As promised in the last post some further nectar and glorification Sri Gadadhara Pandita on his disappearance day.  We are sharing the Gadadharastakam which is also known by its opening line sva-bhakti-yoga-lasinam.

sada vraje
aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned and exalted spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, who appears very splendid, engaged in the Lord's devotional service. He always performs pastimes in Vraja, where he is very prominent among the gopis, who are very dear to Lord Hari. Lord Caitanya, the Son of Saci is the dear Lord of Gadadhara Prabhu, who is preaching the service of Radha and Krsna.

navojjvaladi- bhavana-vidhana-karma-paragam
bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. He is expertly absorbed in meditation on the nine rasas of devotional service, beginning with ujjvala-rasa, and he dances in the waves of the amazing ocean of devotional service to Lord Caitanya. He preaches the path of raganuga-bhakti, and He is a fit person to attain residence in the transcendental land of Vraja.

bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned and exalted spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. It is only because of him that the truth of the exalted devotional service performed by the intimate associates of Krsna in the forests and groves of Vrndavana has been revealed. He is preaching the ecstatic love attained by the gopis, and he is indeed a personification of the mellows of devotional service. The saintly devotees take shelter of his lotus feet, and he teaches the truth of spiritual life to the living entities.

sada sakhi-rati-pradam maha-rasa-svarupakam
sadacritagghri-pankajam sariri-sad-gurum varam
bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned and exalted spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. It is only because of him that the truth of the exalted devotional service performed by the intimate associates of Krsna in the forests and groves of Vrndavana has been revealed. He is preaching the ecstatic love attained by the gopis, and he is indeed a personification of the mellows of devotional service. The saintly devotees take shelter of his lotus feet, and he teaches the truth of spiritual life to the living entities.

mahaprabhor maha-rasa-prakasanagkuram priyam
bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. He is very dear to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and it is as if he had sprouted from the manifestation of the Lord’s ecstatic love. He is always adorned with the garments of ecstatic love of Godhead, and He delights Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu by arousing in the Lord the ecstatic emotional love experienced by the gopis of Vraja.

bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. With delight he is giving the devotional service of Lord Caitanya which reveals the nectarean ocean of the most exalted mellows of devotional service, along with the nectar flowing from the lotus feet of the gopis, headed by Srimati Radharani, who is most dear to Krsna. Gadadhara Prabhu is decorated with the eight transcendental ecstatic symptoms of sattvika-bhava, and he is distributing devotional service to his worshipable Lord Krsna.

bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam gurum prabhum

I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. With delight he is giving the devotional service of Lord Caitanya which reveals the nectarean ocean of the most exalted mellows of devotional service, along with the nectar flowing from the lotus feet of the gopis, headed by Srimati Radharani, who is most dear to Krsna. Gadadhara Prabhu is decorated with the eight transcendental ecstatic symptoms of sattvika-bhava, and he is distributing devotional service to his worshipable Lord Krsna.

naro `api yati turnam eva narya-bhava-bhajanam
tam ujjvalakta-cittam etu citta-matta-catpado
bhajamy aham gadadharam supanditam guram prabhum

I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. Even a conditioned soul, whose mind becomes anointed by the colorful waves of spontaneous devotional service as delineated by Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, quickly attains the highest level of devotional service. He becomes like a maddened bumble bee whose mind is anointed with the mellow of ujjvala-

sada gadadhara-astakam
pathet tu yah subhaktito vrajaggana-ganotsavam
labheta radhika-gadadharagghri-padma-sevaya

These eight verses glorifying Srila Gadadhara Prabhu distribute the nectar of the most exalted mellow of devotional service, and they are like a festival for the gopis of Vraja. If one regularly reads these verses and serves the lotus feet of Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, who is an incarnation of Srimati Radharani, then he will become qualified to attain the jewel of pure devotional service for the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, the son of Sacidevi.

Jaya Gadadhara!
Gauranga! Gauranga!
A quote from the Vaishnava Etiquette manual...
"Basic etiquette must be followed when another devotee is preaching. He should not be suddenly interrupted unless there is
something urgent."

Okay...this is a family blog site and once in a while we should be able to air a pet peeve or two, so bear with me...

I will paint the picture. At our local ISKCON centre, there is a out of town sanyasi speaking. He is delivering a outstanding lecture that is reeling it in and devotees as well as new comers/not so often comers are clearly taking it in. I need back support so I find a corner and I'm enjoying the lecture. There is always the constant "hum" from the hallway that you get used to...at least people have stepped out to do their talking business there.

But then a cell phone rings and the reciever actually takes the call hurring into the hall. There is the restless kid. The discussion that just can't wait. Then as it gets closer to prasadam time the flood gates open up. More and more people are sitting here and squeezing there. Then they are discussing this and that. They are calling out to their loved ones to join them in the last 2 square feet left between them and the prasadam tables. Oblivous to their surroundings it is okay to even holler. And the stream of the lecture is long gone...at least it is for me in my particular spot. The words of wisdom by a person that has dedicated his life to deliver these words on behalf of Srila Prabhupada are dismissed by these few.

Oblivious to what the missed at least they are conscious of the prasadam....and that is the mercy of Gauranga! If they cannot recieve His mercy in the form of the discourse, they can still recieve it in the form of prasadam. Gauranga! Gauranga!  

Disclaimer: today's post by Indresh :-) 
Our (temporary) hometown, Toronto witnessed a huge show this past weekend called the IIFA or International Indian Film Awards. It was a spectacle with 22,000 fans paying hundreds of dollars per ticket at the main stadium with thousands more lined up on the street and millions watching on television, some paying $40 each for pay per view. 

It is all the rage to have these specialty channels that beam these characters from India directly into your home so countless hours can be wasted in escaping into an illusion they have created. (Fortunatly we do not get  this beamed into our home).  

But what value do these characters truly have? Do they have knowledge of the true purpose of life? Are they exporting anything belonging to vedic India? The imagery often promotes intoxication, crime, lust, anger, greed and characteristics that are not part of our vaishnava culture and contrary to our regulative principals. 

So in the thousands they lined up "chanting" the names of their idols. They were literally "worshipping" them! In the news they talked about a young lady fainting at the sight of her idol. And in the temple yesterday someone told me how one person threw himself at the feet of his idol....begging him to also make him a star. For the most part these people are born in the Land of Krishna but they have forgotten their true identity. They can line up for hours on the street for a glimpse of their idol but heaven forbid you suggest they go to the temple, read a book or even chant the maha mantra once a day....in that case they do not have time. After all they are busy with their "idol worship" but they look down and say we do "Idol worship" :-) 

Actually trying to have consciousnness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna is keeping us very busy and that is a better use of  time, energy and Lakshmi (money)...but thats just our opinion. Since we are of limited knowledge and are still trying to grasp at the treasure of this vedic knowledge, we would like to share a quote from a purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. Food for thought...

"The invincibly powerful deluding energy of the Personality of God, or the third energy, representing nescience, can bewilder the entire world of animation, but still she is not strong enough to be able to stand in front of the Supreme Lord. Nescience is behind the Personality of Godhead, where she is powerful enough to mislead the living beings, and the primary symptom of bewildered persons is that they talk nonsense. Nonsensical talks are not supported by the principles of Vedic literatures, and first-grade nonsense talk is "It is I, it is mine." A godless civilization is exclusively conducted by such false ideas, and such persons, without any factual realization of God, accept a false God or falsely declare themselves to be God to mislead persons who are already bewildered by the deluding energy."  Purport from 2nd canto, 5th chapter, verse 13

This is from the Srimad Bhagavatam  one of the jewels of our vedic culture. Perhaps when these "idols" are representing Vedic India and taking the time to read and expound these texts, we will take the time to see and hear them...
Yogini Ekadasi Yudhisthira Maharaj said, "Oh Supreme Lord, I have heard the glories of the Nirjala Ekadasi, which occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha (May - June). Now I wish to hear from You about the suddha Ekadasi that occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Ashadha (June - July). Kindly describe to me all about it in detail, Oh killer of the Madhu demon (Madhusudana)."

The Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, then replied, "Oh king, I shall indeed tell you about the best of all fasting days, the Ekadasi that comes during the dark part of the month of Ashadha. Famous as Yogini Ekadasi, it removes all kinds of sinful reactions and awards supreme liberation. "Oh best of kings, this Ekadasi delivers people who are drowning in the vast ocean of material existence and transports them to the shore of the spiritual world. In all the three worlds, it is the chief of all sacred fasting days. I shall now reveal this truth to you by narrating a history recounted in the Puranas.

"The king of Alakapuri - Kuvera, the treasurer of the devas (demigods) - was a steadfast devotee of lord Shiva. He employed a servant named Hemamali as his personal gardener. Hemamali, a Yaksha like Kuvera, was very lustfully attracted to his gorgeous wife, Swarupavatii, who had large, enchanting eyes. "Hemamali's daily duty was to visit Manasarovara Lake and bring back flowers for his master, Kuvera, with which he would use them in the puja offerings to lord Shiva. One day, after picking the flowers, Hemamali went to his wife instead of returning directly to his master and fulfilling his duty by bringing the flowers for the puja. Absorbed in loving affairs of a bodily nature with his wife, he forgot to return to the abode of Kuvera. "Oh king, while Hemamali was enjoying with his wife, Kuvera had begun the worship of lord Shiva as normal in his palace and soon discovered that there were no flowers ready to be offered in the midday puja. The lack of such an important item (upachara) angered the great Koshad-yaksha (treasurer of the devas) even more, and he asked a Yaksha messenger, 'Why has dirty-hearted Hemamali not come with the daily offering of flowers? Go find out the exact reason and report back to me in person with your findings.' The Yaksha returned and told Kuvera, 'Oh dear lord, Hemamali has become lost in freely enjoying coitus with his wife.'

"Kuvera became extremely angry when he heard this and at once summoned lowly Hemamali before him. Knowing that he had been remiss and dawdling in his duty and exposed as meditating on his wife's body, Hemamali approached his master in great fear. The gardener first paid his obeisances and then stood before his lord, whose eyes had become red with anger and whose lips trembled in rage. So enraged, Kuvera cried out to Hemamali, 'Oh you sinful rascal! Oh destroyer of religious principles! You are a walking offense to the devas! I therefore curse you to suffer from white leprosy and to become separated from your beloved wife! Only great suffering is deservedly yours! Oh lowborn fool, leave this place immediately and betake yourself to the lower planets to suffer!'

"And so Hemamali fell at once from grace in Alakapuri and became ill with the terrible affliction of white leprosy. He awoke in a dense and fearful forest, where there was nothing to eat or drink. Thus he passed his days in misery, unable to sleep at night due to pain. He suffered in both winter and summer season, but because he continued to worship lord Shiva himself with faith, his consciousness remained purely fixed and steady. Although implicated by great sin and its attendant reactions, he remembered his past life because of his piety.

"After wandering for some time here and there, over mountains and across plains, Hemamali eventually came upon the vast expanse of the Himalayan mountain ranges. There he had the wonderful good fortune to come in contact with the great saintly soul Markandeya Rishi, the best of ascetics, whose duration of life it is said, extends to seven of the days of Brahma.

"Markandeya Rishi was seated peacefully at his Ashrama, looking as effulgent as a second Brahma. Hemamali, feeling very sinful, stood at a distance from the magnificent sage and offered his humble obeisances and choice prayers. Always interested in the welfare of others, Markandeya Rishi saw the leper and called him near, "Oh you, what sort of sinful deeds have you done to earn this dreadful affliction?'

"Hearing this, Hemamali painfully and ashamed replied, 'Dear sir, I am a Yaksha servant of lord Kuvera, and my name is Hemamali. It was my daily service to pick the flowers from the Manasarovara lake for my master's worship of lord Shiva, but one day I was negligent and was late in returning with the offering because I had become overwhelmed with lusty passion for enjoying bodily pleasures with my wife. When my master discovered why I was late, he cursed me in great anger to be as I am before you. Thus I am now bereft of my home, my wife, and my service. But fortunately I have come upon you, and now I hope to receive from you an auspicious benediction, for I know that devotees such as you are as merciful as the Supreme Lord (Bhakta Vatsala) and always carry the interest of others uppermost in their hearts. That is their - your nature. Oh best of sages, please help me!'

"Softhearted Markandeya Rishi replied, 'Because you have told me the truth, I shall tell you about a fast day that will benefit you greatly. If you fast on the Ekadasi that comes during the dark fortnight of the month of Ashadha, you will surely be freed of this terrible curse.'

Hemamali fell to the ground in complete gratitude and offered him his humble obeisances again and again. But Markandeya Rishi stood there and lifted poor Hemamali to his feet, filling him with inexpressible happiness.

"Thus, as the sage had instructed him, Hemamali dutifully observed the Ekadasi fast, and by its influence he again became a handsome Yaksha. Then he returned home, where he lived very happily with his wife."

Lord Sri Krishna concluded, "So, you can readily see, Oh Yudhishthira that fasting on Yogini Ekadasi is very powerful and auspicious. Whatever merit one obtains by feeding eighty-eight thousand brahmins is also obtained simply by observing a strict fast on Yogini Ekadasi. For one who fasts on this sacred Ekadasi, she (Ekadasi Devi), destroys heaps of past sinful reactions and makes him most pious. Oh King, thus I have explained to you the purity of Yogini Ekadasi."

Thus ends the narration of the glories of Ashadha-krishna Ekadasii, or Yogini Ekadasi, from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana.

Tomorrow is Yogini Ekadasi (fasting from grains and beans). Story will be posted tomorrow but at least the Ekadasi reminder is posted the day before as previously requested by a couple of readers.

Hare Krishna.
Today is the disappearance day of Sri Srivasa Pandita and here are a few glories of Srivasa Pandita.

1. He is jiva-tattva or the marginal potency of Sri Krsna.
2. He appears on earth as suddha bhakta or unalloyed devotee of Lord Caitanya.
3. He is the perfect brahmana Vaisnava, and the foremost devotee of the Lord.
4. He was an accomplished kirtana leader. Every year at Rathayatra he would lead one of the kirtana parties for the pleasure of Lord Caitanya.
5.Lord Gauranga showed His divine form to all His eternal associates in Srivasa's angam.
6.The house of Srivasa Pandit served as the headquarters of Gauranga's sankirtana movement. It was here that daily Bhagavatam classes, nightly kirtans, and many confidential Vraja pastimes of Lord Gauranga occurred.
7.He dedicated all His energy to the Lord's Hari-Nama Sankirtana movement.
8.He surrendered his mind, body, friends, family, and possessions to Lord Gaura's service.
9.He knew no other gods or goddesses.
10.He maintained his family not because they were his relatives but because they were Sri Caitanya's loving servants.

On March 26th the blog post was about Sri Srivasa Pandita's apperance day. In that post we shared the story of "Khol Banga Danga" where the Muslim Kazi broke the mrdanga in Sri Srinavasa's  house and tried to stop Harinam sankirtan. It showed the potency of sankirtan where harinam could not be stopped but rather with Mahaprabhu's mercy the Muslim Kazi turned into a devotee.

Today we are going to share another story that took place in Sri Srinivasa's house...

One evening, Sri Gaurasundara, accompanied by His associates, was engaged in chanting and dancing at the house of Srivasa Thakura when one of Srivas Thakur's sons passed away after having suffered the effects of some disease.

Within the inner apartment of his house, the women began to wail in lamentation at the boy's untimely death. Srivasa Pandita, who was outside in the courtyard, understood some tragedy must have taken place.
He quickly entered the house only to find that his son had passed on to the next world. As he was a very grave devotee and completely conversant in the science of the Absolute Truth, he was able to console the women in their grief.   "You are all aware of Krsna's glories, so please restrain yourselves and don't cry. Whoever during his last moment hears the Lord's Holy Name, even though he might be the greatest sinner, attains Krsna's abode. And that incomparably wonderful Lord, He whose glories are sung by all His servants up to and including Lord Brahma, is now personally dancing in the courtyard of your house.

"This moment is so auspicious that it is sure this boy has successfully completed his journey from this world. Is there anything to be lamented at in this? His good fortune is completely assured. I can understand that whatever part I have played in this is also crowned with success."
  He concluded by telling them, "If you can't control your emotions because of your family affection to the boy, then at least don't cry now, you can cry later. The Supreme Lord of Gokula Himself, Sri Gaurasundara, is performing sankirtana accompanied by His devotees in this house. If, due to your crying, the happiness that He is experiencing from dancing in ecstasy during sankirtana is disturbed, then I will just this minute jump into the Ganges and thus give up my own life."  

"Not a blade of grass moves unless by Krsna's will. To see in this happiness or distress, or knowledge or ignorance is simply imagination. Know that whatever Krsna wills is good, and thus, giving up your own selfish desires, become free from confusion and unnecessary botheration. Krsna is giving and Krsna is taking away, and it is Krsna alone Who is maintaining everyone. Someone He protects and someone He destroys, all according to His will. If someone contemplates something contrary to Krsna's will, then as a result of His desire He only get torment. Giving up all lamentation, simply hear Krsna's name, and thus pass through all difficulties feeling great happiness. Then your desires will actually be fulfilled.'  

Having given all of these instructions to those present, Srivasa again went outside to join Mahaprabhu in ecstatic chanting and dancing. The women, leaving the dead body, came to hear the kirtan of Mahaprabhu. And so Mahaprabhu continued His chanting until the middle of the night.  

When everyone was at last leaving to take rest, Mahaprabhu spoke. "Today My mind is feeling some tribulation. I think some sad event has occurred in Srivasa's house."  

The pandit replied, "What possible unhappiness could there be in that person's house where Your divinely blissful countenance is seen?"
"Srivasa! Why wasn't I feeling bliss in kirtana today? What inauspicious thing transpired in your house?"   Srivasa answered, "My Lord, You are Yourself all auspicious. Where You are present, no sorrow can be found anywhere!" But the other devotees informed the Lord that Srivasa's son had passed away.   Hearing this news, Gaura Raya cried out, "Alas, what a tragic event. Why didn't you tell me of this unfortunate news before?"

"I will explain," Srivasa Pandita replied. "I couldn't tolerate disturbing You while You were enjoying sankirtana. If one of my sons dies, what sorrow is there in that for me? If we all die while seeing You, that would actually be a matter of great happiness. On the other hand, if You would have to stop dancing, then perhaps I would have died. My Lord, this was the danger that I feared, and thus I didn't tell you at the time."

Seeing Srivasa Pandita's profound devotion, Sri Gaurasundara said, "How can I give up such company as this?" With tears in His eyes He continued. "Due to love for Me, he didn't even feel lamentation at the death of his son. How will I abandon their companionship?"
The Lord continued to cry, and the devotees began to worry within, having heard Him speak of leaving them.   Thereafter Mahaprabhu came to where the dead body of the infant was lying. Touching it, He called, "Boy! Why are you going away and leaving Srivasa Pandita?"

The life of the dead child returned at the touch of Mahaprabhu's hand. After offering obeisances to the Lord, he replied, "O Prabhu! Whatever You ordain is absolute. No one can do anything but what is sanctioned by You. As many days as I was destined to remain here, that many days I have stayed. Now that my time has elapsed, I have proceeded to leave.
  "My Lord, I have taken birth and died repeatedly. But this time, at the time of death, I passed away quite happily, having taken darsana of Your beautiful face."

After saying this, the child became silent. Sri Gauranga Raya thus enjoyed a kind of transcendental sport. Having heard the uncommon words of the dead child, the devotees floated in the ocean of bliss. Srivasa Pandita, along with his family members, then fell at the lotus feet of Sri Gaursundara and cried in ecstatic love.

Mahaprabhu then told him, "Since Myself and Nityananda are your two sons, please don't feel any more distress in your mind over what has happened." Hearing these compassionate words of their Lord, the devotees cheers were resounded throughout the heavens.

Proving the statements of sastra, Their Lordships Gaura-Nityananda became deeply indebted to Srivasa due to his great love for and service to Them.

[To borrow further from our March post...]
shri-krishna-caitanya prabhu nityananda shri-advaita gadadhara shrivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrinda

So many times a day as we take the Pancha Tattva mantra we take the name of Sri Srivasa Pandita. He is sometimes referred to as "bhataakhya" since he is the purest of devotees. Such purity that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed His 4 hand form complete with conch, disc, club and lotus flower to Srivasa Pandita in his house.

Jaya Shrivasadi!
Sri Sri Radha Kanta. The same deities worshipped by Sri Vakresvara Pandita
Monday was the appearance day of Sri Vakresvara Pandita. (the post is a bit tardy)
Sri Vakresvara Pandita represents the 5th branch of the Caitanya tree. How important is this branch? When Mahaprabu was in Nadia he stated "...Vakreshwar is fully imbued with the Lord's transcendental energy, and whoever becomes devoted to him, attains to the lotus feet of Sri Krsna. His heart is the personal abode of Sri Krsna and as Sri Krsna dances, so Vakreshwar also dances. Wherever one can get the association of Vakreshwar, that place is the sum total of all Holy places and is as good as Sri Vaikuntha."

As we have done in previous posts glorifying the branches of Caitanya Mahaprabu's tree, we turn to Caitanya Caritamrta Adi-lila chapter 10 which specifically lays out the trunk, branches and sub-branches of the Caitanya tree. 

Verse 17 states Vakresvara Pandita, the fifth branch of the tree, was a very dear servant of Lord Caitanya's. He could dance with constant ecstasy for seventy-two hours.

In Srila Prabhupada's purport he states "In the
Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (71) it is stated that VakresvaraPandita was an incarnation of Aniruddha, one of the quadruple expansions of Visnu (Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Aniruddha and Pradyumna). He could dance wonderfully for seventy-two continuous hours. When Lord CaitanyaMahaprabhu played in dramatic performances in the house of SrivasaPandita, VakresvaraPandita was one of the chief dancers, and he danced continuously for that length of time..."

Imagine that...72 continuous hours of dancing in ecstasy! Gauranga!

Verse 18 to 20 contiunes as follows:
SriCaitanyaMahaprabhu personally sang while VakresvaraPandita danced, and thus VakresvaraPandita fell at the lotus feet of the Lord and spoke as follows.
"O Candramukha! Please give me ten thousand Gandharvas. Let them sing as I dance, and then I will be greatly happy."
Caitanya replied, "I have only one wing like you, but if I had another, certainly I would fly in the sky!" So the benediction from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is clear with his statement in Nadia and His great pleasure with the performance of Vakresvara Prabhu. In a similar way, when I watch the young ones dance for the Lord, you can see Mahaprabhu's pleasure and feel the wave of ecstasy in temple. Gauranga!

When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in Puri he stayed at Kasi Misra's house. Later, Sri Vakresvara Pandita also stayed there and to add to this nectar he worshipped the beautiful forms of Sri Sri Radha Kanta. To this day these deities continue to be worshipped and a picture of Them is above.

Jaya Sri Sri Radha Kanta!
Jaya Sri Vakresvara Pandita!

[Editor's note: Dandavats to all the readers who take the time to share this nectar with us. Apologies for posts being a bit off schedule so far this month. Subhavilasa Prabhu (my dad) has a couple of notebooks full of notes and nectar and I am trying to keep up.  I am a bit off track in transcribing them and hope to be back on track with daily posts soon...]

We were just about to do a Father's day post but this article came across, written by HH Radhanath Swami. Our Father's day post will be posted tomorrow or so. (We have been running late all this month, so why should today be any different)
I was recently blessed with the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Dr. Cornel West -- a brilliant thinker and someone I have come to regard as a heartfelt friend and spiritual brother. Among the many profound things Dr. West spoke that evening at Princeton, one thing he said struck me deeply. "I am who I am," he said, "because someone loved me." As I reflected on his words, images of various mentors and teachers flashed in my mind. I thought of all the kind, loving souls who have reached out to me over the years. Some of them were world-famous spiritual leaders; others were recluses living in unknown caves and jungles; while still others were everyday people. But Dr. West's statement especially brought one face to my mind: that of my father, a humble and amazing man named Jerry Slavin.

He is Jewish, but not particularly religious. Rather, he expressed his faith in God through his gratitude, kindness, and dedication to his family. He grew up during the Great Depression, and had to leave school at the age of fifteen to work in order to assist his parents. As a result, ever since his childhood he sincerely valued working hard and supporting his family. He and my beloved mother, Idelle, wanted the best for their three sons, but they were also careful not to spoil us.

In 1958, my father invested everything he had in a business venture and became the largest automobile dealership in Chicago for Ford's new Edsel line. But Edsel sales plummeted and my father fell into bankruptcy. I watched him struggle; working long hours to protect us from poverty. Throughout the struggle, I do not recollect where he displayed weak-heartedness or bitterness at his situation. Rather, he remained determined to keep trying and taught by his example to be grateful for whatever we had.
The day before I was to leave home for college, my father told me, "Richie, let's take a ride together." As we drove along the tranquil streets of Highland Park's Sherwood Forest, he spoke his heart. "Son," he began, "as long as I'm alive, I'm always here for you." Stopping the car, he held my hand as his voice quivered. "As your father, I expect you to do your best, but whether you succeed or fail, do good deeds or bad ones, or even betray me, as long as I'm alive, I'll love you and I'm here for you. This is a promise I will live and die to keep. Please, never forget this." Overwhelmed, I listened. I knew that he meant every word he spoke.

One year later, I would test my father's promise beyond his farthest expectations. A summer vacation in Europe unexpectedly transformed into an open-ended spiritual quest that had me hitchhiking for several years across three continents as a penniless seeker for truth. It was only weeks after they expected me home to continue college that I finally wrote my parents a letter and explained my resolve to travel overland to India in search of my spiritual calling. I wrote that letter en route, somewhere in Iran; it bore no return address. After that, I wrote to them at irregular frequencies while living in caves and sleeping under trees. I told them of meeting teachers and guides, and I eagerly and excitedly shared my reflections and realizations. I had some idea how much grief my quest must have caused them but as a teenager I couldn't fathom the extent. And they had no means to convey their feelings to me.

Later in my travels, when I settled for some time in a sacred village called Vrindavan, and finally had a return address to include, my father wrote me a letter that shook me. His tears had washed away words and whole passages. "Every day seems to last forever in guilt and worry," he wrote. "How can I live knowing my son to be living in jungle caves, alone with no money? What horrible things have I done to you that you have rejected me?" I felt so grateful for my father's love and hated the fact that I was causing him pain. At the same time, the burning in my heart for God's love was stronger than anything else I'd ever experienced. Searching my heart for the words to reassure him, I wrote him back. I knew that he could not comprehend my calling, and that my naïve words would likely perpetuate my parents' grief. But I had a simple faith that God understood my heart and would extend a loving hand to help them.

Many years have passed since then and my father has remained true to his word. At times, just to see me, he rode on primitive horse drawn wagons up muddy mountain paths to the ashrams where I resided. Although it was difficult for him to understand my choices, he has always loved and accepted me unconditionally, and he continues to do so today.

Two years ago, I shared the story of my journey in a book called The Journey Home. One morning I called my father on the telephone and asked how he was.

"Terrible," he exclaimed,

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I couldn't sleep all night."

"What happened?"

"I read your book before going to sleep."

"Was it that bad?"

"It was worse!" he gasped. "I read about how you were all alone in a desolate place being sucked down by quicksand. In the hot Indian sun you desperately struggled. If you had died that day and disappeared into the earth, your mother and I would have suffered our whole lives never knowing what happened to you."

"But father," I reassured, "that was 40 years ago. I'm safe now."

His reply was telling. "Son, you don't understand the heart of a father."

I realized that a father's love and concern is timeless. All spiritual paths teach us the importance of honoring one's parents. In my own spiritual journey, I became a swami on the Hindu path of Bhakti. In the Hindu tradition, a swami is a monk who forgoes regular family life for the purpose of making the whole world his family and channels his full energy into spiritual practice, devotion to God and service to humanity. This was difficult for my parents to comprehend, but they never discouraged me. In time they became proud and happy about the life I had chosen, beyond my imagination.

In 1989 my parents finally visited me in India for the first time. It was a transformative experience for them. They fell in love with the members of the community I serve with in Mumbai. To this day, my father considers these people some of his closest friends.

When my beloved mother passed from this world in 2004, my father requested that I deliver the eulogy at a Jewish funeral home and carry her ashes to India. "She took such pride in what you're doing there," he said, "and she had such love for your people." In a ceremony on the banks of the River Ganges, with over three thousand of our devotees chanting prayers, I immersed her ashes in the sacred river and prayed that her immortal self swiftly reach the sea of the Divine's loving grace. The moment was deeply significant for me. More than thirty years before, finding myself so far from home, I accepted the River Ganges as a mother. It was while meditating on her banks and in her cooling waters that I was nourished with sacred blessings that led me to my path. And now, through my father's broadmindedness and kindness, my biological mother and my spiritual mother had beautifully united. It was one of the most meaningful gifts my father had ever given to me.

My parents' selfless affection and dedication nourished and prepared me to receive the love of my guru or spiritual father, Swami Prabhupada. My parents prepared the soil in which my guru sowed the seeds of his compassion. His compassion transformed my life and enabled me to deeply appreciate the love of my parents and the dormant love that is the spiritual essence, in the hearts of all beings.

In Dr. West's beautiful words, "I am who I am", and aspire to be who I aspire to be, "because someone loved me". On this Father's Day let us all offer our gratitude to the fathers in our lives ... and our precious mothers too.

Thursday marked the disappearance day of Sri Syamananda Prabhu and as promised here is the post with more glories of theis Vaishnava Saint. What follows is one of my favorite stories which I have also included in a few lectures. I must acknowledge my Godbrother and the extremely knowledgeable and talented academic His Grace Nandanandana dasa for his historical and literary contributions glorifying the lives of Vaishnava saints, such as Sri Syamananda Prabhu...  

Everyone said that this child would be a very high-souled saintly person. "On the full moon day of the month of Caitra he has taken his birth at a very auspicious moment, by the mercy of Lord Jagannatha. It is as though Lord Jagannatha has personally brought him here in order to propagate His teachings, and therefore He is personally maintaining him. He looks just like a new cupid. One’s eyes and mind are soothed just to look upon him."

As time passed, the purificatory rites, his first taking of grains, tonsure and the rites for beginning his education were performed, one after the other. The scholars were astounded to see his profound intellect. Within a short period he completed his studies of grammar, poetry and rhetoric. When he heard of the glories of Sri Gaura-Nityananda from the Vaishnavas of his village, a very deep attachment to Their lotus feet developed in him.

Sri Krsna Mandal was himself a very advanced devotee. Seeing that his son was always absorbed in thinking of Gaura-Nityananda. He told him that he should be initiated into the divine mantra.

The boy replied, "Sri Hrdaya Caitanya is my guru. He is at Ambika Kalna. His guru is Sri Gauri dasa Pandita. The two brothers, Sri Gaura-Nityananda, are eternally present in his house. If you give your permission, I will proceed to there to become his disciple." His father asked, "But Duhkhiya, how will you get there?" "Father, there are many people from here who go there to bath in the Ganges. I will go with them."

His father deliberated for a great while on this matter and after going so he finally gave his permission. Thus Duhkhiya set out for Gaudadesa. Gradually he came to Navadwipa, then Santipur and finally Ambika Kalna, where he inquired from the local people where he might find the house of Gauri dasa Pandita. Outside the gate of the mandira, he fell down and offered his dandavats. Sri Hrdaya Caitanya happened to be passing by at this time. Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu looked at him for a few moments and then asked, "Who are you?"

Dukhiya replied, "I have come to serve Your lotus feet. My home is at Dharenda Bahadurpur. I was born in the caste of sad-gopas. My father’s name is Sri Krsna Mandal. My name is Duhkhiya."

Sri Hrdaya Caitanya was very pleased by this sweet speech. He told the boy, "From now your name is Krsna das. Since early this morning I was feeling that someone would come today."

Sri Krsna dasa began his service with great devotion, and on an auspicious day his guru initiated him into the divine mantra. Sri Hrdaya Caitanya could see that his new disciple was extremely intelligent and at the same time very devoted, so he ordered him to go to Vrindavana to study the literatures of the under the tutelage of Srila Jiva Gosvami. Sri Krsna das bowed his head in assent, and on an auspicious day he set out for the holy dhama. At the time of his departure, his guru gave him many instructions and conveyed through his disciple his obeisances to the lotus feet of the Gosvamis of Vrindavan.

Duhkhi Krsna das first came to Navadwipa. After inquiring from someone as to the whereabouts of Sri Jagannatha Misra Bhavan, he came there and went inside. Seeing Sri Isana Thakura, he fell down and offered his obeisances. Isana Thakura then asked him who he was, and so the boy introduced himself. Isana Thakura blessed him and he remained there that day.

The next day he set out for Mathura with a party of pilgrims. Upon coming to Gaya Dham he took of the lotus feet of Sri Visnu there. He remembered Mahaprabhu’s lila of accepting initiation from Sri Isvara Puri here and became overwhelmed in ecstatic love. From Gaya he came to Kasi Dham where he met with Tapan Misra, Candrasekhara and the other devotees, and he offered his salutations to their lotus feet. They in turn blessed him.

He finally entered Mathura Dhama. After taking bath at Visrama Ghata, he took darsana of Sri Adikesava and rolled on the ground in the dust of the birthplace of Sri Krsna. From here he proceeded towards Vrindavana where, after learning the where abouts of Srila Jiva Gosvami, he offered his obeisances to the lotus feet of that great acarya. After being asked, he introduced himself with full particulars.

"Gurudeva has committed me to your charge. His petition to Your Divine Grace is, ‘I am entrusting Duhkhi Krsna das to your care. Please fulfill his mind’s desire and send him back to me after some time.’"

Srila Jiva Gosvami was extremely happy to receive Duhkhi Krsna dasa into his care. Krsna das very carefully began to serve Jiva Gosvami as well as study the literatures of the Gosvamis.

Srinivasa Acarya and Narottama dasa Thakura also came to Sri Jiva at this time to study under him. Thus Krsna das had the opportunity to meet them.

Krsna das requested Srila Jiva Gosvami for a special service. Sri Jiva instructed him to sweep the forest grove of Sevakunja everyday. From that day he began to carry out this service with great pleasure. He felt that his life had become successful. As he swept, tears flowed from his eyes. Sometimes he would loudly chant the names of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and sometimes he would become inert while remembering Their pastimes. Sometimes he would put the broom, which was full of dust, on his head. Even Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva pray to receive a little of this dust of Vrindavana on their heads.

The Lord of Vrindavana and His consort were very pleased with the service of Krsna das, and desired to grant him Their darshan. One day while Krsna das was cleaning the kunja, his heart filled with love. Just then he happened to notice a very beautiful ankle bracelet lying in the dust. He picked it up, touched it to his head and then bound it in the corner of his upper cloth. "I’ll give it to whom ever it belongs to when they come to look for it," he thought.

The next morning the were quite shocked when they noticed that Srimati Radharani’s left ankle bracelet was missing. Radharani explained, "Last night, when I was dancing in the kunja, it must have fallen off. Please look for it and bring it back to me, who ever finds it."

When the gopis came to search for the bracelet, Visakha devi noticed Krsna das sweeping the grove. She asked him, "Have you found an ankle bracelet here?" Duhkhi Krsna dasa was so mesmerized by her sweet words and radiant form, which was like that of a demigoddess descended from heaven, that he simply stared at her dumbfounded.

Again she asked him, "Have you found an ankle bracelet here?"

Duhkhi Krsna made obeisances and humbly replied, "Yes, I found it. Who are you?"

- "I am a cowherd girl."

"Where do you stay?"

- "In this village."

"Is it your ankle bracelet?"

- "No it isn’t mine. It belongs to a new bride in our house."

"How did it get here?"

- "She came here yesterday to pick flowers and it must have fallen off then."

"All right, then please tell her she can come and collect it from me."

- "No, you can just give it to me."

"No, I want to give it to her personally."

After a few moments, Visakha devi returned with Srimati Radha Thakurani who stood in the shade at the foot of a large tree. Visakha called out to Krsna dasa, "Bhakta, the person who lost her ankle bracelet has come to receive it."

Duhkhi Krsna das completely forgot himself while gazing, even though it was from some distance, at the unparalleled, brilliant splendor of Sri Vrsabhanunandini. In great joy he handed the ankle bracelet to Visakha. At this point, Duhkhi Krsna dasa could sense hat something very profound was about to take place. His eyes filled with tears and he fell down on the ground to offer his obeisances. In great ecstasy he rolled in the dust.

Visakha then told him, "O best of the devotees! Our Sakhi wants to give you a benediction to express her gratitude."

Duhkhi Krsna dasa saw the holy waters of Radha kunda before him. After offering his obeisances, he immersed himself in her waters. Thus he attained a transcendentally beautiful feminine form. Coming out of the sacred kunda, he stood before Visakha devi and offered prayers. Taking this ‘forest sakhi’ by the hand, Visakha approached Srimati Radha Thakurani, and the new sakhi fell down at Her lotus feet. Then Srimati Radharani decorated her forehead with tilaka using the ankle bracelet and the kumkum of her lotus feet.

"This tilak will remain on your forehead. From today you will be known as Syamananda. Now you can go." After She said this, Srimati Radha Thakurani and Her sakhis were no longer to be seen. Dukhi Krsna dasa’s trance broke and he found himself as before, alone and in his male body: yet with the tilaka applied by Srimati Radharani still on his forehead. Being overwhelmed with emotion, he repeated over and over, "What have I seen?"

"What have I seen?", while tears of ecstasy rolled down his cheeks.

After reciting prayers hundreds and hundreds of times to Sri Radhika, he finally returned to Srila Jiva Gosvami. Sri Jiva Prabhu was struck with wonder when he saw the brilliant new design of tilaka on his young student’s forehead. After offering his prostrated obeisances, Dukhi Krsna dasa, his eyes brimming with tears, recounted at Jiva Goswami’s request his experience in Sevakunja. Hearing of his great fortune, Sri Jiva was elated, but cautioned Dukhi, "Don’t reveal this blessed event to anyone. From today, just carry on with the name Syamananda."

Noticing that Dukhi Krsna dasa’s name and style of tilaka had for reasons unknown been changed, the Vaishnavas naturally began to discuss this strange development amongst themselves. The news finally reached Ambika Kalna. When he heard of the seemingly unauthorized behavior of his disciple, Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu was unsettled and angered. He immediately set out for Vrindavana.

Arriving there some months later, he let it be known he wished to see the rest while Dukhi Krsna dasa, Syamananda came and offered his prostrated obeisances at his gurudeva’s lotus feet. Seeing his disciple’s tilaka, Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu was enraged and exclaimed, "Your conduct towards me is completely abominable."

He continued to chastise him and eventually even began beating him. The Vaishnavas finally managed to restrain and pacify him by offering various explanations on Syamananda’s behalf. Shyamananda simply tolerated it all with an unfaded countenance and continued to serve his gurudeva faithfully.

That night, Sri Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu had a dream in which Sri Radha Thakurani appeared in a very severe mood. She rebuked him by saying, "I am the one who, being very satisfied by Dukhi Krsna dasa’s service, changed his tilaka and his name. What do you or anyone else have to say about it?" Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu prayed for forgiveness at the lotus feet of Sri Vrajesvari and considered what an offender he had become.

The next morning he called for Syamananda. Taking him in his lap, he embraced him again and again in great affection. With his eyes brimming with tears he repeated, "You are so fortunate."

And we are so dortunate to be able to read this nectar and glorify Sri Syamananda Prabhu!

Go Krishna Go!


As some of you may have heard, there was a big hockey match up here in Canada, called the Stanley Cup. The local Canadian team was called the Vancouver Canucks playing against the Boston Bruins and their chant is "Go Canucks Go" but the devotees in Vancouver want to change that to "Go Krishna Go" and have their own chant.

Of course devotees realize that people are in illusion as they "worship" paid employees to chase a black puck around the ice. On top of that most of the players are neither from Vancouver and many not even from Canada but they waste their precious time, money and energy to glorify these false gods as they are glued to TV sets or spending hundreds of dollars on tickets. However, devotees are doing their duty to bring harinam sankirtan to the streets so these fortunate souls can hear the name of Krishna and the ultimate chant...Hare Krishna / Hare Krishna / Krishna Krishna / Hare Hare / Hare Rama / Hare Rama / Rama Rama / Hare Hare.

So these pictures popped up in the Vancouver Province...a popular newspaper in one of Canada's biggest cities. The caption is as they appear with the picture.

Canucks supporters including some from the Hare Krishna group motivate the crowd near the intersection of Granville and Robson Streets for game seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup final Wednesday June 15, 2011 in Vancouver
Canucks supporters dance to the beat of a Hare Krishna drum at the intersections of Granville and Robson Streets during game seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup final Wednesday, June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, B.C.