[This year, Puruṣottama-māsa starts on September 18, 2020 in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on April 15, 2010 and January 6, 2016.
Śrīla Mahārāja is reading out an article ‘Śrī Puruṣottama-māsa-mahātmya- The Glories of Śrī Puruṣottama Month’ by Śrīla Saccidānanda Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Śrīla Mahārāja is simultaneously commenting on it; his comments are featured in red colour. This article was originally translated from Bengali to Hindi and published in Śrī Bhāgavat Patrikā, June 7 – July 5, sankhya 4. Some part of this Hindi article was translated into English and published in ‘The Rays of the Harmonist’ - Summer 2001, No. 8. This English translation has been included as it is in the article below.
While this article provides much information about the prescribed observance and abstinence during Śrī Puruṣottama-māsa vrata, Śrīla Maharaja often emphasized that one should focus mainly on śravaṇa, kīrtana and Vaiṣṇava sevā during the month, while observing the food restrictions as prescribed for the month of Kārtika.
Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Śrīla Mahārāja: To harmonize the lunar calendar with the solar calendar, the month of Puruṣottama appears after two years, eight months, sixteen days and approximately four daṇḍas.
From the point of view of the smārtas [ardent followers of the smṛti-śāstra], Puruṣottama-māsa is also popularly known as 'mleccha-māsa’ or ‘mala-māsa' [unholy and impure]. As per smārta considerations, no auspicious activities are to be performed during this month. However, from the point of view of the Vaiṣṇavas, this month is very auspicious and pure, since it presents a good opportunity to pursue bhagavad-bhakti [exclusively] as all the activities of karma-kāṇḍa are temporarily stalled.
The twelve suns called dvādaśa (twelve) āditya (sun) rule over the twelve months of the year. [We can see in Kṛṣṇa’s Kāliya-damana-līlā.] After Kṛṣṇa subdued Kāliya-nāga, He came out of the waters of the Yamunā. Having fought with Kāliya all day in the cold waters of Yamunā, he started trembling with cold. Such are His sweet pastimes. So He climbed on to a hillock to warm Himself underneath the sun. At that time, all the twelve suns came to serve the Lord. Hence that hillock came to be known as 'Dvādaśāditya-ṭilā'. After Kṛṣṇa felt somewhat normalised, He began to sweat profusely due to the heat generated by the twelve suns. His sweat streamed down and mixed with the waters of Yamuna. The place where it merged came to be known as 'Praskandana-tīrtha'.
Vaiṣṇavas consider the Puruṣottama month as the best, because in this month even the sun is Kṛṣṇa Himself; there is no rule of the demigods during this month at all. This cannot be comprehended by us. For instance, in the material world, when the ‘President's Rule' prevails, do any ministers function? Who conducts the affairs? The president himself rules and even though the chief minister may continue to hold his position, he cannot function.
So, from our point of view, it is a very auspicious month. In this month one should sing the glories of the Lord abundantly. By observing Ekādaśī tithi in this month one gets relieved and purified of even traces of inclination to pursue rewarding seeking activities (karma-kāṇḍa).
Two divisions of śāstra—smārta and paramārtha
The Vedic ārya-śāstras are divided into two sections—smārta (literature based on smṛti) and paramārtha (transcendental literature based on śruti). Those who are eligible (adhikārī) for the smārta section do not have any natural inclination or taste for the paramārtha-śāstras. The thoughts, principles, activities, and life goal of every human is constituted according to his respective ruci (inclination). Generally, smārtas accept those scriptures which are in accordance with their respective ruci. Having greater adhikāra for smārta-śāstra, they do not demonstrate much regard for paramārthika-śāstra. Providence is the agent behind the creation of these two divisions. Therefore, undoubtedly the maintainer of the world must have a hidden purpose in having made such an arrangement.
As far as I understand, the purpose is that the jīvas sequentially make progress in their level of consciousness by remaining steadfast in their respective adhikāra. By deviating from one’s adhikāra, one falls down. According to one’s activities, a person attains two types of adhikāra—karma-adhikāra and bhakti-adhikāra. As long as one maintains his karma-adhikāra, he derives benefit from the path shown by the smārta section. When he enters bhakti-adhikāra, by transgressing the karma-adhikāra, then he develops a natural ruci (inclination) for the paramārthika, or transcendental path.
Śrīla Mahārāja: As is in the case of education which goes sequentially, from basic to advanced; higher or advanced education is useless for a child, because he won’t be able to grasp it. Similarly karmīs will not understand the topics concerning hari-bhakti; they will only understand karma.
Therefore, providence has made these two divisions of śāstra: smārta and paramārtha.
The rules and regulations of smārta-śāstra are committed to karma
The smārta-śāstra has made various types of rules and regulations in order to help one attain niṣṭhā, steadfastness, in karma-adhikāra. In many instances, it even demonstrates indifference towards paramārtha-śāstra to make people attain specific niṣṭhā in such rules and regulations.
Śrīla Mahārāja: In other words, the smārtas don’t refer to paramārtha-śāstra. It is mentioned in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.20.9):
[tāvat karmāṇi kurvīta na nirvidyeta yāvatā mat-kathā-śravaṇādau vā śraddhā yāvan na jāyate
As long as one is not satiated by fruitive activity and has not awakened his taste for devotional service by śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ, one has to act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions.]
This means one has to act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions as long as one does not develop 'nirveda' [complete indifference or satiation]. What are the symptoms of attaining nirvidyeta? 'mat-kathā-śravaṇādau vā śraddhā yāvan na jāyate' – until one's faith in śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa and so on has not awakened, till then one must perform one’s prescribed duties. Since such an individual is eligible to perform karma, he is not eligible for hari-bhakti.
What is śraddhā? Śraddhā means 'sudṛḍha viśvāsa'
[’śraddhā’-śabde—viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.62)
Śraddhā is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service.].
Some people only act as if they possess faith, but in reality they have no faith; their natural taste is in performing karma (reward seeking activities).
It is mentioned in the scriptures:
[go-koṭi-dānaṁ grahaṇe khagasya
govinda-kīrter na samaṁ śatāṁśaiḥ
Even if one distributes ten million cows in charity during a solar eclipse, lives at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamunā for millions of years, or gives a mountain of gold in sacrifice to the brāhmaṇas, he does not earn a one-hundredth part of the merit derived from chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. In other words, one who accepts the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa to be some kind of pious activity is completely misled. Of course, it is pious; but the real fact is that Kṛṣṇa and His name, being transcendental, are far above all mundane pious activity. Pious activity is on the material platform, but chanting of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa is completely on the spiritual plane. Therefore, although pāṣaṇḍīs do not understand this, pious activity can never compare to the chanting of the holy name.]
During an eclipse, millions of cows may be offered in charity at Kāśī; or one may perform kalpavāsa at 'Prayāga' for tens of thousands of years. 'Kalpavāsa' means to reside in a hut constructed on the sandy banks of a river, bathing thrice daily and accepting only haviṣya [haviṣya is defined later in the article]. Meru-suvarṇa-dānaṁ is offering mountains of gold in charity. Among charities, the charity of gold is considered most beneficial. That is why, customarily, one should offer gold in charity, but nowadays gold has become rare, so instead 'kāñcana-mūlya', i.e the equivalent value of gold is offered. If you understand the import of the mantras chanted while conducting these rituals, it is clear that offering gold in charity is mandatory. Usually, people’s faith lies in performing pious activities. However it is said, 'nāhi tulya nāhi tulya govinda nāma' - none of these aforementioned pious acts can be compared to [chanting] the holy name of 'Govinda'. Why? Because residing on the bank of a river, performing charity of cows or gold and so on, can take one only up to heaven. In other words, within this universe of fourteen planetary systems, as a result of such pious deeds, one will be taken to the higher planets where he can enjoy sense gratification far superior to that available on the earthly plane. However the name of 'Govinda' will take one to Govinda-dhāma.
Can donating infinite cows take one to Govinda-dhāma? Can innumerable dips in the Gaṅgā take one to Goloka-dhāma? Never. It is not possible. Gaṅgā doesn’t possess such a qualification. But people have such taste. Although externally they may not admit it, but within the heart they harbour the desire - ‘Let me go to Haridvāra once and take a dip in the Gaṅgā during the Kumbha-melā. The next opportunity will come after twelve years. Who knows if I will get to go then? So I will go now.’ In other words, such a person is not yet established in the paramārthika-vicāra, he is still situated in smārta-vicāra, although externally he may be dressed as a Vaiṣṇava.
In reality, although śāstra is one, it manifests in two ways for the people. If the jīva gives up adhikāra-niṣṭhā, he can never attain auspiciousness. For this reason, the śāstras have been divided into two: smārta and paramārtha.
Śrīla Mahārāja: There was one gentleman [who had faith in paramārthika-śāstra] from Cakdāha. He was the youngest among six brothers and was coerced into contributing towards the expense of the śrāddha ceremony performed for his departed father according to smārta tradition, as per the desire of his other five siblings. But he disapproved of the smārta procedure. So he consulted me - “I am not satisfied with the way śrāddha was performed for my father, so can I perform it separately?”
I replied, “Sure, you can. If the essence is understood, it is not wrong to do it separately. But only one who has the right vision will know that these [paramārthika] methods will guide the departed soul in the right direction. Suppose someone’s parents have the desire to go to Vṛndāvana, but their train tickets are booked only up till Mugalsārai [a station which is approximately 400 miles away from Vṛndāvana] since their children cannot afford a ticket beyond that station. Then the children may request others, “Can someone please arrange for their ticket from Mugalsārai to Vṛndāvana?” Similarly, the ancestors whose śrāddha ceremony is performed according to smārta tradition can only reach up to Satyaloka [which is within the material world. But by performing śrāddha as per paramārthika methods, the departed soul gets an opportunity to eventually attain Goloka-dhāma.]”
Oftentimes, by smārta considerations, the śrāddha ceremony is performed with an intention to deliver the ancestors from preta-yoni (ghostly bodies) and to enable their ascension to heaven. What to speak of anyone understanding the meaning of the mantras chanted during the ceremony, no one even attempts to understand them. Whatever is demanded by the priest conducting the śrāddha ceremony is ritualistically fulfilled – like the offering of oblations (tarpaṇa) and so on. [No one is either aware of or concerned about whether the highest good is attained for the departed soul, by having customarily performed this ritual in a particular manner.]
In Ludhiana, there is one temple where Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities are installed, but bhoga is not offered to the Deities every day; they make an offering only on some festival days. Once they were celebrating Annakūṭa-mahotsava, so they invited me to honor the prasādam, but I declined. How could I accept prasāda there if I had no faith in them? I saw one sweet-meat maker arrive and begin to cook even without bothering to wash his hands. Is Bhagavān hungry for such an offering? Is He like a beggar who does not demand anything but accepts whatever is offered to Him? The paṇḍita of that temple was renowned for performing śrāddha. Once when he had just performed one such ritual, I asked him, “According to which Veda, did you perform the śrāddha ceremony - Ṛg, Sāma, Yajur?” He responded, “I have not studied the scriptures, but I am good at performing śrāddha.” He used the term 'mein paḍā nahi, mein khaḍā huṅ.' It means - although I am not scripturally learned, I am spotless in my work.
I inquired further, “For how many generations did you perform śrāddha? On the same leaf-plate, you offered oblations to the deceased, then to his father, then to his grandfather, and then to his great grandfather, even without washing the leaf. After you eat a meal and wash your hands, will your father eat in the same plate?” He remained silent. Nevertheless, the priest as well as his patron were both satisfied. They couldn’t care less. Why has the society seen so much degradation today? Because of 'anācāra', bad conduct. Who studies the scriptures today?
In Rāmāyaṇa, during the reign of King Daśaratha, there was draught, so much so that even a sparrow remarked, “Our King is sinful, hence this kingdom is bereft of rainfall and trees don’t bear any fruits. As a result, we have to suffer pangs of hunger.” As the sparrows were conversing like this, the male sparrow alerted the female sparrow, “Maintain silence! The King is approaching, he may kill us.” However those words fell on Daśaratha’s ears, and he replied, “I shall not kill you. Whatever she has spoken is certainly true.” Thus he did not kill the sparrows. But that same Daśaratha, mistaking Śravaṇa Kumāra [who was filling water by the river side] for a deer, shot him with a ‘śabda bedhi’ arrow, which is known as missile in the new-age parlance. This arrow is activated by sound and it follows the sound, eventually vanquishing the target. Thus, Daśaratha became implicated in the sin of brahma-hatyā, strī-hatyā and other sins as well. [By inadvertently killing Śravaṇa Kumāra, Daśaratha became implicated in brahma-hatyā. Upon hearing the news of her son’s death, the mother of Śravaṇa Kumāra instantly died out of shock. Thus Daśaratha became implicated in strī-hatyā as well. And eventually he had to bear separation from his own beloved son Rāma, just as the parents of Śravaṇa Kumāra had suffered in separation from their son. So these events triggered the cycle of getting implicated into one thing after the other for Daśaratha Mahārāja]. This is how it happens. One sin gets added onto the other.
Adhi-māsa (extra month), also called mala-māsa (impure month), is devoid of all auspicious activities
By dividing the whole year in twelve parts, the smārta-śāstras have ascertained the auspicious, or religious, activities for these twelve months. All the karma, religious activities which are part of the varṇāśrama system when allotted to the twelve months, leave the extra month (adhi-māsa) devoid of any such activity. There is no religious performance in adhi-māsa. In order to keep lunar months and solar months in tally, one month has to be excluded every 32 months. The name of that month is adhi-māsa (extra month).* Smārtas have discarded this extra month, considering it abominable. They gave it names such as mala-māsa (impure month), cora-māsa (thieving month), and so on.
_____________________ * It is stated in Śrī Sūrya Siddhānta that in one mahā-yuga there are 1,593,336 extra months and 51,840,000 solar months. Therefore, there is one extra month after every 32 months, 16 days and 4 hours of the solar calendar.
From the perspective of paramārtha-śāstra, adhi-māsa is superior and advantageous for hari-bhajana
On the other hand, the most worshipable paramārtha-śāstra acclaims adhi-māsa as the most outstanding month for transcendental activities. Since life in this world is temporary, it is not proper to spend any part of one’s life meaninglessly. It is imperative for the jīva to remain continuously engaged in hari-bhajana at every moment. Thus, the adhi-māsa, which comes every third year, may also become useful for hari-bhajana. This is indeed the deep meaning of paramārtha-śāstras. Even though karmīs perceive this month to be devoid of all auspicious activities, for the deliverance of all the jīvas, paramārtha-śāstra, on the other hand, has ascertained that period as the most conducive for hari-bhajana. Paramārtha-śāstra says, “O jīva! During this adhi-māsa why should you remain lazy in hari-bhajana? Śrī Golokanātha Himself has ascertained that this month is the best of all. It is superior even to the greatly pious months of Kārtika, Māgh and Vaiśākha. In this month, you should perform arcana of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa with special rules, or moods, for bhajana. You will thereby attain all types of perfection.”
The history and glories of adhi-māsa and how it received the name Puruṣottama
The glories of adhi-māsa are mentioned in the thirty-first chapter of the Nāradīya Purāṇa. Adhi-māsa considered the sovereignty of the twelve months and saw that he was being slighted. He went to Vaikuṇṭha and related his dilemma to Śrī Nārāyaṇa. Out of compassion, Vaikuṇṭha-pati took Adhi-māsa with Him and appeared before Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Goloka. After hearing about the distress of mala-māsa (the impure month), Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s heart melted and He spoke thus:
aham etair yathā loke prathitaḥ puruṣottamaḥ tathāyam api lokeṣu prathitaḥ puruṣottamaḥ
asmai samarpitāḥ sarve ye guṇamayi saṁsthitāḥ mat-sādṛśyam-upāgamya māsānāmadhipo bhavet
jagat-pūjyo jagat-vandyo māso ’yaṁ tu bhaviṣyati sarve māsāḥ sakāmāś ca niṣkāmo ’yaṁ mayāḥ krtaḥ
akāmaḥ sarvakāmo vā yo ’dhimāsaṁ prapūjayet karmāṇi bhasmasāt krtvā mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayam
kadācin-mama bhaktanāmaparādheti gaṇyate puruṣottama-bhaktānāṁ nāparādhaḥ kadācana
ya etasmin-mahā mūḍhā japa-dānādi-varjitāḥ sat-karma-snāna-rahitā deva-tīrtha-dvija-dviṣaḥ
jāyante durbhagā duṣṭāḥ para-bhāgyopajīvanaḥ na kadācit sukhaṁ teṣāṁ svapne ’pi śaśa-śṛṅgavat
yenāhamarccito bhaktyā māse ’smin puruṣottame dhana-putra-sukhaṁ bhuṅktvā paścād-goloka-vāsabhāk
“O Ramā-pati! Just as I am celebrated in this world by the name Puruṣottama, similarly, this Adhi-māsa too will be renowned in the world by the name Puruṣottama. Now I offer all My qualities to this month. Becoming like Me, from today onwards, this Adhi-māsa is the monarch of all the other months, and is the most worshipable and most adored in the world. All other months are sakāma, that is, they will grant worldly desires. This month, however, is niṣkāma. Those who worship this month, either without any desires (akāma) or with all types of desires, will have all their karmas burnt. Then they will achieve Me. My bhaktas sometimes commit offenses, but in this Puruṣottama month, they will be protected from committing any offense. In this Adhi-māsa, those greatly foolish persons who neglect to perform auspicious activities, such as japa, giving in charity, visiting and bathing at the holy places, and who are envious of the dvijas (brāhmaṇas) are deemed wicked, unfortunate and living at the cost of others. Thus, they will not attain a scent of happiness, even in their dreams. Conversely, those who are filled with bhakti will take advantage of this Puruṣottama month to perform arcana to Me. After enjoying worldly happiness, such as wealth, sons and so on, they will eventually attain residence in Goloka.”
Śrīla Mahārāja: Karma is that activity whose reaction, whether good or bad, one has to endure because the activity is performed with the mentality that ‘I am the doer’. That is why Ṭhākura Narottama discouraged one from performing either pious or impious activities.
puṇya se sukhera dhāma, tāhāra nā laiya nāma
pāpa puṇya dui parihara
[Don't even talk about pious activities, which are the source of all happiness. Give up both pious and sinful activities.]
One should give up pious and sinful activities. Can anyone give up pious activities? Only one who is fortunate can do so. The general thinking is, ‘What is the fault in taking a dip in the Ganges at Haridvāra? Let me take just one dip.’ But this is also binding. Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura said, 'keho puṇye keho pāpe sare viṣaya-bhoga’– through pious as well as impious activities one derives sense-enjoyment. One becomes rich or poor respectively because of pious and impious activities. However, one cannot avoid becoming diseased or old, just because one possesses wealth.
In Assam, an elderly person who was also wealthy once requested me, “Can you please make me young again by preparing that Cyavanaprāśa (a herbal formula to restore youth) which was originally made for Cyavana Ṛṣi? I will pay you whatever it costs.” I asked him, “What will you do by becoming young? Were you not young before? What did you achieve then? If you become young again, you will simply continue to lead your life like you did earlier and again experience sorrow. Haven’t you witnessed history? What benefit did Hiraṇyakaśipu achieve by performing austerities for ten thousand years? What benefit did Rāvaṇa attain? Do you also want that?” This is what people are inclined to.
It is said in the above verse – ‘My bhaktas sometimes commit offenses, but in this Puruṣottama month, they will be protected from committing any offense.’ What a great opportunity the Lord has provided.
The glories of Puruṣottama month in the context of Draupadī’s history
Many episodes from the Purāṇas are narrated in the context of the glories of Puruṣottama month. One such example is Draupadī. In her previous life, she was the daughter of Medhā Ṛṣi. Even after hearing of the glories of Puruṣottama month from Durvāsā Ṛṣi, she neglected to observe that month. As a result, she attained many sufferings in that life and became the wife of five husbands in her birth as Draupadī. During their exile, the Pāṇḍavas followed Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s instructions to observe puruṣottama-māsa-vrata and thus crossed over all their sufferings. As it is said:
evaṁ sarveṣu tīrtheṣu bhramantaḥ pāṇḍunandanāḥ puruṣottama-māsādya-vrataṁ cerur vidhānataḥ tadante rājyam atulam avāpur gata-kaṇṭakam pūrṇe caturdaśe varṣe śrī kṛṣṇa-kṛpayā mune
“O Muni! During the period of their exile, the Pāṇḍavas travelled throughout all the holy places, and by the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa they observed Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata with all rules and regulations. As a result of this they completed their fourteen years of exile without any obstacles and at the end attained an unparalleled kingdom.”
The account of King Dṛḍhadhanvā as spoken by Vālmikī regarding Puruṣottama-vrata
Puruṣottama-māsa is glorified in the account of King Dṛḍhadhanvā’s previous birth. At Badrikāśrama, Nārada heard the procedure of the vrata from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, which Vālmikī Muni then related to King Dṛḍhadhanvā in answer to the king’s questions. Just as the rules of ahanika (gāyatri mantras) for brāhmaṇas are ascertained in dharma-śāstras, similarly, the obligatory activities for one observing Puruṣottama-vrata are also delineated, beginning from the brahma-muhūrta hour.
Rules for bathing in the month of Sri Puruṣottama
Regarding the rules for bathing during Puruṣottama month, it is said:
samudragā nadī-snānam-uttamaṁ parikīrtitam vāpī-kūpa-taḍāgeṣu madhyamaṁ kathitaṁ budhaiḥ gṛhe snānaṁ tu sāmānyaṁ gṛhasthasya prakīrtitam
“There are three types of baths as declared by the wise. A bath in the rivers which meet the ocean is the topmost. A bath in lakes, ponds and wells is the second best, and a bath in one’s home is an ordinary bath.”
For one who is observing Śrī Puruṣottama-vrata, after taking bath he should observe the following:
sapavitreṇa hastena kuryād ācamana-kriyām ācamya tilakaṁ kūryād-gopī-candana-mṛt-snayā ūrddhvapuṇḍra mṛjuṁ saumyaṁ daṇḍākāraṁ prakalpayet śankha-cakrādikaṁ dhāryaṁ gopī-candana-mṛt-snayā
“After bathing one should perform ācamana with clean hands. One should then make a paste of gopī-candana clay and wear simple, beautiful, straight ūrddhvapuṇḍra tilaka on his forehead and the marks of conch, disc and so on, on his body.”
Śrīla Mahārāja: Ācamana has to be performed with the right hand, and not the left hand.
The exclusive worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is obligatory in Puruṣottama month
The worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the obligatory activity of Puruṣottama month.
puruṣottama-māsasya daivataṁ puruṣottamaḥ tasmāt sampūjayed bhaktyā śraddhayā puruṣottamam
Vālmikī said, “O Dṛḍhadhanvā! Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the presiding deity of the Puruṣottama month. Therefore, being filled with bhakti-śraddhā, you should worship Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa with sixteen types of paraphernalia every day of this month. As it is said: ṣoḍaśopacāraiś ca pūjayet puruṣottamam
Śrīla Mahārāja: There is pañcopacāra, ṣoḍaśopacāra and cauṣaṭṭi upacāra. [Worship can be done either by using five, sixteen or sixty-four articles as per the established standard according to one’s capacity.] There is an allocation to worship in many ways.
“The worship of the divine couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is indeed obligatory in Puruṣottama-māsa.”
āgaccha deva deveśa śrī kṛṣṇa puruṣottama rādhayā sahitaś cātra gṛhāṇa pūjanaṁ mama
Śrīla Mahārāja: “O Puruṣottama Kṛṣṇa, please come to my home, along with Śrī Rādhā, I wish to worship You.” With these feelings, He should be invoked and invited.
Vālmikī sang the glories of all the rules and regulations to be observed in this month.
In this way, Vālmikī gave all the pramāṇa (evidence). What does it mean? Those who are desirous to follow this Puruṣottama-vrata should only honor haviṣyānna.
[Although Śrīla Mahārāja is continuing to read from the same article, the English translation to the section appearing below was not published along with the rest of the article featured in the ‘Rays of the Harmonist’. Hence, the following section has been translated from the hindi article published in ‘Śrī Bhāgavat Patrikā’.]
What constitutes haviṣyānna
haviṣyānnaṁ ca bhuñjīta prayataḥ puruṣottame
godhūmāḥ śālyāḥ sarvāḥ sitā mudgā yavāstilaḥ
kalāya-kaṅgunī-vārā vāstukaṁ hilmocikā
ādrakaṁ kāla-śākañ ca mūlaṁ kañdañca karkaṭīṁ
rambhā saiñdhava-sāmudre lavaṇe dadhi-sarpiṣī
payo ‘nudhṛt-sārañ ca panasāmra-haritakī
pippalī-jīrkañcaiva nāgaraṁ caiva tintiḍī
kramukaṁ lavalī-dhātrī phalānya guḍa maikṣavaṁ
ataila-pakvaṁ munyo haviṣāṁ pravadanti ca
haviṣya-bhojanaṁ nṛṇām upavāsa-saṁ viduḥ
Śrīla Mahārāja: The following items constitute haviṣyānna: Wheat (godhūmāḥ), śāli tanḍul –a special variety of rice which is harvested after five months, unlike ordinary rice which is harvested in two months, split green gram (mudgā), barley (yava or jav), sesame (til), green peas (kalāya), foxtail millet (kaṅgunī tanḍul), uḍītanḍul, vāstuka śāka, hilancā or hilmocikā śāka, ginger (ādraka), kāl śāka, radish (mūlaka), tuber (kanda mūla), cucumber (karkaṭī), rambhā, Himalayan rock salt (saindhava), sea salt (sāmudra lavaṇa), curd (dadhi), ghee, milk from which cream has not been extracted (anudhṛt dugdha sāra), not packaged milk, jackfruit (panasa), mango (āmra), myrobalan (haritāki), Indian long pepper (pippalī), cuminseeds (jīrā), powdered dried ginger (suṇṭha), tamarind (imlī), mulberry (śahatut fruit), custard apple (sitāphala), Indian gooseberry (āmlalika), sugar produced from sugarcane – not the sugar that is produced from sweet potato (śakar-kanda), rocky candy (miśri), food/vegetables not cooked in oil (ataila pakva) but cooked in clarified butter or ghee (ghṛta pakva).
One gets the same fruit from observing a fast as one gets from honouring haviṣyānna.
Vālmikī also narrated a long list of food items one should abstain from during this vrata along with other rules and regulations.
Foods and conduct that one should abstain from
All types of fish, meat, āmiṣa [defined below], honey, kula-karkita fruit, mustard seeds, and all kinds of intoxicants are to be given up. Foods considered impure and not fit for consumption are dvidāl – like split Bengal gram (chanā dāhl) and the likes, sesame oil, rice/grains containing stones and particles of sand and other impurities, wealth/materials which are bhāva duṣta, kriyā duṣta and śabdaduṣta [Endnote 1] are prohibited.
Śrīla Mahārāja - It is stipulated in the scriptures that the temple priest should honor the mahāprasāda of the Lord and if he finds any stones or hair in the prasāda then it is considered that no offering has been done to the Lord. In such a case, he has to wake up the Deities once again after two hours and offer them bhoga afresh. Otherwise it amounts to sevā aparādha.
Avoid food cooked by others (parānna). One should not despise others, nor visit others’ homes. Besides pilgrimage to holy places, one should not travel to distant lands or abroad. Refrain from blaspheming the demigods, the Vedas, the spiritual master, cows, those performing puruṣottama-vrata, women, the king, saints and great personalities in this month.
What constitutes āmiṣa
Powders (cūrṇa) prepared from the parts of animal bodies, algae or other such living entities, among fruits – jambīra, a type of lemon with a very sour taste, among grains – split red lentil (masoor), and stale food should not be offered. Other than goat’s milk, cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk, all other varieties of milk are considered āmiṣa. All types of salts sold by a brāhmaṇa and salt produced from the earth, cow products such as milk and clarified butter kept in a copper vessel, water kept in an animal skin, and rice/grains/food prepared for oneself - all these are counted as āmiṣa. Food that has been prepared for oneself and not for the Lord is also considered āmiṣa.
Forbidden conduct, substances and so on
One should not interact with – a woman in her menses, those opposed to the principles of Vedic culture (mleccha), most fallen (patita), fallen brāhmaṇas, those envious of the brāhmaṇas, outcastes from Vedic culture (veda bhāyah). One should not consume food seen by these people, also food seen by crows, food cooked by those undergoing sūtaka [a period of impurity as per Manu-smṛti due to death or birth in the family], and food that has been cooked twice or is burnt. Onion (kalandu), garlic, drumsticks (sajinā), mustā are also to be avoided.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Mustā is the root of some kind of a grass which grows on sand. It has a knot at its base, which tastes pungent.
Mushrooms, carrots, bottle gourd (lauki), narica, a root called ‘kemuka’.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Kemuka is one type of reddish coloured radish, not the ones which are white or light pinkish; they are ok. All these items are not to be consumed during Puruṣottama-māsa.
All the items that one abstained from during Puruṣottama-māsa, can be consumed only after first offering them to a qualified brāhmaṇa at the end of Puruṣottama-māsa.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Not that you get everything from the market and consume right after the vrata [without donating].
Puruṣottama, Kārtika and Māgha – Observe the same vows/activities/vrata for all three months.
Abstaining from sexual indulgence by maintaining complete celibacy, sleeping on the floor, eating on leaf plates, eating in the fourth prahara/ yāma is appropriate during Puruṣottama-māsa.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Even in Kārtika and Māgha, all these rules have to be followed.
After rising early in the morning, and completing all pre-noon activities, one must follow all these regulations by remembering Śrī Kṛṣṇa with devotion within one's heart.
A vrata is of three types–
nakta (eating haviṣyānna at night)
Upavāsa: Upavāsa means to abstain from eating. If you have sustained only on milk or water, it is considered that you have not eaten.
Nakta: Nakta means to have only haviṣyānna at night and nothing during the day. Eating haviṣyānna is considered equivalent to fasting.
Eating once: Eating once, either in the afternoon or evening; whatever one has decided as one’s vow, one should conduct oneself during the vrata accordingly.
Fruit of listening to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and observing the vrata
In Puruṣottama-māsa, one should listen to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with devotion.
Śrīla Mahārāja: No specific topics [from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam] have been mentioned. Some discuss Brahma-stava because by these prayers Brahmā had freed himself from the offences he had committed, being ignorant about Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s position as the Supreme Lord.
Devotees should worship śāligrāma-śilā. This vrata is more glorious than one hundred fire sacrifices because by performing a hundred fire sacrifices one attains heavenly planets.
Śrīla Mahārāja: By performing a hundred aśvamedha-yajñas one can become Indra.
However, all the holy places of pilgrimage and all demigods reside in the body of the one who observes this Puruṣottama vrata.
Offering of a lamp and its fruit
One should consider it one's duty to offer dīpa-dāna (offering of a lamp) for the pleasure of Puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇain this month. If wealthy and eligible, one should offer pure ghee lamps.
Śrīla Mahārāja: We will have to use the term ‘desi ghee’ here. Otherwise ḍālḍā (hydrogenated vegetable fat) is popularly refered to as ‘ghee’. But real ghee is rare today. There are brands like Everyday, Sapnā, and so on and there are many types of ‘ghee’. [But only ghee extracted from yogurt made from the milk of a cow bearing a male calf is considered as pure ghee. That too, only if kuśa is placed in it overnight.]
O Manigriva! Where will you obtain ghee or sesame oil while in exile (in the forest)? Hence you can offer dīpa-dāna using inguli oil.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Inguli is a fruit of the flower of the mahuvā (madhucha longifolia) plant. This fruit is ground using a wooden grinder to extract the oil. People living on the mountains use inguli oil. It is like ghee but has no odour. Sometimes they mix this oil with ghee as well. Earlier this oil was also used to make soap. Nowadays even that has become expensive. External application of this oil is helpful in cases of fractured bones, towards the end of the healing process. I was astonished to see that it is sold at a high price in Hyderabad, as there is no demand at all for it in Bengal.
Later he said aṣṭāṅga-yoga, brahma-jñāna, saṅkhya-jñāna, and all tantric practices cannot equal even a sixteenth part of the glory of offering of lamps (dīpa-dāna) in Puruṣottama month.
Such are the glories of dīpa-dāna. However dīpa-dāna has to be done using ghee or sesame oil, and if the former is not available, for instance, if you are in the forest, where will you get ghee or sesame oil? In such cases, inguli oil can be used.
Special activities on caturdaśi, navamī and aṣṭamī of the dark fortnight.
Vālmikī said, 'O King, from the fourteenth day (caturdaśi) of Kṛṣṇa-pakṣa (dark fortnight), or navamī or aṣṭamī-tithi this vrata can be ended (udyāpana). One should invite a pure devotee brāhmaṇa, with one-pointed absorption to observe the following procedure. One should, by using five kinds of grains, create a very beautiful sitting place (throne) for the Lord. One should place four new pots in the four directions of the maṇḍala (circle/designated area) and with priti-kāmanā(desire for kṛṣṇa-prema) place a bael fruit (wood apple) upon each of them to establish Lord Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha in each pot by adorning them with a fresh cloth and placing betel leaves. One should then establish Śrī Rādhā-Mādhavaalong with a pot. One should invoke Veda-Vedāṅga-Pāraṅgata-Vaiṣṇavācāryas (adept in the Vedas). By chanting the names of Caturbhuja [Vāsudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha], four lamps should be lit in four directions.