Damodar das

Srila Prabhupada in Calcutta and Madras, June 6, Houston

 Lectures  Comments Off on Srila Prabhupada in Calcutta and Madras, June 6, Houston
Jun 152023

Srila Prabhupada wrote me in Madras, “The fact is that I am the only one in India who is criticizing not only impersonalism and demigod worship but anything that falls short of complete surrender to Krishna. My Guru Maharaja never compromised in his preaching, I will never compromise in my preaching, and similarly, none of my disciples should ever compromise in their preaching. You must declare it boldly that people should not dream of world peace unless they are prepared to surrender to Krishna as the Supreme Godhead.”

Memories of His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja

 Lectures  Comments Off on Memories of His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja
Mar 142023

Srivasa Thakura, one of the members of the Panca-tattva, lived in Navadvipa-dhama in Mayapur, near the residence of Jagannatha Misra and Sacidevi, where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared. Later, when Lord Chaitanya began His sankirtana movement in Navadvipa-dhama, He and His other most confidential associates would meet at Srivasa-angana, the home of Srivasa Thakura, and have kirtan throughout the night. The kirtans at Srivasa-angana were ecstatic, and only the most intimate devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were allowed to enter. In fact, the nocturnal kirtans at Srivasa-angana in gaura-lila are compared to the rasa dance in krsna-lila.

In his identity in krsna-lila, Srivasa Pandita is Narada Muni, the great preacher who travels throughout the universe chanting the holy names of Krishna and enlightening the fallen souls in Krishna consciousness. So it is most auspicious that His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja left on Srivasa Thakura’s appearance day—that most auspicious day—in Sri Mayapur-dhama—that most auspicious place.

We now have a special opportunity and responsibility to honor and glorify His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja.

My own association with Sridhar Swami goes back to Bombay, over thirty years ago. Srila Prabhupada had requested disciples from America to come to India to help him there, and in particular with his three main projects—Bombay, Mayapur, and Vrindavan. From 1972, Sridhar Swami served Srila Prabhupada in India, mainly in Bombay.

When we got permission from the municipality to build on Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Bombay, Srila Prabhupada wanted Sridhar Maharaja to take charge of the construction materials. Sridhar Maharaja had a hefty build, like a football player, so Srila Prabhupada thought he would be appropriate to keep track of the construction material and make sure none of it was stolen. But Sridhar Maharaja (he wasn’t a sannyasi then, so Sridhar das Brahmachari) said that he didn’t want to look after the construction material; he wanted to preach. I was the temple president in Bombay, so I was going back and forth between him and Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada again said that Sridhar Maharaja should look after the construction materials, so I went back to deliver the message to him, but Sridhar Maharaja insisted, “I want to preach!”

Maharaja had never really preached much in India before then, and we didn’t know how well he could preach to the aristocratic Indian gentlemen we were mainly approaching at that time. But he was so sincere in his desire that he became one of the best preachers in India, one of the best in the world. This story illustrates Maharaja’s sincere desire to preach, and his strong determination to serve Srila Prabhupada and the mission even in ways that he may not have found easy. Continue reading »

Letter to His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja

 Lectures  Comments Off on Letter to His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja
Mar 092023

My dear Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. And all glories to your wonderful service to him.

Srila Prabhupada said that when a Vaishnava departs, we feel simultaneously happy and sad. We feel happy because we know that the Vaishnava has gone to serve Krishna, but we feel sad because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association. In your case, I am also happy that you no longer have to suffer in your disease-ridden body.

You were a most worthy, beloved disciple of His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami Maharaja, who was very reserved about and selective in accepting disciples.

As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote,

He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around!

You were a man of character and integrity. You were strong and kept your word.

And you were like a loving father in taking care of your disciple children.

I was blessed to have your association in India, Africa, and America. In India we served together in Vrindavan, in Africa we served together in South Africa, and in America we met at the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in Utah, where we had heart-to-heart talks and relished kirtan together.

You also preached in Mauritius, where I have been deeply involved. And in South Africa you specifically encouraged the black preaching, practically more than any other ISKCON leader. I am grateful to you for the support you gave to my disciple Mahaprabhu dasa in Soweto—and to so many other initiatives in relation to black preaching.

In a letter in 2021, you wrote to the devotees in South Africa, “All my prayers are with you. I have been so closely connected with you for so many years. To see that you are now in such a difficult situation is very sad. May Krishna watch over all of you.

“I left South Africa approximately one year ago, after having spent the Covid lockdown in Durban. I haven’t been away from you all for such a long time in twenty-six years. I hope that soon things will return to a relative normal.

“The material world is never meant to be our real home; the material energy will bring happiness and distress. Srila Prabhupada instructed us to make the best use of a bad bargain. Under these grim circumstances, may you find shelter in Krishna consciousness. May you find shelter in Srila Prabhupada’s books and in chanting the holy name. . . .

“I hope that soon the nightmare of all the terrible things that have happened in the last one and half year may come to an end and that we may be reunited again and chant together in kirtan and discuss matters related to Krishna and enjoy happiness in Krishna consciousness.”

During this last year in Vrindavan, I frequently visited you in your apartment, and I was struck by your elevated Krishna consciousness. We discussed many topics, including your writing projects, which would be so valuable to generations of ISKCON devotees. I was impressed by how you encouraged and engaged your disciples who came to visit you from different parts of the world—your instructions to them were brilliant and compassionate.

Considering your illness, I always thought that I should visit you at your place, but one day, you, considering my seniority, came to mine and joined me and other devotees for japa in my temple room before you and I went upstairs and spoke.

You had so much faith in and taste for chanting the holy name, both japa and kirtan. I relished chanting japa with you and singing in kirtan with you, and your kirtans at the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in Utah were most memorable.

You published a book called Kirtaniyah Sada Hari: To always chant the holy name of Krsna, which you called “a collection of short meditations on the holy name”—a compilation of excerpts from your talks along with your reflections on the holy names. You wrote, “I’ve boarded the train. I’ve got my seat, and now let the journey begin. Like that, let me get ready to chant my rounds and get into a regular rhythm just like the train—name after name in an unbroken chain with Goloka as my destination.”

You also encouraged book distribution. You wrote, “Prabhupada was reading the Krsna book and said to Srutakirti, ‘This is such a wonderful book. Anyone who reads this book will become a pure devotee! Anyone who reads one chapter of this book can become a pure devotee. Anyone who reads one page of this book can become a pure devotee. Not only that, anyone who reads one sentence can become a pure devotee.’ And then Prabhupada said, “Anyone who reads one word can become a pure devotee.’

“I met Srutakirti in Vrindavan, and we were talking about this pastime. Srutakirti said, ‘Yes, Prabhupada said it to me several times about different books—about the Krsna book, about Nectar of Devotion and other books.” Srutakirti then said, ‘Obviously, Prabhupada knew that I wasn’t reading.’

“Anyway, these books are very potent, and anyone who gets such a book is greatly benefitted. But the person who distributes the book is even more benefitted, because that person is undertaking austerity for the welfare of others and is finally learning how to stop manipulating things for their own advantage and is making a sacrifice to give out the mercy.

“In some parts of our movement, book distribution is a little out of fashion. There are many other ways to reach out to people. Times have changed, and there are other interesting strategic ways to reach people and all are good. But book distribution is like a cold shower, whereas some of these other preaching tactics are nice, warm showers. Cold showers get the blood circulation really going. We can consider that there is a special purification when doing book distribution. It is this spirit of giving the mercy to others that should be our focus.”

And you were grateful. You wrote, “Dear Vaishnavas . . . I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your kindness, prayers, and good wishes in this trying time. It has been about a month since I was diagnosed with a tumor . . . I feel greatly . . . more close to my heart following a natural path and investing in my own Krishna consciousness and sharing it through writing. . . . You are all wonderful people. I am living by your prayers and kindness.”

Dear Maharaja, how I miss you now! There was never anyone like you, and there never will be.

I pray that you will put in a word with Srila Prabhupada and his lords to bring me to you all—after I have done what they want me to do here in this world—and we will all be reunited again in service to Srila Prabhupada, the holy names, and the Vaishnavas.

Maharaja, I love you.

Your eternal, grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami

Sri Jagannatha Mishra’s Festival

 Lectures  Comments Off on Sri Jagannatha Mishra’s Festival
Mar 072023

Today we continue our celebration of the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna who descended in the age of Kali in the role of a devotee. He appeared on what we now call Gaura-purnima, in the evening of the full-moon day in the month of Phalguna. At the time, there was a lunar eclipse, and as was the tradition, as was recommended in scripture, Hindus immersed themselves in the Ganges and chanted the holy names. Eclipses are considered inauspicious, and to counteract the inauspiciousness, strict followers of the Vedic scriptures stand in a sacred body of water—a river, a kunda or lake, or the sea—and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. So, from the very beginning, Lord Chaitanya was surrounded by the chanting of Hare Krishna, and He induced people to chant Hare Krishna more and more.

Advaita Acharya and Haridasa Thakura danced in ecstasy. And on the plea of giving charity to brahmans on the occasion of the eclipse, Advaita Acharya and others distributed various gifts. All the devotees were jubilant, and they danced, performed sankirtana, and gave charity. The whole world was full of auspiciousness, and everyone was filled with transcendental bliss.

nadiya-udayagiri, purnacandra gaurahari,
   krpa kari’ ha-ila udaya
papa-tamah haila nasa, tri-jagatera ullasa,
   jagabhari’ hari-dhvani haya

“Thus by His causeless mercy the full moon, Gaurahari, rose in the district of Nadia, which is compared to Udayagiri, where the sun first becomes visible. His rising in the sky dissipated the darkness of sinful life, and thus the three worlds became joyful and chanted the holy name of the Lord.” (Cc Adi 13.98)

When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a baby, sometimes He would cry and the elders would try to pacify Him in different ways, as people do when a baby cries. They would try to comfort Him, distract Him, and please Him, but nothing worked. Soon they discovered that if they chanted the holy name of Krishna, He would become peaceful and stop crying. So thereafter, whenever He cried, they would chant, and He would immediately become happy. His appearance inspired chanting, and His activities thereafter inspired more chanting.

sei-kale nijalaya, uthiya advaita raya,
  nrtya kare anandita-mane
haridase lana sange, hunkara-kirtana-range
  kene nace, keha nahi jane

“At that time Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu, in His own house at Santipura, was dancing in a pleasing mood. Taking Haridasa Thakura with Him, He danced and loudly chanted Hare Krsna. But why they were dancing, no one could understand.” (Cc Adi 13.99)

By His divine will, Krishna arranged for His associates from Goloka Vrindavan to come to earth to join Him in His pastimes as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Some associates played the parts of elders, and they took birth before He did. Advaita Acharya and Haridasa Thakura were elders, and they were friends with each other. Advaita Acharya is Maha-vishnu, and Thakura Haridasa is Lord Brahma, and Lord Brahma is a disciple and direct servant of Maha-vishnu. So, it is natural that they became close.

When the news spread that Sacimata had given birth to a baby boy, all sorts of respectable brahman gentlemen and ladies came with gifts and blessed the newborn child. Even the wives of the demigods came, disguised as the wives of brahmans, and presented various gifts. The day after the purnima, there was a great celebration at Jagannatha Mishra’s home. That day is observed today as the festival of Jagannatha Mishra, or the feast of Jagannatha Mishra, because to celebrate the birth of his son he received many visitors and well-wishers and gave presentations to them all. And in the end they all feasted.

We shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Thirteen, “The Advent of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,” beginning with the chapter summary:

“The thirteenth chapter of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance. . . . Continue reading »