Sep 212018

Bali Maharaja has become the most famous among the demons and nonbelievers, for in spite of being bereft of all material opulences, he is fixed in his devotional service.” (SB 8.22.28)

Purport: In this verse, the words sidann api na muhyati are very important. A devotee is sometimes put into adversity while executing devotional service. In adversity, everyone laments and becomes aggrieved, but by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a devotee, even in the worst condition, can understand that he is going through a severe examination by the Personality of Godhead. Bali Maharaja passed all such examinations, as explained in the following verses.

“Although bereft of his riches, fallen from his original position, defeated and arrested by his enemies, rebuked and deserted by his relatives and friends, although suffering the pain of being bound and although rebuked and cursed by his spiritual master, Bali Maharaja, being fixed in his vow, did not give up his truthfulness. It was certainly with pretention that I spoke about religious principles, but he did not give up religious principles, for he is true to his word.” (SB 8.22.29–30)

Purport: Bali Maharaja passed the severe test put before him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is further proof of the Lord’s mercy toward His devotee. The Supreme Personality of Godhead sometimes puts a devotee to severe tests that are almost unbearable. One could hardly even live under the conditions forced upon Bali Maharaja. That Bali Maharaja endured all these severe tests and austerities is the mercy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord certainly appreciates the devotee’s forbearance, and it is recorded for the future glorification of the devotee. This was not an ordinary test. As described in this verse, hardly anyone could survive such a test, but for the future glorification of Bali Maharaja, one of the mahajanas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only tested him but also gave him the strength to tolerate such adversity. The Lord is so kind to His devotee that when severely testing him the Lord gives him the necessary strength to be tolerant and continue to remain a glorious devotee.


The present verses are spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Originally the Lord appeared as Vamanadeva before Bali Maharaja and asked three steps of land in charity. Bali Maharaja agreed. Vamanadeva expanded himself in size and with one step covered the planet Earth and all of space. With his second step He covered the rest of the universe. Then He arrested Bali Maharaja and said, “You have promised three steps, but you have given only two. You have broken your promise. Now I will arrest you and punish you.” Bali Maharaja accepted the Lord’s action. He did not protest. And ultimately he told the Lord, “Yes, with two steps You have covered the entire universe. Now kindly keep Your third step on my head. Thus I will fulfill my promise to You.” And so Bali Maharaja surrendered his life to Lord Krishna.

Vamanadeva was satisfied with Bali’s surrender, and after various devotees intervened on Bali’s behalf, the Lord had Bali Maharaja released from the ropes of Varuna and told him, “I am going to give you your own planet, Sutala-loka, and I will personally accompany you there and serve as your doorman.” Actually, the Lord never lives anywhere in the material world; He lives only in the spiritual world, Vaikuntha. By accompanying Bali Maharaja to Sutala-loka, the Lord was actually converting the place into Vaikuntha-loka, which is far more opulent, more beautiful, and more desirable than any planet of the material world or all the material worlds combined.

So, by surrendering to Vamanadeva, Bali Maharaja was not the loser; he was the gainer. One who surrenders unto the Lord never loses.

Continue reading »

Sep 202018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.17 on the occasion of Vamana-dvadasi.

“In the beginning stage we sort of surrender but then we go back on our surrender. As Bhurijana Prabhu said, ‘They surrender, but then they take it back.’ This is common in Kali-yuga, because the atmosphere is so polluted and so surcharged with nescience that it is easy to be affected. The illusory energy will wear away one’s determination to surrender to Krishna. It is hard to withstand the assaults of Maya. Devotees who work in the material world, especially if they have to work in the association of nondevotees, face a constant barrage from the material nature. It is hard to maintain one’s determination. We can do so only if we have very strong spiritual association, with pure devotees, and strong spiritual practices to counteract the pernicious influence of materialistic people within a materialistic culture that is constantly bombarding us with messages that we should act independently, enjoy our senses to the hilt, and progress materially at all costs.

“We know that there are different stages in devotional service, and we should assess where we are. We should evaluate ourselves at every moment: Are we surrendering more to Krishna or to Maya—to the unsteady mind?”

Appearance Day of  Vamanadeva and Jiva Goswami (Right click to download)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sep 192018

On Monday, September 17, we celebrated HH Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s Vyasa-puja at the home of his disciple Pankajanghri dasa in Mesquite, Texas. Many devotees spoke, and my talk can be heard below. I also read my written offering to him:

The Heart of a Vaishnava

One of Sripada Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s most prominent qualities is his deep love for Srila Prabhupada. Very soon after Maharaja met Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada included him in his personal staff and made him his secretary for Bengali and Hindi correspondence. Soon thereafter, Srila Prabhupada gave him first and second initiation and then sannyasa. And Maharaja personally served Srila Prabhupada throughout Prabhupada’s last days.

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is also very devoted to ISKCON. He has always considered ISKCON to be a unique creation of Srila Prabhupada’s and has always wanted to serve ISKCON—both the devotees in ISKCON and ISKCON as an entity, a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada. He is really in the mood of service to the devotees, especially the devotees of ISKCON, and to ISKCON itself.

Maharaja is a very pure-hearted, loving person. His love for Srila Prabhupada is seen in his love for the devotees and for people in general, whom he wants to bring to Srila Prabhupada—and in how he encourages devotees to increase their engagement, take on more responsibility, and become more loving, humble servants. The more responsibility one accepts, Maharaja once explained to a devotee in Mauritius, the bigger servant of the devotees one becomes. This reminded me of something Srila Prabhupada once said. A disciple came into his room in Mayapur one day and began to complain about the management. Srila Prabhupada said, “If you think you can do better, why don’t you?” Somehow, the disciple came out and announced that Srila Prabhupada had made him the temple commander, and he began to boss the other devotees around. Some devotees complained to Srila Prabhupada that the devotee had said that Prabhupada had made him the temple commander and that now he was barking orders at everyone. So Srila Prabhupada called for the devotee and instructed him, “First you become the servant of everyone, then you become the temple commander.” Thus Srila Prabhupada expressed the same idea, that a bigger position means becoming a bigger servant. And Bhakti Charu Swami, in parampara, has that same understanding.

If we listen carefully to all of Maharaja’s instructions, we can understand how closely he follows the disciplic succession. Some of his statements are very close to Srila Prabhupada’s words, and some take the basic principles that Srila Prabhupada gave and sweeten them with personal realization.

Another of the many fine qualities exemplified by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is his offenselessness. He is very careful not to commit any offense against any devotee, or any living entity, and if he feels he has committed an offense, he immediately tries to mitigate the effects by approaching the person, apologizing, and asking forgiveness. Somehow or other he tries to rectify the offense. From our point of view, we wouldn’t think he has committed an offense, but within his pure heart he may feel that he has, and immediately he will try to approach and please the person he fears he has offended, to remove the effects of the offense.

Maharaja’s heart is pure and very sensitive—full of appreciation for other devotees and sensitive to his own faults—which again, from our point of view, wouldn’t even be considered faults. That’s really the heart of a Vaishnava—full of love and appreciation for others but sensitive to one’s own deficiencies or mistakes.

As stated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (12.13–14), “One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me—such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.”

Srila Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Sep 182018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Bhagavad-gita 9.13.

“One can become free from the control of material nature as soon as he surrenders his soul to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the preliminary formula. Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature, he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature. The guidance of the spiritual nature is called daivi prakrti, divine nature. So when one is promoted in that way — by surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead — one attains to the stage of great soul, mahatma. — Bhagavad-gita 9.13 purport.

Comment by Giriraj Swami: “This daivi prakrti is Srimati Radharani. We can become mahatmas by taking shelter of Radharani (daivi prakrti) — not directly, but by taking shelter of a mahatma who has taken shelter of a mahatma who has taken shelter of a mahatma — ultimately to a mahatama who has taken direct shelter of Srimati Radharani.”

Bhagavad-gita 9.13, Radhastami (Right click to download)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sep 162018

We have gathered on this most auspicious occasion, the sacred day of Sri Radhastami. The Vedic literatures describe that Krishna is the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Lord, and the origin of all that be:

isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah

“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all, although He Himself has no origin. And He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma-samhita 5.1)

The Brahma-samhita further explains that Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead and that He expands Himself into various plenary portions and portions of plenary portions. Still, Krishna is the supreme, original Personality of Godhead, as confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28): krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.

The Brahma-samhita gives the example that if you have one candle, from that one candle you can light a second candle, from the second candle you can light a third candle, and from the third candle you can light a fourth candle. All may have the same candlepower, yet one of them is still the original candle. In the same way, Krishna expands Himself into so many incarnations who all have the full powers of Godhead. He is the original Personality of Godhead, and His first expansion is Balarama.

Just as Krishna expands on the side of the all-powerful Personalities of Godhead, He also expands on the side of the power of the all-powerful Personality of Godhead. The direct expansions of the all-powerful are called vishnu-tattva, and the expansions of the energy of the Lord are called shakti-tattva. The first expansion on the side of the energy is Srimati Radharani. From Srimati Radharani all of the gopis are expanded, all of the queens in Dvaraka are expanded, and all of the consorts of the Lord in various incarnations are expanded. Thus, Sita of Sita-Rama is expanded from Srimati Radharani, and Lakshmi of Lakshmi-Narayana is also expanded from Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radharani is the origin of all of the expansions of Krishna’s energy. She also has an indirect expansion called the material energy. Srimati Radharani is the personification of the spiritual energy, and Durga is the personification of the material energy. Thus, Durga is an indirect expansion of Srimati Radharani.

We also are expansions of Krishna, the marginal potency of Krishna. Krishna basically has three energies: the spiritual energy, the material energy, and the marginal energy. We, the living entities, are called the marginal energy because we can come under the influence of either the spiritual energy, personified as Srimati Radharani, or the material energy, personified as Durgadevi. Srila Prabhupada has compared the marginal position to the seaside. Sometimes, when the tide is low, the area is part of the land, and sometimes, when the tide is high, the same area is submerged under the water and becomes part of the ocean. Similarly, we can be part of either the spiritual world, under Srimati Radharani’s protection, or the material world, in Durga’s custody.

We can see the image of Srimati Radharani, standing with Her right hand raised in benediction to bless the devotees. Or we can see the image of Durga, who has ten hands with ten weapons to punish the miscreants. Unfortunately, to some degree all of us are miscreants. And so we are bound to the prison house of the material world. And Durgadevi is the warden of the prison. She punishes the conditioned souls with the different weapons in her various hands. Especially, Durgadevi is known for her trident, or trisula. The three prongs of the trident represent the threefold miseries of material existence: the miseries we suffer because of other living entities, the miseries we suffer because of acts of nature, and the miseries we suffer from our own minds and bodies. Thus the goal of life is to transfer ourselves from the control of the external, material energy, to the control of the spiritual energy, or Srimati Radharani.

One verse from the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita gives us a practical idea of how, in our own positions, we can take shelter of Srimati Radharani and come under Her protection.

Continue reading »

Sep 132018

Bada Hari das led a beautiful kirtan and Giriraj Swami read and discussed from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11 (Right click to download)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sep 132018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.23-26

“As he gazed at the Lord, King Mucukunda saw that He was dark blue like a cloud, had four arms, and wore a yellow silk garment. On His chest He bore the Srivatsa mark and on His neck the brilliantly glowing Kaustubha gem. Adorned with a Vaijayanti garland, the Lord displayed His handsome, peaceful face, which attracts the eyes of all mankind with its shark-shaped earrings and affectionately smiling glance. The beauty of His youthful form was unexcelled, and He moved with the nobility of an angry lion. The highly intelligent King was overwhelmed by the Lord’s effulgence, which showed Him to be invincible. Expressing his uncertainty, Mucukunda hesitantly questioned Lord Krsna as follows.” — Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.23-26

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.23-26 (Right click to download)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Sep 122018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11:

“O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.