Sep 162020
 

Both the Gregorian and Vedic calendars comprise twelve months. But whereas the number of days in each month varies in the Gregorian calendar, the Vedic months are all of the same duration: about fourteen days from the new moon to the full moon and from the full moon to the new. The day of the new moon is known as amavasya, and the full-moon day is known as purnima. And just as the Gregorian calendar is periodically adjusted during years known as “leap” years, the Vedic calendar is also adjusted, every three years. But whereas the Gregorian adjustment adds one day to the month of February, the Vedic adjustment adds one month, known as the adhika-masa, to the other twelve. Adhika means “extra,” and masa means “month.” The word adhika also means “greater,” and the adhika-masa, also known as purusottama-masa, the month of Purusottama (Vishnu, or Krishna), is considered to be the greatest of all months of the Vedic calendar.

As related in the Padma Purana, a very long time ago the great sage Narada Muni visited the incarnation of Godhead Narayana Rsi at His ashram in Badarika and humbly requested Him to explain something that would help both householders and renunciants attain the supreme abode of the Lord. Lord Narayana agreed and began to explain the glories of the month of Purusottama, which He said was “fully potent to grant not only all material happiness but also qualify one to return back to Godhead at the end of life.” Narada Muni had never heard about that particular month, and he was very eager to learn about it, including the duties one should perform.

Krsna, in the chapter entitled “Prayers by the Personified Vedas,” indicates that the Vedas, which emanated from the breathing of Maha-vishnu, serve Him in personified forms. The Supreme Lord is a person, and His emanations have personal forms too. The personified form of the earth is known as Bhumidevi, the Ganges personified is known as Gangadevi, and the personality of the sun is known as Suryadeva. Likewise, the Vedic months have personified forms.

So, Lord Narayana told Narada Muni that one day, by the arrangement of providence, an extra month appeared in this world. People, who are often afraid or at least suspicious of strangers, turned their backs on the extra month personified, thinking her to be inauspicious, dirty, and untouchable. Unhappy, she went to Vaikuntha to explain her situation to Lord Vishnu. Falling at His lotus feet, she appealed to Him. Crying and crying, she said that within the whole material manifestation, she alone was unprotected, without even a name. Lamenting, “I want to die! I want to die!” she fainted at the lotus feet of the Lord.

Lord Vishnu requested Garuda to fan the extra month, and when she regained consciousness He caught her by the hand and brought her straight to Goloka Vrindavan. She was still crying loudly, and Sri Krishna expressed His surprise that anyone would cry upon entering Goloka Vrindavan, the rarely attained supreme abode. After paying His obeisances to Lord Krishna, Vishnu explained the miserable condition of the extra month and begged Krishna to please protect her. Now, one might wonder why Lord Vishnu, who is also the Supreme Personality of Godhead, did not give her protection Himself. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28), we find that all of the incarnations of the Lord are either plenary portions or portions of plenary portions of Sri Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead. As such, Krishna’s expansions also take pleasure in His service and association. So, Lord Vishnu showed compassion and brought the extra month to Sri Krishna.

Lord Krishna praised Vishnu for bringing Him the extra month and said that because Vishnu had already accepted her, He would accept her too. Not only that, but He would also infuse her with all of His opulences, potencies, and divine qualities. “Named after Me,” Sri Krishna said, “this month will be famous in this world as the Purusottama masa, and I Myself will become her protector. Everyone should offer respect to her and worship her. She will be as qualified as I am to give any type of benediction to the worshipper. Just by worshipping her, one can burn all of one’s past sinful reactions to ashes, enjoy a blissful life in the material world, and at the end return back to Godhead. Those who perform austerities, observe vows of celibacy, engage in pious activities, or fast for their entire life cannot attain My Goloka. But simply by practicing devotional service during this sacred month of Purusottama, anyone can easily perfect his life.”

The Lord gave a specific list of activities to be performed during the month of Purusottama: chanting His holy name, especially the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare; singing bhajanas glorifying His activities; studying Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita (especially the fifteenth chapter, which deals with purusottama-yoga, “The Yoga of the Supreme Person”); giving in charity according to the directions given in the seventeenth chapter of the Gita; and offering ghee lamps daily. If possible, one should also bathe in a holy river at sunrise, offer tulasi leaves and flowers to the Deity, circumambulate the temple, and worship the tulasi plant. Also, one should try to rise early; eat simply; observe celibacy; minimize one’s bodily demands; and be careful not to blaspheme or offend anyone, especially devotees, brahmans, saintly persons, cows, and the scriptures.

Upon hearing Sri Narayana Rsi’s glorification of the Purusottama month, Narada Muni prostrated himself again and again at the lotus feet of the Lord, exclaiming, “Oh, this Purusottama month is the best of all months, the best of all kinds of vows and austerities. Even if one just hears her glories faithfully, one will achieve devotional service to the Supreme Lord Purusottama and all of one’s sinful reactions will be nullified. One who performs the Purusottama vrata [vow] and worships her properly will achieve unlimited merit and thus attain Goloka.” Picking up his vina, Narada Muni continued, “O Lord, now my heart and mind are completely satisfied. All glories unto You! All glories unto You! And all glories unto the sacred month of Purusottama!”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sep 152020
 

Today we celebrate the auspicious occasion of the 85th birthday of our dear Rose Forkash.

When Srila Prabhupada first arrived in America, it took some time—almost a year—before people began to take his message seriously. But gradually, after he moved to New York, some young men and women did join him. And after starting the first center, on Second Avenue, Srila Prabhupada sent some disciples to San Francisco. Soon thereafter, he went, too, and it was there that he inspired and celebrated the first Ratha-yatra in the Western world. Before leaving America to return to India, Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, “Whoever wants to please me”—of course, everyone wanted to please Srila Prabhupada—“should open a center.” So one young couple, Dayananda and his wife Nandarani, took up the call and went to Los Angeles and began the center there.

Eventually, some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples came to Santa Barbara, and one young person to get a copy of Back to Godhead was Linda Forkash. She brought the magazine home and read every page, and she told her mother, “Mom, this is it—this is what I have been looking for! This magazine is answering all of my questions about God.” Soon she decided to move into the Los Angeles temple in order to practice bhakti-yoga in the association of devotees, to realize her goal of developing love for God—Krishna consciousness.

Linda’s mother, Rose, being conscientious and loving as she is, soon followed her to Los Angeles—just to make sure everything was on the up-and-up. She got hold of Karandhara das, who was in charge of the activities there, and told him, “If I find out that there are any drugs going on here . . .” She did not know that the devotees did not take even tea and coffee and cigarettes; she just wanted to make sure that her daughter was in proper company.

In a room conversation in Bhubaneswar, January 20, 1977, Ramesvara told Srila Prabhupada, “We have one mother in Los Angeles of a girl named Lilashakti. She’s a big book distributor. And her mother, she loves this movement so much that when the deprogrammers start debating us, she stands up and yells at them that ‘My daughter was on drugs, hippie, before she came to this movement. This movement has saved her. If I had known about this movement when I was a young girl, I would have joined this movement!’ On television she’s speaking like that, very strongly: ‘You have no right to criticize! You don’t know anything about this movement.’ . . .  She says, ‘You just come over to my house for lunch and I’ll tell you all about this movement, how nice it is.’ She started this club, Parents for Krishna.” And Prabhupada replied, “Oh, she is very sincere. And her daughter, this Lilashakti. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s expert in everything.”

Now I would like to hear from some of the other devotees here, how they came in touch with Krishna consciousness and how they came to know Rose. I think of her as Aunt Rose. We have a saying in Chicago: “Everyone has an uncle (or aunt) in Skokie.” Rose actually lived in Skokie before she moved to Santa Barbara. So she definitely qualifies to be Aunt Rose—for many reasons. So, now I will call on Linda, or Lilashakti, to carry on the thread of the story. Continue reading »

Sep 152020
 

A talk by Giriraj Swami and Sri Prahlada dasa, September 28, 2002, Three Rivers, California.

To commemorate the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America, we shall sing and discuss the second poem that he wrote on the ship Jaladuta when he arrived in the Boston harbor on September 17, 1965.

Poem [translation]:

1:  My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me.

2:  But I guess You have some business here. Otherwise, why would You bring me to this terrible place?

3:  Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied, and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.

4:  But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible, because You are the most expert mystic.

5:  How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.

6:  All living entities have come under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if You like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion. I wish that You may deliver them.

7:  I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore, if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.

8:  The words of Srimad-Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives them with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.

9:  It is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17–21): ‘Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses the desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regularly hearing the Bhagavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact. At the time loving service is established in the heart, the modes of passion [rajas] and ignorance [tamas], and lust and desire [kama] disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness and he becomes happy. Thus established in the mode of goodness, the man rejuvenated by loving service to the Lord gains liberation from material association [mukti] and comes to know scientifically of the Personality of Godhead. Thus the knot in the heart and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions [karma] is terminated when one sees the self as master.”

10:  He will become liberated from the influence of the modes of ignorance and passion and thus all inauspicious things accumulated in the core of the heart will disappear.

11:  How will I make them understand the message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.

12:  Somehow or other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.

13:  O spiritual master of all the worlds! I can simply repeat Your message, so if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding.

14:  Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel engladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.

15:  O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance. O Lord, make me dance as You like.

16:  I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krishna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now if You like You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.

Signed—the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,
on board the ship Jaladuta,
Commonwealth Pier,
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
dated 18th of September, 1965

Sri Prahlada dasa:

I shall read from the introduction to the section in The Science of Self-Realization entitled “Srila Prabhupada Arrives in America:

“On September 17, 1965, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada arrived in Boston on board the ship Jaladuta, carrying within his heart the orders of his spiritual master to spread the teachings of Sri Chaitanya beyond the borders of India throughout the entire world. As he looked upon Boston’s bleak and dirty skyline, he could understand the difficulty of this sacred mission and felt great compassion for those godless people. Thus, with perfect humility, he composed this historic prayer in Bengali, praying for the deliverance of the fallen souls.”

Verse 1: “My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me.”

Here, Srila Prabhupada is expressing strong sentiments. First, Krishna is always kind to His devotee. Srila Prabhupada, in his humility, is calling himself a useless soul and asking Krishna, “You are so kind, but if You are so kind, why have You brought me to this place? Obviously, You have some plan.”

It is interesting how Srila Prabhupada sees his coming to America as Krishna’s bringing him, although he himself made so much endeavor to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master and come to the West, such as cultivating Sumati Morarji to get her to sponsor his journey. He had to convince her; it wasn’t easy. She was reluctant because of Srila Prabhupada’s age and the fact that he didn’t have any friends or relatives in America. So, he had to convince her, but still he is saying to Krishna, “I don’t know why You brought me here.” He is seeing that it was actually Krishna who made the arrangements and who brought him to the United States.

That is how the devotee sees any experience he has in life: he sees it as Krishna’s mercy. It is said that when Gaurakisora dasa Babaji would go about Navadvipa, if he saw a boy who was dark, he would think of him as Krishna, and if he saw a boy who was fair, he would think of him as Gaura. And if one of the boys would touch him, he would say, “Look, Yasoda Mayi, your Gopala has punched me!” or “Look, Saci Mata, your Gaura is making a face at me!” So, he was seeing Krishna everywhere. We might see rascal boys misbehaving and become angry at them and want to correct them, but Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja’s vision was completely transcendental.

The principle here is to see everything as Krishna’s arrangement. And we also have to try to develop that vision, to see Krishna’s plan in everything, to see Krishna’s arrangement in everything—that we have surrendered to Him and so He is taking care of us. Sometimes we may experience setbacks or disappointments, but actually Krishna has some reason for giving them to us. We should try to understand that, and if we do, we’ll never be disappointed in life. We’ll be always happy in Krishna’s mercy, even in adversity. Continue reading »

Sep 012020
 

Visvarupa-mahotsava is the date on which Lord Chaitanya’s older brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. And on the same date some four hundred and fifty years later, our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, also accepted sannyasa.

According to Vedic literatures, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, come in the present age in the role of a devotee. In the previous age, Lord Krishna came in His original feature and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the conclusion He instructed, sarva-dharman parityaja mam ekam saranam vraja: give up all other duties and surrender unto Me. But people could not understand or appreciate Lord Krishna’s instruction. So later, about five hundred years ago, Krishna came again, not in His original form but in His devotional form as Lord Chaitanya. And Lord Chaitanya taught us how to serve Krishna, how to worship God in the present age.

Lord Chaitanya taught various methods of worship, but He especially emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God, or Krishna. In particular, He quoted a verse from the Brhan-Naradiya Purana (38.126):

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krishna. In this age of Kali, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for spiritual realization.”

He acted like a teacher who shows students how to write the alphabet. The teacher stands in front of the class and writes on the board, “A, B, C, D.” The teacher has no need to practice writing, but he shows by his own example how to form the letters properly. In the same way, God, Krishna, had no need to worship, but to set the example for us, so that we could learn how to worship God in the best way in the present age, He came as Lord Chaitanya and taught and demonstrated the chanting of the holy names of Krishna.

When Lord Chaitanya appeared, the social and spiritual system called varnashrama-dharma was still prevalent in India. In this system there are four social and four spiritual divisions, all necessary for society to function properly. Although we may not refer to them by the same terms, and although the system has not been developed as systematically and scientifically as in Vedic culture, still, by the arrangement of nature, the divisions still exist. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” (Gita 4.13) So, the four social orders, or broad divisions of occupational duties, are created by Krishna.

The four divisions include, first, the intelligent class, who are teachers and priests, but mainly teachers. Then there is the martial, or administrative, class, who are rulers and warriors; they govern and protect the citizens. There is the vaishya, or productive class, who engage in agriculture—farming and cow protection—and, with any surplus, in trade. And there is the service class, or workers, who perform services to support the other three classes.

When a person hears the description of the different social orders and duties, he or she may be alerted to the possibilities for exploitation and domination of the “lower” classes by the “higher.” But in Vedic society the different members work cooperatively for the common good, ultimately for the pleasure of God. In the physical body there are natural divisions—the head, the arms, the stomach, the legs—and they all have different functions. But they all cooperate for the benefit of the whole. In the social body, the brahmans are compared to the head—they give guidance. The kshatriyas are compared to the arms—they protect the body. The vaishyas are compared to the stomach—they provide food for the body. And the sudras, or workers, are compared to the legs—they carry the rest of the body where it wants to go. There is no question of competition among the different parts of the body—or of exploitation. They all work for the good of the whole.

Continue reading »