Aug 112018

We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter One: “The Spiritual Masters.”


sadhavo hrdayam mahyam
  sadhunam hrdayam tv aham
mad-anyat te na jananti
  naham tebhyo manag api


sadhavah—the saints; hrdayam—heart; mahyam—My; sadhunam—of the saints; hrdayam—the heart; tu—indeed; aham—I; mat—than Me; anyat—other; te—they; na—not; jananti—know; na—nor; aham—I; tebhyah—than them; manak—slightly; api—even.


“Saints are My heart, and only I am their hearts. They do not know anyone but Me, and therefore I do not recognize anyone besides them as Mine.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

This verse appears in Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.4.68) in connection with a misunderstanding between Durvasa Muni and Maharaja Ambarisa. As a result of this misunderstanding, Durvasa Muni tried to kill the king, when the Sudarsana cakra, the celebrated weapon of Godhead, appeared on the scene for the devoted king’s protection. When the Sudarsana cakra attacked Durvasa Muni, he fled in fear of the weapon and sought shelter from all the great demigods in heaven. Not one of them was able to protect him, and therefore Durvasa Muni prayed to Lord Visnu for forgiveness. Lord Visnu advised him, however, that if he wanted forgiveness he had to get it from Maharaja Ambarisa, not from Him. In this context Lord Visnu spoke this verse.

The Lord, being full and free from problems, can wholeheartedly care for His devotees. His concern is how to elevate and protect all those who have taken shelter at His feet. The same responsibility is also entrusted to the spiritual master. The bona fide spiritual master’s concern is how the devotees who have surrendered to him as a representative of the Lord may make progress in devotional service. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always mindful of the devotees who fully engage in cultivating knowledge of Him, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

This verse is placed by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in the first chapter of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which discusses guru-tattva, the truth about the spiritual master. First and foremost, the spiritual master must be a devotee of the Lord, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes different characteristics of devotees. In the current series of verses, he discusses the Lord’s presence in the devotee’s heart. The devotee receives inspiration from the Lord within the heart, and thus the devotee should be identified with the Lord.

In the present verse, Lord Vishnu describes the beautiful reciprocation between the Lord and His devotees. In essence, the devotees know nothing but the Lord, and the Lord knows no one but His devotees. The Lord dwells in the hearts of His devotees, and His devotees remain in the core of His heart. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.29),

samo ’ham sarva-bhutesu
  na me dvesyo ’sti na priyah
ye bhajanti tu mam bhaktya
  mayi te tesu capy aham

“I am equal to all living beings. I do not envy anyone, nor am I partial to anyone. But those who render service unto Me in devotion are in Me, and I am in them.”

When I came before Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda this morning, I thought of Srila Prabhupada, how he came here and installed the Deities. There are many wonderful pictures and even live footage of him offering arati and dancing in kirtan before the Deities. And I thought of how Prabhupada endeavored ceaselessly to preach the message of Sri Krishna Chaitanya and to give facility to devotees to progress in Krishna consciousness. He voyaged alone by steamship, arriving in America at the age of seventy, not knowing anyone. On the order of his spiritual master, between the ages of seventy and eighty-two he preached and spread Krishna consciousness and created so many facilities for the devotees, like Bhaktivedanta Manor, all over the world. I thought, “What selfless service. What surrender. What dependence on the Lord. How much the Lord must love Srila Prabhupada.”

Then I thought of myself: “Now I am sixty-two. Who knows what condition I’ll be in when I am seventy, the age at which Srila Prabhupada arrived in America. And I have so many people to help me. By Srila Prabhupada’s grace, there are devotees practically everywhere I go. I have people to travel with me and to help me with my luggage. And I go by plane. I don’t go by steamship, by cargo carrier. Yet even then, it is so hard to travel—really hard.

“And Srila Prabhupada had no one. Externally, he was all alone. He began at the age of seventy—he traveled by steamship, cargo carrier—and he served the Lord in the best way by preaching the message of Krishna and making devotees, caring for them, protecting them, encouraging them, and giving them every facility to progress in Krishna consciousness. What deep love for the conditioned souls, for his spiritual master, and for Krishna resided in Srila Prabhupada’s heart! And reciprocally, what love for Srila Prabhupada resided in Krishna’s heart!”

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Aug 072018

Question: “Can we pray for something that would be favorable for our service?”

Giriraj Swami: “Suppose I don’t have a car to get to the temple. Can I pray to Krishna to give me a car so I can go to the temple? In the Bhagavad-gita (7.26) Krishna says, ‘O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows.’ He knows what is best for us, more than we ourselves do. So our prayers should be tempered with that understanding. There is a very nice prayer by Maharaja Prithu in Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.20.31) that I sometimes recommend to devotees: ‘My Lord, due to Your illusory energy, all living beings in this material world have forgotten their real constitutional position, and out of ignorance they are always desirous of material happiness in the form of society, friendship, and love. Therefore, please do not ask me to take some material benefits from You, but as a father, not waiting for the son’s demand, does everything for the benefit of the son, please bestow upon me whatever You think best for me.’ This is a perfect prayer.”

Question-and-answer booth, Ratha-yatra (Right click to download)

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Aug 062018

Yesterday, I invited Rajani-priya (Rose Forkash), almost ninety-eight years old now, to accompany us to the Los Angeles Ratha-yatra.

In the car on the way back to Carpinteria after the festival, she said, “Giriraj—I want to thank you, thank you, thank you so many times for including me in today’s program. I needed it, I wanted it, and you gave it to me, so I must thank you again and again.

“I’m almost a hundred. It hasn’t been easy, but I have had wonderful people in my life—especially Prabhupada, a wonderful man. If I hadn’t lived so long, I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful people.

“I cannot tell you how much I enjoy being in the company of devotees chanting Hare Krishna.

“I am a very fortunate lady. It was an enjoyable, wonderful day, and I will remember it forever.”

At intervals along the way back, Rajani-priya broke into spontaneous singing of Hare Krishna, in Srila Prabhupada’s original melody. In the eleven hours since we had picked her up from her home, her energy and enthusiasm had not waned at all; rather, in her ecstatic mood, they had increased.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 032018

Yesterday Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja arrived in Carpinteria to spend some time with me at my ashram. I was much impressed with his plans and initiatives for cow protection (go-raksya) and, of course, as always, with his spiritual purity and Krishna consciousness. And I know that it was only his love for Srila Prabhupada and me that brought him so far to visit.

Today Maharaja continued to enliven and inspire us with his memories and realizations of Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON, and the future of the Krishna consciousness movement. He is truly a loyal disciple, member, and friend.

Hare Krishna.

Your grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami

Jul 312018

Yesterday we were graced by a visit from Kalakantha Prabhu and Bhakta Jeff, from Gainesville. Kalakantha is such a sincere, intelligent, thoughtful, dynamic, compassionate, innovative preacher, I always feel enlightened and encouraged by his annual visits.

As stated in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.50),

tesam satata-yuktanam
  bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
  yena mam upayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”

Purport: “This verse of the Bhagavad-gita (10.10) clearly states how Govindadeva instructs His bona fide devotee. The Lord declares that by enlightenment in theistic knowledge He awards attachment for Him to those who constantly engage in His transcendental loving service. This awakening of divine consciousness enthralls a devotee, who thus relishes his eternal transcendental mellow. Such an awakening is awarded only to those convinced by devotional service about the transcendental nature of the Personality of Godhead. They know that the Supreme Truth, the all-spiritual and all-powerful person, is one without a second and has fully transcendental senses. He is the fountainhead of all emanations. Such pure devotees, always merged in knowledge of Krsna and absorbed in Krsna consciousness, exchange thoughts and realizations as great scientists exchange their views and discuss the results of their research in scientific academies. Such exchanges of thoughts in regard to Krsna give pleasure to the Lord, who therefore favors such devotees with all enlightenment.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jul 292018

“The mind is the agent of the false ego, and the false ego doesn’t want to surrender to Krishna. The false ego wants to be the controller, the enjoyer, the proprietor, and the center of everything. The mind will always give us so many reasons why not to surrender or chant Hare Krishna. So, we should not be misled by the mind. With our intelligence or with our hearts we should surrender.”

Talks by other devotees (Right click to download)
Talk by Giriraj Swami (Right click to download)

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Jul 282018

“One must conquer the modes of passion and ignorance by developing the mode of goodness, and then one must become detached from the mode of goodness by promoting oneself to the platform of suddha-sattva. All this can be automatically done if one engages in the service of the spiritual master with faith and devotion. In this way one can conquer the influence of the modes of nature.”

Purport by Srila Prabhupada:

“Just by treating the root cause of an ailment, one can conquer all bodily pains and sufferings. Similarly, if one is devoted and faithful to the spiritual master, he can conquer the influence of sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna very easily. Yogis and jnanis practice in many ways to conquer the senses, but the bhakta immediately attains the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the mercy of the spiritual master. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado. If the spiritual master is favorably inclined, one naturally receives the mercy of the Supreme Lord, and by the mercy of the Supreme Lord one immediately becomes transcendental, conquering all the influences of sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna within this material world. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate). If one is a pure devotee acting under the directions of the guru, one easily gets the mercy of the Supreme Lord and thus becomes immediately situated on the transcendental platform. This is explained in the next verse.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.15.25

Guru-purnima talk (Right click to download)

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Jul 262018

Giriraj Swami and Kalachandji dasa shared their memories of His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja.
Kalachandji dasa (Right click to download)
Giriraj Swami (Right click to download)

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Jul 262018

Today is Guru-purnima. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the system of honoring the spiritual master annually is current among all Vedic followers. In Mayavadi (impersonalist) sects, disciples offer respect to the spiritual master on Guru-purnima. And in the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, disciples offer homage on the appearance day of the spiritual master, in a ceremony called Vyasa-puja because the spiritual master, through disciplic succession, presents the same knowledge as Vedavyasa, the empowered incarnation of Krishna who compiled the Vedic literatures. We shall take this opportunity to discuss the principle of guru—and glorify the acarya-sampradaya.

 Guru is a deep subject. We sing, vande ’ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca, offering respects to the individual spiritual master, to the predecessor acharyas, and to all Vaishnavas.

As Srila Prabhupada explains, “The offering of respect to the spiritual master means offering respect to all the previous acharyas. Gurun means plural number. All the acharyas, they are not different from one another, because they are coming in the disciplic succession from the original spiritual master and they have no different views.” Thus we offer respects to the predecessors.

Similarly, we offer respects to the followers. Srila Prabhupada explains further, “Spiritual master means they must have many followers, who are all Vaishnavas. They are called prabhus, and the spiritual master is called Prabhupada, because at his lotus feet there are many prabhus. Pada means ‘lotus foot.’ All these Vaishnavas are prabhus. So they are also offered respectful obeisances—not the spiritual master alone, but along with his associates. And these associates, his disciples, are all Vaishnavas. Therefore they should also be offered respectful obeisances.” (SP comment on Mangalacarana, January 8, 1969)

For those of us in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada is the main guru; he is the founder-acharya. But he also has his associates—Srila Gour Govinda Swami, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami, Srila Sridhar Swami, Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami—to name some prominent ones who have departed. And of course, Prabhupada is being served by so many others today, and we can serve and learn from them all.

“One who teaches can be treated as spiritual master. . . . So if we take instruction from them, all senior godbrothers may be treated as guru. There is no harm. Actually, you have only one spiritual master, who initiates you, just as you have only one father. But every Vaishnava should be treated as prabhu, master, higher than me, and in this sense, if I learn from him, he may be regarded as guru.” (SP letter dated November 20, 1971)

The original guru is Krishna. He speaks the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita and enunciates the principles of religion. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the principles of dharma—bhagavata-dharma, prema-dharma—are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Dharma means “the laws of God,” or “the orders of God.” We cannot manufacture it; dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the principles of religion are enacted by the Lord Himself. We cannot make religious principles any more than we can make our own laws. Srila Prabhupada gave the example that you can’t just get together with some friends and pass your own laws; laws must be enacted by the government, by the parliament or legislature. Similarly, dharma is enacted by God.

dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam
na vai vidur rsayo napi devah
na siddha-mukhya asura manusyah
kuto nu vidyadhara-caranadayah

“Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great rsis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyadharas, and Caranas.” (SB 6.3.19)

The conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita is sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja—to give up all varieties of dharmas and just surrender to Krishna. And to understand the confidential truths about religious principles and the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita, we need the help of mahajanas, authorities in Krishna consciousness—gurus.

svayambhur naradah sambhuh
kumarah kapilo manuh
prahlado janako bhismo
balir vaiyasakir vayam

dvadasaite vijanimo
dharmam bhagavatam bhatah
guhyam visuddham durbodham
yam jnatvamrtam asnute

“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Siva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhisma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Gosvami, and I myself [Yamaraja] know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is uncontaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance one fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead.” (SB 6.3.20–21)

This confidential knowledge is given by God in scriptures and passed down through disciplic succession (evam parampara-praptam) to great souls who in turn impart the knowledge to their eager followers. And of all scriptures, Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered the most important, the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge.

nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam
suka-mukhad amrta-drava-samyutam
pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam
muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah

“O expert and thoughtful men, relish Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.” (SB 1.1.3)

This nectarean fruit is passed down to us through disciplic succession. In commenting on this verse, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives the example of a mango tree. To get a ripe mango from the top of a tree, several boys climb onto its branches and then the boy at the top plucks the fruit and hands it to the boy on the next branch down, that boy hands it down to the one on the next branch, and so on, until finally it reaches the boy on the ground—in the same condition as it was at the top of the tree. It hasn’t been bruised or broken; it has been delivered intact, just as it was.

At the top of our tree is Krishna, and He passes the knowledge down to Brahma. Brahma passes it to Narada, and Narada passes it to Vyasa. (Today is also called Vyasa-purnima because Vyasadeva, who compiled the Vedic literature, appeared on this date.) Vyasa passes it to Madhvacharya, and so on—Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Six Gosvamis, and, further down, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada. And now the followers of Srila Prabhupada are presenting the same knowledge. They follow and present the same teachings—that is their qualification.

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Jul 222018

It is a great honor, privilege, and pleasure to be here on the auspicious occasion of Snana-yatra. The first deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in ISKCON were discovered in San Francisco in 1967. One of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples, Malati dasi, saw a small figure in an import store, Cost Plus, and brought it to him. When Prabhupada saw the figure, his eyes opened wide. He folded his palms and bowed his head in respect. Then he said, “You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. He is Krishna.” Srila Prabhupada said that Lord Jagannatha was worshiped with two other deities: His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra. Malati confirmed that there were other, similar figures at the store, and Prabhupada asked her to go and buy them. So she and her husband, Shyamasundar, immediately went and brought the other two figures. Srila Prabhupada placed them with Lord Jagannatha on his desk and told the devotees about Jagannatha’s appearance in India thousands of years ago, and how He was still worshiped in a great temple in Puri and taken in an annual procession with His brother and sister, each in a huge chariot, in the Ratha-yatra festival. Prabhupada chanted, jagannatha-svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me: “O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.” And he said that henceforth San Francisco should be called New Jagannatha Puri.

Prabhupada asked if any of the devotees knew how to carve, and Shyamasundar said that he did. So Prabhupada requested him to carve three-foot-high replicas of the small Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. Shyamasundar got three large blocks of wood, and, following the sketches and directions that Prabhupada gave him, he carved the first large deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in the West.

Then Prabhupada said that the devotees should hold a Ratha-yatra festival. So, following Prabhupada’s instructions, Shyamasundar and the others arranged a flatbed truck on which they erected five tall columns and covered them with cloth to serve as a canopy over the deities. And then they decorated the “chariot” with flowers. The devotees didn’t have many vehicles then, and those they did have were pretty old and dilapidated—and unpredictable in their performance.

At the time of the first Ratha-yatra in San Francisco, Srila Prabhupada was unwell, and the devotees had rented a place for him at nearby Stinson Beach, where he could recuperate. Although Prabhupada himself was unable to attend the festival, the devotees—along with the Ratha-yatra truck, the deities, and some hippies—came to visit him the next day. They were excited and eager to report. Shyamasundar explained that while he was driving the truck up a steep hill, the truck had stalled, and although he had tried to start the engine, he couldn’t. Then the brakes had failed, and the truck had begun to roll backwards down the hill. Finally he had been able to stop it, but when he had tried to move forward, again the engine had stalled and the truck had rolled backwards. Again and again he would get it started, the truck would go forward, the engine would stall, and the truck would roll backwards. The situation had seemed hopeless, and the devotees had wondered if they would even finish the parade.

But somehow they had, and they had come to give the report. Srila Prabhupada told them the story of how Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had celebrated the Ratha-yatra in Puri. He said that in Puri too the chariot would stop, even with thousands of people pulling the ropes. The king would order powerful wrestlers and elephants to push the chariot, but still it wouldn’t move. Finally, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would put His head on the back of the chariot and push, and only then did would the chariot move. “Now that Ratha-yatra has come to the West,” Srila Prabhupada said, “this pastime has come too.”

So, Ratha-yatra is a very ancient festival in Puri, and in ISKCON’s history it began here, in San Francisco, on a flatbed truck, in 1967. From that first Ratha-yatra, the festival has been celebrated yearly, not only in San Francisco but also in many other major cities throughout the world.

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