Baladeva went to the farm store to pick up apples. The place was packed because there had been a couple of hot days in a row. Every year it happens like this. The people buy whatever looks beautiful, plants and flowers, but it’s actually a month too early. The farmers don’t plant until May 15 because it’s not uncommon to have freezing weather between now and then. So every year they come, and many times the plants will die, so they have to replant again at the right time.
There is a similar phenomenon in the winter. If there’s a snowstorm looming or deep cold, then people will pack the supermarkets, and all the water will be sold out, the milk, the bread, and people are going crazy standing on lines to buy their items. But the whole “crisis” never lasts more than a day. Still, every year the people go through the same anxiety.
Vicaru noticed how there’s almost a constant noise of lawnmowers in Stuyvesant Falls. He spent the first nineteen years of his life in Fiji. There his father and grandfather had almost a hundred acres, but none of it was lawn. It was all practical things like rice, sugar cane, coconuts, mangoes, all kinds of tropical fruits, but no lawns. Vicaru’s preaching is mainly harinama in the cities; there you never hear a lawnmower, you only hear cars honking. There’s hardly a green patch to be seen. So he was amazed by the lawnmower phenomenon here, where everybody has a lawn. Saci Suta even said that out here in Stuyvesant Falls, the best preaching you can do is to keep your lawn mowed.
Vicaru wants to show me many harinamas. He used to be a part of the party called “Harinama Ruci.” This group travels quickly, and they are invited to many countries, constantly performing harinama. Vicaru showed me a harinama in Columbia. He was playing the harmonium along with another man. Women were dancing, and devotees were dressed up in strange costumes, like at a festival. Krishna Kripa also likes to show me many harinama videos. I like them, and they make me feel that I’d like to go out too (if I only had my legs back). Seeing the videos is enthusing. Krishna Kripa is also a constant harinama-ruci man. He even goes out by himself if there’s no one else to join him. I love watching the videos, but there’s a limit to my energy. So I like to save my energy for writing, which is my service to Prabhupada.
Vicaru showed me a photo of myself when I was young, in my thirties. I had all my teeth and was smiling, dressed in silk sannyasa clothes. He said he likes the picture very much, and it reminds him of his Gurudeva (Tamal Krishna Goswami). He says the whole atmosphere of this asrama, Viraha Bhavan, reminds him of his serving days with TKG in Cambridge, England. Vicaru looks up to Sivarama Maharaja and takes guidance from him. Maharaja, seeing that Vicaru has been constantly traveling ever since his guru’s disappearance, advised Vicaru to stop traveling so fast, settle down and focus on his japa and reading. He says he wants to do that here, but he’s still in the grips of the mode of passion. So we’ll have to see, over time, whether he can settle down.
It was with joy that I read Daivisakti’s message: “This Sunday I will recommence giving class on Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta.” I watched her class the day after Sunday on YouTube. She picked up where she left off in Volume One, A Lifetime in Preparation. She had been speaking about the time in Prabhupada’s life when he was in the vanaprastha-asrama, living with one of his Godbrothers, Bhaktisaranga Gosvami, who asked him to produce a periodical, Sajjana-tosani. The Godbrother also asked him to manage immature devotees who lived in that asrama. Abhay Charan put his energy into the periodical, which his Godbrother wanted him to print in only five hundred copies. Abhay Charan wanted to print more copies than five hundred. His Godbrother wrote him back a polite letter telling him that he was no longer in charge of producing the periodical, and that he should go elsewhere.
I forget where Daivisakti said he went. Daivisakti said that she had access to two books that were not available to me when I wrote Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. One was a book that has not been published yet but is in manuscript form, written by Srila Prabhupada’s first disciple, Acarya Prabhakar. He tells about the Jhansi intrigue, and how the governor’s wife and other ladies conspired to get Prabhupada removed from the building he was using for the League of Devotees. Acarya Prabhakar tells details that I had not had access to. The other book was written by our Godsister Mura Prakriti Devi Dasi, a famous book distributor. Mura Prakriti took time out to interview Prabhupada’s associates, before they passed away. She also tells information about Prabhupada’s life in this vanaprastha stage.
It was a good lecture, filled with much information about India in those years when Prabhupada was living as a vanaprastha.
Question: How was I compassionate today?
Answer: I wrote letters to my disciples, some of whom are in trouble. To answer their troubled letters took compassion.
I am also writing the third volume of a second Journal meant for special readers actually following my writing. I am writing to help them in their Krsna consciousness, as well as my own. So my writing is a type of compassion, for myself and for others. It’s an important part of my sadhana.
We had a visit from a technician from the Acorn StairLifts company. The technician was a considerate man. He was supposed to arrive in the middle of my nap, but we asked him if he could go to another visit first and delay his arrival here. He said his next stop was all the way in Connecticut, so that wouldn’t work out. But then he said he could take his coffee break and do paperwork for an hour, which gave me time to finish my nap. He arrived ten minutes after I woke up.
Our stair lift had several problems. It had been “shrieking” on and off for about a year (as if there were some dry gear, or something). And also it occasionally stopped completely, and the only way we could get it to start again was to smash on the back of the seat many times. Other Acorn representatives had been out here, but they couldn’t fix it. But this man quickly identified the problem, stripped down the machine and cleaned all the moving parts. He also checked out the electronics, which indicated that the motherboard (the brain) had to be replaced, which he did. That should solve the problem of it stopping erratically somewhere on the stairs. He indicated the cleaning part should be done every year with the maintenance, but in five years we’ve never seen it done. So that’s why it was in such bad condition. He said it was just laziness. It was a great relief to have these things finally diagnosed properly, because the idea of being stuck in the middle of going up or down the stairs was a little frightening. I depend on that stair lift and can’t go up and down otherwise. The technician gladly took a bag of prasadam, trail mix. He said, “Oh yeah! I love trail mix.” And then he was gone.
I am reading a book, Being Mortal. It describes patients and medical people who live in assisted living places. The book says what patients suffer the most from is loneliness and lack of stimulation or purpose. Some innovators tried to make assisted living with improvements, but they didn’t seem to work. Watered down versions of assisted living came about, and they only worsened the situation. Assisted living is available at a very high price, making it unavailable for most people.
I am fortunate that I don’t have to foresee entering a nursing home or assisted living facility. I live in an ashram provided by a generous patron, and a few disciples live with me who take care of my needs. I don’t know if, when I get frailer and more ill, whether I’ll have to get more professional and specific about the services. I pitied people I read about in the book who are unhappy and stressed in their situations. Fortunately, even though I am crippled and in a chair most of the day, I am constantly being stimulated by Krsna conscious activities, reading, writing, chanting and taking darsana of my Deities. I also have no dietary restrictions, so I can take regular prasadam.
I had a terrible nightmare that I was alone in Manhattan. Predators were attacking me. I had some money in my pockets, and I knew they would take it. And they were physically attacking me also. I tried to wake up, to shake myself somehow, but I couldn’t get out of it. I was very frightened. Now awake, it’s very difficult for me to describe exactly what the nightmare was like. Finally, without shaking my head, I just naturally woke up. I made prayers to Krsna that I would not have nightmares like this. They say the initiating spiritual master gets nightmares when his disciples commit sins. I have initiated hundreds of disciples, many of whom have no contact with me now, but I am suffering from their sins. Prabhupada has said this. I will keep praying to Krsna to not have nightmares.
We were visited by a nurse named Jackie who was from Landmark, a home care service. (She was here before and said she lived only a few minutes from where we live.) She examined my vitals, listened to my chest with a stethoscope, looked down my throat with a strong light (she said it was inflamed, but not strep throat). She said my coughing and sore throat were common symptoms in the aftermath of a pneumonia attack. Since it’s been going on for way more than ten days, she prescribed a strong antibiotic to give the body’s immune system a boost to try to get rid of it once and for all; otherwise it can become a chronic bronchial condition. I was relieved to hear that the pneumonia had not come back. Downstairs she told Baladeva that there are three types of pneumonia. One is aspiration, which I have from choking, and inhaling prasadam. There are two deadly types, one viral and one bacterial, which are common killers of old people. She was concerned that it doesn’t degrade into something like that. She accepted some trail mix prasadam and took it home. The last time she was here, she took banana bread prasadam.
My disciple Upendra dasa is an important member of the ISKCON ministry to prisons. Every morning he writes letters for two hours to inmates. They write him back, and although all the prisoners aren’t receptive, some of them are very receptive. Upendra is very dedicated to this service. He recently sent me a description of some of the prisoners who write to him.
“The essay on page one is from Anthony Kaiser. He has been writing to me for about a year, and in the last four months, he has sent two donation checks (totaling $200) to ISKCON Prison Ministry. Besides writing letters, he wants me to talk to him on the phone. ISKCON Prison Ministry volunteers usually don’t talk to inmates on the phone.
The second-page letter is written by inmate Collen Gregory. He has been writing to me for a couple of years. He is very serious in the practice of Krsna consciousness and has expressed a desire to get initiated by Radhanath Maharaja.
The third page is a letter from Alan J. Cotton. He has been writing to me for about ten years. He very much appreciates the books written by Srila Prabhupada, and he likes to chant the holy name.
The letter from an inmate on page four says he was born in Mathura, India, and he says he is a brahmana. He started writing to me about six months ago. So far he has shown good interest in the practice of Krsna consciousness. Through the chaplain of his prison, he is trying to get more books of ISKCON.
The letter on page five is from an inmate who just started writing to me, but he seems to have a good interest in the practice of Krsna consciousness.”
Whenever I write or talk to Upendra, I very much encourage him to go on writing letters and sending books (for which he gets donations from devotees and friends) to the prisons.
When Haridasa Thakura was in prison, he spoke to the prisoners and tried to encourage them that they were in an all right situation. They were free from sense gratification, and they could cultivate spiritual life by chanting Hare Krsna. At first the prisoners were disappointed in Haridasa Thakura’s message. But when he spoke more, and spread the influence of a maha-bhagavata over them, they became very enlivened and followed his instructions.
In our out-loud reading group, we have just finished hearing Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Some of the devotees, including myself, expressed sadness at finishing the Gita. I told them we would have another chance to re-read Bhagavad-gita in the future. Haryasva spoke up and said he was also saddened, but that once we got into Caitanya-caritamrta and warmed up with it, our spirits would lift, and we would find ecstasy in the wonderful book written by Krsnadasa Kaviraja and translated, with purports, by Srila Prabhupada.
We are just beginning, and we are up to Adi-lila, Chapter One. The opening fourteen verses, we are told, were written by Svarupa Damodara in his diary. They are written like short codes, but they reveal tremendous depth and meaning about Lord Caitanya, telling us His transcendental identity. The first fourteen verses also include information about Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acarya.
In the fourth verse of Chapter One, the author writes,
“May the Supreme Lord, who is known as the son of Srimati Sacidevi, be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.”
I was initiated along with Bruce, Keith, and Chuck. This was the second initiation in ISKCON, and so all the boys who were first initiated were also in attendance. They sat around fingering their big red beads which were strung around their necks. It was a good time for them to chant japa and welcome us into the fold on Radharani’s appearance day. It was another festival, and Swamiji said he had plans for many festivals, marriages, initiations, and things that we couldn’t even dream of. I knew I had done the right thing by getting initiated and that it was foolish to delay.
I had expected that he would give me a name that began with the letter “S.” I was happy to be given any name as long as it was a real spiritual name, given by Swamiji. As far as we were concerned, all the names were similar—Hayagriva, Kirtanananda, Raya Rama, Satsvarupa. So mine was another one of those Sanskrit names just like the others. It had a good sound and shape to it. I did not know what it meant, but it was one of the spiritual names that Swamiji gave, and it was a real one. I was perfectly satisfied.
Some days later I asked, “What does Satsvarupa mean?”
Swamiji said, “It is the inner form of reality.” His definition was something that I would have to think about; it sounded like something mystical that would be revealed to me later.
Another time I walked into Prabhupada’s room when devotees were gathered. In an affectionate welcome he said, “Here is the truth personified.” He would often speak like that, playfully using his disciples’ names. He would say, “Oh here is Jagadisa, the Supreme Controller.” Or, “You are Damodara, who is tied up with Mother Yasoda’s ropes.” This second definition of Satsvarupa was clearer, and I was flattered to think that I possessed the qualities of my name, rather than remembering that I was the servant of those qualities.
The morning after initiation, when I went to the storefront for Swamiji’s class, some of the boys fumbled at first in trying to remember and pronounce my new name.
Hayagriva said, “Do you have that typing done, Steve?—Oh, what is your name anyway?”
“Satsvarupa. Hmm. What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Swamiji.”
“Satsvarupa!” And so they started to call me by my actual name. Things were different after initiation, and you wanted to feel that difference. Swamiji was there as before, but now you were his disciple.
Reading a biography of Saint Francis of Assisi by Johannes Jorgensen, I was reminded of Srila Prabhupada and his relationship with his disciples. The biographer tells us of the days when Francis was a teacher “not only in word but also in action.” His first disciples were also very eager to follow him and please their spiritual master.
The biographer writes, “Everyone who has had the happiness in his youth to have lived near a highly exalted personality will therefore understand that a young Brother named Ricerius had acquired the conviction that the good will of Francis was the infallible sign of the satisfaction of God.”
I am struck by the phrase, “Everyone who has had the happiness in his youth to have lived near a highly exalted personality … “ What are the odds that one will be born in the human species in Kali-yuga and get the opportunity to meet the pure devotee of Lord Krsna? It is very rare. To meet him when one is young adds to the possibility of taking to Krsna consciousness as soon as possible, and of doing it with the ardor of a young man or woman.
I am reminded of another phrase by the 19th century Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, about the French Revolution. To the Romantic poets, the French revolution was an emblem of freedom for humanity. And so the poet wrote,
Bliss it was to have lived at that time,
and to have been young was heaven!
Although we Lower East Side boys were cynical toward middle-class American values, yet in our way we were innocent and idealistic. When you meet a person like Srila Prabhupada, then youth and idealism are wed to a tangible goal.
We may curse our fate for being born in Kali-yuga when we hear of the piety of previous ages. But as the Bhagavatam states, there is one great quality in Kali-yuga which redeems the ocean of vices—the chanting of Hare Krsna. But the holy name cannot manifest itself unless it is carried by the pure chanter. So it was bliss and heaven that Prabhupada came to us while we were young, and that he took us with him to chant in the park.
Our relationship with our material father lies deep in the psyche and often leaves us with negative impressions. This may sometimes be projected onto our relationship with our spiritual father. If this happens, it can be very dangerous to spiritual life. After some years of following the orders of the spiritual master, a disciple may feel restless and even rebellious. Thus the spiritual master becomes the focus for dissatisfaction and doubt. If we find this happening, we should be aware that we may be influenced by our old relationship with our material father.
In my case, I didn’t show rebellion towards my material father until I was almost twenty years old, because he had me so much under his control. Perhaps after a similar amount of years in a spiritual movement, a spiritual son may feel symptoms of rebelliousness. In an unconscious way, the disciple may think that his spiritual father is acting in the same way or with the same motivations as his material father used to. A rebellious son might think, “He is heavy and I don’t like this. I have different interests than he does and he will squelch me. He will make me do things I don’t want to do in the name of authority.” If this happens, one has to see clearly that these are old reactions and are not properly applied to the spiritual father.
Maya may dictate to us, “It is not your fault. Maybe it is your spiritual master’s fault that you are unhappy.” Unless we are able to defeat this voice of skepticism, we will not be able to survive in spiritual life. Neither will it suffice just to give a dogmatic reply to the skeptical doubt. We have to go deeper and understand the perfection of the spiritual master. As Prabhupada described, his perfection is not the same as the perfection of God. He is perfect because he is always fully engaged in Krsna’s service and always preaching the Lord’s glories. He is a pure devotee and very dear to Krsna. As Lord Krsna says, “The saints are always in my heart, and I am always in their hearts. I think only of them and they think only of Me.” By delving deeply into the scriptures and understanding both the position of the Vaisnava spiritual master and one’s own position, one can avoid guru-aparadha.
The real meaning of Prabhupada’s disappearance is that he re-entered Krsna’s lila. We are happy to think of him again joining Krsna’s pastimes in eternal Vrndavana, even though we know so little about it. How can we continue to lament over our own loss? And yet we do, and that is natural.
We see in such a limited way when we talk of Prabhupada memories. We can spice those memories with the knowledge we get from sastra, to the degree that we realize it, about the eternal nature of the spiritual master. In other words, there is the prakat, or Prabhupada’s manifested pastimes, and there is the aprakat, or his unmanifested pastimes. For myself, I only know what I saw and witnessed. I only know what I am able to comprehend as his disciple. If I have faith that Prabhupada is eternal guru, nitya-lila pravista, then I should understand with faith that he goes back to the spiritual world. My faith should help me follow him to the spiritual world. I should also acknowledge on faith that he never left the spiritual world.
Whatever lacking or emptiness I feel in my relationship with Prabhupada is not an isolated lack of faith. It is symptomatic of my lack of absolute faith in Krsna consciousness. I see a lack of faith in my chanting, in my attraction to the pastimes of Krsna, in the movement, and in the efficacy of preaching, everything. Everything has to be strengthened.
I definitely don’t like to remember Prabhupada’s last days, how painful they were and how dry, how embarrassing it was to be worried about my own bodily condition—the heat, my suffering in so many ways. I suffered in my relationships with my Godbrothers, and I especially suffered due to my inability to reach out to Prabhupada in more intimate ways. It was good to go through those things and be forced to face the reality of my surrender. At least it was good to endure it so that I can have the memory, the impression of being with Prabhupada in his last pastimes.
August 5, Potomac: Reaching the quota today was a struggle. I thought, “I can chant so many rounds at Gita-nagari but not while traveling.” But somehow I made it by 9 P.M. (I even thought of staying up with the lights out and finishing when it seemed I couldn’t do it.) I thought, “This isn’t preaching. I should sacrifice this quota in favor of preaching.” But then I thought, “Hare Krsna mantra is ultimate. It is what you must do at the time of death. The most important thing for me to achieve is pure Krsna consciousness.” By the last round I really felt that I was praying. I also thought how the chanting, when you are praying (not just counting off numerical beads and names), is literally transcendental—above and beyond all other considerations—surrender at His lotus feet.
August 6: Cc. Madhya 23.22: “Not a moment should be lost. Every moment should be used for Krsna or connected with Him.”
Twenty-five rounds. I really want to keep it up. It’s beneficial. It makes me feel I am more prepared for the end of my life—chanting Hare Krsna now. I must chant at times throughout the day in order to reach the quota. That must is beneficial.
August 8: Flew from D.C. to Vancouver.
August 9, Vancouver: “… chanting His name and all such activities are transcendental. None of the gross or subtle senses shall be otherwise engaged. Such realization of transcendental activities by the devotee is made possible by many, many years of apprenticeship in the devotional service, but simply by attraction of love of God in the Personality of Godhead as it was developed in Narada Muni, by hearing, is highly effective.” —Bhagavatam 1.5.27, purport
August 11: Chanting this quota is becoming a part of my daily sadhana. I’m very grateful that Prabhupada and Krsna have allowed me to undertake this little increase. It is an insignificant increase in one sense, but I very much value it in my life. I plan to suspend it during the upcoming 8-day writing period and then to return to it. I have to keep it by my own willpower. It can save me.
August 13: Today I went down to the bare 16 rounds minimum, because I am on an 8-day marathon until August 20th, writing the biography at a disciple’s house away from the temple and all other obligations. When I return to the Vancouver temple, however, it will be crucial that I immediately return to 25 rounds.
August 19: Today I returned to my quota of chanting 25 rounds. I should keep it up now. The main joy I feel comes, I think, just from fulfilling the increased vow itself, but I think the deeper benefits must be there and by and by I will see them—just as, by and by, the preoccupied plane passenger notices the increased altitude of his plane.
Complete concentration is necessary. Otherwise your rounds are done, but they aren’t done well. You’re just trying to get the job done, like a factory worker. You get the credit that “I chanted my rounds,” but there will be far more credit if you chant with the right quality. Attentive doesn’t mean only that you don’t fall asleep or that you don’t leave off a “Hare,” but it means being attentive to how Krsna may reveal within your heart more understanding of the holy name. But you have to concentrate. Anything that you want to do well, you have to think about it, and you have to put other things out of your mind in order to do it. That’s very basic definition of concentration. Concentrated is only one thing, nothing diluted, nothing impure—just the essence. So when you concentrate on anything, it’s like that—one thing. The karmis concentrate so that they get the most out of sense gratification. Any worker has to concentrate to do something right. So a yogi, a bhakti-yogi, has to concentrate also with all his senses and his mind. We actually chant japa just a couple of hours, but it should be done like that—with concentration. Everybody knows this, but we have to do it. It’s an easy process. It’s not a hard process, it’s an easy process—you just have to chant and hear. You don’t have to sit in a certain place and control your breath and give up food. But it’s an easy process for somebody who’s not very austere—meaning the average soul in the Kali-yuga—but it’s also the topmost process. So if this easy process, if you can’t do this even, then literally there’s no hope for you. What other hope is there if you can’t chant?
I am happy to have such a life where there is always another chance to chant Hare Krsna. “I have become supremely joyful by surrendering myself at Your holy feet… there are no more anxieties. I see joy in all directions” (Saranagati, 2.8.1). Is this the same person who saw only grief? How has such a great change come about? He has met a pure devotee. He cried with contrition and Krsna sent a Vaisnava. From that Vaisnava, he has learned to surrender.
“Unhappiness has gone away. I shall strive for whatever pleases You, fully devoted to Your lotus feet.” I admitted that I was the sinner in the early songs of Saranagati, but why do I exclude myself from these songs? I’m also serving the Lord. I’m also fixed at my guru’s feet. I still have some aparadhas and anarthas , and I don’t see how I will find relief. But I have found peace at Krsna’s lotus feet and I have given up the fear of worldly existence. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I fear the kalacakra. I fear this world where you meet up with what you don’t want and are torn away from what you love. I fear it. I want shelter. I want devotional service for Krsna’s pleasure, but I’m also scurrying to His lotus feet out of fear of the material conflagration. Krsna, please save me. I’m not pure, but I want to be.
It is characteristic of the maha-bhagavata to depend fully on Krsna for his maintenance. We can see in Prabhupada’s life that he lived fully in Krsna’s shelter. He crossed the ocean with only the equivalent of eight dollars in his pocket and entered a different world. The foreignness must have been shocking at first, but Prabhupada prayed to Krsna to guide him, as a puppeteer guides a marionette. Without any outward support, Prabhupada entered the American jungle and convinced people who had never heard of Krsna to surrender their lives to Him.
Ultimately, the question does come down to a difference in emphasis between those who have absorbed themselves in the service of preaching and those who have chosen to absorb themselves only in bhajana. Whatever it is, as Srila Prabhupada’s followers we must follow Prabhupada’s example and take up the mood our spiritual master prescribed. There is something wonderful about becoming absorbed in our own spiritual master’s mood, something complete, and something required if we wish to advance in Krsna consciousness. We should not lose the opportunity to do so by relativizing his instructions or Krsna conscious passions. When His Holiness Sridhara Maharaja was asked whether the preaching spirit was the highest expression of Krsna consciousness, he said, “No, that’s just the party spirit of the preachers.” Sridhara Maharaja’s statement makes logical sense, but we still have to see that Prabhupada said something different. He definitely said that the gosthyanandi is higher than the bhajananandi. Should we conclude that Prabhupada had some kind of party spirit? No, we accept what he said at face value. And if other members of the Gaudiya Math have a different emphasis, we have to follow Prabhupada anyway. Prabhupada says we should preach.
Prabhupada’s followers should not feel intimidated by others’ attempt to create a dichotomy between preaching and bhajana. Nothing Srila Prabhupada said is untrue. He told us that as Gaudiya Vaisnavas, we must learn to practice vraja-bhakti, and that requires careful hearing about Radha and Krsna in Their Vrndavana pastimes. He also told us that practicing raganuga–bhakti is a high standard, not something that can be achieved by cheap imitation of advanced devotees or any other form of cheating. The ability to practice advanced Krsna consciousness takes qualification. Qualification comes both by following the spiritual master’s instructions and by developing our inner life of Krsna conscious meditation, prayer, and chanting. Srila Prabhupada certainly wanted us to do both so that we could attain the highest goal of Vrndavana bhakti. There too the dichotomy is reconciled. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said, “The best gosthyanandi is a bhajananandi who preaches.”
As time has gone on, I can’t say that I understand much more about Krsna. I still can’t claim to understand why He has acted in my life in the particular ways that He has acted, and I can’t say that I am even constantly aware of His presence. I have the theology of Krsna consciousness in my mind, and to whatever degree I have responded to it mechanically, to that degree I don’t feel Krsna’s active presence. Still, I have learned something about Krsna from my guru and the sastra, and I have developed faith in what they say. Whatever doubts surface are intellectual doubts, not heart doubts, and I have learned both to answer them and to tolerate them.
The doubts have made me realize that ultimately, faith in God’s goodness and compassion–or in any other aspect of God–is a choice we all must make. There is no ultimate logical argument that can silence all doubts once and for all. How can we say God is all-good if bad things happen to apparently good people? Look at Kosovo. What did those people do? We simply cannot see the exchange between God and any of His other creatures. We can barely understand His exchanges with us. Therefore, those kinds of questions sometimes live on in the minds of devotees even after they have developed a more heartfelt faith.
For me personally, I have had to face this question of God’s benevolence in relation to the regular physical pain I experience. I have realized, however, that asking, “Why do I have headaches?” is like that man asking Prabhupada, “Why is there anything?” Why the sky? Why the trees? Why the headaches? I don’t know. It’s that simple. I cannot understand what purpose they serve in my life, only that I have them, that they seem to be here to stay, and that I must learn to accept them as Krsna’s compassion on me. From that position of acceptance, room is left in our minds for wonder and appreciation. Krsna has created everything for a purpose. If we are not to become lost either in bitterness at our own pain, or on the opposite extreme, a pantheistic or romantic wondering at things, we have to fill our lack of understanding with acceptance.
Preaching is the appropriate guru-daksina that should be offered in return for the spiritual master’s instructions. Even as early as 1966, at my own initiation, Srila Prabhupada instructed us that he was giving us knowledge, and we were now becoming obliged, by accepting initiation, to disseminate it widely. This, he said, was to be our guru-daksina. I remember being struck for the first time by the concept of our owing the spiritual master for the teachings he was so freely giving. This in itself defines the reason Prabhupada’s followers are interested in preaching: We have been lifted up; now Prabhupada wants us to help others.
So we must both face the implications of Prabhupada’s instruction and our own doubts. Ultimately, we have to become convinced that people really will become happy by taking up the Krsna conscious process. Specifically, this means people should hear the holy name. We should have great faith in the holy name’s power to effect changes in the hearer’s heart. If people will just hear it—or if we can insist that they hear it by filling the ether with it— they can begin their spiritual lives. This is because Krsna is nondifferent from His name. Nama cintamanih-krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah, purnah suddho nitya-mukto ’bhinnatvan nama-naminoh. Srila Prabhupada writes, “[Krsna’s] name is full. As Krsna is full, complete, similarly, Krsna’s name is also full, complete. Suddha. It is not material things. Purnah suddho nitya. Eternal. As Krsna is eternal, His name is also eternal. Purnah Suddhah nitya-muktah. There is no material conception in chanting Hare Krsna mantra.” (Lecture, London, August 8, 1973)
Ultimately, all preaching centers on kirtana; our goal is to bring people to their own appreciation of and surrender to the holy name: “As far as possible, therefore, the devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement gather to chant the holy names of Krsna in public so that both the chanters and the listeners may benefit.” (Cc. Antya 1.101, purport) Whatever it takes to strengthen our realization of this point, we should do.
Compassion is an important part of a Vaisnava’s life. It is not an incidental quality. The price to attain real compassion, however, is high. To attain it we have to be prepared to make sacrifices, and we have to give up selfishness. We also have to renounce pride. Srila Prabhupada cited the mood of the uncompassionate when he said, “Let me be saved; let others rot in hell.” That is not the mood of a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava would say, “Let others be saved; let me rot in hell on their behalf.” The willingness to feel that and to carry it out if necessary is the cost of true compassion.
The anonymous monk who wrote the book about the Jesus Prayer said that he had reached the stage where the chanting automatically continued in his heart without any effort on his part. The Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana also chanted like that. They were so enamored by the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra that it filled them with love for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and kept them always connected to the Divine Couple. I usually don’t remember to chant when I am in the dentist’s office because I become so distracted, but I’m going to make more of an effort today. It really should be easy to take shelter when there is possible pain. Sometimes, however, others start talking to you, and if you are chanting, you can’t pay attention to what they are saying. As the Cub Scout motto says, “Do your best.” The Boy Scout motto is even better: “Be prepared.” Set your mind in advance with resolve to chant, and you’ll be prepared for whatever obstacles arrive.
All right, let’s go back to our car chanting …. “Do your best” implies you are just a little boy, and so you may fail, but try anyway. “Be prepared” is something higher than “do your best.” It implies that you should have intelligence to think in advance what may go wrong and avoid it. So “be prepared” to feel drowsy now, but avoid it with well-planned strategy. Oh well, do your best, and Kṛṣṇa will make up for what you lack.
By Lord Krishna’s will
a new Chief Minister took office,
who was favorable to kirtan;
for both the temple and hotel
permission soon was granted.
Now you could begin.
One day during lunchtime
you called for Giriraja.
You could not eat
due to anxiety.
You were very doubtful
whether your men could manage
such a great construction;
they were being cheated
and the quality of work was poor.
You said, “Spiritual life
is supposed to be eternal bliss,
but it is becoming eternal anxiety.”
You had to travel,
but even from Africa
you could see
more than your disciples in Bombay.
They were unaware
that an engineer and guard
were stealing supplies
from Hare Krishna Land.
Again, in Nairobi, you could not eat;
when my money is being stolen?”
Returning to Bombay,
you hired the nation’s best
Now it would get done,
with money coming
from devotees in America
by selling your books.
The Lord went to the south and saw there the noble sannyāsa, Paramānanda Purī, endowed with a joyful heart.
The two most powerful persons, with mutual affection and mercy, in joy saw each other, conversed, and then decided to depart.
Gauracandra went south and Paramānanda went to Puri. Going to Setubandha, the Lord with lotus eyes shone.
Going on the road, His heart bursting with prema, He laughed and in great pain cried. Without control, He moved about and saw seven tāla trees.
Seeing the trees, the merciful Lord in joy embraced each one. Immediately the trees rose into the sky and the place became suddenly empty.
What is the inconceivable greatness of Gaurāṅga, Mahāprabhu, performing many astonishing acts in this world? He who is merciful has astonishing mercy. What is impossible for Him?
Going south, He saw some curious activities. He saw a group of ascetics absorbed in unauthorized methods.
These greatly sinful heretics on the wrong path saw the Lord and tried for a long time to lure Him with their opinions.
Because of the Lord’s illusory power, they had deviated from the correct path. They could not see the Lord at all. They were bewildered by various illusions.
They then saw one fickle hearted servant named Kṛṣṇa-dāsa who had come with the Lord. These wicked persons bewildered him.
“Where are you going? You will obtain only suffering. Make friends with us. Go to Svarga in this body. This is certain.
“There is one path, long and difficult to traverse for all people. Come! By this path we will take you from here to Svarga.”
Bewildered by these sinful deviants, weak in his heart and fooled, he lost enthusiasm to go with the Lord.
Understanding the wicked intentions of the sinful persons and the weak nature of Kṛṣṇa-dāsa, the ocean of mercy, the friend of the universe, argued with them.
Arriving at the Godāvarī, the Lord in joy went to Rāmānanda’s house to introduce Himself. He was like the autumn moon rising on the eastern horizon.
Seeing the Lord, Rāmānanda, who always remembered Kṛṣṇa, joyfully offered respects, falling on the ground. After that, he experienced the greatest bliss, which had increased by millions of times.
Just on seeing him, the Lord’s heart melted in bliss. The Lord, most beautiful in the universe, shone with the beauty of many Cupids.
The Lord said in a voice like a rumbling cloud, with some deception, “Read some poetry.” Hearing this, Rāmānanda, who knew about the greatest rasa, recited a verse filled with the rasa of renunciation.
If detachment manifests it is good, for sin is destroyed. If it does not manifest, then deep material attachment arises. We will attain great advantage by detachment. An enjoying mind produces attachment. By attachment even a brāhmaṇa enters a womb.
Hearing this, Gauracandra said, “That is external.” The austerity arising in the heart from these words did not produce bliss.
Pure in mind, Rāmānanda, feeling bliss in all his limbs, recited his own attractive verse which explained bhakti.
Rāmānanda then recited an attractive song which described the supreme prema of the loving couple.
O my friend! First, by glances of the eyes, pūrva-rāga had arisen. Day by day it increased without limit. He is not my husband and I am not his wife, but Cupid has joined our minds. All this is the effect of prema. Do not forget to tell this fact to Kṛṣṇa. I did not search for a messenger. I did not search for anyone. Cupid himself was the mediator for our meeting. That lover is now indifferent to me. Therefore you should be the messenger. This is the nature of that lover’s prema.
Hearing this supreme description, the Lord, with blossoming lotus eyes, shivering with intense prema, embraced Rāmānanda in deep bliss.
As the Lord conversed for long periods with Rāmānanda, endowed with natural prema, some days passed. Then the Lord desired to see Jagannātha.
Gauracandra arrived at Puri, the destroyer of illusion, which was decorated profusely and saw the deity before snāna-yatra.
As the waves of the ocean increase when the moon rises, when Gauracandra appeared in Puri, the people had all their ignorance destroyed and their eyes blossomed like lotuses.
Though some were engaged in seeing Jagannātha, some were offering respects to the deity, some were performing worship, some were circumambulating the deity and others were serving the deity, they all approached Mahāprabhu.
He made everyone happy, some by laughter, some by glances, some by smiles, some by embraces, and some by fulfilling their desires.
The devotee named Bhavānanda, of pure intelligence, full of good qualities, of good character, ornamented with great happiness, saw the Lord.
The Lord firmly embraced pure-minded Bhavānanda with His two arms. He told him in a sweet voice, “You are very fortunate. You are the same as Pāṇḍu.”
His five sons headed by Rāmānanda, staying by Mahāprabhu’s side, became very dear to the Lord, performing service to Him.
Puruṣottamācārya, a very intelligent devotee with an attractive nature, hearing of Mahāprabhu’s activities, with effort eagerly came to see Him.
Arriving at Puri, in great bewilderment, he saw the lotus feet of the ocean of mercy, and from the joy of merely seeing the Lord, became completely changed.
He forgot about his body. Only rasa and happiness could be seen in him. From seeing the Lord of his life, his body became stunned at all times.
His eyes poured torrents of tears. His body was decorated with goose bumps. His thighs shook intensely and became crooked.
Seeing the Lord, he was overcome with emotion. He developed emotions like the Lord. The Lord, an ocean of affection, became most tender because of his affectionate nature.
The tender Lord displayed great sweetness. The ocean of rasa distributed prema constantly to Puruṣottamācārya.
The greatly fortunate Puruṣottamācārya, the abode of truth, took sannyāsa and became the very form of rasa. He was called Svarūpa Dāmodara.
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.