Mar 122018

“If someone has sraddha—faith they can give you faith. That means they can make you a devotee because devotional service begins with faith—adau sraddha [Cc. Madhya 23.14-15]. So, the conclusion is that we should treasure and serve every devotee. Every devotee is special. That is Lord Caitanya’s instruction—always chant the holy name and serve the devotees. So, if we serve the devotees and always chant the holy name our pathway back to Godhead is cleared. Not only can we go back to Godhead but we can take many others with us. That is sort of the basis of the Panca-tattva. To taste Krishna consciousness and give it to others.”—Giriraj Swami

Vaisesika Dasa – Talk and Kirtan (Right click to download)
Giriraj Swami Kirtan (Right click to download)
Giriraj Swami Talk (Right click to download)

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Mar 092018

We have gathered on a most auspicious day. Srivasa Thakura is one of the members of the Panca-tattva. He lived in Navadvipa-dhama in Mayapur, near the residence of Jagannatha Misra and Sacidevi, where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared. Later, when Lord Chaitanya began the sankirtana movement in Navadvipa-dhama, He and His other most confidential associates would meet at Srivasa-angana, the home of Srivasa Thakura, and have kirtan throughout the night. The kirtans at Srivasa-angana were most ecstatic, and only the most intimate devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were allowed to enter. In fact, the nocturnal kirtans at Srivasa-angana in gaura-lila are compared to the rasa dance in krsna-lila.

In his identity in krsna-lila, Srivasa Pandita is Narada Muni, the great preacher who travels throughout the universe chanting the holy names of Krishna and enlightening the fallen souls in Krishna consciousness. So it is most auspicious that His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja left on Srivasa Thakura’s appearance day—that most auspicious day—in Sri Mayapur-dhama—that most auspicious place.

We now have a special opportunity and responsibility to honor and glorify His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja.

My own association with His Holiness Sridhar Swami goes back to Bombay, over thirty years ago. Srila Prabhupada had requested disciples from America to come to India to help him there, and in particular with his three main projects—Bombay, Mayapur, and Vrindavan. From 1972, His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja served Srila Prabhupada in India, mainly in Bombay.

When we got permission from the municipality to build on Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Bombay, Srila Prabhupada wanted Sridhar, then a brahmachari, to take charge of the construction materials. Maharaja had a hefty build, like a football player, so Srila Prabhupada thought he would be appropriate to keep track of the construction materials and make sure none of them were stolen. But Maharaja said that he didn’t want to look after the construction material; he wanted to preach. I was the temple president in Bombay, so I was going back and forth between Srila Prabhupada and Sridhar Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada again said he should look after the construction materials, so I went back to deliver the message to him, but Maharaja insisted, “I want to preach!”

Maharaja had never really preached much in India before then, and we didn’t know how well he could preach to the aristocratic Indian gentlemen we were mainly approaching at that time. But he was so sincere in his desire to preach that he became one of the best preachers in India, and one of the best preachers in the world. This story illustrates Maharaja’s sincere desire to preach and his strong determination to serve Srila Prabhupada and the mission even in ways that may not have been easy for him.

In India, Srila Prabhupada had introduced the life-membership program. And he actually based the society’s progress there on the membership program. He said that making someone a life member was almost as good as making him into a devotee. He also said that he introduced the program as a way to distribute his books, because if someone became a life member by paying a certain subscription, he would get a set of Srila Prabhupada’s books and a subscription to Back to Godhead magazine.

Eventually, Sridhar Swami led one of the life-membership teams in Bombay. I was the membership director, and the other team leaders were Sridhar Swami, Lokanath Swami, Jagat-purusa Prabhu, and Haridasa Prabhu (who since then has become a producer of Krishna conscious television programs). In the early 1980s, Sridhar Maharaja became the Juhu temple president, and so he increasingly joined me in cultivating the most important people in Bombay. And between 1984 and 1990, when I was unable to return to India because of visa problems, he deepened his relationship with many of our most important members, and they really came to love him deeply.

Later, in about 1991, Sridhar Maharaja began the fund-raising-by-mail program in Juhu. Many devotees had criticized the proposed program, saying it would never work. To prepare the letters and post them would cost more than two lakhs rupees (Rs. 2,00,000/-), and where was the guarantee that we would ever get the money back? Yet in spite of all the negativity, Maharaja took the risk. (Srila Prabhupada had said, “To preach means to take risks.”) And the program proved to be successful. The first effort itself made money, and subsequent mailings proved even more profitable. Soon, Maharaja received invitations from centers in India and abroad to help them organize fund-raising-by-mail campaigns, and the campaigns proved to be successful everywhere. They became one of the most reliable sources of income many temples had. Even today, the BHISMA office started by Sridhar Maharaja raises funds for the Juhu temple by mail.

More recently, Sridhar Maharaja started the Vedic Applied Spiritual Technology (VAST) program. This pioneering program uses the latest multi-media methods to teach the corporate sector stress management and time management—all in relation to Krishna consciousness. Maharaja always tried to find innovative ways to present Krishna consciousness. He studied experts in various fields and applied what he learned to Krishna consciousness.

Many of my most vivid memories of Maharaja, and of his good influence on me and on others, are from the last few years. You may know that in 1977, some months before he left this world, Srila Prabhupada named eleven disciples to initiate devotees on his behalf while he was still here. Then, after he left, the same disciples continued to initiate. Later, slowly, a few more were given that responsibility, beginning with three others.

Maharaja joked that he wanted only two disciples—one to do his laundry and one to collect for him. But he was not one of the first to initiate, or even one of the first to be added later. The attitude of the movement then was quite restrictive. But eventually, he was given the responsibility to initiate disciples, and he took his duty very seriously.

Up to the very end, Maharaja was sincere in his duties to his disciples and in his care and affection for them. He really cared for them, and he loved them very much. At the same time, he cared for devotees and people in general, and I think this is one of his most remarkable traits: his almost universal care for others. He really was like an ocean of love.

Continue reading »

Mar 032018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 15.103-107 at the home of Krishna Kirtan das and Kandarpa Manjari dasi.

“Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that if one chants the holy name even once he is considered a Vaishnava and the best of human beings; he is worshipable and worthy of service. But Srila Prabhupada clarifies that that chanting of one name should be done with faith. He makes the point that even if one is a neophyte, if one has faith that the holy name of Krishna is Krishna Himself, he is a pure devotee and by his association others can become devotees. He is considered a pure devotee based on his faith that the holy name of Krishna and Krishna Himself are identical. He may be new and not very knowledgeable in scripture—which is what distinguishes a neophyte from an advanced devotee—but because he has that faith and chants the holy name of Krishna without offense, he is considered a pure devotee. And by chanting just one name of Krishna without offense he becomes free from all sinful reactions. So, faith is a most important factor in Krishna consciousness.


Gaura-purnima Kirtan (Right click to download)
Gaura-purnima Talk (Right click to download)

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Mar 012018

Today is Gaura-purnima, the appearance day of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the guise of a devotee. When Krishna came, He demanded, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: “Give up all varieties of religiousness and just surrender unto Me.” But people could not appreciate His instruction: “Why should we surrender?” they questioned. They did not understand the process of surrendering. So, some four thousand five hundred years later, five hundred years ago, the same Lord Krishna appeared again, as Chaitanya, to show us how to surrender to Him.

Lord Chaitanya taught the specific method of devotional service appropriate for the present age of Kali. With evidence from the Brhan-naradiya Purana (38.126), He instructed:

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
 nasty eva gatir anyatha

“One should chant the holy names, chant the holy names, chant the holy names of Lord Hari. There is no other way, no other way, no other way for success in the modern age.”

Now and in recent history, there are and have been many false incarnations of Lord Krishna. So, one may question, what evidence can we produce that Sri Chaitanya is Krishna’s incarnation? For one thing, Lord Chaitanya is mentioned in many revealed scriptures—the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and especially Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the different incarnations for the different ages are described, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is described in the following words (SB 11.5.32):

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair
  yajanti hi su-medhasah

Krsna-varnam: varnam means “category,” like catur-varnam. So, krsna-varnam: He is in the same category as Krishna. In other words, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam—but His color is not the same blackish color as Krishna’s. When Lord Krishna appeared as the son of Nanda Maharaja, Garga Muni came and astrologically calculated the future life of baby Krishna. He told Nanda Maharaja, “Your son appears in different ages in different colors. Sometimes He appears in a whitish color, sometimes He appears in a reddish color, sometimes He appears in a yellowish color, and now He has appeared in a blackish color.” We know from scripture that the incarnations for the ages of Satya and Treta appeared in a whitish color and in a reddish color and that Krishna appeared in a blackish color. So, krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam means that the incarnation of Krishna in the Age of Kali appears not in a blackish color but in a golden color. Another meaning of the word varnam is related to varnayati, which means “to describe or glorify.” So krsna-varnam means that He is always glorifying Krishna, always chanting, “Krishna.” And sangopangastra-parsadam: He is accompanied by His associates (sri krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda sri advaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura bhakta vrnda). And yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah: In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting (sankirtana-yajna) to worship this incarnation of Krishna, namely Sri Chaitanya.

Lord Chaitanya appeared toward the end of the 15th century in Navadvipa, in West Bengal. There, as a young man, He began the sankirtana movement, going through the streets of the town chanting Hare Krishna. He also sent His associates, such as Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura, into the streets to request people to chant the holy name of Krishna and learn the science of Krishna. The same mission—the same movement—was continued by His followers. And now the same sankirtana movement is embodied in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It is the exact same movement that Lord Chaitanya began personally five hundred years ago.

We shall read some verses from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta about the mission of Lord Chaitanya and try to understand how Srila Prabhupada is fulfilling the same mission. We shall read from the Adi-lila, Chapter Seven, which describes the Panca-tattva.

Continue reading »

Feb 272018

Today is the auspicious disappearance day of Sri Madhavendra Puri, the grand spiritual master of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Madhavendra Puri’s disciple Isvara Puri was accepted by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as His spiritual master. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is Himself the origin of all knowledge—perfect, Vedic knowledge—and He had no need to accept a spiritual master. But because He was playing the part of a devotee, to set the example for others He accepted a spiritual master. And He accepted Isvara Puri specifically because he came in the line of Madhavendra Puri and was most dear to him. Madhavendra Puri was the first to exhibit love of God in separation, specifically in the mood of the gopis in separation from Krishna after He left Vrindavan. So Madhavendra Puri is a most important person in the history of our disciplic succession—and in the history of the world.

We shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Ramacandra Puri Criticizes the Lord.” Ramacandra Puri was a disciple of Madhavendra Puri and a godbrother of Isvara Puri, but he developed an offensive mentality toward his spiritual master, Madhavendra Puri, and as a result became so fallen that he dared to criticize Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. We begin with the chapter summary:

“The following summary of the Eighth Chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya. This chapter describes the history of the Lord’s dealings with Ramacandra Puri. Although Ramacandra Puri was one of the disciples of Madhavendra Puri, he was influenced by dry Mayavadis, and therefore he criticized Madhavendra Puri. Therefore Madhavendra Puri accused him of being an offender and rejected him. Because Ramacandra Puri had been rejected by his spiritual master, he became concerned only with finding faults in others and advising them according to dry Mayavada philosophy. For this reason he was not very respectful to the Vaisnavas, and later he became so fallen that he began criticizing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for His eating. Hearing his criticisms, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu reduced His eating, but after Ramacandra Puri left Jagannatha Puri, the Lord resumed His usual behavior.”


tam vande krsna-caitanyam
laukikaharatah svam yo
  bhiksannam samakocayat


Let me offer my respectful obeisances to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who reduced His eating due to fear of the criticism of Ramacandra Puri.


jaya jaya sri-caitanya karuna-sindhu-avatara
brahma-sivadika bhaje carana yanhara


All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of the ocean of mercy! His lotus feet are worshiped by demigods like Lord Brahma and Lord Siva.


jaya jaya avadhuta-candra nityananda
jagat bandhila yenha diya prema-phanda


All glories to Nityananda Prabhu, the greatest of mendicants, who bound the entire world with a knot of ecstatic love for God!


jaya jaya advaita isvara avatara
krsna avatari’ kaila jagat-nistara


All glories to Advaita Prabhu, the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead! He induced Krsna to descend and thus delivered the entire world.


jaya jaya srivasadi yata bhakta-gana
sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu—yanra prana-dhana


All glories to all the devotees, headed by Srivasa Thakura! Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is their life and soul.


ei-mata gauracandra nija-bhakta-sange
nilacale krida kare krsna-prema-tarange


Thus Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at Jagannatha Puri, performed His various pastimes with His devotees in the waves of love for Krsna.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The next verses describe Ramacandra Puri’s arrival in Jagannatha Puri. He came specifically to meet Paramananda Puri and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. His policy was to invite Vaishnavas and feed them prasada and by various means induce them to eat more and more—and then criticize them for eating too much. Next, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, explains the history of Ramacandra Puri, which contains the story of the disappearance of Sri Madhavendra Puri. Continue reading »

Feb 252018

Listening to a talk Srila Prabhupada gave in Vrindavan on December 10, 1975, I was struck by how he defined Vrindavan and said we could create Vrindavan anywhere.

“So this Krishna consciousness movement means everything is there; it has to be purified by diverting the same thing for Krishna. Just like we have got feelings for raising children—attachment. That is attachment. What is Mother Yasoda doing? She is attached to Krishna, and that is Vrindavan. Vrindavan life means all attachment for Krishna. Mother Yasoda is attached to Krishna, Nanda Maharaja is attached to Krishna, the cowherd boys are attached to Krishna, the calfs and cows are attached to Krishna, Radharani is attached to Krishna, the trees are attached to Krishna, the flowers are attached to Krishna, the water is attached to Krishna—that is Vrindavan. Vrindavan means the central attachment is Krishna. That is Vrindavan.

“So if you can create that central attachment for Krishna, then it is Vrindavan. Then you can create Vrindavan anywhere. Any family, any society, any country—just make the point of attachment Krishna, and it is Vrindavan. That is required. That is Krishna consciousness movement.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Tamal Krishna Goswami’s and Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s Disappearance Day

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Feb 162018

Today is Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja’s disappearance day. He comes in the Gaudiya Vaishnava disciplic succession after Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. He was a renounced ascetic, fully engaged in chanting the holy names of Krishna and meditating on His pastimes. For some time, he made his residence at Surya-kunda in Vraja-dhama, near the temple of Suryadeva, where Srimati Radharani used to come and worship the sun-god—or, I should say,where She used to come to meet Krishna on the pretext of coming to worship the sun-god.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who comes in the disciplic succession after Jagannatha dasa Babaji, accepted Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja as his main guru, his siksa-guru. Once, some of Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s disciples in Vraja approached the Thakura. They complained that although they had come to Vraja to live like Jagannatha dasa Babaji, fully absorbed in chanting the holy names and meditating on Sri Sri Radha-Krishna’s astakaliya-lila, Babaji Maharaja had refused to instruct them in such esoteric topics and had instead engaged them in cultivating tulasi plants, flowers, and vegetables to offer to the Lord. So, these disciples requested Bhaktivinoda Thakura to appeal to their guru maharaja to instruct them in the esoteric practices of Krishna consciousness.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura told them, “Actually, your gurudeva’s instructions are right for you. Because you still have anarthas, for you to try to sit and do nirjana-bhajana [solitary worship] and practice asta-kaliya-lila-smarana [meditation on the Lord’s eightfold daily pastimes] would be artificial, and you would just become degraded. So you should follow your gurudeva’s instructions with full faith and work hard in Krishna’s service. Then, in time, you may be able to chant the holy names purely.”

Eventually, Jagannatha dasa Babaji moved to Mayapur, where he lived by the banks of the Ganges, fully absorbed in chanting the holy names. He had the greatest reverence for the holy land of Navadvipa. Although he was so renounced and so absorbed in Krishna consciousness, as his reputation spread, gentlemen would come to him and give him donations. Once, Babaji Maharaja asked one of his servants to take the donations he had received, which he kept in an old burlap bag, and purchase a large pot of rasagullas. All the devotees were surprised, because Jagannatha dasa Babaji was so renounced and lived so simply. He would eat just the most simple rice and dal. Anyway, the servant brought the sweets, and Jagannatha dasa Babaji offered them to his Deities and then distributed them to the cows and dogs in the dhama. He said that the creatures of the dhama were elevated souls and worthy of service. Continue reading »

Reflections on Siva-ratri

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Feb 142018

Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 8, Chapter 7 (texts 36-42) describes the benevolent activities of Lord Siva when the living entities were threatened by the deadliest poison (halahala).

“Srila Sukadeva Gosvami said: ‘Lord Siva is always benevolent toward all living entities. When he saw that the living entities were very much disturbed by the poison, which was spreading everywhere, he was very compassionate. Thus he spoke to his eternal consort, Sati, as follows.“ ‘Lord Siva said: “My dear Bhavani, just see how all these living entities have been placed in danger because of the poison produced from the churning of the ocean of milk. It is my duty to give protection and safety to all living entities struggling for existence. Certainly it is the duty of the master to protect his suffering dependents. People in general, being bewildered by the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are always engaged in animosity toward one another. But devotees, even at the risk of their own temporary lives, try to save them. My dear gentle wife Bhavani, when one performs benevolent activities for others, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is very pleased. And when the Lord is pleased, I am also pleased, along with all other living creatures. Therefore, let me drink this poison, for all the living entities may thus become happy because of me.” ’

“Srila Sukadeva Gosvami continued: ‘After informing Bhavani in this way, Lord Siva began to drink the poison, and Bhavani, who knew perfectly well the capabilities of Lord Siva, gave him her permission to do so. Thereafter, Lord Siva, who is dedicated to auspicious, benevolent work for humanity, compassionately took the whole quantity of poison in his palm and drank it.’  ”

At the chapter’s end, Srila Sukadeva Gosvami concluded,

tapyante loka-tapena
sadhavah prayaso janah
paramaradhanam tad dhi

“It is said that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present in everyone’s heart.” (SB 8.7.44)

And Srila Prabhupada elaborates, “Here is an explanation of how those engaged in activities for the welfare of others are very quickly recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69), ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati . . . na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: ‘One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gita to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.’ There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. . . .

“If one tries to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve? If one has been recognized by the Lord, even if he does not ask the Lord for anything, the Lord, who is within everyone, supplies him whatever he wants. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham [Bg 9.22]). Again, as stated here, tapyante loka-tapena sadhavah prayaso janah. The best welfare activity is raising people to the platform of Krsna consciousness, since the conditioned souls are suffering only for want of Krsna consciousness. The Lord Himself also comes to mitigate the suffering of humanity.

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

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge

‘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. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.’ (Bg 4.7-8) All the sastras conclude, therefore, that spreading the Krsna consciousness movement is the best welfare activity in the world. Because of the ultimate benefit this bestows upon people in general, the Lord very quickly recognizes such service performed by a devotee.”

Reflecting on this last verse and purport, I considered how Srila Prabhupada exemplified the statement that “great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general.” He certainly did that to establish Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Bombay—and to establish so many other vehicles for Krishna consciousness in so many other places throughout the world.

I pray that we can continue in the same spirit.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Constant Chanting — The Doubtless and Fearless Way to Success for All, February 9, Moorpark, California

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Feb 122018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11, on the occasion of Abhay Charan’s birthday.

“In this verse, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami recommends the transcendental chanting of the holy name of the Lord. By offenseless chanting and hearing of the holy name of the Lord, one becomes acquainted with the transcendental form of the Lord, and then with the attributes of the Lord, and then with the transcendental nature of His pastimes, etc. Here it is mentioned that one should constantly chant the holy name of the Lord after hearing it from authorities. This means that hearing from the authorities is the first essential. Hearing of the holy name gradually promotes one to the stage of hearing about His form, His attributes, His pastimes, and so on, and thus the necessity of the chanting of His glories develops successively. This process is recommended not only for the successful execution of devotional service, but also even for those who are materially attached. According to Sri Sukadeva Gosvami, this way of attaining success is an established fact, concluded not only by him but also by all other previous acaryas.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11 purport

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11 (Right click to download)

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