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]
I watched Daivi-sakti’s lecture based on Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, dated June 6th. She said at this time Prabhupada was in Bombay, but he was trying to go to the U.S. Then Nehru was the P.M. (Prime Minister). Prabhupada wrote to him, although Prabhupada was homeless. Nehru’s idea was to turn the temples into factories. He said the temples and religion were creating the greatest misuse of money, but Daivi-sakti said, “Who is doing the greatest misuse of money—it’s the industrialist.” Nehru went to the opening of a gurukula in Vrndavana and gave a speech. He was there all day, but he didn’t visit a single temple. When he died, he put in his will that he didn’t want any religious ceremonies for his death. He said if he did, he would be a hypocrite. He declared himself an agnostic. When asked what Hinduism was, he said, “All men and all beliefs.” Daivi-sakti said that the politicians in India don’t give up their posts until they’re dead.
She said that Mukunda Maharaja was the first to visit Prabhupada when he was living in the Bowery loft. As a young man he showed a picture of Nehru to Prabhupada, thinking that he would agree that he was a great man. Prabhupada looked at the photo and said, “He’s a nonsense.” Gandhi wanted an agrarian society, but Nehru wanted industry. Daivi-sakti quoted the expression from Marx, that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Nehru thought like that. Srila Prabhupada said, “I loved Gandhi.”
Nehru was a “made in London” man. He was educated there. In his letter to Nehru, Prabhupada said we are suffering from “double pneumonia” but the medicine is sankirtana.
People in the West have plenty of riches, but they are not happy. In the U.S. they have capitalism, and in Russia the economy of the sudras.
Speaking of Russia, Daivi-sakti described how Prabhupada went there alone and created a revolution. There are now more Russian devotees following Prabhupada than people from any other country.
Nehru was once asked by a person in the audience to speak something about the Gita. Nehru replied, “I have no knowledge of the Gita.” Nehru was the first one to open slaughterhouses in India. This caused great riots as the sadhus got agitated and marched against the government.
Nehru died while he was still in office as Prime Minister. He had to be replaced by someone quickly. He was replaced by Sastri. Sastri appreciated Prabhupada. They had a personal meeting, and Prabhupada presented him two volumes of his Srimad-Bhagavatam and told Sastri to take leave of being prime minister and take up spiritual life.
Around 1981 I developed a desire to worship Nrsimhadeva. At that time, I was traveling very much, carrying out the duties of GBC, initiating guru and sannyasi. Word got around that I wanted a Nrsimha murti. In Vrndavana, different people approached me and offered me a Nrsimhadeva Deity. Some were rough; one was particularly so, carved in soapstone without much detail. Many offered me murtis, but none of Them were to my liking, and I didn’t accept Them, mostly because they were too big to travel with. Then one day in the courtyard of Krishna-Balaram Mandir, Bhagavan approached me. He asked me if I wanted a Nrsimha Deity. I said, “Yes,” and he just handed me one. I thanked him very much.
Bhagavan’s men had traveled all over India, visiting every antique store they could find, mostly in the cities. Their search yielded them three murtis of Laksmi-Nrsimha. They were almost exactly alike, made of bell metal. They all had particular features that identified them. The shopkeepers in the antique stores said these Deities were four hundred years old, and it’s believable because They were in three completely different parts of the country. And Their bodies bore this out. Their upper bodies, faces and chests, were highly detailed, and Lord Nrsimhadeva looked very powerful, and Lakshmidevi was petite, sitting on His knee. But one foot of Nrsimhadeva on all of the three Deities was very smooth and worn-down from polishing over the years, whereas the rest of the bodies were so detailed it was hard to get in close to Them to polish Them. They were all part of the same “architectural era.” Bhagavan had his Deity gold-plated, and for His bathing he had a jeweled basket to pour the water on top of the Deities. Indradyumna Maharaja also had a high standard of worship, and it was his Deities that ended up at New Mayapura, France. Baladeva and I were together, and I gave him the duty of worshiping Them, which included chanting the Nrsimhadeva prayers to Them every day and doing a simple aratika. In Their “naked” form They are dressed, but the New Vrndavana Deity jewelry-maker offered to make five sets of exquisite, complementary outfits, with a lot of gold-plate and semiprecious jewels. Because the Deities are only five inches tall, it was fine, detailed work. When I came to Viraha Bhavan, these Deities were first worshiped downstairs on the main altar. But during a health crisis I called for the “big gun,” and now He’s in a nicely carved “cave” and being worshiped daily upstairs.
All the devotees around this area, as well as devotees from around the world, have left to attend the New York City Ratha-yatra. They’re expecting great crowds of devotees, and many onlookers, to the wonderful Parade of the Chariots. The Ratha-yatra in New York City has been going on for forty-seven years. For weeks the devotees have been making preparations, and they’re very enthusiastic and looking forward to tomorrow (Saturday). There had been a countdown, and they’re ready to go now. A few weeks ago, the Sadhu Sanga festival was held in Dallas. Many ISKCON sannyasis attended, as well as a great crowd of devotees, numbering three thousand. Although we’re missing these big events, we are not unhappy back here at Viraha Bhavan. I have my writing, and Baladeva has his multitasking duties to do to keep Viraha Bhavan functioning. So, he’s staying back, out of duty to me and Viraha Bhavan. I am very happy to be hearing that such big events are going on in ISKCON. Prabhupada would be very happy.
In our out-loud reading we heard, once again, the story of the conversion of the hunter by Narada Muni. Narada was walking in the forest, and he saw a number of animals lying half-dead, with some of their bones broken. This gave him great pain. He walked a little further and saw a hunter with a bow and arrow about to shoot another animal. Narada approached the hunter, and in doing so all the animals fled away from the hunter’s clutches. The hunter was about to chastise Narada, but because of Narada’s saintly influence, he couldn’t. But he asked Narada why he had disturbed all the captured animals. Narada said to him, “My dear hunter, please give me one favor in charity.” The hunter was agreeable and said, “What do you want, some skins?” Narada said, “Please promise me that in the future you will not leave animals half-dead; it gives them great pain. It’s enough of a crime that you kill the animals, but it’s not such a great sin as compared to leaving them half-dead and in great pain.” At first the hunter said that he was taught to do this by his father, and that it was all right. But Narada told him that he would accrue great suffering in his next life for half-killing the animals in this way. Because of Narada’s influence, the hunter was convinced of his sins, and he begged to be forgiven for them. Narada told him to be forgiven he must break his bow and stop hunting. The hunter replied, “How can I live if I break my bow? That’s my means of living.” Narada told him that he would supply the man his eatables and take care of his needs. The hunter agreed and then followed Narada’s instructions. Narada told him that he should build a simple cottage for him and his wife, they should go there and chant Hare Krsna in front of a tulasi plant, and his sins would be forgiven. Narada said he would arrange for the couple’s food. So, they did as Narada instructed them, and they soon became famous as great Vaisnavas.
Later Narada Muni came to see his disciple, the ex-hunter, and he brought with him his friend, Parvata Muni. When the ex-hunter saw his guru approaching him, he was very happy, and he started to rush forward to greet him and to pay obeisances. But Narada and Parvata saw that the hunter was unable to run but was walking and very carefully sweeping away the many ants on the road. When Parvata saw this display of nonviolence on the part of the ex-hunter, he said to Narada, “You are a touchstone.”
Today we had a monthly meeting of our GN Press devotees. There were about six present on Zoom tuning in around the world from different places, like Italy, Florida, Oxford, England, etc., with Baladeva and I on the other end at Viraha Bhavan. GN Press is now putting books on Kindle. Two are already on Kindle, with two more being readied to go on. GN Press workers include editors, proofreaders, typists (a number of them scattered over different countries of the world), and layout and design workers. They are a united and harmonious team. They have been re-introducing my out-of-print books with new covers, new layout, design, and many of them had to be completely retyped because the technology had moved so far ahead from when they had originally been printed.
The GN Press editor gave me an approximate page count on the Journal I am writing now (Be Prepared). He said I was a number of pages short if I wanted to make this book as big as the others. When I told him I wasn’t so inclined to continue it much longer, he was agreeable to that and said, “Just do as many pages as you like.” I even wrote a few pages to go at the end of the present book. They would explain what effect writing so much about death in Srila Prabhupada’s purports had on me. And I also explained and defended my use of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Ujjvala-nilamani. I mentioned I liked it because of its sweetness, but also because it has no extreme physical or “sexual” descriptions of Radha and Krsna.
The GN Press team met with technical difficulties and missed a deadline for getting Volume One, Worshiping with the Pen, out in time to distribute for my July 1st disciples meeting. I’ve asked the layout man to try to finish it during the year, and I will personally distribute them to serious readers and those who love my books. The Journals are personal and private. I will sell Volume One, when I get it, in a very limited way. (Besides, we only have fifty copies.)
Some time ago I finished Volume Two of the Journals and titled it Srila Prabhupada Revival. That may be out for distribution by my Vyasa-puja date (early December 2023).
I’ve continued my writing on the Journals, and just finished a rough draft of Volume Three. The title of the third volume is Be Prepared, and the reason for the title is described in the introduction.
We had a surprise visitor today, who came without any prior notice. There has been a problem of my trying to reach him by email. For years he has written to me, he says, faithfully, but has never received a reply from me. I told him today that I always answer my letters promptly. It’s very unfortunate that he’s gone for years without receiving a reply to his letters. We exchanged email addresses today, and we hope for the best.
Vicaru, who was away for nineteen days in Fiji and Taiwan, is due back on Tuesday night, late at night. It will be good to see him back, and we hope he stays indefinitely.
Today Baladeva received an email from Jayadvaita Swami, who wrote, “I have in mind to visit from June 15th ’til 19th.” He also plans to come for the July 1st gathering.
We don’t plan to have any more visitors, and we have three doctor’s appointments lined up. There’s enough pressure now in these weeks before the festival on July 1st. I’m trying to get my talk together, so I don’t really expect to see many more visitors.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, I’m going to see my devotee-lawyer to start the process of making a will that’s acceptable to the GBC. On Wednesday, I go to the urologist. On Thursday Jayadvaita Swami comes for five days. And Friday I have to go for a biannual checkup with my primary care doctor. Saturday another meeting with Jayadvaita Swami, and Sunday lunch with JAS. I would rather be writing for a new direction for Journal Volume Four.
I received a letter from a disciple who has been living for a long time in Hawaii. She expressed thanks for the weekly Journal, which she said gives her inspiration and strength. Geographically we live far apart, and climatically we live very far apart. She is living in Hawaii with its tropical breezes, and I am living in upstate New York, where in the winter it gets so bitter that most devotees can’t stay here. In addition to receiving the weekly newsletter, I asked her to try to get some of my books.
This devotee is getting elderly, but she has dedicated her life to distributing Prabhupada’s books at the airport. (I think she’s been distributing Prabhupada’s books for fifty years.)
The manuscript of my Journal Volume One, Worshiping with the Pen, arrived at the book team with many errors in it. Krsna-bhajana, and his wife, Satyasara, went over it several times making corrections, but still there were more corrections remaining. The manuscript went to the layout man, Lal Krishna. He went into what he called “a mini marathon,” and got the changes done to the book. He emailed me and asked me if I wanted a final proofing done. But the final proofing would make it too late for the book to be ready for the July 1st meeting. I told him to go ahead and get the book printed, even if he couldn’t guarantee that there would be no errors. Lal Krishna emailed me back, “I will work now to finalize and order the book as soon as I can, hopefully today.” Baladeva emailed Lal Krishna back and wrote, “Good work—you get many, many Goloka points if you can pull this one off!” Lal Krishna emailed him back, “I will try my best.” A couple of small hurdles that aren’t under my control, but fingers crossed.
I can’t pray that the book will come on time, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.
The lecture was given on June 11th. Prabhupada tried to get help from Sumati Morarjee to go to America. On his first attempt, he was not even able to meet her. But in later meetings she was very helpful, and finally gave him a full free ticket to America. Prabhupada lived in Vamsi-Gopala temple in Vrndavana in 1958. He saw all that was going on in Vrndavana—the sahajiyas, the people practicing nirjana-bhajana, and he knew what it was really like. There was no electricity at that time, and they used gas lamps.
Daivi-sakti had just this week discovered a recording of a meeting between Srila Prabhupada and Sumati Morarjee in London. They were very friendly. Sumati Morarjee said that she was the mother of ISKCON, and that Prabhupada was the father. At this time in 1958 in Vrndavana, Prabhupada was seriously writing. He lived a very simple life, and although he had almost no money, he kept strict account of it in his notebook.
For most of the lecture, Daivi-sakti read from a book by Dasaratha Suta, translating the poems that Prabhupada wrote. Daivi-sakti said that actually Bengali cannot be translated. She gave an example that there’s an English line, literally translated from Bengali, “Eating the mind’s bananas.” It makes no sense in English.
She read from a letter I wrote her where I quoted a Srimad-Bhagavatam verse. The verse says, in the beginning half, that one should meditate upon an eternal resident of Vrndavana, and always think of one. The second half says that one should live in Vrndavana, and if one can’t live in Vrndavana he should live there mentally. She explained my situation, how I am not able to stand and walk, and so I can’t go to Vrndavana. But then, in looking at the first half of the Bhagavatam verse, she really caught me in my foolishness! I wrote to her that I didn’t know who the eternal resident of Vrndavana was that I had to follow. She quickly exposed me, and said, “The eternal resident was Srila Prabhupada.” I should have known better. I had even heard a story that the first Western devotees who went to Vrndavana with Prabhupada asked him whether he was the eternal resident of Vrndavana, and he was supposed to have answered, “Yes.”
Daivi-sakti was in ecstasy reading from a Bengali book, and translating it, and having a man sing the verses in Bengali. She was so caught up in what she was saying that she ran overtime in her presentation. She spoke for one hour and eight minutes. Then she finally realized what was happening, and in an embarrassed mood she apologized for speaking so long. She laughed and said she would talk more next week.
Srila Prabhupada recommended the chanting of the holy names of God even to persons who did not use the names Krsna and Rama. Thus he applied the harinama verse, which recommends, “Only by chanting the holy name, can one attain God realization in the age of Kali.” In a conversation with guests in Iran, Prabhupada advised that all persons in the Islamic culture should chant the name of Allah. Some of his guests objected and gave their interpretation that the name of God was material. Prabhupada refuted this on the basis of the Koran. Some guests pointed out that Allah was the Arabic word for God, but other Islamic languages would have different names to call Him. Prabhupada replied, “It may be Turkish name, it may be Arabic name, it may be Sanskrit name. Whatever he knows, let him chant. That is our program.” When a guest doubted that the name of God is perfect, Prabhupada replied as follows:
If the name Allah indicates to God, then this Allah word is as good as God. There is no difference. … If Allah is an approved name of God, you chant it. That is our request. We don’t force you to chant the name of Krsna. No, we don’t say that. If somebody says Jehovah is the name of God, that’s all right, you chant Jehovah. If you say Allah is a name of God, that’s all right, you do it. We simply request that you chant the holy name of God … We say: harinama. That is the sastra. Harinama. The name of the Lord.
—Conversation, Iran, Mar 14, 1975
Only a hard core materialist can fail to be roused by Prabhupada’s invitation to utter the names of God. As there is full potency in God’s names, so there is all potency in Prabhupada’s faithful preaching of the Holy Name.
For tonight’s lecture
I have put three bookmarks in the Gita.
In one place, Lord Krsna speaks as all-pervading,
“And yet I am not there—behold
My mystic opulence!”
In the second place, He is Arjuna’s friend,
better than awe and reverence.
In the third place, Prabhupada tells us
that the demons think Krsna is strange
but the devotees heartily welcome
when He speaks for Himself.
He is God as well as
a human-like friend to His friends.
It will be a gathering based on his books
in the home of the Sankhla’s on Ekadasi night;
lecture, kirtana, and prasada.
They are looking up to me,
and I won’t fail them—because
I have got my placemarks.
I gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam class this morning. I was enthusiastic because I was prepared to speak on the verse. I knew I would be depending on Prabhupada’s purports and statements. It is certainly enlivening to be talking to Prabhupada’s disciples, including some of his senior men. Because I was confident and had interesting subject matter from Prabhupada’s books, they were attentive. I saw them looking up with interest.
I gave Prabhupada’s example from the Tenth Canto of Srimad- Bhagavatam where he says, “Let there be a temple.” He explains that the Lord glances at His pure devotees and injects the desire for devotional service into their hearts. I also mentioned Prabhupada’s purports about the tamala tree in the courtyard and how it is flourishing. I was able to look up while lecturing and see the tamala tree before me with its rich green leaves and branches. It is filling the whole courtyard and pressing up through the screen on the ceiling. I turned to Prabhupada’s purport in the First Canto, the section about the talks between Narada and Vyasa, where he says that everything, every bit of knowledge, should be used in the service of Krsna. He mentioned psychology and art, even fiction writers and litterateurs. It is inspiring to see how everything—science, philosophy, psychology—should be used in the service of Krsna. At a time when senior ISKCON devotees are looking for esoteric subject matter and higher studies, it was also assuring to be able to lecture on such a basic thing as how to use the creative urge in Krsna consciousness. And to be able to take it straight from Prabhupada with enthusiasm and confidence, and to get some interesting response from the listeners.
So it was a rare day, a good day, because in the morning I was able to lecture on Prabhupada’s teachings.
I was interviewed today by a devotee for the Swedish radio station, Radio Rama. He asked me, “You have been a devotee for many years. What are some of the big changes that ISKCON is going through?” I said the biggest change occurred when Prabhupada disappeared, and we had to try to follow him without his direct presence. All other changes seem minor compared to that. But Krsna wanted Prabhupada to go back to Godhead. Prabhupada wanted to go back because he was submissive to Krsna’s desire. But Prabhupada also wanted us to learn how to take care of ourselves. Somehow, devotees are doing that, doing what they have to do. I mean, we are doing what we want to do, or we are doing what our karma directs us to do, and our true colors are being exposed. We couldn’t expect to remain Krsna conscious only because Prabhupada had us in his grasp. When you grow older, you have to practice Krsna consciousness because you want to be Krsna conscious. Everyone has to make their own choice in this regard.
Aside from this, even those who stayed in Prabhupada’s movement and worked for its goals have made mistakes and shown material motivation. One wonders if it wouldn’t have been better if they had left the movement rather than stayed in it with so much personal motivation. So some are in and some are out, but most of his followers remember him.
I recognize my relationship with Srila Prabhupada as in the dasya-rasa. He is the master and I am the servant who is filled with respect. This is the natural relationship between spiritual master and disciple. As a disciple, I am afraid of Prabhupada’s displeasure because I am so dependent on his mercy for my spiritual life. He is my link to Krsna. The spiritual master should be honored as good as God, and therefore, a disciple will offer dandavats upon seeing his guru; a disciple will also pray to be accepted by the guru and will realize that the guru can save one at the time of death. The guru gives faith in Krsna. Without Prabhupada, I can’t have faith in Krsna. I can’t please Krsna. Therefore, Prabhupada and I do not have an equal relationship as peers.
But what about Prabhupada’s purport stating that fear and respect may limit a loving relationship? One way to view this is to understand that within the fear and respect there is friendship. The Bhagavatam states that the brahmacari in the gurukula should have a firm friendship with his guru. Just as one has a friendship with the father based on respect, so this is the case between guru and disciple.
Also, whatever fear exists in the mind of the disciple should not cripple his ability to relate positively to the guru’s directions. The disciple should not be afraid of the guru himself, but he should be afraid of the guru’s displeasure. That fear should act as an impetus to save the disciple from misbehavior. We are all in need of instruction and correction by the spiritual master. Not being afraid of the spiritual master’s correction will make us reckless. But fear and respect should be based on love. We must know that Prabhupada loves us just as we love him; he will never disown us or reject us. Our love should make us secure enough to hear what the spiritual master has to say to correct us.
In the beginning of a guru-disciple relationship there may be some insecurity. Prabhupada points this out in another purport: “In general, love of Godhead is devoid of the intimacy of ownership. In the case of loving servitude, there is a want of confidence” (C.c. Madhya 8.79). The lack of confidence Prabhupada is referring to is the disciple’s insecurity that the guru truly loves him. He also implies that the spiritual master may not fully trust the disciple. The word “confidence” would also be taken to mean “confidential.” There may be an officialness to the relationship that doesn’t allow for heart-to-heart disclosures. Each side is a little afraid that the other person may not honor his confidence. In the surrendered guru-disciple relationship, however, this lack of confidence does not exist.
Prabhupada says that in the higher relationships, there is no formality, only friendship. There is a complete assurance that this person is always my friend. He loves me as I am, and I love him as he is. In my own case, I am aware that my relationship with Srila Prabhupada is lacking. Perhaps I lack the confidence that he will accept me and accept my service. I am afraid he will see my wrongs and that he will reprimand me for them. It’s not wrong to feel that way but I know my fears may be limiting me in my attempts to be an intimate disciple of Srila Prabhupada.
The guru-disciple relationship is dasya-rasa. There should be oneness in interest between spiritual master and disciple, and there should be a oneness in service ideal too. We can examine Srila Prabhupada’s service to his spiritual master to understand these points. The disciple just wants to carry out the instructions of the guru as his life and soul. He also knows that he will always be a fool before the spiritual master, that he will always be subordinate to him. This attitude is the culmination of the guru-disciple relationship and is fully satisfying.
I heard Srila Prabhupada on a “knockout” morning walk. He blasted the Christians and the scientists. For any of us to talk exactly as he does would be outrageous, but he can do it.
He was saying how they waste semen, which is actually blood. Forty drops of blood in a drop of semen. “Do you like to do something by which you lose so much blood? Can you call that pleasure?”
Prabhupada: “And yet you are doing it every night!”
Devotee: “I’m doing it, Prabhupada?”
Prabhupada: “Not you …”
Just to be near him, we were liable to get thrown into the category of fools and rascals. Oh, how he blasted them for not following the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” He said he met so many priests and none of them could answer that question, “Why do you kill against Christ’s order?” He said that question, and another, “If you agree God is unlimited, why do you say He has only one son?”—he asked and they could not answer. I used to cringe sometimes hearing these tapes, but I don’t anymore.
“As for the scientists, they are not even gentlemen. They say they will do it—create life from matter—in the future …”
A Godbrother writes me on a greeting card, “Vrndavana is a touchstone of extremes: extremely hot summers, extremely cold winters; extremely rude people, extremely loving friends. Extreme blessings and advancement for a simple, sincere effort, extremely severe punishments for offenses.”
The simple weather, the simple bell-ringing—live here as innocently as possible. Don’t assume you understand anything. Be open to what you can perceive at any hour. Saintly persons can smell the delicate fragrance of tulasis at dawn when they release their aroma.
I want to be confident (and reckless, extreme)—I want to say that what happens even to me in Vrndavana is worth telling about. It may be homely now, but later it can become a jewel. I write as if my tiny words from my tiny point of view have value. I write for no reason at all. I write because I am in Krsna’s land and as I chanted japa, I heard a conch blowing somewhere. I imagined myself standing at the rail of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir, imagined myself watching the arati. But then I turned to this page.
I am not writing exercises for self-discovery. I am trying to do something with the self, not kill him or stomp him into the earth. I don’t want to chase him down a hole like a startled rabbit. I am looking for that small, simple person with the tiny world view who talks in a Krsna conscious way. (Why does he talk in a Krsna conscious way? How did he manage to learn that? Is it from realization? I can’t say.)
I want to tell you about the picture of Srila Prabhupada I have that accompanies me when I write. I bought it at the gift shop in the Krishna-Balaram Mandir. It is sealed inside a heavy glass frame and I like it very much. I dust it every day and sit it on my desk wherever I go.
In the picture, Srila Prabhupada is sitting outdoors on a pillow. He is wearing a saffron sweater and looking down, his hand in his bead bag. He doesn’t have to say anything and neither do I, but sometimes we speak. He appears indirectly in my writing. I may write, “Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let me know …” Or, “I want to please him …” In each case, I mean this Prabhupada as he appears on my desk.
This picture is far more valuable than anything else I use. He’s here, his forehead a gentle golden, his thoughts private. He looks within and invites me to do that too. His feet are bare. I’m all alone, but he is here.
I did not expect Prabhupada to talk about Krsna’s vraja-lila just because we were entering Vrndavana. Thoughts of such spiritual pastimes were always alive within him wherever he was in the world, but he was also a very grave personality. He was silent during most of the trip, making a few comments about the progress of the ISKCON temple construction in Vrndavana. He had already fully described Vrndavana and Lord Krsna in his Krsna book, and as our little Ambassador car came nearer to Mathura and Vrndavana I thought of the descriptions of lush vegetation, surabhi cows with milk-dripping udders, ecstatic cowherd men and women—and I saw that the present Vrndavana was suffering by comparison. Yet even I could feel an inkling of the Vrndavana atmosphere, and I recalled Prabhupada’s writing that one cannot enter Vrndavana just by the external act of purchasing a ticket or driving there in a car. But if I could ever expect to understand Vrndavana at all, there was certainly no better opportunity than to go there as a servant of Krsna’s pure devotee.
The place at Ramana-reti was just a building site. Metal rods were sticking up, a foundation was laid, but the only building was the first story of Prabhupada’s red brick residential house. His room wasn’t quite ready. The floor was dirt and bricks covered by a rug, the walls were damp, and the room itself was very cold. It was a large room that could serve as gathering place, and Prabhupada’s study fitted into one corner.
Prabhupada was very pleased. He sat at his desk smiling, thanking the devotees for working so hard. Surabhi, the disciple in charge of construction, admitted to Srila Prabhupada that they had worked up until the last minute before his arrival, and yet they still weren’t finished. The devotees and hired workers had toiled at a marathon pace day and night for weeks. Surabhi said that they had just cemented the walls in Srila Prabhupada’s room and had tried to dry them with special heating lamps. But that had brought out bugs and flies. So his room was in a rather crude state, but Prabhupada wasn’t at all critical; he was happy that they had done it. Yet he emphasized that everyone should continue to work hard and finish the entire Krishna-Balaram temple by Janmastami, seven or eight months ahead. It was asking a lot, but Prabhupada was serious. He was simultaneously very pleased with the crude state of his freezing cold room in Vrndavana, and at the same time he put before his devotees the difficult task of completing the work.
Preventative treatment is better than taking antidotes after you have the disease. Some things to avoid:
Indulging in academic studies of Indology or Hinduism. Most of the scholars do not have faith and do not accept that Vedic literature is revealed from a perfect source. Therefore, their skeptical studies can damage a devotional creeper. When I was doing research for Readings in Vedic Literature, a brahmacari assisted me by reading extensively in academic Hinduism. As a result, he began to think as they do, that perhaps the Vedic literature is all mythology, and that it was written at a recent time. This caused him a serious relapse. He had to stop the research and recover by chanting and hearing from Prabhupada’s books. It may be necessary to read this literature for specific projects, as some of the ISKCON scholars are doing, but it should be done very carefully. And even if mundane research is required, it should be balanced with equal time for reading in parampara.
Krsna consciousness is not merely an intellectual position, or a political party. It is a state of grace and enlightenment which drives away all ignorance. It is stated in the Krsna book that the appearance of Krsna in the world vanquishes all speculative iconography. People may wonder and doubt about the identity of God, but when He actually appears, then all the doubts go away. Similarly, when Krsna appears in your heart and in your life, when you are overflowing with transcendental realization and happiness, then there is no room for doubts. A t this stage, you do not have to be a good debater or logician (although such may be used in Krsna’s service).
Krsna appears in the heart by His own grace, but He can be attracted by practices of Krsna consciousness and by contact with a pure devotee. The pure devotee defeats doubts not only by his argumentation, but also by the godliness that emanates from his person. Prabhupada convinced us by arguments, but also by stating, “Krsna consciousness is such a nice thing.” Coming from him, the words of faith were convincing. As Prabhupada said of Lord Buddha, “He created faith in the faithless.”
According to the Vedic scriptures, three-fourths of all spirit souls are liberated and living in the eternal spiritual world. But on the earth planet, it is very rare to find a spirit soul who is aspiring for pure devotional service. Lord Krsna gives the statistics: “Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Bg. 7.3) Devotees should not feel sorry that they are such a small minority. Srila Prabhupada has encouraged us not to seek the endorsement of the vox populi, and he also said that we should be callous toward the scorn of the nondevotees. But it is natural that a practicing devotee sometimes feels sensitive if he or she is laughed at for wearing Vaisnava dress, or if one is seen as a weird cult member. These inimical attitudes create an obstacle on the path of devotional service.
Worldly pressures may be especially difficult in the beginning, when one is trying to decide if he or she wants to join the Krsna consciousness movement. One has to break away from friends and sometimes even family members. When George Harrison was very interested in practicing Krsna consciousness, he admitted to Srila Prabhupada that his interest in Krsna was causing him to lose friends. Prabhupada encouraged him to continue in Krsna consciousness, but social pressure was at least part of the reason why George found it impossible to commit himself to Krsna consciousness.
Even those who become initiated continue to see worldly opposition as an obstacle to their devotional service. There are so many prejudices against devotees, especially in Western countries. You may not be able to buy a house if the owners know that you are a practicing Vaisnava, and you may not be able to get a job unless you conceal your religion. A predisposed enmity against “Hare Krsnas” has been discovered by courts of justice when they attempt to select a jury in cases involving members of the Krsna consciousness movement. The anti-cult movement continues its war of propaganda, in which devotees of Krsna are characterized as pathological, anti-social and dangerous. Devotees may do their best to offset these images, but who can say that he is completely undisturbed in the face of opposition?
In the case of the preacher, he stirs up opposition when he attempts to impress upon people the importance of devotional service. Srila Prabhupada writes, “While engaged in preaching work, he has to meet with so many opposing elements, and therefore the sadhu, or devotee of the Lord, has to be very tolerant.” (Bhag. 3.25.21, purport)
Pent-up all winter eating
the cows broke out today for
the lower pasture.
It was a billed event: men,
women, children gathered at
barn-side, the cowbells clanging
around the cows’ big necks, a
symphony of Swiss chimes.
Sri Krsna opened the gate, and they filed
out all right, but when they reach the
field— cavorts, leaps, twists-in-air,
stampedes through the dandelions, too
excited to eat—just smelling it was
The cows in clover are green and
But wanting more action Nirmala
runs among them blowing
through a hose, and trailing a
white cloth—to titillate the
herd for racing and bucking in
After a half-hour in the hot sun, they
settled down to eating the fresh
And when matriarch Cintamani the
champion milker, made her late
entrance, the devotees cheered.
We can smile and tolerate our defects, and then we can still turn to the sastra’s descriptions of the holy name. But there’s danger of complacency. We’ll be no different than the pseudoreligionists. Prabhupada criticizes so strongly. The would-be Christians say that they can commit sins because Lord Jesus has absolved their sins by his death. Are we much different if we say Lord Krsna has guaranteed to appear fully in His name, so even if we don’t chant attentively, we can still go back to Godhead? (In the most recent issue of Back to Godhead, a young writer strongly asserts that many sastras prove that even if we chant the holy name accidentally or inattentively at the time of death, we are guaranteed to go to the eternal spiritual world.)
I, myself, don’t care for devotees who assume dark looks and crusading attitudes and say that ISKCON has gone to hell because of something like inattentive chanting. If someone feels that way about it, that offenseless chanting is sorely lacking in ISKCON’s members, then the best thing is to reform his or her own japa sadhana. That’s mainly what I have to say to Bahulasva. He should take his japa seriously. He has household duties, but that doesn’t mean he should chant his rounds while driving. The day should be structured around priority for japa.
I just read a purport by Prabhupada where he says a spiritual master never advises a disciple to do anything the spiritual master doesn’t do himself. I have a tiny edge of righteousness when it comes to chanting. I can tell someone to chant at a prescribed time and not to chant while driving because I follow that advice. If I step beyond that, however, I’m tongue-tied. My advice becomes theoretical.
Bahulasva asked, “Why do we say the chanting is so easy when it actually seems difficult?” To answer a question like that isn’t going to solve an individual’s problem of poor japa habits.
Chanting is easy compared to astahga-yoga. Astahga-yoga is impossible for us. Chanting is easy in the sense that anyone can pronounce the mantras, regardless of whether they are sitting or standing. Even mechanical chanting brings great benefit. But it’s not easy to pray the Hare Krsna mantra, to chant and cry and fix the mind and hear the holy name.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa lives among the cowherd men and the Yādavas, and is conclusively both the son of Devakī and Yaśodā. He is the guide of the Yadu dynasty and the cowherd men, and with His mighty arms He kills everything inauspicious, in Vraja, Mathurā and Dvārakā. By His presence He destroys all things inauspicious for all living entities, moving and inert, and the suffering of separation of the inhabitants of Vraja and Dvārakā. His blissful smiling face always increases the desires of the gopīs of Vṛndāvana and women of Mathurā and Dvārakā. He remains eternally in this situation. (SB 10.90.48)
While dancing, Mahāprabhu, soft with great mercy, spreading prema-bhakti as He described the great glory of Kṛṣṇa with pain in His heart, with intensely sweet limbs, became filled with bliss.
Waving His left hand, attractive with His sweet, tender red body, spreading rays from His moving moon-like face, He illuminated all direction with His effulgence.
Constantly chanting “Jaya jaya” in a loud voice with abandon, with hairs standing on end, He conquered the bandhu-jīva flower with the beauty of His red cloth bound around His charming waist, slender as a fist.
With tears flowing over His golden body, with fresh drops of perspiration imbedded on His moon-like face, with His body stretched out by His intense dancing, He ornamented the assembly of devotees.
Shaking the sky with His great height, kissing the disk of the sun constantly, making the assembly of devatās offer the greatest respect, producing the greatest enthusiasm and joy for the eyes for all persons within the universe, the chariot of Jagannātha, filled with the wealth and beauty of Lakṣmī, remained glorious with pride.
Did the creator turn this chariot, carrying the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s form, into the king of all mountains on earth—forcing Mount Kailāsa to bow down with all reverence, laughing loudly at Meru, agitating Vindhya with longing, and making Himālaya waste away?
This was a great festival for the people blessed with joy, who drank the nectar mixed with the Lord’s form with the cupped hands of their wide-open lotus eyes, whose hairs playfully moved about in the waves of the Mandākinī River of bliss.
The earth around the chariot, agitated by the pounding of the wheels, developed longing for the Lord. Its mind became filled with great joy, turning its body (the ground) red because of the abundant sindhura in the part of the hair of women who had come there with eager minds.
The Deities on the chariots, with eager minds, constantly gazed at Gauracandra as He danced with attractive steps of His lotus feet. The expansive crowd, pushing themselves in front because of ego, running forwards, danced in joy.
The clouds of dust, which arose and spread from the turning of the shining wheels, blocked the nostrils of the elephants of the directions, made thousand eyed Indra, lord of Airāvata, shed tears, turned the hair of the devatās white, and caused the ocean to think there was a bridge over the ocean, as the dust spread everywhere.
As Jagannātha happily went to Guṇḍicā, Kūrma felt pain in his body, and Śeṣa, with bowed heads, placing the earth on one hood after the other, became fatigued. The ocean overflowed its shores with huge, agitating waves.
May the collection of gems manifested during the chariot procession of Jagannātha continually shine, defeating the beautiful wealth of Indra and his followers among all shining treasures. May the beautiful Lord, the Ornament of ornaments, expand His fame unlimitedly. But moon-like Gaurāṅga danced, and paralyzed the minds of all people.
Whirling about unsteadily like a sweet wheel, like the moon decorated with a halo of sparkling rays, purifying the faces of the directions completely with His tears, Mahāprabhu remained glorious while dancing.
All directions resounded incessantly when He shouted loudly “Jaya, jaya, jayatu.” What else could they do? Glancing with His red eyes in all directions constantly, He made the universe red with eagerness as He danced.
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.