With my illness, I am canceling writing volume four until my health returns.
Despite my sickness, I am continuing to print the weekly journal.
Since I canceled the wonderful practice of daily out-loud readings of Prabhupada’s books with my disciples, I wondered how much I will be able to keep in touch with Prabhupada. I decided that while honoring prasadam I will listen to his recorded lectures.
I have been forced to stay in bed for major portions of the day due to illness. The main symptoms are nausea and headaches. The nausea has been lingering for three weeks, and the headaches have come on strong for the last week. So I have had to surrender to resting and recovery. My hope is the doctors’ recommendations will prove successful, and I can get back to my regular routine, writing, reading, japa and darsana.
When Srila Prabhupada called me to be his servant and cook in 1974 he asked me, in his presence, to cut a cucumber in half. I cut it the wrong way. He chastised me and called me a “fool!” I defended myself and said, “I can learn the right way to do it.” Prabhupada replied sarcastically, “You won’t learn to do it right in three hundred years!” My false ego was shattered!
When I was Prabhupada’s secretary for six months in 1974, I was not good at keeping financial records. When a newcomer came to replace me, Srila Prabhupada told him, “Satsvarupa is expert.” Srila Prabhupada didn’t tell him I was not expert, so it was a private joke between him and me.
Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist, had two holes in his front door to let the cats in and out. A friend came over and said, “Sir Isaac, why do you have two holes in the door, one large and one small?” Sir Isaac replied, “Well, I have two cats—one is large, and one is small.” The man just started laughing at him and said, “Oh, Sir Isaac! You show brilliance as a scientist, but you have no common sense.” This is a famous story. So one day Prabhupada was going for a walk at Juhu, the group started heading out, and I was with Prabhupada as his servant, carrying the tape recorder. Suddenly I said, “Oh no, I forgot my beads,” and I ran to the car, which was locked, and someone opened it and I got my beads and ran back because Prabhupada had continued on his walk, not waiting for me. When I arrived back, he said, “Sir Isaac Newton,” as if to cut a joke at my expense, but it was relishable because it was just between the two of us.
The famous Vaisnava saint Syamananda would sweep Seva-kunja in the morning after the evening’s pastimes there with Radha and Krsna. One morning he found an ankle bracelet fallen on the ground. Being a great Vaisnava, he knew that it must have come from Radharani. So he kept it, and Lalita disguised herself and went up to him and said, “Oh, Syamananda, did you find an ankle bracelet? My sister has lost it.” Syamananda said, “Yes, I did find it.” So they went back and forth a few times, with her trying to get the ankle bracelet and him refusing, saying, “No, I’ll put it on Her myself,” knowing full well that it was Radharani’s. Finally she broke down and said, “Well, but you can’t . . . No other man but Krsna can touch Radharani. No one else!” She then said, “I’ll have to change you into your gopi body.” So she sprinkled him with some sacred water and turned him into his gopi-manjari body, and he then was able to put on the ankle bracelet directly onto Radharani’s ankle. There’s a place which marks this pastime just down in Loi Bazaar, right off the Bazaar, in a little walled-in compound. Right across the street is his bhajana-kutira underground, which they found during temple construction. So it’s all very relishable and visible.
I’ve been so sick that even the Prabhupada lecture brings on a headache at mealtime. It’s too intense to focus on honoring prasadam and listen to him nicely. In a few days I will try to listen to bhajanas and kirtana by Prabhupada, and in this way be able to listen to him in some form during the day for several hours.
When you walk around Govardhana, your sense of self becomes small or lost. You just keep watching the man ahead. When he bows down at a sacred place you do too. I am usually self-conscious about it, and that makes it hard to pray while I lie prostrated in the sand. But I keep up the pace, walking on my tender soles over the foot-worn earth and chanting Hare Krsna. Days like this do something for the soul.
“This is Aniyora, where the huge form of Krsna manifested as Govardhana Hill and ate all the offerings cooked by the devotees.” Krsna kept saying, “More! Give Me more!” The people offered more capatis, more rice, more vegetables, but He demanded, “More!” Then they offered Him a tulasi leaf and He was satisfied.
This is a busy village. My friend says, “According to Bhakti-ratnakara, anyone who sees a resident of Aniyora becomes liberated.” As he says it, I see the face of an old man with drawn-in lips. I don’t question it. I just keep walking.
I prefer the woods to the villages. I ask, “If the devotees like Raghunatha dasa Gosvami pray for residence near Govardhana, and if you say that these little rock piles have been put together by people as prayers for residence at Govardhana, then why don’t any sadhus live here today, as we see in other places in Vrndavana?”
“Because there are so many gundas. Many places in Vrndavana are dangerous because of that.”
Radha-kunda—Just say it simply: I offer my obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. He is my sole connection. Only by his permission do I come here. I have no knowledge of or taste for Radha-Krsna’s pastimes. I am just a fool in a body. But I have this pranama-mantra engraved in my heart. I chant it as my heart’s prayer again and again at Radha-kunda.
nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
They are begging for rupees. We are drying off, wringing out our gamchas. It is immediately hot again. Something nice happened here.
Submerge yourself in the water. Hold onto the chain because the steps are slippery. I see what my brother does and I do it too. He cups his hands, dips them into the water, and then lifts them up to splash water on his head. It is delightful. I want to stay longer, but I don’t like the turtles. They surface and look in my direction, and I hurry to finish my gayatri. I have to laugh at what a superficial person I am, but it is all mercy.
Devotees from Italy, America, and India sit for a short while together on a wall. We reapply our tilaka while a girl tries to sell us gray Radha-kunda candana. As I apply my tilaka, a boy watches. Then he exclaims, “Gaudiya Math! Caitanya Mahaprabhu!” This is India. In America, even the most clever boy could know only, “Oh, a Hare Krsna.” This boy sees the thin lines of our Visnu tilaka marks, the conservative, concise “arrow” point over the nose, and happily concludes which sampradaya we belong to. Yes, we are followers of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Gaudiya-sampradaya. Mahaprabhu. Prabhupada.
An amazing sight: so many babajis inside the building on the shore of Radha-kunda. I don’t have to judge them. I am a pink cow next to them. There is a slight camaraderie among us, but mostly we stay apart. I am afraid to write even a single descriptive word about them. When Srila Prabhupada heard that Indira Gandhi, in the days of emergency rule, ordered that some Radha-kunda babajis be gathered and sterilized to fulfill her quota, he was insulted and angered. Later, he said it was the cause of her fall from power. A few days after perpetrating this act she was deposed.
As I left Radha-kunda I suddenly noticed that I did not have my cane with me. “My cane! I can walk without it! I’m cured!”
Blessings upon us from Sri Panca-tattva. How foolish I was to think that I could not relate to these Deities or that they were not full of rasa for me. This morning, as we were about to depart, I glimpsed Their mercy and the bliss of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in Their presence. The Deities with upraised arms! They increase the ocean of bliss and give us the taste of the nectar for which we are always anxious. I seek Their blessings for japa reform. May I live always in the association of Srila Prabhupada’s devotees.
Yesterday a person new to the temple told me she thought “it wasn’t necessary that we put eyeglasses on Srila Prabhupada during the Srimad-Bhagavatam class and changed the Deities’ dresses every day.” I asked her, “What is necessary? We do it because we want to render more loving service to Srila Prabhupada and the Deity.” This morning too, I looked over to Prabhupada while singing—is it necessary? Yes, I need Srila Prabhupada. His murti form enables me to see him.
Remembrance of Krsna’s pastimes and the chanting of harer nama occur in two ways: aroha-pantha and avaroha-pantha, by the ascending and descending methods. When we try to chant and remember by our own endeavor, that is the ascending method. That way is beset with many obstacles, as our mind presents so many thoughts. Of course, we have to chant anyway, we have to work; but only when the guru-mantra appears of itself, descending by the mercy of Lord Krsna or His associates, or by our gurudeva’s blessing. Only then are we free of obstacles in sravanam-kirtanam.
My japa increase will be sheer endeavor, but I am sure some mercy will come too.
(Writing this in the van. It is a cold morning drive to our destination. Just as the sun rises, we suddenly see the massive, snow-covered mountains we have been driving through up close, via the Italian tunnel system. Cold mountains—my heart, the rock edifice of inattentive japa. It’s an exciting sight. Gray sky outlining the peaks, God’s majesty and mystery. These are the surroundings for our retreat.)
When hari-katha is spoken by a rasika devotee, that hari-katha is Krsna Himself. The pure name is Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja (‘bhinnatvan nama naminoh). When such hari-katha or nama descends, then there is no sleepiness, laziness, or distraction.
(We come out of a tunnel, and suddenly there is morning light gleaming on the mountains—a vista of bridges and roads below, layers of clouds above. And always the still, cold, deep, snow-covered mountains. Madhu and the Renault van are both competent, yet I am aware that everything is hanging together fragilely. Only God’s grace protects us and maintains us.)
There is no aroha, no bhaya, when Sukadeva Gosvami speaks. Maharaja Pariksit forgets all else. This is the best hari-katha. Krsna enters in the door of one’s heart and removes all offenses and anarthas.
We don’t hanker for Krsna like Maharaja Pariksit. Our pasts and futures are crowded with mental images and sense perceptions, but when we hear with sraddha, we too can forget all else and chant and hear.
When Krsna’s pastimes appear to a pure devotee, they don’t come in chronological order. Whatever appears, the devotee remembers. When a sadhaka is trying to remember Krsna by the ascending process, he tends to speak or write his thoughts in a very organized way. The spontaneous, descending remembrance is more powerful. Often in Srimad-Bhagavatam, when Sukadeva Gosvami recalls krsna-katha, he does so without adherence to strict chronology.
How can I link my japa to Krsna’s pastimes? How can I remember the lilas Raghunatha dasa Gosvami describes in prayers like Vilapa-kusumanjali? I want to go beyond my own endeavor, yet I can’t force Krsna to appear. I am left with what Srila Prabhupada told us from the beginning: “Pray and endeavor.”
My dear spiritual master, this day has come to an end, ayur harati vai pumsam. I look at my calendar, eager to finish the week. Why am I wishing my life away? How can I come to you?
I sometimes try to push my way into your presence. Can’t do it. It is up to you. Thirty volumes of conversations are here, but who can impose upon your presence?
In a nearby room in this house, a father is reading a bedtime story to his four-year-old daughter. The Irish countryside is quiet. I am beaming a tiny light of hope in all directions, seeking Prabhupada memories.
May I recall my spiritual master once again, who looked at me and allowed me to accompany him. That time is now gone…
Up in his room alone in New York City, his is singing “krsnotkirtana … vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau.” He is calling to them. We did not understand of whom he was singing. To us, it was simply “Swamiji is singing” and “Krsna.” That was sufficient, simply to know his mood, to hear his karatalas. He was crying to the Lord.
Why did he record those songs? He may not have known at the time what he would do with the tapes. He may not have known how his solitude in New York City would later become a legend.” … gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda.”
Prabhupada, you had so little money: camping in an office lent by a yogi; barely having enough for eatables, to pay the high prices, to survive the Manhattan cold—but you were not afraid.
Now when we walk in a city, we think of you there in New York City. Sri-Krsna-caitanya prabhu … patita-pavana hetu. Doctor Misra allowed you to stay, but no lectures. Someone knocked on your door bringing brown rice from the macrobiotic restaurant and inviting you downtown. I recall the story tonight and your singing from 1965, ha ha prabhu Nityananda.
We want to follow you, Srila Prabhupada, although we fight so much. We pray to receive you in the standard ways. Please deliver us from the wrongs of ordinary life in which we tend to get stuck. Please deliver us from forgetfulness of you, forgetfulness of your mission.
Lord Caitanya said something like this: “I have no love of God, not even a spot. It is not possible to have pure love of God and still live in the world in separation from the Lord. If I loved the Lord, then how could I live?” He is describing the most intense expression of love of God, and it produces severe unhappiness, but actually Lord Caitanya was feeling bliss. For myself, I cannot feel intensity in my forgetfulness of Srila Prabhupada. I follow and repeat his instructions, but I lack a personal touch. If I loved Srila Prabhupada, I would be in a different frame of mind.
Love of Krsna is so intense and bewildering that even a drop of it can drown the whole world. One feels madness—happiness of being with Krsna and sadness of separation. If the symptoms are not present, how can one claim to be a lover of Krsna? Similarly, if we do not feel bereavement that Prabhupada is not in this world directing us—as well as the conviction that he is still with us—how can we claim to be a “Prabhupada man,” Prabhupada nectar-hound, Prabhupada meditator and so on?
Prabhupada said that on the disappearance of the spiritual master, the disciple should cry. As a chaste wife is ready to climb onto the funeral pyre following her dead husband, the disciple should be ready to give up his life after the departure of the spiritual master. The way to do this is to serve the order of the guru. This is “giving up the life” in a positive sense. One may say, “I cried tears back in 1977. It has been a long time since then. What do you expect? I am sure Prabhupada wants us to go on functioning.” I agree. A Prabhupada disciple understands that his spiritual master has not “disappeared.” Prabhupada has entered the eternal lila of the Lord. His disciple continues to live by service, and, therefore, he is cheerful. Everything is okay.
Yet everything is not okay. We are without our guide on a daily basis. We feel incomplete. We seek relief, and often we find it in contact with Prabhupada. If we did not have ways to contact him, then it would be indeed difficult.
We approach him by listening to a lecture and bowing down before the Prabhupada murti. “I did it,” we should think. “I touched him, I made some contact today, so all is not lost.” Prabhupada is not sheer vani; he is not only in sound waves; he is not only printed words on a page. He is a living person.
Prabhupada is never far away, but we have to notice him. For example, when I feel envy toward my Godbrothers, I am able to check it somewhat by remembering Prabhupada. He is always there, just as the Supersoul is in the heart. All we have to do is remember and turn to him.
Prabhupada meditations do not have to be a huge effort. You do not first have to relax your body, do an asana, control your breath, and meditate on cakras for hours in order to come to an ultimate point. Just perform the simple act of turning to someone who is close. When we think and do something favorable for spiritual life, know that Prabhupada is the bestower of that Krsna conscious thought. When we find ourselves slipping into wrong actions and thoughts, Prabhupada will save us by his relevant instructions and by his glance.
“Don’t be ashamed,” Prabhupada said. He meant don’t be ashamed to be seen in public as a devotee of Krsna. Prabhupada didn’t force us to wear dhotis and shave our heads, but he liked it. He preferred us to appear as Vaisnavas and remind people of Krsna. To the average Westerner, our Vaisnava dress is certainly strange, but when we dress like this in public, it is a way for us to link up with Prabhupada. We have to go within ourselves and ask, “Why am I wearing these clothes? Why is my head shaved? Why have I set myself off so much from regular society?” The only possible answer is that we are followers of Prabhupada. A follower of Prabhupada happens to dress like this. As time goes on, our self-questioning becomes less formulated, but that internal meditation has to be there in order for us to do it.
We cannot fully surrender right away; nor can we become completely pure immediately. But we can perform little acts of sacrifice and commit them to Prabhupada. In this way we will gradually commit ourselves more and more to him. If the only price to pay is a little embarrassment, then it’s worth it. The ‘60s are long gone, and with them went the age of swamis and yoga and the idea that it is “in” to be a member of the Hare Krsna movement. But our identities do not change with the passing of time. We persevere and move to ever deepening commitment.
We don’t want to dress publicly as a devotee out of dogged obstinacy. People see us as crazy when we dress in our robes. I don’t continue to dress this way to defy them. Prabhupada doesn’t want us to appear crazy, he wants us to change people’s minds in favor of Krsna. By his calculations—the calculation of guru, sastra, and sadhu—if someone sees a devotee and thinks of Krsna even unfavorably, it will be of benefit to him. We have to have faith in this. It is not that Prabhupada told us to go around walking on our hands with our feet in the air. He asked us to dress as devotees, if you like, if you are not ashamed—so that people will think of Krsna and benefit.
Of course, there are many reasons why devotees don’t dress in their saris and dhotis in public. Sometimes devotees are sensitive and shy. It is too great a sacrifice to go against social opinion. Some devotees are working in the world and do not have the freedom to dress in their devotional clothes. Others find that dressing in Western clothes enhances their preaching. People are more willing to talk to them if they don’t look too “strange.” But for those who can endure it or who have the freedom to dress as they like, there will be no real loss or embarrassment, but instead a deeper meditation on Krsna and Prabhupada.
We were especially able to endure the sometimes scathing public opinion when we walked with Prabhupada. We were proud to be with him, walking beside him on the city street and trying to protect him from any disturbance. Who cares how people looked at us? We wanted to be presentable as Prabhupada’s servant, not to embarrass him, but we had no concern at all for what others thought. Walking beside Prabhupada was already the most prestigious position anyone could have, not only among the devotees, but in the entire world. People would see the elderly, saintly guru. Beside him was the person they could approach to find out about that guru, the guru’s assistant. We can still meditate like that, that we are walking beside Prabhupada and ready to represent him at any moment.
If you know the truth, you should distribute it to others, because the Truth brings liberation.
We receive Vedic knowledge from the spiritual masters who are described as tattva-darśinaḥ, “they have seen the truth.” When the spiritual master accepts a disciple and initiates him in spiritual knowledge, the sincere disciple feels indebted and offers, “My dear master, what can I do for you?” This indebtedness is called guru-dakṣiṇā. In 1966 when I was initiated, Prabhupāda described the significance of guru–dakṣiṇā:
Lord Caitanya asked His disciple Rūpa Gosvāmī to go to Vṛndāvana to preach and sustain His mission. This is disciplic succession. Not that one thinks, ‘I have understood everything from my spiritual master; let me now sit tight.’ That is also nice, but no. Lord Caitanya’s mission is to spread the teaching…. It is your duty.
—A Handbook for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, p. 326
There is a great need to distribute Kṛṣṇa consciousness. While writing his commentaries on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the early 1960s, Prabhupāda noted that international wars were due to the Age of Kali in which “there is always a chance of quarrel on slight provocation” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.5.11 purport).
Due to Kali, there is also now propaganda to stop glorification of the name and fame of the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is the duty of those who have received the transcendental message to broadcast it throughout the world in order to do the supermost good as well as to bring about peace in the world. (S.B. 1.5.11, London, September 12, 1973)
A brāhmaṇa receives absolute knowledge, but if he does not distribute it he is compared to a leaky pot. Unless a brāhmaṇa teaches, he will lose whatever knowledge he has. Distributing the truth is therefore an integral part of knowing the truth.
The name Siksastakam means that these verges give siksa instruction, and they do it concisely, quickly. These verses contain the science of harinama. They state that Krishna has invested all His energies in His name. The name is not different than Krishna. Krishna has therefore been kind to make approach to Him easy by the chanting of His name. No one should think that the name is just a way of indicating God; it is directly God Himself. We can penetrate into Krishna’s presence by the transcendental sound vibration.
Thus, the second verse makes us aware of the Lord’s generosity, of the fullness of the name, and of the ease in practicing the chanting. Therefore, it is a surprise that the end of the verse drops us into a mood of disappointment. Although Krishna has offered so much facility and kindness through His names, the devotee has to admit that he doesn’t have the ability to taste the holy name. Therefore he is unfortunate. How could anyone not avail himself of such an easy process? How could anyone fail to take up the greatest benediction of the age of Kali, which gives him Krishna’s association? Such a person can only be unfortunate, and the cause of that misfortunate is that he commits offenses while chanting.
The purpose of this verse is not to make us lose hope. Lord Caitanya was not trying to drive us away: “If Lord Caitanya doesn’t taste the nectar, what hope is there for me?” He was identifying with our plight and at the same time instructing us about the cause of our unfortunate position. We have to free ourselves of offense. It’s only possible by Krishna’s mercy.
One might doubt, “How is it possible for the same person, with in a single verse, to appreciate so deeply and glorify the name, and then say He has no taste for it?” This indicates another level of Lord Caitanya’s statement, “I can not taste the nectar of the holy name.” This statement is made in extreme humility by one who actually does appreciate the holy name. He has described the holy name so scientifically and with so much realization. He has prayed and glorified, “O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings. . . .You have so kindly made Yourself available by your holy names. . . .He has told us that there are no hard and fast rules for chanting. Thus He is the best instructor in harinama. Such a person can not actually be bereft of tasting the nectar of the holy name. He is tasting humility.
As Chaitanya-charitamrita states in the final chapter of Antyalila, “Where love of God is actually present, its first symptom is that a devotee feels that he does not actually possess a drop of that love.” On who advertises that he is a great chanter and a great lover has missed the point of Lord Caitanya’s mood. Lord Caitanya’s most intimate followers, the six Gosvami’s of Vrindavana, also state in their poems that they are fallen. They cry over this fact. Our lack of taste is something different, but it can make us feel hopeful and even fortunate when we learn about Vaisnava humility in verses like verse two of Siksastakam.
Lord Caitanya! I know Your secret. You are not actually bereft of the holy name. You may feel like that in Your heart as You appear in this world to taste the position of the humble Vaisnava. At the same time, you are giving us stern instructions to awaken our own humility and desire fo chanting. If we don’t rid ourselves of the contamination of nama-aparadha, we will be outside Your circle. You are warning us not to miss out. Don’t fail the course on harinama by remaining an offender. Remove this one major discrepancy, and then the whole kingdom of God will be open to us and we can enter as the servant of Your servants.
We all know it’s difficult to break bad habits, but the Siksastakam verse makers us aware that the gain is very, very great, whereas the cost of remaining in nama-aparadha is also very, very great. Therefore, we want to give this japa reform the highest priority in our lives.
I hereby surrender to my spiritual master. I can’t claim that my entire former identity is gone, but at least the vanity of I and mine has left me for now. I hope it never again finds a place within my heart. But I pray, “O Lord, please give me this strength, that I may be able to keep the false conceptions of ’I’ and ’mine’ far away”(Saranagati, 2.6.6).
We don’t live to create a niche and reside there like civil servants. We want to rise higher and higher, from sraddha to prema. We suffer sorrow and fear as long as we identify with our bodies, so we beg to be rid of the false conception of ourselves. I am writing in a blind, groping way, rolling on and on. I mouth the words, “I surrender my works to Prabhupada.” If it’s good literature, I dedicate it to him; if there’s something wrong, I take the blame. I am one of his devotees.
I want Krsna conscious substance. I want something genuine. But that also can become a sense of false pride. So I push ahead imperfectly. “I submit at Your lotus feet, O Lord, that I am fallen and wretched, a fact known to the three worlds” (Saranagati, 2.7.1). Bhaktivinoda Thakura declares himself redeemed in an earlier verse, but now he again claims that he is fallen. “By attempting to clear myself of all these sins and offenses I am put to shame and beg Your forgiveness” (Saranagati, 2.7.3). He is serious. I am too. Why else would I be up at this desk at midnight writing? “Is it difficult?” asked a technician at the Ayurvedic clinic. “No,” I said, “because I want to do it. I have a serious purpose.” It doesn’t matter that I don’t exactly know what my purpose means. I am uncovering it a little bit at a time. I am not just filling up space; I am begging for mercy.
The same words we hear referring to sinfulness in the material world, kama and lobha, are the topmost expressions of spiritual love. These are the things I am trying to understand and distinguish. Material greed or lust has nothing to do with the spiritual world. I am trying to puncture whatever remaining enthusiasm I have for worldly achievement—flatten it out. Who am I trying to impress in this world? Enthusiasm is for bhakti-yoga.
Enthusiasm means action. Always act for Krsna—Krsnarthakila-cesta (NOI, text 3, purport). But at the same time, be patient. Non-parampara enthusiasm is a disturbance. Follow the acaryas. They have provided detailed maps of the way. “… in devotional service, surrender means that one has to become confident. The devotee thinks ‘avasya raksibe Krsna:’ Krsna will surely protect me and give me help for the successful execution of devotional service” ( NOI, text 3, purport).
Bhaktivinoda Thakura is joyful. Be confident of his direction. Seek the shelter of Lord Nityananda. But I’m here in this body, in Italy, and I don’t know where to find Him. I can’t buzz my intercom and call for Him. Can’t wake Madhu up and say, “Bring me Lord Nityananda.” Can’t even plan to go to Mayapur and find Him there. Unless I am serious.
How can I become Krsna conscious? It’s a daydream question with a fantastic answer. But we keep at it anyway, practicing and practicing, and we become more Krsna conscious.
As I recall ways that Prabhupada might answer such a question, I say things like that too. You want to put Krsna on your mind? Then man-mana bhava mad-bhakto, mad-yaji mam namaskuru. You say you want to be more Krsna conscious? Do you know what it is to be Krsna conscious? What is your definition of Krsna consciousness? Krsna defines surrender as always thinking of Him, bowing down and worshiping Him, and always serving His devotees. Think only of Krsna and Krsna’s service. That is Krsna consciousness. When you are practicing that, then you can speak of becoming more Krsna conscious. More Krsna conscious means less materially conscious. All that should be left in life is Krsna’s service. Your mind should be absorbed in it. More Krsna conscious, less maya conscious. Less consciousness of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. More spiritual taste overwhelming the other taste.
I read a nice description by Prabhupada that although desire cannot be stopped, it has to be changed to spiritual desire. Such happy, full, spiritual desires don’t stop our desires; they transform their nature. He gave the analogy of a flowing river. In this analogy, the river represents material desire. When a flood occurs, the ocean overwhelms the river, and what we really have is the ocean instead of the river. The ocean is spiritual desire. When we become overwhelmed with spiritual desire, the act of desiring doesn’t stop, but its nature is changed.
I can be more Krsna conscious by wanting to be more Krsna conscious, by praying for it, and by strongly desiring it.
What do you want? You can have whatever you want if you try for it. What does Christ say? To those who knock, it shall be opened. For those who ask, it shall be given. Are you asking for more Krsna consciousness? Are you ready to pay the price?
If you ask, “How can I become more Krsna conscious?” I can say, “No problem, you buy pure love of Krsna from the seller of Krsna consciousness. That’s how you get more of it. Do you have the price? Then buy more.” The price is simply your desire to have it. That’s another answer. How to become more Krsna conscious? By paying the price. By going for it. By having greed.
That answers the second part of the question, which was how can I become a better servant of Prabhupada. Find out what he wants you to do, then do it, and then try to improve it. What service does Prabhupada accept? What does it mean to be the servant? It means to be initiated by him or in parampara from him, you could say, and to obey his orders and carry them out. That’s how you become his servant. That’s all you have to do, no matter where you are in the world. Take up his instructions. Make him your spiritual master. Hear from him as your teacher. Accept what he says and does. Do what he says to do. Associate with his other servants. It’s open to everyone.
There’s that remark a devotee made who later became Bhakti Charu Swami: “I love you, Prabhupada,” he said, and he felt such emotion while serving Prabhupada. Prabhupada answered, “Then you should love those who are serving me.” You will become a better servant, certainly.
It’s open to you. Behind the question shouldn’t be the hint that you’re already a good servant. You’re already working on it so hard that you can’t think of any way to improve. How could you become a better servant? Is it even possible? If that’s the question, you should knew that you have a long way to go before you become good, better or best.
Now, your question also addresses how to express all this and he to help your advancement by expression. For me, Krsna conscious service has a lot to do with my writing expression. I could give Srimad-Bhagavatam lectures, and that is certainly an expression of Krsna consciousness. I do give lectures. But I want my writing to help me be a better devotee of Krsna. If the writing doesn’t do that, if it doesn’t purify me, if it doesn’t please the devotees (and therefore please Krsna), then it is srama eva hi kevalam. It won’t be good no matter what else it has. It can be a good story with good characterization, a vivid, honest, boy-he’s-really-got-voice story, but if it doesn’t make the reader more Krsna conscious or at least offer him the opportunity to improve, then what good is that expression?
My inquiry is, how can expression help me? The answer to this very question is being attempted on this radio show today. Krsna says we should always hear about Him and always chant His names. When we get on the radio, we should do just that.
I often thought like that when I would see devotees or even myself given an opportunity to preach on a TV or radio broadcast. Often we’re placed on a panel with others. I remember being on such a panel in Dallas. The topic was something like, “How do you think religions can get along better?” Or, “What is your message to the people?” The panel consisted of representatives from a variety of religions. The moderator finally turned to me and asked, “What do you think?” What could I do but go with it and try it, perhaps out-expressing what others had already said, or emphasizing a basic tenet Prabhupada would want the people of the world to hear? On such shows, you usually have about two minutes to speak. What can you say in two minutes? What would you say to those people who are about to die? You would send out the most urgent broadcast.
One great contemporary follower of Lord Caitanya was the famous philosopher and logician Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya composed a prayer of appreciation for Lord Caitanya which describes His magnanimous gift to mankind:
siksartham ekah purusah puranah
krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye
“Let me take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, who has descended in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach us real knowledge, His devotional service and detachment from whatever does not foster Krsna consciousness. He has descended because He is an ocean of transcendental mercy. Let me surrender unto His lotus feet.” —Cc. Madhya 6.254
Two of the essential features of this verse are that Lord Caitanya is described as teaching knowledge of renunciation and the science of surrender. All the great spiritual teachers have instructed that we should give up this material world and that our true home is in the eternal kingdom of God. Lord Caitanya’s method of vairagya, or renunciation, is especially easy for people in this fallen age. He said take prasadam, chant Hare Krsna, and dance in ecstasy.
This same program, as demonstrated and taught all over India five hundred years ago by Lord Caitanya, came to America in 1965 and then spread worldwide by the mercy of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada formed the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON) as the means of spreading the teachings of Lord Caitanya. And he published Lord Caitanya’s instructions in many volumes of authorized books.
The brilliance of Srila Prabhupada was his full faith in the order of his spiritual master and Lord Caitanya and his own distribution of their teachings without change. People thought Prabhupada would never succeed, especially since he had come to the West so late in life and had no support. But Prabhupada knew the real criteria of welfare work. He knew that nothing else he could do would be of any help, even if it gained him fame or following. Srila Prabhupada was, therefore, prepared to give out pure Krsna consciousness, even if only one or two listened. But because he was pure and empowered by Krsna and because devotional service is the natural function of the soul, many persons took to his offering of Krsna consciousness. And so the Krsna consciousness movement is growing still and will continue to grow throughout the Kali-yuga.
This is the magnanimous gift of the holy life in Kali-yuga. By chanting Hare Krsna even the most fallen persons, the millions and millions of Jagais and Madhais all over the world in the different nations and races, can practice the path of surrender and renunciation as instructed by Lord Caitanya. They don’t have to practice renunciation separately or with great austerity, but renunciation comes automatically through attaining the higher taste of devotional service.
janayaty asu vairagyam
jnanam ca yad ahaitukam
“By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Srl. Krsna, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world.” —Bhag. 1.2.7
Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya says that Lord Caitanya also taught us the science of surrender. The followers of Lord Caitanya have enunciated six symptoms of surrender: (1) to do everything favorable for the service of Krsna, (2) to avoid everything unfavorable for Krsna consciousness, (3) to have faith that only Krsna is one’s maintainer, (4) to believe that Krsna is one’s protector, (5) to realize that nothing takes place except by Krsna’s sanction, and (6) to feel oneself as fallen and therefore in need of Krsna’s mercy.
Without endeavoring for anything else, one should merge all his desires into the service of Krsna by the standard practices of devotional service, beginning with hearing and chanting, under the guidance of an expert spiritual master. The science of surrender is a blissful process, and as a result, the devotee becomes a lover of Krsna. The givers of this devotional process are indeed magnanimous.
Because we are living in the material world, a world of difficulty, a world governed by the forces of illusion and evil, there are always difficulties in distributing the magnanimous gifts of Lord Caitanya. But the devotees’ desire to distribute Lord Caitanya’s gifts, whatever the difficulties, is another indication of the nature of their magnanimity. As in the dictionary definition of magnanimous, they have neither resentment nor selfishness. The devotees distribute Krsna consciousness freely, not for some reward but because they want to benefit others. They become unhappy, in fact, seeing others’ suffering.
Lord Caitanya described Himself as a gardener who has harvested an overabundance of fruits. The fruits are compared to love of God, and Lord Caitanya, as the gardener, is also the distributor of the fruits. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Krsnadasa Kaviraja writes:
“Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service. The transcendental gardener, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, distributed handful after handful of fruit in all directions, and when the poor, hungry people ate the fruit, the gardener smiled with great pleasure.” —Cc. Adi 9.29-30
This is the vigorous, living purport of the quality of magnanimity. Lord Caitanya and His followers know that love of God is the greatest of all things, and they go on distributing it without self-motivation, without disappointment, and without being checked. Their magnanimity knows no bounds, and the good fortune of those who receive their gifts is unparalleled.”
Narayana Kavaca is fired up and deeply absorbed in a writing project. He is writing two volumes of a novel. He sent me a letter and said it’s going faster than he expected, and he’s already completed 350 pages and needs another 350 pages to finish the first volume. His letter included tips for writing that he keeps to encourage himself. He praised my own writings. The result of hearing from him is that I became enthused to write again but couldn’t think of a project. I wrote him a letter, but before hearing from him I wrote him another letter and asked him to please advise me on what I could take on as a writing project. I included a quote from Thoreau’s journals in which he expressed his confidence and enthusiasm in keeping a long journal. I said to Narayana that I had just finished writing a book-length journal and didn’t seem prepared or inclined to write another journal.
In his letter to me, he anticipated that I probably wouldn’t want to do a novel. That’s correct.
In my letter, in a P.S., I dictated several poems from my new compilation, POEMS: From Every Day, Just Write. These were poems I wrote in the late 1990s, and I’m reading them now. I’m enthused by them and like them. But I don’t think I want to take on a writing project of poetry now in 2018. Then what to do? At the end of my P.S. I said, “Maybe I should go back to Natalie Goldberg.” In her Writing Down the Bones, she teaches “writing practice.” I have done a good deal of that kind of writing, and I call it “free writing sessions.” The idea is that you just write without thinking, you keep the hand moving, you don’t censor yourself, you “go for the jugular.” I haven’t heard back from Narayana Kavaca yet. (I only sent him my unsolicited letter yesterday.) But I’m not waiting. I’m trying to begin my writing sessions.
I can see Prabhupada sitting on his vyasasana with his hands folded in his lap. I can see Radha-Govinda, shiny limbs and very attractive in Their outfits made by Tapan, “the master” mukut-walla in Vrndavana. I can see Lord Caitanya in the painting commissioned by King Prataprarudra, which shows Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanting on beads in the Gambhira. It gives me a very peaceful feeling to look at it. And I can see Lord Caitanya standing on my altar. He is in Navadvipa with hair on His head, His arms upraised, and His feet and legs in a dancing pose, harinama sankirtana. I can see Tulasi-devi in a pot on the stool. I look from one to the other, and I look at the marigold flowers and the pretty little blossoms that have opened up on a line above Govinda’s head. Baladeva picks a few of them and places them in Radharani’s left hand, and he places tulasi leaves in Her right hand, offered to Krsna.
N.G. says, “You may work on your particular project, but at the same time, go on with ‘writing practice’ every day.” Her aim is to fill up one wire-bound notebook per month. The quality doesn’t matter, just keep the hand moving.
You can write about anything. “I remember.” I remember when I gave Srila Prabhupada my life’s savings, $400. I was alone in his room with him at the time. He smiled broadly, unembarrassed to receive the donation. But by the time I moved to standing beside him and sat down with my back to the wall facing him sitting behind his low desk, his big smile had changed into a stern looking at me. It was as if he was saying, “Don’t think you have purchased me with this donation,” or “You have given some money, but you have a long, long way, before you are purified.” I remember keeping cats when I lived in California. That was muci. I would never dream of keeping a cat again. I remember being a small boy and my father taking me to his firehouse. I saw a picture of a nude woman taped to the inside of a fireman’s locker. I went to a room where the firemen sat around talking, and they greeted me with loud voices. I slid down the fire pole.
N.G. says that when you do writing practice, it’s like composting. You dig out the garbage of your unprocessed mind, the eggshells, the various trash and throwaways. Eventually they rot into black, fertile soil. She described how she struggled in her notebook over a period of time, describing the dying of her father. Then finally one day, in a croissant cafe, she wrote a long, inspired poem about her father’s dying. It was like a bright red rose springing up from the compost heap. So we write and compost, and one day it comes to us in a flush, successful way. We have to be patient. And we have to keep writing.
I remember reading Narayana Kavaca’s tips for writing, that he said, “Don’t write right away about religion.” I don’t think I agree with that. I plunge right into topics of bhakti, devotional service, service to my spiritual master. But I commend him in what he is attempting in his 1300-page two-volume novel. Wish him well!
I remember walking through the Manhattan streets with Swamiji. Three of us—Swamiji, Raya-rama and I—had gone to see our lawyer on Chambers Street to discuss Swamiji’s immigration status. After the meeting with the lawyer, Raya-rama went to another appointment, and I had the assignment of taking Swamiji back to his apartment at 26 Second Avenue. For a while we walked through the streets. I said to my spiritual master, “The city is like a jungle, but there are no snakes.”
Swamiji replied, “What about Mr. Paine?” (the real estate agent that tried to cheat the devotees and his Society out of thousands of dollars. But the money was rescued by Swamiji “out of the belly of Sri Fraud.”) We eventually caught a bus to bring us closer to the storefront. Just before we reached there, I pulled on the buzzer to indicate that the driver should stop and let us off. The Swamiji told me, “No, not yet. It’s one more street.” He knew New York City better than I did! When we finally got off the bus, we were across from the storefront on Second Avenue. I was eager to engage in more conversation with Swamiji. I said, “How come the Radha-Krsna mission is so well-organized, better than us?”
Swamiji didn’t answer my question; he just waited for a letup in the traffic and then he walked ahead, crossing the street. He went up the stairs to his apartment without another word. I felt rejected. Had I done something wrong? Had I committed some offense? Why didn’t he answer my question? I felt bad about the whole exchange. Maybe he thought I was a nonsense and didn’t deserve a reply. To this day I don’t know what happened.
I dreamt I wanted my vocation
as a poet. I wrote down some of the
details of the dream and here I am with my pen.
They should be spiritual but not propaganda
pieces. I thought it would be difficult to
start because I am long out of practice
except for my daily website poem, which
has a “newsy” format. In the dream I
thought of Rilke, for whom writing poetry
was his religion. On waking I thought of
William Carlos Williams. I will consult
with both of them. In the dream
I was lying alone in an empty apartment
when I received the message for vocation
but people came in and disturbed
me. Later they left and I got up
from bed and was surrounded by
ghost-like men who said, “We are your
brothers.” I took this to mean my poetry
would be a solitary thing without ghost
brothers or intruders. But I’d be
interested in consulting the Dead Poets
Society, those kindred spirits from
the past. Above all, I must get the approval of my spiritual master,
Srila Prabhupada. Even though the poems may be indirect
by the end of the day I will praise Radha-Krsna
and Gaura-Nitai and tell you who They are.
Ars Poetica means the art
of one’s poetry. Mine is informal
verse, short lines. I measure
by my breath. I put down my
thoughts and sometimes free-write.
“Twas brillig and the slithey toves,
did gyre and gambol by the wabe”
—is one of my favorite lines. Lewis
Carroll’s book with John Tenniel’s illustrations
are a masterpiece. For spiritual knowledge
I read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada. Therein we learn from Lord Krsna,
the Personality of Godhead, that we are spirit souls and
do not die with the demise of the body
but transmigrate to another body according to our karma.
The purpose of human life is to break
the cycle of birth and death and transfer to the spiritual world.
This is done by surrender to Krsna in devotional service.
As I write these lines I am visiting
with relatives in New Jersey. I fell asleep in my chair and
was paralyzed. I cried out, “Mother!” and “Help!,”
but no one answered. I thought while asleep
of writing these lines: “I am distant
from my friends and of course
I have no relations with
women because I am a
sannyasi.” Now I realize
it was all a dream. I
never went to New Jersey
and my mother is dead.
I fell asleep in my chair
alone in my room in Viraha Bhavan.
The Lord, experiencing the rasa of dancing with Vāsudeva in this way, sporting everywhere, came to the bank of the lake.
The lake worshipped the Lord by having the wind bath Him with lotus pollen which turned bees pale and with drops of water from the lake.
The sweet-faced Lord relaxed on the cool, pleasant bank, endowed with extensive shade. Who does not experience joy from a beautiful object?
As the most merciful Lord sat comfortably there, some devotees, their bodies flooded in the ocean of good fortune, gathered there, anxious to see His lotus feet.
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.