Nov 072017
 

In the first verse of the Bhagavad-gita, the low-minded king Dhrtarastra asks his secretary, “O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruksetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?” Kim akurvata: “What did they do?” Srila Prabhupada says that this is afoolish question. The two armies had gathered to fight, so what is the question of what they did? Srila Prabhupada gives the example that if someone sits down before a plate of food, intending to eat, what is the question of “What did he do?” He would eat—that’s all.

So why did Dhrtarastra ask? Because Kuruksetra is dharma-ksetra, a holy place of pilgrimage. And under the influence of this religious place, his sons might have been influenced toward the good, to give up their intention to fight. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Yuyutsavah. This word yuyutsu [jujutsu] is still used in Japan. Perhaps you know, yuyutsu, fighting. So, yuyutsavah—‘desirous of fighting.’ Now, both parties were desiring to fight, and they assembled. Why is Dhrtarastra asking the question Kim akurvata: ‘What did they do?’? Because he was a little doubtful. These boys, after being assembled in dharma-ksetra, might have changed their ideas. They might have settled up. The sons of Dhrtarastra might have admitted, ‘Yes, Pandavas, you are actually the owners. What is the use of unnecessarily fighting?’ So he was very much anxious whether they had changed their decision. Therefore he is asking.”

Such is the influence of holy places. They can elevate one’s consciousness, even the consciousness of one habituated to low thoughts. And people who go to holy places—Mayapur, Vrindavan, Jagannath Puri—can immediately feel the difference. The Nectar of Devotion, with reference to the power of living in Mathura-Vrindavan, explains, “Srila Rupa Gosvami has described Mathura-mandala: ‘I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamuna River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss.’ This feeling about Mathura-mandala and Vrndavana described by Rupa Gosvami can actually be felt even by nondevotees. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathura are so beautifully situated on the banks of the River Yamuna that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world. . . . Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathura or Vrndavana.” (Chapter 13)

Many pilgrims travel to Vrindavan and other holy places during the month of Karttika, and as they prepare to leave to return to their homes and places of service, they may wonder how they can keep the experience of Vrindavan with them. It is a challenge. The influence of materialistic cities, surcharged with passion and ignorance, can be daunting. And our own busy schedules may leave little time for direct service to Krishna. How can we keep the good influence of the holy places in our lives even after we leave?

Srila Rupa Gosvami advises,

krsnam smaran janam casya
  prestham nija-samihitam
tat-tat-katha-ratas casau
  kuryad vasam vraje sada

“The devotee should always think of Krsna within himself and should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Krsna in Vrndavana. One should constantly engage in topics about that servitor and his loving relationship with Krsna, and one should live in Vrndavana. If one is physically unable to go to Vrndavana, he should mentally live there.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.294, quoted as Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 22.161)

We should always engage in remembering and discussing Krishna—His names, forms, qualities, pastimes, and associates in Vrindavan—and even our own experiences there. By such engagement we can experience Vrindavan wherever we are, with Krishna as the focus of our lives.

And we should spread the message of Vrindavan, the message of Mayapur. Once, on a morning walk in Mayapur, a devotee said to Srila Prabhupada, “Mayapur is so nice, I wish I could just stay here,” and Prabhupada responded, “You must go out and make the whole world Mayapur.”

To experience Vrindavan outside Vrindavan is difficult; to create Mayapur outside Mayapur is difficult. But Srila Prabhupada said, “Spiritual life is difficult, but material life is impossible.” So let us make an honest effort to engage in Krishna consciousness, and Krishna and His devotees will surely help us.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 062017
 

Here is a video of the name-giving. Prema Bhakti dasa became Premi Bhakta dasa, Pradipta and Mousumi Chatterjee became Pandita Srivasa dasa and Malini dasi, and Rob Goettler became Jayananda dasa.

Here is Giriraj Swami’s address.
11.03.17, Initiation, Carpinteria

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Oct 272017
 

Today is Gopastami, the day on which Krishna and Balarama and other boys Their age, who previously had tended the calves, were given charge of the cows. This event is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.15.1):  

tatas ca pauganda-vayah-sritau vraje
babhuvatus tau pasu-pala-sammatau
gas carayantau sakhibhih samam padair
vrndavanam punyam ativa cakratuh

“When Lord Rama and Lord Krsna attained the age of pauganda [six to ten] while living in Vrndavana, the cowherd men allowed Them to take up the task of tending the cows. Engaging thus in the company of Their friends, the two boys rendered the land of Vrndavana most auspicious by imprinting upon it the marks of Their lotus feet.”

As stated in the purport: “Since Lord Krsna’s spiritual body had apparently grown slightly in age and strength, the senior men of Vrndavana, headed by Nanda Maharaja, decided to promote Krsna from the task of herding calves to the status of a regular cowherd boy. He would now take care of the full-grown cows, bulls, and oxen. Out of great affection, Nanda Maharaja had previously considered Krsna too small and immature to take care of full-grown cows and bulls. It is stated in the Karttika-mahatmya section of the Padma Purana:

suklastami karttike tu
smrta gopastami budhaih
tad-dinad vasudevo ’bhud
gopah purvam tu vatsapah

‘The eighth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the month of Karttika is known by authorities as Gopastami. From that day, Lord Vasudeva served as a cowherd, whereas previously He had tended the calves.’

“The word padaih indicates that Lord Krsna blessed the earth by walking on her surface with His lotus feet. The Lord wore no shoes or other footgear but walked barefoot in the forest.”

Srimati Radharani and Her girlfriends wanted to enjoy the fun, and given Her resemblance to Subala-sakha, She donned his dhoti and other garments and accoutrements and, along with Her gopis, joined Krishna. Thus on this occasion, in temples in Vrindavan and elsewhere, Srimati Radharani is dressed as a cowherd boy.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Oct 222017
 

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.32.

“But, competent as the Lord was, He saved the inhabitants and animals of Vrajabhumi by His personal energy and proved definitely that anyone directly engaged as a devotee of the Supreme Lord need not satisfy any other demigods, however great, even to the level of Brahma or Siva. Thus this incident definitely proved without a doubt that Lord Krsna is the Personality of Godhead and that He was so in all circumstances, as a child on the lap of His mother, as a boy 7 years old, and as an old man of 125 years of age. In either case He was never on the level of the ordinary man, and even in His advanced age He appeared a young boy 16 years old. These are the particular features of the transcendental body of the Lord.” SB 2.7.32 purport—————————-

Govardhana-puja, Moorpark

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Happy Diwali

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Oct 192017
 

“The Diwali ceremony can be observed in the temple by illuminating hundreds of candles, in different parts of the temple, and offering special prasada to the Deity. This ceremony was observed by the inhabitants of Ayodhya, the kingdom of Lord Ramachandra, after Lord Ramachandra was out of His kingdom due to His fourteen years banishment by the order of His father. His younger stepbrother Bharata took charge of the kingdom, and the day on which Lord Ramachandra took back the charge from His brother and was seated on the throne is observed as Diwali. This is the original idea of Diwali, or Dipavali. Dipavali means the same thing—Dipa means candles, and vali means numerous. When numerous candles are lighted it is called Dipavali. In India, this Dipavali function is celebrated as a special auspicious occasion. This Dipavali function can be observed on 21st October, and prasada can be distributed on the 22nd October, during daytime, which is known as the Govardhana Puja and Annakuta ceremony. In India, in all Vaishnava temples, this ceremony is observed, and hundreds of people are given prasada according to the capacity of the temple.”

—Srila Prabhupada letter, October 10, 1968

 

Sri Rama-ekadasi—Completing Sri Caitanya-caritamrta

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Oct 152017
 

Today is Rama-ekadasi, the date on which Srila Prabhupada completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. The event is described in the following excerpt from my forthcoming book I’ll Build You a Temple, about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu.

Every morning just before six I would walk up the stairs to Prabhupada’s room to accompany him on his morning walk. But when another devotee and I went on the day after Rama-ekadasi, on November 11, we were surprised to find the doors—both to his quarters, on one side, and to his staff’s quarters, on the other—locked. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I gently knocked on both doors. After a minute or two, Prabhupada’s secretary, Harikesa, opened the assistants’ door just a little and said that Prabhupada had stayed up all night and completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, that at the end he had written the most beautiful glorification of his guru maharaja, and that he was in an ecstatic mood and had said that we should celebrate by having a feast.

In his Concluding Words, Prabhupada had written, “Today, Sunday, November 10, 1974—corresponding to the 10th of Kartika, Caitanya Era 488, the eleventh day of the dark fortnight, the Rama-ekadasi—we have now finished the English translation of Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami’s Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in accordance with the authorized order of His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Gosvami Maharaja, my beloved eternal spiritual master, guide and friend.”

Prabhupada recounted his first meeting with his guru maharaja and receiving his instruction “to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in English in the Western countries.” At first he had resisted the order. “Because at that time I was a complete nationalist, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s, I submitted to His Divine Grace that unless our country were freed from foreign subjugation, no one would hear the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu seriously. . . . but at last I was defeated and convinced that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message is the only panacea for suffering humanity. I was also convinced that the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was then in the hands of a very expert devotee and that surely the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would spread all over the world. I could not, however, immediately take up his instructions to preach, but I took his words very seriously and was always thinking of how to execute his order, although I was quite unfit to do so.”

When in 1950 Prabhupada had retired from family life and then taken sannyasa, he had finally been “completely ready to discharge the order of my spiritual master. . . . By the mercy of His Divine Grace, I was able to come to New York on September 17, 1965. Since then, I have translated many books, including Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Teachings of Lord Caitanya (a summary), and many others.

“In the meantime, I was induced to translate Sri Caitanya-caritamrta,” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s favorite book. “I think that [he] is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye [SB 1.1.1]. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates. . . .

“It is my wish that devotees of Lord Caitanya all over the world enjoy this translation, and I am glad to express my gratitude to the learned men in the Western countries who are so pleased with my work that they are ordering in advance all my books that will be published in the future. On this occasion, therefore, I request my disciples who are determined to help me in this work to continue their cooperation fully, so that philosophers, scholars, religionists and people in general all over the world will benefit by reading our transcendental literatures.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

 

 

The Beautiful Month of Damodara

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Oct 052017
 

Today we begin the beautiful month of Damodara. The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 4, says, “There is a statement in Padma Purana describing the ritualistic function during the month of Karttika (October–November). During this month, in Vrndavana it is the regulative principle to pray daily to Lord Krsna in His Damodara form. The Damodara form refers to Krsna in His childhood when He was tied up with rope by His mother, Yasoda. Dama means ‘ropes,’ and udara means ‘the abdomen.’ So Mother Yasoda, being very disturbed by naughty Krsna, bound Him round the abdomen with a rope, and thus Krsna is named Damodara. During the month of Karttika, Damodara is prayed to as follows: ‘My dear Lord, You are the Lord of all, the giver of all benedictions.’ There are many demigods, like Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, who sometimes offer benedictions to their respective devotees. For example, Ravana was blessed with many benedictions by Lord Siva, and Hiranyakasipu was blessed by Lord Brahma. But even Lord Siva and Lord Brahma depend upon the benedictions of Lord Krsna, and therefore Krsna is addressed as the Lord of all benefactors. As such, Lord Krsna can offer His devotees anything they want, but still, the devotee’s prayer continues, ‘I do not ask You for liberation or any material facility up to the point of liberation. What I want as Your favor is that I may always think of Your form in which I see You now, as Damodara. You are so beautiful and attractive that my mind does not want anything besides this wonderful form.’ In this same prayer, there is another passage, in which it is said, ‘My dear Lord Damodara, once when You were playing as a naughty boy in the house of Nanda Maharaja, You broke the box containing yogurt, and because of that, Mother Yasoda considered You an offender and tied You with rope to the household grinding mortar. At that time You delivered two sons of Kuvera, Nalakuvara and Manigriva, who were staying there as two arjuna trees in the yard of Nanda Maharaja. My only request is that by Your merciful pastimes You may similarly deliver me.’ ”

May Lord Damodara attract and deliver us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami