Giriraj Swami

Jun 162020

This Krishna consciousness movement is spreading quickly all over the world—within four, five years. Is it my credit? No. It is Krishna’s credit. But because I have tried to do this business, people are automatically giving me the credit. They say, “Swamiji, you have done wonderful.” I have done nothing wonderful. It is Krishna’s business. Krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana. (Cc Antya-lila 7.11) Without Krishna’s strength, nobody can spread. That is stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta.

Krishna is always ready to help us, provided we are also ready to cooperate with Him. If we cooperate with Him, what Krishna desires, if we want to do a little, immediately Krishna will help you. If you work one percent, Krishna will help you ten percent. Again if you work one percent, Krishna will help you another ten percent. But the cent percent credit you get, by the help of Krishna. Krishna gives you intelligence. Tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam, dadami buddhi-yogam tam. (Gita 10.10) [“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”] If you are engaged satatam, twenty-four hours, without any other engagement—sarva-dharman parityajya (Gita 18.66), giving up all other, nonsense business, sarva-dharman. Simply if you are engaged in Krishna’s business, priti-purvakam, with love. Not as hackneyed: “Ah, here is a duty, chanting of Hare Krishna. All right, “harekrishnaharekrishnaharekrishna” [chants very quickly and indistinctly]. Not like that. With priti, with love. Chant every name, “Hare Krishna,” and hear. Here is Krishna; here is Radharani. That kind of chanting, quality. Not “Harekrishnaharekrishnakrishnakrsinhaharehare.” Not like that. Priti. Tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti. That priti is required. That is the essential quality.

—Srila Prabhupada, talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.2, June 17, 1973, Mayapur

Jun 152020

His Holiness Sridhar Swami Maharaja left his body in Mayapur on Srivasa Pandita’s appearance day in 2004. He was such a good friend to me—and to all the devotees in ISKCON, and ultimately to everyone. I spend my days trying to please him by serving the causes and devotees dear to him. When I think of his words “There is no one I love more than Giriraj Swami,” my heart melts.

I miss you, Maharaja—I love you.

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal servant,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 142020

Srivasa Pandita is one of the members of the Pancha-tattva: sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasa. Vedic authorities state that in the current Age of Kali, Krishna came as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Balarama came as Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Similarly, Maha-vishnu appeared as Advaita Acharya, 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 Pancha-tattva comprise one truth on the absolute platform. Lord Chaitanya is bhakta-rupa, Krishna in the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is svarupakam, the expansion of a devotee. Advaita Acharya is bhaktavataram, the avatar 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 Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes the tree of Lord Chaitanya. The tree itself is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and at the same time Sri Chaitanya 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 Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Krishnadasa 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.

Srila Prabhupada also mentions that ISKCON is a branch of the Chaitanya tree. In reality, Prabhupada himself is a most important branch of the Chaitanya tree, but in his humility he says that ISKCON is a branch. So all the devotees in ISKCON, who are attached to ISKCON, are leaves on the Chaitanya tree. And we should respect and honor them all.

After giving us this introduction to the Chaitanya tree, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami begins to describe specific devotees, and the first he describes is Srivasa Thakura. For our purification, we shall read now the first verses of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten, “The Trunk, Branches, and Subbranches of the Caitanya Tree.” And then we shall discuss more about Srivasa Thakura.


  madhupebhyo namo namah
kathancid asrayad yesam
  svapi tad-gandha-bhag bhavet


Let me repeatedly offer my respectful obeisances unto the beelike devotees who always taste the honey of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If even a doggish nondevotee somehow takes shelter of such devotees, he enjoys the aroma of the lotus flower.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The example of a dog is very significant in this connection. A dog naturally does not become a devotee at any time, but still it is sometimes found that a dog of a devotee gradually becomes a devotee also. We have actually seen that a dog has no respect even for the tulasi plant. Indeed, a dog is especially inclined to pass urine on the tulasi plant. Therefore the dog is the number one nondevotee. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement is so strong that even a doglike nondevotee can gradually become a devotee by the association of a devotee of Lord Caitanya. Srila Sivananda Sena, a great householder devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, attracted a dog on the street while going to Jagannatha Puri. The dog began to follow him and ultimately went to see Caitanya Mahaprabhu and was liberated. Similarly, cats and dogs in the household of Srivasa Thakura were also liberated. Cats and dogs and other animals are not expected to become devotees, but in the association of a pure devotee they are also delivered.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

This is an important verse to begin the description of the Chaitanya tree. The tree describes the devotees, and here Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami glorifies the power of the devotees: by their power, even a doglike nondevotee can become a devotee and taste the nectar at the lotus feet of the Lord.

In six days we shall observe Jagannatha Ratha-yatra, and that date is also the disappearance day of Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Srila Sivananda Sena. Every year, Sivananda Sena would take a party of devotees from Bengal to Orissa for the Ratha-yatra, and one year a dog joined them. Sivananda Sena was so merciful that he accepted the dog as part of his party, so much so that when they had to cross a river by boat, he paid the boatman extra to take the dog.

One day, when Sivananda Sena had to attend to some work, his servant forgot to feed the dog. And when Sivananda came and inquired, “Did you feed the dog?” he discovered that it had not been given its meals. Sivananda Sena immediately sent ten men to find the dog, but they could not find it. And Sivananda Sena felt so sorry that he fasted.

The next day too they did not see the dog, but when they reached Puri they saw the dog sitting a little distance from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was throwing it remnants of green coconut pulp and requesting it to chant the holy names “Hari,” “Krishna,” and “Rama.” Sivananda Sena, out of his humility, offered obeisances to the dog, feeling that he had been an offender, because he had neglected to serve it properly. The following day, however, no one saw the dog, for it had been liberated and gone back home, back to Godhead, by the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the holy names.

This is the strength of the mercy of a pure devotee. By the mercy of such a devotee, one gets the association of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—the opportunity to chant the holy names of Krishna—and in the end goes back home, back to Godhead. Continue reading »

Tamal Krishna Goswami’s Vyasa-puja

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Jun 092020

For Sripada Tamal Krishna Goswami’s Vyasa-puja today, I wrote a small offering:

Tamal Krishna Goswami has done so much service for Srila Prabhupada—I could speak for hours about it—and I know that Prabhupada is pleased and proud of him. Tamal Krishna Goswami has helped me personally in so many ways as well. I could speak for hours about that too. But today I wish to discuss his amazing, powerful effect on a devotee who never met him—Madana-mohana-mohini dasi. He manifested himself to her in such a potent and personal way that she has become mad after him. And he has empowered her to serve him in manifold ways. She has done much to preserve his legacy and expand his glories. But one of the things that has impressed me most is how she acted, especially while she was in Dallas, to reach out to Gurudeva’s disciples and encourage them in their relationships with him—and with each other. She seemed inspired and empowered by Gurudeva to speak to each one in just the right way, and to encourage and engage them in the most appropriate way in Gurudeva’s service, in Krishna consciousness.

From her example, we can learn some significant lessons in relation to Srila Gurudeva: He is always present; he can manifest himself powerfully and personally to anyone, even someone who never met him; he can show his kindness, compassion, and care to anyone at any time; and he can empower anyone in his service in wonderful ways. So we should have full faith in him—in his presence, in his potency, and in his personal care.

I feel separation from Srila Gurudeva—I miss him dearly—but I take solace and find shelter in the association of those who love and serve him, including those who, in this life, never met him.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

The Present Need of Human Society

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Jun 032020

In difficult times like these, I feel the urgent need for Srila Prabhupada’s books to be distributed in large numbers, for only such literature can enlighten people how to proceed in the right way.

Srila Prabhupada’s preface to Srimad-Bhagavatam is profoundly relevant:

“We must know the present need of human society. And what is that need? Human society is no longer bounded by geographical limits to particular countries or communities . . ., and the world tendency is toward one state or one human society. The ideals of . . . Srimad-Bhagavatam are based more or less on the oneness of the entire human society, nay, of the entire energy of living beings. The need is felt by great thinkers to make this a successful ideology. Srimad-Bhagavatam will fill this need in human society. It begins, therefore, with an aphorism of Vedanta philosophy, janmady asya yatah, to establish the ideal of a common cause.

“Human society, at the present moment, is not in the darkness of oblivion. It has made rapid progress in the fields of material comforts, education, and economic development throughout the entire world. But there is a pinprick somewhere in the social body at large, and therefore there are large-scale quarrels, even over less important issues. There is need of a clue as to how humanity can become one in peace, friendship, and prosperity with a common cause. Srimad-Bhagavatam will fill this need, for it is a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of the entire human society. . . .

“There is God, or the almighty one, from whom everything emanates, by whom everything is maintained, and in whom everything is merged to rest. Material science has tried to find the ultimate source of creation very insufficiently, but it is a fact that there is one ultimate source of everything that be. This ultimate source is explained rationally and authoritatively in the beautiful Bhagavatam, or Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Srimad-Bhagavatam is the transcendental science not only for knowing the ultimate source of everything but also for knowing our relation with Him and our duty toward perfection of the human society on the basis of this perfect knowledge. . . .

“I am hopeful of its good reception by the thinkers and leaders of society . . .”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

The Panihati Cida-dadhi Festival

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Jun 022020

We have gathered at the lotus feet of the Pancha-tattva on this most auspicious occasion of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s cida-dadhi festival. The background to this incident can be found in the early life of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. His uncle and father, Hiranya and Govardhana Majumadara, were wealthy landlords in Bengal—almost like kings—and had a huge, opulent riverside palace, with boats that plied the river. Hiranya and Govardhana were generous and devoted to brahminical culture, and they practically maintained the entire brahman community of Nadia with their charity. Raghunatha dasa was their only son, so naturally they put all their hopes in him to carry on the family dynasty. But from a young age, Raghunatha was attracted to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Majumadaras’ spiritual master was Yadunandana Acharya, a disciple of Advaita Acharya (of the Pancha-tattva) and an intimate student of Vasudeva Datta, and the family’s priest was Balarama Acharya, a dear associate of Haridasa Thakura and close friend of Yadunandana Acharya. Balarama Acharya and Yadunandana Acharya used to host Haridasa Thakura, and when Haridasa stayed in their village, Raghunatha visited him daily and received his mercy. Balarama Acharya also invited Haridasa Thakura to speak in the Majumadaras’ assembly about the glories of the holy name. Thus Raghunatha dasa had the association of these great souls, followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who would tell him about Mahaprabhu and encourage him to chant.

Once, when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, after taking sannyasa, visited Shantipur, Raghunatha dasa went to meet Him. In pure love, he fell at Lord Chaitanya’s lotus feet, and the Lord, out of His mercy, blessed him with the touch of His feet. Raghunatha served the Lord for a week, and after he returned home he was mad with ecstatic love. He wanted to join Mahaprabhu in Puri, but his family would not allow him. Time and again he would run away from home to go to Puri, and every time, his father would catch him and bring him back. His father even kept five watchmen to guard him day and night, four servants to see to his comforts, and two brahmans to cook for him, so eleven people were engaged to make sure he did not go to Puri. Later, when Mahaprabhu again visited Shantipur, Raghunatha begged his father, “Please allow me to see the lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Otherwise, my life will not remain in my body.” So, his father allowed him to go to Shantipur, sending many servants to accompany him. For seven days Raghunatha stayed in the Lord’s association, constantly thinking, “How will I get free from the watchmen? How will I be able to go with Mahaprabhu to Puri?” The Lord, being omniscient, could understand Raghunatha’s mind, and He reassured him with some important statements. These instructions form the background of the Panihati festival, and we shall read them as they are recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Sixteen: “The Lord’s Attempt to go to Vrndavana.”

TEXT 237

“sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula


[Lord Chaitanya told Raghunatha dasa:] “Be patient and return home. Don’t be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence.

TEXT 238

“markata-vairagya na kara loka dekhana
yatha-yogya visaya bhunja’ anasakta hana


“You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The word markata-vairagya, indicating false renunciation, is very important in this verse. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in commenting on this word, points out that monkeys make an external show of renunciation by not accepting clothing and by living naked in the forest. In this way they consider themselves renunciants, but actually they are very busy enjoying sense gratification with dozens of female monkeys. Such renunciation is called markata-vairagya—the renunciation of a monkey. One cannot become really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one’s life. Temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is like the renunciation one feels at a cremation ground. When a man takes a dead body to the crematorium, he sometimes thinks, “This is the final end of the body. Why am I working so hard day and night?” Such sentiments naturally arise in the mind of any man who goes to a crematorial ghata. However, as soon as he returns from the cremation grounds, he again engages in material activity for sense enjoyment. This is called smasana-vairagya, or markata-vairagya.

In order to render service to the Lord, one may accept necessary things. If one lives in this way, he may actually become renounced. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:

yavata syat sva-nirvahah
  svi-kuryat tavad artha-vit
adhikye nyunatayam ca
  cyavate paramarthatah

“The bare necessities of life must be accepted, but one should not superfluously increase his necessities. Nor should they be unnecessarily decreased. One should simply accept what is necessary to help one advance spiritually.”

In his Durgama-sangamani, Sri Jiva Gosvami comments that the word sva-nirvahah actually means sva-sva-bhakti-nirvahah. The experienced devotee will accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.256), markata-vairagya, or phalgu-vairagya, is explained as follows:

prapancikataya buddhya
mumuksubhih parityago
  vairagyam phalgu kathyate

“When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete.” Whatever is favorable for the rendering of service to the Lord should be accepted and should not be rejected as a material thing. Yukta-vairagya, or befitting renunciation, is thus explained:

anasaktasya visayan
  yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
  yuktam vairagyam ucyate

“Things should be accepted for the Lord’s service and not for one’s personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Krsna, one’s renunciation is called yukta-vairagya.” Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, whatever is accepted for His service is also the Absolute Truth. . . .

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami enumerates sixty-four items of devotional service, beginning with guru-padasraya, taking shelter of a spiritual master; krsna-diksadi-siksanam, taking initiation and instruction from him; visrambhena guroh seva, serving him with respect; and sad-dharma-prccha, inquiring about one’s eternal duties. And at the end of the list he discusses certain items that he has not included but which one might think could or should have been included. One such item is the cultivation of vairagya (detachment), and Rupa Gosvami explains why he has not included it. He says that bhakti by nature makes the heart soft. The primary activities of bhakti, hearing and chanting about Krishna and remembering Him, make the heart soft, whereas the cultivation of speculative knowledge and performance of artificial austerities tend to make the heart hard—the exact opposite of bhakti. Continue reading »

The Citizens Should Feel Safe

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May 312020

Today I heard Srila Prabhupada’s talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.34–35 (September 28, 1976, Vrindavan), and in the wake of George Floyd’s recent death, caused by the police, and the subsequent riots, the following excerpt seemed especially relevant and poignant:

“Kshatriya . . . Kshat means injury. And trayate, to deliver. Kshatriya’s duty is to save the citizens from being injured by others. That is kshatriya. Even an animal. Just like Kali was trying to kill a cow. Maharaja Pariksit was on his tour, and he saw that a man was trying to kill a cow. So immediately he took his sword: ‘Who are you, rascal? You are trying to kill a cow in my kingdom?’ That is kshatriya’s duty. Kshatriya’s duty is to give protection from injury for the safety of the citizens. The citizens must feel safe, that ‘We have got such a nice king. There is no fear of anything.’ It is said in the Bhagavatam there was no anxiety even. The citizens should feel so much safe that ‘We have such a nice king that we have no danger at all: not being injured, not our property being stolen, nor injustice given.’ That is real government—when the citizens feel completely safe. That requires kshatriya. Not these chamars, bhangis, and sudras voted to become the president or minister. That will not be successful. That is not possible. There must be trained-up kshatriyas, then there will be good government. Trained. Trained means they should be advised by the brahmans.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Kamala Devi Dasi

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May 242020

My beloved, exalted disciple Kamala devi dasi left her body in Mauritius two days ago. Everything about her departure was auspicious, and her consciousness was fixed on Goloka Vrindavan. She was ably assisted in her final journey by HH Bhakti Brhat Bhagavata Swami; Karunika dasi; Vrajesvari dasi; Manasi Ganga dasi; Arcana Siddhi dasi; and her devoted daughter, Dhira Prasanta dasi, and son, Lesh, in Mauritius; and by Krsnagi dasi and others from afar.

I have attached a photo of Kamala devi when she came to California to serve me, after which she returned to Mauritius and learned that she had cancer.

Please pray for her.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Danger Is Required

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May 232020

Hearing Srila Prabhupada speak about why danger is required, I thought of the coronavirus pandemic. In a talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.33, April 25, 1973, Los Angeles, Prabhupada said:

“We have got natural devotion. Just like father and son, there is natural affection. The son has got natural devotion to the father, mother. Similarly, we have got our natural devotion. And when we are in danger, even the scientists pray to God—though when they are not in danger, they defy God.

“Therefore danger is required in order to teach these rascals that there is God. So, that is natural. Jivera svarupa haya nitya-krsna-dasa. (Cc Madhya 20.108) [“The living entity’s constitutional position is to be an eternal servant of Krishna.”] That is our natural . . . Artificially we are trying to banish God: ‘God is dead,’ ‘There is no God,’ ‘I am God,’ ‘This God,’ ‘That God.’ This rascaldom we must give up. Then we shall be given all protection by Krishna.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Vyasa-puja Appreciation for HH Indradyumna Swami Maharaja

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May 202020

My dear Indradyumna Swami Maharaja,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. And all glories to your service.

I could speak for many days about your service to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and for many hours about how you have helped me personally. But today I wish to focus on one area in particular in which you have helped me—my writing, which Srila Prabhupada said I should take up as my “first business” and which thus is my most important service.

Some years ago, you told me that I should bring out a book every year, and for three consecutive years I faithfully did that, publishing Watering the Seed (revised and expanded), Many Moons: Reflections on Departed Vaishnavas, and Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective. Then one year at the Sadhu Sanga Kirtan Retreat, in my talk I mentioned some things related to the Juhu saga. Afterward, when I came down and sat next to you, you took my hand in yours and said, “I never heard many of these details before—you must bring out your book about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu as soon as possible.”

I took your instruction to heart, and for the last several years I have focused on that project. When the book was almost ready, you wanted to know what the title would be, and you gave some advice to make it shorter, and in the end I accepted one of your suggestions for the title: I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story. Now, with your encouragement, the book is almost ready to be sent to the BBT for printing.

Related to my writing is my base in Carpinteria, and here too you have given me valuable advice. You said that I should not burden myself and my small staff by having many programs there; rather, I should go out for preaching programs.

My writing is also inspired by my Deities. You were instrumental in my getting Sri Sri Gandharvika-Giridhari, you gave me Gopisvara Mahadeva, and you were involved in the establishment of the worship of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura-nataraja and Sri Sri Radhika-Radhika-ramana.

There is no end to my debt to you, which will take me many lifetimes to even begin to repay—but that makes me very happy, because I want to serve Srila Prabhupada with you life after life. As Srila Prabhupada wrote to a disciple who asked about our relationships in ISKCON, “As to your question concerning whether relationships between devotees are eternal, the answer is ‘yes.’ This is confirmed by Sri Narottama dasa Thakura: cakhu-dana dilo yei, janme janme prabhu sei: ‘he is my Lord birth after birth.’ ” We are eternally connected in Srila Prabhupada’s service.

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal, grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami