Guru Maharaja is currently in the hospital for pneumonia and sepsis. He had an operation requiring twenty stitches that successfully removed a cancerous growth from his ear. He is in stable condition.
Let us all join in sincere prayer for the health and full recovery of our Guru Maharaja. Hare Krishna
In our out loud reading we are hearing the story of Puranjana as told by Narada to King Pracinabarhi. Narada wants to enlighten the King and stop him from performing materialistic sacrifices or yajnas. He doesn’t teach him directly, but indirectly through an allegory. He tells the story of Puranjana who was a great sense gratifier. King Puranjana is actually the same as King Pracinabarhi but told in an allegorical way. Puranjana enjoys sense gratification to the fullest through his body and senses, through sex life with his wife and by enjoying with the other senses. Puranjana has a long life of sense enjoyment, but he finally grows old and cannot enjoy anymore. Because he thinks so much of his wife, even at this time of his death, in his next life he is a born as a woman. He married a great hero but is attacked by the soldiers of time and is killed. Narada has told a very elaborate allegory to enlighten Pracinabarhi, and he has even revealed that Puranjana in the allegory is the same person as the King. The King due to his dull intelligence does not understand Narada’s words. So out of compassion, Narada tells him another allegory. He tells him about a deer who was enjoying in a meadow, but in front of the deer is a ferocious tiger. Behind the deer is a hunter with a bow and sharp arrows. So the death of the deer is imminent. Hearing this story King Pracinabarhi finally comes to his senses. He becomes enlightened and says his former teachers who taught him the path of materialistic sacrifices were wrong. He now knows the best path is to render devotional service to Krsna. Thus, Narada was successful in converting the King.
I wrote in my journal an appreciation about Muktavandya. I told how he was the senior counselor for the devotees in the Boston temple. I also wrote how he always contributes flowers to our ashrams and to other temples, such as the Brooklyn temple. He is a great donator of flowers. After I posted this appreciation, I received two letters about Muktavandya. One letter was from Kirtan Rasa Dasa. He wrote: “I read what you wrote in the Free Write Journal about Muktavandya. He reminded me of Sudama the florist in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB 10.41.43–52).”
After Sudama gave Krsna and Balarama nice garlands, they offered him whatever benedictions he desired. Sudama asked for unshakeable devotion for Krsna, friendship with his devotees, and transcendental compassion for all living beings. In addition, Lord Krsna granted Sudama strength, long life, fame, beauty, and ever-increasing prosperity for his family.
Kirtan Rasa closed, “Muktavandya reminds me of Sudama. He is so dedicated to worshiping the deities and supplying them with nice flowers. I hope the Lord gives him the same benediction.”
I received another letter from Shailendra Dasa. He wrote, “It made me very happy to read about Muktavandya Prabhu of Boston in the latest journal. I had the good fortune of knowing him during my Gaura Arati prayers and participation in weekly harinama at Copley Square in Boston Commons. In the writeup about him, his harinama service for Boston Temple was missing. Somehow, I am taking up the courage to point it out. To me, because of him, I could participate in harinama. He is single handedly carrying the harinama torch in Boston. I sincerely hope some younger devotees will take over at least in a year or two. He has been a great encouragement to Varun and myself and our Krsna conscious, fledgling journey.
Today I received a letter from my disciple in Russia, Isana Devi Dasi. She doesn’t directly translate my books, but she manages other devotees who translate, and she is engaged in the printing and editing of my books. She reported today the good news that the translator has completed the translation of my book From Copper to Touchstone. Isana Dasi wrote “I really, really liked this book of yours, and I am sure, dear Guru Maharaja, that all Russian speaking devotees will appreciate this book and will receive spiritual realization thanks to you.”
I happen to like From Copper to Touchstone very much. It is subtitled “Favorite selections from Caitanya-caritamrta.” I roughly follow the conversations between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya, starting with basic topics and going up to more advanced topics. I am so happy that many of my books have been translated into Russian, and they’ve been distributed in the country.
Anuradha Dasi has been here for three months. She has been doing this job is of three people. She cooks every day, cleans, deity worship, garden work, etc. She has been a good companion for Krsna Dasi. We look forward to her return. We hope her religious worker visa will finally come through so she can stay here for longer periods of time. It’s not easy for Anuradha to stay here; she likes to be alone more, and Viraha Bhavan is busy so she makes a great sacrifice to spend time serving here. We appreciate it very much, and we hope she can continue to visit.
Today I watched Siddhanta dasa’s video of me remembering Srila Prabhupada. Toward the end, I mentioned something about Ram Dass, the popular American guru. We heard that his followers said that he was able to create love between his followers and other people. But he did not talk about love of God. We criticized Ram Dass for this. Siddhanta asked me what was my main impression of Prabhupada’s main quality? I said the main quality that impressed me was his love for Krsna and how this was different than Ram Dass’s ability to arouse love among his followers and people. On the video I said to Siddhanta that when he asked me that question, I didn’t know what to answer, but it just came out of me suddenly. It even made me cry. In essence, I said I was most impressed by Prabhupada’s love of Krsna.
When I was Prabhupada’s secretary and servant in 1974 I made some mistakes. My mistakes were in failing to do things practically. One time when I made such a mistake, Prabhupada told the story (surprisingly) about Sir Isaac Newton. He said a friend visited Sir Isaac Newton and noticed that he had made two holes in the door to his house. The friend asked why two holes? Isaac Newton said he had two cats. One was big and one was small. So the big hole was for the big cat, and the small hole was for the small cat. The brilliant scientist’s friend laughed and said you could have made one hole to fit both cats. Then Prabhupada gave me the name “Sir Isaac Newton.” I didn’t know what to make of it. I was flattered that he called me by the name of one of the most brilliant scientists, but I was embarrassed that he used it because I was so impractical. One time, we went on a morning walk in Hawaii. I was in the car with Prabhupada and when I got out of the car, I left my beads in the car and the door was slammed locked. I exclaimed, “Oh, my beads are in the car!” Prabhupada didn’t wait for me but just walked off on his morning walk. From over his shoulder, he called back to me, “Sir Isaac Newton.”
We received the autumn edition of Raw Vision Magazine. Under book reviews, The Many Colors of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. The book review stated among the things, “this book is a collection of his works, many of which focus on the devotion to Krsna. However, portraits of other devotees, collages and homages to artists whom he admired are also included. The work is colorful and joyous with animated figures reflecting events in the Hindu scriptures, as well as the essential Krsna message. Satsvarupa was honored with a one man show at the Govinda Gallery in Washington DC in 2021. And while his work is held mostly by followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), it is hoped that he may find a wider audience once he becomes better known.”
We went to the upstate dermatologist to examine the sore on my right ear lobe. It has been bothering me for three months, and lately, it causes me pain when I try to sleep on my pillow facing the right ear (I sleep on my right side). The dermatologist looked at it right away said “it looks like cancer.” I also had a barnacle on my left leg and he said “that has to come off.” He gave me anesthesia with a needle, and it was painful. He cut off flesh from my right ear and completely cut off the barnacle on my left leg. He put the flesh in jars to send to the lab. We’ll get a report back on Tuesday or Wednesday.
I’ve had two of these skin cancers before. What they do is cut until they think they’ve got it all and then check under a microscope to make sure it’s all gone, and they sew it back up and let it heal.
The temperatures for the last two days have been 10 below zero with a windchill of minus 30 degrees which is dangerous for anyone. No fair-weather friends are visiting us. Our own tropical bird, Krsna dasi, from Trinidad, is so far surviving up north, wearing her long coat and many layers underneath it, even in the house. When her duties are done, Baladeva drives her in a preheated car to her house which is only five doors away. He then picks her up in the late morning to come and do her duties. So far, she is surviving with no complaints.
In our Bhagavatam reading, we are hearing in the Fifth Canto about the sacrifice performed to Vishnu by the priests of King Nabhi. The King is praying to the Lord to request him to give a benediction to have a son like Lord Vishnu (not Vishnu himself, but a son like Vishnu). The priests are disappointed and ashamed that they are performing a sacrifice to Vishnu to ask for a material benediction. They think that Lord Vishnu has so many activities to perform and attend to, and they are ashamed to interrupt his lilas and come to their sacrifice to answer a paltry prayer. But Lord Vishnu, out of His causeless mercy to His devotee, appears in the arena of King Nabhi’s sacrifice. The Lord appears in a beautiful four-armed form, in spiritual dress and ornamentation. The Lord grants the benediction of a son like Vishnu. The benediction is worthy come because the Lord blesses King Nabhi with a son who is the great Lord Rsabhadeva.
Today, in our group out loud reading from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Guru dasa took part as he usually does. He is in a rehabilitation center where they are treating him for his wounds left from a serious and life-threatening infection. He almost lost his leg. The infection became serious last December. He was in India. He was trying to get back to the United States on time for my Vyasa Puja date, which was December 3rd, but the infection blew up into the size of two tennis balls on his leg and the authorities took him off the plane which was stopping off in Germany. As an emergency patient he entered a German hospital where they began to remove all the infected and dead tissue. He was there for more than a month. They released him to travel back to the United States. In the United States, he went back to his apartment, but he had a relapse and had to reenter the hospital for more treatment. Then he moved into a rehabilitation center for more treatment. Gradually the wound was contained, and today from the out loud reading, he spoke to the devotees and said that the doctor said he could be discharged today and go home. The devotees cheered to hear that he could finally go home. He has a lot more recovery to do, but at least he’s out of the hospitals and rehabilitation centers, for now.
I received a letter from Yadunandana Swami, who is a now an initiating guru in Spain. He had his first initiation of disciples some months ago. He told me he would like to send me the names of the devotees he initiated and that I should give my blessings and prayers that devotees he initiated can become advanced in Krsna consciousness. He called them my grand-disciples. He noticed in my Free Write Journal that I mentioned him. In my letter, I would like him to come and visit me, as a long time has passed since his last visit, prior to the COVID pandemic. I sent my blessings to his new disciples, and he acknowledged that he would like to come sometime in the summer or early autumn. Yadunandana Swami received first and second initiation from me. He is dear to me, and I like to keep a close relationship.
Baladeva and Atindra worked on the contracts for the audio book of Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrita,which should be finished and signed this week. Ekendra is more than halfway finished recording Volume One of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita. While the men were doing that, Krsna Dasi and Lalita Kishori were changing the dresses of the big and little Gaura Nitai, making new garlands, cleaning the temple room, etc. Halfway through, everyone stopped for a big lasagna lunch and reading from the Bhagavatam.
I spoke to Haridas dasa today and he told me he’s reading Maitreya’s book, To Paradise and Beyond. Haridas told me he likes the book a lot. He’s just starting it, and he likes how Maitreya portrayed the British culture. He said he did it in a literary way, and he appreciated Maitreya’s British wits. I also read the book and liked it. He asked me to write a review which I did, a very favorable one, and he’s posted it on Amazon. He’s trying to promote his book, but it’s difficult for an unknown author.
Sārvabhauma, advocating Advaita, and the Lord, advocating bhakti, both oceans of great intellect, served by their followers, spent a long time in arguing back and forth in various ways.
Most astonished, the best of brāhmaṇas, his heart confused by the Lord’s mind, spoke. “Who is this? He has appeared in this world to defeat my intelligence. Is He Bṛhaspati?
“I have always wondered about this. Bṛhaspati even with great effort cannot cross over the ocean of my intellect.
“He is a youth. How much has He studied or taught? But I did not have the power to defeat Him, and He has the power to defeat me.
“He must be Kṛṣṇa. This can be understood from His actions.” Thinking in this way, He offered respects to the Lord of his heart, while his hairs stood on end.
With tears flowing from his rolling eyes, singing verses of praise and offering respects, hairs standing on end, he pleased the Lord. The Lord, an ocean of mercy, pleased him.
The Lord showed His four armed form, shining brighter than a million suns. The brāhmaṇa became ever more blissful and recited praises.
What the best of brāhmaṇas, very bold and satisfied, recited, Bṛhaspati himself could not recite, even in the future, and even with endeavor.
The Lord stayed some days and then decided to go to the south. Going with all the devotees, together they walked and chanted the Lord’s names.
Going for some distance, the merciful Lord then bid farewell to all of them. On the road, a brāhmaṇa named Gopīnātha offered respects to the Lord.
Seeing a book of prayers in his hand, the Lord affectionately took it. The devotees following Him then arrived around.
But when they all left, the Lord after walking for some time, sat comfortably under a tree and taking out the book, scrutinized it for a long time in joy.
The Lord went through the book and saw one poem by Sārvabhauma. In that poem He saw the word “Kṛṣṇa.”
Seeing that word, the Lord, out of intense prema, became thrilled and fell on the ground. Tears washed His body and He did not move.
Having fallen on the ground at the base of a tree and wanting to give mercy to Sārvabhauma, the merciful Lord lay there for the rest of the day and the whole night.
In the morning He woke up and, very disturbed, with choked voice said, “I have made a great offense to the great devotee Sārvabhauma.” He then left that place.
“How can I reject him out of bewilderment and pride and tour the holy sites? I will return to Puri and serve him. He is a great soul.
“I will do nothing except serve him.” Saying this, the ocean of mercy arrived in Puri in one prahara.
Sārvabhauma sent a servant to bring Gopināthācārya. The servant quickly arrived and spoke to Gopīnātha.
The servant said, “O ācārya! Lord Caitanya is coming here.” Gopīnātha said, “You must be telling a lie. He has joyfully gone to the south.
“We followed Him and then at a great distance left Him and came back. Why would He suddenly return?” The servant then repeatedly said, “I am telling the truth.”
Quickly, Gopīnātha approached the Lord. Seeing the Lord, with joyful heart, he spoke with astonishment and affection.
“O Lord! Why did you go and why did you come back?” The Lord, with sparkling teeth and red lips, sporting with words filled with sweet rasa, spoke.
“O ācārya! I have committed a great offense to Sārvabhauma. I have given him up out of pride and desired to go on pilgrimage.
“He is a great soul, a form of the Lord, delivering the three worlds. He performs pure actions, for from his mouth, one nice, faultless verse containing the name of Kṛṣṇa has arisen.
“Therefore I must serve him. This is my service to the Lord. Thinking in this way, though I left, I have returned from the pilgrimage.”
Hearing those most unfathomable words, the essence of the śrutis and smṛtis, which should be heard, the brāhmaṇa Gopīnātha suddenly smiled, showing his shining teeth.
“See the acts of the most merciful lord, compassionate to the miserable people. Who can understand His inaccessible glory? We are just insects.
“See the mercy given to Sārvabhauma by the greatly merciful Lord who desired to make the universe full of mercy. This mercy cannot be attained in Brahmā’s life.
“Sārvabhauma, famous among all knowers of Vedānta, devoid of any trace of bhakti, by chance mentioned Kṛṣṇa in a verse and became the object of your mercy.
“What foolish person would not worship this greatly merciful Lord? Rejecting all his faults, accepting a small good quality in a person, He shows mercy.
“What should happen to the person who does not mention the name of Kṛṣṇa? I understand that now you will give the greatest mercy to Sārvabhauma.”
Hearing his words filled with the rasas of astonishment and enthusiasm, the Lord said, “Do not speak like this, O great soul! I should simply serve him.”
Saying this, He passed the day, and at the end of night, He rose from bed to see the dawn. With the devotees He performed his nitya-kriyas.
Putting on his lower cloth and a cloth around His waist, eager to chant the name, the Lord entered the temple, like the autumn moon appearing on Sunrise Mountain.
Standing behind the Garuḍa-stambha like golden pole, He gazed at the crown jewel of Nīlācala, as streams of tears washed His body.
Watching the worship till the offering of incense and accepting very attractive mahā-prasādam, He then went outside.
The Lord went to see Sārvabhauma at his house. Sārvabhauma by chance had not risen from his bed at the dawn.
I cannot think of a single instance of Prabhupada making me or anyone else feel inferior on the basis of our birth in mleccha nations. He never said or even implied, “Don’t forget, you’re an untouchable.” He wasn’t like that.
But many caste brahmanas, and even some who follow the Vaisnava religion in India, thought that Prabhupada’s Western disciples could not really be accepted into Krsna consciousness. Prabhupada would defend us, “They were mlecchas, but they’ve given it up.” And he said this on the basis of the sastra. Srila Prabhupada received this viewpoint from his own Guru Maharaja and it is also the compassionate message of the Vedic scriptures. Lord Caitanya also said that people all over the world should be given the holy name of Krsna. Lord Krsna says everyone is eligible: kirata-hunandhra-pulinda pulkasa, all tribal people, even those who may be considered inferior races by material standards, are all eligible to take to Krsna consciousness. One who is a pandita sees everyone equally, whether he is a brahmana or a dog-eater—because the real person is not the body; he’s the soul. Everyone can become Krsna conscious.
Prabhupada took this sastric conclusion as an essential part of his preaching. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura advised Prabhupada to preach in the West, so how could he do it unless the mlecchas were eligible to become Vaisnavas? Prabhupada never hesitated or seemed uncomfortable in carrying out this message, because he was a mahatma. His thinking was broad-minded, whereas the other thinking—that because people were raised as meat-eaters, they have a permanent disability in this lifetime—is crippled thinking. Prabhupada’s attitude was, “As soon as you give it up, you can be forgiven.” In confidential exchanges with his disciples he might remind us that we were ex-mlecchas and had some bad habits, but he always assured us that our saving grace was to practice the rules and regulations and to chant Hare Krsna. Then there would be no taint based on material designation.
An example of Prabhupada defending his disciples is in his stance against prejudice in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa. Because the caretakers of the temple do not allow Westerners to enter, even if they have been practicing Krsna consciousness for their whole lives, Srila Prabhupada preferred not to personally go into the temple. I was present with him when he stayed for a few days in a beach hotel at Jagannatha Puri. A friendly pandita from the Jagannatha temple came and sang the Jagannatha slokas, “Jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me.” When he finished singing, Prabhupada said, “Yes, you are praying Jagannatha Svami, please reveal Yourself to me. So why do you not let these Western boys see Jagannatha Svami? They’re practicing Vaisnavism exactly in all details.” As Prabhupada said these words, there we were at his feet, me, Gargamuni, Gurukrpa, all ex-mlecchas from America. And here was our patron saint, Srila Prabhupada, going out on a limb and saying, “What’s the problem? Why can’t they see Lord Jagannatha?” We were all very touched by seeing Prabhupada speak up for us. He went on to tell the pandita that these boys have a yearning to see the Lord. “They want to see Jagannatha,” said Prabhupada, “and your prayer says, ‘Jagannatha, I want to see You,’ so why don’t you let them see Him? Of course, if you don’t we don’t mind. We have our own temples where Jagannatha is installed.”
He saved me when I was in the darkness of ignorance. We should not forget, but keep alive the memory of our conversion. Meditation on Srila Prabhupada as the one who saved us, is more than gratitude for a past favor. Rather, we are in constant need of his saving grace, and he is always ready to protect us. Even after diksa, a disciple is constantly tested by maya. There is every chance that one may fall down again and return to former ways.
Even Lord Brahma is subjected to illusion and suffering, and so he turned to the Lord: “I pray that in the course of my material activities I may not be deviated from the vibration of the Vedic hymns.” (Bhag. 3.9.24) Srila Prabhupada comments on this prayer as follows:
Brahma, as the supermost brahma, is afraid of a falldown, and therefore he prays to the Lord for protection. This is a warning for one and all in the spiritual advancement of life. Unless one is sufficiently protected by the Lord, he may fall down from his spiritual position; therefore, one has to pray constantly to the Lord for protection and the blessing to carry out one’s duty.
—Bhag. 3.9.24, purport
In the case of Lord Brahma, the Supreme Lord was his direct spiritual master, but in everyone else’s case, we should turn to both guru and Krsna. Our need for this relationship is an ongoing one, and this is another proof that the relationship is not diminished by time, or confined to one act which our guru performed when we were neophytes and needed an initial pick-me-up.
At the time of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance from this world, his followers were forced to learn that their relationship with him continued by service in separation. Previous to Prabhupada’s disappearance, we had heard the philosophy of serving in separation, but now we had to learn it as a substantial fact of life. The fact that Prabhupada’s followers could continue as before and increase their feelings of devotion, and even increase their serving capacity, proved that he was very much still with us.
I had a conversation with Raya Rama just before my initiation by Prabhupada. I said, “How can I know for sure that I’ll be able to follow all these regulations?”
Raya Rama said, “Say it’s a gamble. So gamble that it’s the right thing to do with your life—that there is God and that He’s the truth and that He’s Krsna. We’re staking our whole life on that. So what the hell?—Go for it. There’s always some risk or gamble in life, but this risk is worthwhile.”
His line of reason was appealing to me. I had been willing to risk my life taking LSD and doing other crazy things, so why should I become hesitant to be initiated just because I couldn’t see a guarantee? In fact, if someone had given me all guarantees, it would have been hard to accept. I took it as an adventure, “Go for it—get initiated by Swamiji.”
On the night of the initiation, I was sitting in Swamiji’s inner room while Swamiji was in the worship room preparing for the ceremony. Keith was sitting beside me. I said, “How can we actually accept that the person Krsna is the ultimate truth?”
Keith repeated the Bhagavad-gita verse, “Krsna says, everything depends on Me as pearls are strung on a thread.” That little quoting of the scripture by a Godbrother helped purge me of some impersonal hesitation. Godbrothers are so much like ourselves, so when we see that they’re faithful and that they have some knowledge, we accept it—and then we do it for ourselves.
Taking initiation is supposed to be a solemn commitment, not a casual undertaking. However, despite our promises, we have to admit that we are taking a risk. Srila Prabhupada was also taking a risk by accepting us as disciples. He honored our vows and depended on Krsna, expecting us to carry out our obligations. Srila Prabhupada’s coming to America was itself a risk. Sometimes he had to abandon the strict regulations of sannyasa in order to stay and do the more important work of spreading Krsna consciousness.
One of the best times to chant was in the morning with Swamiji. After kirtana, he used to say, “Chant one round.” We did it together. He usually finished before we did, and then we all trailed off, even if we hadn’t finished the round.
One day I was sitting on a bench on a traffic “island” on First Street. I was fingering the beads and chanting, when my mind suddenly faced me and said, “What do you actually feel?” I had to admit that I did not feel anything. I didn’t feel contact with Krsna. Some of my old friends had said that the whole practice of chanting Hare Krsna was a concoction from the East. It was something that the practitioners made up and believed in because of tradition. I faced that barrier and continued chanting. I concluded that rational analysis was not the deciding factor.
In my apartment, chanting privately, I sensed the luxury that japa afforded. I owned no comfortable furniture, no rug, television or air conditioning. Yet I felt luxury by fingering the beads. I imagined sages in India as described in the Bhagavatam. As they were chanting, so was I.
When we chanted as a group, we watched each other’s operations. Everyone moved the strand round their necks, working and clicking the beads. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Devotees wrote poems about chanting and published them in Back to Godhead. I wrote one called “Separation,” and Brahmananda wrote a prayer, “In my next thousands of births, may I please chant at least one attentive round.” What a humble statement! Brahmananda wrote another poem about chanting Hare Krsna on the subway. “You think I am crazy sitting here with my beads. But you don’t understand that I have God’s spine in my bead bag.” The metaphor “God’s spine” was a bit strange, but the meaning was, “I am happy chanting Hare Krsna.”
Raya Rama also published a poem, “Red Cherries.” He compared the wooden beads to cherries. The cherries that grow on bushes fade, just as the patterns of flowers fade in an oriental rug. However, the cherries of devotion, the holy names, are everlasting.
In 1976, Srila Prabhupada lectured on Prahlada Maharaja’s verses to the demoniac school children. Prahlada taught that the pursuit of money is hellish and robs one of spiritual life.
Money is the via medium for sense gratification. Prabhupada said, “It is hellish; when they go into the mine, they know it may collapse; but everyone is thinking that they have to work very hard for sense gratification.”
Prabhupada said that serving Krsna is the real purpose of life. That does not mean we have to starve to death, but sense gratification should be pursued only to keep the body healthy for serving Krsna.
As I heard these talks, I appreciated Prabhupada’s radical philosophy, the philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I am grateful to Prabhupada for coming to America and demonstrating that we will not die without the so-called necessities. He said, “These boys and girls in Krsna consciousness are not dying for want of sense gratification.”
Making money is a complicated subject. It is not easy to apply these teachings in the world. Moreover, devotees have to work out their individual level of renunciation and sense gratification. I will not presume to preach to everyone on this subject.
However, I want to express my gratitude. Srila Prabhupada has allowed me to pursue spiritual life without interruption by living as a sannyasi. Some think of the sannyasi as a parasite who “begs” from the householders. This is the vision of the materialist. If, however, a sannyasi goes door-to-door for spreading enlightenment, it is a worthy contribution to society.
It was nice to be able to base the whole day’s routine around Prabhupada. At dawn (around 5 a.m.) I came out of the kitchen and indicated that it was time for Prabhupada’s walk. I had the tape recorder ready over my shoulder; then through the dark streets to the beach as the sun rose. A full walk with Prabhupada in his most glorious aspect of preaching the philosophy to the devotees! We felt protected and loved by him! As the morning sunlight brightened the sky, we walked back along Juhu Beach to the temple and attended guru-puja, then went back to the apartment for his breakfast of fruits and ginger.
Srila Prabhupada did not have many engagements until late morning, and sometimes he rested and slept a little while sitting in his seat. I liked it when people did not come to see him—I particularly enjoyed seeing Prabhupada quiet and alone.
Then around 11 a.m., if there were no meetings in progress, I put on my gamcha and went out to the shack to take a noon bath. I talked briefly with Tamala Krishna Maharaja when he was in there, but then returned to give Prabhupada his massage.
Prabhupada sitting down on the veranda … me massaging his body … feeling happy to do so … warm in the sunlight … feeling my own youthful strength … wanting to serve Prabhupada by massaging his scalp the way he had instructed … little movements of the fingers drawing together the skin of his scalp … hoping to give him some relief … knowing that Prabhupada is a pure devotee … trying to think as I touch him, “How would I want this to feel? How would it feel relaxing to me?” … Trying to impart that pleasure to Prabhupada …
In those days, Palika dasi was cooking. She cooked in his little kitchen while I moved out to the veranda and typed letters. When all the preparations were done, I brought them in to Prabhupada on the thalis. Of course, there was always rice, and sabji, and simple capatis, and there were always enough remnants for me and all the others.
After lunch Prabhupada rested. In the afternoon he met guests while I wrote letters or spaced out or tried reading his books or finishing my rounds. Then, in the evening, he either went over to the temple to lecture or went to the roof. These were some of the events in the daily routine, and they occurred day after day no matter what was going on with my own worries about what I wanted to do.
After the meeting ended, I walked out of his darśana room with Prabhupāda. By the door there was a picture of baby Kṛṣṇa holding a sweet. Prabhupāda stopped and looked at the painting for a moment. He seemed to enter the mood of the līlā and to leave behind the mood of the ācārya in his room seeing a visiting temple president. I saw that he wasn’t exactly with us anymore but had ‘gone’ to Kṛṣṇa. Then he turned to me and whoever else was there, and in that mood said that Kṛṣṇa is so nice, and this is the way a pure devotee sees Kṛṣṇa—in this picture. The atheist also sees Kṛṣṇa, but as death. The devotee sees Kṛṣṇa like this. Then he walked out. We were thrilled that he had brought us suddenly to that very real state of seeing Kṛṣṇa through the painting, through him. He even chuckled over the behavior Kṛṣṇa was portraying in the painting.
According to Rupa Gosvami, the particular teaching of a bona fide guru may differ from those of other bona fide gurus, and that difference is known as a “detail.” (Nectar of Devotion, “How to Discharge Devotional Service,” p. 53, 1971 edition) The detailed instructions of Srila Prabhupada are important personal applications of Krsna consciousness by our founder-acarya. They are Srila Prabhupada’s personal stamp on ISKCON.
By studying these details, we can benefit in a variety of ways. We can develop a strong sense of loyalty toward Srila Prabhupada; we can learn to clearly see the differences between Prabhupada and other teachers; and we will become firmly linked in a personal way to the acarya who boldly applied Krsna consciousness to the Western milieu.
The principle of adapting Krsna consciousness for the Western mentality has precedence in the example of Narada Muni instructing Dhruva how to worship the Deity in the forest:
One should install the physical forms of the Lord, and with the chanting of the mantra one should offer flowers and fruits and other varieties of foodstuffs 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. (SB 4.8.54)
In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada says that “the method of worship … is not stereotyped, nor is it exactly the same everywhere … 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 … One has to consider the particular time, country and conveniences.” Srila Prabhupada as founder-acarya of ISKCON, was qualified to establish these details in his worldwide movement.
Prabhupada himself gave a few examples of sentimental praise. A reporter once said to Prabhupada, “You are a good guru.” Prabhupada replied, “Why do you say that? Don’t be sentimental.” In other words, there was no basis of submission from which this reporter could know such a thing about Prabhupada. In another circumstance, Guru dasa once replied to Prabhupada’s question, “How do you know you’re Krsna conscious?” by saying that Prabhupada once said “when you feel it.” Prabhupada answered, “No, feeling is sentimental.”
Just sentiment was not enough for Srila Prabhupada. He wanted solid work. Once, his lady disciples wanted him to come to Jaipur to visit but did not make the arrangements. Therefore, Prabhupada did not go.
Another time, Prabhupada arrived at Albuquerque airport after having been invited to visit the new center there. But while still at the airport, Govinda dasi told him that there was no money, so Prabhupada could not stay. Prabhupada insisted that he could not just get on a plane and fly elsewhere. He wanted his disciples to make an arrangement at least for one day. A flustered Govinda dasi began to cry and pleaded, “You know Krsna, Prabhupada. What does Krsna want us to do?” “That is not the point,” Prabhupada said angrily. “Krsna wants to know what you want to do!” (Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta) Prabhupada was not satisfied with the sentimental “dependence on Krsna” unless it was backed up by solid work.
While visiting Vrndavana before the Krishna-Balaram Mandir was built, Srila Prabhupada used to sometimes stay in his original rooms at the Radha-Damodara temple. On one visit, Yamuna-devi dasi asked if she could cook for him and Srila Prabhupada agreed. While Yamuna was cooking capatis in one half of the kitchen and Srila Prabhupada was eating prasadam at the far end of the same room, Prabhupada’s servant, Srutakirti, entered the room to watch.
“So, you have taken prasadam?” Srila Prabhupada asked.
“No,” Srutakirti replied. “I just bathed.”
“Yamuna, fix him a plate of prasadam,” said Srila Prabhupada.
“No,” Srutakirti protested, “that’s all right. I’ll wait until you’re finished, Srila Prabhupada.”
“No,” said Prabhupada. “Sit down and take prasadam.” So Srutakirti sat down and received a plate from Yamuna. Under Prabhupada’s direction, she continued making capatis and serving both Prabhupada and his servant.
“So today she has fixed your lunch,” said Prabhupada. “Now tomorrow you cook for her. This is the Vedic custom. Today she has done some service for you; now tomorrow you must serve her.”
“Yes, Prabhupada,” said Srutakirti.
Looking through the latticework into the courtyard of Rupa Gosvami’s samadhi, Prabhupada began to reminisce. He said that often he would sit here and take prasadam and look at the samadhi and bhajana kutir of Rupa Gosvami. He said he was hoping Rupa Gosvami would give him facility to spread the Krsna consciousness movement.
Srila Prabhupada sometimes said that innocence was almost like ignorance. To be innocent of knowledge of God, for example, was not at all admirable. An “innocent” victim of a bogus guru is also not praiseworthy. Yet if we consider innocence as freshness and purity, as freedom from nastiness, it is a notable characteristic of Prabhupada.
When Srila Prabhupada told a group of devotees how he first saw snow in New York City and thought the buildings had been whitewashed, some of the disciples could hardly believe that Prabhupada was actually so innocent. But by his mercy we came to see this innocence as his non-deceptive, Krsna conscious beauty. Prabhupada’s innocence was not only what he said, it was his freshness of expression, his outlook, such as when he wrote of his Guru Maharaja, “The line of service as drawn by you is pleasing and healthy like morning dew.”
