Light Years Apart

What follows is a poem that I wrote for my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in 2008.
I think it is as current as ever – only that things have gotten worse in the institution ISKCON.

Light Years Apart


O fateful day in nineteen-seventy-seven 

when Mother Earth had lost her crown, 

a planet, that was envied in heaven – 

under an eerie spell. A haunted town. 


Mission usurped – a ruthless Eleven 

bent on dragging its glory down, 

auspiciousness drowning 

greedy blizzards howling, 

until the light fails 

and darkness prevails. 


Our guiding sun, and cooling moon, had set 

on the horizon of our limited vision, 

children of Kali, caught in Your net 

still holding on to our cherished prison, 

spiritual toddlers bereft of their mother 

loving and caring, unlike any other. 


O Prabhupad, master divine 

nothing compares to you 

and no one too. 


Surely not the voted-in variety, 

whose hallmark is anxiety – 

craving for profit, distinction, adoration 

soliciting laughter, applause, standing ovation 

eager to make the crowd feel good 

keen to impress and entertain, 

basic philosophy not understood 

traded in for personal gain, 

immature audiences paying the bill 

for inflated egos – O what a cheap thrill. 


From one retreat to next retreat 

– the word itself denotes defeat, 

seminars, seminars, seminars 

yield nothing but exposing the farce, 

no cheering – no shakti 

no spotlights – no bhakti 

who needs all these wannabe stars. 


You told us, that – indeed 

one moon is all we need. 

Nothing compares to you 

and no one too.


No self-declared successor 

who came to claim your legacy, 

suggesting – you only gave the ABC 

and even that be under lock and seal 

and it is he, who holds the key 

for him alone, it’s to reveal. 

Learned and senior, he well may be – 

somehow, he does not appeal to me. 


Whatever it be, that they purport, 

all whistles and bells. 

Of my life – only you are the Lord 

and nobody else. 


No pseudo academics, who alter your books. 

Of all deviants – this type might truly be vile 

deceptive in manners, and in their looks 

folded hands and painted smile, 

vaishnav’ attire complete with danda, 

Chicago Manual of Style 

they do succeed, in cardinal blunder. 


Our life’s very support, they dare to maim. 

Responsible publishing – is what they claim. 

Of all havoc that’s been created, 

this is the most severe. 


How many times had you stated, 

in instructions perfectly clear: 

No more changes. 


Master divine, our Prabhupad 

far, far above – light years apart. 


A class, an interview, or speech, 

you never needed to prepare. 

As Krishna’s confidant, you could reach 

any soul, any time, any where. 

O Shastra in person, you would teach 

spontaneously, right then and there, 

not by technique or stagy scheme – 

just compassion beyond esteem, 

penetrating crust over crust 

composed of greed, anger, and lust 

reaching straight to our innermost core 

where the embarrassed Jiva you saw.


Your words did never need varnish 

as direct, as they were sublime 

the vedic truth without garnish. 

One case in point, one point in time: 

A morning walk, along the shore, 

One gentleman, just wanted more: 

“Swami Ji, you keep telling us those things – 

Two plus Two is Four...we learn...”

“ want Five?” – Your swift return. 


The instant thereafter, 

does it need mention? 

there was indeed laughter – 

sheer joy of comprehension, 

essential point, understood in a flick 

it's the realized soul, it's not a trick. 


You cautioned us all 

to not jump ahead 

so we might not fall 

be patient instead. 


Related to Krishna, whatever the mood 

it is all about love, and all absolute. 

Desire trees, 

weeping streams of honey upon hearing that flute. 

Hanuman’s exclusive devotion, to Sita and Ram. 

And Bhismadev? 

For him, a wounded Lord holds special charm – 

battleground love-bites from arrows and spears. 

A paltry gift, 

yet the most intense feelings – from Vipra Sudam. 

Mother Yashoda’s puzzlements, worries and fears. 

Crowning it all – an afflicted gopi’s elusive mood. 

Very distinct Rasas, all unique – but all absolute. 


You did not ask the Beloved of your heart 

Boston pier, in sixty-five, while still aboard. 

to please grant you success and a flying start – 

but be a puppet, in the hands of the Lord. 


Master divine, how may I say – 

I know, it’s Your appearance day, 

but in these dark and troubled times 

I much prefer to skip the chimes.


To honor you, in adequate voice, 

all attempts must certainly fail, 

colorful phrases, words of choice 

in front of your grace, only turn pale. 


besides – 

for all the words spoken 

I have nothing to show 

not even a token, 

but one thing I know 

whatever became 

you never let go 

you stayed in my heart 

and – 

with chanting the name 

I never did part. 

In my most sinful of days 

even through the vodka haze. 


Falling at your feet 

with shame in my face 

I have come to plead 

with your Divine Grace 

to send some rays of light, 

spiritual strength. To guide 

this old warship of yours 

away from the moors. 


Without preaching, life had turned stale. 

I mean the front lines, facing the gale. 

But without vaishnav’ association 

I am lost and weak, and sure to fail 

So I want to extend my imploration 

to include all the seasoned battleships 

of your scattered and disbanded fleet 

your true and honest disciples in need 

dispersed and lonesome all over the globe 

for as it turns out, in times like these, 

it is them, who are humankind's hope. 


Across the lands, across the seas 

your Viduras and your Draupadis, 

your Jatayus and your Vibhisans, 

your grown-up gurukula girls and boys 

who never really had a chance or choice.


And all of the others? 

who too are sisters and brothers? 

so-called leaders, and otherwise? 

whom I severely critize? 

To them I have but one appeal: 

stop and think, think again – and pause, 

study the Gita –AS IT WAS, 

but first and foremost – please get real. 


Always praying for the shelter of your lotus feet, 

Your humbled servant, 


Atmavidya das 

On your Shri Vyasa-puja day, 2008

Quote for April 2019

kṛṣṇa—sūrya-sama; māyā haya andhakāra
yāhāṅ kṛṣṇa, tāhāṅ nāhi māyāra adhikāra


Kṛṣṇa is compared to sunshine, and Māyā is compared to darkness. Wherever there is sunshine, there cannot be darkness. As soon as one takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the darkness of illusion (the influence of the external energy) will immediately vanish..

(Caitanya-caritāmrta, Madhya-līlā 22.31)