Three out of four of the inmates in the ashram have been affected by health issues. Bala has a constant dry cough which won’t go away until he leaves the frigid North at the end of the month and goes to organize the Trinidad Ratha-yatra. (He has felt obliged to take many phone calls at Viraha Bhavan from persons in Trinidad who want to know about living accommodations in Port of Spain during the festival.) Baladeva Vidyabhusana went through a week-long cold during which he had to continually wear a face mask in order to prevent contagious germs from spreading to me and the others. I contracted a mild sore throat for a couple of days. But when I woke this morning, it was really bad and painful. I gargled with Listerine, drank a vegetable broth and ate a piece of sweet ginger. The sore throat went into remission, but I will continue to take the remedies throughout the day.
We are vigilant to screen outside guests who may be carrying a disease. If someone is in a house where there is disease, it is better if they not come here. But if we get a disease despite our vigilance, we can take it that we are getting a bit of token karma while Krsna is giving us a test. Thus we have to be tolerant, accepting everything as Krsna’s mercy.
We heard a lot about Lord Nityananda in our ashram in the days leading up to Nityananda Trayodasi on February 7th because we are reading the Caitanya-bhagavata by Vrndavana dasa Thakura. For the first 80 pages of Caitanya-bhagavata, the author describes Nityananda as Ananta, the expansion of Lord Balarama, who expands as Karanodakasayi Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu and Ksirodakasayi Visnu, to bring about the cosmic creation. I am more interested in Lord Nityananda’s pastimes with Lord Caitanya.
Nityananda was born before Caitanya, and in His boyhood He constantly played with His friends enacting Lord Krsna’s boyhood pastimes. A sannyasi came to His parents’ home and asked them to lend him their son to accompany him on his sannyasa travels. His father, Hadai Pandita, agreed to let Nityananda go, but it so broke his heart in separation that he died. Nityananda then traveled with the sannyasi to all the holy places, and finally He came to Mathura, the place where He had enacted pastimes with Krsna in His former birth.
He waited in Mathura to hear that Nimai Pandita had begun to reveal Himself as an ecstatic devotee of Lord Krsna. When He learned that Visvambhara had begun the sankirtana movement in Navadvipa, He went there at once and hid Himself in the house of Ananda Acarya. Lord Caitanya told His associates that a great person had arrived, and they should go and search Him out. The devotees looked all over Navadvipa, but they could not find Nityananda because He is so confidential. Lord Caitanya then said He would lead them to Nityananda, and He went with His associates to Ananda Acarya’s house. When the two eternal Brothers met, They broke into ecstatic symptoms of love and embraced each other for a long time. Visvambhara’s associates were astonished at the effulgence of Nityananda and at the mutual love of Visvambhara and Nityananda. The Two then became inseparable. Lord Nityananda used to attend the nightly sankirtanas at Srivasa Pandita’s house, and when Lord Caitanya would dance, Lord Nityananda would go behind Him, and if Visvambhara began to fall, Nityananda would reach out His arms and catch Him.
These are some of the innumerable pastimes shared by Gaura-Nitai.
Our festival at Viraha Bhavan was not an open invitation to the community. We did screen visitors who may have had disease. Ravindra Svarupa and his entourage, Atindra Mahajana and John Mulligan and a few others attended. After I spoke, Ravindra Svarupa read verses from the Caitanya-caritamrta about Lord Nityananda. Then he said that Nityananda was the main force behind the Sankirtana Movement. He approached fallen souls that even Lord Caitanya couldn’t reach. Ravindra compared Srila Prabhupada’s mission as in the mood of Lord Nityananda. Ravindra’s remarks were an eye-opener.
Then Sudamani devi-dasi performed arati and Bala led the singing of a sweet, gentle kirtana. We then honored a six-preparation feast featuring a super-delicious cake prepared by Visakha devi dasi and homemade ice cream by Bhakta John Mulligan. It was a mellow festival honoring Lord Nityananda.
I answer letters every day. I speak on a Dictaphone and send it to my typist, who mails them out. He is an “anonymous” typist, and the letters are all confidential. Yesterday I received a letter from a devotee with cancer. She writes that she is tired and confused. I told her that Prabhupada said a devotee like her should make health treatment and rest her main priority, putting aside all sadhana obligations. She wants to be treated with spiritual affection. I feel close to her, and she is in my prayers.
I received another letter from my new friend who has come from decades of practice in Buddhism and has now arrived at Krsna consciousness. I couldn’t understand all the word jugglery of the Buddhist teachings. They seemed to lack a tangible transcendental goal. My friend says a greater self has always loomed over his own meditation practice. But Buddhist teachers don’t encourage going that way, it is seen as more thinking, more opinion-making, more illusion.
“So, in other words, I will utilize the verse you sent me by Jayadeva Gosvami!”
A Hari Bu is someone who is inclined both to Krsna consciousness and to Buddhism. I know several people like this. One sent me a quote by a Zen master which he apparently approved of. It’s stated that just by brushing against a stranger’s sleeve in the street one incurs five lifetimes of karma. I wrote him back that my impression of the Vedic teachings is that the jiva picks up karma by a more direct act. McDonalds boasts: “More than 99 billion served.” That is a stupendous tally of heavy karma. Prabhupada wrote that Buddha taught a form of atheism. He wanted to stop animal slaughter, so he rejected the Vedas, which upheld sacrifice. At the time of Buddha, people were overdoing the slaughter of animals on the plea of Vedic sacrifice. He didn’t teach the soul or God. He taught on his own authority. Thus he tricked the atheists into following God, as sung by the Vaisnava poet Jayadeva in his Dasavatara. As for picking up five lifetimes of karma by brushing against a stranger’s shirt, one can eliminate all sinful reactions simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master. As for Buddhist meditation, I humbly advise that one not indulge in it lest one lose his purity of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead in favor of cultivating the void.
I just received a letter from B.V.V. Narasimha Swami from Mayapur. He is doing a little research into the bhakti-sastri course for the education conference there in Mayapur on February 22. In this regard he wanted to ask me questions about the first bhakti-sastri examination, which he believes took place in 1976. He asked me to be able to recall the nature of the test, “and any directions you had on this test from Srila Prabhupada. Would you have any rough memories of about how many devotees took the test? I hope I have not disturbed you and pray that your Holiness is well.”
Srila Prabhupada requested all the devotees at the widely-attended annual Mayapur Festival to take the exam. He announced the exam well in advance of when it was to take place. A devotee wrote him and asked should his devotees “cram” his books? Prabhupada wrote that they should always read his books. Prabhupada’s disciple wrote back, asking would there be any punishment if the devotees wished to skip the exam, or if they got a failing grade? Prabhupada wrote that the exam was purely academic and that there would be no punishment. He said the questions would be easy. Devotees heard about Prabhupada’s letter and many devotees, including leaders, refrained from taking the exam out of fear. Only twenty or thirty devotees took the exam. (I recall one question was, “Who is Lord Krsna?”, and he wanted two or three sastric-based definitions, like “the Supreme Personality of Godhead,” isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda vigraha: “There are many personalities possessing the qualities of Bhagavan, but Krsna is the supreme because none can excel Him. He is the Supreme Person, and His body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He is the primeval Lord Govinda and the cause of all causes.”—BS 5.1, or ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: “All the lists of the incarnations of Godhead submitted herewith are either plenary expansions or parts of the plenary expansions of the Supreme Godhead, but Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.”—SB. 1.3.28)
He rose alone at 1:00 A.M. and worked at his “personal ecstasies,” the translations and purports of his books. He studied the previous acaryas and wrote in his own voice, as inspired from Krsna within. He wrote for his students and for the whole world, now and for the future. He wrote from experience and direct realization. He repeated the previous acaryas, giving many analogies to make his examples accessible. He told of “Dr. Frog” in the well, who when he heard of the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, tried to puff-puff-puff himself to the size of the ocean—but burst and died. This story was told to show the absurdity of trying to measure God or become equal with Him. He told of the camel, who used to eat thorny twigs to enjoy the taste of his blood. This is to illustrate those persons who indulge in sex life and even claim that it’s a spiritual process. There’s the story of Indra, the king of heaven, who was cursed to become a pig. When the term of his curse was over, Brahma asked him to return to heaven. But Indra refused. He said, “I have my wife and piglets and responsibilities.” This illustrates the madness of family attachment, even if one is living in a filthy place eating stool. There are innumerable analogies like this just to enlighten the common man. Srila Prabhupada continued his literary labors until the very end of his life, when he could only lie in bed and speak with great effort. Jayadvaita held the Dictaphone microphone close to Prabhupada’s mouth, and he spoke the purports, completing the Thirteenth Chapter of the Tenth Canto. (Fortunately he had already written a summary study of the entire Tenth Canto, the Krsna book, back in 1970.) Prabhupada “sweat gallons of blood” to write his books, and we are obliged to “cram” his purports.” It is a great privilege and duty to do so.
heart: the emotional or moral nature as distinguished from the intellectual nature; a generous disposition; one’s innermost character, feelings, or inclinations [knew it in his heart]
Comment: In Vedic literature, the spirit-soul is located in the heart along with the Supersoul. God is the spiritual master within the heart, known as the caitya-guru. From Him we can get direction in Krsna consciousness. The Sanskrit word bhaktivedanta describes one who has both heart and intellectual knowledge of the Vedas.
hear, hearing: 1) to perceive or apprehend by the ear 2) to gain knowledge by hearing 3) to listen with attention: to gain information
Comment: In the nine principles of devotional service, hearing, sravanam, comes first. Before there were printing presses, Vedic knowledge was passed down by aural reception, hearing from the spiritual master. The student would hear only once from the guru and remember the teachings. In the age of Kali, the hearing and remembering capacity has diminished, and Vyasadeva has compiled Vedic knowledge into writing, books. But hearing in Krsna consciousness is very important, as in hearing one’s chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. In giving instructions of how to chant the mantra, Prabhupada used to say, ‘Just hear.’ The mantra is so powerful and potent that one simply has to pay attention to the sound vibration in order to get the benefit. Vedic knowledge is called brahma-sabda, or hearing the Absolute.
Hail Mary (n.) : A Roman-Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary that consists of salutations and a plea for her intercession.
Comment: Catholics chant the Hail Mary along with the Our Father on rosary beads. This is an important part of their devotional practice. In Krsna consciousness, we also chant on beads. We use a circle of 108 beads (to stand for the 108 Upanisads or the 108 prominent gopis). We chant the Hare Krsna mantra on each bead, fingering it as we utter it out loud or in the mind. Chanting on beads is called japa, and in the Krsna consciousness Movement Prabhupada has ordered that every devotee must chant a minimum quota of sixteen rounds, which takes about two hours.
Today I will give some quotes from my books on japa. It is my hope that these excerpts will help the devotee readers in their own chanting. I have written of my challenges and successes in doing japa, and my intention is to be positive and encouraging in the great work of japa-yajna.
But we may have to admit that we cannot even cry out sincerely about our inability to cry out in spontaneous love. What then? At least you should cry out lamenting your inability to even feel any inability: “My dear Lord, I am just a dull stone. I cannot chant Hare Krsna with any quality, only mechanically. I cannot even lament my inability.” Somehow or other, come out with an utterance, a cry. Do not remain a dull stone without feeling. Starting immediately from whatever point you are at (no matter how low), utter the available cry of heart and go on from there.
“The optimistic viewpoint is all right, as long as it doesn’t lead to slap-happy complacency. Being on the lower level shouldn’t be a comfortable place. We have to struggle to get past it. But if at every moment you are inattentive and for the time being you feel helpless, some optimism is useful.
Just showing interest in my japa-sadhana, chanting extra rounds and reading statements about it has been helpful in combating pramada. Just to become aware of the enormity of the problem seems to be helpful. And also this dawning awareness for me that I have to work at the ABCs, and particularly on inattention, seems to be right. It gives me a purpose in life; it gives me more conviction that at least I know where I am situated and what I have to do next. Pay attention when you chant! Bring the wandering mind back again under the control of the higher self.
“I began chanting at 2:57 A.M. I began the first round with reluctance, a kind of grudge. But then I felt good about it. I felt good about accumulating the rounds. Numerical strength is very important for me. When I see the rounds quickly accumulating, I become confident. My speed was under seven minutes per round. I made audible sounds of the mantra, but barely audible, in order keep the speed and not overexert. My mind didn’t wander. It stayed fixed on whispering the syllables. I kept fixed on just hearing and did not have many japa thoughts. I was content to just occupy myself in the yajna of the sound vibration. I didn’t philosophize but kept myself compact in mind. The best thing about the session was that I chanted regularly, linking the mantras and not getting distracted. The weakest thing was that I did not go deeper, thinking that this mantra is for Radha and Krsna and that I am calling out to Them for service.”
“Bhaktin Sioban referred to trying to ‘win a losing battle’ when she tries to control her mind during japa. I think until we are liberated, it’s always going to feel like that. It’s not realistic to expect to quiet the mind completely. We have to learn to dovetail some of our mental flow. Or ignore it. Or tolerate it (trnad api sunicena). Be tolerant. Tolerant means tolerating all the mind’s chatter. For example, you can’t control the world and make everyone nice, peaceful devotees. Rather, the nondevotees are always doing things to disturb us. Similarly, our mind is filled with nondevotee sub-persons and voices and lack of control and indulgence in nonsense, and we can do nothing but tolerate them. Don’t take them so seriously. Don’t invest energy in them. And don’t become disturbed or disheartened by the fact that the mind is ‘running wild.’
Bhaktin Sioban said, ‘I think I have developed a dangerously defeatist attitude, where I have come to the conclusion that it is “mission impossible.’” That’s exactly what she shouldn’t do. ‘Don’t be defeated’ is simply a choice we can make—are we going to be knocked out by a fatalistic attitude? Or are we going to scramble and fight to win back territory from our chancala minds? Don’t give up the ship. Persist and win.”
“Prabhupada advised that those who are leaders in ISKCON have to know how to bend men without breaking them or making them angry. After all, he said, it is all voluntary service.
“George Harrison once said, ‘In the future, ISKCON will be so large, it will require executive management.’
“Prabhupada replied, ‘I have divided the world into zones and representatives. As long as they keep to the spiritual principles, Krsna will help them.’
“A disciple with managerial responsibility approached Prabhupada and expressed a desire to leave India. Prabhupada asked him to stay on, but the devotee was determined to leave, and ultimately Prabhupada conceded. But at one point Prabhupada said, ‘You can renounce management, but I cannot. I have to stay and manage.’”
“Once, on a visit to Boston, Srila Prabhupada had a meeting with his ISKCON Press workers. Satsvarupa dasa complained to Prabhupada that he had so many duties in the temple that he was distracted in trying to do all of them and at the same time do press work. Prabhupada said, ‘Real management means to delegate it to others. You have so many responsible devotees there, so you can delegate it to them.’
“While walking up the stairs in Mayapur one morning, Prabhupada began complimenting Bhavananda Goswami.
“You are a good manager because you keep things clean. If you can keep everything clean, then you are a good manager. That’s all there is to it.’ As they walked up the stairs, Prabhupada could see that everything was shiny and clean—the walls, the pictures on the walls, the marble floors—everything was clean. When they went to the roof, however, Srila Prabhupada found a scrap of paper and dust in a corner, and he began to criticize everyone for neglect.
“Once, in India, Prabhupada was joined in his room by his senior disciples Bhagavan, Brahmananda and Giriraja.
“‘You are the future hope of the world,’ said Srila Prabhupada, and he began to instruct them about the importance of attentive management.
“‘Just like your American Express corporation,’ he said. ‘What have they done? They have simply taken pieces of paper, and for those pieces of paper you pay good money. But what have they done? Actually they have done nothing. It is simply management. You pay them some money and they give you a piece of paper, and if you lose that piece of paper, they say, “All right, we will give you another piece of paper.” It is organization. Simply from that management they have made millions of dollars.’
“In Calcutta, when Abhirama dasa was the temple president, he went one day to tell Srila Prabhupada that he was having difficulty with his marriage. Prabhupada asked him what was the difficulty.
“‘She wants that I should be engaged in more pujari work and chanting rather than management.’
“Srila Prabhupada replied, ‘She is less intelligent. Management is spiritual activity. Just like Arjuna was fighting.’
“‘There is no difference between chanting Hare Krsna on sankirtana and doing one’s assigned work in Krsna consciousness,’ Prabhupada writes. ‘Sometimes we have to do so much managerial or official work, but Lord Caitanya promises us that because in Kali-yuga this is required for carrying out the preaching mission, He gives assurance that we will not become entangled by such work. When the work has to be done, do it first, then chant. But you must fulfill at least 16 rounds daily. So, if necessary, sleep less, but you have to finish your minimum number of rounds.’
(Letter of January 2, 1972)”
Ibis Hotel, London
“We were here last year during a heat wave. Now London is muffled in a heavy snowstorm. There is a bowling alley next door, and I hear the repeated sounds of bowling pins being knocked over. So what does all this have to do with Prabhupada Meditations? It has a lot to do with it.
“Recently in America, I had some good recall sessions by anchoring myself in Prabhupada’s ’66 kirtanas. That may be the best way to remember him; but now that we are traveling again, I have to remember that Prabhupada meditations are always happening.
“Part of me wants to say that it is not possible to think of Prabhupada in all circumstances. The sound of the bowling pins being knocked over has nothing to do with Prabhupada, but another part of me says that Prabhupada must be here. If he is absent, it is my Prabhupada consciousness which is lacking.
“Let me scan my recent memory and see if I can think of Prabhupada moments. The day we flew from Long Island, we stayed at the house of Ranchora dasa, who lives near the airport. In the last few hours I was leafing through the Teachings of Lord Kapila. I found some outstanding passages. Prabhupada states that a pure devotee is so humble he does not even hope that he will be liberated in this lifetime. Prabhupada wrote, ‘A devotee always prays, “For my misdeeds may I be born again and again, but my only prayer is that I may not forget Your service.’” I wrote that down, and I am carrying it with me in my beadbag. Prabhupada also stated that the boys and girls in the Krsna consciousness movement do not read the daily newspaper. He said that they do not know what’s going on from day to day in the world, that it is not important to them. They are more interested in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. That stood out when I read it, especially nowadays when there is such a deluge of news about the Gulf war. Prabhupada’s statements gave me conviction. When I got onto the plane, I did not look at the newspapers or news magazines.
Below are excerpts from Geaglum Free Write Diary composed in Geaglum, North Ireland, in June 1996.
“You don’t have to wait for a worthy thought or a breakthrough confession. Record, record.
“Krsna plays the flute. I heard Lord Caitanya argue against the Tattvavadis.
“Birds. The rowboat from here to the island. I see them, but I can’t make out who they are. We saw a half-hour video called The Life of the Real St. Therese of Lisieux. I developed a headache while watching. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Sacred Face of Jesus. ‘Hysterical,’ ‘sentimental,’— they say they came close to these feelings but escaped them, went beyond. One has to risk, risk all for Christ or Krsna.
“I am praying by writing. Therese wrote one small book that went a long way toward establishing her sainthood. My hundred books (like Merton’s diaries) make it clear I’m not a saint.
“Then what’s the value, a guy like you?
“To calm down, I asked M. to read to me from Cc. while Aniruddha massaged the back of my neck and shoulders. He started out pressing too hard at first. Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada. The great qualification of the Madhva sect is that they believe in the personal form of God, but Lord Caitanya taught more than they did. Pure loving service with no desire for material elevation, speculation, or impersonal liberation. Just serve to please Krsna.
“Sweet diary of life. I took rest at 7:00 P.M. as usual last night, but I’m still not adjusted since the flight from the U.S.A. I slept only an hour and laid wide awake. None of those were extra care times, either, but my mind worked over some lesser things again and again, then drifted off to sleep soon before it was time to get up.
“Oh please do this writing and let it help you. The morning comes here by 4:00 A.M. This is wonderful. I will be out walking by 4:45. It’s a great luxury. There’s a circle of a walk I can take and make laps of it and stay out as long as forty-five minutes if I don’ t get too tired.
“Go ahead. Write like this. It doesn’t matter what others think, but try to make it good.
“C’mon, write, write.
“‘Don’tcha wanna write?’ But what can I tell? Fell asleep, was indifferent, did karma- and jnana-yoga, passed the exam?
“O Providence, your province over me is well-known. This pitiful slim fellow didn’t know what sex desire was all about, and lacking a spiritual master, he couldn’t surrender. Hare Krsna. Now he knows.”
“Flirt with disaster no more. But material nature has laws. T. Merton electrocuted. Therese coughed up blood. Great Vaisnava saints got ill too, sometimes, like Sanatana Gosvami and his itching sores. Anupama died young.
“The Vaisnavas will triumph. Now you have no structure to pour this into. It’s 9:37 and you are finally writing, but don’t know what. Push ahead. Would you like to do PMRB (Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam)?
“Then you would be doing a worthy work. I thought this diary would satisfy me. Why am I dissatisfied?
“Is it (as with Vyasa) that I am not praising Krsna enough? That would be the cause. I thought I could be satisfied with the diary. Examine it then. Ask yourself.
“O Krsna, should I just proceed and work on PMRB? I can. Maybe I have no drive for the other, the free write diary.
“Please use your time well. One lacks utsaha for many reasons. Yawn and strife.
“I’m not satisfied, at least, by the mere writing down of words that occur. Can’t do that unless I feel a cleansing, a definite link with Krsna consciousness. Mind criticizes the lack of Krsna consciousness in others and in me also. Bring me around like a nervous horse. See what he wants. Or see what we can get him to do since we should control him.
“Don’t give up too early. There now. There’s a flow. Enter it. I gave myself this time to do other than PMRB, so go and do it. Flotsam in memory, and me here now.
“Many, many times. St. Therese documentary showed the staircase she went up and down. It’s almost exactly the same (after a hundred years). The Carmelites are shut in, and they pray to Jesus and do ordinary chores, sacrifice their lives to God. See? Don’t just do what you want.
“Dedicate to Him. ‘Please take this offering,’ you say. ‘Please take my head and place Your feet there,’ said Bali to Vamana.
“I give up. I can’t make sense. Can’t make a go.
“When I go back to S.B. we will hear that Narada traveled and found the same as it is now—towns and farms—and he wandered with no residence or fixed income. He walks on a solitary padayatra. When there was some occasion, he spoke of Krsna.
“The swan skims the water of Inis Lake. The water surrounds the island.
“It took a long time to get here. Don’t bemoan. Like a live sporting event, the grandstands hold, say, 5o,000 people. A full crowd is watching the baseball game. Why don’t you write another progressive story? Because I just can’t do it. Be glad I’m doing the Poor Man at least. And this is meant to be for my own concern, but I don’t have any.
“Madhu gave me a board to write on, and I can tell him it worked well. It gives me another way to exercise. Don’t berate yourself. Keep going.
“Once there was France and there was Prance. . . . I was a member of the ISKCON fraternity. I did not attend the reunion of the old guys. Don’t like to sit on a stage with old-timers and speak memories (although that’s okay too, provided I don’t get a headache and I can duck out of it later). Maybe it will be like that at Radhadesh, where I’ll do my thing and then retire to the van.
“In past years I would never consider giving up tangible duties of temple management, maintenance or preaching to do this, to face myself and admit as much as I could in writing. I would be considered in maya. Still it’s thought of as maya by many today. But even back then, when I was occupied by something mainstream, I would think of this in the back of my mind. Yet I would never be able to satisfy it. Now Krsna is giving me the freedom to do it. Am I able to help others?”
“In the Therese film, we saw that very early she had a sense that her mission was to be at the foot of the Cross and pray for sinners. Ask Jesus to save them and turn to him. She couldn’t go out and preach, but she had a strong sense to preach through prayer, which was all that was open to her. I have writing. I could also travel around, but this seems more important. And not just any writing—there are already so many books by me.
“Sometimes I draw little drawings. O Krsna, I am worthless without You. I read in the Cc. of the return of Lord Caitanya to Jagannatha Puri. The devotees were ecstatic to see Him again. Sarvabhauma fell at the Lord’s feet on the beach when they met. The Lord picked him up and embraced him. He went to Sarvabhauma’s house, took a lunch of Jagannatha’s remnants, and stayed there for the night. All night He and the devotees stayed up, and He narrated His South Indian tour to them. They loved Him and were eager to hear all of it. He said, ‘I must have seen many sadhus wherever I traveled, but I must say I was especially pleased with the standard of devotional service of Ramananda Raya.’ Well, what does my master think of me?
“Therese said she wanted not to be prominent but just a grain of sand. Tu Fu said, ‘That poetry which lasts thousands of generations comes from an unappreciated life.’
“Pound away; the motorboats, pleasure people will be seen later. Rock ’n’ roll shows are being arranged. The black Jersey cows are down by the shore, mostly uncontrolled, I think. I am doing nothing to help the practical work here.”
“Hear krsna-katha. Srila Prabhupada lectures in New Vrndavana or Los Angeles—try to remember what he said, and by that remembering, appreciate him. Appreciate that he is the best, and I don’t need another guru. His writings are enjoyable and are leading me on further to make progress.
“I read, and like what I read in Cc. I hear the lectures, and it’s a struggle sometimes. They are basic, and the mind wants to find fault, thinking, ‘I know all this. I’ve heard it thousands of times.’ But I stay with it and hear new things. I heard something like that today, but I forget it just now. So, go on hearing.
“As far as not living in a temple, taking writing retreats, etc., that’s an ongoing saga. I seem to need my space. Want to write better poems, to continue PMRB in a lively way. And I feel better now, that I didn’t quit this morning but I’ve been writing for an hour.
“I had (have) no theme or topic, can think of no immediate use for this, but that is partly why it’s valuable to me. I’m sick of all the heavily motivated and focused activities in Krsna consciousness, ISKCON. Governing rules, do this, do that. I just do this.
“I know, I know.
“Now, get ready for Srila Prabhupada murti worship, and hear Srila Prabhupada. This is the life you want. Go alone and come back enriched.
“My talk of doubt with writing that’s not structured may be related to doubts about the quiet life. You want to be preaching because Prabhupada emphasized, ‘Go out and defeat the rascals.’ If you physically stay back to write, at least it should be on something that is obviously with a preaching spirit. Therefore, when we write searching the inner self, etc., my doubt is emphasized. Just now in A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, we’re on the verse and purport (1.6.13) where Narada is wandering after his mother died. Srila Prabhupada says that a sannyasi nowadays doesn’t have to imitate Narada, but he can sit in a holy place and chant and hear. The devotees who submit their questions to me to answer all noted that Prabhupada’s advice here is different from what he usually emphasizes when he tells sannyasis to preach, preach, preach.
“We may do both. One devotee said that he’s admitting he can’t do the highest thing, but he wants to know what the thing is for him. A realistic approach is one that I hesitate to admit, but that I ought to admit. You may say, ‘All right, I can’t do the topmost thing that Prabhupada is asking, but let me do something, although it might not be most favored by him. I’ll do the best I can.’ A grhastha is put into this humble position more readily when he is willing to admit it. The sannyasi may, out of pride, keep his profile as high as possible. After all, he has become a sannyasi, so how can he say he prefers to stay in a quiet place and not do outward preaching? The pressure is too great on him. But in a purport like 1.16.13, there is at least permission to lead a quiet life of chanting and hearing. However, there are many warnings: ‘Don’t be a chanter.’ ‘What kind of a Vaisnava are you?’ ‘Don’t be a bhajananandi,’ etc.
“We need to do what we can. I do too.
“Facing Lough Erne. There’s a strait of it between here and the island. It’s all lake, but there are different pieces of land within it, including the island of Inis Rath. Took me a while to figure that out. The pleasure boats go by all day. I watch them and don’t approve, I suppose. What does it matter? I need to keep busy at my own task.
“I’m glad to have the structure of Srimad-Bhagavatam to work within, and the free writing there too. I just set up my notes for the next midnight session. Now I have a little time for this free writing diary. Keep going, mate. Go through the day. Two weeks for this, and then we will take part in the temple schedule. I felt relieved when I saw that I would again be with the devotees. It’s hard to be alone, yet I want it. I always plan for it, but I need both. I’m not like Narada in his boyhood that I can travel everywhere alone. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. I need to go where buttercups grow in my writing, just letting the words come. The body is never comfortable. In A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, I become Mr. Answer-Man for a while. Then I stop and go off with what comes. This writing is like that too. Hare Krsna. Later we will sit and watch the video, today a movie called Therese. We saw a half-hour the commercial movie houses about ten years ago. I’ll let you know what it feels like.
“Drink water, scratch your head, talk and don’t talk. Read the books, think of what to say. In a very nice chapter of Cc., Lord Caitanya starts to meet with everyone who goes to see Him at Jagannatha Puri after His tour of the south. One after another, great devotees come to Him—Ramananda Raya, Svarupa Damodara, Govinda—and He builds up His group of followers.
“I felt peaceful moments reading casually in the book. I actually liked reading it. That’s how I want to be—not study, study, but to enjoy reading about the Lord and seeing more the form and characteristics of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He was a sannyasi, although He is the Supreme Lord Himself. Since I am also a sannyasi, I enjoy His strictness about women. He came back to Puri and wanted to stay in a secluded place. They gave Him Kasi Misra’s house because it was near the temple and yet secluded, ‘calm and quiet.’ Even a great sannyasi and preacher like Lord Caitanya likes a quiet place for bhajana.
“I also like reading about His tour and how He visited the temples and became ecstatic in so many places. Although within Himself He thought of Krsna in the mood of Radha, yet He felt ecstasy while worshiping the forms of Narayana (such as Vitala in Maharashtra), the Deity of Tukaram (a disciple of Lord Caitanya) and even the forms of Siva and Hanuman. Lord Caitanya, the ideal Person, strong and soft, dependent and independent. Keep reading about Him.”
“Hare Krsna. We are in the mood of writing as much as we can, and won’t have time later. M. came to the door to remind me of the movie. I said, ‘Let me write a little more.’ Yeah, what you got to say? Ups and downs, the revolution. I read poets, and their mundane or speculative concerns pass through my mind. I don’t think it’s harmful, but I should be alert why I look at them and try to pick up by osmosis their modern style of prosody, honest thrust and so on, especially their music, which is what distinguishes poems from prose. Capture moments even beyond your deliberate intention by repeated attempts.
“Oh mister, oh mister
you think you are a writer
but a devotee is a servant
of the servant first and in that
capacity he writes.
You write you admit to find
yourself . I am the one
who ran around Boston and Allston, ran up and down the stairs of our temple-house, afraid of thugs, dealing with problems in our devotee- family, and always assuming that everything was right, consumed in service to His Divine Grace. Wrong in marriage. Couldn’t handle it.
“But wanted to be free of that to serve purely. Who could handle marriage and the high spirit of renunciation at the same time? Botched it up. It’s over twenty years ago, so you are forgiven. Forgive others who blundered in that way. Glad to be free of it.
“Oh mister, oh, George Harrison helped me some. I am not writing so freely, but want meaning in it. Heigh-ho, fill this page, buffer zone. And a snack later tonight. I don’t wake up. I don’t sleep at night lately. I lie there awake and think of people. Remember Danny, the Jewish boy in New York? Remember Steve Rosen standing at the door of 26 Second Avenue in a long coat, and D. Swami walked with me to my getaway car? Death will be like that, plenty of things happening (Icarus falls from the sky into the river while farmers go on plowing in the fields—Brueghel). The veering crazy street man went past me while I received a long-stemmed rose on Second Avenue, and at the same time accepted an envelope with money in it and talked with a Godbrother—so many things at once, and the Manhattan towers like fists against the sky—get in and drive home, drive home. Chant while you can.”
“Struggle to get here without increasing eye ache. Went through wet rushes (green fields, thistles). Scared a pheasant—complete surprise to her as I approached, softly chanting—she flew up squawking, and I also called out in alarm. My heart wants calm.
“Now I am free to say even the little things.
“‘Today,’ he said, ‘is Jayananda’s birthday.’ He means the sixth birthday of the son of Manu dasa. ‘He’ll get a birthday cake.’ And I want a birthday cake too. And you? Each jiva. Hare Krsna dasi writes how little plants grow, the vines, and they need support right away or their life will be frustrated always. Green grasses with brown tassel-tops and yellow wheat-heads, and then there are the tan rushes at the lake edge, and the lake passage blessed with Tuesday morning quiet.
“I did not have time for a late-morning Cc. reading, and I opted for this writing. I do remember, however, the branches of the tree—and my desire to continue reading. Earlier this morning I read Srila Prabhupada’s purport-biographies on Jiva Gosvami and Rupa and Sanatana. Now coming up is Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Big branches. Jiva and Sanatana wrote books, but they saw people, especially Vaisnavas, and helped them. Jiva trained the big three, Narottama, Srinivasa and Dukhi-krsna dasa, and they took the Gosvamis’ books to Bengal. And Jiva Gosvami blessed Krsnadasa Kaviraja and also Srinivasa, and he received Ma Jahnavi and many other Vaisnavas who came to Vrndavana. Not that the Gosvamis were always in seclusion.
“I want to recover the sense that writing is an act itself and doesn’t have to strive to become a book. You just do it, and the act of dictating onto a tape and even making it into a private edition is part of the bhajana. Beyond that it’s the editor-subperson’s work, and I am not interested in it. But it’s not my direct work. Write like that as you go into October. Repeated acts of kindness.
“I can’t go long now—not those one-hour timed sessions driving hard that I used to do years ago and may sometimes do again—because I have some remaining eye ache. Nurse it by returning now to the house. I took a little risk to come out here because I wanted to write.
“(I’m no big tapasya man, nor do I work hard like valiant karmis and other sufferers. By grace of guru I have it easy, but I want to make my effort end.)”
“You don’t want to write so much. You are glad (glad?) your headaches have finally cleared after all morning of waiting for it. And now that you are free, you have ‘nothing to say.’ You read a little more, names of the branches of the Caitanya tree, that’s all.
“Dry pen. Bottle of water.
“Fly bumping against the pane, but I won’t work to get him out (two of them). And don’t correct.
“Lord Caitanya’s arms upraised, imploring everyone to chant like Him, surrender to Lord Krsna by chanting His holy names. I’m planning to go over to the island at 4:00 P.M. to see Radha-Govinda. Prepare yourself. I will bow down to Them and pray to Them. May I remember Their forms as I travel.
“Thinking of items to put in the van. Months of travel and stopping to write. It must come out of a life of devotional service. This doesn’t mean you have to scoop news out of things you just did: ‘Went to the dentist yesterday, traveled to the temple today. S.B. class tomorrow.’ Go deeper. Do you want to serve the devotees, especially your disciples? How can you best serve them? Standard answer: make yourself perfect and then you can serve, apani acari prabhu jivera sikhaya.
“Also, even before you are a perfect example, extend yourself to them. Go sit with a sick friend, he’s still in trauma from a car accident. Give each what he wants, or what he or she can take and what you are capable of giving. Mostly that means I speak sastra simply.”
“Try to recall surrendering to guru and believing in Krsna and worshiping Him. ‘Did you ever have a profound spiritual experience, and can you tell us about it?’ I cried once during a Ratha-yatra film shown in the storefront in Allston. I . . . gave many lectures. Some said I was good and simple. But a profound spiritual experience? Can’t recall. To meet our spiritual master was very spiritual and memorable. But he didn’t create miraculous auras. He taught, and you surrendered to him as much as you could. Did what he said. He approved of you as a bona-fide disciple. O dear Master, I thrived on such praise.
“O dear Master, where are you now? Am I afraid of you? Built up an image in my mind of displeased, heavy, etc. Or you with the managers. It would hardly be possible for you to please all factions that now exist if you came back. And no one does that, comes back. When Rupa Gosvami left, he didn’t come back—unless you want to say he reincarnated as Visvanatha Cakravarti. But Visvanatha was a new individual different than Rupa Gosvami.
“Darkening sky. S.B. is the maha-purana. Are you ready to dip into it again and see the original Krsna there? Here come raindrops (and an Army helicopter). I have no umbrella but a gray hooded rain-resistant coat. If it rains too heavy, can I cross the lake? Yes, with a brolly. Syamananda, young son, will row hardy, and you can chant japa and say something to him, or not much. Krsna Krsna, the empty pitcher makes noise. I am in Your service and will write in every place, starting out October 1st, and until then, here.”