Satsvarupa dasa Goswami Maharaja
Spiritual Family Celebration
Saturday, July 1, 2023
Meeting of Disciples and friends of SDG
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall
845 Hudson Avenue
Stuyvesant Falls, New York 12173
[Plenty of parking near the Hall. The facility is just a few minutes’ walk from SDG’s home at 909 Albany Ave.]
10:00 – 10:30 A.M. Opening kirtana
10:30 – 11:00 A.M. Lecture by SDG
11:00 – 12:00 P.M. Opportunity to Purchase New Books
12:00 – 1:00 P.M. Arati and kirtana
1:00 — 2:00 P.M. Prasadam Feast
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: “I request as many devotees as possible to attend so we can feel the family spirit strongly. I become very satisfied when we are all gathered together.”
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 20.124–125: “O great learned devotee, although there are many faults in this material world, there is one good opportunity—the association with devotees. Such association brings about great happiness. . . . .”
Srila Prabhupāda: “Therefore, our Society is association. If we keep good association, then we don’t touch the darkness. What is the association? There is a song, sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa, te-kāraṇe lāgila mora karma-bandha-phāṅsa (Gaurā Pahū, verse 3). Sat-saṅga. Sat-saṅga means association with the devotees. So the one poet, Vaiṣṇava poet, is regretting that, “I did not keep association with the devotees, and I wanted to enjoy life with the nondevotees. Therefore I’m being entangled in the fruitive activities.” Karma bandha phāṅsa. Entanglement.”
[Conversation with David Wynne, July 9, 1973, London]
The few devotees at Viraha Bhavan had an FGBC (which stands for “Family GBC”) meeting today. Attending were Baladeva, Krsna dasi and Krishnendu dasa brahmacari. They talked about Krishnendu’s schedule, which doesn’t give him much time, or any, for reading and taking a walk. That’s because his schedule is broken so many times to come up and tend to my needs (such as the nebulizer three times a day, an afternoon coconut drink, the evening wind-down and the morning wind-up, and cooking breakfast, and some of the times, lunch). So they discussed it, and Baladeva volunteered and said that he would stay back some days and do paperwork and allow Krishnendu to take a walk or read. Baladeva would be in the house anyway and cover the duties when I call on someone. Krishna dasi said that she could eat what Krishnendu cooks for himself, and just expand it. He cooks very healthy meals, sprouted grains, etc. Baladeva agreed that he would go along with “whatever,” because he’s trying to lose weight anyway. On Sunday the Schenectady devotees asked if Krishnendu could come down to the Sunday program and give the class, and then Krsna dasi and Baladeva would cook on that day. The program in Schenectady is early, so Krishnendu wouldn’t be going to bed late. I remarked to Krishnendu, almost apologizing, that we had such a skeleton crew here. He replied, “There may only be a few devotees, but the devotees here are very dedicated and hard-working.” I appreciated that remark because I was worried that he didn’t like it here. Since it is Rupanuga College, there is a sannyasi, seven brahmacaris and no women.
I received a letter from Narayana Kavaca. He is living in Mexico and is a full-time writer. He speaks fluid Spanish, and he has students there who help him. He is a kindred spirit; we are both fellow writers. He writes full-time, and so do I. He told me about the different plans for writing he has and the different books he is working on. He takes a long time to finish a book and publish it. Sometimes I even ask him for writing advice and I get good letters, some of which I have quoted in my journal. In this letter he didn’t give me any advice but mostly told me about his writing. He wrote,
“I also have a lot of diary work about my internal process, struggles, and feelings which I haven’t decided yet, about publishing. I know I always search for some personal information. When I read something that is good, I want to know the person who wrote it.
That is what is so satisfying about your books, which have saved me in times when I have felt bereft and unable to read anything else. You speak so naturally, without presumption, and so truthfully it sometimes hurts to hear what goes into your books. I know I would not have survived all these years without your voice. I do not flatter or exaggerate; at my age I only say what I believe to be true. I will never be able to repay you for all you have done for me, but I will keep trying.”
Baladeva has been on a yard work marathon, trying to do the weeding, mulching, planting, etc., so that it gets done before the weather gets hot next week. He’s been out every day for more than a week, putting in several hours. He only has a little more to do, but his already bad back didn’t make it. So, he had to go to the chiropractor for two days in a row.
Krsna dasi also has a bad back—she hadn’t been to the chiropractor for three months. She’s short of stature and has trouble working in the sink and lifting and doing anything extra besides the Deity worship. Cooking brings her extra back stress. Baladeva and Krsna dasi decided to get back-to-back appointments yesterday and today. Baladeva would have to drive her anyway, so they went together. Baladeva had his treatment first and then he would do errands while she had her treatment.
