Sankarsana has been here for a week, and he has a week to go. Before he arrived, he wrote me a letter and said that he’s not a good servant, but he’ll try his best. Actually, he’s been a very good servant. He does many menial tasks in a surrendered mood. He comes every year for a couple of weeks, which is a very good practice for a disciple to help him come closer to his spiritual master by doing some personal service as long as it’s available. He rises early, chants all his rounds, then bathes, and then wakes up the deities downstairs. Then at 6 A.M. he comes up and helps with my undressing, bathing and dressing in preparation for the day. I wish more disciples like Sankarsana would come and do this menial service every year. The duties change a little and he has to learn how to do them from Baladeva. He cooks breakfast every day, and several times he’ll make his famous pizza.
Krsna Dasi first said at the beginning of January she would leave and go to Trinidad because it was too cold here. But as January began, she said she would try to stay on in New York at Viraha Bhavan as long as possible. It’s January 23rd and she’s still here, wearing a long coat (even indoors) with layers of clothing underneath. She changes Radha Govinda’s dress every three days with the many outfits we have from Tapan, the mukut wala from Vrindavan. She’s now thinking she can stay here for most of the winter with the occasional getaway in the south to warm her bones.
Anuradha is giving her good company. They get along well although they are of completely different personalities. Anuradha is here for three months, and her time will be up at the end of January.
John Endler arranged a Zoom call with me. He has been sick with a heavy case of COVID. He was quarantined to his room for ten days. The silver lining of his confinement was that he took a big stack of my Every day Just Write series into his room and he read constantly. It lifted his spirits, and the time went by quickly as he was confined to bed.
He read to me some of what he was reading during his period with COVID. He read from Radio Shows, Volume 2. It was a segment about “the flutist in the pit.” I told how I had heard story first from the radio raconteur Jean Shepherd. As I remember it now, the story goes that an aborigine tribe put a flutist in a pit and left him there to die. He was to play his music to an audience of one, God (Krsna). He fasted and played his music to his Lord. Unknown to the flutist, an anthropologist crept up in the bushes near the pit and recorded the last gasping music when the flutist was in his final days. The music wasn’t sweet, but it was calling out God and playing from the heart to the Lord. Jean Shepherd played for his radio listeners the last music of the flutist alone in the pit, playing for God. The sound was pretty eerie, but it attracted me because it’s been one of my themes of the paradox of a solitary writer writing for God but also writing to an audience. I even wrote a book called Forgetting the Audience. I put great energy into it and focused on the theme on a writing retreat in Castlegregory, Ireland.
John Endler also read to me a passage I wrote about the about the South Pole explorers led by Captain Scott. The external reason for their going to the South Pole was to collect penguin eggs, but the real reason was to test their fortitude is surviving in the dangerously frigid Pole. Captain Scott kept a journal which he wrote in even up to the last word before he was frozen dead. I wrote that as Captain Scott was dredging off on his search for survival at the Pole, I was searching for Goloka Vrindavan.
John wants to record some videos of himself explaining some of my books which may be difficult to understand. He is an expert at explaining the meanings of my books. And I have allowed him to write some introductions to a few of my books. Baladeva suggested I let John go ahead and make a few videos. I will look at them, and if they are all right, I can post them on the legacy site.
I am disappointed because I have two upcoming doctor appointments that will cut into our out loud group reading. Tomorrow, we have an annual wellness checkup with our primary care physician. This is on request of the insurance company. He asks a bunch of questions, goes through the medicine list and does a physical examination testing all the vitals and reflexes, etc. This will mean we’ll have to stop the reading after 45 minutes. On Thursday, we will miss the whole class because I have to go for a CT scan to check for more kidney stones and other problems that might be in the bladder which are causing me pain when I urinate.
Ryan, my PCP, was concerned that I feel a burning sensation when I start to urinate. Baladev will follow up with the urologist after the CT scan results are available. Ryan is also concerned with the sore in my ear which hasn’t gone away after three months. He prescribed an antibiotic cream and said if it doesn’t work in two weeks to call the dermatologist in case it is a skin lesion. It was again a tedious trip involving waiting a while in the waiting room while they saw other patients. The doctor and the receptionist all happily took cookies.
I received a letter from Vasudeva das, the head pujari at the Bhakti Center in New York City. He informed that the Bhakti Center is going to start a new weekly program at 26 Second Avenue called Prabhupada Meditations. The request of the organizers was to ask me to write an introductory statement that would be read at the start of the program to set the mood. It will be just a couple of paragraphs at most.
This statement would concisely explain the significance of 26 Second Avenue, invoke a feeling of Prabhupada in the space and invoke of a feeling of heartfelt gratitude for him. I am humbled by this request, and I will try to fulfill it.
We went to the hospital today for a CT scan to see if there are any kidney stones lodged in the urethra or if there is any damage to the bladder from the recent infection. Something is still wrong so they are trying to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps tomorrow or the day after we will hear more news from the radiologist. We arrived on time at the hospital and were taken into this special room where the CT scan machine was located. The assistant and Baladeva helped me lie down in front of the machine with my feet pointing into a big ring. The machine drew me in and a mechanical voice said take a deep breath and hold it. After a few seconds, the machine said “breathe,” and I let out my breath. The machine dictated this to me three times and then the assistant said “you are finished. That’s all.” We were glad to get out of there so quickly. It was one of the quickest doctor’s visits yet. We gave cookies to the original receptionist who then recognized us behind the masks and softened up a little. We also gave cookies to the assistant at the CT scan who also remembered getting them before.
When I was about ten years old, I received Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. I didn’t attend the parochial school but the public school. Every Wednesday, there was a released time for religion and the public school allowed its members to go to the church down the block and receive religious instructions from the nuns. I remember once a priest came in, and he asked all the public schoolchildren, what was “the Immaculate Conception?” I raised my hand and gave the answer. It was the Virgin Mary’s giving birth to Jesus. The priest was pleased with me. The nuns gave us more examinations and teachings. And then they had us go to confession to a priest. I told him trivial sins that I committed, such as being angry at my sister. He made me chant some extra prayers, “Hail Mary” and “Our Father.” Then on communion day, we dressed up in black uniforms, with white silk around my arm. They gave us a little pouch, which had stamped on it, “the happiest day in my life.” Inside was a missal (a little book of sacred prayers you were supposed to memorize), a set of rosary beads, and a holy picture.
After your first communion, you’re supposed to go regularly to Confession and communion, but I didn’t go regularly at all despite my mother’s asking me to go. I felt clean after making confession and taking communion and I felt a little bit holy. My interest in it dwindled. I started going to confession about once every six months. Then when I entered junior college, my main professors were Marxist atheists. They smashed my faith in God by saying, how could an all good, all-powerful God, allow all the suffering that goes on in the material world? I had no answer for it.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, Fourth Canto, Narada Muni is preaching to King Pracinabarhi. The King is the father of the Pracetas, who are at this time performing severe austerities in a big lake, but Narada is taking mercy on the Pracetas’ father who is too much inclined to sense gratification. He is speaking to him through an allegory. He is telling the story of Puranjana who was none other than King Pracinabarhi. King Puranjana is very inclined to sense gratification, but eventually he grows old and is unable to enjoy as his sense instruments become dull. He is attacked by the Gandharva soldiers in the form of time. Puranjana is protected by his life force in the form of a snake, but the soldiers are too numerous for the snake to hold them off. As he is getting near the end of his allegory, Narada Muni lets on that he is actually telling the story of King Pracinabarhi but telling the allegory of King Puranjana.
Sankarsana will end his two weeks of service here and will leave at 10 a.m. Baladeva will drive him to the train station after the breakfast reading, and Maitreya arrives in Albany airport. Sankarsana today made his famous pizza for a second time and left some in the freezer. He also bought me a new hoodie. I like his personal service very much, and I like the way he comes every year. He said he will be going out on harinama during the month of February. He has a heated vest and heated socks and as long as it’s not snowing or freezing, he will go out. He sings Hare Krsna in standard tune and to popular tunes. He also has his own songs in his repertoire.
At 3 p.m., another trooper of my disciples, Maitreya das, from Alachua, will arrive by plane in Albany. He was with us in California for a long time and has been a regular visitor to Viraha Bhavan. I also like his personal presence. It’s nice when I can see the disciples regularly, then I can build up long term relationships.
After breakfast, I said goodbye to Sankarsana and took my nap. My schedule now is upon wakening from my morning nap, I either listen to a Prabhupada lecture or a disciple of Prabhupada speaking about Prabhupada memories. I take notes on these and then dictate them for typing into a journal. The lunch reading was cut a little short to accommodate the meeting with Kirtan Rasa which went on for an hour. Shortly after he departed, Baladeva picked up Maitreya, who traveled from Alachua, at the Albany airport and brought him to Viraha Bhavan. I met with Maitreya briefly. He’s glad to be here, and he pretty much remembers the routine of service from being here before. It was almost a quarter to five before I was able to start this Free Write Journal.
In the wake of Guru dasa’s temporary retirement from typing due to his illness, the journal has been shorter or longer than usual. The journal for this week is 65 pages, but it’s all caught up. It is good material, but it may be too much to expect people to read it all. Going forward, the journal will be approximately 35 pages long. I apologize for the hiccups.
Today there were many extra people at the kitchen table for lunch. Muktavandya came, bringing many flowers for Radha Govinda and Guara Nitai. Muktavandya accompanied by Aakash who cleaned the temple and did some projects with Baladeva. He also helped Muktavandya with flowers and driving. Also present were Atindra and his wife Lalita Kishori, who were absent here for a month, having been in Michigan and then on vacation in Iceland. Our new servant Maitreya was also at the table. Anuradha Dasi was in the kitchen serving everyone. She made an excellent meal of idlis and sambar with coconut chutney. All the guests took turns at the out loud reading as we heard more in the Fourth Canto about the Puranjana allegory.
He then saw powerful Gopīnātha shining in His residence called Remuṇa and offered respects by placing His head on the ground. Everyone saw the flowers from Gopīnātha’s head fall on Gaurāṅga’s head.
Gaurāṅga then came to the town called Kaṭaka and to the deity famous in the world as Śāksī-gopīnātha. The people saw Gaurāṅga and the deity as non-different in great power, the only difference being the golden and black complexions.
On the road, Gaurāṅga gave His daṇḍa to Nityānanda and went ahead, His heart overflowing with bliss. Following behind, Nityānanda, whose actions cause joy, began to think deeply. With great joy, he then broke the daṇḍa.
Approaching Nityānanda with some worry, the Lord said, “Tell me where my daṇḍa is.” Nityānanda answered, “By chance, I stumbled and fell on the ground. The daṇḍa broke.” The Lord became very angry.
Disturbed in mind, thinking deeply, Mahāprabhu continued travelling, while joyfully chanting the name of the Lord. Constantly looking at the devatās on the path, He went in joy to the fortunate, beautiful town of Yāja-nagarī.
In a mango grove He saw Śiva and, reciting many verses of praise, fell on the ground in joy, being his Lord. Śiva worshipped Him according to the rules with sandalwood, āguru, and prasādam as well as other items.
From there, the Lord went to beautiful Kamala-pura, offered respects to Śiva, and bathed in the Bhārgī River. He saw the temple with a pinnacle as beautiful as Kailāsa, endowed with a shining cakra and a flag waving in the wind.
Falling on the ground with the others, He bathed in His own tears. Arriving at Puri, He entered with devotion, and seeing Jagannātha, He offered respects.
Continually gazing at the Lord’s sweet, moon-like face, He bathed His body in an ocean of flowing tears. Jagannātha also, seeing Him with his unblinking lotus eyes, became continually submerged in an ocean of bliss.
In this way, the Lord, decorated with sandalwood, garlands, scents and camphor, flooding unlimited places with the sweetness of His dress, produced by His own sweet will, the highest bliss in the land of Navadvīpa through His skillful dancing along with His devotees.
When He performed His pastimes in Navadvīpa at His will, Lakṣmī personified appeared in all the houses, and all happiness personified also appeared everywhere. Prema for the Lord appeared in everyone continually, in newer and newer ways.
When the Lord played with great pleasure in Navadvīpa, there was no sleep, no fear, no hunger, no thirst, no whimsical actions, and no fear of time or punishment from Yama for anyone, by the Lord’s mercy.
The performer of countless pastimes, entering Puri, went to Sārvabhauma’s house. The brāhmaṇa, suddenly seeing the sannyāsi attractive with knowledge, felt great bliss.
Rising and offering foot water with devotion, Sārvabhauma gave Him a wide seat and after offering respects, quickly and intelligently asked about Him with politeness.
“Where did you come from and where are you going? You are charming, peaceful and in control of your senses.” When he asked all this, the devotees answered everything.
Understanding everything, knowing what he had not known, he was happy. He revealed his bliss before the lotus feet of the Lord, worthy of worship by all eminent people.
Understanding the Lord’s desire, Sārvabhauma immediately sent Him off respectfully with his son to the temple, as He desired to see Jagannātha.
With Sārvabhauma’s son, He arrived at the temple and happily but cautiously entered. He saw the jewel in the crown of Nīlācala, Jagannātha, and sunk in an ocean of bliss.
Gazing at the Lord, He offered repeated respects and prayers, and bathed His body in His tears. Circumambulating five times, with difficulty He left the temple.
Seeing the Lord, the jewel in the crown of Nīlācala, He felt bliss. Making a necklace of the jewels of the Lord’s names, He placed this on His neck and shone constantly.
Filled with bliss, seeing Jagannātha along with His devotees like Mukunda Datta, the Lord spent some days there.
Sārvabhauma, the best of brāhmaṇas, thought in his mind about Mahāprabhu’s influence and power, not knowing everything, since the merciful Lord was acting as a human.
Becoming deaf because of the waves from the ocean of Mahāprabhu’s learning, even Bṛhaspati became senseless.
It is not surprising that Bṛhaspati, who had great pride and deep intelligence, did not know the lotus feet of the Lord. He did not even know a particle of His great learning.
Sārvabhauma thought to himself, “This great person, chief of men, took sannyāsa at a young age for He has this appearance. There is no need to think further. It is not difficult for you to conclude.
“He is attractive to the whole world, with many signs of a great person. How can he spend his time maintaining the conduct of a sannyāsi?
“Though born in a great family, this person shows His young age. How can He maintain the difficult post of a sannyāsa in Kali-yuga? It is very difficult.
“I will have the boy with a very peaceful heart constantly hear the Vedānta and put Him on the path of liberation with a sense of renunciation and fixation on knowledge of Brahman.”
Understanding what was in Sārvabhauma’s mind, the Lord, with a sweet face like a blossoming lotus, spreading radiant mercy over the three worlds, laughed internally with a restless heart.
With effulgence greater than the strong, hot sun, with face attractive as the moon, the Lord with great pleasure went to Sārvabhauma’s house with the devotees dedicated to His feet.
Seeing the Lord with His students, Sārvabhauma rose and offered repeated respects. He gave Him a seat and when He was seated, he also sat.
The brāhmaṇa then spoke to the Lord politely. “Your students should study Vedānta at this place. You are well qualified. Please listen, because by this, the contamination in the mind will quickly disappear.
I remember feeling his beauty one time when a black minister came. Jadurani brought him around because she was taking guitar lessons from him—Reverend Gary Davis. He was talking about prayer. The Reverend, who was blind, was seated on a chair, and he pounded his cane on the floor. His wife was sitting beside him in a chair and the Swami was on a lower level in front of them. The Reverend said, “But the problem is, you’ve got to know what to pray for!” Swamiji just sat back, and he was so graceful, almost like the combined feminine and masculine grace. And in a very calm way, contrasting with Reverend Davis, Swamiji said, “What to pray for? We pray, ‘Please let me love You.’”
These are some of the things that we could see in him. Others would be puzzled as to why he let the hair grow out of his ears or how come he’s wearing eyeglasses if he’s perfect? But we saw these as not inappropriate to a sage.
He was lovable because of his dedication to Krsna but not lovable like a five-year-old kid is. He was heavy. You could just try to tell him why you don’t believe there is God and he would knock you down with intellectual arguments, and if need be, he would shout you down. If you tried to shout back, then everything would be ruined. Swamiji would go anywhere and meet anyone to preach, even if people weren’t receptive. But he didn’t regularly expose himself to people or places where he would be mocked or harassed. There had to be respect and then it could happen. You can’t expect a guru to give Krsna to faithless persons.
Keep trying as you do in japa, again and again. Why do we get bored? One reason is bodily limitation: fatigue. It’s hard to control the mind. You are also affected by the rain and overcast sky. You’re not spiritually advanced enough to experience ruci (taste) at every hour. Without the sanction of Providence, nothing can happen.
But think—there are hundreds and thousands of followers of Srila Prabhupada. They are all meditating on him by their service. For example, Rasala dasa said that he and his wife, Sita dasi, are “consumed” by training and working oxen at Gita-nagari. In summertime, they are in the field plowing and planting all day. In the winter, all day hauling wood. They live by the dharmic vision that humans should work the bull and protect the cows. Another cow protection follower, Balabhadra prabhu, has taken a few oxen travelling with him in a trailer, to tell the world about it. “Unless this is done, the Krsna consciousness movement is on paper only, or only in the temple.”
Srila Prabhupada wanted a society with temples and devotees living together. But ISKCON is attacked by irate parents, anti-cultists and various money-hungry rascals. Who will protect ISKCON from the fights that drain the society’s treasury and threaten to close down the Movement as a visible force? Amarendra prabhu fights—like an infantry soldier on a beachhead, he struggles inch by inch, foot by foot, in the courts. He is a lawyer for Krsna. He has hardly any time to chant his japa rounds. Few devotees are able or willing to help him, although it’s a matter of life and death for ISKCON. He stays up late at night writing legal briefs, makes phone calls, meets religionists and lawyers, seeking their support. I can’t even describe what he does, just as I don’t know what it’s like to walk for hours in a straight line behind the oxen. But Amarendra is acting on Prabhupada’s order, and he is pleasing Krsna and Prabhupada.
Hundreds of others go out on the streets every day, “Excuse me Sir, we’re giving out these books on spiritual knowledge and a better way of life.” The book distributors are Prabhupada’s daring soldiers. They get rejected dozens of times within an hour, and they look deeply inward for the strength to go on:
Why such risks? Because they want to spread Krsna consciousness and it is difficult. … Now we can just imagine how merciful Krsna is to those who engage in His service, risking everything for Him. Therefore it is certain that such persons must reach the supreme planet after leaving the body.
—Bg. 11.55, purport
Prabhupada responded when he was requested to read his Bhagavad-gita in 1966. He was not playing coy. He did have a desire to read the Bhagavad-gita manuscript, and he responded, pure and simple, with pleasure, when asked to read it. The important thing to remember is that we were still reading Dr. Radhakrishnan’s book with its mayavada commentaries. Many of Prabhupada’s disciples had their own copy of the book, and we were reading from it as our scripture. Prabhupada said it was all right for the time being, but he was trying to get his own book ready. He said as soon as he got his book published, we would have the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and hear what Krsna says. Prabhupada was not proud of his book—he did not even think of it as his book, but Krsna’s. He was eager to get it into our hands so that we could have a genuine Bhagavad-gita. He wanted to give us Krsna.
This is the true picture of Prabhupada’s position as an author: he saw himself as the mouthpiece of Krsna. He was pleased that a disciple had enough sense to ask if there were some way we could immediately stop hearing from Dr. Radhakrishnan. Prabhupada thought that his books could save the world, not because they were his creations, but because they were spoken by Krsna. Naturally, he was eager to read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is to his disciples. My misconception was due to defective vision (cheating, tendency to commit mistakes, illusion, and limited senses)—and was a projection of my own egotistic experience as an author who wanted to read “his” book.
We all wanted to see Prabhupada when he came to a nearby city like New York or Boston, but we knew that the most important way to advance in Prabhupada’s service was by carrying out his orders. That often meant sticking to one’s particular location. For example, after Prabhupada visited Boston in May 1968, he went on to Montreal. I wanted to go to Montreal with him, but it was more important to stay in Boston, both because of my work at the welfare office and my duties in the temple. I knew I could realize Prabhupada by service, and not by whimsically traveling where he was. If I had gone to Montreal over that summer to visit Prabhupada, I would now be able to tell first-hand some of those Montreal pastimes. I stayed back, however, hoping that by sticking to my place, I would make spiritual progress in separation. It is still true that we serve Prabhupada in separation by carrying out his orders.
If you could be in the same place with Prabhupada, then your reward was to see his actual lila. On the other hand, if you served him anywhere in the world, you had the advantage of actually attracting the pure devotee. By that attraction he would come to you. Prabhupada said that we should not try to see Krsna, but act in such a way that Krsna sees us. He gave the example of an office worker in a big company who does his job very nicely. One day the president of the company examines his file and is impressed at the man’s work. Then the president comes to that man’s desk and congratulates him. We attract Prabhupada by carrying out his orders. Let us make our hearts pure and enthusiastic to receive him. Then when he comes to see us, we will have something to say to him. His coming will not occur just by hanging out as a guest, with no particular service, in the temple where Prabhupada is visiting.
Sometimes the happy combination occurred when we could please Prabhupada by rendering him service while in his personal presence. This happened the day that I was walking to work up Second Avenue in New York. I met Swamiji walking south toward the storefront. In those days, he didn’t usually take morning walks, but he had started this habit after his stroke.
I saw him coming around the corner and walking my way. It was a great relief to see him because I was feeling anxious. I was anticipating the difficulty of going to work that day. The caseworkers were on strike, and in order to enter the building, I would have to go through their picket line. I had not joined their strike because I was working for Swamiji. I was not interested in losing weeks of pay in the name of trying to get a higher salary. I knew they would all hoot and holler and threaten to hit me when I walked through their double file.
Swamiji knew about the welfare strike, and he had already passed the picket lines from the other side of the street that morning. The workers had yelled at him because they knew he was sending me to work.
Swamiji was accompanied by Kirtanananda, and, just before I reached them, I bowed down to Prabhupada, touching my forehead on the sidewalk. As I rose, I saw Swamiji smiling very beautifully. He reached out and touched me slightly. We exchanged only a few words at that time, and I went off to my task filled with his blessings. That was certainly a moment to treasure: service in Prabhupada’s shelter, approved by him.
Srila Prabhupada answered questions in his own way. This would be especially evident with someone who didn’t really know Prabhupada or how to relate to him. Often, Prabhupada wouldn’t even speak to them directly. He would call upon his secretary to translate the person’s question for him: “What did he say?” This wasn’t a sign of pride on Prabhupada’s part, but people often phrased their questions with jargon or vocabulary Prabhupada wasn’t familiar with, or, because their questions were sometimes obscure, they could not state them clearly. Prabhupada would ask, “What did he say?” and the secretary would respond, “He wants to know whether a soul, once it is fallen, can come back to perfection.”
Sometimes people would ask mental or involved questions. Although they had something very specific in mind, Prabhupada would not always understand exactly what they wanted. He would answer in a different way, always on the transcendental level. There is an amusing example of this. Once, Prabhupada was talking to a Christian priest in Melbourne. The priest said, “Yes, the story of the talents tells us about that.” He was referring to one of Jesus’s parables in which a master distributes talents to three people and tells them he will be back to collect them after a certain amount of time (talents were the form of currency used during Biblical times in that area). Prabhupada replied, “Yes, talents,” and he began to describe how one can use his talents in the service of Krsna. The minister let it go and didn’t try to correct Prabhupada or redirect Prabhupada to his own point. Occasionally, people would insist that the specific form of their questions be answered, but more often, people seemed to realize that Prabhupada was speaking about something more profound than what the conversation seemed to be about. In his own way, he addressed the subject.
Sometimes a person would only get the question half out before Prabhupada would begin to answer it. In cases like that, Prabhupada was often responding just as much to the person’s proud or challenging attitude as he was to his question. Prabhupada would grab at the half-formed phrase and immediately defeat them before they had even fully expressed their ideas.
In India Prabhupāda proposed that the devotees set up a library in a separate building. It would house all of Prabhupāda’s books as well as all the books of the great ācāryas, including the Upaniṣads and other Vedic literatures. He even said that Śaṅkara’s works could be included, but not anything from modern popular swamis and political leaders who claim to be spiritual writers.
“They’re all rascals,” Prabhupāda said. “The Vedas instruct us that we should not even look at their faces.”
“But doesn’t Caitanya Mahāprabhu say that if one even reads Śaṅkara’s books, he’ll be doomed?” asked Hari Śauri.
Prabhupāda replied, “Not if he reads with proper understanding. We can read to know what is their philosophy.”
During a short visit to Boston in 1971, Prabhupāda gave the devotees a gift for their altar.
Brahmānanda had asked Prabhupāda why he always applied his Vaiṣṇava tilaka by using water from an old jar.
Prabhupāda replied, “I will give it to you. It is Gaṅgā water and never decomposes.”
Brahmānanda thankfully accepted the jar of water. “Thank you, Śrīla Prabhupāda. We will get a silver container for it.”
“No,” said Prabhupāda. “Put it on the altar as it is.”
So the devotees placed the jar, which was clearly labeled “Maxwell House Coffee,” on the altar alongside the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities and all the other standard paraphernalia. Sometimes visitors to the temple would ask about the significance of the Maxwell House jar on the worshipable altar, and the devotees would proudly and gladly explain that it was a gift from Śrīla Prabhupāda.
In 1972 Átreya ṛṣi dāsa arranged for Bob Cohen (later Brahmatīrtha) and his wife to have a private darsana with Śrīla Prabhupāda. Bob Cohen’s wife had been coming to the temple for several months, and she was determined that no one was going to make her chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. She only went to the temple because her husband went. The devotees would say, “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Barbara,” and she would reply, “Hi.”
It was only her and her husband and maybe eight or ten sannyāsīs in the room that day. Bob offered prostrated obeisances and Barbara only bowed her head. Śrīla Prabhupāda looked at her and said, “So you are interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness?” She didn’t understand a word he said. Everything had to be translated for her. Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke for maybe an hour, and Barbara was impressed by him, although she didn’t know exactly why. She asked Prabhupāda a few questions, but was too new to really appreciate Kṛṣṇa consciousness at that time. Śrīla Prabhupāda was merciful to her. Later he passed out rasagullās. “Hold out your hand,” he said to Barbara, and he placed a rasagullā in her hand.
Then it was time for him to leave. Bob Cohen was going to be driving Śrīla Prabhupāda to the airport and everyone else was leaving the room. Barbara lingered around the room until everyone was out, and then she turned to Prabhupāda, folded her hands, looked him right in the eye, and very deliberately said, “Hare Kṛṣṇa.” With an expression of welcome, Prabhupāda replied, “Jaya!” Somehow, Barbara was sure that Śrīla Prabhupāda knew she had never willingly chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa before and that this was the first time she had really chanted. This knowing and personal reciprocation seemed very wonderful to her, and she at once became determined to try and become a devotee.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between reciting a sastric prayer in a personal way and expressing the contents of that prayer in a somewhat paraphrased way as it might occur to me in spontaneous speaking. After all, whatever we know of Krsna comes from the sastra and from Prabhupada, but we may sometimes express this in a personalized way, as Prabhupada did himself.
For example, we may say, “My dear Lord Krsna, I wish to praise You and worship You. I know that Lord Brahma states that You are the isvarah paramah krsnah and You Yourself declare in Bhagavad-Gita that no truth is beyond You. I also wish to worship You and I am pleased to do so every day when I see You in our temple as Sri Sri Radha Damodar. Please accept my humble obeisances and allow me to worship You always and to spread Your glories by distributing Prabhupada’s books.”
Admittedly, we cannot make uttamaslokas to compare with those made by mahajanas, but Krsna is more interested in our devotion than our abilities at learning, memorization, or poetic excellence.
There is a great benefit in praying with the words of scripture, but there may be a tendency to hide behind the perfect formulas of prayer which others have made. Personal prayer forces us to speak directly and to come out from hiding.
We wouldn’t imagine trying to develop a friendship with a valuable friend by only speaking in “canned” sentiments recited from texts, and neither would our friend want to hear us only read to him in that way. As Prabhupada said, even if our talking is babyish, Krsna wants to hear from us, because we are His sons and daughters.
Therefore, in honesty we begin a prayer session with broken words like, “My dear Lord Krsna, I am distracted today by what X said to me, and my body is also sick, so I don’t feel much like praying. But please help me. I really do want to serve You if I had sufficient spiritual strength.”
One day after the Sunday feast,
when he was alone,
after he had lectured,
Prabhupada called for me.
As I entered he suddenly began.
“The farms are very important.”
While I agreed in a theoretical way
that Krishna conscious farms
should be developed.
Why tell me? I thought.
No such farms
were in my zone
or even in my mind.
But now I take it
he was instructing me
to do it in the future.
And now I believe in
the great importance
of Krishna conscious farms,
and one is my home.
How many things did he teach
which I still do not understand
as applicable for me?
And when will I understand
his deeper meaning?
When will I wake up and hear
Prabhupada’s prophetic call
and fully take up his work?
What is there to wait for
when already we have
his spoken command?
you came to the end.
Morality is with Krsna
even though He asked Arjuna to fight and kill.
Victory is on the side of Krsna and the Pandavas,
and riches too because He is God. Read that book
you fool and stop fooling around so
much thinking you’ll get revelations in
dreams and nature scenes
and from the text of your brain
to the spot in your heart. You’ll be forgiven for
the accidental manhandling of a spider
if you engage yourself fully
in the Lord’s service.
Chant and hear the names of
the Speaker, Krsna, Krsna, and be aware
you are tiny
and you love Him
and He loves you.
Now Brahmananda is trying
to buy that old building.
Maybe we can go back.
Twenty years later,
we are still Swamiji’s men,
but we’re also still his babies.
Maybe we can go back
and sit with him
in his transcendental, sun-lit room
on 26 Second Avenue.
To remember him
and to serve his order
is like prana in the body,
but can we go back
to “Matchless Gifts” days?
And why bother to try?
Are the good old days
just a sentiment?
But even if you don’t buy that place,
we will keep going there
hoping as before,
looking for his name
over the buzzer on the door—
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami—
and looking for his form,
in turtleneck and graceful dhoti
as he stands in the dim-lit hallway.
We keep going to his door
to knock, and he opens,
inviting us in, blessing us with his glance.
He was always open,
and we need him always,
because to see, to touch, and to hear
a pure devotee is very rare.
Better a sentiment for him
than for some former flame
or tomorrow’s fame.
We’re doing duty now,
but let’s also go back
and make a shrine there
and invite everyone
to glorify Prabhupada
who started all alone,
and if we serve Love Feasts again,
and awaken kirtanas on that holy block,
then let’s do it—
and live in the meaning
of ISKCON’s beginning.
The two ducks were lively. They swam here and there, sometimes stretching their bodies straight and stiff, leaving behind a rippling wake. They dove underwater headfirst, and I had to guess where they might surface. The show continued for several minutes as they moved downstream. I hurried from window to window to catch the last sight of them as they went around the bend. The morning sun was just coming out. No one was around. It was a few degrees above freezing.
