At the holiday season there are more suicides. People who have no homes, family or money are shut out from the materialistic hype of Christmas tree, eggnog with rum, etc. They become depressed outsiders rather than turn to the “Vyasa-puja” of Jesus Christ. This year there is a surprising lack of Christmas music in the stores, and the unwilling shoppers and employees are grumpy.
The devotees are different. They get together and make loving exchanges. Rather than get drunk, they hold congregational kirtana. Chanting Hare Krsna mantra, they feel blissful, not just on the national holidays but every day of the year. Harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam. Chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name. In this age of Kali there is no alternative for attaining sac-cid-ananda, God consciousness.
I struggled to get there, across the street. I sat in my walker as several men pushed me across the bumps and ice. I had to walk up a small staircase, and Saci-Suta held onto my hands, coaching me and admonishing me to stand up straight. Inside, we sat for a while and chatted. There were approximately two groups, the vanaprasthas and the younger couples, and they kept apart. Saci’s daughter Subhadra (age 21) came and sat close beside me on the couch. I told her she had ignored me at the Thanksgiving gathering. She said she was sorry and she wouldn’t ignore me tonight. She went beyond her teenage “distance” and was friendly and affectionate to me. We opened the presents under the Christmas tree. The Reddys gave me an “extra-plush” green blanket. Many received winter socks. They served a vegan dinner, which was not much to my liking except for Baladeva’s spinach preparation and a slice of Keli’s apple pie. It was getting late so we left, although we missed a kirtana they held later in the evening. I slept in my new blanket and liked it very much.
As we exchanged gifts at Saci-Suta’s on Christmas Eve, so we did with a smaller group of inmates at Viraha Bhavan on Christmas Day. From Bala and Krsna dasi I received a wonderful device from India that plays one thousand hours of lectures and conversations by Srila Prabhupada in good amplification. I am still learning how to use it. I also received a pair of New Balance sneakers in my favorite saffron color. We gave to Krsna dasi and Bala a new laptop computer to replace their eleven year old one, which is starting to break down. We also gave Krsna dasi a pair of Hunter boots, which is a high-end product from England. We gave Amit the seven-volume set of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta published by the BBT in Mumbai. We hope the books will bring him closer to Prabhupada and Krsna and end his eclectic wanderings. Baladeva and Bala received T-shirts with the printing “Vrindavan is calling.” Baladeva knew I had mixed feelings about this. I don’t want him going to India; I need him to stay at Viraha Bhavan and assist me. He put on the tee shirt but pacified me, saying, “Here is Vrndavan.” We also received a box of chocolates and deleted many of them. Then Haryasva phoned us from Philadelphia. We turned on the speakerphone so that everyone (seven of us) could hear, and Haryasva crooned to us two Christmas songs, much to our delight. It was a very merry Christmas.
I used my best Christmas gift—the complete audio collection of Srila Prabhupada—and heard a first lecture. I selected January 1, 1974 in Los Angeles, the time when I began being Prabhupada’s servant. The device is set up so that if I stop in the middle of a lecture, when I turn it on again it will play where I left off. And when I complete the January 1st lecture, the lecture for January 2nd 1974 begins. I don’t remember Prabhupada’s talks (from over40 years ago), but I sense the ambience of the place and I hope to recall it, as we traveled widely in 1974.
The January 1st lecture was from the Bhagavatam 1.16.4, describing Maharaja Pariksit going on tour and capturing a lowborn man dressed as a king beating a cow and bull. Pariksit Maharaja arrested him and prepared to punish him, drawing his sword. Prabhupada speaks on varnasrama dharma and how the king was responsible to see that everyone was acting out his prescribed duty. He points out how nowadays, in the absence of powerful world leaders, the population is acting whimsically in all duties and indulging in all kinds of sin, and the world is in chaos.
I intend to listen to a lecture a day and follow Prabhupada as he traveled to Hawaii, Vrindavan, Bombay, and finally accepted an invitation to visit many South European countries. I will try to remember how I fared as his servant through the months.
I chant silently in the mind, lest I provoke a headache by uttering the holy names out loud. I pay attention to the mantras silently. I practice “Just hear” or think of the pastimes of Radha-Krsna. This keeps me attentive to the maha-mantra in a rigid way. If my mind wanders, I bring it back to the simple utterance of “Just hear”—Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare.
Chanting silently is like offering the unripened mango. It is just a matter of the unripe mango turning into a delicious fruit. It is better to do dry chanting than no chanting at all. Be perseverant and chant, and eventually the nectar will appear.
“One should chant the holy name in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street. One should be as tolerant as the tree and offer all respects to others without expecting any respect for himself. In such a state of mind, one can chant the holy names of the Lord constantly.” (Siksastakam, Verse 3)
Any chanting is effective, and the Lord reciprocates, even with the “negative” chant. How much more will He exchange with a sincere attempt. “Hare Krsna comes straight from Krsnaloka, but with chanting I have no connection. Day and night I am seeking to find the connection.”
He’s been with me 40 years. I felt a need for Him, and a devotee presented me with Laksmi-Narasimha. He’s hundreds of years old, and His body is strongly built. His features are fine except for His toe, which is worn down by so many worshipers touching Him. In the Delhi Airport the customs official insisted I open Narasimha’s box. When he saw Him, he recognized Him and paid his respects. At Viraha Bhavan, I kept Him on the downstairs altar; I had Hanuman upstairs as my protector on the intimate altar near Radha-Govinda, Gauranga and Srila Prabhupada. I think I had Hanuman there for protection from bad dreams and severe migraines. But then I desired to have the “big gun” with me upstairs and closer to me. I put Hanuman on the downstairs altar. We don’t dress Narasimha in clothes but place a few ornaments on His body and the shining Sudarsana cakra in His right hand. He is peaceful with Laksmi on His lap, but is ready to spring into action to protect His devotees.
Lord Caitanya gave personal instructions to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. First He told him not to hear gramya-katha (village talk, rumors, gossip, envious remarks).
Second, He told him not to repeat prajalpa to others. (Bhakti-Vijnana Goswami says that if we indulge in these things, they will disturb our concentration in bhajana. He says if we are exposed to prajalpa, we should not take it seriously; we should ‘let it go in one ear and out the other.’ He advises devotees to stay away from the Internet, which is filled with defamation, lies and slander.)
Mahaprabhu also told Raghunatha not to be proud. He should be humble and offer respect to others. Mahaprabhu offered only a few profound instructions to Raghunatha. He told Raghunatha that he should learn from Svarupa, who was Raghunatha’s direct instructor and from whom he learned the mood and identity of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Raghunatha inquired directly from Svarupa, who was present each night with Mahaprabhu, singing songs to augment the Lord’s ecstasies. Svarupa Damodara kept a confidential diary revealing the secret meaning of Lord Caitanya, and Raghunatha dasa Goswami studied that.
This book was compiled by taking many small handwritten diaries that I kept over the years in the 1970s.
“I’m coming to Hawaii to see my disciples. It is necessary. A devotee is able to travel to Hawaii by Krsna’s arrangement, whereas the nondevotees work hard and go once in a lifetime. I am not going for a holiday but to strengthen personal relationships with disciples. Preaching to disciples, ‘Be faithful, be attached;’ to bhaktas, ‘Stay in Krsna consciousness and realize it, progress, live, don’t leave;’ and to older devotees, ‘Reform bad ways; preach by books, by prasadam, by money-raising, child-raising, by example—be ideal. We are drinking nectar and at the same time taking away the poison from humanity.
You have to withstand maya on your own, my disciples, but I have come to see you and strengthen you in your own conviction.’ Inspire them to be true. Don’t cheat. Don’t take it cheaply.
“These disciples have barely been serving the required time. That is weighing on me somewhat. Being a spiritual master is described as difficult business. As the book distributor/preacher is praised for his willingness to endure all trouble for spreading Krsna consciousness, the spiritual master is praised for taking disciples who may even cause him trouble. It is not as immediately felt, but with every disciple, it is a further burden. It is not simply counting numbers of followers and thinking, ‘Now I am greater and greater.’ No. Is it a matter only of suffering reactions in the form of disease and bad dreams? No. I should become more grave to know that so many souls are dependent on me. I should feel it. I should be enough of a devotee that I also feel the happiness we speak of that is coming to them. I should not merely feel happy that ‘Now more followers, more worship, more business.’ No, but like the book distributor, more souls in contact with Krsna. In my case they are not merely, buying a book, but they are being linked with Krsna. It is my happiness as a genuine member of the sampradaya—specifically the disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami —to see more devotees coming forward even after his disappearance. This is my happiness. Glad I can fulfill the post or role of via medium to help them. I have to convey that, not simply that I should give them the heavy sense of obligation.
“As for the haunting worry that they may leave, that is the chance we (both they and I) take. As in any endeavor, soldiers fall, but if one takes great care, he can protect himself from falling. He can avoid being a casualty.
“Preach to them that I am happy they are being picked out of the material ocean. Now they have to begin it in earnest, but their getting out is guaranteed if they follow. I have to be there. I have to be convinced, I have to know Krsna, I have to represent Prabhupada. He didn’t care for himself; he was working for Krsna and supremely confident of His grace.
“Therefore, I must write here in all humility how small I am, and in a manner which has nothing to do with material joy or lamentation—I have to humbly act to bring them back to Godhead. It is a little soon for them, but we are doing it, and there is precedent. The key note is mercy. It is mercy in any case.
“Even after one has been a devotee for a year, it is not that he has earned so much. It is a safeguard for the guru, but it is still sheer mercy that the disciple is delivered. For me, I am happy on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. It is not to my account. They should be happy that such mercy is being given to them, although it is not a matter of their deserving it. They should be grateful. They are only young boys and girls, but they have been attracted, and at least they are showing sense control and following with faith and belief enough so that they are being recognized. Mostly it is indiscriminate mercy and they are receiving it. Be honorable, be worthy. Worthy to me and Krsna. Be blessed and remain in disciplic succession. I can only pray for them and try to guide them as Krsna’s trustee, ‘Please take this mercy and be good and worthy. It is the most wonderful thing.’
“So I wish I were worthy to hand it to them, to bless them with his mercy in such a way that they feel tangible blessing coming directly from me. That is happening, but it is not by a wizard show on my part or the manifestation of my own complete beatitude and obvious state of blissful blessedness. I pray to be true. Profound blessing coming to fallen souls. Acting earnest roles on behalf of the Supreme. All I can think of is merging into the consciousness of reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, chanting, falling to the ground and praying for mercy and realization—avoidance of all material desire which clouds my vision as guru—and taking courage to speak the truth as given mercifully to me by the most perfect spiritual master.”
This book was published in 2007, after I had completed the long series Every Day, Just Write. I was living in California on Aghari’s land with a few of my disciples. I was ill, mostly with migraines, and the intimate team wanted me to rest and not passionately write books. I wasn’t a good patient.
“They invited me to a committee meeting. They said it was ‘about you and some basic attitudes and schedules.’ The last topic on the agenda was ‘vacation.’
“This was the third and final topic. It sounded like a good one. It turned out that it mostly meant that everyone in the room is contemplating a vacation except me. Ollie is going to India. He said it ‘was nothing personal with me,’ a line he quoted as coming from The Godfather, the mafia guys. They execute a job and say, ‘Nothing personal.’ But he said he meant it’s nothing personal but it’s meant to improve his relation with me.
“We had a conception that a vacation is a bad thing, but it is fun to take a vacation. They invited me to take one too, but I couldn’t think of where to go.
“I said I would like to go to Suta’s.
“Ollie claimed I once said, ‘Vacation for me is writing.’
“I am too weak to go anywhere. I need the care program. I can’t even go to San Francisco. The travel is too far.
“The community acknowledged Govinda’s contribution to the team, and he graciously honored the opportunity. He’s going to Italy soon to get married to Magdalena and should return in March.
“So both Ollie and Hari are going to India. Nanda is leaving tomorrow for a long stretch in Washington. Rasa dasa, a disciple from Britain, is coming to fill in for a while to do the cooking while Hari is gone.
“I entered the meeting by saying how I would like some improvement in the supper menu, replacing Indian items with things I actually like to take that are nutritious. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
“As I went to sleep last night, I felt hurt by some of the body language and loud voices raised by Nara and others and the cool, aloof attitude of Ollie, and even the last-minute, almost giddy expression by Nanda, who said, ‘I think you are a paramahamsa.’ Things don’t seem exactly the same. I guess the surgical operation had to be done. And if I’m a good boy and retire from work, give others their space, show respect for their work and so on, we can probably sustain and bit by bit ‘eat an elephant.’”
“. . . I am waiting for my invitation to one of the nine presidential inaugural balls. It had better come soon because it’s only four days away, on January 8, President’s Day, corresponding with the disappearance of Mahesa Pandita and Uddharana Datta Thakur. A woman who interviewed the director of the ball said, ‘Why not just have one ball for the military men and send all the other money overseas for the military effort?’ The ball director replied, ‘No, there are many worthy people serving in this country who also deserve the award and recognition, such as the firemen, policemen, postmen, disposal workers, entertainers, educational people, teachers of all variety, artists, friends of the President, and so on.’
“No, there’s no way I’ll be invited. And even if I were, it’s too late for me to get ready. I don’t even have a blazer jacket, what to speak of a full suit, and if they require tuxedos, I’d have to rent one, and we’re short on money for the whole affair, travel to Washington, etc. And what would I do there in my anti-Bush, anti-Republican Party attitude, unable-to-dance wallflower. I could keep a little notebook of joy for my own ecstasies, but that would look foolish and even subversive, scribbling down notes while the bands played on. Some security official would probably approach me and escort me out. You’re supposed to drink champagne, dance with the ladies, and have some credentials.
“Speaking of presidential balls, there’s a poem from Cold Mountain, in ancient Chinese, by Han Shan:
“The wife of Lord Tsou of Ti-yen,
the mother of the scholar Tu of Han-tan,
both of them well along in years,
both of them women with pleasant faces,
yesterday happy to go to a party,
but, their clothes being shabby,
they were shown to the rear.
Only because their hems were frayed,
they got nothing to eat but some leftover
— Han Shan, Cold Mountain, Poem #15
(translated by Burton Watson, Shambala Books)
Ah, but at least I have my poems, my novels, so there’s no need to hanker for Presidential galas. I will be well known soon by all my books. What does Han-Shan say about that?
“Here we languish, a bunch of poor
battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry;
scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
and the homeless dogs will deign to
—Poem #10 from Cold Mountain
“. . . They tell me that I’m in retirement and to spell it with all capitals, ‘RETIREMENT.’ And I should not push others to work. ‘Books will come out eventually,’ they say, ‘but don’t crack the whip.’ They say, ‘We are not as good devotees as you were all your life. Don’t expect us to respond to your sharp command. And show more kindness for what we have done, to what we are doing. There are so few of us. If you don’t want to drive us away, then be easy with us, commiserate, empathize.’ I had heard this fault of mine uttered before, again and again. When will I learn? I bark commands. ‘I want this done tonight.’ That’s how Prabhupada taught. But I think I got the message now. I’m no Prabhupada. And they want to worship Prabhupada, since I’ve already shown so many flaws.”
These are excerpts from spontaneous practice done in Vrindavan in 1993
September 27, 1993
“I am inclined to seclusion, reading, writing—not meeting the non-devotees. Shy away from the front-line, aggressive preaching. Okay. But contribute my nature to this preaching movement. Help devotees who are preaching. I fit in perfectly, my contribution is welcome to this burgeoning and sometimes unruly and superficial movement. I can benefit the movement, and the movement benefits me, assuring that I don’t become a babaji, one who practices only for himself.
“I may stay alone a lot, but I’m still a gosthyanandi, preaching to many. So I desire.
the words tumble out.
Not now in mourning.
I’m not an eccentric, odd man
coming from his bed to
be spilling on page
out of uncontrolled senses
But the world
and the sastras
do dictate . . .
Not now, Prabhu,
keep writing from the feeling and coherent stage.
“The riddles of dreams. Their suggestive, puzzling motives. You dream of Gita-nagari or of yourself as a tiny, good ghost. What does it mean? You dream you are separated from the association of devotees. What predictions or warnings in these night messages, as dreams, vagaries, as subtle realities of lived lives?
“Rhetoric forced sometimes. Push the dead car. Push with words. Help thyself. And only later look at it and say, ‘This is good for readers.’ Or my editor can do that.
“Write to save yourself.
Get through a day.
“Often in his writing Srila Prabhupada is arguing against nondevotee ideas. He is presenting Krsna consciousness to people to convince them. Devotees read his books, and their material notions are vanquished, plus they are given the example (and ammunition) for preaching to the nondevotee mentality.
“I don’t write exactly like Srila Prabhupada. I don’t think I have to. Follow, don’t imitate. I write sincerely, and I’m compelled to write in Krsna consciousness. In this way, I’m following Srila Prabhupada’s example. The things I do—more autobiographical, confessional, etc., aren’t wrong just because he didn’t write like this. It seems appropriate for me as a Westerner to come clean and keep revealing the nonsense I confront in my mind and in life. I’m serving Srila Prabhupada, not imitating him. He liked the way his scientist-devotees spoke. My writing is also like that—a cultural weapon. But it’s not primarily scholarly
(academic), but artistic. It’s not even that as much as truth-seeking. It doesn’t come off as claiming, ‘This is better than Srila Prabhupada.’ It’s honest, it’s trying to serve. It’s dovetailing. It’s a broken offering by a broken-voiced, rough-at-the-edges ex-mlecca.
“I am here in this special place, Vrindavan, telling the story of my life.
“The words come out. I look out the screened window. You are screened in yourself. The rare birds with down-swept beaks. The young monkey seems to be having a grand time climbing around the branches of the leafy trees, helping parrots fly and expand their chests in midair. A pigeon seems to be sick or old, and sits for hours on the ledge outside my porch. It seems that healthy creatures are fully expanding themselves according to their tiny individual capacities, under Krsna’s direction.
“Peacocks meow at dusk
and the Nitai-Gaura bhajana band
kicks off with fiddle and mrdanga.
I’m here to catch the sounds and
breeze . . . and messages of Vrindavan
“Cow moans, moos . . .
I’m getting mystical.
Cow grunts. Be careful you don’t start picking
omens out of the air and talking yourself
into meetings with past acaryas
“‘One day I prayed to Prabhupada to
tell me what to do, and the next day
I read the answer in his book.’
Don’t make fun of this stuff.
Vrindavan is special.
“Where else, as night gathers
do you hear a fiddler
squeaking Nitai-Gaura! Radhe-Syama!,
and when there’s a fight
between laborers and boss, where else do the laborers
walk off the job in a huff
and go to sit in the rama-katha lecture?
Where else would I decide to
worship the crudely-made Prabhupada murti
I obtained here? But I ask you to be balanced.
or sentimental ‘mysticism’
or feeling you are better than others
for your piety and dedication.
“There’s no sense in antic paling,
what to speak of trying to control.
The fiddle squeaks.
I’ll take rest at 8.
The moon is growing up to the point
where we’ll begin a milk-fast.
If you make fun of ‘Nitai-Gaura
Radhe-Syama’, then what are you
doing that’s better? You tell your friends and followers
“(Who should claim followers?)
‘Be patient. More revelations are
just now coming.’
So, if they chant a wrong mantra,
where is your right one?
“Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
“Do free writing. Keep at it a little longer. Write your
way through the period.
Want to be a good man?
Poems hip up around the
moon, psychic stuffings,
what’s it called? Nonsense
stuff like unraveling. I forget they were listening.
In this house you can’t have a private conversation.
Why doesn’t everyone learn English?
The words you say because you can’t speak truth.
I don’t want a woman, but it seems I
don’t want to put all that love to God.
Whaddaya want? More freedom to say it.
When you talk of madhurya
you mean you’ve got material sex on your mind?
But I ain’t a railroad crossing. I can cross over.
No one knew but me and you.
You mean ‘it would be nice’
to enjoy unalloyed service as Radha’s maidservant,
but you can’t do it. Lack lobha?
Yessir, that’s what I meant.
“Well don’t feel bad, you’re not alone.
But then how can we claim to be gurus?
Gurus don’t have to be perfect?
Yes. You mean no?
Yeah, I mean he’s ratty, but not kunja.”
“Srila Prabhupada lecture playing in this house.
The other thing is this writing itself.
Gather in what’s happening.
Mainly you want to take care of yourself, that child within,
you want to assure him and protect him.
But shouldn’t you be immersed in krsna-katha?
Is that the real problem of writing?
Is that the real platform of writing?
Only liberated persons used to write.
A non-liberated person’s book would not be accepted.
Loud talking outside. Hard chair to sit on.
“Restless. Want to rest. You already did some chores—prepared for evening class, picked out excerpts to read at disciples’ meeting.
“Krsna and the gopis. At present, I can’t even desire the spiritual world. It’s inconceivable. Gradually it will appear.
“This year I’ve admitted I don’t have much desire
to improve chanting. But I do want to improve hearing.
“You don’t have fire or lobha or much interest or energy or love.
Stamina, compassion, ability to go and not get a headache. You could retire, just consider it.
“Enter your cabin at Saranagati and never come out, bas. No, it’s not possible because I can’t live in Canada.
“In Ireland, in Italy, the answer is keep moving, stay current and valid in ISKCON.
“You pay dues easy and pleasant
or not hard to bear, to sit
a half hour for the Srimad-Bhagavatam class.
Then out you go . . .
purpose of writing is to amass and confess
and let loose in hopes
you will by nature praise guru and Krsna and lose yourself.”
“You’ve written and talked about your writing, poor saint. Said I can’t go up next door for bhajana because it’s past my bedtime. Up at 1:00 A.M., you know.
“Before I gave class I thought (and wanted to thank the devotees there): ‘I’m doing this for my purification. By speaking these things about audarya-dhama and madhurya-dhama, I’m being benefited. It’s a form of concentration for me that’s barely matched in my day—and it’s preaching.’ I began in a good state of mind, knowing I was probably getting more out of that class than everyone else. In a sense, I also need it as much as any of them.
“Because when I’m not forced by the one-hour timed session of the lecture, I tend to go slack. Or at least relaxed, like this writing session.
“You are released from having to show your writing to anyone. Now where is the impetus and dedication to do it only for yourself, or for the process, or for Krsna, or for a service to your spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada?
“It’s like japa: you try to keep at it, and improve, and be attentive. Even when the quality is low, you do it anyway. When the quality is low, you keep it up by a timed quota.
“But it’s not exactly like japa, which is made up entirely of the holy names: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Yet it always has potential, even when I’m being indirect or struggling. Krsna knows I’m trying to bring it up to an offerable standard. The more you can do it without caring for anything but pleasing Krsna by writing, then He will start to manifest.
“You believe that? Yes. He knows my mind. Partly I write for some false-ego motive, but I want to purify it.
“The subject matter should be Krsna.
“I told them,
“‘Lord Caitanya stole the position of Radha. It’s the appendix of krsna-lila: some things weren’t tasted, so He came as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to taste them. . . . He came out simple, but with some comprehension (at least theoretically) and in my own words.
“Lord Caitanya took the position of Radha, Prabhupada says. How good it is when you lay a solid foundation of quotes and readings and then you speak in your own words.
“Krsna, please see me. I am doing a bhajana.
“‘O Lord who makes mercy in vraja- and gaura-lila, O Lord who stole the complexion and mood of Radha, O Lord who is above the petty squabbles of ISKCON members and the bloody fights of nations and tribes; O Lord who is involved in all these disputes in an inconceivable way by karma, yet who remains aloof . . .
“O Lord, let us come to You in Your spiritual abode. Let us hear the sastras and chant Your names. Not just because we are supposed to do it. Give us greed to hear. Give me greed. Let me give something to others from something You give me,
“O Lord, be careful to beat me?
“I mean, ‘Do as You like.’
“I love You—power You give. But best is—to love You for Yourself, not for what we can get from You.
“I am Your willing servitor. Good night. You never leave us. May I chant in writing too? And dream of You?
“Death is not far away like a star in the sky. Why do you think of it that way? Each night you put in your earplugs, you set your alarm clock, and each morning you get up. You think of moving on and how it will be better. But then you remember that you are to savor the present day in Vrindavan. You think how year after year will come. Then . . . some dim perception . . . that at an uncertain point, there will be dwindling and (with or without prior notice) death. It must be difficult. It finally happens, and it throws judgment on all you’ve done until then. All your achievements and plans don’t matter so much. At mangala-arati this morning, this passed through my mind . . . Then I couldn’t hold it—or didn’t want to—and it slipped away.
“See all that you do in the light (or darkness) of death. You want to get to the right point as soon as possible. Unencumber yourself. But what was Srila Prabhupada doing in his 70s and early 80s? He was preaching, traveling widely all over the world. An extraordinary example. He started and held together the Krsna consciousness Movement. You may say, ‘That’s not required of me. The world doesn’t benefit much if I travel and give lectures in temples.’ Still, you have to do it. And you should write and read too. Take morning walks and have your schedule all to yourself for a few weeks.
“I sit and wait for mail, for someone to come in the front gate. I look through spaces to see passersby, brown feet. And a neighborhood tree and the constant put-put-put of the generator. This is your afternoon timed writing session.
“Blood, sweat and tears. Dear Lord Krsna, what does Prabhupada want us to know? They speak in class what Krsna book says, how the Lord prays in Vrindavan. In P.S.’s class, he says he has them memorize a paragraph, and then one after another they recite Krsna book—just to share pleasure and transcendence of speaking the Lord’s pastimes as presented by Srila Prabhupada.”
A Session Mostly of Lists (It tilts toward the unimportant and whimsical, but I wrote it from 1:00-2:00 A.M. and seek the mercy of a lenient judgment. There may be some good suggestions here.)
“Left food for the day. He’s on the dog. He’s in the doghouse now. When the wife is angry, the husband is said to be ‘in the doghouse.’ Reasons are listed on a toy chart: I forgot your birthday, I didn’t mention your cooking was good, I cursed your mother, I looked at another woman. ‘I’m in the doghouse now.’ These images flood up like fermentation from the bottom of a liquid.
“Trying to keep the attention of a big audience. Glazed eyes as you look them over. Brief eye contact. Someone looks pained. He or she may just be ill in the stomach or fatigued, but you think, ‘I have to bring them around. Maybe I’m reading too much from the book. I have to read spontaneously.’ But when I write, I’m alone.
“Lost and found: a puppy, a chewed shoe, a list of writing topics, a box, tissues, rubber bands, an eschewed watch, a pound of nettles. Six pounds of nettle magic medicine for the liver, a pocket-sized Bhagavad-gita As It Is, a remnant, a desire to think over alone what has happened.
“List your needs: laundry, impetus, reminders, poems in a narrow column, legal summons, death warrant and threat, a way to smile and look upon the world of social opinion. Your patience is wearing thin.
“Lost and Found: the entire load of luggage in Delhi airport. Yellowed face of ill Godbrother again and again. They don’t see me all day. I say, ‘Give me a break.’
“The wall of China crumbling down.
“List of Prabhupada-isms: His ability to get you out of whimsies. (You’d never dare write like this. But now I need to.) His way. His smashing, chopping technique . . . the Swami hat, the tender concern we had from him. Getting an order from him and going to carry it out. Living in separation.”
“‘The author . . . . did not inject his personal opinion in Caitanya-caritamrta. He has simply described his spontaneous understanding from superiors.’ (Cc. Madhya 2.86) I like this. He is trying to serve them and repeat the truth they teach—he does it in his own words. ‘This is what they mean, as I understand it.’ Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is a strong personality, a learned scholar, an ecstatic lover of God such as no one has ever seen. He is pleased by your devotion to the dust of sadhus’ feet and the remnants of their food. He is never pleased by Vaisnava aparadha.
“You sit under a tree where Lord Caitanya sat and you praise His Vrindavan consciousness. You like to lead others. That’s why you left being his personal servant? Get your own bunch—is that happening again?
“The pressures of a large group. The pressure of a small group. The grins and lies and cajoling in a taxi. ‘You do what we say, you hear?’ Order from the big Godbrother.
“‘ . . . If he had been carried away by someone’s likes and dislikes, he could not have written on such a sublime matter in such an easy way.’ He just repeated what he heard from his predecessors, Rupa-Raghunatha and Svarupa Damodara, etc.
“Svarupa Damodara chastised the brahmana, ‘You cannot write.’ Unless one is self-realized, there’s no use writing of Krsna.
“The likes and dislikes of others—throw it off. In fears of losing your passport. The fear of fear.
“‘Realization means you should write, every one of you. What is your realization? —Whenever you find time, write.’ (Lecture, 8/14/72, L.A.)”