Giriraj Swami

Dec 052016

Srimad-Bhagavakrishna-embracing-calftam contains a discussion between Dharma, in the form of a bull, and the Earth, in the form of a cow. Eventually he asks her, “The so-called administrators are now bewildered by the influence of this age of Kali, and thus they have put all state affairs into disorder. Are you now lamenting this disorder? Now the general populace does not follow the rules and regulations for eating, sleeping, drinking, mating, etc., and they are inclined to perform such anywhere and everywhere. Are you unhappy because of this?” (SB 1.16.22)

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The so-called administrators are all untrained in the affairs of a ksatriya. The ksatriyas are meant for administration, as the brahmanas are meant for knowledge and guidance. The word ksatra-bandhu refers to the so-called administrators or persons promoted to the post of the administrator without proper training by culture and tradition. Nowadays they are promoted to such exalted posts by the votes of the people who are themselves fallen in the rules and regulations of life. How can such people select a proper man when they are themselves fallen in the standard of life? Therefore, by the influence of the age of Kali, everywhere, politically, socially or religiously, everything is topsy-turvy, and therefore for the sane man it is all regrettable.”

What Srila Prabhupada wrote more than fifty years ago is relevant today. And the antidote would appear to be to educate people in Vedic knowledge as presented in Srila Prabhupada’s translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam and other books—delivered to them by people such as me and you.

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Nov 242016

krishna-sharing-food-with-his-associatesIf we are at all aware of how dependent we are on God—for the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and our very ability to eat and drink and breathe, to think and feel and do everything else we do—we will feel grateful and want to reciprocate God’s kindness. We will want to do something for He (or She or They) who has done, and continues to do, so much for us.

We often take things for granted until we lose them. I use my right hand to chant on meditation beads, and one morning I found that I had severe arthritic pain in my hand and could no longer use it for chanting. I had taken the use of my hand for granted, but when I lost its use, I resolved to never take my hand for granted and to always use it in the best way in God’s service.

How can we attempt to return some of God’s favor, some of God’s care—and love—for us? My spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave one answer:

“Whatever you have got by pious or impious activities, you cannot change. But you can change your position, by Krishna consciousness. That you can change. Other things you cannot change. If you are white, you cannot become black, or if you are black, you cannot become white. That is not possible. But you can become a first-class Krishna conscious person. Whether you are black or white, it doesn’t matter. This is Krishna consciousness. Therefore our endeavor should be how to become Krishna conscious. Other things we cannot change. This is not possible.

tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah
tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham
kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa
      [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18]

Kalena, by time, you will get whatever you are destined. Don’t bother about so-called economic development. So far as food is concerned, Krishna is supplying. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. He is supplying even cats and dogs and ants. Why not you? There is no need of bothering Krishna, ‘God, give us our daily bread.’ He will give you. Don’t bother. Try to become very faithful servant of God. ‘Oh, God has given me so many things. So let me give my energy to serve Krishna.’ This is required. This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I have taken so much, life after life, from Krishna. Now let me dedicate this life to Krishna.’ This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I will not let this life go uselessly like cats and dogs. Let me utilize it for Krishna consciousness.’ ”

I pray that I will dedicate this life and everything I have—everything that God has given me—fully in God’s service, following His pure devotees.

manasa, deho, geho, yo kichu mora
arpilun tuya pade, nanda-kisora

“Mind, body, and home, whatever may be mine, I surrender at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda [Krishna]!” (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati)

—Giriraj Swami

Nov 222016

Reading Srila Prabhupada’s Light of the Bhagavata, I was struck by text 12 and his commentary on it:

storm-with-lightning-from-light-of-the-bhagavata“The mountains, although being struck by torrents of rain during the rainy season, are not shaken, just as those whose hearts are dedicated to the transcendental Personality of Godhead are never disturbed, even when harassed by great misfortune.” (LOB 12)

“Because a person who is spiritually advanced accepts any adverse condition of life as the mercy of the Lord, he is completely eligible to enter into the spiritual kingdom. Even though a person takes to the devotional service of the Supreme Lord, he may sometimes become diseased, impoverished, or disappointed by life’s events. A true devotee of the Lord always considers these sufferings to be due to past sinful activities, and thus without becoming disturbed he patiently awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord. Such devotees are compared to high mountains, which are never agitated in any way, even when struck by powerful torrents of rain in the rainy season. Rather, such devotees remain humble in spiritual enlightenment. Free from pride and envy, they easily gain the mercy of the Lord and go back home, back to Godhead.” (LOB 12 purport)

—Giriraj Swami

A Divine Elixir

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Sep 232016

grs-with-chitraleka-and-kosha-rupa-after-classIt is said that wherever Lord Rama’s glories are chanted, Hanuman goes to that place. Yesterday after Deity greeting I was chanting in my quarters in Dallas when I received a text message saying, “Chitralekha is speaking about Srila Prabhupada now.” I immediately left for the temple room, remembering Hanuman: Even though I am like a monkey—or my mind is like a monkey—I wanted to hear her speak about Prabhupada. And what I experienced was an unprecedented flow of divine nectar. I heard things about Srila Prabhupada that I had never heard before and had new deep thoughts and realizations about him. The talk was an elixir for my body, mind, and soul. It is now available on the ISKCON Dallas SoundCloud: Chitraleka’s talk follows a short class on Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Serving Together

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Aug 302016

GRS-KBDG-RTS-VD-Menlo-Park-cropFor three days, many wonderful devotees and friends celebrated Sri Krishna Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja at ISKCON of Silicon Valley, in Mountain View, California, and after the festivities on the last day Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami, Rtadhvaja Swami, Vaisesika Prabhu, and I met at my hosts’ house in Menlo Park. For several hours we shared thoughts and realizations in Krishna consciousness, as advised by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (10.9):

mac-citta mad-gata-prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca

“The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”

In terms of my personal service, they all implored, or instructed, me to immerse myself in the Juhu book, even at the cost (temporarily) of other worthy endeavors, and to arrange my life to facilitate that process and that project, which, they said, was of paramount importance.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami


Prayer for Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s Mercy

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Jul 192016

Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana GosvamiToday, Sri Guru-purnima, or Vyasa-purnima, is the divine disappearance day of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, the eldest of the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. The authorized poet Sri Kavi-karnapura, in his book Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka (9.34, 35, 38), quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 24.348–350), tells how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu blessed Sanatana Gosvami with His specific mercy.

gaudendrasya sabha-vibhusana-manis tyaktva ya rddham sriyam
rupasyagraja esa eva tarunim vairagya-laksmim dadhe
antar-bhakti-rasena purna-hrdayo bahye ’vadhutakrtih
saivalaih pihitam maha-sara iva priti-pradas tad-vidam

“Srila Sanatana Gosvami, the elder brother of Srila Rupa Gosvami, was a most important minister in the government of Hussain Shah, the ruler of Bengal, and he was considered a most brilliant gem in that assembly. He possessed all the opulences of a royal position, but he gave up everything just to accept the youthful goddess of renunciation. Although he externally appeared to be a mendicant who had renounced everything, he was filled with the pleasure of devotional service within his heart. Thus he can be compared to a deep lake covered with moss. He was the object of pleasure for all the devotees who knew the science of devotional service.

tam sanatanam upagatam aksnor
drsta-matram atimatra-dayardrah
alilinga parighayata-dorbhyam
sanukampam atha campaka-gaurah

“As soon as Sanatana Gosvami arrived in front of Lord Caitanya, the Lord, seeing him, became merciful to him. The Lord, who has the complexion of a golden campaka flower, opened His arms and embraced him while expressing great affection.”

kalena vrndavana-keli-varta
lupteti tam khyapayitum visisya
krpamrtenabhisiseca devas
tatraiva rupam ca sanatanam ca

“In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu empowered Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrndavana.”

“Srila Sanatana Gosvami is the ideal spiritual master,” Srila Prabhupada explains, “for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madana-mohana. Even though one may be unable to travel on the field of Vrndavana due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he can get an adequate opportunity to stay in Vrndavana and derive all spiritual benefits by the mercy of Sanatana Gosvami.” (Cc Adi 1.47 purport)

On this auspicious occasion I pray to follow in the footsteps of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, that he may bless me with remembrance of Krishna and Vrndavana and the ability to share with others the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Ratha-yatra, Svarupa Damodara, and Sivananda Sena

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Jul 092016

Puri Ratha-yatraA talk by Giriraj Swami on Sivananda Sena’s and Svarupa Damodara Gosvami’s Disappearance Day, June 25, 1998, Los Angeles.

On 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!

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

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

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

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

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

In a purport in the same part of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 10.61), which describes Sivananda Sena, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Srila Sivananda Sena has been described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja as follows: ‘Sivananda Sena was a resident of Kumarahatta, which is also known as Halisahara, and was a great devotee of the Lord. About one and a half miles from Kumarahatta is another village, known as Kancadapada, in which there are Gaura-Gopala Deities installed by Sivananda Sena, who also established a temple of Krsnaraya that is still existing. Sivananda Sena was the father of Paramananda Sena, who was also known as Puri dasa or Kavi-karnapura. Paramananda Sena wrote in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (176) that two of the gopis of Vrndavana, whose former names were Vira and Duti, combined to become his father. Srila Sivananda Sena guided all the devotees of Lord Caitanya who went from Bengal to Jagannatha Puri, and he personally bore all the expenses for their journey. This is described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Sixteen, verses 19 through 27. Srila Sivananda Sena had three sons, named Caitanya dasa, Ramadasa, and Paramananda. As mentioned above, this last son later became Kavi-karnapura and wrote the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika. His spiritual master was Srinatha Pandita, who was Sivananda Sena’s priest. Due to Vasudeva Datta’s lavish spending, Sivananda Sena was engaged to supervise his expenditures.’ Continue reading »

Srivasa Pandita’s Disappearance Day

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Jun 292016

SrivasaSrivasa Pandita in Mayapur Pandita is one of the members of the Panca-tattva: sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasa. Vedic authorities state that in the current Age of Kali, Krsna came as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Balarama came as Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Similarly, Maha-visnu appeared as Advaita Acarya, Srimati Radharani as Gadadhara Pandita, and Narada Muni as Srivasa Pandita.

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam
namami bhakta-saktikam

“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.” (Cc Adi 1.14)

Panca-tattvatmakam: The Panca-tattva comprise one truth on the absolute platform. Lord Caitanya is bhakta-rupa, Krsna in the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is svarupakam, the expansion of a devotee. Advaita Acarya is bhaktavataram, the avatara of a devotee. Srivasa Thakura is bhakta, a devotee. And Gadadhara Pandita is bhakta-saktikam, the energy of the Supreme Lord who supplies energy to the devotees—the devotional energy, Srimati Radharani.

In the Adi-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes the tree of Lord Caitanya. The tree itself is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and at the same time Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the gardener who tends to the tree. This tree, like any tree, has a trunk, limbs, and branches. The limbs and branches and leaves are devotees—the devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that he is listing such devotees for his own purification, just to glorify them, and that he cannot distinguish between who is higher and who is lower. He wants to glorify them all. And Srila Prabhupada remarks that this is the attitude of a pure devotee. A pure devotee respects all devotees. He does not distinguish that some should be respected and some not. He respects all of them. Continue reading »

Hema Malini and Srila Prabhupada’s Books

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Jun 262016

Hema Malini at ISKCON JuhuToday Hema Malini, the famed performer from India, visited the ISKCON Los Angeles temple, and I was reminded of when she and I were together on the stage of the ISKCON auditorium in Juhu, Mumbai. It was December, during the book-distribution marathon, and after the performance I asked the audience to come forward to purchase sets of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamra, for concessional rates. The response was slow, so I leaned over and asked her if I could announce that she would autograph one book from each set, and she kindly agreed. After the announcement, people jumped out of their seats and rushed toward the stage, standing in long queues to get their sets of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And I thought, “This is the proper use of her name and fame—to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Working Together on The Journey Within

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Jun 222016

His Holiness Radhanath Swami began the launch of his new book, The Journey Within, at the ISKCON Dallas temple on May 16, 2016. The following exchange took place toward the end of the event.

Radhanath Swami: When I was with His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja this past September, I told him, “I really don’t know what to do with this book. Please save me.” And he started reading it. That was in Boston, yes?

Giriraj Swami: It actually began on the flight from Los Angeles to Boston. After we had spoken together for some time, you said, “Excuse me, I have a manuscript that I have to look at because I have a deadline and I have to send it in.” And then you said, “Would you like to have a look at it?” That was the beginning.

Radhanath Swami: That’s right. Maharaja was supposed to go to Boston a day earlier, but Amala Bhakta Prabhu was going to take sannyasa at the Los Angeles temple and he really wanted Maharaja to be there, so I begged Maharaja, “Please come for his sannyasa ceremony.”

So, Amala Bhakta Prabhu became Amala Bhakta Swami Maharaja, and the next day Giriraj Swami Maharaja and I flew together to Boston. It was a really interesting flight. That was the flight where those people were yelling and fighting, right?

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

Radhanath Swami: Were you ever on a flight like that? I don’t want to get into the sociological, psychological dynamics, but there were these men who were with women and they were really drunk. They just kept drinking more andGRS RNS in house in NJ more liquor, and they were trying to show off to the women how tough they were and how arrogant they were, and they were just saying the most obscene, terrible things on the flight. Everybody around them was disturbed by them, and some of the passengers started chastising them, and they had to show their prowess to their girlfriends, so they were screaming and standing up and ready to fight. And the girls were smiling. Then everyone around started chastising the airline attendants: “Why did you give them so much to drink? Look at what you’ve done. This is all your fault. We’re never going to fly on this airline again. We’re going to get you fired.” The attendants were saying, “We didn’t know,” but the people were saying, “No, we are going to get you fired. What is your name?” And then the men said, “Don’t blame them. You fight with me.”

And two little swamis were sitting in the middle of it all. So, in that very sattvika environment, Giriraj Swami started reading the manuscript!

Giriraj Swami: Yes. You had come to a certain point in the manuscript, so you asked me to look at it from that point, which I did, and I was sharing my thoughts with you and you found it instructive, or interesting. When we landed, your vehicle, a minivan, came to receive us all, and when there was a delay with my rental car, you said, “Oh, this is good. It will give us more time to work on the book.” So we were working in your vehicle, and then, even when my car was ready, you wanted to continue working, so I stayed and you didn’t get out even when we got to your place, which came before mine, and we continued working all the way to my place and then you went back to yours.

Radhanath Swami: Yes.

Giriraj Swami: Thereafter, pretty much any time you were free, when we weren’t directly involved in programs, I would come over and we would work on the book.

Then you said that you were going to New York and that it would be good if I joined you. It was a difficult decision for me, because it had been planned long before that I would spend some time in Boston with His Holiness Niranjana Swami. But I felt this imperative from you, so I presented the situation to Niranjana Swami, and he was very gracious and said, “Yes, Radhanath Swami is also very dear to me. I also consider myself to be his servant, so if you are serving him, I will also be happy.”

And so we went. You actually went ahead—you drove at night—and I came the next day, and we made our base at Yasoda-dulal Prabhu’s place in New Jersey and went through the book from where we had left off. Then you thought we should start again from the beginning, so after we got to the end, we did just that. We worked from early in the morning, and when you had to go out for a program, I would accompany you and we would work together in the car. That ended up being the time when the pope came and you were scheduled to speak at the UN. There were a couple of programs scheduled for you in New York, and you cancelled one of them so we could work on the book. You said our work was more important. Then we were working at The Bhakti Center together. But there was still some anxiety over whether we would be able to finish, because I had to leave the next day and we were really going through the manuscript—paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, comma by comma.

GRS RNS on deck in NJ - 1Radhanath Swami: I don’t even know what a comma is. You were doing it.

Giriraj Swami: And it was like a miracle. You did one program and cancelled the other. Then you came back, and it was like a miracle: we actually finished the whole book. I thought that maybe if we were lucky we would finish by midnight, but we finished around 8 p.m.

I really felt that I got to enter your heart more deeply, because so much of your heart came out in the book. And I really got to appreciate—I always did, but in a deeper, maybe more intimate or confidential way—how compassionate you are, because your compassion came out on every page, in every paragraph, every sentence. That was for me one overwhelming effect of going through the book together.

Another was seeing how personal you are in how you present the philosophy. All the philosophy is there, but it is illustrated with vivid examples that even a Minnesota housewife can relate to. Working together was a very enriching and rewarding experience for me, and I pray, and am completely hopeful, that the book will be read widely—by all sorts of people, even people who don’t have any background in yoga or acquaintance with Krishna. That will fulfill your desire that they be awakened to this beautiful life in Krishna consciousness, which can relieve them from so many miseries in the material world.

And there are many stories, such as “The Tale of Dorothy,” that illustrate how someone who has faced setbacks and reversals and tragedies in life can find hope in Krishna consciousness.

Then there is the story of that poor family in Maharashtra—they were so poor, but the mother, Tarabai, had integrity and a sense of self-respect and didn’t want to take something without reciprocating, but she was so poor she really had nothing to give you. You took her son into our orphanage and school, which was a big thing. It is such a moving story: she had nothing to give, but she really wanted to give something. Finally, after droughts and all sorts of calamities, she got a little crop of peanuts, and she gave you the peanuts as an offering. There is an expression—if something is sold for a small amount, or if someone is compensated for some work with a small amount, something meager, useless, or trivial, we say, “Oh, that’s peanuts.” She literally gave peanuts and, like Krishna, out of your loving and compassionate heart, you accepted those peanuts as a most spectacular offering.

So, yes, it was really a wonderful experience, and I look forward to reading the published book, because, as it is said, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. In other words, you pay so much attention to the trees, the details, that you can’t get an overview of the whole forest. Looking at every word and every comma, I didn’t get a full sense of the whole. So, I am looking forward to reading it again, that I might relish it again, and to seeing it in its final form.

Thank you for engaging me.

GRS RNS on deck in NJ - 1Radhanath Swami: Thank you for saving me. When Giriraj Maharaja put his magical, mystical, devotional grace into the book in such a loving and attentive way, I really felt for the first time that Srila Prabhupada has blessed it, and I am forever indebted to you for assisting me in this way. Thank you.

Giriraj Swami: Thank you for engaging me and purifying me.

Radhanath Swami: Thank you for engaging and purifying me.

Giriraj Swami: You want to fight about it?

Radhanath Swami: We don’t have any ladies to show off to!

Thank you very much, Giriraj Swami Maharaja!