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Gaura-purnima, Los Angeles (Right-click to download)
Today we are celebrating the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna, who descended in the age of Kali in the role of a devotee. He appeared on what we now call Gaura-purnima, in the evening of the full moon day in the month of Phalguna. At the time, there was a lunar eclipse, and as was the tradition, as recommended in scripture, Hindus immersed themselves in the Ganges and chanted the holy names. Eclipses are considered inauspicious, and to counteract the inauspiciousness, strict followers of the Vedic scriptures stand in a sacred body of water—a river, a kunda or lake, or the sea—and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. So, from the very beginning Lord Chaitanya was surrounded by the chanting of Hare Krishna, and He induced people to chant Hare Krishna more and more.
Advaita Acharya and Haridasa Thakura danced in ecstasy. On the plea of giving charity to brahmans on the occasion of the eclipse, Advaita Acharya and others distributed various gifts. All the devotees were jubilant, and they danced, performed sankirtana, and gave charity. The whole world was full of auspiciousness, and everyone was filled with transcendental bliss.
nadiya-udayagiri, purnacandra gaurahari,
krpa kari’ ha-ila udaya
papa-tamah haila nasa, tri-jagatera ullasa,
jagabhari’ hari-dhvani haya
“Thus by His causeless mercy the full moon, Gaurahari, rose in the district of Nadia, which is compared to Udayagiri, where the sun first becomes visible. His rising in the sky dissipated the darkness of sinful life, and thus the three worlds became joyful and chanted the holy name of the Lord.” (Cc Adi 13.98)
When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a baby, sometimes He would cry and the elders would try to pacify Him in different ways, as people do when a baby cries. They would try to comfort Him, distract Him, and please Him, but nothing worked. Soon they discovered that if they chanted the holy name of Krishna, He would become peaceful and stop crying. So whenever he would cry, they would chant, and He would immediately become happy. His appearance inspired chanting, and His activities thereafter inspired more chanting.
sei-kale nijalaya, uthiya advaita raya,
nrtya kare anandita-mane
haridase lana sange, hunkara-kirtana-range
kene nace, keha nahi jane
“At that time Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu, in His own house at Santipura, was dancing in a pleasing mood. Taking Haridasa Thakura with Him, He danced and loudly chanted Hare Krsna. But why they were dancing, no one could understand.” (Cc Adi 13.99)
By His divine will, Krishna arranged for His associates from Goloka Vrindavan to come to earth to join Him in His pastimes as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Some associates played the parts of elders, and they took birth before He did. Advaita Acharya and Haridasa Thakura were elders, and they themselves were friends. In fact, Advaita Acharya is Maha-vishnu, and Thakura Haridasa is Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma is a disciple and direct servant of Maha-vishnu. So, it is natural that they became close.
When the news spread that Jagannatha Misra and Sacimata had given birth to a baby boy, all sorts of respectable brahman gentlemen and ladies came with gifts and blessed the newborn child. Even the wives of the demigods came, disguised as the wives of brahmans, and presented various gifts. The day after the purnima there was a great celebration at Jagannatha Misra’s home. That day is observed today as the festival of Jagannatha Misra, because to celebrate the birth of his son he received various visitors and well-wishers and gave presentations to them all. And in the end, they all feasted.
We shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Thirteen, “The Advent of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,” beginning with the chapter summary:
Today is the disappearance day of Sri Madhavendra Puri, who appears in the line of disciplic succession as the grand spiritual master of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Madhavendra Puri’s disciple Isvara Puri was accepted by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as His spiritual master. Sri Madhavendra Puri is very important for us, and today we shall read about his disappearance from Srila Prabhupada’s translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Ramacandra Puri Criticizes the Lord.”
INTRODUCTION by Srila Prabhupada
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
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 own devotees in the waves of love for Krsna.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The sannyasi Ramacandra Puri came to Nilacala to meet Paramananda Puri and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When Lord Chaitanya saw Ramacandra Puri, He offered His obeisances at his feet because Ramacandra Puri was a disciple of Madhavendra Puri and a godbrother of Lord Chaitanya’s spiritual master, Isvara Puri. So, according to etiquette, He offered the same respect to Ramacandra Puri as to His spiritual master, Isvara Puri. In one line, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami summarizes Ramacandra Puri’s behavior:
tunde tandavini ratim vitanute tundavali-labdhaye
karna-kroda-kadambini ghatayate karnarbudebhyah sprham
cetah-prangana-sangini vijayate sarvendriyanam krtim
no jane janita kiyadbhir amrtaih krsneti varna-dvayi
“I do not know how much nectar the two syllables ‘Krs-na’ have produced. When the holy name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.” (Cc Antya 1.99)
Although I have not experienced that level of chanting, it is a stage to which I can aspire.
Yours in service,
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 Bhaktivinoda Thakura and complained that although they had come to Vraja to live like Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, 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. They requested the Thakura to appeal to their guru maharaja to instruct them in the esoteric practices of Krishna consciousness.
Srila Bhaktivinoda 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 Maharaja 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 simplest 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 the creatures of the dhama were elevated souls and worthy of service.
Later, Babaji Maharaja would not accept prasada until he had shared his food with ten newborn puppies. He would wait until they came, and he would count them with his hands. (In his old age, Babaji Maharaja’s eyelids drooped over his eyes and prevented him from seeing.) Only after the puppies had begun to eat would he also partake. He would say, “They are puppies of the dhama. They are not ordinary living entities.” He had so much faith in and affection for the dhama.
He had less affection for Mayavadi impersonalists. He used to say, “Let the dogs come in for darshan, but the impersonalists—kick them out!”
Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji lived to a very old age. In fact, some Vaishnavas say that he was just waiting for Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to come—someone to whom he could impart his special knowledge and realization, for the benefit of humanity.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had requested to be transferred from his post in Orissa to Bengal so he could be near Navadvipa-dhama. And eventually, he was posted at Krishnanagar, near Navadvipa. There, he did extensive research to determine the actual birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He studied various old maps, consulted the local people, and visited different places. Eventually he found a mound where many tulasi trees were growing. He had the intuition that this was the actual birthplace of Lord Chaitanya, but still he wanted confirmation.
At the time, Jagannatha dasa Babaji was the most renowned Vaishnava, and he was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s siksa-guru. Thus, Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s disciples carried him to the place where Bhaktivinoda Thakura had found the mound and tulasi plants. Babaji Maharaja was so old (over a hundred and forty years old, some say) that his disciples had to carry him in a basket. And his eyelids were so heavy that he had to open them with his hands to be able to see. So, the disciples brought him, but they didn’t tell him that it was the site Bhaktivinoda Thakura had determined to be the birthplace. Still, when Babaji Maharaja arrived there, he spontaneously jumped out of his basket and began to dance in ecstasy, singing the holy names. And by doing so, he confirmed the location of Mahaprabhu’s birthplace.
Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji’s bhajana-kutira and samadhi are there in Navadvipa-dhama, in Koladvipa. Devotees who perform Navadvipa-parikrama visit there and get his mercy. We also pray to him for his mercy, that we may be instrumental in fulfilling the desires of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and the other acharyas in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu coming to us through Srila Prabhupada and his disciples.
Today especially, we think of His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, who left this world on Jagannatha Dasa Babaji’s disappearance day, also in Gauda-mandala-bhumi.
In his Sankalpa-kalpadruma (103) Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura prays:
vrndavanavani-pate jaya soma soma-
prema prayaccha nirupadhi namo namaste
“O gatekeeper of Vrindavan! O Soma, all glories to you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon (soma), and who is worshiped by the sages headed by Sanandana, Sanatana, and Narada! O Gopisvara! Desiring that you bestow upon me limitless love for the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, who perform joyous pastimes in Vraja-dhama, I offer my obeisances unto you again and again.”
Sri Gopisvara Mahadeva ki jaya!
Yours in service,
Whether it is 3 a.m. in New York, 6 a.m. in California, 4 p.m. in South Africa, or 7:30 p.m. in India, devotees all over the globe can connect with Giriraj Swami at the same time every day to chant the holy names together.
Gone are the days when disciples could see their spiritual master only rarely, what to speak of chanting together. Now by the mere click of a mouse, you can see Giriraj Swami every day and chant the maha-mantra along with him.
Before every round of japa, Maharaja recites a verse from the Brhan-naradiya Purana:
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
“For spiritual progress in this Age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative to the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.” (Translation: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 7.76)
Hearing Giriraj Swami chant the maha-mantra attentively and with conviction helps open the hearts of the group members to the bliss of the holy names. Twenty to 40 devotees chant together daily, with 200 to 400 viewing each session live and many others accessing the streams after they are posted. People are joining the sanga every day—more than 550 in just the first month. Sometimes family members join in—including children, who might otherwise not be so eager to chant. Some participants have reported that chanting with Giriraj Swami has become the favorite part of their day, others that chanting with him every day has been life changing.
The idea for the Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga came from a disciple, Anuradha Dasi, who had relished chanting with her guru maharaja in person. She was often stressed about completing her daily japa, but whenever she visited Giriraj Swami in Dallas or Houston, she would be peaceful, knowing that she could chant with him. She would come with a list of different issues she wanted to discuss with him, but after chanting with him, all her troubles and issues seemed to vanish, and they were able to focus their discussions on more enlightening subjects.
Anuradha imagined how great it would be if she could chant with her guru maharaja every day. So, recently, when she visited Giriraj Swami in Houston and chanted with him one morning, she asked if he would consider live streaming his japa every morning. If he did, she said, she would drop everything and chant with him.
Maharaja kindly agreed, but Anuradha also wanted other devotees to be able to access the stream. Many of Giriraj Swami’s disciples live far from him, on other continents, and haven’t seen him in years, so she set up the group on Facebook and used her phone to do a simple live stream. Since then, Maharaja has taken over the recording, and the Japa Sanga group has become a regular addition to his schedule, as it has for many of his disciples and well-wishers.
Sanga participants also watch Maharaja perform tulasi-puja, offer Vaishnava pranamas, and introduce his many beautiful Deities. And when Maharaja wishes everyone “a wonderful Krishna conscious rest of the day and night,” it is easy for each individual to feel him speaking to him or her personally, sending warm regards and bestowing blessings to inspire them over the next twenty-one hours.
As devotees, we understand that the vani—words, or instructions—of the spiritual master is more important than his vapuh, or physical presence. But we should not minimize the importance of his vapuh, which inspires many souls to follow in his footsteps. Even a moment’s association with a pure devotee can open the doors to the spiritual world.
Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga gives devotees the great fortune of not just a moment, but hours of personal association with a leading ambassador of the holy name. Still, in his humility, Srila Giriraj Swami feels that he is the fortunate one, and at the end of each japa session, he says, “Thank you for joining me, for encouraging and supporting me in my japa. I look forward to chanting with you again tomorrow.”
Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga is an open group. If you would like to join, go to the Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga Facebook page, send a request, and answer three basic questions. To get an automatic message when the sanga is live, turn your notifications to ON. Please observe the rules of the group. Now you are ready to start chanting!
Today is Siva-ratri. Vaishnavas generally do not celebrate Siva-ratri, and to begin, I will explain why, with reference to the Bhagavad-gita. We read from Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Chapter 7, “Knowledge of the Absolute,” text 23.
antavat tu phalam tesam
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam
devan deva-yajo yanti
mad-bhakta yanti mam api
Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Some commentators on the Bhagavad-gita say that one who worships a demigod can reach the Supreme Lord, but here it is clearly stated that the worshipers of demigods go to the different planetary systems where various demigods are situated, just as a worshiper of the sun achieves the sun or a worshiper of the demigod of the moon achieves the moon. Similarly, if anyone wants to worship a demigod like Indra, he can attain that particular god’s planet. It is not that everyone, regardless of whatever demigod is worshiped, will reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is denied here, for it is clearly stated that the worshipers of demigods go to different planets in the material world but the devotee of the Supreme Lord goes directly to the supreme planet of the Personality of Godhead.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
This is logical. As Srila Prabhupada remarked, if you buy a ticket to Calcutta, you cannot expect to reach Bombay. If you worship a demigod, you go to the planet of the demigod. If you worship Krishna, you reach the supreme abode of Krishna.
Here the point may be raised that if the demigods are different parts of the body of the Supreme Lord, then the same end should be achieved by worshiping them. However, worshipers of the demigods are less intelligent because they don’t know to what part of the body food must be supplied. Some of them are so foolish that they claim that there are many parts and many ways to supply food. This isn’t very sanguine. Can anyone supply food to the body through the ears or eyes? They do not know that these demigods are different parts of the universal body of the Supreme Lord, and in their ignorance they believe that each and every demigod is a separate God and a competitor of the Supreme Lord.
We read in the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam that just as by pouring water on the root of a tree all the limbs and branches and leaves are watered and just as by supplying food to the stomach all the different limbs of the body are nourished, similarly, by offering worship or rendering service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, all of the demigods and all living entities are served and satisfied:
yatha taror mula-nisecanena
pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam
tathaiva sarvarhanam acyutejya
“By giving water to the root of a tree one satisfies its branches, twigs, and leaves, and by supplying food to the stomach one satisfies all the senses of the body. Similarly, by engaging in the transcendental service of the Supreme Lord one automatically satisfies all the demigods and all other living entities.” (SB 4.31.14)
The results achieved by the demigods’ benedictions are perishable because within this material world the planets, the demigods, and their worshipers are all perishable. Therefore it is clearly stated in this verse that all results achieved by worshiping demigods are perishable, and therefore such worship is performed by the less intelligent living entity. Because the pure devotee engaged in Krsna consciousness in devotional service of the Supreme Lord achieves eternal blissful existence that is full of knowledge, his achievements and those of the common worshiper of the demigods are different. The Supreme Lord is unlimited; His favor is unlimited; His mercy is unlimited. Therefore the mercy of the Supreme Lord upon His pure devotees is unlimited.
Everything material is temporary. The demigods—their bodies—are temporary, the bodies of their worshipers are temporary, their planets are temporary, and the fruits that one obtains from worshiping them are temporary. The demigods have authority only within the material world. They can give only material benefits to their worshipers. Only Vishnu, or Krishna, can award liberation from material bondage. No demigod can grant liberation. And beyond liberation, the devotees of Krishna also achieve krsna-bhakti, or krsna-prema—the ultimate goal of life.
Srila Prabhupada said that the impersonalists want to become one with God but that the devotees actually become greater than God, because God comes under their control. We see in the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna is acting as Arjuna’s chariot driver. Arjuna is commanding Krishna, senayor ubhayor madhye ratham sthapaya me ’cyuta: “Please draw my chariot between the two armies so I can see who has assembled on the battlefield to fight.” The Lord likes to be controlled by His devotees, and He comes under the control of their pure love. Of course, the Lord is supreme—no one is equal to Him or greater than Him (na tat-samas cabhyadikas ca drsyate)—but out of love He becomes subordinate to His devotee. The idea of becoming one with the Lord is repugnant to a devotee, because in that impersonal oneness there is no service, no exchange of love.
Today is the disappearance day of Sri Isvara Puri. He was such a perfect disciple of Sri Madhavendra Puri that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Krishna Himself, was pleased to accept Isvara Puri as his spiritual master. Later, Lord Chaitanya visited Isvara Puri’s birthplace at Kumara-hatta and collected some earth from the birth site, which He kept very carefully and ate a small portion of daily. Thus He showed us how a faithful disciple worships a spiritual master who has faithfully served his spiritual master perfectly.
Yours in service,