Feb 062020
 

We welcome you on this most auspicious occasion of the appearance day of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. According to the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the Absolute Truth is realized in three features. Preliminary is Brahman, the impersonal light that emanates from the transcendental form of the Lord. Next is Paramatma, the localized Supersoul within the hearts of all living entities. And the last word in realization of the Absolute is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. The jnanis who realize the impersonal Brahman experience only the sat, eternal, aspect of the Absolute Truth. The yogis who realize the Paramatma within the heart experience the eternal, sat, and cognizant, cit, features of the Absolute Truth. Only the devotees, who realize Krishna, experience ananda, bliss, which is the goal and ultimate nature of every living entity.

When an interviewer once asked Srila Prabhupada, “What is the goal of life?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “The goal of life is to enjoy.” Now, the effort to enjoy materially, through the mind and senses, leads only to frustration and misery, but spiritually one can enjoy in relation to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that pleasure, unlike the temporary so-called happiness of the material world, is eternal, and that eternal happiness can be realized through the mercy of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Nitya means “eternal” and ananda means “bliss.” So if we can come in touch with Lord Nityananda, we can realize that eternal bliss for which we are hankering.

How do we become eligible for Lord Nityananda’s mercy? That we can learn from the description of His qualities and pastimes in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, the most authorized book, biography, about the teachings and activities of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda and Their associates. There are a number of verses that summarize the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, but one is especially instructive, from Adi-lila, Chapter Seventeen: “The Pastimes of Lord Caitanya in His Youth”:

TEXT 17

tabe saci dekhila, rama-krsna—dui bhai
tabe nistarila prabhu jagai-madhai

TRANSLATION

Thereafter Mother Sacidevi saw the brothers Krsna and Balarama in Their manifestation of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda. Then the Lord delivered the two brothers Jagai and Madhai.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

One night Sacidevi dreamt that the Deities in her house, Krsna and Balarama, had taken the forms of Caitanya and Nityananda and were fighting one another, as children do, to eat the naivedya, or offering to the Deities. On the next day, by the will of Lord Caitanya, Sacidevi invited Nityananda to take prasada at her house. Thus Visvambhara (Lord Caitanya) and Nityananda were eating together, and Sacidevi realized that They were none other than Krsna and Balarama. Seeing this, she fainted.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

The story is that Sacidevi had a dream and told her son Nimai, “Last night I had a wonderful dream, and in this dream You and Nityananda went into my Deity room, and You picked up the Deity of Balarama, and Nitai picked up the Deity of Krishna, and the Deities started to protest, ‘You can’t take Us from the altar. You can’t take Us out of the Deity room.’ And You and Nityananda replied, ‘Your days of stealing butter and playing pranks are over. Now You are appearing as brahmans to chant the holy names.’ ” Then They started to fight over Mother Saci’s offerings, and Krishna and Balarama said, “These are meant for Us. You can’t have these.” And Gaura and Nitai were saying, “But now You have appeared as Us so We can take them.”

Mother Saci asked Lord Chaitanya, “What do you think of this dream?” and Lord Chaitanya said, “This is a very wonderful dream, but don’t tell anyone about it.” Because He was concealing His identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He didn’t want anyone to know that He was Krishna and Nityananda was Balarama.

Then Lord Chaitanya said, “I would go into the Deity room to have maha-prasada [the remnants of the offerings] and see that half of it was gone.” His wife Vishnu-priya was listening to this, and He knew that she was listening, so He said, “Seeing that half of the offering was gone, I would suspect that it was Vishnu-priya who had taken the maha-prasada, but now I am seeing that these Deities are very mystical, and I am suspecting that They Themselves might be eating half of the remnants meant for Us.” He continued, “Anyway, I think tomorrow you should invite Nityananda for lunch,” and she did. And as They were having lunch, she saw Them transform Themselves into Krishna and Balarama, and she fainted.

