I received a letter from Krsna Bhajana, who is proofreading, correcting, and editing my book, Worshiping with the Pen.
Here is what he said about it:
“I am liking the book more and more as I go through it. I liked the combination of a personal journal and selected quotes from rasa literature. Although you repeated in the early parts of the book, that it wasn’t about Srila Prabhupada, slowly but surely Prabhupada becomes more and more present, an inevitable product of your love for and loyalty to your spiritual master, the founder-acarya.
“The book is very personal, taking the reader along for the ride with you as you traverse these weeks and most of the later years of this lifetime. The book evolves as you express more and more of your joy in your service to Srila Prabhupada as a writer. For you readers this book gives many lessons on how to be Krsna conscious in our later years as the body places more constraints on our activities. To me it is a very nice book for your close disciples, as it allows us to be with you in person and receive guidance. I am looking forward to getting into volume two.”
In a meeting with Nitai, we concentrated on talking about printing and distributing my books in India. He is happy to report that he now has the files and all the books that our book team put back into print in the year 2022. This includes the 16 books exclusively about Srila Prabhupada. I am impressing on him that I want him to make it his mission to distribute these books as far as possible. He is excited about it and has plans. He wants to print a catalog of my books and set up a web site.
He is no longer working as a CEO in the clothing manufacturing business. He has more time to dedicate for printing and distributing my books. Aside from India, he said London is a great field for distributing books and he wants to enter it. At age 50, Nitai is one of my youngest disciples and particularly qualified for the mission. So, the future is bright. It would be nice if he could rally the support he needs from the older members of our family so that they don’t miss their chance in this lifetime.
Ekendra sent me a sample of his recording of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta for review. He is working on recording the entire SPL in seven volumes, and it will be an audiobook. I listened to a whole chapter about Srila Prabhupada in Jhansi, India. Ekendra’s reading voice was excellent! He has no music, melodrama, just a good, sincere voice with excellent diction. The Jhansi story was at first a success for Prabhupada as he left his family life and went to dedicate himself in preaching and starting a worldwide movement, The League of Devotees, based in the obscure city of Jhansi. He was doing well there, but by political intrigue he was forced out of the building by the governer’s wife, who wanted to use it as a ladies’ club. So it was a kind of defeat for Prabhupada, but he left there, determined to preach, and for the time being took shelter at the Kesava Math in Mathura.
I had a Zoom talk with Nitai’s two children, his fourteen-year-old daughter Gopi and his eight-year-old son Gauranga. The Zoom talk was a connection between New York and Gurgaon (Gurugram), India. I said hello to the children and to Vraja Piyari dasi, Nitai’s wife. His mother also briefly appeared. I asked the children where they received their names. They hesitated a bit and then said, “You, Maharaja, gave us our names.” That’s a fact. Nitai asked me, at the birth of each child, to give them a name. After a few moments, Gauranga, who is an extroverted, outspoken young boy, asked if he could lead a kirtana. He left the Zoom and went to get his mrdanga. In the meantime I talked with Gopi and said I heard she was an A+ student. She humbly said, “Please give me your mercy so that I can be a good student.” Gauranga soon returned to the camera and began a kirtana with strong voice and good rhythm. (Nitai has told me Gauranga regularly leads kirtanas at the Krsna-Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana, although their policy is that no children lead kirtanas there.) Gauranga’s sister, Gopi, has given her brother the nickname “Nimai” to indicate that he is “naughty.” Nitai told me that he heard Prabhupada speak on a lecture that if a young boy is naughty, when he grows up he will be intelligent. Nitai hopes this will be true.
Nitai is only here for a little while, until Thursday, and he’s here rarely (from India), so I wanted to take time to talk to him again. He is doing his best, and he has ambitious plans. But he says he has to give a lot of his time to his two children. He’s thinking of trying to get up earlier, at 3:00 A.M. to use some sacred time for working on the books. He said he wants to make an artistic, attractive catalog of my books, with reviews from devotees and excerpts from the books themselves. He said he wants to print about six books which he considers my “best sellers” and distribute them to the ISKCON centers in India. I told him something that Prabhupada said to a group of his disciples in India who were having trouble in getting along together. He told them, “Just do your level-headed best.” I said he could use that as a “motto.” He has to balance his life with his home responsibilities and the mission of book distribution.
We observed a quiet, intimate Gaura Purnima at Viraha Bhavan. There were seven people gathered. The devotees prepared a substantial feast, beginning with green sak and sukta, which Lord Caitanya likes, and ending with sweet rice and halava. We had our usual out-loud reading on Zoom, with devotees participating from many places. We read from the Caitanya-caritamrta. In the morning for an hour we read from “The External Reasons for Lord Caitanya’s Descent,” and for the one-and-a-half-hour reading at 1:00 P.M. we read from “The Confidential Reasons for Lord Caitanya’s Descent.” The Gaura-Nitai Deities (from Ekacakra) were beautifully dressed with fresh rose garlands, and fragrant lily vases adorned the altar. It was satisfying being together with a small group of like-minded devotees.
Radha-Govinda are wearing a new outfit. It was made by our mukut-walla in Vrndavana. It is very beautiful. It is all-yellow, with pearls embedded with beading. Krsna dasi made a garland for Radha and Govinda, both of baby’s breath (white flowers). Even though I can’t quite make out Their fine features from my chair, I’m satisfied to be with Them on this day. They are very good companionship.
I had my last meeting with Nitai. We talked again about printing and distributing my books in India. He had me sign seven books for important preachers in India who will help in my distribution. Nitai said he got much encouragement and enthusiasm from his visit to Viraha Bhavan. He is very dear and important to me. I am counting on him to carry forward my mission.
Baladeva is taking Nitai to the train after the morning out-loud reading. I’m sending him off with a serious mission and asking him to set aside substantial time to work on the distribution of my books in India and the world. India is a great field, and he is the one to do it. Prabhupada would push his disciples very hard to distribute his books and perform many austerities. To do this for me, he may have to give up some of the preaching services he likes to do and be careful not to be pulled into other projects. He is one of the best men coming up in ISKCON, and many sannyasis have marked him. So, we have to be strict in our request. Guru means heavy.
I had another meeting with Uddhava. I told him that I always think of him as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. He was first-initiated by Prabhupada and second-initiated by me. I said I liked the fact that we had a bond of guru-disciple. I told him that most devotees who received first initiation by Prabhupada and second initiation by me want to have nothing to do with me. They keep no contact. Uddhava said he was surprised. I told him that there were some exceptions. I mentioned Haridasa dasa from Maryland and Muktavandya from Boston, who were first-initiated by Prabhupada and second-initiated by me. And in all those cases, we have tight relationships as guru-disciple, without any diminishing of their connection with Srila Prabhupada. Uddhava said he had very little association with Srila Prabhupada, and he gained and learned a lot in his relationship with me. These relationships are based on a heart-to-heart relationship, and not on formalities. I even have some strong relationships with disciples of other gurus. These relationships give credence to the fact that siksa-guru can be as strong a relationship as diksa.
All day I was disturbed by the loud noise of big equipment. Heavy equipment was used across the street at Saci’s house in the backyard. The heavy equipment trimmed out dead limbs and any of the big limbs below thirty feet from the ground in order to allow light and air into the backyard. Six men were working with the big equipment. Several men worked on the lift, which allowed them to go up and cut limbs up to fifty feet high. Another man was working a log-grabber, which would carry the limbs from the back yard out to the street, where another man was waiting to push them into a chipper (the main source of noise that sat right across from our house). The three other men were kept busy picking up smaller branches and bringing them over to the chipper. They worked all day and stopped at 5:00 P.M. But it appears we are going to get more noise tomorrow because they left all their heavy equipment parked in the driveway. So much for our peace and quiet at Stuyvesant Falls.
The tree cutters came back this morning to complete their work. They made a lot of noise, disturbing, but surprisingly, they stopped around 11:00 A.M., loaded up their machinery and left. Simultaneously, the huge manure trucks which had been going back and forth constantly for the week, making a great noise with their huge engines, stopped spreading manure on the fields. This allowed a real quiet to set in on Albany Avenue (County Route 25). So today I wasn’t disturbed while doing my writing projects. I appreciate days like this very much. It allows me to focus and concentrate more. I always have my early morning sacred writing time, when it’s quiet, but it’s an extra bonus when the rest of the day is quiet also.
Nitai is back in Gurgaon, India, his prabhu-datta-desa. Since he’s retired as CEO of the big business he is involved in, and he’s only consulting and occasionally traveling, he’s mostly in Gurgaon. He is building a new house on the old plot of his present house. His old house has been dismantled. In place of the old house, he’s building more space for his children, who are growing up and need their own room. But Nitai should not sacrifice his own sanity. He should keep a sacred place, an office, for his meditation on world book distribution. For years he has been personally going out and setting up a book table at all the major festivals in India. This is exemplary, and I wish more devotees, disciples of mine, would do it. But now he has a greater responsibility, to distribute on a larger scale. Hopefully he will be getting books into all the temple stores, especially now that more of the bestsellers are in print. I have asked him to write me letters and keep me in touch with his project.
Though some were engaged in seeing Jagannātha, some were offering respects to the deity, some were performing worship, some were circumambulating the deity and others were serving the deity, they all approached Mahāprabhu.
He made everyone happy, some by laughter, some by glances, some by smiles, some by embraces, and some by fulfilling their desires.
The Lord, making all these people the witness, addressed Kṛṣṇa-dāsa whom He had carefully brought back to Puri. He said, “Go.” He completely rejected him.
Seeing the crown jewel of Puri, Jagannātha, attractive as a hundred jewels, Gauracandra bathed His body in streams of His own tears in joy.
He then saw the attractive bathing festival, rare for the devatās to view, like another deep ocean of bliss, on the shore of the ocean at Puri.
Early in the morning merciful Gaurāṅga went to see the Lord, but could not see Him, since He was hidden from view. He became sad and wept.
Leaving the temple, He moved quickly like an infuriated lion, with great longing, and came to Ālālanātha temple. Searching for Him with great anxiety, the devotees went out of the temple.
Thinking and searching, they could not find Him. They lamented loudly. In great sorrow they went to Puri. One moment seemed like a kalpa.
Later the Lord went on the road to the Godāvarī and spent more than four months talking to Rāmānanda.
In the winter, the excellent Lord, spreading His mercy, returned to Puri with Rāmānanda. Who can understand the astonishing acts of the Lord?
Arriving at Puri, the joyful golden mountain, with attractive body, gazed continually at Jagannātha and passed His time in joy.
Hearing that Mahāprabhu had arrived, Kāśī-miśra, destroyer of all sin and darkness, saw Him with four arms, as he desired. He offered respects and became blissful.
Touched by the Lord’s mercy and the dust from His lotus feet, with hairs standing on end, overwhelmed by intense bliss, Kāśī-miśra shone.
By Gaurāṅga’s great mercy, Kāśī-miśra brought the gṛha-Lakṣmī of Jagannātha under his control. Who can measure his great glory?
Who can describe in words Kāśī-miśra, who carried out all the orders of Gaurāṅga’s lotus feet, understanding his desires?
Who can understand this person who, understanding the Lord’s mind, made various detailed arrangements as he saw fit, following the festival rules?
One very great soul named Viṣṇu-dāsa, with pure intelligence, gave up everything and saw the lotus feet of Gaurāṅga.
Most fortunate with heaps of good acts, he was immediately inundated with the Lord’s mercy. His tears began to bathe his body.
One very fortunate devotee named Pradyumna Miśra, an ocean of good qualities, saw with joy the lotus feet of Gauracandra.
Just by seeing Him, he obtained the Lord’s mercy. His eyes, like clouds in the monsoon season, gushed with tears.
As He played in this way, the king, attracted by Sārvabhauma’s descriptions of Mahāprabhu and longing to see Him, boldly approached Him.
When it is auspicious, one’s desires are fulfilled and results immediately manifest. When the king acted boldly, it produced infinite happiness.
Who can measure the ocean of good fortune of the king, endowed with heaps of good acts gleaming with fame?
