Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s Appearance Day

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May 072024
 

Today is the most auspicious occasion of Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day. As many of you know, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He is Krishna, but with the complexion and in the mood of Srimati Radharani. There are different purposes for the Lord’s advent. The internal reason for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance is that He wanted to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, Her relishing of the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone experiences through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She experiences the sweetness of His love for Her—which only She can experience. And the external reason (not that it is any less significant) was to propagate the yuga-dharma, the recommended method for God realization in each particular age (yuga).

To assist the Lord in His pastimes, four principal associates descended with Him—Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa Thakura, and Gadadhara Pandita. Together with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they constitute the Pancha-tattva. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.14) the author offers his respects to all five together:

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam
   bhakta-rupa-svarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam
   namami bhakta-saktikam

“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.”

Krishna appeared in the form of a devotee (bhakta-rupa), as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; as the expansion of a devotee (sva-rupakam), as Nityananda Prabhu; as an incarnation of a devotee (bhakta-avataram), as Advaita Prabhu; as a devotee (bhakta), as Srivasa Thakura; and as the devotional energy that inspires a devotee (bhakta-saktikam), as Gadadhara Pandita. Together they all came to propagate harinama-sankirtana as the yuga-dharma for the present age. Continue reading »

Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura’s Disappearance Day

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May 032024
 

Today is Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura’s disappearance 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.” Srila Prabhupada elaborates in his purport: “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

Jayananda Prabhu’s Appearance Day

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Apr 272024
 

Jayananda Prabhu was born on April 27, 1939.

Here is a wonderful account of how he manifested his presence at the time of his mother’s passing away, which I call “A Hospice Miracle”:

Krishna’s Mercy—Serving Jayananda Prabhu’s Mother

(Derived from a letter by Kalindi Dasi to her spiritual master, Candramauli Swami)

In mid-July I started wearing tilak to my work at the hospice. I thought that since many other spiritual practitioners were expressing their faith by wearing crosses, doves, silk threads, pentacles, and other items, I would wear my tilak, which tells the world that I am a devotee of theLord. And I have found that simply keeping tilak at work has opened the door for spiritual questions and conversations.

On the morning of Monday, August 6, 2007, after our daily report and medical-staff checks, we began doing our usual tasks of caring for the patients. As ours is only a ten-bed facility, we are able to give loving care to each patient individually. Often, while I care for or bathe patients who are unable to do such tasks for themselves, I chant or sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. On this particular morning I was caring for a woman named Jane Kohr, who had been with us for almost a week. She was a kind and polite person, and I enjoyed the time I was spending with her. Around 8 a.m. on August 6, I entered her room and found that she was getting closer to leaving her body. She was unresponsive to verbal cues, and her body was limp. I sang the maha-mantra one last time, while she received her final bath. Hospice staff called her family, who were always friendly and appreciative of our care for her. When I was finished, I spoke with some of the family members in the hall. Jane’s grandson approached me to thank me, and then he pointed to his forehead and to my tilak and asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I smiled and said that yes, I was a devotee of Krishna. “Well,” he said, “then maybe you know of my uncle Jayananda.”

The Jayananda?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. And he told me how his uncle had built the Ratha-yatra carts. He then went in to inform his mother that I was a Hare Krishna.

Gaynelle, Jayananda Prabhu’s sister, came out of the room and said that she was so happy that a Krishna devotee had cared for her mother. The whole family expressed that it meant so much to them. Gaynelle kept saying that she couldn’t believe that I was a Hare Krishna. She said that she told her mother but wasn’t sure that her mom could hear her. I said that I had a feeling she already knew, and I laughed.

Jane, a granddaughter, mentioned that she remembered her uncle making really great Indian food and offering it to God and then the family sitting on the floor and eating it. She remembered his robes and how happy he was. Jane said that he had been pretty depressed before meeting devotees.

I let Jayananda Prabhu’s family know that during the Ratha-yatra festival we hang a nice photo of him next to Srila Prabhupada’s photo. They told me that an old friend of Jayananda’s (who is not a devotee) happened to be in Africa several years ago and saw his first Ratha-yatra festival there, and to his astonishment there was a huge photo of Jayananda Prabhu on the front of the cart. He had called Gaynelle to share the news.

They told me that Jayananda was always very kind, even as a child, and never spoke badly of others. From the many stories they told me, his saintly qualities shined through even in his childhood. Gaynelle told me that her brother once spent hours on a family vacation at the beach picking ticks and fleas off a homeless dog. He couldn’t stand to watch it suffering. Jayananda’s nephew told me about running around the kitchen table as a small child with his uncle, who was laughing and chanting Hare Krishna.

When I went back into Jane’s room, the family was gathered around her bed holding her hand. Her breaths were faint, and she was about to leave her body. I stepped out to give the family some space, and about five minutes later they came to the front desk and asked for me to look at her. When I opened the door, I saw that her body had turned yellow and waxy. It was apparent that the soul had left and that the physical body was all that remained. The nurse reported that she had passed, and the family, though sad, also felt relief.

Gaynelle told me that she had asked her brother for support. Since he couldn’t physically be at their mother’s passing, she had been looking for a sign that he was supporting her. She felt that a devotee’s being present and caring for her mother was not a mere coincidence. It was, I believe, Krishna’s endless mercy!

I thanked the relatives for allowing me to serve their family, offered my pranamas, and said, “Hare Krishna.”

Sri Hanuman Jayanti

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Apr 232024
 

For Sri Hanuman Jayanti, I quote Sri Prahlada’s glorification of Hanuman from Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta (1.4.40–52):

“Hanuman is much more fortunate. For many thousands of years he has enjoyed serving the Lord constantly, without obstruction.

“He is the most powerful person. When he was just a child, the demigods favored him with several wonderful benedictions. Thus he became immune to old age and death.

“He is free of all fear, he maintains great vows, and he performs auspicious deeds. Outstanding among heroes, he is an exceptional servant of the Lord of the Raghus.

“With playful disregard he jumped across thousands of miles of fathomless ocean. Expertly, in the capital of the Raksasa king, he comforted Mother Sita in her distress.

“He boldly threatened his enemies, burned Lanka, and destroyed its citadel. When he brought back news of Sita, he received his master’s deep embrace.

“It was Hanuman who acted as his Lord’s best carrier, his tail serving as a royal white umbrella, his broad back a comfortable seat for the Lord. And it was Hanuman who directed the project of bridging the ocean.

“He fulfilled the desires of Vibhisana. He destroyed the military force of the Raksasas. And he had the special power to deliver the healing herb called visalya-karani.

“He was the very life of his soldiers. Always giving great pleasure to his divine Lord and the Lord’s younger brother Laksmana, he devotedly served as carrier for Them both.

“Supremely intelligent and valorous, he brought victory for Lord Ramacandra. He added to the spotless fame of his Lord, who killed the king of the Raksasas.

“It was Hanuman who encouraged Mother Sita. And by the Lord’s order, this Hanuman, the one true recipient of his master’s favor, still lives in this world, though unable to bear separation from the Lord.

“He keeps himself alive by constantly hearing the glories of Lord Rama. Staying by the side of the Lord’s Deity, He is present even today with the same splendor as always.

“Hanuman’s greatness is well known from scriptural statements like ‘The chief of the monkeys became perfect by acting as the Lord’s servant.’ His servitude is proof of the Lord’s mercy.

“Although Hanuman obtained from the son of Dasaratha the boon of liberation without striving for it, he never wanted to accept liberation without the opportunity to serve. To that Hanuman I offer my obeisances.”

Sri Balarama Rasa-yatra

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Apr 232024
 

For Balarama Rasa-yatra, we shall read from Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, called Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead— about Lord Balarama’s visit to Vrindavan after He and Krishna had been away from Vrindavan for many years.

In our meditation on the deity of the Lord, we begin from His lotus feet and then gradually progress upward to His ankles, knees, thighs, waist, navel, chest, neck, and face. Srimad-Bhagavatam is also a form of the Lord, and so we begin its study with the lotus feet, which are the First and Second Cantos, and gradually progress upwards until we get to the Tenth Canto, which is compared to the Lord’s smiling face. The topics in the Tenth Canto are very elevated and can actually be fully appreciated only by liberated souls—because Krishna’s pastimes with His pure devotees are enacted on the liberated platform—but on special occasions like Balarama Rasa-yatra we do explore such topics.

On this occasion some years ago, I was in Vrindavan tending to a disciple, Arca-vigraha dasi, who was preparing to leave her body. Many senior devotees would come every day and read to her, discuss with her, and chant for her, and on this particular occasion I read the same pastime—about Lord Balarama’s visit to Vrindavan—from both the Tenth Canto and the Krsna book. The basic features of the pastime were the same in both texts, though there were little differences in terms of details and revelations of insights into the pastime. Today I shall read from the Krsna book, Chapter Sixty-Five: “Lord Balarama Visits Vrndavana.”

TEXT

Lord Balarama became very anxious to see His father and mother in Vrndavana. Therefore, with great enthusiasm He started on a chariot for Vrndavana. The inhabitants of Vrndavana had been anxious to see Krsna and Balarama for a very long time. When Lord Balarama returned to Vrndavana, all the cowherd boys and the gopis had grown up; but still, on His arrival, they all embraced Him, and Balarama embraced them in reciprocation. After this He came before Maharaja Nanda and Yasoda and offered His respectful obeisances. In response, Mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja offered their blessings unto Him. They addressed Him as Jagadisvara, or the Lord of the universe who maintains everyone. The reason for this was that Krsna and Balarama maintain all living entities. And yet Nanda and Yasoda were put into such difficulties on account of Their absence. Feeling like this, they embraced Balarama and, seating Him on their laps, began their perpetual crying, wetting Balarama with their tears. Lord Balarama then offered His respectful obeisances to the elderly cowherd men and accepted the obeisances of the younger cowherd men. Thus, according to their different ages and relationships, Lord Balarama exchanged feelings of friendship with them. He shook hands with those who were His equals in age and friendship and with loud laughing embraced each one of them.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

There are many points in just this one paragraph. First, Lord Balarama offered obeisances to Nanda and Yasoda, who had played the roles of His parents, and they in turn offered their blessings to Him—yet they referred to Him as Jagadisvara, the Lord of the universe. It appears contradictory that the Lord of the universe is offering obeisances to Nanda and Yasoda and that they are offering blessings to Him. But in transcendental pastimes there are two considerations: rasa and tattva. Rasa means the transcendental mellows exchanged between the Lord and the devotee in a loving relationship, and tattva means their existential positions. Although in terms of tattva, Balarama is the Personality of Godhead, vishnu-tattva, and Nanda and Yasoda are devotees, in terms of rasa, their transcendental relationship, Nanda and Yasoda are in the position of parents to Balarama and Krishna (vatsalya-rasa).

Queen Kunti prayed to Krishna,

gopy adade tvayi krtagasi dama tavad
   ya te dasasru-kalilanjana-sambhramaksam
vaktram niniya bhaya-bhavanaya sthitasya
   sa mam vimohayati bhir api yad bibheti

“My dear Krsna, Yasoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me.” (SB 1.8.31) The image of Mother Yasoda with rope in hand and Krishna trembling in fright with tears in His eyes—even though Krishna is feared by fear personified—caused Kunti to become transcendentally bewildered.

In Krishna’s pastimes there are many such intricacies that can bewilder the intellect, and so we should mainly just hear and relish such topics; that is our first business. Once, when we were touring India with Srila Prabhupada, in Indore, a disciple asked him, “In some places we read that Lord Brahma is born from the lotus that sprouts from the navel of Lord Vishnu and that then he creates the different planets (as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam), but then in other places we read that all the planets, the different planetary systems, are contained within the stem of the lotus that sprouts from the navel of Lord Vishnu. How do we reconcile these two versions?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “It is inconceivable. We cannot understand these topics with our tiny brains. Our only business is to love Krishna.” So, we study scripture—bhagavata-sravana, hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam is one of the five most potent processes of devotional service—and we want to understand the science of Krishna consciousness, rasa and tattva and other elements—but we cannot really fully comprehend, or accommodate, these vast topics in our tiny brains, so ultimately we just surrender and hear and relish. Continue reading »

Earth Day

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Apr 222024
 

Today being Earth Day, I thought of a prayer that resonated with me in my youth: “The earth is the Lordís, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He has founded it on the seas, and established it on the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, or who shall sta

Later, when I met Srila Prabhupada, I came across a verse spoken by the Lord Himself, Krishna, which confirmed and expanded the same principle: “A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Bhagavad-gita 5.29)

How, then, should we deal with the earth and its resources? “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” (Isopanisad 1)

Thus one should be happy and satisfied in Krishna (God) consciousness.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami