Giriraj Swami

Jul 152019
 

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

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

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

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Jul 142019
 

I received the following letter from Vrndavanesvari dasi in South Africa.

Dear Guru Maharaja,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and all glories to your divine self.

During the renovations the manager named Daniel surprised us all.

We hung a huge picture of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada on the wall where the restaurant area will be. I offered incense often to the picture and prayed silently before the workers would come to start their day’s service.

One morning I found Daniel bowing down in front of Srila Prabhupada’s picture and clapping his hands, uttering words of respect and praise in the same way Africans would address their kings, but his praising was more attentive and very respectful.

He instructed the rest of the team to do likewise.

I was so amazed, because we had not taught him anything about Srila Prabhupada. He even told the rest of the workers that Srila Prabhupada is very holy and can see whatever they are doing there and that no one should steal anything at all, because he’s watching them.

I was so impressed by all this that I told Narottam, who said that the workers offer respects to Srila Prabhupada daily—it’s just that I had not observed it before.

They did this of their own accord before they would start their work.

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Your aspiring servant

Vrndavanesvari dasi
ISKCON Hammanskraal

Jul 122019
 

This weekend ISKCON Los Angeles will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the installation of the small deities Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakanath, and I will be driving to New Dvaraka on Sunday morning to join HH Badrinarayan Swami, HH Devamrita Swami, HH Radhanath Swami, and others in the festivities. Please do join us—in person or through the Internet. I will be speaking at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jul 092019
 

My dear Guru Maharaja,

Please accept my humble obeisances at the dust of your divine lotus feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Srila Gurudeva!

It has been one year since you initiated me. I am amazed that one year has passed! There is so much that I can say about that day, always. But today as I am writing this email, I am unable to find any words. You have simply made my life. And I am especially grateful to you because you are taking care of me when Srila Gurudeva is not physically present. That means so much to me—more than I can put in words. You’re the best person in the entire universe.

After watching the video of you pushing my wheelchair after the fire sacrifice, Charan Renu Mataji said that it felt like you weren’t only pushing my wheelchair; you were pushing me back to Godhead. And that’s what you have been doing every single day of this past year—with your magical love. I hope you always do that.

To express how you make me feel, Aishwarya didi and I recorded a song for you—“Top of the World,” by the Carpenters. This was the first time we recorded a song, and we did it at home, so it didn’t come out so good, but we hope it’s worth your pleasure. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/YO0BcxyMteU

I am missing you so much today, Guru Maharaja. I hope I can be with you soon. But I am so, so unqualified that I see myself nowhere close to deserving your association.

I hope you are doing well.

Thank you VERY much.

Your blessed servant, eternally,
Madana-mohana-mohini dasi

P.S. I just love the name you gave me!

Jul 052019
 

Fifty years ago, out of his causeless mercy, Srila Prabhupada accepted me as his initiated disciple and wrote me the following letter:

My dear Giriraj,

Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated July 2, 1969, sent along with your beads. I have chanted on them, and your initiated name is Giriraj. Giriraj is the name of Goverdhan Hill, on which Krishna used to tend His cows. In Vrindaban Goverdhan Hill is worshiped as a representation of Krishna. Sometimes devotees take stone from Goverdhan Hill and keep it at home as a representation of Krishna, and they worship in this way.

I am very glad to understand that you have relished at least some of the transcendental bliss of Krishna consciousness. It is a great fortune for you. Living entities are roaming within the universes in different species of life and in different planetary systems, enjoying or suffering the reaction of pious or impious activities. But they have no information how to get out of this entanglement of repetition of birth and death. Due to the darkness of ignorance, most living entities have no idea about the values of life. Therefore, one who understands the importance of Krishna consciousness must be a very fortunate soul. So I marked it in your person when I was in Boston, and I prayed to Krishna that this good soul may be aware of the importance of Krishna consciousness.

With my blessings, I am sending herewith your beads, duly chanted upon by me. You should avoid the ten offenses as far as possible, and follow the four regulative principles, as Satsvarupa will instruct you. I know your good godbrother Satsvarupa will always help you in this connection.

Regarding your $2,000, which you promised to send me within three weeks, I beg to thank you for this.* Actually, a brahmacharishould contribute whatever he has got to Krishna, through the spiritual master. The spiritual master does not accept anything for his personal use, but he employs everything for Krishna’s service. Therefore the spiritual master is accepted in the renounced order of life. So far as householders are concerned, they may contribute at least half of their income to Krishna. Then life is sublime. After all, everything belongs to Krishna, and the sooner we return whatever we have got to Krishna, the better it is. That is our normal life. Regarding your stocks, you can keep them for yourself for the time being, and if need be I may ask you to deliver them in the future. Your engagements there are nice, so continue to follow rigidly.

You may inform Satsvarupa that I have sent the Krsna tape #13, so he may transcribe it and send me a copy. I will be sending further tapes henceforward, because my Nectar of Devotion is now finished and I shall concentrate on the Krsna tapes.

I hope this will meet you in very good health.

Your ever well-wisher,

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

*You can directly transfer this amount to my a/c No. 12410 with the Equitable Savings & Loan Association, Fairfax, Los Angeles, California.

Jul 032019
 

On the auspicious day of Jagannatha Ratha-yatra in Puri, two of Lord Chaitanya’s most confidential associates, Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Srila Sivananda Sena, left this world to return to the supreme abode.

The inner moods of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, especially in Puri, were not easy to understand, and they were unknown to most devotees. Only Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who was the most intimate associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri, could really understand them, and by his grace we have been given the chance to understand them, too.

svarupa-gosani-prabhura ati antaranga
tahate janena prabhura e-saba prasanga

“Svarupa Gosani is the most intimate associate of the Lord. He therefore knows all these topics well.” (Cc Adi 4.105)

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada tells us about Svarupa Damodara’s historyand identity: “Prior to the Lord’s acceptance of the renounced order, Purusottama Bhattacarya, a resident of Navadvipa, desired to enter the renounced order of life. Therefore he left home and went to Benares, where he accepted the position of brahmacarya from a Mayavadi sannyasi. When he became a brahmacari, he was given the name Sri Damodara Svarupa. He left Benares shortly thereafter, without taking sannyasa, and he came to Nilacala, Jagannatha Puri, where Lord Caitanya was staying. He met Caitanya Mahaprabhu there and dedicated his life for the service of the Lord. He became Lord Caitanya’s secretary and constant companion. He used to enhance the pleasure potency of the Lord by singing appropriate songs, which were very much appreciated.”

In the context of Lord Chaitanya’s experience of the Ratha-yatra in Puri, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 13.168) confirms:

prabhura bhavanurupa svarupera gana
yabe yei rasa taha kare murtiman

“Svarupa Damodara used to sing exactly according to the ecstatic emotion of the Lord. Whenever a particular mellow was being tasted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara would personify it by singing.”

Srila Prabhupada’s purport continues: “Svarupa Damodara could understand the secret mission of Lord Caitanya, and it was by his grace only that all the devotees of Lord Caitanya could know the real purpose of the Lord.

“Svarupa Damodara has been identified as Lalita-devi, the second expansion of Radharani. However, text 160 of Kavi-karnapura’s authoritative Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika describes Svarupa Damodara as the same Visakha-devi who serves the Lord in Goloka Vrndavana. Therefore it is to be understood that Sri Svarupa Damodara is a direct expansion of Radharani who helps the Lord experience the attitude of Radharani.”

Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami ki jaya!

Sivananda Sena is another confidential associate of the Lord who also assisted Him in His pastimes, especially at the time of the Puri Ratha-yatra. He is one of the important branches of the Chaitanya tree.

sivananda sena-prabhura bhrtya antaranga
prabhu-sthane yaite sabe layena yanra sanga

“Sivananda Sena, the twenty-fourth branch of the tree, was an extremely confidential servant of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Everyone who went to Jagannatha Puri to visit Lord Caitanya took shelter and guidance from Sri Sivananda Sena.

rativarse prabhu-gana sangete la-iya
nilacale calena pathe palana kariya

“Every year he took a party of devotees from Bengal to Jagannatha Puri to visit Lord Caitanya. He maintained the entire party as they journeyed on the road.” (Cc Adi 10.54–55)

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Jul 012019
 

Today we are observing the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Gadadhara Pandita. I first learned of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura when I visited the Boston temple. At that time there were only two published books in ISKCON—the abridged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, published by Macmillan, and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, published by ISKCON. And at the front of Teachings of Lord Chaitanya was a series of very dignified black-and-white photographs of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Under the photograph of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a caption: “The pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness by the instructions of Lord Chaitanya.” I understood from the caption that Srila Prabhupada was continuing the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and that we were able to come in touch with Krishna consciousness in part because of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

As the years passed and I came to learn more about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I began to see more and more how the Krishna consciousness movement brought by Srila Prabhupada to the West and expanded throughout the world was a continuation of the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and the result of his desire. So we are all indebted to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and we are intimately connected with him through parampara.

Lord Chaitanya predicted, prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama: “In every town and village of every country of the world, My name [Krishna’s name] will be preached.” Although Lord Chaitanya made this prediction more than five hundred years ago, even His followers were sometimes bewildered about how it would be fulfilled. Some of them even thought the prediction was metaphoric or abstract. But Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had faith in the order and the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and through his books he began the work of spreading Krishna consciousness and the holy name of Krishna throughout the world. In particular, in 1896, the year of Srila Prabhupada’s birth, he wrote a book called Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts and distributed it to libraries worldwide.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed on his desire, which was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire, to his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, though he too never left India, passed on the same desire to his disciples. In particular, he gave the order to Srila Prabhupada to preach Krishna consciousness in the English language, which even then was the universal language in the West, and in the whole world.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted, “Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world.” He foresaw the day when Vaishnavas from all over the world would come to Mayapur and chant “Jaya Sachinandana” together with the Bengali Vaishnavas, Gaudiya Vaishnavas. And Srila Prabhupada was the one who acted to fulfill the desire and prediction of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

“Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mrdangas, and karatalas and raise kirtana through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the fair-skinned men from their side, chanting, ‘Jaya Sachinandana ki jaya,’ will extend their arms and, embracing devotees of our country coming from our side, and treat us with brotherly feelings. When will that day be?” (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in Sajjana-tosani)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a house in Godrumadvipa, across the Jalangi River from Mayapur, and used to chant on the balcony there. One day he looked across the river and had a vision of an effulgent city with a wonderful temple, an adbhuta mandira, at its center. He desired that this wonderful temple and splendorous city should come into existence, and here too Srila Prabhupada engaged his followers to fulfill the prediction and desire of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Nityananda Prabhu:

eka adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakasa
gaurangera nitya-seva haibe vikasa

“An astounding temple will appear and will engage the entire world in the eternal service of Lord Caitanya.” (Sri Navadvipa-Mahatmya, Parikrama Khanda, Ch. 4)

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Jun 242019
 

A talk by Giriraj Swami on July 13, 2008, in Berkeley, California. This year Snana-yatra was on June 16, and Ratha-yatra will be on July 4.

It is a great honor, privilege, and pleasure to be here on the auspicious occasion of Snana-yatra. The first deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in ISKCON were discovered in San Francisco in 1967. One of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples, Malati dasi, saw a small figure in an import store, Cost Plus, and brought it to him. When Prabhupada saw the figure, his eyes opened wide. He folded his palms and bowed his head in respect. Then he said, “You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. He is Krishna.” He said that Lord Jagannatha was worshipped with two other deities: His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra. Malati confirmed that there were other, similar figures at the store, and Prabhupada asked her to go and buy them. So she and her husband, Shyamasundar, immediately went and brought the other two figures. Srila Prabhupada placed them with Lord Jagannatha on his desk and told the devotees about Jagannatha’s appearance in India thousands of years ago, and how He was still worshipped in a great temple in Puri and taken in an annual procession with His brother and sister, each in a huge chariot, in the Ratha-yatra festival. Prabhupada chanted, jagannatha-svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me: “O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.” And he said that henceforth San Francisco should be called New Jagannatha Puri.

Prabhupada asked if any of the devotees knew how to carve, and Shyamasundar said that he did. So Prabhupada requested him to carve three-foot-high replicas of the small Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. Shyamasundar got three large blocks of wood, and, following sketches and directions that Prabhupada gave him, he carved the first large deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in the West.

Then Prabhupada said that the devotees should hold a Ratha-yatra festival. So, following Prabhupada’s instructions, Shyamasundar and the others arranged a flatbed truck on which they erected five tall columns and covered them with cloth to serve as a canopy over the deities. And then they decorated the “chariot” with flowers. The devotees didn’t have many vehicles then, and those they did have were pretty old and dilapidated—and unpredictable in their performance.

At the time, Srila Prabhupada was unwell, and the devotees had rented a place for him at nearby Stinson Beach, where he could recuperate. Although he was unable to attend the festival, the devotees—along with the Ratha-yatra truck, the deities, and some hippies—came to visit him the next day. They were excited and eager to report. Shyamasundar explained that while he had been driving the truck up a steep hill, the truck had stalled, and although he had tried to start the engine, he couldn’t. Then the brakes had failed, and the truck had begun to roll backwards down the hill. Finally he had been able to stop it, but when he had tried to move forward, again the engine had stalled and the truck had rolled backwards. Again and again he would get it started, the truck would go forward, the engine would stall, and the truck would roll backwards. The situation had seemed hopeless, and the devotees had wondered if they would be able to finish the parade.

But somehow they had, and they had come to give the report. Srila Prabhupada told them the story of how Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had celebrated the Ratha-yatra in Puri. He said that in Puri too the chariot would stop, even with thousands of people pulling the ropes. The king would order powerful wrestlers and elephants to push the chariot, but still it wouldn’t move. Finally, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would put His head on the back of the chariot and push, and only then would the chariot move. “Now that Ratha-yatra has come to the West,” Srila Prabhupada said, “this pastime has come too.”

So, Ratha-yatra is a very ancient festival in Puri, and in ISKCON’s history it began here, in San Francisco, on a flatbed truck, in 1967. From that first Ratha-yatra, the festival has been celebrated yearly, not only in San Francisco but also in many other major cities throughout the world.

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Jun 212019
 

We will be having kirtan at my ashram in Carpinteria with Madhava, Radhika, Vrindavan Kirtan, and others on Sunday, June 23, at 5 p.m., followed by prasada. Please join us in person—otherwise the kirtan will be live streamed on Madhava Naidoo’s and my Facebook pages.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami