Aug 232019

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

I wish to tell you about my journey to meet you—and how your journey to meet me was effective.

In my youth I aspired to attain perfect happiness, and soon I realized that such happiness could not be achieved materially but only spiritually. And, through reading spiritual books, I came to understand that to achieve spiritual perfection, I needed a guru. In fact, I read that I didn’t even have to choose the guru. He was already there; all I had to do was find him. So whenever I heard about a guru anywhere, even a thousand miles away, I would go to meet him.

One teacher I met was a Zen master, supposedly enlightened and certified by another enlightened master in Japan. I had read a book he had written, and when I heard he was holding a three-day retreat at his ashram in Rochester, New York, I went. Upon my arrival I found that his students were not very happy. But I thought, “Anyway, they’re just students. Let me meet the master.”

During the retreat he held meditation sessions in which everyone had to sit up straight and look at the wall, concentrating on some object he would give us. The master walked around with a stick, and if he thought any of us was falling asleep or that someone’s mind was wandering, he would hit the offender. After one such session, some of his students asked him about his recently having become angry. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “I lost my temper; I shouldn’t have.” I started to doubt whether he was my guru. Still, I had read that a Zen master might appear ordinary and that one might not recognize him, so I thought, “Maybe this is part of it.” But my doubt remained. Later, he came to Boston, near Brandeis University, where I was studying. After his talk and demonstration, someone in the audience asked about Vedanta. “I have enough trouble keeping up with Zen,” he answered. “How do you expect me to know about Vedanta?” My previous doubt was confirmed: “He is not my perfect master.”

Then a hatha-yogi came to Brandeis to give a lecture. He had long hair and a beard and flowing robes. He said that by yoga you could attain complete mastery over your bodily functions, including the movements of the bowels. You could actually command your intestines: “Ascending colon, advance! Transverse colon, advance! Descending colon, advance!” and finally, “Rectum, pass!” I was really looking for a guru, so I thought, “Anyway, maybe.”

After the lecture, I tried to meet the swami, but he was leaving for the airport. I wanted to ride with him in his car, but there was no room, so I rode with some of his students. On the way, they discussed the various foods they missed since they had joined the ashram. So I started to have some doubts. But then I thought, “Anyway, they are just the students; the master may be on a much higher level.”

When we arrived at the airport, I beheld the swami. There he was—long flowing hair, beard, draping orange robes, a flower in his hair, a twinkle in his eyes—the very picture of Indian spirituality. But then I saw him tightly embracing his women disciples. And I knew: “He is not my perfect master. I have to keep looking.”

Next I heard of an “enlightened” psychology professor who was teaching at Antioch College, in Ohio, which was known as a progressive university, and I wanted to meet him immediately. Ready to do anything to find my guru, I got in my car and drove the seven hundred miles. When I arrived, with great anticipation and eagerness I searched out the professor’s office and inquired about him from his secretary. “He’s playing golf,” she informed me. “Playing golf?” I asked incredulously. “I thought he was supposed to be enlightened.” “That is his Zen,” she replied. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Playing golf? He is not my perfect master.”

Although I was disappointed about the professor, the Antioch campus was full of people interested in spiritual life, and while I was there I spoke with some of them. Some students in the Student Union told me about a guru who had recently visited the campus. “The guru is in the heart,” he had said, “where he sits on a lotus flower. You can actually see him and speak with him.” “Wow!” I thought; “that sounds attractive.” That night I tried to really focus on my heart. And indeed, I got a definite impression that there was a divine personality there, with whom I could have a sublime, personal relationship. And he seemed just about to speak. I was very excited, and I became eager to meet him.

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Aug 222019

We read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods for Lord Krsna in the Womb.”


tato jagan-mangalam acyutamsam
  samahitam sura-sutena devi
dadhara sarvatmakam atma-bhutam
  kastha yathananda-karam manastah


tatah—thereafter; jagat-mangalam—auspiciousness for all living entities in all the universes of the creation; acyuta-amsam—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is never bereft of the six opulences, all of which are present in all His plenary expansions; samahitam—fully transferred; sura-sutena—by Vasudeva, the son of Surasena; devi—Devaki-devi; dadhara—carried; sarva-atmakam—the Supreme Soul of everyone; atma-bhutam—the cause of all causes; kastha—the east; yatha—just as; ananda-karam—the blissful (moon); manastah—being placed within the mind.


Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Krsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva’s mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one’s own heart.

The word acyutamsam is used because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is sad-aisvarya-purna, full in the opulences of wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, beauty, and renunciation. The Supreme Godhead is never separated from His personal opulences. As stated in the Brahma-samhita (5.39), ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan: the Lord is always situated with all His plenary expansions, such as Rama, Nrsimha, and Varaha. Therefore the word acyutamsam is specifically used here, signifying that the Lord is always present with His plenary expansions and opulences. There is no need to think of the Lord artificially as yogis do. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yoginah (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.13.1). Yogis meditate upon the Supreme Person within the mind. For a devotee, however, the Lord is present, and His presence need only be awakened through initiation by a bona fide spiritual master. The Lord did not need to live within the womb of Devaki, for His presence within the core of her heart was sufficient to carry Him. One is here forbidden to think that Krsna was begotten by Vasudeva within the womb of Devaki and that she carried the child within her womb.

When Vasudeva was sustaining the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead within his heart, he appeared just like the glowing sun, whose shining rays are always unbearable and scorching to the common man. The form of the Lord situated in the pure, unalloyed heart of Vasudeva is not different from the original form of Krsna. The appearance of the form of Krsna anywhere, and specifically within the heart, is called dhama. Dhama refers not only to Krsna’s form, but to His name, His form, His quality, and His paraphernalia. Everything becomes manifest simultaneously.

Thus the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead with full potencies was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki, exactly as the setting sun’s rays are transferred to the full moon rising in the east.

Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, entered the body of Devaki from the body of Vasudeva. He was beyond the conditions of the ordinary living entity. When Krsna is there, it is to be understood that all His plenary expansions, such as Narayana, and incarnations like Lord Nrsimha and Varaha, are with Him, and they are not subject to the conditions of material existence. In this way, Devaki became the residence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is one without a second and the cause of all creation. Devaki became the residence of the Absolute Truth, but because she was within the house of Kamsa, she looked just like a suppressed fire, or like misused education. When fire is covered by the walls of a pot or is kept in a jug, the illuminating rays of the fire cannot be very much appreciated. Similarly, misused knowledge, which does not benefit the people in general, is not very much appreciated. So Devaki was kept within the prison walls of Kamsa’s palace, and no one could see her transcendental beauty, which resulted from her conceiving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Commenting upon this verse, Sri Viraraghava Acarya writes, vasudeva-devaki jatharayor hrdayayor bhagavatah sambandhah. The Supreme Lord’s entrance into the womb of Devaki from the heart of Vasudeva was a heart-to-heart relationship.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We have gathered here at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna to remember and celebrate His appearance in this world. As confirmed by Vedic literature, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam). He is the Absolute Truth, the origin of all that exists. And He is nondual (advaya) though realized in three features, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.11):

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
  tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
  bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan.”

Brahman is the impersonal effulgence that emanates from the transcendental form of the Lord; Paramatma is the localized feature of the Lord, within the heart; and Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna Himself, full in six opulences.

The form of Krishna is not material. Our bodies are material, distinct from the soul, which is spiritual. The Bhagavad-gita (2.13) explains,

dehino ’smin yatha dehe
  kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
  dhiras tatra na muhyati

“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” The soul is a nonphysical, nonchemical particle of spiritual energy that animates the body. As long as the soul is in the body, we say the body is alive. Actually, the body is never alive; the body is just a machine. But it appears to be alive when the soul is present to animate it. And when the soul leaves the body, the body has no capacity to act, to function, and then we say that the body is dead. In conditioned beings, such as us, there is a distinction between the body, which is made of material energy, and the soul, which is composed of spiritual energy. But in the case of Krishna, there is no difference between His body and soul. Being absolute, His body and He are the same. In our case there is a difference between us and the body, because our real identity is the soul. If someone’s father passes away, he or she will cry, “Oh, my father has left. My father is gone.” But the body of the father is there, so why do we say, “My father has gone”? Intuitively we know, especially at a time like death, that the body lying there in the room is not the person. The body is just a bag of chemicals. The real person is the soul who has left the body, and so the children and other relatives and friends cry, “Oh, he’s gone,” because he is the soul, not the body.

In the case of Krishna, however, He and His body are not different, because He is absolute. There is no difference between His inside and His outside. He is completely spiritual. The Brahma-samhita says, isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah: “Krsna is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful spiritual body.” Anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam: “He is the origin of all, but He Himself has no origin. He is the prime cause of all causes.” That is Krishna.

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Aug 212019

When I arrived at my chiropractor’s office today, all the tables were occupied, so I took the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, gifted to him by Rtadhvaja Swami, from the shelf and began to read. Then the chiropractor came out from the treatment room, took Life’s Final Exam from the shelf, handed it to me, and said, “You should read this,” so I opened the book and, again, began reading. It was a rewarding experience. In a while, when the receptionist told me that a table was vacant and that I should come, I told her, “It’s hard to put this book down!”

At the end of my treatment, the chiropractor told me, “I suffered many losses recently, and so I turned to your book, and I got much understanding and solace from it, so I thought you might like to revisit it, too.”

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Aug 172019

Today I heard an inspiring conversation in which Srila Prabhupada explained the reason for his great success, namely his faith in the order of his spiritual master and in chanting the holy names, and encouraged us to follow in the same way, using the same formula.

He said, “In the shastra it is said, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam, kalau nasty eva nasty eva.  [In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari.] That practical proof we are giving—these Europeans and Americans are simply chanting Hare Krishna, and how they are coming out. This practical proof. They did not know, five or six years ago, what is Krishna, what is Krishna’s name. But we are taking the conclusion of the shastra: in this age, if one chants Hare Krishna, he becomes spiritualized. That is happening, practically. It is not theory. How so many devotees are here? Anywhere, wherever we have started, how they have become devotee? Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that ‘You follow this formula and you will become God conscious.’ That is being practically proved. It is not theory. So that is Vedic knowledge. You adopt Vedic knowledge and get the result . . . In the beginning, in New York, that storefront, Satsvarupa and Hayagriva and . . . And ‘You simply chant.’ So this chanting is proving efficient. That is Vedic knowledge. It is not theory. Our Krishna consciousness movement is not theory or mental speculation. It is fact. Therefore it is said, guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete koriya aikya, ar na koriho mane asa. [Make the teachings emanating from the lotus mouth of your spiritual master one with your heart, and do not desire anything else.]

“So whatever little success I have got, it is only for this reason. My guru maharaja said, ‘You go and preach whatever you learned in English language.’ That’s all. So I came here with this faith, that ‘My guru maharaja said; I must be successful.’ I did not show any jugglery to you, gold-making jugglery. Where is my gold? I came with forty rupees first. So these are Vedic instructions: guru-mukha-padma-vakya and sri-guru-carane rati, ei se uttama-gati. [Attachment to his lotus feet is the perfection that fulfills all desires.] That is real progress. So this is Vedic instruction. We have to follow the Vedic injunction. Then you will be successful. The standard is given by . . . That is standard, as that Vedic language, Vedic instruction. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave the standard, harer nama: ‘Chant Hare Krishna.’ Immediately successful. That is standard. Otherwise, how you will find standard? Therefore it is said, guru-mukha-padma-vakya. That is standard. What you receive from a bona fide guru, that is standard. Krishna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (Gita 18.65)]. Anyone who will follow this standard will become devotee. And as soon as he become devotee, he is fit for going back to home, back to Godhead.”

(Room conversation with Svarupa Damodara Dasa, February 28, 1975, Atlanta)

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 152019

“Because He is as powerful as Lord Krsna and can bestow spiritual power to the devotees, He is therefore known as Baladeva. In the Vedas also it is enjoined that no one can know the Supreme Lord without being favored by Baladeva. Bala means spiritual strength, not physical. Some less intelligent persons interpret bala as the strength of the body. But no one can have spiritual realization by physical strength. Physical strength ends with the end of the physical body, but spiritual strength follows the spirit soul to the next transmigration, and therefore the strength obtained by Baladeva is never wasted. The strength is eternal, and thus Baladeva is the original spiritual master of all devotees.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.16–17 purport

Jaya Baladeva!

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 142019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 10, Chapter 2, and from Sri Caitanya-bhagavata.

“The son of Rohini will also be celebrated as Sankarsana because of being sent from the womb of Devaki to the womb of Rohini. He will be called Rama because of His ability to please all the inhabitants of Gokula, and He will be known as Balabhadra because of His extensive physical strength.”

Purport: “These are some of the reasons why Balarama is known as Sankarsana, Balarama or sometimes Rama. In the maha-mantra — Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare — people sometimes object when Rama is accepted as Balarama. But although devotees of Lord Rama may object, they should know that there is no difference between Balarama and Lord Rama. Here Srimad-Bhagavatam clearly states that Balarama is also known as Rama (rameti). Therefore, it is not artificial for us to speak of Lord Balarama as Lord Rama. Jayadeva Gosvami also speaks of three Ramas: Parasurama, Raghupati Rama and Balarama. All of them are Ramas.” — SB 2.10.13 verse and purport.

Balarama-purnima talk

Aug 122019

Saturday was the beginning of Jhulana-yatra, which is steeped in the moods of Vrindavan. When I first began reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, I was struck by the following description in the introduction to Teachings of Lord Chaitanya: “Actually, the Vrindaban on earth is as good as the spiritual Vrindaban, and therefore Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami says that underneath one of the desire trees of Vrindaban there is a nice throne decorated with valuable jewels on which Radharani and Krishna are seated. And His dear friends the gopis are serving Them: somebody is singing, somebody is dancing, somebody is offering betel nuts and refreshment, somebody is decorating with flowers. . . .

“In India it is still a fashion of recreation to sit on a swing, and, if it is moving, it is very refreshing. In every home they have a hanging throne, and when a man comes home, if practical, it is moved from time to time, and he becomes refreshed. So, similarly, the same system prevails, especially in the month of Sravana, July-August, when there is the function called Jhulana. During Jhulana, in all the houses—not only in Vrindaban but all over India—the people hang thrones. In every house and village they place Radha and Krishna and decorate Them with flowers and move the throne and offer dancing and kirtan. . . . The temples are decorated, and thousands of people come as spectators. Generally, people go to Vrindaban at that time. Krishna and Radha are seated on the throne, surrounded by His friends.”

And leading into these two paragraphs: “There is an acharya who describes Vrindaban: ‘When my mind becomes cleansed of all dirty hankering for material enjoyment, then I shall be able to see Vrindaban.’ So Vrindaban is actually experienced by persons who have finished with material enjoyment. Everything is spiritual. This becomes revealed. . . . As you become more Krishna conscious, as you become more advanced, everything is revealed to you.”

Although I am still waiting for that qualification and that revelation, even in my present state I can, by divine mercy, relish some of the flavors of Vrindavan during Jhulan-yatra in Carpinteria.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Aug 102019

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Rupa Gosvami, a direct disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu whom Mahaprabhu entrusted with the order and the power to present the science of Krishna consciousness in books. All the acharyas in our line after Rupa Gosvami are considered rupanugas, followers of Rupa Gosvami. And much of the Krishna consciousness movement is based on Rupa Gosvami’s teachings and example.

Rupa Gosvami and his older brother, Sanatana Gosvami, were born in a high-class brahman family in South India, but due to circumstances they were forced to engage in the service of Nawab Hussain Shah, a powerful, tyrannical ruler in East India. The brothers were so highly qualified that Sanatana Gosvami was practically the prime minister of the Nawab and Rupa Gosvami the finance minister.

How Rupa and Sanatana came to give up the service of the Nawab is very interesting. One year I taught The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, at the VIHE (Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education), and immediately after the course I rushed to Mayapur to accompany Radhanath Swami and Sacinandana Swami on parikrama of Gauda-mandala-bhumi, the places in Bengal where Mahaprabhu enacted His pastimes. The first place we visited was Ramakeli, the capital of Nawab Hussain Shah, where Rupa and Sanatana were engaged in service and where they and their third brother, Anupama, and his son, Jiva (later Jiva Gosvami), all saw Mahaprabhu for the first time. The remains of the Nawab’s palace are still there.

Often one specific event will be a turning point in a person’s life, and so it was with Rupa Gosvami. One night, in the middle of a tumultuous storm, with rain, thunder, and lightning, he was running down a slippery path through the trees. Nearby was a cottage, and Rupa Gosvami overheard the husband and wife talking. “Who could that be—going out in the middle of the night in this storm?” one asked. “It could only be Dabira Khasa [Rupa Gosvami’s adopted Muslim name],” the other replied. “He’s a slave to the Nawab. Any time of day or night the Nawab calls him, he goes running.” When Rupa Gosvami heard those words, he resolved to leave the Nawab’s service.

So, he resigned. He was fabulously wealthy, as was Sanatana; he had ten thousand gold coins, which he divided in an exemplary manner, meant to be the ideal for all householders. He gave 50 percent for the service of the Lord and the devotees and 25 percent to relatives, and kept 25 percent in case of personal emergency.

He headed toward Vrindavan, and in the holy city of Prayag (Allahabad) he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who, for ten days, at Dasasvamedha-ghata, instructed him in the science of Krishna. Then he proceeded to Vrindavan.

Sanatana Gosvami didn’t directly resign; he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead, he took sick leave and stayed at home with brahmans and Vaishnavas, discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Nawab became agitated: “Where is he? Why isn’t he reporting for his duties?” He sent his physician, but still there was no change. Finally the Nawab went personally and saw that Sanatana Gosvami didn’t want to continue working for him. So he arrested him.

It’s a long story, but eventually Sanatana escaped and Rupa and Sanatana went to Vrindavan and wrote books on Krishna consciousness, excavated the lost holy places of Krishna’s pastimes, and showed devotees how to live in Vrindavan.

Rupa Gosvami has a very special place in our sampradaya because he was instructed directly by the Lord. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.1) states,

vrndavaniyam rasa-keli-vartam
  kalena luptam nija-saktim utkah
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
  prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srstim

“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrndavana pastimes of Lord Krsna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Gosvami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Gosvami could revive the activities of Krsna in Vrndavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world.”

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Aug 052019

US congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard spoke at the Los Angeles Ratha-yatra yesterday. She is a sincere devotee of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna—and a very nice person.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami