Jul 192016

Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana GosvamiToday, Sri Guru-purnima, or Vyasa-purnima, is the divine disappearance day of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, the eldest of the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. The authorized poet Sri Kavi-karnapura, in his book Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka (9.34, 35, 38), quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 24.348–350), tells how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu blessed Sanatana Gosvami with His specific mercy.

gaudendrasya sabha-vibhusana-manis tyaktva ya rddham sriyam
rupasyagraja esa eva tarunim vairagya-laksmim dadhe
antar-bhakti-rasena purna-hrdayo bahye ’vadhutakrtih
saivalaih pihitam maha-sara iva priti-pradas tad-vidam

“Srila Sanatana Gosvami, the elder brother of Srila Rupa Gosvami, was a most important minister in the government of Hussain Shah, the ruler of Bengal, and he was considered a most brilliant gem in that assembly. He possessed all the opulences of a royal position, but he gave up everything just to accept the youthful goddess of renunciation. Although he externally appeared to be a mendicant who had renounced everything, he was filled with the pleasure of devotional service within his heart. Thus he can be compared to a deep lake covered with moss. He was the object of pleasure for all the devotees who knew the science of devotional service.

tam sanatanam upagatam aksnor
drsta-matram atimatra-dayardrah
alilinga parighayata-dorbhyam
sanukampam atha campaka-gaurah

“As soon as Sanatana Gosvami arrived in front of Lord Caitanya, the Lord, seeing him, became merciful to him. The Lord, who has the complexion of a golden campaka flower, opened His arms and embraced him while expressing great affection.”

kalena vrndavana-keli-varta
lupteti tam khyapayitum visisya
krpamrtenabhisiseca devas
tatraiva rupam ca sanatanam ca

“In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrndavana.”

“Srila Sanatana Gosvami is the ideal spiritual master,” Srila Prabhupada explains, “for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madana-mohana. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrndavana due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get an adequate opportunity to stay in Vrndavana and derive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatana Gosvami.” (Cc Adi 1.47 purport)

On this auspicious occasion I pray to follow in the footsteps of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, that he may bless me with remembrance of Krishna and Vrndavana and the ability to share with others the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jul 092016

Puri Ratha-yatraA talk by Giriraj Swami on Sivananda Sena’s and Svarupa Damodara Gosvami’s Disappearance Day, June 25, 1998, Los Angeles.

On the auspicious day of Jagannatha Ratha-yatra in Puri, two of Lord Caitanya’s most confidential associates—Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Srila Sivananda Sena—left this world to return to the supreme abode.

The inner moods of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, especially in Puri, were not easy to understand, and they were unknown to most devotees. Only Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who was the most intimate associate of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri, could really understand them, and by his grace we have been given the chance to understand them, too.

svarupa-gosani-prabhura ati antaranga
tahate janena prabhura e-saba prasanga

“Svarupa Gosani is the most intimate associate of the Lord. He therefore knows all these topics well.” (Cc Adi 4.105)

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada tells us about Svarupa Damodara’s history and identity: “Prior to the Lord’s acceptance of the renounced order, Purusottama Bhattacarya, a resident of Navadvipa, desired to enter the renounced order of life. Therefore he left home and went to Benares, where he accepted the position of brahmacarya from a Mayavadi sannyasi. When he became a brahmacari, he was given the name Sri Damodara Svarupa. He left Benares shortly thereafter, without taking sannyasa, and he came to Nilacala, Jagannatha Puri, where Lord Caitanya was staying. He met Caitanya Mahaprabhu there and dedicated his life for the service of the Lord. He became Lord Caitanya’s secretary and constant companion. He used to enhance the pleasure potency of the Lord by singing appropriate songs, which were very much appreciated.”

In the context of Lord Caitanya’s experience of the Ratha-yatra in Puri, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 13.168) confirms:

prabhura bhavanurupa svarupera gana
yabe yei rasa taha kare murtiman

“Svarupa Damodara used to sing exactly according to the ecstatic emotion of the Lord. Whenever a particular mellow was being tasted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara would personify it by singing.”

Srila Prabhupada’s purport continues: “Svarupa Damodara could understand the secret mission of Lord Caitanya, and it was by his grace only that all the devotees of Lord Caitanya could know the real purpose of the Lord.

“Svarupa Damodara has been identified as Lalita-devi, the second expansion of Radharani. However, text 160 of Kavi-karnapura’s authoritative Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika describes Svarupa Damodara as the same Visakha-devi who serves the Lord in Goloka Vrndavana. Therefore it is to be understood that Sri Svarupa Damodara is a direct expansion of Radharani who helps the Lord experience the attitude of Radharani.”

Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami ki jaya!

Sivananda Sena is another confidential associate of the Lord who also assisted Him in His pastimes, especially at the time of the Puri Ratha-yatra. He is one of the important branches of the Caitanya tree.

sivananda sena-prabhura bhrtya antaranga
prabhu-sthane yaite sabe layena yanra sanga

“Sivananda Sena, the twenty-fourth branch of the tree, was an extremely confidential servant of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Everyone who went to Jagannatha Puri to visit Lord Caitanya took shelter and guidance from Sri Sivananda Sena.

prativarse prabhu-gana sangete la-iya
nilacale calena pathe palana kariya

“Every year he took a party of devotees from Bengal to Jagannatha Puri to visit Lord Caitanya. He maintained the entire party as they journeyed on the road.” (Cc Adi 10.54–55)

In a purport in the same part of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 10.61), which describes Sivananda Sena, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Srila Sivananda Sena has been described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja as follows: ‘Sivananda Sena was a resident of Kumarahatta, which is also known as Halisahara, and was a great devotee of the Lord. About one and a half miles from Kumarahatta is another village, known as Kancadapada, in which there are Gaura-Gopala Deities installed by Sivananda Sena, who also established a temple of Krsnaraya that is still existing. Sivananda Sena was the father of Paramananda Sena, who was also known as Puri dasa or Kavi-karnapura. Paramananda Sena wrote in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (176) that two of the gopis of Vrndavana, whose former names were Vira and Duti, combined to become his father. Srila Sivananda Sena guided all the devotees of Lord Caitanya who went from Bengal to Jagannatha Puri, and he personally bore all the expenses for their journey. This is described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Sixteen, verses 19 through 27. Srila Sivananda Sena had three sons, named Caitanya dasa, Ramadasa, and Paramananda. As mentioned above, this last son later became Kavi-karnapura and wrote the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. His spiritual master was Srinatha Pandita, who was Sivananda Sena’s priest. Due to Vasudeva Datta’s lavish spending, Sivananda Sena was engaged to supervise his expenditures.’ Continue reading »

Jul 062016

07.04.16_01.SBGiriraj Swami read from Sri Caitanya-bhagavata on the auspicious occasion of Gundica-marjana, Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s disappearance day, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s disappearance day—and the twentieth anniversary of Giridhari Priya dasa’s worship of his Gaura-Nitai Deities, shown here on his altar.

“After taking darshan of Lord Jagannatha with great bliss, Lord Nityananda went to see Gadadhara Pandita at the Tota-gopintha temple. Gadadhara and Nityananda loved each other deeply. There, seeing the three-fold bending form of Gopinatha, Lord Nityananda cried incessant tears of joy. Hearing of Nitai’s arrival, Gadadhara Pandita stopped reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam and immediately ran to greet the Lord.” (Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Antya 6)

“This is another feature of Gadadhara Pandita—he was very learned and he loved to recite Srimad-Bhagavatam. Lord Caitanya would hear him recite Srimad-Bhagavatam, and He heard the pastimes of Dhruva Maharaja and Prahlada Maharaja hundreds of times.” —Giriraj Swami

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Kirtan led by Sarvatma dasa
Ye Anilo Prema-dana led by Sarvama dasa
Talk by Giriraj Swami
Nrsimha Prayers led by Giriraj Swami


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Jun 292016

SrivasaSrivasa Pandita in Mayapur Pandita is one of the members of the Panca-tattva: sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasa. Vedic authorities state that in the current Age of Kali, Krsna came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Balarama came as Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Similarly, Maha-visnu appeared as Advaita Acarya, Srimati Radharani as Gadadhara Pandita, and Narada Muni as Srivasa Pandita.

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam
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.” (Cc Adi 1.14)

Panca-tattvatmakam: The Panca-tattva comprise one truth on the absolute platform. Lord Caitanya is bhakta-rupa, Krsna in the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is svarupakam, the expansion of a devotee. Advaita Acarya is bhaktavataram, the avatara of a devotee. Srivasa Thakura is bhakta, a devotee. And Gadadhara Pandita is bhakta-saktikam, the energy of the Supreme Lord who supplies energy to the devotees—the devotional energy, Srimati Radharani.

In the Adi-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes the tree of Lord Caitanya. The tree itself is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and at the same time Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the gardener who tends to the tree. This tree, like any tree, has a trunk, limbs, and branches. The limbs and branches and leaves are devotees—the devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that he is listing such devotees for his own purification, just to glorify them, and that he cannot distinguish between who is higher and who is lower. He wants to glorify them all. And Srila Prabhupada remarks that this is the attitude of a pure devotee. A pure devotee respects all devotees. He does not distinguish that some should be respected and some not. He respects all of them. Continue reading »

Jun 292016

prabhupada-associationDuring a Skype conversation with devotees in Mumbai, Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.35:

Translation: Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all kinds of material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer from anxiety or fear.

Purport: Vaikuntha means “without anxiety,” and the material world means full of anxiety. As stated by Prahlada Maharaja, sada samudvigna-dhiyam asad-grahat: the living entities who have accepted this material world as a residence are full of anxiety. A place immediately becomes Vaikuntha whenever the holy topics of the Personality of Godhead are discussed by pure devotees. This is the process of sravanam kirtanam visnoh, chanting and hearing about the Supreme Lord, Visnu. As the Supreme Lord Himself confirms:

naham tisthami vaikunthe
yoginam hrdayesu va
tatra tisthami narada
yatra gayanti mad-bhaktah

“My dear Narada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuntha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogis, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.” Because of the presence of the Lord in the form of the transcendental vibration, the Vaikuntha atmosphere is evoked. This atmosphere is without fear and anxiety. One living entity does not fear another. [SB 4.30.35]

Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.35

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Jun 262016

Hema Malini at ISKCON JuhuToday Hema Malini, the famed performer from India, visited the ISKCON Los Angeles temple, and I was reminded of when she and I were together on the stage of the ISKCON auditorium in Juhu, Mumbai. It was December, during the book-distribution marathon, and after the performance I asked the audience to come forward to purchase sets of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamra, for concessional rates. The response was slow, so I leaned over and asked her if I could announce that she would autograph one book from each set, and she kindly agreed. After the announcement, people jumped out of their seats and rushed toward the stage, standing in long queues to get their sets of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And I thought, “This is the proper use of her name and fame—to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami’s Appearance Day, June 23, Carpinteria, California

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Jun 242016

06.23.16_04.TKG_App_Carp“Sometimes we would discuss something together and at times he was clearly right, but other times I would feel that I saw something that he didn’t see—and he would not agree. But I had faith in him because it happened again and again that in the morning he would chant and reflect on whatever the issue was and if it really was a point where he should have come around, he did come around. Although he was such a powerful and forceful person, he was controlled, even invisibly, by Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.

—Giriraj Swami

Devotees’ Appreciations
Giriraj Swami’s Appreciation

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Working Together on The Journey Within

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Jun 222016

His Holiness Radhanath Swami began the launch of his new book, The Journey Within, at the ISKCON Dallas temple on May 16, 2016. The following exchange took place toward the end of the event.

Radhanath Swami: When I was with His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja this past September, I told him, “I really don’t know what to do with this book. Please save me.” And he started reading it. That was in Boston, yes?

Giriraj Swami: It actually began on the flight from Los Angeles to Boston. After we had spoken together for some time, you said, “Excuse me, I have a manuscript that I have to look at because I have a deadline and I have to send it in.” And then you said, “Would you like to have a look at it?” That was the beginning.

Radhanath Swami: That’s right. Maharaja was supposed to go to Boston a day earlier, but Amala Bhakta Prabhu was going to take sannyasa at the Los Angeles temple and he really wanted Maharaja to be there, so I begged Maharaja, “Please come for his sannyasa ceremony.”

So, Amala Bhakta Prabhu became Amala Bhakta Swami Maharaja, and the next day Giriraj Swami Maharaja and I flew together to Boston. It was a really interesting flight. That was the flight where those people were yelling and fighting, right?

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

Radhanath Swami: Were you ever on a flight like that? I don’t want to get into the sociological, psychological dynamics, but there were these men who were with women and they were really drunk. They just kept drinking more andGRS RNS in house in NJ more liquor, and they were trying to show off to the women how tough they were and how arrogant they were, and they were just saying the most obscene, terrible things on the flight. Everybody around them was disturbed by them, and some of the passengers started chastising them, and they had to show their prowess to their girlfriends, so they were screaming and standing up and ready to fight. And the girls were smiling. Then everyone around started chastising the airline attendants: “Why did you give them so much to drink? Look at what you’ve done. This is all your fault. We’re never going to fly on this airline again. We’re going to get you fired.” The attendants were saying, “We didn’t know,” but the people were saying, “No, we are going to get you fired. What is your name?” And then the men said, “Don’t blame them. You fight with me.”

And two little swamis were sitting in the middle of it all. So, in that very sattvika environment, Giriraj Swami started reading the manuscript!

Giriraj Swami: Yes. You had come to a certain point in the manuscript, so you asked me to look at it from that point, which I did, and I was sharing my thoughts with you and you found it instructive, or interesting. When we landed, your vehicle, a minivan, came to receive us all, and when there was a delay with my rental car, you said, “Oh, this is good. It will give us more time to work on the book.” So we were working in your vehicle, and then, even when my car was ready, you wanted to continue working, so I stayed and you didn’t get out even when we got to your place, which came before mine, and we continued working all the way to my place and then you went back to yours.

Radhanath Swami: Yes.

Giriraj Swami: Thereafter, pretty much any time you were free, when we weren’t directly involved in programs, I would come over and we would work on the book.

Then you said that you were going to New York and that it would be good if I joined you. It was a difficult decision for me, because it had been planned long before that I would spend some time in Boston with His Holiness Niranjana Swami. But I felt this imperative from you, so I presented the situation to Niranjana Swami, and he was very gracious and said, “Yes, Radhanath Swami is also very dear to me. I also consider myself to be his servant, so if you are serving him, I will also be happy.”

And so we went. You actually went ahead—you drove at night—and I came the next day, and we made our base at Yasoda-dulal Prabhu’s place in New Jersey and went through the book from where we had left off. Then you thought we should start again from the beginning, so after we got to the end, we did just that. We worked from early in the morning, and when you had to go out for a program, I would accompany you and we would work together in the car. That ended up being the time when the pope came and you were scheduled to speak at the UN. There were a couple of programs scheduled for you in New York, and you cancelled one of them so we could work on the book. You said our work was more important. Then we were working at The Bhakti Center together. But there was still some anxiety over whether we would be able to finish, because I had to leave the next day and we were really going through the manuscript—paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, comma by comma.

GRS RNS on deck in NJ - 1Radhanath Swami: I don’t even know what a comma is. You were doing it.

Giriraj Swami: And it was like a miracle. You did one program and cancelled the other. Then you came back, and it was like a miracle: we actually finished the whole book. I thought that maybe if we were lucky we would finish by midnight, but we finished around 8 p.m.

I really felt that I got to enter your heart more deeply, because so much of your heart came out in the book. And I really got to appreciate—I always did, but in a deeper, maybe more intimate or confidential way—how compassionate you are, because your compassion came out on every page, in every paragraph, every sentence. That was for me one overwhelming effect of going through the book together.

Another was seeing how personal you are in how you present the philosophy. All the philosophy is there, but it is illustrated with vivid examples that even a Minnesota housewife can relate to. Working together was a very enriching and rewarding experience for me, and I pray, and am completely hopeful, that the book will be read widely—by all sorts of people, even people who don’t have any background in yoga or acquaintance with Krishna. That will fulfill your desire that they be awakened to this beautiful life in Krishna consciousness, which can relieve them from so many miseries in the material world.

And there are many stories, such as “The Tale of Dorothy,” that illustrate how someone who has faced setbacks and reversals and tragedies in life can find hope in Krishna consciousness.

Then there is the story of that poor family in Maharashtra—they were so poor, but the mother, Tarabai, had integrity and a sense of self-respect and didn’t want to take something without reciprocating, but she was so poor she really had nothing to give you. You took her son into our orphanage and school, which was a big thing. It is such a moving story: she had nothing to give, but she really wanted to give something. Finally, after droughts and all sorts of calamities, she got a little crop of peanuts, and she gave you the peanuts as an offering. There is an expression—if something is sold for a small amount, or if someone is compensated for some work with a small amount, something meager, useless, or trivial, we say, “Oh, that’s peanuts.” She literally gave peanuts and, like Krishna, out of your loving and compassionate heart, you accepted those peanuts as a most spectacular offering.

So, yes, it was really a wonderful experience, and I look forward to reading the published book, because, as it is said, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. In other words, you pay so much attention to the trees, the details, that you can’t get an overview of the whole forest. Looking at every word and every comma, I didn’t get a full sense of the whole. So, I am looking forward to reading it again, that I might relish it again, and to seeing it in its final form.

Thank you for engaging me.

GRS RNS on deck in NJ - 1Radhanath Swami: Thank you for saving me. When Giriraj Maharaja put his magical, mystical, devotional grace into the book in such a loving and attentive way, I really felt for the first time that Srila Prabhupada has blessed it, and I am forever indebted to you for assisting me in this way. Thank you.

Giriraj Swami: Thank you for engaging me and purifying me.

Radhanath Swami: Thank you for engaging and purifying me.

Giriraj Swami: You want to fight about it?

Radhanath Swami: We don’t have any ladies to show off to!

Thank you very much, Giriraj Swami Maharaja!

Reflections on Father’s Day

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Jun 192016

Giriraj with Srila Prabhupada on Juhu BeachToday, on Father’s Day, some devotees thought of me and wrote to me. I thought of Srila Prabhupada and a letter he wrote to a disciple: “You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. Relationship of father and son on spiritual platform is real and eternal; on the material platform such relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I can pray to Krishna for your more and more advancement in Krishna consciousness. Your sincerity and service mood will always help you in advancing your genuine cause.”

I also thought of a verse and purport from Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.24.13):

etavaty eva susrusa karya pitari putrakaih
badham ity anumanyeta gauravena guror vacah

“Sons ought to render service to their father exactly to this extent. One should obey the command of his father or spiritual master with due deference, saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

Srila Prabhupada explains, “Two words in this verse are very important; one word is pitari, and another word is guroh. The son or disciple should accept the words of his spiritual master and father without hesitation. Whatever the father and the spiritual master order should be taken without argument: ‘Yes.’ There should be no instance in which the disciple or the son says, ‘This is not correct. I cannot carry it out.’ When he says that, he is fallen. The father and the spiritual master are on the same platform because a spiritual master is the second father. The higher classes are called dvija, twice-born. Whenever there is a question of birth, there must be a father. The first birth is made possible by the actual father, and the second birth is made possible by the spiritual master. Sometimes the father and the spiritual master may be the same man, and sometimes they are different men. In any case, the order of the father or the order of the spiritual master must be carried out without hesitation, with an immediate yes. There should be no argument. That is real service to the father and to the spiritual master. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has stated that the order of the spiritual master is the life and soul of the disciples. As a man cannot separate his life from his body, a disciple cannot separate the order of the spiritual master from his life. If a disciple follows the instruction of the spiritual master in that way, he is sure to become perfect. This is confirmed in the Upanisads: the import of Vedic instruction is revealed automatically only to one who has implicit faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and in his spiritual master. One may be materially considered an illiterate man, but if he has faith in the spiritual master as well as in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then the meaning of scriptural revelation is immediately manifested before him.”

On this occasion, I pray to become a proper servant of my spiritual master, or spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada, and of all his other servants.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami