I wrote a letter to the editor of my Journal, Prabhupada Revival. I told him I don’t think the Journal will have wide readership. I said I am writing it for Srila Prabhupada, Lord Krsna, my self-purification, and then I added—“to that individual who is my reader.”
I think that now and, in the future, there will be some people who would like to read my Journals. I spoke this to John Endler, and he encouraged me. He said lots of readers like to read journals, and he gave me examples. He said the intimate nature of the journal is appealing to a certain audience. So, I’m going ahead, writing especially for guru, Krsna and my self-purification—and to my intimate readers.
I am still short of breath, and I have a cough. These are leftovers from my recovery from the pneumonia. The cancer in my right ear is not completely closed. The pressure from sleeping on it causes it to weep.
I have canceled all my follow-up appointments at the hospital and doctors’ offices. I was tired of waiting in the waiting rooms and getting prodded and poked and having different procedures done.
I’m eating smaller portions and losing weight. I’m down to 169 pounds, and I like it. Two years ago, I was 191. Now I feel more functional, and it’s a little easier on my weak legs.
SDG is doing the second volume of his Journal. He writes at least twice, or more, a day. He also answers his mail daily, using a Dictaphone.
Uddhava is cooking, keeping the kitchen clean, and madly trying to finish a new backdrop for Radha-Govinda.
Krsna dasi is always rushing around the house on a mission for the Deities, cleaning, making jewelry, garlands, dresses, dressing Them, etc. She has ten Deities to take care of, and she does it in a world-class manner. She also does the main arati in the morning every day. She also keeps the silver bright and shiny (which takes an hour a day).
Baladeva is trying to raise donations for the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta audiobook. He’s also often on the phone talking to potential donors, talking to different devotees about Press matters, and dealing with all the medical offices that call, like medical, social services, tax, and anything bureaucratic. He tries to keep up with the bills. He also sometimes pitches in with the cooking and cleaning. He also takes care of the outside of the ashram, so it looks respectable, and that there are plenty of flowers in three seasons. Those things are his little services, but his main service is looking out for SDG’s personal care.
All of us come together twice a day for the out-loud readings, which ultimately is the heart of the program (along with the Deity worship, darsanas, etc.).
The neighbors are becoming enlivened, anticipating that winter is over and spring is just around the corner. At the post office they’re betting that there will be no more snow.
The weather is usually not freezing overnight and in the daytime it’s regularly reaching fifty degrees.
The buds are out on the lilacs. And the crocuses are poking through. (Some of them are even opening.)
The birds are enlivened and chirping more. And with the clocks changing to Daylight Savings Time, the evenings are not so dark and morbid.
You see more people walking their dogs now, and everyone has a good word to say to each other.
This pattern of spring coming after winter is predictable all over the world. But people don’t stop to think Who organizes it.
Lord Siva was completely bewildered by Mohini-murti (who is Lord Krsna in His incarnation as the most beautiful woman who could make even Lord Siva fall down). After She defeated him, She dragged him all over the world before the hermitages of the saints and sages who were worshiping Lord Siva, just to show them the illusory power of women, who could make even their worshipable lord fall down. Lord Siva was not ashamed, rather he was proud of the potency of his master, Lord Krsna. He was proud that his master was able to make him fall in such an extraordinary way.
Four of my disciples are now in Vrndavana for anywhere from three weeks to three months. Maha-mantra dasi, the pujari at Inis Rath, Ireland, is going for some weeks to shop for the Radha-Govinda Deities at Inis Rath. She is a dedicated pujari who gives her life to worshiping Radha-Govinda, who are very beautiful Deities on the altar.
Silavati dasi is planning to stay five weeks in Vrndavana. She is staying under the shelter of Maha-mantra dasi, who is a veteran visitor of Vrndavana-dhama. Silavati is very attached to our daily out-loud readings on Zoom. She is managing to continue participating on Zoom even in Vrndavana. She has to stay up very late in order to start listening.
Sankarsana, the harinama singer from Potomac/Washington, D.C., is in Vrndavana for buying paraphernalia for his festival table business. Anuradha dasi from Oxford, England, is also in Vrndavana. She hasn’t made a commitment to any particular program except for staying in India for two or three months. She also has been attending our out-loud reading group while in Vrndavana.
My avadhuta disciple, Bhagavata Purana, is a permanent resident of Vrndavana.
I asked one of these devotees to pray for me to feel separation from Vrndavana even while living at Viraha Bhavan.
Uddhava worked madly (between his other duties) to paint a new backdrop for Radha-Govinda. He says it’s a Vrndavana scene. The main images are two stout trees, one near Radharani and one near Govinda. The tree near Govinda has large leaves and large white flowers blossoming. There are vines gripping the trunk. There are at least five birds standing in the branches. The tree near Radharani has smaller leaves and flowers, but they are very abundant. And again, vines wrap around the trunk. Uddhava is a skilled artist. Krsna dasi says she wants six backdrops! Uddhava says he wants to do more. The backdrop has brilliant colors. Behind the trees is the Yamuna River, on which three swans are floating. At the bank of the river, there are blooming flower plants. On the opposite shore of the river, there’s a nice sandy bank. Radha-Govinda look more beautiful with their new backdrop. It just happens to go very well with today’s new outfit, which is yellow and has hand-painted flowers on it. So although we are not in Vrndavana, the backdrop brings us closer.
Now that the weather is changing into spring, and then summer and fall, we expect to get inquiries from “fair-weather friends” about doing service at Viraha Bhavan. This is much needed and welcome, and it works best if someone can stay at least three weeks. This way they get into the rhythm of their service and get trained up, hope for a repeating process every year. We are looking for a team that we can depend on, at least for the fair weather.
Uddhava left today, and we had a goodbye talk before he went. He expressed his anxiety in the safety of his travels. He referred to a book I wrote where I had a cartoon illustration of a man getting on a ferry. He worries, “Will this boat sink?” Uddhava laughed nervously and said he felt like that. But ultimately he has the faith and courage that the airlines and trains he’s taking are professional and trustworthy. He has eighteen hours of travel ahead before he reaches his home in Hungary. Statistics state that most accidents happen in cars within five miles of your home. And you’re more likely to get killed in a car than in an airplane. The whole world is not a safe place. The only safe place is Vaikuntha or Goloka Vrndavana. Otherwise, we keep reading in the Bhagavatam how the demons and demigods are always fighting and killing each other.
Uddhava expressed that he would like to come again next year to Viraha Bhavan. He said he had a good experience staying here for three weeks, which is a good minimum length of stay. He was able to get into the rhythm of duties and things and enjoy the atmosphere.
Starting with an obnoxious alarm clock going off at 2:00 A.M. and a grumbling Baladeva comes in the bedroom and puts me in a chair while he makes up the bed. At this point I start chanting my rounds. Then we turn the lights on to see the enlarged photos of Radha-Kalachandji. I sit up in bed in a comfortable position with my feet covered so that they are not exposed to the Deities of Radha-Kalachandji. Then I get eye drops and clean eyeglasses and a refreshing rag on my face. Baladeva prepares different potions and elixirs that have been recommended for my health. Then B. goes downstairs to mix up the protein drink and print out the mail. After the drink, B. gives me a leg and foot massage to help with my walking. Then B. goes out to straighten up the outer room and wake up the Deities. Usually, I have finished my rounds by this time, and I am waiting to go visit Radha-Govinda and Srila Prabhupada. I like to watch while Prabhpada’s clothes are being changed. Then I have yet another drink before starting my writing at 4:30. I write in my personal Journal ’til 6:15 A.M. Then the men come up, and I bathe and get dressed for the day.
After my bath, I look at my mail and answer it until 7:30 A.M., when it’s time for a morning out-loud reading and breakfast.
Varun is a new man who has been coming to render devotional service at Viraha Bhavan. He’s from India, but he works for a company in Cambridge, Mass. The material energy is really kicking him around, and he has taken a lot of shelter with the devotees for the last two years. But he’s a serious devotee, chants his rounds and reads Prabhupada’s books. He’s a dedicated harinama man in Boston. He is able to spend three days a week here at Viraha Bhavan, giving Atindra a break for what he has to do at home. We don’t have an ideal situation where there’s a steady crew who comes here for three or four weeks at a time every year. So we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got, which in this case is not that bad. Both Varun and Atindra are good men, just distracted by family and business life.
Our faithful pujari is showing signs of wear and tear. Her varicose veins are acting up, and she’s supposed to regularly stop and put her feet up. At the end of a long day, her back is sometimes so inflamed she has a hard time sleeping. She went to the doctor today, who recommended that she use Arnica pain cream. The doctor said if that doesn’t work she will have to go to physiotherapy to try to get things stretched out and do exercises that will help relieve the situation. The real issue is that she needs more help. She’s the only woman in the ashram. She’s the only pujari, and takes care of thirteen Deities. That sounds like a lot of Deities, but so far we are unwilling to put any one of Them in a box or give Them away. Part of the “problem” is the inherent problem of a first-class pujari—to want to give the Deities more and more.
I was talking to Krsna dasi and suggesting that maybe we should put some of the Deities in boxes or give Them away to others. We have thirteen individual Deities. Krsna dasi sees Them as six sets of Deities. Anyway, she said she didn’t want to reduce the Deities or give Them away—They are so important to our ashram life and the atmosphere of the house, which everyone can appreciate. But she did say that she would like to reduce cleaning up after people. She thinks that people should clean their own room when they leave, at least, if not make it better, and help with dishes and ashram cleaning projects. Because this is a burden on all the local inmates, who also have other services. Cleaning is not rocket science; it’s just determination and surrender.
We have to reassess and start limiting the number of people in the ashram at any one time, especially now that the good weather is coming. It becomes too distracting, because people are coming to spend time with me, but then the rest of the time the other devotees in the ashram are expected to host them, which we want to do, and it’s proper etiquette. But it becomes a burden without help. We hear too often that people say they don’t know how to do anything. And it could be that all they ever did was book distribution, they had no other training and were not “housebroken.”
Krsna dasi is feeling the strain now as she gets older. She says, “I am the only woman here most of the time, and I’m surrounded by old men who don’t know how to take care of themselves, what to speak of others.”
Every day we decorate Radha-Govinda’s altar with many nice, multicolored flowers. They are all different varieties of sizes, shapes and colors. But they still don’t have much aroma. We buy them from the store, the Price Chopper, which has the best prices and varieties of flowers in our area. And also Muktavandya brings flowers on a regular basis.
In a month, our own Deity garden will start blooming. Everything we’ve planted has a beautiful aroma, just like you hear about in Vrndavana with Radha and Krsna. The flowers always have bees going mad and looking for the honey. (We can skip the bees but keep the honey.) Our Deity garden is planted in such a way that there is constantly a new wave of varieties of flowers, so that as one finishes blooming another starts. And there are fresh, sweet-smelling flowers all the way from spring to fall. We are very fortunate that the land is so good for growing.
We have demonstrated how one can start with any thought (Brhad-Bhagavatamrta and mustard flowers) and soon connect to a teaching by Srila Prabhupada. This was meant to make us aware that we are always in the shelter of Srila Prabhupada. But it is not enough to know what Prabhupada said on many subjects, and to be able to bring them up like an index or computer. It has to be done with the devotion of a disciple. If we are expert at recalling instructions by Prabhupada in order to sanction our sense gratification, this is not a high order of Prabhupada meditation. Neither can that kind of following of Srila Prabhupada last for very long; it will leave us open to a falldown.
The vital element in Prabhupada meditation is the spirit for rendering service. Srila Prabhupada has explained this while describing the difference between the santa and dasya rasa with the Supreme Lord. If a person discovers that he has an intimate relationship with a great man of this world, this will make one happy. Similarly, when we understand that we have a relationship with Krsna, that is a sublime meditation. A more advanced and grateful person, however, will want to go forward and ask the great personality whether he can render some service in his cause.
Srila Prabhupada said the only question he asked of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was, “How can I serve you?” This is certainly better than seeking out the presence of the guru in order to get his sanction for our own desires. If we can regularly think, “How can I serve you?”—then we will be in the higher state of Prabhupada meditation. If we are entangled or unable to serve Prabhupada as much as we know we should, still we should think of rendering service to him. Even the thinking will be accepted as favorable. Whatever we are actually able to render as service should be done with devotion. As Srila Prabhupada said (describing the attitude of a pure devotee of the Lord), “‘Kindly accept whatever little service I can give.’ In this way, be humble and offer your feeling and Krsna will be satisfied.”
Once I was walking behind him,
when Bhagavan dasa came beside me and said,
“Look at the way Prabhupada moves his left hand.”
I watched Prabhupada extend his pinky,
and swing his hand backward,
and I was glad B. dasa had said
such a little, personal thing—
which took careful noting—
about our spiritual master.
He wore canvas, rubber-soled shoes,
anything his disciples would buy him.
He was not interested in shoes,
or newspapers or TV or governments.
All he cared for was Krsna and Krsna consciousness,
because “everything is Krsna.”
Passing golfers he said, “We are trying to save
every moment of our time for Krsna,
and they’re inventing ways to waste time.”
To passers-by, “Good morning!”
He wants us to go with him, he doesn’t say
“I want to be alone today, you stay behind.”
I am walking with him,
and he’s soothing my worries,
preparing me for what I must do.
I can see Krsna now
as sure as the light of the morning sky,
and I don’t want to stop.
Sometimes when we remember Prabhupada-lila, a nagging little voice inside says, “The places and people you are describing have vanished with time. Are you remembering a reality or was it a fantasy? Is it all gone with the wind like a Beatles craze?”
I remember the first time I heard Prabhupada express the idea that ISKCON might deteriorate. He had just given a lecture at the Bombay temple and was riding in the jeep that was taking him to his apartment. He said that time was very powerful and that ISKCON might also break down with time. I was startled to hear him say this, because in my naivete I had thought, “That’s what happens to material things and to bogus movements in this world, but it could never happen to ISKCON.” I had heard devotees and scholars express such opinions, but I had never heard Prabhupada say anything like that. From then on, I understood that such a thing could possibly happen, although Prabhupada did not like it, and he hoped it wouldn’t happen.
On other occasions he warned devotees that they should not change what he was doing. He said if devotees quarreled, they could “dismantle the whole institution.” He said he feared they might change the Deity worship after he left, and that they might lose enthusiasm or return to hippie ways. These statements were given as warnings.
When conducting kirtana in the midst of many devotees, Prabhupada would look very pleased, and sometimes he would look inward in a blissful way. But sometimes, at least from my perception, he would look at us with a compassionate anxiety for our well-being. It was as if he was seeing how some things would go wrong in the future, and how devotees would leave.
Another explanation is that Prabhupada held everything together in a special way during his presence. The Supreme Lord holds all the planets of the universe together in His fist like dust, and similarly, Srila Prabhupada held together all persons, activities, and places of ISKCON when he was present. As Prabhupada wrote, “The acarya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes religious principles, but when he disappears, things once again become disordered.” (Bhag. 4.28.48) But Prabhupada writes further: “The perfect disciples of the acarya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.” No one can stop the movements of time, including the deterioration of all material bodies and material elements, but sincere disciples will never abandon the lessons and orders given to them by their spiritual master.
Swamiji said, “This boy Steve is nice, he gives donations and does typing.” After he said that, I went downstairs into the storefront. I picked up the double bass which I had donated to the temple. No one was around, so I started strumming, feeling happy and savoring the glow of what Swamiji had said. In those days, we didn’t know the proper expression for gratitude: making prostrated obeisances and saying a mantra to the guru. However, as I strummed, I chanted Hare Krsna.
Swamiji gave us wholesome life. At first it was hard to accept. I thought, “It is cool, the life I have. It is desperate, but after all, life itself is desperate—just like Van Gogh said, misery is eternal. You can get high on pot and you can try your best. You are an artist. Keep trying.” I fed myself existential philosophy: “Although life is absurd, you must give it meaning.” Swamiji replaced that dismal view.
He said, “You can eat again. You can love. Your life now is a sham, but you will taste transcendental happiness in eternal life.”
Prabhupada said, “Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind. It is the original energy of the living being.” He uncovered instincts that were buried in my psyche, belief in God, desire for good food and work, all the things I thought I had to give up because they were square. He exposed the fact that I was living a lie. He proved that happiness is now.
Responding to Swamiji’s love was one of the first things I did on my own. Everything before that was conditioned by my parents, and after that it was conditioned by a reaction against them. Not many people on the Lower East Side were going to him. It was not something my parents wanted from me, and neither was it what my hip friends wanted me to do, or what my worshipable authors wanted me to do. The religion I was raised in did not teach me how to love. No one encouraged me, yet everything was encouraging me from within. My sense of survival and sanity and religiosity—everything was saying, “Yes, don’t listen to other voices. Do it!!”
Srila Prabhupada said that he was the spiritual father of his disciples, and this is also supported by sastric references.
I once inquired from Srila Prabhupada if he was my real father—as I felt he was—and he replied, “Yes.”
You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. The relationship of father and son on the spiritual platform is real and eternal. On the material platform such a relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I pray to Krsna for your more and more advancement in Krsna consciousness.
—Letter, January 22, 1968
On a morning walk while living at John Lennon’s estate, Srila Prabhupada assured his disciples in a similar way about fatherhood.
Vibhavati dasi asked, “What is the meaning of spiritual master?”
“Actually, I am not your spiritual master,” Prabhupada replied. “That title is simply a formality. You should think of me as your spiritual father, your eternal father.”
One time a devotee asked Prabhupada if the “rasa” between the disciple and the spiritual master could advance from servant-master, to friend, or to the conjugal rasa? Prabhupada answered that the eternal relationship with the spiritual master is as servant and master or son and spiritual father. He quoted the line from the Vaisnava song praising the spiritual master, “janme janme prabhu sei … he is my lord birth after birth.” On another occasion, Prabhupada quoted that same line, but altered the Sanskrit, janme janme pita sei … “he is my father birth after birth.”
In 1966, Acyutananda dasa’s mother wrote a paper for a New York University psychology course describing the relationship of Prabhupada and his disciples. Her theory was that the young boys who had joined the Hare Krsna movement were all from broken families, and that is why they were taking to Krsna consciousness and seeing Prabhupada as their spiritual father. When Acyutananda told this to the devotees we saw it as a joke. His mother hadn’t done any interviewing, but based it all on knowledge of her own son. Perhaps it was a fact that some devotees came from broken homes, yet others came from strong family units, as I did. This was the first time I heard anyone theorizing that the relationship a devotee has with his material father has implications in his relationship with his spiritual father.
We are aware of Prabhupada as a spiritual person with a spiritual body. Some devotees approach this awareness in a dogmatic way. It disturbs them to hear or think of Prabhupada in any way that appears too human. But the sastras say that nitya-siddhas sometimes act in this world as ordinary persons, although they never forget Krsna and service to Krsna. Even Lord Caitanya acted like a sannyasi, although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Let us meditate on Prabhupada’s exemplary tolerance of bodily ills. If he didn’t feel any inconvenience at all, then where is the question of his displaying tolerance? In one letter, Srila Prabhupada wrote that if you want to know about the suffering of the spiritual master, then ponder the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
We met Prabhupada in his seventies and knew him up until the eighty-second year of his life—a time when the aging body is breaking down. Prabhupada used to give himself as an example in lectures and say, “When you grow old, the body has so many complaints.” Sometimes he would even tell about the complaints he had—arthritis, diabetes, and so on—but he never complained. He caught colds and coughed a lot. Sometimes his cough was so aggravated that he could hardly give a lecture, but he would go on anyway.
In a matter-of-fact way, Prabhupada noted that, although at seventy years old hardly anyone leaves home, he had come to the West and now continued traveling because of his enthusiasm. “Because of this enthusiasm,” Prabhupada said, “you have received the information.” And he did this despite sometimes having a cold, sometimes a swelling on his lip, sometimes a swollen eye; his teeth were falling out, his bladder didn’t always function properly, he had indigestion, and there were many other discomforts.
Prabhupada did not take too much care of his body. The fact that he continued to travel so frequently in airplanes, and also the fact that he didn’t keep a very strict diet but kept to his regular, Krsna conscious prasadam, were in his case, transcendental acts. He was more concerned with preaching and did not consider preserving the body for the optimum number of years into advanced old age. Of course, Prabhupada’s life was naturally healthy. He went to bed early and rose early in the morning, took his morning constitutional walk, and his mind was always pure and invigorated. Prabhupada was full of life. He certainly wasn’t like the old person who has lost his purpose in life and therefore dwindles away. There was never even a touch of senility or depression in old age. But it is not wrong if we think of Prabhupada as suffering for us. He accepted these things without a complaint, in a manly and philosophical way.
I must never think that my task is completed—the work of active service or the work of remembrance of Prabhupada and Krsna. How can I claim that I have completed the course? Can I say that my anarthas are all removed now? Have I come to the perfection in japa? Do I fully realize my eternal relationship with Krsna in a particular rasa? Am I free of the lowest types of desire for sense gratification as well as its subtle manifestations. Have I preached and worked to my fullest capacities so that I am now ready to retire? The answer to all these questions is no, I’ve hardly begun.
The art of remembering past association with Srila Prabhupada is another vital practice which I have not developed to the fullest. My taking the time and effort to learn this art and to continue it regularly, is not a sign of weakness or sense gratification. Rather, Prabhupada-smaranam is a bhakti practice, and a vital one, a part of my here-and-now connection to Srila Prabhupada. Previously I had neglected this practice, and allowed memories to deteriorate and vanish. Now I have taken the time to remember, and I hope to continue it. I also want to be more eager to hear the remembrances of other Prabhupada followers and their realizations of Prabhupada’s all-pervading presence in the lives of the devotees within the Krsna Consciousness Movement.
Aside from this, a devotee can only write what is in his heart. When Ramananda Raya joined Lord Caitanya at Jagannatha Puri, he went straight to see Caitanya Mahaprabhu rather than make the customary visit to the Deity in the temple. When Lord Caitanya asked him why he behaved that way, Ramananda Raya replied:
The legs are like the chariot, and the heart is like the charioteer. Wherever the heart takes the living entity, the living entity is obliged to go. What shall I do? My mind has brought me here. I could not consider first going to Lord Jagannatha’s temple.
—Cc. Madhya 11.37–38
What can I do but beg for more mercy to go on remembering Srila Prabhupada.
Am I claiming that God talks to me every day? Yes. Krsna and Prabhupada speak to me, especially in these prayer sessions, and neither is it my imagination. They speak to me through the scriptures.
At this point in my session, I open my eyes, reach out for the Bhagavad-gita and begin to read. But it’s not the usual kind of reading. I have gone through the Bhagavad-gita and picked out verses in which Krsna is directly speaking. I turn to them one at a time and read them slowly, respectfully. I pause and pray to Krsna to reveal to me the meaning of the text and how I can apply it. I may spend ten or twenty minutes in this way on a single verse and purport. Krsna speaks, and His pure devotee explains it and helps me to understand his beloved Lord. I’ve always accepted that the Supreme Lord is speaking Prabhupada’s translations and purports.
The words are directly spoken by Krsna or Vyasa, or by His Divine Grace, and they are not different than Krsna. But this process of slowing down and reading, not for information but for hearing and being with Krsna, opens up new realms. You may try it and see if it works for you. At other times in the day I continue to read Prabhupada’s books at the normal pace, but for the prayer session, I let just one or two verses sink in, and I listen to the sound of Krsna speaking to me here and now.
It’s not that I always try to apply it in some practical way for immediate action, but I try to make it an intimate meeting. Some sessions are more “samadhi-like” and personal than other times, but it’s always worthwhile. I don’t get bored, and I know by this prayerful reading I ‘ll never “finish” Prabhupada’s books.
“The devotee should patiently follow the rules and regulations of devotional service so that the day will come when he will achieve, all of a sudden, all the perfection of devotional service. He should not lament for any loss or any reverse in his advancement in spiritual life. This patience is the third positive item for advancing in devotional service.” (Narada-bhakti-sutra, Code 5, purport)
Patience means that we have to wait to attain something desirable. For example, we often cannot find instant relief from our suffering. We may have to live out our karma. At the same time, we know that karma is diminishing simply by our living it out. We also know that our suffering can and should be a positive impetus in our Krsna consciousness, even suffering is not ultimately unfavorable for our devotional service. Therefore, devotees should tolerate with faith what appears to them to be misfortune; they should never do anything contrary to Vaisnava principles.
Lord Caitanya speaks against Sanatana’s idea to commit suicide: “Give up all your nonsensical desires, for they are unfavorable for getting shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna. Engage yourself in chanting and hearing. Then you will soon achieve the shelter of Krsna without a doubt.”
This is the transcendental solution: take shelter in chanting the holy name. Do not worry that you are unqualified. “A person born in a low family is not unfit for discharging devotional service to Lord Krsna, nor is one for . . . because he is born in an aristocratic family . . .”
Anything I say now, over thirty years later, about On The Road can be held against me on the grounds that I am an old man – a monk too – talking about youth. But I am not just talking from my present age of fifty. I joined Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual family when I was twenty-six years old, and as a sannyasi, I have had more than ample opportunity to fulfill many wanderlust I caught from On The Road.
The sannyasi’s life has always been one of freely traveling. A sannyasi is not supposed to stay in any place more than three days. Srila Prabhupada told us that there is even a class of sannyasis who keep in perpetual movement as a symbol of their renunciation. When Lord Caitanya traveled on foot for six years throughout South India, He had purpose – to visit pilgrimage sites and to deliver whomever He met into Krsna consciousness. Although He had His mission, one gets a sense by reading Caitanya-caritamrita, that the Lord had great freedom to go wherever he liked. Similarly, Narada Muni traveled from one planet to another very freely. And Srila Prabhupada often describes Narada as “traveling without any engagement.” There is also a story from the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who walked with a companion. When they came to a cross-roads, Francis asked his companion to spin around and around. Then he suddenly asked him to stop – wherever he was pointed, they went in that direction, for preaching.
Kerouac’s traveling, although it was searching, was mostly searching without finding. Many boys who came to Srila Prabhupada to become his disciples, had similar kinds of wanderlust. Prabhupada said that it had to be dovetailed in the service of Krsna or else it was useless touring:
I can understand you are planning to go on world tour, but I think there is no need for wasting your time on such world tour. Better you chant Hare Krishna sitting in one place, that is far better. What for you want to go on world tour—people everywhere are doing the same thing, eating, sleeping, mating, and defending—each in some slightly different way, but same substance is there. There are the same streets, same people, same cars, same trees, etc., everywhere, somewhere a hill, somewhere sandy, somewhere some water—but what is the profit of seeing so much scenery? It is better if you want to travel, you can travel to preach and spread this Krishna Consciousness to the suffering humanity at large. You can travel with our Sankirtana party if you like. They are presently here in Los Angeles, and they are making program to go to London, then over Europe, then eventually on to India, etc. So if you want to travel I recommend you travel with them, and chant Hare Krishna with them wherever you go. And you will profit by this sort of travel, whereas the other is a waste of time practically.
-Letter of November 13, 1968
Although out of humility, Prabhupada never claimed to be a nitya-siddha, one who has never fallen down to the material world, Prabhupada had the symptoms of such a great soul. One who is sadhana-siddha is a conditioned soul who is liberated by the performance of the rules and regulations of devotional service; and a kripa-siddha is one who attains liberation through the special mercy of the Lord or His pure devotee. But a nitya-siddha is extremely rare in this world.
Uddhava was nitya-siddha. He had the same form as Krsna (svarupya-mukti), and even as a child he was always engaged in the “the play of transcendental realization.” Prabhupada, like Uddhava, played with the forms of Radha-Krsna as a child, bathing Them, feeding Them, and worshiping Them. He also held the Ratha-yatra festival with his small playmates and would go across the street to visit the temple of Radha-Govinda daily. Prabhupada said of himself that although he had ample opportunity to engage in sinful life, being born in an aristocratic family, he never did. “And throughout my own life, I did not know what is illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating or gambling. So far my present life is concerned, I do not remember any part of my life when I was forgetful of Krsna.”
In the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada writes of the nitya-siddha and the nitya-baddha (eternally conditioned). He states that the only business of the eternally liberated soul is to glorify Krsna. Even if he appears to work like an ordinary man, in actuality, he is absorbed in Krsna consciousness.
Prabhupada, like Bhaktivinoda Thakura, was always Krsna conscious, even though he did various kinds of work, especially in the early parts of his life. Srila Prabhupada was certainly a specifically empowered jiva, who took the message of Lord Caitanya and distributed it throughout the whole world.
This is a poem to my spiritual master.
His speech is sometimes gruff.
He’s a general like Bhisma.
Cuts down false avataras.
He hurt my false ego
when I too-causally said
“I forgot.” He touched me.
Prabhupada, forgive me.
You are too great for me to
try writing a poem about.
Some say you are so transcendental
we should not even see you as a human.
But I see your old age,
your missing teeth, your pain
as glorious sacrifice.
Let’s see another old man
equal you. Can’t be done.
You suffered and sacrificed
to manage Krsna’s movement.
I see you – far away.
Yet you touched me close too.
O commander of rough voice,
you stand among lances and arrows –
you had to be rough.
I want to see you,
O spiritual master
of many thousands.
You are impressive
Let us read your books.
And please you,
pure devotee of Krsna.
The day after our wedding we untied our clothing knots and changed our clothes. I removed the rock from the temple floor and went outside and looked up at the plate glass window. It had a big hole in the center, but large pieces of glass remained hanging in place. Unaware that this was a job that required special skill, I reached up and tried to remove a big piece of plate glass. The whole top section came crashing down, hitting me on the forehead and arm. I was stunned and started bleeding profusely. Jadurani was nearby and phoned for an ambulance. I staggered into the temple and lay down on my back. My vision was blurred by all the blood. I started chanting the Nrsimha mantra. Jadurani and Devananda didn’t try stopping the blood but waited for the ambulance. When it arrived I heard a man enter the room and say “Jesus Christ!” Then they took me in the ambulance and sped me to the hospital. The medics began removing pieces of glass from my body and mopping the blood. When we arrived at the hospital, a doctor took me to the emergency room and along with nurses he began stitching up my arm and forehead. I talked with them and told them what happened and began to speak Krishna conscious philosophy. They put sixteen stitches in my forearm and more than that in my forehead. (To this day those scars are still prominently visible on my body.) Luckily it had not hit my eyes. Jadurani and Devananda were in the waiting room, and I told the nurse to tell them to go home and do their duties. It looked as if they had the bleeding under control. The doctor was surprised that I had the presence of mind to chat about Krishna consciousness in this condition. I told him the Bhagavad-gita tells us that the body is just a covering of the real self, the soul, and the real self can’t be cut. As long as we have material bodies we are prone to accidents, and we have to tolerate them and pray to Krishna. After a couple of hours they had my head and arm in bandages and said I was free to go home, but I should rest. I should come back in a few days to check on my condition.
Please allow me to write a prayer of gratitude to You. I have written one before, and I said at that time that I could go on thanking You in subsequent prayers of thanks. Without looking back at the first one I wrote, I will write You with fresh gratitude as it occurs to me today. I thank You for sending me my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who has taught me everything I know about You. I had the vaguest notion of God before I met my spiritual master, and I was living a life of sin. I was especially addicted to taking drugs and engaging in illicit sex. I thought that illicit sex was wrong, but I was too weak to resist the temptation. As for drugs, O regularly smoked marijuana and occasionally took LSD. These did not affect my consciousness; I did not think, at the time, they were wrong. I thought helped my creative state for my vocation as a writer.
At the very first meeting I attended at the storefront at 26 2nd Ave., the Swami so impressed me with his message of hope and eternal transcendental life that I completely stopped both of my bad habits – sex and drugs – permanently. To this day, such a quick conversion to celibacy and foregoing drugs seems a miracle. It just happened naturally with no effort on my part. After the first meeting, I never missed a meeting and took seriously to the life of chanting Hare Krsna and hearing from the Swami submissively and rendering him practical service. Really it was You acting to bring me to the storefront and to make me so open to the powerful presence of Prabhupada.
I want to thank You for being who You are, all-attractive Krsna, as I learned from Prabhupada’s lectures and books. Prabhupada presented Your Bhagavad-gita and vanquished all my agnostic doubts about the existence of God and the need to lead a God conscious life. I had been raised as a Catholic, but I had been out of the church for over ten years because the priests could not defeat my atheistic doubts,and I had a long, personal conversation with a popular priest just before I left the Church. Your Bhagavad-gita, with its teachings of transmigration and karma and the eternal soul, and Prabhupada’s description of You in Your original form in Gokula Vrndavana captured my intellect and heart and convinced me to want to be Your devotee. I thank You for Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Swami’s first three volumes of the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. I continue to reread them with fresh conviction and enthusiasm. I wish more people in the world would read these books and be converted by them, and I want to help in spreading Your teachings.
I accept You as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, I thank You for giving me life and sustaining my consciousness as a living being. You keep my heart beating, my lungs breathing, my brain working – You give me the gift of life in this body – and You give me the promise of eternal life for going back to Godhead. I yearn to be with You in eternity, and I thank You for the process of bhakti-yoga, which You have given us for attaining Your abode. Just by offenseless chanting of Your holy names, as You taught as Lord Caitanya, I can escape the cycle of repeated birth and death, disease, and old age.
I thank You for letting me make prayers to You. Please let me continue to think of sincere petitions and praises and expressions of gratitude and inquiries into Your nature. I want to learn more about You and gain personal realizations of Your presence in my life. I want to love You completely and act fearlessly on Your behalf. I thank You for Prabhupada’s creation of the worldwide Krsna consciousness movement, and I pray I may serve in it all my days. I thank You for being who You are, the most magnanimous Personality of Godhead, and I pray that I may one day serve You and Srimati Radharani in the spiritual world.
You must be attentive and control your mind. Don’t chant unconsciously. That implies that you have an intellectual conception of chanting: “I just can’t get into it. It’s not important.” Sometimes people will read directions how to operate something, but they have so many other responsibilities that they just can’t pay attention to the directions. It doesn’t mean anything to them. It’s not important to them. They may say, “Somebody else can do it. I can’t concentrate on it. It’s just too trivial.” So don’t minimize the holy name in the back of your mind. It’s absurd if you cannot actually accept that you’re supposed to use your best intelligence to concentrate on the repetition of the holy name.
Seeing Him in this condition, they all immediately fell into painful, constant lamentation. “O Lord! What is this play? The beautiful Gauraṅga desires to take sannyāsa and wander about. You are hard-hearted.”
The women spoke. “Ah! Śiva! Śiva! This is a most cruel. The Lord is astonishing. A thunderbolt has suddenly struck. He has such form, character, and sweet beauty. But now He is taking sannyāsa. This bewilders the mind at every moment.”
Crying, the Lord, to spread happiness, said to the crying people, “O mother! O father! I bless you that you shall have prema at the lotus feet of the Lord at all times.”
After His polite speaking to them, He went to Keśava Bhāratī’s house and offered profuse respects, absorbed in the proper conduct of a disciple, acting according to the rules. He then called his guru near and spoke in his ear with delight the auspicious mahāvākya which he had heard in a dream.
The Lord then called a very fortunate barber and instructed him to shave off His hair. The barber, overwhelmed with prema, constantly wept and trembled. Out of fear he could not do it.
In great joy, beautiful Gaurāṅga said, “Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa loudly at all times!” When He said this, the barber, torn apart with sorrow, performed his task while crying, his hairs standing on end.
Those who were present there said in piteously voices repeatedly, “O mother! O father!” They beat their hands on their heads constantly and, criticizing themselves for maintaining their lives, lamented.
Though He was the actual guru, playing the role of a disciple He received the mantra, spreading mercy to the world. Seeing that the Lord with His hairs standing on end desired to go, Keśava Bhāratī, saying “Take this,” gave Him red cloth and a daṇḍa.
Receiving the daṇḍa, in order to obey the instructions of his guru, intelligent Gaurāṅga remained there for a day, though his mind was restless. Taking his guru’s permission, the Lord, of mysterious, incomparable, excellent actions, then went to the pious place called Rāḍhadeśa.
On the road, overcome with happiness, He meditated on the Lord’s activities. Soft with prema for the name and attached to it at every moment, He stumbled about, sometimes singing, sometimes wailing in pain, sometimes moving slowly and sometimes going quickly like a lion.
Not hearing the Lord’s name in one place, the Lord became bewildered and went the river bank to end His life. As He lowered Himself into the water, some children uttered the Lord’s name. By that sound, He melted with prema. Tears fell constantly and His body became stunned.
Hearing the children utter the name loudly, the Lord became mad with prema and falling on the ground, wept intensely. Going some distance, He ate food obtained by begging. He continued walking, sometimes laughing, dancing, singing or crying.
Full of joy, the Lord, soft with unlimited prema, moved with dancing steps, sometimes in the mood of a gopī, sometimes as a servant and sometimes with reverence. He headed towards the west. For three days He was unaware of himself.
By fortune, He went in the southern direction and, recovering consciousness, thought, “Where am I?” He decided to go to Advaita’s house. He then spoke to Nityānanda in a sweet voice.
“Go quickly to sweet Navadvīpa, on the bank of the Gaṅgā. Say sweetly to the people there my words. ‘Go quickly to the house of Advaita. I have arrived.’” Agreeing, Nityānanda then left for Navadvīpa.
Going there, Nityānanda joyful related the Lord’s words and quickly brought everyone to Śāntipura. Śacī also, in great pain but in great joy, also went there. What more can be said? The whole of Navadvīpa went there.
The next day, the Lord, holding His pot and daṇḍa, wearing two pieces of red cloth, flashing like a host of lightning bolts, appeared like a golden mountain radiating golden light.
Seeing the Lord on the road, while dancing passionately, with tears flowing over His body, the people, seemingly long dead, revived their life airs. Filled with joy, they fell on the earth offering respects.
Showing affection for His devotees who were attached to His lotus feet by speaking, smiling sweetly, glancing with mercy, touching them with joy, the Lord, filled with happiness and great mercy, went to Advaita’s house.
Leaving the devotees, embracing Advaita, who was covered in tears, He started to go. Hari-dāsa, holding grass in his teeth, his heart filled with longing, fell on the earth at the lotus feet of the Lord.
Seeing Hari-dāsa in this condition, the Lord said, “I will constantly speak on your behalf to Jagannātha in all humility. Rise up and be peaceful.” Embracing him, He then left. Advaita then spoke as he was leaving.
“When you leave, what will happen to us? Please tell us, O Lord! How will we continue to live? How will we overcome our pain of separation?” After he spoke, the Lord said, “If you act like this, how can I go?” He then left.
Because of the affection of Advaita and the joy of humble Hari-dāsa, the Lord, though desiring to go to Puri, controlled by His devotees, ate the incomparable food cooked by Śacī with the devotees and left after several days.
He then saw powerful Gopīnātha shining in His residence called Remuṇa and offered respects by placing His head on the ground. Everyone saw the flowers from Gopīnātha’s head fall on Gaurāṅga’s head.
Gaurāṅga then came to the town called Kaṭaka and to the deity famous in the world as Śāksī-gopīnātha. The people saw Gaurāṅga and the deity as non-different in great power, the only difference being the golden and black complexions.
On the road, Gaurāṅga gave his daṇḍa to Nityānanda and went ahead, His heart overflowing with bliss. Following behind, Nityānanda, whose actions cause joy, began to think deeply. With great joy, he then broke the daṇḍa.
Approaching Nityānanda with some worry, the Lord said, “Tell me where my daṇḍa is.” Nityānanda answered, “By chance, I stumbled and fell on the ground. The daṇḍa broke.” The Lord became very angry.
Disturbed in mind, thinking deeply, Mahāprabhu continued travelling, while joyfully chanting the name of the Lord. Constantly looking at the devatās on the path, He went in joy to the fortunate, beautiful town of Yāja-nagarī.
In a mango grove He saw Śiva and, reciting many verses of praise, fell on the ground in joy, being his Lord. Śiva worshipped Him according to the rules with sandalwood, āguru, and prasādam as well as other items.
From there, the Lord went to beautiful Kamala-pura, offered respects to Śiva, and bathed in the Bhārgī River. He saw the temple with a pinnacle as beautiful as Kailāsa, endowed with a shining cakra and a flag waving in the wind.
Falling on the ground with the others, He bathed in His own tears. Arriving at Puri, He entered with devotion, and seeing Jagannātha, He offered respects.
Continually gazing at the Lord’s sweet, moon-like face, He bathed His body in an ocean of flowing tears. Jagannātha also, seeing Him with His unblinking lotus eyes, became continually submerged in an ocean of bliss.
In this way, the Lord, decorated with sandalwood, garlands, scents and camphor, flooding unlimited places with the sweetness of His dress, produced by His own sweet will, the highest bliss in the land of Navadvīpa through His skillful dancing along with His devotees.
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.