Bhaktivedanta Ashram – New York

September 17th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Ashram – New York City

This is my last emergency journal as I am leaving this afternoon. I wasn’t able to send one yesterday due to the distraction caused by VD. I wrote him personally and received somewhat of an apology and so many letters of support and appreciation for the journal arrived that had to be attended to. Here’s a short message of appreciation from my esteemed god-brother His Holiness Giriraj Swami that also offers some insight on the tragedy from the Bhagavatam.

“Dear Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I very much appreciated your timely response to our recent calamity.

Thank you.

balasya neha saranam pitarau nrsimha
nartasya cagadam udanvati majjato nauh
taptasya tat-pratividhir ya ihanjasestas
tavad vibho tanu-bhrtam tvad-upeksitanam

“My Lord Nrsimhadeva, O Supreme, because of a bodily conception of life, embodied souls neglected and not cared for by You cannot do anything for their betterment. Whatever remedies they accept, although perhaps temporarily beneficial, are certainly impermanent. For example, a father and mother cannot protect their child, a physician and medicine cannot relieve a suffering patient, and a boat on the ocean cannot protect a drowning man.” (SB 7.9.19)

Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna.

Your servant,
Giriraj Swami”

Maybe the most interesting response was from Jan Potemkin, a high school friend who is also a recipient of the journal. Jan is a lawyer on Broadway, a practicing Buddhist, a gentle and pious man, and a very independent thinking and perceptive person. He was fascinated by the flurry of exchanges concerning VD and I thought his outside, and therefore certainly neutral response, would be of particular interest to the reader. It’s quite insightful:

“I’m glad to hear all is well with you and the ashram, and I found the last few journal entries interesting. I was a little surprised that you put the whole exchange with VD, but it was certainly interesting.

“Your letters contain several examples of caring and compassion. You advised one devotee to gently point out to his mother (?) that Krishna consciousness has given him some help in coping with this disaster.

“However, I can understand that there must have been devotees who have made light of people’s ‘material’ difficulties. ‘Just chant’ is sometimes not correct advice. Maybe VD had some bad experience in the past like that. Or maybe he is exhibiting what is called transference of emotional response. He can’t express his anger about the terrorists so he lets it out inappropriately. Or maybe he is mad at you for some other reason. Or maybe he is mad at Krishna?

“At any rate, the whole exchange was interesting.”

To help VD I sent a copy of Jan’s letter to him. He acknowledged his insights and sent the following reply:

“I appreciate what the Broadway lawyer wrote about my message. I definitely have baggage towards ISKCON and Guru that is transferring. That makes it hard to be sensitive.”

Sriman Satyaraja Prabhu will be happy with VD’s acknowledgement. He just returned to the city yesterday, read the journals, sent a short message of appreciations and then added:

“I applaud Mahamuni Prabhu’s fair and even compassionate assessment of Vic, and I would only add that Vic should now be humble enough to reconsider his statements and offer a public apology (unless he has already done so). I wish him all the best and pray for his progress in Krishna consciousness.”

I have never lived so close to such a magnitude of agony. It affects you. There was not a day here upon rising that I didn’t think of the suffering here and grieve for the anguish it caused.

I visited 26 2nd Ave on Friday. It was the first time I saw many of the congregation. The disaster touched several of them personally as they lost lose friends who worked at the World Trade Center.

Several had tales of horror. Yogesh, an administrator at the World Financial Center, 160 feet from the World Trade Towers, was stepping off the ferry a thousand feet away when the first plane crashed. When the first building collapsed he ran with his fellow workers quickly back towards the Hudson River. Several of his colleagues just jumped directly into the river. I cannot describe the horrors he saw next to him as the building crashed and the debris flew wildly in all directions.

Donia Salem left her room in midtown Manhattan in the evening for fresh air when all of a sudden the Empire State Building was being evacuated. When she looked back, she saw the police also running. She was chased all the way to the FDR Drive and then told to move uptown, leaving her homeless at 10:30 at night, a frightening experience for a young twenty-two year old student just two weeks living in New York City. Fortunately, a family friend gave her shelter.

Some were miraculously saved. Ed Keenan was politicked out of a job on the 92nd floor of the South Building a few months before, and then soon after lost a job on the 82nd floor of the North Building.

I am running short of time here to write something more. There is so much more to say. Seeing what happened, sensing the distress it caused, dealing with the uncertainty and fear it caused, and answering the deep metaphysical questions that such a magnitude of torment brings concerning the nature of God, practically the whole philosophy of Krishna consciousness was brought to life.

You will hear from me again soon, and perhaps this will be discussed further. Soon other journals that were put on hold will be sent out. I thank you all for the many letters I’ve received with your support and insights.

My flight to India on Thursday was cancelled.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” – John Steinbeck

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