Everyone knows about the coronavirus epidemic, and almost everyone is adversely affected. As of today, March 20, we are on official quarantine. This doesn’t mean as radical a change for us as it does for the karmis. We four inmates in our ashram are somewhat aloof from it. We receive donations to cover our expenses, and our patron provides us with a comfortable housing situation. We carry out our sadhana. Staying at home, we have our usual ashram duties: chanting, writing, cooking, out-loud reading, listening to lectures, taking care of the Deities and Tulasi-devi and receiving darsana of Their Lordships.
We can’t do much preaching to nondevotees. They are not allowed to gather in numbers, and we can’t expose ourselves to them. So there is no use in my describing the material situation. We can’t imagine what it means for those who are not used to reining in their senses and who are denied their “freedom” to enjoy. For them, the world is turned upside-down. It is not a favorable time to convince the world that they should chant Hare Krsna. Even in good times, they say, “Can’t chant,” and now that they are absorbed in the panic of fear and material loss, they don’t want to hear that the chanting of the holy names is the panacea.
For devotees there is a silver lining in all this. We can see the virus as maya (illusion) and concentrate with dependence and humility on the holy names. At least we should reassure one another of the shelter and efficacy of calling out to Nama Prabhu. If we become purified and above the panic, we can help people we meet who are in distress. If we cannot assemble to hold mass harinama, we can chant individually and make an intercessionary prayer for all the people of the world. May the Lord enlighten them that they are not these bodies but are spirit souls (eternal servants of Krsna) and are free from birth, death, disease and old age.
The TOVP in Mayapura released a statement that the pujaris, Jananivasa and Pancajanghri, are performing yajnas unto Lord Nrsimha on a daily basis for the protection of the devotees. Lord Nrsimha has always been the Protector Deity in ISKCON. At least twice Srila Prabhupada asked that a picture of Nrsimhadeva be placed by his bedside when he had a serious illness. In 1967, when he suffered a stroke, he asked his disciples to recite a repeated prayer, something like: “Dear Nrsimhadeva, please save our spiritual master; he has not finished his work.” In the pastimes of Lord Caitanya, the Muslim kazi broke a mrdanga and forbade the devotees from performing sankirtana. That night the kazi dreamt that a lion jumped on his chest, ordered him to allow the sankirtana to go on freely, and left claw-marks on his chest. ISKCON devotees continue to pray to Nrsimhadeva for protection of their lives. His picture or Deity is in every temple and practically every devotee’s house.
Bala went down to Trinidad to organize their Ratha-yatra. But because of the virus the event was canceled. I immediately sent messages to him through his wife that he should return at once, lest there be further complications and the airport shut down, as it did in Guyana. But Bala dragged his feet and delayed. He took care of his ailing, aging mother, who was “confused” about the worldwide pandemic. Finally time ran out on him, and the Trinidad airport was closed down. I am disappointed in him for not obeying instructions and catching the first plane back home. Now he is stranded in Trinidad indefinitely. Uddhava is due to leave here April 5th, but we don’t know if he’ll be able to find an open airport. We may ask him to stay on in Viraha Bhavan, since we are so thin on help. Baladeva has decided to go out on errands only once a week, wearing face mask and gloves, and washing his hands when he returns, washing his clothes, and taking a shower. In this way we hope to avoid what would be a disaster if he catches the virus or I do. But even if we’re down to only three—Baladeva, Krsna-dasi and myself—we can read the new book we’ve selected for out-loud reading at mealtimes, Srimad-Bhagavatam. Krsna-dasi has a great responsibility to take care of all the Deities on the first and second floor.
Rama Raya’s Yuga-dharma kirtana party has left New York City. The streets and subways are deserted, and even if they did attract a crowd, it would be broken up. Maduha invited them to Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, and they agreed. They continue their program of holding kirtana six hours daily in the temple. They sing the holy name for the devotees who are endangered, and for the whole world, which is in the grip of the coronavirus. Prabhupada said that in times of distress, there should be an increase of harinama, and that by the chanting of Hare Krsna, World War III had been avoided. It is wonderful that the Yuga-dharma group is continuing their yajnas. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said that if no one comes to hear, the devotees should go on chanting and the four walls would hear, and there would be auspiciousness. Once the devotees hired a big church for Prabhupada to lecture, but almost no one attended. The devotees profusely apologized to Prabhupada. He replied, “Didn’t you see Narada Muni attending?”
Bhurijana spoke on the spiritual world. He said the pure devotees there give 100% to Krsna, not holding anything back for themselves. Then he asked, “Are we ready for that?” By publicly asking his audience, he was provoking them to self-examination.
Another speaker, Sacinandana Swami read my book Search for the Authentic Self. He liked it very much, and from the vyasasana he recommended it to all the devotees. Many of them went to the bookstore and bought it. What he particularly liked was a section where I described “One Hundred Ways I Fake It.” Some of the items included:
The list goes on. It was written many years ago, but I think it is still basically valid.
So when Bhurijana asked his audience, “Are you ready for this?”, I have to admit that I’m not ready to give myself 100% to Krsna and that I have interests and desires beyond constantly serving the Lord at every moment.
The issue is whether to allow Rev. John Endler to visit me this week. He regularly goes to the hospital to visit congregational members, and he mixes with people. Sraddha dasi has canceled his weekly meeting with Ravindra Svarupa out of fear that John may be carrying the coronavirus. Baladeva and I are still deliberating what to do. John and I get a lot of inspiration out of our meetings. We advance the work in my publishing of books. Should we take the risk in the spirit of sacrificing for preaching? (Years ago I advised Sacinandana Swami to take care of his health. He replied that he’d rather die in the battle of preaching. I was impressed.)
John and I could continue our service by phone and email, but it wouldn’t be the same as live sessions, where he enthusiastically reads and comments on selected poems, and he shares first drafts of his introductory essays. Unless he has been ordered to remain in quarantine, I am inclined to invite him so we both get a charge for the week. And the way the disease and restrictions are spreading exponentially, this week may be our last chance to meet.
John and I had to hold our Friday meeting over the telephone because I’m in quarantine due to my vulnerability to coronavirus. We spoke 47 minutes; John did most of the talking. Because of the shutdown of activities in his church, he is able to spend more time reading and writing for my books. He’s making slow progress on the introductory essays that we are publishing on my Vyasa-puja day. These two books (Kaleidoscope and Seeking New Land) are special and require introductions to make them accessible, so John is taking his time to make the essays reader-friendly. When he has finished his essays, the books will go to the proofreaders and layout and design men, and John and I will have finished our work on the 2020 books drawn from EJW. Next we will turn our attention to a series of novels written in California from 2002-2005. We plan to serialize them as Free Write Journal installments. The first book we’ll do is California Search for Gold, and John will contribute an introductory essay.
I’m receiving letters of appreciation for John’s service. I just got an email from my Godbrother Suresvara dasa:
“The next time I visit you, I must meet the Rev. John Endler. His understanding and appreciation of your writing is simply astounding. And his determination to preserve and perpetuate your literary legacy is an amazing Godsend. What sweeter sign of Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord Krsna’s love for you than their sending such a dear friend in your life’s late innings.”
In our out-loud reading, we have been hearing from Krsna book. Usa was taking rest among her girlfriends when she dreamt of a beautiful boy. She cried out, “Oh, my lover!” When she woke, her girlfriends asked her who she was dreaming of. Usa said she didn’t know who he was, but she had fallen in love with him. One of Usa’s friends was Citralekha, a mystic yogini. She told Usa that she would draw pictures of various famous men, and Usa could recognize the man of her dreams. Citralekha then began drawing a series of pictures. When she drew a picture of Pradyumna, Usa slightly lowered her head, but when she drew a picture of Aniruddha, Usa cried out, “He’s the one!” Citralekha assured Usa that she had the power to go anywhere in the world and get Aniruddha and bring him to her.
Citralekha accomplished this marvelous feat and brought Aniruddha to the private female quarters where Usa lived. Aniruddha and Usa then began a conjugal relationship. They passed their days in amorous bliss. Eventually Usa began to show signs on her body that she was engaged in a conjugal affair with a young man. The female guards noticed this and told Banasura what was going on. Banasura discovered Aniruddha in Usa’s quarters and ordered his soldiers to capture him, but Aniruddha took up a long pole and began defending himself. Aniruddha capably defended himself, but Banasura seized him and arrested him as he came out of the palace.
The Yadus noticed the long absence of Aniruddha. Just then Narada came to them and told them what had happened. Because of their great affection for Aniruddha, the Yadus, led by Sri Krsna, surrounded the capital of Banasura’s empire with phalanxes of soldiers. Because Banasura was a great devotee of Lord Siva, Lord Siva brought a great army in response, and a tumultuous struggle ensued. Lord Brahma and all the demigods came to witness this battle, in which Lord Siva personally attacked Krsna with all of the weapons in his arsenal. Lord Siva released his personal weapon, the Pasupata-astra, but Kṛṣṇa immediately nullified it with His Narayaṇa-astra. When Krsna released His yawning weapon, Lord Siva became frustrated, lost interest in the fighting and began to yawn. Krsna, along with Pradyumna and Balarama, proceeded to soundly defeat Banasura and his soldiers. This enraged Banasura, who attacked Krsna with his thousand arms. Krsna easily broke the bows of Bana and then blew His personal conchshell Pancajanya. Banasura’s mother, seeing her son in mortal danger, disrobed and displayed her nakedness as a desperate distraction. Out of distaste, Krsna immediately looked away, allowing a broken Banasura to scramble away from the battlefield with his life.
Now we have almost finished reading the Krsna book. We have only two more chapters left. We have just read “The Deliverance of Lord Siva.” There was a demon named Vrkasura who wanted evil powers. He asked Narada who he should worship to get them. Narada knew the nature of this man and sent him to Lord Siva. Lord Siva is easily pleased by his worshipers and sometimes gives them benedictions which are inauspicious and dangerous for the world. Vrkasura performed severe austerities, even cutting off pieces of his flesh. For six days he was cutting off pieces of his flesh and throwing them into a fire, but Lord Siva never appeared. Then he decided to commit suicide by cutting off his head because Lord Siva did not appear before him. Lord Siva was alarmed and went to Vrkasura, telling him not to commit suicide. He told Vrkasura he would grant him whatever benediction he wanted. Vrkasura then said he wanted the power that whatever person he touched, that person’s head would crack and he would die. Lord Siva was sorry that his worshiper had asked for such a wrong benediction, but he granted it.
Vrkasura then turned to Lord Siva with the intention to touch his head first. Lord Siva trembled in fear and ran away. He traveled to different places and planets, but Vrkasura pursued him. Lord Siva went to different demigods, but they said they couldn’t help him. Finally he went to Lord Narayana, who disguised Himself as a brahmacari. The brahmacari told Vrkasura that he should not put so much strain on his body running around because the body is the most important thing to preserve. Vrkasura was calmed by the brahmacari’s words. Then Vrkasura informed Narayana in the disguise of a brahmacari what he was attempting to do. The brahmacari told him not to trust in the benedictions of Lord Siva. He said Lord Siva had recently lost his wife, and he was now depressed and like a madman. His benedictions could not be trusted. The brahmacari then advised Vrkasura to test the benediction by touching his own head. The foolish demon did this, and immediately his head cracked and he died.
We have two more chapters to finish in the Krsna book, “The Superexcellent Power of Krsna,” and “A Summary Description of Lord Krsna’s pastimes.” We will be able to finish the two chapters by lunchtime today. But yesterday we cast ballots for the next book we would read. Baladeva tried to influence the vote by speaking in favor of the Brhad-bhagavatamrta. Uddhava was not so familiar with our voting procedure, and he was swayed by Baladeva. The vote came out two in favor of Brhad-bhagavatamrta and two in favor of Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was decided that I should break the tie by telling which book I had chosen. I announced “Srimad-Bhagavatam” and Krsna-dasi applauded, because she has been voting for the Bhagavatam in the last several elections. Srimad-Bhagavatam will be a very long yajna, but we can look forward to its interesting chapters, stories and purports.
“The van has broken down. It is taking me time to realize what that means. After two days of being forced to abandon the Renault van, I realize that we will now have to live without it. In the same way, I have to emotionally grasp and reconcile myself to other changes and losses. I am no longer a young man. I will soon be old, then die. I need Krsna. The Renault van era was wonderful while it lasted, but everything in the world winds down and then the engine breaks. One day, as you are speeding on the highway in Spain, engaged in an intense conversation about ISKCON, your time is suddenly up, the scene ends, the players exit, and something new begins. Try to grasp it and surrender.”
Red smudged sunrise becomes a
gray morning at this Parking-stop
off a highway
This is my dawn song
on our way to New Mayapur where
we’ll meet an old friend and
take darsana of Radha-Govinda-Madhava,
the Lord who tilts to one side,
playing His flute, dancing, and enjoying nectar rasa.
“Walking in the New Mayapur woods on the last day of my annual visit. It’s a good place to take stock of the passing years. One year, while on a walk, I thought about whether or not to publish one of my latest books. I decided not to, even though I was excited by it. Another year, on the same walk, I faced more deeply my desire not to initiate more disciples. And there have been other thoughts here. Times have changed; I have changed. New Mayapur is in the throes of its own crisis, and it is a different season than the one in which I usually visit. One of the biggest changes I have noticed here is the change in ‘my’banyan tree. It seems to have been struck by lightning—branches are lying in the path and the trunk appears to have been split—big, muscular, serpentine branches curling over the ground. Time marches on, and we’ll all be scraped off the plate like peas before too long. We are helpless in the face of time.
“Therefore, on this travel day, I want to note that I too will have to face the end of this body. I only hope to make sense out of my life, my tiny, psychological breakthroughs, my attempts to surrender at the lotus feet of Krsna. The path to surrender is already attained, by Prabhupada’s grace.”
Radha-Govinda reciprocate with me.
Radha-Govinda, I pray to You to please
make me a better devotee.
But I can’t go to You directly.
I must first make my offering
to my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada.
We have been neglecting him
placing him in a far corner
of the room and not offering him
daily meals. Today we are
Now he is placed on the desk, closer
to my chair. I can
see him intimately. It
is proper to make your
offering first to Gurudeva,
then Lord Caitanya, then Radha-Govinda.
I am relieved to be excused
at last from this offense.
Now all the Deities are gathered together
in an intimate combination and I
am happy to report it.
I am grateful they all reside with me at Viraha Bhavan.
“Radha-Govinda reciprocate with me.
Radha-Govinda, I practice vaidhi-bhakti to You
following some rules and regulations
although very few. I offer You
three meals a day and wave
an incense stick before You.
My puja is very simple.
My main seva to You
is to receive Your steady
darsana throughout the day—three times when I am
saying Your Gayatri prayers
and many glances when I am sitting in my chair writing
or reading. When I
think of my present situation
I willingly wait to rise to the
stage of spontaneous love
and see You as nondifferent
from Radha-Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana.
I want to feel physical transformations
of ecstasy, and I wait patiently for it.
I am grateful You reside with me in Viraha Bhavan.”
“In the beginning of this journal, I was confiding to myself here and struggling to understand how I could actually fulfill the purport of guru. How could I accept karma—or realize I was doing that?
“Now I seem to have less time to ‘indulge’ in writing down such self-searching analysis. I’m busier actually holding meetings as guru for my disciples, now numbering seventy. I’m not sure how much good was gained by the self-searching, as recorded.
“We have to be guru—there’s no backing out. That’s an order from my guru. Then make it real. At first my preaching to disciples and other devotees was apologetic. ‘Don’t do that,’ I was advised. The disciples were more willing to accept me on the authority of Prabhupada, GBC, and senior Vaisnavas. I have gone forward.
“Krsna is behind me and accepts the karma through me. On my acceptance of disciples, it is done. Sure, I don’t realize everything yet, so I’m not jumping ahead and making extravagant claims. I’m careful not to say, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’ too much. I describe whatever I can authoritatively and say the rest is not easily known by us now. Neither did Prabhupada ever tell us much (about how guru comes back for his disciples). I’m stressing loving connections.
“I have to admit I’m new at it. After six years as a sannyasi, I am again dealing with and talking to women (as my disciples), and it is still taking time to learn to deal with it carefully, yet as real guru. (Remembering him: ‘Do as I am doing.’) Accepting and even demanding worship, speaking of a bond which is the greatest bond in the life of my disciples, and teaching them I am their lord and master—certainly my realization is coming along, but I feel how I am coming into it. How can we honestly say we are eternally guru? Now we are eternal guru, as desired by Prabhupada, and it is a great wonder, another genuine miracle, but it is taking time for all to realize and develop —disciples of Prabhupada, our disciples, our GBC, ISKCON.
“We are going today, three GBC men, to one guru’s residence where there is a question that he is thinking himself beyond all law and guidance based on his being appointed guru. If it is true, it is bad.
“Realizations are individual, but the philosophy is the standard (sastra). We have our guru’s instructions that we cooperate and work in ISKCON together. We are pleading to you (the independent-minded guru) not to come to your own understanding but to follow the parampara standard, which must be maintained by all. If ‘individually’ I start saying I am Krsna, I cannot be allowed to do so. I can be censured by my Godbrothers. It is a matter of siddhanta and also cooperation.
“Individual means that we all agree Krsna is in the Deity, although we may realize it to different degrees. But the object as well as symptoms of advanced realization are known—combination of Prabhupada’s purports, verses of sastra, and Srila Prabhupada’s teaching and spiritual will for GBC and ISKCON.
“A guru can be dictated to if he teaches something wrong.”
“When Christian theologians use the term ‘the historical Christ,’ they mean that person whose life story is told in the Gospels. This is only one level of thinking about Christ for them. They also thinking of him as the Messiah, the son of God, the Lord, and so on. Some speculate about Christ in an impersonal way. Thus they speak of ‘the logos’ and ‘the Christ within everyone.’ Sometimes when you hear this talk, you say, ‘Wait a minute. What about the person?’ The scholars reply, ‘We’re not so interested in the historical person.’
“The first time I heard one of Prabhupada’s followers say this I was shocked.
“‘We don’t want to become a cult of Prabhupada worshipers,’ he said. ‘Prabhupada is a link in the parampara. The important thing is the message coming down. Prabhupada never said that he was important.’
“‘But Prabhupada is the person who saved me,’ I said. ‘The message did not come to save me by itself; the person saved me. I want to worship and think of that person.’
“If we minimize the historical Prabhupada, then we open up the possibility that one of us can take his place. ‘Now I am the next person in the link. I am important now.’
“Therefore, when remembering the teachings of Krsna consciousness, it is important to do it in a personal way. When I think of Prahlada Maharaja and his relationship with Krsna, I think, ‘Prabhupada is sweet to write it in these words.’ If I don’t think of Prabhupada in a personal way, then I am missing out.”
“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 1966 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.
“On the airplane we met a woman who was interested in Krsna consciousness. She has traveled to India several times and knew about both Hinduism and Buddhism. I tried to introduce her to the Bhagavad-gita and she became interested. Later, Madhu told her how Prabhupada came to America in 1965. She asked if he was the first Krsna conscious person who ever came. Madhu said that others may have come, but he was the first one to make an impact. That was nice, hearing Prabhupada’s glories recited to an interested person on the Pan Am flight. She also asked if there was a biography of Prabhupada.”
“Come on, baby, push a little further. Geaglum Diary hasn’t got a sustaining focus, huh? Well, it’s written in this place, Geaglum, that’s true. I sit here and face the strait of water that separates Geaglum from the island of Inis Rath. Today I’m in the house alone. I walk around the rooms, chant another round, wait for a good idea. I am slowly gaining resolve for what to write.
“When we do get the van, it is perfectly natural to write about what I am going to do with it. I will accept this gift that Madhu has arranged for me, Krsna has arranged. I will be happy to move in, even though it’s temporary, and then write about how this is service to Lord Caitanya, how it is preaching. It has to be so, and I have to discover it. I look forward to it. If the Geaglum Diary can serve this purpose as a launching pad for the July book, then it serves a good purpose.
“Kathleen Adams gave a list of rules for journal writing. Her point was that these are stereotypes and that there aren’t really any rules. Some of the rules I checked as those I follow—that it has to be interesting to read, etc. Then I added some of my own: it has to be Krsna conscious, it has to be typed up, it has to be submitted to my editors as possible material for publishing. But she says there are no rules as absolute. I certainly desire to say the stuff. Otherwise, it seems a waste of time. It’s preaching. I’m not interested in writing mostly as a process for self-awareness, but to produce pages for reading in the literary spread of sankirtana. Big mrdanga. But I’m not attached to thinking that everything I write should be saved. I’m willing for whole books to remain unpublished. But at least I need to get it out of the illegible stage of my own typing or handwriting into the typewritten form (three copies). I don’t think that’s such a vain thing to do. And for the rule that it must be Krsna conscious, I don’t say that it has to be that way every inch of the way, but I should be aspiring for that or sorry that I am not a hundred percent Krsna conscious.”
“Geaglum quay. Gay and glum. Answering a few letters that I received from devotees here in Ireland. Big plush pleasure-boats go by. In Ireland they have to have covered shelter because rain could come at any time. When it is not raining, the rich people sit up on deck. They go by in a few moments. Then the landscape becomes natural again. I face the quay where the Hare Krsna rowboats are tied to Inis Rath Island.
“Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.
“The gravity center ought to be bypassed. The fingers will report what they can. How is it that I lost the ability to type accurately? I could return to that. Yes, I could. I could also stop thinking. When I concentrate on typing, I remember the Navy and being in the office, wearing the blue work shirt and the Navy denims. I think of Jerry Adams (or what was his last name?), and I think of Kint and myself, with the Third Class G.O. insignia and how I…
“Poor guy—so young, dreaming of the day when he would get out and go live on the Lower East Side. Wasted life.
“That’s what accurate typing reminds me of and then the temporary office job I got in Manhattan, slowly correcting my mistakes. Working for low wages, living poorly, wanting to be a writer. At least I practiced that as a religion. I had low overhead in those days. Lived alone. Hare Krsna. Didn’t eat well. Then it all changed for the better. Now I don’t type so well. I typed well for the Swami. I don’t know where I lost it or how important it is. Hare Krsna. These memories and so many.
“I will rise at midnight and get up and do writing practice. Just let the hand keep going for as long as you can in forty minutes.
Madhu didn’t come back last night. I woke up many times, but then went back to sleep each time after looking at the clock. Dreamt I returned from being in the Navy and bluffed my way to return to the Lower East Side neighborhood, which was now reconstructed as an improved housing project. I wanted to go there and write what I felt and thought would be worthy. Steve Kowit was now distributing books with another devotee. They saw my service as inferior and were condescending toward me, but gave me directions to get to the Lower East Side. America had been bombed. Kowit said to me, ‘You have been away a long time, and I can see that America is coming out in you.’ In other words, I was manifesting the anxieties generally felt by all Americans. I was also naïve to the actual situation there. I thought, ‘All right, then let me put that into my writing.’ Had to pass inspection before a police officer and his troops. I put on my Navy uniform and said that I was just honorably discharged as a journalist third class on the U.S.S. Saratoga and my father had been a lieutenant commander. Said it proudly. As I said it, I hid a pistol in my pocket. They let me go. If I could only go free to write.
“Now I’m here and I don’t have a novel to write, but neither an obligatory essay. All I have is a story about wanting to write.
“Returning war hero, not really, but he wants to write his experience while living on the Lower East Side.
“My story of reading S.B. in any section I desire. Send me another Basic Sketchbook, and I can write like that. I read and write, read and write, but now I have an added story – that I have obtained residency (‘permanent’ is my intention, I told the government office man) in Ireland, and I’m here to write religious books. Oh, what kind? It is an unusual kind. The story of a life in Krsna consciousness.
“You mean you’re not going to proceed verse by verse into S.B. after having gone six chapters?
“Not right now. It’s all a continuous story and the latest is the van life. In August, something else. Flows from life itself. Van life means telling what we are packing into the van.
“Even before that is whether Madhu got the registration. He was all day in Dublin. That’s a story.”
“Journal . . . or writing practice beyond journal? Autobiography or stream of consciousness? Deliberate Krsna conscious preaching, or is that included in the flow I don’t control? These choices I’m always making, or at least asking myself what is happening as I write.
“Let more abstract drawings remain as they come. Don’t always rush to make them safe and familiar. Don’t be so quick to correct mistakes and make them visibly Krsna conscious.
“That reminds me of trying to bluff my way past the police and housing people in my dream as I came out of the Navy and entered my life as a writer on the Lower East Side. I wanted people to accept me and didn’t dare tell my actual intentions, but didn’t think so highly of them.
“I am committed to do my thing, perhaps as compensation for the service I’ve done. I am an old-timer, no present big scandal. Was with Swamiji . . .”
“My days are numbered on Geaglum quay. I wish you well. Push the button. I read in S.B. for the class I’m supposed to give here tomorrow. It’s Kardama Muni and Lord Kapiladeva. Kardama has guarded his home, but now he asks permission to go take sannyasa. You can read any section you like in Prabhupada’s books if you’ll stay alive with it. Caitanya-caritamrta is providing that also.
“Srila Prabhupada writes that devotees in the West may change from their robes into Western dress if it helps their preaching. We’re interested in the essence, which is service, not formalities. He even told me I could give up wearing sannyasa robes and wear a suit and tie to sell his books on campuses. I personally asked him in San Francisco in 1974 around the time I was leaving as his secretary. He said, ‘Yes, we are interested in service.’ My mind leaps to make a connection from that to this writing. I may give up the formal appearances of Vaisnava literature to attain the essence I am capable of, with personal writing.”
“Quiet here. Of course, wild life of plants and animals and insects is teeming all around the house. Not far from here also is the bitter human conflict of Northern Ireland. But this is peaceful to write.
“Lord Krsna, Lord of the flies,
ornament of Radharani,
object of affection of all Vrajavasis –
so much that their whole lives are
placed in You –
Lord of demigods, Siva and Brahma,
Supreme Controller who allows
us to do what we want
but reminds us what is best –
I pray to You through my service.
I write, I write and
give it to Srila Prabhupada and the devotees
that the devotees may feel free
and hopeful of the possibilities for
their own growth and expression
in Krsna consciousness.
“The moon should be full again before too long. I may see it as I did before. I pray to be able to serve my Lord. He allowed Kardama to go off as a bhajananandi and remain alone, worshiping Krsna in his heart. Srila Prabhupada says the bhajananandi does not take the risk of preaching. It’s a risk. The gostyanandi lives amid many devotees and organizes their preaching. He is better. What am I? Do I do either?
“Do I finger
“Krsna wrist. Krsna twist in all things. In His pastimes and teachings and names, in His order to His devotees, He’s the most sacred and powerful. Don’t adulterate or trifle with His teachings. Don’t hide Him. Don’t try to take His place. Don’t neglect His Bhagavad-gita in your life. Don’t use the body He gave you for sense gratification except as necessary to keep healthy – while you serve Him.
“Best use of a bad bargain – brief existence on a merry-go-round a few more years.
“Don’t climb over the fence in a zoo into polar bears’ turf. Don’t swallow poison knowingly. Worship Radha-Krsna by worshiping Their pure devotee, who sings ‘Vrndavan-mahatmiya’ and ‘Hari-hari-biphale’ and writes S.B. and Cc. for you, and pushes on this movement, and wants you also.”
“Somebody talk to this Satsvarupa and straighten him out. He’s a lout, a gout, ‘a trout.’
“Really? I thought he was a nice guy.
“Well, he’s gone awry, away.
“Okay, I’ll teach him and say, ‘Wise up and cooperate.’
“I’ll tell him you can eat apple pie, but be responsible, attend meetings and preach more lectures. If you must, be more propagandistic and organize your essays as Sheridan Baker teaches in The Complete Stylist. Use the “hourglass” technique. If you want to tell of life in your van, make it calculated and organized.
“Oh, go ahead, Sats. No one is complaining or caring. No one is looking. Say the whole truth fast.
“I can’t find direct themes or stories. Write about writing. I like it. Gravitate to it. We’ll continue it. This day. Merry way.
“He wants from me the unexpected, new adventures. Well, it here it comes folks, something new down the pike. It’s time to banish irrelevant, even playful asides and write holy as you get ready to chant japa. You’ve been at this long enough.
“These youngsters are my life. They are the people I talk with and give counsel to. They expect a lot of me, but they also let me be who I am. Madhu posed this question last year in his letter to me on my birthday. He said it was fine with him that I was searching for myself and that I want to be myself, but since he has accepted me as his spiritual master, this sometimes presented to him (or let’s switch this now and not say this is Madhu, I don’t want to say I know his mind exactly, but let’s say it is ‘someone’) – a disciple might say that for a guru, we need someone perfect and careful in his behavior, someone unquestionably Krsna conscious and always thinking of Krsna. For that we go to Srila Prabhupada. After all, ISKCON is constantly telling how important it is that all of us worship Prabhupada, so why can’t we accept him as our main spiritual master?
“In response to that, I say, ‘Yes, go ahead.’ I’m sorry if I’ve been presumptuous about it, assuming to be someone’s guru when they didn’t see me that way. But then someone else approaches me and says, ‘You are the guru.’ I have to make up my own mind and not be a person who merely responds to whatever one group or another wants from me.
“I do need to search for myself, be myself, with memories, accept my fallibility, my Westernisms, and so on. I need to be able to grow and create and relax and admit who I am, at least to myself. Then they can take that as guru or friend or big brother or whatever. I think that’s the way to go about it.
“I should not be affronted if they say I am not perfect enough for guru. Say to them, ‘Okay, then go to Prabhupada for that and I hope to help you with it.’ Don’t demand or force them if their heart and mind is not in it. Srila Prabhupada could be their main guru as siksa-guru. Admit it and don’t resent it. I used to call this the ‘leeway policy.’ Give them leeway to choose.
“If some others come and say, ‘Srila Prabhupada is great, but far away from us. You have actually been our guide our whole spiritual life. We follow the path you chalk out in your books. We want to hear of Srila Prabhupada and Krsna from you. You inspire us to grow and be honest. We can relate to you. Therefore, we accept you wholeheartedly as guru according to sastra.’ To them I won’t say, ‘No, I cannot. I’m too faulty to be that.’ I won’t tell them I must be to you what I am to others who see me as too minor and whimsical. Get it?”
“I want to write a letter to Manu about the cycles my writing goes through. Basically, I see it like this. Sometimes I need to put aside what I feel is performance and just go for the most honest expression each time I write, without regard for structure and without even regard for whether it’s perfectly Krsna conscious or publishable. But I don’t write constantly that way. I will eventually feel a need, a desire to write something as a book, as publishable, as art that can be shared.
“The cycles go that way. There may be other cycles too. It’s like working in one vein for a long time and then another for a shorter time. I just tune into the process and trust it and keep the hand moving. They say the monk should stay in his cell, and the cell will teach him how to pray.
“I am, of course, part of the intelligence process. I make notes, ask myself, and pray to Krsna how to make it more directly Krsna conscious. I contribute to the process but mainly by writing, writing as much as I can about what feels vital. That way I’ll get a little of everything. Be there to write.”
“It’s extra cold this morning. The water is streaming by fast. Get ready for the walk. Madhu didn’t come back last night and didn’t phone either. I assume he has not finished battling for the registration, license plates, and sticker for the van, so he stayed in the van overnight in Dublin and he will be back fighting with them today. He may phone me and ask me to come down if that is needed. I hope not.
“I have become decisive to put PMRB aside for the time being. Ready to launch into July’s writing project, ‘In the Back of the Van,’ and before then keep at Geaglum Diary until I’m pulled away from here by time.”