May 052019


Initiation Ceremony by HH Giriraj Swami

Posted by ISKCON Durban on Saturday, May 4, 2019

On Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day, via Skype, Giriraj Swami officially connected seven disciples with Srila Prabhupada and the parampara: Anil Basdew became Ananda Krishna dasa, Clive Jugathpal became Krishna Kishore dasa, Leeann Govindsamy became Lila Manjari dasi, Mayawatee Sewjathan became Madhumati dasi, Pranesa Sewpershad became Pradhana Gopika dasi, Reena Sewpershad became Radhika Kishori dasi, and Sheena Basdew became Shobha Radha dasi. Please bless them and support them in their efforts in Krishna consciousness.

May 042019

Today is the most auspicious occasion of Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day. As many of you know, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the role of a devotee. He is Krishna, but with the complexion and mood of Srimati Radharani. There are different purposes for the Lord’s advent. The internal reason for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance was that He wanted to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She experiences the sweetness of His love for Her—which only She can experience. The external reason (not that it was any less significant) was to propagate the yuga-dharma, the recommended method for God realization in each particular age (yuga).

To assist the Lord in His pastimes, four principal associates descended with Him—Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa Thakura, and Gadadhara Pandita. Together with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they comprise the Pancha-tattva. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.14) the author offers his respects to all five together:

panca-tattvatmakam krsnam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam
  namami bhakta-saktikam

“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.”

Krishna appeared in the form of a devotee (bhakta-rupa), as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; as the expansion of a devotee (sva-rupakam), as Nityananda Prabhu; as an incarnation of a devotee (bhakta-avataram), as Advaita Prabhu; as a devotee (bhakta), as Srivasa Thakura; and as the devotional energy that inspires a devotee (bhakta-saktikam), as Gadadhara Pandita. Together they all came to propagate harinama-sankirtana as the yuga-dharma for the present age.

We are now in Kali-yuga, the worst age. But although Kali-yuga is the worst, it affords us the best opportunity to realize God, through the chanting of the holy names. At the end of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami says, kaler dosa-nidhe rajann: this Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults. An ocean—you cannot measure the length or breadth of an ocean. Asti hy eko mahan gunah: but within Kali-yuga there is one great opportunity. What is that? Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: by chanting the holy names of Krishna, one becomes liberated from material association and attains the supreme goal of life.

Sanga—association. Sangat sanjayate kamah. Desire comes from association. Generally, people in the material world are associated with the three modes of material nature: sattva-guna, rajo-guna, and tamo-guna. Because of their association with the three modes, they develop material bodies made of the three modes, and mentalities influenced by the three modes. And it is very difficult to overcome the influence of maya, which consists of these three modes.

daivi hy esa guna-mayi
  mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
  mayam etam taranti te

In the Bhagavad-gita (7.14) Lord Krishna says that this material nature, which consists of the three modes, is very difficult to overcome but that one who surrenders unto Him can easily overcome it and become free from the influence of these modes.

Lord Chaitanya and His associates in the Pancha-tattva came to taste love of Godhead and to distribute love of Godhead—to taste the holy names of Krishna and to distribute the holy names of Krishna. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes that the storehouse of love of Godhead had remained sealed but that the members of the Pancha-tattva broke open the seal, plundered the storehouse, ate the contents, and became intoxicated with love of God. But they didn’t want to enjoy the contents by themselves. They also wanted to share the contents with others. And that was their life—tasting ecstatic love of Godhead and distributing it.

The main method by which they distributed love of Godhead was through the chanting of the holy names of God, in particular the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The members of the Pancha-tattva would become so intoxicated chanting and dancing that they didn’t know whether it was day or night. They didn’t know where they were. Once, Nityananda Prabhu led a party of devotees from Puri, and they were chanting and dancing all the way. They were trying to make their way back to Bengal but were so intoxicated with love of God that they didn’t know which way they were going. They would start in one direction, and days later they would realize that they didn’t know in which direction they had gone. Then they would ask someone to set them in the right direction. Again, days would pass in chanting and dancing. They wouldn’t even eat or sleep. And after some time they would realize that again they didn’t know where they were. This was the high level of their kirtan in ecstatic love of God.

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Apr 302019

Today is Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura’s appearance day. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 11.55) states, “Srila Vyasadeva described the pastimes of Krsna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Vyasa of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Vrndavana dasa.” In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates: “Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was an incarnation of Vedavyasa and also a friendly cowherd boy named Kusumapida in krsna-lila. In other words, the author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura, the son of Srivasa Thakura’s niece Narayani, was a combined incarnation of Vedavyasa and the cowherd boy Kusumapida.” Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was the last initiated disciple of Sri Nityananda Prabhu.

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 8.33–40, 42, 44) Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja Gosvami glorifies Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura and his book Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (then called Sri Caitanya-mangala):

“O fools, just read Sri Caitanya-mangala! By reading this book you can understand all the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thakura Vrndavana dasa has composed Sri Caitanya-mangala. Hearing this book annihilates all misfortune. By reading Sri Caitanya-mangala one can understand all the glories and truths of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and come to the ultimate conclusion of devotional service to Lord Krsna. In Sri Caitanya-mangala [later known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata] Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has given the conclusion and essence of devotional service by quoting the authoritative statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam. If even a great atheist hears Sri Caitanya-mangala, he immediately becomes a great devotee. The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrndavana dasa Thakura. No one else could write such a wonderful book for the deliverance of all fallen souls. What a wonderful description he has given of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya! Anyone in the three worlds who hears it is purified. Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has written Sri Caitanya-mangala and therein described in all respects the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.”

In his purport to text 45 Srila Prabhupada writes, “Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Sri Caitanya-bhagavata was originally entitled Sri Caitanya-mangala, but when Srila Locana dasa Thakura later wrote another book named Sri Caitanya-mangala, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura changed the name of his own book, which is now therefore known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata. The life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very elaborately described in the Caitanya-bhagavata, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has already informed us that in his Sri Caitanya-caritamrta he has described whatever Vrndavana dasa Thakura has not mentioned. This acceptance of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami indicates his acceptance of the disciplic succession. A writer of transcendental literature never tries to surpass the previous acaryas.”

And in his purport to text 48—“The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura”—Srila Prabhupada explains, “The secret in a devotee’s writing is that when he writes about the pastimes of the Lord, the Lord helps him; he does not write himself. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te. Since a devotee writes in service to the Lord, the Lord from within gives him so much intelligence that he sits down near the Lord and goes on writing books. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami confirms that what Vrndavana dasa Thakura wrote was actually spoken by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that Vrndavana dasa simply repeated it.”

How blessed we are to receive knowledge of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu through our glorious parampara—and to be engaged in their service.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Apr 292019

A talk by Giriraj Swami, September 5, 2010, Sri Vrindavan Dham, Kazakhstan.

Hearing His Holiness Niranjana Swami’s wonderful talk, I felt we were being elevated to the spiritual world. He quoted from Vishnujana Maharaja. Vishnujana had a program in which he went by boat along the Ganges River, in Bengal, and chanted the holy names all day, stopping at villages along the way and chanting and speaking and distributing books about Krishna. Once, when I was in Los Angeles recovering from being sick in India, Srila Prabhupada received an issue of Back to Godhead with an article by Vishnujana Swami, and he remarked that Vishnujana had such nice realizations because he spent so many hours every day chanting.

While Niranjana Swami was speaking, I thought of an instructive incident that took place in Calcutta. The temple president there became preoccupied in a business that he had started to raise funds for the temple, and meanwhile the temple had almost no money. Somehow, in the course of his absorption in the business, there was some neglect of the devotees in the temple. They were barely surviving. A strong-bodied devotee named Sudama Vipra, who had belonged to the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, was so famished that he would take the remnants of the ghee wicks that had been burned in the arati and squeeze out whatever little ghee was left, just to get a little more nutrition.

The devotees were waiting for Srila Prabhupada to come so they could explain the situation to him and get some help. There were not very many devotees in India then, and Prabhupada allowed them to meet him quite freely. Eventually he called a meeting of all the devotees to give them a chance to express themselves. One by one, they spoke about their difficulties. At one stage Tamal Krishna Goswami, the GBC for India, protested: “Srila Prabhupada, my only intention was to execute Your Divine Grace’s will.” And Prabhupada replied a little sarcastically, “Is it My Divine Grace’s will that the devotees should be disturbed?”

Srila Prabhupada listened patiently and sympathetically to what all the devotees had to say, and he formed a committee to manage the temple. He said that they should meet every week and discuss all the programs and problems—how to do things in the best way—write their resolutions in a book, sign it, and then follow what they had decided together.

But at a certain point Prabhupada’s mood seemed to change. He told the devotees, “As long as we are in the material world, there will always be problems, but if we focus too much on the problems, we will forget our real business, which is to become Krishna conscious. Instead of thinking and talking about Krishna, we will think and talk about problems.” Then Prabhupada spoke about himself, how much he had endured to spread Krishna consciousness. He had suffered two heart attacks at sea on the way to America, and in America he had a buzzing in his ears and terrible headaches. “I do not wish even to tell you how much I suffered,” he said. “But I never complained. My principle was always, ‘Everything for Krishna, nothing for me,’ and because that was my principle, I never had any complaint.”

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Earth Day

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Apr 212019

Anticipating Earth Day, I thought of a prayer that resonated with me in my youth: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He has founded it on the seas, and established it on the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? He that has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.” (Psalm 24:1–5)

Later, when I met Srila Prabhupada, I came across a verse spoken by the Lord Himself, Krishna, which confirmed and expanded the same principle: “A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Bhagavad-gita 5.29)

How, then, should we deal with the earth and its resources? “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” (Isopanisad 1)

Thus one should be happy and satisfied in Krishna (God) consciousness.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sri Balarama Rasa-yatra

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Apr 192019

For Balarama Rasa-yatra, we shall read from Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, called Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead— about Lord Balarama’s visit to Vrindavan after He and Krishna had been away from Vrindavan for many years.

In our meditation on the deity of the Lord, we begin from His lotus feet and then gradually progress upward to His ankles, knees, thighs, waist, navel, chest, neck, and face. Srimad-Bhagavatam is also a form of the Lord, and so we begin its study with the lotus feet, which are the First and Second Cantos, and gradually progress upwards until we get to the Tenth Canto, which is compared to the Lord’s smiling face. The topics in the Tenth Canto are very elevated and can actually be fully appreciated only by liberated souls—because Krishna’s pastimes with His pure devotees are enacted on the liberated platform—but on special occasions like Balarama Rasa-yatra we do explore such topics.

Some years ago I was in Vrindavan at this time, tending to a disciple, Arca-vigraha dasi, who was preparing to leave her body. Many senior devotees would come every day and read to her, discuss with her, and chant for her, and on this particular occasion I read the same pastime—about Lord Balarama’s visit to Vrindavan—from both the Tenth Canto and the Krsna book. The basic features of the pastime were the same in both texts, though there were little differences in terms of details and revelations of insights into the pastime. Today I shall read from the Krsna book, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead—Chapter Sixty-Five: “Lord Balarama Visits Vrndavana.”


Lord Balarama became very anxious to see His father and mother in Vrndavana. Therefore, with great enthusiasm He started on a chariot for Vrndavana. The inhabitants of Vrndavana had been anxious to see Krsna and Balarama for a very long time. When Lord Balarama returned to Vrndavana, all the cowherd boys and the gopis had grown up; but still, on His arrival, they all embraced Him, and Balarama embraced them in reciprocation. After this He came before Maharaja Nanda and Yasoda and offered His respectful obeisances. In response, Mother Yasoda and Nanda Maharaja offered their blessings unto Him. They addressed Him as Jagadisvara, or the Lord of the universe who maintains everyone. The reason for this was that Krsna and Balarama maintain all living entities. And yet Nanda and Yasoda were put into such difficulties on account of Their absence. Feeling like this, they embraced Balarama and, seating Him on their laps, began their perpetual crying, wetting Balarama with their tears. Lord Balarama then offered His respectful obeisances to the elderly cowherd men and accepted the obeisances of the younger cowherd men. Thus, according to their different ages and relationships, Lord Balarama exchanged feelings of friendship with them. He shook hands with those who were His equals in age and friendship and with loud laughing embraced each one of them.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

There are many points in just this one paragraph. First, Lord Balarama offered obeisances to Nanda and Yasoda, who had played the roles of His parents, and they in turn offered their blessings to Him—yet they referred to Him as Jagadisvara, the Lord of the universe. It appears contradictory that the Lord of the universe is offering obeisances to Nanda and Yasoda, and that they are offering blessings to Him. But in transcendental pastimes, there are two considerations: rasa and tattva. Rasa means the transcendental mellows exchanged between the Lord and the devotee in a loving relationship, and tattva means their existential positions. Although in terms of tattva, Balarama is the Personality of Godhead, visnu-tattva, and Nanda and Yasoda are devotees, in terms of rasa, in terms of their transcendental relationship, Nanda and Yasoda are in the position of parents to Balarama and Krishna (vatsalya-rasa).

Queen Kunti prayed to Krishna,

gopy adade tvayi krtagasi dama tavad
  ya te dasasru-kalilanjana-sambhramaksam
vaktram niniya bhaya-bhavanaya sthitasya
  sa mam vimohayati bhir api yad bibheti

“My dear Krsna, Yasoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me.” (SB 1.8.31) The image of Mother Yasoda with rope in hand and Krishna trembling in fright with tears in His eyes—though Krishna is feared by fear personified—caused Kunti to become transcendentally bewildered.

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Sri Rama-navami, April 13, Houston

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Apr 172019

Giriraj Swami read and spoke on Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.23-25.

“Ravana wanted to steal the property of the Lord and enjoy it for himself. We, in our own ways, may have that same inclination—to be the proprietors, the enjoyers, and the controllers. The materialistic mind and false ego put us in competition with the Supreme Lord. And it is a great process to become free from the sense of false proprietorship.”

Rama-navami talk (Right-click to download)

The Criteria for Spiritual Success, April 12, Bhakti Urban Farm, Houston

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Apr 162019

“Jatayu was really no match for Ravana. But still, out of duty and love, he fought Ravana and was defeated. Later, when Lord Ramachandra was traveling through the forest looking for Sita, He came upon Jatayu, who explained exactly what he had seen. Lord Ramachandra was so pleased with Jatayu that He embraced him and told him He loved him like His own father. Jatayu died in the Lord’s arms, and Lord then performed the funeral ceremony for him just like a dutiful son. Srila Prabhupada used this story to illustrate the point that if we give our lives to the service of the Lord, even if the opposing elements are too powerful for us to be victorious externally, the Lord will be pleased and we will be successful.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.23 (Right-click to download)