Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Jul 6 01:33:54 CDT 1998
Today Ashadha Shukla 11 (well actually yesterday, I just noticed the
time!) is Devashayani Ekadashi. For Grhasthas it is the beginning of the
Chaturmasa vrata. There is also a Sannyasi Chaturmasa which starts on
Ashadha Purnima which I won't describe here. Swami Sahajanand in his
Shikshapatri has given 8 ways of performing this vrata and even though he
was a Vishishtadvaitin, his advice is suitable for Smartas too.
Vishnoh kathayah Shravanam vachanam gunakirtanam |
Mahaapuja mantrajapah stotrapaathah pradakshinah || 77 ||
Saashtangahpranatishcheti niyama uttamaa mataah |
Eteshvekatamo bhaktayaa dhaaraniiyo visheshatah || 78 ||
To listen attentively to the stories of Vishnu Bhagavan, or to recite
them, or to sing (bhajans) in His praise. To do Mahapuja to His Murti, to
chant his mantras (explained by the commentator as his names as in i.e.
Vishnusahasranama.) and stotras. To do pradakshina and bow down to His
Murti, these are regarded as the most fitting additional duties. One or
more should be observed with Bhakti.
The vrata ends on Kartik Shukla 11 or Devaprabodhani Ekadashi. (But Swami
Sahajananda notes that if a Bhakta is too physically weak to maintain the
vrata for four months, he may observe it for the month of Shravana only.)
This vrata is very ancient as evidenced by the fact that Jains and
Buddhists (at least in its Sannyasi form) also practice it. You may
wonder how did this vrata come about and what is the significanse of
Devashayani (When the God sleeps) and Devaprabodhani (When the God wakes)?
It is explained in the Bhagavata Mahapurana.
The Asuras and Devas, bitter enemies though they maybe, are brothers.
Their father is Maharshi Kashyapa and their mothers are his two wives Diti
and Aditi respectively. Who are also btw sisters the daughters of Tvastr
Prajapati. Although Prajapati is properly the name of Brahmaji, his
mind-born sons such as Tvastr, Kardama, Daksha etc. are called Prajapatis
because the actual work of creation was done by them. Thus another name
of Brahmaji is Pitamaha or Grandfather as the entire creation is the
children of His children. Only the youngest, Narada refused to take part.
He realized that as vast and magnificent as this Brahmanda is, it is
insignificant and momentary compared to Bhagavan. Enraged, Brahmaji
cursed him to wander forever through the worlds but Narada Muni took it as
a blessing, the chance to meet all the various Bhaktas and watch them
praise Shri Hari.
Because their mothers are Dit and Aditi respectively, the Asuras are
called Daityas and the Devas are called Adityas (Especially Suryadeva who
is the oldest.) The difference between the two can also be explained by
their mothers names. Diti is what is finite and Aditi is infinity. It is
explained in the Chandogyopanishad and elsewhere that bothe the Devaraja
Indra and the Asuraraja Virochana had an opportunity to study Brahmavidya.
But Virochana thought it meant "There is nothing but the self so one can
do whatever one likes." Indradeva on the other hand was able to
understand the true meaning, that the self is beyond the limits of the
petty whims and desires that make up the mortal body. For this reason,
Bhagavan favors the Devas over the Asuras.
But the good guys don't alsways stay good and the bad guys don't always
stay bad. Sitting in Amaravati his palace in Svarga, Indradeva became
puffed up with pride and forgot the true source of his power. Meanwhile
in Naraka, Bali the son of Virochana was thinking. Realizing the error
his father had made, he resolved to purify himself of all evil and engage
in rigorous tapa. Because of this the Daityas were able to overcome the
Devas and Indra was dethroned. For all its exaltation and power, to be
Indra is just an office. Just as through had work one can hope to be
promoted in ones job, through earning much punya one can hope to be
promoted to the post of Agni, Surya, or even Indra. But the converse of
that is that through the accumulation of paapa, one can lose that position
again. In the Vishnupurana there is a story of how once Bhagavan showed
Indradeva a line of ants winding their way at the foot of his throne all
of which had once been an Indra in a former life than sunk all the way
down to the condition of an insect. Thus a wise man should realize the
ultimate futility of karma and seek vairagya alone.
Accompanied by the Devas, Indra went to Goloka and begged Vishnu Bhagavan
to save him. Bhagavan who is ever merciful to his Bhaktas aggreed. he
took the form of Vaman a Batuka or 8 year old Brahman boy. Shiva Bhagavan
takes a similiar form in his Batuka Bhairava rupa. Bhagavan went to see
Bali who received him cordially and offered him a gift. Bhagavan in his
Vaman rupa asked him for enough land to cover three steps. Looking at
the little legs of the boy in front of him, Bali burst out laughing and
urged him to ask for more. But Bhagavan was adamant so Bali granted the
strange request. Immediately, Bhagavan grew to collossal size. With one
stride he covered the Earth and with a second, the heavens. Laughingly he
asked Bali "I have covered everything and still have one step to go.
Where shall I put it?" This btw is why one of His names is Vikram or
Trivikram. "Who takes (three) wide steps." Bali realized who he was
dealing with and immediately offered up his own head for the third step.
This is the sign of true nobility. When he was left with nothing Bali
gave up his own head rather than break his word. Bhagavan took the third
step and crushed Bali back down to Naraka again.
Pleased with this display of devotion, Bhagavan went to visit Bali and
offered him a wish. Bali replied "As I provided the third step, I request
that you together with your wife Lakshmiji should come and live with me
one third of the year. Bhagavan agreed and since then we have observed
the Chaturmas vrata. During this tme, Bhagavan is considered to be
asleep. Thus the start of Chaturmas is called Devashayini Ekadashi and
the day Bhagavan wakes up and Chaturmas ends is called Devaprabodhini
Whomsoever will hear this story of the great Bhakta Bali and practice the
Chaturmas vrata will have the blessings of Vishnu Bhagavan forever.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
More information about the Advaita-l mailing list