Jul 042020

Today is Guru-purnima. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the system of honoring the spiritual master is current in all sections of Vedic followers. In the Mayavadi (impersonalist) sects, the disciples offer respect to the spiritual master once a year, on Guru-purnima. And in the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, the disciples offer homage annually on the appearance day of the spiritual master, called Vyasa-puja because the spiritual master represents Vedavyasa, the empowered incarnation of Krishna who compiled the Vedic literatures, and the bona fide spiritual master presents the same knowledge through disciplic succession. Yet although Guru-purnima is generally observed by the Mayavadi groups, we shall take the opportunity to discuss the principle of guru—and glorify the acharya-sampradaya.

Guru is a deep subject. We sing, vande ’ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca. We offer respects to the spiritual master in singular, to the spiritual masters in plural, and to all Vaishnavas. The singular spiritual master is our personal spiritual master, the plural spiritual masters are the predecessor acharyas, and the Vaishnavas are the followers of the spiritual master. We offer respects to them all, because they all come in the same line, the disciplic succession (parampara) from Krishna Himself.

Srila Prabhupada explains, “The offering of respect to the spiritual master means offering respect to all the previous acharyas. Gurun means plural number. All the acharyas, they are not different from one another, because they are coming in the disciplic succession from the original spiritual master and they have no different views.” Thus we offer respects to the predecessors.

Similarly, we offer respects to the followers. Srila Prabhupada explains further, “Spiritual master means they must have many followers, who are all Vaishnavas. They are called prabhus, and the spiritual master is called Prabhupada, because at his lotus feet there are many prabhus. Pada means ‘lotus foot.’ All these Vaishnavas are prabhus. So they are also offered respectful obeisances—not the spiritual master alone, but along with his associates. And these associates, his disciples, are all Vaishnavas. Therefore they should also be offered respectful obeisances.” (SP comment on Mangalacarana, January 8, 1969)

For us in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada is the main guru; he is the founder-acharya. But he also has his associates—Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, Srila Sridhar Swami, Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami—to name some prominent ones who have departed. And, of course, Prabhupada is being served by so many others today, and we can serve and learn from all of them. Continue reading »

Jul 042020

Dear Devotees,

Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

It is with overwhelming heartache that we announce to you the departure of our beloved godbrother and a dearmost servant of Srila Prabhupada, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami.

From his earliest days as a young devotee, Maharaja had the extraordinary privilege of serving as one of Srila Prabhupada’s confidential, personal servants. And ever since, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s life has been an offering of love at the lotus feet of his spiritual master.

Indeed, there was not a service that Maharaja did not perform for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. As instructed in their very first meeting, Maharaja translated every one of Srila Prabhupada’s written works into Bengali, the language of Srila Prabhupada’s own birth. To fulfill this cherished order, Maharaja took on years of austerity, rising at midnight to carefully translate his spiritual master’s divine words.

Maharaja served as one of the most active members of the GBC Body, he was an initiating spiritual master with many dedicated disciples all over the world, and he shared Krishna consciousness in every segment of society, from simple Bangladeshi villages to the British parliament. Maharaja encouraged and advised ISKCON leaders in management and spiritual topics, saved more than one ISKCON project in times of despair, and did his utmost to contribute to the welfare of the most vulnerable members of society.

One of Maharaja’s unique contributions was the “Abhay Charan” television series, which brought the glorious life and pastimes of Srila Prabhupada to the world on an unprecedented scale. And most recently, Maharaja again heightened the glory of his spiritual master by building a marvelous temple and devotee community in the holy city of Ujjain.

Maharaja’s voice, sweeter than honey, has immortalized many of our acharyas’ prayers, and most famously, Maharaja’s heartfelt rendition of the gopis’ song of separation from the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam rings in our ears.

Despite his position and many qualifications, both material and spiritual, Maharaja was a humble and loving gentleman who took pleasure in serving devotees. Indeed, one of Maharaja’s favorite pastimes was to personally cook and serve prasadam for the devotees. As in all aspects of his service and gentle and cultured nature, Maharaja’s cooking was highly refined and infused with bhakti.

There are no words that provide solace when facing separation from such a glorious Vaishnava, but we can take some comfort in the fact that His Holiness Bhakti Charu Maharaja lived constantly in meditation on how to serve Srila Prabhupada and his mission. Undoubtedly, he now continues that service under the direction of His Divine Grace.

Let us offer true homage to Maharaja by continuing his legacy of service in our own lives. Let us commit ourselves, mind, body, and soul, to the service of Srila Prabhupada, following in the footsteps of his beloved servant His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami.

One of Maharaja’s most cherished instructions from His Divine Grace was “Your love for me will be show by how you cooperate together after I am gone.” Now, in Maharaja’s absence, we are reminded to take that instruction to heart and reaffirm our dedication to ISKCON, and to each other.

We also commit ourselves, as Maharaja’s servants, to assist and care for his loving disciples in his absence. It was very important to Maharaja that we operate as one family in Srila Prabhupada’s service and we remind you today that although Maharaja is no longer physically present, you are protected by the shelter of many devotees who are ready to offer you the support you may require at this difficult time and in the future.

As Maharaja often glorified Srila Prabhupada with the beautiful words of the gopis, let us also remember Maharaja as that most munificent Vaishnava who will eternally inspire the followers of Srila Prabhupada to share the glories of Lord Krishna:

tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah

“The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one’s sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent.”

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami ki jaya!

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Hare Krishna.

Your servants,
Ramai Swami
Bhakti Caitanya Swami
Bhanu Swami,
GBC Executive Committee

Jul 022020

Certain situations are extremely painful, and our intelligence fails to understand how this could be a blessing of the Lord. At such times, we can try humbly submitting a prayer: “O God, please give me the strength to see this situation as your mercy, although my intelligence fails to see it so.” This way we can tap the so-far-concealed grace of the Lord and develop gratitude for all inconceivable situations that God arranges for us in our lives.

—Radhanath Swami

Jul 012020

I will read a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, Chapter Two, Text 23. This verse is very significant. Not only is the verse beautiful, but it also has historical significance, because when Sukadeva Gosvami came out of the womb, after sixteen years, he left home immediately, and his father, Srila Vyasadeva, followed him into the forest. And when he came close enough to him, he recited two verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam, one describing Krishna’s beauty, from the Tenth Canto, and one describing Krishna’s mercy, which is this verse.

When Sukadeva Gosvami heard these two verses—the one describing Krishna’s mercy and the one describing Krishna’s beauty—he became attracted. Although liberated, he became attracted by the transcendental qualities of Krishna, and he came back to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from his father, Vyasadeva.


aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
  jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato ’nyam
  kam va dayalum saranam vrajema


ho—alas; baki—the she-demon (Putana); yam—whom; stana—of her breast; kala—deadly; kutam—poison; jighamsaya—out of envy; apayayat—nourished; api—although; asadhvi—unfaithful; lebhe—achieved; gatim—destination; dhatri-ucitam—just suitable for the nurse; tatah—beyond whom; anyam—other; kam—who else; va—certainly; dayalum—merciful; saranam—shelter; vrajema—shall I take.


Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Putana] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Here is an example of the extreme mercy of the Lord, even to His enemy. It is said that a noble man accepts the good qualities of a person of doubtful character, just as one accepts nectar from a stock of poison.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The Lord is absolute. He is all good for everyone, and He is neutral toward everyone. He is always thinking of how to do good for others. So even if one approaches Him as an enemy, He will try to do good for the person, as was the case with Putana. Although she came to kill Him by administering poison from her breast, He elevated her to the position of a nurse, like a mother, in the spiritual world.

Srila Prabhupada said it is a mark of a good man that he takes the good side, not the bad side, of others. He gave the example of his guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had a disciple named Kunjabihari dasa—people used to call him Kunja Babu—who, Srila Prabhupada said, came to do business with their guru maharaja, to profit personally from his relationship with him and from his service in the Gaudiya Math. But Srila Prabhupada said their guru maharaja didn’t take Kunja’s dark side, that he was coming to make business, but took the bright side, that he was coming to offer service.

“Putana Raksasi—she offered Krishna poison. But Krishna is so nice that He thought, ‘She took Me as My mother,’ so He took the poison and delivered her. Krishna does not take the bad side. A good man does not take the bad side—he takes only the good side. Just like one of my big godbrothers—he wanted to make business with my guru maharaja, but my guru maharaja did not take the bad side. He took the good side. He thought, ‘He has come forward to give me some service.’ ” (Talk with Bob Cohen, February 28, 1972, Mayapur)

PURPORT (continued)

In His babyhood, the Lord was administered deadly poison by Putana, a she-demon who tried to kill the wonderful baby. And because she was a demon, it was impossible for her to know that the Supreme Lord, even though playing the part of a baby, was no one less than the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

COMMENT (continued)

On the occasion of the wedding of Vasudeva and Devaki, Kamsa, who was Devaki’s brother, was driving their chariot, and he heard a voice from the sky (akasa-vani) saying that the eighth son of Devaki would kill him. And he was so selfish and egoistic and demonic that he didn’t wait for the eighth child; he killed all the sons of Devaki, one by one. Then, eventually, Krishna appeared, and He manifested His four-handed form of Vishnu to convince them that He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But still, out of parental affection, they were afraid for Him, and thus Vasudeva carried Krishna to Vrindavan.

Kamsa sent many demons to Vrindavan to kill Krishna, and Putana was one of them. And it is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam that when sucking Putana’s breast, He sucked out her life air. It is also described that He closed His eyes, and commentators explain that He closed His eyes because He didn’t want to look at her because although she was a demon, she was a woman who appeared to be showing motherly affection.

PURPORT (concluded)

And because she was a demon, it was impossible for her to know that the Supreme Lord, even though playing the part of a baby, was no one less than the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. His value as the Supreme Lord did not diminish upon His becoming a baby to please His devotee Yasoda. The Lord may assume the form of a baby or a shape other than that of a human being, but it doesn’t make the slightest difference; He is always the same Supreme. A living creature, however powerful he may become by dint of severe penance, can never become equal to the Supreme Lord.

Lord Krsna accepted the motherhood of Putana because she pretended to be an affectionate mother, allowing Krsna to suck her breast. The Lord accepts the least qualification of the living entity and awards him the highest reward. That is the standard of His character. Therefore, who but the Lord can be the ultimate shelter?


This verse reminds me of Srila Prabhupada: How shall I take shelter of one more merciful than he? There was no one more merciful than Srila Prabhupada. Lord Nityananda is most merciful, and Srila Prabhupada manifested the same quality of mercy as Nityananda Prabhu. Continue reading »

Jun 282020

Chanting before Tulasi today, I recalled an incident with Srila Prabhupada in his garden in New Dvaraka, Los Angeles, in 1973. I was looking at him, and suddenly his face lit up, his eyes opened wide, and he smiled broadly, as if he were seeing a long-lost dear friend. When I turned around to see who had come, I saw that it was Tulasi, being carried by a devotee. “Just by her presence,” Prabhupada said, “Tulasi purifies the whole atmosphere.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami