Damodar das

Jun 092022

Ekadasi is one of the regular celebrations in the Vaishnava calendar. It is observed eleven days after the full moon and eleven days after the new moon of every month. Even in the thirteenth, or leap, month, called adhika-masa, or purusottama-masa, which comes every three years, during which no other festivals are celebrated, Ekadasi is observed. Ekadasi is known as the day of Lord Hari and is said to be the mother of devotion. Keeping the fast on Ekadasi is one of the sixty-four items of devotional service listed in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. In fact, it is one of the first ten.

The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, states, “In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadasi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Krsna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.”

Later in The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada cites the observance of Ekadasi as a stimulus (uddipana) for ecstatic love: “Some things which give impetus or stimulation to ecstatic love of Krsna are His transcendental qualities, His uncommon activities, His smiling features, His apparel and garlands, His flute, His buffalo horn, His leg bells, His conchshell, His footprints, His places of pastimes (such as Vrndavana), His favorite plant (tulasi), His devotee and the periodical occasions for remembering Him. One such occasion for remembrance is Ekadasi, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.”

The importance of the Ekadasi fast is also seen in the history of King Ambarisa and the sage Durvasa. Maharaja Ambarisa had observed the fast without even drinking water up until the appointed time to break the fast, called the Ekadasi-parana. Durvasa Muni was to have returned before the time of the parana, and because he was playing the part of a brahman and Ambarisa Maharaja the part of a kshatriya, proper etiquette dictated that Durvasa break the fast first. However, because Durvasa did not come in time, Ambarisa was in a dilemma. If he did not break the fast punctually, the whole observance would be spoiled. At the same time, if he did not wait for Durvasa, he would be guilty of an offense, because the etiquette demanded that he wait for the sage to break the fast first. King Ambarisa consulted his advisors, but none could resolve his problem. Finally, the king himself determined the solution: he would take water. Taking water would break the fast and at the same time not break it.

So, Ekadasi is an important observance. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally observed Ekadasi, and He ordered all of His followers to do the same. And of all the Ekadasis, Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi, Bhima Ekadasi, is the most special.

The story behind this special Ekadasi is recounted in the Brahma Vivarta Purana. Five thousand years ago, during the time of the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s elder brother Bhima admitted that he had great difficulty fasting. (In those days everyone would fast completely from all food and water.) So the Vedic authority Vyasadeva gave Bhima permission to observe the full fast (nirjala, “without water”) only once a year, in the early summer, and to derive the same benefit as if he had observed all the other twenty-three Ekadasis. Thus, devotees who are unable to properly observe Ekadasi during the year, or who by chance happen to miss an Ekadasi, can get the benefit of fully observing all the Ekadasis if they properly observe the Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi. Strictly observed, the fast begins before sunset the evening before Ekadasi and continues until the parana, about the time of sunrise, the morning after Ekadasi. Many devotees try to chant at least sixty-four rounds on Ekadasi, especially the Bhima Ekadasi.

Once, when we were with Srila Prabhupada in Amritsar, Yamuna-devi read to him from the newly published Nectar of Devotion: “One such occasion for remembrance is Ekadasi, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.” Then she asked, “Should we also observe Ekadasi like that?”

“No,” Prabhupada replied. “We have too much service to do for Krishna.”

Still, Srila Prabhupada said, “Ekadasi is most auspicious. And chanting is more effective.” And to a disciple who asked, “Should we chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “Why only twenty-five rounds? You should chant as many as possible.”

So, the basic observance of Ekadasi, as prescribed by Srila Prabhupada, is to refrain from eating grains and beans and to chant as many rounds as possible. Although most devotees in ISKCON do not perform nirjala on every Ekadasi, many do on Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi. They also try to chant at least sixty-four rounds. And by the mercy of Ekadasi, they make great spiritual advancement: they are blessed by spiritual strength and realization and so continue their service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission with renewed vigor—enthusiasm and inspiration.

Hare Krishna.


Jun 062022

I was on sankirtana at Botafogo Beach in Rio de Janeiro. At a bar table, there were three fat old men. One told me, “We don’t want to buy anything! I’m an Evangelical. He’s a spiritualist, and he’s a Pai-de-Santo [a priest of Umbanda, an African-Brazilian religion].”

I continued the conversation, trying to find my point, until I said, “But look, this is one of Srila Prabhupada’s books!”

The Pai-de-Santo exclaimed, “Let me see this book of Prabhupada. Prabhupada is an enlightened person!”

I was impressed.

The spiritualist agreed, “Yeah! Prabhupada is really good.”

The Pai-de-Santo continued, speaking to his companions, “If you knew a third of Prabhupada’s life, you would see what he went through—it’s a lot of surrender.”

And looking to me, he added, “I have a picture of Prabhupada this size [showing a space of about 50 cm, or 20 inches, with his hands] in the center of my church. Prabhupada is illuminated! He is an exalted saintly personality.”

So, he took the book. And I realized again that Srila Prabhupada is worshipped by every sincere pious person from every religion.

Jagat-guru Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Your servant,
Mahananda Murari Dasa

Jun 012022

My dear godbrother Kshudi Das Prabhu posted this:

I had a wonderful dream.

In the dream I saw my spiritual master, guide, and teacher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He was talking with some important people. When he saw me, he came over to me. He took hold of both my hands. He looked right into my eyes like he used to do and said, “Do not worry. I am here for you. I will provide all the support and inspiration you need, just as I always have.” He touched my head and said, “I will stay in your mind.” Then he touched my heart and said, “I will stay in your heart.” Last he said, “When you die, I will come to get you and take you back to the spiritual world to be with me and Krishna.”

Yes, I had the most wonderful, vivid dream.

Srila Vrindavan Dasa Thakura’s Appearance Day

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May 262022

Today is Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura’s appearance day. Sri Caitanya caritamrta (Adi 11.55) states, “Srila Vyasadeva described the pastimes of Krsna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Vyasa of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Vrndavana dasa.” In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates: “Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was an incarnation of Vedavyasa and also a friendly cowherd boy named Kusumapida in krsna-lila. In other words, the author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura, the son of Srivasa Thakura’s niece Narayani, was a combined incarnation of Vedavyasa and the cowherd boy Kusumapida.” Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was the last initiated disciple of Sri Nityananda Prabhu.

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 8.33–40, 42, 44) Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami glorifies Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura and his book Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (then called Sri Caitanya-mangala): “O fools, just read Sri Caitanya-mangala! By reading this book you can understand all the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thakura Vrndavana dasa has composed Sri Caitanya-mangala. Hearing this book annihilates all misfortune. By reading Sri Caitanya-mangala one can understand all the glories and truths of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and come to the ultimate conclusion of devotional service to Lord Krsna. In Sri Caitanya-mangala [later known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata] Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has given the conclusion and essence of devotional service by quoting the authoritative statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam. If even a great atheist hears Sri Caitanya-mangala, he immediately becomes a great devotee. The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrndavana dasa Thakura. No one else could write such a wonderful book for the deliverance of all fallen souls. What a wonderful description he has given of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya! Anyone in the three worlds who hears it is purified. Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has written Sri Caitanya-mangala and therein described in all respects the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.”

In his purport to text 45 Srila Prabhupada writes, “Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Sri Caitanya-bhagavata was originally entitled Sri Caitanya-mangala, but when Srila Locana dasa Thakura later wrote another book named Sri Caitanya-mangala, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura changed the name of his own book, which is now therefore known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata. The life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very elaborately described in the Caitanya-bhagavata, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has already informed us that in his Sri Caitanya-caritamrta he has described whatever Vrndavana dasa Thakura has not mentioned. This acceptance of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami indicates his acceptance of the disciplic succession. A writer of transcendental literature never tries to surpass the previous acaryas.”

And he writes in his purport to text 48, “The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura”—Srila Prabhupada explains, “The secret in a devotee’s writing is that when he writes about the pastimes of the Lord, the Lord helps him; he does not write himself. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te. Since a devotee writes in service to the Lord, the Lord from within gives him so much intelligence that he sits down near the Lord and goes on writing books. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami confirms that what Vrndavana dasa Thakura wrote was actually spoken by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that Vrndavana dasa simply repeated it.”

How blessed we are to receive knowledge of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu through our glorious parampara—and to be engaged in their service.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay, by Rasa Sundari Dasi

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May 252022

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay from 1990 to 1992 was sometimes a real challenge, because we had hardly any facilities.

In the beginning there were only three of us, not even initiated then—Bhakta Juan, Bhaktin Manju, and myself, Bhaktin Flor.

Cooking was done on the second floor in a small kitchen connected to the Bhaktivedanta Institute. Guru Maharaja always took his prasadam in his office, and, as he liked hot chapatis, we were cooking them on the second floor and then running down the hall with them, one by one, to his first-floor office.

There were no mobile phones at that time, so a lot of time was spent trying to find each other to get the messages through.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant to be able to go with him to visit all those wonderful devotees who were present during Srila Prabhupada’s time—Mrs. Nirmala Singhal, Dr. C. P. Patel, Mr. P. L. Sethi, Srimati Sumati Morariji. They all received Guru Maharaja like a long-lost son who finally had come home.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant witnessing how he gave himself fully to each and every person who wanted to see him—and everyone wanted to see him. He never showed any concern for himself, whether he had eaten, taken rest, or had any time left for himself.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant being the lucky first three devotees that received initiation from him under the loving glance of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihariji, and we became Vrindavan das, Janaki devi dasi, and Rasa Sundari dasi.

After our initiation, Guru Maharaja allowed us to collect guru-daksina in front of the restaurant. At the end of the day, when Vrindavan das told Guru Maharaja that because of his service, he had not been able to collect anything and so he had nothing to give to him, Guru Maharaja looked at him and said, “You need not worry about that—you have already given me your life.”

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant being able to see him many mornings on the altar doing the mangala-arati for Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihariji.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant seeing him so expertly supervise the cleaning and maintenance of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. He wanted us, the devotees, to do the cleaning and everything else there.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant watching him go almost every morning after mangala-arati to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and chant his rounds there.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant meeting and serving so many of his wonderful godbrothers and godsisters who had served together with him during Prabhupada’s times, and seeing the love they all had for him.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay meant realizing that you are not this body, when after ten or twelve hours of intense service you fell on your bed, the body completely exhausted and the soul inside completely blissful, wanting to do more.

Serving Guru Maharaja in Bombay was one of the happiest times in my life!

Rasa Sundari Dasi

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May 252022

My beloved disciple Rasa Sundari dasi just left her cancer-ridden body in Malaga, Spain. She was surrounded by devotees lovingly serving her and chanting the holy names, and I was present by video call during her last two hours. She left at the auspicious time of the Deity greeting, which she never missed. Just before she departed, she opened her eyes, looked at a picture of me, smiled, and left.

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 said because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association. That is how I feel, and that is how her dear husband, Vrindavan das, felt when I spoke with him.

Please pray for Rasa Sundari’s auspicious onward spiritual journey—back home, back to Godhead.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami