In our out-loud reading we heard of Maya Danava, who prepared three invisible residences and gave them to the demons. These three dwellings remained invisible to the demigods. The demons began to vanquish the three worlds. The demigods went to Lord Siva and said, “We are about to be vanquished. We are your followers. Kindly save us.”
Lord Siva reassured them and said, “Do not be afraid.” He then fixed his arrows to his bow and released them to the three residences occupied by the demons. Attacked by Lord Siva’s golden arrows, all the demoniac inhabitants of those three dwellings lost their lives and fell down. Then the great mystic Maya Danava dropped the demons into a nectarean well that he had created. The dead bodies came to life and had great strength. That was the power of Maya Danava. Lord Siva was very much aggrieved, and the Supreme Lord, Lord Visnu, considered how to stop the nuisance created by Maya Danava.
Then Lord Brahma became a calf and Lord Visnu a cow, and at noon they entered the residences and drank all the nectar in the well. Maya Danava said to the demons, “This has been destined by the Supreme Lord, and without His sanction we can do nothing.”
Thereafter Lord Krsna equipped Lord Siva with all the necessary paraphernalia for war. The most powerful Lord Siva joined the arrows to his bow, and at noon he set fire to all the three residences of the demons, and thus destroyed them.
Thus Lord Siva, who is known as Tripurari, the annihilator of the three dwellings of the demons, burnt them to ashes. Being worshiped by the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, Lord Siva returned to his own abode. (SB 7.10.56–69)
In his purport, Prabhupada writes, “The Krsna consciousness movement is just trying to make Krsna known all over the world as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If people take this movement seriously, their lives as human beings will be successful.”
I talked with John Endler on Zoom. He is excited by a new plan. He wants to try again to get some of my poems published in poetry journals. I told him it was a futile endeavor. He remained determined and said that some of my poems would be appealing to seekers, especially young seekers, if they could only find a journal which would be favorable. He said he’s looking for a journal that would be spiritual but open to personalism, since most of the spirituality that’s published is impersonalism. He’s researching the poetry journals, and I wished him good luck.
We had a book team meeting today on Zoom. Present were Krsna Bhajana and his wife Satyasara dasi from Alachua, Lal Krsna (who does layout and covers) from Oxford, England, and Manohara (who also does layout and typing) from Italy. In an agenda paper they sent me for the meeting they listed “books for summer meeting 2023.”
Already published and stored at Viraha Bhavan are three volumes of essays that first appeared in Back to Godhead magazine. These are early writings of mine, before I was doing any “free writing.” and I liked them very much. They are short, straight Krsna conscious and relevant for today’s world.
Another book which will be ready for the summer meeting is Worshiping with Pen. This is a journal that I began in March 2023, the first new writing that I have done in ten years. It won’t be widely distributed because it’s very close to my heart.
Another book which will be ready for the summer meeting is Best Use of a Bad Bargain. This is a collection of essays I wrote about remaining Krsna conscious while physically ill. I think it will be useful for devotees now that they are getting older.
In the scriptures it is said that a devotee should always be aware of time, and he should be careful to always be engaged, never wasting a moment. I try to do that. Today was a busy day; I had a book team meeting and then in the afternoon I had an important meeting with a troubled disciple. I had to sacrifice one scheduled writing time and reduce a second writing period for the journal. So anyone who is fully engaged Krsna’s service should learn to navigate these diversions without anxiety, because they will happen. I wish I could share my positive realizations, but I get in anxiety just like everyone else.
Muktavandya lives in the Boston temple, but he often visits us at Viraha Bhavan. Whenever he comes, he brings lots of flowers, which he gets from the wholesale market. He is first-initiated by Srila Prabhupada and second-initiated by me. Muktavandya is a very loving person. He is the leading counselor for the devotees in the Boston temple. He especially counsels the underdogs, and this doesn’t make him popular with the temple president. Muktavandya is not in good health. He’s had two major heart attacks, and recently a mini stroke. He was in the hospital for a day while they did tests to determine what the problem was. They advised him that to avoid any future tissue damage, he had to remove himself from stressful situations. Unfortunately, due to his nature he’s always trying to counsel devotees who are mistreating each other, and this gives him a lot of anxiety.
Yesterday, against all reason, he drove for nine hours just to deliver flowers he had promised to a friend who would then sell them and use the money for his family. This he did without the help of another driver, and it exhausted him. Then today, with another driver, he took the three-hour drive here just to give us flowers and get some association. But it’s exactly the kind of thing he shouldn’t be doing. He’s not a good patient. Muktavandya wears a pacemaker because his heart condition is so bad, and now it seems that he’s not going to reduce his stressful service. This puts us into anxiety. What to do?
One of my personal typists is going to have to start a full-time job in April, and he won’t be able to type for me. This has put me in a lot of anxiety since I heard about it two weeks ago. Other devotees have been typing my weekly journal which gets posted to a web site. They volunteered to make sure the typing of my other journal, Prabhupada Revival, gets done. This gives me great relief, but this is the life of someone with anticipatory anxiety. It’s not easy.
Before Kadamba Kanana Maharaja went to Vrndavana, he visited me with Jayadvaita Swami. We had a nice meeting, and a wonderful photo was taken of us together. I didn’t know Kadamba Kanana Maharaja well, and I told him that I wished that I had known him better. I only knew him from a distance as the Vrndavana temple president for many years.
I watched Kadamba Kanana Maharaja’s last speech on YouTube. He was weak and he spoke with effort, but he was perfectly clear and concise. He promised we would all meet up soon. He is a great soul, and we talked of his achievements and endeavors. He spoke his farewell speech with effort. He said, “Life is short,” and finally, “Hare Krsna.”
In this weekly Journal, I come up with two anecdotes, something about Viraha Bhavan, or something going on, and then I take excerpts from three of my books. I have trouble coming up with “rabbits.” My life is quiet, and I cannot think of Krsna conscious things all the time. Sometimes I post something that we’ve read in the Bhagavatam. But I have to pray for “rabbits.” I try to make something come out that’s krsna-katha. The activities of devotees and the life in Viraha Bhavan count as krsna-katha because they are activities of Krsna’s devotees. Ultimately, the Lord has put us in this secluded, tiny situation as our prabhu-datta-desa, where we are cultivating our Krsna consciousness. We try to give a good example of how you can become Krsna conscious in this type of environment, which is not that unusual, since many devotees live outside the temple and have to make their own temple environment and live their lives.
It snowed all night, and when light came in the morning (dim), it was still snowing. It was the biggest snowstorm of the winter. Our snowblower is broken, and we couldn’t have used it anyway because the snow was so heavy and dense, even though it was six inches deep. Uddhava had other duties, so Baladeva alone had to shovel the snow manually for three hours. He shoveled out Krsna dasi first, then shoveled our front deck and shoveled the cars out. He next shoveled out a two car-length patch in front of the house for safety, in case an emergency vehicle had to come. When you live in a small ashram in the country, these are some of the needful duties that have to be done for Krsna. With the right attitude, everything can be dovetailed in the service of the Lord—something as seemingly mundane as shoveling snow.
In the middle of our out-loud reading, the power went out. We speculated that maybe in the heavy snow a tree had fallen over the wires. When the electric came back on, there was no internet in the whole area, and some people didn’t even get their electric back. It was “the buzz” in the post office, how people didn’t have their internet, and how it affected them (because it powers all their telephones and televisions). The internet is intimately involved with so many so-called necessities.
I couldn’t send off my Dictaphones to the typists, nor could we hold our out-loud readings on Zoom. It’s the material world. We are not using the internet for sense gratification or nonsense, but still we are affected by the outage. It’s 5:00 P.M., the snow is still falling, and the internet is still down. People are moaning. Even the banks were closed due to the storm, what to speak of other small businesses.
Because we had light, I could continue writing in the Journal.
Guru dasa, my steady typist for years, had to stop the service because he had a serious infection on his leg. He couldn’t sit up in a chair and type. Guru dasa is slowly recovering. Once he got out of the hospital, he’s been getting home care to get the wound properly taken care of and dressed by a nurse or a doctor three or four times a week. At some point he’ll have to get a skin graft to close the wound because it’s too big to close on its own. But for now he’s open to type, and he’s very eager to take the service back. Atindra and Manohara have pitched in to cover for him, but they are also glad to have him back “off the bench.” I talked to him today and said the next Dictaphone I finish, I will send to him.
We got our internet power back today, and I watched the proceedings of the memorial talks for the passing away of Kadamba Kanana Maharaja in Vrndavana. I didn’t care to watch the interment of Kadamba Kanana Maharaja into his Samadhi. I skipped ahead to the gathering of devotees who were to speak homages to him. I was especially intent on hearing from Jayadvaita Swami. Jayadvaita Swami was living for months with Kadamba Kanana Maharaja in his condition of terminal cancer. I was particularly moved by his last statement. He said, “I am grateful to have done a little service for him.”
A number of my disciples in Trinidad and Guyana have passed away in the last couple of years. The most recent one just happened. It was Mother Indira, one of the first devotees to join ISKCON in Trinidad, and one of the first devotees I gave initiation to. I gave her the name Indira but everyone called her “Mother Indira,” because of her age and motherly nature. She was very gentle and motherly. When I visited Trinidad, she was simple and affectionate to me. She passed away at age 85. She was a married woman, but her husband died at a young age and she became a widow in white and dedicated her life to living in the temple of ISKCON. I made a short speech to be read at her funeral where all the devotees will speak homages.
I don’t think much of my own death. But Prabhupada said “We should keep death in our front.” He said death may come at any moment, and we should be prepared by chanting Hare Krsna and leading a life dedicated to serving the Lord and the devotees, especially by preaching.
A devotee’s death is not so fearful if one is prepared. I want to reform myself and become more prepared. I say this not just for myself or my vulnerable devotees in the Caribbean, but to all my friends and disciples, who are growing older. We should be more in the vanaprastha stage and not merely grandma and grandpa to many grandchildren. Family life is a big attachment, and it’s time to give it when you have reached an old age. If it is done sincerely, Krsna will be pleased.
Gajendra was playing in the water with his many she elephants. A mighty crocodile clamped his jaws around Gajendra’s leg. They began a fight that lasted many years. The elephant was very mighty, but he was a creature of the land and out of the water. The crocodile, however, was an animal of the water, and he grows stronger in sensual power and gradually weakened Gajendra until he was about to die. Gajendra remembered his former birth as King Indradyumna, and he remembered prayers he used to offer to the Supreme Lord. In helplessness, he began to recite those prayers. The Supreme Lord came to his rescue riding on his carrier Garuda. Seeing Gajendra in such a terrible condition, the Lord pulled both Gajendra and the crocodile onto the land and severed the mouth of the crocodile with his disk. The crocodile had formerly been a Gandharva who was cursed by Devala Rsi to become a crocodile. Gajendra, because of being touched by the hands of the Supreme Lord, was immediately freed from all material ignorance. Thus, he received the salvation of sarupya-mukti, in which he achieved the same bodily features as the Lord, dressed in yellow garments, and bearing four arms. The end of the chapter recommends that one read this narration every day when getting up from bed to dispel the reactions of bad dreams.
The three (Śikhi Māhitī and his younger brother Murārī, and his younger sister Mādhava-devī), who desired the lotus feet of Gauracandra, then went quickly to see Jagannātha.
With pleased mind, first the two saw Gaurāṅga near the Jaganmohana hall. In joy their eyes filled with tears.
Then Śikhi Māhitī saw Gaurāṅga as he had seen Him in his dream. Seeing Him in that condition, his heart became joyful with prema.
The merciful Lord said, “You are the older brother of Murāri.” He embraced him with His arms. Śikhi Māhitī’s mind became filled with Gaurāṅga. He became the personification of all happiness.
From that time, by a particle of fragrance from the Lord’s lotus feet, he forgot everything else. The most fortunate devotee served Gaurāṅga all day long as his worshipable deity.
In this way also, the merciful Lord, his heart filled with affection, attracted the devotees of Navadvīpa to Puri.
There was one great devotee named Mādhava Purī, the embodiment of the rasa of Viṣṇu-bhakti, who appeared on earth before Mahāprabhu.
Īśvara Purī, who became His disciple, had spotless glory. He was as brilliant as a million suns, was pure, truthful, of pleasing heart, and was deeper than the ocean. The avatāra of Śeṣa, personification of bhakti-rasa, he appeared on earth before Mahāprabhu and spread the rules of sannyāsa life.
The devotee, very dear to the world, named Paramānanda Purī travelled with the Lord in the south. He was very calm, fixed, and the personification of tolerance. Wandering about, he came to the bank of the Gaṅgā.
Śacī was the mother of the three worlds, tolerant of millions of earths, purer than many Gaṅgās, full of affection and most respectable.
She was full of devotion, beautiful, loved by all, and sweet. Seeing Paramānanda Purī, she respected him as her son by giving him food.
On another day, this great soul, staying in Mahāprabhu’s house, went to Ācārya-ratna’s house for food, spreading happiness.
Another devotee who was a river of prema at the feet of Gaurāṅga, would continually bath in that prema. Internally and externally he became filled with Gaurāṅga’s prema.
This great devotee was named Kamalānanda. He was dear to the Lord. Kamalānanda went joyfully to see Śacī.
Seeing Śacī, he then saw Paramānanda Purī. By that, he became very happy.
Staying in Navadvīpa for some days, they all left. Gadādhara and Jagadānanda also left.
Eager for the good fortune of seeing Mahāprabhu, Paramānanda Purī, Gadādhara and Jagadānanda arrived at Puri and saw the Lord.
Paramānanda saw the lotus feet of Mahāprabhu. But Mahāprabhu, the Lord, offered him respects with reverence as an elder.
Ācārya Vidyānidhi, an ocean of infinite qualities, filled with prema and joy, and Ācārya-ratna, a great worshipable devotee, also went.
The famous Śivānanda, going with Murārī Gupta, saw the Lord from the first as the personification of all auspiciousness.
His mind soft with mercy to the fallen, the Lord touched his head with his toe many times and said, “I know you.”
The devotee named Rāghava, having accumulated piles of good fortune, having great prema for the Lord, saw the Lord and at that moment, the Lord, tender with mercy, immediately gave him mercy.
The devotee known as Govinda, endowed with a pure mind, and ocean of good fortune, eternally huge from wandering in many holy places, went to Puri.
There he saw the merciful Gaurāṅga, the ocean of mercy and became attached to serving His lotus feet constantly.
From that time onwards, the very fortunate Govinda remained near the Lord’s lotus feet and, having given up all other activities, served Him day and night.
On another day, the Lord said, “In a dream a brāhmaṇa whispered in my ear the mahā-vākya. What can I do but renounce the Lord’s feet? I cry and can have no peace in this place.”
Hearing this, Murāri Gupta immediately said, “O Lord! Make this statement ‘tat tvam asi’ into a possessive tat-puruṣa compound, meaning ‘I am yours’ instead of ‘I am he.’” Hearing this, the Lord was overjoyed, thinking that it was the proper meaning. But the devotees, hearing the conversation, became deeply worried.
Then a sannyāsī, famous in the world as Keśava Bhāratī, arrived by fate. Seeing the Lord constantly weeping he said in great astonishment, “You are Śukadeva or Prahlāda.”
Hearing Himself praised, the Lord was doubly afflicted and cried even more. In great trepidation, the sannyāsī again spoke. “You are Lord Viṣṇu. I know this.” Hearing this, the Lord desired to take sannyāsa.
Mukunda then said, “Look at the Lord with unblinking eyes constantly, as long as he is here and does not leave.” The Lord said to Śrīvāsa and the others, “Because of prema, I will wander everywhere constantly, going from here.”
Again Śrīvāsa spoke in fear. “How can I remain in separation from you? O Lord! My mind will constantly burn up.” The Lord said, “I will stay in your house.” Immediately Śrīvāsa’s mind became peaceful.
In the evening, the Lord went to Murāri’s house. He gave instructions, saying that he should take shelter of Advaita while describing Advaita’s character. On another day, the merciful Lord crossed the Gaṅgā and, tolerating difficulties, went immediately to one village.
All the devotees became constantly afflicted with sorrow. They wailed pitifully in confusion, “O Lord! Where has He gone?” As they reflected, after seven days they saw Him, with disturbed heart, desiring to take sannyāsa.
Srila Prabhupada’s lectures were spontaneous. One night, after a lecture in Hyderbad when I had managed to pay attention, I told Prabhupada afterwards that I had appreciated his talk. I said, “Your lecture had so much symmetry to it.” Prabhupada replied, “Did it? It’s not my speaking. It is Krsna who is speaking.” Prabhupada’s talks were spontaneous, but that did not mean they were not well-formed. They were spontaneously well-formed. If I have to give a lecture before devotees, I will think and worry about it; I will have to choose a topic and verse to speak on. But Prabhupada spoke without any preparation except for his constant Krsna consciousness, and very rarely did he choose any topic beforehand, except the topics that were raised by the verse and purport of the Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita.
Prabhupada’s lectures seemed to follow a free form, and if one listens superficially he may not detect any form. But there is always a structural beginning, middle and end to his talks. He liked to follow a train of association, and so discussion of a word like “Bharat-varsa” might lead to telling us how the word “India” was given by the foreigners and that might led to talk about how invaders attempted to ruin India—and then he would go on to something else. At his own speed, he (and Krsna) would finally gather together the relevant topics and bring them to a satisfactory conclusion. These recorded talks can now be studied and the more carefully one looks at them, one will appreciate them in all respects.
Keeping in mind that Srila Prabhupada was lecturing when he was eighty years old, he was a dramatic orator. He did not jump around or shout, and yet he was colorful and emphatic. He sat cross-legged in the way of Vaisnava speakers, and so his bodily language was mostly with his hands. He also “spoke” by widening his eyes as well as raising his voice, which was never monotone. When Prabhupada wanted to emphasize an idea like “peace,” he wouldn’t merely say the word, but he would say, “Take to Krsna consciousness and you will feel peace.” He would express it with his whole being, and if you listened well, it would enter your being too.
Don’t be sorry when I find fault. That is my primary duty. Canakya Pandita says one must find fault with disciples and sons, it is good for them.
—Letter, April 20, 1974
In another letter, Prabhupada stated, “It is the duty of the spiritual master to find fault with the students so that they can make progress, not that he should always be praising them.” (Letter, May 24, 1972) And so I must accept his reprimands in that spirit. He wants to see only that I advance in Krsna consciousness. That means some of my most cherished notions may have to be thrown over. And he can do it.
But how to be certain that the voice of reprimand we hear today is actually his? We may not always be a hundred percent sure, but we must listen humbly to the consensus of our Godbrothers. And our ears should be developed to hear Prabhupada speaking, which he does so clearly in his books. We worship the guru who can correct us.
When I read about Krsna in Prabhupada’s books, I often stop and pray for faith. We’re surrounded by Kali-yuga atheists, just as in summer at Saranagati we’re surrounded by blood-thirsty mosquitoes. You can’t just ignore them—so we pray for faith. As Prabhupada writes, “Faith is a most important factor for progress in Krsna consciousness.” In one sense, it’s shameful to have to pray to the Supreme Lord to convince us that He exists! It’s not a servant’s business to ask for proof of his Lord’s existence. But it’s a matter of survival against the bloodsuckers.
We sit in a lotus position and plan to meditate upon the pure devotee, when suddenly someone throws a stink bomb on our head. We’re singing, “Jaya Prabhupada,” and a demon like Balvala comes and throws puss and urine on our yajna of remembrance. So we cry out to Lord Balarama, “Please give me the strength to serve You!” And we fight. We recall that this has happened before, even to a great devotee like Arjuna: “The doubts which have arisen in your heart because of ignorance should be slashed with the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, arise and fight.” Sometimes we have to meditate on Prabhupada even while fighting an enemy.
“Your Prabhupada’s use of English is imperfect,” says a voice which has penetrated within my skull.
“Oh, yeah?” I challenge back. “His English is a lot better than your Sanskrit, Bengali or Hindi! Actually, his English is fine. We like the way he talks.”
“But why is he so heavy with his guests? Why does he interrupt them when they speak? Why does he correct everybody and insist on only Krsna?”
“He’s not too heavy. That’s your own manufactured opinion. Almost all his guests liked being with him even if he called them a demon. I don’t think you have listened carefully to what he’s saying. You can’t understand. From his position, he saw how deep and dark people’s ignorance is. The nonsense that everyone was usually saying to him, their speculations, are the very concoctions that have been misleading the world for hundreds of years. We can’t imitate him, and therefore, we may not be as heavy. But there is no fault in Prabhupada’s preaching except for the fault in your eyes.”
Fighting back from an attack on faith is good for us. It increases blood circulation, and brings a healthy glow to the face. It kicks out the enemies within. If Krsna desires, He will also grant us some peaceful hours to meditate undisturbed on the qualities of Krsna and Prabhupada. But when the bugs bite, we can’t just sit there, we must jump up and fight back.
Do not forget that Prabhupada is your master. Never be condescending in your praise or estimation of him. As disciples, we worship our guru with affection as well as with objective evidence of his greatness. We also have to be regularly touched by his greatness. I say this, having been touched by listening to Prabhupada’s lecture at the 1977 Mayapura festival, on Prahlada Maharaja’s prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva.
Prabhupada said that Prahlada was able to please Lord Nrsimhadeva even though others, great demigods and even Laksmi-devi herself, could not. What was Prahlada’s quality that so attracted the Lord? Prabhupada went right to the heart of it. He spoke sweetly and simply, entering the mentality of Prahlada Maharaja and explaining it to us. A great teacher is one who can convey tremendous thoughts and experiences to the students. It is one thing to feel something, and it is an added empowerment to convey it to others. That teaching ability arises from compassion and empathy. Prabhupada was able to grasp the whole relationship of Prahlada Maharaja and Nrsimhadeva and give it to an audience—not of great scholars or long-time practicing sadhus—but to us ISKCON folk in 1977. He stressed the simplicity of Prahlada Maharaja’s approach: in a childlike way, he prostrated himself before Nrsimhadeva.
According to Prabhupada, Nrsimhadeva said to Prahlada, “It must have been very difficult for you to be tortured by your father, and then to witness his killing. Do not worry, do not be afraid. Now be pacified. I am here,, and you are all right, everything is all right.” When Prabhupada said, “Everything is all right,” I remembered how he had said that to me and to others at different times. He is our Lord Nrsimha protector.
Simple devotion to the Lord is what pleases Him. Prabhupada did not analyze the topic with very intricate scholarship. He did examine the Sanskrit words for us, but mainly he said, “Krsna is not unfeeling, He is not impersonal. He responds to your devotion.”
As I walked in the hills of Northern Italy, I suddenly flashed on Prabhupada walking in the hills of Hong Kong.
He walked up some very high hills and saw from there the vista of the bay, and across the bay an island where there were many skyscrapers. Prabhupada was not familiar with the place and was asking questions. He talked about how useless it was that they try to build skyscrapers, yet they are getting kicked out of them. He was always philosophical about the meaning of life. He was very much present with us, expressing himself openly—and yet we could see that there was more to him than met the eye. There was a gravity that went beyond us. Whatever we could see and understand from his words was so potent that it stopped us in our tracks. As he spoke about the uselessness of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, it drew some of us into debate with him. I said, “Even if a person who builds a skyscraper cannot live to enjoy it, at least he knows that posterity can use it.” Prabhupada replied, “That is a ludicrous argument.”
Let us accept what we do understand. We still have conceptions of the importance of temporary life, and that is what Prabhupada is trying to tear away. Only by remembering him and taking his instructions can we be free.
Before I became a devotee of Prabhupada, my friends and I often expressed our determination not to “sell out.” Selling out meant giving up our free spirit and surrendering to the demands of American society. When I moved to the Lower East Side, the expression was, “Don’t cop-out.” Don’t give up the hip life and become an ordinary American shmo.
Swamiji’s disciples didn’t think of themselves as cop-outs, but one day a visitor to the storefront told Gargamuni dasa, “I think Hare Krsna is a cop-out.”
“What?” Gargamuni defended our position. “You call this a cop-out? We’re not afraid to shave our heads and wear a dhoti and walk around the city like this, but here you are with your black denims and your shirt looking like everybody else. You think you’re so cool, but you’re just another anonymous person on the street.”
What our visitor meant was that we had given up the “responsibilities” of hippie life—no more marijuana or LSD—and we lived in our temple in a different reality with aspirations to return to the spiritual world. It sounded to him like a cop-out. We had our comeback remarks, but if some of the hippies didn’t accept us, then that was a price we had to pay.
Another time, I was standing just outside the storefront, and I met my old friend Murray Mednick. Murray was my soul-friend, a writer, a person I admired as a deep thinker. He knew that I was attending the Swami’s lectures, but we hadn’t met in many weeks.
“What are you writing?” he asked.
“I am with the Swami now.” I said. “He is writing and I am typing for him.”
“Oh, you’re with the Swami, huh?” Murray smiled. His meaning was clear: you’re not your own man anymore. I absorbed the put-down without saying anything to defend myself. I knew that what I was doing was the best thing. Murray didn’t understand the atma and I couldn’t explain it; I knew he wouldn’t accept it anyway.
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. It is only one day since I last wrote you. I need to feel that I have a serious reason for writing to you. If one is fortunate enough to correspond with a great personality, he shouldn’t abuse the privilege by writing when he has nothing to say. Although I don’t have much more to say than I said yesterday, I don’t want to fall into the other extreme and think, “I won’t write. I am just wasting his time.” That would be a kind of unfair self-deprecation. I need your mercy.
Prabhupada, do you remember when you liked to hear us read Krsna book to you in the garden in Los Angeles? If you like, I could do that again. Would you like that? I want to serve you by this correspondence, so if I could recite Krsna book to you in my letters, perhaps you won’t think my too-frequent letters are a waste of time. I remember you liked the frequent letters you received from Bhurijana because he always enclosed a check. He didn’t just write flowery words of praise, but he rendered you practical service. You are looking for tangible service from us. If I can write a letter and say, “I distributed some books today, Prabhupada,” or, “I wrote an essay,” or, “I helped a devotee in Krsna consciousness,” then it is good news.
I will end this letter here, although I haven’t said much about tangible service. At least you know that I am concerned that, if I am going to write you frequently, there should be some real substance. I know the real substance is ultimately loving service, whether we write letters or not. I don’t think a devotee like Jayananda Prabhu wrote so many letters, but he was very dear to you by his loving service.
Aspiring to be your loving and useful servant,
While canoeing down the middle of the creek, I got a good view of all the bankside trees. The banks have eroded to an alarming degree. I asked Baladeva, “Does this mean that eventually they’ll fall into the creek?” He made the obvious reply that that would happen, since we could see their bare roots. The frequent heavy rains work away at the roots, although the trees attempt to hang on to whatever land is available. I couldn’t help but consider the eventual loss of these trees in a personal way. It was like being reminded that all my friends and acquaintances will die. These trees mean the difference between living in a charming forest and living on a barren bank. Other trees more inland are also imperiled. For instance, the pines seem unable to withstand a strong windstorm. I also noticed that a family of squirrels are burrowing more and more into the stout oak right outside my window. They have just given birth to a new generation, and six of them live in a hole midway up the tree. Although the tree is their domicile, I guessed that they are utilizing it much as the humans exploit nature, without caring much for the tree itself.
Srila Prabhupada was aware that some of his disciples failed to chant this minimum quota, and he didn’t take it lightly. “The Krsna consciousness movement is based upon this instruction of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu that one must chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra regularly and according to the prescribed principles. We simply ask our Western students to chant at least sixteen rounds a day, but sometimes we find that they fail to chant even these sixteen rounds … Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s cult is based upon the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra … We, the members of the Krsna consciousness movement, must strictly follow this advice of Caitanya Mahaprabhu” (Cc. Adi 16.15, purport).
This order stands not only for beginning students, but for everyone, even a paramahamsa. “Haridasa Thakura and the Gosvamis were all engaged in chanting a fixed number of rounds; therefore chanting on beads is very important for everyone … ” (Cc. Madhya 4.125, purport).
I am doing extra rounds for now, but I don’t expect to keep it up after these three weeks (nine days left). Maybe I will keep the Ekadasi increase. But I have other duties to do, so I have to be content with my quota of sixteen. Maybe in the future, Krsna and Prabhupada will indicate to me that my other duties are not as important, and I should spend more time chanting. Haridasa Thakura spent all his time chanting, as did Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, and toward the end of his life, Bhaktivinoda Thakura. As I write this, I am not trying to advocate that I or other devotees should chant more than sixteen rounds at all times. What I am trying to advocate is that those sixteen rounds should be done better. That is the reason we increase our quota—to break the bad habits and overcome the offenses. Increased numerical strength is the remedy for offensive chanting.
I want to scrupulously observe my own chanting and try to improve, try to avoid offenses, and try to chant with attention and devotion. I want to know that my subjective analysis or my “gut” feelings are not the all in all. The holy name is supreme; I must chant with this faith. “If a person unaware of the effective potency of a certain medicine takes that medicine or is forced to take it, it will act even without his knowledge because its potency does not depend on the patient’s understanding. Similarly, even though one does not know the value of chanting the holy name of the Lord, if he chants knowingly or unknowingly, the chanting will be very effective” (Bhag. 6.2.18, purport).
Therefore, I desire to chant with faith and gratitude. “We had fallen into abominable lives as meat-eaters, drunkards and women-hunters who performed all kinds of sinful activities, but now we have been given the opportunity to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Therefore, we should always appreciate this opportunity” (Bhag. 6.2.34, purport).
It is the mercy of Srila Prabhupada that I was saved from my suicidal course, but Prabhupada states that it is the mercy of the holy name which he brought to us on the order of his guru maharaja. As guru-daksina to Prabhupada, I will go on chanting and telling others about the chanting. When they ask me how I feel when chanting, I may admit that it is dry due to my offenses, but I will point out that the medicine is working regardless.
In his cave-kuṭīr, Haridāsa Ṭhākura
chanted all the time
and was free from all the chains
that bind one in material life.
He depended on the holy names
as his exclusive shelter
and became the nāmācārya
to lead all souls by his example.
Just by chanting
you can free yourself
and gain self-realized knowledge
of the soul and the Lord.
You can gain kṛṣṇa-prema
by the chanting of the names
done alone in concentration
with all other worries pushed aside.
Just you and Kṛṣṇa
through the medium of the sound.
It’s the prescribed method
for all souls who are bound.
The japa is a chore at the beginning, but soon that feeling is overcome, and you’re sailing into stringing the mantras together effortlessly. They’re slow for the first couple of rounds by the stopwatch, but then fast. I averaged under six minutes per round. My mind stayed focused on the mechanical act of hearing the syllables, not daydreaming or roaming over other subjects. But I was rushing too much. Neither did I think of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in a natural way. Today I folded Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s shawl over Her hand so that She would not be guarding Her face from Kṛṣṇa’s sight. Dattatreya remarked yesterday that She was being shy and was hiding Her face from Kṛṣṇa, so I’ve adjusted that. Her face is now visible to His.
Chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is a daily routine,
but it’s more than that.
It’s not just like brushing your teeth.
Concentrate your mind.
Recall the urgency of your diminishing time
and your need to improve.
Fight the drowse, fight complacency.
Rise, spirit soul,
and meet the mantra in a higher place.
Persons who are materially affected cannot understand the personal feature of the Supreme Absolute Truth.
It is therefore a kind of disease (too much materialism) which prevents one from understanding this higher truth. Another disease is the fear of retaining personality after liberation. Intelligent thinkers come to learn that material work brings suffering. They therefore sometimes seek release by different kinds of meditation. But if such persons who are mostly in the negative concept of truth are told about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and how they can rejoin Him in the spiritual world, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void. Prabhupada writes later in the same purport:
Generally they compare the living entities to the bubbles of the ocean, which merge into the ocean. That is the highest perfection of spiritual existence attainable without individual personality. This is a kind of fearful stage of life.
—Bg. 4.10, purport
Another disqualification occurs when one becomes skeptical about spiritual existence because he has heard so many theories and contradictions. Such people become disgusted and conclude there is no supreme cause and everything is void. This is also a diseased stage of life.
The Vedic knowledge is, however, quite clear on this point – the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Supreme One who is celebrated as the Supreme Being or the Supreme Soul is the supreme source of the cosmic manifestation as well as its reservoir and winding up. Thus He is the Supreme Fountainhead, the Absolute Truth.
Prabhupada was in Seattle at the time,
reading from The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya
and speaking for hours each night
before his students (and Maya’s)
in a room converted into a temple,
with Jagannath Deities on the altar
and the American sankirtan party at his feet,
eager to be there.
The program over for the night,
he returned to his room to find a telegram:
BHAKTI PRAJNA KESHAVA MAHARAJ
HAS PASSED AWAY.
Immediately composing a Sanskrit verse,
he returned to the temple, although it was late,
to instruct his followers
about separation from the guru.
He played a taped bhajan
and then informed them,
“The person who gave my sannyasa
has left his body.”
remembering his own beloved guru,
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur,
who had come to him in dreams
asking him to take sannyasa.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was the one,
but through him a Godbrother, Keshava Maharaj,
had brought the message.
Prabhupada had been alone in Vrindaban
when this Godbrother had insisted,
“Bhaktivedanta, you must take sannyasa.”
apayayam mam anavishnu andham
“Devotional service is the way
of renunciation. I was unwilling,
like one blind. But he forcefully
made me drink the medicine.
His name is Sri Keshava, Bhakti Prajna Maharaj.”
“He has entered Krishna’s abode,” said Prabhupada.
And his little band in Seattle,
awed by the spiritual emotions
and the parampara mysteries
and especially thrilled
that Prabhupada was sharing with them,
duly signed the letter of condolence and praise
to be sent to Navadwipa.
We have all been very fortunate, after millions and millions of lifetimes in this material world, to get the association of a great sādhu, a mahā-bhāgavata, Śrīla Prabhupāda. We are very fortunate persons. Now Śrīla Prabhupāda has departed from this material world, but that does not mean that our attachment has departed. Ordinarily, when a man dies, his wife observes a little mourning and then looks for another husband for sense gratification. In fact, society encourages this. But in our case, it is not that the spiritual master dies or that our relationship with him dies or that our attachment to him dies. And it is not that because the disciple is still alive, he has to become attached to another guru. Rather, the one guru who gave us Kṛṣṇa consciousness is still with us. On the title page of his Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Prabhupāda has written, “Dedicated to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him.” So that’s what we have been discussing—how to become more attached to Prabhupāda.
Understanding his disappearance is a way for us to increase our attachment. Now, after his recent departure, we are taking to various ways of remembering Śrīla Prabhupāda. Devotees are worshiping a mūrti of Prabhupāda, hearing his tapes more often and more carefully, trying to surround themselves with all semblances of his personal presence, and trying to understand that his instructions must be followed very carefully. Any way you can, increase your attachment for Śrīla Prabhupāda. This is our motive in reading relevant verses in these classes and trying to understand Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance according to the scriptures.
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.