Giriraj Swami gave the keynote address, on “Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective”, at the Bhaktivedanta Medical Retreat in Houston.
Death and Dying From the Vedic Perspective – Keynote Address
Giriraj Swami gave a brief introduction to the Bhagavad-gita and then Rtadhvaja Swami and he answered questions during the Sunday program at the Dallas temple.
Giriraj Swami spoke on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.18, and Visvambhara dasa, Nityananda dasa, and Rtadhvaja Swami followed, at Balaram Prasad and Siddhesvari Priya’s housewarming event.
Two days after the opening, The New York Times ran an article on the front page of its second section, with the headline “Hare Krishna Sect Displays Vitality At Its New $2 Million Temple in India”:
“JUHU, India, Jan. 15—Several hundred members of the Hare Krishna sect, chanting and singing and clapping, opened a $2 million temple and cultural center here this weekend in a colorful festival of devotion.
“To the young American monks of the movement the dedication of their sumptuous carved marble temple on the Arabian seacoast here, 10 miles north of Bombay, symbolized a kind of coming of age of the sect, which they hope is becoming less controversial.
“ ‘We are gaining a broader base among the general public, in both India and America,’ explained Tamal Krishna, a 32-year-old New Yorker who is a member of the organization’s 23-member governing board. ‘We’re learning that there’s no way we’re going to give Krishna consciousness a general appeal if we make everyone shave their heads and chant “Hare Krishna” all day long.’
“But like most leaders of the movement, Tamal Krishna, who was named Thomas Herzig when he was growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, does have a shaved head, a saffron-colored flowing garment called a dhoti and streaks of Ganges River mud on his forehead. Like all of them, he chants this mantra at least 1,728 times a day: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
“The chant, which has been sung with stomping feet on hundreds of American street corners in the 12 years since the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was started in New York, was the motif of the weekend here. Crowds shouted it to the beat of drums and cymbals as each statue of Krishna was anointed, as each of the huge teak and brass temple doors was opened and as marigolds and bananas were laid in offering beside the silver-plated altars.
“But one difference between this celebration and the performances in the United States was reflected in the fact that India’s Health Minister and other high Government officials were among the speakers at the dedication ceremony, lending respectability. As a saffron-clad monk from Miami Beach put it, ‘When we come to India, we are coming home.’
“In other words, Lord Sri Krsna is the property of His pure, unconditional devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Krsna to another devotee; Krsna is never obtainable directly. Lord Caitanya therefore designated Himself as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah, or ‘the most obedient servant of the servants of the Lord, who maintains the gopi damsels at Vrndavana.’ A pure devotee therefore never approaches the Lord directly, but tries to please the servant of the Lord’s servants, and thus the Lord becomes pleased, and only then can the devotee relish the taste of the tulasi leaves stuck to His lotus feet. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that the Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee. In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krsna. Srimati Radharani is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krsna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.” —SB 2.3.23 purport
A talk by Giriraj Swami on Srila Jiva Gosvami’s disappearance day, January 14, 1994, Mauritius.
sri-caitanya-padambhoja-madhupebhyo namo namah
kathancid asrayad yesam svapi tad-gandha-bhag bhavet
Let me repeatedly offer my respectful obeisances unto the beelike devotees who always taste the honey of the lotus feet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If even a doggish nondevotee somehow takes shelter of such devotees, he enjoys the aroma of the lotus flower.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
The example of a dog is very significant in this connection. A dog naturally does not become a devotee at any time. But still it is sometimes found that a dog of a devotee gradually becomes a devotee also. We have actually seen that a dog has no respect even for the tulasi plant. Indeed, a dog is especially inclined to pass urine on the tulasi plant. Therefore the dog is the number one nondevotee. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement is so strong that even a doglike nondevotee can gradually become a devotee by the association of a devotee of Lord Caitanya. Srila Sivananda Sena, a great householder devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, attracted a dog on the street while going to Jagannatha Puri. The dog began to follow him and ultimately went to see Caitanya Mahaprabhu and was liberated. Similarly, cats and dogs in the household of Srivasa Thakura were also liberated. Cats and dogs and other animals are not expected to become devotees, but in the association of a pure devotee they are also delivered.
jaya jaya sri-krsna-caitanya-nityananda
jaya advaitacandra jaya gaura-bhakta-Vrindavannda
All glories to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda! All glories to Advaita Prabhu, and all glories to the devotees of Lord Caitanya, headed by Srivasa!
ei malira-ei vrksera akathya kathana
ebe suna mukhya-sakhara nama-vivarana
The description of Lord Caitanya as the gardener and the tree is inconceivable. Now hear with attention about the branches of this tree.
caitanya-gosanira yata parisada-caya
guru-laghu-bhava tanra na haya niscaya
The associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu were many, but none of them should be considered lower or higher. This cannot be ascertained.
yata yata mahanta kaila tan-sabara ganana
keha karibare nare jyestha-laghu-krama
All the great personalities in the line of Lord Caitanya enumerated these devotees, but they could not distinguish between the greater and the lesser.
ataeva tan-sabare kari’ namaskara
nama-matra kari, dosa na labe amara
I offer my obeisances unto them as a token of respect. I request them not to consider my offenses.
vande sri-krsna-caitanya-premamara-taroh priyan
sakha-rupan bhakta-ganan krsna-prema-phala-pradan
I offer my respectful obeisances to all the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the eternal tree of love of Godhead. I offer my respects to all the branches of the tree, the devotees of the Lord who distribute the fruit of love of Krsna.
Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami sets the example of offering obeisances to all the preacher devotees of Lord Caitanya, without distinction as to higher and lower. Unfortunately, at present there are many foolish so-called devotees of Lord Caitanya who make such distinctions. For example, the title “Prabhupada” is offered to a spiritual master, especially to a distinguished spiritual master such as Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhupada, or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada. When our disciples similarly wanted to address their spiritual master as Prabhupada, some foolish people became envious. Not considering the propaganda work of the Hare Krsna movement, simply because these disciples addressed their spiritual master as Prabhupada, they became so envious that they formed a faction with other such envious persons just to minimize the value of the Krsna consciousness movement. To chastise such fools, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami very frankly says, keha karibare nare jyestha-laghu-krama. Anyone who is a bona fide preacher of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must be respectful to the real devotees of Lord Caitanya; one should not be envious, considering one preacher to be very great and another to be very lowly. This is a material distinction and has no place on the platform of spiritual activities. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami therefore offers equal respect to all the preachers of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who are compared to the branches of the tree. ISKCON is one of these branches, and it should therefore be respected by all sincere devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
Even among Gaudiya Vaishnavas, we must be careful to avoid offenses. We must respect and recognize the service of all Vaishnavas. As Srila Prabhupada once said, if we do not give credit where credit is due, we will become envious.
On Sunday, January 6, Srila Locana dasa Thakura’s appearance day, in the presence of Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandji, Srila Prabhupada, and their followers, I was pleased to officially connect five devotees to Srila Prabhupada and the guru-parampara through hari-nama initiation. Jeff Janock became Jaya Chaitanya dasa, Nishant Mehta became Nitai dasa, Sakar Panta became Shyama Gopala dasa, Rosie Panta became Radharani dasi, and Ambika Gurung became Amrita Gopi dasi. Please bless them and support them in their service to Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and their mission.
(The video of the ceremony can be seen on my Facebook page.)
Yours in service,
“A moment passed in the association of a pure devotee by hearing and chanting the transcendental messages of the Lord is a perfect guarantee for eternal life, for returning home, back to Godhead. Mad-dhama gatva punar janma na vidyate. In other words, a devotee of the Lord is guaranteed eternal life. A devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is but an impetus to such guaranteed eternal life.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17 purport)
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
In the beginning of the purport, Srila Prabhupada said we should accelerate our devotional service. The disease or old age a devotee suffers can serve as an impetus to accelerate or intensify his or her devotional service, move them more quickly along the path toward eternal life—back home, back to Godhead. Devotees don’t reject things as bad because they see that anything can be good if accepted in the proper spirit as an impetus to go back home, back to godhead. Devotees don’t blame the Lord for any circumstantial reversal but rather see that the Lord is making an arrangement to help them come back to Him more quickly.”