Jul 262020

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.6.

etavan sankhya-yogabhyam
janma-labha? parah pumsam
ante narayana-smrtih

“The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.6.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.6 (Right click to download)

Jul 252020

An interview with Giriraj Swami by the ISKCON Strategic Planning Office, July 9, 2020, via Facebook.

Gauranga Dasa: Hare Krishna. We welcome all the devotees who have joined this weekly care conversation, Vaishnava seva. This week we are very honored to have with us His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja. We welcome His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja, who is one of the most senior of Prabhupada’s disciples. He was very active on the GBC, and was one of the founders of ISKCON India, especially the Juhu temple. He spent many, many years serving Srila Prabhupada very closely, and has hundreds of remembrances of Srila Prabhupada, and he is just about to publish his book about the Juhu ISKCON temple.

Today our topic is “Srila Prabhupada as an Embodiment of Devotee Care.” So, thank you, Maharaja, for joining us. I would like to begin by asking, from your experiences with Srila Prabhupada, could you share any anecdote or exchanges in which he demonstrated care for the body or concern for the devotees’ health?

Giriraj Swami: There are a number of instances, some involving me and some involving others. One notable one involved Yamuna Devi from after the first Delhi pandal, at Dalmia Bhavan, which she describes in Yamuna Devi: A Life of Unalloyed Devotion:

“[I]t was a very crowded situation—perhaps ten to fifteen of us in one room—and the only place free was the bottom shelf in one of the walk-in closets. We had all of our paraphernalia piled up, and I was in a sleeping bag down on the bottom shelf. Srila Prabhupada noticed I was missing, and I was later told that he had inquired many times where I was.

“One day I became aware of the door being opened, and I turned to see Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet walking into that closet room. . . .  He placed his hand on my head and inquired, ‘Yamuna? How are you doing?’ Firstly I said, ‘I am always thinking of you, Srila Prabhupada.’ Then I explained my symptoms, and he said, ‘I think this is jaundice . . .  Now I will take charge of your recovery. You will never get well in these conditions on the floor.’

“Srila Prabhupada had a hospital bed brought in for me and moved me into a room right next to his, with floor-to-ceiling windows, neem trees outside, and a fan. And I remember being propped up in this bed, and he came in every day to check on my progress.

“He also called in an Ayurvedic doctor and gave me a diet for jaundice. He said I had to take something called petha, a wax gourd or a white kind of pumpkin taken raw. It’s covered in a thick layer of caramelized sugar, so to me it looked like a ghastly thing to eat. Srila Prabhupada said, ‘This is your medicine. You have to eat it every day; and you also have to drink sugarcane juice.’ So, I remember the first time I took a bite of petha; it tasted like the most bitter, horrible thing because, of the jaundice. Srila Prabhupada would personally stand and watch me eat the petha, and he would actually smile and chuckle.”

So, that was an example from her experience. I have a small example from mine. We were in Juhu, and I used to go to the city all day long and come back at night and report to Srila Prabhupada. One evening after a long day in the city, having, as usual, traveled there and back in the crowded trains and to and from the train station in a crowded bus and not having had anything to eat since morning, I staggered up to Prabhupada’s room, exhausted. Continue reading »

Jul 202020

Dear Giriraj Maharaja,

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

Here is a story that I would like to share with you—an experience with Srila Prabhupada in Germany in 1974. At that time I was in charge of managing the festival of Srila Prabhupada’s stay in Schloss Rettershof. For organizing all the devotees, I used a magnetic board with all the names of the devotees on magnetic nametag holders. So, while I was in my office managing the temple, all of a sudden I felt that somebody was behind me.

It was Srila Prabhupada, who said in his deep voice, “What is that?” Naturally, I hit the floor and paid my obeisances, and Srila Prabhupada asked again, “What is that?”

“It’s a magnetic board, Srila Prabhupada,” I replied. Here I can see instantly all the SKT devotees on, the kitchen devotees, the hari-nama devotees, the deity department, the pot washers, the vegetable cutters, in short, all the devotees who are present here.”

While I was demonstrating the board to Srila Prabhupada, he became curious: “How does that actually work?”

“It’s a magnetic board, Srila Prabhupada. Every devotee is here with his magnetic nametag.

I can, for example, take this devotee from here to there, and another devotee from there to here, etc.”

“Can I try?” Srila Prabhupada said.

“Of course, Srila Prabhupada.”

Then he said, “Okay, let’s transfer this devotee from this department to that department, that devotee from that department,” and so on—altogether he moved about five or six devotees around the board. He was really into it, moving people around.

Then all of sudden he stopped, turned to me in a very grave mood, looked deeply into my eyes, and said with his deep voice, “All this will fail if there is no love and trust between the devotees.”

Wonderful Srila Prabhupada!

Hare Krishna.

Your servant,
Prithu das

Jul 192020

The more we hear about Krishna, the more we become purified. We cannot understand Krishna because we are not purified. But if you hear the Krishna name, Hare Krishna—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare—if you chant and hear, you become purified. So why should we not take this simple method, as it is recommended in the shastra, harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam [“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.”] (Brhan-naradiya Purana 3.8.126, Cc Adi 17.21)? Simply chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, twenty-four hours? Kirtaniyah sada harih. [“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.”] (Siksastaka 3, Cc Adi 17.31) You become perfect. . . .

Namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah. [“O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of transcendental names, such as Krishna and Govinda, in which You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O My Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.”] (Siksastaka 2, Cc Antya 20.16) There are all potencies. And there are many names, not only one name. If you don’t like to chant Krishna’s name, then there are other names also—any name. Must be name of harer nama, nama, the name of Hari, not others. Harer nama. Then you get all the potencies. Namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis tatrarpita. And niyamitah smarane na kalah. And there is no consideration whether you shall chant in the morning or in the evening or while you are purified or not purified. Any circumstances, you can chant. Niyamitah smarane na kalah. There is no such consideration.

Krishna is available so cheaply for the people, especially, in this Age of Kali. Still, we are reluctant to chant the holy name. Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu regrets, etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi: “Although You are so liberal and kind upon this fallen soul, still, unfortunate as I am, I am not inclined to chant this holy name.” This is our position—dog’s obstinacy. But if we do it, then we become purified.

—Srila Prabhupada, talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.30, October 10, 1974, Mayapur

Jul 132020

On the anniversary today of the incorporation of ISKCON in New York City . . .

Bhavananda: In Svarup Ganj there’s one big astrologer. So, he saw your photograph, and he said, “This is the face of the most powerful spiritual personality on the planet.”

Prabhupada: [laughs] Hare Krishna.

Brahmananda: Then what else?

Bhavananda: Then he said that “I can tell from his face that he can make a house in which the whole world can live peacefully.”

Devotees: Jaya Prabhupada!

Prabhupada: At least I desire so.

(Morning Walk, July 1, 1975, Denver)

Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s Disappearance Day

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Jul 092020

For Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s disappearance day, I thought to read one verse and purport about him from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten, “The Branches of the Caitanya Tree”:

TEXT 105

sri gopala bhatta eka sakha sarvottama
rupa-sanatana-sange yanra prema-alapana


Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, the forty-seventh branch, was one of the great and exalted branches of the tree. He always engaged in discourses about love of Godhead in the company of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was the son of Venkata Bhatta, a resident of Sri Rangam. Gopala Bhatta formerly belonged to the disciplic succession or the Ramanuja-sampradaya but later became part of the Gaudiya-sampradaya.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The word sampradaya means “party.”

PURPORT (continued)

In the year 1433 Sakabda (A.D. 1511), when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was touring South India, He stayed for four months during the period of Caturmasya at the house of Venkata Bhatta, who then got the opportunity to serve the Lord to his heart’s content. Gopala Bhatta also got the opportunity to serve the Lord at this time. Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was later initiated by his uncle, the great sannyasi Prabodhananda Sarasvati. Both the father and the mother of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami were extremely fortunate, for they dedicated their entire lives to the service of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They allowed Gopala Bhatta Gosvami to go to Vrndavana, and they gave up their lives thinking of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Lord Caitanya was later informed that Gopala Bhatta Gosvami had gone to Vrndavana and met Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, He was very pleased, and He advised Sri Rupa and Sanatana to accept Gopala Bhatta Gosvami as their younger brother and take care of him. Sri Sanatana Gosvami, out of his great affection for Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, compiled the Vaisnava smrti named Hari-bhakti-vilasa and published it under his name. Under the instruction of Srila Rupa and Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami installed one of the seven principal deities of Vrndavana, the Radha-ramana deity. The sevaits (priests) of the Radha-ramana temple belong to the Gaudiya-sampradaya.


Actually, one of the families entrusted with the Deity service at the Radha-ramana temple has a history of relations with the line of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Visvambhara Gosvami’s father or grandfather had relations with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the family maintained relations with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then Visvambhara Gosvami had very friendly relations with Srila Prabhupada. And he spoke very nicely about Srila Prabhupada. Now Visvambhara Gosvami’s son Padmanabha Gosvami is also very favorable to ISKCON. In fact, ISKCON devotees often honor prasada at his home at the Radha-ramana temple. I also took prasada there with His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, and Padmanabha Gosvami showed us a letter that Srila Prabhupada had written to his father, Visvambhara Gosvami, about how all Vaishnavas should cooperate. So, not only does the Radha-ramana temple belong to the Gaudiya-sampradaya, but at least some of the sevaits have had close relations with the line of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

PURPORT (concluded)

When Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami took permission from all the Vaisnavas before writing Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami also gave him his blessings, but he requested him not to mention his name in the book. Therefore Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has mentioned Gopala Bhatta Gosvami only very cautiously in one or two passages of the Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Jiva Gosvami has written in the beginning of his Tattva-sandarbha, “A devotee from southern India who was born of a brahmana family and was a very intimate friend of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami has written a book that he has not compiled chronologically. Therefore I, a tiny living entity known as jiva, am trying to assort the events of the book chronologically, consulting the direction of great personalities like Madhvacarya, Sridhara Svami, Ramanujacarya, and other senior Vaisnavas in the disciplic succession.” In the beginning of the Bhagavat-sandarbha there are similar statements by Srila Jiva Gosvami. Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami compiled a book called Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, edited the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, wrote a foreword to the Sat-sandarbha and a commentary on the Krsna-karnamrta, and installed the Radharamana Deity in Vrndavana. In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (184) it is mentioned that his previous name in the pastimes of Lord Krsna was Ananga-manjari. Sometimes he is also said to have been an incarnation of Guna-manjari. Srinivasa Acarya and Gopinatha Pujari were two of his disciples.


Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami ki jaya!

One story about Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is that on the eve of Nrsimha-caturdasi all the other Gosvamis and Vaishnavas in Vrindavan were preparing to worship their deities and hold festivals. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami had only a salagrama-sila; he didn’t have a deity with form, with arms and legs, a body he could dress and decorate. So he was feeling deprived of the opportunity to serve his deity like the other devotees who had deities with forms. Out of his strong desire, a salagrama-sila manifest in the form of Radha-ramana. Radha-ramana is considered the most beautiful deity of Krishna. It is the one original deity of the Gosvamis that has remained in Vrindavan, while the others had to be taken elsewhere for fear of the Muslim invaders. And near the temple of Radha-ramana in Vrindavan is the samadhi of Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami.

Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s uncle and siksa-guru was Prabodhananda Sarasvati. His samadhi is also located in Vrindavan, just off the parikrama path near Kaliya-ghata, which is quite near our Krishna-Balaram temple. Often when we go on parikrama down the path near the Yamuna, we visit Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s samadhi and bhajana-kutira. Then we proceed to Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s samadhi. Sanatana Gosvami was the most senior of the Gosvamis and was also a close associate and instructor of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. In fact, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami worked with Sanatana Gosvami to produce the great treatise Hari-bhakti-vilasa.

I feel that Gopala Bhatta Gosvami has been especially merciful to me on two occasions. On one, I visited his bhajana-kutira at Sanketa, a place between Nandagrama and Varsana where Radha and Krishna used to meet and sometimes perform rasa-lila. Gopala Bhatta would sit and chant underground in a deep cavern accessible only through a long, narrow passage. At the end of the passage was a somewhat roomier place where Gopala Bhatta used to chant, now marked as his bhajana-sthala. I remember going there with Tamal Krishna Goswami and others on a very hot day and struggling to crawl through the passage to the bhajana-sthala. It was difficult, but when I finally reached there, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was very merciful. He allowed me to chant with a glimpse of taste. And after all the devotees emerged from the cavern, I stole back in. I crawled back to Gopala Bhatta’s lotus feet and sat there chanting. I will never forget his mercy to me there, and I pray that he will enable me to chant with relish and love.

On the other occasion, during Kartik of 1999, shortly before my surgery, I visited Gopala Bhatta’s samadhi near the Radha-ramana temple in Vrindavan. We arrived just after raja-bhoga-arati, and the pujari was closing the doors to the samadhi-mandira. But he was kind enough to open the doors for us, to allow us darshan of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. He gave us some flowers and caranamrta and invited us to stay for prasada. Thus our small party, along with some local sadhus, honored Gopala Bhatta Prabhu’s maha-maha-prasada with great relish, and we even stayed to take a little rest before, filled with bliss, we continued on our way. So, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is very kind.

 Years later, when some of my disciples from Bombay went to Vrindavan on pilgrimage, they visited the samadhi of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. They told the pujaris about me, how my health no longer allowed me to visit Vraja, and asked for some prasada for me. And the priest kindly gave them a piece of cloth from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s samadhi. It is very special. Now, twice a year, on his appearance day and on his disappearance day, we bring it out and touch it. So now we shall pass it around and touch it to our heads and to our hearts—and pray to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami for his sublime mercy.

Thank you.

Hare Krishna.

[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s disappearance day July 31, 2002, Carpinteria, California]

Dear Bhakti Charu Swami

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Jul 082020

Dear Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. And all glories to your wonderful service to him.

One of your most prominent qualities while you were physically with us was your deep love for Srila Prabhupada. Very soon after you met him, he included you in his personal staff and made you his secretary for Bengali and Hindi correspondence. Soon thereafter, he gave you first and second initiation and then sannyasa. And you personally, lovingly served him throughout his last days.

You were also devoted to ISKCON. You always considered ISKCON to be a unique creation of Srila Prabhupada’s and always wanted to serve ISKCON—both the devotees in ISKCON and ISKCON as an entity, a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada. You loved anyone who loved Srila Prabhupada.

You were a very pure-hearted, loving person. Your love for Srila Prabhupada was seen in your love for the devotees and for people in general, whom you wanted to bring to Srila Prabhupada—and in how you encouraged devotees to increase their engagement, take on more responsibility, and become more loving, humble servants. The more responsibility one accepts, you once explained to a devotee in Mauritius, the bigger servant of the devotees one becomes. This reminded me of something Srila Prabhupada once said when 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 around the other devotees. 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 you, in parampara, had that same understanding.

Listening carefully to all of your instructions, we can understand how closely you followed the disciplic succession. Some of your statements were very close to Srila Prabhupada’s words, and some took the basic principles that Srila Prabhupada gave and sweetened them with beautiful personal realization.

Another of your many fine qualities was your offenselessness. You were very careful not to commit any offense against any devotee, or any living entity, and if you felt you had committed an offense, you immediately tried to mitigate its effects by approaching the person, apologizing, and asking forgiveness. Somehow or other you tried to rectify the offense. From our point of view, we wouldn’t think you had committed an offense, but within your pure heart you may have felt that you had, and immediately you would try to approach and please the person you feared you had offended, to remove the effects of the offense.

You exemplified the principle found in The Nectar of Devotion of “Not Giving Pain to Any Living Entity,” which was supported with a reference from the Mahabharata: “A person who does not disturb or cause painful action in the mind of any living entity, who treats everyone just like a loving father does his children, whose heart is so pure, certainly very soon becomes favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” That was you: so pure, just like a loving father to everyone—and favored by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

 You were a perfect gentleman—and Vaishnava. Once, an interviewer asked Srila Prabhupada, “How would I recognize a true follower of the Krishna consciousness movement by his behavior? What would his traits be? What would his outward expressions be?” And Prabhupada replied, “His behavior—he is a perfect gentleman. That’s all. You cannot find any fault in him. That is perfect Krishna consciousness.” That was you: a perfect gentleman—one could not find any fault in you.

Your heart was pure and very sensitive—full of appreciation for other devotees and sensitive to your own faults, which again, from our point of view, wouldn’t even have been 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.” You exemplified all those qualities described by Lord Krishna and thus were very dear to Him—and to us, to all others.

Now you have left this world and gone to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna. As Srila Prabhupada said, when a Vaishnava departs we feel both happy and sad—happy because the Vaishnava has gone to serve Lord Krishna and sad because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association. Sometimes the pain of separation is so intense that we can only recall Raya Ramananda’s exchange with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Cc Madhya 8.248):

“duhkha-madhye kona duhkha haya gurutara?”
“krsna-bhakta-viraha vina duhkha nahi dekhi para”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked, “Of all kinds of distress, what is the most painful?”
Sri Ramananda Raya replied, “Apart from separation from the devotee of Krsna, I know of no unbearable unhappiness.”

Still, we will try to be happy serving in separation. As Srila Prabhupada wrote to one of his disciples, “Please be happy in separation. I am separated from my guru maharaja since 1936, but I am always with him so long I work according to his direction. So we should all work together for satisfying Lord Krishna, and the feeling of separation will transform into transcendental bliss.”

By serving Srila Prabhupada’s—and your—instructions, we will feel his presence, and yours. And in fact we will live with you both. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his dedication to Srimad-Bhagavatam: “To Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, my spiritual master: He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him.”

Please look kindly upon us and guide and inspire us, following in your footsteps, to serve Srila Prabhupada and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and when we have done what you want us to do here, bring us back to you and Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet.

Your eternal servant,
Giriraj Swami