I’m listening to the Govardhana Retreats and Sacinandana Swami is reading from Prabhodhananda Sarasvati’s Vrndavana Mahimamrta. The author very intensely addresses the readers and says, “Go immediately to Vrndavana and don’t leave. Don’t listen to anyone who would stop you, or break any attachments that would keep you away.”
Vrndavana, staying in Vrndavana, is a kind of spiritual quarantine to keep you free from the infections of the material world. In the book there’s a lot about the mercy of Vrndavana and the elevation of the residents of Vrndavana. They may appear to act in rough ways, but they should always be regarded as highly elevated souls. They are the most fortunate. If you can get their association in a spiritual way, you will be highly benefited. He fully describes Radha and Krsna, the King and Queen of Vrndavana. One should live in Vrndavana and search out the Divine Couple, yearning for the day when you can personally serve Them as the servant of the servant of the servant. Prabhodhananda Sarasvati searches for Them madly. In the dhama you have to stay focused. Don’t be distracted by women or money or hanker for situations from your past.
Now in these days of the coronavirus pandemic, one cannot travel to Vrndavana; all the incoming flights are shut down. So one has to live in Vrndavana in the mind, in the heart. Create a space that is like a kunja, with plants and flowers and Vrndavana Deities and pictures, and worship them in your home, especially images of Radha and Krsna. Increase your longing for Vrndavana. Curse your misfortune for not being able to be there. Devotees in quarantine outside of Vrndavana should associate with the focus of separation from Vrndavana. They should avoid being caught up in talks of the virus. There are so many ways to associate, but Prabhodhananda Sarasvati insists the focus should be on residing in Vrndavana.
At first we said it was all maya and we shouldn’t talk about it. It’s still maya, but it has become so big that it affects our lives. We had helpers lined up to join us and share the services, but now they cannot. Some are in countries whose residents are banned from entering the U.S., and one is stranded in a country where the airport is shut down (Bala delayed in Trinidad and now he’s stranded there indefinitely, with the airport closed). Ultimately we cannot let anyone join us because there is a risk they are carrying the virus. We are down to just three persons—myself, Baladeva and Krsna dasi—living shut in and performing all the duties of cooking, Deity worship and reading out loud from Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam at mealtimes.
We three “Family GBC” had a meeting to discuss how we would operate the ashram. The GBC has issued orders how the temples may reduce their Deity worship standard. But Krsna dasi has pledged to keep up changing Radha-Govinda’s dress every three days, and she also wants to keep the weekly dressing of large Gaura-Nitai and all the other Deities on the first floor. She will also help out by preparing the daily breakfast while Baladeva is upstairs serving me. Baladeva will cook lunch every day and take care of the evening offering. (We have a menu list that we went over and decided on the different meals that he can cook.)
In the matter of our lunchtime out-loud reading, we decided that we may have to cut down the length of time that we read because we have only two out-loud readers. We will see how this goes on a daily basis and whether the devotees who read are too tired to keep up the hour and a half standard that we were doing. Probably we will reduce it on different days.
We are a little nervous, but by the grace of Prabhupada and Krsna we feel confident that we can keep up minimum operations during this time of difficulty with a shorthanded staff.
Uddhava’s leaving has become a reality. He has been a trooper and extended his stay here to help out with vital services like cooking and Deity worship. But we’re telling him to try to go back right away. The airport is open in Hungary, and he has booked plane tickets to Hungary via London. His original departure ticket got canceled because the plane had a stopover in Italy. We wanted him to go as soon as possible, but the flights were booked until next Thursday. We hope there won’t be a crunch and more restrictions before then. We don’t want there to be a closing of the airport in Budapest, such as happened to Bala in Trinidad. No one wants to give Uddhava a car ride into the City, so he has booked his train tickets. There are fewer trains scheduled, so we hope they won’t be full. When Uddhava gets to Penn Station, we’re sending him by taxi to JFK Airport so he won’t have to ride the subway. It’s difficult to maintain social distancing on the subway, and the air quality is poor and unfiltered.
Uddhava is worried about his upcoming travel. It was an ordeal to get a new ticket, and that’s what started his extra anxiety. He is not even worried whether the borders will be closed, but he’s thinking of what kind of bread to make for his travel sandwich, and he’s worried whether the taxis will be running from Penn Station to JFK (even though he’s been assured that they are running.) He’s on “orange high alert.” He’s having trouble sleeping at night. He says he’s trying to keep busy in the ashram to alleviate his fears. He plans to wear a mask and gloves and carry extra sets with him. He’ll observe the six-foot distance from other passengers if he can. In a generous gesture, Uddhava offered to stay here until Bala got back from Trinidad. But I thought that wasn’t a good idea. I feared the border to Hungary might be closed down, so I told him to leave as soon as possible. That will leave us with just me, Baladeva and Krsna dasi. We can’t ask for a new person to come and help because we would risk infections by bringing another person into such close quarters. We will have to wing it with just the three of us and depend on Krsna to help us.
Haridasa from Maryland told me he sees more people out walking. In Pennsylvania the governor saw many people hanging out in the parks in Philadelphia. So now the governor is enforcing a statewide ban on gatherings of more than ten people. The police will issue tickets if they see people gathering in any such numbers. Here in Stuyvesant Falls we are seeing people in the streets we haven’t seen for eight years. They’re bored from their quarantine and are going out for walks, alone or with their dogs.
The devotees in our neighborhood are exchanging goods they are short of. We are giving Ravindra Svarupa paper towels he needs for his Deity worship, and he is giving us tissues for our Deity worship. Other devotees like Krsna Kumari have asked if there’s anything they can get for us when they go out. Today Baladeva goes out for his weekly senior-citizen shopping hour from 6;00-7:00 A.M. He wears a mask and gloves and discards them when he’s done, and then takes a shower and washes his clothes.
The signs of spring are here. We changed our snow tires for regular tires. We harvested the first hyacinths for Deity worship. The temperatures are seasonal: the low 40 degree range (Fahrenheit) at night, and up to sixty degrees during the day.
We live in a relatively protected atmosphere. Many people have lost their jobs, lost their investments in the stock market, their children have to go to school on the Internet and feel inconvenienced having to learn by looking at the screen. There is a fear of the unknown throughout the world.
I feel I am like a recluse living in a cave, not going out or receiving any visitors. I don’t feel a strain or boredom because I’m free to write and read.
For the first time I used Zoom, which is a way to talk to a person and see his image enlarged on the computer. I had a conversation with Rev. John Endler. He reported to me his progress on my writings and books. He is transcribing an unpublished novel I wrote seventeen years ago, California Search for Gold. It’s a thousand-page manuscript, and after he transcribes a certain amount of it, we’re going to post it in serialized form on the Free Write Journal. One of the themes of the book is that because of my chronic migraines and other physical breakdowns, I wasn’t able to chant my quota of sixteen rounds. But by the end of the book I overcome that handicap and come back up to my quota. I sent relevant pages of the book to Jayadvaita Maharaja and he approved of it on the grounds that recovering from not doing the full quota to again coming back up to it was a worthy theme. John read passages of the book to me on Zoom. He liked a scene when I was living at Saci Suta’s after I left Ireland. (I was finishing my personal puja of Radha-Govinda when Saci’s seven-year-old daughter Kaulini came upstairs and offered to help me pick out new outfits for the Deities). Then he read me a section where I had a heart-to-heart talk with Saci Suta. I wrote that we were very different persons but that we had a firm bond.
I hope these little teasers of California Search for Gold will make the readers curious to see it when it’s posted in serialized form on the Free Write Journal. John also told me he wants to talk to me on Monday and tell me about his Palm Sunday sermon, which is called “Somehow or Other We Have Fallen.” He picked up the theme from the English translation of the Bengali prayer I say at lunchtime—“This material body is a lump of ignorance, and the senses are networks of paths unto death/ Somehow or other we have fallen into this ocean of material sense enjoyment . . .” I will be interested to hear how he’s taken this quote and expanded it and made it relevant as a sermon for his Baptist congregation. With the coronavirus pandemic, his congregation can’t gather live to hear his sermons, so they’re doing it by Internet. I plan to connect with them and watch him give his Good Friday sermon.
I just finished reading the book Lal Krishna produced with layout, design and covers. He worked incredibly fast and did an excellent job. I have all the books in hand months before the date of distributing them at the meeting on July 4th. As I read the poems, I warmed up to them and liked them. Here are a couple of examples:
“If you study the inner form of writing, maybe some inner form will be revealed to you, and you’ll be able to shape it, improve it, flow with it or even abandon it for a different one. Study how it is going, and how it reads, what it is like. The daily round from morning to night.
“Ouch! It is hard, it is long. We don’t know what to say. We don’t think we will be able to say another thing, but you are squeezing and demanding, so I speak. O Krsna, do You remember Your father Nanda? Are You coming back soon? Let us know if You are actually giving up Your relationship with Radha, because then there is no use putting the swab in front of Her nostrils. They want to know whether they should give up hope. And yet, they cannot. Hope is their one friend, all else has deserted as hope for Radha’s life. I am imitating the language, but without the bhava. I’m sprinkling the page with it. O Krsna has not allowed you the faintest scent of bhava for His holy names although you chant them fourteen at a clip and then more. All right, All right, I am like Radha in that respect, almost given up hope, but hope against hope.”
“Krsna science socks it to them, I’m
writing rather than sleeping, doing math
on grids, attending the arati,
talking in the kitchen, worrying the
brow, fixing the yoke for the
oxen, making political strategy
with pros and followers, thinking of a girl,
looking at my computer
walking in forest
watching a hawk,
splashing at a sink, reading
Therese of Lisieux, splashing at the sink,
or Sharon Olds or
Mary Oliver, not marrying
or divorcing or talking of
the silly little people
not bowing to the giants
cow-tow to big guns.
“I’m writing of Krsna instead of Bull
Morris, Henry Adams, Punch
American Indian and company
for my Lord.
I am so pleased with Lal Krsna’s service that I am giving him another manuscript to work on. He is so efficient I will ask him to do the layout, design and covers and have the printed books sent to me before the meeting on July 4th.
Sastra loves to go to Vrndavana and spend his time there with the devotees. He visits the temples, goes on parikrama and reads in the evening to Bhubanesvara at Krsna-Balaram Mandir. But now because of the coronavirus, India is on lockdown. People have to stay in their residence. Devotees are not even allowed to visit Krsna-Balarama Mandir. Sastra has to stay in his room, apart from the temple. This situation can be looked at in two different ways. Negatively, it is a great austerity having to stay alone. Vrndavana is usually a scene of socializing with many devotees from around the world. Denied this “socialite” interaction, the quarantined devotees confined to their residence suffer from isolation and becoming “stir-crazy.” It can be very depressing. The borders are closed, and there are no flights incoming or outgoing. If you walk on the streets, you meet the police on patrol. They question you whether you are on essential business. If they determine that you’re not, they beat you with their bamboo sticks.
But it can be seen as a positive situation also. It’s an opportunity to go inward and practice nirjana-bhajana, solitary bhajana. One can chant on beads and read Krsna conscious books. One can also tune in to activities at the Krsna-Balaram Mandir on the Internet. There is mangala-arati and regular programs, which can be viewed remotely.
So it’s up to the individual whether to take it as a grim situation or a positive opportunity for serious spiritual inwardness. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to calm down and be in Vrndavana
I received an email from Bhurijana. He told me he left India and went to Israel to do some preaching to the devotees there. He wrote all about the holy sites in Jerusalem: Gethsemane, the place of the last supper, a cave where Jesus hid, the tomb of Mary.
He said it was a “pretty potent place.” He saw many pilgrims weeping in the holy places. But he wrote that Jerusalem is a place of conflict and violence. Three different groups think that they possess Jerusalem, and there are bullet holes everywhere.
Coincidentally, I am hearing recordings of Bhurijana for hours a day in the Govardhana Retreats. He is immersed in Vrndavana consciousness. He is so learned and enthusiastic! So I was surprised at the contrast of my hearing him talk about Vrndavana and receiving a letter which was 100% about Jerusalem. He is an example of a sadhu who can see devotion anywhere and appreciate it. I wrote him back and said that now he is probably settled in Perth, Australia and working on his detailed overview of all of the cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Jagattarini Mataji was speaking how Vrndadevi is in charge of all the arrangements in Vrndavana for Radha and Krsna’s pastimes. Vrnda is in charge of the parrots. There are various kinds of parrots. Krsna has a pet parrot, and so does Radharani. Then there are flocks of parrots who carry out different services. They come at dawn and cry out to Radha and Krsna, to wake Them. They tell Them to hurry up and get up before Jatila may come. (There are Radharani’s in-laws, who are against Her loving relationship with Krsna. Radharani’s mother-in-law Jatila wants to keep the chastity of her daughter-in-law intact and tries to keep Her away from Krsna. Radharani’s sister-in-law Kutila is even more suspicious and sometimes finds evidence that Radha and Krsna are mixing.)
One time Radharani’s grandmother-in-law, Jarati, found a yellow cloth upon Radharani’s body. She suspected it was Krsna’s garment, and that she had found damaging evidence. Jarati, however, had poor eyesight. Lalita grabbed the yellow cloth and said to Jarati, “You half-blind woman! This is not a cloth, this is the rays of the sun coming through the window.” Jarati became confused and admitted that she couldn’t see properly.
As for the parrots, there are two groups—one who advocates Krsna’s superiority and one who advocates Radha’s superiority. Radha’s parrots say that Radha is the Queen of Vrndavana, and they quote a sloka from the smrti-sastras. Krsna’s parrots argue back that in the sruti-sastras, which are superior evidence to the smrti, Krsna is declared as the King of Vrndavana. The two groups of parrots argue back and forth.
“Vrndadevi’s management is unlimited. She picks the rendezvous places and the routes how to get there without being detected. She arranges the timings for the meetings so that no one gets caught. She picks out what jewelry They will wear and selects drinks for Their pleasure.
When the Muslims attacked Vrndavana, the Vaisnavas moved the important Radha-Krsna Deities to Jaipur. Only Vrndadevi stayed on the border of Vrndavana at Kamyavana. When they moved Vrndadevi to Kamyavana, they then tried to carry her to Jaipur, but they couldn’t move her. She refused to leave. Her representative, Tulasi-devi, stayed in Vrndavana.
In our out-loud reading of the Bhagavatam, we are up to “Departure of Lord Krsna for Dvaraka.” As He’s leaving, the ladies of Hastinapur observe him from the roofs of the buildings with adoration and talk among themselves. Although they are not deeply learned, their words are more pleasing than the hymns of the Vedas:
“O friends, just think of His wives, whose hands He has accepted. How they must have undergone vows, baths, fire sacrifices, and perfect worship of the Lord of the Universe to constantly relish now the nectar from His lips [by kissing.] The damsels of Vrajabhumi would often faint just by expecting such favors.” (S.B. 1.10.28)
Krsna looked up at the ladies of Hastinapur with merciful glances, since He was so pleased by their conversation.
Now we are up to “Dhrtarastra Quits Home.” Mahatma Vidura returns to Hastinapura after his extensive pilgrimage and hearing from Maitreya Muni. He specifically went to Hastinapura to speak to his elder brother Dhrtarastra. He was always a well-wisher of Dhrtarastra and tried to convince him not to be against the Pandavas. Now Dhrtarastra has lost all his sons and is living like a beggar on the good graces of King Yudhisthira. But Vidura wants Dhrtarastra to leave home and concentrate on his spiritual salvation. He bluntly tells him his teeth are falling out, his liver is failing, he is blind and he can’t hear. He has lost all his money, his sons and grandsons have been killed, and he is eating scraps of food from Bhima, who had killed his sons. Dhrtarastra is submissive and enlightened by Vidura’s instructions. He at once leaves home and adopts the path of dhira, the path of leaving home without giving notice to his relatives and going to practice austerities at a holy place. He allows his ascetic wife Gandhari to follow him. The next morning when Yudhisthira goes to see him, he is shocked that Dhrtarastra is not there. Even his private secretary Sanjaya has not been informed about his departure. Yudhisthira blames it on himself.
Then Narada Muni appears and explains the actual situation. First he speaks philosophically and then he gives personal information as to where Dhrtarastra is and how he is practicing astanga yoga, drinking only water and meditating on the Lord. Narada warns the family members not to go and try to convince Dhrtarastra to come home. He informs them that in five days Dhrtarastra will create a fire from his body and enter the flames in his cottage. His faithful wife Gandhari is then all alone, so she commits the sati rite and enters the fire with her husband. Vidura is pleased that Dhrtarastra has obeyed his instructions, but he is sorry he couldn’t turn him into a pure devotee because of his many offenses. But Dhrtarastra gained liberation. Prabhupada writes in his purport that it would take many lifetimes of liberation before Dhrtarastra could attain pure devotional service.
“Going down to give the lecture soon. Brain a little fried. I kept trying to remember the topic but couldn’t get into the groove. Maybe when I get older it will be like that more. More reason, then, to just write whatever comes; I may be helpless to exert discipline in a certain direction. Turn the weakness into a virtue, or at least a way.
“The Tao of free-write.
“Harinamananda and his men have returned from their week of book distribution. Hold danda, keep spine erect, look into book and out at audience. I’ll do all right. Just relax your inner head, and if pain comes, that’s Krsna too.
“What was it I wanted to say? That this day, August 4, is over. We decided not to use the telephone so much. M. found out why our 1991 Renault won’t accelerate—it’s a defect in the model for that year—but we can’t afford to do anything about it. I ate lunch. I cooled down.
“Svevo walks. I won’t kill him; I’d never do such a thing, although Eliot and Anna are dead to my life, along with my mother and father and sister and brother-in-law. Dead, dead, and I live in the sound vibration of my spiritual master. I have nothing more than the present moment in each day and my good reputation—‘He’s been a devotee for thirty years and can tell us much nectar of Srila Prabhupada.’
“Yeah, well, not tonight.
“Sorry, folks, got to close out now. This may not be the fattest chapter.”
“When I arrived here the other day, only one person greeted us at the door and helped us in. That was fine with me, I don’t like welcoming committees. He explained, ‘The managers are at a meeting and could not come to meet you.’ Very well. Then meet and decide what is to be done, how to arrange things so it goes on in its efficient Swiss way. I crawled up to the suite they have graciously provided for my weekend use.
“Now I am ready to speak again, this time on several different sections of the outline, separated by Roman numerals. While speaking I glance down at my outline. One woman, much older than the others, smiles as I speak, and it seems she is following closely and approvingly. She seems to want me to know that. I appreciate it. Better that than the stone faces. Often devotees don’t make eye contact. One young woman in the rear is talking to her friend. Men hear or don’t. I plow on.
“The big bells ring for 6:30 A.M. News, news of the little world that concerns us. Remember when I was writing haiku and mailing it to the magazine editors? One prominent editor who published me frequently in Modern Haiku turned down a batch of poems that he said were more like news items than haiku. (I had written about Gita-nagari Ratha-yatra). In haiku, you are supposed to catch a special moment or feeling underneath an event. Yes, I thought, but if I can’t catch or think so deeply, then am I willing to wait two years for one to come? I will tell you of the bird sitting on the fence like a spectator to the Ratha-yatra. We’ll tell you the man is cutting down the weeds along the path the Ratha-yatra will take. We’ll tell you what we can.”
“Another photo of Srila Prabhupada: He is sitting before a microphone. A flower garland has been placed around his neck. He’s in a public place—you can tell because there is a large portrait of Radha-Krsna beside him. The picture has been garlanded. It looks like a public hall.
“Srila Prabhupada’s eyes are lowered. He appears pleased, like when he hears his followers having kirtana. Perhaps he has just finished singing ‘Jaya Radha-Madhava,’ and he’s preparing to speak the message of Srila Vyasadeva and Sukadeva Gosvami.
“This picture has been printed in Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja book. The editors placed it next to the homage from the devotees in Seoul, Korea. They begin, ‘All of humanity is indebted to you for the gifts you have given . . . On the auspicious day of your divine appearance, we fervently pray for your blessings as we begin to establish Krsna consciousness in Korea, a land of dog-eaters. As a new twig on the bhakti tree of Lord Caitanya, we are depending on you for our sustenance, strength and inspiration.’ The homage is signed, ‘Jaya Baladeva dasa, Acarya dasa, Bhakta Jay Young Park, Bhakta In Suk Oh.’”
“Prabhupada wrote many letters during these years in India. He wrote to all the leading politicians and to anyone he thought would listen. In one sense, the letters had little effect. But one effect it did have was to enable Prabhupada to focus all his energies as a preacher. It helped him to form practical plans of action, and to seek out interested persons through correspondence. He was repeatedly turned down, but he never felt discouraged; he always anticipated finding a sympathizer. He kept copies of all his letters and their replies. Through the letter-writing, Prabhupada developed a keen sense of dedication to Lord Caitanya’s mission without getting entangled in the quarrels of the Gaudiya Math.
“It is inspiring to look back and consider Prabhupada’s intense preaching practices through the medium of correspondence. Devotees nowadays can preach in a similar way, based on Prabhupada’s example. Sometimes devotees think that because they are householders or not in association with the local temple administration, they are not able to preach, but Prabhupada has shown how a person can preach in any situation. You can buy a newspaper or magazine, pick up on any article or any person’s name, and write to them. Then you can keep copies of any replies you receive and develop a whole network of persons interested in corresponding about Krsna consciousness. Even if the responses are predominantly negative, you will be training yourself as a preacher and writer, and you will have the satisfaction of following in Prabhupada’s footsteps.”
“But if we admit that we haven’t realized the Truth, then how can we distribute it? I once asked Srila Prabhupada a question like this. I admitted that I was accustomed to telling people they would go back to Godhead if they chanted Hare Krsna, although I, myself, was not confident that I was going back to Godhead. Prabhupada replied that my main duty as a preacher was to inform others of the process by which anyone could go back to Godhead. The truth of my message was not dependent on my own success. But Prabhupada said the preacher should not be merely a business agent who stays in his office and ships parcels to other countries. The devotee who is advising others to go to the spiritual world should be making all endeavor to go there himself.
“The obligation to assist a spiritual master in distributing knowledge to others may be something we didn’t ‘bargain’ for at first. It is an added responsibility, beyond tending to our own spiritual needs in chanting and hearing. Even in terms of our own self-realization, however, knowledge of the Absolute Truth will be revealed to us only when we please the Supreme Lord and His representative. Although preaching may seem undesirable or impossible to us at first, we should not reject it:
“‘One who does not like to take the risk, he does not take the risk of preaching. But one who takes the risk, he is recognized by Krsna immediately, “Oh, he is taking risk.” But he must know where to take risk and where it is to act foolishly.’ (Srila Prabhupada in conversation, July 8, 1975, Chicago)
“Lord Caitanya said, ‘First become perfect, and then preach’ (apani acari prabhu jivera sikhaya). What does this mean? If I have to wait to become perfect, when will I ever be ready to distribute the truth to others?
“The perfection referred to here is behavior which is possible even in a neophyte. He has to at least keep the initiation vows, avoiding four kinds of sinful activities, and chanting Hare Krsna. Prabhupada used to say, ‘If I smoke cigarettes, how can I teach others to stop smoking?’ A disciple following the rules and regulations, even though a beginner, may distribute books or repeat what he has heard in disciplic succession. The preacher’s perfection is like that of a mailman; his duty is to deliver the untampered message.”
“Dun Laoghaire Harbor (pronounced by Madhu as ‘Dunleery’). We are on queue, waiting for the Stena Line, last ferry to Holyhead, Wales. So, I’ll start my July book and warm up to it.
“Onboard. We can’t stay in our van, so join sojourners in the upstairs regions. So far, at least, it’s not piped music, but that may start. All one family? Children and moms and guys and grannies and people in charge. I don’t really like to overhear them.
“I am the faithful transcriber but I’ve offered myself the chance to tell “lies” too. To get under the surface of mere reporting, untruths or fictions, allowing fancies, may help.
“The green zorch game, The Incredible (Something), a funhouse you can enter, and a spacious tax-free, duty-free shop. A McDonald’s, alcoholic drinks served too.
“Read yesterday Maya Angelou’s memoir of racial prejudice against African-Americans. Eudora Welty said, ‘Mine is a sheltered life.’ Then she said something daring about inner life.
“I have a Cc. with me but I think I’ll grow sleepy with anything I do. Missed my usual rest…Hare Krsna.
“This is the month beginning and I’m searching for what it is I’ll write on in a way to make it vital.
He slept and didn’t go down to Davy Jones’
locker. The video games when
you turn them on make spurts of
music, weird sounds –
and we are right near a batch of them. Now ‘Irish Sea…forty knots, ninety-nine minutes, but you’ll have plenty of time to use all our facilities.’ Nonsense and noise. How can you write a thoughtful piece in this place? Lie down on the floor with your arms for a pillow?
“So, a porpoise didn’t leap out. ‘Ain’t She Sweet?’ – just a snatch from it from the video game. Then that gong, gong, gong lunacy sound. It’s pretty bad. I don’t want to take it out on you, dear reader, dear notepad, but writing sometimes helps.
“Voice from the video game: ‘Hold it, hold it.’
“The boat entertainment is bombarding us, and there is no escape. Maybe next time we’ll stay illegally in our van – with risk you could drown if there’s an emergency. Traveling in public this way is tough on the monk’s sensibility.
“We are in a small seating section, but each section has its own video and loud sound for all – no choice. First, they showed a Hollywood film, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” circa 1920s or early 1930s. That was sentimentally amusing, and I was mostly able to keep my eyes down and concentrate on japa—counter beads and japa beads. But other things were more disconcerting. One was a commercial for a video, Predators, which had close-up footage of animals attacking and devouring each other. The lion running, filmed in slow motion, catches up to the buffalo, pouncing, tearing his flesh. ‘Would you like a crocodile in your living room? Only the brave would film it.’
“Now, now. Hare Krishna. What is it you will write and do? Your theme of life is to function as a devotee in the Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna is the goal. When the goal is assigned, then the path is slowly but progressively traversed.
“Now, a ‘serious’ cartoon of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ – a story to enthrall people, good and evil…(But I don’t have time to write a story, and don’t want to.)
“Faithful transcriber of what actually happens says, ‘I’m on the Stena Ferry, annoyed and now captured by the film, now Dr. Jekyll.’ So, I…I will be free of it eventually and these harmless images…
“Wait. Dr. Jekyll, don’t make your will out giving everything to Mr. Hyde. You should stand up for the good in you.
“Krsna, Krsna, Krsna. It will look good later. When we’re out of the grips of ‘doing time’ on the ferry, we’ll be in our natural environ in the van but have five hours of driving in Britain to reach the devotees’ house. The theme of this book is yet to be found, but I want to find it…
“Speeding in the van, I’m in the back. Faithful transcriber. (I’m going to keep repeating that to explore it.) The bunk is a bit too short, the place to sit is too curvy for the spine. Those are the facts.
“There is no point I see right now in making something up, even briefly. Say, ‘I got an idea to write from seeing Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ Did I? I ate four carob sweets. I lusted. I eulogized. I attained krsna-prema, was sincere in my stay in London, spoke to disciples and realized I was a guru of sorts and willing to take it up. They say the rtvik guru is big in England, and a community has formed in South Wales, breaking away from their ISKCON guru.
“The Manor is different. The manner – ‘Expect Satsvarupa to shed some light? He at least is still with us all these years.’
“Yes, I want to write something more than this, but little fabrications don’t seem sufficient. We will see. We will see.
“Krsna blew His Pancajanya conch and Arjuna blew his Devadatta – that picture is before me on the cover of Message of Godhead. M. is now able to roar forward with his massive American Ford engine, and that is the good result of all the hassles we’ve gone through.
“Natalie Goldberg techniques hold you in good stead? Will you write what the hand wills? Here we are in the back of the van, writing for the first time. Fixodent. Krsna book. My message is His message – don’t kill cows, our scriptures are the best.
“It’s just the best band what am my honey lamb.
“I feel I want to tell M. the plot of Alexander’s Ragtime Band – what I saw of it and the harmless amusement of it as the guy sang, ‘In your Easter bonnet’ on stage at Carnegie Hall. Not a black face appeared in the film, but that is where the music comes from. Pretended otherwise in the 1930s as if white folks created the music and Alexander just waves his white baton at the orchestra as they play swing music. A woman in a long gown came on stage and sang, ‘We’re having a heat
wa-a-a-ve.’ I looked down during that one–even the 1930s can be torrid in its way, and Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde committing murders on London Bridge. That film was still running when our boat docked in Holyhead.
“Slowly it comes out, the tale I have to tell. Reader may be patient with me. I’ll find a way.
“Faster he goes, from Wales to London, and we hope we don’t crash. He plans to double-park on the street of row houses in London, offload me and boxes in Guru-dasksina’s house, and then he’ll drive off to visit his mother. I’ll be with him all day Saturday at Bhaktivedanta Manor and back to Guru-daksina’s.
“We havin’ a heat wave,
a tropical heat wave
the temperature’s rising
isn’t it surprisin’
she certainly can-can”
“Why should someone desert their ISKCON guru? I’m a good-time guy, may not be pure, but what the heck? Whaddaya expect when you get bombarded as you travel? A thousand shocks.
“Heading in. Hard rain. M. says this van handles much better than the other. I told him defects of writing in the back. Some can be adjusted.
“Didn’t tell him. . . .what?
“A soul wants to free-write and find the way to Krsna.
“If your reading of Krsna’s scriptures doesn’t provoke taste, then what good is merely following the rules? At least try reading and hearing. You’re not going to make it by riding around in your van–you won’t make it back to Godhead.
Come on and hear
come on and hear
Srimad-Bhagavatam is here.
“Forty-five miles outside London. Rain has stopped. Rolling along.
“I’ll hear something and talk tomorrow. Say, ‘We have the best scriptures,’ but what good does that do you if you don’t hear them (nityam bhagavata-sevaya) and develop love of Krsna? Just to say, ‘We are better’ doesn’t make you better. Better includes qualities of humility, trnad api, and eagerness to chant and hear, and compassion to hear Krsna consciousness, and faith in those topmost scriptures. So, this I hope to remember to say.
“There is no better way. (Like this, as he races the engine, I can race a little to find those words of periphery of consciousness and write them down.)
Scripture—Dead Sea pots, clay, cave, bluff, who really knows. Can you be true and call the Swami?—I don’t mean sentimental self-serving, ‘Oh, I was there in the beginning, 1966,’—but something elemental and real.
“Write your own way. Rattle and race to London, honey-chile’.
“The scripture is the king of education, the most secret of secrets.
“He said we will get there before 2:00 P.M. My program is to smile, say pleasantries and head for the bathroom to shower, and then set Srila Prabhupada up on the altar and receive prasadam. Madhu’s program is to run around trying to fix a seat in the van or give the van to a mechanic to attach a gas tank underneath.
Brahmanas—brahmana underwear, brahmin spaghetti, loose ends. Park square, get off. Fat man, looped thread.
Oh, I could write a sonnet
about your Easter bonnet
“That was a hilarious moment in Alexander’s Ragtime Band when the corny guy sang that on the stage at Carnegie Hall. The thin plot of the movie I couldn’t quite grasp because I wasn’t watching it. But while Alexander was having his grand triumph at the Carnegie Hall concert, his girl was wandering around nearby in the city. Maybe she had amnesia. Before the very last number Alexander played, he turned to the audience and said he was playing this for a very special person. As he began to play, his girl (who was sitting in a taxi outside) began to cry. I looked down. The next moment I looked up again and there she was on stage, belting out the vocal to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” He was waving his hand, facing the orchestra, and she was facing the audience, and they lived happily ever after, reunited.
“Arrived okay at Guru-daksina’s house. Greeted there by affectionate devotees. Faithful transcriber doesn’t mean you have to say everything. Not possible anyway. Select on what basis? To show yourself a genial guru? I asked what each one was doing. Sat in an easy chair. I heard they had a typewriter for me, but it hasn’t manifested yet. Aromatherapy: candle under porcelain cup, with a little water and some oils. Does it do anything? Sorry to hear that in GD’s opinion, British are prejudiced against devotees. He told how it’s better in Australia, and that is due to Food for Life and other strategies whereby devotees are seen as people who are giving rather than taking.
“I’m in the room on the third floor where I was last year before going to India to the health clinic.
“Srila Prabhupada didn’t get his bath today. But we ate plenty.
“Gopas—tomahawks, peripherals, those turbans and paintings of them. No, I can’t leap. Can’t leapfrog. Film ferry behind me now, like a ship’s wake. This body, when standing in poor posture, has a protruding belly and terrible slouch. Stand straight like a military man. Throw back your shoulders.
“I asked GD for an update on mad cow disease. He didn’t know. I asked him about ISKCON controversies as they occurring in the Manor. He didn’t know much. Says he stays out of that sort of thing, but he can direct me tomorrow to someone who knows. ‘No, thanks,’ I said.
“The swift river. London, to me, is the shelter of this room, and then tomorrow the shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s temple, Bhaktivedanta Manor, where I receive the honor to read Cc.
“‘You get up at midnight?’ We’ll see. Write your memoirs. I remember a pinch in the arse. I recall Alexander Rag. I am filled with unholy allusions. But now my reputation is not. ‘The skinny guy in black sweater and black pants and dirty, low cut tennis shoes? The sex-frustrated poet?’ No, my rep is that humble, bewildered sannyasi, that going-out flame.
“Aromatherapy, the wildlife – lion attacked the buffalo. You don’t want more of that. Drive to the Manor and see the statues. That’s what the pious do.
“Tell us tomorrow
what a pious devotee thinks.
How he’s not envious
and holds the line.”