It was the biggest snowfall in eight years. Anuradha from Oxford was impressed by the Americans’ community spirit in helping each other dig out. Devotees took part in shoveling the driveways and walks of old people and invalids. It is very good preaching. The neighbors love to see us work. They like that we are not insular but public-minded. Anuradha was also impressed with how efficient the big municipal plow trucks were, starting out in the middle of the night and continuing throughout the day as it snowed, unabated.
When Prabhupada came to Boston in the winter of 1969, his car passed by the snow-covered fields. He remarked, “This is Krsna’s picture.”
The winter wonderland is pretty, but it brings danger and hardships to those without proper shelter. We are fortunate that Saci-Suta (inspired by Krsna) has provided us with roofs over our heads and heat and light.
I’ve got my lecture ready, my bookbag, my sannyasa clothes are ironed … and the Vyasa-puja homage book has arrived. Here is a favorite by Jayadvaita Swami:
“Dear Satsvarupa Maharaja,
“Deep in the land of the heart, where real thoughts are carefully cherished, you live in Viraha Bhavan, a little white house down the road from the cornfields, a house where, upstairs, Radha and Krishna live, a few feet from your chair. There you hear about Them, chant for Them, write for Them, see Them, and disclose your mind to Them, and They encourage you, inspire you, pull you closer to Them.
“Srila Prabhupada is there, your lifelong guide, your master and friend, there with Radha and Krishna, helping you, guiding you, nourishing and strengthening and refining your devotional life, your thoughts, the words you write and say.
“After the years and decades when you served on active worldwide duty—temples! travels! men! meetings! programs! Library Party! GBC! zones! money! management!—it’s quiet there, a few close servants and friends with you, helping you in this time of your devotional career.
“Downstairs, Gaura-Nitai extend blessings — Vrindaban upstairs, Mayapur on the ground. And even at the kitchen table, at lunchtime, sounds from the spiritual world invoke the presence of Krishna, in His many forms, in His pastimes with His devotees, through the reading of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
“Outside the borders of this mostly unknown land, people live in a world of flags and fire trucks and Hudson Valley illusions. But here, your Krishna consciousness creates the world of Vrindaban, the world of Krishna, the true home for the soul.
“And for your fortunate readers, friends, and followers, your words dispel illusions and lead the way, following Srila Prabhupada, back to the land of eternal service to Krishna.
“Forever in your debt,
“Your servant and friend,
So many things went on, so many exchanges, that it is not possible to report them all. Jayadvaita Swami phoned me in the morning from Ujjain, India, and wished me a happy birthday. At the last minute, the VFW canceled our use of their venue. This put me in anxiety, but we managed to book a hall in the firehouse which was even better than the VFW. The attendance was good, 135 devotees. Rama Raya was present, and he led a soulful kirtana from 10:00-10:30 A.M. Then I gave my short talk on the importance of reading Srila Prabhupada’s and my books. Then they spoke homages. I read two from a book, by Jayadvaita Swami and Giriraja Swami. Ravindra Svarupa was present, and he spoke briefly. Sesa was present, and he spoke nicely. My Godbrother from Hartford, Pyari Mohan, also spoke nicely. Then most of the disciples spoke. Then they held a guru-puja. This was followed by a wild, prolonged dancing kirtana. I then presented my two new books, Prabhupada Meditations (the new two-volume editions) and POEMS, Volume 2.
I then introduced John Endler. I said whatever he would speak about publishing in 2020 and a fundraising campaign were actually my desires. He presented that to commemorate my 80th year. We would publish in early July and two books at Vyasa-puja 2020. To pay for the printing, we would hold a fundraiser. We would need $6000 by the end of February for the end-of-summer books and $6000 for the books that would come out on Vyasa-puja. John encouraged them to give whatever they could, even if it wasn’t a lot. They could send their checks made out to “GNP” to my address (P.O. Box 233, Stuyvesant Falls, New York 12174), or they could use PayPal.
This announcement was followed by the distribution of feast prasadam served with tables and chairs. The feast was donated by Nimai Ananda. People came up to me and had short conversations while I ate. In conclusion, it was a successful event, and everyone in our spiritual family seemed to enjoy it.
I told them, “By the Vedic calendar, my Vyasa-puja falls on Moksada Ekadasi in Vrindavan, which is the calendar we follow, and this year it falls on Sunday, December 8th. But for the convenience of travel I am holding it on December 7th. . . .
“My lecture is about reading Prabhupada’s books and my books. Prabhupada wrote that as a person has to eat grains, etc. in order to stay healthy, so his students have to read his books or they will fall down. My disciples have a responsibility to read my books. I don’t expect them to read all my books, but if they read some, I’ll die a happy man.”
I told them how a nondevotee swami criticized Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and called them “bookworms.” Prabhupada defended his prolific publishing and called the s0-called swami a “stool worm.”
I described myself as a guru. Many disciples have left me, but I still have a core of loving sisyas. I read a poem defining myself as a guru:
“‘A Castor Tree Guru’
“‘When there are no trees,
a castor tree is a big tree.
“‘I may be imperfect,’”
Prabhupada would say,
“‘but if I speak what Krsna says,
then that is also perfect.’”
And a prabhupadanuga
is in touch with the sakti.
“‘The tree in the courtyard is also small,
but sturdy, even in winter.
And in springtime it will bud green.
“‘Let me grow as I am able,
even if I am small.
And let me also shelter sisya birds.
I am his foot dust,
his boy, his saved, his son,
his typist, a bringer of a mango.
But I cannot rest on these credits.
Today also I am traveling
to his Mayapur.
“‘I pray to stay a small tree
since that is what I am,
and to deliver these sisyas given to me.
By chanting and hearing
and always living with the Vaisnavas,
by preaching and urging myself and them,
I’ll help keep these ISKCON places sound
until the end of my life.”
I quoted several Prabhupada letters urging his disciples to read his books again and again:
“In my books the philosophy of Krsna consciousness is explained fully. So if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily, the knowledge will be revealed to you, and by this process your spiritual life will develop . . . you will please me the most by reading my books and following the instructions therein.” (Letter to Bahurupa, November 22, 1974)
I told the devotees they should try to schedule a substantial amount of time for reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and my books. There is a saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Similarly, the spiritual family that reads together, stays together. We may be living in different geographical locations, far apart, but by reading we are packed up together.
He came straight from Vrindavan bearing gifts. He brought almost thirty outfits from various mukut-wallas. We have now enough to change Them into new dresses every third day. (He brought elaborate clothing for our large Gaura-Nitai. He gave high-quality incense, oils, calendars, a big memoir by Jadurani. He bought outfits for some of the poor, neglected temples in Vrindavan, such as Madana-mohan, Gokulananda, etc. He is going back to Vrindavan in February and planning prolonged stays. He regards the dhama as his home. I gave him a big hug and thanks for his gifts to our Deities.
After the Vyasa-puja ceremony, a group of devotees will get together and read all the verses of Bhagavad-gita in honor of Gita Jayanti, the day the Gita was spoken. (After that, they’ll go downtown in Hudson, where big crowds gather for the Winter Walk, and they’ll perform harinama.)
I first read Bhagavad-gita in paperback by an Indian swami and the British poet Christopher Isherwood. I couldn’t understand it. When I joined Swamiji in 1966, I heard him constantly lecturing on the Gita, although his book wasn’t published. Swamiji clearly emphasized that the book was spoken by Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that the conclusion was, “Just abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bg. 18.66)
Now we knew that the Gita was not a speculative treatise open to interpretation but a book that taught bhakti (devotional service) and was the highest perfection. In the Second Chapter Krsna taught that the soul (atma) never dies but transmigrates at death to another body. In the Eighth Chapter the Lord says that one who thinks of Him at the time of death comes to live with Him in the eternal spiritual world.
Around 1968 Macmillan Company published an abridged copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. With this book and his lectures, the first disciples were convinced of the clear message of the Gita and became able to speak about it to others. A few years later, Macmillan came out with the unabridged edition, and Prabhupada was satisfied that his book was properly published. We continue to read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and receive new lights. It dismantles all non-Krsna interpretations on the book and focuses on pure devotional service and going back to Godhead. All glories to Gita Jayanti, the day the Gita was spoken by Krsna to Arjuna!
Several devotees, in speaking their homages, referred to the BTG article I wrote called, “Turning 40.” They said how quickly 40 years have gone by, and now I am turning 80. What does it feel like for me? When I was 40, 50, 60, and through part of my 70s, I remained on the front line of mainstream ISKCON, lecturing and traveling to places where my disciples lived. But now for almost ten years, I have settled down to living in a little white house that Saci-Suta has allowed me to stay in for the remainder of my life. In the last four years I have become crippled, and I am immobile. I move by pushing a four-wheeled walker. I use a chair lift to go up and down the stairs for lunch. But despite this limitation, I have a youthful spirit; I am content and happy. I am absorbed in my services of writing (a weekly journal and books) and daily reading in Prabhupada’s books. Aside from my immobility, I don’t have any severe health issues except for shortness of breath (COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Prabhupada had said, “We should keep death in our front,” but I do not have this keen awareness yet. It would be better if I were more aware that I could die at any moment. In general, I have a sense that I have limited time, and that I may have to leave this body shortly. But because of my decent health and busy attention with my service, I don’t dwell on death. I live in Krsna consciousness. Turning 80 is a big milestone, but I don’t feel it so much. Many people nowadays live to older age.
Prabhupada had multiple health limitations in his old age. He was transcendental to them all, but he was diagnosed with having rheumatism, diabetes, liver trouble, etc. He just tolerated it all and went on with active preaching and management and travel. In his last days, when he was beset with physical maladies, he said to one of his sannyasa disciples, “Don’t think this won’t happen to you.” Prabhupada probably cut his life short by refusing to stop his worldwide jet travel and his intense involvement in the management of his worldwide ISKCON, with over 100 centers and thousands of disciples. He didn’t rest in his last years but kept on fighting and compared himself to a ksatriya on the battlefield. By contrast, I am living like a ksetra-sannyasa, one who stays in one place and does not travel. Gadadhara was a ksetra-sannyasa and vowed to stay in Jagannatha Puri, the holy place, without leaving. Lord Caitanya approved of Gadadhara’s ksetra-sannyasa and was angry with him when he broke his vow and followed Lord Caitanya out of Jagannatha Puri. Caitanya Mahaprabhu chastised him and sent him back to Puri.
As a ksetra-sannyasa, I don’t simply relax. I have an intense schedule of sadhana and bhajana. I rise at 2:00 A.M., chant my japa and then work on my weekly Journal. I read manuscripts that I am producing for publication, and I read Prabhupada’s books. At Viraha Bhavan we have an out-loud reading program with all our inmates, and we hear from one of Prabhupada’s books two and a half hours a day. I receive regular visitors and have meetings with them. I also observe Vaisnava festivals with the local devotees. I spend many hours a day beholding the darsana of my ishta-devata, Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda. They change into new outfits every three days, and this is very enlivening for me, to see Them in Their varieties of clothes.
“Bang, it’s Diwali, candles on railings
of stone, I notice them all right as I
came out of the old GBC room wearing two
garlands, not a GBC member but
Mayapur mercy in later years. I’m
teaching disciples ‘Krsna is God’
spending time with them in the same room
where I was silent and gagged
and finally gave up in pain and
was carried out: and
was carried out: resigned.
“BANG. It could be a bad night,
no sleep, just loud explosions and louder explosions.
until 1:00 or 2:00 A.M.? We’ll see, the world
is rumbly out in darkness plains of
Mayapur, and candles burn down. I’m here.
“Tell them Krsna is God and yet a cow-
herd boy. Do you know what you
are talking about? Is it aisvarya, is
it madhurya? Is it Prabhupada? I speak
what I think he’s teaching in his books.
And they listen, they listen and question,
driving me to be sincere. ‘If Mayapur
doesn’t accept offenses, then where
do the offenses go?’ I don’t know.
I don’t know. ‘What does it mean that
Mayapur is Prabhupada’s place of worship?
I shoot from the hip. I can’t hear them
because of electric fans. Give me a break.
“Bang. Bang. Lie down and hear the
rockets exploding in people and music
extending for miles. I’m safe but blasted
by the vibration I hate. Give me
peace I plead, but Krsna wants me
to serve these devotees in noisy places
like Prabhupada did in New York.
Women, lads, give out sweets, stumble,
out the door of the old GBC room in
two garlands of campaka and up here,
Lord, Lord, I’ll see You when I
qualify. Please forgive me, please
give me strength to go on talking that
I’m faithful and Krsna is God and made these
devotees take it. Okay, right, go try with
lights out to absorb the night
of explosions with earplugs.”
“Walking together, two ISKCON gurus wearing garlands. ‘I have to go back now, I’m feeling tired and (he mumbles and points to his right eye) . . . some pressure is starting.’ The other doesn’t grasp what the headache is but accommodates his friend. ‘Then go back early. Take care of yourself.’ They part, and one gets into the car and is relieved to be out of the pressure participation—where you keep making prostrated obeisances on stone floors and don’t know what the heck it’s all about.
“‘Wait a minute, this is your religion.’
“‘Yeah, well, sorry, but I cannot feel it.’ Dandavats is not a Bengali custom, it’s a universal principle. You are to bow down. Krsna is not a Hindu God. He says man-mana bhava mad bhakto, mad-yaji mam namaskaru. Bow down, mister. Sing if you like in Boy George style. But do it. Bow down, monsieur, amici, lad,
bow down, unhinge the
knee joints, stretch out the whole body of bones
on stone floor and then
why lie there so blankminded?
Why not pray, ‘Help!’?
Pray God, give me
Pray, You are truth, You know all.
You are Nature and sky and relief
and writing ability, and Your nature
produces flies and mosquitoes and
this dwindling body I have contacted due to maya.
Devahuti said, ‘You put me here (in illusion)
and only You can get me out.
“Pray on stone floors, at least this split-second. Dear mind, don’t move forward too quickly looking forward to end as if you detested it, like an hour of physical education or algebra at Tottenville High School. Don’t desire simply, ‘When can I go back to my room alone?’ You don’t enjoy attention and honor. Serve, give, be there for them.”
“Go look at a sketch of Bhaktivinode.
It will be nice to read his meditation
on harinama or read ‘Kabe ha’be bolo.’
Yes, please elect me mayor of
hermitage and let me go. Let
that be your gift to me, your
garland and sandalwood paste,
an earnest request, ‘Dear Guruji,
Please accept our request that
“you go alone for at least four weeks and do your reading and chanting. Please go. We will be all right. When you come back, we’ll know you went alone for our benefit also. Yes, because you come back to us again and new and better books and realizations and advice how to pray. Please guruji, go away. Happy hunting. May no one disturb you, not even in your mind.’”
“Sing, perform, your Prabhupada is
singing Govinda Jaya
and recorded so we
can hear many years later
the ecstatic sound. When
electric power cuts off you
hear birds whistle and
feel the Vaikuntha breezes.
Hari, please attract me
to Your Names.
Krsna, please pull my mind to You.”
“Just meandered off again after half-hour of writing
when I could have pushed further.
Doubt you’ll ask anyone—even
yourself, how to get Mayapur’s
mercy. Maybe ask someone
easy to approach like that
widow who attends your class
or maybe the twin brothers
the one you know a little bit.
Even by a written note.
Like this, ‘Could you tell me
something I could do or proper
attitude to get Mayapura’s mercy
in my remaining week, even
though I can’t go out on parikrama?’
Any help will be appreciated.”
“Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna Krsna, Radha Radha Radha Radha.
Be grateful that you are alive to serve the Lord and your spiritual master. I am grateful.
Pineapples, interruptions to writing, galloping ink pen.
‘Can we both come through (your room and writing practice) to use the bathroom?’
Yes, yes, you can stand on my head to render service to Krsna. I am meant to serve.
Interrupted at every moment. The flow can’t come. The Y. can flow.
So, we are happy to offer tribute today to the Sankirtana Movement. You will do this and that but the important thing is substantial Krsna consciousness.
“Look, these tunes don’t make sense. You should discipline yourself and write neatly. You should discipline yourself and write neatly. You should write a purport,
you should, should
would have, had been, would
you really ought
Don’t you misbehave now.
I want to see you.
Hereby order you—
to put mustard on the
Stand at attention.
Do drill march with rifle.
Sit in half-lotus,
listen to ten lectures
go out and preach
Tell people about Krsna,
please Lord Caitanya,
give them food for life,
a shot in the arm,
heart-to-heart talk informing them that karma is
acting and transmigration.
Oh, you better do it,
You better preach up a storm
and show your children
a good example.”
“When the fan whirs, you can’t even hear the surf or the slokas, what
to speak of remembering the pastimes of Radha and Krsna.
Tell me, ‘Do you think it’s right that you stopped chanting Radha-krpa-kataksa?’ Why?
Don’t you have a morning program in this hotel, what to speak of the original energy of
the living entity?
The moon is swelling
and I wish I could say
my devotion is too.
The fishermen are netting
silver fish. To eat. To eat
to live, to breathe. You say, ‘It’s a shame.
Poor fish,’ and you smash a mosquito. You breathe
in germs, what to speak of ants and machines.
“This book isn’t holy, you can put it on the
floor. You can put your feet
on this book
because I wrote it.
This book was done by me
I do forget,
I do forget,
smartavyah satatam visnor
(forget that second line)
vismartavyo na jatucit
Like that. Even a moment without Visnu
is hell and death.
If you remember the Lord
“I mean to talk straight
but my face keeps falling off.
I mean to be solemn
but I frown into a smile.
I mean to be broke
but I’ve got 3000
in a stash
and a picture of a man,
a passport face in a laughable
I fear Thee
I am used by Thee
I still in maya
materially-framed face and
bust photo in a sweatshirt—
sure looked like a Hare Krsna
to me, with skin faded in
Vaisnava tilaka on the forehead.
“He’s an ink-stainer,
a finger-ink blotter,
he’s a book reader,
sitting on laurels.
Hey you, I want to see some
deep reading action. Sorry,
he says. I can do no more.
Just a little at a time,
it’s hot in India and
I’m past my prime.
Just a little at a time.
You don’t want me to get
a headache, do you?”
“Where is your God?
My God is everywhere,
in the air, in the pillar
under the fan
in the Whir-Whir session
in the perfect book,
and His smiling face
is seen in Chapters
Twenty-nine to Thirty-four,
and His flute is Twenty-one.
My God is yours but
you know Him only as
Rage of Almighty,
God at death,
I know Him
only as I’ve heard
from my spiritual master—
as Krsna the Supreme
who plays with His dearest
But I can’t tell you because
“Let me be who I am and be a devotee. That’s all right.
Let me be well again, as I was when I was twelve. That’s all right.
Let me be immortal like Hiranyakasipu? No, I don’t mean that. That’s all right.
Let me write for liberation in devotional service. Now you’re talking.
Let me speak something acceptable, as when Ramananda Raya quoted, ‘I have prayasa’
and Lord Caitanya said, ‘That’s all right, but can you speak something more?’
Let me filter out the words and just keep the Krsna conscious ones.
In Krishna-Balaram Mandir, I will walk among the dead and living too. (Why do
You frown? Why not say, ‘That’s all right?’, or ‘Can you say something better?’ I need to hear
from You. I can’t just talk to myself.)
“In Krishna-Balaram Mandir,
in a taxi to Bhubanesvara,
may we live.
spare me over,
“A sannyasi Godbrother who’s in his sixties told me his travel program for next year which included Malaysia. He said, smiling, ‘I go there every year.’ Well, me too. I’ve got ‘every year’ ideas. Every year in Europe in the van. Every year more writing and japa retreats. Coming
to India every year. Nothing seems to go wrong—no planes crash when my friends are on them . . . .”
“Serious session of writing blocks chased.
“I want to be better. But I can’t make up my mind. He says one thing, I think another and my advisor can suggest a third. I can’t figure out what to do in this ISKCON institution.
“Someone thought some persons in ISKCON were imagining their siddha-deha and
“I want to deal with my own changes, but I’m also forced to react to other people’s trips.
“They put you into the crossfire.
“The speaker is God, the speaker is gone, the Hindi broadcast. Give us instead sun and heat and quiet and the constant lady sadhu with her sad bhajana: govinda-radhe, govinda radhe.
“He said there’s a bacterium in Vrindavan with my name on it, and it’s just a matter of time before it catches up to me.
“Music is music. There is some similarity between a lady blues singer’s bending of a note
and the sincere cry of the lady bhajana singer.
radhe govinda, govinda
(Over and over, a hundred times.)
give us sumpin’
“Give us radhe govinda, govinda radhe! This is the season called Purusottama-masa. It has the benefit of Karttika, but it is like Mayapur in its leniency. ‘So,’ he asked me, ‘What vrata are you doing?’
“None,’ I said, ‘none at all.’ I vow to try to live and fill my belly, but not too full. I vow to rest, but not too much. I vow to try not to kill any more ants.
“He said, ‘How is your japa?’ and he spoke about how he reads Vilapa-kusumanjali during japa.
“I laughed about mine. I didn’t want to say—the truth is, I try no such meditation. I don’t try anything at all. I am happy when I at least get them done and chant some of them by candlelight. I have no plan or even desire to introduce rasika pastimes into my japa. I didn’t want to tell you.
“I vow to live and die in this Movement.”
“Take me to Govardhana. I agree with the slide and bend of the lady bhajana singer’s musical note. Now I grasp how she does it. But is my understanding material? Is her singing spiritual?” She is out there somewhere, floating on a hot air wave. Someone is beating on a drum, and the parrots are oblivious.”
“I warned you and warned him not to eat too much. You get in trouble in this heat.
“Let it just come out like this. Such a big manuscript he wanted me to read, but I’ll do a little at a time.
“Why do you tell this stuff off the top of a conversation? Lord Caitanya liked Kasi Misra’s house because it was quiet and solitary. When Paramananda Puri joined Him there, the Lord gave him a solitary room in that house and told the servant to supply him with water and other necessities. When Svarupa Damodara joined, the Lord also gave him a solitary place. Svarupa Damodara stayed alone and didn’t engage in conversation with anyone.
“O Lord, trash cans are not Your internal energy. Srila Prabhupada said if we entered the privy, we have entered the house, but it is not quite the same as having entered the Deity room, or even the sitting room. There are different levels of realization.
“Govinda radhe, radhe.”
“I have no place, no home, nowhere. He asked me where I am most at home outside Vrindavan. What I said got lost in the flow of conversation. I thought of our van. Home on the range. Home for four weeks in a rented or loaned cottage—give me that.
Get along, little jigger
It’s your misfortune
and none of my own.”