Aug 292015

Today iKrsna and Balarama with cowherd boys and cowss Balarama Purnima. “One cannot attain the supreme platform of self-realization without being sufficiently favored by Balarama. One must have the spiritual strength which is infused by Balarama, or Sankarsana. Balarama, or Sankarsana, is the source of spiritual power, or the original spiritual master. Therefore Lord Nityananda Prabhu, who is also the incarnation of Balarama, is the original spiritual master. And the spiritual master is the representative of Balarama . . . The spiritual master is the manifestation of the mercy of Krsna.” (Krsna, Chapter 2)

sri-gopya ucuh
aksanvatam phalam idam na param vidamah
sakhyah pasun avivesayator vayasyaih
vaktram vrajesa-sutayor anuvenu-justam
yair va nipitam anurakta-kataksa-moksam

“The cowherd girls said: ‘O friends, those eyes that see the beautiful faces of the sons of Maharaja Nanda are certainly fortunate. As these two sons enter the forest, surrounded by Their friends, driving the cows before Them, They hold Their flutes to Their mouths and glance lovingly upon the residents of Vrndavana. For those who have eyes, we think there is no greater object of vision.’ ” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.21.7)

We pray for Lord Balarama’s mercy.

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Aug 262015

Srila_Rupa_Gosvami_writingToday is the disappearance day of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one of the most confidential servants of Lord Caitanya. Their intimate relationship is beautifully described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.120-121):

yah prag eva priya-guna-ganair gadha-baddho ‘pi mukto
  gehadhyasad rasa iva paro murta evapy amurtah
premalapair drdhatara-parisvanga-rangaih prayage
  tam sri-rupam samam anupamenanujagraha devah

“From the very beginning, Srila Rupa Gosvami was deeply attracted by the transcendental qualities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus he was permanently relieved from family life. Srila Rupa Gosvami and his younger brother, Vallabha, were blessed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although the Lord was transcendentally situated in His transcendental eternal form, at Prayaga He told Rupa Gosvami about transcendental ecstatic love of Krsna. The Lord then embraced him very fondly and bestowed all His mercy upon him.”

priya-svarupe dayita-svarupe
  prema-svarupe sahajabhirupe
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
  tatana rupe sva-vilasa-rupe

“Indeed, Srila Rupa Gosvami, whose dear friend was Svarupa Damodara, was the exact replica of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he was very, very dear to the Lord. Being the embodiment of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic love, Rupa Gosvami was naturally very beautiful. He very carefully followed the principles enunciated by the Lord, and he was a competent person to explain properly the pastimes of Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu expanded His mercy to Srila Rupa Gosvami just so he could render service by writing transcendental literatures.”

We pray to follow in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s footsteps.

Hare Krsna.

Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 202015

At heRPDD LSDD 2015.08.19r initiation ceremony yesterday, Rose Forkash received the name Rajani-priya dasi. Rajani is a name of Durga, an expansion of Srimati Radharani, who is the divine, universal mother. Rajani was also the name of Srila Prabhupada’s mother. Priya means “dear” or “dear to,” and dasi means “servant” or “servant of.”

During the ceremony, Rtadhvaja Swami, Niranjana Swami, and especially Indradyumna Swami encouraged Rajani-priya via Skype with words of appreciation, affection, and instruction.

Rajani-priya has deep attachment to the holy name, and even now, at almost ninety-five years of age, she continues to induce people from all different backgrounds and walks of life to chant and read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

As Srila Prabhupada wrote to Rose in 1977, “If the parents of our devotees study the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, there is not doubt they will benefit equally as their children.”

Rajani-priya’s daughter, Lila-sakti dasi, who was initiated by Srila Prabhupada forty-five years ago, left her body in late June. Just days before her departure, Lila told her mother, “Whatever happens, don’t stop chanting Hare Krishna.” The accompanying photo shows Rajani-priya holding Lila-sakti’s image shortly after her initiation. “I wish Lila could have been here,” Rajani said. “She would have been so proud and happy.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami


Aug 202015

08.19.15_03.Rose_init_CarpRose Forkash was initiated by Giriraj Swami and given the name Rajani-priya dasi at 94 years of age.

“I was looking at you and Sam looking at each other so lovingly, and I asked, ‘You have been together for sixty-five years and you are so full of love. What is the secret to that kind of marriage?’ You and Sam looked each other in the eyes and almost simultaneously replied, ‘Respect.’ You respected each other so much. And you respect every one of us. You respect everyone you come in contact with—like those homeless people you inspired to take up chanting. Unconsciously or consciously you see the spirit soul within all of us, and you don’t judge people by the outside. You find that love in our hearts and you connect with us.”

—Urvasi dasi


Kirtan by Giriraj Swami
Initiation talks

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Aug 152015

Srila-Prabhupada-speaks-to-Brahmananda-on-Juhu-Beach-BombayBrahmananda Prabhu said that his only qualification was that whatever Srila Prabhupada asked him to do, he would say yes. Even if he couldn’t do it, he would say yes. So, Prabhupada wanted him to leave Africa and take up the project at Juhu Beach. A month later Brahmananda Prabhu finished up his work in Africa and went to India, to join the first international Mayapur festival. When they met there, Prabhupada asked him, “What are you doing here?” Brahmananda Prabhu replied, “I have come for the festival, to chant and dance and take prasada.” Prabhupada said, “No festival for you! You are supposed to be in Juhu.”

Skype Talk with Durban, South Africa

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Aug 142015

Yesterday, AugPrabhupada beside Guru Maharaja photo at Radha-Ramodaraust 13, 2015, marked fifty years since Srila Prabhupada embarked on his momentous, historic voyage from India, Calcutta, to America, Boston and then New York. Although he came by himself, he did not come “empty-handed.” As he explained in his rooms at the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrindavan in Karttika 1972:

“It was in Vrindaban that I first began writing, not for name and fame, but because my Guru Maharaj told me, ‘Spread the gospel of Krishna in the English language.’ Although he gave that instruction in 1935, I hesitated, not knowing how to go about it or how to write. Then, twenty years later, my Guru Maharaj began appearing in my dreams, telling me to give up householder life and go to Vrindaban. After several of these dreams, I knew that the time had come. My children were grown, and I could leave my wife in their care. So, I came here, and eventually, by Krishna’s arrangement, stayed at this most sanctified place, Radha Damodar. It was here that I began writing. I thought, ‘It may be published, or it may not be published—that does not matter. I will write for purification, that’s all.’

“Actually, it was my Guru Maharaj speaking through me. But I was not very expert at writing, as he was. Oh, he was a most erudite man, most refined and expert, a gentleman, a Vaikuntha man. Because I had never written before, there were so many grammatical discrepancies, yet I had to write. The subject matter was so important, so urgent. So I wrote those first three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the First Canto. All of our philosophy, everything you need to know, is in those first three volumes. By Krishna’s grace, I managed to collect money to get them printed, and I took them with me on the boat to New York. I didn’t go to America empty-handed. I went with the complete philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, written in these rooms, inspired by the Goswamis. That’s what is pushing this Krishna consciousness movement.” (Quoted from Vrindavan Days by Hayagriva Dasa)

Srila Prabhupada’s journey began before he boarded the boat. It began with his writing his books—the complete philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—and they continue to sustain us, individually and collectively, even now.

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 102015

First_Shipment_of_Hebrew_LFE_webYesterday the first printed copies of the Hebrew edition of my book Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective were received from the printer in Israel.

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the Global Jewish Advocacy and International President of the World Conference of Religions for Peace—a renowned figure in Judaism and peace initiatives on many continents—wrote a review:

“Giriraja Swami’s impressive book deals with the challenges that arise from the finality of life in this material word, and offers a deep understanding of eternal existence beyond death. The universal wisdom in this book is inspired by the tradition and insights of Bhakti Yoga, and, as emphasizes by Maimonides in his introduction to Masechet Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), we must aspire to accept wisdom from any source in the world. Within the Vedic knowledge that this book presents, basic values which are known to us from the Semitic religions and particularly Judaism, are highlighted. Indeed, this book illustrates that which is common to all religions and is beyond what separates. Without a doubt, the insights in this book can be of great aid to any person who is dealing with death directly or indirectly, and can Hebrew_LFE_Cover_webstrengthen one’s understanding, as stated by our sages, that death is but ‘a night between two days.’ ”

Special thanks go to Rohini-nandana dasa and Tulasi-devi dasi for translating the book and overseeing all aspects of the production.

May Srila Prabhupada and the Supreme Personality of Godhead bless all who are involved with this work—those who distribute the knowledge, those who receive the knowledge, and those who apply the knowledge in preparation for life’s final exam.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 042015

08.02.15_01.LA“A thunderbird will drink water only from the cloud. This bird flies near the cloud in expectation of water and is not afraid of thunder. In India the bird is called chatak. In the beginning of every cloud there is thunder, but still the chatak will not take water from the land. This example means that a devotee will take mercy only from Krishna, not from the material world. Even there is thunder—Krishna does not give mercy but puts him in difficulty—still he will not take mercy from the material world. He will patiently wait for Krishna’s mercy. He will not seek relief through intoxication or any other from of material sense gratification.”


Q&A, Ratha-yatra, LA

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Sri Guru-purnima—Appreciating Our Spiritual Masters

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Jul 302015

The Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana

Today is Guru-purnima. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the system of honoring the spiritual master is current in all sections of Vedic followers. In the Mayavadi (impersonalist) sects, disciples offer respect to the spiritual master once in a year, on Guru-purnima. And in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, disciples also offer homage annually—on the appearance day of the spiritual master, an occasion called Vyasa-puja because the spiritual master, through disciplic succession, presents the same knowledge as Vedavyasa, the empowered incarnation of Krsna 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-gurohsri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca, offering respects to the individual spiritual master, to the predecessor acaryas, and to all Vaisnavas.

As Srila Prabhupada explains, “The offering of respect to the spiritual master means offering respect to all the previous acaryas. Gurun means plural number. All the acaryas, 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 Vaisnavas. 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 Vaisnavas 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 Vaisnavas. Therefore they should also be offered respectful obeisances.” (SP comment on Mangalacarana, January 8, 1969)

For us in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada is the main guru; he is the founder-acarya. 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 all of them.

“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 Vaisnava 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) Continue reading »