May 192019
 

titiksavah karunikah
suhrdah sarva-dehinam
ajata-satravah santah
sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah

Translation: The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful, and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.  —Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21

“Srila Prabhupada related this verse to his own situation in Juhu—trying to preach, establish his mission and build a temple there. He said that a sadhu has no enemies (ajata-satravah). The sadhu does not create enemies, but people become enemies out of their own character. ‘We are simple teaching,’ he said, ‘ “My dear human being, my dear friend, you become a surrendered soul to Krishna.” So, what is our fault? We do not create any enemy, but they become enemy, out of their own nature. Because we are spreading Krishna consciousness, the envious, who are more dangerous than snakes, are putting so many impediments. But we have to tolerate (titiksavah) and be merciful (karunikah). Be peaceful (santah). What can be done? Depend on Krishna.’

“Fortunately for us, these characteristics of a Vaishnava were fully exemplified in Srila Prabhupada—as in Prahlada Maharaja—and thus by studying his character we can know what a Vaishnava is and follow in his footsteps.”

Nrsimha prayers (Right-click to download)
Nrsima-caturdasi talk (Right-click to download)

May 172019
 

Srila Prabhupada was with us in Juhu for Nrsimha-caturdasi on May 5, 1974. The following excerpt from my forthcoming book about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu, entitled I’ll Build You a Temple: A Good Fight and a Promise Fulfilled, describes the devotees’ drama:

For Nrsimha-caturdasi, a troupe of devotees led by Jagat Purusa organized a drama depicting the appearance of Lord Nrsimha, to be performed in the temple room. There was an all-male cast, including the young and slender Nava-yogendra as Prahlada Maharaja; Bhagavata, who was quite large, as Nrsimhadeva; and Jagat Purusa, who was very thin, as Hiranyakasipu. The stage was set before anybody arrived, and Bhagavata, wearing a massive lion headdress, was hidden with a microphone in a papiermache pillar that had been built in the corner of the darshan area. He narrated the drama, but because his voice was broadcast by speakers, nobody knew where he was. Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana, and the play went on all around him, with the temple room itself as the stage, and everyone else in the audience outside on the grounds.

Hiranyakasipu was the most powerful man in the universe, so he was supposed to have a big, muscular physique, but the drama opened with him when he was performing his austerities—standing on the tip of his toes with outstretched hands, with all his ribs showing—and afterward Jagat Purusa put on shoulder pads and lots of wadding. Anirdesavapu had been in the pujari room washing pots, but when the person playing Lord Brahma didn’t show up, the devotees asked him to fill in. All he had to do was respond to Hiranyakasipu when he asked for his boons, they assured him, and they dressed him up with some ornaments and a crown and sent him to the temple room.

From his viewpoint on stage, Anirdesavapu could see how absorbed Prabhupada was in the drama. “When he saw me,” Anirdesavapu later recalled, “he was astonished and opened his eyes wide, as if he was actually seeing Lord Brahma. His eyes got big, his head tilted back, and he was smiling. He wasn’t just seeing some brahmacharis dressed up in makeshift costumes—he was seeing Lord Brahma and the other divine personalities.” At the climax, when Hiranyakasipu called for Prahlada’s lord and pounded the pillar, Bhagavata, as Lord Nrsimha, burst out with a roar, and Prabhupada opened his eyes wide and leaned so far back that his vyasasana almost toppled over.

Decades later, Jagat Purusa still remembered the day vividly: “Over the years, I had done dozens of dramas with various devotees, but I’d never had an experience like this. In one particular school of drama, the Stanislavski School, the actors meditate upon their roles and by doing so transform into the characters they are portraying. I wasn’t really trying to train the devotees in this way, but even without any conscious attempt, by Srila Prabhupada’s presence every devotee in the drama ceased being that devotee and became the part he was playing. It was just unbelievable! Srila Prabhupada was there from the opening scene to the very end, and he was showing all these amazing expressions: surprise, concern, happiness, delight. Some of the devotees could barely watch the drama, they were so transfixed watching Srila Prabhupada watch it unfold. Everything was flawless, because it was not a drama—it was a pastime.”

Afterwards, the actors, still in their costumes, sat down where they were for Prabhupada’s lecture. “Today is the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva,” he began. “I am so pleased that within such a short time these boys have nicely learned how to play, and especially I have to thank Mr. Hiranyakasipu,” at which everyone laughed and applauded. “Mr. Hiranyakasipu has played his part very nicely.”

