Giriraj Swami

Sep 212018
 

Bali Maharaja has become the most famous among the demons and nonbelievers, for in spite of being bereft of all material opulences, he is fixed in his devotional service.” (SB 8.22.28)

Purport: In this verse, the words sidann api na muhyati are very important. A devotee is sometimes put into adversity while executing devotional service. In adversity, everyone laments and becomes aggrieved, but by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a devotee, even in the worst condition, can understand that he is going through a severe examination by the Personality of Godhead. Bali Maharaja passed all such examinations, as explained in the following verses.

“Although bereft of his riches, fallen from his original position, defeated and arrested by his enemies, rebuked and deserted by his relatives and friends, although suffering the pain of being bound and although rebuked and cursed by his spiritual master, Bali Maharaja, being fixed in his vow, did not give up his truthfulness. It was certainly with pretention that I spoke about religious principles, but he did not give up religious principles, for he is true to his word.” (SB 8.22.29–30)

Purport: Bali Maharaja passed the severe test put before him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is further proof of the Lord’s mercy toward His devotee. The Supreme Personality of Godhead sometimes puts a devotee to severe tests that are almost unbearable. One could hardly even live under the conditions forced upon Bali Maharaja. That Bali Maharaja endured all these severe tests and austerities is the mercy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord certainly appreciates the devotee’s forbearance, and it is recorded for the future glorification of the devotee. This was not an ordinary test. As described in this verse, hardly anyone could survive such a test, but for the future glorification of Bali Maharaja, one of the mahajanas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only tested him but also gave him the strength to tolerate such adversity. The Lord is so kind to His devotee that when severely testing him the Lord gives him the necessary strength to be tolerant and continue to remain a glorious devotee.

LECTURE

The present verses are spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Originally the Lord appeared as Vamanadeva before Bali Maharaja and asked three steps of land in charity. Bali Maharaja agreed. Vamanadeva expanded himself in size and with one step covered the planet Earth and all of space. With his second step He covered the rest of the universe. Then He arrested Bali Maharaja and said, “You have promised three steps, but you have given only two. You have broken your promise. Now I will arrest you and punish you.” Bali Maharaja accepted the Lord’s action. He did not protest. And ultimately he told the Lord, “Yes, with two steps You have covered the entire universe. Now kindly keep Your third step on my head. Thus I will fulfill my promise to You.” And so Bali Maharaja surrendered his life to Lord Krishna.

Vamanadeva was satisfied with Bali’s surrender, and after various devotees intervened on Bali’s behalf, the Lord had Bali Maharaja released from the ropes of Varuna and told him, “I am going to give you your own planet, Sutala-loka, and I will personally accompany you there and serve as your doorman.” Actually, the Lord never lives anywhere in the material world; He lives only in the spiritual world, Vaikuntha. By accompanying Bali Maharaja to Sutala-loka, the Lord was actually converting the place into Vaikuntha-loka, which is far more opulent, more beautiful, and more desirable than any planet of the material world or all the material worlds combined.

So, by surrendering to Vamanadeva, Bali Maharaja was not the loser; he was the gainer. One who surrenders unto the Lord never loses.

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Sep 192018
 

On Monday, September 17, we celebrated HH Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s Vyasa-puja at the home of his disciple Pankajanghri dasa in Mesquite, Texas. Many devotees spoke, and my talk can be heard below. I also read my written offering to him:

The Heart of a Vaishnava

One of Sripada Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s most prominent qualities is his deep love for Srila Prabhupada. Very soon after Maharaja met Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada included him in his personal staff and made him his secretary for Bengali and Hindi correspondence. Soon thereafter, Srila Prabhupada gave him first and second initiation and then sannyasa. And Maharaja personally served Srila Prabhupada throughout Prabhupada’s last days.

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is also very devoted to ISKCON. He has always considered ISKCON to be a unique creation of Srila Prabhupada’s and has always wanted to serve ISKCON—both the devotees in ISKCON and ISKCON as an entity, a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada. He is really in the mood of service to the devotees, especially the devotees of ISKCON, and to ISKCON itself.

Maharaja is a very pure-hearted, loving person. His love for Srila Prabhupada is seen in his love for the devotees and for people in general, whom he wants to bring to Srila Prabhupada—and in how he encourages devotees to increase their engagement, take on more responsibility, and become more loving, humble servants. The more responsibility one accepts, Maharaja once explained to a devotee in Mauritius, the bigger servant of the devotees one becomes. This reminded me of something Srila Prabhupada once said. A disciple came into his room in Mayapur one day and began to complain about the management. Srila Prabhupada said, “If you think you can do better, why don’t you?” Somehow, the disciple came out and announced that Srila Prabhupada had made him the temple commander, and he began to boss the other devotees around. Some devotees complained to Srila Prabhupada that the devotee had said that Prabhupada had made him the temple commander and that now he was barking orders at everyone. So Srila Prabhupada called for the devotee and instructed him, “First you become the servant of everyone, then you become the temple commander.” Thus Srila Prabhupada expressed the same idea, that a bigger position means becoming a bigger servant. And Bhakti Charu Swami, in parampara, has that same understanding.

If we listen carefully to all of Maharaja’s instructions, we can understand how closely he follows the disciplic succession. Some of his statements are very close to Srila Prabhupada’s words, and some take the basic principles that Srila Prabhupada gave and sweeten them with personal realization.

Another of the many fine qualities exemplified by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is his offenselessness. He is very careful not to commit any offense against any devotee, or any living entity, and if he feels he has committed an offense, he immediately tries to mitigate the effects by approaching the person, apologizing, and asking forgiveness. Somehow or other he tries to rectify the offense. From our point of view, we wouldn’t think he has committed an offense, but within his pure heart he may feel that he has, and immediately he will try to approach and please the person he fears he has offended, to remove the effects of the offense.

Maharaja’s heart is pure and very sensitive—full of appreciation for other devotees and sensitive to his own faults—which again, from our point of view, wouldn’t even be considered faults. That’s really the heart of a Vaishnava—full of love and appreciation for others but sensitive to one’s own deficiencies or mistakes.

As stated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (12.13–14), “One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.”

Srila Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Sep 162018
 

We have gathered on this most auspicious occasion, the sacred day of Sri Radhastami. The Vedic literatures describe that Krishna is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord, and the origin of all that be:

isvarah paramah krsnah
  sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah
  sarva-karana-karanam

“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all, although He Himself has no origin. And He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

The Brahma-samhita further explains that Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead and that He expands Himself into various plenary portions and portions of plenary portions. Still, Krishna is the supreme, original Personality of Godhead, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28): krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.

The Brahma-samhita gives the example that if you have one candle, from that one candle you can light a second candle, from the second candle you can light a third candle, and from the third candle you can light a fourth candle. All may have the same candlepower, yet one of them is still the original candle. In the same way, Krishna expands Himself into so many incarnations who all have the full powers of Godhead. He is the original Personality of Godhead, and His first expansion is Balarama.

Just as Krishna expands on the side of the all-powerful Personalities of Godhead, He also expands on the side of the power of the all-powerful Personality of Godhead. The direct expansions of the all-powerful are called vishnu-tattva, and the expansions of the energy of the Lord are called shakti-tattva. The first expansion on the side of the energy is Srimati Radharani. From Srimati Radharani all of the gopis are expanded, all of the queens in Dvaraka are expanded, and all of the consorts of the Lord in various incarnations are expanded. Thus, Sita of Sita-Rama is expanded from Srimati Radharani, and Lakshmi of Lakshmi-Narayana is also expanded from Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radharani is the origin of all of the expansions of Krishna’s energy. She also has an indirect expansion called the material energy. Srimati Radharani is the personification of the spiritual energy, and Durga is the personification of the material energy. Thus, Durga is an indirect expansion of Srimati Radharani.

We also are expansions of Krishna, the marginal potency of Krishna. Krishna basically has three energies: the spiritual energy, the material energy, and the marginal energy. We, the living entities, are called the marginal energy because we can come under the influence of either the spiritual energy, personified as Srimati Radharani, or the material energy, personified as Durgadevi. Srila Prabhupada has compared the marginal position to the seaside. Sometimes, when the tide is low, the area is part of the land, and sometimes, when the tide is high, the same area is submerged under the water and becomes part of the ocean. Similarly, we can be part of either the spiritual world, under Srimati Radharani’s protection, or the material world, in Durga’s custody.

We can see the image of Srimati Radharani, standing with Her right hand raised in benediction to bless the devotees. Or we can see the image of Durga, who has ten hands with ten weapons to punish the miscreants. Unfortunately, to some degree all of us are miscreants. And so we are bound to the prison house of the material world. And Durgadevi is the warden of the prison. She punishes the conditioned souls with the different weapons in her various hands. Especially, Durgadevi is known for her trident, or trisula. The three prongs of the trident represent the threefold miseries of material existence: the miseries we suffer because of other living entities, the miseries we suffer because of acts of nature, and the miseries we suffer from our own minds and bodies. Thus the goal of life is to transfer ourselves from the control of the external, material energy, to the control of the spiritual energy, or Srimati Radharani.

One verse from the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita gives us a practical idea of how, in our own positions, we can take shelter of Srimati Radharani and come under Her protection.

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Sep 122018
 

My disciple Raghava Pandit das sent me the following appreciation of Gunagrahi das Goswami:

Dear Guru Maharaja,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Your Divine Grace.

A few days ago I saw a clip of you and others bidding farewell to Gunagrahi Maharaja—he was on his way to Vrindavan. I never met Maharaja, but I’ve always found his talks deep and profound. About a year ago, I read a blog post of his which was so inspiring that the words came alive for me in a very mystical way. Here is the posting:

Happiness and Stained Glass

Srila Prabhupada says, “If one is situated in real Krsna consciousness, he can face the most severe type of adversity and remain completely undisturbed.” (Journey to Self-Discovery 7.3)

It is easy for us to smile when things are “going our way,” but spiritual advancement allows us to be happy at all other times as well. Here is a nice quote in this connection:

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

GdG

 

Then last year I found his Vyasa-puja offering very inspiring. It’s inexplicable why the words of some devotees touch me more than others. I read only a handful of offerings last year and Maharaja’s was one of them:

Dearmost Srila Prabhupada,

When I was a little boy, I knew nothing about the soul. All I thought was that when you die you don’t exist anymore. That frightened me. Some nights I would lie awake crying after my mother had tucked me in. I would call out for her, and she would run up the stairs, hold me in her arms, and ask me what was wrong. “I don’t want to die!” I repeatedly sobbed. She would rock me back and forth, patting me on the head, saying, “Everything will be all right. Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” I would finally lie back down, emotionally spent, and go to sleep. But that anxiety in the depths of my heart still remained.

As I grew older, I became so absorbed in sense gratification that I stopped thinking about death. Nor was the subject ever dealt with in high school or college. When we all started experimenting with mind-altering drugs at the university, we would stay awake at night speculating about what was reality, and again the subject of death came up. But this time I somehow got the idea that we were all eternal, and that, hey, maybe we were even God Himself, or Itself. The idea of being God sounded pretty darn good! Somehow, though, it never seemed to work in my practical life. Quite the contrary: my suffering and confusion only mounted.

Then that day of days finally came! Guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija. You lit up my life with the magic of the holy name. I had never seen or felt anything like it! Nevertheless, it was still so hard to let go of my desire to enjoy. Maya had to beat me to the ground to get me to finally crawl helplessly through the doors of your temple. Home at last! And finally I came to understand the real meaning of death, of the self, and of God. After many lifetimes, that deep-rooted fear of nonexistence had come to an end.

Nowadays death once again is very much in the forefront of my mind. My health is declining, and the doctors say the disease is terminal. But even if it is, the purification it has put me through has been saving my life—my real life—more than any bodily cure I ever could have found. For along with my illness you have come to purify me, forcing me to learn very hard and painful lessons I had always so stubbornly avoided. You are also so mercifully flooding me with the most wonderful support of your loving devotees. On account of the above, being faced with death has thus become one of the best things that has ever happened to me, rather than the unthinkable misery I did not know how to confront when I was young.

I am reminded of how the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam so graphically explains that it is becoming the general rule in Kali-yuga that relatives and friends of so-called loved ones who are dying are often able to think only of how they themselves will benefit from their dear ones’ demise. They have neither the knowledge nor the desire to comfort and uplift their lifelong companions when they are about to leave this world. Thus multitudes are dying in loneliness, bewilderment, and despair.

There is no doubt that had I remained embedded in the culture I was brought up in, I would now be suffering the same fate. I would have had the same fears as always, not knowing where to turn for the answers and not feeling the genuine affection I would have so desperately needed. But you intervened and picked up this lost, sobbing spiritual child and held him in your arms, and you have been rocking him back and forth ever since. You have instilled within me that tranquility and faith I had always been looking for. I am at last convinced that, yes, just as my mother always said, “Everything will be all right.”

Your most grateful servant,
Gunagrahi Das Goswami

 

Sometimes it is said that the truth sits on the lips of a dying man. I felt that Lord Krishna had imbued his personality with a special sweetness, and I feel fortunate that his words could inspire me further in Krishna consciousness.

I hope this finds you well and in good health.

Your servant
Raghava Pandit das

Sep 112018
 

Today was Gunagrahi Maharaja’s memorial program in Vrindavan, and I wrote him the following letter: 

My dear Gunagrahi das Goswami Maharaja,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, to your lifelong service to him, and to your divine departure to his lotus feet.

When you were leaving Dallas to go to India in the face of your cancer, you gave me the opportunity to see you off.

When you were traveling in India and dealing with so many issues and developments, you gave me the opportunity to communicate with you regularly.

When you returned to Vrindavan to stay, you allowed me to accommodate you and your staff in my house in Raman Reti, where you instituted your wonderful nightly kirtans, and in other places in my charge.

And when you were ready to leave your body, you gave me the opportunity to serve you indirectly when you moved to the Bhaktivedanta Hospice, which I helped establish.

Now you have gone to Srila Prabhupada, to serve him and his lords, and I pray that you will give me the opportunity to serve you there too.

Maharaja, I love you.

Hare Krishna.

With appreciation, gratitude, and love,

your eternal, aspiring servant,

Giriraj Swami

Sep 042018
 

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace.

nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

 “I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna on this earth, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.”

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine                                

 “Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.”

After the conveyance of the Juhu land was finally signed in October 1973, you declared, “It was a good fight. Someone should write a book about it.”

And in Vrindavan in June 1977, you repeated the instruction when speaking with Tamal Krishna:

Tamal Krishna: Always you came out victorious. Always. I have never seen you ever defeated. In Bombay it was absolutely impossible. It seemed to be impossible.

Prabhupada: Nobody encouraged. . . . Nobody, not a single man. Who could see such a big project would come out?

Tamal Krishna: Only you could see that, you and Radha-Rasabihari.

Prabhupada: Nobody. Still, I was determined: “No, this place is very nice.”

Tamal Krishna: They should write a book about that.

Prabhupada: Yes, it is worth writing—history.

You had already instructed me, in February 1971, “You should write. This is your first business,” and over the years you repeated this instruction, and so I thought that you would want me to write that book about Juhu. As it is, I am the only devotee who was intimately involved in the project from the time you got possession of the land in 1972 to the time the temple opened in 1978.

So, with the encouragement and assistance of many well-wishers, I took up writing about you and Juhu as my first priority. In doing so, I became absorbed in your divine qualities, activities, and words, and I came to understand you—and even events to which I was party—in new, deeper ways. I felt like I was mining a limitless reservoir of precious gems.

Now, by your and Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and the devotees’ mercy, I have finished writing the basic narrative of the book, entitled “I’ll Build You a Temple”: A Good Fight and a Promise Fulfilled. In the process, I have come to appreciate you—and your servants—even more, first and foremost those servants who assisted you in the Juhu project, and also those who have supported me in my efforts to write about it.

Your transcendental desire to establish a center of Krishna consciousness in the remote Bombay area of Juhu was awakened even before you left for America. When you would visit Sumati Morarji, you would pass the land and think, “This would be a nice place for a temple.” Years later, Mr. Nair offered to sell you the very same land, to be “profitably utilized for big purpose, as yours,” and you brought Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari from Their residence in a posh flat in Akash Ganga, overlooking the Arabian Sea, to a rented pandal on the property. From there They were moved onto a wood-plank platform under cloth supported by bare bamboo poles; then, for the rainy season, into a chatai hut with devotees; and on Janmastami 1972 into a makeshift structure of bricks and asbestos sheets. But you had vowed to Them, “I will build You a temple.” And finally, after years of struggle, we were able to offer Their Lordships the temple you had promised.

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Sep 032018
 

We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb.”

TEXT 18

tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
  samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
  kastha yathananda-karam manastah

SYNONYMS

tatah—thereafter; jagat-mangalam—auspiciousness for all living entities in all the universes of the creation; acyuta-amsam—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never bereft of the six opulences, all of which are present in all His plenary expansions; samahitam—fully transferred; sura-sutena—by Vasudeva, the son of Surasena; devi—Devaki-devi; dadhara—carried; sarva-atmakam—the Supreme Soul of everyone; atma-bhutam—the cause of all causes; kastha—the east; yatha—just as; ananda-karam—the blissful (moon); manastah—being placed within the mind.

TRANSLATION

Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.

The word acyutamsam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sad-aisvarya-purna, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.39), ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. Therefore the word acyutamsam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogis do. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1). Yogis meditate upon the Supreme Person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devaki, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Krsna was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devaki and that she carried the child within her womb.

When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.

Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.

Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, entered the body of Devaki from the body of Vasudeva. He was beyond the conditions of the ordinary living entity. When Krsna is there, it is to be understood that all His plenary expansions, such as Narayana, and incarnations like Lord Nrsimha and Varaha, are with Him, and they are not subject to the conditions of material existence. In this way, Devaki became the residence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second and the cause of all creation. Devaki became the residence of the Absolute Truth, but because she was within the house of Kamsa, she looked just like a suppressed fire, or like misused education. When fire is covered by the walls of a pot or is kept in a jug, the illuminating rays of the fire cannot be very much appreciated. Similarly, misused knowledge, which does not benefit the people in general, is not very much appreciated. So Devaki was kept within the prison walls of Kamsa’s palace, and no one could see her transcendental beauty, which resulted from her conceiving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We have gathered here at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna to remember and celebrate His appearance in this world. According to Vedic literature, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is the Absolute Truth, the origin of all that exists. And He is realized in three features, nondual (advaya), as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11):

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
  tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
  bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.”

Brahman is the impersonal effulgence that emanates from the transcendental form of the Lord, Paramatma is the localized feature of the Lord, within the heart, and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna Himself, full in six opulences.

The form of Krishna is not material. Our bodies are material, distinct from the soul, which is spiritual. The Bhagavad-gita (2.13) explains,

dehino ’smin yatha dehe
  kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
  dhiras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” The soul is a nonphysical, nonchemical particle of spiritual energy, and it is the soul that animates the body. As long as the soul is in the body, we say the body is alive. Actually, the body is never alive; it is just a machine. But it appears to be alive when the soul is present to animate it. And when the soul leaves the body, the body has no capacity to act, to function, and then we say that it is dead. In conditioned beings, such as us, there is a distinction between the body, which is made of material energy, and the soul, which is composed of spiritual energy. But in the case of Krishna, there is no difference between His body and soul. Being absolute, His body and He are the same. In our case there is a difference between us and the body, because our real identity is the soul. If someone’s father passes away, he or she will cry, “Oh, my father has left. My father is gone.” Although the body of the father is there, why do we say, “My father has gone”? Intuitively we know, especially at a time like death, that the body lying there in the room is not the person. The body is just a bag of chemicals. The real person is the soul who has left the body, and so the children and other relatives and friends cry, “Oh, he’s gone.”

But in the case of Krishna, because He is absolute, He and His body are not different. He is completely spiritual. The Brahma-samhita says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: “Krishna is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual body.”

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Sep 022018
 

We are together to celebrate the appearance of Lord Krishna in the material world. On special occasions such as this—we’ll soon be celebrating the pastime of Mother Yasoda binding Krishna with ropes, and then Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill—unless we know who Krishna is, we won’t know what to make of these seemingly fantastic stories.

The scriptures give different explanations of why Krishna, the all-loving, ever-blissful, Supreme Person, appears. The Bhagavad-gita (4.8) states, paritranaya sadhunam, vinasaya ca duskrtam/ dharma-samsthapanarthaya, that He appears to deliver the devotees and to annihilate the miscreants and to reestablish the principles of religion. Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.33.36) explains further, anugrahaya bhaktanam, manusam deham asthitah/ bhajate tadrsih kridah, yah srutva tat-parobhavet: “When the Lord assumes a humanlike body to show mercy to His devotees, He engages in such pastimes as will attract those who hear about them to become dedicated to Him.”

So, who is this Krishna? Is Krishna just a concept or, as some people think, is it that the impersonal One assumes the form of Krishna, or Rama or Shiva or Ganesh or Durga, and you can worship any form and in the end merge into the oneness? To avoid such misunderstandings, we have to know who Krishna is, and that begins with the Bhagavad-gita and then the first cantos of the Bhagavatam. Ultimately, Srimad-Bhagavatam gives us a picture of the spiritual world, what life with God in the spiritual world is like. We read about Krishna, how He comes home from tending the cows, and we read that we can live with Him forever in a loving relationship in the most splendorous land of Vrindavan. And we become attracted and think, “Oh, I want to go there; I want to experience that life.”

That is why Krishna comes, specifically in His humanlike form—to show mercy to His devotees so that by hearing about life with Krishna, we become attracted to Him and inspired to dedicate our lives to Him.

But we should not think that Krishna is only in the spiritual world; Krishna is everywhere, and if we surrender to Him, we can get the same benefit here in the material world that the pure devotees get in the spiritual world.

If you read the Krsna book or otherwise hear about the pastimes of Krishna, you’ll find that almost every day some demon was coming to Vrindavan to cause trouble. But did the residents of Vrindavan come rushing out with their ploughs and sticks to attack the demons? No. They took shelter of Krishna. And what did Krishna do? He protected them. So when we hear these stories, we should think, “Wow—Krishna is so kind to His devotees. Even in the midst of the worst calamity, if we just take shelter of Him, He will protect us. All I need to do is surrender to Krishna.”

So Krishna appears for that reason, and we can make the purpose of His appearance successful by hearing about His pastimes and dedicating ourselves to Him.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 242018
 

Today is the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the Personality of Godhead who is the first expansion of Lord Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead. As Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7):

yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srjamy aham

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.”

Krishna says, srjamy aham: “I manifest Myself.” He doesn’t take birth like an ordinary human being, but He manifests Himself in His original spiritual form. For what purpose?

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya
sambhavami yuge yuge

“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” (Bg 4.8) He manifests Himself to protect the devotees, annihilate the demons, and reestablish the principles of religion.

In every sphere of activity in the material world there is deterioration; everything in the material world declines. A new house, for example, is very nice, but it gradually deteriorates, and eventually, when too old, it has to be rebuilt. In the same way, our performance of spiritual duties deteriorates, whether we are individuals, families, communities, or a society. And so the Lord comes repeatedly to reestablish religious practice. He appears in order to establish religious principles (dharma), but over time religious practice declines, and so He manifests Himself again and again. We all know how prone we are to allow our practice to deteriorate. Thus, on auspicious occasions like today, Lord Balarama’s appearance day, we can pray to the Lord to manifest Himself and help us to become reestablished in our religious principles and practice.

What Lord Krishna said in the two verses quoted from the Bhagavad-gita is explained elaborately in Srimad-Bhagavatam: When the earth was overburdened by demonic rulers, who had amassed large military forces armed with deadly weapons to wage war for personal gain, Lord Brahma, the chief of the demigods in this universe, approached the shore of the ocean of milk. There, accompanied by Lord Shiva and other celestial beings, he worshiped Lord Vishnu, the supreme God of all gods. In response, Lord Vishnu imparted some instructions, which Lord Brahma in turn conveyed to the demigods. He told them that very soon the Lord would appear on earth to diminish the burden of the world and that the demigods, to assist Him, should take birth in the Yadu dynasty. Lord Brahma further stated that Lord Balarama, who is also known as Sankarsana, would precede the Lord and serve Him in every respect:

vasudeva-kalanantah
sahasra-vadanah svarat
agrato bhavita devo
hareh priya-cikirsaya

“The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

Lord Brahma told them as well that Yogamaya, the personal potency of the Lord, would also appear and assist the Lord in His mission.

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Jhulana-yatra

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Aug 222018
 

Today we are celebrating the beginning of Jhulana-yatra, which is steeped in the moods of Vrindavan. When I first began reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, I was struck by the following description in the introduction to Teachings of Lord Chaitanya: “Actually, Vrindaban is as good as the Spiritual Vrindaban, and therefore Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami says that underneath one of the desire trees of Vrindaban there is a nice throne decorated with valuable jewels on which Radharani and Krishna are seated. And His dear friends and the gopis are all serving Them: somebody is singing, somebody is dancing, somebody is offering betel nuts and refreshment, somebody is decorating with flowers.

“In India it is still a fashion of recreation to sit on a swinging throne, and, if it is moving, it is very refreshing. In each and every home they have a hanging throne, and when a man comes home from the office, if it is practical, it is moved from time to time and he becomes refreshed. So, similarly, the same system prevails, especially in the month of Sravana, July, when there is the function called Jhulana. During Jhulana, in all the houses—not only of Vrindaban but all over India—the people hang thrones. In every house and village they place Radha and Krishna and decorate Them with flowers and move the throne and offer dancing and kirtan. . . . The temples are decorated, and thousands of people come as spectators. Generally, people go to Vrindaban at that time. Krishna and Radha are seated on the throne, surrounded by His friends.”

Leading into these two paragraphs, he wrote, “There is an acharya who describes Vrindaban: When my mind becomes cleansed of all dirty hankering for material enjoyment, then I shall be able to see Vrindaban! So Vrindaban is actually experienced by persons who have finished with material enjoyment. Everything is spiritual. This becomes revealed. . . . As you become more Krishna conscious, as you become more advanced, everything is revealed to you.”

Although I am still waiting for that qualification and that revelation, even in my present state I can, by divine mercy, relish some of the flavors of Vrindavan during Jhulan-yatra.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami