Feb 042020
 

Today is the disappearance anniversary of Sripada Ramanujacharya, the principal acharya in the Sri, or Lakshmi, sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada wrote, “We find great shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacharya because his lotus feet are the strongest fort to combat the Mayavadi philosophy.” (Letter 22.11.1974) And in the early days of ISKCON in India, before we had Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is in Hindi, Prabhupada would refer people to read the Hindi edition of the Gita with Sri Ramanujacharya’s commentary.

Srila Prabhupada often told a story about Sri Ramanujacharya’s merciful, compassionate nature. As he related it in Ahmedabad in 1972, “The servants of Krishna take all risk for Krishna’s sake. Just like Ramanujacharya. Sri Ramanujacharya’s spiritual master said, ‘My dear son, the mantra which I am giving, you chant silently and you will be delivered. It is so powerful. Don’t chant this mantra loudly so others can hear.’

“Ramanujacharya thought, ‘If this mantra is so powerful that if others hear it they’ll also be delivered, then why not?’ He immediately went to the market and began to chant the mantra. So, his spiritual master became very angry, that ‘I told you not to chant loudly, so others may not hear.’ And Ramanujacharya replied, ‘My Lordship, I have done offense unto you. That’s all right. For this I am prepared to go to hell. But if this mantra is so powerful, I must speak it to everyone.’ ”

In this mood, following in the footsteps of Sripada Ramanujacharya, Srila Prabhupada broadcast the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita everywhere, to everyone.

We pray and aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Feb 012020
 

This story was heard from the pujari at Sri Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipur, West Bengal. He came to the ISKCON Chaitanya Chandrodoya Mandir with a copy of the Back to Godhead article about Srila Prabhupada entitled “A Lifetime in Preparation.”

Just recently an amazing realization occurred to me that I wanted to share with devotees everywhere. I have been the pujari and sevaite at the house of Advaita Acharya for many years. I was also there back in the 1940s and ’50s. At that time, I noticed that one grihastha Bengali devotee was coming to the temple quite regularly. He was dressed in a white khadi dhoti and kurta, and he always came alone. He would sit in the back of the mandir without speaking and would chant harinama on his mala very quietly and deeply. He came on the weekends, usually once every month or two. After chanting there for many hours, he would always thank me when he left. His presence was profound, and I became attracted to him. Since his devotions were solitary, I never spoke to disturb him. Sometimes I happened to notice that while he was chanting, his eyes would be full of tears.

Then, for a very long time, he did not come. But in August of 1965 I saw a saffron-clothed sannyasi sitting in the back of the mandir and recognized him to be my old friend. Again he sat for a long time chanting Hare Krishna. I could see his beads moving, his eyes closed in concentrated devotion. He was weeping unabashedly, even more than he used to, while he took the holy name. Finally, as evening came, he paid his dandavata pranama for long time. When he arose he came up to me and again thanked me for my seva here at Advaita Bhavan. I asked him, “Who are you? I remember you from so long ago.”

He replied, ‘My name is Abhaya Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. I am an unworthy disciple of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada, my divine master. I have been coming here for such a long time because my gurudeva has given me an impossible mission. His desire was for me to go across the ocean to the Western countries and spread the sublime teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. There are countless souls there who have never heard of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, and so they are suffering greatly. I have not known how this mission of his will be successful, so I have been coming here to this special house of Advaita Acharya, where He, Nityananda Prabhu, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would gather together to plan the sankirtana movement. It was here that They launched the inundation of love of God that swept India and continues to this day. Thus I have been praying very earnestly here that They will all give me Their mercy that somehow They will empower me and guide me. I want to satisfy my gurudeva’s desire, but I am feeling unqualified to do this.”

As he was speaking to me, I saw tears falling down on his cheeks again. Then he continued, “Tomorrow I am leaving for Calcutta to go upon a ship across the ocean, to America. I do not know what will befall me there, but I am praying most earnestly here for help.” Then he very humbly asked me for my blessings. I was moved by this Vaishnava’s sincerity and determination as I watched him depart upon his journey.

It was a few years later that I began noticing, for the first time, white Vaishnavas coming to Advaita Bhavan. They were wearing dhotis and saris and chanting on tulasi-mala. I never spoke to any of them, but then one of them gave me this Back to Godhead magazine from America. As I looked at the photographs, suddenly I recognized a picture of the Founder-Acarya who had brought Krishna consciousness to the West. It was my friend Bhaktivedanta Swami, who had come and prayed here so many times before. Then I realized that he has actually accomplished that impossible mission of his gurudeva. I saw that it was he, starting alone and without pretense, who had accomplished this glorious miracle against all odds.

As soon as I saw this, I came here to his temple in Mayapur to tell you this information. I know that he has gone from this world now, but I thought perhaps you might want to know this story about your and my beloved Srila Prabhupada.

 

Our Srila Prabhupada, A Friend to All, Compiled by Mulaprakrti devi dasi

Jan 312020
 

With Mercy, Nothing Is Impossible
By Aishwarya Madaan

My sister—nineteen-year old, wheelchair-bound, muscular-dystrophic Madana-mohana-mohini dasi from Pune, India—really wanted to participate in book distribution during the marathon month, in December 2019, because it is so dear to Srila Prabhupada.

With Mohini’s health not being so supportive, she made a compromise: “I’ll just go to a few neighboring apartments, maybe give out a couple of books, and see how my body responds.” Later in the month, after gathering courage for many days, she and I finally went out and distributed a few Bhagavad-gitas, and Mohini came back home with an infectious excitement. “I want to do more! Let’s go out again tomorrow.” Under normal circumstances, that would be too much: two back-to-back outings in her health condition—not a good idea! Eventually, practicality won, and we convinced her to wait a few days. But we were nearing the end of the month, and there weren’t a few days to wait.

With much hope and a strong desire, Mohini must have really been praying hard—because Krishna reciprocated: she got the idea to contact a doctor who had recently visited her for a checkup, to ask him to purchase 108 Gitas for distribution in his circles. She called him up, and he appreciated Mohini’s desire and said, “Yes, I’ll do whatever you say!”

That fueled the fire. It was the beginning of an exciting journey, and the end of her body’s control over her for over a week. One successful call led to another. For days, tirelessly, Mohini kept phoning people, until her throat started to give up. Inspired by her love for her daughter, our mother then joined to assist Mohini, and on her behalf we all came together to do what Mohini desired. We called up relatives, friends, doctors, teachers, colleagues, even decade-old acquaintances and proposed that they purchase Gitas for distribution in their circles, or sponsor Gitas for the underprivileged, which we would eventually go out and distribute in collaboration with the temple.

The response was overwhelming, making Mohini so transcendental, so happy, that she just kept smiling and kept increasing her target—from 108 to 500 to 1,000 to 1,500 to 3,100. She wouldn’t have dreamed of this when she started, but she kept aiming for more and more, and in under two weeks we had sponsors and orders for 3,101 Gitas.

I say that Krishna reciprocated, because the first person we called up, the doctor, was a special instrument, a hope-giving, desire-fueling instrument of Srila Prabhupada’s, who helped Mohini think big.

Mohini paid an intense price on the bodily level for days to come, but what price is that? Our bodies, minds, and words belong to Srila Prabhupada, and Mohini believes, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than sit back home and relax.”

Recently, on prize-distribution day, we found that Mohini turned out to be the number-one individual female book distributor in Pune, second overall in all of Pune only to our temple president, HG Radheshyam Prabhu! While receiving the certificate from HH Gopal Krishna Maharaja, she addressed the Pune congregation, shared some extraordinary achievements from ISKCON’s early days, and said, “With the mercy of the guru-parampara in ISKCON, nothing is impossible!”

Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution marathon ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada’s loving compassion ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada’s mercy and empowerment ki jaya!

Jan 302020
 

We are gathered here to celebrate the appearance day of Sri Advaita Acharya. Advaita Acharya is an incarnation of Maha-vishnu. In terms of pastimes, He appeared before Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and so was considered an elder by Mahaprabhu. He was actually older than Lord Chaitanya’s own father.

Advaita Acharya, although Vishnu Himself, was in the mood of a Vaishnava. As a Vaishnava, He felt compassion for the fallen conditioned souls who were suffering without Krishna consciousness. Although previously Navadvipa had been a great center of devotion, it had deteriorated into a center of dry learning. Thus, Advaita Acharya felt compassion for the fallen souls of the age, so engrossed in material affairs, devoid of devotional service to Krishna. In the mood of a humble Vaishnava, although He was Vishnu Himself, He felt that He was not capable of delivering the fallen souls. He believed that only Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself could preach the yuga-dharma of hari-nama-sankirtana and deliver them.

Advaita Acharya Prabhu was an ideal householder. He had read in the scriptures that the Lord sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water. As a grihastha brahman, He worshipped a salagrama-sila at home. Therefore, He specifically began to worship Salagrama with Ganges water and tulasi leaves with the aim of bringing about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s descent.

