Dec 092019

Posted by Giriraj Swami on Sunday, December 8, 2019

On December 8, at Giriraj Swami’s ashram in Carpinteria, Varun Gogna, from London, received first and second initiation and the name Vraja Sundara Dasa; Bradley Nibblett, from Los Angeles, received first initiation and the name Bhakta Dasa; and Vraja Bihari Dasa and Sveta Manjari Dasi, from Mumbai, received second initiation.

Initiation Ceremony Talk (Right click to download)


Dec 072019

The Bhagavad-gita is also known as the Gitopanishad and is considered one of the Upanishads. The title Bhagavad-gita is sometimes translated as “The Song of God.” Gita means “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 I will find someone who has a hundred dollars. And if I look 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 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.” 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.

Continue reading »

Dec 062019

Tomorrow is the eightieth birthday of Sripada Satsvarupa dasa Goswami Maharaja. He was my first temple president, and he has been my inspiration in writing, especially about Srila Prabhupada, which has been my main service. 

My dear Satsvarupa das Goswami Maharaja,

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

As you know, you are my mentor, exemplar, and inspiration for writing about Srila Prabhupada, which has been my main focus for the last several years, and so I have been thinking of you. I recently finished the first draft of my book about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu, and while working on the book I would refer to Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta and marvel at how beautifully it was written.

Now I am contemplating writing about Boston, where we first met and where you nurtured me in Krishna consciousness and encouraged me to write. And I will be referring to your writings about that period as well.

In my initiation letter, dated July 5, 1969, Srila Prabhupada mentioned you: “With my blessings, I am sending herewith your beads, duly chanted upon by me. You should avoid the ten offenses as far as possible, and follow the four regulative principles, as Satsvarupa will instruct you. I know your good godbrother Satsvarupa will always help you in this connection.” And even now, your emphasis on your personal japa is guiding and inspiring me.

So I feel very grateful to you, for you have nurtured me in Krishna consciousness from my very first days, as a student at Brandeis University, until today. And I know that you will continue to do so.

How you protected me is exemplified in a small exchange. Once, at breakfast, Saradia was sitting at the end of the sheet on which we had our plates, kitty-corner to me, and you were next to me. Saradia, glancing at me, said, “Satsvarupa, since when do we let hippies stay with us?” You winced and replied incredulously yet firmly, “Glenn isn’t a hippie, Saradia. He’s a devotee.”

Later, at North Beacon Street, feeling especially wretched and lowly, I said, “I feel so fallen, I don’t think Rupa Goswami would want me in the spiritual world,” and you replied, “No, he thinks that you’re nice and that you should be with there with them.”

Unfortunately, my health has not allowed me to visit you again, but I often recall my visit to Stuyvesant Falls and the association and instructions I got from you there.

If there is anything I can do for you, it would be my great honor and pleasure, so please ask without hesitation or reservation.

I love you, Maharaja.

Hare Krishna.

Your eternal, indebted, aspiring servant and younger godbrother,
Giriraj Swami

Dec 022019

We have again reached December, that most auspicious time of year when the book-distribution marathon takes place. In honor of the occasion, I quote two verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam that embody the devotee’s mood in distributing Krishna consciousness.

naivodvije para duratyaya-vaitaranyas
soce tato vimukha-cetasa indriyartha-
  maya-sukhaya bharam udvahato vimudhan

“O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay I am fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities. My concern is only for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness and maintaining their families, societies, and countries. I am simply concerned with love for them.” (SB 7.9.43)

prayena deva munayah sva-vimukti-kama
  maunam caranti vijane na parartha-nisthah
naitan vihaya krpanan vimumuksa eko
  nanyam tvad asya saranam bhramato ’nupasye

“My dear Lord Nrsimhadeva, I see that there are many saintly persons indeed, but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forest to meditate with vows of silence [mauna-vrata]. They are not interested in delivering others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without Krsna consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet.” (SB 7.9.44)

To distribute Krishna consciousness, we must have Krishna consciousness. These verses are about Prahlada Maharaja, and in a way they are also about Srila Prabhupada, who in his purport expressed his own mood—and about us, how Srila Prabhupada wants us to execute Krishna consciousness. Prahlada Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada were each on a very high level of Krishna consciousness, but even on our own level we can experience something of what they experienced, that wherever we are we can get relief from material miseries and anxieties by taking shelter of the holy name. We can joyfully chant in the temple room, in the association of devotees, before the Deities, and in the presence of Tulasi-devi—but one can chant anywhere, even on traveling sankirtana. One can close one’s eyes and chant and hear and no longer be in the material world—actually be with Krishna.

Devotees need that connection with Krishna not just for their own sakes but also for the sake of others. Once, in a meeting with Srila Prabhupada in the Atlanta temple, Svavasa Prabhu asked, “How can we increase our devotion and our desire to distribute more books?” He and the other devotees were eagerly anticipating some special formula to expand their book distribution. Srila Prabhupada didn’t look at them; he looked upward, as they waited in suspense. Finally he said, “If you want to increase book distribution, if you really want, I have only one recommendation. . . . You must chant your rounds uninterrupted. After you begin your chanting, do not stop until you finish.” As Svavasa Prabhu explained, if you win that fight, you will win all day, but if you lose it and allow your mind to carry you to something else, you will have a difficult day.

Svavasa Prabhu still follows that policy. He gets up at two in the morning and chants all his rounds before even coming to the temple for mangala-arati. A while ago I stayed with Vaisesika Prabhu at his home in Burlingame, and his morning program was blissfully intense. He did things that we do every day—and some things that we may do only on occasion—but he did them with so much enthusiasm and so much relish that the practices came to life. I felt, “Wow, that’s what reciting these verses and prayers actually is.” We spoke later about the book he was writing on book distribution, and he said that one of the themes was that the energy to distribute books comes from the overflow of the ecstasy we feel from our spiritual practices, from our own Krishna consciousness.

I’ve also experienced that if you chant your rounds in the morning before going out you will get extra energy and intelligence for your service, and if you don’t, not only may you be a little depleted in your spiritual energy, but you may also be in anxiety about when you’re going to finish your rounds.

So this practice of rising early and chanting all your rounds is very much part of the process of sharing Krishna consciousness with others. In the first verse, Prahlada said that he has no anxiety for himself because wherever he is he can merge himself into the nectarean ocean of Krishna consciousness—and that’s true for us as well. Wherever we go, we can have that experience of tasting the nectar of Krishna consciousness by chanting the holy names and by reading, studying, and discussing Srila Prabhupada’s books.

So the two—tasting and distributing—go together. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that the best gosthyanandi is a bhajananandi who likes to preach. Gosthyanandi means someone who takes pleasure in preaching and sharing Krishna consciousness with others, and a bhajananandi is someone who takes pleasure in his own bhajana, his own spiritual practices. Prahlada Maharaja exemplifies that principle, because personally he can experience pure bliss anywhere at any time just by chanting and hearing and remembering his Lord. Yet he is not content to go back home, back to Godhead, alone; he wants to bring the krpanan with him. Continue reading »

Dec 012019

Today is Odana-sasthi, the date on which Lord Jagannatha is given a winter shawl. One year, when Lord Chaitanya 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 any 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

Nov 282019

If we are at all aware of how dependent we are on God—for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and our very ability to eat and drink and breathe, to think and feel and will, and to walk, talk, and sense—we will feel grateful and want to reciprocate God’s kindness. We will want to do something for He (or She or They) who has done, and continues to do, so much for us.

We often take things for granted until we lose them. I use my right hand to chant on meditation beads, and one morning I found that I had severe pain in my hand and could no longer use it for chanting. I had taken the use of my hand for granted, but when I lost its use, I resolved to never take it for granted again and to always use it in the best way in God’s service.

How can we attempt to return some of God’s favor, some of God’s care and love for us? My spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave one answer:

“Whatever you have got by pious or impious activities, you cannot change. But you can change your position, by Krishna consciousness. That you can change. Other things you cannot change. If you are white, you cannot become black, or if you are black, you cannot become white. That is not possible. But you can become a first-class Krishna conscious person. Whether you are black or white, it doesn’t matter. This is Krishna consciousness. Therefore our endeavor should be how to become Krishna conscious. Other things we cannot change. This is not possible.

tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido
na labhyate yad bhramatam upary adhah
tal labhyate duhkhavad anyatah sukham
kalena sarvatra gabhira-ramhasa
   [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.18]

Kalena, by time, you will get whatever you are destined. Don’t bother about so-called economic development. So far as food is concerned, Krishna is supplying. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. He is supplying even cats and dogs and ants. Why not you? There is no need of bothering Krishna, ‘God, give us our daily bread.’ He will give you. Don’t bother. Try to become very faithful servant of God. ‘Oh, God has given me so many things. So let me give my energy to serve Krishna.’ This is required. This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I have taken so much, life after life, from Krishna. Now let me dedicate this life to Krishna.’ This is Krishna consciousness. ‘I will not let this life go uselessly like cats and dogs. Let me utilize it for Krishna consciousness.’”

I pray that I will dedicate this life and everything I have—everything God has given me—fully in God’s service, following His pure devotees.

manasa, deho, geho, yo kichu mora
arpilun tuya pade, nanda-kisora

“Mind, body, and home, whatever may be mine, I surrender at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda!” (Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati)

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 272019

In his talk on the Bhagavad-gita 9.20–22, on December 7, 1966, in New York, Srila Prabhupada stated:

“The Lord says a very nice thing. What is that?

ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
       [Gita 9.22]

[‘But those who worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.”] Here the Lord gives assurance that ‘Those who are unflinching and cent percent devoted in the transcendental service of Me, for them I take charge of their maintenance, all comforts.’ Nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham.

“Now, this sloka is very important for devotees. There was a great devotee named Arjunacharya. When he was writing commentaries on this particular sloka, verse, he saw tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham, that the Lord says, ‘I Myself take the burden and take the load on My head, and I deliver to My devotees what they require. They don’t require to go outside. I Myself go and deliver the goods, whatever they require.’

“This is written here. Tesam nityabhiyuktanam. Those who are cent percent engaged in the loving service of the Lord, tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham. Yoga means what is required by him, and ksemam means what he has got, what he requires to be protected. So, these two things the Lord takes charge, that ‘I personally do it.’ For whom? Ananyas cintayanto mam: those who have no thought other than Krishna, who are Krishna conscious. Ananyas cintayanto mam. Ye janah paryupasate—engaged in that way always. He has no other business, simply Krishna. The Lord does these things for him. It is specifically mentioned here.

“This is an encouragement. This is an encouragement by the Lord that ‘Do not think that because you are not trying for going to the other planet you will be unhappy. You will have happiness.’ What is happiness? Happiness is within your mind. If you are assured of your peaceful existence and the next life you are transferred to the supreme planet, or supreme place, then that is happiness—not for trying life after life to adjust happiness. Here is an assurance.

“This Arjunacharya . . . That’s a very nice story. When he was writing commentaries, and he thought, ‘How is that, the Lord will come Himself and deliver the goods? Oh, it is not possible. He might be sending through some agents.’ So he wanted to cut vahamy aham, ‘I bear the burden and deliver.’ He wrote in a way that ‘I send some agent who delivers.’

“Then Arjunacharya went to take bath, and in the meantime two very beautiful boys brought some very nice foodstuffs in large quantity. In India there is a process of taking two sides burden on the bamboo; just like a scale it is balanced. So, these two boys brought some very highly valuable foodstuff and grains and ghee and the like, and his wife was there. And the boys said, ‘My dear mother, Arjunacharya has sent these goods to you. Please take delivery.’ She said, ‘Oh, You are such nice boys, You are such beautiful boys, and he has given You? Acharya is not so cruel. How is that? He has given so much burden to You, and he is not kind?’ ‘Oh, I was not taking; just see, he has beaten Me. Here is the cane mark. Just see.’ His wife became very much astonished, that ‘Acharya is not so cruel. How he has become so cruel?’ She was thinking in that way.

“Then she said, ‘All right, my dear boys. You come on,’ and gave Them shelter. And, ‘No. We shall go, because when Arjunacharya comes back, he will chastise Us.’ ‘No, no. You sit down, take foodstuff.’ She prepared foodstuff, and then They went away.

“When Arjunacharya came back, he saw that his wife was eating. It is the system of Indian families that after the husband has taken food, the wife will take. They don’t take together. After the family members—the boys and the husband—are sumptuously fed, then the housewife takes.

“So Arjunacharya said, ‘You are . . .’ So, the wife said, ‘Acharya, you have become so much cruel nowadays?’ ‘Oh, what is that?’ ‘Now, two very nice boys brought so much foodstuff. You loaded on Their head, and They denied to take it, and you have beaten Them, chastised?’ He said, ‘No, I have never done this. Why shall I do it?’ Then she described, ‘Oh, such a nice, beautiful boy.’

“Then Arjunacharya understood that ‘Because I wanted that God does not deliver personally, so He has delivered these goods, and because I cut these alphabets that He does not give personally, so He has shown that beating mark, cut mark.’ . . . Of course, you may believe or not believe. That’s a different thing. But here the Lord says, ‘I personally deliver.’

“So, those who are in Krishna consciousness, who are actually busy in the matter of discharging their duties as Krishna conscious persons, may be assured that so far their living condition is concerned or their comforts of life is concerned, that is assured by the Lord. There will be no hampering.

“Thank you very much.”

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 242019

Hridayananda das Goswami stayed with me in Carpinteria over the weekend, and we had many enlivening and enlightening conversations. I could really appreciate Srila Prabhupada’s statement that Maharaja has a “transcendental brain.” He is intent on serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission, especially in America, and our common interest is to please Srila Prabhupada and become Krishna conscious—by his divine grace.

I pray for the association of Srila Prabhupada’s sincere, committed, and affectionate followers, such as Hridayananda das Goswami Maharaja.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 232019

Last night I finished hearing Radhika Ramana dasa’s wonderful seminar on “The Glories of Srimad-Bhagavatam,” delivered at ISV in September 2015. I highly recommend it to all devotees.

dharmah projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam tapa-trayonmulanam
srimad-bhagavate maha-muni-krte kim va parair isvarah
sadyo hrdy avarudhyate ’tra krtibhih susrusubhis tat-ksanat

“Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of the Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart.” (SB 1.1.2)

nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam
suka-mukhad amrta-drava-samyutam
pibata bhagavatam rasam a-layam
muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah

 “O expert and thoughtful men, relish Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.” (SB 1.1.3)

krsne sva-dhamopagate
dharma-jnanadibhih saha
kalau nasta-drsam esa
puranarko ’dhunoditah

“This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.” (SB 1.3.43)

After hearing Radhika Ramana Prabhu’s seminar, my appreciation for the great gift of Srimad-Bhagavatam and my desire to absorb myself in it have increased dramatically. Here are the links: and

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Nov 182019

When I first met Akincana Krishna dasa Babaji, I didn’t know what to say. I simply offered my respects and said, “Srila Akincana Krishna dasa Babaji Maharaja ki jaya!

Maharaja saw that I had a tape recorder in my hands, and without my having to say anything, he closed his eyes and started tapping his hands together and sang his mangala-carana before singing Sri Krishna Chaitanya. When he started singing the Hare Krishna mantra, it was like going into another world. He was chanting so beautifully, and it was like each syllable was drenched in bhava and prema.

After about twenty minutes, he stopped. He looked at me and said, “I would like to tell you something.”

“What is that?” I said.

He said, “I am an old man, and I’ve had a lot of experience in this world. From my experience, I can honestly tell you that there has never been a greater acharya than your spiritual master [Srila A.  C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada].”

When he said that, I was stunned, because he was a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Then he looked up and he said, “There has never been an acharya in history who has performed miracles like your spiritual master.”

He paused and looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”

I couldn’t speak.

“Because in history there was never a greater servant of Sri Krishna’s holy name than your spiritual master, because your spiritual master had so much absolute understanding of Sri Krishna’s holy name and so much absolute faith in Sri Krishna’s holy name that he personally carried Sri Krishna’s holy name through the length and the breadth of the world. Therefore, he is the greatest acharya who has ever existed.”

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

—B. B. Govinda Swami