Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Today is VyasaPuja or the Appearance Day of our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada.
Each year our holidays fall on different dates from the Western calendar, as they are figured mathematically through ancient Vedic Astrological calculations. [Different from Western, Chinese, etc.] The number date may vary, but always Janmastimi and VyasaPuja are one after the other.
Since before I joined the Hare Krishna Movement, there were guru's all over the place. At that time it was especially popular. Before making glolrifications, its important to know how to recognize who is guru. This is summarized here.
How do the devotees celebrate the birth or appearance day of the pure devotee Srila Prabhupada?
First, yearly everyone is asked to compose an offering of gratitude, writings to glorify Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupada. Now, not everyone is a great writer, tho that is not required. Sincerity of heart, and some basic 101 grammar skills even a child possesses. And they too, have sometimes written an offering. Though less often, but it has been done. These children are so sweet.
If one does not feel comfortable composing a written offering, that's all right, so long as they have their heart and mind in the right places. [Tho you'd be surprised at what comes out if you just sit down and try. Practice starts the creative juices flowing. :) ]
What else is therefore done on this day to celebrate?
Well, we do fast again, but only until noon. And to be honest, after staying up past midnight just yesterday :) most of us are not even thinking of hunger for that long. Its an easier fast. As with Janmastami, the purpose of fasting is not to suffer, no, but to spend less time on the bodily concept and more time in worship or glorification or something else spiritual. If, on the other hand, fasting gets in the way, then better to eat a something, like Ekadasi diets [no grains]. Remember, children, pregnant women, those with an illness, and sometimes the elderly, should not fast. Just eat light & sensibly.
Next, everyone attends a ceremony, or preforms one in front of their home Altar. At the temple there is a Pushpanjali, mantras with flowers showered upon the pure devotee, lovely incense burning, etc. At home, since most don't know the mantras, don't worry, the main mantra needed is the Hare Krishna mantra. That will certainly please Srila Prabhupada. A little "Jaya Prabhupada!" would be a simple addition too. Now flowers are nice if you can get them, but if not, again don't worry. Just try to find something to offer, even essential oils on a Q-tip [which has never been taken into the bathroom but bought specific for offerings & kept clean], or incense.
Next, an arotika is offered directly to Srila Prabhupada. Part of that arotika is the offering of foodstuffs. Therefore, most devotees cook something ahead of time. Then offer it. At the temple there are big elaborate offerings [and if your temple is not doing so, they should be.] At home, make what you can and feel good about it!!
We also dance and chant and feel happiness during the kirtana of the arotika.
If alone this may initially sound confusing in how to offer the arotika yet how to be the congregation. :) Simple. Most just chant while offering to the altar, or in this case, murti or pic of Prabhupada. Then when the offering steps are completed, they just keep chanting but walk away from the altar/pic and start to add dancing! Bliss.
Then soon follows a feast, remnants which were offered. But first, there are readings of Vyasa Puja Homage, writings by devotees. Everyone sits and listens with rapt attention, at the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, the intimate associate of Lord Sri Krishna, Srimati Radharani, & Lord Nityananda [mercy incarnation of Krishna.]
Those who have composed something often read it aloud for all to hear. Other times someone else may read from the VyasaPuja book.
Oh, speaking of that, almost forgot to mention, a special edition of Vyasa Puja books are published every year. Devotees who submit their praise of the guru, thus will have it published there as well, so we can all remember Prabhupada's various unique activities, qualities, and so on.
Probably I am in the category of those who feel a bit uncertain about composing.... anything. I have not written very many offerings, tho have some. This year I was encouraged by a devotee in Bangalore India that I could do it. Then they wanted to put it in their Vyasa Puja book with the written offerings of many sincere devotees.
For days I had writers block :) but remained determined. Each day writing a little. Even if it didn't come out the way which made me feel satisfied, I kept at it. Finally my offering below is what came out. I have no special traits, believe me. LOL Anyone can do it who endeavors. You can do this too.
Dear Eternal Srila Prabhupada,
nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
All glories to Your lotus feet, beloved Srila Prabhupada who crossed oceans, tolerated heart attacks, just to save those of us in the various towns and villages world-wide. Without you how would I have heard about Krishna? How would many of us ever discovered "Who Is
God?" Unknowing, left with only our family churches, collegiate off-beat changes of religion, or popular New Age beliefs. The eternal words from the Highest Vedic literatures, was put into our hand by a Sankirtana devotee, or we may have visited a temple, seen a HariNama party, blessed with prasadam, or something else, which awakened us enough to discover Krishna. Without you, this could not have happened.
Your mercy, to the many fallen souls, is that of jagad, universal, available to all simply for the taking. No one can repay the debt to the spiritual master. It too, is eternal. Thankfully so. To be in your service forever is a blessing. Let us never forget our connection with you, let us always behave like devotees. May your lotus feet always be worshiped.
There are not enough praises I can give you, to thank and appreciate all you have done for myself, my family, and godsiblings as friends. Never would I have thought to have friends of such unique spiritual nature. You have picked me up out of this ocean of nescience, which I doubt I would have recognized needed to be done, thinking myself well with practices of Hatha Yoga or related philosophies. Steps, but also Illusions. Without you, I am nothing. With you, I may struggle, but I am determined.
When you left this world, disappeared from our sight, we cried and lamented deeply. The loss of the pure devotee, is something never to be forgotten. You are now up there with Krishna, and blissful. We are down here, needing to remember you are relishing activities with the Lord, and that we may achieve that ultimate goal by following your instructions to engage in devotional service. You explained to us the method, now we simply need to apply it more and more. I am everlastingly thankful to have somehow or other, found you.
"O Krsna, beloved son of Nanda Maharaja, I am Your eternal servant,
but somehow or other I have fallen into this ocean of nescience, and
although I am struggling very hard, there is no way I can save myself.
If You kindly pick me up and fix me as one of the particles of dust at
Your lotus feet, that will save me." ~ SB 6.1.50
All glories unto our savior Srila Prabhupada - Jagat guru ki jai!
Priitaa devi dasi