Dec 072018

In the West this is the holiday season, with Christmas and Hanukkah both coming up. As Srila Prabhupada explained, the Lord comes to this world to enlighten people with transcendental knowledge. Sometimes He comes personally, and sometimes He sends His son or His prophet or His representative, but they all come with the same message. They may speak in different languages according to the circumstances and the audience, but the essence of the message is the same: God is great; we are but small parts and parcels of God, meant to serve Him with love; we have come from God and are meant to return to Him.

One of Srila Prabhupada’s purports in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is contains a statement that relates to the holidays people in the West are about to celebrate:

“The avatara, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or avatara. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When they descend to the material creation, they assume the name avatara.’ [Cc Madhya 20.263­–264] There are various kinds of avatars, such as purusavataras, gunavataras, lilavataras, sakty-avesa avataras, manvantara-avataras, and yugavataras—all appearing on schedule all over the universe. But Lord Krsna is the primeval Lord, the fountainhead of all avataras. Lord Sri Krsna descends for the specific purpose of mitigating the anxieties of the pure devotees, who are very anxious to see Him in His original Vrndavana pastimes.” (Gita 4.8 purport)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, said that Jesus Christ was a saktyavesa-avatara; he accepted that Jesus Christ descended to the earth from above. That is avatara. And saktyavesa means one who carries the power of the Lord. Thus, he accepted that Jesus Christ descended to earth with the power of the Lord to preach the message of Godhead. And Jesus Christ preached more or less the same message as Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. Sometimes people would ask Srila Prabhupada about Jesus, and Srila Prabhupada would reply, “In the Bible Jesus said that he was the son of God, and in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that He is the father of all living entities, so there is no contradiction.”

Jesus Christ filled the role of a spiritual master, or guru. The spiritual master teaches the science of Godhead, and when a disciple surrenders to a spiritual master, the spiritual master accepts the disciple’s sinful reactions. Jesus Christ performed the same functions in relation to his followers or disciples; he taught them about God, and he accepted their sinful reactions. Sometimes Christians quote Jesus as having said, “There is no way to the Father except through me.” This statement is a little controversial in learned circles—there is some question whether the attribution is authentic or not. But in any case, Srila Prabhupada took the truth in these words to be that one cannot approach the Lord directly; one can approach the Lord only through the Lord’s representative, the spiritual master.

As far as the idea that Jesus Christ accepted the sins, or sinful reactions, of his followers, Srila Prabhupada expressed one concern: The followers should refrain from sin. They should consider, “Oh, if I sin, my spiritual master will have to suffer!” Christians in particular may consider, “Because I have sinned, my spiritual master had to suffer! So I should not commit sin any longer.” That should be the basic sense. They should not think, “Oh, poor Jesus suffered for me, but now I can go on sinning.”

So, we accept Jesus as a saktyavesa-avatara, as an incarnation of Krishna. Christmas should be a time when we remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice he made for us. And we should resolve to be better followers, better servants of God and God’s representatives, and of all humankind and all living beings.

Hanukkah, in the Jewish tradition, is also an important festival celebrated at this time of year. It is a winter festival, and winter is a dark season, when the sun sets early and rises late. Hanukkah is the festival of light. Historically, the ancient temple in Jerusalem was seized and desecrated, but eventually, with great courage and sacrifice, the Jewish heroes, the Maccabees, won it back. They wanted to clean and purify the temple to make it fit for worship of the Lord, and their worship included a flame that was sustained by sanctified oil, to be maintained at all times. But when the Maccabees regained the temple, they found only one flask of the priestly oil, enough to burn for only one day. Still, they lit the great temple lamp, the menorah, and, according to the story, the oil burned for eight days, until they could get more. So, the miracle of Hanukkah is that the purified oil, which was sufficient to last only one day, burned for eight days, time enough to obtain more.

Figuratively, the temple is the heart. Cleaning the temple means cleaning one’s heart of the many dirty things that accumulate there by material association. That dirt includes false identification with the body and material desires for the gratification of the body’s senses and mind independent of God’s sanction and God’s service. And figuratively, the light is transcendental knowledge, or consciousness of God, which illuminates the heart and dispels the darkness of ignorance.

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Dec 022018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.6.

“Dhruva Maharaja was pleasing to everyone. He was pleasing to his brother, who was the threat to his kingdom; to his father; even to his step-mother, who was so mean to him. Srila Prabhupada was like that too. He spoke about the art of criticizing. He quoted a Sanskrit sloka, that instead of saying, ‘The tree is dead and dry,’ one should say, ‘The beautiful tree that is so full of luxuriant foliage and produces so many fruits and flowers and provides so much shade, has lost its juice.’ It’s the same as saying that the tree has dried up, but is says it in a tactful, palatable way.

“On a morning walk in Vardha, Srila Prabhupada said, ‘It is a great art how to criticize—unfortunately, you do not know that art.’ In a way, he was criticizing us, but the way he led into it by saying that it was a great art—not a simple matter—made it more palatable.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.6

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Dec 012018

Srila Prabhupada personally wrote me, “Go on increasing books, and go on increasing my pleasure.” The December marathon is a special opportunity to increase the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and the parampara by distributing books about Krishna consciousness. So, I encourage you all to increase their pleasure—and your own—by distributing as many books as possible. As Srila Prabhupada said in Los Angeles, “So, I took up this from [Guru Maharaja’s] mouth, that he is very fond of books. And he told me personally that ‘If you get some money, print books.’ Therefore, I am stressing on this point: ‘Where is book? Where is book? Where is book?’ So kindly help me. This is my request. Print as many books in as many languages and distribute throughout the whole world. Then the Krishna consciousness movement will automatically increase.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 302018

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada explains the reasons for Sri Krishna Chaitanya’s appearance. Lord Krishna, in His pastimes, was unable to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, the wonderful qualities in Krishna that She relishes through Her love, and the indescribable happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love. Thus, Lord Krishna, assuming the guise of a devotee, adopted the mood and complexion of Srimati Radharani and descended in Navadvipa-dhama to fulfill His innermost desire: to experience Srimati Radharani’s ecstatic love for Him.

So, Navadvipa-dhama is a manifestation of Srimati Radharani’s love for Krishna. The Puranas also describe that when, in the state of mahabhava, Srimati Radharani reached the extreme in ecstatic feelings of separation from Lord Krishna, He entered into Her heart and “stole” Her feeling of mahabhava. That mahabhava became manifest as Navadvipa-dhama.

Thus, to better understand Sri Mayapur-dhama and the mood of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as well as Srila Prabhupada and our own devotional service, we should understand Radharani’s mood of separation.

Once, when Krishna left the company of the gopis, Radharani began to search for Him in one forest after another, crying in intense separation. She approached a kadamba tree, “Where is Krishna?” She approached Govardhana Hill, “Where is Krishna?” She wandered everywhere throughout Vrindavan, crying, “Where is Krishna? He is more dear to Me than My own life. How can I live without His service?” Then, in divine madness, She fainted.

After some time, when Krishna appeared, He addressed Srimati Radharani, “I am extremely pleased with You. You may ask from Me whatever You wish.” And Radharani requested three things: “Please promise Me that You will always remain in Vraja, unseen by those without devotion; please never disappoint the devotees who reside here, maintaining their lives by their love for You alone, hoping to attain Your lotus feet; and please always shower Your mercy on Your devotees and give them shelter at Your lotus feet.”

We see that even though Srimati Radharani had been experiencing extreme separation from Krishna, when Krishna asked Her what She wanted, She did not think of Herself; She thought of the suffering of others. This is the mood of separation. Srimati Radharani’s desire to please Krishna is so pure and so intense that She wants to engage every living entity for Krishna’s pleasure, to give them Krishna’s service and association.

Krishna has an unlimited desire to enjoy. Radha has the unlimited desire to fulfill Krishna’s desires. And Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada have the same desire to engage unlimited numbers of living entities in Krishna’s service. Like Srimati Radharani, the preacher wants to arrange for others to get Krishna’s association, to serve Him.

Srila Prabhupada especially wanted unlimited numbers of books to be distributed so that unlimited numbers of persons would be engaged in devotional service. Every book distributed means another brick for the Mayapur City temple, and as the city manifests, more and more devotees will be attracted to the dhama, to develop the same mood of sankirtana. And as they become inspired to distribute more and more books, more and more people will become devotees. And thus the Vaishnava’s desire will be fulfilled.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 282018

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

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

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

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

Srila Rupa Gosvami advises,

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

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

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

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

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

—Giriraj Swami

Nov 282018

I will never forget the moment when I heard that George Harrison had passed away, shortly after Thanksgiving in 2001. My strong feelings of separation surprised me—and made me think how important and dear George must have been to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna. And I remembered my own little experience with George in Bombay.

In 1974, George came to visit Srila Prabhupada at Hare Krishna Land, in Juhu. He was wearing a white kurta and white yogi pants and had a plain bead bag. I took him around the property, and he expressed his appreciation for our work and encouraged us in our efforts.  When at twelve-thirty we heard the conch shell blow for raja-bhoga arati, we proceeded to the small temple shed, where George chose a pair of kartalas and sang with the other devotees. Puri dasa, originally from Scotland, was doing the arati, and when he turned to offer the ghee lamp to the devotees and saw George, his hand started trembling so much that he thought he might drop the lamp.

After the arati, I arranged a full plate of maha-prasada for George and accompanied him to meet Prabhupada in his apartment. Prabhupada greeted him warmly, and I left them together and returned to my office.

“Prabhupada was behind his desk, with George in front of him,” Kishor das later described. “I barely remember what was said, but I remember the feeling of love that went back and forth between them. It was tangible. I didn’t really understand what this relationship was. I was young, and here was a big rock star, and a pure devotee of Krishna, and there was I somewhere. But I could just feel this feeling of love that went back and forth between Prabhupada and George.”

About two hours later, a pudgy twelve-year-old boy with glasses—the son of our friend and supporter Pranjivan G. Valia of the “Hare Krishna” house in the Juhu Vile Parle development—came to my small office at the back of the property. “I heard George Harrison is here,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, “he is.”

“I want to see him,” he stated.

“Well, you can’t. He’s meeting with Srila Prabhupada.”
He looked me straight in the eye, sizing me up, and, concluding that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me, turned, dashed to the stairs, and bolted down the steps.

Oh my God, I thought. He’s going to try to find him. So I bounded down the stairs in hot pursuit.

I ran across to the next building, and when I reached the second landing, in front of Prabhupada’s flat, I found the door ajar. The boy stood just inside, and beyond him George sat cross-legged with his back erect, like a yogi—a perfect disciple listening attentively at the feet of his master.

With the boy’s abrupt appearance, Prabhupada and George ended their meeting, exchanging some final words. George was gracious and appreciative, Prabhupada affectionate and kind. I was upset that the boy had interrupted them, but they took it as a matter of course. Maybe it was time for the meeting to end; maybe they took it as Krishna’s arrangement.

Shyamasundar and I accompanied George back to the temple shed for darshan of the Deities. He paid full dandavats, lying completely flat on the floor before Them for a long time, and then left.

The next year, on a morning walk in Sanand, Gujarat, Prabhupada recalled the meeting: “He is very nice boy—George. I have studied. Very good boy. He showed me in Bombay. He came to see me in Bombay, last year. He is keeping Jagannatha within his bead bag and chanting.”

I and many thousands—perhaps millions—of people are thankful to George for all the service he rendered to Srila Prabhupada and the Krishna consciousness movement, for making the holy name of Lord Krishna—the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—and the principles of Krishna consciousness so accessible to people all over the world and for attracting so many souls to the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 222018

“Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was so renounced that he would sleep on the ground. For food he would get some rice and parch it in the sun. And if there was nothing else, he would take mud from the Ganges and ingest that. For clothing he would wear whatever cloth was lying in the street, or go to the crematorium and pick up whatever rejected cloth was there.

“He was uneducated—it was said that he was illiterate. He could not even sign his own name. Yet despite his being illiterate, learned scholars would approach him with difficult passages from the shastra and he would explain the meaning. Sometimes people would come and read to him from the shastra and he would deliver learned discourses, based on his deep realization of Krishna consciousness.

“Internally, he was absorbed in the loving mellows of Radha and Krishna.”

Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji’s Disappearance Day

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Nov 212018

Maitreya and Vidura

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.3-5.

“Piety refers to the process of cleansing the heart. As recommended by Lord Caitanya, one has to cleanse the dust from the mirror of the mind, and then advancement on the path of liberation begins. Here also the same process is recommended. Malam means ‘contamination.’ We should learn to despise all the causes of devastation, beginning from irreligion and cheating, and then we shall be able to make advancement in a life of piety. The possibility of our attaining Krsna consciousness will be easier, and we shall not be subjected to repeated devastation. The present life is repeated birth and death, but if we seek the path of liberation, we may be saved from repeated suffering.” — SB 4.8.5 purport

Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.8.3-5

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Nov 182018

Remembrances from Various Devotees
Remembrance from Vrajendranandana Das
Remembrance from Giriraj Swami

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Nov 172018

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a great devotee—a maha-bhagavata. He was a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was very renounced. He had lived for many years in Vrindavan, roaming the twelve forests, chanting the holy names of Krishna, eating by begging alms, and sleeping under trees. Later, after Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered Lord Chaitanya’s birthplace in Mayapur, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, the siksa-guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and parama-guru of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, instructed Gaurakisora to move to Navadvipa-dhama.

There Gaurakisora resided on the banks of the Ganges and practiced devotional service with intense devotion and renunciation. Because materialistic men would come and disturb him with their desires for mundane blessings (asirvada), the babaji began to stay by a municipal lavatory, where the filth and obnoxious smells would discourage unwanted visitors. There he would chant in peace—in ecstasy. He would beg alms and cook in discarded clay pots, or eat parched rice with green chilies, or just ingest Ganges mud. Sometimes he would collect the discarded cloth from the crematorium, wash it in Ganges water, and use it to cover himself. His only desire was to be absorbed in the mellow of the holy name—in Krishna consciousness.

Gaurakisora was a siksa disciple and intimate friend of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Thakura arranged a bhajana-kutira for him on the same property as Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house in Godruma-dvipa. When the time came for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to take diksa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura advised him to approach Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the father of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and his first instructor in the spiritual science, but the etiquette was that one would not take diksa from one’s biological father. So Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sent him to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was highly literate. By the age of seven, he had memorized the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain its verses. He had a photographic memory, and in school he read all the books in the entire library. Just by reading them once, he could remember every word, and so the library purchased new books just for him. By the age of twenty-five, he had written numerous articles and published a book, Surya-siddhanta, for which he was awarded the title “Siddhanta Sarasvati.” So, he was highly educated and literate, whereas Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja was hardly educated or literate at all.

The first time Siddhanta Sarasvati approached Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, the babaji refused to accept him. He didn’t directly say no, but he said, “I will ask Mahaprabhu.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned and told his father what had happened, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura encouraged him to persevere: “You must go back and beg him with all humility and earnestness to accept you.” So, he went back, and Gaurakisora dasa Babaji again refused, saying, “Oh, I forgot to ask Mahaprabhu. I am so sorry.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned home, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was most upset. He knew that Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a pure devotee, and he urged Siddhanta Sarasvati to persist; he again instructed his son to beg Gaurakisora for his mercy, and he added, “If you fail this time, don’t bother to come back home.”

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