Mar 042019

By Nikunja Vilasini Dasi

Whether it is 3 a.m. in New York, 6 a.m. in California, 4 p.m. in South Africa, or 7:30 p.m. in India, devotees all over the globe can connect with Giriraj Swami at the same time every day to chant the holy names together.

Gone are the days when disciples could see their spiritual master only rarely, what to speak of chanting together. Now by the mere click of a mouse, you can see Giriraj Swami every day and chant the maha-mantra along with him.

Before every round of japa, Maharaja recites a verse from the Brhan-naradiya Purana:

 harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

“For spiritual progress in this Age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative to the holy name, the holy name, the holy name of the Lord.” (Translation: Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 7.76)

Hearing Giriraj Swami chant the maha-mantra attentively and with conviction helps open the hearts of the group members to the bliss of the holy names. Twenty to 40 devotees chant together daily, with 200 to 400 viewing each session live and many others accessing the streams after they are posted. People are joining the sanga every day—more than 550 in just the first month. Sometimes family members join in—including children, who might otherwise not be so eager to chant. Some participants have reported that chanting with Giriraj Swami has become the favorite part of their day, others that chanting with him every day has been life changing.

The idea for the Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga came from a disciple, Anuradha Dasi, who had relished chanting with her guru maharaja in person. She was often stressed about completing her daily japa, but whenever she visited Giriraj Swami in Dallas or Houston, she would be peaceful, knowing that she could chant with him. She would come with a list of different issues she wanted to discuss with him, but after chanting with him, all her troubles and issues seemed to vanish, and they were able to focus their discussions on more enlightening subjects.

Anuradha imagined how great it would be if she could chant with her guru maharaja every day. So, recently, when she visited Giriraj Swami in Houston and chanted with him one morning, she asked if he would consider live streaming his japa every morning. If he did, she said, she would drop everything and chant with him.

Maharaja kindly agreed, but Anuradha also wanted other devotees to be able to access the stream. Many of Giriraj Swami’s disciples live far from him, on other continents, and haven’t seen him in years, so she set up the group on Facebook and used her phone to do a simple live stream. Since then, Maharaja has taken over the recording, and the Japa Sanga group has become a regular addition to his schedule, as it has for many of his disciples and well-wishers.

Sanga participants also watch Maharaja perform tulasi-puja, offer Vaishnava pranamas, and introduce his many beautiful Deities. And when Maharaja wishes everyone “a wonderful Krishna conscious rest of the day and night,” it is easy for each individual to feel him speaking to him or her personally, sending warm regards and bestowing blessings to inspire them over the next twenty-one hours.

As devotees, we understand that the vani—words, or instructions—of the spiritual master is more important than his vapuh, or physical presence. But we should not minimize the importance of his vapuh, which inspires many souls to follow in his footsteps. Even a moment’s association with a pure devotee can open the doors to the spiritual world.

Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga gives devotees the great fortune of not just a moment, but hours of personal association with a leading ambassador of the holy name. Still, in his humility, Srila Giriraj Swami feels that he is the fortunate one, and at the end of each japa session, he says, “Thank you for joining me, for encouraging and supporting me in my japa. I look forward to chanting with you again tomorrow.”

Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga is an open group. If you would like to join, go to the Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga Facebook page, send a request, and answer three basic questions. To get an automatic message when the sanga is live, turn your notifications to ON. Please observe the rules of the group. Now you are ready to start chanting!

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