Giriraj Swami

May 222018

My disciple Rohini-nandana Dasa, from Israel, who has helped tremendously with my book about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu, and his devoted wife, Vrinda Devi Dasi, a wonderful disciple of Bhurijana Prabhu (she took the picture), have come to spend eight days with us in Carpinteria. We are relishing their association and look forward to more of it whenever time and circumstances—and Srila Prabhupada and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy—allow. They and other devotees are rendering invaluable service to Sri Guru and Gauranga in Israel.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

May 212018

In a talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.13, on May 30, 1972, in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada spoke about the qualities of a devotee, and I was struck by the following:

A devotee is sympathetic—and friendly. “Sympathetic. We should be very much sympathetic. If some of our fellow men fall sick, we must take care of them, give help to them. Because after all, we have got this body; sometimes we may fall sick. So, we should be sympathetic. And friendly. Everyone’s friend. As Krishna is friend of everyone, suhrdam sarva-bhutanam [Gita 5.29], so if we are Krishna’s representative: ‘How can I be enemy of anyone? I must be friendly.’ ”

A devotee is grave. “ ‘Grave’ means doesn’t talk nonsense. Don’t talk nonsense. Don’t waste time. If you have got time, chant Hare Krishna. But don’t talk nonsense. That is called gravity. Grave.”

A devotee is satisfied—and surrendered to Krishna. “Satisfied, in any condition. Not that ‘I must have all these things; then I’ll be satisfied. Otherwise, I’m going from the temple.’ No, this is not Vaishnava qualification. You must live with the devotees—even if you are not satisfied. In any condition, you should be satisfied. Because as soon as you leave the company, you become again rogues, again demons. At least you’ll be saved if you keep the company of the devotees. Satam prasangan mama virya-samvidah [SB 3.25.25]. If you give up their company, then you again become rogues and demons. Therefore you must be satisfied, in whatever condition. ‘Whatever Krishna has given, that’s all right.’ Satisfied.

“Surrendered to Krishna. That satisfaction can be achieved only when one is fully surrendered to Krishna. If I have surrendered to Krishna, Krishna has taken my charge. Krishna says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami [Gita 18.66], then why shall I bother myself? If I am thinking, ‘I am suffering,’ it is also Krishna’s grace. We should take like that. Even if in my consideration I am in a position which is apparently suffering, we must accept it as Krishna’s grace: ‘All right, I have surrendered to Krishna. If Krishna is giving me suffering, that’s all right.’ That is surrender. ‘Oh, I have surrendered to Krishna, and now Krishna is giving me suffering? Oh, leave Krishna consciousness’—that is not surrender. Surrender means in any condition you’ll remain surrendered. That is surrender. Not that I put my own condition, and if you satisfy me, then I shall . . . That is business; that is not surrender. Surrender means in any condition, fully surrendered to Krishna.”

I pray to imbibe Srila Prabhupada instructions—and follow his example.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

May 172018

On this day twenty-four years ago, Mother Arca-vigraha passed away, in Vrindavan, and to honor the occasion, I share a remembrance of her by Raghava Pandit das:

When I think of Mother Arca and her myriad of good qualities, I am reminded of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to one of his disciples: “Do it enthusiastically, with the courage of an Englishman and the heart of a Bengali mother.” I was fortunate to see both these sides in her—her nurturing affection and her courage—in her pursuit for excellence.

I first met her some days before the first Ratha-yatra festival in Durban, while she was painting swans on the chariot. We were told that she was a famous artist in South Africa, Aileen (Angel) Lipkin—hence I became interested in seeing her at work. As I made my way to the makeshift workshop, I stood some five meters away from the chariot and watched her work. I marvelled at her perfection, her deft control of the brush and steady hands. I could see that art was the core of her life, that she probably woke up and went to sleep thinking of it.

It was late at night, and there were not many devotees around. One of the first things that struck me was that she was totally absorbed in her service. I was reminded of Arjuna striking the eye of the bird perched on the tree by his teacher Drona. When asked by the teacher whether he saw the tree or the sky before he took aim, Arjuna replied that he only saw the eye of the bird. In the same way, I felt like Mother Arca was seeing only the swan she was painting, and nothing else.

When her meditation broke, she became aware of me standing there and welcomed me with a beautiful smile. My hard heart softened with her simple smile. She was a beautiful person, an angelic person, but when she smiled she became even more so.

“Those are perfect swans, and you’re making it look easy painting them,” I said.

“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” she replied. “You want to try painting one?”

“I don’t want to spoil your work,” I laughed, while thinking to myself that the service required not only skill but also bhakti and that I was sadly lacking in both. She was a genius: one who makes the difficult look ridiculously easy, giving the impression that it is effortless.

On the first day of the Ratha-yatra festival, when I saw the chariot going down the promenade, it looked like a piece of art in motion. In retrospect, I feel that Mother Arca was a swan-like devotee in our midst. The swan that moves gracefully on a lake is a picture of elegance. What is going on beneath the surface is hidden from the eye. We don’t see the hard work done by the swan’s webbed feet, which creates the graceful motion that we admire. The swan’s movement is an ideal metaphor for expertise and excellence. In the same way, Arca was an emblem of these twin traits, but she kept them hidden from general view.

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May 152018

At one stage on my evening japa walk today, the first day of Purusottama, my mind became restless, which disturbed me a lot, and I didn’t know what to do. Then suddenly within me I heard my disciple Damodar’s ringtone of Sripada Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja preaching forcefully: “Why are you unhappy? Because you are not surrendered. Surrender just now! Just now surrender and become happy, and there will be no more anxieties.” I began to earnestly pray to Maharaja to help me. And I felt immediate relief. All the agitation was gone, and my mind was peaceful. Then, sitting down, I chanted some of my best japa ever.

I pray that ’s mercy will be with me for the rest of the month—and for all eternity.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja ringtone (Right click to download)

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May 142018

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 15, we begin the auspicious Purusottama-adhika Masa (extra month), which is considered three times more powerful than Kartik. One year, Srila Prabhupada was in Juhu during that month, and Dr. C. P. Patel, Srila Prabhupada regular companion on his morning walks on Juhu Beach, prevailed upon him to take bath in the sea before the end of the month. In an article published in Back to Godhead, Dr. Patel wrote:

“Every third year an extra month is inserted into the lunar calendar to bring it into line with the solar calendar. As per astronomical calculations, one year sacred Sravana was the month that came twice. The first month of the double month is called purusottama-masa, and devotees of Lord Krishna observe it by fasting, praying, and reading Srimad-Bhagavatam. The last day of this month was somavati-amavasya, a very auspicious occasion. On this day all religious people take a bath in the early morning in the sea, or in a river or sacred lake.

“I proposed that on that auspicious day Srila Prabhupada take a dip in the sea along with me and the others. He agreed at once. We all planned to go to the sea with extra clothes, take a bath, and change. He accompanied us, but just near the edge of the water someone suggested that he not take a bath in the sea, since he had had a coronary episode some time back. So he halted then and there and would not enter the water. He pondered for a while and then suddenly asked me to bring some water in my palm and pour it on his head. He said, ‘That is as good as a bath on this auspicious day.’ Very intelligently, he found the means, and I obliged him. He was pleased. I touched his feet and felt satisfaction at having taken a bath in the sea with him on a very auspicious day.”

By Srila Prabhupada’s grace, I may take a similar bath in the Pacific Ocean before the month’s end.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

May 132018

“There are very exalted spiritual understandings in Krishna consciousness. They are not fictional, imaginary, or concocted. They are facts, and every devotee can have the privilege to understand and indeed take part in Krishna’s pastimes if he is actually advanced. We should not think that the privilege given to Mother Yasoda is not available to us. Everyone can have a similar privilege. If one loves Krishna as one’s child, then one will have such a privilege, because the mother has the most love for the child. Even in this material world, there is no comparison to a mother’s love, for a mother loves her child without any expectation of return. Of course, although that is generally true, this material world is so polluted that a mother sometimes thinks, ‘My child will grow up and become a man, and when he earns money, I shall get it.’ Thus there may still be some desire to get something in exchange. But while loving Krishna there are no selfish feelings, for that love is unalloyed, free from all desires for material gain.

“You should not expect anything in return. That is real love. Just like a mother is loving her child, not expecting any return. But she still she gives service. So, that is as a little sample of pure love.”

—Srila Prabhupada, talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.31, April 23, 1973, Los Angeles, and room conversation, July 13, 1976, New York

May 112018

In a talk with Srila Prabhupada in Chicago, on July 5, 1975, Tamal Krishna Goswami asked him about Ekadasi. “Sometimes we have heard that Ekadasi is an inauspicious alignment of the planets and that therefore one has to counteract this inauspiciousness by chanting more.”

Prabhupada laughed. “No, no. It is the most auspicious. And chanting is more effective.”

“I remember you were instructing once that all of your initiated disciples should chant twenty-five rounds . . .”


“Minimum on this day. Is that a rule that we should all follow in our temples?”

“We are sixteen rounds.”

“No, I mean on Ekadasi.”

“Oh, yes. Ekadasi, simply you should chant. No other business.”

Later, in Mayapur on February 11, 1976, Tamal Krishna asked for further clarification: “We should always chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi if initiated?”

“Initiated? Everyone. Why initiated?”

“So, that should be standard for our movement on Ekadasi day?”

“Standard is sixteen, but if one can chant more, then he is welcome.”

“It’s not mandatory for Ekadasi.”

“No. Ekadasi means that—fasting and chanting.”

“Sometimes I’m wondering, because our men have to go out on book distribution.”

“No, no. That is also preaching work. For that purpose you can stop this. But generally, one who has no preaching work, he can chant.”


“Yes, extra.”

“I see.”

Hare Krishna.

May 062018

We continue our discussion of the conversation between Sri Ramananada Raya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ramananda-samvada, recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Talks Between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya.”


sancarya ramabhidha-bhakta-meghe
gaurabdhir etair amuna vitirnais
  taj-jnatva-ratnalayatam prayati


Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is known as Gauranga, is the ocean of all conclusive knowledge in devotional service. He empowered Sri Ramananda Raya, who may be likened to a cloud of devotional service. This cloud was filled with the water of all the conclusive purports of devotional service and was empowered by the ocean to spread this water over the sea of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Thus the ocean of Caitanya Mahaprabhu became filled with the jewels of the knowledge of pure devotional service.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

According to revealed scriptures, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself, the origin of all knowledge—perfect knowledge. Here, Sri Chaitanya, the ocean of knowledge of the conclusive purports of devotional service, is taking the part of a student and asking questions, and He has empowered Sri Ramananda Raya to give perfect answers. Thus, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is compared to an ocean and Ramananda Raya to a cloud that draws water from the ocean and then showers the water over the ocean as rain.

We resume our discussion of the conversation between Ramananda Raya and Lord Chaitanya.

 TEXT 243

anyonye mili’ dunhe nibhrte vasiya
prasnottara-gosthi kahe anandita hana


Thus they met time and time again, sitting in a secluded place and jubilantly discussing devotional service by the question-and-answer process.

TEXT 244

prabhu puche, ramananda karena uttara
ei mata sei ratre katha paraspara


Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked the questions, and Sri Ramananda Raya gave the answers. In this way they were engaged in discussion throughout the night.

TEXT 245

prabhu kahe,—“kon vidya vidya-madhye sara?”
raya kahe,—“krsna-bhakti vina vidya nahi ara”


On one occasion the Lord inquired, “Of all types of education, which is the most important?”