The greatly fortunate king entered the excellent forest and saw the ocean of mercy, shining like a golden mountain.
Falling on the ground and holding the Lord’s lotus feet, with tears flowing from his eyes, the great soul in a natural way began describing the rāsa dance with details, by reciting verses.
As he recited, the merciful Lord bound him with His two arms, like trunks of intoxicated elephants, without awareness of anything else.
His eyes flowing with tears, with hairs standing on end, the king, though strong as a wrestler, seemed to burst in the arms of the Lord.
Giving up the king, the Lord said, “Who are you? Your body is very soft.” He said, “I am your servant. Please engage me in your service.”
The Lord said, “I should never address people like you.” Overjoyed and eager, He addressed him as Rudradeva.
Filled with joy, He left that place. If favored by fate, what cannot be obtained by fortunate persons endowed with good actions?
Who can describe how the Lord, the ocean of mercy, gave great mercy to each person? Bṛhaspati cannot describe it, what to speak of others.
One great, pure soul named Śikhi Māhitī lived in Puri. Receiving mercy, he served Jagannātha.
His younger brother was named Murārī, and the youngest, a sister, was named Mādhava-devī. She had pure intelligence. They were known as three brothers.
Murāri and Mādhava-devī were attached to Gauracandra. With fixed, pure intelligence they never forgot Him for a moment.
The Lord, the great ocean of mercy, manifested on earth to distribute prema. Beautiful and attractive, He was the moon who rose in the ocean of Śacī’s womb.
Kṛṣṇa, the moon of Vṛndāvana, had now risen on earth as the golden moon. The two thought in this way, with continual attraction for the Lord.
The two made many attempts to worship Gauracandra through their older brother, but he was not interested.
One day, Śikhi Māhitī fell asleep while thinking of topics spoken by his younger brother. In the last portion of the night, he became disturbed with a dream.
His brother and sister, devoted to Gauracandra’s lotus feet, woke him up at that time. They noticed he was alarmed in his dream.
With hairs standing on end because of the vision, his joy doubled. He slowly opened his eyes, which were filled with tears, and saw his brother and sister.
Seeing the two who had come to wake him up, he embraced them firmly with joy. The two were astonished.
He said, “O brothers! Hear what I saw in my dream. It is most astonishing. The power of the son of Śacī is immeasurable. Today I have that faith.
“Looking at Jagannātha, Gaurāṅga entered into Him and again coming out, gazed at the deity. He pervaded everywhere.
“This is astonishing, most astonishing! Even now I see the Lord in that condition. Have my two eyes become bewildered by seeing that great beauty?
“Gaurāṅga, the unlimited ocean of mercy called me, as I stood near the deity and embraced me with His two beautiful, broad, long arms which extended to His knees.”
With hairs standing on end, with voice choked in prema, with great longing, while tears flowed from his eyes, he could not help but speak these words.
Hearing this, with happiness, they told him to go to Mahāprabhu, who was going to see Jagannātha.
In the late 1960s, one of Srila Prabhupada’s arrivals into New York was featured in the New York Daily News. They published several photos of devotees surrounding Swamiji at the airport, offering him garlands and dancing joyfully. The headline was, “Swami, How They Love You.” Although it was a pun on the Al Jolson song, “Swanee, How I Love You,” the phrase, “Swami, How They Love You” captured the essence. Even the News reporter saw the bhakti.
This was one of the main features of Krsna consciousness in the early years—devotees loving Swamiji. You can see it in a photo which was included in an early edition of Isopanisad. It shows devotees running down Second Avenue in the middle of the road, barefooted and completely unrestrained. Some of the men are bare-chested, with their japa beads bouncing around their necks. The girls in saris are like the descriptions of the gopis, who were in such a rush that they didn’t comb their hair properly or put their earrings on in the right position. Swamiji had just arrived at 26 Second Avenue and these devotees are about a block away, north of the storefront. They’re all running south, towards him. Nandakisora is there, Patita Uddharana, Madhusudana’s wife and others. Whatever you may say about that photo, you can’t say they were unenthusiastic on catching sight of Swamiji.
In trying to express just what it was like to idolize Prabhupada and be with him, one of his disciples used the expression, “We were like little chipmunks in front of him.” This is a laughable image, but it describes in part what we were like. We were very excited and worshipable in our darsana with Prabhupada.
Everyone was satisfied with whatever he did.
One time in Bombay, when there was a rash of letters from devotees complaining against one another, Prabhupada said that he would like to go somewhere “where I won’t see anyone’s face.” That was a surprising statement, but I liked to hear it. And since I was supposed to be his secretary, I began to think of how to carry out his desire. At the same time, he received an invitation to take a European tour, and he immediately accepted it.
Before the European invitation came, I had tried to suggest places to Prabhupada where he might be alone. But I couldn’t think of a place that was secluded enough. I suggested Hawaii, but he said, “Even if I go there, the letters will come.” So where was that place where he could go and not see anyone’s face? I thought, “Wow, this is really something! How can I accommodate his desire?” But when the European invitation came, it changed all that.
“Prabhupada,” I said, “you said that you are going to go to Europe. But the other day you said you wanted to go somewhere where you wouldn’t see anyone’s face.”
Prabhupada laughed and said, “I don’t think I can do that in this lifetime.”
Prabhupada liked to be with devotees. If he had wanted to be alone, he could have stayed in Vrndavana and never come to the West—and we would all be rotting in hell.
When occasionally Prabhupada did express desires to be more apart from the mainstream of activity, it seemed to be only a kind of wishful thinking, because the demands of his disciples were unrelenting. One time in Hawaii, when Prabhupada was writing prolifically, he asked his secretary to send a letter out to all GBC men asking them to leave him alone so that he could spend his last days writing. He said, “I am an old man now and I have a tendency for philosophy and translating scriptures.” And once he said, “I will just go somewhere and sit under a tree with one or two devotees to translate books, and in this way I’ll be free of all contamination.”
Prabhupada never followed up his remarks about going alone.
When the first initiation came on Janmastami, I hadn’t been following for even two months. I passed it up, but then I felt sorry. The boys who were initiated seemed happy with their red beads, and I felt left out. I did not have a spiritual name. Soon afterward, I overheard someone say that there was going to be another initiation on Radhastami. Hayagriva asked me, “Are you going to get initiated?”
I said, “I’d like to. I think I’m ready this time. What do I have to do?”
“You should ask Swamiji I guess, to see if it’s all right with him.”
So I went up and said, “Swamiji, I heard there’s gonna be another initiation. I would like to be initiated.”
Prabhupada was calm about my request. He was never hasty. He took his time, weighing things deeply, and yet at the same time he seemed casual. He was more at home in New York City than I was, especially in his room, which had become an asrama. When I went into his room, the room of the guru, which was kept so simple and spiritual, I was the self-conscious one and he was perfectly at ease. He was like a lotus sitting on the dirty waters of New York City, floating above it all. And he was all alone; there was no other devotee dressed in dhoti with Vaisnava tilaka—just Prabhupada, alone and chaste to the parampara and to his Guru Maharaja. He was determined. And now some little success had come in starting ISKCON.
I said, “I would like to get initiated.”
Prabhupada replied, “You’ll have to be a strict vegetarian.”
I said, “I already am, Swamiji. I’m already a vegetarian.”
“All right,” he said.
The meeting was over almost as soon as it had begun. I like to claim that we all had access to Prabhupada whenever we wanted, and that’s true. But we always knew that we weren’t his equals or buddies. We did not want to waste his time. But to be able to go personally, even for a brief moment, and have him personally approve my initiation, was worth everything. So I was in and out of his room within a few minutes. He had accepted me!
Prabhupada, when you came to us, you brought not only your books but yourself. You were so charming. I thought that from the moment I met you. I was deeply influenced by you. Your books were as charming as yourself. Despite my many disqualifications, you influenced me until my frenzied brain slowed down and I began to taste the sweetness of the Bhagavatam.
I wonder why it is that we become restless reading your books now? Sometimes I put it down to repetition. We have read, “You are not this body” so many times. Why do we have to hear it again? But you wanted to make a deep impression on us; you wanted us to realize it. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned the first lesson. We still identify with our bodies. What is the question of going on to the second lesson until we master the first?
You have also given us your own example as a patient writer and hearer of the Vedic message. You were always enthusiastic to speak the same message. It didn’t bother you that you had said it before. You understood that the Vedic message is never repetitious. The same verse from Bhagavad-gita can be used to illustrate all kinds of subtleties and can bring out new lights. Your books are not novels, with a central theme or plot to entice us along. Each one is a meditative commentary that gives us the opportunity to absorb ourselves in Krsna consciousness. Even one page of your books, when read carefully, can make us perfect.
Prabhupada, sometimes it gets confusing. You told us to read your books, but at the same time, you told us to work hard to maintain and spread your movement. Sometimes the two duties seem to be in conflict: contemplative reading and active preaching. I once asked you if reading was a duty. You responded, “Unless you read, how can you preach?” You also told me that whenever I get time I should read your books. It is the first duty of a sannyasi.
Thank you for this encouragement, Prabhupada.
Prabhupada has said that each person is ultimately alone, like a pilot in a one-man airplane. This will be made clear to us at the time of death when we have to “fly our own plane.” Then we will want to surrender ourselves fully to Prabhupada and Krsna. Then there will be no relief in medicines, and the body itself, which seemed to be our friend and shelter, will not be able to sustain us. Worldly pleasures and possessions will lose their taste.
Now is the time to prepare. Later, our ability to think of Krsna and Prabhupada will be impaired. Telling memories of Prabhupada is for now, when we are looking for subject matter for hearing and reading, and when we are capable of it. A living being is so lively and curious that if he doesn’t hear of the pure devotee, he will hear something else. So Prabhupada meditation is a way to keep the mind fixed at the lotus feet of the pure devotee.
Who are the mahatmas and sadhus? They are described in the sastras.
“The mahatmas are equipoised. They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any abominable way. Such people are known as mahatmas.”
Bhag. 5.5.2, purport
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was certainly a mahatma according to the standard description in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Without the presence in one’s own lifetime of such a mahatma, the teachings of the mahatmas of previous yugas may remain distant to us. We are inclined to the here and now, and so we need to be picked up by a living example. Prabhupada was the one bright and holy presence in our lives, and we cannot allow ourselves to forget him. Therefore, in addition to his books which lead us to Lord Krsna and Lord Caitanya, we want to gather memories of the activities and teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
When we remember Prabhupada as he was in the past, we go back to a previous existence. By definition, a memory is a reminiscence. It is a little unreal. One journeys back through time, visits with Prabhupada, then returns to the present.
Memories of Prabhupada are nectar. Without them, there would be no substance to Prabhupada consciousness. If there were no memories of Prabhupada, then he would become only a legend. For example, although I don’t have any direct experience of Lord Caitanya’s appearance in the world, many persons who were with Lord Caitanya recorded His pastimes in diaries and books. Therefore, I can know who He actually was. Similarly, followers of Prabhupada hunt for memoirs and encourage Prabhupada’s disciples to compile their accounts before they pass away so that everyone now and in the future can know what it was like to be with Prabhupada.
But there is a lot more to Prabhupada consciousness than memories of him. We may enter that “unreal” world of the past, but eventually, we must return to the present and surrender now. By meditating on the memories and practicing internal, minute-to-minute surrender, we will be Prabhupada conscious. This internal cultivation is very important. Prabhupada recall doesn’t mean only remembering what he did in the 1970s, it means recalling our need to serve him now.
Whatever happened to the chorus of boys who sang with Prabhupada in 1966? There have been so many changes over the years. Some are serving in different parts of the world, some are dead, some are no longer reputable, some are in jail, all are grown up. Nowadays, devotees sometimes chide old-timers, “Don’t be sentimental about these people who were with Swamiji back then. We can’t claim they were all great devotees, or even that they have become great devotees now.” But I still think they are special. They were Prabhupada’s chorus, personally gathered together by him. They sang together.
These were Prabhupada’s first disciples. Most people Prabhupada had met up until the summer of 1966 were unwilling to follow the rules and regulations he was preaching about. They were not disciples. But this group took him seriously. They changed their lives for him. That makes them a holy group. You cannot discount the time someone spent under the influence of the pure devotee, even if they later fall away. This was a period of purity and of purification. They surrendered to Prabhupada.
And when I hear all those voices singing together—Umapati, Hayagriva, Kirtanananda, myself, Brahmananda, Rupanuga, Acyutananda, Gar-gamuni—all young men, I hear us crying out to Krsna. Each of us was eccentric in his own way, definitely battered by the material energy, yet we were all submissive to the Swami. If someone listens to those early choruses, they would have to note them as significant, the sound of those boys singing the first kirtanas in America.
We paid attention to the chanting then. We had many things on our minds just like everyone else, but somehow we were drawn by the power of the spiritual master to listen and respond, listen and respond, as if nothing else mattered. We wanted something from the kirtana.
Attentiveness is not something one can take for granted, even today. Attention, desire, expectation—we wanted something from our chanting sessions, and we were going to attain it by paying attention. We had no real philosophical knowledge, and we weren’t brahminical, or even clean. But we wanted Krsna, and we believed He was present in the kirtana. You can hear it in our voices.
For every statement Srila Prabhupada makes where he alludes to himself as empowered, he also makes disclaimers. Srila Prabhupada saw a need to assert his position in order to protect his followers. People and parties in India challenged Srila Prabhupada and the Hare Krsna movement in many ways. Some said foreigners couldn’t become brahmanas and sannyasis and that Srila Prabhupada was “ruining the Hindu religion” by awarding initiation to Westerners. Srila Prabhupada defeated those arguments by referring to sastra. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also defended himself from this charge, and Srila Prabhupada was confident of his position. Defending the movement also required defending its leader. People continue to criticize Srila Prabhupada and his movement, and we need the weapons of sastra and logic to defend ourselves. Srila Prabhupada therefore asserted himself as the protective father of his disciples.
In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī refers to people “who are not fit to relish this literature, who are envious like hogs and pigs . . .” Srila Prabhupada comments that the Krsna consciousness movement is being appreciated around the world but “in India, there are some people who say they belong to this cult but are very envious of the acarya.” Srila Prabhupada says they try to “suppress our activities in many ways.” He faced the opposition and compared them to envious hogs and pigs. “It appears that even such a great personality as Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī met with some envious obstacles; what, then, to speak of us, who are only insignificant creatures in this universe” (Note after Cc., Madhya-lila).
The opposition said our spiritual master shouldn’t have taken the name Prabhupada. They didn’t help him find land in Mayapur but worked against him. They distributed pamphlets against ISKCON in Madras. They made minimizing remarks about Srila Prabhupada to his own disciples, saying he was just a businessman and that’s why he was successful in the West. Some said Srila Prabhupada didn’t know madhurya-rasa, that if his disciples wanted to understand it, they would have to find a guru outside of ISKCON. It was more important that Srila Prabhupada defeat all those misconceptions rather than remain silent in the name of humility.
I almost always center on gratitude to Krsna for sending Prabhupada and for being able to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. This is not just a matter of words, but entering the feelings (if they come). You cannot force it. I find if I linger too long without speaking, I will start to veer off. Then before I can stop it, my mind has gone off the highway, into the ditch. I then find myself, although sitting for a prayer session, thinking of nonsense. Even if I’m thinking of devotional service plans for the day, I’m not praying. It always happens, but I don’t get disturbed. I gently prod myself back onto the path of the my prayer session. “What stage was I up to? Worship? Okay. Any more of that? If not, let’s move on to the next one.”
I remind myself that while Krsna and Prabhupada are very kind and friendly, they are not ordinary persons. So after a few minutes of “being myself” and candidly sending out my prayer-desires, I stop to worship the Lord and His pure devotee. There are two verses which I most often recite.
One is from the Brahma-Samhita: advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam … I think of each word. Even if my meditation is entirely intellectual, it feels right, and I know it is authorized thought. The other verse I speak during this stage is Krsna’s own words on how to think on Him:
One should meditate on the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun, and He is transcendental, beyond this material nature.
– Bg. 8.9
The police had stopped us from taking collections in the park and told us, we had to get a permit. Prabhupāda obviously wanted us to continue our kīrtana and solicit donations. Therefore, in a personal way, he insisted that I take it upon myself to secure the proper permission. Performing kīrtana, asking for donations, and distributing magazines—these combined together would solve our economic problems while providing good facility for preaching. “So,” Prabhupāda concludes, “try to get this permit with your great endeavor.” Upon receiving this order, I began the involved processes of getting permission.
Meanwhile, we gradually resumed our collections, even without local permission. I went to the library and studied Supreme Court cases; I understood that there was solid precedence in the U.S. Constitution for public collections by bona fide religious groups. We had already obtained our state incorporation and federal tax exemption for ISKCON as a religious organization. Therefore, even without the local permit we continued our chanting. We were stopped sometimes by the police, but we always pursued our objective. Well over a year later, we also got permission from the municipal government, but if I had not received this direct order, I probably would not have directly investigated the matter. The force of the spiritual master’s order makes us perform activities that we ourselves would not think of or that may not suit our “tendency.” If Prabhupāda directly asked us to do something, there was no question of refusing, and every sincere disciple knows well that from undertaking the austerity to follow that order comes the greatest spiritual reward and satisfaction. There is no alternative. Śrīla Prabhupāda combined affectionate, fatherly concern for our well-being with his serious intention to push forward the saṅkīrtana movement.
It could be said that this extra chanting is appropriate for Pariksit Maharaja—and this I also must do at the end—but it is not conducive to a full workload of service.
So when ready to actually introduce the writing schedule, I should do so, and see what happens to the chanting.
It seems, at least, that at any opportunity I will now be more inclined to increase my japa—not that after 16 rounds I never touch my beads again for the rest of the day, having “finished” my rounds.
The above entry practically signals the end of my vow of 25 daily rounds. I’m soon adding serious writing of Prabhupada-lilamrta to my daily life. To chant 25 rounds, I calculated, takes me some 4 hours, 15 minutes. I can’t afford so much time.
I told Mandalesvara this, but he thought my keeping the vow seemed important. I agreed, citing how the extra chanting helps me deal with ISKCON controversies, with their discussions of things not Absolute, of things that may or may not be Krsna conscious. Then he asked if I could chant faster. Welcome suggestions, both to keep the vow and to try chanting faster.
Today I chanted some of the rounds faster. It sounded a little odd, rushed, but 25 rounds now becomes possible in less time. Maybe I will be able to keep the quota. Prabhupada has said 16 rounds should be done in 2 hours, whereas I always take longer. So why not “rush it” or pick up speed to reach the pace that he himself kept (as we hear on his japa tape) and that he recommends to us. At that pace I should be able to do 25 rounds in a little over 3 hours. That much time I could afford. So let me speed it up, chant at a fast clip, even if at first it seems rushed or odd to me.
Try not to give up the quota that keeps you in advanced consciousness of the holy name, even while adding writing to your daily life.
We are buying a motorhome. Now I read in a purport Cc., Antya 3.52, in a conversation between Haridasa Thakura and Lord Caitanya that Lord Caitanya anxiously inquired how the mlecchas could be saved. Haridasa began to answer by saying, My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety. Srila Prabhupada writes that one who tries to relieve Lord Caitanya’s anxiety is a most dear devotee.
Sometimes I think that in America, we are performing Krsna consciousness a lot on our own. We get into temple competition, pride, sense gratification of eating and traveling in expensive vehicles. Yet these can be taken as spots on the moon because the devotees, engaged by the spiritual master, are chanting, taking prasadam, and performing sankirtana book distribution. We know their sincerity is certain. Srila Prabhupada has stated in letters how important the book distribution is and how we should strictly follow the rules and regulations. Be aware that this civilization is false. Control your senses (especially against illicit sex), sell and read and know the books, work hard for Krsna. If we do these things, we can rest assured that we are relieving Lord Caitanya’s anxiety and going back to Godhead. As we ourselves were recently mlecchas, by ourselves being serious devotees we relieve the Lord’s anxiety, and by going out to preach to others we further please Him.
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.