A letter from Bhakti-tirtha Swami
Posted February 12, 2005
Dear Maharajas, Prabhus, and Disciples
Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to ISKCON Founder-Acarya Srila Prabhupada.
When one is leaving the body that person as well as others begin to look closer at the dying experience, in this spirit, several of the leaders have asked me to share some of the realizations I am presently experiencing. A few leaders and friends have asked some specific questions. I thought I would take some time to answer some of these questions.
The questions and answers are as follows:
Q. What is one of your greatest realizations at this time?
A. I have become much more appreciative of how full dependency on The Supreme Lord is the `svarupa- laksana' most essential aspect for advancement. It seems the conditioned souls normally find ways to avoid this full dependency. I am also understanding better that individual effort in Krsna Consciousness is most important that even as we do our so called very best it is still so inadequate. Therefore for one to really dive deep into the treasure of Bhakti, the person must be a recipient of unlimited mercy for Maya has so many gross and subtle tricks especially in this age of Kali Yuga. Srila Visvanatha Thakur explains the roles of effort and mercy in the Damodara Lila that when Mother Yasoda tries to tie Krsna the rope is always 2inches too short. He explains how this pastime represents that in order to tie or capture the Lord there must be two factors, sufficient effort that elicits complimentary and sufficient mercy.
Q. Can you share something about your present state of consciousness?
A. As Vaisnavas it is not proper that we reveal our total bhajan, but one of the major principles of (pritti) loving exchanges is that one should reveal their mind and consciousness. Since I like to expand my circle of loving exchanges, I am not intimidated to be a little revealing. I am presently having an intense attitude of gratitude inspite of my terminal illness. I am so much more appreciative of so many things now, and they are much too many to enumerate in this kind of correspondence. My appreciation for the devotees and for Srila Prabhupada has magnified many times over. I also feel that my heart has opened up much more. If you thought I was sentimental before, be aware that I am even more sentimental now (smile). I would like to give you one simple example that can summerize an aspect of my consciousness. Previously if there was a situation where there was one piece of apple pie, I would submissively and eagerly cut the pie into two so as to serve you the first piece, but on close investigation it would be seen that I gave you the smaller piece. ha ha!! Not only would I have devotionally give you the smaller piece, but I would also remind you from time to time how selfless I was in this situation.
Presently if there was one piece of pie, I would give it to you in such a way that you would not know that I deprived myself, and if you found out, I would joyfully cut the bigger piece of the pie for you. Obviously the second example represents a greater appreciation and affection for your existence.
Q. Now that you are confronted with the possibility of an early departure, what are your experiences with chanting the holy names?
A. Basically my chanting has been something I do out of duty, however I have never missed one day of chanting my rounds. I have over the years gone from period of chanting forty-two to thirty-two, to twenty rounds daily. However, when I want to connect more deeply with the holy names I am usually able to so by Krsna's mercy. Many of us find different ways to intensify our chanting. I find that when I am in the temple, especially where there is a Murti of Srila Prabhupada, that by sitting at the feet of Srila Prabhupada, chanting my rounds and meditating on his lotus feet, and shifting the meditations to Krsna's forms from time to time, this helps me to go deeper and deeper with my chanting. The idea is that because the mind has its own way of wondering, instead of stopping it from wondering, I allow it to focus according to my direction. More recently I have found that by chanting to the Deities mostly my personal Radha- Syamasudara and reflecting on the pictures in my room, it has become easier to take shelter of the Holy Names.
Q. Many devotees have asked how do I seem so positive while my body is experiencing complete chaos and devastation.
A. If many of you were around me for any extended period of time you would probably notice that I am pretty chaotic also (smile). For instance when my caregivers bring me such things as wheat grass juice and raw foods etc. Usually I am in anxiety because when I eat or take the prasadam I am thinking, where is the pizza? French fries? Ice cream and yes, where are the vegetarian burgers? Not to mention what happened to the cheesecake? Some of these things are totally out of my diet as well as many other Vaisnava preparations, which we normally eat. I have also been fanatical about not wasting time, knowing that my time is limited, I sometimes get even more irritable about how I, and those around me use their time.
Q. Why did you go out of your way to appear on Television, It seems to be quite unorthodox for a sannyasi, especially since you sometimes wear dhotis and sometimes not?
A. Television is one of the most powerful and unfortunately most negative aspects of present day society. It is one of the most powerful ways of influencing a large number of people on the planet at a given time. There are so many statistics that shows how it encourages violence, promiscuity, and social degradation. Let me give you one statistic from the American Medical Association, " With the introduction of television in any country the murder rate doubles within fifteen years," Therefore if television is used in a positive way it can also altar millions of peoples consciousness. When a person watches television it puts them in an alpha state (i.e. a slight hypnotic state) where the person can become five times more susceptible to the information than they would in the normal waking state. Almost every country that I visited I have appeared on national television programs. Sometimes I have been very direct in giving Krsna Consciousness and sometimes I am subtler. I have used many tactics to get on important television programs around the world. Of course this has given me opportunities to give Krsna Consciousness and/or to plant seeds with literally hundreds and millions of people over the years. The unfortunate thing is that I am not very potent or pure, so perhaps much of what I shared had limited effects.
Q. Some have asked why do my reports about my health sometimes seem pessimistic and other times optimistic.
A. My situation has a lot of paranormal aspects and also because my mood is to expect the best while planning for the worst.
Q. Devotees have inquired; do I read and answer my own e-mails?
A. There are times when I was receiving up to two hundred e-mails daily and I tried to maintain a policy to personally answer all of them within one to three days. I have a little less than a thousand disciples around the world, and I had requested all of my disciples around the world to write me once a month with updates about themselves and their services. However with so many disciples writing to me along with the mails from other conferences, I have my secretary to print out all of my mail in order to avoid eight or nine hours of being on the computer. During the day, at different transitional times, I usually make a few notes on the letters then I dictate all the answers. My secretary often downloads twice daily, and often the amount of letters downloaded is as much as a book. If you have personal correspondence, which you basically want only for my eyes, then your subject should be "Personal or Confidential" (although I do not like this confidential word).
Q. A few people have asked why should a sannyasi accept the position of a chief or a king?
A. In my particular case two very powerful leaders in West Africa (a paramount king in Nigeria) as well as the Paramount king in Ghana (Ashanti Heni) were royalties I was cultivating. The King in Nigeria became most favorable. He made all kinds of special arrangements for the devotees. For example, he gave them land on which we built a temple.etc There are many rules and regulations that the king has to follow to maintain this most important seat; not following these rules and regulations usually presents danger for the King and others. Whenever the king came to visit me he would offer obeisance and would sit in on the lectures sometimes. In order to safeguard our relationships, perhaps to protect his life as well as mine it was understood that my coronation would give a different etiquette in our relationships (i.e. royalty associating with royalty). After being coronated as a King, this gave me some opportunity to advise and preach to other sub-kings, high chiefs, and chiefs, as well as the paramount kings. The Kingdom that I am connected with as one of its rulers has over one and a half million people.
Q. Some devotees are asking that though they may be comfortable with most of my books some passages in one or two of the books seem to go outside of our siddhanta.
A. I can see why some devotees could have this opinion and therefore in the second editions I have edited these passages. One aspect of Srila Prabhupada's mission was to help people to understand the importance of solving material problems with spiritual solutions. Perhaps I have connected more with that part of Srila Prabhupada's mission while simultaneously assisting the devotees to rise above anartha- nivritti and simultaneously assist them in becoming more faithful.
Q. Do you write your own books?
A. Yes, I do write or speak my own books. Perhaps the devotees must wonder how did I find time to write over 15 books seeing how much I keep myself engaged. (I was always a festival junkie, going from one festival to another all around the world.) Some of my books I have written but most are lectures, seminars, and workshops that were spoken to Vaisnava and non-vaisnava groups around the world. I have an excellent group of assistants at the Harinama Press in U.S.A. who are constantly working with the Books. I was born with a speech defect, which makes speaking and writing difficult, but with their help we offer a nice professional presentation.
Q. Some are noticing that these days I am stressing more emphasis on prayers. Why is this?
A. Yes, Vandanam is so important. It is a major pillar of Bhakti and there are distinct types of prayers made by vaisnavas. Srila Narottama Das Thakur mentions these different types of prayers in his book Prarthana and in the writings of Srila Bhativinoda Thakur; one will find a list of all of the ten types of vaisnava prayers. Prayers connect us more with each other and can help to enrich our internal life. It is also a way we can offer ourselves for services with greater profundity. It is like having a conversation with Guru, Sadhu, and Krsna.
Q. Why should I try to pray in the mood of Vasudeva Datta?
A. It is definitely true that a neophyte like myself has no potency to make such prayers, but as we practice it can become a part of our existence. As I look back ever since I was a brahmacari I have tried to write and pray to Krsna in this spirit. Hopefully, I am getting a little closer to understanding and meaning this prayer.
These are a few of the questions that come up whenever someone writes or calls me. However most of our discussions are about how to serve Srila Prabhupada's mission with better purity and dedication. If you took the time to read this letter than maybe it has been of some relevance to you. Otherwise for some, there would be no need to waste their time in reading this long letter that may seem like Bhakti Tirtha Swami's egocentricity.
I apologize if this may appear to be the case for some of you, however my primary concerns were to share answers to questions that several of you have asked.
Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada