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I briefly want to speak a few words on this auspicious occasion Bhishma-panchaka. You may have previously heard the glories of Bhishma Pitamaha, he is the son of Shantanu and his mother is Ganga-devi— Ganga-putra, Bhishmadeva. Previously, his name was Devavrata. However he took a certain vow, then all devatas, demigods and demigoddesses began calling him Bhishma. 

What does the word Bhishma mean? One who has taken a vow. And which vow did Bhishmadeva make? That he will never marry, and will continue his life as a brahmachari (celibate). He also vowed to never sit on the throne of Hastinapura. In this regard, his name is called Bhishma. Surely, some of you have heard this katha (story) before. Bhishma Pitamaha was the disciple of Parashurama, Parashurama’s shishya (disciple) and he was very powerful.

So, today is Bhishma-panchaka and there is also the pastime of when he laid, dying on the bed of arrows, sharashayya. At that moment, he also took a vow that he will only give up his body when Lord Surya enters Uttarayana. Uttarayana refers to when the sun moves into the northern side of the sky. During this super excellent auspicious month of Kartika, sometimes karmis (fruitive workers) or smarta-brahmanas (orthodox brahmanas) do not properly observe all the rules and regulations of kartika-vrata (spiritual vows undertaken in the month of Kartika). Thus, we are given this period of Bhishma-panchaka, panchaka means we have five days, and throughout this time, we all must follow the rules and regulations of this vrata. However, our Gaudiya Vaishnavas have been strictly observing these guidelines for four months. 

Hari-bhakti-vilasa explains that throughout the first month of Chaturmasya, called shravana, you should not consume green leafy vegetables. Actually not all green vegetables, just those which are  leafy. For the second month, you must not eat yogurt, and during the third month, you should not eat milk. Throughout the fourth month, you should not consume mustard seeds— those are our rules and regulations during these four months. 

You should also not eat loki (white pumpkin), egg plants, or honey, except when we offer honey for abhisheka (sacred bathing ceremony), then it is acceptable. [There are additional food restrictions for Chaturmasya months, please refer to Hari-bhakti-vilasa.] As for leaves, on the day of Ekadashi, you should also not eat any kinds of leaves. However, Tulasi leaves are allowed, this is okay— our shastras (scriptures) have given us concessions regarding this.

There are those who are unable to completely follow the rules and regulations throughout this period. For this reason, during Bhishma-panchaka we are given five days in which we can follow these guidelines. The following days are Ekadashi, Dvadashi, Trayodashi and on the fifth day, comes Purnima, then it is complete. One may ask: Does Bhishma-panchaka end on Purnima? 

Hari-bhakti-vilasa also explains there are ‘krishnarthe akhila bhoga-tyaga’ and ‘krishnarthe akhila chesta parayana’ - why can’t we abandon certain things and follow all the rules and regulations for Krishna’s sake. ‘Krsnarthe akhila bhoga-tyaga’ - you have to renounce all kinds of sense gratification for the exclusive pleasure of Krishna, Krishna’s sukha. All of your activities and endeavours must be performed for Krishna’s sukha. For this reason, Hari-bhakti-vilasa and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu both mention these verses ‘krishnarthe akhila chesta parayana’ and ‘krishnarthe akhila bhoga-tyaga’

Gaudiya Vaishnavas always say the following statements— we are not tyagis (renunciates or ascetics) and we are not bhogis (enjoyers). Tyagi means we are not completely renounced and simultaneously, we are also not enjoying any kind of sense gratification we desire. Srimad-Bhagavatam also mentions this verse. Anything you do, should be only for Krishna’s pleasure, Krishna’s sukha

Srimati Radhika also says, “I shall perform everything for Krishna’s happiness - krishna sukha hetu kare samasta sukha tyaga.” Srimati Radhika gives up everything for the exclusive pleasure of Krishna, not for other reasons. The purport is that the aim of all our activities must be: how will this please Krishna? Because, ‘krishnarthe akhila chesta parayana’ and ‘krishnarthe akhila bhoga-tyaga’

And this is the true meaning of vrata (vow). Actually, upavasa, we often use this Sanskrit word  upavasa. Except, what does upavasa really mean? ‘Samipe vasa iti upavasa’ - you must sit very closely to the Lord. And how will you sit very closely to the Lord? By listening to hari-katha and chanting the holy names every day. Always remember that hari-katha (narrations of Lord) and harinama (Lord holy names) are non-different from Krishna. Anytime you are listening to hari-katha or chanting the holy names, it means you are very close to the Lord.

[Jaya Srila Gurudeva ki jaya!]

[Jaya jaya Sri Radhe!]

Date: 19 November 2019 Location: Mathura


Transcriber: Chandrika dasi (UK) Editor: Sanatana dasa (USA) Integrity check: Divya-premamayi dasi (Slovakia) Proofreader: Chandrika dasi (UK) Image: Navina-krishna dasa (Holland)

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