Sep 152022
 

I will begin by reading a couple of exchanges with Srila Prabhupada about his coming to America. Once, Srila Prabhupada was asked, “Your godbrothers who came to the West went to England and Germany. Why did you choose to come to America?” And he replied, “They went and came back to India without accomplishing anything. So I thought, ‘If I am going to fail, at least let me fail in a different place.’ ”

And on a morning walk in Los Angeles, a disciple said to Prabhupada, “When you came to the Western world, no one anywhere believed it would be successful. But actually it has become very successful, by preaching.”

“I myself did not believe, ‘I shall be successful,’ ” Prabhupada replied, “what to speak of others. But because I did in the proper line, so it has become successful.”

Of course, it was a difficult voyage for Srila Prabhupada on the ship Jaladuta, and on the way he had two heart attacks, and he thought that if he had a third, he might not survive. He kept a diary, and that has been published—The Jaladuta Diary.

I will read a little from Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta to give the background leading up to Srila Prabhupada’s arrival: “On the night of the second day, Prabhupada had a dream. Lord Krishna, in His many forms, was rowing a boat, and He told Prabhupada that he should not fear, but should come along. Prabhupada felt assured of Lord Krishna’s protection, and the violent attacks did not recur.”

On Thursday, September 9, Srila Prabhupada wrote in his diary, “This afternoon, we have crossed over the Atlantic Ocean for twenty-four hours. The whole day was clear and almost smooth. I am taking my food regularly and have got some strength to struggle. There is also a slight tacking of the ship and I am feeling a slight headache also. But I am struggling and the nectarine of life is Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, the source of all my vitality.”

Then the next day, Friday, September 10, just a week before he arrived in America, he wrote, “Today the ship is plying very smoothly. I feel today better. But I am feeling separation from Sri Vrindaban and my Lords Sri Govinda, Gopinath, Radha Damodar. The only solace is Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in which I am tasting the nectarine of Lord Chaitanya’s lila [pastimes]. I have left Bharatabhumi just to execute the order of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in pursuance of Lord Chaitanya’s order. I have no qualification, but I have taken up the risk just to carry out the order of His Divine Grace. I depend fully on Their mercy, so far away from Vrindaban.”

And when Srila Prabhupada arrived at Boston Harbor on September 18, 1965, he wrote a wonderful poem with rhyming stanzas, Markine Bhagavata-dharma, in which he expressed the same mood of dependence on the mercy of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

baro-krpa kaile krsna adhamer prati
ki lagiyanile hetha koro ebe gati

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

In his humility, Srila Prabhupada refers to himself as a “useless soul.” And he submits himself, as he says later, as a puppet in the hands of Krishna and the parampara to do with him whatever they like. That should also be our mood in our devotional service, that we just want to be puppets in the hands of our spiritual master and act as he wants us to act or do as he wants us to do. And Srila Prabhupada’s poem gives us an insight not only into his mood of surrender and dependence on the mercy of the Lord and his spiritual master, but also into what our mood should be in our execution of devotional service. Continue reading »

Sep 102022
 

Visvarupa-mahotsava marks the occasion 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 Him 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. Continue reading »

Sep 082022
 

Today is the divine disappearance day of Namacharya Srila Haridasa Thakura. So we shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter Eleven: “The Passing of Haridasa Thakura.”

INTRODUCTION

The summary of this chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya as follows. In this chapter it is described how Brahma Haridasa Thakura gave up his body with the consent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and how the Lord Himself personally performed the funeral ceremony and carried the body to the sea. He personally entombed the body, covered it with sand, and erected a platform on the site. After taking a bath in the sea, He personally begged prasada of Jagannatha from shopkeepers and distributed prasada to the assembled devotees.

TEXT 1

namami haridasam tam
  caitanyam tam ca tat-prabhum
samsthitam api yan-murtim
  svanke krtva nanarta yah

TRANSLATION

Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Haridasa Thakura and his master, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who danced with the body of Haridasa Thakura on His lap.

TEXT 2

jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya dayamaya
jayadvaita-priya nityananda-priya jaya

TRANSLATION

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is very merciful and who is very dear to Advaita Acarya and Lord Nityananda!

TEXT 3

jaya srinivasesvara haridasa-natha
jaya gadadhara-priya svarupa-prana-natha

TRANSLATION

All glories to the master of Srinivasa Thakura! All glories to the master of Haridasa Thakura! All glories to the dear master of Gadadhara Pandita! All glories to the master of the life of Svarupa Damodara!

TEXT 4

jaya kasi-priya jagadananda-pranesvara
jaya rupa-sanatana-raghunathesvara

TRANSLATION

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya, who is very dear to Kasi Misra! He is the Lord of the life of Jagadananda and the Lord of Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami.

TEXT 16

eka-dina govinda maha-prasada lana
haridase dite gela anandita hana

TRANSLATION

One day Govinda, the personal servant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, went in great jubilation to deliver the remnants of Lord Jagannatha’s food to Haridasa Thakura.

TEXTS 17–20

When Govinda came to Haridasa, he saw that Haridasa Thakura was lying on his back and chanting his rounds very slowly.

“Please rise and take your maha-prasada,” Govinda said. Haridasa Thakura replied, “Today I shall observe fasting.

“I have not finished chanting my regular number of rounds. How, then, can I eat? But you have brought maha-prasada, and how can I neglect it?”

Saying this, Haridasa offered prayers to the maha-prasada, took a little portion, and ate it.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Maha-prasada is nondifferent from Krsna. Therefore, instead of eating maha-prasada, one should honor it. It is said here, karila vandana, “he offered prayers.” When taking maha-prasada, one should not consider the food ordinary preparations. Prasada means favor. One should consider maha-prasada a favor of Krsna. As stated by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, krsna bada dayamaya karibare jihva jaya svaprasada-anna dila bhai. Krsna is very kind. In this material world we are all very much attached to tasting various types of food.

Therefore, Krsna eats many nice varieties of food and offers the food back to the devotees, so that not only are one’s demands for various tastes satisfied, but by eating prasada one makes advancement in spiritual life. Therefore, we should never consider ordinary food on an equal level with maha-prasada.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The honoring of maha-prasada is one of the important items of devotional service. Maha-prasada is food that has been offered with love and devotion to the Lord and accepted by the Lord. In the Antya-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu feels great ecstasy honoring maha-prasada and He raises the question amongst His confidential devotees about its nature, that although it appears to be made of the same ingredients as ordinary food such as rice, dal, vegetables, spices, it creates a completely different experience. He explains that the food that has been offered to Lord Jagannatha has been mixed with the nectar of the Lord’s lips. The same nectar that fills the transcendental flute of Krishna and for which the gopis are always hankering—that same nectar from the lips of Krishna permeates maha-prasada. And when we honor maha-prasada with purified senses, we can relish the nectar from Krishna’s lotus mouth. Continue reading »

Sep 072022
 

We have gathered today 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 he was called 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 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 us all. 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 was appointed to a government position—assistant magistrate—that was practically the highest position held by any Indian 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. In general, they kept the Indians down, but Srila Bhaktivinoda was so qualified and so popular that they were obliged to appoint him to a high position.

Srila Bhaktivinoda 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, and he made so many contributions. From this we can learn how we too can 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. Continue reading »

Sep 072022
 

Today is Srila Jiva Gosvami’s appearance day. In his purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 10.85, Srila Prabhupada writes:

“In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (195) it is said that Srila Jiva Gosvami was formerly Vilasa-manjari gopi. From his very childhood Jiva Gosvami was greatly fond of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He later came to Navadvipa to study Sanskrit, and, following in the footsteps of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, he circumambulated the entire Navadvipa-dhama. After visiting Navadvipa-dhama he went to Benares to study Sanskrit under Madhusudana Vacaspati, and after finishing his studies in Benares he went to Vrndavana and took shelter of his uncles, Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana. This is described in Bhakti-ratnakara. As far as our information goes, Srila Jiva Gosvami composed and edited at least twenty-five books. They are all very celebrated, and they are listed as follows: (1) Hari-namamrta-vyakarana, (2) Sutra-malika, (3) Dhatu-sangraha, (4) Krsnarca-dipika, (5) Gopala-virudavali, (6) Rasamrta-sesa, (7) Sri Madhava-mahotsava, (8) Sri Sankalpa-kalpavrksa, (9) Bhavartha-sucaka-campu, (10) Gopala-tapani-tika, (11) a commentary on the Brahma-samhita, (12) a commentary on the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, (13) a commentary on the Ujjvala-nilamani, (14) a commentary on the Yogasara-stava, (15) a commentary on the Gayatri-mantra, as described in the Agni Purana, (16) a description derived from the Padma Purana of the lotus feet of the Lord, (17) a description of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani, (18) Gopala-campu (in two parts), and (19–25) seven sandharbhas: the Krama-, Tattva-, Bhagavat-, Paramatma-, Krsna-, Bhakti-, and Priti-sandharba. After the disappearance of Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami in Vrndavana, Srila Jiva Gosvami became the acarya of all the Vaisnavas in Bengal, Orissa, and rest of the world, and it is he who used to guide them in devotional service. In Vrndavana he established the Radha-Damodara temple, where, after retirement, we had the opportunity to live from 1962 until 1965, when we decided to come to the United States of America. When Jiva Gosvami was still present, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami compiled his famous Caitanya-caritamrta. Later, Srila Jiva Gosvami inspired Srinivasa Acarya, Narottama dasa Thakura, and Duhkhi Krsnadasa to preach Krsna consciousness in Bengal. Jiva Gosvami was informed that all the manuscripts that had been collected from Vrndavana and sent to Bengal for preaching purposes were plundered near Visnupura in Bengal, but later he received the information that the books had been recovered. Sri Jiva Gosvami awarded the designation Kaviraja to Ramacandra Sena, a disciple of Srinivasa Acarya’s, and to Ramacandra’s younger brother Govinda. While Jiva Gosvami was alive, Srimati Jahnavi-devi, the pleasure potency of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, went to Vrndavana with a few devotees. Jiva Gosvami was very kind to the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the Vaisnavas from Bengal. Whoever went to Vrndavana, he provided with a residence and prasada. His disciple Krsnadasa Adhikari listed all the books of the Gosvamis in his diary.”

You can read more about Srila Jiva Gosvami here: http://www.girirajswami.com/?p=13893

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sep 062022
 

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. Although Bali Maharaja was born in a family of demons, he was a devotee, and Vamanadeva 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. 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, “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 answered, “If I cannot be satisfied by three steps of land, I will not be satisfied by even 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 »