Hari Hari! . . . .
This week was another mixed bag. Unfortunately, the Prednisone taper only reduced the headaches by half instead of the expected complete relief. At least the rebound cycle with Excedrin is stopped. Satsvarupa Maharaja is taking it very sparingly. The number of headaches, although reduced, seemed to be in direct relation to not taking enough rest breaks, which slows the overall progress.
At the end of the day, he gets more headaches, but we get more books. Volume Five of the Journal series is taking shape by Srila Prabhupada’s formula—little drops of water wear away the stone. One may ask, “Why another book—is it all worth it?” Actually, the transcendental math is quite good. Our experience is that every book has a place in somebody’s heart somewhere in the world. Someone, somewhere, is being brought closer to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna. That is the impetus that drives H.H. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami.
Your respectful servant,
Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
Is there any deep desire to improve the yajna? Yes, some. Then please acknowledge you have come here for this. There may be some mental inconvenience, thinking, “I’m not in a temple right now,” but there are many advantages for extra japa in this retreat. We read how Madhavendra Puri, in a contrite mood, left the Remuna temple and went to chant his japa in the marketplace. Srila Prabhupada writes, “This chanting can be executed anywhere, either inside or outside the temple.” The Gosvamis chanted under trees. And don’t forget the importance of chanting and the fact that yours needs work—people are looking to you to do something about it.
Okay, today’s a big day. Let me put down the pen and pick up the beads—and put the mind on the Names.
Chanted thirteen rounds. Don’t get agitated and depressed over your lack of attention and devotion in japa. Be grateful for what attachment you do have and capitalize on that. Build up. You watch yourself merely counting—the minutes and seconds per round, the number of rounds, the time of day . . . the progress that any worker feels as he shovels his way or she types her way or he reads his way through a designated amount of work. Think of piece workers who get credit for so many items sewn. Any worker with his eye on the clock, waiting for the coffee break, the lunch hour, the five o’clock whistle …
I don’t want to fake my actual attitude. I mean, I shouldn’t be overly dramatic about my disappointment. I’m not that upset about it. It’s a long-standing fact that I’m not ecstatic when I chant, I don’t experience that Krsna and Krsna’s Name are nondifferent. Yet I chant every day. I feel good about fulfilling that obligation.
But we accept more as matter of fact, that we chant with no taste. “When, O when will that day be mine, when my offenses ceasing, taste for the Name increasing—when in my heart will Your mercy shine?” When I read those lines, I think he’s describing me. But it’s no big deal. It’s like the way I accept my somewhat crippled left ankle or my headache syndrome. I live within those limits and I don’t unnecessarily lament. If I can walk for an hour a day, that’s fine. I don’t expect to walk more than that. If I can go one or two weeks without clusters of headaches, that’s wonderful—and I try to get as much done as I can within that no-headache zone. But when the pressure starts coming again, I live with it. I have no other choice. The loveless, inattentive chanting is another part of my life and conditioning.
Besides, I have hope I can improve. It’s up to Krsna. Within my power is the ability not to worsen. I can occasionally try a japa retreat. When I increase tie quantity, I may notice—as I’ve been noticing the last two days—that I actually can be aware of the things my mind is focused on and I can curb them, or at least I can be aware. This morning I started chanting and also starting thinking about my book production. I noticed it and said, “Okay, you’re thinking about book distribution. It’s a nice thing to think about. But this is japa time.” That curbed the one line of thought. These little things come to me, and I am grateful. (1) I live with my limits; (2) I have hope improvement can be made.
on the strength of chanting is a grievous
offense, the worst abuse.
I think I’m free of
this condemnation. But
there are other anarthas,
my chanting too slowly
and without alertness.
You may excuse yourself
and say it’s a physical
condition. But it must
be overcome. Keeping
awake is an attitude,
a fight in which you
must succeed. It comes
from lethargy and lack
of devotion. You can
overcome it with
sheer determination and
the blessings of hari-nama.
I did not chant in
with my hairs on end
and tears from the eyes.
But at least I did
not chant thinking
it was pious activity
meant to bring temporary
benefit for the world,
such as charitable
work, free food
distribution or help
for the homeless. These
activities are good, and
there are societies
dedicated to bringing it
is for something greater,
the release of all
miseries, the liberation
of the soul from
birth and death, and
finally love of God.
Love of Krsna is the
ultimate pious activity
and I should chant
for that goal,
not some lesser
benefit for the world.
The unfortunate student
claimed that hari-nama’s
glories are exaggerations
to induce people to chant. Lord Caitanya
was so unhappy with him He said no one
should see his face. The
holy names have all the
power as is told in the
sastras and the histories
of people who chant even
without full purity.
Even if I do not chant
in suddha-nama, I must
have faith in everything stated
about the glories of Nama Prabhu. They will work
on me as long as I accept them in truth.
Happy quiet birthday. Fifty-five. I’m not going to die yet. That’s my opinion. So I am letting myself write freely because it’s a good method to lead you to interesting thoughts. I mean, provoking helpful truths. Truths to live by, all that rot. You say words too strongly to hurt yourself. Words of the mudslinger, bomb thrower. You say “rot,” and you say “fool,” and all that. But actually you are a tender filet of soul. You see what I mean? Well, you said write without control, and that’s what comes.
What happens is several sub persons are throwing in their words. It’s like several artists painting on the same canvas at once. It is not the best. One wants to paint a tender scene, but another throws in some alkaline, throws sand into the sweet rice and laughs, “Ha, go on and enjoy your Sunday feast now. Let’s see you get out of this one.”
If you can write with whole self, digest experience and speak with deep conviction: “This is me.” Hari-sauri said when Prabhupada was going down in the elevator about to actually leave the New York ISKCON building and never come back, he said with complete gravity and clarity, “I simply want the benediction, like Arjuna, to fight for Krsna to the last breath.” Complete conviction and clarity. Your whole self writes, and that is good when you can do that. Natalie Goldberg talks about writing so that silence comes, or you write from the quiet place in you. No squeaky words come out that don’t belong, that are screaming for attention, but the thing is integrated, it is who you are and what you want to say, the whole self …
Happy quiet birthday, happy Moksada. The flames are jumping in the fireplace and I’m feeling okay to be here with M. We are not trying to escape. I don’t expect any big revelation from God other than what He is kindly giving. Prabhupada said you have to become fire to enter fire. You have to have a suitable body to enter the spiritual atmosphere. When you are fully serving Krsna, then Hrsikesa will reveal to you. But if you remain unchanged, then how can we expect . . . therefore I don’t expect, yet I do want it, I want the full darsana as Narada got, and I want to be a follower of Lord Caitanya, so I pray in the sannyasa-mantra every day that I offer myself as a seed into the yajnic fire of gopi-bhava. I want to be pure the way Prabhupada wants us to be, no illicit sex, fully engaged in his service.
Now comes the touchy point: about realization. One devotee wanted to know whether if he speaks from his actual feelings and experience, is it un-bona fide. He doesn’t want impurity to creep in. He asked, “I am not pure, so can someone who is not pure speak on the Bhagavatam?”
What can I say? I myself am not pure, but I’m still going ahead to speak in writing. All I can do is encourage him. At least I’ll tell him not to concoct, and to give nothing but the Bhagavatam when he speaks.
Okay, we’re not pure, and we admit it. That’s why we don’t see Krsna on every page of the Bhagavatam. Still, Prabhupada writes, “ . . . somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Sri Krsna in person in the pages of Bhagavatam.” (emphasis added)
This is the mercy clause. Did you all hear it?
The Bhagavatam is not so easily approached, it’s true, but somehow or other just hear. Dedicate your life to the cause. No one said you had to be completely pure before you could apply the process. The classes are open, the books are available (we even hand them out on the street), and all we have to do is develop rapt attention.
We wonder when we will achieve it. Just as there are stages in chanting—nama-aparadha, namabhasa, and suddha-nama—so there are stages in reading. Perhaps despite our efforts we have not really begun to read. When, oh when will that day come? By constant association with the Bhagavatam (nityam bhagavata-sevaya), it will come sooner than we think.
Actually, it will come even sooner if we concentrate on wanting it. Prabhupada says “somehow or other.” I think that means that even if we don’t yet possess all the qualifications, if we’re not completely pure in mind and action, then it appears that there is no hope. Rupa Gosvami says a devotee should hope against hope, “somehow or other.” He should act on his hope by associating with the book and with the devotees and by doing everything in his power to achieve his goal of bhagavata-darsana. It’s true that we won’t get it before we’re qualified, but go for it anyway. Somehow or other, get in there and beg for it. It can’t be stolen, but we can borrow it, or beg for it, or at least show our greed to attain it.
If we’re told that we are disqualified from rapt hearing, don’t accept it. Go anyway to the guru’s door and beg. If he still says you’re disqualified, then ask what you must do to become qualified. Perhaps you need to learn the humility of a beggar. But somehow or other . . .
Prabhupada taught us that Krsna (and the Bhagavatam) gives mercy even beyond justice. That is Krsna’s nature as the friend of His devotees. This was also the mood Prabhupada personally exemplified in his own life. He himself broke the rules of Vaisnava society to extend the Bhagavatam’s mercy to the hippie men and women of the 1960s. Therefore, for us, Prabhupada himself is the “somehow or other” factor. We didn’t deserve the mercy, but he insisted that we take it. As he said, he created our pious credits. This is also proof that the pure devotee has been given the license by Krsna to dispense His mercy.
You lock the front door. Hired cement mixer unused, but you have to pay for it each day. I found the parikrama trail around the house, but now he’s cemented it at a tilt for drainage, and it’s ruined for my purposes.
I aim to use it to remember Vrndavana. Walk clockwise alone, chanting. I might even put bas-relief, Garuda, Vyasa, krsna-lila…Not really, but keep it bare cement like at
That narrow path between
Srila Prabhupada’s residence house and temple.
Sometimes see Aindra there talking
to a Hindu babaji. And now I
can’t use it, can’t walk at an angle.
We’ll find something else.
The main thing is the cement adobe
with human curves and the front Humpty
Dumpty was about six feet high.
No one is going to look in on me or
if they come by, I’ll make up some
story, say I’m writing a book
as it relates to
Or say nothing at all. Just ask them what they’re doing. O Krsna. Lock the door. It’s quiet here, and take one day at a time. This one is quiet.
Cement smooth and bare, thatched roof, my house – or as we say, Uddhava’s house and I’m staying in it. So many mistakes but here we are. Seems like a long time and so much to do before the yard gets cleaned up.
Sweet song sure he borrows from past
but on his own love – Srila Prabhupada said there
are millions of temples in India, but
that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have our
own in ISKCON – said that in L.A.
in 1970 just before he left to do it
so grand it became and all
pilgrims go there now.
Similarly, we can
make our song even though so many
have been done in the tradition
Main thing is to be at feet of
your guru and try on your own
you evoke memories sad and sweet
what you went through and
love divining the pleasant
romance the actual event
of Krsna consciousness as you find it
Before we die make
beautiful strong gentle music
we work that way.
“They” may come and ruin us and then
you let go but for now…
That’s my attitude. And Krsna picks
up the tab? No, I have to pay
but He’s upholding all worlds I
simply want to know and recall it.
Srila Prabhupada said Krsna is Anandamaya
and so, on the battlefield He was smiling
while Arjuna was morose
Work and Love and Chant
funny old goat
so, I can’t walk on the level parikrama
ground around this house, so?
You can chant your marbles anyhow.
The stone facades of government buildings, churches, libraries, and colleges often are inscribed with maxims. I remember one over a library that said, “Whoever doesn’t know the Past is a child.” And an adage inscribed within the Forty-second Street branch of the New York City Public Library says, “A book is a spirit embalmed forever,” which sounds corpse-like. According to these inscriptions, knowledge is in books. But some say knowledge is in the spirit of a country and its patriots. Or knowledge is in the scientist’s head. Or knowledge is in the theorem.
Due to my tendency for “existential humanism,” I never liked to hear learning explained as the interaction of material elements. Learning was life. Life was of more concern than academic knowledge. And what was life? Life was the pursuit of happiness. Life was what a man likes to eat and drink, his relationship with his mother and father and his lover, how heat and cold feel on his body, and his joys and fears. The persons who were therefore most in touch with knowledge were the poets and writers who recreated life. Philosophers explained life, but writers, novelists, and poets caught it in action. Action seemed more important. Writers allowed us to get inside memorable characters like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye and Eugene Gant in Look Homeward Angel.
our family dog I wrote, “His soul was when you petted him.”
But this vision of knowledge and reality led nowhere special. It left me with my sensual appetites and intellectual changes of outlook depending on what book I was reading. When I sought a more intellectual grasp on life, I turned to philosophers. But there too, I could not get a clear understanding. What was Nietzsche actually saying in Thus Spake Zarathustra? What was “the will to power?” What did it mean to me as I read it in my bunk on a Navy ship, except that I felt alienated? Rilke’s, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge also did a splendid job of alienating me as a sensitive appreciator of another sensitive, neurotic soul. And Kierkegaard’s agonies gave me my own ill-digested thoughts and meditations on dread, despair, and sickness of spirit. I consumed one book after another. While reading Nabokov’s Lolita, I threw it from my ferryboat seat into the sea, because I thought it was too tawdry. I wanted something else.
And so I am grateful to my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, who has explained what knowledge is in the Bhagavad-gita. Srila Prabhupada made it clear to me as it never was before. Aside from realized knowledge of the Supreme, all attempts at knowledge are “speculative nonsense.” As for scientific mastery, that can become valuable as humble service to mankind and God—when the science is used in Krsna’s service. As for inchoate yearnings (Thomas Wolfe) and hunger for God in the face of doubt (Kierkegaard), they can be satisfied only when we know Him in the full light of truth (Bhagavan)—and that will happen when we meet a genuine spiritual master.
By meeting a genuine spiritual master, I was saved from floating aimlessly in the river of dissatisfaction and ignorance. My inborn tendency to think, “But what does the learned man do when he goes home” is preserved, but it is given the confidence and coherency of spiritual knowledge. Now I know that the learned man, at home or in the privacy of his own soul, must be a devotee of God. And neither do devotees confine their Krsna consciousness just to private lives, but they proclaim it in learned discourses and writings: Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As for the items of material knowledge, they are of no particular importance unless one knows the Absolute Truth. This is Vedanta, the conclusion of knowledge.
A devotee was confessing his aparadhas toward Vaisnavas.
My guru said we should never think that way. Reconcile everything.
Prabhupada asked forgiveness of his
Godbrothers. We should not criticize
ISKCON devotees and ISKCON’s acarya.
Raghunatha Gosvami bowed down even to
Aristasura because his death led to
the building of Radha-kunda. Reconcile.
Anyone who criticized me, anything that hurt me
had some purpose.
“Little by little,” he said, “you
have to give up these superficial things
and enter into bhakti.”
Leave behind everything else.
Back in the house.
On the walk I spoke with Sridama
about translating Nimai stories into
Italian. Cool air, boots,
short walk goes by.
No mosquitoes yet in this cool morning. The twittering of the many birds adds to the free pattern of nature. It’s a foolish song actually, because birds are fools, aren’t they? Srila Prabhupada says they don’t know anything about self-realization, and if a human being doesn’t care for self-realization either, he’s no better than a bird or a beast. Lord Caitanya asked Ramananda Raya, “What is the best kind of self-realization process?” Ramananda Raya replied, “Devotional service, Krsna consciousness.”
Drink in the sight of blooming flowers. There are some trees that bloom only in the spring—not just lilacs or cherry trees—but less well-known trees. They burst into showers of white blossoms for only a few weeks and I’m always surprised. I never remember they can do it. Some of them have big globs of blossoms on each branch, yet I hesitate to bring them indoors and put them in vases because they crumble at my touch. Others I have to practically rip off their branches. Besides, they’re so wild that I can’t help wanting to respect their outdoor nature and leave them to glorify their trees.
A spring like this makes me want to celebrate something. It would be nice if these trees led me to thoughts of Radha and Krsna. Vrnda-devi arranges that there are always trees blooming like this in a perpetual festival of festivals. The trees in Vraja are not only fragrant but conscious. They inspire madhurya-rasa.
In atma-nivedana, Song 4, the devotee expresses a high realization. From the negative, the hopeless depression, has sprung a most positive stage of spiritual love. “I no longer belong to myself. Now I am exclusively Yours.” The prior step was poverty, and now complete surrender of self to Krsna.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses the ideal yukta-vairagya where the householder gives up everything he has, including his wife, family, house, and belongings—even his own body—yet remains alive in order to actively engage all of these as a servant in the Lord’s house. “You are the Lord of my house, and I am Your most obedient servant. Your happiness is my only endeavor now.”
Previously I was almost complaining that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was not really a sinner, although he was expressing the feelings of reprobate. But now I appreciate better how he is teaching us. His compassion for less advanced devotees is deep and real. He wants to deliver us, and he feels our plight. Therefore he tells it as we know it—the life of crushed hopes and frustrated ego, the defeat of old age and death. He is extending his hand to help us out of the well.
By this act of surrender, the prisoner is freed: “Whatever piety or sins were done by me, by mind or deed, are no longer mine, for I am redeemed!”
From this day,” he says. Surrender can be as dramatic as that. One day you just surrender. Most of us surrender a little at a time, constantly, every day. Why are we holding back?
We are afraid. We are afraid of running into danger and of going wrong. A celibate monk with disciples has to watch his step. Srila Prabhupada says a little inattention (as in shaving one’s face) can cause bloodshed. ‘Krsna gives us signals: “Beware!”
I remember the first time I read this chapter. It was the early 1970s and the Adi-lila had just come out. I had two impressions. First, these topics amazed me; Srila Prabhupada had never discussed these things with us. Second, I was afraid that I wasn’t qualified to read them; they felt too intimate.
We can still raise this question today: are we fit to hear these topics? Some devotees insist that we should not read the Caitanya-caritamrta until we have completed our studies of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. (It could be said that we shouldn’t read the Caitanya-caritamrta until we become liberated.) Others say that since Srila Prabhupada gave us the Caitanya-caritamrta, we can and should read it along with his other books.
Both views can be supported. For example, Prabhupada says in one purport, in Madhya 8, that unless one is on the liberated platform, he should not read these topics. Madhurya-rasa is not for conditioned souls. In other places, however, he expresses the opposite view. At the end of Chapter 32 of the KRSNA book (“Description of the Rasa Dance”), he writes that hearing about the rasa dance will cleanse the heart of material lust.
We can reconcile these two viewpoints by aspiring to understand these pastimes but not presuming that we are beyond our present level of practice and realization. We should not imagine that we are taking part in Radha and Krsna’s intimate pastimes, nor should we think that we have reached a stage where we are able to relish them with bhava. It is not, however, forbidden to see entrance into those pastimes as the goal or to reach out to them for inspiration.
When Srila Prabhupada first published his KRSNA book, he wanted it widely distributed. He once said that every home should have a KRSNA book. KRSNA book contains all of Krsna’s pastimes, including His pastimes performed in the conjugal rasa. Why, then, would he want every home to have KRSNA book? 8rila Prabhupada made KRSNA book —and all of his other books—”safe” for us by accompanying the verses with elaborate purports. His purports enable us to read the confidential sections in his books even before we are liberated. If we are hearing from the right source, and if we are practicing Krsna consciousness, then we can read, protected by Prabhupada.
This is the meaning of Krsna’s pastimes—He wants us to become attracted to them and to give up the material world for His service. This is also the connection between the Lord’s desires for preaching and His confidential pastimes.
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.