Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in United Kingdom
ISKCON, BIRMINGHAM, UK
(Hare Krishna Temple)
ISKCON Birmingham Hare Krishna Temple Address
A: 84 Stanmore Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 9TB. (UK)
T: 0121 420 4999
Spiritual QuoteAfter many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare. — , Bhagavad Gita As It Is 7.19
HomeHare Krishna and Welcome to ISKCON Birmingham website. Please browse through the links which provides all the information about the temple and the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness. The Multimedia link offers wide range of Audios, Video’s, Kirtans, Lectures and much more. To find out more about our up coming events and festivals in Birmingham please visit the festival’s page. If you require any further details or information then please contact us via the contacts page.
Ratha Yatra 2014 – BirminghamRathayatra is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness biggest street festival.
It features huge, wooden chariot pulled by hand in a grand procession.
All the way through there is melodious singing, chanting and dancing to rhythmical drums and cymbals.
The procession ends with a stage show, a festival and delicious vegetarian prasadam feast.
The 14th Anniversary of the Birmingham Ratha Yatra Festival 2014 promises to be a spectacular event with a City Centre procession and festival, incorporating all the exoticness, vitality and colour that is in India.
Don’t miss the spectacular grand procession of the enormous Jagannatha Chariot at 11am on Sunday 27 July from Victoria Square to the City Centre and back again, followed by a free festival in Victoria Square (with traditional dance, music and drama, meditation area, market stalls and a free vegetarian feast,). Young and old can expect a great day of spectacle, participation and enjoyment.
The Ratha Yatra festival is perhaps the oldest continuously celebrated spiritual festival in the world. The chariot of ‘Jagannatha, ‘Balarama’ and ‘Subhadra’ is splendidly decorated each year, and then pulled by crowds through the city streets. People of all nations and faiths are invited to join in this festival “for the soul”.
This is our 14th annual carnival in Birmingham, a celebration which has seen over 6,000 people participating each year, with this year being no exception! The festival is full of life and free to attend.
We encourage all communities to participate and hope all kinds of public will attend. Moreover there will be important dignitaries attending this festival. Previously the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, the Indian High Commissioner and Spiritual Leaders of our Movement have all attended this event.
On ChantingWhat does the Hare Krishna Mantra mean?
The mantra is a spiritual call to the Lord, meaning, “Oh energy of the Lord, please engage me in the loving service of Lord Krishna.”
Who is Krishna?
Krishna is a name of the Supreme Lord, or God. It means “the all-attractive person.” And “Rama” means “the source of all pleasure.” Each of us, every living entity, seeks pleasure. But we do not know how to seek pleasure perfectly. With a materialistic concept of life, we are frustrated at every step in satisfying our pleasure because we are constantly being told to enjoy through our bodily senses. To enjoy real pleasure, one must first understand that he is not the body but consciousness, or the spirit within.
Why chant Hare Krishna?
The Hare Krishna mantra is a spiritual sound vibration, which is like nourishment for the inner-self. It allows us to associate with Krishna directly because Krishna is not different from His name. That God’s names are transcendentally powerful is celebrated by all religious traditions (example, “Hallowed by Thy Name”).
Everyone knows that a happy life requires good health. A proper diet, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary to keep our bodies strong and fit. More important, but less well known, is the inner-self’s need for spiritual nourishment and attention. If we ignore our spiritual health requirements, we become overwhelmed by negative material tendencies like anxiety, hatred, and loneliness.
The potency necessary for developing complete psychological and spiritual fulfilment is already present within everyone. It must, however, be uncovered by a genuine spiritual process.
Of all such authentic processes, India’s timeless Vedas tell us that meditation on the Hare Krishna mantra is the most powerful.
The power of transcendental sound
It may be somewhat surprising for the average Westerner to hear about the power within the vibrations of mantras, but the potency is real. For example, any numerologist will tell you that by associating with particular sound vibrations one becomes influenced by them.
According to the predominant types of sound vibration people associate with through T.V. and radio, or in reading articles in magazines and newspapers, they become attracted to certain things or drawn towards certain viewpoints. When television shows, songs on the radio, stories in magazines, and advertising everywhere propagates the concern for temporary sense pleasure, then people lose their interest in their spiritual goal of life. They simply become absorbed in the mundane thoughts of whatever type of sound vibration that enters their consciousness.
The mind is especially affected by the kind of sound energy it picks up or tunes into. By chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, it helps re-direct the minds attention to Krishna, and our loving relationship with Him. The soul by nature already loves Krishna, but that relationship has been covered over by the material energy. The spiritual potency of the Hare Krishna mantra can help us to revive that eternal love for the Lord. This is the power of transcendental sound vibrations.
What’s the benefit of chanting Hare Krishna?
In the preliminary stages of chanting, the practitioner experiences peace of mind, and relief from unwanted drives and habits. As one develops more realization by chanting, one perceives the original, spiritual existence of the self, and one can understand one’s relationship with the Lord.
The founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila Prabhupada, very nicely explains that:
“We have practical experience that any person who is chanting the holy names of Krishna (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare) in due course of time feels some transcendental pleasure and very quickly becomes purified of all material contamination.”
Chanting Hare Krishna is for everyone
This Hare Krishna Mantra is a universal chant, it can be chanted by anyone. It is for people of all religions, all nations, all colours, and both sexes. There’s no need to pay any fees, join
any group, or turn your life around. It only requires your time and effort. Furthermore the people who chant Hare Krishna are developing good character, gaining knowledge of both the material and spiritual worlds, and helping others to also become free from material anxiety.
So, whoever you are, whatever you do, you can try the chanting for yourself and experience its result.
Sunday Feast ProgramWhy not come and experience the Nectar of Life at the Hare Krishna Temple, Singing, Dancing, Philosophy and a great Free vegetarian feast.
The Sunday Program starts from 2pm with lively Devotional songs, interactive class, worship ceremony and thereafter a delicious vegetarian feast.
Please come along with family and friends, we warmly Welcome you to come and taste the highest bliss which we all are hankering for.
From 5th January 2014 the Sunday feast program time will change to the following:-
14:00 – 15:00 ~ Kirtans (Lively Hare Krishna Chanting & Music)
15:00 – 16:00 ~ Class (Interactive Discussion from Vedic Literatures)
16:00 – 16:45 ~ Aarti, Kirtans, Narasimhadev’s prayers and any announcements.
16:45 – 18:00 ~ Prasadam (free pure vegetarian feast)
The change of time is to accommodate families with children’s so that the program finishes early. We understand that people have to go to work and school the following day, so this new time will help everyone. If you have any concerns with the new times please contact us. Thank you for your co-operation.
1) By sincerely following an authentic spiritual science, we can become worry-free and achieve a state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness.
2) We are not physical bodies made of matter. Each of us is an eternal soul, part of God, or Krishna. Realizing that we all have one common father in God helps us to see each other as one global united family.
3) Krishna is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-attractive and present everywhere. He is the source of all life and the sustaining energy of the universe.
4) The Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Krishna Himself over 5,000 years ago, contains the essence of the Vedas, ancient Sanskrit texts. The goal of Vedic knowledge is simple: to know and love God.
5) A genuine spiritual teacher (guru) is an essential guide on our path to self-realization. The Bhagavad-gita and other sacred texts list many criteria one should look for in a potential guru. Above all, a guru should repeat Krishna’s message unchanged, be free from selfish motives, and constantly focus his thoughts and actions on Krishna.
6) Before eating, we should acknowledge and reciprocate Krishna’s love by offering all our food to Him with a prayer. Like a parent receiving a gift from a young child, Krishna is pleased when we offer Him food, even though He Himself has provided it. Offering food to Krishna purifies our consciousness and brings us closer to Him.
7) Rather than living in a self-centered way, we should act in a way that gives Krishna pleasure. This is known as bhakti-yoga, the science of devotional service.
8) The most effective means for today’s spiritual seeker to reach the blissful, worry-free state mentioned in point one, and to become closer to God, is to chant His holy names:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Lord Chaitanya stressed that the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare is the easiest means of self-realization. Mantras were only chanted softly until Lord Chaitanya started Harinam Sankirtan, the loud public and congregational chanting of the maha-mantra accompanied by musical instruments. He also taught the devotees to gracefully dance to the chanting. Once one is caught up in the dancing and chanting he becomes completely absorbed in the sound vibrations of the mantra. The mantra then enters his consciousness, purifies his heart and awakens his dormant love for Krishna. This style of chanting Krishna’s holy names also allows others, such as passers-by, animals and plants to benefit from the auspicious effects of the mantra.
Following in Lord Chaitanya’s footsteps, devotees chant and dance in the city streets, traveling to various places of Birmingham to give a chance to the conditioned souls to hear and benefit from hearing Krishna’s holy names.
Nama Hatta (“the Marketplace of the Holy Name”). The marketplace of the Holy Name was founded in the 1500′s in West Bengal by Sri Nityananada Raya on the Island of Godruma in Navadvip. Based on the principle that the price for chanting purely the Names of God is sincere faith. With however much faith one possesses, that much benefit can be derived from the chanting. One does not need to leave their home, family or position in life. All we have to do is to chant the holy name of the Lord Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
In this kali Yuga the ONLY process recommended for us to go back home back to Godhead is to chant the holy names of the Lord.
Devotees of ISKCON Birmingham would go out in the streets doing Harinam Sankirtan (Nagar Sankirtan) mostly in the weekends for the benefit of people of Birmingham. We request you all to take part in this activity take advantage of the benefit available to you by loudly chanting and hearing the Holy name.
This timeless sound vibration, enacted from the spiritual platform, purifies the heart of anyone who hears it, gradually enabling them to understand the transcendental nature of the Supreme Lord – the source of our very existence, and experience spiritual bliss by being directly in contact with the ‘reservoir of pleasure’, Lord Sri Krishna.
What is this Hare Krishna Maha Mantra all about?
Mantra means ‘that which delivers one from the influence of the mind’, and is the only process of meditation recommended by scriptural authority of attaining self-realisation in this age.
Previous to this degraded age of Kali-yuga, where people’s minds are always disturbed by anxieties, different methods were given for attainment of God consciousness; control of the senses and life-air to enable meditation on the Supersoul within the heart, elaborate fire-sacrifices, and opulent deity-worship in temples – in the respective ages of Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga and Dvapara-yuga. The millenniums, or ‘yugas’, run in cycles like the four seasons, gradually becoming shorter in duration and more degraded in human qualities, and as described in ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ the present age of Kali-yuga lasts for 432,000 years, of which 5,000 have already passed. As a special concession to the misguided people of this civilisation, the method of sacrifice is the ‘sankirtana-yajna’, or chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
God is unlimited and thus has innumerable names, but the Sanskrit names contained in the Maha-mantra, which is the greatest of all mantra’s for deliverance, are the principal names to address the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
‘Krishna’ means the all-attractive, and because God has all the opulence’s in full; Beauty, Fame, Strength, Wealth, Knowledge, and Renunciation, He has the ability to attract all living beings to His association.
‘Rama’ means the reservoir of all pleasure, and since every living entity by constitution is pleasure-seeking, they can only satisfy this propensity when directed towards the Supreme Lord.
‘Hare’ refers to the pleasure giving energy of the Lord, personified in His eternal consort – Srimati Radharani, only through whom can we attain the favour of Lord Krishna.
Because Krishna is absolute, His names and Himself are non-different, and Krishna’s full presence can be perceived by purely chanting the Maha-mantra. Because Krishna is the supreme pure, by His association we can cleanse away all material contamination from the heart enabling us to taste the full nectar of the holy names, and upon re-awakening our dormant love for Him, we can return to His eternal abode in the spiritual realm.
Srila Prabhupada brought harinam sankirtan to the streets of cities, towns and villages around the world. Most Saturday’s a group of enthusiastic devotees in Birmingham are going out to chant Krishna’s Holy Names and distributing spiritual books to the people of Birmingham.
How to Chant on BeadsHow to Use a Meditation Mala (Japa beads)
Bhakti yoga practice includes chanting the Hare Krishna mantra softly to oneself. This is called japa.
While chanting, one generally keeps the sacred japa beads in a bead bag to keep them clean and off the floor. One side of the bag is large enough to insert your hand. Your index finger coming out the smaller hole on the other side helps you hold on to the bag. Place your beads in the bag, and you’re ready to go.
Before we start to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra 108 times on the beads we should chant the Pancha Tattva mantra once before each round. This is a prayer to Lord Chaitanya and his associaties to help avoid offenses whilst chanting. Also In order to derive the full benefit of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, we must first take shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, learn the Pancha-tattva mantra, and then chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. That will be very effective. The Pancha-tattva mantra is:
The above Mantra means: I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, along with His associates, Lord Nityananda, Shri Advaita Acharya, Gadadhara, Shrivasa and all the devotees of the Lord.
Now to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra, the japa mala is traditionally held in the right hand. The index finger never touches the mala. Beginning with the bead next to the head bead, gently roll the bead between the thumb and middle finger of your right hand while chanting:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
The above Mantra means: “Oh Lord Krishna, Oh energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your devotional service.” This is a simple call to the Lord and His energies. It should be chanted exactly like a small child crying for it’s mother. The transcendental sound vibration of this mantra is the essence of all the Vedas and non-different from Lord Krishna personally.
Then move to the next bead and repeat the mantra.
In this way continue chanting on each of the 108 beads in the strand. This is known as one round of japa and takes between five and ten minutes for most people.
If you are going to chant more than one round of japa, then without chanting on the head bead (Krishna Bead) – reverse the direction of your chanting to begin the second round.
If you have a string of counter beads tied to your bead bag, keep track of the number of rounds you have chanted by moving one counter bead for each round you chant. One round equals to 108 beads.
Chant clearly and try to hear the holy names with attention. Some chanters find that looking at the mantra or a picture of Krishna helps them concentrate. If that works for you, that’s fine. But remember that the goal is attentive hearing.
About ISKCONThe International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a branch of the monotheistic Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition dating back 5000 years to Lord Krishna Himself. ISKCON was established in the West in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada) and has since developed into a worldwide confederation of over 500 temples, centers, communities, schools, and restaurants with some 250,000 devotees.
The mission of this nonsectarian, monotheistic movement is to promote the well-being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to Bhagavad-gita and other ancient scriptures.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1966 with seven explicit purposes. This list of purposes (below) was one of the official documents incorporating ISKCON as a charitable organization
1. To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
2. To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God), as it is revealed in the great scriptures of India, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
3. To bring the members of the Society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus developing the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the quality of Godhead (Krishna).
4. To teach and encourage the sankirtana movement, congregational chanting of the holy name of God, as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
5. To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
6. To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.
7. With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
Vedic PhilosophyVedic Philosophy provides answers to all unanswered questions i.e why there is pain and pleasure, rich and poor, healthy and sick; God – His qualities, nature and works. Soul – Its nature and qualities, souls of humans and animals; reincarnation – how does it happens, why one is born as he or she is. What is the purpose of life? What we ought to do?
If you are a thinker, curious, confused about the universe as a whole, if you have a strong desire to your questions answered, then you must continue reading this philosophy. It will open your eyes, you will be able to differentiate from true to untrue, right from wrong, just from unjust, and you will be able to put together the puzzle of the whole universe.
Although the Hare Krishna Movement has only been established in the West since 1966, its roots extend thousands of years into the past, back into the Vedic tradition of India. The Vedas were originally a vocal tradition, but then were written in Sanskrit over 5000 years ago.
The compiler of the Vedic literature, Srila Vyasadeva, divided the Vedic knowledge into various departments of material and spiritual knowledge, entrusting his disciples with particular sections. In this way, the scriptures developed into the four Vedas, the Vedanta Sutras, 108 main Upanishads, the great Mahabharat which includes the Bhagavad-gita, and the 18 major Puranas, among other texts. Of the Puranas, the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad-Bhagavatam is described as the most ripened fruit of all Vedic literature. It is accepted by the Vedic tradition as the conclusion of Vedantic principles and understanding, and relates the pastimes and characteristics of the Supreme Lord.
The process of spiritual development described in the Vedic literature is one of a gradual process of God-realization and love of God. This wisdom has been carefully preserved and passed down through the centuries through the vehicle of the disciplic succession of self-realized teachers.
This ancient spiritual wisdom is now again being presented in the West through the Hare Krishna Movement. They invite people of all kinds to visit their temples, communities and websites, and participate in whatever way they like in this sublime and easy process of bhakti-yoga and Krishna Consciousness. There are also many books that can also help explain how you may begin this spiritual process.
ISKCON Birmingham Temple is the Home of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Srimati Subhadra Devi. We invite you to come to the temple for darshan of the beautiful deities. They are beautifully decorated everyday with spectacular dresses, ornaments and other paraphernalia. Deity greeting takes places everyday at 7am at the temple.
The Quest For Happiness
Searching for HappinessDo you sometimes feel that no matter how hard you try you just cannot find fulfilment? That despite your best efforts to be happy you somehow end up suffering? Does it sometimes seem that everyone is enjoying life except you? All those films and magazines depicting happy lifestyles you can’t seem to find?
If your answer is “yes”, relax. You are quite normal. At least according to the Vedas, the world’s oldest writings. These ancient texts explain that we can never be satisfied by any amount of bodily pleasure.
In fact we are always seeking newer and newer sensual enjoyments in an attempt to find that elusive satisfaction. We change partners, move house, watch different films, read many books, go on holidays, and so on. But we always remain hankering for something more. At no point do we stop and say, “That’s it, I’m happy now.”
The Vedas therefore urge us to take our happiness seriously-to be inquisitive as to why, in spite of so much endeavour, we remain dissatisfied. They point out that as humans we should not be seeking only that pleasure which even the animals can achieve. We are meant for something more. Animals can also eat, have sex, sleep, and enjoy relationships. But they can’t go beyond that. They are not able to ask life’s big questions, such as “Why am I here?”, “Why do I suffer?”, and “How can I secure my permanent happiness?” Only in human life do we have this opportunity-and we should make the most of it.
So, why is it that our attempts to be happy fail? Well, the Vedas suggest that we are basing our efforts on an incorrect premise-a false assumption. Through science and technology we have become expert in catering to the body’s needs. Our communications, transport, medicine, eating habits and overall lifestyle are very advanced. But we are also seeing many problems coming from this progress. The well-documented environmental catastrophe, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, increasing contamination of our foods, international terrorism, as well as all kinds of diseases such as AIDS, CJD, and cancer to name a few-these are just some of the problems we have seen springing up.
It seems that no matter how many problems we manage to solve, a new batch of even more difficult ones await just around the corner. Furthermore, despite our advancement more and more people are afflicted by stress, anxiety, depression and mental illness. Many of us struggle on, somehow coping by taking shelter of drugs, alcohol, over-eating, or some other harmful addiction.
All in all it would take a brave man to say we humans are making a good job of securing our happiness. And the Vedas say it is because we have wrongly assumed ourselves to be the body. This is the false premise, the sandy foundation on which we are trying to build our happiness. To successfully pursue happiness we must first know who we actually are-and in fact we are different from the material bodies we inhabit.
This theoretical understanding is the first step in self-realization. We have to at least grasp the difference between me and my body. In the Bhagavad-gita, an ancient Vedic text, we find the verse:
“As the embodied soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bg.2.13)
The truth of this is confirmed 5000 years later by modern scientists who have discovered that, through the process of new cells replacing old ones, the body is built almost completely anew every seven years. However, there is one thing that stays the same throughout the body’s changes-consciousness. Consciousness is a symptom of the soul’s presence. This is described in the Bhagavad-gita as follows:
“As the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the soul, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.” (Bg.13.34)
In Western society we commonly learn that we are the body and we have a soul. But the Vedas teach that we are the spirit soul, and we are entrapped in a material body. The great failure of modern day society is its obsession with trying to satisfy bodily demands without ever nurturing the soul. This is why despite our best efforts we remain dissatisfied. If our quest for happiness is to succeed, we must learn how to nurture the real me, the soul.
The Vedas explain that the soul is nurtured when it comes in touch with the Supreme Soul, or God. He is the reservoir of all pleasure. Sitting within our heart, it is he only who can give us the deep satisfaction for which we hanker. He knows us even better than we know ourselves, and is waiting to reciprocate with us just as soon as we turn to him.
The example is given of a fire ember. Once out of the big fire, it gradually dies out. But if it is placed back in the fire it flares up again. Similarly with ourselves, when we are separated from the Supreme Spirit we gradually wither and die. As long as we seek pleasure from anywhere other than the Supreme, we are like that fallen ember, struggling ever more vainly to find enjoyment. But when we are reunited with God we will experience our full potential for happiness.
So how do we turn to him and become reunited? In the Vedas this is described as the process of yoga. The very word yoga means to unite-in fact the English word “yoke” is said to derive from it. By practicing yoga one becomes gradually freed from his attraction to material enjoyment, and attracted instead to the Supreme Soul. That attraction matures into love and one can then see God face to face. At that point, the Bhagavad-gita explains, we will feel boundless happiness and realise that there is no greater gain.
When we mention yoga nowadays it usually conjures up images of various postures and breathing techniques, such as are taught in most yoga classes. However, these exercises are actually just the first two stages of an eight step process called astanga yoga. This process, widely practised in a former age, is described in the Vedas as a means to achieve self-realisation. But one needs to follow all eight steps in order to be successful, not just the first two.
For example, another step of the astanga process is to lead a regulated and disciplined life. We cannot be successful in yoga if we do not control our senses. Only after attaining sense control is one advised to leave home and go to a solitary place to meditate. Strict celibacy must be observed as one attempts to keep the mind fixed on the object of meditation, usually a form of God residing in the heart known as the Supersoul. Once maturity in meditation is achieved, the yogi is able to directly see the Lord and he or she will experience boundless spiritual happiness.
Yet astanga yoga is not recommended for the age in which we live. We lack the necessary training from birth that would enable us to follow the discipline. Strict celibacy and sense control are not very attractive propositions for most of us. Nor do we possess the patience it takes to succeed in this process. We are conditioned by fast food, fast transport, and instant everything. The years of meditation required in astanga yoga would be more or less impossible.
Of course, if one simply wants to get the physical and psychological benefits of yoga, then the postures and exercises may be enough. But if we want to achieve the full benefit-self-realisation and a lasting experience of inner happiness-we need something more.
In this day and age there is another process recommended, known as bhakti yoga, or the yoga of devotion. This is a simple process possible for anyone-even a child. The first two steps of bhakti yoga are to hear about God from an authorised source, and the second step is to chant his names. Though there are nine different practices in bhakti yoga, these first two practises are sufficient to help us achieve perfection. By this easy process one will awaken transcendental love within the heart. Even without the rigid practises of astanga yoga one will gradually come to the point of self realisation.
Hearing about God should be done from an authorised source. Although many people may present themselves as authorities on God, there is one simple way to ascertain if or not they are actually authorised. Ultimately, only God himself can reveal knowledge of his nature and how he can be attained. Therefore anyone claiming to be an authority on God must be able to demonstrate a link or connection to Him. The Vedas call this a parampara, or disciplic succession. A teacher must have his teacher, who in turn had his teacher and so on. And the first teacher in the succession has to be God himself, otherwise the knowledge being presented will have no value.
In the Vedic parampara Krishna is the accepted name for God. This Sanskrit name actually means ‘the all attractive person’. Why attractive? Because, the Vedas explain, he possesses every opulence in full. He is the most beautiful, the strongest, the most intelligent, the wisest, wealthiest, and so on. By simply hearing such authorised descriptions of God, our natural attraction for him will be awakened.
Another name for God revealed in the Vedas is Rama. Rama means “the reservoir of all pleasure”. We are all seeking pleasure, so the Vedas direct us to seek pleasure in Rama, the reservoir of all pleasure. When we approach him through an authorised process we begin to experience spiritual ecstasy as our love for him develops.
In every scripture of the world emphasis is given on the importance of glorifying God’s name. In the Bible it is said: “from the rising of the sun to the setting one should call upon the name of God.” (Psalms 113:3) and, “whoever shall call upon the name of God he shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Muhammed taught, “Glorify the name of your Lord, the most high” (Koran 87.2) Lord Buddha declared that “he who calls upon my name he shall attain paradise”. (Vows od Amidha Buddha 18)
So this calling upon God’s names has tremendous effect in evoking the Lord’s presence and obtaining his benediction.
In the Vedic scriptures we find this same teaching. In the Brhad-naradiya Purana (3.8.126) it is said that in the current age of hypocrisy and quarrel the only practical means of self-realisation is the chanting of God’s holy names.
Chanting God’s names is an essential practise in bhakti yoga because it is the most effective way to awaken the soul’s inner ecstasy. Though God has many names and any of them may be chanted, the Vedas specifically recommend the following mantra: hare krishna hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare, hare rama hare rama, rama rama, hare hare, which is comprised solely of God’s names.
A mantra is a sound vibration which frees the mind from disturbance, enabling us to perceive our true self and our relationship with God. The Vedas explain that God is absolute. In this relative world, we are not the same as our names. But God and his names are absolute and non-different. All of God’s power and potency is present in his names. As we chant them we directly contact the supreme purity of God himself.
By chanting the holy names of God gradually all impurities within our hearts and minds, which block our self-realization, and which are the source of our suffering, are cleansed away. Greed, pride, hatred, fear, envy, mistaking lust for love, and all such things are completely destroyed simply by chanting God’s names. The result is freedom from misery and a sense of deep happiness as we realise our true and eternal nature. Hearing and chanting about God can be successfully practised by anyone, even a child.
The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts, dating back 5000 years. According to evidence found in the Vedas themselves, their origin is divine revelation. From the begining of time, the proper understanding of the Vedas has been preserved by a disciplic succession. This means that a student would learn the Vedic sciences under the guidance of a qualified teacher. When the student had properly grasped the knowledge, then he or she would teach it to other seekers of the truth.
The word Veda literally means “knowledge”. As well as spiritual knowledge, the Vedic texts cover sciences such as health, architecture, martial arts, astrology and much more. However, the most important science taught in the Vedas is the science of the self, or self-realization. And the most important aspect of self-realization is yoga, or how to achieve union with the divine.
Who is Ekadasi?In the Satya-yuga there once lived an amazing fearsome demon called Mura. Always very angry, he terrified all the demigods, defeating even Indra, the king of heaven; Vivasvan, the sun-god; the eight Vasus; Lord Brahma; Vayu, the wind-god; and Agni, the fire-god. With his terrible power he brought them all under his control. Then the demigods approached Lord Visnu, and prayed to Him for help. Hearing the prayers and request from Indra, Lord Visnu became very angry and said: “O powerful demigods, all together you may now advance on Mura’s capital city of Candravati.” Encouraged thus, the assembled demigods proceeded to Candravati with Lord Hari leading the way. Then there was a big fight between the soldiers of Mura and the demigods. Many hundreds of demons were killed by the Lord’s hand. At last the chief demon, Mura, began fighting with the Lord, first with weapons, then with bare hands. The Lord wrested with Mura for one thousand celestial years and then, apparently fatigued, left for Badarika-asrama. There He entered a very beautiful cave, named Himavati, to rest. The demon followed Him into the cave, and, seeing Him asleep, started thinking within his heart: “Today I will kill this slayer of all demons, Hari.” While the wicked demon Mura was making plans in this way, from Lord Visnu’s body there manifested a young girl who had a very bright complexion. Mura saw that she was equipped with various brilliant weapons and was ready to fight. Challenged by that female to do battle, Mura prepared himself and then fought with her, but he became very astonished when he saw that she fought with him without cessation. The king of demons then said: “Who has created this angry, fearsome girl who is fighting me so powerfully, just like a thunderbolt falling upon me?” After saying this, the demon continued to fight with the girl. Suddenly that effulgent goddess shattered all of Mura’s weapons and in a moment deprived him of his chariot. He ran toward her to attack her with his bare hands, but when she saw him coming she angrily cut off his head. Thus the demon at once fell to the ground and went to the abode of Yamaraja. Then the Supreme Lord woke up and saw the dead demon before Him, as well as the maiden bowing down to Him with joined palms. The Lord, being pleased with the girl, offered to give her a boon. The maiden said: “O Lord, if You are pleased with me and wish to give me a boon, then give me the power to deliver from the greatest sins that person who fasts on this day. I wish that half the pious credit obtained by one who fasts will acrue to one who eats only in the evening [abstaining from grains and beans], and that half of *this* pious credit will be earned by one who eats only at midday. Also, one who strictly observes a complete fast on my appearance day, with controlled senses, goes to the abode of Lord Visnu for one billion kalpas after he has enjoyed all kinds of pleasures in this world. This is the boon I desire to attain by Your mercy, my Lord. O Lord, whether a person observes complete fasting, eats only in the evening, or eats only at midday, please grant him a religious attitude, wealth, and at last liberation.” The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: “O most pious lady, what you have requested is granted. All My devotees in this world will surely fast on your day, and thus they will become famous throughout the three worlds and finally come and stay with Me in My abode. Because you, My transcendental potency, have appeared on the eleventh day of the waning moon, let your name be Ekadasi. If a person fasts on Ekadasi, I will burn up all his sins and bestow upon him My transcendental abode.”
Prabhupada’s Lectures, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1969.
So, paravare brahmani dharmato vrataih. So one should execute Krsna consciousness, dharmato, in right path, and vrataih. Bhajante mam drdha-vratah. Just like today,# ekadasi-vrata. Vrataih. This ekadasi-vrata is required. Just see. Here it is that You have performed all the vratas.’ The purpose of ekadasi-vrata is that today we should not eat much usual food, grains. The actual prescription is fasting. Nirjala ekadasi. Nirjala means there are many devotees who does not take even water. Water, drinking water, according to sastra, it is taking food… It is drinking of food or no food. We can take both ways. So sometimes drinking of water is excused as upavasa also. But there are many devotees who even…, drink even a drop of water. Whole day and night they fast and observed ekadasi-vrata. And the night is called harivasa. Harivasa means the whole night they would chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama… This is called vrata. Drdha-vrata. Drdha-vrata.Drdha means very firm, steady. Krsna is so kind that He has given us so many concession. But we should be… Because there are some concession, better we should not take advantage of the concession, but we should be very steady and strong in our conviction and perform devotional service strictly. That is nice. Vrataih. Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 9: Chapter Four, Text 29 PURPORT To observe Ekadasi-vrata and Dvadasi-vrata means to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Those interested in advancing in Krsna consciousness must observe Ekadasi-vrata regularly. The Story of Ekadasi (This article was originally written in 1956 by Sri Navincandra Cakravarti, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and in 1979 translated into English by Vyenkata dasa brahmacari.) Many devotees are very inquisitive about the appearance of Sri Ekadasi and about her special characteristics. Therefore I am presenting this description from the fourteenth chapter of the Padma Purana, from the section entitled “Kriya-sagara-sara.” Once the great sage Jaimini Rsi said to his spiritual master Srila Vyasadeva, “Oh Gurudeva! Previously, by your mercy, you described to me the history of the glories of the Ganga river, the benefits of worshipping Vishnu, the giving of grains in charity, the giving of water in charity, and the magnanimity of drinking the water that has washed the feet of the brahmanas. O best of the sages, Sri Gurudeva, now, with great enthusiasm, I desire to hear the benefits of fasting on Ekadasi and the appearance of Ekadasi. kasmad ekadasi jata tasyah ko va vidhir dvija kada va kriyate kim va phalam kim va vadasva me ka va pujyatama tatra devata sad-gunarnava akurvatah syat ko dosa etan me vaktum arhasi “Oh Gurudeva! When did Ekadasi take birth and from whom did she appear? What are the rules of fasting on the Ekadasi? Please describe the benefits of following this vow and when it should be followed. Who is the utmost worshippable presiding deity of Sri Ekadasi? What are the faults in not following Ekadasi properly? Please bestow your mercy upon me and tell about these subjects, as you are the only personality able to do so.” Srila Vyasadeva, upon hearing this enquiry of Jaimini Rsi, became situated in transcendental bliss. “Oh brahmana sage Jaimini! The results of following Ekadasi can only be perfectly described by the Supreme Lord, Narayana, because Sri Narayana is the only personality capable of describing them in full. But I will give a very brief description in answer to your question.” “At the beginning of the material creation, the Supreme Lord created the moving and nonmoving living entities within this world made of five gross material elements. Simultaneously, for the purpose of punishing the humans beings, He created a personality whose form was the embodiment of sin (Papapurusha). The different limbs of this personality were constructed of the various sinful activities. His head was made of the sin of murdering a brahmana, his two eyes were the form of the sin of drinking intoxicants, his mouth was made of the sin of stealing gold, his ears were the form of the sin of having illicit connection with the spiritual master’s wife, his nose of the sin of killing one’s wife, his arms the form of the sin of killing a cow, his neck made of the sin of stealing accumulated wealth, his chest of the sin of abortion, his lower chest of the sin of having sex with another’s wife, his stomach of the sin of killing one’s relatives, his navel of the sin of killing those who are dependent on him, his waist of the sin of self appraisal, his thighs of the sin of offending the guru, his genital of the sin of selling one’s daughter, his buttocks of the sin of telling confidential matters, his feet of the sin of killing one’s father, and his hair the form of lesser, less severe sinful activities. In this way, a horrible personality embodying all the sinful activities and vices was created. His bodily colour is black, and his eyes are yellow. He inflicts extreme misery upon sinful persons.” “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu, upon seeing this personality of sin, began to think to Himself as follows: ‘I am the creator of the miseries and happiness for the living entities. I am their master because I have created this personality of sin, who gives distress to all dishonest, deceitful, and sinful persons. Now I must create someone who will control this personality.’ At this time Sri Bhagavan created the personality known as Yamaraj and the different hellish planetary systems. Those living entities who are very sinful will be sent after death to Yamaraj, who will in turn, according to their sins, send them to a hellish region to suffer. “After these adjustments had been made, the Supreme Lord, who is the giver of distress and happiness to the living entities, went to the house of Yamaraj, with the help of Garuda, the king of birds. When Yamaraj saw that Lord Vishnu had arrived, he immediately washed His feet and made an offering unto Him. He then had Him sit upon a golden throne. The Supreme Lord, Vishnu, became seated on the throne, Where upon He heard very loud crying sounds coming from the southern direction. He became surprised by this and thus enquired from Yamaraj, ‘From where is this loud crying coming?’ “Yamaraj in reply said, ‘Oh Deva! The different living entities of the earthly planetary systems have fallen into the hellish regions. They are suffering extremely for their misdeeds. The horrible crying is because of suffering from the inflictions of their past bad karma (actions).’ “After hearing this the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, went to the hellish region to the south. When the inhabitants saw who had come they began to cry even louder. The heart of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, became filled with compassion. Lord Vishnu thought to Himself, ‘I have created all this progeny, and it is because of Me that they are suffering.’” Srila Vyasadeva continued: “Oh Jaimini, just listen to what the Supreme Lord did next. etac canyac ca viprarse vicintya karunamayah babhuva sahasa tatra svayam ekadasi tithih ‘After the merciful Supreme Lord thought over what He had previously considered, He suddenly manifested from His own form the deity of the lunar day Ekadasi.’ Afterwards the different sinful living entities began to follow the vow of Ekadasi and were then elevated quickly to the abode of Vaikuntha. Oh my child Jaimini, therefore the lunar day of Ekadasi is the selfsame form of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, and the Supersoul within the heart of the living entities. Sri Ekadasi is the utmost pios activity and is situated as the haed among all vows. “Following the ascension of Sri Ekadasi, that personality who is the form of the sinful activity gradually saw the influence she had. He approached Lord Vishnu with doubts in his heart and began offering many prayers, whereupon Lord Vishnu became very pleased and said, ‘ I have become very pleased by your nice offerings. What boon is it that you want?’ “The Papapurusha replied, ‘I am your created progeny, and it is through me that you wanted distress given to the living entities who are very sinful. But now, by the influence of Sri Ekadasi, I have become all but destroyed. Oh Prabhu! After I die all of Your parts and parcels who have accepted material bodies will become liberated and therefore return to the abode of Vaikuntha. If this liberation of all living entities takes place, then who will carry on Your activities? There will be no one to enact the pastimes in the earthly planetary systems! Oh Keshava! If You want these eternal pastimes to carry on, then You please save me from the fear of Ekadasi. No type of pious activity can bind me. But Ekadasi only, being Your own manifested form, can impede me. Out of fear of Sri Ekadasi I have fled and taken shelter of men; animals; insects; hills; trees; moving and nonmoving living entities; rivers; oceans; forests; heavenly, earthly, and hellish planetary systems; demigods; and the Gandarvas. I cannot find a place where I can be free from fear of Sri Ekadasi. Oh my Master! I am a product of Your creation, so therefore very mercifully direct me to a place where I can reside fearlessly.’ Srila Vyasadeva then said to Jaimini, “After saying this, the embodiment of all sinful activities (Papapurusha) fell down at the feet of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, who is the destroyer of all miseries and began to cry. “After this, Lord Vishnu, observing the condition of the Papapurusha with laughter, began to speak thus: ‘Oh Papapurusha! Rise up! Don’t lament any longer. Just listen, and I’ll tell you where you can stay on the auspicious lunar day of Ekadasi. On the day of Ekadasi, which is the benefactor of the three worlds, you can take shelter of foodstuff in the form of grains. There is no reason to worry about this any more, because My form as Sri Ekadasi Devi will no longer impede you.’ After giving direction to the Papapurusha, the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, disappeared and the Papapurusha returned to the performance of his own activities. “Therefore those persons who are serious about the ultimate benefit for the soul will never eat grains on the Ekadasi tithi. According to the instructions of Lord Vishnu, every kind of sinful activity that can be found in the material world takes its residence in this place of foodstuff (grain). Whoever follows Ekadasi is freed from all sins and never enters into hellish regions. If one doesn’t follow Ekadasi because of illusion, he is still considered the utmost sinner. For every mouthful of grain that is eaten by a resident of the earthly region, one receives the effect of kiling millions of brahmanas. It is definately necessary that one give up eating grains on Ekadasi. I very strongly say again and again, ‘On Ekadasi, don’t eat grains, don’t eat grains, don’t eat grains!’ Whether one be a ksatriya, vaisya, shudra, or of any family, he should follow the lunar day of Ekadasi. From this the perfection of varna and ashram will be attained. Especially since even if one by trickery follows Ekadasi, all of his sin become destroyed and he very easily attains the supreme goal, the abode of Vaikuntha.”
Ekadasi ObservanceFrom the very beginning of His childhood life Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the system of observing a fast on the Ekadasi day. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Goswami, there is a quotation from the Skanda Puran admonishing that a person who eats grains on Ekadasi becomes a murderer of his mother, father, brother and spiritual master, and even if he is elevated to a Vaikuntha planet, he falls down. On Ekadasi, everything is cooked for Vishnu, including regular grains and dhal, but it is enjoined that a Vaisnava should not even take visnu-prasadam on Ekadasi. It is said that a Vaisnava does not accept anything eatable that is not offered to Lord Visnu, but on Ekadasi a Vaisnava should not touch even maha-prasadam offered to Visnu, although such prasadam may be kept for being eaten the next day. It is strictly forbidden for one to accept any kind of grain on Ekadasi, even if it is offered to Lord Visnu. = REF. Adi 15.10 Ekadasi literally means “the eleventh day.” There are two Ekadasis in a month : on the eleventh day after the new moon, and on the eleventh day after the full moon. Of all vratas (vows of austerity), Visnu is most pleased with those who observe the Ekadasi vrata. Therefore anyone who does not observe the vrata and eats grains on Ekadasi is said to eat sin, for he disobeys the Lord’s order and thus displeases Him. Thus, although Ekadasi fasting is good for health, it should be undertaken principally for the sake of pleasing Krsna. To observe Ekadasi vrata and Dvadasi vrata means to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Those interested in advancing in Krsna consciousness must observe Ekadasi regularly.(SB 9.4.29) Hari Bhakti Vilasa quotes from many scriptures to establish the necessity of observing the Ekadasi vrata, to glorify the vrata, to establish the proper day on which to observe the vrata, and to give the proper mode of observance. Observing the Ekadasi vrata (vow of austerity) is one of the principal duties of Vaisnavas. To fail to do so is a serious offence. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, madhava-tithi bhakti-janane jatane palana kari (Suddha-bhakata, from Saranagati): “I observe with great care the holy days like Ekadasi and Janmashtami, for they are the mother of devotion.” All people, male and female, of all castes and ages, from eight to eighty, should observe the Ekadasi vrata in all circumstances. This applies to the Ekadasis of both the waxing (gaura or sukla) and waning (krsna paksa) phases of the moon.
All devotees must avoid the following foods on Ekadasi : grains (wheat, rice, etc.), dahl, peas, bean type vegetables, mustard seeds, sesame seeds (except on Sat-tila Ekadasi, when sesame [tila] seeds may be offered and eaten), derivatives of these foods (wheat flour, mustard oil, soya bean oil etc.), and food items containing these products. For instance, care should be taken in using powdered spices, which, if mixed with flour, should not be used on Ekadasi. Particularly, commercially prepared powdered asafatoeda (hing) is always mixed with flour and is not to be used on Ekadasi. If even a slight piece of grain is ingested, even accidentally, the Ekadasi fast is broken. Devotees should not even think of neglecting the Ekadasi fast, unless its observance would severely strain their health. Only in rare cases, those who are physically unable to fast may take grains on Ekadasi, but then only with the explicit permission of their guru. Those who, in the course of the year, break the Ekadasi fast even once, should observe the yearly Bhima Nirjala Ekadasi (see below). Pancaratra Pradipa states: “One who is very strictly observing Ekadasi should avoid all spices except pepper, rock salt and cumin. He should also eschew certain vegetables, such as tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and leafy vegetables.” Simpler than this and even more strict is to fast completely. Srila Prabhupada usually observed the Ekadasi fast in the simplest manner prescribed in scripture, by refraining from eating grains, beans, peas and dahl. Sometimes he observed a half-day fast. Some devotees eat only fruit on Ekadasi, some take only water, and some fully fast, even from water (this latter is called nirjala vrata). Non-grain high carbohydrate foods are often prepared on Ekadasi. Sago (tapioca) is a common example. But sago is sometimes mixed with rice flour, and apparently sometimes even with crushed insects. So unless one is sure about the source, sago should be avoided. In India, preparations resembling capatis and rice are made on Ekadasi from non-grain ingredients. Srila Prabhupada was pleased if his disciples strictly observed ekadasi, but he did not emphasize it. (Tamal Krsna Goswami): I told Srila Prabhupada we were strictly observing Ekadasi, no eating or drinking. He said, “Very good.” (TKG’S Diary, page 70) Actually on the Ekadasi days we should not take any food, or even drink water. But in our society we are not doing so strictly. We say, “On Ekadsi, you don’t take food grains. Take a little fruit, milk.” Ekadasi day, there is no eating sumptuously. Simply you take a little fruit and flower. Try to avoid that also. You don’t take even water. That is really Ekadasi. But because we cannot do it in the Kali-yuga the time is different therefore we are allowed to take a little fruit and milk, which is called anukalpa. For those who are accustomed to full fasting from a young age and have the physical strength for it, refraining from food and water on Ekadasi is an excellent practice. Not only food, but also sleep is supposed to be given up or minimized on Ekadasi. Those who are so practised may also stay awake all night on Ekadasi, chanting the glories of the Lord. Yet, due to so many discrepancies of modern life, the physical strength of the average person is much less than when this type of fasting was commonly practiced. Therefore many devotees who try to follow this vow become physically devastated. Even if they force themselves to stay awake throughout the night, they cannot properly chant because of hunger, weakness and tiredness. In such cases, is better to follow the process of devotional service according to one’s physical ability, rather than attempt something one cannot properly do. Fasting means if you don’t feel weak, then you fast–not that you imitate Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. That is not possible in the beginning. But it is possible if you practice. It is not unusual to feel a little weak when fasting, although with practice one can fast without being disturbed by weakness. However, if a devotee feels too weak to properly perform his standard services, it is better that he take a little non-grain prasada on Ekadasi and continue with his regular activities. If there is service and on my fasting, service will be stopped, then I can take. First consideration: service. Now if somebody feels weak, he can take maha-prasada, render service. ( Morning Walk Los Angeles, June 7, 1976) Full fasting on Ekadasi is good for health and good practice in restraining the senses, yet the main purpose of observing Ekadasi-vrata is to increase remembrance of Krsna. One who thinks of food instead of Krsna gets little benefit from fasting. It is therefore better, both for health considerations and to help the mind from being diverted, to break fast with a simple rather than elaborate meal. One of the limbs of a vrata is to diminish the devotee’s propensity for enjoyment. If one thinks, “Today somehow or other I will renounce, but tomorrow I will enjoy profusely,” then the purpose of the vow will not be successful. If a devotee who is fasting sleeps more due to weakness (real or imagined), cannot rise the next morning, or makes elaborate arrangements to enjoy breaking the fast the next morning, he will derive little benefit. When Tamal Krsna Gosvami asked Srila Prabhupada if devotees could fast fully on Ekadasi, Prabhupada replied “Yes, but don’t lie down and sleep.” Artificial observance is merely a superficial austerity. Indeed, the disturbance to a devotee’s regular routine and service may even be a hindrance to his spiritual advancement. Nor should devotees do strict fasting to impress others, or think themselves superior for doing so, or put pressure on others to also do so. Full Ekadasi fasting is optional, and should not be forced onto anyone.
TIMING OF THE FAST :
Observance of Ekadasi vrata is calculated to begin at sunrise. The period before sunrise is considered to be part of the previous day. So the Ekadasi vrata starts at sunrise and lasts until the next sunrise. We observe Ekadasi from sunrise to sunrise. Twelve midnight is the western astronomical calculation, but the Vedic astronomical calculation begins either from the sunrise or the moonrise. Generally it is sunrise. Our calculation is like this: when the sunrise is there, Ekadasi tithi (date) must be there. If the tithi begins a few minutes after the sunrise, then we accept that day as prior to Ekadasi. ( Letter to: Madhudvisa, 30 September, 1969 ) If one eats grains during the period from sunrise to sunrise, one breaks the vrata. He will not get the results of the fasting, and he will get impious reactions as well. In Vedic culture the day begins at sunrise no matter when the lunar tithi begins (The Vedic system differs from the Gregorian calendar in as much as the days are named are deemed to begin at sunrise, rather than midnight). Therefore, technically speaking, since ekadasi or any other day does not begin until sunrise, one could eat grains before sunrise. However, one should generally not eat in the pre-dawn hours, and especially not on ekadasi. Hence, ekadasi fasting and other observances should be followed from the time of waking up on the ekadasi vrata day. Some Vaisnavas are particular not to eat anything after sunset the night before, to make sure there is no undigested food left in the stomach on ekadasi day.
BRAKING THE FAST
Ekadasi fasting ends with parana, i.e., breaking the fast the next day (Dvadasi) by taking grain prasada. Parana must be performed within a specific time, calculated separately for each Dvadasi. For the dates of Ekadasi and the times for breaking fast, one can consult the Vaisnava calendar (available from ISKCON centers). The specific calendar used by ISKCON should be used, as the prescribed dates for Ekadasi and important festivals may vary according to the system of calculation used by the panditas in each sampradaya. If devotees accidentally break the fast on Ekadasi, they should observe fasting on the following day. Hari Sauri Prabhu recalls an occasion when: The devotees inadvertently broke the Ekadasi vow because the cook accidentally put peas in the vegetable preparations. Srila Prabhupada told us we were all nonsense. He angrily rebuked us, “Now you have to fast for three days!” This shocked everyone. “Yes, that is the procedure,” he confirmed. Seeing the stunned look on our faces he relented, but said that we should observe Ekadasi for the rest of the day and then again tomorrow on Dvadasi. ( Transcendental Diary, 1.258 ) Similarly, if the morning fast to be observed on an appearance or disappearance day of an acarya or avatara is inadvertently broken, it should be followed the next day. (c.f. TD4 p.42)
BHIMA EKADASI :
It is said that the Pandava Bhima could not observe fasting on ekadasi and so Krsna told him to fully fast, even from water, only once a year. This comes annually in the month of Trivikrama, at the hottest time of the year in India, which makes it a great austerity to observe. This day is also known as Pandava nirjala ekadasi or simply nirjala ekadasi. Srila Prabhupada did not emphasize strict following of nirjala ekadasi without taking water. Hari Sauri Prabhu recounts that “When I was with Srila Prabhupada in 1976 nirjala ekadasi was observed while we were in America. Prabhupada never mentioned that we should strictly observe it by fasting from water.”
REMEMBERING KRISHNA :
For many devotees, Ekadasi simply means a change of diet. Many hardly even notice Ekadasi coming and going. But Ekadsi observance means more than refraining from eating grains. The traditional system of following the Ekadsi vrata is to fast and stay awake all night chanting the Lord’s glories. It is a three day austerity that entails taking only one simple meal before nightfall on Dasami (the day before Ekadasi), and a similar simple meal on Dvadasi (the day after Ekadasi). Although this strict observance may not be practicable for most devotees, everyone should try to take advantage of the auspicious time of Ekadasi to advance in Krsna consciousness. In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadasi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Krishna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly. ( NOD Ch.7 ) Srila Prabhupada recommended that devotees with sufficient time chant twenty five or more rounds of japa on Ekadasi. Why just twenty-five rounds? You should chant as many as possible. Real Ekadasi means fasting and chanting and no other business. When one observes fasting, the chanting becomes easier. So on Ekadasi other business can be suspended as far as possible, unless there is some urgent business. ( Letter to: Jadurani, 9 July, 1971 ) However, although Srila Prabhupada told a few devotees to chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi, he did not make it compulsory for all. He particularly exempted devotees busy in preaching from the necessity to chant extra rounds. Tamala Krishna: We should always chant twenty-five rounds on ekadasi if initiated. Prabhupada: Initiated? Everyone. Why initiated? Tamala Krishna: So that should be standard for our movement on ekadasi day? Prabhupada: Standard is sixteen, but if one can chant more, then he is welcome. Tamala Krishna: It’s not mandatory for ekadasi. Jayapataka : Recommended. Prabhupada: No. Ekadasi means that, fasting and chanting. Tamala Krishna: Sometimes I’m wondering, because our men have to go out on book distribution. Prabhupada: No, no. That is also preaching work. For that purpose you can stop this, but generally, one who has no preaching work, he can chant extra. And even preachers sometimes need to wind down and get recharged with an extra dose of hearing and chanting, for which enhanced Ekadasi performance provides the ideal opportunity.
Regarding PrasadamOffering Grains to the Spiritual Master and Lord Caitanya:
In a conversation, Srila Prabhupada said that grains should not be offered to either the spiritual master or Lord Caitanya and His associates on Ekadasi.
Devotee: On Ekadasi, we can offer the Deity grains?
Prabhupada: Oh, yes. But not guru. Ekadasi observed by jiva-tattva, not by Vishnu. We are fasting for clearing our material disease, but Radha-Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Caitanya Mahaprabhu also may not be offered grains because He is playing the part of a devotee. Only Radha-Krsna, Jagannatha can be offered grains. Otherwise, Guru-Gauranga, no. And the prasadam should not be taken by anyone. It should be kept for the next day. [Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, Tokyo, April 22, 1972] If there is only one plate for all Deities and the main Deity is Krsna or Jagannatha, grains should be offered as on normal days. If the main Deities are Gaura-Nitai, offer only non-grain preparations. t is best to replace the normally offered grain preparations with non-grain preparations so that there are the same number of preparations as on normal days. If, however, grain preparations are being cooked for Krsna or Jagannatha, it may be difficult to cook additional non-grain preparations for the spiritual master and Gaura-Nitai. In that case serve larger quantities of the non-grain preparations to the spiritual master and Gaura-Nitai, and prepare the offering plate for Krsna or Jagannatha as on normal days. If you are cooking for a restaurant where grains will be served on Ekadasi, you may offer the grains to Gaura-Nitai with the understanding that They will offer the bhoga to Krsna.
What Constitutes “Grains” on Ekadasi?
Srila Prabhupada specified foodgrains and beans (pulses) as foods that must be avoided on Ekadasi. One may use spices for cooking, although mustard seeds should be avoided. You should not use powdered asafatoeda (hing), since it (generally) contains grains. Sesame seeds are also to be avoided, except on Satila Ekadasi, when they may be offered and eaten. Do not use any cooking ingredients that might be mixed with grains, such as ghee that has been used to fry puris, or spices touched by hands dusted with chapati flour. Someone who is very strictly observing Ekadasi should avoid all spices except pepper, rock salt and cumin. He should also eschew certain vegetables, such as tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and leafy vegetables. Temple kitchens need not follow these strictures, since Srila Prabhupada did not establish them. Individual devotees may observe these rules if they choose, either making their own arrangements for cooking on Ekadasi, eating uncooked foods such as fruit, or observing full fasting. These arrangements should not interfere with the temple cooking schedule.
Mahaprasadam on Ekadasi:
On Ekadasi, strict followers of Vaishnava regulations avoid eating any mahaprasada from an offering that includes grains. The shastra explains that the papa-purusha (sin personified) takes shelter in grains on Ekadasi, and therefore we avoid grains at all cost on that day, not even risking taking non-grain preparations of mahaprasada from an offering plate containing grains. Ekadasi mahaprasada should be stored until the next day; if that is not possible it can be distributed to persons not strictly following Vaishnava regulations or to animals. In fact, mahaprasada maintains its purity on Ekadasi despite the presence of the papa-purusha, and therefore it will purify anyone who eats it. Nevertheless, the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, being strict followers of Vaishnava regulations, avoid mahaprasada on that day because their strict sadhana will be hampered by the presence of the papa-purusha.
Rules of EkadasiBasic Rules for understanding Vaisnava Calendar.
1. The Tithi at sunrise rules the day. 2. If the Tithi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise of the next day (Lost) it is combined with the next Tithi. 3. If the same Tithi falls on sunrise two days in a row, observances are scheduled on the first day; except Ekadasi, Amavasya, or Purnima Tithis which are scheduled for the second day.
Rules for Ekadasi
Srila A. C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada makes an interesting comment in his purport to Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya lila. 9-24-342: “You should recommend the avoidance of mixed Ekadasi and the performance of pure Ekadasi. You should also describe the fault in not observing this. One should be very careful as far as these items are concerned. If one is not careful, one will be negligent in executing devotional service.”
General Rules for observance are:-
1. Ekadasi must come in prior to the Arunodaya Viddhi (1hour, 12 mins, before sunrise). When it does so it is called Suddha Ekadasi – pure ekadasi. If it begins after that, it is considered impure and is therefore to be observed on the Dwadasi ( making Mahadwadasi or Compounded) on the next day. 2. If Ekadasi falls on Sunrise two days in a row, fasting is observed on the second day.
(If Mahadvadasi is in force, fasting is prohibited on the Ekadasi, but the observance is done on the Dwadasi. Compound Dwadasi-Mahadwadasi.) 1. If Ekadasi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise the next day it is considered Lost, too short, thus not full, and impure. Therefore the next day is called Unmillani Mahadwadasi. 2. If Dwadasi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise on the next day (Trayodasi), it is also Lost, and is to be observed as Tri-Sprsa-Mahadwadasi. 3. If Dwadasi falls on the Sunrise two days in a row the first Dwadasi becomes Vyanjuli Mahadwadasi. 4. When the following Amavasya or Purnima falls on sunrise two days in a row the preceeding Dwadasi becomes Paksa-Vardhini-Mahadwadasi, Paksa based. Parama Ekadasi is in the month of Purushottam.
How To Put On TilakTilaka refers to the markings which Vaisnava devotees apply to their bodies, to remind themselves and others that we are all eternal servants of Lord Krsna. The U-shaped mark represents the heel of Lord Visnu, and the oval part represents the Tulasi leaf. Tilaka is applied to twelve parts of the body, and the twelve names of the Lord are recited with each application. To apply tilaka, start with a little Ganges or Yamuna water (if you don’t have any, get some water, and stirring it with your right middle finger, chant:
ganga cha yamune chaiva
narmade sindho kaveri
jale ‘smin sannidhim kuru
“O Ganges, O Yamuna, O Godavari, O Saravati, O Narmada, O Sindhu, O Kaveri, please become present in this water.”
Put the water in your left hand, and rub the hard tilak into the water, creating a wet paste out of the clay. Begin by putting your ring finger of the right hand into the clay, and starting between the eyebrows, bring the finger straight up to the hairline, making two straight lines. It should look like a long, narrow U-shape. Then use some more tilak to make the Tulasi leaf on your nose, it should extend about 3/4 of the way down your nose.
As you apply the tilak to your body, chant the following mantras:
forehead: om keshavaya namaha
belly: om narayanaya namaha
chest: om madhavaya namaha
neck: om govindaya namaha
right: belly om vishnave namaha
right: arm om madhusudhanaya namaha
right: shoulder om trivikramaya namaha
left: belly om vamanaya namaha
left arm: om shridharaya namaha
left shoulder: om hrishikeshaya namaha
upper back: om padmanabhaya namaha
lower back: om damodaraya namaha
Take the remaining tilak, and wipe it on the back of the head, in the area of the sikha, and chant om vasudevaya namaha.
Putrada Ekadasi (11 January 2014 Sat) Break fast 08:13 – 10:55
Sat-Tila Ekadasi (27 January 2014 Sat) Break fast 07:55 – 08:49
Bhaimi Ekadasi (10 February 2014 Mon) Break fast 07:32 – 10:45
Vaikuntha – Vijaya Ekadasi (25 February 2014 Thu) Break fast 07:01 – 10:34
Amalaki Ekadasi (12 March 2014 Wed) Break fast 06:27 – 10:20
Papamochani Ekadasi (27 March 2014 Thu) Break fast 05:52 – 10:06
Kamada Ekadasi (11 April 2014 Fri) Break fast 05:17 – 06:11
Varuthini Ekadasi (25 April 2014 Fri) Break fast 04:46 – 09:39
Mohini Ekadasi (10 May 2014 Sat) Break fast 04:18 – 09:29
Apara Ekadasi (24 May 2014 Sat) Break fast 03:58 – 09:22
Pandava Nirjala Ekadasi (9 June 2014 Mon) Break fast 04:45 – 10:20
Yogini Ekadasi (23 June 2014 Mon) Break fast 04:45 – 05:43
Sayana Ekadasi (8 July 2014 Tue) Break fast 05:43 – 10:27
Kamika Ekadasi (22 July 2014 Tue) Break fast 05:13 – 10:34
Pavitropana Ekadasi (7 August 2014 Thu) Break fast 05:38 – 06:18
Aja – Annada Ekadasi (21 August 2014 Thu) Break fast 06:01 – 07:59
Parsva Ekadasi (5 September 2014 Fri) Break fast 06:26 – 10:53
Indira Ekadasi (20 September 2014 Sat) Break fast 06:51 – 10:57
Papankusha – Ekadasi (4 October 2014 Sat) Break fast 07:15 – 11:02
Rama Ekadasi (19 October 2014 Sun) Break fast 07:41 – 11:09
Utthana Ekadasi (3 November 2014 Mon) Break fast 07:09 – 10:17
Utpanna Ekadasi (18 November 2014 Tue) Break fast 07:36 – 10:27
Mokshada Ekadasi (2 December 2014 Tue) Break fast 07:58 – 10:37
Saphala Ekadasi (17 December 2014 Wed) Break fast 08:14 – 10:47
Putrada Ekadasi (31 December 2014 Wed) Break fast 09:13 – 10:53
Purushottam month – (28 October 2015 Wed - 26 November 2015 Thu)
Padmini Ekadasi (28 October 2015 Wed)
Parama Ekadasi (26 November 2015 Thu)
Daily ProgramsAn insight into life at the Hare Krishna temple.
Daily Morning Program:
4:30 – 5:00 ~ Mangala Aarti (first morning worship ceremony of the deities)
5:00 – 5:15 ~ Tulasi Arati (worship Tulsi Devi)
5:15 – 7:00 ~ Japa Meditation (mantra meditation, recitation of the Hare Krishna …………………………………………………..Mantra)
7:00 – 7:05 ~ Darshan Arati (deity greeting ceremony)
7:05 – 7:30 ~ Guru Puja (worship of the spiritual master Srila Prabhupada)
7:30 – 8:30 ~ Class (class on various topics from the Vedic literatures ………………………………………………. such as the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita ………………………………………………….As It Is)
Daily Afternoon Program:
12.30 – 12.55 ~ Raj Bhoga Aarti (worship ceremony of the deities after lunch)
16:00 – 16:10 ~ Dhupa Aarti (late afternoon worship ceremony of the deities)
Daily Evening Program:
19:00 – 19:30 ~ Gaura Arati (evening worship ceremony of the deities)
19:30 – 20:30 ~Class (class on various topics from the Vedic literatures such ………………………………………………..as the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita As It Is)
Festivals and Events Calender:
Tuesday, July 22
Kamika Ekadasi (22 July 2014 Tue) Break fast 05:13 – 10:34
Sunday, July 27
Ratha Yatra 2014 - ISKCON Birmingham
Thursday, August 7
Pavitropana Ekadasi (7 August 2014 Thu) Break fast 05:38 – 06:18
Friday, August 8
Dissapearence of Srila Rupa Gosvami
Sunday, August 10
Sunday, August 17
Sri Krishna Janmastami
Monday, August 18
Srila Prabhupada's Appearance Day
Thursday, August 21
Aja – Annada Ekadasi (21 August 2014 Thu) Break fast 06:01 – 07:59
Saturday, August 30
Srimati Sita Thakurani (Sri Advaita's consort)
Tuesday, September 2
Friday, September 5
Parsva Ekadasi (5 September 2014 Fri) Break fast 06:26 – 10:53
Saturday, September 6
Sri Vamana Dvadasi & Srila Jiva Gosvami App Day
Sunday, September 7
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Appearance Day
Saturday, September 20
Indira Ekadasi (20 September 2014 Sat) Break fast 06:51 – 10:57
Friday, October 3
Srila Madhvacarya Appearance Day
Saturday, October 4
Papankusha – Ekadasi (4 October 2014 Sat) Break fast 07:15 – 11:02
Thursday, October 9
Damodara Masa - Kartick Month Begins
Wednesday, October 15
Appearance of Radha Kunda, snana dana Bahulastami
Sunday, October 19
Rama Ekadasi (19 October 2014 Sun) Break fast 07:41 – 11:09
Friday, October 24
Monday, October 27
Srila Prabhupada Dissapearence Day
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Srila Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Dissapearence Day Also Bhisma Pancaka
Monday, November 3, 2014
Utthana Ekadasi (3 November 2014 Mon) Break fast 07:09 – 10:17
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Damodara Caturmasya ends - Last day of Kartick Also Tulasi-Saligrama Vivaha (marriage)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Utpanna Ekadasi (18 November 2014 Tue) Break fast 07:36 – 10:27
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Advent of Srimad Bhagavad-gita
Mokshada Ekadasi (2 December 2014 Tue) Break fast 07:58 – 10:37
Thursday, December 4, 2014
HH Radhanath Swami
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Disppearance Day
Showing events until 12/15.
Why Protect Cows
Not to hurt our humble brethen (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission - to be of service to them whenever they require it - If you have men who will exclude any God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. Saint Francis of Assisi (mystic and preacher)
He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man. Isiah 66.3
As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love. Pythagoras (6th century BC)
Yes, all these are narrated in our scriptures and each story makes a wonderful read! Would you like to read them all in one place? Then read this article further...
"To make the mind austere is to detach it from sense gratification. It should be so trained that it can be always thinking of doing good for others. The best training for the mind is gravity in thought. One should not deviate from Krsna consciousness and must always avoid sense gratification. To purify one's nature is to become Krsna conscious. Satisfaction of the mind can be obtained only by taking the mind away from thoughts of sense enjoyment. The more we think of sense enjoyment, the more the mind becomes dissatisfied. In the present age we unnecessarily engage the mind in so many different ways for sense gratification, and so there is no possibility of the mind's becoming satisfied. The best course is to divert the mind to the Vedic literature, which is full of satisfying stories, as in the Puranas and the Mahabharata. One can take advantage of this knowledge and thus become purified."
[Srila Prabhupada, Purport, SB17.16]
The latest books released from ISKCON Daiva Varnasrama Ministry in an attractive paperback book is bound to engage readers of all sections, young and old equally!
"Timeless Stories of Gomata" is a compilation of 35 stories from various scriptures such as Mahabharata, Vishnu Dharmottara Purana, Skanda Purana and other classics. One can derive principles of cow protection in these chapters and relish the inherent teaching in the stories.
Do you know the story why little Krsna in Goloka never wore footwear? Do you know the story of sage Chyavana who was caught by fishermen and gave a hard time to King Nahusha but settles down for a right price? Do you know about how Lord Shiva made the Bull as his vehicle? Find all this and more in this publication.
This publication was made possible with the help of an ardent lover of Gomata,Shri Mahesh Advani. "Being a businessman I can vouch that generally we are selfish. We calculate profit in everything we do. However, it must be understood that serving cows is a deal with 100% profit! Beyond such a material calculation is a fact that serving cows is very dear to Lord Krsna. It is a devotional service. This compilation, "Timeless stories of Gomata" woven through wonderful stories convinces us of this truth!"
Shri Mahesh Advani, Govindas Restaurant, LLC Dubai (UAE)
His Holiness R.P.Bhakti Raghava Swami released the book on May 10th. "Cow care and cow protection, especially in today's misdirected and ill-governed society, remains crucial to the survival of humanity. It is but sheer madness and gross ignorance to think otherwise. It was in Bali where we conducted the Second Annual Varnasrama Seminar that Bharat Chandra Das narrated the story of how Lakshmi devi came to reside in the body of the cow. Seeing all the demigods having been awarded a particular dwelling place in the body of mother cow, Lakshmi devi also desired to reside in her. Although initially refused, after repeated insistences from Lakshmi devi, mother cow explained that the only place left where she could reside was in her dung. Since Lakshmi devi Herself resides in cow dung, cow dung is considered the greatest of wealth, a goldmine. The Timeless Stories of Gomata is yet another important addition to recent books glorifying mother cow! May we all benefit from this compilation and may mother cow bestow her mercy upon us all."
His Holiness R.P.Bhakti Raghava Swami
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Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection)
(The Blog is reverently for all the seekers of truth, lovers of wisdom and to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path and also this is purely a non-commercial blog)