Giriraj Swami

Sep 272015

Srila Prabhupada as a SannyasiToday is Visvarupa-mahotsava, the date on which Lord Caitanya’s older brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. And on the same date some four hundred and fifty years later, our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, also accepted sannyasa.

According to Vedic scripture, Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, come in the present age in the role of a devotee. In the previous age, Lord Krsna came in His original feature and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the conclusion He instructed, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: give up all other duties and surrender unto Me. But people could not understand or appreciate Lord Krsna’s instruction. So later, about five hundred years ago, the same Krsna came again, not in His original form but in His devotional form as Lord Caitanya. And Lord Caitanya taught us how to serve Krsna, how to worship God in the present age.

Lord Caitanya taught various methods of worship, but He especially emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God, or Krsna. In particular, He quoted a verse from the Brhan-Naradiya Purana (38.126):

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krsna. In this age of Kali, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for spiritual realization.”

He acted like a teacher who shows students how to write the alphabet. The teacher stands in front of the class and writes on the board, “A, B, C, D.” She has no need to practice writing, but she shows by her own example how to form the letters properly. In the same way, God, Krsna, had no need to worship, but to set the example for us, so that we could learn how to worship God in the best way in the present age, He came as Lord Caitanya and taught and demonstrated the chanting of the holy names.

When Lord Caitanya appeared, the social and spiritual system called varnasrama-dharma was still prevalent in India. In this system there are four social and four spiritual divisions, all necessary for society to function properly. Although we may not refer to them by the same terms, and although the system has not been developed as systematically and scientifically as in Vedic culture, still, by the arrangement of nature, the divisions still exist. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” (Bg 4.13) So, the four social orders, or broad divisions of occupational duties, are created by Krsna. Continue reading »

Sep 262015

TodaLord Chaitanya Carrying Haridasa Thakuray is the disappearance day of Namacarya Srila Haridasa Thakura, so we shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter Eleven, “The Passing of Haridasa Thakura”:

The summary of this chapter is given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Amrta-pravaha-bhasya as follows. In this chapter it is described how Brahma Haridasa Thakura gave up his body with the consent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and how the Lord Himself personally performed the funeral ceremony and carried the body to the sea. He personally entombed the body, covered it with sand, and erected a platform on the site. After taking a bath in the sea, He personally begged prasada of Jagannatha from shopkeepers and distributed prasada to the assembled devotees.



namami haridasam tam
caitanyam tam ca tat-prabhum
samsthitam api yan-murtim
svanke krtva nanarta yah


Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Haridasa Thakura and his master, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who danced with the body of Haridasa Thakura on His lap.


jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya dayamaya
jayadvaita-priya nityananda-priya jaya

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is very merciful and who is very dear to Advaita Acarya and Lord Nityananda!

jaya srinivasesvara haridasa-natha
jaya gadadhara-priya svarupa-prana-natha

All glories to the master of Srinivasa Thakura! All glories to the master of Haridasa Thakura! All glories to the dear master of Gadadhara Pandita! All glories to the master of the life of Svarupa Damodara!

jaya kasi-priya jagadananda-pranesvara
jaya rupa-sanatana-raghunathesvara

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya, who is very dear to Kasi Misra! He is the Lord of the life of Jagadananda and the Lord of Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami.

jaya gaura-deha krsna svayam bhagavan
krpa kari’ deha’ prabhu, nija-pada-dana

All glories to the transcendental form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead! My dear Lord, kindly give me shelter at Your lotus feet by Your causeless mercy. Continue reading »

Sep 172015

Prabhupada at Boston HarborTo commemorate the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America, we shall sing and discuss the second poem that he wrote on the ship Jaladuta, after he arrived in the Boston harbor on September 17, 1965.

Poem [translation]:

1: My dear Lord Krsna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me.

2: But I guess You have some business here. Otherwise, why would You bring me to such a terrible place?

3: Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied, and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.

4: But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible, because You are the most expert mystic.

5: How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.

6: All living entities have come under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if You like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion. I wish that You may deliver them.

7: I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore, if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.

8: The words of Srimad-Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives them with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.

9: It is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17-21): ‘Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses the desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regularly hearing the Bhagavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact. At the time loving service is established in the heart, the modes of passion [rajas] and ignorance [tamas], and lust and desire [kama] disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness and he becomes happy. Thus established in the mode of goodness, the man rejuvenated by loving service to the Lord gains liberation from material association [mukti] and comes to know scientifically of the Personality of Godhead. Thus the knot in the heart and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions [karma] is terminated when one sees the self as master.”

10: He will become liberated from the influence of the modes of ignorance and passion and thus all inauspicious things accumulated in the core of the heart will disappear.

11: How will I make them understand the message of Krsna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own. Continue reading »

Sep 162015

Amala Bhakta DasBy some higher arrangement, I will be joining His Holiness Radhanath Swami for saintly Amala Bhakta Prabhu’s sannyasa ceremony today—the first sannyasa initiation in New Dvaraka in more than three decades. Then tomorrow morning Radhanath Swami and I will fly together from Los Angeles to Boston for the fiftieth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America there, which ultimately led to us all coming together and being engaged in devotional service to His Divine Grace, his guru maharaja, the Panca-tattva, and Sri Sri Radha-Krishna.

bhavapavargo bhramato yada bhavej
janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samagamah
sat-sangamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
paravarese tvayi jayate ratih

“O my Lord! O infallible Supreme Person! When a person wandering throughout the universes becomes eligible for liberation from material existence, he gets an opportunity to associate with devotees. When he associates with devotees, his attraction for You is awakened. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal of the topmost devotees, and the Lord of the universe.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.53)

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Vyasa-puja Offering to Srila Prabhupada

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Sep 062015

Srila Prabhupada on Juhu TerraceMy dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your divine lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Loving Grace and to your auspicious arrival in America.

At this time your devotees and admirers are reflecting upon your momentous departure from India and your historic arrival in America some fifty years ago. What could have motivated you to make that historic journey—and how could you have succeeded in your impossible mission?

In Los Angeles in 1968, on the disappearance day of your guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, you explained your commission: “Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja . . . underwent very severe penances for starting this worldwide movement. That was his mission. In 1896, Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to introduce this Krsna consciousness movement by sending the book Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts. Fortunately, that year was my birth year, and by Krsna’s arrangement, we came in contact. . . . Who knew that I would come to his protection? Who knew that I would come to America? Who knew that you American boys would come to me? These are all Krsna’s arrangement. We cannot understand how things are taking place.

“Thirty-two years ago in Bombay, sometime around the 9th or 10th of December—Guru Maharaja was indisposed, and he was staying in Jagannatha Puri, on the seashore—I wrote him a letter: ‘My dear master, your other disciples—brahmacari, sannyasi—they are rendering you direct service. And I am a householder. I cannot live with you; I cannot serve you nicely. So I do not know—How can I serve you?’ Simply an idea—I was thinking of serving him: ‘How can I serve him seriously?’ The reply was dated 13 December 1936. In that letter he wrote, ‘My dear such and such, I am very glad to receive your letter. I think you should try to push our movement in English.’ That was his writing. ‘And that will do good to you and to the people who will help you.’ That was his instruction. And then in 1936, on the 31st of December—that means just a fortnight after writing this letter—he passed away.

“I took that order of my spiritual master very seriously, but I did not think that I’d have to do such and such thing. I was at that time a householder. But this is the arrangement of Krsna. If we strictly try to serve the spiritual master, his order, then Krsna will give us all facilities. That is the secret. Although there was no possibility, I never thought, but I took it a little seriously by studying a commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on the Bhagavad-gita. In connection with the verse vyavasayatmika-buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana [Bg 2.41], Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives his commentary that we should take up the words from the spiritual master as our life and soul. We should try to carry out the instruction, the specific instruction of the spiritual master, very rigidly, without caring for our personal benefit or loss.” Continue reading »

Lord Balarama’s Appearance Day—Mercy and Beauty

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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

Whatever Happens, Don’t Stop Chanting

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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


“I Did Not Come Empty-Handed”: Srila Prabhupada’s Historic Voyage

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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

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 »

A Prayer to Lord Jagannatha

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Jul 202015

Lord Jagannatha inside the Gundicha TempleWe pray to Lord Jagannatha,

hara tvam samsaram druta-taram asaram sura-pate
hara tvam papanam vitatim aparam yadava-pate
aho dine ‘nathe nihita-carano niscitam idam
jagannathah svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me

“O Lord of the demigods, please quickly remove this useless material existence I am undergoing. O Lord of the Yadus, please destroy this vast, shoreless ocean of sins. Ah, this is certain: Lord Jagannatha bestows His lotus feet upon those who feel themselves fallen and have no shelter in this world but Him. May that Jagannatha Svami be the object of my vision.” (Sri Jagannathastaka, 8)

Jaya Jagannatha!

—Giriraj Swami