In the 1990s there was much controversy about ISKCON devotees going to see Narayana Maharaja in Mathura. I wanted to avoid the controversy, so for Karttika that year I went to Mayapur. I wanted to have a parikrama with my disciples, but I didn’t know the lila-sthalis. I asked Bhakti Charu Swami if he could suggest someone who could be a guide. He enthusiastically volunteered himself. We proposed a parikrama made up of his disciples and my disciples. He took charge. I remember he said that the devotees should wear shoes. He thought it was too much austerity for them to walk barefoot. I appreciated this concession to the “tenderfoots” from the West. I was having chronic migraine headaches at this time, so although I went on some of the days, on others I had to stay back and let Maharaja lead the devotees without me. I was present, however, when we went to Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house. That was a high point. I remember standing with Maharaja on a balcony to the house and him chastising one of his disciples who was drinking a dob on the ground floor. He said, “J. dasa, have you come here for sense gratification?” This sobered all the devotees up. We both gave talks on Bhaktivinoda Thakura and associated together in a friendly way.
Bhakti Charu Maharaja was a perfect, humble gentleman, more refined than some of the GBC men who were prone to raucous debates. I was very impressed that he was translating all of Srila Prabhupada’s books from English into Bengali and publishing them. Although he met Srila Prabhupada late in his manifest appearance, in 1977, Prabhupada quickly recognized his excellent qualities and quickly gave him first and second initiations, and then a few months later awarded him sannyasa. Later in that last year, when Prabhupada was ill, Bhakti Charu Maharaja became his intimate servant. He was an intimate member of Prabhupada’s care team.
One year I decided to research and write about Lord Buddha, the avatara, and whether He was the same person who led the Buddhists in India. I bought books in London of the Buddhist writings. We had a whole set of books by the Bodhisattva Buddha, and I wanted to write a Krsna conscious commentary on them. On reading the books, I didn’t find much emphasis on nonviolence towards cows, and this left me confused because Prabhupada said the main reason for Lord Buddha’s appearance was to stop the animal-killing in sacrifice. I brought my doubts to Bhakti Charu Maharaja and asked him whether the Buddha mentioned in the Bhagavatam was the same person we learned about in school as the founder of the Buddhist religion. Maharaja brought me to the aged sannyasi Puri Maharaja, who was reputed as a Vaisnava scholar. Puri Maharaja told me that the Buddha avatara in the Bhagavatam was different than the Boddhisattva who we were reading about in the books that we obtained in London. This smashed my whole project of writing about a Krsna-conscious Buddha. I gained nice association with Bhakti Charu over this matter.
Maharaja helped me in gaining detachment from the association of Narayana Maharaja and raganuga-bhakti. I was at Gita-Nagari when Bhakti Charu Maharaja visited, and he prepared excellent pizza which he offered to Radha-Damodara and the devotees. He was a well-known connoisseur/chef and influenced many persons to become devotees just by serving them his excellently prepared prasadam.
I spoke with John Endler about our future book publishing plans. We have accomplished our goal of publishing four books in 2020. Now it’s just a matter of distributing them through the mail. So we spoke for the future, what books to publish in 2021. One book we’re planning to publish is a collection of manuscripts on the Karttika theme. I have manuscripts for Karttika Flame and Shadow, Karttika in Exile, etc. They will make up a book. The second book we plan to publish is California Search for Gold. This is an approximately 350-page book about my moving to California for health recovery. For most of the book, due to my chronic migraines, I am unable to complete my sixteen-round quota. I live with this patiently and look for the future. The book ends triumphantly as I reach my quota again. California Search for Gold also tells of the association of the devotees in California, how we converse about Brhad-bhagavatamrta at lunchtime, and other West coast adventures.
Baladeva is pushing me to publish four books in 2021. He says we have an unusual opportunity at this time. John Endler’s church is closed due to the coronavirus epidemic, and he has free time to work on my books. John’s main pastoral duties are visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes and individually. All these are suspended for now. He has been intensely working, making compilations of my books for 2020 and sending me material to post in my Free Write Journal. We don’t know how long this period will last where John is free to work on my books, which he loves to do.
I’m hesitant to give my readers so many books to read, but they don’t have to read them all at once. I am in my sunset years, and I should keep producing as long as I can. So I’m considering Baladeva’s persuasive suggestion.
The adjoining fire department complained to all the neighbors that their fences were overgrown with weeds and vines and were unsightly. Our visiting workers—Atindra, Lalita-kaisori, and Amit from Albany—cleaned up our chain-link fence, removing the debris and making it clear for the lilacs to grow. It took several hours to clear the fences, and when it grew too hot we brought out picnic lunches to the workers, and they took prasadam under the shade of the maple tree. When the fire department checks in a few days, they’ll be satisfied that we did our part in a good, neighborly way.
Of grapes. Of devotees sitting to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam. Cluster of material desires in the heart of a conditioned soul. They will force him to take rebirth in the material world. But in the human form of life, one can vanquish one’s material desires. As Lord Caitanya prays, “Ceto-darpana-marjanam…” One can cleanse the mirror of the mind by constant chanting of the holy names—“sri-krsna-sankirtanam.”
Japa: the repetition of three words—Hare, Krsna and Rama—arranged scientifically in the Hare Krsna mantra. The sound vibration is Krsna Himself. It should be chanted constantly and without committing offenses. At least one should chant a minimum quota of numerical strength (sixteen rounds). Chanting must be attentive: “Wherever the mind wanders, one should bring it back under control of the higher self.” Prabhupada said we should chant like a child crying for its mother. Chanting alertly we call out, “O Radha, O Krsna, please engage me in Your service.” If you don’t attain perfection, be determined; go on chanting and begging for the nectar of the holy name.
Narada Muni has finished telling his long allegory to King Pracinabarhisat in which Narada tells the story of a king, “Puranjana,” who is symbolically King Pracinabarhisat. But even as the story ends, the king says he doesn’t understand the moral or the message. Since time immemorial, the compilers of sastra have used allegorical stories to bring common persons indirectly to the knowledge of the Absolute Truth. A pure devotee is capable of hearing Krsna’s pastimes in a dramatic way, without an allegorical story, but the common man needs an indirect narration.
Some of the Puranic stories are historical fact, not allegories. In any case, one has to accept the Puranas, whatever they are telling. The Puranas are sabdha-brahma, proof by hearing from absolute authorities. For example, Lord Varaha descended in the form of a boar and lifted the earth from the watery ocean. This account is not allegorical but is historical fact. Srila Jiva Gosvami says unless one can accept the acintya (inconceivable) nature of the Supreme Lord’s avataras, he cannot make any progress in spiritual life. King Puranjana thinks of his wife at the time of death and becomes a woman, Vaidarbhi, in his next life.
Now we are in the Fifth Canto hearing about King Priyavrata. He gave up the post of emperor and went to practice austerities and receive instructions from Narada Muni. He was very satisfied in doing this. But the Supreme Lord wanted him to take back the position of emperor, and He sent Lord Brahma and his associates to convince Priyavrata to take up being a family man again. Brahma, on the order of the Supreme Lord, assures Priyavrata, that he will not lose his spiritual position, even though he enters family life again. Being urged by such authorities, Priyavrata took up the duties of an emperor and a grhastha and accepted a qualified wife. Prabhupada writes how one can do this and not fall down to material sense gratification.
Priyavrata was so powerful that the wheels of his chariot divided the earth into seven oceans and seven islands. He and his wife begot ten sons. Three took sannyasa, and the other seven took charge of the islands created by Priyavrata. As emperor, he enjoyed with his wife for many years. But finally he became detached again and returned to following the path of renunciation as taught to him by Narada Muni. Priyavrata remained a staunch follower of Narada, and he practiced renunciation until the end of his life, whereupon he transferred to the spiritual world.
One of his sons, Agnidhra, wanted to get married, and Brahma sent down a qualified society girl to be his wife. When she arrived, Agnidhra was so deep in meditation that at first he could not distinguish whether she was a woman or a man. He became increasingly attracted to her features and finally asked her to marry him, and she agreed. Agnidhra and his wife enjoyed material pleasures for thousands of years. When the time was up, his wife returned to the planet of Lord Brahma to worship him. Agnidhra was still attached to her, and so he followed her to Brahma’s planet.
Every day I listen to a lecture by the devotees at the Govardhana Retreat. And I listen to a lecture by Prabhupada, given in 1976 or 1977, on the prayers of Prahlada to Nrsimhadeva. These are my solid sadhana practices, and they keep me enlivened. Prabhupada describes how Prahlada is talking to his schoolmates who are sons of demoniac families. Prabhupada once joked that his own disciples were also sons of demons—but then he added that they had now broken off relations with their demoniac families and were situated as bona-fide devotees of the Lord, in Prabhupada’s shelter.
Every day Prabhupada talks on a different aspect of the philosophy as it’s brought out by Prahlada’s prayers. He says the mass of people are mudhas, completely unaware of the soul, which is the primary interest in life. Prahlada says he is not afraid of the fierce demeanor of Nrsimhadeva, but he is afraid of material life, which he compares to a cakra which crushes the living entities and repeatedly binds them to lives of birth, death, disease and old age.
He takes shelter of his beloved Nrsimhadeva and prays for release from material sufferings. Prahlada is a compassionate maha-bhagavata preacher, and so he says for himself he is happy in the shelter of Krsna consciousness, but he doesn’t want to go back to Godhead alone as some sadhus aspire for. He says only if he can bring all the fools and rascals to the spiritual world will he be happy. These talks by Srila Prabhupada are strong and refreshing, and they make us want to follow the mahajana, Prahlada.
In listening to Prabhupada’s lectures, we heard the verse where Prahlada says he was falling into a pit of snakes, but his spiritual master Narada saved him. He says, “How could I ever leave him?” Prabhupada remarks that one cannot go directly to Krsna—one has to go to a representative of the Lord. Narada is a bona-fide spiritual master who has delivered many souls, as told in Srimad-Bhagavatam. He rescued Prahlada Maharaja by teaching him while he was still in the womb of his mother. He instructed the five-year-old boy Dhruva Maharaja and brought him to perfection. He converted the hunter Mrgrari and placed him on the path of pure devotional service. He taught the Pracetas while they were performing austerities in the water. There are many other devotees who were delivered by Narada Muni. He travels constantly throughout the universes, sometimes in heaven and sometimes even in hell. He constantly preaches and sings the glories of the Lord on his vina.
Narada convinced the Haryasvas, sons of Daksa who were practicing austerities in order to get ready for sanctified marriage, to take to the path of renunciation. For this he was cursed not to stay in any one place but to constantly travel. Narada took this curse as a blessing, and he wanders constantly, seeking out conditioned souls and giving them relevant instructions for going back to Godhead.
Sacinandana Swami spoke at length about Krsna-karnamrta by Bilvamangala Thakura. Lord Caitanya found these two most valuable books, Krsna-karnamrta and Brahma-samhita, on His southern tour of India. He had them copied and brought back to Jagannatha Puri to be distributed to the devotees there. Maharaja told some new facts about Bilvamangala’s life. When Cintamani spoke the fateful words to Bilvamangala—that if he had as much attachment to Krsna as he had to her body, he would be a great devotee of the Lord—these words awakened and transformed him (as well as Cintamani!). He started out for Vrndavana. He wanted to distribute prasadam to the poor sadhus living there. On the journey he came upon a procession where a young girl who had just died was being carried. He followed that procession and watched them bury her. (The custom was young children were not cremated but buried.) This young princess was covered with costly decorations. Bilvamangala waited until night and then he dug up the burial spot in order to take the jewels. While he was doing so, a voice called out to him: “What are you doing? Leave me alone!” Apparently the girl wasn’t dead yet, and he became frightened. She gave him some assurance and said that at her house, at the foot of the bed, there were buried two golden bricks, and he could have them for his feeding the sadhus. Bilvamangala went to the king and told him about this, and the king discovered the gold bricks and turned them over to Bilvamangala Thakura. He held a feast for the sadhus of Vrndavana, but so many people came that he ran out of bhoga. So he went back to the burial spot and again dug it up to get the princess’s jewelry. Again she cried out, “What are you doing! Leave me alone! You are so greedy to feed the sadhus. You must be punished!” She told him he would have to be reborn, but in a good family of aristocrats or transcendentalists. And in his future birth he would meet up again with Cintamani. So it came to pass. But the two were so transformed that they were not interested in each other for sense gratification. Cintamani played the vina and sang songs to Krsna, and Bilvamangala accompanied her playing a mrdanga. All night they sang songs glorifying Krsna, and they tasted a bliss far beyond what they had known when they romantically enjoyed one another in sense gratification. In the morning, Cintamani set out for Haridvara, and Bilvamangala went off to search for Vrndavana. Sacinandana Swami said there are many commentaries on Krsna-karnamrta, but the most famous is by Krsnadasa Kaviraja. It has been translated into English by Bhanu Swami and is available in Loi Bazaar for Rs. 150.
On his way to Vrndavana, Bilvamangala came upon a woman and her husband, and he became lustfully attracted to her. He approached her husband and confided in him that he wanted to enjoy his wife. The husband conveyed this to the wife, and she said, “I have never been seen by anyone but you. I cannot do this. I will pluck out my eyes.” Bilvamangala overheard her saying this, and he became horrified. He went to the wife and asked her if he could borrow her hairpins. She gave them to him, and he plucked out his own eyes so he would not be able to lustfully see a woman again. He tried to proceed to Vrndavana, but he fell down and bumped into trees. Suddenly a young boy came to him and took his hand. The boy said, “I am going to Vrndavana; I will guide you there.” The boy took him to Vrndavana and left him there. Bilvamangala Thakura then realized that the boy was actually Krsna, and he lamented that he had to let Him go. But he was in ecstasy to be in Vrndavana, and he began to compose songs about Radha and Krsna. A few disciples wrote down these songs, which became the Krsna-karnamrta, a topmost book about separation of Radha and Krsna.
Bhurijana spoke of the boat which all the great sages and saints used to cross the ocean of birth and death and reach the spiritual realm. But the sages left the boat on our side so that we could use it again to reach the spiritual world. All you needed was your desire, your enthusiasm to serve Krsna. He said everyone should somehow climb on that boat and hang onto it for dear life. The material ocean is vast and stormy. But taking shelter on the boat, which is guided by the bona-fide spiritual master, the great ocean becomes shrunk up to the size of a calf’s imprint in the mud. Hanging onto the boat for dear life means practicing devotional service to Krsna. Surrender to this process will help one to stay on board. Certainly by chanting and hearing, one can easily cross the ocean and reach the destination.
“I think I could become a more serious student of the holy names. I should also read and hear better.
“An encouraging Srimad-Bhagavatam verse advises hearing for a long time. Kapiladeva tells His mother, ‘One can get liberated by seriously discharging devotional service unto Me and thereby hearing for a long time about Me or from Me.’ (Bhag. 3.27.21) Devahuti had been asking how it is really possible for the conditioned soul to be free of matter and become liberated. She doubted that theoretical knowledge on the subject could bring actual release. She also doubted that the spirit soul could stand unaffected by matter as long as the seed-cause of the material connection—enviousness of God—remained. So Kapila replied to her questions.
“In the purport, Prabhupada emphasizes that we must hear about or from Lord Krsna ‘by hearing for long periods of time.’ He also states, ‘By continuous, regular hearing, the effects of the contamination of lust and greed will diminish.’
“I have a neglectful habit of accepting the Bhagavatam’s statements in a merely theoretical way. In other words, I do not practice the philosophy seriously enough. If I grant that I am suffering due to contact with the modes of material nature, and if I accept that chanting the Lord’s holy names and hearing His instruction and lila will purify me and release me from material infection, then why don’t I take up chanting and hearing more regularly, carefully, seriously? Whatever the reason for my failure, the failure itself means that I have allowed the Vedic knowledge to remain theoretical.
“This verse by Kapiladeva reminds me that becoming Krsna conscious is a relatively long process. Similarly, I am advised that cure of my physical health can only be achieved by faithfully following these slow but thorough healing processes of Ayurvedic and naturopathic remedies. And now I have this inkling—which I pray will develop into determination and actual practice—to improve the state of my sadhana.
“ . . . I have strong urges to write to the end of my days. Yet logically, the urge to improve japa and to be absorbed in Srimad-Bhagavatam should be even stronger because my time is limited and I have a long way to go.”
“Warm, dusty wind; temperature climbing fifty degrees from morning to afternoon. The sun disc sets behind the silo. The land—manure is dumped in and then ploughed under by oxen. ‘Who is running the teams?’ I asked Sri Krsna dasa. A car goes by filled with Vaisnava mothers and their children.
“The temple windows are open and the aroma of the cooks’ next offering to the Deities comes from the kitchen. The bright altar of Radha-Damodara in Their Thursday outfit, ‘multi-colored Ganga-Yamuna’ (so-called because it contains both gold and silver jari sewing). The tulasi plant wears a bright pink skirt. These are the mixtures that lift my spirits and give intimations of well-being. So what if physical health eludes me? This is perfect, for now.
Kalachandji, small black moon,
and Vrsabhanu’s bright gold Daughter,
You Two dance in Your own pleasure
beyond all philosophies.
You are the center of all things,
known only to the dearmost.
You appear as humans
but hold supreme dominion over all.
You kindly allow us
to care for You, to call You ‘mine.’
You are my Deity.
You blackish, dressed actor,
You are not an aid to meditation
but the goal is Yourself
with Your flute and cowherd rod.
Please never leave us; give us utsaha!”
“As we were carrying the canoe down to the creek early this morning, it occurred to me that I am not living in what most people consider ‘the real world.’ Today’s heroes are not our heroes. We don’t relate to what most people are trying to enjoy or what most people are suffering from. And as we disregard the world, so worldly persons disregard us. Many see Krsna consciousness as a narrow religious experience, a denial of life.
“Those who are intensely engaged in crucial worldly concerns are actually being dragged along in illusion, controlled by the modes of material nature. Today’s heroes—Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Michael Jackson, Jane Fonda, Tina Turner, and on and on—whom millions follow and adore, will soon be forgotten and their fame extinguished like the light of a firefly that appears and disappears within a moment.
“The plight of worldly people is described elaborately in Srimad-Bhagavatam. After a misspent lifetime, the souls of such worldly people are dragged down into forms of life filled with ignorance and suffering. To be famous within a lifetime devoid of real spiritual inquiry or knowledge is to be a big animal praised by small animals. But to devote one’s life to Krsna and to endeavor to bring this enlightenment to others is the greatest activity for a human being. But the fruitive workers disregard all this. Even if they maintain religious sentiments, their activities show that they are serious only about worldly matters.
“At the present time it is very difficult for Krsna conscious devotees to be influential or to provide leadership in government, education, or the arts. We are mostly shut out, although we make our own attempts as best we can to influence others in these fields. And we can create devotees among the innocent persons.”
“ . . . Sometimes I think about the time of death. That time is approaching, but I cannot yet grasp its fearsomeness. Yet, in practical ways, I try to make all arrangements so that I will not fail utterly in the purpose of human life. I am convinced in mind and heart that human life is meant for avoiding the miseries of repeated birth and death, and this is attained through practice of devotional service to Krsna. But I go on in the practice stages, and cannot really say that I love anyone or anything.
“Many people have a negative attitude towards preachers and preaching. Consider, for example, the following dictionary definition of ‘preaching’: ‘to give religious or moral instruction, especially in a drawn-out, tiresome manner.’ Bearing this in mind, future generations in the Krsna consciousness movement may want to de-emphasize the words preacher and preaching. But those who follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada regard preaching in a positive way. To them, a preacher in ISKCON has a divine spark given him by his spiritual master, a spark of desire and power to spread the teachings of Krsna consciousness.
“For the devotees, the word ‘preaching’ denotes glorious, selfless adventures on behalf of the Supreme Lord. Preaching is the compassionate work of giving Krsna to others. The devotees will never, therefore, give up their understanding of the word in favor of the more commonly held view.
“On a deeper level than that of word usage, many people in the world today abhor the very idea of propagating spiritual knowledge. They think that if spiritual lessons must be taught at all, they should be restricted to the temple or church, to those who voluntarily submit themselves to such sermonizing sessions. They say spiritual instructors should not intrude on the hallowed ground of art, philosophy, or entertainment.
“A friend recently recommended I read The Art of Fiction by John Gardner for new perspectives on the craft of writing. In his book, Gardner makes the point that all writers have a serious responsibility toward their readers:
“To write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write, as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on.”
“Good advice. Gardner goes on to say, however, ‘It does not mean . . . that writers should write moralistically, like preachers.’
“Granted, every writer needn’t get on a soap box to deliver his message. But if a writer has received—from good authority and with personal realization— information that can free one from death and suffering, should he not in all honesty present that knowledge to others? Gardner himself admits that life is a predicament: ‘All human beings have the same root experience (we’re born, we suffer, we die, to put it grimly)’—so why should writers be advised that they should not, ‘like preachers,’ tell people how to live?
“Elsewhere in his book, Gardner warns writers to be very careful not to merely use straw men ‘as preachers do’ to make their points. Here Gardner seems to have made ‘the preacher’ into a straw man. Inadvertently, he has failed to follow his own advice, becoming like one of the very ‘preachers’ he disdains. A preacher, however, is not a puppet to be set up and knocked down for a good laugh. There are preachers, and there are preachers. Krsna was a preacher; Buddha was a preacher; Christ was a preacher. Their discourses, meditations, and sermons are worthy of the best in art and philosophy, despite the fact that those discourses are infused with compassionate messages meant to direct peoples’ lives. So just as there are good writers and artists as well as bad ones, so too there are varieties of preachers. And if a writer’s moral instructions can deliver others from suffering and death, why regard such lessons as if they were a cardinal defect?
“Granted, Gardner was specifically giving advice for writers of fiction, and if we consider the elements and methods of fiction, his advice is essentially sound. But in the process of advising us on the writer’s craft, he has insensitively stereotyped the preacher as one who makes up slow arguments, who uses words artlessly, and who is excessively moralistic. This is a common misconception about preachers and preaching.”
“‘I discovered yesterday that I am a writer of pieces. Don’t worry how the pieces will connect. Trust that they will, especially if you write often and deeply. Don’t worry how this practice of “piece writing” will be published. Trust that if you write some “hot” ones (and you will), they can be juxtaposed for a collection. Or some books of pieces can be published just as they are.’
“‘This discovery is a closer look at what I’m doing. Focus on “the piece” as the basic element. I work in this genre, and I ought to accept that I’m a writer of pieces. They run in length from one to five (or sometimes nine) pages and then stop. I rest and breathe, taking breaks between pieces, and the reader may do so also.
“‘Think of yourself, several times a day, attempting to write one. Each one new. Each one carefully executed. A virtue of this insight is that it will help you to write even when you don’t feel inspired to say something. It will help you overcome procrastination and other forms of crustiness and doubt. Go ahead, write one. You haven’t done so for several hours. You have nothing to lose.
“‘Push on in this way, pull at the thread and follow it into that golden ball of yarn that leads to eternity. Hare Krsna. ‘There’s plenty more where that came from.’ This attitude will help me create the outpouring of writing the psychic said I was meant to do. Otherwise, I’ve recently noticed my output dwindling; I rarely write more than two pages a day.’
“Comment: The discovery that I am ‘a writer of pieces’ is an important one. It is a chosen path, but that choice is also partly determined by my health. I cannot write extended essays or long structured tomes. I cannot concentrate that way. But I can write pieces. And they will be slices of life, like what Ginsberg called ‘reality sandwiches.’”
“A compassionate person is unable to bear another’s distress. Krsna’s compassion was shown in His rescue of the kings imprisoned by Magadhendra. He was also compassionate to Bhisma and cried at the time of Bhisma’s passing away.
“Srila Prabhupada advises us how to attain Krsna’s compassion:
“‘Therefore, instead of offering obeisances to Krsna directly, devotees offer obeisances to His compassionate nature. Actually, because Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it is very difficult to approach Him. But the devotees, taking advantage of His compassionate nature, which is represented by Radharani, always pray to Radharani for Krsna’s compassion. (NOD, p. 176)’
“‘May we pray directly to Srimati Radharani?’ Yes. There are many prayers in which devotees beg for Srimati Radharani’s mercy, and we can follow them.
“However, uttering prayers is not enough. We must also serve and follow in the footsteps of the pure devotees.
“Dear Srila Prabhupada, thank you for your invitation and permission to take advantage of Krsna’s compassionate nature. May you also be pleased with us. You are our direct link to the compassion of Radha and Krsna. Let us be staunch in our service to you. Let us improve. Let us do as you require.
“Hearing of Krsna’s qualities is not a game. We are meant to meditate on them deeply and lovingly. When I recently read the description of Krsna’s compassion in The Nectar of Devotion, I turned to Krsna book and read the full account of Krsna releasing the kings imprisoned by Magadhendra. The Nectar of Devotion gives its evidences briefly, but we may turn to the source of the reference and read the full account, this time focused on how it reveals a particular quality in Krsna. I also read the full description of Krsna’s compassion for Grandfather Bhisma.
“In the Introduction, I mentioned that I am sometimes distracted in reading The Nectar of Devotion or other books by Prabhupada. It seems that when I start cold—and I always seem to start that way—I feel a lack of depth in sraddha and feeling. I don’t really doubt that Krsna is God, or that He can perform His lilas, or that His lilas are actual historical events, but still the doubts swarm up like mosquitoes. I have to kill them.
“The lack of feeling is harder to cure. Daily reading, despite imperfections, is the only cure. It is a long, gradual cure, but daily reading can gradually eradicate lifetimes of toxins stored in our belief and feeling systems.
“‘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.’ (Bhag. 1.3.43)”
“A devotee’s devotional service becomes interrupted when he becomes diseased. Vigorous service requires good health. We have to chant our rounds attentively, and that takes physical strength as well as mental and spiritual stamina.
“Often devotees experience trouble in their relationships with others when they become ill. Other devotees take over our services or don’t understand our illness. All of these things can lead to disappointment.
“In disappointment, Sanatana Gosvami considered, ‘I am of a low caste, and my body is useless for devotional service.’ (Cc. Antya, 4.6)
“Sanatana Gosvami had two reasons to lament: he had oozing sores all over his body, and he considered himself low and fallen because of his low caste. Of course, Sanatana was born a high-caste brahmana, but because he had taken service in the Muslim government and associated intimately with Muslims, he considered that he had lost his high caste and was now a lowborn man.
“Then, ‘When I go to Jagannatha Puri, I shall not be able to see Lord Jagannatha, nor shall I always be able to see Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.’
“Is it possible to be too humble? No, we should think of ourselves as lower than the straw on the street. We are tiny spirit souls and that is the only accurate analysis of ourselves. This does not mean, however, that our bodies are useless for devotional service. Therefore, it is possible to exaggerate our low condition and to engage in what the psychologists call low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is not healthy. We can judge by the result whether we are experiencing humility or low self-esteem. Humility brings enlivenment and dependence on Krsna; low self-esteem makes us feel so unqualified that we no longer perform service and exclude ourselves from the society of devotees. Low self-esteem is a misconception about our actual position; it is a material estimation.
“For example, Sanatana Gosvami said that he will not be able to see Lord Jagannatha because he could not enter the temple. Although most ISKCON devotees cannot go into the Jagannatha temple at Puri, Prabhupada told us not to be disappointed. Sanatana says, ‘I have heard that the residential quarters of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are near the temple of Jagannatha. But I shall not have the power to go near the temple.’ Not only did he have to avoid the temple, but he could not go near the temple in order to visit Lord Caitanya because “the servants of Lord Jagannatha generally move about tending to their duties, but if they touch me I shall be an offender.” All his feelings are compounded by the fact that he has an obnoxious disease.
“‘Therefore if I sacrifice this body in a good place, my unhappiness will be mitigated, and I shall attain an exalted destination.’ (Cc. Antya 4.11)
“Thus he plans to give up his body under the wheels of the Ratha cart. Lord Caitanya will correct this conclusion, but we can understand that if we think our own disqualifications are so great that we cannot engage in devotional service, then we do not have proper faith in the power of the holy name or the spiritual master. Guru and Krsna can overcome everything because Krsna is more powerful than maya.
“Neither should we think that our low condition is permanent. That would be like accepting the logic naga-matrka-nyaya: ‘Because a woman ran naked as a baby, she must run naked now.’”
“The main thing is to be persistent and not to give up. I am accumulating rounds at a steady pace. They are not the highest standard, but they are not so bad, either. I am bringing it back to focus on the sound vibration of the syllables. Those syllables are absolute and bring Krsna into my mind. According to our philosophy, great leniency is afforded in the chanting. Even offensive chanting removes sinful activities. I’m chanting with a great physical handicap, and so that has to be taken into account and not held against me. I forgive myself for the troubled performance and beg Krsna to excuse me. As soon as I get better with less pain, the chanting will improve, so this is evidence of my good intentions. Chant through the pain. Sri Krsna is waiting for you. For that, I’m making the effort. He sees the good and overlooks the bad.
“Chanting Hare Krsna,
counting up the rounds
is not the highest standard,
but it’s good you
haven’t given up.
“Chanting Hare Krsna is the
“You get credit for your effort,
you get comfort for your try.
“We were reading Radha-krpa-kataksa-stava-raja, and I noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to the meaning or mood of it. Then I thought how my japa is the same way, but it is possible to think of the meaning. This is the difficulty in japa. It also occurred to me that no one can do this for me. We are each entirely alone in the applications of our minds to hearing the holy names. If we think we can allow someone else to do it for us, we are mistaken. Sri Krsna doesn’t want to do our chanting for us. He wants us to chant. Our guru also wants us to chant; not that he chants for us or that we think an obedient disciple is mindless, a robot operating under his guru’s will.
“It is easy to be neglectful. No one will notice. I can satisfy the devotees by making an appearance, sitting with them, fingering my beads and enunciating the names. They see me and hear my chanting, but they don’t know what I’m thinking while I chant. I want to start noticing. Thanks anyway, but I have to accept my neophyte talk and guide others too. When you accept priesthood, you don’t give it up later. When you sincerely accept the responsibility of guiding others, you don’t give up on that. But I do want to stop the charade, be as honest as possible—that truthfulness will be one of the important qualities I will impart to others. *
“I heard you talk this morning
while I shaved my face and bathed and
yes, as I sat on the toilet.
You said that we need milk
to understand God. Not too much,
a pound or half a pound a day.
Milk gives us the brain to understand
transmigration of the soul.
Krsna is very fond of the cows
as in His picture in the temple.
He is the patron of brahmanas and cows.
“I rewound the tape and took it out to play
for Madhu because I want him to give me
milk every day and fear that he may have some prejudice against it. He heard Prabhupada’s words
and we agreed.
I said some people speak against milk
purchased from stores. They say it’s supporting
cow slaughter. But Prabhupada took it.
He wanted people to drink milk and then
when they were convinced it was good
they’d stop killing cows.
He said, ‘Take her blood as milk, but don’t kill her.’
“‘Just that one reason is enough,’ said Madhu,
‘Prabhupada did it.’
Yes, that one word.
Will the world come to accept him widely?
Will we see it in our lifetime?
They say the Centennial will help
but maybe it’s too early.
ISKCON has to get itself together first
before we can hope to unite the world.
Let’s appreciate everyone’s efforts for Prabhupada,
at least appreciate Satsvarupa
and give him a cup of hot milk daily.
Prabhupada took it—at night, with sugar.
I served him milk in a silver cup.
“He will always be dear to Krsna
and to intelligent people on this earth. As Caitanya-caritamrta says,
‘Only those who are intelligent
can practice Krsna consciousness,’
and they would love Prabhupada.”
“8:55 A.M., July 29, 1996
“Confessions and Feelings of Shortcomings in ISKCON and Myself
“Comforting rain, in the hut. Look at a verse on bhagavat-tattva, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.12. Dharmah projjhita-kaitavo. It reminded me of when I was writing the Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam. ‘So,’ I asked myself, ‘why aren’t you doing that now? It enabled me to be close to the scripture.’ The answer is something about it being too confining. ‘All right, then are you enjoying the benefits of freer writing? Are you accomplishing what you wanted by writing without restriction? Do you feel a little something missing without being tied so closely to the sastra?’
“Yes, but the sastra was handled more as duty. I save that for when I lecture. You know all this, the reasons. Madhu is going off to the schoolhouse to work on the van for three hours. I am here in the peace of this setting. Dreamt, but didn’t record it. Wandering in a section of town where many street people hung out. I didn’t have friends among any of them, but for the time being I was there too. Behind me a man was singing the blues in what they call nowadays ‘rap music,’ and was accompanying himself on drums. But not far away in the same park, another man was playing, and a group was singing with him. All the street people were, of course, low down on the social rung, and I was with them.
“The next thing I recall in the dream is a series of interactions between someone like myself and a father figure. I gave some food to the father with the intention that he should distribute it to others in this group, but he brazenly said he would eat it all himself. I didn’t like this cheating. I said I wouldn’t give him food anymore. Then he cut me on the back, and although it wasn’t a fatal wound, I pretended that it was and asked him to call the hospital. He became worried, and I took pleasure in seeing him like that, concerned that I might die. And maybe I would die. I woke thinking that this was some kind of father-and-son imagery. Then I thought of James Joyce’s Ulysses, where the theme is that young Stephen is searching for his father. In my dream the father disappointed the son, and the son disappointed the father in all their exchanges.
“But you will leave that behind—you have no other choice – and enter KC life, coming out here to type and write. Are we satisfied in our relationship with Srila Prabhupada as spiritual father? He has to be the father for all of us, for thousands. Is something lacking there? If so, do we address it? Could you discuss this with a brother? Or are we so much in awe and reverence of SP that we can’t? Are we so much bound in an institutional relationship that we can’t have actual brotherly or confessional relationships? I think some of the devotees seeking the more personal relationship (as in Villa Vrndavana) with western psychological ideas inserted, may be feeling this lack and trying to make up for it. I tend to look down on those efforts as deviations and lack of faith in the absolute authority of guru, sastra and sadhu. But there’s also courage in what they’re doing. They say they need something that’s not provided in ISKCON and they’re trying to find it, not by leaving ISKCON. But the problem is they may want to bring something into ISKCON which ISKCON will decide cannot be introduced. When that happens eventually, the GBC will draw the line, and those persons have to decide to step either in or out. If they step out, it’s assumed by those inside ISKCON that those outsiders are not faithful to Srila Prabhupada and what he wanted us to do in ISKCON. But when again and again that line is drawn, I don’t know. . . . you begin to feel something isn’t going right with so many different groups not satisfied with the simple presentation of life in ISKCON. We’re encouraged to believe that we should follow our authorities. The conservative ISKCON leaders say, ‘Yes, there is nothing wrong with the Society, or whatever it lacks can be redeemed by all of us leaders. So, just be patient and don’t make waves. Okay, okay.’
“You talk of this for a while and then you leave it. I said I wasn’t interested in that sort of thing. But to myself I must say it. The dream of the father who was not satisfied with me and whom I did not satisfy. The fear is that my guru or Krsna Himself may not be satisfied with me. I want the assurance that He does love me, give us a sign. Be our friend, we know You are—O Lord Krsna, give us the sign.
“And we have to seek it and call for it in the lonely night and work for it in the days side-by-side with his other followers. ‘Your love for me will be shown in how you work together to maintain this institution.’ Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. Is it a loving family? We are moving along in this Writing Session, and what is coming next?
“O Krsna, You are the best friend of the homeless, the wanderers who go from body to body in the universe. If I am put in that situation in a rough way—as Fyodor Dostoevsky, when he went to prison and had to pass stool in a row with other prisoners under the surveillance of the guards—you have no choice but to find whatever shelter exists within yourself. You pray to your God. O Lord. Walter Ciszek in Russia tells us his story, how he prayed to God while a prisoner and while being interrogated. He felt that he failed God sometimes. But the Lord was with him. I have it easy so far. Time to think over who I am and to express it in quiet surroundings. I do appreciate that. I do not wish to make fun of any sacred thing. I wish to enter with a sturdy and right consciousness and make the contribution that I am fit for.
“Now we are starting into words that may not make sense. Don’t worry about that. It is okay. The brand is loose. The brand is hot on the skin of the cows. ‘Brand XXX, the Lazy B Ranch.’ The faces of the brothers, Brahmananda and Prthu and so many, will come to you in the end, and the woman you have loved or have refrained from loving. And the dogs you hid, the cats you despise, the mice you were afraid of and the secrets you bluffed, the . . . lost the words that slide out from under you and finally you are rising up and it is all below you and seems pretty petty – no big attachment for sins, and not many virtues either. Just memories all around, but then some hopes and gaps appear. You are shown the big shortcomings, and you have to go back for them.
“O Krsna, O Krsna, it is all totaled then. How do you feel then? About all this rising? Surely to some degree you will feel that you didn’t do right, deserted the post, didn’t stay on the track. To what degree, to what extent will He show you the clear truth? Or will you remain deceived and not knowing up until the end? And then just shuffled off to the next life, like in the Navy they decided what ship you had to go on and you were grateful somehow that it was the Saratoga because it’s big and not so subject to storms, a famous ship and will go to the Med., and maybe you can work in a clerical capacity. O Krsna, I do want to say that whatever You want me to do, wherever You send me, will be for my further purification.
“What is the big lacking? Something about not going out on book distribution or harinama? Or the assumption of guruship which made you no longer humble? The being misled by other mundane authors? The loss of doing nitty-gritty GBC management that he gave you to do? What is the big wrong or the accumulation of little wrongs? And what do I have to do to come back to do it right? How does it work? It is beyond me.
“Another wrong is to have basic doubts (like Therese said) in the existence of God. And the lack of taste. It is an offense that I never attained the taste for chanting.
“I did what I wanted to do. I took to the writer’s career. I carved out a niche, and whether it is the best, I can’t say. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. We say, ‘Oh well, at least I didn’t desert the ranks but stayed.’
“Boy, I have been writing only twenty minutes. That’s not very long. It’s a long haul to keep going at this for the whole hour. But I will attempt it.
“When you don’t write of yourself you look up and see the cows. They’re all sitting in the wet grass except one that is standing. They are soaked. Can you say they don’t look happy? Would ISKCON cows necessarily look happy? They might be equally muddy and wet in this weather, but at least you would know while looking at them they were not going to be slaughtered.
“Soren Kierkegaard was a passionate author and looked forward to his books being published and how they would be received by readers. But the Rabbi Kotzger did not write at all, or if he did, he burnt his works in the fire. Different attitudes. One could say that SK was materially ambitious for printing his works. But mankind benefits if you have something to say. ‘Hare Krsna’ comes straight from Krsnaloka. We have the means to give solace to people more than anyone else because we are carrying the Vedas. They are self-evident. All the truths are there. So much truth that people don’t want to take it because we live in an age where doubt is considered more intelligent. They can’t believe in a personal God who could allow the killing of so many Jews in the twentieth century. They don’t take the blame themselves or accept karma. But when they do, my writings may help to show how Westerners take to this and accept brahma-sabdah and try to fit it into their lives and to live with one another, and to reach for love but who cannot find it, and yet do not give up.
“Gray sky and so cool that I wish I had slippers in here. I’ll bring the heavy socks out next time if I can remember. Remember to write to Bhurijana and bring out slippers and write Joe and Moe. Remember Moe, who ran the stationary store? The poet always wants to tell us each stage they went through in the human passage and make a poem out of it, and we say, ‘Yeah, it’s true, it was like that.’ Or, ‘I see how it was like for you, and you have made it into a poem, and we are thankful for the real life.’ Sharon Olds seeing her newborn babies and seeing them grow up. She considered that this is certainly a fit subject for a poem, and I agree. So then, should I write that I am out of harm’s way in ISKCON and that’s one reason we stay in this institution – so we don’t have to work and mingle with the ungentle?
“The devotees are relatively gentle. They are well-informed. They all agree on what God is, and it is a very good conclusion from Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. And the leader has gone back to Godhead. I could have worked in the ‘real’ world, but I dropped out at twenty-six years old and didn’t have to face the fact that I might have gone as far as I wanted as a writer and man. Would I have compromised and become a college teacher or ordinary married man? I was burning bright on marijuana and idealism (of a negative sort and artistic sort). Would I have grown out of that or died young? Hard to say. But once I joined ISKCON, then I was gone forever from that world, and my success was determined by success in becoming a disciple. In this line I did very well. But now I will never know what I could have done in the material world. I can’t go back to it. I can’t possibly go back and get a job in this lifetime as a karmi. I would have to beg and live on somehow as some kind of sadhu.
“Well, you don’t know what options you might have to face as you grow older. But it looks like, by Krsna’s grace, there will be people to take care of you, at least in a minimum way. So, you better give them back something for their feeding of the brahmana. What is your point here? That I stay in ISKCON for shelter from the material world. Okay, that’s not such a terrible thing. But you must find truth and not accept falsity out of the fear that you will lose your meal ticket and your bed. Right? Right.
“You sometimes dream you are a bum on the streets wandering. The implication is that you could become that way. You would be thrown into the Navy or into jail. And how would that happen? By the GBC deciding that you had done something wrong, and so you were excommunicated. Highly unlikely. I could recant and beg for scraps of mercy, or even if they put me off, I could claim honorable behavior and live by truth and find someone to give me a room to stay in. Then you would lead a life in your remaining days of frustrated sentiment, maybe giving lectures now and then and not spending so much money such as traveling to India every year and taking art retreats and not having your books distributed. Yeah, yeah.
“All this is coming out on a rainy morning. You are not bitter or very discontent with either ISKCON management or with your own self. But you express these things. Maybe it will help you to preach to people who are more bitter than you, who have been treated worse. You can say to some extent that you share their fears and misgivings. You sympathize with them and ask them to find a place in the institution to live and be comforted.
“This session has about ten minutes left. You didn’t let your mind go into more of the unconscious. But mostly you kept finding the words to write sensibly.
“But another way is the miracle of Fatima and the ring of cock-and-bull story, the Inn of the Denninger, the bull dare ring, the bloody carp, the fear of angels and duty storms, the snake in the attic . . . As you say each phrase, a whole ‘purport’ of further association swings to mind, but there is no time or inclination to spell it all out. If you speak in your voice you might capture a little more. There are almost six hundred pages of Radio Shows already typed up, so you could add more to it and give it a wrap. But here the beer is on hand, and the Fraulein and the Kafka book. Until you die walking with that book and wanting to be thought of as a college intellectual carrying Kafka on your way to the dentist in Annadale and he (Dr. Crews) asks, ‘What is that book?’ He never heard of Kafka. The cover shows the castle in the snow. You’re happy and proud to have such a handsome book. And he operates on your mouth of cavities, perhaps the last time you see him.
“Make this the last page. O my father, it has been thirty-nine years since my last confession.
“‘Where the hell have you been?’
“‘The last time I came I confessed to Father Hicks.’
“‘Father Hicks has long died.’
“‘Yes, I confessed to him that I didn’t believe in confession and after that we had a talk that wasn’t satisfactory.’
“‘So, what are you now?’
“‘I’m a Hare Krsna. At the mere mention of it, my mother doesn’t want to talk with me. They think of it as a cult and don’t know the whole human and spiritual history of my life in this movement. And I don’t know their lives, also. And that’s just as well. It is definitely the Lord’s mercy on me, like the mercy Narada received. I have become free. But I still could not reach Mathura. Could not attain bhava-bhakti. Lord, I am at least trying to serve Srila Prabhupada. Doing the best service you can.
“I read in the verses composed by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, at the end of his song listing the members of the parampara, he says of himself:
“‘All these pure devotees of the Lord represent the
dynasty of Sri Gauranga, the Gauravamsa. Their holy
feet are my only refuge. I am devoid of any real service
to them, but hope that one day their service may be
mine. I am only a fallen tridandi sannyasi by the name
of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.’
“That is his humility thinking that he didn’t serve well. But certainly, he did serve them well. In my case it will be true that I did not do something wonderful like Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati or Srila Prabhupada. So, how much more I should consider myself unworthy and fallen. But that means you have to pray and repent. But don’t allow yourself to become too depressed. That’s also artificial. Think that your Prabhupada wants you to be happy and not mope. He allows you to write.
“So go on confessing and singing and playing the blues on your typewriter horn.
“The time is running out. We will ask you to recite all the slokas you know and speak in parampara and do more work. This is the writing period where all of your karma of being a writer is allowed to you. So, make the best of it, and may it help someone like me. May we join together and help others come to KC and not be afraid of the demons but know that Krsna will protect us. Yes, when the demons of our own nasty thoughts come down on us, we can call on Balarama to smash their heads with the club and finish them. Pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva to clean out the dirty things in your heart so you can worship Radha and Krsna. And work ourselves in the garden, pulling weeds and cleaning the temple of the heart. That is the way. Herman Hesse doesn’t know it and SP does know it. And we are following the right path. You are very fortunate to be grateful and go on publishing, but add a little more KC, a little more surrender, please, more advancement to be a better devotee, by the mercy of guru and Krsna. And you tell the others if you succeed, ‘I began to feel a taste for the holy names.’
“(One hour, nine pages, in the hut in Uddhava’s backyard, July 29, 1996)”