PURPORT (concluded)

Jagai and Madhai were two brothers born in Navadvipa in a respectable brahmana family who later became addicted to all kinds of sinful activities. By the order of Lord Caitanya, both Nityananda Prabhu and Haridasa Thakura used to preach the cult of Krsna consciousness door to door. In the course of such preaching they found Jagai and Madhai, two maddened drunken brothers, who, upon seeing them, began to chase them. The next day, Madhai struck Nityananda Prabhu on the head with a piece of earthen pot, thus drawing blood. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard of this, He immediately came to the spot, ready to punish both brothers, but when the all-merciful Lord Gauranga saw Jagai’s repentant behavior, He immediately embraced him. By seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face and embracing Him, both the sinful brothers were at once cleansed. Thus they received initiation into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra from the Lord and were delivered.

COMMENT

This is a very important pastime of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, and it is worth considering in detail, because it will give us an insight into the actual mission of Gaura-Nitai and, through parampara (disciplic succession), the mission of Srila Prabhupada and consequently the mission of his followers.

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Feb 052020
 

Today is Varaha-dvadasi, the appearance day of the boar incarnation, Varahadeva. To celebrate His appearance, we shall read one verse about Him from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Two, Chapter Seven, “Scheduled Incarnations with Specific Functions.”

TEXT 1 

                      brahmovaca
yatrodyatah ksiti-taloddharanaya bibhrat
    kraudim tanum sakala-yajna-mayim anantah
antar-maharnava upagatam adi-daityam
    tam damstrayadrim iva vajra-dharo dadara

TRANSLATION

Lord Brahma said: When the unlimitedly powerful Lord assumed the form of a boar as a pastime, just to lift the planet earth, which was drowned in the great ocean of the universe called the Garbhodaka, the first demon [Hiranyaksa] appeared, and the Lord pierced him with His tusk.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Since the beginning of creation, the demons and the demigods, or the Vaisnavas, are always the two classes of living beings to dominate the planets of the universes. Lord Brahma is the first demigod, and Hiranyaksa is the first demon in this universe.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

From the beginning of creation, there have been two classes of human beings within the universe. One is the demigods, or the devotees, who are favorable to Lord Vishnu, and the other is the demons, who are against Lord Vishnu. The difference between them has existed from the beginning of creation, and the competition between them has continued until now. There are always struggles and fights between the devotees and the demons.

Even to get the place where we are so comfortably sitting now, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, there was a great struggle. Srila Prabhupada, the devotee, wanted to purchase the land to build a temple for Radha and Krishna, and so many enemies joined together to oppose him. Month after month the struggle continued, until ultimately Srila Prabhupada and the devotees were successful.

Even after they acquired Hare Krishna Land, the struggle continued. So many enemies tried to stop the construction of the temple, but again, in the end, the devotees were successful and Srila Prabhupada was able to build this temple for Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihariji.

Even after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, so many enemies tried to capture Hare Krishna Land and take the management of the temple from the devotees. They accused the devotees: we were CIA, we were spies, we were smugglers, we were this, we were that. They even claimed that the chakras on top of the temple domes were radio antennas for sending and receiving secret messages, and such ridiculous stories were published all over the newspapers. Finally, these enemies induced the police to make a thorough search of the entire premises.

The police came to look for radios, contraband, and whatnot, and eventually they wanted to search Srila Prabhupada’s personal quarters on the fifth floor of the west tower. At the time, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami was the GBC for Bombay and I was the temple president. So Tamal Krishna Goswami accompanied the officer to Prabhupada’s quarters. When the officer saw the quarters, he paused and asked Tamal Krishna Goswami, “Do you know why we are searching Hare Krishna Land?” Goswami Maharaja thought and replied, “Because there are so many foreigners here.” The inspector in charge of the investigation said, “There are more foreigners at the Holiday Inn, so why are we not searching there?” Tamal Krishna Goswami replied, “I don’t know. Maybe you should say.” Then the officer said, “At the Holiday Inn they eat meat, they take intoxicants, they gamble, and they have illicit sex, so no one bothers about them. But here you don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs; you don’t take intoxicants; you don’t have illicit sex; and you don’t gamble. And you broadcast very loudly that people should not eat meat, should not take intoxicants, should not have illicit sex, and should not gamble. That is why we are investigating you. People are comfortable with sense gratification, so where there is sense gratification they feel comfortable. But you are giving up sense gratification, announcing it, and telling others to give it up as well. So people get disturbed, they become suspicious, and they want to know what’s happening, because they can’t understand how people can actually give up sense gratification. That’s why we are investigating you.”

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Feb 042020
 

Today is the disappearance anniversary of Sripada Ramanujacharya, the principal acharya in the Sri, or Lakshmi, sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada wrote, “We find great shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacharya because his lotus feet are the strongest fort to combat the Mayavadi philosophy.” (Letter 22.11.1974) And in the early days of ISKCON in India, before we had Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Hindi, Prabhupada would refer people to read the Hindi edition of the Gita with Sri Ramanujacharya’s commentary.

Srila Prabhupada often told a story about Sri Ramanujacharya’s merciful, compassionate nature. As he related it in Ahmedabad in 1972, “The servants of Krishna take all risk for Krishna’s sake. Just like Ramanujacharya. Sri Ramanujacharya’s spiritual master said, ‘My dear son, the mantra which I am giving, you chant silently and you will be delivered. It is so powerful. Don’t chant this mantra loudly so others can hear.’

“Ramanujacharya thought, ‘If this mantra is so powerful that if others hear it they’ll also be delivered, then why not?’ He immediately went to the market and began to chant the mantra. So, his spiritual master became very angry, that ‘I told you not to chant loudly, so others may not hear.’ And Ramanujacharya replied, ‘My Lordship, I have done offense unto you. That’s all right. For this I am prepared to go to hell. But if this mantra is so powerful, I must speak it to everyone.’ ”

In this mood, following in the footsteps of Sripada Ramanujacharya, Srila Prabhupada broadcast the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita everywhere, to everyone.

We pray and aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Feb 012020
 

This story was heard from the pujari at Sri Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipur, West Bengal. He came to the ISKCON Chaitanya Chandrodoya Mandir with a copy of the Back to Godhead article about Srila Prabhupada entitled “A Lifetime in Preparation.”

Just recently an amazing realization occurred to me that I wanted to share with devotees everywhere. I have been the pujari and sevaite at the house of Advaita Acharya for many years. I was also there back in the 1940s and ’50s. At that time, I noticed that one grihastha Bengali devotee was coming to the temple quite regularly. He was dressed in a white khadi dhoti and kurta, and he always came alone. He would sit in the back of the mandir without speaking and would chant harinama on his mala very quietly and deeply. He came on the weekends, usually once every month or two. After chanting there for many hours, he would always thank me when he left. His presence was profound, and I became attracted to him. Since his devotions were solitary, I never spoke to disturb him. Sometimes I happened to notice that while he was chanting, his eyes would be full of tears.

Then, for a very long time, he did not come. But in August of 1965 I saw a saffron-clothed sannyasi sitting in the back of the mandir and recognized him to be my old friend. Again he sat for a long time chanting Hare Krishna. I could see his beads moving, his eyes closed in concentrated devotion. He was weeping unabashedly, even more than he used to, while he took the holy name. Finally, as evening came, he paid his dandavata pranama for long time. When he arose he came up to me and again thanked me for my seva here at Advaita Bhavan. I asked him, “Who are you? I remember you from so long ago.”

He replied, ‘My name is Abhaya Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. I am an unworthy disciple of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada, my divine master. I have been coming here for such a long time because my gurudeva has given me an impossible mission. His desire was for me to go across the ocean to the Western countries and spread the sublime teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There are countless souls there who have never heard of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, and so they are suffering greatly. I have not known how this mission of his will be successful, so I have been coming here to this special house of Advaita Acharya, where He, Nityananda Prabhu, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would gather together to plan the sankirtana movement. It was here that They launched the inundation of love of God that swept India and continues to this day. Thus I have been praying very earnestly here that They will all give me Their mercy that somehow They will empower me and guide me. I want to satisfy my gurudeva’s desire, but I am feeling unqualified to do this.”

As he was speaking to me, I saw tears falling down on his cheeks again. Then he continued, “Tomorrow I am leaving for Calcutta to go upon a ship across the ocean, to America. I do not know what will befall me there, but I am praying most earnestly here for help.” Then he very humbly asked me for my blessings. I was moved by this Vaishnava’s sincerity and determination as I watched him depart upon his journey.

It was a few years later that I began noticing, for the first time, white Vaishnavas coming to Advaita Bhavan. They were wearing dhotis and saris and chanting on tulasi-mala. I never spoke to any of them, but then one of them gave me this Back to Godhead magazine from America. As I looked at the photographs, suddenly I recognized a picture of the Founder-Acarya who had brought Krishna consciousness to the West. It was my friend Bhaktivedanta Swami, who had come and prayed here so many times before. Then I realized that he has actually accomplished that impossible mission of his gurudeva. I saw that it was he, starting alone and without pretense, who had accomplished this glorious miracle against all odds.

As soon as I saw this, I came here to his temple in Mayapur to tell you this information. I know that he has gone from this world now, but I thought perhaps you might want to know this story about your and my beloved Srila Prabhupada.

 

Our Srila Prabhupada, A Friend to All, Compiled by Mulaprakrti devi dasi

Jan 312020
 

With Mercy, Nothing Is Impossible
By Aishwarya Madaan

My sister—nineteen-year old, wheelchair-bound, muscular-dystrophic Madana-mohana-mohini dasi from Pune, India—really wanted to participate in book distribution during the marathon month, in December 2019, because it is so dear to Srila Prabhupada.

With Mohini’s health not being so supportive, she made a compromise: “I’ll just go to a few neighboring apartments, maybe give out a couple of books, and see how my body responds.” Later in the month, after gathering courage for many days, she and I finally went out and distributed a few Bhagavad-gitas, and Mohini came back home with an infectious excitement. “I want to do more! Let’s go out again tomorrow.” Under normal circumstances, that would be too much: two back-to-back outings in her health condition—not a good idea! Eventually, practicality won, and we convinced her to wait a few days. But we were nearing the end of the month, and there weren’t a few days to wait.

With much hope and a strong desire, Mohini must have really been praying hard—because Krishna reciprocated: she got the idea to contact a doctor who had recently visited her for a checkup, to ask him to purchase 108 Gitas for distribution in his circles. She called him up, and he appreciated Mohini’s desire and said, “Yes, I’ll do whatever you say!”

That fueled the fire. It was the beginning of an exciting journey, and the end of her body’s control over her for over a week. One successful call led to another. For days, tirelessly, Mohini kept phoning people, until her throat started to give up. Inspired by her love for her daughter, our mother then joined to assist Mohini, and on her behalf we all came together to do what Mohini desired. We called up relatives, friends, doctors, teachers, colleagues, even decade-old acquaintances and proposed that they purchase Gitas for distribution in their circles, or sponsor Gitas for the underprivileged, which we would eventually go out and distribute in collaboration with the temple.

The response was overwhelming, making Mohini so transcendental, so happy, that she just kept smiling and kept increasing her target—from 108 to 500 to 1,000 to 1,500 to 3,100. She wouldn’t have dreamed of this when she started, but she kept aiming for more and more, and in under two weeks we had sponsors and orders for 3,101 Gitas.

I say that Krishna reciprocated, because the first person we called up, the doctor, was a special instrument, a hope-giving, desire-fueling instrument of Srila Prabhupada’s, who helped Mohini think big.

Mohini paid an intense price on the bodily level for days to come, but what price is that? Our bodies, minds, and words belong to Srila Prabhupada, and Mohini believes, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than sit back home and relax.”

Recently, on prize-distribution day, we found that Mohini turned out to be the number-one individual female book distributor in Pune, second overall in all of Pune only to our temple president, HG Radheshyam Prabhu! While receiving the certificate from HH Gopal Krishna Maharaja, she addressed the Pune congregation, shared some extraordinary achievements from ISKCON’s early days, and said, “With the mercy of the guru-parampara in ISKCON, nothing is impossible!”

Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution marathon ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada’s loving compassion ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada’s mercy and empowerment ki jaya!

Jan 302020
 

We are gathered here to celebrate the appearance day of Sri Advaita Acharya. Advaita Acharya is an incarnation of Maha-vishnu. In terms of pastimes, He appeared before Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and so was considered an elder by Mahaprabhu. He was actually older than Lord Chaitanya’s own father.

Advaita Acharya, although Vishnu Himself, was in the mood of a Vaishnava. As a Vaishnava, He felt compassion for the fallen conditioned souls who were suffering without Krishna consciousness. Although previously Navadvipa had been a great center of devotion, it had deteriorated into a center of dry learning. Thus, Advaita Acharya felt compassion for the fallen souls of the age, so engrossed in material affairs, devoid of devotional service to Krishna. In the mood of a humble Vaishnava, although He was Vishnu Himself, He felt that He was not capable of delivering the fallen souls. He believed that only Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself could preach the yuga-dharma of hari-nama-sankirtana and deliver them.

Advaita Acharya Prabhu was an ideal householder. He had read in the scriptures that the Lord sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water. As a grihastha brahman, He worshipped a salagrama-sila at home. Therefore, He specifically began to worship Salagrama with Ganges water and tulasi leaves with the aim of bringing about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s descent.

The Caitanya-caritamrta describes Sri Advaita Acharya’s appeal to Lord Krishna to appear again on earth. He cried with such intensity that the sound traveled throughout the entire universe and ultimately reached Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Because of the loud cries of Sri Advaita Acharya, Mahaprabhu did indeed descend, appearing in Navadvipa on the full moon night of Phalguna (February-March). Thus the Lord came at the request of Advaita Acharya, His pure devotee, to reclaim the fallen souls.

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Jan 292020
 

Today is the appearance day of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and many other acharyas and associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was born in a very aristocratic family in Bengal. His father and uncle, Govardhana and Hiranya Majumdara, were wealthy landlords, or zamindars; they were almost like kings in opulence. But although Raghunatha dasa was their only heir, he had no attraction for material opulence and enjoyment.

The Majumdaras’ family priest was Yadunandana Acharya, a disciple of Advaita Acharya. From the time Raghunatha dasa was a small boy, Yadunandana Acharya and Balarama Acharya, another friend of the Majumdara family, would call him to sit on their laps. They would instruct him to chant Hare Krishna and tell him about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So from a very young age Raghunatha dasa developed the desire to join Sri Chaitanya. Namacharya Haridasa Thakura also visited Raghunatha dasa’s family, and he too was merciful to Raghunatha dasa.

One day Raghunatha dasa left home and went to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. “I want to join You,” he told the Lord. But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “No. Don’t act like a crazy fellow. You should return home and be a good son, an expert businessman, and a proper husband, and then, when the time comes, the Lord Himself will arrange for you to become free from the bondage of family life.”

Lord Chaitanya used the term markata-vairagya. Markata means monkey,” and vairagya means “renunciation.” Monkeys appear to be very renounced, because they live in the jungle, have no clothes or possessions, and eat only fruits and berries. But each monkey has two dozen girlfriends. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was instructing Raghunatha dasa, “Don’t be a monkey renunciant, making a show of renunciation when you still have material desires. Return home and act outwardly as an ordinary young man. And inwardly, develop your Krishna consciousness. Be detached internally and perform your external duties.”

So, on Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s order Raghunatha dasa returned home. But within his heart he wanted to join Mahaprabhu. Raghunatha dasa’s parents were very worried that Raghunatha dasa, their only son, might leave home. So they kept guards at the gate to make sure he did not run away. One day Raghunatha dasa got the idea to meet Nityananda Prabhu at Panihati. Once there, being extremely humble, he offered his obeisances from a distance. Lord Nityananda, being very merciful and humorous, said to Raghunatha, “You are just like a thief, staying at a distance. But now that I have captured you, I will punish you. You must make a festival for My associates and Me and feed us all chipped rice, yogurt, bananas, and milk.”

Raghunatha dasa bought all the cida (chipped rice), dadhi (yogurt), dugdha (milk), and fruits and sweets that were available in the market. Preparations were made using chipped rice, yogurt, milk, sugar, and bananas, and there were mangoes, sweets, and other items. Nityananda Prabhu and all the other devotees were very pleased.

When merchants heard about the festival, they came to Panihati to sell their goods. Raghunatha dasa would buy all their dadhi, dugdha, bananas, and other items, make them sit down, and feed them the same items he had just purchased. Soon there were so many people that there was no place to sit. People began to sit on the bank of the Ganges, and when all of the space by the Ganges was occupied, they stood in the water of the Ganges and ate their cida-dadhi. At the end of the festival, Nityananda Prabhu was so pleased with Raghunatha dasa that He gave him a blessing.

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Jan 282020
 

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.23.

“The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body. And the person who has never experienced the aroma of the tulasi leaves from the lotus feet of the Lord is also a dead body, although breathing.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam  2.3.23

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.23 (Right click to download)