Giriraj Swami’s Vyasa-puja, September 16, Dallas, via Skype

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Sep 192017

10-01-16_grs_vp_10_dallasGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.12.

“Everyone should be friendly for the service of the Lord. Everyone should praise another’s service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaisnava thinking, Vaikuntha thinking. There may be rivalries and apparent competition between servants in performing service, but in the Vaikuntha planets the service of another servant is appreciated, not condemned. This is Vaikuntha competition. There is no question of enmity between servants. Everyone should be allowed to render service to the Lord to the best of his ability, and everyone should appreciate the service of others. Such are the activities of Vaikuntha. Since everyone is a servant, everyone is on the same platform and is allowed to serve the Lord according to his ability.” —SB 7.5.12 purport.

“Srila Prabhupada said he wanted us to act on the platform of madhyama-bhakta. The madhyama-bhakta has four different ways of dealing with four different categories of people. The Bhagavatam (11.2.46) says, prema-maitri-krpopeksa. Prema — he should give his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Maitri — he should make friends with devotees. Krpa — he should give mercy to innocent people. And upeksa — he should neglect the envious. These are the distinguishing characteristics of the madhyama-bhakta. Many devotees are more like kanisthas than madhayamas, so  how do we help them become madhyamas? It seems clear from the verse that if we work on developing love for the Supreme Lord and His representative, the spiritual master, making friends with devotees, showing mercy to the innocent, and neglecting the envious, then we can develop that intermediate standing in devotional service.”

Vyasa-puja talk via Skype, Dallas
Vyasa-puja kirtan via Skype, Dallas

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Giriraj Swami’s Vyasa-puja, September 13, Pakistan, via Skype

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Sep 162017

1“The Padma Purana and our acharyas, especially Jiva Gosvami, have explained that there are ten offenses in the chanting of the holy names. And, to get the proper benefit, one should chant without offense. One of the ten offenses is pramada, which means ‘inattention’ or ‘carelessness’. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura  says that if we avoid the offense of inattention — in other words, if we chant with attention by pronouncing and hearing every syllable — chanting with attention will destroy all the other offenses. And Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says if we don’t try to hear the holy name but allow our minds to wander here and there, then inattentive chanting will allow the other offenses to flourish.”
Vyasa-puja, Pakistan

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Visvarupa-mahotsava and Srila Prabhupada’s Sannyasa

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Sep 052017

Srila Prabhupada as a SannyasiVisvarupa-mahotsava is the date on which Lord Chaitanya’s older brother, Visvarupa, took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. And on the same date some four hundred and fifty years later, our own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, also accepted sannyasa.

According to Vedic scripture, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, come in the present age in the role of a devotee. In the previous age, Lord Krishna came in His original feature and spoke the Bhagavad-gita, and at the conclusion He instructed, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: give up all other duties and surrender unto Me. But people could not understand or appreciate Lord Krishna’s instruction. So later, about five hundred years ago, the same Krishna came again, not in His original form but in His devotional form as Lord Chaitanya. And Lord Chaitanya taught us how to serve Krishna, how to worship God in the present age.

Lord Chaitanya taught various methods of worship, but He especially emphasized the chanting of the holy names of God, or Krishna. In particular, He quoted a verse from the Brhan-Naradiya Purana (38.126):

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

“One should chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of Hari, Krishna. In this age of Kali, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for spiritual realization.”

He acted like a teacher who shows students how to write the alphabet. The teacher stands in front of the class and writes on the board, “A, B, C, D.” She has no need to practice writing, but she shows by her own example how to form the letters properly. In the same way, God, Krishna, had no need to worship, but to set the example for us, so that we could learn how to worship God in the best way in the present age, He came as Lord Chaitanya and taught and demonstrated the chanting of the holy names. Continue reading »

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada  

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Sep 032017


Today marks the anniversary of the birth—the appearance—of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, “the pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness.” To honor the occasion, I would like to share a short piece I wrote about Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Prabhupada. We pray for their continued guidance and mercy.

“Dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who initiated the teachings of Lord Chaitanya in the Western world (McGill University, Canada) in 1896, the year of my birth.” These words are Srila Prabhupada’s dedication to Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, the first book he published after coming to America. They also apply to Prabhupada’s life, which was dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and his own spiritual master—Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.

Srila Prabhupada furthered many of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s projects: engaging householders in local preaching initiatives (nama-hatta); establishing the principle that Vaishnavas, even not born brahmans, are greater than brahmans (and are brahmans too); translating, explaining, and publishing important Vaishnava scriptures for the understanding of the contemporary audience; implementing the vision of a wonderful temple and spiritual city in Mayapur; and, perhaps most significant, fulfilling the desire and prediction that the holy names and teachings of Sri Krishna Chaitanya—Krishna consciousness—be propagated all over the world.

In 1885, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote,

“Lord Chaitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men in India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the eternal dharma. Lord Chaitanya states in Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, ‘In every town, country, and village My name will be sung.’ There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass. . . . Although there is still no pure society of Vaishnavas, Lord Chaitanya’s prophetic words will in a few days come true . . .

“Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. . . . Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and karatalas and raise kirtan through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the Western fair-skinned men, from one side, while chanting ‘Jaya Sacinandana ki jaya!’ will extend their arms and, embracing the devotees of our country coming from another side, treat us with brotherly feelings. When will that day be?”

In the caption to Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s photo in Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Srila Prabhupada described him as “the pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness,” and he saw himself as the Thakura’s humble servant in that effort, fully dependent on his mercy.

In a conversation in Mayapur in March 1974, Srila Prabhupada, hearing a kirtan party in the background, commented that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had desired that “Europeans and Americans will come, and they will dance here with the chanting, ‘Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana!’ So that is being done. . . . When they chant and dance, I simply remember Bhaktivinoda Thakura. That’s all. I pray to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, ‘Now they have come to your shelter. Give them protection.’ That’s all. What can I do more? I cannot do anything more.”

So it is by the mercy of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, coming through parampara, through Srila Prabhupada, that we have been engaged in devotional service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His devotees, His holy names, His teachings, and His divine dhama—Mayapur.

In 1971, as a young devotee in Calcutta, I approached Srila Prabhupada and offered, “I have been trying to understand what your desire is. And two things seem to please you most: distributing your books and building the big temple in Mayapur.”

Prabhupada’s face lit up, his eyes opened wide, and he smiled. “Yes, you have understood.”

I did not know it then, but that desire for a big temple in Mayapur (and even for profuse book distribution) came from Thakura Bhaktivinoda. He had a vision of an effulgent city with a wonderful temple at its center, in Mayapur. And he wrote,

eka adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakasa
gaurangera nitya-seva haibe vikasa

“An astounding temple will appear and will engage the entire world in the eternal service of Lord Chaitanya.” (Sri Navadvipa-Mahatmya, Parikrama Khanda, Chapter 4)

After my exchange with Srila Prabhupada, he spent several months in Europe and America and then returned to Calcutta with a design for the big temple. And in the meantime, Tamal Krishna Goswami had fulfilled Prabhupada’s longstanding, ardent desire to acquire some land in Mayapur. But there had been flooding in Mayapur, and the flooding there can be very severe. Therefore—although Prabhupada was so enthusiastic about the project, and had struggled so hard to get the land in Mayapur, and had personally brought the plans for the first building there—still, right when we were at the peak of our enthusiasm, he raised the question: “What will happen if the Ganges floods? What will happen to the temple, to the project?”

He suggested that we not build the temple in Mayapur but at Birnagar, Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s birthplace—another indication of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s importance to Prabhupada and for the world. And eventually he brought us back to the conclusion that we should proceed with the project in Mayapur. “If you all build this temple,” he declared, “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura will personally come and take you all back to Godhead.”

Through his empowered service, Srila Prabhupada has made Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s shelter available to all of us, and now we are also “dedicated to the sacred service of Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura.” We beg and pray for pure devotional service under their lotus feet and depend fully on their mercy.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Radhastami in Carpinteria

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Aug 292017

For Radhastami, the devotees decorated our deities and altars in Carpinteria beautifully.

Radhastami is one day in the year when devotees are given darshan of Srimati Radharani’s all-merciful, wish-fulfilling lotus feet. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, in his mood of intense devotion, prayed to Sri Radha:

tavaivasmi tavaivasmi
na jivami tvaya vina
iti vijnaya devi tvam
naya mam caranantikam

“I am Yours. I am Yours. I cannot live without You. Understanding this, please bring me to Your lotus feet.” (Stavavali)

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

SP Radhastami 2017 RR Radhastami 2017 GG Radhastami 2017 GRS with Bead Bag

Radharani Is So Great

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Aug 282017

(Adapted from Srila Prabhupada’s talk on Radhastami, 1971.)

Radharani in Vrindavan - 2We pray to Radharani because She is the pleasure potency of Krishna. Krishna means “all-attractive,” but Radharani is so great that She attracts Krishna.

So we should try to understand what is Srimati Radharani’s position and offer our obeisances to Her.

tapta-kancana-gaurangi radhe vrndavanesvari
vrsabhanu-sute devi pranamami hari-priye

Our business is “Radharani, You are so dear to Krishna. You are the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, and You are so dear to Krishna. So we offer our respectful obeisances unto You.”

Radharani is hari-priya, very dear to Krishna. So if we approach Krishna through Radharani, through the mercy of Radharani, then it becomes very easy. If Radharani recommends that “This devotee is very nice,” then Krishna immediately accepts him, however foolish he may be.

Therefore in Vrindavan you’ll find all the devotees chanting Radharani’s name more than Krishna’s. Wherever you go, you’ll find the devotees addressing, “Jaya Radhe.” You’ll find, still, in Vrindavan. They are glorifying Radharani. They’re more interested in worshiping Radharani. Because however fallen I may be, if some way or other I can please Radharani, then it is very easy for me to understand Krishna.

If you go by the speculative process to understand Krishna, it will take many, many lives. But if you take to devotional service and just try to please Radharani, Krishna will be gotten very easily. Because Radharani can deliver Krishna. She is such a great devotee, the emblem of maha-bhagavata. Even Krishna cannot understand what is Radharani’s quality. Even Krishna, although He says vedaham samatitani, “I know everything,” still, He fails to understand Radharani. Radharani is so great.

In order to understand Radharani, Krishna accepted the position of Radharani. Krishna wanted to understand the potency of Radharani. Krishna thought, “I am full—I am complete in every respect—but still, I want to understand Radharani.” This propensity obliged Krishna to accept the propensities of Radharani, to understand Krishna Himself. . . . When Krishna wanted to understand Himself, He took the tendency of Srimati Radharani—and that is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Giriraj Swami’s Vyasa-puja, August 26, Durban, via Skype

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Aug 272017

GRS_VP_2017_DurbanGiriraj Swami read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.15.25.

“We have read about different symptoms, pulakasru—symptoms of happiness, like tears in the eyes—that come from offenseless chanting. If we don’t experience such symptoms it is to be understood that we are committing offenses while chanting. What to do? Srila Prabhupada says at the end of the purport:

” ‘Caitanya-caritamrta suggests a nice remedy in this connection. There it is said in verse 31, Chapter Eight, of Adi-lila, that if anyone takes shelter of Lord Caitanya and just chants the holy name of the Lord, Hare Krsna, he becomes freed from all offenses.’

“Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 8.31, states, ‘But if one only chants, with some slight faith, the holy names of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, very quickly he is cleansed of all offenses. Thus as soon as he chants the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, he feels the ecstasy of love for God.

“Purport: ‘Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarks in this connection that if one takes shelter of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda, follows Their instructions to become more tolerant than the tree and humbler than the grass, and in this way chants the holy name of the Lord, very soon he achieves the platform of transcendental loving service to the Lord, and tears appear in his eyes. There are offenses to be considered in chanting the Hare Krsnmaha-mantra, but there are no such considerations in chanting the names of Gaura-Nityananda. Therefore, if one chants the Hare Krsnmaha-mantra but his life is still full of sinful activities, it will be very difficult for him to achieve the platform of loving service to the Lord. But if in spite of being an offender one chants the holy names of Gaura-Nityananda, he is very quickly freed from the reactions to his offenses. Therefore, one should first approach Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, or worship Guru-Gauranga, and then come to the stage of worshiping Radha-Krsna.’ “

Vyasa-puja kirtan
Vyasa-puja talk
Nrsimha Prayers

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In Anticipation of Tomorrow’s Solar Eclipse

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Aug 202017

Krishna and the Gopis in Kurukshetra on Solar EclipseIn anticipation of tomorrow’s solar eclipse, I read the beautiful chapter in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.82) entitled “Krsna and Balarama Meet the Inhabitants of Vrndavana,” about when Lord Krishna and other pilgrims traveled to Kurukshetra to observe a solar eclipse there. The purport to the second verse says, “Vedic astronomers of five thousand years ago could predict eclipses of the sun and moon just as well as our modern astronomers can. The knowledge of the ancient astronomers went much further, however, since they understood the karmic influences of such events. Solar and lunar eclipses are generally very inauspicious, with certain rare exceptions. But just as the otherwise inauspicious Ekadasi day becomes beneficial when used for the glorification of Lord Hari, so the time of an eclipse is also advantageous for fasting and worship.”

When the gopis of Vrindavan met Krishna there after a long separation, they prayed to Him,

ahus ca te nalina-nabha padaravindam
yogesvarair hrdi vicintyam agadha-bodhaih
geham jusam api manasy udiyat sada nah

“Dear Lord, whose navel is just like a lotus flower, Your lotus feet are the only shelter for those who have fallen into the deep well of material existence. Your feet are worshiped and meditated upon by great mystic yogis and highly learned philosophers. We wish that these lotus feet may also be awakened within our hearts, although we are only ordinary persons engaged in household affairs.” (10.82.48)

I pray to follow in the footsteps of the gopis.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami