Giriraj Swami

Oct 152017

Today is Rama-ekadasi, the date on which Srila Prabhupada completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. The event is described in the following excerpt from my forthcoming book I’ll Build You a Temple, about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu.

Every morning just before six I would walk up the stairs to Prabhupada’s room to accompany him on his morning walk. But when another devotee and I went on the day after Rama-ekadasi, on November 11, we were surprised to find the doors—both to his quarters, on one side, and to his staff’s quarters, on the other—locked. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I gently knocked on both doors. After a minute or two, Prabhupada’s secretary, Harikesa, opened the assistants’ door just a little and said that Prabhupada had stayed up all night and completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, that at the end he had written the most beautiful glorification of his guru maharaja, and that he was in an ecstatic mood and had said that we should celebrate by having a feast.

In his Concluding Words, Prabhupada had written, “Today, Sunday, November 10, 1974—corresponding to the 10th of Kartika, Caitanya Era 488, the eleventh day of the dark fortnight, the Rama-ekadasi—we have now finished the English translation of Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami’s Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in accordance with the authorized order of His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Gosvami Maharaja, my beloved eternal spiritual master, guide and friend.”

Prabhupada recounted his first meeting with his guru maharaja and receiving his instruction “to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in English in the Western countries.” At first he had resisted the order. “Because at that time I was a complete nationalist, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s, I submitted to His Divine Grace that unless our country were freed from foreign subjugation, no one would hear the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu seriously. . . . but at last I was defeated and convinced that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message is the only panacea for suffering humanity. I was also convinced that the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was then in the hands of a very expert devotee and that surely the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would spread all over the world. I could not, however, immediately take up his instructions to preach, but I took his words very seriously and was always thinking of how to execute his order, although I was quite unfit to do so.”

When in 1950 Prabhupada had retired from family life and then taken sannyasa, he had finally been “completely ready to discharge the order of my spiritual master. . . . By the mercy of His Divine Grace, I was able to come to New York on September 17, 1965. Since then, I have translated many books, including Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Teachings of Lord Caitanya (a summary), and many others.

“In the meantime, I was induced to translate Sri Caitanya-caritamrta,” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s favorite book. “I think that [he] is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye [SB 1.1.1]. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates. . . .

“It is my wish that devotees of Lord Caitanya all over the world enjoy this translation, and I am glad to express my gratitude to the learned men in the Western countries who are so pleased with my work that they are ordering in advance all my books that will be published in the future. On this occasion, therefore, I request my disciples who are determined to help me in this work to continue their cooperation fully, so that philosophers, scholars, religionists and people in general all over the world will benefit by reading our transcendental literatures.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami



Oct 052017

Today we begin the beautiful month of Damodara. The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 4, says, “There is a statement in Padma Purana describing the ritualistic function during the month of Karttika (October–November). During this month, in Vrndavana it is the regulative principle to pray daily to Lord Krsna in His Damodara form. The Damodara form refers to Krsna in His childhood when He was tied up with rope by His mother, Yasoda. Dama means ‘ropes,’ and udara means ‘the abdomen.’ So Mother Yasoda, being very disturbed by naughty Krsna, bound Him round the abdomen with a rope, and thus Krsna is named Damodara. During the month of Karttika, Damodara is prayed to as follows: ‘My dear Lord, You are the Lord of all, the giver of all benedictions.’ There are many demigods, like Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, who sometimes offer benedictions to their respective devotees. For example, Ravana was blessed with many benedictions by Lord Siva, and Hiranyakasipu was blessed by Lord Brahma. But even Lord Siva and Lord Brahma depend upon the benedictions of Lord Krsna, and therefore Krsna is addressed as the Lord of all benefactors. As such, Lord Krsna can offer His devotees anything they want, but still, the devotee’s prayer continues, ‘I do not ask You for liberation or any material facility up to the point of liberation. What I want as Your favor is that I may always think of Your form in which I see You now, as Damodara. You are so beautiful and attractive that my mind does not want anything besides this wonderful form.’ In this same prayer, there is another passage, in which it is said, ‘My dear Lord Damodara, once when You were playing as a naughty boy in the house of Nanda Maharaja, You broke the box containing yogurt, and because of that, Mother Yasoda considered You an offender and tied You with rope to the household grinding mortar. At that time You delivered two sons of Kuvera, Nalakuvara and Manigriva, who were staying there as two arjuna trees in the yard of Nanda Maharaja. My only request is that by Your merciful pastimes You may similarly deliver me.’ ”

May Lord Damodara attract and deliver us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami


Sep 302017

Today marks Sri Rama-vijaya-dasami (Dasara, or Dussehra), the day on which Lord Ramachandra vanquished the powerful tyrant Ravana. As described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.25):

“When Ravana was engaged in the battle, the trunk of the elephant which carried the king of heaven, Indra, broke in pieces, having collided with the chest of Ravana, and the scattered broken parts illuminated all directions. Ravana therefore felt proud of his prowess and began to loiter in the midst of the fighting soldiers, thinking himself the conqueror of all directions. But his laughter, overtaken by joy, along with his very air of life, suddenly ceased with the tingling sound of the bow of Ramacandra, the Personality of Godhead.”

Srila Prabhupada comments, “However powerful a living being may be, when he is condemned by God no one can save him, and, similarly, however weak one may be, if he is protected by the Lord no one can annihilate him.”

Ravana is the personification of lust and envy, which can disturb the execution of pure devotional service.

May Lord Sri Ramachandra and His devotees protect us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sep 212017

Prabhupada deity in Juhu quartersA twenty-two-year-old devotee in Mumbai, Radhika Jajodia, sent me a beautiful letter about her realizations of Srila Prabhupada’s merciful presence in his quarters in Juhu, which she entitled “Srila Prabhupada Is Right Here”:

One day during your last stay in Juhu, in 2014–15, you were chanting in Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. I really wanted to take some association, so I came running from home to join you. But as soon as I got there, you completed a round and left for your room one floor below.

I felt so unfortunate. But then I decided to chant a few rounds sitting in front of Srila Prabhupada. As I was chanting, I was looking at His Divine Grace and praying, “O Prabhupada, please let me have some personal association with my guru maharaja. Please let me have some exchange, some interaction. I really need it. Just a few minutes will be enough to encourage me to carry on my practices for the months when he will no longer be present in Bombay. Please, please be merciful on me, O Prabhupada.”

I was repeating the same prayer again and again, using different words.

And then a miracle happened. The very moment I completed my second round of japa and was saying the Pancha-tattva mantra, my cellphone rang. It was my brother, Narottam, who was serving you. I instantly got goosebumps. I picked up the call, and he said, “Guru Maharaja wants to see you. Come down to his room immediately.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I just looked at Srila Prabhupada sitting there with his divine effulgence. At that very moment I could feel—I just knew—that he was right there, present with me, listening to me. I couldn’t help but burst into tears of love and gratitude.

Once I regained control of my emotions, I wiped off the tears and rushed downstairs to see you. Your caring and loving words during that five-to-ten-minute meeting gave me so much spiritual strength for the many months that followed.

Since that day, my bond with Srila Prabhupada has grown deeper. And whenever I visit his quarters in Juhu, I can feel it: He is right here.

Your fallen servant,
Radhika Jajodia

Sep 202017

RP with CakeRP with GRS———————————-
Three days ago we celebrated the ninety-seventh birthday of Rajani Priya Dasi (Rose Forkash), who, with Srila Prabhupada’s approval, began the F.O.L.K (Friends of Lord Krishna) program in the 1970s and has been chanting and serving ever since. As we sat together, she said, “I wish all of you and your loved ones, my age and then some, with good health, thinking of Krishna, for the rest of your life,” which I took as a great blessing, intended not only for me but for everyone.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Visvarupa-mahotsava and Srila Prabhupada’s Sannyasa

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Sep 052017

Srila Prabhupada as a SannyasiVisvarupa-mahotsava is the date on which Lord Chaitanya’s older brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. And on the same date some four hundred and fifty years later, our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, also accepted sannyasa.

According to Vedic scripture, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, come in the present age in the role of a devotee. In the previous age, Lord Krishna came in His original feature and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the conclusion He instructed, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: give up all other duties and surrender unto Me. But people could not understand or appreciate Lord Krishna’s instruction. So later, about five hundred years ago, the same Krishna came again, not in His original form but in His devotional form as Lord Chaitanya. And Lord Chaitanya taught us how to serve Krishna, how to worship God in the present age.

Lord Chaitanya taught various methods of worship, but He especially emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God, or Krishna. In particular, He quoted a verse from the Brhan-Naradiya Purana (38.126):

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha

“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krishna. In this age of Kali, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for spiritual realization.”

He acted like a teacher who shows students how to write the alphabet. The teacher stands in front of the class and writes on the board, “A, B, C, D.” She has no need to practice writing, but she shows by her own example how to form the letters properly. In the same way, God, Krishna, had no need to worship, but to set the example for us, so that we could learn how to worship God in the best way in the present age, He came as Lord Chaitanya and taught and demonstrated the chanting of the holy names. Continue reading »

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada  

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Sep 032017


Today marks the anniversary of the birth—the appearance—of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, “the pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness.” To honor the occasion, I would like to share a short piece I wrote about Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Prabhupada. We pray for their continued guidance and mercy.

“Dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who initiated the teachings of Lord Chaitanya in the Western world (McGill University, Canada) in 1896, the year of my birth.” These words are Srila Prabhupada’s dedication to Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, the first book he published after coming to America. They also apply to Prabhupada’s life, which was dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and his own spiritual master—Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.

Srila Prabhupada furthered many of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s projects: engaging householders in local preaching initiatives (nama-hatta); establishing the principle that Vaishnavas, even not born brahmans, are greater than brahmans (and are brahmans too); translating, explaining, and publishing important Vaishnava scriptures for the understanding of the contemporary audience; implementing the vision of a wonderful temple and spiritual city in Mayapur; and, perhaps most significant, fulfilling the desire and prediction that the holy names and teachings of Sri Krishna Chaitanya—Krishna consciousness—be propagated all over the world.

In 1885, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote,

“Lord Chaitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men in India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the eternal dharma. Lord Chaitanya states in Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, ‘In every town, country, and village My name will be sung.’ There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass. . . . Although there is still no pure society of Vaishnavas, Lord Chaitanya’s prophetic words will in a few days come true . . .

“Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. . . . Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and karatalas and raise kirtan through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the Western fair-skinned men, from one side, while chanting ‘Jaya Sacinandana ki jaya!’ will extend their arms and, embracing the devotees of our country coming from another side, treat us with brotherly feelings. When will that day be?”

In the caption to Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s photo in Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Srila Prabhupada described him as “the pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness,” and he saw himself as the Thakura’s humble servant in that effort, fully dependent on his mercy.

In a conversation in Mayapur in March 1974, Srila Prabhupada, hearing a kirtan party in the background, commented that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had desired that “Europeans and Americans will come, and they will dance here with the chanting, ‘Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana!’ So that is being done. . . . When they chant and dance, I simply remember Bhaktivinoda Thakura. That’s all. I pray to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, ‘Now they have come to your shelter. Give them protection.’ That’s all. What can I do more? I cannot do anything more.”

So it is by the mercy of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, coming through parampara, through Srila Prabhupada, that we have been engaged in devotional service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His devotees, His holy names, His teachings, and His divine dhama—Mayapur.

In 1971, as a young devotee in Calcutta, I approached Srila Prabhupada and offered, “I have been trying to understand what your desire is. And two things seem to please you most: distributing your books and building the big temple in Mayapur.”

Prabhupada’s face lit up, his eyes opened wide, and he smiled. “Yes, you have understood.”

I did not know it then, but that desire for a big temple in Mayapur (and even for profuse book distribution) came from Thakura Bhaktivinoda. He had a vision of an effulgent city with a wonderful temple at its center, in Mayapur. And he wrote,

eka adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakasa
gaurangera nitya-seva haibe vikasa

“An astounding temple will appear and will engage the entire world in the eternal service of Lord Chaitanya.” (Sri Navadvipa-Mahatmya, Parikrama Khanda, Chapter 4)

After my exchange with Srila Prabhupada, he spent several months in Europe and America and then returned to Calcutta with a design for the big temple. And in the meantime, Tamal Krishna Goswami had fulfilled Prabhupada’s longstanding, ardent desire to acquire some land in Mayapur. But there had been flooding in Mayapur, and the flooding there can be very severe. Therefore—although Prabhupada was so enthusiastic about the project, and had struggled so hard to get the land in Mayapur, and had personally brought the plans for the first building there—still, right when we were at the peak of our enthusiasm, he raised the question: “What will happen if the Ganges floods? What will happen to the temple, to the project?”

He suggested that we not build the temple in Mayapur but at Birnagar, Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s birthplace—another indication of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s importance to Prabhupada and for the world. And eventually he brought us back to the conclusion that we should proceed with the project in Mayapur. “If you all build this temple,” he declared, “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura will personally come and take you all back to Godhead.”

Through his empowered service, Srila Prabhupada has made Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s shelter available to all of us, and now we are also “dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura.” We beg and pray for pure devotional service under their lotus feet and depend fully on their mercy.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Radhastami in Carpinteria

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Aug 292017

For Radhastami, the devotees decorated our deities and altars in Carpinteria beautifully.

Radhastami is one day in the year when devotees are given darshan of Srimati Radharani’s all-merciful, wish-fulfilling lotus feet. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, in his mood of intense devotion, prayed to Sri Radha:

tavaivasmi tavaivasmi
na jivami tvaya vina
iti vijnaya devi tvam
naya mam caranantikam

“I am Yours. I am Yours. I cannot live without You. Understanding this, please bring me to Your lotus feet.” (Stavavali)

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

SP Radhastami 2017 RR Radhastami 2017 GG Radhastami 2017 GRS with Bead Bag

Radharani Is So Great

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Aug 282017

(Adapted from Srila Prabhupada’s talk on Radhastami, 1971.)

Radharani in Vrindavan - 2We pray to Radharani because She is the pleasure potency of Krishna. Krishna means “all-attractive,” but Radharani is so great that She attracts Krishna.

So we should try to understand what is Srimati Radharani’s position and offer our obeisances to Her.

tapta-kancana-gaurangi radhe vrndavanesvari
vrsabhanu-sute devi pranamami hari-priye

Our business is “Radharani, You are so dear to Krishna. You are the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, and You are so dear to Krishna. So we offer our respectful obeisances unto You.”

Radharani is hari-priya, very dear to Krishna. So if we approach Krishna through Radharani, through the mercy of Radharani, then it becomes very easy. If Radharani recommends that “This devotee is very nice,” then Krishna immediately accepts him, however foolish he may be.

Therefore in Vrindavan you’ll find all the devotees chanting Radharani’s name more than Krishna’s. Wherever you go, you’ll find the devotees addressing, “Jaya Radhe.” You’ll find, still, in Vrindavan. They are glorifying Radharani. They’re more interested in worshiping Radharani. Because however fallen I may be, if some way or other I can please Radharani, then it is very easy for me to understand Krishna.

If you go by the speculative process to understand Krishna, it will take many, many lives. But if you take to devotional service and just try to please Radharani, Krishna will be gotten very easily. Because Radharani can deliver Krishna. She is such a great devotee, the emblem of maha-bhagavata. Even Krishna cannot understand what is Radharani’s quality. Even Krishna, although He says vedaham samatitani, “I know everything,” still, He fails to understand Radharani. Radharani is so great.

In order to understand Radharani, Krishna accepted the position of Radharani. Krishna wanted to understand the potency of Radharani. Krishna thought, “I am full—I am complete in every respect—but still, I want to understand Radharani.” This propensity obliged Krishna to accept the propensities of Radharani, to understand Krishna Himself. . . . When Krishna wanted to understand Himself, He took the tendency of Srimati Radharani—and that is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

In Anticipation of Tomorrow’s Solar Eclipse

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Aug 202017

Krishna and the Gopis in Kurukshetra on Solar EclipseIn anticipation of tomorrow’s solar eclipse, I read the beautiful chapter in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.82) entitled “Krsna and Balarama Meet the Inhabitants of Vrndavana,” about when Lord Krishna and other pilgrims traveled to Kurukshetra to observe a solar eclipse there. The purport to the second verse says, “Vedic astronomers of five thousand years ago could predict eclipses of the sun and moon just as well as our modern astronomers can. The knowledge of the ancient astronomers went much further, however, since they understood the karmic influences of such events. Solar and lunar eclipses are generally very inauspicious, with certain rare exceptions. But just as the otherwise inauspicious Ekadasi day becomes beneficial when used for the glorification of Lord Hari, so the time of an eclipse is also advantageous for fasting and worship.”

When the gopis of Vrindavan met Krishna there after a long separation, they prayed to Him,

ahus ca te nalina-nabha padaravindam
yogesvarair hrdi vicintyam agadha-bodhaih
geham jusam api manasy udiyat sada nah

“Dear Lord, whose navel is just like a lotus flower, Your lotus feet are the only shelter for those who have fallen into the deep well of material existence. Your feet are worshiped and meditated upon by great mystic yogis and highly learned philosophers. We wish that these lotus feet may also be awakened within our hearts, although we are only ordinary persons engaged in household affairs.” (10.82.48)

I pray to follow in the footsteps of the gopis.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami