Prabhupada wrote me so many letters and I wrote him so many letters about how to get on in Boston. Then after I was in Boston for four years, Prabhupada formed the GBC in 1971. He named twelve people to be on the Governing Body Commission, and I was one of them. I was assigned to a zone in the southern United States—Florida, Louisiana, Atlanta and Texas. A devotee in Texas, Mohanananda, wanted to open a gurukula, and he had found a big building. So I went there, and I became in charge of . . . getting involved with the purchasing of the building and the mortgage and the . . . complications. I wrote to Prabhupada and asked him if it was maya, getting so much involved in down payments for mortgage and business, and he said, “No, this is Krsna consciousness, you do it.” So we purchased a big business there, started a gurukula and soon we had a hundred children there.
But then in 1972 Prabhupada was awarding sannyasa to different GBC members and urging them to get out from behind their desks and preach. So I asked him if he would initiate me, and he said, “Yes, come to Los Angeles, I’m holding an initiation.” So I went there and received sannyasa in 1972. I continued to be a GBC man. I had a different zone now in the Midwest. I visited the temples, gave lectures and preached in colleges. And in 1974 Prabhupada called me to be his personal servant, because his servant, Srutakirti, got married. So I traveled with him around the world for six months, to India, Europe and Australia. And then I got a transfer to head up the Library Party in America, which went to all the schools and colleges and distributed Prabhupada’s books.
So I always had some crucial engagement in his service, and we all tried to—as Tamal Krishna Maharaja said, we all competed to be the apple of Prabhupada’s eye, to do something that got his attention. And he liked the Library Party work very much.
Then in the last year of his life he was dissatisfied with the Back to Godhead management, which I had resigned from out of my sannyasa inclinations, so he put me back in charge of Back to Godhead magazine, and I moved to Los Angeles. But I visited Prabhupada three times during his last year to see him in his illness. And I was there when he disappeared.
Prabhupada had picked out eleven devotees to initiate on his behalf when he was too ill to initiate. In 1978 in a GBC meeting, they decided that those people should become the first initiating gurus in ISKCON. So I became initiating guru and suddenly had to accept disciples in big numbers—all these devotees who hadn’t been initiated and were waiting to be initiated. And it was a very heady time. I wrote a poem about it which I published in Journal and Poems, feeling myself to be a small person, but a guru. I called it “A Castor Tree Guru,” based on an example Prabhupada gave. He said that when there are no trees, a castor tree (which is a small tree) will be considered a big tree. So my poem is called “A Castor Tree Guru”
When there are no trees,
a castor tree is a big tree.
“I may be imperfect,”
Prabhupada would say,
“but if I speak what Krsna says,
then that is also perfect.”
And a prabhupadanuga
is in touch with the sakti.
The tree in the courtyard is also small,
but sturdy, even in winter.
And in springtime it will bud green.
Let me grow as I am able,
even if I am small.
And let me also shelter sisya birds.
I am his foot dust,
his boy, his saved, his son,
his typist, a bringer of a mango.
But I cannot rest on these credits.
Today also I am traveling
to his Mayapur.
I pray to stay a small tree,
since that is what I am,
and to deliver these sisyas given to me.
By chanting and hearing
and always living with the Vaisnavas,
by preaching and urging myself and them,
I’ll help keep these ISKCON places sound
until the end of my life.
Prabhupada told me to write. He encouraged me very much in writing for Back to Godhead magazine. Almost every issue I had an article based on a Srimad-Bhagavatam story. And in this letter he told me he liked them. Then with the Library Party we decided that there should be a book that we could circulate in the academic circles, an academic book about Krsna consciousness which would be acceptable in their Hinduism courses. So I wrote a book titled Readings in Vedic Literature, and Prabhupada approved of it. He said, “You have quoted the rascals” (meaning the professors), “but you didn’t get contaminated.” Then one year in Detroit, when Prabhupada visited and I was the GBC there, I was staying at a motor home, and I was asleep at 10:00 P.M. when a servant called me and told me Prabhupada wanted to see me. So I went to his rich room in the mansion, and he said, “You have written that book?” And I thought of Readings in Vedic Literature, and I thought maybe he was going to say he disapproved of it. And I became afraid. Why did he bring it up? “You’ve written that book . . .”
I said, “Readings in Vedic Literature?”
He said, “Yes, you have finished that book. Now I want you to write another book.” So there he was late at night thinking of me, and thinking of me to write a book.
Prabhupada said I wasn’t a good manager, but he kept me on the GBC because I did what he said. But he encouraged me in writing and thought of me as a writer. So he asked me to write a book on how things fail without Krsna. “Write about worldly projects and movements and how they fail without Krsna.” I made different attempts to start the book, but it was difficult. At first he didn’t approve of my concepts. I was going to write about Gandhi, and he said, “No, if you write about Gandhi, it will be like kicking a skunk, you’ll get dirty, and you’ll get stinky. We don’t write like that.”
Many years later I finally wrote a book, The Daily News: All Things Fail Without Krsna, and completed that order. But he was frequently ordering me to write. And then at the end of his life, some members of the BBT wrote to his secretary Tamal Krishna Maharaja and asked if they could write a biography of Prabhupada as he was about to disappear. They wanted to get approval. And he said “Yes, and Satsvarupa Maharaja should write the book.” So then at the GBC meeting after his disappearance, they commissioned me to write the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. So that was another order from Srila Prabhupada.
(To be continued)
This week, unfortunately, was sprinkled with many migraine headaches, and few breaks between, with “regular” headaches. It was action-packed and not conducive for the serene rest that Satsvarupa Maharaja needs, he knows something may be good and important, but it still causes a kind of deadly anticipation until it is over. How it plays out, for example, is that there was a meeting of his Legacy Trustee Committee on Saturday here in Stuyvesant Falls. There were migraines leading up to it, but then he performed very well during the meeting as he stayed tuned on Zoom. Then he crashed again with migraines, then calmed down for a day of “regular” headaches, and wound up for a meeting with one of the committeemen on Monday. Again, several pre-meeting migraines— great performance, then crash again. And then again a recovery day, leading into a medical procedure day, with headaches, and this led to Wednesday, into our little celebration of Lord Balarama’s appearance—migraines before, good performance, and crash again. The “icing on the cake” was hearing that his dear friend Vicaru has to leave in two days to go to the U.K. and get his U.S. visa renewed—migraines, etc.
The nausea seems to be stabilizing with the new medicine regime, but the cause remains elusive. He had a long ultrasound of his abdomen (kidneys, gall bladder, spleen, liver, etc.), and then thyroid, esophagus, etc., looking for answers to the nausea and urinary issues. Again, good fodder for anticipation and headaches while he waits for the radiologist’s report.
The sweet corn grown here is eaten by humans and is superexcellent. The majority of the corn crop—a different type of corn—is fed to the local cows to fatten them for slaughter. At Gita-nagari, when the cows stop giving milk, they are allowed to retire and graze. They are never slaughtered. The bulls plow the agricultural land. So the milk and ghee sold at Gita-nagari are all ahimsa products. I don’t know whether the milk is raw, pasteurized, or homogenized, but the ghee is homemade. The animals there lead a contented life because they know their owners will not kill them. The cows are like big pets. You can go in among them and scratch them and pet them, and they are not aggressive (although you have to be careful they don’t step on your feet). It is very nice to associate with them. Everyone agrees the mode of goodness is perceptible around protected cows.
Our marigolds may last all the way through September. Actually, they will probably last even into October—until the first killing frost (around 29 degrees, or -2 degrees Celsius). Now we have a daily crop to profusely decorate the altar. The devotees even make marigold garlands for the big Gaura-Nitai Deities every day. The marigolds are all orange, yellow, russet or a mixture of russet and yellow. They seem to smile around the lotus feet of Radha-Govinda. Upstairs, we don’t have time to make garlands, but we place the flowers on the steps of the altar, and bouquets in vases. The marigolds have a bright effulgence, and they are harmonious to whatever outfits the Deities are wearing. All glories to the late-summer marigolds! They have reached their perfection—from growing up in the garden to being offered to the worshipable Deity.
The gopis were bereft when Krsna left them in Vrndavana and went to Mathura. They were outwardly devastated and unhappy, but they experienced the ecstasy of vipralambha bhava, separation from Krsna. Queen Kunti was bereft when, despite her eloquent prayers that Krsna not leave her and her sons, the Pandavas, in Hastinapur, He left. But Krsna smiled mildly to her. King Yudhisthira requested Lord Krsna to stay for a few more days to counsel him over his feelings of deep grief for having caused the loss of so many lives in the Battle of Kuruksetra just to get him enthroned as Emperor of the World. Even Krsna couldn’t pacify Yudhisthira, and there was a great plan behind this. Krsna wanted Yudhisthira to go to the dying Bhismadeva. Bhismadeva instructed Yudhisthira in a way that eased Yudhisthira’s heart. Sri Krsna relieved the bereft heart of His devotees in various ways.
The cowherd boys were bereft on a daily basis when they had to go home at night and be away from Krsna. Mother Yasoda was shocked and bereft when her little son was apparently attacked and endangered by demons. Krsna was temporarily bereft when he saw the illusory form of His father Vasudeva beheaded by the demon Salva. Lord Ramacandra, the Personality of Godhead, was bereft when His wife, the goddess of fortune, Sita, was kidnapped by Ravana. But all these things were rightly resolved.
I was recovering gradually from the flu. I was attending a huge festival of devotees, yogis, seekers, artists and scholars. It was 2:00 A.M. in the morning, and we were all still sleeping. I was awake, deeply contemplating my future. My university studies were complete. All my grades had come in, and I had passed all my subjects and graduated with the highest honors. There was no more academic work for me to do. Now, normally one would go out into the world. But my plans were different. I wanted to follow my solitary vocation of writing. But who would financially support me? As I lay in my sleeping bag at the festival, I thought of going to my parents and making a proposition, although it was unusual and not likely that they would be pleased with it. I wanted to ask them to buy a small house for me and be pleased to finance me as I spent my time entirely devoted to writing. They knew for a long time that I was a dedicated and talented writer and that it was my sole interest, but could I persuade them to support me? Over the years I had shown them my writings, and they were in favor of them, but they may have wanted me to take up a different, paying career. I wanted to show them my recent writings and enthuse them that they were worth supporting. All I wanted was a little cabin to stay in and minimum money for food, etc. I would live very frugally. If my parents didn’t want to support me, I thought of finding a patron who would do it. There were people who liked my writing, but I had to find one who was enthusiastic enough to pay for me to live alone and write and try to promote my writing. If someone were enthusiastic enough, they could share my writings and help me to publish them. There were a few people I knew who were inclined like that, and I had to persuade them to actually do it. If I couldn’t find a patron, then there was nothing I could think of but to get a part-time job and support myself and write part-time. That was not a very favorable idea to me, and I looked at it that way. Writing deserved full time, and I had full-time plans for it, just like the classic prolific writers of the past who made writing their only vocation, somehow or other.
I have been having frequent dreams of wanting to devote the rest of my life to full-time writing. Of course, I have been a prolific writer, but with my duties in the Hare Krsna Movement I have had to do managing, preaching and participation in the missionary institution in addition to my own writing. Now I am almost 80 years old, and I feel I should be allowed to use my remaining years burning the flame that still remains for writing. But what will I be able to write? I have tried so many genres. I don’t think I can write more “straight” sastric-directed instructional books in Krsna-consciousness, teaching the dogma directly. I don’t know if I want to keep up autobiographical works. For now, I am doing this Journal.
You can read to them Krsna’s teachings from the Bhagavad-gita or the lessons of great devotees like Narada Muni. Narada Muni came to comfort King Citraketu, who for many years was not able to have a son—although he had thousands of wives—and who finally had a son, but the baby was poisoned by his envious co-wives. Narada told him that he was not destined to have a son and that he should not have prayed to the sage Angira Rishi to give him a son. Narada had the son brought back to life briefly, and he spoke that Citraketu was not his actual father, and that he had had many fathers and mothers in the past. The child said that he was not this body but spirit soul and had to take another body according to his karma. These instructions pacified the grief of Citraketu and his royal household. The envious co-wives gave up their bad mentality and practiced atonement to get relief from their sins. Narada told Citraketu it was very difficult to understand the intricacies of karma. When Citraketu’s dead son came back to life and spoke, he said he may have been the enemy of Citraketu in his past life, and he had been born again to give Citraketu pain. Such are the subtle laws of karma.
Hearing histories like this can help a devotee put his or her own suffering into the right perspective. We have to see things from the transcendental position. We have to understand that we are not these bodies and that everything is under the control of Krsna. When we suffer, it is an opportunity to turn to Krsna and surrender to Him. We should never blame Krsna for our pain. We may be receiving some token misery for our past sinful activities, or Krsna may be personally purifying us of our last material attachments. These may be hard things to accept when one is suffering, but Krsna advises us to be tolerant, as we are in winter and summer seasons. Krsna tells Arjuna the inconveniences are due to sense perception only, and one should learn to tolerate them. Getting free of the material conception of life will relieve us from mental agony, and if we go on chanting Hare Krsna, associating with devotees and worshiping the Lord, we will get relief from our pain. Blaming Krsna or His devotees for our pain is an offensive mentality and just puts us into a worse position whereby we will receive more unwanted reactions. We have to stop the offensive mentality, starting with offenses to the Supreme Lord and the spiritual master. The person who continually offends devotees loses their association. The devotees don’t want to be with the offending person and hear their blasphemies. So the suffering person loses out on the balm of devotee association by blaming them and finding fault with them. It just perpetuates more suffering and isolation.
(In the mood of Satsvarupa dasa brahmacari)
Swamiji, you said, “If you are not ashamed
we can wear our japa beads around our necks.
And you said, “Thank you very much”
when I shaved my head.
People jeer at us sometimes on the streets
but we remember you and Krsna
and it’s all right.
I go to work with tilaka on my forehead
because I want to show them
I’m a Vaisnava, and because
the marks of Visnu are beautiful.
I’m not afraid to go out
to Saint Mark’s Place
and start calling out loud,
“Back to Godhead magazine!
The yoga of ecstasy! Read how,
by chanting Hare Krsna
you can attain the state of bliss
of love of God!”
I’m reading no more books, Swamiji,
except yours and eating
no food except yours.
The renounced saintly life
I’d read about is coming true.
Sometimes when a night starts out
I’m feeling doubtful
or I may not like somebody,
but once we get into the kirtana,
I go with you to Krsna,
and everything’s all right.
“Only by making such inquiries in this world can one be successful and perfectly cognizant, for such inquiries invoke transcendental ecstatic love unto the Personality of Godhead, who is the proprietor of all the universes, and guarantee cent-percent immunity from the dreadful repetition of birth and death.”
Suta Gosvami praises the sages’ inquires. This is one of those inspiring verses to give us strength to hear krsna-katha. I like to quote such verses to devotees to remind us all to read and chant. The Krsna consciousness movement is active in response to Srila Prabhupada’s order that we preach, but he probably gave even more instruction on hearing. He wanted both. He said of himself, “Because I was good at sravanam, therefore I am good at kirtanam.”
Suta praises the sages because their questions were transcendental. They didn’t ask, “Where is the bathroom?” Everybody asks mundane questions, but only a devotee can ask the kind of questions that free him from the dreadful repetition of birth and death.
A devotee’s questions are about the Personality of Godhead. Krsna is unknowable except to the extent that He reveals Himself, but Krsna does not reveal Himself to the nondevotees. He reveals Himself to those who want to know Him out of devotion. Otherwise, He is a mystery. Because they fail to worship His lotus feet, even the perfected Brahmavadis fall back down into the material world. They don’t know where else to go.
The pure devotee is guaranteed liberation. What more assurance do we want? Well, usually we want to know if it’s possible to become one hundred percent liberated with only fifty percent investment on our parts. But we cannot cheat Krsna. Or, we can engage in cheating, but we will not attain genuine realization and success. Therefore, we have to inquire into the meaning of life, into the meaning of the Supreme Lord, and we have to make those inquiries in the association of devotees.
All right, then what about this? This verse assures us that a devotee is immune to repeated birth and death, but it doesn’t assure us that a devotee is immune from suffering. Prahlada Maharaja was tortured, Narada Muni lost his mother when he was only five years old, Queen Kunti suffered on behalf of her sons, Vasudeva and Devaki lost all their children and spent years in prison, and even Prabhupada appeared to experience tribulation. What about that?
I remember a disciple asking Prabhupada this question on a morning walk. Prabhupada said that at least a devotee knows that when he is suffering, he is suffering for the last time. His suffering is not useless, but it is purifying him so that he can go back to Godhead. At least we can take that much solace when we are suffering.
Beyond that, however, we shouldn’t approach devotional service as a means to relieve or eliminate suffering. Bhakti is not a painkiller. If we approach devotional service in that way, we are looking for salvation—a material desire—and not pure devotion. Krsna consciousness is not to be approached as an antidote to suffering, although ultimately, it relieves the greatest pain.
Once a devotee approached Prabhupada in tears and asked, “Why does Krsna make us suffer?” Rather than respond gently, Prabhupada became stern. “You should not come to Krsna to reduce your suffering. Come to Krsna to surrender and to serve.”
This will be our last time suffering in this place of suffering. When we go back to Godhead there will be no more misery. Rather, we will enjoy eternal, transcendental pleasure serving Krsna.
As for those great devotees who suffered, they weren’t suffering in an ordinary way. They were always in contact with Krsna and remained in internal bliss.
One day the doctor taught Nimai a method of total relaxation. Under the doctor’s verbal commands, Nimai relaxed one part of his body after another, and then he was told to relax his mind. At the doctor’s request, Nimai began to intone the word “OM,” and he also repeated, at the doctor’s instruction, “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” Nimai was so embarrassed to say this that he almost snickered out loud. What if one of the devotees heard him saying these things? The doctor then asked him to say, “The source of good health is Mother Nature, I turn to her, turn to the sun, and I turn to the source within. I love my body and I want it to get well. Everything is peace.”
Since Nimai was in a state of relaxation which had taken them a half an hour to develop step by step, he didn’t wish to rudely break it, and so he repeated the words. But he promised himself that at the beginning of their next meeting he would tell the doctor that there were certain things he couldn’t do.
At their next meeting, when Nimai brought this up, it gradually developed into an argument. Nimai asserted that Lord Krsna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the doctor disagreed. Dr. Anand said that the demigods were the source of health and happiness.
“But they are the servants of Krsna,” said Nimai, “that’s what it says in Bhagavad-gita.”
“I know they are the servants,” said the doctor condescendingly, “but they are one with the source. He is God for some, and for others, as for me, our deity is Ganesh. Everyone worships and thinks his God is supreme, and all are supreme in the Brahman.”
“No,” said Nimai, “Krsna says brahmano hi pratisthaham, the impersonal is subordinate to Him.”
“You may think that to enhance your worship,” said the doctor, and he smiled to pacify Nimai’s intense look. “You may say that, but in the Upanisads it is said that all gods come from the one. One God in many forms. Tat tvam asi, you are also that.”
The phrase tat tvam asi, spoken by the doctor, set off an alarm within Nimai. He felt he was in danger, because now he knew that Dr. Anand was an impersonal Mayavadi, and if one listened to a Mayavadi he could lose his devotion to God.
Dr. Anand saw that Nimai was likely to bolt and run.
“We should not discuss these philosophic technicalities,” he said. “I may not have expressed myself so well, but I am actually Krsna conscious. I am a devotee of Krsna too. . .”
Nimai dasa brahmacari: Once I knew that the doctor was a Mayavadi, how come I didn’t leave? I couldn’t—I was too ill. But I knew it wasn’t good. At least the situation drew out of me a strong attachment for Krsna consciousness. I had to preach (at least to myself) in order to survive. Although the doctor kept asking me to relax, I was becoming more alert and appreciative of Krsna consciousness. But I also felt lost and far away from where I was supposed to be. I thought this must be my karma, to be sick and living in such a place. I thought,
“I secretly want this, but now I have to reverse it and go back to straight Krsna consciousness.” I wanted to live in a favorable place under the direct shelter of Gurudeva. But I had discovered that once I went off a little bit, maya threw me on a long orbit going away from Krsna consciousness, and only by special mercy could I come back. I was swimming against a strong current.
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
You are a reservoir of Krsna consciousness. You pump fresh water into the parched population. You replenish your own resources in the cloudbank of Krsna’s mercy. His blessings flow down to us from the mountains of the previous acaryas. The rain of Krsna’s mercy runs down the mountainsides and deposits the rich loam of the acaryas’ realization directly into your own reservoir.
As we drink that water, our lives are sustained by it. Please don’t let us continue taking it for granted. Please let us always remember that we are living only by your kindness. You are providing for us all the nourishment we need to advance in spiritual life. You are giving us the water of immortality. Thank you, Srila Prabhupada.
The ground is always being cut out from under my feet. I have no laurels to rest on, no stock of praises to create complacency. Whatever encouragement I receive is immediately consumed by the hungry, temporary ego-self. He knows that he cannot live on praise—it gets him through today, but what about tomorrow? I am perpetually impoverished. Let me live the life of a brahmana. Whatever he gets in one day, he must give away in charity by nighttime. In that way, he starts each day fresh. His pockets are empty but his heart is clean. He knows Krsna is maintaining him.
A proud person who lives in the world without personally recognizing God’s will and His desires for us wastes the human form of life. Regardless of what our past karma has given us in this life, the material energy continues to deceive us and delivers us cruel blows of Fate. In the end, we are discarded, just like a plastic cup thrown onto the garbage heap by the consumer. Material nature is merciless.
No one knows how to end this decay and accumulation of garbage and waste known as human history. No one even knows what it is, although there is so much speculation. The Vedic directions inform us how the destruction works, why it so happens that we live and dream a brief while and then are chucked aside. Vedic directions also inform us how to become free of bitterness, cruelty, and greed so that we stop torturing each other during our brief life in these bodies. Although the Vedic social model was recognized successfully in history for thousands of years, modern historians deny its authenticity and relegate the Vedas to the world of mythology. Without knowledge of the Vedic instructions, how can anyone become free from the cycle of birth, death, disease, and old age?
Srila Prabhupada is the representative of Lord Caitanya. He specifically came to the West to teach us how to live properly and happily and in God consciousness. Therefore, he wrote many books to act as guides for social and spiritual order. He pushed his disciples to distribute his books widely so that as many people as possible would have an opportunity to hear the reality of Krsna consciousness. Again, we can only be grateful to Prabhupada in the face of such an achievement. And we patiently serve and wait for the day when his books will become the lawbooks for mankind.
Rushing chanting isn’t
bad as long as you don’t
overdo it and become
a mindless race car.
Being aware that the clock
moves quickly, and the
numerical count moves slowly, you
step on the accelerator and utter
the holy names quickly. It is better
than lethargic drowse.
So I move with speed
from one 32-syllable
mantra to the next
but careful not to slur
them but to say them
clearly, rushing to
reach my Lord.
The pain prevents you from
meditating on Radha and Krsna—
it is like a big log in the
middle of the roadway.
But you do not stop your
yajna. You have the strength
of purpose to continue uttering
the Names, and despite your
pain you say a prayer to
Nama Prabhu to please
accept you and allow you
to chant another time in
a painless state. When relief
comes, you thank Him
and embrace the coziness.
Krsna is grateful when
you chant His names.
Just try to imagine
that power of japa
and kirtana. They can
accomplish such a great
thing. By other methods
it is not easy to please
Krsna who is atmarama,
fully satisfied in himself.
How can one presume
to make the all-great
grateful? Yet this simple
gesture which He has
introduced and endorsed
can do it. You
have to chant nicely,
Offensive chanting won’t
make Him grateful,
but the pure outpouring
of the heart makes Him
obliged and He never forgets
the chanter and grows
in affection toward
There are some different and apparently contradictory sections in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books that have proven to be dangerous to a devotee with weak faith or that create problems when preaching to the public. In this chapter, we will attempt to bring some of these statements out into the open and to look at them in context. There should not be anything we have to doubt in our philosophy; neither should we feel embarrassed or fearful to the public.
“By transcendental knowledge one can remain steady in his convictions, but by mere academic knowledge one can be easily deluded and confused by apparent contradictions. It is the realized soul who is actually self-controlled, because he is surrendered to Kṛṣṇa. He is transcendental because he has nothing to do with mundane scholarship.” (Bg. 6.8, purport)
The Vedas contain apparently contradictory passages. We are enjoined not to touch animal stool because it is a contamination, yet cow dung is said to be pure and antiseptic and is used to bathe the Deity. Similarly, we are told that animal bones are impure, and yet we begin and end the ārati by blowing a conch. It is important to understand the nature of these apparent contradictions so that we can see how the philosophy is not disordered or neutralized by them.
While it is enough to examine all of Prabhupāda’s books to find the balance in his statements, it is also helpful to watch how he personally dealt with the issues as they arose among his disciples. During the “gṛhastha controversy” in ISKCON in 1976, Prabhupāda explained that the main consideration was spiritual advancement, not one’s āśrama or status in life. To prove his point, he quoted Lord Caitanya:
Kiba vipra, kiba nyasi sudra kene naya/yei kṛṣṇa tattva vettā sei guru haya. “Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra—regardless of what he is—he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.”
—Renunciation Through Wisdom, p. 51 (1992)
Many of these apparently contradictory issues are subtle and complicated. It is not that Prabhupāda did not take a position, but he purely revealed even the gray areas of various situations. If we approach the spiritual master’s teachings without a partisan motive, we will be able to see all sides of the issue and how Prabhupāda instructed according to persons, time and circumstance.
Neither is Kṛṣṇa consciousness a game of logic. By presenting all the different shades of gṛhastha life “versus” brahmacārī life, for example, Prabhupāda has eliminated our need to waste time speculating on them. He was not tied to a dogmatic consistency, maintaining a particular viewpoint regardless of individual applications. As Emerson said, ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.’ Prabhupāda was a mahātmā, very broadminded.
Another aspect of understanding contradictory passages is to appreciate Prabhupāda as a teacher. Just because he stressed some particular point at a given time does not negate its opposite. For example, Prabhupāda sometimes said that we should desire to go back to Godhead, but at other times, he taught that the desire to go back to Godhead was selfish. This is not a contradiction. In the first statement, he is trying to stir his disciples’ interest in and anticipation of the spiritual world; in the latter, he is teaching the quality of selfless humility and the pure service spirit that is required to realize the spiritual world. If he sometimes urged disciples to ardently desire to go back to Godhead, there is no fault if at other times he reaffirms the opposite. As Walt Whitman stated, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.”
Just finished sixty-four rounds. You could keep going, beyond evaluation—neither good, bad, nor indifferent. You chant and chant.
A game to play during japa: ask yourself, “What is more important than chanting right now?” The diverting thoughts and possible actions fall away. Nothing is more important than chanting right now. Everything else can wait. (This game can wait too.) When you think of it in terms of life-and-death, or temporary and permanent, the chanting is most important.
Your muscles and stamina build up to the point where you don’t have to evaluate it anymore. Krsna is Krsna; Radha is Radha. I am very far away from Them, and yet I am as near as possible by chanting. Japa gives that immediate connection, more so than any other process. Your tongue and ear, and His Names. No more to say.
Today I noticed a difference between involuntary and deliberate distraction. I was going over in my mind the batting lineup of the Brooklyn Dodgers team of the 1950s. I caught myself doing it, but I continued indulging. I tried remembering how many home runs Gil Hodges used to hit on an average each year, and how many did Roy Campanella hit. It seemed harmless and amusing. But because it was interfering with my ability to hear my japa, it was not harmless, so I dropped it.
I remember in 1971, I traveled in a van with a devotee named Karuna-moya dasa. I was a newly appointed GBC and we were on a tour of Southern U.S.A. ISKCON. We drove to Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, and Florida. On our return we were going through New York City on the way to Boston. We were amazed at how the last four and a half hours of the trip seemed so short and easy. Previously, New York City to Boston seemed like a big hike, but after traveling such long distances on our southern tour, NY-Boston was a cinch.
Chanting sixty-four rounds does that for you too. To go on chanting an extra one or two isn’t hard; you can always add a few more. The problem of drowsiness is forgotten. Hope I can keep up the good effects tomorrow and not fall back into the old rut.
We tire of hearing mundane stories with mundane heroes, but we never tire of hearing about Krsna. “In this way, the reading matter remains forever fresh, despite repeated readings” (Bg. 10.18, purport).
Your inner breast is burning. You are face to face with your lack of surrender. You are impatient and raving. You have found an outlet for this in writing. I may say, “Peace be upon you,” but it can’t be settled until I learn of my relationship with Krsna. I have to give up fascination with everything else, including self-expression, that doesn’t touch the spiritual relationship with Krsna.
Your Godbrothers are doing what they have to do. Now you do what you can. Don’t think you can avoid surrender. Wherever you go, your lack of surrender will face you. Everyone needs Krsna, and He is waiting for everyone to surrender to Him.
It requires great faith to do as the guru asks us, and faith to do as our institution asks us. They represent Krsna. But when someone misrepresents Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, this creates a crack in the foundation of our faith. Once the crack is there, it is hard to mend. We think, “Then all my service and surrender was wasted. I cannot trust anyone in the same way again.” This becomes an excuse to engage in sense gratification and to become skeptical.
Some stay in the movement but retain a cracked attitude. Tending to the needs of such devotees is important, but if someone’s faith is too cracked, then he can no longer hear. Performing austerity becomes difficult if we have no taste, little realization, and little faith. A humble soul will get down anyway and perform acts of faith and austerity, but other people, nondevotees, will deride the faithful.
Each of us has to examine where we fit into all of this. Are we healers? Are we the strongly faithful ones? Or are we doubters, hypocrites? It requires self-examination and honesty. When a leader in ISKCON falls down, it hurts all of us. Then we see that even one who appeared to be upholding the principles was cheating. It becomes harder to know who is sincere and who is a hypocrite, who we can trust and who we can follow.
Someone says, “Don’t worry, you can follow Srila Prabhupada.” But we ask him, “Why should we listen to you? You may be motivated.” We want to follow Srila Prabhupada, but who among his followers can we trust? And if we can’t trust ourselves… This is the doubt syndrome; the cracked foundation syndrome.
Arriving at His destination, Jagannātha threw the devotees present there into the ocean of happiness as He made steps by walking on the path with His feet using pillows to His house, while He attracted the evening.
Entering His palace, and living at that place, the merciful moon of Nīlācala, whose every action was a pastime, attractive with various types of beauty, eating food filled with many tastes, shone brightly.
Lotus eyed Gaurāṅga arrived there at night and, with tears flowing, saw lotus faced Jagannātha. The golden moon of unlimited activities, standing with Govinda, shone, while His hairs stood on end.
Thus, having seen and tasted the rasa of the Guṇḍicā festival (rathayatra), He spent the day happily in singing and dancing. The sweet son of Śacī, attractive with excellent bliss, enchanted the hearts of all people with the highest bliss.
Seeing Jagannātha, beautiful with the best ornaments and shining dress, shining in all His limbs with the best garlands, endowed with a festival of bliss streaming forth with the greatest force, all the people gave their hearts to Him.
When the people looked at Jagannātha with their full strength, the son of Śacī appeared in their minds, as if He were painted in their hearts. If they looked at Gaurāṅga whose activities were amazing, suddenly, for some reason, they became stunned with bewilderment for a long time.
At rathayatra in Puri, Mahāprabhu in joy enjoyed pastimes with His devotees every year, singing with enthusiasm the qualities of the Lord and with joy beholding Lord Jagannātha. Who can describe his joyful pastime of dancing? No one, not even Brahmā, has the power to do that.
This collection of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1966 and 1978, and compiled in 1979 by Gita Nagari Press as the volume A Handbook for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness.
This second volume of Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami’s Back to Godhead essays encompasses the last 11 years of his 20-year tenure as Editor-in-Chief of Back to Godhead magazine. The essays in this book consist mostly of SDG’s ‘Notes from the Editor’ column, which was typically featured towards the end of each issue starting in 1978 and running until Mahārāja retired from his duties as editor in 1989.
This collection of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s writings is comprised of essays that were originally published in Back to Godhead magazine between 1991 and 2002, picking up where Volume 2 leaves off. The volume is supplemented by essays about devotional service from issues of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s magazine, Among Friends, published in the 1990s.
Writing Sessions at Castlegregory, Ireland, 1993Start slowly, start fastly, offer your obeisances to your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You just drew his picture with your pencils. He appears carved out of wood…
I found I had hit a stride in my search for theme in writing, then began to feel the structure limiting me. After all, I had given myself precious time to write full-time; I wanted to enter the experience as fully as possible. For me, this means free-writing—writing sessions with no predetermined shape, theme, or topic…
This volume is comprised of three parts: prose meditations, free-writes, and poems each of which will be discussed in turn. As an introduction, a brief essay by the author, On Genre, has also been included to provide contextual coordinates for the writing which follows…
A comprehensive retrospective of poetic achievement and prose meditations, using a new trajectory described as “free-writing”. This volume will offer to readers an experience of the creativity versatility which is a hallmark of this author’s writing.
Stream of consciousness poetry that moves with the shifting shapes and colors characteristic of a kaleidoscope itself around the themes of authenticity. This is a book will transport you to the far reaches of the author’s heart and soul in daring ways and will move you to experience your own inner kaleidoscope.
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expression.The reader is invited to discover his or her own spiritual pilgrimage within these pages as the author pushes every literary boundary to boldly create something wholly new and inspiring.