“Satsvarupa Maharaja was able to remain steady in his japa retreat, and added substantial reading time to the schedule. He even started answering his Vyasa-puja mail. Still one or two headaches a day persist, and he had three migraines. This all adds up to overall progress. Still no word from the MRI test—it seems hopelessly locked in the bureaucracy—but they say, “No news is good news.”
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
I am happy that you are satisfied with the autobiography thus far, but I want to keep going and produce more subject matter. My vision for a perfect world didn’t come about in ISKCON. I became attracted to the life of the Christian monks living in the desert and monasteries and practicing silence. But I was living in Los Angeles in a community of loose householders and a political BBT management. I wanted to be a simple, impartial brahmana, but the GBC forced me to take positions in controversies. I wanted to do process-oriented writing, but no one was interested in that. I wanted to satisfy Prabhupada, but in the last years, after the library party, I didn’t have a big service. After his disappearance I turned to traveling and preaching, and then to accumulating disciples whom I turned over to the ISKCON temples. I turned myself over to ISKCON, but then I found a growing need to express myself. I did this in journal writing, in writing retreats and in extended self-revelatory writings in an improvised way. It was aimed at Krishna consciousness, but in finding my own voice. I turned to writing poems and journals of my searching, again and again. In Every Day, Just Write I noted down the time of the day and began to write what was happening, who I was, what was passing through me. They turned into books that looked strange to the mainstream, but some appreciated the candid search for the authentic self. In a movement where everyone was supposed to produce preaching results, I was examining myself in my position and it appeared offbeat, although some appreciated the honesty. I talked about japa and why it could be better. I performed it in earnest and gave testimony of my failure and success. Just to fill a fresh page with thoughts and confessions and creative expression became a service of itself. I spent enumerable hours doing this, removing the veil and dancing with the veil. I wrote Write and Die and Under Dark Stars, in which I pushed the envelope in free expression. This became the reason to exist, along with chanting japa and meeting with Vaisnavas. They all knew I wrote, and some read me while others did not.
I wrote of my coming to Prabhupada and listening to him and coming close. I wrote as much about him as I wrote of myself. I told the story of his life and read the memoirs of others. Then I went back to writing about him and writing about myself. Tell his teachings. I look at a page of my writing and find it covered with red notes of what he expected me to write and his comments on what I have written. He enters my life in dreams in this way. He is the unconscious mechanism behind my facade, the talker, the puller of my strings. Up and at ’em you are a Prabhupada man listening to yourself and talking about your master. I don’t like to think I’ll ever leave him–and I won’t. I write in rhythm, Prabhupada. And I am not ashamed to say I belong to him; he’s my spiritual master. You can read this later and like me (I hope), or you can read me for the first time and be attracted to Prabhupada.
The journal continues, cutting down deep like the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It tells of many days in many places and regurgitates Prabhupada’s writings. It attempts to tell the story of a soul. It is a mere newspaper, but sometimes a Holy Writ like the New Testament or Franz Kafka’s diary or Thoreau’s journal or Kierkegaard’s journal. It is unassuming and intended for a devotional career.
They talk their heads off
while the poet is trying to compose
they think it’s light music
to converse by and rub ankles.
He plays louder to drown
them out, but they dumb
him down and you can’t
beat the crowd on a
Sunday afternoon when
they’re out for a good time.
So it’s better to hear a studio
Stupid women’s high voices
won’t reach Vaikuntha when
we’re trying to pray.
“I love you, Porgy.” “Don’t
let him touch me
with his hot hands.”
If you will have me I’ll
live with you and
in our privacy keep
this mob out of
Christ, the sacrifice,
which Krsna season is it now?
It’s summer, Mary’s month
is coming soon, but first the
then the month of Mary.
But as for me, I’ll take
Citraketu and Vrtra as absurd
and unbelievable as it
seems. He cut his head
He did it at once and went
to Vaikurytha, but the head
took a year to cut through
by Indra’s vajra.
And all the while those people were
smoking and drinking, not appreciating
the delicate and resonant sounds
of our man
in his celebration of holy mass
kirtana for the poor souls
of this age.
A war at home whom
to listen to
your brother says sweep
the ladies out of your lap
and think for yourself.
I say in that writing
shed, I get lonely,
I can’t think for myself
anymore. They’ve told me
I’ve got anxieties
and I did see three red
bug bites on my ankle—
a spider or an anticipation
Go to Trinidad? No, I’m
afraid. Get on an airplane.
No, I’ll get a headache.
Then just rest. They’re
fighting over who
will get the best seat.
I called a friend but
his line was busy.
Another was out to lunch.
I’m too restless and tried to
walk a mile. Said hello
to a young cow farmer,
my N.Y.F.D. hat outdoors for the first time.
Ears got cold. Pray ever, lad? You
didn’t even notice
if you massaged Him, although
you bathed Him.
All this proves you’re a victim
of confused thinking and
I’m going to put you in
the dark room with more
Klonapin than Tim
would ever dream
The awakening. The new man
is blooming. For now he’s
Can he still write or lay eggs
of gold? I think for sure
because God made him a poet to
THE ISKCON CLUB
OF ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE
IN EVERY COUNTRY OF THE WORLD
ESPECIALLY INDIA, OWNER
OF THE ATOM BOMB.
Especially India on the way to
and my altar in
don’t tell, but
Radha-Govinda are worth
The fight is on, but
I’m in the middle.
M. said I don’t have to write utterly from the heart. It’s not possible and many don’t want to hear the details. I’m telling a tellable story in spurts. At least I’m not a hack trying to satisfy the editors of Woman’s Day or The Saturday Evening Post. I write what I know and do, but I can’t always go all the way with it.
Workers have completed a low brick wall on the “secret” construction next to this building. They get sand for mixing with cement by digging a hole in the ground. They get water by coming into our yard and using our pump.
I smell the earth and some odd smells when we go out the gate in the morning. We saw a new store or structure—what to call it? Someone had piled up some bricks without cement and used wooden soda crates to make a four-walled room right on the road near the temple. Overnight they covered it with an old cloth for privacy. When we passed it at 4:00 A.M., there was a light on inside and pop music on cassette. I suppose it’s some commercial shop. No license, no building codes, no nothing.
That’s a level of Vrndavana—what I see. A dog came up to me. He had cuts on his leg and he limped. What did he want from me? These miserable curs fight and maul each other. Rugged, destitute creatures like no dogs I’ve seen in America. How they survive like weeds is amazing to me, but they always look defeated and barely alive. They are desperately feisty, yet cowardly, mean. That’s past bad karma.
Another level is what I have heard from sadhu and sastra. This is transcendental to the senses. In our sampradaya, we have the most learned and refined understanding of the goal and purpose of life, the soul, and God. Yet it usually exists in the context of simple material life, even poverty. But it’s not degraded poverty. And since Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada, material poverty is not a requisite. But we do have to be renounced, using whatever we have in the service of Krsna.
What do they tell me? When my mind is purified and I am free from anxiety and lust, then I will be able to understand Vrndavana and the love of Radha and Krishna. When I am eager to study the books of Rupa and Raghunatha Gosvamis, tls only will I be able to understand the yugala-piriti.
“O Lord Hari, Lord Hari, how wicked I am! I did not worship the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna in Vrajabhumi even for a moment, and I am completely unable to understand the mellows of transcendental love” (Prarthana 3.1).
The acaryas know the fallen sadhaka’s state of mind. They address us as if they too cannot practice bhajana. Today’s Srimad-Bhagavatam lecturer said it’s not enough to work hard. You also have to hear sastra. Then you will realize it’s Krsna you are working for. I know this lecturer and am inspired to sit with him and hear his realizations. But in order to lecture to a large group, he raised his voice and made dramatic emphasis quite different than his ordinary talk. I found it hard to take. There is something artificial about the lecturing communication. But it has its place. Write him a note and say some of this?
We just sat in three chairs around the dining room table and read together, starting with Cc. Madhya 3. There is authoritative information about Vaisnava sannyasis in the verse and purport to etam sa asthaya paratma-nistham. I felt a hankering to have my tridandi staff with me and an awareness that it means a body, words, and mind dedicated to serving Mukunda, Lord Krsna. I also mentally reviewed some of my recent behavior, exchanges with female disciples, the writing life, etc., and estimated whether I’m doing all right. The sannyasa order is very dear to me; I want to always be a sannyasi, even though in one sense it is another temporary, material designation. Srila Prabhupada always remained a sannyasi, and so did Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Lord Caitanya. Don’t take it for granted, but pray to Prabhupada that I may stay in the honorable order of sannyasa. Sannyasa is significant to me also because it is another initiation that was given to me by Srila Prabhupada.
The day is more than half over. We walked on an excellent beach, starting in darkness. It took a few minutes to drive there. I walked with M. because I don’t feel a need to be alone. I’m using the time for chanting two rounds and hearing a tape. The wind was cold and strong, but our new coats and hoods purchased in Boston and our Wellington boots kept us snug.
M. sometimes mentions what he prays for as he chants. For example, he said he prays that his chanting may become more effective in inducing others to chant. And he prays that his own chanting may improve for his own benefit. I have heard him say he prays to serve his spiritual master. I used to pray in recent years, and I advocated it. I referred to interjected phrases like, “Please help me!” and, “Thank You!” Also a developed meditation: feeling the presence of God, followed by adoration, thanks, self-examination, regret, etc. Some of this was influenced by my reading the Christians on prayer. I adapted their lectio divina into prayerful reading of the sastras. Then I recited prayers to the parampara, the gurus, the Panca-tattva, and Radha and Krsna in Vraja. Now I don’t do any of that.
Instead I go headlong into japa and writing or reading. One excuse is that I don’t have time to stop and pray. Even if I’m up by midnight, my schedule is too tight to allow even five minutes for prayer. But as I write this excuse, it sounds ridiculous. I have lost the ability (or rather the discipline—the ability is innate) to hold thoughts in my mind and silently verbalize them. I suggest I try to revive this while we are here. And since I don’t want to waste a minute, then put it on your schedule; pre-japa prayer, and prayer at another time in the day.
What did I think you would be writing here in Kerry?
Oh, maybe something like a japa journal, and maybe talking to Srila Prabhupada. And free-writing sessions with attention to the session itself, an intense, nonstop practice without fear of how it looked. Yes, I thought I’d be doing that.
So far it’s been more a simple diary of the externals.
Have you followed the concept that more than ever you are not writing to create a particular book—that these pages will be given to your editor with that in mind—to be used for Among Friends and the collection?
Yes, pretty much I’ve been doing that. Poems on newsprint in colored markers, not connected with this prose.
Not reading any mail yet. Hold it off. The writing goes along. I’m hoping to be able to concentrate and pray to be attentive in the increased japa. There are no good signs of that yet, but at least I’m aware of it.
It doesn’t seem that we will be bothered here.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.
When Sivananda arrived he went to see
Nityananda, who stood up and kicked him.
Sivananda was very pleased at being kicked
and he thanked the Lord for treating him as His servant.
When Nityananda heard this He was very happy.
He embraced Sivananda in great love.
One of Nityananda’s characteristics is
His contradictory nature. When He becomes
angry and attacks someone it is actually for his benefit.
Hearing these dealings I am amazed and amused.
I chant with a light heart and good concentration
Being immersed in the nectar of Cc.
For a person attached to Sri Krsna, even
a moment of separation from Him is intolerable.
Srimad-Bhagavatam states, ‘By His captivating smiles,
sweet intimate conversations and loving embraces the long, long
nights of the rasa dance passed in a
moment. How can we now overcome the
boundless anguish of separation from Him?’
This feeling of viraha is beyond
my realization, but I respect it very
much. In my small way I honor
these statements and try to enter the mood.
I read what Prabhupada has given us
In Antya-lila of Mahaprabhu’s intense
mood, and I relish it with devotion.
By hearing and serving the sankirtana
movement, one day I may be able
to understand it better and serve
in Viraha Bhavan.
[SDG Maharaja’s answers to writing prompts from Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir]:
Authenticity is when I don’t lie, when I let my actual voice speak. We say “an authentic ranch,” “an authentic American Indian village,” or “it had the authentic sound of pop.” Regarding my personal authenticity, I’m authentic when I admit that I’m a “Hare Krsna man” with all my flaws. I would like to say that I am a perfect Hare Krsna man, an authentically pure devotee, or an authentic spiritual master, an authentic maha-bhagavata, but authentic means it has to be the truth. I can’t make phony claims. It may sound sastric, but it may not actually be true for me. When a devotee speaks in Srimad-Bhagavatam class you can immediately hear the authentic ring of truth. It’s not enough that the quotes he repeats are perfect.
My authentic self comes out, and I allow the different sides of myself to express themselves. That is to say, when I listen to more than one voice. Ultimately, however, I know my authentic self is close to the pure spirit soul, and I’m able to hit the ring of truth. That’s when I’m Prabhupada’s disciple – when I can remember and feel my contact with him.
But now you were not alone.
Your boys went out on their own
to the Love-Pageant Rally, a hippie protest meeting,
and while the crowd was milling aimlessly,
started Hare Krsna chanting.
In the same park where you
had led them personally,
now on your order, among their peers they chanted,
with your drum, karatalas, and a tambourine of soda caps.
The love pageant flared up in devotional chanting.
And the Village Voice reported,
“The backbone of the meeting was the mantras,
holy chants from the Sanskrit Bhagavad-gita,
and for three hours it became like a boat
on a sea of rhythmic chanting.
Led by fifteen disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami,
who operates from a storefront on Second Avenue,
the mantras ebbed and flowed with the rhythm of drums . . .”
They ran, ecstatic to tell you,
“Swamiji, it was fantastic!”
As if to say, “We did what you told us
and it worked! We ourselves are amazed,
and our faith increased a hundred times
to go out and spread this everywhere.”
Do it, you said. Go everywhere
and chant, and save your people.
What does it mean to treat our “Prabhupada moments” favorably? We can treat them more carefully, for one thing. Just as we tend to plants by watering them and keeping them free of insects and ensuring that they get enough sunlight, we can tend to our connection with Prabhupada. Paying attention to our “Prabhupada moments” will make us more conscious of our entire relationship with Prabhupada. Perhaps we can pray to Prabhupada as we wipe the dust from his framed picture. Or when we say something like, “All glories to Srila Prabhupada,” we can stop and think about him for a moment, rather than just rattling it off mechanically.
For example, I like to remember how Prabhupada used to stop between Calcutta and Mayapura in a mango grove. He did it a number of times. It was his habit. But it was always something special for the devotees who were with him. The grove was almost halfway between Calcutta and Mayapura. Stopping there broke the three-hour journey.
We used to bring tiffins filled with puffed rice and fruits—mango, papaya—and maybe sandesa. Usually, two car loads of devotees would be at the grove. The women would sit a little apart, and Prabhupada would sit with his secretaries and male disciples.
Prasadam would be served to Prabhupada first, and then he would wash his hands and mouth. After Prabhupada was finished, his prasadam would be distributed, and we would all eat. We all felt happy to be with him and honor prasadam before getting on with the journey.
Even while it happened, the stop at the mango grove with Prabhupada was just a “moment.” Now when we recall it, it is not a “major” event. We have these experiences, and then life goes on, yet what is life but a collection of such moments? Some of them are special, although they may not actually be earthshaking events.
Then what is a tremendous event? Usually, we think of them as disasters or violence or sudden windfalls. But with Prabhupada, so many things happen subtly, quietly. For example, the publication of Srimad-Bhagavatam will revolutionize the world. It is a tremendous event. But Prabhupada composed it morning after morning.
Although he was internally intense, the mornings were routine for him. Morning after morning, he added a little bit to the entire Bhagavatam. As Prabhupada himself said, “Little drops of water wear away the stone. In this way I have written all these books.”
I’ve got hundreds of photos of Prabhupada
and supposedly I’m in each one.
They are in no special order . . . 1973, 1971, 1977—
mostly morning walks and I am
one of the crowd.
I went through them like a file clerk.
There I am, there he is, there’s
someone else . . . Look at us all
surrounding him on the beach.
there’s Bhagavan dasa with long hair, Hamsaduta . .
I look so young and handsome in this one.
Oh, this one I should keep separate,
he is looking at me.
I’m wearing a swami hat,
I’m holding the microphone,
Prabhupada has a special expression.
Then I get confused, nothing seems real . .
I go outside and as I unlock the gate
I see myself as in those photos,
young me and Prabhupada walking.
But he is not here. I am alone.
The young man is now old,
walking alone on an Irish road.
He is a writer who likes to live alone.
Where is his spiritual master?
Who is more important, guru or disciple?
How is it possible we can all be
accommodated as intimate servants of Gurudeva?
You might as well ask
how can so many members of the Yadu dynasty
live in Dvaraka?
How can millions of gopas and gopis play with Him?
He can do it.
I walk and chant
as he told me
and do this writing
to offer to him.
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.