April 22, 2020
Questions & Answers
DEVOTEE (1): During this Covid19 time we have already seen some devotees leaving their bodies. To which some people may say, “Oh! Krishna didn’t protect her.” What is your view on that?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: That’s a very good question. There are different kinds and levels of protection. Of course, there is material protection and there is spiritual protection. So, when Krishna is assuring, kaunteya pratijanihi, na me bhaktah pranasyati (Bg. 9.31) “O son of Kunti, Arjuna, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes,” it doesn’t mean that the body of the devotee will never perish because the bodies of all of us will eventually perish even though we are devotees. But, a devotee doesn’t perish spiritually if he doesn’t leave his or her Krishna consciousness.
We don’t know what the Lord’s plan is for someone—why He takes someone and spares someone longer. I know in the case of Ramanuja Prabhu, he really had some strong spiritual desires and I also felt that it would be good, not just for him, but the community of devotees of the world if he could have some more time to do multiple services. But yes, there are a number of devotees who left during this coronavirus pandemic. And I can’t say why the Lord called those devotees at this time and in that way but I can say that He was there for them spiritually. And, so they live spiritually.
DEVOTEE (2): On reading Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita and watching Abhay Charan, we saw how all the devotees, especially you, went through so much for Srila Prabhupada in the early times. You had no facility, no real shelter or centers. Now we are in our comfort zone and still, we are unable to follow with your kind of enthusiasm. How do we increase our attachment to Srila Prabhupada and our current acharyas? How do we get some of your enthusiasm so that we can also dedicate our lives and make them successful?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Srila Prabhupada gave a general rule for enthusiasm: by strictly following all the rules and regulations you become enthusiastic. On the contrary, if you’re lax in following all the rules and regulations, you lose all the enthusiasm. But, for the practical approach, the thought that came to my mind was book distribution. Because when you go out and meet new people, by definition you’re leaving your comfort zone. You don’t know what kind of response you’ll get from the people. But, if they take a book, then Krishna’s pleased, Srila Prabhupada is pleased, and they can get so much benefit. Srila Prabhupada put so much effort into writing his books and even reading one page can change a person’s life. There’s a devotee in San Diego—he got a book. Somehow someone gave him a book and he opened it up randomly and what he read was something like, “If you’re not Krishna conscious, you’re no better than a dog or a hog.” That was the first thing he read. (laughs) He thought about it and realized, “Yeah, that’s true. What is the difference?” He then went to the temple and became a devotee. So yes, giving people books is very powerful preaching. It puts you on the line, it gets you out of your comfort zone. It pleases Srila Prabhupada and Krishna and it will change people’s lives.
DEVOTEE (3): In the verse, it said “accidental death.” Can you please explain in depth? Because my understanding is there is no accidental death and Krishna is the controller, so even if something may seem accidental to us, it’s really not because it’s Krishna’s plan.
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Purport: “Despite the presence of a father and mother, a child cannot be protected from accidental death, disease and various other miseries.”
There is no such thing as accidental death; everything is according to the Lord’s will. I think that means “in an accident.” A lot of devotees die in accidents, including automobile accidents. Srila Prabhupada was very concerned about devotees dying in car crashes. I think he also said that if you go faster than 55 miles an hour, Krishna is no longer in control. So he was very concerned about that, and also concerned about devotees falling asleep at the wheel. I know when I was with HH Indradyumna Swami during the Polish festival tour, he would not allow the driver to attend the festival. The festivals would end late at night so he would force the driver to take rest during the festival so he would be awake and alert to drive after the festival.
We have to be very careful and cautious. Having faith in the Lord doesn’t mean that we are reckless and take unnecessary chances. There is a nice quote by Srila Prabhupada in the book Perfect Questions – Perfect Answers, which is his discussions with Bob Cohen who later became Brahmatirtha dasa. Let me read it to you. “Srila Prabhupada: So long as you are in the material world, you cannot neglect physical laws. Suppose you go to a jungle and there is a tiger. It is known that it will attack you, so why should you voluntarily go and be attacked? It is not that a devotee should take physical risk so long as he has a physical body. It is not a challenge to the physical laws: ‘I have become a devotee. I challenge everything.’ That is foolishness.”
DEVOTEE (4): Often Srila Prabhupada says that if you surrender to Krishna everything will be okay and you will also be able to enjoy life factually. And on the other hand, from scriptures and even around us we see that devotees go through a lot of tribulation in their lives. So I was just trying to understand how both these things can happen together, that Srila Prabhupada seems to be reassuring that all our problems will go away and that definitely seems right, but on the other hand we do see devotees going through trouble and suffering. So, how can we see both together?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: What are our problems? Our problems are birth, death, disease, and old age—repetition of birth and death. If we take shelter of Krishna then we will be free from those problems, ultimately. But, it can’t be that if someone takes shelter from Krishna they will be protected from material problems. Because there are all sorts of materialistic people who come to Krishna to get their material problems solved and that’s not what Krishna wants. Krishna wants their surrender; He wants their love. He wants pure devotional service. Our goal is to remember Krishna and sometimes we may remember Krishna better when we are in a difficult situation. There is a saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” Soldiers during war, even if they claim to be atheists—there are no atheists in foxholes. Their lives are on the line and the only one who can really protect them is God. So, Queen Kunti prayed to Krishna, “Let the calamities come again and again – because by those calamities we saw Your lotus feet. And, by seeing Your lotus feet, we don’t have to see the repetition of birth and death.” Devotees accept problems as the mercy of the Lord and it can actually accelerate their progress and help them take more shelter of the Lord. And we should always bear in mind that the Lord will never give a test that is beyond our capacity to pass. He will give us tests that make us stronger.
Even in education, there have been experiments where the schools didn’t give tests. They were trying to create an environment where the children are inspired to learn and are enthusiastic to learn on their own. What they found was that children who didn’t have tests didn’t learn as much as children who did have tests. Tests are good. Krishna is always testing us but He won’t give us a test that we can’t pass. And the basic tests are—will we remember Krishna, take His shelter, or will we forget Krishna and seek shelter elsewhere? And, all these little tests are to prepare us for the big test that faces us during the time of death.
DEVOTEE (5): You mentioned that we can be happy only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord. But still, I try to be happy independently thinking I’m in control of the situation. I tend to forget repeatedly that Krishna is the controller. How can I always remember that my happiness and everything that I’m doing is only by the mercy and will of the Supreme Lord?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: The best method is by hearing. You might have heard that Srila Prabhupada said, “First class learns by hearing. Second class learns by seeing. Third class learns by experiencing. Fourth class never learns.” So, the best is hearing. Just like by hearing Srila Prabhupada’s purport—hearing and meeting are the same. We must read Srila Prabhupada’s books. Like what we read today reminds us that Krishna is the controller. So, I think a constant dose of reading and hearing will remind us. Of course, the material nature will also remind us that we are not in control. There is also the valuable association of advanced devotees who have surrendered and by their association, their example, their mode of behavior, you will get an idea of what you should be like. That opportunity is also very good. And, good chanting . . . good chanting will purify your mind from the misconception that you’re in control, that you’re the enjoyer, or the doer.
So, hearing is the best and apart from the content of what you hear, what it is instructing, the hearing itself cleanses the heart. Sravanam kirtanam. So, when you keep on hearing His messages, Krishna’s heart melts and He helps the devotee by cleansing the desires of the material world.
DEVOTEE (6): Long ago I heard this series on Nectar of Instruction by you and I remember in the very first class you said, “Prabhupada’s purports are deceptively simple. They will have a meaning which you can just read and grasp quickly, but in each purport there is a deeper meaning that is always present.” So, how do we understand the deeper meaning and not just remain on the surface? Is it by hearing more lectures on the same topic from other devotees?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Oh! He called them “deceptively simple.” So, the answer is repeated reading because all the clarification you get on repeated chanting and hearing and serving—that purifies your heart and then you can be more receptive to the purports’ meanings. Repeated reading is also very powerful. Like when Nectar of Devotion first came out, at the time the devotees in the movement were new-ish, and there were a lot of advanced topics in the book so Srila Prabhupada said, “If you don’t understand something, don’t speculate. Just keep reading again and again.” So, there is power in repetition. Srila Prabhupada also said that “Although from a literary point of view, repetition may be a fault, we will not say, ‘Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ in one book. We will say ‘Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ everywhere.” Because repetition goes deeper.
One of the early disciples was named Jadurani. She had read, “Moon is churned in the ocean of milk.” She couldn’t understand what it meant so Srila Prabhupada said, “Just repeat it.” So she repeated several times, “Moon is churned in the ocean of milk.” Then Srila Prabhupada asked her, “Do you understand it now?” to which she said, “Yes. Moon is churned in the ocean of milk.” (laughs)
So yes, I would say a combination of purification and repetition will help you understand the deeper meaning of Srila Prabhupada’s purports. Bhurijana Prabhu has written some magnificent books including Surrender Unto Me: An Overview of the Bhagavad-gita. And then he wrote Unveiling His Lotus Feet: A Detailed Overview of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Cantos One-Four. And he said that most of his insights come just by repeated reading. He’d read again and again and again, and things emerge, the meanings emerge, and their relationships—between verses and sections—emerge. In fact, he wrote a nice article on prayerful reading, which I will send to you. From prayerful reading, you also get more meaning, more understanding.