Jun 262016

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

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 242016

06.23.16_04.TKG_App_Carp“Sometimes we would discuss something together and at times he was clearly right, but other times I would feel that I saw something that he didn’t see—and he would not agree. But I had faith in him because it happened again and again that in the morning he would chant and reflect on whatever the issue was and if it really was a point where he should have come around, he did come around. Although he was such a powerful and forceful person, he was controlled, even invisibly, by Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.

—Giriraj Swami

Devotees’  Appreciations
Giriraj Swami’s Appreciation

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Jun 222016

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

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

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

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

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

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

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

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

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

Radhanath Swami: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for engaging me.

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

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

Radhanath Swami: Thank you for engaging and purifying me.

Giriraj Swami: You want to fight about it?

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

Thank you very much, Giriraj Swami Maharaja!

Jun 192016

Giriraj with Srila Prabhupada on Juhu BeachToday, on Father’s Day, some devotees thought of me and wrote to me. I thought of Srila Prabhupada and a letter he wrote to a disciple: “You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. Relationship of father and son on spiritual platform is real and eternal; on the material platform such relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I can pray to Krishna for your more and more advancement in Krishna consciousness. Your sincerity and service mood will always help you in advancing your genuine cause.”

I also thought of a verse and purport from Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.24.13):

etavaty eva susrusa karya pitari putrakaih
badham ity anumanyeta gauravena guror vacah

“Sons ought to render service to their father exactly to this extent. One should obey the command of his father or spiritual master with due deference, saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

Srila Prabhupada explains, “Two words in this verse are very important; one word is pitari, and another word is guroh. The son or disciple should accept the words of his spiritual master and father without hesitation. Whatever the father and the spiritual master order should be taken without argument: ‘Yes.’ There should be no instance in which the disciple or the son says, ‘This is not correct. I cannot carry it out.’ When he says that, he is fallen. The father and the spiritual master are on the same platform because a spiritual master is the second father. The higher classes are called dvija, twice-born. Whenever there is a question of birth, there must be a father. The first birth is made possible by the actual father, and the second birth is made possible by the spiritual master. Sometimes the father and the spiritual master may be the same man, and sometimes they are different men. In any case, the order of the father or the order of the spiritual master must be carried out without hesitation, with an immediate yes. There should be no argument. That is real service to the father and to the spiritual master. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has stated that the order of the spiritual master is the life and soul of the disciples. As a man cannot separate his life from his body, a disciple cannot separate the order of the spiritual master from his life. If a disciple follows the instruction of the spiritual master in that way, he is sure to become perfect. This is confirmed in the Upanisads: the import of Vedic instruction is revealed automatically only to one who has implicit faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead and in his spiritual master. One may be materially considered an illiterate man, but if he has faith in the spiritual master as well as in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then the meaning of scriptural revelation is immediately manifested before him.”

On this occasion, I pray to become a proper servant of my spiritual master, or spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada, and of all his other servants.

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring servant,
Giriraj Swami

Jun 172016

harinam-sankirtan3Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Bhagavad-gita 3.10 at a home program.

“In the Age of Kali, the sankirtana-yajna (the chanting of the names of God) is recommended by the Vedic scriptures, and this transcendental system was introduced by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of all men in this age. Sankirtana-yajna and Krsna consciousness go well together. Lord Krsna in His devotional form (as Lord Caitanya) is mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32) as follows, with special reference to the sankirtana-yajna:

krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam
yajñaih sankirtana-prayair
yajanti hi su-medhasah

‘In this Age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufficient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of sankirtana-yajna.’ Other yajnas prescribed in the Vedic literatures are not easy to perform in this Age of Kali, but the sankirtana-yajna is easy and sublime for all purposes.” (Bg 3.10 purport)

Bhagavad-gita 3.10, McClean, Virginia

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Jun 122016

prahladaGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.9.

” ‘If the Krsna consciousness movement spreads all over the world, and if by the grace of Krsna everyone accepts it, the thinking of envious people will change. Everyone will think of the welfare of others. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays, sivam mitho dhiya. In material activities, everyone is envious of others, but in Krsna consciousness, no one is envious of anyone else; everyone thinks of the welfare of others. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays that everyone’s mind may become gentle by being fixed at the lotus feet of Krsna (bhajatad adhoksaje). As indicated elsewhere in Srimad-Bhagavatam (sa vai manah krsna-padaravindayoh) and as advised by Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (18.65), man-mana bhava mad-bhaktah, one should constantly think of the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Then one’s mind will certainly be cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam).’ (SB 5.18.9 purport)

“Krishna consciousness means always thinking of Krishna. By always thinking of Krishna, ceto-darpana-marjanam—our consciousness will be purified, we will become happy, and we will think of the welfare of others. That is why we have temples. That is why we are undertaking building a new temple here—to give people a chance to come and think of Krishna and become happy and peaceful and bring peace to the world. That is the only motive. Devotees are so selfless. It takes a lot of effort to get architectural drawings made, get permits from the government, organize the materials and contractors, and raise funds. It requires great endeavor. But that is the merciful nature of Vaishnavas—they want to do good for others by spreading Krishna consciousness.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.18.9, Baltimore

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Jun 082016

Krishna-Welcomes-Gopa-KumarGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17.

” ‘A living being, especially the human being, is seeking happiness because happiness is the natural situation of the living entity. But he is vainly seeking happiness in the material atmosphere. A living being is constitutionally a spiritual spark of the complete whole, and his happiness can be perfectly perceived in spiritual activities. The Lord is the complete spirit whole, and His name, form, quality, pastimes, entourage, and personality are all identical with Him. Once a person comes into contact with any one of the above-mentioned energies of the Lord through the proper channel of devotional service, the door to perfection is immediately opened.’ (SB 2.3.17 purport)

“God, or Krishna, is perfect and complete. And when we are established in our relationship with Him, we feel completeness. Without our eternal relationship with Krishna we feel incomplete, and so we try to overcome the feeling of incompleteness with so many things—’If I get this record, I will feel complete. If I get this job, I will feel complete. If I get this spouse, I will feel complete. If I have a child, I will feel complete’—whatever it may be. But we never feel complete with those things, because we are complete only in relationship with the Supreme Complete Whole, Krishna.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17, Potomac

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Jun 062016

2016-Jun-4-HomeProgramGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.22.

“Only attention engaged in the service of the Lord, especially in dressing and decorating the temple, accompanied by musical kirtana and spiritual instructions from scriptures, can save the common man from the hellish cinema attractions and rubbish sex-songs broadcast everywhere by radios. If one is unable to maintain a temple at home, he should go to another’s temple where all the above performances are regularly executed. Visiting the temple of a devotee and looking at the profusely decorated forms of the Lord well dressed in a well-decorated, sanctified temple naturally infuse the mundane mind with spiritual inspiration.” (SB 2.3.22 purport)

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.22, Bethesda

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Jun 062016

2016-Jun-4-IFASTGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, Chapter 8.

“Regarding the offense “to not have complete faith in the chanting of the holy names and to maintain material attachments, even after understanding so many instructions on this matter,” I once asked Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu what the connection was. He explained that we hold onto material attachments because we don’t have complete faith in the holy name—we don’t have faith that the holy name will give us everything we need. We  don’t have faith that our need and desire to love and be loved will be satisfied by Krishna, so we hold on to some attachment. Or economically, we don’t know if Krishna will take care of us so we keep working hard and accumulating more and more money at the cost of our spiritual life—because we don’t have complete faith. Yes, we should take precautions, but we should realize that what will really stay with us is our relationship with Krishna and His associates, and we should not not invest too much in what we will leave behind, at the cost of what is permanent.”

How to Live and Die Gloriously, IFAST

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