Giriraj Swami

Aug 152017
 

Smriti-and-other-children-with-Prabhupada-in-JuhuDear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my humble, prostrated obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace, to your powerful love, mercy, and Krishna consciousness.

Last month your spiritual granddaughter Smriti “Baby” Warrier (now Sravana Dasi) lost her son in a tragic accident at the railroad. When I wrote to offer my condolences, I was wonderstruck by her reply:

“Thank you for your kind blessings and prayers for our son Nrsimha Guru. Due to the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, we are all blessed with our journey in Krishna consciousness. In such a situation all we can see is Krishna’s hand and how He orchestrated the whole incident. Though it is the most horrific thing I have experienced, I am at peace, as I see the Lord in it.

“Twenty-two years ago Srimati Radharani put two beautiful Vaishnavas in my lap, and now She has asked for one back. I can only be thankful for those twenty-two years with him. I am proud that he was strong on his devotional path. He had just finished his Disciples Course and gotten his recommendation letter and was chanting a chapter of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. The morning of the accident he had been chanting his japa, so by Srila Prabhupada’s grace he was in good consciousness. I am proud of all his accomplishments, and now that his karma here is over, he has progressed to serving Srila Prabhupada elsewhere.”

I was touched and moved by her beautiful letter—by her Krishna consciousness and her sublime realizations of your glorious, powerful mercy. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.132) states, “When the personal associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would hear of the activities of Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis, they would say, ‘What is wonderful for a person who has been granted the Lord’s mercy?’ ” And that is how I feel about her: What is beyond a person who has been given so much mercy from you? Continue reading »

Aug 142017
 

Lord Krishna's Divine AppearanceDear friends and devotees,

Please accept my best wishes on the auspicious occasion of Sri Krishna Janmastami. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and to Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.

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.”

Krishna Janmastami is a special opportunity for us to hear about, meditate on, and appreciate the transcendental nature of Lord Krishna’s appearance and activities.

Two days before Janmastami in 1976, at Hare Krishna Land Juhu, Bombay, the devotees were preparing a performance of a drama: The Appearance of Lord Krishna. We had made a stage in the area of the darsana mandapa in the new temple and set out rows of chairs amid the construction work and scaffolding. Srila Prabhupada had heard that the devotees were rehearsing, and he wanted to see the play before departing for Hyderabad. Jagat Purusa was the organizer and was playing Kamsa; Ananga-manjari was playing Devaki; Bhaya Hari was playing Vasudeva; and Achyutananda, plucking the strings of a tambura (representing a vina), was playing Narada Muni. The first act ended with King Kamsa rolling on the floor in madness at the impending appearance of the Lord.

Prabhupada enjoyed the performance and applauded enthusiastically, and as was common at the end of ISKCON dramas, the performance concluded with the devotees and the audience chanting Hare Krishna together in kirtan. At that point Prabhupada left for the airport. Seeing him go, devotees jumped down from the stage and began to chase after him.

Although Prabhupada’s car had left first, some devotees managed to arrive at the airport before him. When he stepped out onto the curb, he found Ananga-manjari and Aditya dasi there, shouting “Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Prabhupada!” Ananga-manjari was still in costume as Devaki, in an ornate wedding sari, her makeup now smeared by tears shed at the thought that this might be the last time she would see Prabhupada. Prabhupada smiled broadly as the women offered their obeisances, and, as they jumped up and down in bliss, he proceeded into the airport.

“Prabhupada stood there for the longest time,” Ananga Manjari later recalled, “leaning on his cane and smiling at me, practically laughing. When he had moved on, Aditya said, ‘Did you see how he looked at you and smiled at you?’ And I thought, ‘This is the perfection of my life: I entertained him!’ ”

Two days later, in Hyderabad, Prabhupada asked Saurabha, “What news from Bombay?”

“The festival was a great success.” Saurabha replied. “For the last two days, approximately twenty thousand people must have come. The place was packed. People were everywhere. They were sitting everywhere, even on the balconies and in the scaffolding. It was so crowded.”

“The press and the television people came?” Gopal Krishna asked. “Every year the television comes. They televised this?”

“The film news,” Saurabha answered, “for the abhiseka ceremony, which lasted about an hour, up till one o’clock. And everyone remained. There were thousands of people. They were just everywhere.”

Ten days thereafter, I was with Prabhupada for a morning walk in Delhi, and I informed him that there was a lot of enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness in Bombay. “Just due to this Janmastami,” I said, “we made about fifteen or twenty life patron members. They just keep coming, saying, ‘I visited your festival.’ Then they arrange other programs for us and become patron members. And newspaper people also are starting . . .”

“Giving some coverage,” Prabhupada said.

“Good coverage,” I confirmed. “The Free Press Journal wants to make a two-page feature with pictures all about our activities.”

So Krishna Janmastami is an occasion for us not only to deepen our own appreciation of Krishna consciousness but also to share the benefits of Krishna consciousness with others—by Srila Prabhupada and Lord Sri Krishna’s grace.

We wish you all success.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 142017
 

Today, on the eve ofGRS with Mother Kulangana Janmastami, Mother Kulangana, Srila Prabhupada’s great devotee, passed away at 6:45 in her room at Bhaktivedanta Manor, surrounded by loving devotees chanting the holy names of Krishna. My letter to her:

My dear Mother Kulangana,

Srila Prabhupada said that when a Vaishnava departs, we feel simultaneously happy and sad—happy because the Vaishnava has gone to serve Krishna, and sad because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association—and that is how I feel now.

Mother Kulangana, you were so many things to so many people: You were a mother, friend, support, mentor, guide, coach, cheerleader—a servant. We will miss your personal presence in our lives here.

But we are happy that you will be serving Srila Prabhupada and his masters in an even better way and in an even better place. Tamal Krishna Goswami used to say, “Krishna will bring Mother Kulangana back to Godhead just so He can have her sweets.” And there you will be again, boiling milk and preparing delicacies to offer to Their Lordships.

Wherever you are, please think of us, who are serving here in your separation. Please cast your merciful glance upon us, and please appeal to Srila Prabhupada and his lords to mold us and bring us to them—and to you—so that again we can all engage happily in their service together.

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 132017
 

 

GRS with Lion Cub in SA 12.2009Recently I happened to hear the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and was overwhelmed with thoughts of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, that in Krishna consciousness we do not lose anything—rather, we have everything, with Krishna, and thus everything becomes more beautiful.

When I was fourteen, in 1961, I would steal into my parents’ living room, which was generally off-limits to us youngsters, and listen to the song on their stereo with all the lights out. Something about the song captured my imagination and made me yearn to experience the culture that gave rise to it—the exotic lure of what was then sometimes known as the Dark Continent.

Twenty years or so later, that desire was fulfilled by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy in such a way that I and others could spiritually benefit—I was engaged in speaking the message of Krishna, chanting the holy names of Krishna, and distributing Krishna prasada, sanctified food offered to Krishna, in Southern Africa.

And now, hearing the song fifty-five years after I first heard it, after having lived in South Africa, I was struck by how much more it meant to me and how, by Srila Prabhupada’s grace, all desires are fulfilled, how we have everything, but better—more beautiful and more meaningful—in Krishna consciousness.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

GRS with Youth in Soweto 12.2009

 

 

Jul 252017
 

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura with books“When we are present in the houses of worship of other religious practitioners during their rituals, we should remain respectful and reflect upon the following: Here, before me, is my very own God being worshipped in a form different than that to which I am accustomed. Because of my different training and practices, I am unable to completely understand this foreign worship, but witnessing it gives me even more affection for my own beliefs and practices. God is one. I prostrate myself before this symbol of the divine that I see before me. I make obeisance to my Lord who is made manifest in this alternate form for my benefit and the benefit of others.”

—Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Caitanya-siksamrta, First Rainfall

 

I Didn’t Write Them—Krishna Wrote Them

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Jul 112017
 

Prabhupada with Nanda Kumar and bookNanda Kumar Prabhu, who on occasion was Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant, shared the following remembrance:

 Srila Prabhupada regularly took hot milk at night, just before taking rest. Occasionally he would have puffed rice along with it, but usually just hot milk without anything in it. One night when I took his milk in, there was a special energy in his room that I could feel right away. Srila Prabhupada was sitting at his desk reading Krsna book with His wire-rimmed glasses on.

When I set the milk down in front of him, he looked up with the most beautiful childlike innocent look on his face and said, “You know, when I read these books it’s hard to believe I wrote them. I learn something every time I read them. Actually, I didn’t write them—Krishna wrote them.” It was almost like he was a young boy, the way the energy felt—so pure and so innocent.

When I went back fifteen minutes later to take his glass and cleanse his desk, he was already getting up to go to bed. I was rarely if ever there when he finally took rest. My normal routine was to take his glass, cleanse his desk where the glass had been, then go into his bedroom and turn back the covers on his bed for whenever he was ready to take rest. Because he was already heading for bed, I postponed the glass-and-desk part and went right in to turn the covers back for him. The timing was perfect, and as I did it, he got right into bed, and I had the blessed opportunity to pull the covers up and actually tuck him in.

The innocent vibration was still permeating his whole quarters, and as I tucked him into bed, he looked up with pure unconditional love and said, “Oh, thank you very much!” It was all I could do to keep my composure as I paid my obeisances before going back to his desk to get his glass and clean his desk. It was such an amazing experience and a blessing that I’m so grateful for.

All glories to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

Lucy Got Some Mercy

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Jul 072017
 

Lucille Balll 1911-1989Stack of Prabhupada's booksThis morning I read a posting by Vijaya Dasa, ISKCON’s Minister of Book Distribution, in which he relates an interesting encounter he had heard described after one of his classes:

When in Alachua I gave a Bhagavatam class about book distribution, a Vaishnavi, Guru Prasad dasi, commented on an experience she had had distributing books.

She was distributing at the Dallas airport without much success, but she was still happily approaching people.

A lady sitting nearby was watching and finally walked up to her and asked what she was doing. This lady was shown the books, and she was surprised that people were not interested, because they appeared to be nice books.

She said, “I’ll take one.” She told her husband to give a donation. He gave two hundred dollars.

Guru Prasad was surprised and asked the couple, “Can I give you more books?”

They said, “Okay, give us what you have.”

She then gave them a stack of books. And the man gave her even more lakshmi, adding up to $500.

Guru Prasad usually signs the books and also writes the name of the person receiving the books.

She asked the name of the lady, and the lady responded, “Lucille Ball.” The devotee wrote the name, like she would any name.

Then Lucille asked, “Do you know who I am?”

“No, should I?”

“You never saw my TV show, I Love Lucy”?

“No, I’m from Guayana.”

“Okay, that explains it.”

Then she and her husband went on their happy way with Prabhupada’s books. . . . She was one of the most famous actresses and comediennes on American TV, and the first female to run a major Hollywood studio. This incident happened many years ago.

Lucille Ball passed on in 1989, but not without having given a large donation and gotten Srila Prabhupada’s books. That made a big difference for her next life.

Beautiful and Merciful Vrindadevi

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Jun 262017
 

VrindadeviRecently our beautiful deity of Vrindadevi arrived at our ashram in Carpinteria. As Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura prays in his Vrindadevi-astaka (3, 6, 8):

samasta-vaikuntha-siromanau sri-
krsnasya vrndavana-dhanya-dhamni
dattadhikare vrsabhanu-putrya
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“Vrishabhanu’s daughter Radha made you guardian of Krishna’s opulent and auspicious abode of Vrindavan, the crest jewel of all Vaikuntha planets. O Vrinda, I bow to your lotus feet.”

rasabhilaso vasatis ca vrnda-
vane tvad-isanghri-saroja-seva
labhya ca pumsam krpaya tavaiva
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“By your mercy people attain residence in Vrindavan, the desire to serve your masters’ lotus feet, and the desire to assist in the rasa dance. O Vrinda, I bow to your lotus feet.”

bhaktya vihina aparadha-laksaih
ksiptas ca kamadi-taranga-madhye
kpamayi tvam saranam prapanna
vrnde namas te caranaravindam

“O merciful one, I am devoid of devotion, and millions of offenses have thrown me into the turbulent waves of lust, anger, greed, and other faults. O Vrinda, I take shelter of your lotus feet.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Ratha-yatra, Svarupa Damodara, and Sivananda Sena

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Jun 252017
 

Mahaprabhu at Ratha-yatra in PuriOn the auspicious day of Jagannatha Ratha-yatra in Puri, two of Lord Caitanya’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 Caitanya 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 Caitanya 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 history and 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 Caitanya’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! Continue reading »

“Mr. Cool” and Other Stories, by Aditya Dasi

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Jun 222017
 

Prabhupada's lotus feet, JuhuVyasa-puja Offering

This booklet of short stories is a Vyasa-puja offering to a dear godbrother, His Holiness Giriraj Swami, who selflessly gave his every life breath to serving Srila Prabhupada’s instruction by building this grand Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihariji Temple complex, thereby helping Srila Prabhupada to save the spiritual lives of millions of persons from Bombay and abroad.

 

Introduction

Recently I heard some devotees remarking that nowadays Giriraj Maharaja is manifesting symptoms of being very advanced, such as whatever he desires, whether it is for good of ISKCON, or for the good of his own disciples, or even for the good of humanity, Sri Krishna fulfills that desire. This remark made me reflect back over the years, and I considered whether there actually was ever a time that Giriraj Maharaja was not acting on the pure-devotee platform. With his mind cemented on the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, he was always completely detached from worldly affairs and the bodily concept of life. Though detached from family and former friends, he was at the same time congenial to them and a genuine well-wisher. He was always completely surrendered to Srila Prabhupada and could understand, and thus execute, his innermost desires for managing the temple, the devotees, and for preaching in Bombay and around the world. He was always a humble servant of his senior sannyasi godbrothers, offering all respect and giving them assistance in so many ways whenever they came to Hare Krishna Land. He was always expert and a perfectionist in everything he did.

One of the symptoms of someone on the brahma-bhuta platform is that he is completely fearless. Giriraj Maharaja exhibited this many times, especially during the temple demolition and the famous Malhotra murder case—and other times as well. His manifestation of fearlessness is quite astounding to an ordinary individual.

As I recollect back over the years on my association with Giriraj Maharaja, I see that there are many experiences which can be instructive, and therefore I would like to share them with you. As I was his secretary for many years, we went through many pastimes together, though not exactly “together,” because I was always on the ground looking up at the lotus feet of a person totally in tune with Srila Prabhupada’s heart. Really I have no qualification to glorify such an exalted devotee, but I hope that these words of appreciation will inspire some of you to take shelter of His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja.

 

The Boston Temple Commander

My first introduction to Giriraj Maharaja was even before I ever met him personally. When I was in the Boston temple in 1972, the devotees there told me about this wonderful brahmacari who had been the temple commander. He used to work so hard all day—personally doing much of the temple service plus going out on sankirtana, supervising temple activities, and engaging devotees in service—that even until late at night, sometimes at 11:00 p.m., he was just then trying to chant his Gayatri mantras.

Though he had left Boston in 1970 to join Srila Prabhupada in India, the Boston devotees could not stop talking about him and his wonderful qualities.

 

Beautiful Eyes

I came to India in 1973, during the time when Giriraj Maharaja was in America for a few months because of illness. When he finally returned to India, I was told that I would be his secretary. Really I just wanted to go back to America in those days, and I started begging Tamal Krishna Maharaja to allow me to return.

But he simply told me, “Just look at Giriraj! Look at his beautiful eyes! He has such beautiful eyes. He is so pure and innocent. If you just stay here and serve him, you will become purified.” So I thought, “Yes, that’s what I want! I really want to become purified.” So in this way Tamal Krishna Maharaja was able to convince me to stay in India and become Giriraj Maharaja’s secretary. Continue reading »