Giriraj Swami

Celebrating Gita Jayanti, The Advent of the Bhagavad-gita

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Dec 182018

An address by Giriraj Swami to leaders of Hindu organizations in Houston, October 23, 2009.


The Bhagavad-gita is also known as the Gitopanisad and is considered one of the Upanishads. The title Bhagavad-gita is sometimes translated as “The Song of God.” Gita mean “song.” God, Krishna, is so sublime that whatever He speaks is music and poetry. The word bhagavan has been analyzed by Vedic authorities. Bhaga means “opulence” and is related to the word bhagya: “good fortune.” And van means “one who possesses.” So bhagavan means “He who possesses all opulence in full.”

aisvaryasya samagrasya
  viryasya yasasah sriyah
jnana-vairagyayos caiva
  sannam bhaga itingana

“Full wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge, and renunciation—these are the six opulences of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Vishnu Purana 6.5.47)

All of us possess some wealth. I may have ten dollars, but if I look further I will find someone who has a hundred dollars. And if I look still further, I will find someone who has a thousand dollars, and a million, and a billion. But no one can say that he has all the wealth in all creation, that no one is equal to him or greater than him in wealth. When we come to that person who has all wealth—no one is equal to or greater than him—that is Bhagavan, Krishna.

The Bhagavad-gita was originally spoken by Krishna to Arjuna. As stated in the Gita (4.1),

sri-bhagavan uvaca
imam vivasvate yogam
  proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha
  manur iksvakave ’bravit

“The Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.” Lord Krishna originally spoke the Gita to Vivasvan, the sun-god, who spoke it to his son Manu, who in turn spoke it to Iksvaku. In this way, the knowledge was passed on through disciplic succession from one to the next to the next. But in the course of time, that chain became broken.

evam parampara-praptam
  imam rajarsayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata
  yogo nastah parantapa

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Gita 4.2) Nasta means “spoiled.” You may have a nice plate of prasada, but if you leave it aside and it becomes old and contaminated, it becomes nasta, spoiled. It is food, but you don’t get the benefit. To get the real benefit of the Bhagavad-gita, one must receive it through parampara (evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh).

Five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna detected that the chain was broken and that, consequently, the knowledge was lost. So He came again and spoke the Bhagavad-gita again, to Arjuna: “Now, Arjuna, you become the first recipient of this knowledge in the new chain, so that the knowledge is received and presented as it is.” Srila Prabhupada called his translation of the Gita the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. “As it is” means as Krishna spoke it five thousand years ago and as Arjuna understood it.

How did Arjuna understand it? First, he accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead:

   arjuna uvaca
param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam
  adi-devam ajam vibhum

“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest.” (Gita 10.12)

And he accepted everything that Krishna said as true: sarvam etad rtam manye yan mam vadasi kesava—“O Krsna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me.” (Gita 10.14) “I accept whatever You say, in toto.” He did not discriminate that he liked some parts of the Gita and not other parts. Sarvam etad rtam manye: “I accept in toto everything that You have said.” If we begin to discriminate, “I like this portion, but I don’t like that portion,” we become implicated in ardha-kukkuti-nyaya, “half-hen” logic.

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From Lust to Love—With Krishna’s Mercy

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Dec 152018

We read from Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Chapter Three: “Karma-yoga.”


tasmat tvam indriyany adau
  niyamya bharatarsabha
papmanam prajahi hy enam


Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The Lord advised Arjuna to regulate the senses from the very beginning so that he could curb the greatest sinful enemy, lust, which destroys the urge for self-realization and specific knowledge of the self. Jnana refers to knowledge of self as distinguished from non-self, or in other words, knowledge that the spirit soul is not the body. Vijnana refers to specific knowledge of the spirit soul’s constitutional position and his relationship to the Supreme Soul. It is explained thus in SrimadBhagavatam (2.9.31):

 jnanam parama-guhyam me
 yad vijnana-samanvitam
sa-rahasyam tad-angam ca
  grhana gaditam maya

“The knowledge of the self and Supreme Self is very confidential and mysterious, but such knowledge and specific realization can be understood if explained with their various aspects by the Lord Himself.” The Bhagavad-gita gives us that general and specific knowledge of the self. The living entities are parts and parcels of the Lord, and therefore they are simply meant to serve the Lord. This consciousness is called Krsna consciousness. So, from the very beginning of life one has to learn this Krsna consciousness, and thereby one may become fully Krsna conscious and act accordingly.

Lust is only the perverted reflection of the love of God which is natural for every living entity. But if one is educated in Krsna consciousness from the very beginning, that natural love of God cannot deteriorate into lust. When love of God deteriorates into lust, it is very difficult to return to the normal condition. Nonetheless, Krsna consciousness is so powerful that even a late beginner can become a lover of God by following the regulative principles of devotional service. So, from any stage of life, or from the time of understanding its urgency, one can begin regulating the senses in Krsna consciousness, devotional service of the Lord, and turn the lust into love of Godhead—the highest perfectional stage of human life.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the beginning of the movement in America, one of the first young men to come forward to serve Srila Prabhupada was Bruce Scharf, who was later initiated as Brahmananda dasa. Brahmananda had taken a class in English literature, and the professor had asked the students to give an interpretation of the motives of a character in a story. So, Brahmananda told Srila Prabhupada that he had interpreted the motivations of the character in a cosmic, or spiritual, way and that the professor had explained the motives in terms of lust, or sex desire. Srila Prabhupada replied, “Your professor was right: In the material world everything is impelled by lust.”

Because of lust, we remain encaged in the physical body, which is full of misery. Both the gross body and the subtle body, which includes the mind, suffer pain and anguish. We want to become free from the bondage of the material body. As long as we are imprisoned in the material body, we have to suffer greatly. And we never know what may come next. Things may go well for a while—for years even—but then all of a sudden something goes wrong that we had never expected. And the result is that we suffer great pain—physical, mental, or both.

A sober, intelligent person will think, “As long as I am in this material body, I am subject to so many miseries, but my nature as a spiritual soul, is joyful.” The soul is by nature eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss (sac-cid-ananda). But the body is the opposite: asat, acid, and nirananda—temporary, full of ignorance, and full of misery. The eternal soul imprisoned in a temporary body is in an awkward position, an incompatible situation. Therefore an intelligent, wise, sober person will endeavor to become free from the bondage of material existence, from the cycle of birth and death in the material world. And as long as we identify with the body and act on the impulses of the body to enjoy the senses, we will have to take birth again.

Contemporary society has made much propaganda in favor of enjoying the senses without restriction. They say that there is no problem with sensual gratification; the problem is that we feel guilty about it. If we can get rid of the sense of guilt, we can really enjoy the senses. This theory may sound attractive to materialistic persons who want to enjoy the senses, and we also don’t insist that you should avoid sense gratification because it is “bad” or “evil.” There is sense gratification even in the spiritual world—spiritual sense gratification. But the problem with material sense gratification is that it increases our material attachment and bondage, which extends our duration of suffering in this material world, extends our prison sentence. And it is also not true that the sense of guilt or shame in relation to sense gratification or sex is just a false imposition by society. Experimental studies of children who were taught from the very beginning that there is nothing wrong with sex and that they should have as much as they want revealed that even they felt there was something not quite right about it. Even without moral instructions and admonitions from others, they felt some guilt and shame. They felt bad.

Every culture has restrictions on sex indulgence, and the general rule is that if one wants to have sex he or she should get married; the husband should be responsible for the wife, and the wife should be faithful to the husband. There is restriction, regulation, as indicated in the verse (niyama). But even such regulation does not qualify a person to be liberated from the repetition of birth and death. The only qualification for that is Krishna consciousness.

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Dec 132018

Today is Odana-sasthi, the date on which Lord Jagannatha is given a winter shawl. One year, when Lord Caitanya and His associates celebrated this festival in Puri, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who is Vrsabhanu Maharaja, Srimati Radharani’s father, in krsna-lila, received some special mercy. His experience is instructive for us all.

Srila Prabhupada explains, “At the beginning of winter, there is a ceremony known as the Odana-sasthi. This ceremony indicates that from that day forward, a winter covering should be given to Lord Jagannatha. That covering is directly purchased from a weaver. According to the arcana-marga, a cloth should first be washed to remove all the starch, and then it can be used to cover the Lord. Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that the priest neglected to wash the cloth before covering Lord Jagannatha. Since he wanted to find some fault in the devotees, he became indignant.” (Cc Madhya 16.78 purport)

And Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 16.78-81) describes the event: “Pundarika Vidyanidhi initiated Gadadhara Pandita for the second time, and on the day of Odana-sasthi Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw the festival. When Pundarika Vidyanidhi saw that Lord Jagannatha was given a starched garment, he became a little hateful. In this way his mind was polluted. That night the brothers Lord Jagannatha and Balarama came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi and, smiling, began to slap him. Although his cheeks were swollen from the slapping, Pundarika Vidyanidhi was very happy within. This incident has been elaborately described by Thakura Vrndavana dasa.”

From this incident, we can learn that the Lord does not tolerate offenses against His servants, even from an advanced devotee, and that He chastises a devotee who commits such an offense even within the mind. We can also learn that a pure devotee accepts such chastisement from the Lord with great happiness, as a manifestation of the Lord’s mercy, of His love and care for His devotees—both for those who may commit such an offense and for those who may be objects of such an offense. He thanks the Lord for rectifying him and preventing him from committing further offenses, and he feel great jubilation within his heart.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami


Utilizing Every Moment

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Dec 112018

On January 3, 1974, in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada spoke on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.16.6:

athavasya padambhoja-
  makaranda-liham satam
kim anyair asad-alapair
  ayuso yad asad-vyayah

“Or please speak of topics related to the devotees of the Lord, who are accustomed to licking up the honey available from the lotus feet of the Lord. What is the use of topics which simply waste one’s valuable life?”

I was struck by his explanation of the absolute nature of devotional service:

“Here it is said, kim anyair asad-alapair . . . Avyayah, asad-vyayah. What is the meaning of vyayah? Asat, ‘unnecessary waste of life.’ Unnecessary waste of life—we should be very careful. That is Krishna consciousness. That is the criterion of Krishna conscious life. We should not waste our time. That is advised by Rupa Gosvami also: avyartha-kalatvam. We should be very cautious not to waste a single moment, be without Krishna consciousness. We have got so many activities. If we have no activities, then we can polish the floor of the temple. That is not very difficult. If I am illiterate, have no interest in reading books, or have no interest in chanting or cannot do it constantly, then I should take something and mop the temple and cleanse the temple. That is also service. It is not that one who is engaged in Deity worship is better engaged and one who is polishing the floor is less engaged. No. Both of them will get equal benefit. Krishna consciousness is so nice. So, find out some business for Krishna. Don’t waste time. That is the perfection of Krishna consciousness.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Happy Holidays

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Dec 072018

In the West this is the holiday season, with Christmas and Hanukkah both coming up. As Srila Prabhupada explained, the Lord comes to this world to enlighten people with transcendental knowledge. Sometimes He comes personally, and sometimes He sends His son or His prophet or His representative, but they all come with the same message. They may speak in different languages according to the circumstances and the audience, but the essence of the message is the same: God is great; we are but small parts and parcels of God, meant to serve Him with love; we have come from God and are meant to return to Him.

One of Srila Prabhupada’s purports in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is contains a statement that relates to the holidays people in the West are about to celebrate:

“The avatara, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or avatara. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When they descend to the material creation, they assume the name avatara.’ [Cc Madhya 20.263­–264] There are various kinds of avatars, such as purusavataras, gunavataras, lilavataras, sakty-avesa avataras, manvantara-avataras, and yugavataras—all appearing on schedule all over the universe. But Lord Krsna is the primeval Lord, the fountainhead of all avataras. Lord Sri Krsna descends for the specific purpose of mitigating the anxieties of the pure devotees, who are very anxious to see Him in His original Vrndavana pastimes.” (Gita 4.8 purport)

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, said that Jesus Christ was a saktyavesa-avatara; he accepted that Jesus Christ descended to the earth from above. That is avatara. And saktyavesa means one who carries the power of the Lord. Thus, he accepted that Jesus Christ descended to earth with the power of the Lord to preach the message of Godhead. And Jesus Christ preached more or less the same message as Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. Sometimes people would ask Srila Prabhupada about Jesus, and Srila Prabhupada would reply, “In the Bible Jesus said that he was the son of God, and in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that He is the father of all living entities, so there is no contradiction.”

Jesus Christ filled the role of a spiritual master, or guru. The spiritual master teaches the science of Godhead, and when a disciple surrenders to a spiritual master, the spiritual master accepts the disciple’s sinful reactions. Jesus Christ performed the same functions in relation to his followers or disciples; he taught them about God, and he accepted their sinful reactions. Sometimes Christians quote Jesus as having said, “There is no way to the Father except through me.” This statement is a little controversial in learned circles—there is some question whether the attribution is authentic or not. But in any case, Srila Prabhupada took the truth in these words to be that one cannot approach the Lord directly; one can approach the Lord only through the Lord’s representative, the spiritual master.

As far as the idea that Jesus Christ accepted the sins, or sinful reactions, of his followers, Srila Prabhupada expressed one concern: The followers should refrain from sin. They should consider, “Oh, if I sin, my spiritual master will have to suffer!” Christians in particular may consider, “Because I have sinned, my spiritual master had to suffer! So I should not commit sin any longer.” That should be the basic sense. They should not think, “Oh, poor Jesus suffered for me, but now I can go on sinning.”

So, we accept Jesus as a saktyavesa-avatara, as an incarnation of Krishna. Christmas should be a time when we remember the teachings of Jesus Christ, the mercy of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice he made for us. And we should resolve to be better followers, better servants of God and God’s representatives, and of all humankind and all living beings.

Hanukkah, in the Jewish tradition, is also an important festival celebrated at this time of year. It is a winter festival, and winter is a dark season, when the sun sets early and rises late. Hanukkah is the festival of light. Historically, the ancient temple in Jerusalem was seized and desecrated, but eventually, with great courage and sacrifice, the Jewish heroes, the Maccabees, won it back. They wanted to clean and purify the temple to make it fit for worship of the Lord, and their worship included a flame that was sustained by sanctified oil, to be maintained at all times. But when the Maccabees regained the temple, they found only one flask of the priestly oil, enough to burn for only one day. Still, they lit the great temple lamp, the menorah, and, according to the story, the oil burned for eight days, until they could get more. So, the miracle of Hanukkah is that the purified oil, which was sufficient to last only one day, burned for eight days, time enough to obtain more.

Figuratively, the temple is the heart. Cleaning the temple means cleaning one’s heart of the many dirty things that accumulate there by material association. That dirt includes false identification with the body and material desires for the gratification of the body’s senses and mind independent of God’s sanction and God’s service. And figuratively, the light is transcendental knowledge, or consciousness of God, which illuminates the heart and dispels the darkness of ignorance.

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The Prabhupada Marathon

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Dec 012018

Srila Prabhupada personally wrote me, “Go on increasing books, and go on increasing my pleasure.” The December marathon is a special opportunity to increase the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and the parampara by distributing books about Krishna consciousness. So, I encourage you all to increase their pleasure—and your own—by distributing as many books as possible. As Srila Prabhupada said in Los Angeles, “So, I took up this from [Guru Maharaja’s] mouth, that he is very fond of books. And he told me personally that ‘If you get some money, print books.’ Therefore, I am stressing on this point: ‘Where is book? Where is book? Where is book?’ So kindly help me. This is my request. Print as many books in as many languages and distribute throughout the whole world. Then the Krishna consciousness movement will automatically increase.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sankirtana Expands from Mayapur

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Nov 302018

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada explains the reasons for Sri Krishna Chaitanya’s appearance. Lord Krishna, in His pastimes, was unable to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, the wonderful qualities in Krishna that She relishes through Her love, and the indescribable happiness She feels when She realizes the sweetness of His love. Thus, Lord Krishna, assuming the guise of a devotee, adopted the mood and complexion of Srimati Radharani and descended in Navadvipa-dhama to fulfill His innermost desire: to experience Srimati Radharani’s ecstatic love for Him.

So, Navadvipa-dhama is a manifestation of Srimati Radharani’s love for Krishna. The Puranas also describe that when, in the state of mahabhava, Srimati Radharani reached the extreme in ecstatic feelings of separation from Lord Krishna, He entered into Her heart and “stole” Her feeling of mahabhava. That mahabhava became manifest as Navadvipa-dhama.

Thus, to better understand Sri Mayapur-dhama and the mood of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as well as Srila Prabhupada and our own devotional service, we should understand Radharani’s mood of separation.

Once, when Krishna left the company of the gopis, Radharani began to search for Him in one forest after another, crying in intense separation. She approached a kadamba tree, “Where is Krishna?” She approached Govardhana Hill, “Where is Krishna?” She wandered everywhere throughout Vrindavan, crying, “Where is Krishna? He is more dear to Me than My own life. How can I live without His service?” Then, in divine madness, She fainted.

After some time, when Krishna appeared, He addressed Srimati Radharani, “I am extremely pleased with You. You may ask from Me whatever You wish.” And Radharani requested three things: “Please promise Me that You will always remain in Vraja, unseen by those without devotion; please never disappoint the devotees who reside here, maintaining their lives by their love for You alone, hoping to attain Your lotus feet; and please always shower Your mercy on Your devotees and give them shelter at Your lotus feet.”

We see that even though Srimati Radharani had been experiencing extreme separation from Krishna, when Krishna asked Her what She wanted, She did not think of Herself; She thought of the suffering of others. This is the mood of separation. Srimati Radharani’s desire to please Krishna is so pure and so intense that She wants to engage every living entity for Krishna’s pleasure, to give them Krishna’s service and association.

Krishna has an unlimited desire to enjoy. Radha has the unlimited desire to fulfill Krishna’s desires. And Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada have the same desire to engage unlimited numbers of living entities in Krishna’s service. Like Srimati Radharani, the preacher wants to arrange for others to get Krishna’s association, to serve Him.

Srila Prabhupada especially wanted unlimited numbers of books to be distributed so that unlimited numbers of persons would be engaged in devotional service. Every book distributed means another brick for the Mayapur City temple, and as the city manifests, more and more devotees will be attracted to the dhama, to develop the same mood of sankirtana. And as they become inspired to distribute more and more books, more and more people will become devotees. And thus the Vaishnava’s desire will be fulfilled.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

The Influence of Holy Places

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Nov 282018

In the first verse of the Bhagavad-gita, the low-minded king Dhrtarastra asks his secretary, “O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruksetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?” Kim akurvata: “What did they do?” Srila Prabhupada says that this is a foolish question. The two armies had gathered to fight, so what is the question of what they did? Srila Prabhupada gives the example that if someone sits down before a plate of food, intending to eat, what is the question of “What did he do?” He would eat—that’s all.

So why did Dhrtarastra ask? Because Kurukshetra is dharma-ksetra, a holy place of pilgrimage. And under the influence of this religious place, his sons might have been influenced toward the good, to give up their intention to fight. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Yuyutsavah. This word yuyutsu [jujutsu] is still used in Japan. Perhaps you know, yuyutsu, fighting. So, yuyutsavah—‘desirous of fighting.’ Now, both parties were desiring to fight, and they assembled. Why is Dhrtarastra asking the question Kim akurvata: ‘What did they do?’? Because he was a little doubtful. These boys, after being assembled in dharma-ksetra, might have changed their ideas. They might have settled up. The sons of Dhrtarastra might have admitted, ‘Yes, Pandavas, you are actually the owners. What is the use of unnecessarily fighting?’ So he was very much anxious to know whether they had changed their decision. Therefore he is asking.”

Such is the influence of holy places. They can elevate one’s consciousness, even the consciousness of one habituated to low thoughts. And people who go to holy places—Mayapur, Vrindavan, Jagannath Puri—can immediately feel the difference. With reference to the power of living in Mathura-Vrindavan, The Nectar of Devotion explains, “Srila Rupa Gosvami has described Mathura-mandala: ‘I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamuna River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss.’ This feeling about Mathura-mandala and Vrndavana described by Rupa Gosvami can actually be felt even by nondevotees. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathura are so beautifully situated on the banks of the River Yamuna that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world. . . . Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathura or Vrndavana.” (Chapter 13)

Many pilgrims travel to Vrindavan and other holy places during the month of Kartik, and as they prepare to leave to return to their homes and places of service, they may wonder how they can keep the experience of Vrindavan with them. It is a challenge. The influence of materialistic cities, surcharged with passion and ignorance, can be daunting. And our own busy schedules may leave little time for direct service to Krishna. How can we keep the good influence of the holy places in our lives even after we leave?

Srila Rupa Gosvami advises,

krsnam smaran janam casya
  prestham nija-samihitam
tat-tat-katha-ratas casau
  kuryad vasam vraje sada

“The devotee should always think of Krsna within himself and should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Krsna in Vrndavana. One should constantly engage in topics about that servitor and his loving relationship with Krsna, and one should live in Vrndavana. If one is physically unable to go to Vrndavana, he should mentally live there.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.294, quoted as Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 22.161)

We should always engage in remembering and discussing Krishna—His names, forms, qualities, pastimes, and associates in Vrindavan—and even our own experiences there. By such engagement, we can experience Vrindavan wherever we are, with Krishna as the focus of our lives.

And we should spread the message of Vrindavan, the message of Mayapur. Once, on a morning walk in Mayapur, a devotee said to Srila Prabhupada, “Mayapur is so nice, I wish I could just stay here,” and Prabhupada responded, “You must go out and make the whole world Mayapur.”

To experience Vrindavan outside Vrindavan is difficult; to create Mayapur outside Mayapur is difficult. But Srila Prabhupada said, “Spiritual life is difficult, but material life is impossible.” So let us make an honest effort to engage in Krishna consciousness, and Krishna and His devotees will surely help us.

—Giriraj Swami

George Harrison’s Visit to Juhu—Remembering and Giving Thanks

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Nov 282018

I will never forget the moment when I heard that George Harrison had passed away, shortly after Thanksgiving in 2001. My strong feelings of separation surprised me—and made me think how important and dear George must have been to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna. And I remembered my own little experience with George in Bombay.

In 1974, George came to visit Srila Prabhupada at Hare Krishna Land, in Juhu. He was wearing a white kurta and white yogi pants and had a plain bead bag. I took him around the property, and he expressed his appreciation for our work and encouraged us in our efforts.  When at twelve-thirty we heard the conch shell blow for raja-bhoga arati, we proceeded to the small temple shed, where George chose a pair of kartalas and sang with the other devotees. Puri dasa, originally from Scotland, was doing the arati, and when he turned to offer the ghee lamp to the devotees and saw George, his hand started trembling so much that he thought he might drop the lamp.

After the arati, I arranged a full plate of maha-prasada for George and accompanied him to meet Prabhupada in his apartment. Prabhupada greeted him warmly, and I left them together and returned to my office.

“Prabhupada was behind his desk, with George in front of him,” Kishor das later described. “I barely remember what was said, but I remember the feeling of love that went back and forth between them. It was tangible. I didn’t really understand what this relationship was. I was young, and here was a big rock star, and a pure devotee of Krishna, and there was I somewhere. But I could just feel this feeling of love that went back and forth between Prabhupada and George.”

About two hours later, a pudgy twelve-year-old boy with glasses—the son of our friend and supporter Pranjivan G. Valia of the “Hare Krishna” house in the Juhu Vile Parle development—came to my small office at the back of the property. “I heard George Harrison is here,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, “he is.”

“I want to see him,” he stated.

“Well, you can’t. He’s meeting with Srila Prabhupada.”
He looked me straight in the eye, sizing me up, and, concluding that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me, turned, dashed to the stairs, and bolted down the steps.

Oh my God, I thought. He’s going to try to find him. So I bounded down the stairs in hot pursuit.

I ran across to the next building, and when I reached the second landing, in front of Prabhupada’s flat, I found the door ajar. The boy stood just inside, and beyond him George sat cross-legged with his back erect, like a yogi—a perfect disciple listening attentively at the feet of his master.

With the boy’s abrupt appearance, Prabhupada and George ended their meeting, exchanging some final words. George was gracious and appreciative, Prabhupada affectionate and kind. I was upset that the boy had interrupted them, but they took it as a matter of course. Maybe it was time for the meeting to end; maybe they took it as Krishna’s arrangement.

Shyamasundar and I accompanied George back to the temple shed for darshan of the Deities. He paid full dandavats, lying completely flat on the floor before Them for a long time, and then left.

The next year, on a morning walk in Sanand, Gujarat, Prabhupada recalled the meeting: “He is very nice boy—George. I have studied. Very good boy. He showed me in Bombay. He came to see me in Bombay, last year. He is keeping Jagannatha within his bead bag and chanting.”

I and many thousands—perhaps millions—of people are thankful to George for all the service he rendered to Srila Prabhupada and the Krishna consciousness movement, for making the holy name of Lord Krishna—the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—and the principles of Krishna consciousness so accessible to people all over the world and for attracting so many souls to the all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji’s Disappearance Day

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Nov 172018

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a great devotee—a maha-bhagavata. He was a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was very renounced. He had lived for many years in Vrindavan, roaming the twelve forests, chanting the holy names of Krishna, eating by begging alms, and sleeping under trees. Later, after Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered Lord Chaitanya’s birthplace in Mayapur, Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, the siksa-guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and parama-guru of Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, instructed Gaurakisora to move to Navadvipa-dhama.

There Gaurakisora resided on the banks of the Ganges and practiced devotional service with intense devotion and renunciation. Because materialistic men would come and disturb him with their desires for mundane blessings (asirvada), the babaji began to stay by a municipal lavatory, where the filth and obnoxious smells would discourage unwanted visitors. There he would chant in peace—in ecstasy. He would beg alms and cook in discarded clay pots, or eat parched rice with green chilies, or just ingest Ganges mud. Sometimes he would collect the discarded cloth from the crematorium, wash it in Ganges water, and use it to cover himself. His only desire was to be absorbed in the mellow of the holy name—in Krishna consciousness.

Gaurakisora was a siksa disciple and intimate friend of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Thakura arranged a bhajana-kutira for him on the same property as Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house in Godruma-dvipa. When the time came for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to take diksa, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura advised him to approach Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the father of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and his first instructor in the spiritual science, but the etiquette was that one would not take diksa from one’s biological father. So Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sent him to Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was highly literate. By the age of seven, he had memorized the entire Bhagavad-gita and could even explain its verses. He had a photographic memory, and in school he read all the books in the entire library. Just by reading them once, he could remember every word, and so the library purchased new books just for him. By the age of twenty-five, he had written numerous articles and published a book, Surya-siddhanta, for which he was awarded the title “Siddhanta Sarasvati.” So, he was highly educated and literate, whereas Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja was hardly educated or literate at all.

The first time Siddhanta Sarasvati approached Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, the babaji refused to accept him. He didn’t directly say no, but he said, “I will ask Mahaprabhu.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned and told his father what had happened, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura encouraged him to persevere: “You must go back and beg him with all humility and earnestness to accept you.” So, he went back, and Gaurakisora dasa Babaji again refused, saying, “Oh, I forgot to ask Mahaprabhu. I am so sorry.” When Siddhanta Sarasvati returned home, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was most upset. He knew that Gaurakisora dasa Babaji was a pure devotee, and he urged Siddhanta Sarasvati to persist; he again instructed his son to beg Gaurakisora for his mercy, and he added, “If you fail this time, don’t bother to come back home.”

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