Monday, 19 November 2018

Bhishma Panchaka - the last Five days of Kartika 2018

Bhishmadev on a bed of arrows

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The last 5 days of the month of Kartika are traditionally known as the Bhishma Panchaka or the Vishnu Panchaka. Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. Grand Sire Bhisma had this benediction of Iccha Mrtyu or ability to die and leave his body when he wished to. The pastime of passing away of Bhisma explained in the Canto 1, Chapter 9 of Srimad Bhagavatham is a wonderful narration where, there is an assembly of various sages, demigods, Pandavas to witness this important and amazing event.Even and Lord Krishna himself was personally present to give his darshan. Thus, Bhisma gave up his physical body by fixing his gaze and attention the Supreme Lord Krishna and thus achieving the highest perfection of life.
Bhishma Panchaka begins in the month of Kartik,on Ekadasi and ends on Purnima (This year starting from today 19th Nov to 23rd Nov).
In the Hari BhaktiVilasa, it is said that if one is capable, one should observe fasting from certain foodstuffs on the Bhishma-panchaka for the pleasure of the Lord. This is optional. "The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. The Padma Purana say that one pleases the Lord and makes spiritual advancement by such austerities.
Bhishma Panchaka fasting Details (18/11/2018)*: -
By following these days of Bhishma Panchaka fasting one gets the benefit of all the four chaturmasya fasting if one had been unable to follow the same.
Bhisma Pancaka Fasting:
The fasting starts on Ekadasi Day which is 19th November (Monday) and will continue until the 23rd November Rasa Purnima Day (last day of caturmasya, last day of Damodara month). The fasting is broken at sunset (or at moon rise) on Rasa Purnima day. Generally, it is recommended to do full fast on Ekadasi and then the following days fruits and roots fasting. Or one can do all the days with fruits and roots fasting.
Levels of fasting:
Devotees can choose whichever level of fasting as is convenient to them. It should not disturb their normal devotional service(s) and daily sadhana.
Level 1:
One can consume products of the cow (pancha-gavya) each for each day.
First day: Cow dung (Gomaya)
Second day: Cow urine (Go-muutra)
Third day: Cow milk (Kshiira)
Fourth day: Cow yoghurt (Dadhi)
Fifth day: All products of the ccow mixed (Pancha-gavya)
Level 2:
If one can't follow level 1, one can take fruits and roots. Fruits with many seeds should be avoided like guava, pomegranate, papaya, cucumber etc. Boiled potatoes, raw banana and sweet potato can be taken boiled or baked. We can use sea salt for taste. Cashewnuts, raisins, dates can be taken. We shouldn't take milk and milk products in this level of fasting. Coconut water and grated coconut can be taken.
Level 3:
If one can't follow level 2, one can take "Havishya."
References: Padma Puraana, Brahma-khanda, Chapter 23; Skanda Puraana, Vishnu Khanda, Kaartika Maahaatmya section, Chapter 32; Garuda Puraana, Puurva Khanda, Chapter 123.
Ingredients as mentioned in Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa (13.10-13):
The following are ingredients that can be taken during Bhisma pancaka. Havishya is usually made with rice and mung dal. For those following caturmasa from ekadasi to ekadasi, technically their Kartika masa is over by ekadasi, so they can take mung dal in their havishya. However, most devotees follow caturmasa from purnima to purnima, so mung dal would not be allowed in the havishya for Bhisma Pancaka. No oil is allowed.
 * Rice which is unparboiled - raw or polished, unpre-cooked.
* Ghee from cow
* 'Saindhava' salt (mineral salt)
* Ripe banana
* Kaala-shaaka
* Wheat
* Barley
These ingredients are also allowed to be taken:
* Fruits (Skanda Puraana, Naagara Khanda says they must be with a small seed or with few seeds only)
* Mango
* Jackfruit
* Labali fruit
* Roots except 'keaa' (a type of grass or root)
* Pippalii
* Haritakii
* Naagaranga
* Ikshu-dravya or sugarcane derivatives (other than gur or mollasses)
* Whole milk with cream from a cow.  
The following ingredients are normally part of Havishya but have to be
avoided in the month of Kaartika:
* Mung dal
* Til oil
* Beta-shaaka
* Shashtikaa-shaaka
* Radish
* Jeeraa
* Tamarind
One should take bath in Ganges or a holy river every day and should offer tarpana 3 times for Bhismadeva by saying the following mantra:
Tarpana mantra:
(Tarpana is when the Brahmin thread is put backwards (if applicable) and water is taken in both hands. The mantra is chanted and then the water is offered with tilting both hands to the right and downwards so that the water flows down the right thumb. This is a way of offering oblations to the forefathers. You do that for Bhisma on Bhisma Pancaka.)

om vaiyaghra padya gotraya
samkrti pravaraya ca
aputraya dadamyetat
salilam bhismavarmane

santanoratmajaya ca
arghyam dadami bhismaya
ajanma brahmacarine

om bhismah santanavo birah
satyavadi jitendriyah
putrapautrocitam kriyam

** If you do not have any holy rivers nearby:
Those who chant "Ganga, Ganga, Ganga" get the benefit of bathing in the holy river which can be done from anywhere. Devotees can bathe in any river, lake or the ocean.
Offerings to the Lord:
Devotees may offer the following flowers to the Deity:
On the first day, one must offer padma (lotus) flowers to the feet of the Lord.
On the second day, one must offer bilva (wood-apple) leaves of the thigh of the Lord.
On the third day, one must offer gandha (scents) to the navel of the Lord.
On the fourth day, one must offer java flower to the shoulders of the Lord.
On the fifth day, one must offer malati flower to the head (siro-desa) of the Lord.
When there is an overlap of days (tithis), then the flowers for the overlap days can be offered on the same day.
** If you do not have the flowers, then mentally offer the specified flower to the specified place of the Lord.

*Reference: Garuda Puraana by HH Jayapataka Swami ISKCON.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Festival of Diwali

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Lord Rama and Sita Devi
Festival of Diwali or Deepavali refers to a row of lamps,  which symbolises victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. Diwali is a five-day festival and the third day, Chaturdashi also called as Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated is the most important day. The Hindu scriptures mention that on this day, the demon Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna accompanied by his wife Satyabhama.
It is also said that on the day of Diwali, Lord Krishna as a baby boy performed the Damodhara Lila of mother Yashoda tying him to a grinding stone and Krishna than dragged the grinding mortar with him to pulldown the two gigantic trees in his backyard, delivering the two sons of Kubera, Manigriva and Nala Kubera who were cursed by Narada Rishi and standing as trees. Of course, before all this there was an amazing pastime of Lord Krishna breaking the pots of butter, yogurt, throwing them everywhere, feeding the monkeys. And then he started running away like a child in fear of mother Yashoda who was chasing him with a stick in her hand. Queen Kunti explains that this pastime is unconceivable to her because, the person whom by seeing even the fear personified becomes fearful the Yogis and Jnanis trying to catch him with their practice of Yoga, Pranayama and knowledge and unable to do so, such a person is running away in fear. And, when Krishna seeing his mother is getting tired, finally allows himself caught by her. The pastime continues, when Mother Yashoda tries to tie baby Krishna with a rope, it was short by two fingers. And, she added more and more rope from the neighborhood. And, seeing her determination Lord Krishna again, allows himself from abdomen to be tied to the grinding stone. The Acharyas explain that the two fingers signify, devotee’s determination and the Lords Mercy. 
Sri Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman

It is also mentioned in the scriptures that Diwali is the day, when Lord Ramachandra along with Lakshman, Sita Mata, Hanuman returned to his Kingdom of Ayodhya. The people welcomed Lord by lighting up their houses with lamps.
On this Auspicious day, may Lord Rama with his immense strength and fierce arrows, who in a moment (40 mins) killed 14,000 Rakshsas (race of unrighteous beings) in the forest of Dandakarunya may kill those demons sitting in our hearts in the form of Lust, anger, greed, jealousy, hatred etc. and bring all auspiciousness in to our lives.  Happy Diwali to you

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Bahulastami, appearance of Radha Kunda

Srimathi Radha Rani - ISKCON Melbourne
Today is Bahulastami, appearance of Radha Kunda.

The eighth day of the waning moon of Karttik month, or Karttika Krishna ashtami, is also known popularly as Ahoi Ashtami or Bahulashtami. Its significance for the community of Radha-Krishna devotees is that it marks the appearance of Shri Radha Kund, which is said to be the holiest of holy spots and the special scene of Radha and Krishna’s divine pastimes.
After Krishna had killed Arishta, Krishna came as usual to meet Radha and her sakhis to enjoy his pastimes with them. However, being provoked by Lalita and the others, she said she could have nothing to do with him, as he had become impure from the act of killing a bull. The bull, after all, is the very symbol of dharma. When Krishna asked what he could do to be free of his sin, she said that nothing short of bathing in all the seven sacred rivers would be effective.
Yogeshwar Krishna, showing off for his beloved, pushed his heel into the ground and made a large hole. Then he called all the sacred river, who appeared in their personified forms and filled the hole to make a beautiful bathing pond. And so Krishna took his purifying dip and the pond was given the name Shyama Kund.
After bathing, Krishna began to tease the gopis, “Now that I have bathed in the holy waters of Shyama Kund, I am free from any fault, but I am afraid that because you sided with Arishtasura, you have become too impure for me to touch. You are going to have to do something to counteract your fault.”
With that, the Radha and the gopis became a little arrogant and said, “You have your kund, so we will have ours. Our Radha is no less powerful than you!” Then, remarking the huge cavity created by the bull’s hooves on the western side of Shyam Kund, they decided to make her kund there. They broke their bangles to make tools for digging and began to make their own hole.
Within 48 minutes, Radha and her friends were finished; the hole was ready but there was no water in it. Krishna and his friends watched and laughed at the gopis predicament. Nevertheless, Krishna generously offered to fill Radha’s kund with water from his tank, but Radha and the gopis, still proud, refused.
Lalita then said, “Why don’t we form a bucket chain to the Manasa Ganga and fill it up with water from there?” Krishna jeered at them on seeing the dry hole in the earth. Radha defiantly said they would fetch water from the Manasi Ganga not far from there to fill the pond. This, however, was a daunting task.
Then, on Krishna’s order, all the holy tirthas who had come to fill Shyam Kund appeared and offered choice praises and obeisances unto Sri Radhika. All the personified holy rivers prayed before Radha to allow them to fill her pond. She consented, and Radha Kund was born. And so, Krishna broke the dam that separated the two ponds and their waters merged.
Hearing about the appearance of Radha Kund, Yogamaya Paurnamasi Devi called Vrinda Devi and instructed her to plant various trees and vines on all four banks of the kundas. According to her own wish, Vrinda Devi also constructed jewelled ghats, i.e., steps leading down to the water, in order to facilitate Radha and Krishna’s pastimes. She arranged for beautiful kunjas to be laid out with different kinds of trees, vines and flowers. These kunjas were assigned to Srimati Radharani’s eight principal sakhis. On both sides of each ghat she had charming wish-yielding kalpa vriksha trees planted. Singing male and female parrots, pigeons, cuckoos and peacocks are always sitting on the branches of these trees, and the kundas are filled with golden, yellow, green, red, blue and white lotus flowers.
This Sri Radha Kund is the place where Sri Sri Radha Madhava have their most confidential eternal midday pastimes, as described at great length in the Govinda Lilamrita and other such texts. Besides playing their water sports here, they swing, play at pash khela, drink mead and have their noontime meal, visiting the kunjas of the sakhis which encircle the kund.
For years Radha Kunda and Syama Kunda were lost and no one knew exactly where they were located. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to Vrindavana in 1515, he saw two fields under a shallow covering of water near Arit village, which were known as Kali Khet and Gauri Khet (black field and white field). Recognizing them as Krishn’s dearest place of pastimes, he bathed there and experienced the ecstasy of divine prema.
When Raghunatha Das Goswami first came to do bhajan at Radha Kund, the two tanks were only four meters by four meters in size.
Legend has it that one day Moghal emperor Akbar was passing by Arit village with his army. The soldiers and their animals and horses, camels and elephants–were very thirsty. Although all the soldiers and beasts slaked their thirst by drinking from the kunds, Akbar was amazed to see that the water level did not descend.
Another legend recounts that a rich man named Sampanna went to Badrinath to offer Lord Narayana a large donation. In a dream, Krishna told him to go to Radha Kund and give the money to Raghunath Das to renovate the kundas. Jiva Gosvami purchased the land and supervised the project in around 1554.