A nurse Landmark Health came out to do a follow up on my condition since being discharged from the hospital. They were the original people we called at 1:30 in the morning to ask what to do in that serious medical condition. On hearing a report from us on the condition of my vital signs they strongly urged that I go to the emergency room of the hospital. The nurse who came was efficient and was satisfied to report that my lungs were cleared. The nurse was surprised that I could inhale so strongly on the spirometer without coughing. She went over my meds list with Baladeva, and she suggested a few things I might do to speed up my recovery. She also changed the bandage on my wounded right ear and gave a good report on the condition on my ear. It turns out that the nurse lives only two minutes from here; she was glad to take some banana bread and thanked us two or three times.
I have returned to the twice daily out loud reading with my disciples, but I’m not fully recovered from pneumonia. My lungs are weak especially when I tried to take a deep breath, so I have canceled the part where I lead the devotees in chanting two times the Hare Krsna mantra. I’ve also cut the 1 p.m. reading to one hour, because I get tired. The devotees are so agreeable and seem to be satisfied with this abbreviated session. They would like me to stay longer and lead kirtana, but they accept that I can’t do it for now.
A godbrother asked me a question. He said a long time ago a godbrother told him something that Prabhupada said. “When we become purified, so that all we want is Krsna, Maya says, ‘Ah, you have triumphed and is happy for us.’” I think I can confirm that that is a bona fide quote Prabhupada said.
We’re having a Zoom meeting of the book production members, Krsna Bhajana, Satya Sara, Lal Krsna, Manohara, myself and Baladeva. Krsna Bhajana sent us the agenda for our meeting in advance. Under “books for summer meeting 2023” he has listed the books that will be ready. First is BTG Essays, Volume 1 through 3. The devotees worked hard at this, and I took part by proofreading. The essays come from Back to Godhead magazines starting back in 1978 and going up to 1990. These essays are short and very readable and not outdated. Everyone who produced them agreed that they are very timely and straight Krsna conscious. These essay volumes are printed with the permission of the BBT, and they have already arrived at Viraha Bhavan. Next is Worshiping with the Pen. This is the first new writing I have done in over ten years. I chose the journal genre. Most of the books we publish were formally written and published and now we are reprinting them. But Worshiping with the Pen is a journal which I began in March 2022 and finished by the end of the year. I have already started a second volume, which started January 1st, 2023, titled Srila Prabhupada Revival. Number three is Best Use of a Bad Bargain. This is a collection of my writings about how to deal with illness in Krsna consciousness. The manuscripts have all been proofread, and the estimated current task completion is mid-March.
When I was in the emergency room at the hospital, they started me on heavy intravenous antibiotics. After five days, the doctor said I was improving, and he switched me to oral antibiotics so I could go home. Many of the devotees were praying for me. My friend, Reverend John Endler, the pastor of the Baptist Church in Hartford, had his own congregation praying for me. I received many letters from devotees who were praying and chanting Hare Krsna for recovery of my health. I think the prayers were more effective than the antibiotics!
I feel very humble that the devotees were saying prayers for my recovery. I’m not a special person, that the Lord should give me his mercy or attention. But that the devotees did so moves me very much.
We have lots of medical follow ups after my stay in the hospital with pneumonia. Tomorrow, we see our primary care provider (PCP) who will examine the lungs for any irregularity and give a prescription for the speech pathologist who will perform a video fluoroscopy (which means a swallow test using radioactive fluids and foods to follow how my swallowing muscles are working.) Based on the results of this test, we schedule an appointment with the gastroenterologist (GI specialist), who may do an endoscopy under anesthesia, so I don’t choke, run a little camera down my throat all the way into the esophagus and into the stomach to see if there is anything irregular there which might cause choking which was the original cause of the pneumonia. This is the same pattern I have followed when I last had pneumonia.
I read the material they gave me on prevention of disease when I was discharged from the hospital. For pneumonia they said I should wash my hands frequently (a habit that I don’t usually follow). They also said I should be careful not to allow food to enter my lungs while I’m eating. That was the cause of this recent bout with pneumonia. I choked on some food, and it entered the lungs. They didn’t state anything about not living in a cold climate, although some of my friends are advising me to move to a southern state during coldest months of the year. I tell them that I don’t expose myself to the cold weather. I stay indoors at our well heated Viraha Bhavan. I only go out briefly, mostly for doctor’s visits. So, I’m not much inclined to move south for the winter. By the time I get settled in there, it will be time to come back, and I wouldn’t have gotten as much work done.
We expected to see Ryan Marshall, our long-term PCP. We were disappointed to hear that he was not in the office and that we would have to see a new PCP, a woman named Erica. Erica was efficient; she dealt with our issues, which turned out to be routine. This appointment was a follow up from being in the hospital. It was necessary to get prescriptions to get further work done such as a video fluoroscopy, which will show if there is any malfunctioning in the swallowing process which can cause coughing and aspiration. Aspiration can lead to the pneumonia. She listened to my deep breathing with her stethoscope and noticed some wheezing in one of my lungs. She recommended a steroid taper to quicken the healing process. This is an action to prevent pneumonia or chronic bronchitis from coming back. I also had blood drawn which will be sent to a lab to check the white blood cell count to make sure there’s no infection going on. Erica was satisfied that I was recovering.
Maitreya is staying with us for the month of February. Every time we go for a doctor’s visit, he has to come with us. We need another man besides Baladeva to make sure the transfer from the car to the wheelchair goes smoothly. Without another male, the wheelchair has kicked out from under me, and I fell in the parking lot several times. Another function of the extra man is to open the doors in front of us for elevators and offices, etc. It usually involves an excruciating wait in a waiting room for Maitreya, with a stupid television program running. He doesn’t complain, and I’m very appreciative of him for this. He’s constantly chanting Hare Krsna mantra. He only has a week left, and he’s been a good servant.
Today we went to the Upstate dermatologist expecting that they would take out a 20 stitches in my ear. Two weeks ago I underwent an operation there where they removed a large piece cancerous tissue. They basically had to reconstruct the bottom part of my ear, and it was a serious procedure. But today we were disappointed when the male nurse said the stitches were not ready to come out. He wants to wait another week. So although it is inconvenient, and I am impatient to get these stitches removed and avoid the waiting time in the dermatology office, we are scheduled to go back there in five days from now. At that time, we will see a regular nurse practitioner who isn’t a wimp and will certainly take out the stitches.
Our book team produced three volumes of essays by me, with permission from the copyright owners, BBT. I wrote a combined letter to all the members of the book team.
I said, “I just received the received the three volumes of the essay series. I love them! I have read most of them. The essays are so vintage! I am sure that Prabhupada will be pleased at these productions. During my period of free writing books, I may have gotten over the edge a little, these essays are 100% parampara and accessible to any devotee, or even nondevotee. How many books are we going to print? I know we have trouble distributing books, but these essays books are very nice, and it would be good if we could find some way to distribute them, some way to advertise them. I am grateful to all of you, the team who did all the different services like editing, proofreading, type writing, layout, covers, etc. They are beautiful volumes. It was very kind of you to produce these books from my youthful age, and they have reached me near the end of my longevity.
As I read the books, I say to myself, “Gee! I was a good writer in those days.” You’re safe. That this statement I just made is true and motivated you to diligently do all the work to bring these early essays out in a fresh incarnation. You have made me very happy, and I’m proud of all of you who are doing this service with devotion and expertise.
Krsna Bhajana wrote back with ideas for how he could promote the books. He wrote, “I think we could all promote the books online through Facebook and other social media platforms, providing links to the Amazon listings for the three volumes so that interested persons can purchase them. Links to all volumes could also be added to the online journal, along with those books that are already there. Pictures of the covers can be placed there and if the viewer clicks on the picture, it will take them to the Amazon listing. We can all bring this set of books to the attention of our friends. In these ways, gradually more people will come to learn of them and purchase the books.
We have many medical follow ups from our five day stay at Columbia Memorial Hospital. I’m tired of all these follow up visits to the doctors. They also call Baladeva on the phone many times a day to follow up on my hospital visit. Associated with the cancer, I have to check up every three months to make sure it’s not coming back. This is part of the Western approach to disease. But as we all know, it’s all doomed to failure anyway.
The report from Ekendra was good; he does reading and then he shifts to editing to make it complete. One day he worked so hard, his voice became hoarse. So he took a couple of days off to concentrate on editing. And now he’s back to reading. He’s reading the second volume, Planting the Seed. He said by the end of the month (February) he should be finished editing A Lifetime in Preparation. He’s going to send us a sample of the recording so I can hear how it’s going. Ekendra is enthusiastic, and we are too. It’s a great mission, and he’s taking time. Baladeva is staying in touch with Ekendra; he calls him every week to try and get an update on the project.
From Sri Caitanya Maha-Kavyam: An Epic Poem Describing Caitanya’s Life by Kavi Karnapura, Translation by H.H. Bhanu Swami
At Kūrma-kṣetra, a great soul, who was very intelligent, named Kūrma, born in a brāhmaṇa family, seeing the Lord, offered repeated respects and in fear spoke sweet words.
“Today my birth has become successful. Today everything has become successful since my house has obtained the dust of your two lotus feet.”
The best of brāhmaṇas, Kūrma, who had accrued abundant pious results, holding the Lord’s feet, brought Him into his house and washed His feet with water.
The merciful Lord was satisfied with his actions and ate at his auspicious house. He then departed.
One brāhmaṇa named Vāsudeva heard that Mahāprabhu was going south from Jagannātha Puri and approached to Him suddenly.
In great pain because of white leprosy on his limbs, the great soul came to Kūrma’s house.
Coming there, Vāsudeva asked Kūrma about Mahāprabhu. Kūrma told him everything concerning the abode of mercy.
“The Lord had stayed there and taken food. He gave mercy to me. If you go quickly you can see the Lord.”
Hearing this, Vāsudeva went outside in confusion and, fainting, fell on the ground. Understanding this, the Lord returned.
Coming there, the Lord embraced the brāhmaṇa in His arms and released him from illusion along with his leprosy. Receiving a conscious, attractive body, he offered respects to the Lord in joy and lamentation.
“Who am I? A sinful, poor friend of a brāhmaṇa. And who is Kṛṣṇa? The Supreme Lord, full in six powers. Nonetheless, He has embraced me with His two arms.” SB 10.81.16
Reciting this verse he said, “This is not mercy but punishment to me.” The Lord said, “Do not feel miserable. Devoid of pride, a person will attain me.” He then disappeared.
Seeing this, Kūrma, feeling pain in his body, fainted. Then standing up, the best of brāhmaṇas lamented.
He had attained great fortune. “Mahāprabhu, the lord of all the universe, having stayed there, returned. But I did not realize He was the Lord for even a moment.
“Man is a great fool, low, cruel and sinful for having held a priceless jewel in his hand. He does not protect it, being careless.
“An animal, by nature foolish, chews grass and cannot relish the taste of nectar. Though touching a touchstone, a man does not know that it is a great gem. He is foolish at all times.”
Kūrma could not endure the pain of separation from the most merciful Lord of the universe. He fainted, becoming unconscious many times.
The most merciful Lord, Nṛsiṁha, then arrived at Nṛsiṁha-kṣetra, offered respects to Nṛsiṁha, and praised Him.
Moving like an intoxicated elephant, with most graceful gestures, with attractive, full arms, flooding the earth with streams of nectar flowing from His toenails, the Lord travelled.
“O Rāma! O Rāghava. Please protect me! O Kṛṣṇa! O Keśava! Please deliver me!”
As He chanted this loudly and intensely on the road, His hairs stood on end. Seeing a wild forest in one place, the Lord cried in a painful voice.
Seeing the middle of the forest endowed with creepers embraced by the wind from the cool huge, waves of the Godāvarī River, the Lord felt bliss.
The merciful Lord became blissful on seeing the deer with their mates, eyes raised in faith, and joyful peacocks displaying their tails and dancing on hearing the sounds of mṛdaṅgas (clouds rumbling) in the kadamba groves.
Some places in the forest were devoid of birds’ chirping and some places echoed with their loud cries. Some places of the forest was agitated by the fiery breathing of ferocious animals who were sleeping.
He enjoyed that forest on the bank of the Godāvarī, where trembling birds stumbled about in bliss. The forest was filled with seeds which had fallen from the birds’ beaks and with parrots pecking at split pomegranate fruits.
The parrots pecked at the leaves of the tāmbūla creepers with loud, sharp sounds. The forest was filled with the pleasant, drawn-out chirping of infatuated crickets.
It was filled with tamāla, arjuna and kovidāra trees, like clouds touching the stars. It was filled with various wild birds and with flocks of deer and camaras.
There were cool places with dense forest, devoid of contact with sunlight, covered with natural unguents and there were places with canals and ponds everywhere.
Arriving at this place on the bank of the Godāvarī, the Lord felt bliss in His mind. He thought, “Will I be able to converse with the saintly son of Bhāvānanda?”
Showing some discontent on not seeing him, the Lord continued south. Becoming soft-hearted on seeing various forests, He entered one forest and cried intensely.
Sometimes singing loudly, sometimes dancing and sometimes crying, with hairs standing on end, He travelled about, unaware of day or night.
Was He a golden elephant set loose for a long time? Was He a swiftly moving, shining Mount Meru? Was He a permanently shining mass of light? Was this some permanent manifestation of beauty?
Thinking in this way, all the people of the south constantly drank His form with their unblinking eyes to full satisfaction. When He was going far away, they remained standing like pillars, as if giving up consciousness.
Desiring to go on pilgrimage, anxious to chant the name, the friend of the suffering, the ocean of mercy, went to the fortunate southern area.
Seeing Him on the road, the Kṛṣṇa-sāra deer, as if intelligent, gathered from all around and came near to drink the sweetness of His form with their thirsty eyes.
The merciful Lord arrived at Śrī-raṅgam, an elevated area surrounded by the Kāverī River. Seeing the deity there, Mahāprabhu, endowed with a pleasing form, became very happy.
The merciful Lord stayed at the house of Trimalla Bhaṭṭa and passed four months there performing necessary rites with great happiness.
Bathing in the Kāverī, becoming purified, seeing the deity, the merciful, charming Lord passed the months.
Then, absorbed in bliss, Mahāprabhu, His face joyful with continuous, loud kīrtana describing the Lord’s qualities, went in the southern direction.
There He saw one excellent brāhmaṇa, a devotee of Rāma, who was about to give up his life because Rāvaṇa had stolen Sītā.
He thought, “How can Lakṣmī be touched by the hand of a demon?” The Lord pacified him and said, “That is not so. Hear the truth that I will speak.
“If you do not believe my words, see the two verses from the Purāṇa. He suddenly pulled the two verses from His cloth and showed them to the brāhmaṇa.
“When he was petitioned by mother Sītā, the fire-god, Agni, brought forth an illusory form of Sītā, and Rāvaṇa, who had ten heads, kidnapped the false Sītā. The original Sītā then went to the abode of the fire-god. When Lord Rāmacandra tested the body of Sītā, it was the false, illusory Sītā that entered the fire. At that time the fire-god brought the original Sītā from his abode and delivered her to Lord Rāmacandra (these verses are quoted from CC).”
Prabhupada once humorously compared himself to a karate expert who knew how to push on the weak spot of the opponent. He was not a belligerent preacher looking for a fight, but he did see major weaknesses or hypocrisy in many who claimed to be following religion, and so he would always press on those points to bring out the falsity.
Since he traveled extensively in Western countries which were at least nominally Christian, he regularly confronted Christians as to why they did not obey the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Srila Prabhupada saw this as a preliminary teaching and therefore it was a great defect if a follower neglected it. Prabhupada’s emphasis on this particular point should also indicate to us that “Thou shalt not kill” (known as ahimsa in the Vedas) has an important place within the Krsna conscious siddhanta. Srila Prabhupada was immediately interested whether a religionist followed ahimsa or, “Thou shalt not kill.” He saw this failure to do so as disobedience to God and religion. By pointing to their failure in this one commandment, Prabhupada dismantled their whole position.
The commandment that Prabhupada referred to as one of the Ten Commandments, has been interpreted by theologians to mean, “Thou shalt not murder.” In other words, they say it applies to human beings but not the killing of animals. Srila Prabhupada insisted, however, that in the original language of the Bible, the word is “kill” and it should certainly apply to animals. He was not interested in semantic quibbling about Aramic and Greek translation; he saw the attempts to change the word kill to murder as an excuse by those interested in sense gratification and ignorant of the laws of God.
Going beyond text-quoting, Prabhupada would appeal to reason. If a religionist has faith that there is a soul within the human, then by what logic does he claim that the soul is not in the animal? The animal shows all the basic symptoms of life as it exists in the human being. The fact that an animal is a less intelligent creature should not make him a candidate for killing by the human being who should be his protector.
Srila Prabhupada’s preaching points out a major embarrassment and a major lack in these world religions which don’t practice ahimsa towards animals. We should see Prabhupada’s confrontation in that way, and not think of it as Hinduism or think that he was just finding a way to trip up a priest in order to defeat him in debate. Prabhupada was trying to be helpful.
While we were having the radio interview, a child outside the door started screaming. We worried that it would harm the recording. Later I said, “Oh well, it was just like when Prabhupada was at 26 Second Avenue and young children would do the same thing out on the street.” By saying that it invoked further memory of that time. There is a famous example in the novel Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust. Proust eats a little piece of pastry, a petite madeleine, and as he mixed it with tea and it softened in his mouth, the scent of it and the taste of it suddenly threw him back many years to his childhood. So he started to unroll his whole story, Remembrance of Things Past.
Maybe we too can do things like that, by hearing the noise on the street and remembering how it was during those 1966 lectures:
I’m in my spot hearing him speak. A little afraid when hoodlums or teenagers out there make noises, but we’re not going to give up our places. I hope it doesn’t get into some big scene, but that they will go away so we can continue to hear the Swami. When someone comes and makes noises at the doorway, you get a flash how it looks to outsiders. They see you are just some hippies with this strange Indian man. The whole thing seems weird to them and they can’t figure it out. They just can’t figure it out. The Swami is obviously an Indian, so why is he with these young American hippies? They are street-tough, street-wise; they know American hippies well enough, but they don’t know the Swami.
When we were in the storefront and someone would look in or play their music and say, “Hey, what the hell is this?” Or just, “Hey!”—you sat there and absorbed it and they would usually go away. But one intruder after another would come; sometimes for a large part of the lecture there would be disturbing sounds. The thing is, Swamiji kept the door open. If he had shut the door, it might have been better, but he wanted people to feel free to come in. Maybe it was better that way. Maybe there would have been more disturbances if they hadn’t been able to look in and check it out and say something. If the door was shut, they might have been more frustrated. But for whatever reason, he kept it open.
During the 1960s and ‘70s we often served Prabhupada in separation. For the New York devotees it began as early as January 1967, when Prabhupada went to San Francisco. He assured us in his first letter from San Francisco that serving him in separation was even better than the “physical” presence of the guru. And yet we always knew that sooner of later our separation would be eased by being with Prabhupada again. It might be as long as six months or a year, but more likely it would only be a matter of a few months. There was always another Mayapura festival, always another trip out to Los Angeles to see him, always another way to adjust our schedules so that we could meet up with him on one of his tours. And when we couldn’t do that, there was the mail, and in emergencies, one could telephone his secretary and hear directly from Srila Prabhupada. Therefore, in those days when we meditated on Prabhupada in separation, it was somewhat different than our present Prabhupada meditation.
In 1972, Hridayananda Maharaja and I were traveling together with a group of brahmacaris in two vans. We were in St. Louis when we heard that Prabhupada had arrived in Los Angeles. During one morning japa period, Hridayananda Maharaja began to speak about Prabhupada, and before long he was advocating that we should immediately go and see Prabhupada in Los Angeles. I reminded him that we had programs to do in St. Louis and in other Midwest states, but Hridayananda Maharaja reminded me how rare it was to get Prabhupada’s association. It would also be good for the men on the party. I agreed, “All right, let’s do it.” When we asked the men, they said, “What a great idea!” “Haribol! We’re going to see Prabhupada!” And off we went.
Readers familiar with the Vedic conclusions will not doubt that I have presented the proper relationship between the disciple and the spiritual master. I do not claim the humility of a Rupa Gosvami, but at least it is correct for me to follow in his footsteps and present myself as lowborn and subject to many mistakes when I try to serve the pure devotee. I fit the bill in every way of the fallen disciple. And Srila Prabhupada fits the bill of the spiritual master. So no one should think I am creating a mock show for literary or personal effects.
My memories are a way to express my love for Prabhupada and to take my natural position as his disciple. The difference between Prabhupada and me is so vast that it’s not surprising all my stories come out with myself in error. When I tell the memories, it gives me a chance to see more deeply and to admit to more failings than I was able to admit previously. The “new lights” that occur to me when I remember Prabhupada make me more aware how I did not grasp what he was saying at the time. And thus I see better how foolish I was, how defensive and unsurrendered. I have every right to come to these conclusions. I like being a fool before the spiritual master. It’s parampara, accurate, and good for the heart.
According to the Vedic sastras, a pure devotee can impart Krsna consciousness to others through his words, his good wishes, and by his glance. “Simply by seeing such empowered individuals, people from different villages would become like them by the mercy of their glance” (Cc. Madhya, 7.104).
In the confidential exchanges between Radha and Krsna, much is accomplished by the lover’s glances. The gopis are thrilled to receive the direct or sidelong glance of Sri Krsna, and Lord Krsna is especially anxious to receive the glance of Srimati Radharani.
In the loving exchanges between spiritual master and disciple, Srila Prabhupada’s glances were certainly treasured by his devotees.
I remember receiving a glance from Srila Prabhupada in the back seat of his car in Toronto. Our BBT library party had been with Srila Prabhupada in Detroit; however, when Prabhupada traveled on to Toronto, we were a day late because we stopped to sell books at a college. Arriving during Srila Prabhupada’s second morning in Toronto, I was allowed to go into the car with him for his morning walk. As I entered and sat beside him, he glanced and said, “Where were you?” I replied that we had been selling his books at a university. Prabhupada then asked me our results and I was able to tell him some good news. Hearing the words of my spiritual master was certainly important, but his glance was very wonderful.
I doubt that we fully understand how much those glances went into us and how they stayed with us. The Krsna conscious siddhanta asserts that words are able to convey the Absolute Truth, yet we also think that there are certain things which cannot be conveyed fully in words: for example, what it feels like to receive Prabhupada’s glance.
Sometimes the glances were loving, and sometimes they reprimanded. If King Mucukunda could reduce a person to fiery ashes just by his gaze, Krsna’s pure devotee could “knock over” a misbehaving disciple. Once when I was performing a yajna in Boston, I whimsically omitted reciting the first few verses of the mangalacarana prayers. Prabhupada gave me one of those looks. He seemed hurt that one who was supposed to be a disciple could act so whimsically. Mixed in with the hurt was the stern reprimand of the teacher. He said, “Why have you done this?” With a language of their own, his eyes also said, “Why?”
Prabhupada had a habit of using initials to express meanings in code form. One of his favorites was S.R. S.R. meant “simply rascal.” He said that we could make a button with the letters S.R. on it and give it out to people who were rascals. He said that even the President of India was “an S.R. man.”
Swamiji was aware of what we were going through in our conversion from “hippy to happy.” He said, “You can wear your chanting beads around your neck when you go outside the temple—if you are not ashamed.”
“What does that mean Swamiji? S.M.?”
“Not S.M.,” said Swamiji, “I said ashamed. If you are not ashamed.” Prabhupada meant, “If you are not ashamed of being a devotee.”
We were here last year during a heat wave. Now London is muffled in a heavy snowstorm. There is a bowling alley next door, and I hear the repeated sounds of bowling pins being knocked over. So what does all this have to do with Prabhupada meditations? It has a lot to do with it.
Recently in America, I had some good recall sessions by anchoring myself in Prabhupada’s ‘66 kirtanas. That may be the best way to remember him; but now that we are traveling again, I have to remember that Prabhupada meditations are always happening.
Part of me wants to say that it is not possible to think of Prabhupada in all circumstances. The sound of the bowling pins being knocked over has nothing to do with Prabhupada, but another part of me says that Prabhupada must be here. If he is absent, it is my Prabhupada consciousness which is lacking.
Let me scan my recent memory and see if I can think of Prabhupada moments. The day we flew from Long Island, we stayed at the house of Rancora dasa, who lives near the airport. In the last few hours I was leafing through the Teachings of Lord Kapila. I found some outstanding passages. Prabhupada states that a pure devotee is so humble he does not even hope that he will be liberated in this lifetime. Prabhupada wrote, “A devotee always prays, ‘For my misdeeds may I be born again and again, but my only prayer is that I may not forget Your service.’” I wrote that down and I am carrying it with me in my beadbag. Prabhupada also stated that the boys and girls in the Krsna consciousness movement do not read the daily newspaper. He said that they do not know what’s going on from day to day in the world, that is not important to them. They are more interested in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. That stood out when I read it, especially nowadays when there is such a deluge of news about the Gulf war. Prabhupada’s statements gave me conviction. When I got onto the plane, I did not look at the newspapers or news magazines.
he returned to India,
into Calcutta heat.
For his neophyte disciples
in strangeness and sickness,
he was their only solace.
He wanted to give them
a place in Sri Dham Mayapur.
“Is it right?” he asked a Godbrother,
“that they are loitering
in the streets of Calcutta?”
Taking a few men
and setting out for Mayapur,
he got only as far as Navadwip
when floods turned him back.
“Maybe,” he said,
“Lord Chaitanya doesn’t want
us to have land in Mayapur.”
But Lord Chaitanya willed it
and the land was acquired,
adjoining Bhaktisiddhanta Road
very near His birthplace.
In England he called together
talented devotees to plan
a building for Mayapur.
He himself gave the full idea.
A residence-palace for devotees
and for the Deity of Radha-Madhava,
the Mayapur building,
to get the best breezes,
would be the first of many.
When someone criticized,
“Why don’t you build a temple first?
You can’t have devotees
living in the upper rooms
with the Deity below!”
He replied, “I build
for the devotees first,
because the devotee is greater than God.
And as for living above Him,
the road is also Krishna,
so why do you walk on the Krishna-road?”
My dear Lord Krsna,
I spoke in class this morning,
that ‘Krsna is everything.’
I quoted Bhagavad-gita,
regarding Your yoga-aisvaryam,
and later I read in Madhurya-kadambini.
how a pure devotee in prema
comes to see You and swoons, and he wonders if it was a dream,
but then he realizes You are reality,
and he is always in anxious ecstasies—
people think he is crazy,
he forgets everything but You,
and finally in his spiritual body
he joins You in the spiritual world.
By these readings and speakings
I come a bit closer to You,
but mostly I understand that
I am far, far away,
still enmeshed in material desires.
I hardly can even think
how or when I will attain You.
I am preoccupied, limited,
weak, and tired.
I am not steady,
no bhava nor ruci . . . .
We are at the herbalist, Madhu, Nanda and I. Madhu wrote me a note that I have been more irritable this year. Anger, he says, is due to liver malfunction. I was surprised to receive this note and told him, “feel very mellow.” He will have to explain more what he means. We are traveling on the strength of my allopathic pills? We’re getting by.
Someone wrote me a letter. This was in it:
A psychic said a few things about your writing that you might like to hear. She said that you were taking ancient knowledge and spiritual understanding and writing it into the modern idiom. She also said that you had written only a third to a half of what you would write, and that you would increase your writing time out of a sense of urgency to get it all out.
Kerouac explains in his introduction to the The Portable Jack Kerouac that he wrote a series of novels that were really one big novel.
Where is Asta-ratha Prabhu’s place in the mountains?
(I am overhearing this conversation between M. and N. in the waiting room.)
It’s between Umbria and Tuscany.’
(This is in English while a middle-aged woman, also waiting, listens.)
Some twenty people are living near the area where Asta-ratha lives.
More from that letter:
“ . . . [A writer] has to face his own risks. No one can face them for him, and no other human being can measure his risks against another. In your writing, you’ve faced the danger of the blank page, of yourself, and of the fear that Prabhupada does not accept what you are doing, and you reach out (steer) to Krsna.
To say that some books may be more important than others may be true in terms of audience acceptance, but that arbitrary judgment may have nothing to do with the author’s very real experience either of art or surrender to the process. Writing with all your stars out has to do with what you feel and what you order, not with the product.”
Everyone is waiting to see if the truth in Srila Prabhupada’s books is also in the lives of the devotees. If not, then people may conclude that the Vedic philosophy is idealistic—it existed once five thousand years ago, and occasionally it reappears at great moments, such as in the life of Lord Caitanya, and in Srila Prabhupada’s life—but it’s not here now: it’s not for us.
A devotee’s life is a vital form of preaching. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, “If at the cost of all my maths I can produce one pure devotee, I will consider my mission to be a success.” Why? Because a true (pure) devotee establishes the truth of religion. Without a true devotee, we have buildings, by-laws, inventory, holy books, managers, followers . . .
“O my tongue, who is overwhelmed with the desire for material enjoyment, please hear my instructions. Always remain deeply absorbed in drinking the nectarean loving mellows of the divine and beautiful names of Radha and Krsna.
With great care, you should eagerly mix and blend this ambrosial name of Radhika and the wonderful condensed sweet milk of the name of Krsna.
Now add into that mixture the sweet fragrance of love and affection, which is both cool and delightful. With great joy and ecstasy drink this nectar both day and night.
No longer will there remain on the tongue a thirst for mundane enjoyment, for these wonderful transcendental mellows will fulfill all your desires.” (Gitavali, “Paresthitah,” Verses 1, 3, and 5, pp. 131–32)
The process of nama-bhajana is clear. Even though we remain at the beginning stages, it is helpful to know that nama-bhajana can become progressively more advanced, until it reaches the stage of nama-rasa. Therefore, I should not lose my enthusiasm in my fight with the inattentive mind. I don’t have to be frustrated in my attempts. We are working towards something so great and so nectarean that all struggle is worthwhile to achieve it.
I cannot be satisfied to ‘return to Earth’ and face the reality of my struggle. What is it that is dragging my mind away from the holy name? The Brooklyn Dodgers? Something else? But this part of Earth is where I have to start. It is my garden to plant and grow and weed and hoe. I am poor—my garden is not lush and green—but a poor man cannot be embarrassed by his poverty. He simply has to continue living and work toward improvement. I think gentle devotees will understand exactly what I am talking about.
“There is a Bengali proverb that one girl was to dance on a stage. So in Indian civilization, the women, they cover their heads in front of their superiors. But this girl was to go on stage. So why should she put on her veil in this case? Where is the opportunity to appear as a household wife on stage? So the saying is, ‘You have come to dance, so why put on the veil?’ Similarly, Arjuna was chastised, ‘You have come to fight, and now you are becoming very unviolent.’ This is all nonsense. You have to do your duties in proper place. That is Aryan.”
Today a baby is going to have his first grains and choose whether he wants the Srimad-Bhagavatam or money. I am avoiding the event, but not because I don’t like babies. I like babies, I like to hold them (if they don’t cry), and I like the hope they signify if they are born into a Krishna conscious family. But this ceremony today is being performed by a Ph.D. brahmana who knows all the mantras and rituals which could turn the event into something too long and complicated for me. B. has made lasagna for the affair, and that is our contribution. Prabhupada liked babies. When they were infants there wasn’t much he could do with them except touch their heads and give them benediction. When they grew up to be toddlers he could play with them, take their hand and not let it go, give them cookies, and play other games with them. On one famous occasion a mother approached Prabhupada with her baby and he asked her, “Who do you love more, Krishna or your baby?” I don’t remember the mother’s reply, but she was very flustered. When Malati’s daughter Sarasvati was a little child she had a Deity of Krishna. Prabhupada took it and held it behind his back. Sarasvati was puzzled and upset looking for her Krishna Deity. Her mother kept saying to her, “Sarasvati, who has Krishna?” The question finally got through to Sarasvati and she realized that Srila Prabhupada, the pure devotee spiritual master, was in possession of Krishna. She looked behind his back and was delighted to find and get back her Krishna.
This morning as I was walking, I was conscious of when it was coming to an end. It began in obscurity and ended in clarity, at least in terms of the sky and the land.
I don’t advocate devotees chanting most of their rounds outdoors, and certainly not that they miss attendance at the temple mangala-arati, but for most of the year, we can observe the dawn either outdoors or through the windows, even while attending the temple program. Dawn usually occurs, in fact, during the period which temples designate as “japa time.” While we chant, we can witness the spectacular yet gentle transformation known as dawn. The dawn can have a favorable psychological effect on us. Haridasa Thakura uses dawn as a metaphor to explain nama-bhasa. He says that at night, we are afraid of robbers and ghosts, but with the first rays of dawn, we lose fear. With the first rays of the chanting of the holy names of Krsna, all our sins are destroyed.
Taking the metaphor further, we chant in the darkness of offense and drowsiness, but if we persist and if we pray for Krsna’s mercy as we chant, then everything will grow lighter. With the rising of the sun comes the hope that one day we can chant in love of God. Day after day we chant during this cosmic transformation, and surely it works to suggest that change within our hearts and souls.
Many poets and thinkers have expressed profound appreciation for the early morning hours, and they sense, sometimes despite their agnosticism, the awakening of God consciousness during that time. In Walden, Thoreau tells us how he was ever attentive to observe the dawn. He says he doesn’t imagine in any way that he actually assisted the sun to rise; it was enough for him just to attend that glorious function. The nature-lover sees it almost as a liturgy, or morning temple program. Because he hasn’t yet come to the stage of being able to appreciate the personal form of Krsna as we see in the arca-vigraha in the mandira, he goes to greet the Deity in the form of the rising sun and cannot help but feel in awe of God’s creation.
It’s not required by our Krsna conscious practices that devotees observe the dawn, but since so many devotees are inclined to love nature, they needn’t feel any conflict. The natural spirit of enlivenment, purity, and well-being that comes when we are sensitive and awake during the early hours can be dovetailed by chanting Hare Krsna and awakening to the highest truth, even while the earth awakens. Krsna’s sun sheds light into darkness. Krsna—surya-sama; maya hay a andhakara.
My dear Lord Krsna . . . I pray to think of You favorably. Sometimes I don’t think of You at all. I would like to have uninterrupted meditation upon You in a loving way. The gopis of Vrndavana achieved this. They always thought of You and fixed their attention on Your form, Your pastimes, and Your qualities, and they yearned to be with You. We just read the wonderful scene in Ananda-vrndavana-campu in which the gopis stood in the rooftop rooms and stared upon You as You came walking home from Your day in the forest of Vrndavana. All day they had been burning in separation from You, and now they feasted their eyes on You with amorous sidelong glances. Madhumangala describes the phenomenon to Krsna:
“O dear friend! For many days we have not seen any day so astonishing. When You disappear in the forest . . . the gopis in the candrasalikas look like lotuses growing in the sky sustaining their lives in the waters of love. When You reappear as the moon through its rays on earth, they blossom in delight like night-blooming lotuses. There is nothing more astonishing anywhere on the earth. In Brahma’s entire creation you will not find a more astounding or attractive scene.” (Ananda-vrndavana-campu, p.147)
The gopis were most fortunate to see You. Lord Caitanya and the Six Gosvamis remained thinking of You in separation and did not have their vision requited. But they thought of You intensely.
Why don’t I think of You more? There is no shortage of means to do so. I can see You in my Radha-Govinda Deities. I can hear You and meditate on You in the transcendental sound vibration of the Hare Krsna mantra. I can do my service and think, “I have been given this service by Krsna.” And I can think of You as my well-wisher. You came to this world in Your form as Lord Krsna to display Your attractive pastimes, and I can meditate upon them. You come more recently as Lord Caitanya, and I can practice sankirtana-yajna and think of Your pastimes in Caitanya-caritamrta. And I can remember Srila Prabhupada in my own lifetime and follow his instructions, which are as good as Your own instructions. Using all these means, I can think of You constantly. If I don’t think of You, it is just my own laziness or lack of presence of mind.
This collection of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1966 and 1978, and compiled in 1979 by Gita Nagari Press as the volume A Handbook for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.
This second volume of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s Back to Godhead essays encompasses the last 11 years of his 20-year tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Back to Godhead magazine. The essays in this book consist mostly of SDG’s ‘Notes from the Editor’ column, which was typically featured towards the end of each issue starting in 1978 and running until Mahārāja retired from his duties as editor in 1989.
This collection of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1991 and 2002, picking up where Volume 2 leaves off. The volume is supplemented by essays about devotional service from issues of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s magazine, Among Friends, published in the 1990s.
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.