Spiritual family meeting of disciples and friends of SDG
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall
845 Hudson Avenue
Stuyvesant Falls, New York 12174
There is plenty of parking near the Hall. The facility is just a few minutes’ walk from SDG’s home at 909 Albany Ave.
“I request as many devotees as possible to attend so we can feel the family spirit strongly. I become very satisfied when we are all gathered together.”
“Therefore, our Society is association. If we keep good association, then we don’t touch the darkness. What is the association? There is a song, sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa, te-kāraṇe lāgila mora karma-bandha-phāṅsa (Gaurā Pahū, verse 3). Sat-saṅga. Sat-saṅga means association with the devotees. So the one poet, Vaiṣṇava poet, is regretting that, ‘I did not keep association with the devotees, and I wanted to enjoy life with the nondevotees. Therefore I’m being entangled in the fruitive activities.’ Karma bandha phāṅsa. Entanglement.”
[Conversation with David Wynne, July 9, 1973, London]
“The week started with a mediocre day, then two bad days—weak, not able to sit or walk properly, and tired, plus headaches. Still, no migraines, and the rest of the week was good, with three half-hour japa sessions daily with the devotees and only a few headaches, including two that went away without meds. Satsvarupa Maharaja answered some mail, did some exercises.
The chiropractor comes twice weekly and gives some relief from the arthritis. And he has become enchanted by “Maharaja.” Although he is initiated as “Vishnu” by Sai Baba, he fancies himself as a follower of world religions, and submissively asks a question or two every visit. Last week he started getting up at 3:00 A.M., and repeatedly chants “Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada,” which mystifies him and makes him more interested. He also wants to pick out a four-foot tall painting of the “Divine Couple” to put on the wall of his new office.
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
You didn’t want a book about you.
“Give us volumes of books on Krsna,” you said.
Finally in your last days you assented—
we may do it
if it is spiritual.
There is a way
you liked us to speak of your achievements
and of old days,
especially your first in America,
and a way we spoke with you
for hours in your room,
sometimes discussing Krsna’s lila and instructions,
sometimes Kali-yuga’s horrors,
sometimes your own activities:
you brought our lives together.
Since you, no one can speak
krsna-katha so spontaneously.
Then, for your pleasure,
let us sit with you again
and recall your teachings
and your own life story—
if we can do it sincerely.
Do higher beings and great devotees
see me and smile as I retell
the humanlike dealings
of their liberated associate?
Do they know him differently than I?
Is mine but a tiny child’s view of the father,
affectionate but knowing little?
He represents the entire Gita,
and he is the Vedas personified.
He is all sages in parampara.
His life’s history we are savoring,
though his work defies description,
even were we to tell the entire work
of the Krsna Consciousness Movement.
Yet his human-like struggles are also glorious.
Lord Rama is described as great—
according to the measure of humans
and according to the measure of gods.
The life story of Prabhupada
is also great—
according to the scale of the humans
and according to the scale of the Mahabhagwat.
Through him we enter Krsna’s lila
and join the eternal associates in Krsna-loka;
through him the material world,
though also inconceivable,
can be known as it is.
Krsna has arranged
that we hear and see through him,
the person sent by God to us,
to teach us how
to save ourselves from nuclear destruction,
to reform government,
to avoid death and rebirth,
to be happy.
Because his lila is sweet,
because by hearing we are cleansed,
and because we must—
let us tell his life story.
Everyone will like it,
except the beast.
People don’t know who they are—
you kindly tell them.
They don’t know where they’re going,
where they’ve been—
but you direct them.
Even the cleverest say, “Death annoys.
I’d like to know what happens after.”
They don’t know how the soul lives on,
but you have given them
Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
You teach what no scientist,
poet, or philosopher knows. Indeed,
their gifts of technology,
their thoughtful oratory, their sometimes
all are misplaced.
They can have no compassion
who save only the shirt
of the drowning man.
They can have no love
who take these lumps of flesh as lovable.
They can be of no help
who themselves are blind and bound.
They lead us into the ditch.
But. Prabhupada, you can build a house
in which all mankind can live—
a Krsna Conscious world.
It’s you who should be
enshrined in national monuments,
read about in school books,
praised as liberator—
although you don’t want it.
Yet you acknowledge that
the Vaishnava should be praised.
Please allow us
to do it nicely.
Mice usually didn’t attend the humans’ kirtanas, but since Nimai was present, Chota went to watch. It was a Wednesday night, the best kirtana of the week in the Brooklyn temple. Many devotees who lived outside gathered on this night with temple inmates, and the mood was, “Let’s cook it up.” Sweaters, shawls, and bead bags were doffed and placed to the side. Some had brought their own drums from home, and they tuned them even before the kirtana began. A strong singer was selected, and the men with karatalas and drums moved in close to urge him on. As the Deities of Radha-Govinda looked on, the devotees sang the Hare Krsna mantra, and some danced with abandon. Guests and the more reserved devotees backed to the walls, although sometimes a dancer would pull an onlooker into the middle. Although the large hall was not well heated, the singers and dancers began sweating. Some were dripping from the forehead, and their kurtas were soaked. In the back beside Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana, women danced holding hands and running back and forth in a row. When the lead singer lagged, he gave the microphone to a fresh singer, and in this way the kirtana stayed strong for an hour.
As Chota watched, he felt disappointed that he was not a human who could leap like that. The incense on the altar gradually wafted back to where Chota was, and he caught the scent of a feast. He was also aware of the odors of sweating bodies, as well as the perfume of some of the women guests. He couldn’t see the Deities clearly from a distance, but he could hear, and he felt the pounding of the dancers’ feet.
When the kirtana was over, it took about five minutes for devotees to calm down. Chota was happily surprised to see that Nimai had been asked to give the Bhagavad-gita lecture. He had never been chosen before, but since he had just come from his Canadian survival experience, which had been published in ISKCON World Review, the temple president had asked him to speak. Chota wanted to go forward and help adjust the microphone and put a cup of water within Nimai’s reach, but he contented himself to watch the others do it.
The verse for the evening was Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Eight, verse six:
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
Nimai read Srila Prabhupada’s purport, ending with the words, “Therefore, the chanting of Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare is the best process for successfully changing one’s state of being at the end of one’s life.”
“In Prabhupada’s introduction to Bhagavad-gita,” said Nimai, “he also refers to this Eighth Chapter verse. Prabhupada says that if we are to remember Krsna at the end of life, we have to do so by practicing during this life. But mostly our thoughts are in the material energy. So the best way to transfer ourselves to the spiritual energy, says Prabhupada, is to give up mundane literature and to absorb our thinking in the Vedic literature. That’s why the sages have given us so many books, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and the Caitanya-caritamrta.”
Chota’s ears pricked up. He felt proud to see his preceptor lecturing before many senior devotees and guests. He knew that someone might see Nimai’s speaking manner as shy and a bit faltering, but Chota saw it as natural humility.
Chota listened with such rapt attention that he didn’t notice how stiffly he held his back and that his tail was twitching. He took a deep breath and tried to relax. He had heard these themes and these exact words in other lectures, but when Nimai spoke, it had a special influence over Chota. It confirmed that he had a spiritual link with Nimai and that he could benefit very much by submissively hearing from him in parampard. Chota was a bit distracted by a buzzing sound in the speakers, but it didn’t really matter, because Nimai was potent, and Chota’s hearing was ideal.
Swami is the name we called him, the title
when he appeared in our midst and we said we accept
and decide to follow you, guru.
At that time he accepted
me and Keith, Howard and Paul,
Joy and Judy, and Bruce Kirwan
came much later, the ‘70s or ‘80s
then was gone from sight. Hari Sauri
mined his diary and said here is the Swami again
tough, decisive, manager guru breaking the hearts
and will, hitting the opposition with
hard logic. He draws lines between
in and out and we
chose in, with him.
We didn’t want to miss Krsna’s heaven
or lose this valuable human form
of life. We agreed that Vyasa was true, Krsna
was truth, and allowed
Prabhupada to capture us. Simple,
a life surrendered to the master.
O Hare is the address of the Lord
and then Rama means pleasure you don’t
have to spell it out just go on chanting
and when the tape stops you can go on your own
and you eat for sense gratification that’s okay
but offer it to Krsna.
Hare is the address to the Lord’s Energy
and Rama is pleasure and then every
time ever fresh and Rama and Krsna
you don’t have to follow any pattern,
but it’s ingrained in you the mantras
scientific arrangement goes on in your
sleep you were chanting and singing with a group.
I like that too.
Don’t stop for theme or method.
It is spring and very windy all night.
I didn’t use earplugs
It was a bit cold so I put on more clothes
and you know the rest.
“Swami is the name,” he said and we said, “Okay,
and Judy became his student and painted
and Paul Sherbo and Umapati and me
instead of the Swami
we called him Swamiji and bought him
turtleneck shirts on Mott Street
with stretching necks.
The factory connected to this clinic is more important to the owner than the clinic itself. It makes more money and hires more employees, so the owner doesn’t mind that it’s incompatible to combine a factory and a peaceful healing center. Oh well, we are making the best use of a bad bargain.
The doctor is a nice guy. Last night he advised me not to try the difficult asanas, since I just subdued a headache. He sat with us and showed us some new breathing exercises.
He’s okay, and this place is okay, even though things are so untogether.
Back into a routine today after a day’s absence due to pain. Quiet joy I feel reading Caitanya-caritamrta.
Gauranga bolite habe. We don’t need to go to Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada writes, unless we follow the Six Gosvamis. Actually, Vrndavana means to follow them and to read their books—Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Vidagdha-madhava, Lalita-madhava, and Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Caitanya-bhagavata.
I quoted a line from William Carlos Williams that said, “When I say ‘I,’ it also means ‘you,’ dear reader.” I try to write honestly my own truth, yet isn’t it true that many of my complaints, self-advice, aspirations, and prayers also apply to other devotees? I feel the responsibility to imbibe Prabhupada’s teachings in my heart and intelligence and to live my understanding of them as is best suited to my nature. We all have this great, personal responsibility. That’s how it is.
(Finished one notebook, last of the ones I brought from Europe. Now beginning “Essar Quality Slip Pad.” As I write, the dogs are howling like a pack of coyotes.)
O heaven on earth,
life of devotional practices,
I do love being shut up in
a private room to read and
write and reach my own conclusions
on how I should practice bhakti
when the sun comes up
over the world.
Dreamt I was in various college towns and preaching outposts. In one temple/house, I returned at 11 P.M. from preaching. Devotees were still up. Sacinandana Swami and another Godbrother were preaching to devotees. They expected me to join them. I sat with them awhile in a good-humored way, but then said I needed to practice, “Early to bed, early to rise.” I then walked around the house looking for my room.
Now I’m ready to chant. I’m hopeful that I’ll chant better today—at least better than the rounds I had to chant silently yesterday because of the headache. O holy name, please forgive me.
Just read that material life is miserable and material attempts to mitigate it fail. If we’re smart and stuck with thorns, we’ll use other thorns to remove them.
Nice walk in a park. They’re happy to hear it.
The clear divine profound sound of a horn
to which they can dance if
they want, although the idea is to hear
with the heart.
“They say the intelligence—
or something else—
is the soul,” but what
can they know? Let it go
The abrupt dropping of a bomb
by the drums
that want to improvise.
In a moment of truth
my head and yours, my
hands and your hands—our
pains unite and dissolve as we sit and look out
at a gray island sky, fog, rain
and Krsoa is suddenly there.
Will we find our own voices again
after that? My song grows more complicated
as we become a sacrifice we always wanted to make
I’m on an island and there are no chestnuts yet, no snow
although it’s autumn and the ladies and old men
are becoming as crinkled as leaves.
I feel the rain in the soles of my feet
but this world is spinning past me fast the
Navy already long past even gone
and a father who pushed me in. I was vulnerable
but what can you expect
when Celine is your guru?
Or Genet? No hope but to be blind.
Krsna changed the melody and although I was sad,
angry, lost, serious
I heard His freedom song
and now see blackbirds landing on the grass
and can feel love.
This sadhu goes public with his
He knows that either we have to say,
“We should, we
because our leaders
and we believe everything
or some other sickness
or we have to be
who we are
and pray from there.
There’s a way to enter the
fragrance before dawn arrives
to enter mystery and to improvise
It takes training
and the willingness to bring any story
to its natural conclusion: the meeting
with your master
as if all roads really do lead to Rome
where a Pope stands on his balcony
and blesses the crowds regardless.
We have wasted so much time
joyriding, poor boy
into temporary moments
Today is my master’s disappearance.
I should be mourning but I am not I’m
singing instead like a rose bedewed
in predawn softness
in a room with curtains closed
after a peaceful night at Inis Rath
sensing the fragrance of spiritual life
the life lived by one
who can do nothing without his master
and who relishes the quiet of morning before sunrise
Sound preserved—music and words.
Prahlada teaches us what’s to come. We could
waste our time on any variety of things if we put
our minds to it. But I know what it feels like to let go
on my trip to the shore of eternal gain.
Still the question: Why didn’t I do more?
But let go of lament—hold the beads and sing.
What other novelty and lasting grace?
I barricade myself against my failures and chant.
Is this Stowie 8? I can’t keep track of them, there are so many piling into the back of the truck. Put a cat in a bag and call it a pig. When a buyer opens the bag, he cries, “The cat’s out of the bag!” So many people have traveled hidden. The Lord’s Deity form is often stowed, marched past the stupid border guards who fail to recognize Him.
Is stowing away the same as sneaking under fences? I once sneaked into a circus and another time a baseball game, both times under fences—once into a state fair. I sailed on a ship to Timbuktu. We wore our wigs to Trinidad, and we were paying customers, sneaking in as if we were tourists, this sannyasi and his brahmacari assistant. O Krsna.
Deep, deep. You need to find yourself alone on a mystical journey. Why were you born? What is your purpose in this incarnation? Don’t flow with false motives. Don’t become distracted. Did you want a spiritual path so that you could become a guru and be worshiped? Did Lefkowitz catch me on that one? Be a good boy, and the guru will make you the next guru? I am enduring. I am confused. I don’t remember what I have so much forgotten—what I really wanted to do. Deep in my heart, did I ever want to purely serve Krsna through Prabhupada? I can’t recall. I do recall wanting to escape the Lower East Side’s madness. I do recall being attracted to the mystical East, whatever it was (I didn’t know). Couldn’t make it in carnal life. Scared out of it by my mother and St. Augustine.
You can always find happiness
in the roll of rhythm.
Don’t be afraid to dance in a way
that eases the furrows from your brow.
But travel straight ahead.
We played together in the Strand Theater when
I was ten and watching
movies start on time. Sometimes
I was alone in the audience with
Zachary Scott, cowboy. Watched
him kiss the horse’s face. Realized
I didn’t like people who liked pizza.
Later learned that God
is the best person.
I know He’s almighty.
We’re all making adjustments—
Bala too—taking me less as a person
and more as a guru—no, I mean
to say, less as a guru …
You see, I’m confused I
walk alone but can’t think.
They assure me I can
go to Mayapur or
She said when I started free-writing she
had to adjust
lives still on a tightrope.
I love you, she said, but don’t know what you are. I’m just a fire hydrant kid with a soft heart
and not much fight left.
Happy stowies in an unhappy world. They are trying to get out. “I’ll hang onto your dhoti and you’ll bring me to Prabhupada.” Thanks for that faith.
People doubt whether I’m a “sastric” guru or merely human. They like me either way, but prefer I be bona fide and take them back to Godhead.
Deeper. O mystical journey. Am I cheating? Is the real me not good enough? No, I have to be divine, pure enough to hear Prabhupada talking. I have to ride on the wings of Garuda and the chariot to Vaikuntha, but deserved.
Can’t ride in a pickup truck. I let people pass me on the road. They are Prabhupada’s disciples, and I really think they deserve a round of applause.
But I’ll have to go deeper into darkness. O dark night of the soul, you force me to endure confusion so I can come to clarity. Let me accept what God wants from me.
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.