New Book: Saṅkalpa-kaumudī A Moonbeam on Determination

Inspired by Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī’s Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta and the tireless effort of its central character, Gopa-kumāra, to perfect his devotional service, Saṅkalpa-kaumudī, “A Moonbeam on Determination,” casts a unique light on four aspects of sādhana-bhakti that arise from the pages of Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛtasaṅkalpa, the determination that enables progress through the stages of devotional service; ekāgratā, the careful attention needed for each successful saṅkalpa; bhāva-sevā, the underlying mood of a saṅkalpa corresponding to the mood of vraja-bhakti; and kṛpā, the divine grace by which practice finally transforms to ecstasy. Saṅkalpa-kaumudī is an attempt to elaborate on these four themes.

Extracting the philosophical essence from the writings of Śrīla Pra- bhupāda and the previous ācāryas, Śivarāma Swami brings together their teachings with a unique analysis of bhakti in a most practical and digestible style that everyone—from aspiring sādhakas to pure devotees—will find inspiring, revealing, and life-changing.

You can order here.


My Daily Prayers

At this time our planet and our devotees need prayer. No doubt many devotees have their own prayers. Yet some do not. It can be downloaded, there is no cost. You can forward it to whoever you think would value it or who would benefit from it. Our hope is that the contents will ease devotees’ concerns during the challenging times that face us. 

With a prayer that Radha-Syama protect you all and enable you to remember their names, forms, qualities and pastimes whatever providence has in store; I thank you!  

Sivarama Swami

My Daily Prayers – PDF version
My Daily Prayers – MOBI version – Kindle
My Daily Prayers – EPUB version – iBooks


Hungarian version

Mindennapi imáim

Jelen pillanatban a bolygónak és a bhaktáknak szüksége van imára. Sokaknak vannak saját imái, de van akinek nincs. Ez a kis imakönyv ingyen letölthető. Eljuttathatod bárkinek aki értékeli, és akinek a hasznára válhat. Reméljük, hogy a könyv tartalma enyhíteni fogja az aggodalmat amelyet a nehéz idők jelentenek számunkra.  Köszönöm nektek, és imádkozom Radha-Syamahoz hogy védelmezzen benneteket és segítsen nektek emlékezni a nevükre, formájukra, minőségükre és kedvteléseikre minden körülmények között. 

Sivarama Swami

Mindennapi imáim – PDF verzió
Mindennapi imáim Kindle verzió (.mobi)
Mindennapi imáim EPUB verzió – iBooks

New book: Chant more

Chant More is a treasurehouse of the unlimited shining facets of the jewel that is the holy name. The chapters herein are a compilation of inspirational, meditational, and philosophical talks by His Holiness Śivarāma Swami on the subject of japasaṅkīrtana, harināma, and sādhana. Each chapter is transcribed from the library of audio recordings catalogued on since its inception in 2006.

In 2011, a compilation of around half these chapters was made available on that site in a pdf named Chant. Offered at a nominal fee that helped fund the then-new site, Chant resonated with devotees worldwide, with thousands of copies of the pdf being distributed. This edition is, as the title indicates, so much more: while the original content remains, that humble little pdf grew to almost double in size, and demanded its own incarnation in the form of this book.

But there’s…well, more. Because Chant More is also the first publication in a new genré from Lal Publishing, “Collected Writings of Śivarāma Swami.” Offered in the same lightweight, soft- bound format as Chant More, collections of Mahārāja’s original audio recordings—from Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam classes; series like Prema-vivarta and Vedic Philosophy Overview; to talks with devotees, personal meditations, group discussions, and more—will all continually evolve into new volumes of the original Chant in the form of future publications.

Each chapter stands alone, yet they are all intrinsically linked to the chapter before, and the one following—the thread that weaves through them all is our own desire to more deeply chant, relish, and love the holy names. The book can be opened at any page, for a minute, an hour, a day—the words are a daily inspiration; a meditation; a prayer.

We hope that the words herein will inspire readers to increase, improve, deepen, and relish their chanting of the holy names.

You can order it here.

Newsletter: So much to see

The video screen nearby says that we are somewhere over the Black Sea, on our way to India. Thank you Air India. When I get to Mayapur I shall begin a writing marathon with the goal of finishing Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā, or at least a good part of it. Let’s see!

But life changes are happening. And as far as writing, I shall dedicate next year to that. For 2020 I have planned an unprecedented eight months absence from Hungary, during which time I shall be writing in Māyāpura. It’s not only about writing, but about an attempt to stabilise my rapidly deteriorating health. Let’s see!

When Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā is completed, I will begin a rewrite of Vilāpa-kusumāñjali, which was Appendix 25 of Nava-vraja-mahimā. That appendix is around 250 pages; I will expand it to twice that size and, unlike any other Lāl publication, this second edition of Vilāpa-kusumāñjali will be illustrated with beautiful full-colour paintings. How many I can’t say, because that depends on how quickly or how slowly I write. But whatever the outcome, I would like to send that book to the printers by the end of next year. Let’s see!

Following that, I will start on fulfilling a desire of my dear friend Ādi-kartā Prabhu, who repeatedly requested that I transpose Rūpa Gosvamī’s play Lalita-Mādhava into prose. I have never done anything like that. However, it is something that I have often thought of doing when reading Lalita-Mādhava myself—which I have often done. Very few devotees have the inclination to read plays. But this work is of such importance and such beauty that it should be known and read, even if it is not in its original drama form. Let’s see!

And, following that—you can see I have far-reaching plans that have taken us well into 2021—I will return to the Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana series, and continue the sequence of books that continues from Śrī Dāmodara-jananī. All in all, my desire is to build up momentum in book writing, which I believe to be my primary calling in what is now the last part of my life. While my commitment to Nitya-sevā, Krishna Valley beautification, saṅkīrtana, Rādhā-Śyāma, and Outreach remain strong, the bulk of my time and energies will go into writing. Let’s see!

Along with these books, Lāl will publish others in the genre of the recently released Chant More, with the next one likely to be on the topic of the Gāyatrī mantra. Let’s see.

In the paragraphs above I have repeated “Let’s see!”, because reality is often so different from what we plan. But if my readers keep me in their prayers, if they entice the Lord to allow me to complete my literary calling timely, then I am confident that He who is the controller of life, time, and fate, will make everything come to pass. Let’s see!

Newsletter: It’s a Good News Day

It is odd to start such a positive message with news of a delay: it is rare that delaying a book necessarily falls into the category of “good news,” but what that delay allows for is definitely good…

The second volume of the Varṇāśrama Compendium has been due for some time, but our Varṇāśrama Committee have agreed to a delay; the good news is that when I finish Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā, which I’m currently working on, instead of doing the Varṇāśrama Compendium volume on āśrama, I will begin on the rewrite of Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī, complete with commentaries and beautiful artwork. I hope to start that early next year.  So that’s good news for me, and hopefully for everyone. It is something I have looked forward to doing for some time.  

More good news is that we are happy to announce the creation of a new genre of small books from Lāl Publishing, “Collected Writings.” These will be collections of audio recordings I’ve done in the past: Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam classes, series like Prema-vivarta; talks with devotees; personal meditations; group discussions, and more.

And even more good news is that we are also happy to announce the release in early October of Chant More, the first in the new genre of “Collected Writings” that we hope will be the first of many future publications. The title leads back to the original Chant PDF that we produced on back in 2011; it was offered at a nominal price to cover site costs, and it sold by the thousands.

Chant More is, as the title indicates, so much more: while the original content of Chant remains, it has almost doubled in size and…well, more: you’ll have to read it!

It’s good having a good news day…

Newsletter: A Change of Tone…

This is a different kind of newsletter. It’s about how I don’t want to write.

Well to be honest it’s about how I don’t want to write one specific book. No it’s not the one that I am hammering away on now for almost two years, Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā. That’s OK, although it’s still not 100% in line with where my heart is.

The book I don’t want to write – or rather complete, since I’ve done 100 pages already – is Codex 2, The Varṇas. I’ve never not finished a book, although I have certainly struggled with writing some. When I blissfully completed the first volume of Nava-vraja-mahimā, I realised that it would take another five books to finish glorifying New Vraja-dhāma. And when those were done, then I was reckless enough to dive into another two. In those times, and many in between, I was ready to give up: exhausted, frustrated, mentally drained. But Rādhā-Śyāma drove me on.

But now I feel the goad of Their Lordships pulling me in a different direction, and it’s not in the direction of varṇāśrama. What is it? Well I would like to start on Vilāpa-kusumāñjali, a separate book, not simply in the form of an excerpt of Nava-vraja-mahimā. The plan would be to expand on the 250 pages that are in Nava-vraja-mahimā 4, to 400-450 pages, and improve the English translations of the verses. Those 250 pages were done in one month: my currently unmatched sprint. Due to time constraints I had to be conservative with content and didn’t have the luxury of rewrites. So there’s more to do.

And that’s where my mind and heart are drawn. I hear the clock ticking away and when I consider the list of books I would like to write, I know that I wont be able to fulfil all the obligations that pull me away from writing. My duty to the GBC was one. But the many and varied personal interactions I have with devotees may be another. Anyway, that’s for a future newsletter.

The fact is that Codex 2 need not be dependent on me. Our varṇāśrama team in Hungary have already divided the next four volumes (2-6) among themselves with the understanding that Codex 2 would be my last written contribution to varṇāśrama. Someone else could write that.

So that’s where I’m at. And that’s the load I’m currently carrying. The topic is on our next varṇāśrama team agenda. I hope someone in the team is willing to unburden me. If not, well you know I’m quite a dutiful type. I may just have to “do the needful”. Seems like I heard that phrase somewhere.

Newsletter: Writer’s Yoga

I’m struggling!

I’ve rewritten what I have to date of Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā and broken new ground. It feels solid, and the view of the future is clear. It also seems that my resignation from the GBC, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s taking the helm, is freeing me up and leaving me more time to write.

But Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā is no easy book. It very much reminds me of writing Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi. That, too, was a struggle. The difference then was that my mind was more in line with the subject and I wrote it over a shorter period of time, during two consecutive visits to Govardhana. With Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā my mind wanders. Vilāpa-kusumāñjali and some other shorter works draws my mind away – especially when I see the paintings for Vilāpa manifesting. I really have a constant, inner urge to work on Vilāpa and I believe it would be a valued contribution to ISKCON and to devotees at any stage of devotional life.

Additionally I would like to put other small works of the ācāryas into quality English as I did with the little blue Vilāpa book. Yes, I really do get myself into extreme writing challenges with short books that stretch into longer ones. But that’s me. That’s how Nava-vraja-mahimā started off as “maybe 100 pages or so” and ended up as 9 volumes! But sometimes the detour-short-book works out to be just that, as it did with Sādhavo and Spontaneous Devotion.

All that said, once Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā is finished, I believe it will be as popular with devotees as Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi, and that it will help the serious sādhaka to move forward to the goal of prema. The advantage I have with writing Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā now, over that of Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi then, is many years of experience of writing through distraction, uncertainty, and stress. That experience has given me a confidence to persevere and keep my mind focused through thick and thin. In doing so, a certain empowerment descends and the effort serves its purpose beyond expectations. When reworking Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā recently I was quite amazed at how good the content was. And when, a few days back, I was reading the newly-arrived Hungarian Nava-vraja-mahimā Volume 7 – the description of the Gāyatrī-mantra – I was impressed by how clear and how deep its message came across.

The conclusion: keep focused and keep at it. That’s the yoga of writing. As with all yoga systems, the yoga of writing demands constant meditation on the object and perseverance until the end. Bringing the mind back to where it belongs. And also as with all kinds of yoga, it is mercy, Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, Rādhā-Śyāma’s mercy, that delivers the final result.

And one of the wonderful things about finishing a book is that remembrance of the painful process I undertook and experienced no longer causes pain when the result is in hand: like women who go through the agony of childbirth, the painful process is forgotten, or at least secondary, when their baby is placed in their hands.

Newsletter: Artwork for Vilāpa-kusumāñjali

Jaya Rādhā-Śyāma. Let me begin by thanking those devotees who have sponsored or who will sponsor Nava-vraja-mahimās for those who can’t afford them or for distribution to libraries throughout Hungary. The significant response from the devotee community has taken a real burden off my mind—the books are not sitting in a warehouse collecting dust.

Furthermore, I am pleased to inform Hungarian devotees that the translation of The Awakening of Spontaneous Devotional Service is now available in their language. I believe it’s a timely publication and worth a careful read.

OK, let’s get back to the newsletter. For those of you who listen to podcasts, you will know that last week I spent quite some time going over every verse of Vilāpa-kusumāñjali with a new artist for Lāl Publications, Gāndharvikā Devī Dāsī. She lives in Alachua, so it’s a challenge having conferences with her, what to speak of when we connect with Akṛṣṇa, our art director in Australia. Going through Dāsa Gosvāmī’s masterpiece was very inspirational. Visualizing the verses or some pastimes relating to the verses is both a challenge and a meditation, the kind of meditation Vilāpa-kusumāñjali is meant to inspire. Those who listen to those sessions will get a sense of what I mean.

For devotees who don’t know why we are planning pictures for Vilāpa-kusumāñjali, let me explain. My current commentary on Vilāpa-kusumāñjali is an appendix for Volume 4 of Nava-vraja-mahimā. When I finish Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā and Volume 2 of Varṇāśrama Compendium, I will edit and expand on Vilāpa-kusumāñjali. I envisage that it will take two years at least. So that gives Gāndharvikā that much time to make drawings and paintings for Vilāpa-kusumāñjali. How many drawings and paintings? That will be worked out with Akṛṣṇa. But at least she now has a vision of the verses, the book as a whole and its underlying mood. So yes, that will be the project after I finish those pending. Vilāpa-kusumāñjali is currently 250 pages and I wrote it in a month. It was an unplanned and a very hurried inclusion into Nava-vraja-mahimā. Taking those things into consideration I would like to add some more content and also beautify the language. It would probably end up being 400-450 pages. After that, Kṛṣṇa willing, I will be back to the Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana series. That’s it for now. For devotees curious to see a sample of Gāndharvikā’s work, here are two, which I believe speak for themselves.

Jaya Rādhā-Śyāma

Newsletter: Just Write

Finally I am progressing with writing! Being here in Māyāpura is truly rewarding and the atmosphere of the dhāma is unparalleled. But this progress has not been without its challenges—extraordinary challenges. 

Unfortunately, due mostly to time expended on vlogs and on their follow-up preaching, over the last year my writing had slowed to a pace that made me lose focus on Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā. What does that mean?

It means that I forgot the substantive inspiration for writing the book. I lost both the inspiration for writing and the vision of what I was writing about. The inner fire of inspiration keeps one writing and creative. And the vision is the systematic structure that communicates the message of a book. Lose these two—inspiration and vision—and it’s like trying to find your way blindfolded. 

Sounds catastrophic? It’s devastating! It was an unfamiliar and time-consuming mistake. In order to regain full inspiration and clarity on Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā, I have to reread what I had written to date. So when I say I am progressing with writing, I mean that I am just getting ready to write. And when I say “write,” I mean “rewrite.” And a rewrite is an author’s bane. 

But, Kṛṣṇa has a hand in all of this. By rereading the written 150+ pages, I realised that the structure of Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā was wobbly and its message lacked clarity. Thus I have an opportunity to upgrade the book and so better communicate with my readers. 

It’s not easy to pick up momentum again. I have had experience of having to rewrite chapters lost to computer blackout, and of saying goodbye to hundreds of written pages to editorial cuts. But losing sight of what I am writing about is a new experience. An educational experience to say the least! It reminds me that the most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing. And as I have mentioned earlier, the most important thing for me is to write books, and part of writing is to keep up momentum by writing daily. In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words “…every day, just write…”

Dear readers! Please give your support and blessings to help me get back on track and fulfill my calling. Jaya Rādhā Śyāma.

Newsletter: More About Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā

From talks with my readers, I have gleaned that Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi is the most popular of my works. There are courses given on it in the UK, Russia, and India, and not long ago, my god-brother Kṛpāmoya Prabhu told me it was “the most important” book I had written to date. However, in my opinion Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā will be equally popular, if not more so. While Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi described the stages of bhakti, Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā focuses on certain elements of sādhana that are relevant to every devotee’s spiritual progress. Moreover the book makes it clear that if we want to get there, it is essential to keep our goal, prema-bhakti, in mind.

My observation over the years is that there is an undercurrent of fear amongst devotees, young and old; fear that thinking, talking, and hearing about matters of transcendence are akin to sahajiyaism and a formula for fall-down. Such a fear is quite unfounded, because without knowledge of what transpires at transcendence, how will devotees have the suitable impetus to get there? While Śuddha-bhakti-cintāmaṇi describes the levels of qualification for acquiring knowledge of Kṛṣṇa’s līlā, Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā helps devotees overcome this fear and take up the challenge of determined devotion.

Our collective aspiration is a lofty one and it takes courage, determination, and ultimately real humility to reach the stage where we are so attached to Kṛṣṇa and His associates that we can cry after them. Without hearing of Kṛṣṇa, such attachment cannot come; without attachment one cannot pine after the Lord; without longing one cannot attract the Lord’s attention; without the Lord’s attention one cannot become the object of His mercy; and without mercy one cannot qualify to become practitioners in transcendence.

Although Mahārāja Pratāparudra was a great devotee, it was his relentless desire to meet Caitanya Mahāprabhu that made him the object of devotees’ mercy and subsequently the Lord’s mercy. When in the Lord’s presence the king recited the songs of Gopī-gītā and finally the verse beginning with tava-kathāmṛtam, Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced and recognised him as a true bhūridā, a “most munificent” person.

Among other truths, this pastime reveals that hearing kṛṣṇa-kathā is the life of those suffering in the material world, tapta-jīvanam; that such hearing frees one of sinful reaction, kalmaṣāpaham; and that by such hearing one becomes the beneficiary of good fortune, mercy, śrīmat.

One reasons for my writing books like Sādhana-sāra-dīpikā is the hope that by doing so Lord Caitanya and His followers will be pleased with me and thinking me a bhūridā make me the object of their mercy.

“My Lord! The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those who are always aggrieved in this material world. These narrations are transmitted by exalted personalities, and they eradicate all sinful reactions. Whoever hears these narrations attains all good fortune. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Those who spread the message of Godhead are certainly the most munificent welfare workers.” (Bhāg. 10.31.9)