Free Write Journal #257


Free Write Journal #257

August 11, 2023


From the Introduction to Prabhupada Meditations, Volume Five


I began the Prabhupada Meditations series in 1989. The Prabhupada-lilamrta was already completed, and I had written a few other books about Prabhupada, but I remember feeling at that time that I wanted to write something more about him. I had no idea what.

Sometimes we get clear ideas how we want to serve, and sometimes the ideas form themselves more vaguely in our minds. The closest I had to a plan was to save some time for writing at Saranagati Farm in British Columbia.

By the time I arrived at the farm, I still had no indication what I should write. I was waiting for inspiration, and that waiting built into a kind of pressure. Everything was arranged for my convenience—Jaya Gauracandra had built me a small cabin, there were typists, pens, paper, and time—but I didn’t know what would come up.

Saranagati is a beautiful, silent, pine-filled place. I was studying Bhagavad-gita and trying to be close to Krsna at that time. It was summer, and quite hot. I took walks outside the cabin with my Bhagavad-gita, and read and prayed to Krsna, and waited. Then ideas started to come. A devotee sent me a copy of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. There was something in the beginning of that book that set off a spark in me for a way to begin Prabhupada Meditations. Her book is based on a series of lectures she gave before a women’s society in England in the 1920s. She begins:

“When you asked me to speak about women and fiction, I sat down on the bank of a river and began to wonder what the words meant. They might mean simply a few remarks about [and she names different women authors], but at second sight, the words seem not so simple. The title “Women and Fiction” might mean, and you have meant it to mean, women and what they are like . . . Maybe what you meant is that all of these different themes are inextricably mixed together and you want me to consider them in that light. But when I began to consider the subject in this last way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion and present before you in an hour’s discourse, a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks.”

What sparked me was that she had an assignment, a commission. An assignment is given to you by someone else, and you just do it. Here I was without an assignment, and not knowing what to do with my freedom. Nobody was asking me to write about Prabhupada, so I decided to pretend someone was asking me. I began as it is printed in the first volume: The manager of the Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education wrote asking me to give a series of lectures as part of an upcoming seminar to be held in Vrndavana, India. He suggested that my topic could be “Prabhupada meditation . . . ”

I worried about the ethics of this little white lie, although now it seems completely harmless. I don’t think anyone even noticed it. No one ever asked me about it, including the managers of the VIHE. Anyway, it was an important start for me because that fictional beginning allowed me to write the whole book.

I also took from Virginia Woolf the idea that the subject matter could be considered in different ways. I wasn’t using her musing as a gimmick, but as a way to face the fact that the subject of Srila Prabhupada is so vast that it cannot be contained in one idea. Everyone has their idea of who and what Srila Prabhupada is. It helped me to admit in the beginning that the territory is huge, and I can only address ‘Prabhupada meditations’ as they are meaningful to me.

What could the words “Prabhupada meditation” mean? It might mean simply a few thoughts about Prabhupada. Maybe those who gave me the assignment wanted me to give a series of biographical sketches modeled after the Prabhupada-lilamrta. On second thought, the words were not so simple. “Prabhupada meditation” might mean the way Prabhupada meditates. Or it might mean the technique by which we meditate on Prabhupada. From the Introduction to the first volume: “It might mean that all these themes are inextricably mixed together, and the VIHE wanted me to consider them in that way.”

Therefore, this is an opinionated series of books, and I tried to make that clear in the beginning. That’s why some devotees don’t like to read them. They are interested in Prabhupada, but not so much in my personal meditations on him. The Prabhupada Meditations series tells the story of how I have taken up Prabhupada meditation, pondered it, and made it work in and out of my daily life.

That’s how these books gradually evolved. They are a way to contact Prabhupada memories. It was a challenge. I hadn’t really exhausted my Prabhupada memories because I hadn’t really remembered them in depth. What I had to do was find a way to remember and actually live in the different times I had been with Prabhupada. I wanted to remember the sensory impressions, the smells, the sights, the way things felt. I wanted to remember what I heard at those times that I was with Srila Prabhupada. I was looking for the whole experience of being with Prabhupada again.

There are professionals who help people to remember things that have been forgotten or buried. Often they use hypnosis. I had thought about this years before when I was beginning to write the biography, because as soon as I would try to remember Prabhupada, I found I couldn’t do it. Not just me, but almost everyone we interviewed had trouble accessing their memories in detail. It was so much work to track someone down and get their permission for an interview, and it would be so disappointing to find that they couldn’t remember anything. I remember I bought a paperback on self-hypnosis while I was at Gita Nagari writing the Lilamrta. The first lessons teach you to put yourself into a relaxed state. Then you are supposed to be able to let your hand move by itself. I could never get my hand to go up. I thought I must not be a fit subject for hypnosis, and I put it aside.

When I began Prabhupada Meditations, I wanted to try something that would help me get at my memories. This time, I took the help of a friend and disciple, Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa, who had, among other qualifications, an intense desire to hear me talk about my relationship with, and memories of, Prabhupada. He was prepared to be patient and to go through the many hours it would take to get at the memories.


When we remember something that happened long ago, we usually remember it in an encapsulated form. Some people call that “canned” memory. To actually go beyond the canned memories and find the fresh details that are also stored in the memory takes more work. Baladeva and I would work at my memories in what I began to call “recall sessions.” If I came up with even a small detail that I hadn’t remembered previously, we would consider it a great gain. And the quality of the writing produced from that energy was encouraging. There was a new vividness to it.

In one of those first sessions, I came up with something new. It was something I had never remembered, but suddenly, by talking about it in this way, a little bubble of detail came to the surface. It was a small detail, but I liked it very much. It was about how we used to say “Mmmm,” imitating Swamiji. Almost all of us did it, but I hadn’t thought about that detail in years. Later, when I showed this manuscript to people before I published it, some of them liked this detail too.

Baladeva and I felt encouraged that there was plenty of work to be done, and since that time, I have gone on and done several more volumes.

In addition to the recall work, we had to edit down the raw memories into something that could be read. You don’t just start remembering and everything comes out smooth. A lot of it is ‘ah,’ ‘uh,’ and ‘um.’ I decided to mix the recall work with short, philosophical essays and some poems for variety.

At first, I was writing poems in the mood of “Satsvarupa dasa brahmachary.” Later, I switched to writing poems with a wider range of expression and called them “prabhupada-smaranam.” These later poems weren’t confined to the 1966 days, but could range over all of Prabhupada’s lila.

I compare the recall process—I thought it was a humbling process—to panning for gold. In areas where there were rumors of buried gold, prospectors used to go and pan the river. Pan after pan they would take up and search through the pebbles for gold nuggets. Going through the memories was like that. You have to go through a lot of dust.

When I left Saranagati to go and preach, I didn’t want to give up the process of meditating on Prabhupada. After performing Prabhupada meditations for an uninterrupted month in the solitude at Saranagati, I resumed the normal duties of an ISKCON sannyasi—traveling, preaching and mixing with devotees. But since I did not want to entirely abandon the regular practice of thinking and writing about Prabhupada, I attempted to do it in the midst of a busy schedule. More often, I noticed I was not doing it. That led me to discover ways in which I could fit Prabhupada meditations into my schedule. I don’t think I have ever recaptured the concentration I had at Saranagati, but I did learn ways to keep the meditations alive in my mind.

I found that I could dictate material onto tapes and send it to a typist. Wherever I was, I could use the tape recorder and speak something about Prabhupada into it. Although these recalls were crude and groping, I made a discipline out of them and gradually developed volumes of Prabhupada meditations. I also continued to write the short essays exploring the different attitudes in relationship with Srila Prabhupada and trying to make observations and applications for devotees.

I found myself not only speaking about 26 Second Avenue, but about life in ISKCON after Prabhupada’s disappearance. That also felt like a valid meditation. It seems that the more we try to think about Prabhupada, the more thoughtful we become. Often the essays I felt like writing explored what it means to be serving Prabhupada in separation since his disappearance. This is one difference between Prabhupada Meditations and books like Hari Sauri Prabhu’s Transcendental Diary. Prabhupada Meditations does not only consist of memories, but it contains reflections too. That may be disappointing to some devotees because they are not looking for a subjective presentation.

I think, however, that when the memories of Prabhupada’s association are exhausted by those who were eyewitnesses, in order to write further about Prabhupada, we will have to resort to our own devotional expression, meditation, and personal feelings. It is not that these should be rejected by someone who is looking for Prabhupada nectar.

For me, Prabhupada meditations has become a genre. Genres are not only different ways to create books, but are the variety of expression in which I look for self-purification. My writing life is going best, I think, when I am not meditating on how to write an ISKCON bestseller. Therefore, although all writing can be judged according to its literary quality, we cannot judge a person’s service relationship with Srila Prabhupada. I have written a great deal about Srila Prabhupada—someone estimated that at least seventy-five percent of my books are directly about him.

Books like Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta are official, objective biography or memoir. Those books form a genre unto themselves. Prabhupada Nectar and Remembering Srila Prabhupada (my own memoirs based on the letters I received from Prabhupada), and Life with the Perfect Master are also in that genre. But different than those objective accounts are books in which Prabhupada is the subject, but the approach is subjective. The Prabhupada Meditations volumes are in that category.

The days at 26 Second Avenue are special. There was no big ISKCON institution then, and Prabhupada was accessible, intimate, and fatherly. We were a close-knit family. Those days are worth remembering, not just from an objective viewpoint, but from a more personal one.

As I said, the Prabhupada meditations are written for self-purification. I don’t like to write for an audience. I prefer to speak from my heart. Still, it’s true that I want to share my expression with anyone who would like to read it.

That’s not a sin, and I don’t even think it’s a vanity, but it’s a way of life. If a writer is deeply committed to both self-purification and preaching, it becomes possible to execute both simultaneously.

It is, however, something that always has to be refined and purified to protect it from falling into a prostitution of his most confidential feelings.  Therefore, I hope readers will respect the privacy of expression in the Prabhupada Meditations series, as well as the heartfelt sharing of that expression, and take Prabhupada’s association along with me.

Good Fences

There have been many flash thunderstorms this summer, with lightning and high winds. From my little window you can see how the old cedar fence behind the marigold patch and “Radharani’s garden” is gradually being blown over into the neighbor’s yard. Aside from being pretty, its functional use is to block the view of our neighbors’ barbecue and sunbathing activities. It seems that wherever you turn in the material world, the inhabitants are trying to squeeze a little happiness out of the illusion. This is maya’s trick.

The man next door used to fire up the barbecue grill for his meat four or five times a week, even in the winter, until he got colon cancer. He has to wear a colostomy bag now. The lady has had several skin cancers removed and now is supposed to cover completely in the sun to avoid more aggravation. They think of themselves as pious people—going to church activities all day on Sunday and being “good people,” etc. But where’s Krsna? Without knowledge, they’re being carried further and further away. Still the smoke keeps rising, and the bathing suits are still in vogue . . . and still they keep trying to enjoy. So now we have to replace our fence!

Wake Up, Sleeping Souls

Every morning at around 6:00 A.M. you can hear the whistle of the Ethan Allan express train as it hurtles down the tracks toward New York City. Many of the passengers are taking the two-hour ride into their office in the city—while working on their computer the whole way in, and then out at night. Prabhupada often scoffed at the intense austerities one goes through just to receive a little food and sex life at the end of such an arduous day. He likened it to moths being attracted by the fire and burning to death in the flames.

Devotees are fortunate if they can use this time for listening to lectures or kirtanas. Some use their computers for studying Prabhupada’s books and avoid spacing out on the train. To such fortunate devotees, a ride on the train is a relief from distractions, and the friendly train whistle is announcing, “Wake up, sleeping souls” to the countryside residents, as well as those who are “sleeping” on the train.

New Dentist

Baladeva came back from his first visit to his new dentist in a lighthearted mood. The intake nurse admired his Radha-Govinda tattoo, so he got a chance to directly preach about Krsna to her, because it wasn’t busy and she was quite interested. Next, while filling out paperwork in the waiting room, a man sitting next to him noticed the maha-mantra on his other arm and exclaimed, “That is my mantra!” He had been initiated as Visnu dasa by a South Indian guru that Baladeva had never heard of before. They were able to have a short but convivial conversation before B. was called in for his tooth cleaning. After the cleaning, the dentist did a final inspection. Then Baladeva gave him a bag of prasadam cookies. He said jokingly that, “I will take half and leave the rest in the coffee room.” Fortunately, Baladeva brought two dozen cookies, since there were ten people working there. B. said he felt like he had conquered a new territory with the prasadam today.

Stories of TKG

Vicaru likes telling stories of his spiritual master, Tamala Krishna Goswami. Some of his stories recall times that both Tamal Krishna and I shared. One story recalled the final pastimes of Srila Prabhupada, when a group of devotees created a hospice team. The team consisted of Tamal Krishna Goswami, Upendra, Abhirama, Bhakti Charu Swami and Bhavananda. At that time I maintained a mood of awe and reverence toward Prabhupada. To do that service you had to go past awe and enter complete intimacy. I stayed downstairs. I kept myself abreast of Srila Prabhupada’s condition by talking with Tamal Krishna Goswami. In my mind I was all wrapped up in praying for his recovery. I sat with a small group of men with one pair of small karatalas amd sang kirtana softly for an hour.  I also had a chance to pat down Srila Prabhupada’s body with baby talcum powder for his skin relief. My final exchange with Srila Prabhupada was when I was leading the singing and he was listening.  At that time I was singing the Nrsimha prayers with all my heart. Prabhupada indicated for Tamal Krishna Goswami to come over to him, and he whispered something in his ear, and Tamal Krishna Goswami whispered back. Later Tamal Krishna Goswami told me that Prabhupada had asked, “Who was that singing?” Tamal Krishna Goswami had responded that it was me. Prabhupada responded by making a sound, “Mmmm.” I said to Tamal Krishna Goswami that it wasn’t much of a response. He said, “In the condition Prabhupada is in, that’s a great response.” I certainly became very grateful for it.

A Singular Neighbor

Louie is a special neighbor. He liberally gives us produce from his garden, and practically forces Krsna dasi to go pick fresh lettuce and other things for the Deities if he is too busy to do it himself. The unusual thing is he doesn’t actually eat vegetables himself . . . only things that he hunts and kills. But he does take cookies in the loving exchange for vegetables. He occasionally entertains the neighborhood by trying to “herd” the chickens back into his own yard, as they tend to stray into others’ gardens and flowers, scratching up a mess as they go. Louie races all around with a stick in his hand, yelling at them to, “Go home!” They are not so dumb as they appear, though. Twice a day they show up at Sraddha’s doorstep to scramble for the prasadam she throws out to them . . . enough that they all can get some, but not enough that they want to move in.

So you might want to know what all this has to do with Prabhupada or Krsna. Well, it just goes to show that out here in the country, prasadam is the main bomb in our preaching arsenal, and you can even preach to chickens if you are sincere. Maybe they will become peacocks pleasing to Krsna in Vrndavana in their next life. Anything is possible.

Dandavats Article

I am happy to report that an article I wrote over twenty years ago was just republished in the Dandavats magazine on August 4th (online at  The theme does not stray from the title, “How All Generations Can Stay with Srila Prabhupada.” It is as pertinent today as it was then, and many devotees are reading it (over 16,000 “hits” in two days). I hope that when you read this message, you will get a chance to read it yourselves. I like it very much.


While talking about Louie’s chickens, I remembered the peacocks at the Gita Nagari farm, where I used to live down by the creek. I wrote Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta and many other books there. The peacocks used to roost in the trees around the cabin, so we would be the first to hear them rustling and crying their famous call to other groups of peacocks near the temple, or further away in the woods. They move in groups, and like cows move on a certain course throughout the day, so they would be at a particular place at the same time every day. At some point during the day, all of the three or four groups would stop by the temple leftover prasadam pile to fill up.

When you can associate closely with them like this, you can see why they give pleasure to Krsna, not only because of their beauty but also they have colorful behavior. Especially during mating season, the males are always fanning out their tail feathers—sometimes four or five feet across—and doing the “jitterbug,” the funny, shaking dance meant to impress a potential mate for the season. Usually the females completely ignore them and keep walking, leaving the male to keep admiring himself until he figures out his audience is ten or more feet away. Then the proud male will raise up in front of them and fan away—repeating the behavior endlessly. They get so intoxicated with their own beauty that they will perform for a tree, a cat, or in one case I even saw one trying to impress a wheelbarrow.

The males also are famous for dueling with their reflection in a car windshield or bumper, and anything else that appears to be a springtime competitor. Sometimes two males will spend five or more minutes chasing each other around a tree or run after each other all the way down the road to the temple (which is about two hundred yards), rather than the one being pursued just flying up in a tree.

It is hard to imagine the peacocks not being especially friendly during lunch or snack time in the forest with Krsna and the boys. In the summer, when the devotees and guests at Gita Nagari are taking prasadam outside, the peacocks will boldly mingle with everyone and snatch many items right off the plate of an inattentive picnicker. They don’t even run away, but will just casually wander away to the next unguarded plate.

Weekly Health Update

Hari!  Hari!

SDG describes his condition as like being on a “roller-coaster.” Rarely is there a pain-free respite from headaches. But it can also raise to the level of a migraine, which he describes as “like having a hot ice pick behind the right eye.” Generally the pain lingers between a level two and a level eight, where any mental activity, such as reading, writing, talking, or thinking about writing or dictating will set off at least an “Excedrin” headache. It is a very delicate existence, requiring ninety percent of his time just resting and trying to avoid the pain. This in itself is exhausting.

The chiropractor came yesterday to work on his ultra-stiff neck, which is diagnosed as having come from stress, such as writing three and a half new books and “performing” dutifully for two festivals in less than a year. Krsna gave him a window for new writing, and he broke all production records (until he broke). One book, Worshiping with the Pen, came out for the summer festival, and the next two will come out on Vyasa-puja.

Today we went for his annual wellness checkup, which focused on the headache issue and the nausea that has been haunting him constantly for almost six weeks. Our doctor prescribed a new “wonder drug” for all types of headaches, which, if it works for SDG, will be the miracle needed to break the cycle before our outdated group of medicines doesn’t work anymore. He also ordered a CT scan of the head and hopefully an MRI, to make sure all the bases are covered.

For the nausea issue, our PCP lucked out and got us a rare cancellation on Friday to see the best GI (gastro-intestinal) man in town. This will probably mean an endoscopy, or at least an ultrasound in the near future, to check for culprits in the ongoing nausea case.

That’s all, folks.
Your servant,
Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa


From Here Is Srila Prabhupada

August 13, 1:30 A.M.

Prabhupada’s books teach us about the spiritual relationship between the disciple and the spiritual master. Prabhupada’s books are like the map, but I still have to undertake the journey myself. I study the symbols on the page. They refer to a situation like my own, describing what is required of me as a disciple in giving my whole life to Srila Prabhupada. The map marks out hazard areas—don’t be whimsical, don’t disrespect the spiritual master, pray to him, inquire from him . . . but it remains general.

Each of us has to make our own journey, guided by the map of the sastra. The journey is meant to be long; one has to pass through all phases of life in this body while he traverses the path. But still, the sastras give us only general guidelines. The Nectar of Devotion states that one should accept the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, accept initiation from him, and receive instruction in Krsna consciousness while serving him with faith and confidence. But even Rupa Gosvami admits that he is speaking only basic principles. Prabhupada comments, “For example, a basic principle is that one has to accept a spiritual master. Exactly how one follows the instructions of his spiritual master is considered a detail” (Nectar of Devotion, Chap. 6, p.53, emphasis added).

In a sense, my relationship with my spiritual master is not mentioned in the scriptures. It is uncharted territory. The details have been left up to Srila Prabhupada and me. The outcome is still waiting for further development. Will I surrender completely? Will I receive more grace? Without the authorized books I would not know how to conduct myself, but the books cannot cultivate my relationship with Prabhupada for me. I have to make the attempt myself every day. I have to choose good association, control my senses and mind, do the work which is fit for me as approved by Srila Prabhupada. There is much work to do in my individual case. This is true for every disciple.

Another dynamic factor: Krsna helps the sincere disciple from within the heart. He promises to help the sincere devotee: “To those who worship Me with love, I give the intelligence by which they can come to Me.” If I cannot take full advantage of my guru’s instructions and the direction of the spiritual institution, then Krsna will enlighten me in my heart. Krsna guarantees this in the Bhagavad-gita verse: “To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.”

But again, the Bhagavad-gita doesn’t specifically mention me, Satsvarapa dasa. My case is included in those eternal instructions, and I am not an exception to those rules of bhakti. But where do I stand? I don’t seem to know. I can’t seem to realize it to my satisfaction. Is Krsna helping me? Am I doing something wrong?

To get this information, I simply have to read the map. Although my specific case with Srila Prabhupada may not be delineated, the map points out exactly: “You are here.” With this information, I can then advance in my relationship with my spiritual master.

Two hours a day with Prabhupada’s books is not enough.

From Begging for the Nectar of the Holy Name

The third offense in chanting the holy name is to disobey the order of the spiritual master or to disrespect him.

I want to discuss the ten offenses in a personal way, concerned for my own improvement and rectification. I tend to think that I don’t disobey Srila Prabhupada. I have a good record as far as the four rules and sixteen rounds are concerned. But if I go deeper into the matter, my self-image as an obedient disciple may begin to crumble. I chant those sixteen rounds mechanically. I don’t feel attachment for the holy names. Of course, even as I write this, I know it is not really true—I do have attachment. I am just sorry I cannot pay attention when I chant. In other words, the chanting is something wonderful that Prabhupada has given us, and I do obey his order to chant, but I am sorry that I do it poorly.

These are typical failures in my relationship with Prabhupada that I have always been aware of. I don’t have to recite them again. What it usually comes down to is admitting that I don’t carry out his order more fully and boldly; as I grow older, I am becoming less unconditional about my surrender to his movement. But then to balance my self-denigration, I have to recognize that I am doing what I can. Prabhupada is merciful and lenient, and he accepts me. There is no point in talking about a failure and leaving it at that; we have to also give ourselves some credit and try to go on developing our relationship with Prabhupada from there.

One always requires faith in the spiritual master to chant the holy names. I feel this japa retreat is a time where I am trying to link up with Prabhupada by trying to improve my service to his most basic and important instruction—to chant with love. I think Prabhupada would be pleased to know that I am trying to improve. Even the fact that I am sorry I am not doing better is a connection with Prabhupada. It is very personal.

Prabhupada, you gave us the Hare Krsna mantra to love and to chant, and I am definitely not satisfied with the way I am chanting. I want to appreciate the personal gift you gave me. I want to chant the mantra which you gave, our guru-mantra, the mantra given by guru. This is the mantra which will bring me all the way to actual realization of Krsna’s pastimes. This mantra will bring me to my spiritual form and to being with my spiritual master in his eternal spiritual form. Srila Prabhupada, I am going back to the basics of the Hare Krsna mantra and trying to improve.

I think we always have to be praising Prabhupada in a new way. We don’t want to concoct, but we want to get new realizations in our service to Prabhupada. We want to be experiencing fresh feelings. Let us find new directions and thus help ourselves and others to appreciate Prabhupada.

It is a challenge. He is the eternal guide. We should never minimize his place in our lives. What he has already given us is enough for us to be eternally grateful. We can never think that we will ever be more advanced than he is, more advanced than he was. And we should not find fault with him. Fault-finding is called kuti-nati, and the worst kind of fault-finding is criticizing the guru. What is the worst form of sadhu-ninda but guru-aparadha?

From From Imperfection, Purity Will Come About

The room where I am staying is simple. The wood beams on the ceiling are rough, and the tile on the floor is made of stone. It is a good place to cry for Kṛṣṇa. Remember Him when you climb up to your high bed. Remember Him on your morning walk in the grassy fields and secluded roads, while soaking delicious Ekadasi biscuits in your hot milk, while looking upon the faces of your friends, while setting up the altar and spreading your work out before you. “Start today,” you wrote after Maggio 18 on the calendar. Days and hours and moments of thinking of Kṛṣṇa and not forgetting Him. O Gurudeva, please allow me to always think and serve in a way that is pleasing to Kṛṣṇa. If I’m busy, earnest, even desperate, but it’s not pleasing to Kṛṣṇa, then it’s all wasted. All temporary efforts have this goal, and this is their success: to please Kṛṣṇa and His devotees.

Sometimes I think I am seeking what could be called a “heaven on earth.” When we drove up here, I saw quite a few roadside altars, prayer spots, shelves with a relief or statue of Mary, and it occurred to me that some people are honestly pious. They want a life with God present in it, and they want people to honor the saints and behave respectably. They don’t want crime, but gentleness. But how is it possible? And what am I doing to contribute to their vision? If I am shallow, sensitive only to my own pains, then I cannot be of any help.

So I write here, “Let me always think of Govinda.” Remember to remember. Remember and live now.

In ink, in blood, in spirit, in amma (undigested food), in vata and pitta, kapha, in the bag of three kinds of elements, in the hot and cold bathing, in the music that runs through my head . . . Don’t make fun of those who try to remember Krsna in pop songs, but welcome remembrance wherever it comes. There are millions of seconds in our lives, a constant flow and change. We have to be flexible. This is not just an official attempt, but a cry from the heart. I resort to saying, “And this too, and also this, and this . . .” I pray, “Kṛṣṇa, please let it happen. Incline me to You.”

It’s not like holding your breath under water. Not like in the summer of 1966 when I would propose to myself to go on chanting for the entire walk between First Street and Fourteenth. No, it’s more natural than that. The gopis meditate on Kṛṣṇa while doing everything.

“Persons who are constantly engaged in the transcendental meditation of seeing Krsna, internally and externally, by thinking of Him playing the flute, entering the Vṛndavana forest, and tending the cows with the cowherd boys have really attained the perfection of samadhi . . the gopis indicate that the pastimes of Krsna are the perfection of all meditation and samadhi” (KRSNA, Chapter 21, p. 188).

From The Wild Garden

Sadhana #3

Krsna is not easy to attain. He gives Himself only to His pure devotee. He is reluctant to give Himself to one who is not really surrendered. So many people pray to Krsna because they want something from Him, and Krsna quickly fulfills their de­sires. But if you claim, “I want You. I want loving service in Your intimate company,” Krsna tests you for a long time, and severely. This is my understanding of The Nectar of Devotion statement that bhakti is rarely achieved.

You have to serve a pure devotee of Krsna. That service may continue over many lifetimes. It is a mystery how the guru re­turns life after life to assist his disciples and to help them be­come free of entanglement. Srila Prabhupada said that the guru comes back for slack devotees to rescue them from the house of the prostitute (as in the case of Bilvamatigala Tha­kura and Cintamani).

To me, much of bhakti remains an unrealized mystery. It is theoretical. It is my professed religion. Within this ancient re­ligion and within its modern institution of ISKCON, I act out my own dramas and dilemmas, seeking my personal needs. I have not yet reached pure service.

Purity is a simple thing. Devotional service is easy for the simple and difficult for the crooked. I think of the verses in Narada-bhakti-sutra where Narada says that bhakti means total surrender; it means loving Krsna to the extent that all other desires and work are put aside. Struggling to understand how to enter the topmost relationship with Krsna is one thing, and the purity as it exists in any rasa is another thing. I think of simple purity as something you may find in a devotee’s service to his guru. Such simple purity asks only the question, “How may I serve you?” Then that purity allows the disciple to serve, regardless of the work involved. This purity of interest leads to Krsna’s abode. As the Lord says,

“One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotior service. When one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter the kingdom of God” (Bg. 18.55).

If we attempt to interest ourselves in rasa without overall purity and surrender to the guru—if we fail to give up other ambitions—then we will never enter into Krsna’s pastimes. Attaining Krsna’s love is not an easy thing.

I need to work on my chanting. Should I chant more? That is one aspect. But we barely have time to do all the duties required—meeting people, attending the morning program, reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, preaching, understanding the science of God in all its subtleties—we just do not have huge amounts of time for extra chanting. Neither did Srila Prabhupada ask us to set aside such blocks of time to improve. So how do I improve?

From Prabhupada Appreciation

Another question that arises is what was Śrīla Prabhupāda’s rasa with Krsṇa? Everyone has an eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa in one of the five main mellows: neutral, servitor, parenthood, friendship, or conjugal. This is only realized when the conditioned soul becomes perfect in devotional service. At that time, he or she can specialize their service in their own particular mood. And when he returns to the spiritual world, he continues to serve Kṛṣṇa in his eternal rasa under the guidance of an intimate associate of Kṛṣṇa. As to what Prabhupāda’s rasa was, basically, the question should not be asked.

Prabhupāda did not teach either his rasa or his disciples’ rasas with Kṛṣṇa. His own spiritual master, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, also condemned the teaching of siddha-praṇālī (prematurely thinking of and acting out one’s rasa with Kṛṣṇa), saying it is unauthorized and “simply a disturbance to the standard way of devotional service.” An advanced devotee should continue to act as a neophyte “as long as his material body is there.” But when he does realize his eternal rasa, “he can, along with the discharging of regular service, think within himself of the Lord, under the guidance of a particular associate of the Lord, and develop his transcendental sentiments in following that associate” (Nectar of Devotion, p.129, paperback edition).

Srila Prabhupada did not want his disciples to become interested in rasa before they became free of material desire and strongly fixed in pure devotional service to the spiritual master. He therefore set the example for all of us to follow by refraining from discussion on his or his disciples’ individual rasas.

But he did teach the concept of rasa, He told us that when we are in a perfect stage of devotional service, we can know our eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Then “one of the associates of Kṛṣṇa becomes our ideal leader.” But he warned, “This acceptance by one of the eternal associates of the Lord is not artificial. Do not therefore try it at present. It will automatically be revealed to you in proper time” (Letter, 67-3-9).

It sometimes occurred to Prabhupāda’s disciples that he was that eternal resident of Vṛndāvana who was their “ideal leader.”

There are some prevalent speculations about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s rasa, but Prabhupāda never really addressed them. Was Prabhupāda a cowherd boy? While still on the Jaladuta, he wrote that he was thinking of Kṛṣṇa and frolicking in the fields. Therefore, one of his Godbrothers said that Prabhupāda was in the sakhya-rasa. Some of that Godbrother’s disciples heard this and said that this meant that our Prabhupāda was in a lesser rasa.

We should not be curious about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s rasa. He took it that we do not know about these things and he did not address it. Once, Upendra asked Prabhupāda about rasa: “Unless we know the rasa of our guru, and unless his rasa is the same as ours, how could he teach us about rasa?”

Prabhupāda replied that the duty of the spiritual master is to train his disciples. If, for example, an expert mathematician was to teach a lower class, he could teach English, although mathematics is his specialty. When the student comes to the perfectional stage of training, he then realizes his position. “That special qualification reveals from the higher stage… This is useless talks in the preliminary stage…” (Letter, 68-11-19).

From “I Am Never Displeased with Anyone”: My Letters from Srila Prabhupada, Volume Three”

Before I left, Prabhupāda asked me to take a Sony tape recorder to Dinesh. In a letter to Dinesh dated May 19, Prabhupāda writes:

“I understand from Devananda that you are in immediate need of the Sony machine, therefore I am sending it through Satsvarupa. You can take it from him, and when you have finished your business or you have got a similar or better machine, you can return it to me.”

Dinesh was producing long-playing records of Prabhupāda’s singing, one of which was entitled “Vande ’ham.” He also made a studio recording with some student musicians from Ali Akbar Khan’s school (Ali Akbar Khan was a popular sarod player). One of his students can be heard playing on “Prayers to the Six Gosvamis’ and during Prabhupāda’s singing of the Brahma-saṁhitā verses. Dinesh recorded all this on a high-quality tape recorder, which Prabhupāda referred to as a “song tape recorder.” Dinesh lived in Philadelphia at that time, and I don’t remember why he was coming to Boston, but Prabhupāda thought it easiest to ask me to carry the tape recorder back for him to pick up rather than to mail it back.

I left Los Angeles on May 19. I came away with a wonderful feeling in my heart, having been to my spiritual master’s world headquarters and having had the opportunity to spend time with him. There were many wonderful devotees in Los Angeles, and the mood there was lively and ecstatic. I wanted to carry back not just the little notebook full of measurements and details but the mood of ecstasy, the surrender to saṅkīrtana, and even some of the playful, more laid-back attitudes of the West Coast devotees. Perhaps I was too romantic about it all, thinking I had contacted something in Los Angeles that we didn’t have in Boston in our own way.

Still, when I got back I had a hard time expressing exactly what I had felt. Sometimes all one can say is, “It was wonderful.” Those who hear this generalized statement may feel disappointed by it, but sometimes that’s all that can be said.

Despite my inability to express myself, the devotees were willing to take up the challenge of adjusting their schedules and attitudes to match what Prabhupāda considered his ideal temple. I was pleased that we actually decorated the temple the way they had decorated it in Los Angeles, with white floors and yellow walls. Our tiles were as shiny as theirs. The temple room became our pride and joy. We also began to go out on harināma the way the L. A. devotees did. And I quit my job. I don’t even think I gave notice. I simply called my boss and said I wasn’t coming back. Then I set up an office for myself in the temple, a cubbyhole room on the second floor toward the end of the hall. That was the first time I had had my own office and desk, and it made me happy. I felt a surge of new purpose in being allowed to engage in temple service all day long. I began to feel more the flow of temple activity, and I felt an incredible freedom. The only thing that caused me to feel the same sense of freedom was when I later took sannyāsa.

From Prabhupada Nectar, One-Volume Edition

Little Drops of Nectar

Tamal Krishna Goswami explained the difficulties of serving at Mayapur when it was in its beginning days. He and Jayapataka Maharaja had to go out themselves to different parts of India and get wagonloads of stone chips, steel, sand, and cement. Even before obtaining the materials, they first had to get government sanction, which was not easy. It was also difficult to get any wagons or trains, since there was a shortage. Somehow or other, they managed to gather some materials, and they proudly sent Prabhupada a photograph. These materials were so precious that the devotees would sleep on top of the stone chips and steel at night to protect them from thieves. Prabhupada wrote back a letter saying, “What is the use of so many pictures? Where is the building?”

Prabhupada gave some money to begin the construction, but he told them that they had to raise all the funds. “Why are you sitting there?” Prabhupada wrote in another letter to Tamal Krishna Goswami. “Now go out and collect more money.” Even when Prabhupada donated money, the devotees knew he did not want to, and they felt bad for asking.

“You are all just like widows,” Prabhupada told them sarcastically. “Better you all go to Mayapur and sit there, and I will earn the money and maintain you all.”

One day in France, Bhagavan dasa and other disciples walked into Prabhupada’s room and found Prabhupada looking up meditatively at the chandeliers. “Look at the chandelier,” he said. “You should make the universal model for the planetarium just like that. The planets are hanging just like crystals in the chandelier.”

After serving for a while in India, Giriraja became restless. He approached Prabhupada one day during his massage.

“Srila Prabhupada,” asked Giriraja, “I have been discussing with Shyamasundara and Tamal Krishna Goswami, and I was thinking that maybe I should go back to the West and preach in colleges and universities to the professors and writers.”

Prabhupada replied, “A devotee may be massaging Krsna’s left leg, and then he may think, ‘Now I will massage Krsna’s right leg.’ Of course, that is also service to Krsna. But Krsna may feel that He wants more massaging on His left leg still.”

“Well, if that’s the case,” said Giriraja obediently, “if you want me to stay in India, I will stay. That’s why I was asking. I wanted to know what you want.”

“Yes,” said Prabhupada. “India is our most important work right now.”
(Tamal Krishna Goswami, interview; Bhagavan Goswami, interview; Giriraja Swami, interview)

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume One

The Mango Giving

The Swami mentioned mangoes. He told the story of his spiritual master, who when he was only two or three years old, ate a mango without offering it to the Deity. When his father (Bhaktivinoda Thakura) told him that this was an offense, the young child vowed never to eat mango again. Prabhupada told us that we Americans could not fully estimate what a sacrifice that was, since in India, the mango is appreciated as the most delicious of all fruits. Prabhupada also recalled that when he was a boy, they always had plenty of mangoes—he remembered running into the house from play and grabbing a mango whenever he liked. And Swamiji one time mentioned that mangoes were not available in America.

So one day while at the welfare office and thinking of Swamiji, I remembered his mention of the mango and decided that I would get him one. I went to a produce store on the corner of First Street and First Avenue and asked the man for a mango. He had none on display, but brought me back to a refrigerated room in the rear of the store where he had a special case for connoisseurs. One mango cost one dollar. It was small but nice, soft but not too soft, green and golden. I took it carefully in a bag and brought it at once to Swamiji.

Swamiji smiled and received the mango graciously. He asked me where I got it. After that, I stopped every day at the grocer and got another mango. When I had been doing this for two weeks, I came again one day when Swamiji’s room was filled with boys. The Mott Street boys were there, and they made me feel a twinge of envy. They didn’t do much work or raise any money, and yet they were able to stay more with Swamiji than I was. So I gave the mango to Swamiji and sat down with the others. Even as I did so, Swamiji said, “Very good boy.” He said it the way you would speak to a very young child. The boys burst out laughing. I blushed and felt I was the butt of a joke. But then Swamiji said, “No, this is love. This is Krsna consciousness.” And then I felt very pleased.


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

With great speed, Kṛṣṇa-dāsa brought a hundred pots and bathed the Lord. Advaita came at that time and shone in front of the Lord’s face.

Seeing Him, the merciful golden moon with attractive body, took Advaita’s hand in His hand and brought him close for enjoying the bath.

Thus Advaita sat with the Lord for bathing. He also sprinkled Gauracandra plentifully with pure water.

He sprinkled the Lord with huge amounts of water out of great longing. He also bathed himself with his own tears. How astonishing are the actions of Gauracandra!


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