A friend of mine just left his body after a courageous struggle with cancer.

I live in an intentional community, having moved here at the end of 1973. Bhokta moved here in 1974 so I have known him for a long time. He was a disciple of Srila Prabhupada.

For the first ten years I lived here it was communal, and retained aspects of that for years after.  All the purchasing was done by a purchasing department. If you needed something, you submitted a requisition and purchasing would get it.

I worked in the purchasing department for a few years and Bhokta was the pickup man. He drove the van or truck to Wheeling, Pittsburgh, New York or wherever to fill the orders so I worked with him on a daily basis. He took more and more responsibility for purchasing over the years and became sharp as a tack in finding the best deals for whatever he was tasked to buy.

If you look at all the buildings in New Vrindaban today, realize that all the materials in those buildings came through the purchasing department.  A large percentage of it was physically  brought into NV by Bhokta. All this while simultaneously doing the logistics for all the  needs of a population that grew from 200 to 600 devotees at its peak.

He was a major player in the building of Prabhupada’s Palace.

As the communal aspects faded and we all had to move on, Bhokta became a contractor, doing a lot of construction projects for the community and individual devotees.  That is what newer devotees will remember him as doing. He also managed the ghee factory.

He had another side, private, most devotees would not know him for. He was a poet. His interest was known through an online poetry writing contest that he was key to running. It was a monthly haiku contest. called a kukai. He was a secretary for it from 2005 until recently when he became medically unable to contribute.

The secretary  selects and emails  a theme for the month to those subscribed to the contest. They compile the entries that are sent in and resend them out to all the subscribers — assigned numbered not with names.  If you contributed an entry you can vote and  the secretaries compile the votes and announce the winners and how many  votes each haiku got.

I have been entering this for years because writing haiku is good practice for writing with brevity.  I think I had been entering it for about a year before I realized that the Robert  who was a secretary was the same Robert that I knew.  This contest has international participation.

Message from Haiku World:

“Dear kukai friends,

“I want to inform you, with heavy heart and deep regret, that our kukai secretary and web-master, Robert, passed away this morning. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.  He will be sorely missed. Thanks very much to all of you for the support and encouragement I’m sure you have given him over the years in the Shiki Kukai.

“I still hope to begin the December kukai tomorrow. I think that is something Robert would have wanted; but I hope to change the free format topic to something he would have liked.

“best wishes and regards,
“George Hawkins”

From the contest email for December:


The FREE FORMAT SECTION requires a haiku on a particular object, theme, or setting that may occur at any time within a given year. This is a free format haiku, in that the writer can compose a haiku with or without seasonal reference.

With thoughts of Robert,  the free format topic for December is “Departing” – haiku dealing with separation, leaving and goodbyes . For this I would like to reuse his sample haiku from the April 2010 kukai.

Free Format Sample:

palm fronds …
I take a moment
to say goodbye