Prabhupada said that if one were to ask a heavy sense-indulger, one who has give his whole life in trying to please his senses, if he had actually attained happiness, the sense gratifier would have to say, “No, my life was hellish.” Srila Prabhupada was the opposite of this jaded outlook; he had no worldly weariness. His outlook was like a spring day, and this came from his transcendental consciousness. Therefore he could respond with wonder to the world. As Prabhodhananda Sarasvati says, describing a devotee in spiritual consciousness, “He sees the whole material world as Vaikuntha.”
One time on a morning walk through the pleasant English countryside, a devotee asked Prabhupada if this countryside was something like the kingdom of God. Prabhupada said, “This is the kingdom of God.” Thus Prabhupada’s devotees were able to see through his eyes how even this world is Vaikuntha for one who sees Krsna everywhere.
We want to be happy even on a sad day. We
but…you can’t expect it to be lighthearted
always. You want to show slides of your little
drawings. But then what about the crucifixion?
A time for embracing and a time
to withdraw from embracing
a time for joy and a time for grief
for every season
there is a time.
Pleasant it can’t always be,
like cold rainy weather’s gotta be.
So, you can take your ten minutes now
in light dance if you like and then
come back and face some other music.
He says Krishna is never tainted with misery
and His pure devotees, but when
they come into this world
you want a free pass?
You want to be allowed to
write and always be right just
because you felt that way?
But you have had the smile
wiped off your face,
slapped into submission by
police and robbers
and the cut of glass.
Then I say, let’s just chant Hare Krishna
I can’t figure it out
happy or sad.
“Troubles encountered in Your service shall be the cause of great happiness, for in Your devotional service joy and sorrow are equally great riches” (Saranagati, 2.8.4). This is a great verse. I have often quoted it in books and lectures. It’s useful for motivating subordinates who feel weak-hearted in their service. I also remind them of the glories of Madhavendra Puri. He carried over eighty pounds of sandalwood—undisturbed by toll guards or thieves’ threats—and walked thousands of miles for his Gopinatha’s service.
The question is, do I realize the truth of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s statement? Do I live it? Taste it? It’s a little too much for me right now, but I definitely accept it as true, just as I accept that I am not this body and that material comforts are detestable to a pure devotee and that I should not be afraid of death.
What have I realized? I know that the practice gives you a good reputation among pious people, and they are willing to give you money and service. Am I being cynical? Yes, a little. My cynicism is like a leftover cloud raining dirt.
When I meet troubles in the course of Your service do they make me happy? “Thanks,” he says to trouble-makers, “You’ve made my day.” Sounds like a pure devotee, completely staunch and not out for self-aggrandizement. So what if I get arrested or hit on the head and harassed in some way? The main thing is to serve Krsna. That taste is always sublime.
At least I know I am rightly situated. Krsna is giving me a little mercy in the form of pain (purification). He knows the misery of ignorance is being destroyed by the so-called misery of troubles encountered while serving Krsna. Svargiapavarga-narakesv api tulyartha-darsinah: heaven and hell are the same for the fearless narayana parayana. I believe it, but I’m not there yet.
I was writing about my little life in my personal way, and I encouraged my disciples to find what they loved to do for Krishna and do that. Krishna says that what He likes is the devotion with which something is offered. Too often in the early days of ISKCON we were limited to just a few ways to serve Krishna, but as devotees grew older they wanted to exercise their individual proclivities for serving Krishna, and I encourage them in this. Sometimes this was in conflict with temple managers, but since I was doing it myself I felt it was consistent to advise my disciples to do it also. I didn’t encourage them in maya but rather in offering to Krishna what they loved to do. It is the job of the spiritual master, Prabhupada says, to find what the disciple can do in Krishna’s service and encourage him or her in that. The guru is supposed to be expert in finding what the disciple is best at doing.
There were a couple of challenges to this presentation. One challenge was the contention that I was advocating a lower standard by saying one could offer to Krishna what one wants to do rather than just surrendering to Krishna and doing what Krishna wants us to do. But I argue that it’s hard to know what Krishna wants us to do, and if we give Him our love, He likes that. One devotee said that at one point I seemed to be encouraging just artists to serve Krishna with their art – that I was not encouraging managers. But I encourage managers as well as artists to render service to Krishna. Certainly management is as valid a service as art.
One spiritual master said my preaching sometimes created a crisis. That I encouraged devotees to be preachers even though their authorities were encouraging them to be institutional managers – they wanted to preach more purely, or they wanted to be more brahminical, and I encouraged them to do so if it was aligned with their psycho-physical nature. This sometimes led to misunderstandings between me and various authorities.
In advocating for the individual contributions of my disciples, I was not advocating something new. It’s part of an old tension between individual contribution and surrender to institutional authority.
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.