May 282019
 

“Hearing of the holy name gradually promotes one to the stage of hearing about His form, His attributes, His pastimes, and so on, and thus the necessity of the chanting of His glories develops successively. This process is recommended not only for the successful execution of devotional service, but also even for those who are materially attached. According to Sri Sukadeva Gosvami, this way of attaining success is an established fact, concluded not only by him but also by all other previous acaryas. Therefore, there is no need of further evidence. The process is recommended not only for the progressive students in different departments of ideological success, but also for those who are already successful in their achievement as fruitive workers, as philosophers or as devotees of the Lord.

“Srila Jiva Gosvami instructs that chanting of the holy name of the Lord should be loudly done, and it should be performed offenselessly as well, as recommended in the Padma Purana. One can deliver himself from the effects of all sins by surrendering himself unto the Lord. One can deliver himself from all offenses at the feet of the Lord by taking shelter of His holy name. But one cannot protect himself if one commits an offense at the feet of the holy name of the Lord. Such offenses are mentioned in the Padma Purana as being ten in number.” SB 2.1.112 purport.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.11

May 242019
 

Today in Vrindavan is a memorial program for Srila Prabhupada’s dear disciple Parvati devi dasi. I wrote a letter to her for the occasion:

My dear Parvati Devi,

Please accept my humble, respectful obeisances. All glories to our eternal spiritual master and savior, Srila Prabhupada.

Now you have left us—on Mohini Ekadasi, in Vrindavan—and we are feeling your separation. But as Srila Prabhupada said, when a Vaishnava leaves we feel both happy and sad: happy because we know they are going to serve Krishna, but sad because we will miss their association.

You led a glorious life in service to His Divine Grace, as I witnessed firsthand in Juhu and later in Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada said, “Bombay is my office,” and you helped keep his office running smoothly and progressively.

He also said, “Vrindavan is my home,” and it is so quite literally, even now, because he is in his samadhi there, and you have rendered steadfast, intimate service to him by caring for and developing his samadhi and its environs.

Further, you maintained the service of organizing the daily Bhagavad-gita classes in his house, which ensure regular pure, philosophical krsna-katha—and you were kind enough to ask me to speak there, too.

After you left, I was touched by the tremendous outpouring of grief and appreciation for you on social media. You were so humble, staunch, sincere, and selfless in your service to Srila Prabhupada that all his followers have deep feelings for you. And as Vaisesika Prabhu said, the world will not be the same without you.

Fortunately, you have left behind your faithful husband and godbrother, Prassannatma, and your beautiful daughters, Kamala and Radhika Priya, to maintain your legacy.

My dear Parvati, what can I say? I miss you so much, and I yearn to join you with Srila Prabhupada whenever he calls me, after I have done for him here what he wishes.

At a Deity-welcoming program at Bhaktivedanta Hospice, a devotee said, “I read that this place, Ramana-reti, is where Krishna and Balarama play and frolic and have fun. And I read a most reassuring and enlivening statement—that when somebody quits their body in this Ramana-reti area, Krishna and Balarama leave Their play and come running to embrace that soul who has left his body here.”

Certainly, Srila Prabhupada has welcomed you with open arms, and wherever he is, there are Krishna-Balarama and Radha-Syamasundara and all Their friends and associates.

Whenever I chant before my Srila Prabhupada deity and think of you, I hear him say, “Parvati is very dear to me; I have called her to join me.”

Hare Krishna.

Your aspiring, eternal servant,
Giriraj Swami

Nrsimha Prayers and Talk, Nrsimha-caturdasi, May 17, Moorpark, California

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May 192019
 

titiksavah karunikah
suhrdah sarva-dehinam
ajata-satravah santah
sadhavah sadhu-bhusanah

Translation: The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful, and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.  —Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21

“Srila Prabhupada related this verse to his own situation in Juhu—trying to preach, establish his mission and build a temple there. He said that a sadhu has no enemies (ajata-satravah). The sadhu does not create enemies, but people become enemies out of their own character. ‘We are simple teaching,’ he said, ‘ “My dear human being, my dear friend, you become a surrendered soul to Krishna.” So, what is our fault? We do not create any enemy, but they become enemy, out of their own nature. Because we are spreading Krishna consciousness, the envious, who are more dangerous than snakes, are putting so many impediments. But we have to tolerate (titiksavah) and be merciful (karunikah). Be peaceful (santah). What can be done? Depend on Krishna.’

“Fortunately for us, these characteristics of a Vaishnava were fully exemplified in Srila Prabhupada—as in Prahlada Maharaja—and thus by studying his character we can know what a Vaishnava is and follow in his footsteps.”

Nrsimha prayers (Right-click to download)
Nrsima-caturdasi talk (Right-click to download)

With Srila Prabhupada in Juhu on Nrsimha-caturdasi

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May 172019
 

Srila Prabhupada was with us in Juhu for Nrsimha-caturdasi on May 5, 1974. The following excerpt from my forthcoming book about Srila Prabhupada and Juhu, entitled I’ll Build You a Temple: A Good Fight and a Promise Fulfilled, describes the devotees’ drama:

For Nrsimha-caturdasi, a troupe of devotees led by Jagat Purusa organized a drama depicting the appearance of Lord Nrsimha, to be performed in the temple room. There was an all-male cast, including the young and slender Nava-yogendra as Prahlada Maharaja; Bhagavata, who was quite large, as Nrsimhadeva; and Jagat Purusa, who was very thin, as Hiranyakasipu. The stage was set before anybody arrived, and Bhagavata, wearing a massive lion headdress, was hidden with a microphone in a papiermache pillar that had been built in the corner of the darshan area. He narrated the drama, but because his voice was broadcast by speakers, nobody knew where he was. Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana, and the play went on all around him, with the temple room itself as the stage, and everyone else in the audience outside on the grounds.

Hiranyakasipu was the most powerful man in the universe, so he was supposed to have a big, muscular physique, but the drama opened with him when he was performing his austerities—standing on the tip of his toes with outstretched hands, with all his ribs showing—and afterward Jagat Purusa put on shoulder pads and lots of wadding. Anirdesavapu had been in the pujari room washing pots, but when the person playing Lord Brahma didn’t show up, the devotees asked him to fill in. All he had to do was respond to Hiranyakasipu when he asked for his boons, they assured him, and they dressed him up with some ornaments and a crown and sent him to the temple room.

From his viewpoint on stage, Anirdesavapu could see how absorbed Prabhupada was in the drama. “When he saw me,” Anirdesavapu later recalled, “he was astonished and opened his eyes wide, as if he was actually seeing Lord Brahma. His eyes got big, his head tilted back, and he was smiling. He wasn’t just seeing some brahmacharis dressed up in makeshift costumes—he was seeing Lord Brahma and the other divine personalities.” At the climax, when Hiranyakasipu called for Prahlada’s lord and pounded the pillar, Bhagavata, as Lord Nrsimha, burst out with a roar, and Prabhupada opened his eyes wide and leaned so far back that his vyasasana almost toppled over.

Decades later, Jagat Purusa still remembered the day vividly: “Over the years, I had done dozens of dramas with various devotees, but I’d never had an experience like this. In one particular school of drama, the Stanislavski School, the actors meditate upon their roles and by doing so transform into the characters they are portraying. I wasn’t really trying to train the devotees in this way, but even without any conscious attempt, by Srila Prabhupada’s presence every devotee in the drama ceased being that devotee and became the part he was playing. It was just unbelievable! Srila Prabhupada was there from the opening scene to the very end, and he was showing all these amazing expressions: surprise, concern, happiness, delight. Some of the devotees could barely watch the drama, they were so transfixed watching Srila Prabhupada watch it unfold. Everything was flawless, because it was not a drama—it was a pastime.”

Afterwards, the actors, still in their costumes, sat down where they were for Prabhupada’s lecture. “Today is the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva,” he began. “I am so pleased that within such a short time these boys have nicely learned how to play, and especially I have to thank Mr. Hiranyakasipu,” at which everyone laughed and applauded. “Mr. Hiranyakasipu has played his part very nicely.”

The devotees—especially the actors—were exuberant. “As every devotee knows,” Jagat Purusa recalled, “there is nothing—nothing—compared to getting the confirmation that Srila Prabhupada is pleased with something that you have done in his service. I was sitting there just two feet from his lotus feet, and I felt myself melting into the cracks between the tiles, and I thought, This is the best time for me to leave my body! It is so fulfilling to know that Srila Prabhupada is pleased.”

Sri Nrsimha-caturdasi

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May 162019
 

Today is Nrsimha-caturdasi, the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The appearance and activities of the Lord in the world are a great mystery. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9) Lord Krishna says:

janma karma ca me divyam
   evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
   naiti mam eti so ’rjuna

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

To understand the appearance and activities of the Lord is not so easy for ordinary people. Or, as Srila Prabhupada said, “It is simple for the simple but difficult for the crooked.” If one is a simple devotee and hears submissively from Vedic authorities, he or she can understand the transcendental science. Therefore the Vedic literature enjoins, tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigaccet: In order to understand the transcendental science, one must approach a spiritual master. No matter the subject, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to play harmonium, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to make a puri, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to program a computer, we need a teacher. For every field of activity, we need a teacher. Why, then, should we not need a teacher for the most important subject: how to understand, to realize, God?

The Sanskrit word jnana can be translated as “knowledge,” and the word vijnana can be translated as “applied knowledge” or “science” or “realization.” Thus jnana may be called “theoretical knowledge” and vijnana “realized knowledge.” In the process of spiritual realization we learn by hearing. Lord Krishna begins His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita by telling Arjuna, “Tac chrnu: Hear from Me.”

Krishna is the supreme authority. In explaining the spiritual science in the Bhagavad-gita, He advised, evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh: to understand the transcendental science one must receive the knowledge through disciplic succession. If we try to understand the knowledge by our own independent study of the books, we will fail. So Krishna advises that we receive the knowledge through parampara. Parampara means “one after another.” In the context of Vedic knowledge, it refers to the chain of masters and disciples that follow one after the other, through which the knowledge is passed down.

The original speaker of the Bhagavad-gita is Krishna. He taught the knowledge to Arjuna and others. One of the others was Lord Brahma, and Lord Brahma instructed Narada, Narada instructed Vyasa, and Vyasa instructed Madhvacharya, and so the knowledge was passed down from master to disciple in an unbroken chain. In more recent times, after Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Gosvamis, the same knowledge has been passed to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.

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Candana-yatra

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May 142019
 

Candana-yatra began on Aksaya Tritiya, May 7, and continues for twenty-one days.

Today we continue our observance of Candana-yatra. We are reading from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Four: “Sri Madhavendra Puri’s Devotional Service,” which describes how Madhavendra Puri traveled by foot from Govardhana to Jagannatha Puri to procure sandalwood to grind and mix with camphor and place on the body of the Deity Gopala whom he had installed on the top of Govardhana Hill. After Madhavendra Puri installed Gopala on the top of Govardhana Hill, two brahmans came, and he initiated them and engaged them in the service of the Deity. When he was satisfied that the two brahmans could conduct the worship nicely, he left for Jagannatha Puri. The Deity Gopala appeared in a dream to Madhavendra Puri and told him, “Although you have made so many arrangements for My worship and service, still My body is burning because of the heat. So please go to Jagannatha Puri and bring Malayan sandalwood.”

Madhavendra Puri was pleased to receive that service from Gopala, and he proceeded toward Jagannatha Puri. When he reached Remuna, he took darshan of the Deity Gopinatha. The arrangements at the temple were excellent, and the offerings of sweet rice, known as gopinatha-ksira, were particularly famous. Because the sweet rice tasted as good as amrta, nectar, it was called amrta-keli. So, Madhavendra Puri just had a thought—that if he could taste some of the amrta-keli, he could prepare similar sweet rice for Gopala.

As soon as Madhavendra Puri had that thought, however, he became ashamed. Although actually there had not been any fault, out of his extreme humility he considered that he had been lusty in wanting to taste the Deity’s sweet rice. And so, without saying anything to anyone, he left the temple and went into a vacant marketplace in the town and began to chant the holy name. He was just chanting and chanting and eventually, toward the morning, he dozed off.

Meanwhile, the Deity Gopinatha appeared in a dream to the pujari and said, “I have stolen a pot of sweet rice and kept it hidden behind the curtain in the Deity room. Please come and get it and go into the town to the marketplace and find the sannyasi named Madhavendra Puri and deliver the sweet rice to him.” So, the pujari bathed, went into the Deity room, found that indeed the Deity had hidden the pot of sweet rice behind the curtain, and he took the sweet rice into the town, as he had been instructed. And, holding up the pot of sweet rice, he called out, “Will he whose name is Madhavendra Puri please come and take this pot. Gopinatha has stolen this pot for you.” We resume reading:

TEXT 134

ksira lana sukhe tumi karaha bhaksane
toma-sama bhagyavan nahi tribhuvane

TRANSLATION

The priest continued, “Would the sannyasi whose name is Madhavendra Puri please come and take this pot of sweet rice and enjoy the prasada with great happiness! You are the most fortunate person within these three worlds!”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Here is an example of a personal benediction by Krsna’s immoral activity. By Gopinatha’s stealing for His devotee, the devotee becomes the most fortunate person within the three words. Thus even the Lord’s criminal activities make His devotee the most fortunate person. How can a mundane rascal understand the pastimes of Krsna and judge whether He is moral or immoral? Since Krsna is the Absolute Truth, there are no mundane distinctions such as moral and immoral. Whatever He does is good. This is the real meaning of “God is good.” He is good in all circumstances because He is transcendental, outside the jurisdiction of this material world. Therefore, Krsna can be understood only by those who are already living in the spiritual world. This is corroborated in the Bhagavad-gita (14.26):

mam ca yo ‘vyabhicarena bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” (Bg 14.26)

One who is engaged in unalloyed devotional service to the Lord is already situated in the spiritual world (brahma-bhuyaya kalpate). In all circumstances, his activities and dealings with Krsna are transcendental and thus not understandable by mundane moralists. It is therefore better not to discuss such activities among mundane people. It is better to give them the Hare Krsna maha-mantra so that they will be gradually purified and then come to understand the transcendental activities of Krsna.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, bhaktya mam abhijanati, yavan yas casmi tattvatah—He can be understood only by devotional service. Ordinary people cannot understand Krishna; He is always hidden from them by the curtain of Yogamaya. They see Him superficially and misunderstand Him. Therefore, we do not generally discuss Krishna’s pastimes publicly before an audience of ordinary people or a mixed audience but rather give them the Hare Krishna maha-mantra to chant.

Devotees—pure devotees who are surrendered to Krishna—can understand Krishna because they are on the same platform, the Brahman platform. As Srila Prabhupada mentions in the purport, even the activities of the transcendental devotees are incomprehensible to the mundane moralists because the transcendental devotees are also acting on the spiritual platform and are not bound by ordinary rules and regulations but are impelled by Krishna. Krishna is free, and therefore the devotee is also free to act according to Krishna’s desire.

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Sri Sita-navami

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May 122019
 

Today is Sita-navami, the appearance day of Srimati Sitadevi, the eternal consort of Lord Ramachandra. To begin, we shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Nine: “Lord Caitanya’s Travels to the Holy Places.”

TEXT 2

jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda

TRANSLATION

All glories to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Lord Nityananda Prabhu! All glories to Sri Advaita Prabhu! And all glories to all the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!

TEXT 178

daksina-mathura aila kamakosthi haite
tahan dekha haila eka brahmana-sahite

TRANSLATION

When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at southern Mathura from Kamakosthi, He met a brahmana.

TEXTS 179–193

The brahmana who met Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu invited the Lord to his home. This brahmana was a great devotee and an authority on Lord Sri Ramacandra. He was always detached from material activities.

After bathing in the river Krtamala, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the brahmana’s house to take lunch, but He saw that the food was unprepared because the brahmana had not cooked it.

Seeing this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “My dear sir, please tell Me why you have not cooked. It is already noon.”

The brahmana replied, “My dear Lord, we are living in the forest. For the time being we cannot get all the ingredients for cooking.

“When Laksmana brings all the vegetables, fruits, and roots from the forest, Sita will do the necessary cooking.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very satisfied to hear about the brahmana’s method of worship. Finally the brahmana hastily made arrangements for cooking.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took His lunch at about three o’clock, but the brahmana, being very sorrowful, fasted.

While the brahmana was fasting, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, “Why are you fasting? Why are you so unhappy? Why are you so worried?”

The brahmana replied, “I have no reason to live. I shall give up my life by entering either fire or water.

“My dear Sir, Mother Sita is the mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune. She has been touched by the demon Ravana, and I am troubled upon hearing this news.

“Sir, due to my unhappiness I cannot continue living. Although my body is burning, my life is not leaving.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Please do not think this way any longer. You are a learned pandita. Why don’t you consider the case?”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued, “Sitadevi, the dearmost wife of the Supreme Lord Ramacandra, certainly has a spiritual form full of bliss. No one can see her with material eyes, for no materialist has such power.

“To say nothing of touching Mother Sita, a person with material senses cannot even see her. When Ravana kidnapped her, he kidnapped only her material, illusory form.

“As soon as Ravana arrived before Sita, she disappeared. Then just to cheat Ravana she sent an illusory, material form.”

TEXT 194

aprakrta vastu nahe prakrta-gocara
veda-puranete ei kahe nirantara

TRANSLATION

“Spiritual substance is never within the jurisdiction of the material conception. This is always the verdict of the Vedas and Puranas.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

As stated in the Katha Upanisad (2.3.9, 12):

na sandrse tisthati rupam asya
na caksusa pasyati kascanainam
hrda manisa manasabhikÿpto
ya etad vidur amrtas te bhavanti
naiva vaca na manasa
praptum sakyo na caksusa

“Spirit is not within the jurisdiction of material eyes, words, or mind.”

Similarly, Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13) states:

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah

“A human being who identifies his body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of his body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of his birth worshipable, and who goes to a place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than to meet men of transcendental knowledge there is to be considered like an ass or a cow.”

These are some Vedic statements about spiritual substance. Spiritual substance cannot be seen by the unintelligent, because they do not have the eyes or the mentality to see the spirit soul. Consequently they think that there is no such thing as spirit. But the followers of the Vedic injunctions take their information from Vedic statements, such as the verses from the Katha Upanisad and Srimad-Bhagavatam quoted above.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

We know from Srila Prabhupada, from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu:

nama cintamanih krsnas
caitanya-rasa-vigrahah
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
’bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

Namah cintamanih krsnah: the holy name of Krishna is Krishna Himself. Caitanya-rasa-vigrahah: it is the form of rasa, the reservoir of pleasure. It is purna, complete; suddha, pure; and nitya-mukta, always free from material contamination. Why? Because there is no difference between the holy name of Krishna and the possessor of the name, Krishna Himself (abhinnatvan nama-naminoh).

Now the question arises, “When the Lord is spiritual and beyond the jurisdiction of material senses, how can one with materially covered senses touch, or chant and hear, the holy name of Krishna?” In the next verse of the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami explains:

atah sri-krsna-namadi
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah

Atah means “therefore,” as in athatho brahma-jijnasa. Atah: therefore (that is, because the holy name of Krishna is completely spiritual like Krishna) one cannot chant or hear the holy name—touch the holy name—with materially contaminated senses. However, if we engage our senses in the service of the Lord and the Lord becomes pleased with our service, the Lord will reveal Himself to us.

In other words, although we cannot perceive the Lord with materially contaminated senses, the Lord can reveal Himself to us when He is pleased by our service: He can purify our senses and make Himself visible to us.

When even a sadhaka, a devotee who is practicing devotional service, cannot touch even the holy name of the Lord, how could a demon like Ravana see or touch Mother Sita, who is directly the spiritual energy of the Lord? It is not possible. What Ravana saw and touched was not the original Sita but maya Sita, an illusory representation of the original Sita. Thus Lord Chaitanya was consoling the brahman, “Don’t lament that Mother Sita has been touched by the demon Ravana. The demon Ravana could not even see her, what to speak of touch her. There is no need to lament.”

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