Sep 212019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.20

Mahatma is a synonym of sadhu. It is said that service to a mahatma, or elevated devotee of the Lord, is dvaram ahur vimukteh, the royal road of liberation. Mahat-sevam dvaram ahur vimuktes tamo-dvaram yositam sangi-sangam (SB 5.5.2). Rendering service to the materialists has the opposite effect. If anyone offers service to a gross materialist, or a person engaged only in sense enjoyment, then by association with such a person the door to hell is opened. The same principle is confirmed here. Attachment to a devotee is attachment to the service of the Lord because if one associates with a sadhu, the result will be that the sadhu will teach him how to become a devotee, a worshiper and a sincere servitor of the Lord. These are the gifts of a sadhu. If we want to associate with a sadhu, we cannot expect him to give us instructions on how to improve our material condition, but he will give us instructions on how to cut the knot of the contamination of material attraction and how to elevate ourselves in devotional service. That is the result of associating with a sadhu.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.20 purport

Comment by Giriraj Swami: “Association doesn’t mean just to be in the same physical place at the same time, but it means to receive instructions on devotional service and to apply the instructions.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.20 (Right click to download)

Sep 202019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17 at a home program in Highland Park, Dallas.

“A moment passed in the association of a pure devotee by hearing and chanting the transcendental messages of the Lord is a perfect guarantee for eternal life, for returning home, back to Godhead. Mad-dhama gatva punar janma na vidyate. In other words, a devotee of the Lord is guaranteed eternal life. A devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is but an impetus to such guaranteed eternal life.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17 purport.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17 (Right click to download)

Sep 192019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.1-22.

“A devotee’s conclusion is that no one is directly responsible for being a benefactor or mischief-monger without the sanction of the Lord; therefore he does not consider anyone to be directly responsible for such action. But in both the cases he takes it for granted that either benefit or loss is God-sent, and thus it is His grace. In case of benefit, no one will deny that it is God-sent, but in case of loss or reverses one becomes doubtful about how the Lord could be so unkind to His devotee as to put him in great difficulty. Jesus Christ was seemingly put into such great difficulty, being crucified by the ignorant, but he was never angry at the mischief-mongers. That is the way of accepting a thing, either favorable or unfavorable. Thus for a devotee the identifier is equally a sinner, like the mischief-monger. By God’s grace, the devotee tolerates all reverses. Maharaja Pariksit observed this, and therefore he could understand that the bull was no other than the personality of religion himself. In other words, a devotee has no suffering at all because so-called suffering is also God’s grace for a devotee who sees God in everything. The cow and bull never placed any complaint before the King for being tortured by the personality of Kali, although everyone lodges such complaints before the state authorities. The extraordinary behavior of the bull made the King conclude that the bull was certainly the personality of religion, for no one else could understand the finer intricacies of the codes of religion.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.17.22 purport.

Darshan Room Talk (Right click to download)

Sep 172019

One of Sripada Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s most prominent qualities is his deep love for Srila Prabhupada. Very soon after Maharaja met Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada included him in his personal staff and made him his secretary for Bengali and Hindi correspondence. Soon thereafter, Srila Prabhupada gave him first and second initiation and then sannyasa. And Maharaja personally served Srila Prabhupada throughout Prabhupada’s last days.

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is also very devoted to ISKCON. He has always considered ISKCON to be a unique creation of Srila Prabhupada’s and has always wanted to serve ISKCON—both the devotees in ISKCON and ISKCON as an entity, a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada. He is really in the mood of service to the devotees, especially the devotees of ISKCON, and to ISKCON itself.

Maharaja is a very pure-hearted, loving person. His love for Srila Prabhupada is seen in his love for the devotees and for people in general, whom he wants to bring to Srila Prabhupada—and in how he encourages devotees to increase their engagement, take on more responsibility, and become more loving, humble servants. The more responsibility one accepts, Maharaja once explained to a devotee in Mauritius, the bigger servant of the devotees one becomes. This reminded me of something Srila Prabhupada once said. When a disciple came into his room in Mayapur one day and began to complain about the management, Srila Prabhupada said, “If you think you can do better, why don’t you?” Somehow, the disciple came out and announced that Srila Prabhupada had made him the temple commander, and he began to boss the other devotees around. Some devotees complained to Srila Prabhupada that the devotee had said that Prabhupada had made him the temple commander and that now he was barking orders at everyone. So Srila Prabhupada called for the devotee and instructed him, “First you become the servant of everyone, then you become the temple commander.” Thus Srila Prabhupada expressed the same idea, that a bigger position means becoming a bigger servant. And Bhakti Charu Swami, in parampara, has that same understanding.

If we listen carefully to all of Maharaja’s instructions, we can understand how closely he follows the disciplic succession. Some of his statements are very close to Srila Prabhupada’s words, and some take the basic principles that Srila Prabhupada gave and sweeten them with personal realization.

Another of the many fine qualities exemplified by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is his offenselessness. He is very careful not to commit any offense against any devotee, or any living entity, and if he feels he has committed an offense, he immediately tries to mitigate the effects by approaching the person, apologizing, and asking forgiveness. Somehow or other, he tries to rectify the offense. From our point of view, we wouldn’t think he has committed an offense, but within his pure heart he may feel that he has, and immediately he will try to approach and please the person he fears he has offended, to remove the effects of the offense.

Maharaja’s heart is pure and very sensitive—full of appreciation for other devotees and sensitive to his own faults—which again, from our point of view, wouldn’t even be considered faults. That’s really the heart of a Vaishnava—full of love and appreciation for others but sensitive to one’s own deficiencies or mistakes.

As stated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (12.13–14), “One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.”

I wish I could be with Maharaja in person for his seventy-fourth birth anniversary and the fifty-fourth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America. Still, as Maharaja always reminds us, we have the wonderful association of the devotees in ISKCON, and through their association we can experience Srila Prabhupada’s presence, and along with Srila Prabhupada’s presence the presence of Srila Prabhupada’s dear and beloved associates such as His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja.

Srila Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja ki jaya!

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

—Giriraj Swami

Sep 162019

Yesterday, Sunday, September 15, in Dallas, in the presence of Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandji, Srila Prabhupada, and their followers, I was pleased to officially connect eight devotees to Srila Prabhupada and the guru-parampara through hari-nama initiation. Rajesh Sharma became Radha-vallabha dasa, Seema Sharma became Srimati dasi, Deo Pun became Divya Nama dasa, Manju Pun became Manjari dasi, Syamasundara Dasshort became Syama-vallabha dasa, Maria (Maggie) Caldwell became Madhuri Gopika dasi, Vanitha Sukumaran became Vrindavani dasi, and Sudhamani Surekha became Sevanandi dasi. Please bless them and support them in their service to Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and their mission.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Initiation talk by Giriraj Swami and Rtadhvaja Swami (Right click to download)

Sep 152019

Today Rajani Priya dasi (Rose Forkash) turned 99, and devotees and friends from the Santa Barbara area gathered at Mission Terrace to celebrate the occasion with her. She looked around the room and expressed her affection and appreciation for each devotee, one by one. And she expressed her gratitude for having received the “magic formula”—the Hare Krishna maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. She was as convinced and enthusiastic about Krishna consciousness as ever.

I joined the event from Dallas via a FaceTime video, and HH Rtadhvaja Swami, who is also in Dallas, did too. Afterward, he texted me, “She’s a great soul!!!” Indeed!

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sep 132019

Visvarupa-mahotsava is the date on which Lord Chaitanya’s older brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. And on the same date some four hundred and fifty years later, our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, also accepted sannyasa.

According to Vedic literatures, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, come in the present age in the role of a devotee. In the previous age, Lord Krishna came in His original feature and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the conclusion He instructed, sarva-dharman parityaja mam ekam saranam vraja: give up all other duties and surrender unto Me. But people could not understand or appreciate Lord Krishna’s instruction. So later, about five hundred years ago, Krishna came again, not in His original form but in His devotional form as Lord Chaitanya. And Lord Chaitanya taught us how to serve Krishna, how to worship God in the present age.

Lord Chaitanya taught various methods of worship, but He especially emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God, or Krishna. In particular, He quoted a verse from the Brhan-Naradiya Purana (38.126):

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

“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krishna. In this age of Kali, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for spiritual realization.”

He acted like a teacher who shows students how to write the alphabet. The teacher stands in front of the class and writes on the board, “A, B, C, D.” The teacher has no need to practice writing, but he shows by his own example how to form the letters properly. In the same way, God, Krishna, had no need to worship, but to set the example for us, so that we could learn how to worship God in the best way in the present age, He came as Lord Chaitanya and taught and demonstrated the chanting of the holy names of Krishna.

When Lord Chaitanya appeared, the social and spiritual system called varnashrama-dharma was still prevalent in India. In this system there are four social and four spiritual divisions, all necessary for society to function properly. Although we may not refer to them by the same terms, and although the system has not been developed as systematically and scientifically as in Vedic culture, still, by the arrangement of nature, the divisions still exist. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” (Gita 4.13) So, the four social orders, or broad divisions of occupational duties, are created by Krishna.

The four divisions include, first, the intelligent class, who are teachers and priests, but mainly teachers. Then there is the martial, or administrative, class, who are rulers and warriors; they govern and protect the citizens. There is the vaishya, or productive class, who engage in agriculture—farming and cow protection—and, with any surplus, in trade. And there is the service class, or workers, who perform services to support the other three classes.

When a person hears the description of the different social orders and duties, he or she may be alerted to the possibilities for exploitation and domination of the “lower” classes by the “higher.” But in Vedic society the different members work cooperatively for the common good, ultimately for the pleasure of God. In the physical body there are natural divisions—the head, the arms, the stomach, the legs—and they all have different functions. But they all cooperate for the benefit of the whole. In the social body, the brahmans are compared to the head—they give guidance. The kshatriyas are compared to the arms—they protect the body. The vaishyas are compared to the stomach—they provide food for the body. And the sudras, or workers, are compared to the legs—they carry the rest of the body where it wants to go. There is no question of competition among the different parts of the body—or of exploitation. They all work for the good of the whole.

Continue reading »

Sep 132019

Today is Bhadra-purnima. Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.13.13) states, “If on the full moon day of the month of Bhadra one places Srimad-Bhagavatam on a golden throne and gives it as a gift, he will attain the supreme transcendental destination.” As explained in the purport, “One should place Srimad-Bhagavatam on a golden throne because it is the king of all literature. On the full-moon day of the month of Bhadra, the sun, which is compared to this king of literatures, is present in the constellation Leo and looks as if raised up on a royal throne. (According to astrology, the sun is said to be exalted in the sign of Leo). Thus one may unreservedly worship Srimad-Bhagavatam, the supreme divine scripture.”

In Krsna-lila-stava (412–416), Srila Sanatana Gosvami prays, “O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O nectar churned form the ocean of all the Vedic scriptures, O most prominent transcendental fruit of all the Vedas, O You who are enriched with the jewels of all spiritual philosophical conclusions, O you who grant spiritual vision to all the people of the world, O life-breath of the Vaisnava devotees, O Lord, You are the sun which has arisen to dispel the darkness of the Kali-yuga. You are actually Lord Krsna, who has returned among us.

“O Srimad-Bhagavatam, I offer respectful obeisances unto You. By reading You one attains transcendental bliss, for Your syllables rain pure love of God upon the reader. You are always to be served by everyone, for You are an incarnation of Lord Krsna.

“O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O my only friend, O my companion, O my teacher, O my great wealth, O my deliverer, O my good fortune, O my bliss, I offer respectful obeisances unto you.

“O Srimad-Bhagavatam, O giver of saintliness to the unsaintly, O uplifter of the very fallen, please do not ever leave me. Please become manifested upon my heart and my throat, accompanied by pure love of Krsna.”

Bhadra-purnima is also the date on which Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa. When asked, “Are you going to America?” he replied, “No, Srimad-Bhagavatam is going to America—I am going with it.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sep 122019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter 11: “The Passing of Haridasa Thakura”:

“Haridasa Thakura is known as namacarya because it is he who preached the glories of chanting hari-nama, the holy name of God. By using the words tomara avatara (“your incarnation”), Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu confirms that Haridasa Thakura is the incarnation of Lord BrahmaSrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that advanced devotees help the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His mission and that such devotees or personal associates incarnate by the will of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord incarnates by His own will, and, by His will, competent devotees also incarnate to help Him in His mission. Haridasa Thakura is thus the incarnation of Lord Brahma, and other devotees are likewise incarnations who help in the prosecution of the Lord’s mission.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 11.25 purport)

Srila Haridas Thakura’s disappearance day (Right click to download)

Sep 102019

A lecture by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s appearance day, September 3, 1971,  London.

Today is a very auspicious day: Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s birthday. Here is the picture of Thakura Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda. He was one of the acharyas of this disciplic succession from Krishna. We have got a succession table from Krishna—a genealogical table. There are two kinds of genealogical tables, one by the semen—the father, his son, his son, like that. That is a material genealogical table. And there is a spiritual genealogical table—disciplic succession. Just like Krishna, the original father, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, spoke the Vedic knowledge to Brahma, Lord Brahma spoke to Narada, Narada spoke to Vyasa, and Vyasa spoke to Madhvacharya. So, in this disciplic succession, Lord Chaitanya—from Lord Chaitanya to the Six Gosvamis, and similarly, coming down, down, to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, then Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, then my spiritual master, and then we are the next generation, my disciples.

So there is a disciplic succession, and the acharyas are authorities. Our process of knowledge is very simple. We take it from authorities. We don’t speculate. Speculation will not help us to come to the real knowledge. Just like when we are in difficulty, in some legal implication, we go to some authority, a lawyer. When we are diseased, we go to a physician, the authority. There is no use in speculation. Suppose I am in difficulty in some legal implication. If I simply speculate, “I shall be free in this way and that way,” that will not help. We have to go to a lawyer who knows things, and he will give us instruction, that “You do like this; then you’ll be free.” Similarly, when we are diseased, if we speculate at home, “My disease will be cured in this way and that way,” that is useless. You go to an authorized physician, and he will give you a nice prescription, and you’ll be cured. That is the process of knowledge. But in the modern age people think, “I am free, I am independent, and I can make my own solution.” That is rascaldom. That’s not good. Arjuna was talking with Krishna as a friend, but when he saw that there was no solution talking like this, he surrendered to Krishna. He said, sisyas te ’ham, aham: “Myself, I surrender unto You as Your disciple.” (Gita 2.7) Sisyas te ’ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam. Prapannam means “surrendered.” So that is the Vedic injunction, that if you want to know transcendental knowledge or science . . . Transcendental means beyond the scope of your direct perception.

Spiritual knowledge is beyond the scope of your sense speculation. When a soul, only a spiritual spark, leaves this body, you cannot see it. Therefore, the atheistic class of men speculates, “There may be a soul; there may not be soul.” Or, “The bodily function was going like this; now it stopped. The blood corpuscles have ceased. It is no more red; it is white. Therefore life . . .” These are speculation. This is not actual knowledge. Actual knowledge you get from the authority, Krishna. He says, tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati. Just like the soul is passing through different stages. Dehino ’smin yatha dehe. (Gita 2.13) Deha means this body. Asmin dehe: in this body there is dehi. Dehi means the owner of this body. That is the soul. That is passing through childhood, boyhood, babyhood, youth, old age. Everyone can perceive that you were a child—you were a baby, you were a boy, and now you are young man or old man. So you are there. And as you are passing through different types of bodies, similarly, when you give up this body you will accept another body. What is the difficulty? Tatha dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati. (Gita 2.13) There is no question of becoming astonished, how transmigration of the self, the soul, takes place. The vivid example is there. Simply you require a little intelligence. That intelligence is developed through the instruction of the acharya. Therefore the Vedic injunction is not to acquire knowledge by speculation. That is useless.

athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-
prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi
janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimno
na canya eko ’pi ciram vicinvan
(SB 10.14.29)

Ciram vicinvan. Ciram means for thousands of years you can speculate, but you cannot understand what is God. That is not possible. But if you receive knowledge from the devotee, he can deliver you. Therefore the Vedic injunction is tad-vijnana. Vijnana means science. If you want to know the transcendental science, then you must approach a guru. If you are at all interested to understand the spiritual science, tad-vijnartham sa gurum eva abhigacchet, you must approach a guru. (MU 1.2.12) Guru means this disciplic succession, as I have explained.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura was an ideal guru. He was not a sannyasi; he was a grihastha, a householder, living with family, wife, children. Still, he was guru. So anyone can become gurunot that only a sannyasi can become guru. A householder also can become guru, provided he knows the science. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was talking with Ramananda Raya . . . Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a sannyasi, born in a very high brahman family, a very learned scholar. He was talking with Raya Ramananda, a grihastha, governor of Madras. And He was questioning, and Ramananda Raya was answering. That means Ramananda Raya was taking the part of guru, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was taking the part of a disciple. So, Ramananda Raya was hesitating. He thought, “I am a grihastha, and not even a brahman. And besides, I am dealing in material affairs, politics. I am a governor. And Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a sannyasi, born of a high-class brahman family. So it does not look well that I teach Him.” He was hesitating. And Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Oh, why you are hesitating?”

kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
(Cc Madhya 8.128)

He said, “Don’t hesitate. Either one may be a brahman or one may be a sudra (kiba vipra, kiba sudra). Vipra means brahman, and sudra is the fourth-grade human being. So, kiba vipra, kiba sudra: he may be a first-grade human being or the lowest-grade human being, or he may become a sannyasi or a grihastha. It does not matter. Anyone who knows the science of Krishna, he can become a guru.” This is the verdict. Because spiritual science does not belong to the bodily platform. It is on the spiritual platform. It is very nice. Just like when you go to a lawyer or an engineer or a physician, you do not inquire whether he’s a brahman or a sudra. Simply you have to know whether he’s a lawyer; that’s all—whether he’s a physician. If he knows the medical science, he may be a brahman, he may be a sudra, he may be a sannyasi, he may be a householder—it doesn’t matter. Your business is with a physician, with a lawyer. Similarly, our business is to understand Krishna. So anyone who knows Krishna perfectly, we have to go there. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet. The Vedic injunction is not that you have to approach a sannyasi or a grihastha or an Indian or American. No. Gurum. And guru means who knows the science of Krishna.

Continue reading »