Free Write Journal #256


Free Write Journal #256

August 04, 2023


Becoming a Writer

My parents weren’t really into education or the idea of me going to college. In any case they couldn’t afford to send me, and although I didn’t get good enough grades to get into Brooklyn, I was accepted by other colleges. I resented the fact that my parents couldn’t afford the tuition fees.

My only alternative was the free community college opening on Staten Island in the fall (September) of 1956. It would award an associates degree after two years, which would automatically allow me to enter Brooklyn College or CCNY. It felt like a real letdown, not like going to university at all. As it turned out, Krsna was kindly preparing me for a lifetime of future service.

Despite my unhappiness at going to Staten Island College, it was there I was fortunate enough to have two brilliant, charismatic professors who inspired me and fed my interest in writing and intellectual pursuits. One was Dr. Ed Pessen, who taught history, and the other was Dr. Doris Alexander who taught English and World Literature. Both were brilliant lecturers. I loved their classes. They awakened in me a desire to be an intellectual, and filled me with excitement at such an interesting way to live.

In Pessen and Alexander, both Marxists and atheists, I thought I had found college professors who were as good as any I could have found at a higher-rated university. I later went on to Brooklyn College, and I never found teachers as dynamic as these until I met Srila Prabhupada.

They came at the right time of my life and set my flame for knowledge burning brightly. Dr Alexander encouraged me by saying I had “real writing talent.” She said that if I worked on my writing, I could go “All the Way.” I did not yet know how Srila Prabhupada would take this encouragement to a whole new level.

At Brooklyn College, with my confidence as a writer growing, I won two first-class prizes for my stories and poems in a literary magazine, and got $25 each for writing these articles.

After graduation I joined the Navy. This was out of pressure from my father, who still had a strong influence over me. It was an unhappy time, and I felt like a misfit amongst the sailors.

The first day on board, a sailor clerk assigned me work in the gunnery department. When he said “gunnery department,” I said “I HATE GUNS.” He said, “Well what do you want to do?”

I told him I had just graduated from college and was a writer. He said I could go into the Public Information Office, where the one thing they did was produce a homemade newspaper for the ships crossing the Atlantic for the five days they were out of touch with newspapers. So we produced our own newspaper with a mimeograph machine. I published one article in the paper which showed a “left”  influence in what I wrote, that I was “a leftist,” and I got chastised by one of the officers who said, “Don’t ever write like that again.”

They also published a monthly magazine and I, out of my own volition, wrote a literary article on the author James Joyce, and another article on the author William Faulkner. My articles were not appreciated by one authority on the ship, who told me not to write any more of these articles as they were over the heads of the sailors. They would not be appreciated. So I was censored.

Despite it being an unhappy period of my life, I learned much about magazines, newspapers and writing articles that would serve me well in the future that lay just around the corner.

My Transformation

When I got out of the Navy I went to the Lower East Side immediately. I didn’t even go home and visit my parents.

Then I met A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, and overnight I became a devotee, and I gave up all of my sinful activities. I suddenly thought that this included writing, that it was false ego and not in tune with what the Swami was teaching about renouncing the world. So I took the big pack of writing that I kept in my apartment, carried it over to a big incinerator right next to 26 2nd avenue and threw it all down into the incinerator.

I went back to the temple and saw Hayagriva sitting on the floor. He was one of the first devotees, and he was a professor at the University of Ohio. He wrote articles in the first Back to Godhead magazine about literary figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. He dovetailed their teachings in Krsna Consciousness, and Swami approved of his articles.

I told him I had given up writing because it was egotistical, and he said, “WHAT!”, and added, “I’m not gonna give up writing!”

He had a big southern accent, and he pronounced the word Krsna “KREESHNA,” and he said, “I’m gonna write for KREESHNA.” So then I was befuddled. Can you write for KREESHNA, or do you have to burn your manuscripts?

So I wrote a letter to Prabhupada, who was traveling, and my simple question was: “Since you are writing and you’re the spiritual master, is it bona fide if your disciples presume that we can write books too?”

He wrote me back a letter from Mayapur on February 28th, 1972, and this is what he said:

“Dear Satsvarupa,
You ask one question about the nature of books I want you to write as my disciples; on this point, Krsna consciousness is not limited. Persons like all of the Goswamis wrote so many books, and still I am writing books. Similarly, also my disciples will write. So any self-realized soul can write unlimited books without deviating from the original ideas.”

I took (and I STILL take) that letter as of great importance where he gave me permission to write, and I show it to any devotees who want to write. There is no limit to the books on Krsna Consciousness that can be written.

I started writing for BTG magazine, and stopped writing the way I did. I wrote articles on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and Krsna conscious topics.

Then I wrote a book while Prabhupada was alive. Readings in Vedic Literature. Prabhupada looked through the book to where there is a chapter called “The Early Indologists.”  It’s about the first Westerners and how they wrote with great bias against Indian culture and religion. I exposed how they were trying to show the triumph of Christianity over Hindu culture. Prabhupada said, “He has quoted the rascals, but he has not become contaminated.” That was the one comment he made about my book.

After Prabhupada passed away I changed to a more free-writing style, writing things on my mind. I wrote through the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s without getting a letter from Prabhupada to say it was all right. Many devotees liked what I was writing. Some didn’t.

I went once to a literary magazine and asked if they would publish me. They said,

First of all get established as a writer. Get a reputation. Then we’ll consider publishing your article.We’re not gonna publish an article by the Hare Krsna movement…This is Atlantic Monthly (or some other literary magazine.) You have to first become an established writer.”

I thought to myself, “I’ll never become an established writer; neither do I want to. I’ll just write for the devotees in the movement, as this was the example set by Rupa Gosvami and the other Gosvamis. They didn’t write for the public, they wrote for the devotees.” And that’s what my writing career has been.

The encouragement and inspiration that Dr. Alexander started back in the late ’50s survived all the changes I went through and was dovetailed into writing about Krsna consciousness. With Srila Prabhupada’s blessings, I’ve now written more books in Krsna consciousness than any other member of ISKCON, and more books about Srila Prabhupada than any other. The flame I originally got from my college professor to “keep writing and writing” never went out and has gone “all the way” with me in my service to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.

Suresvara’s Literary Critique

Suresvara agreed to review forty pages of my Journal, Worshiping with the Pen: The Journals of SDG, Volume One (2022). SUR wrote me that the opening of the Journal “sounded weak” until I included Narayana Kavaca’s letter to me about how my journaling is a time to let me not be afraid to walk “through the shadowy parts of the bhakti-marga, and the brilliant ones as well.”

After posting that letter from Narayana Kavaca, my writing seemed to break through and become more empowered.  S. wrote, quoting Srila Prabhupada, “Literature in pursuance of the Vedic version”—seems to be how we can connect everything to Krsna.

Suresvara told a story from real life. The writer James Thurber and his wife attended a social gathering together. James Thurber did not mix socially with the people, but stood apart and observed the action. His wife walked up behind him and whispered loudly, “Thurber, stop writing!” She knew her husband was at all times a writer, and so when he was refraining from social mixing, he was writing in his mind the scene of the social gathering. Suresvara wondered if I did this too. I said, “Maybe I do.”

He also mentioned a time when I revealed a disciple’s confidence in the Journal. She was very upset with me and wrote to me to never do it again. I patched up our difference, pleaded forgiveness, and we now have our loving relationship again as guru and disciple. But no longer do I reveal confidences in the Journal.

I appreciated Suresvara’s taking the time out to study a part of my book and give me his response.

More on Suresvara’s Visit

Suresvara Prabhu is the head lecturer of the Srila Prabhupada: Founder-Acarya of ISKCON study course. He wants to get the support of other devotees and make a formal course out of his “Founder-Acarya” lectures, one that will be mandatory for all devotees wanting to take initiation.

When Baladeva, the main researcher for Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, heard this plan, he replied, “There should be a mandatory course that everyone who wants to be initiated should study the entire Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta and be aware of its contents by testing.”

Good Old Days in Boston

Seeing Suresvara today reminded me of the “good old days” in Boston. I remember our best man, Giriraja, was one who attended all the temple programs and joyfully did a lot of service. In 1971, when Srila Prabhupada requested the temple presidents to send him their “best man” to join him in India, I dutifully and sadly sent our Giriraja. Baladeva later asked Suresvara more about him, and he described “best” as being the most enthusiastic about sankirtana and encouraging the devotees to go out and stay out. For example, sometimes if devotees were having a bad day, he would go out again with an armful of BTGs and a big conchshell in the other hand to collect donations. He sometimes would come back with no magazines left and as much as $30.00 in the conchshell (which was a very big collection in those days). This would amaze and enliven the devotees to go for the nectar of the next day.

Krsna-dasi’s Citizen Exam

Our pujari here at Viraha Bhavan, Krsna dasi, is from Trinidad. She moved here in 2017 to serve at the ashram with her husband, Bala. When he passed away in September 2021, Krsna dasi agreed to stay on and take care of Radha-Govinda and the Deities at Viraha Bhavan. Last Thursday, six years after moving here, she attended her naturalization interview in Albany. This interview is an important step in becoming a U.S. citizen and has two components: an English test and civics test.

Krsna dasi said the English test was easy, but for the civics exam she had to memorize answers to one hundred important questions about the American government and history. Out of ten random questions, she had to answer at least six questions correctly to pass.

Some of the questions she was asked were, “In what world war did General Eisenhower serve?” “What states border Canada and Mexico?” “Who is the vice-president of America?”

Krsna dasi aced the six questions. She didn’t have to do the next four. Her next and final step will be to take the oath of allegiance in Albany in August. Then Krsna dasi will become an official citizen of the United States, even though it’s more important to her to be a citizen of Krsna.

Cleaning Marathon

The devotees of Viraha Bhavan have been on a cleaning marathon this weekend to get ready for Radhanath Maharaja’s visit tomorrow. The pujari room, temple, office and kitchen received a thorough painstaking cleanup, and the wooden floors were transformed by some polish that dried overnight. Even the outside of the asrama got spruced up. Radharani’s rose garden was weeded, and clean edges cut all around. The porches were hosed down, and Anuradha even gave the front door a new coat of paint. I was very pleased to hear of all these activities for the arrival of my friend.

A Visit by Radhanath Swami

We had a visit from Radhanath Maharaja. We had a long talk for almost two hours, sitting together alone.

When he first came in I asked him if I could recite a message which I had composed for him. He said, “Yes, of course,” and I tried to remember my message and speak it out loud for him. Here is the best I remember:

To His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja:

Hundreds and thousands of people gather around
Radhanath Maharaja to see him
and hear from him. But sometimes
He takes time out and goes to visit
a sick recluse.

In the early years, I used to visit New Vrindaban
to hear from Radhanath and Varsana
when they spoke krsna-katha to me.
Radhanath has a prodigious memory.
He recalls from all the Vedic literature
verses and purports about krsna-lila.
From the years when I was visiting him,
he especially liked caitanya-lila.
I listened with rapt attention.
By the process of chanting and hearing
we became close friends.

Now he is Radhanath Maharaja,
a master world class preacher
and we are still friends.”

Maharaja did not make much reaction to my message. But we began to talk many things, memories of Krsna consciousness.

He told me stories, and wanted me to tell him stories, about Prabhupada and the times I was with him.

After my message to Radhanath Swami, we began to talk together. R. Swami asked that we compare our birthdates. I said mine was Moksada Ekadasi, also known as Gita Jayanti. R. Swami remarked that his birth date was December 7th. He said my birth date, Gita Jayanti, is the birth of the Bhagavad-gita, or the start of the Kuruksetra war. He said his birthdate is the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. So he remarked that both our birth dates were connected with war.

Speaking of his agenda, he said tomorrow he is going to Rome. A follower of his there has property on which there are ancient caves which go back to the time of St. Francis of Assisi. The owner of the caves has put doors and locks on them and has given the key to R. Swami. The caves are not huge, but they may plan to have programs in them.

R. Swami spoke of Bhaktitirtha Swami’s last eight weeks before he passed away, and how Radhanath Maharaja stayed with him continuously during that time, both of them at Gita Nagari. Maharaja and Bhaktitirtha Swami spoke many confidential things, as did Radhanath Swami and I, and I won’t write them here.

Radhanath Swami asked me about my relationship with Srila Prabhupada during the time I was his servant in 1974. I struggled with my memory and tried to tell him a number of things of my stay and service to Srila Prabhupada. I joined him in Los Angeles, and from there we went to Hawaii, and then to the East, through Hong Kong, and then to India. He asked me which cities I stayed in with Prabhupada in India. I couldn’t remember the exact order, but I said Calcutta, Bombay, Vrndavana, etc. I told him during our stay in India we received an invitation from Bhagavan, a GBC man for Europe, and we were invited to make a tour of Europe in the spring and summer. Prabhupada, with myself attached along to the party, visited many places, starting with Rome, Italy, and many other places, mostly in southern Europe. I told the story of how, when we were in Geneva, Prabhupada said to a roomful of people that he wanted a group of male devotees to travel around the U.S. and distribute his books to the university libraries. He said so far, no one was ready to do it. I, who was a little restless with my servant duties, raised my hand and said, “I’ll do it!”

Prabhupada pointed to me and said emphatically, “Then do it!” When we were dismissed from the room in Geneva, Bhagavan came up to me and said, “Well, it looks like you have a new service.”

After a few weeks more in Europe, and then in Ratha-yatras in the U.S., Brahmananda Swami came and took my place as Prabhupada’s servant. Fortunately, the next service I took, managing the “Library Party,” which meant going with brahmacaris to travel all over the USA and distribute “standing orders” of Prabhupada’s books, was very successful, and Prabhupada was very pleased with the Library Party. (The Library Party was mostly successful because of two great book distributors, Ghanasyama dasa, who later became Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja, and Mahabuddhi dasa.) Prabhupada wrote to me and said I was “doing the most important service.” Therefore I did not have to feel sorry that I did not stay with him as his servant and travel with him in that capacity.

After our talks, Vicaru came in to take photos. He got several good photos of Maharaja and me sitting close together. At one point Radhanath Maharaja placed his head on my head. That was the best photo pose of all, but Vicaru missed it because he had his own head on the floor in obeisances. Although he missed the best shot, he got several good photos.

The visit by Radhanath Maharaja to Viraha Bhavan was very wonderful for me. During the whole time with him, two hours, I had no headache or nausea attack. Just see the benefit of association with a pure devotee.

TKG and Me

Vicaru often talks about the glories of his Gurudeva, TKG. The other day, this sparked reflection on my relationship with him.

I had a friendship with Tamal Krsna Goswami Maharaja. He used to visit Gita Nagari, and sometimes I would visit him in Dallas. He knew a devotee who made brass deities, and at one point he made deities of Lalita and Visakha to stand on either side of Radha-Damodara. Once they were finished, they were brought to Gita Nagari and installed. That was a very nice gesture on his part. When he used to come, we would have meetings together. We would have a specific agenda, an outline of various topics, and we would discuss our respective places in Krsna consciousness, and Krsna conscious topics. They were intimate discussions.

Tamal Krsna Maharaja encouraged me to form a sankirtana party to support Gita Nagari. He felt some sense of responsibility, because as GBC from New York, Gita Nagari was technically in his zone. The New York management always found it difficult to financially support the Pennsylvania farm. Although he was now relieved of responsibility, he felt some ongoing feelings for it. Baltimore was supposed to set aside some of its collection for Gita Nagari. But Tamal Krsna suggested that we should have a party exclusively from Gita Nagari. A woman’s party was formed, and a motor home was purchased. Thus the cow protection became much more stable due to this expert management suggestion.

Vyasa-puja book, 1978

I just read (in my Introduction to Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja book in 1978) the story about the man in New York City who sat on a bench with Srila Prabhupada and heard of his plans for spreading Krsna consciousness. Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa and I have often been asked pointedly about the origin of this story in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, because it is almost too good to be true. Now we can give the source of this mystery. In the Introduction, it says, “Surabhi Swami met a man in the Vancouver temple who met Prabhupada on a park bench in 1965, in Prabhupada’s first days in New York. There must have been hundreds and thousands who contacted Srila Prabhupada in some way, and certainly their lives have benefited more by that association than from any other event in their lives.

Surabhi Swami: So how did you meet him? He approached you, or you approached him?

Man: Well, I sat on the bench with him because I saw that he had a dhoti. I know now, but I didn’t know what it was then. But a quite unusual dress. And I usually sat on that bench that he sat on like that. And then he had a special quality about him that was very dignified.

SS: Sitting straight?

Man: Oh, yes. And he was a very old man, and I didn’t speak right to him, right along. But then I didn’t think he would speak English, the way he dressed. Yet he spoke very nice English. Very well, English.

SS: So what did he tell to you? Did you start to speak to him, or he spoke to you first?

Man: Well, I actually spoke to him. I asked him if he was from India. And he said yes, he had just come from India. This was a few days here; a day here. I think it was a day before. He was saying he was coming by boat. Long trip.

SS: What else did he say the first day you met him?

Man: The first thing off the bat, he starts speaking spiritual things right away. ‘There are the temples here. We have temples.’ Like that.

SS: Where, in India?

Man: No. ‘We have temples here,’ he said. ‘But it is not the time yet to open them, to enter them. We have temples, we have farms.’ Then he mentioned books. He said, ‘There are a lot of books. Yet they are not open yet. They are not read yet. There is a time that is separating.’

SS: He mentioned books? He mentioned farms? He mentioned temples?

Man: Temples, books, farms … I think that’s it. He kept on mentioning more to that effect.

Weekly Health Report

Baladeva Vidyabhusana will give you a health update every Wednesday to keep down any speculations that may be swirling around:

Hari Hari! SDG was diagnosed after X-rays with having osteoarthritis in his hips. He is walking more and doing exercises to loosen any calcification that has built up over years of sitting in a chair and writing. He also was advised to spend more time lying down on the massage table or in bed to relieve the inflammation. In the short term he got cortisone shots, which have almost totally abolished the pain, but the problem still remains. His legs continue to be very weak due to the Parkinson’s disease.

Chiropractors have been coming to the house every week to try to relieve his stiff neck, caused by the stress from the festival and the subsequent breakdowns in his health since then.

Another concern is that he has had almost constant nausea for more than five weeks. We’re trying to diagnose and titrate different medications that may have been changed in the past two months by the urologist and neurologist to make it go away.

The urologist scoped his bladder, and everything is clear there, so there is no obvious reason for the frequent urgency to urinate, which is a sleep-breaking disturbance at night and logistical problem during the day with his weak legs.

On top of all this is the arrival of migraine headaches three-and-a-half weeks ago. He has a number of regular “Excedrin” headaches, as well as a concerning number of migraines, which so far are knocked out by a particular medicine, but it is not supposed to be taken so often. It will lose its effectiveness soon, or in the worst-case scenario, become the source of more migraines. He is forced into a complete rest mode now because basically everything he wants to do causes a headache of some sort. Therefore he has stopped having visitors, writing—except for the weekly Journal—answering mail, reading books, talking on the phone, listening to Prabhupada lectures, etc. So far there is no letup, but I will post an update next week.


From The Wild Garden

Vrndavana 5

The gopis are the best lovers of Krsna, the Supreme Person­ality of Godhead. He tests them, sometimes, or behaves con­trarily with them, as when He told them to go home after they joined Him in the forest. Previously we read how the gopis weren’t able to join Him. They suffered the transcendental agony of separation. These same gopis suffered when Krsna told them to go home. They cried torrents of tears and felt a burn­ing heat in their chests. They were stunned by His cruel words.

We will all have to go through trials to prove our love for Krsna. At present, most of the trials seem to be related to the material world. When we can finally quiet our material desires, by our guru’s grace, then we can face the emptiness of our love, Then perhaps we will be more prepared for another kind of trial.

The fact that the gopis’ trials are with Krsna doesn’t make: it easier for them. He bewildered them with His loud statements about religious duty to their husbands and superiors. They simply wanted to serve Him.

I am bringing this up because I want to make advancement, as do all devotees. How can we cry tears of prema? We have not attained Krsna. That is our misfortune. He has not bewildered us with His strong statements of dharma or His rasika mood! Being petty creatures, we have petty difficulties.

Where did we develop such a “stiff-upper-lip” policy? We avoid emotion, whether spiritual or material. We will reciprocate with Krsna, but we expect Him to be fair-minded and civil in return. Although we have heard that Krsna will make up for what we lack—if we give ten percent of our love, He will re­spond with ninety percent of His—we simply expect it of Him, rather than use that knowledge as an impetus to increase our own surrender. But are we ready for the rasa of Krsna’s recipro­cation? Are we ready for His cunning words? His thievery? Are we ready to run after Him and claim back what He has stolen from us?

What kind of Krsna do we want? Do we invite Him to our homes, tell Him where to sit, then serve Him what we want Him to eat? Do we expect Him to approve of our devotional ser­vice since we are following guru, sadhu, and sastra like good devotees and are working within the limits of our economic means and health? Will we remember to ask Him about Him­self? What kind of Krsna do we want?

So what happened when Krsna told the gopis to go home? Did they comply?

Krsna told them that Krsna consciousness is not attained by physical proximity, but by chanting and hearing and doing their religious duties as wives at home. The gopis were aston­ished to hear Him speak like that. They thought, “We have given up all sense gratification to come to Him. We don’t want sense gratification. We love Him. We want to serve His lotus feet.” The conjugal rasa is not sense gratification.

The gopis cried. Then one of the bolder gopis began to argue with Krsna. Pure devotees in raga-bhakti don’t like to argue, but Krsna’s words were too much. She said, ‘You say we should go back to our husbands, but You are the supreme husband. You are the Supersoul of all jivas. There is nothing wrong if we come here and surrender to You.’

Krsna tests the gopis, but they prove their love for Him again and again. We say Krsna is testing us too, but we are not in contact with Him. We are not even sure it is Krsna who is handling us roughly in His embrace. For most of us, “Krsna’s embrace” is just a metaphor. We recite Sri Caitanya Maha­prabhu’s beautiful verses and we believe it applies to Him. He is the one experiencing separation from Krsna. He is the one who will become brokenhearted if Krsna is not present before Him. But what about our empty, lonely lives? Are they connected with Krsna? We are not madly looking for Him, asking the trees and creepers, “Did the son of Nanda Maharaja pass by here?” What does all this mean to us?

And if Krsna invites us, will we even go?

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume Five

January 11, 2010

Srila Prabhupada, it seems like a long time. I want to be able to talk with you and be with you in prayer. You have many forms now, like lecture form, book form, and I avail myself of all of these regularly. Sometimes I have problems, your voice sounds rough, not pleasant, and you repeat yourself a lot. But there’s nothing wrong in this—they’re just external causes to trouble me because I’m external. And there are other things like just the fact that you’re now the authority who is quoted for everything from medical advice to how to associate with other members of the Gaudiya Math to opinions about this and that, quoted by persons who have so many different points to make in debate.

People quote you to argue that there should be no initiating gurus after your disappearance, and they quote you to prove that of course there should be initiating gurus. They quote you to say that only fifty percent of your work was finished and that you wanted to do varnasrama in Gita Nagari. They quote you that women should be controlled and protected because they’re less intelligent, and they quote you as saying that that doesn’t apply to devotee women and so on and so forth so it gets confusing who you are. Are you just a bunch of quotes from the “Folio?” Are you exactly your arca-vigraha and nothing more than that?    Are you what the temple president says you are? And if it depends just on me, are you only who I can contact?

In conversing with you, I wish to get beyond the official form of Prabhupada as the institutional head. By that I don’t mean I wish to dethrone you. I wish to see you as the institutional head, but something more within that, and I want to get beyond my own usual limited concept of you. I want to awaken to my eternal relationship with you.

The guru prayer in the gayatri mantra is aim gurudevaya vidmahe krsnanandaya dhimahi tan no guroh pracodayat. I want to know, I want to meditate on my spiritual master as krsnandaya, as pleasing to Krsna. I wish to know him and my eternal relationship with him. So, I’m meditating and praying to you with faith and trust that you’re not an ordinary person.

From 108 Japa Poems

Krsna Himself

The names of Krsna are Krsna
Himself. I don’t understand it,
and yet I do. They are precious
sound vibrations as valuable
as Krsna’s form. They are

His form in a different way.

When you sincerely say the
names, Krsna appears on
your tongue. The realization
has to come for you to
know what it means, but
you have faith even in
the beginning that the Sanskrit
syllables are God the Almighty,
Govinda the playful.

When they are uttered by a pure
devotee then the flowers bloom,
the cowherd boy and Radha
manifest and Their qualities
like compassion and sweetness
and Their forms, like tribhanga
and Radha’s radiant face
and limbs become visible to the chanter.

We are in the beginners’ school,
and we barely pay attention to
the mechanical act of utterance.
We have to overcome
so many offenses, like disrespect to
the spiritual master and
minimizing the Vedic literature
and being inattentive because
of laziness and lack of taste.

It’s a struggle in the early
stage when the offenses are
plaguing you and blocking you
from the nectarean mango.

It takes a long time depending
on your seriousness and sincerity,
before you reach the nama-abhasa
or clearing ‘shadow’ stage,
when the offenses start to
clear like a dissipating fog.
Then you are neutral, a great
advance. It’s as good as liberation,
but it’s not pure love of God.

krsna-prema is also known as suddha-
nama, words to indicate you are in love with
hari-nama and you think like Rupa Gosvami,
“Why do I have only one mouth and
head to chant, it’s so sweet I
wish I had millions of heads.”
That’s the ultimate and can be reached
step by step by disciplined
japa and kirtana performed
with faith in concentration.

So many things have to be overcome—
sleepiness must be driven from
your eyes, you have to stop
frivolous sports which linger
in your brain, in fact you
have to commit yourself to
chanting all the time or

“regularly,” a fixed number
of times each day, said in the
best mood of mind such as
in brahma-muhurta hour
when it’s peaceful.

It appears to be a simple road
but it’s not. It’s a life’s
effort. You have to
remove dirt from your
mind and the utterance of
the names is the very thing
that does it. So chanting produces chanting.

Lord Caitanya brought it for
this age, because nothing else
is possible for attaining love
of God. We need the simple process,
the soulful repetition of hari-nama,
that’s all we need, even if we
don’t know the Upanisads
or Vedanta-sutras. You just
need devotion and attachment
to the process of nama-yajna,
and you can climb the
yoga-ladder from the
bottom to the top. Those
who know it give it
to others and get back
even more for themselves.

It’s the pure benediction
for humanity at large. I pray
you can take it up and not leave it as a strange
thing untouched by you. I can tell you more
about it if you like.
It’s worth your time.

From Every Day, Just Write, Volumes 1-3: Welcome to the One Big Book of Your Life

8:45 A.M.

I’m anxious about the spider. He came wonderfully into my view, lowering himself on an invisible thread, stepped onto the desk, and cavorted around. In order to avoid his crawling on my papers, I slipped a piece of paper under him and tried to lift him away, but it didn’t happen so smoothly and he fell about a foot. I thought he’d be able to take it, but he remained contracted into a ball. I worried that he was unconscious or even dead. After some time I placed him back on the desk. Finally, he stuck out a leg. Minutes passed, and he stuck out another leg. He’s definitely alive. I’ll have to be more careful how I handle Krsna’s creatures when they get in my way.

If I write past immediate concerns, I can get in touch with myself and then something good may happen. I may even be able to pray in words, meditate by pen. Dear Lord Krsna, I can pray to You because You are everything. If I have the slightest grain of bhakti, or even a shadow of it, I can attempt to address the Supreme. He’s hard to reach—He withholds Himself—yet He’s easy too. The starting points of meditation are to taste Him in water, see Him in the light of the sun, hear Him in the sound of ether. Let me feel it to be so.

(I’ll be relieved when that spider recuperates and starts walking. Don’t want it held against me that I crippled him. Why is he so slow to move about? What can he be thinking?)

Krsna, Krsna.

Random items:

1.) M. says he’s wearing his blue winter coat (purchased in Boston, 1991) to India. He invites me to wear mine.

2.) Tickets, tickets, he’s struggling to get the tickets.

3.) A devotee calls and asks M., “I heard there is going to be a little get-together” (on my birthday). He denies it but feels bad later. I plan to stay out of it. Whoever comes here on that day, that’s okay. I can’t guarantee my participation. I could have a headache that day for all I know.

4.) I moved books and items into my room today. My clerical nature was aroused as I sorted out drawing pads, writing pads, “notes to secretary” pads, pocket folders, labels, typing paper, books, in categories of Srila Prabhupada’s, SDG’s, health, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, etc.

5.) Feeling good about Every Day, Just Write. Don’t know how long it will last.

6.) Dreams. If you want to take them seriously, you could get involved in them more. I don’t. I’m just taking advantage of this period when I’m on my own schedule to record dreams and learn more about them for my own use in Krsna consciousness.

7.) Drawings are important in my life. Planning to carry sketchpads and color instruments to India and the Caribbean. Wherever I go. They go well with published writings.

8.) Heigh-ho, your honor, your unconscious, yourself who wants to express.

9.) Not to make it a mere number nine on a list, yet say, “Last but not least”—I read my master’s books. “Let my body-earth enter the total earth and my life air enter the total air, and may the supreme beneficiary of all my acts, Lord Krsna, please remember all that I have done for Him.” Thoughts by a devotee at the time of death. He prays and I study it.

The spider is on a sit-down strike. I know he’s not paralyzed, but he remains immobile. His front legs (there are two legs, but they divide halfway down so that he has a total of four front legs) and two rear legs are poised, and his body is one turtle-like lump in the middle. If he’s going to walk, he will unfold more and start galumphing around. I could touch him to get him going, but I have meddled enough.

From Basic Sketch Book

The glories of Navadvipa, the glories of the Holy Name—it is not enough to chant the outer syllables—you need to cry for Krsna. “Just hear,” Prabhupada said. Hear the holy names. There is more to it than mechanics. You may cry to Krsna. You may think of His pastimes. But sometimes chant in the mood of trnad api. All these instructions, when followed, will enhance our chanting.

What then is the value of your scribbling down your activities and confessions? And your doodles and few thoughts?

Oh, preach and spread Krsna consciousness and relieve the world’s suffering. Preach, preach, preach.

Yes but how to do it? There are many ways. One can go on the street with mrdanga and the biggest karatalas possible. And bellow hari-nama. And rush up to passersby and pled with them to chant. And sell them books one way or another. Padayatra. Food for Life.

And you can write. And “write” may be done in many ways. Purify your own self. Effort. But finally, mercy has to descend on you. Not by your own power. I am crying for the mercy of Gaura-nitai.

The lotus of regret. Huh? Correct that guy.

So he only speaks the truth.

From Write and Die

All right, we’ll all die. He said, “Be sensitive about telling the survivors of this tsunami the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They’re in trauma. If you shove the philosophy down their throat, it will make it worse for them. Share the sorrow with them. Don’t argue with them as they condemn God. Give them practical shelter and solace. Don’t ‘preach’ karma and sins right away. But at some time, when their traumas have abated (when?), when the flood waters of time have subsided, take them gently aside and teach them Krsna consciousness.” He said timing is very precious in when and how to preach to such people. Krsna consciousness is a science and a human art. Well said. At least that article went out with smarts and timing to the choir, the preachers who may have otherwise blundered in their delivery of Krsna consciousness to those in trauma.

Satan said to Jesus, “Bow at my feet and I’ll give you whatever you desire in all the worlds.” Ahh, but everything here lacks eternity. Your old joys lack deep, profound eternity. The bell strikes one! But all joys lack deep, profound eternity. Thus spake Zarathustra. How can you ‘sell your soul’ to gain eternity? It’s a contradiction in terms.

Then there are the Struldbruggs (stir dull blood from Gulliver’s Travels), a race of people who are immortal. They do not die, but as they grow older they attain all the miseries of old age. The state makes them give up their wives at about eighty years; eventually they cannot read books, they cannot even think, they just sit around and mostly vegetate morosely. When they see a funeral, they lament, wishing that they too could die. So that is not a desirable immortality, and they’re a most unwanted race living within the kingdom. They are shunned. When Gulliver first heard about them, he became overjoyed and wanted to see the Struldbruggs. He thought if he could become one, he could use his time to amass riches and learning and surround himself with other Struldbruggs and have very enlightening discourses as he watched the epochs flow by. He thought that he would stay hale and hearty. He did not understand the “Catch-22” of Struldbruggs, that one remains mortal in all ways, except that he lives on.

This kind of immortality theme is a composite of the literary preoccupation of everlasting life without youth, as in the Tithonus myth and the scientific concern with longevity. To an orthodox Christian, such a quest for eternal life was blasphemous and foolish. Jiminy Swami agrees with these opinions and would not like to become a Struldbrugg, or even meet one. So he is writing to die, writing within a normal period of years. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead while you’ve got the stamina and the semen.

No one lives forever. Write and die. You can die at home just from an infection by a rose thorn, as well as in a battle skirmish in Iraq or by a sniper’s bullet or from a cataract in the eye while the simple operation is being performed. You can leave all your little children behind you as posterity. But Prabhupada mocked posterity. He said, “Oh yes, posterity is living on in your place, but where are you going?” The fool says he lives on in his son, but where he is going he doesn’t know. All my little children piled up in manuscripts, but where does Jiminy go?

He don’t go where his prose goes, he don’t know where his nose goes.


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

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.

Among them, one most fortunate devotee named Kṛṣṇa-dāsa, attractive to the whole world, surrendered to the lotus feet of Nityānanda, became blissful on seeing Gaurāṅga.

Seeing the Lord’s sweet, moon-like face, covered with perspiration from passionate dancing, the best of brāhmaṇas thought the Lord should take a bath.

From somewhere, Kṛṣṇa-dāsa obtained pots and, with tears covering his body and hairs standing on end, and with thirst he sprinkled water from the small pond on the Lord’s head.


<< Free Write Journal #255

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Essays Volume 1: A Handbook for Krishna Consciousness

This collection of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1966 and 1978, and compiled in 1979 by Gita Nagari Press as the volume A Handbook for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.

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

This second volume of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s Back to Godhead essays encompasses the last 11 years of his 20-year tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Back to Godhead magazine. The essays in this book consist mostly of SDG’s ‘Notes from the Editor’ column, which was typically featured towards the end of each issue starting in 1978 and running until Mahārāja retired from his duties as editor in 1989.

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Essays Volume 3: Lessons from the Road

This collection of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1991 and 2002, picking up where Volume 2 leaves off. The volume is supplemented by essays about devotional service from issues of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s magazine, Among Friends, published in the 1990s.

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Forgetting the Audience

Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…

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Last Days of the Year

I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…

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Daily Compositions

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…

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Meditations & Poems

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.

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

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.

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