June 16, 2020

Questions & Answers

DEVOTEE (1): My question is about the aspect of klesaghni. One of the immediate effects of pure devotional service is it reduces distress—that is klesaghni. Is it okay to share this with others while preaching about the benefits of chanting of the maha-mantra? I’m trying to understand because of the example you gave with Srila Prabhupada saying, “We don’t chant to cure material disease.” So to inspire people to chant, what do we say about the holy name? How much can we say? Can you please enlighten us?

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: That’s a very intelligent question. I would say that in this case you would just be speaking the truth, but again it comes back to the question of whether your audience has faith in your authorities. Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu by Rupa Gosvami (verse 1.1.17) explains that klesaghni, destruction of material miseries is one of the by-products of pure devotional service. I would say you can repeat that—it is the truth. But, again if the audience doesn’t have faith then they may not believe you so, as Srila Prabhupada said in the discussion with the professor in Sweden, we have to bring them to the point of faith by reason and logic and argument. But yes, they should know the truth.

DEVOTEE (2): My question refers to what you said: “All names of Krishna refer to the same person so they’re all equally powerful.” I want to confirm that although they are all equally powerful, they all necessarily don’t result in a person ending up in the same destination by the chanting of all of these different names for Krishna. 

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: That’s a very good point and I’m glad you mentioned it. It is true that chanting of different names can lead to different results. If you chant “Allah, Allah” or “Jesus, Jesus,” you get one type of result; if you chant “Rama Rama,” you get another type of result, and if you chant “Hare Krishna,” you get another type of result. It is sort of confidential. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura does say that, although in essence all names are equal, but in another sense there is a gradation among the different names. So, we are fortunate that we are chanting Hare Krishna—Radha and Krishna, the highest goal of life. But still, if someone is chanting another name, we should not discourage them. We should encourage them to chant whatever name they chant. If they enquire about Hare Krishna, we can answer but if they’re chanting some other name, we should just encourage them to chant that name. Or what I sometimes do is to say that they can continue chanting whatever they’re chanting and just add a little of Hare Krishna chanting. I do that also and sometimes the Hare Krishna chanting can take over. We had a very good friend and devotee in Bombay, Dr. N. D. Desai, who was later initiated as Srinathji dasa. He had in his temple room Krishna—Radha and Krishna—and also some demigods. He was asking about the deities of the demigods because we don’t worship demigods, but some of his family members worshipped demigods. So we said, “Don’t worry, just worship Krishna and eventually He’ll take care of the demigods.” It happened—I don’t know how, but eventually those demigods moved out of the temple room. Mainly we say, “Add”—add the chanting of Hare Krishna and other things will take care of themselves, usually. 

DEVOTEE (3): We chant extra rounds for someone who is sick, someone who has left this world. You did mention that chanting is not done for these reasons, if I understand you correctly. Can you explain this further?

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: The purpose of chanting ultimately is to please Krishna. Bhakti means to please Krishna. By chanting, we are attempting to purify our hearts and praying for service. Now, chanting for others is fine, it’s like praying for someone else. You can pray for someone else whether they are alive or whether they have left their bodies. You can pray for someone else, so you can also chant for them. In fact, they will benefit from our chanting for them, from our prayers for them. 

But, we should be careful about praying for materialistic things. And, we should be careful about not wanting to impose our will upon Krishna. When Srila Prabhupada was sick in the end in Vrindavan, we asked him how we should pray for him, and Srila Prabhupada gave the answer that you should pray like this: “Dear Lord Krishna, if You so desire, please cure Srila Prabhupada.” That’s a good prayer. 

DEVOTEE (4): I’m having the same issue with my husband. He’s very favorable, but sometimes he gets upset with devotees and when he gets upset, I go away or I go and pray to Krishna. I don’t know what I should be doing. You know, we are watching Mahabharata right now and he says it’s a fairy tale but he still watches it and enjoys it.  So, I don’t know how to answer him when he says something like that. 

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: What is it that upsets him about devotees?

DEVOTEE (4): You know, he hasn’t had good experiences. Like when we went to Vrindavan (I took him to Vrindavan and to Jagannath Puri), we met a devotee whom I had known for a long time. He mentioned this to the devotee that, “Hare Krishna! My wife says she knows you,” to which the devotee replied, “Oh! I don’t feel like talking.” His whole mood of Vrindavan got hampered because of this. Little things such as that have happened to him, so I don’t know if it’s Krishna’s mercy. I don’t know what it is, Guru Maharaja. 

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: What came to my mind is that you can explain to him that there are different levels of devotees. Not all devotees are on the same level. There are kanistha adhikara, the lower stage;  madhyama adhikara, middle stage; and uttama adhikara. So, not knowing the devotee but just based on what he, your husband, said, I would say he’s a kanishtha, at best. I’m suggesting how you can appeal to your husband, that he should not judge devotees based on lower grade devotees because there are also higher grade devotees. What was the other part of your question?

DEVOTEE (4): My husband is a Muslim but he’s very favorable. I have Lord Jagannath at home. He lets me pray and even offers his obeisances. But he doesn’t understand that Lord Krishna is the Supreme and he thinks Mahabharata is a fairy tale.

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Maybe you have already tried but I would recommend that he read Srila Prabhupada’s books. It would be very favorable if he actually did that.

DEVOTEE (4): He doesn’t like reading. Even one page of reading gives him a headache. So it’s very tough.

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Yadubara Prabhu put together a series, “Following Srila Prabhupada.” What about having him watch that?

DEVOTEE (4): Yes, I could have him watch.

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Yes, let’s hope that works!

DEVOTEE (4): What do I do when he says something that a devotee cannot take—for example, “Why are you always praying?” or something not nice about Lord Krishna? Do I just walk away or what do I do?

I tell him that I’ll just leave him if he says anything against Lord Jagannath. 

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Well, depending on the situation . . . like if he says that it’s all fairytales . . . I mean, there’s also a husband-wife dynamic that could be at play here, but ordinarily, you don’t want to get into an argument. But at the same time, you can’t accept what he’s saying, so you could say something like, “You’re entitled to your opinion and I have my opinion.”

DEVOTEE (4): But, the good thing, Guru Maharaja, is that he is very respectful to my Guru Maharaja. He’s very respectful to devotees when they come home.

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Well yeah, if you have good devotees come home, the mature ones who understand how to deal with him, that would be great!

DEVOTEE (4): Thank you, Guru Maharaja. It was a lovely class. Thank you for your blessings and please accept my humble obeisances. Hare Krishna.

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Hare Krishna. I’ll pray for your husband and you. 

DEVOTEE (4): Thank you! 

DEVOTEE (5): I started chanting 5 years ago, starting with 16 rounds, then 8, 4 and then complete 0. However during the lockdown due to Covid19, I got my love back for Krishna and again started chanting 16 rounds and reading the Srimad Bhagavatam as well. I have been chanting early in the morning for 3 months now. One morning, I couldn’t do my morning chanting and I completed my chanting in the evening, like late evening when I went for a walk. And I felt I didn’t do right. How do I stop myself from feeling guilty thinking, “Oh! I didn’t chant correctly or in time,” or that I missed the morning time?

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: You should have Plan A and Plan B. Plan A should be to chant in the morning and you should try to arrange your life in such a way that you can chant in the morning. You can have your Plan B, which would be, I guess, late afternoon or evening, but not too late so that you’re not tired. Don’t let your mind be disturbed by criticizing yourself from missing the morning. Just try to make the best use of the time you have to chant in the evening. Try to arrange that you can chant in the morning. 

DEVOTEE (5): Maharaja, during the first two rounds, my mind is definitely trying to please Lord Krishna’s lotus feet and to concentrate on that. But, then all of a sudden after that it starts wavering. I am trying to chant as early as possible, like quarter past four, so my mind is filled with thoughts of Krishna only and not any worldly thoughts. Sometimes, I feel unsatisfied with the sixteen rounds of chanting because I feel I didn’t do it correctly, righteously. So, the guilt continuously fills my mind and makes me feel very bad about myself as I feel I’m not a very good devotee of the Lord. 

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: It’s always good to think that you can do better; we can always do better. But, thinking that we can do better should encourage us to try to do better. It should not discourage us. I don’t see that you’re a bad devotee, and how can you be a bad devotee? You’re a good devotee, but you can be better. So don’t call yourself a bad devotee, because you’re not.

DEVOTEE (5): Is there any way I can concentrate more on my chanting? Is there any trick?

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: You just have to practice. Srila Prabhupada said, “Practice makes perfect, even in spiritual life.” And of course, as you know, chanting early in the morning. It has more potency if you chant in front of Deities, if you chant in front of Tulasi, if you chant with other devotees who are serious about chanting and have faith in the holy names. All of this can support your chanting. On Facebook, I have a livestream called Giriraj Swami Japa Sanga so devotees can join me to chant japa and it’s encouraging. Even though we are not physically together, it’s encouraging to see so many devotees chanting. 

DEVOTEE (6): How do we balance family obligations and maintain our spiritual life? To give you a recent example, we attended a funeral ceremony of a very close family member and they had invited a Hindu priest to conduct the rituals. The Hindu priest kept talking of God as being formless, completely Mayavadi. It was very hard for my husband and I to sit there and listen to all this nonsense but we couldn’t walk out of the ceremony because that would have offended all our family members and caused friction. So, we just said it was very hot in the room and went to the back yard and started chanting. How should we respond in such situations where we want to keep our family ties and also show them that we are happy?

GIRIRAJ SWAMI: It would be nice to make the family members who invited the Mayavadi, to make them more Krishna conscious. Today someone sent me something, sort of humorous, about social distancing. It said, COVID-19 social distancing – one meter, and Mayavadi social distancing – a hundred meters. I think what you did was okay. To get out of there but not insult your family. Mayavada is so bad . . . once Srila Prabhupada was invited to a conference at Kurukshetra. There were a number of speakers; one of the speakers was a Mayavadi. Brahmananda Prabhu was sitting right next to Srila Prabhupada on the dais, but he felt very uncomfortable. He said to Srila Prabhupada that he was feeling very uncomfortable hearing the Mayavadi speak. Srila Prabhupada told him, “Yes that’s the effect of the Mayavadi. You, a devotee, would feel very disturbed.” We should try to avoid it. Family is different though. Srila Prabhupada won’t compromise. I saw in his old letters. He was invited to a Bhagavat Saptaha in Bombay. This was before ISKCON. The speaker was going to be a Mayavadi. So, Srila Prabhupada received an invitation and Srila Prabhupada wrote back saying, “Not only will I not attend, but I will tell all of my friends and acquaintances that they also should not attend so they don’t have to be subjected to this.”