Dec 012021
 

My dear devotees,

Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

In a letter to me dated December 1971, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “Go on increasing books, and go on increasing my pleasure.” December is a special opportunity to focus on Srila Prabhupada’s desire that we distribute books—and thus increase his pleasure. As he wrote in the same letter, “I am most pleased especially to hear that you are distributing many books.”

tad-vag-visargo janatagha-viplavo
  yasmin prati-slokam abaddhavaty api
namany anantasya yaso ’nkitani yat
  srnvanti gayanti grnanti sadhavah 

“That literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung, and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.” (SB 1.5.11)

Now let us cooperate fully to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desire, which is the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the parampara, and distribute such transcendental literature for the benefit of all—and be blessed by their sublime mercy.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 252021
 

If we are at all aware of how dependent we are on God—for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and our very ability to eat and drink and breathe, to think and feel and will, and to walk, talk, and sense—we will feel grateful and want to reciprocate God’s kindness. We will want to do something for He (or She or They) who has done, and continues to do, so much for us.

We often take things for granted until we lose them. I use my right hand to chant on meditation beads, and one morning I found that I had severe pain in my hand and could no longer use it for chanting. I had taken the use of my hand for granted, but when I lost its use, I resolved to never take it for granted again and to always use it in the best way in God’s service.

How can we attempt to return some of God’s favor, some of God’s care and love for us? My spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave one answer:

“Whatever you have got by pious or impious activities, you cannot change. But you can change your position, by Krishna consciousness. That you can change. Other things you cannot change. If you are white, you cannot become black, or if you are black, you cannot become white. That is not possible. But you can become a first-class Krishna conscious person. Whether you are black or white, it doesn’t matter. This is Krishna consciousness. Therefore, our endeavor should be how to become Krishna conscious. Other things we cannot change. This is not possible.

tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
  na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah
tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham
kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa
   [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18]

Kalena, by time, you will get whatever you are destined. Don’t bother about so-called economic development. So far as food is concerned, Krishna is supplying. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. He is supplying even cats and dogs and ants. Why not you? There is no need of bothering Krishna, ‘God, give us our daily bread.’ He will give you. Don’t bother. Try to become very faithful servant of God. ‘Oh, God has given me so many things. So let me give my energy to serve Krishna.’ This is required. This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I have taken so much, life after life, from Krishna. Now let me dedicate this life to Krishna.’ This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I will not let this life go uselessly like cats and dogs. Let me utilize it for Krishna consciousness.’ ”

I pray that I will dedicate this life and everything I have—everything God has given me—fully in God’s service, following His pure devotees.

manasa, deho, geho, yo kichu mora
arpilun tuya pade, nanda-kisora

“Mind, body, and home, whatever may be mine, I surrender at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda!” (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati)

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 172021
 

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Bhugarbha Gosvami, who is described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 12.82):

bhugarbha gosani, ara bhagavata-dasa
yei dui asi’ kaila vrndavane vasa

“The eleventh branch of Gadadhara Gosvami was Bhugarbha Gosani, and the twelfth was Bhagavata dasa. Both of them went to Vrndavana and resided there for life.”

Purport: “Bhugarbha Gosani, formerly known as Prema-manjari, was a great friend of Lokanatha Gosvami, who constructed the temple of Gokulananda, one of the seven important temples of Vrndavana—namely those of Govinda, Gopinatha, Madana-mohana, Radharamana, Syamasundara, Radha-Damodara and Gokulananda—which are authorized institutions of Gaudiya Vaisnavas.”

“Bhugarbha Gosani, a disciple of [Gadadhara] Pandita Gosani, was always engaged in topics regarding Lord Caitanya, knowing nothing else. Among his disciples were Caitanya dasa, who was a priest of the Govinda Deity, as well as Mukundananda Cakravarti and the great devotee Krsnadasa.” (Adi 8.68–69)

May Srila Bhugarbha Gosvami bless us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 132021
 

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a great devotee—a maha-bhagavata. He was a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was very renounced. Earlier, he lived for many years in Vrindavan, roaming the twelve forests, chanting the holy names of Krishna, begging alms, and sleeping under trees. Later, after Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered Lord Chaitanya’s birthplace in Mayapur, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, the siksa-guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and parama-guru of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, instructed Gaurakisora to move to Navadvipa-dhama.

There Gaurakisora resided on the banks of the Ganges and practiced devotional service with intense devotion and renunciation. Because materialistic men would come and disturb him with their desires for mundane blessings (asirvada), the babaji began to stay by a municipal lavatory, where the filth and obnoxious smells would discourage unwanted visitors. There he would chant in peace—in ecstasy. He would beg alms and cook in discarded clay pots, or eat parched rice with green chilies, or just ingest Ganges mud. Sometimes he would collect the discarded cloth from the crematorium, wash it in Ganges water, and use it to cover himself. His only desire was to be absorbed in the mellow of the holy name—in Krishna consciousness.

Gaurakisora was a siksa disciple and intimate friend of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Thakura arranged a bhajana-kutira for him on the same property as his own house in Godruma-dvipa. When the time came for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to take diksa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura advised him to approach Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the father of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and his first instructor in the spiritual science, but the etiquette was that one would not take diksa from one’s biological father. So Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sent him to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was highly literate. By the age of seven, he had memorized the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain its verses. He had a photographic memory, and in school he read all the books in the library. Just by reading them once, he could remember every word, and so the library purchased new books just for him. By the age of twenty-five, he had written numerous articles and published one book, Surya-siddhanta, for which he was awarded the title Siddhanta Sarasvati. So, he was highly educated and literate, and Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja was hardly educated or literate at all.

The first time Siddhanta Sarasvati approached Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, the babaji refused to accept him. He didn’t directly say no, but he said, “I will ask Mahaprabhu.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned and told his father what had happened, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura encouraged him to persevere: “You must go back and beg him with all humility and earnestness to accept you.” So, he went back, but Gaurakisora dasa Babaji again refused, saying, “Oh, I forgot to ask Mahaprabhu. I am so sorry.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned home, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was most upset. He knew that Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a pure devotee, a maha-bhagavata, and he urged Siddhanta Sarasvati to persist. He again instructed his son to beg Gaurakisora for his mercy, and he added, “If you fail this time, don’t bother to come back home.” Continue reading »

Nov 112021
 

Today is the disappearance day of Sri Dhananjaya Pandit, who is described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter 11, text 31:

nityananda-priyabhrtya pandita dhananjaya
atyanta virakta, sada krsna-premamaya

 “The sixteenth dear servant of Nityananda Prabhu was Dhananjaya Pandita. He was very much renounced and always merged in love of Krsna.”

Purport: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes in his Anubhasya, “Pandita Dhananjaya was a resident of the village in Katwa named Sitala. He was one of the twelve gopalas. His former name, according to the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (127), was Vasudama. Sitala-grama is situated near the Mangalakota police station and Kaicara post office in the district of Burdwan. On the narrow railway from Burdwan to Katwa is a railway station about nine miles from Katwa known as Kaicara. One has to go about a mile northeast of this station to reach Sitala. The temple was a thatched house with walls made of dirt. Some time ago, the zamindars of Bajaravana Kabasi, the Mulliks, constructed a big house for the purpose of a temple, but for the last sixty-five years the temple has been broken down and abandoned. The foundation of the old temple is still visible. There is a tulasi pillar near the temple, and every year during the month of Kartika (October-November) the disappearance day of Dhananjaya is observed. It is said that for some time Pandita Dhananjaya was in a sankirtana party under the direction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and then he went to Vrndavana. Before going to Vrndavana, he lived for some time in a village named Sancadapancada, which is six miles south of the Memari railway station. Sometimes this village is also known as ‘the place of Dhananjaya’ (Dhananjayera Pata). After some time, he left the responsibility for worship with a disciple and went back to Vrndavana. After returning from Vrndavana to Sitala-grama, he established a Deity of Gaurasundara in the temple. The descendants of Pandita Dhananjaya still live in Sitala-grama and look after the temple worship.”

May Sri Dhananjaya Pandit bless us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 112021
 

Today is Gopastami, the day on which Krishna and Balarama and other boys Their age, who previously had tended the calves, were given charge of the cows. This event is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.15.1):

tatas ca pauganda-vayah-sritau vraje
  babhuvatus tau pasu-pala-sammatau
gas carayantau sakhibhih samam padair
  vrndavanam punyam ativa cakratuh

“When Lord Rama and Lord Krsna attained the age of pauganda [six to ten] while living in Vrndavana, the cowherd men allowed Them to take up the task of tending the cows. Engaging thus in the company of Their friends, the two boys rendered the land of Vrndavana most auspicious by imprinting upon it the marks of Their lotus feet.”

As stated in the purport, “Since Lord Krsna’s spiritual body had apparently grown slightly in age and strength, the senior men of Vrndavana, headed by Nanda Maharaja, decided to promote Krsna from the task of herding calves to the status of a regular cowherd boy. He would now take care of the full-grown cows, bulls, and oxen. Out of great affection, Nanda Maharaja had previously considered Krsna too small and immature to take care of full-grown cows and bulls. It is stated in the Karttika-mahatmya section of the Padma Purana:

suklastami karttike tu
  smrta gopastami budhaih
tad-dinad vasudevo ’bhud
  gopah purvam tu vatsapah

‘The eighth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Karttika is known by authorities as Gopastami. From that day, Lord Vasudeva served as a cowherd, whereas previously He had tended the calves.’

“The word padaih indicates that Lord Krsna blessed the earth by walking on her surface with His lotus feet. The Lord wore no shoes or other footgear but walked barefoot in the forest, giving great anxiety to the girls of Vrndavana, who feared that His soft lotus feet would be injured.”

The celebration was meant for only the cowherd men and boys, but Srimati Radharani also wanted to enjoy the fun, and so, because of Her resemblance to Subala-sakha, She donned his dhoti and other garments and joined Krishna. Thus, on this occasion, in temples in Vrindavan and elsewhere, Srimati Radharani is dressed as a cowherd boy.

The Lord is very kindly disposed toward the cows and the brahmans (go-brahmana-hitaya), and whoever serves them becomes dear to Him, too. Knowing this, devotees observe a special festival on the Gopastami day, dedicated to the worship of cows. In Vrindavan especially, but also the world over, devotees begin the festival by brushing the cows, painting their horns and bodies with artistic designs, and hanging flower garlands around their necks. Then a cow and her calf are selected and an arati is offered to them. During the arati, devotees sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and then they feed the cow, her calf, and indeed the entire herd, bananas, balls of gur (jaggery), and fresh grasses. Some devotees also recite the following mantra (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 16.252):

agratah santu me gavo
  gavo me santu prsthatah
gavo me parsvatah santu
  gavam madhye vasamyaham

“May cows stay in front of me. May cows stay behind me. May cows stay on both sides of me. May I always reside in the midst of cows.”

At the ISKCON goshala in Vrindavan, the program ends with a breakfast feast served to participants in the cowsheds.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami