Before addressing 2020 aspirations, a review of what happened in the year just passed. I continued printing two books a year and was very steady in posting my Free Write Journal. My legs grew weaker, and that wasn’t good. My pulmonary disease (COPD) coming as shortness of breath, is chronic, but it hasn’t gotten worse. I wasn’t hospitalized with pneumonia, as I was twice in past years. At Viraha Bhavan our generous landlord, Saci Suta, saw to it that we got a new roof and our porch was renovated. Our Deity worship standard reached its highest level, with many new outfits. Radha-Govinda have a change of dress every third day, executed by their expert, devoted pujari Krsna dasi. More flowers are used to decorate the altars, both upstairs and downstairs. Every Friday I am visited by Rev. John Endler; we collaborate to pick out excerpts from my past writings to create new books. We have established a group out-loud reading from Prabhupada’s books at mealtimes; we hear the nectar for two hours a day. We have been receiving a stream of guests; they stay for a couple of weeks and render menial services like cooking and cleaning and have a heart-to-heart meeting with me. It was a good year. I was peaceful and content. Prabhupada says we should work hard for Krsna. I am trying to do my best in old age and invalidity. We expect to maintain the good standard, and we will hold biannual meetings with my disciples.
For the new year I am enthusiastic to publish four books with the help of our production team and the donors to our fundraising program. We are well underway. I resolve to do my best to keep my health stable. No recurring pneumonia this winter, and try to keep my legs from being deconditioned. For this I aspire to keep up my exercise regimen, up to what it was before I was hospitalized last year. I vow to keep up posting my weekly Free Write Journal. We have an increase in readership, and I am obliged and happy to keep up this service on time. I am daily committed to listening to Prabhupada’s lectures on the new audio device I received at Christmas. It is easy to operate, and I am currently following the lectures he gave in 1974 when I was his servant. We will also keep up the out-loud group readings from Krsna conscious books that all the inmates and visitors to Viraha Bhavan very much enjoy. We hear at mealtimes two hours a day. We are close to finishing Caitanya-caritamrta, and we four inmates will hold a secret ballot for what book to read next. Baladeva is openly canvassing for Caitanya-bhagavata. I am keeping my choice quiet, but I can tell my readers I am voting for Bhagavad-gita As It Is. As we go into the new year, our Deity worship standard remains high. We have many outfits (with more new ones coming), and Krsna dasi changes Radha-Govinda every third day. In winter we buy flowers every day, and when Muktavandya visits he brings a big bunch of flowers he begs from the florist. These are some New Year’s resolutions, and there are more which are important that we wish to carry out by the grace of guru and Krsna.
We just put up our calendar for the year 2020. It’s from Krishna-Balaram Mandir and celebrates the 45th anniversary of the opening of the Mandir and the installation of the Deities. It contains lush, full-color photos of the three arca-vigraha: Gaura-Nitai, Krsna-Balarama and Radha-Syamasundara. The dates indicate all the Vaisnava holidays. The Ekadasi days are printed in red, twice a month. The calendar states that if you don’t live in Vrndavana you should follow the computer-generated date for Ekadasis in your part of the world. We consider Viraha Bhavan a Vrndavana outpost, and so we follow Ekadasi as observed in Vrndavana, not the one produced by the technology of the computer. This means we will be observing Ekadasis on a certain day, while the devotees across the street will be observing on a different day (according to the calculation for New York). We are happy to receive our beautiful new calendar from Vrndavana. We can carefully watch it and celebrate the days of the Vaisnava acaryas and Visnu incarnations. And we feel right to follow Ekadasis as they do in Vrndavana.
We have two very congenial two-week guests in Bhakti-rasa and Kirtida devi dasi from England. They have rendered intimate, enthusiastic service. After they leave, Janmastami is coming for a week, and then Visakha dasi (the wife of Manohar) is coming for six weeks. Our book production and weekly Free Write Journal are progressing steadily thanks to the assistance of many helpers. There are many parts to this: John Endler is discovering material for publishing, Krishna-Kripa is proofreading, Lal Krishna and Caitanya-candrodaya are doing layout and design, and Guru dasa is typing up the Free Write Journal and posting it in the Internet. I depend on these devotees, or it would not be possible. And I depend on the donors to the fundraising campaign for making it possible to print. My health is stable, despite my immobility. Our out-loud readings are especially valuable. The Deity darsana is day-long. I am happy to reside in Viraha Bhavan with my like-minded associates.
In our group reading we have just heard the passing away of Haridasa Thakura. It is one of my favorite chapters of Caitanya-caritamrta; it is so poignant and stirs up emotions of joy and sadness. One day a devotee of Lord Caitanya hastily went to Haridasa’s kutir, bringing him prasadam. He found the namacarya lying on his back and slowly fingering his beads. Haridasa said he could not eat because on that day he couldn’t finish his quota of rounds. But then he realized it was prasadam, so he honored a morsel. The next day Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came and asked Haridasa what was wrong. Haridasa replied that his mind was all right but that he had a disease: he couldn’t finish his prescribed rounds. Then Haridasa Thakura revealed his mind to Lord Caitanya. He said, “I know that soon You will finish Your pastimes on the earth; before that time, I wish to pass away. I pray to gaze on Your face.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “What you desire will be fulfilled.” The next day, the Lord came to Haridasa along with all His associates. They held an emotional kirtana. Haridasa sat facing Lord Caitanya, and tears fell from his eyes as he held the Lord’s lotus feet to his heart. After a while, Haridasa, by his own will, gave up his life and stopped breathing. With great love, Lord Caitanya placed the body of Haridasa Thakura on His lap and stood up and began dancing, His dearmost devotee in His arms. After a while, Svarupa Damodara reminded the Lord that there were rituals to be performed. Lord Caitanya had Haridasa’s body placed on a palanquin, and they carried it down to the sea. Lord Caitanya bathed Haridasa in the sea and said, “Now this ocean has become a place of pilgrimage.” The Lord then had a hole dug in the sand, and He personally covered the body with sand. They built a protective fence around the area. Lord Caitanya and His associates then went to the Simha-Dvara gate of the Jagannatha temple. Lord Caitanya personally held out His upper piece of cloth and went begging to the merchants asking for a donation of food for a feast honoring the departure of Haridasa Thakura. Svarupa Damodara stopped the Lord from doing this personally, and he had others collect the profuse donations that the merchants gave. Then the devotees all sat down in rows to honor the prasadam. Lord Caitanya spoke a benediction. He said, “Anyone who has witnessed the passing away of Haridasa Thakura or his burial, or who has attended this festival, will very soon get the mercy of Lord Krsna.” The devotees celebrated the feast but felt mixed emotions, because now they had lost the association of the jewel-like devotee Haridasa Thakura, who had led by example the preaching of love of Krsna to the world.
We had ten people present at lunch yesterday: me and Baladeva, Bala and Krsna dasi, Rev. John Endler and Bhakta John Mulligan, Bhakti-rasa and Kirtida (on the last day of their visit) and two surprise guests who flew in from Texas, Bala’s grown-up offspring Rasesvari and Dhanvantari. The out-loud reading was a chapter from Cc. that was very powerful, and John Mulligan led it in good fashion. We were all quiet and attentive. The Cc. portion was about Lord Caitanya’s feelings of separation from Krsna in transcendental madness. The Lord ran after a sand dune (in Jagannatha Puri), mistaking it for Govardhana Hill. He embraced the dune and fell unconscious. His devotees caught up to Him and brought Him back to external consciousness by loudly chanting the Hare Krsna mantra in His ear. At first the Lord was disturbed because He had been envisioning that He was at Govardhana Hill with Krsna, His gopas and cows. Later, He wandered in a garden searching for Krsna. Eventually Krsna appeared to Him, and again the Lord fell unconscious. When the devotees awoke Him, Lord Caitanya was again disappointed because He had been meeting with Krsna. Why did the devotees interrupt the Lord from His ecstatic trance? The reason is that they feared that He was in a state where He was barely breathing (and they feared He would never wake and would disappear from their lives). Another time Lord Caitanya saw Radha, Krsna and the gopis. Radha and Krsna entered a cave, and the sakhis asked Caitanya Mahaprabhu to collect some flowers for Them.
At night Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s feelings of separation became most acute. He spoke like a madman in the mood of Radharani. His two confidential associates, Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara, stayed with Him constantly and gave Him support. Svarupa Damodara sang appropriate songs to pacify the Lord, and Ramananda Raya recited relevant sastric verses. Lord Caitanya would expand on the meaning of the verses. By their association these two devotees helped keep the Lord alive through His extremes of wanting to be with Krsna.
When the time for the reading was over, we all acknowledged our good fortune in hearing such intimate pastimes.
We came to the ending of the entire Caitanya-caritamrta. The last chapters are intense, about Lord Caitanya’s transformations in transcendental madness over separation from Krsna. He stays up at night in the company of Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya and speaks in the mood of Radharani. His companions support Him by singing songs and reciting verses. The very last chapter is “Siksastakam.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu recites His own eight verses on the holy name and expands on them. The author then closes his book in a number of verses. He praises Vrndavana dasa Thakura, “the original Vyasadeva in describing the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
These verses had an influence on us for choosing the next book we would read. Baladeva read the verses on Vrndavana dasa Thakura, and he made a pitch that we should read his book (Sri Caitanya-bhagavata) immediately. Then we cast our secret ballots. The votes came out three in favor of Caitanya-bhagavata and one for Brhad-bhagavatamrta. So it is decided, and we start today. We have two copies of the volumes of Caitanya-bhagavata, so one devotee can read aloud while another follows along in the text. I recall from previous readings that Caitanya-bhagavata is filled with ecstatic kirtanas and celebrations of Mahaprabhu’s wondrous lila. I look forward to hearing it again.
I do my full quota of sixteen rounds starting at 2:00 A.M. while sitting up in bed and gazing at my large photo of Radha-Kalachandji. Radharani wears a pale-green night outfit with no garland or jewelry. She is gauri (white) with deep red lips. I look at Her benedicting right hand. Sometimes disturbing thoughts pass through my mind. They are like the shouts and noises that came in from 2nd Avenue while Swamiji was lecturing. The noise was potentially disturbing, but Swamiji went on speaking krsna-katha, unfazed by the outside noise. I think of that example and brush aside my mundane thoughts while looking at Radharani’s hand. Prabhupada wrote that we look at Radharani’s benedicting hand to give us permission to take darsana of Kalachandji’s lotus feet. After a minute, I shift my gaze to Kalachandji’s massive but graceful feet. They are black but covered with white sandalwood paste. The pure devotees in the Bhagavatam all take shelter of Krsna’s feet. So I feel safe and right keeping my eyes fixed there. If I glance at my bead count or at Baladeva, I turn my sight back to Radharani’s hand for rejuvenation and permission to return to Kalachandji’s toes and solid feet. When I am past the eighth round, I allow myself to look at Radharani’s pristine face and Krsna’s large, broad chest and His carrying a flute. Toward the end, I keep glancing at Their faces and checking my beads. But I remind myself my real place is to be fixed at the lotus feet.
One way to get past a writing block is to start writing a list of words without thinking so much about them. Out of a long random collection of words, you should be attracted to some of the words and then expand on them.
I do not have any time to write on any more words, but you can see the process can go on endlessly, just picking words and writing on them in a Krsna conscious way.
Nitai dasa from India and Lal Krsna from Oxford, England have cooperated to create a new edition of the original Prabhupada Meditations series which I published many years ago. Originally they were in four volumes, but now there is a softbound two-volume set, 500 pages each, with attractive covers. The first sets were distributed to devotees attending my Vyasa-puja, December 7, 2019.
When I first wrote the books, I was alive in Prabhupada consciousness and felt empowered (after coming off the completion of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta). The four volumes of Prabhupada Meditations are meant to be read interactively. I give the readers exercises in how to remember Prabhupada, and I write down my own memories.
In an interactive exercise called “Try this . . .” I wrote,
“We could try to be in the mood of Prataparudra, who wanted to erect monuments along the pathways traversed by his beloved Caitanya Mahaprabhu so that future pilgrims could remember His pastimes and presence there.”
I write that we can follow Prabhupada’s ‘paths’ in different areas of the world:
“Why not visit 26 Second Avenue, walk on Juhu Beach, or visit Chippewada temple if you have a chance? Try to put it on your schedule in this lifetime. Become a transcendental tourist if you like.”
With the publication of these books, I hope interested people will now buy them and relish them. They are substantial and full of nectar. For example, in one entry titled “Throwing Off the Bombs,” I describe moments of unwilling irreverence that passed through my mind toward the Swami and his scene:
“One was when Allen Ginsberg entered the storefront just before Prabhupada was to enter. He sat behind me and said, ‘What’s going to happen?’ I said, ‘Pretty soon the Swami will come in, and then we’ll start the kirtana. We do that for about twenty minutes, and then he talks.’”
“I was aware my words did not express the reverence that I actually had toward the scene that was about to take place. If I were to express my heart, I would have said, ‘The Swami is a pure devotee of the Lord. He is going to lead us in a sacred chant which can purify us and make us understand we are spirit-souls. When he speaks, it may be a little difficult to understand at first, but what he is teaching is better than any speculative philosophy or literature.’
“I had tried to give Mr. Ginsberg a light description of the Swami’s entrance. We wanted him to think that we were hip, not like churchgoers who speak in solemn tones.
“After I replied to Allen Ginsberg, I turned back to myself. It was a rare opportunity for an aspiring poet to talk to the dean of American beat poets, but I did not want to talk to him. I wanted to get back into my reverent mood. I felt ashamed of that touch of frivolousness in my description of Prabhupada. I breathed in deeply and then let it out. I took another deep breath and let it out. I told myself, ‘Get back into yourself, man. Don’t play a grandstand for Allen Ginsberg. You’re for the Swami, not for him.’”
I went on to mention other ‘bombs’ that exploded sometimes from the unconscious.
“Often it was during kirtana. You reacted by throwing them off and throwing yourself further into the kirtana. ‘Pay attention. You’re way out of line. Hear the Name of Krsna.’
“Suddenly you had an urge to leave Krsna consciousness— ‘I don’t believe this! There’s no God!’—and desires for illicit sex. When the bombs went off, you looked to Swamiji with earnestness: ‘I don’t want this old life anymore; I want what you have. I want the pure life of Krsna.’
“Sometimes the bombs were temptations: ‘I am young and hip. I can do anything I want. I’m free of the Navy. I can get high every day.’
“So when the bombs went off, you turned to Swamiji and everything became all right.”
Here is another “Try This . . .”:
“Like chanting Hare Krsna, wonderful prasadam (offering, serving and feasting) is not too distant from thinking about Prabhupada. How can we make the connection? Here are some suggestions: tell Prabhupada stories about prasadam while you cook or honor a feast. Cook his favorite recipes. Also, think of statements Prabhupada used about prasadam, like ‘Eat sumptuously, but not too much.’”
Prabhupada Meditations is filled with the presence of Prabhupada. It is chock-filled with memories of him and invitations for the reader to take part in memory exercises. It is writing by a devotee who is surrendered to Srila Prabhupada.
“When I come, Satsvarupa dasa, alone, I take the risk that you will focus on me and give me a heavy order. One cannot come before you just to play a game of ‘imagining I’m with Srila Prabhupada.’ Coming in to your presence signifies surrender and willingness to accept austerity. Then confidential instruction can come.
“I am aware of this, yet I’m foolish. I do come ‘to play.’ I come as a little son, as a personal servant who tends to your bodily needs. I used to do that.
“I’m aware you want servants to preach and manage your Krsna consciousness movement. I say, ‘I’m a brahmana, Srila Prabhupada. I lecture and write and care for disciples in a personal way. But I get headaches, so don’t ask me to do something I can’t do.’
It’s embarrassing to write like that, but it’s true.
I enjoy the separation from you in that way. I don’t have the pressure of your direct order, but at least when you were here, I did accept your order. You said of me, ‘He does what I ask.’ Please let it still be true, although I can’t manage. Perhaps I’m not entitled to so much direct personal association, so I’ll ‘steal’ it in this easy form of sitting with your murti.
“I admit it, I’m a nonsense, but I want to be an asset to you.”
“Devotees went to Kamyavana where we pray for our desires. I achieve the same purpose here in your temple, praying to you. Please let me speak what you said about Radharani on Radhastami. Please let me serve you and not deviate. Please let me serve your devotees. All glories to you, Srila Prabhupada.
“I hear the bell ringing and the conch for the 4:30 arati. It’s hot. In a similar way, you heard and passed the hours in your last months in this world.”
“Today I touched the tamala tree in the courtyard and took a leaf. Then I circled Tulasi. I will touch your foot before I leave the room.
“I don’t feel centered right now.
“‘Dear Srila Prabhupada,
“‘People are walking past your room. Some are young, some are old. Some will die—all will die. The young in their bright shirts will probably die later, although some of them will die young. Then it will be silent. I mean, we who are now making noise will be silent. New people will make noise. We will also come back in our next lives as noisemakers to be in your rooms again. Yes, let it be. Whatever is best for our eternal devotion and surrender and service to you. If I can’t do much more in this life, then let me at least come back to be with you in some capacity.
“A person who asked me to give him initiation in ISKCON said, ‘You’re attached to Srila Prabhupada and will go to where he is in your next life. If I am attached to you, I too will go to him.’ That’s the idea.”
These are excerpts from spontaneous writing practice done in Wicklow, Ireland and Samika Rsi’s house in 1993 and from a series of free write sessions called “Right After Puja.”
“It’s cold, and I don’t give a damn. I want to be an orderly boy and read, but this is my free time.
“Haven’t found yet the reason to write this. I know I romanticize the past, but it’s also a fact that during the last few weeks in Vrndavana I wrote freely. I wanted to. It was the only free thing I did in the day. But now I’m pleased to be so open to Prabhupada and earnestly reading his books. It’s the culmination of what I reached and then waited for in Vrndavana.
“I haven’t exactly found the purpose for this free writing. Sure, it’s cold on my legs and chest. That’s okay too. You can’t expect people to have big furnaces and oil trucks delivering fuel from the Middle East. They live simply here. That’s the price you pay for it: chill.
“Krsna is in the mountain. He is on Govardhana Hill.
“A writer needs discipline. You could write another story. It could be about a writer who got fed up and ate his manuscript. Then he turned into a mole and went underground. You are restless and may be looking for a new form.
“Just take it easy and the form will find you. You are facing yourself and your temporary life and reading of your eternal life and Krsna the Supreme, and the endless, good, transcendental teachings of Vedic literature.
“Maybe there’s some writer I would like to imitate, some craftsman or avadhuta or storyteller who makes it exactly right, or a madman-writer. I can look in my trunk for something. But they’re all atheists and can’t help me even with form.
“I could tell the story, but it’s a bore. I hate the discipline. I don’t want to write a crummy story. I’m afraid I couldn’t do it well. I hate to rewrite. I don’t want to work at it.
“Just take what I give from my genius pen. I am not serious. Sold books with the Library Party, and a few teachers took Krsna book from me in the 1970s.
“It starts with this: they see my desires for writing. I ask, ‘How did I get here in this wild place where I write what comes? Have I been misled by American nondevotee writing teachers?’ I have to take the blame. Do I like being here? Do I want to be somewhere else? I seem flattened when it comes to any discipline. My life is full of discipline. I need it, it’s good for me; it keeps me out of danger and maya. I need to discriminate, or else I could stick my hand in the fire. All discipline. I don’t have spontaneous love of God.
“So, in writing I want freedom, not a painstaking trip. No pleasure in it. Chekhov may say, ‘Don’t be lazy. Make your story perfect. Write it over and over until it comes out right.’ I can’t enjoy that. Why write without pleasure? I don’t need to write like that. My books are honest statements and searching, repeated attempts to hit a target. Later use the arrows that didn’t hit the target and forget the rest.
“Worship the words of your spiritual master. Don’t take them only as accurate statements of fact or as simplified versions of Vedic truth. Take them and pray to better understand them.
“Open yourself to him. Because he loves you and accepts you despite your shortcomings. I should also be kind to others and not reject them just because they show weakness. Hare Krsna.
“So you pray to Him and call upon Him, ‘O my God, please reveal Yourself to me. I wish to know Your real feature and pray to You.
“It’s an interesting question, and one you should pursue more. Why don’t you write more about the all-attractive Lord (instead of the kid who went into Brower’s Hardware Store). Remember Betty Brower? And with his dad’s money bought a four-fingered, good quality baseball glove and Neatsfoot Oil to keep it pliable?
“Why so caught up with that maya-infected fellow, yourself, bodily designation, instead of the Lord?
“Because I know myself and love myself and want the best for myself (even though I must die in this particular identity), whereas Lord Krsna I know only by what I read in sastra. I don’t have a personal relationship with Him, although I would like to have one.
“Yeah, well that can improve if you keep reading. Your desire to read Srila Prabhupada will bring God’s grace. He cares; He is glad you are coming to Him.
“Last night gathering in candlelight before Prabhupada’s disappearance. I spoke because I wanted to on the meaning of this day. Look forward to morning walks and compiling usable material for Prabhupada Meditations, and the ability to speak my mind on Prabhupada-related topics. This is my greatest freedom and satisfaction. There are, of course, deeper spiritual experiences for pure devotees, but for me, this is the happiest taste. However, it must be paid for regularly by leaving these retreats and going to temples to share whatever I have learned.”
“Why do you write now instead of first reading Srila Prabhupada’s books? Isn’t he more important than you? Isn’t Krsna more important? Yes, you can say I am warming up to approach Him and the Srimad-Bhagavatam by first allowing myself to express myself in writing.
“Bow low, admit these truths. They want you to scrape your face on the earth. President Nixon said (when in office they demanded he admit all wrongs), ‘No, no, no, no. They want me to grovel and I’ll never do it.’ But they made him leave.
“Now will you be able to write without thinking? And fear it’s only mulch? I don’t mind.
“Could do that.
“Write about Krsna. He rode on a horse in the Syamantaka Jewel story. No, someone else, Satrajit’s brother rode the horse. Krsna rides a horse as Kalki Avatara. Cowherd boys usually don’t ride horses. They walk beside cows. Krsna sat on His mother’s lap while they rode on a bullock cart. He also played with the gopis, then danced with them.
“In virat-rupa, I think Lord Brahma is His genital, and some others are His testicles. Srila Prabhupada writes that the Supreme Lord has all the bodily organs, but they don’t function the way the organs of a conditioned soul functions. The impersonalists find the personal form of God revolting. They want negation.
“Don’t want to have to think and edit what I write. That’s the whole point of this. But shouldn’t I feel it’s important? Shouldn’t I be working something out? Yes, I guess so. I can dialogue with resistance.
“He isn’t making as much money now. Business is slow because of rumors about him in this area, which is small town-ish.
“His son wants to learn electric guitar like Shelter.
“It’s too bad. You have to indulge them. They say . . .
‘I will not interfere with the right brain’s capacities, but if you write on, how can I enjoy it and control it so it comes out Krsna conscious.
“No, let it come out as it wants. But should I culture mindlessness? Don’t we want to see Krsna praised? Yes, self-realization, not sense gratification.”
“Could you write poems and songs, embark on something like that? Don’t stop to read, only to breathe. Don’t stop at all. Wonder Bread, baked white and soggy overnight in a factory. You could smell it in the neighborhood. A circus in Spanish in Puerto Rico. Did they vote to become a state?
“The best pen is failing to work. The stomach. The aliens.
You can give a class on hieroglyphics.
Breezes I have known. My dreams.
To your disciples gathered (like flowers)
you can lecture on Polish joke books.
You can tell funny stories of Srila Prabhupada from the beginning.
“Always you want to grab a happy moment, but Srila Prabhupada keeps telling you that you can’t be happy in material life, especially in sex pleasure and family life. You need to become detached. “Don’t go near the Electric Power Place. Don’t eat pills intended for soaking or drink oil intended for the body. Don’t offend the Vaisnavas. But you don’t have to do what everyone tells you to do.
“Doodle-doo. You can end this pad
and say you wrote a half-hour.
Would it be good and strong?
Would it be weak?
Is it mulch or milk?
“Yes it’s good to be up early and writing anything. Next I’ll start to read Srimad-Bhagavatam and allow you to write in pauses.
“Nonattachment. Non-fruitive approach. When you read try to pause, and not always write but pray. The reading is its own reward and purpose. It is like the sky—it cannot be captured. But you serve it and are pleased to be in contact with the infinite Lord through submissive hearing.
“Now you can set up your desk for it. Bookstand and book on the left, and to the right of it this notepad. Read and write, read and write, Read and read, read and pray. Read and think, highlight passages in yellow, read and think. Don’t sully or get silly while reading. But you can write in the pauses.
“Why not start now?”
“Pujari goes after puja to the bank of the Tuscarora Creek and hears the dawn birds, crickets and locusts. He practices mindfulness. Is that wrong? Should he not twitch? Should he not grin? Is he committing aparadha? Frivolity? It depends. Is he thinking of Krsna?
“‘Yes,’ he says, ‘the joy I feel in the bird songs and frogs and crickets are all part of Krsna’s nature.
“He feels good. But does that mean Krsna is pleased with him? Does it?
“Pujari said, ‘I heard some Mukta-carita. It’s funny how Krsna and Subala are negotiating with the gopis for pearls.’
Sketching and writing in his notebook, our pujari draws an owl. He sees one. He sees an owlet. He sees the author picking from the trees. Grunts. Birds drop. Sheep in Ireland. Pujari in where, Pennsylvania? Mind? Imagination?
“Jnana-misra-bhakti, pure essence oils and incense and silks. Lord Krsna is a gentleman. He will return the pearls. Oh, oh.
“I can tell you are happy by the way you tap your toes, but what I don’t know is if Krsna is satisfied by that tapping. That’s the real test, you know. Krsna has to be pleased. Srila Prabhupada taught with perfect tact and strength. Please him by following his orders, and you know you will be on course.
“Listen, listen, Madhumangala, you outrageous cowherd boy. He sketches anything that comes to mind with trust in the process. It’s Krsna’s process, right? Just add His name to it, Krsna’s process, Krsna’s sweet and lovely, His maya, His toe-tapping servant, the swift flowing of the creek. I get it, but who is doing the tacking on? How do we know if He is pleased?
“You know if you see Him smile. You know if your guru is pleased.
“Now the pujari dug the sounds of the birds in the mild morning as light grew up from the water, and he knew the mosquitoes would come a little later. O Subala, come and bargain, be the mediator. Or else we shall simply go to Mathura and buy pearls. We will take our own.”
Brown Cloth with Gold Border”
“Pujari, where have you been? Are you better today? I heard you woke up at 10:30 P.M. and didn’t sleep after that.
“Oh what does it matter, these human details? Know that I am a spirit-soul. You can’t be without the Deity in your heart, twenty-four hours a day, Krsna and Radha—now that’s a pujari.
“Your hamstrung kaupinas, your weary look, you suspect your assistance. They (people in the temple) are going this way and that, pulled by currents, but you are a steady menial. Who can appreciate the work you do? Only a coworker aficionado worshiper. The brown-and-gold dresses. The exact folds of Her skirt and what you heard from the compilation by Bhaktivinoda Thakura known as Bhajana-rahasya. You know by your mood and self, I’m sorry I can’t add anything with my pen.
“Thoughts float as he worships and pushes them aside. Access, Lord, I pray for purity.
“Tell us, pujari, were you born in Kansas City, MO.? Were you in sight of the Mississippi? No? Then where?
“He says it doesn’t matter. Krsna and Radha make you comfortable and happy in dresses, and Srila Prabhupada too. O pujari, if the electric power stayed off . . . He reached for the old-fashioned candleholder and candle . . . He wanted to paint, but you can’t get messed, a pujari must be very clean.
“Lord, dead rose on the altar, let it remain, it still looks good. Srila Prabhupada, the book and the bookstand in front of him, cups of water, little wood carving of Gauranga with hand up in benediction and encompassing His mood in the Gambhira.
“Srila Prabhupada said worship Govinda. Govardhana. Now the pujari is right, I believe. He’ll have to wrestle . . . the cowherd boys and Krsna came home early in the evening, and prasada is brought from Radharani, and His remnants are brought to Her. Krsna goes to the cowshed to milk cows, and His mother calls Him to dinner. I wish that I may always recall these pastimes.
“Pujari is silent in his head as the daylight permeates the sky and land visible, and soon he’ll have to hurry to go out for his walk, alone.
“A sadhu told a pujari he should go live in Vrndavana. Go roll in the dust and ask Srimati Radharani to let you stay and serve Her there.
“But . . . whatever argument he gave, the sadhu ‘defeated’ from the higher ground of ‘Living in Vrndavana is the best, so you should go do it. You’re going to die, this is the place to be, give all materialism and take shelter of the holy dhama.’
“Our pujari couldn’t argue with a preacher like that. He knew the realistic . . . the prakrta sahajiya . . . his need for his own kind of privacy.”
“Free write card games, railway cars, American canned stuff, one flag, fistfight, please avoid. In Vrndavana, even if you get hit, you’ll be in Radha’s land.
“Yeah, I wrote and asked my guru. I wrote and asked the doctor. He said, ‘Send blood samples.’ She wrote me from Queensland. He wrote the rote, the verses. We dropped from heaven as rain, as grain, he said.
“Dear pujari, buy a candrika for Radha, look! Look at them, your eyes, they’re at the lotus feet of Krsna. I say those words ‘lotus feet’ with such jargon un-care, but you know I mean a feeling too that I can’t express. I see His dear . . . All the words are falling short, they are filled with smirk and innuendo, on the verge of some double-entendre, top songs, et. al. . . .
“Pujari bobbysox. I’ve got a plan, would you like to join with some of us for bhajanas tonight? ‘All right,’ he says, but he takes off his rings and takes the earrings off the Lord and Radha and thinks it’s fine to do alone.
“I was saying . . . I’m a writer, and that bhajana—well, I can adhere to. Not only in India. But you’re right, you’ve got me confused now.
“Banging again and again, he is asking at our door, ‘Let us in.’ So much repetition. . . . He is repeating the mix. He wanted to be there. Hare Krsna. Look up at Radha and Krsna. Maroon-pink words ain’t colors.
“I heard sublime words of Bhajana-rahasya today while I did the duties. I heard of gopis talking to Krsna. ‘Our hearts are in Vrndavana. We think of You always. Come back to Vrndavana.’ Like that. He spoke to them and embraced them when they came to Him at Kuruksetra. Others were astounded how He loved the gopis. In another verse they say, ‘We are only household women, not yogis or karmis. Please come back to Vrndavana.”