Just like during last year's writing retreat, I settled into a very regular program of visiting the temple once on the weekend to offer a lecture - either the Saturday morning class, which is always very well attended, or the Sunday feast lecture. During the week I kept a good focus on working on the book: simply getting up, chanting the main portion of my rounds, answering a few emails, and then working around 6 hours on putting the manuscript for the book together. In the late afternoon I would go for a brisk walk to get some exercise while chant the few remaining rounds.
I discovered last year that such a break from constant travel is also good for my health, and also for my japa. I find it so much easier to chant with attentiveness on the level of the heart, if my mind is not preoccupied with all kinds of travel arrangements.
One of the windows of my little room faces the early morning sun, and I could take a sun bath every morning through the open window - to give my vitamin-D level a good boost. Also, the natural wealth and opulence of Ukraine are its berries and fruits: such a large variety of tasty and healthy berries, followed by the apricot season during July! So it is a good place from all different angles to spend the summer months in contemplative work....!
HH Gour Govinda Maharaja gives the nice analogy of a preacher being like the connecting pipe through which the transcendental nectar flows, connecting the audience with Krishna's reservoir of joy. If a preacher thinks "just see how much nectar is coming from me', then he acts like a blocked pipe - blocked through pride and arrogance. The false ego is blocking it, and thus no nectar can flow. It will only be empty words - maybe some impressive performance, which however will not spiritually transform the heart.
Sometimes we may find rather young devotees desiring to preach, publish a book or write their own poetry. However, we are advised to first qualify ourselves by accepting discipline and tapasya in our service to the devotees, and strictly follow in the footsteps of our acharyas and sadhus. Then, after becoming more mature in our devotional practice, we can share our desire with a senior Vaishnava or our guru, asking for their guidance and blessings. Unless we are requested by such a senior well-wishing friend to pursue our plans we may not receive their full blessings. We may act on our desire for distinction and fame, rather than on an impetus to serve, and thus the empowerment and purity will not be there.
Hari Sauri Das shares the following episodes in his Transcendental Diary:
"Along the length of Bhaktisiddhanta Road you could see the perimeter wall. Prabhupada asked the devotees to paint pictures of his books on the wall like you would a mural. The length of the wall was divided into arched panels using cement to form the panels.
One artist, Pandu Dasa (he later on rejected Prabhupada as his guru and joined up with one of the apasampradayas) painted a lot of the wall. When Prabhupada returned to Mayapur the following year many panels were painted. Prabhupada inspected Pandu's work and notice that he had painted a verse in Bengali on the wall. He asked Pandu where the verse came from and Pandu admitted that he had made the verse up himself.
Prabhupada was quite annoyed and told him off. Despite this, Pandu had the gall to ask Prabhupada if the verse was OK. Prabhupada told him it was OK i.e. he hadn't put anything philosophically incorrect, but he told Pandu, "Do not dare like this." He told him to only use the verses composed by our acharyas."
Hari Sauri Das further shares Srila Prabhupada's instructions on a morning walk in Mayapur on 25 January, 1976:
"As we walked around, Anantarama Sastri joined us. Srila Prabhupada expressed his satisfaction that such an educated man has joined our movement, and he instructed Bhavananda Maharaja to make sure he is well looked after so that he may not go away.
Although a somewhat self-conscious individual, Sastriji was eager to recite a poem he had composed for Srila Prabhupada's pleasure. As we walked, and without asking first, he broke out into a melodious verse, singing the praises of Bhagavan Sri Gopala -or at least it seemed so. His chanting was impressive to my untrained ear; but Srila Prabhupada was alert. When Sastri sang naciye naciye aile gopala, "My dear Gopala, please come to me dancing," Prabhupada stopped him. "Don't manufacture knowledge. Take knowledge from Bhagavan. Don't order Bhagavan. Just follow Bhagavan. That is not wanted. Do not write concocted poetries. That is not beneficial. Simply follow."
Srila Prabhupada told him that his singing was sense gratification because he was giving instruction to Gopala, "please come to me, naciye, dancing." He stressed that our process is to take instruction. "It is all nonsense. Why should you ask Gopala to come to you? You cannot order. You must follow. We are to carry out the order of God, not to order God to carry out my order. That is mistake.""
Entering my writing retreat I helplessly called out to Krishna, Srila Prabhupada and guru during my japa, begging for mercy, inspiration and guidance in order to serve as a connecting pipe, through which transcendental nectar can flow.....
Your servant, Devaki