Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #30 – Just Write

July 24th, 2023

I believe that’s the title of a book by Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami aptly describing its contents—free writing—a process of writing where, without a specific preconceived idea of a subject to write about, one just lets one’s pen fly. It’s been so busy a week, so let me “just write”.


A disciple proudly shared with me that they have been my student since their teens, more than twenty-five years ago. I thought, “But are you chanting your rounds?” I thought of the story of the boatman, who rowed all night, but forgot to pull up the anchor and despite all that effort remained in the same place. Pulling up the anchor is a metaphor for letting go of our extraneous attachments and taking full shelter of the will of Śrī Guru and Śrī Krishna. If you don’t, you stay in the same place no matter how long you have been a devotee. I challenged myself. “Fifty years and how far have you advanced?” Time to let go, fully surrender and, through attachment for the holy name, enter the realm of real devotion. That’s why I am here.


Well, that’s it for “just write”. What happened?  A “Greetings” theme just came a few hours ago, so when I sat down again this afternoon for another writing session, rather than “just write” I felt compelled to carefully write about what just happened and share my realization about it.


I was walking out from my ashram to the parikrama path to go visit a friend down the road for lunch. When I reached the parikrama road, I saw a group of very worn, bare-chested sādhus wearing just their simple white loin cloth limping past. One very old sādhu, back bent forward, had his left arm on a friend’s shoulder in front him to brace his rickety knees from the shock every time one of his feet hit the pavement. Another was using a crutch-like cane, the kind supported by one’s whole forearm. All of them had layer after layer of dirty white cloth wrapped around their feet to ease the pain of their worn-down raw feet repeatedly hitting the ground. It was painful to watch. I had heard of these devotees before. They are here under the midday sun because they practically never stop walking, going around twice, some even three times a day! A friend of mine once asked one of them why they perform such arduous austerities. No matter how many times he asked, and no matter in whatever way he phrased the question, the answer was same: “I’m so sinful! I’m so sinful!” My friend carefully listened to the old sādhu’s voice. He had no doubt it was the crying of the soul tired of being engaged by bodily demands and calling for Krishna in separation.


The next morning while chanting I thought of that sādhu. I felt I could do so much more in my devotional practices if, like that sādhu, I also got more tired of my bodily demands and regretted more deeply my separation from Krishna. I self-reflected at least enough to sincerely call out in my mind, “I’m so sinful” and continued chanting. The mood was right, contrition and begging for the holy name.


I also took the sādhu’s example of devotional punishment.[1] I went around Govardhan yesterday during the day when I was free. It was humid. It was tough. It was blissful. I was inspired:


tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ

śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam


“One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one’s heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.” (Bhag. 5.1.1)[2]


Just write. A nice exercise. I pray it worked.


[1] One doesn’t perform austerities to torture the body. Next week, I think I will analyze the concept of tapasya to explain why the austerities of the walking sādhus of Govardhan are enlightening and not in ignorance as described in the Bhagavad-gītā:

“And those penances and austerities which are performed foolishly by means of obstinate self-torture, or to destroy or injure others, are said to be in the mode of ignorance.” (17.19)

[2] If you have time, I suggest you read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport on the above verse: https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/5/5/1/


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