Posted by Giriraj Swami on Friday, November 1, 2019
I am very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for having brought me into your association. You are his sincere followers, and many of you have been serving him for decades, from when you read or heard about him or met him in person.
Once, on his guru maharaja’s disappearance day, Srila Prabhupada said, “On the absolute platform, there is no difference between the appearance and the disappearance of the spiritual master. Both are beautiful, just like the sunrise and the sunset.” So although we feel separation, within that separation our remembrance of Srila Prabhupada is heightened, and thus we experience the beauty of his presence—in separation.
To straightaway speak about Srila Prabhupada’s departure feels abrupt to me, because it is a painful topic, but remembering Srila Prabhupada’s words that the disappearance is also beautiful, I wanted to share with you a lesson I learned from his departure.
A few days before he was to leave us, Srila Prabhupada expressed a desire to travel by bullock cart to different holy places in India. His Holiness Lokanath Swami had been traveling by bullock cart to different places of pilgrimage, and Srila Prabhupada was very enlivened when Lokanath Swami reported to him in Vrindavan. And Prabhupada said that he too would like to go on pilgrimage on a bullock cart. He asked Lokanath Swami to arrange it, and Lokanath Swami was enthusiastic, having been encouraged by Prabhupada in such a direct way. He immediately went to organize the cart and make all the arrangements. Govardhana-puja was to take place in a couple of days, and Prabhupada said that he would begin his pilgrimage by traveling on a bullock cart to Govardhana Hill to celebrate Govardhana-puja with the Vraja-vasis.
At that time, Srila Prabhupada was bedridden and, one could say, emaciated. He was unable to eat, and he was able only to sip a little liquid. So he was very gaunt and weak, with almost no energy. He would just lie on his bed, and sometimes, with great difficulty, he would speak softly, often so faintly that only those very close to him could hear his words.
There were many devotees in the room when Srila Prabhupada had his exchange with Lokanath Swami. And immediately after the discussion ended and devotees went outside, they began to express two strong, heartfelt opinions about what Srila Prabhupada should do—and, more than that, how we as disciples should relate to Srila Prabhupada and serve him.
One group, which included Lokanath Swami and other esteemed, senior disciples, such as Hamsaduta Prabhu and Baradraj Prabhu, felt that we should do just what the spiritual master orders. We shouldn’t question his order; we should just execute it. And some of the other disciples, many of whom had been attending to Prabhupada’s personal care, felt that Prabhupada’s health would not sustain his travels on a bullock cart and that, because he was so emaciated (he had practically no flesh on his bones), it would be very painful for him to go. Even if they padded the cart with a mattress, it would still be a basic bullock cart, and the roads in Vraja were very rough, so the movement of the cart would jostle Prabhupada—and he would feel pain. Some devotees feared that he might even give up his body on the way. So, they did not want him to be subjected to what they foresaw as certain pain—and perhaps the dire consequence of his death.
“Children play with an umbrella generally known as a frog’s umbrella, and Lord Krishna, when He was only seven years old, could snatch the great hill known as the Govardhana Parvata at Vrndavana and hold it for seven days continuously with one hand, just to protect the animals and the inhabitants of Vrndavana from the wrath of Indra, the heavenly king, who had been denied sacrificial offerings by the inhabitants of Vrajabhumi.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.32 purport
Govardhana-puja, Evening Program (Right click to download)
hantayam adrir abala hari-dasa-varyo
manam tanoti saha-go-ganayos tayor yat
“[Lord Caitanya said:] ‘Of all the devotees, this Govardhana Hill is the best! O my friends, this hill supplies Krishna and Balarama, as well as Their calves, cows and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities — water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respect to the Lord. Being touched by the lotus feet of Krishna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears very jubilant.’”—CC Antya 14.86
Govardhana-puja Morning Class (Right click to download)
“Krishna is served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. Nonetheless, He steals butter like one who is poverty-stricken. Yamaraja, the controller of all living entities, fears the order of Krishna, yet Krishna is afraid of His mother’s stick. These contradictions cannot be understood by one who is not a devotee, but a devotee can understand how powerful is unalloyed devotional service to Krishna; it is so powerful that Krishna can be controlled by an unalloyed devotee. This bhrtya-vasyata does not mean that He is under the control of the servant; rather, He is under the control of the servant’s pure love.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.9.19 purport.
Dipavali Evening Houston (Right click to download)
“One feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Ramacandra is omnipotence. The Lord can act without regard to material impediments or inconveniences, but to prove that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and was not merely advertised as Godhead or elected by popular vote, He constructed a wonderful bridge over the ocean. Nowadays it has become fashionable to create some artificial God who performs no uncommon activities; a little magic will bewilder a foolish person into selecting an artificial God because he does not understand how powerful God is. Lord Ramacandra, however, constructed a bridge over the water with stone by making the stone float. This is proof of God’s uncommonly wonderful power. Why should someone be accepted as God without displaying extraordinary potency by doing something never to be done by any common man? We accept Lord Ramacandra as the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He constructed this bridge, and we accept Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead because He lifted Govardhana Hill when He was only seven years old. We should not accept any rascal as God or an incarnation of God, for God displays special features in His various activities.”—Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.10.15 purport.
Dipavali Morning Talk (Right click to download)
We welcome you on the most auspicious occasion of Govardhana-puja. When I was first initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1969, he was in Los Angeles and I was in Boston. He sent me a letter in which he wrote, “Your name is Giriraj. Giriraj is a name for Govardhana Hill, on which Krishna used to tend His cows. In Vrindavan the Govardhana Hill is worshiped as a representation of Krishna. Sometimes devotees take a stone from Govardhana Hill and keep it at home as a representation of Krishna, and they worship in this way.” Being a new devotee—I had just moved into the temple a few weeks earlier—I did not know anything about Govardhana Hill or Govardhana-puja. And the idea of taking a stone from a hill and worshipping it like a Deity was a very different concept for me. It was really only twenty-five years later that I started to get a sense of the importance of Govardhana Hill in the pastimes of Krishna—and in the lives of devotees.
After serving in India for many years, I had a visa problem and was unable to return to India for some time. When finally I did return, I felt at home. I felt more at home in India—even in the airport—than in the West. Maybe I like chaos. But the atmosphere seemed more spiritual, even at the airport. And then, when I got to Vrindavan, I felt even more at home. I felt, “This is really my home.” And of course in Vrindavan it is so much easier to chant and remember Krishna—especially in Vrindavan. First, Vrindavan itself is spiritual. The Vrindavan on earth, Bhauma Vrindavan, is considered nondifferent from the Vrindavan in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrindavan. Although there is a thin covering of maya to protect the confidentiality of Vrindavan, actually Vrindavan is spiritual. Further, it is populated by sadhus, by bhaktas, and in the association of sadhus, one’s spiritual advancement is accelerated.
tasmin mahan-mukharita madhubhic-caritra-
piyusa-sesa-saritah paritah sravanti
ta ye pibanty avitrso nrpa gadha-karnais
tan na sprsanty asana-trd-bhaya-soka-mohah
“In the place where pure devotees live, following the rules and regulations and thus purely conscious and engaged with great eagerness in hearing and chanting the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in that place if one gets a chance to hear their constant flow of nectar, which is exactly like the waves of a river, one will forget the necessities of life—namely hunger and thirst—and become immune to all kinds of fear, lamentation, and illusion.” (SB 4.29.39–40)
That is why Srila Prabhupada formed ISKCON, so that there would be a society of devotees—so people could come and get the association of devotees and advance in their company.
“Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, quoting from the Vaisnava-tosani of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, says that the incident of Krsna’s breaking the pot of yogurt and being bound by mother Yasoda took place on the Dipavali Day, or Dipa-malika. Even today in India, this festival is generally celebrated very gorgeously in the month of Kartika.” (SB 10.9.1–2 purport)
We are now in the month of Damodara. It began on the full-moon night and will continue until the next full moon. Damodara is a name for Krishna. Dama means “rope,” and udara means “belly.” So Damodara means, “one who is bound around the belly with ropes.” And you can see in the picture of Lord Damodara with Mother Yasoda that she was binding His belly with ropes. The history behind the incident is that Mother Yasoda was feeding baby Krishna with her breast milk when suddenly some milk on the fire began to boil over. So she set aside Krishna to attend to the milk on the fire. But baby Krishna had not yet been satisfied with His mother’s milk, and when she left Him He felt frustrated and angry. So, to vent His anger and to satisfy His desire, He broke a pot of butter that was hanging from a rafter on the ceiling. When Mother Yasoda returned from attending to the milk on the fire, she saw that the butter pot had been broken and she saw little footprints smeared with butter on the floor. And she understood that the mischief was the work of her son, Krishna.
According to Vedic literatures, Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so how is it that we are speaking of Him as if He were a baby who got frustrated and angry and made mischief? The answer is that every living entity has eternal love for Krishna within the heart, and that this love can be manifest in any of a number of relationships. The relationships we have in the material world are actually reflections of the relationships that devotees have with Krishna in the spiritual world. In the material world we have the relationship of servant and master; the relationship of friends, who are equals; the relationship of parents and children; and the relationship of husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend. The relationships we have in the material world exist because they exist originally with Krishna in the spiritual world. Mother Yasoda has maternal love for Krishna, and her desire to serve Krishna as His mother is so pure and so strong that Krishna, to reciprocate with her, plays the role of her son and thus allows her to serve Him as His mother. And when Krishna plays the role of Mother Yasoda’s son, He identifies with the role so much that He actually feels as if she is His mother and He is her son.
After Krishna did His mischief, He knew that when His mother found out He would be in trouble, so He was anxiously looking here and there. And Mother Yasoda, after she put down the milk that had been boiling over on the stove, found Krishna sitting on a wooden grinding mortar. When He saw her with a stick in her hand, He began to run away from her in fear. She didn’t really intend to strike Him, but she felt that she needed to show the stick to enforce some discipline, because, like every mother, she wanted her son to be good and well-behaved and disciplined, according to her conception. So, baby Krishna began to flee in fear. He was small and agile, and she had a large body, so He could escape her. She pursued Him and became tired, but she was so determined and sincere in her desire to catch and train baby Krishna that eventually He felt compassion for her and allowed her to catch Him.
After catching Krishna, Mother Yasoda thought that she should tie Him up, not as a punishment, but to keep Him from getting into more trouble. So, she took a length of rope and attempted to bind Him around the waist. But the rope was too short by the width of two fingers. She got some more rope and added it to the first length, but still the rope was too short by two fingers. And she got some more rope and added it, but still the rope was too short. Mother Yasoda became perplexed: every morning she would dress baby Krsna and tie His ornamental belt around His waist, and she knew how big His waist was and how long the belt had to be, and the length of the ropes now was much longer, but still the ropes couldn’t reach around Krishna’s waist. Mother Yasoda was the wife of the king of the cowherd community, and she had lots of ropes for various purposes. Yet even after putting together all the rope she could gather, she still couldn’t get it to fasten around baby Krishna’s belly. Then Krishna, appreciating Mother Yasoda’s ardent desire and endeavor to serve Him, took compassion on her and allowed her to bind Him. But actually, He was bound not by her ropes but by her love.
“While Srila Prabhupada was a grihastha working as a pharmacist, his godbrother Professor Dr. Oudh Bihari Lal (O. B. L.) Kapoor, initiated as Adi Kesava dasa, met Srila Prabhupada and asked him, ‘You know so many formulas. Do you know the formula for developing love of God?’ Srila Prabhupada answered, ‘Yes, I do.’ Professor Kapoor asked, ‘Can you tell it to me?’ And Srila Prabhupada answered, ‘Yes:
trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada harih
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Siksastaka 3)’
“That was Srila Prabhupada’s faith in the holy name.”
Srila Prabhupada’s Faith in the Holy Name (Right click to download)