There was an outstanding verse and purport in our out loud reading today from Canto 4, chapter 8, “Dhruva Maharaja Leaves Home for the Forest,” text 54. In the verse Narada instructs the boy that he should act “exactly according to the rules and regulations prescribed by authorities. But this should be done in consideration of place, time, and attendant conveniences and inconveniences.”
In his purport, Prabhupada writes brilliantly and strong about the changes he makes in the rules as he conducts a worldwide movement in ISKCON. I would like to briefly paraphrase his purport.
He writes, “Sometimes our Indian friends, puffed up with concocted notions, criticize, this has not been done, that has not been done. But they forget this instruction of Narada Muni to one of the greatest Vaishnavas, Dhruva Maharaja, what is convenient in India may not be convenient in the Western countries. Those who are not actually in the line of acharyas, or who personally have no knowledge of how to act in the role of acharya, unnecessarily criticize the activities of the ISKCON movement in countries outside of India. The fact is that such critics cannot do anything personally to spread Krsna consciousness. If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to sastra.”
Prabhupada goes on to say, “There is no bar to propagating the Krsna consciousness movement even among people who are born in candala, mleccha or yavana families.” He refers to a statement in Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s book Hari-bhakti-vilasa, where he says “that as bell metal can turn to gold when mixed with mercury in a chemical process, so, by the bona fide diksa, or initiation method, anyone can become a Vaisnava.”
Muktavandya came today and brought lots of flowers which we use mainly on the big altar downstairs, garlands for Gaura Nitai, and vases. Mukta gets so many flowers because he knows people from being in the flower business for over thirty years. He had a flower stand in Boston and Harrisburg, so he knows the people at the wholesale warehouse, and they like him, because he’ll take whatever they want to give him and not complain. The flowers that he gets are a week old and they are perfect for us because we change them out every day. They are not in perfect condition for the florists who sell them at exaggerated prices. He also goes to Hartford, Connecticut with many, many flowers, some for the Hartford temple but mostly for Radha Govinda in Brooklyn. The devotees come up from Brooklyn and meet him in Hartford and take the flowers. So it saves them thousands of dollars on flowers. He gets prime flowers, roses, lilies, and different exotic flowers.
Muktavandya also does temple services in Boston, cooking for the devotees and some deity worship, even though he’s had two heart attacks. He’s also the senior counselor for the devotees in the temple. He’s been around for so long everyone trusts him. He sometimes gets in trouble with the temple presidents because he’s always on the side of the “little devotees.” He’s a good example of someone who will “die with his boots on,” doing active physical service beyond what he should be doing in his medical condition.
I haven’t been able to have a clear darshan of Radha Govinda for a long time. My regular eyeglasses don’t give me a clear view of the deities who are four feet away from my chair. Baladeva made a plan using a stick and a life size picture of Radha Govinda. He cut the stick to the length from my eyes when sitting in a comfortable sitting position on my chair to where the deities are. Then he stuck the picture of Radha Govinda to the end of the stick. We went to the Berkshire Vision Center and they made us a pair of “television” glasses used for people who can’t focus at the distance their TV is at from where they sit. We went into the center and tried on the new glasses and the woman adjusted the focus to the distance as measured by the stick. She adjusted them until the vision was clear. They looked all right at the Berkshire Vision Center, but when we got home we had trouble readjusting the glasses to the chair. But after moving the altar and adjusting the glasses, things gradually seem to come out all right. I’m still reserving judgment until I can sit comfortably and focus on the deities, Radha Govinda.
We are in the process of executing contracts between GN Press and BBT international and the reader of the audio book. At the same time, we are continuing our fundraising project to pay for it. Everyone has been generous, but we still need to continue to actually reach the final goal.
We had an annual visit from our insurance carrier through Zoom. He was a nurse, and his name was Bobby. He was a black man with a big smile. He talked to me first for 15 minutes and then he talked with Baladeva for an hour. I had been through this before and it was easy. He asked me questions like, what was my date of birth, what was the address of the house I lived in. He asked me to spell the word world, but I misspelled it. He asked me to spell it backwards, but I said I couldn’t. He asked me what phone number would I dial in the case of an emergency? And I said 911. He asked me what was the highest grade of school I went to? I said I had a BA from Brooklyn College. He laughed and said “you were a city kid.” He wanted to see if I could walk. At first I said I couldn’t except using a carrier. But then Baladev encouraged me to walk so he could see me on Zoom. I stood up and walked to the bathroom, pushing my carrier. When I got to the bathroom, I turned around with the walker walking slowly and made my way back to the chair so he could see it. He asked me to pronounce three words, which he first said. The words were dog, table and apple. I had been asked these exact same words in a previous visit from those at Fidelis. When he talked to Baladeva, Baladeva told him we were Hare Krsna monks. Bobby exclaimed, “that’s really cool!” because he had seen devotees in the city. There is some paperwork to sign on the computer, and that’s it till next year.
In our out loud reading of the Bhagavatam, we are coming to the end of the narration about Dhruva Maharaja. After six months of severe austerity, Dhruva gets the darshan of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Dhruva had come to the forest to perform austerities in order to get a kingdom greater than Lord Brahma’s. Although he was five years old and this was a childish desire, the Lord gave him his boons (Dhruva also wanted revenge against his stepmother Suruci, who had forbidden him from trying to sit on lap of his father, Uttanapada). But Dhruva felt morose even at the darshan of the Lord. The reason he felt like this was that despite the most wonderful happening of getting to see the Lord face to face, he had asked for material things. But the Lord was so kind to him that he granted him his heart’s desire and awarded him residence in the immortal pole star planet called Dhruvaloka. That planet had never been ruled by anyone else before.
He is my doctor who was treating me for Parkinson’s disease. He is giving me medicine. Today we had to wait an hour before we saw him. Our visit with him lasted only 15 minutes. He heard that there was no improvement in my legs, although I told him there was an improvement in my handwriting. He examined my hand and said I had a tremor. When I said my handwriting was improving, he said, “that’s what we want to hear, something tangible.” So he increased our dosage of the last medicine he prescribed and sent us on our way. But in the midst of his short talk with us, he told us that he thought of us recently because he’s reading a book, which he likes very much. He described it, but Baladeva and I couldn’t follow him; it was over our head. It was something about consciousness and science. He spoke of thousands of years ago, before men had developed language … something about the left brain being guided by spiritual beings. I remarked to him “I’m a writer and I’m interested in language.” Later I thought my remark was superficial period. I’m certainly not interested in language the way he is or certainly don’t believe that only 3000 years ago was when language first came into existence. He is a hardcore scientist and an atheist, but he loves our cookies and he asked for them. I was very uncomfortable sitting in my wheelchair after we left his office and drove home. A headache came on for me. I took medicine and soon felt better.
Our appointment with the doctor was at 12:45pm, so we had to cancel the one o’clock out loud reading with the group on Zoom. Kamesi Dasi (Gopal Campu’s fiancée) made us empanadas, which are a Colombian version of samosa. They have a corn crust and cheese filling and they are very good when they are fresh, hot and served with guacamole. Anuradha Dasi made tomato soup and steamed broccoli with sour cream sauce. The day was disrupted with so much time taken up at the doctor’s office, but I can’t complain. I am still in good health, considering my age. I am creative and my intelligence is not dull, so I should count my blessings from Krsna.
Gopal Campu and his fiancée, Kamesi, left today after serving here for two weeks. He is a disciple of Vaisesika Prabhu. He was very generous to serve me and Baladeva at Viraha Bhavan. He is a very mellow fellow. His fiancée is from Colombia, and she is waiting to get a green card while living at the Krishna House in Gainesville, the temple which is sponsoring her as a religious worker. Sankarsana dasa from Potomac came today. Gopal Campu had half a day to train him up in his duties. Although he has been here before there are many new things to do. Sankarsana likes to come here once a year and serve for a couple of weeks, which is a nice thing for a disciple to do to keep their relationship fresh with their guru. He is fond of preparing pizza, which he learned how to do from Gunagrahi Maharaja in the past, when they were serving together with Krishna Fest.
As I have reported, my handwriting has improved in recent weeks. I have Parkinson’s disease and my handwriting had degraded to the point where it was pretty much illegible, but now I can read my handwriting and then I can dictate it into the Dictaphone. Writing teachers recommend that you write with a fast pen and that ballpoint pens are too slow. I have been writing with Baladeva’s favorite pen, a Pilot V-207 but it is too slow. So, I asked him to get a fountain pen, which the teachers say is the fastest pen, although it leaks sometimes. I tried writing with a Waterman fountain pen from France, but it had a big defect. It leaked through three pages on my legal pad, so I had to discard it and go back to Baladeva’s pen. Anuradha, at Viraha Bhavan, discovered that the number one rollerball pen was a Paper Mate InkJoy. I’ve tried it out, and it is superior to the Pilot pen, so I’ll be able to go faster and that’s good news.
It’s hard to get people to stay here and help through the winter. So far we’ve been lucky. It hasn’t gotten extremely cold, and there’s not been much snow. Krsna Dasi, who said she was going to go to Trinidad in January, has stayed on. Bu she thinks she may go for some place warm in February. She might go to Houston, where her children are, for a week or so to warm up her bones. Anuradha has been here for three months, but she has to leave February 1st as her visa expires. She’s not sure when she can come back, because her permanent religious worker visa hasn’t arrived yet. Sankarsana is here for two weeks, and then Maitreya from Alachua has promised to stay here for the month of February, which is a great help. Even though Maitreya is residing and working in Florida, he doesn’t seem to mind the New York State cold. So we’re counting our days and waiting to get through and not expecting any of our fair weather friends to show up.
In our out loud reading, we heard about the reign of King Vena, who was a terribly cruel ruler. His father, Anga, was a saintly king and his mother was the daughter of death personified. He received his maternal bad qualities. He was so fearful that he used to kill playmates of his own age. The brahmanas finally couldn’t tolerate his misbehavior, and they cursed him with high sounding words, and he died. But his mother preserved the body in oils and with mantras because she was so attached. But with the death of Vena there was no king, and the thieves and rogues were enlivened and began to terrorize the citizens. The citizens themselves were becoming irreligious. Although the Sages don’t usually get involved in politics, for the sake of the citizens sometimes they step in. The Sages took Vena’s body and churned the thighs because the body contained the good and strong seminal line of Dhruva Maharaja. When they churned the thighs, out came a short black boy. He contained all the sinful qualities of Vena. He was sent to the forest and not allowed to live in the cities. By nature, he was a thief. The sages then churned the arms of the dead body and out came a man and women who were plenary expansions of Vishnu and Laksmi. Their names were Prthu and Arci. The symptoms of Prthu being an incarnation was discovered by Lord Brahma, who studied the marks on his feet and hands. Thus they ascertained that he was an authentic saktyavesa avatara. The reciters began to praise his glories, but Prthu Maharaj asked them to stop. He said, “The great virtues that they praised him for had not yet been manifested in him, and so they shouldn’t praise him until they came into being.” The professional reciters continued praising him, and eventually all the wonderful qualities appeared in Prthu’s life.
Our kitchen table was crowded with guests today at lunchtime. Baladeva was away on several errands, but there was Krsna Dasi, Muktavandya, who brought flowers and two friends from Boston. One was Varun who is a regular participant in our out loud reading group. Now he was here in person, and he took a turn reading from Bhagavatam. Also a new visitor was the head pujari of the Boston temple. He has an Indian body, and he has a name that was unpronounceable to me, even after several attempts. He was friendly and he wanted to pose in a picture with me after lunch. Baladeva was away but he moved quickly; he picked up milk, small flowers for Radha Govinda and the new prescription from the neurologist which doubled the old strength. We hope it will increase the good results we had from the old one. Anuradha cooked a nice lunch of khichri, okra and fresh bread. So everyone joined the “clean plate club.” On the out loud reading, Guru das was listening, and I spoke to him a few words. He’s in the rehabilitation center and is learning how to walk more and stand up for himself in his present condition.
I was listening to a Prabhupada lecture from 1966 and taking random notes, when the repairman for the stair chair arrived. I had to turn off the lecture because he was working near my room, where the staircase is, and he had a loud voice. He again fixed the staircase chair, which has been broken for over three months. He repeatedly apologized and was embarrassed that it took them three months to come out here and fix it despite our repeated phone calls. After fixing our machine in ten minutes, he went to do the paperwork, but his computer wasn’t working due to a system failure. So again, he was embarrassed and had to apologize. The devotees were able to move him away from the staircase and close the door so I wouldn’t hear him upstairs. Finally, after some time, the devotees helped me to restart the lecture. But it was a distraction and a disruption and hard to get back into the mood. When the repairman left, he gladly accepted some of Baladeva’s cookies.
I received three books in the mail about “spiritual journaling.” I’m keeping a journal, and I’ll look at these books to see if they help me with ideas for my own. The back cover of one book, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through attentive writing, says this on the back cover, “Whether you are a longtime journal keeper or someone who has never kept a journal at all, this book will help you go below the surface of your life with God.”
As a writer of different genres, I often find it helpful to look at other authors in the same field to get ideas and sparks for going ahead on my own.
I started off the year with the concept of a “Prabhupada revival.” Each day I’m listening to a lecture of his, and I’m listening and watching his disciples giving their remembrances of him. Today I watched Yamuna dasi talk about her cooking experiences with Prabhupada. This included a memory of myself when I was Prabhupada’s servant in 1974. Yamuna dasi was feeling low in consciousness, and she wasn’t cooking for Prabhupada. At that time, I was his traveling servant, and I was cooking for him. On the last day before he left Vrindavan, he called for Yamuna and asked her to cook for him. He told her to go to me and find out how to make chapatis. She must have been a little surprised that Prabhupada asked her to learn from me, since she is an expert cook and certainly knows how to make excellent chapatis. As for me, I had a problem getting my chapatis to puff up into nice balls. Little pimples would appear on my chapatis and then I would turn them over, but they wouldn’t puff up like footballs. So, she came to me, and I showed her what I was doing. Prabhupada asking her to see my cooking chapatis, was a joke at her expense and my expense too. I’m feeling these sessions, listening to his lectures, and watching the interviews with his disciples, to be very enlivening in addition to our two and half hours of out loud reading from his books, with our group. It seems to make the books come alive even more.
On his way to the post office, Baladeva saw our neighbor Jody with another fellow grinding down stumps with a big machine. Baladev stopped and asked if they could come and do a stump of ours which is rotted and covered with lichen and falling apart. They agreed to come over after a while and showed up and did the job. And now our lawn is clear of an eye sore.
Baladeva’s back has been hurting from a worn-out mattress. So, on Gopal Campu’s advice, he got a Japanese tatami mat. They are very simple, but they are very firm, made of out of natural ingredients. The outside is rush, and the inside cover is hemp and soft cotton, and the filling is sewn rice straw. So Baladeva will try it for a few nights, and if it doesn’t work, Anuradha dasi said she will gladly accept it since that is what she uses at Oxford.
Christmas is finally over for another year. The lights came down off the tree, the wreath on the outside door went into the garbage and the blinking lights around the outside door were put away for the year. Songwriter, Ekendra Das, has a song, “Christmas is not on the Vaisnava calendar.”
For a long time, I have not been able to get a clear vision of Radha Govinda for darshan. My seat is four feet away from Them, but I can’t make out their delicate features. Baladeva had an idea to put a life size picture of Radha Govinda on a stick that was the exact distance that was the exact distance from my eyes looking at Them. Then went to the eye doctor to see if he could construct a set of glasses specifically for that distance. He said he couldn’t make any lenses that would work. But there’s a contraption called “TV glasses,” which are adjustable glasses by turning some wheels you can focus in on the Deities. We tried it at the Berkshire Eye Center and it seemed to work, but when we got back to Viraha Bhava, we couldn’t find the focus. Out of frustration, Baladev just pulled the whole altar forward, even though that meant that the La-Z-Boy chair can’t go all the way back now during headaches or just chilling out, but it worked! Now I can see the deities clearly with my regular glasses.
Guru dasa is in a rehabilitation center after having been released from the hospital. The wound care specialist saw him today and said his infection is healing according to their schedule. He should be released from the rehab center in two weeks to his apartment. Then he’ll go to his apartment where they will come four days a week to clean the wound and rebandage it. In the meantime, his room is being deep cleaned, sterilized, and organized. He has a new hospital bed, which hasn’t been put together yet. This bed will allow him to get in and out of bed easily. He’ll also be getting counseling on a healthy diet and better life practices to achieve an independent living with his condition.
As promised by Lord Vishnu, the four Kumaras descended to visit Maharaj Prthu. The four Kumaras are the first sons of Brahma. They were born at a time when Brahma needed to populate the universe. He asked the Kumaras to get married to beget children. They said they preferred to stay celibate brahmacaris and never grow older than five year old children. Lord Brahma became very angry with them and out of anger, Lord Shiva appeared from between his eyes. So they are older than Lord Shiva, and they eternally appear as young naked boys. They are full of wisdom and knowledge. Maharaja Prthu received them among his ministers and officers. He washed their feet and sprinkled that water on his head. They were seated on a golden throne, which looked like a blazing fire. Maharaja Prthu spoke to them and said that he did not know what kind of pious activity he performed to be graced by their appearance. They continue to have a transcendental conversation in which Maharaj Prthu inquired from them, and they taught him about bhakti yoga.
Early this morning, I kept feeling an urgency to urinate but then I couldn’t actually go. What happened is that I would feel pain with the urgency to go and then little urine would leak out but not much. I finally passed a kidney stone and then I collected enough urine to take to the doctor for him to analyze it and send some out for a culture test. The urine was a bloody red. When we tried to leave the house to go to the hospital, the chair stair stopped halfway down the staircase and it wouldn’t budge. I had to get out of the chair and aided by the devotees walk down the remainder of the steps sideways. This delay made us late for our appointment, and we had to wait an hour. The nurse and the urologist diagnosed me with urinary tract infection and they gave me a 10-day prescription of antibiotics. While at the doctor’s office, I was feeling an urgency to pass urine and small amounts were leaking in my underpants. The doctor sent some of the bloody urine to a lab to see if there was any specific infection. The doctor also wants me to get a CT scan next week to see whether there are any more kidney stones or bladder irregularities. It was a long, uncomfortable day, but I got my writing done on the journal when I returned home.
While we were at the hospital, Krsna dasi and Anuradha phoned the stair chair tech support, who advised them to find the “key” and then call back. After a long search in Baladev’s disorganized blue box, they found the key and called back tech support. He guided them on how to mechanically move the stair chair, which led them to discover a water bottle cap lodged in the rail. That bottle cap was ultimately the cause of the breakdown. They were able to fix it fifteen minutes before we arrived from the hospital to everyone’s great relief.
We had our monthly meeting of the book production team. Present was Krsna Bhajana, Satyasara Devi Dasi, Lal Krsna and Manohara. With me in the room was Baladeva. I mostly talked to Krsna Bhajana. We have a deadline to produce three books of my essays that appeared in Back to Godhead magazine. The deadline was with the BBT, who is giving us permission to use their copyright. We are publishing the books a little late, but they told me that the BBT is all right with this. I was happy to see these devotees on Zoom and talk with them about the books. They gave me confidence that my kind of writing is worthy. They are very dedicated, and they encourage me. In addition to those present on Zoom, there are devotees who are doing typing and proofreading in different places in the world. All the books lined up for this year’s printing and production and distribution (2023) are very significant. I owe a great debt to these devotees for their faith in me and their willingness to put in so much time and endeavor.
I receive a letter almost weekly from these two young devotees who are children of the Shankla family. They were initiated by H.G. Samik Rsi prabhu who’s kind enough to give them diksa although they’re at such a young age. I think Krishna Das is about 10 years old. They praise me in high sounding words as their siksa guru. They go out everyday in Maryland and give out small books like Bhagavad Gita, the Science of Self Realization, and the Higher Taste. They sent me a picture showing Krsna Das posing with the people who took the books, and they’re holding the books in their hands and usually smiling. They find this book distribution blissful and easy, because they are so young, and because they give the books out freely as gifts the people they meet are never hostile. This time when I wrote back, I asked them if they write letters to their diksa guru. I asked them since they like to give the books away so much, do they also read them? If so, which book do they like the most? And which part of the book do they like the most?
I’m looking at several paintings I did in my studio in Ireland. In those days I could stand for long hours and do four or five canvases a day. I also could do small pieces which were used for Every Day, Just Write. But now my legs are too weak from Parkinson’s disease, and my hand shakes too much to do small paintings. So, I have sort of lost the impetus to do art anymore. I don’t particularly lament this passing of time. I will be more than satisfied just sitting in my chair and journaling, especially if it could be without writer’s blocks.
Many years ago, after writing Japa Reform Notebook, I wrote another book called Reading Reform. In the preface to that book, I advocated that everyone should read Prabhupada’s books one hour a day, aside from attending the morning Srimad-Bhagavatam or any other lecture.
Now, what seemed to be practically impossible then has become a reality every day with our out-loud reading group. A group of us, about fifteen, spend two and half hours a day reading Srila Prabhupada’s book. We read in the morning at 7:30 a.m. and at 1:00 p.m.. It seems to be a suitable practice now that people are winding up their family business and reaching “retirement age.” Rather than spending time with grandchildren, TV or hobbies, we can be coming closer to Prabhupada and Krsna.
“Drinking His order with your ears at every moment, you should dance, filled with the rasa of saṅkīrtana remedy.” Hearing these pleasant words flowing from His moonlike face, everyone’s hair stood on end.
They sang a pleasant song along with karatāla and mṛdaṅga beats. Hari-dāsa danced in joy, and, dancing to the rasa of saṅkīrtana, exited and took rest.
Advaita then assumed the identity of the Lord, imitating His dress and actions, holding a flute in his two hands with bliss. The Lord showed His ornaments, flute, peacock feather ornament, yellow cloth and beauty.
With body the color of molten gold, He danced at will. He was a supremely beautiful hero. The most attractive, sweet form with lotus eyes entered among the devotees. His body covered with sandalwood, He danced among the devotees to the accompaniment of soft sweet mṛdaṅgas, using laya, tāla and māna.
While Advaita was dancing, Nityānanda entered, wearing the costume of an elderly woman (Paurṇamāsī) with white, attractively scattered hair in the highest state of madness. As He danced his costume became disheveled.
After Nityānanda finished dancing, Gadādhara (playing Lakṣmī), in the dress of a woman, with conch bangles on her shining wrists, entered to the clamor of quick mṛdaṅgas beats with singers, radiating great beauty.
When He danced, emanating beauty from His attractive costume, with the accompaniment of sweet singing and mṛdaṅgas rhythms, the audience became submerged in an ocean of happiness, with unblinking eyes and paralyzed limbs. Did they attain freedom from death?
Rādhā, daughter of Vṛṣabhānu, the consort of Kṛṣṇa, was known in Kali-yuga as Gadādhara, the son of Mādhavānanda. Gadādhara was born in the house of Mādhava, on the dark moon tithi of Mādhava month with the astonishing form of Rādhā.
Gaurāṅga’s brows moved. He danced with the skill of a bee and had a smiling glance, with fickle eyes like blossoming blue lotuses. His lips were copper colored like the sun, revealing teeth white like moonlight.
He emanated beauty with a spotless necklace placed on His white, conch-like neck and riding on full chest which swayed profoundly. The necklace had the beauty of the Gaṅgā flowing from heaven, freed from fear of falling from a high peak.
His thighs were soft like golden banana trunks. His feet were like fresh red lotuses. Wearing fine, attractive cloth, the beautiful form of the Lord entered the stage with light steps.
The moon of nectar rays, full of bliss, maturing with eleven digits, was reflected in the form of Mahāprabhu. The Malaya Mountain with fragrant branches blew softly, playing with the hem of His silk cloth.
That Form, sweetly jingling His ankle bells, danced with gestures in the center with the singers, while mṛdaṅgas beat swiftly, with skillful laya and tāla, using graceful, intensely sweet steps.
Shining drops of perspiration swiftly oozed from His lotus face. It appeared He was carrying a golden moon embedded with pearls. He had sindūra on His shining forehead framed by curling locks. This was like the red attractive rays of the sun in the twilight surrounded by darkness.
As He moved His hands, jingling with bracelets, swarms of bees hovered above. Moving His elevated brows, like Cupid’s bent bow, He appeared to make the sky black.
His dancing became attractive as the loose edge of His cloth struck his body and bent His body and moved like waves, close to the spectators. He revealed his remarkable, thick shanks, damp with the perspiration from his waist, sparkling like bright lights as His belt came loose.
As He whirled around like a spinning wheel, with desirous bees hovering above, the flowers flew from His hair in all directions. In the joy of dancing, it seemed that there was a white umbrella (of flowers) marked with dark lines (bees) above his moon-like face.
The dancer’s body was glorious with the joyful sweetness of insane dancing, shining brightly with the beauty of song. Clearly assuming the mood of Lakṣmī and Pārvatī, He then entered the temple.
The devotees, offering respects to that form sitting with beautiful limbs on an excellent throne, sang praises with word ornaments. “Please distribute prema everywhere, O goddess!” That form took Hari-dāsa on His lap like child.
Passing the night in this way with various attractive pastimes, in the early morning the Lord returned to His house. For seven days, anointed with sandalwood, the shining Lord danced sweetly in various ways at that house.
The mṛdaṅgas and other instruments sounded loudly in all directions and all the devotees sang various songs like madmen, drenched in rasa. As the Lord performed pastimes for seven days, the universe became full of the scent of flower garlands and sandalwood.
After seven days, Śrīvāsa with fear and timidity as well as joy, spoke to the Lord, shining like a hundred suns. “In Kali-yuga singing the Lord’s names is prescribed in the scriptures. Is the result which is described false or true? Please tell me.”
The Lord said, “O brāhmaṇa! In Satya, Treta, and Dvāparā the result is achieved by meditation, sacrifice and deity worship. In Kali-yuga these are without power. Seeing this, the Lord has manifested Himself as the name. Can this give a lesser result?”
Saying this, with tears in His eyes, the Lord again spoke. “I cannot stay in my house. I must now go away.” Hearing this, Murāri said in fear, “O Lord! Do what must be done. But seeing the people, this is not proper.”
In the sky all the devatās headed by Indra and Brahmā showered flowers and offered respects with bowed shoulders.
As the beautiful Lord danced, the night came to an end. The moon gradually kissed the Western Mountain.
At this time did the young girl personifying the eastern direction became attracted to see the dancing of the Lord, by turning red?
The gentle, fragrant breeze, embraced by the moon light, shaking the lotuses, worshipped the lotus feet of Gaurāṅga.
The Lord of the universe with His devotees approached the Gaṅgā and shone like Meru with other mountains.
The beautiful golden mountain, submerging himself in the Gaṅgā, then played in the water with the devotees by splashing water with His hands.
After finishing various types of play, He went to his house just as the moon rises on the eastern horizon.
Seeing Him in this condition, they all immediately fell into painful, constant lamentation. “O Lord! What is this play? The beautiful Gauraṅga desires to take sannyāsa and wander about. You are hard-hearted.”
The women spoke. “Ah! Śiva! Śiva! This is a most cruel. The Lord is astonishing. A thunderbolt has suddenly struck. He has such form, character, and sweet beauty. But now He is taking sannyāsa. This bewilders the mind at every moment.”
Crying, the Lord, to spread happiness, said to the crying people, “O mother! O father! I bless you that you shall have prema at the lotus feet of the Lord at all times.”
After His polite speaking to them, He went to Keśava Bhāratī’s house and offered profuse respects, absorbed in the proper conduct of a disciple, acting according to the rules. He then called His guru near and spoke in his ear with delight the auspicious mahāvākya which He had heard in a dream.
The Lord then called a very fortunate barber and instructed him to shave off His hair. The barber, overwhelmed with prema, constantly wept and trembled. Out of fear he could not do it.
In great joy, beautiful Gaurāṅga said, “Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa loudly at all times!” When he said this, the barber, torn apart with sorrow, performed his task while crying, his hairs standing on end.
Those who were present there said in piteously voices repeatedly, “O mother! O father!” They beat their hands on their heads constantly and, criticizing themselves for maintaining their lives, lamented.
Though He was the actual guru, playing the role of a disciple He received the mantra, spreading mercy to the world. Seeing that the Lord with His hairs standing on end desired to go, Keśava Bhāratī, saying “Take this,” gave Him red cloth and a daṇḍa.
Receiving the daṇḍa, in order to obey the instructions of His guru, intelligent Gaurāṅga remained there for a day, though His mind was restless. Taking His guru’s permission, the Lord, of mysterious, incomparable, excellent actions, then went to the pious place called Rāḍhadeśa.
On the road, overcome with happiness, He meditated on the Lord’s activities. Soft with prema for the name and attached to it at every moment, He stumbled about, sometimes singing, sometimes wailing in pain, sometimes moving slowly and sometimes going quickly like a lion.
Not hearing the Lord’s name in one place, the Lord became bewildered and went the river bank to end His life. As he lowered himself into the water, some children uttered the Lord’s name. By that sound, he melted with prema. Tears fell constantly and His body became stunned.
Hearing the children utter the name loudly, the Lord became mad with prema and falling on the ground, wept intensely. Going some distance, He ate food obtained by begging. He continued walking, sometimes laughing, dancing, singing or crying.
Full of joy, the Lord, soft with unlimited prema, moved with dancing steps, sometimes in the mood of a gopī, sometimes as a servant and sometimes with reverence. He headed towards the west. For three days He was unaware of himself.
By fortune, He went in the southern direction and, recovering consciousness, thought, “Where am I?” He decided to go to Advaita’s house. He then spoke to Nityānanda in a sweet voice.
“Go quickly to sweet Navadvīpa, on the bank of the Gaṅgā. Say sweetly to the people there my words. ‘Go quickly to the house of Advaita. I have arrived.’” Agreeing, Nityānanda then left for Navadvīpa.
Going there, Nityānanda joyful related the Lord’s words and quickly brought everyone to Śāntipura. Śacī also, in great pain but in great joy, also went there. What more can be said? The whole of Navadvīpa went there.
The next day, the Lord, holding His pot and daṇḍa, wearing two pieces of red cloth, flashing like a host of lightning bolts, appeared like a golden mountain radiating golden light.
Becoming fixed in ātmā and slightly fixed in Paramātmā, as established by the previous sages, I shall cross over the insurmountable ocean of nescience by service to the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa. SB 11.23.57
Seeing the Lord as He recited this verse repeatedly on the road, while dancing passionately, with tears flowing over His body, the people, seemingly long dead, revived their life airs. Filled with joy, they fell on the earth offering respects.
Showing affection for His devotees who were attached to His lotus feet by speaking, smiling sweetly, glancing with mercy, touching them with joy, the Lord, filled with happiness and great mercy, went to Advaita’s house.
Gaurāṅga, sitting on an excellent, pure seat, embraced Advaita, whose body was covered in tears. Along with the weeping devotees he sang beautiful songs containing the holy name, which were endowed with great, profound qualities.
He then ate the delicious food offered by Advaita. On next day in the morning He spoke to the devotees in joy. “With great desire to see the Lord’s lotus feet, I will go to Puri. You should remain here and perform constant kīrtana.”
Leaving the devotees, embracing Advaita, who was covered in tears, He started to go. Hari-dāsa, holding grass in his teeth, his heart filled with longing, fell on the earth at the lotus feet of the Lord.
Seeing Hari-dāsa in this condition, the Lord said, “I will constantly speak on your behalf to Jagannātha in all humility. Rise up and be peaceful.” Embracing him, He then left. Advaita then spoke as he was leaving.
“When you leave, what will happen to us? Please tell us, O Lord! How will we continue to live? How will we overcome our pain of separation?” After he spoke, the Lord said, “If you act like this, how can I go?” He then left.
Because of the affection of Advaita and the joy of humble Hari-dāsa, the Lord, though desiring to go to Puri, controlled by his devotees, ate the incomparable food cooked by Śacī with the devotees and left after several days.
As He was leaving, one brāhmaṇa said, “I see your very sweet body, O best person!” He pulled the cloth from the Lord’s limb. The merciful pure Lord shone like the moon uncovered by clouds.
The merciful Lord came in front of Nityānanda, who was joyful in His heart, and bid Him farewell. The Lord was surrounded by Gadādhara, Mukunda and brāhmaṇas, who were attached to His lotus feet. They looked at Him with sadness.
Singing the glories of the Lord, Gaurāṅga, weeping, accompanied by the devotees attached to His lotus feet, appeared most beautiful on the road. The ferrymen whose hearts were gladdened by giving and receiving did not obstruct any of the devotees endowed with the great mercy of the Lord.
Prabhupada meditation can be rigorous work; it requires the cooperation of a healthy intelligence, mind and body. Memory-concentration, intellectual discrimination, reading and writing may seem to be easy tasks, but they are actually exhausting when pursued constantly. Thinking can be impaired by physical illness. One shouldn’t think, therefore, “When old age arrives, then I can relax and spare time for inner life.” Prahlada Maharaja advised his young schoolmates to take to Krsna consciousness at the earliest possible age:
Therefore while in material existence, a person fully competent to distinguish right from wrong must endeavor to achieve the highest goal of life as long as the body is stout and strong and not embarrassed by dwindling.
At any stage of life we may be impaired by disease or fatigue. But this doesn’t mean that our thinking of Srila Prabhupada and Krsna has to stop during those periods. There are particular thoughts which may be dovetailed with the inconveniences we experience when the body’s illness demands our attention, diminishes our range of activities—and even seems to diminish our consciousness.
The fact is, when we have even a cold or headache, our normal range of meditative activities may be reduced. But we should know that even a simplified form or worship of the Lord is acceptable to Him. I have already mentioned how Prabhupada approved of his disciple Pradyumna’s simple mental turning to Prabhupada at a time when he was in the hospital for a hernia operation, and unable to chant many mantras.
So there is no time when we are forced to be out of favorable thoughts of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. By even the simplest gesture of mind and feeling, we can turn and pray, “Please pick me up. Please give me the strength to serve you.” And as long as the body is “stout and strong and is not embarrassed by dwindling,” we should use our health with gratitude, for carrying out the order of Krsna’s representative.
I also do not feel separation from my Guru Maharaja. When I’m engaged in his service, his pictures give me sufficient strength. To serve the spiritual master’s word is more important than to serve him physically.
—Letter, July 19, 1970
In the higher sense, there is no difference between the situation as it was when Prabhupada was present from 1966-1977, and the situation as it is since then. All that separates us is geography and time as well as the purity of our minds and intentions.
We should know that Prabhupada’s message is more important than the “physical representation”—but it is equally important to be assured that his personal form is important to us even today. Srila Prabhupada installed the murtis of himself, and he encouraged personal remembrances. For example, he wrote, “Who is taking care of my apartment? It should be cleansed at least twice a week and on the altar of the Deity, at least one incense may be offered daily.” (Letter, August 22, 1970) Surely it pleases him that we continue to honor his apartments, his pictures and his murtis. It helps us to remember him. And when we remember the representative of Krsna, then we can remember his message, Krsna consciousness.
Like it or not, we are attached. When we love a person we think not only of their teachings, but of their personal form and activities. As Prabhupada writes, “The individual soul is embodied since time immemorial. It is very difficult for him to simply theoretically understand that he is not the body. Therefore, the Bhakti-yogi accepts the Deity of Krsna as worshipable because there is some bodily conception fixed in the mind, which can thus be applied. Of course, worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form within the temple is not idol worship.” (Bg. 12.5, purport) Similarly, it’s natural that we don’t create a void image of Prabhupada or forget him in favor of the message which he brought.
Even when we consider the vani as all-important, the vani itself has a form. Prabhupada’s teachings come in a form of books, sound recordings, and impressions in the mind. It is not formless. Therefore, we take pleasure in recalling the messenger, our lord and master, who came from Goloka to tell us about Krsna.
Prabhupada insisted on repeating the point that we are all servants. We may serve our bodies or families or our nation, but it is best to serve the Supreme Lord, and that is our constitutional position. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna asks Arjuna, “O son of Prtha, O conqueror of wealth, have you heard this with an attentive mind, and are your ignorance and illusion dispelled?” (Bg 18.72) Arjuna replies, “My dear Krsna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” In the purport, Prabhupada emphasizes that we are all in illusion thinking we are someone other than the servant of Krsna. We may even think that we do not have to serve anyone. But we do serve—either the illusory energy or the Lord.
This morning when I read this, I recalled a criticism I had heard that Prabhupada is a fundamentalist who does not deal with the esoteric interpretations of Vaisnava philosophy. As I read the purport, I saw that Prabhupada was being very basic and was repeating his theme. He says for example, “The living entity’s constitutional position is to be a servitor; he has to serve either the illusory maya or the Supreme Lord. And only when this illusion is overcome, can one understand Krsna.”
Prabhupada wants us to actually transform ourselves in all our activities and thoughts, into bhaktas of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So his proposal is the heaviest, and it is also the most relishable. He is the most existential preacher, moving us to action. If we take this action, then all the esoteric truths of Krsna consciousness rasa will be revealed to us. If we do not do what Prabhupada says, then although we may find another teacher who will freely talk about esoteric topics, how will it move us to actually surrender ourselves to Krsna? How many readers are so advanced that they have already done what Prabhupada has asked us to do?
I think, in most cases, if anyone is not satisfied with Prabhupada’s writing, it is because they want to discuss something else, not because they have already complied with what he said. Rather they sometimes feel disturbed that he is asking them to surrender to Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They want to discuss something else.
The cultivation of memories of Prabhupada and continuing our attachment to him is connected to learning the knowledge and carrying out the mission. Many of us accept this knowledge and believe in it only because he said so. For some of us, our “bottom line” of faith and realization is “Prabhupada says.” “Prabhupada says that Krsna is God. Prabhupada says Bhagavad-gita is the best scripture, so read it.” Of course everything doesn’t just end with a dogmatic “Prabhupada says.” Once you actually hear about Krsna from him and read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, you get realization, but it rests on that foundation that Prabhupada said so. The Siksastakam verse declares, “The sankirtana movement is the life of all knowledge.” Because of him, the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita comes alive. It was Sanskrit, or mythology, or academic study, but now it comes alive. So it is essential for all devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement to receive the knowledge through Prabhupada in parampara. Therefore, why should they not want to relish hearing about him and become attached to him as a person and understand better how he was a teacher?
By the grace of Kardama Muni, Devahuti experienced actual realization simply by serving. We get a similar example in the life of Narada Muni. In his previous life Narada was a maidservant’s son, but his mother was engaged in the service of great devotees. He got the opportunity to serve the devotees and simply by eating the remnants of their foodstuff and carrying out their orders, he became so elevated that in his next life he became the great personality, Narada. For spiritual achievement the easiest path is to take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and to serve him with heart and soul. That is the secret of success. As stated by Visvanatha Cakravati Öhakura in his eight stanzas of prayer to the spiritual master: yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado, by serving or receiving the grace of the spiritual master one receives the grace of the Supreme Lord. By serving her devotee husband Kardama Muni, Devahuti shared in his achievement. Similarly a sincere disciple, simply by serving a bona fide spiritual master, can achieve all the mercy of the Lord and the spiritual master simultaneously.
—Bhag. 3.23.7, purport
When we arrived in New Dvaraka, even before seeing Prabhupada, we heard about him. Devotees told us what Prabhupada was saying in his lectures and on walks, and we became more anxious to see him. We stayed with Prabhupada for about a week, and then he traveled to New York and on to Europe. Rejuvenated by his personal association, we were happy to return to our Midwest program.
In those days, although devotees sometimes went out of their way to be with Prabhupada, no one attempted to travel with him all the time except for his designated group. You couldn’t become a tramp and travel around just to be with him. Perhaps if we could do it over again, knowing how rare Prabhupada was and what we have now lost, more devotees might have attempted to tag along with him. But perhaps not, because Prabhupada set the standard and he did not like taggers-on. If, for example, he was leaving Australia, he did not expect a bunch of devotees from Australia to fly on the plane with him to Hawaii and America. If he saw even one extra person riding on the plane with him, he would say, “What is he doing here?” Prabhupada was also responsive to the ISKCON leaders. If the leader of Australia said, “Prabhupada, I need these men,” Prabhupada would not allow them to tag along. In the case of our run from St. Louis to Los Angeles, we were able to do it without too much disruption. The ability to run to Prabhupada just to be with him was a great freedom.
If you stayed in your place, Prabhupada would come there sooner or later. Or, if you were in a small outpost, Prabhupada would visit nearby. If you were in St. Louis, you could go to see him when he went to Detroit; if you were in Boston, you could go to see him when he was in New York. And then there was the annual Mayapura festival, beginning with 1974 when it took international shape. Once the routine started, it seemed there would always be another Mayapura festival (although in retrospect, we see that Prabhupada participated in the festival for only four years). From 1974-77 it was a very important part of Krsna consciousness to go to the festival and be with Prabhupada in Mayapura and Vrndavana. When a temple leader mentioned to Prabhupada that it was very costly for the devotees to visit India every year, Srila Prabhupada insisted that as many as possible should go. He gave the example that although food prices rise, people continue to eat.
He was mostly quiet but once, while looking out at the silver wing he said, “It took so much intelligence to build a plane like this, so how can they say there is no God?” If a plane flies in the sky by human ingenuity, then how can we say that the planets, sky, clouds and the whole cosmic arrangement has no brain behind it? Prabhupada’s observation struck me as wonderful. It was simple but solid. Here you were riding with that person whose task it was to glorify God to the whole world, and even in his quiet moment he had a Krsna conscious thought and shared it with you. I was grateful and felt renewed strength.
While we waited to change planes in Singapore. As we sat in the waiting lounge, it seemed to me that we were in a very strange place at an eerie hour. I was tired but dutifully thinking of whatever was best to accommodate Srila Prabhupada. I kept checking our tickets and checking my watch, hoping that everything would go all right. Prabhupada was mostly silent, but when a little child passed with a toy on wheels, Prabhupada said, “I remember being that young. I also had toys like that.” Then he said, “I once scraped my knee.”
After his stay in Australia, I again accompanied Prabhupada, along with Vaikunthanatha dasa, on a jet to Hawaii. The plane stopped briefly at Fiji, and Prabhupada decided to get off along with Vaikunthanatha, to get relief from the confinement. I stayed on the plane with our belongings. A half hour later, when passengers started returning to the plane, I saw Prabhupada come on, and he was smiling. Vaikunthanatha was also glowing, and he carried a large bag. Although we hadn’t given any advance notice, some devotees knew of Prabhupada’s Fiji stop, and they had come with prasadam to give to him at the airport.
But the reason Prabhupada was smiling was because he had just been preaching. He told me some of it, and Vaikunthanatha did also. Several people were there, and Prabhupada had engaged in conversation with them during his whole transit break, urging them to take to Krsna consciousness. What impressed me about this was how Prabhupada had become so enlivened by the opportunity to glorify Krsna that he was smiling without any self-consciousness. He hadn’t expected to be greeted like that when he had gotten off for a walk, but it turned into a very nice time.
Swamiji is behind the tin trunk. Over his head is the calendar picture of Krsna playing the flute, standing on the earth. We are lounged and bunched around the wall, asking questions.
“What happens after death?”
“What kind of person does Krsna want me to be?”
“When we see a picture of Krsna, is that the artist’s conception of how He looks?”
“Is cosmic consciousness the same as Krsna consciousness?”
“Is this the same thing that Christ and Buddha taught?”
Swamiji was happy after a lonely year uptown. He took his time and answered our questions.
He taught that Krsna is a person and He will love you; He will give you an intimate relationship in eternity. Prabhupada promised this and said it was something we could all attain. We still have not attained it, but he taught it: Your beloved is the Personality of Godhead, Krsna. “It is such a nice thing.”
The Bhagavatam class was on the verse from the Ninth Canto about the pastimes of Lord Ramacandra. It described military action. After the lecture, one of the devotees asked a question about Prabhupada. He said that Prabhupada’s disciples often say that he was like an army general on the battlefield. Did I think this was Prabhupada’s actual character? I replied that Prabhupada certainly did appear like a general and he himself said that taking to Krsna consciousness was a war against maya. Prabhupada stood in front of the army and moved all over the world to spread the Krsna consciousness movement. However, this is only one of Prabhupada’s many different natures. He is also a transcendental scholar who rises at 1 a.m. and composes the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Nevertheless, because Prabhupada was following the orders of the previous acaryas to spread Krsna consciousness, he had to enter the battle and go forward, fighting, organizing the troops.
Of course, Prabhupada did not ask for militant action with rifles or bombs. He said that we should fight by sankirtana and by cultural weapons. Book distribution and prasadam distribution are peaceful ways to spread Krsna consciousness. In performing sankirtana, though, Prabhupada was determined not to be stopped by anyone.
We need not be intimidated by thinking of Prabhupada as a general. One can possess the fighting spirit in many ways. If a devotee has a terminal disease and continues to chant his rounds, that is fighting. If a mother continues to take care of her children despite the difficulties, that is the fighting spirit. Whenever we continue to set good examples and not admit defeat or hopelessness—that is the fighting spirit of Srila Prabhupada.
In order to chant peacefully and hear about Krsna, our lives should be simple. Thank you, Srila Prabhupada, for allowing me to get out of the jaws of the worrisome situation. You have given me freedom from the nine-to-five job. Now I live with a greater responsibility. If I waste my time, I will be a parasite. I will have to suffer in the next life.
Thank you, Prabhupada, for giving me the secret of my own well-being. The more I can go without material “necessities,” the happier I will be. I am better off without a wife, without a house, without property. These are the open secrets.
When the Vedic age was flourishing, the most advanced persons were the brahmanas, who deliberately led lives of poverty. However, their poverty was never demeaning. They lived in small, clean huts and spent their time engaged in Vedic studies, instructing others, and traveling. Those who were not so educated also accepted a simple life. They did not feel pressured to compete for the best apartment, then move to a house in the suburbs, and always be seeking more. The norms of society did not drive them to this, and neither did the government or taxes harass them. The ksatriyas lived with a flourish, but they paid their “dues” to society by giving protection to everyone.
Prabhupada did not bring a philosophy of “no work.” He brought the Vedic teachings which de-emphasize wealth.
Every sincere follower of Prabhupada feels gratitude for his teachings. If a devotee is more inclined to economic development, then he may thank Prabhupada and Krsna for allowing him to become successful. Only a devotee knows how to use the blessings of prosperity without letting it go to his head. One can use extra money in Krsna’s service. One does not have to waste money on cigarettes, videos, and entertainment which is suitable only for mudhas.
Money is not the great necessity. We do not worship the Almighty Buck. Because we follow Prabhupada, we do not think that he who has the most money is the best person. We do not think that the nation which has the most money (and missiles) is the best. Rather, we say that misused money is the source of many ills. We want to live simply in Krsna consciousness.
In general, I think we can safely say that Prabhupada was very open and willing to discuss almost any subject from the Krsna conscious point of view. He might point out an impertinent or illogical question, but he would answer it anyway. He considered questions that did not relate to the points he raised in his lecture as improper. Questions after the lecture should be asked to clear up doubts. So many topics can be discussed and questioned, but Prabhupada chose one area of the philosophy to discuss in his lectures, and he preferred the questions to be relevant to that. Even if someone asked something off the topic, though, Prabhupada would answer it.
Some people asked Prabhupada questions that were too hair-splitting. He considered these unnecessary for those who were seriously trying to practice Krsna consciousness. Other inquiries were too esoteric. I once asked Prabhupada, “In your Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I read that one should follow an eternal resident of Vrndavana. Could you tell me more about that?” Prabhupada replied, “Don’t try for this. That is a very advanced topic. It will automatically be revealed to you. Just go on serving.” Similarly, when Prabhupada was asked about the origin of the living entity he said, “It is not important. There is a history to it, but right now you may not be able to understand it. The important thing is that you are now in a fallen condition and you need to go back to Godhead. It does not matter how you came here.” Prabhupada did not evade questions, but like the acarya he himself described in Krsna book, he sometimes gave information and sometimes withheld it. Prabhupada knew what the important inquiries were.
Sometimes Prabhupada would be blunt: “This is not a very intelligent question.” “Are all your devotees pure devotees?” “How many pure devotees are there on the planet right now?” Prabhupada replied, “This is not a very intelligent question.”
Sometimes questions were too personal. “Are you happy?” Prabhupada replied, “If I told you yes, would you believe me?” Prabhupada was expert at not getting trapped by questions and being able to turn them around to put the question back on the person who asked it.
Prabhupada was especially exposed to challenges and both sincere and insincere questions in public lectures. Over the years, he had heard practically everything there was to hear. It wasn’t possible to shock him. Prabhupada was responsive to intelligent, sincere questions. Like Sukadeva Gosvami who became more enthusiastic to speak due to the intelligent questioning of Maharaja Pariksit, so Prabhupada appreciated solid inquiries.
Most devotees living now in the Krsna consciousness movement did not associate with Prabhupada in his physical presence. This does not mean that they are disqualified from having a deep relationship with Prabhupada, or from developing devotion for him even beyond those who had the fortune of being with him in his physical presence. Those of us who did have a direct relationship with Prabhupada when he was here, sometimes regret that we did not spend as much time with him as we had wanted to, and that we did not relate to him as purely as we should have. Since Prabhupada’s disappearance, we are trying to compensate for our deficiencies in approaching Prabhupada. Similarly, those who did not meet Prabhupada can certainly compensate in the positive sense and develop their relationship through service in separation.
Regardless of the fact that some devotees knew Prabhupada before and some did not, we are now all equals in the sense that we all have to go to Prabhupada. The main method of associating with him is through his books, his recorded lectures, and our service to him. Service to Prabhupada creates a spiritual medium which may not feel as tangible as Prabhupada’s presence in his books; yet service produces a deep connection. It pleases Prabhupada. Prabhupada communicates with his devotees.
In Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion lectures which he gave in Vrndavana in 1972, he commented that all his disciples could have a direct relationship with Srila Rupa Gosvami. Prabhupada said that anyone who reads Rupa Gosvami’s book worships him, and associates with him directly. He also said that anyone who serves Rupa Gosvami by serving the Krsna consciousness movement gets added realization. The same thing is true with Prabhupada. We can be with him directly by reading and worshiping his books.
Book-reading itself is a very important service. The problem is that we can’t read all the time. In extreme and advanced cases, a person like Maharaja Pariksit rendered service only by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he attained perfection. Most of us, however, read only a small amount of the time. Therefore, we have to render service in other ways, with our bodies, minds, and words.
Prabhupada visited Philadelphia in 1975. At that time the temple was located in the Germantown section of the city. The devotees all crowded together on the front porch to greet Prabhupada. They stood closely together in two rows. When Prabhupada arrived, the devotees began throwing flowers, and Prabhupada walked slowly toward the crowd, carrying a cane.
Suddenly a little six-year-old girl named Sarina bolted loose from the devotees and ran up to Srila Prabhupada. “Srila Prabhupada,” she called, “I have a question! I have a question!” She said she had trouble making garlands. She said when she put a flower on the garland, she then got mixed up and didn’t know which flower to put on next. Prabhupada looked down at her and then took a very beautiful, opulent garland from around his neck and placed it on the little girl. “You look at this garland and you will learn,” he said.
“Preaching in Africa seems to be a waste of time,” said Prabhupada’s disciple, Gargamuni. Gargamuni wanted to convince Prabhupada that his brother, Brahmananda Swami, should come and join them in India. “Prabhupada, what is Brahmananda doing there? He could be here in India. I don’t really think the people there can become Krsna conscious because they’re so backward.”
“You are thinking that the Negroes cannot become actually Krsna conscious,” said Prabhupada, “because you are in a different body. You are in a white body. This is your body prejudice. You are thinking like that. But from my point of view, I am seeing you as a white Negro.”
Gargamuni soon came stumbling out of Prabhupada’s room, aware that he had just been devastated by his spiritual master. To the first person he met, he said, “Do you know what Prabhupada just called me? He said I was a white Negro!”
While I was chanting, two young Vrajavasi boys walked by. They were collecting peacock feathers. It is a way for poor people to make money. The boys stopped and stared at me. I looked down and went on chanting. “Maybe they will help me improve by their presence,” I thought. Then one of them signaled to the other and they left me alone by the tagar and yellow karen flowers.
This spot is nice, I invite you to share it. Don’t bring a pillow. Sit on the cold, rock slab. When you feel inattentive and frustrated, slam the point of your walking stick hard into the ground. Twirl it in the air, draw circular designs in the dust. Bow down after each japa round, recite the Panca-tattva mantra and then stand up and brush the dirt off the front of your dhoti. The air is cool. You have an hour clear of all other concerns.
At my present level, day after day I fail to use this time as I would like to. At least I stay awake and chant the rounds at a timed clip. But I cannot go deeper. There is no easy answer. So I am here with the cold seat, slamming the poke end of my cane into the earth, getting up and sitting down.
On the way back to the temple, I had the nerve to speak to the others about japa. I said devotees are often concerned with whether they are improving in their japa. Sometimes they think they are doing better and sometimes worse. We know it is not in our control; it is up to Krsna. However, one basic principle is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This may mean saving the best time in your day in which to chant, giving your whole effort, and trying to connect other things in your life to chanting. My friends had some thoughts about japa and spoke them too. We will remember this later, this nice spot for chanting . . . and how on Ekadasi so many people were out walking on parikrama. Find that best place to chant. The thing about the grove near Ramana Reti is that it is nice, but still I cannot chant in love. Krsna knows my desire. He will help me as He sees fit.
How to carry the Vrndavana experience into my Western life? A Gaudiya Vaisnava wants to serve in Vraja day and night. This is achieved both externally and internally. Externally (physically) he lives in Vraja (in the district of Mathura, in the state of Uttara Pradesh, in India), or if he is unable to do that, he lives in Vraja mentally after at least having physically been there for some time. The physical residence in Vrndavana-dhama enables us to gather sense impressions, which will help our remembrance. Some of my Godbrothers are good at gathering these sense impressions. They recall details of Govardhana parikrama, or special moments when they were on Vraja Mandala parikrama. One Godbrother is preaching in Germany and recalls how a parrot came and sat on his shoulder in Bhandiravana. I need to go and collect my own “data” and, I hope, to be transformed by the dust of Vrndavana. Then when I come back, I will be able to remember.
We cannot imitate direct service to Radha and Krsna, but according to our greed, and according to the guidance we receive from our guru, we can pray and hear of Vraja. Hearing this, we may pray to serve there in some future lifetime.
This bhajana is best done while living in Vrndavana, India. Then we (Prabhupadanuga preachers) will be better able to keep it in our hearts even as we travel. We may also stop here and there in the West and try to recall both the external and internal bhavas of seva in Vrndavana.
But—you say—in the West, ordinary things are not sacred in the same way they are in Vrndavana. There is no sastric support, as there is in Vraja, to assure us that the dogs are actually sadhus and are about to be liberated, or that the dirt (earth) can give us mercy. Nothing is ordinary in Vrndavana, but can that be said of places in the West?
Is it true? Is ordinary life in Ireland doomed to be always ordinary? Or if I am able to see it in a Krsna conscious way, is it still not as holy as Vrndavana? I guess the answer is that if we become like Srila Prabhupada, then “wherever you are, that is Vrndavana.” We can “superimpose” impressions of grass in Vrndavana on our impressions of Irish grass. It is a matter of meditation.
I like that explanation, but I am looking for more. I want validation that direct experience of Ireland is also a part of the Vraja experience. There is no way to experience Vrndavana in Ireland except to be totally immersed in chanting and hearing. It is Krsna’s pastimes that focus our minds so we can see through the mundane. But neither is meditation on His pastimes a vague form of mysticism. It is Vrndavana consciousness.
Chanting japa before a table-altar full of pictures, I look up to the open window. The day-after-Ekadasi thin moon, a reddening dawn—I curse myself that I indulged in so much illicit sex in this lifetime. That small bit of enjoyment now prevents me from entering Vrndavana where Radha and Krsna are yugala-kisora.
Stay awake and pray in japa. I look at the pictures of Krsna’s pastimes, but they don’t always “work” for me. I cannot expect to see the spiritual world unless there is the ointment of prem–anjana on my eyes. I try to hear. If that doesn’t work, I fall back to the mechanical practice of counting up the quota, getting it done. Only by descending mercy can we improve. May Krsna hear my cries and sighs—I require that mercy and will do anything to obtain it.
I write friendly notes of inquiry to brothers here. That way I can expect a note from someone who will give me tangible hope.
A harmonium sound drifts over . . . the chaukidar’s whistle, the night of lurking gundas and dacoits. The skinny dogs of Vrndavana are on the prowl, but some are sleeping on the road in the November cold. I don’t know what is going on in the big world of newspapers. All I know is the news the devotee announces after mangala’drati. I am also getting news from the spiritual world. Ring the bells, it’s time for Krsna to wake up and show us His blissful face.
It is the preachers’ Vrindaban;
as in the lila of Lord Chaitanya,
some men remain
to serve the devotees,
while others come and go.
And here you want the children
in Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula,
“To live in Vrindaban is the highest perfection;
to grow up in Vrindaban is the greatest fortune;
the atmosphere is beyond compare,
and the Krishna Balaram Mandir is the finest in the world.”
You have opened our eyes
and given sure direction—
to avoid the Mayavadis,
(an anomaly to the dham),
with their concocted bhajans,
and to avoid all visayi
in the holy dham.
By your training
we see even hogs and dogs
as well as low-class men
—if they live within Vrindaban—
as beyond our comprehension.
Even if we do not see
with love-anointed eyes,
your training allows us
to see through the eyes of your teachings.
By serving Hari, Guru, and Vaishnava,
surely Krishna will be pleased
to lift the veil from our eyes,
then we may know
what is Vrindaban
It is not so easy to hold a pandal.
When Prabhupada first introduced the idea
to his followers in Bombay,
they didn’t want to say no,
but they wondered:
Where could they collect so much money?
How could they erect such a big tent?
Where would they get so much food?
And how would they be able to cook it?
Prabhupada smiled and said,
“If you are going to hunt,
go after the rhinoceros.”
A pandal is a triumph in preaching.
The helium balloon hovering over the city…
And in the newspaper
a beautiful picture of the Founder Acharya,
superimposed over a globe,
and the words, “Bhagwat Dharma Discourses…”
A pandal is anxiety,
a chance to work hard
and surrender to Krishna.
A pandal is a marriage of two disciples on stage—
a boy from Sweden and a girl
(with a red sari and a nose ring)
A pandal is a particular event,
and it is also a symbol
of a great endeavor
to convince people
by cultural presentation—
a mass festival.
Ratha-yatra or any big preaching is similar,
and Prabhupada wanted it.
“Don’t be satisfied that you have understood.
This knowledge should be distributed.”
As a child he had heard about the city,
had stood with a flag by the roadside in Calcutta
as King George V
in a gilded carriage had passed by.
Buckingham Palace and the River Thames, he had thought,
must be great objects of the imperial crown.
But he found the Queen’s Palace smaller
than many houses in Calcutta,
and the Thames a canal,
much smaller than the Ganges.
His father had told him not to go there;
his spiritual master had prepared him.
Both instructions were the same.
He was not coming to London to be like the British:
“I have come to teach what you have forgotten.”
“Which is what?” snapped the reporter.
(The pressmen’s cameras were clicking.)
“That is God,” Prabhupada said, full of challenge.
“Any nonsense can come to me—I shall prove there is God.”
After a hard year,
his disciples had met
the Fabulous Four, the immortal Beatles,
and George Harrison had become their friend.
He had been playing Prabhupada’s record,
and he liked to chant.
They had made an Apple record, Hare Krishna Mantra,
with thousands of copies selling daily.
Prabhupada would stay at John Lennon’s
in exchange for his disciples’ work.
Prabhupada in the servants’ quarters,
while John and Yoko roamed the mansion.
Yes. Therefore we defined prayer as the quality of a state of consciousness or action — when it is done with wholehearted devotion to God. There is prayerful reading and praying by singing the holy names or bhajanas of the Vaisnava acaryas.
The morning program in the temple is all prayer if you participate in it with attention. For example, the song we sing to Prabhupada, “Sri guru-carana-padma,” is praise of the spiritual master, “My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth.” And it ends with words of appeal, “Please give us the shade of your lotus feet. Your fame is spread all over the three worlds. I take shelter of your lotus feet.”
Preaching is prayer, and it is intensified when we pray to the Lord who is in the heart of both myself and the people to whom I am trying to give Krsna consciousness — “Please Lord, let them accept it.” Work that a devotee does in an office or factory is also prayer, provided he works for Visnu. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, “Whatever you do, do it for Me.” This means to make a conscious act of prayer, a sacrifice. Prayer includes Deity worship, sweeping, washing, and cooking. It is not stereotyped, as if only a person with folded hands kneeling on the floor and looking at the sky is praying.
If we could only notice it, we are almost always praying naturally, or at least we are close to prayer. We simply have to become aware of our helplessness and direct and purify our inner thoughts into personal thoughts of the Supreme and His pure devotees.
So how to find the balance? On the one hand, a devotee who has discovered prayer will desire more solitary contemplation, yet he knows he can’t abandon his duty to give time and energy for actively carrying out the guru’s orders and serving devotees. The conflict may be solved by finding one’s particular service in the society of devotees. When one first approaches the spiritual master, he has no specific duty but does whatever he is told, in obedience. Gradually, one develops a tendency for a particular service, and the devotees begin to appreciate him for this. Srila Prabhupada has said that the spiritual master should also be expert to know his disciple’s capacity, and will tell one devotee, “You are fit to work in the kitchen,” and another, “You be the editor,” “You should be a manager.” As one perfects his service, Krsna gives him more facility to do it well. A devotee’s choice of service or spiritual career should not be seen as a material thing, although it may coincide with one’s psycho-physical nature. Even if one’s tendency is tinged with motives, that can be purified by the service itself.
Therefore, one’s degree of emphasis on inner or outer duties will be determined by his or her natural work. We should also be cautious not to brand any service as “outer” or external as long as it is done with devotion. One person may pray with his mind or words and another with a hammer or a cook’s spoon. And yet all devotees will benefit by learing how to turn to Krsna and pray.
Prabhupāda thought that a book with many pictures and simple text would be an effective preaching tool. He wouldn’t water down the actual presentation; rather, he would simplify it with the help of the illustrations, and make the philosophy that much more accessible to those who might not be inclined to read the Bhāgavatam. Prabhupāda thought of me as a potential writer for these books because I had written him a letter saying I wanted more writing topics.
We did eventually publish a small volume, The Transcendental Teachings of Prahlāda Mahārāja, but not with the illustrations. Perhaps the cost was prohibitive for us at that time. Prabhupāda referred me to his lectures and thought I could compile a book based on what he had said; this was more or less something I had been doing in the essays I wrote for Back to Godhead. I remember working on this material sentence by sentence, turning his spoken words into prose. I also titled the various lecture-essays. The pamphlets sold easily, and I now have a copy that was printed in 1991 saying that the BBT had printed 250,000 copies. It begins, “What follows is based on a series of talks that Srila Prabhupāda gave in 1968 from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Canto Seven, Chapter Six.”
I still remember asking Prabhupāda for more writing topics. BTG came out every month, and we didn’t yet have many volumes of Bhāgavatam from which we could choose topics. It was nice to be able to turn to Prabhupāda to ask for writing topics.
In other letters, Prabhupāda had already given me topics: the prayers of Akrūra, how to free ourselves from māyā’s clutches, and in this letter, he describes a series of topics that can be turned into essays and published. When Prabhupāda was present, I liked to receive Prabhupāda’s writing assignments and to feel the connection and enthusiasm of serving him so directly with my writing. Similarly, in 1976 he called me into his room and asked me to write a little book about how things fail without Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda engaged me according to my propensity. As Prabhupāda was kind to the artists in directing them personally, so he directed me.
In a sense, Prabhupāda’s idea of producing small books on Prahlāda, Dhruva, and other characters from the Bhāgavatam has now been fulfilled in the various children’s books devotees have written. These books often have many illustrations, and they tell the particular pastime in simple ways.
Prabhupāda was aware of the sales potential of such small books. The purports are significant, and with the illustrations, the book becomes attractive enough to sell easily.
So that we don’t fall into a simplistic conception of the holy name, we may also read relevant sastras and talk about the nature of the holy name. We have to be discriminating with our minds. It’s not that everything the mind wants to do is exalted. Often, our mind is engaged only in agitation. Nothing that goes on in the mind is better than chanting. Putting aside the mind’s chatter when we chant doesn’t make us anti-intellectuals; it makes us servants of the pure truth of harinama. We’re not trying to stunt our intelligence or become like stone. Chanting Hare Krsna will awaken our higher faculties. This is what we have been waiting for and why we want to make our best efforts to enter the province of pure chanting.
All these questions seem to boil down to one: how, how, how can we submit to this gentle, peaceful practice of chanting? How can we, who are so passionate and “active,” allow ourselves to come under the sway of the holy name? Or do we really want to chant after all? What are we asking? “Can you convince me that chanting is really so wonderful and important?”
Yes, I think I can convince you. Prabhupada says that before a patient can be treated, he has to admit he has a disease and then come to a doctor for direction. Are you willing to chant under the direction of the expert physician, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? Think it over and let me know. Any time you’re ready, the holy name is there.
Have we been talking about chanting when we should have been chanting? Oh well, what can we do? We have these tongues and talking natures. At least we’re not talking prajalpa. We want to know if, by talking, we can make the chanting easier. Talking helps, especially if we speak to someone potent. But no matter who we talk to, after we think it over, there’s only one recourse: back to our japa. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Advice and coaching are interludes. Real talking is fervent recitation of the thirty-two syllables. God Himself has arranged these syllables as the best way to talk with Him. We can’t invent something better.
A saintly person’s gentleness comes from deep within himself. He knows that everyone is suffering and therefore he treats them with the same compassion he would treat a child. It is a preacher’s expertise to know that resistance is more often overcome and dismantled by gentleness and encouragement than by roughness.
Therefore, gentleness is a genuine Vaiṣṇava quality. When we are touched by a devotee’s gentleness, we are thrilled by the humanness of it, and relieved from the brusqueness, belligerence, or cold analysis that usually greets us and leaves us feeling dry and empty.
It is said of the six Gosvāmīs that they were attractive both to the gentle (dhīra) and to the ruffians (adhīra). Nārada Muni was so gentle that he could disarm demons and convert low-grade hunters to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That gentleness comes from the devotee’s pure desire to extend Kṛṣṇa’s compassion. People can see that a gentle devotee is free of malice. They can see that he or she is almost incapable of hurting them. Thus, they relax and are able to take the essence of what the devotee is offering— Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
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.
Read more »
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.