He calls himself a sudra with no qualities. I say, “No, you are a brahmana-Vaisnava.” He says, “Then I am a sudra-Vaisnava.” I reply, “You are transcendental.” He works hard all day as my medical caretaker, my medical proxy, in dealings with doctors and nurses. He says he is “sleep-deprived by the cult leader” (myself), who keeps him so busy that he has no time for naps and is gradually running down in health, toward death. Baladeva has a permanent desire to go to Vrndavana and reside there. But his service as caretaker and servant to his old and ailing spiritual master keeps him on a choke-chain where he cannot leave his master’s side. He tries to convince himself that by serving his guru he is as good as serving in Vrndavana. Baladeva has a good heart, and he’s really not discontent to stay close to his Guru Maharaja. I love Baladeva and feel that he is my essential life-companion. “Til death do we part.”
Every day devotees are calling, inquiring to how I am and giving advice how to cope with the coronavirus. We are on shutdown in the ashram. (So far, there are only 20 cases in Columbia County.) Only once a week Baladeva goes out to do errands. He wears a mask and gloves and goes out at the early hour (6:00 to 7:00 A.M.), when only senior citizens are allowed to shop. He shops for fresh fruits and vegetables, and then goes to a farm for raw milk. When he’s done at the store, he throws out his gloves and mask before touching the car. Back at the house, he washes his hands, puts his clothes into the washing machine, takes a full shower and changes into new clothes. Another precaution: we spray with disinfectant the incoming mail from the post office, then open it and make a copy of it before giving it to me. The other three devotees in the ashram are on full quarantine. Even if they go out for a walk, they maintain six feet of social distancing from other people. It’s very easy to maintain this in our rural neighborhood. Even our neighbor Saci Suta isn’t coming over to visit us until his two week quarantine is over. I speak on the phone with different devotees who are still working at their jobs on the Internet. They are coping with various degrees of ability to work online. Krsna conscious persons have the advantage of relying on chanting, hearing, reading books and listening to live lectures on the Internet. On the whole, none of them are panicking but finding silver linings in the fact that they are shut down in their homes and can tend to their sadhana better.
I am listening to a recording of Jagattarini Mataji speaking at the Govardhana Retreat. She tells of her personal experiences with the Vrajavasis. One time she was in an accident with a bullock cart. The oxen were approaching her real close and she panicked. She was against a wall, and one of the oxen grazed her. She didn’t break any bones, but she fainted and fell to the ground. This was in Loi Bazaar, and the merchants came around her with concern. They brought her to the emergency room of the hospital and saw that she was taken care of. After she was discharged, they also came and visited her. This changed her attitude toward them. She had been condescending and thinking of them as ordinary people, but now she saw their tender, compassionate side and she had to adjust her attitude. She then spoke with Jayadvaita Maharaja, who told her that we Western devotees don’t teach the Vrajavasis. They teach us. This gave her a fuller realization of her relationship with the Vrajavasis, and from then on she didn’t look down on them or preach to them, but accepted them as special persons—residents of the dhama.
Another story, this one about monkeys and Vrajavasis. Usually the local residents are chasing the monkeys away, and the monkeys are stealing from them. But once one monkey got partly electrocuted on the wires across the street, and he fell down to the ground and was smoldering. The local people came around and put him on a blanket. They poured water on his head and gave him medicine. They stayed with him until he regained consciousness and was able to walk away unassisted. An onlooker was astonished to see the caring attitude of the people of Vrndavana toward the usually mischievous monkeys.
Malati dasi, who was one of the pioneers who came to Vrndavana with Prabhupada in the early years, was present and confirmed Jagattarini Mataji’s accounts.
Jagattarini spoke on service to the dhama. She said first is service to the Nama, and later there is service to the kama, or desires, of Krsna. Very important is service to the dhama. She focused on this by telling of Prabhupada’s coming to Vrndavana with his first group of Western disciples. Despite their lack of culture and knowledge of proper etiquette, he was proud of them and considered them bona-fide Vaisnavas. He wanted to show them off to the residents of Vrndavana. He sent them out on harinama in the town of Vrndavana, and this created a popular sensation. The residents were won over by the chanting party. They could see that his disciples were really devotional and that it was not just for show. Prabhupada didn’t much take his disciples around the holy sites of Vrndavana, but he treated them to a series of lectures on Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion). He must have been very happy to speak on Rupa Gosvami’s book in the courtyard of Radha-Damodara temple. He taught his devotees how to deal with the residents of Vrndavana. He was very concerned and careful that they not commit offenses or breaches in etiquette. Because the devotees were direct representatives of Prabhupada, he personally oversaw that they kept clean habits, clean dress, fresh tilaka, and didn’t talk prajalpa or overeat.
A sadhu who lived alone at Vrnda-kunda was dying. He came to ISKCON and asked them to take over the management of the place. Jagattarini Mataji went to see him. She was thinking of writing a book about the trees of Vrndavana and wanted to interview this sadhu. He told her he was too ill and didn’t have the energy to talk about all the trees. But they spoke some. However, she could see that he had a different vision of the trees than she did. She mostly saw them with material vision, but he saw them transcendentally as part of Krsna’s lila, so they had trouble in communicating. At one point he told her to go to New Delhi and look at books that tell about the trees of Vrndavana. Jagattarini said that she didn’t want to go to that extreme, doing mundane research. She didn’t want to make a botanical book. The sadhu told her that the residents of Vrndavana have neglected the holy dhama and the trees. They have cut them down and not cared for them. He himself had planted thousands of trees, but few of them survived. He told the residents that he would pay them if they would simply water the trees, but they were not interested. He said the Vrajavasis are ruining Vrndavana by their disinterest in its spiritual meaning. But he was not bitter about this or critical of them. This was a kind of contradiction.
It was Daivi-sakti devi dasi who was the main person who met with the sadhu and maintained a relationship with him for many years while she lived at Varsana. It was natural that he turned over the property and the temple to her as a representative of ISKCON. The place was dangerous. The Muslims had defaced the Deity of Vrndadevi, and gundas came there stealing. One time they broke the legs of the pujari and stole all the kitchen equipment. So then the devotees started cooking elsewhere and bringing the offerings to the temple, but they wouldn’t stay there at night. Once the property was turned over to ISKCON, they built walls around the place and installed handsome Deities, including a very attractive Deity of Vrnda-devi. Vrnda-devi is the goddess of Vrndavana who makes arrangements for the pleasure of Radha and Krsna. At Vrnda-kunja there are two trees that are filled with parrots who are Vrnda-devi’s messengers for arranging the pastime spots and meeting places. On the same property, there is a little kunda called Gupta kunda, which is considered very sacred.
Baladeva opined that Radharani’s dress today is attracting Govinda. She wears blue with pink and gold slivers that have an “electrical” feeling. Her skirt is filled with the slivers. Govinda’s feet and ankle are exposed, and He wears red anklets. He has a thick silver belt, and Radharani has a belt that makes Her waist look very thin. I asked Krsna dasi not to put flowers in Radharani’s left hand because I want to see Her long braid unobstructed. I love Her braid and think it is a great addition to Her dressing. Govinda wears a small-sized turban with braided effects. It is just as I like it. Her skirt has no peacocks or animals, and the flute is compatible with that. It has no peacock but a rectangular end with a jewel in the center. With Radharani’s waist being so thin, Her hips and breasts are prominent. It’s an outstanding outfit, and I’ll be sorry to see it go. But I look forward to the change every three days.
In our out-loud reading of the Bhagavatam, we have read of Sukadeva Gosvami’s approaching Maharaja Pariksit and beginning to speak on the Bhagavatam. In the second chapter, Suta Gosvami is introduced. He is speaking at a gathering of sages at the holy site of Naimisaranya. Suta was present for the first recitation by Sukadeva Gosvami, and he is the leader at the Naimisaranya talks, of which Saunaka Rsi is the main inquirer. The sages ask six questions of Suta Gosvami, and he answers them one by one. The first question is, “Now that Krsna has departed from the earth, where do the principles of religion reside?” Suta Gosvami replies,
“This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.” (SB 1.3.43)
In the third chapter, there is a partial list of the incarnations. Krsna and Balarama are included. But at the end of the list it is stated that all the incarnations are parts or plenary parts, but krsnas tu bhagavan svayam—Krsna is the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of all the incarnations.
Now we are up to the chapter in Canto One about the nefarious behavior of Asvatthama. He killed the five sleeping babies, the infants of Draupadi, and thought it would please his master, Duryodhana, but Duryodhana was very displeased. Arjuna promised Draupadi that he would kill Asvatthama for this infanticide and cut off his head, and she could stand on it while taking her bath after the funeral. Arjuna pursued Asvatthama, and after a while Asvatthama’s horses became tired. To save his life, he resorted to throwing the brahmastra weapon, although he was not in knowledge of how to retract it. Arjuna saw the glaring weapon approaching him, and he turned to Krsna for advice. Krsna told him to counteract the weapon by throwing his own brahmastra. The two brahmastras met and lit up the skies as bright as it is at the time of cosmic annihilation. Arjuna then captured Asvatthama and bound him with ropes like an animal. Krsna told Arjuna to kill him, but when Draupadi saw him bound up, as a gentle lady, she asked that he be spared. She did not want Asvatthama’s mother to be grief-stricken, as Draupadi was. King Yudhisthira agreed with Draupadi, but Bhima wanted him killed. So Arjuna was faced with a dilemma of whether or not to kill him. He thought for a while, and Krsna gave him the intelligence to cut off the jewel on Asvatthama’s forehead and to cut his hair. In a sense, this was as good as killing him. They then drove Asvatthama away from the camp. But Asvatthama wasn’t reformed by this. He sent another brahmastra to kill the embryo in the womb of Uttara, who was to become Maharaja Pariksit. Uttara ran to Krsna and asked Him to save her embryo. Krsna took His Sudarsana cakra and simultaneously saved the five Pandavas and protected Uttara’s embryo. The culprit Asvatthama retired to an obscure village in anonymity and disgrace, a condition worse than death. He is still living there to this day. We can just imagine how miserable Asvatthama must be, passing his time for so long in that way.
I received letters from a grhastha couple who are my disciples and who spend their residence in Alachua and in England. They wrote me that they have been planning for many years to come to our ashram and render service. We had scheduled them to come soon, but the medical crisis forbids this. They say they can come in December. I am so much out of touch with them for many years that I do not remember them, but they are welcome. He is a college instructor and can do proofreading of my books. The wife says she is a good cleaner, and we can always use that. Devotees who come here should not think it’s a vacation but a place for practical service and association. I actually have many disciples who have now raised their families and are free of that responsibility. Many of them are out of touch with me. They could begin to come back by writing to me, and then eventually scheduling a visit. We need helpers in our ashram, and I very much want to re-establish my relationship with them. Prabhupada always welcomed back his disciples who had become out of touch, and I am in that mood also.
I am exchanging frequent letters with an aspiring devotee in prison. He says he gets ecstatic symptoms from reading my books. He has twenty-seven months before he is released. He’s already thinking what ISKCON guru he wants to initiate him. I think he’s premature with that. Unlike the outside population who are in government-enforced quarantine, the prisoner is in heavier self-isolation behind iron bars. My devotee friends are being shut down from their jobs, and police are setting up barricades and issuing tickets to any driver who is not out on an essential mission.
Actually, the whole world is on a kind of quarantine. Those under the control of the material modes of nature are confined to transmigrate according to their karma into various species of life, including animal forms and hellish conditions. Only those who are completely detached from sense gratification and fully engaged in loving service to Krsna, are free from the prison-like existence. They are also above the fear and confinement of coronavirus.
I listen to a Prabhupada lecture every day. I remember when the Tape Ministry in Los Angeles first started producing and distributing lectures throughout the world. Prabhupada’s secretary would carry a tape recorder and record his talks wherever he traveled. It was an exciting time for the devotees. Everywhere you went in the temple you could hear a Prabhupada talk.
Now the temples have started broadcasting all their programs. So Prabhupada is not the exclusive speaker, but his followers give classes on the Bhagavatam in parampara, and the devotees listen on their electronic devices.
Sravanam, hearing, is the first and most important of the nine principles of devotional service. When I am finished hearing a lecture by Prabhupada, I can’t remember in detail what he said, but I listen attentively, and that is a solace.
I still have the faces or masks of men I constructed many years ago in Ireland. They are made of empty Kleenex boxes with long noses of paper towel tubes. They are painted colorfully with mouths full of white teeth. Four of them have Vaisnava tilaka, and two have horizontal Shaivite stripes. Nanda Kishora’s wife took one away and gave me a bamboo plant in return (which is still alive). I won’t give any more away. I am glad they have survived my travels. They are now sitting on top of a bookshelf and are the first thing one sees as they walk up the stairs. Some people say they are “awesome.” They are found-objects art, and they are Krsna conscious, wearing white Vaisnava tilaka.
“I gave M. a recap of the lunch conversation and prefer not to retell it here, although it goes through my mind. My Godbrother spoke at length of the virtues of Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He said the author makes $40,000 a day when he lectures. The psychological methods can be used in Krsna consciousness. We spoke how cheating lines on book distribution have hurt our movement. Sad to hear of the dwindling and oppression of our movement in Russia.
Sad to think we don’t learn lessons, are not a fast-growing religion like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who agree to go door to door when they get baptized. At the end I asked, ‘Is there a sweet?’ The vice president came to the door and said decisively, ‘There is no sweet.’ My Godbrother didn’t settle for that and asked why they didn’t serve the Lord a sweet. (I hope the vice president didn’t think that by ‘the Lord’ he meant us.) The V.P. said, ‘Maybe because we worship a painting of Panca-tattva, we don’t think of Him as a Deity.’ The Godbrother didn’t settle for that either. They later brought us some sweets they had found in the fridge.
“I didn’t get a headache. I insisted that my Godbrother give the Gita class tonight, which begins around 8:00 P.M. It is my penance to stay up for it. He said that what I am doing, traveling as a sadhu and lecturing, is good service. I appreciated that. He asked if I wanted a copy of The Seven Habits, and I mumbled that I don’t read many things.
“So there. It leaves some sadness, some irony, and a wish to move on in time.
“Here are my seven habits, jokingly, as quick as they come from my hand and gauche, slow wink:
“1) To not get headaches.
2) To write timed books
3) To read Bhagavad-gita and to not read much else
4) (To lie down when I’m tired.)
5) To be a devotee of Hare Krsna and wear saffron
6) To give up bad things
7) To memorize a sloka per day, seven in a week, and to never eat pies or bananas or to tell any lies.
8) To abandon something
“That’s it, there are eight.”
“It’s important for me to write this mixture of the Absolute Truth and my perception of the world through my imperfect senses and intelligence. People may criticize me for mixing it and presenting it as if it’s Vaisnava literature, but I reply (for myself) that if I can go deeper with this, the mixture can bring me to surrender to Krsna. If we look closely, we will find that many sastric statements also contain this mixture. Even examples to describe Lord Krsna’s beauty and pastimes are analogies from the material world. We are spirit souls, but we now live in the material world and can’t help but see what goes on. Krsna says the liberated soul sees everything in Krsna and sees Krsna everywhere. I hope for that vision, but at present, I am bombarded.
“When I can write down a dream I had concisely, it seems a victory. When I can present a mixture of Absolute Truth and sense perception honestly, it seems like a gain, an addition to the Krsna consciousness movement. And if I can present it clearly, then it’s a presentation of Krsna consciousness through the art of writing. They may call this a Pyrrhic victory and say that whatever I have gained, I have lost the essence of straight Krsna consciousness. I disagree. If I can go deep and remain pure and simple, the mixture won’t be vain aesthetics or literary vanity. I pray for Lord Krsna’s protection as I take some inevitable risks.
“ISKCON may be in a sad state heading for a crisis—either it will get well or die. Maybe that’s healthy. I keep thinking that if and when the conservative GBC leaders admit that plenty is wrong and become more liberal and want to improve—even then I wouldn’t want to go to all those meetings, round table discussions, Internet forums and seminars. I don’t think it’s wrong to support an ailing ISKCON. I think ISKCON’s good outweighs its bad. I don’t think Prabhupada wants me to quit it. So as long as there are temples or groups of devotees, they will need lecturers and simple presentations of the philosophy.
“I too feel the pinch, the peer pressure. I am criticized for being a little different, but I seek my integrity while remaining connected but aloof from ISKCON. I don’t even want to discuss this at length in my book. I’d just get swept along in the whirlpool of diagnoses and treatments. We need the kind of organization a good business has; we need community, we need varnasrama, we need, we need . . .
“We also need the pine trees
and a few maroon gladiolas
in a vase on a porch
on a summer afternoon.
While Sacinandana Swami lectures in Deutsch
we need someone sitting upstairs
writing in American English, mining
for his own fresh perspective—
who will travel tomorrow
to France and stop
to write. Please,
With all thy faults,
ISKCON, I make my
sermon-song within your precincts.”
“I wrote my Svevo book in 1964. Just prior to that I had written a traditional short story called ‘On the Outskirts of Gloria.’ It told of the USS Saratoga coming into port. I wrote it under the influence of marijuana, trying to give vivid details. Murray didn’t like it much because it was restrained and formal. It was not poetry from the heart but constructed prose.
“Then in the first flush of living on the Lower East Side, I broke loose and wrote fragments of my actual life—my visits to Eliot and Anna, etc. Murray said that this was it. I was waxing poetic. Kowit liked it too, although he thought I was showing him the notes of an outline of a book I was planning to write. I said, ‘No, this is it, this is the book.’ He took back his praise. He said he liked it as a plan, not as a book. Eliot loved it the way it was.
“The fact is, when I write nowadays, I include what might be called the writer’s notebook or plans for writing along with the writing itself.
“Some devotees say that it was fine for me to keep a detailed diary when I was serving Prabhupada. They wanted to hear about what he was doing. What use is it, they ask, to write of my complaints and mediocre thoughts and habits? They may say that I have to achieve excellence in all that I write, or at least a high percentage of what I write. I write timed books. Homer nods. How often do I strive for excellence? In every line.
“As in Svevo, I wrote what was happening, and that’s what I’m doing now.”
“I never knew You were a beautiful young
boy. I never knew You had a girlfriend.
“I never knew God was a Person with
six opulences, in control of multi-
energies, with black, curly hair
and lotus feet worshiped by all
the demigods. I never knew there were demigods.
“I never knew You loved me,
although I heard about it from Catholic priests.
Now I know a little better.
I know You have many Names, like
Krsna and Govinda and Purusottama
and You like me to say Your Names.
I never knew the soul was in the heart
and that after death it lives on and
transmigrates to another body. That
is an amazing fact if I believe it.
“I believe in transmigration and Krsna
and that the world is not eternal and
that Christ is not the only
begotten son of God the Father.
“I believe there are many avataras and
sons and prophets and they teach
according to time, place and person.
“I never knew You married 16,108 wives,
and after I first heard it, I couldn’t
believe it, but when Swamiji said
everyone is Krsna’s wife—He’s in the
heart of every being—so if He
comes out of the heart of a mere 16, 108
souls, it’s no big deal—then
I accepted it.
I never knew You had two arms,
just like a human, but You expand
into four arms and eight, and a
“I never knew You were very strict
about madhurya-rasa and don’t like
it discussed by speculative scholars or
sinful persons. Now I try being
cautious in discussing it.
“I never knew You were blackish, like a
monsoon cloud, and yet more beautiful
than millions of Cupids, and that Your chest was like a thunderbolt. I
never knew, until I typed the
Krsna book, that You killed many
demons in Your childhood.”
“My Prabhupada murti is an old friend. I commissioned him from the master sculptor Locana dasa in 1977. I knew I needed him after Prabhupada’s disappearance. He is twelve inches tall and a wonderful likeness. His tan patina is smooth just like Prabhupada. I traveled with him in a van all over Europe and by plane to India. I massaged and bathed him daily and changed his dress. After some years I decided it was too risky to carry him wherever I went. Now he stays on a plush vyasasana in my bhajana-kutir at Viraha Bhavan, close to Radha-Govinda. His worship is more vapuh than vani. We offer him three meals a day.
He has been with me through difficult times when I worshiped him with large Gaura-Nitai from Ekacakra in the audarya mood. Now I take shelter of him in my sunset years. We have recently bought sets of clothes from Vrndavana and new silk pavitra garlands from Mayapur. My Prabhupada murti is very dear to me, and I plan to stay with him until the end of my life.
This book was published in 1990. Each chapter starts with a sastric quote and then gives a personal memory or a deliberation on Krsna conscious philosophy.
“There is no harm in trying to alleviate distress by the normal methods available to us, although even that should be done without passionate endeavor. If you are bleeding too much, by all means call the ambulance. But especially if it’s severe, don’t forget Krsna. He gives us life, and He can take it away. His plan is perfect, and we simply have to accept it. By suffering, our poison is being reduced; by enjoyment we are spending the merits we achieved in the past. One who has enlisted in the process of pure devotional service becomes lifted by the grace of guru and Krsna to a transcendental position. He becomes free of karma, but even a devotee is sometimes kicked. That kicking is Krsna’s token punishment, whereby He removes the last sinful tendencies and reactions from the aspiring, practicing devotee. Suffering needn’t be seen as a loss or sliding backwards for either the materialist or the devotee. But it depends on our ability (which also comes only by Krsna’s personal favor) to glance up and remember Who is dancing upon whom.”
“I’m tempted to pray,
‘Please give me no inconvenience;
let me pass smoothly
to Your place.’
But how can that be?
There has to be a test,
a discharge of my poisons,
a break from my past.
“It will come—
the routine will be tossed aside,
the soft pillow kicked out,
the tender caress replaced
by someone’s boot,
at least for a while.
“Therefore I pray,
please preserve me, dear Lord
as one who turns to You
with humble obeisances,
my faith confirmed,
Your love assured,
and a glimpse of Your lotus feet,
even while the ego cries,
“Vrndavana”—I think this was the best section in the book. Writing in the dhama is always special. I received a letter a year ago from a recognized publisher in the country of Estonia. He asked permission to publish the Vrndavana section of The Wild Garden separately as a book. I gladly gave him permission and felt honored.
“Today I walked down a lane in Raman Reti. The man I walked with needed my attention, so I spoke to him about himself and noticed almost nothing else around us—the street, the people, the houses—I didn’t even know where we were going. We could have been anywhere. I did some counseling, but I can’t say that I took a walk in Raman Reti.
“Can’t I remember anything? We stopped outside the gate and an old man in bright orange approached us. When he got quite close I offered him my pranamas. As I looked up, I saw he had no tilaka on his forehead, just an orange, circular smudge. He returned my respectful greeting. Then from behind I heard the rhythmic beat of karatalas. I turned and saw a man performing kirtana, chanting and walking alone in the dirt lane. We turned and went into the alley toward the house we were visiting. Although I just wrote, ‘I noticed almost nothing,’ actually the impressions are there.
“I saw a hog yesterday, rummaging with his pink snout along the ground. That was somewhere . . . while we traveled around Govardhana. We stopped in a village to get bananas. Three young schoolchildren stood together on the road. They seemed dazed by the sights, sounds and odors around them.
“Near our van, a man walked on foot and slightly touched another man on his motorscooter. The touch was enough to make the man lose his balance, and his wife and baby fell off the back of the motorscooter onto the road. The young husband spoke angrily to the man who had touched him, but that man strongly defended himself. A crowd gathered. We watched, waiting for our Godbrother to return with the bananas. The three dazed schoolkids also looked on, and a man shooed flies from the jalebis he was selling.
“At the place where they bathe Govardhana with milk all day long, the milk constantly runs down into the gutter. The dogs are fat with it. The sour milk smell thickens the air. But the priest smiles sweetly and accepts the offerings to Govardhana while conferring blessings.
“The Karttika festival is in full swing. There are colored lights with bright green fluorescent tubes on top of the temple domes. Some devotees enjoy the crowds and socializing, but I mostly wait for it to pass. Yesterday I answered quite a few letters.
“It’s cold here now. Devotees are starting to get sick with sore throats and congestion. The monkeys are bolder, stealing right from the devotees’ hands and striking aggressive poses when threatened.
“In the temple room, Radha-Syamasundara seem to grow more lustrous and attractive. Syamasundara is full of pleasing curves, a graceful youth. Radha is lovely, blessing all who come to worship Her Lord. We need to take Their darsana again and again, even if we don’t have the edge of awareness. We will miss Them when we are away. We will miss Vrndavana dhama. When we remember Vrndavana in separation, that will be our perfection. Wherever we are, the sastras and the gurus will always be the keys to open our spiritual awareness. Our own simple faith will always be the most precious commodity we can bring to this encounter.”
“Madhu returned last night to say, “It is still an American van, but we have an appointment at 9:30 Monday morning.” That means we move to Dublin then. Two more days in Geaglum. The offices move painfully slowly and make mistakes, but it looks like we will persist and get our license plates, etc., on time. He says, “When they hear your accent – American – that will help convince them that this isn’t a case of an Irishman trying to fraudulently import an American van.” I also have to show my stability as an alien living in Ireland.” Prove I lived in the U.S.A. all my life until now. “Well, yo’ honor, I sure am a Yankee, no doubt about that. Born in New York City. If you like, I’ll unfold this here piece of paper and show you my military discharge back in 1962. And here is my birth certificate.”
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.
Today we will load the van.
“Say good-bye to Geaglum. It’s a good place to have a writing retreat, at least as it is presently constituted. Some visiting devotees may come and go, but I can brazen it out at Manu’s house or one of the other houses.
“Good because it’s in ISKCON and yet they leave me alone to follow my own morning program. Enough of my disciples here to make me feel welcome. Can’t say that of many places, especially the permission to follow my own morning program.
“But even if I have to follow the temple program…
Read and liked Basic Sketchbook. Please keep writing more.
“Difference between journal and “writing practice”: journal concentrates on self; writing practice goes beyond so the “universe” passes through me. I’m in neither camp completely. I also always teach, quote scripture, I’m aware of trying to make a book with poems in it.
“A human being covers his lower parts. We are animal plus human. We are spirit plus human. My writing is to admit the spirit plus human existence. Some ISKCON speakers and writers dwell only on the absolute.
“Hare Krishna. This is a nickel, a pence, a pound, a penny, a rupee, a shilling, a trice…The time left is insignificant when considered in terms of eternity. Lip split, trumpet player can’t play no more. Old man can’t have sex. No material pleasures after a certain point. Why don’t they see it?
“I’m ready to give you the S.B. class on Kardama going alone to the forest. In a previous verse Srila Prabhupada said a bhajananandi doesn’t take the risk of preaching. That thought stays with me – that I must try to preach according to my ability and capacity (Srila Prabhupada’s phrase too). Writing is preaching. Setting a good example is preaching. Staying in ISKCON and not criticizing the GBC is preaching. Seminars, disciples’ meetings, flow of books published by GNP (Gita-nagari Press), travel around the world – take the risk in your own way.
“Close out at Geaglum. Won’t have much time to write today (Saturday) and tomorrow. Not much to say. Load the van. Prepare…
“Monday–Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday in Dublin, perched on the third floor of the preaching center on Williams Street, my Irish address. Why not for those four days make another small book, like WCW (William Carlos Williams) did, prose and poems. I can string them together in words in the order they come and “capture the spirit of me in a Dublin stay.” A Dublin book. In Ireland’s fair city.
“The ironic Staten Islander sat uneasy. The Temple President is a disciple of Harikesa Maharaja. A few devotees live there. No private toilet. Must be cold in the winter, and it’s noisy from the street. A huge crane (not the bird) drops from the sky, moving building materials up and down from a space from just across the street where a building has been torn down and they are rebuilding, hardhat workers, jackhammers…It makes me appreciate the hours when they are not working, especially brahma-muhurta and earplugs. I could run out to the bookstore one day I am there, but there is very little room in the van for more. Already got Carver, etc., loaded up.
“Hare Krishna, read what a sannyasi is supposed to be in Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada. I cannot imitate all extremes, walk around in wooden slippers (clop, clop) and a water pot, but the essence. Avoid women and atheists. Don’t be a slob overeating. Fourth verse of “Gurvastaka” says that the guru is satisfied when all the varieties of food are offered to Krishna and the devotees eat them. He eats simply.
“Krishna, Krishna, no heroics, please.
“Get that van tote, that barge. Madhu is persistent and gentlemanly wearing them down. “They’ve seen me enough times.” Now they’ve got to deal with him and give him the plates. When the two of us go in together, the combination will overcome their last resistance. Here’s the Yank, a genuine Yank. Hey, man. Don’t give us a hard time. Sure, I’ve always lived in the U.S.A. Please don’t ask me to prove it. But anyway, here’s a stack of letters addressed to Satsvarupa, that’s my spiritual name. I asked you to accept it on faith. No, my dhoti is not ironed, but it’s clean, cleaner than your shirt and pants. Me mother…
“Geez, if we had time I could pass any test you could desire to prove I’m actually a Yank. Forties and Fifties and Sixties and Seventies and even Eighties are there. Of course, since ’66 it’s been a Hare Krishna life, but still in the U.S.A. travelin’ there. Now it is somewhat different. I am Europeanized six months a year. Do what you like. Just give us the van, okay, in Ireland.
“This life’s got to run out,
this pen’s got to break down,
you got another life by change of dress. Who are you to tell others in S.B. class how to live? Who are you to tell others that they should always think of Krishna? Do you do it yourself? Well, it’s a kind of ritual with us, that we do that. Mainly tell them, “Chant, chant. You don’t have to imitate Kardama, but chant wherever you are.” Oh, oh, heart and body into the chant without offenses instead of meditating in the jungle. Have faith Krishna is present in His name. Be true to the practice of chanting Hare Krishna.
“So, we perched here and I wrote in PMRB, Vol.4, and now I’ve stopped for a while. Drew a diagram to show Manu that PMRB is the main river and all other works are tributaries, but I think now that the diagram is outmoded and I should show many tributaries all flowing to the sea. At different times, one or another is the main tributary. Yes, it does seem that PMRB can outlast them all, but no one says it has to be the only form I use. Write, write in whatever. And I like these little books I’ve been doing in a week or so. Plan to do one for all July. One leads to another. They are each important. Weaker bridge leads to a more important place.
Pieces from ISKCON in it. Hare Krishna.”
“Kardama was speaking to the Supreme Lord Kapiladeva, who appeared to him in his home. He approached Him in a secluded place. He said, “It is mercy that You have come here.” The demigods prayed when they were “pleased with the suffering souls who are in material entanglement because of their own misdeeds.” A yogi can see You in trance only after many lifetimes, but out of affection You have appeared in our home just to support Your devotees. You “have descended in my home just to fulfill Your promise to (become My son) and to disseminate the process of real knowledge. You appear in innumerable spiritual forms which are pleasing to Your devotees. I surrender to You. Today I have something to ask You.”
“Here is the surprising part – Kardama asks permission to accept the order of parivrajakacarya, leave home, and wander about “free from lamentation always thinking of You in my heart.” Srila Prabhupada emphasized that Kardama was fulfilling the dharma that one should leave home at fifty. But don’t become a bogus sannyasi. Kardama alone, not exactly the program for ISKCON sannyasis. He did it. Okay, harinama for us. We can stay in household life.
He gives the example of Lord Caitanya, and the Kurma brahmana to whom He said, “Stay at home as a grhastha and chant Hare Krishna.” (You don’t even have to live in a temple or as a sannyasi, but chant and tell others about the chanting.) It’s the same instruction Isvara Puri gave Lord Caitanya as a young disciple. Spread chanting and you chant yourself.
“Talk on how chanting works. God, I know it works even though I haven’t developed ruci.
So, tell the world chanting is nice. The latter day mahajanas, after Lord Caitanya, are more important than the ancient mahajanas, wrote Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The latter day mahajanas preached the sublime teachings of Lord Caitanya. Oh, we are his reps and better get it together to do it well so he won’t be ashamed to claim us. Keep your nose clean, but not by always staying in the safety of your home. It is very demanding – to stay in the world, facing the material energy and preaching, yet still stay unaffected. But he says Krishna will protect us. They don’t fall down, that’s good. But some become stiff with no display of humanity? Or is that a stereotyped view to harbor? It’s an accusation. They say that many are only after followers and power and money, etc.
“I, I, a silent partner, an upholder of GBC doctrine. I, a split-nicks befriender of the poor as long as they read my books. Sell plenty, break into New Age market, break hearts. Stay clean so your enemies cannot trounce on your body, I mean your good reputation.
“Going to the island to worship and speak and then come back home here to pack. I don’t know what all I wrote here these days, but please accept this humble offering, a tribute and a tributary from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada whose lectures I listened to a lot while here, from 1971 and 1972. I can’t remember so much, but keep listening and hearing and reading. God be with you.”
Here the Geaglum Free-write Diary Ends