Hari Hari! . . . .
The change in strength of the patch didn’t work out, so there was some disorientation last weekend. Fortunately, we were able to reduce the dose on Monday, and things were back to the previous level of function with the Parkinsons. It is difficult to be so close and to watch Satsvarupa Maharaja struggle with his maladies on a day-to-day basis. The current obvious decline is in leg strength and balance. So the caretakers are being stretched in their strength limits. To go from point A to point B requires physically helping him get in and out of his walker/wheelchair. Going up and down stairs or “walking” across the room usually requires two strong assistants. The relationships are so close it is hard to imagine that one would be casual towards or distant from the suffering. We have the philosophy on our side, but there is a natural compassion for the devotees facing the challenges of old age and subsequent health issues.
I think I’ll end it there. That’s enough for one week, and we’ll pick it up next week.
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
Up early and rapidly
bypassing the mantras at
top speed. I sniffed on a
natural menthol inhaler and kept
my eyelids wide awake not at half-mast.
and the quota was done by 2:30 A.M.
with all Names in order, although
not in meditation deep.
The Residents of Varanasi Become
Vaisnavas.” After Mahaprabhu
defeated Prakasananda, He became the
most famous person in the city. Learned
scholars came to see Him, and He
politely defeated them with logic
and argument. When Lord Caitanya
held kirtana before the Bindu Madhava
temple, Prakasananda came and made
his prostrated obeisances and begged forgiveness
for his offensive speech. The Mayavadi
sannyasis began to chant the Hare Krsna
maha-mantra, and everyone laughed, chanted
and danced with the Lord. One of the disciples
of Prakasananda who was as learned as his guru
praised Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the Supreme
Personality of Godhead. He said Sankaracarya
gave up the direct meaning of the Vedanta sutra
and imagined some other interpretation. Caitanya’s
interpretation of the “harer nama harer nama”
verse is not only pleasing to
the ear, but is strong factual evidence.
Only if one takes to chanting
in the age of Kali is he on the
I am blessed to be up early
discussing these topics. In
Lessons from the Road, I often
describe reading in Prabhupada’s
Srimad-Bhagavatam, and I
describe details of incidents on
street harinama. We move from
city to city, and meet the devotees,
see the Deities, and chant
and lecture. Yesterday we had lunch with
Kaulini Mataji and Sandesa, a disciple of
Aindra Babaji. She is
transcribing his lectures and
keeping up his web page.
Rama Raya consoled her
to ease her pain of separation.
He is coming to America and
will visit me here. I
told Sandesa I had no
plans for travel.
The poem appears each day
like a daily newspaper
but contains no horror reports.
We tell the glad news
of the Muse in searching
out Krsna in all things.
In Lessons from the Road
we find Krsna in the
scenic sights of America.
Here I join Him with music
and find Him also,
the cowherd boy who
plays the flute and
charms the gopis.
My servant is coming up soon
so I will have to end
but wish you happiness
in my simple Krsna conscious
verse. It’s not great poetry
but it is open-hearted
praise of Mahaprabhu
and the original forms
One who neither rejoices or grieves, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things— such a devotee is very dear to Me. (Bg. 12.17)
In his purport, Srila Prabhupada points out briefly Krsna’s equanimity, which we should have in this material world. Don’t lament if your baseball team loses the game, or don’t rejoice. These things don’t matter. So what if you get a disciple or a son? So what if you lose everything? Nothing is dear to you. Nothing is worth lamenting over. Nothing is worth crying. Accept all risks for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Don’t worry about impediments in the service of Krsna. If you have that attitude, you become very dear to Krsna. That’s what Prabhupada says, and one should carry it in his heart like a dear emblem, like a life’s goal. Like that. Live that and die.
One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, one who is always free from contaminating association, always satisfied with anything, one who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and who is engaged in devotional service—such a person is very dear to Me. (Bg. 12.18–19)
Prabhupada says sometimes it’s the nature of human society that a devotee gets defamed. But even when that happens, a devotee remains transcendental to it, whether it’s infamy or happiness. He’s patient. He talks about Krsna, otherwise he’s silent. He speaks of essentials about the Lord. If he gets good food, he’s happy with that. Or otherwise, he doesn’t mind. He’s not looking for a good place to stay. He’s fixed in his situation. These different qualities of a devotee develop automatically by engaging in Krsna consciousness. And Krsna Himself helps the devotee to automatically develop them.
How does the Bhagavad-gita fit in with the theme of this book? Am I only making it appear so? No, no, mon frer, mon ami. The fact is that this book, Bhagavad-gita, is the theme. The longer you sit here with me quietly and watch the snow fall while listening to the book, you’ll get the realizations. And even when we go out to pack our suitcase or to answer the phone, or someone comes back to this empty apartment and we exchange socially and start to pack our bags for Houston, we won’t forget what the Supreme Personality of Godhead said about devotional service. Or we’ll go back to it again to remember. He said a devotee is very dear to Him and He is very dear to a devotee. And that, mon frer, is the target of the magic circle. That is why we are hurrying up before death comes. That is why we are trying not to be afraid and praying to God to give us courage, preparing ourselves while we also write our fears.
Narada, of course, is not even talking about nondevotee books. He is referring to Vyasadeva’s Puranas, in which he has recommended the worship of various demigods.
Therefore, Srila Vyasadeva should not have compiled any Puranas other than the Bhagavata Purana, because a slight deviation from that may create havoc for self-realization. If a slight deviation can create havoc, then what to speak of a deliberate expansion of the ideas separate from the Absolute Truth Personality of Godhead.
Don’t worship all those gods but concentrate on Krsna. Don’t be interested in variety outside of Krsna consciousness, but taste only the variety of flavors available in Vaisnava exchange. Some say curiosity is important; Narada says self-realization means loving the Lord in transcendental love only. By watering the root of krsna-tattva, all separate interests will be satisfied.
A Godbrother wrote me a personal letter and said,
At the root of all this, I think, is simply a lack of attachment to hearing and chanting. Ultimately I need to be much more serious and focused on hearing, chanting, and remembering Krsna. That’s the real thing, and it includes everything else. But that, of course, is not merely a matter of a quick acknowledgment. Something has to change. One has to get serious and work at it.
O Krsna. I plan and measure my energy to see when the next headache is coming, and in the meantime I express myself.
I think of a rowboat and
how it splashes and slaps against
the waves—so noisy!
The boat drifts from the dock
and the rowers are at risk
in the wind.
Where is the rudder
and the expert captain,
the mapped-out course?
The seas are rough
and sometimes we shouldn’t even venture
out to sea.
Facing danger means facing the last hours
of a life. Is there time to spare on anything but Krsna?
One could say that Vyasadeva was engaged in process writing. It was his process to go through the “mistake” of writing on subject matters other than bhakti. Of course, Vyasadeva wasn’t a groping explorer, not a conditioned soul. An ordinary process writer claims he has to go through all the steps and even his mistakes are meaningful in terms of his growth to maturity. I like to think of Vyasadeva a little like that, searching for the ultimate expression of his heart in Krsna consciousness, not finding it easily, then being directed by his spiritual master. His guru does not reject him for his error but stays with him and gives him the confidence to pursue the highest path. That’s one way to look at it.
However we see this pastime, we are in no position to compare ourselves to Vyasadeva or to judge him. Neither can we understand why Narada seems to condemn him. What we can understand is the instruction that we need to focus on Krsna and only Krsna. Whatever we have done to dilute our Krsna consciousness must be rectified now.
We know that since Kali-yuga’s people were unable to follow pure bhakti, they needed the Vedic literature other than the Bhagavata Purana to direct them upward. People are more inclined to enjoy than to perform austerity, and no one can force others to give up sense gratification against their will. Force only leads people to become atheists, which is a worse position than practicing karma-kandiya. Vyasadeva provided them with a gradual process by which they could embrace religious culture while still enjoying matter. When they were situated in dharma, he took them to the Upanisads to help them understand Brahman. By writing the Bhagavata Purana, his process will be complete.
In that sense, Vyasadeva’s previous work was not a waste of time—although it is a waste of time for souls to delay in the material world. There is little time left in Kali-yuga. We need the Bhagavata Purana.
Is there a contradiction, something wrong
in my whole attitude toward writing?
I want to perceive with my senses
but Krsna consciousness is only heard.
That’s all right—use your nose to
smell the incense offered to the Deity,
your tongue to chant.
I do those things wholeheartedly,
but what about what I
smell and write in my own life?
Can that be Krsna conscious?
That’s my question.
I think it can, but I have to be
careful. I’m not liberated
where whatever I do is spiritual
love of God. Yes, I can walk
the beach in Krsna consciousness
and remember my mother and
Queens, New York and bicycles, but
not to binge. It has to have purpose.
Why don’t I write more of Dhruva Maharaja and
songs the way great Vaisnavas wrote them—
the Alvars and the Six Gosvamis?
Am I afraid to extol the Bhagavatam?
No, not afraid.
No, not ashamed.
I want to live in Him,
empathize with Dhruva’s feelings of regret
while he stood face-to-face with the Supreme
Person from whom all universes come, all
species of life, the beasts, birds, devas, and humans.
But I also want to write that
I read of Dhruva while sitting on a beach,
the dawn sunlight flooding the Atlantic Ocean
and warming the air, brightening the sand, while a
was moored and bobbed up and down. I had the whole
place to myself. What about that?
So I sit on the beach, thinking over
when the day will come when
I will see the beloved Lord wherever
I turn, when I will live to serve only Him,
when I will write such prose and poems.
My dear Lord Krsna,
someone asked if we prayed
just to Prabhupada or to You.
I said, “Prabhupada taught us to pray
to Krsna. We see the Deity
on the altar and the Lord in His names
because the Swami said so.”
He said, “That’s great.
You get both guru and Krsna.”
Yes, I said, that’s the way
He never said he was God and that we
should chant his names.
Dear Lord Kona, Sri Krsna,
I am reading again Your Bhagavad-gita
and hearing my master’s lectures.
He hammers home to all audiences
that You are the Supreme Person. Your
name is all-attractive.
You appear as Your son or prophet,
but especially as Krsna, whose
activities are most pleasing.
Lord Caitanya gives us
the easiest method to
reach the topmost.
Don’t talk of varnas, He said,
that is superficial. Direct
chanting of Hare Krsna
is love of God made easy.
If we still fail, what can be said?
No one knows I’m here
praying to You in my closet.
Not everything I do is prayer,
but You are everywhere, even in my
life of devotional service,
as ordered by my master.
I wish to know You better,
to serve You and love You.
Prabhupada tells us we can’t expect
to come to the standard of the gopis, who gave
their foot dust to the Lord. But try.
So I pray to serve You.
I compiled references and comments
on the 64 qualities of Krsna from NOD.
Made it into a little book.
The editor said, “Add
more material on gentleness
and on the power of the holy name.”
Today I added it while walking.
It’s wonderful when we are treated gently
because that’s what we want. A sadhu
is gentle, relaxed.
I knew some readers will poke fun at this,
so I argued against their macho stance.
I said we all want to be treated gently
if only we could find someone
so powerful that his gentleness
wouldn’t be bluffed. I gave the example of Christ.
Now I’m thinking that sometimes Christ
wasn’t soft when he spoke of punishment for sin
and throwing away the chaff,
the useless disciples,
and he smashed the sellers outside the synagogue.
He blew the minds of rich men
and yelled, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
He had sharp retorts for the Pharisees.
He didn’t condemn his persecutors, but asked
He lived his word
and turned the other cheek.
I also thought that Prabhupada was gentle
with me because I have
a thin skin. I think we all do.
As for the power of the holy name,
I said it’s more powerful than atomic energy.
I wish I could get some of that power
and drive away my blues, my emptiness.
Then I could be patient and gentle
with others—if I knew the power
of the holy name was always ready
to enter me and I had nothing left to fear.
I used to play by myself in the back yard of our house at 125 Katan Avenue, Great Kills. There was a long patch of earth that was not our property, but it had joined the creek in the woods, so Daddy cleared it for our use. He built a vegetable garden on one side and kept grass on the other side. Where it was grass, he had set up two iron posts at a distance for the game of horseshoes. I used to go on the grass portion and throw my pink Spalding ball against the back wall of our house and catch it on the fly. I would throw the ball up and punch it and hit it high on the shingled roof of the house, and sometimes it would go right over the roof of the house for a home run, and I had to run to the front of the house to find the ball bouncing in the street. I would keep up this play for an hour and then lie on the grass on my back and relax looking up at the blue sky. Sometimes I played horseshoes and got expert enough so I could fling them into the air turning them over once and sliding them into the pole stand for a ringer or at least touching the pole. The man up the hill had a basketball backboard, and he gave it to me, and my father set it up against the garage. I would shoot hoops in the back yard and dribble the basketball on the hard earth, imagining games and scores in my mind. Sometimes I played these things with a friend, but it was better when I was alone with my imagination. I also used to stand in the driveway and hit pebbles with a baseball bat deep into the woods.
I didn’t know Hare Krsna then and did not chant or link with Krsna. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had Krsna in my younger years and could chant throughout the day in my play, or if I had known Krsna in the Navy. If I had insisted on chanting sixteen rounds on beads I might have got into trouble and been discharged from military service. I know a devotee who was attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado when he met the devotees and took up chanting. When he should have been marching, he sat down and chanted on his beads and when they interrogated him, they discharged him from the Air Force. I was taken off an airplane bound from New Delhi to Calcutta by the police because we used overcharged credit cards to buy our tickets. The police held us in confinement all day and interrogated us separately. Finally, when we were together, we began chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, and that softened the police’s attitudes towards us. Eventually by the end of the day we got a statement from the credit card company, and they let us free. It is always good to live with the chanting and to bring it out in a time of difficulty. It may seem odd to the people who are confining you, but it will always work in your favor. They will know you are religious and serious. If I had chanted while living in my parents’ home, they would have thought me crazy, but if I persisted, they would have had to deal with it—and allow me to chant. Devotees have gone to military inductions during the time of the compulsory draft into the army and chanted during the interview and been released from military service. “I have to chant two hours a day on beads, and I’m a vegetarian.”
I’m glad I met Prabhupada and the chanting when I did, at age twenty-five in the summer of 1966, and I guess I wasn’t ready to receive it earlier. But I think if I had had it while I was living on the Lower East Side, I would have been relieved of my sorrows. Better late than never. And when I found it, I took to it wholeheartedly_ I was like a man who came in from out of the rain, or a man who escaped being lost in the desert. Hare Krsna entered my life and picked me up and made me sane and whole. Once finding it, I treasured it, strung my red beads and began my career of chanting sixteen rounds a day and following the regulative principles. Now I want to help others and convince them to take it up in their lives. If they do so, they will be relieved of a great burden of anxiety. It will fill their lives with what they have been missing and looking for. It will make them purified and happy. It will fill up the void and what is absent in the life of a person who does not render devotional service to Krsna.
This is the beginning of a new chapter. This is story about how metaphor may be used in Krsna’s service. It’s simple enough. I am a worker in an office and I’m telling the story in that context. This should be called hari-katha.
Krsna is the supreme truth. I feel a little off key today because the mail came yesterday and there was so much stuff about elections. There is no end to it. I went through it as quickly as I could and sent it out via the Out Basket. Later I saw M. reading the World Press. When I came beside him, he said, “Are you through with these?” And then we put them on top of the range, where they quickly burned.
But their impressions remain, and I regurgitate them here rather than direct hari-katha. All I know is what I read. I am now reading brief descriptions about Lord Ramacandra in the Ninth Canto. I hope in the future when ISKCON puts out a new translation of the Ramayana that I will be able to read it. I want to enter that world of the Lord’s pastimes and be charmed by it. I really ought to stay away from other influences so that I don’t think Krsna or Rama’s pastimes are some kind of superstructure to reality, some allegory. The Buddhists and other materialists say these are definitely stories that people have made up. They say, “We don’t see any spiritual world. It doesn’t exist. And we don’t see the soul.” They are simply atheists. I want to follow the sages, Prabhupada.
The Bhagavatam goes through Rama’s pastimes quickly, how He went to the forest on His father’s order, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, and how He built a bridge across the ocean to Lanka.
I am also listening to Prabhupada’s KRSNA book dictations. Now I’m hearing how Kamsa is calling Krsna to Mathura for a wrestling match to kill Him by the elephant or by the wrestlers. Kamsa told Akrura his plans, not realizing that Akrura was not in favor of them. What else is there to say? Kamsa wanted to kill Vasudeva when Narada told him, “Child Krsna is the one who will kill you.” And then he asked him, “Why kill Vasudeva? It’s Krsna you ought to kill.” To ease his own wrath, however, Kamsa arrested Vasudeva and Devaki and chained them in the dungeon. When I heard that, I was sorry that there was such a demon.
This is what’s going on as I hear it. Dear Lord, this is almost the end of the twentieth century, and people don’t believe much in religion. They don’t believe that the Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken 5,000 years ago. I get tired sometimes and I too may doubt. I ask You to please give me faith and intelligence to combat ignorant doubts. I want to be a fighter, a preacher on Your behalf. Of course, I’d like to be able to write interesting books that people couldn’t put down, books that aren’t self-centered. I write about myself because I don’t know anyone else. I read that the novelist Graham Greene did not write an autobiography because he said it would have inevitably involved incursions into the privacy of other people’s lives. All right, but then he had to make up stories that weren’t true, and that seems worse. What I do is write actual life—my own—but I don’t discuss other people. That makes it look self-centered. Another thing I try not to do is live much with other people. Still, they are on my mind. I can’t take Graham Greene’s path; it’s too demanding. To become a kind of literary Lord Brahma by creating imaginative lives and bodies and saying, “Bill was rather short. He had a dimple and creases around his eyes. He lusted over the cleaning lady who worked in his apartment building”—I can’t do it.
Then why not pay attention only to hari-katha? What more is there to say? Everything has already been told wonderfully by the perfect sages. I can gather it, I guess, but if I am committed to being a writer, I have to find my metaphor, or failing that, a poem.
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.