I was visited today by my disciples Ekesvara dasa, his wife Bhakti dasi and their eighteen-year-old son Balaram. They are from Guyana, but they have managed to get a visa and now they live in Brooklyn. He works as a carpenter in the building industry, and she works as a caretaker to elderly people. They are very friendly and affectionate disciples. Bhakti dasi urged me to take care of my health and said they are depending on my presence in this world. I don’t see them often, but they said they want to come here more often and do service at Viraha Bhavan, maybe once a month. They have successfully raised their son Balaram to be a devotee of Hare Krsna. He is about to enter college. Ekesvara every month buys me some personal items as a donation, and Balaram gets everything ordered on the computer at the best rates. Balaram is ready to start college in the fall; he says he wants to study business. It was pleasant playing the role of guru with such pleasant disciples.
I talked with John Endler today on Zoom. John told me his son is away at college, and when that happens John takes over his son’s room and spreads my books, especially Every Day, Just Write, all around the room. He also has a set of Prabhupada’s books there. He has a personal process of reading. He reads my EJW, and when I make a specific reference to Prabhupada’s books, he goes to that volume of Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam and reads the verse and purport that I referred to. In this way he gets to be enriched by both my books and Prabhupada’s.
He told me that he is tutoring a young woman who is a member of his Baptist congregation, who has recently come from her home in Vietnam and now lives in Connecticut. She is going to college and mainly studying to learn the English language, which is second language to her. In one of her books the author referred to “free writing” and said they would practice it to learn how to read and write in English. John was excited that the term “free writing” was in the college book, and he began to tell the Vietnam student, whose name is Tu, all about me and my free writing. John is especially fond of the free writing I did in the 1990s. I told him how in my free writing I always try to “steer to Krsna.” He remembered that and was happy to hear it. He says he uses that concept in his own Sunday sermons. I said to him, “Yes, and for you, you turn to Jesus.” He said, “Remember, I’m a Hari-Baptist. I turn to Krsna too.” It was good for me to hear him remind me that I want to always steer to Krsna as I’m doing in my personal journal, where every morning I write a “stream-of-consciousness.” We agreed that in free writing, unless you steer to Krsna, it can be a dangerous thing, and you can wander off into unwanted territory. He said whenever we talk, he “talks your head off.” I don’t mind it because he’s so encouraging.
We received a phone call today from Uddhava in Hungary. He is planning to come here next Monday via a series of connecting flights. He will have traveled sixteen hours before he reaches JFK Airport. Maitreya dasa has volunteered to pick him up in our car and bring him to Viraha Bhavan. Uddhava is planning to stay three weeks. Uddhava has come here before in previous years, despite the long distance he has to travel. I am very grateful when my disciples come here to render service, especially in the cold months.
In a previous year when Uddhava was here, he made a beautiful wooden backdrop for Radha-Govinda. It is painted with many colors and is a scene from Vrndavana. Peacocks, blossoming trees and swans in the river make an enchanting picture. It matches Radha-Govinda perfectly. Uddhava has said that in the future he will make another backdrop. Now he says that he has already started one and will complete it when he is here.
Weeks ago the dermatologist discovered that I had cancerous tissue in my right ear. They removed a large chunk of cancerous tissue and sent it to the lab. The diagnosis was the cancer was a type that is not life-threatening. But still it had to be removed, and they took a big chunk. They closed the wound with twenty stitches, and it took three weeks to heal. It was inconvenient and painful when I went to sleep and lay down on my right side. I wore bandages. Finally today the dermatologist removed my twenty stitches. It was a little painful, but it was a great relief. We gave the office staff chocolate chip cookies. The veteran dermatologist cannot eat wheat, so Baladeva baked her special coconut macaroons, which she likes very much. It was all prasadam.
My disciple Radha Raman of Connecticut has voluntarily been doing research into my maternal and paternal material families. The paternal part of the family is the Guarinos, from Italy. The maternal part of the family starts with my mother, Catherine Sullivan, and is from Ireland. Of course, all this research is material; it’s material dynasties, the bloodlines. And anyway, I have been disowned by both the Irish and Italian sides, ever since I met the Swami and joined ISKCON. He researched that my mother lived until she was 98 years old. The only word she spoke to me several times by phone over intervals of twenty years was, “as long as you are with them (the Hare Krishnas), we won’t have anything to do with you. But now Radha Raman is bringing me down memory lane and sending me much data about my great-grandparents, my grandparents, mother and father, and sister and her family. I never heard from my sister once I joined the Swami. But I was surprised that Radha Raman found out that Madeleine died at a young age, 54. But she and her husband, Thomas Morrissey, had a number of children, and many, many grandchildren. There’s a picture of Thomas Morrissey with white hair, surrounded by about fifteen grandchildren. They were both “good Catholics” intent on having many children. I am really not so interested in my material ancestors or forefathers (and grand-aunts and grandmothers, etc.). I give encouragement to Radha Raman for what he’s discovered. But I hope I am not obsessed by it.
We had extra guests today, Sunday. They weren’t all sitting around the lunch table together; rather, they were busy working on different projects. Lalita Kisori was helping Krsna dasi with the Deities in the pujari room and cleaning the temple. Baladeva and Atindra were serving together in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables and cooking lunch. When I came down for lunch, Hari dasa went upstairs and did a deep cleaning on my room. Simultaneously, Krsna dasi, Maitreya and Atindra installed a new altar upstairs for Radha-Govinda and Lord Caitanya. It was a newly renovated altar that had been sanded and stained with varnish. Hari dasa’s driver, Rishi Ishvara, chanted his rounds in the big chair in the corner, watching all the work go on.
In our out-loud reading we heard about the fight-to-the-death between the demon Vrtasura and Indra, the king of heaven. It was a long story, continued from the previous chapter. Indra had killed Visvarupa for his siding with the asuras although he was a priest for the demigods. Visvarupa’s brother Vrtrasura sought revenge against Indra and the demigods. Vrtrasura was a gigantic demon huge in size. But it turns out that he was also a great devotee of Lord Visnu. So there was a fight between the demons and the demigods. The demons seemed to have the upper hand because of having the great hero, Vrtrasura, on their side. But the demigods had the favor of Lord Visnu, who gave instructions for how to build a fatal thunderbolt for Indra. At first Indra threw a club at Vrtrasura, but Vrtrasura caught it in his left hand and threw it back, hitting Indra’s elephant, who was knocked back fourteen yards and cut in the mouth. The demigods were alarmed and scattered by this action.
The demigods had been given the Narayana-kavaca shield, which made them impervious to other weapons. They used the Narayana-kavaca shield against the demons, who all fled, turning their backs and disobeying Vrtrasura’s orders that they should stand and fight. Vrtrasura chastised the demons for turning their backs and running away. He also challenged the demigods who attacked the demons from behind, hitting them on their backs. Vrtrasura was disgusted with them both. Vrtrasura began trampling the demigods with his feet, he was so gigantic. Indra finally used his thunderbolt, being coaxed to do so by Vrtrasura. Vrtrasura openly said that he wanted to be killed by the thunderbolt because it was made by Visnu, and he wanted to go back to Godhead. So Vrtrasura was meditating on going back to Godhead, while Indra had as his motive in the fight to win back his heavenly kingdom. Therefore, in actuality, Vrtrasura was acting as the devotee, and Indra was acting like an asura.
Prompted by Vrtrasura, Indra finally threw his thunderbolt and cut off Vrtrasura’s arm, and then his other arm. Vrtrasura’s main weapon was a trident, but when he threw it at Indra, Indra tore it to pieces, and at the same time cut off Vrtrasura’s arms. Vrtrasura then swallowed Indra and his elephant, but Indra cut his way out of Vrtrasura’s abdomen by using the thunderbolt, and then Indra cut off Vrtrasura’s head. But it took Indra an entire year, 360 days, before he could actually cut it off the thick neck of Vrtrasura. Both of the fighters got their desired results. Vrtrasura went back to Godhead, and Indra retained his heavenly kingdom.
This morning Maitreya left for his home in Alachua, after serving here for almost a full month. He was an excellent servant, willing to do all the menial duties that we engage him in. He went with us many times to medical appointments and endured long waits in the waiting room. He helped support me when two men were needed while walking down the front stairs on the porch, etc. He has a habit of always chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, even when he is around me. I appreciate it very much. When leaving this morning, he said that he would like to come back and serve next February. I wish we had other people who would come at specific times of the year for a substantial visit so that they have time to learn the service and expand their service every year that they come.
Last night, Uddhava arrived after a long, long journey from Hungary where he resides. There were long plane layovers and train rides. He was basically awake for 24 hours. Fortunately, he got in early enough for Maitreya to show him the evening duties and Uddhava was able to get up early enough to watch the morning duties. He is taking notes in a pad for what he has to do.
Tomorrow, Nitai from India arrives for ten days. So for a while we will have good help.
I had a longer talk with Uddhava Das. He is first initiated by Srila Prabhupada, and second initiated by me, but he keeps a strong bond in his relationship with me and he likes to come here from faraway (Hungary) almost on a yearly basis. Today I asked him about his sadhana. His wife and he live in a nice house, but it is not near where many devotees live. He likes hearing devotees on Zoom. He especially likes hearing Kesava Bharati Maharaja read from the Bhagavatam. Maharaja has been doing this for years and emphasizing the importance of hearing. He and the other devotees with him not only read the books (verses and purport) but they also discuss what they read amongst themselves. Uddhava likes this too. I asked him if he could join our out loud reading. He said there is a time difference difficulty in Hungary, but he will try to consider it. He is very likeable and humble.
Our cook Krsna Dasi told me that I can eat whatever I like and not feel pressure to eat other preparations that she may serve that I don’t like. The other day she served one sabji and thin chapatis and that’s all. I was very satisfied with that meal. Sometimes the cooks offer several preparations, and I usually don’t like at least one or two of the extra sabjis. But now they’re telling me to go ahead and eat just what I like and not feel compelled to eat a whole plate of extra varieties.
Our experience with Jayadvaita Swami is that he will zero in on a certain preparation and keep asking for more of that. This upsets the cooks who want to give him more but weren’t prepared to satisfy him with the one preparation he wants.
I have heard that there is an Ayurvedic system of eating stating that digestion is improved when only eats what and how much they want at any particular time as if the body itself will determine what is the best medicine.
Nitai has arrived here, dovetailing a business trip with a ten day stay at the ashram. He’s coming as a consultant on behalf of a major clothing manufacturer from Bangladesh. Formerly, he was the CEO and now he is semi-retired and just does consulting work and restricts international travel to the United States. He’ll be here doing menial service; cleaning and pujari work and other things with Baladeva. I like his company, so I’ll be meeting with him also.
A nurse in the hospital was supposed to call me at 12:45 P.M., but I really didn’t want to talk to her. She wanted to talk about my going to the hospital for an endoscopy, and I don’t think I need one. I have had enough of hospitals and doctors and medical tests, so I didn’t even want to talk to her. As the time became closer to her phone call I became firmer in my decision. As it turned out, she didn’t call anyway. And lunch was delayed, which made me so upset that I didn’t even eat lunch. I sent Baladeva down to cancel, not reschedule, the appointment and convey my decision not to have any more testing done. Prabhupada once said, “I am not doctor das. I am Krsna das.”
The Lord then saw there the excellent, noble sannyāsī, Paramānanda Purī, endowed with a joyful heart.
The two most powerful persons, with mutual affection and mercy, in joy saw each other, conversed, and then decided to depart.
Gauracandra went south, and Paramānanda went to Puri. Going to Setu-bandha, the Lord with lotus eyes shone.
Going on the road, His heart bursting with prema, He laughed and in great pain cried. Without control, He moved about and saw seven tāla trees.
Seeing the trees, the merciful Lord in joy embraced each one. Immediately the trees rose into the sky, and the place became suddenly empty.
What is the inconceivable greatness of Gaurāṅga, Mahāprabhu, performing many astonishing acts in this world? He who is merciful has astonishing mercy. What is impossible for Him?
Going south, He saw some curious activities. He saw a group of ascetics absorbed in unauthorized methods.
These greatly sinful heretics on the wrong path saw the Lord and tried for a long time to lure Him with their opinions.
Because of the Lord’s illusory power, they had deviated from the correct path. They could not see the Lord at all. They were bewildered by various illusions.
They then saw one fickle-hearted servant named Kṛṣṇa-dāsa who had come with the Lord. These wicked persons bewildered him.
“Where are you going? You will obtain only suffering. Make friends with us. Go to Svarga in this body. This is certain.
“There is one path, long and difficult to traverse for all people. Come! By this path we will take you from here to Svarga.”
Bewildered by these sinful deviants, weak in his heart and fooled, he lost enthusiasm to go with the Lord.
Understanding the wicked intentions of the sinful persons and the weak nature of Kṛṣṇa-dāsa, the ocean of mercy, the friend of the universe, argued with them.
“O sannyāsīs! What is this? You have lured my young servant and are taking him somewhere. This is not proper. This is not a correct action for you. Give him up and go away.”
Arguing in this way, by His power, the ocean of mercy made them give up their attempts. When the Lord is pleased, this can happen.
Seeing the wicked acts of the deviants, the Lord laughed and said nothing to Kṛṣṇa-dāsa. He then headed towards Setu-bandha.
On the road, the Lord performed continuous kīrtana, glorifying the Lord’s qualities and names. Washing His body with tears of prema, He purified the whole forest.
The merciful Lord, who flooded all places with His mercy, arrived at Setu-bandha and, seeing Rāmeśvara, who had been worshipped by Rāma, He offered respects and recited praises.
Seeing the bridge, which gave fame to Rāma, beautiful, powerful Gauracandra, the ocean of mercy, decided to return from there.
Going by the path, with melted heart He saw Raṅga again. He came to the Godāvarī, and there He saw Rāmānanda Rāya.
Arriving at the Godāvarī, the Lord in joy went to Rāmānanda’s house to introduce himself. He was like the autumn moon rising on the eastern horizon.
Seeing the Lord, Rāmānanda, who always remembered Kṛṣṇa, joyfully offered respects, falling on the ground. After that, he experienced the greatest bliss, which had increased by millions of times.
Just on seeing him, the Lord’s heart melted in bliss. The Lord, most beautiful in the universe, shone with the beauty of many Cupids.
The Lord said in a voice like a rumbling cloud, with some deception, “Read some poetry.” Hearing this, Rāmānanda, who knew about the greatest rasa, recited a verse filled with the rasa of renunciation.
If detachment manifests it is good, for sin is destroyed. If it does not manifest, then deep material attachment arises. We will attain great advantage by detachment. An enjoying mind produces attachment. By attachment even a brāhmaṇa enters a womb.
Hearing this, Gauracandra said, “That is external.” The austerity arising in the heart from these words did not produce bliss.
Pure in mind, Rāmānanda, feeling bliss in all his limbs, recited his own attractive verse which explained bhakti.
“As long as there is hunger and thirst within the stomach, varieties of food and drink make one feel very happy. Similarly, when the Lord is worshiped with pure love, the various activities performed in the course of that worship awaken bliss in the heart of the devotee.”
Hearing this, the Lord said “This is irrelevant. Reciting something else.” Rāmānanda fell at the feet of the Lord, surrounding His feet with his long hair.
His limbs slack with great bewilderment, he offered respects to the golden Lord attractive as Cupid. Having fallen at His feet, he rose and felt great bliss.
He then recited an attractive song which described the supreme prema of the loving couple.
O my friend! First, by glances of the eyes, pūrva-rāga had arisen. Day by day it increased without limit. He is not my husband, and I am not his wife, but Cupid has joined our minds. All this is the effect of prema. Do not forget to tell this fact to Kṛṣṇa. I did not search for a messenger. I did not search for any one. Cupid himself was the mediator for our meeting. That lover is now indifferent to me. Therefore you should be the messenger. This is the nature of that lover’s prema.
Rāmānanda Raya has composed this poem in honor of King Vardhana Rudra.
Hearing this supreme description, the Lord, with blossoming lotus eyes, shivering with intense prema, embraced Rāmānanda in deep bliss.
As they tossed around in the waves of firm embraces, with whirlpools in the ocean of happiness, like a great festival, time passed.
As the Lord conversed for long periods with Rāmānanda, endowed with natural prema, some days passed. Then the Lord desired to see Jagannātha.
Gauracandra arrived at Puri, the destroyer of illusion, which was decorated profusely and saw the deity before snāna-yatra.
As the waves of the ocean increase when the moon rises, when Gauracandra appeared in Puri, the people had all their ignorance destroyed and their eyes blossomed like lotuses.
One of the boys was reading something to Swamiji from the Bible. The passage referred to a prophet’s lineage with worship and respect for the forefathers. When the person was described (let us say his name was Jacob), his name was given in connection with his forefathers. It was something like, “Jacob, a man of God, whose forefathers were so-and-so.” As soon as this passage was read, Swamiji said, “Yes, this is the way in spiritual life. One refers to himself in terms of his previous teachers and forefathers.” Prabhupada approved of the parampara principle in this passage of the Bible. He then gave examples from Vedic literature. He told the story of Lord Brahma who went to visit Lord Krsna in Dvaraka. At first Brahma was not allowed in, and the doorkeeper asked, “Which Brahma are you?” Brahma replied, “I am the father of the Kumaras.” He identified himself in relationship to the recognized devotees, the four Kumaras.
Another way in which being on the run may be helpful for Prabhupada meditation is that it makes you more lonely. At least for myself, I become lonelier when I am with people than when I am alone with time to think and write of Krsna and Prabhupada. But when you are lonely, and someone gives you a chance to talk about Prabhupada, or you take time for a recall session on your own, then you really feel like doing it—you talk to your best friend, Srila Prabhupada. Or you talk to someone else about him. You seek his shelter.
Another moment occurred when I visited the studio of the Krsna conscious painter, Visnu dasa Prabhu. He was just completing a beautiful painting of Krsna and Balarama. He explained to me that he used bright colors because “Prabhupada liked bright colors.”
I said, “Oh, Prabhupada liked bright colors?”
Visnu dasa said, “Yes, Prabhupada said he liked bright colors.” I did not ask him where he had heard this, but I accepted it, and it became a nice little moment. Looking at the painting of Krsna-Balarama had turned into a meditation on the sensibility of Prabhupada, who supposedly likes bright colors. And that made me think of the early paintings in Boston. Bharadaraja used to paint very brightly. Maybe he also heard that Prabhupada likes bright colors.
Another moment occurred earlier today while attending the Srimad-Bhagavatam class. I usually have trouble staying awake, but at one point I suddenly heard the lecturer say, “Prabhupada says.” I woke up a bit and anticipated that he was going to say something from Prabhupada. Of course, the phrase “Prabhupada says” has been abused, but still, when we hear it, it sounds like an introduction to something important. This is another example of how one can meditate on Prabhupada even when in the normal routine: by hearing Godbrothers and Godsisters say things that Prabhupada said and to stay awake when it occurs. Prabhupada likes bright colors.
When Prabhupada came to Dallas the second time, the devotees had small Radha-Krsna Deities, “Little Radha-Kalachandji,” and we asked Prabhupada if we could install Them on the altar. He said, “You already have a Deity, Radha-Kalacandji, so there is no question of installing any other Deities.”
“Then Prabhupada, “ I said, “we shouldn’t put these Deities on the altar?”
“Yes,” he said, “you may put Them on the altar. But you don’t install Them. There’s only one installed Deity, Radha-Kalachandji.” That was an interesting piece of education, and it helped us to understand the Deity worship. So while Prabhupada was there, the devotees took the opportunity to put the little Radha-Krsna Deities on the altar, and they also placed, for the first time, deities of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Baladeva on a separate altar. Since Prabhupada said there was to be no installation ceremony, They were all placed for the very first time on the altar during the normal time when the Deities are dressed, before “Greeting the Deities.”
Prabhupada entered the temple room to greet the Deities, and he stood in front. The temple hall was very long and down its entire length about a hundred children were lined up. Many of the children were as young as four or five years old, and they were not very reverent in Prabhupada’s presence. They had heard many times that Prabhupada was very special and that you are supposed to respect him and bow down before him, but their senses and minds were too wild to understand it. Although the adults knew how to put on a good appearance in Prabhupada’s presence, the children continued their usual fighting and throwing things up in the air just a few feet in front of His Divine Grace. The teachers tried their best to control the situation and Prabhupada did not seem disturbed by it.
When the altar curtains began to open, Prabhupada faced the Deities. Suddenly, a cheer came out from all the children—“YEEEA!” Prabhupada turned with pleasure and looked at the enthusiastic mob of tots who had made the big roar. For the children it was a sensation—a new Radha-Krsna! And new Jagannatha! “YEEEA!” Prabhupada wanted spontaneous bhakti in his disciples, and there it was.
Although Swamiji had a bead bag, he often chanted his beads by holding them in two hands. The boys followed this method, and even when we were not chanting, we would wear the beads around our necks in a double strand. Swamiji thought this was acceptable; he told us either keep them in a bead bag or wear them around our necks. And you can take them on the street like this, “If you’re not ashamed.”
Soon after Prabhupada’s arrival on Second Avenue, young men started appearing in public with bright red beads around their necks. In those days, devotees did not wear dhotis or tilaka or shaved heads, so the main way that you could spot a devotee was by his red beads. With Gargamuni, it was his Shakespearean locks and his red beads. We thought wearing the beads was cool, with their clicking noise and red shine. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
We learned to finger the beads by watching Swamiji. You fingered with your right hand and held the other half of the strand in your left hand. As you moved each bead through the right hand you moved the strand through the left hand and gradually passed the circle around your neck. It involved more touch and sight than when the beads were kept in the bead bag. Besides, bead bags hadn’t yet arrived.
One day I was going to visit welfare clients on Canal Street and chanted as I walked. I began to feel uneasy that my chanting was not being counted in any way. I wanted to capture it and get credit for it. As soon as I saw Swamiji, I again told him, “My chanting is just going to the wind.” He instructed me to buy little beads to use as counters. When I returned with the beads, he said, “You are very prompt.” Then he showed us how to use the counters. He said that Vaisnavas in India keep individual quotas for japa. Some have a thousand beads on one circular strand, and they chant one round a day.
When he held initiations, that was a good chance for us to watch him chant. He gave us instructions about chanting on our beads at that time. He told us to chant by starting with the bead next to the “head bead.” Chant the Hare Krsna mantra on each bead by using the thumb and third finger. Don’t touch the beads with the pointing finger. Go around once, and when you reach the summit bead, don’t cross over, but start back in the other direction.
Since I am speaking about writing, let me appreciate your Bhaktivedanta purports. They are proving to be the matrix for schools of art, philosophy, and science. Sometimes devotees say that you did not organize your writing into divisions as in an encyclopedia. You wrote everything as it occurred to you and the previous acaryas, when speaking in the context of each Bhagavatam verse. Some of your followers have been dividing your work into sections, compiling books on the holy names, guru-disciple relationship, and so on. The way you wrote is perfect in itself, but you allow us to keep ourselves creatively engaged in mining the jewels from the Bhaktivedanta purports.
Even in a single purport, you give impetus for a follower to dedicate his whole life. Let us always remain your submissive students, reading your purports daily. Let us hanker for your darsana and the darsana of Lord Krsna. Only when your teachings become our life’s breath can we come forward and create “new literatures.” After all, what are our new literatures but old wine in new bottles? I am happy to be able to write on the basis of what you have written. Other followers of yours are also acting on this basis. We are like the branches; you are the tree. We are being nourished and sustained by you.
While writing this letter, I have stopped several times and almost lost heart. Cynical voices tell me that I have no right to speak to you of my little activities. If any letters are to be written to Prabhupada after his disappearance, they should concern serious matters affecting the whole ISKCON society. These thoughts make me want to stop, but then I realize that that is not right either. As I am writing my letter, hundreds and thousands of your disciples may also write you. Somehow you are receiving them all. I know from when I was your secretary that you can answer a lot of mail. You can speak to each person if necessary. It is especially hard now, Srila Prabhupada, to go without writing to you, at least occasionally. I am not expecting you to answer with a return letter. I mainly want the assurance that you hear me and accept me, and that you will always give us your guidance toward the ultimate goal. If you like, I can take up that secretarial service, helping you answer letters. It was something I was able to do by your grace. Only, everyone prefers to hear from you directly. Me too.
Sometimes you dream up something; it comes out of your life, and you feel deeply about it. It may even be an anartha that you face; you deal with it and convert it into Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada said that someone once found an old gourd and a metal string, and from these rejected pieces, he made a beautiful vina. When we pick up the bits and scraps of our lives and make them into something useful in Krsna consciousness, we feel a lift of happiness. “Let me show this to Prabhupada.”
This also works in our prayers. Prayer is not only for formal times, but for whenever we turn to our Friend.
Another time you may be working in your room, and, because there is no heat, the chill starts getting to you. You notice it, and you call out, “Prabhupada, it is so cold here!” Prabhupada meditation can be very ready, as near as our dearest friend. It is a respectful, intimate relationship.
If we do not offer Krsna our selfhood, then there is the danger of making offerings only in an official way. Our offering may appear impeccable; we may do everything according to the rules, with proper standards of cleanliness, and on time. But what if we somehow avoid giving ourselves? Do we think we are too unworthy to be an offering? If we do not give ourselves wholeheartedly, we will reserve some energy for other things. The energy will be bottled up and lead to frustration, or we will expand the energy for something separate from our service to guru and Krsna. If we want to offer our full selves, we have to be enthusiastic. We should not hold back.
Prabhupada tends to be lenient in bringing out the best in his students. Thus he allows his students gradually to give more and more of themselves as they feel inclined. The students try to elevate their tastes and talents until their offerings become pleasing to Krsna and Prabhupada. Why not offer Prabhupada something we know is pleasing to pure devotees and to Krsna? The highest standard of offering is a devotee’s full energy and self, dovetailed with the interest of Krsna.
One devotee of Krsna was so ecstatic that when Krsna visited his house, the devotee offered Krsna banana peels instead of bananas. The offering was imperfect, but because it was done in love, Krsna happily accepted it. The gopis’ service, on the other hand, was so perfect that it captured Krsna’s mind. Their service was wholehearted and perfectly rendered according to the devotional arts—they knew how to please Him.
We can all try offering whatever we have to Prabhupada. We will always be fools before him, but at least we will have offered everything we could.
One symptom of steady bhava is proper utilization of time. Srila Prabhupada followed a daily schedule of his own making. He was almost always on time, although he was not fanatical about it. For example, he usually took his morning massage around 11:15 or 11:30. But when I was Prabhupada’s servant, sometimes I would come in to give the massage, and he would be in the midst of preaching to a guest. He would continue preaching and not be a slave to the clock. He was always using his time to serve Krsna no matter what he was doing.
It is not so difficult to be situated at least somewhere on the map of bhakti-yoga. One can usually see some connection between what one is doing and Krsna’s service. But a pure devotee isn’t satisfied with only a nominal connection to Krsna consciousness. He wants to experience a mood of intense service and surrender to Krsna in everything he does.
While Prabhupada felt that a schedule enhanced his own meditation and practice, he also followed a schedule to set a good example for his neophyte disciples. A schedule is important for us. Around 1970, ISKCON devotees began to follow more rigid schedules for the temple programs. Prabhupada encouraged us. He told us that if we followed this schedule, there would be no peephole for maya to enter.
Pure devotees of Krsna meditate on Krsna’s schedule. Krsna performs various pastimes with His eternal associates according to the time of day. Krsna’s day is divided into eight main periods, and within those eight periods, there are minute divisions. Pure devotees fill their minds with remembrance of Radha-Krsna by meditating in this way.
Similarly, Srila Prabhupada’s daily schedule is well-known to his devotees. We can meditate on Prabhupada at different times of the day. For example, Prabhupada rose around 1 a.m. to write. He took prasadam at specific times, chanted his Gayatri at specific times, and had scheduled meeting times for guests. He took a noon bath and a little nap afterwards, and he was usually prepared to lecture in the evening. As we go through our own day’s activities, we can meditate on Prabhupada’s schedule and even try to do some of the things he did at the times he did them. That will fill our minds with remembrance of Prabhupada.
We can be truthful, but at the same time forgiving. Forgiveness is the wealth of brahmanas.
When the elder gopis lodged complaints to Mother Yasoda, she heard the “faults” of her son Krsna, but she never decreased in her unlimited affection for Him. She said, “If Krsna’s ornaments create a light by which He steals the yogurt, then I’ll take away His ornaments.” But the gopis said, “Never mind that. He and Balarama have Their own natural effulgence.” Mother Yasoda then said, “So protect your yogurt in a high place and then Krsna can’t steal it.” Mother Yasoda was obliging to her friends, and she did not argue against the facts of her son’s misbehavior—His alleged pinching of children, pouring water in their ears, urinating on the floors and so on. But even while hearing these things, her heart filled with love, her breasts filled with milk for baby Krsna. The complaining gopis said, “Look at Krsna now. He’s sitting there as if He is an innocent boy, just see His face!” The gopis implied that Lord Krsna was acting sweet but was deceitful. Mother Yasoda couldn’t help but smile at His beauty, even while they complained.
Lord Krsna is unique. We are supposed to discipline our children or disciples if they display dishonesty. Don’t give them the impression it’s all right to cheat. One aunt who was leaning towards her nephew’s stealing later had her own ear bit off by the boy when he grew up and was about to be killed for his crimes. He said, “Your leniency led me to this!” So we should be honest and see the faults in our friends and relatives, but continue to guide them and love them.
COMMENT: I didn’t like that letter from the devotee telling me to tell another devotee to work in the communications department. I didn’t like being used as a tool because of being a guru.
In my early years as a zonal guru, I was compromised in my relationship with my disciples by their relationship with their temple presidents. I had very heavy personalities as temple presidents in my guru initiating zone. I would come to the temple, and they would tell me about the devotees, and who were the wrongdoers and who was on the blacklist. And I would take their word for it and reprimand the devotees who they had pointed out to me. Sometimes the devotees would lose faith in me for taking the word of the temple president over their own word. This was difficult for me. At a certain point I stopped that game.
I was a pioneer in advising devotees to offer what they loved to do for Krsna, rather than be directed by the management. This was controversial with the management. I went through an evolution where I myself started to do what I wanted to do for serving Prabhupada, rather than be manipulated by my Godbrothers. This happened especially after I resigned from the GBC. Then I advised my disciples more personally through letters and meetings, and encouraged them to serve by their inclination, but to cooperate with their authorities.
I resigned from the GBC in 1986, and now we’re in 1997, so I went through a decade of evolution in order to become a more independent representative.
My Godbrothers weren’t agitated with me when I went through my evolution. They more or less accepted it. The only one I can remember that was disturbed was a disciple in Ireland. He wanted me to encourage him as a manager; he said I didn’t encourage managers. But I told him I encouraged everyone, including managers; not just artists.
Today I am less concerned about what the neighbors think. I have a big quota, sixty-four rounds. There is more at stake—it will be a great waste if all sixty-four rounds are offensive.
The first ten were good, and the ones on the walk were awake at least. The two just now in the van were terrible because sleep caught me in that warm, closed space. I know it all sounds external, but that’s the first work, staying awake and going at a brisk pace. Then being alert (like the birds on the ground) and pecking away at inattention. I am trying to empty the ocean drop by drop; then I want to ask why my chanting isn’t connected to Krsna’s pastimes. Prayers to Prabhupada help. These are the progressive stages to work at. I keep coming back to the very beginning needs: wakefulness, clear pronunciation, attentive hearing, looking for purity.
(I can’t do justice to the reality of life. The photo is once removed from the reality, and my description of it is twice removed. But devotion, even one drop of it, can immediately penetrate time, memory, and photo moment poses. I am looking for that drop to spring out of my heart when I look at the photo.)
This was taken in Srila Prabhupada’s room (not the present residence) at Krsna-Balarama Mandira. He is wearing the rust-colored sweater, and from the devotees gathered there, I can tell it’s India, circa 1971–72. Syamasundara, Guru-krpa, Rsi-kumara, Revatinandana, Panca-dravida, Mahamsa, and one lady, barely visible, in the back, maybe Visakha. I see the dictaphone on his desk with the dust cover on it. Sheet-covered bolster pillows. I am curious where this room is, set up for his use with the low desk, but I can’t tell.
I know the layout of his desk. These objects are like exact paraphernalia for a special yajna, known in detail only by his intimate servants and secretaries. Eyeglasses case, container for tilaka, desk lamp, stainless steel water cup, a bell to call his servant. Other items are optional – the picture of Krsna running to His mother, a small Radha-Krsna painting in a frame, a picture of his guru maharaja.
Srila Prabhupada is gesturing with his left hand. It is intriguing to see the disciples’ faces as they listen intently to their guru. Everyone goes through so much in their minds. Most of the devotees gave up strict practice after some years, but they retained deep impressions of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada, yesterday I wrote a letter to a devotee who is having problems, and I quoted something you said. He had a high profile and a brilliant reputation, a brahmacari, and now he is getting married. His stepping down was so abrupt that some call it a falldown. Anyway, the devotees were disappointed and even hurt by his actions, and he was hurt by their attitude toward him. He felt they treated him like he wasn’t a devotee at all and should now be shunned.
I wanted to encourage him. I told him how you once wrote me that failure is the pillar of success. I didn’t tell him the incident you were responding to when you said that to me, but I remember it. It was around 1971. Some of the GBC members had held a meeting in the Brooklyn temple, but it turned out that our meeting wasn’t authorized because we didn’t invite all the members and some of the resolutions we passed didn’t please you. You even suspended the GBC for the time being. You were showing us your power and teaching us that you were the real head of ISKCON.
Anyway, we were all disturbed that we had been party to such a source of displeasure to you. I remember your sending out an urgent communication that devotees, for the time being, should not listen to the GBC’s decisions. You said legal formulas wouldn’t help us, that we had to become mad after Krsna. I went back to my service at the new gurukula in Dallas and to writing for Back to Godhead magazine.
You also asked those of us who had attended that ill-fated meeting to explain to you our understanding of what happened. I wrote and expressed myself openly about it, how I was wrong and how I had been influenced by others and what our intentions were. You wrote back without any grudge, telling me not think in such an expansive way. In that context, you encouraged me by saying, “Failure is the pillar of success.”
That expression is not a Vedic statement. It is an English adage. But you applied it at a time when I was disappointed with myself and unsure how to proceed. You gave the whole incident such a positive note.
As conditioned souls, we waiver and want to abandon our purposes after a little endeavor. We have to pray to Kṛṣṇa for the strength to endure in our lives and to continue practicing devotional service. After being trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and having our eyes fixed on the goal, māyā may attempt to divert us. Whatever the reason may be to give up our steadfastness, it is petty and should not turn us away from Lord Kṛṣṇa’s devotional service. We need bala, strength, to remain fixed. Even if we fail to take Kṛṣṇa’s help, Kṛṣṇa will remain loyal to His vow never to abandon us. He will wait for us and present us with opportunities to return to Him. Kṛṣṇa is not a quitter and we shouldn’t be either.
When Kṛṣṇa stole the clothes of the unmarried gopīs, He showed steadfastness in another context. The gopīs pleaded with Him, and then threatened Him, not to persist in this joke, but “when the gopīs saw that Kṛṣṇa was strong and determined,” they had to surrender to His will.
Steadfastness is our qualification for attaining Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Māyā’s test is to see whether we are worthy to be with Kṛṣṇa. If we don’t practice steadfastness in earnest, then we will fall away.
Lord Kṛṣṇa always tolerates our failings. We are absorbed in our own struggle and we don’t always appreciate how steadfast the Lord is. Even when we turn our back on Him, He remains our best well-wisher. We are fickle. Actually, our inattention to Kṛṣṇa is insulting, such as when we chant the holy names inattentively. But Lord Kṛṣṇa is steadfast and sends us the spiritual master, and He continues to see the good in whatever we do. Even if we chant many rounds without attention, if, finally, we chant one Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra with devotion, Kṛṣṇa immediately accepts our surrender. He is our best well-wisher.
Shyamasundar was the delay.
He had a grand conception to build
a temple room like the Ajanta Caves,
but in redwood instead of stone.
Prabhupada let him do it,
but after months when still it wasn’t done,
“We will open in two weeks.
Print the invitations.”
Before his room was ready,
Prabhupada moved into the city
and directed the daily affairs.
The Deities of Radha and Krishna
came in a special way.
It was the trick of Krishna, Prabhupada said,
just as Krishna tricked His Mother Yashoda,
not allowing her to bind Him;
and at Kurukshetra He sometimes played
a chivalrous or diplomatic battle trick.
So Prabhupada saw the trick of the Lord in London:
Krishna had had Himself transported
from India by a London Hindu society,
and in transit they chipped
a very small piece of Radharani’s finger.
On custom the Hindus had hesitated
to install the chipped Deity,
and they had phoned to see
whether Prabhupada was interested.
Before they knew it, Krishna was carried away
in the arms of Prabhupada’s men.
With His permission
Krishna was embraced by the pure devotee.
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.