Spiritual family meeting of disciples and friends of SDG
Stuyvesant Falls Fire Company #2 Auditorium
9 Firehouse Lane, Stuyvesant Falls, NY 12174
(SF Fire Company #2 is just behind 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]
“There’s not much new to report this week. It was another rollercoaster. Satsvarupa Maharaja now seems set on just chanting with the devotees, reading one of the new books and resting up for the Vyasa-puja festival. He is looking forward to being with everyone on December 2nd, and hopes there will be good attendance at the firehouse auditorium. (The gathering is not at the VFW post this year—the venue has been changed.)
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
“The Supreme Lord gives us the facilities to act in the way we wish.” (Bhag. 4.30.26, purport) If we want to forget Him, He’ll give us the intelligence to do so forever. If we sincerely want to remember Him, He’ll give us the intelligence to do so. Our activities create our future karma. When we spend money on sense gratification, we become bound by it. We use money in a particular way, but it isn’t ours to use. We will have to pay it back. It can delay us in reaching our goal. Therefore, simplify, simplify, simplify, and pull up the weeds.
The Lord in Deity form is arca-vigraha. Neophytes “can see the real form of the Lord face-to-face” and offer obeisances and sacrifices. “Deity worship . . . is the most valuable benediction given by the Lord to beginners. All neophytes must therefore engage in the worship of the Lord by keeping the arca-vigraha (arcavatara) at home or in the temple.” (Bhag. 4.30.27, purport)
Looking over today: it went well from midnight to 6:00 A.M., and even after that—until I got the pain and lost the rest of my morning. Later, I got down on my knees beside my bed like a child, but no prayers came. But I remained quiet and looked into my mind. I am looking for more from myself. I have to face my limits, yes, but I have to make sure they are actually limits. O Krsna, chanting is the only way in Kali-yuga, but sometimes I think the mantras are external. (I mean as they come out of my mouth.) I think there has to be something else coming out of me, some crying to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada said kirtana means describing. We can hold kirtana in writing or in lectures as well as the singing kind. The point is to find the Lord’s holy name and keep it in the heart.
I told a devotee in a letter that beauty should be connected to Krsna, not just appreciated in the moment that we see it. A Buddhist monk thinks the present moment is everything. He makes living in the present his religion and doesn’t know anything beyond it. It’s a kind of mysticism and it has its thrills. But it’s really not everything. It’s not even really that much. The moment passes, then another and another. We have to be reborn even if we live in present moments for “eternity.” Or “until hell freezes over,” as some people would say. Only in Goloka will we be able to live in the present moment eternally. Only as Krsna’s servants will anything have any real meaning. If you don’t even know you are the servant of God, then who is experiencing the present moment?
The water here is never rough, although there is often a superficial waviness to it. It is a lake strait, and the lake itself is generally calm. Still, people have drowned here. A child drowned at Inis Rath some years ago. The few devotees here wanted to re-mortgage the building and use the money to improve the place, but their authority would not allow it. “Just live with what you’ve got,” they were told. Hare Krsna. If the Deity is really the center of their lives, they can live in the buildings as His servants, the authority said. That’s really what they wanted to hear, and they became inspired by his call to faith and simplicity.
You cannot possess Krsna easily, or millions would have already done it.
The sky a swollen dark blue. Rains and stops. The island bright with trees. I asked the president here to write me a letter.
New structure or attempt to ‘tell’ stories while at Ballyferriter? I wish some momentum would come and carry me along next week. Oh well, let it happen. Be true, not artificial. That’s the main thing. If life is quiet and yet there are moments sincerely expressed, then that’s the best you can do. You can’t improve your writing in life by false bravado.
If the natural complexion isn’t bright, that doesn’t mean we should apply rouge. I write a lot. It’s hard to sustain quality. But I’m not a one- or two-book man—a hundred books. I need to write, so you can expect to be on the highest pitch of just-right tension and symbol in a group of chapters.
Writing Session accepts you. So why don’t you accept your stories like that? Is anything to be sought (rather than just accept ‘what comes’)? So think how to express more directly Krsna consciousness in a deep and sincere way. But what’s that?”
(May 7, 1994 Ballyferriter, Ireland)
I am a writer of pieces. It means I don’t have to search out any other form or worry that my writing looks like a diary, but I want it to be accepted as more than that. I am a writer of pieces, vignettes, pages of reveries, pages of thoughts and poems. And within that form, you hope to tell the truth. And give Krsna consciousness to readers.
You just write here, so you can’t expect it to be a tight novel or series of essays. Man asked me if I read a controversial crusading book in ISKCON. I’ll reply no, I haven’t, because I don’t want to be influenced by that style of writing, although I realize Thomas Paine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sinclair Lewis, did that. Zola too. Oh, nonsocial crusader, have you got some vision of your own?
Ankle hurts, head delicate. Wind pushes all the green fans, leaves on green branches. I stood in the midst of it just outside the gate to our house. A possible topic came to me: “preaching.” State the many ways it can be done, and the ways it is misused also. But the persona or guy who writes this book shouldn’t feel threatened by another kind of book. This book is me, it is also are preaching, these words are me, they are a way to be while you can.
Green jacket and green pants and greenish Wellies—I appear like some official forest ranger or soldier. L.L. Bean-outfitted gentleman walks and has to stop and get his breath. Can’t go as far as I please but return before I crumple up. The delicate-as-eggshell state of head. Like Irish weather, clear and stormy and clear and stormy and stormier.
Long grass means before too long our neighbor will get out the huge tractor and other machines, cut down his grass and bundle it for cattle feed. He usually starts his work around 7:00 P.M. and goes late into the night.
Oh, mister, can you spare a dollar? Can you spare a prednisone? Give me a fix so I can write. And paint. And chant audibly. Devotion outwardly. Preach by example. Book distribution. Approaching people cold. Go on television. Somehow or other organize it and convince them.
O Krsna, there’s no way,
he said, but to be in love with the
Krsna conscious preacher.
There’s no way but to go
with that preacher
downtown and follow
him as he gives out books
or whatever it is he does.
There’s another thing—a cookie
he said work hard.
Your art influences me,
said Donna Lee.
She said she couldn’t go so fast
so I shouldn’t expect her to be
in love with a Krsna conscious preacher
right way—as if attached
to a sadhu.
Then I ran around the
bend. Snow fell so
heavily I didn’t know
what was going to
Donna Lee, would you like
to be a devotee despite
what your parents say?
Hide the Deities
rent a flat
move into temple.
Donna Lee went to France.
Okay, at least chant.
But do you, sadhu?
Yes, I do, yes, I do.
I don’t refrain
from that sort of thing.
I’m no madman
moving too fast
because spiritual life ought to
and not jumped into
like a freezing cold creek.
Anna Donna, may
we call you Dîna-bandu?
May we arrange your marriage
and carriage and sari?
Dîna, will you
like it if we plan
the whole thing for
you—as if you were a real
The old time revived.
He so loved that old
he imitated him.
We imitate Prabhupada’s
sounds, walk with
canes, wear his
can’t make it.
“Be a puppet,” he said.
Donna Lee agreed and became a new
generation of disciple.
She twirled her baton
a last time
and became transcendental.
And times changed.
I am not the initiating guru of everyone
in her state—no more of that. This is
no longer the
I am preparing lecture seventeen in the seminar, “Unbreakable Determination for the Service of the Lord (Let There Be A Temple, Part One),” and it is causing me some inner shaking and feelings of unworthiness. How little I participated in the management and austerity of working under Srila Prabhupada in the early years in India! How will I lecture on it with conviction? And now? Where am I now in relation to Srila Prabhupada? This part of Srila Prabhupada’s life story is so project-oriented. Surrender meant to give up bhajana in Vrndavana and work with cement and building contractors—”Work now, samadhi later.” During these years, I was doing my bit in Boston, working under strain, pushing on. And after that, at least I always took part in the GBC meetings, even though I felt like an ant among elephants. Yes, it was good for me to have my false ego squashed by associating with my Godbrothers and by seeing how much they pleased Srila Prabhupada.
So much time has passed. The concept that the ksatriya-style disciple is most pleasing to Prabhupada has collapsed. Too many “Bhagavans” have soared and fallen. The Society has revolted against that kind of power and propaganda: “Do big! Do big! Collect money and build. Chanting is for babajis.” Yet the testimony of those early years still stands. Surrender is still required to please Prabhupada.
I am no longer a GBC man. How am I vitally taking part in ISKCON? I have my answers, but it is tough to endure the inner shakiness. Perhaps I should try writing it out. But it comes out sounding like self-aggrandizement. The main thing is to decide that I am serving Prabhupada and his movement. I have to decide that I am making the best, most vital contribution that I can and then stick to that determination.
In brief: honesty and purity are highly sought qualities in ISKCON today. The majority of those who worked with Srila Prabhupada in the “Let there be a temple” years are no longer serving actively. Many devotees live outside ISKCON and eye it suspiciously; they tell sad tales of being exploited by the leaders. They tell sadder stories of how after Prabhupada’s disappearance, the “gurus” took over the movement. If I can succeed in becoming fixed in sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam—and in active preaching to devotees in this area of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings—then I am making an important contribution.
I will probably always cringe when the story is told of those who surrendered the most and worked even against their own tendencies to carry out Prabhupada’s desires. I have to be careful never to offend them. I should regard them as superior and never be envious of “the managers,” the leaders, the GBC.
One question submitted to me for tomorrow is, “Should we listen to the opinions of others?” It is a challenge. We are often not sure who to listen to. Just because someone is an official authority doesn’t mean they are the most expert or compassionate or that they have the time to give us considered advice. (How much violence has been done by hasty advice?)
My gut reaction is to beware of others’ opinions. Srila Prabhupada said that too. He was convinced that he was following the order of his spiritual master even though he received little support from others. He was constantly being criticized by someone—a sadhu, a Godbrother, the government. Prabhupada was an example of what Americans call a “rugged individual.” But he also stressed that in ISKCON, we should be submissive to the guru and his representatives.
Ultimately, we each have to work this one out for ourselves. Everyone should have someone who can advise them. And even then, we still have to pray. Only the guru gives us direct orders.
“As bell metal is turned to gold when mixed with mercury in an alchemical process, so one who is properly trained and initiated by a bona fide spiritual master immediately becomes a brahmana.” (Hari-bhakti-vilasa, quoted in Cc. Madhya 15.108)
It was a great, historical event: the first brahminical initiation to be held in the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. The date: May 1968. The place: a humble, one-room storefront which was the temple and headquarters of ISKCON Boston. Srila Prabhupada’s sudden announcement that he would hold second initiations for his first-initiated disciples came as a complete surprise to all of us. Many years later it still seems startling, and many people continue to question us about it. How can Westerners become brahmanas? What is a brahmana, anyway? Can Westerners be considered bona fide brahmanas by the brahmanas of India? These and similar questions are all answered by this verse composed five hundred years ago by Sanatana Gosvami in Hari-bhakti-vilasa.
That first brahmana initiation in Boston was for men only. Pradyumna dasa, Gaurasundara dasa, and I sat wearing our dhotis, but bare chested, around a crudely arranged fire yajna in the small storefront. There were no more than twenty onlookers, including the women devotees of the temple, and Mr. Matthews, a specially invited guest from Harvard University who was a graduate student in Hindu and Sanskrit studies. But because everything had happened so suddenly, none of the devotees from either the New York or Montreal temples, the two nearest ISKCON centers, were in attendance. I personally felt very proud that such an important, first-time event was occurring as a “Boston-only” exclusive, and I imagined how Brahmananda and the other New York devotees must have been envying our fledgling center.
Srila Prabhupada required that a devotee be initiated by hari-nama initiation for one year in order to receive second initiation. That meant we each had to be strictly observing the four prohibitions and chanting sixteen rounds, and Prabhupada had to accept us as a reliable devotee. We knew, of course, that there was a difference between those who claimed to be brahmanas by birth, as in the caste system of India, and the bona fide brahmanas like Narada Muni and others who were great Vaisnavas. We were also aware that basically we knew nothing and had no qualifications, and yet if Srila Prabhupada wanted to initiate us as brahmacaris, as grhasthas, as first initiates or second initiates or whatever, his decision was absolute and in tune with the will of Krsna.
When Srila Prabhupada had first arrived in Boston, we had jokingly told him of the phrase “Boston Brahmins.” But we had never dreamed that Prabhupada would make us real brahmanas. When Prabhupada had first mentioned it in a casual way while in his room a few blocks away from our storefront, the devotees had immediately asked Prabhupada what it all meant. Srila Prabhupada had deferred an explanation and had said that he would explain it sufficiently when he actually held the brahmana initiation. So even at the time of sitting down before the fire yajna, we had little specific idea of what it meant. We had heard that we would receive a mantra, and that Prabhupada was preparing some threads to put on our bodies. We were also appreciating the thrill of ever-new experiences which characterized life with Srila Prabhupada in Krsna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada asked us to come forward one at a time and sit beside him. When my turn came, I sat beside Srila Prabhupada, and he handed me a piece of paper on which was typed the words of the Gayatri mantra. He then recited each word into my right ear, and he showed me how to count on my fingers. He then placed the brahmana thread over my shoulder and body. At this time the other devotees in attendance were chanting Hare Krsna in kirtana. The accumulated noise made it somewhat difficult to hear Prabhupada, and I had to bend close to him. He then gave me another piece of paper, on which was written the yatha kancanatam yati verse of Sanatana Gosvami. Prabhupada said this could be chanted occasionally.
Waves’ long rhythm
dithyramb, the shouts reached
a high peak at noon.
What’s that? I look out,
some dark jokers in rubber tubes
a little further out and a line
of shouting timid surf riders.
I like it better at night and
overnight at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 A.M.,
they’ve got bright lights on
towers to keep the beach crime-free.
But it’s a crime they
don’t come here to remember Sri
Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
a crime the sellers and dogs litter
and they don’t let us into the temple,
it’s a crime
that I complain
and waste time.
Pinch me a little and I howl,
can’t hear myself think,
sink. The surfers here don’t
risk drowning and neither do I.
Nothing ventured .. .
I know it’s eternal,
the washing in tide,
touch and withdraw undertow.
I dreamt of my master.
He was holding a special
class to teach pottery . . .
these things are my own . . .
but the ocean is everyone’s—
everyone’s Lord Caitanya,
I speak a salty drop
of ocean chanting.
Geaglum’s far away. Madhu pacing
outside the hotel rooms in an open
air space. Below in the dark gardens, Rama-raya
paces. I go out there awhile, pacing and fingering
beads as they do. Is any one of us praying?
Is a bhakta praying at Bhaktivedanta Manor
as he goes around the bend like a racing horse,
trampling over the creaking temple room boards
in japa circumambulation?
The waves’ noise. When I woke
it seemed so loud I thought it was
a nearby dock and we’d better clear out
of here before the tide engulfs us.
I thought of the Staten Island ferry, the way
they used to reverse engines and then slowly
crash into the wooden pilings and
everyone on board would be jolted forward.
Have they invented a smoother way to stop?
It was fun—the tall boards would
groan and hold the huge ferry a moment, then water
gush through the boards, green moss clinging, and we would smell the salt air, hear the sea gulls cry and circle.
The ocean sheets pound down in dark in Puri.
It’s not my home but I come here and always hear ocean and talk about it like a broken record wherever I go.
“Have you heard the waves?” Are they coming up into our bedroom, encroaching? Are we safe from Nature? Oh sure, God won’t allow it to come an inch
closer than allowed. But if He permits we will be washed away. Pralaya, destruction .. .
Wash, wash your heart and
soul, be washed
even while you sleep,
your dreams full
of ocean surf.
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.