The chiropractor, Dr. Mike, is a friendly fellow. He grew up in the Bahamas, and that’s where Sivananda has his big ashram. So, he grew up as a “Sivananda kid” and was even initiated with the name Vishnu. He’s very friendly, and he chants Hare Krsna (along with so many other mixed practices). He is good at what he does. And he likes prasadam. Anyone we have sent to Dr. Mike has been helped by him, and for me he even came to the house, which is rare (to find someone who will do that). Everyone we have sent to him has come away fixed. For example, Baladeva’s sister has a half-frozen face from Bell’s Palsy, and just by working on her back for something else, her face condition was greatly loosened up. He does his “homework” and stays up on the latest chiropractic techniques.
I don’t like to see Baladeva doing heavy manual work. He’s too old, and he has aches and pains in his body. But he insists on working in the garden, to make it beautiful. Today he was uprooting invasive bamboo, which grows like a weed and crowds out the lilacs. When I mentioned my feeling to him, he gave an example from the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He told of a time when Manu brought his unmarried daughter to the ashram of Kapila Muni, and Manu wanted to turn her over to the sage for marriage. But the first thing Manu noted, before even noting Kapila, was the beauty of the ashram area of the sage. It had beautiful fruit trees and flower trees, and flowers growing all around. It was very peaceful to the mind and created a pleasant atmosphere, even before getting to Kapila’s hut. Baladeva likes to think of this example. The outside area of our ashram creates a nice and inviting atmosphere. Before you even come inside and see the Deities, you have a nice impression. So, I let Baladeva do as he likes. He says it’s good exercise for him, and otherwise he doesn’t get any exercise.
When Krishnendu comes upstairs to give me the nebulizer, I have to breathe in on it for eight minutes. He places it in my mouth and then he waits for me to finish. He sits down on a chair across from me near my bookshelf, and looks over to my books, picks one out and opens it up. I saw him picking out Under Dark Stars, Photo Preaching, and Stowies. He opened the books, looked at a page for a few seconds, and put the book back. I gather they are not to his taste. I had originally told him to read Prabhupada Meditations, and I thought he would gain more respect for me that way (and come closer to Prabhupada). I told Baladeva that he should bring more of the books about Prabhupada upstairs, so they can be on the shelves where Krishnendu sits while I’m doing the nebulizer. But Baladeva told me there are already about eight books about Prabhupada on the upstairs shelf. So, I’ll point this out to Krishnendu and direct him, in his few minutes while I’m taking the nebulizer, to read the Prabhupada books.
Vicaru, on the other hand, in his first days here asked for a full set of books about Prabhupada, took them to his room and started reading three at the same time, enthusiastically. He would talk about them to me and say how much he liked them and how they brought him closer to Prabhupada. I wish everyone had this reaction.
Welcome to summer! Today it went up to 86° F (30° C). Our next-door neighbors have a big outdoor swimming pool, which they have settled in their backyard, which is quite close to our ashram. This is the first day they are using it, and they’re making loud noises and splashing around. These neighbors are gross and in the lower modes, foul language, intoxication and fighting. Their shrill voices interrupt my concentration on writing and make the whole ashram unsettled. We’ve tried to respond to it by closing the windows, and that helps to some extent but makes it warm in the house. We will try to create “white noise” by using fans, and later in the summer, the air conditioner. Memorial Day is considered the first day of the summer season, so we can look forward to three or four months of this nuisance. That they interrupt my concentration is serious, but we’ll have to learn how to turn their shenanigans into white noise.
Although we are in a small village, we live right on the road, which happens to be a shortcut between two highways. So, there’s constant agricultural traffic, monstrous planting machines and plowing machines and spreaders and seeding machines. There are also huge truckṣ carrying manure to fertilize the cornfields to feed the animals. One of the biggest businesses in the county is a factory dairy farm about two miles away. Most of the equipment belongs to them.
Separate from the trucks, we get a lot of “yahoos” driving their loud Harley-Davidson motorcycles at high speeds in the village, as well as pickup trucks with stripped-down mufflers. Some of the motorcycles even have loud radios playing, even louder than the unmuffled exhaust pipe.
This all may not sound attractive, but we sort of get used to it. It’s like any other environment that man adapts to.
I ordered a book: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death. I read some of it and quickly decided that I wanted my lawyer-disciple to read the book, not me. The little I read said things like, “Don’t leave a mess.” They mean getting things in order before you die so that your survivors don’t have to sort it out afterwards. I thought of my large library of nondevotee books. I really don’t need that anymore. I was using it to help me write poetry. So, I or someone else has to figure out what to do with that useless library. And there are other things like that. The book describes how survivors of a person who dies, like relatives, fight over his belongings after death. So that can be prevented beforehand. My lawyer said that his father has a collection of paintings, and he doesn’t want his sons and daughter fighting over this. So, he’s going through the paintings, putting a sticker on the back naming the different daughters and sons and saying who gets what. A blurb on the front of the book states: “This is a book that every family should have, the equivalent of Dr. Spock but for this other phase of life.” I want my lawyer to read through the whole book, which he says he finds very interesting so far after reading it for an hour and help me sort out what to do with my possessions, how to deal with legal matters, and so on, so there will be little to do for others.
Another way to think is to give away my possessions to an archive, or like a devotee-archivist, and designate to whom should go my beads, which were chanted on by Prabhupada and kept carefully by me all these years, my sannyasa danda, my deities, etc. For example, we have the Bhaktivedanta Archives, which saves many things that belonged to Prabhupada. Some of these things aren’t clear yet and have to be thought out. Maybe my beads would be better kept in a Prabhupada archives. Some of my favorite paintings might be kept by the MOSA (Museum of Sacred Art) group in Belgium. (Although, to speak the truth, most of my favorite paintings and best paintings have already been sold or given out.) I can see this is going to require a lot of thought. I want my lawyer to finish reading the book and then come to me with a plan, which he will work on with Baladeva.
I love my Prabhupada murti. He’s been with me since 1978. He’s one of the first murtis made by the great sculptor Locana dasa. He’s sitting in his vyasasana, looking at me, just a few yards away. And I am looking at him. Every day I greet him as soon as I get into my chair in the morning. Baladeva starts to undress him from his nightclothes. When he takes off his hat I call out, “Prabhupada!” and I watch B. take off his night-cadar, then put on his bead bag, fresh pavitra, and then his light day-cadar. He watches over me all day, and I pray to him. He is not a resin statue, he is Prabhupada. I hope he will stay with me ’til the end of my life. Then I will give him to a worthy caretaker or temple. He has helped fill the gap in my heart since Prabhupada disappeared.
Today is Ekadasi, and it’s a special one. It’s Pandava-Nirjala Ekadasi. On this Ekadasi, whatever Ekadasis you have missed are compensated by observing Pandava-Nirjala-Ekadasi, so it is the most popular nirjala-Ekadasi for devotees to follow. Years ago, I used to follow nirjala-Ekadasi. I would stay up all night with a few devotees and sing bhajanas. I remember doing it in my sannyasi traveling days with my assistant and driver Madhumangala dasa. Baladeva used to do it with us sometimes also. We stayed up all night, but we got sleepy. I remember Madhumangala would be playing the harmonium, but he would half-fall asleep leaning over the keys due to hypoglycemia—it was very difficult for him to fast, anyway. It became the fashion in ISKCON, starting with the publication of a book by Krsna-Balarama Swami which gave all the rules, and all the benefits of each Ekadasi, as well as the history of each. I was personally influenced by Tamal Krishna Goswami, who said that following Ekadasi and staying up all night would bring a great benefit to our personal spiritual lives. So I was influenced by him, and tried it. I kept it up for about a year. It was very hard to combine staying up all night and not eating or drinking with the life of rapid travels from place to place.
Srila Prabhupada never emphasized nirjalaEkadasi. He preferred to see his devotees working hard and doing a reasonable Ekadasi fast. He wanted his devotees to be active and not wiped out and languishing the day after Ekadasi, or especially on the day of Ekadasi. He preferred active members. And he didn’t follow nirjala-Ekadasi himself.
Now that I’m not traveling, I might consider it, but because of my age, and diabetes, it’s not recommended to do nirjala, or even complete fasting from food.
For about three weeks now I’ve been having the same lunch, which is very satisfying. My cook makes for me a bowl of mixed vegetable soup, a different variety every day. I like it only lightly spiced and not too thick. (I like to drink it out of the bowl at the end.) The devotees were concerned about me, but I also take with the soup a diabetic “meal-replacement shake.” The shake has protein, long-chain carbohydrates, etc., specifically for diabetics. It’s a complete meal. I have lost my taste for extra preparations of vegetables, etc. The meal fills my belly, and I’m satisfied.
Originally, I started eating smaller portions and no sweets in order to lose some extra weight. I have now achieved a good weight, so this is a good maintenance diet for me. It’s frustrating for the cooks because they want to bring out all the best preps and serve me opulently. But that is not my mood.
Baladeva and I went to the Berkshire Eye Center to pick up new glasses. We had already had our eyes examined, had been given new prescriptions, and had ordered new frames. But the technician coaxed me into taking a particular pair because she thought it was different than my old pair, and that it’s good to get new things. I was a little indifferent to it all but accepted the new frames. So, we had to wait three weeks before the new glasses came in. It was delayed because one of the lenses was broken during the grinding operation—one lens had to be redone. Other than that, everything else went smoothly. The technician said my glasses looked great, and that I had made the right choice. I said she had coached me to pick out a particular frame that she liked. I could see all right with the glasses, and I read numbers on a chart. Although she complimented me on the new glasses, I was pretty indifferent and didn’t think the new glasses were particularly better than the older ones I had. At my age, I don’t care much for style. I was wearing my tilaka and didn’t wear dentures. I noticed in the mirror that my eyes were drooping from old age, and they’re really red and burned-out. Baladeva distributed cookies in the Berkshire Eye Center, to several different persons. One big bag was left at the desk to be distributed to all the workers, and then a small bag for the girls who took care of us. Good old prasadam distribution!
I have already written here that my daily lunch here is only soup and a diabetic meal-replacement shake. I’m very satisfied with this simple meal, and it fills my belly. Krishnendu is very good at making the soups. He makes them excellently, just to my taste, different ones, and they’re all winners—not too thick, and not too spicy. I have asked him to write down recipes so the devotees here can learn how to do it. Once he has given me the recipes, I will publish them in this weekly Journal so that anyone who comes here to cook will know what to do and will have had a chance to practice at home. There won’t be any more grandiose lunches that the cooks have been dreaming about to offer to their Guru Maharaja.
Swamiji kept spelling everything out: He was a representative of Krsna and Krsna is there in His name, Krsna is there in so many ways and we can serve Krsna and go to Krsna. Aside from Swamiji, nobody was going to tell you about Krsna—that Krsna is God and that Krsna is a cowherd boy. Krsna was so “far out” we couldn’t believe it, but every time we went in front of Swamiji you had to believe it. He kept up the reality of Krsna. And in the books that he gave out—there was Krsna. He made such a powerful presentation that you said, “Let’s go up and hear the Swami talk about Krsna.” You would come to him with your concoctions, “What about this? And what about that?” But Swamiji would bring it right back to Krsna and you would accept it.
And so gradually in his presence, hearing about Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and devotional service to Krsna, you started becoming Krsna-ized and you realized that Swamiji had knowledge and influence to do this to people—to create faith in them, for Krsna. But you had to go back regularly to him and get it charged up.
He had unshakeable faith in Krsna and he could see Krsna. We sometimes imagined how he saw Krsna. We couldn’t quite understand it. When did he talk with Him, in sleep? Partly we imagined this, how it actually took place. Swamiji would say, “Yes, you can talk with Krsna, but He only talks with intimate persons.” We may not have known exactly how it took place but we did know that we were attracted to him because he had such a conviction about Krsna.
I remember once in that room he said, “People can talk philosophy about Krsna, but what is their realization?” Then I realized—that’s what he’s got. Swami has realization. Exactly how he realized, we didn’t know, but we had faith that he was experiencing a huge amount that we were not.
Therefore, since the Krsna consciousness movement is full of Vasudeva-katha, anyone who hears, anyone who joins the movement and anyone who preaches will be purified.
—Bhag. 10.1.16, purport
Srila Prabhupada is the energy behind thousands of energetic persons who are now hearing, joining and preaching in the Krsna consciousness movement. Even those who are initiating disciples into Krsna consciousness fully acknowledge that their power-source is Srila Prabhupada.
No one knew Krsna, and no one preached His holy names. Now thousands do. No one knew Srimad-Bhagavatam and no one knew Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Now thousands know.
One may say that “thousands” isn’t such a great number and that “millions” are interested in other persons and movements. Let them say that. But it is very wonderful that in Kali-yuga, when religion is declining sharply, a wave of pure God consciousness has come. It is like a new sun rising from India and going around the world, and Srila Prabhupada is the one who is causing this to happen, just as millennia ago, King Priyavrata caused the sun to go around the earth.
Some of the young girls became so effusive in praising Prabhupada that he restrained them. They used to scream and sigh during his lectures when he reached over to drink water or if he made a facial expression while describing Lord Nrsimhadeva, or if he did almost anything. So one day Prabhupada told Brahmananda to tell the girls (these were several high school girls, Indira, Ekayani, Kanchanbala and Lilasuka) that they should be more sober in the presence of the spiritual master.
Overflowing affection for Prabhupada wasn’t expressed only in emotional displays, but in a willingness to do whatever he asked, and a complete trust in him. Jayadvaita Swami points this out in explaining how the devotees accepted whatever appeared in Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita manuscript, even though it was typed with many errors. One of the mistakes the typist made was to state that there was a “planet of trees,” whereas Prabhupada actually intended, “The planet of the ptris, or forefathers.” Jayadvaita Maharaja commented that when the devotees saw this, their reaction was, “A planet of trees? Far out! Well it must be, if the Swami says so.” Of course, we shouldn’t accept typing mistakes, but acceptance of whatever the Swami says is the core of the guru-disciple relationship. Whatever Vyasadeva says or whatever Prabhupada says, we accept. So is it a planet of trees or a planet of ptris? One statement is a mistake and one is the truth, but all we wanted to know was what the Swami actually said. Otherwise, to us, either statement was equally possible or equally impossible.
Still the modes of nature hit us
in this world we are,
in the world we are,
but Swamiji can get us out.
Take to bhakti-yoga.
Trying to type while neighbors make noise. I have ear plugs. Rayram says he prefers not to stop up his senses, but the man next door sometimes slams his body (or his wife’s body) against the wall. This is the material world.
Early mornings are good for chanting on beads. I have written an essay, “Controlling Sleep.” I try those techniques. The main thing is to believe the body has had enough rest. You won’t get sick—so when sleepiness comes in the morning, you fight it full force by these methods: (1) strong shaking of head; (2) water on face, etc. Then it goes away.
Up early. Go to the bathroom. Forget the past. You have hours to chant your sixteen rounds and then go to the storefront to see and hear Swamiji. I’m fortunate.
Encourage others to hear from him.
This apartment is noisy, but I am happier than I have ever been anywhere else.
I use the little stove for heating sweet milk at night. I used to make my own hot cereal, but now I take heavenly porridge with the devotees at the temple. And lunch with Swamiji.
I can close my eyes and see him. I go over there more every day. The Hare Krishna mantra hardly stops sounding inside of me, and so Krishna is dancing on my tongue. Vishnu is in my heart.
I am grateful to the devotees who encourage me in this way to remember him. I can keep alive. All glories to the devotees who want to hear Prabhupada meditations and give life and share anecdotes.
I thought about Prabhupada today while I was in the samadhi during the mangala-arati, but I wish I could think of him more. Specifically, I would like to concentrate on Prabhupada during the singing of “Gurv-astakam.” I wish I had more devotion. I feel that regret at the end of the day. I know that my whole life is contained within his shelter and within his movement, and that his teachings are vast enough to encompass everyone. I am one part of a large family that is branching out as time goes on. We try not to offend each other in our sometimes rambunctious family dealings, but we bounce up against each others’ opinions and sufferings and successes and failures. There is so much pressure and so much love. We are only together because of Prabhupada; our love starts with him. Prabhupada wants us to love Krsna.
Everything is clear here in Vrndavana. Prabhupada is beautiful high up on his vyasasana, and the Deities are gorgeous on Their altars under Their simhasanas. Sometimes you look to one and some-times the other. Sometimes the kirtana leader directs his singing to Prabhupada, and sometimes to Krsna-Balarama or Gaura-Nitai or Radha-Syamasundara. Even when you are looking intensely at Radha-Syamasundara, it only takes a quick turn to face Prabhupada. “Yes, through this person Prabhupada, only through him, can I get the mercy of Srimati Radharani and see the beauty of Krsna.”
And even now, the consciousness we command and the space we live in—why do we think this is more important than where Prabhupada is? Is it because we think our world is manifest and Prabhupada’s world is unmanifest? Prabhupada’s world is not unmanifest. Prabhupada is with Krsna in Goloka. That world is the only real manifest world. We may not see him in the material world, but that is because we are so insignificant. In relation to Krsna, Prabhupada is in the real world, and we are in the kingdom of death.
Our attitude should be that Prabhupada has gone on to participate in his intimate relationship with Krsna and I have been left behind. He came here and developed a relationship with us, gave us adequate instructions on how to follow him, but ultimately left us stumbling behind. We are trying to figure out the meaning of his books, how to act, how to get along with one another. Sometimes we make serious mistakes. But we are also calling to him, running after him, “Prabhupada! Prabhupada!” This is our actual position. Therefore, don’t be complacent. Visit his room and try to taste a little of our own deaths, then feel the need to catch up to him, the need to perfect ourselves.
Tonight I spoke with a devotee about Prabhupada’s books. We were discussing some complicated things about the Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy and how Prabhupada expressed it. The main point is our faithfulness to Prabhupada and believing that whatever he gave us is what Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura taught. This is our basic conviction, but that loyalty is not easily gained. To understand what Prabhupada really means and what he is saying, one has to read the books deeply. One has to understand them in relation to the teachings of Rupa Gosvami and Lord Caitanya.
As we go on in Krsna consciousness, the meaning of Prabhupada’s books will change for us. A twenty-year old looks at things differently than a forty-year old, who doesn’t see things the way a fifty-year old would see them. As we mature, we see new lights in the books. We hope to become especially attracted to the more advanced stages of Krsna consciousness and to realize them before death. All of this information is present in Prabhupada’s books. We just have to find it with clarified understanding.
So I am hoping to visit, at least briefly, Srila Prabhupada’s rooms every day while I am here. I want to be able to ask Prabhupada, “Please direct me.” A meditation of coming before him in his rooms, greeting him, saying good morning, giving a report, or asking him for directions for the day is a nice feature of living in his house in Vrndavana. Prabhupada called all of Vrndavana his residence, but his rooms are particularly his home. His actual form is in the big samadhi temple building, but Prabhupada himself never saw that building when he was with us. He lived in these rooms.
I went and saw NM again today. He gave me real encouragement for my remembrances of Prabhupada. He said that we should always remember our gurudeva in separation from him. To remember him properly, we shouldn’t emphasize the awe and reverence or the fear, but we should think of him as our near and dear friend. Then, thinking of him in separation, we should weep. He said this is so important, but unfortunately we neglect it. We have so many other things to do, but we should arrange our lives in such a way to increase our remembrance in separation from Prabhupada. And how should we think of Prabhupada? We should think about his pastimes and his activities, how he was kind to us. He was talking about Prabhupada in the form that we knew him, in the sadhaka form. This is why I am encouraged.
My Dear Lord Krsna . . .
I pray that I may one day come to love You. I am aware that I should cultivate feelings of love in separation from You, so I will not be so bold as to pray for Your darsana or to play with You in Goloka Vrndavana. Sometimes in my poems, I pray that I will be with You there and enjoy the bliss of Your company. But today I am feeling too far away to aspire to that. It would be a great
thing if I learned to be with You, even without achieving it. And I realize that so much depends upon my pleasing my spiritual master. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti’s Gurv-astaka contains the verse, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah, “If one pleases the spiritual master, then Krsna is pleased. If one does not please the spiritual master, his whereabouts are unknown.” So I must work on my relationship with Srila Prabhupada. He is the medium to reach You.
Am I pleasing to Srila Prabhupada? I don’t know if I am doing enough. They tell me I am reaching a hundred people a day with my journal. If my journal is inspiration, I think that will be pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. I wish I could write more on my struggle and success with japa, because I know devotees like that. But I seem to be saying less about it lately. I try, especially in the early morning, to exert my best effort in japa, and I should try more to report more on my results. That would be something substantial. I am continuing to follow Prabhupada’s order to chant at least sixteen rounds. But he expects more from me than that. He wants me to preach. I am preaching mostly in writing. By staying in one place, I can have the journal typed daily and posted. At present, I do not have the facility to post my journal daily if I travel. And I claim I cannot travel (and lecture) because of my daily headaches. I have accepted this as a fact. I have had the headaches for over twenty-five years, and I used to travel despite them. But now I feel it’s too much to bear, and I can do just as much staying in one place. Prabhupada used to say that if a salesman has a good location, he can make more money staying in one place than by traveling. At any rate, I am taking my stand and restricting my preaching to writing and hoping it will be pleasing to Prabhupada.
WITH ALL THIS TALK OF COMPASSION, of feeling or not feeling compassion, and of following the compassionate preacher, devotees need to face an equally relevant point: “What is my realistic capacity to express compassion in the face of who I am and the world in which I am being asked to preach?” Do we need to be pure to deliver the holy name? Is anything required of the recipients?
To be truly compassionate requires faith. When we distribute the holy name, we are not just trying to help people hear krsna-nama but to awaken faith in their hearts. If we are faithless, how can we plant the seed of faith in others? The holy name itself is like fire—it will act on the heart of the hearer as He chooses— but Krsna has arranged for the holy name to be delivered through the devotees. Receiving the holy name is meant to be an exchange between devotees and anyone who will hear.
I don’t think it’s necessary for a devotee to be so advanced before he or she begins to distribute the holy name. Sincerity of purpose is a good beginning. Compassion is a devotional quality that will grow with our practice of sadhana–bhakti. Therefore, until we feel a rise of personal compassion, we can hear from the compassionate teacher and serve his mission.
But even when we become more advanced devotees, our compassion may never reach the depth of Srila Prabhupada’s compassion, or the mood that Lord Caitanya expressed. We shouldn’t expect that. Instead, we will have to be satisfied to express compassion according to our capacity.
Prabhupada writes that the Vedas are meant to help the conditioned souls to understand Krsna. “Of all His glories, the most important is His causeless mercy upon the conditioned souls in reclaiming them from the clutches of maya.”
Only if the Lord again creates the universe after the devastation will the living entities have the chance to enact their karma and learn either by suffering or by meeting a pure devotee that the purpose of life is not material enjoyment. The most fortunate living entities meet a guru, who then instructs them on how to become free of the modes of material nature (brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva). None of this is possible while the souls lie dormant in Maha-Visnu’s abdomen. Therefore, one of the Lord’s primary acts of compassion is to create the material world.
Whenever this topic is discussed, it seems someone will always ask the question, “Why should there be any creation in the first place? Creation only means suffering. If Krsna is compassionate, why doesn’t He simply bring everyone back to Godhead by arranging for us jivas to be in agreement with Him?”
But that is not how Krsna chooses to show His compassion. Rather, He wants the living entities to maintain their free will. This is because Krsna is interested in love. Love is voluntary; there is no question of forcing love. Therefore, His compassion is not to remove our free will but to allow us our choice while never abandoning us regardless of where we wander.
If we wish to return to Krsna through His compassion, we will first have to accept that we are constitutionally His eternal servants. We cannot be happy acting outside our constitutional position. Actually, it is impossible to act outside that position. That is the meaning of “constitutional.” Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita, “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha.” (Bg. 4.11) It is impossible for the living entity to do anything but Krsna’s will. Therefore, it is simply a matter of our volition: we either fol-low the Lord in love, or we follow Him in ignorance.
In our original state, the living entity loves and serves Krsna in one of the five mellows. The love is freely given and is therefore so dear to the Lord that He feels He cannot repay it. Love that is offered out of fear of God’s mightiness is not really love. Even love offered dutifully to one’s maintainer does not have the flavor of pure love. We each naturally have a loving relationship with Krsna that at present lies dormant. Krsna provides the material creation as a place in which we can find our need for Him, and thus open the door to that hidden love.
I used to sleep on the porch,
under a mosquito net,
and at 3:00 A.M. I would rise.
Then I would have to
pass through your room.
Once you engaged me
in some conversation from
inside your net; you asked
for a certain English
word meaning chains.
I guessed shackles
since you used that word often,
and you replied, “Yes.”
To me that was
as delightful and satisfying
as Lord Kapila’s teachings,
an intimate, friendly
gift from you.
But one morning I forgot
to put ginger on your breakfast plate.
You were angry, and when
you saw me take it lightly,
you broke me into pieces
by your use of sarcasm.
Suddenly I beheld
my lack of surrender,
like a chasm at my feet,
and still today I call to you
to save me.
You appear a little restless,
I know that is your nature.
But you needn’t look further
to find some challenge.
The challenge is near at hand.
Suppose I am established as a good carpenter,
then it will be foolish if after some time
I say, “Oh, I have done this cutting of woods,
now it is boring, let me become a doctor.”
Kṛṣṇa doesn’t want that,
and it is not common sense.
I should stick to one duty
which is just suitable for me,
and consider throughout my life
I am obliged to perform it
to the best of my ability,
and not leave it
even for a so-called good cause,
as when Arjuna wanted to stop fighting.
We are preachers on behalf of Lord Kṛṣṇa—
that is our occupational duty.
We don’t have to search further
for a new challenge or change.
It has already been settled.
So the best thing will be
to develop more and more
what we have begun.
And there is so much to do:
I have built the skeleton
of the building,
but there is much more work
remaining before us.
— Letter of 2 January 1973
In The Nectar of Devotion: Rupa Gosvami (and Srila Prabhupada) say that if one has developed spontaneous attraction for chanting the maha-mantra, then he has reached the highest perfectional stage. Sri Krsna told Arjuna in the Adi Purana, “Anyone who is engaged in chanting My transcendental name must be considered to be always associating with Me. And I may tell you frankly that for such a devotee I become easily purchased” (NOD, p. 107).
It is conceivable that I could just take a more simple, resolute attitude and begin paying more attention to japa. Sometimes you notice that there is no attention at all. You might as well be saying different words, “Hair Mary, Har Roomy, Krist, Krsipt.” But no, attentive or not, I am trying to enunciate carefully. I have got that down. So why not just put your attention into it?
Try it now: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Is it so hard? Is it better?
You think it’s unproductive. Where is the tangible result? If you write a page, you get a page. If you roll a capati and eat it, you get a belly full of capati. Do you think chanting has no result?
O fruitive mentality, go back to simple prayer. Your prayer is the Hare Krsna mantra.
One good sign: When I chant japa, I am reluctant to let go of the beads when I am finished with my rounds. The reluctance comes from my hand. The hand itself feels like I am tearing away a valuable, lovable object.
When a devotee receives initiation but later breaks his vows, that is a form of cheating on the orders of the spiritual master. This cheating can be done in a gross or subtle way. An example of gross deviation was described by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who spoke of a “Vaiṣṇava” who wore neck beads but who was actually a kali-cela, a devotee of Kali, and whose “bhajana” was illicit sex. Gross misbehaviors and illegal and immoral activities bring shame to the reputation of the spiritual master and to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Subtle deviation occurs when a person presents himself as a respectable follower but breaks the rules in subtle ways. For example, one important prohibition is to avoid illicit sex. In gṛhastha life, this means to engage in sex only for the service of Kṛṣṇa, which is for procreation within marriage. But the deviant disciple may take his own interpretation of this rule and claim that as long as he only engages in sex with his wife and not with others, then he is following his spiritual master’s order. Another prohibition is against meat-eating. The actual spirit of the injunction is that one should offer all the foods he eats to Kṛṣṇa and take the remnants as prasāda. One can still deviate, therefore, by being a vegetarian but negligent in not offering suitable foods to the Lord. A disciple may be able to hide some of his deviations from others, but Kṛṣṇa in the heart sees everything, and we get the results of our activities.
With unceasing joy, He made others dance, as if they had His body. While playing karatālas with sweet low sounds, He sang in a deep voice.
Shining with the mixture of perspiration, tears, and flowing unguents, sometimes He watched, sometimes He sang, and sometimes He danced.
After cleansing the Guṇḍicā and dancing, Gauracandra, exhausted from wandering about, desired to play in the lake.
For a short time, at a soft, cool spot, Gauracandra, with His sweet face, eagerly sat down with the devotees to recover from the fatigue and enjoyed talking about the Lord.
Desiring water play, with tired body, the Lord, with the devotees in front, slowly walked to the lake. The lake gave happiness to the eyes of those who saw it.
Jagannātha and Gauracandra, two attractive, similar forms with fresh, deep attraction, privately looked at each Other with greedy, unblinking lotus eyes.
It was like an expansive ocean, with attractive sounds of “Jaya, jaya, deva, jaya” arising all around from people’s mouths, while they raised their wave-like arms.
Beautiful with His towering body, surpassing all people, Gauracandra, looking at the Lord, sat in front of the spotless bhoga-maṇḍapa.
He purified His moon-like toenails of His lotus feet with the torrents of His tears. Did He bathed them with His tears, thinking, “There is nothing so rare as these lotus feet”?
As He looked at the moon-like face of Jagannātha with no desires, His body attained the beauty of a budding creeper (from goose bumps) and His eyes attained the beauty of red lotuses.
After fifteen days, Jagannātha with His sweet body, taking the opportunity, spent a day enjoying with Lakṣmī in the temple.
The next day, Jagannātha nourished with double amounts of food, became most attractive. Desiring the festival of the rathayatra, He shone brilliantly.
Jagannātha, having tasted all rasa, full of desire for pastimes, having undertaken all the avatāra’s pastimes, was always merciful to His devotees.
Full of mercy for His devotees, every year the Lord goes to Guṇḍicā and pacifies Lakṣmī there, after spending fifteen days with her in private.
On either side of the path, pleasant with soft sand, were gardens with various trees, attractive to the whole world, which made one remember Vṛndāvana.
On the pretext of the rathayatra, Gaurāṅga, His heart absorbed in going to Vṛndāvana, had a strong desire for pastimes in those forests, as was previously explained.
Experiencing happiness, Gauracandra, the supreme Lord, performed pastimes at the garden during the rathayatra. Those gardens had the unlimited attractiveness of Vṛndāvana.
While Jagannātha stayed for nine days at Guṇḍicā, Gaurāṅga, purified by the breeze of the groves, enjoyed pastimes there.
Filled with the rasa of his victorious passage, at the end of night, Jagannātha manifested His form covered in battle gear. He desired to descend from His seat, like the moon descending on the western horizon.
While descending attractively with His feet, victorious Jagannātha saw Gauracandra as the best golden mountain, situated in front of Him.
As He descending using many pillows, Jagannātha appeared like the moon destroying darkness with His light, spreading to all the stars.
As He placed His feet on the pillows, He defeated the beauty of waves in an ocean of liquid sapphires.
While He gave joy to His many servants, who clustered around two silk ropes tied around His waist, it appeared that He by Himself conquered the assembly of Prajāpatis (the servants) who had arising from two stems (the ropes) in His lotus navel.
Jagannātha became a white battlefield by the constant showers of flowers and the many umbrellas held above Jagannātha’s head, like many moons serving his moon-like face.
As Jagannātha, the black moon, moved forward, the Son of Śacī, facing Him, retreated. He appeared like beautiful ball moving about.
As Jagannātha was surrounded by His servants, Gauracandra was surrounded by His servants. To the people they appeared to shine like a sapphire and golden jewel.
Sometimes Jagannātha assumed Gauracandra’s golden complexion and sometimes Gauracandra assumed a black complexion. From Puri, the two manifested Their power throughout the universe.
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.