In His most intimate, original feature, Krsna chooses to live in a natural, rural setting. Vrndavana is not a big city like Dvaraka. It is in the forest groves, by the river Yamuna, and in the grazing pastures and on Govardhana Hill. Here Krsna enjoys His most intimate lila. Our own attraction for rural peace and beauty is actually an expression of the spirit soul’s original desire to live in Vrndavana.
But Vrndavana is not simply “rural.” All the living creatures there are glorifying Krsna. In the material world, we like to wake up in the country where we can hear the songs of the birds or watch the ducks in the water. But this pleasure is only the faintest indication of the pleasure of seeing and hearing the ducks, birds, and bees directly glorifying Krsna in Krsnaloka. When the sky is bright and clear, we say, “It’s a nice day.” But that appreciation is increased a millionfold when we see not only the blue of space but also the blue, all-beautiful form of the Personality of Godhead.
I see that the verse I’ll be speaking on today is about the tolerance and mercy and equality of the guru. When speaking about tolerance and mercy, one is usually expected to cite how the preacher faces all dangers to spread Krsna consciousness. I do not face such dangers. Then I feel guilty preaching it. I think I’ll glorify Srila Prabhupada for his tolerance and mercy, but what about me? One could say, very well, you describe your guru very feelingly, but if he is such a great soul and a fearless preacher, why aren’t you? On this point, it is hard for me to speak out of my own life. As a highly positioned leader in ISKCON, I can create propaganda that the others should be tolerant and merciful, but what about me?
I just mentioned the above to Jayadvaita. He admitted that our life is easy. He suggested we go out door to door in the next town, Miami. A great idea. Titiksavah karunikah.
Later I thought, this is not my austerity.
No meeting with nondevotees yesterday. No opportunities. What about preaching to interested guests? What is the plan of JDB and SDG for preaching? Tonight, we go out and chant in Miami Beach. I can try to distribute some magazines.
Don’t sleep and eat too much.
I was reading Srila Prabhupada’s letters. He said a devotee always feels inadequate and fallen and that it is his qualification. If I feel like that for the fault or guilt of avoiding preaching, it’s not a good thing. I dread surrender. I dread austerity (of a certain kind) and will avoid it instinctively. Then I have to perform another kind of austerity, front-line austerity, or administrative austerity, some kind of austerity, and sincere dedicated service. Here in Miami, Narahari dasa insists he’s preaching by arranging the beautiful New Naimisaranya forest with trees, plants, flowers, etc. People see it and appreciate it as Krsna’s. He is convinced, no matter what others may say. What is my service?
While Prabhupāda wrote from India, I continued serving him in separation. I used to take the elevated train a good distance—a half hour or so—to the welfare office, and I would chant on my beads while commuting. I was still a stranger to the city. I didn’t know anybody, and people in the office didn’t know much of my activities. Each day I would give the Bhāgavatam class in my apartment before I left for work. When I came back at night, the devotees liked me to give another class; I would read again from the Bhāgavatam. During the day, while at work, I would prepare for the morning class whenever I had spare time.
In Boston I had even more duties than I had in New York. This didn’t improve my relationship with my bosses at the welfare office. One time I visited my clients briefly and then went back to the temple. My boss must have suspected me, because he called the temple, and I foolishly answered the phone. “What are you doing there?” he demanded. I went back to the office, and they grounded me with office working hours from nine o’clock to five o’clock.
Rūpānuga had shown me how he read at his desk typewritten notes of Prabhupāda’s lectures instead of the thick Bhāgavatam. Then the supervisors didn’t suspect he was reading Kṛṣṇa conscious literature. I followed his example. I also wrote articles at my desk. Once I composed an essay about Lord Rāmacandra, [which was later printed in BTG].
Because I rose early, I would tend to doze at my desk. My supervisors would complain: “We don’t want him. He’s always falling asleep.” They transferred me to another department. The head of my new department was a crazy, neurotic woman, but I got along with her well because I was a devotee and could tolerate different people. One of the supervisors called me into his office one day and commended me, “You have inner peace. No one else could work with this woman, but you have been able to, and we are very thankful.”
How did I do it? I wouldn’t get angry; I was introspective and would chant in my mind and think about the temple. No one, therefore, could bother me. The supervisors accepted me as a peaceful person who did his work, but was obviously not interested in a career.
I used to get many calls from the temple while I was at work. I would try to conduct temple affairs from my office. Once the supervisors rebuked me, “This is not a church rectory. Why are you taking all these calls?” The workers around me would wonder what work I was doing when I would speak on the phone, preaching to the devotees with problems and giving directions for management and saṅkīrtana.
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.