What’s Going On Here?


An Overview of the Writings of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami  

by Baladeva Vidyabhusana dasa

GN Press began in 1978 with the mission of producing Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita is the authorized biography of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The Governing Body Commission of the society requested Satsvarupa dasa Goswami to write the Lilamrita in 1978, soon after the departure of Srila Prabhupada from this world. Millions of copies of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita in numerous languages have, and continue to be, distributed all around the world, giving everyone a chance to follow his teachings. After finishing this project in 1983, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami continued writing varieties of literature, presenting the conclusions of traditional Vedic scripture with the purpose of capturing the attention of a variety of readers and bringing them toward a closer connection to Srila Prabhupada and his books. Over the years, the GN Press has been able to distribute Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s guides to personal practices of spiritual life (sadhana), journals, essays, children’s books, Haiku, Haiban, American Beat Poetry, and extensive collections of books dedicated to the exclusive glorification of, appreciation of, and meditation upon Srila Prabhupada.In 1986, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami began experimenting with various forms of automatic writing as a personal devotional practice to deepen his internal realization and purification. As a result, the GN Press has been able to augment its collection to include fiction, avant-garde writing, and other genres to reach an ever-expanding audience. During the year of the Centennial Memorial Celebration of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance (1896–1996), Satsvarupa dasa Goswami joined thousands of followers of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami around the world in rededicating his personal commitment to Srila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. As a multitalented writer and serious sadhaka, this led to his into embarking on an internal journey, which he shares with us by presenting a monumental, genre-bending literature series, Every Day, Just Write, which harkens to the 21st Century Reader and beyond.Note from Satsvarupa dasa GoswamiIn the autumn of 1996, while finishing one book and trying to decide on the form of the next, it occurred to me that everything I write is part of one big book. Although it is good for a writer to think in different genres, it can also be right to admit that he is essentially writing the same book each time he sets pen to paper. That is, a writer is writing his life. While he may express it in one genre or another, it is still his life that he is expressing. In my case, it is as Kerouac stated: “Uninterrupted and unrevised full confessions about what actually happened in life.”When this thought occurred to me about my own writing, I was traveling from Italy to Ireland. By the time I arrived, I had decided to begin a project without end. I would call it Every Day, Just Write, and title each segment thematically.Although each volume of Every Day, Just Write was composed individually, due to economic concerns, the GN Press chose to produce the first three volumes as a single book. The first title in the series, Welcome Home to the One Big Book of Your Life, seems particularly right to me. I welcome readers to join me on an open-ended journey. The direction is to Krishna, whom the Vedas accept as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I cannot guarantee when I’ll “arrive” (back home, back to Godhead), but by the grace of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, I know I won’t give up.The title of the second volume, Search for the Authentic Self, gives us another clue to the nature of the author’s direction for this internal journey. He is kindly willing to share that with us in its totality, even though the picture isn’t always pretty.


Self-Taught Art in Krishna Consciousness


An Introduction

In July 1966, after regularly reading versions of Bhagavad-gita and the Upanishads, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami attended an evening class in New York City given by Srila Prabhupada. This marked the beginning of a life-long relationship with his spiritual master. During that year of 1966, he would sometimes return to his apartment after being with Srila Prabhupada and, filled with happiness remembering him, paint large indoor murals.

It was not until 1994 that Satsvarupa dasa Goswami began painting and drawing again (beyond the sketches that would often accompany his writings). Thus, like Grandma Moses, he truly embraced the world of painting in the latter half of his life. For Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, painting is a comforting, enjoyable response and celebration of Krishna conscious life. His painting portrays a flow that comes out of his mental and spiritual states.

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s art falls under the umbrella of self-taught art (and its various forms such as Naive art and Outsider or Visionary art) and is a raw, direct approach to painting. These artists have a unique place partly because they remind us there is more to art than the painstaking attempt to capture the world realistically. They urge us to remember we are all artists, and as we grow, the creative impetus within us often fades. And they invite us to share in a generous world anyone can understand, even a child. (For example, the sensuality of Michelangelo’s «Resurrection» can distract attention from the subject, and paintings of that nature are often understood only by people of academically trained discernment.)

Art done to recover the magic of childlike intuition has a healing power. It is widely used in various painting workshops all over the world, benefiting thousands of people by enabling them to break free from the intimidation imposed on them by judgmental teachers. This assists not only an artist’s approach to art, but a response to life itself. As a prolific writer, painting offers Satsvarupa dasa Goswami an opportunity to serve his creative drive. It compliments his writing practice, allowing the same kind of release, purification, and discovery of new ideas. Sometimes he will be stuck one way to express himself in words, and painting can release that and offer opportunity to discover a new freedom and confidence.

Chris Murray of Govinda Gallery in Washington, DC, held an exhibition of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s paintings and sculpture during November/ December 2001. His work was deeply welcomed by everyone who attended the opening. The spontaneity, brilliant color, deep feeling, and devotional imagery of his paintings were appreciated.

Jessica Dawson of The Washington Post wrote a review of the exhibition on November 29, 2001. She writes, «The suite of paintings and sculpture by this self-taught artist at Govinda Gallery is the work of a devout Hare Krishna. . . . Satsvarupa’s art promotes Krishna consciousness.» She describes some of the art: «A hunched figure, head in hands, consults a text that promises relief: ‘Don’t despair. [Krishna] will free you from false ego and misery.’ . . . These Krishna exercises are played out in bright colors on big canvases or pieces of paper.» And she describes the work as «awfully exuberant».