Is today the end or beginning of Kartika?

Hare Krishna.

14th November, 2016. Gurgaon.

kartika-month

Today is the last day of Kartika. Different devotees would have had different experiences and realisations in this Kartika. But for some fortunate devotees it will be the beginning of a full year of Kartika! Yes, it is indeed very rare and only some fortunate souls receive the mercy and inspiration to observe it properly for one full year (or a life time).

In one of the verses in Stavamala, Srila Rupa Gosvami, describes Srimati Radharani as Kartiki-devi. She is the presiding deity of this month. In Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, he describes Kartika Vrata as the Urja vrata. Urja means power, strength and empowerment. Who is the source of this urja, power and spiritual strength? Urjesvari, Srimati Radharani.  So this is the month we can receive spiritual strength, empowerment to increase our qualification for service and power to make rapid progress in bhakti. So most devotees observe Kartik vrata to somehow please Srimati Radharani.

Does this mercy departs on the last day of Kartika?

Let us hear what Srila Prabhupada has to say on it:

You have asked about the specialness of the month of Karttika, and the answer is that it is a special inducement for persons who are not in Krsna consciousness to perform some devotional service. For persons who are doing nothing in Krsna consciousness, it is an indirect inducement to take to devotional service in earnest seriousness, every moment is Karttika. In this connection, there is a good example that sometimes a store gives a special concession to attract new customers. But for those who are already customers there is no need of a special sale. They will purchase at any cost if they know the important value of the goods. Similarly, those who are pure devotees do not aspire for any concession, and out of spontaneous love try to engage themselves in devotional service twenty-four hours each day, three hundred and sixty five days every year, without any stoppage.”

(SPL to HH Jayapataka Swami, 30th January, 1969)

For pure devotees every day of the year is Kartika.  But what about us? Those who are yet to develop, and bestowed upon, a spontaneous love for Radhe Shyam. What  if we did not/ could not keep any vow this Kartika or what if we feel disheartened because somehow we failed to keep our vows. Not everything is lost for us. We still have a ray of hope and a very bright ray, mercy of Srimati Radharani. It would not end on the last day of Kartika, provided we take some last minute action, today.

We are aware that mercy of Srimati Radharani is readily available in Kartika. Today being the last day, we can take a vow to improve upon any of the areas where we are spiritually weak and/or continue to keep what we started in Kartika. We should earnestly pray to Srimati Radharani to please help us in that area and we take a vow to continue our vow till the beginning of next Kartika. So that it finally becomes part of my daily service. We will show our sincerity and seriousness by trying to keep that vow for Her pleasure, not to collect some pious credits or flaunt some numbers. This will please Her. This would be a proper cultivation and utilisation of Kartika. We are not looking at Kartika as some quick fix solution. Our goal should be to cultivate bhakti, spontaneous love for Radhe Shyam.

I repeat what I quoted few weeks back that the temple will be packed all through the Kartika but it is practically empty a day after Kartika, that should not be the condition of our heart. Whatever mercy we received this month should propel us ahead in bhakti. Not that Kartika is gone and we are back to the same old routine, not the best of the attitude to please Srimati Radharani.

Also at our stage it is best to keep austerities away and take vows which are based on direct limbs of bhakti.

śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātma-nivedanam (SB 7.5.23)

Some suggestions I am thinking for myself:

Endeavoring to carefully hear the Holy Name during my japa.

Daily read one chapter of Bhagavad Gita (takes 10-12 minutes)

Daily read Srimad Bhagavatam (HG Vasisesika Prabhu recently shared that it takes reading just 41 pages daily to complete Srimad Bhagavatam in one year! I could not believe it.)

Daily offer lamp to Tulasi Devi

Daily read the translation of Tulasi Arti after singing it.

Daily read the translation of any of the mantras ( pranam mantras, prasadam prayer, …)

Start daily Guru Puja at home

The list is endless and we can pick wherever we think we need improvement: our hearing, reading, improving relationship with Holy Name/ devotees/ guru.

radha-shyamsundar-vrindavan-kartika-darshan-gopastami

Let us look at the lotus feet of Radha Shyamsundar and pray to Them, beg Srimati Radharani and we take our vow to continue what we started in Kartika or start afresh today with a new vow to please Her lotus feet. Today is the last day of Kartika to show Srimati Radharani that we indeed have some desire to please Her and are willing to walk the talk. 

Radharani’s mercy doesn’t end on the last day of Kartika. It’s ongoing!Let us aspire for it.

All glories to Kartika month.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Going back to Godhead

Hare Krishna,

6th November, 2016. Sri Vrindavan dhama.

Going_back_to_Godhead

Last Sunday as I was standing outside Balaram Hall in  Krishna Balaram temple at Vrindavan, a senior mataji, whom I know, stopped me and we had the following conversation.

Mataji : You live in Delhi?

Me : Yes mataji.

Mataji: Do you know what has happened in Delhi ?

Me: No mataji.

Mataji: They have closed all the schools in Delhi

Me: (a little surprised) Why mataji!

Mataji: The pollution level have reached alarming level in Delhi, they are spraying water on the streets. Didn’t you read the news.

Me: I don’t read news mataji, it is indeed a surprise. ( I could still not understand the reason for her anxiety)

Mataji: I have to go to Mumbai and catch a flight from Delhi. I am worried how will I go?

Me: (now I am surprised) Mataji. you will be going in a cab and in any case the pollution levels have been high since many years. Media needs something sensational and they would have put it on the main news. The pollution hasn’t gone up to these levels in just a day. It was already very high.

Mataji: Please read the news on your mobile. It is a very serious situation and I am very really worried.

Me: (a bit amused now, but I spoke with a passive face and seriousness) There is no need to worry mataji. They said even 10 or 20 years back that living in Mumbai (where mataji lives) is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. So it’s nothing new for our body, Please rest assure your trip via Delhi will be fine and no need to be anxious.

Mataji, not very enthused with my reply, turned and left, with a worried expression her face.

As I started walking back towards my room I thought how as a devotee we get bothered with so many distractions. We forget whether our main goal is to go back to Mumbai or going back to Godhead.

going-back-to-Godhead-1

Going back to Godhead

While walking back to the room I wished the conversation would have been:

Mataji : Are you aware that we are living in this material world, away from Krishna.

Me: (ashamed) only sometimes mataji.

Mataji : Do you know what all is happening here and what all is supposed to happen as kali-yuga progresses

Me: only a little mataji.

Mataji: Please hear what Srimad Bhagavatam has declared:

Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the Age of Kali.

In Kali-yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.

Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brāhmaṇa just by his wearing a thread.

A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he does not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.

A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath.

A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.

As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.

Losing their wives and properties to such avaricious and merciless rulers, who will behave no better than ordinary thieves, the citizens will flee to the mountains and forests.

Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined.

 The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.

The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali-yuga will become fifty years.

By the time the Age of Kali ends, the bodies of all creatures will be greatly reduced in size, and the religious principles of followers of varṇāśrama will be ruined. The path of the Vedas will be completely forgotten in human society, and so-called religion will be mostly atheistic. The kings will mostly be thieves, the occupations of men will be stealing, lying and needless violence, and all the social classes will be reduced to the lowest level of śūdras. Cows will be like goats, spiritual hermitages will be no different from mundane houses, and family ties will extend no further than the immediate bonds of marriage. Most plants and herbs will be tiny, and all trees will appear like dwarf śamī trees. Clouds will be full of lightning, homes will be devoid of piety, and all human beings will have become like asses. At that time, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear on the earth. Acting with the power of pure spiritual goodness, He will rescue eternal religion.

(SB 12.2.1-17)

Me: (very surprised) Really!!

Mataji: Of course, don’t you read Bhagavatam daily?

Me: (ashamed) No mataji.

Mataji: well you should read it. You can now read Bhagavatam on your mobile also, there so many apps.

Me: (more ashamed) Actually I have downloaded all those apps but I do not get time to read SB.

Mataji : I am really worried about future. Should we wait for the Kali yuga to progress at a rapid pace to realise the urgency of going back to Godhead.

Me: (very ashamed) I will start reading Srimad Bhagavatam soon.

Mataji : I am really worried. I do not even know when our time will be up and then we will be born again in this Kali-yuga (‘mildly’ practicing Krishna consciousness ensures at least a human birth)

Me: I am very sorry mataji, I will read it the moment I reach back my room, just now, from today onwards. Thank you so much mataji, I am most grateful to you for stopping me and guiding me to get serious about going back to Godhead and the importance of reading Srimad Bhagavatam daily.

I also remember another conversation with very senior devotee last week who cautioned us that Maya is very clever and she catches us at several levels. At first she will try to catch us at four regulative principles. If she is not successful there then she will try to catch us ‘sadhu ninda’ (making offenses against devotees). If she is not successful there then she will catch us with distractions.

What to do?

Närada advises that one should “patiently endure.” This is advice for the devotee. He should fully engage himself in Kåñëa consciousness with the goal of going back to Godhead, and in the meantime he should tolerate the dualities of life. As Lord Kåñëa advises Arjuna, “O son of Kunté, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed” (Bg. 2.14). “Patiently endure” does not mean that one should stoically put up with life’s dualities and not fully engage in Kåñëa consciousness! The devotee spends all his days and moments wholeheartedly engaged in devotional service, but still he has to contend with material upheavals. So in the face of these inevitable changes, he should patiently endure and go on chanting Hare Kåñëa.

(Narada Bhakto Sutra, 77p)

Be always conscious about…

The symptoms of Kali-yuga are very severe, and they will grow more severe. The duration of Kali-yuga is 432,000 years, and although only 5,000 years of it have passed, already we find so many difficulties, and the more we grow into this Kali-yuga, the more the times will be difficult. The best course, therefore, is to complete our Kåñëa consciousness and return home, back to Godhead. That will save us. Otherwise, if we come back again for another life in Kali-yuga, we shall find difficult days ahead, and we shall have to suffer more and more.

(Teachings of queen Kunti, 15)

 

going-back-to-Godhead

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

Kartika doesn’t end on the last day of Kartika!

Hare Krishna.

25th Oct, 2016. Gurgaon.

kartika-month-radha-madhava

There so many benedictions for the month of Kartika and we get constant reminders via email, messages on mobile and so many other mediums. The list grows only bigger by the day.

“In the month of Kartik, which is very dear to Sri Hari, one who bathes early in the morning attains the merit of bathing in all places of pilgrimage. Anybody who offers the Lord a ghee lamp in the month of Kartik, O brahmana, becomes free from all kinds of sins, such as killing a brahmana, and he goes to the abode of Lord Hari.”

(Brahma Khanda)

There is no other month equal to Karttika. There is no other scripture equal to Vedas. There is no other place of pilgrimage equal to Ganges, therefore, the month of Karttika is very dear to the Vaisnavas .

(HBV, 16/39,40 quoted from Skanda Purana)

 

A very senior vaishnava shared (most of the below content is also from the same senior vaishnava) that there are five essential limbs of Kartika. They are very simple but very important. During the month of Kartika:

  1. One should rise early in the morning for the pleasure of Lord Hari
  2. Take a morning bath early
  3. Serve and worship Tulasi
  4. Offer a ghee lamp
  5. At the end of the vrata celebrate a festival. ( Which means kirtan and prasadam distribution)

Of course because it is Kartika, month of Lord Damodara, so daily chanting of Damodarastkam is also a must.

Sri Sri Damodarastakam is sung during Kartika, also known as month of Damodara. As quoted in the Sri Hari Bhakti Vilasa,”In the month of Kartika one should worship Lord Damodara and daily recite the prayer known as Damodarastaka, which has been spoken by Sage Satyavratra and which attracts Lord Damodara.

 (Sri Hari Bhakti Vilasa 2.16.198)

 

So it a very very powerful month.

Now let us hear a different point of view from Srila Prabhupada.

You have asked about the specialness of the month of Karttika, and the answer is that it is a special inducement for persons who are not in Krsna consciousness to perform some devotional service. For persons who are doing nothing in Krsna consciousness, it is an indirect inducement to take to devotional service in earnest seriousness, every moment is Karttika. In this connection, there is a good example that sometimes a store gives a special concession to attract new customers. But for those who are already customers there is no need of a special sale. They will purchase at any cost if they know the important value of the goods. Similarly, those who are pure devotees do not aspire for any concession, and out of spontaneous love try to engage themselves in devotional service twenty-four hours each day, three hundred and sixty five days every year, without any stoppage.”

(SPL to HH Jayapataka, 30th January, 1969)

 

Isn’t this a very interesting angle on what all we have been reading since past many days. We should be certainly aware of what Srila Prabhupada wants to convey- for a serious and sincere devotee. Being the Kaliyugians, or a dyed in the wool karmi like me, we have a tendency to forget the preciousness of what Srila Prabhupada has given us and actually how dynamic and how powerful every single little tiny thing is. Let us read some other quotes from Hari Bhakti Vilasa.

 

Just by offering obeisances to Lord Hari even once, a devotee can attain His transcendental abode.

(HBV 8.367)

Even if one offers obeisances with duplicity, all of his sinful reactions that have accumulated during hundred of previous lives are at once eradicated.

(HBV 8.370)

Know for certain that in Kali-yuga, drinking Lord’s caraāmta is the best atonement for all kinds of sinful activities. Just by drinking caraāmta , one’s body becomes purified.

(HBV 9.26,51)

One who worships the lotus feet of Lord Hari with offerings of tender tulasī  leaves never returns to this miserable world after attaining the abode of supreme Lord.

(HBV 7.322)

Lord Keshava becomes pleased with a devotee who prepares a garland of tulasī  leaves and manjaris and then offers it to Him. Indeed, He awards such a devotee residence in the spiritual world.

(HBV 7.340)

Those who offer incense to the Supreme Lord achieve prosperity in this life and enter the spiritual world in the next. Just as the incense smoke rises, the devotee who offers incense everyday advances towards an exalted destination as a result of his devotional activities.

(HBV 8.25)

The purification one achieves by bathing in hundreds of millions of holy places can be achieved simply by smelling the remnants of incense offered to Lord Hari.

(HBV 8.30)

Lamps give us vision and upliftment. The more a devotee offers lamps to the Lord, the more he makes advancement.

(HBV 8.70)

Lust, anger and pride that born of ignorance, as well as one’s material entanglement, are destroyed simply by worshipping the Lord with a beautiful ghee lamp.

(HBV 8.303)

Now the most interesting thing is that all the above benedictions are not for Kartika but these are for everyday of the year. Can we see and appreciate how strong and potent devotional practices Prabhupada has given us. Everything about Krishna consciousness process is cintamani but we are blind, slow fools and just can’t see it. And so we have to be encouraged with strong, fruitive type ‘incentives’ like Kartika. That’s why Prabhupada is saying that for the awake devotee every day is Kartika. These are common everyday things in our devotional life. Prabhupada has got us do them every single day. Even if I am a rascal still I get unlimited benefits.

The process Srila Prabhupada has given us is very powerful. So if we become aware of what we have got then every moment is Kartika for us, every moment benedictions are being showered on to the devotees. If every moment we are conscious then every moment we are gaining in a similar way as we are supposed to gain in Kartika!

This brings us to the point that we have to approach Kartika with intelligence. Let us hear some questions and see what is our heart’s response to them.

Q: Kartika is here, am I performing vratas because I want pious credits or I want prema bhakti?

Q: Am I going to approach it as a ‘process wala’ or as a personalist?

Q: Do I want to love Radha Damodar or I want to ‘use’ Their mercy?

The answers are quite obvious for any sincere and serious devotee.

So we should also be aware of subtleties. We should not get caught up in the externals or too many activities in Kartika, or the numbers. Of course, we do the things which are the essence, the five things that we discussed in the beginning. We do the things we are very attached to. But we can think of what are my weaknesses in my devotional life.

Is it something about my relationship with devotees?

Is it something about my relationship with my guru?

Is it something about my relationship with the Holy Name?

What are my weaknesses? I am going to work on them this Kartika.

And we use the mercy of Radhika to help us with that. We can speak to Her about that and don’t let it finish with Kartika. Radharani’s mercy doesn’t end on the last day of Kartika. It’s ongoing!

So if we use the month to facilitate building a relationship which is based on the realisation of our needs in our Krishna consciousness. And we actually want to meet those needs. And we are depending on her mercy then it illuminates our hearts. In this way Kartika can be very very special.

So we should not try to approach Kartika as some quick fix or as a process. The temple will be packed all Kartika but it is practically empty a day after Kartika. That should not be the condition of our heart. Because if we are actually wanting to use Kartika to develop our attachment to Radha-Shyam, then mercy during Kartika should be propelling us, pushing us in Krishna consciousness- after the Kartika! Not that Kartika finish, all done and dusted and back to the same old routine! Next year, Next special! Not a very healthy mentality.

f we are careful and intelligent then we will realise that is it is such a rare opportunity. It is said that Radharani has no eyes for anyone other than Krishna but this month she has an eye for all of us fallen conditioned souls. Are we going to talk numbers to her? We should be wanting to develop our relationship with Her and Her devotees.

What does this means?

As her aspiring servants should we be worried about pious credits or cultivate bhakti? Proper cultivation means that it should be inspiring to continue AFTER the Kartika has finished.

I found an amazing quote by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura  which speaks of similar essence for sincere and serious devotees.

What should one specifically think of, on an each Ekädaçé?

“On each Ekädaçé, one should think, how much advancement I have made since the last Ekädaçé. If one finds that he has not made any advancement or rather he has degraded then one should think bad association as the cause of this, and thus he should endeavor to give up that association.”

(Sajjana Toñaëé 4/5)

(Quoted from Bhaktivinoda Väné Vaibhäva)

So I have shared whatever little I heard and I hope, and I pray, that it helps us not to let this Kartika end on the last day of Kartika but rather propel, and inspire, us to continue after Kartika. Now that would indeed be very pleasing to Srimati Radharani.

 

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

Your servant,

 

Giriraj dasa