The devotees—especially the actors—were exuberant. “As every devotee knows,” Jagat Purusa recalled, “there is nothing—nothing—compared to getting the confirmation that Srila Prabhupada is pleased with something that you have done in his service. I was sitting there just two feet from his lotus feet, and I felt myself melting into the cracks between the tiles, and I thought, This is the best time for me to leave my body! It is so fulfilling to know that Srila Prabhupada is pleased.”

May 162019
 

Today is Nrsimha-caturdasi, the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The appearance and activities of the Lord in the world are a great mystery. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9) Lord Krishna says:

janma karma ca me divyam
   evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
   naiti mam eti so ’rjuna

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

To understand the appearance and activities of the Lord is not so easy for ordinary people. Or, as Srila Prabhupada said, “It is simple for the simple but difficult for the crooked.” If one is a simple devotee and hears submissively from Vedic authorities, he or she can understand the transcendental science. Therefore the Vedic literature enjoins, tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigaccet: In order to understand the transcendental science, one must approach a spiritual master. No matter the subject, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to play harmonium, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to make a puri, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to program a computer, we need a teacher. For every field of activity, we need a teacher. Why, then, should we not need a teacher for the most important subject: how to understand, to realize, God?

The Sanskrit word jnana can be translated as “knowledge,” and the word vijnana can be translated as “applied knowledge” or “science” or “realization.” Thus jnana may be called “theoretical knowledge” and vijnana “realized knowledge.” In the process of spiritual realization we learn by hearing. Lord Krishna begins His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita by telling Arjuna, “Tac chrnu: Hear from Me.”

Krishna is the supreme authority. In explaining the spiritual science in the Bhagavad-gita, He advised, evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh: to understand the transcendental science one must receive the knowledge through disciplic succession. If we try to understand the knowledge by our own independent study of the books, we will fail. So Krishna advises that we receive the knowledge through parampara. Parampara means “one after another.” In the context of Vedic knowledge, it refers to the chain of masters and disciples that follow one after the other, through which the knowledge is passed down.

The original speaker of the Bhagavad-gita is Krishna. He taught the knowledge to Arjuna and others. One of the others was Lord Brahma, and Lord Brahma instructed Narada, Narada instructed Vyasa, and Vyasa instructed Madhvacharya, and so the knowledge was passed down from master to disciple in an unbroken chain. In more recent times, after Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Gosvamis, the same knowledge has been passed to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.

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May 142019
 

Candana-yatra began on Aksaya Tritiya, May 7, and continues for twenty-one days.

Today we continue our observance of Candana-yatra. We are reading from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Four: “Sri Madhavendra Puri’s Devotional Service,” which describes how Madhavendra Puri traveled by foot from Govardhana to Jagannatha Puri to procure sandalwood to grind and mix with camphor and place on the body of the Deity Gopala whom he had installed on the top of Govardhana Hill. After Madhavendra Puri installed Gopala on the top of Govardhana Hill, two brahmans came, and he initiated them and engaged them in the service of the Deity. When he was satisfied that the two brahmans could conduct the worship nicely, he left for Jagannatha Puri. The Deity Gopala appeared in a dream to Madhavendra Puri and told him, “Although you have made so many arrangements for My worship and service, still My body is burning because of the heat. So please go to Jagannatha Puri and bring Malayan sandalwood.”

Madhavendra Puri was pleased to receive that service from Gopala, and he proceeded toward Jagannatha Puri. When he reached Remuna, he took darshan of the Deity Gopinatha. The arrangements at the temple were excellent, and the offerings of sweet rice, known as gopinatha-ksira, were particularly famous. Because the sweet rice tasted as good as amrta, nectar, it was called amrta-keli. So, Madhavendra Puri just had a thought—that if he could taste some of the amrta-keli, he could prepare similar sweet rice for Gopala.

As soon as Madhavendra Puri had that thought, however, he became ashamed. Although actually there had not been any fault, out of his extreme humility he considered that he had been lusty in wanting to taste the Deity’s sweet rice. And so, without saying anything to anyone, he left the temple and went into a vacant marketplace in the town and began to chant the holy name. He was just chanting and chanting and eventually, toward the morning, he dozed off.

Meanwhile, the Deity Gopinatha appeared in a dream to the pujari and said, “I have stolen a pot of sweet rice and kept it hidden behind the curtain in the Deity room. Please come and get it and go into the town to the marketplace and find the sannyasi named Madhavendra Puri and deliver the sweet rice to him.” So, the pujari bathed, went into the Deity room, found that indeed the Deity had hidden the pot of sweet rice behind the curtain, and he took the sweet rice into the town, as he had been instructed. And, holding up the pot of sweet rice, he called out, “Will he whose name is Madhavendra Puri please come and take this pot. Gopinatha has stolen this pot for you.” We resume reading:

TEXT 134

ksira lana sukhe tumi karaha bhaksane
toma-sama bhagyavan nahi tribhuvane

TRANSLATION

The priest continued, “Would the sannyasi whose name is Madhavendra Puri please come and take this pot of sweet rice and enjoy the prasada with great happiness! You are the most fortunate person within these three worlds!”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Here is an example of a personal benediction by Krsna’s immoral activity. By Gopinatha’s stealing for His devotee, the devotee becomes the most fortunate person within the three words. Thus even the Lord’s criminal activities make His devotee the most fortunate person. How can a mundane rascal understand the pastimes of Krsna and judge whether He is moral or immoral? Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, there are no mundane distinctions such as moral and immoral. Whatever He does is good. This is the real meaning of “God is good.” He is good in all circumstances because He is transcendental, outside the jurisdiction of this material world. Therefore, Krsna can be understood only by those who are already living in the spiritual world. This is corroborated in the Bhagavad-gita (14.26):

mam ca yo ‘vyabhicarena bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” (Bg 14.26)

One who is engaged in unalloyed devotional service to the Lord is already situated in the spiritual world (brahma-bhuyaya kalpate). In all circumstances, his activities and dealings with Krsna are transcendental and thus not understandable by mundane moralists. It is therefore better not to discuss such activities among mundane people. It is better to give them the Hare Krsna maha-mantra so that they will be gradually purified and then come to understand the transcendental activities of Krsna.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, bhaktya mam abhijanati, yavan yas casmi tattvatah—He can be understood only by devotional service. Ordinary people cannot understand Krishna; He is always hidden from them by the curtain of Yogamaya. They see Him superficially and misunderstand Him. Therefore, we do not generally discuss Krishna’s pastimes publicly before an audience of ordinary people or a mixed audience but rather give them the Hare Krishna maha-mantra to chant.

Devotees—pure devotees who are surrendered to Krishna—can understand Krishna because they are on the same platform, the Brahman platform. As Srila Prabhupada mentions in the purport, even the activities of the transcendental devotees are incomprehensible to the mundane moralists because the transcendental devotees are also acting on the spiritual platform and are not bound by ordinary rules and regulations but are impelled by Krishna. Krishna is free, and therefore the devotee is also free to act according to Krishna’s desire.

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May 122019
 

Today is Sita-navami, the appearance day of Srimati Sitadevi, the eternal consort of Lord Ramachandra. To begin, we shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Nine: “Lord Caitanya’s Travels to the Holy Places.”

TEXT 2

jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda

TRANSLATION

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Lord Nityananda Prabhu! All glories to Sri Advaita Prabhu! And all glories to all the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!

TEXT 178

daksina-mathura aila kamakosthi haite
tahan dekha haila eka brahmana-sahite

TRANSLATION

When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at southern Mathura from Kamakosthi, He met a brahmana.

TEXTS 179–193

The brahmana who met Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu invited the Lord to his home. This brahmana was a great devotee and an authority on Lord Sri Ramacandra. He was always detached from material activities.

After bathing in the river Krtamala, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the brahmana’s house to take lunch, but He saw that the food was unprepared because the brahmana had not cooked it.

Seeing this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “My dear sir, please tell Me why you have not cooked. It is already noon.”

The brahmana replied, “My dear Lord, we are living in the forest. For the time being we cannot get all the ingredients for cooking.

“When Laksmana brings all the vegetables, fruits, and roots from the forest, Sita will do the necessary cooking.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very satisfied to hear about the brahmana’s method of worship. Finally the brahmana hastily made arrangements for cooking.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took His lunch at about three o’clock, but the brahmana, being very sorrowful, fasted.

While the brahmana was fasting, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, “Why are you fasting? Why are you so unhappy? Why are you so worried?”

The brahmana replied, “I have no reason to live. I shall give up my life by entering either fire or water.

“My dear Sir, Mother Sita is the mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune. She has been touched by the demon Ravana, and I am troubled upon hearing this news.

“Sir, due to my unhappiness I cannot continue living. Although my body is burning, my life is not leaving.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Please do not think this way any longer. You are a learned pandita. Why don’t you consider the case?”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued, “Sitadevi, the dearmost wife of the Supreme Lord Ramacandra, certainly has a spiritual form full of bliss. No one can see her with material eyes, for no materialist has such power.

“To say nothing of touching Mother Sita, a person with material senses cannot even see her. When Ravana kidnapped her, he kidnapped only her material, illusory form.

“As soon as Ravana arrived before Sita, she disappeared. Then just to cheat Ravana she sent an illusory, material form.”

TEXT 194

aprakrta vastu nahe prakrta-gocara
veda-puranete ei kahe nirantara

TRANSLATION

“Spiritual substance is never within the jurisdiction of the material conception. This is always the verdict of the Vedas and Puranas.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As stated in the Katha Upanisad (2.3.9, 12):

na sandrse tisthati rupam asya
na caksusa pasyati kascanainam
hrda manisa manasabhikÿpto
ya etad vidur amrtas te bhavanti
naiva vaca na manasa
praptum sakyo na caksusa

“Spirit is not within the jurisdiction of material eyes, words, or mind.”

Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13) states:

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah

“A human being who identifies his body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of his body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of his birth worshipable, and who goes to a place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than to meet men of transcendental knowledge there is to be considered like an ass or a cow.”

These are some Vedic statements about spiritual substance. Spiritual substance cannot be seen by the unintelligent, because they do not have the eyes or the mentality to see the spirit soul. Consequently they think that there is no such thing as spirit. But the followers of the Vedic injunctions take their information from Vedic statements, such as the verses from the Katha Upanisad and Srimad-Bhagavatam quoted above.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We know from Srila Prabhupada, from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:

nama cintamanih krsnas
caitanya-rasa-vigrahah
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
’bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

Namah cintamanih krsnah: the holy name of Krishna is Krishna Himself. Caitanya-rasa-vigrahah: it is the form of rasa, the reservoir of pleasure. It is purna, complete; suddha, pure; and nitya-mukta, always free from material contamination. Why? Because there is no difference between the holy name of Krishna and the possessor of the name, Krishna Himself (abhinnatvan nama-naminoh).

Now the question arises, “When the Lord is spiritual and beyond the jurisdiction of material senses, how can one with materially covered senses touch, or chant and hear, the holy name of Krishna?” In the next verse of the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami explains:

atah sri-krsna-namadi
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah

Atah means “therefore,” as in athatho brahma-jijnasa. Atah: therefore (that is, because the holy name of Krishna is completely spiritual like Krishna) one cannot chant or hear the holy name—touch the holy name—with materially contaminated senses. However, if we engage our senses in the service of the Lord and the Lord becomes pleased with our service, the Lord will reveal Himself to us.

In other words, although we cannot perceive the Lord with materially contaminated senses, the Lord can reveal Himself to us when He is pleased by our service: He can purify our senses and make Himself visible to us.

When even a sadhaka, a devotee who is practicing devotional service, cannot touch even the holy name of the Lord, how could a demon like Ravana see or touch Mother Sita, who is directly the spiritual energy of the Lord? It is not possible. What Ravana saw and touched was not the original Sita but maya Sita, an illusory representation of the original Sita. Thus Lord Chaitanya was consoling the brahman, “Don’t lament that Mother Sita has been touched by the demon Ravana. The demon Ravana could not even see her, what to speak of touch her. There is no need to lament.”

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May 102019
 

My mind is so filled with memories of Mother Arca-vigraha that it is difficult to isolate what inspired me about her. But I think she embodied the two most important devotional principles—chanting the holy names and serving the Vaishnavas—and she performed these activities with great determination and enthusiasm.

I miss her as a friend. She was older than I, and more experienced, and I learned a lot from her training, instructions, and association. I often share thoughts and experiences with her in my mind—especially things that I wouldn’t share with anyone else. She was very understanding and completely trustworthy.

I first met Mother Arca-vigraha in 1985 in Durban, South Africa, at the opening of the Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Temple. I had met the devotees and moved into the temple just two weeks earlier. Arca, Aileen Lipkin—or “Angel,” as she was then known—had come from Johannesburg to attend the opening festival, and we were part of a large group of women who shared a small room stacked with bunk beds, with a primitive shower in the corner.

I was struck by how Angel seemed to transcend her surroundings. She was always beautifully dressed in gorgeous designer Punjabi suits with matching bead bags of the same cloth. Petite, with a colorful shock of red curls and bright, piercing brown eyes, she was worldly and sophisticated, but also funny and down-to-earth. And she was a perfectionist. Whatever she did, from making a salad to completing a painting or sculpture, she did with artistic precision. I never detected in her even a trace of laziness or sloppiness, and she never compromised on quality. I liked her immediately.

Shortly after the temple opening, I was sent to Johannesburg to do sankirtana. There was a vibrant devotee community in Muldersdrift, a semirural area just north of the city, and there, at the temple, I again met Angel. We would often sit together and talk, but I was frequently traveling, so she and I also exchanged letters. Hers were works of art, written on huge pieces of drawing paper in beautiful, meticulous script, often accompanied by a small watercolor painting or pencil drawing. Her letters were filled with wisdom and realization. I remember one that I found particularly interesting—an account of Angel’s meeting with a Buddhist nun who had taught her that a woman did not have to have many, or even any, children of her own; she could be the mother of all living entities, showing mercy and kindness to all.

Angel had perceived her identity as an artist from an early age. As a child, she would spend hours drawing and would even dab turpentine on her wrists the way other girls would perfume. Her spiritual search had begun at the age of twelve. Angel’s mother, with whom she enjoyed a very close, deep relationship, fell ill with cancer. Angel would sometimes come home from school and find her mother in bed, shaking with tremors, and she would lie down with her and try to stop the shaking.

When her mother died, Angel was devastated. She would spend hours swinging back and forth on the front gate, gazing at the blue sky and feeling very alone. It was, she said, the first time in her life that she was confronted with death. Her father was grief-stricken and unable to take care of his children. So he handed them over to other families—Angel to the care of a Catholic lady, Mrs. Schneider, who lived next-door. Although Angel was Jewish by birth, Mrs. Schneider trained her how to pray with folded hands and bended knees, how to call out to and take shelter of God. She taught her, Arca later realized, to develop a personal relationship with God, something that stayed with her for the rest of her life.

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May 102019
 

On Jahnu-saptami twenty-five years ago His Holiness Giriraj Swami’s disciple Arca-vigraha devi dasi passed away from this world and went back to Godhead.

Mother Arca-vigraha and I were very good friends and had been friends for a long time. We first met in 1986, when she came to Vrindavan. Then, in 1987, I went to South Africa with Indradyumna Swami and we had some programs at her home in Yeoville.

Arca suffered from cancer. She got the news in late 1987, but she had some treatment done, and the doctors seemed to think that it had cleared up the cancer, but then she became affected again. She took some small treatment in South Africa, but by nature she wasn’t inclined to take a lot of heavy medications. She felt that she should depend more on her guru and Krishna. She wasn’t inclined to take heavy treatments that were likely to disturb her consciousness. That was a big factor for her: she didn’t want her Krishna consciousness to be affected. She wanted to always try to have a clear mind and consciousness so that she could meditate on the holy name and on the instructions of her spiritual master. She didn’t take the chemotherapy or other treatments they like to give in Western countries, which generally have the tendency to destroy a person suffering from such a disease.

Arca started coming to Vrindavan, and by the grace of Srimati Radharani and Krishna she was able to buy a plot of land in Vrindavan and build a house. She wanted to pass her final days there. I would say to her, “There are so many people in South Africa—twenty or thirty million—and out of them, how many have been blessed by Radha and Krishna to come to Vrindavan, purchase a piece of property, build a house, and live in that house in Vrindavan?”

So, she started staying there, and she took up service in Vrindavan, and because she was such a fine artist, she was always involved in different art projects. The last service she was given was to do the artwork for the large carved marble panels to be placed at the back of Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi.

Arca-vigraha was very serious about her work. In her final days she was in terrible pain, and her left arm was useless; the cancer was affecting her whole left side. Then the cancer grew and intruded upon her windpipe and esophagus, the food pipe, and eventually she couldn’t eat. She just stopped eating and was only drinking. She had no energy, and she became just like bones with some skin on top. But what would she do? She would ask the devotees caring for her to prop her up in bed, and then she would say, “Bring me my artwork,” and they would bring it to her. She was determined to do this service for Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas. She would sit there, and with whatever little energy she had she would draw the designs of Prabhupada for those back panels. They were big panels, and she would cut out sections and put them together. Sometimes she could work for only five minutes before having to take rest, but then she would get up again, have the devotees bring her artwork back, and resume her work. She had so much transcendental determination.

Arca was like a different species of person. Sometimes I look at our present generation, and I have to admit that it is not very good. The postwar generation went down really fast—lack of honor, lack of credibility, lack of integrity. The world has become lost for want of integrity. People lie, say anything to achieve their end, to achieve sense gratification. They’ll say or do anything to get what they want as quickly as possible. I see this particularly in India, where I live, but I know it goes on everywhere. In India, I go mad at the lack of integrity. In contrast, in Srila Prabhupada’s generation, there were people who would die for principle. They had so much integrity, they would give their head for principle. Arca’s generation was like that, too. We find that generally the older people we meet are men and ladies of integrity and honor. And she was like that. She was a phenomenal person. And even though she was suffering from cancer and was in pain, she always held her head high. Her mentality was never that she wanted people to just come and pet her and give her consolation. What was her mentality? She was always trying to do good for others. Devotees were constantly coming to her. She would be suffering so much, but when devotees would come, she would immediately set herself upright and start preaching, preaching straight Krishna consciousness. She had so much character. She was so noble. And when the people would leave, she would collapse again. And then more people would come, and she would preach: “We are not this body. We should not identify with the pains and pleasures of this body. We should fix our mind on Krishna, fix the mind on the goal.”

After Gaura-purnima 1994, some young people from Bulgaria were in Vrindavan. They had become attracted to a famous yogi there. They had heard about him and come to Vrindavan because they thought, “He is our guru.” In Vrindavan they stayed with this yogi and found out that he was actually terrible: very angry at times and screaming and doing erratic things. So, these Bulgarians said, “We came all the way here, and we thought this guy was our guru, but he’s not.” They didn’t know what to do. They were coming by the Krishna-Balaram temple, and they met the devotees there and somehow the devotees introduced them to Giriraj Maharaja. So, they started coming over to listen to Giriraj Maharaja speak. They would come over to Arca-vigraha’s house, and we were doing a lot of reading there. There would often be kirtan, and on different occasions Arca would have the devotees sit her up and she would start preaching to these Bulgarian people. So much character. She had so much faith in Krishna and so much faith in the holy name. She was a unique personality.

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May 072019
 

Today is Aksaya Tritiya. In May 2003 I wrote Deena Bandhu Prabhu, my godbrother based in Vrindavan, about the occasion, and his reply follows:

My dear Giriraj Swamiji,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I’m not sure of the history of Aksaya Tritiya. But ksaya means to diminish, so aksaya means that which never diminishes, or which goes on increasing. So, this day is considered a very auspicious day to start anything from which you want the fruits to never diminish.

I see that people start their businesses on this day, do griha-pravesha on this day, start their journeys on this day. And there is a big festival in Nandagram on this day. But if you want to come and see it, you have to book your taxi well in advance, because on this day there are a lot of marriages and all the taxis will be booked up!

The festival in Nandagram celebrates Pavana Sarovara. When Nanda Maharaja established his residence in Nandagram, he excavated a huge lake, and it became known as Nanda Sarovara. He and his family and other Brijbasis would bathe in this lake. Sometimes, he and his family would bathe at one end and Vrishabhanu Maharaja with his family would come and bathe at the other end of the lake. The Brijbasis say that Radha and Krishna used to swim underwater to the middle of the lake and have underwater pastimes.

One day, Nandanandana saw that Mother Yasoda was making very strange types of prasadam—not the everyday rice, dal, subji, and chapatis. But she was making fried dal, little fried noodles, and little fried cracker-like things we call muttry. She was cooking so many fried things.

So Nandalala came and asked, “Oh, Meiya, what kind of funny prasada are you making today?”

She replied to her darling little son, “Lala, today your baba is going on pilgrimage, so I’m making all these fried things, so they will last for several days and he will eat them along the way.”

“And where’s Baba going, Meiya? Tell me, Meiya, where’s Baba going?”

“Lala, Baba is going to Prayag.”

“And where is that, Meiya? Tell me, Meiya.”

“Oh, Lala, I’m busy cooking and you ask so many questions. Go ask you ask your baba, Lala.”

So Nandanandana went to his baba and pulled on his cloth, repeatedly asking, “Where are you going, Baba? Oh, Baba, where are you going? Tell me, Baba, where are you going?”

Nanda Maharaja smiled at the beautiful face of his inquisitive son and replied, “I’m going to Prayag.”

“And where is that, Baba? Tell me, Baba, where is that?”

“Lala, that is a very sacred place where Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati join in sangam. So I’m going there to take my bath, Lala.”

“But, Baba, today is a very inauspicious day to start a journey. You should go tomorrow. It’s Aksaya Tritiya tomorrow, and that is a very auspicious day to start your journey.”

“Ok, Lala, since you are asking, I will go tomorrow. Is that ok, Lala?”

So the next morning Nanda Maharaja got up early like he does every day to take his bath in Nanda Sarovara. When he got there, however, he saw some important big man like a king or something rolling in the dust of Braja and laughing, “Ho, ho, ho! Ah, hah, hah!” Then he would bathe in Nanda Sarovara. Then again he would come out and roll in the Braja raja and laugh, and again bathe in the sarovara.

Nanda Maharaja had never seen a personality like this before in Nandagram, so he asked that person, “Maharaja, who are you?”

“Baba, I’m Prayag.”

Baba in his simple Brijbhasa said, “Pryag? Prag? I don’t know anyone in Nandagram with that name?”

Arey, Baba! I’m not from here. I’m Prayagraj, king of all the tirthas!”

“And why have you come here today, Maharaja?”

“Oh, Baba! All year long people come and put their papa on me. So one day in the year, on Aksaya Tritiya, I come here, roll in the dust of Braja, and bathe in this sarovara and become pavana.”

Pavana means pure, or purified.

Accha? Is it?” Nanda exclaimed.

Then on the other side of the lake, Nanda saw so many beautiful ladies bathing, but not like his Nandagram ladies—with beautiful silk saris with gold and silver threads. He never saw ladies like this in Nandagram.

Approaching them very respectfully, Nanda asked, “Who are you, ladies?”

“Baba, I’m Ganga.” Another said, “I’m Sarasvati.” And yet another said, “I’m Godavari.” They all responded with the names of different holy rivers—Kurujangala, Kaveri, Narmada, Brahmaputra, Mahananda, etc.

Then Baba asked, “And why have you come here today? I’ve never seen you all before.”

Arey, Baba! All year long people put their papa on us. On one day, this Aksaya Tritiya day, we come here, roll in the dust of Braja, bathe in this sarovara and become pavana.”

Accha? Is it?”

Then Baba took his bath and went up the hill to Nandagram. By this time Nandalala was awake. Coming before his father, he asked, “Baba, now you’re going? Yes, Baba? Now you’re going?”

Arey, Lala! Now I’m not going!”

“And why is that, Baba?”

Arey, Lala! All the places I wanted to go, they all came here today to take bath and become pavana. So why should I take the trouble to go to all these places when they all came here?”

So from that day, the sarovara became known as Pavana Sarovara.

In the service of Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram,
Deena Bandhu dasa

May 052019
 

 

Initiation Ceremony by HH Giriraj Swami

Posted by ISKCON Durban on Saturday, May 4, 2019

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On Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day, via Skype, Giriraj Swami officially connected seven disciples with Srila Prabhupada and the parampara: Anil Basdew became Ananda Krishna dasa, Clive Jugathpal became Krishna Kishore dasa, Leeann Govindsamy became Lila Manjari dasi, Mayawatee Sewjathan became Madhumati dasi, Pranesa Sewpershad became Pradhana Gopika dasi, Reena Sewpershad became Radhika Kishori dasi, and Sheena Basdew became Shobha Radha dasi. Please bless them and support them in their efforts in Krishna consciousness.