Damodar das

Nov 072022
 

According to Vrinda-kunda Baba, Srimati Vrindadevi appeared on the full-moon night at the end of Kartik, or Damodara.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, in Sri Vrndadevi-astaka (6-8), glorifies her:

rasabhilaso vasatis ca vrnda-
vane tvad-isanghri-saroja-seva
labhya ca pumsam krpaya tavaiva
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“By your mercy, people attain residence in Vrindavan, the desire to serve your masters’ lotus feet, and the desire to assist in the rasa dance. O Vrinda, I bow to your lotus feet.

tvam kirtyase satvata-tantra-vidbhir
lilabhidhana kila krsna-saktih
tavaiva murtis tulasi nr-loke
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“They who are learned in the Satvata-tantra glorify you. You are Krishna’s pastime-potency. The tulasi plant is your form in the world of men. O Vrinda, I bow to your lotus feet.

bhaktya vihina aparadha-laksaih
ksiptas ca kamadi-taranga-madhye
krpamayi tvam saranam prapanna
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“O merciful one, I am devoid of devotion, and millions of offenses have thrown me into the turbulent waves of lust, anger, greed, and other faults. O Vrinda, I take shelter of your lotus feet.”

May Srimati Vrindadevi—and Sri Sri Radha-Damodara—bestow their mercy upon us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Srila Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji’s Disappearance Day

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Nov 032022
 

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a great devotee—a maha-bhagavata. He was a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was very renounced. Earlier, he lived for many years in Vrindavan, roaming the twelve forests, chanting the holy names of Krishna, begging alms, and sleeping under trees. Later, after Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered Lord Chaitanya’s birthplace in Mayapur, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, the siksa-guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and parama-guru of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, instructed Gaurakisora to move to Navadvipa-dhama.

There Gaurakisora resided on the banks of the Ganges and practiced devotional service with intense devotion and renunciation. Because materialistic men would come and disturb him with their desires for mundane blessings (asirvada), the babaji began to stay by a municipal lavatory, where the filth and obnoxious smells would discourage unwanted visitors. There he would chant in peace—in ecstasy. He would beg alms and cook in discarded clay pots, or eat parched rice with green chilies, or just ingest Ganges mud. Sometimes he would collect the discarded cloth from the crematorium, wash it in Ganges water, and use it to cover himself. His only desire was to be absorbed in the mellow of the holy name—in Krishna consciousness. Continue reading »

Gopastami

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Oct 312022
 

Today is Gopastami, the day on which Krishna and Balarama and other boys Their age, who previously had tended the calves, were given charge of the cows. This event is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.15.1):

tatas ca pauganda-vayah-sritau vraje
  babhuvatus tau pasu-pala-sammatau
gas carayantau sakhibhih samam padair
  vrndavanam punyam ativa cakratuh

“When Lord Rama and Lord Krsna attained the age of pauganda [six to ten] while living in Vrndavana, the cowherd men allowed Them to take up the task of tending the cows. Engaging thus in the company of Their friends, the two boys rendered the land of Vrndavana most auspicious by imprinting upon it the marks of Their lotus feet.”

As stated in the purport, “Since Lord Krsna’s spiritual body had apparently grown slightly in age and strength, the senior men of Vrndavana, headed by Nanda Maharaja, decided to promote Krsna from the task of herding calves to the status of a regular cowherd boy. He would now take care of the full-grown cows, bulls, and oxen. Out of great affection, Nanda Maharaja had previously considered Krsna too small and immature to take care of full-grown cows and bulls. It is stated in the Karttika-mahatmya section of the Padma Purana:

suklastami karttike tu
  smrta gopastami budhaih
tad-dinad vasudevo ’bhud
  gopah purvam tu vatsapah

‘The eighth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Karttika is known by authorities as Gopastami. From that day, Lord Vasudeva served as a cowherd, whereas previously He had tended the calves.’

“The word padaih indicates that Lord Krsna blessed the earth by walking on her surface with His lotus feet. The Lord wore no shoes or other footgear but walked barefoot in the forest, giving great anxiety to the girls of Vrndavana, who feared that His soft lotus feet would be injured.”

The celebration was meant for only the cowherd men and boys, but Srimati Radharani also wanted to enjoy the fun, and so, because of Her resemblance to Subala-sakha, She donned his dhoti and other garments and joined Krishna. Thus, on this occasion, in temples in Vrindavan and elsewhere, Srimati Radharani is dressed as a cowherd boy.

The Lord is very kindly disposed toward the cows and the brahmans (go-brahmana-hitaya), and whoever serves them becomes dear to Him, too. Knowing this, devotees observe a special festival on the Gopastami day, dedicated to the worship of cows. In Vrindavan especially, but also the world over, devotees begin the festival by brushing the cows, painting their horns and bodies with artistic designs, and hanging flower garlands around their necks. Then a cow and her calf are selected and an arati is offered to them. During the arati, devotees sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and then they feed the cow, her calf, and indeed the entire herd, bananas, balls of gur (jaggery), and fresh grasses. Some devotees also recite the following mantra (Hari-bhakti-vilasa 16.252):

agratah santu me gavo
  gavo me santu prsthatah
gavo me parsvatah santu
  gavam madhye vasamyaham

“May cows stay in front of me. May cows stay behind me. May cows stay on both sides of me. May I always reside in the midst of cows.”

At the ISKCON goshala in Vrindavan, the program ends with a breakfast feast served to participants in the cowsheds.

Hare Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada’s Departure—Drawing Out Love

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Oct 282022
 

Once, on his guru maharaja’s disappearance day, Srila Prabhupada said, “On the absolute platform, there is no difference between the appearance and the disappearance of the spiritual master. Both are beautiful, just like the sunrise and the sunset.” So, although we feel separation, within that separation our remembrance of Srila Prabhupada is heightened, and thus we experience the beauty of his presence—in separation.

Srila Prabhupada’s departure is a painful topic, but remembering Srila Prabhupada’s words that the disappearance is also beautiful, I wanted to share with you a lesson I learned from his departure.

A few days before he was to leave us, Srila Prabhupada expressed a desire to travel by bullock cart to different holy places in India. His Holiness Lokanath Swami had been traveling by bullock cart to different places of pilgrimage, and Srila Prabhupada was very enlivened when Lokanath Swami reported to him in Vrindavan. And Prabhupada said that he too would like to go on pilgrimage on a bullock cart. He asked Lokanath Swami to arrange it, and Lokanath Swami was enthusiastic, having been encouraged by Prabhupada in such a direct way. He immediately went to organize the cart and make all the arrangements. Govardhana-puja was to take place in a couple of days, and Prabhupada said that he would begin his pilgrimage by traveling on a bullock cart to Govardhana Hill to celebrate Govardhana-puja with the Vraja-vasis.

At that time, Srila Prabhupada was bedridden and, one could say, emaciated. He was unable to eat, and he was able only to sip a little liquid. So he was very gaunt and weak, with almost no energy. He would just lie on his bed, and sometimes, with great difficulty, he would speak softly, often so faintly that only those very close to him could hear his words.

There were many devotees in the room when Srila Prabhupada had his exchange with Lokanath Swami. And immediately after the discussion ended and devotees went outside, they began to express two strong, heartfelt opinions about what Srila Prabhupada should do—and, more than that, how we as disciples should relate to Srila Prabhupada and serve him. Continue reading »

Sri Govardhana-puja

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Oct 252022
 

We shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Two, Chapter Seven: “Scheduled Incarnations.”

TEXT 32

gopair makhe pratihate vraja-viplavaya
  deve ’bhivarsati pasun krpaya riraksuh
dhartocchilindhram iva sapta-dinani sapta-
  varso mahidhram anaghaika-kare salilam

TRANSLATION

When the cowherd men of Vrndavana, under instruction of Krsna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly king, Indra, the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krsna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Children play with an umbrella generally known as a frog’s umbrella, and Lord Krsna, when He was only seven years old, could snatch the great hill known as the Govardhana Parvata in Vrndavana and hold it for seven days continuously with one hand, just to protect the animals and the inhabitants of Vrndavana from the wrath of Indra, the heavenly king, who had been denied sacrificial offerings by the inhabitants of Vraja-bhumi.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

Lord Krishna was playing the part of a young boy. Here the Bhagavatam says salilam, playfully: just as a small child picks up a frog’s umbrella (a mushroom shaped like an umbrella) and plays with it, so Lord Krishna picked up Govardhana Hill and held it like an umbrella to shelter the residents of Vrindavan from the torrential rains of Indra.

PURPORT (continued)

Factually there is no need of offering sacrifices to the demigods for their services if one is engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord. Sacrifices recommended in the Vedic literature for satisfaction of the demigods are a sort of inducement to the sacrificers to realize the existence of higher authorities. The demigods are engaged by the Lord as controlling deities of material affairs, and according to the Bhagavad-gita, when a demigod is worshiped the process is accepted as the indirect method for worshiping the Supreme Lord. But when the Supreme Lord is worshiped directly there is no need of worshiping the demigods or offering them sacrifices as recommended in particular circumstances. Lord Krsna therefore advised the inhabitants of Vraja-bhumi not to offer any sacrifices to the heavenly king Indra. Continue reading »

Fireworks on Diwali

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Oct 242022
 

On the auspicious occasion of Diwali, I share with you a description by Smriti “Baby” Warrier (later initiated as Sravana dasi), whose family were tenants at Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, of how when she was a child she and her brothers wanted to set off fireworks, and how Srila Prabhupada responded.

One Diwali, in the evening, Mother Kanta was in the women’s ashram above our flat and we were outside setting off fireworks. It was around 9:00, and I guess she wanted to take rest, but we weren’t finished playing. So she started throwing buckets of water down on us. My brothers and I marched up to Srila Prabhupada’s room. Chaitya-guru caught us and said, “You can’t go in there—he’s resting.” We must have made a lot of noise, because Prabhupada called, “Let them in.” My brothers went in and pleaded that we wanted to do fireworks, but Prabhupada said, “No, it’s too noisy.” So my brothers gave up and walked out. But I, the youngest, stood there and said, “But it’s Diwali—we’ve got to break some firecrackers.” Then Prabhupada said, “All right, until 10:00—but after that, no more.” So we got permission and broke firecrackers. The next day, Mother Kanta came with a plate of maha-prasada and apologized for throwing water on us.

Being so close to Srila Prabhupada, at Hare Krishna Land, you got to associate with him in a different light.

Happy Diwali

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Oct 232022
 

We wish you all a happy Diwali. Diwali, or Dipavali, marks the end of the year, and by the year’s end we want to pay our debts and rectify our relationships—and then try to do better the next year.

The Vedic literatures inform us that in the present age, Kali-yuga, the recommended process for self-realization, or God realization, is the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. Lord Krishna appeared about five thousand years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the end of the Gita (18.66), He instructed:

sarva-dharman parityajya
  mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
  moksayisyami ma sucah

“Give up all varieties of religiousness and just surrender unto Me. I will deliver you from all sins. Do not fear.”

But how do we surrender to Krishna—practically? It is a big question. Therefore, Krishna Himself came again about five hundred years ago as Sri Krishna Chaitanya and showed us how to serve Krishna and develop love for Krishna, especially in the present age of Kali. He quoted one verse from the Brhan-naradiya Purana (3.8.126):

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

“One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names of Lord Hari. There is no other way, no other way, no other way for success in the present age of Kali.”

Lord Chaitanya Himself demonstrated how to chant the holy names. Actually, there are two methods: In japa, one chants softly but loud enough that at least one can hear oneself. Our acharyas have recommended that we chant on beads, japa-mala. I suggest that as a New Year’s resolution you all begin to chant at least one mala (round) every day, and that those who are chanting already try to increase. Suppose someone is chanting two malas every day. In the New Year that person can decide to do four malas, or whatever he or she can manage. One mala will take five to ten minutes. So, that is japa.

The other method is kirtan. Kirtan means loud chanting, all together, usually with musical instruments such as mridanga, kartals, and sometimes harmonium. That collective chanting of the holy names of God is very effective in the present age of Kali. Continue reading »