Giriraj Swami

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 »

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

Jul 172015

Cleansing the Gundicha Temple, Cleansing the HeartWe continue our discussion of the cleansing of the heart, again from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Twelve, “The Cleansing of the Gundica Temple”:

TEXT 135

ei-mata puradvara-age patha yata
sakala sodhila, taha ke varnibe kata


Outside the gateway of the temple, all the roads were also cleansed, and no one could tell exactly how this was done.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

In commenting on the cleansing of the Gundica temple, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the world leader, was personally giving instructions on how one should receive Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, within one’s cleansed and pacified heart. If one wants to see Krsna seated in his heart, he must first cleanse the heart, as prescribed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka: ceto-darpana-marjanam [Cc Antya 20.12]. In this age, everyone’s heart is especially unclean, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam: hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani. To wash away all dirty things accumulated within the heart, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised everyone to chant the Hare Krsna mantra. The first result will be that the heart is cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam). Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17) confirms this statement:

srnvatam sva-kathah krsna
hrdy antah-stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrt satam

“Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.”

If a devotee at all wants to cleanse his heart, he must chant and hear the glories of the Lord, Sri Krsna (srnvatam sva-kathah krsnah). This is a simple process. Krsna Himself will help cleanse the heart because He is already seated there. Krsna wants to continue living within the heart, and the Lord wants to give directions, but one has to keep his heart as clean as Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu kept the Gundica temple. The devotee therefore has to cleanse his heart just as the Lord cleansed the Gundica temple. In this way one can be pacified and enriched in devotional service. If the heart is filled with straw, grains of sand, weeds, or dust (in other words, anyabhilasa-purna), one cannot enthrone the Supreme Personality of Godhead there. The heart must be cleansed of all material motives brought about through fruitive work, speculative knowledge, the mystic yoga system, and so many other forms of so-called meditation. The heart must be cleansed without ulterior motive. As Srila Rupa Gosvami says, anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam [Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.11]. In other words, there should not be any external motive. One should not attempt material upliftment, understanding the Supreme by speculative knowledge, fruitive activity, severe austerity and penance, and so on. All these activities are against the natural growth of spontaneous love of Godhead. As soon as these are present within the heart, the heart should be understood to be unclean and therefore unfit to serve as Krsna’s sitting place. We cannot perceive the Lord’s presence in our hearts unless our hearts are cleansed.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

Srila Rupa Gosvami describes pure devotional service as being anyabhilasita-sunyam: without other desires. Other desires constitute the dirt in the heart, and so cleaning the heart means cleaning out the material desires, or purifying them so they are no longer material but spiritual—to serve and please Krsna. If the heart is full of other desires, it is called anyabhilasa-purna. What Rupa Gosvami advises is anyabhilasita-sunyam; he has added the suffix ita to anyabhilasa. Anyabhilasa means “no other desire”; anyabhilasita means “no other intent”—we should have no other intent in devotional service than to please Krsna. For the sake of serving Krsna, we want to keep the body and soul together, and so taking care of the body is not outside of the definition of pure devotional service. It may so happen that under certain circumstances a devotee may pray to Krsna for the protection of the body. For example, someone may come to attack us—our life may be in danger—so we may pray to Krsna to save us. But our general motivation in devotional service is not to get protection or any other benefit for the body; it is to please Krsna. Yet in some dangerous situation, we may pray to the Lord for protection—although that is not our basic motive in engaging in devotional service. That impulse for survival does not place us outside of uttama-bhakti; it is not against the principles of uttama-bhakti. Continue reading »

Jul 162015

The obserGundicha Temple in Jagannath Purivance of Gundica-marjana, the washing and cleansing of the Gundica temple, takes place on the day before Ratha-yatra, in preparation for the arrival of the Lord.

The history of Ratha-yatra goes back thousands of years, to a previous age, but for us, the specific significance of the Ratha-yatra and the cleaning of the Gundica temple was shown by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu when He was residing in Jagannatha Puri five hundred years ago. In His transcendental mind, the temple of Lord Jagannatha in Nilacala represented Dvakara, or sometimes Kuruksetra, and the Gundica temple in Sundaracala represented Vrndavana. And for Him, the Ratha-yatra was the process of the residents of Vrndavana meeting Krsna at Kuruksetra and bringing Him back to Vrndavana after a long separation.

Gundica is the name of the wife of King Indradyumna, the great devotee who wanted to have darsana of Nila-Madhava and who, in separation from Nila-Madhava, arranged to have a deity carved—ultimately resulting in the appearance of Lord Jagannatha, along with Baladeva and Subhadra. Marjana means “cleaning,” as we sing daily in the Gurvastakam: mandira-marjanadau. The spiritual master engages the disciples in cleaning the Lord’s temple (tan-mandira-marjanadau yuktasya bhaktams ca niyunjato ’pi).

In Jagannatha Puri, eight days after the Ratha-yatra is the return Ratha-yatra. Thus, for eight days Lord Jagannatha (Krsna), along with His brother, Baladeva, and sister, Subhadra, stay in the Gundica temple.

Four days after the first journey (yatra), Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of Lord Jagannatha, comes to see the Lord. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Lord Jagannatha has left His wife, the goddess of fortune, and gone to Vrndavana, which is the Gundica temple. Due to separation from the Lord, the goddess of fortune decides to come to see the Lord at Gundica. The coming of the goddess of fortune to Gundica is celebrated as Hera-pancami.” (Cc Madhya 14.107 purport) Hera means “to see” and refers to the goddess of fortune going to see Lord Jagannatha. Pancami means “the fifth day,” referring to this pastime taking place on the fifth day of the lunar cycle.

The goddess of fortune, jealous and angry because her husband has been away for so long and thus has neglected her, comes with her maidservants to the Gundica temple to force the servants of Lord Jagannatha to bring Him back to Nilacala. “When Lord Jagannatha starts His car festival, He gives assurance to the goddess of fortune that He will return the next day. When He does not return, the goddess of fortune, after waiting two or three days, begins to feel that her husband has neglected her. She naturally becomes quite angry. Gorgeously decorating herself and her associates, she comes out of the temple and stands before the main gate. All the principal servants of Lord Jagannatha are then arrested by her maidservants, brought before her, and forced to fall down at her lotus feet.” (Cc Madhya 14.133 purport) Finally, they promise to bring their master, Lord Jagannatha, back to Nilacala.

Once, on the day of the Hera-pancami festival, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, and Srivasa Thakura had a deep and intricate discussion about different types of mana—transcendental egoistic pride and jealous anger manifested in different consorts of the Lord—because the mana exhibited by the goddess of fortune in bringing her maidservants to subjugate her husband’s servants and oblige them to bring Him back was unprecedented. Continue reading »

Jul 112015

ToSrila Prabhupada and Dr Patel on Juhu Beach in Bombayday, on the holy Parama Ekadasi day, in the sacred Purusottama month, I fulfilled the Vedic injunction to take bath by sprinkling water from the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria on my head, remembering Srila Prabhupada at Juhu Beach during Purusottama-adhika-masa. As described by Dr. C. P. Patel in a Back to Godhead magazine article:

“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.”

—Giriraj Swami

Jul 052015

On this date in 1969, Srila Prabhupada initiated me—probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. He accepted me as his disciple and chanted on my beads in Los Angeles, while I was in Boston. And he sent me the following instructive letter. —GS

Prabhupada chanting japa in Los Angeles

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 brahmachary should 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.


Thoughts on Father’s Day

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Jun 212015

Srila Prabhupada blesses a child in DallasToday I think of Srila Prabhupada’s letter to a disciple, “You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. Relationship of father and son on spiritual platform is real and eternal; on the material platform such relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I can pray to Krishna for your more and more advancement in Krishna consciousness. Your sincerity and service mood will always help you in advancing your genuine cause.”

I also think of my godbrother Mukunda Datta Prabhu’s account of the the first time he heard Brahmananda Prabhu speak, at the Mayapur festival in 1978, on the following verses:

“O My sons, you should accept a highly elevated paramahamsa, a spiritually advanced spiritual master. In this way, you should place your faith and love in Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You should detest sense gratification and tolerate the duality of pleasure and pain, which are like the seasonal changes of summer and winter. Try to realize the miserable condition of living entities, who are miserable even in the higher planetary systems. Philosophically inquire about the truth. Then undergo all kinds of austerities and penances for the sake of devotional service. Give up the endeavor for sense enjoyment and engage in the service of the Lord. Listen to discussions about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and always associate with devotees. Chant about and glorify the Supreme Lord, and look upon everyone equally on the spiritual platform. Give up enmity and subdue anger and lamentation. Abandon identifying the self with the body and the home, and practice reading the revealed scriptures. Live in a secluded place and practice the process by which you can completely control your life air, mind and senses. Have full faith in the revealed scriptures, the Vedic literatures, and always observe celibacy. Perform your prescribed duties and avoid unnecessary talks. Always thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, acquire knowledge from the right source. Thus practicing bhakti-yoga, you will patiently and enthusiastically be elevated in knowledge and will be able to give up the false ego.” (SB 5.5.10–13)

After reading the verses and purport, Brahmananda Prabhu began to explain them slowly and thoughtfully. He said something to effect that “Rsabhadeva gave theses very deep instructions to his one hundred sons. My father never gave me such important instructions.” After a pause, he added, “Then I met my real father.” With this, Brahmananda Prabhu broke down and began to sob uncontrollably, which ended the class.

“The Lord is directly concerned with the twice-born or civilized men. A civilized man is one who has taken his birth twice. A living entity takes birth in this mundane world due to the union of male and female. A human being is born due to union of the father and mother, but a civilized human being has another birth by contact with a spiritual master, who becomes the actual father. The father and mother of the material body are so only in one birth, and in the next birth the father and mother may be a different couple. But the bona fide spiritual master, as the representative of the Lord, is the eternal father because the spiritual master has the responsibility to lead the disciple to spiritual salvation, or the ultimate goal of life.” (SB 3.5.7 purport)

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal servant,

Giriraj Swami

Report about Brahmananda Prabhu in Vrindavan

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Jun 172015

Brahmananda Speaking about Prabhupada in VrindavanYesterday Bhurijana Prabhu sent me an audio message about Brahmananda Prabhu, which acted as a balm for my heart:

“Gargamuni told Dharmatma—and I heard from Dharmatma—that when Brahmananda and he took Srila Prabhupada out of the hospital in 1967, Prabhupada told them, ‘Because you have rescued me from the hospital, you won’t have to be in the hospital at the time of your death.’

“So, the week before Brahmananda Prabhu left his body, he couldn’t breathe, and Dharmatma was bringing him oxygen. Finally it was decided that he should go to the Apollo hospital in Delhi. It’s quite hot in Vrindavan in June, so Brahmananda insisted that he be brought in an ambulance and that the ambulance be air-conditioned.

“As it turned out, before a suitable ambulance could be arranged, Brahmananda Prabhu left his body, in Vrindavan, as he had desired. How merciful is Prabhupada! How merciful is the dust of Vrindavan!

“Gargamuni also related to Dharmatma that Prabhupada had told him, ‘Brahmananda is saintly. He doesn’t know how to do business. He is a saintly person. You know how to do business, so you take care of him.’ So Gargamuni said that for the last fifteen or twenty years, he’s been taking care of Brahmananda, and now he has set up Brahmananda’s room and his desk and his chair and his shoes and everything, and it’s like a bhajana-kutira. And I believe they are planning a samadhi for him at the gosala.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Reflections on Brahmananda Prabhu’s Memorial Program on June 13 in New Dvaraka, Los Angeles

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Jun 172015

Prabhupada_BrahmanandaThe memorial program for Brahmananda Prabhu in Los Angeles was wonderful. For almost six hours, devotee after devotee shared their experiences and realizations of how Brahmananda had touched their hearts and changed their lives with his care for them and his love for Srila Prabhupada—and how he had now gone to rejoin Srila Prabhupada.

Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (Antya 3.485–487) confirms the efficacy of serving pure devotees and the results one attain from it: “The service of Vaisnavas is superior to the service of Krsna. All scriptures headed by the Srimad-Bhagavatam confirm this. There may be a doubt whether the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will attain perfection, but there is absolutely no doubt that those who are attached to serving the Lord’s devotees will attain perfection. Therefore service to the Vaisnavas is the best means of deliverance.”

May Brahmananda Prabhu’s example of dedication to his spiritual master and kindness to others inspire us in our service to Srila Prabhupada and his devotees.

—Giriraj Swami

A Hospice Miracle — Serving Jayananda’s Mother

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Apr 302015

In honor of Jayananda Prabhu’s disappearance day on May 1, we submit the following account, derived from a letter by Kalindi Dasi to her spiritual master, Candramauli Swami.                                             — Giriraj Swami

Jayananda at Ratha-yatra site

A Hospice Miracle—Serving Jayananda’s Mother

In mid-July I started wearing tilak to my work at the hospice. I thought that since many other spiritual practitioners were expressing their faith by wearing crosses, doves, silk threads, pentacles, and other items, I would wear my tilak, which tells the world that I am a devotee of the Lord. And I have found that wearing tilak at work has opened the door for spiritual questions and conversations.

On the morning of Monday, August 6, 2007, after our daily report and medical-staff checks, we began doing our usual tasks of caring for the patients. As ours is only a ten-bed facility, we are able to give loving care to each patient individually. Often, while I care for or bathe patients who are unable to do such tasks for themselves, I chant or sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. On this particular morning I was caring for a woman named Jane Kohr, who had been with us for almost a week. She was a kind and polite person, and I enjoyed the time I spent with her. Around 8 a.m. on August 6, I entered her room and found that she was getting closer to leaving her body. She was unresponsive to verbal cues, and her body was limp. I sang the maha-mantra one last time, while she received her final bath. Hospice staff called her family, who were always friendly and appreciative for her care. When I was finished, I spoke with some of the family members in the hall. Jane’s grandson approached me to thank me and then pointed to his forehead and to my tilak and asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I smiled and said that yes, I was a devotee of Krishna. “Well,” he said, “then maybe you know of my uncle Jayananda.”

The Jayananda?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. And he told me how his uncle had built the Ratha-yatra carts. He then went in to inform his mother that I was a Hare Krishna.

Gaynelle, Jayananda Prabhu’s sister, came out of the room and said that she was so happy that a Krishna devotee had cared for her mother. The whole family expressed that it meant so much to them. Gaynelle kept saying that she couldn’t believe that I was a Hare Krishna. She said that she told her mother but wasn’t sure that her mom could hear her. I said that I had a feeling she already knew, and I laughed.

Jane, a granddaughter, mentioned that she remembered her uncle making really great Indian food and offering it to God and then the family sitting on the floor and eating it. She remembered his robes and how happy he was. Jane said that he had been pretty depressed before meeting devotees.

I let Jayananda Prabhu’s family know that during the Ratha-yatra festival we hang a nice photo of him next to Srila Prabhupada’s photo. They told me that an old friend of Jayananda’s (who is not a devotee) happened to be in Durban, South Africa, several years ago and saw his first Ratha-yatra festival there, and to his astonishment there was a huge photo of Jayananda Prabhu on the front of the cart. He had called Gaynelle to share the news.

They told me that Jayananda was always very kind, even as a child, and never spoke badly of others. From the many stories they told me, his saintly qualities shone through even in his childhood. Gaynelle told me that her brother once spent hours on a family vacation at the beach picking ticks and fleas off a homeless dog. He couldn’t stand to watch it suffering. Jayananda’s nephew told me about running around the kitchen table as a small child with his uncle, who was laughing and chanting Hare Krishna.

When I went back into Jane’s room, the family was gathered around her bed holding her hand. Her breaths were faint, and she was about to leave her body. I stepped out to give the family some space, and about five minutes later they came to the front desk and asked for me to look at her. When I opened the door, I saw that her body had turned yellow and waxy. It was apparent that the soul had left and that the physical body was all that remained. The nurse reported that she had passed, and the family, though sad, also felt relief.

Gaynelle told me that she had asked her brother for support. Since he couldn’t physically be at their mother’s passing, she had been looking for a sign that he was supporting her. She felt that a devotee’s being present and caring for her mother was not a mere coincidence. It was, I believe, Krishna’s endless mercy!

I thanked the relatives for allowing me to serve their family, offered my pranamas, and said, “Hare Krishna.”