Jun 152019
 

Srila Prabhupada expressed his appreciation for his father in his dedication to his book Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, “To My Father, Gour Mohan De (1849–1930)”: “A pure devotee of Krsna, who raised me as a Krsna conscious child from the beginning of my life. In my boyhood ages he instructed me how to play the mrdanga. He gave me Radha-Krsna vigraha to worship, and he gave me Jagannatha ratha to duly observe the festival as my childhood play. He was kind to me, and I imbibed from him the ideas later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father.”

As devotees, we try to encourage and facilitate our children’s Krishna consciousness, as Prabhupada’s father did with him—an effort that is solidified when our children find their eternal spiritual masters.

Srila Prabhupada wrote to one of his disciples, “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.”

We are indebted to all our fathers, biological and preceptorial. To those still with us, we wish you Happy Father’s Day. To those who have left us, we love you and miss you and shall try to act in such a way as will please you—and Krishna, the Supreme Father.

Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.24.13) states,

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

“Sons ought to render service to their [qualified] father exactly to this extent. One should obey the command of his [qualified] 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, my spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada, and of all his other servants.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 132019
 

A talk by Giriraj Swami, June 15, 2008, Laguna Beach, California.

We have gathered at the lotus feet of the Pancha-tattva on this most auspicious occasion of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s cida-dadhi festival. The background to this incident can be found in Raghunatha dasa’s early life. His uncle and father, Hiranya and Govardhana Majumadara, were wealthy landlords in Bengal—almost like kings—and had a huge, opulent riverside palace, with boats that plied the river. Hiranya and Govardhana were generous and devoted to brahminical culture, and they maintained practically the entire brahman community of Nadia with their charity. Raghunatha was their only son, so naturally they put all their hopes to carry on the family dynasty on him. But from a young age, Raghunatha was attracted to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Majumadaras’ spiritual master was Yadunandana Acharya, a disciple of Advaita Acharya and an intimate student of Vasudeva Datta. And the family’s priest was Balarama Acharya, a dear associate of Haridasa Thakura and close friend of Yadunandana Acharya. Balarama Acharya and Yadunandana Acharya used to host Haridasa Thakura, and when Haridasa stayed in their village, Raghunatha visited him daily and received his mercy. Balarama Acharya also invited Haridasa Thakura to speak in the Majumadaras’ assembly about the glories of the holy name. Thus Raghunatha dasa had the association of these great souls, followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who would tell him about Mahaprabhu and encourage him to chant.

Once, when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, after taking sannyasa, visited Shantipur, Raghunatha dasa went to meet Him. In pure love, Raghunatha fell at Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet, and the Lord, out of His mercy, blessed him with their touch. Raghunatha served the Lord for a week, and after he returned home he was mad with ecstatic love. He wanted to join Mahaprabhu in Puri, but his family would not allow him. Time and again he would run away from home to go to Puri, and every time, his father would catch him and bring him back. His father even kept five watchmen to guard him day and night, four servants to see to his comforts, and two brahmans to cook for him—eleven people were engaged to make sure he did not go to Puri. Later, when Mahaprabhu again visited Shantipur, Raghunatha begged his father, “Please allow me to see the lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Otherwise, my life will not remain in my body.” So his father allowed him to go to Shantipur, sending many servants to accompany him. For seven days Raghunatha stayed in the Lord’s association, constantly thinking, “How will I get free from the watchmen? How will I be able to go with Mahaprabhu to Puri?” The Lord, being omniscient, could understand Raghunatha’s mind, and He reassured him with some important statements. These instructions form the background of the Panihati festival, and we shall read them as they are recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Sixteen: “The Lord’s Attempt to go to Vrndavana.”

TEXT 237

“sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula

TRANSLATION

[Lord Chaitanya told Raghunatha dasa:] “Be patient and return home. Don’t be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence.

TEXT 238

“markata-vairagya na kara loka dekhana
yatha-yogya visaya bhunja’ anasakta hana”

TRANSLATION

“You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The word markata-vairagya, indicating false renunciation, is very important in this verse. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in commenting on this word, points out that monkeys make an external show of renunciation by not accepting clothing and by living naked in the forest. In this way they consider themselves renunciants, but actually they are very busy enjoying sense gratification with dozens of female monkeys. Such renunciation is called markata-vairagya—the renunciation of a monkey. One cannot become really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one’s life. Temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is like the renunciation one feels at a cremation ground. When a man takes a dead body to the crematorium, he sometimes thinks, “This is the final end of the body. Why am I working so hard day and night?” Such sentiments naturally arise in the mind of any man who goes to a crematorial ghata. However, as soon as he returns from the cremation grounds, he again engages in material activity for sense enjoyment. This is called smasana-vairagya, or markata-vairagya.

In order to render service to the Lord, one may accept necessary things. If one lives in this way, he may actually become renounced. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:

yavata syat sva-nirvahah
svi-kuryat tavad artha-vit
adhikye nyunatayam ca
cyavate paramarthatah

“The bare necessities of life must be accepted, but one should not superfluously increase his necessities. Nor should they be unnecessarily decreased. One should simply accept what is necessary to help one advance spiritually.”

In his Durgama-sangamani, Sri Jiva Gosvami comments that the word sva-nirvahah actually means sva-sva-bhakti-nirvahah. The experienced devotee will accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.256), markata-vairagya, or phalgu-vairagya, is explained as follows:

prapancikataya buddhya
hari-sambandhi-vastunah
mumuksubhih parityago
vairagyam phalgu kathyate

“When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete.” Whatever is favorable for the rendering of service to the Lord should be accepted and should not be rejected as a material thing. Yukta-vairagya, or befitting renunciation, is thus explained:

anasaktasya visayan
yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate

“Things should be accepted for the Lord’s service and not for one’s personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Krsna, one’s renunciation is called yukta-vairagya.” Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, whatever is accepted for His service is also the Absolute Truth. . . .

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami enumerates sixty-four items of devotional service, beginning with guru-padasraya, taking shelter of a spiritual master; krsna-diksadi-siksanam, taking initiation and instruction from the spiritual master; visrambhena guroh seva, serving the spiritual master with respect; and sad-dharma-prccha, inquiring about one’s eternal duties. And at the end of the list he discusses certain items that have not been included but which one might think could or should have been. One such item is the cultivation of vairagya (detachment), and Rupa Gosvami explains why he has not included it. He says that bhakti by nature softens the heart. The primary activities of bhakti, hearing and chanting about Krishna and remembering Him, make the heart soft, whereas the cultivation of speculative knowledge and performance of artificial austerities tend to make the heart hard—the exact opposite of bhakti.

The question then arises, “If we do not cultivate detachment from material things, are we meant to be attached to them?” The answer, of course, is no. Shastra says that a person absorbed in material enjoyment is far from being absorbed in Krishna. Then how do we resolve this dilemma—that we do not want to be attached to material things yet do not want to cultivate detachment from them? In reply, Rupa Gosvami says that a taste for devotional service itself will destroy one’s material attachments, without the hardness of heart caused by the practice of vairagya. And he explains what kind of vairagya is suitable for bhakti in this important verse:

anasaktasya visayan
yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate

Anasaktasya means “without being attached,” and visayan means “material sense objects.” Without being attached, when one engages (upayunjatah) material sense objects in appropriate ways (yatharham) in relation to Krishna (krsna-sambandhe)—in devotional service—that is called proper renunciation (yuktam vairagyam ucyate).

Srila Prabhupada used to cite the example of a famous monk in India who was supposed to be so renounced that if anyone offered him money, his hand would curl and turn away. Srila Prabhupada said, “But if anyone offers us money, we will immediately take it and use it in Krishna’s service.”

Continue reading »

Jun 132019
 

Ekadasi is one of the regular celebrations in the Vaishnava calendar. It is observed eleven days after the full moon and eleven days after the new moon of every month. Even in the thirteenth, or leap month, called adhika-masa, or purusottama-masa, which comes every three years, during which no other festivals are celebrated, Ekadasi is observed. Ekadasi is known as the day of Lord Hari and is said to be the mother of devotion. Keeping the fast on Ekadasi is one of the sixty-four items of devotional service listed in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. In fact, it is one of the first ten.

The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, states, “In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadasi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Krsna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.”

Later in The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada cites the observance of Ekadasi as a stimulus (uddipana) for ecstatic love: “Some things which give impetus or stimulation to ecstatic love of Krsna are His transcendental qualities, His uncommon activities, His smiling features, His apparel and garlands, His flute, His buffalo horn, His leg bells, His conchshell, His footprints, His places of pastimes (such as Vrndavana), His favorite plant (tulasi), His devotee and the periodical occasions for remembering Him. One such occasion for remembrance is Ekadasi, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.”

The importance of the Ekadasi fast is also seen in the history of King Ambarisa and the sage Durvasa. Maharaja Ambarisa had observed the fast without even drinking water up until the appointed time to break the fast, called the Ekadasi-parana. Durvasa Muni was to have returned before the time of the parana, and because he was playing the part of a brahman and Ambarisa Maharaja the part of a kshatriya, proper etiquette dictated that Durvasa break the fast first. However, because Durvasa did not come in time, Ambarisa was in a dilemma. If he did not break the fast in time, the whole observance would be spoiled. At the same time, if he did not wait for Durvasa, he would be guilty of an offense, because the etiquette demanded that he wait for the sage to break the fast first. King Ambarisa consulted his advisors, but none could resolve his problem. Finally, the king himself determined the solution: he would take water. Taking water would break the fast and at the same time not break it.

So, Ekadasi is an important observance. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally observed Ekadasi, and He ordered all of His followers to do the same. And of all the Ekadasis, Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi, Bhima Ekadasi, is most special.

The story behind this special Ekadasi is recounted in the Brahma Vivarta Purana. Five thousand years ago, during the time of the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s elder brother Bhima admitted that he had great difficulty fasting. (In those days everyone would fast completely from all food and water.) So the Vedic authority Vyasadeva gave Bhima permission to observe the full fast (nirjala, “without water”) only once a year, in the early summer, and to derive the same benefit as if he had observed all the other twenty-three Ekadasis. Thus, devotees who are unable to properly observe Ekadasi during the year, or who by chance happen to miss an Ekadasi, can get the benefit of fully observing all the Ekadasis if they properly observe the Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi. Strictly observed, the fast begins before sunset the evening before Ekadasi and continues until the parana, about the time of sunrise, the morning after Ekadasi. Many devotees try to chant at least sixty-four rounds on Ekadasi, especially the Bhima Ekadasi.

Once, when we were with Srila Prabhupada in Amritsar, Yamuna-devi read to him from the newly published Nectar of Devotion: “Ekadasi, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.” Then she asked, “Should we also observe Ekadasi like that?”

“No,” Prabhupada replied. “We have too much service to do for Krishna.”

Still, Srila Prabhupada said, “Ekadasi is most auspicious. And chanting is more effective.” And to a disciple who asked, “Should we chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “Why only twenty-five rounds? You should chant as many as possible.”

So the basic observance of Ekadasi, as prescribed by Srila Prabhupada, is to refrain from grains and beans and to chant as many rounds as possible. Although most devotees in ISKCON do not perform nirjala on every Ekadasi, many do on Pandava-nirjala Ekadasi. They also try to chant at least sixty-four rounds. And by the mercy of Ekadasi, they make great spiritual advancement: they are blessed by spiritual strength and realization and so continue their service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission with renewed vigor—enthusiasm and inspiration.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 112019
 

Giriraj Swami read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter 6, and spoke about Lord Nityananda’s—and Srila Prabhupada’s—boundless mercy.

“Raghunatha dasa offered his obeisances by falling prostrate at a distant place, and the servant of Nityananda Prabhu pointed out, ‘There is Raghunatha dasa, offering You obeisances.’

“Hearing this, Lord Nityananda Prabhu said, ‘You are a thief. Now you have come to see Me. Come here, come here. Today I shall punish you!’

“The Lord called him, but Raghunatha dasa did not go near the Lord. Then the Lord forcibly caught him and placed His lotus feet upon Raghunatha dasa’s head.

Comment by Giriraj Swami: “Raghunatha dasa was very humble. In fact, later, when by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu he joined Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at Puri, although he was in Mahaprabhu’s inner circle, he would almost never submit a question or plea directly to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He would always go through Svarupa Damodara. He was so humble.”

“Lord Nityananda was by nature very merciful and funny. Being merciful, He spoke to Raghunatha dasa as follows:

“ ‘You are just like a thief, for instead of coming near, you stay away at a distant place. Now that I have captured you, I shall punish you.

“ ‘Make a festival and feed all My associates yogurt and chipped rice.’ Hearing this, Raghunatha dasa was greatly pleased.”

—————————————–
Panihati Festival Talk (Right-click to download)

Jun 092019
 

On Friday my chiropractor told me, “I think you will be ready to go to India next year. You withstood the travel to the East Coast well—your body feels strong and resilient—and I think you will be able to manage the trip to India.”

He had never said anything like that to me before, and his words had the ring of truth to them. I believe that, Krishna willing, I may actually go to India next year, and that made me feel very happy.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami