This week was a little encouraging in that there were fewer regular headaches than last week. Migraines persist and come sometime during the day or evening. Satsvarupa Maharaja is very fragile, and even a small amount of exercise or using the nebulizer for his COPD gives him the beginning of a headache, and he has to stop. He even had to cancel a long-planned visit by his “gulabjamon disciple,” Yadunandana Swami. The last miracle medicine for stopping the migraines did not work. So his doctor consulted his neurology friends for the latest generation of medicine. It is very expensive, so the insurance company does not authorize it easily. Hopefully the paperwork war will be over in a few days, and this medicine works. Knowing that some meds work better than others on different patients, the doctors just keep trying different things to hopefully get a winning combination. No guarantees are offered on the allopathic trail, but Nitai Gaurasundara kept Satsvarupa Maharaja almost migraine-free for thirteen years until this last relapse.
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recovers. Thank you, Hare Krsna.
I wrote two volumes of prayers while living at the house Sastra lent to us in Delaware. Krsna gave me a big window in which I had time, concentration and spiritual inspiration to write down these prayers. They are unique in my collection of written books. They are all sincere prayers, written directly to the Supreme Lord. In several places in the Bhagavatam, both in verses and purports, Prabhupada writes that it is permissible for fallen souls to write prayers to the Supreme Lord. He even says it is necessary. So you don’t have to be one of the Six Gosvamis to write prayers. You don’t have to have knowledge of Sanskrit or be a perfect devotee. If you sincerely write from your heart, in parampara, it will be acceptable to Krsna. The book was written in 2010. Here is one prayer titled “Gratitude”:
Please allow me to write a prayer of gratitude to You. I have written one before, and I said at that time that I could go on thanking You in subsequent prayers of thanks. Without looking back on the first one I wrote, I will write You with fresh gratitude as it occurs to me today.
I thank you for sending me my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who has taught me everything I know about You. I had the vaguest idea of God before I met my spiritual master, and I was living a life of sin. I was addicted to taking drugs and engaging in illicit sex. I thought that illicit sex was wrong, but I was too weak to resist the temptation. As for drugs, I regularly smoked marijuana and occasionally took LSD. These did not affect my conscience; I did not think, at the time, they were wrong. I thought they helped my creative state for my vocation as a writer.
At the very first meeting I attended at the storefront at 26 Second Avenue, the Swami so impressed me with his kirtana and message of hope and eternal transcendental life that I completely stopped both of my bad habits—sex and drugs—permanently. To this day, such a quick conversion to celibacy and foregoing drugs seems a miracle. It just happened naturally with no effort on my part. After the first meeting, I never missed a meeting and took seriously to the life of chanting Hare Krsna and hearing from the Swami submissively, and rendering practical service. Really it was You acting to bring me to the storefront and to make me so open to the powerful presence of Prabhupada.
I want to thank You for being who You are, all-attractive Krsna, as I learned from Prabhupada’s lectures and books. Prabhupada presented your Bhagavad-gita and vanquished my agnostic doubts about the existence of God and the need to lead a God-conscious life. I had been raised as a Catholic, but I had been out of the church for over ten years because the priests could not defeat my atheistic doubts—and I had a long, personal conversation with a popular priest just before I left the church. Your Bhagavad-gita, with its teachings of transmigration and karma and the eternal soul, and Prabhupada’s descriptions of You in Your eternal form in Goloka Vrndavana captured my intellect and heart and convinced me to want to be your devotee. I thank You for Bhagavad-gita As It Is and the Swami’s three volumes of the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I continue to re-read them with fresh conviction and enthusiasm. I wish more people in the world would read these books and be converted to them, and I want to help in spreading Your teachings.
I accept You as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, I thank you for giving me life and sustaining my consciousness as a living being. You keep my heart beating, my lungs breathing, my brain working—You give me the gift of life in this body—and You give me the promise of eternal life with You in bliss and knowledge if I can love You and qualify for going back to Godhead. I yearn to be with You in eternity, and I thank You for the process of bhakti-yoga, which You have given us for attaining Your abode. Just by offenseless chanting of Your holy names, as You taught as Lord Caitanya, I can escape the cycle of repeated birth, death, disease and old age. I thank You for letting me make prayers to You. Please let me continue to think of sincere petitions and praises and expressions of gratitude, and inquiries into Your nature. I want to learn more about You and gain personal realizations of Your presence in my life. I want to love You completely and act fearlessly on Your behalf. I thank You for Prabhupada’s creation of the worldwide Krsna consciousness movement, and I pray that I may serve in it all my days. I thank You for being who You are, the most magnanimous Personality of Godhead, and I pray that I may one day serve You and Srimati Radharani in the spiritual world.
Another serious form of dishonesty is to think that I am self-reliant, to think that I don’t need Krsna at every moment. Asuras advocate self-reliance. Devotees advocate dependence on God. Look into your heart—are you depending on Krsna? If you are, then you are a genuine Vaisnava. Queen Kunti prayed, “If You do not look upon us, all our fame and activities, along with the Pandavas and Yadus, will end at once” (Bhag. 1.8.38).
Q: “Is honesty, then, just admitting lots of embarrassing stuff about yourself?”
A: “That’s a part of it.”
Q: “Tell me again what you mean about rote chanting or routine duties being hateful. Didn’t Srila Prabhupada speak of routine duties as favorable?”
A: “Daily duties in a devotee’s life are sacred, as good as prayers. That’s why it’s so unfortunate when we turn our routine duties into mechanical or inattentive acts. Srila Prabhupada was never in favor of mechanical duties. The Movement is Krsna consciousness, thinking of Krsna. We should not give up our daily routine, but we must prepare for it in advance. Be in a worshipful state of mind as you perform it, cleaning and cooking in the kitchen, worshiping the Deity, and so on. At least you can admit that if this were to occur to you or to your community—that is, if you chanted and bowed down to the Deity and honored prasadam with very little consciousness for those acts—that would be a travesty of bhakti, and if it happened to you, you would be in need of some religious renewal. Do you agree, theoretically?”
Q: “This honesty that you speak of seems to require a lot of self-examination—trying to catch your motives and false ego and all that. But is that against the principle of simplicity? Is it dangerous?”
A: “Things can be misused, and so can self-examination. But simplicity could also be dishonesty in disguise. Srila Prabhupada used to criticize ‘innocence’ as uninformed, inexcusable. True simplicity is a characteristic of a brahmana and we should cultivate it. The actual word used in the Bhagavad-gita is arjavam, honesty. Simplicity means to be direct and truthful, not diplomatic. So in simple basic ways, we should surrender to Krsna and guru. Srila Prabhupada wanted to see if a devotee was honest in basic ways.”
“Swamiji, I feel like I am many different persons, but how do I know which person I should be to please Krsna? If I have many different selves, which self would He like me to be?”
“Looking at me and then replying before a roomful of people, Srila Prabhupada says, ‘This boy Steve is very nice. He does typing for me, and sometimes he gives me donations. So you should all be like this.’”
—Under the Banyan Tree
It’s difficult to speak transcendental knowledge when you are faced with a crisis. People want something practical. They want the crisis solved by what they call “political reality.” And it’s true. Transcendental knowledge should be discussed with a cool brain by those interested in transcendence. Thus the Vedanta-sutra begins athato brahma-jijnasa: “Now, therefore, let us talk about something beyond the material world. Let us speak about Brahman, the source of all knowledge.”
But that doesn’t mean transcendental knowledge isn’t practical or can’t be applied in a crisis. Krsna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna on the front lines of a battle, just before the war began. Krsna didn’t think that discussing the intricacies of transcendental science was out of place on a battlefield, and Arjuna was willing to hear Him out before proceeding with the fight.
Without basic knowledge, we cannot act properly. Basic knowledge means to answer the question, “Who am I?” In the midst of the Bosnian crisis, people might think that question abstract, more suitable for armchair academics than political activists trying to avert the next disaster. But unless we know who we are, how can we solve our problems?
Krsna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that a person is not his body. When Arjuna lamented the necessary killing of his relatives, Krsna chided him, “You are speaking learned words, but a wise man does not lament for the living nor the dead.” Arjuna was a politician. He was practical, and he was not afraid of combat. Still, Krsna chided his worldly sentiments and slapped him awake, as a guru slaps his sincere but bewildered disciple.
The real self is the eternal soul within the body. From childhood to boyhood to youth to old age, the body changes, but the soul remains the same. Sober people can accept the truth of the soul’s sojourn after death. Life doesn’t end with the death of the body. The soul takes another body according to karma.
This is basic knowledge, and it is essential to understand these facts in order to progress in spiritual life. It is also essential to understand these facts in order to solve the world’s problems. Just imagine how the world would be changed if people accepted these truths. They wouldn’t identify themselves as Muslims or Christians, blacks or whites. They would understand that although they are Americans in this life, they could be born on the other side of their political disagreement in the next life. There might be less of a tendency to fight over bodily issues if people thought them out more carefully in light of this basic knowledge.
Therefore, the distribution of Krsna consciousness is the best welfare work. Devotees shouldn’t think that what they are preaching is irrelevant to the world’s ills. Neither should they think their work impractical. We are not proselytizing the cause of another sectarian belief; we are planting the seeds of basic knowledge to grow and replace the weeds of ignorance that are choking the hopes of human happiness and peace.
Go back to Ireland and nurse—cultivate—your despair at not attaining Krsna consciousness. Read scripture and chant on beads, but know that the endeavor itself is not enough. Come to that point.
It’s difficult, however, not to fall into a pretense of despair or a mundane version of melancholy. A devotee should remain cheerful, hopeful, but simultaneously sound their own depths. Still, I can’t help feeling sorrow that “I could not reach Mathura,” and sorrow that the brilliant hope of a worldwide, glorious ISKCON seems to have disappeared in me. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that we should not try to reform others but concentrate on ourselves. I want to go back to Ireland and work on that from my simple life of reading and chanting. But I don’t want to neglect preaching: “Transcendental science, or the science of Krsna, has to be learned from the authorities, and when one preaches the science, he becomes still more qualified.” (Bhag. 1.18.18, purport)
Hang on! I want Krsna consciousness!
O North Ireland, and that little room
which appears to hold my Radha-Govinda
and no ghosts. O Lord, please help us!
I am in the moaning part of life, it seems,
where you go guttural and pray and cry to Krsna for help.
The truth is, I want to see Krsna—O Lord!
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati recommended tears—no
dry eyes in the bhakti house.
St. Teresa of Avila mocked persons who squeezed a few tears
out of a prayer session. It cannot be imitated.
We cry for love
and the lack of it. But
this new song
to cry of bitter hope
marching on the bhakti-marga
lost, but wishing
to pick flowers for Radha
and Krsna. That cry
In case someone doesn’t know the story, it is written in the first person by a seventeen-year-old boy named Holden. It opens after he has just been kicked out of Pencey Prep for poor grades. It is the third prep school that he has been kicked out of. He is supposed to wait a week until Christmas vacation and then go home to his parents in Manhattan, but he decides to leave early and spend a weekend on his own in a hotel in New York City. The “plot” is what happens to him over that weekend. But that doesn’t tell you anything. The real story is his thoughts, his sensibility, his speech—who he is. And he rambles it out on every page.
My sister gave me the book because she thought I would like it. It was a friendly, sisterly sharing of something, not because she loved it particularly, but because she thought, “Stevie is going to like this.”
It was written in natural speech with no pretensions, expressing the mind of a young man my age. Until I read Catcher in the Rye, I wasn’t used to seeing a story written like that. Huckleberry Finn is also straight speaking by a boy, but you don’t know anyone who talks like that—backward, 19th Century southern talk. But Holden was speaking like a friend you are just meeting. That is the whole appeal—there is nothing in between you and Holden, no barriers, no literary conventions. All of a sudden, you open a book and you have a friend. I used to write in my diary, “What would Holden Caulfield do in a situation like this?” Or when I was in a jam I would think, “What would Holden do?” I also started writing like that, imitating his story.
I was enthusiastic about Catcher in the Rye, but my English professor was not. She thought that any literature, even something you or I write, has to be judged in terms of the greatest things that have ever been written. My love for Salinger exposed my taste as being mediocre, but I liked him enough to come out of the closet and praise him, even if the company I was in might not think of him as great. I liked it regardless of social taste, and when I finished reading it, I began re-reading it. It had a lot of heart, and I liked the values.
What has this to do with Krsna consciousness? I would say that every devotee ought to aspire to be as honest and loving as Holden. We could use more Holdens in the world. I haven’t renounced my affection for Catcher in the Rye. I think it is a wonderful book, and J.D. Salinger must have received Krsna’s mercy to write it. He must have been very sincere in his desires.
My dear husband,
I have been writing letters to you in my mind. Even when I am walking on harinama, and my spirits are uplifted in the singing, still I think of you and wish you could be here. My thinking of you is not a material attachment anymore; it is a spiritual kinship. When I think of you, I mostly hope that you are all right. I worry too much about you, but then I think, “Krsna will take care of him,” and I go back to my work. I think you would want me to be absorbed in my service and not be worrying too much about you.
I acted boldly the other day, and I hope you won’t be displeased. I approached the Laksmi-Narayana temple board during one of their meetings and humbly asked them if they could consider reinstating you in your pujari duties now that you are completely rectified of all bad habits. I quoted the scriptural verse that states that one recitation of the holy names can relieve a person of more sins than he can commit in many lifetimes. Then I told them briefly of your schedule of activities and how you are accepted wholeheartedly by Caitanya Prabhu.
At first they seemed embarrassed by what I said, and one or two of them looked annoyed. Ramacandra Maharaja was kind though, and he said my words were befitting a chaste wife. He didn’t want to talk more about it in front of me, so I was dismissed.
Just as I was leaving, I heard the chairman, Vidya Prabhu, say something to minimize Lord Caitanya. He said it quietly—not to me but to the others—something like, “But we have some reservations about Sri Caitanya . . .” I asked him what he said, and he looked at me coldly. He had not meant his remark for my ears and did not want to discuss it with me. I realized I was out of place, so I left.
Later, I told Caitanya Prabhu what happened. He didn’t want to get involved in temple politics, or to become partial and take up your cause, even though he likes you very much. But when I told him that they seemed to have some misunderstanding about Lord Caitanya, he agreed to speak with Vidya Prabhu in private. Since he didn’t actually do it, I asked Ramacandra Maharaja when I saw him on harinama if there could be a meeting. I know you must be frowning as you read this, and saying, “What is she doing? Why doesn’t she mind her own business?’ But wait, you will hear that it all turned out all right. . . . “
So now my dear husband, when you return, you will be able to appear before the Lords of your life whom you so long served, and I am sure They will be happy to see you. Isn’t this wonderful news?
One last thing—I had a nice dream that you were serving Laksmi-Narayana. You were performing an arati. I don’t think I was seeing just a memory of the past, but that you were doing it now, or in the future. The Deities were pleased with you. Laksmi-Narayana looked like Radha-Krsna in the dream. Sometimes Narayana was changing into Krsna and playing His flute, and sometimes He was Lord Narayana again. But not everyone could see this, although you and I and some others knew.
I am in need of your guidance. And by Krsna’s mercy I am under your guidance now, by serving here with the devotees. I count myself as most fortunate. I know you are somewhere not far away chanting Hare Krsna.
On the appearance da
of Bhaktivinoda Thakura
I wanted to write an homage
but had to arrange a marriage
and took action to avoid
another disastrous court case.
While riding in the car from the airport
I heard bad news.
“We have just begun to fight,”
said M. Swami,
while Sesa was gravely silent.
We spoke of Bhaktivinoda Thakura,
his prophecies for Mayapur,
his prodigious devotional labor,
sleeping three hours in twenty-four,
composing thirteen volumes of poetry,
teaching the science of surrender
and bringing us ecstasy:
his heart leaped up
when he heard the mrdangam
and the singing of authorized bhajanas.
Srila Bhaktivinoda will bless us a thousand times
as we follow the order of Srila Prabhupada.
We will observe
the disappearance day of Haridasa Thakura
by writing letters to the Congress
urging hearings against the deprogrammers.
In the temple room we will play a tape
and hear Prabhupada speaking
—Lord Caitanya danced,
taking the body of Haridasa Thakura on His lap,
and He performed his burial on the beach.
We find ourself observing holy days
in strange, fighting ways.
But that is also right
as Haridasa Thakura
was himself the boldest preacher.
He would not stop his chanting
even when beaten.
“How can the fallen be saved?”
asked Lord Caitanya to Haridasa.
“Do not be in anxiety, my Lord,”
Haridasa replied, “the chanting
of the Hare Krsna mantra
will deliver everyone.”
Prabhupada, you took sannyasa in 1959
and then came to America all alone
and began this great Movement.
You knew the failures and troubles
we would encounter, but you assured us,
whatever we could do for serving Krsna
we ourselves would be rewarded,
gaining love of God.
I am also a sannyasi
created by you, and my monastery
is the city preaching field,
where the constant sound is the whoosh
of tire treads on the roadway.
Today the U.S. News says the #1 problem
is the threat of nuclear war.
And every five seconds there is a serious crime,
and every two minutes there is a murder.
The demons are after our money
and attacking our bhakti.
But this also happened today:
Radha and Krsna wore beautiful red outfits.
The milk fast has begun
and the full moon rises.
This is the day of Prabhupada’s taking sannyasa
and we must always recall
that we can never be vanquished.
We are not this body—
be bouyant over that.
We can chant the Lord’s name.
We would rather die than give up preaching.
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.