Jun 282022
 

Today we are observing the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Gadadhara Pandita. I first learned of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura when I visited the Boston temple. At that time there were only two published books in ISKCON: the abridged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, published by Macmillan, and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, published by ISKCON. And at the front of Teachings of Lord Chaitanya was a series of very dignified black-and-white photographs of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Under the photograph of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a caption: “The pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness by the instructions of Lord Chaitanya.” I understood from the caption that Srila Prabhupada was continuing the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and that we were able to come in touch with Krishna consciousness in part because of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

As the years passed and I came to learn more about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I began to see more and more how the Krishna consciousness movement brought by Srila Prabhupada to the West and expanded throughout the world was a continuation of the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and the result of his desire. So, we are all indebted to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and we are intimately connected with him through parampara.

Lord Chaitanya predicted, prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama/ sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama: “In every town and village of every country of the world, My name [Krishna’s name] will be preached.” Although Lord Chaitanya made this prediction more than five hundred years ago, even His followers have sometimes been bewildered about how it would be fulfilled. Some of them have even thought the prediction was metaphorical or abstract. But Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had faith in the order and in the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and through his books he began the work of spreading Krishna consciousness and the holy name of Krishna throughout the world. In particular, in 1896, the year of Srila Prabhupada’s birth, he wrote a book called Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts and distributed it to libraries worldwide.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed on his desire, which was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire, to his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, though he never left India, passed on the same desire to his disciples. In particular, he gave Srila Prabhupada the order to preach Krishna consciousness in the English language, which even then was the universal language in the Western world, and in the whole world. Continue reading »

Jun 222022
 

Srivasa Pandita is one of the members of the Pancha-tattva: sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasa. Vedic authorities state that in the current Age of Kali, Krishna came as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Balarama came as Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Similarly, Maha-vishnu appeared as Advaita Acarya, Srimati Radharani as Gadadhara Pandita, and Narada Muni as Srivasa Pandita.

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam
  bhakta-rupa-svarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam
  namami bhakta-saktikam

“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.” (Cc Adi 1.14)

Panca-tattvatmakam: The Pancha-tattva comprise one truth on the absolute platform. Lord Chaitanya is bhakta-rupa, Krishna in the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is svarupakam, the expansion of a devotee. Advaita Acarya is bhaktavataram, the avatara of a devotee. Srivasa Thakura is bhakta, a devotee. And Gadadhara Pandita is bhakta-saktikam, the energy of the Supreme Lord who supplies energy to the devotees—the devotional energy, Srimati Radharani.

In the Adi-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes the tree of Lord Chaitanya. The tree itself is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and at the same time Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the gardener who tends to the tree. This tree, like any tree, has a trunk, limbs, and branches. The limbs and branches and leaves are devotees—the devotees of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that he is listing such devotees for his own purification, just to glorify them, and that he cannot distinguish between who is higher and who is lower. He wants to glorify them all. And Srila Prabhupada remarks that this is the attitude of a pure devotee. A pure devotee respects all devotees. He does not distinguish that some should be respected and some not. He respects all of them.

Srila Prabhupada also mentions that ISKCON too is a branch of the Chaitanya tree. In reality, Prabhupada himself is a most important branch of the Chaitanya tree, but in his humility he says that ISKCON is a branch. So, all the devotees in ISKCON, who are attached to ISKCON, are leaves on the Chaitanya tree. And we should respect and honor them all. Continue reading »

Jun 192022
 

Here are a relevant verse and purport from Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.24.13):

etavaty eva susrusa
  karya pitari putrakaih
badham ity anumanyeta
  gauravena guror vacah

“Sons ought to render service to their father exactly to this extent. One should obey the command of his father or spiritual master with due deference, saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

Srila Prabhupada explains, “Two words in this verse are very important; one word is pitari, and another word is guroh. The son or disciple should accept the words of his spiritual master and father without hesitation. Whatever the father and the spiritual master order should be taken without argument: ‘Yes.’ There should be no instance in which the disciple or the son says, ‘This is not correct. I cannot carry it out.’ When he says that, he is fallen. The father and the spiritual master are on the same platform because a spiritual master is the second father. The higher classes are called dvija, twice-born. Whenever there is a question of birth, there must be a father. The first birth is made possible by the actual father, and the second birth is made possible by the spiritual master. Sometimes the father and the spiritual master may be the same man, and sometimes they are different men. In any case, the order of the father or the order of the spiritual master must be carried out without hesitation, with an immediate yes. There should be no argument. That is real service to the father and to the spiritual master. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has stated that the order of the spiritual master is the life and soul of the disciples. As a man cannot separate his life from his body, a disciple cannot separate the order of the spiritual master from his life. If a disciple follows the instruction of the spiritual master in that way, he is sure to become perfect. This is confirmed in the Upanisads: the import of Vedic instruction is revealed automatically only to one who has implicit faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and in his spiritual master. One may be materially considered an illiterate man, but if he has faith in the spiritual master as well as in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then the meaning of scriptural revelation is immediately manifested before him.”

On this occasion, I pray to become a proper servant of my spiritual master, or spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada, and of all his other servants.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 182022
 

Srila Prabhupada expressed his appreciation for his father in his dedication to his book Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead: “To My Father, Gour Mohan De (1849-1930)—A pure devotee of Krsna, who raised me as a Krsna conscious child from the beginning of my life. In my boyhood ages he instructed me how to play the mrdanga. He gave me Radha-Krsna vigraha to worship, and he gave me Jagannatha ratha to duly observe the festival as my childhood play. He was kind to me, and I imbibed from him the ideas later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father.”

As devotees, we try to encourage and facilitate our children’s Krishna consciousness, as Prabhupada’s father did with him—an effort that is solidified when our children find their eternal spiritual masters.

Later, Srila Prabhupada wrote one of his disciples, “You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. Relationship of father and son on spiritual platform is real and eternal; on the material platform such relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I can pray to Krishna for your more and more advancement in Krishna consciousness. Your sincerity and service mood will always help you in advancing your genuine cause.”

We are indebted to all our fathers, biological and preceptorial. To those still with us, we wish you Happy Father’s Day. To those who have left us, we love you and miss you, and we shall try to act in such a way as will please you—and Krishna, the Supreme Father.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 182022
 

Today is the appearance day of Sri Vakresvara Pandita, one of Lord Chaitanya’s most dear associates. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 10.17–20) states, “Vakresvara Pandita, the fifth branch of the [Caitanya] tree, was a very dear servant of Lord Caitanya’s. He could dance with constant ecstasy for seventy-two hours. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally sang while Vakresvara Pandita danced, and thus Vakresvara Pandita fell at the lotus feet of the Lord and spoke as follows. ‘O Candramukha! Please give me ten thousand Gandharvas. Let them sing as I dance, and then I will be greatly happy.’ Lord Caitanya replied, ‘I have only one wing like you, but if I had another, certainly I would fly in the sky!’ ”

In his purport to text 17, Srila Prabhupada writes, “In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (71) it is stated that Vakresvara Pandita was an incarnation of Aniruddha, one of the quadruple expansions of Visnu (Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna). He could dance wonderfully for seventy-two continuous hours. When Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu played in dramatic performances in the house of Srivasa Pandita, Vakresvara Pandita was one of the chief dancers, and he danced continuously for that length of time. Sri Govinda dasa, an Oriya devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has described the life of Vakresvara Pandita in his book Gaura-krsnodaya. There are many disciples of Vakresvara Pandita in Orissa, and they are known as Gaudiya Vaisnavas although they are Oriyas. Among these disciples are Sri Gopalaguru and his disciple Sri Dhyanacandra Gosvami.”

A contemporary of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu named Devananda Pandita had no faith in Mahaprabhu and thus avoided Him, but fortunately, Devananda Pandita developed great faith in Vakresvara Pandita and rendered service to him. And by Vakresvara Pandita’s mercy, Devananda Pandita developed faith in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and ultimately achieved His shelter.

Concerning this incident, Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (Antya 3.485–487) confirms the efficacy of serving pure devotees and the results one attains by doing so: “The service of Vaishnavas is superior to the service of Krishna. All scriptures, headed by Srimad-Bhagavatam, confirm this. There may be a doubt whether the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will attain perfection, but there is absolutely no doubt that those who are attached to serving the Lord’s devotees will attain perfection. Therefore service to the Vaishnavas is the best means of deliverance.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 112022
 

We have gathered at the lotus feet of the Pancha-tattva on this most auspicious occasion of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s cida-dadhi festival, the background to which can be found in his early life. Raghunatha dasa’s uncle and father, Hiranya and Govardhana Majumadara, were the wealthy landlords in Bengal—almost like kings—and had a huge, opulent riverside palace, with boats that plied the river. Hiranya and Govardhana were generous and devoted to brahminical culture, and they practically maintained the entire brahman community of Nadia with their charity. Raghunatha was their only son, so naturally they put all their hopes in him to carry on the family dynasty. But from a young age, Raghunatha was attracted to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Majumadaras’ spiritual master was Yadunandana Acharya, a disciple of Advaita Acharya (of the Pancha-tattva) and an intimate student of Vasudeva Datta, and their family’s priest was Balarama Acharya, a dear associate of Haridasa Thakura and close friend of Yadunandana Acharya. Balarama Acharya and Yadunandana Acharya used to host Haridasa Thakura, and when Haridasa stayed in their village, Raghunatha visited him daily and received his mercy. Balarama Acharya also invited Haridasa Thakura to speak in the Majumadaras’ assembly about the glories of the holy name. Thus Raghunatha dasa had the association of these great souls, followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who would tell him about Mahaprabhu and encourage him to chant.

Once, when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, after taking sannyasa, visited Shantipur, Raghunatha dasa went to meet Him. In pure love, he fell at Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet, and the Lord, out of His mercy, blessed him with the touch of His feet. Raghunatha served the Lord for a week, and after he returned home he was mad with ecstatic love. He wanted to join Mahaprabhu in Puri, but his family would not allow him. Time and again he would run away from home to go to Puri, and every time, his father would catch him and bring him back. His father even kept five watchmen to guard him day and night, four servants to see to his comforts, and two brahmans to cook for him, so eleven people were engaged to serve him and make sure he did not go to Puri. Later, when Mahaprabhu again visited Shantipur, Raghunatha begged his father, “Please allow me to see the lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Otherwise, my life will not remain in my body.” So, his father allowed him to go to Shantipur, sending many servants to accompany him. For seven days Raghunatha stayed in the Lord’s association, constantly thinking, “How will I get free from the watchmen? How will I be able to go with Mahaprabhu to Puri?” The Lord, being omniscient, could understand Raghunatha’s mind, and He reassured him with some important statements. These instructions form the background of the Panihati festival, and we shall read them as they are recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Sixteen: “The Lord’s Attempt to go to Vrndavana.”

TEXT 237

“sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula

TRANSLATION

[Lord Chaitanya told Raghunatha dasa:] “Be patient and return home. Don’t be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence.

TEXT 238

“markata-vairagya na kara loka dekhana
yatha-yogya visaya bhunja’ anasakta hana

TRANSLATION

“You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The word markata-vairagya, indicating false renunciation, is very important in this verse. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in commenting on this word, points out that monkeys make an external show of renunciation by not accepting clothing and by living naked in the forest. In this way they consider themselves renunciants, but actually they are very busy enjoying sense gratification with dozens of female monkeys. Such renunciation is called markata-vairagya—the renunciation of a monkey. One cannot become really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one’s life. Temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is like the renunciation one feels at a cremation ground. When a man takes a dead body to the crematorium, he sometimes thinks, “This is the final end of the body. Why am I working so hard day and night?” Such sentiments naturally arise in the mind of any man who goes to a crematorial ghata. However, as soon as he returns from the cremation grounds, he again engages in material activity for sense enjoyment. This is called smasana-vairagya, or markata-vairagya.

In order to render service to the Lord, one may accept necessary things. If one lives in this way, he may actually become renounced. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:

yavata syat sva-nirvahah
  svi-kuryat tavad artha-vit
adhikye nyunatayam ca
  cyavate paramarthatah

“The bare necessities of life must be accepted, but one should not superfluously increase his necessities. Nor should they be unnecessarily decreased. One should simply accept what is necessary to help one advance spiritually.”

In his Durgama-sangamani, Sri Jiva Gosvami comments that the word sva-nirvahah actually means sva-sva-bhakti-nirvahah. The experienced devotee will accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.256), markata-vairagya, or phalgu-vairagya, is explained as follows:

prapancikataya buddhya
  hari-sambandhi-vastunah
mumuksubhih parityago
  vairagyam phalgu kathyate

“When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete.” Whatever is favorable for the rendering of service to the Lord should be accepted and should not be rejected as a material thing. Yukta-vairagya, or befitting renunciation, is thus explained:

anasaktasya visayan
  yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
  yuktam vairagyam ucyate

“Things should be accepted for the Lord’s service and not for one’s personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Krsna, one’s renunciation is called yukta-vairagya.” Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, whatever is accepted for His service is also the Absolute Truth. . . .

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami enumerates sixty-four items of devotional service, beginning with guru-padasraya, taking shelter of a spiritual master; krsna-diksadi-siksanam, taking initiation and instruction from him; visrambhena guroh seva, serving him with respect; and sad-dharma-prccha, inquiring about one’s eternal duties. And at the end of the list he discusses certain items that he has not included but which one might think could or should have been included. One such item is the cultivation of vairagya (detachment), and Rupa Gosvami explains why he has not included it. He says that bhakti by nature makes the heart soft. The primary activities of bhakti, hearing and chanting about Krishna and remembering Him, make the heart soft, whereas the cultivation of speculative knowledge and performance of artificial austerities tend to make the heart hard—the exact opposite of bhakti.

The question then arises, “If we do not cultivate detachment from material things, are we meant to be attached to them?” The answer, of course, is no. Shastra says that a person absorbed in material enjoyment is far from being absorbed in Krishna. Then how do we resolve this dilemma—that we do not want to be attached to material things yet do not want to cultivate detachment from them? In reply, Rupa Gosvami says that a taste for devotional service itself will destroy one’s material attachments, without the hardness of heart caused by the practice of vairagya. And in this important verse he explains what kind of vairagya is suitable for bhakti: Continue reading »