Manah Siksa (Astaratha Das ACBSP)

O mind, if you want to be my friend,
Then please don’t go away
Even for a moment, from the memory
That maintains a sisya’s life

Let me dwell at the doorstep of my master’s house
Let me serve him without stopping, without end
Let me feel the safety of being in his lotus hand
O mind, run swiftly towards Srila Prabhupad
To you, o carriage of the soul, distance is of no importance

Please run back to 1896,
And see the mud-walled house under the jackfruit tree
Remember mother Rajani and Gour Mohan De
The humble cloth merchant, the most fortunate one

O mind, if you want to be my friend,
Then please don’t go away
Even for a moment, from the memory
That maintains a sisya’s life

Let me dwell at the doorstep of my master’s house
Let me serve him without stopping, without end
Let me feel the safety of being in his lotus hand
O mind, run swiftly towards Srila Prabhupad
To you, o carriage of the soul, distance is of no importance

Please run back to 1896,
And see the mud-walled house under the jackfruit tree
Remember mother Rajani and Gour Mohan De
The humble cloth merchant, the most fortunate one
Begging the sadhus to pray to Radha for his son

O mind, bring me to Radha-Govinda at Harrison Road
To the small garden at his grandmother’s house
Let me see his tiny hands learning to play the mrdanga
And let me follow his father walking with him for miles
To the bank of the Ganga
Yes, you can think of eating
If this brings about sweet memories
Of little Abhay and kacoris, kacoris

O mind, go back to school
And see him sitting amongst four others in a row
At the long wooden desks at Motilal’s
Remember him ride his bicycle down the busy Calcutta streets
And never forget his childhood Ratha-yatra
Distributing prasadam to whomever he meets

O mind, soon the bell rings for Scottish Churches’ College
The priestly teachers, the Bible,
the challenge on karma, the role of Advaita Acarya
Rehearsing for more than one year
The Britishers, Gandhi, khadi and swaraj
The end of college, the beginning of business and family career

O mind, bring me up to the rooftop of Ultadanga 1
Where the very nice saintly person is sitting straight
Defeating Abhay with sastra and reason
Telling him in an instance what he should do:
“Go, all over the world and preach
The divine message of Mahaprabhu”

O mind, just calm down and reflect for a moment
On this highly significant meeting
And consider the outcome, after so many years
“Somehow, by the will of Krishna we met;
Who knew,” Srila Prabhupada used to say,
“Of Krishna’s arrangement,
His inconceivable way?”

O mind, you can never fathom these ways of destiny
Why was he tied up with family duties
Changing locations and business affairs
Why could he not go then
And fulfill his master’s order
Lord Caitanya’s prophecy

O mind, let’s go on to Allahabad’s Prayag Pharmacy
Remember the photo after Gour Mohan passed away
Remember the brahmacaris of nearby Gaudiya Math
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the initiation fire
And remember why to him he was so dear
Remember his remark: “Yes, he likes to hear”

O mind, please run towards Srila Prabhupad
He has gone to Bombay now
Trying to develop his own business there
Don’t be bewildered by this worldly sight
Soon you will see Krishna’s plan behind

Who could say it was an accident
That he saw again the Gaudiya Math sannyasis
Now they made a team to preach
Recall the poem and the Vyasa-puja speech
And the order of his Guru Maharaj:
“Whatever he writes – print it!”

O mind, carry me to the November of 1935
To Vrindavan, the sacred bank of Radha-kund
Where Abhay hears these prophetic words:
“Amar iccha jila, kichu bai karana” –
“If you ever get money, print books!”
What is the use of bricks and buildings
What is the use of fighting over rooms?

O mind, “Godhead is light – nescience is darkness”
Was the greeting to the readers
Of his Back to Godhead magazine
And Back to Godhead was the forum for Abhay
The preacher, the writer, the philosopher

Remember the world in 1944
The starvation, the war, the crisis
So many efforts gone in vain
And remember Abhay writing and hoping
At 6 Sita-kanta Banerjee Lane

O mind, listen to his preaching to the leaders
Who were too far gone to hear his voice
The letter to Gandhi was of no avail
India set out to make its place among the nations
Hindu-Muslim riots, confusion at every place
Little did they care about his saving grace

Destiny took him to the small town of Jhansi
A new hope for Abhay and a new attempt
“The League of Devotees” painted in big letters
Outside the Radha Memorial ambitiously
There was an inauguration ceremony, a disciple made
But Jhansi – no, it was not supposed to be

“Yasyaham anugrhnami” – Abhay began to laugh
Seven thousand rupees lost
The final end to business struggle
The “tea-or-me” story took place
May the family survive somehow
He is ready for vanaprastha now

O mind, let us pass through New Delhi’s wilderness
The difficult years, as Prabhupad called them later
The Gaudiya sangha wasn’t meant for him
Although he tried his best to get the place together
His plans for printing were called “too big and lofty”
His ideas attractive but no money was inside
And his assistants all too neophyte

Homeless, he moved around in Delhi
No, he did not give up
He made a list of books to publish
Looking for donors here and there
He stayed at the houses of Hindu gentlemen
Gradually bringing back to life his BTG

Now he had a voice again
To call into Kali-yuga’s dark
The world is in need of the brilliant sun
How much could he accomplish with a glowing spark?

O mind, please run towards Srila Prabhupad
Distributing his Back to Godhead
In that boiling summer city
Remember how he starts reeling
Because of the heat
How he was charged by a stray cow
In a secluded street

O mind, take me to Vrindavan
Take me to his room near Kesi-ghat
Take me to the sounds of temple bells and kirtan
Take me to his early morning hours
His japa and his writing
Take me to his meditation at pre-dawn

“I am sitting alone in Vrindavan-dham;
In this mood I’m getting many realizations.
I have my wife, sons, daughters, grandsons, everything
but I have no money, so they are a fruitless glory.
Krishna has shown me the naked form of material nature.
By His strength it has all became tasteless to me today.”

Remember that morning of September 17, 1959
The second floor of Mathura’s Kesavaji Math
He was reluctant to do it, “unwillingly,” he said
But his Godbrother convinced him with force:
“Take sannyas” – that was the will of his master
That was the will of the spiritual world

Remember him standing with danda in hand
Meant to spread Krishna’s words to every land
Remember him going Vrindavan-Delhi, back and forth
The brilliant sun for the world began to rise
Srila Prabhupad prepared his work on the Bhagavatam

The Gosvamis gave him a place at Radha-Damodar
And soon he got a place in Delhi too
The best location for printing volume one
Still, he was alone, all by himself
And so much needed to be done

O mind, little did these simple printers know
Why this Swami worked so hard
To get his books done speedily
What did they know of Swami’s dream
The driving force behind his actions
How could they know how treasured his books would be
And that he would take them soon across the sea

Yes, New York – that was his cherished dream
Just think of the struggle that was in-between
Think of Sumati Morarji’s Jaladuta,
The P-form and the sponsorship
Think of his lifelong preparation,
His determination beyond bounds
Until finally he goes on-board
Fully protected by the Lord

O mind, glorify him day and night
Remember him at every sight
Renounce that fear of worldly blame
Your hankering for prestige and fame
Forever flow, just like a river
Towards this great mercy-giver
Bow down, bow down, recite his name
Bow down, bow down, recall his love
For all the living entities
For all of them, for all of them he came

O mind, o mind, deliver me
Deliver me to his lotus feet
Bring me across this mighty ocean
No matter how long the journey takes
Bring me to my eternal master
Despite countless allurements on the way
Please don’t deceive me, please hear what I say

O mind, bring me to Scindia office in Bombay
Remember Srila Prabhupada’s determination
To obtain free passage on the Jaladuta
Sumati Morarji and her deep concern:
“O Swamiji, stay here in India, you are too old.
How will you endure America and its winter cold?”

O mind, think of his words full of prophecy
While he lifted his hands in reassurance: “It is all right”
Dispelling the doubts of the wondering Scindia crew
Who couldn’t understand Bhaktivedanta’s case
Who thought he was going there to die
At this far-off Western place

Still, he had to get the P-form
And he didn’t have his U.S. visa yet
Think of Srila Prabhupad waiting patiently
In an empty apartment, only with his trunk,
His typewriter, and the order of his Guru Maharaj

Think of him being honored at the Scindia colony
Receiving rice, subji, fruits in plenty
Think of the reply to… [unclear]
The time is still not right, the time is still not right

“My mission was printed on a flyer page
To convince some influential businessman
Of the remedy for this fallen age
Of Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam
Convince him of Prabhupad’s brilliant scope
To spread India’s real glory all over the globe.”

O mind, remember his encounter with the bank
And that P-form drama there
Let me wait with Prabhupad for Mr. Rao
Sparing no anxiety at this last Maya test
But behind it all was Krishna’s grace
Mr. Rao came to tell him personally:
“Swamiji, don’t worry, I have passed your case.”

Departure’s final date was set for 13th August
Blackish Jaladuta waiting at Calcutta’s pier
For the Vrindavan sadhu who had no fear
Little did Mrs. Morarji know
What her cargo ship would set to motion
O mind, thank her for this pious act
Meant to make the world again intact

The few days left before departure
He arrived in the city of his youthful times
Gone were his loving father, sisters, sons
A homeless sannyasi, a mendicant, socially dead
Was getting ready to cross the ocean
To show to the world Lord Gauranga’s glory
A small Bengali newspaper printed his story

O mind, hold on forever to this empowered soul
Be with him on the way to Mayapur
Where he bows down before his eternal master
To obtain reassurance and exchange of love
A final blessing and permission
And last confirmation of his irreversible decision

O mind, please help me to dive deep
Into that most precious moment
Help me to fathom in confidence
their spiritually sweet relationship
The servant and his order-giver
Making him the world deliverer

O mind, bow down to him, bow down to him
Who took Bhaktisiddhanta’s order to his heart
Who broke all ties of mundane bondage
Who had Krishna as his companion at his side
Yes, he was ready now to preach worldwide

Remember his small suitcase,
His umbrella and his supply of cereal
That is how he walked on-board, alone
Carrying with him Caitanya-caritamrta
There were no supporters, disciples, relatives
Waving their hands from the shore
No one knew how the crossing would end
Except Lord Krishna, his most dear friend

Take me on-board to him, o mind
Let the fusty Jaladuta cabin be the foundation
For my attempt of Prabhupad meditation
Let me leave behind the shore of sense illusion
Crossing over the ocean, free of all confusion
Let me be there with captain Pandia and his wife
O mind, for that memory I strive

Take me to Srila Prabhupad as he endures pain
Of sea-sickness, dizziness and stomach trouble
As he encounters heavy rains over Bengal’s Bay
Till he arrives at Sri Lanka to get relief
Taken around Colombo by the captain in a car
Far from Vrindavan, far from Radha-Damodar

If I could only taste the prasad he cooked
On that 20th of August, Janmastami day
If I could hear him speaking to the crew
About Sri Krishna’s teachings, eternally new
If I could just reverse the wheel of time
Be near him as his seventieth birthday passes,
Uncelebrated, not at all attention drawing
If I could feel a fraction only
Of the unshakable faith in his Lord’s divine will
Could any doubt be remaining with me still?

At Kochin harbor the trunks were waiting
Shipped as a special cargo load
Two hundred sets of his three-volume Canto One
Thinking of the books gave him confidence
Of all sastras – the one of topmost prominence
Now setting out for the mleccha reader,
Along with Prabhupad to make them eager

O mind, think of blackish Jaladuta
As it puts out to the Red Sea,
Carrying Srila Prabhupad to those crucial days
That made him encounter the unbearable pains
In his chest – he thought he would die
Two heart attacks in two days
He survived somehow, alone in the endless sea
The pure devotee’s tolerance – the great mystery

On the night of the second day Krishna showed him His many forms
Rowing in a boat, reassurance giving that he needn’t have any fear
“Come along, fulfill your mission, under My protection you won’t fail.”
This was the dream he had that night –
Of Krishna rowing the boat on the sea
Relieving the miseries of His dear devotee

When Jaladuta entered the Suez Canal
He slowly recovered his health
And was eating for the first time in two weeks
Kichari and puris, cooked by himself
His report in the diary speaks of renewed strength
As the crossing continues, shortening its length

O mind, reflect forever on his voyage’s struggle
Go deep inside its meaning
Hearing of the seeming obstacles
Is a most intense and thorough cleaning

O mind, take away those clouds of sense desire
For the nectarean life of Caitanya-caritamrta
The source of Prabhupad’s vitality
For that inspiration only I aspire

Let there be pains of bodily existence
My success or failure in this world
What does it matter, let there be calamities
But bring me close to Srila Prabhupad
Who takes away all my anxieties

Friday, September 10th, 1965:
“Today the ship is plying very smoothly,”
He comments with humility, “today I feel better
But I’m feeling separation from Sri Vrindavan
And my Lords – Sri Govinda, Gopinath, Radha-Damodar”

O mind, let that day come when I shall fathom
What feeling separation means
When I will step over Maya’s border
To execute his transcendental order
Just as he did to show us all the way
To depend fully on Their mercy
In every situation, day after day

Remember how he stood at the ship’s rail
Watching the ocean and the sky
Remember how his mind was dwelling
On preaching to the so-called human beings
With their advanced technology,
Their speeding cars, non-stop TV

Take lessons, again and again
From his unshakable faith
He kept deep in his heart
The goodwill of Lord Krishna was on his side
Who caused the Atlantic’s rough face to hide
Who had taken charge of the ship
Allowing His empowered servant to complete the trip
Even now we can read that prayer poem
Disclosing his thoughts to his dearmost companion
Lord Krishna, the benefactor of all

O mind, allow me to reach such absorption
Though I am still distant, most unqualified
I beg you to surrender
Please fix the direction
Don’t go astray any longer
Let me feel helpless at his feet
There is nothing else I need

Thirty five days on sea have passed
5:30 AM on September 17th
The ship stopped briefly at Commonwealth Pier
Painted large on a warehouse wall: A and P
Among America’s first things
To greet the pure devotee

From the grey waterfront
Down the harbor’s ships and lobster stands
The drab buildings, the skyscrapers of the New World appear
And Srila Prabhupad praying to his dearmost Lord:
“I do not know why you have brought me here”

He passes though customs and U.S. Immigration
His visa allows him a three-month stay, stated officially
Captain Pandia walks with him into Boston
To show him what American life will be
And Srila Prabhupad praying to his dearmost Lord:
“Now you can do whatever you like with me”

Helplessly he spoke his heart to God:
“I wish that you may deliver them;
By Your will they can be released
From the clutches of illusion”

He has come to plant the seed
Telling them to stop illicit sex, intoxication,
Gambling, fish eating, eggs and meat
As an eternal Vrindavan resident
He has come to give them what they need
He has come to preach real love, not lust
And what it really means “In God We Trust”

O mind, follow this sannyasi
Who set his foot into New York, alone
Wondering whether to turn left or right
Carrying forty rupees in his pocket
“The few hours’ spending,” as he later says

O mind, remember forever these historical days
Dwell in his footprints, big enough for all
They are my only shelter
Not narrow but wide, all-accommodating
No need for going outside

O mind, don’t drag me away from his mercy
Help me to make his instructions the solid base for my life
Folding my hands before you like a beggar
I go on pleading till the end of my years:
Let me be with Srila Prabhupad
Let me be with him – wherever he appears