Anecdotes and articles from the pastimes and teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Revised and Expanded Edition, Hardbound, 361 pages, 8 chapters, 11 color photos. Foreword by Radhanath Swami. Published by Torchlight Publishing.
“Prabhupada told me that if I simply study the character of Lord Caitanya in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta — even apart from His being the Supreme Personality of Godhead — just by studying Him as a Vaisnava, I will become perfect. So in the same way, if people study Prabhupada, apart from what his inner identity might be — which even we don’t know — if they study him just as a Vaisnava or as a great acarya or as a great personality, they will benefit.” — from Watering the Seed.
All of us can benefit from reading Life’s Final Exam. Its contents can fuel our own spiritual search, help us better understand our brethren from the Vedic tradition, and teach us much about life’s great mysteries. You will be glad you opened these pages!
–Porter Storey, MD, author of Primer of Palliative Care and the Unipac series
Life’s Final Exam stands at the crossroads where the wisdom of spiritual tradition meets real human need. Death and dying do not respect sectarian boundaries, and it is wonderful to see the riches of Vaishnava Hinduism drawn upon to sustain and console people embarked on this life’s final journey. Ministry to the sick and dying is today an increasingly interreligious phenomenon, and this book will be a welcome resource for departments of pastoral and hospice care.
–Francis X. Clooney, SJ, Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University
Life’s Final Exam opens a world of new insights into the mysteries of life, death, and what lies beyond. The book contains answers to life’s biggest questions seen through the eyes of love, devotion, and service. Giriraj Swami weaves the perennial wisdom of the Vedic tradition, which is not very well known in the West, with practical experience and support for those working in hospice and for anyone who cares for others at the great threshold. Regardless of a person’s spiritual path, Life’s Final Exam offers fresh perspectives into what we all hope for and most cherish in life. Here is a new volume for the growing world library of The Books of Living and Dying.
–Richard Groves, founder of the Sacred Art of Living Center, author of The American Book of Living and Dying
From the Author
Why should the living contemplate death and dying–how can we profit from such topics? Recently a colleague and friend of mine passed away, and before his death he said, “When you get this close to death, you see that it is not what you thought. All our life we fear it, but when you are this close you see that it is not the end; it is a portal to opportunities beckoning us, a portal beyond which we are able to see our true existence and nature–that we are all actually entities that don’t pass away. It is not something negative or destructive; it is the opposite of that, hugely life-affirming. Life is for learning lessons, and death is our best instructor to teach us the most important of lessons because it reveals the essence and purpose of our life and throws a light on our eternal spiritual nature.”
Being mindful of death–our own or that of others–helps put things in proper perspective. Steve Jobs, the visionary American entrepreneur said, “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
When we are conscious of death, we see more clearly what is important–ultimately, our eternal relationship with the Supreme Person and reestablishing it by chanting and hearing and serving–and what is not.
Many Moons: Reflections on Departed Vaishnavas
Hardbound, 358 pages, 9 chapters, 16 pages of color photos. Foreword by Bhakti Bhringa Govinda Swami. Published by Torchlight Publishing.
In prosecuting the Hare Krishna movement all over the world, Srila Prabhupada was looking for just one moon–one devotee to be trained and engaged in dissipating the darkness of the Age of Kali, the darkness in people’s hearts–in accordance with the Sanskrit maxim “Innumerable stars cannot dissipate the darkness, but one moon can illuminate the night.”
In spite of so many difficulties and disappointments, Srila Prabhupada persisted in his mission–to get one moon. That was his great desire. But would it be fulfilled? And if he did get such a moon, would we even be able to recognize it?
After some years in America teaching his new devotees the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, instructing them in the pure chanting of the holy name, and training them in the loving service of Krishna Chaitanya, Srila Prabhupada disclosed his heart. He explained, “Our propaganda is to create one moon. But fortunately, by Krishna’s grace, many moonlike boys and girls have come to me–many moons.”
We were not even sure of one moon, but Srila Prabhupada, out of his extraordinary mercy and power–and by Krishna’s grace–created many.
Many Moons may be purchased here.
I’ll Build You a Temple – The Juhu Story
I’ll build you a temple transports us into one of the great events of our time. It is a story of surrender on the path of love – an incomparable story that many have tried to relate but which no one will ever be able to tell like His Holiness Giriraj Swami. He was there, intimately involved, from beginning to end.
In 1972 Srila Prabhupada chose a site for a temple on an undeveloped property infested with rats, mosquitoes, and hostile opponents in a swampy fishing village miles away from the city of Bombay. He welcomes the deities of Radha-Rasabihari into a small shed and promised to build Them a wonderful temple.
– Radhanath Swami
About the Author
Giriraj Swami was born Glenn Phillip Teton, the only son of a respected Chicago lawyer who was later appointed judge. In March of 1969, while studying at Brandeis University in Boston, he met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), from whom, he felt, he learned more in one brief exchange than he had learned in his many years of academic education. After graduating from Brandeis cum laude, he accepted formal initiation from Srila Prabhupada and received the spiritual name Giriraj das. Giriraj quickly became a leading member of the Boston center and was soon given the opportunity to go to India with Srila Prabhupada and helped establish his mission there.
In 1972 Prabhupada appointed Giriraj president of ISKCON Bombay and trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Since then, he has made many significant contributions to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, most notably overseeing all aspects of the development of Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Bombay. He was instrumental in the acquisition and development of the Bhaktivedanta Ashram in Govardhana and led the development of the Kirtan Ashram for women, the Bhaktivedanta Hospice, and the Vrindavan Institute of Palliative Care, all in Vrindavan. Through his efforts, Giriraj Swami has become renowned for the austerities he has accepted, his loyalty and dedication to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, his ability to raise funds and cultivate important members of society, and his care for devotees around the world.
In the year following Srila Prabhupada’s departure in 1977, Giriraj was awarded the renounced order of life and appointed president of ISKCON’s board of trustees in India. In 1982 he was appointed to ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, and he went on to oversee the Society’s activities in Bombay, Mauritius, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Giriraj Swami has also taught at the Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education and continues to lecture and to give presentations at japa retreats and workshops around the world.
Presently based in Carpinteria, California, Giriraj Swami is now focusing on one of the main personal instructions he received from Srila Prabhupada—to write. He is the author of Watering the Seed and Many Moons and is working on several publications, including books about death and dying in the Vedic tradition, his search for a spiritual master and his early days in the Boston temple, his travels with Srila Prabhupada in India and Srila Prabhupada’s monumental efforts in Bombay, and Vaishnava holy days.