Saturday, December 30, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 7

There are many things more we could say about Sridhar Maharaja. He was a very wonderful devotee and the world is going to experience a great loss. He was a Vaisnava through and through. He had only one attachment. He just wanted to be Prabhupada's dog.

Of course as we know there is really no cause for lamentation. "He reasons ill who say that Vaisnavas die when thou are living still in sound. Vaisnavas die to live and in living try to spread the holy name around." (Some difficulty translating and it was taking some time)

Vaisnavas don't die! That's the point. They may simply disappear from our vision. But Vaisnavas will always go on, continuing to do what they've done in this world, which is serving the Lord. Of course, we lament for the loss of the association of Vaisnavas. But for the Vaisnavas, themselves, there is no cause for lamentation. So in that sense, that's why we celebrate the disappearance day of great Vaisnavas. Someone might ask, "How is it a cause for celebration?" But it's a celebration because when a Vaisnava departs from our vision they are simply going on to continue their service for the Lord. When Sridhar Maharaja departed he was fully conscious. Devotees were chanting and he was hearing the holy name. He was completely absorbed in meditation on a picture of Prabhupada. Prabhupada's dog. That's all he wanted to see, was Prabhupada. And he departed very peacefully. Devotees who were present with him said that it was a very auspicious departure.

So actually, in a sense, we do lament for the departure of a Vaisnava. Just like Srivas Thakur. Right. Today is his appearance day. There is a very wonderful pastime of Srivasa Thakur. Srivas Thakur as we know, he would conduct kirtans every night in his home with Lord Caitanya and His associates.

Lord Caitanya would appear in four places. He would appear wherever Lord Nityananda was dancing in ecstacy. He would appear in the altar room of Sacimata. He would appear in the home of Raghava Pandit. And He would always appear when there was kirtan in the house of Srivas Pandit. The Lord would appear in different ways. One way is called "saksat", when he would directly appear. Another was called "avirbhava". He would manifest due to the strong love of His devotees. They would attract him to come. Not everybody would see His presence. But those whose eyes were deeply imbued with love and who had attracted the Lord could see the Lord's presence in His "avirbhava" form. And He would also appear in the form called "avesa." Avesa form is when He would appear in an empowered person. So Lord Caitanya would appear in the house of Srivasa Thakur.

Of course, at this particular time about which we are speaking, He was directly present. And Lord Caitanya would regularly conduct all-night kirtans. He would experience great ecstasy during these kirtans. Only the most confidential associates of the Lord were allowed to participate in these kirtans. Present were Haridas Thakur, Lord Nityananda, Advaita Acarya, Srivasa Pandit, Srivas Pandit's brothers, Srirama Pandit, Srinidhi, Sripati and so many other associates of the Lord were there. And the Lord, in the presence of these intimate associates would experience such great ecstatic love.

But one night, during one of these kirtans, the son of Srivasa Pandit left his body. Present at the time of the son's departure were Srivas Pandit's wife, his brothers and their wives. And when the son of Srivasa Pandit had departed, many of them felt great lamentation within their hearts. They were crying, very distressed at the disappearance of their close son. Srivasa understood that something had taken place in the other room, so Srivasa walked into the other room and saw that his son had returned to the spirtual world. He then turned around and saw that everyone was lamenting, and immediately chastised them, "Why are you lamenting? Why are you crying like this? Don't you understand? The Supreme Personality of Godhead is here in our home, dancing in kirtan. Anyone who sees His face receives the highest benediction. Anyone who hears His name receives the highest benediction. Why are you lamenting in this way? The Lord is omniscient. He knows everyone's heart. Please give up your lamentation. Otherwise you will disturb the kirtan of the Lord." Srivasa Thakur was thinking that the Lord was experiencing so much ecstasy, but if He saw everybody crying and lamenting then His ecstacy would break. He said, "If you do not give up your lamentation right at this minute, I will immediately tie a rope around my neck and I will drown myself in the Ganges."

So Srivasa Thakur preached very strongly to all of his family memmbers to give up their lamentation and go back in the kirtan and smile. And he threatened them, "If you don't, I'll drown myself." So he returned to the kirtan and he was ecstatic, dancing in ecstasy. And everybody else was also dancing, but within their hearts they were lamenting. But all Srivasa could think of was that he did not want to disturb the ecstasy of the Lord. And so the kirtan continued for many hours.

Then at one moment, all of a sudden Lord Caitanya stopped, and He came to external consciousness. Because usually when He was in such ecstasy, He would lose external consciousness and would go completely into internal consciousness. So He came to external consciousness and said, "I think that something has happened here in this house," because the Lord could understand what was going on in their hearts. Then Srivasa Thakur immediately spoke up. "Oh Lord, how can there be anything lamentable in my house? You are present. I am seeing Your face! You are dancing in such bliss! Everyone here is so blissful. What could be the cause for lamentation?! Nobody can be lamenting." And Srivasa Thakur was trying to convince Lord Caitanya that, "Nothing is going on here. Please continue. Chant! Dance! Ecstacy! Ecstacy!" But gradually Lord Caitanya could understand and others began speaking.

They said, "Oh Lord, Srivasa's son has departed from this world. And Lord Caitanya said, "What? Tell me, when did it happen? How long ago?" The devotees said, "It happened about seven and a half hours ago. But Srivasa, not wanting to disturb your ecstasy, told us all to keep it within our hearts." When Lord Caitanya heard this he began to cry. He understood how much love Srivasa had for Him. And He said to Srivasa, "How is it possible that you have so much love for Me that you don't even know grief for your departed son?" So Lord Caitanya then went into the other room and He saw that Srivasa's son had departed. He approached the son, and He asked, "Tell me, why did you leave?" And everyone was gathered around. Srivasa was gathered there, all his family members were gathered there. So the Lord arranged for the living entity to appear back in the body of Srivasa's departed son. And then the son began speaking.

He said, "Oh, my Lord. The destined time for my life span in this world is now exhausted. Now it is time to depart from this world and go on to my next destination. Who is anyone's son? Who is anyone's father? We are all living beings meant to go on in our journey from one body to the next. Oh my Lord, I simply pray to Your lotus feet. Please forgive me for any offenses I may have committed in your presence, and please allow me to continue to my next destination." And then he stopped speaking. Everyone that was standing there were overwhelmed. Through the mouth of this young boy, they were all given appropriate instructions and they could all understand that the living entity that was in the body of Srivasa Thakur's son was simply returning back to the spiritual world. Lord Caitanya arranged this simply to remove everyone's lamentation. The Lord does not like to see lamentation within the heart of His devotee. So He instructed everyone through the mouth of the departed son of Srivasa Thakur. And when they heard all of these instructions, all of them, folded their hands, they bowed down, touched the lotus feet of the Lord and began offering prayers. "Oh Lord, You are our father, You are our son, You are everything to us! Simply by Your presence we are feeling such great happiness and they began many wonderful prayers in gratitude to the Lord. Then all all the proper rites were performed for the departed son of Srivasa Thakur, and everyone's lamentation was completely dispelled.

Then Lord Caitanya turned to Srivasa Thakur, and He said again, "Srivas, how can I ever give up the association of one who has so much love for Me? One who does not even know grief for the loss of his own son? From this day, both Nityananda and Myself, We will become your sons. You will never know suffering. Anybody who ever sees you will also never know suffering. Simply by seeing you all their suffering will go away."

In this way, Lord Caitanya gave the benediction to Srivasa. Because Srivasa was so devoted to the Lord, the Lord benedicted him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 6

Now Sridhar Maharaja likes prasadam. He's always been known as somebody who likes prasadam. He was called the "Jolly Swami" also because he had a jolly appearance. So the doctor gave him a very restricted diet and something like that was not easy for Sridhar Maharaja. But the doctor said that, "You should follow this diet and take this medicine for three weeks." It was a very bland diet. So after a few days of following the treatment, Sivarama called from Vrndavana. And he was asking Sridhar Maharaja how he was feeling. Maharaja replied, "Well my lungs are working all right." Because he was having some problems with his lungs, too at that time. He said "My liver seems to be working." Then he said, "But I'm afraid that this diet is going to kill me."

Prabhupada was like that also, actually. When Prabhupada was very ill the devotees were trying to restrict his intake of food. And they were giving him very bland food. And Prabhupada said, "Get rid of this. Let us die eating prasadam." Prabhupada also had a similar mood. He did't like this strict diet.

But still Sridhar Maharaja followed it. So, because the doctor felt so confident, Sridhar Maharaja started to feel more confident. So all the godbrothers who were there in Mayapura started to think, "Well Sridhar Maharaja is feeling so confident." Then it gradually became the time for most of the devotees to leave because the festival was ending. So Sridhar Maharaja was telling everybody, "Hey, don't come in here and say good-by to me." I'm not going anywhere. Get out of here. You should just go do your preaching. Prabhupada wouldn't want you to stay here." To many godbrothers who came in, he said, "Don't say good-by." To me he said, "I'll see you in Moscow." So his disposition completely changed.

And before that many of us were thinking, "How can we leave Mayapura?" In fact, earlier I was thinking that, too. I had changed my ticket to stay a few days longer, because I didn't know what was going to happen. Many devotees would ask me, "When are you leaving?" and I said, "Well to tell you the truth, I can't imagine going into the room and saying good-by to Sridhar Maharaja and I can't imagine leaving and not saying good-by to Sridhar Maharaja. So how can I go anywhere?" So I was also thinking that, "Maybe I'll stay a little bit longer to see how Maharaja's health develops." But Maharaja was getting so positive, that he was telling everybody, "Go, Go. Don't come in here and say good-by to me." He wanted everybody to go out and preach.

Even when I called him yesterday. Maharaja said, "Why are you wasting your money calling me?" He said you have more important things to do with your money. So I said, "Maharaja, it's not my money, it's Prabhupada's money and you're Prabhupada's dog." So I said, "Don't try to get me off the phone. Let's talk for awhile." So after some talk, he said, "Call me back in a couple of weeks." I said, "Maharaja, I'll call you back in a couple of days." And even yesterday, Maharaja's spirits were good. Although he did say to me, "Please, preach to me to keep the faith to stay here, because my faith to stay is getting a little weak right now."

So, of course, it was very difficult for me. I actually wanted to stay in Mayapura, but because he was feeling so positive, and so was I, I decided to leave. And the irony is that I had left Mayapura, and then flew from Calcutta to Bombay. Two days later I got a phone call in Bombay at about 11:15 at night. I was leaving for the airport to fly to Kiev at 11:30. Vraja Kumara dasa called me and told me, "I just spoke to Mayapura dasa, Sridhar Maharaja's servant and Mayapura says that Sridhar Maharaja is feeling distressed right now because his godbrothers have left, and he feels that it is a rough night for him tonight. He's having difficulty breathing and not many of his godbrothers are there right now. So at that particular point, I had to choose to either cancel the flight and go back to Mayapura, although I was leaving to catch my flight literally in 15 minutes, or to leave for Ukraine. I left for Ukraine. And I guess that's why it was a little extra painful for me this morning when I found out that Sridhar Maharaja had left his body at 6:15 this morning in Mayapura.

Monday, December 25, 2006

An interesting trip to the mountains

During Guru Maharaja's visit to Slovenia in 2002, the disciples took Guru Maharaja to a trip to the mountains. It turned out really funny with Guru Maharaja showing his jolly nature.

Guru Maharaja liked jogging. This time, everybody joined running up-hill singing devotional songs to the famous US Marine tune. Ofcourse, Guru Maharaja leading and all the rest following: "Lord Caitanya's Moon is rising, which is not at all surprising. We are all prasadam devotees and we are chanting HARIBOL!" and so on.

His Holiness, like always, relishing The Lord's Holy Names. Finishing the up-hill mountain jogging, the devotees sat down to chant Hare Krishna and hear Krishna-katha.

Now the realy funny thing happened when Guru Maharaja noticed a devotee had brought a guitar along. He took the guitar in his hands and sang, "There is a house in New Orleans...". everybody started laughing at once, ofcourse.

His Holiness Sridhar Swami was always an expert in dealing with devotees. Althought sometimes sharp as a razor, in his heart he was always loving and jolly, only concerned about inspiring others to stay and progress in the association of devotees.

Merry Christmas everybody:)!

HH Niranjana Swami Remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 5

One night after I finished kirtan, we chanted for about two hours and Maharaja was extremely tired. But still during the kirtan, while lying in the bad, he would always put his arms up, and move them like this, like he was dancing. Of course, he couldn't get up and dance, but he would put his arms like this. And then just at the end of the kirtan, Maharaja just sat up and the room was filled with about 50-60 devotees. Maharaja then gave the most brilliant, sharp, clear lecture. He spoke for quite some time, how we are not these bodies. His consciousness was so crystal clear. And his lecture was powerful. How many times have we heard that we are not these bodies? But Maharaja spoke with such realization that everybody was just sitting there with their mouths open, as Maharaja was showing not only by his words, but by his actions on how to be detached from the body. His body was looking very frail. His face was a bit emaciated. But he spoke like a lion. And, again, I was appreciating his example.

And the other point that Maharaja displayed was that he really showed unconditional love for his godbrothers. It didn't make any difference what time of the day, who it was, if a godbrother walked in the door, no matter how tired he was, how sick he was, he immediately stood up, he would throw his arms in embrace around his godbrother, and he wouldn't let go. And then he would start glorifying. He did this with every single godbrother, and in Mayapura, during this Gaura Purnima Festival, there was a lot of godbrothers-- probably no less than 100 throughout the festival. And everyone who came in, he would immediately throw his arms around him and just start glorifying him.

So then, two weeks ago, one godbrother, his name is Tridandi Prabhu, he knew this doctor down in Kerala, South India. And this doctor had been very successful in curing cancer patients. So he asked Sridhar Maharaja, "If we can get some kind of treatment for you, would you be willing to take it?" And Maharaja said, "Well, if there's any reason for me to stay, I'll stay." But to tell you the truth, I came here to leave my body. Do you think that there is anything to this doctor? But Tridandi tried to convince him that he was a good doctor. The doctor was trained in America as an oncologist. He was also an Ayurvedic doctor, and also a botanist. So he had many qualifications. So Sridhar Maharaja said, "OK if you think that he can do something then let him come." So then the devotee arranged for this doctor to come within a few days. The doctor examined him and said to him, "I can cure you. This is not irreversible. You just simply have to follow this diet and take this medicine and in three weeks you will see some results.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 4

And I also appreciated how much he had love for his godbrothers. I was amazed, actually, when he arrived in Mayapura. It was somewhere around February 11th or 12th. At that time, he had been warned by the doctors in Canada. First he was told in Bombay that they found traces of cancer, because he has been suffering from liver problems for many, many years. So he decided to go to Canada, where he was originally from, in Vancouver, and consult with the doctors to see if it was possible for a liver transplant. After a thorough examination, the doctors had told him after some time that the cancer had spread too far and that he could not qualify for a liver transplant. So he said that, "Well, I'm just going to go to Mayapura so that I can be with my godbrothers and so that I can see the Panca Tattva installation, and I'll just go there to leave my body in the association of all of my godbrothers." I heard about him from several sources shortly after this and heard that everyone was amazed by his spirit.

One day one of the doctors came to him. He was supposed to get his abdomen drained from fluids that day. His abdomen would get very bloated. The doctor placed his hand on his stomach and Sridhar Maharaja turned to a few of us and said, "It's a boy!" His brother was there. In fact, both of his brothers were there. Both of his brothers came from Vancouver to be with him. They were not practicing devotees, but within two weeks, they were both shaved up, with sikhas, chanting in kirtans, and attending programs. In fact, one day, his brother.... I became close with his brothers, and one of his younger brothers, Stuart, we were talking outside of Sridhar Maharaja's room, and he was looking at me and said, "You know we are having an unbelievable experience here. So I said, "Yes, you're probably finding a lot of love here, aren't you?" And he said, "Yes, I've never seen such love like this." And he said, my heart is just melting seeing all of this love that's manifesting around my brother." So I said, "Yes you're very fortunate, because your brother is creating all of this love by his presence right now." That's the first time I spoke to Stuart, actually. And then he just said, "Yeh", and he just threw his arms around me as if we had been close friends for years, he embraced me, and neither of us could let go for a long time. He repeated, "I've never seen such love", and he started to cry.

So his two brothers were there when the doctor was examining him. They stayed by his side quite frequently. And at that time, just nobody knew what to expect. But Sridhar Maharaja was also just simply trying to lighten up the atmosphere. His brother was crying at the sight of his older brother, and when Sridhar Maharaja said, "It's a boy," everybody started laughing. His brother switched from tears to laughter. Sridhar Maharaja was artfully dealing with everybody's emotions. He was always trying to take away any emotion that would cause crying. But of course, although he would joke, he was very Krsna conscious as well.

Monday, December 18, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 3

Sridhar Maharaja was also very expert in preaching to the Indian community. He spoke fluent Hindi which he learned while serving and preaching in India for so many years. And while traveling and preaching with him in America in the 80's, I got to see a little bit how he captivated an Indian audience by the way that he preached. Sridhar Maharaja was also very witty. He had a way of preaching that would get people to laugh at themselves and they wouldn't take offense by his preaching. Sridhar Maharaja would oftentimes preach, especially to the Indians in the West, because many of them had gone to the West looking for greener pastures. Especially during those years in the 70's and 80's, many people were emigrating from India, going to America to look for a better means of livelihood. Of course that was the 70's and 80's. Now during the 90's and after 2000, this is the era that the people from the former Soviet Union have taken over. Eventually everybody in less developed countries thinks that going to America is like going to the heavenly planets.

During this tour with Maharaja, I would often hear Sridhar Maharaja preach very strongly to the Indians, like, "You've come here, you've given up your culture, you've given up your tradition, you've given up Krsna. You've come here to all of these things which are temporary." And then he would start speaking in Hindi. He would get everyone to laugh and would then melt their hearts. He was expert in dismantling their hopes for happiness in the West. And then he would try to induce them to take up chanting. Every lecture I went with him, he would always at the end of the lecture, get everybody to chant so enthusiastically. So I very much appreciated this quality about him-- his expertise in preaching.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 2

One day one doctor came and actually extracted seven litres of fluid. So it was quite exhausting for him. But still every day he would go to the Ganga to take bath. He also took part in the abhiseka ceremony, bathing the new Panca Tattva deities that were installed in Mayapura. He told me personally that this was the only thing he had left to live for. When we heard him say this, we all became a little bit worried, because after the Panca Tattva installation we were afraid that maybe now he would just decide to leave.

This Panca Tattva installation was probably the most amazing event I've ever participated in in my whole life. We can probably speak a little about this, too, because the Panca Tattva consists of also Srivas Thakur, whose appearance day is today. But, anyways, Sridhar Maharaja very enthusiastically participated in that abhiseka ceremony.

So as is appropriate on appearance or disappearance days of great Vaisnavas, we should speak a little bit about their lives. And as I said, when we speak about the activities of Vaisnavas, we should somehow try to see how the Vaisnavas activities are connected to the service of the Lord and therefore they are connected to the Lord.

Sridhar Maharaja joined the Krsna consciousness movement, I believe it was in 1969. And in 1971 he went to India at the request of Srila Prabhupada to go and assist in establishing Krsna consciousness in India. He began working on the project in Bombay. Those devotees who know a little bit about the Bombay temple, you know that the conditions were extremely austere at that time. Many devotees were living in a rat-infested tin shed. And Sridhar Maharaja was also staying there at that time. Gradually, he became very instrumental in establishing and maintaining our Bombay temple. He served and preached in India practically right up until the present day. Although most of his preaching was in India, he later traveled and preached in so many other cities throughout the world. Sridhar Maharaja took sannyas in 1975 from Srila Prabhupada and he continued to preach very vigorously to this day.

Although I knew of Sridhar Maharaja in the very early years, I really didn't get to know him personally until I took sannyas. When I accepted the renounced order of life in 1986, that same year I traveled with Sridhar Maharaja for some time in America. At that time I got the opportunity to appreciate many of his wonderful qualities.

Sridhar Maharaja always referred to himself as a "company" man. It almost sounds a little bit impersonal. He wore a cap that said "Prabhupada's dog". So that may give you a little idea of what Sridhar Maharaja meant by being a "company" man. Prabhupada used to say that these beads on our neck are our dog collars. He said that when you put these beads around your neck it means that you've accepted a master. So Sridhar Maharaja considered himself to be "Prabhupada's dog". Although he referred to himself in that I way I appreciated just how much depth there was in that conviction, because a dog is always known to be very faithful to his master.

Prabhupada even told a story once describing how faithful a dog is to his master. I'm not sure where it's from. Neither can I remember the whole story. If somebody does, maybe you could help me.

One time this man had to go out for a short while and left his dog with his child. When he returned he saw that the room was empty, the child was not there and there was a trail of blood leading outside. He rushed outside and saw the dog coming from the bushes it's mouth covered with blood. The man was shocked and assumed that the dog had killed the baby and brought it outside into the bushes. He pulled out his gun, called the dog, and told the dog to sit down in front of him. The obedient dog sat there while his master pointed the gun to his head. He didn't move. He just accepted the order to sit. Then the man shot him and killed him. At the sound of the gun shot, he heard a baby crying inside, ran inside and found the baby lying under the bed. He decided to go back and follow the trail of blood and saw that the dog had killed a fox and dragged the fox out behind the bushes. He then realized that in actuality what had happenned is that the dog put the child under the bed for protection, and then fought with the fox who had entered the house and endangered the baby.

The point is that Prabhupada told this story how the dog is always faithful to his master and it helps us to understand a little bit the meaning of the cap that Sridhar Maharaja used to wear which said "Prabhupada's dog". He was always a faithful servant for his master and he was ready to do anything for Srila Prabhupada. He demonstrated that by his life in this movement. He would say, "I'm a company man. I've given everything to this movement. Whatever Krsna provides I will accept and if He doesn't I will go on serving Srila Prabhupada."

"You must know..."

"You must know that I want all of you to become nice Vaisnava devotees with gentle qualities. I would like to see you attend the morning programs and follow the process of Krsna consciousness. I would like you all to render service to other Vaisnavas and not cause any disturbance. I want you all to keep trying to please Krsna despite any difficulties. Trying your very best is success.
If Krsna is pleased He can do anything with me. I am simply His dog in the service of His servant Srila Prabhupada!"

from a letter to a disciple,1997

Friday, December 15, 2006

HH Niranjana Swami remembers HH Sridhar Swami, Part 1

I'm always happy to come to Kiev, especially here at the Sunday Feast and see that there's always new faces coming to hear about Krsna. This is always very inspiring for me to see.

Although I am going to speak about a few different subjects, hopefully we will be able to connect them to Krsna, because ultimately any topics that are connected to the Lord are beneficial for everyone to hear. As explained by Suta Goswami, only questions and answers that are related to Krsna will be able to fully satisfy the self. But connected to Krsna-- one will always see that He is surrounded by many devotees. To discuss the devotees of the Lord are also topics which are related to Krsna.

Today happens to be the appearance day of Srivasa Thakur. So we hope to have an opportunity to speak a little bit about that. But today also happens to be another day, which I haven't been able to fully digest and therefore I beg your forgiveness if I become emotional, because at 6:15 AM my godbrother H.H. Sridhar Maharaja left this world. So it is also his disappearance day and he was a very dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada. He gave his life to serving Srila Prabhupada's mission.

Although we were expecting it because about four weeks ago he was told by doctors that he had cancer, still somehow we were thinking that he was going to fight it. I was just on the phone with him yesterday. I called him in India, he was in Mayapura and we spoke for about 20 minutes. Sridhar Maharaja is always positive and at that time during our conversation he was telling me that he had plans to travel and preach, but he begged me to please convince him to keep up the faith that he could possibly do it. Of course, there were also times when he would resign himself, saying, "Well if Krsna wants to take me then that's my fate. I'm ready to go whenever He desires to take me."

Sridhar Maharaja was known as the "Jolly Swami." He was always laughing and smiling. His disposition was always that of somebody who was very positive and happy to be serving his spiritual master.

Every evening for the last several weeks he was hearing about Srila Prabhupada from Hari Sauri Prabhu's diary. Hari Sauri would go into Maharaja's room to read for sometimes, even up to two hours. And then after finishing reading from Hari Sauri's diary Maharaja would usually ask me to chant. So practically every evening for the last three weeks, up until just about a week ago, I was chanting in his room. And he would personally tell me that, "I have no taste for chanting the holy name of the Lord." And then he would say, "I know that you are going to say something to try to counter that statement, but it's the truth. Don't say a word. Just be quiet and listen to me." He said, "I have no taste. But if I'm here to try to prepare myself for giving up this body, I have to develop some taste. So he begged me, "So please, you will come here and chant?" And I said, "Maharaja, I have no taste, either." And then he said, "Well, now I'm going to speak. And you shut up." He said, "When I hear you chanting, then I get some taste."

So in this way he would say these things to encourage me to come and chant with him in the evenings. I wasn't able to go every single evening. But usually, whatever program was going on in Mayapura at the evening time I would just kind of disappear and go up to Sridhar Maharaja's room at around 7:30. And we would sit with many devotees in the room and just have kirtan. There were usually up to 50 devotees in the room. Maharaja usually would be lying on the bed. He was not completely bedridden all the time. But usually in the evening he would be quite exhausted. He had liver cancer and the doctors would have to come from time to time and drain litres and litres of fluid that would accummulate in his abdomen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why are the reachest people poor? Part Two

In ISKCON at present, we only reward quantity. The number of books sold; the total money collected; the number of Life Members enrolled; the number of plates of prasadam distributed. We only strive for quantity and neglect quality. However, after reading one of those millions of books distributed, our congregation and people in general think: 'Oh this is a nice philosophy. After following it I wonder what kind of a person one becomes. Are they polite, courteous and attentive to my needs or will they just ignore me because they have something else to do at the time. Let me go to their temple and see for myself.' So we have to reward the devotees for what I call 'quality customer care' (the congregation, readers of our books and visitors to our temples being our customers).

Here's another truism: people do what gets measured. I cannot stress that point too strongly. Every important goal needs to be accompanied with a way to keep score so that you and your team of devotees can measure the progress towards reaching your objectives. Additionally, keeping score and letting devotees know how they are doing is a tremendous motivational tool. Just like in the non-devotee world, would people enjoy playing golf, tennis, soccer or whatever if there were no way of keeping score? Here are some things to look for:

1. Number of congregational complaints received every week (every temple should have a suggestion/complaint box)

2. Number of complimentary letters received every month

3. Number of square feet cleaned per day

4. Percentage of donations coming from repeat donors

5. Number of congregational devotees involved in service

I would also suggest you follow these guidelines when attempting to measure progress:

Don't let anybody con you into believing that you can't measure what they do. If what they are doing can't be measured, they aren't contributing.

Keep it simple. Otherwise, devotees will spend too much time measuring, rather than pursuing, their goals.

Measure progress toward goals achieved and not activities performed.

Remember that it is far more important to measure group than individual goals: team performance counts the most. We have a tendency in ISKCON to reward the top man without considering the team that backs him up.

Finally, remember that the best performance measures give devotees frequent feedback so that they can see how they are doing and adjust their performance accordingly. Put up a highly visible chart, poster or scoreboard and update it regularly. There are many different ways you can reward devotees - personal thanks, a trip to Mayapur, recognition in front of the community. I am sure you can use your imagination.

The second area we can immediately improve is the Sunday feast. I remember that in Los Angeles in 1970 the Sunday feast was a gala event, and we usually made five to ten new devotees each week. Many of those stayed to render years of devotional service. We actually started planning the Sunday feast on Monday. Every devotee had some duty ... from serving prasada, to watching the shoes, to sitting with guests and preaching to them. Devotees spent all week rehearsing plays and dramas. On Sunday, all visitors to the temple were greeted, given a tour and preached to.

Today we go out to distribute books, preach in colleges, etc., but when people come to our temples they often get indifferent treatment. Reception of guests is given a low priority. Srimad Bhagavatam 8:16:6 and 8:16:7 states that any guest in one's house (even an enemy) should be treated royally even if he comes unannounced. The homes where this kind of treatment is not given are considered to be homes of jackals. Obviously some temples are better than others, but my honest opinion is that we have fallen a long way from the standard. Managers must organise the training of devotees in this area and recognition should be given for outstanding service in 'quality customer care'.

Let me leave you with a few statistics to think about regarding what happens when someone comes to our temple and has a bad experience, and what factors contribute to a bad experience:

1. A typical business hears from only four per cent of its dissatisfied customers. The other ninety-six per cent just quietly go away and ninety-one per cent will never come back. That represents a serious loss for temples that don't know how to treat guests and a tremendous gain for those that do.

2. A survey on 'why customers quit' found the following:

Three per cent move away

Five per cent develop other friendships

Nine per cent leave for competitive reasons

Fourteen per cent are dissatisfied with the product

Sixty-eight per cent quit because of an attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager or an employee

3. A typical dissatisfied customer will tell eight to ten people about his problem. One in five will tell twenty. It takes twelve positive incidents to make up for one negative incident.

4. Seven out of ten complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour. If you resolve it on the spot, ninety-five per cent will do business with you again. On average, a satisfied complainer will tell five people about the problem and how it was satisfactorily resolved.

5. The average business spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones. Yet customer loyalty is, in most cases, worth ten times the price of a single purchase.

6. Businesses having low service quality average only one per cent return on sales and lose market share at the rate of two per cent per year. Businesses with high service quality average twelve per cent return on sales, gain market share at the rate of six per cent per year and charge significantly higher prices.

Maybe we do have God on our side, maybe devotees are pure, maybe our book distribution is powerful, but maybe we should also use our intelligence and see how we can improve our preaching rather than rest on our past laurels and old paradigms. We are not the first group to try to spread a spiritual idea: Srila Prabhupada told us to take note of the management techniques of the Rama Krsna Mission, Tirupati Devasthanam and the Catholic Church. Maybe we have to take Rupa Goswami's advice - copy success and use it in Krsna's service. Perhaps our fund-raising will be then become 'fun-raising'.

Delivered as a lecture at the Fourth European Communications Seminar at Radhadesh, Belgium, in January 1993.

ISKCON Communications Journal Vol. 1 No. 2 December 1994

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why Are The Richest People Broke? Part One

Why Are The Richest People Broke?

H. H. Sridhar Swami

I think we actually enjoy being broke. We are the wealthiest people with the best product in the most profitable market, and yet we are keeping ourselves broke. I am afraid that I don't know how to talk about this. I don't want to be offensive to sadhus (my audience) but some people need haranguing to get the message. I know we have God on our side; I know we are the only pure ones; I know that Srila Prabhupada's books will be the Law Books for the next ten thousand years; I know that all we have to do is chant 'Hare Krsna' and distribute books, and everything will happen automatically, mystically. But I also know there are a few details that we have to attend to. Srila Prabhupada once asked, 'What is the qualification for becoming Krsna conscious? A devotee replied (sincerely), 'Sincerity, Srila Prabhupada.' 'No!' said Srila Prabhupada, . sincerity and intelligence.'

We have intelligent and, more importantly, committed people in our movement. That alone is the greatest factor in building a successful team. Corporations literally spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to instil a spirit of commitment in their leaders and subordinates. From top to bottom, we have people who are committed to the same goal. So the question arises: 'Why can't we develop a secure financial base by which we can escape from the crisis management trap and engage in our real business - preaching, teaching, book selling, counselling and ministering to the fallen conditioned souls?' The answer is: 'It beats me!'

The money is there: we just have to put our hands out and pick it up. 'When you have money in the bank, management is easy.' Prabhupada told reporters: 'If I just sat underneath a tree here in Juhu beach, Bombay, nobody would come to listen to me. Therefore I have built this grand temple.' Shall I explain to you the greatest 'get rich quick' formula for ISKCON: in America we say, 'It don't exist!' As Henry Russo, a leading guru in the 135 billion dollar a year non profit-making sector, says 'Fundraising is not easy'! No magic formula has ever been devised to transform a fervent, even desperate, wish into instant results. There is a discipline to gift development that progresses in logical order from preparation to planning, from programme execution to control.

This sequence of orderliness is depicted in a continuum often referred to as 'the cycle of fundraising'. Successful non profit-making organisations are as concerned about marketing techniques and their ability to prepare wise marketing plans as any profit-making corporation. The non profit-making - or social purpose - organisation must critically assess its worth and examine its mission, to determine whether this mission is being interpreted properly through measurable objectives and meaningful programmes and to evaluate its overall impact on the market area. The cycle can serve as an effective instrument to help executives of non profit-making agencies visualise the relationships of fundraising elements. It permits them to see the sequence to follow from preparation, or definition, of case through to the solicitation and annual renewal of gifts. Fundraising cannot be an haphazard impulsive action, improvised at the last moment in response to a crisis situation: fund-raising is an exercise in discipline.

But don't lose hope folks, there is still a chance. We are disciples and we can become disciplined. The International Membership Ministry and the ISKCON Foundation have been formed to teach devotees the skills and techniques of fundraising. Naveen Krsna Dasa, the personnel of the ISKCON Foundation and myself have studied and tested modern marketing methods such as direct mail, telephone campaigns, capital campaigns, special events, etc. I have complete confidence that ISKCON can succeed in a very big way. Techniques and skills are not enough, however. First you and I must create a paradigm shift. From where we are now, I would say it would require a revolution in our consciousness and the way we deal with our congregation. Based on the experience gained from my travels, and on a scale of one to ten, I would have to rate most of our temples at about three for 'quality customer care'. In addition, London Soho Street temple has recently conducted a survey, first with the devotees of the temple and later with the congregation. To everybody's surprise, both gave the temple a rating of three to four out of ten. Obviously you can't preach to, or solicit funds from, a congregation when your attitude towards them is negative or at best indifferent.

The first area where vast improvement can be made is in our dealings with devotees. We have to learn to treat the devotees the way we want the devotees (preachers) to treat the congregation. For example, meet with devotees on a regular basis and discuss the twenty-six qualities of a pure devotee; discuss problems in devotee relationships and ways they can be solved by proper Vaisnava etiquette. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had a system in his math that every brahmacari would try to render five kinds of service to other Vaisnavas in the math every day. Therefore, think of ways to reward devotees who are good examples. Now, some people might think that this has nothing to do with building a congregation and collecting and paying the bills. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! In the business sector where people are paid to work and give service, the leaders of the Fortune 500 companies still strive to establish good relations with their employees: 'Motivate them, train them, care about them and make winners out of them ... we know that if we treat our employees correctly, they'll treat the customers right. And if the customers are treated right, they'll come back.' (J. W. Marriott Jr., Chairman and President, Marriott Corporation).

How to motivate devotees? In a five-year survey of workers in America, results indicated that being able to exercise creativity, obtain recognition for achievements and the feeling of being useful both to the company and society were the most powerful motivating influences in employment, with salary at number four or five. Managers and team leaders must constantly encourage the devotees and thank them for their service. Are these things Srila Prabhupada did? You bet your life they are. Even in his last days in Vrindavan when a disciple would arrive His Divine Grace, while lying on his bed, would cry out names, saying what a nice devotee they were and how he was indebted to them. You can perhaps understand what this did to the hearts of everyone present. When Srila Prabhupada was asked how his disciples would be recognised, what was the answer? They will wear dhotis? They will have large neck beads? They will have a big halo? No! He said they will be perfect gentlemen. Are our devotees perfect gentlemen when guests come to the temple or when they meet a congregational member? I don't know - you will have to be the judge of that. Soho Street devotees concluded not. Here's the secret: please think about it. 'What gets rewarded gets done.' Devotees will listen to what you tell them; they will believe what you do; but they will do what you reward.

Part Two will come soon...

Delivered as a lecture at the Fourth European Communications Seminar at Radhadesh, Belgium, in January 1993.

ISKCON Communications Journal Vol. 1 No. 2 December 1994

Monday, December 11, 2006

Five Prayers to Lord Narasimha

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written five beautiful prayers in "Sri Navadvipa Bhava Taranga" for receiving the mercy of Lord Narasimha. These prayers are certainly assurance to all sincere devotees that the worship of Lord Narasimha is purely in the line of aspiring love and devotion to Sri Sri Radha and Krsna. Those prayers are as follows.

e dusta hrdaye kama adi ripu chaya

kutinati pratisthasa sathya sada raya

hrdaya-sodhana ara krsnera vasana

nrsimha-carane mora ei to' kamana

Within my sinful heart the six enemies headed by lust perpetually reside, as well as duplicity, the desire for fame, plus sheer cunning. At the lotus feet of Lord Narasimha, I hope that He will mercifully purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Lord Krsna.

kandiya nrsimha-pade magibo kakhana

nirapade navadvipe jugala-bhajana

bhaya bhaya paya yan'ra darsane se hari

prasanna hoibo kabe more daya kari

Weeping, I will beg at the lotus-feet of Lord Narasimha for the benediction of worshipping Radha and Krsna in Navadvipa, perfectly safe and free from all difficulties. When will this Lord Hari, Whose terrible form strikes fear into fear itself, ever become pleased and show me His mercy?

yadyapi bhisana murti dusta-jiva-prati

prahladadi krsna-bhakta-jane bhadra ati

kabe va prasanna ho'ye sa krpa-vacane

nirbhaya karibe ei mudha akincane

Even though Lord Narasimha is terrifying toward the sinful souls, He offers great auspiciousness unto the devotees of Lord Krsna headed by Prahlada Maharaja. When will He be pleased to speak words of compassion unto me, a worthless fool, and thereby make me fearless?

svacchande baiso he vatsa sri-gauranga-dhame

jugala-bhajana hau rati hau name

mama bhakta-krpa-bale vighna jabe dura

suddha cite bhajo radha-krsna-rasa-pura

He will say, "Dear child! Sit sown freely and live happily here in Sri Gauranga-dhama. May you nicely worship the Divine Couple, and may you develop loving attachment for Their Holy Names. By the mercy of My devotees, all obstacles are cast far away. With a purified heart, just perform the worship of Radha and Krsna, for such worship overflows with sweet nectar."

ei boli' kabe mora mastaka-upara

sviya sri-carana harse dharibe isvara

amani jugala-preme sattvika vikare

dharaya lutibo ami sri-nrsimha-dvare

Saying this, will that Lord delightedly place His own divine lotus-feet upon my head? I will experience sublime love for the Divine Couple Radha-Krsna and undergo the ecstatic transformations called sattvika. Falling on the ground, I will roll about at the door of Sri Narasimha's temple.

(Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, - "Sri Navadvipa Bhava Taranga", 36-40)

There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself

The service of the spiritual master is essential. If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master’s instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple. If one thinks that he is above consulting anyone else, including a spiritual master, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such an offender can never go back to Godhead. It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the çästric injunctions. SriJiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding. Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 1.35

Friday, December 8, 2006

Sridhar Swami's 1995 Vyasa Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept this most fallen soul as your servant. I have no qualification to glorify a great soul like you. When I first became your disciple, at least formally, very few people recognized your greatness. Now there are many, and some even admit that you are an empowered (saktyavesa-avatara) incarnation of Lord Krsna: krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana. I am confident that someday (perhaps sooner than we know) you will be glorified as the most important spiritual personality in this golden period of Kali-yuga besides Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Your preaching is expanding everywhere, and it is only natural that as people get relief from their suffering by following your instructions they will want to glorify you.

However, I am embarrassed to say that I find this most auspicious day of your Vyasa-puja awkward. I am never satisfied with any of my attempts to praise you. Your achievements are so numerous. In Bombay on your Vyasa-puja day we place an advertisement in the newspaper with a long list of some of your well-known contributions. I could repeat them here for others to read. I could take one of them and try to focus on it more and more. However, I think I will just offer something from my heart, and I pray you will accept it. It is not exactly direct glorification of you but is my meditation on how I want to serve you.

The most mystical manifestation of your mercy and potency is how you have captured the hearts of so many educated young men and women around the world and engaged them in Lord Caitanya’s mission. I also want to be one of those fortunate souls. I want to be effective in my insignificant attempt to serve you, and therefore I have written down my personal mission statement. I try to review and improve it regularly. Srila Prabhupada, I am feeling great pain in separation from you. You are so kind, merciful, and loving toward your devotees. Please bless me that I may fulfill my mission in life to become your servant.

My mission is to serve my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, with all my heart and soul. He saved me from drowning in the darkness of ignorance in this miserable material world. He brought the torchlight of knowledge that devotional service to Lord Krsna, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is the highest goal of human life. I was forced to open my eyes. To achieve this goal has now become my only reason for living. Out of a great sense of debt for his having shown me the path, I want to become a sharp instrument to be used by Srila Prabhupada in his mission of flooding the world with love of Krsna. I will strive to achieve excellence in all my activities, eternal and temporal. I will struggle to rise above my lower animal nature, my conditioning of the lowest of births, and my lack of cultural training. I will strive to become a perfect gentleman, as Srila Prabhupada desired of all his disciples. I will study his books regularly and thoroughly. I will do my best to follow his teachings perfectly and teach others with whom I come in contact according to my own level of realization. I will be forever loyal to his ISKCON, being always positive and ready to help in its development. I will be proactive as a preacher, teacher, facilitator, leader, and spiritual master (servant). I will always be ready to, as Srila Prabhupada put it, “do the needful,” curbing down my false ego, which may act as an obstacle. I will meditate upon and try to imbibe the twenty-six qualities of a pure devotee. I will manage my time to be always active in “Quadrant II” activities of devotional service. I will not over-endeavor but will strive for quality in my work and relationships. I will be constantly on guard against committing offenses to other Vaisnavas. Having realized that in previous years of association with devotees I must have committed so many offenses due to my gross and careless nature, I will sincerely try to recognize those offenses, beg forgiveness from those whom I have offended, and atone for these offenses as best I can. I will continually evaluate my progress, getting input from my peers. Despite all obstacles, personal and incidental, I will not cease from struggling to improve my character and obtain his mercy, to be finally accepted by Srila Prabhupada as his humble servant.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, I am praying that by writing down and focusing on my mission statement I will be able to glorify you by doing something for you. I know I will have to personally struggle hard to be successful, but statistics have shown this method very effective in the material realm.

Perhaps your Markine Bhagavata Dharma was one of your mission statements.

Your servant,

Sridhara Swami

Thursday, December 7, 2006

How little I knew Sridhara Maharaja...

...I was thinking how little I knew Sridhara Maharaja, although I received a lot of mercy from him but I feel that I missed out on the wonderful opportunity I had to get to know this wonderful personality. . . get close to him with more sincerity and receive his mercy with more earnestness. And I was thinking that maybe we'll feel the same way when gradually we become separated from one another in course of time. And I was praying to Srila Prabhupada that he gives me the purity of heart and sincerity that I recognise the importance and exalted position of the devotees of ISKCON, especially our Godbrothers and Godsisters, and take advantage of their presence on this planet so that we do not repent when it may be a little too late. (His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja; taken from His Holiness Sridhar Swami's Samadhi opening speech)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

...lava matra sadhu sanga....

Hare Krishna ,
I hated coming to west since my childhood days, as I was born and brought up inthe pious environment in South India. My parents were pious and we used to visit the major temples regularly and so I got a taste for visiting holy Dhamas and worshipping Lord Vishnu in His various temples. My association with ISKCON solidified all these years and for 10 years, I accompanied my God sisters and friends, enjoying in holy pilgrimages.
But the Lord had some other plans for me. I got married to my husband, who is well-disciplined, but was not visibly pious .At our first meeting, he told methat he was not exposed to these spiritual topics and to ISKCON, but would not interfere with my practices. He, being a software engineer got a project in US. So we had to come. I landed in the place where I did not want to - at New York City, to take a connecting flight to San Jose.
I was chanting softly with my counter. It was just a month after our marriage.So I was very cautious in my every move not to surprise my husband with any seemingly "fanatic" expressions of devotion. He was naive and I did not want to rush. But what this country and my future life hold for me was a big question mark. A grey area that I did not want to even think. I was in a prayerful mood and always seeked blessings from any devotee I came across so that I would be able to chant the prescribed 16 rounds that I had promised during initiation.
When we were standing in the queue to check-in at the New York airport, withall these thoughts crowding my mind, I saw that serene face. An old man I guessed must be over 50, and the shika on his head confirmed that he was a devotee although he had not worn devotee clothing. I was so happy to see a devotee as soon I landed and I looked at his feet to mentally offer obeisances. His face was too effulgent and I immediately felt that I am not qualified to look at him directly. So I begged in my mind at his feet to bless me. His face showed off his years of chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Such tranquility emanated from his personality.
I did not pick up courage to go and talk to him as I wondered how my husbandwould take it. I kept chanting looking at this devotee. Suddenly all those whowere waiting in our queue were asked to move to the other. So I had to cross this person. I picked up this opportunity as given by Lord Krishna and said Hare Krishna to him. He replied with a smile in his face. I did not wait to continue the conversation any further. So I just went off.
Coming out of the check-in counter, me and my husband looked around and we were just looking for directions to proceed. I turned over to the familiar wish of'Hare Krishna' and found this devotee there, just behind us, waiting to talk to us. He asked who I was and I said where I am from and I introduced my husband.He asked where we were going and he joked something about California.
Then I asked 'May I know your name, Prabhu?"
He said, " Sridhara Swami. I am a disciple of Srila Prabhupada."
I was thunder-struck. I remembered reading about him in the Lilamrita. I bowed my head down; with folded hands .I did not offer obeisances falling to the ground, again wondering what my husband would think.
He said, he is going to some conference. So he is in this clowny attire. Then I requested his blessings.He said, "Give your one son to Jayapataka Maharaja (My GuruMaharaja) and theother one- give him to me"
And then he had to leave, immediately. This exchange froze me for at least half-an-hour. I felt such joy of having met such a pure devotee and being blessed by him. Such is the divine protection and arrangement of Lord Krishna.
Dear Srila Sridhar Maharaja, my association with you in this lifetime is only for a few moments. But those moments lay the foundation for the rest of mylife. Your blessings at a crucial phase in my life helped me to overcome theobstacles and steadied me again in my devotional path. They would guide me forever, I know. I feel a special bond and relationship with you, now.
But I have remained a greatest fool in losing an opportunity to offer obeisances to you, when you were physically present before me. I was worried about the place and circumstances, whereas Lord Krishna had arranged you tocome before me and bless me out of nowhere. I can never get that lost opportunity back.
I would strive my best to serve you and follow your instructions. As you said,by your mercy, let me become and remain a good devotee to guide my son to serve you.
Now I offer my respectful prostrated obeisances unto your lotus feet. Allglories to your Divine Grace! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Your servant,Lalithangi radha devi dasi

Monday, December 4, 2006

Jolly Swami joking

From HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja rememberance of Srila Sridhar Swami:

"I remember one incidence in New York. I took one of my acquaintances from Washington and Maharaja used to have one yoga contraption like that would make you hang upside down. [chuckles] So Maharaja put Henry in that. And when you put him upside down, like you lie down in that thing and that contraption swivels and then you hang upside down. Maharaja used to use that for his physical exercise. He used to tell me that it is a very good thing for your body. So when he did that, all of the money in Henry’s pockets fell out. [laughs] He said, “Don’t worry, this is how we collect money from people.” [laughter]


Srila Sridhar Swami loved lemons....He used to squeeze them on his meals-on his morning fruits and on vegetables during lunch.He used to say that they brought out more flavor.
After completing His samadhi Mandir,in spring 2005 , we were thinking abot what flowers and trees possibly we could plant around it.Amongst first to my mind came lemons.After two days,we met HG Tridandi Prabhu,Guru Maharaja's Godbrother from Italy, who in February 2004 brought excellent ayurvedic doctor from South India to Mayapur ,in final attempt to keep Guru Maharaja on the planet.
He told us:"I had a dream in which Sridhar Maharaja said to me that he wants lemon trees near His Samadhi Mandir."
This is first lemon fruit from the 7 lemon trees in Guru Maharaja's Samadhi garden.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Prayer to Lord Sri Narasimha

Here Srila Sridhar Maharaja offering prayers to Lord Narasimhadeva after completing the worship.

Morning Puja in Holy Dhama

Srila Sridhar Swami doing daily worship of His Salagrama Silas in Vrindavan.This photo was taken by His Grace Bhurijana Prabhu in 2002...

Saturday, December 2, 2006


His Holiness Sridhar Swami is my life and soul.
Recently I happened to visit a store in Ojai, California. There on the wall was an original piece of art, a large red heart coming up from a black-and-white-check background. The black and white checks resembled the floor of the Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana. For me, the painting symbolized His Holiness Sridhar Swami's role in and message to ISKCON: "Bhakti is a process of the heart, a condition of the heart. We need heart." Once, HH Sridhar Swami told me, "ISKCON lacks heart. It will never succeed until it has heart." So if we take the checkered backdrop as ISKCON, the heart represents HH Sridhar Swami, who has put heart into ISKCON. And if we take the checks as the practice of bhakti in the temples, such bhakti should give rise to a heart full of love and care and humor, as exemplified by our dear Godbrother His Holiness Sridhar Swami. He speaks and acts from the heart. And he has touched the hearts of many, including me.
HH Sridhar Swami has encouraged me to act and speak from the heart. Since I have tried to follow his instructions, I have felt and done better. And when I actually do follow, other people around me also benefit. Thus HH Sridhar Swami is my siksa-guru and is in fact worthy of being siksa-guru for anyone and all.
So all are blessed who have the shelter and guidance and love of HH Sridhar Swami.
Sridhar Swami also represents to me the ideal servant of guru and Krsna. He depends solely on their mercy. Without personal consideration he travels around the world to serve and associate with devotees, simply depending on Srila Prabhupada and Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and Lord Nrsimhadeva. And because of his unfailing trust in them, they never fail in their care for him. He has defied all medical predictions. He has served and served and preached and preached, without care for personal gain or loss. Thus he embodies the statement of Srila Prabhupada in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:
"Sometimes a representative of the Lord engaged in preaching work meets various so-called difficulties. But such difficulties are very gladly suffered by the devotee in preaching because in such activities, although apparently very severe, the devotees of the Lord feel transcendental pleasure because the Lord is satisfied. . . . [Such] pure devotees take up the order of the spiritual master as the sustenance of life. They do not mind what becomes of the future of their lives." (SB 2.8.6p)
On this occasion I place my head at the lotus feet of His Holiness Sridhar Maharaja and pray for his mercy to follow his example. And I embrace him--heart to heart--and pray for his continued friendship and love.
Thank you. Hare Krsna.
Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada and his beloved servant Sridhar Swami,
Giriraj Swami

Friday, December 1, 2006

Parama Karuna

This is a very emotional moment just seconds before the start of the Sri Panca Tattva installation ceremony in Sri Mayapur Dham.Srila Sridhar Maharaja behind Lord Nityananda gently touching His shoulder while crying tears of gratefulness for taking part in such an intimate service.

NY Ratha Yatra

Sridhar Swami LOVED New York Ratha Yatra.He often said:"I am from Vancouver by birth,but actually I consider myself a New Yorker."
His "motivational talk" from the main stage to inspire everyone clean up the park after "Festival of India" was a "trade mark" of New York Ratha Yatra.With lots of humour he would jokingly "push" both -"big" and "small" devotees - to help packing the tents and cleaning up the site....

I love Sridhar Swami!

Dear Sridhar Swami,Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Yesterday, before you left your body, my son and I were discussing his"favorite" friends in Krishna consciousness. First from his lips were,"I really like Sridhar Swami." How many voices have said the same words.Who amongst those that have had the good fortune of knowing you has not said the same thing? "I really like Sridhar Swami." Practically, that phrase has become a traditional Iskcon mantra. In or out of the Iskcon camp, "I really like Sridhar Swami" is a commonly held opinion. Somehow you transcended all designations that separate the conditioned souls; infact, you remained a unifying figure in a variegated universe ofdiversity. Everyone can agree on at least one point: "We really like Sridhar Swami."
There are the obvious qualities that we all liked - the jolliness, the knowledge, the stories, the sincerity, the universal appeal of triumph over adversity, the humility, the essential humanness, the sensitivity,the commitment, etc. Yet, beneath even the most attractive of these qualities there was a feeling that permeated each and every word and action - love. We bathed in your love - your love for Srila Prabhupada,your love for your godbrothers and godsisters, your love for yourdisciples, your love for humanity, and your love for Lord Caitanya, LordKrishna, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Nrsimhadeva, and all of the expansionsthereof. Oh, but to take shelter of your love again. Where will I find such shelter in this shadowy existence.
I cry for your smile, your approval, your rebuke, and your compliments.I yearn for the vast memory of your Prabhupada stories. I mourn for the loss of even the comfort of knowing that you are present somewhere on this vast planet. I feel somewhat "less than" without your form manifest in some temple, festival, or harinam party. I truly feel vacant without you here.
Yet I am happy that you no longer suffer in that body that was always so troublesome. No more coaxing of a worn engine to perform. Krishna has awarded you a new car, your eternal vehicle, with which to roam the material and spiritual planets so you can preach to your heart's content. There are many living entities whose good fortune is yet to come, for you are on the way to their hearts after conquering ours.
This material manifestation can take away many things. It can snatch away our loved ones. It can blind us to our benefactors. It can remove even our memories. But it cannot erase our feelings of love. Those are ours to keep forever, and I will treasure your love for me eternally because I really like, and will always love, Sridhar Swami.
I beg to remain...
Your fallen servant,
Nrsimhananda dasa(ACBSP)


A friend, dear to many, leaves a legacy of humor, grace, and spiritual insight.

by Adbhuta Hari Dasa and Kalakantha Dasa

When His Holiness Sridhara Swami left this world on March 14, 2004, it was on his terms--in holy Mayapur, surrounded by loving Vaisnavas, and just after he'd helped install Sri Panca-tattva with his dearest Godbrothers and friends. He had been terminally ill for years with Hepatitis C, so his departure surprised no one. The memory of his spiritual strength--conspicuous in his endless good humor and unfazed by his deteriorating body--continues to inspire and fascinate those of us who knew him as we await our appointment with the pyre.
The Bhagavad-gita describes a fully God-conscious death as the highest human achievement. How did this robust, ebullient, sociable Western-born world traveler achieve a state of enlightenment more commonly associated with thin, reclusive yogis meditating in a remote Himalayan cave? In Sridhara Swami's life, Srila Prabhupada's sparked a thirty-five-year spiritual journey that began far from its ending point in holy India.
Sridhara Swami described himself as a shy person before coming to Krsna consciousness. Born John Colcleugh in 1948 in Vancouver, Canada, his quest for spiritual understanding led him, in 1969, from engineering school to a Sunday feast at the Frederick Street San Francisco Krsna temple. The first person he met at the door was a kind and energetic devotee named Jayananda Dasa. Since it was early in the day, Jayananda invited his young guest to vacuum the rug and help in the kitchen. By the end of the evening, John was ready for more. He moved in to the San Francisco ashram to begin his study of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Later, he transferred to the fledgling Krsna center in his native Vancouver.
In 1970 he returned to San Francisco for the Rathayatra festival and met Srila Prabhupada for the first time. John was deeply impressed and, having completed the required training, was initiated by Srila Prabhupada as Sridhara Dasa Brahmacari. He received more training in cooking, deity worship, and book sales. At one point he led a large group of devotees distributing Back to Godhead magazines to people leaving the popular musical "Hair." It was hard for the early-rising devotees to be out so late, but they were happy to find that people were receptive to their message, having just seen Hare Krsna chanted onstage.
Later, Sridhara Swami remembered, "We devotees were very close to each other in certain ways, maybe not maturely, but in the sincerity of desperation. We were trying to rush out of the material world. We had no idea of lifelong devotional service."
Sridhara found he had a strong taste for distributing books, so he joined one of ISKCON's first traveling parties. In Reno, Nevada, he set a record by selling four hundred BTGs in a day. Later he helped open ISKCON's first center in the conservative town of Salt Lake City.
"It was very enlivening and inspiring yet difficult" he said of the experience. "It was an austerity. You're approaching people who think you're weird. You don't know the philosophy that well. Every day you go out in any kind of inclement weather, any environment. It was a hard struggle, but I did well."

Feeling at Home in India
Sridhara and Buddhimanta, another successful young distributor, were sent to London to train others. After some time Sridhara, reasoning he was already halfway there, took an opportunity to visit India. On arriving in Delhi, he found the atmosphere strikingly familiar.
"It was déjà vu," he said. "I felt at home."
He first served in the nascent ISKCON centers in the holy places of Mayapur and Vrndavana before again joining a traveling party. He and his comrades, headed by Tamal Krsna Goswami, conducted Vaisnava revival programs throughout the country, performing devotional bhajanas (hymns) and speaking to thousands in colorful pandal tents.
By this time, Sridhara Dasa Brahmacari knew what he wanted to do with his life: serve Srila Prabhupada and, specifically, teach Krsna consciousness all over the world. However, in those early days before ISKCON grew widely popular in India, the two goals were not always compatible.
When his traveling party reached Bombay, the young temple was in a critical situation. Srila Prabhupada had bought a large tract of land near Juhu Beach, but now the seller, having taken ISKCON's deposit, was trying to renege on the contract. The devotees had built a temporary temple on the mostly undeveloped land, but the seller, well-connected politically, had influenced municipal authorities to demolish the structure.
Conservative Hindus were outraged. Srila Prabhupada needed capable devotees to stay on the land, rebuild the temporary temple, and battle the deceptive seller in the media and courts. He asked Tamal Krsna Goswami, ISKCON's governing body representative for India, to ask the traveling party to redirect their efforts to Bombay. They agreed, leaving the excitement of the road to share a hut on the raw Juhu land with a tribe of rats, each "big enough to scare any cat." Poverty, mosquitoes, and snakes were constant obstacles.
In the emergency, Srila Prabhupada put the preacher Sridhara in charge of construction material. Sridhara, taking inspiration from young Giriraja Dasa, the temple president, faithfully and obediently carried out Srila Prabhupada's instructions. Through the austerity of his daily life, he worked hard to please Srila Prabhupada, for that was his only ambition. Later, Sridhara Swami said that Bombay taught him discipline and service as the means to attain happiness and to progress in devotional service.
"Disciple," he would often say, "means discipline."

Becoming a Swami
When Sridhara Dasa Brahmacari would enter Srila Prabhupada's room, Prabhupada would sometimes jokingly say, "Here is our Sridhara Swami." (Sridhara Swami is the name of a great acarya in our line.) When Sridhara asked Srila Prabhupada if he could take sannyasa, Prabhupada agreed and asked him when he would like to have the ceremony.
Sridhara replied, "Subhasya sighram," which means that auspicious things should be done at once.
By this time, Sridhara had no interest in family life. Externally he was a jolly, friendly person, but internally he was unemotional about the material world, seeing in it nothing of value for him. India had helped solidify his development and maturity in Krsna consciousness.
"It was very sobering," he later said, "seeing the miserable condition of the material world and the last vestiges of an ancient spiritual culture. India gave me a broad understanding of the tradition and potential of what I was receiving from Srila Prabhupada."
Thus, in Vrndavana, 1975, Sridhara Dasa Brahmacari became Sridhara Swami, accepting vows of celibacy and renunciation that he honored the rest of his life.
After taking sannyasa, Sridhara Swami felt uncomfortable receiving the traditional honor afforded to sannyasis in India. He returned to Bombay and joked with his colleagues, "Where is my maha-prasadam? Where is my maha-prasadam?"--referring to special meals traditionally offered to honored guests.
Sridhara Swami thought himself duty bound to return to the West and spread Krsna consciousness, but Srila Prabhupada asked him to stay and help set up ISKCON in India. At that time manpower was scarce; ISKCON had few Indian-born members, and sickness and immigration made staying in India difficult for Westerners. Srila Prabhupada deputed Sridhara Swami to organize temples in Calcutta and, later, Hyderabad, a service he continued until Srila Prabhupada left this world in 1977.

Back to Juhu
Sridhara Swami was in Germany buying a van for the Hyderabad temple when he heard of Srila Prabhupada's departure. He felt, he said, "like a bird flying in the sky who is stunned by the sound of Krsna's flute and just falls to the ground." He was crushed at the thought of living without the company of his beloved spiritual master, whom he had seen regularly through his years of service in India.
Meanwhile, in Bombay, Giriraja Dasa (now Giriraja Swami), under Srila Prabhupada's direction, had led a successful fight to secure ISKCON's Juhu land and build a breathtaking temple. Srila Prabhupada departed just two months before the grand opening. Again, help was needed, so Sridhara Swami was asked to return to help lead and develop the new Radha-Rasabihari Temple in Juhu. He worked diligently there over the next twenty-six years, serving twice as temple president, and helping ISKCON Juhu become one of India's most famous and successful temples.
During his years in Juhu, Sridhara Swami enrolled and cultivated long-term relationships with ISKCON life members. The members loved him and were impressed with his knowledge of Vaisnavism, especially when he spoke in Hindi. Out of deep affection for him and appreciating his friendly, outgoing nature, two members, M. P. Maheswari and Brijratan Mohatta, nicknamed him "the jolly Swami."
While enrolling members, Sridhara Swami met many aristocratic industrialists who had little interest in spiritual life. As a renunciant his needs were few, but he was enthusiastic to engage others in giving money for Krsna's service. Such giving helps implant spiritual life in the donors and bring them towards Krsna. Sridhara Swami compared himself to one of Lord Rama's monkeys who helped bring Sita (who is Laksmi, the goddess of wealth) back from the demoniac Ravana. He liked Canakya Pandita's assertion that "one should not be shy about money or prasadam."

The Jolly Inmate
At Juhu in the late seventies a thief was caught stealing and, in the altercation that followed, struck dead by a hired temple guard. The police arrested six temple leaders, including Sridhara Swami, and held them in the hellish Bombay municipal jail for two weeks. During the ordeal Sridhara Swami was a source of strength for all. He spoke enthusiastically about Krsna consciousness to the other inmates and helped the devotees pass the days by holding an imaginary Rathayatra festival, passing around an imaginary ghee lamp, and preparing massive imaginary feasts. The inmates were charmed. By the time the devotees were released, one inmate, a taxi driver, enrolled with Sridhara Swami as an ISKCON life member.
During his decades of service in Juhu, Sridhara Swami developed a deep love for the deities Radha-Rasabihari. Recalling that Srila Prabhupada carried Their photo wherever he went, he did the same.
Paraphrasing a statement of Prabhupada's, in his jovial way he would reflect, "Bombay was Srila Prabhupada's office, Mayapur his place of worship, and Vrndavana his home. For me, Bombay is everything."

Innovative Fundraiser
Although he performed many services in Bombay, Sridhara Swami's most innovative contribution was the establishment of BHISMA (Bhaktivedanta Information Service and Management). In the early '90's, when the technology was just becoming available and was still unheard of in ISKCON and in India, Sridhara Swami set up a direct-mail fundraising program in Juhu. His investment in the program was met with much skepticism but proved to be highly successful. He went on to extensively study professional fundraising and non-profit management. He spent years traveling throughout the ISKCON world introducing principles and practices he'd learned.
Last year, he founded VAST (Vedic Academy for Spiritual Technology), whose members are academically trained devotees. The aim of VAST is to bring the message of Bhagavad-gita to business people in language and formats that appeal to them.
In recognition of his devotion and expertise, ISKCON's Governing Body Commission (GBC) appointed Sridhara Swami the GBC Minister of Membership and Minister of Fundraising. He served in those posts for nearly a decade until ill health forced his retirement. During his time as a GBC member, he expanded his portfolio to include shared responsibility for overseeing ISKCON's temples in Mumbai and the New York City area. Devotees in New York remember him for tackling the demanding and thankless task of cleaning up the large festival area each year after the New York Rathayatra. At the end of the long festival day he would jump to the stage and, with buoyant enthusiasm and good humor, attract and exhort all sorts of volunteers to complete the difficult job. He would perform this duty each year despite struggling with his steadily worsening liver disease.

The Silver Jubilee
Nothing symbolizes Sridhara Swami's courage, devotion, and kindness more clearly than his role in the Silver Jubilee celebration at the Juhu temple in January of 2003. He hatched a plan to gather the Juhu pioneers from all over the world for the event. For several days the magnificent temple was filled with astonishing, emotional, and humorous accounts of the struggles surrounding its birth. Sridhara Swami, who was quite ill, rose from his hospital bed to lead the event. For days he enthralled the large audience by serving generous portions of long overdue appreciation and recognition for the sacrifices of the assembled ISKCON Bombay pioneers.
Such was Sridhara Swami's mature realization--a hope that ISKCON could continue to evolve from its early struggles into a friendlier, kinder, and gentler institution. Beyond the book distribution, fundraising, and management of his earlier years, he said he considered his primary duty to help ISKCON make and keep Krsna conscious people.
"Losing devotees," he said, "is our real failure."
He was particularly sensitive to the needs of ISKCON youth and helped inspire the founding of Children of Krishna in 1996.
The international ISKCON community felt Sridhara Swami's love and loved him in return. He felt that the devotees' prayers had allowed him an "extension of visa"--several years of active service even after his doctors, in 2000, predicted he would be dead in six months. Strengthened by his many well-wishers, he envisioned a web site through which devotees in difficulty could ask for the blessings of Vaisnavas around the world.
Surely something helped Sridhara Swami survive, as he was less than an ideal patient. Despite the efforts of his loving disciples to get him to follow his doctor's prescribed diet, he would sometimes break it.
Quoting Srila Prabhupada, he would say, "To hell with the starvation committee." He reasoned, "If I eat I'll die, or if I fast I'll die, so I might as well die eating prasadam."
As a further risk, rather than retiring to Vrndavana to die, he continued traveling and teaching Krsna consciousness. Wherever he went, his presence was poignant and uplifting.
He liked the positive spirit and would say, "There is no utility in negativity. Pain is inevitable; suffering is an option."
"Pain will be there," he once declared, "but for me it's an education."

Dedicated to Mayapur
Through his final years Sridhara Swami's great passion remained to see the development of Srila Prabhupada's grand Mayapur project. He constantly sought to inspire devotees to work cooperatively to build the historic temple, which he knew he would not live to see. In 2003 he organized meetings between project chairman Ambarisa Dasa and leading ISKCON life members in Bombay. He gave his disciples names related to Mayapur. And he constantly prayed to his private deities (Ugra Narasimha salagramas) to tear apart his obstacles so he could dedicate himself uninterruptedly to building Mayapur.

Naturally it was to Mayapur that Sridhara Swami turned as his death became imminent. In January of 2004 he was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. After the failure of a last-ditch effort to obtain a liver transplant, he flew, in great pain, from Canada to Mayapur. His elderly mother admonished him that he seemed "too cheerful for someone who is about to die." His two brothers accompanied him and some close disciples and Godbrothers on his final journey.
Sridhara Swami prayed intently to live long enough to attend the historic installation of the Panca-tattva deities in Mayapur in February. The trip to Mayapur was arduous and his pain intense, but he survived with help from his friend Indradyumna Swami (See the sidebar "A Hero's Welcome"). As Sridhara Swami finally approached Mayapur, lying in the back of a van, he heard a thunderous kirtana. Hundreds of devotees had gathered to welcome him.
As it turned out, the jolly Swami survived those last few days. On the day of the Panca-tattva installation, he again pulled himself from his sickbed and climbed the scaffolding behind the huge deities. With five thousand devotees chanting and cheering uproariously, Sridhara Swami poured the ceremonial liquids over the sacred form of Lord Nityananda.
Days later, on the auspicious day of Srivasa Pandita's appearance, Sridhara Swami peacefully passed away. He left this world as he had lived in it, fixed in devotion to Lord Krsna, who says in the Bhagavad-gita, "One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me."

Adbhuta Hari Dasa, from Croatia, is a disciple of His Holiness Sridhara Swami and served as his personal assistant.

Kalakantha Dasa, BTG associate editor and author of The Song Divine, writes and raises a family in Alachua, Florida.

Much of the information in this article came from an interview with Sridhara Swami conducted by Arya Devi Dasi for the ISKCON Oral History Project at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.