“During the Ratha-yatra festival, Lord Chaitanya manifested the mood of Srimati Radharani wanting to bring Krishna back to Vrindavan. He would pull the chariot, and in that emotional process He was pulling Krishna back to Vrindavan. We also want to install Krishna in our hearts. This body is compared to a chariot, and just as Lord Jagannatha was placed on a chariot at Ratha-yatra, we also want to place Lord Jagannatha, Krishna, on the chariot, or altar, of our hearts. But in order to do that we have to cleanse our hearts.”
“At the Ratha-yatra, Lord Chaitanya recited the following verse:
seita parana-natha painu
yaha lagi’ madana-dahane jhuri genu
‘I have gotten that Lord of My life, for whom I was burning in the fire of lusty desires.’ (Cc Madhya 1.55)
“All the scriptures proclaim that the gopis’ love for Krishna is completely pure and spotless, free from any material taint ofselfish desire. So, when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the mood of the gopis says that he is burning in the fire of lusty desires, He really means that He is burning in the fire of separation—separation from pleasing Krishna. The gopis know that Krishna is pleased by their service more than anyone else’s. And because their only ambition is to see Krishna happy, they want to serve Him, not for their own happiness, but to give Krishna the highest transcendental pleasure. But they express their desire in terms of lust, or selfish desires—also to please Krishna.” —Giriraj Swami
On Saturday, May 22, devotees from Dallas, Houston, and other places gathered to celebrate Jagannatha Ratha-yatra in Dallas. After the parade, His Holiness Giriraj Swami spoke about the significance of the festival–and of initiation. Then His Holiness Rtadhvaja Swami and he accepted some disciples for first and second initiation.
“We are all suffering sinful reactions. It is due to sinful reactions that we suffer, and it is due to sinful reactions that we have doubts and remain in duality: ‘Should I become Krishna conscious, or should I try to enjoy the world?’ We have doubts; we are in duality. ‘Krishna consciousness is nice, but will I be successful? What if I put my efforts into Krishna consciousness and am unsuccessful? If I surrender to Krishna, will He really take care of me?’
“These dualities afflict people who are not free from sinful actions and reactions. So many doubts. And the duality continues as long as we are suffering sinful reactions. So to become free of sinful reactions we engage in these activities: chanting, dancing, honoring prasada, and hearing krsna-katha. As we become purified we become free from doubts and dualities and can take wholeheartedly to the process.” – Giriraj Swami
The wonderful festival of Ratha-yatra was held in Dallas on Saturday, April 25. Giriraj Swami spoke on the significance of the occasion, then participated in the procession, and then spoke again at the festivities after the parade in the park next to the temple. In this talk, given before the procession, he discusses the confidential mood of Lord Caitanya in separation from Lord Jagannatha during Anavasara, the fifteen-day period after Snana-yatra and before Ratha-yatra when Lord Jagannatha goes into seclusion, and how Caitanya Mahaprabhu was reunited in ecstasy with His beloved Lord.
This inspiring lecture was given by His Holiness Giriraj Swami in Laguna Beach on the occasion of the Ratha-yatra there on October 5th.
The 32nd Annual Festival of the Chariots rolled into Venice Beach, California, last Sunday, August 3, 2008. The festival, organized by the ISKCON devotees in Los Angeles, began at 10 a.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and proceeded with three fully decorated, four-storey-high chariots leading a colorful parade toward the Ocean Front Walk Plaza at Venice Beach. Hundreds of devotees converged from all over the world to take part in this festival. His Holiness Giriraj Swami, with a group of devotees, also attended. In his party were two visiting devotees from Johannesburg, South Africa: Nanda Kishore Prabhu and his wife Kandarpa Manjari dasi. They had come to assist Giriraj Swami Maharaja in the U.S. for a few weeks.
Maharaja approached the beautifully decorated canopied chariots and offered his obeisances to Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra, and the pujari on the chariot offered him some maha-prasada. The chariots were originally engineered in 1976, thirty-two years ago, by His Grace Jayananda dasa, the father of the Festival of the Chariots in America, to be facsimiles of the ancient festival chariots. In a lecture on the occasion of Lord Jagannatha’s Snana-yatra, Giriraj Swami remarked that according to the Skanda Purana, the original history of the Jagannatha Deities goes back about 153 million years.
Since this was an all-day event, with clear blue skies and pleasant temperatures, Maharaja decided to take his japa walk along Venice Beach, moving north from the festival site. He walked briskly for a few miles, reaching the Santa Monica pier and finally resting at the world-famous Palisades Park, a long strip that runs along the bluff above the Pacific Coast Highway, with views of Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, the Palisades, and the mountains of Malibu. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often walked along Venice Beach and in the Palisades Park. Several smiling bystanders greeted us with a loud “Hare Krsna!” and a few beachgoers inquired about the chariot festival. A young Indian man stopped and took a photo of Giriraj Swami walking near the Santa Monica Pier. Not wanting to be away for too long, we hopped on the city Metro bus and headed back to the festival site.
In addition to the chariot parade, the festival included three stages of live entertainment, featuring Indian dance performances, a drama on the life of Ajamila performed by ISKCON Los Angeles devotees, a rock band, and a few bhajana groups from both the ISKCON community and outside. The Temple Bhajana Band entertained the crowd with sweet Hare Krishna kirtanas; Viji Prakash and her Shakti Dance Company showcased a beautiful Bharata-natyam dance on the great epic Mahabharata; and renowned ISKCON Bharata-natyam dancer Anapayini Devi dasi and her students also performed a wonderful rendition of Krsna’s pastimes, featuring Krsna and His dances with the gopis. Their performance was full of flair and grace and kept the audience enthralled. Maharaja took notice of one of the stage highlights, the performance by the As Kindred Spirits bhajana group, featuring the voice and harmonium of Gaura Vani, and the rhythms and melodies of multi-instrumentalist Shyam Kishore, along with a multicultural group of talented musicians, dancers and performers. These ISKCON gurukulis engulfed the area in an ecstatic wave of Krsna kirtana, joyfully chanting the holy names of Krsna and dancing blissfully.
During the festival Maharaja met a lot of his old friends and godbrothers and -sisters, including HH Jayadvaita Swami, HH Bhaktisiddhanta Swami, HG Gurudasa Prabhu, and HG Ramesvara Prabhu, who spent a good amount of time with Maharaja. The festival ended about six, but Maharaja stayed at the site until about eight. And in order to have more time with his godbrother, Maharaja rode in the car with Ramesvara Prabhu back to his place. Later, Maharaja continued to talk about the beautiful kirtanas that he had heard and the devotees whom he met that day.
Throughout the festival, the atmosphere of Santa Monica and Venice was filled with the chanting of “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Jaya Jagannatha! ISKCON Los Angeles Ratha-yatra ki jaya!
Your humble servant, Krishna Kirtan dasa