Aug 232019

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

I wish to tell you about my journey to meet you—and how your journey to meet me was effective.

In my youth I aspired to attain perfect happiness, and soon I realized that such happiness could not be achieved materially but only spiritually. And, through reading spiritual books, I came to understand that to achieve spiritual perfection, I needed a guru. In fact, I read that I didn’t even have to choose the guru. He was already there; all I had to do was find him. So whenever I heard about a guru anywhere, even a thousand miles away, I would go to meet him.

One teacher I met was a Zen master, supposedly enlightened and certified by another enlightened master in Japan. I had read a book he had written, and when I heard he was holding a three-day retreat at his ashram in Rochester, New York, I went. Upon my arrival I found that his students were not very happy. But I thought, “Anyway, they’re just students. Let me meet the master.”

During the retreat he held meditation sessions in which everyone had to sit up straight and look at the wall, concentrating on some object he would give us. The master walked around with a stick, and if he thought any of us was falling asleep or that someone’s mind was wandering, he would hit the offender. After one such session, some of his students asked him about his recently having become angry. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “I lost my temper; I shouldn’t have.” I started to doubt whether he was my guru. Still, I had read that a Zen master might appear ordinary and that one might not recognize him, so I thought, “Maybe this is part of it.” But my doubt remained. Later, he came to Boston, near Brandeis University, where I was studying. After his talk and demonstration, someone in the audience asked about Vedanta. “I have enough trouble keeping up with Zen,” he answered. “How do you expect me to know about Vedanta?” My previous doubt was confirmed: “He is not my perfect master.”

Then a hatha-yogi came to Brandeis to give a lecture. He had long hair and a beard and flowing robes. He said that by yoga you could attain complete mastery over your bodily functions, including the movements of the bowels. You could actually command your intestines: “Ascending colon, advance! Transverse colon, advance! Descending colon, advance!” and finally, “Rectum, pass!” I was really looking for a guru, so I thought, “Anyway, maybe.”

After the lecture, I tried to meet the swami, but he was leaving for the airport. I wanted to ride with him in his car, but there was no room, so I rode with some of his students. On the way, they discussed the various foods they missed since they had joined the ashram. So I started to have some doubts. But then I thought, “Anyway, they are just the students; the master may be on a much higher level.”

When we arrived at the airport, I beheld the swami. There he was—long flowing hair, beard, draping orange robes, a flower in his hair, a twinkle in his eyes—the very picture of Indian spirituality. But then I saw him tightly embracing his women disciples. And I knew: “He is not my perfect master. I have to keep looking.”

Next I heard of an “enlightened” psychology professor who was teaching at Antioch College, in Ohio, which was known as a progressive university, and I wanted to meet him immediately. Ready to do anything to find my guru, I got in my car and drove the seven hundred miles. When I arrived, with great anticipation and eagerness I searched out the professor’s office and inquired about him from his secretary. “He’s playing golf,” she informed me. “Playing golf?” I asked incredulously. “I thought he was supposed to be enlightened.” “That is his Zen,” she replied. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Playing golf? He is not my perfect master.”

Although I was disappointed about the professor, the Antioch campus was full of people interested in spiritual life, and while I was there I spoke with some of them. Some students in the Student Union told me about a guru who had recently visited the campus. “The guru is in the heart,” he had said, “where he sits on a lotus flower. You can actually see him and speak with him.” “Wow!” I thought; “that sounds attractive.” That night I tried to really focus on my heart. And indeed, I got a definite impression that there was a divine personality there, with whom I could have a sublime, personal relationship. And he seemed just about to speak. I was very excited, and I became eager to meet him.

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Aug 222019

We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb.”


tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
  samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
  kastha yathananda-karam manastah


tatah—thereafter; jagat-mangalam—auspiciousness for all living entities in all the universes of the creation; acyuta-amsam—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never bereft of the six opulences, all of which are present in all His plenary expansions; samahitam—fully transferred; sura-sutena—by Vasudeva, the son of Surasena; devi—Devaki-devi; dadhara—carried; sarva-atmakam—the Supreme Soul of everyone; atma-bhutam—the cause of all causes; kastha—the east; yatha—just as; ananda-karam—the blissful (moon); manastah—being placed within the mind.


Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.

The word acyutamsam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sad-aisvarya-purna, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.39), ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. Therefore the word acyutamsam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogis do. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1). Yogis meditate upon the Supreme Person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devaki, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Krsna was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devaki and that she carried the child within her womb.

When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.

Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.

Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, entered the body of Devaki from the body of Vasudeva. He was beyond the conditions of the ordinary living entity. When Krsna is there, it is to be understood that all His plenary expansions, such as Narayana, and incarnations like Lord Nrsimha and Varaha, are with Him, and they are not subject to the conditions of material existence. In this way, Devaki became the residence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second and the cause of all creation. Devaki became the residence of the Absolute Truth, but because she was within the house of Kamsa, she looked just like a suppressed fire, or like misused education. When fire is covered by the walls of a pot or is kept in a jug, the illuminating rays of the fire cannot be very much appreciated. Similarly, misused knowledge, which does not benefit the people in general, is not very much appreciated. So Devaki was kept within the prison walls of Kamsa’s palace, and no one could see her transcendental beauty, which resulted from her conceiving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We have gathered here at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna to remember and celebrate His appearance in this world. As confirmed by Vedic literature, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is the Absolute Truth, the origin of all that exists. And He is nondual (advaya) though realized in three features, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11):

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
  tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
  bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.”

Brahman is the impersonal effulgence that emanates from the transcendental form of the Lord; Paramatma is the localized feature of the Lord, within the heart; and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna Himself, full in six opulences.

The form of Krishna is not material. Our bodies are material, distinct from the soul, which is spiritual. The Bhagavad-gita (2.13) explains,

dehino ’smin yatha dehe
  kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
  dhiras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” The soul is a nonphysical, nonchemical particle of spiritual energy that animates the body. As long as the soul is in the body, we say the body is alive. Actually, the body is never alive; the body is just a machine. But it appears to be alive when the soul is present to animate it. And when the soul leaves the body, the body has no capacity to act, to function, and then we say that the body is dead. In conditioned beings, such as us, there is a distinction between the body, which is made of material energy, and the soul, which is composed of spiritual energy. But in the case of Krishna, there is no difference between His body and soul. Being absolute, His body and He are the same. In our case there is a difference between us and the body, because our real identity is the soul. If someone’s father passes away, he or she will cry, “Oh, my father has left. My father is gone.” But the body of the father is there, so why do we say, “My father has gone”? Intuitively we know, especially at a time like death, that the body lying there in the room is not the person. The body is just a bag of chemicals. The real person is the soul who has left the body, and so the children and other relatives and friends cry, “Oh, he’s gone,” because he is the soul, not the body.

In the case of Krishna, however, He and His body are not different, because He is absolute. There is no difference between His inside and His outside. He is completely spiritual. The Brahma-samhita says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: “Krsna is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual body.” Anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam: “He is the origin of all, but He Himself has no origin. He is the prime cause of all causes.” That is Krishna.

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Aug 212019

When I arrived at my chiropractor’s office today, all the tables were occupied, so I took the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, gifted to him by Rtadhvaja Swami, from the shelf and began to read. Then the chiropractor came out from the treatment room, took Life’s Final Exam from the shelf, handed it to me, and said, “You should read this,” so I opened the book and, again, began reading. It was a rewarding experience. In a while, when the receptionist told me that a table was vacant and that I should come, I told her, “It’s hard to put this book down!”

At the end of my treatment, the chiropractor told me, “I suffered many losses recently, and so I turned to your book, and I got much understanding and solace from it, so I thought you might like to revisit it, too.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Aug 172019

Today I heard an inspiring conversation in which Srila Prabhupada explained the reason for his great success, namely his faith in the order of his spiritual master and in chanting the holy names, and encouraged us to follow in the same way, using the same formula.

He said, “In the shastra it is said, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam, kalau nasty eva nasty eva.  [In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari.] That practical proof we are giving—these Europeans and Americans are simply chanting Hare Krishna, and how they are coming out. This practical proof. They did not know, five or six years ago, what is Krishna, what is Krishna’s name. But we are taking the conclusion of the shastra: in this age, if one chants Hare Krishna, he becomes spiritualized. That is happening, practically. It is not theory. How so many devotees are here? Anywhere, wherever we have started, how they have become devotee? Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that ‘You follow this formula and you will become God conscious.’ That is being practically proved. It is not theory. So that is Vedic knowledge. You adopt Vedic knowledge and get the result . . . In the beginning, in New York, that storefront, Satsvarupa and Hayagriva and . . . And ‘You simply chant.’ So this chanting is proving efficient. That is Vedic knowledge. It is not theory. Our Krishna consciousness movement is not theory or mental speculation. It is fact. Therefore it is said, guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya, ar na koriho mane asa. [Make the teachings emanating from the lotus mouth of your spiritual master one with your heart, and do not desire anything else.]

“So whatever little success I have got, it is only for this reason. My guru maharaja said, ‘You go and preach whatever you learned in English language.’ That’s all. So I came here with this faith, that ‘My guru maharaja said; I must be successful.’ I did not show any jugglery to you, gold-making jugglery. Where is my gold? I came with forty rupees first. So these are Vedic instructions: guru-mukha-padma-vakya and sri-guru-carane rati, ei se uttama-gati. [Attachment to his lotus feet is the perfection that fulfills all desires.] That is real progress. So this is Vedic instruction. We have to follow the Vedic injunction. Then you will be successful. The standard is given by . . . That is standard, as that Vedic language, Vedic instruction. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave the standard, harer nama: ‘Chant Hare Krishna.’ Immediately successful. That is standard. Otherwise, how you will find standard? Therefore it is said, guru-mukha-padma-vakya. That is standard. What you receive from a bona fide guru, that is standard. Krishna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (Gita 18.65)]. Anyone who will follow this standard will become devotee. And as soon as he become devotee, he is fit for going back to home, back to Godhead.”

(Room conversation with Svarupa Damodara Dasa, February 28, 1975, Atlanta)

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 152019

“Because He is as powerful as Lord Krsna and can bestow spiritual power to the devotees, He is therefore known as Baladeva. In the Vedas also it is enjoined that no one can know the Supreme Lord without being favored by Baladeva. Bala means spiritual strength, not physical. Some less intelligent persons interpret bala as the strength of the body. But no one can have spiritual realization by physical strength. Physical strength ends with the end of the physical body, but spiritual strength follows the spirit soul to the next transmigration, and therefore the strength obtained by Baladeva is never wasted. The strength is eternal, and thus Baladeva is the original spiritual master of all devotees.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.16–17 purport

Jaya Baladeva!

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 142019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 10, Chapter 2, and from Sri Caitanya-bhagavata.

“The son of Rohini will also be celebrated as Sankarsana because of being sent from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini. He will be called Rama because of His ability to please all the inhabitants of Gokula, and He will be known as Balabhadra because of His extensive physical strength.”

Purport: “These are some of the reasons why Balarama is known as Sankarsana, Balarama or sometimes Rama. In the maha-mantra — Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare — people sometimes object when Rama is accepted as Balarama. But although devotees of Lord Rama may object, they should know that there is no difference between Balarama and Lord Rama. Here Srimad-Bhagavatam clearly states that Balarama is also known as Rama (rameti). Therefore, it is not artificial for us to speak of Lord Balarama as Lord Rama. Jayadeva Gosvami also speaks of three Ramas: Parasurama, Raghupati Rama and Balarama. All of them are Ramas.” — SB 2.10.13 verse and purport.

Balarama-purnima talk

Aug 132019

Today is the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the Personality of Godhead who is the first expansion of Lord Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead. As Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7):

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

“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.”

Krishna says, srjamy aham: “I manifest Myself.” He doesn’t take birth like an ordinary human being but manifests Himself in His original spiritual form. For what purpose?

paritranaya sadhunam
  vinasaya ca duskrtam
  sambhavami yuge yuge

“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” (Gita 4.8) He manifests Himself to protect the devotees, annihilate the demons, and reestablish the principles of religion.

In every sphere of activity in the material world there is deterioration; everything in the material world declines. A new house, for example, is very nice, but it gradually deteriorates, and eventually, when too old, it has to be rebuilt. In the same way, our performance of spiritual duties deteriorates, whether we are individuals, families, communities, or a society. And so the Lord comes repeatedly to reestablish religious practice. He appears in order to establish religious principles (dharma), but over time religious practice declines, and so He manifests Himself again and again. We all know how prone we are to allow our practice to deteriorate. Thus, on auspicious occasions like today, Lord Balarama’s appearance day, we can pray to the Lord to manifest Himself and help us to become reestablished in our religious principles and practice.

What Lord Krishna said in the two verses quoted from the Bhagavad-gita is explained elaborately in Srimad-Bhagavatam: When the earth was overburdened by demonic rulers, who had amassed large military forces armed with deadly weapons to wage war for personal gain, Lord Brahma, the chief of the demigods in this universe, approached the shore of the ocean of milk. There, accompanied by Lord Shiva and other celestial beings, he worshipped Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of all gods. In response, Lord Vishnu imparted instructions, which Lord Brahma in turn conveyed to the demigods. He told them that very soon the Lord would appear on earth to diminish the burden of the world and that the demigods, to assist Him, should take birth in the Yadu dynasty. Lord Brahma further stated that Lord Balarama, who is also known as Sankarsana, would precede the Lord and serve Him in every respect:

  sahasra-vadanah svarat
agrato bhavita devo
  hareh priya-cikirsaya

“The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

Lord Brahma told them as well that Yogamaya, the personal potency of the Lord, would also appear and assist the Lord in His mission.

Immediately preceding the appearance of Krishna and Balarama, Vasudeva, a great devotee in the Yadu dynasty, wedded Devaki, another pure devotee. After their marriage, Vasudeva mounted his chariot with his bride to return home, and Devaki’s brother Kamsa, to please his sister, took the reins of the horses to drive the chariot. Along the way, Kamsa heard a voice from an invisible source, which told him, “You fool, the eighth child of the woman you are carrying will kill you!” Kamsa, a great demon, became enraged and was ready to kill his own sister on the day of her marriage. But Vasudeva intervened and appealed to him to desist. He said, “How could a qualified person like you kill a woman—your own sister—on the occasion of her marriage? In any case, one day you will die, and in your next life you will have to suffer the reactions to your present activities.” Still, Kamsa was so shameless and cruel that he persisted, and Vasudeva, to save his wife from imminent death, told him, “You have nothing to fear from Devaki. According to the omen, it is her son who will kill you. So I promise to deliver all her sons, who are the cause of your fear, into your hands.” Kamsa, having faith in Vasudeva’s word, was pacified. Still, he imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. And year after year, as their children were born, Vasudeva dutifully delivered them to Kamsa, who mercilessly killed them.

Now we shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods.”


gaccha devi vrajam bhadre
  gopa-gobhir alankrtam
rohini vasudevasya
  bharyaste nanda-gokule
anyas ca kamsa-samvigna
  vivaresu vasanti hi


The Lord ordered Yogamaya: O My potency, who are worshipable for the entire world and whose nature is to bestow good fortune upon all living entities, go to Vraja, where there live many cowherd men and their wives. In that very beautiful land, where many cows reside, Rohini, the wife of Vasudeva, is living at the home of Nanda Maharaja. Other wives of Vasudeva are also living there incognito because of fear of Kamsa. Please go there.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Nanda-gokula, the residence of King Nanda, was itself very beautiful, but when Yogamaya was ordered to go there and encourage the devotees with fearlessness, it became even more beautiful and safe. Because Yogamaya had the ability to create such an atmosphere, the Lord ordered her to go to Nanda-gokula.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

King Kamsa was such a demon that he was performing all sorts of atrocities, and Vasudeva was afraid for the safety of his wives. In Vedic culture, the kshatriyas were allowed to marry more than one wife. Now that idea seems a bit foreign or odd, but it had its purpose in Vedic civilization. The kshatriyas then were powerful; they could maintain many wives. But, as predicted in Srimad-Bhagavatam, as the present age of Kali progresses, or deteriorates, a husband will have to struggle just to maintain one wife, one family, and if he is somehow able to do so nicely, he is considered a great success in life.

Previously, people were more qualified. They were more opulent. The kshatriyas could have more than one wife, though Lord Ramachandra took eka-patni-vrata, a vow to accept only one wife—Sitadevi. Vasudeva had more than one wife, but he was responsible. He didn’t want any harm to befall any of them, and he arranged for their protection. Vasudeva and Devaki had relatives, who were also family friends, in Gokula—Nanda and Yasoda. And so Vasudeva placed one of his wives, Rohini, under the care of Nanda and Yasoda. And after Balarama had entered the womb of Devaki, Lord Krishna ordered Yogamaya to transfer Him from the womb of Devaki into the womb of Rohini.


devakya jathare garbham
  sesakhyam dhama mamakam
tat sannikrsya rohinya
  udare sannivesaya


Within the womb of Devaki is My partial plenary expansion known as Sankarsana or Sesa. Without difficulty, transfer Him into the womb of Rohini.


The first plenary expansion of Krsna is Baladeva, also known as Sesa. The Sesa incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead supports the entire universe, and the eternal mother of this incarnation is Mother Rohini. “Because I am going into the womb of Devaki,” the Lord told Yogamaya, “the Sesa incarnation has already gone there and made suitable arrangements so that I may live there. Now He should enter the womb of Rohini, His eternal mother.”

In this connection, one may ask how the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always situated transcendentally, could enter the womb of Devaki, which had previously been entered by the six asuras, the sad-garbhas. Does this mean that the sad-garbhasuras were equal to the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The following answer is given by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.


As promised, Vasudeva delivered Devaki’s first six sons to Kamsa, who killed them one after the other. They were actually the six asuras who, because of events from their past life, had taken birth in Devaki’s womb to be killed by Kamsa. So, the question is, Krishna is going to enter the womb of Devaki—does that mean He is on the same level as these asuras who took birth from her womb and were killed by Kamsa? Visvanatha Cakravarti explains:

PURPORT (continued)

The entire creation, as well as its individual parts, is an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, even though the Lord enters the material world, He does not do so. This is explained by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad-gita (9.4–5):

maya tatam idam sarva
  jagad avyakta-murtina
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani
  na caham tesv avasthitah

 na ca mat-sthani bhutani
   pasya me yogam aisvaram
bhuta-bhrn na ca bhuta-stho
  mamatma bhuta-bhavanah


The idea is that the Lord is everywhere within His creation but at the same time is not there. This appears to be contradictory. The contradiction is resolved, however, when we understand that the Lord in His original form as Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan is not in the material creation; He remains aloof, in His divine abode, enjoying sublime pastimes with His loving devotees. Still, by His expansion as the Supersoul, the Paramatma, He pervades His creation.

PURPORT (continued)

A pure devotee is always transcendentally situated because of executing nine different processes of bhakti-yoga. Thus situated in devotional service, a devotee, although in the material world, is not in the material world. Yet a devotee always fears, “Because I am associated with the material world, so many contaminations affect me.” Therefore he is always alert in fear, which gradually diminishes his material association.


As stated earlier, Yogamaya appeared in Gokula to create fearlessness—freedom from fear of the attacks of demons. Yet a pure devotee is always afraid of material contamination. Once, Srila Prabhupada gave a class at Bhaktivedanta Manor in which he told the audience, “The difference between you and me is that you can fall down but I cannot fall down.” After the class, Srila Prabhupada was praying in front of the Deities, and one disciple asked him, “What were you praying?” And Prabhupada replied, “I was praying that I may never fall down.” The disciple responded, “But in your talk you said that you can never fall down.” And Prabhupada replied, “Yes, because I am always praying never to fall down, therefore I can never fall down.” So, we should always be afraid of the material energy (maya), of being deluded by maya and being diverted from the true path of Krishna consciousness.

PURPORT (continued)

Symbolically, Mother Devaki’s constant fear of Kamsa was purifying her. A pure devotee should always fear material association, and in this way all the asuras of material association will be killed, as the sad-garbhasuras were killed by Kamsa.


Especially devotees in the grihastha ashrama may have to associate with the material energy, to earn money to maintain their families. Like it or not, they may have to associate with materialistic people. And there is always a danger that by their associating with materialistic people, their consciousness will be affected. So they should be afraid of material association. Of course, circumstantially we have to interact with such people, and we may do so as people normally interact in the workplace. But internally we should be conscious that if we associate with them too much, in the wrong way, it can affect us, and we can become weakened in our determination to progress in Krishna consciousness. We may start to compromise in different ways, which will weaken us even more.

PURPORT (concluded)

It is said that from the mind, Marici appears. In other words, Marici is an incarnation of the mind. Marici has six sons: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, and Matsarya (lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness, and envy). The Supreme Personality of Godhead appears in pure devotional service. This is confirmed in the Vedas: bhaktir evainam darsayati. Only bhakti can bring one in contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared from the womb of Devaki, and therefore Devaki symbolically represents bhakti, and Kamsa symbolically represents material fear. When a pure devotee always fears material association, his real position of bhakti is manifested, and he naturally becomes uninterested in material enjoyment. When the six sons of Marici are killed by such fear and one is freed from material contamination, within the womb of bhakti the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears. Thus the seventh pregnancy of Devaki signifies the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After the six sons Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, and Matsarya are killed, the Sesa incarnation creates a suitable situation for the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, when one awakens his natural Krsna consciousness, Lord Krsna appears. This is the explanation given by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.


There are different stages of advancement in devotional service, and when one is completely purified, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed within the heart. That purified stage is called vasudeva, or suddha-sattva. It is the same name as that of Krishna’s father, Vasudeva, because Krishna first appeared in the purified mind of Vasudeva and then from the mind of Vasudeva He was transferred into the purified mind—and womb—of Devaki.

So, it is possible that the Lord will manifest Himself to a devotee who is sincere in the practice of devotional service. And before He manifests Himself fully, as He did for Vasudeva and Devaki, and for Nanda and Yasoda, He manifests Himself as the holy name (as we all experience when we try to chant offenselessly); as holy scripture—Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, or Sri Caitanya-caritamrta; as the holy dhama—Sri Vrindavan, Mayapur, or Puri; as the Deity; and in the hearts, and words, of His pure devotees.


athaham amsa-bhagena
  devakyah putratam subhe
prapsyami tvam yasodayam
  nanda-patnyam bhavisyasi


O all-auspicious Yogamaya, I shall then appear with My full six opulences as the son of Devaki, and you will appear as the daughter of Mother Yasoda, the queen of Maharaja Nanda.


This is the history. Balarama, or Sesa, first entered the womb of Devaki as her seventh son, but by the arrangement of Krishna, through the agency of Yogamaya, He was transferred to the womb of Rohini in Gokula. And thus it appeared that Devaki had a miscarriage. But it is Sesa’s service to arrange for Krishna’s comfort, and so He entered her womb first and created a favorable situation in which Lord Krishna could reside. We always see pictures of Lord Vishnu with Sesa, who acts as the Lord’s umbrella and throne. Sesa expands Himself in so many ways to facilitate the pleasure and comfort of the Lord.

After being transferred to the womb of Rohini, His eternal mother, Balarama took birth in Gokula. His stay within the womb of Devaki was just a temporary arrangement to create a favorable situation for Krishna. Then Krishna Himself entered the womb of Devaki through the mind of Vasudeva and took birth.

For the duration of Their infancy, childhood, and youth, Krishna and Balarama enjoyed together in Gokula, in Vraja. Then, when They were about the age of sixteen, They went to Mathura to participate in a wrestling match arranged by Kamsa. Ultimately Krishna killed Kamsa. Krishna and Balarama did not return to Vrindavan then. They had many pastimes in Mathura and Dvaraka.

Because Krishna and Balarama had not yet received a proper, formal education, Vasudeva and Devaki arranged for Them to study under a guru, Sandipani Muni, from whom They learned sixty-four different arts and sciences. And then They went on to rule Mathura and, finally, Dvaraka.

It is, one could say, a peculiar situation that Krishna was actually the son of Vasudeva and Devaki but was raised by Nanda and Yasoda and never really spent time with His original parents until many years later. And then He was separated from the parents who had raised Him, and He didn’t see them again for many, many years.

After Krishna and Balarama left Vrindavan, the Vraja-vasis were plunged into an ocean of separation. Their only business was crying for Krishna and Balarama. Of course, their crying was not like our material crying. Theirs was transcendental ecstasy. And in that separation, they were experiencing association. Still, they were separated, and many years later, when Krishna was living in royal opulence in Dvaraka, He went to Kurukshetra for a solar eclipse, to perform sacrifices and give in charity, as advised in shastra.

At Kurukshetra there was a great reunion, not only between Krishna and Balarama and Their friends from Vrindavan, but also between Vasudeva and Devaki and Nanda and Yasoda, and between Krishna’s various wives and Draupadi. Their meetings and interactions with each other are very instructive for us—how devotees relate to each other, how they think, and how they feel.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Eighty-Two: “Krsna Meets the Inhabitants of Vrindavan.”

TEXTS 31–32

When Nanda Maharaja learned that the Yadus had arrived, led by Krsna, he immediately went to see them. The cowherds accompanied him, their various possessions loaded on their wagons.

Seeing Nanda, the Vrsnis were delighted and stood up like dead bodies coming back to life. Having felt much distress at not seeing him for so long, they held him in a tight embrace.


The Vrsnis from Dvaraka returned to life when they saw Nanda, and they embraced him affectionately.

TEXTS 33–38

Vasudeva embraced Nanda Maharaja with great joy. Beside himself with ecstatic love, Vasudeva remembered the troubles Kamsa had caused him, forcing him to leave his sons in Gokula for Their safety.

O hero of the Kurus, Krsna and Balarama embraced Their foster parents and bowed down to them, but Their throats were so choked up with tears of love that the two Lords could say nothing.

Raising their two sons onto their laps and holding Them in their arms, Nanda and saintly Mother Yasoda forgot their sorrows.

Then Rohini and Devaki both embraced the Queen of Vraja, remembering the faithful friendship she had shown them. Their throats choking with tears, they addressed her as follows.

[Rohini and Devaki said:] What woman could forget the unceasing friendship you and Nanda have shown us, dear Queen of Vraja? There is no way to repay you in this world, even with the wealth of Indra.

Before these two boys had ever seen Their real parents, you acted as Their parents and gave Them all affectionate care, training, nourishment, and protection. They were never afraid, good lady, because you protected Them just as eyelids protect the eyes. Indeed, saintly persons like you never discriminate between outsiders and their own kin.


As Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti explains, Krsna and Balarama had not seen Their parents for two reasons: because of Their exile in Vraja, and also because They are never actually born and therefore have no parents.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti also describes what Devaki thought before speaking this verse: “Alas, because for so long these two sons of mine had you, Yasoda, as Their guardian and mother, and because They were immersed in such a vast ocean of ecstatic loving dealings with you, now that you are once more before Them They are too distracted to even notice me. Also, you are behaving as if insane and blind with love for Them, showing millions of times more maternal affection than I possess. Thus you simply keep staring at us, your friends, without recognizing us. So let me bring you back to reality on the pretext of some affectionate words.”


There are many points here. First is how much Devaki appreciated Mother Yasoda for taking care of her son Krishna. Before He had even seen His real parents, Yasoda and Nanda had acted as His and Balarama’s parents and cared for Them, taught Them, nourished Them, and protected Them. And thus Devaki’s sons never had any fear. She praised Yasoda for being a saintly person who never discriminated between outsiders and her own kin. Of course, on another level Krishna is the Supersoul; He is the most intimate friend and the supreme lovable object for everyone. But in terms of the pastimes, Yasoda did not discriminate that Krishna was not her own son; she and Nanda raised Him as if He were their own.

Also, Devaki was completely free from envy. She saw that Krishna (with Balarama) was so overwhelmed with love that He forgot everything. He just rushed into the arms of Mother Yasoda. And Devaki not only admitted but actually appreciated that Yasoda had more love for Krishna than even she did.

These are some of the qualities that devotees develop in Krishna consciousness. They appreciate the service of others, and they are not envious. They are happy to acknowledge when others have more love for Krishna than they do, or render better service to Krishna than they do. And they are full of love. It is described here that when the Vrsnis saw Nanda and Yasoda—even though they had the association of Krishna in Dvaraka and were with Him in Kurukshetra—they felt as if their lives had come back to them. They had so much love and affection for them, and they were most grateful to them for their service to Krishna.

PURPORT (concluded)

Then, when Devaki failed to get any response from Yasoda even after addressing her, Rohini said, “My dear Devaki, it’s impossible just now to rouse her out of this ecstatic trance. We are crying in the wilderness, and her two sons are no less bound up in the ropes of affection for her than she is for Them.”


Yasoda had lost consciousness of everything other than her sons, Krishna and Balarama. And again, Yasoda did not discriminate, that “Krishna is my son, but Balarama is Rohini’s.” Nor did Rohini discriminate that “Balarama is my son, but Krishna is Yasoda’s.” Both mothers were mothers to both sons, and both sons saw both as Their mothers.

This type of love develops with Krishna consciousness, but it is also something that we are meant to cultivate. In Srila Prabhupada’s last days, in Vrindavan, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami exclaimed, “Srila Prabhupada, your disciples love you so much.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Your love for me will be shown by how much you cooperate with each other.” Many authorities, both spiritual and mundane, have commented that love is not just a sentiment but is also a process. Srila Prabhupada said that if we really loved him—if we wanted to show our love for him—we would cooperate with each other for his pleasure, which ultimately means Krishna’s pleasure (yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado).

By cooperating for the service of Lord Balarama, the family of Vasudeva and Devaki and the family of Nanda and Yasoda were brought together. And that was one of Lord Balarama’s purposes, as foretold by Gargamuni:

  garga uvaca
ayam hi rohini-putro
  ramayan suhrdo gunaih
akhyasyate rama iti
  baladhikyad balam viduh
yadunam aprthag-bhavat
  sankarsanam usanty api

“Gargamuni said: This child, the son of Rohini, will give all happiness to His relatives and friends by His transcendental qualities. Therefore He will be known as Rama. And because He will manifest extraordinary bodily strength, He will also be known as Bala. Moreover, because He unites two families—Vasudeva’s family and the family of Nanda Maharaja—He will be known as Sankarsana.” (SB 10.8.12)

In the purport, Srila Prabhupada explains: “Baladeva was actually the son of Devaki, but He was transferred from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini. This fact was not disclosed. According to a statement in the Hari-vamsa:

pratyuvaca tato ramah
  sarvams tan abhitah sthitan
yadavesv api sarvesu
  bhavanto mama vallabhah

Gargamuni did disclose to Nanda Maharaja that Balarama would be known as Sankarsana because of uniting two families—the yadu-vamsa and the vamsa of Nanda Maharaja—one of which was known as ksatriya and the other as vaisya. Both families had the same original forefather, the only difference being that Nanda Maharaja was born of a vaisya wife whereas Vasudeva was born of a ksatriya wife. Later, Nanda Maharaja married a vaisya wife, and Vasudeva married a ksatriya wife. So although the families of Nanda Maharaja and Vasudeva both came from the same father, they were divided as ksatriya and vaisya. Now Baladeva united them, and therefore He was known as Sankarsana.”

By Krishna consciousness, by cooperating to serve the spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, different individuals, families, castes, and communities can all be united.

Even Balarama considers Himself to be a servant of Lord Krishna. Balarama is the first expansion of Krishna and is the original spiritual master, and He too has the sentiment that He is a servant of Krishna. In fact, every conscious being is imbued with the sentiment of being a servant of Krishna. Balarama, and all of Krishna’s expansions—Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Karanodakasayi Vishnu, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, Ksirodakasayi Vishnu—all have the sentiment of being servants of Krishna.

ekale isvara krsna, ara saba bhrtya
yare yaiche nacaya, se taiche kare nrtya

“Lord Krsna alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so.” (Cc Adi 5.142)

apanake bhrtya kari’ krsne prabhu jane
krsnera kalara kala apanake mane

“[Balarama] considers Himself a servant and knows Krsna to be His master. Thus He regards Himself as a fragment of His plenary portion.” (Cc Adi 5.137)

It was stated in the beginning that Balarama, or Sankarsana, would appear prior to Krishna in order to serve Krishna and please Him in every respect.

  sahasra-vadanah svarat
agrato bhavita devo
  hareh priya-cikirsaya

“The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

And that is the duty of the spiritual master—to serve and please the Supreme Lord. Once, Srila Prabhupada asked some disciples, “What is the duty of the spiritual master?” And then he gave the answer: “The duty of the spiritual master is to serve Krishna. And the duty of the disciples is to assist the spiritual master.” Balarama is the original spiritual master because, as Krishna’s first expansion, He is the first servant of Krishna, and He is the first instructor about Krishna. The spiritual master is considered to be the representative of Lord Balarama, or Nityananda Prabhu.

Srila Prabhupada said, “Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate.” In other words, love is not just a sentiment but is expressed through practical activity. Further, it is evoked by practical activity; loving sentiment is increased by devotional service. The word cooperate consists of co-, which means “together,” “jointly”; and operate, which means to “perform a function,” to “exert power or influence.” Cooperate means that together we perform some function. And we see the perfect example of cooperation in Vrindavan. Nanda and Yasoda and Rohini cooperated to raise Krishna and Balarama. In a broader sense, they cooperated with Vasudeva and Devaki to raise Them. And there was no envy.

Srila Prabhupada gave the example of the different parts of the body, which cooperate for the sake of the whole, to serve the stomach. If the different parts try to enjoy independent of the stomach, they won’t be able to. They will fail—and suffer. If there is a nice rasagulla and the hand thinks, “Why should I give all the food to the stomach? I will enjoy myself,” and then tries to enjoy directly, it won’t be able to. The food is meant to be given to the stomach, and when it goes to the stomach, all the different parts of the body benefit.

Srila Prabhupada elaborated on this analogy by saying that once, the different parts of the body went on strike, thinking, “We do all the work, and the stomach gets all the food. Why should we work for the sake of the stomach?” So they decided to go on strike. As a result, all the parts of the body suffered. They became weak. Then they had another meeting and decided, “We were better off when we were serving the stomach.” So they went back to serving the stomach.

Krishna is the focus of all devotional service. That is the meaning of bhakti—to serve and please Krishna. And the medium for that service is the spiritual master, who represents Lord Balarama, or Lord Nityananda. Srila Prabhupada said, “Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate.” That means we work together, co-operate. We perform the same function, but together, for the pleasure of guru and Krishna. And in that service there is no envy; there is only appreciation and gratitude. Each devotee thinks, “You’ve helped me so much by doing this.” That consciousness develops naturally from bhakti, but at the same time we have to practice; we are in the stage of sadhana-bhakti, devotional service in practice. When we practice cooperation, serving the other devotees and appreciating their service, bhakti develops, and ultimately Krishna manifests Himself. Krishna and all of His associates are revealed to us in that state of pure devotion.

Hare Krishna.

Are there any questions or comments?

Bhakta Adam: What does it mean when you say that Krishna and Balarama took birth from the womb? What is the childbirth process of Krishna? Does He simply appear and His mother thinks that she has gone through childbirth? Because I remember that Mother Yasoda—it says in Krsna book—Mother Yasoda was so tired from the labor of childbirth that she fell asleep and could not remember whether she had given birth to a male or a female child.

Giriraj Swami: Krishna is always everywhere, so He is already in the womb. He is in the heart of every living entity, in every atom, in the space between the atoms. He is everywhere. So He is already in the womb in His Paramatma feature, which is not different from His original feature as Krishna. The Paramatma is an expansion of His original feature. And when the time came, the original Krishna entered the purified mind, or heart, of Vasudeva, and from there He was transferred to the purified heart of Devaki. He was transferred to her womb—took up residence in her womb—where Sankarsana had already made all the arrangements. Then, after a facsimile of labor and childbirth, Krishna emerged.

But there is a difference between Mathura and Vraja. In Mathura, Krishna appeared with four hands, holding the symbols of Vishnu, fully decorated with ornaments. And He explained His divine identity to His parents, who praised and worshipped Him with awe and reverence. And then He transformed Himself into the form of a natural human child—into His original form as Krishna.

In the loving service of Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha, the devotees are always aware of His supreme opulence as God. In Mathura, the mood is mixed. Vasudeva and Devaki had some awareness that Krishna was God—He manifested Himself in His four-armed form to show them that He was God—but they also had a mood of parental affection. Devaki’s motherly affection overtook her awareness of the Lord’s opulence, and she thought, “Oh, if Kamsa finds Krishna, he will kill Him.” So she requested the Lord to withdraw His four-handed form, to become invisible to Kamsa. Then Vasudeva carried the baby Krishna out of Kamsa’s prison, crossed the Yamuna, and came to Gokula, where Yasoda had given birth. She gave birth not only to a baby girl, Yogamaya, but also to a son, who was the original Krishna. But as you said, because she was so exhausted by the labor of childbirth, she was unable to understand what kind of child had been born to her—a boy or a girl or twins. Also, because of her pure affection for Krishna, she did not understand that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then, when Vasudeva came with Krishna from Mathura, that Krishna was absorbed into the original Krishna who had been born to Yasoda. And in place of Krishna, Vasudeva took Yogamaya back to Mathura.

In Vrindavan, the pastimes are all humanlike, nara-lila. And the Bhagavatam says that Nanda Maharaja performed the birth (jata-karma) ceremony for Krishna. Srila Prabhupada explains, “The jata-karma ceremony can take place when the umbilical cord, connecting the child and the placenta, is cut. . . . In this regard, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura desires to prove with evidence from many sastras that Krsna actually took birth as the son of Yasoda before the birth of Yogamaya, who is therefore described as the Lord’s younger sister. Even though there may be doubts about the cutting of the umbilical cord, and even though it is possible that this was not done, when the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears, such events are regarded as factual.” (SB 10.5.1–2 purport) The manifestation of nara-lila is so perfect and complete that even to that detail Krishna appeared to have taken birth like an ordinary child. But He never was an ordinary child, and He never had a material body.

In relation to Krishna’s birth in Mathura, the Bhagavatam describes that when Vasudeva transferred the Supreme Lord to the heart of Devaki, she became beautiful, “just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.” Later, the Bhagavatam states that “the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, who is situated in the core of everyone’s heart, appeared from the heart of Devaki in the dense darkness of night, like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon.”

The moon, or the sun, always exists. The sun comes above the horizon at a certain point, which we call sunrise, but the sun always exists. It just comes into our vision at a certain time. Similarly, Krishna always exists, but He appeared from the heart, or the womb, of Devaki like the moon appears on the eastern horizon. But Krishna is always there. He always exists.

Urvasi dasi: Maharaja, a devotee should always be aware and careful of maya and contact with the material world, but then again it is said that a devotee is fearless. How do you get to that point where you can count on Krishna’s mercy and be fearless? It is so dangerous in this material world, and maya is so strong. So, how can we actually feel that we have Krishna’s mercy, so we can be fearless?

Giriraj Swami: The only thing a devotee really fears is forgetfulness of Krishna —maya. If we are always conscious of Krishna and our relationship with Him, we will not be afraid of anything else, because we know that we are not this body, that we are part and parcel of Krishna, that our real relationship is with Him, and that we are under His personal care and protection. If Krishna wants us to stay longer in this body, we will, and if Krishna wants us to leave this body, we will. We are not afraid, because we know we are under Krishna’s shelter.

Once, during the war between India and Pakistan in 1971, a reporter asked Srila Prabhupada, “Suppose a hundred pure, saintly, Krishna conscious people are meditating or discussing together, and someone comes and drops a bomb . . .” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Those who are Krishna conscious are not afraid of a bomb. When they see a bomb coming, they think that Krishna desired the bomb to come. A Krishna conscious person is never afraid of anything. Bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syat. [SB 11.2.37] One who has the conception that something can exist outside of Krishna is afraid. But one who knows that everything is coming from Krishna has no reason to be afraid. The bomb is coming, and the devotee says, ‘Ah, Krishna is coming.’ That is the vision of the devotee. He thinks, ‘Krishna wants to kill me with a bomb. That’s all right. I will be killed.’ That is Krishna consciousness.”

Still, another time, in a different situation, someone asked Srila Prabhupada, “What if some evil person came to attack you, to kill you. Would you protect yourself?” And Prabhupada replied, “Yes. Why should I let some rascal harm Krishna’s devotee?” But that is different. That is not out of fear. That is in the mood of service, to protect Krishna’s devotee. Srila Prabhupada was not identifying with the body but was seeing himself as Krishna’s devotee who had service to do for Krishna, so he wanted to protect Krishna’s devotee from harm—for Krishna’s service. But personally, he was not afraid. The only thing a devotee fears is forgetting Krishna.

And a devotee is always satisfied; he does not want anything but devotional service. He is satisfied with devotional service but never complacent—“Now I have done enough service.” He always wants to do more and better service. But he is satisfied in the sense that he wants nothing but devotional service, and he always has service. No one can take devotional service from him, because it is ahaituky apratihata. It has no cause, and it has no impediment. It cannot be interrupted.

sa vai pumsam paro dharmo
  yato bhaktir adhoksaje
ahaituky apratihata
  yayatma suprasidati

“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (SB 1.2.6)

A devotee is not afraid of anything material, because he has Krishna—but he is afraid of losing Krishna due to his own weakness. He always feels himself to be weak and dependent on the strength that comes from superior authorities such as Balarama. The Upanishads state, nayam atma bala-hinena labhyah. One cannot attain the platform of self-realization without spiritual strength, which comes from Balarama. Bala means “strength”—spiritual strength, which comes from Lord Balarama, Lord Nityananda, who is represented by the spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada and the parampara. So, we feel dependent on superior authorities, but we are not afraid of anything material, because we know that the only thing that really matters to us is devotional service and that nothing material can take devotional service away from us. We have nothing to lose, because we can’t lose devotional service, and we have nothing to gain, because we don’t want anything but devotional service. So why should we be afraid? We have nothing to lose or to gain from anyone.

The Bhagavad-gita (6.20–23) says that upon achieving Krishna consciousness one thinks that there is no greater gain and even in the midst of the greatest calamity one is not shaken.

yatroparamate cittam
  niruddham yoga-sevaya
yatra caivatmanatmanam
pasyann atmani tusyati

 sukham atyantikam yat tad
  buddhi-grahyam atindriyam
vetti yatra na caivayam
  sthitas calati tattvatah

 yam labdhva caparam labham
  manyate nadhikam tatah
yasmin sthito na duhkhena
  gurunapi vicalyate

 tam vidyad duhkha-samyoga-
   viyogam yoga-samjnitam

“In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”

The pure devotee is fixed in consciousness because he has what he wants—Krishna—and no matter what happens externally, no one can take Krishna from him. Queen Kunti prayed to Lord Krishna for calamities, because in the midst of all her difficulties Krishna was with her and her sons. In terms of lila, Krishna was with them in Hastinapura, but when the calamities were over and Maharaja Yudhisthira was installed on the throne, Krishna was ready to leave. So Kunti prayed, “When we were in difficulty, You were with us, but now that we are happily situated in our kingdom, You are leaving us.” She prayed, “Let the calamities come again and again. I would rather have all the calamities and have You with us than be situated in material opulence and comfort and lose You.” She concluded:

vipadah santu tah sasvat
  tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darsanam yat syad
  apunar bhava-darsanam

“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (SB 1.8.25)

Sometimes being in material difficulty can serve as an impetus to Krishna consciousness. And a devotee may fear being in too comfortable a position lest he or she forget Krishna, lose his or her Krishna consciousness. That is the only fear.

Urvasi dasi: It is an interesting thing, because in my own life, when I examine it, I feel like I am in constant fear of being distracted from Krishna. It is always check and balance, check and balance. I am afraid of my mind going away and being distracted. And yet then when I think about it, I am really not afraid of anything in the material world, because I know that everything that comes into my life is Krishna. For some reason it is being brought into my life. So it is an interesting thing, being full of fear and having no fear.

Giriraj Swami: Indeed. There is a nice verse by King Rahugana of the Sindh province. He was puffed up because he was the king, and he had forced a great devotee, a paramahamsa who had hidden his exalted position, Jada Bharata, to carry his palanquin. And when he felt that Jada Bharata was not carrying it properly, he abused, reviled, him like anything. But Jada Bharata was unaffected. Jada Bharata didn’t want to step on any insects on the way, and because he was always trying to sidestep the ants, the king was jostled inside the palanquin. So he sarcastically criticized Jada Bharata, who was actually young and strong, by saying, “You seem to be very old and weak. You can’t carry the palanquin properly.” Yet however the king tried to insult him, Jada Bharata, being completely free from bodily identification, remained undisturbed.

Eventually Jada Bharata enlightened the king with transcendental knowledge. He told him, “I am not the body; I am the soul. I am not fat or thin or weak or strong or any of the things that you said about the body, because I am the soul and have nothing to do with the body. And so I remain peaceful.” After receiving sublime spiritual instructions from his carrier, the king realized that Jada Bharata was a great paramahamsa. He descended from his palanquin and fell at Jada Bharata’s feet, desiring to be freed from his offenses against the great saint. And King Rahugana said,

naham visanke sura-raja-vajran
  na tryaksa-sulan na yamasya dandat
  chanke bhrsam brahma-kulavamanat

“My dear sir, I am not at all afraid of the thunderbolt of King Indra, nor am I afraid of the serpentine, piercing trident of Lord Siva. I do not care about the punishment of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, nor am I afraid of fire, scorching sun, moon, wind, or the weapons of Kuvera. Yet I am afraid of offending a brahmana. I am very much afraid of this.” (SB 5.10.17)

So, we are not afraid of any external, material force, but we are afraid of losing our Krishna consciousness. And the quickest way to lose it is to offend a devotee. It is that same idea. We are not afraid of any material danger, but we are afraid of maya—afraid of committing offenses, especially vaisnava-aparadha, that will take us away from Krishna, from loving service to Krishna and His devotees.

Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama ki jaya!
Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Lord Balarama’s appearance day, August 22, 2008, Ventura, California]

Aug 122019

Saturday was the beginning of Jhulana-yatra, which is steeped in the moods of Vrindavan. When I first began reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, I was struck by the following description in the introduction to Teachings of Lord Chaitanya: “Actually, the Vrindaban on earth is as good as the spiritual Vrindaban, and therefore Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami says that underneath one of the desire trees of Vrindaban there is a nice throne decorated with valuable jewels on which Radharani and Krishna are seated. And His dear friends the gopis are serving Them: somebody is singing, somebody is dancing, somebody is offering betel nuts and refreshment, somebody is decorating with flowers. . . .

“In India it is still a fashion of recreation to sit on a swing, and, if it is moving, it is very refreshing. In every home they have a hanging throne, and when a man comes home, if practical, it is moved from time to time, and he becomes refreshed. So, similarly, the same system prevails, especially in the month of Sravana, July-August, when there is the function called Jhulana. During Jhulana, in all the houses—not only in Vrindaban but all over India—the people hang thrones. In every house and village they place Radha and Krishna and decorate Them with flowers and move the throne and offer dancing and kirtan. . . . The temples are decorated, and thousands of people come as spectators. Generally, people go to Vrindaban at that time. Krishna and Radha are seated on the throne, surrounded by His friends.”

And leading into these two paragraphs: “There is an acharya who describes Vrindaban: ‘When my mind becomes cleansed of all dirty hankering for material enjoyment, then I shall be able to see Vrindaban.’ So Vrindaban is actually experienced by persons who have finished with material enjoyment. Everything is spiritual. This becomes revealed. . . . As you become more Krishna conscious, as you become more advanced, everything is revealed to you.”

Although I am still waiting for that qualification and that revelation, even in my present state I can, by divine mercy, relish some of the flavors of Vrindavan during Jhulan-yatra in Carpinteria.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 102019

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Rupa Gosvami, a direct disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu whom Mahaprabhu entrusted with the order and the power to present the science of Krishna consciousness in books. All the acharyas in our line after Rupa Gosvami are considered rupanugas, followers of Rupa Gosvami. And much of the Krishna consciousness movement is based on Rupa Gosvami’s teachings and example.

Rupa Gosvami and his older brother, Sanatana Gosvami, were born in a high-class brahman family in South India, but due to circumstances they were forced to engage in the service of Nawab Hussain Shah, a powerful, tyrannical ruler in East India. The brothers were so highly qualified that Sanatana Gosvami was practically the prime minister of the Nawab and Rupa Gosvami the finance minister.

How Rupa and Sanatana came to give up the service of the Nawab is very interesting. One year I taught The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, at the VIHE (Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education), and immediately after the course I rushed to Mayapur to accompany Radhanath Swami and Sacinandana Swami on parikrama of Gauda-mandala-bhumi, the places in Bengal where Mahaprabhu enacted His pastimes. The first place we visited was Ramakeli, the capital of Nawab Hussain Shah, where Rupa and Sanatana were engaged in service and where they and their third brother, Anupama, and his son, Jiva (later Jiva Gosvami), all saw Mahaprabhu for the first time. The remains of the Nawab’s palace are still there.

Often one specific event will be a turning point in a person’s life, and so it was with Rupa Gosvami. One night, in the middle of a tumultuous storm, with rain, thunder, and lightning, he was running down a slippery path through the trees. Nearby was a cottage, and Rupa Gosvami overheard the husband and wife talking. “Who could that be—going out in the middle of the night in this storm?” one asked. “It could only be Dabira Khasa [Rupa Gosvami’s adopted Muslim name],” the other replied. “He’s a slave to the Nawab. Any time of day or night the Nawab calls him, he goes running.” When Rupa Gosvami heard those words, he resolved to leave the Nawab’s service.

So, he resigned. He was fabulously wealthy, as was Sanatana; he had ten thousand gold coins, which he divided in an exemplary manner, meant to be the ideal for all householders. He gave 50 percent for the service of the Lord and the devotees and 25 percent to relatives, and kept 25 percent in case of personal emergency.

He headed toward Vrindavan, and in the holy city of Prayag (Allahabad) he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who, for ten days, at Dasasvamedha-ghata, instructed him in the science of Krishna. Then he proceeded to Vrindavan.

Sanatana Gosvami didn’t directly resign; he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead, he took sick leave and stayed at home with brahmans and Vaishnavas, discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Nawab became agitated: “Where is he? Why isn’t he reporting for his duties?” He sent his physician, but still there was no change. Finally the Nawab went personally and saw that Sanatana Gosvami didn’t want to continue working for him. So he arrested him.

It’s a long story, but eventually Sanatana escaped and Rupa and Sanatana went to Vrindavan and wrote books on Krishna consciousness, excavated the lost holy places of Krishna’s pastimes, and showed devotees how to live in Vrindavan.

Rupa Gosvami has a very special place in our sampradaya because he was instructed directly by the Lord. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.1) states,

vrndavaniyam rasa-keli-vartam
  kalena luptam nija-saktim utkah
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
  prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srstim

“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrndavana pastimes of Lord Krsna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Gosvami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Gosvami could revive the activities of Krsna in Vrndavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world.”

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