Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Q&As #8 Srila Prabhupada’s letters
11 April 2009

April 8 2009

Bhakta Stanislav asks:
“Can you please tell me if Srila Prabhupada always personally replied his letters or may be sometimes his secretaries did it for him? If his secretaries did that what was the procedure? Did they sign the letters as secretaries? Did they show their replies to Srila Prabhupada for approval?”


Good question.

In the early days Srila Prabhupada would hand type all his letters himself. However this soon became too difficult and as soon as he started traveling and his disciples started opening new centers, he took the service of a full time secretary and servant.

The general principle was that the secretary would deal with the mail. After my first day of traveling with Srila Prabhupada to Kuruksetra, we arrived back in Delhi:

December 1st, 1975 – New Delhi

It was about nine in the evening when we arrived at No. 9 Todar Mal Lane. As he sat in his room, Prabhupada inquired about the day’s mail. Generally, Prabhupada’s mail is handled exclusively by his secretary. But, since Hansaduta had gone off to get something to eat at Nathu’s, Srila Prabhupada sent me to the temple to collect his mail. When I handed him the letters, to my great surprise, he asked me to open them and read him the contents. It was a privilege that I eagerly although nervously accepted. Tearing open the envelopes one by one, I read out the messages. Prabhupada also opened a few and inspected them.

Pusta Krsna Swami sent one from South Africa, describing his plans to purchase a Mercedes in Germany and drive it here for Prabhupada’s use in India. One was from Kirtiraja dasa in Los Angeles. He is moving to Europe in order to begin preaching in Poland. Another, written by Gopiparanadhana dasa, contained a translation of the first chapter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s work Sri Caitanya-siksamrta. There were several other letters as well.

Just as Prabhupada was finishing his reading, Harikesa came in. Shocked to see me reading Prabhupada’s mail, he proceeded to chastise me, disregarding the fact that Srila Prabhupada was present right in front of us. “This is to be done only by the secretary,” he said angrily, “You have no business even touching the mail!”

Srila Prabhupada did not say a word. He merely stood and walked quietly into his bedroom to take rest. Harikesa meanwhile continued to emphasize his point. “If Brahmananda was still the secretary, you’d never get away with this!” He cooled off, however, when I explained that Srila Prabhupada himself had asked me to read to him. Harikesa conceded that under the circumstances I had no choice but to do it.

In one sense Harikesa was right. Prabhupada’s mail is private and is not to be dealt with whimsically. From Harikesa’s point of view I am just a temporary helper, and thus I should be careful not to tread on the more exclusive domain of Srila Prabhupada’s regular servants. Otherwise Prabhupada himself will be disturbed in his daily activities.

Nevertheless, we both understood that, while recognizing a certain preeminence of his senior men, in the aggregate Prabhupada doesn’t discriminate. If the right man is not around, he employs whoever is available. To him we are all his disciples in the service of Krsna, and he engages anyone who is willing and available, according to necessity and the devotee’s own capacity.

Accepting my action as an innocent response to a direct request from Srila Prabhupada, Harikesa relented. Then I joined Srila Prabhupada to give him his massage.

December 2nd 1976 – Vrindavana

Prabhupada changed into his gamcha and sat on the straw mat.


As I began to massage him, Hansaduta arrived with the mail. Prabhupada sometimes replies to his letters at mid-morning, but more often during his massage. Hansaduta read each letter one by one, writing down Srila Prabhupada’s replies exactly as he dictated them.

It is instructive and entertaining to hear various ISKCON reports from all over the world, both the problems and the successes, and to hear Prabhupada’s responses to them. He is very punctual in answering, always replying within a day or two of receiving a letter. He answers a letter as if the correspondent is there in front of him. His responses are accompanied by all the same facial gestures that mark his conversations — appreciative raising of his brows and widening of his eyes, a slight tip of his head, bright smiles, scolding looks. He gives each letter his full attention and his replies are expressive and personal and always to the point.

Today he dealt with the letters received in New Delhi. …

Each day after taking dictation, Hansaduta types the letters and later, in the evening, places them on Prabhupada’s desk. Each one is clipped to an addressed envelope, a carbon copy, whatever enclosures there might be, and the letter being replied to. In the night Prabhupada reads and signs them. They are mailed the next day.”     [end quote]

So this was the general standard. Later in 1976 when Harikesa Swami was Srila Prabhupada’s secretary,


he noted that some letters of a routine nature or with questions that had been answered many times before, did not really need a reply from Srila Prabhupada. They could be replied by the secretary and thus save Srila Prabhupada from a small part of the burden:

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current status of the writer
26 January 2009

I’ve been kind of slack lately about making my blog entries…


should be more active soon… watch this space!

September 11 2008 – LHC – writing Gopal Bhan’s Mahabharata
11 September 2008

September 11 2008

Part of the LHC

Higgs boson

The Higgs is named after British physicist Peter Higgs

He postulated its existence more than 30 years ago to explain how matter has mass

Theory suggests the Higgs gives rise to a field through which all other subatomic particles, such as quarks, gluons, photons and electrons, must pass

As they interact with the field, the particles experience a drag; the more drag, the more massive the particle

September 10 2008 — On a day that the media dubbed ‘Big Bang day’ scientists kicked off their experiments with the LHC, Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland.

They are in pursuit of Higgs Boson, the so-called “God particle“, an assumed fundamental aspect of material nature present at the very beginning of the universe.

According to  an article written in December 2001 [] the most sought after object in particle physics, the Higgs boson, may not even exist:

This is the astonishing conclusion of researchers at the Cern nuclear physics lab near Geneva who have just reviewed five years’ worth of data from experiments they thought would confirm the legendary particle’s role in the construction of the Universe. The Higgs, according to the Standard Model of particle physics, is the particle that explains why all others have mass. Its importance is so central to current thinking that some have even dubbed it the “God particle”. But the Cern researchers have told New Scientist magazine that studies in its giant accelerator which should have shown up the presence of the Higgs found absolutely nothing – and this could mean particle physics having to revisit some of its most cherished ideas.

Higgs ‘shadows’

If there is no Higgs, science will be left totally unable to explain mass.

Physicists at Cern used what was then the largest atom smasher in the world, the Large Electron Positron (Lep) collider, to search for the Higgs boson. The theory was that if atoms were hurtled into each other at high enough energies, the Higgs would eventually reveal itself in the sub-atomic rubble.Just before the Lep was due to be closed down and scrapped, one team declared last year that it was within a hair’s-breadth of identifying the Higgs – it had seen tantalizing “shadows” of something which could be the sought after particle.” 

It seems that despite this admittance the clever scientists managed to convince the governments of Europe to fork over the cash to build an even bigger collider than the LEP so that they could chase these shadows.

Thus, yesterday news reports featured leader of the project Dr. Lyn Evans launching the project with a click of his mouse button. Evan called the LHC “a discovery machine, the most sophisticated scientific instrument of our time,” that will “smash two beams of particles head-on at super-fast speeds, recreating the conditions in the Universe moments after the Big Bang.” 

According to the BBC:

“Scientists hope to see new particles in the debris of these collisions, revealing fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos.

Dr. Evans said while it was hoped it would give clues to the origins of the universe, they did not know exactly what results the £4.4bn experiment would provide.”

Note that: $10 billion and they don’t know what they will get.  Its not a bad job, chasing shadows…

Srila Prabhupada of course, was expert in exposing these masters of illusion.

In New Vrindaban in 1976 he told us a humorous story to illustrate the cheating of the scientists:

They are writing Gopal Bhan’s Mahabharata!

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September 7 2008 — “I know it is not my writing…”
7 September 2008

One final comment on Srila Prabhupada’s statement that he was writing under superior direction.

SP with Bhagavatam 

This is from TD Vol. 4 [exactly 32 years ago]:

September 4, 1976 – Vrndavana 

Later in the morning Harikesa Swami and I sat with Srila Prabhupada in his darsana room. He was discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 3.25.21.

Harikesa read it out:
titiksavah karunikah suhrdah sarva-dehinam
ajata-satravah santah sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah

“The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful, and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.”

Prabhupada smiled in satisfaction. “This is sadhu. Not the dress.” Then he had Harikesa read out his lengthy purport. …

“So description of the sadhu is there. It is very nice. Where they will find this description all over the world? Hm?”

Complimenting Prabhupada, Harikesa said, “I think there’s only one person who’s following that description.”

But Prabhupada had different mood; he humbly appreciated the words of the sastra. “No, I say about Bhagavata’s description. How perfect it is in every subject matter.”

And he provided a revealing insight into the source of his own words in the purport. “I have tried to explain what is there in the Bhagavatam, expand it. That is not my explanation, that is Krsna’s explanation. I cannot explain now; [at] that moment I could explain. That means Krsna’s … I can understand that. That the description is very nicely given. Although it is my writing, but I know it is not my writing. It is Krsna’s writing. So we should read Bhagavatam always. Nityam bhagavata-sevaya. We should not waste our time.”

This was not the first time that Prabhupada has said that when he writes he is simply acting as a mouthpiece for Krsna. His words and humility today merely emphasized his role as the transparent via media between us and Krsna, and gave us another glimpse into the intimacy of his relationship with the Lord.

September 7 2008 – writing by superior order
7 September 2008

September 7 2008

 A few days ago Janmastami prabhu, the principle of our Mayapur Institute for Higher Education and Training (MIHET) sent me this painting:

Srila Rupa Goswami gives his blessings to Srila Prabhupada for his mission

along with this question:

“Do you know the pastime that is represented by the attached plate? Any references? I would like to use it in my NOI course.”

My reply:

 Yes, this is the occasion in the early 1960s when Srila Prabhupada was personally instructed not only by Srila Rupa Goswami but also by Srila Sanatana and Jiva Goswamis about his writing and his desire to preach Krsna consciousness in the west. This painting is not strictly accurate as you will see.

I include this incident in my own seminar series “Srila Prabhupada The Living Bhagavatam” about Writing [SPLB–see the audio section] The incidence is mentioned in TD Vol 3, quoted portions of which appear in italics here:

On July 26, 1976 Srila Prabhupada was in England, staying for a few days at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the beautiful estate donated to ISKCON by George Harrison. George had just visited Srila Prabhupada that afternoon and in the evening Bhagavan prabhu, the GBC for Southern Europe and Prthu Putra Swami arrived. They presented Srila Prabhupada with the first French edition of Srimad Bhagavatam Canto One, Part One.

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