“Another disappointing day at the doctor’s—our longtime urologist, Dr. Subudhi. All negative with his test results for the abdominal pain, so we’re back into the world of the unknown . . . let down by the allopaths. Manohara just suggested an osteopath who tests muscles and trigger points, so let’s give it a try. Krsna is letting us give it one more try before the witch doctors start. So hopefully this is just another tolerance test by Him.
O wood thrush on the broken branch,
your silver-white breast attests
—or never mind that—
you are who you are.
I frightened you and you vanished.
I had my beads in my hands,
looked up to you. I paused in
japa to see you—you ought
to thank me, or be impressed
at least, that I took time out
to see you. But no, you don’t care.
Better you go anyway,
after a brief look,
so I can get back to chanting
and I did.
I strode down the dirt hill,
happy to chant and move outdoors,
to myself in the woods
grateful to walk and chant.
* * * * *
I know a devotee who keeps a diary of his japa. His handwriting is tight and small, and he writes things like how attentive he was today, whether he was sleepy, how long each round took. I hesitate to write such a diary. I have tried it before. That kind of writing is not meant for readers other than oneself, but sometimes people read private diaries and criticize, “This person seems to be nagging himself, and he’s not getting anywhere.” Who can judge besides the diarist as to whether his entries are helpful?
This is an evasive introduction to the topic of my own japa. I feel a resistance to put it down here because it is too personal. And maybe my readers don’t want to hear of my struggles in japa. But the real point is, I don’t have good news. I would like to associate with someone like Madhu, for whom japa—prayer—is central to spiritual life.
* * * * *
Madhu says he has a terrible time controlling his mind while chanting—but maybe his sorrow over this is what pleases Krsna. If at the end of life one sincerely laments, “I couldn’t chant Hare Krsna, although I tried. I couldn’t control the mind,” that will please Krsna.
* * * * *
Let’s look at the “worst scenario”: I say I am beating a drum, the brhat-mrdanga. Srila Prabhupada told us that writing is that big drum. But japa is my spiritual heartbeat. If I develop palpitations of the heart or heart failure, I am finished. Do I want to come back next life as a materialistic talented writer who has to go through hell until he is forty years old and then join the Hare Krsna movement?
Then again, do I really have to choose between the pen and my japa-mala? The great acaryas like Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and Srila Prabhupada used both. I just have to keep everything balanced and do both in the mood of a servant. And I have to give prime mind-time to the holy name.
* * * * *
Two years ago I discovered “Japa with Pen.” It was in a book by a Hindu lady named Vandana. I tried it and started writing the Hare Krsna mantra over and over in a notebook. I promised myself to do at least a full page daily and two pages if possible. When Pragosa dasa in Ireland saw it he said, “This reminds me of being in school when the teacher made you write a sentence over and over as punishment. It is amazing that you can do this. I could never do it.”
Was it like a punishment to write the Hare Krsna mantra a hundred times? No, it was an attempt to use writing to chant. But after awhile it became too mechanical, like everything else.
* * * * *
A very poor man living in Vrndavana forest presents the following appeal at the lotus feet of Vrndavana’s King and Queen:
“Although I am the lowest and You the highest, although I am a fool and You the greatest philosopher, although I am wicked and You the most saintly, and although I commit offenses when I think of You, still, O King and Queen, the shadow of whose holy name delivers one from a host of sins, please be kind to this person who sometimes chants Your holy name.”
—From Rupa Gosvami’s Stava-mala, Karpanya-panjika-stotra (A List of Requests”), texts 15-16
* * * * *
You are not the body; nor are you the mind. You are spirit soul, and “soul” means person, servant of God. That nature is revealed to you by serving the spiritual master. You hope to be stimulated by something from outside (like an interesting book arriving in the mail), but, finally, you have to become fully satisfied in the simple process of chanting and hearing. Don’t worry about failing on this page. Serve here. What if you had to render your entire service to Krsna by writing on this page? How would you serve? Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
* * * * *
The remedy for fear: If the circumstance is not too bad, breathe deeply and chant Hare Krsna. If it is really bad, then chant Hare Krsna within and without.
* * * * *
Krsna consciousness is nice because you get to chant
on your beads when you go for a walk.
No one else knows that.
You stride, wear sweatpants, but
in your two hands you hold the strand
of tulasi beads,
breathing in dawn freshness,
exhaling soft Hare Krsna mantras, as you
go quietly in the dark past their houses,
walk into the new development site,
all to your own, chanting loudly now.
* * * * *
If you ask a devotee who spends his time chanting or singing bhajanas, “What do you get out of this? What tangible result does it produce?” He may reply (as Srila Prabhupada did) that “chanting produces chanting.” One sings to sing. He builds stamina to sing for longer periods of time. He improves. He stops measuring one session against another, one attempt to surmount his mind against another. He sings to sing, and he knows there is no other way but to sing.
* * * * *
If we chant Hare Krsna, then Krsna, the Holy Presence, will be present on our tongues. Let us chant always, you and I. It is the only way to escape the demands of the world—the mental influence, the life threats, the constant disturbances. We are preoccupied with struggling for survival, but chanting helps us through to the more important goal.
It was a typical “dream.” Ever since I was in my teens—or at least seventeen—I wanted to be a writer. The biggest problem for me was financial. If you wanted to be an independent writer, you needed money. I was coming to write in my own way and not go commercial. I wouldn’t fall for a woman. I knew what I wanted to write, and there was nothing to stop me except my lack of money. I would not fall for women.
I just received a letter from a Godbrother I very much respect. He praised a book I privately published.
* * * * *
I was only able to publish forty copies of my book for lack of money, and I had almost no means of distributing or selling them. But my determination was to be a life-career writer. I used to think of this when I was younger.
In this particular dream, I was in a stationery store picking out different-colored notebooks. I thought of using them for different purposes. One would be just to tell about the story of my resisting all obstacles and going on writing. It was futile, but I wouldn’t give up.
* * * * *
I took a part-time job and barely supported myself with the earnings. I lived in a very cheap apartment and had to be frugal. I didn’t have many worldly adventures, and I wasn’t a very storytelling kind of writer like Franz Kafka. Then what was I writing about? It all came back to me when I got this really encouraging letter from a Godbrother, how I used to yearn to dedicate my life to the muse.
* * * * *
The truth is, I’m dedicated to Krsna and my spiritual master. I live in an asrama, and I have duties to the spiritual organization. What kind of a writer am I?
* * * * *
The friend who wrote me a favorable letter about my new book is himself a writer and editor. In his note to me about my book, which was one of a series of Journals, he says, “The journal genre works for you. It lets you write as you wish, unrestricted. And yet the text is naturally Krsna conscious. It is engaging and rewarding, both for you and for those readers which are yours. I encourage you to continue.”
(The reference to “readers who are yours,” comes from Soren Kierkegaard. He used to write a dedication to his books, something like “I dedicate this book to that individual who is mine.” Something like that.) My friend ended his letter, “So I encourage you to continue. For many pages I took notes. So as not to overburden this message, I will send those separately.” How encouraging! But it is futile. I can never afford to publish more than forty books at a time. And it’s even harder to distribute or sell them. But I have a small group of followers, and they are willing to do editing, printing, etc.
* * * * *
My friend’s message reawakened my old youthful self, the one who dreamed he could be a career writer. I am now eighty-four years old, and I still write. The distribution of my books is very small. But when I get an encouraging letter from a learned devotee friend like this, I return to my old “dreams” of being a writer, a recognized writer—who writes for that reader, that individual, that is his.
My friend wrote me after reading my book, “For many pages I took notes, but so as not to overburden this message, I will send those separately.” (I eagerly await those notes.)
* * * * *
And so I write and go on dreaming; it is not futile.
I’m feeling some writing block. I will try making a List.
Natalie Goldberg, a famous writing teacher, has just published—instead of another book—a pack of flash cards. They contain suggestions and sparks for helping you to write. Here is card #7 from the pack: “Write what you can accept with no judgment, no criticism . . .” After ten minutes sitting, we can put our arms around it all and write from a softer place.
From Bhāgavad-gita As It Is, Chapter Ten, text 29:
“ . . . . and among the dispensers of law I am Yama, the lord of death.”
“Purport: There are many living entities who give punishment to the miscreants, and among them Yama is the chief. Yama is situated in a planet near this earthly planet. After death, those who are very sinful are taken there, and Yama arranges different kinds of punishments for them.”
From Bhāgavad-gita As It Is (14.15)
“. . . . and when one dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.”
Purport: Some people have the impression that when the soul reaches the platform of human life it never goes down again. This is incorrect. According to this verse, if one develops the mode of ignorance, after his death he is degraded to an animal form of life. From there one has to again elevate himself, by an evolutionary process, to come again to the human form of life.”
I found two excerpts in Bhagavad-gītā on death. They had Post-its on the page. Rama Raya gave many others from research, but when I looked at them they weren’t on death. He also didn’t give the one I said was the most important in the book. (Perhaps he thought I already used it in the Journal.) Here it is again:
“And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bg. 8.5)
“Purport: . . . Tolerating all impediments, one should continue to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, so that at the end of one’s life one can have full benefit of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
Praises to the chanting of the holy name. Follow the Six Gosvamis’ instructions if you wish to approach worship of Vrndavana and Radha-Krsna seva. (Prabhupada describes all this in the Cc. Adi-lila.) Krsnadasa Kaviraja praises Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Caitanya-bhagavata. Srila Prabhupada says books on Krsna’s pastimes can only be written by pure devotees. Even if a pure devotee’s language is faulty, we should still accept it because we can know that Krsna helped him from within (Bg. 10.10). A pure devotee sits near the Lord and writes his books (Cc. 8.39, purport).
Follow what you read: don’t commit sin, chant and avoid the ten offenses, don’t imitate spiritual ecstasies to win acclaim. As the Bhagavad-gita purport states, by the “slow” process of bhakti we will proceed from sraddha to prema.
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.
“Thank you Lord, for allowing me to find service in writing. I want to reach the stage where I actually write without attachment for results and allow Srila Prabhupada’s teachings to flow out according to time and place. If writing is my way to preach, let me address my audience and do the best I can. It is a confidential, deep method of speaking to people. Assume someone hears. Serve as best you can. Don’t worry too much about anything else.
You sit facing the forest,
what do you want?
Something to put into my book.
You mean like a stuffing
for a samosa?
No, I mean a plain, tender capati.
What do you want?
Or Prabhupada said, “What do you want more?”
You have God’s holy names, the best philosophy,
best food and friendship, what do you want more?
I’m satisfied, I just want to live
and maybe go to India a few times more
and be able to see Krsna
and Him see me.
I just want to please my spiritual master
with a life’s work. Can’t ask for
world peace, world revolution, or
presidents of countries all becoming Vaisnavas,
and ISKCON members all saints.
I’d like to go on making samosas and capatis
and on Sundays sweet rice and
halava for the brahmacaris. The
worldwide revolution of
chanting the pure Name!
To remind devotees of their daily reading duties is not to take a controversial stand, for Srila Prabhupada often said and wrote that it should be done. Yet some may react with shock or a challenge when they come face-to-face with this proposal. Some may even claim it is my concoction that I place daily reading as a “must,“ as being almost as important as chanting 16 rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra daily. Therefore, I have gathered numerous quotes from Srila Prabhupada to support my claim. For example, one who knows Srila Prabhupada’s instructions cannot rightly say that hearing the Srimad-Bhagavatam class daily each morning is optional. No, it is a must. “You introduce this system in all the centers of your zone,” Prabhupada wrote to a GBC secretary, “and you will see that everyone becomes very much enlivened by these daily classes” (Letter of June 16, 1972). As for my stress herein on daily reading in addition to the daily hearing in the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, I am happy to be an advocate for this cause, even if, technically speaking, it is not in the category of a devotee’s bare minimum quota of following the four regulative principles of no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, and the chanting of sixteen rounds.
Certainly regular reading is an absolute must. So what should we understand “regular” to mean? Should it mean “once a week” or “once a month” or “whenever I get a chance”? By stating that we should read Srila Prabhupada’s books every day, I am trying to suggest a helpful program for all devotees, especially those who may not be reading very regularly. There are many popular self-help books, where an enthusiast gives some bright advice in a simple, practical form, such as A Way to Perfect Physical Health in 20 Minutes a Day, or How to Become a Millionaire in Your Spare Time.
For years, I wanted to compile a book like this, but I hesitated, not wanting to present myself as someone who thinks he knows better than others, especially if my claim was seen as my own “thing,” and because my own reading habits leave much to be desired. But these doubts gradually dissolved. I found sufficient subject matter to discuss the importance of reading Prabhupada’s books. . . . As for my hesitancy and thinking that the book might be considered as my own sectarian interest, that vanished when I read through Srila Prabhupada’s statements and his letters on this subject.
If I were to wait for the day when my own reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books reach the stage of spontaneous ecstasy, I might never be able to write on the subject at all. Yet since I have adopted reading his books daily as an essential part of my Krsna conscious sadhana, I felt it would not be hypocritical for me to advocate it to others. I am a convert to this daily reading plan. As I struggle each day to become Krsna conscious, I can attest to the great importance of reading his books. In fact, I feel that without daily reading his books, attaining a decent level of Krsna consciousness is impossible. Or, in other words, I feel myself at once vulnerable to maya when I fail to read Prabhupada’s books on a given day. So I invite the reader to hear from Prabhupada on the importance of reading his books daily and then to take up such reading as an essential aspect of his own practice of Krsna consciousness.
We may be able to reach a general condition of sanity by which we control our mind from telling us to commit sinful and deviant acts. And yet we find ourselves unable to control the mind on a minute-to-minute basis. We are able to control ourselves so that we desire to spend the day in devotional service, without serious doubts about the philosophy and without schemes for illicit sex. In that sense we have a resolved intelligence. But from moment to moment we remain distracted. When we chant japa, we cannot concentrate on the sound of the mantra. When we go before the Deity for darsana, our eyes see the divine form, but our mind drags us all over the universe. By the time darsana is over, we realize that we have not been able to concentrate at all on the lotus feet of the Lord. This is an unfortunate stage in which a devotee may go through bona fide activities one after another in a mechanical way, without absorption in devotional service.
Devotees sometimes complain that they find the morning program, which consists mostly of singing Sanskrit slokas, to be boring. One way to engage the mind during these activities is to be more aware of the meaning of the bhajanas. This will help us in chanting the maha-mantra, and also in viewing the Deity. For example, at mangala-arati, devotees sing “Gurvastaka,” which consists of praises to the spiritual master. This bhajana creates a very specific mood of worship. Each verse tells how the guru guides the disciples—in kirtana, Deity worship, offering of prasadam, and so on. After singing “Gurvastaka,” we sing the prayers to Nrsimhadeva, which are quite different from the prayers to the spiritual master. We ask the half-lion, half-man incarnation of the Lord for protection against the demons. Immediately after that we sing an astounding bhajana to the tulasi plant. In this song we seek to become assistants of the gopis in the lila of Radha and Krsna in Goloka. If we say each of these prayers as if they are all in the same mood, this is because we do not pay attention to the words. But if we become familiar with the translations, then even if we cannot think in terms of Sanskrit grammar, the meaning of the words will strike at us. If we focus on the meaning of Sri-Radha-Govinda-preme sada- jena bhasi, and think of Radha and Govinda and of being Their servants—and if we feel when we sing mahaprabhoh kirtana-nrtya-gita, which tells of the guru’s ecstasy in leading us in hari-nama—and if we think of the next verse, sri-vigraha … which describes how the spiritual master leads us in worshiping the Deity—then we will find ourselves engaged in transcendental meditation on many sublime aspects of devotional life. By thinking of the words as we recite them, we will feel more enlivened and not be bored. This is a good tactic for training the mind, which, when left to its own devices, becomes stronger and stronger in rascaldom.
You’ve got to make some money
someway or other
they play their horns
We beg with bowl
find rich patron and
Manu goes out to
sell paintings on canvas
Is that all?
Someone on the dole?
No money at all?
Also grow food.
I find it hard
the reeds in the wind
don’t pay or need it
don’t give us that –
everyone has to pay
in cash or visa
so they died anyway
God God remember
Him. Are you ready
No, no just looking
up something to buy,
everyone looking for a way to
His sound is clear enough
I don’t know what
structure he’s following
Like a free writing fable
of little cartoon squeaks
he’s on the edge of
Krsna Krsna silent rounds
have got to stop and
do them out loud?
said the teacher
give me time a japa reform
return the pay of
guru daksina – you.
promised him you’d do
you’re on the edge and
could fall off if
let’s hear it clear
and I’ll pay you.
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna,
Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare,
now do it for love
no other pay
return to view what
you never felt.
Oh, you’ll lie down on a
lily-bed of waves of
the Lord‘s pastimes
If only you could remember
Them, the rival Gaudiya
movement, the Prabhupada
we worship him exclusively …
we tell people he’s great…
I do that
but can’t even relish his
teaching as much as a
feather in an ark a
staunch, liar, an aparadhi, a
want to be my own man
lecture, field the fast
ground ball don’t turn.
your face away
I hurt my jaw I
broke your bones you
suffer when you grow
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.