Giriraj Swami

Apr 212016
 

Today many devotees are celebrating the appearance of Sri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Ramachandra. On this occasion, I remember a beautiful explanation Srila Prabhupada gave on the significance of Hanuman being on the flag of Arjuna’s chariot—and the mood of the Vaishnava:

Arjuna with Hanuman on Flag“Just as nowadays every nation has different types of flags, so Arjuna also had his flag on the chariot . . . The flag was on the top of his chariot, and it was marked with Hanuman, Vajrangaji, who fought for Lord Ramachandra. Arjuna is fighting for Krishna. So, he is following the footsteps of Vajrangaji. Vaishnavism is like that. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. The Vaishnava should follow his previous mahajana, authority. That is Vaishnavism. We don’t manufacture ideas. We simply accept the behavior or the activities of previous acharyas. There is no difficulty.

“In the fighting principle, Arjuna is fighting for Krishna, and he is following the previous fighting acharya, Hanumanji. Therefore he has depicted his flag with Hanuman, that ‘Hanumanji, Vajrangaji, kindly help me.’ This is Vaishnavism. ‘I have come here to fight for Lord Krishna. You also fought for the Lord. Kindly help me.’ This is the idea, kapi-dhvajah. So in any activities of the Vaishnava, they should always pray to the previous acharya, ‘Kindly help me.’ Vaishnava is always thinking himself helpless, and begging help from the previous acharya.

“Just like in Caitanya-caritamrta, you will find the author, at the end of every chapter:

sri rupa-raghunatha-pade yara asa
caitanya-caritamrta kahe krsnadasa

In every line he is thinking of Rupa-Raghunatha, previous acharyas. ‘Let me surrender to the Gosvamis and they will help me how to write.’ You cannot write. That is not possible.

“So this is Vaisnava’s policy. Vaisnava thakura, tomara kukkura, baliya janaha more. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, ‘My dear Vaishnava Thakura, just accept me as your dog. As the dog works by the indication of the master . . .’ He will give his life. Dog has a good qualification. However strong a dog may be, when the master orders, he will give his life. This is dog—faithful, so faithful to the master. So Bhaktivinoda Thakura is praying, Vaisnava thakura, tomara kukkura, baliya janaha more: ‘My dear Vaisnava Thakura.’ Vaisnava thakura means guru. ‘Kindly accept me as your dog.’ And he describes—I forget the exact language—that ‘I will always try to protect you. As a dog keeps watch, so I will watch so nobody will come to disturb you. And whatever little prasada you’ll give me, I’ll be satisfied.’ That is dog’s qualification. The master is eating, but the dog will never come unless the master gives a little morsel. He is satisfied. He is satisfied.

“So this is Vaishnavism, to follow the previous acarya. This is Vaishnavism.”

(Talk by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on Bhagavad-gita 1.20, July 17, 1973, London)

Apr 152016
 

Sri HanumanLord Rama with Monkeys, a great devotee in the form of a monkey, prays, “Since Lord Sri Ramacandra is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, He is not attached to anything in this material world. He is the most beloved Supersoul of all self-realized souls, and He is their very intimate friend. He is full of all opulences. . . .

“One cannot establish a friendship with the Supreme Lord Ramacandra on the basis of material qualities such as one’s birth in an aristocratic family, one’s personal beauty, one’s eloquence, one’s sharp intelligence or one’s superior race or nation. None of these qualifications is actually a prerequisite for friendship with Lord Sri Ramacandra. Otherwise how is it possible that although we uncivilized inhabitants of the forest have not taken noble births, although we have no physical beauty and although we cannot speak like gentlemen, Lord Ramacandra has nevertheless accepted us as friends?

“Therefore, whether one is a demigod or a demon, a man or a creature other than man, such as a beast or bird, everyone should worship Lord Ramacandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears on this earth just like a human being. There is no need of great austerities or penances to worship the Lord, for He accepts even a small service offered by His devotee. Thus He is satisfied, and as soon as He is satisfied, the devotee is successful. Indeed, Lord Sri Ramacandra brought all the devotees of Ayodhya back home, back to Godhead [Vaikuntha].” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.19.6–8)

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada explains, “Lord Sri Ramacandra is so kind and merciful to His devotees that He is very easily satisfied by a little service rendered by anyone, human or not. This is the special advantage of worshiping Lord Ramacandra, and there is the same advantage in worshiping Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Krsna and Lord Ramacandra, in the manner of ksatriyas, sometimes showed Their mercy by killing asuras, but Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu awarded love of God without difficulty even to the asuras. All the incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead—but especially Lord Ramacandra, Lord Krsna and, later, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—delivered many of the living entities present before Them, indeed almost all of them.”

And what of those who were not present before Them, not present before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? The answer is revealed in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 2.13–14):

“To deliver people in regions throughout the universe who could not meet Him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally entered the bodies of pure devotees. Thus He empowered living beings [His pure devotees] by manifesting in them so much of His own devotion that people in all other countries became devotees by seeing them.”

Srila Prabhupada elaborates in his purport, “As stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11):

kali-kalera dharma—krsna-nama-sankirtana
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana

Unless one is empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one cannot spread the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra throughout the world. Persons who do so are empowered. Therefore they are sometimes called avesa-avataras, or empowered incarnations, for they are endowed with the power of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”

It is only by the causeless mercy of Lord Ramacandra, Lord Krsna, and especially Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—and His empowered representative Srila Prabhupada—that creatures like us could be delivered and engaged in devotional service (bhakti-yoga), in relishing and distributing their divine, sublime mercy.

Hare Krsna, Hare Rama.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Apr 142016
 

On Friday I will celebrate Sri Rama-navami at ISKCON-LA, with the procession, fire ceremony, puspanjali, and abhiseka beginning at 3:00, my talk at 5:30, arati and kirtana at 6:30, and the feast at 7:00. Please do join us, in person or through the Internet.

Sita, Rama, Laksmana, and Hanuman at ISKCON Juhu, Mumbai“Although the sight of Lord Ramacandra is naturally blissful, when He is with His beloved Janaki, with Laksmana, and with His best servant Hanuman, His beauty increases manyfold, and whoever sees Him becomes immersed in the most exceptional ecstasy. This picture of Lord Ramacandra together with Sita, Laksmana, and Hanuman depicts the Supreme Lord in His especially compassionate mood of reciprocating with His intimate servants.” (Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta, 2.4.259 commentary)

Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

 

Apr 082016
 

Original Panca-tattva Painting in ISKCONRecently I have been dealing with some difficult situations, and although I am familiar with what Srila Prabhupada and our scriptures and previous acaryas have said about such cases, I still wasn’t sure if my present approach was actually in line with Srila Prabhupada’s will and I wanted some confirmation. In this mood, I began listening to a talk Srila Prabhupada gave about Lord Chaitanya’s meeting with the Mayavadi sannyasis in Varanasi—not a likely place, I thought, to find an answer to my question. But soon enough I got an answer:

ei-mate tan-sabara ksami’ aparadha
sabakare krsna-nama karila prasada

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu excused all these offenders. Anyone who is godless, he is offender. So when they chanted Krishna Krishna and accepted the Vedanta philosophy according to the explanation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He excused them. That is the significance of Lord Chaitanya. He is very merciful. He excuses. Without excuse, how He can deliver the fallen souls of this age? Their condition is very precarious. Their duration of life is very small and they are not very intelligent, very slow to understand the importance of spiritual life. . . . So there is no other alternative than to excuse them. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu excused them.” (Talk on Cc Adi 7.149–171, March 18, 1967, San Francisco)

 

In all my time with Srila Prabhupada, I never heard him say, “Haribol!” and I presumed he had reservations about it. But in this early lecture, he spoke about “Haribol” in a most charming and endearing way:

 bahu tuli’ prabhu bale—bala hari hari
hari-dhvani kare loka svarga-martya bhari’

So, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s special feature, as you see in the picture, He would simply raise His hands and ask anybody to chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. And people will, in the crowd, they will also respond to Lord Chaitanya. So in this way, at Benares He was enjoying.

bahu tuli’ prabhu bale—bala hari hari
hari-dhvani kare loka svarga-martya bhari’

And the sound of  ‘Hare Krishna, Haribol,’ . . . There are two slogans. One, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. And another, short, is Haribol, Haribol. You can practice also that. Haribol.”

A devotee responded, “Haribol.”

Prabhupada continued, “Yes. Haribol. That is a shortcut of Hare Krishna. Yes. Haribol. Haribol means ‘the sound of Hari, or the Lord.’ Haribol. So whenever there was some greeting, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to answer, raising His hands, ‘Haribol.’ ”

Such is Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Hare Krishna.

Haribol.

Yours in their service,
Giriraj Swami

Apr 012016
 

Srila Prabhupada Guru-puja JuhuApril Fools’ Day is celebrated yearly on April 1, and today I thought of Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that we remain fools before the spiritual master, as stated in a room conversation in Bombay, August 16, 1976.

A devotee asked, “Even nitya-siddha has guru . . . Even the liberated soul, nitya-siddha?” And Srila Prabhupada replied,Liberated soul never says that ‘I am liberated.’ As soon as he says ‘liberated,’ he’s a rascal. A liberated soul will never say that ‘I am liberated.’ That is liberation. Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He is God—guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasan [Cc Adi 7.71]: ‘My Guru Maharaja saw Me fool number one, and he has chastised Me.’ He’s God. This is the example. If one remains always a servant, everlastingly, of guru, then he is liberated. And as soon as he thinks that he is liberated, he’s a rascal. That is the teaching of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Guru more murkha dekhi’. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is murkha? Why He’s posing Himself that murkha, ‘I am fool number one’? That means that is liberation. You must be ready always to be chastised by guru. Then he’s liberated. And as soon as he thinks that ‘I am beyond this chastisement. I am liberated,’ he’s a rascal. Why Caitanya Mahaprabhu says guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasan? This is sahajiya-vada, thinking, “Oh, I have become liberated. I don’t require any direction of my guru. I’m liberated.” Then he’s rascal. . . . So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection.”

I pray to be directed by Srila Prabhupada eternally, as his everlastingly humble servant, or servants’ servants’ servant.

Hare Krishna.

Your humble servant,
Giriraj Swami

Hope

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Mar 152016
 

Srimati Radharani ISKCON Vrindavan - Full of MercyEvery morning I relish hearing Damodara Dasa’s rendering of Srila Prabhupada’s translation of Sri Caitanya-catitamrta. Today I heard Madhya-lila Chapter 23, “Life’s Ultimate Goal,” which includes the list of Srimati Radharani’s twenty-five principal transcendental qualities—one of which is “full of mercy” (karuna-purna). When I heard “full of mercy,” I thought, “This is my only hope: ‘full of mercy’—Srimati Radharani is full of mercy.”

Jaya Sri Radhe!

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Reflections on Sivaratri, March 7, 2016

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Mar 072016
 

Srimad-BhagaLord Shiva Drinking the Ocean of Poisonvatam, Canto 8, Chapter 7 (texts 36-42) describes the benevolent activities of Lord Siva when the living entities were threatened by the deadliest poison (halahala).

“Srila Sukadeva Gosvami said: ‘Lord Siva is always benevolent toward all living entities. When he saw that the living entities were very much disturbed by the poison, which was spreading everywhere, he was very compassionate. Thus he spoke to his eternal consort, Sati, as follows.

“ ‘Lord Siva said: “My dear Bhavani, just see how all these living entities have been placed in danger because of the poison produced from the churning of the ocean of milk. It is my duty to give protection and safety to all living entities struggling for existence. Certainly it is the duty of the master to protect his suffering dependents. People in general, being bewildered by the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are always engaged in animosity toward one another. But devotees, even at the risk of their own temporary lives, try to save them. My dear gentle wife Bhavani, when one performs benevolent activities for others, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is very pleased. And when the Lord is pleased, I am also pleased, along with all other living creatures. Therefore, let me drink this poison, for all the living entities may thus become happy because of me.” ’

“Srila Sukadeva Gosvami continued: ‘After informing Bhavani in this way, Lord Siva began to drink the poison, and Bhavani, who knew perfectly well the capabilities of Lord Siva, gave him her permission to do so. Thereafter, Lord Siva, who is dedicated to auspicious, benevolent work for humanity, compassionately took the whole quantity of poison in his palm and drank it.’ 

At the chapter’s end, Srila Sukadeva Gosvami concluded,

tapyante loka-tapenaSrila Prabhupada on Juhu Terrace
sadhavah prayaso janah
paramaradhanam
purusasyakhilatmanah

“It is said that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present in everyone’s heart.” (SB 8.7.44)

And Srila Prabhupada elaborates, “Here is an explanation of how those engaged in activities for the welfare of others are very quickly recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69), ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati . . . na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: ‘One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gita to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.’ There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. . . .

“If one tries to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve? If one has been recognized by the Lord, even if he does not ask the Lord for anything, the Lord, who is within everyone, supplies him whatever he wants. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham [Bg 9.22]). Again, as stated here, tapyante loka-tapena sadhavah prayaso janah. The best welfare activity is raising people to the platform of Krsna consciousness, since the conditioned souls are suffering only for want of Krsna consciousness. The Lord Himself also comes to mitigate the suffering of humanity.

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

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya
sambhavami yuge yuge

‘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. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.’ (Bg 4.7-8) All the sastras conclude, therefore, that spreading the Krsna consciousness movement is the best welfare activity in the world. Because of the ultimate benefit this bestows upon people in general, the Lord very quickly recognizes such service performed by a devotee.”

Reflecting on this last verse and purport, I considered how Srila Prabhupada exemplified the statement that “great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general.” He certainly did that to establish Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Bombay—and to establish so many other vehicles for Krishna consciousness in so many other places throughout the world.

I pray that we can continue in the same spirit.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Fulfilling A Promise: The Juhu Story

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Jan 152016
 

Today is Makara-sankranti, the date of the opening of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari’s temple and cultural complex at Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Mumbai. The following is adapted from a talk by Radhanath
Swami.

Srila Prabhupada Praying before Radha-Rasabihari in JuhuI am grateful and honored and happy to be with all of you this evening. This event is traditionally held on Republic Day, and one of the reasons Republic Day is remembered and celebrated is the challenges, the sacrifices, even the sufferings that people had to endure for India’s independence.

As much as anywhere in the world, the place where Srila Prabhupada was challenged and had to make tremendous sacrifices was in Juhu, to build a home for Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. In those days the site was kind of a swamp that was so far from the city that devotees couldn’t understand why Srila Prabhupada had chosen it for a temple. In New York the temple was in the Lower East Side, in the middle of the city, and the second temple, in San Francisco, was right in the middle of Haight Ashbury. In London the temple was just a few blocks from the British Museum. A temple was usually in the middle of a city, and then, if there was going to be something a distance from there, a satellite project would be established in the countryside. But in Bombay Srila Prabhupada wanted to build the temple in a place that seemed far away, and most of his followers couldn’t understand.

But the types of faith that Srila Prabhupada demonstrated and the struggles he endured over many years were extraordinary. He was in his mid-seventies. He didn’t have money, he had only a few followers from the West, who really didn’t know that much about dealing with situations in India, and the odds against him were insurmountable—powerful parties trying to cheat him, exploit him, and stop the progress. But Srila Prabhupada promised Radha-Rasabihari that he would build them a temple in Juhu. They were in a crude hut on this swampy land, with mosquitoes and rats and snakes and many antagonistic neighbors, but even when everything seemed hopeless, Srila Prabhupada had total faith: “I made this promise to Krishna, and it will be fulfilled.”

It was impossible by all material calculation, but when someone tried to tell Prabhupada that something was impossible, he would say, “Impossible is a word in a fool’s dictionary.” He wasn’t seeing it from the perspective of material ability, and by the grace of Krishna everything was possible.

The opening of the temple and the installation of the deities also happened in January, Makara-sankranti time. So this is like Republic Day for Radha-Rasabihari. And it’s a special day for us to remember Srila Prabhupada’s sacrifice, faith, and compassion, and all those who were at his side, helping.

The person who was at Srila Prabhupada’s side more than anyone else throughout those years—from the beginning till the glorious conclusion—was His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja. He is now in the process of writing a book about that era of Srila Prabhupada’s devotional service and the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. He not only witnessed what took place; he was a crucial part of it. So of all the people living in the world today, there is no one more suitable and more empowered to share the story of the Juhu temple, which is truly an important story.

Srimad-Bhagavatam is the literary incarnation of Krishna. But up until the tenth canto, most of its stories focus on the devotees and culminate in their relationship with Krishna. Ambarisa Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, Pariksit Maharaja, Rantideva, the Pracetas, the Vrajavasis. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu cited this verse from sastra, that the goal and essence of all the scriptures of the world cannot be understood through study alone. Neither can it be understood and realized by our sacrifices, our tapasya, or our charities. The true path is mahajano yena gatah sa panthah, to follow in the footsteps of great souls, through their prayers, through their teachings, and through how they applied them to their lives, in both sunny and stormy weather.

This book that His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja is writing is going to tell about our beloved paramahamsa acarya Srila Prabhupada—about his personal, intimate, loving relationship with Radha-Rasabihari and how in service to Them through all the challenges he was courageous, he was fearless, even when he was going against governments. His success wasn’t due to his physical strength or mental intellectual abilities; it was because he surrendered completely to the grace of Krishna—everything comes from that. It is an important story for the world, for all time. My humble request is that we all do everything we can to help Giriraj Maharaja complete this book. Hare Krishna.

[Adapted from a talk by Radhanath Swami, January 31, 2015, Juhu, Mumbai]

Hebrew Life’s Final Exam in Israeli Bookstores

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Dec 132015
 

Hebrew LFE in Israeli Bookstore - 1Yesterday Rohini-nandana dasa wrote: “Life’s Final Exam in Hebrew is now available in all major book stores in Israel. Bhaktin Sharon Karni has sent the accompanying photos.”

Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective is presented in pursuance of the Vedic aphorism:

tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
asato ma sad gamaya
mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya

“Do not stay in darkness; go to the light. Do not stay in illusion; go to the eternal reality. Do not keep taking material bodies; become immortal!” (Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28)

Hare Krishna.

Humbly in service,
Giriraj Swami

December Book Marathon Message

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Dec 112015
 

My dear devotees,SP Distributing Books -1

Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

In a letter to me dated December 1971, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “Go on increasing books, and go on increasing my pleasure.” December is a special opportunity to focus on Srila Prabhupada’s desire that we distribute books—and thus increase his pleasure. As he wrote in the same letter, “I am most pleased especially to hear that you are distributing many books.”

tad-vag-visargo janatagha-viplavo
yasmin prati-slokam abaddhavaty api
namany anantasya yaso ’nkitani yat
srnvanti gayanti grnanti sadhavah

“That literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung, and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.11)

Now let us cooperate fully to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desire, which is the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the parampara, and distribute such transcendental literature for the benefit of all—and be blessed by their sublime mercy.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Your grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami