Nov 072021

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.

One group, which included Lokanath Swami and other esteemed, senior disciples, such as Hamsaduta Prabhu and Baradraj Prabhu, felt that we should just do what the spiritual master orders. We shouldn’t question his order; we should just execute it. And some of the other disciples, many of whom had been attending to Prabhupada’s personal care, felt that Prabhupada’s health would not sustain his travels on a bullock cart and that, because he was so emaciated (he had practically no flesh on his bones), it would be very painful for him to go. Even if they padded the cart with a mattress, it would still be a basic bullock cart, and the roads in Vraja were very rough, so the movement of the cart would jostle Prabhupada and he would feel pain. Some devotees feared that he might even give up his body on the way. So, they did not want him to be subjected to what they foresaw as certain pain—and perhaps the dire consequence of his death.

But this second position was very difficult to maintain under the circumstances, because Srila Prabhupada was so emphatic. “Let me travel to all the tirtha-sthanas,” he had said—to all the holy places. And whatever objections devotees had raised against the proposal, he had countered. “One-day experiment,” he had pleaded. “Rest assured. I will not die in one day.” When even Prabhupada’s kaviraja had predicted that with all the jostling on the bullock cart, Prabhupada would not survive more than two hours, Prabhupada had replied, “But I think I shall be cured.” Still, Tamal Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Charu Swami, Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, Bhavananda Maharaja, and others felt strongly that this “experiment” would have dire consequences. But how to convince Prabhupada? Continue reading »

Nov 062021

Early this morning Srila Prabhupada’s beloved disciple, my dear godbrother, Sankha Dasa departed this  world. You can read about him and his wonderful service to Srila Prabhupada in Juhu in the following excerpt from my book I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story. I have no doubt that Srila Prabhupada has called Sankha Dasa back to him. He is in the front row at the far left in the attached photo.

After Nara Narayan left, we didn’t have a steady gardener for almost two years—until Sankha dasa arrived after Gaura-punima in 1974. “I didn’t know how to do anything,” Sankha later admitted, “but I feel in my heart that I was blessed by Prabhupada to learn gardening. When I arrived, Caitya-guru, the temple commander, took me to see Prabhupada, and I said, ‘Srila Prabhupada, you have asked me to come to Bombay. What would you like me to do?’ ‘I want you to plant a flower in every square inch of Hare Krishna Land,’ he told me. And we offered our obeisances and left.

“The next day, we went back for clarification, and I asked Prabhupada, ‘Would you like me to grow vegetables?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘our space is limited; it will be cheaper to buy them in the local market.’ ‘What about fruits?’ ‘Yes—guavas, chikus, bananas.’

Prabhupada passed by the garden every day on his morning walk, and some time after Sankha’s arrival, he noticed that there still weren’t any fruits or flowers growing. “Where are the flowers?” he asked Sankha, but there never were any. “He’s just bluffing,” Prabhupada commented. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing. Simply bluffing.”

Then one morning, after he had returned from traveling in India, Prabhupada went out for his walk and saw that the garden was full of fruits and flowers. He was very pleased with Sankha’s service, and thereafter, Sankha would offer Prabhupada a flower every day and became known as “Prabhupada’s flower boy.”

Sankha grew papayas, guavas, chikus, and strawberry bananas—small and pink inside, and very sweet. “One day at the airport when Prabhupada was about to depart for London,” he recalled, “I brought a big load of ripe bananas and asked Prabhupada if he would like one. He opened his eyes wide and said, ‘You grew these?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I have grown them for you.’ He grabbed one, peeled it, and ate it all. ‘These are very good,’ he said. ‘Now pass them out to everyone in the airport.’ And while I was distributing the bananas, Harikesa jumped up on a table and started preaching. Prabhupada really appreciated when we grew our own food.”

Hare Krishna.

Nov 042021

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


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


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.


Many of you know the story: Nanda Maharaja and the other men of Vrindavan were collecting the paraphernalia to perform the Indra-yajna, and when the child Krishna saw the men so engaged, He asked His father, “Dear father, kindly explain to Me the purpose for which you are gathering this paraphernalia. Is this ritualistic performance based on scriptural injunctions, or is it simply customary? What is to be gained by this performance?” Srila Prabhupada tells us the implication of Krishna’s inquiry: We should not engage in rituals simply because our parents or grandparents did—without any gain. Although we may have had forefathers who worshipped demigods, Lord Krishna here suggests that there is no need for us to continue such worship. Therefore, in due course, Krishna advised the residents of Vrindavan to stop the sacrifice to King Indra. So, in principle, we should not engage in ritualistic performances without any result. There should be some positive benefit from our activities, as there is with devotional service, which, according to the Bhagavad-gita and to practical experience, is joyfully performed. Pratyaksavagamam dharmyam su-sukham kartum avyayam: “It gives direct perception of the self by realization, and it is joyfully performed.” (Gita 9.2) Continue reading »

Nov 032021

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 he himself, or she herself, can hear. 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.

What does chanting do? As Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explains, ceto-darpana-marjanam: chanting cleanses the dirt from the mirror of the mind. If you want to know what you look like, you have to look in a mirror. But if the mirror is covered with dust, you cannot see. So, we have to cleanse the dust from the mirror of the mind; then we can know who we are. In ignorance, we may think we’re the body. We may think that we’re black or white or red or yellow; man or woman; American, Russian, Chinese, or African. We have so many designations based on our falsely identifying with the body. But ceto-darpana-marjanam—when we clear the dust from the mirror of the mind by chanting, we can actually see who we are: not the body but the soul within the body. The soul is not black or white or male or female or Russian or Chinese. The soul is pure spirit, part and parcel of God, the Supreme Spirit, Krishna. Continue reading »

Nov 022021

Today is the appearance day of Dhanvantari, who is described in the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.21):


dhanvantaris ca bhagavan svayam eva kirtir
  namna nrnam puru-rujam ruja asu hanti
yajne ca bhagam amrtayur-avavarundha
  ayusya-vedam anusasty avatirya loke


The Lord in His incarnation of Dhanvantari very quickly cures the diseases of the ever-diseased living entities simply by His fame personified, and only because of Him do the demigods achieve long lives. Thus the Personality of Godhead becomes ever glorified. He also exacted a share from the sacrifices, and it is He only who inaugurated the medical science, or the knowledge of medicine, in the universe.


As stated in the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, everything emanates from the ultimate source of the Personality of Godhead; it is therefore understood in this verse that medical science, or knowledge of medicine, was also inaugurated by the Personality of Godhead in His incarnation of Dhanvantari, and thus the knowledge is recorded in the Vedas. The Vedas are the source of all knowledge, and thus knowledge in medical science is also there for the perfect cure of the diseases of the living entity. The embodied living entity is diseased by the very construction of his body. The body is the symbol of diseases. The disease may differ from one variety to another, but disease must be there just as there is birth and death for everyone. So, by the grace of the Personality of Godhead, not only are diseases of the body and mind cured, but also the soul is relieved of the constant repetition of birth and death. The name of the Lord is also called bhavausadhi, or the source of curing the disease of material existence.

* * *

May Lord Dhanvantari bless us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 022021

The following account was given by Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Atma Tattva Dasa.

One Ekadasi during the Kumbha-mela in Allahabad, Prabhupada was sitting back with his eyes closed, his legs stretched under his desk, talking about Ekadasi. Prabhupada said, “Lotus pods fried in ghee are very good on Ekadasi.” Somebody immediately ran to the market to arrange for lotus pods, but just two minutes later a Ramanandi brahman and his nine-year-old son arrived, both wearing Ramanandi tilak. They paid their obeisances, and the father put a cloth bag from his shoulder on Prabhupada’s desk. Prabhupada put his hand in it and said, “Just see; it has come.” It was lotus pods fried in ghee. He looked at the Ramanandi and said, “How are you?” This man happened to be the priest of a Bengali family in Firozabad, U.P., where Prabhupada used to stay. Even though this person was a Ramanandi, he did the Gaura-Nitai Deity worship for this family.

Prabhupada ate some of the pods, distributed the rest, and said to the Ramanandi, “You haven’t taken bath in the confluence, the sangam?” The Ramanandi said, “Swamiji, I have come to take bath in the sangam,” and he put a plate under Prabhupada’s feet. Prabhupada adjusted his feet on the plate, and this man bathed Prabhupada’s feet in sangam water from his pot while he chanted mantras. Prabhupada looked at him, smiling.

During that time—this was December 1976—it was rare to get Prabhupada’s charanamrita, and all of us desired it. This Ramanandi sprinkled that water on his head, drank some, and then sprinkled some on all of us. He said to Prabhupada, “Your feet are the actual sangam. What will we get in bathing that sangam? Your feet will purify the Ganges, and since you are not going to the Ganges, I brought the Ganges here. I will mix some of this charanamrita in the Ganges.”

Prabhupada smiled and said, “Give me your son. I will make him an acharya.” The man said, “He is yours, Swamiji, you can take him any time.” Prabhupada said, “No, no, any time means no time. You give him to me now. I will make him an acharya.” The Ramanandi said, “Swamiji, now he is learning Sanskrit grammar. To study the bhasyas, the commentaries, he must know some grammar. Once his vyakarana is over, I will hand him over to you. He is yours.” Prabhupada insisted for the fourth time, “No, no, what grammar? We don’t need grammar. Give him to me. I will make him an acharya.” The man said, “Swamiji, I am not saying no; everything mine is yours. But he is too small. He will only be trouble for you. In a few years, I will hand him over to you.” Prabhupada said, “Okay, thik he, thik he,” and he rubbed the boy’s head. After that, there were other visitors to see Prabhupada, and this man and his son left.

Years passed, and the Ramananda sampradaya broke into many inimical sects. Then one year, I took ten gurukula boys to the Allahabad Kumbha-mela, and I was surprised to learn that the Ramanandas had elected one young sannyasi to lead their whole sampradaya and that they had a huge Ramananda stall at the festival. I told the gurukula boys, “We will have this leader’s darshan. That one sadhu united a whole sampradaya is unheard of, and you boys should meet the person who has this potency. God knows, tomorrow you may become a guru.”

So, we went to see him. We were given priority because some of the boys were from South America, Australia, and so on. There were about a hundred people with this young sannyasi—men with long beards and matted locks of hair, all three times older than him, and leaders in their own right. This young sannyasi was sitting on a big seat, and people were fanning him with a chamara. We paid obeisances, and a gurukula boy from South America loudly chanted the sannyasa-sukta, which is a traditional way to greet a sannyasi. As he started chanting, everyone became silent, and after he had finished, this young Maharaja composed a Sanskrit poem about Prabhupada. He recited, “If I say that neither in the past nor in the future will there be an acharya equal to the acharya of the Hare Krishna movement, I won’t be committing an offense to the founder of my line, Ramananda, because in his commentary Ramananda himself predicted that Vishnu worship would spread around the world and that the whole world would take to it.”

As the sannyasi was talking, I realized that this was the same person who, as a small boy, had his head rubbed by Srila Prabhupada. He finished four slokas glorifying Prabhupada and ended with the glorification of Lord Jagannatha. Then he honored each boy separately, and when I went up to him, he said, “Atma Tattva Prabhu, do you remember me? You used to carry me on your back.” When I had traveled on padayatra, we had stayed at his father’s house. At that time, I was a brahmachari, and I used to carry this boy on my back. He used to call Lokanath Maharaja an “old man” because he had white hair. He said, “Prabhupada spoke about me becoming an acharya. My father never brought me to the Hare Krishna movement, but before he passed away, he told me that I had to study the Shankara-bhasya so that I could defeat it. That was his last wish. So, for four years I stayed with the Mayavadis in Benares and studied the commentary of Shankara. It was painful. Our whole sampradaya had split up over misunderstandings, and I thought that since I had Prabhupada’s blessings, maybe I could unite us. I tried for nine years, and this year it has happened. By the blessings of your guru maharaja, we are united. Ramananda said that as long as we were broken, we would never be able to fulfill his prediction. But Ramananda also said, ‘We don’t have to fulfill that prediction, because it has already been fulfilled by these people. We simply have to join and preach with them. Their movement is spreading around the world.’ ” Using us as a catalyst, this young sannyasi preached to everyone assembled there in that way. It was great to hear from him.

Sri Rama-ekadasi—Srila Prabhupada’s “Concluding Words” to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta

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Oct 312021

Today, Sri Rama-ekadasi, is a very special day. It is the first Ekadasi in the month of Kartik, or Damodara, and it has special significance as the day on which Srila Prabhupada completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the most important book on the life and precepts of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Every devotee should read it. Actually, every devotee should read every book of Srila Prabhupada’s—Sri Isopanisad, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, The Nectar of Devotion, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.

Although Sri Caitanya-caritamrta covers a wide range of topics, it is a very advanced book of study, and we will read from the end of it:

jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda ems 

 “All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Lord Nityananda! All glories to Advaitacandra! And all glories to all the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”

On this date, Sri Rama-ekadasi, in 1974, we went up the stairs to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters in the F-block in the back of the Juhu property. It was usual for us to go every morning at six o’clock to accompany Srila Prabhupada for his walk on Juhu Beach. But this time we were surprised to find that the door was locked. In fact, both doors—to his quarters and to his staff’s quarters—were locked, and we could not understand why. We knocked, and eventually Srila Prabhupada’s secretary Harikesa Prabhu opened the staff’s door and told us that Srila Prabhupada had just completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, that he had written the most beautiful glorification of his guru maharaja at the end, that he was in a very jubilant mood, and that he said we should celebrate by having a feast.

Now we shall read Srila Prabhupada’s Concluding Words to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:


Today, Sunday, November 10, 1974—corresponding to the 10th of Kartika, Caitanya Era 488, the eleventh day of the dark fortnight, the Rama-ekadasi—we have now finished the English translation of Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami’s Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in accordance with the authorized order of His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Gosvami Maharaja, my beloved eternal spiritual master, guide, and friend. Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December, 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways of association—by vani and by vapuh. Vani means “words,” and vapuh means “physical presence.” Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence. The Bhagavad-gita, for example, is the vani of Lord Krsna. Although Krsna was personally present five thousand years ago and is no longer physically present from the materialistic point of view, the Bhagavad-gita continues.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

Srila Prabhupada sets the theme for his Concluding Words in the very first sentence by saying that he has completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in accordance with the authorized order of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja—the order, the instruction, the words, the vani. Although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had passed away on the last day of December in 1936, Srila Prabhupada was still connected with him by serving his instructions. Almost forty years after his guru maharaja disappeared, Srila Prabhupada was pleased to offer him his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. In other words, his relationship with his spiritual master was not diminished by the passage of time, because the association of vani continues eternally. In Srila Prabhupada’s dedication to his translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, he wrote, “To my eternal spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja. He lives eternally by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him.”

We never need to feel bereft of the association of the spiritual master or the parampara, because their association is always available through their words (vani), and as Srila Prabhupada wrote, we must take advantage of the vani. For example, Srila Prabhupada’s vani is available in his books. So we have to take advantage of his books. If we don’t read his books, if we don’t study his books, if we don’t discuss his books, how will we have his association? And we want his association. Continue reading »