I feel good about my chanting. I know that it is a very deep and essential part of my surrender to you. Still, I am frustrated that I cannot chant Hare Krsna and experience the promised taste of the holy name. I am not chanting in pure devotion.
Prabhupda, by writing this letter to you, I put my dilemma before you for your deliberation. Please speak to me in a personal way and tell me what you think. Please know that I am not trying to be humble when I say my chanting is not good, I am not looking for flattery. I don’t chant with attention. Sometimes I wish you had given us more instruction and training in our japa-meditation. How do we control the thoughts that come into the mind? My intention is to be attentive, but then my mind takes over. Whenever you were asked about this, you always gave the basic instruction to “just hear.” The chanting itself will control the mind, you said. Still, I am asking you again. How can I help myself be more attentive in chanting?
I know you will not send me a letter in reply to this. Please speak to me through whatever agencies you wish to use. I will be listening for you with all my heart. I need your instruction to give strength and inspiration to my vow to chant. I want to make significant improvement. I can keep telling myself forever that chanting is a gradual process; I can keep being lax. But I really want to be able to fall at the feet of the holy name and pray, “O Lord, O Energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service.” I want to be engaged in the service of chanting.
All glories to that 1966 kirtana which is still going on and is available anytime. I think that those kirtanas were very special because of the degree of reciprocation and attention and focus. Back and forward he chants and we hear, we chant and he hears. The holy name is merciful. Pay attention and hear. It is a transcendental sound vibration. Try it, there is no tax.
Swami pounds the drum. He sings in almost relentless delivery, again and again giving the mantra as if he could go on forever, except the time and place don’t allow. We sing back to him. He is patient and convinced. “Just hear.” He knows we will take to it if we can only hear it. He has no doubt. The heart of everything is right there even now, even in the beginning, even in 1966—the books, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, India, the sacred Yamuna, Radha-Krsna Deities, Sanskrit … Everything is here, present in the sound vibration of the holy name and in his own presence.
Remembering early times in New York is nice because it gives us an idea of what Krsna consciousness always is and what it should be today—the excitement and ecstasy to get together and chant. When the rhythm starts to build, the many karatalas sound like waves. It’s a crashing surf of happy emotions.
It was a sign of Swamiji’s genius to bring together simple instruments that everyone could play. Just as in a kindergarten music class, not a single instrument requires one to be a musician—there are blocks, triangles, cymbals, a drum, clackers—so it was Swamiji’s genius to bring together all those instruments and hand them out to the children to play. The only instruction was one-two-three, one-two-three.
I woke up with a stomachache at 10:30 PM. I took an antacid and went back to sleep. I got up at 2:00 AM and began chanting.
Narayana-kavaca came up and began talking about my chanting. He said he was reading my old book Dear Sky, where I repeatedly said that I was chanting just out of determination and that I did not have a higher taste. He said that nobody could chant for 40 years just out of sacrifice. I told him I do have a taste, but I also struggle. He said that maybe my taste and personal reciprocation with Krsna is a private thing. I think it is private. I think it‘s private even to me, and I‘m not always aware of my taste in chanting. I remember one of my disciples once wrote to me to express annoyance with me for always talking about struggling with chanting. That disciple wanted me to write in my books that I was chanting at the raganuga level. But I have to be real. That‘s more important than making higher claims. Prabhupada himself says, “These boys and girls would not continue chanting Hare Krsna unless they had a taste.” So it‘s true. He used to say that we couldn‘t chant the word “John” over and over and over, but we can chant Hare Krsna twenty-four hours a day. I chant Hare Krsna every morning with taste. But I lament that it‘s not the topmost. I admit it. I don‘t experience bodily symptoms of ecstasy, I don‘t see the whole panorama of Krsna‘s name, fame, activities, and qualities when I chant. Sometimes my chanting is mechanical. I think the whole question of taste is something that is private and that I can‘t discuss because I‘m not so much aware of it myself. Well, do you either taste or not? Yes, you taste, but you want to taste more, more and more. And you admit your chanting is flawed. O Krsna, I know that I am personally reciprocating with You in japa, but You are withholding from me until I improve.
Prabhupada more than held his own
in the private office of Professor Kotovsky.
But soon it was over, and he was taken back
in a government car to his cramped room,
with no further prospects.
But then to his door
came Shyamasundar with two young men,
an Indian and a Russian.
The Russian youth was interested,
and Prabhupada within a couple of hours
told him everything:
the difference between body and soul;
the soul’s eternal relation with Krishna.
He taught him how to practice spiritual life,
even in a place like Moscow.
There could be a reading room,
or if not allowed, one could chant
very softly in his home.
Prabhupada led a soft kirtan
within that hotel room,
while Ivan and Narayan sat at his feet.
Shyamasundar also talked with Ivan
and found him exceptionally keen
to practice bhakti-yoga and follow Prabhupada.
On a second visit Prabhupada taught him
the art of making chapatis, rice, and dahl,
for offering the Lord prasadam.
Two days went quickly by,
and it was time to leave.
But he had planted the seed.
Ivan was a budding bhakta.
In like a needle …
In Vrindavan he would take a walk every morning on Chhatikara Road (now Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg) and walk in the direction toward New Delhi. He would be accompanied by 10 to 20 devotees, and he would speak philosophy freely. When he returned to the temple, he would sit on the vyasasana and receive guru-puja and then give a morning Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture. The kirtana hall is an open space, and it gets cold in the winter. He would mostly stay indoors for the rest of the day. He would talk with devotees and give them service instructions. He would push Surabhi to get the temple construction done faster. Surabhi would explain about a shortage of cement or some other reason for the delay, but Prabhupada would stay on his case. When the temple was finished he said, “Everyone praises Surabhi for such a nice job he has done but I just criticize. Because that is my position, as spiritual master.” Once when he arrived at New Delhi airport he got into the car with Guru Dasa and the first words he uttered were “see-meant.” it was hard getting enough cement in India and Prabhupada wanted as much as he could get as soon as he could get it.
In Bhuvaneshwar in January 1977 he stayed in a small tent-cottage which had no full wall. The walls didn’t go up to the ceiling, but there was a small space and connected to this room was another shack where his secretary stayed. One night we saw a big rat walking on the beam between the two shacks. In the early morning we heard Prabhupada dictating the beginning of the Tenth Canto. He began with a short summary of all the chapters in the Tenth Canto. It was a thrill to be witnessing the historical beginning of the Tenth Canto. On the walk we told him we had heard him beginning the Tenth Canto. “Oh,” he said with surprise, “you heard me?” Yes, Prabhupada, yes we heard you, and you mentioned that Krishna was dancing with the gopis, but He left the rasa dance to seek Radharani.”
All-night flight westward. After the plane landed in an obscure mid-east touchdown called Doha, we then flew on to London, cabin lights out, passengers sleeping. I noticed the brightness of the full moon. I realized that this was the full moon of Lord Caitanya’s appearance day and regretted that I was going to spend Gaura-Purnima in a London hotel. After talking it over with my secretary, I decided to disregard the cautious health plan, and upon arriving in London we booked a flight to Belfast. Thus we were assured of being in the company of devotees and Sri Sri Nitai-Sacinandana on Gaura-Purnima day.
Everything seems somewhat unreal due to time zone changes, cultural changes-from sunny, mild India to cloudy, windy England where they have butter on the bread and cream on the apple pie and where they are experiencing the worst flu epidemic of the century. A large box of mail was waiting for me. The incoming mail sets my head spinning. I’m back in the West. I sit bewildered by the mail, by the unreal, by the jet lag. It seems as if anything can happen. Concurrent with these thoughts, however, is the prayer, “Please let me be a devotee.”
In 1972, when Srila Prabhupada was residing at the home of Kartikeya Mahadevia in Bombay, an unusual incident occurred one morning. Prabhupada’s secretary, Syamasundara dasa, and servant, Srutakirti dasa, had taken Prabhupada to Chowpatti Beach for his morning walk. Syamasundara had driven them in Mr. Mahadevia’s car, one of those black Ambassadors popular throughout India. When they were ready to return, Syamasundara found that he couldn’t start the car engine. He fitted the key into the ignition, but the key wouldn’t turn. Syamasundara tried jamming, cursing, and forcing the key until he became completely frustrated.
“It’s not going to work, Srila Prabhupada,” he said. “I’ll go get a taxi.” He dashed out of the car, leaving Srila Prabhupada chanting japa in the back seat with Srutakirti. After a few minutes, two Indian gentlemen in suits and ties approached the car, opened the front door, and got in. Srutakirti became alarmed, but Srila Prabhupada began a friendly talk with them in Hindi. When the man put his key in the ignition, started the car, and drove off, Srutakirti finally understood what had happened. Syamasundara had led Srila Prabhupada to the wrong car! When the real owners of the black Ambassador heard from Srila Prabhupada his explanation, they were honored and insisted driving Prabhupada back to Mr. Mahadevia’s.
Srutakirti tried apologizing for what had happened, but one of the men turned and replied, “Oh, no, this is very nice opportunity for us to do some seva for Swamiji.”
Srila Prabhupada then began to explain the basis of Krsna consciousness and his worldwide mission, and the men listened attentively.
When they arrived at Mr. Mahadevia’s building, Srila Prabhupada invited the men up to take some prasadam.
“No, we have to go to the office, but thank you very much, Swamiji.”
“Yes, thank you, Swamiji. Hare Krsna!”
After the pleasant incident, Srila Prabhupada remarked to his servant, “This is the difference between India and America. In America if we had gotten into someone’s car, we would have been in great difficulty.”
I have a picture of Radha-Damodar on my desk. It is up to Him whether I can do anything at all, whether I can even blink or breathe, whether I can think. Sometimes I imagine, “If I can write things down now, then later when my brain fails, this will remain.” But things may not turn out as I expect. And what is it that remains? Who will judge it? What good will it do me when my body is burned and my soul has gone on? Prabhupada often pointed out the absurdity of people honoring or mourning a great man after the soul had entered a dog’s body.
Be a writer, but better to be in full submission to my guru’s order and take a better next life. Neither can that goal be pursued with a mood of selfish salvation. Krsna knows what is real devotion and what is counterfeit. No one can cheat Him. No one can impress Him with their razzle-dazzle. He sifts through and sees what they actually give, what they withhold, what their essential nature is made of. And although he kindly sees the good, He is always working for our rectification.
Srila Prabhupada analyzes that all interactions, not only among civilized humans, but among birds and beasts, can be boiled down to a series of questions and answers. In the lower forms of life, the questions are mostly, “Where is food? Where is sex? How can I defend myself?” Among humans, these questions are prominent along with many speculative inquiries about religion, politics, money-making, sense gratification, and even liberation. “Although they go on making such questions and answers for their whole lives, they are not at all satisfied. Satisfaction of the soul can only be obtained by questions and answers on the subject of Krsna.”
It’s unfortunate that people are consumed by questions and answers, but not Krsna. Therefore, their questions and answers provide only a diversion. One could call it an effective trick by maya to keep the fools and rascals in bondage. Let them go on perpetually inquiring and supplying answers and thus maintain their own stupidity and illusion. If we want to become free from it, however, we have to feel dissatisfaction with mundane life and cry sincerely to know God – or at least to know how to become free from the suffering caused by nonsense questions and answers.
Person’s ripe for devotional service sometimes ask themselves, “There must be something more to life than this, what I see everyone doing and inquiring into. What is it that’s beyond this?” This line of reasoning is a crude version of the Vedanta’s athato brahma jijnasa: “Now that we have exhausted our inquiry into sense gratification and market prices, why are we still unhappy? Let’s inquire into the Absolute Truth.”
We’re fortunate when we inquire and find answers within the context of the Bhagavatam. As Suta states, Srimad-Bhagavatam is meant for inquiry about Krsna, which alone brings satisfaction and welfare to the world and the self. Prabhupada: “One should learn the Srimad-Bhagavatam and make an all-around solution to all problems pertaining to social, political or religious matters. Srimad-Bhagavatam and Krsna are the sum total of all things.”
People think they’re being confined if we ask them to inquire only about Lord Krsna and to take their answers only from the Vedic literature. They don’t know that knowledge of Krsna consciousness has jurisdiction over all matters, even over worldly affairs. The Vedas originally taught all material as well as spiritual knowledge.
I pray to one day reach You. I know my spiritual master was very dear to You because he had all the symptoms. He was utterly convinced that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He worshipped You with all his heart. He always spoke of You and convinced others to accept You as the Supreme Person. He did this in all his speech and in the books he wrote. He was completely Krsna centered. When someone become his disciple, he directed that person to render You personal service. He had a mission to spread Krsna consciousness as far as possible, and if a disciple wanted to please Srila Prabhupada, he took up responsibility in his spiritual master’s mission. The disciple could be a leader in one of the many temples or a book distributor or a pujari or a worker on his books or a traveling preacher. He could be a householder maintaining his family with the job and making donations to the movement. At least he had to be chanting his 16 rounds daily and following the rules and regulations of initiation vows. By following the orders of the spiritual master, one felt assured that he or she was pleasing You.
I still feel that I am following Srila Prabhupada by living as a sannyasi and publishing my daily journal on the Internet. I also publish books, write letters to correspondents, and occasionally visit temples. On his order, I am directly serving You by chanting Your holy names every day and reading Your Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prabhupada has taught us to always render service to You and aspire to return back home, back to Godhead, to join You in Your eternal, spiritual pastimes.
I’m asking You today to teach me tolerance. Prabhupada tolerated so many inconveniences in his life in order to preach Krsna consciousness. he tolerated an uncooperative family situation as a householder, he tolerated the ups and downs or working as a businessman, the austerities of living on his own as an unsupported sannyasi trying to publish books. He tolerated many difficulties in trying to get through the government bureaucracy in order to get permission to leave India to come to America, and he tolerated heart attacks on board a several week sea voyage to reach America. Throughout his career in developing ISKCON, he tolerated many difficulties managing the lives of many immature devotees and trying to build temples in India, especially in Mumbai. In 1968, when I was a grhastha, my wife went to Prabhupada and complained that I restricted her too much in her activities. He replied to her, “We have to tolerate, or how can we live?” So my spiritual master was a great model of tolerance, and I must try to follow him.
Now as old age approaches, I find I have to tolerate the embrace of jara in the form of bodily inconveniences. Prabhupada also tolerated these without complaint and without stopping his vigorous missionary activities.
So please teach me to be tolerant, and let me not be a burden to others with intolerable demands. Teach me to tolerate the larger disturbances as they come to my life and go on serving guru and Krsna with good humor and charity.
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.