Giriraj Swami

Apr 282017

Prabhupada smiling on Juhu terraceIn Juhu Srila Prabhupada would go on the roof in the evening and give darshan. One evening there were five or ten devotees around him, and a few Indian guests, including a famous movie star and his wife. Somebody had brought mangoes for Prabhupada, and at one point he called for a knife and told a devotee to cut a mango and distribute it as prasada. So a brahmacari got a knife and sliced the mango, but it was dripping juice all over—it was a mess.

“You cannot cut it?” Prabhupada asked.

“The knife is not very sharp,” the brahmacari replied.

“That is not the way to cut it,” the movie star’s wife interjected. “Give it to me.”

“Yes,” Prabhupada agreed. “You do not know how to cut. One who knows, let him cut.”

So, the woman took the mango, cut it into two neat halves and scored the flesh into crisscrossed cubes. Then she popped the insides out, and it was a simple matter to pick the cubes off the peel.

Prabhupada laughed at how expertly and neatly she had done it. “Just see,” he said, “even for cutting a mango, one requires a guru. ” Then he quoted from the Mundaka Upanisad (1.2.12): “Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet”—“To learn the science one must certainly approach a spiritual master.” The guests and devotees all laughed, and Prabhupada told the brahmacari to distribute the prasada, one piece to everyone.

“Everything requires a guru,” Prabhupada repeated. “Otherwise one remains a fool, rascal—that’s all. In every item you require a guru. And to understand Krishna, or God, everyone thinks they are independent. Just see the foolishness. Yata mata tata patha. ‘Ah, you consider about God in your own way. It doesn’t require any guru.’ This foolishness is going on. For cutting a mango one requires a guru, and to understand Krishna, he doesn’t require a guru. This foolishness is going on. And Krishna says,

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti tad jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsina
           [Bg 4.34]

[“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”] Krishna says you have to understand like this. But everyone is thinking, ‘Why shall I go to guru?’ ”

Prabhupada saw everything in the light of Krishna consciousness, and he shared his vision with others—to their great delight.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Apr 032017

Rama, Sita, and Laksmana


[This verse is quoted in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Padyavali (151):]

ramo nama babhuva hum tad-abala siteti hum tam pitur
vaca pancavati-vane viharatas tasyharad ravanah
nidrartham janaki-katham iti harer hum-karatah srnvatah
saumitre kva dhanur dhanur dhanur iti vyagra girah pantu nah 

[Mother Yasoda is telling Sri Krishna a story:]

“There was once a king named Rama.”


“His wife was Sita.”


“On the order of His father, Rama lived in the Pancavati Forest. There Ravana kidnapped Sita.”

Hearing His mother narrate His own activities performed in ancient times, Sri Krishna suddenly called out, “Laksmana! Where is My bow? Where is My bow? Where is My bow?”

May these alarmed words of Lord Krishna protect us all.


Mar 312017

Ramanujacarya with his beloved LordTomorrow is the 1,000th anniversary of the appearance of Sripada Ramanujacarya, the principal acarya in the Sri, or Lakshmi, sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada wrote that “We find great shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacarya because his lotus feet are the strongest fort to combat the Mayavadi philosophy.” (letter 22.11.1974) And in the early days of ISKCON in India, before we had Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is translated into Hindi, he would refer people to read the Hindi edition of the Gita with Sri Ramanujacarya’s commentary.

Prabhupada often told a story about Sri Ramanujacarya’s merciful, compassionate nature. As he related it in Ahmedabad in 1972, “The servants of Krishna take all risk for Krishna’s sake. Just like Ramanujacarya. Sri Ramanujacarya’s spiritual master said, ‘My dear son, the mantra which I am giving, you chant silently and you will be delivered. It is so powerful. Don’t chant this mantra loudly so others can hear.’

“Ramanujacarya thought, ‘If this mantra is so powerful that if others hear it they’ll also be delivered, then why not?’ He immediately went to the market and began to chant the mantra. So his spiritual master became very angry, that ‘I told you not to chant loudly, so others may not hear.’ And Ramanujacarya replied, ‘My Lordship, I have done offense unto you. That’s all right. For this I am prepared to go to hell. But if this mantra is so powerful, I must speak it to everyone.’ ”

In this mood, following in the footsteps of Sripada Ramanujacarya, Srila Prabhupada broadcast the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita everywhere, to everyone.

We pray and aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

God is Great, and God is Good

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Mar 282017

Today God is great, good, and beautifulI had a simple but profound realization: God is great, and God is good. If he were good but not great, He could not help us fully. And if He were great but not good, He could harm us. But He is great, and He is good, and He is always mindful of all the infinite living entities. These thoughts brought to mind a verse Srila Prabhupada often quoted from the Katha Upanishad (2.2.13):

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam
eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

“He is the prime eternal among all eternals. He is the supreme conscious being among all conscious beings. And He alone is supplying all the desired necessities of life for the many other living beings.”

I had heard these words before, but today they came to life. Now I pray to always remember the good, great Supreme Godhead and serve Him with gratitude and appreciation. As the same verse in the Katha Upanishad continues,

tam pitha-gam ye ’nupasyanti dhiras
tesam santih sasvati netaresam

“The wise souls who worship Him in His abode attain everlasting peace. Others cannot.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

An Ekadasi Memory

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Mar 232017

TodaPrabhupada speaking and smilingy being Ekadasi, I was considering whether or not to go out on an errand, and I recalled an incident that took place on Ekadasi in Madras in 1971. Achyutananda, Bhavananda, and I were based in a supporter’s house, and Bhavananda and I were in the mood to go out and preach. Achyutananda, however, said, “No, it’s Ekadasi. We shouldn’t go out. It’s inauspicious. And besides, it looks like rain.” But we thought, “Oh boy, he is so attached to external rules and regulations. We have the real spirit of preaching. We are not going to worry about Ekadasi or some rain.”

When we went out, there was only a light drizzle, but within minutes the sky poured down rain. And the rain didn’t stop; it came down heavier and heavier. In Madras then, at least where we were walking, there was not much of a drainage system—just an open ditch two or three feet deep, lined with concrete. And as the storm continued, the channel filled with water, and soon we couldn’t distinguish between the water on the street, the water in the ditch, and the water in the fields beyond.

So, we were walking along blissfully, drenched in water but inspired in our mission, in our service to our guru maharaja, and then Bhavananda fell into the ditch. He was in water up to his waist. So, I gave him a hand, and he climbed out of the ditch, soaked with sewage water.

Later, I related the incident to Srila Prabhupada, declaring that Bhavananda Prabhu had equal vision: he didn’t distinguish between high and low. And I quoted the verse from the Bhagavad-gita (5.18),

brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca
panditah sama-darsinah

“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste].”

“Yes,” Prabhupada replied. “You have theoretical knowledge. But Bhavananda has realized knowledge, practical realization, so he is more advanced.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Niranjana Swami’s Meditation on Sridhar Swami

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Mar 202017

A few dNiranjana Swami and Sridhar Swamiays ago, Niranjana Swami wrote me a letter in which he said, “I meditate a lot on Sridhar Maharaja. I miss him.” And when I asked him to tell me more about his meditation, he replied, “I honestly can’t fully explain it. He became so unbelievably dear to me in Mayapur—the way he loved his godbrothers, the way he loved me.

“One of my often-remembered meditations of him is the time I sent a message to him one evening just after the GBC meeting had finished for the day. I usually came to his room to chant with him and the other devotees in the evening, after the meeting. This particular evening, however, I had a terrible headache and sent him a message, apologizing for not coming, due to the headache. While walking back to my room, I began thinking, ‘Here I am, not going to tonight’s kirtan because of some headache, and there’s Sridhar Maharaja, whose condition can’t even be remotely compared to my little headache, lying in his bed, having kirtan with the devotees!’ So I decided to turn around and go back.

“When I arrived at the door of his room, his room was, as usual, packed with devotees chanting. Sridhar Maharaja looked up at me, sat up in bed, and gestured for me to come through the crowd of devotees to sit next to him on the bed. The devotees parted to allow me through, I sat on the bed, and he turned to Mayapur das, his personal servant, and said, ‘Give me the Tiger Balm.’ Then he sat there, using the Tiger Balm to massage my head. I can’t remember exactly how long he massaged, but it wasn’t just a gesture; he massaged vigorously for quite some time.

“I cry every time I think about this, as I am crying right now as I am typing this. Practically speaking, I cry every time I think or talk about Sridhar Maharaja. He seemed so selflessly a friend to me, and I felt so undeserving.”

—Giriraj Swami


Thoughts on Sridhar Swami’s Disappearance Day

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Mar 202017

SDHS GRS CarpinteriaToday is the disappearance anniversary of His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada’s staunch disciple and our dear godbrother. As I wrote in Many Moons, “Three days after Sridhar Maharaja left, while on my daily walk, in Santa Barbara, I suddenly began to feel blissful, and I felt Maharaja’s presence. Then I imagined that he gave me two instructions. The first was ‘I am still here. Be happy.’ And the second was ‘Just be yourself. Each one of us has his own contribution to make, so just be yourself and make your contribution.’ And then he left.

“After he left, I considered what had happened. Clearly, his two instructions were meant not only for me. They were meant for everyone. And his instructions covered all points. Especially his last statement had said it all: ‘Just be yourself and make your contribution.’

“Thank you, Maharaja. We love you.”

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

To Make People Happy

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Mar 132017

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta states, “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most benevolent personality in human society because His only desire is to make people happy. His sankirtana movement is especially meant for the purpose of making people happy.” (Adi 9.45 p)

And Srila Prabhupada said of himself, “I have started this Krishna consciousness movement in this country, America, to make people happy: happy in this life, happy in next life. . . . So we are making little our teeny effort, how to make people happy. Our only business is to make people happy. We have no other desire.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy and mission have come to us through Srila Prabhupada, through parampara. So we should be happy, and we should make others happy, following in their line, by their grace.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Mahaprabhu's SankirtanaPrabhupada's Sankirtana

At the Ganges on Gaura-purnima 1974

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Mar 112017

This video shows devotees at the Ganges on Gaura-purnima 1974 and features Tamal Krishna Goswami shaving up and a devotee and me—with some help from Madhudvisa Prabhu—in a major water fight.

Happy Gaura-purnima!

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Appreciating Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

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Mar 112017

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in SankirtanaFrom Amrit Vani, “Nectarean Instructions for Immortality,” gleaned from the instructions of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and presented in the form of questions and answers.


Is the favor given by Mahaprabhu the highest favor?

There has never been nor will there ever be better benefactors than Mahaprabhu and His devotees. No other type of human welfare work can compare; all those others simply perform a great disservice to humanity. The favor offered by Mahaprabhu and His devotees is the supreme favor. This favor is eternal, not a temporary five- or ten-day promise. Mundane benefits tend to ultimately do harm, but Mahaprabhu’s favor will never harm others.

For example, what is good for our country will certainly be harmful to another country. It is the nature of temporary happiness to cause distress to others. If I am happy to ride in a horse-pulled cart, the horse will be inconvenienced by my pleasure. Mahaprabhu and His devotees never deceive people by preaching about temporary favors. Their favor and charities are suitable for all people at all times and under all circumstances. Their gifts are good for the entire universe. Mahaprabhu and His devotees never offer gifts related to narrow or sectarian views.

Mahaprabhu’s compassion is considered harmless compassion. Thus we say that He and His devotees are the most magnanimous. I am not speaking flowery language or myth but topmost truth when I say these things.

Mahaprabhu’s compassion is complete, while all other forms of compassion are limited and deceptive. Matsya, Kurma, Varahadeva, Ramachandra, and even Krishna distributed mercy only to Their devotees and annihilated those who opposed Them. Mahaprabhu displayed compassion to everyone. He did not even hesitate to show His harmless mercy to the Kazi and the Buddhists, and He converted the worshipers of Ramachandra, known as the Ramanandis, into pure Vaishnavas. Continue reading »