“This week’s misery for Satsvarupa Maharaja was to deal with a sharp abdominal pain which has been more frequent over time. The gastrointestinal doctor took X-rays and recommended a full internal flush, which lasted almost twenty-four hours. And then a followup colonoscopy will be done in two weeks. Other than that distraction, the japa retreat is going well and may continue as a new lifestyle—chanting many more rounds than the minimum sixteen. It depends on how intensely he returns to his writing duty now that Krsna-bhajana and Satya Sara are back and catching up with what Satsvarupa Maharaja has been doing while they were traveling.
The “News Items” section of Free Write Journal has been temporarily suspended while Guru Maharaja recuperates.
Dear Lord Krsna ,
Prabhupada says You like to talk with Your sons. “To enjoy.” I would love it if You would talk with me. At least permit me to talk with You. But he says I can’t talk with You; I am too immature and don’t know how to form words to You (uttamaślokas). Yet I am an initiated devotee of Yours for almost sixty years. You can help me write to You, if You desire. I want to say, “I love You.” Śrila Prabhupada, when asked what should we pray for, you said, “Please let me love You. (Please accept me; please let me serve You.)”
Prayers from a great distance. Yet You are my Lord. I chant Hare Krsna and hear Your names. I want to be Your servant, under the shelter of my spiritual master.
I’m glad You like to talk with Your sons. Please talk to me as caitya-guru.
I want to make para-dukha-dukhi prayer, in the mood of Prahlada Maharaja. As a tiny creature near the end of one lifetime, I pray that You subdue the demons who are predominating the world. They are causing suffering to everyone, including themselves. Let them not release their nuclear weapons. Please listen to the God-conscious peacemakers. You will do whatever You like, as the supreme independent (svarat), but I petition You today to please save the world from complete ruination. Please respond to the cries of the Hare Krsna chanters, and to the non-hypocritical (ahimsa) people who seek relief from the asuras. Please save the Earth as You did in Your Varaha incarnation, when You lifted the planet from the waters and killed the demon, Hiranyaksa. I am not praying for my own safety, because I have been given protection by Your pure devotee, Śrila Prabhupada. I am praying for the fools and rascals who are under the spell of maya, and are committing great sins and ignoring Your instructions. Please save them from the path they are following, which leads to darkness and punishment. Please accept my intercessionary prayer.
We followers of Prabhupada are trying to help the fallen souls by administering the highest welfare work: engaging the misguided in devotional service to Lord Krsna. We distribute the authorized books teaching the science of God. This literature can educate one in the goal of human life (bhakti) and disentangle one from the cycle of birth and death. This transcendental literature can elevate one to the spiritual platform and place him in the transcendental life. A devotee likes to engage the uneducated (as well as the practicing devotee) in congregational chanting of the holy name. Singing the Hare Krsna mantra in the association of devotees cleans the heart and enables one to taste bliss and see oneself as the servant of the servant of Krsna. Devotees are duty-bound to distribute prasadam, sanctified food first offered to God. If one eats prasadam, he is transformed from matter to spirit. There are many other ways that the people may be engaged (in karma-free devotional service). It doesn’t require great tapasya to do this, and it is pleasing to both the devotee and the nondevotee.
Thank you, Lord Krsna, for allowing me to speak to You again and mention para-dukhā-dukhī prayer. I hope I will return again soon and write to You.
With love, your eternal servant,
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Today it is my birthday by Vedic calculation. Nothing to say. I suppose there’s a lurking wish to have friends nearby—a celebration. It was good for Gita-nagari Press when I did that, because people tend to give donations when I am present on my birthday. I don’t want to do that anymore—have such a huge festival with myself the center of attention. My disciples will gather as they like. I know they will meet in Guyana, and probably at Gita-nagari and in Alachua. Probably a few other places, small groups. I hope it will be meaningful for people.
When Prabhupada was my age, he was in Jhansi or Delhi, but he’d already left home. Was he still wearing white? Writing, publishing Back to Godhead magazine. I’m still alive and writing and seek to do something better and more substantial for him. Hare Krsna.
Today is my birthday, so what do I want, a sadness cake with fifty-six candles? Do I want the school kids to whack me with sticks fifty-six times? The doctor says this afternoon we will “all” (I guess he means his four or five patients) go to the seashore so he can cover us with mud. Then he says he will allow the sea waves to flow over us. He says it’s good for both skin and nerves. Sounds like fun. Fruit only for all meals today because it is Ekadasi.
I am not looking for gifts or loving messages today—it’s so remote where I am, and who will send anything? —but I want to make a gift of myself to Krsna. I want to give Himmy special attention. This “incarnation” of mine (literally, incarcerated in flesh) is insignificant in time and space. It’s not only incredibly brief, but it began ignobly and sinfully. Krsna is eternally fresh and ever-youthful. He graces the universe with His appearance. Actually, He is always present in His energies. I pray to dedicate myself more and more to Him. I have very little life duration left.
Remember when I visited Srila Prabhupada in August ‘77 (with Balavanta and Madhudvisa Prabhus), and he said, “These are my last days”? He had less than three months left at that point. He was noble and calm about it, still preaching strongly. I’m only fifty-six and what have I done for him? Oh, I’ve done some things under his direct order, and blundered too. What can I do for him during my remaining time? What can I do to become fixed in the eternal relationship of love of Krsna?
I want to thank Krsna for giving me insights as I sat in the tub today. I feel I got in touch with some important points: that I want to offer myself to Krsna, that I have a lot to be grateful for, that I need to reciprocate with the gifts I have been given, and that trying to please Srila Prabhupada is all I really have to offer to Krsna.
I am also glad, to be honest, that I am away from the fanfare my birthday usually provokes. It’s a relief. When I accept the inflated praises, it creates a karmic reaction for me. This obscurity allows me to serve the Lord with a pure motive, without expecting to be honored in return.
In the purport of Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.1 Srila Prabhupada writes: “A moment passed in the association of a pure devotee by hearing and chanting the transcendental messages of the Lord is a perfect guarantee for eternal life for returning home back, to Godhead.” He later states: “A devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is but an impetus to such guaranteed eternal life.” In a few days I will be seventy years old and that is definitely old age. I don’t know how many years I have to live, although You know. Should I think that I have a guarantee of eternal life? I have certainly passed many moments in the association of Srila Prabhupada, and I have heard him speaking the message of the Lord. I still hear him on tape recordings. But don’t I have to be on a certain level of high consciousness to be guaranteed going back to Godhead? If I have faith in this isolated passage of Bhaktivedanta Purport, I am guaranteed going back to Godhead because I have associated with a pure devotee and heard him speak the messages of the Lord. Then my old age, implies that my life is coming to an end, it is just an impetus “soon I will be going to join with Krsna.” It is a nice thing to contemplate. But I have heard other statements that I vaguely remember, that you can’t have a pinch of material desires or you are ineligible for going back to Godhead. Then there is the story of Prabhupada lecturing and saying you have to be cent percent pure or you can’t go back to Godhead, and then when he saw the devotees looked crestfallen he said, “At least 80 percent,” and then he finally lowered it to, “at least 75 percent.” Prabhupada and You are very compassionate.
I pray to go back to Godhead in this lifetime. I am getting closer to the time when I believe I will be taken by You to my next destination. I do not know if I have a guarantee. I have heard that a pure devotee is not even concerned with his liberation. He is willing to go anywhere, even in the material world, if he can continue unalloyed devotional service to You. “All I want in my life is Your causeless devotional service birth after birth.” (Siksastakam 4)
I am afraid of material life and can not boldly say I don’t care about going back to Godhead. I want pure devotional service. The material world is such a miserable and dangerous place. Even our obedience to our spiritual master is threatened. It is not “Vaikuntha” or place of no anxieties; rather it is kuntha, a place of anxieties.
I want to get out of the material world. But in order to do so I have to be willing to serve You, I have to love You. I want that love and service mood. Nevertheless, I take great comfort in finding this sentence in the purport about the guarantee to a person who has heard from a pure devotee for a moment. I think this means he has heard and his heart has changed. You can not go back home to Godhead, unless you have a greedy desire to serve Radha and Krsna. And so I pray for that. Please grant me a desire for causeless devotional service.
I did pretty well this morning reading about Mother Yasoda’s seeing the universal form in the mouth of Krsna’s and about baby Krsna’s naughty activities, stealing butter in the neighborhood. There were some wonderful purports. It can be shared by devotees, and they should share it. The ladies used to come to Yasoda’s house to complain about Krsna, but that was actually a way they could churn the nectar of His activities by talking about Him and observing Him. In a similar way, we can informally speak about Krsna whatever we have read. His childhood activities are especially attractive to Pariksit Maharaja, so he wanted to hear as much as possible from the authorized speaker, Sukadeva Gosvami.
Prabhupada is getting us ready for calamities in our lives. When we are bewildered by immediate causes (as Mother Yasoda was when she saw the universe in the mouth of her child), we should make obeisances to the Supreme Lord. Don’t try to figure things out when you cannot. But bow to Him and accept His will. Accept your suffering. Prabhupada wrote to me that he hoped Krsna would protect me from calamities. I know He will, and its up to me to see it.
Don’t dance unless you want to.
Now it’s starting to seep in, news and thoughts
of the world beyond this wet patch. We’ll
go to 26 Second Avenue, stay in an apartment
on the Lower East Side. What will that be like,
Will it be very cold? Will we see dangerous
and deranged people roaming the streets,
cocaine addicts? I sound like a tourist from the
Midwest. Will it be cold? You already
asked that. I ask it again, what will
it be like? I am an Irish farmer in my Wellies.
When Madhu phoned Dennis from Mayapur,
“What’s it like there in India?”
Madhu replied, “It’s very hot!”
“Oh,” Dennis said. What could he imagine?
What is your point? My point is I have to
leave here, but not today. Today is
the disappearance day of
Prabhupada’s own Guru Maharaja. The year
he passed away, two weeks before the end,
our Prabhupada wrote him a letter and
asked, “How can I serve you?” He got the
reply which formed his life and saved us.
Preach in the West.
On this day I ask to stay well
work., and in the evening read Brahma-samhita
the words of his Guru Maharajas.
We will fast until noon and then some
prasadam, he said, hot halava.
Offer it in your mind, please. Prabhupada said
a spiritually advanced man doesn’t even eat at
all. It’s a demand of the body.
Sing with measure and tap dance or
ballroom minuet, something not just
Do like this? I say you are all right
and want to hang on this land a few days
More reading and writing both extra,
knowing it can’t last and it’s you
duty to share what you’ve gained.
I’ve got a few letters to answer. Open them and hear. Jayanti lives in North Carolina. Happy to be there, connected to a good gurukula for her son. Hopes to come in January to Glta-nagari to see me and to be with Godbrothers and Godsisters. In their midst, she says, she feels inspired.
Got a letter from a disciple I haven’theard from in years. His wife left him with their one-year-old child. He says he ‘s taking care o f the baby, working, and trying to think of the Lord. Says he’s still chanting Hare Krsna. Old times with him when he was young and worked on a farm and I was mostly resident guru—think of that. One letter after another—different worlds.
A devotee is deeply, convinced of Vedic teachings. If an ignorant person criticizes the life of devotional service, a devotee knows this is ignorance that is based on the bodily conception of life. He is not swayed. Maharaja Rahugana insulted the great brahmana Jada Bharata with many words of sarcasm, but Jada Bharata smiled and spoke the following words:
You have said that I am not stout and strong, and these words are befitting a person who does not know the distinction between the body and the soul . . . The body may be fat or thin, but no learned man would say such things of the spirit soul. As far as the spirit soul is concerned, I am neither fat nor skinny; therefore you are correct when you say that I am not very stout. Also, if the object of this journey and the path leading there were mine, there would be many troubles for me, but because they relate not to me but to my body, there is no trouble at all.
I shaved my head as a devotee in 1966 because I thought it would please Srila Prabhupada. But when I went out into the streets of the Lower East Side and a few people hooted at me, I was surprised and hurt. The ridicule felt like a push from behind. And yet it made me conscious of Krsna and Prabhupada; I had lost my anonymity! When I went back to the storefront and presented myself before Srila Prabhupada, he said, “Thank you very much.” During the same year Srila Prabhupada gave us japa beads, he said that we should always carry them with us, “If you’re not ashamed.” We should not be ashamed that we are followers of Lord Krsna who wear Vaisnava tilaka. A few people may think we are crazy, but many others will ask us out of curiosity, “What is the marking on your forehead? Is this some kind of religion?” Such questions are glorious because they are about Krsna and therefore they are of benefit to the whole world.
Because devotees live in the world, they sometimes feel influenced by it. This happens by a process of osmosis, whereby one gradually, and often unconsciously, assimilates his environment. As you breathe in the atmosphere of the nondevotees, it is likely that you will become somewhat like them. Devotees begin following the latest trends in electronic appliances, clothing fashions, and street slang. It is not necessarily wrong to be aware of the latest “state-of-the-art” computers, because such things can be used in the service of Krsna. But it may be that a devotee becomes motivated by desires other than pure service. We are not immune to the psychological influence of advertising and political propaganda that affects everyone else in society. Businessmen see devotees as just another type of customer, even if dressed a little strangely. And so devotees become sucked into the same traps as everyone else, because we live in the world. From the viewpoint of pure devotional service, these are obstacles on the path.
In order to protect the devotees from being absorbed into the “pop” consciousness of mundane society, Srila Prabhupada created a subculture. Included in the charter of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, as written by Srila Prabhupada, are several references to a society of devotees.
“The demigods prayed: O Lord, You never deviate from Your vow, which is always perfect because whatever You decide is perfectly correct and cannot be stopped by anyone. Being present in the three phases of cosmic manifestation—creation, maintenance, and annihilation—You are the Supreme Truth. Indeed, unless one is completely truthful, one cannot achieve Your favor, which therefore cannot be achieved by hypocrites.”
The Age of Kali is sometimes called the “Age of Hypocrisy.” Although the bull of religion is still standing on the leg of truthfulness, “Kali, flourishing by deceit, is also trying to destroy that leg.”
We have mentioned that honesty sometimes cannot penetrate through the layers of falsity. But an honest man at least attempts to undeceive himself. Hypocrisy, however, is a direct attack at truthfulness. Hypocrisy takes many forms; sometimes it disappears and then reappears like the mystical airplane of the demon Salva. As Salva and his plane had to be personally killed by the Supreme Lord, so we have to call upon Lord Krsna in His holy names to be spared from the liars and hypocrites who abound in the nation, the city, the home and within the conditioned self.
“All ordinary transactions and dealings became polluted with cheating, even between friends. And in familial affairs, there was always misunderstanding between fathers, mothers and sons, between well-wishers, and between brothers. Even between husband and wife there was always strain and quarrel.”
Every conditioned soul living within the material world has the tendency to cheat others. According to the Vedic acaryas, there are four defects which no one can escape: (1) the tendency to make mistakes; (2) the tendency to be illusioned; (3) the propensity to cheat others; and (4) imperfect senses. An example of cheating is to pose oneself as very intelligent. Although a person may be in illusion by mistaking his self for the body, and although he makes many mistakes, he still puts himself forward as an authority, professor, author and so on. Srila Prabhupada says, “He writes books of philosophy, although he is defective. That is cheating.”
The self-realized sage, Jada Bharata, was engaged as the palanquin carrier for King Rahugana. But one day Jada addressed the king:
“My dear King, although you are not at all experienced, you are trying to speak like a very experienced man. Consequently you cannot be considered an experienced person. . . . Any advanced, experienced man, considering the Absolute Truth, does not talk in this way.”
Jada Bharata’s exposure of the king as a cheater is similar to Krsna’s telling Arjuna:
“While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.
In both these cases (by Lord Krsna’s arrangement), King Rahugana and Arjuna were posing as learned men although they were not actually so. Maharaja Rahugana’s posing as a king was a similar fraud. But the cheaters may be delivered from ignorance. As stated in the Bhagavatam:
. . . If one carries out the order of the spiritual master in disciplic succession, or the parampara system, he overcomes the four defects. Therefore, knowledge received from the bona fide spiritual master is not cheating. Any other knowledge which is manufactured by the conditioned soul is cheating only.
—Bhag. 3.24.12, purport
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati used to say, “The whole world is a society of cheaters and cheated.” Researchers are accumulating evidence that this is so.
By 7:00 P.M. Nimai dasa had picked up the last book distributor. He then drove the van out of the city to a national park. While the men sat close together on the wooden platform in the rear of the van, talking over the day’s experiences, Nimai carefully served each of them bread, sabji, and cups of hot milk. As they took prasadam, Nimai tabulated the number of books each man had distributed. It had been a good day, especially for Dhrstaketu Prabhu, who had distributed fifty Bhagavad-gitas and ten Srimad-Bhagavatams.
“I met this far-out couple today,” said Dhrstaketu. “It happened as soon as I got out there. I stacked about ten Bhagavatams on a newspaper stand outside the store and went to the bathroom in one of the restaurants. When I returned I saw a man and woman looking at one of the Bhagavatams.”
As soon as Dhrstaketu began talking, Nimai reached down, picked up the mouse asrama and placed it on top of the platform.
“What are you doing?” said Dhrstaketu.
“Nothin’,” said Nimai, ignoring the fact that the mouse cage was now in the midst of the men.
“You’re not going to let them out are you?” asked Vira dasa.
“Of course not,” said Nimai.
“He just wants the mice to hear the sankirtana nectar, right Nimai?” said Bhima.
Nimai said, “According to Prabhupada, even a cockroach in the wall of the temple can benefit by hearing Hare Krsna.”
Bhima Prabhu allowed Nimai his whimsy, and the other men let it go.
Dhrstaketu resumed his story. “So this couple had taken one of the books and had walked a distance away from the stand. The man was wearing a blue pin-striped three-piece suit, and the woman was also wearing a business suit. They both were carrying briefcases. They looked like they were feeling a little guilty about picking up such a nice hardbound book.
“So I approached them and said, ‘The book you are holding in your hand is the Srirnad-Bhagavatam. It’s one of the first volumes in a sixty-volume series.’
“‘Do you know anything about it?’ the man asked me. And she was looking.
“I said, ‘Yes, a little bit. This Bhagavatam begins with Maharaja Pariksit, who was at one time the emperor of the world. He got news that he was going to die in a week’s time. So he approached a great saintly person, Sukadeva Gosvami, and asked him, “What is the duty of a person who is about to die?” I then showed them the picture of Maharaja Pariksit with his folded hands in front of Sukadeva Gosvami. ‘And this Bhagavatam is what Sukadeva spoke,’ I said. ‘He spoke continuously for seven days, and it’s all recorded here. In these pages of the Bhagavatam, it is elaborately explained how to render service to God. It has been presented very nicely by the author, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is a renowned scholar.’“
“Then the man said, ‘I hope you don’t mind if I offer you something for this book.’ I said I didn’t. And he said he wanted another copy.”
The men in the van were delighted. Nimai was not only delighted but thrilled to be in their company. He went around with second cups of milk and more bread, and everyone took.
Bhima ended the talking by 8:30 P.M. The only light was the dim interior bulb of the van. They sat on their sleeping bags and read silently. Nimai placed the mouse cage back under the platform, trying to avoid making the slightest noise. But as he pushed the box out of sight, they could hear lively squeaking.
The tide is out, black seaweed exposed on the light gray “moon” rocks. When I first got here, I felt shy seeing a fishing boat moving from right to left. I persisted and sat down anyway. Now he has turned from left to right, dragging his net. He may think I’m a useless tourist wasting time on shore while he works hard. I don’t know his labors. But he doesn’t know mine either as I sit with pen, dragging my nets for fish of direction.
What shall I do? Shall I merge myself back into the free-write mode? Do I like what I’ve done so far? Oh, I don’t know; I haven’t read it through. I suspect it contains parts worth sharing. Even so, should I continue? It would be exciting if I had a new project – and I do, in the morning walk.
…The sea–blue brilliant under a clear sky. At least for a while. Don’t mind that my words are repetitious. The sea is itself is not restless with boredom, although it has repeated the same movements since the beginning of creation. It’s beyond boredom. My truth while here is to see and hear the sea. Tell us again, in slightly different ways, how the waves splash, about the light, about the color of the sea, the foam, the cool air blowing, your windproof, hooded coat. What do you feel when sit here and face outward.
Bring yourself toward prayer. Surely writing can help with that, with a literary version. O God, O Krsna, O spiritual master, allow me to be sincere. I wish to chant with devotion. I don’t know what to do. All I know is to count and pronounce the names and surmount drowsiness, and to sometimes notice what I’m thinking, and then correct myself.
Keep writing here. There are new concerns, old concerns, incoming waves, incoming and outgoing tides. Just by writing, I am answering the question of whether I can or want to write in these last days of the japa retreat.
Do try to help yourself. This is more than filling notebooks.
I don’t write primarily for an audience. I write – for pain?
What do you mean by that?
I mean, I write despite pain or doubt, pain that I may be wasting valuable time, pain that I can do better. And I write with joy and personal satisfaction. I write through it and offer it to Krishna, aware of its imperfection. –Forgetting the Audience 1993 pp. 162–64
Green grow the rushes ho.
Allow yourself to write whatever comes. Welcome it all, and especially encourage devotional thoughts. It’s like birds landing in your field. Some are ugly, some unknown. They come and fly away. Leave feed for the good ones.
birds of a family,
seaside gannets and gulls,
crows of various kinds,
common and rare,
come to this field as the wind blows you
and you track your food for the day.
White cloud painted in the sky over the horizon. The same white the artist used for the sea form. And in various shades of blue, always changing with the change in sunlight.
–Forgetting the Audience 1993, pp. 168
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.