Sep 032021

We have gathered on the most auspicious occasion of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day. His Divine Grace appeared in Calcutta in 1896, 125 years ago. And as he wrote of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, “He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him.” So although from the physical point of view Srila Prabhupada is no longer with us, from the spiritual point of view he is: “He lives forever by his divine instructions.” And by following his instructions, we feel his presence; we live with him.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote an inscription for the tomb of Haridasa Thakura in Jagannatha Puri:

He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die
When thou art living still in sound.
The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around.

Both Srila Prabhupada’s dedication and Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s inscription tell us that the spiritual master, the Vaishnava, never dies; he continues to live in sound, in his instructions (vani), forever. And by following his instructions, by chanting the holy name, we can fulfill his purpose and live with him.

One verse that especially glorifies Srila Prabhupada’s merciful nature and service comes in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Thirty-one: “The Gopis’ Songs of Separation.” The same verse appears in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Fourteen. It is a very beautiful verse in thought and mood.


tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
  kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
  bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah

This verse was sung by the gopis after Krishna left the area of the rasa dance. They were searching the forest of Vrindavan for Him, and in their mood of separation they sang this song, or verse, to Him.

“The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one’s sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent.”

During the Ratha-yatra festival Lord Chaitanya was in the mood of Srimati Radharani when She met Krishna at Kurukshetra and wanted to bring Him back to Vrindavan. And when the procession stopped to allow devotees to offer food to Lord Jagannatha, Lord Chaitanya, who felt exhausted from His dancing in sankirtana, went to a nearby garden to rest. While Mahaprabhu was lying on a raised platform, immersed in ecstatic loving feelings, King Prataparudra entered the garden, and, taking permission from the Lord’s other associates there, he began to massage the Lord’s lotus feet and to recite the gopis’ songs of separation, which was perfectly suitable for Lord Chaitanya’s mood.

When Lord Chaitanya heard the verse describing the glories of the messages of Godhead and of those who broadcast such messages, He rose and embraced the king, crying, “Bhuri-da! Bhuri-da! You are the most munificent! You are the most munificent—because you are giving Me the nectar of krsna-katha, which is so glorious.”

And that is exactly what Srila Prabhupada did for us—he gave us krsna-katha. He gave us many thousands of pages and thousands of hours of krsna-katha. He is bhuri-da, the most munificent personality. Continue reading »

Aug 312021

How Shall I Take Shelter of One More Merciful Than You?

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

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

Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, Chapter Two, verse 23 is very significant. Not only is the verse beautiful, but it also has historical significance, because when after sixteen years Sukadeva Gosvami came out of the womb, he left home immediately, and his father, Srila Vyasadeva, followed him into the forest. And when Vyasadeva came close enough to his son for Sukadeva to hear, he recited two verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam, one describing Krishna’s beauty, from the Tenth Canto, and one—this verse—describing Krishna’s mercy.

When Sukadeva Gosvami heard these two verses—the one describing Krishna’s mercy and the one describing Krishna’s beauty—he became attracted. Although liberated, he became attracted by Krishna’s transcendental qualities, and he came back to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from his father.

I quote this verse today because it reminds me of you—how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than you?

aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
  jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato ’nyam
  kam va dayalum saranam vrajema


Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than Him [Lord Krishna] who granted the position of mother to the she-demon Putana although she was faithless and had prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?


Here is an example of the extreme mercy of the Lord, even to His enemy. It is said that a noble man accepts the good qualities of a person of doubtful character, just as one accepts nectar from a stock of poison. In His babyhood, the Lord was administered deadly poison by Putana, a she-demon who tried to kill the wonderful baby. And because she was a demon, it was impossible for her to know that the Supreme Lord, even though playing the part of a baby, was no one less than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His value as the Supreme Lord did not diminish upon His becoming a baby to please His devotee Yasoda. The Lord may assume the form of a baby or a shape other than that of a human being, but it doesn’t make the slightest difference: He is always the same Supreme. A living creature, however powerful he may become by dint of severe penance, can never become equal to the Supreme Lord.

Lord Krsna accepted the motherhood of Putana because she pretended to be an affectionate mother, allowing Krsna to suck her breast. The Lord accepts the least qualification of the living entity and awards him the highest reward. That is the standard of His character. Therefore, who but the Lord can be the ultimate shelter?

[End of purport.]

The Lord is absolute. He is all good for everyone, and He is neutral toward everyone. He is always thinking of how to do good for others. So even if one approaches Him as an enemy, He will try to do good for the person, as in the case of Putana. Although she came to kill Krishna by administering poison from her breast, He elevated her to the position of a nurse, like a mother, in the spiritual world. And merciful as He is, you are even more merciful. Continue reading »

Aug 292021

We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb.”


tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
  samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
  kastha yathananda-karam manastah


tatah—thereafter; jagat-mangalam—auspiciousness for all living entities in all the universes of the creation; acyuta-amsam—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never bereft of the six opulences, all of which are present in all His plenary expansions; samahitam—fully transferred; sura-sutena—by Vasudeva, the son of Surasena; devi—Devaki-devi; dadhara—carried; sarva-atmakam—the Supreme Soul of everyone; atma-bhutam—the cause of all causes; kastha—the east; yatha—just as; ananda-karam—the blissful (moon); manastah—being placed within the mind.


Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.

The word acyutamsam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sad-aisvarya-purna, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.39), ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. Therefore the word acyutamsam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogis do. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1). Yogis meditate upon the Supreme Person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devaki, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Krsna was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devaki and that she carried the child within her womb.

When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.

Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.

Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, entered the body of Devaki from the body of Vasudeva. He was beyond the conditions of the ordinary living entity. When Krsna is there, it is to be understood that all His plenary expansions, such as Narayana, and incarnations like Lord Nrsimha and Varaha, are with Him, and they are not subject to the conditions of material existence. In this way, Devaki became the residence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second and the cause of all creation. Devaki became the residence of the Absolute Truth, but because she was within the house of Kamsa, she looked just like a suppressed fire, or like misused education. When fire is covered by the walls of a pot or is kept in a jug, the illuminating rays of the fire cannot be very much appreciated. Similarly, misused knowledge, which does not benefit the people in general, is not very much appreciated. So Devaki was kept within the prison walls of Kamsa’s palace, and no one could see her transcendental beauty, which resulted from her conceiving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We have gathered here at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna to remember and celebrate His appearance in this world. According to Vedic literature, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is the Absolute Truth, the origin of all that exists. And He is realized in three features, nondual (advaya), as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11):

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
  tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
  bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.” Continue reading »

Lord Balarama’s Appearance Day

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Aug 212021

Uniting Devotees: Lord Balarama’s Appearance

Today is the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the Personality of Godhead who is the first expansion of Lord Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead. Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7):

yada yada hi dharmasya
  glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
  tadatmanam srjamy aham

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.”

Krishna says, srjamy aham: “I manifest Myself.” He doesn’t take birth like an ordinary human being but manifests Himself in His original spiritual form. For what purpose?

paritranaya sadhunam
  vinasaya ca duskrtam
  sambhavami yuge yuge

“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” (Gita 4.8) He manifests Himself to protect the devotees, annihilate the demons, and reestablish the principles of religion.

In every sphere of activity in the material world there is deterioration; everything in the material world declines. A new house, for example, is very nice, but it gradually deteriorates, and eventually, when too old, it has to be rebuilt. In the same way, our performance of spiritual duties deteriorates, whether we are individuals, families, communities, or a society. And so the Lord comes repeatedly to reestablish religious practice. He appears in order to establish religious principles (dharma), but over time religious practice declines, and so He manifests Himself again and again. We all know how prone we are to allow our practice to deteriorate. Thus, on auspicious occasions like today, Lord Balarama’s appearance day, we can pray to the Lord to manifest Himself and help us to become reestablished in our religious principles and practice.

What Lord Krishna said in the two verses quoted from the Bhagavad-gita is explained elaborately in Srimad-Bhagavatam: When the earth was overburdened by demonic rulers, who had amassed large military forces armed with deadly weapons to wage war for personal gain, Lord Brahma, the chief of the demigods in this universe, approached the shore of the ocean of milk. There, accompanied by Lord Shiva and other celestial beings, he worshipped Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of all gods. In response, Lord Vishnu imparted instructions, which Lord Brahma in turn conveyed to the demigods. He told them that very soon the Lord would appear on earth to diminish the burden of the world and that the demigods, to assist Him, should take birth in the Yadu dynasty. Lord Brahma further stated that Lord Balarama, who is also known as Sankarsana, would precede the Lord and serve Him in every respect:

  sahasra-vadanah svarat
agrato bhavita devo
  hareh priya-cikirsaya

“The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

Lord Brahma told them as well that Yogamaya, the personal potency of the Lord, would also appear and assist the Lord in His mission.

Immediately preceding the appearance of Krishna and Balarama, Vasudeva, a great devotee in the Yadu dynasty, wedded Devaki, another pure devotee. After their marriage, Vasudeva mounted his chariot with his bride to return home, and Devaki’s brother Kamsa, to please his sister, took the reins of the horses to drive the chariot. Along the way, Kamsa heard a voice from an invisible source, which told him, “You fool, the eighth child of the woman you are carrying will kill you!” Kamsa, a great demon, became enraged and was ready to kill his own sister on the day of her marriage. But Vasudeva intervened and appealed to him to desist. He said, “How could a qualified person like you kill a woman—your own sister—on the occasion of her marriage? In any case, one day you will die, and in your next life you will have to suffer the reactions to your present activities.” Still, Kamsa was so shameless and cruel that he persisted, and Vasudeva, to save his wife from imminent death, told him, “You have nothing to fear from Devaki. According to the omen, it is her son who will kill you. So I promise to deliver all her sons, who are the cause of your fear, into your hands.” Kamsa, having faith in Vasudeva’s word, was pacified. Still, he imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. And year after year, as their children were born, Vasudeva dutifully delivered them to Kamsa, who mercilessly killed them.

Now we shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods.”


gaccha devi vrajam bhadre
  gopa-gobhir alankrtam
rohini vasudevasya
  bharyaste nanda-gokule
anyas ca kamsa-samvigna
  vivaresu vasanti hi


The Lord ordered Yogamaya: O My potency, who are worshipable for the entire world and whose nature is to bestow good fortune upon all living entities, go to Vraja, where there live many cowherd men and their wives. In that very beautiful land, where many cows reside, Rohini, the wife of Vasudeva, is living at the home of Nanda Maharaja. Other wives of Vasudeva are also living there incognito because of fear of Kamsa. Please go there.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Nanda-gokula, the residence of King Nanda, was itself very beautiful, but when Yogamaya was ordered to go there and encourage the devotees with fearlessness, it became even more beautiful and safe. Because Yogamaya had the ability to create such an atmosphere, the Lord ordered her to go to Nanda-gokula.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

King Kamsa was such a demon that he was performing all sorts of atrocities, and Vasudeva was afraid for the safety of his wives. In Vedic culture, the kshatriyas were allowed to have more than one wife. Now that idea seems a bit foreign or odd, but it had its purpose in Vedic civilization. The kshatriyas then were powerful; they could maintain many wives. But, as predicted in Srimad-Bhagavatam, as the present age of Kali progresses, or deteriorates, a husband will have to struggle just to maintain one wife, one family, and if he is somehow able to do so nicely, he is considered a great success in life.

Previously, people were more qualified. They were more opulent. The kshatriyas could have more than one wife, though Lord Ramachandra took eka-patni-vrata, a vow to accept only one wife—Sitadevi. Vasudeva had more than one wife, but he was responsible. He didn’t want any harm to befall any of them, and he arranged for their protection. Vasudeva and Devaki had relatives, who were also family friends, in Gokula—Nanda and Yasoda. And so Vasudeva placed one of his wives, Rohini, under the care of Nanda and Yasoda. And after Balarama had entered the womb of Devaki, Lord Krishna ordered Yogamaya to transfer Him from the womb of Devaki into the womb of Rohini. Continue reading »

The Genuine Spiritual Master

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Aug 212021

In February 1971, in Gorakhpur, India, Srila Prabhupada received the issue of Back to Godhead with my article “The Genuine Spiritual Master” and called for me. “I saw your article in Back to Godhead,” he said. “It was very nice. You should write. This is your first business. Go on writing. We require many, many articles about Krishna consciousness. So you should devote yourself to writing.” I have taken Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to me to heart. And that article, “The Genuine Spiritual Master,” follows.

The Genuine Spiritual Master

“Instant Problem Solving—Guru Inside.” We pass this sign every day as we Boston devotees chant the holy names in Harvard Square. The sign hangs on a local shop window, and it is sold in quantity inside. This week at the neighboring movie theatre a new movie is showing—The Guru. So, who is the guru?

The true guru is the person who says that Krishna, God, is our true friend. He does not pose himself as God or tell us that we can become God. The bona fide guru has various qualifications, and someone who is looking for a spiritual master must know the standards that the true guru must meet.

Today everyone is posing as a spiritual master, or guru, and so we have that facetious sign. One group of foolish persons thinks that they can become gurus by their own concoction, simply by proclaiming themselves spiritual masters. And a corresponding group of foolish persons accepts such phonies because the formula is so easy, offers so much sense gratification, and supposedly permits the practitioner to become God. They like to think that their problems will vanish in an instant, and thus they are cheated.

Despite such foolishness, there is such a thing as a bona fide guru, or spiritual master, and the sincere student of spiritual science should know how to recognize him. One should understand who the spiritual master is, what his position is, how he can be identified, and how we relate to him. And one should know the ultimate goal in accepting a spiritual master.

Simply stated, the ultimate goal of spiritual life is to develop love of God, and the duty of the spiritual master is to awaken this dormant love of God in the hearts of his students. The spiritual master is a servant of the Supreme Lord. Thus, the student becomes the indirect servant of God, and if a student serves God sincerely, God will ultimately reveal Himself to the student in a pure loving exchange. This process is described in the Bhagavad-gita and is recommended as the highest yoga by the Supreme Lord Himself, Sri Krishna, the original spiritual master.

So, in real spiritual life the spiritual master acts as the medium between us, so minute, and Krishna, so great. We are so limited that we cannot approach the unlimited God, but the spiritual master, out of his causeless mercy, makes himself available to help us approach the Supreme Lord. Continue reading »