June 12, 2020
Questions & Answers
DEVOTEE (1): You began by saying, with the story, that we should not take parampara for granted. I can feel that you also follow and understand the value of it and never took it for granted because you personally have gone through so much struggle and did not get it so easily. There were so many spiritual masters. At the same time you quoted manusyanam sahasresu… out of thousands of men very few will try, and among the few, only some will get perfection. Is it still applicable to the Krishna consciousness movement? Krishna said this 5000 years back – is this still applicable to the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu? We have a vast range of people coming and not everybody is taking this movement seriously. I may have a little struggle, but my children were born in the movement. So what is the hope for them? Will the special mercy of Lord Caitanya and Prabhupada work? Or does everyone have to be serious and sincere?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: You’re talking about the children?
DEVOTEE (1): Everybody actually, because even if you come to the Hare Krishna movement, many times we forget and we take it for granted and we start demanding different things and forgetting the real purpose. So my question was general. Those who are born in this movement, those who are not taking it seriously and taking it for granted, and those who are coming to the movement may also take it for granted.
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Well we’ll start with the children. As His Holiness Rtadhvaja Swami often says, they are born in the Hare Krisha movement, but they haven’t decided to join the Hare Krishna movement. And it’s up to us, the elders – by our words, by our example, by our loving care – to make them want to join the Hare Krishna movement. As far as people coming in touch with the movement, it’s true – manusyanam sahasresu – they may not all be so serious or sincere. I had many friends – we were all spiritual seekers – and when I discovered Srila Prabhupada, I went to them and I said, “This is it! This is what we’ve been looking for!” but they didn’t come. They might have visited or come for a lecture, but they didn’t come forward. Maybe they weren’t sincere or serious. I don’t know if I answered your question. Usually with people whose family members are not devotees, I give them two advices: one is they should be very happy, and the other is they should deal very nicely with their family members and everyone. And if people see that they’re happy and that they deal nicely with them and with others, then that will be the best recommendation for Krishna consciousness. Because quite often you can’t exactly preach to your family members. But if they see you’re happy and they see you’re treating them nicely and dealing with others nicely, they’ll be impressed with Krishna consciousness.
DEVOTEE (2): When will your book about Juhu be available?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Well, it’s written. And even the back matter is finished. The only thing left is the general index, and we’re in the final stage of the general index. Otherwise, it’s basically ready. But with the Coronavirus, I’m not sure when it will be printed. The book will be printed by the Australian BBT under Devamrita Swami, and Devamrita Swami wanted to ask the other BBT divisions how many copies they wanted so they could get in on the print run. But he felt that with the Coronavirus pandemic their consciousness is preoccupied, and I also agreed, it really is not the right time to ask them because everyone feels so much uncertainty right now. And I don’t know what’s going to happen now, I was planning to go to India in October and release the book there – have the launch in India in October. But I don’t know what’s going to happen with my travels to India. Probably within a few days or a week at most, the general index – which is the only part that’s still pending – that will be finished. But thank you for asking.
DEVOTEE (3): In your journey so far – and the reason I’m asking this question is because I’m very fallen and I have a lot of problems – in your journey so far, did you ever have a period of time, or a moment, where you had struggles being in the movement?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: I will share with you an exchange I had with Srila Prabhupada in Calcutta in 1971 at the time of the first Calcutta Pandal. I said to Srila Prabhpuada, “Now you are here, so everything is good. But what if, in the future, when you’re not here, ISKCON falls from the standard? What should I do?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “You are also one of the important members of the Society, so you work for the improvement. But don’t leave.” I didn’t really consider myself to be an important member of the Society, but I have always kept that instruction in my heart, that you work for the correction but don’t leave. So it was never an option for me to leave. I think of another exchange with Srila Prabhupada now, with Bhakti Swarupa Damodara Swami Maharaj, who told him, “Srila Prabhupada, I am just one department of the BI” – the Bhaktivedanta Institute – “and I have to deal with so many problems. And you have the whole worldwide movement. I can’t even imagine how many problems you have to deal with.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Problems? I don’t see any problems. I see only service to my Guru Maharaj.” So from that perspective, it’s all service. I mean of course, there have been different kinds of difficulties. One was, I had cardiac bypass surgery, and I fell 63 days of rounds behind. I mean there were many, many days when I couldn’t chant at all. And then, even afterwards, when I was feeling a little better, I could chant some rounds but not 16. So I kept falling further and further behind. So eventually I came to be 63 days of rounds behind. But I made them up. I kept track and I made them up. And I do think that is an important principle: to chant our 16 rounds, and if we miss, to make them up. I think it’s just Srila Prabhupada’s mercy that’s been keeping me going all this time. Frankly, I think that’s the only thing. And the association of well-wishing devotees.
DEVOTEE (4): I wonder, are there times when you reflect on the fact that you found [Srila Prabhupada], and what is that reflection? Because you were looking for broken glass, but you found diamonds. So I just wonder what your thought is sometimes when you think about the fact that not only did you find your Guru, but who you found.
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: It’s interesting that you mentioned Dhruva Maharaj, because he went into the forest to get his kingdom, and then he found God. And the Lord asked him if he wanted any boon, and he said, “No. I was searching for pieces of broken glass and I found the most valuable jewel”. I mentioned indirectly that I was always in the mood to serve people – first I thought as a doctor, then I thought as a psychologist. So one of the first days with Srila Prabhupada, I asked the question that, “I heard from you about the importance of service to God, but what about service to man? Where does service to man fit in?” And then he quoted the story of Dhruva Maharaj. And at the end, when God asked him to accept some boon, Dhruva replied, svamin krtartho ‘smi varam na yace: “My dear Lord, I am fully satisfied, I do not want any benediction from You.” And then Srila Prabhupada said, “To give people something that they’re so satisfied, they don’t want anything more in life – is that not service to man?” And he said, “Then when you’re fully satisfied, you have no more desires – no more pick-pocketing”. That phrase, pick-pocketing, really resonated with me. Because I was a very honest person, but a friend of mine sort of turned me onto, maybe not exactly pick-pocketing, but shoplifting. You go into a shop, you get some small items, you put them in your pocket. So when Srila Prabhupada said, “No more pick-pocketing,” I thought, Wow, I’ve been doing that. It’s been like pick-pocketing. No more pick-pocketing now, just depend on Krishna – be satisfied with what Krishna provides. So, I am so indebted to Srila Prabhupada on every level.
DEVOTEE (5): I wanted to ask about a famous sloka. I had some unclarity about the sloka – chapter 9, verse 26 – the one regarding, “If one with loving devotion offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or a little water, I will accept it.” Today at noon arati, I went for prasadam because we’re finally open at the Detroit temple. And I had mentioned that sloka and someone had mentioned to me, “Not any leaf – it has to be a Tulsi leaf.” I thought, well in the sloka it just says a leaf, just any leaf. And they said, “No, it must be a Tulsi leaf because Tulsi is a dear devotee of Lord Krishna”. So can you clarify this sloka for me? Does it have to be a Tulsi leaf?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: Well, of course Tulsi is preferred by Krishna, but I never took it that the verse meant only Tulsi. There was one incident, it was during the struggle of the Juhu land, and Srila Prabhupada was staying at a life member’s home – not quite completed – in the Juhu development scheme, which was maybe a mile from the temple. One morning he was speaking with some of the senior devotees and supporters about the difficulties and how to solve them. And suddenly, this laborer – you could see, he had a very dark complexion, sinewy, muscular, and he had just a little white cloth around his waist, sort of faded. He just suddenly appeared at the door – Prabhupada was on the second floor. He suddenly appeared at the door, he walked right up to Srila Prabhupada, and he presented him a collection of flowers and leaves. And he put his head down, bowed down, and walked out. And Srila Prabhupada was so moved, he was choked up, and he couldn’t speak for a few moments. And then he quoted that verse, patram puspam phalam. And he said, “Even Krishna is moved by a simple offering of patram puspam phalam toyam. So what to speak of me, I’m just an insignificant living entity”. So he thought of that verse when that laborer offered him the leaves and flowers. And I’m pretty sure there was no Tulsi among those leaves, but Srila Prabhupada was still very touched by the offering.
DEVOTEE (6): When you joined Srila Prabhupada, when you heard him and when you went and told your parents that you had to join the temple, was it easy for you to immediately join? Or did it take some time for you to become a full time devotee?
GIRIRAJ SWAMI: I would say, it didn’t take me time, but it took them time. I joined right before my graduation, and I asked the devotees, “Should I continue?” There was maybe a month left. And they said, “Yes, you should graduate – it might be good in the future”. So I would go back to the campus, but really I was so enthusiastic about Krishna consciousness that I hardly spoke about the studies, I was just telling my classmates about Krishna consciousness. But when the exams came, it was as if whatever answers I knew, those questions were on the exam. There was one question about evolution, so I was repeating the theory of evolution and I thought, Oh my God, I’m missing something – there’s something I haven’t gotten. But then I got an ‘A’ for that exam. And then I realized, the defect was not in my understanding of the theory; the defect was in the theory itself, it didn’t really hold together. So I graduated and my parents came for the graduation. I don’t know how much I told them before they came, but it was a shock. You know, in those days, we would all do menial service and I was very new. So part of my service was peeling the potatoes in the kitchen. And my father said, “I spent all this money to put you through university and now you’re peeling potatoes”. But we did some chanting in the park; my mother sort of danced with the devotees. My grandmother was going to come, it was like a big thing because I was the first grandchild graduating from university. But they told her not to come. I don’t know what excuse they gave, because they knew it would have been hard on her. I don’t know if it’s all grandmothers or more so Jewish grandmothers, but they get together and they talk about what their grandchildren are doing. So she didn’t exactly say that I was a Hare Krishna devotee in India, but she said I was in India writing a book. And now her words are coming true, because all of that has culminated in the book about Srila Prabhupada. It’s true, I was in India working on a book. (Laughter)