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Kārtika Niyama Sevā

[October 25, 2023 is the beginning of Dāmodara-vrata in Vṛndāvana, India (if started from Ekādaśī). The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of discourses by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on October 16, 2012, November 14, 2013 and November 25, 2012. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]

Today is a special tithi called Pāśānkuṣā Ekādaśī as well as the auspicious beginning of Dāmodara-vrata. Some begin this vrata from Pūrṇimā and others from Dvādaśī tithi. I saw in the patrikā (calendar) that the Vrajavāsīs from Rādhā-kuṇḍa, also begin their niyama-sevā [observance of a month-long vow] for Dāmodara-vrata [or Kārtika-vrata] today, like us. According to the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, the auspicious beginning of Cāturmāsya-vrata begins on the day of Deva Śayana Ekādaśī, the day when Bhagavān lies down to rest and it concludes on Deva Uṭṭhāna Ekādaśī for everyone, irrespective of whichever day they began observing the vrata. [Endnote 1]

The places stipulated for observing this vrata are tīrtha sthāna, holy places of pilgrimage. If that is not accessible then one can observe this vrata near the banks of the river Gaṅgā, or in sat-saṅga (the association of devotees). This is the procedure for observing the vrata.

A day is comprised of eight yāmas, wherein each yāma spans three hours. Therefore, the aṣṭa–kāliyā-līlā [Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s eternal eightfold daily pastimes] are referred to according to the respective yāma in which they occur. Kīrtanas are sung according to the pastimes of Radha and Kṛṣṇa in their respective yāmas and are referred to as yāma kīrtanas.

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave only one instruction from time to time which was compiled by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the form of the eight verses of Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka. The first verse (śloka) of the eight verses is sung and contemplated upon at pre-dawn after the Vaiṣṇava-vandanā and before Ṭhākurajī is woken up and maṅgala-ārati is performed. Later the devotees proceed on parikramā and circumambulate the different pastime places [of Bhagavān] all day, and according to the places they visit, they sing their glories (mahimā-kīrtana). This is the established practice.

Now is the Prathama (first) yāma. In the first yāma we meditate on the foremost verse, 'ceto darpaṇa mārjanaṁ’ – to cleanse the mirror of the citta [the subtle-most layer of the subtle body, also known as the unconscious mind where all our saṁskāras (mental impressions, recollections or psychological imprints of our previous intent, action or preparation) are stored]. This citta has been likened to a mirror. There are four different kinds of layers [coverings] on the citta:

  1. dust (dhūli)

  2. dirt (kardama)

  3. wood (lakri or kāṣṭa)

  4. diamond/ mountain (vajra)

These layers must be removed [in order to realize our constitutional position as the eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa]. This is a time-consuming process; so it is inappropriate to think, “I have been chanting since so long and yet nothing is happening”.

For those who possess a layer of dust; dust can be [easily] wiped away by a clean cloth. In case of those who possess a layer of dirt, [a little more effort is required.] Dirt can be cleansed by first applying water and then with the help of a cloth. For those with a covering of wood, they have to seek the help of an expert carpenter, or personally and very carefully, excavate each layer with the help of a chisel and hammer; only then one can see the mirror-like citta. And the toughest is the diamond/mountain layer, which requires dynamite to break it and clear it. And that dynamite is only harināma-saṅkīrtana. Harināma-saṅkīrtana is extremely powerful like dynamite, it disregards all obstacles. It is so sharp that it pierces through all the layers and emerges victorious.

Today is the auspicious beginning of Kārtika-vrata and it will continue for one whole month. Though we are ineligible still – ‘sādhane bhābibe jāha siddha-dehe pāba tāha [Prema-bhakti-candrikā 55] – Whatever you think of during your practice, you will achieve only that upon perfection’; just as the saying, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’ The essence of all scriptures has been mentioned here.

November 14, 2013: Darsana (Ending Kārtika vrata)

Mādhavapriya Prabhu: Now that Kārtika is over today, what is the kṛtya (duty)?

Śrīla Mahārāja: What kṛtya? Whatever the nitya kṛtya (eternal duty) is, that is the duty.

Mādhavapriya Prabhu: [Duty] for today or for whole life?

Śrīla Mahārāja: Yes

Mādhavapriya Prabhu: For whole life that is the duty?

Śrīla Mahārāja: This [Kārtika Vrata] was only shown to you as a sample. So what is the meaning of sample?

Mādhavapriya Prabhu: If you like it, then you can take as much as you wish.

Śrīla Mahārāja: Yes

Mādhavapriya Prabhu: So in the month of Kārtika whatever we have learnt, whatever we have seen or heard - How our life should be? What we should focus on? What is the goal of our life? All these things, [and this experience] are just like a sample. Śrīla Mahārāja is saying like when you go to a shop, and you want to buy sweet, then they give you a sample first - take little bit, taste it, if you like it, buy it, otherwise go for the other sweet. So, in the month of Kārtika, the kind of kīrtanas and kathā that took place were like a sample. And then if you like it, then you can take it up for your entire life.

[Siddhānti Mahārāja prompts (inaudible)] Siddhānti Mahārāja is saying, as much as you can, there is no limitation.

November 25, 2012 – Class (Last day of Kārtika)

“You have all followed Kārtika māsa, Urjā vrata. The vrata never ends. There is only beginning, no end. Factually, there is no end to this vrata but we do not possess the eligibility [to continue with this vrata day on day]. Therefore, as long as the eligibility does not manifest, we must observe this vrata for one month only.”

Endnote 1:

[Excerpt from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 4.169, Purport by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja]

The Cāturmāsya period begins in the month of Āṣāḍha (June-July) from the day of Ekādaśī called Śayanā-ekādaśī, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. The period ends in the month of Kārtika (October-November) on the Ekādaśī day known as Uṭṭhānā-ekādaśī, in the fortnight of the waxing moon. This four-month period is known as Cāturmāsya. Some Vaiṣṇavas also observe it from the full-moon day of Āṣāḍha until the full-moon day of Kārtika. That is also a period of four months. This period, calculated by the lunar months, is called Cāturmāsya, but others also observe Cāturmāsya according to the solar month from Śrāvaṇa to Kārtika.

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