Giriraj Swami

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 »

Aug 302020
 

Today we have gathered for the most auspicious celebration of the appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was one of the most prominent acharyas in the disciplic succession after Lord Chaitanya, and his contribution to Gaudiya Vaishnavism and to the world is so great that one devotee called him the Seventh Gosvami. Much of the present Krishna consciousness movement founded by Srila Prabhupada is being conducted under the guidance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and today I will focus on some of the areas in which the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is continuing his work and mission.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was born in an aristocratic, devotional family, but throughout his life he was afflicted by various illnesses. So we shouldn’t think that he had an easy life or that everything just came to him; the tremendous contribution he made was in the face of physically trying conditions. Of course, in a way it did all come naturally, but he really had to face many obstacles, even in terms of his physical health. In this year’s Vyasa-puja book His Grace Kalakantha dasa wrote an offering in which he listed different trials that Srila Prabhupada had faced, and he suggested that Prabhupada had actually suffered. It wasn’t just an appearance of difficulties; he actually suffered. But in spite of the difficulties, he continued. And that is a lesson for all of us. We shouldn’t expect that things will always come easily or go smoothly, and in spite of the difficulties and miseries we should persevere in our efforts in Krishna consciousness.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was appointed to a government position—assistant magistrate—that was practically the highest position that any Indian held during the British rule. The British had the idea to inculcate in the Indians the idea that Indian culture was inferior to the British or Western or Christian culture. So in general they kept the Indians down, but Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was so qualified and so popular that they were obliged to appoint him to a high position.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a grihastha with ten children. But even with all his heavy responsibilities in his government service and as a family man, he still did so much direct service to the cause of Krishna consciousness. He utilized his time expertly. After coming home from work, he would have a light meal and take rest at about eight o’clock, and then he would get up at midnight and write books. He wrote over one hundred books and songs. He made so many contributions. From this we can learn how we can also engage in direct service to the cause of Krishna consciousness even with our many responsibilities of family and work, by efficiently and enthusiastically using our time—every moment possible—for devotional service.

As a magistrate, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was very efficient and would dispose of many cases in short order. Judges are also judged—by how many cases they dispose of and how many of their cases are appealed and how many of their cases are overturned. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had the most outstanding record of any judge or magistrate. He disposed of so many cases so quickly, and people were satisfied with his judgments, and so his decisions were not appealed or overturned.

One famous case involved a yogi who falsely claimed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, or Krishna. He would have an imitation rasa-lila every night, and foolish people were sending their wives and daughters to dance with him. But some more intelligent or sober persons complained to the British government, and the administration, knowing Kedarnath Datta, as Bhaktivinoda Thakura was known then, to be a religious man and also the deputy magistrate, assigned the case to him.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in plain dress and accompanied by some police constables, went to the village where the yogi was engaging in his nefarious activities. “You are a great yogi,” he told the man. “Why are you in this remote rural area? Why don’t you go to Jagannatha Puri and see Lord Jagannatha and be happy?” Upon hearing these words, the yogi’s offensive mentality came out and he said, “Oh, Jagannatha? That is just wood. I myself am the Supreme Lord, Vishnu!”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura could conclude beyond any doubt that the yogi was a pretender, and so he had him arrested and brought to trial. Srila Prabhupada remarked, not specifically in relation to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura but in a more general sense, that the government should oversee the activities of sadhus and people who take the position of guru—that the government should license them. Just like nowadays you can’t just call yourself a doctor and begin to practice medicine; you have to take a course of study and be licensed to practice. If you are going to entrust your body, your medical care, to a doctor, you want to go to a doctor who is licensed. And the body is not as important as the soul. So Srila Prabhupada said that if people entrust their whole lives, their spiritual lives, to some spiritual teacher, the teacher should be tested according to certain standards, which are given in scripture. And if he doesn’t meet the qualifications, he should be declared disqualified. Continue reading »

Aug 292020
 

We shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Eight, Chapter Twenty-two: “Bali Maharaja Surrenders His Life.” We begin with the chapter summary:

“The summary of this twenty-second chapter is as follows. The Supreme Personality of Godhead was pleased by the behavior of Bali Maharaja. Thus the Lord placed him on the planet Sutala, and there, after bestowing benedictions upon him, the Lord agreed to become his doorman.

“Bali Maharaja was extremely truthful. Being unable to keep his promise, he was very much afraid, for he knew that one who has deviated from truthfulness is insignificant in the eyes of society. An exalted person can suffer the consequences of hellish life, but he is very much afraid of being defamed for deviation from the truth. Bali Maharaja agreed with great pleasure to accept the punishment awarded him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bali Maharaja’s dynasty there were many asuras who because of their enmity toward Visnu had achieved a destination more exalted than that of many mystic yogis. Bali Maharaja specifically remembered the determination of Prahlada Maharaja in devotional service. Considering all these points, he decided to give his head in charity as the place for Visnu’s third step. Bali Maharaja also considered how great personalities give up their family relationships and material possessions to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Indeed, they sometimes even sacrifice their lives for the satisfaction of the Lord, just to become His personal servants. Accordingly, by following in the footsteps of previous acaryas and devotees, Bali Maharaja perceived himself successful.

“While Bali Maharaja, having been arrested by the ropes of Varuna, was offering prayers to the Lord, his grandfather Prahlada Maharaja appeared there and described how the Supreme Personality of Godhead had delivered Bali Maharaja by taking his possessions in a tricky way. While Prahlada Maharaja was present, Lord Brahma and Bali’s wife, Vindhyavali, described the supremacy of the Supreme Lord. Since Bali Maharaja had given everything to the Lord, they prayed for his release. The Lord then described how a nondevotee’s possession of wealth is a danger whereas a devotee’s opulence is a benediction from the Lord. Then, being pleased with Bali Maharaja, the Supreme Lord offered His disc to protect Bali Maharaja and promised to remain with him.”

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The Lord appears in various incarnations to favor the devotees. Bali Maharaja was also a devotee, and although he was born in a family of demons, Vamanadeva still appeared to favor him, as well as to favor the demigods, who were also devotees.

The Lord reciprocates with the particular mentality of each individual devotee. Bali Maharaja was inclined to give charity. In fact, he had achieved his opulence by the favor of the brahmans to whom he had given so much in charity. Therefore Lord Vishnu, in order to take service from Bali Maharaja, assumed the form of a brahman and begged some charity from him. And because Bali Maharaja was so inclined to give charity to brahmans, he agreed to give Vamanadeva whatever He asked. Vamana replied by saying, “I would like three steps of land.” Bali Maharaja was surprised. He said, “I thought you were more intelligent. You could ask for a whole planet. Why do you ask only for three steps of land?” And Vamana replied, “If I cannot be satisfied by three steps of land, I will not be satisfied even by a whole planet.” Srila Prabhupada enunciated the same principle for devotees, especially for brahmacharis: “All you need is a little service, a little prasada, and a little place to lie down at night”—three steps of land and a little prasada and service. Vamanadeva Himself played the role of a brahmachari, so He set the example. Continue reading »

Aug 242020
 

We have gathered on this most auspicious occasion, the sacred day of Sri Radhastami. The Vedic literatures describe that Krishna is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord, and the origin of all that be:

isvarah paramah krsnah
   sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah
   sarva-karana-karanam

 “Krsna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all, although He Himself has no origin. And He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Bs 5.1)

The Brahma-samhita further explains that Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead and that He expands Himself into various plenary portions and portions of plenary portions. Still, Krishna is the supreme, original Personality of Godhead, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam: krsnas tu bhagavan svayam. (SB 1.3.28)

The Brahma-samhita gives the example that if you have one candle, from that candle you can light a second candle, from the second candle you can light a third candle, and from the third candle you can light a fourth candle. All may have the same candlepower, yet one of them is still the original candle. In the same way, Krishna expands Himself into so many incarnations who all have the full powers of Godhead. Still, Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead, and His first expansion is Balarama.

Just as Krishna expands on the side of the all-powerful Personalities of Godhead, He also expands on the side of the power of the all-powerful Personality of Godhead. The direct expansions of the all-powerful are called visnu-tattva, and the expansions of the energy of the Lord are called sakti-tattva. The first expansion on the side of the energy is Srimati Radharani. From Srimati Radharani all of the gopis are expanded, all of the queens in Dvaraka are expanded, and all of the consorts of the Lord in various incarnations are expanded. Thus, Sita of Sita-Rama is expanded from Srimati Radharani, and Laxmi of Laxmi-Narayana is also expanded from Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radharani is the origin of all of the expansions of Krishna’s energy. She also has an indirect expansion called the material energy. Srimati Radharani is the personification of the spiritual energy, and Durga is the personification of the material energy. Thus, Durga is an indirect expansion of Srimati Radharani.

We also are expansions of Krishna, the marginal potency of Krishna. Krishna has three energies: the spiritual energy, the material energy, and the marginal energy. We, the living entities, are called the marginal energy because we can come under the influence of either the spiritual energy, personified as Srimati Radharani, or the material energy, personified as Durgadevi. Srila Prabhupada has compared the marginal position to the seaside. Sometimes, when the tide is low, the area is part of the land, and sometimes, when the tide is high, the same area is submerged under the water and becomes part of the ocean. Similarly, we can be part of either the spiritual world, under Srimati Radharani’s protection, or the material world, in Durga’s custody.

We can see the image of Srimati Radharani, standing with Her right hand raised in benediction to bless the devotees. Or we can see the image of Durga, who has ten hands with ten weapons to punish the miscreants. Unfortunately, to some degree all of us are miscreants. And so we are bound to the prison house of the material world. And Durgadevi is the warden of the prison. She punishes the conditioned souls with the different weapons in her various hands. Especially, Durgadevi is known for her trident, or trisul. The three prongs of the trident represent the threefold miseries of material existence: the miseries we suffer because of other living entities, the miseries we suffer because of acts of nature, and the miseries we suffer from our own minds and bodies. Thus the goal of life is to transfer ourselves from the control of the external, material energy, to the control of the spiritual energy, or Srimati Radharani.

One verse from the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita gives us a practical idea of how, in our own positions, we can take shelter of Srimati Radharani and come under Her protection: Continue reading »

On Sending the Juhu Book for Printing

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Aug 162020
 

Today we sent the book I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story to the BBT for printing. And coincidentally, a devotee shared with me a beautiful three-minute video of His Holiness Radhanath Swami speaking about Srila Prabhupada’s struggle in Juhu and my book about it. He said, “One of the most important books about Srila Prabhupada. It’s about Srila Prabhupada and his lila of years of heartbreak and struggle in Juhu, Bombay. No one could write this book like His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja . . . he was there from the beginning to the culmination.”

You can hear His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaja’s inspiring talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmHpahWsn3Y&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR2kuA0WEjbLy00xFsSfZFCqrBzIkFn0N8miVqn4IFbfErjCFAH1B_dtkjI

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Srila Prabhupada and Lord Nityananda’s Mercy: Vyasa-puja Offering to Srila Prabhupada

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Aug 122020
 

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace, the embodiment of unlimited mercy.

Knowledgeable devotees agree that you were a saktyavesa-avatara, an empowered incarnation, and you have indicated as much yourself. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 2.13–14) states, “To deliver people in regions throughout the universe who could not meet Him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally entered the bodies of pure devotees. Thus He empowered living beings [His pure devotees] by manifesting in them so much of His own devotion that people in all other countries became devotees by seeing them.”

And in your purport you explain, “As stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11):

kali-kalera dharma—krsna-nama-sankirtana
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana

Unless one is empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one cannot spread the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra throughout the world. Persons who do so are empowered. Therefore they are sometimes called avesa-avataras, or empowered incarnations, for they are endowed with the power of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”

Your learned godbrother Sripada B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja also accepted that you were a saktyavesa-avatara, and he opined specifically by whose shakti you were empowered—Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s.

Lord Nityananda is renowned for delivering Jagai and Madhai. As described briefly in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 17.17), abe nistarila prabhu jagai-madhai: “Then the Lord delivered the two brothers Jagai and Madhai.” In your purport, you write, “Jagai and Madhai were two brothers born in Navadvipa in a respectable brahmana family who later became addicted to all kinds of sinful activities. By the order of Lord Caitanya, both Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura used to preach the cult of Krsna consciousness door to door. In the course of such preaching they found Jagai and Madhai, two maddened drunken brothers, who, upon seeing them, began to chase them. The next day, Madhai struck Nityananda Prabhu on the head with a piece of earthen pot, thus drawing blood. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard of this, He immediately came to the spot, ready to punish both brothers, but when the all-merciful Lord Gauranga saw Jagai’s repentant behavior, He immediately embraced him. By seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face and embracing Him, both the sinful brothers were at once cleansed. Thus they received initiation into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra from the Lord and were delivered.”

But as you wrote about yourself in your purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 16.55:

“If one is true to Gaura-Nitai’s service in the disciplic succession, he can even exceed Nityananda Prabhu’s service. This is the process of disciplic succession. Nityananda Prabhu delivered Jagai and Madhai, but a servant of Nityananda Prabhu, by His grace, can deliver many thousands of Jagais and Madhais. That is the special benediction of the disciplic succession. One who is situated in the disciplic succession can be understood by the result of his activities.”

Srila Prabhupada, you took up the same mood of approaching anyone and everyone—pious or sinful, qualified or unqualified—without discrimination. As Nityananda Prabhu said, in Kali-yuga practically everyone will be like Jagai and Madhai. That may be more apparent in America and Europe than in India—though I did hear a talk in which you were discussing how demonic Western civilization is and how the leaders, and pretty much everyone, are demons, but then added, “Actually in my country also, 80 percent are demons.” But still, what you encountered in 1965 when you came to America was something that people now, especially people in India, can’t even imagine.

Krsna Candra Prabhu (Hrishikesh Mafatlal), from Mumbai, used to say that people cannot imagine who you approached when you came to America. He recommended that everyone see the early DVDs of you, first at 26 Second Avenue in New York, then at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Most of us can’t believe, can’t imagine, the type of people you were approaching. And they didn’t always receive you or treat you well.

I hope all your followers have read Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta; everyone should read it as well as see the DVD series Following Srila Prabhupada. There was one incident when you were living in New York, in a loft in the Bowery, which was the most degraded part of the city, its skid row, inhabited mostly by drunks. But even they had a little respect. They would be sprawled out on the sidewalk and on the stairs leading up to your apartment, but somehow they sensed that you were a saintly person and would try to move over and make room for you to pass.

You were staying with a young man who seemed interested. In fact, you thought, “I’ll train him as a Vaishnava.” But one day the young man went crazy, probably from taking LSD—the 1960s’ equivalent of the strong wine that Jagai and Madhai were drinking five hundred years ago. He went crazy and wanted to attack you. And he was ready to kill you, just as Madhai was ready to kill Nityananda Prabhu. You bolted out of the room and ran down the stairs like Lord Nityananda being chased by Jagai and Madhai.

It is quite a history—what you endured for the sake of delivering the mercy of Gaura-Nitai is inconceivable. On the boat to America you suffered two heart attacks, and even in America you had a lot of physical problems. But you endured everything—all these attacks of maya—for the sake of delivering Gaura-Nitai’s mercy to us. And what Nityananda Prabhu wanted in India you have fulfilled outside India. What Nityananda Prabhu wanted was fulfilled in Bengal, but through you it’s been fulfilled throughout the world. So you really are the embodiment of the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. There’s no one else in the history of our sampradaya, no one after Nityananda Prabhu, who has taken up that mood of approaching anyone and everyone without discrimination, without considering who is qualified and who is not.

And you delivered the same message: chant Krishna’s name, worship Krishna, follow Krishna’s instructions—but not in so many words, because the people you were approaching didn’t even know who Krishna was. When Nityananda approached people in Navadvipa and told them, “Chant Krishna’s name, worship Krishna, follow Krishna’s instructions,” they knew who Krishna was and they knew what He was saying, but in America and Europe nobody knew who Krishna was. So “Just chant Krishna’s name, worship Krishna” had to be explained in detail in books, and thus you wrote so many books to explain who is Krishna, what is Krishna’s name, what are Krishna’s instructions, how to chant Krishna’s name, how to worship Krishna, why we should surrender to Krishna and follow Krishna’s instructions—the same message that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked Nityananda Prabhu to deliver to everyone, but in an expanded form, because the people you were approaching had no idea of Krishna’s identity or instructions.

When we go out with your books, it is like when Mahaprabhu sent Nityananda and Haridasa to approach people with that message. Sometimes devotees are not well received, but even Nityananda and Haridasa were not always well received. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would have nocturnal kirtans in Srivasa Thakura’s house, and if anyone was proud they were not allowed to enter. Only humble, pure devotees were allowed. So all these proud people in Navadvipa were upset and angry that they weren’t allowed to join the kirtan, and when Nityananda and Haridasa came to their homes, they were angry with them—“Oh, you’ve come from that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srivasa Thakura”—and the people spread so many rumors about them: “They are thieves. They come to your door and say to chant Krishna’s name and worship Krishna, but really what they’re doing is looking in your house to see what you have so that they can come back at night and steal it.” The people spread a lot of false propaganda. So we have to accept that, expect it and accept it, without being deterred. It didn’t stop Nityananda Prabhu, and it didn’t stop you, and it shouldn’t stop any of us.

So, your movement is the continuation of Nityananda Prabhu’s mission, and you really had that mood. When one of your early disciples came to India and the Calcutta temple president phoned you in Bombay to tell you that the devotee was smoking ganja, marijuana, and asked what to do, you told your secretary, Tamal Krishna Goswami, to relay your response: “Tell him that if he doesn’t stop smoking ganja I will reject him.” Afterwards, Tamal Krishna Goswami asked you, “Is it true that if he doesn’t stop smoking ganja you will reject him?” And you said, “No—I cannot reject anyone.” Tamal Krishna Goswami asked, “But don’t you have to draw the line somewhere?” And you replied, “The mercy of Lord Nityananda has no limit.” So, that was your mood; you were in the mood of Nityananda Prabhu.

We are the recipients of Gaura-Nitai’s mercy through you. By your mercy, we are chanting Krishna’s name and worshipping Krishna, accepting Krishna as the goal of our lives. And it is also by your mercy and order that we preach the same message to others. We can speak to our capacity, and we can give people your books, which convey the same message of Mahaprabhu. We just elaborate on it and present it in a way that people without any background in Vedic knowledge can understand.

So, on this most sacred and blessed occasion, we can pray to you and Nityananda Prabhu to inspire and empower us with this mood of humble persuasion. When Nitai approached people, after giving them instruction He would say, “If you accept this instruction, I will consider you more dear to Me than My own life.” And if someone did not accept the sacred instruction, He would prostrate Himself at their feet and beg them to take it. He is Lord Balarama, the first of all of Krishna’s expansions; He is the origin of Maha-sankarsana, who is in turn the origin of Maha-vishnu, Karanodakasayi Vishnu, by whose breathing countless universes are generated from the pores of His body. And then a portion of that Maha-vishnu is Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, and He enters into every universe and gives birth to Brahma and engineers the creation of every universe. And Ksirodakasayi Vishnu is the Supersoul in everyone’s heart. Nityananda is that original Supreme Person, and He is rolling in the dust at people’s feet and begging them, “Just chant Hare Krishna.”

I saw that mood in you. You often tutored us in it, but I saw it personally. When we first went to Bombay, there was a program on the terrace of the house where we were staying—Seksaria Bhavan, on Marine Drive. It was very nice, very glamorous, near the sea, and our host, Kailash Seksaria, had invited all the elite, affluent aristocratic people he knew in Bombay. And you, with the same humility as Nityananda Prabhu, implored them, “I am taking the straw in my mouth and begging you, please chant Hare Krishna”—just like Nityananda Prabhu.

You often quoted a verse by Prabodhananda Sarasvati about how we should approach people the way Nityananda Prabhu approached people. The verse is, dante nidhaya trnakam padayor nipatya: “I take a straw in my mouth . . .” (it is a sign of utter humility) “and I bow at your feet.” Krtva ca kaku-satam etad aham bravimi. “And I flatter you a hundred times.” He sadhavah: “O great learned sadhu.” Sakalam eva vihaya durad: “Whatever you have learned, you keep it far away from you.” And gauranga-candra-carane kurutanuragam: “Just accept the mercy of Lord Gauranga, just surrender to Lord Gauranga, become attached to Lord Gauranga’s lotus feet.” And you did it yourself.

In that humble mood, Nityananda was begging for people to take the holy name—falling at their feet, rolling in the dust, and begging them. And that, in essence, is what you did with us. None of us would be here today if you hadn’t done what you did.

In Bombay, an Indian gentleman came to you, pleading, “Please save me; please save me. Only you can save me. Please save me.” And you replied, “I cannot save you; you have to save yourself. But I can give you the process by which you can save yourself.”

So, Srila Prabhupada, you have given us the process by which we can, with your mercy, save ourselves, and on this auspicious occasion we resolve to follow the process in greater earnestness.

In one brief statement you encapsulated our entire procedure: “To approach Radha and Krishna, you need the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. To get the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, you need the mercy of Lord Nityananda. And to get the mercy of Lord Nityananda, you have to approach people like Jagai and Madhai.” So, if we ever feel, “Oh, I’m too high, I’m too holy, I can’t approach these people,” we should think of that instruction and your own example and Nityananda Prabhu’s example and really pray, beg, to be humble instruments of your love and mercy and compassion. And as your guru maharaja told you, that will be good for us and good for the people who hear us.

In a talk in Bombay you said, “Our Krishna consciousness movement is trying to make fools and rascals and sinful men wise. And actually it is happening. Papi tapi yata chila, hariname uddharila, tara saksi jagai madhai. You want evidence? Look at Jagai and Madhai. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu delivered two sinful brothers named Jagai and Madhai. Now you can see how strong is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement. Many thousands of Jagais and Madhais are being delivered. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement is greater than Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally delivered Jagai and Madhai, but now, by His movement, thousands of Jagais and Madhais are being delivered. This is the practical evidence. If you take advantage of it, you will be glorified, and we shall be glorified. This is our process.”

Srila Prabhupada, despite your merciful association and instructions, I am still possessed of some qualities of Jagai and Madhai. So, on this auspicious occasion, please purify me and reform me.

sri-guru karuna-sindhu, adhama janara bandhu,
lokanath lokera jivana
ha ha prabhu koro doya, deho more pada-chaya
ebe yasa ghusuk tribhuvana

 “O spiritual master, O ocean of mercy and friend of the fallen! O universal teacher and life of all people! Alas, alas, O master, please be merciful unto us and give us the shade of your lotus feet. May your glories now be proclaimed throughout the three worlds.”

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring, eternal, hopeful servant,
Giriraj Swami