I raise my voice in prayer for Bhakti Charu Swami. He has contacted positive for Covid-19 and has been in an American hospital, in a ventilator, for two weeks. Jayapataka Maharaja has organized 30,000 devotees to pray for Bhakti Charu Swami. Bhakti Charu is setting a good example for Indian devotees. He is bringing Indian wealth to America and pioneering a project in Orlando, Florida. I pray for him in the way that Prabhupada allowed us to pray for himself: “My dear Lord Krsna, if You desire, please cure Bhakti Charu Swami.”
The whole world is lamenting the coronavirus pandemic. Our preaching in ISKCON is sorely affected, with the temples only open with limited access and outreach preaching not possible the way it used to be. You cannot even go close to a potential customer to sell him a book. We are threatened with His Holiness Bhakti Charu’s possible loss of life due to Covid infection. I lament the cancellation of my July 4th meeting with my disciples at the VFW hall. In addition to it being an occasion for associating together, it’s also the best time for me to distribute my new books. We will still try to distribute the books by mailing them out to devotees who send us their house addresses.
A Godbrother wrote me and said he couldn’t comprehend and didn’t like the poetry I’ve been publishing—he and others did not like it. I re-read one of the recently published poetry collections to see what they were talking about. I enjoyed them and found them accessible and Krsna conscious. I don’t know what their problem is. If they find the free-verse off-putting, they can read the lines as prose and understand them better that way. The poems I’m publishing now are twenty years old, when I was writing in a vigorous, golden period. I suffer the occupational hazard of other poets and artists, in that I’m writing ahead of my time. I think people will understand me in the future. Appreciation for this kind of poetry is manifesting itself now in the younger generation, with their poetry slams and open microphone orations. During the same time I wrote the poems I produced much visual art. Many devotees could not relate to the art because it was primitive, not like the polished, realistic art of the BBT books. But my paintings found a warm reception in the art world under the umbrella of “outsider art,” which has a big following.
I received an audio letter from Bhurijana that was very encouraging. He said he had been reading a book by the famous horror-story writer Stephen King. It was a book about writing. Bhurijana said it was very interesting hearing how King started from nowhere and became eventually a world-acclaimed bestselling author. He found it enthralling reading, but the defect was it was all mundane. Then he read a book, Bhakti-ratnakara, translated by Kusakratha. It was all-perfect and spiritual, completely ideal. Then Bhurijana wondered if there was a bridge between these two worlds. And he thought of me. He said my writing is spiritual and faithful to Srila Prabhupada, but it honestly tells the human struggles to be a writer. So he said it was the perfect bridge between King and Bhakti-ratnakara, and he thanked me very much for my contribution. Bhurijana, of course, is writing comprehensive overviews of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and they are very uplifting and nourishing. I appreciate them very much.
(He spoke the letter from Perth, Australia. He said there was an adult kangaroo in his backyard, and on the other side of the border there was a baby kangaroo. He thought the baby wanted to be with its mother, just like we all want shelter. But he didn’t say he tried anything to bring them together. To get between the mother and the baby would be dangerous.)
I met with John Endler on Zoom, and we talked of plans for publishing in 2021. For my Vyasa-puja of that year we plan to come out with the book California Search for Gold. This tells of my moving to California with a few devotees and seeking recovery from my chronic migraine headaches. I’m not able to chant my quota of sixteen rounds, but I accept what I can do patiently and look forward to the time when I can meet the quota. It will be a 350-page book. There are lighthearted sections where a Hollywood scriptwriter approaches me and tries to sell me a plot for my book. His first attempt includes meeting women on the plane to California. I reject this script and tell him that’s not what I’m about. Later he comes back with another script. It’s about a triumphant ending to my book, with me chanting over the quota. I tell him this would be hypocritical to write since I’m not doing it yet. The book contains also discussions among the devotees—myself, Murari and Ollie—about Brhad-bhagavatamrta, the Tenth Canto, and dinnertime banter. There are sections about dainya and references from Bhaktivinoda Thakura on this topic of feelings of unworthiness. In the actual book, I do come back to reaching my quota of sixteen rounds, so it’s not a depressing book. Jayadvaita Swami thought it was a worthy book telling how a devotee overcame his deficiencies and returned to his standard sadhana.
I just received a single copy, “Not for Resale,” of Daily Compositions. I’m giving it a final reading and then it will go to the printer to come out on time for July 4th distribution. We are requesting everyone to send their street address so we can send the book to them. I like the two books ready for summer, Meditations and Poems and Daily Compositions. They are each combinations of prose and poems. The poems are accessible. John Endler, Krishna Kripa, Krishna-bhajana and Lal Krishna have all worked cooperatively to make this dream come true.
The proofreaders and designer have all worked cooperatively with the donors on our fundraising project. Without the donors, there would be no books.
Satyaraja has written me that he is preparing a comprehensive book about ISKCON in New York. He asked me to send my memories and to ask my readers to send in stories. He writes, “Many of your disciples, friends and well-wishers were involved in New York preaching. Any account of New York seva will be appreciated. Whether harinama, temple service, book distribution, or what have you—as long as it relates to the New York yatra. Entries should include place, dates, people involved and so on, including any relevant historical data. It can be written in stream-of-consciousness style: no need to worry about writing ability—I’ll edit it. Kindly send all entries to me at email@example.com.”
I think his book is a good cause. I invite my readers to send their memories of ISKCON New York to Satyaraja for inclusion in his book.
The Sunday crew (Atindra Mahajana, his wife Lalita-kaisori and Bhakta Amit) came to work in the garden. They cut back huge numbers of branches that were blocking the sun to the lilacs, which weren’t producing flowers. They planted more marigolds and other flowers and did some mulching. Atindra set up a new dehumidifier for the basement, which sucks water out the air and runs it through tubing to the outside, preventing molding of the books and paintings. He also changed the filters on two air purifiers which keep down the mold. Atindra also fixed a few things on our new computer. Everyone had a picnic lunch outdoors. Later in the day the work was cut off by a huge thunderstorm. Meanwhile, indoors, Bala from Trinidad and his wife Krsna dasi took turns reading the Bhagavatam out loud. Baladeva went out shopping for flower plants, and when he returned he joined the picnic outdoors.
In the out-loud reading we are hearing about Narada Muni speaking to King Pracinabharhisat. Narada is compassionate to the king and is speaking to get him to stop excessive materialistic yajnas. He speaks to the king allegorically, telling him the life story of King Puranjana (who is none other than King Pracinabharhisat). By speaking through analogy, it will be easier for the king to accept it. Narada says that the animals who became killed in sacrifice had the right in their next birth to come and attack him. Narada showed the king all the animals who were in the sky. Meanwhile, the king’s sons, the Pracetas, are performing long austerities underwater under the guidance of Lord Siva in the big, calm lake. The allegory of King Puranjana is long and involves many metaphors and analogies.
The sons of King Pracinabarhisat left home and practiced austerities for approaching Lord Visnu. They entered a big, calm lake and performed their austerities there. Knowing they were pure Vaisnavas, Lord Siva was attracted to them and came before them. The Pracetas knew that Lord Siva is considered the foremost personality amongst the Vaisnavas (vaisnavanam yatha-sambhuh). Lord Siva is rarely seen, but he came before the Pracetas, and they bowed down to him. He told them he would sing auspicious mantras to them glorifying Lord Visnu, and thus they would benefit in their bhakti unto Govinda. Lord Siva appears at the lake in a golden form and not accompanied by his usual entourage of ghosts and dangerous creatures. This is the Lord Siva who is exclusively the pure surrendered devotee of Lord Visnu. The song is very sweet, with Lord Siva praising his master, Lord Krsna, in the company of the Pracetas, who thrill to hear the mantras about their Lord.
I’m hearing Prabhupada lecturing from the Seventh Canto, Prahlada’s prayers to Nrsimhadeva. Prahlada says he is not afraid of Nrsimhadeva’s fierce features, His lion-body, His roaring in anger, and especially His fingernails, which He uses to tear apart the asuras. Nrsimhadeva asks, “So you are not afraid of Me. But is there anything you are afraid of?” Prahlada says, “Yes.” He is afraid of material life, the kala-cakra, material life, which cuts down one’s existence in a short lifespan. Prahlada says in material life you meet up with what you don’t want, and you don’t find that which you do want. He says the cure is worse than the disease itself. But he turns to Lord Nrsimhadeva in complete surrender and finds solace there.
Prabhupada speaks very pessimistically about remedial measures taken to find relief from miseries of the material world. He says that societies are proud when they build more beds in the hospital. But building more hospitals and supplying more beds does not solve the problem of disease. Similarly, a father may take all care to protect his son, but the son may perish. He gave the example of boats at sea, citing the Titanic and the little steamer Jaladuta, which was bounced around in the Atlantic Ocean during storms. You can board a “safe boat,” but without Krsna’s sanction it may sink. Prahlada said the remedial measures we take to avoid material distress create problems greater than the thing we were trying to cure. He quoted a Bhagavatam verse:
“One who takes shelter of Krsna, who is known as the enemy of the demon Mura, finds the ocean of birth and death shrunk up to the size of a calf’s imprint in the mud. But for those who don’t take shelter in the Lord, there is danger at every step.” (Bhagavatam, 10.14.58)
Sacinandana Swami is speaking that Krsna can only be bound by His devotee’s love. Mother Yasoda gathers innumerable ropes, but they always come out two fingers too short to bind her child. Seeing His mother’s exhaustive labor, Krsna finally relents and allows her to bind Him. In the Puranas, Maharaja gave two references to Radha-Damodara lila. Once Radharani bound Krsna with Her girdle to keep Him captured by Her. Another reference states the same. So whether it is by Mother Yasoda or Srimati Radharani, Krsna is bound by His pure devotee’s love, and there is no other way He will submit to such capture. The yogis and jnanis, by thousands of years of practice, cannot capture Krsna, but His pure unalloyed devotees can do it.
Sacinandana Swami spoke to the devotees and told them they should take back to their temples outside of Vrndavana the experience they had at the Govardhana Retreat. He referred to their experience as new samksaras, new impressions, and said they should be careful not to fall into their old impressions but use their new samskaras. They should read the Srimad-Bhagavatam and try to understand it deeply, as it was presented by the speakers at the Govardhana Retreat. In this way they can maintain the fresh consciousness of being in Vrndavana even while they’re away.
In several installments, Jagattarini Mataji made a dramatic presentation of the Govardhana-lila, starting with Krsna’s stopping the Indra yajna and performing the sacrifice for Giri-Govardhana. Indra becomes furious that his sacrifice was canceled, and he called forth the Samvartaka clouds, which are to be used only at the time of the annihilation of the whole universe. He asked the Samvartaka clouds to go to Vrndavana and pour torrents of rain to kill all the Vrajavasis who had dared to offend him.
“I read in Walt Whitman’s prose journal, Specimen Days, how near the end of his life he often entered into woodland solitude. While sitting on a tree stump, he would glorify in writing the peace of the woods and try to enter into a vague, impersonal beatitude. Like the woods themselves, his prose sketches are enchanting, but in the end all impersonal meditation will come to naught. We are always persons, and our only real happiness is to revive our personal relationship with Krsna. Sitting in the woodside, I apply the soothing balm of solitude to my brows and hope that Krsna will find me sincere enough to allow me to return one day to an active life of devotional service.
In the Mail
There are poison pens
that attack the heart.
One arrived today.
Digging up the muck,
envying the leaders,
trying to replace them.
Walk in the woods
to forget it.
Doing right is the antidote
and the defense.
Yes, the poison hurts
but its not fatal.
‘Only Krsna can kill me.’
“Why do I strive so much for honest expressions through personal writing? Because honesty is rare in Kali-yuga. In a world of cheaters and cheated, it’s imperative, therefore, that devotees not abandon this last remaining principle of religion.
“The nondevotees will gloat if they see hypocrisy or dishonesty in a devotee, but they may sympathize with us if we are always honest with them. Only the devotee knows how to be honest in the absolute sense. Only he knows that he is the tiny part and parcel of the Lord.
“I may not be one hundred percent honest with either myself or others, yet with all my faults I should go ahead and function as the servitor of the Lord’s devotees. That is real truthfulness.”
“When I picked up a copy of The Journey of the Pilgrim (which even some Godbrothers said contained spiritual inspiration for devotees because of the emphasis on reciting the Jesus prayer), I somehow found an anti-Vedic pulse. At one point in the book the pilgrim is defending the Jesus prayer to a skeptic. The skeptic says, ‘Oh, reciting the names of God? That’s followed by the Indians, isn’t it?’ And the pilgrim says, ‘No, the Indians got it from the Christians and ruined it.’
“I realize that a lot of such foolish criticism has to do with the critics’ failure to contact a bona fide guru. They lack real understanding and so think of Vedic knowledge as ‘Hindu religion.’ But whatever the reason, when there is real ignorance as to even the historicity of Vedic knowledge, how can I accept the idea that the author has wisdom?
“Similarly, while reading a collection of teachings by the ancient Christian ascetics, the Philokalia, I very soon stumbled upon letters to Christian missionaries in India. Seeing the monks’ serious attempts to convert the ‘ignorant heathens of India,’ how could I read on reverently and take intimate spiritual guidance from those who know less than I know? Even though I am not an ascetic, I can teach the grave monastics the highest spiritual knowledge. This miracle has been described by Srila Prabhupada in The Nectar of Devotion where he explains that even an uneducated boy can become Krsna conscious and free himself of all sinful habits despite the activities of big, big philosophers who oppose devotional service to the Lord.
“When a copy of Thoreau’s journals arrived here, I almost immediately opened to a page where Thoreau had something sarcastic to say about the temple worship of ‘the Hindoos.’ Thoreau describes hearing a church bell, and he associates it with all kinds of ancient primitive religious rites, the like of which he has rejected. To him, the church bell he hears in Massachusetts is no different from the ‘clanging of bells by Hindoos in a subterranean temple.’ Although he never saw a Hindu temple, he imagined them to be places of superstition and barbarism.
“(A more vicious, modern counterpart is the portrayal of Hinduism in the Hollywood movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)
“Thoreau in many ways appreciated Vedic scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, and he also can be excused on the grounds that he never met a genuine spiritual master. He had a hand-me-down misconception about Deity worship. But, again, while we can have a forgiving attitude, we cannot accept such a person as our teacher.”
“I have been listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures from Mayapur 1977, the last days he spoke in public. One can listen carefully and always gain more. Prabhupada is praising Prahlada Maharaja, saying that he is a maha-bhagavata and that we shouldn’t imitate him. He repeatedly said that, and I thought, ‘Why is Prabhupada repeating this? Is this really important that Prahlada Maharaja is a pure devotee and we shouldn’t imitate him? What is the question of imitating him?’
“But as with many of Prabhupada’s instructions, if you do not understand at first what he meant, later you may understand. It must be that we have some tendency to imitate Prahlada Maharaja.
“Prabhupada said that Prahlada Maharaja was able to listen with full attention to Krsna and that for us it may take thousands and thousands of lifetimes before we can actually listen with full attention. I have described in Japa Reform Notebook the struggle to pay attention. Of course, this means submissive attention, and it is actually the worshipful attainment. Despite the distractions, if you can just hear the Names or just hear the Bhagavatam with full attention, then everything is attained and there are no other desires, no room for anything else.
“I’m aware that these ’77 talks are the very last addresses that Prabhupada made to his assembled devotees, and I can sense in the air the tremendous confidence and enthusiasm which Prabhupada evoked in his disciples during this time. Although there were undercurrents of differences among some of his followers, as the undisputed leader Prabhupada kept them in check. Now there tends to be more disputes. It’s a fact, but service to Prabhupada in separation and keeping his principles is our only hope. And he has assured us that by this method we will survive.”
“Sesa has sent a memo through the Back to Godhead staff advocating that the magazine express more the urgency to spread Krsna consciousness. There’s an ongoing debate among devotees about the best way to spread our movement. For the sake of discussion, we may consider two schools—that of the west coast and that of the east. The West Coast school says that writers and editors must be preachers. They must be actively in contact with people by meeting them on book distribution, at festivals, or in other face-to-face encounters. Writers should also stay closely in touch with the trends of national consciousness, such as described in public opinion polls and in the media. Krsna conscious propaganda should stay current with these trends and especially play upon those aspects of our philosophy to which the public may be at present naturally inclined, such as vegetarianism and the subject of reincarnation. We must confront and give solutions to present social problems while making a very attractive cultural presentation. And all this propaganda should issue forth from our magazines, books and programs in a very systematic method, following propaganda techniques used by experts in advertising and elsewhere.
“The East Coast school also advocates addressing and solving current social problems, as well as making attractive presentations of the art and culture of Krsna consciousness.
“However, the East Coast school feels that even introductory material should not smack of corporate thinking or cheap psychological tricks as used in the mass media. Intelligent, sensitive people are turned away by such things. As one customer of Back to Godhead wrote to us, ‘Back to Godhead should not become another Sports Illustrated or Time magazine. We have enough of these. Search your conscience and stay true to your message of Srila Prabhupada.’ In other words, the East Coast does not as faithfully accept the image of the masses as given by the media. It feels that honesty and purity make the most powerful propaganda, not pandering to public taste.
“I am mostly an ‘East Coaster,’ but I’m very aware of the presence of the West Coast contingency, as if they were peering over my shoulder. It is possible to arrive at a synthesis of the different viewpoints, but in any case we have to present Krsna consciousness as given to us by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas.”
“This little book, Vandanam, is not intended as an academic exercise, but a practical instruction on “how to pray.” I do not have a secret method, and I have made very little or no advancement personally into deeper states of prayer. But I am convinced that prayer deserves our attention, and that its teaching is often overlooked among the priorities for an ISKCON devotee.
“We sometimes quote a saying of Prabhupada’s: ‘Work now, samadhi later.’ Without sensitivity to its meaning and application properly understood, no devotee can actually work for long in a devotional career unless he or she learns how to pray.
“My definition of prayer is a true state of immediate experience rather than a remote or theoretical one. It’s supported by the definitions of prayer given in Webster’s dictionary:
“pray (v.): To address God or a deity, especially with devout petition. To request something fervently; to implore.
“prayer (n.): A formal set of words used in praying. An earnest entreaty.
“These definitions describe two kinds of prayer we have mentioned: reading scriptural stotras and expressing your own mind and words. Another different dictionary definition shows the influence of agnosticism:“A minimal chance or hope.” A Christian little catechism on prayer gives this definition: ‘Prayer is a conversation with God in which we manifest to Him the desires of our hearts.’
“As we go further into the inner meaning of prayer, we hear from Srila Prabhupada that it must actually be done with bhakti, with love. In a conversation Prabhupada had with Rev. Gary Davis in the early days of ISKCON in New York, the Reverend brought up the fact that it is crucial to know what to pray for. Prabhupada replied, ‘We should pray, “Please let me love You.”’”
“My dear Lord Krsna . . . I may talk to You and think of You at any time. I want to think of You as the closest person in my life and my best friend—You along with my spiritual master. You are beyond comprehension, acintya, inconceivable, so how could I make such claims of intimacy? Because You have encouraged it. You have said it is possible. You have made it possible. All living beings are Your parts and parcels, and they are dear to You. You can be simultaneously involved with Your most intimate devotees in Goloka Vrndavana, and yet open to touch aspiring souls who may appear to be very distant to You, living in the material world and still distracted by the illusory energy. Whenever they turn to You, You are ready for them.
“I pray that You may increase in me that desire to be a pure devotee. I am confident it can be done even living here with friends in Delaware and engaging quietly in devotional duties, starting with the chanting of the holy names early in the morning. Please save me from distraction and spiritual amnesia. Let me be a good person and not lose my fervor with the aging of the body. Let me help others.
“May I continue this thinking of You daily and writing to You in these communications, and may You please give me Your reciprocation, as You desire. Your humble servant of the servants of the servants of God . . . . I pray to come closer to You by my prayers and communications. To do so, my prayers will have to be pleasing to Srila Prabhupada because it is more important to please the servant of the Lord than to please the Lord Himself. But Prabhupada has recommended vandanam, making prayers to You, so I am just following his instructions. If I can praise You nicely and talk to You directly (out of sincerity), Prabhupada will be pleased.
“I pray for Your kind inclination to Your devotees. You have all Your parts and parcels, but You especially love Your devotees. In the Bhagavad-gita You state, ‘As they surrender unto Me, I award them accordingly. All living beings are on my path.’ So everyone is seeking You, but some are looking for You in the form of material enjoyment, and some are seeking to personally render you devotional service. It is not partiality on Your part that You especially favor Your devotees. The king maintains all the subjects in his kingdom, but he has special affection for his own children. The devotees have become like Your very intimate family members by dint of their surrender to You, and You give Yourself to them. We should not think that the nondevotees or demons can harm You by their neglect of You or by their inimical propaganda against You and Your laws. They hurt only themselves, and they can cause harm for other living entities. I wish to become Your devotee and enjoy special reciprocation with You.
“I also praise You for Your wonderful pastimes. You are the all-attractive Personality of Godhead, and You attract wonderful, playful activities with Your intimate nitya-siddha (eternally liberated) associates in the spiritual world. You also descend to the material world and display the same pastimes just to attract the conditioned souls to You so they will want to join You and serve You in the spiritual world. These pastimes are recorded in the Vedic literature such as Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta, and by reading or hearing these transcendental literatures in the company of pure devotees we derive delight and a desire to be with You in Your abode, Goloka Vrndavana, where Your pastimes are going on in eternity, bliss and knowledge.
“I also praise You for Your compassion, which You display personally in Your avataras (personal forms in which You descend to this world) and in Your personal representatives, the pure devotees, Vaisnavas, servants and sons, who come in this world to spread Your message of God-consciousness. Taking personal inconvenience, the pure devotees approach the nondevotees and speak Your teachings, giving up material attraction and taking up devotional service to Yourself, which is their real self-interest. In Your form as Lord Caitanya, You told a devotee, ‘Tell everyone you meet about Krsna, and You will meet with me again, or rather I will never leave you.’ Those who preach on Your behalf are very dear to You, and they perform the highest welfare work in the world.
“I praise You for giving us the maha-mantra, the great chant for deliverance. By chanting Your names in japa and kirtana, especially in the present age of Kali, a devotee can attain love of Godhead and free himself from all unwanted habits. The chanting alone can qualify a person to go back to Godhead, to join You in Your eternal lilas.
“I began this prayer by saying, ‘I pray to become closer to You by my prayers and communications.’ I have praised You for some of Your attractive qualities. There are many more that I can mention. And there are other types of communication I can make, like petitions to improve in specific spiritual practices and inquiries into Your mystical nature. I wish to continue writing these prayers and personal exchanges of feelings with You for the purpose of purifying myself, and I hope that You hear them and that they are pleasing to You. I love writing to You and ask for Your approval and permission to continue to do so.”
“I made my presentation to the assembled devotees in the schoolhouse. I tried to keep it simple and positive and to not sound uppity. I told them to add the hearing of Krsna’s activities to their lives by regularly reading Prabhupada’s books. They don’t have to change their way of life or practice special austerities to do this—they just have to read. Husband and wife can read together, or close friends. With a little effort and regular practice, obstacles can be overcome and we can become attracted to Krsna’s messages. If we avoid regularly hearing about Krsna, our work is in danger of becoming srama eva hi kevalam.
“No one objected or said it was impossible. Some hinted that perhaps chanting and hearing aren’t the only things we need to do to become purified. I agreed and modified my message a bit to suit that point of view. More complications were mentioned such as an honest remark that it seems ‘dry and artificial and even fanatical when I attempt to discuss Krsna after reading.’ Someone asked, ‘How do we know when we are overendeavoring in sadhana?’
“Later it occurred to me that some devotees in ISKCON give more credence to their own experience than to sastra. They think the personal changes they have gone through and the examples they have seen, both good and bad, are a stronger testimony than some absolute statement in the sastra. The sastra tells of the superiority of sravanam-kirtanam over other religious activities, but someone may want to relativize that statement based on what he has learned about his own capabilities, the needs of living in the world, etc. Someone else may be so cautious about getting carried away by any ISKCON authority ‘trip’ that he may not quite believe the authorities of the Bhagavatam either. I am not saying that anyone voiced that viewpoint today, but it struck me as a way someone might go thinking his own experience is a wiser judge of what to do than the words of the Lord or Sukadeva Gosvami.
“It was nice talking with devotees about how I like to come to Ireland and how I have been able to write here over the years. I told them the special feature of early morning walks in Ireland, where people sleep late and I don’t get bothered by barking dogs. We had a kirtana and then I gave out some biscuits. See you next Saturday.”
“I am hearing Srila Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion lectures given in Vrndavana (Karttika, 1972). In one lecture you hear monkeys screeching and even growling a bit. But Srila Prabhupada doesn’t mention them, but just keeps on lecturing. You can also hear live kirtana in the background, probably from inside the temple courtyard.
“Srila Prabhupada is lecturing in the courtyard by Rupa Gosvami’s place.
“Pradyumna dasa has just read the statement that Rupa Gosvami wants to protect the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. He prays to his spiritual master, Sanatana Gosvami, for protection against those ‘argumentative logicians’ who unnecessarily meddle in the science of service to the Lord. He compares their arguments to volcanic eruptions that occur in the ocean but can do very little harm.
“Srila Prabhupada says, ‘Let them do . . .’ We may respect them, but we don’t accept their conclusions. As I hear this tape, I automatically take down a few notes like a student, but I’m aware that I’m not feeling it deeply. I wasn’t there in 1972.
“Prabhupada reads aloud that Rupa Gosvami is trying to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, although he thinks himself unfit for the work:
“‘That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Krsna consciousness movement, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami. We should never think of ourselves as great preachers, but we should always consider that we are simply instrumental to the previous acaryas, and simply by following in their footsteps we may be able to do something for the benefit of suffering humanity.’
(Nectar of Devotion, Introduction, p. XX)
“Suddenly Prabhupada stops speaking. ‘Hut!’ We don’t hear the monkey, but then again, ‘HUT!’ Devotees laugh and applaud, ‘Oh! Haribol!’ It sounds like Srila Prabhupada successfully chased the monkey away.
“‘Mmmm . . . .’ He begins again where he left off. ‘This Society is attempting to create a society of devotees all over the world, without any discrimination of caste, creed or color.’
“I don’t like those monkeys at all. But I’m not going to write about them here. I want to be with Srila Prabhupada and the devotees. Tandera carana sevi bhakta-sane vasa/ janame janame haya, ei abhilasa.
“Turn your monkey-mind back to the lecture. In just a five-minute segment, there is so much. Keep the argumentative logicians away. Worship and follow the humble attitude of Rupa Gosvami, who wanted only to be an instrument of the previous acaryas. Be like your own spiritual master, who is not afraid of monkeys, but who shouted, ‘Hut!’ (I wish I could get out of the rut of listening to my monkey mind. Srila Prabhupada, where are you to yell ‘Hut!’ at my mind?)
“I’m listening again. Prabhupada said that the Krsna consciousness movement is a society of devotees, and all are welcome, all over the world. Our main business is to serve the acarya.
“Prabhupada then said that a so-called jnani came to him and said, ‘The Christians and Muslims used to convert Hindus; now you are converting Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. What is the difference between your preaching and the preaching of so many other prosyletizers?’ Srila Prabhupada commented, ‘This fool doesn’t know . . . I never said the Hindu religion is better than the Christian. I never said, ‘Give up your religion.’ No. . . . There are many of my old students here, and they can tell you. Rather, when they ask if one can attain perfection by following the Krsna religion, I say “Yes.”’”
“What is Krsna consciousness? How do we know we are ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is? When we are free from material desires? Yes, that’s it. We can know when we hear Krsna’s name and we actually relish it. That’s the real test of improvement. Another test is when we want to serve Krsna’s mission in this world. That means preaching. Never mind that this movement is thought to be a strange ‘Indian’ cult by Westerners. Preach anyway and remove their misgivings with upright behavior. We’re not crazy, despite people’s misunderstandings. It takes courage to be Krsna conscious in this world, and especially to preach. There are so many people who will never understand it. Therefore it also takes tolerance.
“There was a time when we liked the fact that we were different. And people were attracted to us for that reason. Not people from the mainstream, but other people wanting to be more real, or even just different. Where has that spirit gone? I wish it were being replaced by the ecstasy of deep compassion for the conditioned souls. Lacking that, I am a little stunted in my ability to do more. I just can’t seem to do things based only on duty—at least not everything. I’m just not inspired enough, even if others quote Prabhupada to me. Too much has ‘gone down’ for the high spirit to remain in me. At least I have a spirit to write and chant and to travel to the temples where they receive me as a devotee worth hearing from.”
“No one lives forever. Write and die. You can die at home just from an infection by a rose thorn, as well as in a battle skirmish in Iraq or by a sniper’s bullet or from a cataract in the eye while the simple operation is being performed. You can leave all your little children behind you as posterity. But Prabhupada mocked posterity. He said, ‘Oh yes, posterity is living on in your place, but where are you going?’ The fool says he lives on in his son, but where he is going he doesn’t know. All my little children piled up in manuscripts, but where does Jiminy go? He don’t go where his prose goes, he don’t know where his nose goes.
“And what about Faust in Mephistopheles? The devil, with God’s permission, tried to lure a soul to hell. It was Dr. Faust, a man who was already happy in his attempts to reach God by reason and alchemy. Mephistopheles went and conquered Faust by saying that he would become the slave of Faust in this world, and then in the next world—if there was such a thing—Faust would become the slave of the devil. So then Faust went wild, living a life of ribaldry and greed, gaining lands, and out of lust conquering the women, purging everywhere, being consumed by every form of lust, being cruel to people everywhere, until finally he loses his own sight. But at that moment, he’s redeemed because he feels the pity that other people have. As precious sight is drawn from his dying eyes, suddenly it’s as though Faust could finally see. He called in excitement to his laborers to set forth and complete the work of draining the remaining tidal swamps so that he might give away all the reclaimed lands to his people. ‘This is the highest wisdom that I own, the best that mankind ever knew,’ he cried as he raced about blindly.
“‘Yes—this I hold to do with devout insistence.
Wisdom’s last verdict goes to say:
He earns both freedom and existence
Who must reconquer them each day.’
“Then, in joy, Faust died.
“Just as Mephistopheles reached to take the prize of Faust’s soul for eternal damnation, a host of angels descended and distracted while Faust’s soul escaped; it was the devil who would taste defeat. Though Faust had sinned, even so he had struggled toward growth, knowledge, and transcendence. ‘Whoever strives in ceaseless toil we grant redemption. The seraphs sang. Then with the devil still raging, the angelic chorus flew into heaven, bearing off Faust’s immortal part.’
“This is a picture of man’s real immortality, not the immortality of the Struldbruggs. The pure soul as Christians know it and as the Krsna conscious people know it. The soul that cannot die even if it has to undergo birth and death due to its folly and due to its being entrapped by maya (Satan).”
“My own pleasure is not automatically identical with Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure. Nor is my displeasure. This morning in the Samadhi Mandir, the man who took the lead in singing turned me off. Halfway through he tried inducing us all to dance, but no one followed. At the end he looked to me to lead the recitation of the prema-dvani prayers, but I refused to make eye contact with him. Finally, he touched me with his hand. I recoiled at first, but then I responded and recited the prayers. I felt bad about being turned off by this man and his ways. Srila Prabhupada, you appreciated him. Fortunately, I was able to make it up later by complimenting him on the nice kirtana. But it was a lesson—we are together and I shouldn’t be unfriendly or think that I am alone in this movement.”
“If you know the Truth, you should distribute it to others, because the Truth brings liberation.
“We receive Vedic knowledge from the spiritual masters, who are described as tattva-darsinas—‘they have seen the truth.’ When the spiritual master accepts a disciple and initiates him in spiritual knowledge, the sincere disciple feels indebted and offers, ‘My dear Spiritual Master, what can I do for you?’ This indebtedness is called guru-daksina. In 1966, when I was initiated, Prabhupada described the significance of guru-daksina:
“‘Lord Caitanya asked His disciple Rupa Gosvami to go to Vrndavana to preach and sustain His mission. This is disciplic succession. Not that one thinks, “I have understood everything from my spiritual master; let me now sit tight.” That is also nice, but no. Lord Caitanya’s mission is to spread the teaching …. It is your duty.’
(A Handbook for Krsna Consciousness, pg. 326)”
“The program tonight is expected to be bigger than usual and will be held at a Friend’s (Quaker’s) Meeting House. Usually the nama-hatta programs are held in this flat, which belongs to a new devotee named Mark; we’re only staying here overnight. I have placed Lord Jagannatha and Lord Nrsimhadeva on a bureau in a room that has bows and arrows, a Chinese martial-arts pole, equipment for making batik paintings and other miscellany, including books by Sartre and Salinger, The Yoga of Herbs, two crystal balls, a facsimile of a human skull with two used candles on top, and a drawing of a mythical old wizard with a tall pointy hat.
“In the kitchen, women are cooking, and outside in the alley Mark is hammering together an altar for use in tonight’s program.
“What verse shall I speak on? I want to encourage the nama-hatta devotees of Nottingham to seriously practice Krsna consciousness, but I don’t want to be out of touch with the reality of their family life, jobs, present state of consciousness, social situation, or varna and ashrama… Whatever the social situation, Krsna consciousness is the greatest opportunity of human life and requires deliberate planning and dedication. I know a verse that might be applicable here, one about the need to avoid bad company, as spoken by Sanat-kumara to Maharaja Prthu. It is very strong, and so is Prabhupada’s purport, so it may be a little too much for some people. A declaration against maya:
“‘One has to make progress in spiritual life by not associating with persons who are simply interested in sense gratification and making money. Not only such persons, but one who associates with such persons should be avoided. One should mold his life in such a way that he cannot live in peace without drinking the nectar of the glorification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari. One can be thus elevated by being disgusted with the taste for sense enjoyment.’ (Bhag. 4.22.23)”
“Srila Prabhupada is the main inspiration and direction for all activities in the Krsna consciousness movement. We remember his years with us over thirty years ago, and continuing from the present to future, we try to follow his instructions and maintain his society of devotees.
“It is also nice to see him gesturing on his walk. You can meditate on it and cultivate feelings of separation. You can also hear the recordings of his morning walk and lectures and be in tune with his preaching presence. You can read his books and refresh yourself with his personal presentation of the classics: Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta, and his other books. By associating with his followers, you can remain in his camp.
“I was fortunate to meet Srila Prabhupada from his very beginning in New York City in 1966, when he was so accessible and personable. His personality and role expanded as the movement grew, and he became world-acarya for thousands of devotees and a manager of complex institutional affairs. But he always maintained his intimate touch with many persons wherever he visited. As a mahatma, or great soul, he was able to give love to everyone he met and encourage them to take up devotional service in their lives. Someone referred to the ‘Vraja bubble’ that Prabhupada lived within, and how, when you came into his presence, you left the material world and entered the Vraja bubble with him. Traveler’s Aid, an insurance company, advertises that they ‘take the scariness out of life’ by their insurance protection. Similarly, Prabhupada takes the scariness out of life when we come close to him, take shelter under his transcendental umbrella and follow his instructions.”
“Not sure what this is. What do you want to do? You could read more. But at this hour I was falling asleep. I got in some fifteen minutes of alert reading. LC was teaching Sanatana about the creation, how the Supreme Lord impregnates the living entities into matter and then He expands as the purusa-avataras. Now, He teaches about lila-avataras. It’s important to keep reading, and speaking helps also. I’m asking the Lord in my heart to please tell me what is best for me.
“The critical in me is still asking, ‘Is this best or should you be traveling and seeing people and speaking and trying to encourage people to join and become devotees? Speaking makes disciples.’
“No, that doesn’t seem my style or proclivity. Besides, I do get the headaches still. And if I can write, is that not the best way? A psychic saw in her mind the trailer where my manuscripts are sent for editing. She said the ancient knowledge is being produced for people in the future in a suitable form and this is important work.
“Should I try more to make some form, make another story like Photo Preaching? Some fiction, at least some artistic form. Think more of the people I am writing for. But this is the writing session. It centers on doing it for myself and not the audience. Manu dasa said when he read my Lough Derg Diary he felt it was exciting, even more so than the Metaphor book. Then let me write and let me endure the pain.
“What pain? The pain of not creating a structure, of writing my own way, of not being certain, not having the security of always staying close to the sastras and quoting them. Those pains.
“The pain of not being a lover of my spiritual master to the degree I’d like. We lived through the years with him in his manifested state. And now we need to pray to him. It’s somewhat different. It’s done not only by remembering him in the way he was but also to be in contact with him now. You have to pray for it. We read how Sanatana cried to get the darsana of Radha. So, we may cry to know Gurudeva in his original form or something like that?
“The pain of uncertainty. Go on writing. There was once a man who ate five bananas and said, ‘Now I am Hanuman.’ He woke up and it was the year 1966 and he was going to the ISKCON temple for the first time to see the Swami. On the way he got hit on the head and woke up in the year 2078. I heard a brother was writing a fantasy novel like that. Perhaps out of his own desire to imagine he was meeting with Prabhupada in 1966. He had not done it in actual life and now is doing it through fantasy.
But the truth is I am not a sadhu of either kind. Don’t live in Vrndavana doing bhajana,
don’t live in the city preaching vigorously to people,
don’t be an author of those sorts of books,
don’t be a Merton writing mostly of what it’s like to form yourself as a devotee of God in the monastery.
Then what are you?
I’m a person of my own who gives and receives faxes, publishes books, writes poems and does read some of the Cc. and tells you about that.
“The ISKCON movement revives. The guru is eternal. You do like to think of him and go back in memory for that. But right now, he is present in your heart and so is the Supreme Lord. You have to pray. Please reveal Yourself to me. SP says the method of attaining Vaikuntha is very simple. It’s Hare Krishna. He wanted us to increase the number of Hare Krishna people. That was his desire. He saw it increased in his lifetime and wanted it more and more. The potential was there and yet it was not as big as he wanted it to be. He enjoyed the fabulous growth of ISKCON but also saw it rejected by the masses. He got a handful and couldn’t go further, it seemed. Just a few hundred or a few thousand. He was greedy for Krsna. To have any start in the West is hardly imaginable. But when he saw the masses were not taking it, he saw that he had a small movement of interested persons. And it wasn’t as popular as other movements. And he also began to see that some devotees took to it and then later gave it up.
“Your news. The news of the day. It’s a full moon. You felt sad when you saw it because you were only able to gaze a little bit of it in one corner of the skylight window. But the room had more light in it at 2 A.M. I can’t write poems on it. It is the full moon. Mention it and move one.
“This is the shorter WS in the day. Others are for one-hour. Heraclitus, Goofy the Disney character, the goofy man who painted Goofy on a marijuana high. You are sure hip, man, I said, you are painting goofy and that is a good thing. You yourself are like Goofy and that’s why you do it. But I was a different sort of person writing a sad prose ode to the life…as I knew it.
“The elastic bands on my socks dig into the leg. It is ugly, it is not nice. It harms you. Why should the leg have to derive such an impression?
“And how is Bhurijana doing in Perth? Why don’t you write to him? You could, you know, reach out to him. But you don’t mostly. You go on writing in your own world. The outpouring of another person…you could try, you could try.
“Say, ‘How are you, man? I am a living person, warm, therefore I say, “How are you?”’ I can’t think of something jolly and personal and artistic and KC enough to say, therefore I don’t speak at all. No, it’s better to speak even if it’s halting, not so deep, it’s at least a reaching out. So, do it. Yes, I’ll do it.
“Another example of this WS drifting to private and personal concerns. Why not? They don’t have to be only in the philosophical world or some writer’s existence, abstract, observing. You can just write and think, ‘Why not write a letter to my brother?’ That’s a kind of service also.
“Like a note left by someone before they got buried by the volcano at Vesuvius. It can live forever if it’s something real and earnestly felt. The devotee is part of ISKCON. He hears how many books were sold, not so many this year because the book table wasn’t in the best location. They made seven hundred bucks and sold some. A man riding a white horse arrived and delivered a hundred-pound bag of white rice and said, ‘Don’t mention it please, don’t mention it.’
“Now this is the last page, the fifth. I’m on a new schedule where I go out at 5:15 A.M. and walk for a half-hour, then come back and try a poem. Krsna, Krsna is in His names. You said you wanted to be with Srila Prabhupada. Now this is in separation. Do it by service. But your service is not the same as Bhakti Vikasa Swami or the nama-hatta cell leader or the man teaching to educate devotees in Russia or the worker who is trying to remove the government ruling against us in Germany, or the press men who are trying to make everything just right as they print it in the BBT, or trying to develop a community, a real vibrant community which is self-sufficient and is ready to face the collapse of technological society. You’re not doing that. Neither are you in a kunja chanting a hundred rounds a day. That person in the kunja will also be in doubt whether he can offer this to Prabhupada? What are Prabhupada’s instructions?
“The GBC chairman for this year is spending most of his time at the computer, batting out articles like a general protecting ISKCON. All the problems are coming to him. He certainly feels that he is serving the movement that Prabhupada worked hard for and wanted maintained.
“Yes, each one is doing what he can. I often sound this note and must do it again. But ask yourself, ‘Is this my service?’ If you decide it is, then work for it for all you’re worth. A grhastha cannot yearn to be a brahmacari again. He has to do the grhastha yajna, although later he can return to renunciation. Now this writing time is here for me. I prayed for it and now I have it, and they’re not taking it away or saying it’s wrong. So, make the best of it. And it’s not done by writing a structured book but by the WS. At least these days. O Lord, I’m following that trail. You are the trailblazer. You glance on the material nature and it gets agitated, and then You impregnate it through the mercy of Lord Siva. It’s hard to understand all that. But you do it. So You may also move an insignificant creature like me who is working up a storm, and something worthwhile is coming.
“(Half-hour, five typed pages, Wicklow)”