Ramananda Raya replied, “No education is important other than the transcendental devotional service of Krsna.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Texts 245 to 257 are all questions and answers between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya. In these exchanges there is an attempt to show the difference between material and spiritual existence. Education in Krsna consciousness is always transcendental and is the best of all forms of education. Material education aims at increasing the activities of material sense gratification. Beyond material sense gratification is another negative form of knowledge called brahma-vidya, or impersonal transcendental knowledge. But beyond that brahma-vidya, or knowledge of the impersonal Brahman, is knowledge of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Visnu. This knowledge is higher. And still higher is devotional service to Lord Krsna, which is the topmost form of education. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.29.49), tat karma hari-tosam yat sa vidya tan-matir yaya: “Work meant for pleasing the Supreme Lord is the best, and education that enhances one’s Krsna consciousness is the best.”

Also, according to Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23–24):

sravanam kirtanam visnoh
  smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam
  sakhyam atma-nivedanam

iti pumsarpita visnau
  bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha
  tan manye ’dhitam uttamam

This is a statement given by Prahlada Maharaja in answer to a question raised by his father. Prahlada Maharaja said, “To hear or chant about Lord Visnu, to remember Him, to serve His lotus feet, to worship Him, to offer prayers to Him, to become His servant and His friend, to sacrifice everything for His service—all these are varieties of devotional service. One who is engaged in such activities is understood to be educated to the topmost perfection.”


This is the first in the series of questions and answers, and it seems appropriate in this environment of education, but as Srila Prabhupada says at the beginning of the purport, these questions and answers are meant to highlight the difference between the material and the spiritual. Material existence begins from the basic misconception that “I am the body and everything in relation to the body is mine.” More or less everyone is in this bodily concept of life. They strongly identify with the body and are deeply attached to things related to the body. And because they identify with the body, they think the goal of life is to give pleasure to the senses of the body. Whatever they do is more or less for the sake of the body.

Srila Prabhupada gives the example that if you are performing a mathematical calculation and you make a mistake in the first step, then even if you perform all the other steps perfectly, you will likely stray further and further from the actual answer or solution. If we begin from the mistaken premise that “I am the body,” then, because we have made the most fundamental error in the very first step, even if everything else we do is perfect in terms of the body, we will end up further and further away from the actual goal.

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May 042018

Today is the disappearance day of one of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s most confidential associates, Sri Ramananda Raya. Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the mood of Srimati Radharani, with Her bodily luster. Thus Lord Chaitanya is the combined form of Radha and Krishna (sri-krsna-caitanya radha-krsna nahe anya). And in krsna-lila Ramananda Raya is the gopi Visakha, one of the most confidential associates of both Srimati Radharani and Krishna. Spiritually, Visakha enjoyed a very intimate relationship with both Sri Krishna and Sri Radha.

In His later years, after He toured South India, Sri Chaitanya retired to Jagannatha Puri, and there He experienced intense separation from Krishna, like Srimati Radharani did after Krishna left Vrindavan. In that ecstatic mood of separation, He would confide in two close associates—Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who in krsna-lila is the gopi Lalita, and Sri Ramananda Raya.

Today we shall read about the first meeting between Lord Chaitanya and Ramananda Raya. Lord Chaitanya was just beginning His tour of South India. When He arrived in Jagannatha Puri from Navadvipa after taking sannyasa, He went straight to the Jagannatha temple, and as soon as He saw Lord Jagannatha He fainted in ecstasy. He had been in the mood of searching for Krishna, and when He saw Jagannatha He felt that He had found His Lord and fell into a deep ecstatic trance. Eventually, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, the chief appointed pandit in the court of the king, Maharaja Prataparudra, removed Sri Chaitanya to his home, and there they had some discussions. When Mahaprabhu was about to depart on His tour of South India, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya suggested that He meet and speak with Ramananda Raya, a most learned scholar and expert in the transcendental mellows of devotional service (bhakti-rasa).

Eventually Lord Chaitanya and Ramananda Raya met on the banks of the Godavari. Their meeting is vividly described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. After their initial meeting, they decided to meet again in the evening to discuss confidential topics of Krishna. Their discussions, called ramananda-samvada, contain all the truths of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy (siddhanta) and, with Lord Chaitanya’s instructions to Rupa Gosvami (rupa-siksa) and His instructions to Sanatana Gosvami (sanatana-siksa), are most important for understanding Vaishnava siddhanta, both rasa and tattva.

We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Talks Between the Lord and Ramananda Raya.”


sancarya ramabhidha-bhakta-meghe
gaurabdhir etair amuna vitirnais
  taj-jnatva-ratnalayatam prayati


Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is known as Gauranga, is the reservoir of all conclusive knowledge in devotional service. He empowered Sri Ramananda Raya, who may be likened to a cloud of devotional service. This cloud was filled with all the conclusive purports of devotional service and was empowered by the ocean to spread this water over the sea. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself was the ocean of knowledge of pure devotional service.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In this discussion between Ramananda Raya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Chaitanya took the position of the student, or questioner, and Ramananda Raya was obliged to take the position of the teacher, or respondent. Ramananda Raya was hesitant, because apart from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in terms of the Vedic social system He was a brahman and a sannyasi, whereas Ramananda Raya, although a most learned scholar and exalted devotee, was a grihastha and considered to be a sudra. So it was awkward for him to instruct Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but Mahaprabhu told him, kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya: it doesn’t matter whether one is a brahman, a sudra, a sannyasi, or whatever; yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya: anyone who knows the science of Krishna is a guru.

We shall read from the beginning of their discussion.

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Apr 282018

Two days after I first saw Srila Prabhupada and the devotees at Brandeis University in Boston, on Nrsimha-caturdasi, May 1, 1969, he gave a beautiful talk about the nature of a Vaishnava, how a devotee is an ocean of mercy:

“This atheist is so unkind, cruel, that he is prepared to kill his own son, beloved son, five years old. That is atheism. And theism, the father who tortured him so much—after the death of his father, he’s praying to Nrsimhadeva, ‘Please excuse my father.’ This is theism. So that is the difference between Krishna consciousness and ordinary consciousness. Vaishnavas are very kind to everyone. Vancha kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca. You utter this prayer, krpa-sindhubhya eva ca. Vaishnava is an ocean of mercy. There is no end. As you cannot draw all the water from the ocean—it is not possible—similarly, a Vaishnava, a devotee, is an ocean of mercy. You can draw from it as much mercy as you like; still, it is full.

“So, Prahlada Maharaja is the symbolic representation of Vaishnava. Try to be not imitator, but follower. Don’t try to imitate: ‘Oh, Prahlada Maharaja was thrown into boiling oil. Let me try, fall into the boiling oil.’ No. That is imitation. First you become like Prahlada Maharaja, then that will be possible. Don’t try to make experiment. That is not good. But try to follow. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. Follow mahajanas, great personalities, what they have done. You cannot imitate them. You have to follow them. You have to follow the instructions of Krishna or His representative, but not imitate them. Then you’ll fall down. Anusarana, not anukarana. Anukarana means imitation; but anusarana, following. So what Prahlada Maharaja did, we have to follow his example. His example was that in spite of continuous torturing by his father, he never forgot Krishna. This we have to follow. In spite of all kinds of inconveniences and torture by the atheist class of men, we shall never forget Krishna consciousness. There are many examples. Just like Lord Jesus Christ, he was tortured, he was crucified, but he never agreed that there is no God. So that should be our motto. This is following. Either you be Christian or Hindu or any, but be God conscious. Krishna conscious means God conscious. And in any circumstances, do not forget. That is called saranagati. That is surrender.”

I pray to follow in the footsteps of Sri Prahlada Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, and all pure Vaishnavas in their line.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami