Free Write Journal #247


Free Write Journal #247

May 26, 2023

Free Writes

Taking a “Snap”

When he was in the Bowery loft, Srila Prabhupada said to his audience, “All day long I am doing something reading or writing. When I get tired, I take a “snap.” By this he meant a short nap, after which he felt rejuvenated and went on with his writing and reading.

At Viraha Bhavan, my assistants sometimes take naps. They work hard, and some of them are growing older and need rest for their bodies’ nourishment. Today in the late morning, Vicaru took a snap. He came to me afterwards and said he felt revived and strong. Baladeva went out in the morning, doing errands. I expected him to come back and do work with me. But when he came back from his errands, he took a snap. He had a very bad night, not sleeping properly. So, he needed an extra nap. When I saw him, I asked him how he was. He said he felt like he could take another nap.

Suresvara’s Visit

Writing in advance, my Godbrother, Suresvara Prabhu, has asked if he could come and visit me at the end of July. He said he wanted to stay a week. I am writing back to him that a week is too long. My health is too fragile, and my hoarse voice has to be saved for dictating my writing. I am writing him back and saying we can have two meetings. After the first meeting with me, he can meet with Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu. And after that, he can have another meeting with me. Suresvara Prabhu is a good, like-minded friend, and I do like my meetings with him. But I just have to work within my limits; otherwise, things get worse.

Amith is Back

Amith, the hodgepodge Hindu who likes Krsna consciousness and who has been here many times, is here indefinitely. He spends most of his time working at home, on the computer. Right now, “here” is home. His lease on his apartment was up in December, so he stored his stuff in Krsna dasi’s basement and went visiting temples. In the middle of it his father died in India. So he had to go there, but his life was at risk because the business was bankrupted because of corrupt partners of his father, and they wanted their money. His mother told him to come back to the United States and keep his job, otherwise they had no source of income.

He’s always been very helpful here. And really won over our hearts when he took care of Bala in the hospital when he had his bladder removed. He came out of nowhere to do seva. Prior to that, we didn’t even know him. He’s completely trained to do my personal service. He drives devotees to JFK airport and back, will do anything he’s asked to do, and he chants Hare Krsna as part of his hodgepodge worship in the morning. And he accepts Prabhupada’s books (but he doesn’t read so much, so he doesn’t have to surrender). He arrived here only a few days ago. His life is turned upside down, so he’s taking shelter here with the devotees and trying to figure out what to do next.

Late Frost

Last night the temperature went to 30° F (-1° C), and there was frost. This is late in the season for a freeze, and most people have just put out their young plants, including us. So it was a scramble to deal with this heavy frost warning put out by the agricultural department. Here at Viraha Bhavan we had to bring all the hanging baskets of petunias into the house, and the marigolds all had to be covered with blankets. The new rosebushes had to have their roots watered, according to expert opinion, and afterwards we covered the plants with five-gallon pails. We haven’t heard yet how much damage was done to the farmers’ crops, but it could be very serious because they had already planted when the weather was warm. If the young shoots are up, they would have been wiped out by the cold. There’s a chance that all the new fruits, which are very tiny at this point on the fruit trees, would also have been destroyed.  (To be continued when we find out more.)

Visit with Dr. Koszer

I went to Dr. Koszer’s office in the hospital for a four-month follow-up visit, at which time he adjusted my medication. Based on the lack of improvement, he suggested dropping two medications and increasing another one. I had prepared and was rehearsing a question for the doctor at the beginning of our meeting. I wanted to ask, “Dr. Koszer, by treating me with medicines, can you improve the crippled condition of my legs? I can’t move without pushing a wheelchair, and when I go up and down the stairs in front of my house, I have to have two men to support me.” I didn’t get a chance to ask my question, but he answered it, in effect. He said, “No.” He said he has been treating me with medicines but there is no improvement; there is degradation. He said at my age I can expect some degradation of the brain cells, which could show up as Parkinson’s symptoms, Alzheimer’s symptoms, dementia symptoms, etc. He said there was an increase of tremors and a loss of strength in the legs and throat, etc. But he said I “was not about to expire.” He keeps trying different combinations of medicines. But the particular type of Parkinson’s that I have generally doesn’t respond to medicines. But he said, “I’ll keep trying anyway.” To me, his statement was sobering. At the same time, I don’t think all these symptoms he stated apply to me, especially the mental ones. My brain is very clear to write and read and perform sadhana, and I believe it’s due to sixty years of celibacy and regulation of diet, etc. These are things that karmis don’t have in their favor. Although the physical picture is pessimistic, my mental faculties and my ability to perform my service and sadhana will remain intact. Dr. Koszer is very busy, and we won’t be seeing him for another five months.

Video of Prabhupada

The video shows Prabhupada walking in a field at Mayapura. He is surrounded by many devotees. The video doesn’t give us any speaking by Prabhupada, but over the silent film is Prabhupada’s voice explaining a bhajana by Narottama dasa Thakura. He says that Gaura-Nitai are delivering everyone by chanting. How is it possible? He gives the example of Jagai and Madhai.

They were rescued from all of their nefarious activities. Narottama says in this age, everyone can still be delivered if they take up the Hare Krsna chanting. Then he says, “My dear Lord Krsna, You and Srimati Radharani are standing before me. I surrender to You. Don’t kick me away.” The video was a wonderful combination. It showed Prabhupada and the devotees walking around Mayapura before it was much developed. We got to see him when he was healthy, and his young devotees walked closely beside him. Then his elaboration and “translation” of Narottama’s bhajana was thrilling to hear.


Krsnendu, the brahmacari from Kansas City College, operated by Danavir Goswami, is now here beginning his month of service to me. His spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Maharaja, recommended that he come and serve me. Jayadvaita Maharaja brought it up because he was concerned that we didn’t enough manpower here. His spiritual master picked him because he had estimated that he was “quiet” and would be adaptable to the service here. I had an introductory talk with him today. He told me he had some reservations about being here. He’s used to the program at Rupanuga College. There they have a full morning program and an evening program. He particularly likes to lecture to the devotees. He said he would do his best to learn the services here and to tolerate the different atmosphere of Viraha Bhavan. He had some idea that in addition to this one month, he would come back later and do another month. I assured him he didn’t have to come back for another month. He told me how he served his spiritual master in Vrndavana. He’s so shy that he didn’t even go to attend the kirtanas that Kadamba Kanana Maharaja was holding. But Kadamba Kanana Maharaja “forced” him to come and see him in his room. He read to his spiritual master and did other services for him. He was there for seven months in Vrndavana with Kadamba Kanana Maharaja. I apologized for the lack of full programs and regulation here at Viraha Bhavan. He said he knows it’s like a family here, mostly centered on taking care of me. He’s not used to the “family” concept. He liked living in Vrndavana with many brahmacaris and no women. I advised him to read the books I have written about Prabhupada, and in particular I recommended Prabhupada Meditations. I told him I thought if he read that, he would get closer to Prabhupada and also not think of me as an ordinary man. After all, most of the services he’ll be doing here are menial and include bodily care of me. So, by just doing that, I was afraid he might think of me as just an old man. He agreed to read Prabhupada Meditations.


In “Talks Between the Lord and Ramananda Raya,” Lord Caitanya asked questions, and Ramananda Raya answered them:

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Among all worshipable objects, which is the chief?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “The chief worshipable object is the holy name of Radha and Krsna, the Hare Krsna mantra.”

Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “What should all living entities constantly remember?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “The chief objects of remembrance are always the Lord’s holy name, qualities and pastimes.”

Sri Caianya Mahaprabhu further inquired, “Out of many types of meditation, which one is required for all living entities?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “The chief duty of the living entity is to meditate upon the lotus feet of Radha and Krsna.”

Lord Caitanya asked, “What is the greatest misery?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “The greatest misery is to be without the association of devotees.”  (Cc. Madhya 8.256, 252, 253, 248)

And so they went on with many questions and answers until the end of the night.

Lord Caitanya at the Rangam Temple

In our out-loud reading group, we are hearing about Lord Caitanya staying for caturmasya at the Sri Rangam temple in South India. He stayed at the home of Venkatta Bhatta, and they became close friends and even joked with one another. One day Lord Caitanya said to Venkata Bhatta, “How come your Laksmi wants to dance with Krsna although she’s married to Narayana?” Venkata Bhatta said “Narayana and Lord Krsna are the same, so there is no harm in Laksmi being unchaste if she wants to dance with Krsna, who is the same as Narayana, but His pastimes are more sportive.” Lord Caitanya said to Venkatta Bhatta, “However, Laksmi couldn’t enter into the pastimes of the rasa dance.” And Lord Caitanya wanted to know if Venkata Bhatta knew the reason why. Venkata Bhatta said he was an ordinary human being and could not understand these mysteries. Lord Caitanya told him that Laksmi, although she performed austerities to enter the rasa dance, could not give up her lifestyle of opulence, and could not enter the rasa dance. As Lord Caitanya continued to associate with Venkata Bhatta, Venkata Bhatta became a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna.

Radharani’s Garden

Our devotees at Viraha Bhavan have started planting flowers, and they will do so again today, toward the evening at 6:00 P.M. when the weather cools down. The persons who went out yesterday were Baladeva, Krsna dasi, Lalita-kisora, Atindra and Vicaru.  Today Vicaru and Baladeva finished preparing the soil in the garden by putting a medium layer of mulch where the marigolds will be planted, and a heavy layer of mulch to keep the weeds down in the open areas. Everything is ready for the planting. Tonight the work crew will be digging little holes for the marigold plugs and then pushing the dirt and mulch back in around them. This should only take an hour and a half with everybody working. Then the whole area will have to be solidly watered.

Damodara Priya dasi, who works with Jananivasa and his landscape crew, says she has not seen as many rosebuds as we have in the yards of any of her other clients. So the prediction is that we’ll have a bumper crop of roses to offer to the Deities. (It would be best if we could water our roses more, but our well is very shallow, and we can only do half an hour of watering at a time.) When the flowers bloom, we have to restrain our enthusiastic pujari, Krsna dasi, from picking them all at once, with the excuse that Krsna will send more (which is true to a certain degree, especially with the marigolds).

The lawn looks very beautiful this year, especially now that all the flower beds have been set off with fresh mulch. The landscaping is looking spectacular and drawing good comments from all the passersby, who are appreciating Radharani’s garden.


Vicaru is packing his small carry-on suitcase. He’s absorbed in the arranging, packing and repacking of it, which has been going on for days. His mind is already in Fiji. He’s been shopping for electronic gadgets to go with the new phone that was donated to him and madly picking the brains of Atindra and Amith as to how to get the best use out of it. They have been spending a lot of time with him. His mind is a little wild, and he’s not sure whether he will do home programs in Fiji or just visit with his family.  He then goes to Taiwan, where he will do programs to satisfy his benefactor, who paid for his flight tickets. He promises to be back in nineteen days, but that may be delayed if he has serious health problems that have to be dealt with in Taiwan. We have very little experience with him and his mind (except that it is wild), but he has a good heart and good intentions, and he’s Krsna conscious. So we have to depend on Krsna for this one.


I asked Krishnendu how to actually pronounce his name. I was saying it “KrishENdu,” without pronouncing the first “n.” He corrected me and said it was “KrishNENdu.” He said he also had trouble with it in the beginning. He has learned all the services from Vicaru, and now he can do them on his own. I have become accustomed to having him do all the intimate bodily services related to my showering and dressing. Baladeva talked with him and explained why, after Vicaru leaves, he will do different things in his service. That calmed his mind, and he was very appreciative of it, because he’s quite intelligent and sensitive. (Vicaru had just told him, “Do this, do that,” and expected him to memorize it, which he did. But it’s not as satisfying as knowing why you’re doing it.)

Ecstatic Kirtana Devotees

When the devotees from Bengal arrived at Jagannatha Puri to be with Lord Caitanya, King Prataparudra wanted to know of them, who they were. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya suggested he go on top of the roof of the palace, and Gopinatha Acarya would point them out and identify them for the King. (Even Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya didn’t know the Bengali devotees.) From the roof, they saw Svarupa Damodara and Govinda come up and give garlands to Advaita Acarya.  The King asked who was the effulgent person who just received the garlands. Gopinatha Acarya described Advaita Acarya, who was the leader of the Bengali group, as the topmost devotee of the Lord. The King was amazed at His luster. In general, the King was amazed by the effulgence and the chanting and dancing of the pure devotees. In the purport Prabhupada writes that he would like the ISKCON devotees to come to India every year at the time of Lord Caitanya’s appearance, and chant and dance for the Indians. He writes that if the devotees strictly follow the rules and regulations and chant sixteen rounds, then they will also be able to catch the attention of the important men of India.


Now that Vicaru is gone for about twenty days, Krishnendu is alone as the only servant (besides Baladeva). I remarked to him that now he was alone, but I thought he knew all the services. He said he mostly knew them all but might need some help. I said to him that here at Viraha Bhavan we have a skeletal crew. He said, “There may be a few devotees only, but they are very dedicated and fixed up.” Baladeva and Krsna dasi had inspired him. Today was his first solo day, and he did fine. He may be feeling odd that he’s away from his seven brahmacaris at the Rupanuga College, but he’s adapting to our family-style ashram.


From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 1

Prabhupada Smaranam

Boston 1968:
I remember him sitting on the dais
in the Allston storefront.
I stood beside him
showing him an ad Rayarama had done.
Swamiji held the page and read,
“This man has changed the consciousness of the world.”
He was silent as if he would say nothing at all.
But then he said, “The spiritual master
should not be called a man.”
At first I thought, “Swamiji, he’s made
such a bold claim on your behalf—the man who
changed the consciousness of the world!
But Swamiji made it clear:
call him a self-realized soul
or a pure devotee,
or the representative of Krsna.
The ad was wrong
and so was the mentality behind it.

Slow Down and Read What the Swami Has Said

I read the first volume of Bhagavatam from the beginning, as he advised, but sometimes I would reach into it at random. I kept the book with me at work, in a lefthand lower drawer. To the left of my desk was our supervisor’s desk, and then to my right were my co-workers like Miss Fennel and a stocky blonde-haired man who the other workers called “creeping Jesus.” Even though my supervisor was nearby, he couldn’t see over into the deep drawer. So I would open the drawer, open the book, read a little and then close it. One phrase really struck me. Swamiji wrote that there are many realistic obstacles on the path of devotional service. I thought, “He knows. Swami and the sages and Krsna know that there are many obstacles and they’re realistic about it. They know what we’re going through.”

By reading a few moments at the office, and more often at my apartment, I quickly (and superficially) went through the first volume. Then I started to read it again. There were things in the book that Swamiji wasn’t lecturing on. So by reading you gained supplementary knowledge to what you had heard in the classes. But in the beginning, hearing in the classes was more impressive. It’s clear to me that if I had never met Swamiji, but had found his book in a bookstore, first of all I probably wouldn’t have bought it. But even if I had bought it, I don’t think there’s any way I could have become a devotee of Krsna just by reading the book. The book was valuable because it was something of the Swami’s. But along with the book there was also Swamiji himself, the kirtanas and Swamiji in his room. Now, since his disappearance, the book is of major importance, and we sometimes think it’s all we have. And there’s plenty in the book. But at least at my first reading, I could not read deeply. Nevertheless, I was soon attached to his book, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and I didn’t want any other books. Just as before when I wouldn’t read any books except hip literature, now I didn’t want any books but Krsna’s.

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 2

Desire to Receive More Prabhupada Smaranam

Go down to the place
where memories come
where praises are sung …
First comes the scene before my eyes
and second comes the words of description.

“If memories were pictures you carried in your wallet,
what memories of Prabhupada would you always
carry with you?”
I replied, “A wallet is not enough.
I want many books filled
with memories and reflections.”
But am I willing to pay the price?
ISKCON Press, 1969
The basement walls were white and uneven;
it used to be a mortician’s house—
and now it’s ISKCON Press.

Prabhupada walks into the pressroom
where Advaita dasa proudly stands
in his green printer’s pants and shirt.
Prabhupada embraces him and roughens his red hair.
A hundred devotees crowd around Prabhupada and the press.
By Prabhupada’s embrace we understand
that books are dear to him,
and press workers too.

He’s come direct from London,
and it’s late at night, but he is eager,
and so he looks at the stacks of collated pages,
and hears our promises.

Two of my favorite pictures are on the wall
above the press machine:
One shows Prabhupada
standing beside the birdbath
in the courtyard at 26 Second Avenue.
He is stout and strong, wrapped
in big swathes of khadi cloth.
It’s a formal pose, with japa-mala,
from the early years of strong health
when Swamiji played the drum 3 hours in the park.
You can worship his feet in gray shoes.

The other photo is also formal:
Prabhupada sitting with his 3 Bhagavatams,
with japa-mala, much cloth wrapped around,
and an almost sad, compassionate gaze,
taken in the early days in San Francisco.

Counting the picture where he is embracing Advaita dasa,
I’ve shown 3 photos from my wallet.
And I wish to show 30 million more …

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 4

The Qualities of Srila Prabhupada

My friends and I are reading about the sixty-four qualities of Lord Krsna in the Nectar of Devotion. When Tamal Krishna Maharaja gave his seminar on Nectar of Devotion, he invited devotees to speak about the qualities of Prabhupada. He read each of the fifty qualities of Krsna which a living entity can at least partially attain, and asked the devotees to tell how Prabhupada manifested these qualities. It was a nice exercise for remembering Prabhupada. Similarly, devotees can take any list of Vaisnava qualities given in the sastra and glorify Prabhupada.

Prabhupada walked among us, and he is the only one we know who has fully manifested all these wonderful qualities. He is also the one who personally saved us, so, in gratitude, we like to praise him. We like to affirm the fact that our leader is qualified in these ways, and to enliven ourselves by hearing of his qualities and how Prabhupada fulfilled them.

Let’s consider the first of the twenty-six qualities of a devotee: friendly. Was Prabhupada friendly? Yes, of course. People who met him sensed this. He wasn’t aloof or icy in his dealings with others. No one could say he was unfriendly or unconcerned. But Prabhupada was friendly even to those he never met. He was friendly to all living entities because he distributed Krsna consciousness. He gave his life to distribute Krsna consciousness to others. Prabhupada was friendly in the deepest sense. He came to the world as a true friend of everyone because he had something which should be of great benefit to whoever accepted it. He didn’t have the kind of friendliness that we associate with “service with a smile,” commercialized cheer—the kind of friendliness you get on the airlines from the stewardesses who help you “ride the friendly skies.” Prabhupada was sometimes very heavy. It is incomprehensible, his friendliness. He worked for everyone’s benefit and that often meant knocking down their illusions and shaking them out of their foolishness. Yes, Prabhupada was friendly.

Prabhupada will go on

Prabhupada, you are definitely here in Mayapura. I especially feel your presence in the old building that was the first structure built here. As I walk up the first steps to the gate, there are two benches for people to sit. Tonight I sit here with Subhaga Swami. He, too, was there in the beginning days of Mayapura with you, Prabhupada. Tonight he is preaching to some guests. We are in the same Mayapura. The same Hare Krsna kirtana is swelling out from the temple room and filling the evening air. The same sound of the crickets is here. And at this time of the year, there is the same threat of flood, the same possibility that the Muslims might attack just as they did so many years ago.

As I sit on the bench, I think of all the devotees who were here with Prabhupada in the old days. So many of them are gone now, scattered by time, changed in so many ways. The past haunts me for a minute, and then I feel Prabhupada’s presence. Prabhupada is still here despite the changing times.

But I am left with the awareness that I will change too, that I have already changed in so many ways. The whole arch of time is passing right over me. Soon it will be time for me to leave my body. Mayapura will go on without me, as will the rest of ISKCON. Prabhupada will still be here in his room, sitting and looking at the bas relief sculpture of Radha-Krsna. Devotees will still be carrying out their routines in the coming years. People will still be remembering Prabhupada in authorized, official ways, but he will be the beacon in their hearts, too. New realizations, new problems, new faces. Prabhupada’s work will never be erased over time. He will not be forgotten.

I wander up to his room. Many of his books in different languages have been arranged on the shelves. Prabhupada was so happy to see his books in the different languages. The translation work is still expanding by the hard work of his devotees. I remember sitting in his rooms when he was here, the devotees all gathered together to hear his instructions and to have their mistakes corrected only by him. He kept his hand strongly on the rudder of the ISKCON ship, even though it was so uncontrollable, all those hundreds and thousands of people all over the world permanently afflicted by sex-attraction and competition.

Walking and Talking with Prabhupada

Nothing duplicates our own experience with Prabhupada, but any genuine story is valuable. Recently, I heard my Godbrother Umapati Swami say that when Prabhupada served hot dal with chilies, he also served a sweet made from crushed bananas. Prabhupada said this would cool the taste buds after the spicy meal. Umapati told this anecdote in a letter he sent to the grand re-opening at 26 Second Avenue. Umapati Maharaja was in China preaching for Prabhupada and couldn’t make it to New York, but he said he was thinking of our gathering. In his letter he wrote, “I hope at the grand re-opening you will have one of those hot summer days in New York City like we had in 1966 when we were first coming to see Swamiji. And I hope the feast that you have includes some of the things Prabhupada cooked like the hot spiced dal and the sweet preparation.” Hearing this reminiscence also helped me to remember little things, and it produced that altered state of consciousness where suddenly we are with Prabhupada, at least for a little while.

I remember in the very early days when Swamiji started looking for a new building in New York City. We didn’t get one, and we had to stay at 26 Second Avenue. But there were adventures connected with the search. One time, we saw a place on the second floor somewhere that required a lot of work. The room was filled with lumber and was very dirty. After we checked it out, we went back to 26 Second Avenue and sat with Swamiji in his room. Swamiji turned to me and asked, “Mr. Secretary, what did you think of the place?” I gave my opinion, feeling important because of the way Prabhupada had addressed me. I was touched that he asked my opinion.

I also remember Prabhupada’s letter from India where he had gone to recover his weak health. I had written, telling him I missed him, and that I was looking forward to his return so that I could type for him again. Prabhupada wrote back that it was an honor for him to have a secretary like Satsvarupa dasa brahmacari, and he would soon come back and overload me with typing tasks.

Why do I ever forget these little exchanges? Why don’t I always remember them and know that Prabhupada loves me, that my real relationship with him consists of typing for him, writing for him, always being his affectionate servant?

His Chorus

A music critic might comment on our dissonance with Prabhupada’s sonorous voice. I don’t know about that. But Prabhupada brought us together and turned our lack of harmony into a real kirtana, an offering to Krsna. Prabhupada was pleased by it because it was a sign that the sankirtana movement was taking hold on American soil. Our kirtana gave him satisfaction.

Prabhupada gave a lecture in 1966 in which he answered the question, “Why does Krsna expand?” Krsna expands to enjoy. Then he said, “Take, for example, myself as spiritual master. Suppose I have some disciples. What is the meaning of this disciples? It is to enjoy. I take disciples so that we can be together and have kirtana and prasadam. We eat together, we have kirtana, and we talk together about Krsna. It is to enjoy.” Prabhupada offered this as an analogy to Krsna’s expansion. It was a particularly suitable analogy for those days. Nowadays, if someone asked, “What is the meaning of a guru and his disciples?” one might reply, “The guru has to deliver his disciples from birth and death.” Or, “Guru and disciples should push on the sankirtana movement together and distribute many books.” Prabhupada said the meaning is to enjoy—not in the forbidden sense of sense gratification, but to enjoy spiritually. It was like that in those days. We didn’t have to come up with any other reason to be together than that we enjoyed his kirtanas and his cooking and his talks about Krsna. He enjoyed saving us.

From Japa Reform Notebook

Reflections / Japa Meditations

Chanting and hearing in an attitude of service means when we chant Krsna’s name we should be desiring to be engaged in His service. The eighth offense to the holy name is to chant as a pious act to get some material benefit. So we are not praying to God for material benefit. That is what is meant by service. Also, the act of chanting and hearing, when done very carefully, is also a service. Surrendering yourself to chanting clearly and hearing with rapt attention is also chanting and hearing in service attitude.

The chanting is deceivingly simple—just repeat some names. But the mind is rebelling because if you say these names, then all sense gratification will go away and you will become a devotee of Krsna. The mind wants us to be a devotee of our nonsense mind. So although it is deceptively simple, it is hard to actually chant. Therefore, we stress it always. It is a simple process, and if you try it in a simple way it will not be difficult. But if you go on listening to your mind, it will be very difficult.

Unfortunately we have no taste for hearing and glorifying the Lord’s name and activities. Developing a taste for hearing and chanting the holy sound is done through the medium of service to the pure devotee of the Lord. Sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah. The mantra has to be chanted in sampradaya, received from the bona fide spiritual master. As Prabhupada says, “The taste for hearing and chanting the holy name is done through the medium of service to the pure devotee of the Lord. The Lord is reciprocally responding to His devotee. When He sees that a devotee is completely sincere in getting admittance to the transcendental service of the Lord and has become eager to hear about Him, He acts within the heart.

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name

What about the fact that our very duties in Krsna consciousness seem to distract us from harer nama? We go to chant and other services run through our minds. Some of these services are connected to worldly dealings, strategies for preaching, how to deal with the lawyer and the bank, how to deal in a sometimes political way in temple life … In the days when ISKCON GBC men were going to see Sridhara Maharaja of Navadvipa, I asked him this question. I said (and it is printed in one of their books) that our spiritual master gives us demanding duties and sometimes they seem to conflict with attentive japa. I wish I had phrased that question differently. Sridhara Maharaja praised the many preaching duties our guru maharaja was giving us. He said that if we chant without service, it is like firing blanks from a gun. He gave as an example a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati who took to constant chanting in the jungle.

But I wanted to hear assurance that somehow japa is also very important and that a beleaguered servant of the guru’s mission still has to implore the holy names and bow down early in the morning and throughout the day praying at the feet of harer nama. I wanted to hear and believe that the chanting of Hare Krsna is most important. I wanted to hear that it is attainable. I want to be pushed and inspired in that direction. I want to see leaders and peers intently chanting on their japa-mala. I want to hear heroic stories about Haridasa Thakura chanting japa so ecstatically that even Maya-devi couldn’t entice him but instead became converted.

Is this a romantic desire of mine? Is it unrealistic? Is it wrong to want this? No, of course not. “Then, rise tiny spirit soul, in gratefulness, security, and protection-and chant, chant, chant. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare . . . ” (JRN, p. 18).

From The Qualities of Śrī Kṛṣṇa

Kṛṣṇa’s self-control is exemplified by the fact that He has thousands of beautiful wives and yet remains unagitated. Kṛṣṇa is Hṛṣīkeśa, the master of the senses. “All the sixteen thousand wives of Kṛṣṇa were so exquisitely beautiful that their smiling and shyness were able to captivate the minds of great demigods like Lord Śiva. But still they could not even agitate the mind of Kṛṣṇa, in spite of their attractive feminine behavior” (NOD, Chap. 21, p. 169).

Bhīṣmadeva offers similar praise to Kṛṣṇa during Yudhiṣṭhira’s rājasūya sacrifice. Bhīṣmadeva said, “I am a brahmacārī, but if I were to associate with all the beautiful gopīs the way Kṛṣṇa did, I would not be able to keep my brahmacārī status. However, Kṛṣṇa is always with the gopīs in the rāsa dance and other situations, but He does not become uncontrolled.”

It is obvious that the Supreme Lord should be able to control His senses. All universes depend upon His steadiness and infallibility. If Kṛṣṇa were not in control, how could He be God? In fact, this is the main doubt of the agnostics. Their minds cannot accommodate the concept of a Supreme Controller. Because they measure the cosmic manifestation against their own limited experiences, and because they have no experience of a Supreme Controller, they think no one is able to have complete control.

In the material world, no one has control over their birth or the identity of their parents. We are simply dumped into our mother’s womb and then out into the world to engage in whatever activities we must engage in according to our karma. No one is ever able to gain complete control over their lives. Therefore, our mind boggles when we try to contemplate a Supreme Controller. We may concede that some God or some powerful being has some control, but how can He have all control?

If we use clear reason, however, we will see that control is actually being exerted over everything. The seasons are controlled, the movement of the sun and ocean tides are controlled, and the time of death is controlled. Due to our limited vision, we may not be able to understand the identity of the controller, but the śāstra can give us that information.

From Remembering Srila Prabhupada

Return and Return: India and the West

He had come for health,
but he got worse, a fever.
He struggled to Vrindaban
and there recovered
in his rooms at Radha-Damodar.
“I am here,” wrote a disciple who was with Prabhupada
in India, “with beloved Swamiji
in Vrindaban with the trees and peacocks
and everywhere devotees wearing tilaka, and temples,
but I can honestly say
I like our kirtans better in New York.”

Prabhupada also wrote,
“I cannot stop my Western world activities…
I will come to you again.”

One-hundred-and-ten-degree weather agreed with him.
He felt his health returning,
and thought of going back.
“Vrindaban is inspiration only.
Even if I die,
you are my future hopes,
and you will do it.”

Weather and illness
got the American boys depressed.
And Prabhupada wondered,
how he could start an American House
if they could not live here.

He had always thought of
how to do something great for Krishna.
Before it had been theoretical—
the League of Devotees—
but now ISKCON was a fact, and growing.
Reports had reached him of chanting
in Mexico, Holland, and England.
And it would spread everywhere,
as the spiritual culture traveled
among the youth of the world.

He was the same person as before,
making plans,
but with a foothold now
and followers to return to.
Even in Vrindaban they were on his mind.

From One Hundred Prabhupada Poems

They had to unlock the door,
I was the first one into the temple room
before maṅgala-ārati.
No light on except one over Śrīla Prabhupāda.
He sat high up on the vyāsāsana
wearing a light wool saffron cadār
and I fell at his feet
as we all do. Secure here in this
marble-floored temple of stout pillows and elegance.
Chanting before my master.

The verse for today’s lectures tells
of Mother Yaśodā’s faith in cow protection
and the holy names of Viṣṇu.
Prabhupāda says these Vedic ways
are mostly forgotten today
yet has given them to us
to cherish and practice.
By his grace I will be able to expand on
some of his points.
By the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa, I have
breath and heartbeat to carry it out.

By His Divine Grace, I am a shaven headed
saffron monk sanctified by light
of ghee lamps in otherwise dark room.
Śrīla Prabhupāda is our leader.

From My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, Volume 1

August 1968

An important section of this letter is Prabhupāda’s direction to us regarding public collections. We were performing kīrtana in Boston, and devotees in Montreal, New York, and San Francisco were doing the same. Prabhupāda approves of this and says we have the right to collect from the public just as other charitable organizations do. This is an ideal method of earning money, because brāhmaṇas should not have to do other work besides studying and preaching. Prabhupāda says we should do this with government sanction. His instruction is simple and pure, and there is no indication here that he wants us to engage in flim-flam techniques, falsely presenting ourselves before the public.

Previously I wrote Prabhupāda and complained that the students in our neighborhood were not cooperative. They lived like animals, dressed in dirty clothes, and the hallways of their apartments and the streets of the neighborhood were filthy and filled with garbage. They completely ignored our presence and immersed themselves in loud rock music, drugs, sex, and school; Prabhupāda sympathized our neighbors were not “happy,” but cautioned us not to be overly concerned with getting the best location for our temple. He indicated that since everywhere people are unreceptive, we should not expect to find receptive audiences. We had thought we could solve this problem by moving into a students’ center where there were the so-called best candidates, but saṅkīrtana in the park was our most important method for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

From My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, Volume 3

The book production schedule was something with which I too was concerned, and therefore, on that walk in Boston I had already done the arithmetic. What I liked about bringing that calculation to his attention was that he reminded me that providence could always intervene and that Kṛṣṇa was the ultimate controller of what we would accomplish. It was an abrupt lesson: organization and management are not everything. We are not atheists or even karma-kāṇḍīs who think that all results are caused by personal endeavor. Neither are we efficiency experts who can calculate all the possible obstacles. It is Kṛṣṇa’s sanction that makes us successful in our plans, and nothing else.

When I received this letter in 1970, I was convinced that Prabhupāda’s work was so important that Kṛṣṇa would keep him in the world until it was completed. Jayādvaita thought that way too. Even in 1977, when Prabhupāda was so ill, Jayādvaita continued to be convinced that Prabhupāda would not leave because he had not completed the Bhāgavatam. It actually became a moment of bewilderment for him when Prabhupāda did leave, because he hadn’t finished dictating the Tenth Canto, what to speak of the Eleventh and Twelfth.

But all through these years, we tried to be protective of Prabhupāda’s literary work. If we hadn’t seen him writing for some time, we would remind him that he needed to write. We loved to see the work coming from him into our hands for production. We thought it was one of the best things about Prabhupāda. He was writing for us. The books would be present long after Prabhupāda had left the world, and we used to plan different ways among ourselves to help Prabhupāda get more time to write.

But ultimately, Śrīla Prabhupāda refused to become a writing machine. He always said it was not a mechanical process but a spiritual one. He said there was a rhythm to it. He couldn’t always write, but needed to take a break from it in order to take it up anew. He also commented that it was difficult work because he had to make the whole science of bhakti understandable to the common man. It took great concentration. Therefore, he used the early morning hours to write. He would also occasionally temper our enthusiasm, reminding us that his desire to complete the writing was more his than ours, and that he was already trying his best.

From Truthfulness, the Last Leg of Religion

Honesty:  The Good Fight

We can understand why honesty is the last leg for those persons who have no connection to the Supreme Truth.  Those who live only for the bodily concepts of “I” and “mine”, who do not follow śāstra or guru, who do not chant the holy names, are in darkness.  They live in a world of phantoms.  But they often appear very confident and successful, and they laugh at the pious devotees.  The nondevotees also have an inordinate trust in the world.  They think that it is worthwhile to spend their major effort in maintaining a respectable place in society and providing as much sense gratification as possible for themselves and their family.  The sādhu is meant to cut through these illusions.

If a person is busy in the world of darkness and yet can still ask himself, “Is my life with all its concerns mere delusion?” then he still has hope.  He’s honest enough to consider that he may be lost and wrong, and that it might require painful changes for him to get back on track.  He thinks about making a personal commitment to revolutionizing himself, because he wants the truth more than he wants delusion.  He’s not yet completely lost to lies.

If one keeps at least a spark of truth-seeking, then the words of a devotee may enter his heart and he’ll think, “If what the Bhagavad-gītā says is true and I’m not this body, then my present life is all illusion.”

Anecdotes of Truth

Śrīla Prabhupāda taught that truth means to surrender to Kṛṣṇa.  And cheating means not to recognize that Kṛṣṇa is the supreme proprietor of all the worlds, the object of all sacrifices, and the best friend and well-wisher of all living entities.  First you have to know the truth.  And, in order to be considered honest, you must not steal from the proprietor.  This is the basis of truth and truthfulness.

But it will be very difficult to convince the atheists to give up their theories that there is no ultimate truth and no Supreme Being.

To illustrate the stubborness of the materialists, Prabhupāda told the story of “Scissors Philosophy.”  Two men were arguing about which cutting instrument was best, a knife or scissors.

“Knife!” said one.  “No, scissors!” said the other.  Their talk became a heated fight.

“If you don’t agree,” said the man who advocated the knife, “I will throw you in the river.”

“No, I’ll never change my mind.  It’s scissors!”  So the knife advocate threw the other into the swift river.  He swam for awhile, but became exhausted and began to sink.  But he was so stubborn about holding his point of view that even while he was sinking under the water to his death, he held up his arm and moved his fingers back and forth like a pair of scissors cutting.

“The scientists will be like that,” said Prabhupāda.  “Even after defeating them with all logic, still they will say, ‘Life comes from matter.’”

Although the scientists are always changing their theoretical “truths,” they expect everyone to believe whatever they say.


From Sri Caitanya Maha-Kavyam: An Epic Poem Describing Caitanya’s Life by Kavi Karnapura, Translation by H.H. Bhanu Swami

Comment: As the description of the cleaning of the Gundica Temple in Caitanya-caritamrta is ecstatic,  Kavi Karnapura’s description of the same pastime in his Epic Poem, is also delightful and parampara.

The Lord with concentration then quickly cleansed the throne along with some devotees in great joy and began sprinkling it with water.

The moving golden Mountain, the Son of Śacī, became increasingly covered with the dust which fell on His limbs.

Constantly chanting “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa,” the incomparably, profoundly beautiful Lord, with His sweet smiling moon-like face, had the devotees clean the place.

With small pots tied to strong ropes, all the devotees pulled water from the well in order to wash the place thoroughly.

Some devotees, tying their upper cloths around their waists, took the pots tied with ropes near the well, and others stood nearby.

Some pulled the water from the well with ropes, others took the pots full of water, and handed it to others.

Some took the full pots and some took the empty pots back. The result of this exchange was most attractive. That natural state never lost its attraction.

As the joyful devotees passed full and empty pots back and forth, it appeared like a game of throwing ball.

The sound of “Bring it here” arose with great joy. Shouts of joy making the hair stand on end mixed boldly with the sound of water filling the pots.

With eagerness and joy, on the order of the Lord, some devotees sprinkled water on the veranda, on the walls, on the upper portions of the building and on the roofs.

The Lord had them cleanse all places in each room, saying to each in a sweet voice, “You sprinkle here, you sprinkle there.”

Some constantly gave water pots to the Lord’s lotus hands. Some sprinkled water near His feet.

The Lord joyfully took full pots and gave back empty pots. The Lord and the devotee alternately exchanged their states of fullness and emptiness.

With hairs standing on end, trembling intensely because of happiness, some could not attain complete happiness in giving pots to the Lord’s lotus hands.

Some devotees enthusiastically sprinkled water on the Lord’s lotus feet while no one was looking. Among the devotees, the Lord was the personification of cleaning rooms.

When His devotees sprinkled water near His feet with hundreds of pots, the Lord looked radiant with His damp red cloth reaching to His knees.

Beautiful with red rays, His moon-like face moistened with drops of perspiration, damp with water thrown here and there, the Lord appeared to be rising from a river after swimming.

Receiving pots full of water from the lotus hands of His devotees, like a rain cloud, He quickly sprinkled the water here and there and filled the terrace with water.

His limbs covered with drops of water, He was like an elephant coming out of the water after splashing around, infatuated with playing in the mud.

Beautiful with His red cloth, damp from sprinkling water, He was like Meru covered by evening clouds fearing the sun.

Many pots broke. Many pots were brought. Abundant water was brought. Rivers flowed everywhere.

The devotees sprinkled water from the pots and from their eyes in great joy. Deep sounds of “Jaya” arose quickly from them, like the sound of rumbling clouds.

The devotees near the Lord in Puri shone like the best elephants with their damp arms. No one in the world could measure their happiness.

After cleaning the whole building and thoroughly washing the thrones, the Lord, joyful with rasa, went outside into the yard.

The Lord made them sit in a straight line in the yard and with His soft fingers sprinkled stones and grass here and there.

Throwing His outer cloth on the ground, the playful Lord eager to play games, threw some grass and stones far away.

Seeing the devotees take up the grass and stones scattered here and there, He explained that according to the amount they gathered, they would win or lose the game.

After cleaning the yard, the outer gates, and roads, tired from the intense energy exerted, He did kīrtana with the devotees.

With excellent voices, the devotees danced in front of the Lord while the Lord himself danced. Who can describe the sweetness of their singing?

With ears listening to the long, beautifully extended notes, skillful as Kinnara’s music, with hairs standing on end, filled with happiness, the devotees with one mind sang as the Lord danced.

His body washed by continue flow of tears, hairs standing on end all over His body, throwing up His knees and chest, in joy Gaurāṅga danced with great zeal.

Sometimes fast and sometimes slow, sometimes very slow, He whirled about gracefully in joy and danced, while making deep, soft growling sounds.


<< Free Write Journal #246


Essays Volume 1: A Handbook for Krishna Consciousness

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.

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Essays Volume 2: Notes From the Editor: Back to Godhead 1978–1989

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.

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Essays Volume 3: Lessons from the Road

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.

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Forgetting the Audience

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…

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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…

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A narrative poem. challenging and profound, about the journey of an itinerant monk who pursues new means of self-Seeking New Land

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