The Caitanya-caritamrta describes Sri Advaita Acharya’s appeal to Lord Krishna to appear again on earth. He cried with such intensity that the sound traveled throughout the entire universe and ultimately reached Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Because of the loud cries of Sri Advaita Acharya, Mahaprabhu did indeed descend, appearing in Navadvipa on the full moon night of Phalguna (February-March). Thus the Lord came at the request of Advaita Acharya, His pure devotee, to reclaim the fallen souls.

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Jan 292020
 

Today is the appearance day of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and many other acharyas and associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was born in a very aristocratic family in Bengal. His father and uncle, Govardhana and Hiranya Majumdara, were wealthy landlords, or zamindars; they were almost like kings in opulence. But although Raghunatha dasa was their only heir, he had no attraction for material opulence and enjoyment.

The Majumdaras’ family priest was Yadunandana Acharya, a disciple of Advaita Acharya. From the time Raghunatha dasa was a small boy, Yadunandana Acharya and Balarama Acharya, another friend of the Majumdara family, would call him to sit on their laps. They would instruct him to chant Hare Krishna and tell him about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So from a very young age Raghunatha dasa developed the desire to join Sri Chaitanya. Namacharya Haridasa Thakura also visited Raghunatha dasa’s family, and he too was merciful to Raghunatha dasa.

One day Raghunatha dasa left home and went to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. “I want to join You,” he told the Lord. But Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “No. Don’t act like a crazy fellow. You should return home and be a good son, an expert businessman, and a proper husband, and then, when the time comes, the Lord Himself will arrange for you to become free from the bondage of family life.”

Lord Chaitanya used the term markata-vairagya. Markata means monkey,” and vairagya means “renunciation.” Monkeys appear to be very renounced, because they live in the jungle, have no clothes or possessions, and eat only fruits and berries. But each monkey has two dozen girlfriends. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was instructing Raghunatha dasa, “Don’t be a monkey renunciant, making a show of renunciation when you still have material desires. Return home and act outwardly as an ordinary young man. And inwardly, develop your Krishna consciousness. Be detached internally and perform your external duties.”

So, on Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s order Raghunatha dasa returned home. But within his heart he wanted to join Mahaprabhu. Raghunatha dasa’s parents were very worried that Raghunatha dasa, their only son, might leave home. So they kept guards at the gate to make sure he did not run away. One day Raghunatha dasa got the idea to meet Nityananda Prabhu at Panihati. Once there, being extremely humble, he offered his obeisances from a distance. Lord Nityananda, being very merciful and humorous, said to Raghunatha, “You are just like a thief, staying at a distance. But now that I have captured you, I will punish you. You must make a festival for My associates and Me and feed us all chipped rice, yogurt, bananas, and milk.”

Raghunatha dasa bought all the cida (chipped rice), dadhi (yogurt), dugdha (milk), and fruits and sweets that were available in the market. Preparations were made using chipped rice, yogurt, milk, sugar, and bananas, and there were mangoes, sweets, and other items. Nityananda Prabhu and all the other devotees were very pleased.

When merchants heard about the festival, they came to Panihati to sell their goods. Raghunatha dasa would buy all their dadhi, dugdha, bananas, and other items, make them sit down, and feed them the same items he had just purchased. Soon there were so many people that there was no place to sit. People began to sit on the bank of the Ganges, and when all of the space by the Ganges was occupied, they stood in the water of the Ganges and ate their cida-dadhi. At the end of the festival, Nityananda Prabhu was so pleased with Raghunatha dasa that He gave him a blessing.

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Jan 282020
 

Giriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.23.

“The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body. And the person who has never experienced the aroma of the tulasi leaves from the lotus feet of the Lord is also a dead body, although breathing.” —Srimad-Bhagavatam  2.3.23

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.23 (Right click to download)

Jan 252020
 

 

Posted by Giriraj Swami on Monday, January 20, 2020.

“Unless one is protected by the mercy of the Lord, no remedial measure can act effectively. One should consequently depend fully on the causeless mercy of the Lord. Although as a matter of routine duty one must of course accept other remedial measures, no one can protect one who is neglected by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this material world, everyone is trying to counteract the onslaught of material nature, but everyone is ultimately fully controlled by material nature. Therefore even though so-called philosophers and scientists try to surmount the onslaught of material nature, they have not been able to do so.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.19 purport.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.19

Jan 242020
 

“It is quite encouraging to help someone leave their body in Krishna consciousness with the expectation that they wont have to take birth again in the material world but will go back to Godhead. I have spoken to people that have said that helping someone leave their body at the time of death was a very sacred time for them.”

Hospice Care (Right click to download)