Sep 072023

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace and to your unparalleled service and mercy.

When I joined the Boston temple in 1969, Satsvarupa dasa was the temple president and also the editor of BTG, and he always wanted articles for the magazine. So I wrote one, entitled “The Genuine Spiritual Master,” and by the time the issue with my article reached you, in February of 1971, I was with you in Gorakhpur, India.

After reading my article, you called for me. The temple room was dimly lit—only some narrow shafts of light pierced through the slim openings in the wooden shutters along the side. Sitting alone on your raised cushion at the far end, you were the very image of the eternal spiritual master, and your voice resonated with the truth of eternal time. I sat at your feet, eyes and ears wide open.

“I saw your article in Back to Godhead,” you said. “It was very nice. You should write. This is your first business. Go on writing. We require many, many such articles about Krishna consciousness. So you should devote yourself to writing.”

“I will try,” I said. “But why are you asking me? I have no special qualification.”

“We require many to do this work, and we need you also. So, you travel with me and I will guide you. You come and stay with me.”

I felt thrilled and honored. You had never before given me a direct instruction. In fact, we had hardly ever spoken, and now you were inviting me to stay with you. I felt a little intimidated and wondered how it would work. Also, I had always worked under my authorities. Who would tell them about your proposal? So, I asked, “How will we decide whether I should travel with you or what I should do?”

You replied, “By mutual consultation.” And you instructed me, “See that my books are accepted in the universities, by the scholarly class.” Then you asked if I ever thought of getting married.

“No,” I said. “I never think of getting married.” And after a moment I added, “The only time I ever thought of getting married was when I saw that all the GBCs were married.”

“You will never be GBC,” you said. And you continued, “It is best to avoid marriage. Sex desire is like an itch. If you have an itch and you scratch it, it just becomes worse. Similarly, sex desire is there, and if you try to satisfy it, it becomes worse. So it is better to tolerate. Not only sex desire—all the demands of the senses—eating and sleeping also. Better to tolerate. So, you remain brahmachariand after two or three years I will give you sannyasa.

In a matter of twenty minutes, you had given me my whole life’s program in Krishna consciousness.

I was always thinking of you then; sometimes at night I couldn’t even sleep—I would just be thinking of how wonderful you were. I would stand at the balcony near your room and look out over the surrounding fields at the stars and the bright moon. I was in so much ecstasy that you had read my article and invited me to travel with you, and I experienced an awakening in my heart of a type of affection I had never felt before.

Over the years, you repeated your instruction for me to write. In a letter to me dated August 12, 1971, you wrote, “In the midst of your heavy duties, go on writing something glorifying the Lord and put our philosophy into words. Writing articles means to express oneself how he is understanding the whole philosophy. So this writing is necessary for everyone.”

In 1973 I sent you my Vyasa-puja offering, and on August 23, from Bhaktivedanta Manor, you sent me an encouraging note: “I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter and the nice Vyasa-puja offering you sent. I have sent it to Satsvarupa Goswami for printing in the BTG. Writing is a very important part of our work, and Satsvarupa is always anxious to have new material from the devotees for expanding the BTG. You have a nice talent for writing, and practice makes perfect, so continue. It will be appreciated.”

Eventually BTG published my offering, in which I described my first meeting with you and how it—you—had transformed my life:

All glories to you
Who have given me light
To open my eyes,
Which were firmly shut tight.

When we first came to you
In the darkness of night
The words from your lips
Made everything bright.

“What is your goal—
Godhead to find
Or God to become?
Please make up your mind.

“If you want to become God,
You can’t be God now.
Can a non-God become God?
Please let me know how.

“God is within you,
Sitting there in your heart,
Just waiting for your
Loving service to start.

“But if you insist
That you want to be Him,
You’re cheating yourself
And have nothing to win.

“If the seed of devotion
With chanting you sow,
Then God will give sunlight
To help make it grow.

“But if to become God
Remains your ambition,
Why then should God
Help His own competition?

“Krishna is God,
And God He is always,
On Yasoda’s lap
Or in Dvaraka’s hallways.

“Or in Kurukshetra,
He’s God all the same—
It’s not that by yoga
The Lord He became.

“You are a spark,
And God is the fire:
You can be Godly
If you truly desire.

“Your qualities match His,
But the quantity’s different,
For God’s nature is infinite,
Yours insignificant.

“I cannot be God,
For I truly am small,
But He kindly allows me
To serve Him—that’s all.

“That is His mercy,
Transcendent and sweet.
Take it! Be happy!
That’s all I entreat.”

Thus Your Divine Grace
I was blessed to meet,
And thus I was forced
To fall at your feet.

You poured your words like nectar
Into my ears
To clean out my heart
And vanquish my fears.

Arousing within me
My love for the Lord,
My actual life as
His servant restored.

Now I beg to remain
A singular soul,
Serving the servant
Of the one Spirit Whole.

All glories to you
Who have given me this:
A life that’s eternal,
Full of knowledge and bliss.

Taking me from the darkness,
Cold and alone,
To go back to Godhead,
To go back to home.


In recent years I have edited Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective and written Watering the Seed—With Teachings from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; Many Moons: Reflections on Departed Vaishnavas; I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story; and now Dancing White Elephants: Traveling with Srila Prabhupada in India, August 1970–March 1972.

On this occasion I pray to you to bless me that I can continue to serve you, the devotees, and the world by writing about Krishna consciousness in the right consciousness. As you wrote in your purport to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 19.132, “It is certainly not good to write literature for money or reputation, but to write books and publish them for the enlightenment of the general populace is real service to the Lord. That was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s opinion, and he specifically told his disciples to write books. He actually preferred to publish books rather than establish temples. Temple construction is meant for the general populace and neophyte devotees, but the business of advanced and empowered devotees is to write books, publish them and distribute them widely. According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, distributing literature is like playing on a great mridanga. Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one can become a rupanuga devotee.”

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal, grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami