Apr 282018

Two days after I first saw Srila Prabhupada and the devotees at Brandeis University in Boston, on Nrsimha-caturdasi, May 1, 1969, he gave a beautiful talk about the nature of a Vaishnava, how a devotee is an ocean of mercy:

“This atheist is so unkind, cruel, that he is prepared to kill his own son, beloved son, five years old. That is atheism. And theism, the father who tortured him so much—after the death of his father, he’s praying to Nrsimhadeva, ‘Please excuse my father.’ This is theism. So that is the difference between Krishna consciousness and ordinary consciousness. Vaishnavas are very kind to everyone. Vancha kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca. You utter this prayer, krpa-sindhubhya eva ca. Vaishnava is an ocean of mercy. There is no end. As you cannot draw all the water from the ocean—it is not possible—similarly, a Vaishnava, a devotee, is an ocean of mercy. You can draw from it as much mercy as you like; still, it is full.

“So, Prahlada Maharaja is the symbolic representation of Vaishnava. Try to be not imitator, but follower. Don’t try to imitate: ‘Oh, Prahlada Maharaja was thrown into boiling oil. Let me try, fall into the boiling oil.’ No. That is imitation. First you become like Prahlada Maharaja, then that will be possible. Don’t try to make experiment. That is not good. But try to follow. Mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. Follow mahajanas, great personalities, what they have done. You cannot imitate them. You have to follow them. You have to follow the instructions of Krishna or His representative, but not imitate them. Then you’ll fall down. Anusarana, not anukarana. Anukarana means imitation; but anusarana, following. So what Prahlada Maharaja did, we have to follow his example. His example was that in spite of continuous torturing by his father, he never forgot Krishna. This we have to follow. In spite of all kinds of inconveniences and torture by the atheist class of men, we shall never forget Krishna consciousness. There are many examples. Just like Lord Jesus Christ, he was tortured, he was crucified, but he never agreed that there is no God. So that should be our motto. This is following. Either you be Christian or Hindu or any, but be God conscious. Krishna conscious means God conscious. And in any circumstances, do not forget. That is called saranagati. That is surrender.”

I pray to follow in the footsteps of Sri Prahlada Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, and all pure Vaishnavas in their line.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Apr 282018

Today is Nrsimha-caturdasi, the appearance day of Lord Nrsimhadeva. The appearance and activities of the Lord in the world are a great mystery. Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9) Lord Krishna says:

janma karma ca me divyam
   evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
   naiti mam eti so ’rjuna

“One who understands the transcendental appearance and activities of the Lord does not have to take birth again within the material world but he goes back home, back to Godhead.”

To understand the appearance and activities of the Lord is not so easy for ordinary people. Or, as Srila Prabhupada said, “It is simple for the simple but difficult for the crooked.” If one is a simple devotee and hears submissively from Vedic authorities, he or she can understand the transcendental science. Therefore the Vedic literature enjoins, tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigaccet: In order to understand the transcendental science, one must approach a spiritual master. No matter the subject, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to play harmonium, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to make a puri, we require a teacher. If we want to learn how to program a computer, we need a teacher. For every field of activity, we need a teacher. Why, then, should we not need a teacher for the most important subject: how to understand, to realize, God.

The Sanskrit word jnana can be translated as “knowledge,” and the word vijnana can be translated as “applied knowledge” or “science” or “realization.” Thus jnana may be called “theoretical knowledge” and vijnana “realized knowledge.” In the process of spiritual realization we learn by hearing. Lord Krishna begins His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita by telling Arjuna, “Tac chrnu: Hear from Me.”

Krishna is the supreme authority. In explaining the spiritual science in the Bhagavad-gita, He advised, evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh: to understand the transcendental science one must receive the knowledge through disciplic succession. If we try to understand the knowledge by our own independent study of the books, we will fail. So Krishna advises that we receive the knowledge through parampara. Parampara means “one after another.” In the context of Vedic knowledge, it refers to the chain of masters and disciples that follow one after the other, through which the knowledge is passed down.

The original speaker of the Bhagavad-gita is Krishna. He taught the knowledge to Arjuna and others. One of the others was Lord Brahma, and Lord Brahma instructed Narada, Narada instructed Vyasa, and Vyasa instructed Madhvacarya, and so the knowledge was passed down from master to disciple in an unbroken chain. In more recent times, after Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Six Gosvamis, the same knowledge has been passed to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.

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Apr 272018

In honor of Jayananda Prabhu’s disappearance anniversary today, we submit the following account, derived from a letter by Kalindi Dasi to her spiritual master, Candramauli Swami. — GS

In mid-July I started wearing tilak to my work at the hospice. I thought that since many other spiritual practitioners were expressing their faith by wearing crosses, doves, silk threads, pentacles, and other items, I would wear my tilak, which tells the world that I am a devotee of the Lord. And I have found that wearing tilak at work has opened the door for spiritual questions and conversations.

On the morning of Monday, August 6, 2007, after our daily report and medical-staff checks, we began doing our usual tasks of caring for the patients. As ours is only a ten-bed facility, we are able to give loving care to each patient individually. Often, while I care for or bathe patients who are unable to do such tasks for themselves, I chant or sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. On this particular morning I was caring for a woman named Jane Kohr, who had been with us for almost a week. She was a kind and polite person, and I enjoyed the time

I spent with her. Around 8 a.m. on August 6, I entered her room and found that she was getting closer to leaving her body. She was unresponsive to verbal cues, and her body was limp. I sang the maha-mantra one last time, while she received her final bath. Hospice staff called her family, who were always friendly and appreciative for her care. When I was finished, I spoke with some of the family members in the hall. Jane’s grandson approached me to thank me and then pointed to his forehead and to my tilak and asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I smiled and said that yes, I was a devotee of Krishna. “Well,” he said, “then maybe you know of my uncle Jayananda.”

The Jayananda?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. And he told me how his uncle had built the Ratha-yatra carts. He then went in to inform his mother that I was a Hare Krishna.

Gaynelle, Jayananda Prabhu’s sister, came out of the room and said that she was so happy that a Krishna devotee had cared for her mother. The whole family expressed that it meant so much to them. Gaynelle kept saying that she couldn’t believe that I was a Hare Krishna. She said that she told her mother but wasn’t sure that her mom could hear her. I said that I had a feeling she already knew, and I laughed.

Jane, a granddaughter, mentioned that she remembered her uncle making really great Indian food and offering it to God and then the family sitting on the floor and eating it. She remembered his robes and how happy he was. Jane said that he had been pretty depressed before meeting devotees.

I let Jayananda Prabhu’s family know that during the Ratha-yatra festival we hang a nice photo of him next to Srila Prabhupada’s photo. They told me that an old friend of Jayananda’s (who is not a devotee) happened to be in Durban, South Africa, several years ago and saw his first Ratha-yatra festival there, and to his astonishment there was a huge photo of Jayananda Prabhu on the front of the cart. He had called Gaynelle to share the news.

They told me that Jayananda was always very kind, even as a child, and never spoke badly of others. From the many stories they told me, his saintly qualities shone through even in his childhood. Gaynelle told me that her brother once spent hours on a family vacation at the beach picking ticks and fleas off a homeless dog. He couldn’t stand to watch it suffering. Jayananda’s nephew told me about running around the kitchen table as a small child with his uncle, who was laughing and chanting Hare Krishna.

When I went back

into Jane’s room, the family was gathered around her bed holding her hand. Her breaths were faint, and she was about to leave her body. I stepped out to give the family some space, and about five minutes later they came to the front desk and asked for me to look at her. When I opened the door, I saw that her body had turned yellow and waxy. It was apparent that the soul had left and that the physical body was all that remained. The nurse reported that she had passed, and the family, though sad, also felt relief.

Gaynelle told me that she had asked her brother for support. Since he couldn’t physically be at their mother’s passing, she had been looking for a sign that he was supporting her. She felt that a devotee’s being present and caring for her mother was not a mere coincidence. It was, I believe, Krishna’s endless mercy!

I thanked the relatives for allowing me to serve their family, offered my pranamas, and said, “Hare Krishna.”

Apr 262018

Today is Rukmini-dvadasi, the appearance day of Srimati Rukmini-devi. There have been wonderful festivities all day, beginning with the special darshan of the Deities in Their flower outfits, and just now a wonderful abhiseka. During the abhiseka I really felt like I was in Vrindavan. There was so much devotion, spontaneous devotion—every time the pujaris poured another substance on the Deities, there would be gasps and cries of ecstasy and approval. It was really wonderful. And that is life in Krishna consciousness—somehow being captivated by Krishna, the beauty of Krishna, manifest in His deity forms, His holy names, and His words and descriptions, the revealed scriptures. We want, somehow or other, to be absorbed in Krishna, and that absorption, encouraged by all these different activities, will cleanse the heart naturally and make us happy.

In terms of tattva (ontology), Krishna is the Absolute Truth. From Him everything emanates. He is the cause of all causes.

isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah

“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.” (Bs 5.1)

Once, on a morning walk here at Cheviot Hills Park, I asked Srila Prabhupada, “We say that Krishna is the origin of all, but sometimes people question us, ‘You say Krishna is the origin, but what is Krishna’s origin?’ What should we answer?” And Prabhupada replied, “You should tell them that according to our information, Krishna is the origin of everything and has no origin, but if you find someone or something that is the origin of Krishna, we will worship that person or thing—but until then you should worship Krishna.”

So, Krishna is the origin, but in terms of tattva, there are two basic categories: vishnu-tattva and shakti-tattva. Krishna is the source of all Vishnu forms, beginning with Balarama (Krishna’s first expansion), Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha—so many expansions on the side of the energetic (Vishnu). Similarly, there are so many expansions on the side of the energy (shakti), and the first is Srimati Radharani. From Her expand so many gopis in Vrindavan, so many queens in Dvaraka, and so many Laksmis in Vaikuntha.

krsna-kanta-gana dekhi tri-vidha prakara
eka laksmi-gana, pure mahisi-gana ara

vrajangana-rupa, ara kanta-gana-sara
sri-radhika haite kanta-ganera vistara

“The beloved consorts of Lord Krsna are of three kinds: the goddesses of fortune, the queens, and the milkmaids of Vraja, who are the foremost of all. These consorts all proceed from Radhika.” (Cc Adi 4.74–75)

Of all Krishna’s queens in Dvaraka, Rukmini-devi is the principal. Ultimately, she is an expansion of Srimati Radharani. All of Rukmini’s qualities are present in Radharani, though Radharani manifests some qualities that Rukmini doesn’t.

Many of Rukmini and Krishna’s pastimes are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam, and they are relishable and instructive. When I first read the story of Rukmini and Krishna in the Krsna book, I thought that it was the most wonderful story—one that could make a fabulous movie, with romance, suspense, chivalry, adventure, and a truly happy ending. I thought, “This is amazing. You get everything in Krishna consciousness—but completely pure and spiritual.”

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The Lord’s Property is Meant for the Lord’s Enjoyment

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Apr 232018

Today is Sita-navami, the appearance day of Srimati Sitadevi, the eternal consort of Lord Ramachandra. To begin, we shall read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Nine: “Lord Caitanya’s Travels to the Holy Places.”

TEXT 178

daksina-mathura aila kamakosthi haite
tahan dekha haila eka brahmana-sahite


When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at southern Mathura from Kamakosthi, He met a brahmana.

TEXTS 179–193

The brahmana who met Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu invited the Lord to his home. This brahmana was a great devotee and an authority on Lord Sri Ramacandra. He was always detached from material activities.

After bathing in the river Krtamala, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to the brahmana’s house to take lunch, but He saw that the food was unprepared because the brahmana had not cooked it.

Seeing this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “My dear sir, please tell Me why you have not cooked. It is already noon.”

The brahmana replied, “My dear Lord, we are living in the forest. For the time being we cannot get all the ingredients for cooking.

“When Laksmana brings all the vegetables, fruits, and roots from the forest, Sita will do the necessary cooking.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very satisfied to hear about the brahmana’s method of worship. Finally the brahmana hastily made arrangements for cooking.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took His lunch at about three o’clock, but the brahmana, being very sorrowful, fasted.

While the brahmana was fasting, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, “Why are you fasting? Why are you so unhappy? Why are you so worried?”

The brahmana replied, “I have no reason to live. I shall give up my life by entering either fire or water.

“My dear Sir, Mother Sita is the mother of the universe and the supreme goddess of fortune. She has been touched by the demon Ravana, and I am troubled upon hearing this news.

“Sir, due to my unhappiness I cannot continue living. Although my body is burning, my life is not leaving.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Please do not think this way any longer. You are a learned pandita. Why don’t you consider the case?”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued, “Sitadevi, the dearmost wife of the Supreme Lord Ramacandra, certainly has a spiritual form full of bliss. No one can see her with material eyes, for no materialist has such power.

“To say nothing of touching Mother Sita, a person with material senses cannot even see her. When Ravana kidnapped her, he kidnapped only her material, illusory form.

“As soon as Ravana arrived before Sita, she disappeared. Then just to cheat Ravana she sent an illusory, material form.”

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Arca-vigraha Dasi’s Disappearance Celebration, April 21, Mumbai

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Apr 232018

From Carpinteria, Giriraj Swami spoke to devotees in Juhu, via Skype.

“One amazing experience Mother Arca-vigraha had was that when she was absorbed in Krishna katha she would be relived from the excruciating pain from her cancer.

“We have so many exalted devotees in this movement. Mother Arca-vigraha was certainly one of them. So, these occasions are good for us because we get to remember them. But we shouldn’t wait until devotees leave their bodies to appreciate and glorify them. We should do it whenever we get the opportunity, as a regular practice.”

Arca-vigraha’s Disappearance Celebration, Mumbai (Right-click to download)

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Mother Arca-vigraha’s Disappearance Day

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Apr 222018

Today, Jahnu Saptami, is the disappearance anniversary of Arca-vigraha dasi, a renowned artist from South Africa who left her cancer-ridden body in Vrindavan twenty-four years ago. Her desire that other devotees also have a proper facility to spend their last days in the beautiful spiritual atmosphere of the holy dhama inspired the creation of the Bhaktivedanta Hospice. The year of her departure, Bhurijana dasa’s Vyasa-puja offering to Srila Prabhupada glorified her and Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna’s mercy upon her:

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to you. We pray that your powerful preaching potency continues forever.

As I write this, Mother Arca-vigraha is still alive. By the time this offering is read by the devotees, she will be gone. She now lies bedridden within her Ramana-reti house; her thin, almost white hair is cropped close and with sikha. The May Vrindavan heat glares, and her body burns as if filled with poison from one thousand scorpions. Only her left arm near the shoulder is fat, for there the cancer spreads from her lymph gland. The rest of that arm lies thin and useless at her side, like the arm of a doll, but burning with pain.

“ ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ in the material world are the same thing. [They] are mental creations. All is actually distress, for we must die. Human life is meant for Krishna consciousness. Why should we lose this chance? A Krishna conscious person is not under the laws of material nature.” (All quotes are from a 1969 New Vrindaban lecture by Srila Prabhupada.)

Arca-vigraha was a famous South African artist. She took initiation from His Holiness Giriraj Swami years ago and developed deep faith in you, her guru maharaja, Krishna consciousness, the holy name, Vrindavan dhama, and the Vaishnavas. Now, in her final days, her face is gaunt; deep crevices rim her eyes. Yet she is neither miserable nor morose nor fearful. Mother Arca remains either silently Krishna conscious or jolly.

“One who is Krishna conscious is never afraid or disturbed in any condition of life. This is the effect of Krishna consciousness. Therefore Narada is trying to convince Vyasadeva, ‘You preach Krishna consciousness. Whatever you have so far written is useless. Now you write something that by reading, one will become immediately Krishna conscious.’ Srimad-Bhagavatam is so nice that by reading, immediately one can capture the Supreme Lord within his heart. Our whole program is that Krishna is very kind, always kind upon us.”

She hasn’t eaten any solid food for about seven weeks and has been subsisting on less than 500 milligrams of juice a day. Her life has been sustained by krsna-katha, which she longs to hear constantly. And Mother Arca still preaches. Despite her pain, as long as she can speak, she greets all with good spirits, encouragement, and Krishna conscious advice: “Most problems don’t seem important from this perspective, do they?” “The body is useless, isn’t it?” “Jaya, jaya Sri Radhe-Syama!” Devotees approach her to offer solace but find shelter in her Krishna conscious strength.

“The pure devotees, if they are put into difficulty, they think, ‘This is Krishna’s grace. It is Krishna’s grace.’ They take it in this way. ‘I was to suffer hundreds of times more due to my bad activities in my past life, but You are only giving me a little of it. So it is Your grace.’ ”

We do not know when Krishna will actually take Mother Arca. She almost left just after Gaura-purnima, and we rushed to her bedside at 11:00 p.m. to find her gasping and wheezing and unable to breathe. The cancer is gradually closing off her windpipe. But Krishna wouldn’t take her then. She is now quite ready to go and awaits His call. She chants more or less constantly in her mind.

“Hypnotized. It is so nice—hypnotized! Otherwise, why are these boys working so hard? They can earn money, but they are hypnotized here. Krishna is so nice. He is all-attractive. He hypnotizes His devotee. Just like the Pandavas. They are all Krishna’s friends. Narada met Krishna, and because he was a devotee, he could speak to Krishna with a little criticism: ‘My dear Krishna, by becoming Your devotees, have Your Pandavas become happy? They have lost their kingdom. Their wife has been insulted, and now they are banished for twelve years. Is it a very good thing? But the wonderful thing I see, in spite of all these inconveniences, is that they have increased their love for You!’ So Narada is asking, ‘What kind of hypnotism You do I don’t know. In spite of being placed in so many inconveniences, their love for You has increased.’ That is the position of a bhakta.”

Both her breathing and swallowing are now strained and painful. I used to ask her if she had anything remaining to accomplish within the world of matter. Her last anxiety was spiritual, to finish the remaining true-to-size drawings for the 6’ x 3’ panels at the back of your samadhi mandir. She wasn’t physically capable, but she strained and sat up and directed the remaining work to its end. “See, I told you I’d finish!” No further work remains for Mother Arca-vigraha within this world.

“Anyone who has associated with Krishna consciousness, he cannot forget . . . He cannot give it up. If one once surrenders sincerely, ‘Krishna, I am Yours,’ Krishna will never leave you. He will protect you.”

Prabhupada, you have already bestowed your mercy on this fine devotee, Mother Arca-vigraha. We, out of affection for her, nevertheless pray to you for her eternal welfare. We also beg you to continue giving us the association of exalted and exemplary Vaishnavas.

Praying to serve you eternally,
Bhurijana dasa

*  *  *

Devotees can read about Mother Arca-vigraha in the chapter about her in my book Many Moons: Reflections on Departed Vaishnavas and in the section “Mother Arca-vigraha—An Inspiration” in Chapter 2 of my book Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from the Vedic Perspective.

May Mother Arca-vigraha’s mercy shower down upon us all.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Initiation, April 15, San Diego

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Apr 222018

During a blissful ceremony in the San Diego temple, Giriraj Swami spoke on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.15.25 and performed the initiations of Bhakta Will Southall, who received the name Vaishnava dasa; Bhaktin Usha Madan, who received the name Urjesvari dasi; and Bhaktin Farida Sharafutdinova, who received the name Saraswati dasi.



Kirtan (Right-click to download)
Initiation talk and name-giving (Right-click to download)

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Gadadhara Pandita’s Appearance Day, April 15, San Diego

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Apr 202018

“In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (147-53) it is stated, ‘Sri Krsna’s pleasure potency, formerly known as Vrndavanesvari, is now personified in the form of Sri Gadadhara Pandita in the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami has pointed out that in the shape of Laksmi, the pleasure potency of Krsna, she was formerly very dear to the Lord as Syamasundara-vallabha. The same Syamasundara-vallabha is now present in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes as Gadadhara Pandita. Formerly, as Lalita-sakhi, she was always devoted to Srimati Radharani. Thus Gadadhara Pandita is simultaneously an incarnation of Srimati Radharani and Lalita-sakhi.’ In the twelfth chapter of this part of the Caitanya-caritamrta there is a description of the descendants or disciplic succession of Gadadhara Pandita.” (Cc Adi-lila 10.15 purport)

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

“Gadadhara Pandita in Krishna-lila was Srimati Radharani, but because Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had adopted the mood of Srimati Radharani, Gadadhara Pandita did not exhibit Radharani ‘s mood but he took the role of supporting Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his attitude as Srimati Radharani.”

Jaya Radha-Madhava (Right-click to download)
Gadadhara Pandita’s Appearance Talk (Right-click to download-

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Guaranteed Eternal Life, April 14, Encinitas, San Diego

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Apr 172018

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17.

“The appeal of our eternal life with Krishna is like the carrot. We see it before us, and we accelerate our spiritual endeavors. But we also get little whips from the stick of old age and disease. Srila Prabhupada says that a devotee’s old age or disease in the present life is an impetus to his progressing in Krishna consciousness and achieving his eternal life with Krishna. In any case we are going to be subjected to old age and disease—janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi duhkha-dosanudarsanam (Gita 13.9)—but for a devotee they are not impediments but are impetuses to progress further in Krishna consciousness. In fact, whatever a devotee experiences should serve an impetus to progress further in spiritual values.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17 (Right-click to download)

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